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.

Submitted by libcom on August 18, 2017

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.

Attachments

Comments

Biffard Misqueegan

6 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Biffard Misqueegan on August 18, 2017

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.

On a side note, Im surprised there was no mention of the original German Antifaschistische Aktion in point #1

akai

6 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by akai on August 18, 2017

Just for the record, there were also significant anti-fascist groups in the US and Canada in the 20s and 30s. They were militant and confronted fascists and nazis physically, even killing a few.

l have a few criticisms at times of some specific anti-fascist tendencies or actions, but l agree that these comments are ill-timed and off-base. l guess it is just too cozy up in the ivory tower.

Austenic

6 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Austenic on August 19, 2017

So um even though in history anti-fa fought with nazis on the streets with leadpipes and small arms.. they never prevented them from taking power. In the contrary they always helped the nazis to become the victims and enabled their path to power.

Anybody not seeing this should be castrated.

admin: sexist weirdo threatening those with different opinions banned

sherbu-kteer

5 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by sherbu-kteer on January 22, 2019

I am surprised Chomsky doesn't know his history. 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?

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.

This kind of romanticising is far too common, you can see it in this post even. Just look:

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

This is a bizarre use of the collective 'we'. Antifa protestors are mainly leftists and anarchists, at best they represent a tiny fraction of the working class. There is no need for us to overstate how popular we are with the working class, it's obvious to anyone that anarchist and communist ideas are unfortunately not widespread among workers in most countries, let alone the USA.

Overall this article doesn't actually engage with what Chomsky said, or offer anything more than superficial arguments as to why he's wrong. There's the usual tit-for-tat childish thing about mocking Nazis as weak scaredy-cats (they do the same with us), as well as the standard hand-waving attitude to concerns about freedom of speech.

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

Edit 23/1/19: For new readers -- I was being a colossal jerk here and elsewhere in this comment section. I no longer hold the same positions I express here and regret my caustic tone in particular. Feel free to disregard everything I say above and below. I'm leaving it up instead of deleting it because the other comments won't make sense otherwise, and because I think removing them would be kind of cowardly.

Chilli Sauce

6 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on August 19, 2017

Or the proud Italians who stopped Mussolini's invasion of Abyssinia by posting embarrassing photos of Fascist electoral candidates on communist blogs?

Personally, I had more in mind the proud Italian anti-fascists who strung up Mussolini from a lampost. Ya know, the ones who ended fascism in Italy.

In any case, might as well go straight to the source on this one:

"Only one thing could have stopped our movement - if our adversaries had understood its principle and from the first day smashed with the utmost brutality the nucleus of our new movement."
- Hitler, 1934

Of course we need to tackle the societal causes of fascism and right-wing populism in general, but once someone has consciously aligned themselves with ideological racism, good luck trying to reason with them.

Jim

6 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Jim on August 19, 2017

The anarchist argument against antifa appears to be the same argument which lost anarchists the Spanish revolution.

sherbu-kteer

6 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by sherbu-kteer on August 19, 2017

Personally, I had more in mind the proud Italian anti-fascists who strung up Mussolini from a lampost. Ya know, the ones who ended fascism in Italy.

They wouldn't have ended it if they didn't have two of the world's largest military empires helping them. Regardless, the antifascist partisans of the war are completely different to modern 'antifa'. No matter how bad it may seem now, USA 2017 is not Italy 1939. The comparisons only stretch so far.

In any case, might as well go straight to the source on this one:

"Only one thing could have stopped our movement - if our adversaries had understood its principle and from the first day smashed with the utmost brutality the nucleus of our new movement."
- Hitler, 1934

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.

As it happens, left wing Germans did fight street battles with Nazis. They even won a few. But that didn't stop Hitler.

Of course we need to tackle the societal causes of fascism and right-wing populism in general, but once someone has consciously aligned themselves with ideological racism, good luck trying to reason with them.

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.

Chilli Sauce

6 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on August 19, 2017

They wouldn't have ended it if they didn't have two of the world's largest military empires helping them.

You say that, but after the war the Western powers were more than happy to leave Fascists in positions of state power and recruit then into their security services. In Italy, it truly was anti-fascism that ended fascism in the country.

And of course the comparison only stretches so far - that's true with all analogies. It's also true that street confrontations didn't succeed in stopping fascism in Italy or Germany - but they did in England.

Just out of curiosity, would you have counselled against the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising? Perhaps an exit program for Nazi guards would have been more effective? Even if you don't win, you can't let that shit go without a response - not in the 1920s and not in 2017.

sherbu-kteer

6 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by sherbu-kteer on August 19, 2017

You say that, but after the war the Western powers were more than happy to leave Fascists in positions of state power and recruit then into their security services. In Italy, it truly was anti-fascism that ended fascism in the country.

I know. Doesn't change my point. Mussolini wouldn't have fallen without the assistance of the US and the British Commonwealth. Antifascists played an essential role before, during and after the war, I'm not denying that.

And of course the comparison only stretches so far - that's true with all analogies. True, street confrontations didn't succeed in stopping fascism in Italy or Germany - but they did in England.

There are many reasons why Fascism didn't rise in the UK. The Battle of Cable Street and other similar events are only one element. Saying that street confrontations stopped British Fascism is misleading and not showing the whole picture

Just out of curiosity, would you have counselled against the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising? Perhaps an exit program for Nazi guards would have been more effective?

I'm not going to bother responding to that.

akai

6 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by akai on August 19, 2017

First, to Jim, a big logical fail. Just because Chomsky or some anonymous person on the internet has a criticism, it doesn't make it "the anarchist argument against antifa". You can't just take the opinion of an individual and assign it to a much larger group of people. Especially if the individual is often dubious in his consistent adherence to any idea. You'd have to listen to lots of anarchists, to be able to define a general tendency in thought. And here, even if many anarchists, including myself, have criticisms of some particular anti-fascist actions, or how some things are handled, it doesn't mean that the majority of people would agree with these arguments. l am sure some do, but that doesn't make it "the anarchist argument".

Second, besides Austentic's sexism, the logic is sick. Sort of preaching non-violence against the violent but proposing castration for those who "don't see". Let's dismiss it as a stupid remark.

Of course, what brings fascists to power or not is often a very complex series of issues and factors. Physical reaction to this is not a way to tackle these issues at the roots. But it is a way to confront those who are threatening in public space. Just yesterday l was telling a story about my father, who was not at all political, but went around in a little gang stopping nazis because they had been going around beating people who hung around with people of color or Jews. Lots of young tough poor kids did this, because they just didn't like people coming around and beating on them because of their skin color, religion, nationality, etc. lt's a very basic thing that there are those who would inflict all sorts of harrassment, pain and punishment on different categories of people - LGBT, foreigners, Muslims, people of color .... and who actually have started to do this. Where there is no reaction, they take this as societal consent and keep doing.

Fascism needs to be countered with spreading a different type of equalitarian politics through everyday community, workplace and organizational work. lMO, this work cannot be done only in small groups of radicals, but we have to try to influence the mainstream in some ways and work out of the traditional radical comfort zones.

That said, where communities have been victimized by right-wing, racist and fascist violence, it is very motivating to come together to fight this off, even if it's something like a symbolic blockade.

The problem with the argument that these types of anti-fascist actions can't win is the type of defeatism this brings with it. lf it is all hopeless, why should anybody react at all. Somebody here mentioned the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. (Also we could talk of the Warsaw Uprising.) Actually, whether or react or how to react was a real question in those days and there are plenty of books which have said that these Uprisings were basically suicide, implying they shouldn't have happened. l don't want to go into the history too much because it's really upsetting, but people risked their lives many years earlier even so that Nazism wouldn't spread and that in the early days of the occupation, there was a lack of sufficient militant reaction, partly understandable due to a lack of guns but also there was a sort of hope that the Allies would just sort of come along and rescue everybody. This idea that people should wait for the big guns of the state instead of organizing themselves proved costly. A bit later, quite a significant resistance went up, but at that point, they were already at such a disadvantage. To get off historical speculation, the long and short of it is that people need to react before they set up the ovens.

lt is upsetting to me that people seem to be saying that taking any action against nazis is "helping them". Of course, if there have been some actions done in an unintelligent way, yes, things can backfire. Have seem this happen in my city more than once, where nationalists gained sympathy after mistakes of antifascists. Of course we need to be critical and we can make concrete analyses of why something can backfire. This can be instructional for comrades and other people. But l don't really see anything here of the sort - just some pacificist stuff and pokes at antifa.

Seriously, the American people have had some pretty good debates throughout history on issues like this. l would recommend Martin Luther King and Malcolm X or other debates from that era about confronting issues of racism with non-violence or not. This will be from a slightly different perspective, but they are extremely valuable, especially the times that less known activists spoke out, because these were often people who had to encounter real racist violence and terror where they lived and it's totally understandable that some people were not convinced by only non-violent civil disobedience.

