Studying more videos of Antifa at work and play, I couldn’t help noticing contradictions about its history and political connections. It’s supposed to take its name – and its flag design -- from a German group that fought the Fascist and Nazi parties in the 1930s (and obviously failed), yet there’s no mention of this bunch in America before 2016. There’s some claim that they’re politically descended from the anti-racist Skinheads of the ‘90s, but the Skinheads don’t claim them, and the working-class culture of the Skinheads also makes it unlikely.
Then my attention was snagged by a brief mention of Antifa being the extreme activist wing of “Students for a Democratic Society” – SDS.
Wait a minute! (Pause for a reprise of Leonard Cohen’s “The Old Revolution”.)
I was a member of the original SDS, from shortly after it was created at the U. of Michigan until its spectacular end, and real SDS members were nothing like this. More, at its last convention in 1969, SDS committed honorable Hara-Kiri rather than be taken over by the yowling Marxists of the infamous Weatherman and so-called Worker-Student Alliance factions, and no member with any decency would have revived it.
…But towards the end, there were some members with no decency.
I began looking up this “New SDS” that’s supposedly the connection to Antifa, and what I saw was a walking corpse. First, there’s no way to talk to the organization except by volunteering to “create a chapter”, and then there’s a strict limit on how many words you can write. That’s a more-than-red flag, right there. Also, there’s no more than lip-service to the founding Port Huron Statement, less mention of the original Student League for Industrial Democracy, barely any mention of the original founders (easily done: Tom Hayden died a few months ago, Carl Oglesby died in 2011, and Alan Haber is in his 80s and much slowed down). There’s the same hit-list of stereotyped “causes” that Antifa pushes, always culminating in “Get Trump”, with none of the characteristic love of discussion that old SDSers indulged in endlessly. Above all, there’s nothing remotely like original SDS’s “anti-totalitarian clause”, which denied membership to communists and fascists alike. There’s clear reason why original SDS’s old allies – the still-surviving League for Industrial Democracy and the Industrial Workers of the World – won’t touch this bunch with a ten-foot pole.
So where did this lurching zombie come from, and who called it up from the grave?
I remember that on the last night of that last convention in Chicago, when old SDS tore itself apart and died with honor, there were a few members who still had keys to the old office – and the files, including the membership lists. One of them was Bernardine Dohrn, who was… to put it politely, a real piece of work. Original founder Carl Oglesby devoted a whole chapter to her in his historical biography, “Ravens on the Storm”. Dohrn hung around with the Weatherman faction, but always worked as a mover and shaker behind the scenes. So did her buddy, Bill Ayers – a classic Parlor Pink, who could have been the reincarnation of Fred Moore, Sacco and Vanzetti’s notoriously unhelpful lawyer. The only difference between Dohrn and Ayers, Mellon, Oughton, and the rest of that crowd is that she didn’t really come from a seriously wealthy family. She made up for that by exploiting her sexuality, being More Radical Than Thou, and not denying the rumor that she was really the heiress to the Dohrn Trucking fortune (which she wasn’t).
The important thing to remember about Parlor Pinks – or Limousine Liberals, as they’re called today – is that they’re “privileged” up to the sky. They come from wealthy families, whom they sneer at even while enjoying the benefits (and protections) of their money, and share the unconscious assumption that their intellects are superior to those of the “uneducated” masses; therefore they’re fit to be the leaders of the Revolution and to manipulate those dumb masses for their own good. (I saw this revealed when dear Bill tried to raise a lynch-mob against me at that last SDS convention – and oh, the dismayed look on his face when it didn’t work, when those radical students, who knew me from my work and were used to doing their own research, didn’t believe a word he said. Oooh, how dare those “masses” be so resistant to his manipulation? Afterward, I hear, he went looking for younger and more gullible students.) This is also the hallmark of Antifa.
After the rest of the Weatherman faction destroyed themselves rather spectacularly, in the explosion of the New York townhouse where they were making bombs (and badly), Dohrn married Ayers and has stuck to him (and his real family money) ever since. The two of them went underground and stayed ahead of the FBI for 11 years before giving themselves up. After they managed to get acquitted on a technicality for the charge of blowing up a university building with the hapless janitor inside, they both ducked back out of sight. Ayers surfaced later as an unassuming professor at the U. of Illinois, and Bernardine as a professor (of Law!) at Northwestern U, in Chicago. Neither of them gave up their radicalism. Ayers got into the spotlight briefly, when the news got out that Barack Obama announced his campaign for POTUS at a party in Ayers’ living-room – and was occasionally seen visiting the White House by the back door – but Dohrn managed to keep out of the limelight. Both of them busied themselves with “education reform”. They were also glimpsed hanging around with “Occupy”.
So how did these two link to the New SDS? Well, according to Wikipedia, in 2006 a couple of high-school students, wanting to create a student movement with the power of old SDS, went looking for old SDS survivors and came across old (Robert) Alan Haber. Now Haber was an old-style New Deal liberal who was notable for three things: 1) taking 11 years to graduate from U. of Michigan (1954-1965, BA), 2) co-authoring the first version of the Port Huron Statement, and 3) being elected the first president of old SDS. After graduating, he became a cabinet-maker, engaged in local reform issues and never was involved in the wider radical movement. All he could have told those eager little high-school wannabes was the structure of old SDS and the names of his old cronies.
There’s no record that “New SDS” ever even contacted Carl Oglesby or Tom Hayden. However, in its very first year of existence, “New SDS” managed to establish over 100 chapters at colleges around the country, and made enough $$ to hold its first national convention. Just how did two high-school students and a retired cabinet-maker accomplish that? Obviously, they had help, but whose? Well, starting soon after the first “New SDS” national convention in 2006, guess who starts showing up – as members, in the background, then later as occasional speakers? Yep. Bernardine Dohrn and Bill Ayers.
I guess they just couldn’t resist reliving their glory days. Instrumental in the destruction of old SDS, they’ve revived its name from the grave and used it as a cover for Antifa – the reincarnation of the Weatherman gang. Unwilling to give up his behind-the-scenes influence once Obama was out of office, Bill actually let himself be seen amid the hundreds of professionally-printed “Bernie” signs at a noisily-violent Antifa/anti-Trump rally – and I wonder if anyone else got the joke.
As an old peace-marcher and organizer – and member of old SDS – myself, I’ve noticed the deliberate, provoked, and I dare say constructed nature of the “divisiveness” in American politics recently – most particularly since Trump was elected. As I’ve mentioned before, fully half of the supposed “alt-right” marchers in Charlottesville, and several hundred of the Antifas, were hired professional instigators. Such do not come cheap. I can see wealthy movers and shakers like Soros and the Clintons funding such Reichstag Fire displays, but I don’t think they’re alone – and they wouldn’t have the detailed knowledge of old radical-left tools and techniques, or buzzwords. They certainly would have no interest in reviving the name of an old and forgotten student political group. No, that has the fingerprints of Bill and Bernardine all over it.
One reason for hope: Antifa was first formed to be the non-Black parallel to BLM, because in whipping up its own enthusiasm BLM became so Black-supremacist that it wouldn’t accept members of any other race. Now Antifa itself is showing signs of splitting along racial lines, with the Hispanics accusing the Whites of having racism “in your blood…in your DNA.” This fracture is happening much sooner than the ideological split in old SDS once the “anti-totalitarian” clause was abolished. In reviving SDS’ name, Bill and Bernardine also revived its chief weakness.
Some people learn all the wrong lessons from history.