FRR Audibooks: ITS Communiques 5+6+7

By: Dirtroll

Free Radical Radio Audiobooks continues with the Individualists Tending Toward The Wild recording series with ITS communiques 5, 6, and 7.

Some interesting nuggets, of which there are many:

  • In #5, they take responsibility for a Greenpeace bombing and warn all leftists they’re targets too.
  • In #6, they change their stance on things like using the genderless letter ‘x’, and bombing Greenpeace.
  • In #7 they reflect on their relationship to anarchism and where they differ, as well as respond to technology apologia.

And since you’re probably too lazy/skeptical to actually click through to the audio or read the text, here are two juicy quotes out of context for you internet slaves to feed off in the comments:

But ITS thinks that authority is not always bad–it is bad when it restricts Freedom, when it limits your capacities to be able to reach your ends. But it is not bad when an authority figure teaches you not to falter, to pick yourself up from some emotional or physical decline, when he gives you wise counsel and when he leads you by good paths.

An example: The tree grows, the rain gives it strength, the moon makes it so there is humidity in the environment and new plants may germinate; the tree drops fruits that in turn are eaten by the herbivorous animals and their young so they grow in a future, these herbivorous animals are hunted by carnivorous and omnivorous (human) animals, the meat is for them and their young, the surplus is devoured by scavenging animals and brought to their young, the earth is nourished with what is finally left. A bird comes to the aforementioned tree and brings what it needs for its nest, while the bird flies, a seed falls where the earth is fertile and everything begins again.

From this idea that everything in Wild Nature has an order, and because we say that we obey this order and these natural laws, those who disobey these natural statutes are confined to obeying the system and denying their human nature.

SAFTU: The tragedy and (hopefully not) the farce

Credits: eNCA / Xoli Mngambi

By: Mandy Moussouris (ILRIG)

The labour movement has been unable to de-link itself from its archenemy: capital. As its structures bureaucratise, as its leaders become career unionists, as it opens investment companies and pays staff increasingly inequitable salaries, it increasingly mirrors the very thing it is fighting. If the South African Federation of Trade Unions is to meet its promise, it must be fundamentally different from the organisation it was born out of.

“History repeats itself first as tragedy, second as farce” – Karl Marx

The tragedy of the disintegration of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) happened slowly. As tragedies go, COSATU’s has been far less dramatic than most; it has rather been a sad slow and painful unravelling of a once vibrant and powerful organisation over 20 odd years. The unravelling of an organisation that forgot that the whole is made up of the sum of its parts; that continuously made the mistake of allowing personalities to undermine democracy, ambition to undermine equity and bureaucracy to undermine equality and democratic participation.

COSATU’s decay has had a significant impact on the South African working class. The impact has reverberated across the country in a myriad of ways and has been the result, both directly and indirectly, of COSATU’s failure to effectively and democratically represent the working class. This has been the case partly because of its alliance with the ANC and partly because of its (and the trade union movement in general’s) inherently defective organisational structure and patriarchal culture.

From the same ashes comes the rising of a new phoenix – a new hope for the South African working class – the South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU). But the labour movement, broadly, has never been good at learning from its mistakes and this time around appears to be no exception. We can no longer make the mistake of thinking that changing the world is as simple as changing the colours of a flag. If we are to learn anything from history, it’s that the flag IS the problem. If we truly want to change our society we have to change everything about it right down to the very structure upon which it is based. Flag poles need to be pulled down. Globally, the labour movement has not been able to de-link its organisational structure from that of its arch-enemy – capital. As a result, after time, as its structures bureaucratise, as its leaders become career unionists/stewards, as it opens investment companies and pays staff increasingly inequitable salaries, it increasingly mirrors the very thing it is fighting.

SAFTU is claiming to be different. It has picked up the banner of socialism and is asking us to follow it into a different, better, more equitable and just future. If we need anything right now, we need it is a new hope. But if SAFTU is to meet its promise it has to be fundamentally different to the organisation it was born out of. Is it our new hope or is it the inevitable farce that follows tragedy? In looking at the founding principles SAFTU has put forward, there are a number of indicators that suggest it is going to repeat the mistakes of the old federation. Whilst the rhetoric harkens back to the great days of the Trade Union Movement the flagpole remains pretty much the same.