BTW, as far as anti-fascists are concerned, at least around here, there are lots who also don't want to use any violence, but still think it's important to confront them on the streets.

Ed

6 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Ed on August 19, 2017

Actually kind of surprised so many people are talking about the failure of Italian and German anti-fascists to stop fascism when the article makes no mention of them. This is intentional: the alt-right are not a government in waiting. They're far more similar to the post-war British far-right (hence most of the examples coming from there): that is, not strong enough to take power but strong enough to menace communities they don't like. British anti-fascists were very successful in dealing with that menace. So I'm confused as to why there's so little engagement with that element of anti-fascist history here.

Tick Tock

6 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Tick Tock on August 19, 2017

I think Chomsky is largely correct.

Especially on the opportunity costs - your point 6. I do grassroots radical education and organising with some other anarchists and a problem has been that a lot of them are often busy or burnt out from antifa actions.

sam bauer

6 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by sam bauer on August 19, 2017

Chilli Sauce

.Just out of curiosity, would you have counselled against the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising? Perhaps an exit program for Nazi guards would have been more effective? Even if you don't win, you can't let that shit go without a response - not in the 1920s and not in 2017.

Exit programs exist because many times these people have completely alienated themselves with their friends and family and thus can't leave their organisations. This support does make a difference.

DevastateTheAvenues

6 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by DevastateTheAvenues on August 19, 2017

Austenic

So um even though in history anti-fa fought with nazis on the streets with leadpipes and small arms.. they never prevented them from taking power. In the contrary they always helped the nazis to become the victims and enabled their path to power.

Anybody not seeing this should be castrated.

You conveniently forget that what helped the Nazis come to power were liberals and so-called socialists, particularly Ebert and Noske and their repugnant ilk, who crushed time and again every uprising of the German working class. And you forget that they did this by relying on the Freikorps and putschists that became the Nazis to do the work of massacring workers. In 1918 and 1919, Ebert and Noske and the other rats in the SPD, who had arrogated to themselves supreme direction of the whole German socialist movement, called out the Freikorps to kill striking workers and mutineering soldiers, Luxemberg and Liebknect among them. Then, in 1920, after the Weimar Republic and the Social Democratic Party cynically called for a general strike of the working class in order to preserve its own governance against the Freikorps and Kapp putschists, that same government then turned around and used those same Freikorps and putschists to dissolve by force tens of thousands of armed workers, the army of the Ruhr, explicitly calling for socialism. And then you must know that these very forces, the right-wing paramilitaries and the putschists, would become the Nazis.

Clearly, those "socialists" in government believed they knew the correct course for socialism in Germany, and workers wouldn't follow this course then these "socialists" preferred them shot. It was this situation, in which the armed working class was repeatedly crushed by the far-right in alliance with "socialists" in government, that allowed for the rise of the Nazis. To lay the blame for Nazis at the foot of the (dead) armed workers is unsupportable if it was in the defeat of the armed workers that the Nazis came to power. That is, unless your argument is somewhere along the lines of "the demand for socialism forced the government to call on right-wing paramilitaries to defeat the armed socialists, thus allowing the Nazis to come to power", in which case I guess we should all fuck off and join the local liberals or socdems, because, while the kind of sops who believe this obviously fear Nazis, they really fear social revolution even more.

By the way, "castrated", huh? This is the admonishment you thought was most appropriate? Clearly you are some manarchist or MRA-spiked "socialist" whose primary concern regarding the revolution is how it can help you get your dick wet, and thus assume that castration is of course the most cutting threat to the entire--and entirely male, obviously--movement; or you're a plant from some addled cesspool like Sturmfuck who assumes that this place is just like your scumball old boys club.

dragoonuv

6 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by dragoonuv on August 19, 2017

>'ignore fascists until they go away' only works if you have the privilege of being ignored by them as well.

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.

>We are not duty-bound to give fascists somewhere to spread their hate.

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.

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.

>In Liverpool, fascists ran to hide in a train station's left luggage department after being outnumbered 10-to-1.

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.

>The experience of Post-World War Two Britain

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

rooieravotr

6 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by rooieravotr on August 19, 2017

I basically agree with the six points that are made in this peace. The article, however, would be much more credible if it had given the source of Chomsky's remarks, so that people can judge for themselves on the basis of who exactly says what. Criticizing without giving the source of what one criticizes is not ja very good way of handling polemics and controversy. I found some Chomsky quotes which I suppose are the source of the controversy here: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/noam-chomsky-antifa-is-a-major-gift-to-the-right/article/2631786 If shis is only a short rendition from a longer original, I would be glad to know.

For the rest: good piece.

Talisa

6 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Talisa on August 19, 2017

I agree that when it comes to neo-nazis, kkk, etc., it can help if we confront them with a beating, or by shutting down their talks and denying them free speech when we have the power to do so.

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. The speaker was expressing shitty right-wing views, but he's no nazi, and is a critic of the alt-right and white-supremacists. Watching that made me cringe. (I can try to dig up the link if people are interested.)

So again: Where do you draw the line? Who is it ok to prevent from exercising free speech? Who is it ok to physically attack?

Steven.

6 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Steven. on August 19, 2017

rooieravotr

I basically agree with the six points that are made in this peace. The article, however, would be much more credible if it had given the source of Chomsky's remarks, so that people can judge for themselves on the basis of who exactly says what.

that's a good point, that was an oversight on our part which has now been corrected, with a hyperlink put in to his original comments. Thanks

malllen

6 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by malllen on August 20, 2017

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. We are not pre-determined into groups destined to fight against opposing groups, we are individuals, subject to influence from peers and media, all of us with the potential for both good and bad. Violence enshrines people into position. Everything above suggests you don't believe there is anyway out of a group determination, which is utterly defeatist, illiberal, cowardly, weak and unproductive. Antifa do not espouse liberal values, perhaps leftists although i sincerely doubt it.

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. There is a big difference in antifa not being obliged to give someone a platform (that's such a straw man its laughable) and antifa denying another person the right to give their platform to whom they wish. Same goes for your BNP example, if the union didn't want him, that's their choice. No one has to take anyone into their organisation - as if that is what chomsky is talking about - again, laughable. However if said union had decided to allow the BNP person to continue in their organization, who would antifa be to deny them that right? That is chomsky's argument in this case.

There's so much more to say. It's deeply disappointing that some people think they are liberal and righteous at the same time as espousing violence against a group of ambiguous efficacy and importance. That kind of 'blame you for the sins of everyone whom you associate however tentatively with' is exactly what we're trying to talk conservatives out of with islam. (yes yes i know,
you can't be an ok white supremicist, that's not the point - the point is your love of violence against these guys is based on the sins of people who are not them). This is the kind of thing that MLK very clearly and passionately argued against. It's the kind of thing that only perpetuates conflict, enshrining misguided individuals into ever increasing extremes. It's so cosy on the moral high-ground, you can wear a bandanna and feel like a righteous warrior. It's an illusion, you lose authority as soon as you resort to weak, cynical violence.

radicalgraffiti

6 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by radicalgraffiti on August 20, 2017

liberalism is right wing garbage, no one should be liberal, liberals enable fascists and pretend this is a good thing

malllen

6 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by malllen on August 20, 2017

Violence enables facism. Violence is facist.

jondwhite

6 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jondwhite on August 20, 2017

And of course the comparison only stretches so far - that's true with all analogies. True, street confrontations didn't succeed in stopping fascism in Italy or Germany - but they did in England.

There are many reasons why Fascism didn't rise in the UK. The Battle of Cable Street and other similar events are only one element. Saying that street confrontations stopped British Fascism is misleading and not showing the whole picture

Have to say I agree with Chomsky on this one. And actually the Battle of Cable Street did lead to a rise in British Fascism. It was only when it was ideologically exposed at the Olympia rally that its support dramatically plummeted.
http://www.historytoday.com/daniel-tilles/myth-cable-street
Same happened with the BNP after BBC Question Time. Decades of antifa activity didnt stop them growing to get 2 MEPs. The NF demise was more to do with Thatcher.
Warsaw Uprising was probably right thing to do but by then it was already too late.

szponiasty

6 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by szponiasty on August 20, 2017

He is not wrong. Antifa escalates tensions and division. Normal people, with families, will turn to the government, for "protection". Antifa is handling society into the hands of police state.

rooieravotr

6 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by rooieravotr on August 20, 2017

Once more about the source of the Chomsky Quote: the Washington Examiner. Is that reliable?Someone I know how is following this, says it is a right wing publication, not above spreading climate denial stuff and things like that. I looked a bio closer, did not immediately find conspiratory-stuff, but a progressive publication it is not, and it is on the gossipy side of things... Are we sure that Chomsky ACTUALLY said these things about Antifa that we are now hotly arguing about?

