Jan 15, 2020

Trump, Iran, and the right-wing anti-interventionists

[This commentary grew out of discussions among Three Way Fight supporters.]

When Donald Trump ordered the assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, many people feared it would lead to full-scale war between the U.S. and Iran—especially when Iran responded with missile attacks against Iraqi bases that house U.S. military forces. But instead of escalating the conflict further, Trump reversed course the next morning, celebrating that no Americans were harmed in the missile attacks and that “Iran appears to be standing down.” This didn’t end the crisis or negate Trump’s aggressive moves, but for the moment at least it pushed back the threat of full-scale war.

Trump’s reversal also pointed to a sharp foreign policy conflict within the array of right-wing forces that put him in the White House—a conflict between aggressive militarists and right-wing anti-interventionists, between those who advocate a U.S.-led crusade against “radical Islam” and those who see a supposed “invasion” of the United States by dark-skinned immigrants and refugees as the greater threat.

From the beginning, Donald Trump’s presidential administration has represented an unstable coalition of conflicting rightist factions. Many of his supporters uphold the “America First” policies he ran on, such as shutting down immigration from Latin America and the majority Muslim countries, boosting tariffs to revive American manufacturing, and pulling the United States back from its global military role and system of alliances. But Trump has also relied on support from more conventional conservatives because of their strong organizational base in the Republican party or in the ruling class. These include neoliberals who advocate free trade and relatively open immigration so that businesses can exploit workers wherever and whenever they want, neoconservatives who want the United States to spread “democracy” by invading and occupying other countries, and Christian rightists who (in most but not all cases) believe that building the state of Israel and waging war on its enemies are part of God’s plan for the Second Coming of Christ. To varying degrees, all of these factions have been represented in the Trump administration.

Some of President Trump’s foreign policy moves have broken with conservative interventionist orthodoxy, such as praising Russian President Putin, criticizing NATO (and privately threatening to withdraw from the organization), and meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. On these points, Trump is in step with America Firsters such as Steve Bannon, who was White House chief strategist from January to July 2017, and whose influence in the administration has persisted. But in substantive terms, Trump’s administration has largely followed an interventionist approach. As one analyst argued a year ago:
“In the name of opposing globalism, Trump has upheld one pillar after another of the neocon policy agenda. He is building up America’s already supreme military, to the tune of $750 billion slated for 2019. He is confronting a panoply of adversaries from Venezuela to Iran to China. He has escalated military engagements in parts of Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, without leaving a single of the nation’s dozens of formal security obligations around the world. He has released the United States from multilateral arrangements like the Paris Climate Agreement, UNESCO, and the UN Human Rights Council, and is exiting the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia. And he has steadfastly supported the right-wing government of Israel, moving the US embassy to Jerusalem and slashing aid to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees. If Dick Cheney were president, the record would be similar.”
Pompeo at lectern with "Christians United for Israel" backdrop
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo,
interventionist and Christian rightist,
addresses Christians United for Israel
summit, July 2019
Neoconservatives in the Trump administration have included Elliot Abrams (special representative for Venezuela since January 2019) and John Bolton (national security advisor from April 2018 to September 2019). But among interventionist factions, the Christian right has had an even stronger influence on the administration, at least with regard to the Middle East. Ten months ago, Kathryn Joyce noted that Trump’s decision to recognize Israel’s illegal annexation of the Golan Heights (a “radical shift in foreign policy”) was a gift not only to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but also to right-wing evangelicals in the United States, who have been among Trump’s staunchest supporters. Both Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vice President Pence are closely aligned with the Christian right, specifically the Christian Zionist group Christians United for Israel, whose founder John Hagee believes a joint U.S.-Israeli preemptive military strike against Iran is integral to God’s plan. In 2018, Pence successfully urged Trump to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, and last year it was Pompeo and Pence who persuaded Trump to have Qasem Soleimani killed.

When Soleimani’s assassination was announced, many Trump supporters celebrated. The Three Percenters–Original, a Patriot movement group, gleefully applauded the attack on its Facebook page. The Federalist Society declared that the murder of Soleimani was “long overdue.” Concerned Women for America (CWA), a leading Christian right organization, wrote in an open email to Secretary of State Pompeo, “CWA is 100% supportive of the President’s decision to retaliate against Soleimani and his murderous thug entourage. History has taught us that appeasement only emboldens terrorists and fascist dictators. We are calling on our members to cover you, President Trump, and our military leaders in prayer.”

Alt-rightists, who played a pivotal role in helping elect Trump in 2016, had a sharply different response. In the months and years after Trump’s inauguration many alt-rightists become bitterly disappointed by what they saw as his betrayal of America First politics and capitulation to the conservative establishment—and to the Jewish cabal that supposedly controls the U.S. political system. The killing of Soleimani bolstered that assessment. Counter-Currents editor Greg Johnson called the attack Trump’s “dumbest foreign policy decision yet.” Brad Griffin (“Hunter Wallace”) of Occidental Dissent wrote that “Donald Trump just took a major step toward starting a war with Iran for Sheldon Adelson and the Jewish billionaires who have bought his foreign policy.” Richard Spencer tweeted: “I deeply regret voting for and promoting Donald Trump in 2016. * To the people of Iran, there are millions of Americans who do not want war, who do not hate you, and who respect your nation and its history. * After our traitorous elite is brought to justice, we hope to achieve peace, reconciliation, and forgiveness.”

Other right-wing interventionists also criticized the Soleimani assassination. The libertarian and paleoconservative website LewRockwell.com reposted an article by Thomas Luongo commenting, “Americans supporting this refuse to comprehend that we’re as much to blame as Iran is for the violence. We’re not the good guys and they aren’t the bad guys. Everyone sucks here.... Trump was elected to end this belligerence but he’s incapable of separating strength from weakness.” Neonazi David Duke’s website denounced “Trump’s Illegal Terrorist Attack and Murder of a Hero in the War Against ISIS & al Qaeda.”

Some Trump supporters also criticized the assassination. Helga Zepp-LaRouche, Lyndon LaRouche’s widow and successor as head of the fascist cult network he founded, wrote that Soleimani “has probably done more than anyone to contribute to the defeat of ISIS, Daesh, al Nusra, al Qaida etc., and represents a national hero in the eyes of the Iranians.” Zepp-LaRouche portrayed Soleimani’s killing as a dangerous legacy of former National Security Advisor Bolton’s “confrontational policies,” in contrast to Trump, “who promised to end the endless wars and has already taken several steps in that direction.” To avert further escalation and “outflank the maneuvers of the war-mongers,” she called for an immediate summit involving Trump, Putin, and Chinese President Xi, so that “those three outstanding leaders [can] fulfill the potential that historical providence has bestowed upon them.”

Photo of Tucker Carlson holding a microphone
Tucker Carlson, Fox News host and
right-wing anti-interventionist, who says
"invasion" from Mexico is bigger danger
to U.S. than Iran
Perhaps the most important Trump supporter to criticize the Soleimani assassination was Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson. In contrast to other Fox hosts such as Sean Hannity, who praised the attack, Carlson warned that “America appears to be lumbering toward a new Middle East war” and—like Zepp-LaRouche—blamed the move on Bolton and other advisors rather than Trump himself. Carlson asserted that Trump himself “doesn’t seek war” but suggested he “might be outmaneuvered” by “people around him.”

