Anti-Fascist Action 1932-2018
August 22, 2018 9:10 AM   Subscribe

Who are the anti-fascists? What motivates them to risk their lives to fight the far right? What is the history of militant anti-fascism and why is it relevant again today? How is anti-fascism connected to a larger political vision that can stop the rise of fascism and offer us visions of a future worth fighting for? Through interviews with anti-fascist organizers, historians, and political theorists in the US and Germany, we explore the broader meaning of this political moment while taking the viewer to the scene of street battles from Washington to Berkeley and Charlottesville. ANTIFA (Vimeo 30:11, cw: harsh language, hate speech, violence, Nazi imagery.)
posted by The Whelk (32 comments total) 49 users marked this as a favorite
 
About a decade ago I posted this post, which may be of similar interest.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:30 AM on August 22, 2018 [4 favorites]


Antifia is anti-facist in impolite ways. Fuck being polite.
posted by East14thTaco at 9:50 AM on August 22, 2018 [15 favorites]


Support our troops.
Like, do it. Get out there, wherever you are, and be part of the fightback.
Yeah there's the odd over-excited anarchist around. That's all the more reason to build organised movements that can respond effectively in a coordinated manner.

"If we *mumble* mass popular organising, comes out against fascism, we will win, every single time."

United front, y'all. It's the one rule of anti-fascist organising. We gotta step up and step on these roaches.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 9:56 AM on August 22, 2018 [16 favorites]


Support our troops.

Without really thinking about it I found myself saying "thank you for your service" to a group of black bloc antifa at the UTR2 counterprotest last week.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:45 AM on August 22, 2018 [41 favorites]


Out of curiosity, how would you go about finding an Antifa group to support if the only ones you’d encountered so far weren’t safe enough for you to be around?
posted by schadenfrau at 10:56 AM on August 22, 2018 [5 favorites]


Unicorn Riot does a lot of the breaking in Fascist panning Discords and Secret Facebook groups and doxing white nationalists and they’re a tax deductible organization, you can donate here.
posted by The Whelk at 11:25 AM on August 22, 2018 [11 favorites]


Some of the groups need to do some serious work on their rules of engagement. Like maybe not attacking the press when they're short on actual fascists to target.

Not helpful.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:55 AM on August 22, 2018 [3 favorites]


Another answer is that not all anti-fascist organisations are that alone.

Every socialist group, in my experience, is also anti-fascist. A number of non-socialist anti-racist or anti-sexist groups would also fit the bill. There might be less of the online tracking, doxxing and stuff, but, at least here, the core of any protest or counter-protest starts with those who are already organised. I know less about anarchists, but they're also likely to include anti-fascist actions as a something pretty high up on the agenda.

DSA, ISO, IWW, BLM, anyone organising the left will usually also be involved in the crucial mass anti-fascist actions. Maybe they're not always the ones who call themselves antifa or bring the flag, but they'll do what needs doing.

Have a look at the list halfway down this page, for example. 37 organisations listed, and only 3 of them have anti-fascist in the name, but they were all ready and waiting.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 11:59 AM on August 22, 2018 [7 favorites]


I second supporting Unicorn Riot. They are also listed as a charity under Amazon Smile, if you use Amazon.
posted by spinifex23 at 12:10 PM on August 22, 2018 [4 favorites]


Some of the groups need to do some serious work on their rules of engagement. Like maybe not attacking the press when they're short on actual fascists to target.

The press should probably not shove cameras in their faces and attempt to provide doxing material for fascists, then.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:29 PM on August 22, 2018 [20 favorites]


Support our troops.

Like, do it. Get out there, wherever you are, and be part of the fightback.
Yeah there's the odd over-excited anarchist around. That's all the more reason to build organised movements that can respond effectively in a coordinated manner.