Sharkfinn

6 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Sharkfinn on August 20, 2017

1) The last time the fascists were beaten it took the combined allied forces. Obviously, people need to violently oppose violent persecution and the working class needs to be able to defend itself against reaction, but it’s deluded to see the street confrontations as something that seriously contributed to fall of fascism. 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.

2) KKK and the alt right are a tiny fringe, possibly even smaller than the left, meanwhile the golden dawn is in government, they are not weak, only some of them are. I don’t think street confrontations have lot to do with stopping the fash. It’s a pretty generous interpretation to say that the internal fights within the right are a product of left opposition. I mean we don’t need the far right to make us sectarian. These fights are a natural product of the far right’s tendency to use broad coalitions and popular front tactics, and how that interacts with fractured group identity of small sects. Neither did the Night of The Long Knives weaken the nazis one bit. I can see a weird discourse here were libcom is stating that nazies are incredibly dangerous and on the rise, but at the same time our tactics are winning?!

3) 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.

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

5) Again, a really confused description. What about fire bombings of migrant businesses, lone gunman shootings in the US, gas attacks, political assassinations, co-operation with the police and infiltration within the ranks of the military, being in government!! Yes, we can beat the fascist that we can beat (the nerds), but those aren’t the dangerous ones. Also, quite UK centric.

6) Yes, but it’s unclear what is the end game for antifascism. For most of the other stuff described here it would be communism, but with no platforming fascist, I can’t really tell what is the supposed goal anymore. - Stop them from being present in areas the small left already controls? - What is a platform supposed to mean and why would that stop the fascist? The left is used to marching on the streets with lollypops, so stopping fascist from doing that seems logical to us, because that is the activity we happen to fetishize. 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. 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.

adri

6 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by adri on August 20, 2017

rooieravotr

Once more about the source of the Chomsky Quote: the Washington Examiner. Is that reliable?Someone I know how is following this, says it is a right wing publication, not above spreading climate denial stuff and things like that. I looked a bio closer, did not immediately find conspiratory-stuff, but a progressive publication it is not, and it is on the gossipy side of things... Are we sure that Chomsky ACTUALLY said these things about Antifa that we are now hotly arguing about?

Yes, according to wiki it's a conservative news source, but Chomsky has made similar comments about "not showing up to events if you don't want to hear someone speak" in the past, as well as defending a holocaust denier, and there is also this reddit where someone email messaged him and got the same kind of response we see in the interview. The Washington Examiner also quoted him directly it seems.

Fleur

6 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Fleur on August 20, 2017

re:Mallen.

I love it when liberals who want to promote nonviolence invoke the name of MLK, seemingly oblivious to the fact he was murdered, that he was armed to the teeth, along with the people who worked with him, that he met with people who employed non-violent tactics, that he never condemned people who took part in physical resistance. Liberals seem to forget that the era, and the era preceding it, was a period of extreme racialized violence, in which African Americans organized in self-defence and and paid for it with their lives. Non violence was only one tactic of the civil rights movement but it's the only one that liberals seem to remember (bit like the myth that non-violence was the thing which drove the British out of India.) It's a very cozy idea, which enables well-meaning people to feel safe and comfortable in their refusal to get involved in the fight.

Perhaps try reading something written by people involved in the civil rights movement, as opposed to watching too many made for TV movies which cast white liberals as protagonists in the civil rights movement. Try these for starters.
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18210783-this-nonviolent-stuff-ll-get-you-killed
This Nonviolent Stuff'll Get You Killed - Charles E Cobb
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17072350-we-will-shoot-back
We Will Shoot Back: Armed Resistance in the Mississippi Freedom Movement - Akinyele Omowale Umoja

There is also the myth that liberals supported the civil rights movement, they largely did not. In 1966, 85% of white people thought that the disruptions of the civil rights movements hurt black people.
http://www.theroot.com/mlk-would-never-shut-down-a-freeway-and-6-other-myths-1790856033
I expect in 50 years time, white liberals will be claiming that physically confronting fascists was their idea all along.

(Edited to fix link.)

Reddebrek

6 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Reddebrek on August 20, 2017

jondwhite

And of course the comparison only stretches so far - that's true with all analogies. True, street confrontations didn't succeed in stopping fascism in Italy or Germany - but they did in England.

There are many reasons why Fascism didn't rise in the UK. The Battle of Cable Street and other similar events are only one element. Saying that street confrontations stopped British Fascism is misleading and not showing the whole picture

Have to say I agree with Chomsky on this one. And actually the Battle of Cable Street did lead to a rise in British Fascism. It was only when it was ideologically exposed at the Olympia rally that its support dramatically plummeted.
http://www.historytoday.com/daniel-tilles/myth-cable-street
Same happened with the BNP after BBC Question Time. Decades of antifa activity didnt stop them growing to get 2 MEPs. The NF demise was more to do with Thatcher.
Warsaw Uprising was probably right thing to do but by then it was already too late.

You might want to re-read that article from History Today because the section on the post Cable Street growth says the growth in support in the aftermath of Cable street depended highly on its exploitation of anti-Semitism. Which is rather important since it chances the framing from sympathy for Black shirts being beaten up, to support for a group willing to attack the Jewish community.

Indeed this is a very important dimension of the victim narrative that is often overlooked. Its not that the far right are being "victimised" that increases sympathy from some elements of society its that there being "victimised" by feared and hated minority groups. There main area of growth was after all the East end, the area with the most extreme anti-Semitic tensions.

It also says that after Olympia many of its more respectable supporters dropped it, but the BUF experienced a bump in new members. Personally I'd like to know whether these respectable types flocked back to the party after Cable street or did they stay away. Because if they stayed away it seems like the Olympia to Cable street BUF fortunes were determined more by political reorientation than anything else.

And of course the question remains if the act of losing a fight and being victims could make the BUF stronger, why wasn't this case when Mosley tried it after WWII? I don't believe anti-Semitism went away, but it doesn't seem to have been quite as attractive a policy as it was in the 30's, so perhaps the real lesson of the BUF is that Fascist groups will grow the more racial tensions they can exploit within society.

The BNP had its best ever election results in the UK in 2010 which was after the Question Time debate (over 500,000 votes nationally), this is just a liberal myth. They collapsed due to infighting, competition and financial strains from the Marmite lawsuit, if Question Time had anything to do with it at all it was to give the BNP a bit of a boost.

As for the NF their decline was the result of infighting and competition amongst the far right in the 80's the eventual winners the BNP(whose birth was influenced by an infiltrator) gave up on confrontations and refocused on elections kinda of an odd thing to do if having their marches shutdown had no real effect on their fortunes.

Reddebrek

6 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Reddebrek on August 20, 2017

Sharkfinn

1) The last time the fascists were beaten it took the combined allied forces. Obviously, people need to violently oppose violent persecution and the working class needs to be able to defend itself against reaction, but it’s deluded to see the street confrontations as something that seriously contributed to fall of fascism. 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.

Err, no. The text your criticising has multiple far more recent examples of Fascist movements being defeated. Even if you're restricting yourself to Fascist governments you're ignoring the collapse and overthrow of Fascist regimes in Greece, Portugal and Spain.

2) KKK and the alt right are a tiny fringe, possibly even smaller than the left, meanwhile the golden dawn is in government, they are not weak, only some of them are. I don’t think street confrontations have lot to do with stopping the fash. It’s a pretty generous interpretation to say that the internal fights within the right are a product of left opposition. I mean we don’t need the far right to make us sectarian. These fights are a natural product of the far right’s tendency to use broad coalitions and popular front tactics, and how that interacts with fractured group identity of small sects. Neither did the Night of The Long Knives weaken the nazis one bit. I can see a weird discourse here were libcom is stating that nazies are incredibly dangerous and on the rise, but at the same time our tactics are winning?!

Yes they're small, how do you think ignoring their attempts to grow is a good idea then? Also no the Golden Dawn aren't in government, they're an opposition group in parliament. The closest they've come to government is support and membership of the police, but that is also true the KKK and NSM in the USA.

3) 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.

This is just confused, they don't need platforms, except for the times when they do... You know far right websites get hacked and shutdown quite regularly right? The internet isn't impervious some of the most serious breaches of Fash operational security have happened thanks to the reliance on the internet. Your second point is a non sequitur too, in what way has the internet change the relationship to physical public space?

Platforms and media are tools, some times some tools are better suited for certain situations. The Internet isn't a sufficient platform for any other political tendency to grow and advance its goals so why should that be true of Fascists? And if it is true for them why are they even bothering with demonstrations and rallies?

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

That isn't what that's saying.

5) Again, a really confused description. What about fire bombings of migrant businesses, lone gunman shootings in the US, gas attacks, political assassinations, co-operation with the police and infiltration within the ranks of the military, being in government!! Yes, we can beat the fascist that we can beat (the nerds), but those aren’t the dangerous ones. Also, quite UK centric.

