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Review - Why We Fight: Essays on Fascism, Resistance, and Surviving the Apocalypse

Updated: Aug 22, 2022

There is little question we are living in tumultuous, trying times. Many works have emerged, each offering unique perspectives and ideas on how to best confront these challenges. Why We Fight: Essays on Fascism, Resistance, and Surviving the Apocalypse by Shane Burley, longtime antifascist journalist and researcher, is one such publication that offers powerful, piercing insights into how to best confront our changing, collapsing world. This collection of his published works on the struggle with the far right, living in an increasingly apocalyptic world, and what can be done, effectively demonstrate that Burley’s thinking runs deep into the roots of what ails modern society. His collected works show a clear evolution of analysis rooted in antifascism and offering direct responses to the greater challenges of our time. Burley’s strengths, as an author and thinker, are best demonstrated by how he effectively weaves his works into a broader tapestry and specifically by examples like “25 Theses on Antifascism”, “Introduction to Armageddon”, and “Chase the Black Sun”, all of which are included in this collection.

“25 Theses on Antifascism” follows three essays which each describe key developments in the struggle against the rising Alt-Right and their fellow-travelers, a choice which one could infer was meant to lay a foundation for the theoretical positions that Burley presents in his 25 Theses. Here he effectively presents his core observations, conclusions, and descriptions of how fascism operates and why these facts make antifascism vitally necessary. What is most piercingly effective about the “25 Theses” is that Burley effectively presents his positions in ways that are applicable both to conventional politics and to the particulars of underground, subcultural scenes where fascist organizing is often rife. He also clearly shows antifascism as more than just a simple response to fascist organizing but as a deeper form of practice aimed at tearing up the systemic roots of the far right, offering solutions both for the moment and all time. This same eye for utilizing specific instances to effectively illustrate the broader, systemic frameworks sustaining the modern far right guides the rest of Burley’s essays in this collection.

“Introduction to Armageddon” is where Burley takes this sharp insight and applies it to our present, apocalyptic conditions. In it, he confronts the real challenges that come with living in a world in climate crisis and all that goes with it. “Introduction to Armageddon” delves as much into what this means both analytically and practically, beginning with a more mythic frame of reference before addressing how extreme weather, a deteriorating and increasingly gig-based economy, and a political system which defaults to brutality when all else fails, as has been recently and brutally illustrated by the Biden Administration’s continuation of Donald Trump’s policy of expelling Haitain refugees. This essay is a real tour de force, effectively combining Burley’s insights on the growing far right with a frank, direct assessment of the dire circumstances facing us all. His placement of this work following several pieces discussing the far right’s propaganda techniques and history of violence reinforces the need to confront these forces as part of any struggle against climate apocalypse and for social justice, effectively tying these specific examples into his broader narrative.

“Chase the Black Sun” closes out this collection with a turn by Burley to the personal. This essay provides space for him to wrestle with the seductive appeal of the far right present in Operation: Werewolf, a fascist formation which disguises itself as a self-help and personal improvement program. In it, Burley addresses both how Operation Werewolf deliberately manipulates masculine expectations, fears, and vulnerabilities by reflecting their appeal off of his personal struggles with these same demons. By closing with such a personal work, Burley effectively returns the broader narrative and the questions he poses back to the individual, prompting the reader to consider their own connections to the broader world and how they can effect change.

Equal parts theory, practice, and direct example, Burley effectively weaves each individual contribution into a broader story. His choices and arrangement give shape to a deeper, compelling narrative which actively inspires hope and confidence that, while the future is uncertain, there are both the people and the means to make a better world possible despite the apocalyptic conditions facing us. His layering of the mythopoetic with the mundane gives additional force to his works, illustrating his position with multiple levels of engagement. As Burley demonstrates through the many examples of effective strategies and campaigns that fill his works, countless beacons stand lit against encroaching darkness whose combined radiance could, one day, banish it. Anyone who is looking for guidance in these trying times would do well to pick up a copy of Why We Fight: Essays on Fascism, Resistance, and Surviving the Apocalypse.

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