The demonization of #antifa as a political strategy of Trumpism derives from a few clear right-wing ideological traditions: US anti-communism, anti-Semitic conspiracy theory, and classical fascism. This mega-long thread will trace the anti-communist or Red Scare portion.
The Far Right has been justifying its own horrible behavior by attempting to portray the Left as even worse for a very long time. Much like today, this idea has been used to excuse political repression and extermination tactics.
Leftist evil has taken many shapes in the right imagination. But the antifa-BLM chimera looks an awful lot like the communist-civil rights one. Segregationists used the idea of a nefarious communist plot to delegitimize the Civil Rights Movement.
Being anti-communist sounds a lot more wholesome than just being plain old racist. How anti-communism in conservatism developed--and was deployed at social justice movements past-- is important to understanding where we are today.
The first Red Scare (1917-20) aimed to deport leftist immigrants esp. Italians, Jews, & Eastern Europeans. This was the climate when J.Edgar Hoover first joined the FBI & doubtless shaped his worldview & later anti-left repressive activities aimed at Civil Rights activists.
Anti-communism has long been tied to anti-Semitism and Nativism. The Red Scare was charged by hostility to immigration, particularly against Jews fleeing anti-Semitism in Europe. This is seen in modern conspiracy theory ie QANON, “the globalists”, and Soros funding myths
Post-WW2 anti-Communism ramped up in the US right. FDR had been a popular president with democratic socialist policies. The US had fought against the farthest right politic, fascism, allied with the Soviet Union, literal Communists. Wealthy conservatives got nervous.
Reverse victimhood is now an artform in right media. But modern talking points re: the liberal press and left academia existed in the 40s & 50s. Marxists were portrayed as controlling these venues, which justified wealthy conservatives investing in “countermeasures”.
McCarthy spearheaded the effort to route out communists for treason. In addition to the famous Red Scare, he also persecuted many LGBTQ+ ppl in the Lavender Scare. This was ended via the Supreme Court under Earl Warren. There are stylistic similarities between McCarthy & Trump.
JBS founder Robert Welch called the civil rights movement a communist plot to create a “Soviet Negro Republic” in the South, with Martin Luther King Jr. as president. The conflation of communism and the NAACP is typical of conservatives’ racism thinly masked by red-baiting.
William F. Buckley said that “advanced” whites in the South were justified in taking “such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally.” His magazine, National Review, said that the civil rights movement was inspired, infiltrated, & composed of communists.
National Review even called MLK Jr. the “source of violence in others”. By casting civil rights activists as part of an international communist conspiracy, segregationists aimed for support of the broader right base. It worked.
In ’64 the vast majority of conservatives opposed the Civil Rights Act’s passage on the grounds that the “mobocratic” and “unruly” civil rights agitators were actually advocating for socialism. Compare this to right’s coding of #BLM today.
George Wallace, the segregationist governor of Alabama deployed this rhetoric to denounce the “communists,” “radicals,” and “agitators” in the civil rights movement. Of course he was just against Black ppl having rights.
It is importance to note that while aforementioned racist Republicans were espousing these ideas with some pretense at respectability, insurgent white supremacists such as the KKK were carrying out acts of terror and murder to enforce them.
In the 70s and 80s the religious right arose- cultural communism ie feminism and homosexuality became central. This formed into “Cultural Marxism” and the “Cultural War” important themes post-Cold War. Tying gender subversion and communism is a repeated motif.
This thread can only give a select summary, but this Red Scare tactic has clearly been resurrected with a vengeance to target BLM, antifa, and left resistance to Trump. The left should stand strong in solidarity against this narrative because:
3. IT DIVIDES THE LEFT. This is something we need to repeatedly emphasize to progressives. We need a broad, diverse left coalition to defeat the tide of fascism. Good protestor/ bad protestor is an old ass trick. (Plz let Gov Brown know.)
5. It seeks creates a false equivalency as “communist” is at least as loaded a word as “fascist” in the US. So it’s trying to reverse the convo from being about their fascism & racism.
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