Sunday's violence in Berkeley has brought renewed attention to the "antifa" movement, general shorthand for groups of black-clad "anti-fascist" protesters who show up at rallies to confront far-right protesters. In his post-Charlottesville remarks, President Trump blamed the antifa movement for contributing to the violence, and Sunday's confrontation "marked another street brawl between opposing ends of the political spectrum—violence that has become a regular feature of the Trump years and gives signs of spiraling upward," per the Washington Post. So just what is antifa? In a New York Times op-ed, Columbia professor Todd Gitlin offers some insights, describing antifa as the "backlash to the backlash, a defensive response to the growing presence of right-wing extremism." Given antifa members' willingness to use violence, he sees cause for concern.
"They do not advocate a positive doctrine, racial or otherwise," writes Gitlin of antifa adherents. "Some supporters consider themselves (as Mr. Trump accurately said) anarchists, some Marxists of different stripes." No national organization exists, and groups (usually all men) spring up locally. Antifa groups typically are unarmed, but Gitlin sees the potential for that to change as confrontations with right-wing groups escalate. "If effectively contained and self-contained, many of its supporters would likely return to the kind of nonviolent left-wing, anti-racist organizing that they were involved in before Mr. Trump rejuvenated the nationalist right with fire and fury," writes Gitlin. But that's not likely in the near future, he adds. "More Charlottesvilles, or worse, may be coming." Click for the full column.