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The right to protest can be stripped from us if we aren't careful

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In the Oct. 5 issue of New Times, Robert Cuddy had an opinion piece titled, "A theory about violent protesters." He develops many thoughts that were quite perceptive, but I have to at least partially disagree with his central premise that black costumed and sometimes violent Antifa protesters against the far right/fascist right are probably or at least very likely organized by the far right in possible combination with government agents/police and other dirty tricksters. He states very correctly that this kind of thing has been done before in this country by the FBI, various police departments, and, I would add, other quasi "official"/quasi private right-wing goons and provocateurs like Nixon's "Plumbers." Bob also states correctly, and I think this is mostly what's going on, that often the right-wing/police agent/provocateur elements infiltrate groups that are genuinely idealistic (like I believe Antifa largely is), but that are also tactically and strategically ignorant and who believe that dramatic, violent confrontations are the best way to inspire themselves and others, gather large anti-fascist forces, and defeat the neo-fascists.

The infiltrators, pretending to be dedicated militants, then push the groups to do even more extreme actions than they already would do and so create very violent clashes that give the whole anti-rightist movement a bad name and image, give the fascistic rightists a claim of victimhood and "self-defense" for their own violence, and allow the police, very often largely sympathetic with the ultra rightists (sorry, but it's true in my experience), an excuse to break leftist heads and make mass arrests. The governmental levels (and universities) then have a green light to enact repressive anti-protester laws and measures and make all progressive organizing and mobilizing more difficult.

So I urge Antifa folks and other like-minded forces to think about these things and move away from adventurist, ultra-left actions. I urge everyone to understand the lessons drawn by Bob Cuddy and myself and to be aware of what's going on around them at mass demonstrations. Antifa people can become valuable defenders of mass progressive movements and their mobilizations by learning defensive tactics against attack by fascists and racists while avoiding pushing for offense from the get-go and being provoked by over zealous members of their own number, who might very well not be members of their own number at all.

There may well come a day when actual combat against fascists and racists will be the order of the day and will then clearly be self-defense by the people to defend—and extend—their rights. But this is not that time. The trick to being both a wise and a courageous activist and leader is to know the difference. Read Sun Tzu, "The Art of War." If and when the day comes for it, old '60s radicals like Bob Cuddy, Tom Fulks, and myself will likely be there with you—if we can still walk ...

Jim Griffin

San Luis Obispo


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