The evening before Soleimani’s assassination, Carlson declared,
“the very people demanding action against Iran tonight, the ones telling you the Persian menace is the greatest threat we face, are the very same ones demanding that you ignore the invasion of America now in progress from the south. The millions, the tens of millions, of foreign nationals living among us illegally; the torrent, more significantly, of Mexican narcotics that has killed and disabled entire generations of Americans…”
This combination of criticizing military aggression and demonizing immigrants is squarely in the tradition of right-wing anti-interventionists going back to paleocon Pat Buchanan’s presidential campaigns in the 1990s. Coupled with Carlson’s care to blame the attack on Trump’s advisors rather than Trump himself, the approach “seems carefully engineered to appeal to a paranoid, racist president who typically responds to criticism with vindictive hyperaggression,” to quote Matt Gertz of Media Matters. This approach may have succeeded in influencing Trump’s actions. As Gertz argues,
“Carlson, like several of his colleagues, is effectively not just a cable news host but a political operative. These members of the Fox News cabinet try to influence Trump’s actions, both through their public commentary and by counseling the president on the side. Carlson has been particularly effective in this role. Last year, he was reportedly able to attract Trump’s attention and, through both his television show and private lobbying, convince the president to call off planned military strikes against Iranian targets. The Fox host later used that relationship to get Trump to push Bolton out of the administration.”
From the standpoint of many alt-rightists, Carlson is serving a useful “alt-lite” role, helping to spread key parts of their message to a mainstream audience and to Trump himself, as White House advisor Stephen Miller does with regard to immigration policy. Alt-rightist Brad Griffin commented a few weeks ago, “Tucker Carlson is trailing behind us. He is as close to us as he can be while staying within the boundaries of the ‘mainstream’ elite consensus.”

These dynamics belie simplistic claims that all rightist forces in the United States are pulling together toward the same goals. They also have practical implications for leftists as we work to oppose the Trump administration’s militaristic and murderous policies in the Middle East and elsewhere. Just as anti-war activists face the danger of being coopted into supporting kinder, gentler forms of U.S. imperialism via the Democratic Party and related formations, we also face the danger of unwittingly legitimizing and aiding far right initiatives. Although their underlying politics differ profoundly, rightist and leftist opponents of war with Iran often use similar talking points. When fascists denounce the killing of Soleimani as a terrorist attack, or call on Americans to respect the people of Iran and their history, or even praise Soleimani as a hero in the war against ISIS and al Qaeda, they are advancing arguments that are also being used by (some) leftists.

There is a long history of fascists and other far rightists infiltrating anti-war movements or otherwise seeking to build alliances with leftists against the U.S. government and the political center. This was an issue around the U.S.-Iraq wars of 1991 and 2003, the anti-globalization movement, and the Occupy movement. In recent years, efforts by far rightists to forge red-brown alliances with leftists have received some attention, for example on Three Way Fight, on Bill Weinberg’s CounterVortex website, and in the 2018 report by the anarchist author “Vagabond.” In the recent crisis, following Soleimani’s killing, white nationalists attempted to join or distributed literature at anti-war protests in Pittsburgh, Atlanta, and Austin. These moves can’t just be dismissed as hypocrisy or disruption, but reflect serious efforts to inject fascistic politics into the anti-war movement or, in some cases, to make common cause with leftists.

As noted above, red-brown alliances aren’t the only pitfall for leftist opponents of Trump’s militarism to be concerned about. Anti-war initiatives are vulnerable to Democratic Party cooptation to the extent that they blame U.S. military aggression on Republican politicians rather than recognizing it as a systemic problem bolstered by both major parties. But anti-war activism is vulnerable to cooptation by the far right to the extent that it echoes far right myths—specifically, that right-wing, authoritarian, murderous governments such as the Islamic Republic of Iran or the Ba’athist government in Syria represent a bulwark against imperialism, or that U.S. policy in the Middle East is dictated by the Israeli government or rich Jews.

Three Way Fight calls on U.S. leftists and antifascists to promote anti-war politics based in liberatory principles and solidarity with the exploited and oppressed people of the Middle East. That means, most urgently, oppose any moves by the Trump administration to escalate military conflict with Iran, but it also means reject cooptation by the liberal wing of the ruling class—or by right-wing or fascist anti-interventionists.

Mike Pompeo, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons. 
Tucker Carlson, photo by Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA 3.0), via Wikimedia Commons.

Dec 21, 2019

An antifascist guide to Patriot movement websites

By Sebastian Porreca
As a window into the Patriot movement’s inner workings, here are brief profiles of many lesser-known Patriot websites and organizations.

Editor’s note: The Patriot movement first exploded in the mid 1990s, as activists formed hundreds of armed “citizen militias” around fears that globalist elites were plotting to disarm the American people, overthrow the Constitution, and impose a dictatorship. The movement quickly collapsed, largely because of backlash following the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, but rebounded even stronger after Barack Obama was elected president in 2008.

The Patriot movement has always been a weirdly and distinctively American mix of political influences, including white nationalism, theocratic Christianity, gun rights, John Birch Society-type conspiracy thinking, libertarianism, the anti-environmental “Wise Use” movement, county supremacy, and “abortion is murder” patriarchal militancy. From the beginning, many critics warned that the Patriot movement was a direct outgrowth of the 1980s Nazi-Klan convergence, but others argued that the two were basically distinct phenomena with some overlap. A few leftists, such Alex Cockburn, even saw the militias as potential allies. But debates about whether the Patriot movement was “really” fascist or non-fascist tended to miss a key point: it was the first U.S. movement since World War II where fascists and non-fascists interacted and worked in coalition on a mass scale.

The resurgent Patriot movement made headlines with the 2014 Bundy Ranch standoff (where hundreds of armed activists forced federal police to back down) and the 2016 armed occupation of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. In recent years, Patriot groups have become major promoters of Islamophobia and anti-immigrant nativism, and they have tended to cheer Donald Trump more enthusiastically than alt-right or other white nationalist groups. But the Patriot movement’s racial politics have always been more conflicted than many critics recognize, and even some of its most prominent figures have criticized Trump.

The Patriot movement has always been highly decentralized, and this presents challenges to antifascist researchers. Some of the biggest organizations—Oath Keepers and the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association—are relatively easy to monitor, but once you get past them the task becomes much more difficult, with a shifting array of groups, websites, and competing (but often similarly named) factions. Yet these smaller outfits give us an important window into the movement’s inner discussions and unguarded pronouncements. In this guest post to Three Way Fight, antifascist researcher Sebastian Porreca offers a quick introduction to seventeen of the smaller and lesser-known Patriot movement sites. (URLs are provided but not active links.) Included are militias, Three Percenter groups, sovereign citizen-oriented groups, and others.

*                    *                    *

flag wiith 13 horizontal black and white stripes, black field in upper left corner with thirteen white stars surrounding the numerals "III"
Three Percenters, a subset of the Patriot movement, take
their name from a belief that only 3% of colonists took
up arms against Britain in the American Revolution
American Patriots the III% (https://www.apiii.net/). This III%er website last put out a newsletter in April 2019. (You can’t access it without buying a $5 subscription.) Other than that, there is not much info on the site other than some stuff they did in 2018 and various mission statement/recruitment materials. There is a tab that says “Blog” but it doesn’t actually have any posts.

Citizens Militia of Mississippi (https://citizensmilitiaofmississippi.com/blog/). This blog hasn’t had any new posts since October 2018, but there are still some useful articles. Some are just reflections on nature and the founding fathers, but there are a number of articles discussing gun rights, how the press can’t be trusted, and “truth.” The posts on this blog are actually a bit more thought out and well written than those on many other Patriot movement sites, but there is still paranoia about liberal media and modern liberal values.

Constitution Party (https://www.constitutionparty.com/). The national Constitution Party’s website has a lot of useful stuff. Their twelve key issues talk about how necessary militias are to the 2nd Amendment and the nation’s defense, and also affirm state power over federal power, anti-immigration, abolishing Social Security, and isolationism. It basically is a unified political party version of the Patriot movement. A recent blog post rails against “cultural Marxists” and how the left is basically a big brother-esq thought police. But the Constitution Party folks are also very critical of and opposed to Trump and the Republicans, almost as much so as they are to the left. Many other Patriot sites/groups are anti-government but show a fair amount of sympathy and support to right-wing Republicans, but the Constitution Party does not.

