I find the whole AntiFa project something that has very good intentions but also is extremely problematic for a variety of reasons, including a mistaken understanding of the relationship between American settler-colonialism and the European occurrence of fascism eighty years ago, a very risky and potentially dangerous proposition to create a “left wing gun culture,” and a confused estimation about what the stakes are in this sort of confrontation.
To quote Glen Ford, executive editor at Black Agenda Report, fascists in America don’t wear brown shirts, they wear blue. They are called cops.
Ford described to me in a recent interview “The absolutely undemocratic nature of policing as it exists in the United States, a policing system that is at its core designed to contain and terrorize and subjugate at every possible level the Black American population. That is the purpose of the mass Black incarceration state, although it has economic aspects in terms of making profits from prisons. But the central purpose is to contain and terrorize Black folks.”
A white man’s party has always existed in American politics. The Republican Party became that party over 50 years ago when first Barry Goldwater and then Richard Nixon used the Southern Strategy, fostered by the backlash against the Civil Rights and antiwar movements, to place the hard right contingent of that party in the driver’s seat while slowly but surely (and eventually successfully) ejecting their left wing, the Rockefeller Republicans.
Donald Trump merely tapped into the simmering white nationalist current that formed in the immediate aftermath of Obama’s election and shameless refusal to bail-out anyone except Wall Street. Indeed, recall that Trump’s entrée politique was capitalizing off the absurd and racist Birther conspiracy theory.
Here is Ford discussing in 2010 whether an antiwar coalition with Tea Partiers was a sane idea and, more notably, the historic precedent they were derived from.
While folks like Mark Bray, Alexander Reid Ross, Jason Stanley, and many more scriveners have created a veritable cottage industry of books about fascism in the past several years, some that do name the names of people who aspire to power and desire to create a fascist political moment, the actual American fascist apparatuses have been humming away for a good 50+ years. What these militant white nationalists would do is capitalize off of bipartisan criminal law and surveillance policies and ramp up the War on Black, Indigenous, and People of Color Poor that has been going on now for over four decades. This would therefore dictate a logic that says AntiFa should be dismantling fascist structures and not just staging confrontations with a bunch of degenerate alt-right goons in public places.
Let’s just go through the list of things that AntiFa has yet to dismantle or even target:
The Prison-Industrial Complex
“Genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: (a) Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group,” says the United Nations.
The Gulag Archipelago of American jails and prisons, which holds the largest incarcerated population on earth, is the loci nexus of the fascist project in America. Thinkers from Michelle Alexander to Angela Davis all emphasize that the ongoing mass Black incarceration phenomenon developed in the aftermath of the Sixties as a means of re-asserting control by clamping down on revolutionaries nationwide. These are the concentration camps of the Reich and they have been running smoothly since before most of the AntiFa activists were even born, let alone “woke.”
The School-to-Prison Pipeline
American education has been broken for decades. There’s certainly amazing teachers in this country and no denying that their unions have an important role to play in national politics, but let’s be real. The main purpose of schools these days is to indoctrinate, teach regimentation, and, if the student shows a spark of rebellion, tag and profile the troublemaker so they can eventually use the data to inform the judge at sentencing. Soul-crushing standardized testing regimes are used to antagonize kids, bust teacher unions, and try to make docile, obedient workers out of children who are deemed unworthy of legitimate pedagogy. The structure and design of the American educational industry, with a quasi-syndicalist orientation that grants monopoly and trust allowances to vendors such as textbook companies and computer software developers, has many traits akin to what Mussolini implemented.
But the true ghastliness is the tagging and profile operation, a cataloging project that the Germans were infamous for. Schools produce three kinds of workers, high-wage white collar laborers with technical skills of some sort, low-wage non-union blue collar workers who can provide physical support in various service sector jobs, and no-wage prison slave laborers who are paid pennies a day to create products used by the other two groups. Obama’s Common Core standards and Race to the Top program successfully implemented a conversion away from a liberal arts to vocational training paradigm that places incarcerated slave labor at the cornerstone of the project.
Police Control of Black and Brown Communities
In the white suburbs (and in the presence of middle class white people in general), police are perceived and conceptually understood as a benign, sometimes even comical entity, a cadre of bored donut-munching public employees who 9 times out of 10 have the manner and habits of overpaid and under-utilized mall security guards.
Meanwhile, in the predominantly-Black/Brown urban communities, cops are a militarized occupation force, roughly equivalent to the brutal gendarmes of a colonial outpost. Their function is to maintain and protect control of private property (which most residents don’t actually have owing to systemic racism and attendant poverty), not to serve and protect the residents. As urban gentrification continues unabated, confrontations between police and residents will continue, with the boys in blue always taking the side of the landlord who could very well live outside the municipality. This of course creates a supply line of new bodies to be warehoused in the prisons, creating new prison slave laborers. The cycle continues and is perpetuated by the internal logic of our municipal economic systems, logistical and social organizations that create a community of impoverished BIPOC people by default and without any mechanism to prevent this, something Prof. Geoff Mann elaborates upon in detail with his book In the Long Run We Are All Dead.