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Educate & Activate Series: Antifa

Feminist Book Club blog contributors are working together to create posts as an “Educate & Activate” series. We will define a term or movement, provide historical context, and give you additional resources to learn more. We believe that an educated populace can be better activists, accomplices and co-conspirators. It is important to note that these are meant to be brief descriptions and not inclusive or exhaustive of all resources. We urge you to continue being curious, and continue learning more.

Definition

Antifa is a contraction of the phrase “anti-fascist.” Antifa is a movement or collection of people who oppose fascism. Fascism is a system of power that uses authoritarian and dictoral power to rule its people. As a result, Antifa was created as an unorganized group of people who oppose and resist this structure of power.

First Usage

In the early 1920’s Benito Mussolini founded the fascist party to advocate for Italian nationalism and create a new government in a time when there was little faith in the government. To gain power of Italy, Mussolini used excessive police force to become dictator of the country. After he took control, the opposition to Mussolini’s fascism, named Antifa, was created.

History

The Antifa mindset was created after the fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini, gained power and incited violence and fear in its people using extreme far-right nationalist ideas and police brutality. Antifa has been opposed to fascism in its many forms throughout the twentieth century during various fascist regimes in different European countries such as Benito Mussolini in Italy, Adolf Hitler in Germany, and Fransisco Franco in Spain.

More recently, Antifa has been active in the United States following the “Unite the Right” rally in 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. At this rally, white nationalists were protesting the removal of confederate statues in parks. Antifa was present at the rally to counter-protest the white nationalist agenda. White nationalists and Antifa members clashed at this rally and violence broke out.

Today, Antifa is still active as its members oppose governments and actions that can be characterized as authoritarian, homophobic, racist, or xenophobic. Antifa actively works to oppose militant action against the people in a country and may do so through peaceful protest. Antifa has been especially active and prevalent in the media after the murder of George Floyd in May and the protests and riots that rose out of the police brutality. There are mixed messages in the media over the violence that the Antifa organization engages in and as it is an unorganized group without a leader, it is difficult to determine exactly who is a member of Antifa. Likewise, members who identify as Antifa often wear all black and cover their faces to hide their identity due to the negative connotation of being associated with this group. That being said, Antifa can be differentiated from protesters who identify as politically progressive or left-of-center because of their willingness to use violence as a tactic to resist fascist systems.

For your reference, there are many examples of groups who would be or are Antifa in pop culture such as The Rebel Alliance in Star Wars, The Avengers in the Marvel World, and the anti-capital resistance led by Katniss Everdeen and friends in The Hunger Games.

Resources for Further Education:

1. What is Antifa, the Movement Trump Wants to Declare a Terrorist Group?

2. The Antifa Comic Book by Gord Hill

3. What the Artist Behind a Comics-Style History of Anti-Fascist Resistance Thinks You Should Know About Antifa

Claudia Neu is a teacher who helps students learn and grow in their aspirations to change the world. When she is not working with children or reading, you can find Claudia cuddling with her cat or trying to keep her houseplants alive. Check out her instagram @claudianeureads for more book recommendations and reviews. Favorite genres: contemporary fiction, thriller or suspense, and young adult.

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