WHAT IS THE THIRD POSITION?

About Chip Berlet

Portions of this essay first appeared on the PRA website in a section called “Too Close for Comfort” as studies that were later incorporated into the book Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort by Chip Berlet and Matthew N. Lyons, New York, Guilford Press, 2000; which maintains an updates website.

In the last few years of the 20th Century a new form of fascism emerged in a period of resurgent neofascism. Called the Third Position, it seeks to overthrow existing governments and replace them with monocultural nation states built around the idea of supremacist racial nationalism and/or supremacist religious nationalism. Third Position neofascists have organized in the U.S., Europe, and the Middle East, and they maintain some kind of loose network, at least for the purposes of discussing their shared ideas and agenda, but in some cases involving meetings and even funding.

For instance, Libyan president of Mu’ammar Qadhafi sponsored several international conferences in Libya promoting his special variation of racial nationalism and cultivating ideas congruent with Third Position ideology. Qadhafi also offered funds to racial nationalist groups active in the U.S. and Canada.1)Goldenthal, Howard. (1991). “Khadafy Connections,” Now (Toronto alternative weekly), July 4. During the Gulf War, according to the Searchlight magazine, “Neo-nazis is several European countries have been queuing up to shoulder arms for Saddam Hussein’s murderous Iraqi Regime.”2)“Neo-Nazi Mercenaries Sign on for Desert War,” Searchlight, March 1991, p. 5. One organizer for this attempted neonazi brigade, claimed he had over 500 volunteers from “several countries, including Germany, the USA, the Netherlands, Austria and France.”3)Ibid, p. 5. Revealing the Third Position motif, a racial nationalist journal, Nation und Europa, promoted the slogans “Arabia for the Arabs,” and “the whole of Germany for the Germans.”4)Ibid, p. 5. In Britain, some neofascists praised the regimes in Libya and Iran as allies in the fight against communism, capitalism, and Israel.5)Mareln, Richard. “Recap: The Third Position and the Political Soldiers” Searchlight, January 1990, p. 8.

The Third Position has a more intellectual aristocratic ally called the European New Right (Nouvelle Droit ) which is different from the U.S. New Right.6)For a brilliant short essay on the rise of the Nouvelle Droit see “Pograms Begin in the Mind” by Wolfgang Haug, a transcribed lecture with a challenging introduction by Janet Biehl. Green Perspectives, May 1992, (P.O. Box 111, Burlington, Vermont 05402). Intellectual leaders of the European New Right, such as Alain de Benoist, are hailed as profound thinkers in U.S. reactionary publications such as the Rockford Institute’s Chronicles. The more overtly neo-Nazi segment of the Third Position has intellectual links to the Strasserite wing of German national socialism, and is critical of Hitler’s brand of Nazism for having betrayed the working class. See magazines such as Scorpion or Third Way published in England. Third Position groups believe in a racially-homogeneous decentralized tribal form of nationalism, and claim to have evolved an ideology “beyond communism and capitalism.”

White supremacist leader Tom Metzger promotes Third Position politics in his newspaper WAR which stands for White Aryan Resistance. In Europe, the Third Position defines its racial-nationalist theories in publications such as Third Way and The Scorpion. Third Position adherents actively seek to recruit from the left. One such group is the American Front in Portland, Oregon, which ran a phone hotline that in late November, 1991 featured an attack on critics of left/right coalitions. Some Third Position themes have surfaced in the ecology movement and other movements championed by progressives.7)These two paragraphs are adapted from Berlet, Chip. (1994 [1990]). Right Woos Left: Populist Party, LaRouchian, and Other Neo-fascist Overtures to Progressives and Why They Must Be Rejected. Cambridge, MA: Political Research Associates. Online at http://www.publiceye.org/rightwoo/rwooz6_TOC.html.

The convergence among racial nationalists in North America and Western and Eastern Europe is discussed at length in Jeffrey Kaplan and Tore Bjørgo, eds., Nation and Race, and Jeffrey Kaplan and Leonard Weinberg, The Emergence of a Euro-American Radical Right.8)Kaplan, Jeffrey, and Tore Bjørgo (Eds.). (1998). Nation and Race: The Developing Euro-American Racist Subculture. Boston: Northeastern University Press; Kaplan, Jeffrey, and Leonard Weinberg. (1998). The Emergence of a Euro-American Radical Right. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.  There is a theoretical discussion of the European Third Position and racially separate nation-states by Robert Antonio in “After Postmodernism: Reactionary Tribalism.9)Antonio, Robert. (2000). “After Postmodernism: Reactionary Tribalism.” American Journal of Sociology, vol. 106, no. 1, pp. 40–87. The anti-U.S. aspect of the Third Position is examined in “´Neither Left Nor Right´” in the Southern Poverty Law Center magazine, Intelligence Report.10)Southern Poverty Law Center. (2000). “´Neither Left Nor Right´” Intelligence Report, Winter 2000, pp. 40–47.

I argue elsewhere that a good case can be made that the religious ideology of Osama bin Laden and the Taliban is a form of clerical fascism or some close hybrid. It certainly is a form of religious nationalism. This could help explain the potential for links between Islamic religious supremacists and U.S. White racial supremacists. The White racial supremacists we are discussing are part of the U.S. Extreme Right, not the Patriot or armed militia movements or the Christian Right. This is purely a speculative exercise, however, based on ideological affinities. A similar argument that places the Islamic supremacists in the context of apocalyptic revolutionary millenarianism makes the same point, since most U.S. neofascists can be placed in the same category. See: The ‘Religion’ of Usamah bin Ladin: Terror As the Hand of God, by Jean E. Rosenfeld, Ph.D., UCLA Center for the Study of Religion.

In Right-Wing Populism in America, Matthew N. Lyons and I discussed the Third Position:

To varying degrees, some neofascists also shifted away from traditional fascism’s highly centralized approach to political power and toward plans to fragment and subdivide political authority. Many neonazis called for creation of an independent White homeland in the Pacific Northwest, based on the ethnic partitioning of the United States. Posse Comitatus, mostly active in rural areas, repudiated all government authority above the county level. And in the 1990s neonazi leader Louis Beam promoted the influential doctrine of “leaderless resistance.” While such decentralist policies may seem incompatible with full-blown fascism, we see them partly as defensive adaptations and partly as expressions of a new social totalitarianism. Industrial-era totalitarianism relied on the nation-state; in the era of out­sourcing, deregulation, and global mobility, social totalitarianism looked to local authorities, private bodies (such as churches), and direct mass activism to enforce repressive control.

In the 1970s and 1980s these efforts to reinterpret fascism were not confined to the United States, but took place among neofascists in many industrialized capitalist countries. European, Canadian, and South African neofascists, too, at times advanced the doctrine known as the Third Position, strengthened internationalist ties, used coded racial appeals, advocated ethnic separatism and the breakup of nation-states, and practiced solidarity with right-wing nationalists of color.11)Roger Griffin, Nature of Fascism, pp. 166–172. For general background, see Jeffrey Kaplan and Leonard Weinberg, Emergence of a Euro-American Radical Right; Jeffrey Kaplan and Tore Bjørgo, eds., Nation and Race; Martin A. Lee, Beast Reawakens; Cheles, Ferguson, and Vaughan, eds., Far Right in Western and Eastern Europe; Merkl and Weinberg, eds., Encounters with the Contemporary Radical Right; Hockenos, Free to Hate; Michael Schmidt, New Reich; Golsan, ed., Fascism’s Return. On philosophical aspects of neofascist and ethnonationalist ideology, see Antonio, “After Postmodernism.” On occult roots of some neofascist movements, see Spielvogel and Redles, “Hitler’s Racial Ideology.”

The Third Position—which rejects both capitalism and communism—traces its roots to the most “radical” anticapitalist wing of Hitler’s Nazi Party. In the 1970s and 1980s, neonazis in several European countries advocated the Third Position.12)See, for example, the magazines The Third Way and Scorpion. Its leading proponent in the United States was White Aryan Resistance, headed by former California Klan leader Tom Metzger. Metzger, who was a Democratic candidate for Congress in 1980, expounded his philosophy at the 1987 Aryan Nations Congress:

WAR is dedicated to the White working people, the farmers, the White poor. . . . This is a working class movement. . . . Our problem is with monopoly capitalism. The Jews first went with Capitalism and then created their Marxist game. You go for the throat of the Capitalist. You must go for the throat of the corporates. You take the game away from the left. It’s our game! We’re not going to fight your whore wars no more! We’ve got one war, that is right here, the same war the SA fought in Germany, right here; in the streets of America.13)“Metzger Begins Move to the Top,” The Monitor, January 1988, p. 5. See also Lawrence, “Klansmen, Nazis, Skinheads,” p. 33. On antecedents, see Schmaltz, Hate.

