When Donald Trump said in a press conference that “many sides” were responsible for the white supremacist melee in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday, he was right.
Neo-Nazis have an entirely different
belief system uniform than the Ku Klux Klan. The swastika is a totally different symbol from the Confederate flag. Skinheads shave off all of their hair, whereas white nationalists only like theirs long on top, short on the sides. While their core values might be the same, Trump was right to point out the subtle differences.
In his defense of terrorist extremist factions, the president also lumped in the anti-fascist (or “antifa”) movement. While many are familiar with the various segments of white supremacy, few people have taken the time to explain the origins and motivations of the antifa movement that recently stepped into the spotlight, so we thought we’d offer this explainer.
What is anti-fascism?
Hold up, bruh. Pump your brakes; you’re going too fast. Don’t you think we should talk about fascism first? You can’t talk about a thing without explaining its origin story. It’s like explaining Spider-Man to someone who’s never seen a spider.
My bad. So, explain fascism.
Actually, we don’t have enough space or time to get into the political history and subtleties of ...
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Wait, but you just said—
I know. I know. Let me break it down for you:
Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines fascism as “a political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.”
When most people refer to fascism, they are talking about the political ideology of Benito Mussolini, which in turn inspired a little-known up-and-comer named Adolf Hitler, who modeled his Nazi regime after the fascist movement.
At the core of fascism is “nationalism”—the belief that a country is a single unit bound together by a common ancestry. I know it sounds antithetical to the entire idea of America, but you know how “they” do: They will talk about freedom and liberty while screaming for the Jews to go home. They will talk about their constitutional right to free speech while ignoring the part about equal protection under the law. They can write “all men are created equal” while they keep slaves shackled on their plantations.
I understand. Now get to the anti-fascist part, bruh. I ain’t got all day.
Again, the brakes. Pump them.
As the Nazis were taking over Germany, groups like the “Antifaschistische Komittees” and “Antifaschistische Aktionen” rose in opposition. If you took eighth-grade history, you know they failed. But the groups didn’t die out. Instead, these “antifa” organizations started hunting down Nazis, because ... well ... they were motherfucking Nazis.
But that was in Germany, right? What about here in America?
You know how there’s one aunt or uncle who you let come to the cookout, but you let everyone know not to give them a drink because they’ll start fighting ... or stripping ... or stripping while they’re fighting? But someone always does, and you’re not as mad at Auntie for throwing punches in her bra and panties as you are at the cousin who gave her a cup of Hennessy?
Well, the antifa movement saw what happened at the last Hitler cookout in Germany and said, “Before we allow fascism to seep into America and start a naked nationalist strip-fight at America’s cookout, we’ll just punch the motherfucker in the mouth who’s handing out racism in cups of Henny.”
Basically, they believe (and rightly so) that there is nothing worse than fascism. They saw what happened in Germany, and they have pledged to do anything to stop it before it gets going—even if that means violence.
OK, I get it. It’s like Malcolm X said: “By any means necessary.”
Exactly! (Except that phrase actually comes from a play by Jean-Paul Sartre called Dirty Hands, written right after World War II, about whether it is ethical to kill one person to stop fascism.) Yes, el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz got some of his militant ideas from French political drama.
Get back to antifa, my dude. Are they violent?
It is hard to say for sure. One of the distinguishing characteristics of wypipo is their infallible ability to lump people into groups and project their notions onto said group. If you speak above a whisper about oppression, Fox News and Caucasians, in general, will label you “a member of Black Lives Matter.”
The problem with the antifa movement is that many of them are anarchists who don’t believe in organized institutions, so it is hard to tell what their beliefs are. Some of them believe that if the public sees that there are more anti-fascists than there are white supremacists, regular, fence-riding citizens won’t feel pressured to join the fascist movements out of popularity. Some of them believe in fighting fascism with education. And some of them believe that the only way to fight tyranny is with force.
And by “force,” you mean violence? Isn’t that stooping down to their level?
Maybe. Or maybe the only way to fight bullies is to stand up to them. Remember all the groups we talked about earlier? Nazis, the Klan, neo-Confederates, skinheads and white nationalists all have one thing in common: a desire to “make America great again” by slowly ridding the county of ethnic diversity. Whether it is anti-immigration laws, lynching, marginalization or radical Caucasian terrorism, they all advocate some version of ethnic cleansing that is, at its base, violent.
It is impossible to stop this kind of violence with signs, freedom songs and nonviolent resistance. Anti-fascists know that tactic has never worked in the history of the world.
But what about the civil rights struggle? Wasn’t that nonviolent?
Nope. The civil rights movement was extremely violent. Ask the people in Birmingham, Ala., who had their skin ripped away by police dogs and fire hoses. Ask the Freedom Riders who were firebombed. Ask the children beaten with police batons on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Ask the crack in John Lewis’ skull. Ask the bits of Martin Luther King Jr.’s brain and blood splattered on the balcony of a Memphis, Tenn., hotel.
The hypocrisy of America is that black people are the only ones who are ever asked to donate their lives for justice and equality. The Sons of Liberty rioted on the British, threw tea overboard and then grabbed their muskets. The Southern states shot cannons for their “right” to own slaves. The Native Americans attacked American troops even though they were outnumbered. Black people are the only group asked to wait quietly in the corner for their freedom while they are slaughtered.
Damn. When you put it like that, I see what you’re talking about. But isn’t there a danger that Trump and his faction will end up painting the antifa movement with the same “violent, radical” brush that they did Black Lives Matter?
Yes, they probably will. But there has never been a movement for the equality of African Americans that white America has approved. They disagreed with the abolitionist movement. They called civil rights workers troublemaking rabble-rousers. They referred to the Black Power movement as “radical.”
There is, however, one difference between the violent white supremacist movement and everyone else: As long as there is one Jew, black person or non-Christian with any power in America, white nationalists will continue their hate.
But If America really wanted to, she could end the Black Lives Matter and the anti-fascist movement in one fell swoop.
How could they do that?
It’s simple. Stop being racist.