Monday, 6 May 2013

Anti Fascist Action (AFA)

When we think of Fascism the image that usually comes to mind a bunch of thugs in matching shirts pushing around an elderly Rabbi. That or a bunch of middle aged wasters hanging around WWII re-enactments.

Sadly both stereotypes the historical artefact or the dregs of society are in danger of becoming obsolete. In Europe racial populist parties whose members and leaders have a lengthy history of rubbing shoulders with explicit Neo-Nazi's have managed to get a boost in poll numbers by focusing on Immigrants and since 2001 Muslims. Now we add Austerity to the mix and the appeal to national brotherhood has become more appealing to some of those left idle by the economic stagnation.

In Greece as I'm sure you're aware the overtly Fascist Golden Dawn is currently the third largest party and becoming more active. But its not just a Greek problem, throughout the whole of Europe there are worrying pockets of Fascists and not quite fascist movements bubbling up to the surface.

Italy has a long history of large coalitions of far right groups gaining influence in many electoral coalitions. Such as the Italian Social Movement the successors to Mussolini's Fascist party. ISM merged into the National Alliance which was then merged with a number of other parties including Berlusconi's Forza Italia into the "People for Freedom Party". To put that in British terms, imagine the BNP and the other Far Right splinters merge into a new Nationalist Front, and then merges with the Conservative Party giving some of its members access to state institutions and a say in national policy.

For example take this golden boy, he is Manfredi Alemanno the son of the Mayor of Rome Gianni Alemanno a current member of the People for Freedom and former member of the Italian Social Movement. Now not only has this coalition let a lot of Fascists in through the back door but it appears the Alemanno's haven't renounced their past and are still up to dirty tricks.

The story goes back to 2009. It’s June 2nd, the day on which Italy celebrates the anniversary of the 1946 referendum that brought an end to the monarchy and the beginning of the Republic. Manfredi Alemanno, who is then 14 years old, goes to a party with some friends in a posh area of Rome. Once there, they start singing fascist songs and doing the fascist salute. This is not surprising: Manfredi Alemanno, who was later photographed on a holiday in Greece in 2012 in the same pose, comes from an all-fascist family (more on this below).
One of the teenagers who had organised the party confronted them and told them to leave. At this stage the situation quickly escalates: one of Manfredi’s friends threatens the organisers and declares his membership of Blocco Studentesco – Casapound‘s youth wing (of which, by the way, Manfredi Alemanno became representative in his college in 2011). The same guy then starts making calls to dozens of people. Their girlfriends are told to get away because “something is about to happen”. Within a few minutes a group of 4 or 5 young men enter the scene – nobody sees how they get in, but they are probably let in by their friends – who then start beating up, even using a motorbike helmet, the teenager who had stopped the fascist singing.
And calling from Deutschland we have worrying news of a plethora Neo-Nazi splinters flaring up from Wessen to Ost. The most well known of these is probably the National Democratic Party of Germany (NDP) which in addition to being around since the 60's (in West Germany) has managed to gain a few seats in regional parliaments, and has survived several banning attempts.

But its not all doom and gloom, Fascist groups have had surges in support before, and were often put into severe decline. In Britain the height of openly Fascist support was in 1977 with the National Front, but by the 80's the NF had fractured and overall the Far Right started losing members and support. You saw less and less paper sellers and fewer marches and rallies, which where the main activites for the British Far right from Moseley's crew upto the early nineties. It wasn't until the "Defence League's" got started that Far Right Nazi Fetishists started to come back onto the streets
 and we can all see how well that turned out.

Today the NF numbers at best 200 and most of those are paper/keyboard members. And in France a similar phenomenon occurred, Fascistic groups to the right of the Front Nacionale (FN) were a common sight on the streets of Paris. In fact racist attacks of black and Asian citizens got so bad in some areas that it became impossible for "foreign looking" people to take certain trains through several Metro stations.

But again much like in Britain that changed, street by street France's far right gangs disappeared with only the FN which had a very rocky relationship with them is still around causing trouble. So what happened in Britain and France, did the skin heads just get bored and go home? Not quite, they went home all right but not because they wanted to. In both nations a large and diverse coalition of groups clubbed together to then club (often literally) the Fascists in the streets.

In Britain the group was called Anti Fascist Action (AFA) and it was a coalition of Red Action a Communist group formed from a split with the Socialist Workers Party (whom ran the Anti Nazi League) and are now known as the "Independent Working Class Association" and have some local council representation. The Anarchist Direct Action Movement (DAM) and to a lesser degree Workers Power, Class War and a few other groups, as well as a large group of independents i.e. people who didn't belong to any other group.

