What is Anti-Racist Action?
ARA is an international network of people from all walks of life who are dedicated to eliminating racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, and discrimination against the disabled, the oldest, the youngest, and the most oppressed people. We want a free classless society. ARA got its start in Minneapolis in 1988; since then, we’ve had chapters in dozens of communities in five countries and three continents. We have impacted the lives of thousands of people in our 20 plus year history.
All vouched-for chapters agree on the ARA Network’s four Points Of Unity, but can decide on what actions they will take in their communities.
What we do.
ARA’s work generally falls into four broad categories:
- 1. We Educate:
- by doing serious and credible research on racist and fascist groups and issues involving racism and other forms of discrimination.
- by sharing information with allied anti-racists in dozens of organizations worldwide.
- by using this research to write and publish dozens of pamphlets, dossiers, articles, magazines, web pages, radio and television programs.
- by distributing thousands of copies of all kinds of literature about racism and discrimination for free at schools, conferences, protests, concerts, parties and in prisons.
- by sending speakers to talk to hundreds of school groups, youth groups, church groups, community organizations and conferences.
- 2. We Organize:
- by acting as the primary contact for a new generation of anti-racist activists.
- by mobilizing people to combat racism and discrimination, Anti-Racist Action has become a key vehicle for young anti-racists to get involved in and help shape the direction of this struggle.
- by initiating or supporting anti-racist demonstrations.
- by hosting some of the most diverse, well-attended, constructive and practical anti-racist conferences, trainings and gatherings.
- by recognizing that racism is a multi-faceted issue entwined with a number of other problems our society faces and then using that knowledge to connect with groups and individuals from all walks of life.
- by strengthening our understanding and resolve and improving our communities through work on issues related to racism, such as poverty, homophobia, prisons, police abuse, workers’ struggles, sexism, & reproductive rights.
- by defending other anti-racists and anti-fascists across the globe. For example, the ARA War Chest has contributed to anti-racists in eight countries who were in trouble and needed our help. ARA Network chapters donate 10% of all money they raise, plus a biannual contribution of $25 per chapter or $10 per member (whichever is greater) to the War chest. We also accept private donations to the War chest. Click here for more information on the War Chest or to make a donation.
- 3. We Confront:
- by refusing to ignore the violent bigots that
comprise racist and fascist groups.
- by challenging racists and fascists when they attempt to recruit, organize, mobilize, propagandize, and cause harm to people.
- by using innovative, creative, and highly-effective tactics
- by denying racist and fascist groups the opportunity to monopolize public spaces and by denying racists and fascists the chance to turn public spaces into spaces that are hostile towards people of color, women, immigrants, queer and trans folk, the disabled, and others.
- 4. We Celebrate:
- through our commitment to developing a fun, authentic anti-racist culture.
- by hosting parties, concerts and other events that encourage participation of people of diverse backgrounds in having fun in a safe and liberated environment.
- by organizing regular weekend gatherings for young anti-racists to come to know and support each other.
Why doesn’t ARA rely on the cops or the courts?
- Most anti-racist groups focus all their efforts on creating new laws or getting the police to respond to racism. But the cops uphold white supremacy and the status quo; they attack us and everyone that resists oppression. This means that police are not likely to get involved with fighting racist and fascists until they have hurt or killed someone. We think that that’s too late and that any anti-racist group that doesn’t organize an effective opposition to racist and fascists before they hurt people is not doing their job.
- Another problem with anti-racist groups that work closely with the police is that they are afraid to criticize the police when they pull racist, sexist, or homophobic shit. By maintaining a distance from the legal system, ARA is in a better position to call the cops and the courts on racist practices and behaviors.
I saw some ARA people wearing masks at an action. What’s up with that?
You probably also noticed bigots with cameras at that same action. Racists like to take pictures of anti-racists so that they’ll be able to identify them and attack them later on. To protect our safety, we sometimes choose to wear masks so that we don’t have to worry about racists attacking us, or people close to us, after or outside of an action.
What is fascism?
ARA recognizes a number of characteristics of fascist movements. Fascism is an ultra-nationalist ideology that mobilizes around and glorifies a national or perceived racial identity, valuing this identity above all other interests (for example gender or class). Fascism is marked by its hostility towards reason and human solidarity, by its dehumanization and scapegoating of marginalized or oppressed groups, by its use of violence or threats of violence to impose its views on others, and by its rejection of supposedly “effeminate” or “soft” values in favor of “manliness.” Anti-Semitism and racism are primary facets of National Socialism and most other varieties of fascism. Fascism aims at a militarized society, and organizes along military or quasi-military lines, usually with an authoritarian structure revolving around a single, charismatic leader. Fascist groups may have the facade of an efficient and dynamic organization, but in reality, power structures are arbitrary and ruthless. Fascists use anti-elitist rhetoric to appeal to the “common man,” coupled with internal elitism and willingness to accept support from existing elites. Fascism glorifies a mythologized past as justification for its present ideological stances, and as a basis for future organization of society.
What about free speech for fascists?
- ARA does not use the state to prevent anyone’s free speech. The right to free speech restricts the state from censoring ideas, it does not stop the public from opposing hateful ideas.
- The fact that people dislike what bigots have to say and want to make that known is not prohibited by the concept of free speech. If bigots actively go out of their way to tell people that 90% of the world’s population should be enslaved or that the best thing they can do is kill someone because of their skin color, religion, ethnic background, immigration status, sexual orientation, disability, etc., they can’t use “free speech” to silence opposition.
- Anti-racists and antifascists have an obligation to deny a platform to bigots so that they can’t spread their message and recruit. Concert venues, meeting halls, radio programs, and the like make choices about who to host on a regular basis. These choices have a very real impact on bigoted ideas taking root in one’s community.
