6 reasons why Chomsky is wrong about antifa

6 reasons why Chomsky is wrong about antifa

Noam Chomsky recently made some comments about antifa, and militant anti-fascism in general, which were as ill-timed as they were ill-informed. Here's what we think he's got wrong about the subject.

In the aftermath of Charlottesville, the spotlight has been turned on the reality of fascist violence in America. The murder of Heather Heyer is only the most recent in a year which has seen numerous other killings (such as the two on the Portland MAX in May and Timothy Caughman in New York City), with the 2015 killing of nine worshippers at Denmark Vesey's church in Charleston by Dylann Roof showing a continuity of far-right violence long before the election of Donald Trump.

Despite all this, many liberal talking heads have also decided that now is the time to condemn those opposing the fascists. Perhaps the most upsetting, has been the intervention of Noam Chomsky, given how important a figure he was to our politics when we were growing up. But what did Chomsky get wrong?

1) Antifa's 'predecessors' are more significant than Chomsky thinks

Chomsky describes Antifa as "a minuscule fringe of the Left, just as its predecessors were" with "some limited similarity to the Weather Underground". While we might take issue with Chomsky's description of contemporary Antifa, another problem is his misrepresentation of its "predecessors".

Antifa's predecessors have almost nothing to do with the Weather Underground. Rather, they can be seen in the mass mobilisation against Mosley's Blackshirts in Cable Street, East London, as well as less famous mobilisations in Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Hulme and Stockton.

They are the 43 Group and the 62 Group, Jewish-led organisations who took it upon themselves to smash Mosley's attempts to reorganise after the Second World War. They are in the mass mobilisation of locals in Lewisham, South East London, in 1977, the Southall Youth Movement who fought skinheads in the streets and Anti-Fascist Action, who regularly routed fascists throughout the country from the mid-1980s to the late-1990s.

In Europe, they are the Red Warriors of Paris or the Revolutionary Front in Sweden. And in North America they were the Teamsters who formed a defense guard against the Silver Shirts in the 1930s, or Anti-Racist Action who took on Klansmen and the National Socialist Movement from the 1980s until very recently.

None of these can or should be dismissed as easily as Chomsky seems to.

2) Antifa are 'a major gift to the Right, including the militant Right, who are exuberant'?

When the extreme-right get smashed by anti-fascists, they are not exuberant.

When anti-fascists in Liverpool wiped the floor with the 2015 White Man March in Liverpool, they were not exuberant; they were utterly humiliated.

When the English Defence League were chased out of Walthamstow in 2012, they were not exuberant, they were utterly humiliated.

The 43 Group, 62 Group and Anti-Fascist Action successfully disrupted organised street fascism in the UK for decades after World War Two.

In all these cases, physical defeats led to increased divisions in the far-right, mutual recriminations and, most importantly, a puncturing of the invincible street-fighter image these groups like to cultivate for themselves.

Of course they will try and spin every defeat as them being victimised. But, they would just as much spin any unopposed march as a successful show of force, especially if they go searching for targets afterwards, as they have done in the past; 'ignore fascists until they go away' only works if you have the privilege of being ignored by them as well.

A physical defeat is not a gift to the militant right; it is one of the most effective ways of keeping them weak.


Attendees of the 'White Man March' not looking very exuberant as they hide in Liverpool Lime Street's left luggage department, 2015.

3) Denying fascists a platform is not 'wrong in principle'

Perhaps Chomsky's most dangerous claim is that "What [antifa] do is often wrong in principle – like blocking talks". We say dangerous because it encourages people to provide space for fascism to grow in.

There is nothing wrong with denying fascists a platform, whether these be rallies, demonstrations, public meetings or debates. Fascists use their platforms to build strength and, as they grow stronger, to attack their opponents.

We are not duty-bound to give fascists somewhere to spread their hate. In 2002, the train drivers' union, Aslef, expelled a member who had been a local election candidate for the far-right BNP. Perhaps Chomsky thinks this is wrong? Perhaps they were duty bound to accept a member who would sow divisions between white and non-white members? Perhaps Aslef should have organised a public debate to hear him out?

Fascists love it when liberals provide them with a platform. It helps them spread their message so that they can build numbers and confidence to crush their opponents - liberals included.

These platforms - whether on city streets or in debate halls - should not be provided.

4) Street confrontations are not always won by 'the toughest and most brutal'...

Chomsky claims "When confrontation shifts to the arena of violence, it's the toughest and most brutal who win – and we know who that is". Yet mass anti-fascist mobilisation can shut down fascists without being 'the most brutal'. In Liverpool, fascists ran to hide in a train station's left luggage department after being outnumbered 10-to-1. In Brighton, fascist marches have been made impossible without heavy police escort due to mass local opposition.

Ultimately, the most powerful force in society is the working class. We can always win when we turn out in force.

5) ... and the far-right aren't always 'the toughest and most brutal' anyway.

It is the stuff of far-right fairy tales that they have the monopoly on using violence. The experience of Post-World War Two Britain is that the far-right, for all their bluster, were not as 'good on the pavement' as they thought they were. From the 43 Group to the 62 Group to AFA, the far-right were frequently beaten on the streets.

