We Go Where They Go
The Story of Anti-Racist Action
What does it mean to risk all for your beliefs? How do you fight an enemy in your midst?
We Go Where They Go recounts the thrilling story of a massive forgotten youth movement that set the stage for today's anti-fascist organizing in North America. When skinheads and punks in the late 1980s found their communities invaded by white supremacists and neo-nazis, they fought back. Influenced by anarchism, feminism, Black liberation, and Indigenous sovereignty, they created Anti-Racist Action. At ARA’s height in the 1990s, thousands of dedicated activists in hundreds of chapters joined the fights—political and sometimes physical—against nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, anti-abortion fundamentalists, and racist police. Before media pundits, cynical politicians, and your uncle discovered “antifa,” Anti-Racist Action was bringing it to the streets.
Based on extensive interviews with dozens of ARA participants, We Go Where They Go tells ARA’s story from within, giving voice to those who risked their safety in their own defense and in solidarity with others. In reproducing the posters, zines, propaganda and photos of the movement itself, this essential work of radical history illustrates how cultural scenes can become powerful forces for change. Here at last is the story of an organic yet highly organized movement, exploring both its triumphs and failures, and offering valuable lessons for today’s generation of activists and rabble-rousers. We Go Where They Go is a page-turning history of grassroots anti-racism. More than just inspiration, it's a roadmap.
“I was a big supporter and it was an honor to work with the Anti-Racist Action movement. Their unapologetic and uncompromising opposition to racism and fascism in the streets, in the government, and in the mosh pit continues to be inspiring to this day.”
“Antifa became a household word with Trump attempting and failing to designate it a domestic terrorist group, but Antifa’s roots date back to the late 1980’s when little attention was being paid to violent fascist groups that were flourishing under Reaganism, and Anti-Racist Action (ARA) was singular and effective in its brilliant offensive. This book tells the story of ARA in breathtaking prose accompanied by stunning photographs and images.”
—Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, author of Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment
“We Go Where They Go offers a new generation of antiracist, anti-fascist activists an essential dose of revolutionary history, and provides a bloodstained blueprint for the next chapter in the long, noble, and utterly necessary fight against fascism. The struggle is never over, and it’s on all of us to wake up, read up, and stay ready.”
—Kim Kelly, author of Fight Like Hell: The Untold History of American Labor
“‘History,’ as The Story of Anti-Racist Action observes, ‘is a weapon.’ Yet in this timely, much-needed book, set against the backdrop of today’s resurgent fascism, it is far more than that. History is a teachable, or learnable, moment. History is remembrance, or never forgetting, and honoring our dead. Most important, history is possibility. Because as the authors and many ARA participants so ably demonstrate on these pages, and with such clear-eyed insights, those who collectively self-organize and take direct action can make history—a people’s history of courage and solidarity. And thus, this engaging history is a compass, guiding us away from unnecessary perils and pitfalls, and toward potentialities for not only community self-defense but also community care.”
—Cindy Milstein, editor of There Is Nothing So Whole as a Broken Heart: Mending the World as Jewish Anarchists
“We Go Where They Go takes readers to the front lines of the little-known struggle against white supremacy and fascism that raged across North America at the turn of the twenty-first century. Based on insider accounts, this concise, riveting, and truly groundbreaking history of Anti-Racist Action is essential reading for the movements of today and tomorrow.”
—Mark Bray, author of Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook
“We Go Where They Go is the story of those who bravely went steel toe to steel toe against the Nazis in the 1990s. It is a meditation on organizing when your life and community depend on it and the finest two-fisted street scholarship. Today’s foes of fascism will find a treasure trove of perspectives, history, insights, and strategies here. It would be a mistake to call the nineties the ‘lost decade’ for radical action in the United States, and this book corrects the record.”
—James Tracy, co-author Hillbilly Nationalists, Urban Race Rebels, and Black Power: Interracial Solidarity in 1960–70s New Left Organizing
“There is a history of antifascist organizing and defense that has been a quiet one, but it is one we should all be proud of. This book will take the reader on a journey through that history, which I myself have been a part of, and they will be amazed - as we often are - by what they never knew and wish they did. I am very happy that finally the story of Anti-Racist Action is being told.”
—Daryle Lamont Jenkins, founder and executive director of One People’s Project
“We Go Where They Go is a rich, granular history of Anti-Racist Action, from its origins in the Midwest skinhead and punk scenes in the 80s, to its growth into a grassroots international network with nearly 180 chapters by the end of the 90s. ARA not only effectively challenged nazis and the Klan on the streets, its activists struggled to connect their street level actions with efforts to challenge more pervasive institutional racism. It took on sexism, abortion rights and homophobia as key issues, and allied with other groups fighting for social justice. Today, as democratic norms continue to erode in the declining imperialist centers, the threat of fascism resurfaces. We Go Where They Go reflects on fundamental questions of organization and strategy that antiracist activists must consider in the 21st century.”
—Tim McCaskell, author Race to Equity: Disrupting Educational Inequality and Queer Progress: From Homophobia to Homonationalism
“This book is a must read for anyone wanting to know the unknown histories of activists who set out to destroy fascism in their communities. These activists did not seek fame or recognition, but put themselves continually at risk. While the stories of comradery and conflict show the fissures of any movement, what I find important and necessary is to uplift these heroic voices in our activist history and in our radical imaginations.”
—Sharmeen Khan, organizer with No One Is Illegal Toronto and editor of Upping the Anti: A Journal of Theory and Action
“Before Antifa became a household name in the US, there was Anti-Racist Action. These were the folks we followed as antifascist activists in Europe in the 1990s. I’m glad to see that their experiences have now been chronicled. Plenty to learn for all of us.”
—Gabriel Kuhn, author of Sober Living for the Revolution, Soccer vs. the State, and Antifascism, Sports, Sobriety