The Left Overs: How Fascists Court the Post-Left
By Alexander Reid Ross
A few months ago, the radical publication, Fifth Estate, solicited an article from me discussing the rise of fascism in recent years. Following their decision to withdraw the piece, I accepted the invitation of Anti-Fascist News to publish an expanded version here, with some changes, at the urging of friends and fellow writers.
In Solidarity, ARR
Chapter 1: The Early Composition of Fascist Individualism
A friendly editor recently told me via email, “if anti-capitalism and pro individual liberty [sic] are clearly stated in the books or articles, they won’t be used by those on the right.” If this were true, fascism simply would vanish from the earth. Fascism comes from a mixture of left and right-wing positions, and some on the left pursue aspects of collectivism, syndicalism, ecology, and authoritarianism that intersect with fascist enterprises. Partially in response to the tendencies of left authoritarianism, a distinct antifascist movement emerged in the 1970s to create what has became known as “post-left” thought. Yet in imagining that anti-capitalism and “individual liberty” maintain ideological purity, radicals such as my own dear editor tend to ignore critical convergences with and vulnerabilities to fascist ideology.
The post-left developed largely out of a tendency to favor individual freedom autonomous from political ideology of left and right while retaining some elements of leftism. Although it is a rich milieu with many contrasting positions, post-leftists often trace their roots to individualist Max Stirner, whose belief in the supremacy of the European individual over and against nation, class, and creed was heavily influenced by philosopher G.W.F. Hegel. After Stirner’s death in 1856, the popularity of collectivism and neo-Kantianism obscured his individualist philosophy until Friedrich Nietzsche raised its profile again during the later part of the century. Influenced by Stirner, Nietzsche argued for the overcoming of socialism and the “modern world” by the iconoclastic, aristocratic philosopher known as the “Superman” or “übermensch.”
During the late-19th Century, Stirnerists conflated the “Superman” with the assumed responsibility of women to bear a superior European race—a “New Man” to produce, and be produced by, a “New Age.” Similarly, right-wing aristocrats who loathed the notions of liberty and equality turned to Nietzsche and Stirner to support their sense of elitism and hatred of left-wing populism and mass-based civilization. Some anarchists and individualists influenced by Stirner and Nietzsche looked to right-wing figures like Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky, who developed the idea of a “conservative revolution” that would upend the spiritual crises of the modern world and the age of the masses. In the words of anarchist, Victor Serge, “Dostoevsky: the best and the worst, inseparable. He really looks for the truth and fears to find it; he often finds it all the same and then he is terrified… a poor great man…”
History’s “great man” or “New Man” was neither left nor right; he strove to destroy the modern world and replace it with his own ever-improving image—but what form would that image take? In Italy, reactionaries associated with the Futurist movement and various romantic nationalist strains expressed affinity with the individualist current identified with Nietzsche and Stirner. Anticipating tremendous catastrophes that would bring the modern world to its knees and install the New Age of the New Man, the Futurists sought to fuse the “destructive gesture of the anarchists” with the bombast of empire.
A hugely popular figure among these tendencies of individualism and “conservative revolution,” the Italian aesthete Gabrielle D’Annunzio summoned 2,600 soldiers in a daring 1919 attack on the port city of Fiume to reclaim it for Italy after World War I. During their exploit, the occupying force hoisted the black flag emblazoned by skull and crossbones and sang songs of national unity. Italy disavowed the imperial occupation, leaving the City-State in the hands of its romantic nationalist leadership. A constitution, drawn up by national syndicalist, Alceste De Ambris, provided the basis for national solidarity around a corporative economy mediated through collaborating syndicates. D’Annunzio was prophetic and eschatological, presenting poetry during convocations from the balcony. He was masculine. He was Imperial and majestic, yet radical and rooted in fraternal affection. He called forth sacrifice and love of the nation.
When he returned to Italy after the military uprooted his enclave in Fiume, ultranationalists, Futurists, artists, and intellectuals greeted D’Annunzio as a leader of the growing Fascist movement. The aesthetic ceremonies and radical violence contributed to a sacralization of politics invoked by the spirit of Fascism. Though Mussolini likely saw himself as a competitor to D’Annunzio for the role of supreme leader, he could not deny the style and mood, the high aesthetic appeal that reached so many through the Fiume misadventure. Fascism, Mussolini insisted, was an anti-party, a movement. The Fascist Blackshirts, or squadristi, adopted D’Annunzio’s flare, the black uniforms, the skull and crossbones, the dagger at the hip, the “devil may care” attitude expressed by the anthem, “Me ne frego” or “I don’t give a damn.” Some of those who participated in the Fiume exploit abandoned D’Annunzio as he joined the Fascist movement, drifting to the Arditi del Popolo to fight the Fascist menace. Others would join the ranks of the Blackshirts.
Originally a man of the left, Mussolini had no difficulty joining the symbolism of revolution with ultranationalist rebirth. “Down with the state in all its species and incarnations,” he declared in a 1920 speech. “The state of yesterday, of today, of tomorrow. The bourgeois state and the socialist. For those of us, the doomed (morituri) of individualism, through the darkness of the present and the gloom of tomorrow, all that remains is the by-now-absurd, but ever consoling, religion of anarchy!” In another statement, he asked, “why should Stirner not have a comeback?”
Mussolini’s concept of anarchism was critical, because he saw anarchism as prefiguring fascism. “If anarchist authors have discovered the importance of the mythical from an opposition to authority and unity,” declared Nazi jurist, Carl Schmitt, drawing on Mussolini’s concept of myth, “then they have also cooperated in establishing the foundation of another authority, however unwillingly, an authority based on the new feeling for order, discipline, and hierarchy.” The dialectics of fascism here are two-fold: only the anarchist destruction of the modern world in every milieu would open the potential for Fascism, but the mythic stateless society of anarchism, for Mussolini, could only emerge, paradoxically, from a self-disciplining state of total order.
