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.
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“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.

Bo:
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.

Matthew:
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.

Bo:
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.

Jul 7, 2019

Some thoughts on fascism and the current moment

Image of graffiti art showing a person smashing a swastika with a guitar.
This is the text of a talk I gave at the Left Forum in New York City on 29 June 2019, as part of a panel entitled “What Is Fascism and How Do We Fight It.” The panel was sponsored by the NYC-based group United Against Racism and Fascism, and the other presenters focused on that group’s organizing work. I’ve added a postscript to my talk that addresses some of the questions and criticisms raised during the discussion period.

We are living in a dangerous and frightening period in U.S. history. We have lived through two and half years of the most right-wing and authoritarian presidential administration in living memory. We’ve seen an upsurge of militant rightist forces with an array of repressive and supremacist agendas—alt-rightists, white nationalists, Patriot groups, Christian rightists, and others. And we’ve seen a rise in supremacist violence by the state and by forces outside the state—against immigrants and refugees, against people of color, against Muslims, against trans people, against Jews, and against others.

So it makes sense that people have been talking about fascism, as we try to understand these threats and mobilize against them. This is what I want to focus on in my talk this morning: How can we use the concept of fascism to better understand the current situation in the U.S., and to better organize to change it?

Clearly, at least some of the forces we are facing are fascist, but which ones? Neonazis for sure, but what about the Proud Boys, who celebrate “western chauvinism” but include men of color as a significant fraction of their membership? What about Christian right groups, whose supremacist politics centers on gender and sexuality rather than race or ethnicity? And what about Donald Trump—is he a fascist? Is the Republican Party? Is the whole U.S. political system? There are a lot of different ways that people are answering these questions.

Some of the talk about fascism has been helpful, but a lot of it has been vague or confusing or distracting.

Some people use “fascism” to mean any dictatorship or any racist politics. As political rhetoric that speaks to the sense of urgency that we need to stop these things now—but as political analysis it’s too broad to be helpful. Not every dictatorship is fascist. Hitler’s or Mussolini’s dictatorship was very different from an absolute monarchy or a theocratic regime or a military junta, and if we call all of them fascist, we hide those differences.

And not all racism—not even all genocide—is fascist. Institutionalized racial oppression and mass killing have been foundational to the United States from the beginning, and white supremacist ideology has been dominant in the U.S. for most of this country’s history. That history is interconnected with fascism, and it has helped to inspire fascists such as Hitler, but if we say that the United States has been fascist throughout its history, then the term loses meaning.

Recently, some writers have started using the term “neoliberal fascism” to describe the right-wing upsurge. It’s a term that represents a broad unity of right-wing forces, from pro-capitalist think-tanks, which focus on things like deregulating industry and privatizing government services, to the Trump administration with its border repression and trade wars, all the way through to neonazi gangs, which want to build an all-white ethno-state. The idea of neoliberal fascism is that all of these forces are basically pulling in the same direction. The problem is—that’s really not true. Most of the groups in the U.S. that I would call fascist loathe and despise neoliberalism and the business interests it’s intended to serve. And most neoliberals oppose things like border walls and trade wars—not to mention white ethno-states—as incompatible with their vision of a free market where capitalists can exploit workers wherever and whenever they want.

Right-wing forces in the United States are not united. They disagree profoundly about what they want to achieve and how they want to get there. They pose different kinds of threats to our communities and our movements, and they require different strategies to combat them. We need a concept of fascism that clarifies and illuminates these differences—not one that hides them under language that’s too broad and too vague. So I want to offer some suggestions on how to use the term fascism in a way that’s analytically meaningful and strategically helpful in our current situation.

I think it’s important to get away from the idea that there’s some objectively true definition of fascism out there. Unless we’re talking about Mussolini’s movement in Italy —Fascism with a capital F—we’re talking about fascism as a general category, and we’re making determinations about which movements and regimes should be included and which should not. And there’s nothing objectively true about how we draw those boundaries. Rather, it’s a question of whether a certain concept of fascism is useful or not —whether it helps us understand political connections and political differences, and helps guide us to act more effectively.

To be useful, conceptions of fascism should be specific enough that they don’t lump everything together, but they should be flexible enough that they allow for diversity within the fascist current, and flexible enough to cover changes in fascism over time. In the 1930s and 40s, Italian Fascism and German Nazism had a lot in common, but they also had important differences in what they believed and what they did. And today, even groups that directly lay claim to the heritage of 1930s fascism differ from it in important ways.