Constitution Party of Mississippi (https://www.constitutionpartyms.com). This state affiliate of the Constitution Party has a very interesting website. The “We’re Different” tab goes on a rant about how both the Republicans and the Democrats are corrupt and making big government, and also rails against taxes. The news page links to mostly far right media sites, such as Breitbart.

Freedom Yell (https://www.freedomyell.com/). This conspiracy theory website is closely aligned with Patriot movement ideology. The site denounces modern banking and believes the U.S. government is secretly a corporation. Very all over the place but seems to lean closer to sovereign citizen type ideology than mainstream militia.

Lightfoot Militia (http://www.lightfootmilitia.com/index.html). This group’s website doesn’t have much in the way of blogs or updates, but it contains a lot of information on how to join, and a map that shows all the chapters, with links to their Facebook pages. There are links to dozens of Facebook groups and pages, although many of them have been taken down.

Missouri Citizens Militia (https://missouricitizensmilitia.com/). MCM appears to be a bigger, more active militia, with close organizing roots to various III%er groups and Oath Keepers. Apparently MCM members and their founder Aaron Penberthy attended the 2014 Bundy Ranch standoff. Their home page is full of blog posts about their activities, updates in leadership, and interactions with other groups.

Minuteman Project (http://baesic.net/minutemanproject/). Started by Jim Gilchrist and Chris Simcox and operating out of the Southwest (mostly Arizona and New Mexico), this was one of the main “minutemen” groups formed in the early 2000s to patrol the border for migrant border crossers. Co-founder Chris Simcox, while not mentioned on the website, is currently serving a 20-year jail sentence for child molestation, and has also worked with neo-nazi murderer and militia activist J.T. Ready. The site itself is interesting. The group’s heyday was around 2005-2006, but nonetheless, the site has maintained posting through July 2019. Most of the posts seem to be authored by Gilchrist, but there are some republished articles from other media sites as well. The news page is very rich in information. On immigration, the majority of the posts are articles detailing horrible crimes supposedly done by immigrants like homicide and voter fraud. There are also the expected rants against unpatriotic liberals such as Bernie Sanders and Barack Obama, complete with conspiracy theories that implicate Hillary Clinton in trying to frame Trump for Russian collusion and Democrats in framing Brett Kavanaugh. The posts are very anti-elitist and carry a populist “drain-the-swamp”-esq ring to them, and there is an aversion to all government authority except Trump. There are also a number of interesting anti-immigrant press releases by Congressmember Steve King. Overall, the page carries the typical Patriot movement politics, but give a very good insight into the whole minutemen movement, which focuses particularly on xenophobia and anti-immigrant racism over many of the other issues that militias champion. Also, hilariously, there is a Hate Mail tab which just lists angry political emails sent to Gilchrist, which may or may not be a subtle nudge to his readers to dox the senders.

My Militia (https://www.mymilitia.com/militias/). This site is a WEALTH of information. It is a kind of social media/chat room site for various militias. The “Links” tab lists militias by state and provides links to a lot of militias in any given state. Most seem to be smaller-scale militias, which could be extremely useful if you’re looking for a specific militia group or militias in a specific area. Also there is a calendar of militia events.

Natural News (https://www.naturalnews.com/). Listed on SPLC’s anti-government militia list, this conspiracy theory/pseudo-enviromental news site run by Mike Adams is apparently beloved by the Patriot Movement. Aside from advocating for a ton of bunk natural remedies and supplements, it also pushes a ton of anti-government conspiracy theories. Recently, for example, it touted an article about how Jeffrey Epstein isn’t actually dead and either the deep state or the Clintons have him.

Roll Call – Civil Disobedience Division (https://www.facebook.com/pg/whowilldecide/posts/?ref=page_internal). A Facebook page that uses lots of III%er imagery but is a lot more extreme. Lots of anti-government conspiracy theories, even against Trump, talk of FEMA concentration camps, and extreme racism/xenophobia toward immigrants. Some original postings/rants, but as a Facebook page also a large number of reposts.

Sovereign Education and Defense Ministry (SEDM) (https://sedm.org/education/official-ministry-blog/). A Christian-oriented sovereign citizen website, SEDM features mostly (pseudo)legalistic posts about the processes of becoming a sovereign citizen, with links to various forms and legal advice, and general advice on how to deal with things like ownership, property, and Social Security while being a sovereign citizen. There are also several articles opposing birthright citizenship.

Stand Up America US (http://www.standupamericaus.org/sua/about-sua/). Not to be confused with the anti-Trump group Stand Up America, this is a news/conspiracy media site started by Paul Vallely that seems to heavily influence/or be influenced by Patriot ideology. Very anti-government/anti-regulation, overtly nativist, and extremely anti-leftist. A number of the articles are internationally focused, especially on communist China. The “America First” tab is very long but gives a lot of the group’s anti-federal government, xenophobic, and anti-leftist ideology. Also with a quick search of “Islam” a number of paranoid, Islamophobic articles popped up. Ideas range from shutting down the departments of Education and Energy, the EPA, and the IRS to arming civilians to combat Islam and Sharia law.

Three Percenters – Original (https://www.thethreepercenters.org/blog). This is the first III% website that comes up with a quick google search. This website claims to represent the “original” III%ers and has a huge webstore for merch sales, complete with sticker/shirt/patch designs advocating violence (one sticker says “throat punch donor”) and Islamophobia (the classic “Infidel” patch). It has the group’s supposed by-laws, and a sizable blog. The blog is really interesting, as it is basically authored by mostly one person (“Jack W.”), at least in recent posts, and it closely covers Democratic Party politics. There are a number of articles on the Democratic Party debates, the Green New Deal, and of course the wrongs of socialism. The majority of the coverage of mainstream Democrat party politics involves discussion on how the Democratic party is veering toward an anti-American socialism. Going back to 2018, there are blog posts with people’s full names: Monica Weets, Boyd Martin, Thomas Mosser.

The Three Percent Clan (https://www.wearethethree.com/). I only want to include this so people know to ignore it. While it uses similar language and the same symbol as III% militia groups, this is actually the website and chat room for a videogame, “Clan,” that doesn’t seem to have any actual ties with the III%ers.

III Percent Patriots (https://iiipercentpatriots.wordpress.com/) and (https://www.iiipercentpatriots.com/).  The websites of this group seem to be among the oddest and most extreme so far. There are many references to infighting among III%ers, much anti-government rhetoric, a LOT of references to killing commies, and tons of strange esoteric references and articles. There are numerous links to a website called Kerodin (http://kerodin.com/), which apparently refers to III%er Christian Allen Kerodin, best known for spearheading the unsuccessful III Citadel project to build a semi-autonomous enclave for Patriot Movement adherents in northern Idaho. (See the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Behind the Walls.”) Also notable is the semi-ironic use of Klu Klux Klan imagery on a website sidebar.

III% Security Force (III%SF) The III%SF is a more extreme faction of the III%ers that is led by a man named Chris Hill. It has come into conflict with other more established III%er groups due to its confrontational and violent rhetoric. ”Statement Against III% Security Force” (https://www.thethreepercenters.org/single-post/2018/03/13/STATEMENT-AGAINST-III-SECURITY-FORCE) is an interesting article on the “Three Percenters - Original” site disavowing the more extreme III% Security Force. Oddly enough, the post cites Islamophobia (laughable when coming from a website that sells “Infidel” patches) and anti-government extremism. It seems III%SF got a little too blatant and frank with their rhetoric. III% Security Force’s website (http://www.iiisecurityforce.com/media.html) and Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/GSFIII/) feature a lot of Confederate flags and calls for violence against leftists. Their Twitter account is currently suspended. It should also be noted that several members of the III% Security Force members were convicted for plotting a bomb attack against a community of Somali/Muslim immigrants in Kansas.

