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What Is Anti-Fascism? | The Nation

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As activists have publicly challenged an emboldened white-nationalist movement across the country, the idea of anti-fascism has circulated broadly but vaguely—seeming sometimes to unsettle mainstream commentators more than expressions of fascism itself.

In her new book, On Being Numerous: Essays on Non-Fascist Life, the essayist Natasha Lennard considers the meaning and the fearful reception of anti-fascist organizing today. In meditations on riots and surveillance, sex radicalism and First Amendment controversies, Lennard—who moved to the United States from London a decade ago and is now one of the most astute thinkers to emerge from the Occupy movement—offers a crystalline vision of how fascism can be fought without reliance on the state and why it must be.

—Marissa Brostoff

Marissa Brostoff: The press often treats anti-fascist organizing merely as a spectacle—the image of white men in black blocs circulates, but neither the meaning of those tactics nor a broader vision of anti-fascist movements seems to register. What is anti-fascism, and how has it been misunderstood?

Natasha Lennard: “Anti-fascist” is a troublesome term. To state one’s political position as anti-fascist after 1945 is, in a sense, close to meaningless: Most everyone claims to be anti-fascist, so long as they agree that Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco were baddies. A better conception of fascism, which sees its expression not only in historic state regimes but in aspects of daily life under capitalism, entails a more nuanced understanding of anti-fascism, too. I’m more interested in talking about anti-fascist tactics or practices, since as an identity “anti-fascist” is somewhat impossible.

In the simplest, most popular sense, anti-fascist organizing—often known as antifa—is a militant, no-tolerance approach to far-right, racist nationalism. As a practice taken up by the far left, socialist and anarchist alike, antifa is an illiberal intervention that does not rely on the state, the justice system, or any liberal institution to resist fascism. It finds organization online, in the streets, on campuses—wherever fascism is to be found. Much antifa work today involves exposing white supremacists online and taking action to shut down spaces where fascistic desires get fostered, fueled, and legitimized. Sometimes this involves physical, confrontational tactics.

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