Wednesday, 11 April 2018


Back in 2010 Noam Chomsky discussed the parallels between the Tea-Party and the pre-Nazi period in Germany.  Chomsky noted that after the Weimar Republic failed to handle the nation's economic woes, mainstream political parties lost support and the Nazis emerged.  Chomsky warned that the Left would need to take this as a sign that much better organizing was in order to combat the likes of the Tea-Party.  Mocking and threatening the far-right group to Chomsky served no real purpose and was a severe error in principle, tactics, and philosophy.

Chomsky added that, “If somebody comes along who is charismatic and honest this country is in real trouble because of the frustration, disillusionment, the justified anger and the absence of any coherent response.”

Don’t get me wrong, many of my friends on the Left admire Antifa’s resistance of neo-Nazis.  And like me they express deep concerns about our persistently fascist leaning country that has devolved in terms of climate, the economy, as well as a variety of social issues.  I am not however, a “soft-fascist,” or “typical liberal,” for supporting Chomsky’s views.  Nor are Chomsky critics all members of a Stalinist cult because they may support Antifa through and through.

Believe me, I’d love to punch Nazis and you can count me in to be an eternal member of resistance to both fringe and mainstream hate, but I’m not sure it would yield any positive result to use my progressive thought as a literal battering ram.  Despite the horrors of this nation’s past and present on so many issues, resorting to violence against a group that thrives on violence seems counterproductive.

Could it be that Chomsky is wrong and his detractors are right?  Could it be that there’s no time for supplicant MLK type resolve in 2017?  I think the broader Left has history on their side.

President Trump made dangerous and inaccurate remarks concerning the “many sides” of Charlottesville.  At the same time, Chomsky correctly asserted that Antifa’s actions served as “a major gift to the Right, including the militant Right, who [are] exuberant.”

He asserted that Antifa "generally [proves] self-destructive."  Furthermore, Chomsky remarked that Antifa indicates “a minuscule fringe of the Left,” and that "[W]hat they do is often wrong in principle — like blocking talks."

This positioning is very consistent with most of his career.  After taking off as a world-renowned linguist Chomsky first gained prominence as a political writer during the Vietnam Era and one of his main sources of inspiration was the famed revolutionary pacifist A.J. Muste.

Muste is famous for articulating,  “There is no way to peace for peace is the way. Peace is the starting place, and you can not end with it if you do not begin with it.”  This helps to explain why Chomsky says that the "toughest and most brutal" always win, which are of course the white supremacists, militarized police forces, government forces, and fascists.

When Chomsky recognizes that there are “opportunity costs [and a] loss of the opportunity for education, organizing, and serious and constructive activism,” it doesn’t mean he is a pure pacifist either.  He holds that force is only an option after you fully exhaust peaceful means, and one must try every peaceable mean.  Any use of violence on the Left must follow this trajectory since violence in combatting fascist elements and their support networks require massive organizing efforts and highly trained insurgency techniques.  At the moment however Chomsky holds that Antifa is not even remotely related to anarchism.

He is not mistaken to ask Antifa to think through their actions along with the consequences.  This does not equate to showing any patience for the racist right. Chris Hedges, who took even more heat for his commentary, is simply asking for the same amount of introspection regarding tactics.
Tony DiMaggio has managed to stay out of the Left’s crosshairs unlike Chomsky and Hedges, but I believe he too is correct in his assertions.  DiMaggio knows that violence is a part of the real world but remarks that “violence is never something one should actively seek out.”

Fascists, neo-Nazis and right wing terrorists do indeed try to fuse first amendment assembly rights of know-nothings to justifications for violence.  In many ways the mainstream Alt-Right acts much like ISIS, another by-product of failed policies.  Of course, the Left and Antifa is not the same as the Alt-Right, for there is no such thing as an “Alt-Left.”  But this is however precisely why it’s harmful to entertain violence and the fascist playbook. Similar to Osama bin Laden wanting Bush 43 to engage in a crusade, the Alt-Right wants the Left in a violent war to destroy constructive engagement within the Left internally.

Todd Gitlin is correct when he asserts that, “In truth, there is no symmetry between the “alt-right” and “antifa.”  Antifa is the backlash to the backlash, a defensive response to the growing presence of right-wing extremism.”  Gitlin goes on to add however that, “many antifa activists do not think strategically about whom they alienate.”

John Halle is another person who took principled positions on Antifa. He agrees with the politics of the Left but sees a problem with tactics.  Halle simply states that violence, for instance on a university campus in the protest of a speaker, has boiled over when a moderator is assaulted and sustains injuries.
Chomsky told me that although he received some support for his comments on Antifa, he mostly received furious opposition.  Anarchism is of course not some vague, ill-organized and unclassifiable group like Antifa demonstrated.  Chomsky stated that Antifa might be operating on a romanticized vision of muscularity.  It’s certainly possible.

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