Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

August 15, 2017

Antifa and the perils of adventurism

Filed under: black bloc idiots,ultraleftism — louisproyect @ 5:47 pm


Empty bravado

Ever since the Seattle WTO protests of 1999, I have observed a dynamic at work that can best be described as “adventurism”. It accepts that peaceful protests might be of some use but the real action involves physical confrontations with the police or ultraright that is far more dramatic and likely to make the front pages of the bourgeois media. During the Vietnam antiwar movement, it was not uncommon for TV networks to make skirmishes between ultraleftists and American-flag toting “patriots” on the perimeter of massive demonstrations the lead story on the evening news. Back then, the demonstrations were highly disciplined affairs with parade marshals from the UAW and other major trade unions keeping things moving in an orderly fashion. Ultraleftists feeling constrained by the marshals would refer to them as “peace police”.

Since 1999, “diversity of tactics” has prevailed. Nonviolent protestors can do their thing while the black bloc or antifa—the latest manifestation of adventurism—can do theirs. If tear gas and billy clubs cannot discriminate between the two groups, so what? All you need to do is retreat from the fray, suffering nothing more than irritated eyes or some bruises.

However, there are alarming signs that the stakes are becoming much higher. On May Day this year, Puerto Ricans took to the streets massively in order to show their opposition to the austerity forced upon the country that made it effectively the Greece of the Caribbean. As reported by Ed Morales in The Nation, “worker and student groups, faculty members, a feminist contingent, street artists, and an increasingly politicized middle class—coming from different points around the city converged at the Milla de Oro (Golden Mile) in the Hato Rey business district.” He described the protest as “massive and peaceful…an almost festive atmosphere”. But as the event was coming to an end, black bloc types began throwing rocks at the main headquarters of Banco Popular, the island’s largest bank, breaking windows in a time-dishonored stunt.

The police used this as an excuse to begin wading into peaceful protestors, firing tear gas and using billy clubs on the crowd. TV news that night led, of course, with footage of the black bloc running amok as tear gas dispersed the crowds. Ricardo Rosselló, the rightwing Governor of Puerto Rico, held a press conference to denounce the May Day action, lumping the adventurists in with the peaceful protestors.

That set the agenda for Banco Popular to punish the movement as a whole. It filed a lawsuit claiming damages against 42 plaintiffs, including community organizations and labor unions. Were the masked rock-throwing adventurists agent provocateurs working for the cops? While some probably were, the more likely explanation is a deep-seated belief by politically raw youth that breaking windows and fighting the cops is revolutionary.

Taking advantage of a movement put on the defensive, Rosselló signed legislation that will increase criminal penalties against demonstrators who wear masks. He also made it a crime to obstruct construction sites (up to three years in prison), a measure designed to curtail union protests, as well as approving fines of up to $30,000 for interfering with tourist activities. Interference would likely include the closure of an access road to the airport that occurred on May Day, as well as obstructing access to or functions in health or government offices or learning institutions.

Nice work, adventurists.

As bad as the outcome was in Puerto Rico, it looked like the damage could be even much greater in the mother country for people caught up in the chaos that took place on Inauguration Day, once again sparked by black bloc adventurism.

On the morning of January 20th, when Donald Trump was set to be inaugurated, a large group of protesters dressed in black and faces covered ran wild through Washington, smashing windows just like their pals in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Once again, the cops threw out a very broad net that included more than two hundred people being arrested, most of whom apparently had nothing to do with property destruction. They were charged with felony rioting, facing 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine. Reporters Alexi Wood and Aaron Cantu, who were also swept up in the mass arrests, face even harsher punishments. Wood was charged with five felony property destruction charges and three felony rioting charges. If found guilty, he could be sentenced to 70 years in prison as would Cantu who was faced with similar charges.

Nice work, adventurists.

Turning now to Charlottesville, it is obvious to me that if the protests had been disciplined and under the control of marshals such as was the norm during the Vietnam antiwar movement, there would have been much less of a chance that James Fields would have been able to drive his Dodge Challenger into a crowd, killing a young woman and injuring 19 others.

The antifa contingent came to the city with the intent of turning it into a battle between the fascists and their own street fighters in the same way that it “intervened” at the Berkeley protest against Milo Yiannopoulos. Fortunately, nobody was killed or injured at Berkeley but the protest lacked political clarity.

The same cannot be said about his appearance at the University of Washington in Seattle on Inauguration Day. During a melee between the black bloc and cops outside the hall where Yiannopolous was speaking, IWW member Josh Dukes was shot by Elizabeth Hokoana, a Trump supporter. Her husband Marc was arrested with her as an accomplice. Dukes has lost his gall bladder, half his colon and is left with a severely damaged liver.

If you want to keep tabs of the adventurists who are unaccountable to anybody outside of their ranks, you need to consult the “It’s Going Down” website. There you can read an assessment of the Charlottesville events by an anonymous author, which is typical of the lack of accountability that exists in this milieu. Titled “Charlottesville and the Rise of Fascism in the USA: What We Need to Do”, it is certainly not what one would call an exercise in false modesty.

They credit their window-breaking adventures with inspiring judges to block Muslim bans and motivating government officials to leak information to the press. Gosh, where would we be without them? The boys refer dismissively to nonviolent protestors: “Likewise, it won’t help to gather in churches, as some did in Charlottesville last night, congratulating ourselves on how nonviolent we are while fascists patrol the streets. Last night, when the church locked its doors, many were trapped outside, dramatically outnumbered. This kind of behavior is also complicity.” What ingrates. Cornel West credits them (rather hyperbolically) as saving his life while they charge him as being complicit with white supremacy. It is no wonder that the antifa cult has no concept of broad unity that is so urgently needed today. If you are not ready to get your teeth knocked out by a KKK member in a Rugby-like confrontation, then get lost.

The author does manage to call for unity but the words ring as hollow as Trump’s follow-up statement on Charlottesville: “As in our efforts against the Trump administration, we can’t take on fascism alone. We have to make sure that we are part of a much broader movement, yet that our efforts are not diluted or reduced to some lowest common denominator.” And what does he expect of us? “We need people to put up posters; we need people to hand out handbills”. Is this idiot for real? The antifa wants us to do grunt work while we have absolutely no voice in their decision-making? On their worst day, the worst Leninist sect did not have such arrogance.

There is an implicit ideological assumption in the antifa movement that is worth bringing to the surface and critiquing. In a way, they share the Communist Party’s long-standing obsession with “fascism” that surfaces in every election campaign. They called on people to vote for Hubert Humphrey against Nixon in order to “stop fascism” just as antifa calls on people to get their bones broke or worse taking on fascists who look forward to such confrontation since it gets covered in the bourgeois press that otherwise would have little interest in people like Richard Spencer. Reporting about violence increases newspaper sales and TV ratings.

The enemy is not fascism as much as it is capitalism that exploits the working class according to democratic and civilized norms that would never be associated with the swastika or other fascist regalia. How do I know? Just read the NY Times op-ed page that screams bloody murder about Trump but gave Obama and Hillary Clinton a free pass. It was, after all, Democratic Party indifference to the suffering of the majority of Americans that led to the current crisis.

