When Antifa (the ANTI FAscist movement) first appeared in the American lexicon, the media rushed to pass judgement on them as the flip side of the alt-right: extremist leftists bent on violence, oh woe is America!
The problem with this narrative is that Antifa, as I've explained before, has no political ideology beyond "Don't be a fucking fascist." There is no such thing as an "Antifa" party or candidate. There can't be. The sole organizing principle is to fight fascism by any means necessary. The media seized on the violence in Charlottesville to discredit Antifa and almost completely ignored the iceberg under that tip. Fortunately, so did the white nationalists of the alt-right who haven't operated out in the open in decades and weren't prepared for a highly organized resistance. At all.
The alt-right appears to be falling apart. The Traditionalist Workers party disintegrated this week after a lurid interpersonal drama among its leadership. Richard Spencer says his alt-right rallies aren’t “fun” any more, and is rethinking his college tour in the aftermath of his fizzer of an event in East Lansing, Michigan, two weeks ago.
It’s a good time to offer an observation: on the terms it set itself, antifascist organizing in the United States has worked.
How did the "thugs" of Antifa accomplish this? Yes, there was violence when white nationalists got it in to their heads that they could go full Brown Shirt. This is a critical stage to fight. Should the violence of white nationalists ever become acceptable to the public, or even given an official seal of approval by law enforcement, we would be in the end stages of the collapse of America into full fascism.
You may not approve of the violence of Antifa, but it does serve a purpose. You may also not be aware of it since it wasn't part of the media's narrative on Charlottesville but Antifa literally saved the lives of unarmed peaceful protesters white nationalists were going to stomp into the ground because they thought they could get away with it.
But aside from the violence, there was the nonviolent counterprotests that crushed the alt-right's little rallies:
Throughout 2017 and into 2018, antifascists have consistently showed up to, and disrupted, public far-right gatherings. After I saw its numbers peak at Charlottesville, Virginia, last summer, the openly white supremacist and fascist segment of the far right has been consistently opposed and usually outnumbered by counterprotesters at events around the country.
From my perch in Portland, Oregon, I have seen antifascists show up month in, month out to publicly oppose far-right organizing. In some instances, such as in Boston last 19 August, rightwing rallies have faced opposition numbering in the tens of thousands
The really hardcore white nationalists will march no matter what, but the newer, less dedicated members were attracted to a movement they thought would empower them. They thought they were going to be the bullies making the people they hated cower in fear. They were going to be the conquering heroes of the White Crusade to take back America from Those People.
I imagine it must have been quite a shock to show up with a few dozen of their fellow mighty warriors and find themselves facing 40,000 people screaming at them to fuck off back to the hole they crawled out of:
But then there's the less public work Antifa does exposing the identities of white nationalists to their families, friends, and co-workers. The alt-right likes to fancy itself the majority of America but the fact is that most people don't like fascists and no one wants to employ them. I've written about how your run of the mill racist keeps getting fired for letting their hate go public but it's far worse when people find out your're a piece of shit Nazi.
Fortunately, Antifa has been so effective at disrupting the gatherings of like-minded monsters that the monsters gave in to their natural inclination of infighting that's always kept them from uniting. Antifa has also made it dangerous, socially and financially, to openly be a white nationalist and even more dangerous to get together and look for people to attack. The press isn't interested in this story because it doesn't fit their narrative of Antifa as just the flip side of the alt-right but when the history books are written, one of the most important chapters may very well be how a misunderstood movement dedicated to fighting fascism saved America from giving birth to the next Nazi Party.
Not a bad legacy for a bunch of "thugs".