Sunday, July 31, 2011

Anders Breivik, Mainstream Islamophobia, and the Far Right

By Matthew N. Lyons

Anders Behring Breivik has been called a neonazi and a Christian fundamentalist. Both of these labels are misleading, although both contain elements of truth. Breivik is an Islamophobe and a right-wing conspiracy monger, but he does not promote Nazi-style Jew-hatred or call for imposing Biblical doctrines on society. His strongest political influences appear to be pro-Zionist, largely secular "counter-jihadists" who disavow traditional racism and maintain significant ties with political elites.

Understanding Breivik's politics not only helps us understand the July 22 massacre in Norway for which he has accepted responsibility, but also highlights important trends and interconnections in right-wing politics in Europe, the U.S., and beyond. This is a difficult task given the size and complexity of Breivik's 1,500-page manifesto/compilation 2083 - A European Declaration of Independence, not to mention his other writings. His work draws on many different political sources, which do not always agree with each other. For these reasons, any summation of Breivik's politics at this point needs to be tentative. So far I have only read bits and pieces of Breivik's writings and am relying here primarily on others' excerpts and interpretations. I hope that my efforts to pull the pieces together are useful.

The forces from which Breivik primarily draws inspiration include Geert Wilders's Party for Freedom in the Netherlands, the English Defence League (EDL), and the Gates of Vienna blog; in the United States they also include neoconservative-oriented Islamophobes such as Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller, co-founders of Stop Islamization of America (SIOA). These and similar groups form a loosely affiliated "counter-jihad" movement. They are deeply hostile to Islam, Muslim immigration, multiculturalism, Marxism, and feminism, but they also endorse Israel, disavow traditional far right biological racism, and to varying degrees distance themselves from more anti-establishment (and often explicitly antisemitic) white nationalists, paleoconservatives, and neonazis.

Broadly speaking, these forces promote a harsher version of mainstream conservatism's Islamophobia and nativism, although their relationships with established elites vary significantly. Spencer and Geller, for example, have close ties with David Horowitz, who is a longtime fixture in the elite-sponsored network of neocon think tanks and publications. In contrast, the EDL is much more rooted in a "football hooligan" subculture of right-wing street violence. The EDL is a split-off from the fascist British National Party (BNP) but has defined itself as anti-racist and anti-Nazi, supports Zionism, and recruits Jews and people of color.

A counter-jihadist political orientation is evident in the compendium of Breivik's online comments about Islam and multiculturalism that was posted the day after the massacres. These are Google translations of Breivik's original comments in Norwegian. His references to the "Vienna School of Thought" apparently refer to the Gates of Vienna blog and to the defeat of Turkish (i.e., Muslim) forces in the 1683 Battle of Vienna:

"Ethnocentric movements that BNP [British National Party], National Front [in France] is not successful and will never be able to get over 10% support... One can not fight racism (multikulti) with racism. Ethnocentrism is therefore the complete opposite of what we want to achieve.

"We have selected the Vienna School of Thought as the ideological basis. This implies opposition to multiculturalism and Islamization (on cultural grounds). All ideological arguments based on anti-racism."

"To sums up the Vienna school of thought:
-Cultural Conservatism (anti-multiculturalism)
-Against Islamization
-Anti-racist
-Anti-authoritarian (resistance to all authoritarian ideologies of hate)
-Pro-Israel/forsvarer of non-Muslim minorities in Muslim countries
-Defender of the cultural aspects of Christianity
-To reveal the Eurabia project and the Frankfurt School (ny-marxisme/kulturmarxisme/multikulturalisme)
-Is not an economic policy and can collect everything from socialists to capitalists"


"Many kulturmarxister look at Israel as a 'racist' state. Cultural conservatives disagree when they believe the conflict is based on Islamic imperialism, that Islam is a political ideology and not a race. Cultural conservatives believe Israel has a right to protect themselves against the Jihad."