Without getting too focused on precise wording, I want to outline a few features that I think are key elements of fascist politics in the U.S. today. Those features are:
  • contradictory relationship with the established order, 
  • rejection of the existing political system, 
  • a totalizing effort to transform society, and 
  • independent, organized mass mobilization. 
Let me break those down. Contradictory relationship with the established order means groups or movements that aim to intensify social hierarchy, oppression, and exploitation but also challenge established elites in real ways. It’s a combination of repressiveness and rebelliousness that can sound like a weird mix of conservatism and radicalism, and it speaks primarily to people who feel threatened from both above and below. These folks hold some degree of power or privilege in society, which they fear is being challenged by oppressed groups rising up, but they also feel beaten down by political, economic, or cultural elites above them. This is the classic dynamic of right-wing populism, and it describes a whole host of political currents in this country, only some of which are fascist.

The second feature I mentioned is rejection of the existing political system. I think a key dividing line within the U.S. political right is between those forces that are basically loyal to the existing political system and those forces that want to secede from it or overthrow it altogether. Translated into leftists terms, it’s a division between reformists and revolutionaries. In the early 1980s, a section of the white supremacist movement decided that they could no longer achieve their goals within the framework of the United States, and literally went to war with the U.S. government. That same shift can also be found, less dramatically, in sections of the Christian right and other currents.

The third feature that I think is key to fascism is a totalizing effort to transform society. This is partly about exerting political violence and moving toward a dictatorship, but it’s not just about suppressing dissent—it’s about reshaping society according to a whole ideological vision. In classical fascism that vision was about national or racial renewal. In today’s fascism, I would argue, it can also be about religion or some other all-defining set of beliefs. And the dictatorship doesn’t have to be a massive nation-state or empire. Many of today’s fascists actually advocate breaking up political entities into smaller units, and exercising totalizing control through small-scale institutions such as local government, church congregations, or the patriarchal family.

The fourth and last key feature is independent, organized mass mobilization. Fascism doesn’t just repress people—it energizes and activates them, and it organizes them in formations built outside established political channels. In the 1930s, a lot of that was paramilitary formations such as the Black Shirts and the Brown Shirts. Today it could be online chat rooms—or homeschooling networks. As in the past, independent organization is partly about developing dual power challenges to the established political order, and partly about directly transforming society at all levels.

If we’re trying to map fascism’s key features, it’s also useful to highlight some of the points that I didn’t include—points that people often associate with traditional fascist politics. One of these is white supremacist ideology. All U.S. fascist currents bolster racial oppression to a greater or lesser degree, but not all of them uphold old-school explicit white supremacism. Some of them, such as the Lyndon LaRouche network, have shifted to color-blind ideology, which bolsters racial oppression by denying its continued reality.

Another feature I didn’t mention is militaristic expansionism, because a large swath of the U.S. far right, whether fascist or not, is staunchly opposed to most U.S. wars and has been for decades.

Glorification of the strong state is not on my list of fascism’s key features, because as I mentioned, many of today’s fascists advocate authoritarianism on a small scale, although some (the LaRouchites again) still uphold the nation-state.

Lastly, I don’t think fascist politics is defined by a defense of capitalism, although many Marxists have considered this axiomatic for generations. There’s a much longer discussion to be had here, but briefly I think it’s an open question whether fascism necessarily upholds capitalist relations or may replace them with qualitatively different forms of economic exploitation. In any case, we should take fascists seriously when they talk about capitalists as an enemy—as for example Christchurch mass murderer Brenton Tarrant did in his online manifesto this past winter.

What does all this mean for today’s political landscape? I would apply the fascism label to some portions of the militant right, including white nationalists (by which I mean those who want to establish an all-white nation), the Lyndon LaRouche network, and hardline Christian right currents such as Christian Reconstructionists, who want to establish a full-blown theocracy. Fascism in my view does not include system-loyal rightists such as most Christian rightists (who function mainly as a pressure group within the Republican Party) or groups such as the Proud Boys (who have tried to position themselves as vigilante allies of the police). Patriot movement groups may or may not be system loyal but generally lack a totalizing drive to reshape society as a whole.

That said, all of these forces have at least definite fascistic tendencies and affinities, and in many cases direct ties with organized fascists. This highlights the point that fascist politics doesn’t exist in isolation. It grows out of an oppressive social order and it exerts its influence largely by interacting with other political currents.

What about Donald Trump? Trump has promoted many elements of fascist politics, and his election was interconnected with a rise of fascist forces. But I don’t think it’s helpful to label him or his administration as fascist. He doesn’t offer any real vision for transforming society, and he hasn’t made any moves to build an independent organizational base, so even if he wanted to overthrow the existing political system, he doesn’t have the leverage needed to do it. At the same time, Trump is an authoritarian, a racist, a misogynist, and he has escalated demonization and scapegoating in ways that are poisonous to the political climate. He is not a fascist, but he is making it easier for fascism to gain ground.

Postscript

During the discussion period, several people challenged or criticized some of the points in my talk. Without trying to summarize the discussion, I want to address a few of the most substantive issues raised.