I would genuinely love to, truly, but I doubt they have too much use for a middle-aged lady with a bad knee. (I'm actually not trying to be facetious.)
posted by holborne at 12:45 PM on August 22, 2018 [1 favorite]


You can always donate $ to someone like Unicorn Riot, as noted above. I just checked and my employer does matching funds to them (!).
posted by queensissy at 12:50 PM on August 22, 2018 [3 favorites]


I would genuinely love to, truly, but I doubt they have too much use for a middle-aged lady with a bad knee. (I'm actually not trying to be facetious.)

Not true!!! You can help!
* Prepare/administer pepper spray treatments
* Acquire/build/distribute shields, helmets, etc
* Design/print/distribute flyers
* Perform online counterintelligence research and send your findings to ItsGoingDown, etc.
* Go to antifa actions, stay away from the front lines, and simply be a pleasant-appearing middle-aged lady with a bad knee who vocally, radically supports militant antifascism for the news media
* Join a local socialist organization and help them phone bank, stuff envelopes, and otherwise organize against fascism (Here's one)
posted by Krawczak at 12:52 PM on August 22, 2018 [32 favorites]


The press should probably not shove cameras in their faces and attempt to provide doxing material for fascists, then.

If you're walking around on the street, doing something noteworthy, the press are going to take photos of you.

Eliminating the press' right to do that would have serious repercussions. I mean, that same right is how the press gets to stand around and take photos of white power rallies.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:58 PM on August 22, 2018 [11 favorites]


The press should probably not shove cameras in their faces and attempt to provide doxing material for fascists, then.

Yeah... press at confrontations like this are attempting to document the event objectively. A choice not to photograph certain people is an editorial choice they may legitimately make, but it's not the only choice we should support. These actions are not being carried out in private, they are public and highly consequential actions worthy of documentation.

Of course it's irresponsible in a situation like this for press to publish information that is likely to be used irresponsibly by others, but to prevent them from even collecting that information is in my opinion a serious mistake.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 1:09 PM on August 22, 2018 [7 favorites]


Here is a documentary on French anti-fascist groups in the punk scene, if anybody is interested.
posted by gucci mane at 1:15 PM on August 22, 2018 [7 favorites]


Out of curiosity, how would you go about finding an Antifa group to support if the only ones you’d encountered so far weren’t safe enough for you to be around?

I recall an article that I believe I saw on Metafilter a couple month ago talking about a middle aged woman (in North Carolina?) who started an organization to track and identify fascists/alt-righters who were assaulting people or threatening people online and such. The article pointed out that the vast majority of anti-fascist work is this sort of (often online) information collection, as well as background organization. In other words, not street confrontations. There are many ways to support anti-fascist efforts (whether through a group that calls itself antifa, or through another group doing anti-fascist work)! As to how to find such groups... I'll try to dig up that article (unless someone else remembers and has the link handy... please?).

Almost any group that works directly to support people who are often the targets of fascist/alt-right violence and harassment - immigrants, Blacks, Muslims and Jewish folks, GLBTQ but especially trans folks, women attempting to exist/have opinions on the internet, etc. - is also proactively helping to build a non-fascist world, and so long as they're accomplishing something productive in that area, is probably worth your time and energy.

My understanding is that engaging in explicitly anti-fascist work can make one a target for harassment and worse, so probably many of those groups are somewhat careful about vetting new members, or operate on a smaller affinity group sort of model? That is, the most effective and "safe" ones are possibly intentionally somewhat difficult to find.
posted by eviemath at 1:53 PM on August 22, 2018 [5 favorites]


Yeah... press at confrontations like this are attempting to document the event objectively.

There's nothing objective about publishing photos exposing the identities of violent extremists intent on killing minorities and those that are trying to stop them. Doing the former protects innocent people, doing the latter endangers them.
posted by smithsmith at 1:54 PM on August 22, 2018 [9 favorites]


Another crucial role for those who do not want to be/can't be on the front lines: Jail Support.

