Holding Our Ground: A Critique of the Ethics & Strategy of Violence Against Fascist Assembly

Individualist anarchism is the most radical form of libertarianism, which is in turn a radical form of liberalism. From this perspective, the threat of fascism poses a unique challenge.

One reason for this is that fascism is individualist anarchism’s polar opposite, as far as one can go in a comprehensive rejection of liberalism. Fascism is not particularly concerned with principles, but to the extent it has any, they are direct inversions of liberal principles – that the world is fundamentally based in insoluble conflict, universal humanity is a myth, individualism is meaningless and soul-destroying, reason is impotent, violence is the motor that drives the world, so on and so forth.

A second reason is that, in practical political terms, fascism forces an apparent choice between abandoning liberalism or accepting defeat. It is this second problem which brings us together for this Mutual Exchange.

Much has rightly been made of the threat of entryism, where one movement attempts to seize the resources of another. This is something that we must combat. Yet fascism’s game involves not only subverting liberal movements directly, but also pushing those movements into positions where it seems they must discard their principles. As I will argue later, this is tactically crucial for the fascist, as it moves the conflict to terrain where they have a higher chance at success.

Here I will argue that the use of violence against fascist assembly falls into this trap, making it both ethically unacceptable and tactically inadvisable.

For reasons of focus, I will limit my argument in the following ways. I will assume that others in this exchange accept liberalism in at least its broadest form. This might look like an odd assumption, since many defenders of this tactic do not consider themselves liberals. In the present context though, this assumption is reasonable. This is first because I am writing primarily to individualist anarchists, and second because by “at least its broadest form,” I mean something very, very broad. By this I mean there is at minimum a strong presumption against the initiation of violence. Accepting this weak form of non-aggression need not mean accepting Rothbardian libertarianism, only that violence is typically only permissible in defense.

I will also assume that we are not talking about the use of political violence generally, but very specifically about violence against fascist assembly. “Fascist” here should be understood to include white supremacy,[1] but not more pedestrian forms of authoritarian nationalism like that found in the mainstream portion of Donald Trump’s support. “Fascist assembly” should be taken to mean politically-aimed activism taking place in public, not private conversations between a small group of people just standing around.

I use the term “violence against fascist assembly” in place of “no platform,” “de-platform,” “denying fascists a platform,” etc., because these terms are ambiguous between activities I support and those I oppose. I will not be arguing against the practice, for instance, of contacting someone with property rights over a platform (such as a hotel) which fascists intend to use to promote their views and getting them to exclude fascists from this property. I will be arguing against the practice of violently disrupting fascists from engaging in political assembly on public property, fascists’ own property, or property consensually granted to fascists.

I will further assume that the violence under discussion is not at all from, or in collaboration with, the state. All together, I will take for granted that everyone here agrees with a weak principle of non-aggression, rejects violence against more pedestrian right-wingers as ethically unacceptable and tactically asinine, does not support violence towards even fascists who are not engaged in political assembly, and agrees with the ACLU’s pre-Charlottesville free speech absolutism in terms of state laws. If any of these points are contested, we can carry those discussions further, but for now I will assume them to be true.

There are both ethical and tactical reasons for opposing violence against fascist assembly. These are deeply intertwined, and I ask skeptical readers to consider them first independently and then in conjunction.

The ethical argument for rejecting violence against fascist assembly is straightforward: violence is typically unacceptable unless it is used in defense, and this means violence against fascist assembly is presumptively unacceptable. A first set of replies to this argument claim that, in proper context, violence against fascist assembly is actually defensive. A second set of replies says that even if this violence is aggressive, fascism’s unique threat confronts us with an exceptional case. After responding to these points, I will move on to tactical considerations. Afterward, I will give some closing thoughts on the use of violence for expressive purposes.

Defense Arguments I: Fascist Policy

The first set of arguments in defense of violence against fascist assembly hold that, in proper context, it is not even aggressive. This should not be rejected out of hand. While speech cannot itself be violence, it can play a constitutive role in various violent acts – such as through the orders of a general, the directions given to a hitman, or a threat used to coerce compliance without going through with the violence threatened.