Not really all of your "counter" examples are in the UK too. They're also opposed by Anti Fascists, so this isn't saying anything other than your own assumptions.

6) Yes, but it’s unclear what is the end game for antifascism. For most of the other stuff described here it would be communism, but with no platforming fascist, I can’t really tell what is the supposed goal anymore. - Stop them from being present in areas the small left already controls? - What is a platform supposed to mean and why would that stop the fascist? The left is used to marching on the streets with lollypops, so stopping fascist from doing that seems logical to us, because that is the activity we happen to fetishize. 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. 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.

Again this is just confused rambling, there is no coherent point to this, is basically just a collection of strawmen mixed in with telling anti fascists what they already know. Since Fascism is a weapon of capitalism like the blog says, it must be opposed like all the other weapons of capitalism. You're comments about stopping Fascists with lollipops (is that even a term outside the UK?) is also bizarre as that's not even what anti-fascists are most commonly misrepresented as doing. Black Bloc isn't a distraction the only people who say in my experience are those dealing with sour grapes that their preferred political vehicle doesn't have any appeal.

We know it isn't a distraction because despite criticisms and flaws it does what it is designed to do. Provide protection for militants whilst disrupting the actions of an opposing group. Virtually every single large Anti Fascist grouping in history has been made up of members of radical working class organisations of one type or another. These groups do somehow manage to do other work and indeed their Anti-fascist activities are part of that work as it provides a defence from right wing violence.

How exactly is our work supposed to be made easier if we allow another threat free reign in our communities?

Sharkfinn

6 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Sharkfinn on August 20, 2017

Yep, sorry I confused GD with ANEL. That's my bad writing too fast, but the point is still the same. We are not succeeding with stopping the fash. My point isn't do nothing but that "antifa tactics" aren't working and are a distraction. We should consentrate on stuff that actually works in building a movement. Working classes strength is supposed to be at the point of prodction, the streets aren't someting that we can control.

Reddebrek

6 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Reddebrek on August 20, 2017

Yes, I know that's your line, but it isn't a point, because you haven't proven anything nor are you answering any criticisms of your stance.

Your characterisation that Anti Fascism is purely a "street" phenomena is just absurd and untrue. Either you're very ignorant or dishonest. This blog you're criticising even included some workplace examples.

Jim

6 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Jim on August 20, 2017

Sharkfinn

Working classes strength is supposed to be at the point of prodction, the streets aren't someting that we can control.

If the working class is incapable of controlling the streets then there is no hope for communism. What good is it to control factories and points of production if good can't be moved from place to place, people can't travel to and from workplaces etc. Being able to control the streets is an essential aspect of a revolutionary process.

Reddebrek

6 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Reddebrek on August 20, 2017

Well there's that and the more immediate concern that when right wing forces get a presence on the streets they come into the workplaces too. The KKK and other vigilante groups terrorised workers and did their best to smash organised labour and keep workforces racially divided. For example.

And that was what the Silver Shirts were doing, hiring themselves out as strike breakers, they just had the bad luck to pick and then lose their fights with the Teamsters. The strike in JJ Foods in the UK also had the boss attempt to create racial tensions between his largely Kurdish and Turkish workforce, and when that failed he brought in members of the Grey Wolves to try and crush the strike physically.

Then of course Mussolini's Black shirts were used to smash striking workers and reclaim occupied factories.

The whole workplace vs streets is really a false and dangerous framing.

potrokin

6 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by potrokin on August 20, 2017

Fleur

re:Mallen.

I love it when liberals who want to promote nonviolence invoke the name of MLK, seemingly oblivious to the fact he was murdered, that he was armed to the teeth, along with the people who worked with him, that he met with people who employed non-violent tactics, that he never condemned people who took part in physical resistance. Liberals seem to forget that the era, and the era preceding it, was a period of extreme racialized violence, in which African Americans organized in self-defence and and paid for it with their lives. Non violence was only one tactic of the civil rights movement but it's the only one that liberals seem to remember (bit like the myth that non-violence was the thing which drove the British out of India.) It's a very cozy idea, which enables well-meaning people to feel safe and comfortable in their refusal to get involved in the fight.

Perhaps try reading something written by people involved in the civil rights movement, as opposed to watching too many made for TV movies which cast white liberals as protagonists in the civil rights movement. Try these for starters.
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18210783-this-nonviolent-stuff-ll-get-you-killed
This Nonviolent Stuff'll Get You Killed - Charles E Cobb
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17072350-we-will-shoot-back
We Will Shoot Back: Armed Resistance in the Mississippi Freedom Movement - Akinyele Omowale Umoja

There is also the myth that liberals supported the civil rights movement, they largely did not. In 1966, 85% of white people thought that the disruptions of the civil rights movements hurt black people.
http://www.theroot.com/mlk-would-never-shut-down-a-freeway-and-6-other-myths-1790856033
I expect in 50 years time, white liberals will be claiming that physically confronting fascists was their idea all along.

(Edited to fix link.)

Damn son!

Jonathan M. Feldman

6 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Jonathan M. Feldman on August 20, 2017

Item 1: Is a matter of interpretation. Any group can claim groups that are actually different from them in which they have no organic link as their predecessor group. Therefore, one has to substantiate the existence of a lineage and not simply claim it.

Item 2: Chomsky never said "'ignore fascists until they go away" because he warned about fascism or fascist tendencies many years ago. His larger point is that we must do other things than street fighting, independently of his specific critique of antifa.

Item 3: The author or authors are fishing when they write: "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?" Chomsky is talking about public events like universities and to a certain extent the public space where one gets permits. He is not talking about non-state actors like trade unions. This is a kind of strawman argument. One can argue that people marching through public space using torches are provocative and require a street response. Whether or not antifa should lead or does a good job in organizing that street response is another question. I won't take a side in this question, but just stick with what I indicated.

Item 4: Is an interesting point. The point may be valid, yet irrelevant because the larger point that is not part of this quotation and critique is that it is hardly sufficient to use street demonstrations to stop fascism or the larger environment breeding aspects of fascism, e.g. economic decline of industrial areas. Part of Chomsky's views relate to this larger point which the author or authors don't take up at all.

Item 5: This point seems like chasing after details and I could not really understand it. The author or authors do significantly write: "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." This sentence appears to contradict what I wrote earlier, but it doesn't really. 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. 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.

Item 6: On the face of it, this part of the article also appears to contradict some of what I have written above, but not really. A lot of these activities are highly useful and essential: "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."

Yet, something is rotten in the states of the USA, UK and elsewhere when it comes to the Left and the author(s) engage in bad faith when they neglect that. 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.

This point is true, but seems to suggest that Chomsky does not understand it: "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." The problem is that a lot of left meetings freely meet and their results are disappointing. So, while the point is valid as a necessary condition, it is hardly sufficient. I also believe that it would be wrong to think that Chomsky does not understand such matters, but assuming he does hypothetically not get this point, it still begs the larger questions described in my analysis.

Finally, all the anti-intellectual and ageist statements about Chomsky and deconstructions of one of the leading critics of the academic system are rather disgusting and idiotic. This last point refers not to the original piece but various comments made during this debate in social media.

For more elaborations, see: http://www.globalteachin.com/uncategorized/is-chomsky-totally-wrong-about-antifa-no

Sharkfinn

6 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Sharkfinn on August 20, 2017

Reddebrek

Yes, I know that's your line, but it isn't a point, because you haven't proven anything nor are you answering any criticisms of your stance.

Your characterisation that Anti Fascism is purely a "street" phenomena is just absurd and untrue. Either you're very ignorant or dishonest. This blog you're criticising even included some workplace examples.

What would proof mean in this context? I explicitly used the terms black bloc and no platforming to emphaise what I'm talking about, which was also the tactic Chomsky was referring to. If we define antifa widely enough, its hard to criticise it or even think about it analytically, because it's too vague. When we talk about antifa I assume most of us understand it to mean physical mobilisation against fascists.

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.

That is not a moral critique of the antifa, its a tactical critique. If people wanna be weekend warriors, fine. But its disingenous to demand people not to criticise them on tactical grounds, or to compile a call out list of enemies because some people don't agree (I don't blame libcom.org explicitly for doing that). But like the article on cable street should demonstrate the first order of business is to determine what works and why. The left is currently extremely small because, as small sects, we don't offer much to people.

I think Pennoid pointed out very important point on another thread, that antifa is taking the struggle to violent arena way too soon. Right now we are at the situation were violent confrontation works (if we are being very, very generous) in areas where we are already strong (liberal urban areas, uni campuses) (-for the record I'm not sure it's doing what is intended even there). Neither of those places are extremely important for fascist in terms of recruitment or for reaching state power. It can however backfire on the left if the violence and specific demands are not properly coordinated (- I don't have time to discuss this in detail at the moment, sorry). I don't think we need to worry about that excessively. The real question to worry about, is how to organise working class again into a conscious mass movement, with power at the point of production. Answer to that problem is also answer to the former. But if we want to reach that, the left needs to seriouly rethink itself on many grounds.

