Antifa Makes Its Move | Opinion

Antifa has become famous for rioting in the streets and setting police cruisers on fire, but behind the scenes, the left-wing activist organization has done the unthinkable: establish political power in major American cities.

The media has long provided cover for Antifa, perpetuating the myth that "Antifa is an idea, not an organization" and playing the childish semantic game that "Antifa only means standing against fascism." But the truth is that Antifa is not only real, but has advanced a sophisticated three-part strategy to move the country towards its political program of anarcho-socialism. The plan goes like this: First, create chaos at the national level through identity politics-fueled protests, riots and civil unrest. Second, quietly elect sympathetic officials to local councils in America's most progressive cities. And third, stamp out dissent through intimidation and build political power from the bottom up.

At this point, most Americans have come to understand Antifa's role in street demonstrations and violent protests. But Antifa has already advanced to the second stage of its strategic plan and established itself as a substantive political power in major American cities. As journalist Andy Ngo has reported, Antifa functions as the paramilitary wing of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), which has expanded to 70,000 dues-paying members nationwide and has won local council elections in cities such as Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle and New York City. The members of the DSA and Antifa often overlap in local "affinity groups" and, last year, the DSA formalized its support for Antifa by voting to "[institutionalize] the fight against fascism as an official DSA initiative," despite concerns from some members that it might "cause negative legal and safety consequences for the DSA."

In recent months, as riots consumed dozens of American cities, some progressive political leaders have turned their support for Antifa from latent to explicit. In Minneapolis, City Councilman Jeremiah Ellison openly declared his allegiance to the "anti-fascists," even as the group's rioters burned down entire blocks of his city and as President Donald Trump denounced the movement as a "terrorist organization." In Seattle, City Councilwoman Teresa Mosqueda dressed up her newborn baby in an Antifa onesie and told followers on social media that you have to "start 'em early" in the world of radical political activism.

Even more dangerously, some city councils have begun to implement the policy agenda of the DSA-Antifa alliance. Ellison and his associates on the Minneapolis City Council voted to "abolish the police" citywide, which they must know will enable the kind of Antifa-dominated street violence that has been seen in Portland, Oregon and, more recently, in Seattle's so-called "Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone."

So-called "Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone" in Seattle
So-called "Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone" in Seattle David Ryder/Getty Images

For their part, Mosqueda and her Seattle City Council colleague Kshama Sawant rallied behind violent protestors and hailed Antifa's armed takeover of the six-block autonomous zone as a "victory" against "the militarized police force of the political establishment and the capitalist state." Both have vowed to cut police funding by 50 percent and support a plan to redirect $100 million in city funding to "community-based programs"—which would doubtlessly include funding for some of the same activist organizations that are leading the current protests.

What happens to citizens who resist the takeover of local politics by Antifa activists? Violence, threats and intimidation. In Portland, journalist Andy Ngo has been the victim of a years-long campaign to silence his reporting on Antifa. In the Seattle municipal elections last year, when conservative candidate Ari Hoffman ran against DSA candidate Tammy Morales, Antifa-affiliated activists sent death threats and posed as neo-Nazis on the website 8Chan to encourage a campaign of anti-Semitic intimidation against him. In response to my own reporting on left-wing politics, Antifa supporters have published my home address, followed my movements around the city and even posted threatening flyers around the school of my oldest child.

Unless a higher authority steps in and federal law enforcement takes the threat of left-wing political violence as seriously as right-wing political violence, Antifa's malign influence will continue to expand. Be forewarned: As we have seen on a small scale with the "Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone," if the radical activists of the Left succeed in abolishing the police, prisons and courts, Antifa paramilitaries will be the last men standing—and they cannot be trusted.

Christopher F. Rufo is the director of the Discovery Institute's Center on Wealth & Poverty.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.