My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Is it okay to punch Nazis? What if I told you that is only one of the tactics for dealing with Nazis?
The Anti-Fascist Handbook aims to summarise the history of fascism and its opponents, the rise of more recent fascist groups, the lessons from history for dealing with fascism, the issue of “free speech” and fascism, and how to combat fascism today. Historian Mark Bray has detailed the tactics of the Antifa movement and the philosophy behind it through interviews and the compilation of history and research into fascism.
I’ve noticed that there are several topics that seem to be widely discussed but never with any actual knowledge. Antifa, Black Lives Matter, and other social movements are prime examples. So when I saw Ollie from Philosophy Tube’s video discussing this book (and other related work) I knew that Bray’s book on Antifa would be another of my must reads.
I think one of the most important takeaways from this book is that the rise of fascism to power hasn’t historically required huge support, just a lot of apathy from the masses. Too often debates will rage around “free speech” or “is it okay to punch a Nazis” while completely missing the point that fascists are loving being legitimised with any of these debates.
The five important lessons (my summary of the headings):
- Fascist revolutions have never succeeded, they gained power legally.
- Many interwar leaders and theorists did not take fascism seriously enough until it was too late. (Sound familiar?)
- Political leaders/groups are often slower to react to fascism than those on the ground.
- Fascism steals from left ideology, strategy, imagery, and culture (e.g. the liberal idea of “free speech”).
- It doesn’t take many fascists to make fascism (Overton windows shift easily).
Whilst this was a very interesting and important book, it wasn’t perfect. The coverage of fascism outside of Europe was limited; something Bray acknowledged he wasn’t going to cover in detail and would have been a nice addition – something for the next instalment perhaps. Also, the defining traits of fascism were clearly made, but the differences between groups that fall under that banner, or are adjacent (and thus facilitate normalisation), weren’t discussed. I would have found it interesting to have the discussion of how alt-right and alt-lite differ and how you combat the latter. Minor points that might be in future editions.
So before you next hear a professional opinion-haver brand Antifa as terrorists, it would be worth reading this book.
Philosophy Tube video:
Alt-lite influence: https://datasociety.net/wp-content/up…