Anti-Fascist Self-Defense: From Mussolini's Italy to Trump's America
Date Written: 13/09/2017
Year Published: 2017
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX21253
A conversation with Mark Bray, a political activist, historian and a lecturer at Dartmouth College and author of Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook.
Resistance to white supremacy and resistance to the Klan goes back much further and is much broader than can be encompassed within the banner of anti-fascism. Obviously, resistance to white supremacy goes back to 1492. It goes back to resistance of slavery. It goes back to John Brown and Ida B. Wells, and so forth. It also has a tradition in the radical elements of the labor movement, the IWW having battled against the Klan in the 1920s. You can look at the Deacons for Defense and the Black Panthers and other kinds of militant opposition to white supremacy.
We can see that to some extent the boundaries get a little blurrier, starting around the 1970s when there is more of a cross-pollination between the Klan and neo-Nazi groups, when there is an emergence of what some have called a Nazified Klan. The nexus of those two elements was responsible for the Greensboro Massacre in the late 1970s. I briefly touch upon the John Brown Anti-Klan Committee in the 1980s, which espoused an antifa perspective before that kind of politics was "officially" brought to the US. They helped organize confrontational counter-protests against Klan events and other similar formations around the country.
So, it is a broader lineage and sometimes it is not entirely clear where to parse the differences between anti-fascism and a broader anti-racist movement. I think it is important to think in terms of how these groups identify, the message they use, and try to tease apart differences, but not get so obsessed with definitions that you can't see that there is some grey area.