Sep 16, 2021

There Will Always Be More Of Us: Antifascist Organizing

In keeping with discussion and debate on A22 in PDX and its broader meanings for antifascism and developing a revolutionary liberatory vision, we post the following from Paul O'Banion in which, while making an assessment of that days organizing and actions, O'Banion also stresses that "Our fight against fascism is political, against their politics and for ours". - 3WF
Battle of Cable Street: antifascists vs fascists vs police

There Will Always Be More Of Us: Antifascist Organizing

by Paul O'Banion

The events of August 22nd (A22) in Portland, Oregon were a clear victory, with hundreds of people turning out all afternoon on the downtown waterfront to confront the fascists — until it suddenly wasn’t.


The Proud Boys' last minute change of location — away from the waterfront to a parking lot a half-hour drive away (and even longer on the bus) — resulted in only a relatively small group in bloc engaging in a courageous but ill-considered attempt to confront them: going where they go, but without the necessary preparation and coordination. It turned into, at best, a shit show. Proud Boys smashed up a couple of vehicles, flipping one on its side, beat the shit out of some folks, and engaged in sustained attacks. Our side mobilized a black bloc of roughly thirty; covered Tiny, one of the Far Right’s main instigators, head-to-toe in paint, stopping his club-wielding charge in its tracks;  and attacked a photographer. Despite the relative success of the earlier waterfront mobilization, we didn’t end the day looking very good. It’s controversial, but optics matter. The narrative that is created about actions we are involved in is critical to our long-term success.


The events of A22 starkly illustrate the limits of fighting fascists on purely military or tactical grounds. For five years we have battled various fascists, the fascist adjacent, and fascist enabling in the Pacific Northwest, with the most brutal part of the whirlwind being Portland (and not for the first time!). Antifascists have done a remarkable job tirelessly defending against incursions, provocations, and attacks by the Far Right, especially since the 2016 election of Donald Trump. There have been more mobilizations against Patriot Prayer, the Proud Boys, and other knuckleheads than one can remember. Established organizations, such as Rose City Antifa and the Pacific Northwest Antifascist Workers Collective, various crews, affinity groups, and collectives have done exemplary work. Yet, at best, we have achieved a kind of stalemate; at worse, in the larger national and international picture, we are losing.


So how do we start winning? In order to defeat the fascists in a decisive way we need to subsume our tactical struggle to the political one. Contextualizing street fights as one component of a larger effort keeps our focus on our long-term work to build a free, mutualistic, and egalitarian society. We need people on the front lines with skills in martial arts, first aid, and communications. We need people with hacking and doxing skills. And we need to continue developing material support infrastructure and mutual aid efforts for mobilizations. All of this is essential. But A22 showed us that, in-and-of-itself, all this will never be enough.


If we only develop the skills to make us a better fighting force, the fascists will out-maneuver us on the larger terrain and continue to build their movement. To complement our ability to deny the fash the streets and public platforms we need to better contest their attempt to win sympathy for their ideas. This means continuing the longer term, less glamorous work of organizing, talking with other working-class and oppressed people, developing ideas together; in short, creating a broad, popular movement aimed at fundamentally re-making society, getting at the roots of what gives rise to fascism in the first place. We should be able to respond to the questions that the Far Right is answering with our own alternative: a movement and liberatory culture that is so attractive to everyday people that they can’t resist the urge to become involved. Efforts towards establishing ‘everyday antifascism’ as commonplace is one example.


Politics partly involves developing a shared narrative that helps people make sense of the world. This is what the fascists are doing: they are providing stories that help people understand what is going on, providing a sense of meaning and belonging that is both comforting and supports taking action in the world. We too need to keep our focus on the big picture, on winning in the long-term. Our goal should be creating a broad-based popular movement to help create a non-fascist society. By developing our politics together and collectively envisioning what we want and how we think we can best get there, perhaps we will also gain more discipline as a movement — the kind of discipline that allows us not to rush into situations unprepared, disorganized and uncoordinated, to fight the fash on terrain they chose. We need the power and momentum to pick our battles.


What happens in the street is essential. Fascists, on principle, should not be allowed to gather, organize, or speak publicly. But how we do that will determine whether we win the larger war, not just one particular battle. How these confrontations play out to those watching from their workplaces, neighborhoods, bars, and homes is of the utmost importance in determining whether the majority of folks side with us, or support state and fascist violence against us.


The antifascist struggle in Germany is more practically and theoretically advanced, mainly because they’ve been doing it longer. As Bender, an autonomous antifa militant active in Berlin since the 1980s says, “The most important step … [is] to get organized in groups, which would have regular meetings and a clear membership… a common basis of understanding and common goals, and a clear name. These groups would be approachable for others outside the group, and capable of and willing to engage in alliances, they also could take better care of new, interested people. … The groups would also represent their positions publicly in a way that was open to participation.” Bender continues that antifascists should not fight fascists alone, stressing the importance of “temporary alliances with other groups outside the autonomous movement, such as other leftist groups, trade unions, … and so on.” But in collaborating with groups that may not share all of our politics, it is necessary “to maintain our positions and our forms in these alliances. That means to have – at least on a symbolic level – an autonomous standpoint and a radical expression, for example at demonstrations, by using the politics and tactics of the black bloc.


Those in autonomous antifa came to realize that they were becoming marginalized and isolated and that the larger narrative matters, which led them to understanding “the importance of better public relations and being concerned with media representation.” Bender suggests that we can both recognize the role media plays in maintaining the status quo and institutional power, while still engaging it “to produce pictures for the public, which nowadays has become, due to the mechanism of media and politics, part of the ‘society of the spectacle.’” This requires us to be smart about how society works, how people come to form opinions, and how everyday working people come to be willing take risks to fight fascism. It doesn’t mean toning down the level of militancy but better understanding the dynamics of how these confrontations are represented.


An International Struggle 

With the dizzying momentum of authoritarian movements around the world and, closer to home, the relentless march of Far Right Trumpist Republicans, we need to understand our struggle as not only local, but national and international. This requires us, as the Far Right is doing, to mobilize and organize a mass, popular movement. In this practical struggle and war of ideas, the fact that being antifascist or believing that Black lives matter are even controversial positions indicate that we are not even close to winning. One of our tasks is to develop antifascism as the “common sense.” If we do this, we can marginalize and limit the growth of fascism, better enabling us to defeat it.


