The violent leftist group “Antifa” is in the headlines for its attacks in the U.S., especially Portland Oregon, but it did not start in the U.S. According to Andy Ngo’s book “Unmasked”, the origins go back to Weimar Germany.
Nearly every political group or party had a paramilitary: the communists, the centrists and of course, the fascists.
While the [Nazi] Brownshirts are well remembered in contemporary Western society, the history of far-left paramilitaries in the German interwar years has faded to memory. Like the Nazis, the Communist Party of Germany had its own paramilitaries. The party was Stalinist in orientation and was closely aligned with the Soviet Union. …[the Communist] paramilitary: the Red Front Fighter’s League adopted the clenched fist as its symbol. Leftist groups today from Black Lives Matter to antifa have adopted that communist symbol.
Throughout the 1920s, the Red Front Fighters’ League was extremely violent, engaging in clashes with the paramilitaries of liberal parties. Come again? You read that right: the communist paramilitary was mostly preoccupied with fighting liberals and socialists rather than the Nazi paramilitary. Under the leadership of Ernst Thalmann, the German Communist Party and its various offshoots viewed social democrats and liberals as “social fascists” no different from Nazis. In fact, Communist International, the Vladimir Lenin-founded group that promoted communism around the world, believed that social democracy would inevitably lead to fascism.
Scholars estimate the communist Red Front Fighters’ League had upward of 130,000 members before it was banned in 1929 following days of deadly rioting. Despite claiming to be Germany’s “only anti-fascist party,” the German Communist Party sometimes worked with the Nazis to undermine the governing Social Democrats…
In May 1932, the German Communist Party announced the formation of the Antifaschistische Aktion (Antifascist Action, commonly referred to as “Antifa”), a new paramilitary communist group. This is the original “Antifa” and the group that contemporary antifa around the world take inspiration from.
Andy goes into the European origins a lot more. To me one lesson may be that the tendency of Antifa in the U.S. to make any conservative into an enemy has origins in interwar Germany.