By anonymous anti-fascists. A version of this article appeared in the book Recipes for Disaster: An Anarchist Cookbook
It always starts the same. Racist fliers or stickers appear at local hangouts or distributed to people’s homes. The news reports attacks and acts of intimidation against people of color. Rumors fly about nazi boneheads hanging around local high schools. Queer-bashing incidents rise. Hip-hop kids, punks, and anti-racist skinheads report run-ins with boneheads on the street. Shady characters start pushing anti-immigration campaigns. A local controversy erupts over race issues, and Klan and nazi groups plan a rally to escalate the tension. And soon it snowballs. White power music concerts are held. Racists run for office. Boneheads crash shows, start fights, and attack left-wing political centers, exerting dominance over local youth and street scenes. Time to fight back.
Liberals and authorities will tell you that ignoring fascists will make them go away or that the police will handle it. Bullshit. Fascists thrive in secrecy and become more aggressive when unopposed. Ignoring a problem does not make it go away. And history shows that the police are often supportive of fascists or even infiltrate and use them to target radicals like us. But if the fash are exposed and opposed with both ideas and fists, their organizing efforts will be defeated.
Know Your Enemy
Some peeps might think that fascists are just a joke, just an inconsequential fringe group of wanna-be nazis, and that nobody takes those ideas seriously. Think again. Neo-fascist movements are off the ventilators and breathing with renewed vigor, making a strong comeback around the world. In the past ten years alone they’ve made electoral gains and taken over the streets in some cities (Europe), spurred ethnic cleansing (Eastern Europe), committed acts of terrorism and built up a million-dollar white power music and merchandising empire to fund their organizing (US). And that’s not counting the local efforts, the small-scale organizing, propaganda blitzes, and attacks.
There is a real movement of far right and neo-nazi groups taking root. This movement is diverse with sometimes contradictory and competing factions: legal vs. outlaw, mass organizing vs. leaderless cells, religious vs. secular, Christian vs. Satanist, white supremacist vs. nationalist, suit vs. skinhead. Some are unorganized crews who just hang out and occasionally attack the most obvious and defenseless targets. Others are highly organized and serious about changing society, using either clandestine cells or front groups to achieve their goals. Some are open about their racist beliefs and calls for ethnic strife, while others mask it behind “cultural heritage” and claim to be acting out of pride and love for “their people.” Their support base may include politicians, cops, academics, military personnel-maybe even your neighbor. Many of their supporters remain secret, preferring to remain unknown but providing information, money, and other forms of aid, including guns and other weapons.
Fascism, past and present, clearly has a history of racist terror and murder. Treating fascists as a serious threat is not paranoia or a waste of time-it’s common sense self defense. Even small fascist groups can be extremely vocal and force their politics into the public dialogue, shifting public opinion and debate to the right. Once fascists start to get a grip in an area, they will raise the level of violence to drive their enemies (including anarchists) out.
It’s essential to challenge fascism with our own liberatory alternatives. Fascism appeals to people who are justifiably pissed off at our fucked-up society. Rather than taking on the complex fundamental roots to society’s problems (capitalism, patriarchy, hierarchy), though, they swallow the simplistic and scapegoating solutions that fascists offer. In a sense, anarchists and fascists are competing over constituency. If we want to defeat fascism, we need to sway people with our visions of direct democracy, mutual aid, solidarity between cultures, and organizing from below with an emphasis on direct action.
There are times, however, when words are not enough, and you must act or risk being silenced forever.
Throughout this article, we’ve mostly used the term “fascist” to refer to your standard white supremacist neo-nazi types. In reality, fascism is a lot more complicated. Though many definitions exist, the core of fascism lies in rigid authoritarianism, nationalism, glorification of violence, and the subservience of women. Racial identity and supremacist beliefs, mythic views on heritage, and a cult of personality are also common, but optional. Ultimately, there are many other types of fascists out there: Christian zealot clinic-bombers, Islamic fundamentalists, strict authoritarian Stalinists, even black nationalists/separatists. Each group is unique and must be considered individually.
