When Putsch Comes to Shove: Mass Action, Punching Nazis, and Stopping Them Before They Grow

By Jeff Shantz

Times of rising fascism are periods of open, brutal, class war (where the sheets literally slip off). Events of the last year show the desperate need for working class self defense of our communities.

One can learn some useful lessons on the need to treat proto-fascist mobilization harshly and with concerted action, before it grows, in the putting down of the Kapp Putsch in Berlin in 1920, under conditions of Weimar democracy, and two years before Hitler’s own Beer Hall Putsch. One might also ask what contributed to the decisive mass actions of the German working class that did not see a similar response to a fascist push in 1932 when the Nazis successfully broke the resistance (a resistance that never really crystallized for specific reasons we should understand. And what does it say to us about the fight against fascism today?

The Kapp Putsch was an early attempt by the proto-fascist Rightwing in Germany to make a show of strength and to overthrow the liberal Weimar Republic and institute an authoritarian Rightwing government. The revolt in March of 1920 was led by Wolfgang Kapp who was the founder of the far Right Fatherland Party and by General von Luttwitz. The putsch leaders were motivated by their resentment at the conditions of the Versailles settlement to end World War One, a resentment that motivated the Nazis as well and which was shared by many Germans. Notably, von Luttwitz’s Erhardt Brigade used as its primary symbol none other than the swastika. Like later fascist groups, including ones today, Kapp’s Fatherland Party claimed to be beyond politics, above the political fray (neither Left nor Right in today’s terms). The force for the rising was the Freikorps, the precursor to the Brownshirts.

Of some note, the fading of the workers’ and solders’ councils that had played crucial parts in the rebellions of 1918 and 1919 (the Bavarian Council Republic, etc.) played a major part in creating a context where the Rightists thought they could act. The need for compromise seemed diminished to them. They miscalculated. The German working class, and its organizations were united and militant.

In 1920, 1,700,000 German workers went on strike in order to defeat proto-fascism and the far Right but also to push past the limits of the Social Democrats. The working class found unity in its response to the far Right mobilization. The Kapp Putsch was frustrated fundamentally, fatally as workers in various regions went on general strikes. There was organizational development and there were spaces for development of ideas and debates over strategy and tactics on a large scale.

The state showed its true colors as only one participant in this armed Rightwing uprising against the government faced any jail time. And the judges gave him a break because of his “selfless patriotism.”

In Germany in the 1920s the working class was well organized and had a decent understanding of what fascism and violent Rightwing populism meant. By the mid-1930s they had been brought to despair and the institutions of the social democratic Left had played a major part in that. In 1920 at the time of the Kapp Putsch, the Social Democrats seemed to offer people a better life and an alternative to the misery of capitalism and war. This was not so by 1932 at the time of another fascist coup attempt, this time in Prussia.

The German Social Democratic Party, the ruling “socialist” party that had previously come to the aid of the German bourgeoisie in putting down the anarchist and communist uprisings of 1918 and 1919, from the 1920s onward had been at work implementing austerity policies and turning workers away from their class interests (toward phoney national ones). By 1932 German workers had less reason to defend the Social Democrats when the came under attack from the far Right. This politics also allowed some ground for the communist critique of the Social Democrats as “social fascists,” the fatal line of the Communist International. The austerity attacks on the working class allowed for a split of the Social Democrats and the Communist Party. This contributed to the context that allowed the Nazis to rise.

It was the failure of the Social Democrats, and the Left broadly, to provide any alternative to capitalist conditions and to address the desires of the working class for better lives, that motivated much of the work of radical psychoanalyst and libertarian communist Wilhelm Reich in his attempt to understand the mass psychology of fascism. For Reich, the Left bore some responsibility in not developing policies and practices that connected with working class desire. This allowed some to turn to the Right while simultaneously weakening the resolve of many to fight. What was the Left fighting for after all.

In 1932, rank-and-file members of the Reichsbanner were armed and ready for an uprising against the Rightwing government that was about to cede power to Hitler and the Nazis. It would have changed history. But the legalistic Social Democratic leadership prevented it.

In the account provided by historian Richard J. Evans:

“In the situation of July 1932, when Hindenburg, the military leadership and the conservatives were all extremely anxious to avoid provoking a civil war in Germany, an armed uprising by the Reichsbanner might have forced a climb down by Papen, or an intervention by the Reich President. One can never know. The call to resist never came. The law-abiding traditions of the Social Democrats compelled them to put a ban on any armed resistance to an act that was sanctioned by the head of state and the legally constituted government, backed by the armed forces and not opposed by the police.” (2003, 286)

 

As Evans puts it further:

“After 20 July 1932 the only realistic alternatives were a Nazi dictatorship or a conservative, authoritarian regime backed by the army. The absence of any serious resistance on the part of the Social Democrats, the principle remaining defenders of democracy, was decisive. It convinced both conservatives and National Socialists that the destruction of democratic institutions could be achieved without any serious opposition.” (2003, 287)

The communists proposed a united front with social democracy for a general strike. The working classes were in favor of a general strike. The social democratic workers, however, did not go against social democracy. The Communist Knorin (by no means a pristine source to be sure) suggested in 1934 that even limited resistance to preserve Weimer democracy (far from proletarian revolution) would have compelled the fascists to retreat and in denying the fascists power would have contributed to their collapse. It may have won over some of their soft base of support in the middle strata and  peasantry.

Even in January of 1930 there was a chance, though conditions were already not as favorable for the working class resistance. Then, too, the Social Democrats worked to prevent a general strike and opposed a communist demonstration.

In 1920, the unions and the socialists worked together to put down the proto-fascist coup, despite its support by the armed forces. By 1932 that unity was gone. A year or so later so was the Left and so was the possibility of a successful anti-Nazi resistance. By then the only option would be military.

 

Disarming Resistance and the Fatal Illusions of Electoralism

The German working class in the 1920s and 1930s was the most powerful, armed working class (non-statist) force in the industrial West. Yet in the 1930s the Social Democrats disarmed or stood down the armed wing of the working class and the party. This was true in Austria as well as in Germany. These forces outnumbered and could have outgunned the fascists at crucial points in the 1930s.

The disarming of the socialist armed wings was related to the electoral illusions of the Social Democrats and gives us some lessons on the dangers of electoralism as an approach to fascism. The Social Democratic Party was concerned with its electoral chances and wanted to maintain an image of respectability as means to election success. A futile, and historically fatal pursuit.

Thus they shut down the force that could have defeated the fascists in the baseless hope that they could achieve an electoral path to marginalizing the Nazis. It bears little additional discussion but to note that this electoral strategy was disastrous.

And it remains so today. One can see hints of it though in liberal attacks on ANTIFA and appeals to vote Democrats into power as if no lessons have been learned about how liberal centrism might work to stem the growth of angry Rightwing resentment and white supremacist mobilization. And note too that this plays neatly into ongoing projects of neoliberal social war. So-called mainstream conservatives are even calling for elections of Democrats in the 2018 midterm elections and we can refer too to neoliberal conservatives who sided with Doug Jones against the repugnant Republican Roy Moore (or at least offered write in votes rather than support him) as evidence of a new Rightist centrist (actually quite far Right itself) consensus using Trump to move politics further Rightward along with neoliberal Democrats.

The Democratic centrism under Clinton already played a part in the unlikely election of Trump of course. And the Democrats continue to provide only more of neoliberal desperation and despair that fuels Rightwing and white working class resentment and anger (with racism and patriarchalism too of course). And this could serve to broaden susceptibility to Rightwing appeals (as being the only real, possible, realistic alternative).

Now is a period of economic and political crisis. People are looking for answers. That is partly why Trump could get elected in the first place. The search for answers in a time of crisis does not always yield the best answers. People sick of the usual approaches will look outside the usual frames of politics. Democratic-patriotic and pacifist-patriotic appeals are fatal now as they were under the German Social Democrats.

 

Charlottesville and Since

In the period of 1920 to 1932 antifascism had a mass movement and strength that does not exist today. The movement is more marginalized and is by no means a mass movement with broad connections to large sections of the exploited and oppressed.

Charlottesville represented an attempt of the alt-Right to show their overall strength in one place. This was no putsch. It was merely an effort by a fascist Rightwing, feeling emboldened in the first year of the Trump presidency to come out publicly, provide a rallying point for fellow travellers there and elsewhere in the United States, and show some sign of hoped for unity and strength. But it actually showed the relatively minor significance and limited capacity of fascist forces in the US right now. The alt-Rightists picked what they thought was the best place at the best time. They sought a concentrated level of public action, one where their forces would hold a critical mass. But the response against them in Charlottesville and in cities all over the US showed how marginal they are.

And it also showed the strength and appeal of anti-fascism and what might be called the Left (however this might be conceived broadly as anarchist, socialist, communist, etc.).  This was a testament to the courageous action of people in Charlottesville opposing the fascists and of the organizing work done there. It showed the necessity and effectiveness of shoving the fascists off the stage. It did not come without a terrible cost, of course, as fascists killed Heather Hayer and injured others.

Even with a president who is sympathetic to them the fascists in the United States are not having the attraction and base that the antifascists (and the Left more broadly) are. Indeed the broad Left, and the radical anti-capitalists and anti-statists associated with it, are finding perhaps the greatest attraction they have had in generations.

A problem for the far Rightwing is that they do not have a class constituency that they can appeal to. Capital certainly cannot and will not meet peoples’ needs. The alt-Right appeals, as fascist have historically, to the disaffected middle strata, the declasse who feel pinched by capital and by organized labor. In today’s context they are a component of the middle strata who view themselves as  entrepreneurs or artisans (new tech workers, etc.) who feel deprived of the American Dream promised them as they toil in service sector work or the “gig economy.”