As of early September, there has been a major split within the III% Security Force, according to an SPLC report.

Oct 17, 2019

Review of “Anti-Fascism Beyond Machismo” by Petronella Lee

An important new zine analyzes fascist gender politics and argues that antifascism needs to include feminism at its core.

Cover of Anti-Fascism Agasint Machismo: Gender, Politics, and th Struggle Against Fascism, by Petronella Lee, with a background of red and black roses
In recent years, the appalling misogyny found in and around the U.S. far right has started to get more attention, but it still tends to be treated as secondary to the movement’s white supremacism and racial politics. Petronella Lee tackles this problem head on in a new zine titled Anti-Fascism Beyond Machismo: Gender, Politics, and the Struggle Against Fascism (published online by North Shore Counter-Info, an anarchist news platform in Southern Ontario, and in pamphlet form by The Tower InPrint in Hamilton).

Lee argues that we need to recognize misogyny as “a fundamental pillar of contemporary far-right politics,” and that to defeat fascism we need to go beyond “the choice between a pacifying liberal feminism of ‘pussy hats’ and ‘protective policing,’ [and] a reductive anti-fascism defined by machismo and sexism.” At 13,000 words and with 174 endnotes, Anti-Fascism Beyond Machismo is an important new work of radical scholarship, which weaves together the ideas and findings of many scholars, activists, and researchers (myself included).

Anti-Fascism Beyond Machismo is divided into three sections. Part One analyzes the gender politics of current-day U.S. fascist movements, with a particular emphasis on the alt-right and its relationship with the cluster of anti-feminist online communities known as the manosphere. Lee argues that misogyny on the internet “operates as a stepping stone” and has led “many insecure, marginalized, and otherwise struggling men to broader fascistic politics.” Far right groups share certain basic premises, specifically that “gender is determined by nature, gender differences are immutable, and a clear gender hierarchy where men dominate and rule exists (and is desirable).” But within these parameters, Lee emphasizes, current-day fascists also disagree in important ways: “some argue for the complete banishment of women from the public sphere, while others argue that (white) women have a role to play in the white nationalist movement. ...some argue for the extermination of all queers, while others argue (and even celebrate) the inclusion of openly gay men.”

Part One also looks at how gender politics has been used to bolster white supremacy, both historically and within contemporary fascism, with fears of men of color supposedly threatening white women used to justify racist violence. Recently, some far rightists have also positioned themselves as defending LGBTQ people against supposed threats from immigrants and Muslims. In this discussion, Lee criticizes many feminists and LGBTQ activists for calling for safety for women and queers in ways that sometimes play into racist assumptions and end up bolstering white supremacy.

Part Two of Anti-Fascism Beyond Machismo traces some of the history of women’s resistance to fascism. Lee argues that many accounts ignore or gloss over women’s antifascist activism, based on the assumption (which many male-led antifascist groups have shared with fascists) that “women could not be autonomous political subjects.” This section details many counter-examples drawn particularly from histories in Ethiopia, Spain, and Yugoslavia. In the Spanish Civil War, Lee argues, “women essentially found themselves in a struggle on three fronts – fighting against fascism, fighting to push antifascist forces towards a revolutionary orientation, and then finally, fighting to make revolutionary forces take seriously gender liberation.”

In Part Three, Lee offers a framework on which a feminist antifascism can be built, consisting of a series of lessons or general principles drawn from the history of women’s antifascist resistance. These include, for example, a recognition that feminism and gender liberation must be “a non-negotiable component” of antifascism, that we can learn a lot from “anti-racist and anti-colonial resistance traditions [not] commonly associated with anti-fascism,” and that antifascism should be seen as one part of a broader revolutionary struggle. More specifically, Lee argues that antifascists should reject a narrow focus on physical fighting and a narrow concept of fighting as something that men do. All sorts of people have fought and can fight, and a strong resistance movement has to foster and value a wide variety of strategies and tactics, activities and spaces – welcoming and valuing people of not only different genders but also different ages and abilities.

In the Conclusion, Lee delineates eloquently between an antifascism oriented toward machismo (characterized by bravado, “dogmatic combativity,” individualism, and lack of strategy) and one oriented toward militancy (which seeks to build “the comfort and capacity for more women and queers to take part” in combat, while viewing combat as just one part of a multi-sided struggle).

I found very little to criticize in Anti-Fascism Beyond Machismo. Here and there Lee touches on some points where I wished for more in-depth treatment. In Part One, for example, there’s passing mention that “changes in capitalism” are fueling the rise of misogynistic, far right politics. That’s a huge point, but it’s really beyond the scope of this particular work, and the text that Lee quotes from about it (Bromma’s Exodus and Reconstruction) is an excellent starting point for exploring it further. Indeed, many of the citations and notes will be helpful for those who want to delve deeper. Anti-Fascism Beyond Machismo doesn’t need to be definitive or comprehensive to do its job. Petronella Lee’s new zine is compelling and important, and I hope many antifascists will read, discuss, and act on it.

Sep 14, 2019

Multiracial Far Right: a conversation with Daryle Lamont Jenkins and Cloee Cooper

How do we make sense of militant right-wing groups, such as Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer, that include people of color in significant numbers? Antifascist researchers Daryle Lamont Jenkins and Cloee Cooper discuss the “multiracial far right” in this Three Way Fight interview with Matthew Lyons. The interview expands on some of the themes in Daryle and Cloee’s September 2019 article “Culture and Belonging in the USA: Multiracial Organizing on the Contemporary Far Right,” published by Political Research Associates.
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Photo showing slips of paper on the ground, with printed text, "It's okay to be white"
Trash left behind by Patriot Prayer after rally,
Portland, OR, 9 December 2017
ML: In the article you two co-wrote, “Culture and Belonging in the USA," you talk about the rise of what you call the Multiracial Far Right. Can you explain, what is the Multiracial Far Right and what kind of groups it includes and what’s distinctive about its politics?

DLJ: I guess it's basically the closest thing to an Alt Right that you can say exists. What makes it alternative from what we have seen on the Right is the incorporation of people of color into ideas that we have always considered to be antithetical to people of color. White supremacist ideas are being parroted by Black people, by Latinx, by Jews even. That’s a new phenomenon. At least large numbers of people flocking to it is the new phenomenon. We try to make the point that it makes sense because as we come along in our development in this society, naturally there are going to be folks that consider themselves conservative. And to that end, there are going to be folks receptive to a far right version of conservatism. It makes sense. The more we become a part of society, the more we are going to find folks on the fringe like that.

ML: What are examples of groups that are included in the Multiracial Far Right and is there something distinctive about their politics or is it just the same old, same old?

CC: In the article Daryle and I wrote, we mostly focus on the Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer -- two system-loyal organizations loosely associated with the Alt Right. Defending notions of “western chauvinism” and traditional gender roles are not a major departure from the far right’s playbook, but the degree of participation and leadership of people of color within their ranks seems new. While many of the overtly White supremacist groups receded from public spaces after the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer continued to attract a base in the streets, including people of color. As the authors Daniel Ho-Sang and Joe Lowndes explore in their newly released book, Producers, Parasites, Patriots: Race and the New Right-Wing Politics of Precarity, shifts in racial inclusion in the far right may be a result of economic factors. While racial categories were once legally bound more tightly with class, with the end of de jure segregation and then globalization, that has shifted. I think some people of color are attracted to Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer for their libertarian leanings. In interviews, members of color of the Proud Boys have mentioned the idea that government handouts to people of color is keeping them oppressed.

ML: The libertarian tendency is part of a tradition going back some decades, with Black conservatives echoing this idea that the welfare system is something that oppresses people of color and keeps them from rising. Is that one of the elements you see as part of the ideology here?

