I’d like to take you, dear readers, on a stroll down Memory Lane. It was the 1920s through the early ’30s: Americans danced the Charleston; were captivated by the feats of Lindbergh, Earhart and Ruth; and immersed themselves in the worlds created by Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Picasso and other ex-pat artists. Try as Prohibition might, it could not keep the booze from flowing. Women earned the right to vote, Harlem enjoyed a Renaissance, and fortunes were earned…then lost.
But while New York and Chicago enjoyed the Jazz Age, German cities’ streets were the scenes of violent clashes between fascists and anti-fascists, which culminated in Altona Bloody Sunday, which left 18 Germans dead.
Thankfully, here in America, we have heretofore not suffered an American equivalent to Altona Bloody Sunday, but who’s to say with any certainty that Heather Heyer will be the only casualty in clashes between the Alt-Right and Antifa? And why do some people believe that since Antifa protests against racists, sexists, and homophobes, that they are automatically on the side of the angels? I appreciate their opposition to bigotry, though that appreciation is diluted when they throw punches at jerks who stoically give Nazi salutes and say shitty things about Jews, blacks and other minorities; anyone who truly understands freedom of speech knows offensive speech does not justify physical violence.
I abhor the Alt-Right’s racism, and both sides’ violent tactics, but I’m also struck by how there seem to be just as many, if not more, similarities between the Alt-Right and Antifa, than there are differences.
Since Shortcuts & Delusions is ordinarily a satirical column, let me start off with a hack: both the Alt-Right and Antifa like to play dress-up. And while, if the “Unite the Right” nightmare in Charlottesville is any indicator, the KKK are content to leave their costumes in linen closets, the more flamboyant members of the Alt-Right don riot gear and brownshirts; they look like they belong at a book-burning in 1930s Berlin. Meanwhile, Antifa look like cosplayers without a comic-con, so they LARP in Charlottesville, Berkley and Boston. Why do Antifa members cover their faces? I’m guessing it’s because they fancy themselves vigilantes in the mold of Bruce Wayne/Batman and are the spoiled children of divorced upper- and middle-class parents, looking for meaning and attention.
Another, more serious, similarity is they both accept the delusion of the rightness of whiteness, i.e. white privilege. The Alt-Right believe in white superiority, and that it should be preserved, whereas Antifa work for the subversion of white privilege. The two sides have different end goals but, perversely, they both begin at the same fallacious premise. True privilege is derived from wealth, not skin color (I have a half-baked theory that the conflation of wealth privilege and white privilege is rooted in a typo, or mishearing someone, à la the telephone game). This issue of wealth leads me to the truest equivalence between the Alt-Right and Antifa.
“OK,” some of you might be saying. “So, members of Antifa are young socialists, maybe even communists. At least they’re not fascists. That’s a good thing, right?”
The differences between fascism and communism are negligible. Yes, fascism contains a xenophobic component, but economically and in how the various regimes maintain power, the two are near-identical. The wider gap between fascism and socialism, as compared to between fascism and communism, is due to the fact that both fascists and communists advocate for one-party rule of government. Socialists preserve a role for democratic elections, whereas fascists and communists, at best, pay it lip-service.
“But, Dillon, fascists are nationalistic and enforce ethnic homogeneity,” some of you may be saying. That is true, but name a communist country that has open borders.
Many European countries have histories of anti-fascist movements; they were mostly comprised of communist parties and worker’s unions. America’s modern version of Antifa is not an original invention. Antifa is a misnomer: their efforts do not stop at wanting to end bigotry and prejudice. If Antifa were really opposed to fascism, they’d not only oppose bigotry, but they’d support civil rights for all citizens and capitalism, right? IOW, they’d support freedom. Does anyone recall Antifa espousing the ideals of John Locke and Adam Smith? America’s Antifa is comprised of Black Lives Matter, anarcho-communists and anarcho-syndicalists. These movements and political ideologies are very influenced by Marxist doctrine…and so is fascism.
In the early part of the 20th century, fascists and communists agitated for a classless society, and for the economy to be controlled by the state. Fascists preserved private property ownership, but only for those who agreed to produce and sell commodities and services that would benefit the state, and that the state would ensure harmony between the owners of the means of production and their organized employees. Communists advocated for the common ownership of property, and the equal distribution of the fruits of labor. Both promised that workers would no longer have to worry about the creative destruction of capitalism and churn in the labor market.
Both the Alt-Right and Antifa want a centrally-planned economy. Both favor protectionism, and for government to dictate what may be produced, by who, and for what reason and with whom commerce may be engaged. Alt-righters believe churn can be kept to a minimum if immigrants can’t terk ther jerbs; the hard left believe a global economy only further exploits workers and favor Balkanization. Both employ propaganda and indoctrination to swell their ranks.
If you have ever studied totalitarian political ideologies and have a decent, factory-installed bullshit detector, you’d be aware that fascists and communists are not diametrically opposed to each other. Here’s a good side-by-side comparison of communism and fascism. There are some differences, but the similarities so overwhelm them that drawing distinctions between the two is to split hairs. Italian dictator Benito Mussolini did not become a fascist after being a socialist because he had a change of heart that lead him to adopt an opposing ideology. It was an easy step for him to make since the two are not-so-strange bedfellows.
Fascism and communism are rival brands competing for market share. It’s Coke vs. Pepsi, McDonald’s vs. Burger King, Home Depot vs. Lowe’s. This analogy holds true for the Alt-right vs. Antifa. Both are Marxist-infused identitarian movements trying to appeal to Americans dissatisfied with the negative side effects of a globalized economy.
I’d love to live in a world that didn’t know prejudice and bigotry, but I also don’t want global citizens to be equally mired in poverty and tyranny. Both the Alt-Right and Antifa should return to whatever caves they crawled out from.
And that’s the way it is as far as you know.
Image: Dave Van Englehoven