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Militant anti-fascism is a form of anti-fascism that advocates the use of violence against fascists. Within the anti-fascist movement, the term militant anti-fascism is often used in contrast to liberal anti-fascism.
While liberal anti-fascists either call on the state to censor what they call hate speech or prosecute fascists under existing laws, militant anti-fascists either oppose such calls or put no energy into heeding them. Militant anti-fascists are usually supporters of class struggle, and view fascism as an anti-working class political system. This often translates into support for some form of socialism, communism, or anarchism.
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 Union 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 contemporary times, the term antifa has come to refer to individuals and groups that are dedicated to fighting fascist tendencies. The term antifa is almost exclusively used by left-wing groups.
Communist Party and Social Democratic Party (SPD) members at different times in the 1920s and 1930s advocated both the use of violence and mass agitation amongst the working class in an effort to stop Adolf Hitler's Nazi Party. Leon Trotsky was one advocate of militant anti-fascism’s use of violence in Germany. He wrote that "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."
In post-World War II Germany, many anti-fascist groups were formed as a reaction to the rise of far right extremism after German reunification and its deadly violence such as the Solingen attack and many others. According to the German intelligence agency Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, some contemporary anti-fascist groups that are part of the autonomist movement are willing to use violence against right-wing extremists.
The rise of fascist leader Benito Mussolini in the 1920s 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.
With the rise of fascism again in the late 1960s, again parts of the left turned to militant anti-fascism.
In the 1930s, during the Spanish Civil War, 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). The fight against fascism in Spain attracted strong international support from leftist and working class people. Thousands of people from many countries went to Spain in support of the anti-fascist cause and joined 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 Francisco Sabaté Llopart fought against Franco’s regime until the 1960s, from a base in France. The Spanish Maquis also fought the Franco regime a base in from France, long after the Spanish Civil war had ended.
As one review of Nigel Copsey's Anti-Fascism in Britain (2000) described it,
As Copsey makes clear, at every stage of this battle against fascism the opposition itself can be divided into those advocating a militant anti-fascist line and those groups and individuals who take a more reformist, less confrontational stance. This division has always existed, from the early days of the anti-Mosley campaigns and has continued through-out the post-war period. It continues today, of course, with Anti-Fascist Action continuing in the long tradition of militant anti-fascism pioneered by the 43 Group and others.
The rise of Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists (BUF) was challenged by the Communist Party of Great Britain, socialists in the Labour Party and Independent Labour Party, Irish Catholic dockmen and working class Jews in London's east end. A high point in the struggle was the Battle of Cable Street, 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 Park in solidarity with Republican Spain instead of a mobilisation against the BUF, but local party activists argued against this. However, the campaigns against fascism in Spain and in England were explicitly linked when local activists rallied support with the slogan They shall not pass, adopted from Republican Spain.
In the 1970s, fascist and far right parties such as the National Front (NF) 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 London. Shortly after this, the Anti-Nazi League (ANL) was launched by the Socialist Workers Party (SWP). The ANL had a campaign of high profile propaganda, as well as anti-fascist squads that attacked NF meetings and paper sales to disrupt their ability to organise. 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), which was to be the focus of militant anti-fascism in the UK for the next 15 years. 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 Street's 55th anniversary march in 1991, and the Battle of Waterloo against the British National Party in 1992. After 1995, some anti-fascist mobilisations still occurred, such as against the National Front in Dover in 1997 and 1998. However, by 2001 AFA no longer existed as a national organisation.
In 2002, 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 Basildon, Essex.  On January 15, 2005, Antifa was involved in a confrontation with National Front white power skinheads in Woolwich. On March 27, 2005, 30 anti-fascists from a Yorkshire-based Antifa group attacked a British National Party meeting in Halifax. The anti-fascists threw half-bricks and rocks at the BNP security, and BNP members' cars were smashed.
Antifa Scotland appeared around September 2006. On March 13, 2008, Yorkshire anti-fascists attacked several Leeds venues that had been recently used for BNP meetings. On April 19, 2008, London anti-fascists attacked a British Peoples Party meeting in Victoria, London. 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 Green, East London.