Let’s be blunt. Anti-fascism is dangerous work. Not only do you have to deal with the usual cop bullshit and repression, but you need to watch out for fascist attacks-on the street, at your homes, and in your community.
So what to do? Arm yourselves. Watch your backs. Train for self-defense. Plan for emergencies and set-up a crisis alert network to call out your homies. Establish bust and medical funds. Take this shit extremely fucking seriously. Lives may depend on it.
Basic security measures are a must. Don’t use your real names when engaging in work like this. Keep your phone number unlisted. Use PO boxes. Be careful about your personal info getting out. Keep a low profile online. Use aliases, encryption and throwaway accounts. Check out people who are interested in joining your group. Arrange to have security present whenever you have public meetings or events. Know what your response will be if fascists show up or if they attack.
Militant anti-fascism means occasionally engaging in military-like work. If you’re not prepared to think that way, you may want to choose another project. Sometimes, though, you’ll have no choice but to deal with the fascists. This doesn’t mean violence is always the answer. Nor should we adopt a gang-mentality of us against them. Realistically, however, military preparation is necessary for this type of activity.
Fascists know they’re unpopular, so they try to keep their activities on the down-low. Just because you don’t have nazis marching down your street with swastika flags doesn’t mean you don’t have a fascist infestation in your city. They’re out there, anonymously leafleting, throwing up fascist graf, running mailorder distros, recruiting one-on-one, infiltrating other groups, and so on.
Keep records. Whenever the fascists are in the news, collect as much info as possible. Lookup names, phone numbers, and addresses. Use google, reverse directory, and online search engines. If nazis get busted, obtain the public copies of their arrest reports. Monitor their websites and message boards. Create fake accounts, pose as a nazi, and interact with them online. Subscribe to their magazines. Note the rumors about where they hang out. Go there and check them out. When they hold events, call them up and get the inside scoop. Monitor the event. Get license plates and vehicle models. Get close-up pictures. Link names to faces. Send infiltrators to their meetings. If you spot a nazi on the street, follow him (sometimes it’s better to collect info than to take immediate action). Share info with other trusted anti-fascists. Gather as much intel on them as possible. Find out where they work, live, go to school. Note their relationships-who hangs with who, who’s leadership, who’s likely to be a cop informant, who’s likely to bust out a gun and start shooting.
Set up an info-line so that people can call/mail/email in info on the fash. Post stickers or flyers about the line in areas where the nazis hang out. Throw up some “unwanted” posters with pics of the actual nazis too. You’ll be surprised at the response, but don’t trust everything sent in-verify all info first. This might also put you in touch with folks who live near the fascists and other potential allies.
Anti-fascist work is not something you carelessly charge into. If you don’t have a plan, somebody is likely to get hurt.
Start by assessing your local situation and figuring out what you want to accomplish. Develop a blueprint to work from. There are many factors you need to keep in mind-too many to list here. Your local situation is unique, and so your plans will need to reflect this. Does the situation call for an organized community response (like exposing a fascist running for office, or in office)? Or does it make sense to have a tight-knit affinity group carry out its own plans (like permanently shutting down a nazi mail-order business with an unannounced fire sale)? Try to put yourself in the fascists’ shoes and imagine what would hurt them the most. You also need to consider the consequences of your actions. Will it prompt an outraged fascist counterattack? Are you prepared to fight back?
Obviously, it will do you good to look at different antifa organizing models and see how others have carried out the work. Groups like Anti-Racist Action (US & Canada), Anti-Fascist Action (UK) and the German Antifa movement have employed a wide variety of tactics and learned many lessons. These models will not work in every situation, but they may provide some ideas.