In a way, the American antifa movement suffers the same kind of political myopia as the original movement in postwar Germany, where Socialists and Communists tried to root out the residual Nazism left behind in the German state. This history is detailed in a Jacobin article titled “The Lost History of Antifa” written by contributing editor Loren Balhorn who is a member of Die Linke.

Antifa groups totaled in the thousands, made up of older industrial workers who managed to elude the Gestapo. They were primarily focused on identifying and bringing to justice Nazis in the same way that Jewish Nazi hunters like Simon Wiesenthal did.

They also fought for social change with Stuttgart being a center of working class resistance to postwar austerity. In 1948 there was anger over drastic price rises that triggered a general strike that in which 79 percent of the workforce took part and that spread beyond Stuttgart.

Ultimately, the antifa movement was unable to transform a country that was undergoing massive economic changes orchestrated by the victorious USA. Balhorn cites Albercht Lein throughout his article. Lein was the author of “Antifaschistische Aktion”, a 1978 book that offers an explanation of why the original movement faded from the scene.

Essentially, the movement was focused almost exclusively on tracking down Nazis and failed to develop a strategy for changing German society. In a way, the CP and SP returned to the status quo ante in the new Germany with both parties following its own narrow interests, particularly in the trade unions. The SP was keen on sustaining the alliance with the USA, which promised a return to capitalist normalcy and even prosperity while the CP saw itself—as always—serving the interests of the Soviet Union.

It even reverted back to its sectarian pre-Popular Front period as Balhorn points out:

Following a brief period of participation in postwar provisional governments, however, the Allies sidelined the KPD, and the party soon returned to its ultra-leftist line. It sealed its political irrelevance in 1951 with the passage of “Thesis 37,” a position paper on labor strategy riddled with anti–Social Democratic and anti-trade-union slurs. The motion, passed at the party conference, obligated all KPD members to obey party decisions above and against trade union directives if necessary. This move obliterated Communist support in the factories veritably overnight and relegated the party to society’s fringes. It failed to re-enter parliament in the 1953 elections and was banned by the West German government outright in 1956.

The same kind of divisions between the SP and CP in Germany in the 1920s were responsible for Hitler coming to power, not an unwillingness to engage in punch-ups as I have heard on Facebook. If the SP and the CP had combined forces, they would have been able to elect someone other than Paul von Hindenburg, the rightist who turned over the power to Hitler. And given the right strategy, even making a socialist revolution. They did have the support of the working class unlike the tiny sects of today.

As a small, self-appointed savior of the America people, the antifa milieu has neither the massive support that the German antifa movement had nor little grasp of the tasks that face us. Right now it is the cops, not Richard Spencer, that is killing Black people with impunity. All across the country, fracking and other forms of environmental despoliation will be on the rise under Donald Trump. This requires a powerful mass movement to confront, not small-scale skirmishes. We are dealing with frightening confrontations over North Korea that cry out for a new anti-nuclear movement, not stupid, childish window-breaking.

I doubt that anybody involved with window-breaking, fist-fighting idiocy is capable of rising to the occasion but I urge people who have been seduced by their fake militancy in the same way that they got a kick out of the viral Richard Spencer getting punched video to wise up. We are in for some stormy battles and intelligence is needed much more than empty bravado.


  1. Nice analysis, but it’s radically at variance with the facts of what happened in Cville. While we oppose the antics of Black Bloc and their ilk, the thousands of activists, both local and out of town, both antifa (forces that included a broad array of far left organizations including Workets World, ISO and DSA) and not, who courageously took to the streets to confront the racists and their planned Nuremberg Rally merit the full throated solidarity of all progressive people, not a patronizing lecture that seeks to place the onus on front line militants on the basis of how events should have conformed to some idealized version of what happened half a century ago. But this critique could be taken more seriously and not viewed as a political capitulation if it came from those who fought for that perspective as activists involved in the struggle, not from those who mostly didn’t even bother to show up.

    There was an opinion piece in yesterday’s New York Times by a local activist, a UVA professor, who initially had a view similar to Proyect’s, but after seeing first hand what happened, changed his mind stating that it was essential that these reactionaries be confronted and that had that not happened, the far right would have been much more emboldened, fueled by the perceived weakness of the left which could have only been demoralizing to the progressive movement.

    Comment by Tom Cod — August 15, 2017 @ 9:27 pm

  2. Cod, I clearly stated that there were peaceful protestors and the black bloc/antifa types. You clearly didn’t understand what I wrote.

    Comment by louisproyect — August 15, 2017 @ 10:40 pm

  3. “(one apparently wearing a “Fly Emirates” shirt)”

    This is a minor point, but: it’s an Arsenal shirt (see the red badge). Arsenal are a football club in the English Premier League and they’re sponsored by Emirates (IE: money in exchange for advertising). They’re also a pretty big team internationally.

    You’re right about the uselessness of breaking a few windows, but equally I can understand the frustration with very tame demonstrations because that also doesn’t really work. There were huge demonstrations against the invasion of Iraq and against so-called ‘austerity’ but the government just ignored them and went ahead regardless. They really need to be part of a broader strategy including electoral politics, industrial action, etc. A demonstration can’t be just a formal display of opposition; it also has to be show of strength. We need militancy AND mass support. One or the other isn’t enough. It has to be both. That probably requires a more confident, cohesive left than we yet have (in the UK or the US) after the defeats and disorientation of recent decades, but I think we are starting to recover.

    Comment by JN — August 15, 2017 @ 11:37 pm

  4. You need to understand why the antiwar demos did not continue after 2003. The coalition was led by people who backed the Democratic Party. They pinned their hopes on electing John Kerry and then Barack Obama in 2008. There was a time when Trotskyists could have kept the movement going but the SWP committed suicide in 1980.

    Comment by louisproyect — August 15, 2017 @ 11:55 pm

  5. And in making an amalgam between Black Bloc and Antifa you are making a serious factual and political error. The only “adventurism” in this episode was that of the neo-fascists in staging this provocation. And as far as the physical clashes go, almost all of them were perpetrated by the rightists, many of them having been armed with guns, including AR-15s, something Cornell West has commented on.

    It’s nice to have massive peaceful legal demos, but that isn’t always possible, particularly in fluid, fast moving situations. In Germany in the 30s, for example, while the resistance to Nazism was mass based, often physical confrontations in the street occurred and none other than Leon Trotsky said that if things came to that, they shouldn’t be shied away from or backed down before as that would only further their momentum and demoralize the opposition, which telling people to “get back” only does.

    The fact that some activists support the democrats or embody this or that political error is a red herring. So what? The fact that certain sectarians never support capitalist parties does not necessarily make them more “left” than people who do, particularly if the former are abstaning from political struggle and the latter aren’t. No, in standing up to these racists, many of whom are proud to self describe themselves as Nazis and fascists and acted that part to the hilt, they did the right and necessary thing, something we should support and emulate and not dis. In fact, it is crucial that we do so with these forces in motion, while seeking to broaden the involvement of more masses in this fight. This is the attitude towards this incident I’ve seen expressed by Kipp, Carol, Geoff and other long time socialist antiwar leaders from the 60s period you allude to, comrades who are not “ultraleft” by any means.

