Who We Are
Formed in 1991, Anti-Fascist Action (AFA) is an organisation that took its inspiration from both its fraternal grouping in Britain and, more importantly, the legacy of those that fought fascism in recent Irish history. In line with this legacy, AFA pursues a policy of both ideological and physical opposition to fascism, stating its commitment to deny a platform to fascists and the seeds that they grow from.
As an organisation, AFA is made up of socialists, anarchists, communists, republicans, and community activists and so contains many differing views about the times we are living in and where these will lead us. All would agree however, that with the current economic climate, there are new possibilities for fascist growth. AFA’s unity comes in the consensus in how to deal with fascism as it emerges. It remains AFA’s intention to crush the seeds of fascism before they grow, ever mindful of the slogan, ‘fascism doesn’t start with concentration camps, that’s where it ends’.
AFA is strictly anti-sectarian, and so will work with other groups and individuals on the basis of an ideological commitment to opposing fascism. AFA would confidently make this assertion as all disagreements that we have with other organisations of the left are non-antagonistic and differences of opinion in general, we believe, should only be debated. Keeping an eye on who is the real danger is in the interests of all progressives and a refusal to work with other leftist groupings, given the importance of the antifascist struggle and what history has taught us, would be infantile and self-indulgent in the extreme. Naturally of course, our differences with fascists are antagonistic and can never be reconciled and that is why our slogan remains, ‘No Quarter’.
History has shown that fascism in its ascendancy attempts to intercept the legitimate concerns of the working class, using racism and national chauvinism as a false path down which the mass’s legitimate anger may be channelled. Working class communities however, tend to be suspicious of those that are parachuted in to preach their idealistic gospel. It is fortunate therefore that many AFA activists are involved in community politics, AFA propaganda consequently reflecting a policy of targeting and destroying racist myths while addressing the real reasons for the problems suffered in working class areas. AFA’s analysis then is class, rather than race based.
The word fascism itself is a much-misused term in contemporary society, close analysis of the ideology itself being discouraged by a corporate controlled media. Finance capital, historically, has made good use of fascism, its core ideology advocating that class status is supposedly inherited through blood. One’s position on the social ladder, it was perceived, was a measure of one’s innate nature. The nation’s rich and poor are united in a greater cause, the nation’s wealth however, remaining in the hands of the wealthy. Naturally, in the cause of national glory, the greater sacrifices are traditionally borne by the poor. Then as now, fascism is the gun kept under the table by finance capital as insurance against the power of democratic working class forces.
From its inception, AFA was drawn into conflict with a numerically larger gang of ‘Blood and Honour’ skinheads, and latterly the so-called ‘Dublin City Firm’, a pro-fascist GAA hooligan crew. AFA successfully beat both these groups off the streets. It is a situation that Irish fascism has never recovered from.
Around 1996, however, things changed greatly in the country when Ireland, having been for many years, a homogenous land, suddenly began taking in its quota of foreign migrants, many of them being political refugees. As the ethnic make-up of the country changed in a relatively short space of time, the white working class in Irelands most deprived urban areas found instantly recognisable foreign nationals in their midst. AFA has been fortunate in Ireland in that it has been possible to use the histories of the neighbouring countries of Wales, Scotland and England as templates for what could occur here.
The social phenomena that affected these countries were therefore studied so that they might provide warnings of problems ahead. In Britain, during the 60s and 70s the foundation of anti-immigration groups provided forerunners to such fascist organisations as the National Front. As Ray Hill, a defector from the British fascist movement explained how his concerns around immigration led him to attending a meeting, advertised in the Leicester Mercury, for a group called the Anti-Immigration Society (AIMS). Believing the group to be perfectly respectable, headed by a local teacher, Hill later felt,
‘At the time I didn’t realise what was happening; only later did I see how I was being very gently enticed into a completely new political world. Through my vague interest in anti-immigration activity I had been drawn into the Racial Preservation Society. I had no way of knowing that it was being run by hardened fascists, some of them former Mosley blackshirts… By the time, years later, that I came to know that those who had been running RPS were Nazis, it simply didn’t matter. By then I was one of them.’