While it is important that we focus on building mass, working-class anti-racist movements rather than crack squads of elite anti-fascist special forces, it's also important not to perpetuate the myths which the far-right perpetuate about themselves. Just look at this loser for a start:

6) Physical opposition to fascism does not negate 'constructive activism'

Chomsky's claim that one of the "costs" of physical confrontation with fascists is the "loss of the opportunity for education, organizing, and serious and constructive activism" is a false division. Moreover, it's one that shows a lack of real-life contact with anti-fascists.

In reality, anti-fascists often are involved in activity beyond 'anti-fascism' whether that be migrant solidarity, union organising, anti-police violence or whatever else. They hold film screenings, concerts and football tournaments. The fact that Chomsky misses all this says more about him than it does anti-fascists.

If people are prepared to put their lives and safety on the line to resist fascism that's a choice which should be celebrated. Community self-defense can create space for other organising to happen, whereas un-opposed fascists will happily crash and disrupt left meetings and organising.

A big contingent of antifascist mobilisations in the US have been associated with the IWW, a radical union which puts huge importance on serious, constructive education and organising. You can organise at work Monday to Friday and oppose fascists when they occasionally come to town on Saturday, that's not much of an 'opportunity cost.'

Ultimately, it's important to remember that 'anti-fascism' will never be enough to defeat fascism; in fact, there is no defeating fascism without defeating capitalism. That means building a mass, working-class political culture that stands as an alternative to both the far-right and the liberal politics of 'business as usual': vibrant workplace organisations both inside and out of traditional unions, community groups fighting on housing, police brutality, proper provision for survivors of domestic violence, migrant solidarity, and so much more it couldn't possibly fit here.

We mustn't think of antifa as an end in and of itself. But we don't need the left's most prominent public intellectuals to throw them under the bus either.

Comments

bootsy
Aug 28 2017 03:24

Alan Berg was a Jewish radio host who primarily focused on debating fascists and racists who called in to his radio show. He was executed outside his home by members of the militant fascist terror-group "The Order' after he had gotten into an argument with David Lane on his show.

As this incident demonstrates with brutal clarity - fascists, racists, neo-Nazis, KKK members and Christian fundamentalists cannot be defeated by clever arguments alone. If they feel they are losing the battle of ideas they will turn to force to settle the score, and even when they are winning the battle of ideas they will still turn to brute violence. Because their whole ideology is built on violence, ultimately the only language they know how to speak is violence. Either we beat them in the streets and smash them at their own game using our superior numbers and support from the broad working masses or we do not beat them at all. Simple as that.

Talisa
Aug 28 2017 05:18

Ok, maybe I will start a new post on the forum about it.

Steven. wrote:
Them speaking with their friends or family at home is one thing - I don't think they should be locked up for that, as I do believe in "free speech". But trying to have a public rally, speaking to hundreds/thousands, I think we should blockade/attack/shut down

What you describe here is in fact using our power to prevent their free speech.

I agree it's the right way to respond to neo-nazis and others on their level. But why not call things what they are?

Talisa
Aug 28 2017 05:23

I'm not trying to sound argumentative. I guess I can understand why people want to avoid admitting this because in a sense it would mean conceding to the main accusation of our critics.

Rather than deny it, though, I think we should admit to it honestly but explain our reasoning for it and parameters of it.

Tom Henry
Aug 29 2017 02:39

I presume that there is no one here who would be able to stifle a cheer when a fascist got bashed.

However, the debate over anti-fascism must always devolve down to the taking of one or another type of presumed moral high ground. The argument on the merits or otherwise of anti-fascism in the short and long term cannot be resolved or concluded.

The reason for this is that the praxes of both fascism and anti-fascism are not contained within a neat moral or logical arena – both phenomena defy the parameters of the discourse that they are generally presumed to inhabit, which is that of right and wrong.

The right thing to do - now and in general - appears to ultimately lead to the wrong - or a wrong, or unexpected - outcome. The reverse of this formulation also applies. Perhaps that’s the ruse of history.

But there are two principles one can take away from the arguments over fascism and anti-fascism.

The first is that anyone who believes in freedom of speech is either a dupe or a liar.

The second is that fascism hums like a motor in low gear at the core of all ideology and all belief.

Talisa
Aug 31 2017 03:45
Tom Henry wrote:
fascism hums like a motor in low gear at the core of all ideology and all belief.

"What are you listening to now?"
https://libcom.org/forums/general/what-are-you-listening-now-23012016

grin

Emeryael
Dec 13 2017 00:31
sherbu-kteer wrote:
Anti-Nazis in Germany have seen some success with 'exit' programs that have successfully rehabilitated neo-Nazis. As improbable as it may seem to you, even the most extreme Nazis are capable of changing their stripes.

I support these exit programs and I am all about education, but at the same time, all this wargle-bargle about whether Antifa is too extreme and whatnot, feels, at best, a little silly. Think of it as being like crime where we should fund societal programs designed to educate and strong welfare systems to stamp out poverty, so we have fewer people turning to crime out of desperation. Though at the same time we're doing all this, we still step up to stop criminals. You see someone throwing lit matches at a spilled trail of gasoline surrounding an orphanage, you stop them. You use whatever means you have to, to stop them from destroying the lives of others. Once they aren't currently posing a threat, then you can try to rehabilitate and educate them, but in the mean time, you stop them.