Police clear antifascist's barricades from the Battle of Cable Streets

There are plenty of historical examples we can learn from in developing the antifascist movement. We can look at the organizing that brought out hundreds of thousands of people to defend the largely Jewish East End of London against a fascist march in 1936: the famous “Battle of Cable Street.” At that time, members of the Jewish and Irish communities, local workers and Labor and Communist party members, anarchists, antifascists, socialists, and pissed off Londoners all came out to the streets to fight Oswald Mosley, leader of the British Union of Fascists (BUF), and his 3,000 Blackshirts, not to mention the 6,000 police marshaled to protect them. The reason up to 300,000 people mobilized and stood up to Mosley and his fascists on that day is made clear in “The Battle of Cable Street: An Account of Working Class Struggles Against Fascism,” published by the London Trades Union Council SERTUC:

“A common cause of hatred of Fascism brought people together. Charlie Goodman made a name for himself during the battle when he climbed up a lamp post, exhorting people to fight back as they began to waver, and described one alliance: ‘it was not just a question of Jews being there, the most amazing thing was to see a silk-coated Orthodox Jew standing next to an Irish docker with a grappling iron. This was absolutely unbelievable. Because it was not a question of ... a punch up between the Jews and the Fascists, it was a question of people who understood what Fascism was.”


We can also look at how “Rock Against Racism” organized, also in England, this time in the late 1970s against the National Front, working with the Anti-Nazi League to turn-out tens of thousands of people in antiracist festivals that made being against fascism part of popular culture, doing so in a fun, engaging, and welcoming way. This is also the approach of today’s Pop Mob (Popular Mobilization) in Portland, Oregon, an organization that has succeeded on several occasions in turning out large numbers of people in part by creating a welcoming and safe place for new and uninitiated folks to come and take a stand. All this complements and backs up front-line fighters and those in bloc, which Pop Mob is explicit about. As Pop Mob spokesperson Effie Baum points out, “without the black bloc, we would not be safe out there because they are the ones who are protecting us from both the violence of the far right as well as the violence from the police, because they are the brave ones who put their bodies between us and those threats. So, the reason that we also have this big tent approach is because we do include that in our diversity of tactics. And I want folks … when they're out there, they will also see firsthand the truth, which is that they are being protected by people who are engaged in community defense and that it's not what they're seeing on TV.”


We can better win our battles with fascists in part by turning out far greater numbers than them. To do this well we need to reach out beyond those already convinced of the need for militant antifascism, going outside our scenes and comfort zones, having difficult conversations, developing politics with a wider group of people than are currently involved.


Examples of what this approach looks like on the ground here in the US is the broad-based antifascist mobilization against the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 that turned out thousands of people; the work in the Bay Area that saw 10,000 folks, including a huge black bloc, show up to confront the “No to Marxism” rally planned in Berkeley later that same month; and in Portland, in August, 2018 when well over a thousand people marched against Patriot Prayer and other fascists behind a well-organized black bloc of several hundred.


Always Be More of Us

The first time I physically confronted Nazis was in Minneapolis in the early 1990s. I was strolling through the streets of Uptown with two comrades I was just getting to know. Our afternoon was suddenly interrupted when a teenager ran up and said, “Hey K-Dog, you used to be a Baldie, right?” K-Dog responded, “I still am a Baldie!” Our young friend excitedly told us he was just hanging out on the train tracks when two older dudes showed him their swastika tattoos and told him to “tell his friends that they are back.” This was just after the Baldies, an antiracist skinhead crew that helped initiate Anti-Racist Action (ARA), had successfully kicked Nazi boneheads out of Minneapolis. K-Dog quickly rounded up a crew of twenty people and we headed to the train tracks. Scouts up ahead spotted the Nazis, shouting back to the rest of us. The Nazis high-tailed it up and off the tracks and back into the streets. We finally surrounded them in a grocery store parking lot; I had a half brick in my hand, and we backed them into the store.


In that moment, with everyday American life swirling all around us, I thought how strange this was: a running battle between us, a motley crew of anarchists, punks, antiracist skins, and disaffected youth versus a couple of scraggly older Nazis. I felt a connection to the historic struggle between antifascism and fascism that has flared up across the last century, mobilizing millions. But here we were, on this warm sunny afternoon, a few dozen of us with crude, improvised weapons in a grocery store parking lot, confronting Nazis while complacent America went about its business. That confrontation between a handful of antifascist militants and a couple of Nazis has now grown far larger. We need to adjust accordingly. The street fights that Anti-Racist Action once engaged in now play out on a national and international level.  These fights are no longer only between fascist and antifascist subcultures. They involve all of society.


Our task is to better relate to the larger working-class and other oppressed communities, listen to what they are also going through, develop solidarity, mutual aid, and common understandings, while building power together. We can crush the fascists with numbers, sharing a collectively generated vision of a new society, figuring out how we get there along the way. Our fight against fascism is political, against their politics and for ours. We need to better develop and clarify just what our politics are.


The ongoing discussions and debates amongst antifa, and in sympathetic aligned movements such as anarchism, Indigenous resistance, queer and trans liberation, and the environmental movement, in addition to fora such as this, need to spread amongst our co-workers, neighbors, friends, and family.


During that altercation in Minneapolis, those two disheveled Nazis briefly emerged through the automatic doors of the grocery store to show us their faces and yell, “The only reason you won is cause there’s more of you than us!” To which K-Dog immediately responded, “There’ll always be more of us than you!” And that’s what we should remember: there will always be more of us than them, but only if we out-organize them.


Paul O’Banion is an anarchist organizer. He was active in Minneapolis & New York in the 1990s and is a former member of the Love and Rage Revolutionary Anarchist Federation. O’Banion has organized in Portland for the last two decades, most recently helping found Pop Mob (Popular Mobilization). His Twitter is @Diggers1616

Related posts:

Understanding A22 PDX: discussion and analysis for the antifascist movements

Understanding A22 PDX: Three Responses

Understanding A22 PDX: Never Let the Nazis Have the Story! The Narrative Aspect of Conflict

Understanding A22 PDX: Broader implications for militant movements

Understanding A22 PDX: Response from a Comrade, "We Go Where They Go" as strategy for militant antifascism

Sep 15, 2021

Understanding A22 PDX: Response from a Comrade, "We Go Where They Go" as strategy for militant antifascism

A22 PDX. PB and antifascist confrontation. Photo via AP

by A Comrade

I largely agree with many of the evaluations that the decision to go and confront the fascists at Parkrose was poorly executed and handed the fascists a victory. A lot of other writeups have covered things I would have covered, but I have two additional points I’d like to make.

1. Some of the people critical of the bloc that went to Parkrose have stated that without that loss, the day would have been a certain victory. I am not fully convinced of this. Yes, you can point to this happening the previous year, but that does not mean it will play out the same way again. If the bloc hadn’t of shown up, some fascists very well might have been drunk/coked up and bored enough to go looking for a fight. They might have taken it out on marginalized people or folks who looked close enough to antifa to count. We’ve seen fascists do this before, and this is part of why “we go where they go.” They might have gone downtown after all. A few of them might have gone hunting and assassinated someone in a driveby. There are many ways it might have played out differently, many of which could still have played out with a defeat for our side. Pretending like sticking to the plan and staying downtown in the park would have resulted in a certain victory is dishonest.