DLJ: Yes, I do. Absolutely. But, it’s different than what we had seen amongst Black conservatives 30 years ago. Black conservatism 30 years ago back then seemed out of place. It looked like it was a grift. Even more so when you talk about Jessie Lee Peterson or that Diamond and Silk crowd, it looks even more like a grift. But today when you see Black conservatives, it doesn’t seem as out of place as it did 30 years ago because of what I was talking about earlier. We are becoming a part of the mainstream. You see more of us adopt a conservative principle. We’ve had them in the community to begin with, but it was within our communities. I went to a conference just a couple of days after the OJ trial in 1995. Pat Buchanan was invited to speak. He spoke there and it was ridiculous, but the main thing they focused on was how to grow Black commerce. They weren’t so focused on political power. They were focused on commercial power, economic power. That speaks to what we see in Black conservatism today. When we start dealing with far right crowd, then it really stops making sense. It starts looking again, out of place. Now, they are adopting ideas that are a threat to Black people. These are folks that want to make America great again. What they think makes America great is a threat to Black people and yet we have people of color and others simply saying we are going to give it a shot anyway.

In the Proud Boys I see a lot of middle class Blacks and Latinx. They don’t consider themselves to be a part of the disenfranchised Blacks over there. They consider themselves to be a part of “America.”
--Daryle Lamont Jenkins

ML: What is known about the people of color who are attracted to far right multiracial groups? Is it related to widening class disparities within communities of color? Do either of you have thoughts about that?

DLJ: Again, I do see folks in disenfranchised neighborhoods, you do see some conservatism there. But when it comes to the Proud Boys for example, I see a lot of middle class Blacks and Latinx. They don’t consider themselves to be a part of the disenfranchised Blacks over there. They consider themselves to be a part of “America.” I would say that is exactly what we see. You have more people of color in the mainstream and middle class settings and that’s where we see what we see.

ML: So, it’s in part expressing a defense of class privilege? How does that get expressed?

DLJ: I would say it gets expressed as though it’s not so much race that matters, but maintaining traditions that gave rise to the middle class. That’s the best way to put it. Protecting the economic status of the middle class section of society is a lot of what drives these folks. Yes, racism is a backdrop, mostly anti-Muslim sentiment. That is all still there, but they pretend that it isn’t.

ML: Is there an emphasis on property or property rights? Is that a significant theme?

DLJ: I don’t think as much. It may be a concern of theirs. Insofar as conservatism goes that route, it is. But, I don’t think it’s anything extra special. I think they focus on the socioeconomic standing of their class.

ML: This ties into something else I was going to ask about. If we look at the ideology of groups like the Proud Boys or Patriot Prayer, how does it relate to groups like Oath Keepers or Patriot Movement groups which profess a colorblind ideology and say “we don’t see color” and “all Americans are welcome”? To what extent are these similar and to what extent are they different? I do see the Oath Keepers as a group that puts a big emphasis on property rights (and defending what they see as property rights) and opposition to government interference in the rights of individuals. To what extent is there similarity and to what extent are there differences there?

DLJ: You have Joey Gibson, the founder of Patriot Prayer, coming out of Patriot Movement circles. He considers himself half Japanese. If we are talking about the difference of the western chauvinism of the Proud Boys, and the color blindness of the Oath Keepers (and the Proud Boys works closely with Patriot Prayer in Oregon), I think the fact that they marry themselves to each other so much, they most certainly don’t find too many differences between them. When you talk about Patriot Prayer, you are talking about something being faith based. When that particular crowd talks about faith based, they are talking about western chauvinism.

ML: You use the term “secularized Christian Right traditionalism.” It jumped off the page for me. Say more about what that means and what your thinking is there.

CC: We were trying to understand the glue that holds these groups together. Opposing abortion, refugee resettlement and Islam are pillars of their program, but they are also motivated by a defense of traditional gender roles and a defense of “western chauvinism.” While western chauvinism is partially a code word for “White,” it also is a defense of a society in which Christian values are dominant. In some ways, Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer seem to reflect a contemporary fusion of the Christian and xenophobic Right. I think it’s interesting that Steve Bannon embraced a Christian traditionalism in his defense of the West and of nationalism as well.

ML: Would it be fair to say there is a consensus within groups like Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer that Christianity is a positive force and is part of the framework of the civilization and culture they are trying to defend, whether or not they as individuals see themselves as practicing Christians? There are certainly currents within other parts of the far right that are anti-Christian whether because of pagan ideology or atheism or whatever.

DLJ: That is the bind -- they believe more or less Christianity is a positive force in the world. Every time you see Joey Gibson, he has the Jesus fish on his hat. Proud Boys on the other hand is definitely secular. Even if Proud Boys don’t express a certain faith -- remember, some of the Proud Boys are Jewish -- they respect each other’s beliefs, even though they are going about it in somewhat different ways in that regard.

ML: I want to shift gears and come back to an earlier question. How does the Multiracial Far Right relate to loyalty or disloyalty to this political system or to capitalism? Does Far Right Multiculturalism make rightists more of an oppositional force, or less? To what extent are they defining themselves as supporting the socio-political order and to what extent are they defining themselves in opposition to it?

CC: Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer are not advocating for a revolution. They are very supportive of the Trump administration. That said, they are engaged in a sort of three way fight in Portland. The fact that Patriot Prayer and Proud Boys have gone after Mayor Ted Wheeler publicly, and pushed right wing pundits across the US to denounce Wheeler as an antifa sympathizer, points to their role in attempting to divide local government. But, ultimately, rather than some White nationalists who are fighting for another society and form of government all together, Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer are flanking the Republican Party. While communities of color joined right-wing militia in the 90s precisely in support of the anti-government stance, this appears to be something different.

DLJ: I would say the Unite the Right rally was an attempt at that. Enrique Tarrio, the current head of the Proud Boys, was in Charlottesville, joining the Three Percenter line. They are trying to blur the line just to make themselves relevant. Ironically, I think what they are doing is dangerous in the sense that, if you give rise to these movements, it’s only a matter of time before those circles turn on you. When we see it happening at Unite the Right at the levels they were happening there, it shows it could turn into something that is really nefarious. That was one hell of a slippery slope there.

ML: So there are significant differences in how groups define themselves on the right, not only in terms of White supremacy and race politics, but also in terms of relating to the existing power structure in the US, and that creates conflict and division but also some interchange.

DLJ: Here’s where I would make it personal. When you talk about those far rights, those straight up neo-nazis and White supremacists. Even our group had an infiltrator. He was a Black Dominican but a National Socialist. He infiltrated us and provided whatever information he could gather to the National Socialist Movement, one of the groups that initiated all of the violence in Charlottesville.

ML: At a minimum, then, Far Right Multiracialism creates opportunities for infiltration they wouldn’t have if they were Aryan only. What you all are describing in terms of the multiracial far right goes against a lot of assumptions and preconceptions that of both liberals and leftists often have about right-wing politics and race politics in this country. What are the implications of the multiracial far right for antifascist work and organizing more broadly?

DLJ: I think one thing we need to take away, is to start thinking outside of the box for dealing with the neofascists. That’s why I don’t call them White supremacists anymore because we are dealing with a different set of politics. It avoids us being caught in the gaslight. They repeatedly use people of color to say, “How can I be a racist, I have people of color saying the same thing as me.” When I was in DC (during the July 6 free speech rally put on by the Proud Boys), I got that all day long. I think my line has been, you still are holding the same beliefs I have been fighting for 30 years or so. Once you make it clear you are not going to fall for that gaslight, that neutralizes them. That’s what we are going to have to do as we go forward. We have to look at how they damage disenfranchised people. We can’t allow them to use people from those hurt groups to advance themselves because as they try to do with Andy Ngo, where they hurled allegations, “how can you go after Andy Ngo, he is a protected class.” No, he’s not a protected class, he’s one of them. I just responded, we are looking at the content of his character, like we are supposed to, not the color of his skin. We have to school people on it.

