Time - November 2018
... After the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville in 2017 led to violent clashes between white nationalists and counter-protesters, American awareness of that opposition rose dramatically. Anti-fascist direct-action movements, often known as “antifa,” drew support from some quarters. From others, they drew condemnation — including from President Trump — for what could be seen as violent tactics. In March, Merriam-Webster added “antifa” to the dictionary. But despite being an idea that’s nearly 100 years old and that spans much of the globe, antifa is still a source of much confusion.
Gord Hill, an activist and artist, is previously the author of books such as The 500 Years of Resistance Comic Book. In light of the news, his publisher asked him to turn his attention to the history of anti-fascist resistance. The result, The Antifa Comic Book: 100 Years of Fascism and Antifa Movements, is available now. He spoke to TIME about the original idea of “no platform,” why antifa history isn’t better known and more.
How much did you know about the history of antifa when you started this project?
I’ve been involved in anti-racist and anti-fascist struggle since the ‘90s so I’ve been aware of developments over the last few years in that. But I did have to do a lot of research — I had a general knowledge, I think maybe a lot of people do, but when I started researching fascist Italy for example, there was a lot I had to learn. Also in regards to the anti-fascist resistance, there’s not a lot of history [written] about it.
It does seem like people get taught in school a lot more about the rise of fascism than about the resistance to it. Why do you think that history isn’t better known?
I think part of it is because the anti-fascist resistance came predominantly from leftist movements — including the Communist Party, Socialist Party and anarchists — so generally there was a tendency to minimize what happened. Most people’s knowledge of fascist history is centered around Nazi Germany, and even there you don’t really learn a lot about the anti-fascist resistance through the ‘20s and early ‘30s, again because, I think, it was predominantly communist or leftist-based.
If you have heard about any kind of anti-Nazi resistance from Germany, it’s the White Rose or maybe it’s the Edelweiss Pirates, which are almost a more passive type of resistance. After World War II, Western Europe was kind of reorganized under the U.S. Marshall Plan and they began a whole anti-communist campaign. The world was divided between East and West, and I think that’s part of what contributes to this minimizing of anti-fascist resistance in the ‘20s and ‘30s.
How would you characterize the relationship between antifascist groups and the rest of the left, historically?
The anti-fascist resistance was based in the left. It was the left that was the first primary target of fascist violence and attacks, like in Italy.
Has there been anti-fascist resistance everywhere there’s been fascism?
I think that is fair to say. Anti-fascist resistance movements arise out of actual material conditions, like being attacked by fascist gangs and paramilitary groups, so it’s a self-defense response from a lot of different communities, including the leftist groups — and today it’s the immigrant communities; people of color; lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people; all these communities that are the targets of fascist violence. In the majority of cases they begin to organize some kind of defense.
Is there any unifying principle or tactic that you noticed coming up repeatedly in these different movements in different places and times?
Generally there’s an emphasis on physical and ideological confrontation against fascist movements, and again that goes back to the need to defend communities from attacks. You go right back to fascist Italy, which was the first fascist movement, and you see the first establishment of an anti-fascist resistance, and their main goals were physical and ideological confrontation. And if you look through history you see the same dynamics in all the different countries where you have fascist movements arise. ...
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