Ontario and Quebec speaking tour: “Anti/Fascism in the USA,” April 19-24, 2017

I’ll be giving a six city speaking tour in Canada from April 19-24, 2017.

“Anti/Fascism in the USA: Ontario and Quebec speaking tour”

Toronto: Wednesday, April 19
7 PM, University of Toronto, OISE, 252 Bloor St W

Kitchener/Waterloo: Thursday, April 20
6PM, University of Waterloo, EV3-4412

Hamilton: Friday, April 21
7PM, The Tower, 281 Cannon St E

Brantford: Saturday, April 22
1-4 PM, Laurier Brantford Campus, Room TBA

Ottawa: Sunday, April 23
6:30PM, University of Ottawa, Royal Oak, Laurier East,
161 Laurier Ave. East

Montreal: Monday, April 24 (whisper translation into French provided)
7PM, Station Ho st, 1494 Ontario

Anti/Fascism in the USA
We are living in troubling times. The election of Donald Trump not only speaks to the current state of US politics, but to an ongoing shift across the Western world. In Europe far-right and nationalist parties are making electoral gains not seen since the Second World War, while their street level movements are growing in size and influence by the day. While Canada has it’s own unique history of reactionary movements, the far-right here has been emboldened by the events south of the border; racists are increasing their public activities, and attempts are being made to grow white nationalist movements and far-right groups at a grassroots level. Anti-immigrant and anti-refugee propaganda on the streets is becoming more common, and everyday instances of Islamophobic violence are intensifying – most notably the January shooting at a Quebec City mosque.

In the United States, the election of Donald Trump has been huge catalyst for the far-right. His campaign found supporters in everyone from the KKK, armed militia movements, to neo-Nazi street gangs. White Nationalism has seen its biggest growth in decades, and now includes a slew of new faces, including hipsters, ‘Men’s Rights’ activists, campus groups, and internet trolls. Most notable of this cesspit has been the fascists of so-called ‘Alt-Right’, whose influence now goes directly to the White House, via Trump’s closest adviser, Steve Bannon. Trump’s campaign and its aftermath has seen an explosion of activity from these groups – hate crimes have skyrocketed and confrontations with antifascists have become increasingly violent.

How did we get here? Why has the far-right broken through at this time? How can we understand the history, politics, and practices of the far-right, and what does it look like in the US from the Presidency to the streets? And what are people doing to resist?

As part of a multi-city speaking tour in the Ontario and Quebec, US anti-fascist researcher Spencer Sunshine (www.spencersunshine.com), PhD, will speak to these questions and more. Sunshine is the lead author of the report “Up in Arms: A Guide to Oregon’s Patriot Movement”, and his articles on the far-right organizing, from militias to unorthodox fascists, have appeared in Truthout, Colorlines, The Progressive, and Public Eye.


Anti/Fascisme aux États-Unis

Nous vivons dans une époque troublante. L’élection de Donald Trump démontre non seulement l’état présent de la politique américaine, mais aussi un changement plus général en cours en Occident. En Europe, des partis nationalistes et d’extrême droite obtiennent des gains électoraux jamais vus depuis la deuxième guerre mondiale, pendant que leurs équivalents plus populaires prennent de l’ampleur tant au niveau de leurs rangs que de leur influence. Alors que le Canada a sa propre histoire de mouvements réactionnaires, l’extrême droite s’est vue encouragée par les événements se déroulant au sud de la frontière; les racistes multiplient leurs activités publiques, et les mouvements nationalistes blancs ainsi que les groupes d’extrême droite tentent de s’agrandir au niveau populaire. La propagande anti-immigration et anti-réfugiéEs devient chose commune dans les rues, et les exemples de violence islamophobe se multiplient – pensons notamment à la fusillade du mois de Janvier dans une mosquée de la ville de Québec.

Aux États-Unis, l’élection de Donald Trump a eu un effet catalyseur sur l’extrême-droite. Sa campagne a trouvé des supporteurs chez toutes sortes de gens, de la KKK, aux milices armées, aux gangs de rue néo-Nazi. Le nationalisme blanc a connu sa plus grande croissance depuis des décennies, et se dévoile sous des nouveaux visages: hipsters, masculinistes, groupes étudiants, trolls internet…les plus connus étant les fascistes s’identifiant comme «Alt-Right», dont l’influence s’étend maintenant jusqu’à la Maison Blanche, par le biais du conseiller de Trump, Steve Bannon. La campagne de Trump a eu pour conséquence une explosion de l’activité de ces groupes – les crimes haineux ont augmenté exponentiellement et les confrontations avec la résistance antifasciste deviennent de plus en plus violentes.

