What will we choose?

Donald Trump, in declaring anti-fascists are his enemy, is helping to remind and clarify to Americans what is fascism, who are the fascists, the great enemy an earlier generation of Americans fought and defeated. He has stated it in no uncertain terms.

If you’re opposed to anti-fascists, there is only one other choice. There is no third option. Are you for or against fascism? That is now the main dividing line in American society. It’s a stark contrast with centuries of unresolved conflict being forced to the surface.

If we allow it, the police will become increasingly violent and draconian. Lockdowns and curfews could become the norm. More and more innocent people will be attacked, killed and imprisoned. Eventually, if it continues, ghettos and camps will be created. Maybe we’ll even get to the point where people are simply disappeared.

Humanity is at this crossroads again. In a state of public crisis and moral panic, demagogues are offering the certainty of authoritarianism, the promise of law and order. But it’s also an opportunity to seek a just and fair society, to finally fulfill the dream of a free society, maybe a second American Revolution to complete what the first began.

What will we choose?

* * *

Donald Trump’s “Antifa” Hysteria Is Absurd. But It’s Also Very Dangerous.
by Chip Gibbons

12 thoughts on “What will we choose?

  1. Just because a group of people call themselves ‘anti-fascist’ or “Antifa”, doesn’t mean that they oppose ‘fascism’. From my angle, they appear, primarily, to disrupt things, adding no value to the political process. Classical fascism ‘s main characteristic is a leadership which has dictatorial powers. We are still a democratic republic where people can vote people in and out of office. The constitution is written to limit the power of the executive, that is, the President. Perhaps Antifa’s goal is to force the national and state governments to act in a dictatorial manner by creating chaos which must be subdued by authoritarian means. Labels mean nothing; after all. North Korea, calls itself “The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea .” Does this label make them ‘democratic’? I don’t see us having to make the choice you proffer.

    • I never said they did. I’ve often repeated in this blog that reactionaries can co-opt anything. They have a particular talent in usurping the rhetoric from the political left and wielding it against them, as they did with claiming libertarianism, classical liberalism, and human biodiversity.

      As for ‘antifa’ specifically, there is no organization by that name. Most people who are labeled as antifa are identified as such by others, such as politicians, police and the media. Few people self-identify as antifa. So, it’s hard to even know what it means. That is why I spoke more straightforwardly of anti-fascism. To be anti-fascist is by definition to be against fascism and all forms of authoritarianism. Anyone who is falsely and deceptively promoting authoritarianism by provoking authoritarian backlash is not anti-fascist by definition.

      Keep in mind there are always cynical opportunists, reactionary trolls, outside agitators, and agent provocateurs. Some of these people may identify themselves as antifa or try to manipulate others who are opposed to fascism. There was a white nationalist group posing as antifa with a fake Twitter account:

      We have to be smart, as wise as snakes. The reactionary mind is often brilliant in the ability to co-opt anything and everything. That is a common theme to my social and political commentary. Reactionaries can even co-opt democratic rhetoric and democratic systems, turning them against democracy. I’d argue that is what they’ve already done and why we no longer have a healthy and fully functioning democracy in the United States, particularly not at the national level.

      The choice between fascism and anti-fascism remains the choice we face. Maybe you don’t like those terms. Choose other terms, but the basic choice remains the same. There is no third option. I stand by that position, but of course you are free to disagree. Any genuine anti-fascist wouldn’t seek to silence dissent and debate.

      If you or anyone else is interested, I also posted this on Facebook. To be found there are further clarifications to to what I mean.

    • I’m worried about people accepting the propagandistic framing of ‘antifa’ that gets spread in mainstream media and politics. The same thing happened to a lesser degree in how the label of ‘liberal’ became a slur which caused an entire generation of liberals to stop identifying as liberal. We need to resist this erosion of language to shore up our intellectual defenses.

      Such linguistic confusion is one of the goals of the reactionary agenda in muddying the water. Words lose their meaning and so public debate becomes hard or even impossible. If anti-fascism stops mean being ‘anti-‘ to ‘fascism’, then that is yet one more victory for the fascists. Without clearly and correctly identify anti-fascism, we won’t be to see clearly what is fascism and so won’t be able to organize to fight against it.

