On January 20, Inauguration Day, white nationalist Richard Spencer was knocked to the ground in Washington, D.C., by a masked protester. He filed a police report the following day, and posted multiple tweets about the incident, including this one:
If law enforcement can't protect us from antifa assaults we will begin protecting ourselves.— Richard Spencer (@RichardBSpencer) January 21, 2017
Antifa is a truncation of “antifascist.” (It’s pronounced with the primary stress on the first syllable.) The word has roots in early-1930s antifascist movements in several European countries, including the German Antifaschistische Aktion. The German group was forcibly disbanded by the Nazi Party in 1933; it was revived in the 1980s.
Antifaschistische Aktion logo.
Today’s antifa movement consists mostly of “left-wing activists who track and counter-organize against fascists and other far-right activists,” according to a January 18, 2017, report in TruthOut:
Newer antifa groups have a much more complex range of tactics and politics than their immediate precursors. For example, in the '90s, antifa were largely punks and skinheads in their teens and twenties, and for many it was their first political experience. Today, that demographic has changed. For example, none of the members of the Chelsea East Boston Antifascist Coalition (CEBAC), founded the day after Trump's election, had an antifa background. What they did have was political experience as activists on immigration, LGBTQ, reproductive rights and fat positivity. CEBAC has said, "Our diverse identities as queer, formally undocumented, Middle Eastern, Latino, mother, Jewish, were all components in the formation of this group and the desire to fight fear with preparedness."
Antifa Zone, via this German site.
Writing in The Nation on January 19, Natasha Lennard observed:
Anti-fascist, or antifa, doesn’t only delineate that which opposes fascism. It is a set of tactics and practices that have developed since the early 20th century (and the rise of fascism in Italy) as a confrontational response to fascist groups, rooted in militant left-wing and anarchist politics. As organizers from anti-fascist research and news site Antifa NYC told The Nation: “Antifa combines radical left-wing and anarchist politics, revulsion at racists, sexists, homophobes, anti-Semites, and Islamophobes, with the international anti-fascist culture of taking the streets and physically confronting the brownshirts of white supremacy, whoever they may be.” As with fascisms, not all anti-fascisms are the same, but the essential feature is that anti-fascism does not tolerate fascism; it would give it no platform for debate.
There are also groups that define themselves as anti-antifa: “anti-Marxist/Communist, Globalist, Zionist, and Feminist.” Richard Spencer and his supporters fall into that category, which logic demands we label fascist.