Mark Bray was born in New York City in 1982 and grew up in River Vale, New Jersey, the son of public school teachers. Today he is a political activist and a history lecturer at Rutgers University; he was previously a visiting history lecturer at Dartmouth College’s Gender Research Institute. Identified in his Rutgers biography as “a historian of human rights, terrorism, and politics in Modern Europe,” Bray holds a B.A. in Philosophy from Wesleyan University (2005) and an M.A. in History from Providence College (2008). For the 2012-13 academic year, he was a Fulbright Fellow affiliated with the Universidad Carlos III in Madrid. And in 2016 he earned a Ph.D. in Modern European History as well as Women’s & Gender History from Rutgers University, where he authored a dissertation titled The Anarchist Inquisition: Terrorism and the Ethics of Modernity in Spain, 1893-1909.
In 2007, Bray worked as an organizer for the pro-socialist Industrial Workers of the World in Providence, Rhode Island. In 2011, he was involved as an activist and spokesman with the anti-capitalist Occupy Wall Street movement in New York. He also has been active in issues involving labor and immigration rights.
In 2013 Bray authored Translating Anarchy: The Anarchism of Occupy Wall Street, in which he describes his first influence toward radical politics as coming from the band, Rage Against The Machine (RATM), whose “seething anger and complete impatience with a world of exploitation was a mirror image of the frustration that I felt as I started to contrast the injustices that I was learning about with the comfort and apathy around me.” Bray writes that he was also influenced by the suggested reading list of radical books that accompanied RATM’s 1996 album, Evil Empire. These included Rules for Radicals by Saul Alinsky, The Black Panthers Speak (edited by Philip Foner), Guerrilla Warfare by Che Guevara, and some books authored by Noam Chomsky. Bray was further influenced by what he calls RATM’s “advocacy on behalf of political prisoners Leonard Peltier of the American Indian Movement and Mumia Abu-Jamal of the Black Panthers,” which “led me to read their books.”
In 2017 Bray authored Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook, which provides a detailed and sympathetic history of “anti-fascism” from its origins to modern times. Conflating fascism with some strains of conservatism, Bray classifies the former as one manifestation of “far-right politics.” “The only long-term solution to the fascist menace,” Bray wrote in his book, “is to undermine its pillars of strength in society grounded not only in white supremacy but also in ableism, heteronormativity, patriarchy, nationalism, transphobia, class rule, and many others. This long-term goal points to the tensions that exist in defining anti-fascism, because at a certain point destroying fascism is really about promoting a revolutionary socialist alternative”
In an April 2017 essay titled “Everyday Anti-Fascism in the Era of Trump,” Bray takes issue with those who believe that “the one who disrupts a fascist speaker brings us closer to ‘fascism’ than the aggrieved orator who is actually advocating for fascism.” Explaining that no “reasoned debate” can possibly “win over one whose belief system is predicated on eschewing rationality,” Bray writes: “Like Trumpism, both fascism and Nazism emerged as emotional, anti-rational appeals grounded in masculine promises of renewed national vigor.”
Bray achieved nationwide notoriety for statements he made in the aftermath of an August 12, 2017 incident in Charlottesville, Virginia, where, amid clashes between demonstrating KKK/neo-Nazis and counter-protesters led by the Marxist/anarchist forces of Antifa, a deranged white supremacist rammed his car into a crowd of leftist protesters, killing one and injuring numerous others. After that, Bray was quoted repeatedly as an expert (and supporter) of the Antifa movement within academia. He has written numerous articles and given several interviews on the topic.
For example: In an August 16, 2017 article about Antifa which he wrote for the Washington Post, Bray said: “The vast majority of anti-fascist organizing is nonviolent. But their willingness to physically defend themselves and others from white supremacist violence and preemptively shut down fascist organizing efforts before they turn deadly distinguishes them from liberal anti-racists.” In an August 20, 2017 interview about the Charlottesville incident, Bray told NBC’s Chuck Todd that support for anti-fascist violence was not confined merely to a “small … minority” of Americans: “I think that a lot of people recognize that, when pushed, self-defense is a legitimate response to white supremacy and neo-Nazi violence.” A few days later, Bray characterized such violence as “collective self-defense against fascism and Nazism.” In an August 2017 interview with NBC, Bray defined the Antifa movement as “a pan-left radical politics uniting communists, socialists, anarchists and various different radical leftists together for the shared purpose of combating the far right.” And on September 7, 2017, The New Republic published an interview in which Bray said: “When we talk about anti-fascism we need to see it as a tradition of pan-left politics that is not reducible simply to opposition to fascism. It is also informed by commonly shared anti-capitalist and revolutionary outlooks. In that way, an anti-fascist is not simply anyone who opposes fascism. Anti-fascism is a specific strand or tendency that opposes fascism from a pan-radical position.”
On September 16, 2017, Bray began a two-month book tour across the U.S. to promote his new Anti-Fascist Handbook. The tour included a joint appearance in Philadelphia with another controversial professor, George Ciccariello-Maher. In November 2017, Bray announced that he was donating half of the proceeds from his book sales to Antifa.
On September 24, 2017, Bray came to the defense of Professor Michael Isaacson of John Jay College of Criminal Justice (in New York), who was under fire for having made a number of controversial comments articulating his desire to see police officers murdered. Inside a copy of his own 2017 book, Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook, Bray wrote a personal message to Isaacson that read: “Stand tall comrade! Don’t let the bastards grind you down. Let’s keep in touch.”
Further Reading: “Mark Bray” (Rutgers.edu).