Cris Oliveira

6 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Cris Oliveira on August 20, 2017

The number of anti-fascist demonstrations around the world is growing and while liberals preach nazis have the right to speech and platform, it was the antifa who has been spearheading the resistance. Despite that, Chomsky still states antifa is counterproductive. So sad an intellectual powerhouse like Chomsky will be remembered in the future for his cowardice and doing nothing to advance anarchy beyond saying it's cool and expecting people to trust him on it because he's like a rockstar of linguistics and political science.

potrokin

6 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by potrokin on August 21, 2017

Sharkfinn

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.

You have a point but if you think that the far-right are not interested in gaining support at uni campuses and in liberal urban areas then you are mistaken. Far-right figures have appeared at universities to give speeches (I am thinking here of Tommy Robinson, and I'm sure there have been others more obviously fascistic and nazi). Also, from my own experience Antifa is not only about physical confrontation- 'ideological work' is seen as just as important by the members of Antifa that I have met and they are aware of the importance of countering anything online ideologically, as I'm sure is the left and the anarchist/ anti-fascist movement. I agree with the last point of your post though ofcourse, the majority of the working-class needs to know who it's true enemy is and what it should be unifying against.

Jonathan M. Feldman

6 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Jonathan M. Feldman on August 21, 2017

What you write here is reasonable, I think some aspects of a well-regulated antifa make sense under some circumstances. The power at production is limited by outsourcing and so-called globalization requiring different organizing strategies, some of which are community based. As for the Internet, it is not sufficient because of the quality of the content.

On media power, see:
https://sciser.files.wordpress.com/2016/07/reconstruction-as-a-solution-to-the-problems-of-media-content-and-form.pdf

On the globalization and workers' power and production organizing, see: http://www.labornotes.org/2017/08/why-did-nissan-workers-vote-no and Chris Brooks here:
http://www.leftbusinessobserver.com/Radio.html

I think this is the tip of the iceberg, however, you need a totalistic organizing approach (indicated here): http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/08854300.2016.1184913?journalCode=csad20

Jonathan M. Feldman

6 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Jonathan M. Feldman on August 21, 2017

See above.

Jonathan M. Feldman

6 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Jonathan M. Feldman on August 21, 2017

There is no evidence that Chomsky will be remembered in the way you state except for a very limited number of persons whose views of politics begin and end in street protests.

Ed

6 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Ed on August 21, 2017

potrokin

Sharkfinn

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.

You have a point but if you think that the far-right are not interested in gaining support at uni campuses and in liberal urban areas then you are mistaken. Far-right figures have appeared at universities to give speeches (I am thinking here of Tommy Robinson, and I'm sure there have been others more obviously fascistic and nazi).

This is true. Identity Europa have specifically targetted university campuses for recruitment and if you look at a lot of the people exposed in the aftermath of Charlottesville, a lot of them were university students as well. Similar with National Action in the UK (before they were proscribed as a terrorist group). So there is an effort on the part of the far-right to get a foothold among university students.

Again, as I think I mentioned earlier, I'm really confused as to why so much discussion here is about the inability of anti-fascists to stop fascist governments coming to power when, as has been said already, the American 'alt-right' is not a government in waiting (it's hardly an opposition in waiting) but much more similar to the postwar British far-right: small though well-linked to establishment politicians and organised and violent enough to threaten communities they don't like.

I mean, as late as the 1980s/early 1990s, fairly big music artists (Desmond Dekker, the Pogues) were having their shows attacked by neo-nazis. Anti-fascists organised to smash them out of music scenes and out of the spaces (including pro-nazi shops in Central London) where they would hang out. Like the 'alt-right', they were never likely to take state power but they were still very dangerous.

Surely the neutralisation of that very immediate threat was a good thing? What, then, are the differences between that experience and the one we're currently seeing in the USA? The only one that I can see is that in the UK, there was still the hangover of a powerful workers' movement for anti-fascists to draw strength from, which there isn't in currently the USA. However, that to me isn't an argument against short-term anti-fascism; it's just a problem to be solved about building short- and medium/long-term organising goals.

Sharkfinn

6 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Sharkfinn on August 21, 2017

Ed

potrokin

Sharkfinn

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.

You have a point but if you think that the far-right are not interested in gaining support at uni campuses and in liberal urban areas then you are mistaken. Far-right figures have appeared at universities to give speeches (I am thinking here of Tommy Robinson, and I'm sure there have been others more obviously fascistic and nazi).

This is true. Identity Europa have specifically targetted university campuses for recruitment and if you look at a lot of the people exposed in the aftermath of Charlottesville, a lot of them were university students as well. Similar with National Action in the UK (before they were proscribed as a terrorist group). So there is an effort on the part of the far-right to get a foothold among university students.

Again, as I think I mentioned earlier, I'm really confused as to why so much discussion here is about the inability of anti-fascists to stop fascist governments coming to power when, as has been said already, the American 'alt-right' is not a government in waiting (it's hardly an opposition in waiting) but much more similar to the postwar British far-right: small though well-linked to establishment politicians and organised and violent enough to threaten communities they don't like.

I mean, as late as the 1980s/early 1990s, fairly big music artists (Desmond Dekker, the Pogues) were having their shows attacked by neo-nazis. Anti-fascists organised to smash them out of music scenes and out of the spaces (including pro-nazi shops in Central London) where they would hang out. Like the 'alt-right', they were never likely to take state power but they were still very dangerous.

Surely the neutralisation of that very immediate threat was a good thing? What, then, are the differences between that experience and the one we're currently seeing in the USA? The only one that I can see is that in the UK, there was still the hangover of a powerful workers' movement for anti-fascists to draw strength from, which there isn't in currently the USA. However, that to me isn't an argument against short-term anti-fascism; it's just a problem to be solved about building short- and medium/long-term organising goals.

Like I said, I have nothing against people defending themselves:

Obviously, people need to violently oppose violent persecution and the working class needs to be able to defend itself against reaction, but it’s deluded to see the street confrontations as something that seriously contributed to fall of fascism.

My issue is with the tactic of no platforming as it is used in the current era, and antifa as it is discussed by Chomsky, the tactic that emphasises street confrontations. If you specifically search them up, I don't think that can be seen as purely defensive, and I don't think the pre-emptive solution (lets stop them before they get big) argument works either, as I don't think fascist need the streets anymore in the same way.

They are a group based on a shared reactionary identity build on hating whatever scapegoat identity, -a sociopath's reaction to alienation and contradictions of capitalsm as faced by the demographics attracted to fascists or hard right ideology. You can build group belonging and shared hatred through social media communities, twitter, youtube, 4chan. The way internet algorithms and social media naturally works contributes to this. That's a game changer. Those same groups can be mobilised on the streets, but I don't think we are at a moment where we should be primarily afraid of fascist street mobs. For example, a black minority group member in most "western" countries would still be most likely attacked by a random racist, face persecution from a random street person, from cops or employers, instead of organised fascist (some parts of Eastern Europe might be a different story).

The problem with no platforming is that we are unlikely to be the ones with the final say on who gets to speak. 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.

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. But those things are different from what Chomsky is talking about, and the adventurist tendency Chomsky describes is a real thing also, it shouldn't be any kind of major indiscretion to say that.

Red Marriott

6 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Red Marriott on August 21, 2017

jondwhite

Have to say I agree with Chomsky on this one. And actually the Battle of Cable Street did lead to a rise in British Fascism. It was only when it was ideologically exposed at the Olympia rally that its support dramatically plummeted. http://www.historytoday.com/daniel-tilles/myth-cable-street

?? The Olympia rally happened in June 1934 while the Battle of Cable St occurred two years later in October 1936.
https://www.theguardian.com/politics/1934/jun/08/thefarright.uk
http://www.academia.edu/15178512/The_Battle_of_Cable_Street_myths_reality_and_the_collective_memory

That ‘myth’ article is from a very liberal point of view and makes exactly the same arguments with similar police sources etc as a far-right article with the exact same title. (Easily found via Google.) Jd’s interpretation fits well with SPGB narrative that sees ideological persuasion of electoral constituencies as the key to all change. But do you think East End Jews and others immediately affected by fascist activity weren’t, until Olympia, understanding of the ideological nature of the Mosleyites? Or did they understand that it wasn’t just an ideological struggle? You think the march through the East End shouldn’t have been opposed? That was the view of the CP until the last minute when they realised everyone was going to Cable St anyway and not their alternative event – ironically, a rally in Trafalgar Sq. in support of the anti-fascist struggle in Spain;

