On the 31st of May 2020, in the middle of what can only be described as an uprising against the American state spurred on by yet another racist killing by the police, President Trump once again proved his capacity for Twitter-based antics. Apparently the United States is to recognise “Antifa” as a terrorist organisation, if his tweets are to be believed.
The immediate reaction to this, especially from those of us on the anti-fascist left, was one of surprise and almost humour. After all, the right wing viewing “antifa” as some sort of actual organisation, rather than a sentiment used by thousands of varied groups around the world, has almost achieved meme status. And this is largely true; there has been no tangible organisation called “Antifa” since the 1930‘s, where the Communist Party of Germany’s “Antifaschistische Aktion” group battled the nazi stormtroopers in the streets. It was understandably disbanded by the Nazis once they came to power, and was never formally re-established. So who or what Trump actually intends to ban is not immediately clear if you take him at face value.
In reality, Trump is doing what Trump does best. There are no Antifa membership lists, no one is employed by Antifa, no one pays dues, and there is no official definition of what this organisation might look like. As above, the temptation is to look at this, and conclude that Trump must be an idiot. The truth is that this is a blank cheque for the US state forces to crack down on any dissent, any opposition and especially any street movement. The vast majority of left wing – or even just socially conscious – (Americans: you’d call this ‘liberal’) people would fit into some category of anti-fascism. And even outside of the left wing, many consider themselves anti-fascist.
From now on, anyone who expresses this opinion in the US is in danger of being labelled a terrorist. And in the US, this is a very serious label to have. American legislation effectively strips anyone classified as a terrorist of all rights; human, constitutional or otherwise. You can be detained indefinitely without trial, representation and you even lose legal protection from torture. Protestors in the US, particularly ones from movements like Black Lives Matter, are already treated appallingly. If the state now has the ability to declare them terrorists on a whim, then the right to protest in the US is effectively dead for anyone not on the fascist right.
And it is obvious that this will be politically utilised. The far right in the US already accounts for an overwhelming percentage of domestic terror threats. White Nationalist, Neo Nazi and Klan-based organisations are a regular feature in terror-threat news. Compare this to far left terror threats in the US, the last of which was in 2001 and was a tiny remnant of a group from the 1970‘s, and this paints a picture of just how politically motivated this declaration is. Trump knows there is no one organisation called Antifa. Of course he does.
This is not just an attack on US anti-fascism, but an attack on the entire working class movement as a whole. And it’s not the first time either. The British government has also attempted to discredit the workers movement here, recently released a domestic terror threat document that included campaign groups like CND and Stop the War, as well as community organizations and political parties.
The ruling class knows that both anti-fascism and the wider workers movement will never be legitimately undermined in our own communities. They are turning to repression and scare stories to protect themselves and prevent the working class from defeating their fascist lapdogs and their police protectors. 0161 offers its unreserved solidarity to those protestors in the US fighting police repression, and to anti-fascists everywhere who are being misrepresented.