One word of warning: be careful of who you work with. Many “anti-fascist” groups out there have extremely sketchy politics and are no more your allies than the fascists are. The Jewish Defense League, for example, is virulently Zionist. As is the Anti-Defamation League, who have also been known to collect intel on radicals and sell it to cops and Israeli spies. Both the ADL and the Southern Poverty Law Center go out of their way to convince people to ignore fascist activity and have denounced radical antifa in the press as violent and worse than the nazis. And various communist antifa front groups have their own agendas of course.
Whether you take community action or clandestine direct action, the choice is yours. Tips for these can be found elsewhere. But there is one aspect of anti-fascist action that deserves coverage: direct confrontation.
Wherever fascists go, they should be confronted. Pick your battles, of course, and don’t start a confrontation that is unnecessarily dangerous (ie, the nazis have guns at hand), that you will lose (outnumbered or less willing to fight), or that is better avoided (you will take hefty arrests or may score some crucial intel by just watching instead). Most confrontations will start off as just vocal, but can easily escalate to something more physical. Keep the upper hand and set the tone of the confrontation. Have a plan, stay cool, and don’t let them off the hook! Be confident, have attitude, and be unapologetically antifa. Be prepared to dish it out verbally; know your arguments and know how to make the fascists sweat. Confrontation is a psychological battle-you want to intimidate, humiliate, and make them uncomfortable, while simultaneously raising confidence among the anti-fascists. A verbal rout can be just as demoralizing to the fascists as a physical beat-down: both have their place.
Whatever you do, don’t be a spectacle for the sake of being one; this can be dishonest and work against you in the end. If you start something that you can’t finish, people will not treat your efforts seriously. Don’t be afraid to back down if safety calls for it.
Sometimes the fascists may bring the confrontation to you. Winning fights isn’t always about being the biggest bruisers or having the most numbers, it’s about having the will to win (sounds like fascist propaganda, but it has an element of truth). Losing a battle doesn’t always mean losing the war. You might not come out on top, but the way you fight can gain respect and support.
If you’re expecting a physical confrontation, be sure everyone is prepared for it. Keep tight and watch each other’s backs. If you can get away it, carry weapons, or if there’s a chance you might get searched by cops, carry items that can be used as weapons in a pinch (hefty flagpoles, thick placard sticks, batteries, maglights, bike locks). Have medics on hand, and know where the nearest hospitals are. If anyone gets hurt, use a cover story at the hospital to avoid police investigation. Know what everyone’s limitations are, and have a plan to hit hard and get out fast. Be bold, and if you see an opportunity, take it! And don’t forget your masks-nothing makes the fascists tremble like a group of black-clad, balaclava-wearing antifa bearing down on them.
Anti-Fascists and the Corporate Media
The mainstream media is never going to be friendly towards militant anti-fascists. At best you’ll be viewed as violent vigilantes or just an opposing gang. Liberal groups will do their best to denounce your tactics.
This doesn’t mean the media should be avoided. The militant antifa perspective should be gotten across as much as possible. Pick articulate spokespeople to speak for your group, but be careful that they protect their identities. Fascists and cops watch the news too. Use fake names and wear a mask.
Be ware that media will often go out of their way to interview the fascists, thus providing them with a platform to spread their ideology. This is unacceptable. Interfere with this whenever possible. If the media are trying to interview a fascist, be as disruptive as possible and make sure your counterpoints are delivered.
Scenario #1: Following Up on Fascist ACTIVITY in the News
Vandalism on a synagogue or mosque. An attack on mixed-race couple. Racist leaflets dropped on hundreds of lawns overnight. A cross burned outside of a black family’s home. We’ve all heard something like this in the news recently.
First, collect as much info from the source as possible. Get the date, time, location and any names of people involved or arrested.
Second, check similar sources. Look in other newspapers (especially the crime beats of smaller, local, weekly papers). Watch the news. Dig around online.
Next, get in the car and go check the area of the incident out. Look for signs of other fascist activity-graffiti, bumper stickers, nationalist flags. Note any places that fascists might hang out nearby-bars, parks, pool halls, etc. Talk to people in the area, particularly convenience store clerks and kids. Ask about skinheads or incidents involving race. Be prepared in case you run into some nazis on the street.