    Comment by Tom Cod — August 15, 2017 @ 11:56 pm

  6. In Germany in the 30s, for example, while the resistance to Nazism was mass based, often physical confrontations in the street occurred and none other than Leon Trotsky said that if things came to that, they shouldn’t be shied away from or backed down before as that would only further their momentum and demoralize the opposition, which telling people to “get back” only does.


    Those confrontations in the Weimar Republic involved members of the Communist Party who also belonged to trade unions, numbering in the millions. Workers voted for actions against the Nazis. This has about as much to do with a hundred or so self-appointed “protectors” as I do with particle physics.

    Comment by louisproyect — August 16, 2017 @ 12:19 am

  7. Lou and I clashed on something like this topic years and years ago and it was because I suppose I have always been something of a closeted adventurist. Still years pass and I agree with the general line that Lou puts forward. I do not doubt for a second Lou’s anti-fascism and I am confident that he does not doubt mine. Having said that my own impressions from here (Brisbane) is that the film of the Confederate statue being pulled down and the demonstrators spitting on the statue and the reports of a woman peeing on Lee’s statue do not make for a good look and that is to put it mildly.

    Had I been there I would have counseled strongly against these particular tactics. But of course I am ensconced Down Under and even if I had been in the USA, there would have been no opportunity for me to contribute my opinion on tactics, which I take to be Lou’s principal point




    Comment by Gary MacLennan — August 16, 2017 @ 12:39 am

  8. “a hundred or so protectors” You have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about in relation to what happened in Cville. Where’d you get that bullshit from, Fox News?

    Comment by Tom Cod — August 16, 2017 @ 12:48 am

  9. Who knows how many antifa people there were exactly? The point is that trying to shut down fascist rallies through violence is an ADVENTURE.

    Comment by louisproyect — August 16, 2017 @ 1:08 am

  10. Yeah but, that’s not what happened. This was an attempt to confront-and yes shut down-this fascist rally through mass action. Turn on your tv (not to Fox). James P. Cannon and Farrell Dobbs did the same with less people mobilized in regards to Gerald LK Smith in the 30s. But the main thing to keep in mind it was the fascist militias who initiated the violence. Look at the car attack.

    Comment by Tom Cod — August 16, 2017 @ 2:04 am

  11. James P. Cannon and Farrell Dobbs did the same with less people mobilized in regards to Gerald LK Smith in the 30s.

    Why do you make things up? Don’t you realize I was in the SWP for 11 years and am deeply familiar with the party’s history? There was no attempt to physically confront Smith. The SWP was for mass picketing:


    Comment by louisproyect — August 16, 2017 @ 2:45 am

  12. OK, a version I heard from an old timer when I was in the party was that one of these events culminated with hundreds of people charging into the hall and busting up their meeting. I’ll check the FSP’s pamphlet on this by Murray Weiss to see what it is says, in addition to any SWP pamphlet from the 70s and I knew a couple of old CPers who arrested in such episodes during that period as well. But mass action is key as the basis for any such action for sure which exactly what occurred in Cville.


    Comment by Tom Cod — August 16, 2017 @ 4:23 am

  13. On February 20, 1939 a mass protest of 50,000 people was held against a German American Bund rally at Madison Square Garden organized by a united front, including the SWP. A concerted effort was made to break in to disrupt the meeting but a cordon of cops fought them off.

    Comment by Tom Cod — August 16, 2017 @ 4:40 am

  14. I’ve been observing this from some distance. I think you missed a couple of facts that might make your case against these “tactics” much stronger. I encourage you to edit them into your article.

    “One group of counter-protesters circled a group of 10-15 men and women who identified themselves as local militiamen and all wore camouflage clothing in a downtown parking lot.

    As a few of the militiamen, some carrying rifles and two wearing President Trump’s signature “Make American Great Again” hats, got into a grey Lexus SUV, counter-protesters circled and shouted at them to renounce the KKK and get out of town.

    As their SUV pulled out, counter-protesters chased it down, throwing rocks bottles, and a shoe, attempting to smash its windows. ”


    “While capturing the immediate aftermath of the attack, where she stood only several feet away, Smith approached Lorenz, punched her in the face, and shouted “Stop the f**king recording!” The shirtless counter-protestor can be seen walking into the shot just seconds before the phone was knocked out of her hand.

    Along with Fields Jr. and Smith, 21-year-old Troy Dunigan was arrested for disorderly conduct and 44-year-old James O’Brein was charged with carrying a concealed hand gun.”


    Pelting an SUV full of heavily armed fascists is the definition of suicidal insanity. I suppose if these militia people opened fire, there would still be no internal criticism of this kind of adventurism from within antifa. Fascists are bad, we are good, and that’s all we need to know and if you criticize us you’re cop with a soft-spot for fascists — this is how these guys approach the issue of strategy and tactics. Nothing about building mass movements or educating the public: just get the few bad guys. These men in black have also made chaotic brawls the norm at all events resulting in stuff like random people getting punched for no reason. Finally, we now have socialist militia like Redneck Revolt showing up with semi-automatics at these rallies. From what I’ve read, RR has been behaving in an exemplary fashion at all events: they are well-trained trained in both de-escalation and weapons, and they hold down territory instead of wading into the thick of things. But when you have *both* black bloc and Nazis creating chaos and both the 3-%’s and Redneck revolt patrolling the area with semi’s, this is a mass shooting waiting to happen. I guess this is what they call “diversity of tactics”. Repeat this often enough and you’re going to have a massacre. If the protests were much more disciplined, then RR would probably be totally OK. But people want to militarize these events without giving up adventurism and anarchy in their ranks, and they won’t brook any criticism. Nobody is in charge and they do what they want.

    I very much enjoy seeing individual fascists getting punched, maced or getting beat senseless in the dead of night. Admittedly, there is value in making them “unwelcome.” In places like Russia, where Nazi gangs killed people with impunity for many years, this was an absolute necessity. However, by virtue of repetition — and of the stupidity of those involved — this tactic of “bashing the fash” has been elevated to the status of supreme virtue regardless of circumstances. And now, bizarrely, it’s being portrayed as a form of militant self-defense, justifying even further escalation in the form of bringing guns – including by people with probably zero training or personal responsibility – to largely peaceful protests. All the while the black bloc shouts fuck the police, while counting on them to intervene if Nazis attack. This kind of “self-defence” is more of a recipe for physical and political suicide. I guess if your strategy is to create martyrs, this might work, but only for so long. People realize that your tactics actually create dangerous situations where bystanders are likely to get hurt. The fascists have just killed a young woman, proving that they are bad, proving that we need to ramp up these adventurist tactics. It is hard blame any protesters for her death, because there is no indication that the murderer was himself attacked. But at this rate it’s only a matter of time before the stupidity of some “antifa” and the black bloc morons will *directly* result in someone’s death. Turns my stomach just to think about it.

