Far From a Gift: What the Center Got Wrong & Antifa Got Right

2006

“Writing on The Daily Stormer Anglin argued, “[Organizing] large rallies on public property, where we know there is going to be confrontation with antifa, are not a good idea.”’

Over six months have now passed since the deadly Unite the Right rally rocked the country and cemented in the minds of millions of everyday Americans the connection between the Alt-Right and out-right murder. Despite having been presented for months as an oddity in the mainstream media; an upper-middle class hipster version of the KKK, now these young men represented instead a serious threat to the general public, and given an opportunity, were seen to be capable of unleashing a wave a violence against anyone that dared to stand in their way.

And for everyone that declared that the Alt-Right should simply be ignored, on August 11th, as a small group of high school and college students were surrounded and beaten by hundreds of young men carrying tiki torches and throwing up Nazi salutes while local police looked on – they got their wish. By the same time the next evening however, as word had spread across social media about the murder of Heather Heyer, thousands would be marching across the United States and the world in solidarity. Over the next several days, statues would be torn down, freeways blockaded, graffiti written, and Alt-Right trolls confronted and driven out of demonstrations. Finally, after months of antifascists being literally shot, stabbed, attacked, and railroaded on trumped up charges, millions of Americans were seeing what antifascists across the country had already been experiencing: the violence of a growing fascist movement operating largely with State and police impunity.

Soon, tens of thousands were mobilizing to confront Alt-Right events across the US. In Boston, over 40,000 people came out to shut down a rally organized by Kyle “Based Stickman” Chapman, the leader of one of the groups, the Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights (FOAK), who had attended Unite the Right. Weeks later in San Francisco and Berkeley, tens of thousands more came out to oppose Patriot Prayer and other members of the Alt-Right, as teachers, electricians, and dock workers all walked off their jobs and people marched across both cities, sending the trolls into hiding.

Alt-Right events on campus faced similar fates, as thousands converged to shut down a frantic Richard Spencer in Gainesville, Florida, who’s goons retaliated later by attempting to murder several protesters sitting at a bus stop, but succeed in only further cementing their reputation. But despite the shooting, Alt-Right events continued to receive facilitation through masses of militarized police and campus administrations who jumped through hoops to accommodate racist trolls with deep pockets.

But the Alt-Right violence, the riot cops, and the black blocs, the “Nazi punching,” and the street fighting – none of it scarred away the masses of everyday people from the movement, as antifascists helped breathe new life into some of the most heated and intense organizing of the modern era. In the downtime, meetings were held, coalitions were formed, and people and groups began to work together to take on the far-Right.

But while this reality was playing itself out on the streets of the US, the Center rushed to mimic the talking points of Trump himself. That “both sides” were fundamentally the same and that “extremism” was the problem. Again and again, we heard the same tired old tropes from those that couldn’t organize a sock drawer, much less build and mobilize a strategy to take on fascism. But still, they told us over and over again that confronting fascism only made it stronger, even as the Alt-Right itself began to admit its shortcomings and in the post-Charlottesville moment, fractured, split, and broke in on itself.

But while the Alt-Right was reeling after Charlottesville, the broader Right only further solidified itself behind its talking points. Trump attacked “chain migration” and made plans for mass roundups, Tucker Carlson defended 4chan memes and argued for ethnic nationalism, while Charlie Kirk flashed the “OK” hand sign. Others ran interference, as the lie-lords at InfoWars and The Gateway Pundit used each and every mass shooting as an attempt to link antifascists to acts of mass murder, and even promoted the idea that an “antifa civil war” was brewing on November 4th, a day of planned anti-Trump protests that literally only marched in circles. And hidden beneath the surface, out of sight from the view of the media and even the gaze of many activists, suit and tie members of white nationalist and Nativist groups not only began to run for office, but also achieved positions of power within DHS and ICE.

Back on the streets, the violence and murder of the Alt-Right has become so common place, that at this point, it barely even seems news worthy. In the most recent mass killing, carried out by 19 year old Nikolas Cruz, the killer was a fan of racist memes and Alt-Right talking points such as the Jews controlling the world, and adorned his Instagram with photos of himself wearing a red MAGA hat. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, 100 people since 2014 have been killed or injured by the Alt-Right and fellow travelers since 2014, with the bulk of incidents taking places from 2017 onwards.

