The message from the state and the far right is clear. Black people are supposed to stay away from Antifa, or else… So the question is, why?
Antifa itself, as is written over and over again, is not a single unified organisation, instead it is a movement, consisting of many different networks, organisations, groups and individuals, who often have very different views on many things and often only agree on one thing: They all see the urgent need to oppose fascism and the far right, both in the world of ideas and in the real world.
In that sense, Antifa is different than many other parts of the left, let alone the radical left. Most other left and radical left organisations try to get all their members to agree to a single view, with a single strategy and (often) with a single central committee. Most of these organisations use a language of political jargon, that nobody outside of their political bubble can understand. And many of these organisations have very few links to real world people, especially amongst working class and minority communities.
Anti-fascists on the other hand, mostly try to avoid the jargon and try to be more open to real world people. That does not always work that well. But when it did work, then people from working class and minority communities got involved in anti-fascism, be it within existing or new anti-fascist groups or by joining or leading anti-fascist actions.
When that happens, the alarm bells ring inside the state’s security apparatus and in far right circles.
Not because anti-fascism is so violent. Their “violence” is in reality self-defence. The real violence comes from fascists who have practiced murdering millions of people all over the world for more than a century. And just as an FYI, that fascist violence started at that period in history when the centuries old colonial and imperialist violence was slowly starting to loose its grip on the world.
What is really causing the state apparatus and right wingers to go nuts, when black and minority people get involved with anti-fascism? Is it because of the potential this could have?
People engaged in anti-fascism learn many practical skills and share knowledge.
Practical skills cover a wide range: how to organise a demonstration or event, how to write about something and publish it, how to hold a speech, how to do things collectively, how to make sure everyone is involved in discussions and decision making, how to evade surveillance, how to use electronic communication securely, how to protect a place or a demo from attacks, how to use social media, how to do fundraising, how to support people who get arrested, how to build networks with like minded people, how to withstand state repression and many others.
The knowledge covers also a wide range of topics: anti-fascism, grass roots democracy, various radical left theories, anti-racism, anti-imperialism, anti-colonialism, feminism, LGBTQIA+, radical ecology, what is anti-Semitism, what is capitalism, how the legal system works and so on. And of course, anti-fascists learn about nazis, fascists, racists, etc.
Is that the reason? Will all these skills and all that knowledge in the hand of working class and minority people be a threat to the status quo? Yes, it will.
On the other hand, working class and minority people have their own skills and their own knowledge, which can go far beyond what Antifa knows or is used to doing. So maybe the state and the fascists are afraid, that anti-fascists will learn many new and improved skills and new knowledge and will become more and more effective? Also that is true.
The state and the fascists are afraid, when working class and especially black and other minority people take a more radical approach in a direction, that they cannot control and which could actually tear down the status quo. In that situation instead of saying “don’t be so radical about ending police violence” or “don’t be so opposed to racist murders”, it is much easier for them to say “stay away from Antifa”. Antifa is used as a symbol, representing radical change. By referring to Antifa as the Big Bad and telling working class and minority people to stay away from it, they actually mean “don’t be radical, do as you’re told, know your place, shut up”.
As we have seen in the last weeks, when the status quo is challenged, in this case by Black Lives Matter, then the fascists and racists will unleash their violence against them in order to protect the status quo. But even when the status quo is not challenged, fascists are constantly attacking minority communities, in order to “keep them in their place”, as 2nd class citizens or less. Most of that violence will go un-noticed by the media.
What if the state and the fascists in their attempt to discredit and discourage Black Lives Matter and any other radical opposition, are inadvertently presenting a good idea, just the wrong way around? What if working class and minority people do the opposite of what they say and don’t stay away from anti-fascism?
For most existing Antifa groups, this will require some rethinking. They can no longer make themselves comfortable in their scene. Instead they need to work with new people and new groups. And they can’t assume, that they always know better. They need to listen and learn.
Maybe it is time to re-evaluate what anti-fascism can offer to a movement for radical change. Maybe the longevity and continuity over several decades, the diversity of groups, views and strategies, the grass-roots organising and collective decision-making are good for something more, after all.
some anti-fascists in London
DISCLAIMER: this is written by some comrades and does not represent the opinion of LAFA