One way I have seen it argued that violence against fascist assembly is defensive, is through the suggestion that fascism necessarily involves massive state violence, and therefore political assembly towards that end is necessarily a threat. On the assumption that forcibly breaking up this assembly will make that violence less likely – which I will question later on – this violence is therefore defensive.

In response, it should first be readily conceded that fascism necessarily requires massive state violence. One cannot create the racial autarky Richard Spencer seeks without brutality from state agents, and he knows this. Those who argue for a 100% white United States, as he does, give as their goal the forced removal and restricted movement of non-whites, and state their intentions to act as necessary towards that goal. It is therefore entirely true that fascist assembly, and in fact all fascist political speech of any kind, is a threat of violence.

This is also true of all political activism of any kind that is inconsistent with anarchist libertarianism.[2] There are countless obvious differences in both degree and kind between the intentions of Identity Evropa and College Democrats, but both sincerely seek to impose their goals through aggressive violence. Unless we want to authorize violent disruptions of the latter, the mere fact that the former’s assembly constitutes a threat in this particular sense cannot be enough to make violence against that assembly defensive.

There are also good reasons not to bite that bullet beyond its being a bullet. It is true that the violent disruption of speech acts partly constitutive of acts of violence are really disrupting that violence, and therefore defensive. It is also true that all political speech inconsistent with anarchist libertarianism is a threat. However, this political speech, despite being a threat, does not play a constitutive role in the violence it threatens. For example, back when I wrote for a college newspaper, one of my fellow columnists argued that the Obama administration should wage a full-scale invasion of Syria against Assad. This would have involved massive aggression against individual Syrians and their property, so in a certain sense this column constituted a threat. That threat would play no constitutive role in that aggression, though, so violently preventing his column from publication would not have been defensive.

Defense Arguments II: Fascist Street Violence

A second argument for violence against fascist assembly being defensive does not reference fascists’ public policy goals, but instead to the more immediate threat of street violence. In other words, the violence defended against here would not be the violence of a future fascist state, it would be against direct aggression from the assembled fascists against minorities.

This is not paranoia. While it is dangerous to base our understanding of the world on publicly salient cases, Jeremy Christian’s stabbings and the vehicular homicide of Heather Heyer still happened. Those publicly identifying with fascism signal allegiance to the same ideology behind those crimes. That ideology bottoms out in a lethal conflict between Friend and Enemy, so it is unsurprising when it results in murder. Fully appreciating this point is sometimes difficult for white, straight and cisgender men like myself who do not wear an inescapable mark of Enemy for fascists.

I think these are reasons to, as I will say more about later, make clear a readiness for the competent use of defensive violence when fascists assemble. That being said, it cannot be taken from the mere fact that fascists are assembled as fascists that they will engage in street violence. It is simply a fact that fascists have politically assembled several times without engaging in violence. While the connection between fascist assembly and fascist violence is very present, it is not clean enough to reason from “fascists are assembling as fascists” to “fascists are about to violently attack.”

Furthermore, even for movements much more open and honest about their aggression, not all are direct participants in that violence. Despite many things unique to fascism, there is no reason to assume it is uniquely uniformly made up of people competently prepared to engage in violence. We cannot, then, strike at just any given fascist due to what other fascists might do.

Defense Arguments III: Intimidation

Earlier, when mentioning ways that speech might be constitutive of violence, one example was “a threat used to coerce compliance without going through the violence threatened.” This relates to a third argument for the claim that violence against fascist assembly is defensive. When fascists assemble, this is intended to cause intimidation, especially from racial, religious, sexual and gender minorities. Even if no violence actually comes, a ripple of fear still helps bolster straight white cisgender male dominance. Violence against fascist assembly breaks up this act of intimidation, and this argument concludes that violence is therefore defensive.

It is first important to notice that the argument cannot just be that fascist assembly affects others’ behavior. One aim (realistic or not) of almost all political assembly is to affect others’ behavior. A successful instance of this from a more normal act of political assembly is of course not in any way aggressive, since that change does not come from a threat of violence. Therefore, if this argument succeeds, it is because the intended effect on others’ behavior from fascist assembly results from a threat of violence.

