[Marxism] Anarchists Respond to Trump’s Inauguration, by Any Means Necessary

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Feb 3 09:20:06 MST 2017

NY Times, Feb. 3 2017
Anarchists Respond to Trump’s Inauguration, by Any Means Necessary

The videotaped sucker punch that staggered the white nationalist Richard 
Spencer on Inauguration Day quickly inspired mockery on social media. 
But it echoed loudly in an escalating confrontation between extreme ends 
of the political spectrum.

With far-right groups edging into the mainstream with the rise of 
President Trump, self-described anti-fascists and anarchists are vowing 
to confront them at every turn, and by any means necessary — including 

In Berkeley, Calif., on Wednesday night, masked protesters set fires, 
smashed windows and stormed buildings on the campus of the University of 
California to shut down a speech by Milo Yiannopoulos, an inflammatory 
Breitbart News editor and a right-wing provocateur already barred from 
Twitter. Five people were injured, administrators canceled the event, 
and the university police locked down the campus for hours.

That followed a bloody melee in Seattle on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, 
when black-clad demonstrators — their faces concealed to minimize the 
risk of arrest — tried to prevent a speech by Mr. Yiannopoulos at the 
University of Washington, and a 34-year-old anti-fascist was shot and 
seriously wounded by a supporter of Mr. Yiannopoulos.

The outbreaks of destruction and violence since Mr. Trump’s inauguration 
have earned contempt from Republicans — including Trump supporters who 
say it is exactly why they voted for his promises of law and order — and 
condemnation from Democrats like Berkeley’s mayor, Jesse Arreguín. He 
called Wednesday’s display “contrary to progressive values” and said it 
“provided the ultranationalist far right exactly the images they want” 
to try to discredit peaceful protesters of Mr. Trump’s policies.

But anarchists and anti-fascists, who often make up a small but 
disproportionately attention-getting portion of protesters, defend the 
mayhem they create as a necessary response to an emergency.

“Yes, what the black bloc did last night was destructive to property,” 
Eric Laursen, a writer in Massachusetts who has helped publicize 
anarchist protests, said, using another name for the black-clad 
demonstrators. “But do you just let someone like Milo go wherever he 
wants and spread his hate? That kind of argument can devolve into ‘just 
sit on your hands and wait for it to pass.’ And it doesn’t.”

Anarchists also say their recent efforts have been wildly successful, 
both by focusing attention on their most urgent argument — that Mr. 
Trump poses a fascist threat — and by enticing others to join their 

“The number of people who have been showing up to meetings, the number 
of meetings, and the number of already-evolving plans for future actions 
is through the roof,” Legba Carrefour, who helped organize the so-called 
Disrupt J20 protests on Inauguration Day in Washington, said in an 

“Gained 1,000 followers in the last week,” trumpeted @NYCAntifa, an 
anti-fascist Twitter account in New York, on Jan. 24. “Pretty crazy for 
us as we’ve been active for many years with minimal attention. SMASH 

The movement even claims to be finding adherents far afield of major 
population centers. A participant in CrimethInc, a decades-old anarchist 
network, pointed to rising attendance at its meetings and activity 
cropping up in new places like Omaha.

“The Left ignores us. The Right demonizes us,” the anarchist website 
It’s Going Down boasted on Twitter. “Everyday we grow stronger.”

Little known to practitioners of mainstream American politics, militant 
anti-fascists make up a secretive culture closely associated with 
anarchists. Both reject social hierarchies as undemocratic and eschew 
the political parties as hopelessly corrupt, according to interviews 
with a dozen anarchists around the country. While some anarchists 
espouse nonviolence, others view property damage and even physical 
attacks on the far right as important tactics.

While extreme right-wing groups have been enthusiastic supporters of Mr. 
Trump, anti-fascists express deep disdain for the Democratic Party. And 
it is mutual, by and large: They amount to the left’s unwanted 
revolutionary stepchild, disowned for their tactics and ideology by all 
but the most radical politicians.

