To Spite The Face: A review of Insurgent Supremacists by Matthew N.Lyons

By Rhyd Wildermuth

Reviewed in this essay: Insurgent Supremacists: The U.S. Far Right’s Challenge to State and Empire, by Matthew N. Lyons (Published by PM Press)

Anti-fascism in the United States has two deep problems, neither of which can easily be unraveled. The first problem, which is the foundation of the second, is that it cannot accurately identify precisely who or what a fascist actually is.

This first problem can best be shown from a rather amusing conversation I recently encountered regarding myself and Gods&Radicals Press (where I am the managing editor). It turns out, according to some deeply wise Twitter commentators, that I’m a fascist, or possibly a proto-fascist, or an anarcho-nationalist with white-nationalist leanings.

Their evidence? A recent essay regarding the commons, an essay critiquing racial and gender essentialism, and an anti-imperialist essay.

While it’s tempting to dismiss such a conversation and laugh about the general absurdity of American social media “call outs,” their error points to something much more endemic than mere ignorance or poor reading skills. The essays selectively cited do indeed contain some ideas that could be mistaken as fascist, but not because the ideas themselves are fascist. For instance: the essay on reclaiming the commons from an anti-colonial perspective mentions the word “land” a lot. Some fascists also wish to reclaim land. Likewise, the essay against imperialism shares with some fascist tendencies a disgust for the occupation of peoples by the military. And my critique of social justice essentialism criticizes non-Marxist “feminist” reduction of men to their bodies and genitals.

That is, what the commentators were looking for were signs of fascist ideology, ticking off boxes on a checklist of fascist traits. But unfortunately, opposition to fascism is not as easy as completing a Buzzfeed quiz or reading an Everyday Feminism listicle.

In this error they are hardly alone. American antifascist organizing has faced a much larger difficulty identifying precisely who’s a fascist, or even whether any particular idea is indicative of fascist ideology. This problem leads to all sorts of practical problems, particularly when it comes to organizing against groups and theorists on the far-right who don’t fit into traditional stereotypes of fascism.

Two examples should suffice to show the problem here. First of all, Jack Donovan and the group to which he belongs, The Wolves of Vinland, cannot easily be classified as fascist according to popularly-accepted metrics. Donovan is specifically anti-imperialist, criticizes capitalism and anti-globalisation, rejects racism, and is homosexual. In addition, The Wolves of Vinland might be better described as a Pagan body-cult than a “Fascist counter-cultural tribe” , particularly because they not only do they not participate in demonstrations and have rejected alliances with alt-right groups, but have absolutely no interest in seizing political power or taking control of the state. So any litmus strip we might apply to either Donovan or the Wolves of Vinland in order to determine whether they are fascist will come back completely clean.

Likewise, fascists are at least according to popular understanding supposed to be anti-Black, anti-gay, and most definitely anti-Semitic. So that makes encountering the occasionally violent ideas of Milo Yiannopolous quite difficult: he is homosexual, has a Black man as a lover, and also happens to be Jewish. That is, he isn’t anti-Black, nor anti-gay, nor precisely anti-semitic, yet we still generally see his ideas as fascist.

This nebulous nature of Fascism also means that many leftists find themselves considered fascist because of their adherence to ideas which appear (at least at first glance) to be of fascist provenance. For instance, the anarchist publisher Little Black Cart and its publications have been repeatedly identified as fascist by other anarchists because of their anti-civilizationist and eco-extremist tendencies, both of which appear (under a glance no more attentive than what is needed for a Teen Vogue article) to be identical to some white-nationalist positions.

Similarly, those who use the works of clearly leftist philosophers such as Max Stirner or even Slavoj Zizek are often painted with a fascist brush because of the similarities between both philosophers’ rejection of Liberal Democratic capitalism and the European Nouvelle Droit’s rejections of the same regime.

This inability to distinguish between right-wing (and fascist) critiques of Liberal Democracy leads to the second and more intractable problem within American Anti-fascism. That problem? By mis-identifying Marxist and other far-left opposition to Liberal Democracy as fascist, antifascists end up siding with Capitalist interests and becoming defenders of Liberal Democracy. That is, in an attempt to fight off white supremacists and other far right challenges to the state, antifascists can enable the state to continue its oppression against the very people antifascists claim to defend.

The Revolutionary Right

Thus Matthew N Lyons’ forthcoming book, Insurgent Supremacists: The US Far Right’s Challenge to State and Empire, is a deeply needed work.

In the title itself, Lyons begins to unravel inherited, popular misconceptions about the entire political constellation in which we (often clumsily) attempt to locate fascism. Generally (at least within liberal and “progressive” anti-fascist currents), the far right is not considered a threat to Empire, but to be the political foundation of Empire itself. But while to speak of an anti-imperialist far-right seems oxymoronic, Lyons provides an almost overwhelming onslaught of detail as to how much of the Far Right is predicated on a critique of and opposition to liberal democratic imperialism.

Opposition to global capitalism and the international governance organizations which protect it, fierce criticism (sometimes backed by weapons) of oppressive policing and surveillance apparatuses, and moral reprehension at imperialist US foreign policy in the Middle East have all been parts of many movements within the Far Right in the United States. For instance, consider the following words:

When a U.S. plane or cruise missile is used to bring destruction to a foreign people, this nation rewards the bombers with applause and praise. What a convenient way to absolve these killers of any responsibility for the destruction they leave in their wake.

Unfortunately, the morality of killing is not so superficial. The truth is, the use of a truck, a plane or a missile for the delivery of a weapon of mass destruction does not alter the nature of the act itself.

These are weapons of mass destruction — and the method of delivery matters little to those on the receiving end of such weapons.

Whether you wish to admit it or not, when you approve, morally, of the bombing of foreign targets by the U.S. military, you are approving of acts morally equivalent to the bombing in Oklahoma City …

These words by Timothy McVeigh (the far-right bomber of a federal building In Oklahoma City that killed 168 people, many of them children) might just as easily have been written by indigenous resistance leaders, the Black Panthers, or other leftist revolutionary groups in the United States. Or as I note in an essay about him, many of Jack Donovan’s critiques of the police state and of liberal democracy could just as easily have been written by those same groups.

Unlike those leftist revolutionary groups and also unlike Jack Donovan, Timothy McVeigh was a white nationalist, expressing fondness for the white supremacist book The Turner Diaries, as well as selling copies of it at gun shows. And so there is where someone like McVeigh fits into our preconceived notions of what makes a fascist…except as Lyons points out in his book, white supremacist ideas are not a clear indicator of fascism, either.

That difficulty of pinning down precisely what makes someone on the far right a fascist might otherwise plague such a book as his, but Lyons wisely dispenses with the question altogether until the very end (a previously-published essay included as appendix). Rather than attempt to build a catalogue of fascist ideologies and movements in the United States, he instead details all the Far Right movements which intersect with this slippery category.

The first part of Insurgent Supremacists provide a detailed sketch of five ideological movements (Neo-Nazis, Christian Dominionists/Theocrats, The Alt-Right, the Patriot movements, and the LaRouche Network), and at least for the first four groups, readers with only a surface understanding of Right-wing ideology may find themselves surprised to learn how thoroughly different each ideology is from the others. While crossovers absolutely exist, many of the adherents of each group would be just as likely to vehemently oppose the other groups as to claim them as fellow travelers.

In the second section, Lyons then looks at each group again through the lens of their views on gender & sexuality, decentralization, and anti-imperialism, and here again the average anti-fascist may find their original analysis uncomfortably complicated by what Lyons details. Particularly of interest are the problems of anti-imperialism and decentralization (anti-federalist– or in some cases even anti-government–positions ), both of which are critiques autonomous Marxists and anarchists share with many on the far right (albeit for different reasons).

The third section, however, is the most useful and unfortunately the most short. In it, Lyons discusses the complicated relationship that police and the FBI have had with far right groups, as well as the influence the Liberal political structures (especially the Democratic Party) has had on creating the conditions for the rise of these groups as well as increasing police oppression of society at large in the name of fighting them. Returning to McVeigh’s bombing, Lyons points out:

The Clinton administration also used the Oklahoma City bombing to help win passage of the 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, which loosened restrictions on the wiretapping and other surveillance of alleged “terrorists,” expanded the use of secret evidence to deport non- citizens (which means that the defendants have no opportunity to see the evidence being used against them), and, in the words of legal journalist Lincoln Caplan, “gutted the federal writ of habeas corpus, which a federal court can use to order the release of someone wrongly imprisoned.” The law made the death penalty more “effective” by making it much more difficult for death row inmates to appeal their sentences, even though a notoriously high proportion of death sentences have been shown to have serious flaws.” (174)

Antifascist Alliances with the Capitalist State

In fact, it’s Lyons’ consistent (but understated) criticism of liberal politics throughout his discussion of the Far Right that makes Insurgent Supremacists most useful. Lyons runs directly counter to most popular antifascist thought by insisting that the Far Right is not made up of idiots without political sensibilities or actual grievances. People like McVeigh were absolutely right to be incensed about the government’s slaughter of innocents in Waco or at Ruby Ridge, just as many of those who supported Trump in the recent election had absolutely legitimate grievances against the Democratic Party’s destructive hyper-capitalist economic policies and imperialist expansionary foreign policy positions.