    Comment by max — August 16, 2017 @ 5:09 am

  15. Surely those actions you describe are reckless and should be rectified, internally or otherwise, mostly the former; but the danger is that by focusing excessively on this as if it was a main aspect of this protest, when it wasn’t, plays into the hands of the narrative of Trump and his ilk about the “alt left” and both sides being responsible etc. What guns did the crowd the guy ran the car into have? none. One would have to be politically tone deaf to not see that, but sadly I remember exactly that attitude coming from a certain quarter in the wake of the Chicago 1968 protests which I personally witnessed as a high school student. It actually was a police riot, but try telling that to certain know it alls who weren’t even there, but fortunately Walter Cronkite and most people in society got it right. Similarly now, the consensus, a correct one, that has developed is that this was a fascist riot that victimized mostly peaceful protestors. History and political struggle is rarely clean and can get complicated, even in workplace union fights.

    So as Lenin pointed out, those waiting for a perfect revolution, will never live to see one. So yeah, we need to dial back certain irresponsible elements, but in order to do we have to be actually involved in the struggle, not insolently carping from the sidelines. Harping on this publicly in the heat of battle is demoralizing and inappropriate and is simply straight up wrong in describing what occurred during a peaceful protests called by a coalition of local forces in what has become an historic episode that has heightened the crisis of the Trump regime. But now Trump and Fox are talking about “Antifa/BLM” (Black Lives Matter). Surely that’s not where you guys are going with this? Why I am not sensing the moral outrage about the fascists instead of all this hype and atrocity mongering about Antifa, who again appear to be conflated with God know whom? If I’m wrong I apologize, but we need to stand with and uphold the people of Charlottesville and their struggle.

    Comment by Tom Cod — August 16, 2017 @ 6:16 am

  16. I am simply too far from the US, so I have to observe it from the sidelines. But my impression, from online forums and friends who are currently active, is that a large fraction of those involved in protests will not hear any criticism of this at all. Diversity of tactics is the rule, nobody tells us what to do, criticism is treason. That’s the fucking attitude. When discussing exactly how to oppose fascists and Trump, it’s beside the point to harp on about how they are baddies. Yes they are, but moral outrage does nothing to elucidate the tactics. Beating up Nazis is not fundamentally a moral question. Yes, revolutions are messy. But this was not a revolution, nor was it a mass riot: this was a relatively small-scale protest. There is ABSOLUTELY no reason why organizers cannot or should not control such events. Unfortunately “diversity of tactics” is now gospel, so it is basically forbidden to tell anyone what to do or hold them accountable for mistakes.

    You also say that this is now being seen as a fascist riot by the public. Reading the press, I am not seeing this at all. I am seeing this portrayed — correctly — as a fascist murder (well, some papers do use various bizarre euphemisms) in the midst of “clashes”. I have heard nobody portray this as a fascist riot, because it simply wasn’t that. While those more sympathetic might share your own version of events — it does not coincide with how the broader public sees them or with the facts. And it SHOULD. What’s happening is that some activists are creating a version inside their own bubble, without bothering to propagate it to those outside.

    Comment by max — August 16, 2017 @ 6:54 am

  17. I speak as a person who’s faced and been beaten by fascist mobs; in our Iranian context, the goons were allied with the religious theocratic reactionaries; our equivalents of European-based fascism. I can go into the sociology of it, but it’s not necessary. We have our own fascists, you have yours. But, they behave pretty much using the same basic methods, and even use some of the same tools (Nunchuks, brass knuckles, knives). So …

    My experience is the Iranian revolution (a historical process spanning 1977-1982) and the ultimate victory of the counter-revolution, most of whose victories were won on the streets in mass rallies on both sides, with the ultimate crushing of the revolution by the theocratically-allied forces, one rally and demonstration at a time.

    The fact that fascist forces must be confronted is correct. Trotsky was absolutely right in stating that not confronting fascists is to encourage and embolden them, it is to energize their forces, and to bring aloofness to our own ranks. The key, however, is to confront them *massively* and militantly at the same time.

    But, the political point of any such confrontation must always be coupled with a demand that progresses the struggle forward, not just be a ‘holding our lines’ type of move. There is no ‘line’ to hold; their side has been winning for the last fifty years. Their offensive must be met with a POLITICAL counter-offensive, not just with street fights. A political counter-offensive, as Louis points out, is building a MASS movement. They really are the few. We really are the many. But, we have to organize ‘our’ many.

    If we cannot do it on a mass basis and if we don’t have a positive demand that we put on the state at the same time, ON A MASS SCALE, then we are fighting an ultimately losing battle on the streets as well. The forces that fund, train and organize these fascist type groups and their supporters have way too much money and power and logistical and organizational edge on us, and at this point, we’d just be walking into a trap most of the time.

    How? Very simple: The ‘radicals’ among us keep screaming, “Fuck the police, Fuck the fascist goons!!”, so the police will do nothing and stand back and watch when the fascist goons start beating up on us, including on all the peaceful protestors who didn’t come looking for a physical fight, and we are left to fend for ourselves against trained street fighters with our pleas of, “Please remain peaceful; Please!”

    Comment by Reza — August 16, 2017 @ 9:39 am

  18. This is an insane discussion with no good answers. The situation is the product of centuries of terrible national leadership, a leadership protected by huge numbers of duped people.
    I myself was delighted when the statue of Robert E. Lee was toppled in North Carolina recently. But maybe the event will backfire and make the neo-alt right in the USA even stronger.
    In this situation it is hard to know if some bad answers (tactics, strategies) are even worse than others. As far as I can tell it is all guess work.

    Comment by Curt Kastens — August 16, 2017 @ 9:41 am

  19. I just noticed that my comment and Reza’s comment crossed in the mail. What Reza said sounds inspiring. The thing is the left obviously does not now have a mass movement in the US.
    To build one is next to impossible because masses of people need to be deprogrammed. Generally to deprogram people from cult indoctrinations which is what needs to be done in the US on a mass scale, the indoctrinated people need to be kidnapped and recieve intensive psycological treatment for quite an extended period. All of their interlocking thinking mechanisms need to be broken down. It does no good to expalin the truth to people when the forces of falsehood and exploitation can reprogram them on an hourly basis. The left will never get a head in the game. That is why I never supported the idea of a mass revolution or even voting. But my idea of an elitist revolution led by a left wing military coup such as happened in Portugal in 1974 did not work either. The phrase that I heard somewhere before, you can not win, you can not break even, you can not get out of the game seems to best describe the situation that the USA and the world finds itself right now. So if you are going to loose why not just do what is emotionally appealing like pull down a statue of Robert E. Lee or build a statue to Henery Bingenheimer.

    Comment by Curt Kastens — August 16, 2017 @ 10:02 am

  20. Pelting an SUV full of heavily armed fascists is the definition of suicidal insanity.

    It remains to be seen whether “fa” will be strengthened as a result of recent developments, including “antifa.” IMHO, at present, there is little likelihood of bringing back the confederate memorials that were taken down. Surprisingly, they continue to be removed, as do the “fas.” This is a defeat for them.

    This raises an interesting point. In fact, the “fas” lost in Charlottesville, and yet most commentators seem to be impressed with their strength and convinced that Charlottsville has made them “even stronger.”

