Unpacking the antifa – against moral positions for smarter tactics

By P Wingnut and Teresa

Moral debates between violence/non-violence and trying to appeal to the media regarding antifa amidst a rising tide of alt right publicity stunts misses the point. The alt right are setting up situations in which they define the agenda, they pick the time and place, and no matter how anyone reacts they will declare victory.

A lot of people are condemning some antifa (anti-fascist) actions, particularly those in Berkeley in which large black-clad groups have militantly shut down alt-right gatherings. Just as it is wrong to condemn all militant antifa tactics, it’s simplistic to automatically support everything and anything antifa—or any particular member of antifa—might decide to do. There are members of antifa who do the right thing, others who make mistakes, and there are probably police agents posing as antifa to harm us.

What’s important is effectiveness and acting thoughtfully and strategically — which isn’t always measured by the toughest or most militant action. Strategy involves questioning our own tactics when necessary. The alt right is trying to provoke violence because they think it will work to their advantage and help expand their numbers, so we need to be careful not to play by their rules, while still acting in self-defense when people are attacked.

It’s a mistake to think that by jumping a particular racist extremist, we’re having a meaningful effect on the system of white supremacy. If we managed to get rid of all the alt right morons who met in Charlottesville and have been descending on Berkeley, the system of racism would remain.

Antifa members with the courage to act in self-defense are heroes. Antifa also engages in other tactics like blowing bubbles, peaceful chanting, dressing in costumes, participating in comments threads on the internet, etc. In August, Antifa in Boston surrounded an alt-right rally chatting “we can’t hear you,” shutting it down seemingly without having to throw a punch.

It’s important to interrogate the concept of “nonviolence.” By holding nonviolence as a fetish, we limit our ability to affect change and allow our movements to be co-opted by business-as-usual liberalism. We have to start looking at these things as tactics rather than ideologies. We still live in a world in which women are making 77 cents to the man’s dollar, in which black people disproportionately fill our prisons and are disproportionally murdered by police. If we are to dismantle the systems of social injustice that surround us, we are going to need to work together on a grand scale. The current efforts of the media and alt-right to divide us undermines our organizing power. We can’t let go of our greater visions of a better world as we work to strategically address the rise of fascism in this country.

Flag-waving thugs have a dubious connection with the power structures that are destroying the world and enslaving her people. These people and their hateful ideas are symptoms of deeper problems. The most dangerous people don’t wander the streets — they rule from fancy offices.

Exclusively militant rhetoric and images obscure the complex, nuanced and beautiful simplicity that we’re trying to create — a world without rulers based on mutual aid and voluntary cooperation. Escalating violence plays right into the hands of people who thrive to the extent violence—and the hate and fear violence breeds—escalates. We need to stop playing into this game. If solidarity has any meaning, it doesn’t just mean solidarity within a tiny politically air-tight clique eager to give the middle finger to every working slob who isn’t woke.

Solidarity is big, broad, messy and hard because it means working out differences that threaten to divide us so we can focus on the system. This struggle is about stories, conversations, connections, ideas, and building community — and at times militant self-defense against racists.