Of course, such a position runs counter not only to the received wisdom of many antifascists, but stands directly in opposition to Liberal dismissals of the Right as merely ignorant or hateful. Accepting this Liberal position is how antifascists have gotten to the place they’re in now, finding themselves continuously pulled toward the Democratic Party’s “centrist” positions and thus unable to distinguish a leftist from a fascist.

This is not merely an unfortunate problem of mis-identification, however. As in the case of McVeigh, Lyons points out that antifascism and opposition to far right ideologies have historically sometimes served to increase State violence and power.

Many people think of growing state repression as a trend toward fascism. But these events of the 1930s and ’40s highlight the fact that antifascism can itself serve as a rationale for increasing repression, as Don Hamerquist has pointed out: “when did this country outlaw strikes, ban seditious organizing and speech, intern substantial populations in concentration camps, and develop a totalitarian mobilization of economic, social, and cultural resources for military goals? Obviously it was during WWII, the period of the official capitalist mobilization against fascism, barbarism and for ‘civilization.’” (166)

The particular difficulty here, which Lyons touches on occasionally, is that the political interests of Capital are able to manipulate opposition to far right ideologies, particularly through the Democratic Party. And here many looking for easier answers will likely either dismiss or take offense at his discussion about whether or not Trump (or the US government in general) is fascist or in “process” of becoming fascist.

Each of these claims that the U.S. government or public officials are driving us toward fascism represents a misuse of the term, one that blurs the line between fascism and the more repressive, racist, and militaristic sides of the United States’ liberal- pluralist political system (181)

In particular, Lyons critiques the dogmatic approach to Trump of Alexander Reid Ross (an antifascist writer I’ve criticized before for mis-identifying leftist opposition to capitalism as fascist or fascist-adjacent):

Radical journalist Alexander Reid Ross argued that we should look at fascism “as a ‘process’ rather than an ‘outcome’,” and that “Trumpism” was “part of a process of ‘fascist creep,’ meaning a radicalization of conservative ideology that increasingly includes fascist membership while deploying fascist ideology, strategy, and tactics.” This approach rightly emphasized that many political initiatives occupy a gray area between fascist and conservative politics and that the political character of such initiatives can change over time. But Ross simply assumed that Trump’s campaign—unlike previous right- wing populist candidates such as George Wallace and Pat Buchanan—had an inherent tendency to move toward fascism and would not be co- opted by the established political system. (197)

But then, if Trump isn’t fascist and if many of the implementations of oppressive (and often explicitly racist) policies and powers of the United States isn’t fascist either, than what exactly is fascism? In an appendix of the book, Lyons discusses the difficulty of defining fascism and looks at others’ attempts to do so before coming up with a definition that will satisfy very few:

Fascism is a revolutionary form of right- wing populism, inspired by a totalitarian vision of collective rebirth, that challenges capitalist political and cultural power while promoting economic and social hierarchy.

This definition will be unsatisfactory to most because of what it doesn’t explicitly include (white supremacy, misogyny) as well as what it does include (a challenge to capitalist political and cultural power). With such a definition we are forced to question almost everything we think we know about fascism’s traits, and find none of our checklists or listicles make sense anymore.

That’s a good thing, but with a caveat. Because the culture of constant reaction within America, especially via the reductionist forms of internet “discourse,” makes it very likely that capitalists and the government which serves their interest will continue to summon antifascists to their defense. While the challenge fascism presents to capitalist power is not our challenge, we must avoid making façile concessions to the Liberal Democratic state out of fear that the fascists might win. As Lyons points out in the case of the House UnAmerican Activities Committe during the middle of the last century (which was originally set up to prosecute fascists!), supporting (or even celebrating) government repression of the far right always empowers the state to then turn its weapons on the left.

Antifascists can and must oppose both the capitalist liberal democratic state as well as fascists, and must do so always at the same time. To make alliances with the state against the Far Right which threatens it will also lead the left to abandon their own challenge to the state, cutting off our nose to spite the face.


Rhyd Wildermuth

Rhyd Wildermuth is a co-founder of Gods&Radicals and one of its co-editors. He is currently teaching a course on Marxism, and currently lives in Bretagne. Follow his dispatches from other shores here.

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Judaism as a Group Evolutionary Strategy : A Critical Analysis of Kevin MacDonald’s Theory

By Nathan Cofnas

In the 1990s, Kevin MacDonald wrote a trilogy of books arguing that Judaism is a “group evolutionary strategy,” and the pursuit of this strategy by Jews had far-reaching consequences for world history. In A People That Shall Dwell Alone: Judaism as a Group Evolutionary Strategy (1994) he proposed that, since its inception, Judaism has promoted eugenic practices favoring high intelligence, conscientiousness, and ethnocentrism. As a consequence, the contemporary Jewish population (at least the Ashkenazi population) is marked by a high level of these traits, including a mean IQ of 117 (weighted on verbal intelligence). In Separation and Its Discontents: Toward an Evolutionary Theory of Anti-Semitism (1998b) he argued that anti-Semitism is a reaction by gentiles to competition for resources with less populous but more organized and competent Jewish groups. In The Culture of Critique: An Evolutionary Analysis of Jewish Involvement in Twentieth-Century Intellectual and Political Movements (1998a), he argued that post-Enlightenment Jews who abandoned the religion of Judaism invented a substitute: liberal political, intellectual, and scientific movements with the same social and organizational structure as Judaism, and the same ultimate purpose to promote the evolutionary success of Jews.

According to The Culture of Critique, the most influential of these intellectual movements—Boasian anthropology, Freudian psychoanalysis, and Frankfurt School critical theory—were headed by charismatic and authoritarian leaders (analogous to rabbis), they placed great value on verbal brilliance and internal consistency rather than testability or agreement with external reality (analogous to Talmudic scholarship), and they promoted Jewish group interests at the expense of gentiles. The movements advocated separatism and ethnocentrism for Jews, discouraged ethnic identification among white gentiles (in order to prevent group consciousness among white gentiles that might lead to a sense of competition with Jews and thus anti-Semitism), undermined and destabilized traditional European culture to weaken resistance to Jewish control, “pathologized” anti-Semitism, and denied that Jewish behavior plays a role in anti-Jewish attitudes.

MacDonald argues that Jewish intellectual and political movements were responsible for major trends in twentieth-century scientific, political, and demographic history. These movements, he says, were responsible for the rejection of Darwinian thinking among most mainstream social scientists, and also for large-scale nonwhite immigration to European and European-colonized countries (the United States, Australia, etc.).

Do MacDonald’s Theories Merit Scholarly Attention?

MacDonald’s books received some positive and some mixed reviews. Eysenck (1995) called A People That Shall Dwell Alone “a potentially very important contribution.” Masters (1996), while enthusiastic about the prospect of analyzing religions as evolutionary strategies, raised concerns about the depth of the author’s familiarity with the history of religion. Figueredo (1999) gave Separatism and Its Discontents a generally positive assessment. In a favorable review of The Culture of Critique, Salter (2000) attributed “much of the criticism of MacDonald [to] ignorance of his scholarship and a confounding of political and scientific issues.”

MacDonald’s work on Judaism did not receive widespread attention until the year 2000 when Slate journalist Shulevitz (2000) used it in an effort to discredit evolutionary psychology. In response to Shulevitz’s challenge that scientists “can’t ignore bad ideas,” Pinker pointed out that they have no choice. It is impossible to do battle against all bad ideas, of which there are a thousand for every good one.

[D]oing battle against some of them is a tacit acknowledgement that those have enough merit to exceed the onerous threshold of attention-worthiness. MacDonald’s ideas, as presented in summaries that would serve as a basis for further examination, do not pass that threshold . . . (Pinker 2000: unpaginated).

Given this fact—that ideas need to meet an “onerous threshold of attention-worthiness”—what justifies giving attention to MacDonald’s theories, published two decades ago and, with just a few exceptions (e.g., favorable treatment in Wilson 2002; criticisms in Atran 2002:230–33), largely ignored in mainstream literature?

Even if Pinker was right that MacDonald’s theories did not have enough prima facie merit to warrant attention in 2000, developments in the past 18 years have changed the situation. There are at least three reasons to give MacDonald a hearing.

