Determining a Threat When You’re the Target: A Response to Several Authors

Common Ground

It’s worth mentioning that there is some shared intent here. I take issue with Jason’s framing of it as being ‘liberal’ but appreciate his search for common ground. I assume that we are all:

  1. Opposed to fascism: Although we debate its exact boundaries, there is a clear center mass that we are all opposed to.
  2. Opposed to the state and using it as the means of defeating fascism: We are anarchists and libertarians. We distrust any scheme the state offers as a defense against fascism because we know that more often than not they are traps and often lay the foundation for fascism anew. As an extension, we are critical of strategies that (explicitly or implicitly) rely on state violence such as the military, police, Border Patrol, ICE, or SWAT including those that expand the capacity for state violence such as many forms of legislative reform. We don’t call the cops and we aren’t snitches.
  3. Opposed to unprovoked violence: We will debate about the exact nature of aggression and self-defense but I think that it is worth noting that none of us are excited about the prospect of widescale violence. We are reticent and thoughtful about violence even if we debate what is morally or strategically advisable and necessary.
  4. Opposed to racism, nationalism, homophobia, anti-semitism, and the like: We disagree about how to reduce harm, create positive norms, and what to do about the various forms of bias (structural and interpersonal) and discriminatory violence but we all do seek to minimize or destroy these viruses.
  5. Support freedom and liberty: We all recognize that positive freedom is the complicated antidote to the repression and populism of fascism and authoritarian domination.
  6. Support the protection of communities at risk of fascist violence: We see fascist gangs and white supremacy, whether state sanctioned or not, as being antithetical to our values and seek to eliminate harm against those it targets even though this ‘protection’ may look different to us.

By mentioning these, assumedly, shared values I am not seeking to gloss over our differences which are dramatic. I mention them only to emphasize and encourage good faith in the recognition that we do have some shared goals.

On War and Violence

As antifascists, it should be clear that our brand is empathy and liberty. We stand not only on the side of love, but also on the side of joy. We fight nazis because we want a world where speech can be free. The contradiction of a shallow first glance fails to capture us. Sometimes the best way to maximize freedom and liberate love, is to resist that which would destroy or silo them into inbred cesspools of homogeneity. When we punch nazis, or spend years researching, infiltrating, and exposing them, we do it for love, not out of a vulgar brutalism. Don’t ever let someone steal that truth from us.

I also think it’s important to mention that I have experienced homophobic and transphobic violence. By mentioning having been physically and verbally assaulted for a marginalized identity (primarily for being a visibly queer transwoman) I am not trying to play a trump card that functions as an epistemic closure. Direct trauma is after all, not the end all be all of understanding a thing. But it does offer certain insights that can get lost in the abstracted discussion of justifiable threats to violence. Fear often functions as a set of biases towards action or paralysis, for better or worse. This trauma-based fear can lead to reactionary behavior or subtlety depending on the nature of the wielder. But in my direct experience, and the experiences of so many of my networks, the speed with which a situation shifts from anti-trans hostility to physical aggression can be the blink of an eye, and generally is. Sometimes you don’t have any warning and it comes seemingly out of nowhere. When, particularly libertarian, critics of antifa discuss the importance of awaiting the initiation of aggression, it often betrays a lack of experience with real-life, non-philosophical violence. I find myself thinking, “What would make you happy? Do you want us, the targets, to make scouting teams that, follow every single nazi around town until they reach their homes? Do you realize how impractical this is?!!” It’s not just impractical, it’s impossible. We do our best to minimize harm which sometimes means minimizing fascist threats. When you’re a hunted minority it’s easy to develop paranoia when there are, in fact, a lot of people that want to kill you, and even more people unwilling to go that far, but delighted by the possibility of harming you in any number of other ways.

I’m also a well-trained firearm owner. As the bathroom bill movement ramped up in the U.S. there was a concomitant call for people to kill and murder transwomen they found in women’s bathrooms. Because of my occupation, I found myself in public women’s bathrooms a lot constantly paranoid and knowing my rate of passing as cis is roughly half. As problematic as passing is as a concept, coupled with a variety of other surface or contextual indicators, passing is often the difference between being able to pee unhampered and being accosted (while still needing to pee). My experiences of intense transphobia and trauma stretches back as far as early childhood but as fascism began to more substantively rear its head again in the mainstream U.S. (and global) political landscape, things changed dramatically. I’m also a denizen of the internet which means I’ve been dealing with transphobes brutal desire to maim, rape, and murder me for a long time. But seeing that cesspit congeal into a coherent movement with physical street fighting operations, goose-stepping down main streets echoing Nazi slogans and throwing Roman salutes, I began to feel another echo. I had seen this before, but differently.

In my time living in a Kurdish area on the Turkish side of the borderlands with Syria, I came to be deeply involved with a wide range of activists from the Syrian revolution who had widely differing positions but all of which were generally opposed to the authoritarian regime of the father and the son–the Assads. I moved there under invitation in order to support a variety of local activist efforts and ended up also working in free migration issues. Somewhere in my heart I had hoped to learn some deep lesson that would make the appeal of non-violent direct action seem more viable as a core tenet of my anarchism. Unfortunately, the lesson I learned was quite the opposite. I left with a greater certainty that in situations where fascists come to takeover your village, that not only will the state not save you, they’ll exploit your death. Pacifism will get you and everyone you love killed. You will fight, flee, or die and many will die regardless. Wherever possible fascist movements will congeal rabidly into fully-fledged military movements, tactictly employed by the state to destroy minorities and imagined fifth-column subversives and enforce fascist rule. The myth of palingenesis draws in brutalists from across the world to fight for a disgusting dream. War isn’t just cruel, it’s the intense magnification of the worst crimes of which societies are capable. These crimes are then reiterated, again and again, forming complex-Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as the inability to bury your dead, much less grieve, compounds. Warfare is a tragedy so far beyond comprehension that it defies the transmission of experience between those who’ve seen it and those who haven’t. Fascism means a uniquely brutal form of warfare that many remember and many forget.

Upon arriving back to the states I knew more deeply than ever that the state will repress legitimate anti-fascist community defense and yet, that we needed it intensely. Many that oppose my ideas in this exchange will no doubt support robust community and self-defense efforts. On the other hand, I am of the ilk that is happy to read about anarchists destroyingGolden Dawn offices in Greece or killing their leaders in the streets. I smile not because I enjoy violence. My neural architecture is corrupted by my various domestic and international exposures to violence. I am opposed to it in the most visceral and logical sense. I’m an empath who will puke at a stranger’s blood loss. I have even written extensively about the role of peacebuilding and transformative tactics in long-term antifascist strategy. I am happy not because I’m a vulgar brutalist, but because I see meaningful defense. I am happy because the alternative is a carnage far worse. I am happy because I subsequently read about a former Golden Dawn member stating that “The only real threat to Golden Dawn is the anarchists.” I am happy because I smell, hear, and see a much more dramatic outbreak of violence as currently teetering on the brink of the possible and I wish, deeply that we were more prepared to stop it. I am happy because it frightens me that we might lose and I get some hope from our victories.

The casual observer may see an anarchist murder some Golden Dawn member, who has no swastika tattoos and is wearing a suit and thinks (as Will rightfully described), “My goodness! They’ve killed that innocent business man!” The conservative outrage machine would post pictures of the nazi doing community service for little Aryan children. The liberal sympathy machine would raise money for his neo-nazi wife. Little would they all know that the anarchists had been following him for years as he attempted to organize (yet keep his hands clean) the firebombing of African bars in echoes of the pogroms against guest workers by civilian “police” forces in Poland. When commanders such as these, die or drop-out of organizing after doxxing, so too does their organizational memory, their leadership acumen, and their connections.

We, in the so-called Western world, may not yet be on the brink of war as it is deeply known by those in the so-called Global South. More often we export our war. However, anyone who has lived in real U.S. American poverty has seen glimpses. Many of us have lived amongst gang warfare, racialized by a thriving legacy of Jim Crow era policies and structural racism. Working class anti-racists fight to hold their lines in the race rules of prison. Whether we are already in the race-war the fascists (and many leftists) think they want or not, matters less than the realistic dynamics of how violent confrontations work. Violent conflict is a battle not an egalitarian anarchist (or liberal) conversation. Ethical corruption is constantly perversely incentivized. Anarchists don’t understand war. We care too goddamn much to fully embrace the sociopathic bloodlust needed to play a violent team sport and win. Even the consequentialists amongst us (such as myself and Will) draw certain hard lines that lose us points where brutality wins. Even as I support broad defense I recognize that we must embrace voices of restraint lest we fall into cognitive, affective death spirals.


In violent conflict the rules of engagement change. This is not a free pass. We are no longer anarchists if we abandon the empathy and love of liberty that characterizes and weakens us against ultra-violence. I respect both Jason and Grayson. Despite several years of frustrated mutual plunking of keys at each other on these topics, I appreciate their calls to thoughtful reticence and engagement. I acknowledge that they notably attempt to deeply engage, and even meaningfully frame comprehension of the positions they argue against. They, and others in their ideological vicinity, have impacted me in the sense that their thoughtful (even if occasionally wildly wrong-headed) conclusions represent aspects of my own consciousness and the problems at play that are worthy of attention.

Other antifa critics such as Babcock relegate their critiques to Libertarian and Republican echo chambers through their lack of exposure to the nuance present in antifascist groups. While burning a Marxist (and Trotskyist) caricature of a predominantly anarchist movement, he ironically casts the world into a quite dialectical binary of liberal and illiberal motivations conveniently creating a perfect team based trench system to defend or dismiss. This kind of rote simplification is worse than a strawman, it’s disingenuous. No one in this mutual-exchange is an ML, but many may be socialists. Grant does not show a great amount of exposure to the distinction between libertarian-socialism and Stalinism. Further, those that advocate punching nazis are not somehow illiberal authoritarian communist monsters bent on gulaging anyone with a different perspective. His lack of exposure is again exposed when he tries (possibly ironically?) to play an idpol epistemic closure in describing antifa demos as a fundamentally masculine endeavor stating, ““One of the advantages of nonviolent tactics, in contrast to street brawling, is that people who are not able-bodied men are full and equal participants in the fight, rather than being relegated to support roles. ” Fun fact about actually existing antifa groups, there are tons of femmes, neuro-diverse people, queers, trans folks, and people of color involved and generally in the front lines. The particular groups with shitty masculinist track records often get ostracized by the larger networks. The assumption that only men can fight and that situations of physical confrontation innately relegates non-men to support roles, speaks for itself. More offensive though than these naive assumptions is his repeated notion that anyone who would want to use violence against nazi political assembly is primarily motivated by a desire for violence. In the response section I hope to see Grant increasingly engage with the real people he faces instead of some authcom strawman.

Conversely, I see Edelhoss making a similar mistake from the opposite direction. Placing a primacy on the involvement in antifa groups as the only form of antifascist activism and assuming that everyone who doesn’t or isn’t involved is an “ignoramus.” There are lots of ways to support antifa groups without being a member (send them intel, flyer, cook for them, babysit, provide them self-defense training, etc.) although I am in full agreement with you that membership does generate certain nuance and knowledge about the depth of care with which the majority of longstanding antifa groups approach their work. But, while I disagree incredibly firmly with many, or even most, of the critics of antifa. I won’t go so far as to lump them all into a category of idiocy even if I do think some of their ideas are disastrously wrong or limited.

A common critique of antifascist political violence (the smarter critics recognizing that this is only a small, but important short-term piece of what antifa groups do) is that it militarizes and popularizes the fascist movement amongst mainstream republicans and fence-sitters while creating martyrs. There is of course truth to these critiques of anti-fascist action broadly speaking, such as that some people are sympathetic to the perceived extremism of antifa and are drawn to fascism as a result. But these people that would be drawn to fascism, were already drawn to it, that’s how attraction works. Another part of this critique is that getting doxxed or beaten can in some situations lead to increased group cohesion amongst fascists or fence-sitting conservatives caught in the crossfire. Well sure, when you get smashed in the head by someone you certainly don’t think, “My god maybe they do have a point!” but this is a gross simplification. Tons of military history and conflict transformation research studying the “radicalization” of terrorist groups backs this idea up. But these are often looking at foreign invaders, occupying far-flung lands with a history of colonial exploitation, then creating a huge swath of civilian deaths through things like nightly drone bombing campaigns and the like. This is wildly different than what more aptly resembles a civil conflict (mostly with sticks and pepper-spray) even with the knowledge of global geo-political meddling. As far as martyrdom goes, Da3esh (ISIS) has plenty of dead martyrs but Raqqa has fallen. Might never makes right, but it can spell a tainted kind of victory.

Although the person punched and doxxed at a rally might become radicalized, it’s not about the one person, it’s about the people who decide not to partake as a result. The same way that infiltration is designed not just to reveal information but also to create inner panic. These are of course statist war-games. But that doesn’t make them ineffective. In fact, in hierarchical organizations such as many neo-nazi orgs and gangs, it makes them more effective. Should we constantly check our compass of efficacy and ethics? Of course. We need strong accountability. But hand-waving the situation just allows escalation, and escalation means death and extreme suffering.

When Jason describes the importance of distinguishing between peaceful and violent nazi rallies, he acknowledges the need for readiness for defense, but seems nearly dismissive of the ease with which we can recognize patterns and draw predictive conclusions especially with regard to certain specific nazi groups such as NSM, Identity Evropa, or anything that draws in the “Proud Boys.” Obviously not every III-percenter rally is motivated by white supremacist violence but we can see through the word games that other groups employ to mask their genocidal lust. Just because not every nazi event featured violence doesn’t mean it’s not a pattern. That’s not how correlation works. Every historical nazi rally didn’t end with a Romani or guest worker pogrom (or the Munich Putsch) but the ones that did were devastating beyond all reason. Most of Hitler, Mussolini, and the National Front’s early rallies were framed as proper upstanding citizens types of events. Traditionalists love to see themselves as clean and proper. Yet given the chance, there is regular anti-minority violence at these rallies aside from the sheer trauma that these festivals of intimidation provide.

As I have said on many occasions, counter-recruitment, skilled rebuttal, and liberal hugs can be very strategic. I support the one-two punch of antifa pushing back a nazi incursion and then liberals scooping them up and kindly pointing them to the fact that they have literally become nazis. The beautiful cases such as Derek Black are important, even as they are completely and wholly unfeasible as central organizing principles for a movement that intends not to get slaughtered. Grayson keenly pointed out the historical interplay between more militant and more pacifist movements, stating:

Many advocates of violent action acknowledge this, and propose that violent and nonviolent strategies be employed simultaneously. They observe that nonviolent strategies like those of Gandhi or King were employed side by side with violent strategies that made them more appealing to those in power. There are few things worth considering in light of that observation. It doesn’t establish any particular advantage for violent or nonviolent action. It also seems likely that there are relevant differences between strategies aimed at changing established political institutions and those aimed at effecting broader cultural change (the two are, of course, not totally independent). Lastly, it seems to assume that violent and nonviolent actions generally interact harmoniously rather than antagonistically. That assumption is clearly unwarranted.

Although I agree to an extent with this take, I don’t think that we need to, or are arguing for the dominance of political violence in our tactics. Further, I think that the antagonism he describes is that often, the peacenik contemporaries of social movements often end up being the ones who collaborate with the state in the repression of radical community defense. In my personal experience, just about every single protest has some white hippy mom who goes to the police to help identify the “violent anarchists” completely of her own accord. This is not to say that all non-violent direct action activists are this particular breed of loathsome. In fact most of the committed ones, disagree as they may, would never facilitate state violence against their more aggressive fellow demo-goers. But nonetheless, when Jason and authors point to Gene Sharp, it is is of course timely to reference Gelderloos and his research on how certain forms of non-violence in the wake of Gene Sharp, have actually served to cede huge symbolic victories while maintaining the complete structure of deep marginalization in tact, such as when a dictator is overthrown and a new leader inherits their brutal secret police operations.

As we said in my opening essay, fascism is dangerous not because it’s true, but because it appeals to many people. It has an inherent hook. Because of this inherent hook, public debate with nazis is dangerous. In terms of debate, although often inadvisable, if you’re going into it there are a lot of strategies. Some of the most important and contradictory ones are to troll harder, be incessantly earnest, make sure to control the framing of the debate, cede no ground, be better at their game then them, define the terms, know your shit, expose the brittleness of their meta-strategies, don’t let them corner you, keep your cool, be calloused (as in have already done your time in the troll mines so you’re not shocked by incredibly violent and terrible shit), be strict and serious but clearly maintain that you are fighting for joy and love. Our opening essay stands similarly to Jason when he writes:

Of course, intellectual confrontations with fascists are not as simple as the best ideas automatically winning through the pure light of reason. Nine hundred and ninety-nine times out of a thousand, fascists do not engage in good faith. They deliberately misrepresent both your ideas and theirs, having mastered subrational forms of communication to silence reason and amplify prejudice. These conversations can look like a normal debate to unsuspecting onlookers, who can mistake the fascist’s sophistry for bold truth-telling and find themselves infected….. Their goals are in pushing things away from sincere debate and into sophistry and violence. This can’t be too obvious, so they try to mask every attempt at subverting rational discourse as engagements in it. Their attacks on liberalism are almost always parasitic on it, gleefully saying their enemies smashed up a “free speech” rally, or balking at “triggered” interlocutors who supposedly can’t handle reasonable conversation. Their apparent arguments are often red herrings, so critiquing them on their own terms is fruitless.

Relatedly, in his discussion of belligerent rationality, Grayson points out how, much of the modern alt-right couldn’t really care less about whether race is actually a meaningful biological distinction. Fascism is a power movement first and foremost not a truth movement. They’re trolls but we too can troll. One of my favorite examples of political trolling that was non-violent and effective was when a liberal group called Deutschland Exitthat helps to counter-recruit neo-nazis made a fundraiser where every step that nazis in a particular rally took, was sponsored by donors to donate to the organization’s efforts. So in effect, the longer the march, the more money they raised for counter-recruitment efforts. In the end, the nazis raised over 10,000 Euros for the anti-extremist org. Clever underminings like this, while not capable of being the only pillar of defense, are excellent methods of taking the wind out of their sails.

With regard to the many battlefields of engagement with nazis, Jason argues that:

All these tactics must be practiced with serious care. Do not argue with fascists unless you’re skilled at cutting through sophistry; do not go to rallies armed unless you thoroughly trust your judgment in relevant situations and know how to properly use that weapon. You must know what you’re getting into, and where your talents place your comparative advantage in the anti-fascist division of labor.

