Home > Uncategorized > In praise of anti-fascists – posted 9/3/2022

In praise of anti-fascists – posted 9/3/2022

Part of the Donald Trump playbook is the creation of enemies to rail against. Trump created the bogeyman of Antifa. When you step back and think about it, Antifa was a bizarre choice. Some people who identify with Antifa live in Portland, Oregon but they are not even an organization. They are mostly an exaggerated fantasy but for Trump they have played the role of foil.

I am not saying Antifa doesn’t exist. Obviously there are millions who identify with anti-fascism. But Antifa is more an image inhabiting fevered minds than much of a reality.

The word “Antifa” is an abbreviation for anti-fascist. What is strange is that before Trump tagged Antifa, anti-fascists were the incarnation of a noble tradition. Trump dragged anti-fascists down through his looking glass and distorted any sense of history.

The obvious needs to be stated: anti-fascists fought and defeated the German and Italian fascists in World War 2 and saved democracy in America and elsewhere. These anti-fascists were the British, American and Russian militaries. Whatever the internal differences among the allies, they all contributed to the defeat of European fascism.

So how did it come to be that anti-fascists became the bad guys? Trump has consistently associated anti-fascists with riots against the police. In Trump World, anti-fascists were enemies of his peculiar version of law and order. Also, I would offer that Trump has embraced fascists. Think Bolsanaro, Orban, Duterte and Erdogan. Trump has cozied up to the Proud Boys and Q’Anon and has now promised to pardon the criminal seditionists who attacked the Capitol on January 6.

History illustrates the illogic of Trump’s anti-fascist antipathy. American anti-fascists recognized the danger Nazi Germany represented to the world. To understand, I would go back to the little-remembered Spanish Civil War in the years before World War 2. In the 1930’s, America was isolationist and trying to remain neutral, a posture which served Nazi interests.

While they were sometimes called “premature anti-fascists”, the American opponents of fascism in the mid-1930’s had the most clear-eyed vision and understanding of Nazi barbarism. In 1936-1939, 2,800 young Americans volunteered to fight for the Spanish Republic against fascist General Francisco Franco who was financially supported by Hitler and Mussolini.

The Spanish Civil War stirred the conscience of anti-fascists from all over the world. Over 40,000 anti-fascists from over fifty countries volunteered to fight in Spain. They became the International Brigades. The war came about when monarchists, large landowners and the hierarchy of the Catholic Church rebelled against the democratically elected Spanish Republican government.

The Americans who went to Spain organized themselves into the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. They reflected a wide swath of views on the Left but they were all united by an anti-fascist commitment. The Brigade was the first fully integrated United States army.

The Lincoln Brigade was tremendously idealistic and self-sacrificing. They were poorly supplied in food, water and weapons. Of the 2,800 Americans who fought in Spain, an estimated 750 died there.

When faced with his mother’s disapproval of his decision to fight in Spain, an American Jewish volunteer, Hy Katz, said this:

“This is a case where sons must go against their mother’s wishes for the sake of their mothers themselves. So I took up arms against the persecutors of my people – the Jews – and my class – the Oppressed. Are these traits which you admire so much in a Prophet Jeremiah or a Judas Maccabeus bad when your son exhibits them?”

Probably the best book about the Spanish Civil War is George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia. Inside the story of the battle against fascism was the effort for social revolution in Spain. Orwell wrote as a soldier for the Republic and a partisan. In spite of the horrors of the war he experienced (he himself got shot), Orwell wrote:

“Curiously enough the whole experience has left me with not less but more belief in the decency of human beings.”

Before Franco’s victory, Spain provided a glimpse of what a more egalitarian society could look like.

I would suggest that the Spanish Civil War history connects directly to our time. The same battle between democracy and fascism is going on now. Like the Spanish fascists, MAGA Republicans reject a fair, democratic election they lost.

Beyond all particulars, the central question voters face this fall is whether America will remain a constitutional republic or whether it will degenerate into authoritarianism. And that is not hyperbole.

MAGA Republicans threaten both voting rights and election oversight. It is not an accident they have targeted Secretary of State races in battleground states. The Washington Post has reported that 54 of 87 Republican candidates running for positions with power over the way elections are certified in battleground states have falsely claimed the 2020 election was fraudulent. If such people are elected, they would have power to monkey with procedures and results. Winners could become losers.

Trump and his MAGA Republican supporters do not believe in the continued existence of American democracy and the rule of law. The January 6 coup attempt was consistent with the fascist resort to violence when unable to win electorally. Unable to accept losing, Trump will always say elections are corrupt and illegitimate.

In the fall election and beyond, we need a united front of all Democrats, progressives, independents, conservatives and anti-Trump Republicans to protect our constitutional republic. Saving democracy and preventing a slide into fascism is the most important issue out there. We must do better than the Spanish Republic did.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. jlewandohotmailcom
    September 3, 2022 at 3:20 pm

    Another thing of beauty! I knew almost nothing about the Spanish Civil War, and here you’ve used it to enlighten our current mess. Thank you again!

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