by John Kendall Hawkins
Sun, up down
On the corner, up town
I turn around and hear the sound
A voice is talking about who's gonna die next
Cause the White Man's got a God complex
- The Last Poets, "White Man's Got A God Complex" (1971)
There's been a lot of talk about antifa lately, mostly from the fascist-in-chief, and so, none of it is too enlightening. In simple terms, I know that it stands for anti-fascist. But I wasn't sure if there was an actual mailing list I could get on to receive information. Unlikely, I thought, if Trump is going to refer to it as a "terrorist" organization. But, then, he feels the same way about the Democrats or any opposition to his hold on power.
Luckily, I received an email notification from Into The Void, an online lit mag I subscribe to, announcing the publication of a new collection: We Are Antifa:expressions against fascism, racism and police violence in the United States. I made contact with the editor, Philip Elliot, to get a copy of the book and to arrange for an interview. I threw him some questions to prime the pump, but Elliot responded to them as if I'd likened him and his magazine to the Weather Underground. Whoa! he responded.
"I think you're a bit confused as to what Antifa is," he wrote (I was). "Antifa simply means 'anti-fascist.' It's not a group or organization or anything beyond the simple adjective 'anti-fascist.' The anthology is titled We Are Antifa as a response to Donald Trump's declaration that Antifa is a terrorist organization; the title is a political statement, but it does not in fact mean anything at all other than "We Are Anti-Fascist." Therefore I can't speak for Antifa because Antifa does not, in fact, exist. At least not as any unifying group."
In addition to clarification, Elliot was kind enough to insert a link that provides a brief, but solid history of unified antifas past, "A Brief History of Anti-Fascism," which appeared in the June 24, 2020 Smithsonian magazine. The article is interesting for a few reasons, including a description of the anti-fascist movement's beginnings. "Anti-fascism began where fascism began," we're told, "in Italy. Arditi del Popolo-"The People's Daring Ones"-was founded in 1921 and came together to resist the suppressive forces of Benito Mussolini.
I liked the article's portrait of a later fighter of fascists, Eluard Luchell McDaniels, one of many Americans who journeyed overseas to fight in the Spanish Civil War in 1937. McDaniels, we're told, was a
25-year-old African American from Mississippi commanded white troops and led them into battle against the forces of General Franco, men who saw him as less than human...McDaniels was not alone in seeing anti-fascism and anti-racism as intrinsically connected; the anti-fascists of today are heirs to almost a century of struggle against racism.
But, in America, we've only just started calling the endemic racism what it is -- fascism -- after centuries of calling African American "struggles" a mere byproduct of universal civil rights working themselves out in an otherwise healthy democracy.
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