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Anti-fascism is the opposition to fascist ideologies, organizations, governments and individuals. Most major resistance movements during World War II were anti-fascist.

Militant anti-fascists advocate the use of violence against fascists. They are usually supporters of class struggle, and view fascism as an anti-working class political system. Militant anti-fascists do not consider their fight against fascism a defence of the status quo. Writer Dave Renton argues that "for anti-fascists, violence is not part of their world view", and calls militants "professional anti-fascists."

The term antifa

The term antifa derives from Antifaschismus, which is German for anti-fascism. It refers to individuals and groups that are dedicated to fighting fascism, and some anti-fascist groups include the word antifa in their name. During the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, the Soviet Unionmarker sponsored various anti-fascist groups, usually using the name antifa. Prisoners of war captured by the Soviets during the Eastern Front campaign of World War II were encouraged to undertake antifa training.


In the 1920s and 1930s, anti-fascists confronted aggressive far right groups such as the Action Française movement in France, which dominated the Latin Quartermarker students' neighborhood. In France, quite a few people who joined the Resistance against the Vichy regime came from far right nationalist and royalist backgrounds. However, they abandoned the Vichy regime and started fighting against the Germans when they saw that Philippe Pétain was entirely subservient to the Nazis and had no intent to stop collaboration.


Logo of Antifaschistische Aktion.
In the 1920s and 1930s in Germany, Communist Party and Social Democratic Party members advocated violence and mass agitation amongst the working class to stop Adolf Hitler's Nazi Party and the Freikorps. Leon Trotsky wrote:
fighting squads must be created... nothing increases the insolence of the fascists so much as 'flabby pacifism' on the part of the workers' organisations... [It is] political cowardice [to deny that] without organised combat detachments, the most heroic masses will be smashed bit by bit by fascist gangs.

After German reunification in 1990, many anti-fascist groups formed in reaction to a rise in far right extremism and violence, such as the Solingen arson attack of 1993marker. According to the Germanmarker intelligence agency Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutzmarker, the contemporary anti-fascist movement in Germany includes extremists who are willing to use violence.


In Italy in the 1920s, anti-fascists fought against the violent Blackshirts. The rise of fascist leader Benito Mussolini was resisted violently by a small fraction of the workers' movement. After the signature by the Italian Socialist Party (PSI) of a pacification pact with the National Fascist Party on August 3, 1921, and the trade unions' adoption of a legalist and pacified strategy, other members of the workers' movement who disagreed with this strategy formed the Arditi del popolo in 1921. The General Confederation of Labour (CGT) and the PSI refused to officially recognize the anti-fascist militia, while the Italian Communist Party (PCI) ordered its members to quit the organization. The PCI organized some militant groups, but their actions were relatively minor and the party maintained a non-violent, legalist strategy. The Italian anarchist Severino Di Giovanni, who exiled himself to Argentina following the 1922 March on Rome, organized several bombings against the Italian fascist community.

Italian liberal anti-fascist Benedetto Croce wrote the Manifesto of the Anti-Fascist Intellectuals, which was published in 1925. Another notable Italian liberal anti-fascist around that time was Piero Gobetti.

Between 1920 and 1943, several anti-Fascist movements were active among the Slovenes and Croats in the territories annexed to Italy after World War One (the so-called Julian March); among them, the most influential was the militant insurgent organization TIGR (acronym for the placenames Triestemarker-Istriamarker-Goriziamarker-Rijekamarker), which carried out numerous sabotages, attacks on representatives of the Fascist party and on the Italian military. Most of the underground structure of the organization was discovered and dismantled by the Fascist Secret Police in the years 1940-1941, but the majority of its former activists joined the Liberation Front of the Slovenian People after June 1941.

During World War II, many members of the Italian resistance left their houses and went to live in the mountainside, fighting against both Italian fascists and German Nazi soldiers. Many cities in northern Italy, including Turinmarker and Milanmarker, were freed by anti-fascist uprisings.