Antifascist anarchist individualists and nihilists like Renzo Novatore represented for Mussolini a kind of “passive nihilism,” which Nietzsche understood as the decadence and weakness of modernity. The veterans that would fight for Mussolini rejected the suppression of individualism under the Bolsheviks and favored “an anti-party of fighters,” according to historian Emilio Gentile. Fascism would exploit the rampant misogyny of men like Novatore while turning the “passive nihilism” of their vision of total collapse toward “active nihilism” through a rebirth of the New Age at the hands of the New Man.
The “drift” toward fascism that took place throughout Europe during the 1920s and 1930s was not restricted to the collectivist left of former Communists, Syndicalists, and Socialists; it also included the more ambiguous politics of the European avant-garde and intellectual elites. In France, literary figures like Georges Bataille and Antonin Artaud began experimenting with fascist aesthetics of cruelty, irrationalism, and elitism. In 1934, Bataille declared his hope to usher in “room for great fascist societies,” which he believed inhabited the world of “higher forms” and “makes an appeal to sentiments traditionally defined as exalted and noble.” Bataille’s admiration for Stirner did not prevent him from developing what he described decades later as a “paradoxical fascist tendency.” Other libertarian celebrities like Louis-Ferdinand Céline and Maurice Blanchot also embraced fascist themes—particularly virulent anti-Semitism.
Like Blanchot, the Nazi-supporting Expressionist poet Gottfried Benn called on an anti-humanist language of suffering and nihilism that looked inward, finding only animal impulses and irrational drives. Existentialist philosopher and Nazi Party member, Martin Heidegger, played on Nietzschean themes of nihilism and aesthetics in his phenomenology, placing angst at the core of modern life and seeking existential release through a destructive process that he saw as implicit in the production of an authentic work of art. Literary figure Ernst Jünger, who cheered on Hitler’s rise, summoned the force of “active nihilism,” seeking the collapse of the civilization through a “magic zero” that would bring about a New Age of ultra-individualist actors that he later called “Anarchs.” The influence of Stirner was as present in Jünger as it was in Mussolini’s early fascist years, and carried over to other members of the fascist movement like Carl Schmitt and Julius Evola.
Evola was perhaps the most important of those seeking the collapse of civilization and the New Age’s spiritual awakening of the “universal individual,” sacrificial dedication, and male supremacy. A dedicated fascist and individualist, Evola devoted himself to the purity of sacred violence, racism, anti-Semitism, and the occult. Asserting a doctrine of the “political soldier,” Evola regarded violence as necessary in establishing a kind of natural hierarchy that promoted the supreme individual over the multitudes. Occult practice distilled into an overall aristocracy of the spirit, Evola believed, which could only find expression through sacrifice and a Samurai-like code of honor. Evola shared these ideals of conquest, elitism, sacrificial pleasure with the SS, who invited the Italian esotericist to Vienna to indulge his thirst for knowledge. Following World War II, Evola’s spiritual fascism found parallels in the writings of Savitri Devi, a French esotericist of Greek descent who developed an anti-humanist practice of Nazi nature worship not unlike today’s Deep Ecology. In her rejection of human rights, Devi insisted that the world manifests a totality of interlocking life forces, none of which enjoys a particular moral prerogative over the other.
Chapter 2: The Creation of the Post-Left
It has been shown by now that fascism, in its inter-war period, attracted numerous anti-capitalists and individualists, largely through elitism, the aestheticization of politics, and the nihilist’s desire for the destruction of the modern world. After the fall of the Reich, fascists attempted to rekindle the embers of their movement by intriguing within both the state and social movements. It became popular among fascists to reject Hitler to some degree and call for a return to the original “national syndicalist” ideas mixed with the elitism of the “New Man” and the destruction of civilization. Fascists demanded “national liberation” for European ethnicities against NATO and multicultural liberalism, while the occultism of Evola and Devi began to fuse with Satanism to form new fascist hybrids. With ecology and anti-authoritarianism, such sacralization of political opposition through the occult would prove among the most intriguing conduits for fascist insinuation into subcultures after the war.
In the ’60s, left-communist groups like Socialisme ou Barbarie, Pouvoir ouvrier, and the Situationists gathered at places like bookstore-cum-publishing house, La Vielle Taupe (The Old Mole), critiquing everyday life in industrial civilization through art and transformative practices. According to Gilles Dauvé, one of the participants in this movement, “the small milieu round the bookshop La Vieille Taupe” developed the idea of “communisation,” or the revolutionary transformation of all social relations. This new movement of “ultra-leftists” helped inspire the aesthetics of a young, intellectual rebellion that culminated in a large uprising of students and workers in Paris during May 1968.
The strong anti-authoritarian current of the ultra-left and the broader uprising of May ’68 contributed to similar movements elsewhere in Europe, like the Italian Autonomia movement, which spread from a wildcat strike against the car manufacturer, Fiat, to generalized upheaval involving rent strikes, building occupations, and mass street demonstrations. While most of Autonomia remained left-wing, its participants were intensely critical of the established left, and autonomists often objected to the ham-fisted strategy of urban guerrillas. In 1977, individualist anarchist, Alfredo Bonanno, penned the text, “Armed Joy,” exhorting Italian leftists to drop patriarchal pretensions to guerrilla warfare and join popular insurrectionary struggle. The conversion of Marxist theorist, Jacques Camatte, to the pessimistic rejection of leftism and embrace of simpler life tied to nature furthered contradictions within the Italian left.