    • “I don’t think people understand the significance of the President declaring “Antifa” a “terrorist organization”. The Patriot Act and provisions of the NDAA of 2012 make this frightening. Because Antifa is informal it puts all protestors in danger–like declaring them un-citizens.”
      ~ Brett Weinstein

    • There is a danger here that doesn’t so easily fit into conventional left-right rhetoric. The Nazis gained early strong support from liberals. It’s quite likely the Nazis would never have gained power without the liberals backing them and giving them covering fire. The reason German liberals did this is because they feared left-wingers even more.

      In being manipulated by their own fears, those liberals chose fascism over anti-fascism. They thought fascism could be controlled or that it was only a minor movement. More important to them was law and order, not unlike what was seen with American liberals under the rule of the Clinton Democrats who pushed for racist tough-on-crime laws and mass incarceration. This liberal attraction to authoritarianism remains strong.

      This was an underlying thought I had while writing and rewriting the above commentary, but I decided to leave it for the sake of simplicity. I probably should have included it as it’s so important. Both conservatives and liberals have their reasons in being attracted to law and order, and that attraction is powerfully used by demagogues and autocrats. It is dangerous.

      Many mild-mannered liberals simply want an orderly, peaceful society. In their privilege as economically comfortable whites, they can’t understand what all the public outrage is about. All they can see is that the social order is weak and shaking. This makes them vulnerable to anti-anti-fascist rhetoric.

      In an oppressive society, the victims get portrayed as the enemies. And if Trump is able to legally list ‘antifa’ as terrorists, that vague category will be used to wantonly attack any and all dissenters, in the way the accusation of commie and fellow traveler was used during the McCarthy era.

      We need to learn from history. We’ve been through this before. I hope to hell we don’t repeat it.

  2. I’m glad you elucidated. I haven’t read all that you have written, and haven’t retained everything of yours that I have read. I’m going to ponder this a bit: I want to get above the current politics of everything and try to look at it (that is, the current path of the USA) organically. Back later…

    • Elucidation is part of the game. That was the underlying message. We need to elucidate our terms in general. We need to defend language, to protect meaning. If someone identifies or is identified as ‘antifa’ while taking actions that promote fascism, we should criticize them as strongly as we criticize Trump. It’s not the word itself as a label that matters but what words mean.

  3. There is a guy I personally know. He is a right-wing libertarian from Indiana, an extremely conservative state. Indiana was the site of the national headquarters of the Second Klan and probably had the single greatest concentration of sundown towns in the country. Nowadays, it’s Trump country. White identity politics has powerful sway there, in ways that operate at an unconscious level for most whites.

    I’ve talked with this guy in person on a number of occasions. He is intelligent, well educated, and well meaning. We got talking about libertarianism and apparently I was the first left-wing libertarian he had ever met in his life. He didn’t know someone could be a left-libertarian and asked me how that was possible. Of course, he didn’t know about the fact that libertarianism began as a left-wing group that was part of the European workers’ movement. The better question is how did right-wingers co-opt libertarianism or at least libertarian rhetoric.

    Anyway, this guy is now sort of advocating authoritarianism, maybe because of this false and manipulative Trumpian narrative of ‘antifa’. He said that he’d prefer authoritarianism over anarchism, as if those were the only two choices we are forced to choose from. That is a very anti-libertarian framing of a dogmatic ideological view.

    Apparently, how quickly anti-authoritarians become full-throated authoritarians. To answer his question about how I can be a left-libertarian, that is simple. I’m a libertarian by consistent principle, not by convenient rhetoric. Was he really ever a libertarian or, like many pro-capitalists, did he simply prefer a certain kind of privatized authoritarianism that used libertarian rhetoric but failing that was always open to the option of statist authoritarianism?

    Combine this with many liberals also being drawn into the ‘antifa’ narrative that has for many years been pushed by the corporate media and corporatist politicians. It creates the perfect storm. Trump is provoking problems, but in many ways he is simply an opportunist. Both libertarians and liberals have been moving right for decades. They’ve been softened up for an acceptance of authoritarian measures, as Republicans have done under numerous law-and-order administrations and as Democrats have done since Bill Clinton’s racist crime bill, mass incarceration, etc.

