Behind the far-right book burning campaign in the United States


Officials at the Keller Independent School District (ISD), near Fort Worth, Texas, have ordered librarians and school staff to temporarily remove “disputed” books this year. The 40-book list includes the Bible and an illustrated adaptation of Anne Frank’s diary.

In a recent statement, the district said, “At this time, Keller ISD administration is asking our campus staff and librarians to review books that were challenged in the past year to determine if they meet to the requirements of the new policy.” The statement was made after an email about the ban on directors was obtained by the Texas Grandstand.

An email was sent to district staff the day before schools reopened for the new school year calling for the removal of 40 titles from classrooms and library shelves until further review by the district. The email included an attached statement from Texas House of Representatives Speaker Matt Krause from October 2021 announcing his intention to open an “investigation” in the district into a 16-page list of books that the legislature calls for a ban, centered on race, gender and homosexuality.

This reactionary act of right-wing censorship followed a long list of other similar cases in Texas where books have been banned in recent years, with headlines appearing almost weekly on the most recent bans. On January 28, for example, the right-wing Prosper Citizen Group (PCG) demanded that the Prosper Independent School District, north of Dallas, ban more than 80 titles from its libraries, including 30 officially banned in March of this year. .

Some of the Books to be Eliminated from Texas School Libraries [Photo: WSWS]

Many of Prosper’s contested books centered on sexuality and gender. Among the titles are The music of what happens, a young adult book about gay men, and The magical misfits, a series of children’s books that includes a daughter adopted by two dads.

Significantly, the PCG is a political action committee originally created as one of several far-right Republican-linked organizations claiming to be “grassroots” groups formed by angry citizens, created to remove all mitigation measures against the spread of SARS-COV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Early posts on its website denounced the masking policies.

Belying his supposed grassroots character, the PCG’s campaign treasurer is James “Jim” Herblin, an accountant and Republican candidate for Texas House District 61. Herblin’s campaign site encompasses the 2022 Texas Republican Party platform , which declared the Biden administration illegitimate, saying Trump’s big lie was used to justify the January 6 coup.

Moms for Liberty is another far-right organization that targets public education. The organization with more than 100,000 members across the United States is one of the most outspoken conservative groups opposed to mask mandates, in addition to its right-wing censorship campaign to ban books used in classrooms. or kept in libraries, more recently in Florida.

Moms for Liberty also has ties to senior Republican officials. Notably, the wife of Christian Ziegler, the Vice President of the Florida Republican Party, is the co-director of the organization according to Media Matters. Ziegler, unsurprisingly, is a sidekick to fascist Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is seen as a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2024 and is looking to appeal to Trump’s fascist base.

These right-wing groups have been given credibility by Republicans and increasingly by Democrats and unions. Notably, in September 2021, American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten joined forces with far-right parent group Open Schools USA as part of her AFT death town hall, who called for the removal of mitigation measures in schools as part of a program to reopen schools no matter the cost in lives.

A study released earlier this year by PEN America, a nonprofit that describes itself as “an advocacy organization for literature and free speech,” shed light on the extent and character of recent book bans. The PEN study, which ran from July 1, 2021 to March 31, 2022, documented 1,145 unique book titles banned, across 86 school districts in 26 states, and affecting more than 2 million students.

Texas leads all other states in the number of bans with 713 censorship cases. Pennsylvania had 456 bans and Florida had 204. These three states combined account for the majority of bans. Other banned states include Oklahoma, Kansas, Indiana, Tennessee, Virginia, Missouri, Georgia, New York, and Utah.

Most banned books focus on race and gender as seen in the six most banned books including Gender Queer: A Memoirby Maia Kobabe; Not all boys are blueby George M. Johnson; lawn boyby Jonathan Evison; out of darknessof Ashley Hope Perez; The bluest eye, by Toni Morrison; and Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Outby Susan Kuklin.

In Texas, fascist Governor Greg Abbott has asked state agencies to develop standards to ban books with “overtly sexual” content from schools. Republican-dominated state legislation passed HB 3979 in 2021, banning critical race theory, queer studies, and other perspectives based on identity politics.

In March, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law HB 1467, which authorizes the banning of library books and educational materials. Predictably, this emboldened book burners in Florida. DeSantis also signed the famous “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

Former President Donald Trump has also supported banning gender and race-related books on numerous occasions.

The Democratic Party contributes to the toxic political-ideological environment that made the bans possible, especially through its promotion of identity politics and its fervent opposition to class politics that would unite workers across race, gender, and sexual orientation.

The SEP analyzed the reactionary and bankrupt nature of identity politics in a lecture given at the SEP Summer School last year, “The Ideological Foundations of Critical Race Theory.”

As they demonstrated in their refusal to demand the arrest and prosecution of Trump and his co-conspirators for the January 6 coup attempt, Democrats are more afraid of a grassroots movement against the rise of fascism than Trump’s attack on the Constitution, because that would threaten to elude them and threaten the interests of the financial oligarchy the Democrats serve.


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