“We are building a fundamentally different type of workers’ organization – independent of political parties and employers but not apolitical – democratic, worker-controlled, militant, socialist-orientated, internationalist, pan-Africanist from a Marxist perspective and inspired by the principles of Marxism-Leninism.” – SAFTU

All genuine workers organisations started off independent of political parties but not apolitical. Any union worth their salt has started out being democratic and worker controlled. None of this is new, not in South Africa and not in the rest of the world. More importantly, no such union has managed to effectively challenge, let alone change capitalist society since the early part of the 20th Century and as we sit in the second decade of the 21st Century we find that most gains made by such unions have been successfully pushed back if not lost completely. Whilst SAFTU acknowledges a number of very important reasons why unions have failed, they have not asked the hardest question. Instead of asking what should a union do, the question SAFTU should be asking is: what have we been doing wrong? What is wrong with the nature of unions themselves?

“The new federation can show how different it is from other formations by showing that its principles are not just slogans, but guide our programmes in all that we do.” – SAFTU

Absolutely! This statement in particular sums up a great deal of what has been wrong with unions in the past and lies at the core of the argument this article is making. COSATU and many other unions globally have failed dismally at implementing working class principles, on many levels, in many ways. Let’s start with gender equity, shall we? In an important piece on the emergence of the new federation, Dr Asanda Benya asks: “How different will its gender politics be from Cosatu’s? Will it resemble and reproduce Cosatu’s gender stance, or reject it and take female workers seriously and appreciate the ways in which workplace struggles are gendered? After all, many of the same people who once led the unapologetically macho COSATU are now leading SAFTU.”

This question lies at the very heart of the sentiment of practising what you preach. However, from representation at the launching congress to the same limited rhetoric and even less imaginative policy approach to the inclusion of women in the new federation, there is no indication that the new federation will prioritise women’s issues or their rights. As things stand at present there is no reason at all to believe that the federation is any less “macho” than its predecessor. Rather, there is every reason to believe that the tradition of crying foul and claiming that you have been set up by an enemy cabal when either the president of the country or general secretary is accused of rape and sexual harassment will continue.

What exactly is the new federation going to do to ensure that women do not continue to be used as political tools in a battle of men over power? Will this be yet another federation controlled by working men that blames the victim in order to maintain control of its patriarchal power? If SAFTU is going to truly represent the working class, it has to recognise that work is gendered, that old style unionism is not; that if the union is going to ensure women and their issues are taken seriously this must be a primary focus of all policy. So far there is little evidence of this.

“Financial self-sufficiency and accountability and opposition, in word and deed, to business unionism, corruption, fraud and maladministration within its own ranks and in a capitalist society which is inherently corrupt” – SAFTU

During the 1990s there were huge debates in COSATU and its affiliates around the appropriateness of union investment companies. To the right there were strong arguments for using workers money to support unions and union principles. From the left there was strong resistance to what was seen as endorsing, if not becoming part of, the capitalist system.

Very few unions have effectively used money from these ‘investments’ to the benefit of the working class. SAFTU’s statement regarding the inherent corruption of capitalism sounds great but it is important to note that the call for channeling retirement funds into productive investment is not the same as the new federation using its own or its affiliate’s investment funds to lead productive investment. It is a demand for capital to do so.

What is unclear is what SAFTU’s position on union investment companies is. Is the federation and its affiliates planning on actually taking the money from its investment companies and using it to set up a housing cooperative or building societies like the unions of old? Or will these investment companies’ money continue to be used to buy more and bigger buildings and offices for the unions themselves?

In the launching congress a clause on union official’s salaries was included in SAFTU’s constitution saying that the leadership will not earn more than the average skilled worker. There has already been internal debate about what exactly the wage for an average skilled worker is. This lack of clarity is being used to argue that official salaries should not be set by the constitution and the broader congress, rather it should be an internal policy issue to be decided on by the leadership, including the very leadership that will earn these salaries.