    We are facing a scary moment. This is where lesser evil voting leads us. There is no strong left in the political system, even as the American public has shifted further left and become a suppressed silent majority. The protests erupting now are partly this suppression finally breaking down.

    • I saw some footage of that protest. I left the downtown area before that. I was working that night and they sent us home early because of concern for what might happen.

      As far as I know, according to all footage I’ve seen, the protesters were peaceful. The only harm was some graffiti. The protesters were standing still and, as far as I can tell, were not threatening the police in any way when they were assaulted.

      I’m disappointed in the Iowa City police. I thought they were better than that. If democracy isn’t even respected in a white liberal college town, if the police will even abuse the civil rights of middle class whites, we are in real trouble in this country.

  4. “If we allow it, the police will become increasingly violent and draconian. Lockdowns and curfews could become the norm. More and more innocent people will be attacked, killed and imprisoned. Eventually, if it continues, ghettos and camps will be created. Maybe we’ll even get to the point where people are simply disappeared.”

    I would say people have been “disappeared” for quite some time.

    The effective clearance rate for most big city homicide units is below 50%

    Add in layers of systemic inertia and deliberate corruption and it ends up sounding like Operation Condor or what in Italy in the 80s they called the Years of Lead – when the cops were told take care of business, no questions asked.

    Watching video of the cops beating people my view has changed.

    I was thinking that there are “good cops” – videos of cops speaking out like the Houston chief or cops taking a knee, etc.

    But at this point cops who don’t denounce police violence are complicit.

    They are not “good cops” or good people.

    Watching them attack people is a clear reminder of Nazi Brownshirts and Mussolini Blackshirts – it is fascism 101.

    Use paramilitaries to beat people into submission, create a “crisis” and then “respond” to having burned the Rheichstag down by sending in the army and rounding people up – including the press.

    A few hours ago the 57 cops in the emergency response unit of the Buffalo Police resigned in protest over 2 cops being suspended for assaulting an old man – the video has been on line – showing the cops knocking him down and you can hear his head hit the cement and then see blood pouring from his ear.

    This is the cops acting like a gang and trying to intimidate and blackmail elected offcials.

    In the wider context it’s Trump’s Blueshirts.

    The long history of both dems and conservatives acting as patrons for cop unions has come back to bite everyone in the ass.

    De Blasio’s total capitulation and cowardice is disgusting and dangerous.

    We’re on the brink.

    Heres hoping the tide turns in a better direction.

    • I’m of mixed opinion about police. My view is sort of philosophical, in that the creation of policing seems to be an inevitable result of Jaynesian consciousness. It’s similar to why (hyper-)individualism is inseparable from authoritarianism. And it also relates to why propaganda is most important in a democracy.

      That is to say all of this is expected. It’s not clear what we can do about it. It is built into the kind of society we’ve inherited as part of the post-bicameral legacy. It’s almost irrelevant if the police are ‘good’ or ‘bad’. They are simply humans who are caught up in systems, ideologies, and patterns they don’t understand.

      Still, that leaves the rest of us with the decision about how to respond. The fact of the matter is that the world is filled with sleepwalkers, with the mentally and morally demented, with victims who have become victimizers, with those infected with virulent mind viruses. Our society is a war zone with mass casualties.

      In a sense, none of this is new. It’s simply reaching a greater intensity, a further extreme. The problems are being exacerbated by crisis. And this pushes so many into a reactionary mindset. Then others react to the reactionaries, furthering the reactionary madness. It will hit a breaking point.

      What can we do other than try to avoid the mess? But what about those who have no choice in avoiding it? I’m sure most people would love to be in a situation where they could simply hunker down and hide, where protest wasn’t a desperate act of survival. To be poor, black, or brown is not an easy position to be in. Even for us relatively ‘privileged’, this society is rather shitty.

      All of it feels sadly predictable. We’ve been here before. Just thinking about it tires me. No one exactly wants protest, certainly not mass violence and riot. But no one, other than sociopaths, wants police brutality and authoritarian oppression. It’s not like we are being given an option. We are fucked if we do and fucked if we don’t.

      We will go on stumbling into crisis after crisis, until we find ourselves in the middle of everything going out of control. We know this story. We know how it ends. We are on our way. And that seems to be exactly what some want. The reactionary mind is thrilled by fantasies of violence. Those fantasies, however, turn into realities.

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