You've probably heard a slew of radicalizing terms being tossed around the last couple of weeks in an attempt to label the various ideologies we're seeing in the news. So, what does Antifa believe? Experts interviewed by the New York Times, among others, help explain the roots and the beliefs of the "alt-left" movement.
To back up, last week, President Donald Trump placed blame on the so-called "alt-left" and its neighbors for the events in Charlottesville as well as the alt-right. There was reportedly also a petition to recognize Antifa as a terrorist organization, according to several right-wing outlets. But this is far from a fair (or accurate) parallel.
So, What Is Antifa, Exactly?
According to the Oxford Dictionary online, "Antifa" is a shortening for "antifascists," which it defines as,
A radical political movement that opposes fascism and other forms of extreme right-wing authoritarianism.
Basically, it's a term associated with militant anti-racism, anti-white supremacy, anti-fascism, and their kin.
Antifascism has its roots in pre-WWII Europe, when the trifecta of Mussolini, Hitler, and Franco were pushing fascism forward. A battle between British fascists and an opposition force in 1936 led to a trend of opposition, as Time reported.
Many trace the term Antifa's coinage back to the 1970s and '80s during a resurgence of clashes between fascism and its opponents in the U.S. and Europe, Mother Jones reports.
So What Does The Antifa, As It's Used Today, Actually Believe?
Whereas many left-leaning people care about combatting racism, Antifa seems to take that term literally.
Writing for The Washington Post, historian Mark Bray explains Antifa as the militant far-left generally made up of communists, socialists, and anarchists who fight the far-right rather than leave the fate of racism up to the state. Above all, Antifa is an ideology dedicated to ousting and fighting white supremacy, neo-Nazism, and fascism, as well as ending racism, often through confrontational means.
Mark Pitcavage, an analyst for the Anti-Defamation League, told the New York Times that the primary goal of Antifa is to physically confront and pick fights with their far-right opponents.
Rolling Stone writes that Antifa operates in small, purposely fragmented groups or hubs. Mark Bray, also interviewed here, says,
[Antifa are] illilberal. They don't believe in society as a value neutral public sphere where any kind of ideas can just float around.
Is Antifa Comparable To Its Right-Wing Counterparts, Like Neo-Nazis?
Not really, according to experts interviewed in the New York Times. The size and organization of Antifa members now is much smaller than their fascist opponents, and in general, they tend to be responsible for far less violence. Putting Antifa on the same playing field as neo-Nazism is a false equivalence, the experts explained.
(While we're on the topic of incorrectly drawn parallels, Pitcavage said that "alt-left" is another false equivalence, and is in fact a made-up term.)
This brief, brief summary isn't all you need to know, but hopefully enough to understand why equivocating Antifa and neo-Nazism leads to so many Twitter wars.