I’ve been trying to analyze the behavior of the far left wing in America over the past few weeks. I speak as one who’s been through one national revolution (the transformation of South Africa from apartheid to democracy), and witnessed several others in the continent of Africa. I know what political extremism means, what terrorism means . . . I’ve experienced them at first hand.
As a starting point, let’s take Peter Beinart’s view of ‘The Rise of the Violent Left‘. I’ll quote extensively from it, but you really should go read the whole article. It’s worth it.
To most left-wing activists during the Clinton, Bush, and Obama years, deregulated global capitalism seemed like a greater threat than fascism.
Trump has changed that. For antifa, the result has been explosive growth. According to NYC Antifa, the group’s Twitter following nearly quadrupled in the first three weeks of January alone. (By summer, it exceeded 15,000.) Trump’s rise has also bred a new sympathy for antifa among some on the mainstream left. “Suddenly,” noted the antifa-aligned journal It’s Going Down, “anarchists and antifa, who have been demonized and sidelined by the wider Left have been hearing from liberals and Leftists, ‘you’ve been right all along.’ ” An article in The Nation argued that “to call Trumpism fascist” is to realize that it is “not well combated or contained by standard liberal appeals to reason.” The radical left, it said, offers “practical and serious responses in this political moment.”
Those responses sometimes spill blood. Since antifa is heavily composed of anarchists, its activists place little faith in the state, which they consider complicit in fascism and racism. They prefer direct action: They pressure venues to deny white supremacists space to meet. They pressure employers to fire them and landlords to evict them. And when people they deem racists and fascists manage to assemble, antifa’s partisans try to break up their gatherings, including by force.
Such tactics have elicited substantial support from the mainstream left.
. . .
Antifascists call such actions defensive. Hate speech against vulnerable minorities, they argue, leads to violence against vulnerable minorities. But Trump supporters and white nationalists see antifa’s attacks as an assault on their right to freely assemble, which they in turn seek to reassert. The result is a level of sustained political street warfare not seen in the U.S. since the 1960s.
. . .
What’s eroding … is the quality Max Weber considered essential to a functioning state: a monopoly on legitimate violence. As members of a largely anarchist movement, antifascists don’t want the government to stop white supremacists from gathering. They want to do so themselves, rendering the government impotent.
. . .
Antifa believes it is pursuing the opposite of authoritarianism. Many of its activists oppose the very notion of a centralized state. But in the name of protecting the vulnerable, antifascists have granted themselves the authority to decide which Americans may publicly assemble and which may not. That authority rests on no democratic foundation. Unlike the politicians they revile, the men and women of antifa cannot be voted out of office. Generally, they don’t even disclose their names.
. . .
Revulsion, fear, and rage are understandable. But one thing is clear. The people preventing Republicans from safely assembling on the streets … may consider themselves fierce opponents of the authoritarianism growing on the American right. In truth, however, they are its unlikeliest allies.
There’s more at the link. Bold, underlined text is my emphasis.
Where else have we seen such tactics recently? Oh, yes . . . ISIS/ISIL! The fundamentalist Islamic terrorist movement that has plagued Iraq, Syria, Libya and many other countries in recent years appears to follow almost exactly the same principles, albeit from a religious rather than a political perspective – but the results are the same. ISIS dictates to people how they should and may behave, in moral, political, social and cultural terms. Dissent is not only not tolerated, it’s punished severely, frequently with death or torture. There is no ‘state authority’ to whom to appeal: ISIS is both the religious and secular authority, and makes no distinction between them. Its propaganda and indoctrination reach from the cradle to the grave.
Death sentences for conduct such as homosexuality are immediate and automatic, and there is no appeal. Conform, or else!
If Antifa and its ilk are like ISIS (and I believe they are, although not [yet] so far sunk into terrorism and depravity), they can be expected to be just as intolerant of doctrines and positions that differ from their own. Isn’t that exactly what we’re seeing on the streets of America right now? It hasn’t yet gotten to the point of Antifa throwing dissenters off buildings . . . but they will gather with sticks, stones, clubs and improvised flamethrowers, and attempt to disrupt the gatherings of those with whom they disagree – often violently.
What’s more, Antifa’s leaders and organizers are simply not prepared to accept that they might be wrong in their interpretation. They are fanatical in their views, and are not open to discussion. Take, for example, the views of Yvette Felarca, one of the organizers of the riots in Berkeley last year.
I see in her precisely and exactly the same fanaticism that I see in ISIS spokesmen. Facts don’t matter: only her interpretation of those facts is relevant. Her tactics may not be so far gone in violence and bloodshed as those of ISIS, but that may not last. In pursuit of her ideals, her perspective, I doubt that she would flinch from personally using violence on her opponents. She may already have done so during the Berkeley riots, for all I know. Certainly, her Antifa allies don’t shrink from the prospect.
(Readers may recall that I linked to the “It’s Going Down” web site last Saturday, and provided examples of its propaganda.)
Antifa, Black Lives Matter, Occupy . . . all those movements appear to involve the same organizers, and follow basically the same principles. They all try to disrupt the existing order and violently oppose it. They refuse to entertain the idea that there might be another side to the issues they raise, instead insisting that only their views are correct. In their intolerance, in their political and social obsessiveness (which borders on religious fanaticism), I submit that they have become the equivalent of ISIS in America.
The only question is, can we deal with them more peacefully than we have had to deal with ISIS in the Middle East? That remains to be seen.