With this in view, we can see that this third argument is actually dependent on either the first or second working. This is because the threat of violence used to coerce compliance must either be a threat of future fascist policy or street violence. Therefore, this argument cannot succeed if both the previous ones fail.

This might seem too quick. One way the intimidation factor might make this third argument succeed where the others failed is because an assembly’s use of intimidation to effect behavioral change connects their assembly more closely to the potential future violence. In reply, while this does create a close connection of sorts between their assembly and the potential future violence, it does not make their assembly play a constitutive role in the violence itself. Their collective speech is still distinct from its related acts of potential violence in a way that “put the money in the bag” is not distinct from its related acts of potential violence.

Here – as in my discussion of the last two arguments – my replies may seem to treat fascist violence too lightly. I therefore ask the reader to remember my request that they first consider the ethical and tactical sections of this post independently and then in conjunction. My intent is not to flippantly sacrifice people’s lives because of technicalities in the natural law.

There are many other arguments for saying that violence against fascist assembly is contextually defensive. If our discussion carries us there, I will outline my reasons for rejecting those as well. Seeing as this post is already long, and I’d like to give sufficient space for tactical considerations, I will move on to the next category of argument.

Exceptional Case Arguments

There are also arguments which both, accept a weak non-aggression principle and agree that violence against fascist assembly is non-defensive, yet still support violence against fascist assembly. These hold, in different ways, that while aggression is ordinarily impermissible, fascism presents us with an exception. Without physical force, fascism will come to power, and the aggressive violence that will occur both on its way to power and after that power is acquired will be so world-historically horrific that aggression is justified.

There are three ways one might argue against these claims. First, the weak non-aggression principle could be traded for a stronger one with no exceptions. Second, that fascism presents an exceptional case could be denied by denying fascism entails world-historically horrific injustices. Third, that the threat of fascism presents an exceptional case could be denied by denying the tactical necessity of aggressive violence in dealing with fascism. It is this third response that I will be taking.

I will not take the first line, because while I personally think something more robust than weak non-aggression is true, I do not think it is plausible that there are literally zero cases where apparent aggression is justified. This would also practically amount to a concession, given the terms I set out at the beginning, and would lead us to more complicated (and I think less productive) debates about non-aggression itself. I will not take the second line, because I think it is probably false. There have been many fascist regimes, some admittedly much further from world-historically horrific in their consequences than others, but that is not the sort of thing to gamble about. Also, the rhetoric coming from the Alt-Right in particular is so romantically bold in its racism that it seems closer to the world-historically horrific side of things.

Rejecting the claim that fascism presents an exceptional case because aggressive violence is not tactically necessary for dealing with it obviously relies heavily on tactical questions. I will therefore go ahead and move on to those tactical questions. Before doing so, though, I want to note some general concerns with exceptional case arguments.

Regardless of whatever else we think about non-aggression and its exceptions, it is clear that exceptional case narratives are at least considerably more common than actual exceptional cases. Virtually everyone agrees that violence is generally acceptable only in defense, and virtually no one wants to admit that their violence is unjust. In terms of state violence, the whole project of political authority is an argument for a state of exception to individual-to-individual norms surrounding violence. Once the limits of that authority are agreed upon, they widen through appeals to emergency that cease to become appeals to emergency. This phenomenon has been widely discussed by radical scholars ranging from Giorgio Agamben to Robert Higgs.

Exceptional case narratives are clearly more dangerous in advancing state policy, given that the violence of this policy will then break down the rule of law as it gets regularized through a massive institution of criminal violence. Yet exceptional case narratives are still dangerous in the breakdown of social norms. Upholding good norms is the entire point, for example, behind not wanting to normalize fascist rhetoric and ideas. That the proposed exceptional case here is for a general readiness to use aggressive violence against fascist assembly, not a particular isolated act, makes it especially prone to break down our norms against political violence.

It is often noted in reply to this concern that political violence is already normalized, with appeal to the state’s aggression. This is of course true. It misses the point though, which is that political violence by non-state actors is not presently normalized, and normalizing it would expand the scope of aggression beyond where it is now. That we should further seek to delegitimize the state’s aggression is not a reason to treat this increased scope lightly.