Some move to the far Right over a belief that they have to compete over the little that is still available in a context of austerity and social scarcity. And there is a danger that more of the white  working class can be moved to the far Right as the supposed electoral alternative of the Democratic Party continues to offer the neoliberal “no alternativism” and “lesserevilism” they put forward in the figure of Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Fascism is not at a [point where it will take power any time soon. Capital permits fascists to take power when they feel there is some pressing need for it. Right now they have no need to invest in that kind of unruly and unpredictable power. The regular mechanisms of neoliberalism are still working to repress, regulate, and control the working class and resistance movements.

In the 1920s and 1930s, fascism always rose up after a failed socialist or communist revolution. Or failed republicanism in the case of Spain.

 

Overcoming the Psychological Fundamentalism of Non-Violence

Some have expressed a squeamishness about using violence against fascists today. Debates have broken out over the desirability of punching fascists. These are largely tedious. There should be little controversy over the fact that fascists should be punched wherever and whenever they appear. While some might suggest that this is not enough and more needs to be done the answer is, yes, of course. Part of the discussion here is that mass direct action is necessary against mobilizations of fascists—particularly where they grow beyond what they are now. Building that larger anti-fascist base is essential. It does not change the fact that punching fascists is right and proper.   

Opposing and overcoming—putting down—fascism and fascist movements in  the present period will, of necessity, require overcoming and opposing the prejudices of non-violence and the ingrained, socialized, commitment to non-violence in strategies, tactics, and organizing with social movements. This fundamentalist, almost religious, commitment to non-violence, an essential feature in keeping dominated populations pacified and manageable, has infected social resistance movements within liberal democracies like Canada and the United States.

This commitment takes on a psychological (rather than strictly tactical or strategic) aspect—structuring visions of justice, perceptions of legitimacy of action, and understandings of proper or appropriate resistance behavior. It shows how we view ourselves and how we might act in the world to change the world. And it has come to be used as a moral-psychological bludgeon to attack and condemn those within our movements and communities who would pursue other means—direct action and self defense.

This fundamentalist approach to non-violence not only serves to buttress the state and its institutions of domination and control—the true source of social violence, indeed the monopolists of violence in society. It also serves to keep us vulnerable and unprotected against vigilantes of the Right—those who have no qualms about using violence and are often formally trained in the use of violence through military or police training, etc.

Make no mistake—states have no hesitation in deploying violence against movements of the exploited and oppressed. And neither do Rightists who side with the institutions of authority. And the Rightists (militias, “patriots,” Minutemen, survivalists, etc.) are way ahead of progressive forces in terms of training, equipment, and, crucially, the psychological readiness and preparedness to use force against us. We have a lot of work to do to train ourselves and to ready our minds to act, to overcome our socialized and internalized, habitual, non-violence.

Capitalism is always violence. Fascism is a more desperate, unburdened attempt to break resistance. We must understand issues of state imposed violence and repression in relation to fascism.

The state can always turn to fascism for its own aims. White supremacy already relates to racist criminalization and the policing of racialized people and communities. There is a connection to anti-terror laws, programs, and fear politics. These practices have been deployed to target migrant groups and also to break resistance movements and groups and we need to understand that.

Non-violence and legalism go hand in hand. In the face of fascist risings, even in early periods, they are disastrous.

 

Conclusion

The lessons of history, the working class response to the Kapp Putsch in particular, shows the necessity and capacity of mass direct action to put down fascists and fascism early. It shows the effectiveness of such action. And it shows the rightness of it. Regardless of what the moralists of non-violence might suggest.

At the same time another lesson is provided by the subsequent disarming of the working class in Germany and Austria by the Social Democrats. This took away the real working class force that could have overcome the Brownshirts through overwhelming force and defended communities under attack by the fascists. In the absence of this force—again, disarmed by its own would-be leaders and nobody else—those communities were left without adequate defense. We know the outcome. And no moralists of non-violence can change that. That is why anti-fascists insist on punching Nazis, And why we need more.

At the time of the Kapp Putsch the proto-fascist and far Right forces were much larger, stronger, and better organized than the proto-fascsists are today in the United States and Canada. And by quite a bit. They had already had the experience of violently suppressing the workers’ uprisings of 1918 and 1919. They had given the government something to fear. Still, the mass direct action and militant response of the working class in 1920 was able to put down the rising of the Freikorps in 1920.

The basis of antifascist resistance is that we are stronger together. The emphasis is not scarcity but sharing and caring together. A promise of some abundance and security rather than scarcity and precarity. Our strength remains in solidarity and committed, principled action together with a focus on defeating fascism and white supremacy. Our tactics can be diverse. Our goal, as in 1920, is united.

Fascists always target unions and labor organizations. We need to understand this. If it is not defeated definitively it will grow. People can and will turn to fascism out of desperation and a sense that there are no other options.

Of course the current working class and working class organizations (notably unions) in the United States and Canada have no mass based militance, no armed capacities, and few experiences of street fighting resistance. Perhaps more to the point, they have no organized self defense groupings. This is true even in US states where gun possession is accepted and regular activity and in open carry states where a public display of armed working class self defense could be made. Ironically perhaps there is an inverse correspondence between union membership and open carry laws as many open carry states are also highly anti-union and with “right to work” laws in place as well as open carry laws.

 

Further Reading

Evans, Richard J. 2003. The Coming of the Third Reich. New York: Penguin

Knorin, V. 1934. Fascism, Social-Democracy and the Communists. New York: Workers Library Publishers

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Understanding the European New Right and Why It Matters to Antifascists: A Reading List

The Alt Right’s growth took a lot of people by surprise.  It was not just because of its explosion of popularity and public interest, but by the way that its ideas were coded and often phrased in leftist rhetoric.  This was not a product of their own invention, but a trend called “Third Positionsim” that has dominated since the early 1970s.  This trend takes elements of the left, such as anti-capitalism, anti-imperialism, or environmentalism, and plugs it into open fascism, trying to create a synthesis that can attract more recruits.

The most adept of this methodology was a French academic and fascist named Alain de Benoist and the European New Right movement he started.  Here they used a complex left-sounding language to rebrand fascism, calling it a “nationalism for all peoples” and trying to ally themselves with post-colonial and anti-capitalist movements for white nationalist reasons.  The European New Right slowly came stateside, influencing people like the National Policy Institute’s Richard Spencer.  While the work of the ENR is densely academic and rarely translated, we have compiled a list of resources so you can quickly learn about this fascist current that has helped to launch the Alt Right in the U.S. and the violent “identitarian” movement that is blocking refugee boats in Europe.  This will help us to understand their arguments, how their propaganda has worked, and how to stem off fascist entryism into left movements.

 

The Man Who Gave White Nationalism a New Life (Best overview, Buzzfeed)

The Long Game of the European New Right (The Conversation)

Some Notes on the European New Right (Chip Berlet)

The French Ideologues Who Inspired the Alt Right (The Daily Beast)

Confronting the New Right (Gods & Radicals, a look at the ENR’s influence on paganism)

Apoliteic music: Neo-Folk, Martial Industrial and ‘metapolitical fascism’ (Anton Shekovtsov, article on fascist meta-politics touching on ENR, traditionalism, aesthetics, and neofolk/martial industrial music)

Rebranding Fascism (Article on ENR, esoteric fascism, and National Anarchism, Political Research Associates)

The French Origins of “You Will Not Replace Us” (The New Yorker)

 

Academic Papers (Some of these are tough, but they give really deep background for those trying to get inside the fascist mind.  These also generally require some type of academic log in or subscription, but since they are all valued we decided to include them anyway.)

Myth and Violence: The Fascism of Julius Evola and Alain de Benoist

Between Metapolitics and Apoliteia: the Nouvelle Droite’s Strategy for Conserving the Fascist Vision in the ‘Interregnum (Great academic paper on ENR by Roger Griffin)

 

ENR and the Identitarian Movement and the Front National

The Ruthlessly Effective Rebranding of Europe’s Far Right (The Guardian)

European Politics Are Swinging to the Right (Time)

Nothing New Under the Fascist Sun: Le Pen, Trump, and the Alt Right (Jacobin)

 

Debunking Eugenics Reader

By Mike Isaacson

Back in August, I wrote an article for Red Pepper magazine asserting the synonymy of the alt-right and its historical antecedents in the eugenics movement. The breadth of the movement’s influence at its height in late 2016 had it reaching in political spheres well beyond its original core in the white nationalist movement connected to Richard Spencer. That I catalogued this reach into GamerGate earned me quite a bit of impotent ire on the r/KotakuInAction Reddit where they claimed I didn’t know what eugenics, the alt-right, or GamerGate are.

One of the more worrying claims on the Reddit was that my account and rejection of eugenics rejects evolutionary biology and sociology. Barring a restriction to literature from before 1950, little could be further from the truth. In actuality, these disciplines widely reject the key claims of biological determinism made by eugenicists by accounting for existing legal, economic, and political institutions. What follows is a list of readings that articulate contemporary critiques of eugenics.

Jean Belkhir – Intelligence and Race, Gender, Class: The Fallacy of Genetic Determinism

Francis Collins – What We Do and Don’t Know About ‘Race’, ‘Ethnicity’, Genetics, and Health at the Dawn of the Genome Era

Audrey Smedley – “Race” and the Construction of Human Identity

Michael Barnshad et al. – Deconstructing the Relationship Between Genetics and Race

Graham Baker – Christianity and Eugenics: The Place of Religion in the British Eugenics Education Society and the American Eugenics Society, c.1907–1940

Article has been republished with permission from author’s blog, Vulgar Economics

An Anarchist Guide to Christmas

For the Yuletide this year, we decided to republish a recent classic commentary on Christmas an anarchism.  Enjoy!

By Ruth Kinna

It’s no surprise to discover that anarchist theorist Pyotr Kropotkin was interested in Christmas. In Russian culture, St. Nicholas (Николай Чудотворец) was revered as a defender of the oppressed, the weak and the disadvantaged. Kropotkin shared the sentiments.

