The Real Danger with ANTIFA

By Peter Galuszka

Get ready. The names of all kinds of leftist organizations are going to be kicked around as the masterminds behind violent, cop-beating looters, especially the so-called ANTIFA movement in Virginia and across the country..

But what is reality? I don’t have clear answers but I have some ideas to share since I have been dealing with activist groups since I was in high school in the late 1960s. I hope they help this blog’s discussion.

First, there’s plenty of research available about ANTIFA and there are already plenty of reports about it. It is not a single group but a very loose collection of autonomous activist groups, most of which do not advocate violence. For reference, see yesterday’s Daily Beast piece with the blunt headline, “Trump’s ‘ANTIFA Threat Is Total Bullshit – And Totally Dangerous.”

That article and plenty of others note that ANTIFA, or whatever it is, has no clear chain of command and uses ultra-fast social media to alert other activists about rallies and protests but has no control over them. If you are thinking about the tightly-controlled and secretive Communist cells of the past century, you are not getting it.

As the Beast piece points out, there is a large danger that anyone who opposes fascism or criticizes capitalism will be deemed a terrorist. Donald Trump says that he will be “Designating ANTIFA as a Terrorist Organization’” although there is no such designation for domestic groups. No surprise about his inaccuracy.

Some researchers believe the anti-fascist movement dates back to the Spanish Civil War. It supported Spanish Republicans against the far-right, dictatorial Nationalists.

Others say it stems from the punk rock movement in the late 1970s and early 1980s when pro-fascist skinheads infiltrated and sparked opposition groups. What the movement has morphed into is very complicated.

A few more  thoughts:

The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s comprised competing interests and views. The real heroes were a loose network of African-American lawyers who filed lawsuits that lead to integration. Their movement changed into the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) which advocated non-violent civil disobedience, led by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

The movement evolved into more forceful groups such as Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee  (SNCC) that raised the game by pushing voter registration, which white leaders in states like Virginia tried to prevent. It featured such charismatic leaders as Julian Bond and Stokely Carmichael.

Later came the Black Panthers and others, some of whom did want to use violence as a weapon. For years, of course, law enforcement led by J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI tried to infiltrate and discredit disparate members of the movement.

There was lots of internal strife in the overall civil rights movement as well. In one personal example, in August 1974, I was at my first journalism job at a little newspaper in Washington, N.C. when Clarence Alligood, a local jailer, was found stabbed with an icepick in the Beaufort County Jail. He was lying on the bed of Joan Little, a young African-American who had escaped. Little was young and had a criminal record for petty crimes.

I covered the story from the start. At first the Sheriff’s Department left out important details such as the fact that Alligood was found wearing only a T-shirt and had semen on his body. Those bits of information were leaked to me and I had to sneak them into print because the publisher was an old-fashioned Southerner who refused to print them. Little turned herself in and claimed that Alligood had raped her and she was defending herself.

Suddenly, the story became international news. It had everything – sex in a jail cell on a steamy Southern night, a young black woman, a crude white jailer and so on. It was very upsetting for the leaders of North Carolina who were trying to reposition the image of the state as progressive and lucrative for business.

Then activist groups struggled to control the message. The SCLC tried hard to use its venerable ways, but Little’s Raleigh lawyers thought them to be old fogies and brought in the Black Panthers. They staged a march in the town that involved the church that Little’s mother attended. The mother strongly disapproved of what had become of her daughter and despised the Panthers. I watched as the elders surrounded the church, locked arms and refused to admit protesters. Anyway, Washington N,.C. was trashed in the global media. Little was acquitted of murder.

Another personal experience with activism took place in the Boston area where I attended college from 1970 to 1974. I was working on the student paper where I covered Vietnam War protests in the city. At one, I nearly got clubbed by a member of the Tactical Police Force (TPF), which the Boston PD used to suppress demonstrations.

These guys were big, mostly Irish brutes who acted without mercy. My earlier experience with anti-war protests had been in the D.C. area where the Park Police used a more sophisticated and lighter touch.

In college, I also covered plenty of meetings of leftist activists. It was very boring to be sitting in a smoke-filled room at 1 a.m. listening to a bunch of rich kids from Scarsdale argue whether the Students for a Democratic Society or the Young Socialist Alliance was more Trotskyite. It was sort of like Bacon’s Rebellion in reverse.

A few more examples of the danger of labeling:

In the 1990s after Communism fell in Russia, true elections were finally held. It was a true mess because there were literally hundreds of new political parties. There were some scary moments because hard-right, very violent and heavily armed groups evolved.

One was “Pamyat” or “Memory” which dreamed of bringing back the old Soviet Union at the barrels of Kalashnikovs. Others were dubbed the “red-browns” because they advocated combining the strong arm policies of Stalin and Hitler in a two for one deal.

Years later, in October 2010, I was covering the Virginia Tea Party PATRIOTS CONVENTION at the Richmond Convention Center. It was a very weird assortment of serious Libertarians concerned about fiscal excess and limiting government, Patrick Henry impersonators and armed gun nuts of every stripe. They were not “angry white men” as another blogger said they were called in error. It was much more complicated than that.

That’s my point about ANTIFA, which was involved at the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville in 2017. Some which called themselves ANTIFA did battle the white supremacists who staged the event.

Now, what is going to happen is that anyone who wants to exercise his or her right to protest police killings of African-Americans will be dubbed dangerous and violent elements who need to be taken out. With someone as chaotic as Donald Trump in power, that’s truly a scary prospect.

