Source: In These Times
Mark Bray: My name is Mark Bray. I am a historian and a lecturer at Dartmouth College and author of Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook and a political activist. I have been involved in a number of different projects over the years.
Sarah Jaffe: To start, how would you briefly describe antifa?
Mark: 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 Great Britain and Germany in the 1970s and 1980s. These were movements of leftist immigrants, 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.
Sarah: 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?
Mark: 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 different kinds of leftists in Italy in 1921 to fight back against Mussolini’s Blackshirts. These were anarchists, socialists and communists who took up rifles and defended small villages and towns from fascist attack. It was too late by the time they were formed, because much of the left movement had already been destroyed by that point. Then, the Socialist Party and then the Communist Party pulled out of it. So, it ended up being mostly anarchists and rank-and-file leftists. It wasn’t up to the task of stopping Mussolini.