2. Anti-Racist Action adopted the slogan “we go where they go—never let the fascists have the streets” for multiple reasons. One was that facing up to them in the street and depriving them of a victory was the best way to demoralize them, shatter their macho and superior self-image, and impede their future organizing. Decades of anti-fascism have shown this to be the best course. Second was to counter liberalism and take the political stances that a) ignoring them doesn’t make them go away and b) we can’t rely on the cops or state to protect us. We protect us. And third, it was to protect others. The presence of armed and dangerous fascists is an active threat to all sorts of people. Letting them roam freely is not an option we can allow.

That all said, that doesn’t mean run right up to the danger irresponsibly. There are plenty of ways the fascists could’ve been opposed in Parkrose that didn’t involve a straight-up confrontation, especially an outnumbered one. Sabotage. Hit-and-run tactics. Use your imagination. “Be like water” doesn’t just apply to avoiding police kettles, it can apply to hounding the fash too. Now, every situation needs to be analyzed on its own. Some of these tactics might have just provoked the fash, spurring them to caravan away or lash out at others. But if they felt isolated and vulnerable enough, they might’ve circled their wagons and then fled.

Perhaps most importantly — a confrontation or the tactics above may have not been the best way to go about it either. Simply monitoring the fash and having a strong enough presence in the vicinity to jump into action if needed may have been enough. This could have resulted in the same end result that the fash looked silly and did nothing that some people predicted would have happened otherwise, while still being able to confront them if the need arose or if a more tactically advantageous situation presented itself. We need to be able to improvise and adapt to situations quickly.

I don’t think the folks who went to Parkrose had the wrong idea to go out there. I do think the way it went down was unplanned, disorganized, and ended up in a demoralizing rout for us. We can do better. We will do better. We have to.

 

Related posts:

Understanding A22 PDX: discussion and analysis for the antifascist movements

Understanding A22 PDX: Three Responses

Understanding A22 PDX: Never Let the Nazis Have the Story! The Narrative Aspect of Conflict

Understanding A22 PDX: Broader implications for militant movements

There Will Always Be More Of Us: Antifascist Organizing

Sep 10, 2021

Understanding A22 PDX: Broader implications for militant movements

The following is a response by Don H. to the discussion. It goes beyond the specifics of PDX and looks more at the generalized meanings and risks of and for militant organizing, strategies and actions.

militant movements can have features that undermine its political base and contribute to its premature exhaustion. This potential is maximized by the very common tendency to justify actions and attitudes by treating any victims or complainants as political opponents and/or class enemies when that is not true or, at least, well before it has been convincingly established…

 

As the struggle becomes more intense, I think it becomes important to draw clear and operational lines between combatants and non-combatants. More crucially, it raises the need to actively work to recognize and limit any collateral damages that follow from the actions of our side – damages to bystanders and/or to fellow participants. I shouldn’t have to point out that such damages can’t be limited, if they are never acknowledged.

 

Broader implications for militant movements


Contribution by Don H.


I don’t have much to add on the specific points at issue in this discussion. However, I think some general issues lurking behind the discussion shouldn’t be lost as the immediate tactical questions lose their urgency.


I think the current movement confronts two important problems that must be dealt with simultaneously if there is any possibility to avoid a recurring mess of unproductive conflicts and contradictions.


A healthy and growing movement needs a leading edge characterized by a militant and systematic rejection and refusal of capitalist power and culture.  Such a movement also needs a popular base that sees the movement as generally representative of its interests and that replenishes and expands purposive participation in it. The development and defense of both aspects of the movement are essential for a viable struggle. However, the relationship between them is seldom simple and self-evident over any substantial time.


I hope you’ll tolerate a couple of points about how these dilemmas have been operative in my very long, but not particularly noteworthy, political life. They are not ordered by chronology or by relative significance and will remain a bit cryptic to protect the guilty.


As STO (Sojourner Truth Organization) was reaching the end of its rope in the early eighties, a number of us had become increasingly concerned with developing a challenge to the pacificism and legalism that had dominated much of the movement in its fairly precipitous decline since the early seventies. The dual focus of our specific political work – production organizing and political support for clandestine armed groupings in this country and internationally - each produced major pressures in this direction. However, starting in the early eighties we began to consciously develop approaches that emphasized confrontational direct action outside the parameters of legally acceptable dissent.


Some who had been associated with our political tendency saw this changed direction as crazed while others, less friendly, called it ‘macho assholeist’. Nevertheless, very gradually and not really in any important way as a consequence of anything we did, the general approach became more broadly accepted - first in antifascist organization and later in anti-globalization efforts. Now the popular legitimacy of mass illegality is increasingly evident in every popular upsurge in this country. After having lived through multiple decades when it was virtually absent, I can’t overemphasize the importance of this factor and this inclines me to the side of those that prioritize the protection and promotion of the leading edge of the struggle - even where it includes mistakes that are real and serious.


However, militant movements can have features that undermine its political base and contribute to its premature exhaustion. This potential is maximized by the very common tendency to justify actions and attitudes by treating any victims or complainants as political opponents and/or class enemies when that is not true or, at least, well before it has been convincingly established. I think of the FALN’s (Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional) Fraunces Tavern bombing, where the four casualties were pictured as Wall Street operatives when they were actually clerks; and a number of occasions in my experience where mistaken charges of agent or provocateur produced them from less single-minded and committed cadres.


As the struggle becomes more intense, I think it becomes important to draw clear and operational lines between combatants and non-combatants. More crucially, it raises the need to actively work to recognize and limit any collateral damages that follow from the actions of our side – damages to bystanders and/or to fellow participants. I shouldn’t have to point out that such damages can’t be limited, if they are never acknowledged. Proper handling of such issues requires some self-discipline in the leading edge groupings. More important and more difficult, it requires that these groupings are actually receptive to criticisms from outside their organizational boundaries.


In this context, I don’t agree with the view of the relationship between leading militant activists, ‘front-liners’, and the rest of the movement and its potential base – not to mention the rest of the world – that has been presented in various anonymous reports from the George Floyd actions in Portland, Twin Cities, and elsewhere that we have all seen. Along with some useful insights, these tend to discount the importance of strengthening the links between the social base and constituency of the struggle and its “front-liners”.


Consider some implications of such issues in a different historical period – the late sixties and early seventies - that arguably has similarities with the current context. Perhaps that situation was closer to ungovernable; with rebellions in the Black urban cores, Black worker uprisings in basic industry, widespread high school and college walkouts, insurgent elements in the military, draft refusal, etc; although the failed state characteristics and the questions of the legitimacy of the capitalist order were more submerged then than they are presently. In any case parallel problems with relationships between leading elements and mass constituencies were certainly evident then.