Before you say anything about how they're just expressing their free speech or whatever, keep in mind that right now, they have yet to become as thoroughly entrenched as they did in Nazi Germany, but they are currently committing crimes against anyone they deem deserving. Given that they have the tacit support of a largely sympathetic administration, it is entirely possible that they could wind up in a position to enact their policies on a national level.

After all, the Nazis didn't just ascend into the German government overnight; they didn't just bob their heads like Jeannie and have Hitler suddenly become the chancellor. They put in years of groundwork to build up to that point and they faced little, if any, opposition on their rise into power. Maybe if anti-fascists groups fought them at every step of the way, it would have been different. Even if they still wound up losing to the fascists in slowing them down, it saps their resources and slows them down enough to allow for others to escape.

Or, to borrow a metaphor from the world of gardening, you take out a problem while it is still small and manageable; you don't wait until the weeds have covered every square inch of your garden, before deciding to uproot them.

Because I, for one, want Nazis to be afraid. I want them to know that everyone finds their views repugnant (not ironic or edgy, but repugnant) and people would rather do anything, besides be associated with or have anything in common with Nazis. Even if choking them with fear and shame doesn't solve the problem, it at least contains the problem and keeps it from spreading further.

Steven.
Dec 13 2017 09:10

Agree with a lot of your post, apart from this one bit:

Emeryael wrote:
After all, the Nazis didn't just ascend into the German government overnight; they didn't just bob their heads like Jeannie and have Hitler suddenly become the chancellor. They put in years of groundwork to build up to that point and they faced little, if any, opposition on their rise into power. Maybe if anti-fascists groups fought them at every step of the way, it would have been different.

There was a fair bit of resistance by Germans to the Nazis, however unfortunately it was overcome by Nazi violence and terror. We have an archive about it here: https://libcom.org/tags/german-resistance

Mike Harman
Dec 13 2017 10:41
Steven. wrote:
There was a fair bit of resistance by Germans to the Nazis, however unfortunately it was overcome by Nazi violence and terror.

On top of that, the SPD consistently repressed communists and strikes (KPD, KAPD, FAUD etc.) throughout the 1920s. From the killing of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht in 1919 by the Freikorps under control of Noske, to banning MayDay demonstrations in 1928, to the 'Iron Front' organisation which was explicitly anti-communist (see this flag from 1932) .

The point here not being an appeal to abstract left-unity against fascism (and the popular front crap only became comintern policy in 1935 after all the organisations that were supposed to unite had been crushed), but rather how liberals and social democrats paved the way for fascism by attacking communists and working class self-organisation with the full force of the military and police.

KPD was a mess as well, tried to make links with the SA at one point before it was banned.

Sergio Bologna wrote:
The police chief in Berlin, a Social Democrat by name of Zorgiebel, had already banned all public demonstrations in Berlin in December 1928. In March 1929 he extended the ban to the whole of Prussia, and then renewed the ban specifically for Mayday 1929, asking the trade unions to abstain from public demonstrations and to organise only indoor meetings. The Communists, however, decided to challenge the ban and to demonstrate in the streets. The Social Democratic trade unions and the SPD organised their Mayday events in theatres, association offices etc. The Communist slogan was: "We do not accept the ban. We shall demonstrate in the streets, and if the police try to attack we shall call a general strike for the next day." And so it was to be.

The police, as has been shown from research in police archives, mounted a deliberate attack, organised by special anti-subversion units. There were violent clashes, which spread to include workers who were coming out of the indoor meetings of the Social Democratic trade unions. The Communist Party called a general strike for the following day, but despite pressure from many militants did not distribute weapons; nevertheless, in the quarters of Neukolln and Wedding the barricades went up and the police had to lay siege to the areas for three days before they were able to restore order.

The final balance was extremely heavy: thirty people dead, all of them demonstrators; 200 wounded; 1,200 people arrested, of whom 44 were kept in custody by the police. The Prussian Minister of the Interior seized this opportunity to ban the mass organisations of the Communist Party.

These events brought about an unhealable fracture between Communist militants, and the Social Democratic party and its organisations. Oral history research has shown that in the memory of proletarian militants (not only communists) this was a turning point, a "point of no return" in their remembrance of their total alienation from anything to do with the SPD. Whereas the killings of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht might possibly have been attributed to the Freikorps and not purely to Noske's policies, the blame for the repression of Mayday 1929 in Berlin lay squarely at the door of Social Democratic ministers and functionaries. This trauma split the working class down the middle, right on the eve of the final clash with the Nazi militias.

https://libcom.org/library/nazism-and-working-class-sergio-bologna

I did some google searching, and found that Chomsky endorsed Bill Clinton (1992), John Kerry (2004), Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. I didn't find any examples of him not endorsing a Democratic presidential candidate prior to an election at all. So what Chomsky is consistently doing is proposing a liberal anti-fascism of voting for least-worst candidates (the anti-fascism that Dauve critiques in When Insurrections Die) while opposing self defense against far right groups.

