Last week I wrote an article about Civil Disobedience. I declared what I believe to be every American’s civic duty, to disobey the laws that they see as unjust, and to fight for what they believe in by standing in solidarity with those whose rights have been threatened.
I preached peaceful protest and urged my readers to follow the examples of civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, John Lewis, Mahatma Gandhi, and many others.
I believe in the power of peaceful protest and that legislation and the rule of law should be upheld in order to protect the rights of others. But sometimes… when peaceful protest has failed, civil disobedience has been deemed an act of treason and the rule of law becomes the law of those who rule, it becomes necessary to turn the figurative fight for life, liberty and equal rights into a literal one.
I would not argue that the USA and its allies in WWII aren’t the greatest Nazi punchers in history for having defeated the Nazis. Of course they are, but the focus of this article is not on the greater powers who through a plethora of reasons, some noble, some not, decided to wage war against Nazi Germany. It took courage to put on a uniform and fight fascists in Europe, but it also takes courage to fight fascists at home, when your only uniform is the courage you bring to bear. Fascism is a strong word, but so is resistance. Here is the Fascist Resistance, History’s Greatest Nazi Punchers
XV International Brigade and the Spanish Civil War
1930’s Europe was rife with fascists and fascist wannabes. From Benito Mussolini in Italy, Francisco Franco in Spain and the worst of them all Adolf Hitler in Germany, fascism spread like the cancer that it is. As WWII was brewing between the Allied Forces and the Axis Powers war had already broken out in Spain between the leftist Republicans and the Fascist Nationalists. Francisco Franco, with the support of the other fascists in Europe, kicked off a coup that would divide Spain along political lines and eventually end with his victory over the Republicans and 36 years of fascist rule in Spain. Yet, just as there is a positive to every negative there were Anti-Fascists willing to oppose him at every step.
The Abraham Lincoln Brigade
The Abraham Lincoln Brigade Consisted of 2,800 American volunteers who fought in defence of the Spanish Republic and in opposition to the military coup of General Franco. For the American and Canadian volunteers the Abraham Lincoln Brigade represented the last chance of stopping the spread of fascism in Europe. The Brigade fought valiantly alongside an estimated 35,000 Anti-Fascists from over fifty countries who sought to "make Madrid the tomb of fascism." Together with British, Irish, Canadian, and other nationals formed the Fifteenth International Brigade.
Innovative History Bonus: Did you know that The Irish Civil War played out in miniature during the Spanish Civil War? The Connolly Column was a unit of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade which consisted of Irish Republicans who saw the Spanish Republican struggle against fascism as a mirror to their own struggle in Ireland against the British and Irish Fascists known as the Blue Shirts. 80 volunteers entered Spain to form the Connolly Column which fought valiantly against the Irish Brigade, a unit of 800 Irish Fascists who fought for the nationalist cause.
Anti-Fascist Resistance WWII
Resistance movements and fighters sprung up in every country affected by fascism during WWII. Dutch, German, Scandinavian, and many other resistance movements fought tooth and nail to drive the Nazis from their homeland, from the German Swing Kids and Operation Valkyrie conspirators to the Dutch Resistance fighters who sabotaged the Nazis at every turn. Resistance took many forms and faces, all of whom are worthy of acknowledgement here and for their courage in standing up to such a hideous evil.
Italian Resistance to fascism took several forms. At first Anti-Fascists stood in opposition to the Black Shirts, a violent pro-fascist militia partially responsible for the rise of Mussolini. Then in they waged a full out conflict with the Italian Fascist regime and finally against Nazi German occupation of Italy. Members of the Italian resistance often fled their homes to live in the countryside to fight against Italian fascists and occupying Nazi soldiers. Due to the actions of the Anti-Fascist Resistance many cities in Italy, including Turin, Naples and Milan, were freed by anti-fascist uprisings.