But to listen to people in the Center talk about it, a tangible danger remains in the form of antifascists who are actively organizing against far-Right violence. This anxiety is only matched by statements of those from within the various intelligence communities, who at times ‘leaked’ documents making false claims that antifascists are “firebombing” Trump supporters and that they are investigating people of an “antifa type ideology.” Meanwhile, police are seen time and time again to be actively working with the far-Right to prosecute antifascists, despite the growing body count created by the Right.

But regardless of these realities, antifascists were successful in what they set out to do: to build a movement beyond themselves in the streets and in our communities that sought to push back against far-Right violence. To create and maintain the capacity to defend ourselves from the Alt-Right at a time when the State and police are actively protecting and facilitating it. This is counter-posed to the failure of existing so-called democratic institutions to do anything about the growing threat of fascism, but in turn are becoming some of the last safe-spaces that the Alt-Right is allowed to hide behind.

The lessons of the last six months are multiple, but to boil them down would be to state plainly that a grassroots and community based approach to self-defense against the Alt-Right is not only ethically correct but also popular on a mass level. Moreover, it is the only force currently capable of doing anything about far-Right violence and murder.

From the Mouths of Trolls

Across the US, it was antifascist organizing, not Centrist punditry within the ‘marketplace of ideas’ that represented a tangible threat to the Alt-Right, and it was this organizing which created the only force capable of pushing back against the growing fascist creep. It should also be pointed out that this organizing was just that: organizing, not simply violence for the sake of. It was masses of people mobilizing across a wide variety of groups in mass coalitions that turned out big numbers. It was countless hours of meticulous research and writing that produced the information that exposed individuals involved in Alt-Right networks; people that often were well connected within mainstream society. It was people outreaching in communities, putting up flyers, making phone calls to businesses, and talking with people in their neighborhoods that laid the ground work, and who put in the hours needed to make large amounts of people actually give a shit. All of this had a huge impact both before Unite the Right, but especially after it, when the rank-n-file of the movement had to begin to ask themselves if they were willing to stand by their ideals, or take off their shirt and disappear into the crowd.

Many did just that, as members of the Alt-Right across the US started to lose their jobs and faced scorn after being exposed in their communities and on their campuses. At the same time, many of the leaders within the movement were forced to evaluate their tactics and think critically within their echo chambers about their activity. It should come as no surprise then, that many placed the reason for their downfall not on the media, which they worked so hard to forge a relationship with, but instead on the work of antifascist organizers.

But a lot happened before things got to this point. In Berkeley, protests against Milo which both protected undocumented students from being doxxed and potentially deported, also were able to draw a spotlight on his views, which then contributed to his fall from grace in mainstream conservatism. When Buzzfeed journalists months later exposed his close working relationships with neo-Nazis, as he was shown singing in front of group of saluting Nazis including Unite the Right organizers, this only further cemented the argument that antifascists had been making months prior: that the Alt-Lite and people like Milo acted as a conduit between neo-Nazi and white nationalist ideas into more mainstream conservative circles. Soon after, local college Republican clubs watched as Unite the Right attendees and Alt-Right adherents were removed from office, after months of being exposed by local antifascists.

While attempts at organizing and outreach by neo-Nazi and Alt-Right groups on campus continued and grew more amplified after August 12th, they were also met by continued resistance as more people became hip to their tactics. A coordinated 4chan campaign set to to launch a series of anti-immigration posters was largely seen as a failure after it was preemptively exposed and antifascist groups across the US mobilized to remove the flyers.

But the biggest condemnation of the Alt-Right and its failures, as well as capitulation to the work done by antifascists, came from those within the Alt-Right itself. Perhaps the most damning was from on of its key leaders, Andrew Anglin, the editor of The Daily Stormer. After Charlottesville, Anglin declared that his years long affinity with swastikas and neo-Nazism was in fact, all a troll. Moreover, he attacked those in the Nationalist Front, which included Matthew Heimbach simply for being and looking like – Nazis. In turn, Anglin embraced a turn away from demonstrations and instead pushed for engagement with the Republican party and a return to private, heavily vetted events that rejected public participation. Writing on The Daily Stormer he argued, “[Organizing] large rallies on public property, where we know there is going to be confrontation with antifa, are not a good idea.”

