Anyone 50 or older will immediately recognize the names Patty Hearst, William Ayers, and Eldridge Cleaver. I recently read Bryan Burrough’s book “Days of Rage: America’s Radical Underground, the FBI, and the Forgotten Age of Revolutionary Violence.” He recalls the history of America’s violent radical movements of the 1960s and 1970s that featured these individuals, including the Weather Underground Organization (Weathermen), the Black Liberation Army (BLA), the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), etc. It is a fascinating history lesson through storytelling.
The founding document of the Weathermen stated that their primary task was “the destruction of U.S. imperialism and the achievement of a classless world: world communism.” Burrough portrays the Weathermen as largely upper-middleclass Ivy League radicals spearheading Marxism in America.
I also recently read Dartmouth College history professor Mark Bray’s “Antifa: The Antifascist Handbook.” Because Bray was one of the organizers of the Occupy Wall Street movement and is a longtime defender of Antifa, I was intrigued to read his book. He starts with the emergence of anti-fascism in the 1920s and 1930s in Europe and traces its history in the United States through today. His book is greatly helpful in understanding Antifa’s thinking.
Classically, fascism is defined in socio-economic terms. Curiously, the 1919 Fascist Manifesto’s political, social, military, and financial objectives read more like talking points from today’s Democratic Socialists’ platform. However, Bray defines fascism as “a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood.” The Antifa movement adapted “preexisting socialist, anarchist, and communist currents to a sudden need to react to the fascist menace” within Western capitalism.
According to Antifa, you are a fascist if you are a conservative, independent, libertarian, a moderate Democrat, or simply anywhere to the right of Marx. Bray completely disregards the fact that it was the very people he labels fascists (capitalists, classical liberals, and conservatives) who stood up to and defeated the fascist regimes in WW2.
He calls his book “an unabashedly partisan call to arms,” arguing that Antifa in the US is following within the political tradition of stifling fascist speech and beating white supremacists. Bray argues for the Antifa tactic of “no platforming” by using physical violence to deny fascists the opportunity to speak in public. A recent example is when radio commentator Ben Shapiro was cancelled from speaking at Gonzaga University by the threat of Antifa violence. Gonzaga stated that it wasn’t Shapiro’s viewpoint that cancelled the event but rather the fear of the protesters.
I use Shapiro as a clear example of Antifa’s real goal. He is neither a fascist nor a white supremacist. He is a libertarian (capitalist) and practicing Orthodox Jew. But he has been labeled as a fascist because his words are offensive to radical ears.
Looking back at the last two months of our current Days of Rage, little has changed. Marxist radicals and anarchists are still trying to tear down any symbols of the capitalist West, as always happens during a revolution. The Antifa crowd is following the path of the highly educated Weathermen, but Antifa has half their intellect and twice their bloodlust. I expect Antifa bombings are yet to come.
Both groups have the same goal: the violent overthrow of Western capitalism in the name of communism, anarchism, or socialism. I expect a long and violent decade ahead as the savagery of the 60s and 70s escalates within Antifa, especially if Trump wins the 2020 election.