No Fascist USA!

Dear Catalyst Community,

We are so excited to announce the launch of No Fascist USA! The John Brown Anti-Klan Committee and Lessons for Today’s Movements, a must-read co-authored by former Catalyst staff Hilary Moore with James Tracy, and with a forward by Robin DG Kelley! As we work to develop successful strategies to defeat the rise of fascism in the United States today, we are reminded that history is one of our best teachers. No Fascist USA! recounts the history of the John Brown Anti-Klan Committee and how it fought racism and state repression throughout the 1980s.

Here in the US and around the world, our movements face escalating imperial violence, the rise of authoritarianism and white nationalism. Any successful strategy to defeat these right-wing currents is based on our ability to work alongside movements inside the US empire who are fighting for self-determination. 

We can learn from the ways these earlier movements practiced international solidarity by studying their demands, political vision and strategies. We can learn from those who worked to leverage their role from within the U.S. to challenge the rise of fascistic groups and policies domestically. What worked before? How did white people take meaningful action in those fights? What changed in the years and decades since these fights last peaked?

These questions are why we invite you to read No Fascist USA! The John Brown Anti-Klan Committee and Lessons for Today’s Movements. In it, they tell the story of how a mostly white anti-racist network in the 1970s and 1980s called the John Brown Anti-Klan Committee confronted the fascist creep of white supremacist organizing under the Reagan administration while simultaneously attempting to build popular support for self-determination movements, like Black Liberation and Puerto Rican Independence.

“Yes! This book is right on time! As a Black woman supporting Black liberation struggles, it has been terrifying to grasp the resilience and reach of fascism in the U.S. and around the globe, and disheartening to see how many White people want to sign petitions and express discontent with current political conditions, but won’t acknowledge that there is an ongoing race war that they’re benefiting from, and who won’t put their actions behind their beliefs. This book is about an imperfect effort to be brave, to be committed, and to risk the privileges of Whiteness in order to relinquish the entire construct of white supremacy. And from where organized people of color are sitting, this kind of work is absolutely necessary. Studying the John Brown Anti-Klan Committee will give readers an understanding of the complexity of deconstructing the weapon of white supremacy from the inside out. Thank you Hilary and James for the precision of this analysis, and the true north of this star.”

–adrienne maree brown, author of Emergent Strategy, Pleasure Activism,
and facilitator of Black liberation movements

No Fascist USA! is grounded in the idea of intergenerational movement lessons, whether through successes or failures. As Catalyst Advisory Board member Linda Evans, who was a core organizer with JBAKC, reminds us, “Analyzing past movements against white supremacy is crucial to learning from mistakes and building effective, anti-racist solidarity NOW when our collective resistance to racism and fascism is imperative.”

3 ways to connect to this history:

  1. Join a free webinar hosted by Showing Up for Racial Justice on February 13th at 8 ET / 7 CT / 6 MT / 5 PT. To register, go here and Invite your friends here:
  2. Book tour! Hilary and James are making 13 stops around the country. Go here to see if they’re coming to a city or town near you. 
  3. Order your book online at City Lights/Media or request a copy at your local library

From the introduction:

“This history provides a glimpse into the challenges that anti-Klan activists faced in an era before the internet made instantaneous critique and flash organizing possible. Despite the different political contexts, many of the strategic questions that anti-racist organizers faced then are equally relevant today: Are there ways of confronting racists and fascists that do not provide them with new opportunities to spread their message? How are alliances and solidarity best strengthened given the shifting and complex relationships between primarily white organizations and organizations of color? How do activists prepare for possibilities of violence and self-defense against groups that always seem eager for bloody battles? Can forces within the state be trusted to be allies in the fight against white supremacy?Grounded in the idea that white supremacy must be countered and abolished, members of John Brown mounted fierce responses to the Ku Klux Klan when they rallied in the 1970s and 1980s. In their 1980 publication The Dividing Line of the 80’s: Take a Stand Against the Klan, the Committee described the threat:

The Klan, in Tupelo, Mississippi, elsewhere in the South, in northern cities, in prisons and the armed forces, is in open, armed conflict with the Black Liberation Struggle. The Klan, along with I.N.S., has become the border control of the Mexican/U.S. border; it is one of the major armed forces against Mexicano/Chicano peoples.

In addition to tracking the Klan’s activities, the Committee sought to expose connections between racist groups and law enforcement authorities. Ahmed Obafemi, a Black Nationalist activist, coined the name of what would become John Brown’s well-known campaign, “Blue by Day, White by Night.” Here, they discussed the role of police and prisons, and the names of Klan members who were working in law enforcement agencies or held government positions, giving them access to official influence and power. “In 1976,” read The Dividing Line, “Earl Schoonmaker, the head reading teacher at Eastern (N.Y.) State Prison, was exposed as the Grand Dragon of the Independent Northern Klan. A Klavern of at least 35 was forced out into the open by the struggle of Black and Latino incarcerated people.” Given their dedication to outing state authorities’ ties to white supremacist groups, the Committee refrained from requesting police protection while protesting the Klan, and did not lobby local governments to “Ban the Klan.” This also rested on their belief that the state organizes its power through white supremacy. In other words, the role of the police in U.S. society often functions in a manner that is similar to the role of the Klan.”