Antifascists, and other protesters, are always at risk for arrest when they're on the front lines, and having someone manning a phone line to coordinate support, bail, having people there when they're released, etc. is invaluable. The Jail Support person would generally not be at the site of the action, so that they can personally stay safe. Again, coordinate with groups that do antifascist work for this, but most groups would appreciate this kind of support, if they don't have it already.
posted by spinifex23 at 1:56 PM on August 22, 2018 [9 favorites]


The stories I heard coming from antifascist protestors in Charlottesville regarding their interactions with the media included several cases of what I can only describe as assault, including repeated attempts to snatch masks off protestors' faces in order to take revealing photographs of them. Especially in light of the tongue bath fascists get from the media and the endless condemnations from "centrist" pundits who hug right and punch left, antifascists have no reason to believe that the media have "objective documentation" in mind.


There's nothing objective about publishing photos exposing the identities of violent extremists intent on killing minorities and those that are trying to stop them. Doing the former protects innocent people, doing the latter endangers them.

And yeah, that. There is no objective here. There is no view from nowhere. Fascists are marching and killing and are very open about their intention to kill millions. If you are not antifascist, you are profascist, full stop.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:58 PM on August 22, 2018 [28 favorites]


For additional context into why people reacted to media and photographers that way, here's a Twitter thread on how the media in Charlottesville were treating people:
And I saw what happened when the news camera man was ‘attacked’ Saturday night (he was pushed, he was fine). The camera man was taunting and antagonizing people after being asked repeatedly to stop filming faces. He was laughing at them while they feared for their life and safety
posted by Lexica at 2:02 PM on August 22, 2018 [10 favorites]


¡No pasarán!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:08 PM on August 22, 2018 [2 favorites]


Oh yeah, they mention that stuff I was talking about in the video in the original post here... that's what I was thinking of! :P
posted by eviemath at 8:13 PM on August 22, 2018


As a middle-aged lady who is completely useless when strength or bravery are required, I can tell you that simply showing up is a good deed, and showing up in numbers keeps everyone safer. Better still, go with a group that is well organized and has some experience at protests.

I was at the antifascist protest in Berkeley a few weeks ago with the DSA contingent, probably around a hundred of us from several chapters. I'd guess there were about 300 antifascists in total? The black bloc, maybe around 50 strong, marched at the front and the DSA was right behind them. The black bloc and DSA marshals were well prepared, constantly adapting as the situation changed, herding people this way and that to keep the bloc in front and the rest of us safer behind them. My DSA friends looked out for each other's safety and whereabouts (it's very easy to lose a spouse in a chaotic crowd!) and I'm really glad I was there with a group I already knew and trusted.

Bystanders cheered and waved, happy to see a crowd standing up to the fascists. Even though all I did was walk around, I felt like I did something good just by being there on behalf of those who couldn't.

At one point, the march halted right in front of the police cordon. A dozen or so fascists were hiding behind a couple dozen cops at the cordon, and the black bloc got right up in the cops' faces. The black bloc are some scary-looking mofos, let me tell you, and I kind of don't blame the cops for getting nervous. Something went sailing over the cordon and landed in the middle of the bloc. Being badasses, they picked it up and threw it right back at the cops. It was a flashbang and it went off with a hell of a bang. This is where the marshals really proved their worth: they directed the entire crowd to turn around without panicking, they re-formed the march on the fly, and they led us to safety, all while the flashbang kept detonating. It was loud and kind of scary but the marshals kept it at controlled chaos rather than a free-for-all panic.

I think that just showing up, either as a marcher or a supportive bystander, is worthwhile. Even if you'd never throw a punch, just being there in the crowd shows the world that there are lots of people who care about democracy and human rights, which deflates support for the fascists. And if you have some measure of privilege in society, you can always find a way to use it on behalf of the less fortunate - you can march, or work behind the scenes, or donate money, or whatever you can do. Shoulder to shoulder, friends - we can win this.
posted by Quietgal at 9:15 PM on August 22, 2018 [25 favorites]


A recent episode of the Pod Damn America podcast has a long interview with three NYC DSA medics about the medic training and what their days as medics at Charlottesville looked like. Really good listen and quite funny. An interesting bit I didn't know was they said medics were explicitly not supposed to take part in any chanting or direct action themselves beyond being a body in that space.
posted by Space Coyote at 9:20 PM on August 22, 2018 [5 favorites]


I did like them saying “oh hey if this went on another day or so we’d all have trench foot”
posted by The Whelk at 8:41 AM on August 23, 2018


If you are not antifascist, you are profascist, full stop.

