Why labelling Antifa as a terrorist organization is fucking stupid, by The President of Antifa

Published by Antifa International Corporation

One Version of the Modern Antifa Logo. Wikimedia Commons.

Since Small Hands has tweeted about it, I’ve lately seen a ton of steaming hot takes on the web similar to “Antifa are the REAL Fascists” and other incredible misinformation and ill-informed opinions on America’s biggest revolutionary movement. Most of all, there’s been a second wave of calls for them to be labelled as a terrorist organization, a push first blown up by Ted Cruz last year. Here are some of the best galaxy-brain genius takes I could find in 2 minutes or less:

Fascism is a far-right system of government that focuses on one single ruling class. It’s invention is credited to Benito Mussolini. The deciding factor of who gets to be in the ruling class is determined by — you guessed it — the ruling class. In the Third Reich, the key factor was quite famously ethnicity.

A great deal of the discussion seems to echo an opinion that “Antifa is actually Fascist, because (insert something unrelated to Fascism here)”. For the record, ‘being violent’ doesn’t make you a Fascist. Mussolini may have taken power in a coup, but Hitler was elected. And there has been plenty of violence in every war that was fought without Fascism.

If you’ve found yourself echoing statements like that my goal isn’t just to slander you. I know it can seem like I am because this blog isn’t exactly the most passive, but for what it’s worth I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being wrong. We all give opinions based on limited facts sometimes (I sure as hell do). There’s nothing wrong with gathering more information after the fact. If anything I say is incorrect, by all means I invite any and all corrections.

With that out of the way, let’s set some of the record straight about terrorist groups and about Antifa right off the bat:

1. Antifa is not an organization.

And that’s half of the label out the door right there. To go in to this with the time-tested method favorited by High Schoolers in movies everywhere; Merriam Webster defines an organization as “an administrative and functional structure (such as a business or a political party)”.

There is neither an administrative nor a functional structure of Antifa. There shouldn’t be much else to say. To play Devil’s Advocate, there are social media groups for Antifa enthusiasts in certain cities. So, an argument could be made that certain municipal gatherings of Antifa are structured, as these groups often make posts beneficial to the movement (Normally I’d link to some examples of this, but because I don’t want to risk giving them any trolls). That’s still not indicative of Antifa itself being an organization, though, as the groups themselves don’t follow any chain of command, a leadership, or for that matter even adhere to a system of leadership. Does Antifa follow a Democratic system, an Oligarchy, or any other method we know of? Nope! Just some enthusiasts against Fascism started making Facebook groups for their cities to communicate with like-minded people.

Speaking from experience, Antifa social media groups are largely occupied by people from a large range of political beliefs as it is. Anarcho-Communists and Democratic Socialists make a large sum of the conversations, and those are two very different ideologies already. By the most generous of terms, Facebook groups for individual cities could be considered independent organizations, but if that’s the case, then each separate group would need to be treated as separate organizations with individual classifications.

Don’t tell any of my potential employers that there’s no leadership, though. ‘President of Antifa Incorporated’ just looks so good on a resume.

2. Antifa does not have a membership.

To compare Antifa to the golden child of American Domestic Terrorism, the Ku Klux Klan has membership cards for each and every one of their official Klansman. They have a very clear cut style of organization, with the Imperial Wizard (sometimes referred to as Grand Wizard) at the top and several distinct official chapters in major cities and large towns. Each city chapter of the KKK has members with official titles specific to that chapter. The Klan aims to be a well-oiled hatred machine and part of the reason it’s existed for so long is because, well, it’s succeeded. As you can see from reading their original principles from 1868, they’ve been structured from the very beginning.

That’s not just my hot take. Paul D. Brister determined that “four factors — the presence of a safe haven, organizational structure, leadership, and recruitment techniques — are necessary and jointly sufficient to explain Klan campaign emergence”.

Not that the Ku Klux Klan somehow needed any more historic validation to be considered an organization, but hey, guess what? They also used to be a company. In the 1920s the Klan actually functioned as a successful for-profit business. This led to many chapters leaving during what I have to assume was a strange, but very active era for America’s favorite hate group. 1915 to 1928 is also considered to be the KKK’s great ‘second wave’.