With anti-authoritarianism, ecologically-oriented critiques of civilization emerged out of the 1960s and 1970s as significant strains of a new identity that rejected both left and right. Adapting to these currents of popular social movements and exploiting blurred ideological lines between left and right, fascist ideologues developed the framework of “ethno-pluralism.” Couching their rhetoric in “the right to difference” (ethnic separatism), fascists masked themselves with labels like the “European New Right,” “national revolutionaries,” and “revolutionary traditionalists.” The “European New Right” took the rejection of the modern world advocated by the ultra-left as a proclamation of the indigeneity of Europeans and their pagan roots in the land. Fascists further produced spiritual ideas derived from a sense of rootedness in one’s native land, evoking the old “blood and soil” ecology of the German völkische movement and Nazi Party.
In Italy, this movement produced the “Hobbit Camp,” an eco-festival organized by European New Right figure Marco Tarchi and marketed to disillusioned youth via Situationist-style posters and flyers. When Italian “national revolutionary,” Roberto Fiore, fled charges of participating in a massive bombing of a train station in Bologna, he found shelter in the London apartment of Tarchi’s European New Right colleague, Michael Walker. This new location would prove transformative, as Fiore, Walker, and a group of fascist militants created a political faction called the Official National Front in 1980. This group would help promote and would benefit from a more avant-garde fascist aesthetic, bringing forward neo-folk, noise, and other experimental music genres.
While fascists entered the green movement and exploited openings in left anti-authoritarian thought, Situationism began to transform. In the early 1970s, post-Situationism emerged through US collectives that combined Stirnerist egoism with collectivist thought. In 1974, the For Ourselves group published The Right to Be Greedy, inveighing against altruism while linking egoist greed to the synthesis of social identity and welfare—in short, to surplus. The text was reprinted in 1983 by libertarian group, Loompanics Unlimited, with a preface from a little-known writer named Bob Black.
While post-Situationism turned toward individualism, a number of European ultra-leftists moved toward the right. In Paris, La Vieille Taupe went from controversial views rejecting the necessity of specialized antifascism to presenting the Holocaust as a lie necessary to maintain the capitalist order. In 1980, La Vielle Taupe published the notorious Mémoire en Défense centre ceux qui m’accusent de falsifier l’histoire by Holocaust denier, Robert Faurisson. Though La Vielle Taupe and founder, Pierre Guillaume, received international condemnation, they gained a controversial defense from left-wing professor, Noam Chomsky. Even if they have for the most part denounced Guillaume and his entourage, the ultra-leftist rejection of specialized antifascism has remained somewhat popular—particularly as expounded by Dauvé, who insisted in the early 1980s that “fascism as a specific movement has disappeared.”
The idea that fascism had become a historical artifact only helped the creep of fascism to persist undetected, while Faurisson and Guillaume became celebrities on the far-right. As the twist toward Holocaust denial would suggest, ultra-left theory was not immune from translation into ethnic terms—a reality that formed the basis of the work of Official National Front officer, Troy Southgate. Though influenced by the Situationists, along with a scramble of other left and right-wing figures, Southgate focused particularly on the ecological strain of radical politics associated with the punk-oriented journal, Green Anarchist, which called for a return to “primitive” livelihoods and the destruction of modern civilization. In 1991, the editors of Green Anarchist pushed out their co-editor, Richard Hunt, for his patriotic militarism, and Hunt’s new publication, Green Alternative, soon became associated with Southgate. Two years later, Southgate would join allied fascists like Jean-François Thiriart and Christian Bouchet to create the Liaison Committee for Revolutionary Nationalism.
In the US, the “anarcho-primitivist” or “Green Anarchist” tendency had been taken up by former ultra-leftist, John Zerzan. Identifying civilization as an enemy of the earth, Zerzan called for a return to sustainable livelihoods that rejected modernity. Zerzan rejected racism but relied in no small part on the thought of Martin Heidegger, seeking a return authentic relations between humans and the world unmediated by symbolic thought. This desired return, some have pointed out, would require a collapse of civilization so profound that millions, if not billions, would likely perish. Zerzan, himself, seems somewhat ambiguous with regards to the potential death toll, regardless of his support for the unibomber, Ted Kaczynsky.
Joining with Zerzan to confront authoritarianism and return to a more tribal, hunter-gatherer social organization, an occultist named Hakim Bey developed the idea of the “Temporary Autonomous Zone” (TAZ). For Bey, a TAZ would actualize a liberated and erotic space of orgiastic, revolutionary poesis. Yet within his 1991 text, Temporary Autonomous Zone, Bey included extensive praise for D’Annunzio’s proto-fascist occupation of Fiume, revealing the disturbing historical trends of attempts to transcend right and left.
Along with Zerzan and Bey, Bob Black would prove instrumental to the foundation of what is today called the “post-left.” In his 1997 text, Anarchy After Leftism, Black responded to left-wing anarchist Murray Bookchin, who accused individualists of “lifestyle anarchism.” Drawing from Zerzan’s critique of civilization as well as from Stirner and Nietzsche, Black presented his rejection of work as a nostrum for authoritarian left tendencies that he identified with Bookchin (apparently Jew-baiting Bookchin in the process).
Thus, the post-left began to assemble through the writings of ultra-leftists, green anarchists, spiritualists, and egoists published in zines, books, and journals like Anarchy: Journal of Desire Armed and Fifth Estate. Although these thinkers and publications differ in many ways, key tenets of the post-left included an eschatological anticipation of the collapse of civilization accompanied by a synthesis of individualism and collectivism that rejected left, right, and center in favor of a deep connection with the earth and more organic, tribal communities as opposed to humanism, the Enlightenment tradition, and democracy. That post-left texts included copious references to Stirner, Nietzsche, Jünger, Heidegger, Artaud, and Bataille suggests that they form a syncretic intellectual tendency that unites left and right, individualism and “conservative revolution.” As we will see, this situation has provided ample space for the fascist creep.