Breivik's profession of "anti-racism" is consistent with other counter-jihadists' efforts to distance themselves from the traditional far right. Despite this strategic orientation that defines the clash with Islam in cultural and political terms, Breivik also promotes more traditional racist ideology. As Sara Posner notes, he devotes several pages of his manifesto (pp. 1151-65 – all page references are to the pdf version of 2083 cited above) to denouncing "race-mixing" and discussing how to "prevent the extinction of the Nordic tribes" – passages that make him sound like a true white nationalist. Helen Highwater points out that (on p. 847) he also praises the Swedish Nazi singer Saga, who he claims (falsely) has moved away from Nazism. On the other hand, Breivik's manifesto repeatedly draws parallels between Nazism and Islam.

In the same section where he discusses race-mixing, Breivik denounces Hitler as "a traitor to the Nordic-Germanic tribes":

"Thanks to his insane campaign and the subsequent genocide of the 6 million Jews, multiculturalism, the anti-European hate ideology was created. Multiculturalism would never have been implemented in Europe if it hadn't been for the NSDAP's [Nazi Party's] reckless and unforgivable actions."

Apparently forgetting that Palestine was then under British control, Breivik continues, "Hitler had the military capabilities necessary to liberate Jerusalem and the nearby provinces from Islamic occupation. He could have easily worked out an agreement with the UK and France to liberate the ancient Jewish Christian lands with the purpose of giving the Jews back their ancestral lands…. The deportation of the Jews from Germany wouldn't be popular but eventually, the Jewish people would regard Hitler as a hero because he returned the Holy land to them (p. 1163)."

Unlike the Nazis (or neonazis today), Breivik supports Zionism (in hard-line form including the expulsion of all Muslim Palestinians from Israel) and does not demonize all Jews as a group:

"Jews that support multiculturalism today are as much of a threat to Israel and Zionism (Israeli nationalism) as they are to us. So let us fight together with Israel, with our Zionist brothers against all anti-Zionists, against all cultural Marxists/multiculturalists. Conservative Jews were loyal to Europe and should have been rewarded. Instead, [Hitler] just targeted them all… So, are the current Jews in Europe and US disloyal? The multiculturalist (nation-wrecking) Jews ARE while the conservative Jews ARE NOT. Aprox. 75% of European/US Jews support multiculturalism while aprox. 50% of Israeli Jews does the same. This shows very clearly that we must embrace the remaining loyal Jews as brothers rather than repeating the mistake of the NSDAP. Whenever I discuss the Middle East issue with a national socialist he presents the anti-Israeli and pro-Palestine argument. He always seem unaware of the fact that his propaganda is hurting Israeli nationalists (who want to deport the Muslims from Israel) and that he is in fact helping the Israeli cultural Marxists/multiculturalists with his argumentation (p. 1163)."

What about the description of Breivik as a Christian fundamentalist? Apparently this originated partly with comments by the Norwegian police shortly after the killings, and was picked up by many commentators. Breivik's writings include many references to defending Christianity as part of his cultural conservative program, and some of his ideas are certainly shared by Christian rightists, such as fears of a "demographic winter" among European Christians. Chip Berlet of Political Research Associates (with whom I co-wrote the book Right-Wing Populism in America) argues that Breivik's core conspiracy theory (that cultural Marxists have promoted multiculturalism in order to undermine western Civilization) is largely derived from Christian right sources – specifically the work of Paul Weyrich and William Lind of the Free Congress Foundation. Weyrich was a prime strategist of the U.S. "New Right" and Christian right in the 1970s and 1980s.

But it is misleading to say that Breivik is himself a Christian rightist or fundamentalist. Unlike Christian rightists, he places little priority on banning abortion or homosexuality, and he does not support any form of dominion theology, the belief that Christian men are called by God to take control of society. Posner quotes Breivik's manifesto: It is "essential to understand the difference between a 'Christian fundamentalist theocracy' (everything we do not want) and a secular European society based on our Christian cultural heritage (what we do want)" (p. 1361). This statement closely matches historian Nikki Keddie's distinction between "religious fundamentalism" and "religious nationalism." Religious fundamentalism, as a political movement, is about doctrinal purity and imposing a specific set of religious practices on society. Religious nationalism places little or no emphasis on doctrinal purity, but rather uses religious identity as a marker to exclude and vilify non-members. In these terms, the U.S. Christian right is a religious fundamentalist movement, but Breivik is a Christian nationalist -- not a fundamentalist.