First, some respected psychologists and evolutionary theorists have reported that they found value in MacDonald’s work. For example, David Sloan Wilson endorsed the ideas in A People That Shall Dwell Alone and strongly criticized the representatives of the Human Behavior and Evolution Society who rejected MacDonald: “Even evolutionary psychologists, who have experienced their share of persecution in academic circles, seem more concerned to protect their own reputations than to defend the work of their colleague” (quoted in Salter 2000). Wilson is also thanked in the acknowledgments sections of all three books. And, as noted, Eysenck, Figueredo, Salter, and others have publicly given positive evaluations of some or all of MacDonald’s trilogy. There are also a number of serious scholars who are attracted to MacDonald’s ideas but will not endorse or even comment on them publicly because they fear that they will be perceived as anti-Semitic. This amounts to at least some degree of prima facie evidence that MacDonald’s theory should be considered.

Second, it is an undeniable fact that, in the past few hundred years, Jews have had a disproportionate influence on politics and culture in the Western world, if not the whole world. It might be worthwhile to investigate this phenomenon from a biosocial or evolutionary perspective. So far there have been only a handful of such investigations, including Cochran et al.’s (2005) study on the evolution of Jewish intelligence, Dunkel et al.’s (2015) report of high mean levels of the “general factor of personality” among Jews, and, what is by far the most ambitious, MacDonald’s (19941998a1998b). The idea that Jewish influence resulted, at least in some cases, from their pursuit of a group evolutionary strategy cannot be dismissed a priori. Since MacDonald has defended this theory, he seems to provide a starting point for anyone wishing to investigate the understudied issue of Jewish influence. If he is wrong, it may be useful to know why and how.

Third and perhaps most important, though, is that MacDonald’s work has been influential—enormously so—in a certain segment of the lay community, namely, among anti-Semites and adherents of the burgeoning movement known as the “alt-right.” It is hard to overstate his influence among this group. Some years ago Derbyshire (2003) called him “the Marx of the anti-Semites,” and with the advent of the alt-right his audience has grown substantially. Richard Spencer, whom the New York Times calls “the leading ideologue of the alt-right movement” (Goldstein 2016), introduced MacDonald at a conference with one sentence: “There is no man on the planet who has done more for the understanding of the pole around which the world revolves than Kevin MacDonald” (Spencer 2016). Andrew Anglin, who runs the most popular alt-right/neo-Nazi website, says in his “Guide to the Alt-Right” that “MacDonald’s work examining the racial nature of Jews is considered crucial to understanding what the Alt-Right is about” (Anglin 2016). The New York Times describes MacDonald’s trilogy as “a touchstone” for the alt-right, a movement encompassing hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people (Caldwell 2016). MacDonald is also editor of the Occidental Observer, a fairly popular magazine that is devoted largely to interpreting current events in the light of his theories about Jews. Anglin (2016) lists the Occidental Observer as one of eight “sites and people” playing a key role in the alt-right movement.

The refusal of scholars to engage with MacDonald has had unintended negative consequences. Many of his enthusiasts see him as credible because there has never been a serious academic refutation of his theories. The strategy employed 18 years ago—declaring his work to be anti-Semitic and/or to not reach the threshold to warrant scholarly attention—had the doubly unfortunate effect of intimidating scholars with a legitimate interest in the topic of Jewish evolution and behavior, and creating a perception among some laypeople—even if it was false—that MacDonald was being persecuted by the academic community.

This paper attempts to give MacDonald’s theories a fair hearing. It focuses on the argument of The Culture of Critique. This book builds on the previous two, so the whole trilogy stands or falls on its merits. It has also been the most influential of the three books. It defends a radical, interesting hypothesis, and the topic it addresses (Jewish overrepresentation in intellectual movements) is worthy of study in any case. The conclusion, however, will be that the argument of The Culture of Critique is built on misrepresented sources and cherry-picked facts. The evidence actually favors a simpler explanation of Jewish overrepresentation in intellectual movements involving Jewish high intelligence and geographic distribution.

Jewish High IQ and Geography: An Alternative, Simpler Theory That Explains More of the Data?

The mean Ashkenazi Jewish IQ appears to be around 110 (Lynn and Kanazawa 2008)—moderately lower than MacDonald’s estimate of 117. Jewish intellectual accomplishment is consistent with higher mean intelligence. The basic facts are well known. For example, though never more than 3% of the US population (Pinker 2006), Jews constitute 31% of US Nobel laureates in chemistry, 50% in economics, 37% in physics, 39% in physiology or medicine, and 33% in literature (jinfo.org). Lynn and Kanazawa (2008) give a good review of their overrepresentation in high-IQ occupations and in leadership positions in the arts, science, and industry.

But a mean IQ of 110 is not enough to explain Jewish achievement (Nisbett 2009:181). It is likely that Jews also have a geographic advantage. Since the Enlightenment and particularly in the twentieth century, European Jews have been highly concentrated in major urban centers (Warsaw, Berlin, Frankfurt, Vienna, Paris, New York City, Los Angeles, etc.). These areas tended to have the infrastructure to support intellectual achievement. Indeed, even without postulating high Jewish IQ, from their location alone we would expect them to be overrepresented in intellectual endeavors.

The combination of the aforementioned factors suggests an alternative theory—what could be called the “default hypothesis”—of Jewish involvement in twentieth-century liberal movements, namely: Because of Jewish intelligence and geography—particularly intelligence—Jews are likely to be overrepresented in any intellectual movement or activity that is not overtly anti-Semitic. The qualification that Jews are not overrepresented in overtly anti-Semitic movements is important because, in the twentieth century, a higher proportion of right-wing than left-wing movements were overtly anti-Semitic. According to the default hypothesis, Jewish involvement in politics has been somewhat skewed to the left in recent history, but Jews are also overrepresented in right-wing movements that are not anti-Semitic.

The default hypothesis seems to have more explanatory power and to be more parsimonious than MacDonald’s because it posits only two factors—IQ and geography—to explain Jewish overrepresentation in all (non-overtly anti-Semitic) intellectual activities: The two factors explain why Jews are more than half of world chess champions (Cochran et al. 2005) and why they comprised “[a]lmost one-half” of the elite American intellectuals in Kadushin’s (1974:23) sample (MacDonald 1998a:3). Of course, explanatory power and parsimony are not the only consideration: Agreement with empirical evidence is the ultimate arbiter. This paper attempts to determine whether the evidence favors MacDonald’s thesis or the default one.

The default hypothesis is not tied to any particular explanation of the cause of above-average Jewish IQ. Some researchers favor a genetic explanation. In an influential paper, Cochran et al. (2005) argued that during the Middle Ages Ashkenazim were selected for the intellectual ability to succeed in white-collar occupations. However, it is theoretically possible that the Jewish–gentile IQ gap is due at least in part to some yet-to-be-identified cultural factor (Nisbett 2009). Whatever the cause, high Jewish IQ presumably plays a role in Jewish overrepresentation in cognitively demanding activities.

Overview of Some Problems with the Arguments in The Culture of Critique

To review, the claim of The Culture of Critique is that “Jewish-dominated intellectual movements were a critical factor (necessary condition) for the triumph of the intellectual left in late twentieth-century Western societies” (MacDonald 1998a:17; see also 214–15).

[I]ndividuals who strongly identified as Jews have been the main motivating force behind several highly influential intellectual movements that have simultaneously subjected gentile culture to radical criticism and allowed for the continuity of Jewish identification. Together these movements comprise the intellectual and political left in this century, and they are the direct intellectual ancestors of current leftist intellectual and political movements, particularly postmodernism and multiculturalism (1988a:213).

While Jewish intellectual movements vary in their details, they have (according to The Culture of Critique) the same broad agenda to (a) subject gentile society to radical critique that undermines its traditional institutions, (b) attack white gentile ethnocentrism and unity (in order to weaken the potential for organized gentile resistance to Jewish domination), (c) “pathologize” anti-Semitism and obscure the fact that anti-Jewish attitudes may be a response to Jewish behavior, and (d) promote multiculturalism for white gentiles (in order to weaken gentile power) while promoting separatism for Jews and racial purity in Israel. Jewish movements are alleged to have been responsible for banishing Darwinian thinking from social science, promoting environmentalism as an explanation for individual and group differences in behavior, and proscribing the study of group differences in psychology. As noted, the way in which Jewish intellectual movements are organized—headed by charismatic, authoritarian leaders such as Freud and Boas—is supposedly analogous to the organization of traditional Judaism.

There are several categories of questionable argumentation in The Culture of Critique. The following is a preview—more detailed examples will be given in later sections.

The Same Behavior Is Interpreted Differently When Exhibited by Jews or Gentiles

A common pattern throughout The Culture of Critique is that the same behavior is given a different interpretation depending on whether it is performed by Jews or gentiles. For example, when gentiles assume leadership positions in radical movements (e.g., John Dewey, Carl Jung), it is because “gentiles have . . . been actively recruited to the movements . . . and given highly visible roles . . . in order to lessen the appearance that the movements are indeed Jewish-dominated or aimed only at narrow Jewish sectarian interests” (1988a:4). MacDonald calls this phenomenon “a major theme” of his book. Another explanation he gives for gentile involvement in radical politics is that “once Jews have attained intellectual predominance, it is not surprising that gentiles would be attracted to Jewish intellectuals as members of a socially dominant and prestigious group and as dispensers of valued resources” (1988a:3).

