Social Justice Usage
Source: Bray, Mark. Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook. Melville House, 2017, p. xv.
Thus, anti-fascism is an illiberal politics of social revolutionism applied to fighting the Far Right, not only literal fascists. As we will see, anti-fascists have accomplished this goal in a wide variety of ways, from singing over fascist speeches, to occupying the sites of fascist meetings before they could set up, to sowing discord in their groups via infiltration, to breaking any veil of anonymity, to physically disrupting their newspaper sales, demonstrations, and other activities. Militant anti-fascists disagree with the pursuit of state bans against “extremist” politics because of their revolutionary, anti-state politics and because such bans are more often used against the Left than the Right.
New Discourses Commentary
Understanding “antifascism” in the context of Critical Social Justice and its Theory—and especially its activism—requires understanding “fascism” in the same terms. Obviously, “antifascism” is being against fascism, so understanding what is meant by “fascism” is of primary importance. In the briefest possible expression, “antifascism” is being against the “far right,” as the activists who are most zealously occupied with this activity define the “far right,” which can mean effectively anyone who disagrees with them (see also, complicity).
The primary project of antifascism is to fight intolerance (see also, hate) with intolerance and even violence under a rubric called “Repressive Tolerance,” outlined originally by the neo-Marxist theorist and activist Herbert Marcuse (see also, tolerance). Of note, Marcuse decried the anti-intellectualism of the radical movement he, himself, started by the mid-1970s, just a decade or so after its march into the public. “Antifascism,” as a movement, sees the emergence of a genuinely fascist state as a perpetually immediate and imminent threat since fascist ideologies first arose over a century ago. It therefore tends to see what it calls “fascism” everywhere it looks. As put by Marcuse himself in his 1965 essay “Repressive Tolerance,”
The whole post-fascist period is one of clear and present danger. Consequently, true pacification requires the withdrawal of tolerance before the deed, at the stage of communication in word, print, and picture. Such extreme suspension of the right of free speech and free assembly is indeed justified only if the whole of society is in extreme danger. I maintain that our society is in such an emergency situation, and that it has become the normal state of affairs. Different opinions and ‘philosophies’ can no longer compete peacefully for adherence and persuasion on rational grounds: the ‘marketplace of ideas’ is organized and delimited by those who determine the national and the individual interest. In this society, for which the ideologists have proclaimed the ‘end of ideology’, the false consciousness has become the general consciousness—from the government down to its last objects. The small and powerless minorities which struggle against the false consciousness and its beneficiaries must be helped: their continued existence is more important than the preservation of abused rights and liberties which grant constitutional powers to those who oppress these minorities. It should be evident by now that the exercise of civil rights by those who don’t have them presupposes the withdrawal of civil rights from those who prevent their exercise, and that liberation of the Damned of the Earth presupposes suppression not only of their old but also of their new masters.
Antifascism must therefore be understood both in terms of Theory and activism, although these obviously inform one another and are intrinsically related to one another (see also, praxis). Activism—specifically militant activism—is an intrinsic part of the antifascist project because “antifascism” is understood via critical theory (and, indeed, significantly the Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School—see also, neo-Marxism, New Left, and cultural Marxism). Critical theories, by definition, must be applicable by activists and must proceed with and from social activism. This makes understanding the movement somewhat more difficult because the Theory and activism are intentionally intertwined, each feeding and informing the other.
In the critical theoretical side of things, fascism is believed to be anything that supports or maintains oppression, particularly at the level of the state and/or if combined with capitalism (especially when corporate interests and the state align). This view is overwhelmingly directed at capitalism, or more specifically neoliberalism, which is approximately the application of market logic to society and the push to make people into model consumers, including by state organization. Anything that leads people to accept their “oppression” in a capitalistic system in exchange for neoliberal reward (roughly, money and status), even if they like it, is therefore a kind of “fascism” in Theory. (Example: When Michael Jordan didn’t bring politics into basketball when pressured to, using the logic “conservatives buy shoes, too,” he was, to a critical mindset, revealing that he had sold out in exchange for neoliberal reward.) The goal of antifascism is to agitate people into a social revolution that would overthrow the society it brands as being “fascist.”
Thus, it makes a perverse kind of sense in this Theory to throw a brick through a Starbucks window: Starbucks is not only inherently capitalistic, indeed corporate (thus disconnected from individuals), but it also “hoards” neoliberal resources (money) and thus does “violence” to the community by “extracting” those resources from the community and keeping them as corporate profits. This, backed by state support for business, allegedly supports the “neoliberal logic” (profit) that is “destroying” society, and this “collusion” between state and business that causes “oppression” is what makes Starbucks part of a fascist system, at least in Theory. In this sense, “antifascist” logic will see throwing a brick through a Starbucks window as an application of self-defense against the fascism it represents. (Yes, it is genuinely this insane.)
Theoretically, thanks to many of the Marxist and materialist/socialist scholars who laid down the tracks for the neo-Marxist, then later intersectionalist, trains to run upon, all systems of domination and “hate” are intertwined with the capitalist one, which these allegedly support. Thus, systemic and institutional racism are also related forms of fascistic control of people of color in allegedly white-dominant societies. Similarly, sexism, misogyny, heteronormativity and homophobia, ablenormativity and ableism and disableism, fatphobia and thin-normativity, transphobia and cisnormativity, and the entire exasperating list of “intersecting” cultural oppression factors contribute to or are a part of “fascism.” In this sense, not only is the Starbucks (or Target) hoarding neoliberal resources and reinforcing the logic of neoliberalism, which depends upon a stable status quo not being disrupted, it also colludes in all of those -isms, –normativities, and -phobias to do it. All of these are believed to exert a hegemonic influence on society that maintains power and privilege for some groups but not others.