[The CP leadership] stated that the demonstration to Trafalgar Square in support of Spanish Democracy, was more important than Mosley's march in East London. ... We argued that the best way to help the Spanish people was to stop Mosley marching through East London. It was, in fact, the same fight. If we said the Fascists should not pass, it was what the Spanish people were trying to ensure and giving their lives in the process. A victory for Mosley would be a victory for Franco. In any case, the people of East London had their own ideas about all this and would oppose Mosley with their bodies, no matter what the CP said. We argued long and hard.
Jacobs, then a young East End CP militant and participant in organising resistance, flatly disagrees with the liberal analysis of the consequences of Cable St;
...the events on October 4th represented a victorious battle, but not the end of the war. ... Speculation on what may have happened if Mosley and the National Government had not suffered this massive defeat. For what it is worth, I have oftern thought that if Mosley had secured a firm foothold in East London, from which he might have built a mass base, the whole history of the world could have been different. Certainly there were powerful forces backing him. If these forces had not been checked, might they not have had an alliance with Hitler and Mussolini resulting in an all-out attack on the Soviet Union, rather than what happened in 1939? I don't know. I do know that Mosley was being supported to build an alternative to the National Government, if it should fail to hold down the workers' struggle against unemployment and the low standard of living. There was also the growing United Front and Popular Front movements as in France and Spain, which could have developed here. After all, Hitler had arrived on the scene because of the strength of the CP in Germany, as a means of defending the capitalist system. Had not Franco been supported in his efforts to overthrow the Spanish Popular Front Government?
Mosley and his friends had suffered a defeat at the hands of gentile and Jewish people alike. This did not mean he and his friends would give up. October 4th was not just the result of some few days' effort on the part of all who participated. The defeat of Mosley started way back when he failed to gain a foothold in Shadwell and Wapping, where lived the dockers of Irish descent with a strong Catholic background and a long history of working-class struggle behind them. The Jews of East London could not, in my view, have held Mosley back without support from this area to the south of the Jewish areas, which would have found them completely surrounded on October 4th if Mosley had made the headway there which he had made in Bethnal Green, Shoreditch and Limehouse. http://libcom.org/library/battle-cable-st-1936-joe-jacobs

Joe Jacob's comments are mentioned in this vid; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NE_xclpTAew

This is well put;
Spacious

It is really pretty silly to assume that everyone means the same when they utter the word "antifascism" or label themselves as such. Or that the use of that term would automatically result in a particular outcome.
Left communists are right to object to "co-operation with bourgeois forces in the name of 'anti-fascism'", or at least turning that into the highest aim, because they think that this has the result of turning communist/radical and working class antifascism into an effective support for capitalism. The object of their critique is not the antifascism, the struggle against fascist violence and fascist ideas, as such, but its particular limitation by bourgeois democratic rules and horizons, which means making your own political action conditional on maintaining coalitions with liberals and respecting the existing social relations.
Then again, assuming that everything which calls itself 'antifascist' is automatically characterized by such cooperation and such limits is really quite idiotic. Criticizing practices/aims and self-imposed limits rather than equating them to the label they happen to carry would be the first step, if you want that critique to actually be understood.

Juan C

I stick with what I said. In UK, they were beat off the street, but arguably they have remained a significant, if minority political presence. BNP, EDL, UKIP, whatever will come next. Street confrontations were a success in ejecting the far right off the corners and gathering in neighborhoods. They were not a success in preventing the far right from shifting debate on some key issues and getting some policy adopted/co-opted.

Those are two different goals and it doesn’t serve much purpose to conflate them – unless you’re trying to ‘prove’ failure of all anti-fa tactics for failing to eradicate fascism permanently, which the strongest workers movements have also failed to do. Questions of immediate protective resistance to fascist invasion of an area can’t be assumed to be identical with tactics for a more long term resistance. Simplistic anti-fa tactics can be criticised, but the ‘ignore fascists, at least until we’ve built a new workers movement/new political vanguard’ is no alternative at all – and those targeted now don’t have that choice anyway. The disconnect between anti-fa activists and ‘the working class’ is emphasised – mainly by left activists who fail to apply it to themselves and their sects too! Yet I’d be surprised if there were less non-activist locals involved in the anti-fa events than in other stuff leftists normally do. I wouldn’t be surprised if more concerned locals came out on the streets against white supremacy in their towns than attend most left-organised events, fwiw.

Fascist priorities are to attack and dominate ethnic/racial targets and destroy ‘the left’ (obv, ignoring the differences of definition squabbled over by left/ultra-leftists etc). Yet it’s often implied that only by building a strong workers movement first can fascists be then durably defeated; this begs certain questions, eg;
if that building has so far failed so badly in recent times why is it thought more likely now with the presence of a far-right explicitly aiming to prevent that?
And why is the only present resistance to fascism on the street so quickly ruled out as possibly being part of any such process of a class-based movement? Cos it’s not led by the leftist critics or their orgs and makes their narrowly intellectual orientation look irrelevant & inadequate?
It seems that on the one hand anti-fa are criticised for short-termism – while the critics retreat into wishful long-termism movement-building at the expense of dealing with immediate threats to that possibility. If invasions & attacks on non-white & ‘leftist’ targets and areas, refugees etc are escalated what immediate defensive alternatives are proposed by the critics of street resistance? Don’t get involved in such solidarity defense of non-whites, refugees, leftists, yourselves etc unless the sociological make-up of participants is sufficiently workerist? Just keep on recruitment driving to their leftist orgs & academic seminars in the hope that somehow this wins the ideological battle of ideas and that this then forms itself into a viable resistance to a far-right it has previously dismissed as irrelevant and unworthy of confronting?

The fascists have one ideological advantage over that liberal leftist view; they understand that political power and influence is never only ideological but has a practical manifestation and growth too in the here & now. All radical theory is ultimately tested by its application in historical events – the leftists seem to intend to go on showing their own irrelevance in meaningless repetition (this is a possibility for anti-fa tactics too, without innovation). The fascists now may be relatively small fry but, unopposed, are probably still strong enough to severely impact ‘the left’ that sees them as not worth resisting – and more importantly, to diminish the likelihood of a growing working class solidarity.

Talisa

6 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Talisa on August 23, 2017

Nobody's gonna bite?

Talisa

I agree that when it comes to neo-nazis, kkk, etc., it can help if we confront them with a beating, or by shutting down their talks and denying them free speech when we have the power to do so.

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. The speaker was expressing shitty right-wing views, but he's no nazi, and is a critic of the alt-right and white-supremacists. Watching that made me cringe. (I can try to dig up the link if people are interested.)

So again: Where do you draw the line? Who is it ok to prevent from exercising free speech? Who is it ok to physically attack?

spaceman spiff

6 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by spaceman spiff on August 23, 2017

I disagree with Chomsky on Antifa, but I also disagree with those who call him a liberal or social democrat. The man has an opinion. Opinions are fine. This doesn't make him a social democrat or a liberal ffs. He's been involved in more working class organizing in his life than most of the people on this forum will ever be. He's not just some ivory tower professor publishing books.

The whole purpose of Nazi rallies is to make a big show of force. Today it's essentially an ideology for kids with anger and self esteem issues and for adults who think white men are persecuted by society. This is why they like to wear their military regalia and march with torches and all this sort of garbage. Antifa is important because it ruins their attempt at recruitment. Each time they're driven to train station storage rooms to hide, their show of force is completely destroyed.

Secondly, I don't understand the liberal position on freedom of speech with respect to Nazi rallies. Would they say the same thing about Al Qaeda rallies? Do they support the right of ISIL members to have a little rally through Barcelona to express their views? Of course not. So I can't understand why they think Nazis should be allowed to march through cities either.

I do have qualms about disrupting some lectures and speeches that are right-wing but not far-right, because 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. So I agree with some of the critics here that not every lecture or rally is a Nazi rally that needs to be disrupted by Antifa, and sometimes these disruptions do more harm than good, and turn into hysterical shouting matches.

Having said all this, I seem to be in disagreement with most anarchists about Chomsky and the Faurisson affair. I found Chomsky's position to be extremely disciplined and principled in this case. He explicitly stated that he disagreed with Faurisson on the holocaust, but he defended the man's right to express his view and not be thrown in jail for it. I agree with Chomsky that if we start suffocating all the opinions we disagree with, then we create a slippery slope downwards. And there is a difference between what Faurisson was doing, and what a Nazi rally is doing. We are doing ourselves a disservice if we can't differentiate between the thought police and a KKK rally.

spaceman spiff

6 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by spaceman spiff on August 23, 2017

Fleur, genuine question here. This is the first time I ever read that 85% of white people thought that the disruptions of the civil rights movements hurt black people. If that's the case, and that violent tactics were also used in the civil rights movement, then when did white opinion change and what was it that changed their minds?

