Comments From Berkeley
My opinion. Antifa is the lowest and remotest form of “Antifascism”. Saving one abortion clinic from closing or one school district from slashing its budget is more anti-fascist that busting 10 fascist skulls.
I’ve been involved in physical confrontation and risked arrest before (recently) and I saw how disproportionate a response I got from the small circle of people who learned of the episode I was involved in. The reaction was disproportionately positive. I’m like “really I’m ‘fighting fascists’? I haven’t lifted a finger to build the working class capacity to be self-reliant or fight the boss in YEARS but I’m fighting fascism because of one little episode?” Fuck that. The applause was out of proportion to the tepid responses I got from the same people when I was doing hours upon hours of individual meetings with contacts to transmit the basics of marxist critique and class consciousness or various efforts to organize concretely along those lines. My small insignificant episode of physical confrontation with a “fascist” (probably not even a fascist but definitely a trump supporter) has earned me “points” yet I use these points to leverage an anti-Antifa line.
I’m opposed to antifa and black bloc. I am for highly disciplined self-defense and I am for the broad and deep interpretation of self-defense to include much more important aspects than physical defense / fighting. The best thing to do to defend oneself in the class struggle is the same thing as it is in daily life: control your emotions and use words effectively. I’m for a leftist self-defense paradigm that puts self-control first!
So to come to the recent Berkeley episodes. Saturday was a huge victory for the Right. Seeing as how it was the culmination of several previous clashes that were interpreted by antifa as victories, this was quite a turn of the tables. I have been predicting this since day one. Heres why: the previous episodes were physical victories for the left but spiritual victories for the right. In getting their asses whooped for merely trying to speak (venomous bile though it be) the Right wing gained claim of the banner of justice. We can argue about whether this is right or wrong, but is a widely held fact violence was initiated by the “left” in these episodes. When we need to reach out to the most abstract and distant facts of historical violence (eg colonialism, prison industrial complex) to justify our violence because no immediate risk is present (50 College Republican dweebs watching a twero like Milo whine about how marginal their mysogyny is in academia, is NOT a clear and present danger), our “self-defense” narrative fades from plausibility for the vast majority of observers. And rightly so.
Whether or not our self-justification for unleashing in some cases centuries-worth of pent up rage is valid morally, strategically its a failure. We ought to fear the triumph of emotion over reason, as it is this that makes up the psycho-social core of fascism which, stripped of its demogoguery, has not a shred of reason to it. Almost as a means of compensating for its lack of theory, fascism invents toxic tales and strange symbols to channel the brutal frustrations of a body politic destined for historical elemination: in our case the star-spangled racist white man seeking a return to a mythic pioneering yeoman existence that is essentially petite bourgeois. Historically doomed, he defends his social position with death throes against his anarchist tormenters.
Why on earth would the Left choose to engage the fascist enemy on their terrain of battle, sharing their paradigm of combat? From the days of Lao Tsu its been a military truism that in war we must seek to shift the terrain to the one most favorable to us. Absurdly, we have abandoned our most favorable terrain (the intellectual) to our least favorable (the violent). For christs sake we are running from debate with the most retarding (not an ableist slur) political element to appear since the psuedoscience of eugenics. The alt-right is overtly basing its movement on something called White Identity Politics. With ideas this WEAK why are we refusing opportunites for public debate and launching ourselves proudly into the clutches of tactical defeat (as seen last weekend), imprisonment (perennial), and martial law (looming?)? To answer my own question, i think we don’t debate we on the Left have such contradictory ideas and priorities that by emphasizing our weakest ideas (PC speech, unquestioning promotion of trans-gender norms etc… anything other than worker/capitalist class antagonism) the Right throws our while leftist coalition into dissaray.
I would have liked to see a column of 100 anti-fascists (ideally marxists of yours or my ilk) line up to demand free speech time on the mic at the fascist event purporting to be all about the exchange of ideas. Or a guerrilla style infiltration of the fascist crowd in teams of 3 with a debater, a camera person and bodyguard to engage the reactionaries directly. The youtube videos of peaceful leftists savaging the right wingers’ every argument and advocating a unified message of socialism would have been a huge step forward for our side. Instead, with the de facto uniform of all black and face masks, refusing to deploy any argumentation at all on principle, we look like blackshirt goons and frankly we kinda are…
Sadly, any liberal or leftist who gives a right-winger a chance to speak at all is viewed as a traitor to the cause and accused of giving a “platform” to fascism. My position is HELL YEAH I’ll give a fascist a platform in fact ill walk them right up the platform… and then guillotine the fuck out of every word they say. Its not their words we should fear, its their activity. As has been demonstrated, the less we engage with their words, the more we inspire their activity. Hence, the embarrassing defeat in Berkeley on Saturday.
Editors’ Notes: The following was forwarded to us regarding the April 2017 combat in Berkeley, California between anti-fascist groups and fascist groups. We agree with some of it. We do agree that a) “anti-fascist” actions in and of themselves do, and will do, little if anything to overcome the reactionary actions and movements spawned by capitalism b) black bloc, or anti-fascism does not present a program or a strategy that is linked to class struggle.
We don’t agree with much of it. We don’t think we can or should always avoid physical confrontation. Ceding the streets is not a viable strategy. Physical mobilization of small groups for violence in the streets is how fascism starts, every time.
Violence isn’t a threshold which, after you cross, nothing else is (strategically, tactically) possible.
We do not agree that there is any point to engaging in debate with members of fascist organizations. Such organizations are not interested in debate, but rather intimidation and repression. Anybody who thinks fascists are going to sit on their hands, and listen while a communist exposes and dismantles the pathology that is fascist ideology simply doesn’t understand that fascism is in fact a pathology, a shared pathology, where and when the need to injure, maim, kill supersedes all other needs. That it serves the interests of modern capitalism only magnifies those insatiable needs.
Nor do we agree that we “damage” our own cause when we disrupt the likes of Milo Yiannopoulous. Milo is not “whining” about anything “in academia.” That’s not what he does. He targets individuals, and sets them up for attack and harassment.
Additionally, we imagine the author of the article would approve of various organizations that fascists would happily smash if given free rein in the streets, something we can not allow.
And this: “Sadly, any liberal or leftist who gives a right-winger a chance to speak at all is viewed as a traitor to the cause and accused of giving a ‘platform” to fascism'” misses the point. It’s not about “free speech” or “platforms,” or even “right-wingers.” It’s all about what it really takes to defeat fascists. It takes workers organized in, and as, a class force.