1. One person countered my approach by summarizing Leon Trotsky’s theory of fascism, more or less as follows: Fascism is a mass movement of the middle classes and unemployed, whose purpose is to wipe out working class organizations, and that serves the interests of finance capital. The key to fighting fascism is working class mobilization and staying independent of the capitalist state and pro-capitalist organizations.

I think Trotsky was right to emphasize fascism’s character as a mass movement, and his call for Communists to join with Social Democrats in an anti-fascist bloc without abandoning revolutionary politics was much better than what the Stalinist parties advocated in the 1930s—either the Third Period claim that Social Democrats (not the Nazis) were the main enemy, or the Popular Front policy of abandoning revolutionary politics in favor of supporting the reformist wing of the ruling class. But an analysis of fascism should be based on a study of what far rightists are actually doing, not on the received authority of what Trotsky or anyone wrote eighty years ago and mechanically applying it to the present.

In the United States today, unlike Germany in the early 1930s, there are no mass-based Social Democratic or Communist organizations, and the whole context for a fascist resurgence is very different. The idea that U.S. fascists’ main target is organized labor just isn’t supported by the evidence. You can find examples from recent decades of fascists attacking unions, but overall their main targets have been people of color, immigrants, LGBT people, Muslims, women, and Jews.

The idea that fascists are acting in the service of the capitalist ruling class has long been a self-evident dictum for Trotskyists and many other Marxists. But another current within Marxism, stretching back to the 1930s or earlier, argues that fascism represents an autonomous right-wing force that aims to take political power away from capitalists and clashes with capitalist interests in important ways. That’s a more accurate summary of what fascists did historically and it’s a much better starting point for understanding U.S. fascism today. For more on this, see my 2008 essay, “Two Ways of Looking at Fascism.”

2. Another audience member argued that the concept of fascist politics I outlined is so broad that it included leftists like himself. He opposes existing elites, he wants to overthrow the existing political system and systematically transform society, he supports independent mass mobilization, he even advocates a dictatorship—the dictatorship of the proletariat.

With this talk I was primarily countering the widespread idea that fascism is basically just a more extreme version of the mainstream right. In the process, I emphasized fascism’s revolutionary side—not revolutionary in any liberatory sense, but in the sense of advocating a sharp and systematic break with the existing order. That’s a reality that makes some leftists uncomfortable because it can seem very close to home, but it’s crucial for understanding fascism’s appeal and the specific danger it poses of pulling support away from liberatory visions of revolution. The key difference, which I tried to make clear in the talk, is that a fascist revolution aims to bolster and increase social hierarchy and oppression, whereas a leftist revolution is about the opposite—at least in theory.

3. A couple of people suggested that my concept of fascism doesn’t adequately take into account fascists’ tendency to hide their beliefs by cloaking them in mythology, and more specifically that some of Europe’s right-wing populist parties systematically disguise fascist agendas behind a populist facade. This is an issue that I think doesn’t have an either/or answer. Certainly, many fascists hide their beliefs, at least in public. In the United States, David Duke and Willis Carto are prime examples of this. But a lot of fascists are extraordinarily frank about their beliefs, however horrifying they may be. The Turner Diaries, William Pierce’s fantasy novel about a genocidal nazi revolution, is a prime example of that—not just for what it says but also for how it became one of the most widely circulated texts in white nationalist circles. A striking feature of the alt-right upsurge of recent years is that many fascists simply abandoned their longstanding impulse to tone down their beliefs for mass consumption. So I think fascists’ honesty about their politics depends on the context and the particular historical situation. We shouldn’t just take people’s political pronouncements at face value, but we should take them seriously and try to learn from them.

4. On Facebook, a couple of people have asked what course of action this analysis points to. Here's how I addressed that question in a talk last year: "To defeat the far right, part of what we need is broad, inclusive coalitions where there is room for people to act in different ways and with different politics—militant and non-militant, leftist and non-leftist. In these coalitions, as Anti-Racist Action put it in their Points of Unity almost thirty years ago, we need to practice non-sectarian defense of antifascists—set aside our differences to support those who are serious about confronting this threat we all face. However, this does not mean that our efforts should be purely defensive, or that we should set aside systemic change in order to 'defend democracy.' Alongside broad coalitions, we also need radical initiatives which target established systems of power and the two major political parties that protect them. In these violent times, when millions of people are angry and confused and frightened, we cannot allow far rightists to present themselves as the only real oppositional force, the only ones committed to real change."

Photo credit

"No Nazi." Photo by r2hox, 6 April 2012 (CC-BY-SA-2.0), via Wikimedia Commons.

Jun 24, 2019

How the Irish Became Troubled

by Kristian Williams

The May 23 issue of the London Review of Books contains a lengthy article by Clair Wills, briefly sketching out a different sort of three-way fight during the Troubles in Northern Ireland: "The Catholic community’s reasonable demands for an end to discrimination were met with a violent backlash, orchestrated by Protestant extremists and supported by a sectarian police force [until the] . . . British army brought peace to the streets."