Of course, it is possible that in all these cases where Jews and gentiles were both involved in radical politics, the Jews were acting as ethnic activists while the gentiles were being manipulated. But this theory requires strong positive evidence to be credible. As shall be argued, MacDonald never provides such evidence.

Sources Are Cherry-Picked and Jewish Involvement in Anti-Jewish Activism Is Ignored

MacDonald says that “there is a broad Jewish consensus [in the US] on such issues as Israel” (1988a:305). Nowhere in the book does he acknowledge that a great deal of Jewish involvement in politics across time and place has been decidedly opposed to narrow Jewish interests, including Israel. The most influential Jewish radical in history, Karl Marx, held extremely anti-Jewish views (Marx 2010). The most influential Jewish radical alive—when The Culture of Critique was published and still to this day—is Noam Chomsky. Chomsky is mentioned one time in The Culture of Critique—in an endnote where MacDonald comments simply that he “could . . . be regarded as someone whose writings were not highly influenced by his Jewish identity and specifically Jewish interests” (1988a:154, n. 15). There is no mention of Chomsky’s extreme anti-Israel positions and opposition to Jewish nationalism. George Soros—possibly the most politically influential Jewish financier in the world and a major promotor of liberalism/multiculturalism—dissociates himself from the Jewish community and opposes Jewish interests (as MacDonald conceives them). He is not mentioned once in the book. MacDonald paints a picture of Jews as hypocrites who impose liberalism on gentiles and adopt nationalism for themselves, but he ignores the fact that many of the most influential Jews seem to promote liberalism and multiculturalism for both gentiles and Jews.

Just as problematically, in a number of cases MacDonald fails to report that Jews whom he identifies as ethnic activists took stands against Israel and other Jewish interests (again, defining “Jewish interests” in MacDonald’s terms as ethnic self-preservation).

The Failure of Jews to Support Overtly Anti-Semitic Movements Is Interpreted as Evidence of Extreme Jewish Ethnocentrism

Many twentieth-century Jews ostensibly abandoned their Jewish identity and sought to assimilate. MacDonald points out that these Jews often did not support gentile nationalist movements—which he acknowledges were anti-Semitic—and he argues that this is evidence that these Jews were insincere in their desire to assimilate and were actually engaging in “Jewish crypsis” (his term).

It is highly questionable whether this inference is justified. Twentieth-century anti-Semitic nationalist movements were generally not welcoming of ethnic Jews regardless of their desire to assimilate. And even if they were, it seems unreasonable to question a Jew’s desire to reject Judaism because he did not want to kill, expel, or oppress his (probably still-Jewish) family and former friends.

Sources Are Misrepresented

In numerous places in The Culture of Critique, references are given to support a claim but no support can be found in the original source, or the original source is misrepresented. Because the present paper is focused on the argument of the book, it only reports some of these misrepresentations where they significantly affect the argument. Also, for considerations of length, it only reports cases of mishandling of sources where the problems can be clearly exposed in a reasonable amount of space. Despite the fact that only some instances of mishandling of sources are reported here, these cases alone raise serious questions about MacDonald’s research practices.

No Evidence Is Ever Acknowledged to Count against the Theory

In many places, MacDonald himself brings up facts that seem to go against the predictions of his theory. While these individual facts may not in themselves necessarily refute his hypothesis, rather than revising his ideas or acknowledging that he cannot explain everything, he dogmatically insists that the apparent counterexamples actually support his views.

For example, he claims several times that Jews are opposed to affirmative action because it is against their ethnic interests (1988a:101, 105, n. 16, 308, 313, 315; see also 240–41). He says that affirmative action policies “would clearly preclude free competition between Jews and gentiles” (1988a:101) and, elsewhere, that they “would necessarily discriminate against Jews” (1988a:315). In a parenthetical, he notes that when an anti-affirmative action measure was put on the ballot in California, Jews voted for it “in markedly lower percentages” than other white groups (1988a:311). That is, Jews voted to support affirmative action. His explanation for this is that “because of their competitive advantage” among whites, “Jews may perceive themselves as benefiting from policies designed to dilute the power of the European-derived group as a whole on the assumption that they would not suffer any appreciable effect.” Again, he shows a facile tendency to spin an apparent disconfirmation of his theory as actually a verification of it.

Hundreds of Years of Gentile Radicalism Are Ignored

The reader of The Culture of Critique who has no knowledge of history is led to believe that European society was traditionally marked by “hierarchic harmony” (1988a:315) and naive, happy acceptance of traditional religion, institutions, and family relations. Then, after the Enlightenment, Jews emerged from the ghettos and commenced what was to be a 300-year war on the foundations of European culture. MacDonald ignores a long history of radical and critical gentile thought from the ancient Greek philosophers to Rousseau to the Social Gospel Movement to French existentialism to Bill Ayers to Peggy McIntosh and countless other examples.

Boasian Anthropology, Environmentalism, and Opposition to the Study of Race Differences

The second chapter of The Culture of Critique is titled “The Boasian School of Anthropology and the Decline of Darwinism in the Social Sciences.” MacDonald sees Boas as having been a strongly identified Jew who pursued (and distorted) science with the goal of preventing anti-Semitism. Boas and his followers in the 1920s promoted the idea that

American culture [was] overly homogeneous, hypocritical, and emotionally and esthetically repressive (especially with regard to sexuality). Central to [their] program was creating ethnographies of idyllic cultures that were free of the negatively perceived traits that were attributed to Western culture. Among these Boasians, cultural criticism crystallized as an ideology of “romantic primitivism” in which certain non-Western cultures epitomized the approved characteristics Western societies should emulate (1988a:28–29).

This passage and others throughout the chapter suggest that Boasians were the first to romanticize primitive cultures as “idyllic” and not subject to the ills of Western civilization. In reality, by Boas’s time this had been a major theme among many gentile intellectuals for more than 150 years. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who popularized the romantic image of “savages” in the eighteenth century, is mentioned once in The Culture of Critique—in passing, in an endnote (1988a:211, n. 35). According to Rousseau:

The more one reflects on it, the more one finds that this state [of primitive life] was the least subject to upheavals and the best for man, and that he must have left it only by virtue of some fatal chance happening that, for the common good, ought never have happened. The example of savages, almost all of whom have been found in this state, seems to confirm that the human race had been made to remain in it always (Rousseau 2011:74).

Not all eighteenth-century European intellectuals agreed that civilization was a mistake. But virtually all seemed to accept Rousseau’s characterization of primitive life as idyllic. His ideas, including his critique of Western civilization, played an important role in triggering the French Revolution and (later) in the development of socialism, especially by Marx. All in all, he was quite probably the most influential thinker of the eighteenth century in both the short and the long run (Durant and Durant 1967).

So, contrary to what is suggested in The Culture of Critique, the tradition of critiquing Western civilization by comparing it unfavorably to traditional cultures was neither developed nor made popular by Jews. But even if he was not its inventor, could it be that Boas promoted the Rousseauian view of “romantic primitivism” to advance Jewish interests? It is true that many of Boas’s students were Jews (e.g., Alexander Goldenweiser, Melville Herskovits, Robert Lowie, Paul Radin, Edward Sapir, and Leslie Spier)—not particularly surprising given the high concentration of Jews at Columbia University at the time. But the most effective and indefatigable “Boasians” were not Jewish. MacDonald (1988a:26) notes that the students of Boas who “achieved the greatest public renown” were the gentiles Ruth Benedict and Margaret Mead. He expounds: “As in several other prominent historical cases . . ., gentiles became the publicly visible spokespersons for a movement dominated by Jews.” According to MacDonald (1988a:27), Boas “strenuously promoted and cited” Benedict and Mead as part of a ruse to hide the fact that the whole movement was designed to promote Jewish interests.

But MacDonald does not supply any compelling reasons to think that Benedict and Mead were under the control of Boas. Even if we accept that Boas’s commitment to Jewish interests biased his science and made him critique Western society and promote environmentalist, culture-based explanations of human behavior, both Benedict and Mead were strong-willed, charismatic iconoclasts who seemed to be self-directed. Although MacDonald sees them as puppets of Boas, another possibility is that Benedict, Mead, and Boas were leaders of a somewhat misguided scientific movement, with Boas being technically the “teacher” because he happened to be a few years older, and Mead being the most influential. Criticizing Boas’s scientific standards, MacDonald says that he “completely accepted” Mead’s conclusions derived from a few months of fieldwork in Samoa and “uncritically allowed Ruth Benedict to distort his own data on the Kwakiutl” (1988a:28). But, taking MacDonald’s description of the facts at face value, this suggests that Mead and Benedict were, at least in these cases, taking the initiative to distort science for ideological ends. Perhaps it was the Jewish Boas who made them do this. Or perhaps, in the absence of compelling evidence to suggest otherwise, both Jews and gentiles occupied leadership roles in this movement in anthropology.

