Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Anarchists fed up with Lega Nord racists in Italy, get feisty

from @infos media
Anarchists and anti-racists in Trento, North-East Italy got fed up with the
racist crap representives of the local Lega Nord (Northern League) spout in the
local town centre. The video shows how.
http://trentinocorrierealpi.repubblica.it/multimedia/home/2256795

Enjoy especially if you're a liberal who likes to go on about 'freedom of
speech' and 'no better than the nazis' kind of thing. Maybe if you read a
history book you'll learn a thing or two about how physical opposition to
facists and nationalists early on works better than later being sent to a death
camp, being ethnically cleansed and so.

Have we gone soft on football's fascists?



Apologists for the far right in the game are not 'characters', they're more dangerous than that

by Steven Wells

It's been an odd Euro 2008 soccerfest-watching experience here in horribly sticky heatwave-hammered Philadelphia. The distractions are many. Go outside, you die. Stay inside without air-conditioning, you die. Forget to Tivo a game for the wife, you die. Then there's the fact that the star player on the US women's Olympic basketball team has been called a "traitor" for defecting to the Russians and that our local Jewish centre has just been daubed with swastikas, with shards of broken glass hidden in the sand in the playground.

Thankfully for Euro 2008 viewers in the US, ESPN has dropped the crew of stat-spewing incompetents who so royally screwed up the World Cup coverage (referring to "Michael Beckham" and repeatedly confusing
Austria with Australia). Unfortunately they've retained Tommy Smyth, an incredibly annoying fellow who uses the phrase "bulges the ole onion bag" at least once every game. And, alas, both Smyth and the imported Andy Gray have obviously been pressured to have at least one broadcastable opinion per game about the NBA Finals between the Boston Celtics and the LA Lakers.

This Lilliputian sporting sideshow is plugged during every soccer game - presumably as part of some clueless ESPN suit's power-point plugged plan to promote "cross-sports synergy" or some such bollocks. The resulting half-baked basketball banter has been embarrassing. Smyth refers to the Celtics as "Celtic". Gray makes some half-arsed joke about having to support the Lakers because, as a former Rangers player ... and you can fill in the rest yourself. If you can be bothered.

After several days going air-conditioned soccer-watching stir crazy, I decide to make a break for the gym. So I'm on the treadmill watching Germany v Croatia on the overhead TV (while hammering my superbly muscled 48-year-old body with a series of wind sprints so savage they'd make a 20-year-old US Navy SEAL puke up his own immune system) and I'm thinking to myself how marvellously civilised the US has become since the 1960s when soccer players were approached by slack jawed yokels who'd point at the lettering on their shirts and drawl: "So what's saucer?" (true story).

Then this fat bastard waddles up, takes one look at the TV, scowls and calls over a gym employee.

"Can we change this to something American?" he asks.

Click. On comes some college baseball. Fatty waddles off. I am appalled. I turn to the young woman on the treadmill on my right.

"Did he just change the channel and walk off?"

"I guess," she says, laughing.

I get the football turned back on.

"So what is this?" she asks.

"It's the European national soccer championship ... "

Her eyes widen. "Oh, Europe soccer? They're all crazy over there. Aren't they all like Nazis or something?"

Ah yes, football and fascism. The US is a confusing country. You can spend all week having football-literate conversations with strangers - and then be deluged by lazy, endlessly recycled late night chat show gags about how soccer is incredibly boring and all soccer fans are perma-rioting neo-Nazi drunks. Badum tish.

Which got me thinking. Have we - the liberal limey sport media massive - gone soft on existing footballing fascists?

Take FourFourTwo magazine's December 2006 one-on-one interview with Paolo Di Canio, where the Mussolini-worshipping, straight arm salute-throwing, self-described fascist was asked to answer questions sent in by readers. According to the version of the article published on the FourFourTwo website, not a single reader wanted Di Canio to explain his oft expressed affection for Benito Mussolini - the fascist dictator of Italy, whose support of Adolf Hitler led to the extermination of an estimated 8,000 Italian Jews.

Instead Di Canio was asked: "In your autobiography you talk about making the ultimate tiramisu. What's the secret?" (This is the same biography in which Di Canio described Mussolini as "basically a very principled, ethical individual" who was "deeply misunderstood").

Gone from the FourFourTwo website is the quote "Yes, I am fascist. So what? We are in 2006; the racial laws no longer exist, thanks to God. I do not see why the idea of a social radical right cannot be expressed in a democratic manner."

And on this very website a gushing Russell Brand wrote up a meeting with Di Canio that somehow failed to mention the footballer's oft-declared fascist sympathies, his two fascist tattoos, his on-pitch salutes and his coded Holocaust revisionism.

"I've listened to the stories but I still have my ideas," said Di Canio after meeting Italian Holocaust survivors in 2006. "My thoughts remain the same, but I don't want it to sound as if I believe in violence."