In short, the crown prince of the Alt-Right went from calling for a “war” before August 12th, to pushing for a scaling back of activity and an embrace of the shadows and the ballot box.

Not to be outdone, the leader of Identity Evropa, Patrick “McLovin” Casey, who took over the group from disgraced former leader Elliot Kline, who had in turn took over the group from Nathan Damigo, remarked in an interview with Red Ice TV, that the group would no longer publicly interact with other Alt-Right groups and would avoid engaging in large demonstrations as in Charlottesville. “We can’t go into these liberal areas and essentially repeat what happened with Unite the Right,” he stated. Since the interview, Identity Evropa has largely been attacked by the rest of the movement, and given a black eye due to Kline lying about his military past. Moreover, they have attempted to leave behind even the term “Alt-Right,” a brand that the group worked so hard to cultivate along with relationships to Richard Spencer, and instead continued to embrace the label of “Identitarian.”

Other Alt-Right leaders issued similar sentiments. Juan Cadavid, a southern California based Alt-Right organizer and also a Colombian immigrant who claims his right to white supremacy by way of Iberian Spain, stated in an online Facebook video that he was “leaving the movement,” while describing the Alt-Right as directionless and filled with people like Kyle Chapman and Milo who’s sole aim is to make money off of those dumb enough to be parted with it. Seemingly at the end of his rope, he commented that the “rallies were getting smaller,” in the face of growing post-Charlottesville opposition.

Augustus Invictus, one of the scheduled speakers at Unite the Right who had also worked with Richard Spencer to pen an Alt-Right manifesto intended to be the crowning opus of August 12th, likewise described the failures of the movement. In a Facebook video originally intended to sever his relationship with Kyle “Based Stickman” Chapman, he went on to attack the long held notion that mass opposition made the far-Right look like embattled underdogs, and he counter-posed that instead it made the Alt-Right appear weak in the face of a much stronger, and organized, opponent.

Meanwhile, the Alt-Right fractured and broke apart in a variety of ways. Some rang their hands over rubbing elbows with groups like Atomwaffen and the Republic of Florida, who embraced a strategy of “leaderless resistance,” while others at times embraced it. Earlier alliances were destroyed, and new lines were draw. But in the end, it was physical resistance which made these cracks possible.

Lastly, it should also be pointed out that in mobilizing to confront the Alt-Right, antifascists were not the ones that sought to escalate violence to keep pace with the Alt-Right, despite what so many in the Center and on the Right proclaimed would in fact happen. In reality, it was the Alt-Right that carried out the stabbings, the shootings, and the out right murder of antifascists, although it was only until the murder of Heather Heyer that people started to pay attention in any real way.

And despite the claim that antifa would soon move to target random Trump supporters, if anything, anarchists and antifascists were more likely to encounter people on the Right while tabling with anti-racist literature at a gun show or while working on a rural anti-pipleine campaign than in the streets at a demonstration. And it is this day to day organizing and relationship building which has the potential to bring together poor and working-class people of all colors, against the elites which seek to use us all as pawns.

Green Lights and Explosions

As long argued by antifascists, several things came to pass in 2017. First, after the Trump administration took far-Right groups off of terror lists, this led to an increase in far-Right violence and acts of terror and intimidation. The mainstream Right also began to recuperate and feed off of the Alt-Right, using its talking points as fodder in the culture war, giving it more of a sea to swim within. Also, the police began to work closely with the far-Right in order to coordinate better against anarchists and antifascists at demonstrations, while also developing a set of crowd control strategies that acted as a way to facilitate fascist organizing while containing and attacking grassroots opposition.

Firstly, the removal of far-Right and white supremacist groups from various domestic terrorist lists, as well as the denial of grant funding by the Trump administration to the group Life After Hate, sent a clear message to the far-Right that the leash was off, causing titillation on white power message boards that the far-Right had gotten a green light to engage in violence. And engage in violence they did, as far-Right acts of vandalism, assault, and murder grew. But when questioned about bomb attacks against mosques, stabbings and shootings against antifascist demonstrators, or vandalism against synagogues, Trump or Sebastian Gorka would reply that these were “false flag” events, carried out by the Left, or even the victims themselves, in order to hurt the image of the President. Trump then doubled down on this in the wake of Charlottesville, refusing to condemn the Alt-Right, and instead, moved to attack the “Alt-Left.”