Relatively quickly, one of these parties became definitely aligned with another, creating a more straightforward bipolar conflict: "on one side [were] 'Tories,' the RUC, the army, the military police, Paisley and his supporters, and [the legislature at] Stormont," and "on the other were moderates, socialists, republicans, and . . . 'hooligans'." But then, again, a third force emerged: "the women's peace movement.

Wills' abbreviated history also contains many cautionary points about the tendency of violence to become self-perpetuating with little ultimate gain, the uneasy relationship between ethnic identity and economic inequality, and the inadequacy of "power-sharing" arrangements that "institutionalized rather than transcended sectarianism."  Undoubtedly there are lessons here that might reach beyond the context of the six counties.

The full article by Wills, originally at LRB, can also be found at the website, Portside

Excerpts from the article,
Eamonn McCann’s War and an Irish Town was published some months later. It is an account of how the working-class revolution McCann had hoped to bring about in Derry in 1968 developed, by the early 1970s, into sectarian warfare. Reissued last year, to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of the October 1968 civil rights march in Derry, it is a study in the messy history of violence. There are no clear beginnings to this story and, as we were reminded by the killing of Lyra McKee on 18 April this year, there is no clear end either...

 Yet looking back from a distance of nearly fifty years what is most striking about War and an Irish Town is the clash between the clarity (and simplifications) of its account of Northern Ireland’s past, and McCann’s confusion over the meaning of the present. He tells a detailed history of the events he has just lived through, including the IRA split in 1970, the growth of republican sentiment among the protesters, the effects of the programme of mass internment in 1971, of Bloody Sunday in January 1972 and the introduction of direct rule from Westminster in March of that year. He acknowledges the part played by ‘old’ republicans, as well as the newer kinds – socialist republicans in the Official IRA, and irreconcilables like Martin McGuinness, who joined the Provisionals. He describes how the British soldiers took on the role of the RUC, until they became indistinguishable from it. (‘The only difference between the army and the RUC was that the army was better at it.’) But the story he tells is also of people caught up in events, rather than orchestrating them. Even as the crisis unfolded ‘outsiders’ kept trying to determine who started it, but for McCann that is the wrong question: ‘The controversies which occupied hours of parliamentary time and acres of newsprint, about which side threw the first stone or whether the soldiers, when the fighting started, had acted impartially – were of little interest to the rioters and potential rioters of the Bogside and the Creggan.’

Jun 13, 2019

Federal Judge Grants Defense Motion and Dismisses Charges Against Members of the Nazi Organization, Rise Above Movement

The following comes from some discussion contributors to Three Way Fight have had after, on June 4th, a federal judge granted a defense motion and dismissed charges against three members of the Nazi organization, Rise Above Movement (RAM). The two count indictment, under the federal Anti-Riot Act, were deemed by the presiding judge to be a “violation of the First Amendment”. After the State made multiple arrests and the charging of RAM members - including the FBI’s seizure and extradition of a RAM leader back to the US from Mexico - what does this dropping of charges mean?
R.A.M. - Photo by Brian Feinzimer
It’s Going Down posts a good article outlining those questions and the cases potential relation to U.S. based revolutionary antifascist movements.
For us, the main impact is that one of the tools the State could potentially use against our movements took a very significant hit, which is always good news. – IGD interview
To be clear, the charges were dismissed by the court - not dropped by the government. The attorneys for the RAM defendants filed motions arguing that the indictments should be dismissed because the federal Anti-Riot Act is unconstitutional. The government opposed those motions and lost. The dismissal is certainly a defeat for the government and a victory for the militant far-right and white nationalists.

The ruling is notable should the government charge anti-fascists and other Leftists under the federal anti-riot statute; the government might re-consider using this statute in the future and stick to usual strategies.
It’s also at least arguable that they were looking to test out the Anti-Riot Act to see how it would hold up. The Anti-Riot Act is incredibly broad and covers a lot of conduct, which eases the evidentiary burden on the prosecution, but it’s also rarely used and relatively untested from a legal standpoint. - IGD interview
In light of the dismissal we should imagine the far-right is celebrating this ruling. 

The outcome makes the point that while the ruling may embolden far rightists in the short term, it weakens one of the legal repression tools that the state can use against the left.  Also, and of specific relation to revolutionary antifascists, the IGD interviews last section calls for "rejecting the reductive logic of 'my enemy's enemy is my friend'" and "continu[ing] to articulate how the State vs. fascist drama is a power struggle between two poles that both have incredibly destructive designs for us."


For more background on the RAM case, read the October 17, 2018 article Autonomous Antifascism, State Repression & Arrests By Northern California Anti-Racist Action