Tom Metzger’s organization vividly illustrates fascism’s tendency to appropriate elements of leftist politics in some sort of distorted form. Again, from Right-Wing Populism in America:

WAR supported “white working-class” militancy such as the lengthy “P-9” labor union strike against Hormel in Minnesota, stressed environmentalism, and opposed U.S. military intervention in Central America and the Persian Gulf. The Aryan Women’s League, affiliated with WAR, claimed that Jews invented male supremacy and called for “Women’s Power as well as White Power.”14)Monique Wolfing (leader of the Aryan Women’s League), discussion with Tom Metzger on “Race and Reason,” aired on San Francisco public access television, May 1989. See also Zia, “Women in Hate Groups.” Metzger’s television program, “Race and Reason,” was broadcast on cable TV in dozens of cities and aided cooperation among White supremacist groups. Through its Aryan Youth Movement wing, WAR was particularly successful in the 1980s in recruiting racist skinheads, who include thousands of young people clustered in scores of violent pro-Nazi formations. (Not all skinheads are racist and there are antiracist and antifascist skinhead groups.) Metzger and WAR’s position in the neonazi movement was weakened in October 1990 when they were fined $12.5 million in a civil suit for inciting three Portland skinheads who murdered Ethiopian immigrant Mulugeta Seraw.15)“What Next For Metzger & WAR,” The Monitor, March 1991, p. 9. For background on the skinhead subculture see Hamm, American Skinheads.

Out of the stew of the Third Position, and the European New Right theories of intellectuals such as Alain de Benoist, came a new version of White Nationalism that championed racially separate nation-states.16)On de Benoist, see Martin A. Lee, Beast Reawakens, pp. 208–215; on convergence between continents, see Jeffrey Kaplan and Tore Bjørgo, eds., Nation and Race; on Third Position and racially separate nation-states, see Antonio, “After Postmodernism.” In the United States this filtered down to White supremacists, who began to call themselves White Separatists.17)Dobratz and Shanks-Meile, ”White Power, White Pride!” Dobratz and Shanks-Meile believe that “most, if not all, whites in this movement feel they are superior to blacks.”18)Ibid., p. 124. See also Dobratz and Shanks-Meile, “Ideology and the Framing Process.” Instead of segregation, however, White Separatism called for “geographic separation of the world’s races” and in the United States this prompted calls for an Aryan Homeland in the Pacific Northwest.19)Ibid., pp. 89–107.

[Excerpts are from: Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort, Chapter 13, pp. 265-286.]

Connections between Canadian Extreme Right racial nationalists and Libya have been reported by author Warren Kinsella.

“The Libyan government of Mu’ammar Qadhafi had been funding [Canadian nationalist Party Leader Don] Andrew’s group since at least April 1987, when a number of his members traveled to Tripoli for a “peace conference” to commemorate a U.S. bombing raid. Qadhafi liked the white supremacists because, like him, they believed in separate racial states and they despised Jews.”20)Kinsella, Warren. (1995). Web of Hate: Inside Canada’s Far Right Network. New York: HarperPerrenial, p. 258.

“Andrews worked closely with Wolfgang Droege, a leader of the Canadian Knights of the Ku Klux Klan who visited the U.S. to meet with members of the extreme right including David Duke.21)Ibid. p. 248-249.  Droege was arrested in Louisiana in 1981 with nine other extreme right activists in a plot to overthrow the government of the island of Dominica and establish a White homeland.22)Ibid. p. 238.

“In September 1989, at Andrew’s suggestion, Droege traveled to Libya with a group of 17 [Canadian] Nationalist Party members.”23)Ibid. p. 258.