Emeryael
Dec 13 2017 18:02
Steven. wrote:
There was a fair bit of resistance by Germans to the Nazis, however unfortunately it was overcome by Nazi violence and terror. We have an archive about it here: https://libcom.org/tags/german-resistance

Thanks for the link. I may peruse it more carefully later, because Learning is Always Good!

Though even if the resistance was overcome by Nazi violence and terror, that doesn't mean it was completely worthless. As said before, if it slowed down a brutal regime for just a bit, if it sapped the regime's resources just a little, more lives would still be saved as a result of resistance and most would say that saving lives, even just one, is a good thing.

Though I don't get the dichotomy on the Left where it has to be either Education or Resistance. Can't we have both, educate the masses AND resist the fascists, using whatever means/tactics available? After all, not everyone has the same talents and gifts and a movement should find a way to utilize all skills. Maybe Person X wouldn't do well with fighting in the streets, but that doesn't mean they can't contribute in other ways like by trying to get invaluable information out to others, so they may properly organize, or do behind-the-scenes planning, or some other task for the movement. A movement, if it is to be truly successful, requires a wide variety of talents and only a few people can claim to be a Renaissance Jack-of-All-Trades type of person who is capable of doing it all, and even if they are, there are limits to what even they can accomplish.

gamerunknown
Dec 14 2017 18:10
Biffard Misqueegan wrote:
Chomsky has always been more of a civil libertarian than communist/anarchist. It's that left-liberalism that sees protest and "resistance" as nothing more than a tool to win the "battle of ideas" in the bourgeois media.

I'd say this is wrong. He has consistently described himself as an anarchist and he's a member of the Industrial Workers of the World. In fact, finding out that it existed in the UK after reading his wikipedia entry was what spurred me to join the London branch myself. Not to mention that he actually wrote a germinal text along with Edward Herman on why traditional media will never reflect the views of the majority of the population (Manufacturing Consent).

sherbu-kteer wrote:
How could he not remember the brave German street fighters of the 30s that managed to stop the rise of the Nazis, preventing Hitler from killing any Jews? Or the proud Italians who stopped Mussolini's invasion of Abyssinia by posting embarrassing photos of Fascist electoral candidates on communist blogs?

Bear in mind that Hitler's ascension to power was accompanied with and only possible because of the crushing or recuperation of any element of resistance. He seduced a sufficient number of "traditionalist" workers, supported and then participated in the state repression of any working class resistance to fascism. In fact, Hitler's nascent movement suffered a serious loss in the Beer Hall Putsch of 1923, though at the hands of the state.

Hitler had this to say about communist antifascist disrupting his organising attempts:

Hitler wrote:
The largest so-called bourgeois mass meetings were accustomed to dissolve, and those in attendance would run away like rabbits when frightened by a dog as soon as a dozen communists appeared on the scene. The Reds used to pay little attention to those bourgeois organizations where only babblers talked. They recognized the inner triviality of such associations much better than the members themselves and therefore felt that they need not be afraid of them. On the contrary, however, they were all the more determined to use every possible means of annihilating once and for all any movement that appeared to them to be a danger to their own interests. The most effective means which they always employed in such cases were terror and brute force...

People in the small circles of our own movement at that time showed a certain amount of anxiety at the prospect of such a conflict. They wanted to refrain as much as possible from coming out into the open, because they feared that they might be attacked and beaten. In their minds they saw our first public meetings broken up and feared that the movement might thus be ruined for ever. I found it difficult to defend my own position, which was that the conflict should not be evaded but that it should be faced openly and that we should be armed with those weapons
which are the only protection against brute force. Terror cannot be overcome by the weapons of the mind but only by counter-terror. The success of our first public meeting strengthened my own position. The members felt encouraged to arrange for a second meeting, even on a larger scale.
Some time in October 1919 the second larger meeting took place in the EBERLBRÄU KELLER. The theme of our speeches was 'Brest-Litowsk and Versailles'. There were four speakers. I talked for almost an hour, and the success was even more striking than at our first meeting. The number of people who attended had grown to more than 130. An attempt to disturb the proceedings was
immediately frustrated by my comrades. The would-be disturbers were thrown down the stairs, bearing imprints of violence on their heads. A fortnight later another meeting took place in
the same hall. The number in attendance had now increased to more than 170, which meant that the room was fairly well filled. I spoke again, and once more the success obtained was greater than at the previous meeting. Then I proposed that a larger hall should be found.

Quote:
Seriously though, small-ish groups of radicals throwing rocks at Nazis in the streets haven't stopped Fascism/Nazism before and they won't in the future. The 'battles' (if you can call them that) won by antifa in the past have been small and minor and did not place a big dint in the right wing. Saying that the reason greyshirts didn't rise in the US is because of antifa protestors is absurd, it's romanticising an event way beyond what it actually was.

The BNP were run off the street in a series of defeats. Nick Griffin explicitly stated that their street presence would end, implicitly because of the violence endured. The end of their street movement culminated in their eventual implosion as an organisation - though, of course, there were many factors at play - not least the hiving off into alternative movements such as the EDL or UKIP and the manifestation of the softer end of their policy with UK's departure from the EU.

Regarding the grayshirts' potential for grasping power in the US: it may seem absurd now, but significant sections of the bourgeoisie contemplated fascism - see the "Business Plot" for example. Quite apart from anything else, the Overton window needs to be appreciated. If the grayshirts are stymied, there's less room for sops to anti-semites, making it more difficult to create dissension in the working class.

