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on 19 December 2016
Its an okay book but i dont believe that they were some kind of unbeatable firm that couldn't be touched like they want to present even though as they admit they virtually always fought with numbers in their favour. i wasn't at any of the events mentioned im too young but i've got mates who were at some of the events like the skrewdriver gig at waterloo that's described and ive heard very different versions than the ones given here.
overall not a bad read but i think there is some selective memory at work here as i can tell you nobody always gets it their own way and the few occasions the right wing do get the better of them is always quickly avenged or is a case of the right attacking a lone red
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on 7 September 2015
wow!!! giving the uk's nazis a taste of their own medicine. brutally honest.
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on 20 February 2016
Prompt delivery. Really enjoying book
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VINE VOICEon 29 May 2013
This book covers the history of quite possibly the least known anti fascist movements to the general public, Red Action and Anti Fascist Action. The book covers the beginnings of the movement, the expulsion of members from the Socialist Workers Party to the formation of Red Action. It should be pointed out here that although AFA were a broad organisation this book is essentially Red Action in London with mention given to Manchester and the Midlands. Little mention is given to other groups within AFA.

In some ways the book is similar to the book "No Retreat" The "Other" Book on the history of AFA especially in that it is a very no holds barred account of some of the levels of violence inflicted on their right wing opponents and also some of the violence inflicted on them. The author points out that many of the recruits of the group had violent backgrounds (Some having previously done time for armed robbery for example) And where not afraid to use force against an opponent that was happy to use force (And in many cases murder) On others many of whom innocent members of the public.

Some points of criticism of the book are that while it covers the foundation of the Independent Working Class Association there is little of the political ideology of the group, what the aims and objectives are and this may be a very good reason why the IWCA has been not even close to being a left wing alternative to the far right or New Labour and why RA are viewed by many of their left wing opponents as nothing more than thugs.

Another (And similar to above) The book seems absent of any real RA engagement with the community to actually attract the working class to their ranks (Take for example their mini riot with local kids in North London who then brought in a "Black gang for reinforcements" (Presumably the local kids were white?) I am sure setting to the locals with sharpened screwdrivers and jumping up and down on a prone man on the ground won the local community white and black over to the Red Action cause). By half way through the book I ended up with the impression they were very much "Me and my mates against the world" And this can be no better confirmed by the statement of RA that they did not seek out recruits nor ask for any. Its also interesting their unswerving support for Irish republican groups yet seem to be blissfully unaware how this may effect support for them on the streets and estates of mainland Britain.

Perhaps its this lack of any real political insight in the book other than the endless regurgitation of Jewish anti fascists in the 30s as their inspiration that stands out in this book (Stark difference between they and Red Action it seems is that they were from the community and had support amongst the community) In the case of the firebombing squatters they appeared in the book to look like some kind of occupying force in a working class estate.

At the conclusion of a number of chapters in the book RA/AFA seem to be under the impression that their job is simply to physically confront the far right in order for the left to fill the vacuum yet the book is so filled with criticism of the left in general and an utter lack of any political philosophy from AFA in general or Red Action specifically you are left wondering why RA were so happy to physically defeat the far right and then move on only for the far right to come back to the very same area within a few years. I mean seriously, did nobody actually notice this in the 20 odd years of AFA activity?

Combat 18 is given a chapter and while the attempt of this is to dispel the myth of them as some kind of paramilitary super Nazis most of it covers 2 successful attacks by them on RA. Most people will be aware that they were noting more than football hooligans in different shirts but most of the chapter drifts away into conspiracy theories and quite frankly waffle.

This is a fairly well written book and the accounts are fairly graphic. RA did seem to very rarely fight unless the odds were very much in their favour (But then again since when did the far right ever do so? Firebombing innocent shop keepers, stabbing kids walking home at night, actions of cowards) At least once I read a contributor point out that when he saw the odds were even he didn't "Fancy it"

The conclusions at the end of the book cover the rise of the BNP (At the time of the book being written) In comparison to the barely noticeable IWCA. The problem is the author just like many on the left seem to have no idea why and no idea what to do about it. For all the rhetoric of them being from the working class they seem to be as unaware of the concerns of the working class as every other political party (Including the far right whose abject lack of any real policy other than "Blame the immigrants" Became instantly manifest once in any form of political power) For all the books attempt to link the past to present and for all the efforts as fighters eradicating the violent far right from the streets the political void amongst the working class is absent now as it was when RA were active.

I may have mentioned a fair few negatives about the book and there is plenty more good and bad to discuss about this book but it is still well worth a read.
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on 23 August 2016
This is a superb blow-by-blow account of the history of Anti-Fascist Action in the UK, from the days of the Anti Nazi League Mk 1 in 1970s and the subsequent expulsion of "squadists" from the SWP, which gave birth to Red Action, all through the battles of the 80s and 90s. The book is quite partisan and is written from a Red Action perspective - probably some stories and analyses of particular groups or the conduct of individuals might be controversial with some readers from other anti-fascist traditions, but the author makes no apologies for giving his own account, and the accounts of fellow Red Action members, and eschews the more "balanced" (/liberal) approach of other anti-fascist writers such as Nigel Copsey, whose book 'Anti-Fascism in Britain' is referred to throughout. The Copsey book is, by the way, also excellent and Birchall's judgment in referring throughout to the Copsey book is a small reflection of the quality of the research which has gone into 'Beating the Fascists'. The geezer knows his stuff. There are tons of interviews and references to contemporary primary sources. It is also a lot more fun and exciting to read than a lot of politics or history books because of the detailed descriptions of punch ups and violent incidents, and funny anecdotes.
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on 14 January 2015
Bought as a gift for family member, very pleased.
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on 1 January 2012
Anti Fascist Action (and its founding organisation Red Action) are perhaps relatively unknown to the general public, and deemed controversial by many on the Left of the political spectrum. Adopting a stance of "attack them wherever you see them" towards the emerging Fascist threat, their tactics were blunt and to the point.

Many of the mainstream Anti-Fascist organisations throughout AFA's history were keen to condemn them and instead court the influence of respectable politicians and academics. Which led AFA to pose the not unreasonable question; "at what point is physical opposition to Fascism deemed to be unnecessary?"

The proof of AFA's success, as well as its solid working-class political credentials, can be found here in this detailed work by Sean Birchall. It gives the reader an illuminating insight into how a brave group of people effectively destroyed the old 'march and grow' strategy of groups such as the National Front and the BNP.
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on 30 November 2016
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on 20 May 2016
Lovely stuff.
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on 18 December 2012
This is a really enjoyable book. The topic is the far right in Britain and shows just how far some race hate groups will go to get their way. Highly recommended.
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