In conversations about antifa, it is regularly argued that they tend to be pretty careful about targeting fascists and only fascists. I will not dispute this here; it seems to be generally true, and the vast majority of alleged counterexamples have turned out to be fraudulent. What is more important, though, is that antifa are not the only actors in society, and others have not shown themselves to be so careful. Moreover, as Ken White has noted elsewhere, the breakdown of this norm will further embolden right-wing goons looking to excuse their own aggression.

Given these concerns, the bar – both in seriousness of considerations and certainty – for arguments claiming exceptions to non-aggression is very high. We must know beyond a reasonable doubt that the consequences it avoids are catastrophic, and that there is no realistic alternative. In the next section, I will argue that we not only do not have that level of certainty in there being no realistic alternative, we have good reason to believe violence against fascist assembly is counterproductive. We are not merely unjustified in committing violence against fascist assembly because it is not crucial that we engage in it, we are unjustified in committing it in part because of the consequences themselves. It is crucial that we resist the impulse towards this tactic, because it will weaken our resistance and embolden fascist advancement.

Tactical Considerations

As a general note, people tend to wildly overestimate the political benefits of violence, and discussions often proceed as if the only possible objections would be on moral grounds.[3] Work by theorists of political strategy like Gene Sharp and Erica Chenoweth shows that this assumption is mistaken. However, that work is also typically focused on resistance to states and state power, not rising fringe groups engaged in street violence and seeking power. Violence against fascist assembly is not directed against the social order itself, it is locally applied to a specific exceptional threat to that social order. I am therefore much less confident in the inefficacy of violence against fascist assembly than I am in the inefficacy of insurrectionary strategies against the state. Even so, I am still pretty sure about the inefficacy of violence against fascist assembly.

Before I explain why, I first want to say something about antifa. It is difficult to speak concretely about a loose-knit movement like them, especially when some of their defenders attempt to conflate them with anti-fascists more generally (though not with those who behave irresponsibly). All the same, it is easy to discuss them more capably than much of the established press. For instance, a particularly egregious article by Megan McArdle is almost proudly ignorant, characterizing antifa as progressives[4] and nonchalantly saying that she only “began to notice them around the time of Trump’s election.” This proud ignorance then leads her to say of antifa that “[t]he only things they can stop, and the police cannot, are things that aren’t crimes: notably, people exercising their First Amendment rights to peaceably assemble and speak their minds.”

Violence against fascist assembly is only antifa’s most publicly visible activity, and I am consistently told that it makes up only a very small portion of what they do. In addition to that, they engage in activities like researching fascist organizations and exposing them, which protects our recently damaged norms against fascism. Another service antifa provides is in alerting unknowing venues that their property is being used to advance fascism. This is the good kind of “no-platforming” that I mentioned earlier.[5] Similarly, they alert social scenes and movements against the threat of entryism. In Minnesota, antifa activists worked constructively with Trump supporters to prevent fascists from deceptively participating in the Trump supporters’ rally. In fairness to McArdle, it’s true that these are not necessarily cases of antifa stopping crimes. Nonetheless, they are extremely valuable, and these services will not be provided by the police.

Another role is violent. Fascists are typically opportunistic, often looking for the earliest excuse to engage in violence. It is therefore important to be visibly ready to physically defend people fascists attempt to attack.[6] In addition to defending against fascist violence, antifa and others help document that violence when it occurs. These are things that, on paper, the police are tasked with doing – but Charlottesville and other incidents show us that strict reliance on them is suicidal. This lesson is of course unsurprising for anarchists.

With all this in mind, a major problem with the acceptance of violence against fascist assembly is that this is not just one tactical choice among others. When it matters – as in, times like now and times that might grow out of times like now – the decision to accept violence against fascist assembly comprehensively restructures all other strategic choices. A commitment to aggressive violence as a regular tool is a commitment to aggressive violence being the primary tool, as it weakens all others.

