Monday, June 22, 2020

Black Lives Matter: Trump, Antifa, and the Anti-Racist movement

This article is by

Share this article

President Trump visits St. John Episcopal Church, Washington | Source: White House via Wikimedia

As massive protests following the passing of George Floyd kept on shaking the United States. President Donald Trump tweeted on 31st of May that far-left group Antifa was the one behind the violent riots and he would designate it as a terrorist group. He said, “The United States of America will be designating ANTIFA as a Terrorist Organization.” This assertion was repeated by the US Attorney General William Barr as well.

Antifa, short for anti-fascists, is an amorphous movement and not an organization as Trump labels it to be. They tend to be on the left of the U.S. political spectrum, many describing themselves as socialists, anarchists, anti-capitalists or communists. Antifa, according to many commentators, is just a decentralized collection of individual activists who mostly use non-violent methods to achieve their goal, which is to resist the spread of fascism. They track people who spread racist hatred and fascist ideology through on-ground events, traditional media, or social media and use cultural forms of art like drawing, music, film screenings etc. to spread the message of inclusivity. There are more militant anti-fascist groups as well, who mostly engage in non-militant activities but are willing to use more confrontational tactics at times as well. 

This is not the first time that Donald Trump has criticized Antifa to shift the focus away from racial discrimination faced by the black community in USA. In this instance as well President has tried to portray the protestors and looters with a vague phrase “radical-left bad people” and invoking “Antifa” to represent the whole of leftist militant groups which are bound more by belief than by any organizational structure.

Taking a cue from President Trump, many officials, conservative commentators and white supremacists started blaming Antifa for using the “Black Life Matters” movement to indulge in violence and undermining the government of the USA. Mr Trump’s national security adviser, Robert C. O’Brien, had also blamed such activists during his appearances on CNN and A.B.C. News. Mr O’Brien said the F.B.I. needed to “come up with a plan” to deal with Antifa. John Guandolo, who was in the FBI for 13 years, went a step ahead and claimed that Antifa and “Black Life Matters” are communist organizations, who are planning to overthrow the US government. He also praised President Trump for calling Antifa a terrorist organization and lamented that the FBI are unaware of its plan. Fiona Moriarty-McLaughlin, a journalist at the right-wing publication Washington Examiner, re-posted a video purportedly depicting "Paid #Antifa thugs" vandalizing the store — even though there is no evidence to suggest that the vandals were members of the movement.


The FBI and local law enforcement agencies have aggressively pursued charges against rioters, looters and others accused of havoc. However there is no evidence of any involvement of organized violence by Antifa or any other left-wing group. The most serious case that has emerged in federal court involved three men in Nevada linked to a loose, national network of far-right extremists advocating the overthrow of the U.S. government. They were arrested on May 30 on charges of trying to foment violence during Black Lives Matter protests. There are many instances when white thugs were seen vandalizing which blacks feared could be used against them.


The invocation of Antifa by President Trump during the “Black Life Matters” protest is conveniently used by the conservative commentators and white supremacists to somehow shift the focus away from the deep rooted racism in the USA to the violent actions by some protesters during the “Black Life Matter” protest.

As massive protests following the passing of George Floyd kept on shaking the United States. President Donald Trump tweeted on 31st of May that far-left group Antifa was the one behind the violent riots and he would designate it as a terrorist group. He said, “The United States of America will be designating ANTIFA as a Terrorist Organization.” This assertion was repeated by the US Attorney General William Barr as well.

Antifa, short for anti-fascists, is an amorphous movement and not an organization as Trump labels it to be. They tend to be on the left of the U.S. political spectrum, many describing themselves as socialists, anarchists, anti-capitalists or communists. Antifa, according to many commentators, is just a decentralized collection of individual activists who mostly use non-violent methods to achieve their goal, which is to resist the spread of fascism. They track people who spread racist hatred and fascist ideology through on-ground events, traditional media, or social media and use cultural forms of art like drawing, music, film screenings etc. to spread the message of exclusivity. There are more militant anti-fascist groups as well, who mostly engage in non-militant activities but are willing to use more confrontational tactics at times as well. 

This is not the first time that Donald Trump has criticized Antifa to shift the focus away from racial discrimination faced by the black community in USA. In this instance as well President has tried to portray the protestors and looters with a vague phrase “radical-left bad people” and invoking “Antifa” to represent the whole of leftist militant groups which are bound more by belief than by any organizational structure.

Taking a cue from President Trump, many officials, conservative commentators and white supremacists started blaming Antifa for using the “Black Life Matters” movement to indulge in violence and undermining the government of the USA. Mr Trump’s national security adviser, Robert C. O’Brien, had also blamed such activists during his appearances on CNN and A.B.C. News. Mr O’Brien said the F.B.I. needed to “come up with a plan” to deal with Antifa. John Guandolo, who was in the FBI for 13 years, went a step ahead and claimed that Antifa and “Black Life Matters” are communist organizations, who are planning to overthrow the US government. He also praised President Trump for calling Antifa a terrorist organization and lamented that the FBI are unaware of its plan. Fiona Moriarty-McLaughlin, a journalist at the right-wing publication Washington Examiner, re-posted a video purportedly depicting "Paid #Antifa thugs" vandalizing the store — even though there is no evidence to suggest that the vandals were members of the movement.


