Dutch Resistance members with US 101st Airborne troops in Eindhoven, September 1944

Anti-fascism is the opposition to fascist ideologies, groups and individuals, such as that of the resistance movements during World War II. The related term antifa derives from Antifaschismus, which is German for anti-fascism; it refers to individuals and groups on the left of the political spectrum, that are dedicated to fighting fascism.



Maquis members in 1944.

In the 1920s and 1930s in France, anti-fascists confronted aggressive far right groups such as the Action Française movement in France, which dominated the Latin Quarter students' neighborhood.[1]


Symbol of the Iron Front

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.[citation needed] Leon Trotsky wrote:

Logo of Antifaschistische Aktion.

"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."[2]

Among the anti-fascist organizations formed to counter the Nazis was the Rotfrontkämpferbund (English:Red Front Fighters' League), which was created in 1924. The Rotfront was a paramilitary organization affiliated with the Communist Party of Germany that engaged in street fights with the Nazi Sturmabteilung. Its first leader was Ernst Thälmann, who would later die in a concentration camp and become widely honored in East Germany as an anti-fascist and socialist. 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 1993.[3] According to the German intelligence agency Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, the contemporary anti-fascist movement in Germany includes those who are willing to use violence.[4]


In Italy in the 1920s, anti-fascists — many from the workers' movement — fought against the violent Blackshirts, and against the rise of fascist leader Benito Mussolini. After the Italian Socialist Party (PSI) signed a pacification pact with the National Fascist Party on August 3, 1921, and trade unions adopted a legalist and pacified strategy, members of the workers' movement who disagreed with this strategy formed the Arditi del popolo. 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.[5]

Italian liberal anti-fascist Benedetto Croce wrote Manifesto of the Anti-Fascist Intellectuals, which was published in 1925.[6] Another notable Italian liberal anti-fascist around that time was Piero Gobetti.[7]

Between 1920 and 1943, several anti-fascist movements were active among the Slovenes and Croats in the territories annexed to Italy after World War I, known as the Julian March.[8][9] The most influential was the militant insurgent organization TIGR, which carried out numerous sabotages, as well as attacks on representatives of the Fascist Party and the military.[10][11] Most of the underground structure of the organization was discovered and dismantled by the Organization for Vigilance and Repression of Anti-Fascism (OVRA) in 1940 and 1941,[12] and after June 1941, most of its former activists joined the Liberation Front of the Slovenian People.

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 Turin and Milan, were freed by anti-fascist uprisings.[13]


Large-scale anti-fascist movements were first seen in the 1930s, during the Spanish Civil War. The Republican Government and army, the Communist Party(PCE) the International Brigades, the Workers' Party of Marxist Unification (POUM) and Spanish 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 units such as the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, 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 linked to the Communist Party (PCE) also fought the Franco regime from a base in France, long after the Spanish Civil war had ended.


Antifascistisk Aktion (AFA) is an anti-fascist group founded in Sweden in 1993. AFA's Activity Guide advocates violence against neo-Nazis. Some in the mainstream media have called them "left extremists".[14][15][16] An editorial in the tabloid newspaper Expressen argued that the label anti-fascist was misleading, because of the organization's methods,[17] such as stealing the subscriber list of the National Democrats newspaper, and threatening the subscribers.[17] Other critics say the group does not respect freedom of speech, because some members have attacked fascists and other nationalists.[18][19]

United Kingdom

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, anarchists, 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. 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 participated in violence against fascists,[20] Communist Party leader Phil Piratin denounced these tactics and instead called for large demonstrations.[21] In addition to the 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.[22]

After World War II, Jewish war veterans in the 43 Group continued the tradition of militant confrontations with the BUF. In the 1960s, the 62 Group continued the struggle against neo-Nazis.[23]

1970s and later

In the 1970s, fascist and far right parties such as the National Front (NF) and British Movement (BM) 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 disrupted an NF march in South London.[24][25] Soon after, the Anti-Nazi League (ANL) was launched by the Socialist Workers Party (SWP). The ANL had a large-scale propaganda campaign and squads that attacked NF meetings and paper sales. The success of the ANL's campaigns contributed to the end of the NF's period of growth. During this period, there were also a number of black-led anti-fascist organisations, including the Campaign Against Racism and Fascism (CARF) and local groups like the Newham Monitoring Project.

The SWP disbanded the ANL in 1981, but many squad members refused to stop their activities. They were expelled from the SWP 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). Their founding document said "we are not fighting Fascism to maintain the status quo but to defend the interests of the working class".[26][27] Thousands of people took part in AFA mobilisations, such as 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 Blood and Honour in 1992.[28][29] After 1995, some AFA mobilisations still occurred, such as against the NF in Dover in 1997 and 1998. However, AFA wound down its national organisation and some of its branches, and by 2001 it has ceased to exist as a national organisation.

In the early 1990s, a number of left-wing groups formed anti-fascist front organisations, such as a re-launched ANL in 1992, the Socialist Party's Youth Against Racism in Europe, and the Revolutionary Communist Party's Workers Against Racism. A number of black-led organisations, along with the Labour Party Black Sections and the National Black Caucus, formed the Anti-Racist Alliance in 1991, which eventually became the National Assembly Against Racism.

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.

In 2003, Unite Against Fascism (UAF) formed out of a merger between the ANL and the National Assembly Against Racism, in response to electoral successes of the British National Party (BNP). UAF does not partake in militant anti-fascism, due to its critique of squadism. Organisations such as Manchester Anti-Fascist Alliance[30] and Edinburgh Anti-Fascist Alliance[31] have continued the militant tradition against far right groups such as the BNP and the English Defence League. Some of those demonstrations resulted in violent confrontations and arrests. Many of the local grassroots organisations came together in March 2010 to form the Stop Racism Stop Fascism Network.[32]

United States

Premature anti-fascism is a term that was 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.[33][34] The term was applied especially to supporters of the Second Spanish Republic in the Spanish Civil War, including members of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade.