On the streets, the Trump ‘Deplorable’ subculture and #MAGA Twitter also created a welcoming environment for the Alt-Right. Starting in March of 2017, and continuing with “Free Speech” rallies, which soon progressed into “Anti-Marxism” demonstrations, the far-Right was able to create a big tent that included Trump supporters, militia members, the Alt-Lite, and the Alt-Right. This big tent allowed Alt-Right and neo-Nazi groups the space to organize and interact with people offline. But at the same time, some even on the Right were able to see that this entryism hurt the image of the broader pro-Trump movement.

As Navy Jack wrote on the Oath Keepers website:

By showing up at any pro-Trump rally or event and using these opportunities to recruit, these organizations have been steadily growing. Expanding out, they are now targeting “free speech” rallies and luring participants into their web of deceit. The organizations I am referring to include the National Policy Institute (NPI), Identity Evropa and Vanguard America.

 Anyone promoting a claim of superiority based on race is not a patriot, they are a racist.

If you are a patriot, you must not only believe that human liberty is a function of equal human rights, you must practice, promote and defend it. If you truly are a patriot, you must stand against and condemn NPI, Identity Evropa and Vanguard America as organizations that seek to divide us.  You must reject NPI, Identity Evropa and Vanguard America as organizations that inspire violence by falsely making claims of association to our President…

The white nationalists and fascists are attempting, once again, to legitimize themselves by claiming association with Conservatives, Libertarians and Constitutionalists. They are holding numerous rallies labeled as “Free Speech” and “#UniteTheRight” to indoctrinate people (who really should know better) into their racist ideologies.

If the leaders and followers of the white nationalist and fascist movements want to label me a “cuck” because I will never support their cause, so be it. The real “cucks” are the people that get suckered into attending a “#UniteTheRight” or “Free Speech” rally that is nothing more than an opportunity for white nationalists and fascists to promote racial segregation.

But while some on the Right recoiled from the Alt-Right, at the same time there was a huge push to recuperate and feed upon this new brand of white identity politics that was being promoted. This can be seen in Tucker Carlson’s embrace of many Alt-Right talking points, to Marion Maréchal-Le Pen speaking at the upcoming CPAC Conference. The Alt-Right has been useful to the elites insofar in that is has pushed the window of acceptable political debate farther and farther to the Right, as the other factions of the Trump coalition in the background dismantle the gains made of the labor and civil rights movements, while using far-Right talking points and conspiracy theories as a means of captivating their base.

Lastly, the Alt-Right has helped forge a working relationship with the police in which law enforcement aids in facilitating Alt-Right events, while working to contain and attack antifascists, often disarming one side, while using kid gloves with the other. A shining example of this can be found in State and DC police collusion with militia, Alt-Right, and far-Right groups, who supplied media to the prosecution of the J20 defendants, and even worked with police to doxx arrestees, only several days after their arrest.

We also saw this play out in the bloody brawls that erupted in both Anaheim and Sacramento, where police issued harsh charges against antifascists and let Klansmen walk free in the case of the former, and worked closely with neo-Nazis to ID antiracist protesters in the case of the latter. In the lead up to violent clashes in Berkeley in April 2017, police also worked with Alt-Right organizers and members of militia groups to help facilitate an Alt-Right rally with speakers, even though the group never obtained a permit. Months later, police in Portland likewise helped protect a Patriot Prayer rally, only to openly attack antifascists in order to allow rally goes to get to their vehicles. Later in the day, police were seen being assisted in arrests of antifascists by militia members.

Then in the summer of 2017, police in Charlottesville carried out a campaign of harassment and intimidation against local activists mobilizing to protest the KKK, while at the same time helping to facilitate a small Klan rally. After the rally was over, the police opened fire on the huge crowd, shooting people with tear gas and beating them. This again played itself out in Charlottesville on August 12th, as police worked closely with neo-Nazis and militia members in order to plan the Unite the Right rally, and ended up standing largely to the side as tiki torch marchers openly attacked younger students.

As Richard Spencer and Mike “Enoch” Peinovich stated on a podcast before Unite the Right, the police were giving them “the space to destroy.” In short, in almost all engagements, the police protected the far-Right, and focused their energy on repressing the counter-protesters. They helped facilitate neo-Nazi, KKK, and Alt-Right events, and worked to surveill, disrupt, and beat down any tangible opposition.