AFA was originally set up in 1985 as a broad front anti-fascist organisation. The main fascist organisation at this time, following the demise of the National Front after Thatcher took power in 1979, was the British National Party (BNP), a more extreme split from the NF. Militant physical force anti-fascism has a long tradition in Britain - going back to the 1930's, the 'Battle of Cable Street' and the 43 Group in London's East End, and it was in this tradition that AFA was formed.
Fighting Talk

Writing these words I am acutely aware of my small contribution to the history of anti-fascism. I’m sure I have forgotten many incidents, but even so this little booklet of anti-fascist activity must look very slim compared to the volumes certain people I know could fill with their experiences. Nevertheless, I think it can be useful for the ‘small fish’ such as myself to chronicle these events, warts and all, in case nobody does it and then the history would be lost, or distorted by right-wingers or liberals.
By crushing the fascists at an early stage I think it is reasonable to assume that Anti-Fascist Action (AFA) has prevented numerous racist attacks and even saved lives. For if the fascists were given the chance to freely march, sell their papers, and appear as a respectable political force they would just grow and grow. Fascists’ number one aim while they are growing is to appear to be respectable and rational, but, to quote Matty Blagg ‘fascism does not start with gas chambers, but it ends with them’.
Now some Liberals have been hard at work downplaying the importance of the AFA, and obviously AFA members have an interest in presenting themselves and their actions in the best light possible. But I find it rather telling that while the AFA were around the Far Right including the BNP eventually dropped street mobilisations all together to focus on contesting local councils. And it wasn't until after the AFA wound up its operations in 2001 that we started seeing Far Right clowns making a nuisance of themselves on the high street.

An immediate focus for the new organisation was the annual NF Remembrance Day parade. The NF at the time were the main fascist party and Remembrance Day was the highlight in the fascist calendar. An estimated 2,000 fascists took part in 1986 and in successive years AFA led similar numbers of anti-fascists into the area. This focus led the BNP to withdraw entirely from the event, complaining that the area was ‘full of reds’. And by 1990 the NF itself had been whittled down to 200.
By now, BNP activities were being confronted by AFA the length and breadth of the country. In Scotland where, prior to 1990, the BNP had been allowed a free run, the AFA launch saw the tables turned figuratively and literally. On one notable occasion, BNP leader John Tyndall was forced to escape an AFA siege through a sewer. This was swiftly followed by a series of devastating setbacks for the BNP both in Manchester and the satellite towns surrounding it. A method of operation soon taken up by the AFA Midlands region. By 1994 the BNP were now losing ‘the battle for control of the streets’ not just in London but nationally. A fact they publicly acknowledged in April that year when announcing that there would be “no more marches, meetings, punch-ups”. It was a decisive moment.
Since 1985 AFA has diligently and successfully repulsed a whole series of initiatives by the far-right. Demonstrating in that process not only how, but as importantly why, fascism must be ruthlessly confronted at the earliest possible stage. An obvious result being that despite having one of the highest race attack rates in Europe (a figure that has quadrupled in a decade) the British far-right, unlike their political counterparts in mainland Europe (the far-right recently topping the poll in Austria) have thus far been firmly confined to the margins. That said, it is a situation the BNP, by standing in all regions and distributing over 10 million recruitment leaflets for the European elections in June, are clearly determined to change. As they openly admit if AFA can be outflanked: ‘if AFA can be stopped, that is all we need to win’.
And in France a similar mobilisation took place to oppose and eventually stop and reverse the growth of jack booted thugs in the streets harassing elderly immigrants.

 ANTIFA Chasseurs de skins

Documentary about the rise of neo-nazi skinhead culture in 1980s Paris and how they were countered by a militant, multicultural underground movement. Contains interviews with participants recounting the subcultures and the street fights which made up their lives at the time.

In conclusion, the growth of extreme right wing movements shouldn't be taken lightly, but it also shouldn't be the cause of despair. History has shown clearly that it is possible and quite likely to break them up.

"Only one thing could have stopped our movement, if our adversaries had understood its principle and from the first day has smashed with the utmost brutality the nucleus of our new movement" Adolph Hitler

Anti Fascist Archive
Bash the Fash
A Brief History of Anti Fascist Action

Fighting Talk
ANTIFA Chasseurs de skins

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