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Old October 15th, 2020 #1
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Default The Historian Who Wrote the Antifa Handbook Defends Fighting Violence With Violence

The Historian Who Wrote the Antifa Handbook Defends Fighting Violence With Violence

Trump has branded the radical left antifa movement a terrorist organization, and many think it has gone too far. But historian Mark Bray, who has studied it, says violence can be justified when battling fascism

Oct 15, 2020

Last May 28, three days after a police office killed George Floyd in Minneapolis, an angry mass of protesters stormed the headquarters of the force’s Third Precinct. “We have to move, we have to move,” an officer was heard urging on the police radio, at 9:53 P.M. Immediately afterward another panicked officer said the door had been breached: “they’re breaking in, they’re breaking in.” Some 10 police vehicles abandoned the station under a barrage of stones, glass bottles, firecrackers, boards – whatever the demonstrators could lay their hands on.

A few minutes later, after dozens of armed police officers had regrouped at a distant, safe meeting point, a short announcement that no one had been prepared for came over the police radio: “The station is on fire.”

Two days later, President Donald Trump singled out those whom he held responsible for the wave of violence and arson that swept through dozens of large cities in the country in the wake of Floyd’s killing. “The violence and vandalism is being led by antifa and other radical left-wing groups who are terrorizing the innocent, destroying jobs, hurting businesses and burning down buildings,” Trump stated in a speech at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The president also declared that “the United States of America will be designating Antifa as a terrorist organization” – ignoring the fact that the United States does not officially designate domestic organizations as “terrorist” entities.

In an interview with CNN, U.S. Attorney General William Barr joined in by describing antifa activists as dangerous terrorists. “I’ve talked to every police chief in every city where there’s been major violence, and they all have identified antifa as the ramrod for the violence,” Barr asserted. “They are flying around the country... we see some of the purchases they’re making before the riots, of weapons to use in those riots. So, we are following it.”

One person who is not impressed by these statements is Mark Bray, a historian at Rutgers University in New Jersey. “I think that burning down the police station in Minneapolis was a righteous thing to do,” he tells Haaretz in a phone conversation. “It was a facility that facilitated the killing of Black people, and the police as an institution are a racist institution, so burning down their police stations is a good thing to do, to stop them from killing Black people and brutalizing poor and homeless people.”

The 38-year-old professor is the person who is perhaps most identified with the activists of the radical left-wing movement antifa – short for antifascist. He’s an esteemed scholar who has studied the rise of extreme right-wing movements in Europe in the 1920s and 1930s. Three years ago he published “Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook,” thereby becoming the author of the ethical code, as it were, of the thousands of young people who form in organized groups, armed with clubs and firearms, ready to clash at any given moment with extreme right-wingers and exponents of white supremacy – fascists, in Bray’s terminology.

The first half of the book is devoted to a historical analysis of fascism; the second offers an ideological defense and moral justification for those who view violence as a necessary mode of action in the civil struggle to curb nationalist right-wing movements that smack of fascism.

“Antifa is not an organization,” he explains. “Just like there are feminist organizations, but feminism itself is not an organization, so antifa is a kind of politics, or an activity of revolutionary opposition to the far right, and there are well-organized groups in the U.S. and elsewhere who carry out that politics.” And in this case, political protesters are often accompanied by violent, local anarchist cells, whose repertoire includes torching vehicles and police stations.


When the professor speaks about refusing to give a say to people who cast doubt on the humanity of Jews and other minorities, he does so not only as a historian or as an ardent supporter of antifa, but also from his biography: He grew up in northern New Jersey, the son of a Jewish mother and a Christian father from Ireland.


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