From the Streets of Charlottesville to the Corridors of the Capitol, White Nationalism is On the March
(BOSTON) The U.S. Far Right has killed nearly 450 people since 1990. Heather Heyer of Charlottesville, Virginia is the latest casualty of White nationalism. We can honor the sacrifice of the dead and wounded by matching their courage in standing down similar rallies planned for the weeks ahead. Equally important, we can defend members of our communities who are under attack. People of good conscience, regardless of party affiliation, faith tradition, or identity should look upon Charlottesville as a call to moral action in defense of humanity and rejection of White supremacy.
Saturday’s Unite the Right rally was designed, over months, to be the largest gathering of its kind in at least a decade, and was successful in bringing together disparate elements of the Far Right. We should reflect on the deep connection between antisemitism and White supremacy and understand why women, people of color, people with disabilities, religious minorities, immigrants, and LGBTQ people are often targeted first. This is bigger than Charlottesville. White nationalism should not be excused as an expression of “hate” or “ignorance;” it is a strategically coordinated movement with a political agenda.
Not all White nationalists dress up in costume and give Nazi salutes. Whether they are chanting “Jews will not replace us” at a torch lit rally or proposing regressive legislation on voting rights, the right to assembly, or other keystones of a liberal democracy, we must stop their momentum. When our President condemns neonazis only reluctantly and temporarily, it’s not courageous; it is too little too late, and only serves to further embolden the Right. It is an open secret that the violent White nationalists on the streets of Charlottesville (and many other cities) were emboldened by candidate Trump’s presidential campaign, which gave voice to many of their own dangerous views. Their support is not only for Trump’s platitudes but also for the president’s policies. So while we welcome the denunciation of White supremacy from various corners of Congress, we require more from our elected officials. We call on them to uphold our common humanity as they consider policy changes to immigration, health care, education, and the equitable distribution of taxes needed to fund vital public services. We need to remain on alert for “law and order” rhetoric used to justify police and state aggression. We have no intention of stopping bigotry on the streets only to suffer its continued codification in the laws of our land.
The ostensibly “extremist” ideas given expression in Charlottesville must not be allowed to make racist federal policy initiatives appear moderate by comparison. As PRA’s late founder Jean Hardisty presciently stated in a 2005 essay “Wrong About the Right”:
The right has not been afraid to propose extreme positions, knowing they will be pushed back to more moderate ones still well to the right of the status quo. We’ve seen this in almost every policy fight since 1980. By boldly taking stands that are far outside the mainstream, the right has managed to pull the mainstream to the right, which is why it is now perceived as speaking for the majority.
The activists, faith leaders, and everyday people who stood up to armed and violent White nationalists in Charlottesville are the heroes of this still-unfolding story. Their courage stands in stark contrast to the cowardice on display in Washington, D.C. Theirs is the moral conscience of a people that refuses to be divided. Who we can be together will determine whether the U.S. protects and advances the principles of democracy, justice, and pluralism or succumbs to the forces that threaten to unmake them.
Saturday, August 19, 2017 will be a National Day of Action Against White Supremacy. PRA will be here, as it has for more than three decades, monitoring threats and revealing what each of us can do to advance justice and democracy in these turbulent times.
This article appears in the Summer 2017 edition of The Public Eye magazine.
One September weekend in 1995, a few thousand people met at a convention center in Seattle to prepare for an apocalyptic standoff with the federal government. At the expo, you could sign up to defend yourself from the coming “political and economic collapse,” stock up on beef jerky, learn strategies for tax evasion, and browse titles by writers like Eustace Mullins, whose White nationalist classics include The Secrets of the Federal Reserve, published in 1952, and—from 1967—The Biological Jew.
The sixth annual Preparedness Expo made national papers that year because it served as a clearinghouse for the militia movement, a decentralized right-wing movement of armed, local, anti-government paramilitaries that had recently sparked its most notorious act of terror, the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal courthouse by White nationalists Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. A series of speakers told expo attendees the real story: the attack had been perpetrated by the government itself as an excuse to take citizens’ guns away.
Not a lot of Black folks show up at gatherings like the Preparedness Expo, one site in an extensive right-wing counterculture in which White nationalism is a constant, explosive presence. White nationalists argue that Whites are a biologically defined people and that, once the White revolutionary spirit awakens, they will take down the federal government, remove people of color, and build a state (maybe or maybe not still called the United States of America, depending on who you ask) of their own. As a Black man, I am regarded by White nationalists as a subhuman, dangerous beast. In the 1990s, I was the field organizer for the Northwest Coalition Against Malicious Harassment, a six-state coalition working to reduce hate crimes and violence in the Pacific Northwest and Mountain States region. We did a lot of primary research, often undercover. A cardinal rule of organizing is that you can’t ask people to do anything you haven’t done yourself; so I spent that weekend as I spent many—among people plotting to remove me from their ethnostate.
It helped that, despite its blood-curdling anti-Black racism, at least some factions of the White nationalist movement saw me as a potential ally against their true archenemy. At the expo that year, a guy warily asked me about myself. I told him that I had come on behalf of a few brothers in the city. We needed to resist the federal government and we were there to get educated. I said I hoped he wouldn’t take it personally, but I didn’t shake hands with White people. He smiled; he totally understood. “Brother McLamb,” he concurred, “says we have to start building broad coalitions.” Together we went to hear Jack McLamb, a retired Phoenix cop who ran an organization called Police Against the New World Order, make a case for temporary alliances with “the Blacks, the Mexicans, the Orientals” against the real enemy, the federal government controlled by an international conspiracy. He didn’t have to say who ran this conspiracy because it was obvious to all in attendance. And despite the widespread tendency to dismiss antisemitism, notwithstanding its daily presence across the country and the world, it is obvious to you, too.
The bombing of the Oklahoma City federal courthouse by White nationalists Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols was painted as a conspiracy by the government itself as an excuse to take citizens’ guns away.
From the time I documented my first White nationalist rally in 1990 until today, the movement has made its way from the margins of American political life to its center, and I’ve moved from doing antiracist organizing in small northwestern communities to fighting for inclusive democracy on a national level, as the Gender, Racial, and Ethnic Justice program officer at the Ford Foundation until recently, and now as a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center. Yet if I had to give a basic definition of the movement—something I’ve often been asked to do, formally and informally, by folks who’ve spent less time hanging out with Nazis than I have—my response today would not be much different than it was when I began to do this work nearly thirty years ago. American White nationalism, which emerged in the wake of the 1960s civil rights struggle and descends from White supremacism, is a revolutionary social movement committed to building a Whites-only nation, and antisemitism forms its theoretical core.
That last part—antisemitism forms the theoretical core of White nationalism— bears repeating. Let me explain.
Antisemitism forms the theoretical core of White nationalism.
The meteoric rise of White nationalism within national discourse over the course of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and freshman administration—through Trump’s barely coded speech at fascist-style rallies, his support from the internet-based “Alt Right,” and his placement of White nationalist popularizers in top positions—has produced a shock of revelation for people across a wide swath of the political spectrum. This shock, in turn, has been a source of frustration within communities of color and leftist circles, where White liberals are often accused of having kept their heads in the sand while more vulnerable populations sounded the alarm about the toll of economic crisis, mass incarceration, police violence, deportation, environmental devastation, and—despite and in reaction to the election of Barack Obama—the unending blare of everyday hate. This is an understandable reaction. It’s one I’ve often shared. But the fact that many of us have long recognized that the country we live in is not the one we are told exists doesn’t mean we always understand the one that does. Within social and economic justice movements committed to equality, we have not yet collectively come to terms with the centrality of antisemitism to White nationalist ideology, and until we do we will fail to understand this virulent form of racism rapidly growing in the U.S. today.
To recognize that antisemitism is not a sideshow to racism within White nationalist thought is important for at least two reasons. First, it allows us to identify the fuel that White nationalist ideology uses to power its anti-Black racism, its contempt for other people of color, and its xenophobia—as well as the misogyny and other forms of hatred it holds dear. White nationalists in the United States perceive the country as having plunged into unending crisis since the social ruptures of the 1960s supposedly dispossessed White people of their very nation. The successes of the civil rights movement created a terrible problem for White supremacist ideology. White supremacism—inscribed de jure by the Jim Crow regime and upheld de facto outside the South—had been the law of the land, and a Black-led social movement had toppled the political regime that supported it. How could a race of inferiors have unseated this power structure through organizing alone? For that matter, how could feminists and LGBTQ people have upended traditional gender relations, leftists mounted a challenge to global capitalism, Muslims won billions of converts to Islam? How do you explain the boundary-crossing allure of hip hop? The election of a Black president? Some secret cabal, some mythological power, must be manipulating the social order behind the scenes. This diabolical evil must control television, banking, entertainment, education, and even Washington, D.C. It must be brainwashing White people, rendering them racially unconscious.
“The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion,” first circulated by Czarist secret police in Russia in 1903, established the blueprint of antisemitic ideology in its modern form.
What is this arch-nemesis of the White race, whose machinations have prevented the natural and inevitable imposition of white supremacy? It is, of course, the Jews. Jews function for today’s White nationalists as they often have for antisemites through the centuries: as the demons stirring an otherwise changing and heterogeneous pot of lesser evils. At the turn of the twentieth century, “The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion”—a forgery, first circulated by Czarist secret police in Russia in 1903, that purports to represent the minutes of a meeting of the international Jewish conspiracy—established the blueprint of antisemitic ideology in its modern form. It did this by recasting the shape-shifting, money-grubbing caricature of the Jew from a religious caricature to a racialized one. Upper-class Jews in Europe might have been assimilating and changing their names, but under the new regime of antisemitic thought, even a Jew who converted to Christianity would still be a Jew.
In 1920, Henry Ford brought the “Protocols” to the United States, printing half a million copies of an adaptation called “The International Jew,” and the text has had a presence in American life ever since. (Walmart stocked copies on its shelves and for a time refused calls to take them down—in 2004.) But it is over the past fifty years, not coincidentally the first period in U.S. history in which most American Jews have regarded themselves as White, that antisemitism has become integral to the architecture of American racism. Because modern antisemitic ideology traffics in fantasies of invisible power, it thrives precisely when its target would seem to be least vulnerable. Thus, in places where Jews were most assimilated—France at the time of the Dreyfus affair, Germany before Hitler came to power—they have functioned as a magic bullet to account for unaccountable contradictions at moments of national crisis. White supremacism through the collapse of Jim Crow was a conservative movement centered on a state-sanctioned anti-Blackness that sought to maintain a racist status quo. The White nationalist movement that evolved from it in the 1970s was a revolutionary movement that saw itself as the vanguard of a new, whites-only state. This latter movement, then and now, positions Jews as the absolute other, the driving force of white dispossession—which means the other channels of its hatred cannot be intercepted without directly taking on antisemitism.
This brings me to the second reason that White nationalist antisemitism must not be dismissed: at the bedrock of the movement is an explicit claim that Jews are a race of their own, and that their ostensible position as White folks in the U.S. represents the greatest trick the devil ever played. The bible for generations of White nationalists is The Turner Diaries, a 1978 dystopian novel by the White supremacist leader William Pierce, published under the pseudonym Andrew Macdonald. The novel takes place in a near-future in which Jews have unleashed Blacks and other undesirables into the center of American public life, and follows the triumph of a clandestine White supremacist organization that snaps into revolutionary action, blowing up both Israel and New York City. Its narrator, a soldier in the White revolutionary army, insists that “trying to distinguish the ‘good’ Jews from the bad ones” is as absurd as the way “some of our thicker-skulled ‘good ol’ boys’ still insist on trying, separating the ‘good niggers’ from the rest of their race.” Contemporary antisemitism, then, does not just enable racism, it also is racism, for in the White nationalist imaginary Jews are a race—the race—that presents an existential threat to Whiteness. Moreover, if antisemitism exists in glaring form at the extreme edge of political discourse, it does not exist in a vacuum; as with every form of hateful ideology, what is explicit on the margins is implicit in the center, in ways we have not yet begun to unpack. This means the notion that Jews long ago and uncontestably became White folks in the U.S.—became, in effect, post-racial—is a myth that we must dispel.
