Antifa / Antifascism

Disclaimer: This dictionary term is meant to act as a red-blue translator to help you understand how people of different political stripes use, think, or feel about the same word or phrase. The Red Blue Dictionary is not meant to provide a concrete, final definition of hot-button words, but rather, to help people better understand one another.

Short for “antifascism,” antifa is another term that has taken on a life of its own in recent years — with widely divergent views of what it means. On one hand, some see these terms as referencing a loosely coordinated movement to oppose what they see as worrisome signs of fascism appearing in America today. Others see the terms as referencing a group or organization of left-wing, radical anarchists who are destructive in their ideological opposition to what they see as fundamental threats to liberty and flourishing, such as capitalism, hierarchical governance, nation, traditional family structures, religion, private property, etc.

Anti-fascism can refer to a belief that the best way to achieve a just and equitable society is via abolition of the state and private property, implementation of common ownership of the means of production, redistribution of wealth, promotion of non-traditional relationship and family structures, and other means. Some anti-fascists also adhere to the ideology of social justice — they believe in the merits of elevating historically marginalized groups (such as LGBTQ+ and certain ethnic groups), and see "whiteness" or white people as a threat to an equitable society and to marginalized groups and peoples.

Although it’s clear there is an actual organization of activists who organize themselves and implement direct action tactics to spark a revolution, it’s contested how coordinated and united these efforts are. Some say there is evidence antifa is a group with leadership, training, and multiple organized cells operating nationwide; others say antifa is grassroots and unorganized. There are also differing views about the direct action protest tactics used by antifascists, which can include property damage, arson, doxxing, physical violence, and harassment. These tactics are rationalized within the group as justified to spark a social revolution and achieve broader political ends, such as dismantling the state and implementing communism, anarchism, socialism, or other forms of non-hierarchical societies.

In short, some see antifa’s actions as justified in an oppressive and unjust system, while others see them as lawless radicals who aim to tear down all order and civilization.

Some (though not all) on the right see the term “antifa” as a misnomer, and accuse people who engage in the direct action/activism associated with antifascists as being “the real fascists.” People who purport to this belief are defining fascism as those who “who seek power that is both total and unjust,” not in the historical way (a political belief system that exalts duty to nation and often ethnicity or race above individualism).

Contributors: 

Jacob Hess, Julie Mastrine, John Gable, Henry Brechter, Joseph Ratliff, Rick Wytmar, Arthur Peña, John Backman

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