French Resistance. A term commonly down played throughout history, especially by Allied countries. Yet, the French resistance was essential to the Allied recapture of France and the eventual collapse of the Nazi puppet government, the Vichy Regime. La Resistance was organized into cells of armed guerrilla fighters who, in addition to actual fighting, published resistance newspapers, captured intelligence information, and even built and maintained escape networks which aided Allied soldiers trapped behind enemy lines.
Fascists need scapegoats on whom to blame their shortcomings. They sustain themselves on conspiracy, fear, hate and a bigoted political ideology, which they then profligate in order to create divisions in society. Once lines have been drawn and groups have been labeled they will paint themselves as the victims in order to muster nationalist and populist support amongst their supporters.
If this tactic sounds familiar that’s because the Nazis did exactly that when they scapegoated the Jewish people and then burned down the Reichstag creating fear amongst the populace, for which they blamed “communist terrorists.” The Tactic was utilized again in the 2016 Presidential Election against immigrants and minorities who were scapegoated for the country's vast issues by the Alt-Right movement. A populist president was then elected on a campaign of hate, fear mongering and conspiracy theories. But wherever hate filled sentiment can be found the Antifa will be there to oppose them. Usually with bricks and fists.
Groups such as Antifaschistische Aktion and the Iron Front sprung up in Germany, the Netherlands and Scandinavia in response to the resurgence of Neo-Nazism in Europe. Their stated goal? To “Smash Fascism in all its forms.” One of the largest and most successful Antifa initiatives in Germany was the effort to block the annual “Nazi-marches” in the former Eastern Block German city of Dresden, which had unfortunately become "Europe's biggest gathering of Nazis." Thousands of Antifa protesters and supporters showed up to have their voices heard over the voices of hatred and bigotry and won. The Neo-Nazis who had used fear of violence as their tactic met a wall of Antifa protesters very eager, very angry and very ready to return said violence and sent the Nazi’s running.
The Battle of Cable Street
Oswald Mosley was the founder of the British Society of Fascists in the 1930’s. In October of 1936 he organized 2,000 of his members to march through London's Jewish East End neighborhood. Londoners, in response to this obvious show of hate, showed up in droves to resist. 100,000 anti-fascists showed up and in the resulting melee beat Mosley's men with sticks, rocks, and sawed-off chair-legs. Jews, Irishmen, Communists, Anarchists, and Socialists joined forces to push hate from their streets in what would be deemed the Battle of Cable Street. Women took part in the battle as well, many of them taking to the streets while others hurled chamber pots from their windows at the fascists.
American Antifa Punks
The 1980’s brought waves of racist, violent crime to the U.S. White Supremacist groups such as the White Aryan Resistance and the racist cult, World Church of the Creator, committed heinous crimes in the name of white power, fueled by a fascist ideology. Antifa groups such as Anti-Racist Action, Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice (SHARP), and the Love and Rage Anarchist Federation decided to fight back.
Disappointed by the poor legislative efforts to curtail racism and homophobia, members of these groups vowed to take “direct action" against white supremacist. Police, having to uphold all aspects of the law, often could not or would not intervene until a racist crime had already been committed. The Antifa Punks decided they weren't going to wait for racist violence to occur. They would meet that violence with some of their own.
Antifa groups like the Baldies, a Minneapolis street gang who became infamous for what they called "righteous violence" against Neo-Nazi groups, adopted British Punk Fashion and literally kicked the Nazis out of town. In this way “The Antifa ideology combines the moralism of America's abolitionist tradition with the nihilism of punk rock, and boiled the culture wars down to their most primal element: vicious brawls over racism, sexism, and homophobia.”
Normally this is where I would end my article with a polished conclusion that sums up all that I have laid out in the text above. I typically end with a profound quote from an intellectual from history or a call to action, but racism and hatred are not your typical enemy. They require determination, courage and force of will to overcome. So today I will leave you in the hands of one whose courage is representative of our great nation and whose words ring louder today than any day before.