Recently, after posting a podcast interviewing a teenager about her recent emancipation, volunteering, and other topics, a lot of haters descended on our Facebook page. This is what I wrote on that page to welcome haters and explain who and why we are antifa.
To all our new guests to our Facebook page – lovers to haters (though especially the haters who have bemused us in our comments section) – welcome to our Facebook home here for BAD – i.e., the Bozeman Antifa Dance (& Theatre Collective). This is Jim here writing on all he is witnessing as you engage with us (mostly me, but also with Aly as we’ve both responded under our account name).
You can find all about us on our website of https://www.bozemanantifadance.org, and yes, we even have a handful of podcasts (one published this week). Please check them out. A full list is at https://www.bozemanantifadance.org/category/podcast/. For those of you who enjoy reading, we have a lot of answers to the questions you have been asking us.
We are especially amused at what a trigger word “antifa” is because a lot of our haters come in, call us names, make fun of us, treat us in a way they never would if they met us on the streets of Bozeman, simply because of whatever beliefs they have about that word. They could read our website or listen to our podcasts to see what we mean by it – and surely there will still be plenty to disagree with – but there is an assumption about who we are based on the deep beliefs many hold about what the word means.
“Antifa,” of course, simply means anti-fascist. And we’d hope we are all anti-fascists here. On the right, there seems to be a belief that antifa is a violent organization (a paramilitary organization of the radical left), probably funded by wealthy left-leaning billionaires, who are committed to a reign of terror on American cities, co-opting other movements to burn down cities. They usually come from out of town (people assume we are from California) and probably are communists, too (since all people who are perceived as being on the left must be communists at heart).
We have a different understanding of antifa. We believe that fascism is, as Mussolini essentially understood and practiced it, is corporatism, or the fusion of capitalism with government power. It manifests in different forms, but it usually appears alongside intense pressure to conform to national identity (its colors, its institutions, its dominant way of life), and that intense pressure is brought to bear by the economic and political forces of the country, working together to enforce those same values. This has resulted at its worst the racist nationalism of Nazi Germany, but one can fall short of being Nazi Germany and still be fascist. Wherever a society merges corporate power and hierarchy to enforce a particular way of life, it is fascist. And, this is what we stand against. Like many who call themselves antifa, we are especially against the overt expressions of fascism – when people put fascist or Nazi or white supremacist propaganda on our streets, we take action. But, we are more interested in the more subtle forms of fascism and how they manifest in our society. We are against a world where we all have to be the same, walk the same way, follow the same job path, promote the same economic system (a system we all live in – yes, antifa anticapitalists still shop and participate in this system – how could we not? We are all forced into it, and that is in part what makes society essentially fascist).
So, BAD is antifa in the sense that we are against a system of hierarchical enforcement of values both in our political and economic lives. Therefore, we are anarchists. By anarchists, we don’t mean that we are for chaos. The word “anarchy” does not mean “chaos.” What it means is that we are for a world where each of us is equal in determining our own destiny. So, we are neither liberal nor conservative. We neither support the rule of governments nor the rule of dollars. What we support is the collaboration of people who respect other people and believe that we all matter.
Yes, we are idealists. We are fully aware that the world we are advocating does not currently exist and is likely never to exist. But, that does not mean it is impossible. There is no contradiction in what we are advocating. It is how many of you actually behave when you are with friends or loved ones. It is the norm of our existence in most respects. At the same time, we are not naïve. We have seen the course of the world. We know what world we are living in. We choose to advocate it because our lives are short. We want to make the best of them. And who would not prefer to live in a world where people all could be truly equal than one where the rich and powerful made all the decisions for us. We see how well that works with one world war after another and madmen and nationalists fighting now in Ukraine, risking nuclear war on all of us. Why not go for the best? And if we never get there, so what? At least, we did not choose to settle to work on a world less than what we actually wanted.
Now, note that we are dancers and performers. This isn’t to suggest we are disowning other antifascists who meet our definition of antifascist. We stand in solidarity with people who confront fascism as their conscience calls them. But, we ultimately believe in our collective that the best way to fight the conformity of our society is to find those places in our lives where we can eke out those moments where we don’t need to conform and where we can embrace the full range of what it is to be human. Humans from the earliest age dance, sing, and perform as children. And then, gradually, we lose that. We lose so much of all that makes us human as we conform to walking in straight lines, singing the same songs, dancing in the same ways (if we dance at all, which is rare enough), and conforming to the demands of our culture. We believe this affects a lot more than national politics but actually has a harmful effect on many of our relationships. I’m not sure if you actually did open yourself to dance with us, eat with us, sing with us, get to know our friends, our children and families, that you would spew the ridicule and hate you do. Dance gets our bodies moving in ways that break conformity and open up different avenues of belief of what is possible for us. Doing so provocatively and in ways that break the conforming habits of our society changes us. To me, that fights the oppressive and frankly boring way we have reduced our lives.
So, we are antifa who dance and perform. We sing, we talk, and we still live and act in our community on issues we are passionate about. (And no one funds us; we are not affiliated with any other group – we are simply a couple of best friends with an artistic point of view).
This is only the tiniest fraction of who we are.
And if you’re not a fascist, consider dancing with us. At least, take the time to know us on our podcast. You will see that we are just like you in so many ways – falling in and out of love, taking care of pets and children, working jobs, having adventures – and yet, we’re not like you – because we refuse to be just like anyone (and have the style to prove it). And we hope the same for you.
Jim (not speaking for Aly) from BAD