According to The Culture of Critique, Boasian anthropology was only the first Jewish salvo against hereditarianism and the study of race. A major theme in the book is that Jews were responsible for tabooing research on race differences, particularly in intelligence. MacDonald ignores the fact that influential gentiles have been well represented among environmentalists studying race differences in intelligence, and Jews have been clearly overrepresented among prominent hereditarians.

MacDonald (1988a:314) approvingly cites Ryan’s (1994:11) speculations on the psychology of the authors of The Bell Curve (Herrnstein and Murray 1994):

Herrnstein essentially wants the world in which clever Jewish kids or their equivalent make their way out of their humble backgrounds and end up running Goldman Sachs or the Harvard physics department, while Murray wants the Midwest in which he grew up—a world in which the local mechanic didn’t care two cents whether he was or wasn’t brighter than the local math teacher.

(Incidentally, Ryan’s article was published in the New York Review of Books—a journal that MacDonald repeatedly identifies as being an organ of Jewish interests.) This illustrates a blatant double standard applied to Jews and gentiles by MacDonald. The Jewish Richard Herrnstein, then head of the psychology department at Harvard, was the most prominent academic defender of hereditarianism regarding race differences in intelligence since WWII. Instead of accepting that Herrnstein is an example that does not support his thesis, MacDonald spins the facts by implying that Herrnstein supported the theory of race differences in intelligence because it would promote his ethnic interests. In contrast, the gentile Murray is portrayed as having no such sinister motivations—only a wish, in MacDonald’s words, for “a society with harmony among the social classes and with social controls on extreme individualism among the elite” (1988a:314).

A reasonable list of the most high-profile advocates of hereditarianism might be the following: Hans Eysenck, Arthur Jensen, Richard Lynn, Linda Gottfredson, J. Philippe Rushton, and the aforementioned Herrnstein and Murray. Eysenck had a Jewish mother, making him Jewish by both Jewish law and MacDonald’s standards. Jensen was one-quarter Jewish, so he can be counted as a gentile. That means that two out of seven of the most prominent hereditarians were Jewish, making Jews extremely overrepresented in this group relative to their numbers in the general population.

Freud and Psychoanalysis

According to The Culture of Critique, “There is . . . evidence that Freud conceptualized himself as a leader in a war on gentile culture” (1988a:117). Psychoanalysis was a pseudoscientific movement designed to pathologize anti-Semitism and undermine gentile culture and social cohesion by attacking institutions regulating love and sex. “Psychoanalytic assertions [that sexual repression prevented relationships from being based on love and affection] were never any more than speculations in the service of waging a war on gentile culture” (1988a:126). Jews, led in the US by the “New York Intellectuals,” turned Freudianism into a secular religion, using it to attack the philosophical and institutional foundations of Western culture.

Let’s consider first Freud’s influence via the New York Intellectuals. MacDonald notes that of the top 21 American intellectuals according to peer ratings in the 1970s (Kadushin 1974), 15 were Jewish (and most were New York Intellectuals). Eleven of these 15, he says, were “‘significantly influenced by Freudian theory at some point in their careers,’” and 10 of those 11 held “liberal or radical political beliefs at some period of their career” (MacDonald 1998a:141, quoting/citing Torrey 1992:185). The implication is that these influential Jewish intellectuals promoted Freudianism to undermine gentile culture and advance their ethnic interests. But MacDonald leaves out some crucial information.

The 15 Jews among the top 21 intellectuals were (1) Daniel Bell, (2) Chomsky, (3) Irving Howe, (4) Norman Mailer, (5) Robert Silvers, (6) Susan Sontag, (7) Lionel Trilling, (8) Hannah Arendt, (9) Saul Bellow, (10) Paul Goodman, (11) Richard Hofstadter (Jewish father), (12) Irving Kristol, (13) Herbert Marcuse, (14) Norman Podhoretz, and (15) David Riesman. A closer look shows that only two or three of these cases support MacDonald’s thesis, and several are clear counterexamples. First off, five of these intellectuals are, by MacDonald’s criteria, unambiguously anti-Israel and therefore opposed to Jewish interests. Chomsky was (and still is) arguably the world’s leading critic of Israel. Mailer tended to sympathize with the Palestinians (Theodoracopulos 2015). When Sontag accepted the Jerusalem Prize in 2001, she used the occasion to condemn Israel (Cockburn 2001). Marcuse (who will be discussed in more detail below) advocated the return of Arab refugees to Israel, ending Jewish control of the country (Marcuse 2005:181). Arendt was the student, promoter, and lover (in a romantic sense) of the Nazi philosopher Martin Heidegger. She was best known for her book Eichmann in Jerusalem (Arendt 1963), in which she argued that Israeli laws were comparable to the Nazi Nuremberg laws and that holocaust-orchestrator Eichmann had been given a “show trial” and was not a particularly bad person (just that he was prompted to do bad things by circumstances beyond his control—though she faults him for not being brave enough to protest). In 1948, Arendt (along with Einstein, Sidney Hook, and 24 other prominent Jews) signed a letter to the New York Times which described the political party of Menachem Begin as “closely akin in its organization, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties” (Shatz 2004:65).

Another intellectual on the list, Saul Bellow, was a conservative who opposed feminism, multiculturalism, and political correctness. Bellow urged Allan Bloom, another Jewish academic at the University of Chicago, to write The Closing of the American Mind (Bloom 1987), one of the most influential pro-traditionalist academic books in the past few decades (Ahmed and Grossman 2007).

It is ironic that MacDonald casts Robert Silvers as a part of a nefarious Jewish Freudian movement. In the paragraph immediately following the one in which he introduces this list of 15 Jewish intellectuals, MacDonald writes:

The link between psychoanalysis and the political left, as well as the critical role of Jewish-controlled media in the propagation of psychoanalysis, can be seen in the recent uproar [over] Frederick Crews’s critiques of the culture of psychoanalysis. The original articles were published in the New York Review of Books . . . (1988a:141).

Silvers is the longtime editor of the New York Review of Books, and one of the 11 whom MacDonald identifies as being influenced by Freud.1

Bell, Hofstadter, and Riesman were liberals, though not particularly extreme, not known for promoting Freud, and not seriously involved in Jewish causes. (Bell 1962:16 described his perspective as “anti-ideological, but not conservative,” and he criticized utopian schemes such as Marxism as well as aspects of the prevailing social order.) Trilling may have been a nominal Marxist in the 1930s (D. Sidorsky, personal communication), though he evinced little interest in Jewish causes and his ethnic awareness seemed to be triggered mainly when he faced anti-Semitism. Goodman had no apparent interest in his fellow Jews, though he identified as an anarchist, so by MacDonald’s criteria might be considered an enemy of gentile culture. Howe was a liberal who supported as well as criticized Israel. That leaves the neoconservatives Kristol and Podhoretz. Kristol and Podhoretz became decidedly anti-liberal, though later in their careers they openly and aggressively supported Israel, Jewish interests, and, in Podhoretz’s case, unfettered immigration to the US.

The naive reader of The Culture of Critique would think that 11 of 15 top Jewish intellectuals were using Freudianism to attack the traditions of gentile culture while promoting separatism for Jews in the US and in Israel. MacDonald makes this conclusion fairly explicit:

Of these [15 Jewish intellectuals], only Noam Chomsky could possibly be regarded as someone whose writings were not highly influenced by his Jewish identity and specifically Jewish interests. The findings taken together indicate that the American intellectual scene has been significantly dominated by specifically Jewish interests and that psychoanalysis has been an important tool in advancing these interests (1988a:154, n. 15—partially quoted earlier).

But the evidence reviewed above suggests that this is a serious distortion of the facts. Even if it is true that 11/15 of these intellectuals were influenced by Freud “at some point in their careers,” virtually none of them comes close to conforming to MacDonald’s paradigm of a Jewish radical. Only one—Podhoretz—could be accused of hypocritically advocating different immigration policies for the US and Israel, though he was/is not a liberal and Freudianism played no meaningful role in his thinking. On the other hand, we clearly find that several people on the list—a list cited by MacDonald himself to support his thesis—are serious counterexamples to the theory of Judaism as a group evolutionary strategy. We find on this list possibly the world’s leading critic of Israel (Chomsky), a liberal who advocates the same immigration policies for the US and Israel (Marcuse), a leading advocate of traditional Western values (Bellow), and several others who, to varying degrees, were opposed or indifferent to Israel and Jewish interests.

MacDonald brings voluminous evidence that Freud strongly identified as a Jew. Based on numerous sources, he argues that Freud was unconditionally committed to promoting Jewish interests, that he “pathologized” anti-Semitism, and that he attacked gentile culture because he saw it as a threat to Jews (1988a:146). MacDonald emphasizes numerous times throughout the book that “scientist-activists” like Freud developed theories to show that “Jewish behavior [is] irrelevant to anti-Semitism” (1988a:17; see also 142, 146). He claims that Moses and Monotheism “contains several assertions that anti-Semitism is fundamentally a pathological gentile reaction to Jewish ethical superiority,” citing Freud (1967:114–17) (MacDonald 1998a:120). However, while pages 114–17 of this edition of Moses and Monotheism do discuss anti-Semitism, there is nothing about ethics/morality at all, let alone the ethical superiority of Jews or Judaism. (MacDonald did not respond to an email asking what he was referring to.)

Although Freud certainly did have a Jewish identity—if only because he was continually reminded of it by anti-Semites—MacDonald does not tell the full story. Consider the following incident (not described in The Culture of Critique). In 1929, Jews attempted to erect a partition screen to separate men and women at the Western Wall. In response, Arabs killed 29 Jews in Hebron, which led to riots in which 120 Jews and 87 Arabs were killed. A representative of the Zionist organization Keren Hayesod asked Freud to sign a petition condemning the Arabs for initiating the violence. Freud refused to sign, explaining that the Jews were partly responsible for inviting violence on themselves: “I concede with sorrow that the unrealistic fanaticism of our people is in part to be blamed for the awakening of Arab distrust” (Freud 2004). This episode undermines MacDonald’s caricature of Freud as a monomaniacal activist dedicated to excusing Jewish behavior and pathologizing anti-Semitism.

The Frankfurt School and Critical Theory

Chapter 5 of The Culture of Critique is titled “The Frankfurt School of Social Research and the Pathologization of Gentile Group Allegiances.” It focuses on the alleged hypocrisy of members of the Frankfurt School in advocating for collectivism among Jews in both Israel and the diaspora, and pathologizing any feelings of group allegiance in white gentiles. MacDonald sees the Frankfurt School as having influenced the field of psychology particularly through the publication of The Authoritarian Personality (Adorno et al. 1950), a book published as part of a series called Studies in Prejudice. He concludes that “the agenda of the Frankfurt School” was to facilitate “radical individualism . . . among gentiles while retaining a powerful sense of group cohesion among Jews” (1988a:215). “[T]he central agenda of The Authoritarian Personality is to pathologize gentile group strategies while nevertheless leaving open the possibility of Judaism as a minority group strategy” (1988a:172). The Frankfurt School influenced the humanities through the development of “critical theory.”

The main problem with MacDonald’s argument is that he interprets criticism of nationalism in gentile groups to indicate approval of Jewish nationalism as long as the latter is not explicitly condemned. He never cites positive evidence that representatives of the Frankfurt School approved of Jewish nationalism, and he ignores evidence that they in fact disapproved of it. Leaving aside the question of the scholarly merits of the Frankfurt School or The Authoritarian Personality, there is no positive evidence that members of the Frankfurt School were hypocrites who condemned collectivism in gentiles and promoted it for Jews.

In his critique of The Authoritarian Personality, MacDonald emphasizes “the double standard in which gentile behavior inferred from high scores on the F-scale or the Ethnocentrism Scales is viewed as an indication of psychopathology, whereas precisely the same behavior is central to Judaism as a group evolutionary strategy” (1988a:168). But nowhere does he present evidence that Adorno et al. approved of this behavior in Jews, which is what would be necessary for them to have a “double standard.” MacDonald just assumes that they approve of this behavior because they were Jewish. Regarding the claim in The Authoritarian Personality that anti-Semitism is associated with a strong in-group ideology, MacDonald comments that “the implication is that strong ingroup ideologies should be reserved for Jews and are dangerous in others” (1988a:170). But nowhere is this actually stated in The Authoritarian Personality. It seems the “implication” is strong in MacDonald’s mind because of the nefarious motives he attributes to the Jewish authors. This does not count as evidence.

To illustrate how The Authoritarian Personality is anti-gentile, MacDonald singles out a chapter by R. Nevitt Sanford (who, incidentally, was a gentile). In MacDonald’s words:

R. Nevitt Sanford . . . finds that affiliation with various Christian religious sects is associated with ethnocentrism, and that individuals who have rebelled against their parents and adapted another religion or no religion are lower on ethnocentrism. These relationships are explained as due to the fact that acceptance of a Christian religion is associated with “conformity, conventionalism, authoritarian submission, determination by external pressures, thinking in ingroup-outgroup terms and the like vs. nonconformity, independence, internalization of values, and so forth” (Adorno et al. 1950:220). Again, individuals identifying strongly with the ideology of a majority group are viewed as suffering from psychopathology, yet Judaism as a viable religion would necessarily be associated with these same psychological processes (MacDonald 1998a:174–75).

MacDonald cites Sanford out of context and totally misrepresents his conclusion. First, when Sanford refers to “conformity, conventionalism, authoritarian submission . . .,” he is notcharacterizing Christian belief. He says that to understand the relation between religion and ethnocentrism, we must consider what psychological factors play a role in the individual’s acceptance or rejection, such as “conformity, conventionalism, authoritarian submission.” He is not talking specifically about Christianity, and he says explicitly that these factors do not play a role in “genuine” Christianity. He clearly distinguishes between nominal Christians who adopt the religion of their parents or of the majority simply because they tend to submit to authority, and those “whose religion would appear to be ‘genuine,’ in the sense that it was arrived at more or less independently of external pressure and takes the form of internalized values” (Adorno et al. 1950:220). Sanford says that the latter—the “genuine” Christians—“tend to score low, often very low, on ethnocentrism.”

Second, Sanford characterizes traditional Christianity in a positive, not a negative, way. He refers to “Christian humanism which works against prejudice” (Adorno et al. 1950:215). He writes that “in America today,” the “traditional Christian values of tolerance, brotherhood, and equality” appear to be “more firmly held by people who do not affiliate with any religious group,” though “genuine” Christians low in ethnocentrism “probably predominate in [certain] Protestant denominations” (Adorno et al. 1950:219–20). Thus Sanford identifies the values promoted by the Frankfurt School with Christianity, not Judaism.

MacDonald (1998a:240) approvingly cites Jay’s (1973:32) statement on the Frankfurt School: “What strikes the current observer is the intensity with which many of the Institute’s members denied, and in some cases still deny, any meaning at all to their Jewish identities.” MacDonald sees this denial as “crypsis”—members of the Frankfurt School “conceal[ed] their Jewish identities . . . [and] engage[d] in massive self-deception.” Jewish intellectual movements “typically [occur] in an atmosphere of Jewish crypsis or semi-crypsis in the sense that the Jewish political agenda [is] not an aspect of the theory and the theories themselves [have] no overt Jewish content” (1988a:241). But again, in the case of the Frankfurt School, there is no positive evidence for this, and MacDonald ignores the evidence against it. For example, in his discussion of Erich Fromm, a leading proponent of the Frankfurt School, MacDonald writes: “The irony (hypocrisy?) is that Fromm and the other members of the Frankfurt School, as individuals who strongly identified with a highly collectivist group (Judaism), advocated radical individualism for the society as a whole” (1988a:142). Here is what Fromm said about Israel: “The claim of the Jews to the land of Israel cannot be a realistic political claim. If all nations would suddenly claim territories in which their forefathers lived two thousand years ago, this world would be a madhouse” (Woolfson 1980:13). As mentioned earlier, Marcuse, one of the principal leaders of the school, is on record advocating exactly the same policies for Israel as he advocated for majority-white-gentile countries. Marcuse suggested that Arabs who were displaced when Israel was created should return, even though “such a return would quickly transform the Jewish majority into a minority.” Marcuse explained:

[I]t is precisely the policy aiming at a permanent majority which is self-defeating. . . . To be sure, Israel would be able to sustain a Jewish majority by means of an aggressive immigration policy. . . . [L]asting protection for the Jewish people cannot be found in the creation of a self-enclosed, isolated, fear-stricken majority, but only in the coexistence of Jews and Arabs as citizens with equal rights and liberties (Marcuse 2005:181).

Again, by MacDonald’s own standards, this makes Marcuse anti-Israel and opposed to Jewish interests.

Communism

One Jewish radical who is conspicuous for not being labeled an ethnic activist in The Culture of Critique is the most influential of them all: Karl Marx. Marx not only rejected his Jewish heritage, he went out of his way to express and promote viciously anti-Semitic views. In private correspondence, he smeared his socialist rival Ferdinand Lassalle (another Jew) with extremely anti-Semitic slurs and described Lassalle’s physical appearance, mannerisms, and habits as exemplifying unflattering Jewish characteristics (Gilman 1984:37). (The target of these obloquies, who was a major figure in his time, also held anti-Jewish views. In Lassalle’s words: “I do not like the Jews at all. I even detest them in general. . . . I have no contact with them”; Gilman 1984:37.) Most notorious is Marx’s 1844 essay, On the Jewish Question, which contains the famous lines: “What is the worldly religion of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly God? Money. . . . An organization of society which would abolish the preconditions for huckstering, and therefore the possibility of huckstering, would make the Jew impossible” (Marx 2010:170).

