"No Trump! No wall! No U.S.A. at all."
This was the chant of the violent, black-masked thugs who descended on an otherwise peaceful protest in Berkeley over the weekend. And it gives you a window into the tactics of the violent fringes of the Left. They attempt to lure in normal, reasonable people -- which they most certainly are not -- by showcasing a common enemy, such as racism or fascism. But that's just a sweetener for their real agenda item.
Lots of normal, reasonable people oppose Donald Trump. Many of them oppose the border wall, too. But the third item on this agenda is the (usually) unstated aim of the so-called "antifa," from which the other two items are supposed to draw your attention -- except when they get over-excited and spell it out with a silly chant.
This is the whole point of the label "anti-fascist," and it has been for roughly 85 years now. Everyone -- especially journalists -- needs to stop using that label, because it's part of their propaganda, an effort by people unworthy of polite company to fish for mainstream endorsements from dumb and naive fellow-travelers.
The term "anti-fascist" is of Soviet origin, and it was used before and during World War II to make the aggressive, murderous, war-criminal regime of Joseph Stalin seem more palatable. The entire point then, as now, was to make it seem like the U.S.S.R. had a lot in common with normal, decent people's views, even as millions were being shipped off to die in the archipelago of slave-labor camps that Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn experienced for eight years. (His crime? An irreverent reference, in a letter, to Stalin's moustache.)
The historian Norman Davies has this to say about the term "anti-fascist" in his history of the Second World War, which is titled "No Simple Victory":
"Anti-Fascism" did not offer a coherent political ideology. In terms of ideas, it was an empty vessel, a mere political dance....It gave the false impression that principled democrats believing in the rule of law and freedom of speech could rub along fine with the dictators of the proletariat, or that democratic socialists had only minor differences with Communism.
What is more, it opened up a wonderful arena for the activities of disciplined activists, whose training in the Leninist techniques of splitting and dividing adversaries would run rings round wooly intellectuals....If you were a French trade unionist, tired of the wrangles of the Left, or a British Empire loyalist baffled by the complexities of modern politics or a Christian peace worker hoping to avoid another war, anti-Fascism was for you! Only in the background was the unspoken dialect that, if Fascism was to be Bad, the Good had to lie with the originator of anti-Fascism -- Joseph Stalin's USSR.
Stalin is dead and the U.S.S.R. is just a historical lesson of what happens every time an actual socialist state is formed in real life. But the term "anti-fascist" is being used for the same ends today as it was then. Violent leftists want to make their assaults on others' life and property -- almost identical to the sort of thing neo-Nazis engage in, only for different reasons -- seem justifiable. And they do this by defining themselves as a force opposed to something that all ordinary, decent people find repulsive.
We may not take today's anarcho-communists as seriously as we did back when they had the power, the weapons, and the infrastructure to murder tens of millions of people. But their goals are no different. As they put it, they don't want a "U.S.A. at all." The country they want to occupy the center of North America has no First Amendment, no freedom of expression, and people with opposing views (of any views, not just Nazis) are beaten, imprisoned or murdered for intellectual dissent. They may run the gamut from anarchism to revolutionary socialism in their views, but they have far more in common with fascists than they do with the people they seek to attract with the sweet-sounding "anti-fascist" label.
Davies notes that the propaganda value of "anti-fascism" in the West reached its apex when Francisco Franco won the Spanish Civil War, with help from the fascist governments of Italy and Germany. It then fell out of favor when Stalin aligned with Hitler in hopes of devouring half of eastern Europe. Before the Germans turned against them, the Soviets seized half of Poland, annexed the Baltic States, and invaded Finland in the 1939-1940 Winter War, casting its democratic government at the time as a fascist enemy (of course).
So always with these little would-be tyrants. When you use the label "antifa" or "anti-fascist," you are helping and enabling a resurgence of terrorist liars in the exact same tradition, who are indistinguishable from neo-Nazis except in the specific motivations for and targets of their authoritarian impulses and irrational violence.
The Associated Press recently made and announced its laudable decision not to refer to neo-Nazis as the "alt-right," a misleading term that makes their violent and racist political beliefs sound like some kind of respectable "alternative conservatism." People who write and talk about the street brawlers of the fringe Left should likewise refuse to dignify them with their preferred label.