I would be very cautious deploying that sort of "if you're not with us, you're against us" rhetoric; it plays right into the hands of the far right. There's a large swath of people who have no interest in fascism qua fascism as an ideology, but if pressed to make a choice between what looks like disorganized violence on one hand, and controlled violence on the other, may very well find the latter to be the safer choice. Finding ways to force that choice is typically how fascists worm their way into power.

Similarly, the elimination of an objective (in intent if not always in results) press would play to the ultra-right; it's not coincidental that the concluding chapter of Ann Coulter's new book (per C-SPAN!) is apparently titled "For Democracy to Live, We Must Kill the Media" (I can't even make this shit up). They would absolutely love if everything were reduced to one side's propaganda or the other. Police violence, in particular, would lose a significant constraint without an objective record, and social media is not a replacement. (The last few years have demonstrated pretty well, I think, that social media is good at reinforcing people's biases but little else.) I would not trust it to save anyone from a police beatdown, or worse.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:15 AM on August 23, 2018 [4 favorites]


I would genuinely love to, truly, but I doubt they have too much use for a middle-aged lady with a bad knee. (I'm actually not trying to be facetious.)

What about joining or starting an 'Auntiefa' group? At the recent "Rally Against Far-Left Violence" in Austin the Auntiefa group-- a self-described "battle-hardened corps of knitters and cookie bakers"-- showed up with ginger snaps and lemonade for counter-protestors, signs that read "Does your mother know where you are?" and had a knitting circle where they passed out anti-fascist literature. They're a splinter group from the LOLt-Right Marching Band, which provides fun, positive alternative spectacles at events hosted by hate groups.

I believe there are a growing number of groups like this- focused on modeling nonviolent, de-escalation tactics to help people channel their energy in safe and affirming ways in the face of hatred.
posted by edgybelle27 at 9:41 AM on August 23, 2018 [9 favorites]


People who "have no interest in fascism qua fascism as an ideology" but have a marked preference for police brutality and state violence over people standing up against fascists... I'm not convinced that they're not open to fascism, however they'd like to characterise it.

If you choose neutrality in the face of oppression, you're siding with the oppressor. That's hardly a new concept.

Also, metafilter is not a discussion with a tentative contact. Different rhetoric for different audiences.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 9:42 AM on August 23, 2018 [6 favorites]


I would be very cautious deploying that sort of "if you're not with us, you're against us" rhetoric; it plays right into the hands of the far right.

One side wants to murder millions, and the other side wants that to not happen. There is no neutral ground between the two. There is no way to compromise.

There's a large swath of people who have no interest in fascism qua fascism as an ideology, but if pressed to make a choice between what looks like disorganized violence on one hand, and controlled violence on the other, may very well find the latter to be the safer choice.

Hey, you know what you call somebody who finds their way to supporting fascism not because they sought it out but because they liked it better than other alternatives? You call them a fucking fascist.

Finding ways to force that choice is typically how fascists worm their way into power.

That is false. The history of fascism has them gaining power either by seizing it violently or by being invited in by conservatives hoping to use them as a weapon against the left.

Similarly, the elimination of an objective (in intent if not always in results) press would play to the ultra-right; it's not coincidental that the concluding chapter of Ann Coulter's new book (per C-SPAN!) is apparently titled "For Democracy to Live, We Must Kill the Media" (I can't even make this shit up). They would absolutely love if everything were reduced to one side's propaganda or the other. Police violence, in particular, would lose a significant constraint without an objective record, and social media is not a replacement. (The last few years have demonstrated pretty well, I think, that social media is good at reinforcing people's biases but little else.) I would not trust it to save anyone from a police beatdown, or worse.

