“Antifa Isn’t A Hobby Or A Fad”: A Q&A With Mark Bray – Forward Observer

“Antifa Isn’t A Hobby Or A Fad”: A Q&A With Mark Bray

The New Republic published an interview with Mark Bray, Dartmouth professor and the author of Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook.  Most of this we already know and have covered in previous reports, however, this interview is a great look into Antifa from the perspective on an apologist.

Bray describes Antifa as a movement of “collective self-defense,” noting that while members don’t share the exact same ideologies, they are almost certainly radical or revolutionary and they do share some of the same enemies. “[Antifa] is also informed by commonly shared anti-capitalist and revolutionary outlooks. In that way, an anti-fascist is not simply anyone who opposes fascism. Anti-fascism is a specific strand or tendency that opposes fascism from a pan-radical position.”

Antifa is a decentralized movement with varying ideologies.  “It’s not a specific group, it’s a mode of politics, it’s an activity. Anyone can form a group and call themselves that and do the things that they do. There is no central command, although some countries have networks. In the United States, there’s the Torch network which groups about a dozen anti-fascist groups. But they’re all autonomous even within that. So it’s a way of doing politics. It’s also an interpretation of strategy in response to fascism… [A]ntifa is just a collection of radical leftists… It’s just a cross-section of the radical left, especially anarchists and anti-authoritarians, and beyond that it’s hard to draw too many more conclusions.”

Bray says that a majority of Antifa activities are nonviolent.  “Most of what antifa groups do is nonviolent. Most of it has to do with research and monitoring and tracking and making phone calls to venue owners and organizing boycotts against the American Legion that are hosting white power rock events. So the spectacle of confrontation is really usually a last resort, when other methods have failed, to disrupt these groups. It’s a small percentage of what is done… it’s important to understand their activities in a larger political and ethical context.”

Antifa violence is just part of a political struggle.  “So what happens is these confrontations are understood as just individuals committing acts of violence rather than as a political struggle.”

Antifas consider conservative and right wing politics as “an imminent threat”.  “Anti-fascists are also leftists of all stripes who also are union organizers and environmentalists and immigrant rights advocates and so forth. These people do a lot of political work and are very committed, and this isn’t a hobby or a fad that people decided to do on a whim. It is the product of serious political analysis. It’s a reaction to what they perceive to be an imminent threat.”

Antifa opposition to free speech protects the freedom of speech. “Anti-fascists argue that the real enemies of free speech are those who want to murder most of humanity. They don’t see fascism as a difference of opinion that can be argued with, they see it as a political opponent to be organized against. Most anti-fascists don’t see the classically liberal interpretation of speech as an important lens through which to understand the struggle… Another school of thought says more straightforwardly “no free speech for fascists.” The argument is that no right is really ever guaranteed and absolute in a complex society. All rights are mitigated by the degree to which they infringe upon or are limited by other considerations. And so the dangers of organized fascism mitigate the benefits of a free speech absolutism.”

Opposition to Antifa, such as labeling the movement as a domestic terror group, is just political.  “It’s not entirely surprising that the police and federal authorities would respond to this kind of politics in this way… But don’t lump antifascists into the same category with ISIS or Al Qaeda as terrorists. That doesn’t make any sense to me. Certainly some of what antifascists do is illegal. But in a context where the Trump administration is not focusing as much attention on domestic white supremacist extremist terrorism as as it is on radical Islamist terrorism, and is also focused on the left rather than the right, despite the right’s documented recent legacy of killing people, this decision seems very clearly politically motivated to me.”

Antifas dislike the police.  “[Antifa members would] also argue that both historically and presently, the police cannot be counted on consistently to stop fascists. The FBI has has documented white power infiltration into some local law enforcement. Historically the police are sometimes sympathetic to the “law and order” promises of fascism. So anti-fascists don’t trust the police.”

The “alt-left” label is disingenuous.  “The attempt to name [Antifa as] alt-left shines a spotlight away from the alt-right and creates a false political and moral equivalency.”

Bray talks about his approach to writing the book.  “It’s a controversial book about a controversial subject. I wrote it knowing what the response would be. It’s an explicitly partisan book. I never tried to hide my support for anti-fascism and my opposition to fascism and white supremacist politics.”

Mike Shelby is a former Intelligence NCO and contractor. He's now the CEO of Forward Observer.

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