While this is true, this is also a time of learning. Newfound radicalism is always annoying and reckless. No doubt the influx of baby antifa groups and new found anti-nazism will sprout some tremendously cringey, or even dangerous mistakes. But that is no reason for people to stop. That is reason for mentorship, guidance, practice, research, experimentation, and debate.

One of the topics that Jason and others and I fight about that has not been addressed here is the void of what could be considered truly reliable quantitative research on the efficacy of violent and nonviolent resistance to fascist movements. Unfortunately, it is far too high of a variable problem with too little by way of controls or clean comparisons to do proper data collection. However, although anecdotes do not constitute repeated evidence, they are a type of information. We do know that in the period where there wasn’t antifa groups, white supremacists controlled more neighborhoods in both Paris and Portland and that as antifa groups began to sprout up and apply a range of techniques to deal with the threats, the incidences of violence committed by these groups in those very same areas decreased as it became harder for them to carry out business as usual. Of course these are not perfect data points but they are still a kind of evidence and in lieu of other stronger evidence it is important to weigh them appropriately. What’s more, these invaluable histories of resistance are quite well documented and not only by antifa groups themselves but also by very serious historians of antifascist activity.

In discussing the role of the internet in modern no-platform battlefields Jason writes:

Consider the takedowns of the Daily Stormer and Stormfront; p. Predictably, both sites are back online. When fascists’ profiles get shut down on payment sites like Patreon or Gofundme, they just create their own explicitly fascist-friendly alternatives. Fascists will have websites, and some of those websites will be able to fund their activities.

But this is still a type of victory Jason. Push them farther into their own servers and they have less DDoS protections and things like this, making them more vulnerable. If they’re forced into the deep-web, sure they may retain some anonymity but they also lose a huge body of the populace who won’t or don’t know how to access the unlisted, or hidden-service web. Also, not all platforms are created equal. The point is also about normalizing the dismissal of fascist speech as inane. We don’t need the ideas to not exist– that’s impossible and undesirable– we want them to be relics that are looked upon with disdain and disinterest. In the long-term, none of us want to be fighting nazis tooth-and-nail. In the long-term, I do believe that fascists should be able to speak on the street-corner freely as long as they pose no real threat but we’re not there yet. It’s a deformed ideological market that privileges cruelty and the path towards positive freedom is a treacherous and narrow road.

The Right to Fear

There are a number of topics that I did not address in this essay either because I believe they’ve been well covered by other writers (such as slippery slope fallacies and the diversity of what antifa groups actually do) or because I think they would be distractions (a philosophical debate about consequentialism and deontology). However, it’s worth mentioning in no uncertain terms, that the fear that minorities feel about fascists is not only legitimate, it’s real. When discussing strategy and the efficacy of resistance against fascism I won’t play the reactionary leftist game of saying only the most brutal and oppressed are the most serious and legitimate, but I also won’t cede ground to those for whom the possible deaths of people like me and those even more at risk are but a minor philosophical point that distracts from the purity spiral of their ideological doctrine. While hopefully no one here would be so reckless, I say it because it’s common. The stakes are incredibly high. The targeted beings have a right to be triggered, to make mistakes, to garble and confuse their talking points even as we strive to hold each other to a higher standard. Objectivity is often the luxury of the removed after all, whether through healing or lack of exposure. When Alex remarks on the white cis-maleness of much of the left-market anarchist and libertarian milieus I am sure it is not to silence but to question. How can we best protect those at risk? How can we honor the experiences of those that have suffered and hold the memory of fascism and racist violence in their bodies? The answer isn’t brutality but it also isn’t ideologically “pure” rigidity. It’s very possible to be culpable and have clean hands. But amidst these dire tensions, there is common ground. I trust that people here all hate fucking nazis and want to see fascism wiped from the earth. In building a world free of fascist power, where liberty, empathy, mutual-aid, and that (James) Baldwinian love reign, I hope that we can keep our priorities in order. We don’t just want to survive, we want to build a world where we can thrive. Destroy nazism to cultivate empathy and freedom. Punch a nazi for love.


Edited for

Antifa Activists As The Truest Defenders Of Free Speech

By: @rechelon | Support this author on Patreon

This piece is the first essay in the November 2017 C4SS Mutual Exchange Symposium: “Antifascism, Free Speech and Political Violence.”

Anarchists have always paid a lot of attention to feedback loops. Seemingly small actions, small arrangements, small evils tolerated, can rapidly or inexorably build up to systematic and seemingly omnipotent power relations. Things that, in isolation don’t seem that bad, can lead to the formation of states or make those states even more authoritarian. Certain economic arrangements can lead to wealth progressively concentrating power into the hands of a few. As anarchists we are always laser focused on the the dangers of letting anyone get a monopoly in anything. On the dangers of even the tiniest interpersonal acts of domination. And as radicals we never settle for established conventions, we’re always questioning where what is considered “common sense” breaks down. We are always searching for the boundary conditions beyond which a rule of thumb is no longer useful. In what contexts do some dangers overwhelm other dangers?

The ideal of free speech — or as I think it should be better parsed, freedom of information— is an ideal of incredible importance that extends well beyond merely opposing state censorship. It’s deeply worrying to see that value erode with the rhetorical ratchet of online conflict. However, freedom of speech is not as clear-cut of an ideal as some think; its application or pursuit is unavoidably tangled, as its most studied champions admit. A world of vibrant open communication where the most accurate ideas rise to the top is a goal — not something that can be achieved by codifying a few simplistic rules of action.

We can all agree that cutting the telegraph wires of fascist generals coordinating an invasion would violate their personal “free speech” but it is also an action clearly justified insofar as it saves the free speech of the millions they plan to subjugate. To truly defend free speech on the whole we must sometimes deny it to its murderous enemies. To defend the ideal of a richly interconnected world where information flows freely takes more than speech, it requires action against those brutally organizing against it.

It is precisely my openness to contrary or extreme ideas, my diligence in listening to all parties, that has led me to realize complexities to free speech. In particular to recognize very extreme situations where the danger of backsliding on broadly tolerant social norms is outweighed by the danger of those ideologically committed to domination and whose recruitment proceeds not through reason but shows of force. There are always exceptions to otherwise good strategies and heuristics — as anarchists we do not rely upon the state or its obtuse and dangerous legal system and thus it is our duty as individuals to not hide from such complications. It is our responsibility as individuals to sometimes judge and act in ways that we would never trust any monopolistic institution to judge or act. Although, of course we must be careful and vigilant nonetheless.

While I inevitably have some disagreements with some among the vast and diverse array of activists who work as antifascists, I value the work that antifa groups and organizations have long undertaken to safeguard our world from the worst possible horrors. When in my neighborhood a decade ago swastikas were going up, businesses owned by people of color were being attacked, and neonazis were brutally jumping people, I certainly wasn’t going to go to the police. I’m an anarchist and consistent in my opposition to the authoritarianism of the police state. But also Portland’s Police — like many other departments — are themselves infested with white nationalists and broadly sympathetic to such scum. Instead I forwarded descriptions to some community members who’d gotten fed up and formed an antifa group and were actively researching and exposing these neonazis. Their work as journalists and as activists to organize boycotts and physically resist attacks helped save my neighborhood and I will never forget that. Similarly to how the faith leaders at Charlottesville attacked by neonazis will never forget the black bloc anarchists who rushed to put their bodies on the line to save their lives. As an anarchist — and the overwhelming majority of “antifa” are also diligent anarchists who reject the state as an ethical means — I’ve remained in the same circles and listened to what they’ve had to say over the years as I’ve traveled from city to city, country to country. I’ve remained consistently impressed by their scholarship, consideration, and bravery.

As full-blown fascist and white nationalist groups have recently started using the political rise of Donald Trump to infiltrate conservative protests or activism, the situation has grown more complex. And it has also become more fraught as “antifa” has suddenly entered the popular lexicon, almost warped beyond recognition. The overly-nuanced research nerds living in praiseless obscurity that I knew have abruptly been cast as violence worshipping thugs, or frothing naive college kids looking to punch anyone problematic. This is, as all anarchists know, absolutely incorrect, although such cartoonish and disconnected narratives clearly further the agendas of both liberals and conservatives. Sadly, in some respects this media narrative becoming a self-fulfilling prophesy that marginalizes longstanding antifa groups, and casts things into much broader conflict of Trump supporters (as “nazis”) versus any and all Trump opponents (as “antifa”), an astonishingly ignorant framing that only benefits fascist entryists and helps spread misinformation via mainstream partisan paranoia.

But there clearly are important ethical and strategic challenges that the mainstream analysis among antifascist activists presents to the rest of us.

  • When nazis hold a march with guns through a jewish neighborhood is that really just a matter of open discourse?
  • Where does a reasonable boundary of “imminence” or “likelihood” to a threat get drawn?
  • How many people need to be killed and at what frequency for us to see ourselves as at war?
  • If a group organizes so that one wing works as streetfighters and murderers and another wing as public spokesmen and recruiters should we really be obligated to treat them as distinct groups or at what point should we see them as the same entity?

Many of these questions would be revolting if it was the leviathan state itself we were trusting to judge such distinctions. But we are anarchists, and as autonomous individuals our ethical responsibilities and capacities are different. Where institutions may have to behave as rule consequentialists lest their bureaucratic momentum carry them to terrible places, individual minds have the agency — and responsibility — to often behave more as act consequentialists, capable of recognizing nuance and context in ways that are more finely grained. Rather than sticking with hamfisted rules we can examine the specific context of each possible action before us.

I agree with the dominant antifascist critique of liberalism and its shortsightedness. Liberals do not grasp the threat posed by fascism – they over-privilege the perceived stability of their institutions and the status quo. They codify simplistic codes of behavior modeled upon the state’s legal system – and naturally, the fascists can run rings around these. Liberals happily legitimize fascists through debate, failing to realize that the game fascists are playing isn’t the game of reason, but the game of psychological appeals. As a practical matter fascism succeeds in debate – in the sense of quickly mobilizing enough of the population to achieve its aims — because the truth is complex, whereas false but simplistic narratives are often more emotionally resonant.

Most longstanding antifa groups are obviously and explicitly not out to singlehandedly win the long war against fascism, but to win the immediate battles necessary for our survival. In the long run fascism will never be defeated by fists but by all the shit like empathy and science that fascism is bad at. It will ultimately be defeated by making the world a better place, by tackling the deeper psychological and sociological dynamics that make fascism possible. We will only truly win when we achieve a world of plenty without oppression, where social hierarchy and dominance games become finally lost to history. That day is obviously far fucking off. It’s important we continue to diligently work towards it, to continue growing the roots of such a world.

But it is also important that we fucking survive to see it. We cannot afford to privilege the future entirely over the present just as we cannot afford to privilege the present entirely over the future. Fascists mobilizing in the streets pose a relatively immediate existential risk to many communities. The situation we now face with not just a police force but an executive branch deeply infested with and sympathetic to outright white nationalists poses unique problems not reducible to the struggles that kicked neonazi thugs out of American cities in the 80s, 90s and 00s, but we also can’t afford to ignore the experience and insights from those struggles.

Much of the “debate” over free speech and the now longstanding analyses that have developed among antifascist activists combating fascism has been profoundly disconnected from the dangers of fascist organizing and the history of antifascist activism. It’s weird hearing conservative media personalities repeating the narrative, “ANTIFA is a bunch of thugs opposed to free speech, they’re the real fascists” that a decade ago you’d only hear from shitty metal bros upset a band they like was exposed as neonazis and boycotted. But among sincere critics of antifa orgs in anarchist circles I think the underlying tension is one not just of philosophy, but of deeply varying takes on the strategic landscape.

Antifa approaches are not remotely designed to win hearts and minds among the wider population, but to stop fascist thugs from metastasizing in numbers by demonstrating unopposed strength. I am deeply sympathetic to forms of activism that do not attempt to “win votes” but just directly solve a problem, even if that problem is just the momentary survival of civilization. However it is true that there’s a degree to which today’s alt-right recruits via different mechanisms than the neonazis of the 80s, pulling from a much larger and more mainstream base that they’re attempting to radicalize using antifascist violence as a boogeyman.

Although those activists actually doing antifascist work on the ground are in many ways epistemically privileged compared to us offering pointers from the peanut gallery – the exact best recipe of strategies to counter this current wave of white nationalist organizing clearly remains an open question.

I hope that this Mutual Exchange will bring some of these complex issues into greater clarity and perhaps defuse the feedbacking tribal suspicions that can occur in the absence of discourse. I have criticisms of some things and some developments under the expansive banner of “antifa” (as most antifa do themselves) but I find their arguments on the whole potent and persuasive.

This is a tough topic because to most people the stakes seem immense and thus there’s an instinct to shy away from anything that could open a rhetorical crack to whatever potential horrific darkness you feel is pressing in. I hope that we can do better, and perhaps find our way towards some kind of meta-resolution.

Since we’re talking about actually existing antifascist groups I will largely follow their lead and stick to using “fascist” in the specific political sense of the broadly hyper-nationalist authoritarian anti-modernists and anti-globalists in the tradition of Mussolini, Hitler, Schmitt, Evola, et al. rather than the abstract philosophical sense of ANY extreme authoritarianism, tribalism, or amoral power worship. Sure there’s degrees of “fascism” to be found in everything, from the sitcoms we watch to the layout of our neighborhood grocery store, and those sort of sweeping philosophical conversations can be enlightening, just as there’s also a place for comparisons of authoritarian liberals like Hillary Clinton to fascists, but let’s try to stick with the sieg heiling numbskulls. For the sake of brevity — unlike antifa groups which tend towards nerdy precision – I will also refer sweepingly and colloquially to a variety of white nationalists in the fascist tradition as “nazis.” I don’t feel that any ethically important distinctions are lost in such language.

I will break my opening piece into five parts: 1) Why free speech matters. 2) Why fascists constitute a real and pressing threat. 3) A defense in the abstract for each of antifascist activists’ most prominent means — reporting, boycotting, doxing, physical defense, and proactive physical disruption, as well as responses to other more abstract critiques. 4) Critical feedback on some tendencies in antifascist strategy in the present context. 5) A challenge to sincere critics of present antifascist activists.

Why Free Speech Matters

Even though I expect this to be read as a spirited defense of antifa and their supposed “violations” of free speech, I want to begin with a piece underlining the importance of the ideal of free speech.

Perhaps the most revolting thing about the alt-right’s positioning on “free speech” has been the calculated backlash it has provoked among the younger radical left. If the alt-right says it’s pro anything a certain fraction of the online left will convulsively declare that thing bad, verboten, and out-group. This reactive tribalism has a lot to do with the way that our mediocre information technologies have framed and shaped communication and social-association norms online. It’s hard to know who some rando is online or where they stand on important things, so people fetishize and overreact to whatever signifiers they can find to try and clear out the trolls and assure some level of productive mutual agreement in their circles or secure some basic social norms.

“Free speech” has started to become nothing more than a signifier of a certain kind of internet troll that uses the phrase as an empty shield, and thus many people convulse to repel anyone invoking such an outgroup phrase. In the process, some legitimate critiques of misapplications of “free speech” have gotten spread and applied widely. The meme signaling wars have gotten so bad than in some places it’s basically obligatory that you respond with something like “muh freeze peach” immediately upon the invocation of “free speech” lest you yourself be revealed as in the grip of the dumbass outgroup.

This is unproductive.

Just because “free speech” is often misapplied by liberals to defend neonazi organizing or intimidation rallies, doesn’t mean that we can afford to discard such an important ideal or its centrality. The misapplication of “free speech” as some kind of myopic legalism that can be invoked by chortling bullies to still our resistance should not eclipse the underlying value.

As anarchists we seek to promote and expand freedom. But in order for people to have agency in their lives and surroundings they must have an accurate model of the world. Freedom is literally impossible in ignorance. If you don’t know the consequences or context of your actions you can’t meaningfully be said to choose them. Freedom of information — the even more radical and expansive version of “freedom of speech” — is about expanding access to information, and not just the most bare particulars, but the full context of things. This includes the social context, the conversations, the evaluations, debate of ideas, and yes even the lies. Without access to others’ perspectives, their models and experiences, our understanding of the world would be incredibly impoverished and inaccurate. Understanding is most efficiently reached through openness and collaboration.

We are always tempted to wall off realms of discourse or ideas and claim that some speech has nothing to contribute, has zero value, but there’s inherently a danger that small deviations — small chosen ignorances — can compound until we’re wildly off base. When for example we cease listening to all conservatives entirely we may miss how dire certain evils brewing among their ranks are, we may miss new tangles in their analysis that could spell doom or be derailed in a more productive direction. And we will miss when, like a broken clock, they end up stumbling across a few true things that we’ve all missed.

Epistemic closure is dangerous as hell, and it happens by degrees. A rightfully critical lens towards the capitalist press and US propaganda can warp into “the holodomor never happened. You can’t listen to bourgeois historians.”

Just as centralized violent organizations always risk compounding into the runaway avalanche of full-blown states and empires, so too can small deviations from intellectual diligence spiral out of control. Often we think “oh it’s psychologically useful to believe in some mystical shit” or “sure this creates an echo chamber but it reinforces our friendship” and consider the damage done very small compared to the good. Our monkey brains and their instincts are not fully rational, so we cope with them by engaging in supposedly limited irrationality. We partially trade pursuit of intellectual accuracy for the psychological boosts provided by collectivism, tribalism, mockery, etc. But these self-perpetuate and reinforce, they erode our capacity to see how much damage we’re doing, how far we’ve drifted from a focus on accuracy. Finally the corruption grows until the comforting roar of the in-group becomes so much more powerful than any curiosity or fear of lurking unknowns beyond the enemy’s lines.

The left has always had an absolutely terrible infection with this sort of thing. It’s easy when you’re clearly right on very big pressing issues, to decide that the time for analysis is over and contrast action with intellectual diligence, to suggest that inquiry is counter-revolutionary and demand that all theorizing payoff immediately — either in terms of psychological strengthening or practical means. There’s been decades of people turning up their noses at “abstract” issues and declaring “We’ll solve this through praxis” — when what that really means is “We’ll solve this through trial and error once the shit hits the fan and we don’t actually have time for laborious trial and error.” It’s absolutely no secret that the Left and radical milieus like anarchism have a lurking inclination towards anti-intellectualism — despite at the same time often being bogged in insular references to esoteric terminology and philosophers. Leftists organize collectively and radicals often define ourselves by our activism; as a consequence there will always be a “enough talk, let’s act” pressure towards disparaging abstract or distant communication and analysis — and certainly engagement with anyone problematic.