But there was also a family link. As everyone knows, Kropotkin could trace his ancestry to the ancient Rurik dynasty that ruled Russia before the upstart Romanovs and which, from the first century CE, controlled the trade routes between Moscow and the Byzantine Empire. Nicholas’s branch of the family had been sent out to patrol the Black Sea. But Nicholas was a spiritual man and sought an escape from the piracy and brigandage for which his Russian Viking family was famed. So he settled under a new name in the southern lands of the Empire, now Greece, and decided to use the wealth that he had amassed from his life of crime to alleviate the sufferings of the poor.

Unpublished archival sources recently discovered in Moscow reveal that Kropotkin was fascinated by this family tie and the striking physical similarity between himself and the figure of Father Christmas, popularised by the publication of ‘A Visit from St. Nicholas’ (better known as ‘The Night Before Christmas’) in 1823.

Kropotkin was not quite so portly as Klaus, but with a cushion stuffed up his tunic, he felt he could pass. His friend Elisée Reclus advised him to drop the fur trim on the outfit. That was a good idea as it would also allow him to wear a bit more black with the red. He’d decided to follow Elisée’s advice on the reindeer, too, and to use a hand driven sleigh. Kropotkin wasn’t normally given to dressing up. But exploiting the resemblance to spread the anarchist message was excellent propaganda by the deed.

Anticipating ‘V’, Kropotkin thought that we could all pose as Santa Claus. On the edge of one page Kropotkin writes: “Infiltrate the stores, give away the toys!”

Faint remnants on the back of a postcard read:

On the night before Christmas, we’ll all be about
While the people are sleeping, we’ll realise our clout
We’ll expropriate goods from the stores, ‘cos that’s fair
And distribute them widely, to those who need care.

His project notes also reveal some valuable insights into his ideas about the anarchistic features of Christmas and his thinking about the ways in which Victorian Christmas rituals might be adapted.

“We all know”, he wrote, “that the big stores – John Lewis, Harrods and Selfridges – are beginning to exploit the sales potential of Christmas, establishing magic caves, grottos and fantastic fairylands to lure our children and pressurise us to buy gifts that we do not want and cannot afford”.

“If you are one of us”, he continued, “you will realise that the magic of Christmas depends on Father Christmas’s system of production, not the stores’ attempts to seduce you to consume useless luxuries”. Kropotkin described the sprawling workshops at the North Pole, where elves worked all year, happily because they knew that they were producing for other peoples’ pleasure. Noting that these workshops were strictly not-for profit, craft-based and run on communal lines, Kropotkin treated them as prototypes for the factories of the future (outlined in Fields, Factories and Workshops).

Some people, he felt, thought that Father Christmas’s dream to see that everyone received gifts on Christmas day, was quixotic. But it could be realised. Indeed, the extension of the workshops – which were quite expensive to run in the Arctic – would facilitate generalised production for need and the transformation of occasional gift-giving into regular sharing. “We need to tell the people”, Kropotkin wrote, “that community workshops can be set up anywhere and that we can pool our resources to make sure that everybody has their needs met”!

One of the issues that most bothered Kropotkin about Christmas was the way in which the inspirational role that Nicholas’s had played in conjuring Christmas myths had confused the ethics of Christmas. Nicholas was wrongly represented as a charitable, benevolent man: saintly because he was beneficent. Absorbed in the figure of Father Christmas, Nicholas’s motivations for giving had become further skewed by the Victorian’s fixation with children.

Kropotkin didn’t really understand the links, but felt that it reflected an attempt to moralise childhood through a concept of purity that was symbolised in the birth of Jesus. Naturally he couldn’t imagine the creation of the Big Brother Santa Claus who knows when children are asleep and awake and comes to town apparently knowing which have dared to cry or pout.

But sooner or later, he warned, this idea of purity would be used to distinguish naughty from nice children and only those in the latter group would be rewarded with presents.

Whatever the case, it was important both to recover the principle of Nicholas’ compassion from this confusing mumbo-jumbo and the folkloric origins of Santa Claus. Nicholas gave because he was pained by his awareness of other peoples’ hardship. Though he wasn’t an assassin (as far as Kropotkin knew), he shared the same ethics as Sofia Petrovskaya. And while it was obviously important to worry about the well-being of children, the anarchist principle was to take account of everyone’s suffering.

Similarly, the practice of giving was mistakenly thought to require the implementation of a centrally-directed plan, overseen by an omniscient administrator. This was quite wrong: Father Christmas came from the imagination of the people (just consider the range of local names that Nicholas had accrued – Sinterklaas, Tomte, de Kerstman). And the spreading of good cheer – through festivity – was organised from the bottom up.

Buried in Christmas, Kropotkin argued, was the solidaristic principle of mutual aid.

Kropotkin appreciated the significance of the ritual and the real value that individuals and communities attached to carnivals, acts of remembrance and commemoration. He no more wanted to abolish Christmas than he wished to see it republicanised through some wrong-headed bureaucratic re-ordering of the calendar.

It was important, nonetheless, to detach the ethic that Christmas supported from the singularity of its celebration. Having a party was just that: extending the principle of mutual aid and compassion into everyday life was something else. In capitalist society, Christmas provided a space for special good behaviours. While it might be possible to be a Christian once a year, anarchism was for life.

Kropotkin realised his propaganda would have the best chance of success if he could show how the anarchist message was also embedded in mainstream culture. His notes reveal that he looked particularly to Dickens’ A Christmas Carol to find a vehicle for his ideas. The book was widely credited with cementing ideas of love, merriment and goodwill in Christmas. Kropotkin found the genius of the book in its structure. What else was the story of Scrooge’s encounter with the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future than a prefigurative account of change?

By seeing his present through his past, Scrooge was given the chance to alter his miserly ways and re-shape both his future and the future of the Cratchit family. Even if it was only remembered once a year, Kropotkin thought, Dickens’s book lent anarchists a perfect vehicle to teach this lesson: by altering what we do today, by modelling our behaviours on Nicholas, we can help construct a future which is Christmas!

This article was originally published by STRIKE! magazine.

What We Can Expect from the Alt Right in 2018

A dramatic shift in American political discourse began in 2015.  This was not the emergence of white nationalism as a revolutionary political force, we have had that since the earliest “wages of whiteness.”  Instead, a new form of racist popularization occurred when the Alt Right, a new branding for pseudo-intellectual American white nationalism, hit a synergy with certain points of the culture like the Trumpist populist phenomenon and the troll culture of 4Chan.  The Alt Right became a buzzword for the media, an elusive movement that was bringing Millenials into “white identity” politics.  After 18 months of coordinating with nativist elements in more standard American conservatism, the Alt Right’s movement culminated in their attempt to stand on their own: Unite the Right in Charlottesville.

Since their confirmation transformed into a horror film, they have been hit hard by the culture and the media infrastructure, leaving their future undecided.  They have seen unprecedented growth, building on the increasing mistrust Americans have with public institutions, but questions arise about whether or not the far-right will be able to capture additional ground in 2018.  Building on what we have seen over the past several years and drawing together what we know of the composition of the Alt Right and the history of insurgent fascist movements in the U.S., there are a few expectations that are clear for the Alt Right in the next year.

 

 

Difficulty Reaching the Public

What allowed the Alt Right to recruit en masse was their access to the culture through democratized web institutions.  Social media and web publishing allowed them to be on the same Web 2.0 channels as major media outlets, which allowed subculture celebrity to drive their talking points.  Hashtags, memes, and trolling created a style of argumentation that allowed them to Trojan Horse ethnic nationalism, all while playing to contemporary social issues and antagonism.

The openness that they have relied on is all but dead at the close of 2017.  What has been termed “mass platform denial,” the banning of Alt Right figures and institutions from major web platforms, has decimated the financial and social infrastructure that Alt Right institutions like the National Policy Institute and The Right Stuff have depended on.  Web hosting and archiving services, podcast hosting, financial transaction services, email design software, social media platforms, and just about every other vessel for commercial speech have been severed to them.  This has forced these organizations into a corner where they are creating subpar services, like Gab or Hatreon, to sustain their stream of outreach and using pay subscription services that limits the reach of their message.  While you used to find their podcasts on iTunes, popular Alt Right accounts like Ricky Vaughn on Twitter, and heavy funding coming through small donations on Patreon and PayPal, they are all but gone from the mainstream Internet.  With the death of Net Neutrality and the further enforcement of Terms of Service on Twitter, they are only going to find it harder to reach out to the undecided, a problem that they share with many sectors of the left as well.

 

 

Campus Wars

It is hard to have an Alt Right public event today.  The National Policy Institute is the largest Alt Right conference in the country, taking place twice a year and often held at the publically-owned Ronald Regan building in Washington D.C.  After recent clashes with antifascist protesters, Richard Spencer was booted from this location and, after being unable to find anyone else to host him, ended up hosting the conference with a fraction of his usual patrons in an unheated barn.  After they figured out who Spencer was, the owners of the facility canceled the conference halfway through and banned them from the premises.

This is the world for the Alt Right now, and the only exception the have found is at public universities.  Spencer has always argued for using public institutions since it is harder for them to suppress speech, and this has meant his special focus on universities.  He has successfully held speeches at places like the University of Florida – Gainesville and Texas A&M, and after a successful lawsuit at Auburn University he is using the courts to force universities that deny him to allow him on campus at great cost to the student body.  Spencer is currently battling with the University of Michigan to get on campus, despite mass campus walkouts and building occupations.

This level of campus focus, as well as with groups like Identity Europa who want to pull from dissident areas of college Republications, antifascist university groups like the Campus Antifascist Network have formed to do ongoing counter-organizing.  This dynamic of clashes, like we saw over the last two years when figures like Spencer or Milo Yiannoupoulos appear, is almost guaranteed to continue.