Putting the argument against paying officials at all aside for a moment, the warning signs of impending bureaucratisation and elitism are already going off. Not only within SAFTU but within its affiliates, this question must be asked and must be addressed – if your principles are anti-capitalist and socialist, surely your structures should reflect these principles. All union workers should be paid the same.

By the same token, there is already a call to work towards negotiating for paid shop stewards. This development within the trade union movement has had one of the biggest negative impacts on the unity and solidarity of workers. It has been used by management as a highly effective tool to co-opt union shop stewards and to divide the shop floor. It has played a significant role in one of the main problems SAFTU has identified as one that needs to be corrected: the distance created between the union/officials and workers. A union is not a business and can never be driven by motives of personal or organisational gain; gain must always be for the union members and not an elite few. Unions of the past, unions that have been of and for its members, have done so due to the principled dedication of their ordinary membership and elected representatives without pay.

Overall, in relation to the issues of union finances and financial policies, despite all the noise to the contrary, for SAFTU it’s business as usual.

“We shall convene a bargaining conference to fight the attempts by the Free Market Foundation and employers to liquidate collective and centralized bargaining, and shall mobilize mass action to stop this attempt.” – SAFTU

A key function/business of unions is bargaining better wages and working conditions for its members. The greatest unions have been the ones where mass mobilisation of members around bread and butter issues have succeeded in making significant shifts in this regard. The real shifts, however, tend to be made when the general membership is actively involved through mobilisation, protest and strike.

Whilst centralised collective bargaining makes the bargaining process easier for unions and sets industry minimums, the notion of centralisation is ultimately counter-intuitive to a participatory, worker-led organisation. It is my contention that centralised collective bargaining centralises not only the negotiation process but the participatory, learning process of bargaining and workplace organisation; it also removes the power of workers to raise their voices collectively within a physically defined workplace, build workplace solidarity and share learnings from the process. Many union organisers and shop stewards of the past cut their teeth in shop floor bargaining processes. Centralisation of bargaining centralises power and decision-making and, whilst unintentional, it removes agency from workers on the shop floor.

The new federation needs to re-look its overall strategy in terms of how it takes capital on. It needs to assess where and when the greatest gains are made for the working class. From experience over the last 20 years, this is not at the negotiating table, not in the bargaining councils and not in NEDLAC. Workers and the working class have had to re-learn the lesson apartheid taught us: that real gains are made in the streets, in collective action not compromised negotiation.

“We shall discuss with all unions about how best to deliver quality service – working toward the development of a service charter.”

As with the practice of working within the financial systems of the capitalist class, the appropriation of business terms and capitalist language needs to be strongly guarded against. Language and words play a significant role in the culture of societies and organisations. Using words that reinforce a system and culture that you are fighting, that reinforce an unequal society with unequal roles, reinforce the current system and do not lay a solid foundation for a new society.

Yes “service” in COSATU unions over the past two decades has gone from bad to worse, but it could be argued that unions are not meant to service members. The idea of “service delivery” is in its very nature a neo-liberal word and attempting to fix what cannot be a capitalist endeavour by viewing a workers movement as an exchange of money for service is counter-intuitive. A real democratic worker controlled union is the WORKERS, nothing more nothing less.

Ideologically unions cannot be a business providing a service; they must be an organisation or movement of people that builds and develops a counter-power, counter-culture and a membership or cadre that struggle against the system by collectively negotiating better wages, by enabling and giving agency to its members to challenge and change their own realities. It must be about meeting members’ needs through organisation, education and learning, from participation, practice and direct democracy.

“Within the federation affiliates must have autonomy but not independence, but differences of opinion must be tolerated”.

Rightly, SAFTU identifies democracy as a key problem that needs to be addressed but it does so within the same hierarchical structure as the system it is fighting and the federation it left. Once again doing things differently and implementing the principles it espouses throw up a number of contradictions that SAFTU has not addressed. SAFTU has not identified how the power relations in a neo-colonial, patriarchal, capitalist system are replicated by their own structures. There have been way too many union congresses where “representatives” have dropped their mandates after conversation with “leadership” and voted against democratic decisions taken at the base.