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I think the best of way of dealing with fascism is removing the societal factors that lead to its rise (unemployment, alienation, etc).

There's frankly nothing which we can do to end unemployment or alienation short of a social revolution. We can contribute to preserving public spaces (I went to a "Save Southall Town Hall" meeting last Friday for example) and potentially other aspects of the social wage, such as opposing cuts to benefits. We have fairly little influence as individuals. The most immediate and dramatic are quite often in anti-fascism, though gains are usually transitory. According to a study of 3300 people in the UK, the worst off segments in the working class has gone from having the lowest levels of racial prejudice to having substantially more than their managers since 1991.

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If it's too late for that, then the focus needs to be on trying to "convert" (for lack of a better word) far-right lunatics back into sanity. No white teenager with right-wing tendencies is going to suddenly go "oh, silly me! How could I ever think Jews were bad" when a masked stranger hits them on the head with a club.

That's really not the intention. One purpose is to keep these rallies from seeming attractive to people considering the fact that potential attendees could face physical repercussions. At 18 or 19 I was attending a university in Luton when the EDL had one of its first rallies there. At 16 one of my friends invited me to a talk at a mosque where he "converted" me (I was an agnostic at the time and attended out of politeness, after reading an English translation of the Quran he'd given me). There was a video taken of my "conversion" and about £200 was raised (which I returned to the guy). Anyway, I was a little fed up of religion in the aftermath of that - having been raised Catholic. I bought a copy of the "God Delusion", and started reading some of Hitchens' stuff. I also started reading Capital at university. There seemed to be no student politics of any sort. I once bought a "Socialist Worker" paper by the station, but I had reservations about Trotskyism since I had already read denunciations of Trotskyism by Chomsky. Anyway, when I read about the rally, I initially thought that I could meet and discuss with some people about how damaging religion was, though I was very wary about the fact that it was termed the "English" Defence League (neither of my parents are English, nor was I born in England). Then I saw a list of opposing protest groups and there were several trade unions listed and none listed in support, which was a deciding factor. I'm the sort of person that could have, potentially, been swayed by a more subtle and refined fascism and ended up physically confronting fascists.

That said, some people who have been physically attacked by antifascists ended up as antifascists themselves. I believe Dave Hann in "No Retreat" speaks about someone in the National Front who describes how there was a mythos built up about antifa being a bunch of ineffectual students. When confronting actual working class antifascists and being roundly defeated, he re-evaluated (though the precise details might be a bit askew). Martin Wright was a member of National Front who also swung around to Class War - not because of their nuanced debate either. Not to mention, the tactics employed in antifascist organising may become useful should a revolution against state and capital occur, along with the contacts garnered.

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Considering how much the American right wing is based on an absurd victimhood complex, physical violence genuinely can make things a lot worse, and drive people into the extremist camp.
It's easy to fall back on violence but it's only justifiable when it's a last resort, when there are no other options available.
It's also worth reminding everyone, we're anarchists. We don't believe that our ideology can be put in place through authority and power; Fascists and other totalitarians do. Our ideology is the complete and total negation of authority. Violence and force may be justified in certain situations, but relying on it for ideological purposes undermines our essential beliefs.

This is absolutely destructive of any revolutionary potential. Shall we repudiate: the participants in the Zanj rebellion? The Sans-Cullotes? Louverture? Franceska Mann? CeCe McDonald? Should we have advocated conciliation and dialogue after the storming of the Bastille? Would we have been worried about polarisation when aristocrats were hanging from the lamp-posts?

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Hitler was a lunatic dictator. He is not to be trusted as a source of opinion on his own movement. Historians have spent decades debating exactly why Hitler came to power but I don't think any of them genuinely believe that the reason the Nazis rose was because the left wing was not violent enough against them.

Hitler was not a lunatic. His writing was fairly limpid for someone whose profession was not a writer. His emphasis was a little odd at times - it's fairly clear he wasn't writing a tome intended for future generations. But I'd sincerely recommend reading "Mein Kampf". It's Hitler's perspective on the events which led to the establishment of his political movement. He's fairly clear that the pusillanimity of the left permitted developments which'd otherwise be impossible. He's also fairly contemptuous of the "Volkisch" movements, along with bourgeois liberals and Christian Democrats. Which books are you referring to though?

Dragoonuv wrote:
Not saying you should. By all means Counter protest. And if you or your comrades get hit by all means hit back, you will have the advantage of having the law on your side and not needing a mask. But Chomsky is specifically talking about the black block who go out looking to throw the first punch.

This is foolish. The police have always, historically, supported fascist movements. The primary role of the police is to protect property. Adherence to authority is firmly ensconced in the fascist ideology. Outside Southall Town Hall, the building I discussed above, in 1979, a special educational needs teacher protesting the National Front was killed by a police officer. In 1974, at Red Lion Square in London, a mathematics student named Kevin Gately was killed by a police officer. They were not wearing masks and they did not need to strike at all in order to be killed by the police, with no recompense of course.

