This one’s going to be weird, I have to warn you. There’s a lot of competing interests and people trying to appropriate this on both ends. And also Trump sent me another thing. It’s unfortunately not funny. So let’s get into it.
Antifa is supposed to be “Anti-fascist.” That’s literally what it’s supposed to mean. So with just that in mind it is a good thing. I mean there’s a reason I became an Archaeologist.
Ironically, it falls apart super quick after just the base definition. If you’ve read my stuff you know I’m very much against fascism. I warn against fascist tendencies in leaders and various organisations all the time. And I have a really bad temper and have punched a cow. (Literally. I’m still not telling the story though.) So you’d think given only that information that I’m ANTIFA. But I’m not and it’s because of other information that I’ve rhetorically and cynically withheld for the point of shock and awe. Well, I am, but in the absolute rather than historical definition.
The other thing you will note about my writing is that I tend to not exonerate communism or the Soviet government(s) for their own brand of fascist extremism. And yes, I’m using that terminology. If you’re really curious about exactly what I mean by all that, this will explain why I do not automatically endorse anti-capitalism simply because it’s economically left and this will explain why I’m not terribly bothered when someone calls me “centrist” even if it’s not an accurate description of my ideology. Yeah, they’re both pretty long, but if you want a proper explanation I’m afraid there’s no shortcuts.
The reason I bring this up is ANTIFA historically and presently does tend to be aligned not even with proper socialism but with the sort of “communist” regime that perpetuates the same inequality and socio-economic stratification that “anti-fascism,” is supposed to fight against. So, you know. That’s not great.
If you’re just against fascism, then more power to you. And honestly, I’m not going to prevent you from punching Nazis. Nazis exist to be punched. That is their purpose in this world. They are lantern jaws to be struck down. But let’s take a moment to discuss the projection of masculinity in both fascist and soviet propaganda.
Looking at the above image you may be able to figure out where those images came from particularly if you’re familiar with the history, but this isn’t really a test of your historical literacy so much as an indication of how similar the perception and projection of masculinity was for both Nazis and Soviets. And Americans bought right into particularly the Nazi projection of the ubermensch because it created this idea of an unbeatable evil foe that we then proceeded to beat. This is taken to its logical extreme in Captain America where the evil foe isn’t even really human Nazis anymore but something that makes the Nazis seem … not so bad.
So, ultimately this imagery in and of itself is a little creepy, but it’s not as pieces of art work devoid of meaning intrinsically bad. The problem with it and the reason I’m bringing it up like this without showing any stars, swastikas, or hammers and sickles is because what this is about is national myth-building. In war time it’s not great, but it makes sense. You’re going, “we’re us and we’re rawr and masculine and cool, and everyone else isn’t!” Or you may be using that same propaganda to say, “this is who these evil people are, those are brave men out there, let’s go kill them.” This propaganda in all applications is meant to dehumanise and divide. In some cases it’s “we’re supermen,” in other cases it’s “they’re demons,” and in other cases which I haven’t shown and would rather not it’s, “this group is subhuman.”
This sort of thing exists to get you to be okay with violence.
Okay, I’ve written long enough that your screen probably doesn’t have the image I showed above still visible. You’ve probably scrolled past it at this point. This likely won’t be shocking at all to you but here’s the original posters before I messed with them.
I’ve said this a million times if I’ve said it once but being economically left does not inoculate you from fascism. Fascism is not just a problem of the far right. Fascism doesn’t even need to be attached to ideological extremism of any form. It’s just autocracy mixed with a whole lot of bigotry. Fascism is — politically speaking — a bastard. (Honestly, probably it’s just a bastard in general, but my point is, it’s parentage is largely unconfirmed.)
Two things though:
- I didn’t intentionally choose a weirdly economically leftist Nazi poster; I was actually going for composition and a single male image, but since I accidentally did that we’re going to talk about it.
- Nazis, white supremacists, and the shitty side of ANTIFA (and we’ll get to them, don’t worry) are actually kinda crap opponents. They’re really dumb and hilariously weak, but building them up is narratively useful when you yourself are trying to either fight them or create your own fascist movement.
