Antifa (short for Anti-fascist Action) is a movement that has divided the country during its rise to prominence in 2017. Branding itself in the image of the German anti-fascist movement, Antifa presents a positive cause. However, not all see it that way. Videos of Antifa members attacking right-wing protesters caused a stir, especially in conservative circles. Meanwhile, some liberals see the movement as a natural reaction to the extreme right nationalists.
Should the left distance itself from or support Antifa?
The Left should steer clear of Antifa
It hurts political cooperation
During last summer’s Charlottesville protests, swarms of extremists from both sides of the political spectrum came to blows with each other. President Trump stoked the tension by famously blaming both sides for the violence. Joining the blame game, conservatives responded to criticism against violent members of the alt-right by If it hadn’t been for the black-clad Antifa protesters bearing weapons and hiding their faces, the alt-right’s violence wouldn’t have seemed as justified. With all due respect to their anti-racist ideals, the de-facto discussion that follows as a result of them is dividing and not healing the country.
It weakens their own party
Even though liberals naturally seek to support people on their side of the political spectrum, siding with Antifa hurts the left politically. Every time Democrats justify Antifa’s actions, in the hopes of pulling over minority or swing voters, they risk alienating more conservatives, even those who don’t support the alt-right. The election of President Trump came in big part due to the estrangement and condescension that conservatives felt from the left. Plus, media articles that defend the movement’s excessive force are viewed by conservatives as “whitewashing” Antifa’s wrongdoings by a liberal-biased media. This makes people hesitant to embrace the left.
Its members are extremists
Even if some Antifa activists are peaceful, violence is a large part of the movement’s agenda and public identity. Their “uniform” is being clad in black with faces obscured, presumably to prevent being recognized while committing crimes. No one who supports tolerance should be encouraging this kind of behavior. As some of their actions are illegal, is that really what the left stands for or wants to be associated with? Violence is never justified, not even as a response to racist-driven violence. Not to mention that peaceful conservative protesters by masked Antifa members. Fighting fascism is one thing but achieving their goals by physically attacking people is counterproductive to healing a nation.
The Left should support Antifa
Fight fire with fire
Tapping into the rage of disenfranchised Americans helped the Republican party win the last presidential election. It stands to reason that the left should do the same and tap into the rage on their side. As this strategy arguably worked, resulting in an extremely loyal fanbase who elected Donald Trump, liberals should use Antifa to build up a support base for the left. If nothing else, supporting Antifa is a way to stand up to those on the right who condemn Antifa yet turn the other cheek to extremism in their own party.
Antifa’s cause is about defending humanity
Antifa is the response to an increasingly worrying far-right movement that appears to embrace racist, homophobic and sexist ideals, among others. Many of the Republican party’s mainstream conservatives know this and don’t support the alt-right. While peaceful protest is clearly the preferable option, Antifa’s violence is born from that of the alt-right; it comes in response to it, not the other way around. Waving Nazi banners and attacking minorities are two examples of things that Antifa opposes. Even if Antifa is far from perfect, its goals are ultimately good, fighting against bigotry and promoting the equal treatment of minorities. Society should understand that Antifa fights – and risks imprisonment – for the same principles most people believe in: eradicating hatred.
History shows anti-fascist violence is justified
Fighting against the rise of fascism and neo-Nazism is clearly a noble purpose. One need only look at the historical failure to stop the rise of fascism and Nazism in Europe to see the need for Antifa activists to be able to defend themselves against bullies. With neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups on the rise in America, Antifa activists should be cheered for interrupting, working to prevent and fighting against the spread neo-Nazi messages – even if by violent means. Fascism aside, history does show that, at times, violence is a necessary evil that can be used to preclude continued widespread violence and to save lives.
The Bottom Line
Violence should never be the first response, no matter what the cause, but for some, Antifa is the correct reaction to excessive racism from the far right. Given today’s growing political divide, should the left support Antifa?