Deadly violence outside a rally in Charlottesville, Va., this past weekend has
But for many on the far right, conversations about Charlottesville seem focused on another term less familiar to many in the mainstream: “antifa.”
Short for antifacist, the term “antifa” refers to a secretive movement of combative leftists, including many self-described anarchists, who are ready and willing to use violence in order to fight white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and others they deem to be “fascists.”
Like the authoritarian movements they seek to destroy, the antifa’s origins can be traced back to Europe in the 1920s and 30s. Since the end of World War II, antifa activity has ebbed and flowed along with that of neo-Nazis, skinheads and other hate movements that have sprung up around the United Kingdom, Germany and the United States.
In the U.S. at least,
“Since antifa is heavily composed of anarchists, its activists place little faith in the state, which they consider complicit in fascism and racism,” writes Peter Beinart, in an in-depth report on the rise of antifa in the latest issue of
While alt-right allies and sympathizers often court publicity, the antifa is mostly anonymous. There are no prominent antifa leaders with the visibility of a David Duke or a Richard Spencer. And their activities are mostly reactive, organized via social media in response to white nationalist marches and rallies.
Easily identifiable — and somewhat intimidating — in a crowd thanks to their uniformly black clothes, their faces often partially covered with ski masks or bandanas, antifa activists have not only faced off with Trump supporters in several violent clashes since the election, but have also managed to forcefully derail scheduled events like a speech by ex-Breitbart editor and prominent alt-right figure Milo Yiannopoulos at the
Perhaps the most notable example of the mainstream left’s recent support for antifa violence was the widely praised and parodied video of a masked antifa protester punching prominent alt-right leader Richard Spencer in the head during an interview outside Trump’s inauguration in Washington, D.C.
Spencer and others have
Social media feeds and websites affiliated with anarchist and antifascist groups have accused organizers for Saturday’s “Unite the Right” rally of encouraging violence in Charlottesville. They called on opponents of white supremacy to rally in solidarity across the country.
“If we allow the alt-right and neo-Nazis to organize in our communities, the consequences will be fatal,” reads a recent post on the antifa-linked site
“The police will not protect us,” the post continues. “They murder over a thousand people every year in this country, and infiltrate and attack our demonstrations when we stand up against alt-right terror. We have to