In contrast, there are no membership cards in Antifa. There are no subscription fees. There are no official newsletters because — I reiterate — there is no official mouthpiece. All of this is to say it would be almost impossible to determine legally if an individual were acting on behalf of Antifa or not.

Bonus fun KKK fact: a study that cross-referenced Klan membership with the 1920 and 1930 U.S. Census found that Klan members in certain cities were better educated and more likely to hold professional jobs than non-members.

Here’s a theoretical scenario: Steve firebombed a black church. Steve is on trial for domestic terrorism charges in the United States. Steve got caught red-handed and no matter what happens, he’s going away for a long time. Steve’s lawyer knows his trial will be held in a district associated with progressive politics, and in an effort to appeal to the jury, claims he was acting on behalf of Antifa. Steve’s also suspected of being a member of the Atomwaffen — a Nazi network responsible for 8 murders since 2017 — and claims that he’s an Antifa member help sway these suspicions.

The defence would not be able to prove his membership because, of course, there is no membership to Antifa. But, that also means that the prosecution couldn’t disprove it. There would be no legal grounds for any of it, because legally, Antifa association is complete hearsay.

That scenario should sound ridiculous. But, if it ever were to become reality, adding a legal classification to Antifa would make it a fair amount more ridiculous. And Neo-Nazis pretending to be progressives isn’t just a pipe dream. During Richard Spencer’s political run, his girlfriend, an established Fascist, pretended to be a Democratic Socialist to garner support, even going as so far as to say she had “friends as far Left as Antifa (some actually ARE Antifa)”. Spencer is well known to be a proud leader of modern Neo-Nazi movements, but hey, people might fall for anything nowadays right?

Image Posted by Heresy Labs. Owned By Twitter.

More recently, White Supremacist groups posed as Antifa “members” in an effort to make protesters at rallies for George Floyd look bad.

Sounds legit.

3. Antifa has never actually committed any terrorism.

Alright, so obviously if Antifa isn’t an organization, the ideal of collective responsibility doesn’t really apply. But, even if they were organized, they still wouldn’t have ever warranted terrorism charges. Dumpty and his crew quite publicly claimed Antifa as the force behind looting seen across the United States last week, but obviously that’s not the case. Most looters were just thieves taking advantage of a hectic situation, and there’s no radical agenda behind it. The Antifa movement has never been a supporting voice for looting.

So, what have they done? Well, one incident in particular was popular on Conservative forums last year. Portland conservative commentator Andy Ngo was once given a head injury in a fight with demonstrators. Reporter Jim Ryan, who filmed and posted the footage on Twitter, implied he wasn’t aware how it started, so even he doesn’t know if it was an assault or something more complicated. It may not look half as bad as any of the Police Brutality videos I’ve seen in the last week, but maybe I’ve been desensitized to violence in internet videos. It was definitely a shitty situation for Ngo to be in, and there isn’t any footage of him starting any physical altercation, so it’s hard to imagine that he wasn’t a victim.

I actually couldn’t find any non-conservative mainstream news sources on the incident, but did find coverage from a Portland ABC station owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group and a separate article from The Hill on the incident. Both of which were just awful, but that’s unfortunately that’s about as big as the coverage got to mainstream news outlets. A press secretary for the advocacy group Human Rights Campaign claimed the confrontation was “Ngo’s goal from the start”, and he did once intentionally Dox a Portland protestor, so it’s possible that he didn’t fit the victim narrative well enough to make it to Hannity.

Oh, and if you were wondering what the radical Antifa agenda was on that day, they were counter-protesting a demonstration by The Proud Boys. They’re a White Nationalist Group who’s founder Gavin Mccinnes is a self-declared Anti-Semite and Holocaust denier. He also once stated: “Palestinians are stupid Rottweilers. And I had a Rottweiler before. And the way we would discipline him is we’d punch him in the face really hard.” It’s poetic stuff, being able to mix your inexcusable hatred of Arabic people with your inexplicable love of animal abuse. I’m almost impressed.

4. There are no U.S. based terrorist groups, according to the U.S.

Okay, so the Proud Boys haven’t killed anyone yet, they may have burned property, made threats, publicly committed assaults, and skimmed the line between provable hate crimes and crimes that just coincidentally were committed on minorities. Maybe they can’t be classified as a terrorist organization just yet. But, surely, the Ku Klux Klan is a terrorist organization, right?

