The Corner

Antifa — Fascists?

George Orwell, writing in 1944:

When we apply the term ‘Fascism’ to Germany or Japan or Mussolini’s Italy, we know broadly what we mean. It is in internal politics that this word has lost the last vestige of meaning. For if you examine the press you will find that there is almost no set of people — certainly no political party or organized body of any kind — which has not been denounced as Fascist during the past ten years.

A copious list then follows.


It will be seen that, as used, the word ‘Fascism’ is almost entirely meaningless.


Even the people who recklessly fling the word ‘Fascist’ in every direction attach at any rate an emotional significance to it. By ‘Fascism’ they mean, roughly speaking, something cruel, unscrupulous, arrogant, obscurantist, anti-liberal and anti-working-class. Except for the relatively small number of Fascist sympathizers, almost any English person would accept ‘bully’ as a synonym for ‘Fascist’. That is about as near to a definition as this much-abused word has come.

And the way that penultimate sentence could apply to the vicious assault on journalist Andy Ngo is all too obvious.

In the course of a fine post earlier today on this Corner, Douglas Murray observed:

There was a time when “anti-fascist” meant what it said. People who opposed fascism called themselves “anti-fascists.” But then the term slipped. The definition of “fascist” became hazy from over-use and so the term “anti-fascist” also began to move.

Orwell would agree.

But then Douglas goes on to write this:

Second, anyone in any doubt over who the fascists and the anti-fascists are today should watch the footage of Ngo being attacked. Might the fascists be the thugs who wear face masks in the middle of the day in an American city and carry out mob assaults on journalists?

Yes and no, I’d say. Yes, the behavior that took place was the sort of thuggery that might have been expected from fascists, but the people who carried it out were in no sense ideologically in the place where fascists are generally assumed to be — somewhere on the right.

Posting later, Jay noted this:

[Ngo’s attackers] claim to be anti-fascists, but they certainly act like fascists — “They have no sense of irony,” says Tony. These guys never change, down the generations, down the centuries. Bully-boys are bully-boys, of whatever hue or stripe. Communists, Brownshirts, and their kin, we will always have with us.

All, sadly, too true.

But a point lurking within Jay’s words is an important one. It may seem pedantic, but, as Orwell argued, fascism is a word that should be used “with a certain amount of circumspection” and not degraded “to the level of a swearword.” When fascists do their worst on the streets, they — and their ideology — should be called out for the thuggery (or worse) with which it is so often associated.

So it should be with Antifa. They are creatures of the hard left, doing what some on the hard left have all too often done. To describe these thugs as fascists, even metaphorically, is to give their ideology an alibi it doesn’t deserve.

And if you think this is indeed just pedantry, go over to Twitter and check out the political alignment of those who claim to distance themselves from the violence, but . . .

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