March 22, 2018•1,342 words
This isn't really a "blog" post and won't be written in that fashion. It's a reply to Thomas Smith on his podcast Serious Inquiries Only on antifa.
I recommend listening to that episode here: https://seriouspod.com/sio130-is-antifa-winning/
Last night, Smith released an episode called "Is antifa winning?" in which he responds to the articles surrounding Richard Spencer claiming that antifascists are beating the alt-right and he also goes into the recent antifa action at King's College in London, as well as some other points.
Oddly enough, I agree with much of the episode and think Smith did a pretty good job discussing the good that antifa activists accomplish.
First, Smith goes back to the beginning and talks about Nazi punching and how it served as too much of a distraction and even divided the left (assuming he means left vs. liberal) and he's right. Too much focus was put onto one punch against Richard Spencer.
Now, I don't know if I mentioned this on his show, but I know I did many others, and that is that Nazi punching and the Spencer punch discussion should not have been taken so literally by everyone. Even Smith mentions "who listening has punched a Nazi?" and that was never the point. The discussion was, "should be we combating Nazis and fascism by any means necessary?" The Spencer punch became a meme to mock the alt-right and rally the antifascist troops around a cause of stopping him and his ilk from gaining further power. Not, "do we all run around hitting people we think are Nazis?"
I have argued that punching Spencer was a moral good, but spending this much time on one punch, when so much has happened since, is just silly.
Smith took issue with antifa activists in London disrupting Carl Benjamin's (Sargon of Akkad) talk at King's College, though he rightfully acknowledged that any violence started at this event was started by Akkad's fan in the crowd, and not the antifascists.
Now to be fair, Smith could be right. Maybe this action wasn't necessary, however, I default to the activists in this situation. Smith and I don't know much about the political climate in the area surrounding this event or what discussion took place between the activists who carried it out. Yet, London's local antifa/black bloc don't have a history of reactionary actions. So I trust that they put thought into this and carried it out with intention.
He fears they overplayed their hand, and that Carl will be more popular, Patreon dollars will go up, and he will get more speaking gigs.
That's already the trend. Someone is taking the action to try and stop it. This isn't being looked at long term, but what happens if every time he tries to speak, someone shows up? He's going to get harder and harder to book because of the risk. I am okay with that. Not all battles are won with one action. Make his life miserable and make the lives of those who keep booking him just as bad.
Is antifa winning?
Smith is skeptical, as he should be, about Spencer's claim that antifa is winning. Why? Well, because this is really just a call to arms for Spencer. He wants his troops to think they are losing and that antifa is willing to "go further" so that his side takes it further.
Yet, and Smith did mention this, antifa is winning, but for other reasons. Smith mentioned their non-violence, and I will get back to that, but the fact that antifa is not afraid to defend itself and communities with physical altercation is one reason why the right is scared of it. They love to march around with tiki-torches and polo shirts, but they don't want to get punched in the face.
Yet it is the majority of the non-violent work that antifa activists participate in that is winning. Doxxing of Nazis and fascists is working. Who wants to lose their job? Simply showing up in mass numbers, and getting events canceled and or making it harder to Nazis and fascists to book events at all.
That's winning. Has antifa won? No, but they haven't stopped trying and won't either.
Smith does say he takes issue with some parts of antifa and those who are a part of it, mainly "anarchy" he says. He has an issue with people who smash windows because "they don't believe there should be a government."
This is one of the only major disagreements I have with Smith's episode, and it stems only from his own misconceptions about anarchism and why windows are smashed to begin with.
For those interested, start by reading this blog post by the Black Rose / Rosa Negra Anarchist Federation.
To touch on a few points, anarchism isn't lawlessness and it's not the belief that "government" shouldn't exist. It is the belief that the state should not exist, but anarchism works because of radical democracy. A "government" in it own right, but simply based in and part of communities, and not some overarching power that controls everyone.
On breaking windows, they are not breaking windows because they don't believe in the government, they are breaking windows to send two messages. One to the capitalists, that we're here. Second, to those looking on, feeling as though they don't have a place in our society and they see a group, willing to fight the giants. Those broken windows are for them, not you.
Lastly, antifa as an ideology is non-violent. Likely 99% of their work is nonviolent. You see some actions on TV every few months and suddenly antifa is the most violent force on the planet. Yet, all of antifa "violence" and Thomas notes, is defensive. He does mention "a few bad apples" who may use violence, but let's check that.
Antifa is in the streets battling Nazis and fascists. By definition, any action you take against them is self-defense. Their ideology is one of terror and genocide.
"Tighten up your language."
The last thing to touch on is Smith's issue with those such as Sargon and Christina Sommers being labeled as fascists. He said if we're going to label everyone on the right fascists "you're going to have to punch a lot of people" and asked why antifascists don't punch congress.
I would actually argue the opposite that fascism isn't being defined broadly enough and is one reason people aren't taking it seriously enough.
Sargon, Sommers, the right in general are overwhelmingly supportive of fascism. They support state sanctioned violence day in and day out. They support the bombs we drop on Muslims overseas, and support the police brutality against antifascists, Black Lives Matter Activists, and indigenous people protesting the destruction of their land.
They don't run in fear of black clad police officers in riot gear walking down the streets because they know they will be safely protected behind them.
That aside, Sargon is loved by fascists and Nazis, he's their gateway. He opens the door because he uses their language and talking points.
Sargon and Sommers aren't just right-wingers, they are much further right and illiberal and their politics. They are violently opposed to the left (they claim to be anti-violence, but as stated above, not if the state carries it out for them).
In the end, Smith is trending in the right direction and I think he's asking the right questions. He's applying skepticism properly and working out his own views on these topics without shutting himself out of being wrong. That's wonderful. He also doesn't have to be "right" all the time. He can support antifa and still think King's College was wrong. He won't be the only one.
There is not central authority to stop local groups from acting how they feel best. They won't always be right. If they are not, we learn and move on.
One thing that is right, is being antifascist, and for many in the atheist community that Smith and I dwell, that is a controversial statement.