And most recently we've had Football Daily's Euro 2008 podcast, where the Croatia manager Slaven Bilic, talking to the Observer's Jamie Jackson, defended the human swastika forming and racist chant yellers among his country's support. Basically Bilic says it's no big deal because it's not "serious" and anyway there are way more racists and Nazis in England. "In many respects he's a lovely chap," added pod host James Richardson, " ... and not a bad football manager".

One can picture the press conference. The chairman of your fave Premier League club introduces Bilic with the words: "While it might be true that he was coach of the Croatian national team during a period when they regularly played a song by ultra nationalist band Thompson, whose fans turn up at shows wearing fascist uniforms and give salutes, he's a lovely chap and not a bad football manager." I for one can hardly wait.

This blog has been edited after it was first published

Sunday, June 15, 2008

More on Gun Shows and the White Working Class

By Ken Lawrence

From the revolutionary organization, Bring the Ruckus!

By Ken Lawrence

My conservative father, a veteran of World War II in the Pacific, was not
a hunter, but he owned a Colt Woodsman Match Target pistol and he taught me
to shoot. Occasional trips to a Chicago south side target range began when I
was about age 11 (the year would have been 1953), about the same time that I
signed up for weekly target rifle shooting after school, at the neighborhood
YMCA.

Dad regarded his gun as a prudent measure for self defense, and his Army
marksman and expert shooting medals as proud achievements, along with his
amateur wrestling and chess tournament trophies.

[For readers unfamiliar with guns and shooting sports: The Woodsman is a
large, heavy, long-barreled semiautomatic pistol with enormous walnut grips,
which shoots exclusively standard velocity .22-caliber long rifle ammunition.
It is not concealable, nor does it fit a holster, and it would be virtually
useless in combat even in the hands of an expert, though for certain
professional assassins it would be the weapon of choice to murder an
unsuspecting or helpless victim at close range with minimal noise and mess.]
My father's rationalization for arming himself did not match his choice
of pistol. Furthermore, he taught his two sons to shoot it, but not his two
daughters, so this was plainly an activity, even a duty, of maleness.
Meanwhile, boys at the private school I attended carried homemade zip guns
and switchblade knives in vicarious imitation of Blackboard Jungle public
school culture as we imagined it to be.

If those had been all of my early experiences with firearms, I'd have
left them behind along with the rest of my parents' and middle-class peers'
values when I became a socialist in my teens. However, my elder liberal and
red mentors, intellectuals and workers alike, also were shooters.
Hunting (rabbits, squirrels, and ducks) on fall and winter weekends, and
plinking on vacation camping trips, were typical forms of recreation for most
of the men (who also had seen combat in World War II), and for some of the
women. Their guns were mostly small revolvers, .22-caliber rifles,
.30-caliber military surplus carbines (purchased from the Director of
Civilian Marksmanship for $50 each, a government-subsidized offer exclusively
to National Rifle Association members, which was the reason so many joined),
and shotguns.

In Illinois during the 1950s, most working-class men and a lot of women,
even city dwellers, were small game hunters at least occasionally. In the
rural areas, everyone hunted. Among casual hunters, varmint hunters were
regarded as cruel fanatics who just wanted to kill something; fox hunters, as
drunkards who imbibed while their hounds bayed at whatever animals they
scented, and made plenty of noise (dogs and fox hunters both), but rarely
brought home any pelts; and deer hunters on the prairie, as demented, as
likely to shoot themselves or be shot as to bag a buck.

My first job was in a large downtown Chicago commercial photo, photostat,
and printing minimum-wage [then $1 per hour] sweatshop, when I was 16 years
old. The workers there were a grand mixture of African American, Mexican,
Asian, and a handful of white (recovering alcoholics, people with criminal
records, and people like myself, below the legal age for operating machinery)
men and women, bossed by an exclusively white ethnic management (of Irish and
Eastern European descent) owned by a socially prominent liberal Jewish
multimillionaire.

Each morning a bookie would make the rounds of every department,
collecting bets on the day's thoroughbred and harness races, and paying
winners of the previous day's bets. He was generous with credit (at ten
percent a week interest ["vigorish," we called it], the pawnshop rate without
the collateral), and at times many of the workers owed him a lot of money.
Favored employees could bail out by borrowing from the company, which usually
carried them permanently, but others had to scrounge after a run of losses.
The most typical source of easy cash was the sale of guns to fellow workers.
Many guns moved from one employee's locker to another, transfering owners at
frequent intervals. I bought several for friends and comrades as they became
available.

One could summarize the place of guns in American society during the
1950s and early 1960s as pervasive and conventional — banal. As a married
parent commuting to Gary in 1964, I sometimes took my shotgun to work during
the fall; my fellow workers and I would then go out hunting together in the
Indiana dunes on our lunch breaks and after work. Like most of my comrades
and all of my friends at work, I bought my son a single-shot .22-caliber
rifle and taught him to shoot at age eight.