If you have the address of a fascist involved in the incident, check it out, same as above. Hang around the area. If it’s at night, you got the time, and you wont look suspicious, then sit in your car and watch the address and see who comes in and out. Follow anyone suspicious. If you get a chance, go dumpster-diving and examine the trash elsewhere. You may score all sorts of personal info on the nazi, or possibly even some fascist literature or correspondence.
If you have a phone number, call and pretend to be a reporter (be careful where you’re calling from, it can be traced back). Ask about the incident, others involved, any groups the person works with, and so on. Pump them as much as you can. Or call and pretend to be from a large fascist group like the National Alliance. Say that you heard about the incident and that you wanted to see if they needed any kind of support. Try to get the names and info on other fascists.
If a fascist was arrested, find out about the hearing and attend it. Take careful note of fascist supporters that show up, and maybe try to follow them when they leave. If you’re a known and recognizable anti-fascist, then you risk getting harassed or jumped out on the street, so be careful. Don’t go alone and tone down your look. Or roll in as a large and visible anti-fascist presence, let them know you’re watching and do your best to intimidate the fash that show up.
Another approach, though a more sensitive one, is to call up the victims of the incident. This needs to be handled with extreme tact. Say, “Hello, my name is (alias) and I work with an anti-racist youth organization called Anti-Racist Action (or whatever your group is called) and we heard about what happened. We do research and education to expose racism and racist violence. Could we ask you some questions about the incident?” Again, be careful of where you call from. The person may be up for talking or they may be freaked out. If they don’t want to talk, apologize, thank them for their time and just hang up.
If the incident is part of a rash of fascist activity, then you may want to organize some sort of public community response (see Recipe #3).
Scenario #2: Responding to Bonehead crews hanging around the high school
You’ve heard rumors that nazi boneheads are hanging around a local high school. Is this just a case of someone wearing offensive and reactionary patches, or is there something deeper happening? Time to find out.
First, see if you have any contacts at the school: friend, younger relative, sympathetic teacher. Ask them what they know. Second, go to the school and hand out anti-racist fliers, stickers and other cool free stuff. Make it known to the local kids that you are part of an anti-fascist group and you’re following up on reports of local nazi activity. Some cool kids will be more than willing to dish up some info and may either want to work with you on “outing” the fascists or they may already have some plan in motion that you can link up with. If possible, try to get them to start up an anti-racist group at their school.
Your goal is to find out who the fascist kids are, where they hang out, and if they’re connected to any organized fascist groups. Sometimes you’ll be dealing with misguided kids who just think the nazi skinhead trend is cool, and they can be easily swayed otherwise. Sometimes you’ll find that one or more of the kids (or maybe an older brother or friend) is linked to an organized group. You need to get to these kids quick-or preferably, the ones organizing them from above-before they’re pulled in.
You’ll be taking several risks by going to the school. You may run into nazis, so be prepared for a confrontation. You may also run afoul of school administration or security. You may be cited laws and threatened with arrest for trespassing on school grounds and handing out flyers. If handled smartly, this may work in your favor-a controversy over handing out anti-nazi information will get attention. It may be easiest to simply go to other places where the kids hang out near the school and where you won’t be harassed. You may even find some kids willing to pass things out inside the school for you.
Scenario #3: Outing a Fascist
You’ve gotten an active fascist’s name and home address. Aside from some night-time fun, what do you do with this info? Easy! “Out” the nazi to his neighbors. This is especially fun if the fascist tries to keep his activities hidden.
First, confirm that all the info you have is correct. Make sure the nazi actually lives there, and that he’s actually the person you think he is.
Now the fun part. Make up a flyer with the fascist’s picture, name, home address & phone number, and all of the info you have on his fascist and personal activities. On the back, put together some information on why fighting fascism is important, including practical suggestions for things that people can do to counter the fascists’ efforts or otherwise get more involved.