Where have you been? The objective media doesn't exist and American media is mostly cheerfully cooperating with the fascists- even the Nice Polite Republicans at NPR gave Jason Kessler a platform. All the things you're talking about in this paragraph have been going on for decades.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:52 AM on August 23, 2018 [12 favorites]


I'm not convinced that they're not open to fascism, however they'd like to characterise it.

Well, yeah. Of course they're "open" to fascism. A lot of people—I'd suspect the majority—are open to fascism, given the right circumstances and packaging. They're probably also open to a lot of other things, though, and fascism at least has the whole Nazi image problem. If you want to immediately write off anyone who's even potentially "open" to fascism as an Actual Fascist, you're writing off a big swath of the public. And even if you don't care about that in the abstract, or want mushy-middle people like that next to you on the barricades, it has repercussions in terms of state treatment if you lose their support. (E.g. I'd argue that the effectiveness of the ALF went down dramatically when they lost a lot of public support; some of this was due to false flags, but I don't think that alters the point, but rather reinforces it.) The line between "radicals" and "terrorists" is, essentially, one of public opinion.

The objective media doesn't exist and American media is mostly cheerfully cooperating with the fascists

And the right-wing thinks that the media is cheerfully cooperating with some crazypants George Soros / Clinton / Comet Ping Pong Pizzeria conspiracy. Or something, I try not to listen too closely, but they certainly don't think the media is on their side, and spend a lot of effort trying to discredit it in general. That would be a weird thing to do if the media, in general, were fellow travelers. I don't know if I believe they're smart or subtle enough for that sort of reverse psychology.

What you seem to be asking for is for the media to give up any pretense of being unbiased and take a political position, and in the long run I don't think that would be a good idea; it would remove a valuable check against (among other things) police violence. The media as an institution may not be having a good decade, but it still exists and still has legitimacy and power to shape public opinion. Perfect vs. good, etc.

The history of fascism has them gaining power either by seizing it violently or by being invited in by conservatives hoping to use them as a weapon against the left.

This is probably straying fro mthe topic, but I don't think those things are mutually exclusive; at least if you are talking about Actual Nazis, their violent seizure of power was presaged by elections in which they actively positioned themselves as the alternative to communism (though one could argue not very successfully—if not for their refusal to cooperate with each other, the SPD/CPD could have had a coalition in Nov. 1932, possibly in July if they'd shaved some votes off of NSDAP), and the Machtergreifung was obviously catalyzed by the Reichstag Fire, which effectively made it impossible to not pick a side. From that point on, you were either with the NSDAP or you were with the Communists, and obviously in mortal peril. I don't think the violence undermines the point that forcing everyone to choose a side, with no place for compromise, is a pretty standard fascist power-consolidation tactic, though not exclusively theirs, certainly. More recently, I've heard it a lot from Trump apologists (e.g. Coulter) who are attacking the paleoconservative / never-Trump camp. I would go so far as to say it's probably a pretty standard political / rhetorical tactic, but if you're going to deploy it, you'd better have a pretty good idea, or control over, which side people are going to throw their lot in with. Doing it if you're not likely to come out on top seems... unwise.

And on a less-abstract note, I have personally witnessed situations where I absolutely believe the police would have killed or at least severely beaten people, if not for news cameras. Their presence has an effect, and I don't think the effect would have come from cellphones held by other demonstrators. I wouldn't throw that away.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:32 PM on August 23, 2018


Out of curiosity, how would you go about finding an Antifa group to support if the only ones you’d encountered so far weren’t safe enough for you to be around?
posted by schadenfrau at 1:56 PM on August 22 [5 favorites +] [!]
I'm not sure where you are, but if you have a local IWW chapter, they are good people to get into contact with. Both for finding explicitly antifa groups, and also because they do anti-fascist work. I am not a member of the IWW, but our branch has a very active facebook page that is a good place to get information on needed help and ongoing efforts for things like immigration, the current prison strike, amazon boycott, etc/
posted by FirstMateKate at 2:33 PM on August 23, 2018 [4 favorites]


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