A federation will not liberate the class, nor will its affiliates; only the working class can liberate itself and it will never be able to do that as long as there is an implicit belief in a Great Leader/s; as long as the union is seen as a legal service and as long as power and money are centralised. A truly participatory, democratic trade union would be one where the locals/branches of each affiliate control the membership dues collected, where they would use their dues to do work on the ground and put some aside for provincial and national work; where the workers have direct ownership of the means of trade union production (negotiation, representation, mobilisation) and where the extremely loosely used term, democracy, translates into individual worker agency and empowerment to ensure that the base, the majority, the working class, is where true power lies, and that it uses its power to change the world for the benefit of the many.

by Pampazuka News

London: Benefit Event in Solidarity with Tasos Theofilou – This Friday

“I am an anarchist communist. I love life and freedom​.​

Let’s fight to tear down the prisons which bury inside them thousands of living people.

Let’s fight for the vision of social liberation.

Let’s fight for the liberation of our class from the authority of the capital”

– Tasos Theofilou

Join us this Friday 23rd of June for a benefit event in solidarity with the anarchist communist Tasos Theofilou, who is currently in prison, after being sentenced on the basis of forged and non existent evidence. He was convicted just because he is an anarchist. He was convicted because he didn’t lose his smile even when the court announced his sentence.

Case updates, projections and phone call interventions from Athens.
​For more info about the case here​.

Starting at 19:00 at L.A.R.C. (62 Fieldgate Street E1 1ES London)
Live music will follow…
Bar will run throughout the evening.
Entry on free donation.

Feel free to spread the word!!!

See you all there!

Olympia, WA: Evergreen Gives a Warm Welcome to Patriot Prayer

On Thursday, June 15th, Patriot Prayer came to evergreen to hold a “free speech” rally in response to protests against white supremacy on campus. For more background information on the situation at Evergreen, go here.

A Few Words About Patriot Prayer

Patriot Prayer is a violent, ultra-nationalist, fanatical protestant group that while not explicitly fascist or white supremacist themselves, have no problem sharing space and a platform with out and out neo-Nazis, alt-righters, and various stripes of white nationalists. Of course, barring all of that, we think just on the basis of their active hostility and calling for violence against anyone perceived as left as well as their ultra-nationalism is enough to warrant a militant anti-fascist response. Nationalism is the natural breeding ground for fascism and white supremacy.

One interesting thing about Patriot Prayer is that many of their members are people of color, and they try to capitalize off this to deflect accusations of racism and supporting white supremacy. We think it’s absolutely crucial to remind people that people of color absolutely can and will internalize and side with white supremacy. From the black neo-nazi cab driver who tried to infiltrate Philly Antifa to fascists like Sheriff David Clarke (and every black cop). This is a phenomenon that exists in all oppressed and colonized peoples and can be seen as far back as slavery with the house saves that sided with their masters and sold out those struggling for freedom.

The Action

Patriot Prayer was expected to be at red square at 5:30 PM, most people started gathering at 4 PM. The contingent of students and faculty of Evergreen held space in the covered area in front of the libraries with signs saying ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘Community Love’ which was a slogan of the student protests. The militant anti-fascist bloc mingled in the same area, there was a re-enforced banner that read ‘America Was Never Great’ and another banner which read ‘No Platform for Fascists.’ People were handing out noise makers and snacks as we waited for Patriot Prayer to arrive.

 

Across the way the police were getting in formation. There was around 50 Washington State Patrol officers in full riot gear in between 2 lines of metal barriers. There were at least 20 other fully geared up WSP hanging around the back of the Police Services building, and around 20 Thurston County Sheriffs. A small group of alt-right kids stood off to the side filming the crowd and they were confronted by a small crowd. They were mocked (one of them had a really stupid haircut that was greasy as fuck), silly stringed, and peopled used the re-enforced banners to push them away. The police didn’t seem to care.

It wasn’t till 6:30ish that patriot prayer and their fashy fans arrived waving the usual arrangement of american flags, don’t tread on me flags, and a pepe flag. A confrontation pretty immediately ensued between the two groups. Patriot Prayer and the fash got plenty of silly string and air horns blown in their ears, Joey Gibson got glittered pretty bad, having something thrown at him slicing open his face, and allegedly getting pepper sprayed. Talk shit, get hit, Jojo.