Not to mention, the two people above could have probably gotten through life without ever making themselves targets - assuming they never went on strike. For black workers and migrant workers that's not an option. While it's unlikely that a random black worker will be the target of orchestrated fascist violence, an ordinary racist is more likely to be confident enough to target a black worker in the climate which fascists are looking to instil. A black person in this country is currently less likely to find employment. Immigration enforcement are more likely to be able to successfully carry out raids without mass community resistance and are more likely to be able to get support. These things all happen without an anti-fascist "spurring" someone into developing these positions. Again, antifascism occurs as a defensive position, because racism and state violence are the status quo.

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No ones asking you to but you have no business attacking those that do offer it. In the era of internet forums and youtube, claiming its crucial that the odious be denied an opportunity to deliver a speech is plainly preposterous and a waste of effort. The motive is for the counter protests is obviously to intimidate the attendees. And the people that antifa have no platformed like milo are not fascists and the fact antifa claimed he was hurt the lefts credibility when we tried to warn people actual nazis were going to gather and riot.

It's delusional to think that the internet is sufficient to actually implement actual change. Chomsky has in fact discussed precisely this point here. It should be obvious: as long as capitalism exists in tangible means of production, organising will be necessary offline. Companies have intranet and strictly monitor what employees are doing with the time they're paid for. If internet organising were sufficient, there would be no attempts to host fascist meetings.

For what it's worth, an IWW member was shot at the milo counter-protest. There are fairly few groups which wholeheartedly endorse all aspects of fascism (not least because their main proponents were routed and their primary accomplishments were genocide). Instead, there are those that evoke enough and have organised a reactionary nucleus that poses enough of a threat to organise against.

Also, the most dangerous movements aren't necessarily continuity fascistic ones and organising against non-fascists can also be a means of establishing networks. Katie Hopkins isn't a fascist, but her attempt to speak in Lewes was successfully blockaded.

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When the left riots because someone tried to deliver a speech it pushes the center away from us. When ordinary people see black clad masked people beating people up on the streets and smashing cars it pushes the centre away from us. And we NEED the center to sympathise with us and not be more likely to join the right.

11% of people in the US expressed support for communism. Yet, we disdain to conceal our affiliation. A YouGov poll of 1754 adults in the UK found that 76% of people wanted immigration reduced and that it was the most important issue for most people. If we wanted more people to sympathise with us, we would express support for detention centres, immigration enforcement and deportations, introducing socialist ideas gradually.

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Great. But what do we do when we dont outnumber them 10-1? Thats the point. Antifa is starting a fight we all have to suffer for. Unless we do outnumber them 10-1 we should adopt different strategies.

I can think of four cases where antifa have been vastly outnumbered in the recent past. At Lee Rigby's memorial - there were thousands of people in attendance, vast majority not fascists, but expressing no discomfort with fascists in their midsts. In Luton opposing the EDL around 2014. In Dover they called a flash demonstration which nobody had prepared for. Two friends from Brighton SolFed had a solitary stall which was passed by about 50 fascists. Recently, between 20k-70k members of the "Football Lads Alliance" had a demonstration in London - tenor of the group could go up to extreme right, National Front was tolerated in ranks I think. What can we do? Other than despair, organise I suppose. Things have felt impossible in the past. Franco was in power for decades. What could we do to resolve things in Eritrea?

For what it's worth, as a former member of an antifascist group (not actively one due to changing location and work at the moment), I've done things like poster, sticker, cover up or deface fascist materials and hand out leaflets on council estates. I've also confronted fascists in large and small groups - physical contact is one of the least likely scenarios, particularly due to police tactics.

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Is not anywhere close to today. Britain was and still is a very rough country, and was filled with people that had gone to war against fascism. They also had a much stronger and more militant trade union movement and so were more likely to have rough, working class left wingers amongst their ranks. Almost all the examples you cited were PRE neoliberalisation of the 70's

Many of the people who were fighting in the second world war were conscripted in the "National Service (Armed Forces) Act of 1939" - it'd be a bit of a distortion to describe them as "going to war against fascism". After the Molotov-Ribentropp Pact many Stalinists would refer to it as the "second war of imperialist aggression" (such as Elizabeth Gurley Flynn) and many communists would become conscientious objectors. Of those choosing to fight, there were probably more fighting for their "country" than "against fascism". As for a militant trade union movement - sure, the trade union movement has been devastated, but check out the Battle for Waterloo Station. Besides, why would a trade union movement produce rough left-wingers rather than disciplined ones?

Talisa wrote:
My question is, where do we draw the line?
I have been really uncomfortable with where some leftists have drawn that line. Like a video I saw on YouTube of a talk that leftists shut down by constantly chanting and shouting over it.

If you have criticisms of specific tactics or strategies by antifascist groups, address it with them. I don't think it condemns the movement as a whole. Perhaps it's the video of an anarchist author advocating for prison abolition which is disrupted by other anarchist protesters as he made a comment which was deemed to be doubting survivors of sexual violence. In which case it's not "antifa", it's the particular tactic which is the cause of contention. Though it's worth considering which views we consider to be worthy of elevating to platforms and deserving of more attention than others.

Malllen wrote:
Some of the most effective counter movements in history have been numbers based non violent civil resistance. The fact that this lesson seems lost reflects an astonishing inability to learn from history.

