Excerpts from an article by Freedom Newspaper- read the full article here
Fascism as an ideology expresses itself as the rear guard action of capitalism through the promotion of ultra-nationalism, a moral and racial superiority, a stark authoritarianism, and crucially a physical force violent presence on the streets. During the 1980s and 1990s it took the concerted efforts of a committed group of militant anti-fascists to successfully confront the far right and literally force them off the streets. Anti-Fascist Action are still remembered and feared by neo-Nazi gangs, racist thugs and members of far right nationalist parties as being unrelenting in their stated aim to confront fascism both physically and ideologically. So successful were AFA in their objectives that the BNP had to retreat completely from ‘street politics’ and reinvent itself as a parliamentary euro-nationalist party
Not only did AFA redefine the spectrum of how fascists operated they also offered us a warning on the far right’s ability to adapt to their circumstances. In the final chapter of Beating The Fascists AFA set out the task ahead in challenging the new forms of far right expression, and offers up the question “what happens if an extreme right party emerges that immunises itself against the charges of nazism? What happens when, with generational shift, the strength of ant-nazi feeling and memory of war fades?” What does happen is in part entirely up to us. We have been warned
Excerpts from a review by Malatesta – read the full review here
The book is well written, at times funny, and although from a fairly singular point uses insider information from the folk who were actually there which makes it very readable. The case for physical opposition is made absolutely clear and uncompromisingly. Physical force is not for everyone but that does not mean it cannot be employed alongside other strategies against fascism
Some of the stories have clearly been well polished over the bar but are honest and unflinching in the descriptions of fear and outright violence. Accounts of events will always be disputed and obviously, in the heat of battle, participants’ experiences and views of events can differ radically but the subjective nature of the descriptions counter balance any dry theorising. And it is these anecdotes – rather than the dry analysis of SWP hacks like Dave Renton – that give the book its flavour
Beating The Fascists quickly dismisses the nonsense point of view that anti-fascists are somehow fighting on behalf of black or Asian people. Anti-fascists fight against fascists because of political opposition not as some misguided social work
The book does point up the heavy white male aspect of Red Action (although AFA was much more gender mixed) but this kind of anti-fascism is not for the meek. It requires violence, physical stamina and people able to dish it out as well as take it. There can be no dispute over Red Action’s organising skills, the hassles and isolation that they faced with the internecine disputes amongst the left, and their uncompromising ability to take it to the Nazis. And, more importantly, win.
Anti-Fascist Action (AFA) activists from various parts of the country explain in words and deeds the concept behind their basic principles, which were “to confront fascism both physically and ideologically.”
In this first part, Mensi, the lead singer of legendary punk band Angelic Upstarts, introduces AFA’s politics and explains his own support for militant anti-fascism. The growth of the far-right in Europe is analysed and the BNP’s ‘Rights For Whites’ campaign is set against the context of a largely politically alienated section of the white working class.
The history of Mosely’s Blackshirts and the Battle of Cable Street feature strongly in this section with eye-witness accounts from Cable Street anti-fascist veterans Joyce and Charlie Goodman (RIP).
In the second part, East London Dockers Leader, Mickey Fenn (RIP) explains the situation in the 1970′s when the most militant elements of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and the Anti-Nazi League (ANL) formed fighting ‘squads’ to take the physical fight directly to the fascists. The squads, which were eventually disowned by the leadership of the SWP, were the forerunners of AFA.
The programme then moves on to the BNP’s ‘Rights For Whites’ campaign which met with particular success in the South London boroughs of Bermondsey and Thamesmead and criticises the conservative left for cowardice in the face of the enemy.
A Northern AFA activist and a Scottish AFA member then explain why they joined AFA and favoured the more direct militant approach to anti-fascism.
Former Boxing champion Terry Marsh ends this section of the programme with an analysis of the general shift to the right being an economic question that must be addressed by a progressive working class movement.
Scottish AFA activists explain the links between fascism and loyalism, with particular reference to the fascist presence among the supporters of Glasgow Rangers, which goes back to the early 1970′s with paper sales by both the NF and the BNP establishing a firm foothold at Ibrox.
Fascism as an ideology is explained in this section; a Glasgow AFA member argues that racism is simply a tactic of fascism and that the fascists’ tactics can be adapted according to what they perceive to be the political ‘needs’ of particular areas. Therefore, in places like Scotland and Ulster, anti-Black and anti-Asian racism is very often replaced with anti-Irish and anti-Catholic rhetoric in a blatant attempt by the fascists to appeal to loyalists.
A Glagow AFA activist, who is a former loyalist member of the Orange Order, explains the crossover in politics between loyalism and fascism.
This section ends with a focus on AFA’s campaigning work in the North-West of England with an Asian member of AFA outlining her experience of fascist attacks against ethnic minorities.
In the final part of the programme Mensi outlines why AFA seeks to keep the fascists off the streets. This policy is demonstrated with footage of AFA confronting fascist paper sellers in Bermondsey, south London.
The programme ends with a call for working class unity against fascism.
Published at: 02:09 pm - Tuesday September 28 2010
“We only take to the streets in a physical manner because they’re there.
… No fascists on the streets, by definition, no Anti-Fascist Action.”
The above clip is taken from a TV documentary (approx date 1993) about the various methods of anti-racism and anti-fascism. In this clip the role of AFA in the fight against fascism is explained.
“Anti-Fascist Action is fundamentally a reactive organisation to fight fascism, both physically and ideologically… And that involves fundamentally working inside working class communities, taking on the fascists’ ideas within the working class community, as well as physically taking on the fascist streetfighters. We only take to the streets in a physical manner because they’re there. No fascists on the streets, by definition, no Anti-Fascist Action.”
At the time, some on the anti-fascist left were obsessed with closing down the BNP’s Headquarters in Welling, but as the AFA spokesperson points out, ‘If the bunker wasn’t in Welling, it would be somewhere else. To campaign to get it removed from Welling is, in a sense, just moving the problem from one locality to another. What we have to do is combat fascism in the estates where the fascists are active and that’s not always in the locality where their HQ is.’
The clip also includes footage of a violent AFA confrontation with fascists on the streets of London.
Beating The Fascists: The Untold Story of Anti-Fascist Action
ISBN: 0904491129 / 978-09-044-911-28
Price £15.00 Sean Birchall
The most controversial political book of the decade will be hitting the streets in October 2010. A compelling account of the extraordinary activities of Anti-Fascist Action (AFA) – by those who were there on the frontline – an organised and committed group of ordinary working class people who during the 1980s and 1990s took the fight to the far right – and won!
The book will be available to buy from Freedom Bookshop, online from this website, or at all good bookstores. You will be able order and buy direct from the website via our online shopping cart – available soon.
“Following the electoral collapse of the National Front in 1979, fascists went on the rampage. Race attacks escalated. NF/BNP gangs employed violence on the streets, on the terraces and to control the music scene. Young anti-fascists stepped up. A new hardline leadership emerged and AFA was formed in 1985. ‘A state of war’ was how one rueful BNP leader would describe what happened next.
Not only is ‘Beating the Fascists’ a meticulously researched study, it is also a much-needed piece of ‘history from below’. Throughout, the voices of working class anti-fascists come across hard, clear, and without apology. Illuminating and sometimes chilling by turn, the running commentary they provide helps ensure the tempo never flags. Gradually the reader is drawn into an outlaw world of back street idealism, paramilitary style violence and heroic self-sacrifice”.