I was close to the side of it that involved the fragmenting of SDS and the emergence and quick decline of Weather, that, I think, provides important cautions for potential problems of the present. In the late sixties, and particularly in that arena of protest, the overall outlook of the mass movements had shifted very rapidly towards radicalism and revolution. For SDS there was a brief hesitation at a ‘Revolutionary Youth Movement’ that had some parallels to the black bloc phenomenon (although the over-riding importance of global anti-imperialism was a significant element of difference). Then, in a remarkably short time, sectors of RYM developed a ‘front-liners’ mentality with a degree of hubris that merits Gramsci’s ‘imbecilic self-sufficiency’ charge. This led to Weather’s ‘custeristic’ Days of Rage that began a process that in a very few months reduced its membership exponentially and transformed it into an ineffectual clandestine quasi-military formation. This removed an important segment of ‘front-liners’ and their immediate supporting periphery from active struggle. When Weather re-emerged a few years down the road, its politics had become indistinguishable from CP popular frontism. The internal critiques and splits that began promptly led to Prairie Fire and May 19th with their very different, although equally crippling, problems. I don’t want to push this analogy too far, but it’s important to be see how easily a struggle framework can internalize and militarize when a renewed appreciation of the objective difficulties of the struggle are produced by some tactical defeats. When that happens, first we get the shopworn ‘Better Fewer, But Better’ rationale and then the Anna Mae Aquash and Freddy Mendes type casualties and cases; then we get the lurch to the right and, ultimately, one or another form of incorporation marked with a flowering of what the Italians called the penetentis (sp).


I don’t mean any of this to understate the primary strategic problem; capitulating to a posited mass backwardness to justify a lowest common denominator strategy with tactics and ‘optics’ that won’t ‘alienate’ some illusory base. This approach usually metamorphosizes into some preferred pathway of the ‘liberal’ component of the structure of oppression. Its rejection is what is healthiest about the current scene.



Related posts:

Understanding A22 PDX: discussion and analysis for the antifascist movements

Understanding A22 PDX: Three Responses

Understanding A22 PDX: Never Let the Nazis Have the Story! The Narrative Aspect of Conflict

Understanding A22 PDX: Response from a Comrade, "We Go Where They Go" as strategy for militant antifascism

There Will Always Be More Of Us: Antifascist Organizing

Sep 7, 2021

Understanding A22 PDX: Never Let the Nazis Have the Story! The Narrative Aspect of Conflict

Proud Boys Rally at Delta Park, PDX in 2020. Photo from WaPo.com

The following is part of a series of responses to the events of August 22, 2001 (A22) in Portland, Oregon. They are part of the broader discussion surrounding A22 that we are highlighting. We support any and all genuine and honest discussion that is of use to our movements regardless of whether we agree with what is raised and put forward. We also understand that real debate can be sharp and at times raw. We will attempt to be conscious of this and as stated previously, a fundamental part of our guidelines are based on 

principled responses, not personal attacks or sectarian squabbles (or, for that matter, uncritical boosterism). We also ask that submissions take into consideration issues of movement security, remembering that both the fascists and the state will be searching for faultiness to divide our movements.  

We appreciate the responses we have received and look forward to those others working to contribute to this discussion. – 3WF 

*For additional articles please check Rose City Counter-Info who have also been doing good work in making their site a platform for discussion on A22 and antifascism.


Never Let the Nazis Have the Story!

The Narrative Aspect of Conflict

by Kristian Williams

On August 22, 2021, Portland saw yet another of its now-almost-routine street fights between Far Right and Far Left — roughly speaking, fascists and antifascists.

What should have been an easy victory for the Left turned instead into a total rout. The Left had won before the day even started, and then lost before the night fell.

The Right — Proud Boys, Three Percenters, and like-minded bad actors — had originally planned for a rally in downtown Portland, a spot clearly selected for maximum visibility and media exposure. Assorted antifascist forces organized a counter-protest for the same place and the same time, expecting but not exactly calling for conflict. In the days leading up to the event, the Far Right organizers did the math, decided that they didn't like the odds, and at the last minute moved their rally several miles to the east, to the desolate parking lot of a shuttered Kmart.[1]This, especially with their low numbers, made them look scared and weak, and a grimy parking lot in front of an extinct business served as a practical metaphor for their dead-ender ideology. Had the antifascists just stayed downtown, declared victory, and enjoyed the party, the narrative would almost certainly have been that hundreds of antifascists forced the Proud Boys out of downtown, leading them to hide in a vacant lot and cry.

Instead, a minority of militants — a couple dozen from a crowd of three or four hundred — left the main antifascist demonstration and went to attack the Right's rally. In short order, they were violently repelled, leading to an ignominious retreat. They abandoned two vehicles, which the fascists used as piñatas, and left behind the drivers, one of whom appears to have been fairly badly hurt. It was a debacle, by almost any standard.

This is one of those strange situations when history allows for an almost one-to-one comparison. About a year earlier, in September 2020, the last time the Proud Boys attempted a major incursion into Portland, a broad antifascist coalition had a rally in a populated and lively neighborhood, while the Proud Boys moved their demo to a remote part of the city. Almost a thousand people came to the antifascist event, and it went on for hours. About two hundred went to the Right's, and it lasted two hours or less. The antifascists had speakers and bands and managed to create a fun (or at least fun-like) atmosphere, despite the teams with automatic rifles standing guard. The Proud Boys moped around in a muddy park, looking desperately over-armored, and complaining about how Antifa didn't even show up. They looked ridiculous, weak, and basically unloved. Their rally was universally understood as a humiliating defeat.[2]

This year could have been a repeat of that, but even more so. The Right's numbers were smaller, their location was even more pathetic-seeming, and the sudden change of venue gave every appearance that they had been scared away from downtown. Instead, the narrative is "Antifa attacked and got their ass kicked" — which is exactly the narrative the Right wants.

Over the last few years the Right started using these confrontations as their main recruiting device. The image of these clashes is central to their propaganda, and an important element of their group identity and collective self-conception.[3]

To use these incidents in that way, they need to deploy two narratives in close sequence, a victim narrative and a victory narrative. In their victim fable, they are innocent patriots, just loving America and praying to God, and enjoying some old fashioned Constitutionally-protected free speech, when along come the intolerant goons of Antifa to violently attack anyone with whom they disagree. In the victory narrative, the bold, strong, resourceful, courageous heroes of the Proud Boys step forward to defend the freedom-loving patriots, vanquish the barbaric hordes of intolerant Antifas, and redeem their community, white masculinity, and/or America.[4]

The ill-fated black bloc offensive perfectly fed into this dual narrative. It produced a military defeat, and from the looks of it some people got pretty badly hurt. But what is far worse is that it handed the Right a political victory. It solidified their self-conception, gave them a perfect tool for recruiting, and amplified their propaganda points far outside of their creepy online echo-chambers.

