When Antifa – an abbreviation of anti-fascist – gets lumped into the same category as white supremacists and neo-Nazis, it is time to demolish this malign and false equivalence. No, Antifa is not one single organisation; no, it is not the ethical equivalent of the far right.
Slanderously cynical and egregious falsehoods – equating those who advocate genocidal racist violence and those who promote ethnic equality – cannot remain unanswered. The ultranationalist Right, an agglomeration of white supremacist and ultrarightist groups, incites violence against the majority of humanity, and dehumanises nonwhite peoples. Opposing such an outlook, and the economic system that perpetuates racial divisions, is the diametric opposite of the pinstripe-suited Alt-Right.
Antifa is not a single group, but a description of loosely-organised, community based autonomous groups united by a common platform of opposition to racism and ultrarightist groups. The latter make no secret of their desire to attack migrant communities and minority religious groups. Ultranationalist terrorism has been, and still is, a fact of life in Britain and the United States.
Accusations of external funding – a tired old cliche
Ultranationalist groups, when confronted by movements for racial and economic equality, resort to an old, worn tactic – accusations of funding by controlling self-interested and malevolent forces. In the heyday of the US civil rights movement, the usual scapegoat trotted out as a ‘secret financier’ was the Jewish people. Portraying egalitarian movements as the dupes of malign external forces serves to delegitimise the goals and motivations of the accused groups.
In this era of updated antisemitic vitriol, liberal billionaire George Soros is targeted, accused of bankrolling Antifa, Black Lives Matter, and similar antiracist groups. There is zero evidence that Soros is contributing to any Antifa group, but that has not stopped the ultrarightist camp from using Soros as a convenient bogeyman, replacing the role of Rothschild in the right wing imagination.
Accusing Antifa of being the brainchild of a ruthless, conspiratorial billionaire derails the serious conversations we need to have about racism and economic inequalities in settler colonial societies. In fact, in a kind of mirror image way, ultranationalist groups are projecting their own trajectory and origins onto their opponents; ruthless billionaires have financed ultrarightist and white supremacist organisations as a counterweight to the organised labour movement.
When Antifa groups, drawn from their local communities, march in the street, they do so to promote an inclusive society – one that welcomes ethnic and religious minorities as equals. When the far right marches in the street, they do so to promote a racially exclusive society, intending on starting a race war to drive out nonwhite communities.
Rebranding political extremists is a practice of the corporate media
Since the early 1990s, the ultranationalist Right in the US has received international support – from their co-thinkers in Eastern Europe. Nazi collaborators from the World War 2 period have been systematically rehabilitated, along with their doctrines. American rightist groups have become emboldened by the success of their fellow white supremacists overseas.
We should also be mindful of the role of the corporate media in helping to rebrand Nazi collaborators as freedom fighters. American and British ultranationalist groups have marched alongside their neo-Nazi political brethren in Poland, the Baltic republics and Eastern European nations. While xenophobic groups despise those they view as foreigners, they actively support foreign-born racists.
This makes the necessity of Antifa more urgent; when the far right demonise migrants, and call for racist violence, it is ineffective to simply respond with centrism or blaming ‘both sides.’ Antifa draws from a longstanding and much ignored history of antiracist organising, confronting fascist groups wherever they arise.
The doctrines of the far right are deployed today
The far right has tried to revamp its image from that of bullyboy skinheads to that of pinstripe-suited intellectuals. However, scratch beneath the surface, and we can find the same inhumane ideas that motivated the fascist parties of old. When the director of the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), Rochelle Walensky, suggests that the current Covid morbidities are largely acceptable because they occur among the already elderly and differently-abled, she is drawing from the long history of eugenics in the United States.
Resurrecting the spectre of eugenics in the US, rationalising the fatalities caused by Covid in the elderly and differently-abled as the inevitable deaths of a burdensome segment of the population, directly descends from Nazi-era eugenical,thinking. In fact, prior to World War 2, the United States was a world leader not only in legalised racial stratification, but also in legislating eugenics measures to control people deemed to be the ‘surplus’ population.
No, Walensky is not a fascist – but being of the sensible centre, she should know what kind of ideas she is circulating. In fact, all of us require a political education to understand the kinds of ideologies advocated by Antifa and its ultranationalist opponents. Drawing a false equivalence between the activists of Antifa and neo-Nazi groups only serves to obfuscate the rising problem of racism today.