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Jan 19, 17

The Limits and Possibilities of Anti-Fascism

Originally published to It’s Going Down

There’s no doubt that IGD has spilled buckets of internet ink on the far-Right since we launched in the summer of 2015. Now, ironically on the eve of Trump’s inauguration, even the Left is starting to take notice, however this recognition was never our goal. We set out to tie the various ends of the autonomous anti-capitalist and anti-authoritarian movements and struggles together and present them on a common platform. Despite more people coming around to what we are saying, a few weeks ago an essay by come comrades in Bloomington made us sit up, think, and reflect. As they wrote in a retrospective on the prison strike:

[W]ith the election of Donald Trump and an increasing focus on the Alt-Right, it appears that most anarchists have moved on to Antifa (anti-fascist) activities. Without comment on that terrain of action, it feels as if anarchists have a very short attention span, constantly moving between movements and struggles. But lacking an anarchist project of our own, does that just make us insurrectionary ambulance chasers?

This is an important point to make. In the case of the prison strike, which in many ways was the culmination of years of organizing, groundwork, letter writing, and relationship building, there is now barely a trickle of information coming from inside the prisons into the outside world through the anarchist movement. While this has much to do with State repression and the moving of ‘political’ prisoners, we have to wonder if people were really prepared for the long haul after the initial wave of action. In the case of the #NoDAPL struggle, while a wide range of resistance camps have sprung up across the US, news coming from Standing Rock has also slowed, as attention has drifted towards Trump and the inauguration.

If our point is really to not only fight Trump, but also the systems and the very world that he represents, then in many ways, the struggles that we engage in, nurture, and exist within are our biggest weapons. For they allow us the ability to grow, learn, and interact with a base of other people who are not only fighting but building new forms of organization, life, and ethics. To be clear, we shouldn’t leave any of them behind. 

Our point here then is not that anti-fascism should be the only thing that everyone should be doing, far from it. Instead, we think, as a recent guest on our podcast pointed out, that anti-fascism should grow to inform all of the work that we do, but that in no way means that this becomes the only thing that we do. Moreover, in recognizing the possibilities of what a resurrected anti-fascist presence means for the over all anarchist movement, also means coming to terms and overcoming the limitations as it currently exists.

Why Should We Care About the Far-Right?

Why should we care about the growth of the far-Right, in any of it’s various forms?

We believe that the far-Right presents several threats, not only to various communities already targeted by the State and exploitative forces, but also towards the revolutionary movements in general. Also, as the far-Right has grown in size and scope, in many ways it threatens to take over space that used to be inhabited by us.

First and foremost, the far-Right is a threat because it seeks to re-strengthen white supremacy and patriarchy on both a social level and a level of State power. For instance, in the case of Gamergate, Men’s Rights Activists threatened women in the video game industry with rape and violence, (to the point of some women leaving their homes), in order to silence them from speaking out about sexism in the video game industry. This event signaled a major crossover point between the ‘manosphere’ and the Alt-Right, while also propelling the careers of Alt-Lite trolls such as Milo Yiannopoulos. For this segment of the far-Right, their aim was less to establish a new system, or change policy, but to smash feminism and threats to patriarchy within a subculture that celebrates it.

In a much different context, the Malheur occupation in Oregon at the start of 2016 was an attempt by the militia movement to remove the federal government from park lands and hand it over to ranchers who could then open it up to ranching, mining, and logging. Beyond that, the militia movement also wanted eventually to return power back over to the hands of local county level authorities, as advocated by Neo-Nazi groups like Posse Comitatus.

In the case of the Alt-Right, they see supporting Trump’s presidential run as a chance to give themselves more space to enter the mainstream, as they push for a white ethno-state ruled along fascist lines. Barring that however, they are happy to push for policy decisions which attack non-white immigration, and so on. The point in all of this is that the far-Right seeks to strengthen white supremacy and patriarchy in wider society and the State and push towards the creation of new forms of State power.

This is the exact opposite of what we are attempting to do, which is to destabilize these systems of power and control and also create new forms of living that can ultimately destroy State power and the capitalist industrial economy. Because of this, the far-Right often acts as an auxiliary force to the State to attack social movements and struggles while at times, works to defend the State and its police forces; often as a way of defending white supremacy and patriarchy.

This is a reality that we have seen play out time and time again, such as on the streets of Olympia where Neo-Nazis supported the police who were under fire for shooting and almost killing two young African-American men, because they saw policing as an institution that upheld the power of whiteness. Currently, at the Trump inauguration, we now see groups such as Bikers for Trump acting as a de-facto auxiliary guard for the police and the military. Down south along the border, we also see heavily armed 3%ers head out to patrol for Mexican migrants. In all of these examples, the far-Right acts as an auxiliary force to the State in order to uphold institutions such as whiteness, the border, and the police.

We also see this reality leading both to violence, as BLM occupiers in Minneapolis were shot at, and stabbings took place at antifa mobilizations in Anaheim and Sacramento, and also in the far-Right taking up more physical space through through their organizing and ideas, as groups like American Vanguard and Identity Evropa have attempted to build a presence on campuses across the US. The far-Right has had 8 years to fester and grow, in everywhere from paramilitary training campus, Alex Jones podcasts, and Neo-Nazi message boards. Now, they are hoping to stretch their legs.

