Wrote this in reflection after some of my experiences of anti-fascist action last year had it sat on my computer, thought it would be better posted up here. As will be seen I'm favouring mass anti-fascism (as opposed to elite fighting units), trying to get local people's support where possible and being willing to resist the fascists physically where necessary. This is specifically 5 points to refute the idea that antifa are 'just as bad as the fascists'.
From Jan 2016
If you are reading this from the UK you might have seen some of the video clips and pictures of the clashes between fascists and anti-fascists in Dover at the weekend. The hype will soon die down but for a few days it's been a bit of a talking point in some circles. A problem with a lot of the talk, is that it represents opinions that have been formed mainly from seeing a handful of pictures and 10 second video clips or reading brief summaries of the events written by other people who don't really understand what has happened either. This leads to well meaning people making claims that we are all as bad as each other or that there really isn't much difference between the two groups.
The fascists and the anti-fascists actually couldn't be much more different, lumping us all together and dismissing us as violent hooligans is lazy, but, maybe a tiny bit understandable. The scenes that the news reports focus on are unsettling for most people but behind those scenes there is a lot more going on. So to try to clear things up here are five reasons why the anti-fascists are very different to the fascists:
- The number one, and obviously the most important difference is that fascists come to towns and cities across the country to promote fascism whilst anti-fascists come to stand against it. Fascists come waving banners and flags about white pride and nationalism and making Hitler salutes and loudly chanting that they don't want any more refugees or migrants coming to the country. Anti-fascists stand for solidarity between people everywhere against the systems that divide them and oppress them, our banners and flags and chants are messages about welcoming people and opposing hate and bigotry.
- Absolutely crucially for those who struggle to understand what is happening when they see images of fighting is that fascists come on the offensive whilst anti-fascists are there to defend. Fascists always start throwing bricks and bottles and trying to get around police lines to hurt people who are opposing them, they bring knives and knuckle dusters and threaten to kill people in advance. The anti-fascists come to block them, to physically stand in the way of where their march is supposed to come and not to let them pass. This is dangerous and the difference between anti-fascists and many other protesters is that anti-fascists are ready to defend themselves in order to hold key positions blocking them from entering a town center or rallying in a symbolic location like a high street or a town square. This can result in fighting breaking out, it's a price some people are willing to pay, not a game or an excuse for some gratuitous violence.
- One reason people may be increasingly confused is that some fascists have recently begun to copy the look of anti-fascist protesters (we often come dressed in black in order to try to blend in with each other and to avoid being singled out or recognised by these violent fanatics). But underneath all that the anti-fascists are a much more diverse bunch comprising of people of a range of different ethnic groups, ages, genders, sexual orientations, levels of ability etc. Fascists tend to be older white men. They celebrate an imagined purity, we celebrate, and want to increase, our diversity.
- Another thing you don't see unless you are more intimate with what is going on is the fact that the two groups organise themselves very differently. Anti-fascists don't just turn up and randomly run around the streets, where possible there is a plan and the group tries it best to act with unity or not at all. Fascists are opportunists, if they corner someone who opposes them they will brutally attack them, whether this is a local person, a peaceful protester or someone who can try to stand up to them. Given the opportunity they destroy the place, shops and businesses thought to be run by migrants will be trashed anyone who gets in their way will be hurt. Anti-fascists try to be respectful, we are always pleased when local people support us but on occasions where some people don't we try to avoid interacting with them at all, we certainly don't attack local people. If some of us are tempted to be disrespectful most of the rest of us will reign them in.
- Lastly, anti-fascists are united. All groups of people contain some differences of opinion and different types of characters but anti-fascists stick together. Fascists contain groups which are just as likely to attack each other as they are everyone else, some are hardcore neo-nazis who praise Hitler, some see themselves as British patriots. Their groups splinter off into numerous factions allowing for even the darkest and most fanatical extremists to find a home for themselves within their movement.
So, maybe you still don't feel entirely comfortable with the anti-fascists but at least now you know what is really going on! If you do find yourself interested and want to join your local group visit the website to find out more antifascistnetwork.org/about/