Solidarity & Defense will not organize with Great Lakes Antifa (GLA) or its members. Solidarity & Defense is not a part of Great Lakes Antifa (GLA), despite being based in the great lakes.
We are alarmed about GLA’s lack of accountability and the dangers that creates. There are also GLA members wanting to join Solidarity & Defense so these are not abstract ideas on the internet, GLA’s behavior has real world consequences.
Due to the statements and real life encounters, we will not work with GLA or any GLA members, until they adequately address the real questions raised about the group’s activity & intentions. If GLA were to honestly address these concerns, we would revisit our position.
We understand that the model of GLA is attractive to anyone who is trying to join the fight against fascism & white supremacy. It is a way to plug in, which everyone needs. We want to give space for new ideas and approaches that support building a mass anti-fascism that is principled. Our goal in writing this is not to shame new people that are excited to do this work. It is with the hope that they will see the importance of taking criticisms & political differences seriously. This is something GLA has failed to do.
In order for actions to be effective, you have to organize and mobilize in and alongside communities against attacks. This is the starting point for building an anti-fascism that has appeal beyond activist subcultures. GLA claims to be a network of leftist antifascists that can show up to demos. Building elite forces against fascism will not stop them, but mass anti-fascism can.
Following the publication of this statement, any folks still involved or associated with GLA will need to make a choice. Participating in Solidarity & Defense means no longer participating in GLA. This will need to be verified and accepted as genuine by Solidarity & Defense.
ARA & Cleveland are Right
The statements made by the Anti Racist Action Network and the Cleveland Antifascist Network reflect much of the larger concerns with the GLA. Their statements can be found here. To us, they adequately address the concerns about specific individuals as well as GLA’s refusal to address their mistakes and continued questionable behavior.
ARA Network & Cleveland Antifascist Network are groupings that we respect and trust. A number of us within Solidarity & Defense find these statements credible and consistent with what we have seen from GLA, though our interactions with them vary. We share the concerns raised by their statements and feel that GLA has failed to respond to them in any real way.
Read their responses. Their attempts to paint this as some kind of doxxing of their members is not true. It is no way to respond to serious criticisms and tries to paint GLA as a victim, which is also not true. The public statements from gla are available here:
And, on their Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/GreatLakesAntiFa/
Particularly you should read posts from November 4th, 2017.
When real questions about your work, motivations and members are raised there is only one way to respond in good faith. Present information that addresses those concerns. That’s it. Don’t change the subject, don’t list unrelated reasons why GLA is important, don’t play the victim (as they did in responding to the cleveland piece). If you don’t agree, explain why. GLA has not done this and continues to avoid it. For Solidarity & Defense this means we cannot work with GLA.
We stand with Anti Racist Action Network & Cleveland Antifascist Network and their refusal to work with GLA.
We Disagree with GLA’s Political Approach
In June, Solidarity & Defense held a demonstration against an anti-Muslim event in an immigrant neighborhood. Much work went into building local relationships as part of the action. This is a broader discussion, but in this instance Solidarity & Defense choose to orient towards meeting people, being accessible and building a broad anti-fascist and anti-racist movement. One that has room for folks new to the politics. GLA folks arrived in black block. When the specific approach related to building with that neighborhood was raised with them, they laughed it off and did not take it seriously. The attire was not the problem, but there being no room to discuss it’s pros or cons is a problem.
This is one example but is reflected in other folks experiences with GLA. Cleveland & ARA addressed a number of concerns, we would also like to address our own political disagreements with GLA on what needs to be the focus for anti-fascist activity.
The main areas of disagreement are:
1. Anti-fascist projects need to do a better job of orienting to regular people. GLA is doing the opposite of this.
2. Black Block is a tactic, not a politic or strategy. Using it as your default is a mistake. It should be used in specific
situations, when it makes sense. Doing it every time makes you a target.
3. Hype and optics are over-rated. Over stating victories is a mistake and is irresponsible. We need to be honest. Saying things like, “redneck revolt drove the III% militia out” (itsgoingdown.org/lansing-michigan-report-back-from-shut-down-of-islamophobic-march/), besides being inaccurate (the III% militia already planned to relocate), this overstates achievements. This is again reflected on their facebook where they say, “a team that successfully shuttered an entire state chapter of the National Socialist Movement (NSM)” (Great Lakes Antifa Facebook Page, Nov 9th). This is ridiculous. A doxxing of the NSM is great, but let’s not pretend it ended their activity.
4. Antifascist projects need to be based in the real world, with real work being done. Research, intel & security are crucial parts of this, need to happen and are tactics we agree with. As far as we can tell, GLA is largely made up of facebook admins, journalists, and folks who see themselves as a specialized squad of anti-fascists. Folks like this should participate in anti-fascist organizing alongside regular people and the people new to anti-fascism who are excited about it. Skills are good to have. Sharing those skills with others is even better.
These all point towards a discussion of what kind of anti-fascism do we want. Solidarity & Defense wants to build a mass response to fascism. One based in communities with a range of backgrounds and approaches. A diversity of tactics is essential but there must still be room for questioning of, and criticism for tactics we disagree with. Diversity of Tactics doesn’t mean you get to do whatever you want. You must still explain yourself and justify your approach. We can then disagree, but you are still accountable for what you do.
GLA has shown itself to be unaccountable, to anyone. We want nothing to do with that kind of approach.
Solidarity & Defense