See also

Antifa graffiti in Trnava, Slovakia.


  1. ^ Worker Insurgency and Statist Containment in Portugal and Spain, 1974-1977 - Loren Goldner
  2. ^ quoted Fighting Talk no.22 October 1999, p.11
  3. ^ (German) Opfer-Rechter-Gewalt
  4. ^ (German) Verfassungsschutz-bericht 2004, p. 168-172
  5. ^ Anarchist Century
  6. ^ David Ward Antifascisms: Cultural Politics in Italy, 1943-1946
  7. ^ James Martin, 'Piero Gobetti's Agonistic Liberalism', History of European Ideas, vol. 32, (2006), 205-222.
  8. ^ Milica Kacin Wohinz, Jože Pirjevec, Storia degli sloveni in Italia : 1866-1998 (Venice: Marsilio, 1998)
  9. ^ Milica Kacin Wohinz, Narodnoobrambno gibanje primorskih Slovencev : 1921-1928 (Trieste: Založništvo tržaškega tiska, 1977)
  10. ^ Milica Kacin Wohinz, Prvi antifašizem v Evropi (Koper: Lipa, 1990)
  11. ^ Mira Cenčič, TIGR : Slovenci pod Italijo in TIGR na okopih v boju za narodni obstoj (Ljubljana: Mladinska knjiga, 1997)
  12. ^ Vid Vremec, Pinko Tomažič in drugi tržaški proces 1941 (Trieste: Založništvo tržaškega tiska, 1989)
  13. ^ Intelligence and Operational Support for the Anti-Nazi Resistance
  14. ^ (Swedish)
  15. ^
  16. ^ (Swedish)
  17. ^ a b (Swedish)
  18. ^ (Swedish) Poohl, Daniel (2006-10-18). "Ta avstånd från våldet mot SD". EXPO. Retrieved 2006-12-08. 
  19. ^ (Swedish) "Vänsterextrema infiltrerade IOGT-NTO". Svenska Dagbladet. 2006-09-07. Retrieved 2006-12-08. 
  20. ^ Jacobs, Joe Out of the Ghetto. London: Phoenix Press, 1991 (originally published in 1977).
  21. ^ Phil Piratin Our Flag Stays Red. London: Lawrence & Wishart, 2006.
  22. ^ Andrezj Olechnowicz, 'Liberal anti-fascism in the 1930s the case of Sir Ernest Barker', Albion 36, 2005, pp. 636-660
  23. ^ Diethelm Prowe, 'Classic' Fascism...
  24. ^ Lewisham '77 history site
  25. ^,,106928,00.html The real losers in Saturday's battle of Lewisham
  26. ^ Anti-Fascist Action: Radical resistance or rent-a-mob?]" Soundings issue 14 Spring 2000
  27. ^ AFA (London) Constitution Part 1.4
  28. ^ It Woz AFA Wot Done It!
  29. ^ Diamond in the Dust - The Ian Stuart Biography
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^ Politics and politicians in American film by Phillip L. Gianos p.62.
  34. ^

Further reading

  • Key, Anna (ed.), ed. Beating Fascism: Anarchist Anti-Fascism in Theory and Practice. ISBN 1-873605-88-9. 

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • anti-fascism — /ænti ˈfæʃɪzəm/ (say antee fashizuhm) noun opposition to fascism. –anti fascist, adjective, noun …   Australian-English dictionary

  • anti-fascism — noun The opposition to fascist ideologies, organizations, governments and people. Ant: fascism …   Wiktionary

  • Anti-American Anti-Fascism and the Race Release Fight Committee — (반미반파시스트·민족 해방 투쟁 위원회 abbreviated to AARF) is a leftist organization in the Republic of Korea during the latter half of the 1980s. AARF criticized the juche ideology, and took priority over the anti monopoly struggle give. However, Division of… …   Wikipedia

  • Liberal anti-fascism — is a form of anti fascism that is distinguished by its use of non violent, legal and democratic methods in fighting fascism, which it sees primarily as a moral evil and as a threat to liberal democracy. Liberal anti fascism can be contrasted with …   Wikipedia

  • Militant anti-fascism — Refimprove|date=May 2007Militant anti fascism is a form of anti fascism that advocates the use of violence against fascism. Within the anti fascist movement, the term militant anti fascism is often used in contrast to liberal anti fascism.… …   Wikipedia

  • Organization for Vigilance and Repression of Anti-Fascism — The Organizzazione per la Vigilanza e la Repressione dell Antifascismo (OVRA; Italian for Organization for Vigilance and Repression of Anti Fascism ) was the secret police of the Kingdom of Italy, founded in 1927 under the regime of Fascist… …   Wikipedia

  • Anti-Fascist Action — (AFA) was a militant anti fascist organisation founded by Red Action and other left wing groups in the United Kingdom in 1985. [ [ 2001 anti fascist action afa 1985 2001: Anti Fascist Action (AFA) | ] ] It …   Wikipedia

  • Anti-nationalism — denotes the sentiments associated with the opposition to nationalism, arguing that it is undesirable or dangerous. Some anti nationalists are humanitarians or humanists who pursue an idealist form of world community, and self identify as world… …   Wikipedia

  • Fascism and ideology — Part of a series on Fascism …   Wikipedia

  • Fascism as an international phenomenon — This article discusses regimes and movements that are alleged to have been either fascist or sympathetic to fascism. It is often a matter of dispute whether a certain government is to be characterized as fascist, authoritarian, totalitarian, or a …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”