    As I read the comment I quoted above, the “heavily armed fascists” in the SUV just kept on going. They didn’t kill anyone So how is this “suicidal?” Are these Nazis supermen? Very likely the lone terrorist who drove his car into the crowd would have done so in any case. Was that a measure of strength or rather a sign of utter desperation?

    I agree that “black bloc” and nunchuk confrontationalism on the left are childish and irresponsible, to say the least. Witness the abject stupidity of the Black Blocsters who inserted themselves into a police “kettle” the day before the Women’s March in DC and then proceeded to set fires and break window, experiencing petty-bourgeois pseudopoetic raptures about bodies melting into bodies, etc., the whole time.

    What futility. These tactics are very dangerous, and appeal to sheltered children who, not being used to danger, find it sexy. But for Christ’s sake–and I say this as a card-carrying Nervous Nellie who packs no more punch than a parakeet–let’s not be swept away by fear merely because the nazi no-hopers have managed to put on a bloody show that, for them, has backfired badly.

    One of the best reasons for staying away from the “antifa” bullshit is that the Nazis have dealt themselves a severe, though not fatal, blow in Charlottesville. For gods sake, let’s not fuck up their fuckup.

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — August 16, 2017 @ 10:36 am

  21. […] Antifa and the perils of adventurism […]

    Pingback by As Trump’s Crassness Reaches New Heights Antifa in the Spotlight. | Tendance Coatesy — August 16, 2017 @ 11:05 am

  22. Let’s look at the numbers objectively. By that, I mean dollars. When violent counter-protest occurs, the hate groups win. I don’t mean that in a moralistic sense, nor in the sense that it gives them a public relations tool for recruitment, although both are true. I refer to financial gain. Violent action is legally actionable, regardless of the non-violent impetus. It is a fundraising technique that has recently been exploited by the Phelps Family Tax Dodge and Law Firm (or, as they are actually known, the Westboro Baptist Church), but it has its roots in such events as happened in Skokie, Illinois years ago.

    The technique is applied thusly: A hate group stirs up ill will with their rhetoric, which (vile as it is) is protected by the 1st Amendment. When their words and gestures spur onlookers to violent acts, they promptly call in the ACLU and lawyer up, then sue and collect. The hate monger, newly enriched, then has more resources to devote to their cause.
    In short, violent counter-protests create rich Nazis.

    Comment by G — August 16, 2017 @ 12:21 pm

  23. “The ‘radicals’ among us keep screaming, “Fuck the police, Fuck the fascist goons!!”, so the police will do nothing and stand back and watch when the fascist goons start beating up on us, including on all the peaceful protestors who didn’t come looking for a physical fight, and we are left to fend for ourselves against trained street fighters with our pleas of, “Please remain peaceful; Please!””

    The police allow fascist goons to attack leftists and people of color because are they sympathetic to them. Of course, that’s when the police aren’t joining them. One need only follow protests on social media over the last 5 years to understand that the conduct of protesters have very little to do with it. Hopefully, we aren’t going down the road of considering the police one of our working class allies. The response to Occupy and Black Lives Matter has exposed the absurdity of that notion.

    Comment by Richard Estes — August 16, 2017 @ 12:58 pm

  24. Jesus Christ, Lou, have you no sense of shame or dignity? These “adventurists” saved people’s lives in Charlottesville. You really should go back to writing on chalkboards and heckling people.

    Comment by Louis Theodore — August 16, 2017 @ 1:43 pm

  25. I liked this article on the Atlantic.

    I wonder is someone who was involved with OWS could redirect its former members to pulling down more confederate monuments? I doubt it. But it would have been fun.

    Comment by Curt Kastens — August 16, 2017 @ 1:52 pm

  26. These “adventurists” saved people’s lives in Charlottesville.

    I know. They also inspired judges to block Muslim bans and motivated government officials to leak information to the press. How do I know? Because they said so.

    Comment by louisproyect — August 16, 2017 @ 2:05 pm

  27. Louis, you fucking renegade…Why the fuck are you accusing clergy of lying? Seriously, people are gonna remember this, you wrecker.

    Comment by Louis Theodore — August 16, 2017 @ 2:22 pm

  28. re: Estes

    “The police allow fascist goons to attack leftists and people of color because are they sympathetic to them.”

    That’s clearly a caricature. The police attack leftists because they are ones protesting against authority in general and the police in particular. And our side engages in black bloc tactics and bash the fash tactics, the police get every excuse to meet them with force. Today, the Left — thank God — usually plays offence against the far-right. When the roles are reversed, the police do obviously look at far-right violence through one eye, though it is just one eye (they don’t ignore it totally): http://www.salon.com/2017/04/18/pro-trump-rioters-got-away-with-beating-anti-fascists-in-berkeley-and-they-likely-wont-stop-there/

    The mistake is thinking that all of this makes the current “diversity of tactics” mix in any way appropriate. It clearly doesn’t.

    The kindly police would come as a surprise to Richard Spencer, who cried repeatedly about police “harassment” of his Nazi rally and was photographed with his face pinned to the ground by cops. However, when militia people stage their armed standoffs, police will often kill them. Incidentally the militia, together with bar room tactics, are now seen as something “we should be doing” to “protect ourselves against those who will to kill us”, including the police. Furthermore, it is postulated that police and Nazis will kill/jail you no matter what, so you might as well fight them by “any means necessary (actually totally unnecessary)”. The level of self-deception required to think all this crap is frankly beyond my comprehension. And I say that after having admitted at the very start that there absolutely are times and places for beating the crap out of Nazis. But you have to keep a clear head when you go down that route.

    Comment by max — August 16, 2017 @ 2:39 pm

  29. Louis: are there any cases in history of radicals organizing and infiltrating the police? Seems like something to explore as a long-term objective.

    Comment by max — August 16, 2017 @ 2:45 pm

  30. edit: I know things like this were done in Europe in the first half of this century, at the height of working class militancy, and it was extremely effective. But something closer to home would obviously be more instructive.

    Comment by max — August 16, 2017 @ 2:47 pm

  31. When violent counter-protest occurs, the hate groups win.

    I think this is a gross oversimplification requiring, IMHO, much more evidence and a modicum of actual analysis. By my tally, “the hate groups” did not “win” in Charlottesville, although there was a certain amount of violent counter-protest.

    What actual evidence do you have that “the hate groups” won in Charlottesville? Is this merely a familiar rhetorical pattern that you (like many) find comforting?

    Although the dumbed-down American mentality is geared to accept this, IMHO there is no future for the authentic Left in the kind of liberal handwringing that–confronted with ugly reality–seeks refuge in bloodless, personified abstractions (“hate” vs. “love,” “violence” vs. “non-violence”) and tries to conduct itself with maximized Sunday-School piety on that basis. This is at best, in my opinion, the ideology of useful idiots and Democrats.

    The right has been completely unmasked as a nest of terrorists and murderers. I mean the entire right, including neoconservatives, neoliberals, and (God help us) “the intelligent conservatives” like Harvey Mansfield or Daniel Pipes, so dearly beloved of the Harvard “liberal” crypto-McCarthyites since 1970.