The narrative dimension of conflict should not be treated as an afterthought or cynically dismissed as a matter of "public relations," "optics," or "respectability politics." In this sort of conflict, the control of the narrative is more important, and has more lasting effect, than the control of territory. We may hold or cede territory for a few hours or a few weeks, but the story that is constructed about that — not just victory or defeat, but the normative elements of right and wrong, heroic or cowardly, virtuous and vicious — can shape a conflict for years to come. The struggle for the narrative is the struggle for legitimacy, and legitimacy will determine almost everything else: recruiting, fundraising, alliances with other groups, the public's cooperation, and to some degree even the behavior of the press and the courts.

Of course, the narrative isn't everything that matters. But in this case, there was not even a trade-off. It is not like we won the battle but it looked bad on television. We handily lost the physical confrontation and it looked bad on television. It surely left the brawlers on the Far Right feeling more emboldened, and it makes it more likely that they will return — sooner rather than later, and in greater numbers. Naturally that is the opposite of what was intended.

Defending their decision to attack, one of the crews comprising that day's black bloc has composed a self-righteous and self-congratulatory communiqué entitled "We Went Where They Went."[5] This is an obvious reference to the first of Anti-Racist Action's Points of Unity: "We Go Where They Go. Whenever fascists are organizing or active in public, we're there. We don't believe in ignoring them. Never let the Nazis have the streets!"[6]

It is worth considering why this principle arose: The point of showing up where the Nazis are is to disrupt their organizing and interfere with their recruiting.[7] On August 22, that approach proved counter-productive and even self-defeating, in part because the Right's strategy has come to rely on these same confrontations.

This whole experience can serve as a cautionary tale about the dangers of elevating tactics to the level of principles. Street-fighting is a tactic. Sometimes it is the right one. More often it is not. Treating it as a principle makes us inflexible and predictable. We fail to adapt to new political realities, and we rule out other tactics before they even receive due consideration. It makes us less effective than we might otherwise be. Worse, it makes violent confrontation an end in itself, which can have a corrosive influence on the culture of the movement, and can obscure our ends even from ourselves. Once fighting has become the point, winning or losing become secondary considerations.

We can go where they go, but we should ask ourselves why we want to, and we should not be surprised by what we find when we get there.

Tough-sounding slogans will only take us so far, because (as Orwell put it) "sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield."[8]


Bio

Kristian Williams is an occasional contributor to Three Way Fight and the author of Gang Politics: Revolution, Repression, and Crime (forthcoming, AK Press).


[1] Tess Riski, "East Portland Proud Boys Rally Devolves into Street Violence with No Police in Sight," Willamette Week, August 22, 2021, https://www.wweek.com/news/city/2021/08/22/east-portland-proud-boys-rally-devolves-into-street-violence-with-no-police-in-sight/; Isabella Garcia, "Far-Right, Antifascist Protesters Fight in NE Portland; Police Refuse to Intervene," Portland Mercury, August 22, 2021, https://www.portlandmercury.com/blogtown/2021/08/22/36118630/far-right-antifascist-protesters-fight-in-ne-portland-police-refuse-to-intervene; and, "Shots Fired Near Downtown Protest, Dueling Demonstrators Clash Violently in NE Portland," Oregonian, August 23, 2021, https://www.oregonlive.com/portland/2021/08/demonstrators-congregate-at-portland-waterfront.html.

[2] Blair Stenvick and Wm. Steven Humphrey, "Proud Boys Come to Portland, Antifascists Counter-Demonstrate," Portland Mercury, September 26, 2020, https://www.portlandmercury.com/blogtown/2020/09/26/29082385/live-blog-proud-boys-come-to-portland-antifascists-counter-demonstrate; Maxine Bernstein, et al., "Portland Protests Bring Out Hundreds to Proud Boys, Opposing Demonstrations Saturday," Oregonian, September 29, 2020, https://www.oregonlive.com/portland/2020/09/portland-protests-bring-proud-boys-counter-demonstrators-saturday-live-updates.html; Ryan Haas, et al., "Hate-Group Rally Breaks Up in Portland, Turnout Far Below Expectations," OPB.org, September 26, 2020, https://www.opb.org/article/2020/09/26/live-updates-portland-under-state-of-emergency-as-hate-group-holds-rally/; and Zane Sparling, "Proud Boys Rally in Portland Ends, Smaller than Feared," Portland Tribune, September 26, 2020, https://pamplinmedia.com/pt/9-news/482137-388914-proud-boys-rally-in-portland-ends-smaller-than-feared.

[3] Shane Burley, "Alt-Right Gangs: A Q&A with Shannon Reid, co-author of Alt-Right Gangs: A Hazy Shade of White," Political Research Associates, December 16, 2020, https://www.politicalresearch.org/2020/12/16/alt-right-gangs.

[4] See: Laura Jedeed, "Making Monsters: Right-Wing Creation of the Liberal Enemy," B.A. Thesis (Reed College: History and Social Sciences, May 2019), https://laurajedeed.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Jedeed-Thesis.pdf.

[5] "We Went Where They Went – 8/11/21 Reportback," Rose City Counter-Info, August 25, 2021, https://rosecitycounterinfo.noblogs.org/2021/08/we-went-where-they-went-8-22-21-reportback.

[6] "The Anti-Racist Action Network's Four Points of Unity," in Confronting Fascism: Discussion Documents for a Militant Movement, by Don Hamerquist, et al. (Montréal: Kersplebedeb, 2017), 205.

[7] See, for example: Stanislav Vysotsky, American Antifa: The Tactics, Culture, and Practice of Militant Antifascism(Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2021), 95; and, Shane Burley, Fascism Today: What It Is and How to End It (Chico: AK Press, 2017), 257.

[8] George Orwell, "In Front of Your Nose," in The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, IV: In Front of Your Nose, 1945–1950, eds. Sonia Orwell and Ian Angus (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1968), 124.

Related posts:

Understanding A22 PDX: discussion and analysis for the antifascist movements

Understanding A22 PDX: Three Responses

Understanding A22 PDX: Broader implications for militant movements

Understanding A22 PDX: Response from a Comrade, "We Go Where They Go" as strategy for militant antifascism

There Will Always Be More Of Us: Antifascist Organizing

Sep 4, 2021

Understanding A22 PDX: Three Responses

Black Bloc and Proud Boys. PDX A22. Photo Jonathan Levinson / OPB
Antifascists face Proud Boys. A22 PDX.
Photo Jonathan Levinson / OPB

The following are three responses we received to the events of August 22, 2001 (A22) in Portland, Oregon. Three sets of voices, each with their own analysis. They are part of the broader discussion surrounding A22 that we are highlightling. These contributions do not represent the analysis or positions of Three Way Fight. However, we support any and all genuine and honest discussion that is of use to our movements regardless of whether we agree with what is raised and put forward. We also understand that real debate can be sharp and at times raw. We will attempt to be conscious of this and as stated previously, a fundamental part of our guidelines are based on 

principled responses, not personal attacks or sectarian squabbles (or, for that matter, uncritical boosterism). We also ask that submissions take into consideration issues of movement security, remembering that both the fascists and the state will be searching for faultiness to divide our movements.  