Large-scale anti-fascist movements were first seen during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s. Amongst others, the International Brigade and the Spanish anarchist militias formed a broad popular anti-fascist movement. The Republican army, the International Brigades, the Workers' Party of Marxist Unification (POUM) and anarchist militias such as the Iron Column fought the rise of Francisco Franco with military force. The Friends of Durruti were a particularly militant group, associated with the Federación Anarquista Ibérica (FAI). Thousands of people from many countries went to Spain in support of the anti-fascist cause, joining International Brigade units such as the Lincoln Battalion, the British Battalion, the Dabrowski Battalion, the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion and the Naftali Botwin Company. Notable anti-fascists who worked internationally against Franco included: George Orwell (who fought in the POUM militia and wrote Homage to Catalonia about this experience), Ernest Hemingway (a supporter of the International Brigades who wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls about this experience), and radical journalist Martha Gellhorn.

Spanish anarchist guerrilla Francesc Sabaté Llopart fought against Franco's regime until the 1960s, from a base in France. The Spanish Maquis also fought the Franco regime from a base in from France, long after the Spanish Civil war had ended.

United Kingdom

The rise of Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists (BUF) was challenged by the Communist Party of Great Britain, Anarchists, Socialists in the Labour Party and Independent Labour Party, Irish Catholic dockmen and working class Jews in London's east endmarker. A high point in the struggle was the Battle of Cable Streetmarker, when thousands of eastenders and others turned out to stop the BUF from marching. Initially, the national Communist Party leadership wanted a mass demonstration at Hyde Parkmarker in solidarity with Republican Spain instead of a mobilisation against the BUF, but local party activists argued against this. Activists rallied support with the slogan They shall not pass, adopted from Republican Spain.

There were debates within the anti-fascist movement over tactics. While many East End ex-servicemen took part in violent attacks on fascist targets,Communist Party of Great Britain leader Phil Piratin denounced these tactics and instead called for large actions.

As well as this militant anti-fascist movement, there was a smaller current of liberal anti-fascism in Britain; Sir Ernest Barker, for example, was a notable English liberal anti-fascist in the 1930s.

After World War II, Jewish war veterans continued the tradition of militant confrontations with the BUF in the 43 Group. In the 1960s, the 62 Group continued the struggle against neo-Nazis.


In the 1970s, fascist and far right parties such as the National Front and British Movement were making significant gains electorally and were increasingly bold in their public appearances. This was challenged in 1977 with the Battle of Lewisham, when thousands of black and white people physically stopped an NF march in South Londonmarker. Shortly after this, the Anti-Nazi League (ANL) was launched by the Socialist Workers Party (SWP). The ANL had a large-scale propaganda campaign as well as anti-fascist squads that attacked NF meetings and paper sales. The success of the ANL's campaigns contributed to the end to the NF's period of growth.

Tony Cliff of the SWP, who described that period as one of downturn in class struggle, disbanded the ANL. However, many squad members refused to stop their activities. They were expelled from the party in 1981, many going on to found Red Action. The SWP used the term squadism to dismiss these militant anti-fascists as thugs. In 1985, some members of Red Action and the anarcho-syndicalist Direct Action Movement launched Anti-Fascist Action (AFA). Thousands of people took part in militant AFA mobilisations such as the Remembrance Day demonstrations in 1986 and 1987, the Unity Carnival, the Battle of Cable Streetmarker's 55th anniversary march in 1991, and the Battle of Waterloo against Blood and Honour in 1992.

After 1995, some anti-fascist mobilisations still occurred, such as against the National Front in Dovermarker in 1997 and 1998. In 1997, an AFA statement officially banned members from associating with Searchlight magazine, and in 1998, Leedsmarker and Huddersfieldmarker AFA were expelled by AFA officials for ignoring this policy. By 2001, AFA barely existed as a national organisation.


In 2001, some former AFA members founded the militant anti-fascist group No Platform, but this group soon disbanded. In 2004, members of the Anarchist Federation, Class War, and No Platform founded the organisation Antifa. This predominantly anarchist group has imitated AFA's stance of physical and ideological confrontation with fascists, and has a policy of non-cooperation with Searchlight magazine and state-linked agencies. On September 23, 2004, Antifa was involved in a confrontation with David King, a former British National Party treasurer, and his security entourage in Basildonmarker, Essex. On January 15, 2005, Antifa was involved in a confrontation with National Front white power skinheads in Woolwichmarker. On March 27, 2005, 30 anti-fascists from a Yorkshire-based Antifa group attacked a British National Party meeting in Halifaxmarker. The anti-fascists threw half-bricks and rocks at the BNP security, and BNP members' cars were smashed. On May 30 2006 militant anti-fascists attacked a BNP meeting in Starbeckmarker, North Yorkshire throwing half bricks through the windows showering the speakers who included Nick Griffin, with glass and debris.