 

 

Acts of Violence

There is a common dynamic to American white nationalism that is important to identify.  White nationalism is unpopular on its own, so it often has to ally with slightly more moderate areas of conventional conservatism so that can mainstream its message on issues like immigration.  As time goes on, the more moderate contingent of the coalition begins to turn on the radicals, blaming them for left attacks.  This has happened in the past, and today this contingent is labeled the “Alt Light,” the nativist Civic Nationalists like Mike Cernovich, Lauren Southern, and Ann Coulter.  The betrayals hung heavy since the election of Trump, so Unite the Right on August 12th was the Alt Right’s chance to try and stand on its own away from the more centrist counter-parts.  They were defining themselves to the right, including Klansman and neo-Nazis.

When that betrayal takes place, the radicals begin acting in desperation.  Their organizing isn’t working, the general public rejects their message, and the motivating issues become even more bizarre, conspiratorial, and radical their focus in on their echo chamber.  It is that equation that breeds acts of “seemingly random violence,” which is acts of racial terror that could have been predicted because of the stoking of fascist thought leaders.  While the leadership, including people like Richard Spencer, would decry this violence as destructive to their aims, the rhetoric and ideology itself necessitates these acts of violence.  This “Lone wolf” strategy has already begun with attacks by Alt Right figures on the fringes, the most obvious of these being James Alex Fields Jr. attack on protesters that causes multiple injuries and the death of activist Heather Heyer.

Even the infighting among actual white nationalists creates further instability, a factor that is ever present in the white nationalist movement.  Are Jews the prime concern?  What about Muslims?  What do they do with queer members?  All of these create critical problems for having any unity.

There is no reason to believe that these acts of violence are in decline, and as the situation becomes more severe for the Alt Right it will likely lead to more desperate acts of cruelty. Desperation on the far-right is what motivates colossal acts of terrorism, which is both terrifyingly predictable and obvious.

 

 

Fight Back

The concern with predicting failures in the world of the Alt Right is that people will assume their decline and fall is assured.  It is not.  Instead, there is a good chance that they will be able to recover and to reap recruits and power from the ongoing racial tension and the reactionary sectors of the white working class that have been tricked to work against their own interests.  Instead, we need to come back with a massive antifascist movement, one that will continue to put pressure on their public appearances and media platforms, shutting them down before they have the ability to gain power.

Autonomist Antifascism: An Interview With Kevin Van Meter

This is an interview with Kevin Van Meter, the author of the new book Guerrillas of Desire: Notes on Everyday Resistance and Organizing to Make a Revolution Possible.  Van Meter draws on the Autonomist Marxist tradition to discuss how the concept of “everyday resistance” can inform antifascist struggle.

Pick up Guerrillas of Desire from AK Press.

 

AFN: You have written about the fragmentary position of the left, especially the state of the labor movement and the changing tide of class consciousness and composition. What do you think left and revolutionary organizations should do now?

 

Kevin Van Meter: I think it is remarkable to note that the labor movement predates things like the 1886 Haymarket Massacre. It really goes back to the 1850s in the United States and Europe. It took capitalism a hundred and seventy-five years to smash the labor movement. From it’s rise and development, the formation of the American Federation of Labor, from the development of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in 1905 and its initial suppression in the 1920s. But we have never had a weaker labor movement than we have right now, and it took capitalism a fucking long time to destroy it. That is remarkable and worthy of our attention.

With that said, the activities which lead to the formation of the IWW, the rise of feminist consciousness raising collectives, of the Black Panthers, and similar formulations was the expression of prior forms of self-activity, which the left and labor in our contemporary period ignore. I make this claim in Guerillas of Desire that left organizing assumes that the people are unorganized and not resisting in their everyday lives. I think I’ve shown empirically that this assumption is unfounded. Any good union organizer is going tell you when they walk into the shop for the first time they want to see where those existing power relationships are. Who’s the trusted worker that fellow workers talk to when looking for advice? Who is taking really long bathroom breaks? Who is punching in their drunk friend? These forms of organization, communication, and resistance are already taking place.

I open Guerillas of Desire with a story about how I went on a job interview with Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, better known by it’s acronym ACORN. We knocked on doors to get people to sign our petition, give donations, and support legislation around getting child care. Well, it is a fundamentally different thing when you’re going around knocking on doors asking for the state to provide child care than to actually acknowledge that the people who are surviving under very difficult circumstances and are, in fact, already addressing the childcare needs in informal ways. The question should instead be about how we can assist people so that they can survive more efficiently and have a better quality of life […] from those initial methods of survival to something that’s expressed on a higher level of organization or composition. So I would argue that it’s a fundamentally different thing to demand that the state provide child care than to organize child care collectives or take existing survival methods of child care and further organize them to a higher level and then make the state pay for it. Those are not the same thing. The first is how the left behaves regularly, leading to chagrin and failure. The second is the road that is not regularly taken, to see the existing forms of self-activity and everyday resistance as the real core of effective organizing.

I’m interested in how we further struggles, how we circulate struggles, and how we understand how particular communities are surviving. Even under the horrible fucking conditions of the capitalist state and the massive deprivation of resources. So we need to understand that and to then internalize what those communities’ needs and desires actually are. Maybe they need and desire revolutionary organization or maybe they need a “survival pending revolution” programs. Who are we to decide ahead of time? Where do our needs to reproduce ourselves connect the needs for other people to reproduce themselves […] for education, for housing, for childcare, and other necessities. We also need to put the reproduction of our movements and the self-reproduction of the class on our political agenda. Those are two important questions.

 

 

AFN: How do you think the concept of “everyday resistance” applied to antifascist struggle?

 

KVM: I think these new antifascist formations must connect to the self-activity of the working class, and then we hear of projects like Redneck Revolt or the Bastards Motorcycle Club that argue just this. These things actually are emerging out of existing working class formations and new working-class organizations are forming. These new antifascist projects are coming out of some existing social sphere, so the question is what that sphere is. What things are taking place in our communities that could provide new approaches?

These antifascist groups are also going to have to address their own self-reproduction of their members and their own survival. If that is slush funds for legal counsel, if that is safe houses for organizers and marginalized people, if that’s creating infrastructure, those are all important. One of the lessons I learned from the “Green Scare” is the density and strength of social relationships among the thousands brought to revolutionary activities, and then the movements relationship to the larger community, is vitally important.  Because you want the larger community to come to the defense of antifascist forces when they’re under attack, you need that connection.  It’s one thing for someone to say they support person “X” because they’re an antifascist. It’s a totally other thing for them to say they support a particular individual, a member of their community that they know intimately. That is a different kind of social relationship. We’re going to have to consider those and I think what’s exciting about the new formulations that are coming out, like Redneck Revolt, is that they are coming out of a different social relationship and community than we often have had in the past.

I mean we have to ask ourselves what else is coming out of that community. What kind of working class needs and desires are being expressed in other ways that might not be antifascist, but are still critically important.  Something simply like “survival pending revolution” programs, these could be educational projects or workplace organizing, it could be a referral service for collective houses. All kinds of projects that meet the needs of that community. Antifascist work is just one of those needs, but not the whole need. The mistake would be to only look at what’s coming out of antifascist activity and not all the needs and projects that are emerging.  Other things are coming out to they might not be expressed yet, that aren’t fully formed, but still will be where the needs, activity, and consciousness of the class is at.

 

AFN: How do you think the broad resistance to Trump and Trumpism plays out in this context?

 

KVM: I think that’s also dangerous because that’s focusing on an abstract enemy instead of the kinds of struggles that are actually taking place.

 

We have rising rent in a lot of places. We have the eroding structure of the welfare state. People are surviving in some way, and we don’t really know what that looks like.   How do we connect the needs with the projects people are creating to survive so we can further develop alternatives to capitalism? Community gardens, alternative schools, or other projects people create to just survive. And I think we need to ask some of these larger questions.

Also, and this is more theoretical, but in fact the desire to liberate and the desire to oppress are, in fact, the same desire. We have this terrible idea that “fascist bad,” “lefties good.” But there are fascistic desires that exist that circulate. For example, the anti-Semitism currently being expressed by certain sectors of the left is a fascistic desire. Anti-trans politics (i.e. TERFs) by certain sectors of the left is a fascistic desire.  It’s a desire to oppress and I think what we need to ask ourselves how is the desire to liberate and the desire to oppress emerging and formulated in such a way to create different kinds of power relationships and organizational forms. I think we have to constantly ask ourselves where the desire to repress is coming from and how it is manifesting.

 

A Nihilist Speaks with the Devil: A Rejoinder on the 25 Theses on Fascism

This article is an addendum to the recent piece written by Shane Burley for the Institute for Anarchist Studies, Twenty-Five Theses on Fascism.  The below article builds on that discussion, and responds directly to a criticism published here.

 

By Alexander Reid Ross

During the late Soviet days, the bohemian dissident Alexander Dugin used to stay up late with an assembled group of aesthetes in the flat of Yuri Mamleev, situated just a few blocks from the great statue of poet Vladimir Mayakovsky. The circle of friends who trudged down Yuzhinsky Pereulok to Mamleev’s apartment building, ringing six times before gaining entrance and climbing six flights of stairs to his flat, engaged in what they called the “mystical underground.” Exchanging stories on ancient myths, esoteric secrets, and cosmic mysteries, the “Yuzhinsky Circle” embraced alcohol, guitars, and occult fascism. They participated in Satanist ritual, held séances, and hoped to reach a kind of reality-breaching mystical state through which everyday reality might break down and the delirium of fascist worship would bring the arcane from the ether all “Seig Heils” and “Heil Hitlers” (Clover 152-153).