Fleur

6 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Fleur on August 23, 2017

Spaceman spiff:

Genuine answer, I don't know, except to suggest that people often support struggles retroactively, especially after some battles have been won. People often invoke Matin Luther King -and I have the utter respect for Dr King - and often use his name to criticize current movements, like Black Lives Matter, seemingly oblivious to the full history of civil rights struggles, during the 1960s and before and after. I expect it's because overt white supremacist laws were abolished but it's easier to overlook the continuing structural racism and de facto segregation which still exists. I would never deny the effectiveness of the path taken by MLK but it was only a part of the picture.

This is probably going into derail territory but this happens in other struggles. I remember in the 80s homophobia was far more overt and legally enforced (see section 28) but nowadays politicians and corporations are falling over themselves to capture some of those rainbow dollars/pounds and votes. Similarly, I don't have any stats to hand, but I believe that at the time the death penalty was abolished in the UK, the majority of people were opposed to it's abolition, whereas now most people are not in favour of it being re-introduced.

I don't really have an answer to your question as to when and why, I just think that part of it might be that people are often more comfortable supporting something which happened in the past than current struggles.

petey

6 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by petey on August 23, 2017

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

petey

6 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by petey on August 23, 2017

Ed

Actually kind of surprised so many people are talking about the failure of Italian and German anti-fascists to stop fascism when the article makes no mention of them. This is intentional: the alt-right are not a government in waiting. They're far more similar to the post-war British far-right (hence most of the examples coming from there): that is, not strong enough to take power but strong enough to menace communities they don't like. British anti-fascists were very successful in dealing with that menace. So I'm confused as to why there's so little engagement with that element of anti-fascist history here.

i too was thinking of AFA and similar groups. it seems to me, here on the other side of the atlantic, that the BNP failed in no small part because it was seen that there were groups who were willing to meet them on their own terms and smash them. this is about what i'm hoping for antifascism over here now: that the sort of rightwing groups who came to charlottesville will feel threatened and penned in. then we can work to eradicate their ideology ... then full communism ... but first, get them off the streets.

and after the speech in phoenix last night it's highly likely that the antifascists' job is not finished yet.

herz2

6 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by herz2 on August 24, 2017

On the issue of Professor Faurisson, for Chomsky to defend the freedom of speech of a fellow academic is understandable. But to claim that, despite his Holocaust denial, Faurisson was somehow not an anti-Semite but merely an 'apolitical liberal' is absurd.

To defend another fellow academic, Walt Rostow, and his freedom of speech (even though, as a government adviser, he had organised the US's murderous bombing of North Vietnam) may also be understandable. But to threaten to 'protest publicly' if Rostow were prevented from returning to his academic job at MIT, as Chomsky did in 1969, is even more absurd.

To defend the freedom of another MIT academic, John Deutch, to research whatever he wanted (even if he did research the use of 'chemical and biological weapons together in order to increase their killing efficiency' as well as initiating the deployment of both MX and Midgetman nuclear missiles) is perhaps, at a stretch, understandable. But to be 'one of the very few people on the faculty' who supported Deutch's bid to become MIT President, as Chomsky was, is simply outrageous (as was his support in The New York Times for Deutch's promotion from Pentagon official to the Director of the CIA in 1995).

To understand why Chomsky has often taken academic freedom to such extreme lengths, we need to understand his situation at MIT. As he says of his early career in the 1960s, MIT was 'about 90% Pentagon funded at that time. And I personally was right in the middle of it. I was in a military lab.'

Chomsky was recruited to work at MIT by Jerome Wiesner, a military scientist who had both 'helped get the United States ballistic missile program established in the face of strong opposition' and had brought such missile research to MIT. Wiesner also became a nuclear strategy adviser for both Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy, and, as Chomsky says himself, 'I'm at MIT, so I'm always talking to the scientists who work on missiles for the Pentagon.'

(Police disperse a student picket of one of MIT's nuclear missile laboratories in November 1969.)

The only way a passionate anti-militarist like Chomsky could survive in such a militarised environment was for him to believe even more passionately in academic freedom. Consequently, for Chomsky a university should be somewhere where academics are both free to do the most obscene things - such as promoting Holocaust denial or researching weaponry - and are equally free to peacefully campaign against such obscenities.

This helps us understand why, in 1969, Chomsky openly told anti-war students that, rather than trying to remove war research from the university, 'you ought to have the Department of Chemical and Biological Warfare right in the centre of the campus so you can see who is coming and going.' It helps us understand why, at this time, Chomsky opposed students' attempts to occupy MIT's administrative offices in protest at their university's military research. And it helps us understand why he now opposes any confrontational direct action against fascists.

Although a genuine belief in free speech, combined with a genuine fear of a right-wing backlash, explains some of his approach to fascism, it seems that he has also extended his rather extreme interpretation of academic freedom from the university campus to the wider political environment.

Does this mean we should ignore his views? I don't think so. After all, Noam is not unintelligent! But we do need to understand how his position at MIT has influenced these views in order to decide how seriously to take his opinions on both politics and science.

For full references and for more on Chomsky's situation at MIT see:

'Chomsky at MIT: Between the war scientists and the anti-war students.'

'John Deutch - Chomsky's friend in the Pentagon and the CIA.'

OhneWahrheit

6 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by OhneWahrheit on August 25, 2017

Sherbu, your quip regarding the lack of antifa having stopped Hitler from rising to power is extremely shortsighted.

What was required to stop the advancement of the NS was a collection of the worlds greatest imperialist powers using overt violence/force, combined with the Russian winter forcing a drawback of the German troops.

What is implied in your kissing of Chomsky's ass is that somehow a mass movement of academically inclined orators yelling the right slogans at fascists is what would have them stop.

I poke fun at the academy being someone who's in university currently and knowing full well how this life can envelop ones consciousness is laziness and cowardice predicated on faulty justifications for 'speaking truth to power' and so on.

OhneWahrheit

6 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by OhneWahrheit on August 25, 2017

This must be the real reason that Chomsky talked so much shit about Foucault: at least Foucault went out, rioted, built a barricade and got his head split open by the pigs. Marcuse went out and set up barricades while he was teaching and he was almost deported from the U.S. for it.

Chomsky, on the other hand, has remained relatively inauthentic throughout his existence and doesn't seem to have attempted to combine theory and practice.

sherbu-kteer

6 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by sherbu-kteer on August 26, 2017

OhneWahrheit

Sherbu, your quip regarding the lack of antifa having stopped Hitler from rising to power is extremely shortsighted.

What was required to stop the advancement of the NS was a collection of the worlds greatest imperialist powers using overt violence/force, combined with the Russian winter forcing a drawback of the German troops.

I know that that's what it too to destroy the Nazis. That's my point. It wasn't small street fights that did the job.

OhneWahrheit

What is implied in your kissing of Chomsky's ass is that somehow a mass movement of academically inclined orators yelling the right slogans at fascists is what would have them stop.

I poke fun at the academy being someone who's in university currently and knowing full well how this life can envelop ones consciousness is laziness and cowardice predicated on faulty justifications for 'speaking truth to power' and so on.

I'm not kissing anyone's arse, you're just putting words in people's mouths and trying to smear Chomsky as a some kind of do-nothing academic, which he's not. You don't have to be a street fighter to be an effective activist - I guarantee he's done more for anarchism than any baseball bat wielding dolt ever will.

OhneWahrheit

This must be the real reason that Chomsky talked so much shit about Foucault: at least Foucault went out, rioted, built a barricade and got his head split open by the pigs. Marcuse went out and set up barricades while he was teaching and he was almost deported from the U.S. for it.

That's complete nonsense. Chomsky was on trial in the sixties until the charges against him were dropped, more out of incompetency on the part of the prosecutors as opposed to any other reason. But that's not even that relevant. He's participated in and helped far more political campaigns than Marcuse and Foucualt ever did; he's given countless talks, interviews, etc. He's been answering mail from the general population from the 60s. I could go on and on and on but I get the feeling you don't give a shit about what he's actually done before. Like I said, you don't need to be a street fighter to be an effective activist.

OhneWahrheit

Chomsky, on the other hand, has remained relatively inauthentic throughout his existence and doesn't seem to have attempted to combine theory and practice.

I have no idea what that even means

sherbu-kteer

6 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by sherbu-kteer on August 26, 2017

spaceman spiff

The whole purpose of Nazi rallies is to make a big show of force. Today it's essentially an ideology for kids with anger and self esteem issues and for adults who think white men are persecuted by society. This is why they like to wear their military regalia and march with torches and all this sort of garbage. Antifa is important because it ruins their attempt at recruitment. Each time they're driven to train station storage rooms to hide, their show of force is completely destroyed.