But such “pragmatism” is fundamentally at odds with radicalism — ie pursuing the roots of things. When we assume that what we have is “good enough” it takes absolutely no time for blindspots to start growing out of control. For decades communists subscribed to the crackpottery of Lysenkoism because the western capitalists just had to also be wrong about Darwinian evolution. In the 90s anti-vaccination wingnuttery was the fucking norm among anarchists, rarely objected to because what are you gonna take the side of big corporations?? The list of such embarrassments for the left is long and horrifying. Our willful blindness has had consequences, sometimes quite dire. How many people have let their simplistic knee-jerk support for “the underdog” and a community echo-chamber lead them down the path of supporting Israel or North Korea or whatever?

Openness and engagement are our fucking values! The very bedrock of anarchism is internationalism, post-nationalism, globalism — to unite the world in collective liberation, in the collaborative creation of teeming cosmopolitanism, finally free of states and the wounds they rip through us and call borders. It’s beyond preposterous and infuriating that those dedicated to closed borders, to the partition and apartheid of humanity, could ever be taken seriously as “free speech” idealists. Even more galling that anyone would let the book burning alt-right attempt to appropriate the mantle of free speech online. The entire fucking point of the internet is to permanently dissolve borders.

Reactionaries have managed to reduce the grand aspirations of free speech to something as inane and disconnected as whether someone can be punched for saying the n-word. They have turned away from Freedom of Information and instead focused on the far more myopic and ultimately incoherent Freedom of Expression. Instead of viewing the flows of information and efficient epistemic processing in society as a whole, they’ve narrow-beamed on whether or not someone can get away with saying whatever they like with no consequences. They have done this in no small part because we have let them. We have allowed the discourse to collapse to mere legalism — to exist only in relation to the state and simplistic codes of behavior.

Basically everyone gets the argument against state censorship. If a single already hyper powerful organization with a near monopoly on violence also gets to determine what information can pass between people resistance to that state becomes truly impossible. It can do whatever it wants and there is no means of stopping it. And the way the legal system works, even a small sliver of justified censorship can rapidly be expanded to censorship of anything. This is why even statists recognize the need to make sure the state can never censor anything — as well as the importance of stopping the state from ever having a true 100% monopoly on violence. In the United States both of these concerns are even codified as Amendments #1 and #2 to its constitution.

But few people can seem to agree on the contours of “free speech” beyond a prohibition on state censorship. The looming presence of the state has so atrophied our capacity to speak of ethics, values and goals outside of it.

Is it free speech to shout over your speech so you can’t be heard? Is it free speech to create a hostile environment to all but the majority perspective so that anyone who deviates is promptly harassed? Is it free speech to feel obligated to give every random ignoramus time on your news channel to say whatever they like? Is it free speech to broadcast the certain ones and zeros that hack someone’s computer?

What exactly are we aiming at here? To even ask that question sounds alien these days because the goal of free speech has been lost to the code of free speech. This reduction has left the whole affair feeling like kids whining in the back seat about some arbitrary set of rules. The bully snottily announcing “this tree is a home base, you can’t punch me back when I’m touching it”. “I’m not actually touching you yet, I’m just organizing hordes of fellow nazis to launch our genocide sometime in the future. What are you gonna go around punching people because of what they MIGHT do later??? You’re okay with punching people for having DIFFERENT OPINIONS???”

If you think about free speech as a goal, as a value to be maximized in the world, rather than some kind of law or contract, the whole issue becomes obvious:

It’s a good rule of thumb to strongly err on the side of engagement and open discourse, to resist anything that might compound into systemic impediments or barriers. But there are going to arise cases where a violation on the small scale leads to advances for connectivity and discourse on the large scale.

Someone can leak a politician’s files (violating their privacy) in the service of saving the privacy of everyone. A physicist can seek to advance our collective understanding by not trying to correct each of the cranks filling her inbox but by going to a conference of her peers instead.

Similarly one can interfere with the public organizing of a group dedicated to suppressing everyone’s freedom of assembly. One can pressure publishers and institutions to not lend prestige and social standing to nazis by featuring them. And one can choose to prioritize engaging with those actually interested in engaging productively, rather than the obvious grifters, charlatans and trolls of the alt-right.

One can boycott segregationist businesses even though both the boycotting activists and the racist owners can be simplified into the absurdly reductive category of “discrimination.” Yet such grouping is obviously nonsense to anyone with an ounce of sense. In exactly the same vein, isolating, de-platforming, and physically kicking nazis off the streets creates a local violation of the ideal of engagement and connectivity within humanity, but saves the whole. In the same way that the internet organically routes around faulty nodes, cutting them out of the network to save the whole. Or a brain tumor is removed before it can sever too many synapses.

Sure there are dangers here. There are always reductios and slippery slopes. We should remain vigilant and wary of the pitfalls. They are great and grave. Broadly tolerant social norms are important, broad engagement is important. But we shouldn’t lose sight of the fucking goal. We shouldn’t surrender our ethical responsibility to try to keep the bigger picture in perspective. We shouldn’t trade in ethical vigilance for simplistic rules.

I want to be clear: Credulous conservative hysteria about “antifa out to attack free speech” is largely full of shit, direct narrative collaboration between neonazi entryists and conservative demagogues more interested in mobilizing the base than resisting said entryism. Whether neonazis can march and organize without fear of being punched is pretty far afield from any slip in cultural norms that could lead to the bugaboo of antifascists beating anyone they disagree with. Antifa has stayed studiously on target for a century — much to the derision of the broader left which thinks other concerns, issues and enemies are more pressing. Antifa beating up nazis on the streets in the 80s and 90s never led to a collapse in our civilization’s discourse norms, and despite endless ginned up hysteria by conservatives, no antifa group has ever targeted regular conservatives. The people most effectively pushing for civil war and conflation of conservatives and neonazis are the conservative activists actually getting in bed with the nazi entryists.

But what actually does pose a threat to free speech is leftist reaction to this conservative narrative. For decades, antifa groups have taken a studiously pro free speech line when it comes to statist means — opposing hate crimes legislation and other means of censorship. They correctly realized the damage of such statist means would be far greater than the benefit. But now, a fresh-faced generation of leftists only now getting interested in “antifa” are starting to let themselves be goaded by online trolls into incredibly unstrategic oppositional stances.

It’s not a good thing that monopolistic tech giants are making precedents by removing people from the internet. Huge scale corporate censorship may not be state censorship, but it’s no less uncheckable. And you’d better believe it’ll be turned on anarchists to the roaring approval of the same liberals and conservatives now whining about the rights of nazis. It’s not a good thing when copyright law or norms are expanded dramatically to merely inconvenience a few alt-right trolls. And when leftists cheer for “kicking Russian trolls off twitter” what they’re really cheering for is the fucking nationalization of the internet — a Richard Spencer wet-dream. Such a nationalization would be a rollback of the most important victory us internationalists have ever had. Solutions to the dominance of nazi trolls look like Mastodon — a decentralized open source social network where freedom of association from the bottom up marginalizes nazis — not sweeping universal edicts from authorities on high.

Obviously most anarchists weren’t stupid enough to cheer for state and corporate censorship, but we all encountered a spattering on the broader left who were enthused by such. That is actually dangerous creep with potential consequences. Dumbass leftists mobilized by a shallow understanding of “antifa” formed in reaction to conservative narratives. Not whether anarchist vigilantes continue to punch neonazis waving swastika flags and bust up their spectacles of force.

Antifascists cannot afford to concede to the “free speech” narrative.


Why Fascists Constitute A Unique and Pressing Threat

It’s frankly astonishing and horrifying how widely conservative demagogues have managed to spread the lie that fascists are irrelevant and of little danger. The internet has become filled to the brim with ignorant comments claiming that nazis are so marginal they constitute no real threat. I’ve seen variants of this repeated endlessly from tiresome “centrists” or “libertarians” with reactionary inclinations trying to front as though they’re above the fray of politics: “Everyone gets that nazis are bad, the KKK only has a few thousand members, they’re in no danger of taking power, if anything it’s the SJWs being rude to me on campus that are the real threat.”

Since they suddenly discovered the existence of fascists and antifascist activists, there’s been a broad epidemic of liberals and conservatives using them to score points in their own electoral and culture war battles, all of them blithely assuming that literal fascists pose no threat except as as a rhetorical tool.

Let me clarify several points:

1) There’s a large array of fascists and white nationalists active today. Formal “KKK” membership rolls are almost irrelevant. White supremacist gangs control America’s prisons and much of its streets. In turn these groups are often closely allied with more above ground political groups. Additionally there’s been decades of coordinated white supremacist infiltration of police departments in the US, this provides them incredible cover and institutional sway. We see this from cops who build shrines to nazis to police chiefs who run neonazi record labels. This model is repeated internationally — half the police in Greece vote for the neonazi group Golden Dawn. In recent years the internet has enabled the spread of inane reactionary analyses, as anonymity and connection has enabled secret racists to network and build community. Since many people collect “opinions” only as weapons in psychological or social terms, the edgy positioning of fascist and white nationalist perspectives has infested chan and gamer culture in particular. But it would be wrong to write these losers off as merely posturing, since the exact same loser/troll recruitment trajectory was involved in the rise of the classic KKK and Nazi Party, and /pol/ folks have repeatedly turned their politics into gunfire. The few hundred people with the personal finances and lack of obligations to travel to a Richard Spencer rally are not reflective of some small pool of white supremacists. Any more than a few dozen or hundred anarchists in a given black bloc is representative of the tens of thousands of anarchists active in the US.

2) A very small number of people can do immense damage. Two thousand active Al-Qaeda insurgents in Iraq brought the country and the US empire to their knees. A very small number of people can keep a larger population living in terror. Lynchings, church burnings, mosque bombings, and street beatings can cow an entire population. You may not remember the bad old days of the 80s and 90s as it was in many cities — the terror inflicted by neonazis then may not have affected you — but for many it was a nightmare. You don’t have to kill very many people to keep the rest in line, and those that nevertheless stand up or act undaunted are the first to get targeted. While terrorism can have an affective component, some of the responses it garners can be quite rational. If, as a person of color, you run a non-negligible risk of being beaten bloody for walking in your city with a white girlfriend you are going to modify your actions. Active fascist street thugs have a chilling effect. And this is part of the point – why they’ll show up to every left wing event or pride parade or whatever they can if they know they’ll be unopposed. They don’t have to consistently beat those they oppose in order to effectively cow and intimidate them. For decades nazis have been the ones fearful of flying the swastika in public. Today they are trying to reverse that – to make neonazis fearless and anarchists/leftists/libertarians/queers/poc/etc afraid to walk in public. The overhead of activists having to constantly take precautions would impede and demobilize the small but committed sliver of activists presently holding back the reactionary/authoritarian impulses of our institutions. When Hungarian neonazis and cops won the streets from anarchists, many activist fronts were deeply hindered and the government accelerated towards authoritarianism.

3) The danger isn’t the 51% of the American population voting for a swastika LARPer on an explicit platform of genocide.  Sure almost no one in the US is going to vote for a politician slathered in Third Reich imagery, but people vary quite dramatically in their analysis of WHY racism and fascism are bad. Just as almost no one explicitly supports “rape” but huge numbers of men happily report having forced sex on other people against their consent without using that term, so to does a large fraction of the populace think whites are oppressed and the US should be centered on whiteness. About a third of the population polls consistently authoritarian, tribalist, and conservative. In many respects they’re almost fascists a few steps behind in self-recognition. Although those steps do matter and we should do everything to stop them from waking up, we need to recognize that such reactionaries constitute a powerful base. For example, the hordes of people shouting “nuke em till they glow” after 9/11 revealed themselves as bootlicking genocide enthusiasts. Such thuggish near-sociopaths are an eclectic bunch, self-centered, stupid, opportunist, and hard to truly unify and mobilize to their full potential, but they do provide a broad recruitment base for fascists and they have shown they will happily vote for and violently defend fascistic policies. Given a slow ratchet of fascism, there is no breaking moment where we can expect basic ethics to trump their authoritarian instincts and tribal loyalties. The danger isn’t that the KKK persuades a hundred million people to join it and then wins elections and institutes fascist rule. That’s a strawman built on incredibly naive political notions. The danger is that the fascist fringe spreads terror, pushes the overton window to make hyper-nationalism and racism acceptable in public, and gradually detaches the actual power of the state (the police and their guns) from the more reserved liberal legal apparatus supposedly constraining them. Explicit fascist street gangs are not going to get millions of votes any time soon, but the danger is that they will they draw in thousands of recruits if they are allowed to appear powerful and legitimate and the impact on our country’s climate would be dramatic, severely impeding anarchist, leftist, and libertarian activism, and unleashing the state’s authoritarian inclinations. Tens of millions of people could be deported, arrested, harassed, raided, jumped on the streets, etc, without any politician ever explicitly flying a swastika or wearing a white hood. As bad as shit was under imperialist liberal presidents like Obama, it could become a hell of a lot worse with an unsuppressed fascist vanguard.

It’s important to debunk a common illusion: the fascists never magically went away. They remained in great numbers after the Second World War. Fascism was never defeated by persuasion, it was defeated by force. Most of the millions that filled the ranks of fascist movements in the firsts half of the twentieth century went to their graves still believing in aspects of fascism. Even in America there was no deconversion per se of the vast number of american Nazis. Watch this video of 20,000 Americans sieg heiling in Madison Square and remember that many who aligned against the nazis in world war two weren’t aligned against the ideology of nazism but against the German foreigners. Further the Cold War kept fascism quite alive in many places. We all know that the allied governments snatched up nazi scientists and bureaucrats after the war, but there was rarely any attempt to address their ideology. Large parts of the US government were sympathetic, saw the nazis as merely over-zealous anti-communists. Kissinger even made moves to bring the nazis back to power in West Germany in hopes that they would serve as a bulwark against communism. And the Soviets in turn helped maintain a reactionary and authoritarian culture — the success of modern fascist activity in Europe maps almost perfectly to the old iron curtain, those formerly under Soviet rule far more likely to long for a return to the simplicity of authoritarianism.

It was force that put fascism in remission, and it has been anti-authoritarian cosmopolitan pop culture that was capable of slowly killing it over generations while it remained in remission. But the operative word is slowly. The values of liberty win out in the long run, but fascism can metastasize very quickly in the short term if it is not constantly and diligently suppressed.

Today it is once again flaring up and much of the antifascist activist infrastructure maintained throughout earlier decades has lapsed or been slow to respond. While antifa groups debated academically in late 2015 whether or not Donald Trump could properly be called a “fascist”, actual undeniable fascists have flooded into the ranks of Trump protests and online communities. And online subcultures already increasingly turning to reaction started gobbling up the garbage of actual full-fledged nazis.

Every observer is in agreement that we’ve seen an upsurge in white nationalist and fascist organizing. But I want to put that in terms of just some of the deaths that this organizing has already caused:

  • In June 2015, Dylann Roof was inspired by the “hate facts” posted on Daily Stormer and Council of Conservative Citizens to murder nine people at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina.
  • In July 2015, John Russell Houser, a far-right former bar owner, shot and killed two people and injured nine others before committing suicide in a Lafayette, LA movie theater which was playing a feminist film. Houser praised the actions of Adolf Hitler on online message boards.
  • In November of 2015, a group of well-armed 4chan regulars attended a Black Lives Matter camp in Minneapolis, harassing them with racial slurs. They opened fire on activists attempting to chase them out when they returned a second night, wounding five.
  • In August of 2016 a black teen named Larnell Bruce was run down for sport outside of Portland by a white supremacist member of European Kindred named Russell Courtier.
  • On Inauguration day an antifascist protester of Milo Yiannopolous was shot in stomach by Elizabeth Hakoana, who came to the protest with her husband, who planned to “crack skulls” of the “snowflakes” at the event and provoke a reaction to justify shooting someone. (Notably that antifa protester refused to help send them to prison, and insisted on restorative justice rather than revenge.)
  • Later in January, Alexandre Bisonette, a fervent supporter of Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen, opened fire on a Quebec City Islamic Culutral Center, killing six.
  • In February, a white U.S. Navy veteran, Adam Purinton, 51, killed an Indian engineer, wounded his Indian co-worker, and shot a man who tried to stop the murder at a bar in Olathe, KS while yelling “get out of my country.”
  • In March, James Jackson, a subscriber of Alt Right Youtube channels, traveled from Baltimore to New York with the sole purpose of murdering a black person at random. He stabbed Timothy Caughman, killing him.
  • In May a fight between a former neonazi and his two neonazi roomates who were building bombs to destroy civil infrastructure, led to the deaths of two of them.
  • In May Sean Christopher Urbanski, a University of Maryland student and member of online alt-right facebook groups, randomly stabbed to death black Army Officer Richard Collins III in Baltimore.
  • Self-proclaimed nihilist and neonazi Jeremy Christian (former supporter of Sanders but consistent racist), who had marched in alt-right protests, stabbed 3 people in Portland who intervened to tell him to stop yelling racist remarks to two young girls on a light rail train, instantly killing two.
  • In May the white supremacist Anthony Robert Hammond hacked a random black man with a machete after yelling racial slurs at numerous people in Clearlake, CA.
  • And of course in August James Alex Fields Jr, an admirer of Hitler who worked with the white supremacist and fascist group Vanguard America, drove down peaceful protesters injuring 19 and killing Heather Heyer.

These are just some of the highest profile cases in that time. It doesn’t include many brutal murders between neonazis or written off by police as simply part of their crime. For exampleneonazis in my home town skinned a rival with a belt-sander and dumped his body in public on a major city street. For a much longer and more detailed list of just incidents within 2017 see this post filled with examples and citations.

And see also these summaries from Snopes and even a liberal org that despises antifa. And of course this doesn’t scratch the surface of the unending history of fascists shooting anarchists and antifascists, from Lin Newborn and Daniel Shersty to Luke Querner.

Meanwhile absolutely no antifascist has killed anyone or come close. The incredible restraint that antifascists have shown in this war is remarkable in context.

