My Life: Antifa (Book Review)
A reflection on Peter Cricket's 100 notes from 20 years in Antifa.
To chronicle your life as a militant antifascist is not a novelty. Some of these chronicles have found a pretty broad readership, for example Sean Birchall’s Beating the Fascists and DJ Stalingrad’s Exodus—although the latter, curiously, has never appeared in English. Now, we also have My Life: Antifa by Peter Cricket.
Peter Cricket is, as we can safely assume, a pseudonym. Perhaps a misleading one. If you approach the book without any prior knowledge, it might take you a while to figure out that it’s set in the Czech Republic. That this matters, is made clear by the author himself. He repeatedly stresses the unique conditions he faced as a militant antifascist in a small country without a broader radical scene or infrastructure to fall back onto. The antifascism he lived was not about defending radical leftist spaces or structures, but to prevent Nazis from establishing their own.
In the foreword, Mr Cricket speaks of “ridiculous ego-trips and macho stories” with regard to his book. It might explain some of the language. Nazis are routinely called “chickenshit wimps” or “shitstain cowards”. I suppose some of their other characteristics are more worrisome, but hey, it’s a tough life on the streets. The descriptions of the author’s “crew” clashing with their Nazi opponents are, at times, reminiscent of gangs staking out their territory. Then again, it’s not of their own choosing.
Hardcore punks will appreciate a lengthy episode about a Terror-headlined show in Prague, where—with the help of the bands’ members, kudos!—a group of Nazis were prevented from entering the venue. There is plenty of interesting stuff about right-wingers trying to infiltrate the hardcore scene in general. Cricket says that one of the most tangible outcomes of the antifascist movement in the Czech Republic were video interviews with hardcore bands taking a stand against fascism. “Once and for good it transformed the audiences at hardcore gigs and their thinking.” Way to go.
Another strength of the book are the open words by Mr Cricket about how his experiences have changed him as a person: the way he interacts with others, how he perceives his environment, how he observes the world around him. At one point, he concludes that his time as an antifascist militant has turned him into an “anti-social individual”. A sad outcome, if it’s true, but perhaps not surprising.
Frankly, the life described in the book is reminiscent of the Geto Boys’ “Mind Playing Tricks on Me”, a life that doesn’t seem terribly attractive. Yet, as the author stresses, in the context of antifascist action, it’s also a life that brings results. I suppose we must be glad that some folks choose it despite the costs. There’s a disclaimer in the beginning of the book, warning readers about “scenes of extreme violence”. Usually, I’m not much one for disclaimers, but in this case it seems appropriate. Despite Mr Cricket stating, at one point, that he didn’t “analyze stuff too deeply”, the book contains quite a bit of reflection on antifascist tactics, too. Another strength of the book, not least as it’s tied to personal experience.
If you’re interested in sports, you’ll appreciate the information you get on Sparta Prague supporters; it might help you understand why a former Sparta Prague player, Ondrej Kúdela, received a ten-game suspension for uttering a racial slur toward a black opponent earlier this year. On a lighter note, I was happy to see that Mr Cricket and I share a teenage idol in the hockey player Jaromír Jágr—I even had the Penguins shirt!
My Life: Antifa is available as a self-published e-book, a true DIY endeavor! There’s a website with promo and download options. The trailer and audio samples are on the dramatic side (where did they get this voice?), but alright, we’re dealing with dramatic stuff here. The book is well-worth the read for anyone interested in these matters.