- Responding to bigoted speech is important. We believe in being proactive when it comes to fascist violence, which means confronting fascist organizing before they have a chance to put their ideas into action, and taking fascist threats seriously.
The Anti-Racist Action Network consists of people from all different backgrounds, with a lot of different viewpoints. With countless ARA chapters out there, it’s not surprising that no two are alike! What we all agree on, however, is the following:
- We go where they go. Whenever fascists are organizing or active in public, we’re there. We don’t believe in ignoring them or staying away from them. Never let the Nazis have the street!
- We don’t rely on the cops or courts to do our work for us. This doesn’t mean we never go to court, but the cops uphold white supremacy and the status quo. They attack us and everyone who resists oppression. We must rely on ourselves to protect ourselves and stop the fascists.
- Non-sectarian defense of other anti-fascists. In ARA, we have a lot of different groups and individuals. We don’t agree about everything and we have a right to differ openly. But in this movement an attack on one is an attack on us all. We stand behind each other.
- We support abortion rights and reproductive freedom. ARA intends to do the hard work necessary to build a broad, strong movement against racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, discrimination against the disabled, the oldest, the youngest, and the most oppressed people. We want a classless, free society. We intend to win!
A History of “Anti-Racist Action”
For over 20 years ARA has been able to popularize the ideas of direct action in the fight against fascism and oppression. It has also been an arena for debate and action around the various forms of oppression and their interconnection. As we ACT we become CONSCIOUS, and our consciousness informs our action and all this outside of the control of the government, multinationals, religious institutions or other authorities.
But it wasn’t always that way…
Flash back to 1987…
ARA originally came out of the efforts of Minneapolis anti-racist Skinheads to create an organization that could combat the presence of nazi skinheads in that city and its neighboring city, St. Paul. The Baldies, a multi-racial skinhead crew, were fighting the Nazi skinhead group, the White Knights. If Baldies came across the nazis, then the nazis could expect to be attacked, or served some of what the Baldies called “Righteous Violence.”
While the Baldies actions went a long way to limiting the presence and organizing efforts of nazis in the Twin Cities areas, the Baldies realized that a successful drive against the nazis would mean having to form a broader group that appealed to kids other than just Skins. It would also have to have a larger, more diverse geographic area to stay ahead of the Fascists’ national organizing efforts.
While this was going on, the west was experiencing it’s own surge in Antifascist activity. ARA chapters sprung up in Los Angeles, San Diego, Portland, Vancouver, even out into Front Range, Colorado. All these chapters were represented (and joined by Midwestern comrades) at the first network gathering, which was held in Portland, Oregon. (This gathering took place at the same time as the civil trial of White Aryan Resistance founder Tom Metzger and his son John. The Metzgers were eventually found liable for their role in the murder of Mulugeta Seraw, an Ethiopian immigrant beaten to death by Portland boneheads in 1988.)”
Up in Canada, anti-racist skinheads and others in the youth subcultures were also uniting to get nazis out of their scenes. From 1990 to 1992 in Edmonton, the Anti-Fascist League waged a street-level propaganda war against a racist gang called the Final Solution, who were recruited and manipulated by the Aryan Nations. In Winnipeg, the United Against Racism crew fought to keep the bars and streets free of fascist violence. And in 1992, Toronto’s Anti-Racist Action formed to take on a similar threat posed by the neo-nazi Heritage Front.
ARA took the “no platform” policy of Europe’s AFA (Anti-Fascist Action) in order to create as broad an appeal as possible among antifascists who might not see eye to eye on all things politically. The Minneapolis chapter inspired many chapters of ARA, where anarchists and feminists had tried to broaden the mandate of the early skinhead fighting crews. The Love and Rage Anarchist Federation also played a large role in the development of ARA as a political organization. Cues and strategies were borrowed from various other groups and movements and implemented in ARA’s policy of “expose, oppose, and confront,” as well as it’s commitment to Antifascist education and culture building.
1994 was the first conference of the Midwest Anti-Fascist Network in Columbus, Ohio. The conference was called by Columbus’ ARA group, to co-ordinate and sustain the constant protests against Klan rallies throughout the Midwestern U.S. — rallies which were often protected by legions of heavily armed police. The keynote speaker was a survivor of the “Greensboro Massacre” of 1979, when a Klan cell linked to the Aryan Nations and heavily infiltrated by police and FBI, shot and killed five anti-Klan protestors in Greensboro, North Carolina. It was here that the ARA was more formalized into the form it exists in today.
But ARA is not rigid or dated. We have adapted with our enemy. We have expanded to no longer limit ourselves to just direct confrontations with card-carrying neo-nazis or klansmen. ARA is still fighting the fash at Klan rallies and white power events all over North America, but we’re also defending women’s right to abortion services and freedom from abuse and assault, we’re protesting police brutality. We’re confronting anti-queer fascists; we’re writing to prisoners and standing up for First Nations’ and migrants’ rights. We’ve been represented in all kinds of anti-capitalist demos, and in the anti-war movement.
Every ARA chapter is different, but we join together because we find affinity in struggle. The network exists as a resource to chapters and members to share information/experiences and find backup/support. Involvement in ARA is never identical for two people. Some members have been very public, some totally clandestine. While ARA has a long history of protest and confrontation, some members focus more on Anti-Fascist culture building and education. What’s important to remember is that in ARA everyone decides their own involvement, exposure, and level of confrontation.
Our goals remain direct but far from simple. We want an end to racism, sexism, homophobia, fascism, and the status quo. The state, the police, the church, and the bosses won’t do it for us. We have to take the fight to those that would push the boot of oppression upon our friends, our family, our communities, and us.
ARA means push back!
The Anti-Racist Action Network, 2009