We appreciate the responses we have received and look forward to those others working to contribute to this discussion. – 3WF

 

*For additional articles please check Rose City Counter-Info who have also been doing good work in making their site a platform for discussion on A22 and antifascism.


Excerpts from three responses:

A small group in our community made last minute plans, to “meet fascists where they’re at”. This only sped up the time at which we would fight, and changed the controlled location to a location we were not familiar with and brought the fight to a marginalized neighborhood. While some made autonomous decisions to fight fascists at the new location (including authors of other reportbacks) many reported they only went to back up others, and they did not want to go. This is not autonomy. Fascists obtained footage of antifascists being injured, not working together, retreating, losing a battle for no reason when we could have won. Some battles are lost, the best one can do is brush it off. What this author finds disturbing is the refusal among some to accept what went wrong. If we cannot accept failings we cannot improve, we must improve to win. It is a necessity. - Response 1

Who can say whether we retreated because we were all afraid, or we were all afraid because we were retreating? Everyone in that Leftist crowd showed up to pick that fight, but they were each and all individually hoping that someone else among their number would win it for them, thus guaranteeing our failure. This is not a game. Don't pick fights you don't mean to win.  - Response 2

It's true, no one has any right to tell you what to do with yourself. Likewise, no one ever needs to work with you or trust your instincts ever again. Autonomy cuts both ways. It's not a "get out of jail free" card. Autonomy is about being absolutely responsible for one's one decisions. The choices one makes.  - Response 3



Response 1

 

One can have good praxis but poor use of tactics; unfortunately, they do not come hand in hand. “Meeting fascists where they are at” is usually good praxis, but not when better tactics are at play. This was such an occasion on 8/22/2021 in Portland, Oregon. Significant measures had been taken downtown to make the area around the waterfront ready for battle, and to keep the homeless neighbors at Chapman safe. While fascists had chosen to move back their location in fear to Parkrose, the plan sensibly remained the same. 

 

Two goals were established early on

  keep fascists out of downtown 

  Keep fascists from hurting Chapman residents, a continued target 

 

These goals were largely achieved when 

  fascists moved location 

  Chapman residents largely chose to move to hotels over the weekend 

 

The largest complaints raised on the day 

 Why just downtown? Parkrose is also Portland. Why aren’t we there? Downtown is a metaphorical win only 

  Why aren’t we “meeting fascists where they are”? This is a basic principle of antifascism 

  How did we know fascists would come downtown? 

- Parkrose has homeless and marginalized people too, and Chapman was no longer in 

danger. They needed protection. 

 

The goal of moving fascists out of downtown had already been accomplished: they moved away after attempting to rebrand. Fascists had already elected to leave downtown in fear. The majority of our houseless friends had chosen to relocate to hotels for 8/21, 8/22, and 8/23, to avoid attacks like 8/7. It seemed the larger goals of 8/22 had been accomplished before the day arrived. The plan was then for fascists to move from their location to downtown. Following their event they would arrive tired, likely drunk, and to a controlled environment, with as few possibilities for harm to the homeless as possible. Antifascists would be prepared for any early combatants, the group arriving together, or stragglers. All that was required was patience. 

 

Why just downtown: the downtown area has been fought over for years. This isn’t just a matter of tradition, it’s a well known playing field. Veteran antifascists know it well after all the skirmishes there, so do fresh faces after fed wars. It’s flat, there are known places to kettle fascists, most know the layout there best. Never underestimate home field advantage. 

 

Parkrose is also Portland: Of course it is. Drawing any potential street fight from Parkrose kept the area significantly safer than taking a half-baked battle plan there. Agitating a hornets nest around people is dangerous and requires risk benefit analysis. There were hundreds waiting to fight fascists in a controlled, mapped out area downtown. Parkrose was full of potential victims, when antifascists had control of downtown. 

 

We should meet fascists where they are: Fascism should always be addressed. Following the original plan did not mean we were allowing them to gather unaddressed. Using a simple (normally good praxis) phrase such as “meet fascists where they are” while ignoring ALL other factors is irresponsible and shows a lack of understanding surrounding tactics. “Meet fascists where they are” is usually the first phrase one learns as an antifascist, those who are shielding themselves behind this while refusing to acknowledge the shortcomings of their actions sound unseasoned and unable to think holistically.


When those who wanted to fight tried to gather support, they repeatedly told others, “All the bloc are going”. This was simply not true. To bolster their numbers this way was at best a potentially deadly error, and at worst manipulation. Bloc who attended reported feeling guilted into going. This makes the attendance that day largely coercion, and not autonomous. Those who wrote report backs made autonomous decisions, good for them. Autonomy is a keystone of our beliefs. But the people they guilted into the action with them were not. There weren’t enough people for this to be successful, there weren’t medics, there weren’t rides. This was a manipulative way to get people on board for a dangerous mission. When it became clear people weren’t going to verbally consent, the group simply walked away. Many started looking around in panic, unsure of what to do. I heard many say something to the effect of “they’ll all die if we don’t go.” This is not autonomy. 

 

The Parkrose area had immense support from medics and mutual aid, but made it sound like the area was incapable of defending or helping itself. Here is a summary from one mutual aid provider, “When the location was dropped, a bunch of us scrambled to get people to warn the camps asap. We had 6 cars go around to the 2 biggest camps off 122nd, which are to the north and south of their Kmart. The biggest one is the one to the south on the freeway ramp. Scouts went up, warned as many tents as possible, talked to RV owners and asked if they could position the RVs defensively to hide the camps a bit. That happened, then 4 people volunteered safe houses and safe yards for people to be treated in, just in case of any attack that required medical care to happen offsite. We also had 5 cars stationed around the camps in discreet spots, with walkies, keeping an eye out for any incoming chud attacks since the previous day and night they'd attacked old town residents and Chapman. Each of those 5 cars had medical supplies and people trained in basic medical care. There was one higher skill level medic who couldn't be out that day, but was willing to dispatch to anyone in need of higher level of care and lives in Park Rose so was no more than 5-10 mins away from either camp. Lastly, the motorcade had scouts sitting on the chud event and watched for trucks coming and going.” The community has been cared for, and a much safer space for this fight was waiting for them downtown. There was no need to face them there. One cannot hide behind “meet fascists where they are'' when every other principle of war goes against your decision. 

