The Torch network was founded on October 19th 2013 in Lafayette, IN. Torch was born out of the Anti-Racist Action Network. Because of changes in the current political climate as well as our own political development, our understanding of what fascism is and how it relates to other political entities such as the working class, capital, and the state had evolved. We wanted to build a new network that fit our needs and politics and one that was more relevant and appealing to a new generation of anti-fascists. This was NOT a fracture or schism coming from internal strife.

The Founding chapters were South Side Chicago ARA, Bloomington and Lafayette HARM, ARA- LA, and Central Texas ARA.

But what was ARA?

A History of “Anti-Racist Action”

Flashback 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 was 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 coordinate 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.

The following is a recording of a presentation which features two founding members of the group, Anti-Racist Action (ARA), both of whom came up in Cincinnati, Ohio. The recording itself was produced by Solidarity and Defense of the Huron Valley in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, Michigan, and the talk features an in-depth discussion about the history and hard lessons learned in the Midwest and beyond. Above all, the speakers talk about both what it means to fight, as well as to organize, as they chart the evolution of ARA out of the punk rock scene in the 1980s and into the late 1990s, which saw the creation of hundreds of ARA chapters across the US and the world.