Once it is known that you openly intend to strike first, many people not already on your side will see you as just another pack of goons. They will therefore be less likely to take you seriously when you tell them a group is fascist – “Oh, they’re just looking for a fight; they call everyone fascist.” You will also now have reason for hostility towards journalists, and that hostility will feed negative public perception. Even your defensive violence will be easily painted as aggressive, since you’ve made clear you have no real problem with aggression.

Much of this is about controlling the narrative, because controlling the narrative is ultimately the whole point. The fascist threat is not just a bunch of violent acts by fascists, and it is certainly not the mere idea of them standing around quoting Evola. The threat is fascism becoming just another idea, let alone one with a serious chance at power. This is not Weimar Germany, but it is also not 2007. Donald Trump is President, Richard Spencer gets interviews with NPR and Charles Barkley, and Europe is seeing much of the same.

Many of these aggression-friendly strategies focus on winning immediate battles without an eye to the war. Obviously, violently shutting down a rally can stop that rally from taking place. It can even scare fascists away from holding similar rallies for the near future.[7] Yet I fear that these facts can trick us into the mindset of old religious authorities, who thought they could contain heresy by burning books that voice it. They overlooked the printing press; perhaps we overlook the internet. In that digital world, a violent clash in the physical one can give them narrative tools to fester faster. Civilization is under attack; the war is already here, time to pick a side. The real threat of violence for your views of course also helps to strengthen group solidarity.

Even beyond inadvertently pushing their narratives, these actions can push conversations to territory where fascists can more easily succeed. Noam Chomsky has been severely maligned by antifa’s defenders for his recent claim that they are “a major gift to the Right… [because w]hen confrontation shifts to the arena of violence, it’s the toughest and most brutal who win – and we know who that is.” One response has been to note that there are plenty of times when anti-fascist brawlers have defeated fascists in street war. While this shows Chomsky’s point is not a necessary truth, it does not reduce the claim to nonsense. Fascists are often unscrupulous, familiar with violence, and looking for a fight as an end in itself. Comparatively, given the tools at fascism’s disposal, I am very confident that it is more likely to win through a physical confrontation than an intellectual one.

Of course, intellectual confrontations with fascists are not as simple as the best ideas automatically winning through the pure light of reason. Nine hundred and ninety-nine times out of a thousand, fascists do not engage in good faith. They deliberately misrepresent both your ideas and theirs, having mastered subrational forms of communication to silence reason and amplify prejudice. These conversations can look like a normal debate to unsuspecting onlookers, who can mistake the fascist’s sophistry for bold truth-telling and find themselves infected.[8]

In their more honest moments, fascists’ own words will tell you this. Richard Spencer exclaims in a speech to his National Policy Institute that “will and imagination are far more powerful than the truth.” Fascist podcaster Mike Enoch casually mocks the “autism” of libertarians, with the substantive point behind his ableism being that following ideas to their logical conclusions is silly. At a certain level, even fascists know that their ideas are nonsensical.

These considerations lead many anti-fascists to opt against intellectual confrontation for physical confrontation. This has things backwards. It is precisely because of this element in fascists’ strategy that we should resist the temptations of aggression. It is to their advantage to provoke violence and escalate chaos. It is out of that chaos that people don’t know what to think, find themselves consulting prejudice, and welcome the firm language of fascism.[9]

This tornadic cultural climate not only gives fascists necessary cover to run towards power; it gives the authoritarian nationalists already in power a chance to play savior. Fascists disguise themselves as typical Trump supporters in hopes the media will cover it that way after a rumble. Those same fascists send fake threats to parades and conservative college tours. Groups who fall victim to these hoaxes cannot say they disavow all violence against assembly, only that these threats were not theirs. Both the center left and center right start to sympathize with claims that antifa is a “gang” and should be legally classified as such. Trump and Sessions are given ample evidence of politically-motivated civil strife, and formerly apathetic Americans hear a strange calling in the words “law and order.”

None of this means the political repression of antifa is their own fault, nor does it mean that we should treat fascists, the Trump administration, or ordinary Americans as blameless. Assigning blame is not the point here, the point is to assess the pros and cons of violence against fascist assembly. With all this in mind, we find ourselves in the opposite of a legitimate state of exception where aggression is justified. We are at a point where the costs of aggression are even higher than normal, potentially breaking down established norms against political violence, weakening other tools at our disposal, and further clouding reason for fascist benefit.