 

How do we know fascists would meet us downtown? When have fascists resisted a fight? They were geared up and ready to go. But unlike antifascists, they care about optics. They foamed at the mouth, waiting for us to go first. By going to a second location, it was completely clear the fascists had employed the exact same tactic, Sun Tzu’s 1-3. If we hadn’t given them what they wanted, they would’ve come to us. We know this from historical patterns and from intel. Instead, a small group displayed less ability to wait than fascists, a truly embarrassing thing to write. 

 

By the time that was over, the fascists got what they came for. They attacked, we retreated without covering each other. The exception being a paint on Tiny, there was no attack. No combat or aggressing. We abandoned that man in the truck. One must wonder why it was only press surrounding that truck, and there were no bloc there to help him? We had abandoned him. Why was our beloved driver’s van so badly attacked it now reads FAFO? One contributor to this communique saw the driver with no folks in bloc backing him up. He got surrounded and jumped when he tried to use the van as mobile cover for troops, to protect them from the paintballs. No one helped him. 

 

The main failure was the bastardization of “meet them where they are”. It was used to excuse any and all failure of tactics. “Well, everything went wrong, but at least we “met them where they were.”


The second largest issue was failing at patience. If a Proud Boy can outlast your ability to wait for an impeding battle, you need to question why you are so amped up for a battle. Are you addicted fighting? Do you only feel things when you’re engaged in risky behaviors? If any of those describe you, you put those feelings above the livelihood of your comrades. Because once your desire to fight comes before your comrades, you are bloodthirsty. You’re no better for our community than a wannabe cop. 

 

There were several mentions of the group splitting to hold downtown AND fight at 122nd, which is a tactical nightmare. Despite their “hands off” approach, cops still swarmed. I saw no indication that folks had gone camera hunting days before the action. Theoretically, one would end up in a car with someone you did not know. What if it were a UC or an undercover fash filmer? 

 

Summation: A small group in our community made last minute plans, to “meet fascists where they’re at”. This only sped up the time at which we would fight, and changed the controlled location to a location we were not familiar with and brought the fight to a marginalized neighborhood. While some made autonomous decisions to fight fascists at the new location (including authors of other reportbacks) many reported they only went to back up others, and they did not want to go. This is not autonomy. Fascists obtained footage of antifascists being injured, not working together, retreating, losing a battle for no reason when we could have won. Some battles are lost, the best one can do is brush it off. What this author finds disturbing is the refusal among some to accept what went wrong. If we cannot accept failings we cannot improve, we must improve to win. It is a necessity. 

 

MUTUAL AID AT 122nd 

 

When the location was dropped, MA immediately acted. 6 cars moved to several encampments. Scouts went up, warned as many tents as possible, talked to RV owners and asked if they could position the RVs defensively to hide the camps a bit. That happened, then 4 people volunteered safe houses and safe yards for people to be treated in, in case of any attack that required medical care offsite. 

 

5 cars stationed around the camps in discreet spots, with walkies.


All 5 cars had medical supplies and people trained in basic medical care. One higher skill level medic was willing to dispatch to anyone in need of higher level of care in Park Rose was no more than 5-10 mins away from either camp. Motorcade had scouts sitting on the event. 

 

******************************************************************************

 

Response 2

 

Well, we could complain some more about the intangible stuff, like the way we gave the world footage of us assaulting a journalist and calling her "little slut" or how we gave the chuds plausibility to claim that we came 100s of blocks to pick on their peaceful "Summer of Love" gathering and then they kicked our asses, or that we shot fireworks at a gas station in a poorer neighborhood during fire season, but let's not. 

 

Let’s talk about streetfights. 

 

In order to have this conversation constructively, we are going to agree to check our macho bullshit at the door, and, because violence is inherently difficult and dangerous, we will avoid glorifying it if we can. Well-adjusted people in healthy societies generally try to avoid violence because violence is always traumatic, one way or the other. 

 

Antifascists, unfortunately, must surrender this luxury. The relationship between fascism and violence is a perfect one. They cannot be separated. Fascists *always* attack anyone they perceive as Other, in accordance with whatever cultural prejudices they enshrine. These attacks cannot be ignored or "loved" away. Turning the other cheek to a fascist is literally just presenting a fresh target. History proves this time and again. This means that in order to be effectively antifascist, an antifascist society must be prepared to engage in violence effectively enough to protect themselves and their communities AND to punish the aggressors enough to discourage fascists from continuing to rally and carry out their assaults. Of course, this means practice. 

 

The hard truth is: we must have sufficient numbers of capable warriors at all times. There really is no choice here. 

 

Historically, the Left struggles with this requisite. We have a reputation for being relatively wimpy. A good deal of that rep is nothing more than classic fascist propaganda, but every group of antifascists has to be honest with ourselves about what we are (and are not) capable of, or we will repeat disastrous engagements like the one we saw at Parkrose in Portland on 8-22-21. 

Everyone knows we failed to beat the fash at Parkrose, but not everyone knows just how complete that retreat really was. We turned and fled from the fascists while we had at least 

comparable numbers to theirs. They were tired, drunk, and fighting literally uphill. The first two “reportbacks” about the Parkrose action released by PNWYLF misrepresent these facts in an apparent effort to self-soothe and downplay the seriousness of this situation. I don't give a damn about shaming them, but we need to keep it real. We can't learn from mistakes that we don't admit to making. 

 

We have our occasional bruisers on the Left, of course, but, by and large, our natural inclusivity and healthier views on violence mean we have a lower concentration of competent brawlers than the fash, a fact amplified because they explicitly select violent people. We tend to treat violence as a distasteful emergency resort rather than an essential tool that needs to be maintained in order to function. In reality, it is both. Any antifascist for whom it is possible should be actively involved in their own growth as a competent warrior. 

 

A comrade who was at the Parkrose action described a moment as follows: "Someone ... called out ‘Why are we retreating? Why are we retreating?!’ Someone else responded ‘Because they’re scary!’ ”. 

 

Firstly, as noted in one of the “reportbacks” from the local leftists who are defending the Parkrose Action, fighting is scary. It’s frightening to be confronted by a mob armed with mop handles and bear mace. That goes double if you’ve never been in a fight before, which is why, and I can’t stress this enough: Don’t let your first fight be against the fascists. 

 

This is such an obvious piece of advice that I almost can’t believe it has to be said. If you are “going where the fascists are” in order to fight them, perhaps you should have some goddamn practice at fighting. The more you practice, the less afraid you’ll be. 

 

Training with live partners (sparring is ESSENTIAL —avoid classes that do not offer it) will help to keep you from succumbing to an adrenaline brainscramble when it matters. 

 

The next thing to discuss is gear. Ours was clearly insufficient for that Parkrose engagement, which is part of why we ended up with no real strategy. 

 

As earth's most crafty apes, we've deployed devices on battlefields for literal ages, and every ongoing struggle is an arms race unto itself. 

