It should not surprise us that a person who would claim that there were “good people” among the fascist demonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia, would now move to classify an anti-fascist network as alleged “terrorists.” But that is precisely what “Agent Orange,” aka Donald Trump, has been intimating. Unfortunately, this is not comedic — it is deadly serious.
The network “Antifa” is a loose-knit grouping of anti-fascist activists with a range of ideological views, strategies and tactics. What binds them together, however, is zero tolerance towards fascists, neo-fascists and other right-wing populists who threaten violence and other forms of intimidation.
Within the Republican Party, and assisted by Fox News, a chorus has arisen over the last year or so suggesting that the Antifa network is itself engaged in terrorism. Thus, when Antifa or any of its allies defend protesters against intimidation, they, and not the fascists, are condemned by the likes of Trump, Ted Cruz and various commentators on Fox News.
What makes this outrageous is that Trump’s own Justice Department has noted that the main domestic terrorist threat comes from white supremacists and neo-fascists, not from Muslim extremists or anyone on the Left. This finding is not new. During the Obama administration the threat from right-wing extremism was documented by the Department of Homeland Security, only to have said findings suppressed when Republican members of Congress suggested that this revelation was only serving the political objectives of Democrats. The facts, however, were never in dispute, as documented by non-governmental organizations such as the Southern Poverty Law Center.
This is an old trick being perpetrated by Trump and his allies. It is akin to jailing and murdering Black activists who engaged in armed self-defense when attacked by extrajudicial mobs or by the police and blaming the former for violence. It is akin to the jailing and lynching of union organizers when they have defended their right to free speech and the right of workers to free association, then turning the tables and claiming that the trade unionists were disturbing the peace.
There is so much nonsense thrown at us each day by the Trump administration, whether in the form of overt lies or racist provocations, e.g., smearing the city of Baltimore, that it is easy to become numb. We need to resist that impulse because it blinds us to the objectives of our adversaries. In this case, just as Trump uses the allegation of “racist” against the so-called “Squad” (the four congresswomen of color who Trump loves to hate) after he, himself, is charged with racism, Trump, et al., use the allegation of terrorism against anti-fascists as a means of blurring the issue.
Let’s be clear. The objective of this administration is increased authoritarianism. It is utilizing racist provocations in order to succeed. It is an administration that is prepared to join hands with right-wing populist movements, including but not limited to neo-fascists, in order to crush dissent. What better a way to do that than to blame the anti-fascists for chaos and intimidation, thereby sowing confusion and making it that much easier to crush his opponents.
Fletcher is the former president of TransAfrica Forum.