I’ll be a doing a speaking tour in Germany leading up to the US elections, as well as a couple dates in London. There are two different talks I will be giving: one is on the U.S. radical right in the age of Trump, and the other is on U.S. Left/Right crossover movements (which in Germany is recognized as an issue for the Left, more than in the U.S.).Read More »
… As the Malheur occupation fades into history, there are many insights on the US social and political landscape to be distilled both from this episode and from the national conversations it has sparked. One underreported aspect of the affair is what it revealed about the nature of the partial but significant overlaps between neo-Nazis and anti-federal-government activists like the Bundys.
The occupiers had been demanding the abolition of the federal government as we know it, using a set of rationales that were originally derived from racist movements. Some of the occupiers were known to spout anti-Semitic or Islamophobic conspiracy theories, while another denied that slavery existed. And so it should not have surprised anyone that neo-Nazis and other organized racists have applauded the occupation.
In the not-so-distant past, one had little problem identifying a White separatist. Generally, they came in two styles: white hoods and burning crosses, or oxblood Doc Martens and swastika tattoos. Both were usually shouting vulgar epithets about African-Americans, Jews, and LGBTQ folks. And their relationship with the Left was usually in the form of breaking either bookstore windows or activists’ bones—if not outright murder. Barring them from progressive spaces was an act of physical self-preservation—not a show of political principles in drawing a line against ideological racism and fascism.
Today, White separatists don’t always come in such easily identifiable forms, either in their dress or politics. A part of the White separatist and related Far Right movement has taken some unusual turns. Some fascists seek alliances with ultranationalist people of color—a few of whom, in turn, consider themselves fascists. New types of groups embrace White separatism under a larger banner of decentralization. For many decades, the Far Right has disguised or rebranded its politics by establishing front groups, deploying code words, or using other attempts to fly under the radar. As the years pass by, some of these projects have taken on lives of their own as these forms have been adopted by those with different agendas. Simultaneously, there is a revival of fascist influence within countercultural music scenes. And intertwined with these changes is a renewed attempt on the part of some White separatists to participate in, or cross-recruit from, progressive circles.
This essay was written after a multi-year collaboration with a number of anti-fascist activists; we have struggled to understand this new phenomenon and craft ways to deal with it. I will attempt to: explain why Far Right actors should not be allowed to participate in progressive circles, suggest criteria regarding where the line should be drawn in defining which politics are problematic enough to take action against, and offer suggestions on how to communicate with and encourage individuals who may want to leave those movements.
Occupy Wall Street (OWS) has often been portrayed as the Tea Party’s ideological mirror image: a left-wing response to the global economic crises that began in August 2007. Initiated with a tent city in Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park in mid-September 2011, spinoff “Occupations” soon spread across the United States and then to cities across the globe. These protests, which targeted the federal government’s cozy relationship with the banking interests that caused the economic collapse, channeled the mounting anger of those most devastated by the economic meltdown, especially debt-ridden students, the unemployed, and people who lost homes in the subprime mortgage crisis.
But this mainstream-media view tends to gloss over the involvement of right-wing and conspiracist groups in Occupy. In the perception of many participants, the Right’s presence was largely limited to a lone homeless man who paraded antisemitic signs around Zuccotti, which became the basis of a right-wing “smear” campaign. More recently, venture capitalists like Tom Perkins have slandered Occupy, absurdly comparing its attack on wealth inequality to the Nazi persecution of Jews. Because of this, many progressives plug their ears when they hear about right-wing groups and Occupy.
On September 8, 2007 in Sydney, Australia, the antiglobalization movement mobilized once again against neoliberal economic policies, this time to oppose the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) summit. Just as during the protests against the World Trade Organization in Seattle, Washington, in 1999, the streets were filled with an array of groups, such as environmentalists, socialists, and human rights advocates. And also just like in Seattle, there was a “Black Bloc”—a group of militant activists, usually left-wing anarchists, who wore masks and dressed all in black.
In Sydney, the Black Bloc assembled and hoisted banners proclaiming “Globalization is Genocide.” But when fellow demonstrators looked closely, they realized these Black Bloc marchers were “National-Anarchists”—local fascists dressed as anarchists who were infiltrating the demonstration. The police had to protect the interlopers from being expelled by irate activists.