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Sifting through the bullshit: Acton Institute pontificates about Antifa

September 12, 2017

There have been all kinds of commentary, from both conservative and liberal sources, about what it means to be part of the group/movement known as antifa.

Part of the problem with how conservative and liberal responses to antifa, is due in part to the fetishization on non-violence. Too many people think that somehow non-violence is a superior moral strategy to embrace, yet more often than not those who advocate this position (in response to antifa) are usually people who do NOT want to practice a basic principle of non-violence.

One of the most basic points of non-violence, besides the call to not participate in harm, is the idea that one will not avoid having harm done to themselves. Most people who scream we need to be non-violent are people to will not do anything that will risk putting their ass on the line. Can you imagine during the Black Freedom Movement, if those who rode buses in the south, sat at segregated lunch counters or put their bodies on the line against police brutality had said, “sorry, we believe in non-violence, but we don’t want to take any risks.” Dr. King famously said, “we will wear you down with our capacity to suffer.”

Now, I think non-violence can be a useful strategy to engage in, but I also think we should never be limited to such strategies or tactics. In fact, we should never foreclose on the use of any tactic. We all need to stop fetishizing non-violence are start understanding the world in terms of power and oppression. I would highly recommend that people read the following books: How Non-violence Protects the State; Pacifism as Pathology and This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible.

Acton Institute on antifa

Last Wednesday, the Grand Rapids think tank that defends the Capitalist Class, the Acton Institute, decided they need to share some facts about antifa

The Acton blog post provides 5 facts about antifa, which are worth looking at, as they reflect many of the uninformed assumptions about antifa.

The first sentence of “fact 1” states: Antifa is a radical and often violent protest movement organized around “anti-fascism.” Again, there is that word violent. When the dominant culture gives us images and messages about cops, they don’t usually associate them with being violent. However, not only are cops always heavily armed, they more consistently engage in acts of violence and repression than any other domestic group in the country. Yet, we rarely see the description of cops as being “mostly violent.”

Antifa, does not hesitate to use force to defend people who are being targeted by fascists or to use force against those who come into communities to do actual harm. Those involved in antifa see this as providing real community-based security or creating safe spaces against groups that are white supremacists and fascists.

“Fact 2” from the Acton Institute is not necessarily an inaccurate point, but it is fairly simplistic.

“Fact 3” states: Almost all of those who align with Antifa are from the extreme political left, usually identifying as communists, socialists, or anarchists. Again, this statement is meant to marginalize those involved with antifa, since association with communism, socialism or anarchism is often seen as extremists. However, there are millions of people who identify with communism, socialism or anarchism. What the Acton Institute means by the extreme political left, is really meant to say that anyone who does not celebrate or act as an apologist of capitalism.

“Fact 4” is the most accurate of the facts presented about antifa, mostly because it relies on historian Mark Bray, author of the recent book, Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook.

“Fact 5” begins with an accurate statement about antifa being decentralized, but then ends with this sentence:

The Department of Homeland Security formally classified Antifa’s activities as “domestic terrorist violence,” according to interviews and confidential law enforcement documents obtained by Politico.

The fact that the Acton Institute considers the Dept. of Homeland Security as a credible source, should tell us something. Also, if you participate in non-violent civil disobedience, the Dept. of Homeland Security also considers you to be violence. You are violent either way, not necessarily because of the tactics you use, but because you challenge and confront the dominant narrative about the state.

For anyone wanting to honestly try to understand what antifa is all about, then I would suggest a few sources:

Read the response from It’s Going Down to Politico’s awful post on antifa.

Check out a recent interview with Mark Bray, author of Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook, on Democracy Now

Better yet, you should just read Mark Bray’s book, Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook, to have a more complete analysis of what antifa or anti-fascism really means.

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