A Literary Guide to Antifascism

Shane Burley, editor of "No Pasaran," recommends ten books about combating far-right white nationalism through activism

Holding up signs reading "DENOUNCE HATE" "QUEERS BASH BACK" and "NOT MY PRESIDENT," a mass of anti-Trump protestors march through the Castro in San Francisco.
Image via Wikimedia Commons

Antifascism is a social movement that seeks to push back on the growth of the far-right, to keep communities safe, and to protect progressive social movements and marginalized communities without resorting to law enforcement solutions. Antifascism is also an approach to combating the escalating rise of white nationalism, empowering grassroots organizing campaigns to disrupt fascist demonstrations in their local communities. The movement is built on the notion that these community-based solutions are ultimately more effective than simply turning to state violence, which itself has been often complicit in white supremacy.

My new anthology, No Pasaran: Antifascist Dispatches from a World in Crisis, is intended to blow open our picture of what antifascism activism is, how it works, and what its future might look like as the far-right continues to surge. By highlighting underrepresented voices, issues, and experiences, the book aims to remind us that antifascism is so much more than just the caricature peddled by Fox News, and that, rather, it is a movement collaborated on by millions in an effort to divert the worst possible future. With a community connected through antifascist organizing, we know that we can remain safe by coming together and refusing to quit.

If you’re looking to see how you fit into this new political equation, you may be surprised by what you’ll find on an antifascist’s bookshelf.  Beyond just dense political agitprop, the literary world has taken on fascism from just about every angle imaginable: graphically, lyrically, and through speculative dreaming and ferocious rage.

Here are ten books to add to your own antifascist reading list to help counter the despair that white nationalists hope to impart with a heavy dose of rebellion.

As Black as Resistance: Finding the Conditions for Liberation by William C. Anderson and Zoé Samudzi

This manifesto from William C. Anderson and Zoé Samudzi stands as one of the most important books of the last decade, situating a radical identity of Blackness at the heart of the rebellion against the structural white supremacy that drives our country’s politics and economy. Building on an earlier essay that looked at the inherent “anarchism of Blackness,” the experience of African-descended people’s exclusions from systems of privilege and protection, the book creates a subaltern vision for keeping communities safe from racist violence and building a new kind of society in the shell of the old one.

Ring Shout by P. Djèlí Clark

What if we took the experiences of those facing racist violence seriously? What if the monsters hiding under white hoods and lashing out with carnivorous violence were actually, literally monsters? P. Djèlí Clark’s horror novel, Ring Shout, portrays white supremacy as a mutating virus that spreads through the white population, with Klansman enacting compulsive cruelty in a manner usually reserved for vampires or werewolves. Antifascists are the heroes of Clark’s novel, taking on the role of demon hunters desperately battling creatures who seem to only multiply and invade. Rising Shout features beautiful storytelling in a Southern narrative tradition that explores the generational history of Black self-defense against the Klan in a way that may honor reality better than journalism ever could.

Never Again: Rock Against Racism and the Anti-Nazi League 1976-1982 by David Renton

Although published by an academic press, Renton’s immensely readable history of the Anti-Nazi League and their famous musical collaborations with Rock Against Racism is among the most important stories of post-war antifascism. Renton is a venerable scholar and storyteller of this history, partially because he emerged from the same political waters as many of the individuals he explores in this book. The Anti-Nazi League came together in Britain in the 1970s to fight the rise of the fascist National Front and anti-immigrant politics that were sweeping the country. The Anti-Nazi League later collaborated with musicians like Elvis Costello to bring 100,000 people out into the streets to challenge neo-Nazis who believed that England belonged to them. Few stories are more relevant to today’s political climate as people around the world are grasping at strategies to keep their neighborhoods safe and resist encroaching fascist movements.

After the Revolution: A Novel by Robert Evans

Best known for his work as a journalist sharing the private fuck-ups of the world’s worst people, Robert Evans’ first novel, After the Revolution, is an epic speculative fiction story that feels eerily close to our everyday reality. Exploring the aftermath of the United States’ collapse in the year 2070, Evans demonstrates that the coming crisis is one where the far-right will manipulate the population’s desire for stability, making antifascism essential for those hoping to replace our decaying society with something more humane. Evans’ history as a very public antifascist and investigative journalist reporting on the far-right shines throughout After the Revolution, particularly in the book’s accuracy and covert hopefulness.