Some Notes Toward Better Strategy

Criticizing is always easier than offering alternatives. I am not a master of political strategy, so I will not pretend to have some grand blueprint for defeating the Alt-Right. Instead, I will give some general notes. Fascists cannot survive in liberalism, so their first step is always the disruption of liberalism. Their goals are in pushing things away from sincere debate and into sophistry and violence. This can’t be too obvious, so they try to mask every attempt at subverting rational discourse as engagements in it. Their attacks on liberalism are almost always parasitic on it, gleefully saying their enemies smashed up a “free speech” rally, or balking at “triggered” interlocutors who supposedly can’t handle reasonable conversation. Their apparent arguments are often red herrings, so critiquing them on their own terms is fruitless.

A problem then is that direct engagement falls into one trap, whereas moving the conflict to the subrational – violent or not – can help create their storm clouds of confusion. Stepping back, we should remember that the goal is capturing the narrative and rebuilding norms against fascism. There are several methods for doing this despite fascist deception, each appropriate for different cases.

For example, just as violence can be used to terminate violence and restore cooperation, subrational communication can be used to terminate subrational communication and restore reason. Liberals (typically liberal progressives) are often mocked for “fighting Nazis with penetrating satire.” The attitude mocked there deserves mockery, but it is not because satire is impotent against fascism. It is because that mockery is often useless mockery, only for the entertainment of other progressives. This is the kind of mockery easily turned back on the comedian, like ever-nauseating jokes about “Drumpf.” Mockery can also fan the flames of fascist fires to discourse when it implies no rational conclusions. Successful mockery, then, must first be on terms that even the mocked (and those susceptible to the mocked’s claims) will understand, and second, force the fight back into the ring of reason.

A related strategy can be called that of ‘belligerent rationality.’ Belligerent rationality, in this context, forces a particular point of contention and subjects it to extreme scrutiny without letting up. Ideally, this is something the fascist assumes more implicitly than explicitly, mentioned only quickly if it all. These are the points where the fascist’s case is weakest, yet also on which it most depends. I frankly do not think, for example, that many on the Alt-Right even care that much about whether or not race is biologically real. Plenty of them also do not seriously care as much as they seem to about the nature of relationships between race and crime or race and intelligence. Richard Spencer will say this openly. It is really just the fact that they are sociologically white, and race is the kind of grouping where people’s prejudices and ingroup tendencies can find fullest expression. Accordingly, pressing questions like why one should actually care about race, rather than other features of identity reveals the baselessness of the fascist’s position.

Narrative control will also involve shows of rejection. One argument for violence against fascist assembly points out that fascist rallies function as a show of force, attaching a sense of power to their movements. This much seems true. For that reason, massive public counterprotests – like the one against a fascist-friendly rally in Boston soon after Charlottesville – can turn those shows of force on their head.[10] Norms of overwhelming, unanimous social rejection towards fascism can be further mended by getting other movements and social scenes to combat entryism. The cooperative anti-fascist efforts between antifa and Republican activists in Minnesota mentioned earlier are a shining example of this.

Fascist shows of force can also be beaten back by those antifa methods I praised previously. Research and exposure, the documentation of fascist aggression, and a clear readiness for competent defense geared towards de-escalation are all invaluable in fighting fascism.

All these tactics must be practiced with serious care. Do not argue with fascists unless you’re skilled at cutting through sophistry; do not go to rallies armed unless you thoroughly trust your judgment in relevant situations and know how to properly use that weapon. You must know what you’re getting into, and where your talents place your comparative advantage in the anti-fascist division of labor.

Conclusion: Note on Expressive Violence

Finally, I want to close with some thoughts about expressive violence. This is violence with no further tactical aim at all, just violence with an aim of violence. It is the catharsis of forcefully rejecting an enemy through physical force. I do not bring this up to strawman anyone else in this exchange; I assume that we agree on the injustice of expressive violence. I bring it up because I have on multiple occasions been told by others that even if violence towards a fascist achieves nothing else, it at least gives a feeling of relief to the assailant and others. This is honestly understandable.

