Article on Antifa Author Raises More Questions Than It Answers

To the Editor:

I’m afraid I find your recent article on Mark Bray and his Antifa book remarkably lacking in clarity (“The Antifa Academic,The Chronicle, August 24). Perhaps if I read the book I’d learn more, but his own comments both to The Chronicle
and those in his Washington Post piece do little to clear away the fog. My fault, no doubt, but perhaps we would get a firmer sense if we looked outside the United States, and more particularly at the 17 countries he examined (none of which are named). Why did he choose them, and why does he considers them to be fascist or non-fascist, or perhaps trending in either of those directions? It sounds, though it’s impossible to tell, that for a government (or a political movement) simply to be authoritarian is not enough to make it fascist — is that right? Or is it in fact the authoritarianism that makes if fascist? Is Maduro’s Venezuela fascist, or does its self-baptism as “socialist” exempt it from the list? China is a people’s democratic dictatorship (so Chairman Mao told us), and today is still run by a single party that controls the judiciary, the military, and (when it’s able to) the economy. Is that fascist or anti-fascist? Why? Is Hungary fascist today because of its strong anti-immigrant stance and its insistence on a form of cultural unity? Was it fascist yesterday when it stood up to Soviet tanks and troops in 1956?

And finally how do those of us in the academic business decide who should be allowed to speak on our campuses and who shouldn’t? Would you invite George Orwell to your campus today? Was he an anti-fascist or a fascist? Or does it depend on whether you read The Road to Wigan Pier or Homage to Catalonia?

Or are there no answers to these questions? Perhaps there’s something to be said for taking the coward’s way out — set up one of those committees beloved by all academics, representing students, staff, faculty and administration. In that way we’d ensure that nothing more than long windy discussions would emerge; there would be no decisions, no actions, and hence no one’s feelings would be hurt.

Nicholas Clifford
Professor Emeritus, History Department
Middlebury College
Middlebury, Vt.

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