Antifa : The Anti-Fascist Handbook – Mark Bray

March 20, 2019 at 13:29 | Posted in books | Leave a comment

antifaThis is an important book. It is an impressive and comprehensive history of the anti-fascist movement, from its roots in the resistance to Hitler and Mussolini through to current day activism against the alt-right.

It’s a long, sometimes dense and detailed book which is not always easy to read, but it is worth it. Rather than a retailed review, I will share two startling lessons which came from it for me.

The first is the importance of denying the far-right a platform. There is currently endless debate about the rights to free speech, and how ‘de-platforming’ should not be tolerated. This book offers a much-needed perspective on this issue. What is absolutely clear, throughout history, is that far-right movements have faded when they have not had easy access to the public. Debating fascists does not work, and never has worked. It merely gives them oxygen. It’s also important to realise that for the owner of a hall or institution to deny fascists the use of their facilities to hold a meeting or rally is not denying their free speech. For a noisy counter-protest to drown out far-right voices in the street is not denying their free speech. For an internet platform to ban fascist individuals from their services is not denying their free speech. They are free to speak, to organise, to set up their own institutions, buildings, platforms and publications. But history shows when they have to do this using only their own resources, rather than subverting more liberal institutions to promote their cause, they wither.

We have no problem telling our children that certain things should not be said or done; that it is wrong do things that are mean or to hurt people people or to say things which are untrue. We do not debate our children on these topics, we simply tell them that it is not acceptable, and prevent them from doing it. We should have no hesitation or qualms about doing the same for fascist and far-right voices, and refuse to get drawn into a manipulative argument about ‘free speech’.

The second is related to the first, and is the important of direct action. Organising, marching, campaigning, shouting and physically restricting have always been important tools in the fight against fascism. This does not need to mean violence (although this book reveals an uncomfortable truth, and that is that violent protest has protected our societies from fascism on many occasions), but does mean confrontation. As an example, an annual (and growing) far right rally in Germany was in recent years disrupted and destroyed simply by concerned citizens campaigning directly against it – blocking access to railways stations when trains of fascists arrived, holding counter-marches in the same streets, chanting loudly when fascists tried to speak, forcefully engaging individuals in the fascist groups and telling them they were not welcome, that their ideas were unacceptable and that they should leave immediately. Within two years, the largest far-right rally in Germany was abandoned by its neo-nazi organisers as support for it withered away.

We live in a world where fascism is on the rise. Far-right propaganda is now piped into our homes from mainstream media outlets and politicians. This scourge can be defeated. It has been before. But we will not do so with debate and liberal engagement. Fascist hate can only be shut down with concentrated and direct effort.

This book at the end has a section of ideas and practical tips for disrupting fascist networks. Some require a lot of courage and time. Others you can do by writing letters.

Read this book. Then join the fight.

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