M. Testa, Militant Anti-Fascism. A Hundred Years of Resistance.

Author:Donaghey, Jim
Position:Book review
 
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M. Testa, Militant Anti-Fascism. A Hundred Years of Resistance

Edinburgh: AK Press, 2015; 320pp; ISBN 978-1-84935-204-8

Crivvens! Jings! And Help Ma Boab! Anti-fascist blogger Malatesta32 has produced a history of militant anti-fascism in Europe, written under the nom de biro 'M. Testa' (perhaps to allay any confusion over the possibility of Italian zombie anarchists penning new works).

This is a popular history without many academic trappings, sprinkled with the humorous reportage which readers of M. Testa's blog will be familiar with. Some notable witticisms include: the suggestion that activists throwing eggs and flour at fascists might also have been able to turn-out a nice quiche (p192); the deadpan description of 'the 1980s [as] one of the most violent decades since the 1970s' (p206); and euphemisms for fighting as a 'vigorous encounter' (p271) or a 'short but frank and to the point discussion' (p245). There is also the serious task of demonstrating a continuous thread of militant anti-fascism in Europe, from the turn of the twentieth century until today--necessitated by a fascist threat which 'fade[s] but never really disappears[s]' (p318).

The first half of the book rattles through a breakneck history of pre-World War Two anti-fascism covering Italy, France, Austria, Germany, Spain, Hungary, Romania, Poland, Ireland, Scotland and England (under which Wales is subsumed). Some of these histories are very short--France covers only a handful of pages, Hungary and Romania even fewer, and Poland only twenty lines. Even where the country-by-country overviews are longer, they rely on a very small number of secondary texts with no primary sources at all, in what is effectively a series of disjointed and limited literature reviews. For example, the chapter covering pre-war anti-fascism in Scotland references just four sources, one of which, by the Vice journalist Liam Turbett, is incorrectly identified as a Master's thesis, indicative of a lack of rigour in the referencing generally. It is also frustrating that the book lacks endnotes or a bibliography, obliging readers to trawl back through the footnotes to properly identify sources.

The second half of the book focuses on Britain and Ireland after World War Two, and benefits from the inclusion of archive material and new interviews with anti-fascist activists. These useful contributions, from around ten anonymous interviewees, help to illuminate the experience of, and justifications for...

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