Anti Fascist Aktion, or “Antifa”, has become a worldwide phenomenon. The anarchist group started sometime in the 1980s, after being dismantled under Nazi rule, and has spread to several European countries — as well as the United States. Their goals read simply: to oppose or “smash” fascism wherever expressed and work to promote other far-left-leaning or anarchist organizations wherever possible. They use similar tactics as their anarchist allies as well: leaflet production, organizing demonstrations and — most notably — violence and disruptive activities.
The election of Donald Trump enabled Antifa to make a major foothold in America. They have been often partnered up with other organizations — such as BAMN, “By Any Means Necessary”, a militant left-leaning organization that defends equality — to protest in larger marches or demonstrations and to act aggressively towards pro-Trump demonstrations or individuals. The most recent event where Antifa and other anarchist or radical left groups protested was a speech by Milo Yiannopoulos at Berkeley. His conservative and libertarian beliefs incite controversy, which prompted large crowds of students to protest and shutdown the event via intimidation, property destruction and physical violence against attendees. These tactics of violence and intimidation have become especially problematic on university and college campuses, whom have been criticized by many conservative and libertarian media outlets as being a mere echo chamber for left-leaning ideologies.
Perhaps the most shocking detail about that evening was the lack of campus security or police presence to prevent riots. There was also the apparent support by faculty, several of which have been accused of supporting protest against Yiannopoulos and other libertarian or conservative speakers.
The rising popularity of the organization not only frightens those who feel that campuses, open forums or other social environments are taking on a liberal bias, but also liberals and progressive activists who wish to uphold nonviolence as a tenant of protest. The hijacking of sociopolitical movements by anarchist or radical groups, like Antifa, threaten modern liberalism as it complicates finding common ground with other political stances or organizations. This ultimately threatens the ability to find compromise or peaceful interaction with those we disagree with, tearing at the fabric of political and social debate.
It is one thing to disagree with a public speaker, teacher, politician or other public figure. It is also within our rights to protest political groups or causes we disagree with. But to use violence and intimidation to silence dissenting thought is not an anti-fascist cause. Physically attacking those who disagree with you and labeling them as a threat to your social or political stances — which you see as superior — is not an anti-fascist cause. Wanting to instill fear in your ideological peers because they aren’t “active” or “aggressive” enough and blaming them for your lack of success is not an anti-fascist cause. Seeking destruction of the current state to instill your own control is not an anti-fascist cause. These behaviors are all extremely similar to the actions taken by the Iron Guard in Romania or the Falangists in Spain — and yes, by the National Socialists in Germany. Antifa literally copies the tactics of fascist organizations in order to meet their goals. We cannot let radicals suppress dissent for any cause or silence freedom of speech in any public medium. As a nation, we must remain vigilant for the spread of anarchists or radicals who threaten to oppose our rights. Otherwise, the very “anti-fascists” who are attempting to “stop Nazis” may raise their own flag of red, white and black.