Letter from ALBA: On Confusion and Clarity

May 18, 2023
By and

Dear Friends,

The present is confusing because we don’t know what the future will look like. It may sound obvious—but it’s all too easy to forget when we study the past. In fact, this is one of the ideas we emphasize in our ongoing work with students and teachers. Looking backward from 2023, it’s easy to be surprised by the fact that, in the mid-1930s, many were charmed by Nazism, not just in Germany and Western Europe but in the United States as well. In this light, the prescience of those who did recognize the dangers of fascism early on—including nearly 3,000 individuals from the U.S. who volunteered to defend the Spanish Republic—is even more remarkable.

Still, even in the confusing present, some things are crystal clear. Do you support groups that seek to gut school libraries from books that discuss the complexities of US history, racism, or human sexuality? Or do you stand with those who defend public education and its teachers? Do you support those who are trying to turn back the clock on reproductive rights, one state at a time, or with those who defend pregnant people’s hard-fought bodily autonomy? To quote Florence Reece: Which Side Are You On?

At this year’s moving ALBA/Puffin Award Ceremony in New York City, Indigenous Women Rising was recognized for its brave work on behalf of the reproductive rights of Indigenous people and other marginalized populations. Present, too, were our previous two award winners: Life Against Hate and My Brother’s Keeper. Although these three organizations do very different work, in our eyes they honor the legacy of the Lincolns, including their valor and prescience. All three engage in high-risk, often controversial work that helps strengthen this country’s defenses against the growing threat of the far right.

At ALBA, we’re well aware of what we’re up against. Yet if the stories in this issue show anything, it’s that we also refuse to lose hope. As Michael Koncewicz explains, young generations have a new-found interest in the history and relevance of antifascism. In fact, take a moment to skip to read about Iago, an award-winning high school student: it will warm your heart.

As always, we also take time to mourn the losses to our ALBA family. Harry Belafonte’s appearances at the ALBA/VALB reunions were always electric, as Dan Czitrom and Jo Yurek recall. And our celebrations will not be the same without the music of Bruce Barthol, to whom Michael Gene Sullivan pays a powerful tribute. The 90-year history of the song Peat Bog Soldiers, which Bruce sang like no one else, is told by Fietje Ausländer.

We have several exciting programs planned for this spring and summer, but we’re also preparing for the fall, when we’ll have a special online event to honor the Lincoln veterans. Stay tuned to our online event calendar and, if you haven’t yet, subscribe to our email list.

Thank you for your ongoing support of ALBA’s work. It’s your generosity and conviction that keeps us going.


Sebastiaan Faber & Peter N. Carroll, Editors

PS: You may use the envelope in your print issue to make a donation or, if you prefer, go to alba-valb.org/donate. Recurring donations are most helpful because they allow us to plan ahead. ¡Mil gracias!