On March 13, 2008, Yorkshiremarker anti-fascists attacked several Leeds venues that had been recently used for BNP meetings. On April 19, 2008, Londonmarker anti-fascists successfully prevented a British Peoples Party meeting in Victoria, Londonmarker from taking place in a community. In August 2008, Antifa England mobilised, but failed to shut down the BNP’s annual Red, White & Blue festival. On October 5, 2008, six anti-fascists were arrested in a street fight against BNP activists in Bethnal Greenmarker, East London.

Premature anti-fascism

Premature anti-fascism is a term used in the United States to describe the views of those who opposed fascism at a time when the US government was on relatively friendly terms with fascist Italy and (to a lesser extent) Nazi Germany. The term was applied especially to supporters of the Second Spanish Republic in the Spanish Civil War, including members of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. During the Red Scare, the term was used to connote communist sympathies.

See also


  1. ORGANISE! for revolutionary anarchism, Magazine of the Anarchist Federation, Summer 2008, Issue 70
  2. Filling The Vacuum, Anti-Fascist Action, 1995. Archived at Class Against Class
  3. Anti-Fascist Action: Radical resistance or rent-a-mob?" Soundings issue 14 Spring 2000
  4. Fascism: Theory and Practice. Pluto Press, ISBN 0-7453-1470-8 [1]
  5. Worker Insurgency and Statist Containment in Portugal and Spain, 1974-1977 - Loren Goldner
  6. Chicago Journals - The Journal of Modern History
  7. quoted Fighting Talk no.22 October 1999, p.11
  8. Opfer-Rechter-Gewalt
  9. Verfassungsschutz-bericht 2004, p. 168-172
  10. Anarchist Century
  11. David Ward Antifascisms: Cultural Politics in Italy, 1943-1946
  12. James Martin, 'Piero Gobetti's Agonistic Liberalism', History of European Ideas, vol. 32, (2006), 205-222.
  13. Milica Kacin Wohinz, Jože Pirjevec, Storia degli sloveni in Italia : 1866-1998 (Venice: Marsilio, 1998)
  14. Milica Kacin Wohinz, Narodnoobrambno gibanje primorskih Slovencev : 1921-1928 (Trieste: Založništvo tržaškega tiska, 1977)
  15. Milica Kacin Wohinz, Prvi antifašizem v Evropi (Koper: Lipa, 1990)
  16. Mira Cenčič, TIGR : Slovenci pod Italijo in TIGR na okopih v boju za narodni obstoj (Ljubljana: Mladinska knjiga, 1997)
  17. Vid Vremec, Pinko Tomažič in drugi tržaški proces 1941 (Trieste: Založništvo tržaškega tiska, 1989)
  18. Intelligence and Operational Support for the Anti-Nazi Resistance
  19. Joe Jacobs Out of the Ghetto. London: Phoenix Press, 1991 (originally published in 1977). See
  20. Phil Piratin Our Flag Stays Red. London: Lawrence & Wishart, 2006.
  21. Andrezj Olechnowicz, 'Liberal anti-fascism in the 1930s the case of Sir Ernest Barker', Albion 36, 2005, pp. 636-660
  22. Diethelm Prowe, 'Classic' Fascism...
  23. Lewisham '77 history site
  24. It Woz AFA Wot Done It!
  25. Diamond in the Dust - The Ian Stuart Biography
  26. UK Indymedia - Wannabe BNP councillor has a bad night
  27. A-Infos (en) Britain, Woolwich, Fascist Boneheads in Train Accident by antifa*
  28. Uk Indymedia | Come Down On The BBP Like A Tonne Of Bricks
  29. UK Indymedia - BNP Venues Attacked

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