The recent events in Charlottesville, where the two extremes of the political spectrum were pitted against each other, have sparked a vivid debate about these so-called Antifa.
The KKK white supremacists and the lot are not something new to the US political stage.
The far left, on the other hand, is relatively unknown.
Across the pond, however, we’ve had them for decades, and have grown accustomed to both name and ideology. So what are Antifa all about?
Before dwelling on the far left, let’s take a look on the far right in Europe, for historical reasons and for context.
Over the last decade, Europe has seen a significant rise of the far right, which can be attributed to a number of reasons. The Euro zone economic crisis gave rise to the idea and the sentiment that the European Union is a failed experiment and everyone will be better off alone. In countries where bailouts were imposed, emerged a feeling of lost sovereignty. Others also felt that Brussels had taken over their domestic policy. These ideas gave rise to Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France and to Golden Dawn in Greece. Elsewhere, it was the refugee crisis and the overall surge of Muslim immigrants, which led to gains for parties like Alternative for Germany and Geert Wilder’s Party of Freedom in Netherlands. The recent terrorist attacks, of course, exacerbated the situation, with Russia allegedly pursuing its goal of dismantling the EU through financial support to separatist forces.
Are all far right parties Nazis? No. Although there are some legit Nazis, like Golden Dawn, and fascists like CasaPound. But the intertwine of Nazism and fascism in European political culture is a long and complex matter.
Most far right parties in each European country promote their brand of nationalism. If you’re going to spot admiration for the Nazis from some members, it is in the fact that they consider Hitler a successful politician in the nationalistic field.
The secret of Europe is that it was always anti-Semitic. Persecution of Jews goes back to medieval times; the Nazis didn’t invent it or anything. It is really easy to find people claiming that Jews run the show and since the Nazis were the epitome of anti-Semitism, they look up to them. Another thing that wove national socialism into the fabric of other countries’ political cultures is the fact that partisans of opposed ideologies, communists and nationalists, fought the Nazis but they also fought among themselves, in the hope of gaining a leverage for when the Nazis were gone.
The Nazis armed sympathizers like the Milice in France and Security Battalions in Greece to fight the guerillas. The case in France was that most of those people faced reprisals for their collaboration. In Greece a communist insurgency started almost immediately after the Germans left. The people in the Security Battalions were needed as bodies to fight the new war and hence, never faced justice. Those two examples set the mood for what happened elsewhere.
In most examples of far right parties you will find sympathizers, fellow travelers etc. The openly Nazi, with swastikas and goose steps, organizations have low membership. Even the Golden Dawn rebranded itself as a patriotic party, changing the color of their symbol from red and black to white and gold, in order to attract voters.
Far right terrorism has created problems in Europe. In Italy, during what is called the years of the lead, we had the most deadly attacks; and recently we had the attack perpetrated by Anders Behring Breivik that killed 77 people.
In more recent times we have had racially motivated attacks, like the killing of a Pakistani national in Greece by members of the Golden Dawn.
Neo Nazis in Europe, while they throw the obligatory torch march, prefer posing as “patriots” or “anti immigrant” and have generally toned down the extreme rhetoric with the hope of attracting people, and that means extreme actions are not preferable.
The first organization with that name, called Antifaschistische Aktion was created by the German Communist Party (KPD) in 1932, after the disbanding of the Roter Frontkämpferbund, which was their militant wing. It was created to fulfill the same role as the Roter Frontkämpferbund: to fight the SA (brownshirts) of the Nazi party and other political opponents.
The name was revived in Europe during the 80s, even though militant leftist groups with the same goal had existed since the 70s. The main difference was that the new Antifa were aligned with the ideas of anarcho-communism and Libertarian Marxism (both theories consider organized states as the main problem) and not with the Marxism–Leninism of their namesakes of the 30s Germany.
In most of these groups, violence is an acceptable means, since they believe they are fighting fascists. Granted, sometimes they are. The problem is that they have shown a tendency for labeling anyone that disagrees with their radical left positions as a Nazi/Fascist, as well as any representative of authority, like the police, the army etc. In Greece, the clashes with the police are too many to count and here you will find many ready to support the Communist regimes of Eastern Europe and leftist terrorist organizations.
That, however, comes as no surprise to anyone that has read a book or two from the theoretical minds of anarchism. For example, Sergey Nechayev says:
A revolutionary must infiltrate all social formations including the police. He must exploit rich and influential people, subordinating them to himself. He must aggravate the miseries of the common people, so as to exhaust their patience and incite them to rebel. And, finally, he must ally himself with the savage word of the violent criminal, the only true revolutionary in Russia.”
Or Bakunin the Russian anarchist, who calls for anarchists to commit random acts of violence and to seek alliances with “men who are rough to the point of cruelty, but whose nature is fresh and strong, unsubdued and inexhaustible.” That is, those who have already positioned themselves against the state by choosing lives of crime.
In conclusion, none of the above groups is your friend.
Nazis are outright appalling. They attack people based on characteristics like color, ethnicity, religion, and advocate the extermination of “lesser” races. Need I say more?
Antifa, on the other hand, talk about things, not people, so one could be justifiably inclined to deem them more virtuous. The problem lies in the fact that Anarcho-Communism advocates the abolition of the state, capitalism, wage labour and private property, much like Marxism–Leninism. The change is so radical that people will resist and here is where the theory breaks down. And if you aren’t on board will you probably get shot, since obviously you don’t want to contribute to the greater good.