Anyone 50 or older will immediately recognize the names Patty Hearst, William Ayers and Eldridge Cleaver. I recently read Bryan Burrough’s book “Days of Rage: America’s Radical Underground, the FBI, and the Forgotten Age of Revolutionary Violence.” He recalls the history of America’s violent radical movements of the 1960s and 1970s that featured these individuals, including the Weather Underground Organization (Weathermen), the Black Liberation Army (BLA), the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), etc. It is a fascinating history lesson through storytelling.
The founding document of the Weathermen stated that their primary task was “the destruction of U.S. imperialism and the achievement of a classless world: world communism.” Burrough portrays the Weathermen as largely upper-middle class Ivy League radicals spearheading Marxism in America.
I also recently read Dartmouth College history professor Mark Bray’s “Antifa: The Antifascist Handbook.” Because Bray was one of the organizers of the Occupy Wall Street movement and is a longtime defender of Antifa, I was intrigued to read his book. He starts with the emergence of anti-fascism in the 1920s and 1930s in Europe and traces its history in the United States through today. His book is greatly helpful in understanding Antifa’s thinking.
Classically, fascism is defined in socio-economic terms. Curiously, the 1919 Fascist Manifesto’s political, social, military, and financial objectives read more like talking points from today’s Democratic Socialists’ platform. However, Bray defines fascism as “a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood.” The Antifa movement adapted “preexisting socialist, anarchist, and communist currents to a sudden need to react to the fascist menace” within Western capitalism. According to Antifa, you are a fascist if you are a conservative, independent, libertarian, a moderate Democrat, or simply anywhere to the right of Marx. Bray disregards the fact that it was the very people he labels fascists (capitalists, classical liberals, and conservatives) who stood up to and defeated the fascist regimes in World War II.
He calls his book “an unabashedly partisan call to arms,” arguing that Antifa in the U.S. is following within the political tradition of stifling fascist speech and beating white supremacists.
Bray argues for the Antifa tactic of “no platforming” by using physical violence to deny fascists the opportunity to speak in public. A recent example is when radio commentator Ben Shapiro was canceled from speaking at Gonzaga University by the threat of Antifa violence. Gonzaga stated that it wasn’t Shapiro’s viewpoint that canceled the event but rather the fear of the protesters. Similarly, UC Berkeley canceled a speaking event by Milo Yiannopoulos when 150 black bloc Antifa members started rampaging. Berkeley did allow Shapiro and conservative commentator Ann Coulter to speak on campus, but it cost the school $600,000 at each event for security to protect free speech from weapon-carrying Antifa thugs. I use Shapiro as a clear example of Antifa’s real goal. He is neither a fascist nor a white supremacist. He is a libertarian (capitalist) and practicing Orthodox Jew. But he has been labeled as a fascist because his words are offensive to radical ears.
Burrough’s “Days of Rage” is named for the Weathermen’s rampaging destruction in 1969, when they violently rioted first through Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhoods and then its main business district. Three times they bombed the statue of a Chicago policeman. Afterward they shifted from rioting to bigger bombings, armed robbery and then murder. They preferred bombing restrooms, and claimed credit for 25 bombings including the U.S. Capitol, the Pentagon, the California Attorney General’s office, and a New York City police station.
Looking back at the past two months of our current days of rage, little has changed. Marxist radicals and anarchists are still trying to tear down any symbols of the capitalist West, as always happens during a revolution. The Antifa crowd is following the path of the highly educated Weathermen, but Antifa has half their intellect and twice their bloodlust. I expect Antifa bombings are yet to come. Both groups have the same goal: the violent overthrow of Western capitalism in the name of communism, anarchism, or socialism. I expect a long and violent decade ahead as the savagery of the 60s and 70s escalates within Antifa, especially if Trump wins the 2020 election.
Dale Courtney served 20 years in nuclear engineering aboard submarines and 15 years as a graduate school instructor. He spends his spare time chasing his six grandchildren around the Palouse.