By Asad Mirza
The recent Black protests in the United States have brought another player on the scene and media agenda. This is Antifa, which has been blamed as spearheading the protests in the US and several other European countries.
Now, what is Antifa? Simple enough, it is a short form of anti-fascists. Unsubstantiated historical evidence shows that Antifa is, in fact, highly networked, well funded and has a global presence. It has a flat organisational structure with dozens and possibly hundreds of local groups.
Antifa professes to establish a communist world order. And in the United States, Antifa’s immediate goal is to bring about the demise of the Trump administration.
Security experts claim that Antifa in the United States and Europe employs extreme violence and destruction of public and private property to prod the police into a reaction, which subsequently demonstrates Antifa’s claim that the government is ‘fascist.’
On the other hand some European governments use it for their own purposes also. Bettina Röhl, a German journalist, writing for Neue Zürcher Zeitung (New Zurich Newspaper, a Swiss-German newspaper published from Zurich, Germany) claims that Antifa is not only officially tolerated, but is being paid by the German government to fight the far right. She further asserts that out of cowardice, its members cover their faces and keep their names secret. Antifa constantly threatens violence and attacks politicians and police officers. It promotes senseless damage to property amounting to vast sums.
Recently, U.S. Attorney General William Barr has blamed Antifa — as a militant movement — for the violence that has erupted at George Floyd protests across the United States. ‘The violence instigated and carried out by Antifa and other similar groups in connection with the rioting is domestic terrorism and will be treated accordingly,’ he said. Earlier, U.S. President Donald J. Trump had instructed the U.S. Justice Department to designate Antifa as a terrorist organisation.
The media outlets, analysts and academics sympathetic to Antifa argue that the group cannot be classified as a terrorist organisation as they say it is a vaguely defined protest movement that lacks a centralised command or organisational structure. Thus, according to them it is a spontaneous response of the people, which happens when something out of the ordinary against the liberties of the people takes place. Mark Bray, an Antifa supporter in America and author of the book Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook, asserts that Antifa ‘is not an overarching organization with a chain of command.’
What is Antifa’s ideology?
In simpler terms, Antifa can be described as a trans-national rebellious movement that endeavours, often with extreme violence, to subvert liberal democracy, with the aim of replacing global capitalism with communism. Antifa’s stated long-term objective, both in America and abroad, is to establish a communist world order. In the United States, Antifa’s immediate aim is to bring about the demise of the Trump administration.
Antifa claims to oppose ‘fascism’, a term it often uses as a widely critical or judgmental to discredit those who hold opposing political beliefs to it. The traditional meaning of ‘fascism’ as defined by Webster’s Dictionary is ‘a totalitarian governmental system led by a dictator and emphasising an aggressive nationalism, militarism, and often racism.’
Antifa started off in Germany and spread to other countries like Slovenia, Spain, Italy, France and the UK. However, after the fall of the East Germany it was discovered that the erstwhile state secret police Stassi used the Antifa in its fight against the far-right elements in Germany.
Now this leads us to wonder whether the evolving situation in India, fulfils the Webster’s definition or not? The protests, which shook the country beginning in November 2019, have been dubbed variously, but remember most of the protests across India were spontaneous and headless; they survived completely on the support of the common populace and students.
So will it be possible for any movement like Antifa to emerge in India? Doubts are expressed regarding such a scenario but the evolving conditions might lead to such a risk.
If we have to stop the emergence of an Indian Antifa, then the political powers that be need to engage more with people with sincerity and with concrete action taken to show sincerity and commitment to the people’s welfare.
Recent events of the past have shown that the public is fast loosing its trust in the government and its policies, as most of them are considered as anti-people, particularly the poor people.
In the current scenario the government has to show more empathy to the common man on the street and win his trust and heart, if it wants to be seen as pro-people. Change of strategy to handle the prevailing Covid pandemic might give it a fair chance to project itself as pro-people and committed to the country’s progress, taking decisions which are in best of interest of all, particularly the common man. Otherwise the day is not far off when it may have to deal with the Indian Antifa.
Asad Mirza is a Sr journalist and commentator based in New Delhi. He writes on Muslims, educational, international affairs and interfaith issues. He can be contacted on [email protected]
Urdu version of this article appeared in daily Inquilab, 2nd July 2020. English version provided by the author.
Views are personal.