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38 responses to “The Real Danger with ANTIFA

  1. “….what is going to happen is anyone who wants to exercise his or her right to protest police killings of African-Americans will be dubbed dangerous and violent elements…” Not by me, or by many others. Protest is fine, about as American as anything gets. Throw rocks, start fires, break into and loot stores, beat up the owners seeking to defend their livelihoods, and I hope arrest and jail follow swiftly. Or do you not see that behavior as a problem, Peter?

  2. Violent behavior is bad. Some elements of disobedience that harm no one are ok in my book

  3. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    Peter I don’t have the heart or the patience to sort out which branch of ANTIFA is legit and which are “brown shirts”. ANTIFA must be crushed and destroyed just like any other anarchist group that will not play by societies rules of engagement. Peter I would enjoy an article on Charles Hamilton Houston. He seems to be lost in the civil rights legacy. His way was a good way.

  4. Well, the POTUS has certainly gotten out in front of this with a ready made “liberal” group to label terrorists.

    Of course, nobody yet knows the make up of the mostly young white guys that have mysteriously and opportunistically popped up during the peaceful marches to start trashing buildings, fires, and burning vehicles, along with other bad actors, which also likely includes African Americans. (And let’s not discuss at all the multiple arrests and shootings (rubber bullets) of the media by the police, you know the “enemy of the people” – yeah those guys.

    We need a name for this cohort – the one I have been using is “Bugaloo Bad Boys” because its sort of catchy, and softer than White Supremacists. But, no mention yet from the POTUS or right-wing sources that these guys are in the mix too, bringing on the Bugaloo now.

    • James Wyatt Whitehead V

      Don’t ruin the good name of a fabulous 1970s Saturday morning kids show.

    • “nobody yet knows the make up of the mostly young white guys that have mysteriously and opportunistically popped up during the peaceful marches to start trashing buildings, fires, and burning vehicles, along with other bad actors, which also likely includes African Americans.”

      I seriously doubt that. I strongly suspect government knows, and has for some long time. But we don’t know who they are in any detail, they are expert at camouflage. Again consult Hunton and Williams report.

    • We were warned about this almost 50 years ago by a brilliant political philosopher ….

  5. You are assuming that antifa is all anarchist. Evidence points the other way

    • James Wyatt Whitehead V

      Nonsense Peter. ANTIFA is the enemy and I support any political figure who will destroy them. They are no different from the anarchists of Haymarket Square in 1886.

      • Oh, come on, James, get with the program. ANTIFA is a figment of your and our imagination. They don’t exist at all. The past decade of fires, looting, beatings, and chaos, were caused by drunken depraved evangelicals, Jerry Falwell types, fighting each other on our city streets across the nation.

  6. Peter, your larger point is well taken: Amorphous, loosely organized groups like Antifa are not easily described and categorized. Of course, you can say the same thing about white supremacists. They’re not all alike. I don’t know where that gets us.

    Clearly there is a strong anarchist current running through the Antifa movement and its sympathizers. Just as clearly, many if not most Antifa members are comfortable using low-level violence like vandalism and street fighting as tactics of intimidation.

    • “Of course, you can say the same thing about white supremacists.”

      No, no you can’t. There’s pretty much only one side to white supremacy. There really are no “good people” on that bus.

  7. My, my, how fast we forget the distinction between the SDS and the Weather Underground.

    But if a few looters and rioters can bring the law and order Conservatives to discredit entirely the protests for civil rights and protections for 30 to 40% of our population, then just imagine how even only one white supremacist cop can ruin an entire department of justice.

    • What about the Mayors, Alderman and police chiefs who tolerated and ignored Chauvin’s record?

      • If he weren’t there, they wouldn’t have to tolerate him, but still look what just “one bad apple” can do.
        BTW, if memory serves that expression of “a few bad apples in the barrel” originated in Nuremberg.

  8. Nancy, point taken but it was the “Weathermen” due to Dylan song

  9. I was going to save this for Kerry’s next parole rant. Create a he said, she heard using Morgan Freeman’s Shawshank parole board monologue with this…

  10. I wonder how many of the tweets and Facebook calls to action by ANTIFA and other groups originated with Russian bots. After all, because ANTIFA is not a centralized group, there is is no one around to disclaim any messages.

    Putin’s plan to increase the divisiveness in this country is succeeding beyond his wildest dreams.

  11. Dick, great point. I saw that, thought about it, but could not figure out to use it due to lack of evidence. In my opinion, it is completely possible.

  12. Bobby Seale wanted armed posses to continually observe the police. The guns were to let the cops know they were equal.

    From this moment on, when the blue and reds start flashing, 100 cellphones will start streaming video. Live stream is the MOAB to police brutality.

  13. So, I was wrong. The white supremacist infiltrators do have a name – “Bugaloo Bois.”

  14. Oh well, so much for posse comitatus. Think those guns of yours are safe? Guess again.

  15. Okay, I need some help from BR plank owners. We know he likes to invoke and undo, using his EOs to reverse his predecessors’ efforts. Now we’re facing his ordering the military in to dominate dissent and protest in the States (Where have I heard that before?), even in States that make no request for Federal assistance. Just gonna send in the troops.

    But my real question, and one of you FFV types might know the answer, is “When he signs the EO overturning emancipation, will you guys get a 1-for-1 restoration of your great-great-grandfather’s slaves, or will the entire lineage fall under ownership?”

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