Post this flyer everywhere. Particularly where the fascist lives, works, hangs out, shops, goes to school, etc. Then get together a bunch of people and go door to door in his neighborhood. Talk to his neighbors about who the guy is and why he needs to be confronted. Encourage them to organize their own neighborhood against him. This put pressure on the fascist and exposes him to the surrounding community. It is disperses info that can lead to spontaneous and interesting community action against him. Lots of people hate nazis and racists, and if given the chance they will direct some street-level justice against them.
This canvassing needs to be handled carefully. Look at the class, cultural, and ethnic makeup of the community to gauge the response you will get. Travel in groups and have some people keep an eye out for trouble while the others hand out fliers and do the talking. Your target may spot you or hear about what you’re doing and call in his pals for back-up. You might also run across neighbors who are friends of your target (possibly even fascist themselves). Other residents may simply be annoyed at being disturbed, accuse you of being vigilantes, and/or call the cops on you. A confrontation may occur in which violence or arrest is a possibility, so be prepared.
On the other hand, you may make a positive impact and develop some new relationships with neighbors, area residents and youth. Some will appreciate your efforts and ask how they can help-be prepared to give some practical advice. They may even offer information to you about the nazi’s activities. These personal contacts may be very useful later on.
As a final stroke, you may wish to hold a demonstration and march it directly to the front door to confront the fascist at his house. The idea here is to intimidate him and let him know that you’re prepared to bring the battle directly to his doorstep. Encourage the neighbors to join you. If the nazi fails to come out, leave him some messages he won’t forget. The likelihood of violence or arrest is much stronger in this situation, so be prepared.
Scenario #4: Shutting Down a Fascist Rally or concert
Many fascist groups like the KKK like to hold public rallies to gain attention. Others, like the National Alliance, hold secret organizing meetings to train their cadre. And white power concerts serve to draw in youth. All deserve to be shut down.
Start by collecting information on who is planning the event. What is their history, where are they from, and who are their local contacts? This will give you some background of the fascists for propaganda purposes and will help you to identify what and who to target. Fascist groups often have a local member who “invites” the group to town, hoping to draw more recruits. The local is probably the person who reserved the event space. When fascists arrive from out of town, they are likely to visit this person’s home. This is a perfect opportunity for surveillance, info gathering, or to expose them early on and disrupt their plans beforehand.
- Step 1: Call a meeting.
Invite groups and individuals who you think would be willing to work on a tactical level, even if there may be political differences. Be firm that the purpose of this organizing is to shut the even down (not just protest or raise awareness). Make it a point of principle that the coalition will not work with the police, that it will support a diversity of tactics, and that it will organize on a grassroots, horizontal level. Develop a spokes council and get reps from the groups to take on roles. Get commitments from people. If others have already initiated an organizing meeting, then you should figure out if it is worth attending. If it is, then raise the same issue of direct democracy and the goal of shutting the event down. Unfortunately, there will be many people (liberals) who will be outraged by your suggestions and will try to alienate you. Some people may not want to engage in confrontation, so space should be allowed for them to still participate and stay safe. Make your points and try to win people to your perspective, but be careful not to say anything potentially incriminating. Liberals have a long and sordid history of acting as police informants when they are confronted with more radical organizing attempts.
- Step 2: Agitprop.
Get the word out. Leaflets, stickers, spray paint, stencils, the internet, whatever it takes. If your area is multi-lingual then try to get your stuff translated. It makes a big difference to break down the language barriers and avoid the assumption that everyone speaks American English. This has the benefit of attracting new people from different scenes to the organizing-both immediate and long term.
Your main goal at this stage is to get the fascist even canceled in advance. Sometimes simple exposure will do the job-many businesses do not want to be associated with fascists and will nix the event once it is publicized (in many cases they will not realize who they were dealing with, as the fascists often conceal the true nature of their group and intentions). Others will initially defend the event on misguided “free speech” grounds, but will cave in to public pressure if you organize a call-in campaign.