Chapter 3: The Fascist Creep
During the 1990s, the “national revolutionary” network of Southgate, Thiriart, and Bouchet, later renamed the European Liberation Front, linked up with the American Front, a San Francisco skinhead group exploring connections between counterculture and the avant-garde. Like prior efforts to develop a Satanic Nazism, American Front leader Bob Heick supported a mix of Satanism, occultism, and paganism, making friends with fascist musician Boyd Rice. A noise musician and avant-gardist, Rice developed a “fascist think tank” called the Abraxas Foundation, which echoed the fusion of the cult ideas of Charles Manson, fascism, and Satanism brought together by 1970s fascist militant James Mason. Rice’s protégé and fellow Abraxas member, Michael Moynihan, joined the radical publishing company, Feral House, which publishes texts along the lines of Abraxas, covering a range of themes from Charles Manson Scandinavian black metal, and militant Islam to books by Evola, James Mason, Bob Black, and John Zerzan.
In similar efforts, Southgate’s French ally, Christian Bouchet, generated distribution networks and magazines dedicated to supporting a miniature industry growing around neo-folk and the new, ”anarchic” Scandinavian black metal scene. Further, national anarchists attempted to set up and/or infiltrate e-groups devoted to green anarchism. As Southgate and Bouchet’s network spread to Russia, notorious Russian fascist, Alexander Dugin, emerged as another leading ideologue who admired Zerzan’s work.
Post-leftists were somewhat knowledgable about these developments. In a 1999 post-script to one of Bob Black’s works, co-editor of Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed, Lawrence Jarach, cautioned against the rise of “national anarchism.” In 2005, Zerzan’s journal, Green Anarchy, published a longer critique of Southgate’s “national anarchism.” These warnings were significant, considering that they came in the context of active direct action movements and groups like the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), a green anarchist group dedicated to large-scale acts of sabotage and property destruction with the intention of bringing about the ultimate collapse of industrial civilization.
As their ELF group executed arsons during the late-1990s and early-2000s, a former ELF member told me that two comrades, Nathan “Exile” Block and Joyanna “Sadie” Zacher, shared an unusual love of Scandinavian black metal, made disturbing references to Charles Manson, and promoted an elitist, anti-left mentality. While their obscure references evoked Abraxas, Feral House, and Bouchet’s distribution networks, their politics could not be recognized within the milieu of fascism at the time. However, their general ideas became clearer, the former ELF member told me, when antifascist researchers later discovered that a Tumblr account run by Block contained numerous occult fascist references, including national anarchist symbology, swastikas, and quotes from Evola and Jünger. These were only two members of a larger group, but their presence serves as food for thought regarding important radical cross-over points and how to approach them.
To wit, the decisions of John Zerzan and Bob Black to publish books with Feral House, seem peculiar—especially in light of the fact that two of the four books Zerzan has published there came out in 2005, the same year as Green Anarchy’s noteworthy warning against national anarchism. It would appear that, although in some cases prescient about the subcultural cross-overs between fascism and the post-left, post-leftists have, on a number of occasions, engaged in collaborative relationships.
As Green Anarchy cautioned against entryism and Zerzan simultaneously published with Feral House, controversy descended on an online forum known as the Anti-Politics Board. An outgrowth of the insurrectionist publication Killing King Abacus, the Anti-Politics Board was used by over 1,000 registered members and had dozens of regular contributors. The online platform presented a flourishing site of debate for post-leftists, yet discussions over insurrectionism, communisation, green anarchy, and egoism often produced a strangely competitive iconoclastism. Attempts to produce the edgiest take often led to the popularization of topics like “‘anti-sexism’ as collectivist moralism” and “critique of autonomous anti-fascism.” Attacks on morality and moralism tended to encourage radicals to abandon the “identity politics” and “white guilt” often associated with left-wing anti-racism.
Amid these discussions, a young radical named Andrew Yeoman began to post national anarchist positions. When asked repeatedly to remove Yeoman from the forum, a site administrator refused, insisting that removing the white nationalist would have meant behaving like leftists. They needed to try something else. Whatever they tried, however, it didn’t work, and Yeoman later became notorious for forming a group called the Bay Area National Anarchists, showing up to anarchist events like book fairs, and promoting anarchist collaboration with the Minutemen and American Front.
An important aspect of the Anti-Politics Board was the articulation of nihilist and insurrectionary theories, both of which gained popularity after the 2008 financial crisis. In an article titled, “The New Nihilism,” Peter Lamborn Wilson (aka Hakim Bey) pointed out that the rising wave of nihilism that emerged during the late 2000s and into the second decade could not immediately be distinguished from the far right, due to myriad cross-over points. Indeed, Stormfront is riddled with users like “TAZriot” and “whitepunx” who promote the basic, individualist tenets of post-leftism from the original, racist position of Stirnerism. Rejecting “political correctness” and “white guilt,” these post-left racists desire separate, radical spaces and autonomous zones for whites.
Through dogged research, Rose City Antifa in Portland, Oregon, discovered whitepunx’s identity: “Trigger” Tom Christensen, a known member of the local punk scene. “I was never an anti [antifascist] but I’ve hung out with a few of them,” Christensen wrote on Stormfront. “I used to be a big punk rocker in the music scene and there were some antis that ran around in the same scene. I was friends with a few. They weren’t trying to recruit me, or anybody really. They did not, however, know I was a WN [white nationalist]. I kept my beliefs to myself and would shut down any opinions the[y] expressed that seemed to have holes in them. It’s been fairly useful to know some of these people. I now know who all the major players are in the anti and SHARP [Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice] scene.”
For a time, Christensen says he hung out with post-leftists and debated them like Yeoman had done. Less than a year later, however, Christensen followed up in a chilling post titled, “Do You Think It Would Be Acceptable To Be A ‘Rat’ If It Was Against Our Enemies.” He wrote, “I had an interesting thought the other day and wanted peoples opinions. If you were asked by the Police to provide or find evidence that would incriminate people who are enemy’s [sic] of the movement, i.e. Leftists, reds, anarchists. Would you do it? Would you ‘rat’ or ‘narc’ on the Left side?” Twenty one responses came beckoning from the recesses of the white nationalist world. While some encouraged Christensen to snitch, others insisted that he keep gang loyalty. It is uncertain as to whether or not he went to the police, but the May 2013 discovery of his Stormfront activity took place shortly before a grand jury subpoenaed four anarchists who were subsequently arrested and held for contempt of court.