    All conservative ideologies without exception–and whether they are neoliberal, neoconservative, aristocratic, protestant, christian,. or fascist in origin–converge on the defense of social inequality through lethal violence. If they do not promote this, they knowingly tolerate it. That’s the lesson of contemporary fascism.

    The picture is crystal clear. We mustn’t muddle it like the Black Bloc assholes.

    That is not the same thing as there being some fundamental moral test requiring a choice between violence and non-violence, which radicals must pass before being allowed to act.

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — August 16, 2017 @ 2:52 pm

  32. Wow, what a terribly misguided and stupid article – totally missing the threat our country faces. Just goes to show: you can’t trust a liberal they will always betray radicals. Even Mitt Romney isn’t as craven as this author. https://twitter.com/mittromney/status/897612532386607104

    Comment by Spencer Thayer — August 16, 2017 @ 3:08 pm

  33. “That’s clearly a caricature. The police attack leftists because they are ones protesting against authority in general and the police in particular. And our side engages in black bloc tactics and bash the fash tactics, the police get every excuse to meet them with force. Today, the Left — thank God — usually plays offence against the far-right. When the roles are reversed, the police do obviously look at far-right violence through one eye, though it is just one eye (they don’t ignore it totally): http://www.salon.com/2017/04/18/pro-trump-rioters-got-away-with-beating-anti-fascists-in-berkeley-and-they-likely-wont-stop-there/

    The mistake is thinking that all of this makes the current “diversity of tactics” mix in any way appropriate. It clearly doesn’t.

    The kindly police would come as a surprise to Richard Spencer, who cried repeatedly about police “harassment” of his Nazi rally and was photographed with his face pinned to the ground by cops. However, when militia people stage their armed standoffs, police will often kill them. Incidentally the militia, together with bar room tactics, are now seen as something “we should be doing” to “protect ourselves against those who will to kill us”, including the police.”

    Yes, if we just be nice during the police, avoid violence, speak politely to them, as argued Reza, then we will be able to protest without fear and transform society.

    Of course, it’s a fantasy. Protesters have been arrested and injured many times in the last 5 years when they weren’t doing anything, with antifa nowhere to be seen. White supremacy is a major problem within law enforcement, with cops often parroting racist attitudes about Black Lives Matter. The FBI issued a warning about it in 2015.


    “Several key events preceded the report. A federal court found that members of a Los Angeles sheriffs department formed a Neo Nazi gang and habitually terrorized the black community. Later, the Chicago police department fired Jon Burge, a detective with reputed ties to the Ku Klux Klan, after discovering he tortured over 100 black male suspects. Thereafter, the Mayor of Cleveland discovered that many of the city police locker rooms were infested with “White Power” graffiti. Years later, a Texas sheriff department discovered that two of its deputies were recruiters for the Klan.

    In near prophetic fashion, after the FBI’s warning, white supremacy extremism in the U.S. increased, exponentially. From 2008 to 2014, the number of white supremacist groups, reportedly, grew from 149 to nearly a thousand, with no apparent abatement in their infiltration of law enforcement.

    This year, alone, at least seven San Francisco law enforcement officers were suspended after an investigation revealed they exchanged numerous “White Power” communications laden with remarks about “lynching African-Americans and burning crosses.” Three reputed Klan members that served as correction officers were arrested for conspiring to murder a black inmate. At least four Fort Lauderdale police officers were fired after an investigation found that the officers fantasized about killing black suspects.”

    Oddly enough, these same police keep killing unarmed black people in large numbers.

    If leftists like you want to treat white supremacy within law enforcement as a “caricature”, go ahead and keep focusing upon antifa instead. I’ll be out working with other people who have a different perspective as to where the problem lies, and what’s necessary to overcome the abuses of capitalism. I’m not associating with any social movement that doesn’t acknowledge how the police are instruments of white supremacy and considers them class allies.

    Comment by Richard Estes — August 16, 2017 @ 3:26 pm

  34. “Louis: are there any cases in history of radicals organizing and infiltrating the police? Seems like something to explore as a long-term objective.”

    I do know that there are plenty of instances of the police infiltrating radical social movements. Probably among the ones trying to persuade the other participants that rank and file cops are working class allies.

    Comment by Richard Estes — August 16, 2017 @ 3:37 pm

  35. “if leftists like you want to treat white supremacy within law enforcement as a “caricature”, go ahead and keep focusing upon antifa instead.”

    Ok, maybe I put words in your mouth. The caricature is that police act this way literally always, uniformly and regardless of the tactics protesters adopt. This is all that anyone here is saying. If it were literally true, then POC and the left should be waging armed struggle against police, because if you don’t kill them they’ll kill you. That’s the logical corollary of this caricature.

    Comment by max — August 16, 2017 @ 4:26 pm

  36. Thanks for this, Louis. The victims of the car attack in Charlottesville were brave DSA, ISO and IWW members and fellow travelers marching nonviolently. Getting the credit for defending a few clergy when these people died at the same event is nothing to brag about and is self-evidently a failing tactic. We should oppose fascism, but do it better and at mass scale. It’s no fault of black bloc that they’re one of the small groups to show up. Unfortunately, regular people are not politically active or organized. One would hope they will be convinced when they participate in mass marches that come out to oppose racist fascists by people who show up because they want to voice their opposition and not participate in adventurism. But as Louis has shown, even in those scenarios of mass protest they tend to “fuck shit up”. Autonomism means never having to say you’re sorry. The black bloc should be exposed and convinced to be better, as you’ve done so here.

    Comment by Aaron — August 16, 2017 @ 4:32 pm

  37. “Yes, if we just be nice during the police, avoid violence, speak politely to them, as argued Reza, then we will be able to protest without fear and transform society.”

    Richard, I was not arguing anything along those lines, and I did not mean to imply that the police is, or should be, on our side. I have no illusions about that. If any such thing was implied, my bad for not writing clearly (it was way past midnight when I was writing).

    My point was simply that, IF we believe that the fascists are a major threat to us, and if we are to confront fascist mobs, we can only do so effectively by a *mass movement* that has its own political goals, and along the way, if fascist mobs decide to present a threat, we can deal with them. NOT by hiding behind the police, or by being polite to the police, but by our sheer size and ability to organize and mobilize.

    My point was that, lacking such strength, it is a folly to *seek* physical confrontation with a group of well trained and well heeled people, who, as Farans is pointing out, is harming itself anyway.

    Comment by Reza — August 16, 2017 @ 4:49 pm

  38. I support what Reza says, although you have to question how “well-trained” these people actually are. The core fascists in Italy and Germany back in the day were war veterans and veterans of generally tough environments and were indeed both well trained and very well used to the kind of violence that went on in their seizure of power. They were really very hard–as were their communist adversaries. The Iranian equivalents are also, one suspects, a hardened lot.

    In the U.S.A., I suspect, manyof these people are only wannabes who don’t have that much more toughness background than their left-wing would-be antagonists. For every Timothy McVeigh, I suspect, there are a dozen non-veterans who ain’t all that, and many who got their service stripes talking trash in beer joints and shooting ranges.

