The civil war among America’s left has begun. This isn’t a split based on ideology, but tactics.
For a half-century, Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals” has been the manual for left-wing activism. As a community organizer, Barack Obama implemented Alinsky’s call for purposeful agitation with perfection. Hillary Clinton, who Media Matters’ David Brock dubbed “Alinsky’s daughter,” wrote her thesis on his legacy. And to the militant left, her defeat signaled the need for a new set of tactics.
“The rule book has been thrown out,” one “antifa” terrorist engaged in violence at the University of California, Berkeley told the Guardian.
Antifa (short for anti-fascism), the broad term for the new militant left, includes socialists, anarchists and anti-capitalists united by their street-fighting tactics and zeal for violence. BBC News compares them to white nationalists, but says antifa’s “tactics are arguably more extreme.” On online community Reddit, a headline on the Antifa section reads, “Every dead Republican is a step toward progress.”
One common antifa tactic, black bloc, involves launching mob violence against people and property while dressed in black hoodies and ski masks. Their all-black uniforms serve a dual purpose: to intimidate their victims and hide their identities. The battle plan was executed flawlessly at the recent riots at UC Berkeley.
“This was a group of agitators who were masked up, throwing rocks, commercial grade fireworks and Molotov cocktails at officers,” UC Berkeley Police Sgt. Sabrina Reich said.
The physical violence may have been directed at police officers, but the mob of antifa terrorists that violently attacked the UC Berkeley Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union earlier this year were as much declaring war on the ideology of the man for whom the building is named and its citizens. America’s left was sending a message: Violence is the answer.
“Our side is growing and also prepared to be more politically militant and support more militant struggle,” Yvette Felarca, a leader of the antifa terrorist organization, By Any Means Necessary, told Al Jazeera. “If the movement continues building as large and as powerfully in this direction, we can defeat Trump, his entire racist agenda, and get him out without waiting for the next election.”
By any means necessary most often means violence against anyone who isn’t radical enough. How extreme is antifa? Even members of the International Socialist Organization condemn their violence.
“They purposefully sideline the majority of the protesters and foreground their actions, giving everyone from the university administration to the corporate media to the right-wingers themselves an excuse to ignore the issues raised by the wider crowd, and shift their attention to the ‘violence,’ ” Mukund Rathi, a contributor to Socialist Worker, wrote in a criticism of antifa’s tactics.
Yet, antifa is becoming mainstream — normalized by college professors that incite imminent lawlessness and spread fighting words on campus. Last fall, a community college professor ordered all Donald Trump supporters to stand and be publicly identified for possible physical retaliation. An African-American member of the Sacramento State College Republicans was recently assaulted by a left-wing militant. At Cal State Fullerton, an anthropology professor is under investigation for assaulting a peaceful group of College Republicans. Left-wing protesters from Democrat-linked Indivisible recently stormed the offices of Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, knocking out a 71-year-old member of his staff.
“I can say, based on personal experience, that the attitude at demonstrations has changed,” writes Malcolm Harris, an antifa sympathizer and editor for The New Inquiry. “Where masked and black-clad antifa used to get wary glares, now it’s thumbs-up and ‘right on!’ from kid-toting parents.”
Local law enforcement agencies lack the resources, capabilities or will to investigate this national network of militants. Following a half-million dollars in damage at UC Berkeley, just a single arrest was made, and not a single arrest on the night of the riot.
“How is it that after more than 100 thugs organized, well in advance, to invade the campus, and police were alerted to the risk of violence, again well in advance, no arrests were made the night of the attack?” asks University of Utah law professor Paul Cassett.
It’s not enough for the FBI to provide assistance with the investigation into the UC Berkeley attacks. The U.S. Department of Justice should launch an investigation into this national network of violent militants. Such widespread and growing violence requires a well-financed support system. Many antifa websites solicit funds and organize black bloc attacks.
Until the Department of Justice takes down this organized criminal organization, it is incumbent upon all who believe in nonviolent political expression to stand up to these thugs. On campus, students must record and document these attacks. Civic leaders and elected officials must pressure local law enforcement officials to swiftly investigate and prosecute antifa members.
• Shawn Steel is a member of the Republican National Committee in California.