The Problems With Antifa
No matter what side of the aisle you sit on, there are a few.
In the 2010s, Antifa has risen to some prominence as being a movement of far-left, often-violent, anti-fascist, anti-white-supremacists. They disrupt far-right and alt-right protests, they wear all black, and they try to be as anonymous as possible. President Donald Trump has no love for Antifa. On May 31, he publicly identified them as a soon-to-be domestic terror organization... on Twitter. Presidents can't technically declare domestic groups terrorists, so he tweeted it.
There's one problem with this identification: Antifa isn't an "organization" in an official sense. It has no leadership, it has no membership dues, it has no official organizational structure. There's no King of Antifa. You can't go to antifa.org and check to see when the next local meeting is taking place (Fun fact: if you DO go to antifa.org, it's just Trump's tweet about them being terrorists).
Antifa is more of an identity, where people can say that they're anti-fascism and that's it -- technically, they're Antifa now. Anti-white-supremacists get roped in, too. I have to admit, it's a tempting identity! Come on, who likes fascists? I don't like fascists. White supremacists are also pretty bad. One of the problems here is: WHO is identifying as Antifa? If I say I'm anti-fascist, does this now make me a domestic terrorist? With no set membership or doctrine or structure or plan, could ANYONE identify as Antifa? Could you be labeled as Antifa without your knowledge or consent? How do you stop a problem like Antifa?
The term Antifa has origins in 1930s Germany, where it was the shortened version of Antifaschistische Aktion. Antifa was a cross-party movement formed to counter the rise of the popular German Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei. That group has a shorter name, too. I bet you can guess what it is.
In the 1930s and 40s the Antifa movement moved underground, but its ideals came back with the start of the Cold War in East Germany. It became more of an anti-capitalist movement, with East Germans doing things like naming their side of the Berlin Wall Antifaschistischer Schutzwall (Anti-Fascist Protection Wall). When the Cold War ended, Antifa came back in the form of an anti-unification, anti-imperialist protest group. On a completely unrelated note, research into this topic has driven me to nightmares of German spelling bees.
Here's the intersting part: Even in the 1990s where Antifa is closest to its current form historically, the group has no official leader, structure, dues, or organization. It's a loose collection of people who share a set of critical ideas (fascism: bad, white supremacy: bad), but that's it. Yes, some activists can organize in little groups and name themselves Antifa. There are groups like the Torch Network who call themselves anti-fascists. Some of them even have flags! Even with these groups, however, there's no national (or global) Antifa puppet-master pulling the strings. There's no Antifa illuminati or financial backer ... at least, not that I know of. I just publicly declared myself as an anti-fascist three paragraphs ago, I think I have to give it more time before I get my first check.
Kidding aside, the disorganization brings up a problem of oversight. If there is no specific national organization of Antifa, and their uniform is "wear all black and cover your face," what's stopping someone from cosplaying as a member of Antifa and starting problems in ANY protest, not just disrupting the far right? With the George Floyd marches going on in tandem with the coronavirus pandemic, individuals are seeing the opportunity to raise some anarchy anonymously by wearing all black, covering up, and attempting to escalate protests to riots.
This anonymous nature of Antifa protesters also turns them into somewhat of a scapegoat, where attempts are made to tie them to any criminal or negative action. Police building burnt down? Antifa. Rocks thrown at riot control? Antifa. Protests on the freeway? Antifa. Pallet of bricks on the street? Antifa. Local Walmart looted? Antifa. Overcooked eggs? You guessed it.
One more problem I want to bring up is the idea of combating Antifa. How do you stop a civil movement that's based on an ideal? Wait, that's wrong. Anti-fascism is an idea of being critical of another idea. It's not pro-anything, it isn't pushing an agenda, other than to openly fight fascism and white supremacy. If Donald Trump declares a war against Antifa, who exactly is he declaring war against? Is it anyone who wears all black to a protest and is violent? Is it anyone who wears all black to a protest? Is it anyone who protests? Is it anyone?
Just like the white nationalist movement and the alt-right, Antifa isn't going away any time soon. Historically, the only way of wiping out a group like Antifa is through wiping out the group they're critical of (or giving them lots and lots of power). Knowing our history though, we'll try something brand new -- like starting an AntiAntifa! It can be full of peaceful conservatives who protest mundane things like the right to get a haircut.