But beyond this growth, the most radical on the far-Right hopes to achieve much more; to essentially take over the role of autonomous anti-capitalists in speaking to the anger and frustrations of everyday people and outflank us, becoming a revolutionary force which can overthrow the existing order and create something new along authoritarian lines.

Understanding the Limits and Potentials of Antifa

If we only understand anti-fascism to be just the struggle between antifa and Neo-Nazis, the KKK, and the Alt-Right, then in many ways, we’ve already lost.

Some of the biggest examples of auxiliary ‘white power’ are not found in the Alt-Right, or even in white nationalism, and in many cases, far-Right groups are not just solely comprised of white men and at least on paper, reject racialist politics. This reality has played itself out in a variety of ways, as Milo, from the standpoint of a far-Right gay man, attacks feminism, and Sheriff Clark goes after Black Lives Matter, even calling Marc Lamont of CNN a “jigaboo.” Even parts of the Alt-Right have softened; as the fall-out with Mike Peinovich shows many wavering on the issue of “the Jews,” as well as many opening their arms to people like Tila Tequila. This shows that whiteness in itself is of course not about biology, but all about power and deciding who gets to wield that power but more importantly: against what.

Just as the concept of whiteness was invented to ensure a cross-class relationship between poor whites and wealthy ones, or how the vote in the U.S. was extended in early American history to include white men that did not own property, or further back to the Roman empire, when the army began letting in men that were not wealthy and didn’t own land in order to grow the size of the army to fight against the ‘barbarians,’ these positions of power, privilege, and State agency at times change. We must change our understanding as well. 

Further still, we must contend with organic groupings that form in reaction to both crisis within capitalist civilization and popular struggles from below. Examples of this are bands of racist whites who killed black people during the aftermath of Katrina, supporters of the police and DAPL in North Dakota who are organizing against #NoDAPL protesters, and groups of bikers who are ready to rumble with protesters in support of Trump. In short, we have to deepen our scope of the far-Right beyond just those that share an affinity for Neo-Nazism, pepe the frog memes, and Klan robes.

On the other hand, antifa has huge potential in the US right now to bring in a new generation and radicalize them with militant, self-organized, and hands on activity that betters themselves, their organization and technical skills, and benefits their communities. The basis of antifa as community self-defense is key, especially at a time when liberal notions of free speech and ‘fighting fascism is the real fascism’ has been destroyed by the waves of literally thousands of hate crimes that have happened during this election cycle. Self-Defense, including armed and at times violent self-defense, is not only justified, but at this time extremely fucking needed. Let’s take it and run with it, but not forget the revolutionary politics that should inform it or the wider struggle it is apart of; meaning, let’s not become single-issue militants.

Lastly, we have to move the skills most associated with antifa and generalize them in all areas where we struggle. Why aren’t we mapping and doxxing the local police? The developers? The people on the city council? People in the government? Antifa shows a model that should be applied everywhere, not just contained just ‘for the nazis.’ Let us apply these tactics of social mapping and research of the enemy to all areas where we are fighting and organizing. That way, when shit does go down, we are better prepared to organize and respond.

Leave No Struggle Behind

White nationalists have stated that Trump is their last chance to electorally reestablish white supremacy in the US and make whites the power holding majority in this country. If Trump would have lost, or much more likely, fails to live up to their standards, then the Alt-Right claims that revolutionary tactics need to be picked up. While we expect the wind to move out of their sails with Trump taking power, this isn’t over by a long shot.

But in stating that, our point is not that we should all stop what we are doing and just focus on anti-fascist organizing, but that all aspects of our struggles and organizing need to take on anti-fascist considerations in the work that we do. Meaning, how does the potential threat of fascism and white nationalism inform our other organizing work? How do we defend ourselves from potential threats? How do we begin to incorporate security into our event planning? How do we not get doxxed? How do we deal with the spread of fascist gangs and ideas in our prison organizing? How do we confront racism at work? How do we deal with a far-Right media that wants to demonize us to the rest of the world? Simply put, whether you are up all night going through facebook profiles searching for fascists is besides the point, we all have to take these broader considerations into our organizing. Because in the end, like it or not, we are on their radar.

And it is in this organizing that we must reaffirm again and again what it means to be an anarchist and why our movement exists. The question is not what basket to put all our eggs into, but how to begin to defend ourselves, our spaces, and our struggles against both the State and a far-Right that continues to see us as a central threat.

As the institutional and electoral Left in the United States has shown itself to be not only completely ineffective, but also unable and unwilling to confront and fight not only the rise of fascism but also in even holding onto the gains made by everyday people on an institutional level, this failure opens up opportunities for revolutionaries to move in. Liberals have lost a huge amount of social capital now, and we must exploit this, run with it, and take over that room that has been created.

The stranglehold of nonprofits is at an end. The age of liberalism is dead and buried. The rule over class struggle by the Democratic Party and other bureaucrats is finished.

It is our time now.

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