The “left” — mostly broadly construed — can maybe lay claim to a few murders in this time. If we assume that police and politicians aren’t valid targets then in July of 2016 Micah Xavier Johnson killed five police officers in Dallas and Gavin Eugene Long killed three in Baton Rogue, and in June of this year James T. Hodgkinson shot a congressman and four others. Each of these was massively hyped by the mainstream media – the eternal running dogs of both cops and politicians — but the statistics make the picture clear:

Over the past 10 years (2007-2016), domestic extremists of all kinds have killed at least 372 people in the United States. Of those deaths, approximately 74% were at the hands of right-wing extremists, about 24% of the victims were killed by domestic Islamic extremists, and [2%] were killed by left-wing extremists.” [source]

I’m not particularly interested in defending the left at large, I’m no fan of it and there are statist communists who worship regimes just as horrific and murderous as fascist ones, but the disparity here is profound. And that disparity would of course remain if we counted murders at the hands of the police or military or state policy. We should also note that the black nationalists responsible for police killings are pretty far afield from antifa and anarchism — being staunchly anti-nationalist. At various points in history black nationalists and statist communists have made alliances with white nationalists and fascists, whereas anarchists and anti-fascists would obviously rather die first.

If we’re talking about antifascists specifically then at best they’ve thrown a few punches at rallies crawling with out white nationalists and neonazi entryists. Among the thousands of community members that showed up in Berkeley for an antifascist organized rally a few broke some windows and set a lamp on fire. And in a mass demonstration a Trump supporter in a wheelchair was shoved by some rando and the blame assigned to “antifa.” Meanwhile most every viral story of “antifa punched this dude just for being a Trump supporter” is inevitably debunked when the dude in the red cap is revealed to be a known white supremacist entryist who was throwing punches before the tiny snippet of video put on twitter. And yet social media is covered with even more outrageous lies:

1) That antifa fought alongside ISIS in syria (using a picture of antifa volunteers who fought ISIS and were showing off their liberation of ISIS territory and smashing of its billboard). 2) That antifa threatened to attack an annual parade in Portland because republicans would be marching (the only piece of evidence being an absurdly written anonymous email that the longstanding local antifa organization Rose City Antifa dismissed). 3) That antifa called for the beating of women who voted for Trump (in actuality a pretty open /pol/ disinformation campaign). 4) That antifa called for the murder of pets belonging to white nationalists (exposed as a misinformation campaign by antifa groups, when in fact neonazis HAVE actually in the past killed the pets of antifascist activists). On and on it goes. One can’t keep up with the lies. My favorite gem was when antifascists made a snarky sarcastic banner demanding the money Soros was purportedly paying them and conservative blogs dutifully reported on the banner as if it was real.

The demonization of antifa through feverish projection has become a self-perpetuating avalanche. Reactionaries make up whatever they can because it must be close enough to the bogeyman they assume “antifa” is and in turn assume any nonsense they hear is true.

We’re in a situation of extreme asymmetry. There’s intense threat from the fascist fringe and intense demonization of the antifascist fringe that used to keep them in check.

“Okay but what about the leftists!?? You see the damn SJW menace everywhere and they’re far more popular and now they’re punching people and getting guns. They may not be killing people now, but eventually!”

This is a classic cognitive bias where the near enemy blinds you to the distant enemy. Sure there are far more leftists and SJWs than neonazis. But there is absolutely zero chance of radical leftists enacting their goals through collaboration with the police state. The cops will never in a million years arrest you up for not being vegan, but they routinely murder people for being black. The police state is hyper-right-wing. We can mostly survive higher taxes and a stupid centralized health care system, tens of millions of people won’t survive an ethnonationalist policy. Tens of millions will live in fear under the boot of fascist thugs in collaboration with the police.

The vast majority of the radical left in America are anti-authoritarian fellow travelers to anarchists who generally forswear use of statist means. They’re incapable of organizing systematic or institutional means of oppression. You can’t build a Stasi or KGB if you’re fundamentally opposed to anything that looks like police. There are statist communists in America, but they’re far smaller in number and even more profoundly out of sync with the populace.

Absolute worst case is the state communists start some minor Shining Path style terrorist insurgency and the SJWs college kids create environments where dissent from arbitrary ideological lines or cultural norms is punished by ruthless social ostracization or condemnation. That would be bad, but it would certainly be survivable. There wouldn’t be tens of millions of forced deportations and a regime of random street murders. Mostly some folks would feel like they couldn’t say some things without risking their jobs. There’s just no comparison in terms of human suffering.

And further, let’s be clear, while there’s toxic elements to corners of SJW culture, without subsidy from institutional violence the norms they’re capable of spreading are largely rational ones predicated upon real arguments about damage to minorities that actually resonate with people. While sometimes small communities are capable of forming echo-chambers to reinforce some arbitrary party line, those norms have little memetic potency. But over the last two decades in the explosion of voices from previously oppressed people, a great many people have been persuaded of the things they have to say. Things like “microaggressions” and “safe spaces” have rational and persuasive foundations even if they also have obvious misuses. It shouldn’t be radical to point out that small acts of minor racial prejudice or lack of understanding add up in effect. People sometimes need breathers where they can hang with people with the same experiences, to have new conversations built off of shared knowledge rather than contest the same 101 debates with those ignorant of their experiences. The occasional toxicity of SJW discourse is not what has driven its explosion, such occasional toxicity is rather parasitic on its underlying rational potency.

SJW critiques of our social norms are winning out in no small part because they’re often quite well reasoned anarchist critiques, albeit rather defanged for liberal consumption. There are of course dangers of tribalism and echo-chambers, but in the absence of a hunger for violent institutional power, the only damage this ultimately does is to one’s own cause.

Certainly the toxic or hamfisted failings of SJW land have played a role in inspiring broad reactionary movements. But fascists aren’t merely just reactionaries. Plenty of people hear the word “privilege” and curdle in rage (“how dare you tell me that I’m privileged, you don’t know me, I’ve suffered so, I’ve earned what I got” or “privilege implies the freedoms I have aren’t rights but something you can take away”). The broad reactionary subculture engendered by gamergate, MRAs, etc, that poses itself as “anti-sjw” is clearly a recruiting base for fascists, but they are also quite frequently not full-blown fascists. There have always been reactionaries furious at social advancements – that is always dangerous, but fascist recruitment takes things further.

I’ve written at length before about fascist organizing, but the long and short of it is that fascism recruits through appeals to our cheapest monkey brain needs. As a purer, and rather uniquely self-aware flavor of authoritarianism/tribalism, fascism prospers by directly promising brute power and social belonging. Fascism strips away the complexities of agency, of freedom, of individualism, of intellectual vigilance, and offers instead comforting simplicities. In the astonishingly self-aware words of Andrew Anglin of the Daily Stormer:

“We feel emasculated. Many of us feel we have never had power. We crave power. We lust after power. We want to be part of a group, which will give us power. A group that will confirm our worth as men. We do not have identities. We want identities.”

To satiate such gut-level needs, fascists make gut-level appeals. An authoritarian can talk forever about how he’s gonna give you power, but an authoritarian that visibly, viscerally demonstrates power, that’s the authoritarian who will successfully recruit.

Fascists make a mockery of debate intentionally, in the authoritarian mind it’s inherently just positioning and only fools take ideas seriously. From such a perspective the fascist that discards the existing norms, that dances around in a flagrantly bad faith way, demonstrates a kind of strength in honesty. The only honesty, in their mind, being that truth and ideas don’t matter. Power matters, power through deception and manipulation — the capacity to get someone to put you on a stage, in a position of respect, despite your flagrant dishonesty — and power through physical strength — the capacity to march in the open, in great numbers, with weapons, with muscles, trappings of masculinity, displays of wealth, etc. Widespread mockery can hurt fascists by demonstrating their unpopularity, but so long as they have other sorts of power to fall back on the fascist can simply tell himself “this is the real power, this is the only thing that actually matters, what those people have is fake and hollow, that they will be overthrown.” [source]

Fascists have thus no allegiance to truth — they are rather, as any denizen of the internet knows all too well, closely align with trolls, not good-faith debaters. Hence the situation we find ourselves in where the alt-right is most known for making lies and disinformation faster than can be debunked. Fascism is fundamentally rooted in a nihilistic anti-intellectualism where truth becomes nothing more than a game of narrative construction.

The problem is that while the Flat Earther might be happy to spit out 100 arguments that the earth is not a globe and sucker in a few thousand rubes who want to feel special, like they have secret suppressed knowledge that makes them elite, the fascist also appeals to a power fantasy. “All those elites with the cultural or social capital you don’t have, making you feel excluded. You don’t have to climb the ladder of laboriously figuring out anti-racist terminology and conventions just to not be mocked, and you’d probably never be accepted as cool shit anyway cuz you’re a white cis dude, and anyway you might have to give some shit up, fuck that, let’s just kill them all and grind their haughty faces into the dirt, teach them that raw TRUE power was what mattered all along.” There is a large reactionary base in our society, for whom such fantasies are utterly seductive. The only thing keeping a large and dangerous fraction of them from leaping into the streets sieg-heiling is self-preservation. A fear of the ramifications.

It is of course important that we tackle the underlying reactionary base, but progress there will take ages, in the meantime it’s absolutely necessary that we keep the ramifications so dire that few self-interested reactionary sociopaths see a net upside to signing up with them. This means denying them all pretense of legitimacy and acceptability in civil society. And it means preventing them from successfully staging spectacles of jackbooted force – like their intimidation rallies.


In Defense Of Antifascist Activism

For decades antifa have served a niche role as watchmen, as relatively lonely nazi hunters and researchers. Their ranks would occasionally swell when a particularly noticeable infection of fascists cropped up, as local community members would step up to join in resisting them. But what has happened in the last two years is utterly off the scale.

It’s a little stunning to be an anarchist in this context. It’s like watching an impassioned national conversation about Food Not Bombs or Anarchist Black Cross. A longtime staple of the anarchist movement, a franchised friendly neighborhood project the rest of us don’t think about much, has been weirdly thrust into the spotlight. Literally everyone is scrambling to identify with it or against it, and to redefine it into their personal political narratives.

Trump is both central to this recent story and at the same time almost entirely vestigial. He’s a reflexively authoritarian political figure who has aptly played to the nativist and racist tendencies in his reactionary base far more explicitly than arguably even Nixon, but he’s also an idiot opportunistic figurehead being used and bounced between different forces. While Trump himself will do some immense amount of damage — like all Presidents — the unique dangers of his presidency are that he’ll serve as a catalyst to fascist and reactionary forces. Will he effectively unleash the police and set off this century’s Palmer raids of dissidents? Will he institute mass deportations and ethnic cleansing? Fuck, it, will he start a war that kills tens of millions? These questions hang in the air every day. They are important and pressing and we must be ready to resist them but, policy is not a traditional concern of antifascists. There’s already an array of activist institutions in some sense prepared to deal with these potential atrocities. In contrast, what antifascists have focused on is fascist organizing. In keeping the seemingly marginal nuts, marginal.

Now the wall keeping explicit fascists out of society has mostly come down and no one knows what comes next.

While antifascists are adapting and innovating, so far they have responded mostly by escalating their traditional means of reporting, doxing, and physically disrupting fascist organizing. This laser focus has its benefits, but it just as clearly has its downsides. Antifascist groups were formed to organize community self defense against nazis, not to win a media battle in the mainstream. Their skillset is investigative reporting, organizing and physical resistance, not media narrative crafting. As a result they were obviously completely unprepared to counter the abrupt mainstreaming of fascism into the public discourse, handle the rapid rise in people identifying as “antifa”, or counter narratives painting antifa as somehow bad.

At the root of the bad press antifa has been getting and the success of reactionaries in spreading lies about them is a tension over “media relations” and public outreach that anarchists have felt for ages.

“Worrying about whether we’re giving them material for their lies is a fool’s neuroticism. They’re going to make up fake news anyway—turning a fascist who lost a fight into an innocent bystander or lending credence to the guy who stabbed himself and blamed antifa. The truth is that most pundits (on the right and supposed left) are happy to fall for these “vicious antifa” stories because these pundits are more concerned with order than justice. For them, people fighting in the street over politics will always conjure images of other countries where they don’t want to live. It upsets them.” [source]

Your reaction to this will depend in no small part on whether you think the war for public opinion is critical or centrally important to the struggle against fascism. I think the real challenge of the Trump era is that the public opinion and media narrative game HAS started to matter in a way that wasn’t previously true when it came to antifascist activism. But I’m not convinced that public opinion or media narratives are of such importance as to eclipse all other issues. I think it’s worth critically evaluating that assumption. Most Americans grow up indoctrinated in the assumptions of liberal democracy, shaping our every instinct to think that winning public opinion or “a majority” is the definition of success. There’s often a lot of baggage preventing people from evaluating or really thinking in terms of direct action – of just getting a thing done, regardless of whether you’re widely hated for doing it. Running the underground railroad in the antebellum south was not remotely about winning hearts and minds among the white population – it was about immediately freeing slaves. Going against the wishes of the majority not to eventually persuade them, but to directly impede their capacity to oppress is often a quite valid means. We would today rightfully scoff at those condemning the underground railroad for “undermining the struggle for public opinion” by breaking the law and thus contributing to white fears. And we could spin a similar analogy here when it came to vigilante violence against slave owners.

It’s important to remember that antifascist groups exist in large part because anarchists don’t trust the state to respond to white supremacists (and Islamists like ISIS), and want to disrupt the organizing of such would-be-tyrants without appealing to the state’s cancerous monopoly on violence. Much of the historic squabbling between antifascists and liberal groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center has centered around precisely whether the state can be trusted with “hate crimes” laws or “anti-extremism” efforts.

I keep saying “anarchist” because let’s be honest — despite there being liberal, socialist, and libertarian members of antifa groups, antifascism has been predominately an anarchist project since the end of the second world war, championed and directed by anarchists. Especially in the United States where antifascism is overwhelmingly an anarchist project. Antifascist work is necessarily done in secret with no reward of social capital and no hierarchical machinery to seize, and thus has been of little interest to statist communists who prefer infiltrating and seizing control over liberal organizations.

Of course antifa is varied, active for decades across numerous countries, in a variety of contexts. The European model is more broad subcultural and marxist-influenced, the American model both more tightly organized and anarchist. But differences abound between regions and countries. And antifa groups or campaigns often emerge in ways specific to subcultures and scenes. Fascists have consistently tried to build subcultural bases by infiltrating and corrupting existing ones, and so you get people in skinhead, punk, goth, metal, paganism, libertarianism, etc, exposing and pushing back against them. Naturally these antifa all look different and take different approaches. But if there’s universal conclusions one can extract it’s that it’s worth being hated if you’re also able to rally people to expel a popular band or figure, and that in many circumstances only a willingness to use physical force will get the job done.

The pattern I’ve witnessed over two decades is that committed antifa groups will consistently win the structural war against fascist entryism — but also suffer what wounds the fascists can inflict in retreat: usually lingering hostilities simmering among a minority of the scene who lap up the parting lines of the fascists pushed out about how antifa are tyrannically censoring innocent edgelords. This kind of simmering resentment is perpetuated by low-information scene members who repeat whatever lies are told to them. They’ll spend years denouncing antifa for protesting a band and never bother to actually read antifa’s report proving the band’s fascist affinities. It’s almost hilarious the regularity with which I derail a long-time hater of antifa I’ve met by just looking up the relevant article with google and reading it aloud. “Oh”, they say, crestfallen, “I guess I hadn’t heard that evidence,” having never fucking read the points of the side they demonize.

This is a point I was myself somehow surprised to discover years ago. Far from being frothing hysterics out to witchhunt anyone and everyone under a sloppy notion of “fascism”, antifa — in the sense of longstanding groups like those in the TORCH Network  — are painfully reserved and accurate in their exposes. Almost to the point of being boring.

Indeed it’s quite arguable that a good fraction of the blame for the situation we’re all in lies in fact that many antifa dragged their feet in response to Trump. Antifa activists and academics debated internally whether Trump was technically “fascist” and in many cases seemed paralyzed about how to respond to fascists and white nationalists using the electoral organizing as a cover. Most anarchists were absolutely loath to be seen as taking a side in American electoral politics, even as the situation grew more and more desperate.

If anything I’ve found myself increasingly frustrated reading antifa sites as they painstakingly adopt terms like “white nationalist” or “alt-right” rather than just calling the scumbag in question a nazi. While I admire the intellectual diligence and strive to at least some approximation of it, but this does seem to be playing a different sort of public relations or “respectability” game – hoping to be admired for accuracy by the few academics still reading antifa blogs while letting Fox News spread absolute nonsense unopposed to the wider populace. There obviously aren’t easy resolutions to the conflict between hyper accurate language to better serve a few elite readers and more rhetorically charged broadness to convey a truth to a wider audience in general terms.

I do however like how this passage from Atlanta Antifa navigates the obfuscated mess around Milo “not technically a nazi” Yiannopoulos with accuracy but also with a certain succinct clarity:

“[Milo] relies on racist tropes, has spread Nazi propaganda, who spread anti-Muslim hate, who attacks transgendered people and singles them out in his speeches, who has made apologetic statements about pedophilia, spouts misogynistic shit, who writes for Brietbart a known far-right website which supports and promotes white nationalist and racist ideas, has employed known neo-Nazis and white nationalists… So he’s not just some run of the mill conservative. And if you’re claiming he is, then you’re admitting that conservatives are complicit with all of those aspects mentioned above.”

Of course now we all know that Milo literally had nazi minutia for his passwords and happily sung to a sieg-heiling crowd.

It bears repeating a thousand times: despite conservative hysteria that pattern-matches actual antifa to random mean lefties by comparing them to nazis on twitter and thus freaks out that “they’ll be punching any GOP member next!!!” antifascists have stayed resolutely and precisely on target over the decades.  There’s plenty of deliberately constructed grey area around literal neonazis – things like the ProudBoys that claim not to be racist, and only embrace the hypernationalist patriarchal components of fascism, but still recruit and collaborate with white nationalists and neonazi gangs, as well as adopting much iconography and cultural signifiers from bonehead nazi thugs. It would be obviously amiss for antifascist activists to ignore such auxiliaries and attempts at obfuscation, but they nevertheless struggle to avoid intellectually-dishonest conflation. And when the fascist activity dries up in a region so too does antifascist activism. Those activists happily go back to normal lives or sedate leftist activism like building community centers. They don’t go looking for new targets to call “nazis.”