In another unsettling example of crossover between post-leftists and fascists, radicals associated with a nihilist group named Ultra harshly rebuked Rose City Antifa of Portland, Oregon, for releasing an exposé about Jack Donovan. An open member of the violent white nationalist group, Wolves of Vinland, Donovan also runs a gym called the Kabuki Strength Lab, which produces “manosphere” videos. As of November 2016, when the exposé was published, one member of Ultra was a member of the Kabuki Strength Lab. Although Donovan runs a tattoo shop out of the gym and gave Libertarian Party fascist Augustus Sol Invictus a tattoo of the fasces there, a fellow gym member wrote, “Obviously Jack has very controversial beliefs and practices that most disagree with; but I don’t believe it affects his behavior in the gym.” Donovan, who has publicly parroted “race realist” statistics at white nationalist gatherings like the National Policy Institute and the Pressure Project podcast, also embraces bioregionalism and the anticipation of a collapse of civilization that will lead to a reversion of identity-bound tribal structures at war with one another and reliant on natural hierarchies—an ideology that resonates with Ultra and some members of the broader post-left milieu.
It stands to reason that defending fascists and collaborating with them are not the same, and they are both separate from having incidental ideological cross-over points. However the cross-over points, when unchecked, frequently indicate a tendency to ignore, defend, or collaborate. Defense and collaboration can, and do, also converge. For instance, also in Portland, Oregon, the founder of a UK ultra-leftist splinter group called Wildcat began to participate in a reading group involving prominent post-leftists before sliding toward anti-Semitism. Soon he was participating in the former-leftist-turned-fascist Pacifica Forum in Eugene, Oregon, and defending anti-Semitic co-op leader, Tim Calvert. He was last seen by antifas creeping into an event for Holocaust denier, David Irving.
Perhaps the most troubling instance of collaboration, or rather synthesis, of post-left nihilism and the far right is taking place currently in the alt-right. Donovan is considered a member of the alt-right, while Christensen’s latest visible Facebook post hails from the misogynistic Proud Boys group. These groups and individuals connected to the alt-right are described as having been “red-pilled,” a term taken from the movie, The Matrix, in which the protagonist is awakened to a dystopian reality after choosing to take a red pill. For the alt-right, being “red-pilled” means waking up to the “reality” offered by anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, misogyny, and white nationalism—usually through online forums where the competitive iconoclasm of “edge-lords” mutates into ironic anti-Semitism and hatred. Among the most extreme forms of this phenomenon occurring in recent years is the so-called “black pill”—red-pillers who have turning toward the celebration of indiscriminate violence via the same trends of individualism and nihilism outlined above.
“Black-pillers” claim to have shed their attachments to all theories entirely. This tendency evokes the attitude of militant anti-civilization group, Individuals Tending to the Wild, which is popular among some post-leftist groups and advocates indiscriminate violence against any targets manifesting the modern world. Another influence for “black-pillers” is Adam Lanza, the infamous mass shooter who phoned John Zerzan a year before murdering his mother, 20 children, and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Zerzan has condemned Individuals Tending Toward the Wild, and months after Lanza’s horrifying actions, he penned a piece imploring post-left nihilists to find hope: “Egoism and nihilism are evidently in vogue among anarchists and I’m hoping that those who so identify are not without hope. Illusions no, hope yes.” Unfortunately, Zerzan developed his short communiqué into a book published by Feral House on November 10, 2015—the day after Feral House published The White Nationalist Skinhead Movement co-authored by Eddie Stampton, a Nazi skinhead.
In light of these cross-overs, many individualist anarchists, post-leftists, and nihilists tend not to deny that they share nodal networks with fascists. In many cases, they seek to struggle against them and reclaim their movement. Yet, there tends to be another permissive sense that anarchists bear no responsibility for distinguishing themselves from fascists. If there are numerous points in which radical milieus become a blur of fascists, anarchists, and romantics, some claim that throwing shade on such associations only propagates fallacious thinking, or “guilt by association.”
However, recalling the information in this essay, we might note that complex cross-overs seem to include, in particular, aspects of egoism and radical green theory. Derived from Stirnerism and Nietzschean philosophy, egoism can reify the social alienation felt by an individual, leading to an elitist sense of self-empowerment and delusions of grandeur. When mixed with insurrectionism and radical green thought, egoism can translate into “hunter versus prey” or “wolves versus sheep” elitism, in which compassion for others is rejected as moralistic. This kind of alienated elitism can also develop estranged aesthetic and affective positions tied to cruelty, vengeance, and hatred.
Emerging out of a rejection of humanism and urban modernism, the particular form of radical green theory often embraced by the post-left can relativize human losses by looking at the larger waves of mass extinctions. By doing this, radical greens anticipate a collapse that would “cull the herd” or cause a mass human die off of millions, if not billions, of people throughout the world. This aspect of radical green theory comes very close to, and sometimes intertwines with, ideas about over-population compiled and produced by white nationalists and anti-immigration activists tied to the infamous Tanton Network. Some radical green egoists (or nihilists) insist that their role should be to provoke such a collapse, through anti-moralist strikes against civilization.
As examples like Hakim Bey’s TAZ and the lionization of the Fiume misadventure, Zerzan and Black’s publishing with Feral House, and Ultra’s defense of Donovan indicate, the post-left’s relation to white nationalism is sometimes ambiguous and occasionally even collaborative. Other examples, like those of Yeoman and Christensen, indicate that the tolerance for fascist ideas on the post-left can result in unwittingly accepting them, providing a platform for white nationalism, and increasing vulnerability to entryism. Specific ideas that are sometimes tolerated under the rubric of the “critique of the left” include the approval of “natural hierarchies,” ultranationalism understood as ethno-biological and spiritual ties to homeland and ancestry, rejection of feminism and antifascism, and the fetishization of violence and cruelty.
