It wasn't all jazz hands and pronoun-policing: Last week's Democratic Socialists of America convention also featured healthy and often heated debate over serious policy proposals—including a motion to convene an "anti-fascist working group," which passed by a narrow margin of 521–493.
The proposal "institutionalizes the fight against fascism as an official DSA initiative" and would "help drive collaboration and resource sharing to support our antifascist organizing, because we must fight exploitation, white supremacy, and patriarchy," according to its supporters.
Current Affairs' Nathan Robinson, a leftist writer who attended the convention, described the proposal as "deeply divisive." He writes:
proponents thought it was obvious that the DSA, as a group that was against fascism, should devote resources to figuring out how to stop fascism. Opponents believed it tied DSA too closely to the specific anti-fascist tendency known as Antifa, which could cause negative legal and safety consequences for DSA.
After it passed, Robinson spoke with one convention attendee who thought any association with antifa would make democratic-socialism a surefire loser in rural and conservative areas. Others thought supporting the work of anti-fascists was a no brainer.
As I explain in my new book, Panic Attack: Young Radicals in the Age of Trump, antifa is an illiberal organization that does not necessarily believe in extending rights to people whose goals run counter to theirs—the far right, in particular. Antifa's belief that violence can be justified if the target is an ideological opponent lends itself toward the kind of madness taking place in Portland, Oregon, where Quillette editor Andy Ngo was viciously assaulted for documenting antifa's antics.
It's understandable that democratic socialists who believe in using the democratic process to achieve social change would not want to be tied to antifa. Too bad they lost this argument.