Profs solicit support for 'Campus Antifascist Network'
Two professors are organizing a campus Antifa (Anti-Fascist Action) organization with the goal of confronting groups it considers fascist and “driv[ing] racists off campuses.”
According to Inside Higher Ed, the Campus Antifascist Network (CAN) was organized by Purdue University Professor Bill Mullen and Stanford University Professor David Palumbo-Liu with the intention of serving as a “big tent” for “anyone committed to fighting fascism.”
"We would advocate self-defense...of those who are being threatened by fascists, but not violence."
“Since Trump’s election, fascists, neo-fascists, and their allies have used blatantly Islamophobic, anti-semitic, racist, misogynistic, homophobic, transphobic, and ableist messaging and iconography to recruit to their ranks and intimidate students, faculty, and staff,” Palumbo-Liu wrote in the group’s invitation letter.
“The time to take action is now,” he maintained, saying, “we call on all interested individuals and organizations to support or join the Campus Antifascist Network (CAN).”
In an interview with Campus Reform, Palumbo-Liu reiterated that “the groups that concern [CAN] the most are fascist in the sense they espouse a hateful ideology that targets particular groups based on race, ethnicity, religion, [or] sexuality, and wish to dominate, exclude, drive out, and harm members of those groups with force and violence.”
As part of its efforts, CAN provides a syllabus which labels fascism as a “historical expression of capitalism’s tendency to dominate the poor, working class, and oppressed people.”
Mullen told IHE that the network has grown to 200 members, including students and faculty, in the wake of the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, adding that CAN will “build large, unified demonstrations against fascists on campuses” and protect groups that are vulnerable to attack.
While Mullen and Palumbo-Liu do not advocate direct violence, Antifa has been criticized for engaging in violent protests around the country, including riots against conservative speakers.
When asked about violent elements within Antifa, Palumbo-Liu told IHE that CAN would reject some elements of the movement and would only “advocate self-defense and defense in various forms of those who are being threatened by fascists.”
Palumbo-Liu likewise told Campus Reform that “physically attacking speakers is not [within the law],” and therefore is not something that his organization promotes.
“The issue really is not speech, but rather the kinds of actions a group is known to engage in that precisely impinge upon others’ free speech, academic freedom, and civil liberties,” he said. “We are organizing to protect members of campus communities from groups that come to campus to provoke physical confrontations, purposefully destroy property, invade individuals’ privacy.”
The professor also pushed back on the view that President Trump is not a fascist, branding it as “literally an academic argument in the worst sense of the word” and declaring that “we need to pay attention to what is happening, not the labels that we feel are most fitting.”
Mullen did not respond to Campus Reform’s request for comment.
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