More flies with honey and the issue of timescales

Let’s start with something that I see crop up in almost every critique of a specific line someone doesn’t like antifa crossing. The argument tends to go something like this: “One of the reasons (condemning, protesting, doxing, punching, etc) nazis is bad is that it makes them feel bad, which hardens them in their position.”

What’s so interesting about these “catch more flies with honey than vinegar” arguments is how rarely they get applied consistently. Literally any level of meaningful opposition is going to make nazis “feel bad” and harden many in resistance. Should we be greeting them instead with a hug and a blowjob in hopes that — between mouthfuls — we’re able to get in some convincing points? And do you advocate the same thing for dealing with ISIS? Should we be trying to win ISIS members over with honey and meanwhile critique the Kurds for shooting at them because “it’ll only harden them”?

Some may argue that the degree of hardening is different between different ethical tiers. The person who thinks a certain type of doxxing is unethical might say that “I’m not opposed to you putting his personal information online with screenshots of his nazi statements, but when they put his mother’s phone number online because she was paying his bills that was a step too far” and okay, sure, fine, there’s certainly an ethical case that doxing family members causes unacceptable collateral damage on potential innocents, that’s an argument I personally happen to agree with (unless the mom is a nazi too). That case can and should be made. But what is totally invalid is the frequent move to then pull the “and this is only going to make the nazi more disinclined to change” card. This line of argument presumes that the nazi makes the same ethical category distinctions that the critic does! The nazi may in fact care a lot about being personally exposed and very little about his mother’s phone number getting shuffled in. Similarly it’s frankly preposterous when non-aggression hardliners use this argument over whether or not to punch a nazi preemptively or only after he punches first. If a nazi has rejected and laughed at the non-aggression principle I think we can safely say the only thing that matters to him is that he got punched — any punching is going to “harden” him in equal measure (if it does at all), regardless of whether that punching falls on one side or another of your personal ethical categories. If we’re truly to optimize for “not making nazis harden in their way” you’ve gotta recognize that’s going to cut in weird directions. Completely humiliating someone in a debate can often harden that person in their politics far more than a punch will. Further the exact opposite is often true — for a lot of people physical repercussions can suddenly make their online game real in a way that scares them straight.

And let’s remember that if getting punched or shamed for being a “merely” ironic half-committed nazi makes someone more likely to lean into the nazi life, chances are he was going to go down that path anyway, regardless of specific prompts. We should take the “you meanly characterized me as a nazi for being an ethno-nationalist in every meaningful way so now I might as well fly an outright swastika, see what you’ve done??” about as seriously as any other sociopath deciding to revel in their actual values the moment they can no longer hide. As the immortal tweet goes “If I started calling this guy a pig-fucker for a few months, he’d start going to the farm for dates

I’m not saying there’s no value to deconverting fascists or drawing them in with honey. There clearly is value to that, albeit in the proper context. But 1) it’s something that takes time compared to metastasizing threat fascists pose on the street. And 2) there’s already a large liberal NGO apparatus for deconverting fascists. Trump naturally cut all funding for such programs, but they’re precisely the sort of thing that moderates will already open their checkbooks for. In short the marginal ROI is presently very low on that kind of activism compared to the more dangerous and risky exposing and confronting of active fascist organizing.

However I will note that there are antifa organizations who also work in this space — for example providing alternative support networks to people coming out of prison or under the thumb of nazis within — as with some of the work of the Pacific Northwest Anti-Fascist Workers Collective. Typically anarchists gravitate towards the kind of work that can only be done by people who don’t give a fuck about the law. NGOs have to play it safe, but anarchist activist groups can happily keep shit confidential or assist in ways that would be a legal liability for a non-profit.

There are countless things that must be built over the long term to permanently dig the grave of fascism. Providing exits for people out of fascist movements is just one of them. Broad cultural changes are incredibly important. We will never finally win until anti-authoritarian cosmopolitan values pervade society so deeply that fascism is unthinkable. Such a victory will take love and art and science and all the things free people do better than fascists. But there are different timescales to be considered.

Antifascist activists obviously shouldn’t entirely ignore the long term, but this is a triage situation. Eating healthier will impede the odds of cancer in the long term, but when you’ve actually got cancer you don’t need kale, you need to fucking cut it out of you ASAP.

Smug liberal activists just discovering antifascism love to jump in with the absolutely inane commentary that “antifa isn’t solving the long-term problem of fascism.” Of course it fucking isn’t.

You wouldn’t claim that an anarchist member of the French Maquis was under the illusion that fascism would be forever vanquished by her bullets, but goddamn, the point is that said bullets might secure our survival for a few more years so we can also work on all those longer-term solutions.

I’m all about the long-term, and anarchism has spent centuries raising the alarm about short term fixes that impede our ultimate goals. But there is another side to the equation. We can just as easily fall into the failure mode of entirely privileging long term strategy over short term tactics.

Anarchism is at its very essence anti-fascist, we stand in every way possible at literal opposite pole from nationalism, statism, and traditionalism. Everything anarchists do in pursuit of anarchy is thus in the ultimate sense “antifascist.” But let’s not get lost in the hyperopia of “my poly vegan intersectional open-source bike coop is building an ‘anti-fascist’ world” and fail to see to the neonazi barbarians presently at the gates.


It’s been said endlessly by those of us who’ve paid attention to them over the years but the vast majority of what antifa does isn’t oriented towards street fighting but leveraging social pressure to get fascists boycotted. Nazi band tries to play a bar, and antifacists will notify the bar owner, delivering evidence of the band’s politics. If the bar owner doesn’t care then they’ll publicize that and rally public pressure until the bar owner fears being boycotted. It’s frankly hard to imagine how anyone would have any sort of issue with this kind of activism, but in reality people are incredibly averse to conflict and take challenges to people’s social standing far more seriously than nazis murdering people.

People in general don’t give a shit about ethics or anyone besides themselves. So when someone says, “hey the band you like isn’t just aping fascist aesthetics and being edgy, they’ve also donated thousands to fascist orgs and have let nazis recruit at their shows,” a lot of people’s first response isn’t “oh my god, that sucks, thanks for giving me a heads up!” but to instead spin out in hysterics over who the Thought Police will be coming for next and how dare anyone expect anything from you, that’s The Real Fascism. It’s a startling lack of compassion for the targets of fascism and a myopic concern with any remotely distant likelihood you might yourself be inconvenienced. Sure the band may be facilitating gangs of nazi thugs beating immigrants on the street, but the REAL issue at hand is that some folks might respect you less for going to their shows.

It’s a kind of egotistical nihilism that is common in scenes like punk and metal. Caring about other people or shit in the wider world is whatever, but the fires of hell must be unleashed if someone’s “moralism” runs the risk of even slightly negatively affecting you. When the alt-right declares that they’re the punk rock of today, there’s actually a solid case to be made that they’re right. Or at least they represent the unbroken continuation of a nihilist current always within such scenes. Shitbags like Jim Goad that decades ago published punk zines calling for women to be raped and beaten are now leading figures among the modern fascist milieu. Indeed the antifa vs. nihilist shitbag split over fascist bands is pretty much exactly replicated when it comes to issues like long standing rapists being called out in the punk scene. A hell of a lot of people don’t even bother to read the evidence and testimonials but immediately start screaming about “Witch Hunts!” because whether or not the dude raped someone or the band is fascist is totally irrelevant to them, what they’re most concerned about is the establishment of social consequences for it.

Libertarians have been shouting for years that boycott is the ethical approach, that organized boycotts could have suppressed the horrors of Jim Crow without involving the state. But now that folks have actually come face to face with organized boycotts and the social pressure that underpins them many are horrified. “Social pressure!? Sanctioning those who don’t sanction?! That way lies mean kids in high school. I just meant if you don’t like something you should shut up about it and maybe not purchase it, don’t ever preach about it or judge others’ purchasing habits.”

It’s a sad reality that whole point to libertarianism for many is a simplistic elitism and amoralism. A code of rules (property rights) that one can blindly adhere to without much cognitive overhead and then ignore all other ethical considerations or complications. The modern core libertarian demographic is infamously slightly intellectual white boys – who in their worst moments just want to dwell in the protective simplicities of their privilege and ignore the pleas of those oppressed in complex and challenging ways. “Patriarchy! Hah! What nonsense. No, I’m not going to listen to an explanation longer than can fit in a brief youtube video. Look, honey, I respect property rights and don’t need to pay attention to anything else, it’ll sort itself out. And if it doesn’t then you were wrong to whine about it.

Of course many actual libertarians have known better – just as many if not arguably more are drawn to libertarianism by sincere empathy for victims of war or the police state. And smarter figures recognize that “the market” is inherently inclusive of activism around cultural changes. Organized boycotts are as important to the growth of a healthy market just as much as investments, and social justice style activism is just another rational form of market participation that can build a healthier world.

I just want to briefly point out that opposing boycotts is profoundly non-libertarian and anti-market. To oppose the organizing of boycotts is to oppose to the flow and processing of information. If someone frequents a racist establishment that says something about their character. To not integrate that into your own evaluations of who you want to associate with requires a deliberate act of ignorance, of intellectual self-sabotage. The entire justification for markets is supposed to be that they’re effective at transmitting information and thus providing greater agency. What opponents of boycotts want is the curtailing of what information can be transmitted on the market. Or, if we’re being more honest, what they secretly always wanted was a world where they wouldn’t have to consider issues of ethics and values, where pertinent information in those issues is never transmitted or acted upon. Fuck that.

Now of course there is a second direction of critique. One could argue that boycotts and other choices of exclusion or ostracism raise barriers in the same way that borders do. This is a transparently bad faith critique when it comes from people who themselves advocate draconian state-enforced borders, but there are a spattering of actual anarchists concerned that boycotts violate the spirit of openness and connection that anarchism aspires to. Isn’t boycott “exclusionary”?

I’ll absolutely admit that boycotts sever connectivity in specific ways and even sever connectivity on the whole. But the tactic of boycotting can also be applied in ways that increase overall connectivity in a network by impeding the connection of a malicious or faulty nodes. A router forwarding packets on a network may keep a record of how honest or effective other routers are in forwarding the packets it sends, and it may update who it thus forwards packets to. Indeed routers can receive information from other routers alerting them to badly performing routers. This strategy actually enables greater overall connectivity.

As an anarchist, I am a consequentialist, not a deontologist. I’m not interested in constructing some mirror of the clumsy rules for behavior that the state imposes as law. I’m interested in achieving the goal of freedom through whatever means are efficient and coherent enough to actually reach it. While I want a world of peace, sometimes violence like resisting the Stasi is necessary to achieve that ends. Similarly while I want a world of connection, some limited disassociation can be necessary to achieve that ends.

Racism is a specific form of boycott. But racism is an irrational and counterproductive severing of connectivity, whereas boycotts of racists is a severing of connectivity to nodes that impede connectivity. Boycotting racists is about routing around damaged nodes, limiting the extent to which they can damage us all, the same way that the internet increases connectivity by routing around nodes that impede connectivity.

Refusing to give fascists the prestige of a podium is exactly the same as refusing to give Flat Earthers the prestige of a podium. Science would be utterly crippled if every wackadoodle was allowed into scientific conferences, much less given a platform at them. There’s simply not enough time to address every wingnut, nor should we. Keeping pseudoscientific con-men out of scientific prestige is a matter of severing connections, of choosing disassociation, so as to make the whole enterprise more efficient at spreading knowledge. Someone’s record of honesty constitutes meta-information that shouldn’t be censored or suppressed, but accurately spread. One way we spread that is by denying the prestige of platform to people who have a history of fraud. To enforce a regime where Flat Earthers are obliged a spot on any geology panel is to forcibly suppress the meta-information that such symbols of legitimacy like a podium otherwise convey.

Note just how dramatically different this from national borders. Boycotts emerge from the distributed decisions of individuals, national borders are imposed by monopolistic collectivist entities in ways that inherently suppress the agency of the complex array of people they somehow claim to represent or speak for.

Libertarians should ostensibly know better than this since the very fucking justification of the market is supposed to rest on the premise that collective bodies like “nations” or even “tribes” can’t conceivably make efficient decisions. Individuals know better the particulars they face than can ever be conveyed in a committee. Agency, calculation, consideration doesn’t take place in the head of some abstract “committee” but in the actual brains of its constituent individuals. Individual brains are infinitely more tightly and efficiently networked than any social organism can be through mere human communication – a choice in your head is can be an immediate calculation involving billions of neurons, no comparable processing happens anywhere else. This is why only individuals constitute agents in any real sense. When people form a committee they don’t magically create some kind of supervening “agent” in any ethically relevant way. And that’s certainly not true when it comes to laughable mythical entities like “races.”

Because individuals are the site of agency, top-down edicts about association necessarily cut agency. Thankfully antifascist activism is a perfect example of bottom-up or horizontally organized boycotting. A means for people to network together and work as individuals to make the world a better place. Each node evaluating not just the faulty node but the evaluations made by other nodes in response to the faulty node. …Provided of course that you actually don’t want nazis recruiting and making money at your local bar, and you actually care about whether people likewise have anti-nazi values.


As a staunch proponent of free speech (ie freedom of information) I have the hardest time fathoming how someone could object to doxing nazis. Once again you’d fucking think that libertarians at least would be pro more accurate information being available to inform market decisions. “Oh? This fellow applying to work for me is a nazi with a history of calling for ethnic cleansing? Well I certainly don’t want to contribute to his daily bread, much less hangout with such a would-be genocidaire.”

Surely whether someone has raped, stolen, etc, is relevant metadata about them you’d want to know before interacting with them! And surely disseminating that metadata in ways accessible to those likely to interact with them is as basic a social service as you could ask for. Mailing neighbors of a nazi organizer to let them know about his activism, or equivalently putting his information online, seems to me as unimpeachable an action as one could take.

But then folks have gotten really weird about privacy in the last decade. In reaction to the surveillance state truly horrible notions of privacy have become cancerous in our society. See for example the European Union broadly backing and attempting to impose the hyper-authoritarian “right to be forgotten.” You want to talk about attempts to control one’s thoughts or limit free speech?! The notion that someone has a right to delete or censor the information held by someone else is how we get monstrous atrocities like intellectual property.

While the capricious and violent behemoth of the state changes some situational calculations – creating an ethical obligation to avoid spreading true information that will get someone imprisoned when the damage they’d do otherwise is below that – as an overwhelming rule our every instinct should be towards spreading truthful information.

If you’re opposed to doxing nazis then you’d be opposed to survivors naming and exposing their rapists. I literally can’t think of a more damning reductio then that. What in the fuck was the whole fight for the internet and freedom of information even FOR if it wasn’t to provide people with more accurate information on abuse and leave less hiding room for monsters?

No one has a right to erase reality, to hide from past harm, to silence survivors, and memory hole actual facts. If a less than ideal society over-judges that individual then the better solution in general is to correct that with more truthful information, not to fucking hide it. We should err on the side of freedom except in extreme situations (snitching to the state, outing queer folk in homophobic societies, etc), and protecting literal nazi organizers is certainly not one. One can see suspending a general obligation towards freedom of information to save a random anarchist organizer for reasons of consequences — their activism would be curtailed, etc. There are no comparable negative consequences to leaking the info of nazis.

If the concern is that outing someone as a nazi organizer has a very small chance of bringing vigilante violence down upon them, well 1) antifascists are the ones that get literally shot or bombed when doxed, I know of literally no case when fascists have been killed as a result of doxing and 2) oh for the love of – why should anyone care about nazi organizers getting beat up?

Violent Disruption of Fascist Organizing

Alright, let’s have at it.

Organizing is not merely speech. No antifascist group that I’m aware of advocates the punching or doxing of random racist grandpas. The issue is when people organize towards fascist means. When they come together and act or recruit explicitly to accomplish the fucking horrific goal of ethnic cleansing and turning our society into an absolute prison.

We can surely all agree that it’s totally okay for the anarchists currently fighting ISIS in Syria to use preemptive force, to initiate individual battles rather than always waiting for that fascistic enemy to fire first.

Why is this ethically okay? 1) Our general ethical inclination towards non-aggression is just a rough heuristic that breaks down in some circumstances, it’s not an immortal axiom. 2) “Non-aggression” is poorly defined outside the space of really obvious immediate threats. 3) If we heed to immediatist notions of aggression we will get killed, because it allows the concealment of the gun until the very last second.

The notion some NAPist libertarians have of non-aggression is wildly naive about actual violent conflict. “We’ll all sit here while the fascists assemble outside our house with guns, and then wait until the very last second to try and outrace them on the quickdraw.” That shit’s insane. You will not win a war on such terms. And while libertarian extreme reticence to think in terms of war is in some sense admirable, it opens a catastrophic weakness. And if you steel wall yourself on all fronts but one your enemy is going to happily choose to fight you in the one direction you’re weak.

It’s absolutely true that we should endeavor to avoid outright war or full-scale civil conflict as much as conceivably possible. The baby gets split, no one wins, the death toll is unimaginable. I absolutely do not want a civil war, or even two insurgencies – anarchist and nazi – fighting each other. But if we prove ourselves weak in that arena, if we signal to fascists that our hands are tied, that we will only ever belatedly defend ourselves, rather than be smart enough to sometimes throw punches first, we will make such a conflict absolutely inevitable. If we make ourselves impenetrable on the discourse and culture front but hesitant on the physical force front we will have painted them into a corner where the only option for them is physical force. Right now they’re throwing up a lot of disingenuous flak to give them cover to organize a fighting force, but their rampant lying and bullshit arguments are hopefully going to catch up with them. If we let them build an army while they have this cover, without smashing them up, or play a purely defensive game, we will get obliterated. They don’t jump you when you’ve five friends armed to the teeth, they jump you when you’re alone in an alley, or bomb your house when you’re asleep. This is shit neonazis already do. The myopic inability of non-aggression to see wider context simply won’t cut it in such conflict.

There’s a kind of panic that I’ve seen in folks when forced to face up to this reality. The classic move is to embrace a high-horse fatalism – “well okay, we’ll all die, but I’ll die with my soul intact.” This is especially strong with libertarians who see consequentialism as the literal devil, and any concession to it as opening the door to statism. A rich philosophical dive seems beyond the scope of this essay but I want to emphasize that a consequentialism with freedom as its end cannot replicate the state unless you completely discard all intelligence about means. The basic anti-statist insight is that giant monopolies on violence cannot be constrained or limited, if allowed to exist their tyranny will grow. That’s still inescapable for the serious consequentialist. But justifying people’s militias or individuals firing first on ISIS does not fucking imply constructing a singular institution with a monopoly on violence. There are feedbacking tendencies in the language and psychology of “war” that can definitely lead to reactive violent tribalism and the construction of states, but “war” is not a singular unified simple thing. The insight from it that if you’re in WWII you should probably shoot someone with a swastika armband coming toward you before they formally shoot first is a fucking good one.

