Who is Mark Bray, and why is he being given a platform in major news outlets, such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the New York Post, to provide a rebuttal to the president’s call to designate Antifa a domestic terrorist group?
Bray is a lecturer in history at Rutgers (and formerly at Dartmouth) and author of Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook.
Though claiming to caution “about painting large groups of people with a broad brush,” Bray asserts that “Trump supporters voted for their candidate either because of or despite his misogyny, racism, ableism, Islamophobia, and many more hateful traits.”
As cities have burned across the country, Bray has been consulted as an authority to explain what Antifa is and why it could not be designated a domestic terrorist group. He was also given an opportunity to dissemble in an op-ed in the Washington Post, where he claimed that Antifa nobly “traces its heritage back to the radicals who resisted Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler.” Today it is a loose confederation of ad hoc groups opposed to racism, imperialism, and white supremacy, employing “militant self-defense against the police and the targeted destruction of police and capitalist property that has accompanied it.” This is in line with his recent tweet asserting that Antifa has no “overarching organization, with a chain of command.” Yet, he donates the proceeds of his book to “Antifa,” in other words conducts a fundraiser for an organization, which must have enough of a “chain of command” to have authorized someone to cash checks. At the same time, Rutgers University lists the book as part of his scholarly qualifications.
But are Antifa activists simply volunteers working against racism, imperialism, white supremacy, and police brutality? Don’t we all have the right to “self-defense”? The way Bray presents Antifa in his op-ed, you would think it was as American as the Boston Tea Party.
But that is not what Bray says in his book, a work that rivals in historical distortion Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States.
In it, Bray presents variants of socialism, communism, and anarchism as the only alternatives to the “fascist menace.” He explained on “Meet the Press” in 2017 that Antifa’s politics are varied but limited to “pan-left radical politics uniting communists, socialists, anarchists and various different radical leftists.” Like Zinn, he claims to eschew Stalinist statist communism and favors “anarcho-communism,” a system in which all contribute voluntarily to the economy, according to his abilities and needs. But the experiments that have failed since ancient times are not a concern for this history professor.
Nor do classical liberalism, constitutional republicanism, or natural rights have a place.
In fact, according to his book, Antifa’s is “an illiberal politics of social revolutionism applied to fighting the Far Right, not only literal fascists.” At “the heart of the anti-fascist outlook” is rejection of “the classical liberal phrase … ‘I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.’ ” Such denial of First Amendment rights is justified: “After Auschwitz and Treblinka, anti-fascists committed themselves to fighting to the death the ability of organized Nazis to say anything.”
After giving a Zinn-like historical overview of the history of fascism in Europe — a revival of the old communist version that says communists and their allies, alone, resisted fascism — and its resurgence after World War II, documented by interviews of Antifa members identified by first name (or pseudonym) only, Bray leaps over to America, where Antifa came to fight the fascists in “pinstripes” (Wall Street capitalists) and in “tuxedoes” (today, Trump supporters attending the “Deplorables” inaugural ball in January 2017).
Bray is determined “to stem the tide of Trumpism.”
Contrary to what he presents in the Washington Post, Bray reveals that his main purpose is not fighting the Ku Klux Klan and rogue cops.
No, we must fight “everyday fascists,” the “ardent Trump supporters who ‘tell it like it is’ by actively trying to dismantle the taboos against oppression that the movements for feminism, black liberation, queer liberation, and others have given actual blood, sweat, and tears to establish.” These movements are the “bulwarks against fascism.”
And if you are not on board with these movements, you support fascism.
Though claiming to caution “about painting large groups of people with a broad brush,” Bray asserts that “Trump supporters voted for their candidate either because of or despite his misogyny, racism, ableism, Islamophobia, and many more hateful traits.” Though it is important, he says, to “distinguish between ideologues and their capricious followers,” one must not “overlook how these popular bases of support create the foundations for fascism to manifest itself.”
He gives a warning from history (his version of it): “we must bear in mind that the fascist regimes of the past could not have survived without a broad layer of public support.” Since “Trump’s victory,” this “public support” consists of a “dangerous mix of mainstream conservatives who do not want to appear racist, and alt-right ‘race realists’ who all accuse the ‘Left’ of so over-using the term racism that it is rendered meaningless.”
For years, we have been hearing smears about Trump supporters being misogynist, racist, Islamophobic, etc. But this is overheated rhetoric from the likes of Jennifer Rubin and Max Boot.
Bray, however, openly advocates violence and intimidation to make Trump supporters “recede into hiding” — just as Antifa has done to “fascists” in Europe. He replies, “to those who argue that this would make us no better than Nazis, our critique is not against violence, incivility, discrimination, or disrupting speeches in the abstract, but against those who do so in the service of white supremacy, hetero-patriarchy, class oppression, and genocide.”
In other words, it’s just fine to employ violence, incivility, discrimination, and disruption to those whom he deems guilty of “white supremacy, hetero-patriarchy, class oppression, and genocide.”
Antifa’s goal is to “make it politically, socially, economically” costly for such people to “articulate” their ideas. Bray concludes, “Our goal should be that in twenty years those who voted for Trump are too uncomfortable to share that fact in public.”
And once such “everyday fascists” are driven into hiding, Antifa should come up with “better alternatives to the austerity and incompetence of the governing parties of the Right and Left.”
We presume by that by “the governing party of the Left” he means Democrats. No doubt, as Joe Biden makes his bid for every single voter on the left, including rioters, while condemning the president as racist and hateful, he believes that his party will be protected from the Antifa brand of fascism.
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