Opinion: The Petty Bourgeois Spectacle of ‘Antifa’

Photo: Screenshot from video by Independent Media PDX

By David Martinez

At the end of 2016, on the eve of Trump’s ascendancy into the White House—the modern antifascist movement in the US was also on the rise. Every week, as emboldened reactionaries and fascists took to the streets to herald Trump’s victory, thousands mobilized to confront them in response and at times shut down these gatherings with large numbers and a readiness for militant action in response. Today, what we are left with are face-offs between mere dozens of people (on both sides), and a clear need to reassess what ‘antifascism’ means, to reject the ‘antifa’ model which lacks revolutionary potential and will not achieve what it purports to seek—stemming the tide of fascism or defeating fascism entirely.

The position of Tribune of the People is resolutely against fascism and all reaction, that these must be fought relentlessly, and this remains without question. But an opposition to fascism does not mean endorsing all tactics and all ideological approaches to combating it. This is why the remnants of ‘antifa,’ which is the main active trend of antifascism, must be challenged.

Antifa as it stands now is nothing more than a project of the liberal petty bourgeoisie in a leftist guise, fueled by anarchist individualism. The antifa movement is an organizational and tactical failure, inadequate for the needs of the people to defend themselves from both reaction and fascism, and is itself becoming counter-productive. It must be criticized and discarded with in order to prevent any further illusions.

Mainly anarchists have preserved antifa because it provides an identity, which is primary for the petty bourgeois individualist, but they refuse to put politics in command. Anarchists seek to make all things ‘interconnected’—oppressions in a horizontal concept of power, but Maoists understand that there is always a principal contradiction. What is principal in the long-term fight against fascism, wherever it may arise, is the fight against its economic base—imperialism. The anarchist antifa concept is unable to grasp that, particularly at this moment, we are not facing fascism, but an increasingly reactionary bourgeois democracy under imperialism.

Fascism has not taken hold in the US due to objective and subjective conditions. The US economy is based on privately owned capital, and bourgeois liberal democracy is the preferred method for maintaining this, even as it undergoes further reactionization. Additionally, there is currently not a powerful enough revolutionary threat that might push the ruling class to resort to the fascist political system in order to preserve itself.

While understanding that fascism could arise under different conditions, we must contend with what is in actually in front of us—US imperialism, which is reactionary to its core. What is most important for all those who oppose fascism is to be anti-imperialist. Trump himself is not a fascist, and the vast majority of his supporters are not fascists either, but they are all supporters of imperialism, loyal and committed to upholding US imperialism’s status as the sole hegemonic superpower—losing this status is what they fear most. They are the petty bourgeoisie, many of whom live comfortably as long as US imperialism is dominant, however when crises arise, they see themselves slipping down, possibly into the ranks of the proletariat. Already a dying class, the petty bourgeoisie sets into more panic when crises escalate.

But the antifa side is no less petty bourgeois. They provide no greater program for the emancipation of the working class from the yoke of reaction. The anarchists have mutual aid, but no seizing of production. They may advocate for cooperatives, but they oppose the dictatorship of the proletariat and the capability to defend any seizure of capital against counterrevolution. They are idealists, individualists, and present a suicidal line to the proletariat, and it shows in their continued forays into more and more absurd street battles that avoid any materialist analysis or military strategy.

Since the election, there are weekly ‘Stop the Steal’ rallies where the Trump loyalists stoke their dying fire, and yet, on the other side, there are those try to keep the flames of of the antifa movement alive in response. The anarchist fueled antifa continues to confront these gatherings and drawing people into unnecessary beatdowns with little to show for it except more wounds.

The Pacific Northwest is where the majority of antifa activity can be found. This past weekend in Olympia, black-clad counter-protesters assembled to ‘Squash Fascism’ and confront a pro-Trump rally. As the two numerically equal sides met, the Trump side was primed and ready to defend itself, and did so with more energy than the antifa side. In a video posted by Independent Media PDX, the antifa group is disorganized and many with their backs turned as the Trump supporters start to advance. A trumpet plays a dispirited version of Bella Ciao with some of the antifa adherents half-heartedly singing along.

As the event progressed, clashes broke out, and the Trump supporters show more determination and readiness to attack their hated antifa. The Trump side is a motley crew, but the antifa group is less equipped for battle, a couple of them carrying umbrellas and one lugs around a miniature red guillotine. There is one antifascist with an assault rifle, but he is outnumbered by a handful of rifles on the Trump side.

The antifa side ended the day on their heels, with many getting pummeled into the ground by Trump supporters. One Trump supporter fired a gun into the crowd, grazing a counter-protester, narrowly avoiding death.

The promotion for the counter protest itself showed no political analysis or acceptance of reality. The flyer has an illustration of a boot stepping on a snake covered with swastikas, and the slogan “Nazis Fuck Off.” It is pure fantasy, spreading the incorrect idea that all Trump supporters are Nazis in an attempt to mobilize the withering circles of petty bourgeois antifa who want to play ‘punch a nazi’, even though they do it very poorly.

The promotional flyer for a Dec 5 counterprotest a pro-Trump event

This scene has been repeating itself in various ways over the past month, as antifa adherents continue to make general calls to gather, but with no development of class consciousness or calls against imperialism—instead its always a whack-a-mole game against their faulty conceptions of fascism, an entirely reactive approach to reaction.

As Trump takes a back seat for now, US imperialism will remain just as strong with Biden in the driver’s seat. One can not imagine confronting Biden supporters with antifa even though, at his root, he is no different from Trump (and at times to the right of him, especially regarding international matters). It is because the petty bourgeois anarchists reduce politics to a level indistinguishable from rooting for different sports teams without any deeper analysis, and have opportunistically diverted the struggle against reaction away from the principal struggle, the struggle against exploitation. Dressed in all black, carrying umbrellas, and calling everything a nazi—antifa has become the caricature that the reactionaries paint it.

Rather than focusing on dressing up as ninjas and chasing Trump rallies, all those against fascism and its roots in the inherent exploitation of imperialism must dedicate themselves to study revolutionary theory, the ideology of the proletariat, Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, and apply it creatively to our conditions. Maoism provides an invincible ideological foundation which will guide the people towards the ultimate solution to defeat fascism and imperialist reaction—reconstituting the Communist Party, and launching People’s War in order to conquer power and construct socialism.

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