On Sunday 4th, October 1936, my Jewish grandfather took to the streets of the East End in London and went to fight fascists marching through his neighborhood. The Battle of Cable Street was a defining moment in British history when domestic fascism was beaten back and London refused to bow to a growing movement sympathetic to Adolph Hitler and the Nazi Party. Three years later, my grandfather went to war with Germany, and helped his country beat back the greatest threat humanity has ever faced.
The world rose up against fascism during World War II, and Americans played a pivotal role in smashing the Nazis — a contribution to the long term prospects of humanity that will never be forgotten. Yet now, in what appears to be a mass case of historical amnesia, fascism and Neo-Nazism is on the rise in America, motivated in large part by a president who explicitly appealed to the ideologies of White Supremacy. Trump does not directly condone White Supremacy, but his unwillingness to condemn them and his attitude towards anti-fascist movements like ‘Antifa’ is telling.
‘Antifa’ has become something of a pariah in America and equated by the president and places like Breitbart, to violent Neo-Nazism:
Antifa’s stated goal is to confront fascists, Neo-Nazis and White Supremacists using force if necessary and to never shy away from conflict. The far right is portraying this as a violent uprising and has formally urged the government to consider it a terrorist organization. The petition sent to the White House reads:
Terrorism is defined as “the use of violence and intimidation in pursuit of political aims”. This definition is the same definition used to declare ISIS and other groups, as terrorist organizations. AntiFa has earned this title due to its violent actions in multiple cities and their influence in the killings of multiple police officers throughout the United States. It is time for the pentagon to be consistent in its actions – and just as they rightfully declared ISIS a terror group, they must declare AntiFa a terror group – on the grounds of principle, integrity, morality, and safety..
This is as if World War II did not happen, and America did not lose hundreds of thousands of young men who fought valiantly against the deadly fascism sweeping through Europe. America itself was an anti-fascist movement during World War II, and people from all political persuasions joined the fight against an ideology that placed the racial superiority of white people at its core. My grandfather was not left wing or liberal in any sense of the word. Generally speaking he was conservative and voted that way his entire adult life, but he joined anti-fascists and fought with them on the streets.
‘Antifa’ understands one terrible truth about human societies: that evil cannot always be placated and cannot be reasoned with. Sometimes it must be fought tooth and nail until it is defeated, and they see the rising fascism movement in America for what it is — Nazism reborn.
If you genuinely believe that Antifa is comparable in any way to the white supremacists marching in Charlottesville chanting “The Jews will not replace us” then you are a fascist sympathizer. And if you are a fascist sympathizer, you are basically a fascist.
You do not have to agree with the politics of those involved in the Antifa movement. You do not have to join them in fighting fascists on the streets of America. But you cannot compare them to Nazis or White Supremacists, and you must understand that they are fighting for the same freedoms your great grandparents, grandparents and parents fought for many decades ago.
“Are you a communist?”
“No I am an anti-fascist”
“For a long time?”
“Since I have understood fascism.”
– Ernest Hemmingway, For Whom the Bells Toll
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Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.