One of their particularly violent members, Tiny, who likes to rant online about how much he wants and loves to attack people, took down a comrade for allegedly brandishing a knife. There is video of the whole take down but no knife to be seen, not that we care if someone had a knife or not. After taking this person down they delivered them to the police to be the only arrestee of the day. Far-right collusion with the state, who’da thunk?

After all the commotion the police separated the two groups and the rest of the day was just a shouting match, though we had a loud ass sound system on our side which drowned them out. We spent the rest of the time mocking them, one person in particular was singled out, a biker who some of us knew from a previous action in Vancouver, Washington who cried like a baby when someone touched his bike. We told him about how we were gonna put our grubby hands all over his bike and he looked a little upset. Boo hoo.

After their rally ended with a whimper we later learned that some comrades had snuck off and slashed some of their tires. Much love to the Autonomous Cell of Vehicular Disrepair!

Cops, Pigs, Murderers!

One thing that we think is absolutely crucial to bring up, and this applies to many recent anti-fascist actions all over, is the ignoring of the police in favor of the out and out fascists and white nationalists. There’s something to be said for choosing our battles wisely, no doubt, but we must never lose sight of our bigger goals, or bigger enemies. The truth of the matter is that every confrontation with fascists is also a confrontation with the police, they will protect them every time and we need to prepare accordingly.

More than that, however, is that the police are the pillars of white supremacy. The insurgent far-right could only in it’s wildest dreams exert the same levels of white supremacist violence on us that the police exert every day. To fight fascism, to fight white supremacy, we must fight the police. There is no way around it, only through it. We’d like to bring back the words from the reflections on the Smash the Hammerskins action in Seattle from back in 2015, as we feel the analysis holds up:

Hostility toward the police took a backseat to the Nazi threat. There was a bottle or insult thrown here and there but largely the crowd would not confront them. This was a dilemma. We had assembled this huge force of potentially liberatory violence and yet these enemies were hardly threatened at all. Was this restraint necessary?

Having attention detracted from attacking our enemies at hand, seems like a way that the far-right (sanctioned or not) acts in the interest of reinforcing the status-quo. They redirect revolutionary momentum into defensive activities. By representing the worst possible outcome of what a destabilization of the present order could result in (fascism), they terrify potential insurgents into resigned acceptance of the comparative security of the democratic state.

We should aim to be militantly anti-fascist while not allowing that to imply that we are pro-democracy. Anti-fascism is the lowest common denominator that brought us together that night but we should work to show that the racist authoritarianism Nazis represent is not only a fascist phenomenon but also a pillar of our capitalist democracy.

Final Thoughts

We think going the route of mockery was a good call for this action, many of us were skeptical at first but it was fun as fuck and they definitely didn’t enjoy it. As it turned out, this was also a lot of people’s first action like this, there were a lot of beautiful, new faces (that we couldn’t see because they were masked up) and we think that is fantastic! We welcome you all with open arms and hope to see you in the streets again!

There were many times we noticed area where the police thinned out and our crowed could have easily broken their line. When we approached people with this idea many were hesitant and it didn’t end up happening. That’s understandable, but if we are going to fight the fascists, we must also fight the police. Especially now when the insurgent far-Right is making such a strong push for the west coast and we are frankly behind. Just in Olympia the far-Right has been able to hold space in ways they weren’t able to before. It’s time we get our game face on and prepare for the coming battles.

And remember, anti-fascism is useless when not approached as part of a greater revolutionary project.

LONG LIVE ANARCHY

DEATH TO THE FASCIST INSECT

-Black Autonomy Action Faction (///)

Lines In The Sand – AudioZine

lines_in_sand

1:07:16 – Lines In The Sand: Three essays on identity, oppression, and social war – by Peter Gelderloos – MP3ReadPrint ArchiveTorrentYouTube

“…I think we all need to fiercely reject the Ally as a primary identity of
struggle. You cannot give solidarity if you are not struggling first
and foremost for your own reasons. To be only or primarily an ally is to
be a parasite on others’ struggles, with no hope greater than to be a
benign parasite; it is to refuse to acknowledge our interests and place
in the world out of a dogmatic insistence on identifying ourselves with
the system we are supposed to be fighting. Being aware of relative
oppression and privilege is vital, but emphasizing those differences
over the fact that all of us have common enemies and all of us have
reasons to destroy the entire system is deliberately missing
opportunities to make ourselves stronger in this fight.”

