`The Real History of Antifa, by Kyle Shideler.
With riots and civil unrest metastasizing across the United States, the president declared he intends to designate Antifa as a terrorist group. Predictably, the talking heads rushed out to declare that Antifa doesn’t really exist, and even if it did the president couldn’t possibly target it using that legal designation. They argue Antifa is an amorphous blob of discontents, not a functioning organization, and certainly not one which could be designated and targeted for concentrated counterterrorism enforcement.
As usual, the Twitterati don’t know what they are talking about. Reality is both simpler and more complex.
In 1930’s Germany, it was taken for granted that socialism was the way of the future. The choice was between international socialism (i.e. Soviet-style communism) or national fascism (as advocated by the Nazis, a mix of communism and nationalism). The non-socialists viewed Hitler’s national socialism as the lesser of two evils, because the Nazis at least allowed private property (even if it could be commandeered by the state at whim). There was massive street fighting between the brown shirts (communists) and black shirts (Nazis).
To begin at the beginning: Antifa—real name: Antifaschisitsche Aktion—was born during the street-fights of the 1932 Weimar Republic. It was founded by the Stalinist Communist Party of Germany (KPD), although various Communist “anti-fascist defense” units were associated with the KPD much earlier.
Anti-fascist Action’s sole purpose was to help the KPD combat other political parties for control of the streets in the revolutionary politics of the rapidly failing Weimar Republic.
And yes, they fought the Nazis.
But they also fought liberal parties, conservative parties, and anyone and everyone who got in their way. While these early antecedents were short-lived, it is useful to view Antifa in this context. More than anything, Antifa exists to serve as a tool of revolutionary politics in a failed (or failing) state.
Antifa would reestablish itself in the early 1980s, also in Germany, out of Autonomism. Autonomism is an anti-authoritarian anarcho-Marxist ideology associated with the Communist urban guerilla organizations of 1970s and ’80s Europe like Red Army Faction and the Red Brigade. Autonomism would find a home among the young punks of Germany’s squatters’ rights movement. Around this time, Antifa tactics like the “black block,” where large numbers of rioters dress in black and move together in formation as part of a larger protest, were developed. …
Coming to the USA:
JBAKC was formed as a front for the May 19th Communist Organization (MCO), itself founded out of the remnants of the Weather Underground, Black Liberation Army, the FALN and other terrorist groups of the ’60s and ’70s. (May 19 was chosen since it was the birthday of both Malcolm X and Ho Chi Minh.) ….
The logic of JBAKC and the May 19th Communist Organization, and the same ideology which drives Antifa today, was that at its core the United States was founded on white supremacy, and therefore needs to be destroyed. Their “Cops and Klan Go Hand in Hand” slogan suggests there is no distinction between neo-Nazis and America’s institutions.
Of course, in the age of the 1619 Project, such positions are no longer held just by members of underground Communist terror organizations. They are de rigueur in newsrooms, faculty lounges, and among the staff of mayors’ and attorneys general’s offices. …
Antifa is in many ways an improved iteration of prior militant leftist guerilla organizations. While the Weather Underground wrote high-profile manifestos and their members became household names, they were also forced into hiding by aggressive, but largely traditional, law enforcement methods. In part, they failed because they misjudged how ready society was for their message, banked everything on militant action, and gave up mass organizing. Antifa, with its anarchist outer structure and plausible deniability, allows the radical Left to have their cake and eat it too. …
In all turbulent periods of revolutionary politics, whether the 1930s, 1970s, or today, the ability to project force on the streets to punish enemies is a valuable asset. For the Left today, Antifa is that force.