Michael Altman also points out that Breivik's political vision is not exclusively Christian in focus. His manifesto describes "a utopia where the right wings of the world's religions defend one another against Islam and Marxism." In Breivik's vision for a new Europe, for example, a "Multi-Cultural Force Medal" would be awarded "for military cooperation with nationalist Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, and/or atheist forces (non-European) on Hindu, Buddhist or Jewish territory. These efforts must be directed against Jihadi or cultural Marxist forces, personnel or interests" (p. 1086). Breivik pays particular attention to India, including in 2083 an essay by Hindu nationalist Shrinandan Vyas about Muslim "genocides" against Hindus. "It is essential," Breivik writes, "that the European and Indian resistance movements learn from each other and cooperate as much as possible. Our goals are more or less identical" (p. 1475). This sentiment resonates with Hindu nationalists' efforts in recent years to build alliances with western Islamophobes, especially right-wing Zionists.

Efforts by left-leaning commentators to report on Breivik's politics have been mixed. The online magazine Religion Dispatches has done a particularly good job of presenting a rounded, complex picture of Breivik's writings. The pieces by Sarah Posner and Michael Altman cited above appeared on Religion Dispatches.

Many commentators on the right have responded to Breivik with defensiveness and denial. This has been particularly true among neocon counter-jihadists such as Geller and Spencer. More substantive analysis comes from a few rightist critics of neoconservatism and Zionism, such as Justin Raimondo. Editor of AntiWar.com, Raimondo is a paleocon-leaning libertarian who supported Pat Buchanan's presidential campaigns. Raimondo notes Breivik's debt to Weyrich but emphasizes his ties with the pro-Zionist Islamophobes of SIOA, David Horowitz's Frontpagemag.com, and the EDL. Breivik's video account of the Islamic threat, Raimondo writes, "is neoconservatism, of the old cold war variety, with the only difference being that International Islam has taken the place of International Communism as our unsleeping foe." Raimondo's criticism of Islamophobia is to be applauded, but unfortunately he doesn't mention that paleocons such as his old friend Pat Buchanan have been just as complicit as neocons in promoting Islamophobia. (Indeed, Buchanan's own commentary on the Norwegian massacre denounces Breivik as "evil" but maintains that "a burgeoning Muslim presence" is still the greater threat facing Europe.)

Kevin MacDonald, editor of the white nationalist and antisemitic Occidental Observer, also pinpoints Breivik's main orientation: "a Geert Wilders-type of cultural conservative, very opposed to ethnocentrism as a strategy, very positive about the Vienna School, pro-Israel, and also very hostile toward Muslims." As Leah Nelson writes on the Southern Poverty Law Center's blog, MacDonald applauds many elements of Breivik's analysis yet "is obviously perplexed by Breivik's professed support for Israel" and by his general failure to target Jewish elites. MacDonald speculates that this may be a tactical maneuver by Breivik.

Anders Behring Breivik doesn't fit the standard expectations for a right-wing terrorist. He is not a Timothy McVeigh or a Paul Hill – not a neonazi or a hardline Christian rightist. Although strongly influenced by white nationalism and Christian rightist conspiracy theories, his primary orientation is to a political network that is closer to mainstream conservatism and, at least in the United States, closer to established political elites. This doesn't mean that the line has disappeared between mainstream right and far right, but the interplay between them has become even uglier and more violent than before.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

“We are not interested in a polemic,” -- but we got one anyway.

TurningThe Tide has published a response to a previous article, Off the Nazis!...but how? We had previously linked to it and post this response here to continue the discussion.

A response to Bring the Ruckus

by Jerry Bellow

I read with interest the recent article from Bring the Ruckus (or The Brigade, presumably some subset of BTR, which is itself a multi-tendency organization) concerning the recent Anti-Fascist events in and around Trenton NJ. It is clear that the author(s) or their informants were intimately in the actual actions, as I was.

