Review of The Antifascists documentary, 2017
Directed by Patrik Öberg and Emil Ramos
“Self defense is anti-fascism,” says Showan, who was brutally attacked by Nazis during the Women’s Day in Malmö in 2014. “Direct democracy is anti-fascism,” says the masked Greek interviewee, speaking of the importance of building community against neighborhood confrontations by the police and Golden Dawn. In the Swedish film, The Antifascists, the question of who are “the” antifascists and what is anti-fascism, is explored by retracing certain events in Greece and Sweden since 2013, interviewing a diverse cast affiliated with the antifascist movement, and ultimately inviting the viewer to revisit their assumptions of anti-fascism.
It’s time for the image of anti-fascism as mere violence to be rethought, and this film makes that important step. Of course, violence is discussed in the film, but mainly in terms of Nazi (14 killed since 1999 in Sweden) or police violence (Salem, for example). In fact, a substantial chunk of the film seems devoted to discussing police brutality and police collusion with fascists. Related to the anti-fascist use of violence, we would recommend watching on the whole segment on Kärrtorp (a suburb of Stockholm where Nazis attacked an anti-Nazi demo), especially the interviews with Joel Almgren (in prison for defending the anti-racist demonstration in Kärrtorp).
Against the backdrop of the creeping normalization of fascist ideas, and the growth of fascism on the streets and in party politics in Europe and beyond, The Antifascists shows that anti-fascism is also at a turning point. For one, anti-fascism needs to evolve, “clear space for others” to continue different struggles for freedom and equality. The film gives many examples and tactics, inspiring one to think further. They even spell out “three pillars of anti-fascism” one can go by: Deconstruct their slogans and myths; don’t allow them to terrorize the streets; and don’t allow them in organizations and institutions (including music scenes, football, and government). Not just merely documenting a movement, this film is a tool and a guide.
Secondly, the film shows that anyone can be anti-fascist. Showan Shattak was known as an anti-homophobic activist in football when he was attacked, and as the film shows, Showan continues to be involved in anti-capitalist struggles now in a broader sense. Those organizing locally to rid Nazis from their neighborhood in Salem, Kärrtorp, and Exarcheia are antifascist. Everyone who came to Peli Poikki against the death of Jimi Karttunen that day was antifascist. Everyone who participated in Helsinki without Nazis demonstration against national socialist Nordic Resistance Group was antifascist. Challenging, confronting, and standing up to fascist and racist violence, be it raised fists or in a more systemic sense, is anti-fascism. Making more room for those that are effected by the injustices of the cops or the Nazis only makes this movement stronger.