Anarchists came to the fore in 1999, when they mounted a huge 
demonstration in Seattle against the World Trade Organization, which 
they denounce — along with Nafta and other free-trade pacts — as a 
plutocratic back-room group that exploits the poor. Enthusiasm for the 
movement dipped after the election of President Barack Obama. But it 
revived as they played a role in some of the most consequential protests 
during his two terms, starting Occupy Wall Street and serving as foot 
soldiers in demonstrations against the Dakota Access Pipeline at 
Standing Rock in North Dakota and in Black Lives Matter protests in 
Ferguson, Mo., and elsewhere.

“We’ve had an enormous cultural and political impact,” said David 
Graeber, a professor at the London School of Economics who helped 
organize the Occupy protests and has been credited with coining its “we 
are the 99 percent” slogan. He said the movement had elevated income 
inequality to the top of the Democratic political agenda, despite not 
electing anyone or enacting any legislation.

But he said Mr. Trump’s victory had proved that anarchists’ diagnosis of 
society’s ills was correct.

“We tried to warn you, with Occupy,” Dr. Graeber said. “We understood 
that people were sick of the political system, which is fundamentally 
corrupt. People want something radically different.”

Mr. Trump’s tirades against trade deals, globalization and a Washington 
elite he views as corrupt mirror arguments that anarchists have been 
making for decades. But his claim that he alone can fix America’s 
problems flies in the face of anarchists’ conviction that only direct 
action by ordinary people can produce a fair system.

“Fascism fetishizes having a strong leader who is decisive and tells 
everyone what to do,” Mr. Laursen, the writer, said. “That’s what we are 
seeing with Trump.”

Fueled in part by Mr. Trump’s political success, violent clashes between 
the far right and far left erupted several times during the presidential 
campaign. In Anaheim, Calif., last February, three people were stabbed 
in a brawl after anti-fascists disrupted a Ku Klux Klan rally. And in 
Sacramento in June, at least five people were stabbed and eight wounded 
when hundreds of counterprotesters, including anti-fascists, clashed 
with skinheads at a rally.

But the confrontations seemed to shift into a new gear on the eve of Mr. 
Trump’s inauguration. On Jan. 19, anti-fascists tried to block the 
entrance to the “DeploraBall,” a party for Trump supporters. The next 
day, 230 people were arrested after anarchists dressed in black broke 
the windows of a bank with baseball bats and set a limousine on fire. 
(Mr. Spencer, the white nationalist, whose assailant was not arrested, 
was not the only person struck: A videographer was struck in the chest 
with a flagpole — he was unharmed — as he tried to interview marching 
anarchists about what the word “community” meant to them.)

One of those arrested, a self-described anarchist who insisted on 
anonymity to avoid aiding in his own prosecution, said the goal of the 
protests — to get television stations to cut away from the inauguration, 
even for a moment — had been met.

“Certainly, it has brought more attention to people who were against 
Trump and what he stands for,” the man said by telephone.

The question now is whether anarchists’ efforts against Mr. Trump — 
whether merely colorful and spirited, or lawless and potentially lethal 
— will earn their fringe movement a bigger presence in the battle of 
ideas in years to come.

“It’s true that a lot of people who consider themselves liberals or 
progressives still cling to the idea that you can effect social and 
economic change in the context of the state, through electoral 
politics,” Mr. Laursen said. “But more and more, it is going to become 
necessary for people on the left to think like anarchists if they are 
going to get anywhere.”

If the Berkeley disturbances have invited widespread denunciations, the 
on-camera punch of Mr. Spencer inflamed emotions on both the left and 
the right wing. Mr. Spencer has offered a reward for anyone who can 
identify his attacker, who wore the telltale clothing and face-covering 
of the anarchist “black bloc.” But anarchists in Philadelphia have 
already begun raising funds for the man’s legal defense should he ever 
be caught.

Under the hashtag #PunchRichardSpencerAgain, anti-fascists and 
anarchists across the country are vowing to continue the fight. “May all 
your punches hit Nazis,” read a headline on It’s Going Down on Sunday.

A few days earlier, the website gleefully announced on Twitter that Mr. 
Spencer was planning a tour of college campuses, adding, “Everyone will 
get their chance!”

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