A wild, freewheeling drinker, Dugin mistakenly left a collection of forbidden texts in his own apartment, and when KGB agents found them in a search of his house, he catfished on the Yuzhinsky Circle to save his own hide. Joining a KGB-connected “historical restoration society” (read: ultranationalist political organization) called Pamyat (Memory), Dugin wormed his way to the core of nationalist leadership advancing through the waning Soviet nomenklatura before another Russian fascist pushed him out for his ambition (Clover 161-165). Subsequently, Dugin moved to Western Europe in 1989 and took up with the so-called “European New Right” in Belgium and France, where he learned the networks of European fascism and the parlance of “geopolitics” (Shekhovtsov 37). Also in France was Eduard Limonov, a Russian punk who had lived dissolute in New York City before joining the European New Right in France in guest editing the left-right satirical periodical L’Idiot International (Lee 317-319, 478n74). After the fall of the Soviet Union, Limonov and Dugin returned to the Motherland, met amid red-brown circles, and designed the National Bolshevik Party while disseminating fascist precepts through other party organizations, such as the populist Russian National Liberal Party and the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (Atkins 81; Chaudet, Parmentier, Pelopidas, 54; Clover 209-213; Sedgewick 231-232).

Their ideology hinged on geopolitical notions of “large spaces”—a spiritual empire from Lisbon to Kamchatka comprised of ethno-states in which cultural minorities would be Verboten (Bar-On 205). Yet they insisted on other ideas for the spectacle—absolute power in the form of the man, whether Bakunin, Stalin, or Hitler (Shenfield 209). Sweeping, history negating deeds that could remake the past through a stroke of expurgatory violence. “A revolutionary has his own morality: it is the effectiveness and success of his struggle against global despotism,” Dugin would write in Eurasian Mission (158). Insisting that liberalism depends on techniques to the point of gutting meaning from life, Dugin’s Fourth Political Theory insisted, “the liberal discovers his way to [fascism] when he takes one step further and achieves self-affirmation as the unique and ultimate instance of being” (110). The uniqueness of the individual opens to affirmation not unlike what Heidegger discovered in Nietzsche’s later works called “positive nihilism”—the clearing and leveling process of destructive nihilism that opens to a movement toward philosophical recreation (poesis). “Logos has expired and we all will be buried under its ruins unless we make an appeal to chaos and its metaphysical principles, and use them as a basis for something new,” Fourth Political Theory continues. “Perhaps this is ‘the other beginning’ Heidegger spoke of.” (211)

What stirs in the heart of these feverish words is the heart of revolutionary idealism—the deconstruction of the reality produced by the various moving pieces of everyday life through an act of symbolic sabotage that at once reveals the obscure meaning of life and death, the movement of the stars, the arcane. Yet the direction of this motion toward sublime truth is contaminated with ultranationalist presuppositions that manipulate revolution toward the ends of insidious interests. This is why it’s fatal for revolutionaries to ignore fascism in its germ—its summoning and deployment of revolution theory, its assessment of nihilism and usage of avant-garde constructions. Yet Paul Simons, with his captious review of Shane Burley’s 25 Theses on Fascism, does exactly this while seeming to promote the old canard that “the left are the real fascists.” We will see how a skewed reading of both Burley’s text and source texts facilitate this strange turn in Simons’s analysis, allowing him to conclude with unfounded attacks on left antifascists rather than carry out a concerted effort to locate and disperse fascism where it lies.

 

Disingenuous Reading

First, we might begin with an assessment of the more finicky claims Simons makes regarding Burley’s points. First on Arendt, Simons faults Burley for making her subjective hatred of Eichmann’s willingness to participate in genocide through bureaucracy into a general re-evaluation of the malaise of Germans when faced with that genocide. Yet are the two not coterminous? Eichmann’s behind-the-scenes consent to fascist genocide, channeled through bureaucratic punctiliousness, represented the crisis of modern alienation from not only the means of production, but the means of mass destruction. “The logic of the Eichmann trial,” Arendt wrote, “would have demanded exposure of the complicity of all German offices and authorities in the Final Solution — of all civil servants in the state ministries, of the regular armed forces, with their General Staff, of the judiciary, and of the business world.” However, Arendt contends that the trial “carefully avoided touching upon this highly explosive matter — upon the almost ubiquitous complicity, which had stretched far beyond the ranks of Party membership” (my emphasis) (Arendt 13).

For Arendt, as Judith Butler observes, the crimes of Eichmann were carried out by Germans throughout the land, largely emerging from “the degradation of thinking” and “the way in which the crime had become for the criminals accepted, routinised, and implemented without moral revulsion and political indignation and resistance” (Butler). Surely there is room within this larger critique of mass inaction during the Shoah for Burley’s comment on the “malaise” of the German public and bureaucracy — an observation similarly made by Baumann, among others (29). Why fault Burley for his interpretation, in line with the best literature on the Holocaust, rather than investigate more deeply the questions of why—why did the Shoah happen and do we not see a hauntingly similar degradation of thinking in modern society from today’s Executive Branch to the general public?

Continuing a sad refusal to confront material rather than wrestle with facts, Simons faults Burley for using Benjamin’s assessment of fascism as the “aestheticization of politics” by claiming, tendentiously, that Benjamin’s reversal in the form of Communism (politicization of aesthetics) is a “swipe” (!) rather than a restitution. In fact, Benjamin understood aesthetics as deeply political. Margaret Cohen’s text is vital here: “Benjamin makes use of surrealism, then, not only for its shocklike aesthetics but also because the movement provides a conceptual paradigm with the potential to explain why these shocklike aesthetics work to political effect” (197). Benjamin of course took option with the vulgarity of Marxists’ focus on economics, but still actively maintained a politicalizing approach to aesthetics and an open affinity with the left. The trouble here remains that Simons seems too quick to call foul because he wants to score points against the left instead of engage in genuine discourse.

Looking at these two crucial misreadings, we must observe that, after criticizing Burley for using two thinkers very close to, if not within, the Frankfurt School (Arendt and Benjamin), Simons faults Burley for ignoring “completely” the Frankfurt School. Clearly in a compact 25 Theses Burley will not be able to delve completely into every contention held by all manner of thinkers who have ever considered fascism. Because Burley did not mention Poulantzas or Malatesta or Simone Weil or García Lorca, for instance, does not mean that he has ignored those writers. Yet the way Simons, himself, ignores appropriate understandings and usage of Arendt and Benjamin speaks to a disingenuous and insensitive reading.

 

Contending with Fascist Statism

Perhaps more importantly, Simons privileges the statal attributes of fascism over its non-statal and even anti-state processes to the point of pretending the latter don’t exist. Fascism begins, as with Dugin’s “mystical underground,” as a kind of collection of different disenfranchised ideological formations focused on overthrowing liberal democracy and restoring a kind of archaic, mythical sovereignty. Simons does not recognize this and in fact references Giovanni Gentile’s famous entry in the Enciclopedia Italiana di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti, written in 1932 in efforts to sum up the Fascist ideology. Early formulations of fascism that emerged first in 1914 and then again following World War I are either avoided or revised in that publication. Fixed within the context between Mussolini’s solidification of the Italian Fascist state and the rise of Hitler to power in Germany, Gentile’s work presented a propaganda piece meant to show off the intellectual grandeur of Mussolini’s power rather than a descriptive assessment of the functional core of the movement. In point of fact, several years before Mussolini asked Gentile to produce the Doctrine of Fascism, he would insist that Fascism could have no doctrine, because it was an impulse rather than an ideology.

According to historian David D. Roberts, “Fascism was ‘anti-intellectual’ insofar as intellectualism suggested the need and the scope for some dogma, some finished ideology, some rational blueprint. The Fascists agreed that there could be no such thing precisely because history was open-ended in ways only now being fully grasped. Under the circumstances, the key was to create the instrument for ongoing action – action that was itself open ended – as opposed to laying out some intellectualistic blueprint. Mussolini often boasted that Fascism was modern in precisely that sense of eschewing doctrinal baggage, the better to keep up with the grand and mutable reality of life. And he took delight on turning the tables on liberal critics; skeptics had said that Fascism was ephemeral because it lacked a doctrine, ‘as if they themselves had doctrines and not instead some fragments adding up to an impossible mixture of the most disparate elements” (289).

It is unclear what happens when one approaches fascism “teleologically,” as Simons encourages us to do, because he has not explained what he means; however, if one approaches it historically, with Roberts or Paxton, for instance, one finds that fascism tends to undergo metamorphosis as it rises to power. First as a revolutionary phenomenon linking left and right through an aesthetic glorification of violence and destruction often associated by fascists, themselves, with nihilism, fascism gains the fidelity of a hardcore group of idealists in the middle classes, reactionaries among the ruling class, and military men hoping to use their skills for the nationalist cause. Gradually, as fascists organize and assemble larger bodies, their ideology is more firmly established in communication with other contending political powers in order to absorb them, compromise with them, or destroy them. Once fascists attain power, their ideology is concretized into a dogma that can interpellate subjects into a functioning economic and political system. These systems can vary depending on the place, as the Romanian Iron Guard state differed significantly from Italian or German fascism. However, this very concretization leads to a kind of inertia through which fascists abandon their revolutionary precepts and either effectively become conservatives or simply lose power (Paxton 23).

Most unsettling of all is Simons’s claim that fascism cannot exist without a nation-state. Firstly, fascism repudiates the Westphalian nation-state, searching for more mythical understandings of sovereignty than Althussian federalism and its like could offer. In the words of scholar Stephen Shenfield, “fascism has never been committed to the principle of the nation-state. Its ideal has been rather that of the multiethnic empire, within which to be sure one particular nation was to occupy the dominant position” (16). For this reason, Hitler looked down on the parliamentary system underpinning the Kaisership when compared to, say, Frederick Barbarossa or Frederick the Great (Kershaw 13-14); and similarly, Mussolini could not appreciate an messy Italian nation-state forged through the Risorgimento more than the glamour of Scipio Africanus (Quartermaine 210).