While I do not support the January 20th punching of Richard Spencer, it would be a lie to say that I did not enjoy the memes or even laugh at the original video. Everything about his behavior immediately preceding the blow exemplifies the phrase “punchable.” From his snide “sure” to “Do you love black people?” – somehow worse than if he just said “no” – to giddily recalling fascist appropriations of Pepe, it looked like a skit with a perfectly timed punchline. Memes of the incident probably also functioned as successful mockery, saying in effect, “No, you’re not a revolutionary, you’re the kind of pseudointellectual nuisance who tries to unironically wax philosophical about 4chan memes.”

As a middle-class, middle-American (yet southern), cisgender white man, I cannot pretend to imagine how  it might have been for those in other social locations – and I do not intend to shame anyone for their reactions.

We must resist the pull of expressive violence all the same, if for no reason other than its tactical damage in our fight against fascism. The prospects of a fascist future are deadly serious, and the thrills of violence are not worth that risk.

We must also resist the pull of expressive violence because its social acceptance is at the root of state power. The principle that wrongdoing must be condemned with violence maintains incarceration and execution, through appeal to the expression function of punishment. It pushes Brady Bills and Patriot Acts, with the idea that something must be done following tragedies, and that this something must be an increase of state violence. It says that those who resist gun control after spree shootings and those who defend civil liberties after terror attacks don’t really care about innocent victims.

It further says that those who reject aggression against fascists do not take seriously the threat of fascism.

We must take seriously the threat of fascism. We must recognize that it represents a comprehensive rejection of liberalism, and stave off entryism by regularly rejecting fascism in full.

For the fascist, lethal conflicts of Friend and Enemy give us our sense of meaning, and make us feel alive. To reject fascism in full means a rejection of this as well.

The threat of fascism cannot be overcome by accepting its terms and moving to its preferred terrain. It can only be overcome by holding our ground.

I am asking that we hold our ground.


[1] “White supremacy” here refers to movements whose race-centric pro-domination values are more explicit, like white nationalism, not the subtler structures of institutional racism. This is not because I reject this other usage, but because I’m specifically discussing this more overt, ideological movement. I include “white nationalism” under this kind of “white supremacy,” because white nationalists clearly want whites to reign supreme in their proposed ethnostate. There are obvious issues with using “fascist” and “white supremacist” interchangeably in this way, not all of which are pedantic. Despite that, I will use “fascist” as a catch-all because it is short and accords with public discourse on the topic.

[2] Here, to be “consistent with anarchist libertarianism” is meant in a very thin sense, as in, “does not require a state or any other violations of non-aggression.”

[3] Admittedly, I may have contributed to this perception here by first going through the ethical problems with violence against fascist assembly before talking about the tactical ones. My comments on tactical considerations should not be seen as an afterthought – if anything, it is more important than the sections preceding it.

[4] She actually says “liberal,” but it is clear in context that she means “liberal progressive.”

[5] In addition to our rights of free speech, which these tactics clearly do not violate, there is also an important value of free speech, which goes over and above what we owe to others as a matter of right. This means there are reasonable grounds for wondering about these tactics as well, especially in certain cases. While I think these tactics should be used carefully, I do not think that free speech even in the non-rights-centric sense, cuts against these them. Since our exchange is on anti-fascism and free speech, I may write something separate on this point later.

[6] In addition to antifa, armed groups like Redneck Revolt have helped here.

[7] For instance, see the cancelled “anticom” rally in Charlotte. A discussion of the way fascists abuse anti-communism is of course worthy of its own post.

[8] The YouTube commentator ContraPoints has two excellent videos on this topic. The first dramatizes the phenomenon in the form of a short play, and the second is a guide to the Alt-Right’s main methods of deception. Incidentally, she has also explored the general subject of this Mutual Exchange in the form of a dialogue.

[9] It is also out of this chaos that the most grotesquely authoritarian forms of Communism become appealing to leftists.

[10] This also helps to cut against the intimidation effects discussed previously.

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