    This isn’t a reason to get cocky, but I wouldn’t just assume that all these characters know what they’re doing in a street fight. Richard Spencer, for christ’s sake, is a pudgy U. Va English major (High Distinction no less–what a pompous fucking shithole that department is) with no military experience at all.

    Please note: It takes very little to get the best of yours truly in a fight, but not everyone is as off-balance, nearsighted, and badly coordinated as I have always been. I plead the lingering mild effects of polio as well as a congenital inability, based on bad eyesight, to react speedily to objects (baseballs, fists) flying into my face. Being 69 years old also has some bearing.

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — August 16, 2017 @ 5:12 pm

  39. re reza & farans

    yeah these dipshits are “well-trained” in shitposting and not much else. The American far-right is kind of a joke to be honest, though of course that does not prevent from killing people because they are nuts. The militia hhas some training —
    by no means of uniform quality as Shane Bauer has documented— and weapons, but they are only a small contingent. They recently manhandled some Nazi meme artist, which was satisfying to watch.

    Comment by max — August 16, 2017 @ 5:22 pm

  40. I did not pay any attention to the election results last november so I learned just a few hours ago that 2/3s of white men in the USA that voted voted for Trump. It that was the average then in some states it must have been as low as around 45% but in other states as high as 85%. It would not be hard to conclude that states in the deep south and the empty west would have been those where he would have had 85% white male support.
    How can any progressive non governmental organization or movement create a mass movement against exploitation in such a pro trump environment? The white males there are simply caught in a karmic cycle that they can not break free from because everyone around them suffers from the same delusions. In such an environment insanity is normal. I would bet that there will not be change in those regions until the Mahdi returns to earth.

    Comment by Curt Kastens — August 16, 2017 @ 7:21 pm

  41. Corollary to Farans’s point about the fascists shooting themselves in the foot is a piece on CNN about Hip-hop artists expressing their take on Trump’s reactions:
    (see: http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/16/politics/hip-hop-donald-trump-white-supremacy/index.html)

    “‘I’d rather an ugly truth than a beautiful lie,’ rapper and activist David Banner tweeted.”

    “”This may be the best thing to ever happen to black people, maybe in history, because now there is no excuse. I think the veil of America has been ripped off. The fake mask has been ripped off.””

    “”Why do you wish someone else was in office? Is it so the snake can go back into the grass? No let it show its head so we can deal with it,” Banner tweeted in response to the outrage, which rocked social media.”

    Comment by Reza — August 16, 2017 @ 9:32 pm

  42. Folks should recall the lessons of the 1979 Greensboro Massacre when it comes to Leftist confrontations with the Klan: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greensboro_massacre

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — August 17, 2017 @ 12:28 am

  43. Perhaps, antifa in Charlottesville are being painted with too broad a brush. Clergy had an interesting experience with them:

    Cornel West says that antifa and anarchist intervention saved his life and the lives of others in the church surrounded by the neo-Nazis on Friday evening:

    And, then, there are these accounts, Rev. Seth Wispelwey says that antifa saved his life twice:


    Comment by Richard Estes — August 17, 2017 @ 5:36 am

  44. re #42
    The lesson of Greensboro is that calling a protest using the slogan “Death to the Klan” isn’t a very good idea unless you’re in a position to back it up.

    However, any adventurism on the part of the Maoist group concerned, can in no way can excuse the 5 murders committed by the Klan.
    Even though the killings were recorded on video no one was ever convicted.

    There are also still major questions about the role of the FBI in this incident.

    Comment by prianikoff — August 17, 2017 @ 10:50 am

  45. Richard, this statement by Cornel West has gone viral but it is poorly understood. He was not referring to Friday night when the fascists marched past St. Paul’s Church but the next day (as the quote indicates) when he and other clerics locked arms to prevent the fascists from entering the park. In my view, this was a mistake. These are violent people who don’t respect the clergy. The KKK killed a Unitarian priest on the streets of Selma who was supporting MLK Jr. in 1965 after all. Passive resistance has its place but like any other tactic, it has to be thought through carefully. Furthermore, the idea that these people would have been “crushed like cockroaches” in broad daylight while the cops were looking on is patently absurd. The fascists were mainly interested in duking it out with the antifa, not killing a bunch of priests who they clearly could have pushed out of the way. To put it bluntly, Cornel West is a self-dramatizing sort who has an affinity for ultraleftists as his questionable appearance with Bob Avakian might indicate.

    Comment by louisproyect — August 17, 2017 @ 12:16 pm

  46. max:

    Thanks for your friendly comment. I don’t, however, think the far right are entirely negligible, a bunch of pussies, or “only skilled at shitposting.” Why exaggerate? Leave that to Steve Bannon. I just don’t think we should see them as invincible supermen or necessarily the hardened brawlers and murderers you would have found in Germany in the ‘twenties and ‘thirties or in Iran more recently, and perhaps now in Greece. For that matter, I don’t think flabby little Richard Spencer is as hard as the Klan would have been thirty years ago.

    IMHO, we really have to try hard to think and see things as they are in what remains a situation that should to some degree frighten any thinking person.

    In aid of that, we can take a degree of comfort in the fact that Charlottesville doesn’t seem to have done these bastards any good, with or without the antifa exhibitionism. I rate it as a defeat for the fas, though not a final one.

    We’re all against fascism–and should have a healthy fear of what it can do–but is antifascism the whole duty of the Left? Letting that become the case, let alone in the adventurist mode of the self-denominated “antifas,” could be very costly. Ironically, it’s this kind of manichean thinking that’s led to the current wave of leftwing Putinolatry, which is one of the most dangerous sources of support for fascism currently.

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — August 17, 2017 @ 12:19 pm

  47. The mass movement against the Vietnam war was successful, in the final analysis, because of the political caliber and fighting resolve of the NLF. This is something most of the left never understood, which is why many of them have been rolling that rock up the hill for the past 40 years and why that rock has been rolling back down on them. You cannot build a movement that reaches deep into every town and city when the people that would end up in power if such a movement were successful are Baathist and Baathist remnants like ISIS, or sweethearts like Assad.

    Comment by Dave — August 17, 2017 @ 6:22 pm

  48. Dave–If most of the left never understood the “political caliber and fighting resolve of the NLF,” how was it that–according to you–said pc&fr enabled the vietnam antiwar mass movement to “reach deep into every town and city” in the USA whereas the Assadist/Putinite fake anti-imperialist/antiwar coalition can’t? Since neither movement understood or understands the nature of the enemy “we” are/were supposedly fighting, how could the domestic achievement of either movement be affected more by the qualities of the NFL than by those of the Assadists?

    The pc&fr of the NLF enabled them to win the war, but that doesn’t explain the superior reach of the Vietnam antiwar movement as vs. its latter-day pale imitation inside the U.S., where presumably (if you are right) nobody got the quality of the NLF.

    Surely the draft and was the big catalyst and equalizer in the Vietnam experience domestically. The other factor, of course, is that (Putinolaters to the contrary notwithstanding) the U.S. isn’t waging all-out war against Assad, and were definitely doing so against the NLF. Nobody in the U.S. really knows what the fuck is going on in Syria or anywhere else, including Iraq and Afghanistan–hence all the conspiracy theories.

