“The truly radical cure for censorship would be its abolition.” - Karl Marx
In ANTIFA’s worldview, people must be either very stupid or very naïve in that they can’t be trusted to listen to a fascist and not become a fascist themselves. Only through stomping out the speech of those they disagree with can our ‘protectors’ keep us safe. With them watching over us we can rest assured that we might not encounter the ideas that would magically transform a housewife into a skinhead thug with a swastika tattoo on her neck. While their self-appointed role as protector of the people is a noble one it is ultimately a fool-hearty and unnecessary endeavour. Marx himself warned of this kind of thinking in his polemic on censorship when he said, “If the immaturity of the human race is the mystical ground for opposing freedom of the press…then certainly censorship is a most reasonable means of hindering the human race from coming of age.” The same could be said for the way Antifa views your average person, immature, gullible, and in needing of protection and I would argue that that kind of thinking prevents people from becoming intellectually astute and leads the door open for fascistic influence more than letting those ideas be promulgated and defeated publicly.
They may, in fact, be helping bring fascist ideas to the forefront and giving them a place of prominence that they otherwise wouldn’t have had. As Marx noted, “Censorship does not abolish the struggle, it makes it one-sided, it converts an open struggle into a hidden one…”. By not engaging with those who you fundamentally disagree with, you are driving these ideas underground where they can take root and remain unchallenged by those consuming them. White supremacists will find a way to reach people and those who are uninformed of the refutations are more likely to be convinced of them, not less likely. It gives detestable ideas an aura of mystique. Richard Spencer himself noted how this type of environment was good for recruiting as such controversy allowed them to “present ourselves as curiosities”.
Fighting a Battle That's Already Been Won
"Alll you fascists are bound to lose..." - Woody Guthrie
The fascists have (historically and in modern times) lost every single battle they’ve tried to fight. Fascists have practically no support from the people, they’re unable to gain power due to the protections built into western democracies and as a culture we are taught in schools and entertainment the dangers of far-right authoritarianism (usually by example of the Nazis). The only people susceptible to far-right fascistic thinking are not engaged in mainstream society in one way or another and choose to remain willfully ignorant of the dangers that fascism poses. Fascism can only grow in darkness and ignorance, it’s exposure to the rebuttal of fascist ideas that truly can stomp it out, as it almost has already. They’re already on the fringe and instead of knocking them down whenever they try to enter the public sphere, we should confront them with ideas and not just drive them back to seediest parts of the internet where they can continue to remain ignorant and spread their message unrebutted.
To listen to Antifa you would think there could be a fascist take over at any moment, in the same way Christian Fundamentalists believe the rapture is just around the corner. The evidence that there’s an impending fascist takeover of the West is the same for the rapture, someone made it up and a small group of people believe it. As Rex Murphy correctly stated: “neo-Nazi and/or white supremacist threat to American democracy exists only in the heads of those who read Marvel Comics for news and think Twitter is a medium for sentient beings.” I’m not saying there aren’t people with fascist beliefs that would like to take over the world, it’s just that their plans to do so are so far fetched they needn’t be taken seriously.
An Anti-Fascist by Any Other Name…
“Censorship has outlived its time; where it still exists, it will be regarded as a hateful constraint which prohibits what is openly said from being written.” – Karl Marx
Just because Antifa says they’re fighting fascists doesn’t mean we should let that claim go unexamined in the same way nobody in their right mind believes North Korea is truly a Democratic Republic just because they say they are. For every fight and counter-protest those on the far-right, Antifa seems to immediately erase any good-will they built with them doing something idiotic like ‘directing traffic’ in Portland. For those who haven’t seen the videos of this, it involves blocking people from driving where they want for no apparent reason and then yelling ‘whitey’ at them when people question why they should be following traffic directions from a masked gang. If someone disobeys their orders the group will then chase the car down and pound on it. Apparently, the real fascists are average people going about their day. I wonder what Antifa would think if a group like the Proud Boys decided to employ the same tactics.
When one hears that there’s a group out there fighting fascists the reaction from most people would be “good!”, and rightfully so. I would wholeheartedly support a group that would voluntarily fight a fascist movement head-on and in every way possible even if it used violence to attain its goals. The moral threat from fascism is so great that the use of force is more than justified in squelching such a movement. However, many of the people targeted by Antifa today are simply not fascists.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education maintains a database of incidents in which invited speakers have been de-platformed campuses around the country. Many of the people listed as being de-platformed by the left are simply not fascists like Madeline Albright, Henry Kissinger, Carly Fiorina, Paul Ryan, Stephen Bannon, John Boehner, Pat Boone, John Brennan, Laura Bush, Ben Carson, Betsy DeVos, Ann Coulter, Nigel Farage, Louis Farrakhan, Rudy Guiliani, Eric Holder, David Horowitz, William Kristol, John McCain, Charles Murray, Sarah Palin, Condoleezza Rice, Ben Shapiro, among many others. As a socialist, I fundamentally disagree with views held by each of the people listed above and would love to debate, discuss, and defeat those views rather than try and shut them down. These are people who hold important government offices, are prominent academics or prominent media personalities. They’re not going away because you shut down their attempt to speak.
Where the Far-Left Went Astray
The modern far-left sees to be so far disconnected from the leftist organization of the past that it’s mind-blowing. Groups like the ACLU which in 1978 fought for the rights of a Neo-Nazi group to march through the Chicago neighbourhood of Skokie where many Holocaust survivors lived. Why is this important? It’s important because the same laws the ACLU was trying to uphold for neo-nazis were the same laws it had used when Southern cities tried to shut down civil rights marches in the ’50s and ’60s. A weakening of those laws and public support for those laws would directly harm Antifa and their right to engage in counter-protests.
Another point of irony that is apparently lost on them is that Antifa can only operate in a free and open society that allows them to operate. From my ten years living in China, I never heard of ANTIFA protesting on the streets of Beijing despite the Chinese government being one of the most authoritarian and fascistic in the entire world. Why? Because of course they would be imprisoned for disrupting public order and sent off to re-education through forced labour camps.
Antifa is in a conundrum - they need freedom of speech, assembly, and the press to be able to operate and spread their message but they wish to deny that right to those they disagree with. We either have freedom of speech and assembly for all or we don’t, it’s as simple as that.
“What is certain is that if they are Marxists, then I myself am not a Marxist". -Karl Marx
To those among the ANTIFA crowd who proclaim themselves to be Marxists, communists, or socialists I would advise you to go back and read the writings of a young Marx who faces censorship from all sides for his radical worldview. He cared so much about the topic that after writing his dissertation, his first work was a polemic on censorship. He was speaking on the topic of freedom of the press, but the same general principle applies to freedom of speech, especially speech that you may consider harmful.