The justification of partisan political violence from the Left continues to rise in American higher education, despite continued support from nonpartisan tax breaks and subsidized student loans.
We were disappointed that the Humanities Center decided to host a series on “Confronting Fascism” tied to political resistance to the Trump administration. The recent kickoff talk featured Mark Bray on campus on Sept. 10, the day before the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States, which the faculty organizers ignored.
Instead, they invited Bray. He is an advocate for and participant in Antifa, which is an amorphous network of communists and anarchists who engage in thuggish street violence, attacking those they vaguely label “fascists” or “white supremacists,” to include just about anyone they feel like vilifying and targeting in their revolutionary efforts.
In his book “Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook,” Bray carefully adheres to their meaningless Orwellian use of those terms, calling those who support the current U.S. President “everyday fascists,” with a concluding chapter on “Whiteness is indefensible.”
Antifa has been condemned from both sides of the aisle. U.S. President Donald Trump has called them a terrorist group. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said after an Antifa riot in Berkeley, Calif., that “the violent actions of people calling themselves antifa in Berkeley this weekend deserve unequivocal condemnation, and the perpetrators should be arrested and prosecuted.”
While a visiting lecturer at Dartmouth, Bray’s views were denounced by Dartmouth’s president in the following clear terms: “Recent statements made by Lecturer in History Mark Bray supporting violent protest do not represent the views of Dartmouth. As an institution, we condemn anything but civil discourse in the exchange of opinions and ideas.”
This summer, the American public got another example of Antifa in action. Willem Van Spronsen, a participant in various Antifa actions, attacked an ICE detention center in Tacoma, Wash. He blew up a vehicle, threw Molotov cocktails at the building, and was trying to ignite a propane tank near the building when he was fatally shot by police. In a manifesto, Van Spronsen wrote, “I am antifa,” and called for others to follow his lead. Antifa groups hailed him as a martyr.
We did not seek to prevent Bray from speaking. We support free expression on campus. The Bucknell Program for American Leadership and Citizenship, which we co-direct, makes a point of encouraging civil dialogue among different points of view, for the benefit of students.
America’s laudable historical fight against totalitarianism in the past century included battling both Nazism and Communism for such freedom. But identifying that struggle with partisan anti-Trump violence in campus academic events demeans the memory of the many Americans in World War II and the Cold War who gave their lives to resist totalitarian oppression, which Antifa would bring back.