    It’s worth noting that nobody on the right (as far as I know) seems to support a renewal of universal conscription. They know it would be political suicide. Turning their backs on the permanent draft, which at one time was sacrosanct to them, was one of the cleverest moves the right has made in recent decades. If they go back on that, IMHO, all hell will break loose.

    Not sure what this has to do with fa and antifa, but just saying. The non-feasibility politically of mobilizing the U.S. population at large militarily, however, is perhaps one of the biggest obstacles facing fascism in this country. White men maybe–a majority of the population, never. And where would “our military” be without hispanics and people of color?

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — August 17, 2017 @ 8:07 pm

  49. In ine with the foregoing, what about Blackwater Printz’s wacky idea about turning the war in Afghanistan over to a mercenary contractor and a mercenary “viceroy.” Wow! That’s nuts. I can only say I hope they try it. This should provide some measure of how desperate the fascist right in this country really are.

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — August 17, 2017 @ 8:11 pm

  50. […] I posted an article written by Louis Proyect entitled, “Antifa and the Perils of Adventurism,” on social media and received some limited backlash, but also some interesting reflections. […]

    Pingback by The Fetishization of Violence: Reflections on Charlottesville, WWII and Activism | Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist — August 18, 2017 @ 12:44 pm

  51. Oh wow this thread is still kicking. In case people are still reading …

    @Estes. Having read more about the situation, it dawned on me that this essay by Louis is pretty unfair to Antifa in Charlottesville one the whole. Most of the people who engaged in any kind of voluntarism were most likely not Antifa proper. It’s important to realize that one Antifa is different from the next, and that not everyone who tries to bash the fash is Antifa. The fact that the group and the term is so amorphous is one of its main problems, as is that fact that it operates under “diversity of tactics”.

    You’re always going to have a few individuals doing dumb shit when there is no set of rules for all to follow — but the fact remains that the majority of these “street fighters” were simply holding positions and defending other demonstrators. They seem to have generally known what they were doing.

    Unimpeachably non-violent protesters were holding their positions and were assaulted by heavily armed Nazis, as is well known. Perhaps less well known is that Antifa’s main occupation that day was to coordinate with them and help them hold the line, with some success. Whatever you think of passively blocking a Nazi march, shoring up this action is decidedly not a form adventurism. It was simply something that had to be done. given the choice made by the masses of protesters to hold their positions. And it was probably the right choice: as Louis pointed out (contradicting his own statement in the previous sentence about how it was way too dangerous) it was probably safer than it looked and totally justified. What’s the goal of the protests: to jeer at Nazis as they leisurely march through main street or to limit their room for maneuver? If it’s the former they’ll just keep trekking from town to town without breaking a sweat, will continue to give their speeches etc. And it pretty much WORKED: they could barely move about and eventually the police told them to disperse.

    I guess what ticked me off was the stuff about pelting militia cars and punching a journo. I kind of seized upon those incidents and said: ah classic idiocy! But these incidents are not in the least representative of what most “antifa” fighters were doing that day. It was NOT like Berkeley — Louis was wrong to say that.

    Comment by max — August 18, 2017 @ 4:58 pm

  52. @farans: they point is that the American fascist right — those who actually go the full mile in looking the part — is a total joke organizationally and militarily. Seeing the videos, I realized that their whole fucking tactics were some phalanx shit they saw in 300. What’s are their political parties? The National Policy Institute and the KKK? And they actually LOST on the streets this time, unlike they did when they rampaged through Berkley.

    So they are a joke. The only reason they are animated and emboldened is because of Trump and the rise of figures like Bannon and Milo to mainstream prominenence. That the big pile of shit to which they flock, but they have no political savviness or infrastructure of their own — and neither do their prominent abettors, who have also been laughably incompetent. Half of them are young basement gamers basically. So they are a fascism in embryo, but still very far from the real deal.

    Comment by max — August 18, 2017 @ 5:14 pm

  53. BTW, good piece.

    Comment by Dave — August 18, 2017 @ 5:55 pm

  54. max:

    “Perhaps less well known is that Antifa’s main occupation that day was to coordinate with them and help them hold the line, with some success. Whatever you think of passively blocking a Nazi march, shoring up this action is decidedly not a form adventurism. It was simply something that had to be done. given the choice made by the masses of protesters to hold their positions.”

    There have been instances where antifa, Black Bloc actions have been dangerous and detrimental to the left.

    But I think that the conduct of antifa in Charlottesville is not a good example to confront them about it. There are several accounts that confirm what you say, as well as demonstrating that antifa was in close communication with other activists and coordinated their activities with them. It was not Berkeley.

    Along these lines, there is a tendency to characterize antifa as a uniform group that all engage in the same conduct, when this isn’t true. Groups vary, as is common with people who act based upon non-hierarchical anarchist principles. I’m also seeing accounts that characterize it as predominately young, white and middle class. Perhaps, this was true in Charlottesville, but it reminds me of people who described the Black Bloc during Occupy Oakland this way, despite plenty of evidence, including my personal observations, that it was young and ethically diverse.

    Vincent Emanuele, in the post above, appears to have a good grasp of this. antifa isn’t centralized and vanguardist in regard to its organization and the advocacy of violence, quite the opposite. It is inexperienced, disorganized and naively idealistic about it can accomplish. He correctly observes that this inexperience and disorganization, with its nearly religious reliance upon the power of spontaneity, puts them and everyone else at great risk. His recommendations about how to address it should be given thoughtful consideration.

    Comment by Richard Estes — August 18, 2017 @ 6:50 pm

  55. I agree that the Emanuele piece deserves careful consideration.

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — August 18, 2017 @ 7:35 pm

  56. Excellent article. This is why I keep tabs on your blog!

    Comment by Max Power — August 18, 2017 @ 7:46 pm

  57. […] ho pubblicato su media sociali un articolo di Louis Proyect intitolato “Antifa and the Perils of Adventurism” e ho ricevuto alcune reazioni negative, ma anche alcune riflessioni interessanti. Purtroppo è […]

    Pingback by La feticizzazione della violenza – wikileaksitalia — August 20, 2017 @ 6:04 am

  58. […] the more “ultra-left” elements, either for strategic errors (see, for example, The Unrepentant Marxist) or out some slightly guilty sense of discomfort with the outright thuggery indulged in by certain […]

    Pingback by Which Side Are You On? – NeoPopulism — August 22, 2017 @ 6:05 pm

  59. […] I posted an article written by Louis Proyect entitled, “Antifa and the Perils of Adventurism,” on social media and received some limited backlash, but also some interesting reflections. […]

    Pingback by The Fetishization of Violence: Reflections on Charlottesville, WWII and Activism – Writings by the members of the Chicago Chapter of veterans for peace — September 2, 2017 @ 12:00 pm

  60. […] line we all loved so much back in the day: Peter Camejo on fascism and ultraleftism and Antifa and the Perils of Adventurism, for example, along with his latest Could Punching Nazis Have Prevented Hitler From Taking Power […]

    Pingback by A Last Post on the Antifa (For Now) – NeoPopulism — September 10, 2017 @ 7:57 pm

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