Who are antifa?

A sociologist who studied antifa activists reports on their motivations:

For most people, fascist activism and organizing are abstractions removed from their daily lives; images on television and news reports, cartoonish villains. For the antifa activists whom I researched, fascists represented an intense and immediate threat.

Many militant anti-fascists become involved in this form of activism because aspects of their identity are directly targeted by fascist violence; they are queer, transgender, gender non-conforming, people of color, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, and certainly identified in ways that intersected across these categories.

For them, anti-fascism was a means of ensuring their safety from a movement that threatens their very existence and venerates violence as the highest form of action. Even the antifa activists who identify as cis heterosexual white males are the targets of fascist violence as “race” and “gender” traitors.

Antifa activists routinely describe both verbal threats and physical assaults made against them by fascists. Those who suffered from physical assaults often struggled from PTSD as a result of fascist violence.

What about the police? Aren’t they there to protect the peace?

From a militant anti-fascist perspective, the role of the police has been either ineffectual or outright complicit in fascist violence. It is a criminological truism that police rarely arrive to an incident in progress. A great deal of anti-fascism is informal and spontaneous response to fascist presence in a subcultural or public space. Such “everyday anti-fascism” intervenes against an immediate threat long before any law enforcement could arrive on the scene.

In the case of protest scenarios, especially in Portland, there is evidence of collaboration and collusion between far-right protesters and police with officers engaging in friendly banter with far-right leaders via text message and police logs indicating the targeting of anti-fascists while ignoring armed alt-right activists.

In this context, antifa activists view their actions as the only means of defense against a demonstrable threat from fascist activists. Militancy becomes a move designed to match the violence of far-right activists with a counter-veiling force. I noted after Charlottesville the danger of drawing an equivalency between the violence of the far-right and militancy of antifa activists, and it rings true today.

In response to fascist organizing and even threats of violence, antifa activists mobilize public shaming and confrontational protest. They do so as part of a countermovement strategy designed to demobilize the fascist movement, and in doing so secure the safety of themselves, vulnerable populations, and their communities.

Stanislav Vysotsky doesn’t make excuses for the fascists, unlike far too many people who are promoting the “never punch fascists under any circumstances” approach.


  1. mickll says

    I’m betting that even on this corner of the web there’ll be some equivocating of anti fascists and fascists because it always happens if someone mentions antifa on the web eventually. It’s coming…

  2. says

    For some reason, Haaretz wants me to subscribe to read the whole article… it doesn’t say it’s because I’m using adblocker, but…

  3. says

    Although based on what I read here… yeah. I coulda told him that. But then I’m biased because, although I’m a coward, I fully support Antifa, so…

  4. says

    I’m sure this video has been posted here before (on another post about Antifa I mean) but juste in case… Great video from Philosophy Tube talking about antifa, fascist tactics, violence, police, etc. etc.:

    The Philosophy of Antifa

    It’s a long one but it’s worth it!!

  5. drew says

    “Complicit” is a little dismissive. There are enough cops involved in fascist groups that there are not-infrequent stories about it in the mainstream media, maintainers of the conservative status quo. I have yet to hear them point out anti-fascist police even though that would be a more shocking (and ad-selling) story. What would you think if you read a story about the Chicago PD picking up where the Black Panthers were forced off and offering meals to children before school?

  6. wzrd1 says

    @7, there is one reason I don’t get involved with antifa. They use violence, such as the “punch the fascist in the face”, then wonder when the fascists gang up, as such people always do and escalate beyond what antifa was prepared for. Especially, when fascists, being authoritarian driven, end up supported unlawfully by lawless enforcement officers.
    That violates two cardinal rules of military engagement planning, never allow the other side the ability to escalate beyond your capabilities to escalate, which are made readily apparent at the onset and worse, never set yourself up to fail.
    But, there are a very loose group of military veteran peers who are in loose contact with both sides of the problem and reminding them, we’re watching and our tolerance for lawless action is highly limited.
    While the cowards run about with loaded AR’s, they know that there are those watching with precision 7.62×51 NATO Match weapons waiting for them to try to use their tinker toys. The more extreme of antifa, and there are a modest core, get the same message. A small group of our peers were observed by law enforcement overwatching law enforcement, should things have gone south with both significant encounters with Bundy, melting into the hills when LEO’s explored what was going on and a quick out of band message was delivered, explaining what was going on.
    We won’t allow protests to devolve into sedition, then into outright insurrection, on any side.
    For, we swore an oath to protect this nation, her laws and Constitution and not a one of us has ever found an expiration date on our word of honor. And equally important, quite a few of us had parents and uncles who fought a World War against fascism and most certainly don’t want that or far left violence to ascend again.
    But, we also know, one doesn’t win hearts nor minds by being incompetent and the first refuge of the incompetent is violence. Even making a threat is violence, but allowing the recipient to delude themselves into thinking that a greater threat is present than is apparent, quite peaceable and well, to a coward, who always has to resort to a firearm or other weapon, every mop handle is a gun.

    Life is playing the long game, not just today’s battles. Our greatest problem now is the Great underminer in thief, as he manages to blunderbuss over finely tuned firebreaks.

