What are the goals of ANTIFA

Who is «the Antifa»? Anyone who regards all militant anti-fascists as terrorists is wrong - whoever judges them only by their noble slogans, however, also

Right-wing politicians outdo each other with requests for bans, while the left surrender to trivializing: The question of how to deal with anti-fascist groups is causing hateful discussions in Germany and Switzerland. An approximation.

Berlin Alexanderplatz. In the midst of the peaceful crowd a huge flag rushes through the air, a clenched fist emblazoned on a gold background. The only thing that stands out about the handful of young people in black hoods is the flag stretched between them: "Antifascismo militante" can be read there. They don't seem particularly martial or terrifying, and riots won't happen until later. Tens of thousands demonstrated against racism and police violence last Saturday.

Ever since the American President Donald Trump wanted to ban "the Antifa" in connection with the current riots as a terrorist organization, there has been heated discussion all over the western world what this anti-fascism or the abbreviation "Antifa" is all about, which many groups and Lease activists for themselves. That's for sure: The There is no such thing as «Antifa». Rather, it is currently a heterogeneous movement that appears sometimes in a more, sometimes in a less radical way.

Put simply, there are two extreme positions in dealing with this movement: while left-wing politicians like the German SPD chairman Saskia Esken spontaneously show solidarity, the political right is calling for Trump-style bans. In Switzerland, SVP National Councilor Andreas Glarner has submitted a postulate to - quote - "the Antifa" and the "left-wing extremist terror" to be banned, in Germany similar tones can be heard from the AfD.

The boundaries to extremism are fluid

What these views have in common is that they do not do justice to the phenomenon. Historically, anti-fascism was directed against right-wing extremist movements and regimes, from National Socialist Germany to the Italian fascists to the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile.

However, since the term was already taken over by anti-democratic forces in the 1930s - among others by the supporters of the Soviet dictator Josef Stalin - it is still misused by the left-wing extremist scene to this day to violence against "the system", capitalism and also to justify against people.

However, anti-fascism is also invoked by numerous groups and citizens' groups that expose right-wing extremist networks, out racists in the police or in the army and support people who are threatened by neo-Nazis. Here too, however, the boundaries to political extremism are often fluid.

The scientific service of the German Bundestag put it two years ago: “The so-called antifa is not a specific, clearly delimited organization or association, but the generic term for various, usually loosely structured, ephemeral autonomous ones Currents from the left to left-wing extremist scene. "

Dozens of anti-fascist groups are extremist

In Germany, the spectrum of anti-democratic or at least strongly anti-democratic groups ranges from anarchist-oriented autonomists to Maoists and Trotskyists to old Stalinists, orthodox Marxists and GDR nostalgics who are, for example, in the German Communist Party or the "Association of the Persecuted of the Nazi Regime - Association of Antifascists ». The latter was run for years by a former Stasi informant.

The German Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution stated on request that not all persons and groups who describe themselves as anti-fascist are “automatically a case for the protection of the constitution”. However, "Die Welt" made public this week that the German constitutional protectors in the federal and state governments are currently classifying at least 47 antifa groups as extremist.

The common bracket of these opponents of the system, which are often at odds with one another, is anti-fascism. And since they consider fascists a product of the hated capitalism, as many of them as possible must be created. The term “fascist” is interpreted in a correspondingly generous way, and this is exactly where a main problem for many anti-fascist groups lies.

"They don't care whether they are really fascists"

The Berlin political scientist Klaus Schroeder puts it this way: “I don't believe in vigilante justice, but that's what these people are often about. Because the state supposedly does nothing, they take matters into their own hands to punish all possible enemies. They don't care whether they are really fascists. "

The generous interpretation of the term fascism has a long tradition, especially in Germany. The Communist Party of Germany, which launched the first “Antifascist Action” in 1932, slandered its social democratic competitors as “social fascists”, and anyone who stood in the way of the communists was a fascist anyway.

This Stalinist method lived on after the Second World War, including in the GDR, where former resistance fighters erected walls in the name of anti-fascism and had democratic opponents persecuted. For the Radikalinski faction of the 1968 movement in West Germany, everything possible was also fascist due to the formula “Capital is behind fascism”, from the FRG to Israel to the bourgeois nuclear family.

Such simple concepts of fascism have survived to this day, partly also among the Greens and in the party Die Linke, which likes to dismiss criticism of its historically contaminated concept of anti-fascism as "incitement against everything that is left".

The constant attempt to legitimize violence

The blanket allegations of fascism are often accompanied by hardly concealed calls for violence, especially those from the autonomous milieu. German anti-fascist groups claim, among other things, that the Union of Values, an association of conservative and economically liberal members of the CDU and CSU, “participated” in the murder of Walter Lübcke; their exponents should therefore be "visited", that is, harassed.