Comment en sommes-nous arrivés ici? Pourquoi l’extrême-droite a-t-elle su reprendre de l’essor? Comment pouvons-nous comprendre l’histoire, la politique, et les pratiques de l’extrême-droite, et à quoi ressemble-t-elle, de la présidence à la rue? Que font les gens pour résister? Dans le cadre d’une tournée de conférences en Ontario et au Québec, le chercheur et auteur antifasciste américain Spencer Sunshine tentera de répondre à ces questions et plus. Sunshine (www.spencersunshine.com), PhD, a fait de la recherche sur les mouvements d’extrême droite, des milices de droites aux fascistes non-orthodoxes. Il est l’auteur principal du rapport «Up in Arms: A Guide to Oregon’s Patriot Movement» et d’une variété d’autres articles en ligne.

“Oregon Congressman Pushes Bill Exempting Ranchers From Terrorism Law’s Reach”

“As the far right becomes more vocal around the country, the Trump administration is not the only arm of government serving its interests. Some members of Congress are closer to fringe right-wing groups than they might care to admit. In February, Oregon Representative Greg Walden introduced a new, vaguely titled bill, “Resource Management Practices Protection Act of 2017” (H.R.983). This bill might look benign at first glance, but in fact, it is a codification of structural racism, a political gift to right-wing paramilitaries, and a double standard in favor of the radical right.

The bill would exempt fires set in the course of agricultural work from a federal arson charge that can trigger enhanced sentences under a draconian terrorism act. It is the delivery of a promise that Walden first made on the floor of Congress just three days after the start of the armed occupation of Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters in January 2016. With this bill, Walden is trying to make a “carve-out” for a group that is largely white and right wing from unfair mandatory minimums that affect many people, especially people of color and Muslims. The bill entrenches the notion that certain groups of people can be sentenced under a wide-ranging “terrorism” act that subjects them to brutal heightened sentences — while exempting others, who are white and firmly installed on the far right end of the political spectrum.”

Read the rest at Truthout

Review of Meredith Tax’s “A Road Unforeseen: Women Fight the Islamic State”

The Feminist Transformation in Radical Kurdistan
Review of Meredith Tax’s A Road Unforeseen: Women Fight the Islamic State
(New York: Bellevue Literary Press, 2016)

After the fall of Aleppo, it’s only a matter of time until Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad fixates on the autonomous region of Rojava. As brutal civil war has devastated Syria and added to the massive refugee crisis, in Rojava—the predominately Kurdish region of northern Syria—a left-wing, feminist revolution is being carried out. This radical project has gained the support of a range of actors in the United States, with its combination of all-women militias; abandonment of the ethnic nation-state as the goal of revolution; and military victories over ISIS.

To be sure, the allure of far-away revolutions have led many to buyer’s remorse—including A Road Unforeseen’s author Meredith Tax, who visited Maoist China in 1973. Like many new Rojava supporters, Tax did not have a background in either Syrian or Kurdish politics, but was drawn to the struggle after seeing images of Kurdish women fighting in Kobane, the town in Rojava which fought off a bloody siege by ISIS from September 2014 to January 2015. Tax’s book is an on-the-fly intervention in an ongoing conflict. It smoothly shows many things at once, and she does a commendable job in creating a concise and readable account of this tangled situation. This includes: 1) the history of the Kurdish struggle, which spans multiple political parties in four countries; 2) the transformation of the PKK (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistanê, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party) from an orthodox Marxist-Leninist nationalist struggle into one advocating for feminist, multi-ethnic, political decentralization; 3) Rojava’s role in the Syrian civil war—infamous for its complex entanglement of multiple internal actors and numerous foreign governments; 4) the role of women in Kurdish society and political struggles; and 5) the evolution and spread of Al Qeada’s two offshoots in Syria, Al Nusra and ISIS.