They seek to bring a critical perspective to what happened that weekend, and in some cases they are mostly dead on. With other conclusions, I feel as though they head in a direction that is dangerous to both the aboveground and underground portions of the movement.

BTR points out serious flaws in ARA’s organizing leading up the public mobilization in Trenton. I agree that much more time and energy should have been spent out in the community, meeting people, explaining who we are, what we do, why we are there, and why it would be fun to join in.

In the organizing for ARA I have done in the past in the Midwest (mostly Ohio), a lot of time was spent on this sort of activity, both in big cities and in very small towns. The small towns were harder to do this in, because you are organizing among poor rural white folks, and there was always that fear that someone you met might be the enemy or one of their sympathizers. But, We Go Where They Go even if it’s a space and place where their comfort level is much greater than our own.

Hub City ARA, which is the ARA Network chapter local to Trenton, didn’t do enough of this base-building type work in a place where one could be 100% certain that the fascists had no sympathizers one might encounter unknowingly by chance.

But each ARA chapter is autonomous, each has to organize permanently in its own community, and each has to deal with the political repercussions of its actions in the long term. How Hub City chose to turn a Neo-Nazi mobilization to its own local advantage is Hub City’s choice, not the choice of the network as a whole.

To Hub City’s credit, their local organizing leading up to the event centered on exposing the locations and (sex) crimes of local NSM members. Despite the overall lack of base building, the NSM now has zero chance of gaining a foothold or building a base in Trenton. We Go Where They Go, and Hub City ARA rooted them out and exposed them.

The other point BTR raises in their article, and the one I find problematic is this one:

“Doing the aboveground organizing in the same space and time as the underground organizing is strategically paralyzing and decreases the effectiveness of both the more and the less militant elements from pursuing their separate goals.”

The conceptualization therein is a straw man. “More Militant” and “Less Militant” elements within ARA and within the anti-fascist movement do not have separate goals.

They have one goal and that is to defeat and dismantle fascist organizations. “Elements” (or that is to say, people) are not more or less militant, tactics are more or less militant.

People, as individuals, have more or less military capability.

The formulation that BTR suggests we use essentially places the more militarily capable people within the organization in a separate political and organizing space from the more aboveground and “less militant” (although it takes a lot of work to carry out militant action in broad daylight downtown) people. This is an error.

The clandestine operation, the sudden strike by night, the essentially more illegal actions with high potential for physical violence (which is what I think BTR means by “more militant”) are tactics.

These tactics must be employed from time to time, and the capability to employ these tactics must be built, honed and maintained for the sake of both effectiveness and credibility. Clandestine activity however, is still only a tactical adjunct to the core work of Anti-fascism, which is mass organizing.

Separating these elements leads to disaster in the long term. Time and again, revolutionary organizations have separated their clandestine elements from their mass elements, or failed to build mass elements at all. This leads to a focus and fetishizing of clandestine activity at the expense mass organizing and mass militancy.

As the clandestine political operator slides further down this road she or he becomes more and more separated from the masses, from dialogue with mass political organizing, with the realities of day to day life. When the Red Army Faction disbanded itself in 1998, one of the key self-criticisms they cited was a failure to engage in any above-ground work. They wrote:

“It Was A Strategic Mistake Not To Build Up A Political-Social Organization Alongside The Illegal, Armed Organization

“...In no phase of our [RAF’s] history was an outreaching, political organization realized in addition to the political-military struggle. The concept of the RAF knew only the armed struggle, with a focus on the political-military attack.”

In light of this, and the experiences of many clandestine underground organizations, the fault of ARA in Trenton was not the failure to separate the clandestine from public, but the failure to better coordinate the two. ARA and other antifa failed to communicate WHY we chose the tactic of wearing black, WHAT the relationship of this or that corporate institution is to fascism or WHY some of us chose to target them along with the open nazis. We failed to communicate why the population of Trenton should support us, why they should join us in these actions.

Separation would not have helped with that. Searching for new methods of communication, integration and inclusion are the way forward.