Who We Are
Bristol Antifa is part of a national federation comprised of local groups of militant anti-fascists, affiliated to the international Antifa movement. We exist to confront fascist ideas, activities and organisations wherever and however they occur. We utilise a wide range of tactics and believe it is important to confront fascism physically as well as ideologically. We do not advocate the electoral process as the means of defeating fascism nor will we work with groups that do. Our structure is anti-authoritarian and non-hierarchical. We oppose discrimination based on race, gender, sexuality, disability or age. We will not work with, accept information from, nor pass information to the magazine Searchlight.
What Is Fascism?
It is a mistake to see fascism solely in terms of extreme far-right nationalist political parties such as the BNP, NF etc. While these are the most obvious target for an anti-fascist campaign, many policies promoted by other parties are equally fascist in nature, and demand an appropriate reaction. The media is also guilty of pushing far-right ideology (the tabloid treatment of the issues surrounding refugees for example) and their actions often fall within the remit of an anti-fascist group. We should oppose fascist ideology whatever its source. Equally, fascism is often used as a synonym for racism. Racism is a tool frequently employed by fascist movements, but it is important to be aware that fascists can be non-racist and indeed most racists are not fascists. While our major target is fascism, we must be aware that bigotry in all forms (racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.) needs to be fought, whether it comes from the mouths of fascists or from elsewhere.
There are many fascist groups operating in Britain, but the biggest threat comes from the British National Party who in recent years have done their utmost to hide their fascist politics beneath a thin veneer of respectability. Antifa opposes all fascist activity, but destroying the BNP is our current priority. Their presence on the political landscape pushes the wider political agenda to the right to the cost of working class people.
Fascism is a violent ideology. Throughout history, fascists have used violence against those who oppose them. Antifa is a continuation of the anti-fascist tradition of confronting fascism physically when it is necessary. Physical confrontation is only one of our tactics though, we do not aim to fetishise it as one tactic above all others, nor will we allow a hierarchy to develop based on the kudos of street-fighting. If an individual member feels unable to engage on this level they are no less worthy as an anti-fascist than any other member of the group. However, those with a moral problem regarding this issue should be advised that this is not the group for them.
Hierarchy & Group Structure
In keeping with our anti-authoritarian ideas, we seek to challenge hierarchy within our own movement and elsewhere. We do not believe in fixed leadership or power structures. Within Bristol Antifa we make decisions on a consensus basis to ensure that the opinions of all within the group are represented as far as possible. Where an organising role needs to be taken on by one or more people (for example, acting as chief steward during an action), we accept that this is immediately revocable should the members of the group be dissatisfied, and that the appointment of any role that could be seen as leadership is temporary and based on group consensus. There are situations in militant anti-fascism where decisions have to be made quickly and it is vital that those involved trust the person who is making those decisions. It is also vital that appointing those decision-makers does not create any unspoken hierarchy, so we encourage the rotation of roles as far as possible. The structure of our own movement needs to reflect our political goals.
The success of fascist politics depends on a divided and unorganised working class. Bristol Antifa believes that the means to effect social change must mirror the ends we wish to achieve, and therefore, reflecting our wider beliefs, we will never exclude any individual on the basis of their sex, race, age, (dis)ability, sexuality or any similar grounds.
We will not work with, accept information from, nor pass information to the so-called anti-fascist magazine/organisation Searchlight, and we will not work with individuals who have any connection to them. As an organisation that works hand-in-glove with State agencies, we cannot trust them or the agenda they pursue. Their influence within, and manipulation of, militant anti-fascism has been deeply divisive over the years. Their methods and involvement with State security services are well documented and entirely incompatible with our own position.
The Authoritarian Left
For decades revolutionary left groups, such as the Trotskyite Socialist Workers Party, have opportunistically used the mobilisation against fascism as a way of trying to swell their membership numbers and the coffers of their parties. We are not interested in working with these groups, nor with their front groups, such as the Anti-Nazi League™ or Unite Against Fascism™. Our experience is that these front groups exist merely to try and recruit members on behalf of the controlling party, to peddle their papers, and to manipulate and marginalize genuine anti-fascists. In the past we have seen the leadership of such fronts collaborate not only with the State, but also with the fascists themselves. We will not be fooled again, and advise genuine anti-fascists within these organisations to leave, after which we may be able to work with them.
Voting is something that allows the State to pretend we live in a democracy, and it is a tactic used by fascist parties such as the British National Party to promote themselves and their policies. While the BNP may be in a position to throw bricks through the windows of a few Asian households, it is New Labour that is locking up refugees and bombing Iraqi civilians. It is ridiculous to suggest that voting helps to stop fascism. This is the sort of insult to working class communities that has allowed the BNP to grow. This is the case whether we are being told to vote for the old Statist parties or opportunist fronts, such as Respect™, which has helped to promote bigotry (sexism and homophobia) in order to further the agenda of its leadership. The problems that allow racism and fascism to flourish will not be solved simply by voting for parties which mask their fascism slightly more cleverly than the BNP, nor for some middle-class tourist standing on a left-wing ticket.
The Wider Struggle
Eliminating the threat of fascism will not magically correct all the wrongs of the world. The first stage of real lasting social improvement begins with the downfall of global capitalism and its replacement with an alternative that puts working class people in control of their own lives. Members of Bristol Antifa are involved in a wide variety of other anti-capitalist struggles, but Bristol Antifa itself remains focussed on the fight against fascism, which we believe is linked to the wider struggle. The State will employ fascist tactics if necessary in the cause of suppressing dissent, and the fight against openly fascist ideology, wherever it comes from, is a critical part of the fight against the ultimate enemy – capitalism itself.
Fascists can be suppressed by the use of street-level tactics against their attempts to publicly organise. The fascists’ electoral ambitions can be defeated by the use of counter-propaganda. But a meaningful impact on fascism requires far more than this. We believe that involvement in local communities is critical (and this does not mean parachuting in as outsiders, but people taking action in their own communities). Education and presenting workable solutions to the problems faced by communities are absolutely vital to the struggle. These may be outside the current remit of Bristol Antifa, but we will wholeheartedly support these tactics and, while we may not be able to initiate such activities, we strongly encourage our members to involve themselves in this sort of grass-roots work.
Security & Recruitment
For tactical and security reasons, Bristol Antifa is not an open group. Some of our work may put us in conflict with the authorities, and of course with fascists themselves. We do not seek mass-recruitment and we do not hold regular open meetings. That said, we are always on the lookout for potential new members who are committed and security-conscious. If you are interested in getting involved with Bristol Antifa, or if you would like to assist us in our work, please get in touch.