Go Back to Where You Came From

The Backlash Against Immigration & the Fate of Western Democracy

October 2017 9781849049092 376pp


From Europe to the United States and beyond, opportunistic politicians have exploited economic crisis, terrorist attacks and an influx of refugees to bring hateful and reactionary views from the margins of political discourse into the corridors of power. This climate has already helped propel Donald Trump to the White House, pushed Britain out of the European Union, and put Marine Le Pen within striking distance of the French presidency.

Sasha Polakow-Suransky’s on-the-ground reportage and interviews with the rising stars of the new right tell the story of how we got here, tracing the global rise of anti-immigration politics and the ruthlessly effective rebranding of Europe’s new far right as defenders of Western liberal values.

Go Back to Where You Came From is an indispensable account of why xenophobia went mainstream in countries known historically as defenders of human rights and models of tolerance.


‘Polakow-Suransky … has reported from across the globe for this book, providing dispatches from refu­gee camps and interviewing politicians, activists and immigrants on all sides of this debate. He captures social and political transformations in simple, memorable lines.’ — Washington Post

​'[Polakow-Suransky] has covered a good amount of territory, interviewed some of the continent’s characters, and given a fairish tour of recent events.’​ — ​Evening Standard

Go Back to Where you Came From analyses the problem well … Sasha Polakow-Suransky … has painstakingly documented this phenomenon.’ — The Irish Times

‘Polakow-Suransky … has produced something badly needed in the English language: a comprehensive and impartial explanatory survey of the people and ideas behind the rise of the politics of intolerance, not just in Europe but across much of the Western world … this book’s strength is its window into Europe’s voices, past and present, and the links the author finds between them.’ — The Globe and Mail

‘[The author’s] analysis is detailed and full of illustrative information and data. This is not written from an ivory tower, but records wide-ranging face-to-face conversations with many of the leaders of these movements across Europe and the US. It is difficult to do justice to this project in a short review.’ — The Methodist Recorder

‘Aided by conflict and a deflationary crisis not seen since the 1930s, the West has been taken over by a moral panic over immigrants that threatens to found a new fascism. Sasha Polakow-Suransky’s new book is a fine antidote to this motivated menace.’ — Yanis Varoufakis, author of And The Weak Suffer What They Must? Europe, Austerity and the Threat to Global Stability

‘An important, deeply reported investigation into the rise of the extreme right around the globe and a warning of the implications for western democracies. A must read for all concerned citizens.’ — Paul Mason, author of PostCapitalism

‘The populist rebellion sweeping the West is driven by a toxic combination of immigration, inequality, and identity. Sasha Polakow-Suransky’s superb new book unpacks the story, taking readers through a changing Europe bursting with promise yet racked by conflict. With its deep reportage, gripping prose, and powerful message, it is a must read for anyone trying to understand global politics today — and tomorrow.’ — Gideon Rose, Editor of Foreign Affairs

‘Sasha Polakow-Suransky confronts deep tensions between race, class, and borders that so many liberals would prefer to ignore, with detailed examples from Europe, the United States, and South Africa. For those of us deeply worried about the future of liberal democracy, Go Back to Where You Came From is an important and enlightening book.’ — Anne-Marie Slaughter, President and CEO of New America

‘A well-researched and authoritatively written analysis that resists easy answers and generalizations regarding the complex problems of immigration. … Polakow-Suransky plainly views the collapse of liberal democracy with alarm. Refreshingly, however, he generally steers clear of polemics and demonization, giving those on what he terms the “new far right” their voice and showing how widespread resistance to immigration in general, and Muslim immigration in particular, has moved from the fringes to the mainstream. …He shows how working-class liberalism has suffered a split between ideologues more concerned with identity politics and social issues and voters who pine for the way things used to be and feel like their parties have abandoned their interests in favor of minority rights and religious tolerance. … Not an apologia for resistance to immigration but rather a nuanced, important analysis of an issue fraught with complications.’ — Kirkus, starred review


Sasha Polakow-Suransky is an Open Society Foundations fellow. He was an op-ed editor at the New York Times and a senior editor at Foreign Affairs and holds a doctorate in modern history from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. His writing has appeared in the GuardianForeign PolicyNewsweek, the New Republic and the​ Boston Globe.

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