Okay, so clearly I don’t read German. I know enough to sing it relatively convincingly (also a long story, we haven’t time), but I don’t read it. I’m also far more interested in medieval Japanese swords than I am in WWII art so while I have read the Nuremberg Trials I am really not a WWII buff. I THINK the Nazi poster I included comes from some sort of political rag from the time. I think the script at the bottom is its title. I could look this up but to be honest it’s somewhat irrelevant and I really want to knock off and play some video games. But the script at the top is what really floored me. It’s “wir arbeiter sind ewacht” which translates to “we workers are awake.” I’m aware that something something Nazi Party was “socialist,” but honestly, this is really on the nose. Now, yeah other aspects of Nazi style fascism were super-de-duper far right, but it’s honestly kind of difficult to pick those out from the socialist aspects given that the entire stated raison d’etre for murdering people and the various invasions was to create “living room” and higher wages/better living conditions for “real” Germans.
People get SUPER mad when I bring this up but a similar thing happened with FDR’s New Deal. The New Deal was great. It created jobs, it raised wages and living conditions, and it revitalised the economy by creating a new consumer market. For white people. Black people in particular, but also non-white people, and more or less women were entirely left out. Some of this was political reality. At the time the term “Southern Democrat” truly did mean “racist POS” and this was not a thing that would have been easy to pass with a Congress chock full of racist old white men. But I’ll let you decide for yourself if that’s ethically forgivable given that it reinforced and perpetuated extreme economic disparity for BIPOC for decades to come. This is why when JFK started to turn around and go, “oh wow we really do need Civil Rights protections,” after voting against the Act as a Senator he almost instantly became a Civil Rights icon. White people in power had been more or less up to the point where JFK was like, “… whoa …” tossing BIPOC under the bus for political expediency.
Fascism — if you’re talking about the whole autocracy and murdering innocents aspect — is mostly a far right disease. But it usually rises from left leaning economic concerns. And yeah, this usually has to do with status threat over racial or gender privilege, but this is also why I say that populism is the larval form of fascism. If you’re a white guy insisting that everything is about the economy and all other issues are secondary to specifically you earning more money or holding a job then you may be espousing some liberal talking points, but you’re basically well on your way to becoming a fascist.
So, let’s now get into Nazis being hilariously bumbling idiots.
Actually, yeah, they were ruthless and the concentration camps and death camps were models of absolute stark horror and the depths of human depravity. And if we’re talking just about the failure in ethics from fascists then we can go on and on. But ignoring things like organisation, discipline, and spiffy uniforms, fascists tend to be absolute clowns. Mussolini is now depicted as a bungling fool and there’s some indication that Hitler saw him as an idiot. But Hitler wasn’t exactly the brightest bulb in the chandelier himself.
Their relative idiocy is very clear in their writings — basically think an elevated Alex Jones — but you can also see it play out to a degree in their strategy. Seriously. Who invades Russia in winter? Besides Napoleon I mean. Don’t invade Russia in winter. Don’t do it. I’m far too Hungarian and Danish to tell you not to invade Russia at all, but I REALLY advise you do it in warm weather.
Now, if I had to compare Trump to either Hitler or Mussolini, I’d actually choose Mussolini because as dumb as they all are Hitler at least had the good sense to make sure his sycophants were not themselves all idiots. Writings from the Nuremberg Trials indicate that the defendants for the most part were pretty evil but also at least relatively intelligent and experienced in their fields. The same cannot be said of Trump or Mussolini associates.
But I used the word “sycophants” for a reason. These were bright men, but they were also unwilling to tell Hitler no. In fact there wasn’t even during the trials a general willingness to distance themselves from Hitler. For all their intelligence and experience most of these men were actually willing to continue professing their loyalty to Adolf Hitler. And remember, the dude killed himself and asked that Germany be destroyed. Even if you are actually evil, that should be a deal-breaker. And it wasn’t. That is inherently stupid.
Strategically and diplomatically, WWII is super frustrating because there were multiple opportunities for the Allied powers to stop various invasions or negotiate a cessation before things got out of control. Particularly when Hitler a. rose to power, and b. started invading he was really pushing his limits. There were opportunities to quash it and they were not taken. So that particular historical incident got out of control BECAUSE particularly Western Europe didn’t really care all that much and didn’t think it was going to become a thing. Pause for slow clap. And yes, I’m really simplifying things, but again, we HAVEN’T GOT THE TIME.
