Antifa stands for “anti-fascist,” and is predominantly a social movement as opposed to an organized group. FBI Director Christopher Wray said of Antifa in September, 2020 during testimony to the House Homeland Security Committee, that the intelligence community considers Antifa to be an ideology, and not an organization:
The modern American Antifa movement started when a group named Anti-Racist Action confronted neo-Nazi skinheads at punk shows in the 1980s. It took its inspiration from those who fought European fascists in the 1920s and 30s, and became a watchdog with an eye on the creeping American fascism of the right wing.
I remember first learning of Antifa back in the early 2000s, during my time as a street medic in the anti-globalization activist movement against the WTO and others. The black bloc would routinely appear at protests that had been peaceful for hours, and suddenly set off a confrontation with the riot cops that would send teargas flying and everyone scrambling for cover. It was annoying as fuck and pretty much never failed.
As one of the most extreme factions on the left, its adherents are few in number. They were far to the left of my own politics in my youthful 20s, and I’m much more centrist now in my 40s. I’ve been an avid volunteer in activist circles and Democratic electoral politics for over 20 years and have never met an advocate of Antifa. They’re not endorsed by or supported anywhere within the Democratic party that I have ever been aware of.
Antifa is a scapegoat
Antifa makes for a good smear campaign though, as well as a convenient far-left entity with a kernel of truth (i.e., the movement technically exists) to use as a scapegoat. In fact that script has been used so often it’s a veritable cliché at this point: the white supremacist group the Proud Boys announced their intention to camouflage themselves as Antifa on January 3, 2020 — 3 days before the assault on the Capitol on January 6 after which the right wing has tried, laughably, to sell a narrative that Antifa and BLM staged the coup attempt as a false flag operation.
Beyond the utter obviousness of publicizing your strategy beforehand, there is the glaring logical flaw presented by motive: why would Black Lives Matter endanger their own Black lives to prevent their own Democratic president from being certified?! Not to mention the absurdity of claiming that the sea of white faces who stormed the Capitol were the sudden new pale leadership of the notoriously Black Black Lives Matter crowd.
Antifa is a sort of Bigfoot for the right wing to postulate as being responsible for everything in their web of conspiracy theories. Pay no attention to the shriveled old wizards behind the curtains.