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Anti-Fascist Action (AFA) was a militant anti-fascist organization founded by members of Red Action and other left-wing groups in the United Kingdom in 1985.[1]

It was active in fighting organizations that were fascist or racist, such as the National Front and British National Party. AFA had what they called a "twin-track" strategy: physical confrontation of fascists on the streets and ideological struggle against fascism in working class communities. While mainstream liberal anti-racist groups often focus their attention on black people and other racial minorities as the victims of discrimination, AFA focused its efforts on the white working class, which it saw as the fascist movement's main recruiting ground. AFA's physical confrontation approach was more visible than their ideological work, and their tactics were criticised for their squadism and use of violence.

Ireland's Anti-Fascist Action appears to be modelled on the British group, but its website implies that it has a greater emphasis on Irish Republicanism.[2]

Contents

History

AFA was launched in London in 1985 by members of Red Action and the Direct Action Movement. It was partly a reaction to the perceived inadequacies of the original Anti-Nazi League (ANL), which at the time had wound up its operations. AFA members accused ANL of failing to directly confront fascists, of allying with moderates who were complicit in racism, and of being a vanguardist front for the Socialist Workers Party (SWP). Although many Trotskyist groups, independent socialists, anarchists and members of the Labour Party were active in AFA in the 1980s, the main members were always from Red Action, a group founded by disillusioned miltant anti-fascist SWP members who had criticised perceived populist or popular front politics of the ANL. Affiliated organisations in the early history of AFA included Newham Monitoring Project and Searchlight magazine.

Thousands of people took part in AFA mobilisations such as the Remembrance Day demonstrations in 1986 and 1987, and a mobilisation against Blood and Honour in May 1987. In 1988, AFA formed a musical arm, Cable Street Beat, on similar principles to the Anti-Nazi League’s Rock Against Racism. In 1989, there was a split in AFA between militant anti-fascists and members whose views were closer to liberal anti-fascism. The militant groups relaunched AFA that year, with the affiliates Direct Action Movement and Workers' Power, as well as several trade unions.

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1990s

In 1990, three AFA members were jailed for attacking an alleged fascist. In 1991, AFA held a Unity Carnival in East London, with 10,000 participants, and a demonstration in Bethnal Green, with 4,000 participants (under the slogan “Beating the Fascists: An old East End tradition”). A long street battle between AFA and Blood and Honour supporters in October 1992 was dubbed the Battle of Waterloo because it was centred around Waterloo Station.[3][4] In 1993, Derek Beackon, a candidate from the British National Party (BNP), won a council seat on the Isle of Dogs in Tower Hamlets, East London; under the slogan of "Rights for Whites." This signalled a turn in the BNP's policy from confrontation on the streets to a bid for electoral respectability. AFA responded with its Filling the Vacuum strategy, which involved offering a political alternative in these communities instead of concentrating on challenging the fascist presence on the streets.

After 1995, some anti-fascist mobilisations still occurred, such as ones against the National Front in Dover in 1997 and 1998. A new AFA National Coordinating Committee was set up, and in 1997, an official AFA statement forbid members from associating with Searchlight. In 1998 the committee expelled Leeds and Huddersfield AFA for ignoring this policy. There were some local relaunches of AFA groups, such as in Liverpool in 2000. By 2001, AFA barely existed as a national organisation. Most AFA and Red Action activists have consequently devoted their energies to the Independent Working Class Association.[1][5]

See also

Notes

Further reading

  • Bullstreet, K.. Bash the Fash: Anti-Fascist Recollections 1984-1993. ISBN 1-873605-87-0.  
  • Anti-Fascist Action – an Anarchist perspective by an ex-Liverpool AFA member, 2007, Kate Sharpley Library, ISBN 9781873605493
  • No Retreat by Dave Hann and Steve Tilzey, 2003, Milo Books, ISBN 1903854229 (Author interview in SpikeMagazine)

External links


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