An 40 minute audio recording of my talk “Anti/Fascism in the USA,” recorded in Montreal in April 2017, is now online. I cover how Trump’s presidential campaign energized white nationalists; the question of “Is Trump a fascist?”; the Trump administration’s appointees and their connections to white nationalist and right-wing populist politics; the rise in hate crimes; a detailed overview of the different fascist and white nationalist factions, including the Alt Right; and the re-emergence of the militant antifascist movement.
Since my op-ed in the Forward on has been well-received, I thought I’d throw together a list of my writings that specifically address issues of antisemitism and left-wing movements. (A list of all of my recent work is here). The articles that address antisemitism include:
“The Left Must Root Out Anti-Semitism In Its Ranks,” Forward, June 1, 2017
A call for the Left to ban Holocaust Deniers and antisemitic conspiracy theorists from its venues and publications.
“Far Right Conspiracy Theorist Christopher Bollyn to Speak at the Brooklyn Commons,” spencersunshine.com, September 5, 2016
Outline of a former editor at Willis Carto’s neo-Nazi media empire, Christopher Bollyn, who spoke at a “progressive” Brooklyn venue.
“How to be a Left Wing Apologist for Antisemitism,” vitam fracta, August 15, 2016.
Eleven arguments that are used by leftists to dodge true criticisms of antisemitism.
“Drawing Lines Against Racism and Fascism,” Political Research Associates, March 5, 2015.
What are the criteria we should use when excluding antisemites from Left spaces?
“Campus Profile—Alison Weir: If Americans Knew,” Political Research Associates, 2014
Profile of a famous crypto-antisemite who is frequently given a pass by Left circles. Part of the Constructing Campus Conflict report.
“The Right Hand of Occupy Wall Street: From Libertarians to Nazis, the Fact and Fiction of Right-Wing Involvement,” Public Eye, Winter 2014, pages 9-14, 18; online: February 23, 2014
“20 on the Right in Occupy,” Political Research Associates, February 13, 2014
“Occupied With Conspiracies? The Occupy Movement, Populist Anti-Elitism, and the Conspiracy Theorists,” Shift, December 11, 2011
Three articles which address why antisemites were attracted to the Occupy Wall Street movement.
“Rebranding Fascism: National-Anarchists,” Public Eye, vol. 23, no. 4, Winter 2008, 1, 12–19
Profile of a crypto-fascist group that codes its antisemitism as “anti-zionism” in order to engage in entryist tactics.
I have an op-ed in the Forward encouraging people to speak out against antisemitic conspiracy theorists who appear on Leftist platforms – like the Left Forum and Brooklyn Commons. While it’s almost always a super-frustrating experience, you really can isolate these people from most left-wing platforms.
“In the last year, numerous anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists have appeared at left-leaning venues in New York City. As a monitor of far right politics, I keep track of this sort of thing, and I’ve noticed an significant increase in the number of such events.
But unlike the other bigots energized in the Trump era, these anti-Semites are seeking audiences among the capital-L “Left” — anarchists, Marxists, socialists, and participants in social movements such as Occupy Wall Street. But people inside the Left are increasingly speaking out, and if more continue to, the anti-Semites can be made unwelcome.”
Read the rest in the Forward.
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 »
I started working on this report two months before the Malheur occupation – which threw quite a wrench in the thing. But now it’s finally finished. A joint project from Political Research Associates and the Rural Organizing Project, Up in Arms: A Guide to Oregon’s Patriot Movement explains the Patriot movement’s national structure and goals; shows its decades-old history in Oregon; looks in-depth at six Oregon counties where Patriot movement organizing is strongest today; explains why the rural Oregon economy is in bad shape; and offers concrete suggestions—including numerous examples from the last year—of how Oregonians have counter-organized against this movement.
Spencer Sunshine, with Jessica Campbell & Rural Organizing Project, Political Research Associates, Daniel HoSang, Steven Besa, and Chip Berlet, Up in Arms: A Guide to Oregon’s Patriot Movement (Somerville, MA: Political Research Associates & Rural Organizing Project, October 2016), 188 pages.
—“It seems like being a Jew is a lot like being a wolf,” Christopher Bollyn
The booking of Christopher Bollyn at the Brooklyn Commons seems to be only the latest bid by the antisemitic wing of the 9/11 Truth and conspiracy movement to find legitimacy in lefty circles. Bollyn, Ken O’Keefe, and others have been speaking at progressive spaces, libraries, and even religious congregations in the recent past with little opposition.
This needs to change.
Bollyn is a former staffer at a leading racist media project who claims that a “Jewish/Zionist” cabal controls the United States. While this is boilerplate Far Right nonsense, he is speaking on Wednesday, September 7, 2016 at the Brooklyn Commons—a well-respected Left-wing movement space in central Brooklyn. While it takes some chutzpah to speak there, more worrisome has been the refusal of the space to cancel the event.