It is more important today than ever before to recognize how radical movements develop intersections with fascists if we are to discover how to expose creeping fascism and develop stronger, more direct networks. Anarchists must abandon the equivocations that invite the fascist creep and reclaim anarchy as the integral struggle for freedom and equality. Sectarian polemics are the result of extensive learning processes, but are less important than engaging in solidarity to struggle against fascism in all its forms and various disguises.
Alexander Reid Ross is a former co-editor of the Earth First! Journal and the author of Against the Fascist Creep. He teaches in the Geography Department at Portland State University and can be reached at email@example.com.
 Black writes, “Bakunin considered Marx, ‘the German scholar, in his threefold capacity as an Hegelian, a Jew, and a German,’ to be a ‘hopeless statist.’ A Hegelian, a Jew, a sort-of scholar, a Marxist, a hopeless (city-) statist — does this sound like anybody familiar?’ Full text available on Libcom at https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/bob-black-anarchy-after-leftism
36 thoughts on “The Left-Overs: How Fascists Court the Post-Left”
This is very interesting and deep and will reward future study, but I am not sure all the same on a first reading how far the author falls into the error of assuming that, because he believes can draw a straight line from Stirner to Mussolini and so forth, the actual phenomena have the rather impressive orthogenetic intellectual organization he attributes to them. What is he leaving out?
An overwhelming reality of fascism as a movement is its intense mediocrity and its contempt for genuine intellect in any form. The likes of Heidegger are suitors who keep bringing gifts that the fair maiden of fascism secretly despises and throws away as soon as she believes they are no longer looking.
Just look at the dismal mishmash of Alfred Rosenberg’s “theoretical” works, the absence of real scientific content in the experiments of Mengele, and (yes) the sheer banality of e.g. Adolf Eichmann with his utterly stupid obsession with “winged words.” What about Himmler and his ridiculous attempts to synthesize a Teutonic religious cult within the SS? There is nothing brilliant there. It is all terrifyingly pedestrian. And these are only random examples. I am quite sure the Italian record is no more illustrious. Would a good look at Giovanni Gentile reveal something profound that we have forgotten?
I pass over the deadening vulgarity of contemporary post-fascists like Berlusconi and that homicidal dwarf Putin, whose only real talents–apart from a genius for theft on a colossal scale–are an aptitude for judo and the ability to tell dirty stories fluently in German.
In any case, there is an assumption here that fascism is the great menace, the great Satan, the eternal enemy always waiting in disguise to be revealed by some philosophical master-stroke behind the bland appearances of ordinary politics.
And yet Donald Trump–a menace if ever there was one–is NOT a fascist. He has no military/paramilitary organization at all, has organized no machtergreifung and, rather than seek to mobilize the masses around a fascist banner, he is trying to put them to sleep. Trust me, his message goes–now that I am in office you need not worry about anything. Let me handle it all.
He is something objectively very different from actual fascism, if perhaps equally awful, and the menace he represents is to a very significant degree unprecedented and not reducible to Hitlerism or Mussolini fascism redivivus. The battle we have to fight today is not the battle of yesteryear.
In the United States, at least, the individualism and individualistic moralism that (obviously) cripple the discourse of the so-called left do not have roots in the intellectual history of Europe in the 19th century but are rather the legacy of the political liberalism that won the fight against the Vietnam War on the basis of Emerson, Thoreau, Gandhi, Jesus Christ, and Thomas Jefferson. A certain “Marxist-Leninist” rhetoric crept in through the writings of General Giap and the influence of Che Guevara and Chairman Mao, but the “anti-imperialism” thus bequeathed to the modern pseudo-left is of a peculiarly brittle kind that cannot tolerate precisely the disciplined awareness of class conflict that is necessary if politics are to move forward in this country. The New Left was the Left minus the Communist Party. It remains alive in a newer form, but has never recovered from the defeat of Communism. That is the problem.
It’s this that weakens the intellectual fiber of American leftists and renders them susceptible to the blandishments of neoliberalism, neoconservatism, and the clownfaced anti-ideology of Trumpism and the Tea Party. There is no need at all for exotic imports like Stirner and Nietzsche, who are unknown and uninteresting to the kind of people who flock to the comments sections of Truthout and vaguely leftwing news aggregation sites like the awful Rawstory–not to mention that strange hybrid, Counterpunch, which defies description.
If you want to know what’s wrong with the Left in America, look at the likes of Glenn Greenwald and ask yourself why even today we cannot do without him. Does it make any sense to call Greenwald a fascist? I don’t think so. Can the left move forward on the basis of Greenwald’s libertarianism? I say no.
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Agreed. This essay would be more helpful if the various claims and quotes could be cited. The whole thesis too seems cobbled together with loose conspiratorial claims. It seems like an updated rehashing of some of the tit for tat bashing and bashing back in the ’80s between anarcho-communists and platformists and any new thinking that might be transpiring around Anarchy magazine. They were demonizing Stirner back then too but not linking him to fascism and writing him off as anti-semitic. In fact, the latter claim is contested and to state otherwise is disingenuous:
Finally, the author doesn’t seem to give much credence to the idea that people can read widely and make up their own minds. To follow the logic of the author simply reading Stirner makes you suspect, you are falling for oily reasoning, unaware that you are on the slippery slope to fascism. Terrible people will patch together their poorly thought out ideas from all manner of sources. Certain writing and ideas are held up here as somehow especially dangerous or vulnerable to exploiting or counter-revolutionary or reactionary etc. I’m not buying it
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I have to qualify something I said above in case anyone is interested. The U.S. left “won” the fight against the Vietnam War only in a certain narrow and parochial U.S. sense. One might even argue that the “victory” in that sense was merely that of a certain rhetoric that thereafter became an unexamined reflex here. How much the U.S. protest movement actually affected events internationally is unclear.