So why the fuck should we not consider ourselves at war with fascists when they consider themselves at war with us and are actively killing people? Why are neonazis any fucking different from ISIS?

Nazis absolutely intend to kill us all. The ethnonationalist agenda is one of genocide, since forced deportation would not and has never been passively ceded to, and they all have moments where they admit this. Extermination of anarchists is the number one agenda of every authoritarian nationalist state in history, of any ideological pretense, from Hitler to Stalin. And in any case the imposition of fascist rule on the survivors would be pretty near to death, given the ways it would systematically and totally suppress individual agency.

Sure the liberals and conservatives are also statists and inclined to authoritarianism. Although there is at least a rather large difference in scale of the democide explicitly laid out in their aspirations. But I’m happy to accept the expansion of the set of people we could say are pursuing mass murder. No anarchist on earth would condemn someone punching Cheney, Clinton, Bush, Obama, etc. And it would surely be okay to preemptively kill the demagogues urging genocide over the radio in Rwanda. How on earth was Bill Kristol’s role in the lead up to Iraq any different from them? While I think preemptive violence should be narrowly accepted, I happily bite the bullet that this could extend to genocidal politicos in liberal democracies or say Marxist-Leninists’ hungering for purges. Better to bite that philosophical bullet than inevitably receive their actual bullets. I’m not saying that anarchists randomly spraying bullets at members of the political establishment would be strategic (I don’t think it would be), just that it wouldn’t be inherently unethical.

The strategic point is an important one, and worthy of complex analysis. Obviously no one’s going around executing nazi organizers and street thugs, and it would probably be a bad move for people to start that. A good number of antifa rallies don’t actually involve punching nazis, and fewer involve punching first. Optics and the complexities of the Trump-era situations where undercover nazis have been using republicans as a shield are non-trivial and antifa activists clearly recognize this. There’s been quite a variety of strategic thought I’ve seen expressed and debated on antifa sites. We can have a good faith argument about strategy, what we shouldn’t waste time on is pretending that Richard Spencer is categorically different from an ISIS recruiter in any ethically profound way.

And yes, although there are splits and different functional internal organs, the fascist movement is interconnected as a single entity waging war on us. Why should we give that much of a shit whether Vanguard America formally claims James Alex Fields (the murderer of Heather Heyer) as a member? Why place such weight upon arbitrary organizational pretenses? Fields hung and collaborated with them, and they shared the same goals.

When the Earth Liberation Front burned down logging trucks, the “ELF Press Office” was a legally distinct above the ground entity ostensibly not in personal collaboration with the ELF cells doing the property destruction. That may have rightfully protected Craig Rosebraugh and Leslie James Pickering from some measure of legal retaliation — we would be in an absolutely horrid place if we happily allowed the state to prosecute publishing and defending a terrorist group as “functional collaboration” – but on an actual ethical analysis rather than legal one, of fucking course Craig and Leslie were functioning as organs in a larger ELF organism. The same way that some military administrators function as organs in the larger military. Or Richard Spencer functions as an organ within the larger fascist movement. Obviously the ELF was a hell of a lot better in goals and means than the US military or the fascist movement, but it’s not like we’d try to make some kind of profound ethical (rather than legal) distinction between Craig’s participation in the ELF and those of the cell members physically vandalizing the logging trucks.

Today, in a different direction, the mexican terrorist nihilist group “Individuals Tending Towards Savagery” happily adopts endless different names, seemingly had different internal splits, etc, but they’re still functionally the same cluster of people.

The network of collaboration and crossover between outright fascist / white nationalist groups is well documented. What arbitrary totemic titles they happen to assign to random sub-clumpings of their ranks is really quite irrelevant. Organizations aren’t magically real entities – they’re just people happening to call themselves something. And getting drawn too much into taking that shit seriously will make us easy to run rings around. Just fucking read the Milo expose, that motherfucker was happily collaborating with piles of nazis and extreme reactionaries while pretending there was a distance there absolutely wasn’t. The same gets revealed constantly of everyone else in the fascist movement.

“Okay, but what about strategy? Surely punching people is a bad strategy. It’ll just make nazis doubledown with victim complexes and meanwhile lose public support.

While sure, a population pickled in liberal democracy is going to recoil reflexively at acts of violence that aren’t super over-the-top clear cut defensive and proportional, there’s good evidence that repression does not have the same “doubling down” effect on fascists as it can have on others. Over decades of struggle antifascist activists from a variety of backgrounds and in a variety of contexts have converged on the same general conclusion.

It’s important to understand that fascist psychology and the mechanisms of their recruitment are different than anarchists or even liberals.

The primary recruitment tool of the fascist is the appearance of power.

This is why fascists — and those other self-aware authoritarians in their general orbit including Stalinists and Maoists — focus so strongly on aesthetics and rituals that reinforce perceptions of broad popularity, community, strength-by-association and general social standing. Those movements that only whine, offering victimization narratives and promises of power without any tangible content to them, rarely recruit any lasting base of self-aware authoritarians (although a few will surreptitiously set up shop to prey upon the few true believers and deadenders). Appearance of strength and legitimacy is everything, without it fascist movements dry up. No self-aware authoritarian wants to back a loser cause.

This is why refusing fascists the legitimization of a platform and violently countering their rallies has worked so well historically. The authoritarian base that fascists recruit from, don’t share the instincts of proponents of liberty, they aren’t attracted to underdogs with no hope, they aren’t compelled to self-sacrifice in defense of the weak, they’re attracted to supermen on the rise. When a nazi gets up on a stage to call for genocide his arguments don’t matter, it’s the potency of the act, the very fact that he was able to get on that stage and say such things in the first place, that recruits. [source]

Some people really do only respect physical force. The most quintessential examples of such people are fascists.

On The Specific Connection Between The Alt-Right and the NAP

There’s a good faith argument that can be made that the youtube alt-right recruits differently than the neonazis of prior decades – appealing to whiny beta-males for whom a tissue thin pretense of moral high ground is more relevant than the power fantasy being sold, and thus the beatdowns that worked so well against boneheads may only inspire more “see the globalists are soooo unfaiiiiir” reaction from losers who hunger for power but are more desperate for any sort of identity, cause or belonging. Myopic notions of what constitutes formal aggression may be unreflective of how the wider populace views things, but still indeed have some particular resonance with former libertarians.

It’s depressing seeing how many modern alt-right folks come from libertarian origins and try to weld fascist ideology onto a shallow Ron Paul-esque politic. “I’m not an authoritarian so I’m not a fascist, I’m a typical libertarian, I just believe magical collective entities of nationstates should violently stop the free association of individuals.” But since libertarians opened the fucking door to this horrorshow there is some argument that they’re better equipped to disrupt the blatantly contradictory ideological gymnastics underpinning it. Yet there’s also a case to be made that libertarians had their fucking chance, and for decades let in racist after racist, reactionary after reactionary from Rothbard to Ron Paul to Lew Rockwell to Hoppe, and now half the libertarian orgs have been taken over by fascists like the Mises Institute (openly championing “blood and soil”) and the other half are barely fighting off the cancer. They’ve had decades to stop this in their communities and they failed miserably the entire way, so maybe their advice is of little fucking import at this point.

I’m somewhat split between these takes. I think libertarians can and should play a great role in undermining the alt-right, and probably have some useful insights to the unique psychology and twisted ideology of the alt-right youtube/chan kids. But it also seems clear that they haven’t been making much headway, and the differences between the /pol/ losers of today and the skinhead losers of the 80s are perhaps overblown. A greater affinity for the pretenses of performative “intellectual debate” online perhaps, but the same underlying reactionary psychology.

How much does it matter that ethno-nationalist youtubers like Stefan Molyneux initially recruited their base from “libertarians”?

The Center for a Stateless Society and the Alliance of the Libertarian Left have been in these fights for a decade. Most of the major nazis in this crop of the alt-right have origin stories in denouncing us / getting pushed out of libertarianism by us. Because we’re a nerdy think tank we’ve stuck to countering their ideas, critiquing them, deconverting their followers, entirely in the realm of words. And we have had some success.

But what has been abundantly clear over the years is their opportunism and lack of any ethical compass. Molyneux went ethno-nationalist basically because he realized anarchists weren’t going to support his using DMCA and the state to bully a critic, so he pretty openly pivoted to a new audience that would pay his bills. Christopher “crying nazi” Cantwell basically did the same as he realized libertarianism wasn’t a path to personal power. A similar story with the folks behind The Right Stuff, etc, etc. These people, for all their pretenses of being champions of reason and debate, are obviously attracted to power, and so too does this seem to be the case for a good fraction of their audience. This strongly implies that whatever other victim narrative anti-sjw garbage they tap into if you stop the alt-right from being able to generate spectacles of power and you’ll at least dry up most of the power-hungry opportunist fraction of them.

Deontology and the Charge of Hypocrisy

People with ethical systems focused on categorizing actions in isolation rather than on strategic pursuit of goals have a nasty tendency to drop accusations of hypocrisy:  “If you’re okay with punching nazis in pursuit of a freer world then you have no capacity to object to nazis punching anarchists in pursuit of a more hierarchical world.”

This maneuver is annoying as hell. Of course non-anarchists could use the reasoning I’m using here to justify all manner of things including exterminating anarchists if you utterly remove the core values/goals I’m following. As a consequentialist I’m not trying to set up some kind of value-independent framework of play that I think should be established universally, some kind of rules of conduct between ideologies.

Anarchists want freedom for all, fascists want their nightmarish dystopia of domination and a fractured humanity sliced apart and imprisoned in suffocatingly static tribes. There can be no pretense of tolerance between such wildly varying values and goals. It’s not like fascists and anarchists can “agree to disagree” or politely reach some kind of civil detente. Our utility functions are utterly opposed and incompatible on every level.

Thus there’s no point in pretending that there could ever be some kind of “fair” rules by which we should hold each other to in our conflict. I’m not going to feign shock and betrayal when they march us off to the extermination camps or just lie like crazy on twitter – although of course I will point out both. And there is no equivocation between them punching or doxing us and us doing so to them. The act isn’t the fucking relevant category, the goal is.

Fascists are gonna do what fascists do, which is try to kill all proponents of freedom. And anarchists should do whatever is most effective in building a freer world.

In some very strong sense this ties our hands, because for example imprisoning all reactionaries in gulags would clearly not be a sustainable or coherent step towards a freer world. You can’t jail or massacre people into freedom. Not that that evil scumbag Marx was ever truly interested in freedom as anarchists called out from the start, but even his pretense of a “transitory dictatorship” is obviously a means that will never ever lead to the ends of freedom.

Yet pure saintly pacifism isn’t an option either. To stem the overall blood flow sometimes, in rare, extreme, isolated situations you have to get a little bit of blood on your hands. The path to a better world isn’t just going to be the slow evolutionary building of better cultures and norms, of winning arguments and persuasion. It will sometimes on the fringe involve shit like throwing a punch before a nazi thug can. Proving to them in a language they understand that there will be fucking consequences to their horrific game so at least a fraction of self-interested little sociopathic shits go home.

There are dangers here – of course — but there are greater dangers in tying our hands entirely to some kind of overly simplistic code.

The liberal attempt to create value-independent rules for behavior is just fucking naive as shit. As if nazis can live in peace with anyone. That shit is a comforting delusion that will get us all killed.

There’s a historical anecdote I love about the President of the Spanish Republic on the dawn of the Spanish Civil War. He wakes late and goes into his office only to be irked to discover there’s no coffee or breakfast waiting for him. But no matter, he calls his Minister of Finance to resolve a problem they’d been working on the other day and gets no response on the other end. So he calls another Minster. No response. Another minister and another department. Down the line. No one picks up. Finally he storms out only to discover his palace is empty. No receptionists at all. And as he wanders into the streets crowds of armed workers hurriedly pass him by with little notice. The fascists have launched a war and the anarchists have mobilized most everyone in response. The liberal government — the insane pretense of an ordered peace between irreconcilable values of oppression and freedom — is de facto dissolved, and the President was the last person to discover this.

The assumptions of liberal democracy have been suffocating us all since birth, but there is no treaty possible with fascists. No code that if we hold ourselves to we can expect them to hold themselves to. We must remember this, or end up wandering stunned like that Spanish president. This isn’t some conflict between tribes or muddied political positions, this is a conflict between utterly opposite and purified ethical values. What matters is our goal of freedom for all, our tactics should be evaluated in their efficiency in reaching that — not as commentary on what we’re cool with fascists also doing.


Constructive Critical Thoughts on Antifa and The Present Situation

Antifa was basically formed to solve a pressing problem in the short term through direct action. It has never pretended to offer a long-term solution — any more than street medics at protests might be critiqued for not offering a long-term solution to the health care crisis or police brutality. This in no remote way detracts from the importance of such work. Yet it does ultimately mean there’s boundary conditions to the utility of their traditional work, or wider issues to be addressed. And as antifascism has risen to prominence so has this been greeted with howls from longstanding activists in other arenas, each with their own off-the-cuff prescription for how antifascist work should be subsumed under their preferred institutional or strategic approach.

It’s a lot like some activist version of a youth pastor telling kids “Hey I know you kids like antifa, but did you know that the REAL antifascism is getting people signed up to their local union?” There’s a fucking cavalcade of such “advice” from opportunist radicals.

“Antifa” groups have suddenly gone from marginalized janitors of the anarchist movement without social capital to high-respect activism, and everyone has jumped in to declare themselves antifa and also try to dictate what antifa should be, or throw out the most poorly formed criticism. This is a major reason I feel trepidation wading into this debate — everyone with any social capital suddenly is an expert on antifa and wants to declare themselves an antifascist thought leader. Although just as an anarchist present in the anarchist milieu I’ve occasionally read and talked with antifascists for well over a decade my experience is fundamentally limited and I don’t mean to appropriate the mantle of “antifa” for myself.


While I may be nothing more than the peanut gallery on this, I do have some analysis and perhaps constructive criticisms. My two biggest points are, admittedly rather obvious: 1) that antifascist practice was not remotely developed to best win a propaganda or meme war, and 2) the creeping generalization of “antifascism” into a nebulous pan-leftist movement to push for left tribe versus right tribe is profoundly dangerous and unstrategic.

The Alt-Right was basically formed to expand overton window and win the propaganda war to epistemically isolate and radicalize a large fraction of the population. Antifa was formed to kick fascist thugs off the streets and impede their capacity to organize. Both are succeeding at what they’re good at. Antifa is often winning on the streets and losing on youtube, which is far better than losing on both fronts, but is still ceding a couple million kids on youtube to increasingly frothing and misled hyperreaction. Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting the opposite arrangement would be better. Anything that limits their capacity to organize and intimidate in meatspace saves lives. But it’s worth noting how completely asymmetric these movements are:

Antifa groups have stuck to journalism and the studious documentation of facts. Conversely, the Alt-Right has tried to spread as many lies as possible to muddy the waters and win narrative / partisan ratchet games. You don’t need information theory to know which approach has the edge — almost no one commenting on “antifa” even knows they have websites documenting nazis, but millions have seen memes misrepresenting antifa’s capture of ISIS territory in Syria as somehow antifa being in league with ISIS.

Antifa have largely stuck to small discrete secretive formal organizations created by anarchists to fight neonazi gangs. Conversely, the Alt-Right is a soup without much formal organization and what formal organizations there are are less secretive. One of the left’s true talents is in organizing, and secrecy has obviously allowed them to continue working without all getting executed by nazis. But at the same time the formality associated with traditional activist security culture can be constraining in other ways, creating inside-outside hierarchies where small circles of people dictate how information flows and give de facto marching orders to those outside.

Additionally, since antifa are overwhelmingly anarchists they’ve recruited primarily through the meatspace anarchist community/movement. The anarchist milieu is far more of a closed or richly tied network than the Alt Right. We live together, we work together. This closeness in many dimensions has historically provided a kind of solidity that at least to some degree impedes infection. We’re able to enforce certain norms, culture, politics, etc. This has all kinds of dangers and downsides as well as upsides. The alt-right, despite the neoreactionary fetish for “community” has absolutely nothing comparable. And so we’re fighting a truly bizarre war where the explicit fascists are utilizing perhaps more anarchist or at least fluid means — amorphous networks, anonymity, swarm tactics — against an anarchist movement that has retreated to solidity, clear boundaries, highly tied community, etc. What they pine loudly for — identity, belonging, community, solidity — is what we already have (and have discovered the downsides to). At the same time they are leveraging what should be our advantages.

On the one hand antifascist professionalism is valorous and part of a commitment to truth that the alt-right happily discards in favor of postmodern trolling and social positioning. I’m not challenging the value of antifascist groups doing their research meticulously, nor am I challenging the formal organizing or at least structure that often requires. I still think the sheer intractability of reality means our commitment to truth will ultimately bend things in our favor and I think a rush to embrace the means of the Alt Right — dishonest polarizing misinformation — would absolutely doom us all.

But on the other hand it’s very clear that our obsession with community — a need that many have long noted drives the majority of the activist milieu far more than actually changing the world — has turned us inward. And here by “us” I mean not just anarchists but nearly everyone in the left or post-left or “social justice” or whatever.

Why does the very idea of caring what the general public thinks or trying to persuade them sound utterly perplexing and alien? Because we’ve given up on them, our selfish hunger for the monkey brain needs of community and belonging has slowly warped anarchism into a site of retreat, not attack. Anarchism has become a hideout from the problematic world, rather than a launchpad for grappling with it. The warm blanket embrace of a community with actual ethical values and behavioral norms that don’t kick the lowest has so entirely colonized our reward mechanisms that we have turned inward. We focus on policing our community rather than persuading outsiders.

Don’t get me wrong there is absofuckinglutely a place for holding one another accountable and drawing lines, I’m not saying we should tolerate abuse out of some kumbaya “why can’t you make nice with your rapist” garbage, and I’m not saying we shouldn’t hold absolute lines against the creep of horrific politics like tankies, nazis and eco-extremists like ITS. We do need some kind of base from which to move the world, and a place to retreat to when need be. But the alt-right actually has something that anarchists have largely lost — a sense of possibility. The world seems pregnant to them, a place where their wild dreams can actually happen. And thus they’re out there searching for any possible avenue To Change Everything. We’ve largely forgotten how to do that. So while the alt-right is naive and stupid as fuck they’re still throwing everything on the wall to see what sticks. When was the last time anarchists did anything new?

