AC­TIVIST TACK­LES DIF­FI­CULT TOP­ICS WITH ANTI-FAS­CIST COMIC BOOK

Vancouver Sun - - YOU - STUART DERDEYN

Fight­ing Nazis is the right thing to do. At least, that was the per­ceived and of­ten-broad­cast con­sen­sus across the Western World fol­low­ing the Sec­ond World War. Or was it?

In this in­for­ma­tive and fas­ci­nat­ing graphic novel his­tory of fas­cism and those who fought it, Kwak­waka’wakw writer, artist and ac­tivist au­thor Gord Hill (The 500 Years of Re­sis­tance Comic Book, The Anti-Cap­i­tal­ist Re­sis­tance Book) out­lines how many times through his­tory what seemed like the ob­vi­ous turned out to be ex­actly the op­po­site.

By us­ing the medium of comic books, largely es­tab­lished to sup­port Amer­i­can anti-nazi pro­pa­ganda ef­forts, Hill does a fine job of link­ing past re­sis­tance move­ments against both white supremacy and fas­cism/neo-fas­cism to­gether into a non-end­ing cy­cle, which con­tin­u­ally re­peats it­self. Draw­ing the line right up to such events as the car­nage at the Unite the Right rally held in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 11, 2017.

Not only does this demon­strate how en­dur­ing this strug­gle is, but it sub­verts the no­tion that is be­ing put forth so much in the present day that what the world needs is “su­per­man” lead­er­ship to keep the up­pity sorts in or­der.

These types of dic­ta­to­rial lead­ers reap­pear re­peat­edly through his­tory, usu­ally with mili­tias of sup­port­ers re­in­forc­ing their be­liefs on the rest of the so­ci­ety, save those who op­pose them force­fully.

The book be­gins with a two pretty ob­vi­ous chap­ters.

What Is fas­cism? out­lines the roots of this post-First World War po­lit­i­cal phi­los­o­phy in Europe and its roots in both colo­nial­ist and im­pe­ri­al­ist doc­trine dat­ing back as far as the Ro­man Em­pire.

What is An­tifa? out­lines how the term came to be ap­plied to anti-fas­cist ac­tion groups and also mil­i­tant anti-fas­cists in mod­ern times (c. 1980s Ger­many) and then gets into the rise of fas­cism in Italy, and then — ob­vi­ously — Nazi Ger­many. Hill has done a good amount of re­search to ex­pose mo­ments in his­tory that have largely been down­played or ig­nored and a lot of this is ex­tremely in­ter­est­ing for those un­fa­mil­iar with the brav­ery of the op­po­si­tion to Mus­solini’s thug­gery or the proud Pol­ish Par­ti­sans part in the Sec­ond World War.

Of course, no his­tory of fas­cism and its op­po­nents could be told with­out doc­u­ment­ing the hor­rors of the Span­ish Civil War where the war ma­chin­ery such as the Stuka dive bomber got its first test runs be­fore wreak­ing havoc on the rest of Europe in the Sec­ond World War.

The global re­sponse to this con­flict lead to the for­ma­tion of the In­ter­na­tional Brigades com­pris­ing over 40,000 vol­un­teers from 50 coun­tries in­clud­ing the Cana­dian Macken­zie-Pa­p­ineau Bat­tal­ion and Abra­ham Lin­coln Brigades. Among these fighters was Dr. Nor­man Bethune, hon­oured for his con­tri­bu­tions to mo­bile army med­i­cal units — pre­cur­sors to the M.A.S.H. units uti­lized in later con­flicts. Spain, Italy, Ger­many, other coun­tries — the one con­sis­tent thing that the An­tifa Comic Book re­minds read­ers of in its sto­ries is that those op­posed to fas­cism al­most seem to al­ways lose in the short term as the ma­jor­ity of so­ci­ety de­cides to “stay the course.” Even­tu­ally, this leads to as­sim­i­la­tion into the fas­cist po­lit­i­cal sys­tem or vi­o­lent ejec­tion from it.

As Mark Bray (An­tifa: The Anti-Fas­cist Hand­book) notes in his for­ward, this has lead to cat­a­strophic im­pli­ca­tions for so many.

The An­tifa Comic Book joins a grow­ing body of po­lit­i­cal anal­y­sis and com­men­tary be­ing pub­lished in graphic novel form. Yes, it can be ar­gued that the medium over­sim­pli­fies the mes­sage. But from Art Spiegel­man’s Maus to the works of Joe Sacco and Hill, per­haps comics are con­tin­u­ing their orig­i­nal goal of fight­ing fas­cism.

The one con­sis­tent thing is that those op­posed to fas­cism al­most seem to al­ways lose in the short term.

The An­tifa Comic Book of­fers a graphic novel his­tory of fas­cism and those who fought it.

The An­tifa Comic Book: 100 Years of Fas­cism and An­tifa Move­ments Gord Hill | Ar­se­nal Pulp Press $1.95, 127 pages

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