To idealize the Vietnamese revolution on the basis of its professed Stalinist ideology, as some did years ago, remains a serious error, in my view, but there can be no doubt that it was they, not us, who won their war.
Make the connection between Greenwald and Assange. Make the connection between Assange, Farage, Dugin, Trump and Redpillers. Read about Eco’s UR-fascism and this will fill the holes of everything you haven’t understood.
This is incredibly dumb. We have read everything by Eco and understand that connection, it just isn’t what the article is about. Don’t comment talking down to us, this is a subject we know well.
So I can safely assume you’ve never, ever read Stirner.
> “individualist Max Stirner, whose belief in the supremacy of the European individual over and against nation, class, and creed ”
Stirner was writing about ANY individual, not just a European one. Any concept of Europeaness Stirner would have spat on.
Man, I wish he would have wrote something about it….OH WAIT, HE DID!
“Now the Nationals are exerting themselves to set up the abstract, lifeless unity of beehood; but the self-owned are going to fight for the unity willed by their own will, for union. This is the token of all reactionary wishes, that they want to set up something general, abstract, an empty, lifeless concept, in distinction from which the self-owned aspire to relieve the robust, lively particular from the trashy burden of generalities. The reactionaries would be glad to smite a people, a nation, forth from the earth; the self-owned have before their eyes only themselves. In essentials the two efforts that are just now the order of the day — to wit, the restoration of provincial rights and of the old tribal divisions (Franks, Bavarians, Lusatia, etc.), and the restoration of the entire nationality — coincide in one. But the Germans will come into unison, i.e. unite themselves, only when they knock over their beehood as well as all the beehives; in other words, when they are more than — Germans: only then can they form a “German Union.” They must not want to turn back into their nationality, into the womb, in order to be born again, but let every one turn in to himself. How ridiculously sentimental when one German grasps another’s hand and presses it with sacred awe because “he too is a German!”” – The Ego and His Own
Of course that quote is beyond the first few pages, so I’m sure you missed it.
Hey, how about more nonsensical garbage?
> “Derived from Stirnerism and Nietzschean philosophy, egoism can reify the social alienation felt by an individual, leading to an elitist sense of self-empowerment and delusions of grandeur. When mixed with insurrectionism and radical green thought, egoism can translate into “hunter versus prey” or “wolves versus sheep” elitism, in which compassion for others is rejected as moralistic.”
You really haven’t read any Stirner. At all. I….jesus, what did you see like two Stirner memes and decide you had it all figured out?
Let’s see what Stirner might have to say about Egoism.
“But “the egoist is someone who thinks only of himself!” — This would be someone who doesn’t know and relish all the joys that come from participation with others, i.e., from thinking of others as well, someone who lack countless pleasures — thus a poor sort. But why should this desolate loner be an egoist in comparison to richer sorts? Certainly, for a long time, we were able to get used to considering poverty a disgrace, as a crime, and the sacred socialists have clearly proven that the poor are treated like a criminals. But sacred socialists treat those who are in their eyes contemptibly poor in this way, just as much as the bourgeoisie do it to their poor.
But why should the person who is poorer with respect to a certain interest be called more egoistic than the one who possesses that interest? Is the oyster more egoistic that the dog; is the Moor more egoistic than the German; is the poor, scorned, Jewish junkman more egoistic than the enthusiastic socialist; is the vandal who destroys artworks for which he feels nothing more egoistic than the art connoisseur who treats the same works with great love and care because he has a feeling and interest for them? And now if someone — we leave it open whether such a one can be shown to exist — doesn’t find any “human” interest in human beings, if he doesn’t know how to appreciate them as human beings, wouldn’t he be a poorer egoist with regard to this interest rather than being, as the enemies of egoism claim, a model of egoism? One who loves a human being is richer, thanks to this love, than another who doesn’t love anyone.” – Stirner’s Critics (penned by Stirner himself)
Since you can’t be troubled to actually read anything Stirner wrote here’s a nice little article for you to peruse:
I SAY GOOD DAY SIR!
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I’m relieved to see someone who has actually read Stirner. It’s curious that he doesn’t actually cite anything from Der Einzige und sein Eigentum.
And to see this embarrassing garbage being thoughtlessly paraded around (in conjunction with a thorough mis-referencing of Nietzsche) really speaks volumes to the destruction of thinking and ones attention span under modern technological alienation.
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We love having critical comments, its great to get into the nitty gritty about these issues. The reasons is they are complex, and the author, while having an opinion you may disagree with, is an organizer and author more well versed on post-WWII fascism than almost anyone we have ever met. His reading of Stirner, while controversial, is shared by a number of others, which is not that “it is fascist” but that it has been used by the fascist right as a way of trying to appropriate left and post-left tropes. That is what the article is about.
But that is not what your comment is about, and neither has almost any of the comments about Stirner. Instead, it has been a parade of angry white dudes mansplaining about “edgy” books that almost no one has read and were written over a hundred years ago. If you want to argue its relevance, maybe you can explain to us how it has affected your actual organizing? Would it surprise us if the answer is “I don’t,” or some overcomplicated post-left pseudojargon?
For the record, we actually are pretty neutral about Stirner, some of its interesting, some of its a little questionable, but that’s how it goes in a complicated world that isn’t reducible to soundbites. The real issue here is that there seems to be a complete unwillingness to look at the very real problems of entryism that is happening in radical spaces, and a complete inability to do anything about it.