By then, a political dimension had been added to the firearms culture,
discreetly at first. When SNCC comrades went South to organize in Alabama and
Mississippi, they took their guns along. Despite the N for Nonviolent, there
were plenty of armed clashes with the Ku Klux Klan and Americans for the
Preservation of the White Race. Hartman Turnbow became a SNCC hero (and his
legend, a song) after he routed the KKK with his blazing shotgun. When the
Deacons for Defense and Justice emerged in Bogalusa and spread quickly to
Natchez and throughout the lower Mississippi Valley, the public presence of
an armed contingent to the Southern Freedom Movement became evident to
everyone, echoing what Robert Williams had done several years earlier in
Monroe, North Carolina. Arms became a central feature of the movement
nationally with the birth and spread of the Black Panther Party and the
Republic of New Africa.

Yes, by 1968 and 1969 there was a tendency to romanticize weapons,
particularly among white New Leftists enamored of the Little Red Book. I
recall especially, in this connection, Clark Kissinger's gun store, Harper's
Ferry Arsenal. But after the RNA's successful armed defense of its gathering
at the New Bethel church in Detroit when police attacked, and then, in August
1971, against the dawn raid by Jackson, Mississippi, police and FBI agents,
the argument was carried by the survivors. Had they not been armed, trained,
and prepared, they would have been massacred.

I moved to Mississippi in the fall of 1971, on the staff of the Southern
Conference Educational Fund. Among my duties was to organize white
Mississippians in solidarity with the RNA eleven who, having survived and
prevailed in the FBI-police attack (in the RNA's defensive fire, a police
lieutenant had been killed while another cop and an FBI agent were wounded),
were then in jail awaiting trial, and later were convicted and imprisoned for
most of the decade. That was certainly a daunting challenge, but we
experienced gratifying success over the next few years, not the least of
which owed to respect, even awe, for the foresight and bravery of the RNA
leaders in their preparation for the inevitable attack by armed agents of the
state.

Meanwhile, we on the SCEF staff were also engaged in labor organizing,
which involved us in a strike of pulpwood cutters against Masonite
Corporation and the paper trusts that spread across four states in 1972 and
1973, and in a series of strikes in broiler chicken processing factories
after that. I don't think I ever met a worker in any of those situations who
wasn't armed. Woodcutters were so poor that they typically poached game for
the dinner table as they worked. Labor organizers, from the Mississippi
AFL-CIO president on down, like civil-rights leaders, regarded carrying a
firearm as a sensible precaution.

When I moved from Illinois to Mississippi, I brought with me a
single-shot .22-caliber pistol for target practice and a 12-gauge shotgun for
hunting. Though I had not considered political implications other than their
possible use for self-defense, my guns contributed to my acceptance among
poor and working-class Southerners who had not previously encountered SNCC
organizers or other militants during the 1960s glory years.

By 1977, the Ku Klux Klan was resurgent for the first time in a decade,
riding the crest of a violent wave that washed across Louisiana, Mississippi,
and Alabama. We quickly identified a white sheriff, deputies, police
officers, business owners, and a Jackson Daily News editor who were Klan
members and supporters, and from whom it would have been useless to seek
sympathy or protection. Movement security once again took on a military
dimension.

After a 1978 demonstration in Tupelo, Klansmen chased a carful of
demonstrators returning to their home, forced them off the road, and beat
them with tire chains. Black marchers in Northern Alabama were bloodied twice
in encounters with the Klan. In 1979, KKK members and Nazis gunned down
demonstrators in Greensboro while television cameras filmed the massacre.
Bennie Thompson, then the mayor of Bolton, Mississippi (today a
Representative in Congress), and I received telephoned death threats on the
eve of a march against police brutality in Jackson at which we were scheduled
speakers. I taped the threat, and a reporter friend identified the voice as
that of a violent, almost psychotic Klan organizer (who later went to prison
as a participant in the KKK's abortive mercenary invasion of Dominica).
Although I was then employed by the American Friends Service Committee, a
Quaker pacifist organization, I went out and bought a Smith and Wesson .357
magnum revolver, which I carried for the next 16 years, the rest of my time
in Mississippi. (My AFSC superiors were good sports about this. I could not
advocate violence while "wearing my AFSC hat," they said, but I wasn't
required to be a pacifist myself. Thus, for example, when I wrote articles in
left publications that were sympathetic to armed struggle, I used a different
byline.)

An important activity of the early 1980s was the struggle to free Eddie
James Carthan, Tchula's first black mayor, who had been framed up on a murder
charge. By the time we won, our organizing efforts had spread around the
world, but always they were based in rural Holmes County. Often those of us
in the leadership would work out our strategy while we hunted rabbits in the
cotton rows. As we walked along behind Eddie's beagles, community people
would join us one by one, until the fields were filled with a mostly black
army. It was easy to see what the planters feared.

