US security services DHS and FBI have studied the "antifa" movement and described its members as anarchists and terrorists. Honestly, I was not aware of any antifa terror attacks, nor any connection to anarchism.

On the basis of what evidence did they decide antifa members were anarchists?

  • 11
    You seem to be asking about the internal decision making processes of the FBI. These are unlikely to public.
    – James K
    Sep 2, 2017 at 19:24
  • 2
    @Aaron Can you include some quotes? Because to me it isn't clear that the FBI did declare antifa to be anarchists. From a quick read, none of the quotes from the FBI/DHS seem to mention the antifa by name, so it seems that that is a connection politico might have made.
    – tim
    Sep 2, 2017 at 19:35
  • 1
    @tim unfortunately, the article makes clear that the original sources are not available. you are right, perhaps Politico inserted this word. Sep 2, 2017 at 23:38
  • 3
    @JamesK of course, but that doesn't mean they can't be studied. heard of Kremlinology? Sep 2, 2017 at 23:39

1 Answer 1


If you read the Politico article that you link, FBI, Homeland Security warn of more ‘antifa’ attacks, it says:

Previously unreported documents disclose that by April 2016, authorities believed that “anarchist extremists” were the primary instigators of violence at public rallies against a range of targets. They were blamed by authorities for attacks on the police, government and political institutions, along with symbols of “the capitalist system,” racism, social injustice and fascism, according to a confidential 2016 joint intelligence assessment by DHS and the FBI.


said one senior law enforcement official tracking domestic extremists in a state that has become a front line in clashes between the groups. “These antifa guys were showing up with weapons, shields and bike helmets and just beating the shit out of people. … They’re using Molotov cocktails, they’re starting fires, they’re throwing bombs and smashing windows.”

The Atlantic Monthly reports:

A similar cycle has played out at UC Berkeley. In February, masked antifascists broke store windows and hurled Molotov cocktails and rocks at police during a rally against the planned speech by Yiannopoulos.


As members of a largely anarchist movement, antifascists

Vox reports:

Adherents are mostly socialists, anarchists, and communists who, according to Mark Bray, a historian at Dartmouth College and author of Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook

Some things that we can take from these descriptions.

  1. Antifa is not monolithic but is instead composed of multiple ideologies that are only loosely joined. They are all "against fascists" but their means can be very different.
  2. It is generally acknowledged that one of those ideologies is anarchism.
  3. That some people who have supported or engaged in violence have claimed to be members of antifa.

In Charlottesville, it is undisputed that the neonazis engaged in violence, including one murder. So it could be argued that counterviolence was self defense or at least heat of the moment.

In Berkeley however, the vandalism was not a response to any violence from Yiannopoulos but an attempt to keep him from speaking.

It is unclear if the FBI is using the term anarchists to refer to antifa. That characterization is common in the media. It is possible that Politico added it.

  • 1
    Quoting a historian as saying some antifa "adherents" are anarchists does help to explain this. Sep 3, 2017 at 4:08
  • 2
    +1 Without the original documents, this is probably the best we can say (for now). Note that many in the antifa would argue that the protest against Yiannopoulos were also a form of self-defense (see eg here; the argument is that he has outed and attacked individuals at his talks before and thus put them in real, physical danger from the violent bigots who attend). You might disagree with this definition of self-defense, but it's one that's often used by these groups.
    – tim
    Sep 3, 2017 at 8:59
  • Usually rather-left-wingish NJ Homeland Security seems to lump them in closely together into at least the same topic in their counterterrorism podcasts.
    – user4012
    Sep 3, 2017 at 12:19
  • Your conclusion (2) is the origin of my question. Performing violence is not evidence of anarchism. Did antifa members ever acknowledge being anarchists? This is the part of the argument which I find to be lacking evidence. Sep 4, 2017 at 2:31
  • 3
    @AaronBrick Some of them do call themselves anarchists. The main problem is that both groups are as loose and fractured as possible, and it is hard to understand who supports who and who opposes who in these movements. Especially as those relationships tend to change almost daily. Sep 4, 2017 at 5:48

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .