Letter from ALBA: Dispatch From the Trenches

November 6, 2021
By and

Dear Friends,

Given the source of our inspiration, it’s perhaps no surprise that we’ve become used to war-based metaphors when speaking about our work. We talk about fighting fascism, about the battle for democracy, and about supporting those who are on the front lines defending human rights. When we work with middle- and high-school teachers throughout the country, we tell them how much we admire their daily work “in the trenches.”

The truth is, however, that many of us on the anti-fascist Left are pacifists at heart. The same was true for those who joined the International Brigades to defend the Second Spanish Republic, as you can see in the fascinating letter exchange between two prominent pacificists that Jorge Marco has discovered in British archives. It was also true for those who put their lives on the line in the long—and ongoing—struggle for civil and workers’ rights in the American South, as Robin D.G. Kelley recalled in his trenchant contribution to ALBA’s Bay Area celebration, last September. If you haven’t seen the video of that great event yet, check it out on ALBA’s website or YouTube channel. It includes interviews with the activists of My Brother’s Keeper, which received this year’s ALBA/Puffin Award for Human Rights, and a wonderful conversation between Bruce Barthol and Barbara Dane about music and progressive politics. (As editors, we can’t say we didn’t blush when Barbara confessed that she reads every issue of this magazine “from cover to cover.”)

Sometimes, it turns out, very special things happen in those messy classroom trenches. This issue highlights the great work teachers and their students have been doing with ALBA’s support. Angela Acosta and Patricia Smith tell us about how they’ve used ALBA’s curriculum in their college classrooms. And the winners of our annual George Watt Essay Award show what young people are capable of when they learn about the antifascist legacies of the past.

That’s exactly what ALBA’s educational mission is about: engaging with history in a critical, politically committed way, encouraging students to think for themselves—and to think of themselves as citizens of the world. Yet that kind of critical work is under serious threat, as Steve Volk explains in his incisive column on recent legislative efforts to outlaw what the Right deceptively labels as “critical race theory.” “What the sprint to legislate the discussion of race has made clear,” Volk writes, “is that these laws are part of the Right’s response to the rising movement for social justice building since the early 2010s.”

So yes, the fight continues—we haven’t fought our last battle yet. If we’re still standing in the face of the unending attacks, it’s thanks to your generous and unflagging support. We can’t thank you enough for standing by our side. The future depends on it.


Sebastiaan Faber & Peter N. Carroll, editors

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