An Introduction to ‘ANTIFA’

What does anti-fascism mean and why is the political characteristic being classified as a terrorist organization?

he present situation in the United States is one of grave concern, especially in regards to systemic racism, police brutality, and other related themes. Regarding violence that has taken place around the country, the president of the United States, Donald Trump, took to Twitter on May 31, 2020 to announce the following statement regarding Antifa and the protests taking hold around the country:

The tweet is relatively straight-forward, but it holds little to no legitimate meaning.

Who and what is ‘ANTIFA’ and what does anti-fascism really mean?

For starters, a brief historical background on Antifa as a broad movement is necessary before delving into the problems that arise when you proceed with designating a broad political sentiment as a so-called “Terrorist Organization”.

Historical Anti-Fascism:

Antifa was originally started in Germany in the early 1930s by the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) under the German name of Antifaschistische Aktion (Antifa). Before the 1930s, the pre-Antifa group known as the Roter Frontkämpferbund existed as a paramilitary arm of the KPD. During the unstable post-war era in the Weimar Republic, both the fascists and the communists (under the leadership of Ernst Thälmann) began to gain a lot of support from individuals who were disenfranchised with the status quo in Germany at the time, given the absolute deterioration of living conditions across the country.

As such, it was a paramilitary group that was committed to fighting the growing threat of fascism in the country until Hitler was declared Chancellor in 1933.

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A picture of the Communist Party of Germany’s headquarters in 1932. (Bundesarchiv, B 145 Bild-P046279 / Weinrother, Carl / CC-BY-SA 3.0 / CC BY-SA 3.0 DE)

The concept of anti-fascism is largely dedicated to the rather obvious ideology of being against the establishment of fascism in individuals, organizations, and states overall. Throughout World War II, anti-fascism was arguably the most unifying ideological convention by resistance forces across all European territories.

Beyond the end of World War II, anti-fascism was declared to be part of the dominant social ideology of various countries, especially in those part of the Eastern Bloc, often being adopted by the ruling communist parties of the time.

In the present day, and more specifically, in North America, Antifa is generally regarded as a loose abbreviation and descriptive term (as opposed to a centralized group or organization) that is used by socialists, anarchists, communists, and other related ideological groups dedicated to opposing the following:

  1. Existing oppressive political structures
  2. Capitalism as the dominant economic ideology
  3. Global imperialism caused by American hegemony and allied states

In short, claiming to be a part of Antifa is just to state broad support of anti-fascist sentiments, whether that be in regards to an event currently taking place, a specific political party, or something else entirely.

State Surveillance and Potential Harm:

This is where the push for making Antifa a designated “Terrorist Organization” becomes threatening to all individuals who are against fascism in any way possible. If this develops and becomes a reality within the United States, any individual self-describing as an anti-fascist would be subject to being treated on the same level as someone praising the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant or al-Qaeda.

The primary issue with this is that since Antifa is, once again, not a centralized organization, anyone that shares similar ideological sentiments can be accused of being a ‘part’ of the ‘group’. If a concerned civilian, or an academic researcher, or a journalist, or any other individual within society decides to spread any information that is anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist in nature, they could, theoretically, be attributed to being part of Antifa. Thus, the consequences would also be applicable to said individual(s).

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Photo by Etienne Girardet on Unsplash

As such, the universal human right to freedom of expression is at risk of being violated in the name of anti-terrorism, as it consistently has since the advent of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. The introduction of various anti-terrorism bills in the United States (USA PATRIOT Act) and Canada (Anti-Terrorism Act) effectively allowed state intelligence agencies within various Western liberal democracies the right to unconstitutionally track digital communications and collect and retain data on suspected persons.

Suspected terrorists (based on classifications of terrorist groups) are especially scrutinized on the grounds of the aforementioned information, including those who potentially come in contact with people of interest to state organizations. A prime example of this includes Laura Poitras, an award-winning filmmaker who was “getting detained at airports” over 50 times.

Unrest Leads to Questions and Answers:

It is very much worth noting that in times of unrest, individuals seek answers. People want to understand why the things happening around them are happening in the first place. They want things to go back to normal, whatever that normal may be according to them.

In times of crisis, people are drawn to foundations that seem to make sense to them. The rise of fascism was counteracted by the members of the KPD and the Antifaschistische Aktion until they couldn’t anymore. That countermeasure then turned to active resistance against the fascist authorities in Germany at the time, both within and beyond German borders.

Unrest and resistance is, of course, not only limited to German history, as all territories around the world have had various movements that sought to change the status quo, whatever that might be. The reason Antifa is becoming more and more prominent is because of two particular reasons:

  1. The outright failure of administrations to listen to individuals and organizations calling for change
  2. The steady rise of the far-right and the rebirth of fascist tendencies around the Western liberal-democratic world

The move to designate a political sentiment and characteristic as a terrorist organization can and will most likely lead to unlawful detainment of people, persecutory surveillance of individuals, and other unjust deeds. Simply sharing the broad viewpoints of anti-fascism will be, most likely, enough to put you at risk of state overreach and wrongful treatment and should be staunchly opposed.

South Slavic writer focusing on anti-imperialism, Marxism, and the international working class.

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