The use of violence by antifascist groups in the US is preventing healthy democratic activism
On August 12th, a ‘Unite the Right’ march was held in the town of Charlottesville, Virginia. It was organised by a White Nationalist to protest the planned removal of a statue of American Confederate general Robert. E. Lee, and resulted not only in heated conflict, but the tragic death of a young counter-protestor. For me, this episode, and the ensuing furore, was dis-turbing for two reasons. The first was, obviously, the gun-toting Nazis; the second, however, was the response of some protesting students and a disparate group known as ‘Antifa’ – Anti-Fascists.
In numerous locations across the country, these activists illegally defaced and sometimes forcibly removed statues they didn’t like. At the Univer-sity of Virginia, students clambered onto a statue of Thomas Jefferson – one of the Founding Fathers – and placed a black shroud over it, branding it racist. In Baltimore, a statue of Christopher Columbus, the Italian explorer, was attacked by activists wielding sledgehammers, and a statue of Francis Scott Key, an anti-ab-olitionist lawyer, was vandalised. Numerous other statues have been similarly defaced, all in complete violation of the law. Even more dis-turbingly, Vice published an online article that put forward an argument that it was perfectly ok to punch neo-Nazis in the face. When did it become acceptable to arbitrarily break the law to pursue your own agenda? I think ninety percent of the ‘art’ in the Tate Modern is junk, but that doesn’t mean I’m entitled to burn the place down.
I’m not trying to suggest ‘moral equiva-lence’ of the beliefs of the Nazis and those of Antifa (and neither did Trump) – I’m merely saying that neither one has the right to break the law to further their own agenda. Such behaviour is not only totally unacceptable in a liberal society, but it runs counter to the very ideals that Antifa stand for. They oppose people who are intolerant of the ideas and beliefs of others, but they seem to feel as if it is ok for them to ignore the rule of law and carry out their self-devised justice. This has nothing to do with whether or not the statues should be removed – personally, I think that they should be – but the fact is that, no matter the perceived nobility of the cause, all members of society should debate and reason within the confines of the law, upholding the values of intellectual diversity and peaceful protest.
Another upset-ting example of this attitude emerged as Len McClusky, the far-left leader of Unite, said he would break the law to hold a strike protesting the public sector pay cap. Aside from the fact that education and experience equivalent staff salaries are higher in the public sector than in the private sector, what McCluskey is saying is that he doesn’t really give a damn about what anyone else thinks, because he knows he’s right and so he is in some way above the law.
I do appreciate the argument that, sometimes, breaking the law is the right thing to do, such as those people who smuggled slaves illegally into Canada to freedom. With the Confederate statues, however, the argument simply falls down: there is a perfectly legitimate, legal process for communities to remove statues if they see fit, something that has successfully and peaceful-ly happened in numerous places across the country; there is no excuse whatso-ever to break the law.
Fundamentally, I am not trying to draw a parallel between the moral stand-points of anyone on either side of any argument; I am merely frustrated at those who, no matter their intentions, muddy the waters of healthy debate and positive activism by breaking the law to further their own agenda.
Those who complain about Antifa’s tactics don’t understand the reasons why they’ve become necessary
PIETRO ‘DELEKOF’ SALVI
Let’s get this straight: Antifa is not some group of recently post-pubescent students with an inherent hatred of bronze figures. Antifa action is, in principle, taken up to fight against violence or intolerance by fascists (a.k.a. racist/nationalist scumbags).
Whilst I’ll applaud Baltimore’s mayor Cath-erine Pugh for promptly removing all the confed-erate statues from the city in response to the Unite the Right rally, that saw a woman lose her life to a white-supremacist with road rage, the reality is that the rest of the country has not caught on. Protections are already widespread and growing (with dull names like the “Alabama Memorial Preservation Act”) for monuments that glorify those who rejected the right of slaves to be treated like human beings.
No wonder that some people have decided to take matters into their own hands, since the democrat-ic governments that should be taking them down have gone in the complete opposite direction.
Let’s acknowledge that these are not just statues that objectively inform us of our checkered past, but monuments with inscrip-tions like “In memory of the boys who wore gray” as a symbol of admira-tion for their efforts. To continue to protect these memorials that revel in false heroism is misguided if done in the name of his-torical preservation, since nobody is suggesting an en masse burning of con-federate historical files. The fact that the KKK and Nazi sympathisers have taken to prancing around statues whilst threatening global genocide shows the level of bizarreness we have reached 70 years after laws were put in place to prevent just this sort of thing.
Now, a word of caution: even though Antifa in the US is much more of a movement than a general idea, as it is over here in the old world (with the original German anti-fascists just dressing up in black to bash in some nazi skulls), it’s still not right to think of Antifa as one group. They certainly don’t have a leader akin to a prime minister or a CEO. Nobody’s making decisions that everyone has to follow blindly, and I guarantee you anyone who tried wouldn’t last very long.
You’ll have a much better time under-standing how this works when you understand that Antifa is an idea – the principle – that sometimes the best way to deal with white supremacists, the KKK, and neo-Nazis is to actually get up out of our armchairs, go beyond checking a box on a piece of paper every five years, and physically stop them. The law might not allow for it, but laws that have failed to stop a new wave of fascism are laws that have failed.