The point is that this sort of Imperium is the desiderata of fascists from Francis Parker Yockey to Troy Southgate to Dugin, all of whom demand a spiritual empire of federated ethnic territories constructed through a kind of traditionalist unity implied by the “daily plebiscite” assumed under patriarchal control. Denying the “anarcho-fascist” tendencies of Michael Moynihan and male-tribalist Jack Donovan, or the “national anarchist” tendency of Southgate, opens the door for the kind of entryism that has plagued radical milieux associated, unfortunately, with Anarchist News and Anarkismo. Given the fact that fascism, in its earliest phases, relies on insinuating itself within subcultures and left-wing factions to grow, those tendencies must remain actively aware of these basics, or else fall prey to its machinations. We have seen radicals’ susceptibility to incidental cooperation with fascists time and time again—whether it is La Vielle Taupe in Paris moving from ultra-left revolutionary center to a hub for Holocaust denial or, more recently, egoist Wolfi Landstreicher publishing his translation of Max Stirner’s The Ego and Its Own (Now called The Unique and His Property) through a press run by a fascist who attends fascist meet-ups like the National Policy Institute, asserts eugenicist positions, and does art for books by Donovan and white nationalist leader Greg Johnson.

Simons’s ongoing denial is why his insistence that all attempts at mass organizing enlist the tactics of fascism (in fact, the fascists explicitly enlisted the tactics of leftists who came before them) appears so scurrilous and baseless. One might hope that a bit of clarity would be granted to the conversation by identifying tactics, themselves, as less the purchase and property of a given political organization than operationally useful for different reasons. From that point, we might begin a meaningful discourse on our successes and failures as antifascists. Otherwise, taking pot shots at the antifascist left is a lousy substitute for adept analysis.

 

Bibliography

  • Arendt, Hannah. 1965. Eichmann in Jerusalem. New York: Viking Compass Books.
  • Atkins, Stephen E. 2004. Encyclopedia of Modern Worldwide Extremists and Extremist Groups. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group.
  • Bar-On, Tamir. Rethinking the French New Right: Alternatives to Modernity. New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Baumann, Z. 1989. Modernity and the Holocaust. Maldon, MA: Polity Press.
  • Butler, Judith. “Hannah Arendt’s challenge to Adolf Eichmann.” The Guardian. 29 August 2011. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/aug/29/hannah-arendt-adolf-eichmann-banality-of-evil, retrieved December 17, 2017.
  • Chaudet, Didier, Florent Parmentier, and Benôit Pélopidas. When Empire Meets Nationalism: Power Politics in the US and Russia. New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Clover, Charles. 2016. Black Wind, White Snow. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
  • Cohen, Margaret. 1995. Profane Illumination: Walter Benjamin and the Paris of Surrealist Revolution. Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press.
  • Dugin, Alexander. 2012. The Fourth Political Theory. Translated by Mark Sleboda and Michael Millerman. UK: Arktos Media Ltd.
  • Dugin, Alexander. 2014. Eurasian Mission: An Introduction to Neo-Eurasianism. Edited by John B. Morgan. UK: Arktos Media, Ltd.
  • Gregor, A. James. 2004. Giovanni Gentile: Philosopher Of Fascism. Piscataway, NJ: Transaction Publishers.
  • Kershaw, Ian. 2013. Hitler. New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Lee, Martin A. 2013. The Beast Reawakens: Fascism’s Resurgence from Hitler’s Spymasters to Today’s Neo-Nazi Groups and Far-Right Extremists. New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Paxton, Robert O. 2007. The Anatomy of Fascism. New York, NY: Random House.
  • Quartermaine, Luisa. 1995. “Slouching Toward Rome: Mussolini’s Imperial Vision.” In Urban Society in Roman Italy, edited by Tim J. Cornell, Kathryn Lomas. New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Roberts, David D. 2006. The Totalitarian Experiment in Twentieth-century Europe: Understanding the Poverty of Great Politics. New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Sedgewick, Mark. 2004. Against the Modern World: Traditionalism and the Secret Intellectual History of the Twentieth Century. New York NY: Oxford University Press.
  • Shekhovtskov, Anton. 2015. “Alexander Dugin and the West European New Right, 1984-1994.” Eurasianism and the European Far Right: Reshaping the Europe–Russia Relationship. Edited by Marlene Laruelle. New York, NY: Lexington Books.
  • Shenfield, Stephen. 2016. Russian Fascism: Traditions, Tendencies and Movements. New York, NY: Routledge.

How to Address Truth Denialism Effectively Over the Holidays

By Gleb Tsipursky

It’s the holiday season, which means plenty of opportunities for uncomfortable interactions with friends and family who are truth deniers. For example, my close friend invited me to her holiday party recently, where I sat across the table from her brother Mike. We got to talking about Donald Trump’s recently-successful efforts to ban people from many majority-Muslim countries from entering the US and his retweeting of anti-Muslim videos.

Mike strongly supported Trump’s ban and rhetoric, and other anti-Muslim policies. By the end of that meal, he grew to be much more tolerant and inclusive of Muslims. To get him to update his beliefs – something I do regularly during interviews with conservative talk show hosts – I relied on my research on how to get people to accept the facts, specifically a strategy that can be summarized under the acronym EGRIP (Emotions, Goals, Rapport, Information, Positive Reinforcement).

The typical response to truth deniers of presenting facts and arguing is generally not effective in changing people’s minds on charged issues. Research on the confirmation bias shows that people tend to look for and interpret information in ways that conforms to their beliefs. Moreover, studies on the backfire effect reveal that when people are presented with facts that challenge their identity, they sometimes develop a stronger attachment to their incorrect belief as a defense mechanism.

If someone denies clear facts, you can safely assume that it’s their emotions that are leading them away from reality. You need to deploy the skill of empathy, meaning understanding other people’s emotions, to determine what emotional blocks might cause them to deny reality. In Mike’s case, it was relatively easy to figure out the emotions at play through making a guess based on what research showsabout what conservatives value: security. I confirmed my suspicion through active listening and using curiosity to question Mike about his concerns about Muslims, and he shared extensively about his fears about all Muslims being potential terrorists.

Next, establish shared goals for both of you, crucial for effective knowledge sharing. With Mike, I talked about how we both want security for our society. I also pointed out how sometimes our emotions lead us astray. We might want to eat all the Yule log on the table, but it would harm our health, so we should focus on our goals over our gut intuitions.

Third, build rapport. Using the empathetic listening you did previously, a vital skill in promoting trusting relationships, echo their emotions and show you understand how they feel. In the case of Mike, I echoed his fear and validated his emotions, telling him it’s natural to feel afraid when we see Muslims committing terrorism, and it’s where my gut goes as well.

Fourth, move on to sharing information. Here is where you can give the facts that you held back in the beginning. There were eight terrorist acts in the US motivated in part by Islamic beliefs in 2016, with nine terrorists in total. Given that there are about 1.8 million Muslim adults in the US, you have a one-in-200,000 chance that any Muslim you see would commit a terrorist act in one year. That’s like picking out a terrorist randomly from the number of people in several football stadiums, and focusing our efforts on surveilling Muslims will make us less secure by causing us to miss the actual terrorists.

Moreover, the FBI praises Muslims for reporting threats, and anti-Muslim policies will make Muslims less likely to report threats. Besides, we already see Trump’s anti-Muslims rhetoric used to recruit terrorists in the US, and more anti-Muslim policies will only result in more materials to recruit terrorists. The key here is to show your conversation partner, without arousing a defensive or aggressive response, how their current truth denialism will lead to them undermining the shared goals we established earlier.

Mike was surprised and moved by this information, presented in an emotionally-sensitive manner. He agreed that anti-Muslim policies seem unwise, and we should be more tolerant and inclusive for the sake of increasing our security, even if that’s not how we intuitively feel. I offered positive reinforcement for his orientation toward the facts, a research-based tactic of encouraging people to change their identity.

 

Think of how much better your holiday dinner could go if you use EGRIP instead of arguing!

 

 

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky is the author of The Truth-Seeker’s Handbook: A Science-Based Guide. He is an Assistant Professor at The Ohio State University, President of the nonprofit Intentional Insights, and co-founder of the Pro-Truth Pledge.

Refusing the Fascist Future: An Interview With Shane Burley

Below is an interview with Fascism Today: What It Is and How to End It author Shane Burley discussing the Alt Right, anti-fascism, and what a mass movement looks like.

So where did the Alt Right come from?

The Alt Right really comes from a few converging political movements, both inside and outside the U.S.  The real beginnings of this goes back to France in the 1960s when a number of far-right intellectuals laid the groundwork to “rebrand” fascist ideas using the language of the left.  The European New Right, led by figures like Alain de Benoist and Guillume Faye, used the language of the New Left, appropriated the arguments of post-colonialist and national liberation movements, and attempted to engage in a type of “cultural struggle” as proposed by Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci.  Their ideas really were to pick up where the German Conservative Revolutionary movement and Radical Traditionalist thinkers like Julius Evola left off and argue for a going after the culture with nationalist values.  If they change the way that Europeans think about the world, and think about themselves, maybe this can allow a radical shift in politics down the line.

They argued that they were “anti-colonialist” and that white European nations had been “colonized” by forced of “globalist” capitalism and modernity.  Their argument was then for “Ethnopluralism,” a sort of “nationalism for all peoples,” that could then fight the destructive elements of modern multiculturalism, internationalism, and capitalism.  This approach avoided racial slurs, violent white nationalist politics, and the baggage of fascist political parties, and really laid a heavy intellectual groundwork for a new generation of fascists who wanted to appear as academics rather than Klansman.

The next is really paleoconservatism, a sort of far-right American conservatism that defined itself in opposition to the hawkish foreign policy of the neoconservatives that were coming into power inside the GOP in the 1980s.  They saw themselves as a part of the “Old Right,” which was likely a fantasy rather than a reality, which was isolationist, traditional, and America First.  The paleocons were aggressively conservative on social issues, especially in reaction to queer rights and the AIDs crisis of the 1980s, and were reactionary on racial issues.  Pat Buchanan was the best known of these figures, though he was moderate by their standards.