According to MacDonald (1998a:54), Marx held that “Judaism, freed from the principle of greed, would continue to exist in the transformed society after the revolution (Katz 1986:113).” However, page 113 of Katz (1986) makes no reference or allusion of any kind to Marx or his ideas. In regard to Marx’s views on Jewish peoplehood, Katz (1986:122) cites only his view that (in Katz’s words) “Jews qua Jews would become liberated from their Judaism to take up their place as human beings in the socialist society of the future.”

Marx, Lassalle, and many other Jewish radicals who espoused anti-Semitic views might seem to be counterexamples to the thesis that Jews are uniquely ethnocentric. In any case, although MacDonald says little about Marx himself, he sees Marx-inspired ideologies, particularly Bolshevism, as bona fide Jewish intellectual movements designed to undermine gentile society and preserve Jewish separatism. The evidence for this claim, however, is not compelling.

MacDonald (1998a:80) cites Pipes’s (1993:112) suggestion that Jewish overrepresentation among Bolsheviks requires no special explanation because Jews were overrepresented in many fields—science, business, art, and so on. MacDonald rejects this idea with the following argument:

[E]ven assuming that these ethnically Jewish communists did not identify as Jews, such an argument fails to explain why such “de-ethnicized” Jews (as well as Jewish businessmen, artists, writers and scientists) should have typically been overrepresented in leftist movements and underrepresented in nationalist, populist, and other types of rightist political movements: Even if nationalist movements are anti-Semitic, as has often been the case, anti-Semitism should be irrelevant if these individuals are indeed completely deethnicized as Pipes proposes. Jewish prominence in occupations requiring high intelligence is no argument for understanding their very prominent role in communist and other leftist movements and their relative underrepresentation in nationalist movements.

This response to Pipes seems unconvincing. First, anti-Semitic nationalist movements generally targeted Jews regardless of their self-identity. Jews who identified as “Russian” or “Polish” would still have been discouraged, if not outright prohibited, from joining these movements as equal participants. Second, even “de-ethnicized” Jews might find it difficult to accept anti-Semitic caricatures of Jews due simply to their close contact with Jewish family and former friends.

For MacDonald, having a strong Jewish identity appears to be the only reason not to support anti-Semitic movements. As he says:

Even the most highly assimilated Jewish communists working in urban areas with non-Jews were upset by the Soviet-German nonaggression pact but were relieved when the German-Soviet war finally broke out . . .—a clear indication that Jewish personal identity remained quite close to the surface (1988a:62).

On the Nazi-Soviet nonaggression pact:

The nonaggression pact provoked a great deal of rationalization on the part of Jewish [Communist Party USA] members, often involving an attempt to interpret the Soviet Union’s actions as actually benefiting Jewish interests—clearly an indication that these individuals had not given up their Jewish identities. Others continued to be members but silently opposed the party’s line because of their Jewish loyalties (1988a:73).

Again, he interprets any objection to anti-Semitism—even silent opposition—as evidence that Jews are uniquely ethnocentric.

MacDonald devotes eight pages to “communism and Jewish identification in Poland” (1988a:61–69). A key claim in this section, based on work by Schatz (1991), is that the communist power structure was dominated by Jews seeking to preserve “Jewish group continuity in Poland while . . . destroy[ing] institutions . . . and . . . manifestations of Polish nationalism that promoted social cohesion among Poles” (1988a:68). He emphasizes repeatedly—based on Schatz (1991)—that the security service was devoted to this goal:

The core members of the security service came from the Jewish communists who had been communists before the establishment of the Polish communist government, but these were joined by other Jews sympathetic to the government and alienated from the wider society. . . . Jewish members of the internal security force often appear to have been motivated by personal rage and a desire for revenge related to their Jewish identity (MacDonald 1998a:66).

However, MacDonald leaves out a key fact noted by Schatz (1991:225), which is that 40% of the victims of the secret police were Jewish. Since the Jewish population of Poland at the time was miniscule (less than half of 1% of the population in 1949; see Schatz 1991:208), Jews were extremely disproportionately likely to be attacked by the security service. These data are more consistent with the thesis that Jews were simply more likely to be in positions of power—more likely to be in the position to persecute others, and more likely to be perceived as rivals by those in power, so more likely to be persecuted. There is no convincing evidence supporting the tale of Jews qua Jews victimizing gentiles for revenge on a significant scale.

Diversity and Immigration

According to The Culture of Critique, “[the Jewish Horace] Kallen’s idea of cultural pluralism as a model for the United States was popularized among gentile intellectuals by John Dewey . . ., who in turn was promoted by Jewish intellectuals” (1988a:250). MacDonald points out that the editors of Partisan Review “published work by Dewey and called him ‘America’s leading philosopher’” and Dewey’s student, Sidney Hook, “was also unsparing in his praise of Dewey, terming him ‘the intellectual leader of the liberal community in the United States’” (1988a:250). Notice that, earlier, MacDonald argued that Margaret Mead was a puppet of her less-famous Jewish teacher, Boas. Here he argues that Dewey was being manipulated by his less famous, albeit Jewish, student, Sidney Hook. What is the reason why Dewey’s actions should be attributed to Jews?

Dewey was highly influential with the public at large. Henry Commager described Dewey as “the guide, the mentor, and the conscience of the American people; it is scarcely an exaggeration to say that for a generation no issue was clarified until Dewey had spoken” (in Sandel 1996:36). Dewey was the foremost advocate of “progressive education” and helped establish the New School for Social Research and the American Civil Liberties Union, both essentially Jewish organizations (MacDonald 1998a:250).

MacDonald concludes that Dewey “represented the public face of a movement dominated by Jewish intellectuals.”

Of course, any intellectual in late-nineteenth-to-mid-twentieth-century New York City was going to have a lot of Jewish associates. Where is the positive evidence that Dewey’s monumental success was the result of being propped up by Jewish ethnic activists? MacDonald (1988a:250) quotes Sandel’s (1996:35) opinion that Dewey’s “lack of presence as a writer, speaker, or personality makes his popular appeal something of a mystery.” But one explanation for Dewey’s success is that people were taken with his ideas rather than with his personal charisma. This would explain how he came to be extremely influential in China, where he was known as “a Second Confucius” (Grange 2004), even though there were no Jews there to promote him.

The President’s Commission on Immigration and Naturalization (1953:92–93) cited five experts who submitted testimony denying innate race differences in psychology. Two of these experts were Jewish (Ashley Montagu and Philip Hauser). One of the three gentiles was Mead. Another gentile—former president of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) Ralph L. Beals—reported that the AAA unanimously rejected innate race differences. To MacDonald (1998a:254), the followers of Boas were using the “ideology of racial equality [as] an important weapon on behalf of opening immigration up to all human groups.” (Boas himself died in 1942.)

An irony here is that the issue under consideration in this section of the commission’s report was not whether there were innate differences between whites and nonwhites, but whether there were innate differences between “Nordic” whites and other whites that justified limiting immigration from the latter group. The report cites Madison Grant:

The new immigration . . . contained a large and increasing number of the weak, the broken, and the mentally crippled of all [European] races drawn from the lowest stratum of the Mediterranean basin and the Balkans, together with hordes of the wretched, submerged populations of the Polish Ghettos. Our jails, insane asylums, and almshouses are filled with this human flotsam, and the whole tone of American life, social, moral, and political, has been lowered and vulgarized by them (President’s Commission on Immigration and Naturalization 1953:92).

MacDonald repeatedly cites Grant complaining that Jews opposed his (Grant’s) ideas. But in opposing the theory of Nordic superiority, Jews were effectively promoting, not undermining, white unity. Of course, many “Boasian” Jews argued that there were no differences between any races, but in the early twentieth century they were advocating immigration from all white countries whereas their opponents wanted to restrict immigration from non-Nordic white countries such as Italy and Poland.

According to The Culture of Critique, “American Jews have had no interest in proposing that immigration to Israel should be . . . multiethnic, or that Israel should have an immigration policy that would threaten the hegemony of Jews” (1988a:320). Regarding Jewish hypocrisy, MacDonald says:

Whereas American Jews have been in the forefront of efforts to ensure ethnic diversity in the United States and other Western societies, 40 percent of the [Israeli] Jewish respondents [in a 1988 survey reported in Smooha (1990:403)] agree that Israel should encourage Israeli Arabs to leave the country, 37 percent had reservations, and only 23 percent objected to such a policy. . . . Moreover, immigration to Israel is officially restricted to Jews (1988a:321).

