In the wake of the events in Minneapolis (USA), Bob Barr, lawyer and former member of the American House of Representatives, brings light and thus some calm to the heated debate, with a return to the democratic constitutional state (“Where we always end when the end justifies the means”, Current Concerns No. 13 of 23 June 2020). He explains why, according to American law, the “Antifa movement” that calls itself “Antifa” could, and even had to, be called “terrorist”. Barr points out that the origins of the American Antifa lie in Europe. How the “Antifa” came to them across the Atlantic is not yet clear. Bob Barr also notes in his statement that the term “Antifa” is a highly dazzling concept. The following text deals with both questions.
Fascism is not the same as National Socialism, nor is it the same as racism. The terms fascism and National Socialism denote historically localizable events. Fascism in the narrower sense of the word was the form of government of Italy under the sole rule of Benito Mussolini. In the 20th century this term was applied to similar forms of government, for example to Spain under the dictatorship of General Franco. The Italian state under Benito Mussolini (1925–1943) was a one-party state, dictatorially led and with aggressive foreign policy. Similar to other comparable states, it glorified its own national greatness and power of earlier times, especially that of the ancient Roman Empire. Hitler’s German National Socialism had many parallels with fascist Italy. National Socialism was complemented by the ideology of the people, based on a scientifically untenable theory of racism and its criminal consequences. But racism is not a form of state, it is an ideological attitude or viewpoint that propagates the alleged superiority of one group of people over others that it despises.
Thought patterns are dangerous
Against this factual historical background, the currently unscrupulously mixed and arbitrarily used terminology in the context of the current “Antifa” causes confusion and damage. In recent years, practices have spread under the woolly abbreviation, with which any preserving tendency is soon disguised as “right-wing extremist” and quite justifiable positions beyond the green-pink liberal mainstream are called “fascist”. This does not really hit the mark. Not every view that deviates from the zeitgeist, which is overpoweringly present in the media today, is “right-wing”. Not everyone who finds something worth preserving in our societies is conservative. Not every conservative is susceptible to right-wing extremist tendencies. And not everyone who, rightly or wrongly, is labelled as “right-wing” is thus quasi “automatically” a racist.
The terms “anti-fascism” and “antifascist movement”, from which the dazzling abbreviation “Antifa” is derived, originate from Bolshevism. At the time of the appearance of fascist regimes, communist anti-fascism was elevated by the Communist International under the leadership of Josef Stalin to a main programme of world revolutionary strategy. Under the banner of “anti-fascism” anarchists and communists from all over the world fought in the Spanish Civil War in the “International Brigades” on the side of the republicans against the army of General Franco, who after his victory maintained an iron dictatorship until the 1970s.
After the Second World War, in the period of a boom in a resurgent capitalism (keyword “boom”), politicised student circles in the western democracies developed the 1968 youth movement under the influence of the neo-Marxist “Frankfurt School” (Theodor W. Adorno, Max Horkheimer, Herbert Marcuse). Even back then, like the current antifa today, it swept along young idealists all over the world. The core of the 68er ideology was, especially in Germany, a strongly placarded “modern anti-fascism”. Its leading figures Rudi Dutschke, Günter Amendt, Oskar Negt and others made the sweeping reproach to their German parents’ generation that they were still strongly influenced by the National Socialist ideology in their thoughts and feelings. This earned them the label “authoritarian”, whereas the 68ers propagated their “anti-authoritarian” attitude and way of life. Both elements gave the movement of that time a radical orientation from the beginning. For it was precisely as an “anti-authoritarian” Cultural Revolution that the 68 movement developed strikingly destructive and aggressive tendencies. Whoever opposed the then new “self-realisation ideology” was soon called a “fascist”. Roaring down a “conservative” professor in his lectures was at times part of everyday life in the lecture halls of the universities.
The then novel fusion of the political with the personal, often provocatively displayed “free” lifestyle supported the destructive orientation of the “movement”. Even then, rhythmically chanted slogans heated up the manifestos. Often they were catastrophically short-circuited in their content, such as: “Capitalism leads to fascism, capitalism must go.” It is not the economic forms (capitalism, state socialism) which “automatically” give birth to undemocratic or aggressive ideologies, but the attitudes and values on which they are based.