The third real key element to the Alt Right is old fashioned white nationalism.  The white supremacist movement in the U.S., rebranded in the 1990s as white nationalism, has a train going back to the early part of the century as it had to define its ideas as the rest of the world was leaving vulgar racialism behind.  Many of the major Alt Right institutions, such as American Renaissance, VDare, and the Council of Conservative Citizens, trace back to years of white nationalism past.  The difference with the Alt Right was really one of tone and class rather than ideas.  There has always been a suit and tie contingent inside American white nationalism, but the Alt Right wanted to scrape the top of that intellectual layer off and crystalize it.  The ideas were not much different, but they wanted to make sure that it would mimic radical movements on the left that have huge depth inside the academy.

The Alt Right, really then the Alternative Right, was a concept created by Richard Spencer with a web zine of the same name in 2010.  He wanted to capture an energy he found while working at the paleoconservative magazine Taki’s Mag that was coalescing around different schools of thought.  The European New Right had largely not had major texts translated into English, but they were starting to make their way over, and that was a huge foundational set of ideas for the Alt Right.  Against modern conservatism, capitalism, Judeo-Christianity, and Americanism, it instead wanted an elitist, traditionalist, and aristocratic right.  It broke with American conservatism, which was still founded in enlightenment values, and was open that it believed race was real, identity was fixed, and human beings were not equal.  Paleoconservatism had been considered the edge of mainstream conservatism for years, so that is where a large amount of the its founding energy came from.  It was white nationalism of America that ended up giving it its focus on race and its aggressive tone, which then allowed it to merge with the troll culture found on places like 4Chan and the Men’s Rights Movement.

From that cauldron it created its own synthesis, a more academic foundation for its racism, an aggressive revolutionary aspect from white nationalism, and the communities and connections from paleoconservatism.

What is the ‘Alt Light’ then?

The Alt Light is the sphere of slightly more moderate right-wing people that surround the Alt Right, giving them cover and helping to mainstream their ideas.

Fascism has always required a bridge to the mainstream.  Even inside the GOP, open white nationalism is not going to bring a ton of converts on its own, it needs to have a stop over point if their ideas will have currency with the beltway.  Political movements have done this in years past, whether it was the Goldwater campaign, pro-Segregationists in the 1960s, or paleoconservatism in the 1980s-90s.

Today, the battle is more cultural than traditionally political, just as the European New Right had always wanted.  The ideas and community were also forged online, so it would make sense if it was online cultural figures ranting on social media rather than fringe politicians.

The most obvious of the Alt Light was Breitbart and, now, Rebel Media.  Milo Yiannoupoulos was the first to really champion the Alt Right’s ideas without committing to open white nationalism, anti-Semitism, and anti-egalitarianism.  Later it would be Gavin Mcinnis and his Proud Boys, Lauren Southern, Alex Jones and the conspiracy and patriot crowd, or anti-immigrant nutjobs like Anne Coulter.  The “free speech” rallies have been this in the physical world, as have many patriot militia types.

The main point is that they are often “civic nationalists” rather than racial ones: they are simply more inclusive in their authoritarian nationalism.  This means, though, that the Alt Right and the Alt Light won’t agree on some of the really big questions like race and eugenics.  In that way, the Alt Light, like any of these more moderate crossover movements, are built to betray their more radical counter-parts.  In the end, Milo refused to really endorse the Alt Right’s racialism, the same with figures like Laura Loomer, and, therefore, they were unable to continue the relationship.  This is a very traditional process as well.  The more moderate folks who were helping to mainstream the white nationalists eventually betray them and leave them behind.  And the alienation that those nationalists feel during this process is often what leads to desperate acts of violence.

Is it this process of marginalization that is leading to acts of Alt Right violence?  Is this violence going to increase?

It is hard to say definitively that the violence of the Alt Right is going to escalate, but the pattern is pretty well established.  Right now it appears as if acts of organized violence from Alt Right and white supremacist groups is increasing, especially in the wake of the “free speech” confrontations with antifascist groups and with the debacle at Charlottesville, and that violence is turning bloody.  At the same time, acts of “seemingly random violence” are increasing, with the murder of Heather Heyer just being a recent example.

This process of white supremacist terrorism, which often plays out as “seemingly random violence,” is often less random than it appears.  In the 1980s, after decades of failure to meettheir objectives, many insurrectionary white supremacists took to the strategies of “lone wolf” terrorism and “leaderless resistance.”  These eschewed more formal revolutionary organizations for random acts of violence that were intended to have a “propaganda of the deed” effect on the white working class.  They believed that these acts would spark “racial consciousness” in white people and create a race war.  In periods when more conventional organizing, both community organizing and political organizing, fail to show white nationalists any results, these attacks increase exponentially.  These are also mixed with the increase of violent street formations, which in years past included KKK and skinhead projects and today look more like the Proud Boys and Vanguard America.

With the massive platform denial that the Alt Right has faced since Charlottesville and the growth of a mass antifascist movement, this is largely where the Alt Right is at.  Desperation, failure, and the inability to meaningfully organize leads to increased acts of violence.  While the Alt Right has been hit very hard in the last few months, it isn’t gone, and its acolytes will likely turn towards violence before they simply disappear.

Antifascist organizing has seen a massive explosion with a whole number of organizations and types of projects out there.  What kind of work should someone do who is just now wanting to get involved?

This really depends on who they are, where they are, and what they want to do.  The honest truth is that we always want novelty in times of crisis, and there is certainly some room for that, but this is also a good opportunity to re-establish and re-enforce the organizations that have been doing this work for years.  Many organizations go back more than a decade and have a great handle on antifascist praxis, from how to handle neo-Nazis taking space to doxxing and reporting detailed information to even drawing together mass coalitions.  The first real step would be to look at those organizations that have a track record in doing the work and see if that is something you can connect with.  This is doubly important given the very real material threat that white nationalists offer to people’s safety.   Not only are they targeting marginalized communities, but they are going after those that dare to stand up to their growth, and they often target individuals and make examples of them.  This means that  it is important to not behave recklessly or go off half cocked, and instead work with organizers who are experienced, know how to do the work, and give it the care and respect it deserves.

The other thing would be to look at what skills and resources you bring to organizing work, and what type of organizing and projects you can fit into your life.  I don’t offer this line as a way of providing an “out” to the actual organizing work, it requires organized coordination in formalized groups that are going to do the not-always-fun organizing work, but it is important to make sure that you are able to continue contributing over time.  It is not uncommon to find activist projects that explode with excitement only to peter out months down the line when those doing much of the work find that it is unsustainable in the way planned.  Instead, find a pace and commitment you can sustain over time because continued involved over longer periods is always going to be most effective.

I would also caution against putting too much faith in large electoral or reformist movements, they often fail to deliver the kind of movement building or direct action necessary for antifascist work.  Instead, it may be good to look at organizations that have a deeper foundation in their analysis, that look at the ways that capitalism and white supremacy feed and necessitate insurrectionary fascist movements.  We are not going to Democrat our way out of the rise of populism and white nationalism, and instead we are going to need to have much deeper solutions.  This will also require looking towards community defense as the Alt Right and neo-Nazis pose a threat of violence.  Plainly put, they are out there murdering people, and if we do not organize to stop them then this will only increase.

When did white nationalism first come on your radar?  This isn’t exactly a new thing.

No, it’s not, it really has been one of the most consistent features of the white supremacist institutions of the U.S.  It is really one of the ways that the system of racial injustice gets its sharp teeth.  In the segregation-era South, it was insurrectionary groups like the Ku Klux Klan that helped reinforce the system through the extralegal violence of lynchings.  Technically not state sanctioned, but encouraged and socially condoned anyway.  White nationalism has also always existed as the sort of violent reclamation of privilege.  In times of crisis, rather than choosing to target the white supremacy that enforces worker subjugation, they scramble after lost privilege and attack people of color.  This violence is a consistent feature of the way white supremacy works in late capitalism, reinforcing itself repeatedly.

I began looking at what was then called the AlternativeRight.com in 2011 when famous Holocaust Denier David Irving was touring through upstate New York, where I was living at the time.  When doing research I ran across a podcast that was covering different far-right figures, and the interviewer had a certain way of speaking that seemed as though it could catch on at some point.  That was Richard Spencer, then editing his webzine AlternativeRight.com and hosting a podcast called Vanguard Radio.  From there he sort of lingered in the background through 2014, seeing increased opposition internationally and even in his then home of Whitefish, Montana.  It wasn’t really until 2015, though, that the huge Internet cadre going under #AltRight came forward, and his movement got energy beyond their quiet conferences and academically-toned articles.

How have antifacists been approaching the rise of the Alt Right?  What has been different or successful in the last couple of years?

Honestly, they have been getting shut down everywhere.

The Alt Right, for years, focused on an academic demeanor.  Their move towards what they call “IRL [In Real Life] activism” is pretty recent.  So one of the main sites of struggle was things like their public conferences, especially from the National Policy Institute and American Renaissance.  Organizations like the One People’s Project has made it a focus to confront those conferences for years before the term Alt Right was commonly known, they even got the American Renaissance conference shut down in 2010 and 2011.  The National Policy Institute conference has also been a site of growing protests, with attendants photographed and doxxed regularly.  This has created such an issue that Richard Spencer, who runs NPI, was unable to even get the same public venue this year as he had for the past several.  Instead they had to cram into an unheated barn whose owners booted them when they realized who they were.

One place that has become an increasing location of conflict is on college campuses.  Groups like Identity Europa have honed on college recruitment, and “crossover” groups, who we often call Alt Light, like Turning Point or many Trumpist College Republican groups, have acted as a trojan horse for Alt Right ideas and members.  So antifascist campus groups have grown heavily, and flashpoints like the appearance of Milo or “free speech” rallies have seen huge battles.  Richard spencer wants to focus on public universities since they are more indebted to support his “free speech,” which means they will use hundreds of thousands of dollars of public subsidies and student tuition funds to pay for security if he appears.  The Alt Right is also about “cultural struggle,” the Gramscian battle to change the culture to make it more palatable for their influence.  All of this means that the college campus if very important and a main focus for them.