Contrary to the allegations of Alexander Cockburn, Jeffrey St.Clair, and
perhaps others who are frustrated with the current low level of activism and
are in search of scapegoats on the left to blame, radical organizers did not
and do not turn our backs on alienated insurgent white people who have a
different political viewpoint from ours. (The tactics of involving them are
certainly a matter of ongoing debate. In SCEF, we insisted on explicitly
anti-racist programs, with African Americans and women in positions of
leadership. UE organizers with whom we worked regarded our approach as
sectarian, and although they were exemplary advocates for the class, they
limited their union's demands and programs to least-common-denominator
economic programs.)

Because most of our arenas of activity were industries or communities
where African Americans took the lead, we encountered relatively few
right-wing white people who were eager to join our movement. An exception was
our antinuclear organization, the Mississippi Catfish Alliance, which
mobilized in opposition to the Yellow Creek nuclear reactor that TVA proposed
to build in Northeast Mississippi, and the Grand Gulf reactor built by
Mississippi Power and Light Company at Port Gibson.

When we held a demonstration at the Yellow Creek site, Catfish was mainly
white and rural, mostly poor people who bitterly resented the TVA's plan to
drastically change their environment without any concern for their wishes,
but it also included contingents of students and faculty from Ole Miss and
Mississippi State, possibly mobilizing 200 people. At Grand Gulf, the crowd
was about ten times bigger, with African Americans outnumbering whites about
five to one. Most were local Claiborne County people, probably the most
militant mass constituency in the state, with additional contingents from
Alcorn, Jackson State, and (white students and faculty from) the University
of Southern Mississippi.

In Jackson and Hinds County, the Catfish Alliance comprised mostly
seasoned leftists, black and white, but also a fervently antinuclear group of
rightwingers brought to us by a Liberty Lobby supporter, the wheelchair-bound
proprietor of a pawnshop who had once been elected coroner during the
segregation and prohibition era. A young white woman organizer and I met with
him on several occasions to work out the terms on which we agreed to include
his group. When we told him that racial epithets would not be tolerated, he
sulked, but then said he would practice our etiquette by treating his Choctaw
Indian store manager with respect, and would stop disparaging him. I also
informed the man that my own heritage is Jewish, whereupon he denied holding
anti-Semitic views.

After building a mass base for Catfish, we ran an electoral campaign for
the state's three Public Service Commission posts on an independent
antinuclear platform. In the Northern District our candidate was Linda Lewis,
white proprietor of a health food store in Oxford; in the Central District,
Sarah Johnson, African American councilwoman from Greenville; in the Southern
District, Ayres Haxton, a welder from Natchez. As a matter of principle
(perhaps reluctantly) accepted by our right-wing white supporters, we
required that the campaign literature include all three candidates and a
single statewide platform. Of the three, only Johnson came close to
challenging the victorious Democrat, but the campaign did get a lot of press,
and TVA canceled the Yellow Creek project. The reactor at Grand Gulf was
completed even after a tornado cracked its containment dome, and is today the
main generator owned by Entergy Corporation. Catfish never received support
from the antinuclear or environmental movements nationally, perhaps because
it was predominantly black in membership and constituency.

The coalition with our Liberty Lobby pawnbroker and his group did not
endure after our defeat at Port Gibson, and in any case most of his followers
hankered for overtly racist political expressions. None of them became
permanent converts to our cause, although lots of other poor and
working-class white Mississippians did. But one element of the collaboration
was interesting in the context of our present discussion: The pawnshop sold a
lot of guns to black activists, with a wink and a nod to the paperwork
requirements.

Meanwhile I had begun attending gun shows in the mid-1970s, which — pace
Alexander Cockburn — were not and are not "fun." They were held at the
Jackson Trade Mart two to four times each year, and were infamous for hosting
Ku Klux Klan and Nazi recruiters. A Jackson television news program once had
featured the enormous swastika banner across the side wall at one gun show;
thereafter all cameras were banned.

My reason for attending, even before the KKK's mass resurgence, was to
monitor the recruitment of mercenaries to fight for white Rhodesia. Much of
my solidarity work with the Zimbabwe African National Union consisted of
documenting and publishing data on mercenary recruitment, which was directed
in the U.S. by the Army Special Forces Reserve at Arlington Heights, Illinois
(a CIA front), the unit from which Soldier of Fortune publisher (and later
NRA leader) Robert K. Brown held the rank of colonel.

Mass recruitment of mercenaries was conducted by Soldier of Fortune
staff; gun shows provided congenial ambiance for those activities, which grew
significantly as the Carter administration ratcheted up its counterinsurgency
war in El Salvador. Mercenary recruitment escalated exponentially during the
Reagan years; gun show organizers came to regard enlisting fighters for the
Nicaraguan contra cause as their patriotic duty.

That is not to say that thousands of men and women who drove into Jackson
from 30 outlying counties were coming to sign up for combat duty in Central
America, not at all. The great majority were hunters, and a significant
minority were competitive shooters, in search of weapons, ammunition,
supplies, and equipment. Despite their economic importance, they and the
dealers who served them were accorded no special welcome. But the hundreds of
police, highway patrolmen, sheriffs' deputies and constables who came were
honored guests, usually admitted free if they attended in uniform. (So much
for Cockburn's delusion that gun shows are gathering places for
anti-government insurgents.)

The central themes of gun shows I attended were always twofold — the
romance of military combat, and flagrant (I want to say, inhuman) cruelty.
Thus the main aisle contained a large display of fully automatic weapons,
with a .50-caliber water-cooled machine gun as the centerpiece, and video
screens showing combat training exercises recommended for owners of all
sorts, from Uzi machine pistols to Browning Automatic Rifles.

Bipod-mounted .30-caliber BARs were sentimental favorites of World War II
and Korean veterans, but could only be purchased legally, with a full paper
trail, license, and payment of the BATF's federal transfer tax. Buyers who
wanted off-the-books automatic weapons were sold hardware kits that easily
converted Colt AR-15 "sporting" rifles into fully automatic M-16s.

Stands for mercenary and Klan-Nazi recruiters, also given prominent floor
locations, included sales of such wholesome publications as torture manuals
(I excerpted the worst examples several years ago in a CovertAction article)
and "Official Running N----r" racist caricature targets (a police favorite).
One ghoulish display included photographs of burns that police interrogators
had inflicted on their captives with stun guns and cattle prods, as
advertisements flogging sales of those very devices. Brass knuckles were
another favorite product.

It's true that mercenary recruiters disappeared after the Sandinista
defeat in Nicaragua, and that gun show culture in Jackson became more subdued
in the 1990s. But the essential themes of armed combat and cruelty, and the
law enforcement presence, were as strong as ever the last time I attended one
several years ago.

In 1993 I moved from Mississippi to Pennsylvania, and have lived here
ever since. No longer do I hunt, and my target shooting is infrequent.
Nevertheless, gun culture is more pervasive here than it ever was in
Mississippi. Opening day of buck season is a holiday for every blue collar
worker, and for many high schools. (My sweetheart says Firstdaybuck is one
word in the Pennsylvania vocabulary.)

Certainly many facets of U.S. working-class culture ought to be
challenged by leftists as we organize and propagate our vision of the good
society, but it seems to me that tilting against gun culture is not a good
idea, certainly is not a priority, and is doomed to fail if attempted. On the
other hand, the Cockburn-St.Clair infatuation with right-wing gun culture is
far worse, especially in light of Katha Pollitt's evidence that St.Clair's
advocacy is personally hypocritical.

In the absence of a popular leftwing insurgency, they seem to have
decided that any insurgency is better than none, while at the same time
castigating the left for having failed to ignite one. St.Clair's riposte to
Pollitt is laden with esteem for the NRA's virility in contrast to the Sierra
Club's timidity, but neither organization can serve as a model for activists.
Both of those, in different ways, derive their power from bourgeois and
corporate sponsorship, and government indulgence.

Cockburn and St.Clair are certainly not the first among us to promote a
get-rich-quick mirage for organizers, but their message cannot be permitted
to drown out the simple truth. Our grandest and perhaps most difficult task
is to project by example, even in relatively quiet times or backward
circumstances, the vision we seek to reify, as we prepare to intervene when
history again favors our cause.

Gun Shows and Immigration in Portland Oregon

by Peter Little

From the revolutionary organization, Bring the Ruckus!

We're now witness to the largest wave of human migration the planet has ever seen. Driven by a new, truly international form of capitalism, human populations are alternately violently displaced, economically pressured, invited, coerced into relocation across the globe by civil wars, low intensity wars, high intensity wars, famines, droughts, hurricanes, floods, trade policies, austerity, other countless other economic and environmental catastrophies. This is globalized capitalism. We live in a time of threatened ecological collapse and the possibilities of capitalism's greatest tragedy-the possibility of a human created mass die-off of mamallian and other forms of life.

More momentarily, we also bear witness to a possible global economic collapse and what will be the inevitable attempts at a massive restructuring and upheaval of the US working class that will result.

It is within this context that the anti-immigrant movement (just one piece of something much larger) in the United States has mobilized. As the federal government becomes less receptive ( i.e. a McCain presidency and a likely Democratic president) to the anti-immigrant movement(under increasing pressure from businesses not so sympathetic to No-Match letters and workplace ICE raids), anti-immigrant organizations have focused their energy on local campaigns.

Its happening all across the United States right now. Protests (and sometimes attacks) at corners where Day Laborers congregate, mobilizations on state Capital steps, and a slew of state-level, county, and city level ballot measure initiatives further criminalizing undocumented workers and even their allies.

In Oregon, Oregonians For Immigration Reform(the state's most prominent and visible mainstream anti-immigrant organization) have been petitioning for a number of these ballot measures. Each month, they prioritize traveling to the 2 or 3 gun shows around the state, collecting signatures for their petitions.

Here is a quote from the front page of a flier that I picked up at the Portland Gun Show last month.

"Amid Guarantees that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) would stimulate commerce, spur job creation, curtail illegal immigration, and have no impact on U.S. independence, Congress approved it in Novermber 1993. President Clinton immediately signed the 1,700-page pact into law. That many pages has more to do with regulations than anything truly "free". NAFTA's major accomplishments include:

*The U.S. Department of Labor reports that 1.8 million American workers have

applied for trade adjustment assistance after losing their jobs because of NAFTA

*Countless U.S. factories have been closed and rebuilt in Mexico

*The U.S. manufacturing base has shrunk dramatically and our nation is

becoming a mere service provider

(AND)

*The southern border of the U.S. remains wide open and federal government

promises to close it are not being fulfilled......."

The Portland Gun Show takes place almost monthly at the Portland Expo Center. Its one of a few that happen in the region each month, a 'private' event, where anyone who wants to vend or table pays a fee, and sets up shop.

Walking the aisles, you see a lot of men in Carhart jackets, baseball caps with any number of power tools advertised on the face, and lots of guns, ammunition, and related parts, accessories, and manuals. Over the course of the weekend, thousands of (largely white), working class people will pay their eight dollars to get through the doors.

The reason that gun shows exist is that as a 'private' event they used to circumnavigate state and federal laws requiring background checks and other legal demands on gun and ammunition sales. Although in Oregon laws now demand background checks on official sales at gun shows, off-the-books 'parking lot' deals are still common practice. Gun dealers and purchasers have a place where folks can buy legal weapons without registering or notifying federal authorities. If it isn't clear already, this means that beyond a possible affinity for hunting and sport shooting, the attendees at gun shows are much more likely to have something in common with many an undocumented worker: a healthy dose of suspicion towards the federal government and its agencies.

Gun shows also have a long history as recruiting grounds by white supremacist (and often) anti-semitic right wing organizations who can use (an arguably legitimate) fear and distrust of the federal government for their organizing purposes(see Ken Lawrence's piece on Gun Shows in the 80s). They're also one of the primary places that Oregonians for Immigration Reform have decided to collect signatures for their ballot initiatives.

WHO ELSE HAD TABLES THERE?

Looking at the source literature,its not immediately obvious that the anti-nafta and subtly anti-immigrant scribe introducing this reflection was produced by America's most famous paranoid, conspiratorial anticommunist bulwark, the John Birch Society. (The Birchers recently made news in Portland, as one of their members, a Portland Police officer, was exposed as having warehoused an illegal 'red file' of 'subversives' in his home garage at the behest of the Portland Police Department leadership for close to 20 years. (http://www.portlandtribune.com/news/story.php?story_id=13722))

Across the Expo Center, not far from the Birch Society, was a Department of Homeland Security-Border Patrol recruiting station with full color photos and more shwag than an Amway convention.

Two aisles over from the Border Patrol, there were two booths selling nazi paraphanelia(swastika flags, S.S. cuff links, and photos of Adolf Hitler). The only piece of literature at one of these booths was a diatribe against immigration, conveniently placed next to a display case of Hitler photos and swastika patches.

The Militia of Montana was also there with a massive literature/book sales table. During the 1990s, the Militia of Montana was central in the armed Militia movement, whose threats on federal officials, advocacy of armed rebellion, and stockpiling of arms won them an intense counterinsurgency campaign at the behest of then president Bill Clinton.

Their table carried an array of books with titles such as,"Guerilla Warfare From the Man Who Taught Fidel Castro,","Weapons and Explosives Improvisation," "Poisonous and Edible Plants of the Americas," and "How To Hide Things in Public Places." Tucked away in their fiction section, somewhat hidden behind a recently published novel about one man's vigilante justice in the struggle against "the conspiracy behind reconquista and the retaking of Aztlan,", (placed so you could find it only if you knew what to look for), the Militia also had a stack of William Pierce's,"Turner Diaries" for sale.
(From Wikipedia(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Turner_Diaries) The Turner Diaries is a 1978 novel by William Luther Pierce (under the pseudonym Andrew Macdonald), the late leader of the National Alliance, a white separatist organization. The novel depicts a violent racist revolutionary struggle in the United States that escalates into global genocide, leading to the extermination of all Jews and non-whites. For Pierce, this was not a dystopian outcome, but rather the fulfillment of his "dream" of a White world.") Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh is alleged to have modelled his attack on this book.

At the Portland Gun Show, the far right had proponents of armed struggle
against the state (the Militia of Montana), organizers of armed direct action against immigrant workers (the paramilitary Minutemen project, who patrol the borders with arms and target day labor centers for protest and harassment), and organizations oriented around electoral politics (OFIR and the Jon Birch Society). (Not to be forgotten or dismissed, Ron Paul's supporters were there, too.)

These folks, by and large, are the face of a multitude of forces that has, in a fairly organized and conscious fashion, set the terms of debate and fostered one of many legitimacy crises for the state in the past few years. Although it would be a mistake to dismiss the significant differences between many of them, the core of these groups have mobilized around ideas from the far-right which are nothing new. The current ideas are the direct heirs of white supremacist leader of White Aryan Resistance Tom Metzger's Border Watch, David Duke's presidential campaign, English-only initiatives, and California's hugely successful, anti-immigrant Proposition 187.

Most recently, in 2003, Save Arizona Now Coalition escalated the debate and alongside it, the Minutemen project was born. From that moment, state and political actors have been reacting to the activity of this tendency.

Its important to note the diversity of opinions on any number of topics within these forces. An example: the Militia of Montana's ideologies oppose the Patriot Act, the Real I.D. Act. and the strengthening of federal policing agencies.

Here's what the John Birch Society has to say about Real ID,"Nearly three years after the Real ID act was passed by Congress, there is little evidence of how such a law would protect American citizens from security threats. Instead, lawmakers and public activists are more concerned about how the act would place limitations on the American people by implementing a national ID card, equipped with intrusive biometric features, which would be financed primarily by the states, and would place severe limitations on any person or state that refused to accept the federally-mandatedlaw."(http://www.jbs.org/node/7007).

However, OFIR's ballot measures are contingent on this state coming into compliance with the Real ID Act. There is a question worth asking here: with such divergent ideas on the role of the state, (and numerous other issues), where do these folks find common ground?

At key points in history the state and ruling class have directly utilized the Klan and other white supremacist groups as an instrument of terror, yet recently it has also seen necessary to attempt to reign in these tendencies, with differing levels of success. As the white nationalist Right grew increasingly militant into the 1990s, the Clinton government launched very real attacks on the militia movement and the militant wing of the anti-abortion movement. The rise and terror of,"The Order,(http://www.freetheorder.org/)" serial killings of abortion doctors, the shoot-out at Ruby Ridge, the Oklahoma City bombing all provide evidence of the potentially insurgent capabilities of these movements, and the state's need to confront it.

This has occurred as a new, internationalist and globalized capitalism has emerged, and concurrently, the nature of white supremacy has shifted significantly. The new, "multicultural" face of the state and official institutions under this new regimen now find tensions with an old form of white supremacy still fostered by nationalist elements. Although the leadership and core of these elements appear to be composed of a dying 'middle' class (landlords, cops, real estate agents and dentists), their pandering appeals to new fears and lingering white supremacist notions within white workers. Many of these groupings, initially supported by or even formed by agents of Capital and the US State, now find themselves in (or moving towards an increasingly) anti-government stances.

As the struggles of the 1960s and 70s resulted on a small minority of women and people of color taking seats at the tables of power, the grassroots Right has turned its attention increasingly towards multi-culturalism and Great Society vestiges as targets in its organizing. Of course, people of color are still disproportionately imprisoned, poor, sick, etc, but while white privilege is still a fact, economically speaking, its sum benefits have declined along with the standards of living of the rest of the working class during and since the massive restructuring begun
with the oil shocks of the 70s. In the 21st century, the tangible wages of whiteness: "first hired, last fired,": historically unprecedented wages and easy credit for homeownership are privileges that may have been preserved in a relative form, but only within a schema of collapsing wages, inflating costs of living, and a generalized collapse of the post WWII 'social contract' for the entire working class. The economic upheavals we're now in the midst of will only accelerate that trend.

White privilege still does accrue material benefits: particularly a far lower likelihood of spending significant time behind bars or being killed by the police, or being excluded entirely from legal employment within a low wage, high productivity economy. However as the economic benefits of whiteness have come into relative decline, white privilege increasingly becomes a matter of "security:" real or symbolic, as juxtaposed in relation to,"crime" and,"terror".

Gun shows are a place where a segment white working class people congregate, and have been one of the venues where multiple tendencies within a broader movement are organizing. Its clear that immigration is a topic where these tendencies find two things right now: common ground with each other, and access to a large body of workers willing to consider their ideas. It is of great importance that we study and understand the tendencies within this movement, and in particular, take serious the grievances that are capable of winning working class people over to it. Although the leadership of these tendencies have differing views on the role of the state and on globalization, what we need to take seriously is the places where they're successfully appealing to the disillusionment, fear, and uprooting that globalization has fostered within the white working class.

ANTICAPITALIST TENDENCIES?

In Arizona a new law goes into effect Feb. 1 that suspends or revokes the business license of any business that "knowingly" hires an undocumented worker. Its not a massive task to imagine how, if enforced, this law is going to come into conflict with powerful interests-with agribusiness, with service sector employers and with numerous other businesses dependent on undocumented labor. Its worth noting that these economic forces are significant benefactors of the same Republican and Democratic parties whom have bent over backwards to collaborate in implementing free trade agreements (and war policies and repressive infrastructure necessary for their implementation). It is also worth noting that these very policies are a driving force in the greatest wave of mass human population movement in the history of the planet. This global exodus is not something that these large economic powers haven't considered or foreseen.

Portions of this movement are speaking to the suspicions, distrust, and frustration that disillusioned (primarily white) working class people feel towards this process.

Whether genuine or opportunist in their positions, its notable that OFIR, Jon Birch, Ron Paul, and the Militia of Montana all find audiences at the gun show when they talk about environmental degradation, globalization, loss of jobs, and corporate influence on government.

A deep piece of this movement's lore is the idea of the 'liberal state', acting in collusion with international capital(or corporations) to force 'multiculturalism' upon white "America" as it drives living conditions for white workers downward.

Whether or not OFIR succeeds with their ballot measure campaign, whether or not Democrats (or Republicans) take the helm and implement shoddy immigration reform (indentured servitude), this movement from the right is learning to speak to the discontents and disillusionment of a sector of working people increasingly suspicious of free trade, of corporate power and influence, and of increasing surveillance and policing powers by a state they believe to be in cahoots with international capital in selling out the "American Dream."

The recent launch of an immigration policy organization of Nursery owners and other business people within the state further complicates the matter, and draws out a bit more of the complexity in the debate around this struggle. How do we maintain principled politics (particularly in a commitment to organize in the demographic ponds that these folks are fishing), without confirming John Birch, OFIR, and, the Montana of Militia's prophecy that 'multiculturalism' and 'globalization' are some sort of grand conspiracy in compliance with international capital against 'American' (read: white) workers? Is there a place to wade into the debate that speaks genuinely to the sentiments suspicious of the federal government, of globalization and its consequences(and of the military and ever present war apparatus neccessary for its implementation), while cutting into and undermining the white supremacist core of this movement? Its important that our language and our approach(or alliances) not play into the far right's (sometimes correct) folklore regarding the liberal state, but answer to the (oftentimes) legitimate fears and distrust of white working class people against corporate business and the federal government.

Whether given the carrot(as with the Bush government now) or the stick (as under Clinton), this movement on the other side will continue to deepen tendencies and ideologies with some of the same anti-corporate, anti-free-trade, and even anti-war tendencies that we're attempting to build power around. It won't be going away either, even if the immigrant rights movement succeeds in establishing meaningful change for undocumented workers in this country.

Ron Paul's candidacy stands as a testament to this. One of the petitioners from the OFIR booth, a member of the Oregon Minutemen Civil Defense Corps, was wearing a Ron Paul button. The Ron Paul campaign was tabling just across the way from him, supporting gun rights, opposing NAFTA and the Iraq War, and simultaneously urging a lockdown on our Southern Border in the name of national
sovereignty.

Our other challenge, then, is to draw out and expose the white supremacist thread that gives this movement its cohesion. We have to speak to the above noted sentiments in a way that doesn't pander to, or give space to neither the white supremacist notions of a stolen "American Legacy," that the right is fostering nor the genuine suspicions of the liberal state and its complicity in the decline the entire working class faces. The gun show was an opportunity to talk with a particularly challenging sector of working class people around immigration, trade, and the foreign policies that influence them.

Lets carry that work forward.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Hindu nationalism: an annotated bibliography of online resources

India's Hindu nationalist movement is arguably the largest right-wing movement in the world, and one of the most aggressive. Yet many people outside India know little about it. Consider the following:
  • Hindu nationalists, who demand Hindu cultural and political dominance of India, have perpetrated some of the most horrific political violence of recent decades, including the murder of thousands of Muslims and, to a lesser extent, persecution and occasional killing of Christians.
  • During the 1990s, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (Indian People's Party, or BJP) rose from a small, marginal party to challenge the Indian National Congress as the country's dominant political force. The BJP headed a national coalition government from 1998 to 2004. In the 2004 general elections, the BJP lost power but Hindu nationalist parties still received over 93 million votes (24 percent of the total).
  • The BJP is part of an extensive network known as the Sangh Parivar, which centers on the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), an all-male cadre organization that promotes a paramilitary ethos and a radical vision to reshape Indian society along authoritarian corporatist lines. The Sangh Parivar includes millions or tens of millions of active members. It includes India's largest labor union and largest student organization, and massive media, educational, and social service operations.
  • Hindu nationalists are active not only within India itself, but also within the global Indian diaspora, including the large ethnic Indian communities in the United States, Britain, and elsewhere. These activities have included large-scale fund-raising, propaganda, and, increasingly, lobbying efforts.
  • Hindu nationalists have for years been cultivating close ties with both U.S. imperialism and right-wing Zionism (fueled by a shared hatred of "radical Islam"), as part of a long-term strategy to promote India's political and military role in the world.
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