In some circumstances, you may want to avoid public organizing. A call to action is likely to get media attention, and the police will certainly take notice. This guarantees that the fascists will have a state-sponsored security force for the event, decreasing your chances of direct confrontation. You may not want the fascists to know you’re coming. In this case, organize by word-of-mouth among select anti-fascist groups and catch the fash by surprise!
Public Rallies: It’s very rare for the fascists to hold any sort of public rally without massive police protection (defending their “free speech” while silencing ours). This may include massive amounts of riot cops (sometimes hidden out of sight but nearby until needed), tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, flash grenades, helicopters, snipers, command centers, dogs, horses, and tank-like vehicles. The fash will often be defended behind fences, with supporters and opposition herded into caged-in “protest pits.” The main fascists will be escorted in and out by the police, often in police vehicles.
This doesn’t mean there’s no chance to get at the fash or shut the event down. First, try to find out where the fascists are meeting up beforehand. This may be a local’s house, the McDonald’s next to the cop station, or a gas station off the highway. If you gather enough people, you may be able to surprise them there. Second, a lot of fascist supporters will show up without the benefit of a police escort. Have teams of scouts ready to ferret these fascists out, so you can confront them and give them a reason to leave. Third, encourage the crowd to mobilize and try to prevent the cop-escorted fascists from getting in or out. If the fascists plan to march, try and block the route. You can also send infiltrators into the supporter’s area, or just try and rain on the fascists’ day with the projectiles of your choice. If all else fails, you can still try to drown the fascists out with your own noise, and have some rousing good fun in the process.
Remember, fascist rallies are recruitment and publicity opportunities. Take advantage of the situation and make it publicity for anti-fascist action!
Meetings: Some meetings will draw fascists in from out of town. Check out the parking lots of local hotels, looking for fascist bumper stickers or other telltale signs. If you know the names of any attendees, call around to hotels and see if they’ve checked in. Consider paying them a surprise visit.
Since they’re not publicity events, fascist meetings usually lack the extreme police presence that rallies do. This gives you a lot more leeway for confronting the fash-especially if they don’t know you’re coming. If possible, try and march your group right into their event for maximum disruption. A few kicked over tables and noisemakers and will add to the chaos. The police might eventually force you out, but you can still be rowdy from outside, and make the nazis run when they leave.
Concerts: After having many shows shut down, the fash have learned their lessons here. Most white power concerts are held in venues that are sympathetic. This includes fascist-owned bars, Outlaw motorcycle gang halls, and private property in rural areas. These places won’t cave in to public pressure to shut the show down-but they are vulnerable to night-time activities. Occasionally, fascists will misrepresent the show and book it at a regular club, in which case you have a chance of getting the owner to cancel. Some owners are just greedy, however, in which case you turn up the heat. Even if you do get one spot canceled, they’ll scramble to find another on short notice, so keep the pressure on.
Fascists often keep the show location secret, requiring attendees to visit a check-in point (or series of check-ins) where they will be met by fascists in person, checked out, and then given directions. If you know of a check-in point, get a large number of people together and occupy it in advance. If it’s in a park, for example, organize an anti-fascist softball game and bring plenty of extra bats. If you scare off the organizers, you’ll be able to meet and greet the fascists who show up and send them on their way back out of town. The organizers are likely to have publicized a cell phone number for back-up-so have some friends at home keep that number busy all night (heck, program your computer modem to repeat dial it, using caller ID blocking of course). That number may also be useful for intel gathering if you have a fake fascist persona crafted, or if you want to pose as a reporter.
If the show goes on, try to organize an action/demonstration at the show itself. In some areas, this may simply be too dangerous, especially as you can expect dozens or even hundreds of nazis to show up. In other areas, you might have more success and support. And remember-all those fascists have to park their cars somewhere.
Ultimately, fighting fascism is necessary if we are to achieve a truly liberatory world. Just be careful to balance your activities with self-criticism, and don’t pursue violence for the sake of violence. Smash fascism, and have some fun doing it!