If you sometimes find yourself with twinges of hope even two years into the calamitous Trump presidency, the first page of The Antifa Comic Book: 100 Years of Fascism and Antifa Movements isn’t going to help you keep that mood. The section, which defines fascism, uses some descriptions that in the head of our orange-faced leader ring true. And while it too often seems like our president is a fascist, that doesn’t mean that every institution in the country has capitulated to his desires. A fascist leader does not a fascist state make, it turns out. At least for now.

But history is against that kind of outcome and Gord Hill, a member of the Kwakwaka’wakw nation in Western Canada, takes great measure to make that clear. All it takes is the right kind of pain and the right kind of rage and the right kind of paranoia to mobilize at just the right moment and soon enough, a leader will find plenty of forceful followers to make a fascist agenda the new normal for any country. Where’s the Justice League when you need them?

Well, it turns out they might be wearing black masks and gong under the name Antifa. They scare the hell out of conservatives and liberals clutch their pearls and say they go too far, but that’s what they said about Spider-Man, right? All it takes is one J. Jonah Jameson to get the propaganda going daily, and anyone with a backbone ready to stand up to fascism can be painted with a crooked brush.

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And if you’ve read any of the DC comics in which Lex Luthor is the president of the United States, then you know that reality can reflect fiction in some alarming ways.

The original Antifa was an effort by the German Communist Party to push back the Nazis, but the more recent version appeared in Germany in the 1980s, the work of anarchists opposing an encroaching far-right movement. Well, the far right hasn’t gone away, and neither has Antifa. In America, most people encountered them for the first time during Occupy Wall Street, and they’ve not gone away since. But if we’re focused on who they are, we should be equally concerned with who they are against.

Hill traces that enemy starting with its rise under Mussolini in Italy including the appearance of the Arditi Del Popolo in 1921 who rose to oppose the fascists after two years of slumber on the left. It’s a meticulous, detail-filled, and thoughtful recounting of Italian history brought to life through Hill’s colorful artwork. An equally compelling history of the Nazis follows and includes those who fought against them long before World War 2, including the Red Front, the Edelweiss Pirates, and the White Rose, and those who appeared during the conflict, like the Polish and Yugoslavian Partisans.

Hill also recounts the circumstance of the Spanish Civil War, which in some ways provided a preamble of idealism to World War II, and the spreading of fascism as movements in England, including the National Front.

All this history, though, is pointed to one specific thing — now. Following the rise of European neo-Nazis in the 1990s and a British branch of Antifa to combat them on the ground, and with a segue into the German origins of the modern Antifa movement in general and a survey of the 21st Century fascist movements in places like France, Sweden, Italy, Greece, and other countries, it becomes obvious that the idea that fascism had been defeated more than half a century ago. It was a sickness that festered. Like the Black Death, it breaks out in deadly clusters. And sometimes, you’re not immediately clear its the same plague reappearing until it’s too late.

There’s a focused section at the end on neo-Nazi movements in the United States and Canada, tracing the recent enthusiasm directly to our current leadership, and Hill is unable to provide any clean ending for us. It’s an ongoing battle, they make plain, and this vigorous recounting of why does a great job of not only getting its message across but doing so in a way that far-left and radical comics often don’t achieve.

Rather than descending into rage-filled experimentation, a sober and organized narrative is combined with straightforward color work that bursts out of the panels with its energy and detail, especially when rendering the continual conflicts, from protests to street fights to war battles while still making them about the people in these situations

This is accessible radical history and, unfortunately, living history that is still necessary to attend to. Hill does an amazing job at giving you the information you need to combat the pandemic of modern Fascism, often marked by cheap red hats.

17 COMMENTS

  1. The whole narrative story is too much from one side, for me. I don’t think either that those extremists on the Left committed those actions just in response to fascists, and on people’s behalf, always. Can’t discount there own (erroneous in my view) fervor for Revolution, meaning a change to their own preferred system, by violent means.

  2. No mention of the outcome of the Versailles treaty and how it was a decade of suffering under the War reparations that created the conditions for Hitler’s rise. According to this text, it was simply the capitalists that employed the fascists (which maybe true, but this really only occurred because of the unique conditions created by the massive war reparations, and the global Depression, that lead to political instabilty and fascism’s rise in Germany). I need a wider perspective in my History.

  3. Kaleb, you are factually correct, in my opinion. I agree with you, as did many of the designers of the post-WW2 rebuilding of (West) Germany and Japan, that the burdens of the WW1 treaties created the fertile soil Nazism bloomed on.
    But I suspect you are Waltering (“You’re not wrong, Walter, you’re just an assshole.” The Dude, The Big Lebowski, 1999[?]) and Nazi-symping.

    Here’s one reason why Antifa should be supported and proselytized:
    https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-47295551

    An American in 2019 who calls for the KKK to lynch Democrats to prevent RAISED TAXES!?!?!?!?

    When there are no more voices like his, then is the time to prioritize academic pefection. Now is not that time.

