Antifa (short for Anti-Fascist) is a movement that originally sprang up in the 1920s as a response to the rise of fascism in Europe. The anti-fascists of that time were a mixed bag of concerned citizens who saw the rise of fascism as being a threat to themselves, their society, and the vulnerable. After World War II, the group began to take on a strictly leftist bend, with groups embracing Marxism, anarcho-communism, and some strands of libertarianism, though they weren’t tied to any specific political party.
One thing we need to keep in mind when discussing Antifa is differentiating the historical group and the modern incarnation that sprung up in the 1980s and ’90s (primarily in America and Germany). To trace the origins of the modern Antifa we need to look at the Anti-Racist Action (ARA) groups that sprung up around the punk scene of that reformation era. The punk scene that birthed ARA groups was primarily anti-authoritarian and anarchist in nature. They were the ones that began the ‘street-level’ activism that Antifa is known for today and has since been divorced from its punk scene origins.
Antifa targets anyone they consider to be fascist, racist, homophobic, misogynistic, anti-immigrant, or on the alt-right/far-right. How do they accomplish this? Primarily through non-violent acts like protests, de-platforming controversial speakers, and digital activism (getting websites taken down, convincing advertisers to drop clients, and doxing people to get them fired). That’s not to say they don’t get violent, their protests have devolved into property damage, physical violence, and harassment.
It’s hard to find unbiased news articles about their activities because of the controversial nature of the group itself. Mainstream news organizations have called them violent thugs known to cause property damage, ranking Democratic leaders like Nancy Pelosi condemned their use of violence, Twitter suspended the accounts of the group responsible for the Tucker Carlson protest, the mayor of Berkley, California said they should be labelled as a gang, and Fox News contributors have pushed for them to be labelled a terrorist organization.
With those on the left disavowing them and those on the right calling for the government to abolish them, the only other source of news about them is from the group itself. There isn’t a lot of coverage of the undeniably good things the group has done, for example, the affiliated group “It’s Going Down” has an entire section detailing the Autonomous Disaster Relief projects the group has undertaken (https://itsgoingdown.org/autonomous-disaster-relief/) which is undeniably a good thing.
This leads to the problems we faced in compiling this issue. Attempting to speak with Antifa members (because of the decentralized and autonomous nature of the affiliation) was difficult, to say the least. Since there is no governing body, each group is more or less free to decide whom they consider a fascist and what actions are appropriate to take against those perceived to be fascists or fascist sympathizers. The anti-authoritarian and anonymous bend of the group was apparent in some of the responses we received when requesting interviews: “Lol...nahhhh. not gonna explain Jack to a journo.”, “You won't find anyone from Antifa to talk because it isn’t [sic] a group, it's an idea”, “Resist.”, and “What a boring a [sic] leading question.”
Nevertheless, we kept reaching out to groups and eventually found people at Antifa Toronto and Antifa International to speak with and we’ve included those e-mail exchanges in this issue.
To understand Antifa in a more nuanced manner we recommend reading Mark Bray’s Antifa: The Anti-fascist Handbook, to watch the documentary film America Under Siege: Antifa, and to watch this YouTube video called “The Philosophy of Antifa”:
These informative resources will help people who are completely unaware of Antifa or have only consumed biased coverage from mainstream media sources, to parse out some of the finer points, arguments, and nuances within their movement.
We hope you enjoy the issue,
Gregory & Matthew Zink
PoliQuads Magazine Founders/Editors