    As for Lawless Enforcement Officers enforcing fascists, both are authoritarian driven cultures. Previously, the military was exclusively that way and we got Kent State, which caused all to recoil and properly so.
    Today, military are trained to question, then report and ignore unlawful orders, to understand and even ask a commander’s intent in a battle plan, to think. My generation helped construct that entire system. We built teams, where even a superior comes in, sees a gap interfering with operations, the superior jumps in as a member of the team.
    We also undermine the Lawless Enforcement Officers, as quite a few recruits are military veterans and they recognize how we operate and move, as a natural team, which LEO’s still lack, due to authoritarianism ruling the roost.
    We once wargamed a modern military set of teams vs a set piece Revolutionary War and even Civil War scenario, we always won, no matter what disadvantage we gave.
    For, the ultimate weapon does have a caliber, but it doesn’t have a specific mass, as it’s one’s mind. Using that, one avoids unnecessary violence and effort and more importantly, can win over supporters of the other side.

    Which is an ongoing project that I honestly didn’t think would take flight, but actually benefited while direly ill and relocating. LEO’s teaming together with civil and church groups for a preachless providing necessities and shelter location points, when inside shelters remain scarce and preaching of specific faiths a requirement.
    We rolled back into our home state, I was quite ill, decompensating from hyperthyroidism again, due to the stress of again moving halfway across the country. Parked in a supermarket parking lot, a local LEO Sergeant approached, ID’d and we conversed as to what was going on (after all, I was driving a moving truck, with vehicle trailer, with a well laden minivan on the trailer).
    I explained, lost a previous position, due to a deletion of specific information security positions, post-election and assumption of duties, was direly ill at the time, literally ended up in a homeless shelter. Wasn’t going to call in favors for such a temporary problem, as that is transient by nature.
    Literally was called from the blue, after a mere application, an HR interview and due to need, was instantly hired. Got a cash advance three days after the LEO interviewed us and gave us a location to park for a, literally, unlimited length of time, if necessary.
    Three days later, I started work, the next day, got a $1k advance, that got us into a hotel room and was repaid three weeks after, on my first paycheck.

    That leads me to one other critical rule. Don’t do anything without a plan, improve on it as you move along, but do have a fucking plan as you’re trying to move or you’ll simply blunder. I don’t go toward the bathroom without a plan.

    But, you did hit one point that’s all too often ignored strategically and tactically, MLK was negotiated with eventually, along with his peaceful protesting peers. For, the alternative was far harsher, did anyone want to try to negotiate peace with violent, terrorist militants?
    The easiest and least painful path is something even Captain Obvious can locate.
    Hence, overwatch. Whoever is violently, life, limb or sight level violent gets flyswatted, rather than risk riot rising to insurrection and potentially, with the Firestoker in Thief, to full civil war.

    I do offer a pathway, but the incumbent House Leadership isn’t reading our messages. Form a case quietly, make it ironclad, then water tight, then make it via hearings to the populace.
    Then, when John Q. Public is enraged enough to sterilize the Senate if they continue to espouse dereliction of duty, we’ll allow the populace to seek natural justice or the Senate to use their well developed self-preservation instincts.
    I’ve checkmated with a king and a single pawn.
    And one area where we military have, which our civilian government lacks is, we won’t ask someone, no matter how junior, to do something we wouldn’t do if it had to be done and no one in a detail or idle was around.
    Anything to avoid yet another command and staff death by powerpoint! ;)
    And equally important, accomplishing the mission.*

    *The conflict is an intentional in-joke for those who have served and had to suffer through command and staff meetings. I developed a system where junior enlisted prepared slides and had to be capable of explaining them as well as I could and the depth below them, training my two levels and eventually, three levels junior to me.
    I replaced them, to keep my skills current.
    Think of it, a man in his 50’s replacing a man in his lower 20’s.
    I’ll admit to degraded performance now, use a cane when the barometer is acting up or I have to lug a heavy load, compressing a leaking disc.
    Still, kids in their mid-20’s onward gasp keeping up with me on a good day, which is far more frequent than barometric antics days and I’m now age 57.
    Lead by example, always.
    BE an example, always.
    Be reactionary only in an emergency and even then, upon consideration. Not hesitation, consideration, open the distance to allow consideration, if possible.
    When that isn’t possible, there are times when eight rounds rapid, with a frank exchange of views, due to a Experiencing A Significant Gravitas is acceptable.**

    **Culture ship names. Ian did tickle my funny bone with them, alas, he had to return to his GCU… ;)

  7. says

    Wzrd @8

    “They use violence, such as the “punch the fascist in the face”, then wonder when the fascists gang up, as such people always do and escalate beyond what antifa was prepared for.”

    You have that horribly wrong.

    The fascists ganged up first, and initiate violence.

    Antifa only ever acts to STOP fascists.

  8. ck, the Irate Lump says

    wzrd1 wrote:

    @7, there is one reason I don’t get involved with antifa. They use violence, such as the “punch the fascist in the face”, then wonder when the fascists gang up, as such people always do and escalate beyond what antifa was prepared for.

    Yes, the problem with antifa is that their body count is far too low. /s

    Or perhaps they’re fighting in a fashion that is drastically different than you’re assuming. Maybe their aim isn’t to maim or kill, but to humiliate and shame. In that context, making someone wear a milkshake might work better than beating their skull in with a stick.