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The international strengthening of the authoritarian right is increasingly mobilising 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 organisations 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 politicising itself under the label «Antifa» – similar to the situation in Germany in the 1990s and 2000s. In their actions, forms of organisation 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 «Antifaschistische Aktion» (Anti-Fascist Action), founded by the KPD leadership in 1932, is often found in the annals of labour movement and communism research, «anti-fascism» as an independent political form has hardly been examined to date. Only resistance research has looked into the diverse 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 historicised, there is also a lack of works on changes and continuities in anti-fascist practice and social analyses, (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?
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 organised 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-organisation and much more. The analytical categories of race/class/gender could also be applied in an intersectional oriented contemporary history of an «antifa» movement often (and certainly not unjustly) regarded as «white» and «bourgeois».
- 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-organisation 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 include:
- Transfers: transnational-transfer-analytical and transnational-comparative studies of antifa movements; issues of «glocalisation»; anti-fascist fascism analyses in comparison
- Relations: relations with other left (sub-)movements, with migrant self-organisation, 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)
Details and deadlines
We request the submission of meaningful research proposals of up to 2,500 characters by May 9, 2021, indicating the topic, method and source base of the planned article. On the basis of the proposals, we will request specific contributions. The deadline for the submission of completed articles is December 5, 2021. Submissions can be made in German or English, and submissions in other languages subject to prior consultation. Reviews and documentation of thematically relevant publications or exhibitions are also welcome. All contributions are subject to an internal double peer review process before publication. Only after the submission and review of the final version will the publication be approved. Contributions to Arbeit – Bewegung – Geschichte will not be remunerated. Please send manuscripts by email, preferably as an MS Word file. Lengthier contributions should not exceed 50,000 characters including spaces and footnotes. Please note our instructions for authors (German).
Timetable in brief:
Submission of research proposals: May 9, 2021
Submission of finished articles: December 5, 2021
Publication of the issue: May 2022 (expected).
Arbeit – Bewegung – Geschichte. Zeitschrift für historische Studien (Work – Movement – History. Journal for Historical Studies) is a German-language historical journal based in Berlin and is published three times a year. The main topics are the German and international labour movements, the history of the world of work, the history of the organisation and ideas of social movements, and culture and lifestyle in the working-class milieu.