How to get to Antifa
'Antifa' is an abbreviation for anti-fascist. This first makes clear the explicitly political orientation in the tradition of the student movement of the 1960s and the communist groups of the 1970s. This also makes the constitutive relevance of 'opposition' clear: One is against 'fascists' and against 'fascism'. This does not mean, however, that there are no “own” concepts or that only actionism prevails; rather, the Antifa scene places discourse more at the center of its culture than is the case in other scenes.
Three types of political groupings (each more or less) had a particular influence on the development of the anti-fascist scene: communist-oriented groups that split off from the student movement in the late 1970s, the squatter movement of the 1980s, and the punk movement of the 1970s Years (at least with regard to the origins of the antifa scene).
On the one hand, the anti-fascist scene was very popular after the collapse of the German Democratic Republic, which gave anti-fascist organizations a more or less dominant position in the radical left spectrum. On the other hand, the increase in xenophobic attacks at the beginning of the 1990s led to v. a. Young people joined existing groups in solidarity with the Antifa; at the same time, many new groups were formed, which led to a thematic differentiation of the anti-fascist scene (e.g. groups such as 'anti-German', 'anti-nationalists' or 'anti-imperialists').
The Antifa scene shows a comparatively high degree of organization. More or less closed groups are typically found at their meeting points. Some of these groups accept or proclaim physical violence as a means to achieve their goals, others expressly distance themselves from it. In addition, a distinction can be made between groups that limit themselves to legal actions and those that also use illegal means. In addition, some groups focus on theoretical discussions, while others prefer public relations.
Internally, these groups are further differentiated: some scene-goers are characterized by strong commitment over a long period of time and in the course of this acquire a privileged position that gives them a high reputation and a corresponding weight with regard to upcoming decisions. Others form, so to speak, the mobilization potential, i. H. they behave more passively in the planning and coordination phase and only take an active role in the implementation phase of projects.
The individual Antifa groups only work together from time to time, i. H. if z. B. joint actions were decided. The outstanding structural feature of the anti-fascist scene is therefore its (organizationally supported) group form: Within the groups, there is broad consensus regarding ideological convictions and (their) practical implementation. However, there are many differences between the individual groups, so that supra-regional cooperation is often extremely difficult or even impossible.
Estimates - taking into account the data from the Office for the Protection of the Constitution - amount to around 6,000 anti-fascists (autonomous) in Germany. With regard to the numerical development, it can be assumed that newcomers and emigrants are roughly in balance. Most antifa activists are between 16 and 30 years old. Younger scene-goers tend to be the exception; older scene-goers, on the other hand, are often to be found. The vast majority of anti-fascists are male. There are no findings with regard to the distribution of educational and professional qualifications in the scene.
Overlaps exist primarily with various 'alternative' music-centered scenes (e.g. punk, hardcore or ska). In addition, there is a certain sympathy for the skater and graffiti scene. This can probably be explained by their problematic relationship to state regulations and institutions. Many anti-fascists are convinced of the high political potential of skaters and writers. However, apparently only splinter groups develop a 'politicized' consciousness in the sense of the Antifa in these scenes.
Not only distance, but also a decided and, as is well known, often violently expressed aversion to all those who are referred to as 'right-wing' by the anti-fascist scene. It can be assumed that the 'opponent' understood in this way is likely to be constitutive for the existence of the scene.
The linchpin of the Antifa scene is what is commonly understood by 'politics'. Three (central) areas of political activity or action can be distinguished: 'public relations', 'political education' and 'actions against fascists'. A large part of the public relations work consists of editorial and publishing work in the context of the conception and creation of flyers and anti-fascist information brochures, in the organization and implementation of events - such as B. solidarity concerts, information stands or demonstrations - and in the construction and maintenance of anti-fascist organizations and institutions (e.g. anti-fascist cafes and information shops). Political education is initially related to the scene-goers, i. H. it is part of everyday life on the scene, for example to discuss political theories and their specific implementation options. In view of the heavy discourse, however, concrete political action is repeatedly called for. Political actions are usually directed against 'fascists'. At least parts of the scene understand militancy as an alternative course of action. For the anti-fascist scene, politics means two things: discourse on the one hand and militancy on the other. Discourse is the predominant form of action towards 'non-fascists', while militancy is dominant in dealing with 'fascists'.
Based on the basic assumption that all situations in everyday life are politically relevant, anti-fascists suspect that the state or the 'system' has completely permeated people's everyday lives and z. B. through media or consumer offers manipulate consciousness. Great importance is therefore attached to the development of an autonomous identity, which on the one hand emancipates itself from the influence of the 'system' and on the other hand aims at the abolition of the capitalist system, which is perceived as negative. The assumption that an autonomous identity develops almost inevitably among those who inform themselves and reflect, represents a further core conviction of the anti-fascists. The anti-fascist scene is thus equally shaped by rationalist ideals and ideological conformism.
