Anarchism, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition, is, "a political theory holding all forms of governmental authority to be un-necessary and un-desirable and advocating a society based on voluntary co-operation and free association of individuals and groups." Throughout the years anarchism has evolved into many different flavors, various schools of thought that work to abolish different types of oppressive authority. What has not changed much is how anarchists are negatively perceived by many who do not ascribe to anarchist theory, particularly the State. Today, many anarchists are being negatively portrayed in the media as they come out in large numbers against this entire oppressive system, and Trumpism in particular.
When people unfamiliar with the diversity of anarchist thought and action try to conjure up images of anarchists, aggressive masked men masked men dressed all in black usually come to mind. Such individuals are often deemed "thugs" and more recently even "terrorists." This image comes from The Black Bloc, which is a tactic, not a specific group, utilized by protesters wearing black clothing, scarves, sunglasses, ski masks, bandanas, motorcycle helmets with padding, or other face-concealing and protective gear.
One of the first times the tactic was used was in 1986 in Hamburg, Germany. Initially, 2,000 black bloc protestors came to stand up against the police who had long been harassing squatters of empty houses in the Haffenstrasse section in an attempt to evict them. The manner of dress was used both to maintain anonymity to avoid legal persecution as well as to protect their bodies from the police beatings that were imminent.
Antifa is another buzzword in the anti-anarchist lexicon. Antifa is shorthand for Antifaschistische Action (Anti-Fascist Action). Antifa started in Germany in direct opposition to Hitler's fascist regime and mostly comprised of industrial workers. Politically, Antifa was originally largely comprised of communists and social democrats, but today in the United States, Antifa is usually associated with anarchism, although there are Marxists, Maoists, socialists and non-politically identifying individuals within their ranks. In the U.S. Antifa is very closely tied to, and basically integral to the Anti-Racist Action Network (ARA). ARA was formed in 1988 in Minneapolis, Minnesota by a group of anti-racist skinheads that often fought the presence of racists at skinhead and punk shows. ARA was formed when the group realized that more had to be done than just physical confrontations in the in the skin-head and punk music scenes; coalitions had to be made with those on the outside. Today ARA is international and their Los Angeles chapter usually has a strong presence at most protests. [To be continued.]