It hardly took two weeks for leftists and liberals alike to go from sympathizing with antifa to insist they are destroying the Left and hindering capacities to organize in any meaningful way. I laugh so as not to cry. I guess this should be expected in the era of internet-social-media where information flies so fast that an hour feels like a week, a week like a month and a month like a year but it’s irksome all the same.
Writing for counterpunch.org, Anthony DiMaggio has recently written two essays excoriating antifa actions. These smear pieces from self-styled progressives are status quo but that their source is from a leftist site that should generally be regarded as respectable and reliable is troublesome. This is in contrast to the predictable article by Chris Hedges who has already been called out for similar criticism and whose online publishers are completely negligible from an analytical standpoint.
The following is a response to the former’s most recent article, which serves as a quintessential example of liberal hand-wringing and vapidity. All this is to forget how these wheel-spinning, reactionary criticisms sully and minimize the death of Heather Heyer who courageously stepped out against the far-right for the sake of all of us who would literally be crushed if they had it their way. DiMaggio even goes as far as to denigrate itsgoingdown.org and libcom.org for practicing anonymity. As always, we have to endure a veritable shit storm of bad press, denunciations and idle threats from those who equate anarchy with Hollywood-created dystopias. But hey, we’re all used to it right? And we all know no one is going to stand up for us but ourselves.
As an anarchist involved in antifa I felt it necessary to reply to your recent articles, in particular “Trump’s Antifa Moment.” I feel there are some gaps in the essay and there may be some things you’ve not considered. I hope you take the time to read this.
I was most troubled by your criticism of those who wish to remain anonymous, which ranges from online anonymity but translates to people who wear masks at protests. From those who have a vulnerable citizenship status, parolees and people on probation, or the line cook who lied to her boss to get off work so she could attend a protest, some people simply have too much to lose. Some stand to lose everything should they be identified in a protest. Migrants, prisoners, workers and the marginalized are people we want and need for a mass movement so we can’t tell some people that they have to be completely transparent. These are the people we’re fighting for. We are these people! So we don’t want to tell each other who can and can’t fight for themselves. It’s as if saying that taking the streets in protest is a privilege reserved for some but not others.
It seems you’ve made a monolith of antifa and have simplified their actions to black-blocing and street fighting Nazis. We exercise our political agency in so many more ways! In this moment, anti-fascists are providing hurricane relief in Texas right now. We’re also on the border helping refugees survive their long journey north. Building community infrastructure outside the state, prisoner support, permaculture gardens and the list goes on. Antifa is a facet of a larger struggle that we engage in myriad ways.
From what I gather, you’re simultaneously “non-violent” and “pro-democracy.” Quite simply, this is a contradiction in terms. The hierarchies that democracy produce have always been maintained by the implicit threat or explicit use of violence. That’s not to say that demanding more democracy is the same as demanding more violence, but rather that democracy has and will always produce violence through its inclusive structure and concentration of power. I don’t mean to condescend, it’s just an idea I try to put out there for consideration.
You praise the 40,000 strong showing in Boston against Nazi organizing yet refute the idea “that millions, or even tens or hundreds of thousands of antifa activists have been active this year fighting fascists and police forces in the U.S.” Obviously, neither of us can prove any sort of numbers but the 40,000 in Boston was distinctly an anti-fascist action. In essence, that 40,000 was antifa since antifa is more of an action and not the static group that people misunderstand it as. That’s not to mention the hundreds of similar but smaller events held weekly since Trump’s ascension or the Jan 20th inauguration protests where over 200 anti-fascist/anti-capitalist protesters (and any bystander in their vicinity) were arrested and smacked with trumped up charges, which brings us to the next idea.
The crackdown of the police state and paramilitary forces against leftist protesters is already here, Anthony. If we’re to be honest, the most zealous anti-fascists are anarchists, communists, and radical socialists. Those who identify with these and other revolutionary politics have always had a target on their backs, the state repression never went away. You treat increased political repression and state violence as some avoidable scenario in the future when, in reality, for many of us it is part of our everyday lives.
Also expressed is your desire for progressives and the Left to articulate some sort of vision for the future. At this point in time if progressives are still scrambling to piece together some homogeneous, perfectly-articulated vision for what they should do to achieve the kind of society that they want to live in, even though they don’t know what that society looks like, that’s almost pitiable. Almost. “Pitiful” would probably be the more apt term. I can’t speak for all anarchists, and especially not all antifa, but many of us can probably agree that the kind of egalitarian, decentralized society in which we strive for has been succinctly illustrated in Peter Gelderloos’ essay “An Anarchists Solution to Global Warming.” I think many a progressive and leftists would find the world sketched out in this essay as generally desirable. Perhaps progressives can start from there. Take it, it’s yours.
I’ll throw out one more thing and for this I’ll have to shed niceties:
I originally come from the Left, study leftist literature and follow contemporary leftist critiques. If I had a dollar for every book, essay, op-ed or think piece I’ve read where leftists call for a non-violent mass movement, where some critical mass has to be achieved to initiate change –and that it needs to be done quickly– I’d be able to comfortably afford my rent. I’ve been hearing this call-to-action from the Left for as long as I can remember.
So I ask: where is it, Anthony? And what are progressives waiting for?