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+2 votes
There's been a lot of talk of "Antifa" in the news, often seemingly interchangeably with "anarchist". What is antifa? Is it a group, an organization? Doesn't it just mean "anti-fascist"? How is it the same as, or different from, anarchist?

Edit: bonus points for some idea of how or why there's so much confusion about this.

(This question is courtesy of my sister.)
by (20.5k points)
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i think this is a great question, especially for those dealing with "normies" and trying to communicate some of these ideas that may be newer to some.

i personally see antifa as simply shorthand for anti-fascist. which for me is primarily an adjective (as is "anarchist"), not a noun. so some specific action might be described as antifa if it fights fascists. the folks that took the action might also be described as such, but that description may not always be applicable. their next action might not be antifa, and referring to them with that label may not be very useful.

if they were part of anything, the punks were more likely to call themselves something like anti-racist action (there were various ARAs around the country), and there were also SHARPS (skinheads against racial prejudice or something). in the 80s anti-fa (by that name) was a european thing.
In the US they're a joke. I think of anti-fa aka anti-fascism as more of an European thing from many years ago. Europe had issues with variants of fascism popping up left and right post WWI & WWII. From what I understand, "anti-fascism" comes from Germany, around the time the Nazis won significant seats in the Weimer Republic's Reichstag in 1930. The goal was to defend liberal democracy from the Nazis. It wasn't one specific ideological group or political party that took part. So like, there were groups that held opposing ideologies or beliefs and opposed each other, like conservatives, commies, liberals... taking part in opposition to National Socialism. I think the term "anti-fascism" was coined by some commies though. So based on that, I'd say anti-fa and anarchists are different as anarchists goal isn't to defend liberal democracy or republicanism.

1 Answer

+3 votes
Anti-fa stands for anti-fascist, which is already not the same as anarchist. There are authoritarians who are anti-fascist. (Fascism is a particular subset of authoritarianism.) The way it's used today, anti-fa/antifa is a word for demonstrators/protesters who don't have a single organization/leader for others to negotiate with. They could as well be called The Unaffiliated Anti-racists. Anti-fa also refers to a tendency of action from Europe (mainly Germany, i think?), that emphasizes street fights and immediate physical reaction to nazi and white supremacist activity.

So, antifa gets used to refer to people who are prepared to destroy property and actively defend themselves and/or hurt racists and fascists.

And Antifa these days is also a group of people who believe that that kind of destruction and defense can make a significant impact on racism and fascism as larger social problems.

Some people in those above groups are also anarchists. Some anarchists are not those folks. Anarchist are against racism and by definition are against fascism, but not all anarchists think that street action is the best tactic, or that fist fights against racists are particularly significant in making fundamental change. Some anarchists think that obviously racism and fascism (etc) are crucial issues, but that street fights are frequently a distraction from the systemic problems that are harder to see and a lot harder to fight.

edit: why so much confusion?
1. elected politicians who are inarticulate and/or intentionally blur definitions as a way a) to scare people with mysterious, dangerous, amorphous enemies, b) to be more difficult to refute (if they're unclear and muddy in their language, then they can pretend that listeners are confused or dumb, instead of the politicians being confusing and mystifying).
2. anarchists/activists who want to appeal as broadly as possible so that they gain power/bodies (appeal to the lowest common denominator--as the vast majority of people are anti fascism), "all these people agree with us, so you should listen to what we say"
3. anarchists who have never been clear on what is actually radical/challenging about anarchism, mostly see it as the most radical flavor at the moment, until the next trend comes along. fighting fascism and racism are the thing of the moment, so anarchists will do that now, because anarchists are the most xtreme...

off the top of my head, anyway...
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