As the Sacramento police told a neo-Nazi skinhead seen on camera stabbing multiple people as they came to get his help in IDing antifascist protesters, “We’re pretty much going after the [antifascists]. We’re looking at you as a victim.”

So just where was the enlightened, democratic, and neutral State that the Center proclaimed would do so much to fix all of these problems?

The Threat of a New Set of Politics

The Alt-Right is trying to push forward a new set of meta politics that seeks to completely destroy liberal democracy. In place of cosmopolitan and Enlightenment ideas about egalitarianism and Republicanism, the Alt-Right stresses a return to “traditional” hierarchies of race, gender, and class. At its core, the Alt-Right is a movement of elitists, not an attempt at white working-class populism.

Ironically however, where the Alt-Right finds its strongest protection is within the institutions of liberal democracy. Instead of attempting to resist being recuperated by the Republican Party, the Alt-Right instead celebrates its creeping influence. Instead of attempting to organize outside and against the authority of the police, the Alt-Right attempts to work with them when planning demonstrations. Instead of hosting events outside, it books them at universities to ensure police protection under the threat of lawsuits. Above all, the struggle of the Alt-Right currently is the same strategy as that of all liberal progressives: to insert themselves within the existing institutions in an attempt to influence and infiltrate them to the best of their ability. Change the broader culture of politics, and the fundamental institutions themselves will change, is their thinking.

This is a reason why people on the Alt-Right and Alt-Lite spend so much time lying, manufacturing conspiracy theories, and doing everything they can to create stories to attack their political enemies: because ultimately the truth isn’t important to them, but creating a new set of political values is. While coated in the red, white, and blue, these values are not based in the Enlightenment or Republicanism, but instead in hierarchy, patriarchy, reaffirming the caste system of race, and over all, the power and authority of the State within everyday life.

But yet ironically, across neoliberal society, all of the existing institutions proclaim at the same time that they have the problem of creeping fascism under control. The police in the midst of every Alt-Right incident proclaim that they will keep people safe, and that they will “get the bad guys.” But time and time again, we’ve seen that police are much more interested in working with the far-Right to attack antifascists. We are told by Mayors and heads of Universities, to ignore this problem and it will go away, but when people have allowed the fascists free reign, such as on August 11th in Charlottesville or during Milo’s failed ‘Free Speech Week’ in Berkeley, they simply use the opportunity to attack the most vulnerable among us. But also, our current reality is not just marked by the fact that neoliberal institutions are losing the battle against the fascist creep; but that moreover the are splitting and breaking apart upon their own internal contradictions.

Meaning: neoliberal society first and foremost can’t stop fascism: only we can. Democracy isn’t going to save us, just like ‘democracy’ didn’t save us from white supremacy, climate change, and neoliberalism. This is where reality comes crashing into the pipe dreams of every Centrist pundit. For those that tell us to keep our faith in the existing elitist institutions: the market, the ballot box, and mass media, are essentially begging us to keep faith in a system that is not only collapsing, but one that more and more people no longer believe in anymore.

There is also the importance of understanding how in which the lives of ordinary people are actually made better. In the minds of the Center, all positive change happens through the State; and through elite institutions in which representatives and specialists make decisions for us. But in reality, it is struggle which pushes forward and fights for the interests of the poor and oppressed which betters our conditions. It is riots, strikes, occupations, and resistance in all its forms which has historically led to better wages, more freedoms, and the creation of more autonomy – not through the benevolence of the system itself.

But this also points to why those in the Center are so worried about the rise of antifascism, Black Lives Matter, the growing prison strikes, battles against pipelines, and the burgeoning myriad of autonomous social movements playing out across the US. For they also speak to an underlying set of new politics; ones also not set within or founded upon, neoliberal society.

For if we understand that it is in our interests and it is ethical to shut down neo-Nazis and the Alt-Right from organizing in our schools, communities, and neighborhoods, then what is to keep us from stopping evictions, ICE raids, and gentrification? What is to stop us from shutting down an industrial economy that is physically killing the planet that we need to survive? Already, the vast majority of millennials are opposed to capitalism, what happens when we also decide that we have the capacity to create a different world outside and against it?

Cover photo from Restoring the Honor


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