One of the document’s strengths is its warning against a quite widespread campaign on social media during the last few days: the insistence that police and intelligence forces should do everything possible to crack down on the invaders. As the editors underline, the resulting repressive spike could easily turn against the left and minorities. Mainstream outlets could very well applaud the further deployment of the growing Leviathan against all kinds of alleged “extremism.”

Nevertheless, a recourse to courts and other mainstream institutions could have a legitimate place in the struggle against the extreme right, if it is subordinated to a mass movement-building strategy. Counting on the repressive apparatus of the existing state could be suicidal, but it is just as wrong to rule out the possibility that this apparatus could be useful at all. Let us not forget, for instance, that courts were essential to overturning much of Trump’s Muslim ban, and they did so under pressure from mass movements.

In short, Spectre editors are right regarding the basics: Elections or working with existing institutions should not be the backbone of our strategy. And this by no means indicates we will rely exclusively on extremely dedicated militants and/or spontaneous mass action to stop the rise of fascism. Only mass organizations built through campaigns not directly related to antifascism can ultimately prevent a fascist victory.

Yet, it is hard to ignore that some of the specific gains that we direly need to build a mass following, as listed by the editorial itself (Medicare for All, pandemic relief, union rights, etc.), require legislation and implementation by existing institutions. How can we reconcile these apparently contradictory goals: building mass organizations and mass action that are autonomous from mainstream institutions vs. securing certain pieces of legislation? Providing a meaningful answer to that question requires a much deeper debate, but in a nutshell, progressives and socialists should operate mostly “outside and through” the existing institutions. Alternative courses of action would render antifascist radicalism ineffective.