Anti-Fascist Self-Defense: From Mussolini's Italy to Trump's America

Hundreds of anti-racist counter-protesters converge on Martin Luther King Jr. Park on August 27, 2017, in Berkeley, California. (Photo: Elijah Nouvelage / Getty Images)

Since election night 2016, the streets of the US have rung with resistance. People all over the country have woken up with the conviction that they must do something to fight inequality in all its forms. But many are wondering what it is they can do. In this ongoing “Interviews for Resistance” series, experienced organizers, troublemakers and thinkers share their insights on what works, what doesn’t, what has changed and what is still the same. Today’s interview is the 72nd in the series. Click here for the most recent interview before this one.

Today we bring you a conversation with Mark Bray, a political activist, historian and a lecturer at Dartmouth College and author of Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook.

Sarah Jaffe: To start, how would you briefly describe antifa?

Mark Bray: Antifa is an abbreviation for anti-fascist or anti-fascism. Anti-fascism is a movement that goes back a hundred years, but when we talk about antifa today, we are talking about modern militant anti-fascism, which predominantly grew out of movements in, especially, Great Britain and Germany in the 1970s and 1980s, of leftist immigrants and punks and all sorts of people who were targeted by a neo-Nazi backlash, a xenophobic wave that spread over these countries and others. It is essentially a pan-socialist radical politic of collective self-defense against the far right.

I think one of the things that people don’t know is that there is a very long history of this kind of self-defense. Can you give us a couple of significant moments in anti-fascist fighting history?

Going back to the beginning, we can certainly look to the Arditi del Popolo, The People’s Daring Ones, which was an anti-fascist militia formed by various kinds of leftists in Italy in 1921 to fight back against Mussolini’s Blackshirts. These were anarchists, socialists…

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