Boxing is considered violent in the US

Antifa in the USA: Boxing hardly helps

»Antifa« is on everyone's lips again in the USA - at least since the tragic events in Charlottesville, Virginia in August, when a right-wing radical murdered the anti-fascist activist Heather Heyer. President Trump also commented on the issue, counting the Antifa among the "old-left" that was just as violent as the right. "There are good people on both sides," he said of the Charlottesville incident.

Even many Republicans were shocked, and Trump was also clearly criticized in the media. But just two weeks later, the Washington Post headlined, "Yes, Antifa is the moral equivalent of neo-Nazis." And Nancy Pelosi, a Democratic leader, condemned the "violent acts of the people who call themselves Antifa" at the same time she called for strict law enforcement. What happened?

After Charlottesville, large counter-demonstrations in Boston and San Francisco had successfully prevented some tiny right-wing groups from demonstrating. The same thing had happened in the notoriously left-wing liberal California university town of Berkeley: a small group of Trump supporters wanted to demonstrate "Against Marxism" there; this was prevented by thousands of counter-demonstrators.

There was also a small faction of the "black bloc" that sought direct confrontation. On TV it was then to be seen how Antifas stepped together on a defenseless Trump supporter lying on the ground. Journalists were also attacked. One of them described in the (rather liberal) magazine »New Republic« how young activists threatened him with beatings and then stole and destroyed his camera. With that, the Antifa had lost the sympathy of the media public. Even the comedian Trevor Noah made fun of the Antifa in the »Daily Show«, which is so influential among left-wing liberals, and called it »vegan ISIS«.

The advocates of the Antifa don't seem to care - not even surprising. The liberal politics of good manners cannot be relied on when the going gets tough. This is what the author Natascha Lennard argued in the left-wing magazine "The Nation" shortly after the Berkeley incident. The toothless liberalism, which puts the right to free opinion over "social justice", was finally embarrassed in Charlottesville, because "the extreme right has shown beyond doubt that they are enemies, not political interlocutors," said Lennard.

Ever since these types of violent incidents have accumulated since Trump's election, there has been an increasing "debate on violence" in the United States. So how far can the resistance go? It is worth taking a closer look at a few examples, because they also show the contradictions and limits of the anti-fascist strategy in the USA.

The well-known "White Supremacist" Richard Spencer was slapped in the face by a masked anti-fascist activist when Trump was inaugurated in January during a television interview. The video of the incident went viral on the internet. Since Trump's election victory, Spencer has been trying to make open racism and European-inspired fascism socially acceptable on the American right. It was he who was responsible for the popular demo in Charlottesville against the removal of a statue of General Lee.

Some liberal commentators were outraged by the punch in Spencer's face. Others pointed out that by then many of the media had fallen for Spencer, who was able to stage right-wing radicalism as trendy and modern in numerous portraits and interviews. The attack on Spencer may have helped unmask him.

The case of Milo Yiannopoulos is more ambivalent. "Milo" had become famous in the last election campaign as the best-known author of the right-wing media page "Breitbart". When he wanted to perform at the University of Berkeley in February, there were violent counter-demonstrations with great damage to property. Milo had to cancel his lecture.

A victory for the anti-fascists? Above all, Milo is a media clown and professional provocateur who has since sunk completely into insignificance. Maybe it would have been best to just ignore him. Because his tour of the American universities had never had any other purpose than to provoke as violent a backlash as possible. Then he can stage himself as a courageous rebel against the "liberal opinion dictatorship".

Milo's example shows that this debate in the US revolves primarily around the concept of "freedom of expression" and - despite all street battles - mostly takes place in universities. There, left activists pursue the tactic of »no platforming«, ie try to deny right-wingers a »platform« for their »illegitimate« opinions. The right, in turn, stage itself as the guardian of freedom of expression. This well-rehearsed drama has been repeated in the USA with a similar distribution of roles since the 1990s.

Another episode of the same drama took place in May at the small private university in Middlebury, where the social scientist Charles Murray was supposed to speak and met with strong protest from the students. After the lecture, masked activists attacked Murray and injured a professor.

Murray is not a simple academic, but something like the American Thilo Sarrazin. In the early 1990s he wrote a number of books that argued that poverty is the result of the poor character's inferiority. This culminated in 1994 in the eugenic work »The Bell Curve«, which ascribed genetically determined differences in intelligence to the human »races«. Funded by financially strong think tanks and pushed into the public eye, his ideas soon determined the debate about welfare and "the lower class" until even Bill Clinton said of Murray on the occasion of his draconian welfare reform in 1996: "Basically he's right."

So when African-American students, such as at Harvard, argued that Murray's ideas in themselves were "hateful" and therefore unreasonable for marginalized students, that is perfectly understandable. The fact that people like Murray are now met with vehement protests at universities is a sign that parts of American society are currently - contrary to all appearances - moving to the left.

Nevertheless, one has to ask: What can be achieved by freeing the universities from right-wing ideas when the right-wing ruling the country at the same time? If you fight Richard Spencer, you won't meet Trump - but this is the illusion that many defenders of the Antifa indulge in. The Trump administration and the state authorities are arguably the greatest threat to marginalized population groups at the moment.

Trump made this clear, among other things, by pardoning Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the elected former police chief of Phoenix, Arizona, shortly after the incidents in Charlottesville. For years he had been celebrated by the conservatives (not the Nazis!) For his demonstrative cruelty towards non-white criminals. He proudly called the prison he ran "concentration camp" and had prevented investigations into at least 400 cases of sexual abuse by prison guards. Now he was finally on trial on charges of "racial profiling".

Against what this man represents - as well as against his preventive pardon from Trump - boxing helps very little.

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