The black bloc, for example, has become a hollow echo of a hollow echo, a signifier warped by the mythologization by a half dozen radical generations. Anarchism has become drenched in convention and obligation. A whole lotta tumblr-generation kids only bloc up because they see it as a necessary ritual for community belonging. Where the bloc once had innovative security culture when everyone was making things up for the first time, that knowledge has been casually discarded. Things like Pastel Bloc demonstrate just how profoundly the bloc has been reduced to ritual in the service of community rather than tool in the service of accomplishing shit.

I am not trying to be a mean crabby old anarchist here lecturing kids about the proper respect of lawns, there is a value to community building and I appreciated Pastel Bloc’s aesthetic game just like everyone else, but I want some level of explicitness on the asymmetries at play. Our strengths, our weaknesses, and the things we’ve perhaps unfortunately given up.

And I also want to warn that if antifascist organizing has a too formalized and insular failure mode, it also has a “too expansive” failure mode.

As folks previously not involved in antifa work have rushed in to champion the term there’s been a push towards broadening antifa as a broad leftist coalition or movement building. I’m deeply disquieted about this approach, both in that I find it unstrategic and dangerous to try and broaden the goals of antifascism and that as an anarchist I consider “left unity” a trap. Anarchists have nothing in common with authoritarian communists, they have been our enemies from the start. Granted, a lot of established antifa have spoken out loudly against such, but still, the situation is dangerous.

Let me be absolutely clear on this: Anarchists must clearly and publicly oppose communist authoritarianism. Antifa cannot be (and thankfully is not) quiet when it comes to denouncing those who fetishize some of the most heinous states in human history because they made some perfunctory noises about freeing the working class. Further the sort of monsters who diminish and defend genocides committed by communist regimes must have their organizing and entryism exposed and resisted just as we do for fascists. If this is not to be done under the label of “antifa” specifically, then as many anarchists have suggested, anti-tankie action groups should also be formed. Failing to be strong and morally consistent on this allows fascists and their allies to cloak their work under the guise of standing up to authoritarian communism (and equivocating between the horrors of Leninists and those like anarcho-communists that died fighting them). Those “anti-communist action” shirts sold by fascists that fetishize the tyrannical Pinochet regime’s murder by helicopter of dissidents have been effective at ratcheting up an authoritarian creep whereby right and left authoritarians pretend to be the only viable response to the other.

Yes, it will take many things to stop fascism, broadly defined, but there is immense strategic utility in having antifascist activism remain very specific and relatively tightly defined. When left-liberals on twitter say “wanting universal healthcare or student debt forgiveness is antifascism” they do an immense disservice to the cause of antifascism. Fascism constitutes a very distinct and specific danger; there are many other dangers or objectionable things in this world. Muddying the waters — casting antifascism as a left v right struggle (Now With Streetfights!) directly plays into the hands of those fascists trying desperately to pull the rest of the right into embracing outright fascism. Yes of course the neoliberal surveillance state constitutes an immense threat, as does neoconservative imperial conquest. But these are distinct things that function differently and must be tackled differently. The small pleasure you get out of rhetorically being able to slander your other enemies with the “fascist” label is sometimes simply not worth it.

These criticisms may seem in broad conflict — on the one hand I think that antifa has stumbled because waging a war for the soul of our society teetering on the brink of outright authoritarianism through a partisan electoral conflict is well beyond its purview and expertise — on the other hand I’m deeply worried about antifa being subsumed and appropriated as a rallying cry to unify and mobilize the left as a movement. But I think that there’s a relatively straightforward path that avoids this pitfalls.

Formal antifa groups should stay focused and precise — folks need to make it absolutely impossible for the centrist media to conflate an anti-trump rally and antifascist groups. The question of how to respond to Trump has tortured antifa writers since he entered the primary. My view is that whether Trump’s authoritarianism and his most fervent base is formally fascist is academic and irrelevant. Peeling the self-aware fascists entryists from the 60 million Trump voters is an existential issue. We literally all die if we fail on that front.

An actual civil war will not go the way the nazis and broader bloodthirsty GOP dumbasses think, but both sides will lose profoundly in a civil conflict. The “come at me bro” right has no fucking idea what it would actually be getting into or the extent of support, resources, skills, and indomitability that leftists, anarchists and even many liberals would actually tap. In part because of the right’s self-chosen isolation from anyone to the left of Limbaugh. But the baby would get cut in half. Most likely some centrist technocratic vestige of the state apparatus would emerge the blood-soaked tyrannical victor. There is no future down that path where what is won is worth the victory. We must make preparations, of course, no one is saying anarchists should give up their guns or stop training, but ideally the goal should be to prepare precisely in order to avoid such a drawn out conflict.

Don’t get me wrong, if we are to see a better world there will inevitably arise moments where violence is necessary. Where politicians are dragged kicking and screaming from their positions of power lest they otherwise destroy the world to retain their rule. But violent conflict is not a goal into itself, it must be tempered by diligent strategy and ethics. The cheap comforts of collective team rallying are not worth the long term damage that can arise from their misuse.

In my view we need two fronts: we need a political anarchism augmented by a broader anti-authoritarianism (with milder goals like the abolition of prisons, borders and cops) that goes out and finds any conceivable way to convert seven billion people to anarchism within two decades, that builds a stigmergic mass movement and the resilient decentralized infrastructure for serious resistance. And we need a second front that sticks exclusively and pragmatically to the explicit fascist cancer lest it metastasize — doing precisely what antifa groups have always done research, expose, organize against and meet head on. This second front needs to do things like work with the GOP or libertarians or furries or whatever to peel nazi entryists away from them. It must be incredibly pragmatic and precise. Less interested in how pure our own community is than what we can do to limit damage in the world.

Although of course, part of pragmatism is recognizing the limits to one’s capacity to alter or direct the reactions of millions outraged at our country’s slide into fascism and with a limited vocabulary to express that outrage.

I’m less clear on how to navigate the issues of collective representation and narrative crafting. Right now antifa groups will release absolutely devastating exposes… and at absolute best they’ll get on the order of a hundred or thousand shares on twitter, while alt-right conspiracy nuts will get hundreds of thousands. That sort of marginalization is absolutely unsustainable. Critiques of respectability politics only go so far, if antifascists don’t do more to win the narrative among the wider world of normies and reactionaries – or at least lose it less crushingly – fascist bullshit could get normalized among literally tens of millions, and then we all die.

Sites like It’s Going Down and Anti-Fascist News have started to take up the narrative crafting role – neither as generic anarchists fighting the broader longer term fight nor as highly specific antifa groups doing the triaging, but I’m troubled at points in this melding of very different functions. IGD syndicates from local antifa groups but also pushes generic movement building stuff and non-antifa content in ways that can muddy the waters. These folks do good work, but I wish there was a more clear distinction being broadcast between traditional highly professional antifa groups and the generic “antifascist movement” that everyone wants to build now. And I wish that folks would stop hijacking antifascism for broader causes or to stoke radical or leftist team identity when that framing impedes things like the pragmatic collaboration with the GOP to expel nazis in Minneapolis. More than anything I wish there was some way to get good national-narrative-strategy-minded media teams into older antifa groups, and that the nebulous generic “antifascist movement” beyond these antifa groups was both more focused on fascism and serious about winning the memetic war for hearts and minds among the tens of millions that the nazis are looking to recruit from.

I recognize this shit is complicated and folks are already stepping up in many respects, but I’m just saying I would emphasize the arena of public narrative crafting, as well as trying to draw clear lines around antifascism to make it capable of wider outreach and less boxable into mainstream partisan tensions.

I will say that I admire that as a generic anarchist project Crimethinc has been somewhat cautious about appropriating the mantle of “antifa” from those doing that work before the rest of us cared too much. And I do love NYC Antifa’s twitter presence — snarky, sharp, heavy on evidence, explicitly anarchist, highly narrow-beamed on traditional antifascist work, as well as capable of pushing stories more widely. Near fucking perfect in every way. Absolute shoutout to them.

Challenge to Critics of Antifa

I recognize that no matter how well I make my points here – even if I’m absolutely and obviously right – a good number of people are so deeply and instinctively revolted by the idea of preemptive violence or ever taking the side of some activists subculturally alien to them that they’d far rather live in cognitive dissonance.


In Britain before WW2 there were a few liberal-inclined folks who felt strongly about nonaggression and protecting freedom of assembly but who nevertheless recognized that whatever small erosion of liberal norms antifascists might cause the literal fascists were out to abolish them all. So they went to fascist rallies and heckled them and then defended themselves when the nazis inevitably tried to stomp or kill them. They were as a consequence of their reactive stance often far more badly beaten than other antifascists but they claimed their demonstration of the moral high-ground was worth it.

One can of course critique popular antifascist approaches without stepping to and putting your own life on the line. A valid critique remains a valid critique regardless of who voices it. But some critiques would ring louder if those voicing them were demonstrably serious about the threat posed by fascist / white nationalist groups (It would also help many critics if they demonstrated a basic familiarity with actual antifascist activism and groups, although I realize that that apparently seems a bridge too far.).

So my challenge to all of us in the peanut gallery is this: if you sincerely are aghast at the return of fascism / white nationalism and their organizing efforts, if your heart clinches up in fear and outrage, then do what you do feel is allowable to fight them. If the one antifa tactic you object to is the street fighting then form your own antifa (or whatever you want to call it) group that explicitly does all the reporting and boycott organizing without the street fighting. If what you take objection to is folks occasionally throwing the first punch then get your friends together and form a group that shows up to only provide defensive strength. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll come to the same realizations as every other antifascist activist.

But even more importantly if you value freedom at all you should recognize the situation: the state and Trump in particular are of course going to demonize antifascism and use them as a boogeyman to justify vicious and sweeping state repression. Since they can’t settle for identifying a couple people who threw punches in a park they’ll try to repress the hundreds of thousands who identify or speak out broadly as anti-fascists. How everyone protests is impossible to police without making ourselves authoritarian and artificially unified. Remember that the few scuffles and clashes antifascists have been a part of pale in comparison to what was present in the civil rights movement, despite the history being sanitized. There’s space for hoping our voices persuade a few people to stop doing shit we feel is counterproductive, but this impact is ultimately small. Whereas the impact of voices joining in with the state’s narrative of antifascists being terrorists who must be suppressed is far far far more damaging to the cause of liberty.

So I urge incredible caution and at the very least explicit and prominent nuancing when making critiques of antifa. Obviously no libertarian can endorse classifying antifascist activists as terrorists. Obviously no libertarian can endorse police repression against antifascist activists. But libertarians and others sincerely in favor of liberty must be explicit about that every time the subject is brought up. At the very least in the same way that we feel obliged to pair “the North Korean government is horrifically evil” with “war with North Korea would also be horrifically evil.”

Plenty of liberals, libertarians and centrists have tried to retreat to “both sides are bad” framings — but let’s be absolutely clear if the antifascists are bad for trying to suppress the fascists (without even using the government) then any hint of the government repressing antifascists would be far worse.

In the worst possible case antifascists normalize an illiberal culture of college kids shouting at and occasionally punching anyone they find problematic. This would be bad, no doubt, but is completely put to pale by any increase in the power of the police state. Some punchy overblown “SJWs” would be an annoyance, not an existential threat to freedom itself, whereas the necessary expansiveness of a state campaign against “antifas” would be the deathknell of any hope whatsoever.

Yall get that, right?

Even if antifa is technically “wrong” they’re still fundamentally better than almost anyone else around, and suppression of them would set off a nightmare of state repression for all other anarchists and libertarians.

No longstanding antifa groups or activists have called for hate crimes legislation or the cops to enforce tyranny. In fact part of the reason conservatives have called antifa and BLM “terrorist” “hate groups” is precisely because they don’t trust the police state and want to defang it’s power to oppress, not expand or redirect that power.

Any criticism of antifascists should start by lauding that decision.

Despite that bombastic slogan in Berkeley, antifascist struggle has obviously never embraced literally “any means necessary” – after all blowing up the planet is a “means” by which we might stop fascism. Lobbying for hate crimes laws and police power to round up neonazi street thugs would also be a “means” to defeating at least that expression of fascism, but it’s a clearly a both intolerable and implausible one. By even the most uncharitable evaluation antifascists are thus far less authoritarian than your average liberal, since liberals are more than happy to say “there should be a law” or “call the police” in response to these neonazi gangs.

In any case if you would flip over a military recruiter’s table but not a nazi recruiter’s table you’re either inconsistent or wildly naive to the threat of fascist organizations. And if you’re somehow opposed to flipping over a military recruiter’s table then you’re not an anarchist or libertarian in any meaningful or consequential sense.

Edited for

Radical Leftists Built Their Own Reddit After It Banned Them

From Vice

“I decided to delete my Reddit account and make a site where socialists and anarchists wouldn’t get punished for talking out against fascism.”

Last December, Reddit banned a subforum called r/LeftWithSharpEdge, for “multiple violations of site wide rules.” The relatively small anarchist community—a screenshot from the Internet Archive last year shows that it had less than 400 members—was a satirical reaction to a similarly named forum, r/LeftWithoutEdge. Sharp Edge was more radical, and intended to counter r/LeftWithoutEdge’s “inoffensive, milquetoast brand of socialist,” ziq, one of subreddit’s members, told me in a direct message.

Then it got banned, for what ziq says are unclear reasons. “The Reddit admins refused to explain why they deleted our sub,” they said. What is known is that Sharp Edge was deleted the same day it was featured on r/SubredditOfTheDay, a popular forum that highlights subreddits across the site.

After r/LeftWithSharpEdge was taken down, ziq decided to leave Reddit and create an independent anarchist community free from its rules., which was originally called, is an “alternative that is focused on community building and openness, and not controlled by a corporation,” ziq told me. The original name was intended to sound similar to Reddit, but was later changed to avoid potential trademark issues.

“The anger from the Reddit left sphere was big enough that I decided to delete my Reddit account and make a site where socialists and anarchists wouldn’t get punished for talking out against fascism, joking about ‘eating the rich’ and sharing ‘subversive’ anti-capitalist memes and literature,” they explained.

Raddle isn’t the first site to emerge out of outrage at Reddit’s policies. When Reddit instituted new harassment rules in 2015, and subsequently banned several hateful communities, Redditors built a new site called Voat. It became a favorite among the alt-right, and promised to never censor its users posts. Far-right online communities often build their own spaces after getting kicked off bigger, mainstream platforms, like 8chan, for whom the forum 4chan was too tame, or Gab, which is intended loosely as an alternative to Twitter.

While Voat’s free-wheeling, hate speech-is-free-speech culture could reasonably be called the opposite of Raddle’s, both sites were created because of perceived censorship by Reddit’s administrators. They’re evidence of how large platforms often struggle to moderate communities whose beliefs are seen as outside the norm.

“We are very clear in our site terms of service that posting content that incites violence or harasses will get users banned from Reddit,” a spokesperson for Reddit said in an email. “We have banned r/leftwithsharpedge due to repeated violations of the terms of our content policy, which we communicated clearly to the moderators.”

Raddle, which has a poison dart frog as its logo, feels like a simpler version of Reddit. It’s fast, relatively easy to navigate, and has familiar Reddit features like upvote and downvote buttons that push posts to the top of the site. There are a number of political subforums, like “EatTheRich,” as well as more typical fare, like “books” or “tech.”

Like r/LeftWithoutEdge, Raddle’s user population appears fairly tiny, but there are no exact numbers. Raddle doesn’t have advertisements or run analytical software, so its size is difficult to calculate—but that’s by design. The site is meant to be an alternative to social networks that profit by monitoring user behavior and serving advertisements.

“We have no ads, no tracking, no user profiling and we don’t collect or share any user data with anyone,” ziq said. The site is community-built and anyone can contribute to the code.

Ziq’s commitment to privacy is an appealing virtue for Raddle’s users. “I’m always very uneasy about the lack of concern for privacy online,” Tequila_Wolf, a user who posts frequently to Raddle, told me in a direct message. “When you have friends on government lists who get harassed at every border because, say, they are members of Anarchists Against The Wall, you know you don’t want to get on that list.”

Ziq originally built Raddle on WordPress, but a skilled developer soon stepped in to create a more sophisticated version of the site with less limitations. “I spent five hours straight putting together new software that could run the site and threw it on GitHub,” Emma, the lead developer, designer, and system administrator behind Raddle told me in an email. “After three months of coding (including one month off due to burnout), we switched to the new software.”

Raddle is moderated differently from other sites—the focus is on completely excluding bigotry. “Socialists of all stripes, social democrats, liberals, conservatives and anyone else who wants to partake in a community where bigotry isn’t tolerated in the name of ‘free speech’ is welcome to join. The one condition is that bigotry stays out of the picture,” Emma explained. “Our belief is that freedom from harm trumps freedom of speech.”

Emma said that whether someone should be banned from Raddle is determined on a case-by-case basis. “We recognize that we aren’t all flawless beings, so an otherwise decent person who slips up and says something that can be construed as bigotry will probably get away with a warning,” she told me. “On the other hand, we won’t tolerate users who post in bad faith and who consistently step over or skirt the line.”

Raddle ultimately came out of more broad problems ziq and Emma saw with Reddit. Ziq complained about how it has increasingly become a recruiting ground for the alt-right, the social network’s overemphasis on America (r/politics, a major subreddit, only discusses US-based politics, for example), and the fact that the site’s code isn’t open source, among other issues. Emma mentioned what she says is a problem with harassment on the site.

“To me, the biggest problem with Reddit is how its administrators ignore the routine harassment and witch-hunts of marginalized people that takes place, with r/The_Donald being the most prominent example,” she said.

r/The_Donald is an enormously popular subreddit that rallies for President Trump and his policies. “I could forgive Reddit if T_D [r/The_Donald] owed its existence to a doctrine of absolute free speech (which I’d still think is misguided), but the reality is that T_D is their big cash cow,” Emma told me.

Raddle is ultimately a place where leftists can be themselves, without constant confrontation from users who arrive from subreddits like r/The_Donald. “Having a space where you don’t have to constantly listen to or defend yourself from fascists is important, and Reddit has shown that it isn’t willing to provide that,” Emma said.