Anti-fascist activities in Sweden have included counter-demonstrations against neo-Nazis. Anti-fascist counter-demonstrations and meetings in Sweden often result in rioting and fights with the police. Yearly neo-Nazi demonstrations in Sweden that have led to riots and fights with the police include the one in Salem on December 9, and on National Day on June6 Militant anti-fascist groups active in Sweden include Antifascistisk Aktion and Revolutionära Fronten.
Criticism of militant anti-fascism
Critics of militant anti-fascism tend to focus on its use of political violence. Pacifists and many liberals consider the use of violence as essentially wrong, and see militant anti-fascists as mirroring the fascists they oppose. This criticism suggests that by mirroring fascist violence with anti-fascist violence, the struggle against fascism is reduced to a game. Historian Dave Renton, in his book Fascism: Theory and Practice, writes that "for anti-fascists, violence is not part of their world view", and calls militants "professional anti-fascists." Left wing critics of militant anti-fascism contrast the violence of small militant groups with mass action. Communist Party of Great Britain leader Phil Piratin denounced squadism and called for large actions.
Some anti-racists and multiculturalists argue that by focusing on the white working class, the militant anti-fascist movement sidelines issues related to racial minorities' struggles against racism — such as the issue of white privilege. To these critics, militant anti-fascists focus on fascism to the exclusion of racism, and trivialise more pervasive forms of racial prejudice and institutional racism unconnected to organised fascist groups.
- quoted Fighting Talk no.22 October 1999, p.11
- (in German) Opfer-Rechter-Gewalt
- (in German) Verfassungsschutz-bericht 2004, p. 168-172
- In "The Tribe of Moles", his account of the development of autonomism, Sergio Bologna describes this moment: "from 1969 to the oil crisis of 1973-74, the [movement] returned to the classic schemas of the party form - the tight relation between programme and organisation, and a perspective on the struggle for power articulated according to the tactis of a militant anti-Fascist movement, combined with the conquest of the formal, electoral level of politics... on the one hand, a strong presence in the streets, militant anti-Fascism, mass campaigns and demonstrations promoted by the groups; on the other, parliamentary pressure, but above all through institutions and the Press, by the PCI and PSI, to overthrow the terroristic blackmail of the DC Government and its allies. Even the initiatives of the Red Brigades (BR) in this period maintain an objective ambivalence between extreme forms of militant anti-Fascism (viewed with considerable tolerance by certain sectors of ex-partisans, veterans of the armed Resistance of the 1940s) and the building of an armed party, derived from within the "post-workerist" and insurrectionist perspectives of the "workers' autonomy". 
- Black Star Review http://www.blackstarreview.com/rev-0050.html
- Lewisham '77 history site
- UK Indymedia - Wannabe BNP councillor has a bad night
- A-Infos (en) Britain, Woolwich, Fascist Boneheads in Train Accident by antifa*
- Uk Indymedia | Come Down On The BBP Like A Tonne Of Bricks
- Antifa Scotland
- UK Indymedia - BNP Venues Attacked
- Fascism: Theory and Practice. Pluto Press, ISBN 0-7453-1470-8 
- Bullstreet, K. Bash the Fash: Anti-Fascist Recollections 1984-1993. ISBN 1-873605-87-0.
- Nigel Copsey Anti-Fascism in Britain; Palgrave Macmillan, January 2000 ISBN 978-0-312-22765-4
- Copsey, N. (2011) 'From direct action to community action: The changing dynamics of anti-fascist opposition', in Copsey, N. and Macklin, G. D. (eds) British National Party: Contemporary perspectives. Routledge
- Nigel Copsey & Andrzej Olechnowicz (eds.), Varieties of Anti-fascism. Britain in the Inter-war Period, Palgrave Macmillan
- Key, Anna (ed.) (ed.). Beating Fascism: Anarchist anti-fascism in theory and practice. ISBN 1-873605-88-9.
- Macklin, G. and Busher, J. (2015) "The missing spirals of violence: four waves of movement–countermovement contest in post-war Britain." Behavioral Sciences of Terrorism and Political Aggression, volume 7 (1): 53-68. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/19434472.2014.977329
- Anti-Fascist Action (UK)
- Antifascistisk Aktion
- Anti-Racist Action
- Direct Action Movement
- Independent Working Class Association
- Red Action
- Red and Anarchist Skinheads
- Redskin (subculture)
- Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice
- United Front