 

Enemy has paintball guns? We should have shields. Enemy has attack vehicles? We should have spike strips or caltrops. Enemy has cans of bear mace? We could spray their own masks 

with cloying agents (the paint sprayers at Parkrose were my favorite part; absolutely ingenious) to disable them, discouraged them from its use. 

 

It is imperative to meet our opponents with appropriate gear, but it is vital to be proficient with it because —if you think about it— it's gear that determines the way any given showdown will GO down, second only to headcount. 

 

Combat gear's functions beget combat's form. 

 

Loadouts require planning. We are usually pretty good about this, but, in keeping with the theme of this section, we don't practice enough with our gear, which hamstrings our efficiency. Remember watching single officers rupture shield walls in Portland without even trying? We had excellent shields, but piss-poor experience with them, which added "liability" to the list of their qualities. Let me explain. 

 

Any gear that we deploy (from actual weapons all the way down to a simple, all-black outfit) is regarded as an escalation on our part. This is true for the authorities, the enemy, and their sizable shared demographic. It will be used to justify greater uses of force against us, both physically and legally. This is indisputable. So, if you are taking gear out there that you can't use with skill, you expose yourself and your comrades to unnecessary risk. 

 

The last thing I want to talk about is the most important, and it is not a smooth swallow, so let's speak plainly: what we witnessed at Parkrose was the intersection of the Butterfly Effect and the Bystander Effect, and it's a real chicken/egg conundrum, to boot.


Who can say whether we retreated because we were all afraid, or we were all afraid because we were retreating? Everyone in that Leftist crowd showed up to pick that fight, but they were each and all individually hoping that someone else among their number would win it for them, thus guaranteeing our failure. 

 

This is not a game. Don't pick fights you don't mean to win.

 

To sum it up: we need more competent warriors, and we need to be smarter about how we use them. 

 

Take lessons. Train with your Action Groups regularly, even if you are "only" in a supporting role. A group that can effectively fight together is indispensable. Someone said once, "the strength of the wolf isn't the fang —it's the pack." I think about that often. 

 

Take it seriously. At least one person's safety will depend on it, and that's yours. 

 

Avoid martial training that does not teach you how to go on the attack in addition to defensive techniques. Waiting for the enemy to throw that one punch that you learned how to counter doesn't cut it. 

 

Don’t just take self-defense lessons; learn to fight. 

 

We keep us safe. 

 

******************************************************************************

 

Response 3

 

The largest source of contention right now is about tactics, and the use and abuse of radical slogans as a substitute for it. 

 

Tactics are easy enough. Warfare, as espoused by many of history's greatest military leaders, is one of constant ebb and flow. The enemy advances, we retreat, they move, we follow, they rest, we attack. Context determines the appropriate stratagem to use. There is no guarantee that one's actions will work, since the art of war is appropriately called an art, and it requires some degree of artistry and guesswork.

 

The results of said tactics though, are another issue entirely. 

 

Consequences are immune to one's own theoretical predilections. What sounded good on paper, has either performed admirably, or has failed utterly in application. 

 

In this, we can learn something. But only if we look honestly at ourselves, our choices and the consequences of said choices. 

 

But this is where the issue of radical sloganeering comes in. It is being used as a substitute for actual strategy and tactical knowhow, with some folx twisting the words "Autonomy" and "We go where they go" into something like a magical spell. 

 

They hope, by invoking these words, whatever problems may of occurred due to their poor planning and foresight, and whatever harm they've unwittingly done to the movement and their comrades, will just... magically... disappear. 

 

Scars and terror, though, are not easily erased, nor does mouthing radical jargon do anything to assuage those who felt betrayed by their comrades' impulsivity and recklessness. 

 

It's true, no one has any right to tell you what to do with yourself.


Likewise, no one ever needs to work with you or trust your instincts ever again. 

 

Autonomy cuts both ways. It's not a "get out of jail free" card. Autonomy is about being absolutely responsible for one's one decisions. The choices one makes. 

 

Autonomy also means being self-sufficient, which, obviously, was NOT the case 

If one was so “autonomous,” why was there a call for more bodies? Why expect others to show up to finish a fight that you started, away from everyone else? Why not do it yourself? 

 

This sounds like dependency. 

 

And the Evac crews, the medics, all the others who rushed in after hearing folx left to confront the fash by themselves, they certainly didn't come because they were making an autonomous decision. 

 

Most of them followed because they felt compelled to save their comrades from certain doom. This is coercion. 

 

In being "autonomous," some folx were robbed of making their own independent decisions and were forced into playing backup for folx who ultimately abandoned them to their enemies. 

 

People obsessed with “community defense” left their own community members behind, defenseless, and alone. 

 

"But we had to! Shit happens! We must go where they go!" 

 

Do we? Do we need to meet them on their own terms? Could we have enticed them to us? Do you honestly think that the people who coined the phrase “We go where they go” had in mind that folx walk deliberately into a quagmire with no planning at all and with no concern for the fallout? Could it be possible that “We go where they go” involves more than just guts, pluck, and courage, but knowing HOW to confront your enemy in the most damaging way possible, and with the least amount of injury to your side? 

 

It’s like how some treat the "St. Paul Principles" like a holy text, to be followed in every single instance without deviation, and like most holy texts, it is often perverted to suit the needs of cynical opportunists or naive fledglings who twist phrases like “Diversity of Tactics!” to justify window-washing or chalking sidewalks. 

 

In the hands of fools or monsters, even good principles can be used for ill. 

 

Luckily, not only were the “St Paul Principles” supposed to serve a temporary need, but they were meant to be improved upon, to serve as a guide, not a tabernacle.

 

Likewise, when folx spout “We go where they go” to actually mean rushing into the fashs' new location, a poorly scouted one, changed at the very last minute, and done so for the explicit purpose of luring antifascists to them on terrain where they held the advantage... maybe, just maybe... it would've been wiser to wait out the fash, test their patience, frustrate their resolve, and have them come to us. 

 

I know. How utterly blasphemous. ***** 

 

Tactics only derive their appropriateness from context, and the results thereof. While the Parkrose folx may be right that the DT folx depended on counterfactuals for their plan to work (“If only we all stayed here, we could've been way more successful”), the consequences of what DID happen at Parkrose speak for themselves. 

 

There is no justifying what happened there. There are only empty words, devoid of substance, and several communiques written to pull the wool over your eyes.

Related posts:

Understanding A22 PDX: discussion and analysis for the antifascist movements

Understanding A22 PDX: Never Let the Nazis Have the Story! The Narrative Aspect of Conflict

Understanding A22 PDX: Broader implications for militant movements

Understanding A22 PDX: Response from a Comrade, "We Go Where They Go" as strategy for militant antifascism

There Will Always Be More Of Us: Antifascist Organizing