Anti-Fascism and Protest Culture

Anti-Fascism and Protest Culture

By Paul Dutton (tamus4ss)

I’ve been quite involved with radical politics for about 4+ years now, fighting for the causes I love – namely against racism, authoritarianism, and collectivism. After I had gathered enough confidence in my own convictions regarding the importance of radical and un-terrified liberalism, I began to heavily involve myself in local organization around those causes. Eventually, much of this activism would culminate in one grand event, the December 6th protests at Texas A&M University of “suit and tie neo-Nazi” Richard Spencer, of which I was a main organizer.

There were a few different main approaches to the December 6th protests: an official TAMU “Aggies United” event, a Silent Protest (which was the main one I publicly organized and supported, for reasons I’ll simply link to here), general areas for people to loudly protest, and finally pre-organized Anti-Fascist (antifa) action. The only thing that I can praise universally for all these approaches was that people showed up, at least. Beyond that, I have some pretty severe reservations on conduct with regards to direct action.

The “Aggies United” event ultimately told me the following – that the university was more interested in protecting their reputation than the students who are the target of Spencer’s rhetoric. Outside of that event, most people who showed up brought signs, their voices, and lots of emotion. This is a totally understandable response, but one that really causes me anxiety. Without a well distributed localized knowledge base regarding the particulars of what exactly is happening, spontaneous events are prone to ordering themselves quite randomly, and in an unfocused manner. As counter-protestors arrived (pro-Spencer), students would flock over like moths to a flame to release their anger . At every moment that emotions could be “cathartically” expelled, the opportunity was grasped. When police arrived, students would flock to their presence out of curiosity or leave in fright – escalating the risk of violent outbreaks.

From what I observed, students were soaking in their new surroundings in which the more radical groups flying black and red and everything in between were a strong sight, and they felt obligated to idolize them for their organized and incredible display against Spencer and his supporters. They then regurgitated those ideas, chants, and general aesthetic as a learning mechanism or to simply virtue signal to others new radical commitments, without serious consideration of those ideas.

If we want people to continue to show up and fight the good fight, we need to understand how we attain and shape mass appeal and discourse. I don’t feel comfortable with the modern antifa movement becoming a seemingly reactionary movement (as they’re already fighting neo-reactionaries). I want individuals to thoroughly investigate what’s happening, and apply that against a firmly grounded system of ethics in order to make decisions.

It seems to me that the best option alongside continuing education efforts en masse is to look at the people who are figureheads in the fight against fascism, and to hold them accountable for bad ideas and practices. By holding antifa responsible for shaping mass discourse we can shape the future and further dialogue on the proper role of force in society both by the State and with regards to antifa action on the ground.

As a final note, anti-communism is as important to me as antifa. The Hammer & Sickle and subsequent “gulag” jokes are deathly, and any anti-individualism is a vast cruelty against autonomy and voluntarily based institutions. The proliferation of such ideology is incredibly dangerous, and its promotion to the casual protest attendee is something that is incredibly troubling. I do not want one State to replace another: a cycle of infinitely reforming bodies that are never radically addressed and hopefully abolished. For these reasons, I must be highly suspicious of antifa.

I encourage the reader to look into prefigurative politics such as agorism and other ways to illuminate a healthier path to victory. Punching random MAGA hat wearers, or causing mass property damage as was done in DC and recently at UC Berkeley is not something that I think is justified, nor useful, though fighting fascism needs to be done. There is a pressing need to look at violence in our society; at the very least, I hope that this piece opens some questions for people who are new and old to protesting, and that it calls to those who feel left out of this war to organize around the things they care about in the name of justice.