Let’s look at an example: We checked out your Disinfo page. We liked your Dugin article, we posted on our Facebook and Twitter. We find it strange that Disinfo posted it when they have been publishing fascist mystics of the Duginist strain. We are now looking at Disinfo’s Book of Lies, republishing, completely uncritically, Julius Evola, Michael Moynihan, and Boyd Rice, not to mention a whole line of LHP stuff that is sketchy at best. Given your own background, its unlikely this went under your radar, we are sure you are aware of it. So that’s where the issue is. Is Disinfo a fascist institution? Of course not. But are they willing to ally themselves with fascists in the effort of being “iconoclastic” and “beyond good and evil(so to speak)?” It looks like it. The same is true of places like Feral House, CounterPunch, and others, all of which will refuse to draw clear lines against fascism. It is in this tract that this article was published, and the reason why anti-fascist organizations and authors have found the present critique useful.
I assume you will respond to this with more insulting comments about us and the author, internet anarchists without real-world connections to radical organizing work love insulting low blows on comment threads. Instead, you could offer something constructive and engaging and I’m sure that all of us, author included, would be happy to have a conversation. We would probably learn a lot about Stirner, and I’m sure we would be better for it. We would also implore you to actually read the article in its entirety to see what the arguments here actually are, and listen to people have been doing this work for decades and have seen fascists attempt to appropriate authors like Stirner.
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Antifascistfront, are we cross?
Does this mean we’re not friends anymore?
Besides if we weren’t friends anymore, well, I don’t think I could bear it.
Question: if I pen a rebuttal without all the vitriol will you publish it? Afterall, the least you can do after dragging Stirner through the mud is allowing an Egoist to defend his ideas.
Or will you prefer to keep all opposition regulated to the comments section, as are the ways of the Internet Anarchist?
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If you pen an article that is sincere about Stirner and anti-fascism, we will publish it. If you want to talk about that more email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also I don’t own Disinfo’s Book of Lies.
Journalists of your caliber surely know ownership of the Disinfo has changed?
Are there plans to have this article translated to Portuguese? I would do that.
We would love if you could translate it!
I can translate it. let me know via email and I will be willing to help
We would love for you to translate it! Go ahead and email us at email@example.com.
Ross is pretty mixed up, IMO. I know Bataille pretty well and he was no fascist. Bataille had read Nietzsche, Hegel and Marx. That shows up in his writing. As far as I know, Nietzsche never quotes Stirner or mentions him favourably. He may have read Stirner, but so did Marx. THE GERMAN IDEOLOGY is largely a critique of Stirner’s approach to politics, immersed in philosophical Idealism as it is.
Ross also attempts to describe Situationists, he even quotes someone I once met in Paris, Gilles Dauve. 🙂 He fails to grasp what the Sits were doing. Again, I think this failure is linked to so many failures of the left, the failure to grasp the critique of political-economy presented in it most theoretically condensed form in the first chapter of the first volume of CAPITAL. It is there, that Marx first outlines the separation of subject and object which is embedded in the wage system, where workers (subjects) produce objects and ideas which are then alienated from them through the mechanisms of State legalised private property. This is what the For Ourselves group (I knew them personally) was all about i.e. ending that alienation through the re-unification of the social product with the producer.
That said, I tend to sympathise with fire directed at the also very confused post-left, which I see as just another manifestation of radical liberalism i.e. a left incapable of seeing that socialism, if it ever actually was able to come about, would signal a change in the mode of producing and distributing wealth from the commodity to use-value sans exchange-value and common ownership with democratic control of same. This was what Marx and Engels were aiming for, emancipation from the bondage of the wage system:
“The emancipation of the working classes must be conquered by the working classes themselves…the struggle for the emancipation of the working classes means not a struggle for class privileges and monopolies, but for equal rights and duties, and the abolition of all class rule.” – Marx, 1864
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I have to say that I really did enjoy your book. I may not necessarily agree with you, especially insofar as Stirner is concerned, but you do bring up a point that the current culture war is being fought by anarchists and fascists yet both are almost completely self-deceptive in how they tango.
The only thing that any of us can really do is attempt to try and create values that allow compassion for others that we”d like to believe ourselves capable of. Anything else is pedantic handwringing at best and outright obfuscation at worst. Its sad, depressing, and sickening but it cannot be undone.
In all honesty, this book is a wake up call for anyone who seeks to keep their head above the tide. If the U.S. is headed for sociopolitical disintegration, blame will be in high demand but low value; talk is cheap after all. Its no one’s fault but our own.
Post-leftists are against anti-fascism because they see it as an aspect of Identity Politics.
I mean your not being fair. Communist philosophy during its development had strongly nationalistic fascist tones. Like they thought each nation or region was going to have it own revolution based of differenr aspects based of local culture…this was what marx and engels thought. They thought it would be the result of material consitutions. Which one could argue once the dressing is taken off is another form of “blood and soil”.
In reality. Leftist, anarchists, fascists, radical right, we all exist in a counter culture. Naturally cross overs would happen. Should bioregionalsim be abandoned all though ecologically it makes sense? Simply because a fascist co opt the idea? Like seriously. How else do you describe the management of a river in a organized decentralized fasion?
I think the real answer is doing it better. Also there is a difference between green anarchists and anarcho primitivist.
Green anarchists from what i xan tell are basically just anarchists that awknowledge the complete lack of conern for envirment in classical and post left anarchist thought. So they try to fill that void. Green anarchists often are more focused on sustainablity as opposed to rewilding or tribalism.
Anarcho primitivist are the ones you were actually talking about. It does no good to write them off as the same thing due a bit of cross over. Or else might as well write off everything counter culture.
Maybe i misunderstand what you meant. Like sh9uld green anarchists be aware of national anarchists….yes. We should.also come up with ways to do it better and show by example they are wrong.
I should of checked for typos…i apologize
I just read the follow up article….it makes sense. For some reason it wasn’t clear in the orginal. Although you do seem to lack and difference between green anarchists and primitivists
“Louis-Ferdinand Céline” and “Maurice Blanchot” -> libertaire ??!!
never ! it is a myth.