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What's wrong with Antifa? Chris Hedges interviews Mark Bray on Antifa book

Are Antifa just fascists fighting for turf with other fascists? Mark Bray, author of Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook discusses the movement's perception that it is countering the rise of the far-right and responds to Chris Hedges' critique of the violent tactics used by the activists. Chris Hedges suggests that Antifa's targets and strategies play into the hands of the corporate enemy. He also makes an odd mistake in suggesting that German Communists failed to counter Hitler as strongly as they might have because their leader had been jailed, but there is no history of the German Communist leader of the 1930s having been jailed at the time. (In fact Stalin advised the German Communists not to form a united front with the Social Democrats against the Nazis and they stupidly followed that advice.) Chris Hedges thinks Antifa is dehumanising fascists the way that fascists dehumanise their targets. (i.e. Antifa are actually fascists fighting for turf with other fascists.) Mark Bray thinks it is okay to shut presumed fascists up by making them too afraid to come out of their houses. The problem with this is, essentially, that just because an Antifa thinks someone is a 'fascist' does not mean that they are, especially when Antifa is shouting too hard to hear what someone may really be saying. Bray seems to be justifying the judgement and street-policing of people on the most superficial appraisal. Everyone is entitled to a defense, but not according to Antifa. [At the beginning of this program RT Correspondent Anya Parampil looks at the origins of Antifa and gets them terribly wrong. Just bear with it.] A critical point overlooked by Chris Hedges is that Antifa is funded by George Soros. Wonder why?

Street clashes do not distress the ruling elites.

"Street clashes do not distress the ruling elites. These clashes divide the underclass. They divert activists from threatening the actual structures of power. They give the corporate state the ammunition to impose harsher forms of control and expand the powers of internal security. When Antifa assumes the right to curtail free speech, it becomes a weapon in the hands of its enemies to take that freedom away from everyone, especially the anti capitalists. The focus on street violence diverts activists from the far less glamorous task of building relationships and alternative institutions and community organizing, that alone will make effective resistance possible. We will defeat the corporate state only when we take back and empower our communities. As long as acts of resistance are forms of personal catharsis, the corporate state is secure. Indeed the corporate state welcomes this violence, because violence is a language it can speak with a proficiency and ruthlessness that none of these groups can match." (Chris Hedges in conclusion).

Partial transcript of the interview, using You Tube's transcription service

CHRIS HEDGES: "[...] the danger comes from militarized police forces a system of mass incarceration. I teaching in a prison and my students were not put in those cages by neo Confederates, you know, from a trailer park. They were put in cages by the Democratic and the Republican Party. The wholesale surveillance the corporate kind of coup d'etat that's taken place that is eviscerating civil liberties, driving, essentially already has driven, the working class into poverty, destroying the middle class. These are the forces that already have power and that's a big difference from the 1930s."

[...]

CHRIS HEDGES: "Before the break my argument that the left, actually the anti-capitalist, that actually has moral capital and by engaging in the kind of street violence that characterizes the nativist and the neo-fascist and the - they're squandering their moral capital."

[...]

CHRIS HEDGES: The question is, who's the enemy, and how are we going to take the enemy down ? And the enemy is already in power. The corporate state. The coup is already over and, yes, they may use these figures, but we are in a situation that is in essence revolutionary. We are [incomprehensible]. If we are going to bring down this power structure, it's got to be through mass mobilization of hundreds of thousands of people into the streets. And you saw, for instance, in Berkeley, where - this is often the case - where most of the majority of the demonstrators were peaceful, nonviolent, there was a small activity of violence by a small group of black bloc Antifa , whatever, you but what was disseminated throughout the corporate media and why were those images useful to the corporate state? Because, number one, it demonizes the protest movement. We saw this with Occupy, which was a non-violent movement, and it frightens people away from the movement, and these are classic counterinsurgency techniques."

[...]

Bray not worried about 'dehumanizing fascists'

CHRIS HEDGES: "My fear with the left is that it adopts that abstract hatred, the abstract hatred that racists use towards people of color or the GBLT community or the Muslim community, is adopted by the left towards the fascists. So they know there's a dehumanization there and and a kind of belief that all rational discussion is impossible therefore. And I think you write in the book quite clearly the idea is to essentially not to reach out to them as other human beings, but to make them too frightened to come out of their houses."

MARK BRAY: "I guess I'm just not terribly concerned about people dehumanizing fascists personally and we can have a difference of opinion about that. I also the other question I would pose to you would be curious to get your responses so if if it is fine to organize popular self-defense under occupation how bad does the threat of violence have to get before that becomes legitimate? Right? And people's do disagree about that, but anti-fascists argue you have to stop it before it gets ...

CHRIS HEDGES: It's the wrong question.

MARK BRAY: Well then tell me what's the right question.

Revolution different now that the public cannot match the state's weapons

CHRIS HEDGES: If you are going to employ violence or, let's say use lethal force, then you have to have to have access to instruments and weapons of lethal force that can counter the state. So that no for instance rebel or guerrilla movement ever succeeds unless they are bordered by a state by which they can gather weaponry, carry out training. I mean this for instance was the role of Tunisia in the Algerian Civil War. And my argument and criticism of AntiFa and the black bloc is that the the language the state speaks and is increasingly speaking, of lethal force: militarizing our police departments, putting tanks on the streets of Ferguson, is one that we can never compete against. We're not going to create staging areas in Canada or Mexico to carry out an insurgency and therefore we have to find tactics that have worked in the past revolutions I believe are fundamentally nonviolent movements.

