In light of the recent elections in the U.S. and events throughout the world, many of us feel compelled to act. And many scholars are thinking about how the fruits of our research can inform our activism.
I am among such scholars. Throughout my career I have specialized in the study of fascism and antifascism. Whether one believes that the belligerent right-wing nationalism we are witnessing today conforms to the definition of fascism or not, the work that I have done seems particularly relevant to understanding the current political trend and how to resist and counter it. I would like to explain why and then propose a course of action.
Presently I am engaged in book project on the Junta de la Victoria (Victory Board), an Argentine antifascist women’s group in Argentina that sent aid to Allied countries, worked for democracy at home and abroad, and sought to incorporate women into the local polity from 1941 to1947. Some of the lessons I have learned from studying how the Victory Board resisted fascism and dictatorship, and its successes and failures, are applicable to activist challenges today:
- Transnational partnerships are immensely important in fighting fascism, authoritarianism, and extremist nationalism, since the threat is global in nature.
- Forming partnerships or alliances is better than a single global or even national organization in order to allow for local autonomy and facilitate the adaptation of messages and strategies to suit local contexts.
- One must appeal to a broad spectrum of people, across class, party, ethnic/racial, religious, and occupational lines. It is not enough to preach to intellectuals and the converted.
- One must include women and their concerns. One must constantly point out how authoritarianism is misogynistic.
- It is vital to address inequality.
- It also is critical to teach people how to deal with fear — fear of losing their rights, fear of prejudice and discrimination, fear of becoming visibly active.
My project constitutes one case study among many. Numerous other scholars have written on a variety of groups that have resisted authoritarianism and oppression, and all of this work can provide useful lessons. An understanding of such organizations that have operated in the past and the present could enhance our understanding of what is possible to do in the future.
I propose that we do the following:
- Disseminate information on cases of resistance, through a website and lecture series around the U.S.
- Develop a transnational network to exchange information on historical case studies as well as strategies with groups in other countries.
Thank you for your attention.