The appearance of the Immigration Control Platform (ICP), therefore, in 1997, was consequently perceived by AFA as a warning of danger to come and it was deemed necessary to take over the stage and disrupt the ICP’s attempt to launch itself in Ennis, Co. Clare. A follow-up meeting of the group in Dublin was called off amid fears of further direct opposition. Evidence suggests that AFA’s policy of intolerance towards such racist outfits dealt the ICP a crippling blow. The disparate Nazi forces that throughout its history have buzzed like flies on the periphery of the ICP retreated to the net where they continue to languish.
Consequently, AFA believes that the denial of platforms to the likes of the ICP when they emerge, have prevented the need to deny a platform to fascism itself. This refusal of a platform to racist groups however, must not be seen in the same light as the ‘No Free Speech for Fascists’ policy. While fascists are denied a platform on principle, AFA will also deny a platform to racists for strategic reasons when they are deemed to be a threat.
Today, fascists in the 26 Counties remain underground and in disarray, unable to organise or indeed hold events openly. It is AFA’s intention to ensure that this state of affairs continues. The AFA agenda however, has always gone beyond the physical struggle against fascism, having the stated aim of promoting progressive working class struggles as alternatives to fascist growth. For some time, the situation in the late 90s ensured that AFA was primarily involved in militant anti-racism, distributing thousands of leaflets in working class areas as a means to counter the myths; many of them media driven, that had spread within the culturally unprepared areas where many of the migrants were being dumped.
On top of this, AFA has always maintained a policy of retaining a presence within areas that fascists around the world attempt to utilise as fields of struggle. In recent times, there is a move among fascist agendas away from racial politics towards the cultural spheres. Consequently, retaining roots within the many music scenes and among football supporters is judged to be all important.
In spite of this, it has always been AFA’s policy of denying free speech to fascists that has drawn the harshest criticisms. AFA’s working class self-defence is consequently labelled mindless, with no political motivation. Very well, let’s talk instead about the “mindlessness” of those who would prefer to petition the fascists not to carry out racist attacks, debate with fascists on why they should not physically attack strikers or call upon fascists not to brutally suppress the working classes when they seize power. All anti-fascists must refuse to live under the threat of fascism in contradiction to the class-based, divorced from reality idealism and reluctance to get blood on their own hands, promoted by liberal anti-fascists. In a slogan that should burn into the hearts of every anti-fascist, Hitler himself who once said,
“Only one thing could have stopped our movement – if our adversaries had understood its principle and from the first day had smashed with the utmost brutality the nucleus of our new movement.”
Only a fool would fail to learn from history when it is so explicitly presented.
The title of AFA’s magazine is inspired by the spirit of militant anti-fascism, as in this report of an anti-Blueshirt confrontation in Galway:
“The day O’Duffy came to Galway, I got split open that day. God, will I ever forget it. There were about 2,000 cops in the square there in Galway. I remember one of the Walshs designating myself and two other fellows to do a job. And the job they gave us was; O’Duffy was in this hotel and they said when he is coming through the door there will be a fellow in front of him with a flag. It is your job to take the flag: get the bloody flag. To me that meant nothing, no problem at all. I reckoned, being handy with my fists, I could take a flag from anyone.
All O’Duffy’s supporters were around the hotel door and we moved in among them. Then this party came through the door with the Blueshirt flag, and my mates were there too, and we jumped forward and swiped it. But they must have expected us, for when I came to after being knocked out, I was about 25 feet from the hotel door. I did not know what had happened but I was split and pumping blood all over.
The platform for O’Duffy was further over in Eyre Square; I don’t know who did it but one of our crowd ran in through the hotel door, up the stairs and out through a window. He jumped out of the window and straight through the roof of a car, O’Duffy’s car.
The cops then baton charged us to the bottom of the hill, to where the cinema used to be, it was burnt down before that and a lot of people were burnt at the time. There was a garage, higgins’, but around the corner there were lines of broken stones for road repairs. We lured them around the corner and then pelted them with stones; it was like bullets with the rocks flying as we belted them up the street, it was crazy.
There was an old docker there, Michael John Burke and another fellow; they were not in the IRA but were anti-establishment. I remember one of them getting up on an old weighbridge there in Galway and I got up with him, and the cops came up on ladders to the top of the weighbridge and knocked both of us off. It was about 14 foot to the ground. No Quarter.”
(Testimony of Pierce Fennell, From ‘The IRA in the Twilight Years’ by Uinseann McEoin. pp. 550-551)