Crane Brinton and other historians, Davies, have written no revolution succeeds and lest a significant portion of the ruling apparatus - in particular the security apparatus - refuses to defend a discredited regime. That's something I watched with the with the collapse of the Stasi state in East Germany, where they, Honaker the Communist dictator, sent down an elite paratroop division in Leipzig and they wouldn't fire on the crowd. It was over same when they sent the Cossacks into to crush the bread riots in St. Petersburg and the Cossacks refused to. The Czar was over. That is just true in Revolution after revolution after revolution, and that only happens when you reach out - not to all - I'm not naive enough to tell you that - you know they're plenty of sadists and torturers and within the system - but enough people within the system to create paralysis.

MARK BRAY: Well you know anti-fascist are not trying to organize an armed uprising they're trying to stop small and medium-sized fascist groups before they advance and they recognize that the business of doing that is dangerous and that even if a group does it non-violently the consideration of being attacked by them and having to deal with that is very legitimate especially when we can see that the police are often more sympathetic to the right and that as the FBI has documented there has been extensive white power infiltration into local law enforcement so point taken on that the question of insurgencies but that's not really the politics that they're trying to promote here.

CHRIS HEDGES: Here what is I mean one of I think you've you read my article I mean one of the my criticisms was the idea of resistance as catharsis. It's not about how we feel is it?

MARK BRAY: Well I think that most anti-fascist and I interviewed 61 anti-fascist from 17 different countries most of the people that I spoke to don't fit the sort of media stereotype of some sort of crazy bloodthirsty of person but are people who are environmentalists and unionists and activists a variety of backgrounds who would much rather be doing that work than having to confront the far-right but they believe that there is a threat in their communities that they need to respond to and so I think the notion that these are thrill-seekers and that these people love to just sort of engage in violence isn't borne out by any evidence and certainly didn't reflect the interviews that I conducted.

CHRIS HEDGES: So what's the endgame? If you manage to get the fascists or the neo-fascists off the streets, we're still in trouble, right?

MARK BRAY: Right, which is why that many anti-fascists think of militant anti-fascism as essentially a firefighting operation dealing with an immediate emergency of the organized far-right on the streets and so if you push them off the streets, then you simply go back to doing the other kinds of movement building and organizing that you and I to some extent agree on what that could look like and and go back to that so we can see that the rise and fall of militant anti-fascism in the US and elsewhere over the past decades has everything to do with the rise and fall of the far-right so it's it's not generally conceived of as a politics that can solve all problems it's about addressing a specific.

Street violence and corporate power

CHRIS HEDGES: What role does violence have when we are confronting the true engines of oppression which is corporate power?

MARK BRAY: Well you know people will disagree with with what to do and Antifa is not designed to change all of society, right. It deals with this specific part of it, but I think the notion that the the ruling class will voluntarily hand over their wealth to create a social society is not true what we agree with and so I think that you know revolutionary politics does have to have it on the menu at a certain point. People will disagree on what that looks like when that comes but I think, you know, one of the historical lessons is it's often hard to turn on militant resistance when it's too late and so that that I think needs to be borne in mind as well.

CHRIS HEDGES: But it's also you know can be deeply counterproductive. Rosa Luxemburg who was assassinated in Berlin in the uprising did not support the uprising.
MARK BRAY: That's correct, and so uprisings are not always a good idea. In fact they're usually not a good idea but they can be sometimes and so the question is in my mind not to condemn a specific tactic or politics or strategy in the abstract universally but to look at the context.

Getting back to the superior weaponry of the state

CHRIS HEDGES: But I would go back to weaponry because you know in the French Revolution the the crowds, the san-culottes were carrying muskets and so was the Swiss Guard that were protecting the royalty, right? There's a disparity now in weaponry that doesn't make that possible.

MARK BRAY: Right. And so you're right from what you said before that some of it has to do with with the need to turn certain parts of the military against the state to have them put down their weapons to not not open fire on populations and in that sense it is a question of popular politics but what we're talking about here is not. Antifa is not a recipe for changing all of society. It's a politics aimed at self defense around a specific threat.

CHRIS HEDGES: I guess that definition of self defense is one we're gonna have to quibble over. I mean the Southern Poverty Law Center has said when these far-right groups, especially in open carry states, and these people are heavily armed, we could have had a bloodbath worse than we had. You know, just don't go.

MARK BRAY: Well I think that's terrible advice. I think we do need to organize against them. We can disagree on how to do that, but I think that one of the best takeaways from the politics of anti-fascism is to stand in solidarity with each other across different political and tactical and strategic lines, because when we get divided that's when we're weakest.

CHRIS HEDGES: Okay great mark thanks that was Mark Bray, author of Antifa the anti-fascist handbook.

CHRIS HEDGES: Street clashes do not distress the ruling elites. These clashes divide the underclass. They divert activists from threatening the actual structures of power. They give the corporate state the ammunition to impose harsher forms of control and expand the powers of internal security. When Antifa assumes the right to curtail free speech, it becomes a weapon in the hands of its enemies to take that freedom away from everyone, especially the anti capitalists. The focus on street violence diverts activists from the far less glamorous task of building relationships and alternative institutions and community organizing, that alone will make effective resistance possible. We will defeat the corporate state only when we take back and empower our communities. As long as acts of resistance are forms of personal catharsis, the corporate state is secure. Indeed the corporate state welcomes this violence, because violence is a language it can speak with a proficiency and ruthlessness that none of these groups can match. Thank you for watching you can find us on rt-dot-com slash On Contact see you next week