Lines in Sand is a collection by Peter Gelderloos that looks
critically at identity politics and anti-oppression politics. All of
them are very thought provoking and well worth reading. These aren’t
knee-jerk criticisms, but rather are thoughtful explorations of the
problematic aspects of identity and anti-oppression politics and
practice.

“…tokenization and paternalism are on any list of “fucked up” behaviors in
an anti-oppression practice, thus the practice protects itself from
open complicity with the very problems it creates. Human agency is a
fundamental component of freedom, perhaps the most important one;
therefore if someone is denied agency in their own struggle because the
most legit thing they can do is be an ally to someone else’s struggle,
it is inevitable that they will exercise their agency in the course of
supporting a struggle they view as someone else’s. To do so, they will
either look for any oppressed person who supports a form of struggle
they feel inclined towards, and use them as a legitimating façade, or
they will try to participate fully and affect the course of a broader
campaign or coalition in which they are pretending to be mere allies. In
other words, by presenting privilege as a good thing, anti-oppression
politics creates privileged people who have nothing to fight for and
inevitably tokenize or paternalize those whose struggles are deemed
(more) legitimate.”

Message of Solidarity to Annual Meeting of the Brazilian Anarchist Coordination (CAB)

CAB

We of the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front warmly congratulate you on yet another year of sterling work in spreading the ideas and practices of anarchism amongst the popular classes of Brazil. We have been following the struggles in Brazil with interest and also much respect. We salute the bravery of you, our comrade sisters and brothers – the working class and anarchists of Brazil – and look forward to a victorious outcome for you in these struggles.

Dear Comrades of the CAB,

We of the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front warmly congratulate you on yet another year of sterling work in spreading the ideas and practices of anarchism amongst the popular classes of Brazil. We have been following the struggles in Brazil with interest and also much respect. We salute the bravery of you, our comrade sisters and brothers – the working class and anarchists of Brazil – and look forward to a victorious outcome for you in these struggles.

The ZACF continues to look to you for ideas and lessons. We share common bonds of struggle, ideology and history and see you comrades in the CAB as not only fellow anarchist travellers, but as teachers imparting knowledge gained through organising, educating and agitating for change.

You continue to inspire us! During times of hardship, for our organisation and our people here in southern Africa, we are held fast in our belief in the ideals and practices of anarchism. Much of this is due to your example. We ask of you, our comrades in the CAB, to continue to fight and build and to overcome whatever obstacles you face through trust in each other, through taking care of each other.

We hope you have a provocative, productive annual meeting and we look forward to you sharing your outcomes with us.

You are all invited to South Africa!

Always in solidarity! Forward Anarchism!
Forward to the Social Revolution!

Your comrades in struggle and in victory,
on behalf of the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front (South Africa)
Warren McGregor, Regional Secretary

Source:https://zabalaza.net/2017/06/17/message-of-solidarity-to-annual-meeting-of-the-brazilian-anarchist-coordination-cab/

EXTREMISM EXPERTS ARE STARTING TO WORRY ABOUT THE LEFT

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By 

WASHINGTON — In the spring of 2016, Brian Levin found himself in an uncomfortable position: trying to save the life of a Ku Klux Klan member.

Levin, a former New York City cop who studies domestic extremism as the director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, was documenting a Klan rally in Anaheim, California, when a counterprotest suddenly took a violent swing — forcing Levin to physically place himself between a Klansman and a furious, anti-fascist mob that seemed ready to kill.

It made Levin wonder if in his focus on the obvious subject — the white supremacists — he’d overlooked a growing source of extremism: the far left. “At that point, I said we have something coalescing on the hard left,” Levin told VICE News.

Wednesday morning’s shooting of Republican lawmakers at a baseball practice in Virginia seemed to raise the question again. The shooter, James T. Hodgkinson, was a Bernie Sanders-supporting man from Illinois with a record of anti-Trump rantings on social media. His politics have quickly become a talking point among some conservative pundits seeking a quick political score: proof of a looming leftist campaign against the government, or a sign of equivalency with the type of violence that normally comes from the right.