Under the influence of the 68-Cultural Revolution and the new lifestyle created by it, the slogans became even simpler, and therefore even more dangerous: “Destroy what destroys you!” It was clear even then for those who were so “moved”: you are broken by the work and the stress of working life, the demands of modern society. Thus, those who had been marginalised in our modern Western societies, especially the growing circle of drug users, suddenly changed from former “fringe groups” to “resistance fighters”. Thus the smashing of window displays, the aggressions against uniformed persons, even shoplifting took on a supposedly “legitimising” dimension: the smashing of “the system”. Where did the necessary hatred come from?
Targeted destructiveness and its consequences
At that time already the confrontation with the police was deliberately enforced. It was provoked for strategic reasons to use the bludgeons and water cannons, later the tear gas. Thus, according to the doctrine of the student “revolutionaries”, every participant in a manifestation should be made to understand that modern democracy is only a democracy on paper. In reality it is a repressive state that blows everyone who denies the system as a whole. The fact that the militant manifestos deliberately violated legal norms and the police had to therefore intervene was deliberately swept under the carpet. At that time the insulting name “cop” appeared. The policeman as individual was deliberately dehumanised and thus made a blind tool of the “system”. This was followed by more and more organised violence, a systematic damage to property, first against embassies of authoritarian states (such as Persia under the Shah), then against banks, and finally, under the direction of the increasingly radicalised RAF (Red Army Faction with Ulrike Meinhof and Andreas Baader). The path led via Molotov cocktails (hurled against police officers on duty), the blaze in the Berlin department store as well as aimed attacks on police stations and military barracks, and finally to politically motivated coward murders of “exponents” of capitalism. Ulrike Meinhof was given space by the German opinion-making news magazine Der Spiegel to represent with inimitable cold-bloodedness that killing police officers and exponents of Western capitalism was justified resistance. Meinhof literally wrote: “We say, of course, the cops are pigs, we say the guy in the uniform is a pig, this is not a human being, and we have to deal with him. That means we do not have to talk to him, and it is wrong to talk to these people at all, and there can be shooting of course.” (Ulrike Meinhof in: Der Spiegel No. 25, 15 June 1970, p. 74 f.)
There was shooting at that time, also by the RAF. The military know-how for this was obtained by RAF exponents, through the GDR, in training centres run by Palestinian extremist groups.
Is it about interactionor or about division?
Bob Barr’s question, where the Antifa movement in the United States comes from, can be partly answered. The new anti-fascism as motive of “movements” arose in Europe in the course of the western 68-movement. This movement was particularly strong in Germany and found its way from Europe to the USA. It pursued its own paths there, was particularly influenced by the movement against the Vietnam War, but was also strongly influenced by Herbert Marcuse, a prominent member of the Frankfurt School, who was active in California. As a Neo-Marxist he and like-minded people were still strongly influenced by the thinking of the class struggle. This view of society is based on the ultimately unavoidable “neutralisation” of the class enemy (because the capitalists are unteachable), a concept that cannot do without the use of violence.
In this respect, the “new Antifa” is the faithful image of its ideological predecessor, the destruction of culture in 1968. Many of its current followers apparently want – like their troubled predecessors 50 years ago – a “different” society in which people neither despise nor mistreat others. This is unlikely to be achieved through hatred and destruction. If some of the Antifa movements really want to improve our modern societies, and that means humanise them, they could simply concentrate fully on the life-task of every human being, especially if he is young and efficient. It has always consisted – the Viennese individual psychologist Alfred Adler has laid valid foundations for this – of making one’s own distinctive and useful contribution to a meaningful whole. In a modern democratic society this is not only possible but indispensable (sometimes not always easy), even for his own happiness. If the individual evades this, for example out of discouragement at the demands, he is limiting his own life, not “the system”. In its alleged fight against fascist tendencies, the modern “Antifa” uses a means of struggle on which every doctrinaire, intolerant movement is based: on hate propaganda against a diabolised “enemy”. Thereby it does what it supposedly wants to fight. •
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