CfP: 100 Years of Anti-Fascism: Between Class Struggle and Social Movement

Photo by Tomi Knuutila.

One of our partner journals, Arbeit – Bewegung – Geschichte (Labour – Movement – History), has just published the following Call for Articles for a special issue on anti-fascism “between class struggle and social movement,” which we thought we’d share with Zapruder World‘s readers.

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Call for Articles for a special issue of Work – Movement – History: A Journal of Historical Studies

The international strengthening of the authoritarian right is increasingly mobilizing its opponents. Whether in Greece, the USA – where Donald Trump even wanted to ban «Antifa» as an alleged «terrorist movement» -, Brazil, Russia, the United Kingdom or Germany, initiatives, alliances or organizations that oppose the right and see themselves explicitly as Anti-fascists are increasingly in the public eye due to their practices. In some countries, a new generation of the radical left is politicizing itself under the label “Antifa” – similar to the situation in Germany in the 1990s and 2000s. In their actions, forms of organization and symbolism, today’s activists almost always refer to historical models, which, however, differ greatly from one country to another.

One hundred years after proletarian self-protection groups in Italy called themselves “antifascisti” for the first time in 1921 and defended themselves against the fascist Blackshirts (“camicie nere”), it is high time to take a comprehensive look at the history of anti -fascism. In fact, (historical) scientific considerations of anti-fascism are experiencing a small renaissance in the English-speaking world. The revival of “antifa” in the United States is reflected in the publication of practice-oriented readers or handbooks and has also resulted in an increased historiographical engagement with its origins. More recent studies take global-historical and transnational perspectives and also consider the Global South.

In Germany, on the other hand, research into the history of the movement is lagging behind. Although the “Anti-Fascist Action”, founded by the KPD leadership in 1932, is often found in the annals of labor movement and communism research, “anti-fascism” as an independent political form has hardly been examined to date . Only resistance research has looked into the various forms of anti-fascist resistance against the Nazi regime in the 1930s and 40s. Older studies on the antifa committees initiated in 1945 as grassroots movements were not followed by further research. Likewise, the fractured history of the “Association of Persecutees of the Nazi Regime / Federation of Anti-fascists” in the GDR as well as the FRG of the 1950s and later has not been sufficiently appreciated. Other actors and groups of the 1960s and 70s, which were often more or less loosely associated with the trade unions and the New Left, await rediscovery by researchers. So far, beyond scattered essays and (self-) testimonies of the Autonomen, the Fantifa, the Antifaşist Gençlik and the East German Antifa movement, there are hardly any current studies on the 1980s and 90s that deal with one of the most important and long -lived social movements in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany in its breadth. Not only do older publications have to be historicized, there is also a lack of works on changes and continuities in anti-fascist practice and social analyzes, (comparative) micro-studies on specific regions or generational as well as transnational histories of entanglements. Likewise, the question of historical breaks also arises: Thus, with regard to both reunified Germany and the post-communist societies in Southeast and East-Central Europe, there I a question of which way (s) the years of transformation influenced the formation of independent antifa movements that can be discussed. To what extent was and is “antifa” an expression of the anti-utopia of a left that turned away from the social utopia of communism after the collapse of real socialism? Or does anti-fascism function historically as a left-wing movement for progress under difficult conditions? And why do actors with the topos of anti-fascism adopt a central set piece of the ideology of real socialist rule? To what extent was and is “antifa” an expression of the anti-utopia of a left that turned away from the social utopia of communism after the collapse of real socialism? Or does anti-fascism function historically as a left-wing movement for progress under difficult conditions? And why do actors with the topos of anti-fascism adopt a central set piece of the ideology of real socialist rule? To what extent was and is “antifa” an expression of the anti-utopia of a left that turned away from the social utopia of communism after the collapse of real socialism? Or does anti-fascism function historically as a left-wing movement for progress under difficult conditions? And why do actors with the topos of anti-fascism adopt a central set piece of the ideology of real socialist rule?

Despite its vagueness in terms of content and different make-ups over the decades, the concept of anti-fascism refers to a Marxist tradition and is thus also linked to the class question. Anti-fascist movements have emerged and continue to emerge not only but also from the organized workers’ movement. Nevertheless, in and with the New Left since the 1960s, a far-reaching decoupling of “antifa” from both the working class and its milieu has taken place. So how is the relationship between anti-fascism and the working class movement to be understood in theory and practice?

And further: How did the relationship between “antifa” and society develop, what relationship did “antifa” have and still have to democracy, and what images of society are immanent in the various anti-fascisms? What distinguishes them from mere anti-Nazism?

There is no such thing as “antifa”. But beyond this little meaningful truism, the focus of the proposed issue should be on identifying the unifying elements in their diversity. The breadth and diversity of “antifa” movements can be seen in the influences of different left currents, subcultural scenes and sub-scenes, in their ideological self-location as communist, anarchist, anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, internationalist, anti- national, anti-German, undogmatic, etc., in their conflicts about militancy and violence as well as in their relationship with other social movements, in everyday culture and music, in questions of collective self-organization and much more.

Interested scholars might consider submitting a proposal on one or more of the following periods and/or topics:

Temporal Framework:

  • Antifa in the interwar period: anti-fascist theory and practice before Fascists were in power and Nazi rule; anti-fascism alongside and beyond the two major workers’ parties; anarchism and anti-fascism
  • Antifa in the war: personal and ideational transfers of anti-fascism in resistance and liberation movements in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas
  • Antifa in the Cold War: anti-fascist narratives after the Second World War; anti-fascist self-organization in post-fascist societies
  • Antifa in a divided Germany: anti-fascism before the antifa movement; the influence of GDR anti-fascism on the West German New Left; obstinate and dissident-oppositional antifascism in the GDR
  • Antifa beyond: anti-fascism in transformation after 1989/90; media narratives and self-narratives

Possible Topics:

  • Transfers: transnational-transfer-analytical and transnational-comparative studies of antifa movements; issues of “glocalization”; anti-fascist fascism analyzes in comparison
  • Relations: relations with other left (sub-) movements, with migrant self-organization, with minorities and diasporic groups, with trade unions and associations of the persecuted
  • Interconnections: anti-fascist interpretations of social processes and phenomena; perceptions of “antifa” in society, the state and the public sphere
  • Gender: the negotiation and meaning of gender and sexuality as well as feminism and anti-sexist practice
  • Class: anti-fascist practice in workplaces and workforces and the relationship between “antifa” and the working class; anti-bourgeois bourgeoisie and the unasked class question in the “antifa” movement
  • Memory: the importance of memory culture and history politics for the formation of an anti-fascist “invention of tradition” (Eric Hobsbawm / Terence Ranger)

The deadline for submitting essay abstracts is May 9, 2021.

For more information, including contact information and the special issue’s proposed timeline, please see: https://www.arbeit-bewegung-geschichte.de/100-jahre-antifaschismus-zwischen-klassenkampf-und-sozialer-bewegung/.