Donald J. Trump wants to add the anti-fascist anarchists of the loosely knit, poorly defined Antifa political movement to America’s international terrorist list (Antifa is shorthand for anti-fascist). Trump made his desire known last week the morning after hiding in a subterranean White House bunker until Secret Service told him it was safe to come out.
“These people are ANARCHISTS. Call in our National Guard NOW. The World is watching and laughing at you and Sleepy Joe. Is this what America wants? NO!!!” Trump tweeted hysterically after his ridiculous ordeal. It seems far more likely the world was laughing at Cadet Bone Spurs, Candy Ass First Class.
Trump’s international legion of haters had a field day making jokes about his panicked reaction after major news outlets broke in to their America Is Burning voice-overs to report the leader of the free world was in hiding, whisked away by the Secret Service when hundreds of protesters materialized near the White House. Among those protesters, officials now claim, were a handful of Antifa demonstrators wearing their trademark black masks.
Lambasted in the press for his very public lack of cajones, a far more ferocious Donald Trump the next day berated the nation’s governors during a nationwide conference call, accusing them of being “weak” in the face of burgeoning civil unrest. Trump demanded they “dominate” the protestors who spent the weekend rampaging across America, showing their distaste for badge-heavy cops who murder black men and get away with it.
Trump is right about one thing, Antifa is real. But what it is and how it works is shrouded in intentional mystery.
Depending on what is available to read, Antifa is either a left-wing, grassroots movement of part-time agitprop actors, or a sinister underground organization intent on undermining American democracy. Beyond scary masks and furtive gestures, Antifa has so far limited itself to urging others to shout invective and burn other people’s property before running away.
Mark Bray, a teacher at Dartmouth College and author of “Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook,” says that idealists who perceive that Antifa is a “liberal” organization with middle-class ideals and understandable goals are deluding themselves. “At the heart of the anti-fascist outlook is a rejection of [the] classical liberal phrase,” he says.
Bray, a supporter and apologist for Antifa, defined the movement as “an illiberal politic of social revolution applied to fighting the Far Right, not only literal fascists.” To put a finer point on Bray’s perspective, Antifa sees enemies when anyone or any organization espouses principles it doesn’t agree with.
“Antifa: What Americans Need to Know about the Alt-Left,” a book produced without attribution by the ultra-conservative WorldNetDaily.com, claims Antifa represents a “world view” and a “way of life” for secretive anti-fascists intent on engaging in a “kind of eternal counterinsurgency against human nature itself.” The unnamed authors claim Antifa is “America’s most dangerous domestic terrorist group” and call the Antifa movement the “rise of the alt-left.”
History offers a few clues. The origins of America’s contemporary Antifa movement can be traced to the confused days before World War II when millions of Nazi adherents in Germany, France, Great Britain and the United States gathered regularly to promote National Socialism and the Nazi Party. It is hard to believe now, but before World War II, American Nazis filled up Madison Square Garden with jackbooted storm troopers Sieg Heiling the night away.
When the Spanish Civil War erupted in 1936 between the elected Republican government headed by socialist leader Francisco Largo Caballero and supporters of fascist rebel general Francisco Franco, international communists, socialists, apolitical adventurers and down-and-out relics from the great Depression joined the outgunned Republicans to oppose Franco.
Each side was subsidized with money channeled from sympathetic countries and individuals opposed to one ideology or the other. Adolf Hitler’s Condor Legion was Franco’s biggest supporter. Fellow mass murderer Joseph Stalin provided similar support for the left-leaning Republicans.
Several thousand Americans joined the so-called Abraham Lincoln Brigade, an international formation of idealists and adventurers who fought bravely on the side of the Spanish Republic. Of the approximately 3,015 volunteers who joined from the United States, 681 were killed in action or died of wounds and disease. Their astounding courage in Spain provided them with considerable traction back home, until the brutal three-year civil war ended on April 1, 1939.
Before the participants were home long enough to rest on their laurels, World War II began in Europe. After the dust finally settled in September 1945, the ill-formed and barely identifiable Antifa movement quietly disappeared. The world soon forgot those anti-fascist volunteers who were among the first people to face the Nazi scourge with actions rather than words.
Subsequently, the Antifa movement was generally forgotten until the name re-emerged after the election of Donald J. Trump. He needed some left-wing villains to associate with liberals and fragmented, obscure, self-proclaimed Antifa agitators fit the bill perfectly.
Contemporary Antifa proponents, usually hidden behind masks, argue that their pugnacious movement still exists solely to fight fascism. For proof, they offer the Unite The Right debacle at Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12, 2017 as a recent example of their resolve.
For a brief time after the events there ended in assault and murder, Antifa basked in the narrative that it was the only political force at the Virginia disturbance willing to oppose the armed, far-right rednecks who came to Charlottesville to rescue a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from damn Yankees, liberal Jews and their black supporters. Trump singled out the Antifa movement as icons of the left-wing maniacs he was elected to destroy.
Before the demonstration in Charlottesville could begin, the scene erupted in violence between the good ol’ boys and a handful of reputed Antifa agitators. In the front ranks of the liberal contingent’s band of less-provocative protesters were the alleged Antifa agitators, waving their red-and-black banners and flags.
On the other side of the park, neo-Nazi rednecks with guns and quasi-Nazi struts dared them to get it on. Dozens were injured in the ensuing brawl. The fighting didn’t end until the police came down hard on everyone involved after a Unite the Right activist used his car to kill counter-demonstrator Heather Heyer.
Last Sunday night, the Secret Service decided to put out the lights at the White House when protesters were arguably provoked to violence by Antifa agitators in nearby Lafayette Park. Whether or not Trump agreed with the decision, the White House going black is symbolic both of Trump’s complete absence of leadership and his need to find somebody besides himself to blame for the mayhem gripping the nation.
“The White House is still there,” one pundit noted, “but it seems as if no one is home.”