The FBI and local law enforcement agencies have aggressively pursued charges against rioters, looters and others accused of havoc. However there is no evidence of any involvement of organized violence by Antifa or any other left-wing group. The most serious case that has emerged in federal court involved three men in Nevada linked to a loose, national network of far-right extremists advocating the overthrow of the U.S. government. They were arrested on May 30 on charges of trying to foment violence during Black Lives Matter protests. There are many instances when white thugs were seen vandalizing which blacks feared could be used against them.


The invocation of Antifa by President Trump during the “Black Life Matters” protest is conveniently used by the conservative commentators and white supremacists to somehow shift the focus away from the deep rooted racism in the USA to the violent actions by some protesters during the “Black Life Matter” protest.

Support us to bring the world closer

To keep our content accessible we don't charge anything from our readers and rely on donations to continue working. Your support is critical in keeping Global Views 360 independent and helps us to present a well-rounded world view on different international issues for you. Every contribution, however big or small, is valuable for us to keep on delivering in future as well.

Support Us

Share this article

Read More

October 18, 2020 6:46 PM

Bhagat Singh: The Man, The Life, And The Beliefs

Bhagat Singh is one of the ‘big names’ immortalised in the history of India’s freedom struggle and eternally cherished even after almost ninety years of his martyrdom. What makes him stand out is his popularity among the masses being almost on par with the likes of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, despite his beliefs and actions being diametrically opposite to theirs.

Of the freedom fighters who remain mainstream in today’s India— a crowd predominantly made up of politicians with center or right of centre leanings, Bhagat Singh occupies a relatively lonely spot as a young, staunchly left-wing revolutionary who outrightly rejected Gandhi’s philosophy, and preferred direct action over politics.

Newspaper headline after Central Legislative Assembly non-lethal bombing

Bhagat Singh is most commonly and widely remembered in association with an incident where he, along with his friend and comrade B.K. Dutt dropped non-lethal smoke bombs into the Central Legislative Assembly from its balcony in 1929. They also scattered leaflets by the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA), which he was a major part of and was aided by in orchestrating the bombings. He is said to have been inspired by French anarchist Auguste Vaillant, who had bombed the Chamber of Deputies in Paris in 1893.

The bombing gathered widespread negative reaction due to the use of violence, especially from those who supported the Gandhian method. While Bhagat Singh and the HSRA wanted to protest exploitative legislatures such as the Public Safety Act and the Trades Disputes Bill, it is also widely accepted that they additionally intended to use the drama and public attention of the ensuing trial to garner attention to socialist and communist causes. Bhagat Singh and Dutt did not escape under the cover of panic and smoke despite the former carrying a pistol, and waited for the police to find and arrest them. During the trial Bhagat Singh frequently chanted a variety of slogans, such as ‘Inquilab Zindabad,’ which is even today often raised in protests across India.  

March 25th Newspaper carrying the news about execution of Bhagat Singh | Source: Tribune India

However, this was not the trial that ended in Bhagat Singh receiving his execution sentence. Before the Assembly bombings, Bhagat Singh had been involved in the shooting of police officer John Saunders, in connection to the death of freedom fighter Lala Lajpat Rai. At that time he and his associates had escaped, but after Bhagat Singh was awarded a life sentence for the Assembly bombing, a series of investigations led to his rearrest as part of the Saunders murder case. It was this trial— generally regarded as unjust— that led to his much protested execution sentence.

Bhagat Singh was hanged to death on the eve of March 23rd, 1931 and he was just twenty-three years old.

Despite the criticism he received for his actions, his execution sentence was widely opposed and many attempts were made to challenge it. In fact, his execution came on the eve of the Congress party’s annual convention, as protests against it worsened. He was memorialised nationwide as a martyr, and is often addressed with the honorific Shaheed-e-Azam Bhagat Singh.

Apart from being a socialist, Bhagat Singh was attracted to communist and anarchist causes as well. In ‘To Young Political Workers,’ his last testament before his death, he called for a “socialist order” and a reconstruction of society on a “new, i.e, Marxist basis.” He considered the government “a weapon in the hand of the ruling class”, which is reflected in his belief that Gandhian philosophy only meant the “replacement of one set of exploiters for another.” Additionally, he wrote a series of articles on anarchism, wanting to fight against mainstream miscontrusions of the word and explain his interest in anarchist ideology.

Bipin Chandra, who wrote the introduction to Why I am an Atheist by Bhagat Singh | Source: Wikimedia

While writing the introduction to Bhagat Singh’s remarkable essay Why I am an Atheist in 1979, Late Bipan Chandra described the Marxist leaning of Bhagat Singh and his associates in the following way;

Bhagat Singh was not only one of India’s greatest freedom fighters and revolutionary socialists, but also one of its early Marxist thinkers and ideologues. Unfortunately, this last aspect is relatively unknown with the result that all sorts of reactionaries, obscurantists and communalists have been wrongly and dishonestly trying to utilise for their own politics and ideologies the name and fame of Bhagat Singh and his comrades such as Chandra Shekhar Azad.”

Bhagat Singh is often admired and celebrated for his dedication to the cause of liberation. However his socialist, communist and anarchist beliefs were suppressed by the successive governments in Independent India. This in a way is the suppression of a revolutionary who has the potential to inspire, unite and motivate the growing population of a spectrum of activists all over India, in direct response to the fast-spreading divisiveness and intolerance in the country, often patronised by the groups and organizations professing the right-wing fascist ideology.

Bhagat Singh’s dreams of a new social order live on, not just in his writings, but also reflected in the hearts of every activist, protester, and dissenting citizen. The fight for freedom, revolution, Inquilab, may have changed in meaning, but it is far from over.

Read More