Nope. Neither is the previously mentioned Attomwaffen Division, which despite its German name, actually started in the Southern United States. In fact it’s spokesperson and the author of its ‘handbook’ — a manifesto that praises Charles Manson — currently lives in government housing in Denver.

Here’s a wild fact about America’s largest Neo-Nazi network: It’s Baltic States members are overseen by the Feuerkrieg Division, who’s official leader was arrested in January of this year and revealed by Estonian media to be 13 years old. That doesn’t contribute to my point, but I really want everyone in the world to know that over 30 militant European Neo-Nazis were taking orders from someone who could still eat for free at your local diner.

Anyways, despite the Klan being responsible for countless deaths, the Atomwaffen being responsible for a handful that we know of, and the Proud Boys being talked about more than both, none of those three are officially recognized as terrorist groups by the FBI or by the United States government. And that’s because no American groups are. The United States recognizes individuals as terrorists and terrorism as a charge, but only foreign terrorist groups are recognized by the State Department. You can see a list of those here.

Instead, for groups that incite domestic violence, the commonly accepted classification is by the Southern Poverty Law Center, who classify all three of the previously mentioned groups as “Hate Groups” in different subcategories. It’s worth mentioning that in the U.K., however the local branch of the Attomwaffen is considered a terrorist organization.

The FBI also has designations for specific criminal organizations. In an era that feels like a lifetime ago, they quite famously labelled the Juggalos as a “loosely organized hybrid gang” and opened themselves up to a potential lawsuit from the Insane Clown Posse. But, for better or for worse, the FBI’s labelling of domestic gangs doesn’t really hold much legal ground for terrorism charges or really anything in a court of law. Simple put, the FBI’s labels are for the FBI to use.

5. Free speech should be protected.

I mentioned before a large bulk of what I observe to represent the Antifa movement, but there’s also presence from good ole’ fashion Anarchists, Marx-Leninists, and regretfully, even some Stalinists. Basically any ‘ists’ left of center have some representation, and as much as I disagree with a some of that ideology, I haven’t come across any ‘ists’ that value people by their ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or anything other than their character. So long as it isn’t hate speech, I’m comfortable with it being discussed on Facebook comments sections.

I state this as a personal opinion based on personal experience because when it comes to new movements, there’s not much else to go on. It’s not like there’s history books written on Antifa yet. I’m also guessing there’s not too many studies on whether or not talking about USSR-style Communism on Facebook leads to governments actually adopting Authoritarian Communism. So, like almost any political ideal that I don’t stand for I’ll still argue for the right to talk about it peacefully.

Likewise I’d still argue for the right for you to comment that I’m an idiot in the comments section here. And, as someone who’s lost more than 80 extended family members to one particular fascist regime, I will argue for all that I’m worth that my capacity to talk shit about Fascism should never be impeded.

For what it’s worth in the realm of Western politics, I’m also Canadian, so I don’t give much though to the First Amendment or whatever it is exactly that protects my downstairs neighbours’ free speech. But, I am glad it’s protected. In Canada, we as a people have protected free speech until the point where that voice becomes hate speech, and I’m happy to live in a country with these laws. If the United States were to brand Antifa as a terrorist organization, any speech that is even remotely anti-fascist potentially could be considered conversations of a terror cell. That means quarantining online discussions, subpoenaing communications, and going to extreme lengths to obtain transcripts of conversations where anyone talks shit about Nazis. Essentially, whatever the F.B.I. does right now to track domestic terror groups, only worse, as only Antifa would have the brand-spanking-new label of ‘The First American Terrorist Group’. The dialogue of “does saying Fascism is bad mean that I’m part of Antifa?” should not be anything other than a joke. I say that not just because Fascism is objectively wrong and I hope anyone reading that agrees with that, but also because you can’t talk about history or politics without eventually running into dialogue similar to that.

If you’re like me, you probably lean more towards “The only good enforcer of traditional White Fascism ideologies is a dead one”, but if not, I will always still respect your right to advocate for hugging the Fascism right out of people. Because either way, you should have the right to talk about it freely.

Written by

Radical rationalist. Distant admirer of the newsroom. Long lasting and morbid fascination with internet subcultures. // IG: @danceecee || Twitter: @SpinelessL

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store