Experts in homegrown extremism say it’s not so simple — Hodgkinson had no known association to any left-wing extremist group. But they also say that the past few months have seen enough of a rise in politically motivated violence from the far left that monitors of right-wing extremism have begun shifting their focus, and sounding the alarm. They see indications that the uptick in extremist rhetoric and anti-government activism that characterized the early years of the Obama presidency are beginning to manifest on the far left in the early days of Trump’s, and that the two sides are increasingly headed for confrontation.

“I think we’re in a time when we can’t ignore the extremism from the Left,” said Oren Segal, the director of the Center on Extremism, an arm of the Anti-Defamation League. Over the past few months, the ADL, which hosts regular seminars on homegrown extremism for law enforcement officials, has begun warning of the rising threat posed by far-left groups, most recently at a seminar just this past Sunday. “When we have anti-fascist counterprotests — not that they are the same as white supremacists — that can ratchet up the violence at these events, and it means we can see people who are violent on their own be attracted to that,” Segal said. “I hate to say it, but it feels inevitable.”

The evidence is so far largely anecdotal. Levin says that since December 2015, he’s documented nearly two-dozen episodes in California where political events turned violent because of agitation on both sides, something he says he hardly ever saw before. Now, there are violent clashes on college campusesinvolving groups like Antifa, the anti-fascist group, taking on the alt-right; and aggressive anti-Trump rallies attended by members of the Redneck Revolt, a new pro-minority, anti-supremacist group that encourages its members to train with rifles. Online, hard leftists increasingly discuss politics in dire terms, and rationalize violence as a necessity— even the true inheritor of traditional progressive activism. (Or, in the case of the “Punch a Nazi” meme, a fun game.)

Left-wing extremism, of course, is nothing new. Groups like the Weather Underground and the Black Panthers have deep roots, and in the years after 9/11, Segal says, the largest source of extremist violence was from the Left: eco-terrorists and animal rights activists. But those later organizations mostly targeted institutions; in the modern era, politically motivated violence perpetrated by angry lone-wolf attackers bearing automatic rifles, of the sort carried out in Wednesday’s attack, has until now largely been a modus operandi of the far right.

In a recent interview with VICE News Tonight, a chapter leader of one newly formed anti-fascist group called Redneck Revolt said the group has taken up guns only in self-defense. “We are a response to a rise in politically motivated violence and intimidation against vulnerable communities,” said the chapter leader, who asked to be identified only by his first name, Mitch. “That doesn’t mean that we’re, like, looking for a fight. We’re just trying to defend ourselves.”

Redneck Revolt doesn’t self-identify as “left,” but its ideals tend to fall along the liberal side of the spectrum: pro-Muslim, pro-immigrant, pro-LGBT, anti–economic inequality. But Mitch said that the group had also found unlikely common cause with some members of the local Three Percenter Militia, a largely right-wing, anti-Obama group. In fact, some Three Percenters have even started to attend Redneck Revolt meetings, Mitch said.

Chris Hamilton, an expert on American extremist movements at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas, says anti-authoritarian sentiment may be blurring what once seemed to be clear ideological lines. “If you think about it, leftists never joined the National Rifle Association — unless they were radicals, they never thought about stockpiling weapons,” he said. “Ok. Well, maybe we’re entering a period where leftists will start thinking about things in that way, like the eco-radicals did in the ’70s.”

Hamilton says that as he browses far-left websites and listens to left-wing talk radio, he hears some of the same sentiments he’s been hearing for years on the right. “These days, that kind of sentiment is popping up in the middle and on the left; it’s not just in the sovereign citizen movement,” he said. “I’m really worried about rising civil strife in the U.S.”

Levin is worried about it too: The embrace by the far left of tactics that were previously the purview of the far right means the level of political tension in the country can only go up. “I’ve been going up and down the state of California meeting with law enforcement officials about this. I’m very concerned about it,” he said. “What we’re seeing is the democratization of extremism and the tactics of radicalism. I’ve been warning about this, and nobody gave a shit.”

Edited for mb3-org.com