Thus, Starbucks (or Target) becomes “whiteness,” or whatever else, as the society’s support of owning and defending private property is construed as a form of granting the dominant groups of society unfair access to goods, resources, and opportunities, including property, while excluding and marginalizing others. The concept of “whiteness as property” is considered central to this view of “fascism,” as was outlined by the scholar Cheryl Harris. Thus, “antifascism” and “antiracism” become intertwined as parts of a larger project for “liberation” from “oppression.” Looting a target and burning down stores and other buildings thus becomes an “antiracist” activity that is cobelligerent with “antifascism.” (Yes, it is genuinely this insane.)
In activism, antifascism means doing whatever is necessary to destroy, disrupt, and dismantle “fascism” in society. This line of thought draws very heavily off the postcolonialism of the French psychoanalyst Frantz Fanon, who has been described by self-styled “antifascists” as “dynamite in print.” Fanon recommended that colonized people can only recover their culture, states, dignity, and sanity by means of violently rejecting and overthrowing their colonizers. He positioned this retaliatory violence as a form of self-defense, and in the context of literal colonial occupation, this might make some reasonable sense. It makes somewhat less sense when your “colonizer” is the Starbucks down the block where you got a heavily sugared Frappuccino earlier that day. Of note, where Marcuse references “liberation of the Damned of the Earth” in “Repressive Tolerance,” he is alluding to a book of the same (or similar) title by Fanon (typically translated The Wretched of the Earth).
In terms of speech, it means silencing any speech that could potentially be used to uphold “fascism” or any of its cobelligerent -isms, -normativities, and -phobias. This is done under Marcuse’s rubric of “Repressive Tolerance.” Because speech that supports these “harms” is considered a form of violence, “doing whatever is necessary” to silence it includes using literal violence, including physical violence against people, psychological abuse, and destruction of property, all of which will be considered “self-defense” against the speech that could lead to “fascism” if not repressed utterly. In terms of behavior, it means destroying (by similar means) anything that supports a society that operates on capitalism that enjoys any form of legal protection from the state. Essentially all corporations are therefore targets of this “antifascist” activism.
In particular, the primary enemy of what this worldview calls “antifascism” is the police, especially when it has the audacity to protect business interests or members of dominant groups (like white people). In real fascism, of course, the state enforced its power through the police, who were therefore not only complicit in but integral to the establishment of and maintaining of fascism. Therefore, in the critical worldviews, anything the police do that they consider unjust is “fascism.” The police are therefore their primary enemies, and disrupting, dismantling, and abolishing the police are their primary objectives. Under a rubric of “Repressive Tolerance,” this makes an insane kind of sense. The police will be necessary accessories to establishing fascism if it ever arrives, and they must therefore be destroyed so that can’t happen (other forms of utter and brutal oppression are, apparently, okay because they’re not technically “fascist”). Similar “logic” makes the far right (who sometimes include genuine fascists) and, by association, all conservatives into “fascists.”
In the shortest description, then, “antifascism” means anarchist mayhem with the nominal goal of effecting “liberation from oppression,” where “oppression” is defined in the most expansive and preposterous way possible. That is, “antifascism” in radical theory and activism means
anti-society-ism. It sees one of its major goals as exposing the alleged “false consciousness” of people who don’t realize how oppressive their society is and giving them, instead, a “critical consciousness” by which they can see it and want to overthrow their own societies. (For what? That’s never made clear, but it will be great.)
Of note, a loose-knit anarchist group branding itself “Antifa” (abbreviation for “ANTIFAscism”) leads the charge in this form of nominally “antifascist” activism, though one would be hard-pressed to understand how they can be anything but fascistic in orientation except in their utter rejection of the state and the society it enables. Their name therefore operates very much like the “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” which is not democratic, nor a republic, nor for the people, though it somehow manages to fool a lot more useful idiots than North Korea can.
Ableism; Ablenormativity; Antifa; Antiracism; Capitalism; Cisnormativity; Colonialism; Communism; Community; Complicity; Conservatism; Critical; Critical consciousness; Critical theory; Cultural Marxism; Democracy; Disableism; Dismantle; Disrupt; Exclusion; False consciousness; Fascism; Fatphobia; Frankfurt School; Harm; Hate; Hegemony; Heteronormativity; Homophobia; Institutional racism; Intersectionality; Liberationism; Marginalization; Marxism; Misogyny; Nazi; Neoliberal reward; Neoliberalism; Neo-Marxist; New Left; Normativity; Oppression; Other; People of Color; Postcolonialism; Praxis; Privilege; Racism (systemic); Radical; Revolution; Sexism (systemic) Social Justice; Status quo; Systemic power; Theory; Thinnormativity; Tolerance; Transphobia; Violence; White; Whiteness
The goals of anti-fascism are simple: oppose hate and prevent its spread. … If you are opposed to fascism, you are an anti-fascist, and our fight is your fight. As a favorite chant at these anti-fascist rallies goes, “We are many! They are few!” We need to prove that nationwide.
Source: Bray, Mark. Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook. Melville House, 2017, p. ix.
“Fascism is not to be debated, it is to be destroyed!” —Buenaventura Durruti
Source: Bray, Mark. Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook. Melville House, 2017, p. xix.
On a material and cultural level, anti-fascism functioned and appeared differently in 1936 than it did in 1996. Yet, the anti-fascist commitment to stamp out fascism by any means necessary connects the Italian Arditi del Popolo of the early 1920s with the anarchist skinhead kickboxers of today.
Revision date: 6/25/20