(And why the right increasingly embraced it.)
But since the 1960s, left-wing movements in the United States (and in the West writ large) have gradually turned away from violence. There are three main reasons for this.
…The third and most important reason for giving up violence can be found in the new makeup of the American left. Emerging out of the rubble of the 1960s, the modern left, which coalesced around George McGovern’s quixotic 1972 presidential run, effectively represented a gathering of fugitives. African Americans, Hispanics, women, gay men and lesbians, Native Americans, and workers: These long-ostracized groups, which came to replace the New Deal coalition anchored by the white working class, were the very peoples against whom violence had been done for so long. Their painful histories made them instinctively averse to, and intolerant of, political violence. Those who had survived lynchings, beatings, bombings, sexual violence, forced removals and economic exploitation were least disposed to employ them in return. In 1972, those groups were often on the far left, but they eventually became the spine of Barack Obama’s electoral coalition.
…Antifa is mostly anarchist in nature; its members are suspicious and dismissive of the left’s embrace of government institutions. More important, it is loosely banded, disorganized and low scale. Brawling on campuses, throwing rocks or vandalizing property is reprehensible and illegal. But it is incomparable to the scope and breadth of organized violence demonstrated by the extreme right.
…members of the extreme right say they have been devastated by the economic effects of globalization, disempowered by multiculturalism and disenfranchised by the election of the nation’s first African American president. (Who says this? – Ed.) This sentiment has led to the rise of militia culture and violent resistance on unprecedented scales since the 1990s; it sparked the deadly standoff in Ruby Ridge, Idaho, 25 years ago, climaxed in the Oklahoma City bombing and has persisted, more recently, with the massacre of African American worshipers at a Charleston, S.C., church. (So Antifa and BLM are just a bunch of crazy kids, but unaffiliated nut Dylann Roof is a cultural trend. – Ed.)