The Antifa Comic Book: 100 Years of Fascism and Antifa Movements by Gord Hill

One of the most complete histories of antifascist activism ever written comes not out of the halls of academia, but from Gord Hill, an indigenous comic artist who, with The Antifa Comic Book, has created a sweeping panorama of one of the most intense political struggles of the post-war world. Hill’s work brings these stories to life through an interlocking historical narrative, hand drawn with a vibrant touch of character and gritty comic realism. This is one of the most engrossing ways to learn the history of fascism and antifascist movements, a story whose tendrils reach from before the Second World War to the 2017 tragedy in Charlottesville.

For Antifascist Futures: Against the Violence of Imperial Crisis edited by Alyosha Goldstein and Simón Ventura Trujillo

Edited by Alyosha Goldstein and Simón Ventura Trujillo, the new anthology, For Antifascist Futures, is a necessary corrective to the largely white-centric view of antifascism that has dominated most conversations on the subject. This book looks at how anti-imperialist activism—coming from Black, indigenous, and decolonial spheres—relates to the fight against rising fascism, taking a fully intersectional perspective exploring how systems of oppression are inherently linked to one another.

V for Vendetta by Alan Moore

While famous in part for its film adaptation of the same name, Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta is one of the most challenging and bleak fictional projections of an increasingly possible future. Exploring a fascistic British society, the story centers on V, a revolutionary who does not simply want to restore the balance of liberal democracy, but instead presents anarchism as the only true solution to fascism. The graphic novel’s “battles of extremes” reflects the real-world contest of radical politics, demonstrating that (to use the fascism scholar Robert Paxton’s term) “mobilizing passions” run underneath revolutionary politics of all stripes. In Moore’s formulation, fascism is the inevitable result of the unstable and vastly unequal world we currently live in, and the only way to stop it is to tear our society from its roots and build a completely new, liberated civilization.

Culture Warlords: My Journey into the Dark Web of White Supremacy by Tal Lavin

One of the most essential pieces of antifascist journalism ever written, Tal Lavin’s intensely personal journey explores the far-right’s darkest annals as the author creates an online persona to infiltrate white supremacist message boards for the purpose of gathering intelligence for antifascist journalists and activists. Lavin’s experiences are laid bare in a portrait of how white nationalism forms a result of alienation, arguing that collective action—which puts community safety as its highest priority—is the only solution. We find strength in exactly the points of identity that racists and neo-Nazis believe are our vulnerabilities, and Lavin’s gut-wrenching prose carries us beyond the painful story of survival and explains how solidarity is the antidote to fascism.

It Did Happen Here: An Antifascist People’s History, edited by Moe Bowstern, Mic Crenshaw, Alec Dunn, Celina Flores, Julie Perini, and Erin Yanke

This book won’t be released in its print form until next year, but you can access it early in the form of a multi-episode audio documentary produced out of Portland, Oregon’s community radio station, KBOO. It Did Happen Here explores the history of the late 1980s and 90s in Portland as neo-Nazi skinheads, anti-Semites, and white nationalists were confronted by a dynamic group of activists from Anti-Racist Action, Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice (SHARP), and the Coalition for Human Dignity, the latter of which emerged from the anti-Klan movements of the 1980s. This is one of the most engaging and shocking histories of antifascism in the United States, told directly from the mouths of those who actually lived through it.

Fascism Today: What It Is and How to End It by Shane Burley

My first book was written and published at a peak of the frightening wave of alt-right violence during the Trump administration’s early rampage against democracy and civil rights. It hit bookstores a matter of weeks after the tragedy in Charlottesville and gave voice to antifascists who were charting the rise of white nationalism with few people listening until the threats were at our door. The book aims to give readers a clear picture of what white nationalism is, how it works, and how to help dig its grave. With deep research into the heart of the fascist worldview and conversations with activists around the country, Fascism Today stands as an optimistic vision for what we can achieve when we decide to come together to build a new future.

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