I get what you're saying but this is a simplistic way of looking at it. As you say, it's an ideology for adults who think white men are being persecuted. The right wing and far-right wing in 2017 is built around a victimhood complex and extreme acts of violence against far-right protesters can play right into that, if we're not careful. It's not just about making a big show of force anymore, it's about playing yourself off as the victim and baiting the left-wing into attacking you. You yourself mention that your liberal friends get drawn away from socialism because leftists acted poorly toward a right winger. If your friends weren't liberals, but disaffected, alienated conservatives, then they may go even further and back that right winger and believe his or her nonsense.

spaceman spiff

Secondly, I don't understand the liberal position on freedom of speech with respect to Nazi rallies. Would they say the same thing about Al Qaeda rallies? Do they support the right of ISIL members to have a little rally through Barcelona to express their views? Of course not. So I can't understand why they think Nazis should be allowed to march through cities either.

ISIL/al Qaeda are both proscribed terrorist groups who regularly commit atrocities so they're a bad example. They're not quite the same as the BNP or the modern Ku Klux Klan or whatever. I doubt an organisation like the ACLU would defend them. But if unarmed, non-ISIL/AQ Salafists wanted to protest, then consistent liberals would defend their rights. Whether your average white liberal would is a different question.

Glenn Greenwald has written well on the topic of free speech and is one of the few consistent liberals out there. Examples:

"The Misguided Attacks on ACLU for Defending Neo-Nazis’ Free Speech Rights in Charlottesville"

France's censorship demands to Twitter are more dangerous than 'hate speech'

For what it's worth, the same law that countries like the UK use to unduly restrict speech aren't just used on racists, they're used on Muslim teenagers and BDS activists

Steven.

6 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Steven. on August 26, 2017

Talisa

Nobody's gonna bite?…

So again: Where do you draw the line? Who is it ok to prevent from exercising free speech? Who is it ok to physically attack?

I don't think anyone has responded to this because I think the article is pretty clear it is talking about opposition to fascism. So it is talking about fascists, white supremacists and neo-Nazis. And it's not preventing them from exercising "free speech", it's attempting to stop them from growing to the point where they can enact mass murder and genocide. They can say what they want.

exit 8

6 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by exit 8 on August 26, 2017

This has been a useful thread for me to read - I am trying to figure out how I feel about (and whether to get involved in) antifa actions locally. It's interesting to read some historically based arguments for and against modern antifa tactics.

To me, the discussion that I've seen, both on the internet and IRL in US activist and anarchist circles, has seemed caught up in slogans:
"The way you stop fascism is by crushing it"
"What do you want, to debate the Nazis?"
"Violence doesn't work"

Some of the slogans migrate unnecessarily, it seems, from left debates with liberals? where (at least on the internet) I see the left really caught up in trying to make the moral argument for self-defense and violence against fascists... The excess of energy out there for telling liberals that "It's okay to punch a Nazi" does make charges of "adventurism" slightly more convincing, when you're trying to figure out whether the people in black bloc really know "the way" to stop fascism, or whether they are just excited to have an enemy to fight who's less daunting than the police.

This was one of the most interesting points to me:

Red Marriott

Simplistic anti-fa tactics can be criticised, but the ‘ignore fascists, at least until we’ve built a new workers movement/new political vanguard’ is no alternative at all – and those targeted now don’t have that choice anyway. The disconnect between anti-fa activists and ‘the working class’ is emphasised – mainly by left activists who fail to apply it to themselves and their sects too! Yet I’d be surprised if there were less non-activist locals involved in the anti-fa events than in other stuff leftists normally do. I wouldn’t be surprised if more concerned locals came out on the streets against white supremacy in their towns than attend most left-organised events, fwiw.
[...]
why is the only present resistance to fascism on the street so quickly ruled out as possibly being part of any such process of a class-based movement? Cos it’s not led by the leftist critics or their orgs and makes their narrowly intellectual orientation look irrelevant & inadequate?
It seems that on the one hand anti-fa are criticised for short-termism – while the critics retreat into wishful long-termism movement-building at the expense of dealing with immediate threats to that possibility.

Particularly the question - "why is the only present resistance to fascism on the street so quickly ruled out as possibly being part of any such process of a class-based movement?"
This feels like a good challenge to both sides of the argument.
Some potential answers, which I'd like to see examined:
- 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?
- antifa activists *are* somewhat disconnected (in sense meant by Red Marriott), in general, as a group. Red Marriott correctly points out: so are lots of left efforts; which seems like a problem everyone needs to (and is constantly trying to) address. "We need to defend ourselves" (or lots of similar phrases using "we" or "us") becomes a sort of *aspirational* slogan for activists who want to assert that even though they mostly run in an isolated activist milieu, they are still real members of some community. I think they should be encouraged to think that way, but they should also recognize that their relative disconnectedness still means something, it shouldn't be elided away...

Seems like we should be asking: Where is Antifa beginning to look like a burgeoning class-based movement, and how can we emulate that?
Just as we would challenge, say, socialist organizers to ask: Where does your organizing involve (and galvanize into action) people *as workers*

- exit 8

Talisa

6 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Talisa on August 27, 2017

I noticed my original post on this thread got several down votes. Will anybody explain why?

It's odd because I agreed with the majority view on this thread that it's ok to react to neo-nazis, etc., with violence and preventing their free speech.

Steven.

I don't think anyone has responded to this because I think the article is pretty clear it is talking about opposition to fascism. So it is talking about fascists, white supremacists and neo-Nazis.

I was hoping to extend the conversation, but I guess people aren't up for that.

Steven.

And it's not preventing them from exercising "free speech", it's attempting to stop them from growing to the point where they can enact mass murder and genocide.

When I said that I was talking about things like blocking their speeches.

Steven.

They can say what they want.

Are you saying you don't think speeches by neo-nazis should be shut down?

jef costello

6 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jef costello on August 27, 2017

Anyone can talk anywhere they like without it having much of a political meaning.

Choosing to have a rally is a political statement (that's why 'we' have them too), and if you think that ignoring fascist demos is the best thing then do you bother to go to leftist ones? I went to a virtually empty picket and had a chat with a couple of strikers, would they have done better to go home?

Getting fascists of the street is a short-term strategy but if there is an immediate threat then that must be addressed too. I have talked to older comrades and those who remember having to physically confront fascists in the streets, when they were trying to become a mass movement in the sixties and seventies. I have also talked to comrades who told me that in the eighties you needed to have security at meetings, apart from one or two cases that hasn't been a big problem recently. We can't fetishise anti-fascism but we cannot ignore an aggressive attempt to foirm a movement.

Also 'they think white men are oppressed' is not a very good description of their beliefs, it is a escription of their propaganda. While the 'political correctness gone mad' angle might bring people in they then need to become radicalised or you risk them leaving. The unity that these movements try to achieve comes from painting their battles as a heroic struggle against evil, much the same as Al Qaeda etc Some argue that antifa gives them that mythical enemy (and it is certain that recent far right propaganda has been trying to do this ) but one thing that I think we need to remember is that fighting is fun. If you win. When disparate right-wing groups get pushed off the street they disintegrate (they also have a habit of doing that when they succeed too) but if they build momentum, if they can 'take the street' then that keeps and attracts people, it is exhilarating and gives people the feeling of doing something significant. It is hardly surprising that the EDL pushed hard to recruit amongst football fans, they wanted to capitalise on precisely that dynamic, I can remember watching films like ID as a kid and me and it looks cool to be a part of it (we missed the point of the film) and that was before the massive number of football hoolgian / kray films that are targeting the same audience.

Whatever brings people to participate we can be damn sure that winning will keep them there, wathing the accounts of the rally recently( not charlottesville) and reading hieronmous' accounts I can guarantee you that those guys won, and more importantly they felt like winners, whatever they are, however confused their politics are they now have a unifying action which will probably lead to more and worse.

I don't always agree with antifa and I don't think violence is always the answer but it is certain that when fascists feel they can 'take' our streets they will do so and they will not stop there.

Steven.

6 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Steven. on August 27, 2017

Talisa

I was hoping to extend the conversation, but I guess people aren't up for that.

I don't know about other people, but from a personal perspective, this post was about opposing fascism. So I didn't want to derail it to start talking about anything else. Particularly as quite standard liberal/conservative attack on "anti-fascism" is to start going on about unrelated things like people attacking Trump supporters. And derailing is against the site posting guidelines. I would say your best bet is not trying to have this discussion here, but starting a new one.

Steven.

They can say what they want.

Are you saying you don't think speeches by neo-nazis should be shut down?

No, quite the opposite. 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

bootsy

6 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by bootsy on August 28, 2017

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

6 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Talisa on August 28, 2017

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

Steven.

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

6 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Talisa on August 28, 2017

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

6 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Tom Henry on August 29, 2017

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

6 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Talisa on August 31, 2017

Tom Henry

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

:D

Emeryael

6 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Emeryael on December 13, 2017

sherbu-kteer

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.

6 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Steven. on December 13, 2017

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

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

6 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Mike Harman on December 13, 2017

Steven.

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

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

6 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Emeryael on December 13, 2017

Steven.

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

6 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by gamerunknown on December 14, 2017

Biffard Misqueegan

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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.

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

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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.