Anti-fascists are ambivalent about the dimension of experience 'fun'. An anti-fascist feels 'officially' committed to his ideals, so to speak, to fight for a 'better' world. Nonetheless, the experience dimension of 'fun' is expressed by including cultural aspects such as music, parties, concerts, art, etc. in the concept, which is why Antifa groups differ from their predecessors, the communist groups of the 1970s.
A 'holistic' approach and the consistent representation of positions are cornerstones of the lifestyle in the anti-fascist scene and are clearly reflected in the everyday actions of a scene-goer. A separation of scene life and non-scenic life and thus the validity of each different value setting is explicitly rejected. To be part of a 'movement' that educates the public (about their 'alienation' and their 'false' consciousness) and defies the 'system' is another element of the self-image shared in anti-fascist groups. This also gives rise to the idea that one can constantly be followed, listened to and observed. As much as the Antifa scene tries to 'educate' the public, the individual scene-goers make sure to keep necessary background activities secret. This distrust of outsiders accompanies anti-fascists through their everyday life and points to a central condition of belonging to the scene: belonging must be acquired in a lengthy process of rapprochement - through seriousness, consistency and evidence of loyalty.
Five-pointed stars, raised fists, pictograms (which show characters throwing swastikas in wastebasket) or cartoon characters (who hit skinheads with baseball bats) are relevant motifs and the symbolic expression of an anti-fascist attitude. Such symbols can be found e.g. B. in the form of posters in Antifa cafés, prominently in fanzines and on flyers, at demonstrations as transparent motifs and of course as patches or prints on items of clothing.
In order to protect themselves from surveillance and persecution, meetings of people in the scene sometimes take on conspiratorial features: meetings in the run-up to 'important' actions take place in 'back rooms' and participation is only permitted for people who are classified as trustworthy. 'Newbies' are put through their paces because they could be 'snoopers'. Significant content is not passed on on the phone or is only passed on in encrypted form, etc. Such rituals indicate that antifa groups are committed communities. However, the recurring discussions about precautionary measures to be taken are not merely instrumental in character. Rather, they convey and preserve the idea of being surrounded by opponents of opinion. This therefore leads to a strengthening of solidarity among those in the scene and to the establishment of group norms (e.g. secrecy).
The most obvious antifas events are undoubtedly demonstrations. The reason for this are often events of 'right-wing' organizations or parties that are supposed to be 'disrupted'. As a rule, the organization of a demonstration is taken over by (one) the local Antifa group (s). People from the scene from non-regional anti-fascist groups often travel together and then form "black blocks" in the demonstration march, which lead the demonstration and are made up exclusively of people from the scene from anti-fascist groups. Actions (sometimes violent) e.g. B. against the police and / or against the participants of 'right' events, usually start from these blocks.
Since the event term connotes the dimension of experience 'fun', the Antifas do not want their demos to be referred to as 'events'. In the case of events such as solo concerts and parties, however, 'having fun' is explicitly encouraged. At the same time, such events serve - beyond the establishment or stabilization of the culture typical of the scene - v. a. to finance actions of the respective antifa groups.
The already mentioned connection between culture and politics becomes clear at the meeting places most widespread in the scene, the Antifa cafés. These locations, at least in principle accessible to everyone, but in practice only visited by culturally related people, are used in a variety of ways: as pubs, for concerts and parties as well as for discussion and presentation events.
In addition to the main room of the Antifa café, there is usually a second room, but its use is reserved for the scene core of the local Antifa groups. Group-internal discussions are held there, activities are planned and coordinated or editorial meetings for information sheets etc. are held. However, since Antifa scene-goers suspect that Antifa cafés are being bugged, many withdraw into private rooms - at least to discuss 'sensitive' matters.
As a medium of communication - especially with regard to the coordination of actions or the maintenance of contacts - the telephone is a good choice, but (like the Internet) it is only used with great caution. In this respect, the personal conversation is still of central importance with regard to the distribution of important information.
Print media are of central importance in the anti-fascist scene. Almost every Antifa group publishes its own newspaper or at least its own information sheet. Due to limited financial resources, these publications are usually simply designed and equipped - national magazines, on the other hand, are somewhat more complex and extensive. With regard to the topics, national magazines hardly differ from local or regional information sheets. The content is dominated by reports on structures, actions and personalities of the 'right' scene and the power-relevant institutions of the (respective) state. The (theoretical) discussion of ideological concepts also takes up a lot of space. After all, there is no event calendar missing in any magazine.
Flyers referring to upcoming events can be found at all meeting points typical of the scene. The use of the Internet is also gaining ground (at least) in this regard in order to disseminate event information at low cost.
Finally, a specific antifa medium are the so-called 'Spuckis', i. H. self-made stickers that are placed in public places. It primarily depicts motifs and symbols of anti-fascist groups - often in combination with slogans such as 'Nazis out'.
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