From 1912- 1913 miners in West Virginia struck for the right to form a union, associate, to spend their wages at places other than company stores and other similar demands. Over the course of a year about 50 strikers were shot dead and several of the militia members who were drafted to suppress the strike were killed too, with miners eventually reaching a settlement and some of their demands being met after a year.

In May 1886 at a rally supporting workers striking for an 8 hour day, 7 police officers were killed, for which 7 anarchists were convicted and 4 were eventually hanged to death. This event, presumably of the mete which'd terrify a centrist, is now commemorated by a public holiday celebrated throughout the world.

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Your third point (among others) is just all wrong. You are not required to give anyone a platform. I think it should be obvious that chomsky is not saying that. What you are advocating is removing a platform that someone else with the authority to do so had decided to offer to your opponent.

The fact is, I, as a communist anarchist, want to transform the world so that we enjoy free associations of equals. Fascists aim to prevent this. I do not respect the notion of property rights or authority. I think all spaces should be under public control. The idea that halls belong to a small collection of individuals who can determine who can and cannot have a say in them coheres completely with fascism - I've yet to meet a fascist concerned that the cleaners for these halls do not in any way have a platform to express their concerns or views, the marginalisation of some is taken as natural.

Sharkfinn wrote:
At the current moment Antifa is able only to seriously oppose “fascist” that are so miniscule that it doesn’t make sense in the first place.

History has shown radical minorities can have a fairly large impact. Leon Czolgosz is one example, another would be Thomas Mair, yet another would be Mevlüt Mert Altıntaş. Sorites paradox is in effect though. While explicit fascists provide a simple target in most cases, ICE in the US or UKBF are simply not conceivable to impede on a large scale. For what it's worth, a white woman with her black partner were attacked in a restaurant during a Traditionalist Workers Party demonstration, while a woman was run over during the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville. Kinda justifies having an opposition, right?

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I don’t think nazies particularly need unions or university campuses as “platforms” they have the internet. The publicity stunts are there to reach to wider audiences, but I don’t think it’s about whose standing on the pavement, rather whose trending on twitter/youtube or has the access to the press. The whole PLATFORM thing need to be seriously interrogated, the assumption that controlling the streets (if only) constitutes control over “platforms” in the internet age.

If they didn't attempt to organise or harass people offline, this point wouldn't even need to be debated.

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So why aren’t we living in communism yet? In violent confrontation, strength, and brutality do matter.

I think the former segment is divorced from the latter. I think two liberal answers for why inequality persists are actually sound. The first is "defection", probably best summarised by Nozick in "Anarchy, State and Utopia" (crude summary: the abject have little to lose by identifying their interests with those of their oppressors, particularly when there are high opportunity costs with low success chance in the event of a revolution). The second is "circles of sympathy" (oikeiôsis, a Stoic concept revived by Adam Smith): a combination of culture and material conditions have made it possible to obfuscate the fact that all workers share interests in common, despite the diffusion of education throughout the working class. Yes, strength and brutality matter, but how long it can be perpetuated and the stratification of the ruling class make it difficult to maintain an equilibrium of intense exploitation. Workers can be shot to death, but not shot to work after all. While all history shows rule by a minority, the majority can have transformative effects.

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Again, a really confused description.

Not really, it's worth dispelling the myth that fascists are invulnerable - just like that of states or capital being a totalitarian entity rendering all resistance moot.

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Stop them from being present in areas the small left already controls?

Well, it should first be understood that places like universities were not historically considered "left-wing spaces". Chomsky has described being physically attacked by pro-war student protesters in the 60s. Students harassed striking auxiliary workers at Harvard at the turn of the 20th century (IIRC). Students formed organised scab units during the British General Strike. Bakunin wrote of the University as a hated institution that'd be destroyed in the course of a social revolution (and I'd have to say they'd at least be transformed beyond recognition, with a joint responsibility of all for technical and manual exertion should they have the capacity).

Not to mention that there have been routs of fascists in areas which have historically not been left-wing havens. Durham is one, Liverpool is another where I didn't expect such a large response. Even minor things like having a fascist gig cancelled in Luton was interesting.

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Fascist are not a threat because they can speak, they are a threat because they are a violent threat, but I don’t really think small black bloc has much to do with protecting people from that. Currently black bloc is a distraction.

How do you think that they galvanize people to attack others or pick targets? How do they produce materials? There are tangible connections here. Black bloc is a tactic used to prevent arrests and permit people to get away with the more militant end of responses, it's precisely what would be needed in large scales to prevent repression.

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We need to oppose fascism through other means. Also given that the fash are a weapon of the bourgeoisie and in places where they have power they usually start that with a complicity from the official authorities, confrontation on the streets are unlikely to be the way to beat them. No one is throwing the “antifascist” under the bus by not coddling left wing group think.

They're tolerated almost everywhere by the authorities. In fact, I think proscribing them is futile - the one aspect of suppressing free speech I disagree with is leaving it up to the state to deal with. I don't think laws against holding particular views contribute in the least to liberation, nor is arresting their activists. Getting fascists fired I'm conflicted over. There are plenty of things I've written here I wouldn't like read by my manager or the CEO of my company for instance.