This has inspired a massive growth in college campus centered groups that are challenging them.  The Southern Poverty Law Center, known for its lawsuits that have crippled white supremacist organizations and for its detailed reporting on hate groups, has moved in the direction of campus organizing.  Their Columbia University chapter has taken on speeches by Mike Cernovich and the founder of the European Defense League, along with the Liberation Collective.  

The Campus Antifascist Network is another huge example, growing really quickly since its announced formation only in August.  They have been taking on huge challenges, defending professors threatened by fascists, confronting events by Milo and other speakers, basically responding to Alt Right organizing on campus.  

The success of different projects has really been from the willingness to do the hard organizing work, to commit to high quality research and journalism work, and to build connections with a real world presence.  The organizations that are successful are not just avoiding interacting with fascists, they are getting into the middle of things.  Here in Portland, groups like Rose City Antifa, the Pacific Northwest Antifascist Workers Collective, the Unite Against Hate coalition, the Rural Organizing Project, among others, really have come together to challenge the space occupied by far-right outfits like Patriot Prayer, who have basically protected explicit white nationalist groups.  They challenge them directly, often with thousands of people in tow.  

The increase of the far-right’s “free speech” rallies, which were happening in notably liberal cities simply to get a reaction, saw an increase in this battle over space.  In Boston, directly after Charlottesville, a similar event sponsored by Proud Boys brought out 40,000 people in response.  This did not just go to another area of the city, but came directly to the space that the fascists hoped to hold.  The Alt Right’s event was effectively canceled by this, and then they continued the march, growing the community presence, reaching out to affected communities and people interested in organizing, and creating a strong and vibrant set of alliances.  

Groups like the IWW’s General Defense Committee have used this mass movement antifascist approach, working in plain sight and building a mass movement with the community while refusing to allow white nationalists to have space.  Redneck Revolt has done similar work in more rural areas, trying to connect with the people that would be the recruiting base for “Patriot” militias.  Groups across the gamut, from non-profits like the SPLC, the Rural Organizing Project, and the Montana Human Rights Network, to militant antifascist groups, have all stepped up a presence to create long-term organizing solutions that don’t see each incident as a one-off affair.

It is hard to overstate just how bad the Alt Right is at actual organizing work, they birthed their ideas out of chatter not action, but without an organized opposition they will find a way.

Liberatory Community Armed Self-Defense: Approaches Toward a Theory

By scott crow

Notions of Defense

The world has been in tumult for decades, with more crises still ahead of us—from ecological and economic to political oppression and wars. These slow disasters will demand new approaches and open new possibilities. I think it’s time for all of us within civil society to think about how we want to respond, autonomously and collectively, without waiting to be saved by the same reactionary governments and corporations that have produced the crises in the first place.

In this essay, I will try to sketch a set of potential practices, praxis, and thinking centered on the narrow use of what I name as liberatory community armed self-defense. This distinct concept draws upon the histories of community self-defense, as practiced by various groups of people worldwide, and from the liberatory principles derived from anarchist and antiauthoritarian traditions.

The concept of community armed self-defense is a distinct development from grassroots social and political organizing models and notions of community defense, which at their core assert the right of oppressed peoples to protect their interests “by any means necessary.” That would include signing petitions and voting on one end of the spectrum to extralegal means of direct action, insurrection, or rebellions on the other. The Black Panther Party, for example engaged in community defense not only through their armed patrols but also through their survival programs, which opened health clinics and free schools in poor black neighborhoods otherwise lacking these kinds of services. This essay is an attempt at a critical reassessment of liberatory community armed self-defense: to re-envision the histories and analysis, to examine the praxis and bring these lessons forward to future engagements, and to broaden and strengthen our tactics and responses to crisis.

A Working Definition

Liberatory community armed self-defense is the collective group practice of temporarily taking up arms for defensive purposes, as part of larger engagements of collective autonomy in keeping with a liberatory ethics.

I am proposing liberatory community armed self-defense as a distinct idea borne out of a reassessment, spanning decades, of the historical experience of armed struggle and broader theories of the right of self-defense.

Self-Defense usually describes countermeasures employed by an individual to protect their immediate personal safety, and sometimes their property. Within the US, self-defense is discussed almost exclusively in legal terms relating to “rights” recognized by governments or constitutions, and only occasionally as human rights. By limiting the discussion to the rights attached to individuals, this framing fails to consider community interests, structural violence and oppression, and collective actions. The discourse thus completely neglects the defense of communities as such, and especially leaves out the political demands of people of color, women, immigrants, queers, and poor people.

Community self-defense in any form is not defined by laws but by ethics based in need (to protect) and the principles of anarchy (whether people call it that or not) by which groups of people collectively exercise their power in deciding their futures and determining how to respond to threats without relying on governments.

As a concept, Liberatory Community Armed Self-Defense attempts to take into account unrecognized types of violence and the limits marginalized groups face in their ability to determine their own futures or collectively protect themselves. For example, in 1973, when the American Indian Movement took up arms to defend “their people” in the occupation at Wounded Knee, they did so to bring attention to the horrible living conditions on the reservations and the violence their communities faced both from a lack of basic services and from armed vigilante squads. The town of Wounded Knee was not itself under attack, but it represented what First Nations were facing everywhere. AIM’s stand was a clear example of community armed self-defense, but it doesn’t fit neatly into existing typologies of self-defense.

Some Important Distinctions

Liberatory community armed self-defense is different from other forms of armed action for two major reasons. The first is that it is temporary but organized. People can train in firearms tactics and safety individually or together but would be called on more like a volunteer fire department—only when needed and in response to specific circumstances. Second, and possibly more importantly, power-sharing and egalitarian principles are incorporated into the group ethics and culture long before conflict is ever engaged. These two overarching ideas separate it from most armed conflicts.

For instance, right-wing militias—like the anti-immigrant patrols of the Minutemen Militia along the U.S./Mexico border, or the racist Algiers Point Militia operating in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina—have nothing to do with the type of community armed self-defense rooted in collective liberatory principles. These militias are built on abstract fears and racist beliefs, conspiracy theories, and a macho culture where the strongest or loudest is the leader. They are typically organized in military-type hierarchies with no real accountability to the people in civil society and the communities they operate within. These types of militias are far too similar to the types of the groups liberation movements have had to defend themselves against.

That said, the adoption of armed tactics in any conflict or threat situation always has the potential to morph temporary defensive measures into permanent military hierarchies unless conscious efforts to counter that tendency and share power are maintained. A liberatory approach is necessary to minimize, or at the least mitigate, that danger.

Proposed Principles

The armed component should never become the center; otherwise we risk becoming standing militaries. To avoid that, and to equalize power as best we are able to, a liberatory analysis is necessary to nurture those who are learning to exercise their power, and for those who need to be accountable to their groups or communities. The liberatory framework is built on anarchist principles of mutual aid (cooperation), direct action (taking action without waiting on the approval of the authorities), solidarity (recognizing that the well-being of disparate groups is tied together) and collective autonomy (community self-determination).

Defensive arms should be used only for the goals of collective liberation and not to seize permanent power, even if their use could potentially, and possibly necessarily, escalate conflicts. In any case, arms are not the first line of defense and are only taken up after other forms of conflict resolution have been exhausted.

The use of arms is only effective for the long term if it is part of a dual power framework. Dual Power means resisting exploitation and oppression, while also developing other initiatives toward autonomy and liberation as part of other efforts in self-sufficiency and self-determination.

Those engaged with guns should hold the same power as others involved in other forms of community defense or self-sufficiency. Carrying arms should be seen as a privileged task, with the same importance as childcare, growing food, or taking out the garbage—and not more. To maintain a balance of power, rotate all armed tasks and training among all those willing to participate. All firearms training needs to include dynamic and evolving liberatory ethics and practices in addition to how-to and safety. Within any training or operation, there should be an emphasis on challenging internalized assumptions about class, gender, and race to interrupt typical gun culture.

Reflections and Questions Toward a Theory

These notes are only a beginning. Many questions remain, including those concerning organization, tactical considerations, the coercive power inherent in firearms, accountability to the community being defended and to the broader social movement, and ultimately, one hopes, the process of demilitarization. For example: Do defensive engagements have to remain geographically isolated? Are small affinity groups the best formations for power-sharing and broad mobilization? How do we create cultures of support for those who engage in defensive armed conflict, especially with respect to historically oppressed people’s right to defend themselves? What do those engagements of support look like? Additionally there are many tactical considerations and questions to be discussed and debated to avoid replicating the dominant gun culture. How do we keep arms or arms training from becoming the central focus, whether from habit, culture, or romanticization?

There can be an end to the senseless violence for domination or resources. But if we want to transcend violence in the long term, we may need use it in the short term. We thus need to ask ourselves some tough questions about our approaches and our methods. When is armed engagement appropriate? How would we want it to look? How do we create cultures of tacit or direct support and include people who would never themselves engage in armed defense? How will we keep from centralizing power? When do the consequences outweigh the benefits? There are no blueprints; we have to create this together, step by step. We need to challenge ourselves and overcome our self-imposed limitations and shed our preconceptions of what resistance and liberation are like. When we do, we will gain confidence in potentially using deadly tools with a liberatory consciousness. That means we have to understanding that the values of power-sharing and openness are every bit as important as the power of carrying loaded weapons.

Arms will never offer the only answer to exercising or equalizing power. Only we can do that, but they can be a deterrent against real threats, and can greatly expand our tools of liberation. Community armed self-defense opens up the possibility of changing the rules of engagement. It doesn’t always make situations less violent, but it can help to balance the inequity of power among individuals and diverse communities. I am not calling for us all to rise up in arms but to rethink how we defend ourselves. We can dream, we can build new worlds, but to do so we must not forget to resist on our own terms.

Republished as excerpt from Setting Sights: Histories and Reflections from Community Armed Self-Defense

Taking on Fascism and Racism from the Ground Up.