CC: Older categories that we’ve used to understand far right and neofascist movements are not going to be the same categories that will help us counter them today. Some of the features of the multiracial far right are new and some are not. I wish I had a better sense of what categories could help counter and build alternatives to these forces. For now, I can say I think we need to come up with better chants than, “No racists, No KKK, No Fascist USA.” We need to develop wider and yet more distinct categories. When Proud Boys, Patriot Prayer or any new far right formation attacks abortion providers, LGBTQ people, immigrants of color and/or people who appear Muslim, we need a better framework than simply calling them racist, especially if the folks leading are people of color. Moreover, developing a deeper understanding, as you suggest, whether groups are system loyal and what aspects of government groups are trying to align with, will be critical to our ability to disrupt their organizing and build alternatives.

ML: Maybe part of the point is a recognition that we don’t have all the answers and there needs to be some open-mindedness and willingness to rethink and develop some new analyses to more effectively counter these forces. Are there other things you would like to say? Are there other issues we haven’t touched on?

CC: I think it is going to be interesting to see if there does become in the future a multiracial far right that is more revolutionary. On the other side, there’s been whole areas of research looking in to the New Chinese Right and the influence of Hindu Nationalists. A lot of this is pushing forward an important conversation around assimilation. But folks are also examining right-wing factions within communities of color, and how clumping communities of color into a category often associated with the Left needs to be further interrogated. On the other hand, clearly it’s not like White supremacy is over in this country. I think it’s just being reconfigured in some way.

ML: Maybe part of the implication of what you are saying is to look more broadly from just US currents to what is happening internationally. Hindu nationalist forces are an example of a right-wing current that is rooted in a movement in another country, but is also a significant force in the US. I think there are a lot of examples of that. We may start to see more of that, for example, in relation to Brazil with the Balsanaro government there representing a particular kind of militant rightwing politics. How those forces interact with each other and interact with other right-wing currents that are more directly rooted in the US framework—it seems like there are a lot of possibilities. And these forces are not necessarily going to join together. There is nothing that says fascists need to be on the same side, as the Ukraine model demonstrates. Again, we can’t assume that the old framework or the old categories are going to apply.

DLJ: Absolutely not, but that has always been a staple with right-wing politics: The more things change, the more things stay the same. As society evolves, the right wing evolves along with it, if only to keep themselves relevant in that society as they work to undermine it. Not only that but because of the Internet, we see a lot more of how things work in other parts of the world than past generations did, and both the right and the left have been able to network around the world more effectively. That just means that the eternal vigilance against neo-fascist ideals is that much more challenging.

Photo credit: Old White Truck, 9 December 2017 (CC BY-SA 2.0), via Wikimedia Commons.


Aug 29, 2019

From the Perspectives on Anarchist Theory journal collective, An Interview with German Antiauthoritarian Antifascists

Friends with the Institute for Anarchist Studies project, Perspectives on Anarchist Theory, sent us this recent interview with members of the German revolutionary organization, …ums Ganze!, which comes out of the Autonomous/Autonome and revolutionary Antifascist left of the 1980s and 1990s.

Founded in 2006, …ums Ganze! Has attempted to develop politics and approaches to struggle based on those previous histories and the changing dynamics of both national and global capitalism and emerging far-Rightism and fascism.
…ums Ganze! is part of different struggles such as the feminist women‘s strike, confronting the housing crisis, and antifascism. We think that the very principles of capitalist society are the roots of these crises, so we do not advocate for reform or aim for a greener and more social capitalist society, but rather try to push for a social revolution.
While the interview is very much centered on antifascism and “antifa” within the German context, the members of …ums Ganze! offer both critical estimates of those histories and the ongoing difficulties of developing explicitly revolutionary anti-capitalist and anti-statist politics within needed popular organizing outside of “autonomous subcultures”. These analysis contain points of discussion on developing lessons towards a more general assessment of not just a broad antifascism but of the struggle within antifascism to identify, define and expand a revolutionary anti-capitalist, anti-authoritarian liberatory current beyond specific localized or national experiences.
Right now, we learn from the success of the AfD that just doing antifa work, meaning following the fascists around and trying to counter each of their moves, is important but not enough. We have to think about how to build a strong radical left that has answers for the problems of our time. So, we are trying to update our own movement.

“Push Back the Enemy, and Build Your Own Movement:” An Interview with German Antiauthoritarian Antifascists

This discussion is with Linda and Miro, German comrades who did a speaking tour in the US in the fall of 2018. They have been antifascist activists for over 10 years and are part of the …ums Ganze! alliance. Both are involved in the campaign “Nationalism is No Alternative” that tries to finds answers to the new tactics of the extreme Right. This interview was conducted via email following discussions during their time in the US. Their organization, …ums Ganze!, is an anti-capitalist, antiauthoritarian alliance currently consisting of eleven groups based in Germany and Austria. It was founded in 2006 in order to organize radical Left critiques and analysis in both theory and practice. The term “…ums Ganze!” can be roughly translated as “…to the whole (thing)!” and means that the alliance’s focus lies in an antiauthoritarian analysis and critiques which cover the whole complexity of the state, nation, and capital. …ums Ganze! made its first appearance during the anti-G8 protests in Heiligendamm, Germany in 2007. 

The interview was conducted by the Perspectives on Anarchist Theory journal collective, a project of the Institute for Anarchist Studies (IAS).

Tell us about your organization(s). What are their roots in different political groups and movements of the past? What is their political orientation?

We are part of …ums Ganze!, which was founded in 2006 and is basically an alliance of anti-authoritarian communist groups. …ums Ganze! is part of different struggles such as the feminist women‘s strike, confronting the housing crisis, and antifascism. We think that the very principles of capitalist society are the roots of these crises, so we do not advocate for reform or aim for a greener and more social capitalist society, but rather try to push for a social revolution. Therefore, we talk, fight together, and organize with people outside of leftist scenes and bubbles – at least we try to. Our aim is to actually win (there a some texts in English that can be found here: https://umsganze.org/other-languages/).

We have our roots in the German antifa movement. In the early 1990s, the radical Left collapsed and the fascist movement grew exponentially, especially in the former East Germany (GDR). Many within the strong subculture of autonomous anarchists thought antifascism was the most important struggle and joined antifa groups. But the autonomous antifascist movement was heavily divided between traditional anarchists who did not want to work together with unions, Social Democrats, or the media, and a more pragmatic wing who built large autonomous groups and tried to leave the subculture by strategically working with non-radical leftists. The latter groups sought to influence public opinion through media campaigns and push popular youth culture to the Left through youth organizing. These large antifa groups and their strategic concept to be openly radical, anticapitalist, and anti-state, but also to be accepted by normal people and able to actually build power in your town or city through self-organized but very committed groups, are the roots we are coming from. uG! is also part of a European network of antiauthoritarian groups called Beyond Europe (https://beyondeurope.net/).

Discuss the idea of being “post-antifa.” Can you put this idea into historical context? How has the German antifascist movement developed after struggling so long against neo-Nazis? What lessons do you have from this struggle that you bring into your work today?

In the early 2000s, the antifascist movement was entrenched in bitter discussions and split up along various lines. For example, the Left leaning government started to mobilize society, and sometimes even the police, against fascists, sometimes the state even supported antifascist education programs with money, so the antifascist movement had to reevaluate what they thought of the state. Also, they discussed what to think about 9/11. Some thought the Islamist jihadists were allies in the fight against the imperialist United States, while others thought it was another form of fascism that needed to be fought against. Some of those antifascists were even in favor of the “global war on terror” and the invasion of Iraq. (We think that neither is correct). 