Many U.S. White supremacists also practice a racial nationalist religion called Christian Identity. There is clearly a fluidity between political and religious ideologies based on ethnonationalist desires. Since the idea is to smash all current nations and redivide the world into separate nation states based on race or religion, there is a shared goal.

 

References   [ + ]

1. Goldenthal, Howard. (1991). “Khadafy Connections,” Now (Toronto alternative weekly), July 4.
2. “Neo-Nazi Mercenaries Sign on for Desert War,” Searchlight, March 1991, p. 5.
3, 4. Ibid, p. 5.
5. Mareln, Richard. “Recap: The Third Position and the Political Soldiers” Searchlight, January 1990, p. 8.
6. For a brilliant short essay on the rise of the Nouvelle Droit see “Pograms Begin in the Mind” by Wolfgang Haug, a transcribed lecture with a challenging introduction by Janet Biehl. Green Perspectives, May 1992, (P.O. Box 111, Burlington, Vermont 05402).
7. These two paragraphs are adapted from Berlet, Chip. (1994 [1990]). Right Woos Left: Populist Party, LaRouchian, and Other Neo-fascist Overtures to Progressives and Why They Must Be Rejected. Cambridge, MA: Political Research Associates. Online at http://www.publiceye.org/rightwoo/rwooz6_TOC.html.
8. Kaplan, Jeffrey, and Tore Bjørgo (Eds.). (1998). Nation and Race: The Developing Euro-American Racist Subculture. Boston: Northeastern University Press; Kaplan, Jeffrey, and Leonard Weinberg. (1998). The Emergence of a Euro-American Radical Right. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.
9. Antonio, Robert. (2000). “After Postmodernism: Reactionary Tribalism.” American Journal of Sociology, vol. 106, no. 1, pp. 40–87.
10. Southern Poverty Law Center. (2000). “´Neither Left Nor Right´” Intelligence Report, Winter 2000, pp. 40–47.
11. Roger Griffin, Nature of Fascism, pp. 166–172. For general background, see Jeffrey Kaplan and Leonard Weinberg, Emergence of a Euro-American Radical Right; Jeffrey Kaplan and Tore Bjørgo, eds., Nation and Race; Martin A. Lee, Beast Reawakens; Cheles, Ferguson, and Vaughan, eds., Far Right in Western and Eastern Europe; Merkl and Weinberg, eds., Encounters with the Contemporary Radical Right; Hockenos, Free to Hate; Michael Schmidt, New Reich; Golsan, ed., Fascism’s Return. On philosophical aspects of neofascist and ethnonationalist ideology, see Antonio, “After Postmodernism.” On occult roots of some neofascist movements, see Spielvogel and Redles, “Hitler’s Racial Ideology.”
12. See, for example, the magazines The Third Way and Scorpion.
13. “Metzger Begins Move to the Top,” The Monitor, January 1988, p. 5. See also Lawrence, “Klansmen, Nazis, Skinheads,” p. 33. On antecedents, see Schmaltz, Hate.
14. Monique Wolfing (leader of the Aryan Women’s League), discussion with Tom Metzger on “Race and Reason,” aired on San Francisco public access television, May 1989. See also Zia, “Women in Hate Groups.”
15. “What Next For Metzger & WAR,” The Monitor, March 1991, p. 9. For background on the skinhead subculture see Hamm, American Skinheads.
16. On de Benoist, see Martin A. Lee, Beast Reawakens, pp. 208–215; on convergence between continents, see Jeffrey Kaplan and Tore Bjørgo, eds., Nation and Race; on Third Position and racially separate nation-states, see Antonio, “After Postmodernism.”
17. Dobratz and Shanks-Meile, ”White Power, White Pride!”
18. Ibid., p. 124. See also Dobratz and Shanks-Meile, “Ideology and the Framing Process.”
19. Ibid., pp. 89–107.
20. Kinsella, Warren. (1995). Web of Hate: Inside Canada’s Far Right Network. New York: HarperPerrenial, p. 258.
21. Ibid. p. 248-249.
22. Ibid. p. 238.
23. Ibid. p. 258.
Chip Berlet is a former senior analyst at Political Research Associates. He authored Eyes Right! and Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort (with Matthew N. Lyons) and is a frequent contributor to Talk2Action and Huffington Post.