Melville House Publishing - August 2017
We’ve been working pretty hard to get the word out about Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook, Mark Bray’s impassioned and informative guide to understanding the movement that’s dominated headlines in the US and around the world since Charlottesville.
With the book hitting stores this week, and despite a profoundly demanding schedule of interviews, TV appearances, and writing, Mark was kind enough to talk with us, answering a few questions about antifa and Antifa. In celebration of a book we consider crucially important and are proud to be publishing, here’s that conversation.
ML: Ok, first things first. What is antifa?
MB: Antifa is the abbreviation for “anti-fascist” in a number of languages. The emphasis is on the first syllable (ANtifa) which is pronounced more like “on” in English than “an,” similar to how a Spanish speaker would pronounce the beginning of “antifascismo,” for example.
It connotes what is referred to in English and Italian as “militant anti-fascism,” in French as “radical anti-fascism,” or in German as “autonomous anti-fascism.” Militant anti-fascism is an illiberal politics or activity of social revolutionism applied to fighting the far right by communists, anarchists, socialists, and other radicals.
What do you view as some of the basic, fundamental tools and principles of antifa?
One of the most fundamental principles is: “No platform for fascism.” In short, this slogan means that fascist, neo-Nazi, and white supremacist politics and organizing should be shut down at every opportunity before they can expand into murderous movements or regimes, as they have in the past. It rejects the liberal notion that fascism is a school of thought worthy of open debate and consideration.
After the “Unite the Right” white power rally in Charlottesville, many of the racists in khakis with tiki torches have been doxxed—that is, had their identities publicly revealed—and are now shocked that marching in a Nazi procession might earn them some enemies. Antifa also organize educational campaigns, build community coalitions, monitor fascists, pressure venues to cancel their events, organize self-defense trainings, and physically confront the far right when necessary. Though this last facet of anti-fascism gets the most attention, it is actually only a small fraction of the thankless drudgery that is committing oneself to tracking the scum of the earth.
Your book begins talking about anti-fascist movements from nearly a hundred years ago; many people had not heard the word “antifa” until fairly recently. The state of US politics seems especially intense right now, but fascism is nothing new. So where has this word been all this time?
The abbreviation “antifa” was sometimes used in Germany between the wars. Later, revolutionary socialist “Antifa committees” sprung up amidst the carnage of the end of World War II, though their desire to make the war a springboard for building socialism was not supported by socialist or communist parties in western Europe. The term gained its modern connotation through its use by German autonomous anti-fascists in the 1980s (especially in the late eighties).
In the United States, most antifa groups in the eighties, nineties, and early 2000s were part of the Anti-Racist Action Network. Beginning in the late 2000s, and I believe in part because of the ability of social media to facilitate greater knowledge of the European movement, more American groups started calling themselves antifa — folks like Rose City Antifa in Portland, Oregon and NYC Antifa. It wasn’t really until West Coast antifa shut down Milo Yiannopoulos at UC Berkeley, however, that the term gained the mainstream attention that it has now.
Read full interview at Melville House