Some in the antifascist movement and in the broader radical Left discussed how to be successful outside of antifascist struggles and rebuild the radical Left, since antifascism often did not have the answers for many urgent problems. For example, in 2005, the government composed of the Social Democrats and the Greens slashed unemployment benefits and introduced a benefit system that pushed a lot of people into poverty and consisted of degrading procedures. Antifascists criticized the movement against these cuts for its reformism and tried to push fascists, anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists, and other enemies of emancipation out of the movement, which is a very important job. But they were unable to present a credible way forward that would lead to improving living conditions.

In order to build a radical Left that is part of social movements and able to radicalize and win, two new organizations were formed: the interventionistische Linke (Interventionist Left) and …ums Ganze! Both are called “post-autonomous” and “post-antifa” since we are trying to use the experiences of the autonomous and antifa movement but use them in different social struggles, as well as to organize outside of autonomous subcultures without repeating the mistakes the orthodox communists usually make when they build their hierarchical party structures.

How has the movement and its various organizations responded to the rise of the Alternative for Germany (Alternative für Deutschland (AfD))? How have you adapted and changed tactics in response? Is this party continuing to grow, or have they reached their peak and are starting to decline?

The AfD, even though it is now controlled by fascists, is not a traditional neo-Nazi party. They employed tactics that you probably know from Donald Trump‘s campaign. They present themselves as rebels against an imagined leftist elite that has nothing but contempt for the average working man(!). They disguise their racism as concerns for cultural preservation, they make use of conspiracy theories, and they appeal to older men by marking feminism and feminists as enemies. They don’t give a fuck about the truth and are happily contradicting themselves. They are kind of clever in using social media and the traditional media.

In the last national election in 2017, the AfD won 13% percent of the vote and therefore now has 94 members of parliament and all the infrastructure and money that comes with that. In some parts of Eastern Germany, the AfD passed the conservative party and is the leading party, polling at 25%. The next local elections in these states this fall can yield significant gains for the AfD. The European elections this spring showed that, in many areas, the AfD stabilized their outcome somewhere between 8% and 15% of the vote. So, except for several large regions in Eastern Germany, they are neither growing nor declining.

With the help of some billionaires’ money and support from the media, the AfD was and is able to push their narrative. The established parties (mostly the social democrats and the conservatives) reacted by condemning the AfD as an organization but moved themselves to the right, and incorporating the AfD‘s politics into their own programs and rhetoric. 
In part, the antifascist movement had to adapt its tactics to the new threat. Traditional neo-Nazi skinheads can be doxxed, and most people are unhappy when they learn about the neo-Nazi background of their neighbor or co-worker. But antifascists experienced that doxxing an AfD party official, in a country where at least 15% support the party, is not causing any problems for the party official; it is, rather, free publicity. When antifascists show that the party official is an anti-refugee racist and bigot, many people do not have a problem with that. They voted for him becausehe publicly stands for that. Another problem is that the AfD‘s organizing today is, to a large degree, done online, and we have not yet found a way to deplatform their Whatsapp chatgroups and Facebook pages. The rallies of the fascist movement are a mere spectacle to provide content for fascist YouTube channels. So, antifascists may be able to stop people from going to those rallies, but that does not help because they are able to listen to the speeches on their computers.

To be fair, some of the old militant antifascist tactics are still working fine. In some urban areas where the movement is strong, militants are able to put so much pressure on AfD members that the party is unable to build local structures, because it is just no fun to be the face of the AfD in some cities. Also, all over the country, antifascists were able get a lot of party meetings canceled by putting pressure on venues. For example, the campaign “Kein Raum der Afd” (No Space for AfD) researched the pubs in Berlin where the AfD would hold their meetings and put pressure on them. Right now, it is impossible to find any restaurant or bar within Berlin that is still willing to host AfD events. 

Right now, we learn from the success of the AfD that just doing antifa work, meaning following the fascists around and trying to counter each of their moves, is important but not enough. We have to think about how to build a strong radical left that has answers for the problems of our time. So, we are trying to update our own movement. We came up with a campaign called Nationalism is No Alternative (NIKA). NIKA is not trying to convince AfD voters to not be fascist anymore, but rather tries to organize all those young people who are outraged by the AfD rhetoric. In order to do that, we have stepped up our social media presence, updated our style, and held easily accessible, open meetings that everybody who is willing can attend. But we did not disguise our politics; we are still openly anti-capitalist and anti-state.

(Antifascists having a cup of coffee in front of the home of a fascist organizer. They knew he would not be home, since he was leading a demonstration at the time, but they wanted him to know they knew where he lived and that they were not afraid of him.)

What is the overall political situation in Germany now? What are the prospects for fundamental social change there? What are the reasons for despair? What are the reasons for hope?

In the years directly following 2015, the right was able to mobilize tens of thousands in the streets. It was a proper movement. Right now, the dynamic phase is (temporarily) over, even though they still have the groups and networks to restart mobilizing masses if the occasion arises. We saw that in late August, 2018 in Chemnitz. Following the murder committed by a refugee, a local rightwing party, the AfD, and fascist football hooligans organized huge demos and attacks on perceived migrants and leftists.  
The right is now settling and establishing themselves. They are building structures that are here to stay, which is very dangerous. So now we have a situation where the right is still very motivated from their earlier successes, and that is also dangerous. In the last two years, there have been several cases of right wing terrorism committed either by people that were part of the new right wing movement or have been neo-Nazis for a long time and felt that now is the time to act. In June, 2019 a neo-Nazi murdered a conservative politician on his porch because he was pro-refugee in 2015. Also, the fascists within the state have seemingly woken up: leftist media uncovered a network of police and military special forces who built their own terrorist infrastructure and trained for civil war. One chapter of this group already ordered 200 body bags and kept a list of 25,000 people they wanted to kill (https://taz.de/taz-Recherche-auf-Englisch/!5558072/).

But society is not just moving to the right; rather, it is polarizing. The Left is still pretty small and the organizations are weak, but we are more able to intervene in debates. There is a huge new movement to stop climate change that is openly confronting the fossil fuel industry, in many major cities there are big leftist movement against the rent increases, and in Berlin, there is a large movement pushing to expropriate every business that owns more than 3,000 apartments in the city. While the AfD dominated the talk show debates in 2015, now they aren’t even invited anymore, and that is not because the TV stations suddenly learned about the importance of deplatforming fascists, but because they don’t have any answers apart from “close the borders” or “deport refugees.” Being able to dominate the public discourse around key topics such as housing or climate change is important antifascist work.

(500 people spontaneously demonstrated against the deportation of forty-nine refugees to Afghanistan at the Frankfurt airport.) 

Looking at what is going on in the US from Germany now, what are your observations? How would you compare what you see happening here to what you are experiencing in Germany?

A lot of things are quite similar: we both live in a society where a lot of people feel that there are hard times coming and that the standard of living might decline. They think, therefore, it is a good idea to keep competition out by building border fences, etc. The countries are heavily divided, and the right is established or even hegemonic in parts of the country. In both countries, the antifascist left seems to be able to confront the fascists in the streets, but in my opinion needs to think more about the fascists within the established institutions, such as the secret service, the police, the military, official politics, and important think tanks. The fascists seek to transform society very subtly, and there is little to be done about that with small demos and small scale affinity groups. 

When we went to the US, we got a feeling of how much more the police and the fascists are militarized. Also life seemed harder with the horrible healthcare system. We felt so much respect for all the comrades who get up and fight and risk getting injured or imprisoned.

(While their comrades tried to block an important AFD assembly, antifascists of “Nationalism is No Alternative” intervened into a liberal antifascist event with a banner that reads, “If You Organize Deportations Then You Had Better Keep Quiet about Fascism,” which paraphrases Max Horkheimer who said “If you don’t want to talk about capitalism then you had better keep quiet about fascism.”)

What lessons can you share from your experience fighting fascism, sexism, racism and nationalism in Germany to those of us struggling against these things here in the US?

The main things we are thinking about right now are to not just think about how your activity helps to push back the enemy, but to always aim to build your own movement, as well. Does this activity help to convince and organize my target audience? Who is my target audience? And maybe, how do we break through our isolation and start talking to people who are not yet convinced?