Read the full review at Toward Freedom

“Trump’s Proposed Change Would Give Green Light to White Supremacist Violence”

The Trump administration’s reported new plan to change a federal program which combats violent “extremism” into a project focused exclusively on “radical Islam” looks like another step toward demonizing Muslims — while adding to concerns that the administration will actively empower open white supremacist groups. Reuters reports that multiple inside sources say the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) grant program will be being renamed either “Countering Islamic Extremism” or “Countering Radical Islamic Extremism.”

Almost every year, the white supremacist movement is the political movement that kills the most Americans. (In the rare year that they don’t come in first, they come in second.) But, for many years now, the federal government has refused to focus resources on violent far-right groups. Instead, efforts have been poured into surveilling the Muslim community at large — even going so far as to entrap Muslims in order to arrest them. The FBI also spent years fixating on eco-saboteurs and animal liberation activists, even though they had not killed anyone. The far right, however, has gotten a relative pass. This is despite white supremacists having committed mass shootings in Charleston, South Carolina and Oak Creek, Wisconsin; armed conflicts with patriot movement paramilitaries in rural Nevada and Oregon; and multiple police killings by sovereign citizens.

Read the full article at Truthout

“Looking for the Left Wing in Rural, Predominantly White Areas”

I have a new piece up at Colorlines about the need to support and help expand the rural Left in the U.S.

“Everyone is familiar with the election map that shows the two Americas: a vast swath of red stretching across the country with a few blue patches clinging mostly to the coasts. This unbroken red block has been the cornerstone of what’s looking like a catastrophic political future for people of color, LGBTQ folks, immigrants, health care, reproductive rights, civil liberties, Social Security, the environment, and the list goes on.

So its no surprise that debate is raging among progressives about the White working class people who voted for Trump. Should these voters be uniformly dismissed as racist deplorables or should progressives try to appeal to them with populism?

I think we should be asking another question: How can progressives break up the sea of red by creating a vibrant small-town and rural movement?”

Read the rest at Colorlines

“The Changing Face of Anti-Fascism”

I have a new piece out about the contemporary U.S. antifascist movement, and how it has changed from the last wave of ARA/RASH/etc groups in the ’80s and ’90s.

“The mainstream media have given a lot of coverage to today’s organized racist and fascist groups — especially the far-right coalition of fascists, white nationalists and other Trump supporters that refers to itself as the “alt-right” — but most media have ignored the new wave of antifascism. Antifascism has been around for as long as fascism has, and antifascists — also known as “antifa” — are mostly left-wing activists who track and counter-organize against fascists and other far-right activists. In the last year, the antifascist movement has grown exponentially in the United States. And the movement — which was the first to warn about the “alt-right” — has changed both in terms of the complexity of its approach, and composition of its membership, compared to its recent past.”

Read the rest at Truthout

Nov 30 Panel Discussion in NYC: “Where Do We Go From Here? Racism, Populism, Fascism and the Future of the Hard Right after the 2016 Election”

“Where Do We Go From Here? Racism, Populism, Fascism and the Future of the Hard Right after the 2016 Election”  – A Panel Discussion with Abby Scher, Sophie Bjork-James, Spencer Sunshine, and Chip Berlet

November 30, 2016
6:30 – 8:30 PM

CUNY Graduate Center,
Sociology Lounge, Room 6112
365 5th Ave (b/t 34th & 35th)
subways: Herald Square (B/D/F/M/N/Q/R/W) or 6 at 33rd St

The white supremacist movement and self-described Alt-Right used the Trump presidential campaign to amplify its message and swell its ranks. Neo-Nazis, white nationalists, and militia leaders are celebrating the Trump presidential win as a victory of their own. A panel of experts on right-wing media and movements will discuss what we can expect of the hard right after the stunning Trump victory and how to challenge it.

Crimes against immigrants and Muslims spiked and online harassment of Jewish commentators and journalists was widespread in the midst of the racist rhetoric of the campaign. A September 2016 study by George Washington University’s Program on Extremism found that white nationalist use of social media now far exceeds the online presence of the Islamic State on virtually every social metric.

Join us for this important conversation.


This event is free and open to the public. Please note that the school will require you to present a photo ID and sign in when entering the building.