I’m sure you’ve noticed, as I have, that a lot of reporting is being devoted to both sides of the social justice movement. I am using the phrase social justice to encompass issues of race, gender, sexual orientation and religion. Recently books have been written profiling the origins and growth of groups like the Klu Klux Klan and Black Lives Matter with explanations of the social dynamics that created them often with first person accounts of leaders and followers. Some of the social psychology of these movements is often presented that gives a more complete analysis of why people do what they do and why social justice activist are life long believers and some white supremist have a change of heart and leave the movement.
The white nationalist movement saw a immediate spike in membership with the election of Barack Obama and the election of Donald Trump has emboldened them to spread their ideology. The coalescing of the different factions of white supremacist was exhibited in Charlottesville, Virginia during the Unite The Right rally where violence erupted over the issue of the dismantling of a confederate statue. Several groups new to our experience with white supremacy appear reminiscent of the fight against Nazism and fascism in Europe. The difference in America is the variety of groups: KKK, Alt Knights, Neo Nazis, Proud Boys and others that share similar views on the diminishing influence of white culture in America, white guilt, government overreach and gun control.
The end of World War 2 did not bring an end to ultra nationalist organization in Europe. The memories of the horrors of mass extermination created a counter offensive in public opinion that pledged itself to the use of any means necessary to prevent the rise of another nationalist movement dedicated to white Christian identity politics. The anti-fascist, or ANTIFA movement, was created for this expressed purpose.
Mark Bray, author of ANTIFA – THE ANTI FASCIST HANDBOOK is a worthwhile read to understand the relationship between America’s response to the current white nationalist movement and the experiences in post World War 2 Europe. There is an expanding resource of literature that is devoted to, what some believe, a political climate in America that mirrors the rise of fascism in Europe. Titles like Fascism – A Warning, How Fascism Works and A Summary of Fascism – A Warning all spell out an opinion of what fascism is, how it evolves and who it targets. Mark Bray’s book does the same but also gives his personal critique on the differences of why and how fascist and anti-fascist movements develop and why they exist.
I find the authors critique on the different strategies used by anti fascist groups, ranging from economic boycotts and the disruption of rallies to physical confrontation informative as well as the range of issues they advocate against: racism, homophobia, religious discrimination, et. al. Particularly interesting is his discussion on free speech and how current attitudes, promoting tolerance, may be insufficient in navigating our current situation.
The book may have too much analysis of the European experience with fascism for their taste (I skipped several pages) but it was useful information as it gave me a useful comparison to our current situation. And for anyone who wants to read more on the subject, the end notes are impressive. I highly recommend this book.