A Beginner’s Guide to Constructive Anti-Fascism

Writer Sebastian Porreca details how to educate yourself on, recognize and actively combat fascism and hate in today's political climate.

Illustration by Danie Drankwalter
Story by Sebastian Porreca

I began studying the extreme right mainly because it infuriated me so much. It infuriated me that it was so out in the open and no one was really doing anything about it. Racists, sexists, homophobes, islamophobes and hate mongers publicly flaunted their ideologies and the new form of American white supremacy, the Alt-Right, was rising to prominence. This was also all happening right as I reached an age in which I could properly form and inform my own political opinions. Around the same time, I discovered “Antifa” through anarcho-punk music blogs on Tumblr. “Antifa,” short for anti-fascism, is a loose confederation of groups, individuals, and community calls to action that has made headlines recently due to their sometimes violent tactics in combating the extreme right. They have provoked the ire of conservatives and liberals alike, and are hotly politically debated.

More or less, I found solace in this movement. As such, I’ve spent a lot of time in the last few years reading about, researching and finding out all I can about anti-fascism, the extreme right and how they meet and interact. All of anti-fascism’s political and moral implications aside, the movement taught me that there is a solution to the growing influence of hate groups, because United States law enforcement certainly wasn’t doing anything. Anti-fascism taught me that there are people who are fighting back against this on the grassroots level, and actually making positive changes. There was something normal people could do, something I could do. However, that doesn’t mean that everyone should put on a balaclava and punch white supremacists. It took me awhile to realize, but after years of doing a lot of reading and research in my free time, that there are lots of extremely valuable ways to combat fascism and extreme right hate in our everyday lives.

First and foremost, I have learned that an invaluable step in fighting fascism is simply educating yourself. You can’t fight against what you can’t recognize. Many modern far right hate groups operate by disguising their overt racism and hate so that it is not recognizable on the surface. Many hate groups disguise themselves simply as conservative or patriotic groups in order to reach political relevance as well as recruit new members. Then, once an individual is in the group, members slowly radicalize them in a process called “redpilling.” In fact, scholar Alexander Reid Ross wrote an entire book about this process entitled Against The Fascist Creep. Simply recognizing hate groups, their symbols, their ideologies, and how they operate is a necessity in delegitimizing hate and exposing these groups true nature. Recognition also allows everyone to fight against organized hate wherever it may manifest itself, be it a public rally or propaganda such as stickers or flyers.

Perhaps most important, however, is the need to create an atmosphere that rejects fascism and intolerance through your everyday actions. There is a need everyday, not simply in regard to organized hate, to create an atmosphere of support, empathy and aid for every person around you, no matter their creed, religion, or background. Perhaps the biggest shortcoming of anti-fascism and its more militant forms is the overemphasis on simply meeting fascists in the street and ignoring the communities that organized hate is actually targeting. In her essay, “Towards A Transformative Anti-Fascism” Emmi Bevensee points out the poignant need for not only confronting racism and hate in the streets but also “peacebuilding” and creating a loving, supportive atmosphere for all peoples. This is as simple as normalizing notions of radical love, respect, support, solidarity, and mutual aid for all peoples, from the white rural populations hate groups recruit from to communities of marginalized minorities that they target.

On paper, this seems idealistic or like an overly simplified fix, but radical empathy and solidarity are an active process that consists of more than simply being kind. This means working with economically and socially marginalized communities and constructively participating in dialogue to formulate long lasting and positive solutions to their individual and specific problems, as well as taking action to mutually uplift every individual in that community. More importantly, this means working within your own community to uplift and provide a support network for every member. This is, of course, easier said than done, but fascism and organized hate thrives on divisions and discontent, and if each of us can express radical solidarity and empathy, perhaps we can create an atmosphere that this hate can’t take hold in. This is also an active process. Everyone can always learn from themselves and others, and I know, personally, I am constantly trying to learn from my own mistakes and experiences. But it is the fact that we make an active effort to change cultures of hate that truly matters.

Working in small ways to reject prejudice and hate has become more important than ever today. With mass shootings like those in the Christchurch Mosques, the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburg, PA, and the Emanuel AME church in Charleston, SC, white supremacy and hate have become shockingly more visible. There is a pressing need to create long term solutions. While pushing white supremacists off the streets and publicly and calling out overt neo-Nazis is extremely important, it can not be truly effective if the larger social institutions that birth far right hate such as race and class inequality and the patriarchy are not properly fought and replaced with more constructive ones, than any anti-fascism will be a temporary fix. In closing, I urge everyone reading to educate yourself on the extreme right wing hate, fight against it when you see it, call out intolerance, and most importantly create an environment and space where everyone is uplifted, supported, and loved.

The list below functions as a resource bank for your own education on facism, Antifa, how to combat prejudice and more.