  4. It should be remembered that America also suffered a devastating Depression in the 1930s, and it didn’t embrace fascism — despite the best efforts of Charles Lindbergh, Father Coughlin, and other anti-Semites and cheerleaders for Hitler and Mussolini.

    The way to register your disgust with the idiots now in power is to VOTE. Vote them out of office. Wearing a black mask and beating people up is not the way. Aside from the color of mask, this is no different from what the Klan did.

  5. I don’t mind being called Walter, and I’m very much aware of how academic my points are. Faced with those circumstances, who is to say what an individual should commit to and do, to defeat an imminent fascistic threat?

    I guess, though, there are differences between now and the 1930s. I’m glad you pointed out the institutions that were built post 1945. Certainly, industrial arbitration mechanisms were not properly part of the policy making process until post WW2, as were other stablising mechanisms. Otherwise, life would be entirely like it was for the Joad family, from Grapes of Wrath. And although a way of life is under pressure, we’re not there yet.

    I don’t know. Should Trump be called out for his populist and historically proven to be shown fascistic tastics? YES. I would hope that Democracy, and legitimate activism in support of maintaining democracy, can throw him off. That should allow a wide range of protesting activity, IMO, and vital defence of institutions (watch out for the defunding of certain investigations, and impediments to plural government). Heck, if Trump circumvents Congress and the Courts, everyone should be on the streets. I would be (except I’m Australian).

    Regulated and mixed-marked with Govt based liberal democratic socities are still the best option we have. No one, I think, is actually arguing for collectivisation anymore, but I do think that system is repressive, and wrong. Stand up to fascists=good. Strengthen and seek to enlighten plural Democracy, =good. Many start circumventing and violently taking the fight to fascists outside of the institutions that can be made to withstand them = we’re all in trouble, fucked, and political stability has regressed to the 1930s.

    I can’t be anything but a Walter. I would hate to be forced to be otherwise, but there is more moderate and positive action to to take, before that end would be completely necessary..

  6. I have the feeling that if you are left of center this is a great comic, if you are right of center it’s a bad comic book.

  7. As an after thought I’m sorry I said anything. In America and especially online, tolerance ends when disagreements begin. We live in dangerous times with both sides equally hating the other and both sides ready to tear out the throat of the other. If the country makes it through the next 2 to 6 years I’ll be amazed.

  8. “If the country makes it through the next 2 to 6 years I’ll be amazed.”

    We’ve been through worse. In the late ’60s and early ’70s, Americans were literally shooting each other in the streets over civil rights and the Vietnam War. There were so many bombings that they became routine and were largely ignored in hard-hit cities like New York and Chicago. There was martial law, and tanks on the streets, in Memphis after MLK’s assassination.

    However, I don’t buy the argument that each side is equally bad. This argument boils down to: “Sure, people on the far right are mailing bombs and shooting people in synagogues. But left-wingers are yelling at people in restaurants! They’re just as bad!”

  9. “Sure, people on the far right are mailing bombs and shooting people in synagogues. But left-wingers are yelling at people in restaurants! They’re just as bad!”

    On June 14, 2017, a left-wing fan of MSNBC host Rachel Maddow walked onto a Virginia baseball field and tried to murder a dozen Republican Congressman.

    Again, this whole discussion is ridiculous.

    Mike

  10. The difference between the 1960’s and now is the internet. The emotions may be the same, but the feeling that you might be in a minority or a majority has been erased. Go online and you can find any group you want and feel part of it, part of the movement. Also there is no place online that I haven’t found people ready to bash you if you step out of what they consider the proper mindset.
    I used to chat on a lot of online boards and over the past few years I’ve pulled back from more and more them just because it’s too scary. There is a lot of very vicious talk out there and I find myself worried about who might decide to go beyond chatting online and look me up in real life. A post here and there, like this one, is all I’m willing to risk. The CBR boards became entirely to dangerous for me as did the comments section of the Non sequitur comic strip. Everyone is staking out a bit of turf and looking for someone to attack.

    And if you don’t think that the left is capable of extremism beyond restaurant abuse then I disagree. I think that antifa’s activities don’t get the press attention that the right extremist groups do. Partly because they’ve been around longer, partly because a large part of the press is sympathetic to them. There is no part of the press I trust completely.

    Right now I think the US is in the same sort of position that France was before the revolution and I fear the same fate. I also think that the aristocrats of the time had much the same invincibility attitude about their way of life that many Americans do.

  11. Saying Trump is a fascist is about as close to Holocaust denial you can get. It deliberately ignores the damage that real fascism did to compare a democratically elected leader with absolutely zero authoritarian policies to fascists that killed 10s of millions. Would you take anyone seriously who said Clinton was a Stalinist?

    Seriously – this type of garbage analysis brings down political discourse.

  12. “Right now I think the US is in the same sort of position that France was before the revolution and I fear the same fate.”

    If Trump is impeached or loses his reelection bid, I have no doubt his well-named “base” will be violently protesting in the streets, and causing as much disruption and destruction as possible.

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