More broadly, Raddle, like every good internet community, provides an escape from the outside world. “I want to contribute to the building of an online community that allows me and others to exist, and allows us to resist the world as it rains down harms upon us,” Tequila_Wolf told me.


Edited for


Mass strike of precarious couriers, Milan 2017. Credit: Deliveroo Strike Raiders


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在伦敦的首轮行动消停时,两个工会参与到了Deliveroo外卖骑手的组织中。一个于2013年独立出来的小工会,“大不列颠独立工人”(The Independent Workers of Great Britain,IWGB)与在夏季的罢工中心——伦敦卡姆登(Camden)的工人联合起来。同时,“世界产业工人”(The Industrial Workers of the World,IWW)则与全国范围内的,尤其是在布里斯托(Bristol)和利兹(Leeds)的工人组织联系。在政治团体“Plan C”的支持下,一个自组织的Deliveroo工人简报,《Rebel Roo》(意为“反抗Deliveroo”),也开始被制作出来。

伦敦以外的组织和行动每月都在不断地升级着。在布里斯托,Deliveroo负责培训的工人开始了罢工并且取得了胜利。一些工会随即建立起来,在布莱顿(Brighton)也开始了由低工资引起的罢工,在利兹的工人也团结一致组织了起来。到了二月,《Rebel Roo》的发行量涨到了每月1500份(发行量占全国总工人数的10%)。在巴斯、米德尔斯堡、利物浦、朴茨茅斯、曼彻斯特和格拉斯哥这样政治多样化的城市也开始出现了一些组织。去年二月,运动中的关键人物在伦敦的“跨国社会罢工平台”(Transnational Social Strike Platform)的集会上汇集、讨论。运动似乎即将到达高潮。

当利兹的七名工人遇害时,IWW正在热切地推动全国的罢工行动,但是有些人却对这个行动是否会继续扩大持怀疑态度,因为全国罢工的势头有些下落。利兹和布莱顿的斗争虽然获得了显著的胜利,但未能扩展到全国。受害的利兹工人恢复原职,加害他们的经理被解雇,布莱顿的工人保住了工作,但是运动整体却走向了低谷。在布莱顿,骑手们进一步与其他零工组成联盟,进行了一场“零工五·一”(“Precarious Mayday”)示威。虽然有了这些积极的步伐,但是这场运动的大势已去。




骑手与斗志旺盛的工团主义工会Si Cobas组织起来,并且成功在合同中赢得了快递费1.10欧元的增长,使其达到了3.60欧元。然而,在这个显著的胜利之后,15名最主要的组织工人被解除劳动关系,一次大型的公司招聘则又稀释了劳工的组织性。再加上公司为了平息骑手而在送餐App做出的让步,Foodora的反攻成功地阻止了进一步的运动。


2017年4月,自由工人工会(Free Workers Union,FAU)在德国柏林将送餐平台工人了组织起来。他们的诉求是:透明的工作时间、足以维生的工时、每单增加1欧元、以及带薪的每周一小时轮班。正是在这里,罢工运动首次将多个送餐平台的工人联合了起来。在5月发生了第一场抗议,80多名Deliveroo和Foodora的工人联合起来举行了示威,要求谈判。六月在Deliveroo和Foodora的总部,差不多同样人数的工人参加了第二场抗议。持续的施压迫使Foodora在柏林同意与FAU工会进行谈判,但Deliveroo仍不妥协。


在意大利,工人们试图通过法律渠道获得谈判的机会来表达自己的诉求,并且得到了意大利左翼党(Sinistra Italiana)的支持。米兰也发生了动员活动,在7月15日,来自Foodora、Deliveroo和Giovo的工人进行了自行车集会罢工,他们要求带薪病假和意外保险。有证据显示,运动甚至传播到了欧洲其他地方——荷兰、奥地利和希腊等国的工人也加入了德国、意大利和西班牙骑手领导的组织会议。


不论欧洲哪里的送餐公司,它们都基于相同的基本商业模式。它们使用一个平台作为食物提供者、送餐工人和顾客的媒介。每一方都使用一个App与另外两方互动,而劳动过程则被“算法”管理控制。这意味着,他们大多数时候收到的都是来自一个自动化的系统产生的消息,这个自动化的系统被劳工学者特雷波·肖尔兹(Trebor Scholz)叫做“黑箱”(“black box”)。平台本身拥有的固定资产很少,它把所有的送餐成本外包给骑手,即骑手需要提供他们自己的单车、数据等等。不论怎么看,这些工人已经拥有了送餐过程所需的所有生产资料——除了重要的协调平台及其它的算法,而这些资料则完全被老板掌握。




意大利工人主义者Romano Alquati曾指出,没有工人斗争是“自发”的:如果你认为它是,那是你没看见酝酿斗争的隐形组织。


这种民众组织使得工人使用非常相近的手段来与平台进行对抗。其中罢工是首要的手段,队伍中还有一些起关键作用的纠察员(flying picket)。他们主要采用两种战术:首先是运动中的移动路障和游行, 他们占领了街道,并且与工人阶级在工作场合之外的地方建立联系。这种动态过程往往能够使骑手倾听到民意,并且让社会运动聚焦于结构性的剥削问题。使用这种战术时,送餐工人的斗争就不可能被当成纯粹的“经济”问题而被搁置到一旁;第二种战术是劳工从工会中撤离。灵活的工人大规模地撤工,并在全市示威纠察,与其他骑手和顾客联系,并把他们吸引到罢工运动中来。各异的、本应无力的工人在街上与其他工人相遇时获得了力量。在这次罢工潮对劳工问题的关注中,都存在着这种动态的过程。





算法管理与平台资本主义都远不止仅存在于送餐行业中。超市和仓库愈发使用算法来决定劳动过程,而平台工人则涵盖优步出租车司机和亚马逊Mechanical Turk的普通劳工。如果送餐平台工人的斗争精神传播到这两个群体,那么欧洲由剥削引发的冲突将显著升级。目前有些迹象显示这种传播可能已经发生了:组织者已经准备着手在黑色星期五实施对亚马逊物流设施的封锁。这场平台经济内的跨国运动,对于之后对抗资本的跨国运动有很大的借鉴作用。


Edited for

Trump’s snub of NBA’s Curry, condemnation of NFL protests anger athletes, executives

Donald Trump, Stephen Curry

by Catherine Lucey and Tim Reynolds

President Donald Trump denounced protests by NFL players and rescinded a White House invitation for NBA champion Stephen Curry in a two-day rant that targeted top professional athletes and brought swift condemnation Saturday from league executives and star players alike.

Wading into thorny issues of race and politics, Trump’s comments in a Friday night speech and a series of Saturday tweets drew sharp responses from some of the nation’s top athletes, with LeBron James calling the president a “bum.” Hours later, Major League Baseball saw its first player take a knee during the national anthem.

Trump started by announcing that Curry, the popular two-time MVP for the Golden State Warriors, would not be welcome at the White House for the commemorative visit traditionally made by championship teams: “Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team. Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn!”

Later, Trump reiterated what he said at a rally in Alabama the previous night — that NFL players who kneel for the national anthem should be fired, and called on NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to tell them to stand. Goodell and several team owners criticized the comments.

The Warriors said it was clear they were not welcome at the White House.

Curry had said he did not want to go anyway, but the Warriors had not made a collective decision before Saturday — and had planned to discuss it in the morning before the president’s tweet, to which coach Steve Kerr said : “Not surprised. He was going to break up with us before we could break up with him.”

Others had far stronger reactions.

“U bum @StephenCurry30 already said he ain’t going!” James tweeted in a clear message to the president — a post that Twitter officials said was quickly shared many more times than any other he’s sent. “So therefore ain’t no invite. Going to White House was a great honor until you showed up!”

Curry appreciated James’ strong stance.

“That’s a pretty strong statement,” Curry said. “I think it’s bold, it’s courageous for any guy to speak up, let alone a guy that has as much to lose as LeBron does and other notable figures in the league. We all have to kind of stand as one the best we can.”

Curry added that he doesn’t believe Trump “respects the majority of Americans in this country.”

James also released a video Saturday, saying Trump has tried to divide the country. “He’s now using sports as the platform to try to divide us,” James said. “We all know how much sports brings us together. … It’s not something I can be quiet about.”

Warriors general manager Bob Myers said he was surprised by the invitation being pulled, and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said he was disappointed that the Warriors won’t be at the White House.

“The White House visit should be something that is celebrated,” Myers said. “So we want to go to Washington, D.C., and do something to commemorate kind of who we are as an organization, what we feel, what we represent and at the same time spend our energy on that. Instead of looking backward, we want to look forward.”

Added Kerr after his team’s first practice of the season, “These are not normal times.”

Bruce Maxwell, an African-American player for the Oakland Athletics, became the first major league baseball player to kneel during the national anthem. Teammate Mark Canha, who is white, put his right hand on one of Maxwell’s shoulders during Saturday night’s anthem. The Athletics released a statement saying they “respect and support all of our players’ constitutional rights and freedom of expression.”

In New York City’s Central Park, musician Stevie Wonder declared, “Tonight, I take a knee for America. Both knees!” as he knelt on stage at the Global Citizen Festival.

As a candidate and as president, Trump’s approach has at times seemed to inflame racial tensions in a deeply divided country while emboldening groups long in the shadows. Little more than a month ago, Trump came under fire for his response to a white supremacists’ protest in Charlottesville, Virginia. Trump also pardoned Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff of Arizona’s Maricopa County, who had been found guilty of defying a judge’s order to stop racially profiling Latinos.

Trump’s latest entry into the intersection of sports and politics started in Alabama on Friday night, when he said NFL players who refused to stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner” are exhibiting a “total disrespect of our heritage.”

Several NFL players, starting last season with then-San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick, have either knelt, sat or raised fists during the anthem to protest police treatment of blacks and social injustice. Last week at NFL games, four players sat or knelt during the anthem, and two raised fists while others stood by the protesters in support.

“That’s a total disrespect of everything that we stand for,” Trump said, encouraging owners to act. He added, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, you’d say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired.”

On Saturday, Trump echoed his stance.

“If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL, or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem,” Trump tweeted. “If not, YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do!”

There are 14 NFL games Sunday, including one in London. And how players act during the anthem will certainly be closely watched at each of those games.

“You have a chance to do something really great,” music mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs told players in a tweet.

Tampa Bay receiver Desean Jackson, whose team plays at Minnesota, tweeted: “I definitely will be making a statement no disrespect to our military of service But we have to stick together as people !! Unity.”

Trump has enjoyed strong support from NFL owners, with at least seven of them donating $1 million each to Trump’s inaugural committee. They include New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft, whom Trump considers a friend.

Goodell strongly backed the players and criticized Trump for “an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL” while several team owners issued similar statements. New York Giants owners John Mara and Steve Tisch said the comments were inappropriate and offensive. Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, who has supported the players who have knelt, said the country “needs unifying leadership right now, not more divisiveness,” and San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York ripped Trump’s comments as “callous.”

Hours after Goodell’s comments, Trump said the commissioner had “put out a statement trying to justify the total disrespect certain players show to our country. Tell them to stand!”

Terry and Kim Pegula, the owners of the Buffalo Bills, said a number of players attended a voluntary meeting with team executives, including general manager Brandon Beane, coach Sean McDermott and members of his staff.

“President Trump’s remarks were divisive and disrespectful to the entire NFL community but we tried to use them as an opportunity to further unify our team and our organization,” the Pegulas said. “Our players have the freedom to express themselves in respectful and thoughtful manner and we all agreed that our sole message is to provide and to promote an environment that is focused on love and equality.”

Plenty of other current and former stars from across sports weighed in Saturday, as did the National Basketball Players Association, which defended its members’ “free speech rights” against those seeking to “stifle” them.

Trump also bemoaned what he called a decline in violence in football, noting that it’s “not the same game” because players are now either penalized or thrown out of games for aggressive tackles.

“No man or woman should ever have to choose a job that forces them to surrender their rights,” said DeMaurice Smith, the NFL Players Association executive director. “No worker nor any athlete, professional or not, should be forced to become less than human when it comes to protecting their basic health and safety.”

Trump has met with some championship teams already in his first year in office.

Clemson visited the White House this year after winning the College Football Playoff, some members of the New England Patriots went after the Super Bowl victory and the Chicago Cubs went to the Oval Office in June to commemorate their World Series title. The Cubs also had the larger and more traditional visit with President Barack Obama in January, four days before the Trump inauguration.

North Carolina, the reigning NCAA men’s basketball champion, said Saturday it will not visit the White House this season. The Tar Heels cited scheduling conflicts.

Warriors forward Draymond Green said the good news was that Golden State won’t have to talk about going to the White House again — unless they win another title during the Trump presidency.

“Michelle Obama said it best,” Green said. “She said it best. They go low. We go high. He beat us to the punch. Happy the game is over.”


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UC-Berkeley says ‘Free Speech Week’ is canceled. Milo Yiannopoulos says he’s coming anyway.

By Susan Svrluga

The student group planning to hold a “Free Speech Week” at the University of California at Berkeley canceled the event Saturday, the day before it was expected to begin.

The plans had been closely watched because a controversial speaker, writer Milo Yiannopoulos, had been shut down by violent protests in February and had vowed to come back. In the months since, the school faced continuing fights over free speech, hate speech, politics and political correctness, and the surrounding community had bloody clashes between extremists on the far left and the far right.

“We will not be deterred,” Yiannopoulos said in a news conference Saturday afternoon. Without the support of the student group, he and the other speakers could not hold an official university event. But they would hold an unofficial one, he said, “come hell or high water.”

He said he and other speakers would be exercising their constitutional right to free expression Sunday at Sproul Plaza on campus, the site of the historic Free Speech Movement protests of the 1960s that made the flagship school a symbol of First Amendment rights. That iconic setting, and the school’s reputation as a politically liberal campus, have made it a magnet for controversial speakers this year.

Yiannopoulos also made his intentions clear on social media.

When Yiannopoulos tried to speak on campus in February, the reaction was intense. About a thousand people protested peacefully outside until 150 or so masked anti-fascist extremists joined the crowd, smashing windows and setting fires. University police shut down the event, leading Yiannopoulos to claim that the campus was continuing to stifle all but left-wing views, and President Trump to suggest that the school did not deserve federal funds.

At attorney for students from Berkeley Patriot, the student group that invited Yiannopoulos, wrote in a letter to campus officials that the students had been “subjected to extraordinary pressure and resistance, if not outright hostility,” from university officials since announcing their intention to host the event.

The group was canceling plans for the events, which had been expected to begin Sunday and end Wednesday, solely because of the actions of the university, Marguerite Melo wrote.

The group filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice this week, claiming that the university had engaged in a pattern of First Amendment violations, including imposing “arbitrary and irrational bureaucratic hurdles on student groups which seek to exercise their First Amendment rights by holding public debates.”

University spokesman Dan Mogulof said, “It is extremely unfortunate that this announcement was made at the last minute, even as the University was in the process of spending significant sums of money and preparing for substantial disruption of campus life to provide the needed security for these events.

“Claims that this is somehow the outcome desired by the campus are without basis in fact. The University was prepared to do whatever was necessary to support the First Amendment rights of the student organization.”

He said that claims that the university had sought to put speakers in harm’s way were unfortunate. “We were in the process of spending what could have amounted to a sum well in excess of one million dollars to make these events safe.”

Yiannopoulos had promised days of speeches about controversial ideas, and speakers who have sparked protests at other campuses. In recent days, problems with securing large indoor venues prompted even greater concerns about safety, as events would be much more difficult for police to control if they had to be held outdoors.

Confusion about speakers — some who were announced said they had never even been invited, and some who had planned to attend changed plans in recent days — added to last-minute uncertainty this week.

This morning, Melo said, she and the students concluded they could not ensure the safety of the remaining speakers. “They made the decision on the side of safety and having their free speech rights stifled,” she said. “We are extremely saddened.” As an alumna, she said, she could not have imagined that administrators would act in such a way.

“It looks like the university had its way, and won, over free speech.”

Mogulof pointed to a successful event this month, when the Berkeley College Republicans hosted conservative writer Ben Shapiro, “and numerous prior events with conservative speakers” as evidence that the university is deeply committed to freedom of speech.

“We want to send the strongest possible message that we will continue to work constructively with campus organizations to host their speakers on our campus.”

Melo said students were concerned that they were being investigated after the university’s chancellor, Carol Christ, sent a message to the campus community condemning some “hateful messaging” that had appeared on campus targeting certain groups, and said university police were investigating whether they were hate crimes. She said her clients in Berkeley Patriot “heard the threat loud and clear.”

In an email, Mogulof said that chalkings were found around campus, as well as posters naming students and faculty and describing them as terrorists. But he said the attorney’s claim was “another in a long line of false statements.” He said the police had not identified any suspects, were not looking at any particular group or individual, and has no reason to suspect anyone from Berkeley Patriot was involved.

The university cannot stop conservatives from speaking on campus, Yiannopoulos said Saturday, no matter what they try. He announced plans for a seven-month college tour, and promised “nice surprises” for people joining him at Berkeley Sunday. 

Mogulof said the events that had been proposed, if not backed by a student group would need to comply with guidelines for outdoor campus events.

Those include a requirement that the events be “academically driven.” Yiannopoulos’s plans, Mogulof said, would not meet that standard.

He is, however, allowed to speak on the public campus as a private citizen.

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DC Juggalo March vs FBI Overshadows Conservative “#MOAR” Gathering

Washington, DC – Unicorn Riot is streaming live on Saturday, Sept. 16th from the National Mall as thousands of fans of the Detroit rap group Insane Clown Posse known as Juggalos gather to send a message to the FBI that they should not be designated as a “hybrid gang.”

The Juggalo crowd near the Lincoln Memorial, with a few thousand participants, vastly outnumbered a a conservative rally billed as the “Mother of All Rallies” (#MOAR) which has around 200-300 participants.

Watch the Livestream from the Juggalo march and concert at Lincoln Memorial here:

ICP artists Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope addressed the crowd – this clip has their speeches and the march.

Unicorn Riot coverage on Saturday started with the “Mother of All Rallies” which drew around 200-300 attendees. Some “Proud Boys” and repurposed Nazi Germany “Kekistan” flag were spotted among the group.

On the west end of the National Mall, hundreds of Juggalos began to gather for their rally.

Story is developing…


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