I think of this as an addendum to my Anatomy of Trumpism series, in which I spend much time denouncing President Trump’s encouragement of violence. We, of course, just saw the lethal consequences of his rhetoric in Charlottesville. Trump claimed that there were many good people in the Nazi rally and that there very bad and violent people among the counter-protestors.
Unfortunately, Antifa and their allies are giving Trump’s supporters just enough cover on that score to allow them to not have to outright denounce Trump’s defense of Nazis and neo-Confederates. And, unfortunately, left-wing violence produces the same dangers as the right-wing violence that Trump encourages.
Here’s a helpful Atlantic article on Antifa and their violence.
One of my concerns about right-wing violence is the way it deligitimizes government institutions. And that is a stated purpose of some of the right-wing groups, like the Three Percenters and the fans of Cliven Bundy, who espouses a belief in the supremacy of county governments and who outright said he rejected the legitimacy of the national government.
Antifa also explicitly seeks to deligitimize government institutions. While I’m sure their base is now broadening, Antifa began in America as an anarchist group. Everyone of the Antifa folks I, as a former anarchist, have known were anarchists. While their stated purpose is to confront fascists now before they gain any real power, they also seek to create revolutionary conditions in which the left overthrows government to presumably leave a stateless, socialist society in its wake.
Liberals and others who, in reaction to new openness of violent white supremacists, now find themselves sympathetic to Antifa should beware. Antifa does not represent your values. They are not trying to create a tolerant, open, and equable society; they are instead trying to eliminate the foundations upon which we might create such a society – the state.
They do not believe in the right to free speech. How could they? You have to have a state to enunciate and defend rights. They’re anarchists; they want to destroy not just our current government, but government in any form. We must defend free speech for all, not just for people we agree with. We certainly cannot allow a group actively trying to destroy government to decide who gets to speak and march and who doesn’t. Maybe they’ll come for you next.
We are right to challenge and denounce fascists, white supremacists, and their defenders – Trump. We do so to defend or promote a free, open, and equable society. If that is our ultimate goal, then we must denounce those on the left who would also undermine that society. Antifa is not our ally.