Speaking of which:
Yeah … so now we have to talk about modern fascist movements. Fun. I’m going to really shorthand this, but essentially we’re doing the same thing we always do, but this time we’re doing it with a backdrop of a pandemic, nuclear warheads, impending climate apocalypse, and with the knowledge of how this works and how to avoid it but also simultaneously managing to ignore all the possible warning signs. So, that’s nice.
Anyways, as you may or may not know I’m on Trump’s campaign fundraising email list. I’ve never given him anything nor will I ever because I am broke and he’s a goddamn nightmare, but I also refuse to unsubscribe because there’s something about his violent ineptitude that is just deeply funny to me. He’s like that video of the chimp that scratches its butt, smells its butt scratching hand and then subsequently falls out of the tree.
But, Trump, as clownish as he is is turning rapidly from tragic clown to scary clown. If you’ve ever watched the commentary for Moulin Rouge (shut up, it’s fabulous and you know it) they talk about the moment the Count must stop ignoring the fact that Satine and Christian are carrying on a love affair as the moment the clown realises you’re laughing at him and not with him. I’m not sure that Trump has that level of self-awareness, but I’m going to share the email his campaign sent out.
Anyways, the scariest part of all of this is that he could actually manage bits and parts of it.
And the reason he could possibly get away with this is because of the ANTIFA movement itself. I’ve gone to all this trouble to define fascism and point out that fascists are bumblers and to explain how political ideology is irrelevant when we’re talking about violent movements, but we do have to talk about what ANTIFA has been up to.
I know you think I’m going to get mad at ANTIFA for being violent. To be fair I think you gotta have a lotta gall to think you have any business deciding who gets thwacked and who doesn’t, but I’m not really upset about the violent side of ANTIFA. Fascists and white supremacists are violent so I don’t actually have a huge problem with them having violence done unto them.
But, this is why we have or are supposed to have a justice system. You don’t want the people who make the arrest, the people who determine guilt and the sentence, and the people who carry out the sentence to be the same person or group. That’s how extrajudicial killings happen. And that’s actually what Americans are largely protesting right now. Supposedly, that’s why ANTIFA has appeared again: to combat extrajudicial killings. And in actuality extrajudicial killings are why BLM exists and NEEDS to exist.
I’ve also talked about white supremacy and lynchings in the past: you can read some of my specific thoughts on it here and here. But the reason these protests are happening is because particularly Black Americans are being targeted by violence from white supremacists and the judicial system is currently such that those white supremacists often get away with it. George Floyd, whose murder at the hands of a corrupt police officer sparked these protests, was the victim of an extrajudicial killing. It does not help to protest extrajudicial killings with more extrajudicial killings. Particularly when the victims and justification are the same.
Most of the protesters, particularly the Black protesters who have the most to lose here are explicitly non-violent. They’ve even requested that people who aren’t Black and can’t behave themselves go home. And frankly, this is reasonable. Being an ally isn’t about being a paternalistic jerk, it’s about listening. I get into a bit of why white people are behaving badly in this post so I won’t rehash it here, but these protests are *supposed* to be about protesting white supremacy and explicitly demonstrating that Black Americans have a right to exist in public spaces without expecting violence. These protests belong to Black Americans and there’s a lot of thought that’s gone into this so if you’re a white person being violent or damaging property at these marches, honestly, you’ve got a lot of nerve if you want to tell me you’re NOT actually a fascist.
The terrifying thing, and the reason I’m not going to help ANTIFA is that Black people got fed up when yet another black man was just murdered for no reason by police. They’re marching explicitly over racism, the continuation of white supremacy, and the inability of white Americans to even acknowledge let alone talk about or allow discussion of the disparity caused by racism.
So naturally white people all over twitter are saying that these protests are actually about the economy.
So yeah, I mean, sorry not sorry, but if you’re trying to appropriate a movement for and about Civil Rights just to improve your economic position as a white person you cannot tell me that you’re against fascism. And unfortunately, ANTIFA has a pretty long history of being largely indistinguishable from actual fascism. So, I want to be on their side because they’re purportedly anti-fascist … like … that’s what the name means, but if you’re using your white privilege to defend yourself while overtly putting Black bodies in danger for your own political purposes I just can’t help you. You are out on that limb on your own.