Jonathan M. Feldman wrote:
Why? Because this "mass movement stuff" has been necessary but neglected industrial policy, controlling the means of production and innovation, and all sorts of deep measures necessary to smash fascism and build an effective response.

Uh, resisting fascism is a minimal demand, "controlling the means of production" is meant to be the end goal. Industrial policy is something divorced from the immediate demand and something genuine antifascists can have tactical disagreements on.

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Anarchism is supposed to be rooted in such things, think the Spanish Anarchists, and not simply movements in some street-focused fashion. The author(s) does not bring up these elements but seems to romanticize a syndicalist or protest variety of anarchism that is part of revisionist treatments of what anarchism represents.

Would you want to revise this passage? The author is romanticising syndicalist anarchism, neglecting Spanish anarchists and not focussing on controlling the means of production? I think these statements are mutually contradictory: from what I've read in Homage to Catalonia and seen in "Living Utopia", the anarchists in the North East of Spain got as close as possible to realising syndicalism as a means to combat fascism.

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First, none of this activity prevented fascism. Second, the current praxis of the Left is weak on combating de-industrialization, cooperative development and the extension of economic democracy, ending economic racist or sexist divisions-of-labor, and ending militarism. All these marches have still left in check big fat military industrial complexes and arms export machines. All these activities have been de-linked from a lot of pro-active economic organizing. You still have an almost totally powerless media accountability system in the US and UK and elsewhere in Europe.

What would you propose the left do to "combat de-industrialisation", "end racist/sexist divisions of labor" and "end militarism"? How should the media be held accountable? I think these are things which cannot be addressed by antifa as antifa, but I've been on a protest against Trident with a fellow antifascist while not wearing our antifascist hat. For what it's worth, disparities in wages are lowest in industries with higher union membership.

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The problem is that a lot of left meetings freely meet and their results are disappointing.

Sure, but that's another point orthogonal to antifascism. The current incarnation and focus of Brighton Antifascists was formed in response to a fairly sedate Palestine Solidarity Campaign meeting being attacked by EDL sympathisers.

Sharkfinn wrote:
If I have a point, it's that fascist are on the rise and antifa tactics won't do anything to stop it. You don't need to control the streets to build mass support when you got the internet https://www.splcenter.org/20170118/google-and-miseducation-dylann-roof. - My point is they have platforms, and areas antifa is worried about are not part of that.

Which tactics would you suggest are effective in stopping people like Roof or Breivik? For that matter, how could communist anarchists have stopped Adam Lanza?

Sharkfinn wrote:
Corporate university authorities are likely to react to unrest on campus by curtailing freedom of speech in general, any speech labeled offensive, not specifically fascist speech. That threatens left organising as well as the right, and shouldn't be seen as a victory. This has already happened in the case of UK, not because of antifa thing, but because of issues dealing with religious sensibilities. Pretty much the same in the case of street confrontation, enough confrontation between small left and right sects and the right of assebly is likely to get curtailed.

Funnily enough, around a century ago, it was deemed confrontational in the US to go out in public and state that workers had interests in common. Did that dissuade workers from doing so, lest it lead to further reaction? Nope, they spearheaded the "Free Speech Fights" and ended up being mobbed, lynched and in the case of Frank Little, killed for their speeches. Yes, private institutions impinging on speech is a threat, the state doing so almost certainly is. Independently organising against certain speakers mostly isn't.

Sharkfinn wrote:
Antifascism is entirely justified as a defensive measure for events (though this doesn't need a specific org or activist identity, you need fit people with baseball bats), or in situations where the police is actively supporting the fash, - as you will need to build your own security outfit because the law isn't there anymore.

Buh? Fit people with baseball bats are very easily picked off by the cops. Having a network in place allows people to gather intelligence, identify likely opposition, endorse security tactics and produce promotional materials to distribute to sympathetic organisations (a huge variety of unions were contacted for the "Stop March for England" demonstrations, along with the logistics of stickering and flyering being coordinated - not possible to do ad hoc as the need arises). In most cases of successful antifascist resistance, like Cable Street and Lewisham, it's often the cops which were involved in most of the aggression: see here (Ctrl +F "Cable street").

Spaceman spiff wrote:
I've seen many of my liberal friends get pushed away from socialism precisely because they thought some right-wing pundit's freedom of speech was violated

Really? None of my colleagues have brought that up in the least - in three workplaces the things that kept people away were: apathy, religion, opposition to immigration and a distaste for prison abolition. Maybe you could point out that they aren't "entitled" to a platform any more than anyone else. Socialism is the belief that workplaces should come under the control of workers, if anything, attitudes to how to address speech we disagree with is tangential to it. Incidentally, "speech" can constitute a war crime. If someone gives the orders to execute prisoners, that's considered worthy of the death penalty.

exit 8 wrote:
The culture of today's US antifa doesn't seem "accessible"; the ppl that are most into it tend to go out in black bloc & have high expectations for security culture: so is it likely to draw in a diverse cast and build alliances?

It depends, there's room for a variety of tactics. I've gone out in black bloc as a member of the antifascist network, but I've also gone out in a button down shirt and in a T-shirt. Direct confrontation to leafleting. Not to mention friendly relations with other organisations doing educational or supportive work.