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Antifascist Action (Antifa, AFA), a global collective of left-wing activist groups, has the primary aim of "smashing fascism" in all its forms. The "fascism" the collective primarily opposes includes various forms of oppression (such as sexism, racism and homophobia), government corruption, war and (in recent times) Islamophobia.
The name 'Antifascist Action' (Antifaschistische Aktion in German) first appeared in Germany in 1932, and was a moniker used by the German Communist Party. The purpose of AFA was to present a militant alternative to the brutality of the Nazi Party SA goon-squads against communists and leftists. The German AFA was short-lived, being disbanded by the Nazis in 1933.
In the United States, there have been several precedents to AFA, going back to the Americans in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade who fought Franco in the Spanish Civil War. Mother Jones has a chronology of "Nazi Punching in America".
In 1985, an AFA collective began in Britain which comprised numerous anarchist, Trotskyist and other left wing groups. The group was active in brawls with Neo-Nazi organisations such as National Front and had numerous violent confrontations, such as an attack on a Neo-Nazi in 1990 which resulted in lengthy prison sentences for several anti-fascist activists.
AFA has continued to maintain a presence in Germany and since the 1990s, collectives have developed in other countries, including Sweden, Denmark, and Australia. The Antifa movement also exists in Greece where they sometimes clash with police and nationalists.
Australia's AFA collective gained strong media exposure in 2015 following several rallies conducted in cities across the country by AFA activists, in response to the growth of the far-right white nationalist Reclaim Australia and United Patriots Front movements. On occasions, these rallies, such as some in Bendigo, Antifa arrived to confront nationalists causing violent confrontations and numerous arrests. Antifa or Antifa supporters celebrated their confrontations with nationalists, posting some online. Antifa got into additional violent clashes with nationalists at Cronulla.
AFA protesters have a tendency to form a "black block", a tactic which involves masked participants dressing in black, largely for protection of identity. Protesters usually chant and carry banners advocating for the overcoming of the racist far-right.
AFA is classified as a domestic terrorist movement by the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, as well as internally classified as "domestic terrorist violence" by DHS and the FBI.
Nationalist conspiracy theorists, such as Nick Folkes and Blair Cottrell, have regarded AFA protesters as "useful idiots" and traitors to their nation, serving the desires of global elites seeking to undermine nationalism so a one world government can be created.
Some other criticism of modern European Antifascist movements is due to the violent action they take to advance their position including carrying illegal weapons to combat opponents and breaking into houses of suspected Neo-Nazis, shootings of Golden Dawn members, as well as chasing protestors, violent disturbances with nationalists and police, plus "patrols" against, causing serious injury to, and generally aggressively opposing nationalists. The claim is that when Antifa initiates violence, it is counter-productive because it makes the fascists and racists look like victims. Some Antifa Facebook pages advocate and depict violence, destruction and theft of property against perceived fascists, while others publicly identify "fascists" from demonstrations, many of whom attempt to conceal their identity. The Swedish Antifascist organization Revolutionary Front accepts violence in its declaration of principles, stating it recognizes all struggle methods and sees peaceful resistance and revolutionary violence as equal.
Elements of Antifa have at times initiated violence, known as squadism in the UK, and the decentralized nature of Antifa means that it's difficult to interpret who is Antifa and who has just showed up to start fighting. The groups that Antifa has protested against, however have a long and brutal history (e.g., Nazi Germany and the KKK) associated with their ideologies that continues to this day (e.g., Aryan Circle, Operation Red Dog, Anders Behring Breivik and Varg Vikernes).
Antifascist groups usually agree on very few things and there is no such thing as "national headquarters", and even local groups are often best understood as a coalition of disparate groups allied for a common goal or even a single demonstration that don't see eye to eye on other issues. Groups that are subsumed under the "Antifa" label can be as diverse as unreformed Stalinist tankies, green-leftist ecological activists in the vein of Greenpeace or hedonistic leftists who consider the former two buzzkills. While conflicts are usually ignored during common demonstrations against fascism or "fascism", they sometimes break out into the open even then. Problems include tactical considerations such as which form(s) of violence — if any — should be considered, as well as ideological differences and the uneasiness of some libertarian leftists to march next to someone holding a hammer and sickle banner. As per the usual, the stance on Israel is also a hot button issue, especially if someone brings an Israeli flag or wears a keffiyeh.
A common conspiracy theory in parts of the right is that "the" Antifa is financed or works in the employ of "them": the government, globalists, elites, Soros, or — even more tellingly — "da Jooz". Despite the patent ridiculousness of those claims, various non-right wing people frequently allude to this and "leak" ridiculously fake "evidence" for the government financing "the" Antifa and "ordering" violence or property damage.
Liberal commentator Robert Reich—normally a strident critic of conspiracy theories—has promoted the claim that Antifa are financed by the far right. Urging readers to "Connect these dots," he laid out alleged parallel goals of Antifa at UC Berkeley and Breitbart news. Some on the left, particularly in Berkeley, have criticized him for this.
Most interestingly, when people started to realize there was no way to back their ridiculous conspiracy theories, the far right started making their own "Antifas" on the internet and raiding antifascist rallies. The most notable example is a group of right wingers who unfurled a banner that promoted pedophilia right in front of a cameraman, who immediately forwarded the picture to Mike Cernovich, who they were protesting against. Today, that image is a gospel truth of the right.
- Compare: Antifa: A New Political Resistance? (2017-03-23): "[...] Antifa groups in the Bay Area and Southern California share the common goal of ‘smashing fascism’ with groups from across the country, such as NYC Antifa."
- Left Hook: A Brief History of Nazi Punching in America: Forty years of leftists fighting neo-Nazis, Klansmen, and assorted white supremacists by Wes Enzinna (May/June 2017) Mother Jones.
- Birchall, Sean, Beating The Fascists: The Untold Story of Anti-Fascist Action (London: Freedom Press, 2010) p. 195
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sRnaKisibYU Clearly labeled Antifascists in Sweden
- Antifacistisk Aktion (website in Swedish)
- Antifacistisk Aktion (website in Danish)
- Antifa Australia WordPress blog as well as that of the Sydney branch
- Which is illegal in several countries with Anti-mask laws such as in Germany
- Anarchist extremists: Antifa
- Antifa: US security agencies label group 'domestic terrorists', Lucy Pasha-Robinson, 3 September 2017
- Noam Chomsky: Antifa is a 'major gift to the right', Maya Oppenheim, Tuesday 22 August 2017
- The Daily Show: Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Antagonists of the Alt-Right
- Current Affairs: Thinking Strategically About Free Speech And Violence, August 20, 2017
- Vox: The case against antifa, German Lopez on August 29, 2017
- https://www.facebook.com/Channel4News/videos/10153502393856939 Many condemn violence by Antifascists
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7FDyr3jGLRM Projectiles fly in Britain
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s2t4O0CDR50 Scuffles in Dover, England
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zvbIBg5wGvA Antifascists vs Water Cannons
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9iE8rIbz3D0 Riot Police vs Antifa in Frankfurt, Germany
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QuKMREabaQg Antifa goes wild in Berlin
- See the Wikipedia article on Anti-Fascist Action.
- Robert Reich, "Who Sent the Thugs to Berkeley?" Newsweek, 2/14/17
- Aleah Jennings-Newhouse, "Robert Reich publishes controversial theory regarding Yiannopoulos demonstration" The Daily Cal, February 9, 2017
- Hart Eagleburger and Jack Rusk "Disappointing Reactions to the Anti-Milo Berkeley Antifa Action" Left Voice, February 16, 2017