The AfD, its members, voters and sympathizers should make life “as uncomfortable and expensive as possible”, as it is called in an appeal by the Internet platform Indymedia. It doesn't matter whether they belong to the ethnic-radical part of the party or not.

Because the “fascists” supposedly exercise social or verbal violence themselves, “counter-violence” is legitimate, at least from the standpoint of the autonomists. Therefore, according to the protection of the constitution, damage to property, arson and in some cases bodily harm are among the “crime typical of the scene”. There are no concrete statistics on crimes in the context of anti-fascism. The 2018 report on the protection of the constitution counted 4622 crimes motivated by left-wing extremism, 1010 of which were violent crimes. A year earlier it was even 1967.

Three right-wing trade unionists were recently attacked in Stuttgart and some were seriously injured. On the Internet platform Indymedia, "some anti-fascists" declared themselves. In their statement it says, among other things: The fascists "should expect pain, stress and property damage and thereby be isolated, inhibited, disorganized and deterred as much as possible".

Greens and leftists downplay the problem

Even social democrats are not safe from attack. The Berlin MP Tom Schreiber, for example, has been repeatedly attacked by the autonomists because he does not want to accept their attacks on the rule of law. “Just watch out, Tom,” said the sender, “Antifa e. V. ", and:" Tommy, we know where your car is. " Schreiber has also been threatened on the street, he is persecuted with hatred and slandered on the Internet. "Once," he reports, "they even wrote that I had committed suicide."

Schreiber worries that the perpetrators with their anti-racist and anti-fascist slogans are quite capable of "docking" in peaceful demonstrations and infiltrating movements. On top of that, he stated time and again that the Greens and the party Die Linke do not take the problem seriously at all: “While the AfD simply ignores right-wing extremism, they ignore left-wing violence, or they claim that it is only directed against things. These people are concerned with physical confrontation and the establishment of unlawful spaces. "

This debate last flared up at the end of May when the latest report by the Berlin Office for the Protection of the Constitution was published. In it, the authority classified the anti-coal initiative “Endegebiet”, along with eight other groups, as left-wing extremists. The report states that the latter presents itself as a climate protection actor, but it conceals the fact that the actual goals go far beyond this. The use of force, for example, would be accepted at least approvingly. The Greens and the left reacted indignantly and demanded the abolition of the protection of the Constitution.

The SPD held against it, but their youth organization, the Juso, did not prevent them from throwing themselves into battle with the Green Youth and the left-wing youth organization Solid against the protection of the constitution. Tenor: Anyone who equates right-wing terror and the commitment to climate justice as two “extremes” of an otherwise ideally minded center cannot be in a position to combat fascist tendencies appropriately.

The fact that part of the left is not ready to talk about anti-democratic, violent anti-fascism is not only for ideological reasons. There are always alliances “against the right” between these parties and left-wing extremist anti-fascists. Political scientist Klaus Schroeder also considers this proximity to be dangerous; In addition, the German federal states and the federal government often do not know exactly who they are promoting in their “fight against the right”. "But that does not mean that civil society activities against right-wing extremists should be placed under general suspicion."

Accountants and freaks against right-wing extremists

In fact, some anti-fascist groups and archives are doing important educational and preventive work; this also applies to those who have an ambivalent relationship to democracy. For more than twenty years, the Swiss journalist and green politician Hans Stutz has had occasional contact with anti-fascist groups that uncover right-wing extremist networks or out neo-Nazis in state institutions and parties. "The notion of right-wing agitators that antifa activists are only black-clad darklings is wrong," he says. "These people often have very different motives, and computer geeks and accountant types are also involved."

Of course, he does not share their sometimes broad expansion of the concept of fascism. But since the police and intelligence service - at least in Switzerland - only report summarily about armed right-wing extremists who are ready to use violence, the educational work is all the more important.

Antifa activists recently uncovered an international network of right-wing extremists that is also active in the Swiss and German martial arts scene. “That was possible because of the work of anti-fascist groups that worked together on this project,” says Stutz. The background to the notorious neo-Nazi concert in Unterwasser, where around 5,000 right-wing extremists from Switzerland, Germany and other countries "played", only came to the media thanks to anti-fascist research. The same applies to revelations about right-wing extremists.

According to Stutz, antifa activists also fulfill another important function, especially in rural areas of Switzerland or in eastern Germany: They support young people and they mark presence when right-wing extremists march. There was a large counter-demonstration in Schwyz in Central Switzerland after twelve strangers in Ku Klux Klan clothes marched on the carnival. It was of course no coincidence that numerous black-clad, urban system haters marched in the “colorful” counter-demonstration. Antifascism is and will remain an ambivalent phenomenon that must be viewed in a differentiated manner.