Bollyn worked for the Liberty Lobby from 2000 to 2006, which was run by Willis Carto, who for decades was one of the most important racists on the US Far Right. His media group included the Spotlight (now the American Free Press), a White nationalist newspaper (where Bollyn was a staffer), as well as the Barnes Review, the main periodical helping spread Holocaust Denial in the United States (where he was a contributing editor). Bollyn has also appeared on David Duke’s radio show, and has praised the racist paramilitary patrol, the Minutemen Project.
Bollyn made his name by promoting an openly antisemitic brand of 9/11 Truth conspiracies in which he makes boilerplate antisemitic claims. Many of these could be taken directly out of 1930s Nazi Party propaganda—that the US government is controlled by a cabal of Jews who force it to go to wars against its national interest. In case there is any lingering doubt, Bollyn is also happy to quote the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, the forgery that is one of the main antisemitic texts that inspired the Nazis.
Thinking it was surely a mistake that such a person would be speaking at the Commons, I contacted them directly. Their booker, Melissa, said she was unaware of this person’s background and would get back to me. (As of press time — several days later — there has been no followup.) When asked to comment about Bollyn by other activists, the unidentified person running the Common’s twitter said, “I glanced at his site and nothing antisemitic jumped out at me.” But without even clicking on anything, the front page of Bollyn’s site is filled with lines like “9-11 is a massive Zionist Jewish crime,” and that NPR is run by a “cabal of Zionist Jews.” Bollyn’s website and other writings include such antisemitic gems like:
- “Great nations, like the United States, France, and Germany, once had anti-Masonic and anti-Semitic political parties that acted to challenge the pernicious influence of secret Masonic and Jewish organizations. Today we no longer have such political parties to counter these secret networks and find ourselves ruled by B’nai B’rith and Jewish Freemasons.”
- “The ‘false flag’ terrorism of 9–11 is a monstrous Jewish-Zionist crime of our time. The true culprits of this heinous crime are clearly being protected by a gang of like-minded Jewish Zionists in the highest positions of the U.S. government.”
- “It seems like being a Jew is a lot like being a wolf.”
- He openly cites the Protocols line that: “Not a single announcement will reach the public without our control.”
- “I suspect that Arlen Specter is a high-level agent of the B’nai B’rith, the secret organization of Jewish Freemasons which I consider to be the real Elders of Zion.”
(Note: I won’t link to Far Right websites, but you can easily google up all this information.)
Anger about Bollyn’s appearance is growing in the absence of any action by the Brooklyn Commons staff. Many people have contacted the Commons to ask them to cancel the booking. (When DC bookstore Busboys and Poets was contacted about Bollyn’s talk there, they cancelled it within 24 hours.)
Members of several projects based at the Commons—the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research, Jacobin, the Marxist Education Project, The Indypendent, FUREE, Theater of the Oppressed Laboratory, WBAI, and the Right to the City Alliance—have issued an open letter saying: “We do not have any say in event booking and management at the Commons but agree that such politics should have no place in leftist spaces.”
Bollyn’s friends are also engaged in reactionary politics. For example, Nicholas DeVincenzo, the host of the New York event on Facebook, promotes David Duke videos, even tho he says he is skeptical of white separatism. Meanwhile, DeVincenzo’s friend, Rudy Dent, is slated to introduce Bollyn at the Commons. Dent, who is black, promotes the Protocols of the Elders of Zion on his facebook (which DeVincenzo approves of), as well as radical right-wing Sovereign Citizen theories.
This just goes to show how antisemitism is often the glue that holds unlikely political bedfellows together, and can create a bridge linking the Far Left and Radical Right.
The battle lines are drawn over demonizing narratives that promote oppression. People of any identity can promote narratives of antisemitism and white nationalism, and/or work with those who do. On one side are those who oppose promoting or working with them, and on the other are those who engage in demonization or who promote alliances with those who do. White, black, and other folks—including Jews—can be found on both sides of this line.
Similar to Bollyn, Ken O’Keefe has also been making the rounds of progressive circles. He began his career as a legitimate Palestine Solidarity activist but now propagates antisemitic conspiracy theories, including giving a talk praising Adolf Hitler.
I’m not sure what’s in the air right now, but whatever it is has given the antisemitic conspiracy theorists a push to try and find legitimacy for their views among the Left. Perhaps it’s the shot in the arm that Trump is giving to all forms of racism and bigotry—but nonetheless, it is clear that the response from the Left is severely lacking in regard to identifying and confronting antisemitism. There needs to be more education about antisemitic narratives and tropes so that people can recognize and reject them. And there should be an understanding about how antisemitism allows for cross-recruitment from, and fusion with, racists and fascists—as we are seeing with Bollyn’s attempts to woo progressives at the Commons.
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.