If you liked this interview please support the work that made it possible. You can make a one-time donation – or become a monthly sustainer – to the Institute for Anarchist Studies (IAS), the organization that produces Perspectives on Anarchist Theory (who did this interview) by clicking Here!

(40,000 people marched in Dresden against fascism on August 24th, 2019.)

Aug 6, 2019

Extra-state violence and right-wing strategy: a conversation

Wall with spray-painted graffiti: "Zona Antifa"
Where is the rightist onslaught headed and how should we respond? These days, horrific events keep piling on top of each other so fast it’s hard to keep up. In an attempt to get a bit of long-term perspective, Bo in Seattle initiated the following dialog recently on Facebook. We republish it here in hopes it will offer some useful pieces of a larger picture and stimulate further discussion.

What is happening now? How does it compare to things that happened earlier? What might we see on the horizon? What should we do?

Though much of it is secular, today’s US far-right represents the spread of the success of the strategy of the religious right post-Vietnam. In the 80s and 90s you had shootouts and bombings of feds and abortion doctors and sometimes deadly conflicts with racist skinheads (“boneheads”), but it was the more above-ground organized militancy of Operation Rescue and later the patriot/militia/minuteman movement who really showed how their side could work to change society. They had success even under triangulators like Bush 1 and Obama, and now with figures like Cruz and Trump on the national stage they can take it further.

For the first time in at least 40 years organized non-state actors are being encouraged and excused by both some local cops and some national politicians to commit physical attacks on multiple categories of oppressed people, the activist/political left, and parts of the extended state (public lands, Planned Parenthood). “Liberal” cities drained of their working (and street-fighting) classes by deindustrialization and gentrification can now be fought for block by block by the likes of the Proud Boys. They have had failures but also successes in getting the media to parrot their narrative of the fight. Trump has rallied and remade the middle levels of the Republican Party after him and will likely win re-election.

The erosion of the right to vote by gerrymandering, excluding felons and the undocumented is important-maybe even more important ultimately, but the organized extra-state political violence seems like the really new thing in this moment.

How well can the Proud Boys, the Christian/patriot/militia movement, Trump, the Republican Party, and law enforcement stick together? (There is also the factor of the super hard right like former members of the Nationalist Front or the lone wolves continually attempting various shootings and bombings, but as with the 80s and 90s I expect the more above-ground groups to have more impact.)

Who are these organized far rightists, and who do they hate (us, obviously)? The “free helicopter rides” set can be okay with some people who aren’t exactly the titular hero of “American Sniper,” but at least 40% of the population are better off dead in their eyes. The winking OK to get physical with us is a dream come true for them.

With Trump we have something like Reagan, Roberston, and Buchanan in one person: Both a successful national politician/president and someone who at least excuses a far-right movement, even if he doesn’t always lead it. There’s another way these days are different from the Reagan era too, though: This time it’s the US military instead of the Soviet one that is grinding its gears in Afghanistan and overstretching itself elsewhere. This means we have to be attentive to new shifts in the landscape of production/trade, terrorism/war, and climate change that could affect the state, the far right, and our organizing in ways that will surprise us all, presenting new dangers and opportunities.

Unless we fight for and win an egalitarian alternative, the next way of organizing global society with likely be some kind of ruined barbarism in which people are directly owned, which I take as a feature of both absolute monarchy and fascism. And American history.

The Proud Boys (at least) are (at least) proto-fascist in their love of the nation and organized activity to directly subjugate the oppressed and repress the political left. They say “go make me a sandwich, b*tch” and beat women activists bloody in front of Planned Parenthood while cops watch. This is the heart of their politics. So I feel comfortable calling them and anyone to their right “fash” as short-hand.

However, getting at what the hell is going on and what we should do doesn’t really map onto 1919 Germany or Italy (or Amerikkka) in any super-clean way that is immediately illuminating. We need to keep thinking, keep organizing, and keep being totally honest about our politics. It will definitely mean at least trying to be prepared for physical confrontation. It definitely won’t mean silencing our criticism of various reformist and opportunist currents, or getting wrapped up in the electoral spectacle.

For now we have to be able to mitigate the far-right threat to left freedom of assembly/organizing/movement. We should deal with it as a necessary element of all our organizing. We defend ourselves because we need to organize, we organize because we need to rebuild consciousness and power, we need consciousness and power to fight for and win the world we want. So when we work to defend our organizing from the far-right we need to do defense in a way that builds consciousness and power to those revolutionary ends (i.e. don’t rely on the law). We need to survive, fight, and grow all at once, and under our own power. When we build unions of tenants or workers, without hitching them to (some section of) the ruling class and its state, and while being totally open about our politics, we need to be ready to take on not just the bosses and the law but also the extra-legal far-right, who are one more hardship against us after the time card, the rent, the prison cell, and the border wall, making our self-organization both more challenging and more necessary.

I have a few thoughts in response to this piece -- not disagreeing but delving a bit more into some of the issues raised:

1. The upsurge in violence by non-state actors with support from sections of the state points to the potential return to vigilante repression as a major part of the U.S. system of social control. Vigilante repression (pogroms, lynchings, and countless daily smaller attacks against members of oppressed communities) has always been integral to U.S. society, while for most of U.S. history the repressive power of the state itself was relatively small. For the past half century, however, many forms of vigilante repression have been delegitimized, a shift that’s been coupled with a massive growth of the state’s repressive apparatus. Vigilante repression’s resurgence now should be seen in relation to current trends with regard to the state, which are in some ways contradictory: the repressive apparatus is still growing and (through rapid developments in IT) taking on functions that were previously unimagined, but in other ways the state is also shrinking and fragmenting, partly due to sustained rightist and business-led drives for deregulation and privatization of state functions (including police, military, and prisons, among others).

2. The political right in the U.S. isn’t nearly as unified as it’s often portrayed. There’s a broad agreement on wanting to roll back the social, political, and cultural changes associated with the 1960s and its aftermath, and to re-intensify traditional lines of oppression, but there’s a lot of disagreement about ideology, strategy, and whether the existing political system is salvageable. And because U.S. society has changed a lot in the past half century, and because sectors of the right have absorbed and co-opted elements of these changes in various ways, we’ve seen new developments and seeming contradictions, such as the Christian right mobilizing large numbers of women, or Proud Boys, Patriot Prayer, etc. recruiting men of color in significant numbers. It would be strategically dangerous for us to ignore these complexities.

3. The relationship of the ruling class to all this shouldn’t be taken for granted, and we should be skeptical of the standard leftist assumption that the right serves capitalist interests. Significant sections of the right genuinely hate the ruling class as much as leftists do, and those that don’t often have other priorities. Trump won the presidency although capitalists favored his opponent by a large margin. Capitalists obviously have lots of influence within the right, but they are often reacting to pressures from below as much as pushing their own agendas. We should assume that capitalists will pursue multiple and to some extent conflicting political strategies, including both rightist and anti-rightist ones.

I believe point #3 is often overlooked by the left. Without it we have no way to understand how Golden Dawn has failed in Greece despite the left ALSO failing. It seems the center has continued to hold by offering both carrots and sticks to both left and right.

Point #1 reminds me that police killings of Black people have overtaken the most deadly years of lynching. When I read that stat some years ago it occurred to me: The police have replaced vigilantes as the extra-legal executioner whose very public killings terrorize a whole population. But the extra-legal part is making a comeback as well- some white supremacists have said they were "radicalized" (I read it as emboldened) by George Zimmerman. In this ongoing tradeoff between state and non-state violence we can understand the US a lot better by looking at other settler states like Mexico and Israel than by looking at Europe. 

Photo credit: Albertomos, 15 November 2011 (CC BY-SA 4.0), via Wikimedia Commons.