Antisemitism, I discovered, is a particular and potent form of racism so central to White supremacy that Black people would not win our freedom without tearing it down.
I’ve been terrorized by structural racism and White nationalist activism all my life. Contrary to a popular image of White nationalists living exclusively off the grid, far from people of color—who are imagined to live exclusively on it—White nationalists are our neighbors. As a kid in Southern California and as a young adult in Oregon, deep in a West Coast punk scene that in some ways looked a lot like the U.S. in 2017, they were literally mine. Because I grew up Black in a city and a scene where people of color were under attack by White nationalists, the immediacy of the movement’s threat and its hatred of dark-skinned people like my family and friends is something I have always known. I thought I understood what motivated them, and I thought their motivation always looked like me. What I learned when I got to Oregon, as I began to log untold hours trying to understand White nationalists and their ideas, was that antisemitism was the lynchpin of the White nationalist belief system. That within this ideological matrix, Jews—despite and indeed because of the fact that they often read as White—are a different, unassimilable, enemy race that must be exposed, defeated, and ultimately eliminated. Antisemitism, I discovered, is a particular and potent form of racism so central to White supremacy that Black people would not win our freedom without tearing it down.
. . .
Long Beach, California is planted on the line that locals call the Orange Curtain, the border between the working-class and immigrant neighborhoods of southern Los Angeles County and the White conservative suburbs of Orange County. By the time my mom and I moved down from L.A. in 1976, when I was in sixth grade, this endless sprawl of White flight was increasingly interrupted by people of color looking for affordable housing in safe neighborhoods. The civil rights and radical social movements of the 1960s and early Seventies had already been smashed by the state or self-destructed. White nationalism, on the other hand, was part of the scenery. Just down the street from one of our Long Beach apartments was an outpost of the John Birch Society, the foremost right-wing anticommunist organization during the Cold War—now having a Trump-era revival—which officially disavowed White supremacism and antisemitism but fought the civil rights movement and described the communist menace as an international cabal.
I was bussed to school in middle-class suburbs through the fanciest neighborhoods I’d ever seen, where White people rolled down their car windows to call us monkeys or tell us to go back to Africa. At school, White kids initialed SWP on their desks: Supreme White Power. One of our local celebrities was Wally George, a public access television star whose show, “The Hot Seat,” was a forerunner to the hate radio of shock jocks like Rush Limbaugh and Tucker Carson. As teenagers we’d get stoned and watch his show for laughs. But there was fear, too, beneath the laughter. Neonazis, a kid on the bus told us one morning, were marching in a nearby park. I’ve avoided that park to this day.
(Photo courtesy of the author).
The L.A. punk scene of the late 1970s brought me into constant, unavoidable contact with proto-White nationalist youth. The scene was utopian and dystopian, thrilling and violent, gave me friends for life—Black, White, and Filipino, U.S.-born and undocumented—and killed some of them. The scene attracted the brightest minds and the burgeoning sociopaths from across lines of race and class. Chaos broke out at shows and kids formed gangs. There were racist and antiracist skinheads. Someone wearing a swastika armband might be a neonazi or might just be fucking around. The cops stationed outside shows terrorized everyone present. We didn’t expect to make it far into adulthood and we had fun, until the war on drugs intensified and we knew it was a war on us.
When I was twenty-one, working minimum-wage jobs and playing in a garage band called Sloppy 2nds, some friends announced they’d be starting college at the University of Oregon and asked me to come with them. When I imagined anything north of San Francisco and south of Seattle, all I conjured were endless stands of trees. I said no. But working one night shift, pumping gas at the Union 76 station, the Specials song “Do Nothing” came on—“Nothing ever change, oh no/Nothing ever change”—and I knew that if I didn’t leave southern California I would die soon. So I moved with a multiracial group of L.A. punks to the remote college town of Eugene, Oregon and we bunkered down in a house we called Camp Iceberg because we never turned on the heat. Sloppy 2nds disbanded and when it later reformed without me, it became Sublime, the most famous Long Beach band of all time.
(Photos courtesy of the author).
White liberals have long imagined Oregon as a kind of haven. Portland has now largely replaced San Francisco as the destination of choice for White youth with West Coast dreams of alternative living. But it is also where the White liberal imagination becomes a libertarian one: implicitly, it imagines a place free of people of color and therefore pregnant with the possibility of social harmony. But Oregon’s Whiteness—and, particularly, its non-Blackness—was the product of deliberate, violent exclusion; founded by White supremacists before the Civil War, by the 1920s the state boasted the largest Klan membership west of the Mississippi. Klan campaigns often chose Catholics as their immediate targets, because Blacks were not allowed to reside in Oregon until 1926.
The White nationalist movement that emerged in the last decades of the twentieth century grew across the country. But it was Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming that neonazis in the 1980s carved out as the territorial boundaries of their future Whites-only state, a region that self-identified “Aryans” from around the country began to colonize with nothing short of White national sovereignty as their goal. “Ourselves alone willing,” declared White nationalist leader and Aryan Nations organizer Robert Miles, “we shall begin to form the new nation even while in the suffocating embrace of the ZOG.” In White nationalist parlance, the United States is the ZOG, or Zionist Occupied Government. It was in the Northwest that the nascent militia movement—notorious in the 1990s after standoffs between White nationalist compounds and the FBI in Ruby Ridge, Idaho and Waco, Texas—declared war on their country loudly enough they could no longer be ignored.
Ironically, then, if I had moved to Oregon to get away from the unpromising life expectancy for a Black male punk in southern California, the people who had decimated urban life in my home state had gotten there first. In 1978, California’s White conservative voters passed the infamous Proposition 13, which cut taxes and slashed social services, turning the state into a laboratory for the Reagan revolution. Poverty and drug crime increased, and the same White folks who had gutted Californian cities in their flight to the suburbs after World War II now fled up the coast. I arrived in liberal Eugene in 1986, walked into workplace after workplace, and despite my resume, my smile, and my charm—funny, but no one was hiring. I didn’t understand Oregon yet; I thought it was just me.
Meanwhile, the growing clashes between racist and antiracist skinheads in the punk scene that had made life in Long Beach dangerous were a fact of life in Oregon as well, and often took place beyond the reach of the law. As part of their nation-building project in the Pacific Northwest, White supremacists were establishing their own common law courts, their own religions, and their own paramilitaries. They attacked and sometimes killed cops, and the local authorities, cowed, turned a blind eye. So when gangs of neonazi punks terrorized people of color and other vulnerable groups in Portland, it was coalitions of the communities under attack that struck back and eventually beat them off the streets.
I began to fight white nationalism because my world, my scene, my friends, and my music were under neonazi attack.
In the end, I began to fight white nationalism because my world, my scene, my friends, and my music were under neonazi attack. The great postpunk band Fugazi was on a national tour, and an unwanted audience of neonazis had begun turning up at their shows. Fugazi would stop playing, give the neonazis five dollars, and refuse to start up again until they left. A venue in Eugene cancelled a scheduled appearance when rumors spread that skinheads were planning to disrupt the show, and the community erupted in anger. By that time, I was a student and an activist. I had stumbled into student of color politics while attending community college and now co-directed the Black Student Union and Students Against Apartheid at the University of Oregon. I spent a semester in France and while I was away, a 28-year-old Ethiopian international student named Mulugeta Seraw was beaten to death by White supremacists on a Portland street. I returned to a community deeply shaken and in mourning. But it was in the wake of the cancelled show that I founded an organization, Communities Against Hate, in the way these things often happen: no one else wanted to do it. We created a zine called The Race Mixer (“Miscegenation At Its Finest”), reporting on the activity of hate groups in the Northwest; during the standoff at Ruby Ridge, we stood outside the Portland City Hall dressed as Klan members to warn against the spread of the militia movement. Two years later, in Eugene, Communities Against Hate got Fugazi to come back and play.
. . .
The Turner Diaries, a 1978 dystopian novel by the White supremacist leader William Pierce, takes place in a near-future in which Jews have unleashed Blacks and other undesirables into the center of American public life.
When folks ask me, skeptically, where the antisemitism in the White nationalist movement lies, it can feel like being asked to point out a large elephant in a small room. From the outset of my research on White nationalism all those years ago, it was clear that antisemitism in the movement is everywhere, and it is not hidden. “Life is uglier and uglier these days, more and more Jewish,” William Pierce wrote in The Turner Diaries. “No matter how long it takes us and no matter to what lengths we must go, we’ll demand a final settlement of the account between our two races,” the narrator promises at the book’s conclusion. “If the Organization survives this contest, no Jew will—anywhere. We’ll go to the uttermost ends of the earth to hunt down the last of Satan’s spawn.” White nationalism is a fractious countercultural social movement, and its factions often disagree with each other about basic questions of theory and practice. The movement does not take a single, unified position on the Jewish question. But antisemitism has been a throughline from the Posse Comitatus, which set itself against “anti-Christ Jewry”; to David Duke’s refurbished Ku Klux Klan, which abandoned anti-Catholicism in the 1970s in order to focus on “Jewish supremacism”; to the neonazi group The Order, inspired by The Turner Diaries, which in the mid-1980s went on a rampage of robberies and synagogue bombings in Washington state and murdered a Jewish radio talk show host in Denver; to evangelical leaders like Pat Robertson who denounced antisemitism but used its popularity among their followers to promote an implicitly White supremacist “Christian nationalism”; to the contemporary Alt Right named by White nationalist Richard Spencer, which has brought antisemitic thought and imagery to new audiences on the internet—and now at White House press conferences.
Doing primary research on hate groups revealed the contours of the movement’s antisemitism in even more intricate detail. At a time when many larger social justice organizations refused to take White nationalism seriously, regional groups like Communities Against Hate, Coalition for Human Dignity, Montana Human Rights Network, Rural Organizing Project, and dozens of others did much of the groundwork documenting its theories, strategies, and warring currents. That’s why in 1990, for instance, antiracist activists were itching to get our hands on a copy of Vigilantes of Christendom, a self-published book by a writer named Richard Kelly Hoskins influential on the Christian Identity circuit. (I scored a copy by marching into a book vending tent at a White supremacist rally and marketing it to passersby as a life-changing volume I had read at the behest of a White friend.) We learned that Hoskins’s book appropriated the Old Testament story of Phineas, a prominent Israelite who marries outside the faith and is punished for his transgression by a rogue member of the tribe who kills him and his bride with a spear. Historically unpopular within the rabbinic tradition for appearing to endorse this lawless act, Hoskins’s work celebrated the tale. To join the Priesthood, he wrote, an Aryan must act as a latter-day Phineas by perpetrating lone-wolf attacks against inferior races and their White apologists.
The Phineas Priesthood does not, in an organizational sense, appear to actually exist. But for decades, domestic terrorists—like Eric Rudolph, a Christian Identity acolyte who killed people in a string of bombing attacks at Southern gay bars, abortion clinics, and the 1996 summer Olympics in Atlanta—have allegedly seen themselves as Phineas Priests. Like the Phineas Priesthood, one small formation that might stand in for the whole, contemporary White nationalism has no clear center. Yet it does have a deadly commitment to revolutionary violence against racial others, and to the state apparatus perceived to do their bidding. And like the Priesthood, it rests upon a tortuous racial cosmology in which Jews form a monstrous, all-powerful cabal that uses subhuman others, including Blacks and immigrants, as pawns to destroy White nationhood.
Over years of speaking about White nationalism in the 1990s and early 2000s in the Northwest and then the Midwest and South, I found that audiences—whether white or of color, at synagogues or churches, universities or police trainings—generally had a relationship to white nationalism that, at least in one basic sense, was like my own. They knew the scope and seriousness of the movement from personal experience, and—if they didn’t take this for granted to begin with—they were not shocked to discover its antisemitic emphasis. The resistance I have encountered when I address antisemitism has primarily come since I moved to the Northeast seven years ago, and from the most established progressive antiracist leaders, organizations, coalitions, and foundations around the country. It is here that a well-meaning but counterproductive thicket of discourse has grown up insisting that Jews—of Ashkenazi descent, at least—are uncontestably White, and that to challenge this is to deny the workings of White privilege. In other words, when I’m asked, “Where is the antisemitism?,” what I am often really being asked is, “Why should we be talking about antisemitism?”
And indeed—why? Why, when the president of the United States appears bent on removing as many dark-skinned immigrants from the U.S. as he can, and when men who look like me are shot in the street or tortured to death in prison with impunity? Why, when the leadership of some mainstream Jewish communal organizations level false charges of antisemitism in order to silence critique—whether by Jews or non-Jews—of Israeli government policies? Why, after decades of soul-searching by Jewish antiracists has established a seeming consensus that Jews—with Mizrahi and Sephardi Jews posited as an exception—should regard themselves as White allies of people of color, eschewing any identity as a racialized people with their own skins at risk in the fight against White supremacy? Why, when Jews are safe and claims to the contrary serve to justify rather than to challenge racial and other oppressions, like conservative commentator Alan Dershowitz’s cynical recent attempt to discredit antiracist and anticolonial struggles by declaring intersectionality an antisemitic concept? Why, when Jews of European descent are supposedly “White,” have long been, will ever be?
Antisemitism fuels White nationalism, a genocidal movement now enthroned in the highest seats of American power, and fighting antisemitism cuts off that fuel for the sake of all marginalized communities under siege from the Trump regime and the social movement that helped raise it up.
I can answer this question as I have been doing and will continue to do: antisemitism fuels White nationalism, a genocidal movement now enthroned in the highest seats of American power, and fighting antisemitism cuts off that fuel for the sake of all marginalized communities under siege from the Trump regime and the social movement that helped raise it up. To refuse to deal with any ideology of domination, moreover, is to abet it. Contemporary social justice movements are quite clear that to refuse antiracism is an act of racism; to refuse feminism is an act of sexism. To refuse opposition to antisemitism, likewise, is an act of antisemitism. Arguably, not much more should need to be said than that. But I suspect that much more does need to be said. To the hovering question, why should we be talking about antisemitism, I reply, what is it we are afraid we will find out if we do? What historic and contemporary conflicts will be laid bare? And if we recognize that White privilege really is privilege, what will it mean for Jewish antiracists to give up the fantasy that they ever really had it to begin with?
And yet this impasse seems finally to be breaking down. It has long been the case that at moments when the left has suffered another devastating and seemingly inexplicable political loss, my phone rings more often; now that the White nationalist movement has come to national power, it is ringing off the hook. The public and private discussions I’ve had just in the past month suggest a hunger to understand antisemitism—within and outside the Jewish community—the likes of which I have never witnessed before. Certainly many American Jews who regard themselves as White are feeling less so over these recent months as the candidate-turned-president seemed reluctant to disavow his endorsement by David Duke, the most notorious White supremacist in America. Meanwhile, Jewish cemeteries are desecrated even as the administration directs the FBI to double down on the surveillance of Muslims and focus less on the White supremacists who constitute the principal domestic terrorist threat in the United States. Jewish thought leaders and journalists are being harassed on social media. Just last week, White House press secretary Sean Spicer caused a furor by favorably comparing Adolph Hitler to Bashar al-Assad of Syria in remarks that, whether intentionally or not, echoed the apologetics of Holocaust deniers.
We do not yet know where Trump’s coalition will land on the question of White nationalism. That Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner is Jewish should not in itself be of comfort; there were Jews who worked with Hitler, too, and Blacks in the Confederate army. But it is important to note that the White nationalist faction of the administration led by Stephen Bannon—now ousted from his position in the National Security Council—is just one of several warring parties and currently appears to be losing ground. In other words, we do not yet have a fully activated White nationalist administration. (If we did, we’d know.) At the same time, the fact that this remains an open question at all likely invites more than a few ostensibly “White” Jews to contemplate the provisional nature of their Whiteness, their privilege. Privilege, after all, is not the same as power. Privilege can be revoked. And this means too that progressive movements and social change organizations must come to understand that all social movements have influence, including those that seek to construct a society based on exclusion and terror.
Privilege, after all, is not the same as power. Privilege can be revoked. And this means too that progressive movements and social change organizations must come to understand that all social movements have influence, including those that seek to construct a society based on exclusion and terror.
Sometimes I wish I had a better story to tell about how I arrived at this analysis—a story more dramatic or more heartwarming, somehow more about me. If I live and work, as I do, in the kind of daily, intimate Black-Jewish coalitions that were a mainstay of the civil rights movement but are now supposed to be fraught with mutual suspicion, I must have experienced a historically uncanny revelation or been drawn to the Jewish community through some mysterious pull of identification. It’s true that back in Long Beach, on days I opted out of middle school, the man at the corner deli would call me over and give me blueberry blintzes. He was the first person I knew was Jewish. I didn’t know what that meant, but the blintzes were good, and when you don’t have a lot of food, they are even better. But I also remember the delicious sushi a local Japanese restaurant gave me. I still love sushi, and blintzes, but neither helped me to understand racism or social change. There was no kumbaya experience, no light bulb, no moment where I became Paul on the road to Damascus. It was just common sense to study my enemy, White nationalism. And like any worthwhile research project, it has taken time.
A central insistence of antiracist thought over the past several decades is that, as with any social category produced by regimes of power, you don’t choose race, power chooses it for you; it names you. This is why all the well-meaning identification in the world does not make a White person Black. Likewise, as much as I draw inspiration from the Jewish community, and as much as I adore my Jewish partner and friends, it was my organizing against antisemitism as a Black antiracist that first pulled me to the Jewish community, not the other way around. I developed an analysis of antisemitism because I wanted to smash White supremacy; because I wanted to be free. If we acknowledge that White nationalism clearly and forcefully names Jews as non-white, and did so in the very fiber of its emergence as a post-civil rights right-wing revolutionary movement, then we are forced to recognize our own ignorance about the country we thought we lived in. It is time to have that conversation.
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Coinciding with Trump’s first 100 days in Office — a period of time historically used as a benchmark to measure the potential of a new president — PRA will share readings, videos, and tools for organizing to inform our collective resistance based on principles for engaging the regime, defending human rights, and preventing authoritarianism. Daily readings will be posted on our Facebook and Twitter accounts and archived HERE.
Week 2: Islamophobia & Antisemitism
Contemporary Islamophobia rests on a long history of conflict and it is important to to be aware of how Islam was seen in Europe over many centuries, because these tropes are the basis for most contemporary narratives. There are complex interactions among Islamophobic prejudice, discrimination, exclusion, and violence and it may be more accurate to discuss the topic as “Islamophobias” rather than as a single phenomenon.
Antisemitism is a durable and unique historic and contemporary form of prejudice or demonization appearing at various times based on perceptions of religion, ethnicity, and race. In the U.S., Christian supremacist notions created systems of oppression that kept Jews in a second-class status until after WWII. While institutionalized antisemitism as a form of oppression is no longer a major force, prejudice and demonization remain. Although Jews are actually a diverse ethnoreligious group, their biased critics often project on them a racial identity that has motivated intimidation and violence.
Do’s and Don’ts for Bystander Intervention
If you witness public instances of racist, anti-Black, anti-Muslim, anti-Trans, or any other form of oppressive interpersonal violence and harassment, use these tips on how to intervene while considering the safety of everyone involved.
Steve Bannon at the Bloggers Briefing in October 2010. Photo: Don Irvine via Creative Commons.
Stephen Bannon is the former CEO of Brietbart News Network—which he promotes as “the platform for the Alt Right”1—and is now Donald Trump’s chief strategist and a key player on national security issues. Bannon has a history of antisemitism and has been called “one of the foremost peddlers of white supremacist themes and rhetoric.”2 He has expressed admiration for anti-Muslim hate groups, ridiculed the Black Lives Matter movement by remarking that “some people … are naturally aggressive and violent,” and likened civil rights advocacy to Communism.3
Bannon is a key player among a team of advisors who helped Trump develop an “action plan” for his first weeks in office, which included weakening Obamacare, putting a freeze on federal hiring, strengthening immigration enforcement, and preventing refugees and visa-holders from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the U.S.4 The ACLU has called Trump a “one-man constitutional crisis,” and said that his policy proposals—largely developed and backed by Bannon—“blatantly violate the inalienable rights guaranteed by the Constitution.” Taken together, the policies enforced by Trump and Bannon violate the First, Fourth, Fifth, and Eighth Amendments to the Constitution.5
Under Bannon’s leadership, Brietbart News has promoted racist, anti-Muslim, and anti-immigrant ideals, and has published such articles as “The Confederate Flag Proclaims a Glorious Heritage,” “Political Correctness Protects Muslim Rape Culture,”6 and ”Bill Kristol: Republican Spoiler, Renegade Jew,”7 among others. When Bannon was named Trump’s chief strategist, former KKK leader David Duke called it an “excellent selection.”8
During his first week as president, Trump gave Bannon a full seat on the principals committee of the National Security Committee. Trump’s order places Bannon alongside secretaries of state and defense and downgrades the roles of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and director of national intelligence.9 Republican Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) called Bannon’s appointment a “radical departure” and said Trump’s “reorganization” was concerning. CNN national security correspondent Jim Sciutto said it “raises questions about whose voices will be most prominent about key national-security decisions in the country.” 10
In addition to Bannon’s history of racism and xenophobia, he has—unsurprisingly—engaged in misogynistic rhetoric. With Bannon’s guidance, Brietbart News published such pieces as “There’s No Hiring Bias Against Women … They Just Suck at Interviews,” “Does Feminism Make Women Ugly?” and “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy.”11 In 1996, Bannon’s then-wife accused him of domestic violence. In a 2011 radio interview, Bannon likened the women’s movement to “a bunch of dykes,” and in 2015, Brietbart News compared Planned Parenthood to Hitler.12 He was caught on tape calling one of his female employees a “bimbo,” and saying he was going to give her a “reality check,” “kick her ass,” and “ram [her accusations] down her fucking throat.”13
In a 2014 speech to a Christian conservative group, Bannon criticized then praised Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying the “Judeo-Christian West” should take cues from Putin, particularly on issues of nationalism. “Strong nationalist movements in countries make strong neighbors,” Bannon said. These statements came after Bannon claimed the Alt Right is “the voice of the anti-abortion [and] traditional marriage movement [and] we’re winning victory after victory after victory.”14
Is Bannon a White supremacist? Does he seek to infiltrate the administration with White supremacist views and normalize the Alt Right as a patriotic and political movement, rather than a racist, misogynistic, and xenophobic platform? Bannon has gone to great lengths to avoid the “White supremacist” label, and those close to him disavow claims that Bannon has racist and misogynistic attitudes.15 It’s important to note that Bannon refers to White supremacists as “White nationalists,” which fuels the nationalistic beliefs he touted in 2014 while normalizing the ideals of White supremacy. This is also the man who called for every flagpole in the South to proudly fly the Confederate flag—remarks that came just days after nine African Americans were murdered at an historic Black church in Charleston.16
Bannon, a former investment banker with Goldman Sachs’ New York office, earned a master’s degree from Georgetown University and attended Harvard Business School. After leaving Goldman Sachs, he launched a boutique investment firm, which he eventually sold. Bannon is also a former naval officer. Prior to working with Trump, he had no political experience.17
As Bannon increasingly bends Trump’s ear and shifts national focus toward dangerous and alarming ideologies, it’s critical that the American people—and the global community—understand the man behind Trump’s curtain and the potential and irreparable damage his power has already caused—and will continue to cause—until and unless he is overhauled from his position of influence.
Before Richard Spencer came to town in 2011, the tourist destination of Whitefish, Montana, was known mostly to well-heeled aficionados of the sporting life for its splendid vistas and ski slopes. Now it’s making news as a battleground in the fight against a rising tide of antisemitism that has greeted the election of Donald Trump.1)Jonathan Mahler, “Anti-Semitic Posts, Many From Trump Supporters, Surge on Twitter,” New York Times, October 19, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/19/us/politics/anti-semitism-trump-supporters-twitter.html.
As president and director of the National Policy Institute (NPI), a far-right, White nationalist organization, Spencer has put Whitefish on the map in a whole new way, roiling the waters of civic life, as local activists and civic leaders have sought to counter the unwelcome notoriety conferred upon their idyllic environs by Spencer, the self-styled spokesman for the racist, misogynist movement he has branded as the Alternative Right, known by the shorthand, Alt-Right. Most recently, Jewish residents of Whitefish (and at least one person who was apparently mistakenly identified as Jewish) have found themselves harassed by neonazis and White nationalists who object to an effort by a local real estate agent to help Spencer’s mother, Sherry, sell a commercial building she owns in town, and her urging of Sherry Spencer to publicly disavow her son’s stated beliefs.2)Christine Hauser, “After Neo-Nazi Posting, Police in Whitefish, Mont., Step Up Patrols,” New York Times, December 20, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/20/us/whitefish-montana-jews-daily-stormer.html. That realtor, Tanya Gersh, is Jewish.
Sherry Spencer has since publicly complained that she is being unfairly targeted for the beliefs of her son,3)Sherry Spencer, “Does Love Really Live Here?”, Medium, December 16, 2016, https://medium.com/@recnepss/does-love-really-live-here-fff159563ba3#.lq1nwa2lz. failing to note that, as of December 2015, NPI was registered with the Montana secretary of state as an entity that conducts its business from Sherry Spencer’s six-bedroom home in Whitefish.4)Business Entity Registration (D231213), Montana Secretary of State.
In the world of the Right, no story satisfies so completely as that of an upstanding member of the dominant culture allegedly “victimized” by a minority group or a disadvantaged group’s champions. Witness the spate of so-called “religious freedom” claims by right-wing Christian evangelicals against measures intended to provide equal access to LGBTQ people, as is the case with North Carolina’s anti-trans HB2 measure, or women, as with Supreme Court challenges to the contraception mandate that is part of the Affordable Care Act. During the presidential campaign, President-elect Trump stoked the flames of resentment by telling his mostly White supporters that they were the victims of misplaced, left-wing “political correctness.” His fans ate it up.
Richard Spencer is the president and director of the National Policy Institute (NPI), a far-right, White nationalist organization.
* * *
In the wake of a now-notorious November 19 NPI gathering in Washington, D.C., headlined by her son, Sherry Spencer found herself in a tough spot with many of her Whitefish neighbors, some of whom were discussing conducting protests outside the commercial building she owns.5)Joseph Goldstein, “Alt-Right Gathering Exults in Trump Election With Nazi-Era Salute,” New York Times, November 20, 2016,
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/21/us/alt-right-salutes-donald-trump.html. The NPI conference drew national attention not just as a coming out party for the White nationalist supporters of Trump’s election, but for Richard Spencer’s grand finale, in which he quoted Nazi propaganda in German and finished with a salute to the new regime reminiscent of scenes of rallies led by Adolf Hitler. “Hail Trump!” Spencer shouted. “Hail our people! Hail victory!” With that last “hail”—the English translation of the Nazi chant “Sieg heil”—a number of participants responded with the stiff-armed Roman salute used by the Nazis.6)Daniel Lombroso and Yoni Appelbaum, “’Hail Trump!’: White Nationalists Salute the President-Elect,” The Atlantic, November 21, 2016, http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/11/richard-spencer-speech-npi/508379/.
Spencer was already a star on the Far Right, but with this stunt he grabbed the spotlight of national media. Many in Whitefish were alarmed by the racist in their midst; business owners were left to ponder what it could mean to draw tourists to a town whose most famous resident was known for his emulation of one of history’s greatest monsters.
Love Lives Here is an affiliate of the Montana Human Rights Network, which monitors and counters the activities of far-right groups in the state.
In 2014, long before Spencer’s Washington confab took place, activists with the community group Love Lives Here (an affiliate of the Montana Human Rights Network, which monitors and counters the activities of far-right groups in the state) organized Whitefish residents to pass a resolution promoting diversity and tolerance in the city council. The resolution came about after proponents abandoned an earlier attempt to ban “hate groups” such as NPI from doing business in the municipality. The Flathead Beacon, a local news outlet, reported that supporters of the no-hate-group measure couldn’t come up with a proposal likely to survive First Amendment challenges.7)Tristan Scott, “Whitefish Council Adopts Resolution Supporting Diversity, Tolerance,” Flathead Beacon, December 2, 2014, http://flatheadbeacon.com/2014/12/02/whitefish-council-adopts-resolution-supporting-diversity-tolerance/.
But with Trump’s unexpected success in the Republican primary, and the subsequent appointment of former Breitbart News executive Stephen K. Bannon as his campaign CEO, Spencer began to emerge from his semi-obscurity. Bannon used Spencer’s coinage for the gathered strands of the White supremacist fringe that were weaving themselves into a movement, boasting to Mother Jones reporter Sarah Posner that under his leadership, Breitbart had become “the platform for the alt-right.”8)Sarah Posner, “How Donald Trump’s New Campaign Chief Created an Online Haven for White Nationalists,” Mother Jones, August 22, 2016, http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/08/stephen-bannon-donald-trump-alt-right-breitbart-news. Bannon’s and Spencer’s term, Alt-Right, represents a collection of virulent groups with sometimes conflicting ideologies but common enemies, coming together to demonize entire categories of people, whether determined by race, religion, sexual orientation or gender. As Spencer’s star rose in relation to Bannon’s elevation and Trump’s amplification via Twitter of hateful, far-right voices,9)Jason Easley, “His Racism Is No Accident: Trump Has Retweeted White Supremacists 75 Times,” PoliticsUSA, July 3, 2016, http://www.politicususa.com/2016/07/03/proof-racism-accidenttrump-retweeted-white-supremacists-75-times.html. reporters from national and international outlets10)Josh Harkinson, “Meet the White Nationalist Trying to Ride the Trump Train to Lasting PowerMother Jones, October 27, 2016,http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/10/richard-spencer-trump-alt-right-white-nationalist.11)Aleem Maqbool, “US election: The white supremacist grateful for Donald Trump,” BBC, September 22, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/election-us-2016-37433759. began making pilgrimages to Whitefish. They weren’t there for the skiing or the scenery. They came for Spencer.
After video of Spencer’s Nazi-ish speech hit the airwaves of national television outlets, Sherry Spencer called realtor Tanya Gersh on November 22. A Gersh family advisor says that Sherry Spencer initiated the call in order to discuss the possibility of selling the building. (Following threats to her family, Gersh is not speaking to media.) Sherry Spencer disputes that account, telling PRA via email that she called Gersh at the request of one of the building’s tenants, who, according to Sherry Spencer, was “extremely distressed.” The tenant, Sherry Spencer says, told her that Tanya Gersh “notified” her that “there would be up to 200 picketers and national media at the building.”
Sherry Spencer, in her comments to PRA, said that she made the call to Gersh “expecting to explain that the building was strictly a business (two retail spaces below and four vacation rentals above).” She continued: “The building has absolutely nothing to do with my son’s politics, it never has, and he has no ownership in the building. In spite of this explanation, Tanya Gersh told me that I must sell the building to make reparations to the community for my son’s ideas.”
According to 2014 legal documents filed with the City of Whitefish Planning & Building Department, Richard Spencer was the landowner at that time of the property on which Sherry Spencer erected her building.12)Subdivision Exemption Affidavit, signed by Richard Spencer as “landowner,” City of Whitefish Planning & Building Department, June 24, 2014. (In 2015, he transferred ownership to his mother, according to legal filings.13)Unanimous Written Consent in Lieu of Special Meeting of Roediger Property, Inc., January 13, 2015) The commercial property is a mixed-use affair that houses several retail businesses, offices and rental apartments for tourists.
In emails sent from Gersh on November 22 and 23 to Sherry Spencer, published online by the recipient,14)Emails to Sherry Spencer from Tanya Gersh, as archived here: https://www.scribd.com/document/334219220/Emails. Gersh offers to help Sherry Spencer sell the building for the lowest discounted broker’s fee her employer will allow her. She also urges Sherry Spencer to make a contribution from the proceeds of the sale to the Montana Human Rights Network, and to publish a statement disavowing Richard Spencer’s views, which Gersh took the liberty of drafting. It is clear from Gersh’s tone that she believes Sherry Spencer to be on board with the plan. In the earliest email published by Sherry Spencer, Gersh writes: “Sherry, thank you for talking so openly with me today. I just can’t imagine what you are going through”—an apparent reference to the condemnation of her son by many in the community following Richard Spencer’s “sieg heil” moment of fame. Gersh goes on to say that she is consulting with her boss regarding a listing price. “I put out many fires today just by mentioning the possible sale,” Gersh continues. “All is very quiet right now waiting for your announcement.” (You can read the full text of the emails here: https://www.scribd.com/document/334219220/Emails.)
But no announcement was forthcoming. Instead, Sherry Spencer penned an essay and posted it on Medium,15)Sherry Spencer, “Does Love Really Live Here?” Medium, December 16, 2016, https://medium.com/@recnepss/does-love-really-live-here-fff159563ba3#.lq1nwa2lz. accusing Gersh of threatening pickets of her building if Spencer didn’t sell. “Whatever you think about my son’s ideas — they are, after all, ideas — in what moral universe is it right for the ‘sins’ of the son to be visited upon the mother?” she wrote.
And with that, the gates of hell opened, as Andrew Anglin, proprietor of the neonazi website The Daily Stormer, sicced his followers on Gersh and other Whitefish residents. He published addresses for and photographs of his targets, which included one of Gersh’s sons, who is still a child. On the photos he published of the Gersh family and Jewish civic leaders, Anglin Photoshopped a facsimile of the yellow Star of David badge that Jews were required to wear in Nazi Germany. Anglin complained of news reports in “the lying Jew media”16)Andrew Anglin, “Lying Jew Media Says Daily Stormer “Threatened” Jewish Racketeers Extorting the Spencer Family,” The Daily Stormer, December 19, 2016 that he said misrepresented the situation in Whitefish, and tarred Love Lives Here as a terrorist group. 17)Andrew Anglin, “Operation Whitefish: New List of Collaborators with Jew Racketeers – TAKE ACTION,” The Daily Stormer, December 22, 2016
In another example of crude image manipulation, Anglin took a Nazi propaganda poster that features an image of a giant pointing hand and the words “Achtung—Jude!” (Attention, Jew!), and superimposed images of the faces of Gersh and her young son on the cartoon characters being pointed at on the original poster.18)Andrew Anglin, “19)(Neverending Story): Jews Respond to Chaos! in Whitefish Montana,” The Daily Stormer, December 21, 2016. He published the boy’s Twitter handle as well.20)Andrew Anglin, “Jews Targeting Richard Spencer’s Mother for Harassment and Extortion – TAKE ACTION!”The Daily Stormer, December 16, 2016.
As the abuse flooded in, Gersh shut down her website, and assumed a low profile. Local businesses received hateful phone calls and were trolled in online reviews. (The Buffalo Café was targeted apparently because the neonazis mistook the Germanic surname of the owner as Jewish.21)Vince Devlin, “Whitefish Dealing with Backlash from White Supremacist Website,” The Missoulian, December 22, 2016, http://missoulian.com/news/state-and-regional/whitefish-dealing-with-backlash-from-white-supremacist-website/article_ea5e7c61-ffdc-5044-8bca-79cda3a6ef9b.html.)
The Montana Human Rights Network has since fielded threatening comments on the group’s website and in social media.
At the Montana Human Rights Network, co-director Rachel Carroll-Rivas fielded threatening comments on the group’s website and in social media. She read one to The New York Times: “All of you deserve a bullet through your skull. Choke on a shotgun and die. All of you would be of greater worth to society as human fertilizer than citizens.”22)Christine Hauser, “After Neo-Nazi Posting, Police in Whitefish, Mont., Step Up Patrols,” New York Times, December 20, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/20/us/whitefish-montana-jews-daily-stormer.html.
On December 17, Sherry Spencer appended a caveat to her Medium essay, disavowing the harassment, but complaining that she and her family had been bullied on social media, too. According to The New York Times, she and her husband, Rand Spencer, published a letter to the editor of a local newspaper, The Daily Inter Lake, in which they wrote: “We do not endorse the idea of white nationalism.”23)Ibid. See also: http://www.dailyinterlake.com/article/20161218/ARTICLE/161219988.
Yet White nationalism—the idea of creating a White ethno-state through exclusion and segregation—is just one part of Richard Spencer’s ideology.24)“Richard Bertrand Spencer,” Southern Poverty Law Center, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/individual/richard-bertrand-spencer-0. While only Sherry Spencer knows what she believes, she attended a 2010 meeting of the H.L. Mencken Club in Maryland at which her son appeared on a panel.25)Program for the H.L. Mencken Club 2010 conference: http://hlmenckenclub.org/2010-conference/. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Mencken Club is a White nationalist organization26)Stephen Piggott, “The white nationalist H.L. Mencken Club gathers tonight for its ninth annual conference,” Southern Poverty Law Center, November 4, 2016. https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2016/11/04/white-nationalists-gather-baltimore-ninth-annual-hl-mencken-club-conference. co-founded by Paul Gottfried, who is described by SPLC as “a fixture on the paleoconservative and white nationalist right.”27)Ryan Lenz, “White Nationalist Academics to Gather This Weekend for H.l. Mencken Club Annual Meeting,”Southern Poverty Law Center, November 1, 2013, https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2013/11/01/white-nationalist-academics-gather-weekend-hl-mencken-club-annual-meeting. The Mencken Club was named for the 20th Century satirist who was revealed after his death to have had Nazi sympathies, leaving behind a journal peppered with racist and antisemitic comments.28)“Mencken Was Pro-Nazi, His Diary Shows,” Associated Press, December 5, 1989,
http://articles.latimes.com/1989-12-05/news/mn-198_1_h-l-mencken On its own website, the Mencken Club’s leaders describe it as “an organization for independent-minded intellectuals and academics of the Right.”29)The Mencken Club website, “About” page: http://hlmenckenclub.org/about/ The “About” page proudly declares: “From the standpoint of conservatism, inc., our group belongs to the ‘basket of deplorables’ that Hillary Clinton denounced in her presidential campaign.”30)The Mencken Club website, “About” page: http://hlmenckenclub.org/about/
Photographs from the 2010 event posted on the Mencken Club website show Sherry Spencer chatting with featured speaker Peter Brimelow, the fiercely anti-immigrant White nationalist31)“Peter Brimelow,” Extremist Files, Southern Poverty Law Center, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/individual/peter-brimelow. who also figured prominently at NPI’s November gathering.32)Author notes from November 19, 2016, NPI conference, “Become Who We Are.”
In a video commentary published on December 20, however, Richard Spencer took to YouTube not only to defend his mother, but to dismiss the online harassment of Whitefish’s Jews as mere “pixels” and “mean words.”33)Richard Spencer, “The Attacks on My Mother,” YouTube, December 20, 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lo21-mTYqho. His mother, meanwhile, he said, was threatened with deprivation of her livelihood, presumably by any potential exercise of the First Amendment by his opponents outside of his mother’s building. He also implied that he wasn’t much of a Whitefish presence. During a December 26 podcast interview with White supremacist leader David Duke, the former Imperial Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, Spencer said that while he spends “a lot of time” in Whitefish, “I do not do anything here that is political.” He also noted in the interview that he spends part of his time in a suburb of Washington, D.C. (On its website, NPI lists an Arlington, Virginia, post office box as its address.34)“Donating by Mail,” National Policy Institute, http://www.npiamerica.org/donation-by-mail.) But just 10 days earlier, Spencer told The Missoulian that he was mulling a run for Congress for the Montana seat likely to be vacated by Ryan Zinke, who was tapped by Trump to lead the Department of the Interior.35)Vince Devlin and Andrew Schneider, “White nationalist Spencer says he may seek Zinke’s seat,” , The Missoulian, December 16, 2016,
During the interview with Duke, Spencer complained further of his mother’s treatment in Whitefish—at the hands, he implied, of the town’s Jewish community. In the interview, Duke urged Spencer to describe “the tribal nature of the vicious attack upon you… [by] those tribal racists who support the tribal ethno-state of Israel…”36)“The David Duke Show w/ Guest Richard Spencer,” YouTube, December 26, 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IBX3P-ZcAXY&feature=youtu.be.
“Certainly the chief leaders in this case against me were not only Jews,” Spencer replies, “but in many cases, literally rabbis.” (Leaders of Love Lives Here include two local rabbis, including one whose wife Spencer has described as “shockingly ugly.”37)“The David Duke Show w/ Guest Richard Spencer,” YouTube, December 26, 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IBX3P-ZcAXY&feature=youtu.be.)
When Duke suggests that the Jews of Whitefish are trying to deprive Spencer of his Montana home, Spencer concurs and responds, “I mean, I don’t want my daughter growing up in Washington, D.C., [for]…many reasons—but you can imagine one of the big ones.”38)“The David Duke Show w/ Guest Richard Spencer,” YouTube, December 26, 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IBX3P-ZcAXY&feature=youtu.be. (One assumes Spencer is referring to the fact that the population of the District of Columbia is nearly 50 percent Black.39)Mike DeBonis, “D.C., where blacks are no longer a majority, has a new African American affairs director,” The Washington Post, February 4, 2015,
Several newspapers in Montana have run editorials not only denouncing the hate being visited upon the Jews of Whitefish, but urging citizens to stand up against it by placing Hanukkah menorahs in their windows, even if they’re not Jewish. For those who didn’t have menorahs, The Missoulian and The Daily Inter Lake published downloadable posters featuring the image of menorah for readers to display.40)“Editorial: Stand Up Against Evil And Stand With Your Neighbors,” Daily Inter Lake, December 21, 2016, http://www.dailyinterlake.com/article/20161221/ARTICLE/16122995441)Laurie Franklin, “Let us share the light,” The Missoulian, December 20, 2016, http://missoulian.com/news/opinion/columnists/let-us-share-the-light/article_12a5d1a1-5dd0-5bfa-96ac-659123bbf7e7.html
An image on Daily Stormer advertises a January “March on Whitefish” featuring photos of Tanya Gesh and her young son among others above a concentration camp style photo. PRA has blacked out the photos of the targeted individuals.
The Daily Stormer’s Andrew Anglin doubled down, calling for 200 followers (including skinheads “bused in” from the Bay Area42)Andrew Anglin, “Operation Whitefish: New List of Collaborators with Jew Racketeers – TAKE ACTION,”The Daily Stormer, December 22, 2016) to muster for an armed march through Whitefish in mid-January. The march, he said, “will be against Jews, Jewish businesses and everyone who supports either”43)Andrew Anglin, “Operation Whitefish: New List of Collaborators with Jew Racketeers – TAKE ACTION,”The Daily Stormer, December 22, 2016 unless opponents of the White nationalist and supremacist movements stop talking about the role of Spencer’s family in advancing his ideas.44)Gwen Florio, “White supremacist site offers to call off armed march in Whitefish,” The Missoulian, December 25, 2016, http://missoulian.com/news/state-and-regional/white-supremacist-site-offers-to-call-off-armed-march-in/article_44676a15-fcb9-5f0f-8140-68aaf9c26e50.html.
If that seems like a contradiction—a proud White supremacist vowing to stage a threatening, and potentially violent, protest unless a historically victimized group promises to limit their own protests—it shouldn’t. In the worldview of many on the Right, the First Amendment protections afforded by the U.S. Constitution belong solely to adherents of right-wing tenets. For anyone else to claim the right to speak against them is an affront—an example of the victimization of the dominant class, the people on whom Far Right ideology confers the ownership of the nation. Those who resist that social order, who claim rights of their own, are labeled aggressors. With the Right’s assertion of victimhood comes the justification for extreme measures. It’s an old trick from the authoritarian’s bag. In Whitefish, Montana, the price of resistance to White nationalism grows ever higher, as the false victim-consciousness promoted by neonazis fans the flames of hatred.
Jonathan Mahler, “Anti-Semitic Posts, Many From Trump Supporters, Surge on Twitter,” New York Times, October 19, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/19/us/politics/anti-semitism-trump-supporters-twitter.html.
Christine Hauser, “After Neo-Nazi Posting, Police in Whitefish, Mont., Step Up Patrols,” New York Times, December 20, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/20/us/whitefish-montana-jews-daily-stormer.html.
Sherry Spencer, “Does Love Really Live Here?”, Medium, December 16, 2016, https://medium.com/@recnepss/does-love-really-live-here-fff159563ba3#.lq1nwa2lz.
Business Entity Registration (D231213), Montana Secretary of State.
Joseph Goldstein, “Alt-Right Gathering Exults in Trump Election With Nazi-Era Salute,” New York Times, November 20, 2016,
Daniel Lombroso and Yoni Appelbaum, “’Hail Trump!’: White Nationalists Salute the President-Elect,” The Atlantic, November 21, 2016, http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/11/richard-spencer-speech-npi/508379/.
Tristan Scott, “Whitefish Council Adopts Resolution Supporting Diversity, Tolerance,” Flathead Beacon, December 2, 2014, http://flatheadbeacon.com/2014/12/02/whitefish-council-adopts-resolution-supporting-diversity-tolerance/.
Sarah Posner, “How Donald Trump’s New Campaign Chief Created an Online Haven for White Nationalists,” Mother Jones, August 22, 2016, http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/08/stephen-bannon-donald-trump-alt-right-breitbart-news.
Jason Easley, “His Racism Is No Accident: Trump Has Retweeted White Supremacists 75 Times,” PoliticsUSA, July 3, 2016, http://www.politicususa.com/2016/07/03/proof-racism-accidenttrump-retweeted-white-supremacists-75-times.html.
Josh Harkinson, “Meet the White Nationalist Trying to Ride the Trump Train to Lasting PowerMother Jones, October 27, 2016,http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/10/richard-spencer-trump-alt-right-white-nationalist.
Aleem Maqbool, “US election: The white supremacist grateful for Donald Trump,” BBC, September 22, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/election-us-2016-37433759.
Subdivision Exemption Affidavit, signed by Richard Spencer as “landowner,” City of Whitefish Planning & Building Department, June 24, 2014.
Unanimous Written Consent in Lieu of Special Meeting of Roediger Property, Inc., January 13, 2015
Emails to Sherry Spencer from Tanya Gersh, as archived here: https://www.scribd.com/document/334219220/Emails.
Sherry Spencer, “Does Love Really Live Here?” Medium, December 16, 2016, https://medium.com/@recnepss/does-love-really-live-here-fff159563ba3#.lq1nwa2lz.
Andrew Anglin, “Lying Jew Media Says Daily Stormer “Threatened” Jewish Racketeers Extorting the Spencer Family,” The Daily Stormer, December 19, 2016
Andrew Anglin, “Operation Whitefish: New List of Collaborators with Jew Racketeers – TAKE ACTION,” The Daily Stormer, December 22, 2016
Andrew Anglin, “(((Neverending Story
(Neverending Story): Jews Respond to Chaos! in Whitefish Montana,” The Daily Stormer, December 21, 2016.
Andrew Anglin, “Jews Targeting Richard Spencer’s Mother for Harassment and Extortion – TAKE ACTION!”The Daily Stormer, December 16, 2016.
Vince Devlin, “Whitefish Dealing with Backlash from White Supremacist Website,” The Missoulian, December 22, 2016, http://missoulian.com/news/state-and-regional/whitefish-dealing-with-backlash-from-white-supremacist-website/article_ea5e7c61-ffdc-5044-8bca-79cda3a6ef9b.html.
Ibid. See also: http://www.dailyinterlake.com/article/20161218/ARTICLE/161219988.
“Richard Bertrand Spencer,” Southern Poverty Law Center, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/individual/richard-bertrand-spencer-0.
Program for the H.L. Mencken Club 2010 conference: http://hlmenckenclub.org/2010-conference/.
Stephen Piggott, “The white nationalist H.L. Mencken Club gathers tonight for its ninth annual conference,” Southern Poverty Law Center, November 4, 2016. https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2016/11/04/white-nationalists-gather-baltimore-ninth-annual-hl-mencken-club-conference.
Ryan Lenz, “White Nationalist Academics to Gather This Weekend for H.l. Mencken Club Annual Meeting,”Southern Poverty Law Center, November 1, 2013, https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2013/11/01/white-nationalist-academics-gather-weekend-hl-mencken-club-annual-meeting.
“Mencken Was Pro-Nazi, His Diary Shows,” Associated Press, December 5, 1989,
The Mencken Club website, “About” page: http://hlmenckenclub.org/about/
“Peter Brimelow,” Extremist Files, Southern Poverty Law Center, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/individual/peter-brimelow.
Author notes from November 19, 2016, NPI conference, “Become Who We Are.”
Richard Spencer, “The Attacks on My Mother,” YouTube, December 20, 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lo21-mTYqho.
“Donating by Mail,” National Policy Institute, http://www.npiamerica.org/donation-by-mail.
Vince Devlin and Andrew Schneider, “White nationalist Spencer says he may seek Zinke’s seat,” , The Missoulian, December 16, 2016,
36, 37, 38.
“The David Duke Show w/ Guest Richard Spencer,” YouTube, December 26, 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IBX3P-ZcAXY&feature=youtu.be.
Mike DeBonis, “D.C., where blacks are no longer a majority, has a new African American affairs director,” The Washington Post, February 4, 2015,
“Editorial: Stand Up Against Evil And Stand With Your Neighbors,” Daily Inter Lake, December 21, 2016, http://www.dailyinterlake.com/article/20161221/ARTICLE/161229954
Laurie Franklin, “Let us share the light,” The Missoulian, December 20, 2016, http://missoulian.com/news/opinion/columnists/let-us-share-the-light/article_12a5d1a1-5dd0-5bfa-96ac-659123bbf7e7.html
Andrew Anglin, “Operation Whitefish: New List of Collaborators with Jew Racketeers – TAKE ACTION,”The Daily Stormer, December 22, 2016
Gwen Florio, “White supremacist site offers to call off armed march in Whitefish,” The Missoulian, December 25, 2016, http://missoulian.com/news/state-and-regional/white-supremacist-site-offers-to-call-off-armed-march-in/article_44676a15-fcb9-5f0f-8140-68aaf9c26e50.html.
“The New Fascists” An interview with author Spencer Sunshine by Public Eye editor Abby Scher.
On September 8, 2007 in Sydney, Australia, the antiglobalization movement mobilized once again against neoliberal economic policies, this time to oppose the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) summit. Just as during the protests against the World Trade Organization in Seattle, Washington, in 1999, the streets were filled with an array of groups, such as environmentalists, socialists, and human rights advocates. And also just like in Seattle, there was a “Black Bloc”—a group of militant activists, usually left-wing anarchists, who wore masks and dressed all in black.
In Sydney, the Black Bloc assembled and hoisted banners proclaiming “Globalization is Genocide.” But when fellow demonstrators looked closely, they realized these Black Bloc marchers were “National-Anarchists”—local fascists dressed as anarchists who were infiltrating the demonstration. The police had to protect the interlopers from being expelled by irate activists.
Since then, the National-Anarchists have joined other marches in Australia and in the United States; in April 2008, they protested on behalf of Tibet against the Chinese government during the Olympic torch relay in both Canberra, Australia, and San Francisco. In September, U.S. National-Anarchists protested the Folsom Street Fair, an annual gay “leather” event held in San Francisco.
While these may seem like isolated incidents of quirky subterfuge, these quasi-anarchists are an international export of a new version of fascism that represent a significant shift in the trends and ideology of the movement. National-Anarchists have adherents in Australia, Great Britain, the United States, and throughout continental Europe, and in turn are part of a larger trend of fascists who appropriate elements of the radical Left. Like “Autonomous Nationalists” in Germany and the genteel intellectual fascism of the European New Right, the National-Anarchists appropriate leftist ideas and symbols, and use them to obscure their core fascist values. The National-Anarchists, for example, denounce the centralized state, capitalism, and globalization — but in its place they seek to establish a system of ethnically pure villages.
In 1990, Chip Berlet showed in Right Woos Left how the extreme Right in the United States has made numerous overtures to the Left. “The fascist Right has wooed the progressive Left primarily around opposition to such issues as the use of U.S. troops in foreign military interventions, support for Israel, the problems of CIA misconduct and covert action, domestic government repression, privacy rights, and civil liberties.”1 More recently, the fascist Right has also tried to build alliances based on concern for the environment, hardline antizionism, and opposition to globalization.
Fascism has become increasingly international in the post World War II period, particularly with the rise of the internet. One of the most obvious results of this internationalization is the continual flow of European ideas to the United States; for example, the Nazi skinhead movement originated in Britain and quickly spread to the United States. In trade, Americans have exported the Ku Klux Klan to Europe and smuggled Holocaust denial and neo-Nazi literature into Germany.2
The National-Anarchist idea has spread around the world over the internet. The United States hosts only a few web sites, but the trend so far has been towards a steady increase. But it represents what many see as the potential new face of fascism. By adopting selected symbols, slogans and stances of the left-wing anarchist movement in particular, this new form of postwar fascism (like the European New Right) hopes to avoid the stigma of the older tradition, while injecting its core fascist values into the newer movement of antiglobalization activists and related decentralized political groups. Simultaneously, National-Anarchists hope to draw members (such as reactionary counter-culturalists and British National Party members) away from traditional White Nationalist groups to their own blend of what they claim is “neither left nor right.”3
Despite this claim, National-Anarchist ideology is centered directly on what scholar Roger Griffin defines as the core of fascism: “palingenetic populist ultranationalism.” “Palingenetic,” he says, is a “generic term for the vision of a radically new beginning which follows a period of destruction or perceived dissolution.” Palingenetic ultranationalism therefore is “one whose mobilizing vision is that of the national community rising phoenix like after a period of encroaching decadence which all but destroyed it.”4
For the National-Anarchists, this “ultranationalism” is also their main ideological innovation: a desire to create a stateless (and hence “anarchist”) system of ethnically pure villages. Troy Southgate, their leading ideologue, says “we just want to stress that National-Anarchism is an essential racialist phenomenon. That’s what makes it different.” 5
Why should we pay attention to such new forms of fascism? There is no immediate threat of fascism taking power in the established western liberal democracies; the rise to power of Mussolini and Hitler in the 1920s and 1930s occurred in a different era and under different social conditions than those that exist today. Nonetheless, much is at stake.
These new permutations have the potential of playing havoc on social movements, drawing activists out from the Left into the Right. For example, when the Soviet Union collapsed, a number of non-Communist left-wing groups suddenly emerged in Russia offering the promise of a more egalitarian society sans dictatorship. However, the group that became dominant was the National Bolsheviks, who are probably the most successful contemporary Third Position fascist group (see glossary). Catching the imagination of disaffected youth by taking up many left-wing stances and engaging in direct action, they successfully obliterated their rivals by absorbing their demographic base en masse. The left-wing groups disappeared and the National Bolsheviks remain a powerful political movement today with a huge grassroots and youth base. As they grow older, they will remain influential in Russian politics for decades.
Even when small, Jeffrey Bale suggests it is important to pay attention to these fascist sects because they can serve as transmission belts for unconventional political ideas, influence more mainstream groups, and link up into transnational networks.6
Over the years, the antiglobalization movement has also created an opening for these Left-Right alliances. The Dutch antiracist group De Fabel van de illegaal pulled out of the antiglobalization movement in 1998 because of its links with far right forces. Pat Buchanan, the paleoconservative politician who holds racist and antisemitic views, spoke on a Teamsters Union platform during the demonstrations against the IMF/ World Bank in Washington D.C. in April 2000.7 Meanwhile, racists like Louis Beam (who has worked with the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and Aryan Nations) and Matt Hale (of the World Church of the Creator) praised the Seattle demonstrations against the World Trade Organization in 1999.8
At the same time, parts of the anti-imperialist Left (including some anarchists) have built alliances with reactionary Islamist movements such as Hamas and Hezbollah, called for open acceptance of antisemitism, and embraced nationalist struggles.9 This history prompts many cosmopolitan anarchists to worry that the overtures of newstyle fascists to radical Leftists could meet with some success.
SECT HISTORY AND STRATEGY
The National-Anarchists have their origin in the National Front, a far right British party with an impressive 1977 dark horse electoral success based on their xenophobic anti-immigrant platform. After the election, the group fractured into many internal factions before splintering into different sects. Troy Southgate, the main English-language National-Anarchist ideologue, is a veteran of this internecine maze. He joined the National Front in 1984, and subsequently joined a splinter group that eventually split again before becoming the National Revolutionary Faction (NRF), a small cadre organization openly calling for armed guerilla warfare.10
In the late 1990s however, the NRF started to morph into the National-Anarchist movement; the two were referred to interchangeably for a number of years, until the NRF disbanded in 2003.11 Southgate’s ideology does not seem to have changed substantially with the shift, and he continues to circulate his NRF-era essays.
The NRF’s only known public action as “National-Anarchists” was to hold an Anarchist Heretics Fair in October 2000, in which a number of fringe-of the-fringe groups participated. However, when they attempted a second fair, a variety of anarchists and anti-fascists blocked it from being held. After the same thing happened in 2001, Southgate and the NRF abandoned this strategy and retreated to purely internet-based propaganda.12
The fair reflected Southgate’s adaptation of the Trotskyist practice of entrism — the strategy of entering other political groups in order to either take them over or break off with a part of their membership.13 Southgate argues, “The NRF uses cadre activists to infiltrate political groups, institutions and services… It is part of our strategy to do this work and, if we are to have any success in the future, it is work that must be done on an increasing basis.”14 He claims that the NRF infiltrated the 1999 Stop the City demonstration and the 2000 May Day protest, as well as activities of the Hunt Saboteurs Association and the Animal Liberation Front.15
Beyond its tactical uses, entrism is a philosophy for the National-Anarchists as they recruit members from the Left and in particular anarchist groups. Instead of simply calling themselves “racist communitarians,” they purposely adopt the label “anarchist” and specifically appropriate anarchist imagery. Examples include the use of a purple star (anarchists typically use either a black star, or a half black star, with the other half designating their specific tendency, i.e., red for unionists, green for environmentalists, etc.), or a red and black star superimposed with a Celtic cross (the latter being a typical symbol of White Nationalists). The allied New Right factions in Australia and the UK also use the “chaos symbol” —an eight pointed star —which they adapt from left-wing counter-cultural anarchists.
The fascist use of the “black bloc” political formation at demonstrations is also an appropriation of anarchist and far left forms. In recent years, German fascists calling themselves Autonomous Nationalists have marched in large black blocs, waving black flags (a symbol of traditional anarchism), and even appropriated the symbolism of the German antifascist groupings.16
As far back as 1984, Pierre André Taguieff, an expert on the European New Right, condemned the “tactic of ideological scrambling systematically deployed by GRECE,” a rightwing think tank that embraced some leftist critiques of advanced capitalism while promoting core fascist ideas.17 Here we see that ideological scrambling deployed on a grassroots level.
It needs to be stressed that, despite the name, National-Anarchists have not emerged from inside the anarchist movement, and, intellectually, their origins are not based in its ideas. Anarchists typically see themselves as part of a cosmopolitan and explicitly antinationalist left-wing movement which seeks to dismantle both capitalism and the centralized state. They seek instead to replace them with decentralized, non-hierarchical, and self-regulating communities. Although similar to Marxists, anarchists are just as adamant in their opposition to racism, sexism, and homophobia as they are to capitalism. In the United States, anarchists were key players in the formation of labor unions, were the only political faction to support gay rights before World War I, were leaders in the free speech movement, and were active in helping to legalize birth control. The White Nationalists’ embrace of the anarchist label and symbolism is more than little ironic, since anarchists have a long history of physically disrupting White Nationalist events, for instance by groups like Anti-Racist Action. Anarchist military units were even formed to fight Franco in Spain and Mussolini in Italy.
THE QUESTION OF “FASCISM”
The National-Anarchists claim they are not “fascist.” Still, Troy Southgate looks to lesser known fascists such as Romanian Iron Guard leader Corneliu Codreanu, and lesser light Nazis like Otto Strasser and Walter Darré. Part of Southgate’s sleight of hand is to claim to be ‘against fascism’ by saying he is socialist (as did Nazis such as Strasser) and by supporting political decentralization (as do contemporary European fascists such as Alain de Benoist). Sometimes he proclaims fascism to be equivalent to the capitalism he opposes, or promoting a centralized state, which he also opposes.
Southgate is undoubtedly sincere in his aversion to the classical fascism of Hitler and Mussolini, and has cited this as a reason for his break from one of the National Front splinter groups. He sees the old fascism as discredited, and an abandonment of the true values of revolutionary nationalism. But his ultimate goal, shared with the European New Right, is to create a new form of fascism, with the same core values of a revitalized community that withstands the decadence of cosmopolitan liberal capitalism. This cannot be done as long as his views are linked in the popular mind to the older tradition.
One of the two main influences on National-Anarchists is a minor current of fascism called Third Position. The origins of Third Position are in National Bolshevism, which originally referred to Communists who sought a national (rather than international) revolution. It soon came to refer to Nazis who sought an alliance with the Soviet Union. The most important of these was “left-wing Nazi ” Otto Strasser, a former Socialist who advocated land redistribution and nationalization of industry. After criticizing Hitler for allying with banking interests, he was expelled from the party. His brother, Gregor Strasser, held similar views but remained a Nazi until 1934, when other Nazis killed him in the Night of the Long Knives.
A number of postwar fascists continued this train of thought, including Francis Parker Yockey and Jean-François Thiriart.18 They saw the United States and liberal capitalism as the primary enemy, sought an alliance with the Soviet Union, and promoted solidarity with Third World revolutionary movements, including Communist revolutions in Asia and Latin American, and Arab anti-Zionists (particularly those with whom they shared antisemitic views). Thiriart’s followers in Italy formed a sect of “Nazi-Maoists” based on these principles, and after a gruesome August 1980 bombing in Bologna which killed 85 people, 40 Italian fascists fled to England, including Robert Fiore.
Fiore was sheltered by National Front member Michael Walker, editor of the Scorpion.19 This paper subsequently spread Third Position and New Right ideas into Britain’s National Front, and Troy Southgate openly credits it as a major influence.20 Third Position ideas also spread through the National Front via the magazine Rising.21 After a 1986 split, this new influence resulted in a reconfiguration of the party’s politics. Prominent members visited Qadafi’s Libya, praised Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini and forged links with the Nation of Islam in the United States.
Southgate claims to have abandoned Third Position fascism.22 This is a duplicitous claim. He has rejected a centralized state, and therefore its ability to nationalize industry or create an “ethnostate.” Nonetheless, National-Anarchists retain the two main philosophical threads of Third Position. The first is the notion of a racist socialism, as a third option between both capitalism and left-wing socialism like Marxism or traditional anarchism.23 The second is the stress on a strategic and conceptual alliance of nationalists (especially in the Third World) against the United States. Just as the National Front praised the Nation of Islam and Qadafi, the National-Anarchists praise Black and Asian racial separatist groups, and support movements for national self-determination, such as the Tibetan independence movement. Unlike many White Nationalists (such as the British National Party), National-Anarchists are pro-Islamist —but only “if they are prepared to confine their struggle to traditionally Islamic areas of the world.”24
As Chip Berlet and Matthew Lyons note, Third Position fascism influenced U.S. groups such as the White Aryan Resistance (WAR), the American Front and the National Alliance; Christian Identity pastor Bob Miles also held similar views.25 Often overlooked by commentators is the American Front’s affiliation with Southgate’s NRF, which he boasted of for years.26 Like the National Front, U.S. fascists Tom Metzger and Lyndon LaRouche also forged ties with the Nation of Islam.27 More recently, the National Alliance has incorporated Third Position politics. They attempted to cross-recruit left-wing activists by launching a fake antiglobalization website, and, in August 2002, held a Palestine Solidarity rally in Washington D.C.28
An early attempt to directly transplant National-Anarchist ideology to the United States was made by political provocateur Bill White. Starting his political odyssey as a left-wing anarchist, White briefly adopted a National-Anarchist stance at the height of the antiglobalization movement. He penned an infamous article for Pravda online in November 2001, which falsely claimed that National-Anarchists were part of anarchist black blocs.29 Later White linked up with the National Alliance before embracing the undiluted Nazism of the National Socialist Movement.
Currently there are two U.S. websites directly affiliated with the National-Anarchists.30 One is the work of a prolific Christian ex-Nazi skinhead, while the Bay Area site has established a regional “network.” It is this small group that claims to have taken part in demonstrations for Tibetan independence and protests against the Folsom Street Fair.
Additionally, as an identity within the White Nationalist scene, National-Anarchists continue to attract a number of followers in the United States. For example, one of the early collaborators of the Oregon-based magazine Green Anarchy affiliated with their perspective.31 U.S. National-Anarchists also frequently enter into discussions on Stormfront, the main internet gathering place for White Nationalists. There they defend their racial-separatist and antisemitic credentials to traditional fascists, many of whom look upon Third Position politics with skepticism, if not outright hostility. Apparently hearing White Nationalists promoting Islamist, Communist, and anarchist thinkers is as difficult for some of the Right to digest as it is for the Left.
BENOIST AND THE EUROPEAN NEW RIGHT
Besides Third Position fascism, the other major ideological influence on the National-Anarchists is the European New Right, especially the thinker Alain de Benoist. National-Anarchists have adopted his ideas about race, political decentralization, and the “right to difference.”
Benoist founded the think-tank GRECE, and has spent his life creating an intellectually respectable edifice for a core of fascist ideas. Like Southgate, Benoist loudly proclaims that he is not a fascist, but scholars such as Roger Griffin disagree. Griffin says that the New Right “could by the end of the 1980s be credited with the not inconsiderable achievement of having carried out a ‘makeover’ of classic fascist discourse so successfully that, at least on the surface it was changed beyond recognition.”32
Benoist extended the notion of an alliance of European nations with the Third World against their main enemies: the United States, liberalism, and capitalism. But against the fascists who desired a united Europe under a super-state, Benoist instead calls for radical federalism and the political decentralization of Europe. Roger Griffin describes this vision as:
The pluralistic, multicultural society of liberal democracy was to give way, not to a culturally, coordinated, charismatic, and, in the case of Nazism, racially pure, national community coterminous with the nation-state, but to an alliance of homogeneous ethnic-cultural communities ethnies within the framework of a federalist European “empire.”33
Benoist also incorporates many sophisticated left-wing critiques, sometimes sounding like a Frankfurt School Marxist. Today he denounces capitalism, imperialism, liberalism, the consumer society, Christianity, universalism, and egalitarianism; he defends paganism, “organic democracy,” and the Third World. He questions the role of unbridled technology and supports environmentalism and a kind of feminism.34 He also rejects biological determinism and embraces a notion of race that is cultural.35 Southgate follows practically all of these positions, which are not necessarily present in Third Position.
Because of these views, the European New Right is very different from the U.S. New Right, whose Christianity and free market views are anathema to the Europeans. The Europeans are closer to the paleoconservative tradition in the United States, and connect with The Rockford Institute, publisher of Chronicles.
Benoist’s main intellectual formulation is the “right to difference,” which upholds the cultural homogeneity and separateness of distinct ethnic-cultural groups. In this sense, he extends the anti-imperialist Left’s idea of “national self-determination” to micro-national European groupings (sometimes called “the Europe of a Hundred Flags”). The “right to difference” has influenced the anti-immigrant policies of Jean-Marie Le Pen’s National Front in France, and a number of GRECE members joined this party, even though Benoist himself rejects Le Pen.36
Benoist has also influenced U.S. White separatism. Usually based around the demand for a separate White nation in parts of Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming, this became a popular idea in White Nationalist circles starting in the early 1980s.37 This decentralized regional perspective was matched by decentralized organizational schemas which emerged at the same time. Louis Beam advocated “leaderless resistance,” and the “lone wolf” strategy for far-right terrorism38, while Christian Identity Pastor Bob Miles started referring himself as a “klanarchist.”
Inverting language, Benoist claims that he is an antiracist. Racism, he argues, is a function of universalistic ideologies like liberalism and Marxism, which purportedly wipe out regional and ethnic identities. He says “Racism is nothing but the denial of difference.”39 But Taguieff, a keen observer of the European Right, identifies a “phobia of mixing” at the core of this form of racism. It is part of the “softer, new, and euphemistic forms of racism praising difference (heterophilia) and substituting ‘culture’ for ‘race.’”40
The influence of these New Right ideas on the National-Anarchists is explicit. In Australia, the National-Anarchist group is for all practical reasons coextensive with “New Right Australia/New Zealand” and at one point they claimed that “New Right is the theory, National-Anarchism the practice.”41 In Britain, Troy Southgate has been involved in New Right meetings since 2005.42 But while Benoist claims that he does not hate immigrants, repudiates antisemitism, and endorses feminism, the National-Anarchists show what New Right ideas look like in practice: crude racial separatism, open antisemitism, homophobia, and antifeminism. The “right to difference” becomes separate ethnic villages.
The New Right also has had a limited influence on elements of the Left intelligentsia. In the United States, the influential journal Telos (known for disseminating Western Marxist texts into English) moved rightward in the 1990s as its editor showed sympathy for Europe’s New Right and published Benoist’s works.43 It continues to publish Benoist, and explores the thought of Nazi legal theorist Carl Schmitt. Many Leftists now consider the once venerable journal anathema.44
Although Benoist advocates decentralized federalist political structures, the Australian National-Anarchists make clear that he does not go so far as to advocate anarchism itself.45 Instead the claim to “anarchism” apparently stems from Richard Hunt’s notion of “villages.” Originally an editor at the British magazineGreen Anarchist, which advocated an intensely anti-industrial environmental ethic, Hunt was expelled from the editorial collective for his right-wing views before founding Green Alternative, which is seen as an “ecofascist” publication.
Hunt adopted an apocalyptic, Mad Max-esque vision of a post-industrial society. Southgate comments that “to say that we have been hugely influenced by Richard Hunt’s ideas is an understatement,” and Southgate took over the editorial helm of Hunt’s magazine when he fell ill.46
Hunt’s critique also reverberated with the environmental strain of classical fascism, such as the views of Hitler’s agriculture minister Walter Darré. Southgate openly gushes over Darré’s “Blood and Soil” ideology in one article47 while white-washing him in another, referring to him merely as a “nationalist ecologist.”48 Many other contemporary fascist groups, especially WAR in the United States, also embrace environmentalism.
HOMOPHOBIA, ANTISEMITISM, ANTIFEMINISM
The National-Anarchists are quite open about their antifeminism and desire to exile queer people into separate spaces, but tend to hide their deeply antisemitic worldview. Troy Southgate says of feminism, “Feminism is dangerous and unnatural… because it ignores the complimentary relationship between the sexes and encourages women to rebel against their inherent feminine instincts.”49
The stance on homophobia is more interesting. Southgate said:
Homosexuality is contrary to the Natural Order because sodomy is quite undeniably an unnatural act. Groups such as Outrage are not campaigning for love between males — which has always existed in a brotherly or fatherly form — but have created a vast cult which has led to a rise in cottaging, male-rape and child sex attacks… But we are not trying to stop homosexuals engaging in this kind of activity like the Christian moralists or bigoted denizens of censorship are doing, on the contrary, as long as this behaviour does not affect the forthcoming National-Anarchist communities then we have no interest in what people get up to elsewhere.50
What this means in his schema is that queer people will be given their own separate “villages.” The recent National-Anarchist demonstrations in San Francisco were against two majority-queer events, the Folsom Street Fair and the related fair Up Your Alley. Their orchestrator, “Andy,” declares that he is a “racist” who hates queer people.
Andy also denies the charge of antisemitism against National-Anarchists, claiming that they merely engage in a “continuous criticism of Israel and its supporters,”51 as do the majority of Leftists and anarchists. Once again, this is a typical disingenuous attempt by National-Anarchists to duck criticism. Antisemitism is an important element of the political world views of Southgate and Herfurth.
Southgate actively promotes the work of Holocaust deniers, including the Institute for Historical Review, and holds party line antisemitic beliefs about the role of the international Jewish conspiracy. As a dodge, he sometimes uses the euphemism “Zionist”; for instance, he says “Zionists are well known for their cosmopolitan perspective upon life, not least because those who rally to this nefarious cause have no organic roots of their own.”52 In another interview he says that, “there is no question that the world is being ruthlessly directed (but perhaps not completely controlled) by International Zionism. This has been achieved through the rise of the usurious banking system.”53 And he describes the Protocols of the Elders of Zion (a forgery which is the world’s most popular antisemitic text) as a book which “although still unproven, accords with the main events in modern world history.”54
Meanwhile, his Australian counterpart Welf Herfurth is even more explicit in his neo-Nazi antisemitic views. In one speech, he describes the Holocaust as an “extrapolation” that “has been an enormously profitable one for the Jews, and one which has brought post-war Germany and Europe to its knees,” before referring to Israel as “the most powerful state in the Western world.” Herfurth concludes that “by liberating Germany from the bondage to Israel and restructuring a new Germany on the basis of a new ‘volksgemeinschaft,’ the German nationalists will liberate Europe, and the West as well.”55
Recently new groups of National-Anarchists, recruited through Southgate’s internet activism, have made the leap from contemplating their idiosyncratic ideas on the internet into making them the basis of really-existing politics, by joining demonstrations in Australia and San Francisco. Web pages and blogs continue to pop up in different countries and languages.
The danger National-Anarchists represent is not in their marginal political strength, but in their potential to show an innovative way that fascist groups can rebrand themselves and reset their project on a new footing. They have abandoned many traditional fascist practices—including the use of overt neo-Nazi references, and recruiting from the violent skinhead culture. In its place they offer a more toned down, sophisticated approach. Their cultural references are the neo-folk and gothic music scene, which puts on an air of sophistication, as opposed to the crude skinhead subculture. National-Anarchists abandon any obvious references to Hitler or Mussolini’s fascist regimes, often claiming not to be “fascist” at all.
Like the European New Right, the National-Anarchists adapt a sophisticated left-wing critique of problems with contemporary society, and draw their symbols and cultural orientation from the Left; then they offer racial separatism as the answer to these problems. They are attempting to use this new form to avoid the stigma of the old discredited fascism, and if they are successful like the National Bolsheviks have been in Russia, they will breathe new life into their movement. Even if the results are modest, this can disrupt left-wing social movements and their focus on social justice and egalitarianism; and instead spread elitist ideas based on racism, homophobia, antisemitism and antifeminism amongst grassroots activists.
Fascism: Fascism is an especially virulent form of far-right populism. Fascism glorifies national, racial, or cultural unity and collective rebirth while seeking to purge imagined enemies, and attacks both left-wing movements and liberal pluralism. Fascism first crystallized in Europe in response to the Bolshevik Revolution and the devastation of World War I, and then spread to other parts of the world. Postwar fascists have reinterpreted fascist ideology and strategy in various ways to fit new circumstances.
Third Position: Third Position politics are a minor branch of fascist thought. It rejects both liberal capitalism and Marxism for a kind of racially based socialism. Its main precursors are the National Bolsheviks, who were a fusion of nationalism and communism, and the Strasser brothers, key figures in the “left-wing” of the Nazi party. Third Positionists tend to support national liberation movements in the Third World, seek alliances with other ethnic separatists, and have recently supported environmentalism.
Jeffrey Bales, “ ‘National revolutionary’ groupuscules and the resurgence of ‘left-wing’ fascism: the case of France’s Nouvelle Résistance,” Patterns of Prejudice, v36 #3 (2002), pp. 25–26.
Anti-Fascist Forum, ed., My Enemy’s Enemy (Montreal: Kersplebedeb, 2003), p. 31.
Don Hammerquist, J. Sakai, et al., Confronting Fascism (Montreal: Kersplebedeb, et al, 2002), pp. 35–38.
On the alliance between certain sectors of the antiglobalization movement and Islamist factions, see Andrew Higgins, “Anti-Americans on the March,” Wall Street Journal, December 9, 2006, p. A1. For an example of contemporary left-wing calls to openly tolerate antisemitism, see Rami El-Amine, “Islam and the Left,” Upping the Anti #5, October 2007.
Cited in Roger-Pol Droit, “The Confusion of Ideas,” Telos 98-99, (Winter 1993-Spring 1994), p. 138. GRECE stands for the “Groupement de recherche et d’études pour la civilisation européenne” – the “Research and Study Group for European Civilization.”
Martin A. Lee, The Beast Reawakens(Boston: Little, Brown & Co, 1997), pp. 168-83; Kevin Coogan, Dreamer of the Day (Brooklyn: Autonomedia, 1999), pp. 191–92. For Yockey’s influence on Southgate, see Macklin, p. 320.
Lee, p. 450 n40. See also Southgate, “Transcending the Beyond.”
Chip Berlet and Matthew Lyons, Right-Wing Populism in America (New York & London: Guilford Press, 2000), pp. 269–70; see also Betty Dobratz and Stephanie Shanks-Meile, “White Power, White Pride!” The White Separatist Movement in the United States (New York: Twayne Publishers, 1997), pp. 262–67. On Miles, see Lee, pp. 340-41.
Southgate says, “We also have an excellent relationship with National-Bolsheviks like the American Front (AF), who, despite the fact that they do not share our anarchistic tendencies, are basically working for very similar objectives.” “Synthesis Editor Troy Southgate, Interviewed by Dan Ghetu.”
folkandfaith.com is based in Idaho Falls, Idaho. bayareanationalanarchists.com/blog is based in California’s Bay Area. As unlikely as this location may seem, the NRF-affiliated fascist skinhead gang the American Front originated there as well. attackthesystem.com is another site sympathetic to National-Anarchists.
See Griffin; The U.S.-based Green Anarchy is not to be confused with the UK-based Green Anarchist, despite shared ideology. Green Anarchy has explicitly denounced National-Anarchism.
Many fascist intellectuals have held this view, including early Nazi leader Otto Strasser, Italian occult philosopher Julius Evola, U.S. Third Position theorist Francis Parker Yockey, and German Nazi legal theorist Carl Schmitt. For a discussion of “spiritual” versus “biological” race, see Coogan, 313 n38, p. 481. See also Lee, pp. 96.
“Three Interviews with Alain de Benoist,” Telos, nos. 98- 99, (Winter 1993-Spring 1994), pp. 173–207.
Dobratz and Shanks-Meile, p. 99.
See Jeffrey Kaplan, “Leaderless Resistance,” Terrorism and Political Violence 9 no. 3, (Autumn 1997), pp. 80–95; see also Dobratz and Shanks-Meile, pp. 171-74, pp. 267–68. For the influence on Troy Southgate, see Macklin, p. 312. Beam’s essay is also reproduced on the Australian National-Anarchist site.
“Three Interviews with Alain de Benoist,” p. 180.
Pierre-André Taguieff, “The New Right’s Vision of European Identity,” Telos, nos. 98-99, Winter 1993- Spring 1994; p. 123.
Troy Southgate, “The Guild of St. Joseph and St. Dominic.” On the link between German Nazis and ecology, see Janet Biehl and Peter Staudenmaier, Ecofascism: Lessons From the German Experience (San Francisco: AK Press, 1995).