Hypocrisy is when a person or group espouses values but applies them inconsistently. In order to attribute hypocrisy to people, it is necessary to identify the inconsistency in those people. MacDonald says that American Jews support multiculturalism, then cites a survey suggesting that many Israeli Jews advocate policies that are inconsistent with multicultural values. To justify the charge of hypocrisy it is necessary to find individual Jews advocating multiculturalism for the US and opposing it in Israel. Such Jews may exist, but there is no evidence that this is the norm. MacDonald treats the positions espoused by one Jew or group of Jews as a statement on behalf of the Jewish community and concludes that Jews are hypocrites because different Jews advocate policies that are mutually inconsistent. An alternative interpretation of the data is that Jews vary to some extent in their views among individuals and groups, in a way typical of other ethnicities.

Furthermore, the claim that immigration to Israel is restricted to Jews—even nominal Jews—was and is false. Since 1970, Israel will give automatic citizenship to anyone with one Jewish grandparent and their non-Jewish spouse and children (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs 2013). Hundreds of thousands of gentiles were granted Israeli citizenship because of this policy (Felter 2009). (An exact estimate is difficult to give since Israelis with no Jewish ancestors, or only a distant one, may identify as Jewish in surveys.)

It is also false that liberal Jews do not promote ethnic diversity in Israel. MacDonald says that Jews have supported black integration in the US “because such policies dilute Caucasian power and lessen the possibility of a cohesive, nationalist anti-Semitic Caucasian majority . . . while pursuing an anti-assimilationist, nationalist group strategy for their own group” (1988a:257). “American Jews have had no interest in proposing that immigration to Israel should be . . . multiethnic” (1988a:320). The Culture of Critique makes no mention of the fact that many of the same liberal Jews who advocate on behalf of blacks in the US pushed for the immigration of large numbers of nominally Jewish Ethiopians who have no genetic relation to other Jewish populations (Lucotte and Smets 1999). Israel, with around six million self-identified Jews (including at least a few hundred thousand who are not halachically Jewish), now contains a rapidly growing population of more than 135,000 Ethiopians (Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute 2015). Alan Dershowitz, whom MacDonald (1998a:244, 318) identifies as an ethnic activist, played a leading role in pressuring the Israeli government to accept Africans who identify as Jews. In Dershowitz’s (2007) own words: “we have filed lawsuits, helped raise money, pressured leaders, and argued in the court of public opinion in favor of increased [multiethnic] immigration into Israel.”

At the end of The Culture of Critique, MacDonald asks what the ultimate consequences of Jewish-instituted liberal policies are likely to be in America. He suggests: “An important consequence—and one likely to have been an underlying motivating factor in the countercultural revolution—may well be to facilitate the continued genetic distinctiveness of the Jewish gene pool in the United States” (1988a:318). It is difficult to square this claim with the fact that Reform and unaffiliated Jews—the ones who participated in these liberal/multicultural movements—have an intermarriage rate of 50% and 69%, respectively (Pew Research Center 2013:37). (This may be an underestimate of intermarriage rates since Reform converts were counted as Jewish in Pew’s survey.) In fact, it is only those Jews who, as a group, were much less involved in national politics—the orthodox—who have low intermarriage rates and high fertility. MacDonald states that Jewish activists have increasingly started to see traditional Judaism as a better means of preserving group continuity. “Reform Judaism is becoming steadily more conservative, and there is a major effort within all segments of the Jewish community to prevent intermarriage. . . .” But contemporary Reform Judaism defines “intermarriage” as marriage between someone who identifies as a Jew and someone who identifies as a non-Jew. They care nothing for ethnic purity, and MacDonald never provides any evidence to the contrary.

Conclusion: Evidence Favors the Default Hypothesis, and MacDonald Does Not Represent Evolutionary Psychology

MacDonald claims that several major twentieth-century liberal intellectual and political movements were consciously or unconsciously designed by Jews as part of a group evolutionary strategy to undermine gentile societies while preserving cohesion and continuity among themselves. High intelligence and ethnocentrism are supposedly genetic adaptations that help Jews pursue this strategy. According to the “default hypothesis” proposed in this paper, Jews, having relatively high mean levels of general intelligence and being concentrated in major cities, tend to be overrepresented in cognitively demanding fields, activities, and movements that are not overtly anti-Semitic, regardless of whether they are liberal or conservative. Anticipating this alternative explanation for Jewish overrepresentation in liberal movements, MacDonald seeks to protect his theory from being falsified by evidence that supports the default hypothesis:

As anti-Semitism develops, Jews begin to abandon the very movements for which they originally provided the intellectual impetus. This phenomenon may also occur in the case of multiculturalism. Indeed, many of the most prominent opponents of multiculturalism are Jewish neoconservatives, as well as organizations such as the National Association of Scholars (NAS), which have a large Jewish membership (1988a:313).

After arguing so strenuously that liberal movements were designed to advance a Jewish group evolutionary strategy, he acknowledges that Jews are also in the vanguard in the fight against those same movements.

In recent years, Jews have continued to produce examples favoring the default hypothesis. The most high-profile opponent of liberal activism in social science is, without question, Jonathan Haidt (see Duarte et al. 2015), who is Jewish. The most high-profile advocate of incorporating Darwinism into the social sciences is another Jew, Steven Pinker (e.g., Pinker 2002). The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE)—the most prominent organization that defends free speech on campus, primarily the speech of conservatives—was founded by Alan Charles Kors and Harvey A. Silverglate, both Jewish. There is reason to believe that Jews played a significant role in Donald Trump’s election and, specifically, in his anti-immigration policies (Dolsten 2017). The term “paleoconservative,” referring to a pro-white, pro-Western-tradition political doctrine, was coined by Herbert Marcuse’s PhD student Paul Gottfried, who is Jewish. Gottfried was also the first person to publicly use the term “alternative right” to refer to a race-conscious conservatism that opposes immigration and multiculturalism (Siegel 2016). The only major white nationalist organization that is not anti-Semitic is American Renaissance. Out of the 10 invited speakers at the first American Renaissance conference in 1994, four were Jewish (American Renaissance 2017).

Salter (2000) notes that many of the sources cited in The Culture of Critique are “mainstream.” Indeed, while the Judaism-as-a-group-evolutionary-strategy trilogy has the accoutrements of sound scholarship, such as detailed endnotes and extensive bibliographies to sources that are themselves credible, the evidence reviewed here suggests that this is a smokescreen. MacDonald’s theory is built on misrepresented sources, cherry-picked facts, and assiduous refusal to consider the more parsimonious default hypothesis that the evidence actually supports.

Finally, let us turn to the question of MacDonald’s relationship with evolutionary psychology. Some opponents of evolutionary psychology have taken his conclusions as the more or less inevitable outcome of applying evolutionary theory to Judaism. Some supporters of evolutionary psychology (such as D. S. Wilson and others listed earlier) have also claimed that MacDonald is correctly applying evolutionary psychological thinking to Judaism. But misrepresenting sources and distorting history are not part of the methods of evolutionary psychology, or any other legitimate academic discipline. Those who have competently applied insights from evolutionary theory to the study of Judaism (e.g., Goldberg 2009; Konner 2003) have come to very different conclusions than we find in The Culture of Critique. It is they, not MacDonald, who should be treated as representatives of evolutionary psychology and biosocial science.

Footnotes

  1. 1.

    MacDonald’s (1988a:154, n. 15) list of the four who were not influenced by Freud does not include Silvers.

Notes

Acknowledgments

Thanks to Jonathan Anomaly, Steven Pinker, Neven Sesardić, David Sidorsky, and two reviewers for Human Nature for helpful comments on earlier drafts of this paper.

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This essay was originally published at Human Nature.

A World of Lies: Understanding and Refuting Holocaust Denial

When we are talking about “ideology,” we are inundated with a sense of relativism about what is “true” or “political.”  On some level, this means there is an idea that politics are just a matter of perspective and opinion.  There is an aspect of truth to that: that the way you see the world is a matter of how you organize it, but this misses a fundamental dynamic.  For the radical right and neo-fascism, it is not just an implicit politics driven by a lens by which they see events and facts.  It requires certain things to actually be true, and not just a matter of interpretation

This sense of “truth” has to be allied with their claims.  The idea that people are generally “unequal,” that some are innately inferior to others.  That biological and genetic groups have biological allegiances to each other and that “in group/out group” dynamics are built in to ethnicity.  That race is a good signifier of biological difference and social particularities.  That a conspiracy of certain groups, often Jews, are actually controlling world events through their superior intelligence vying for increased resources through the destruction of national identities.  For fascists to build a complex ideology, they need these statements to be literally and objectively true, and without that the legitimacy of their perspective unravels.

If the narrative that they prop up is to have any credibility they need to have some evidence to support most of its political ideas.  The idea that human beings are best stratified rather than socially horizontal.  That democracy is a sham since only a natural aristocracy is able to rule.  That immigration, affirmative action, and racial justice are useless since not all races share an equal intelligence level.  They must implant those ideas into different disciplines and fields of thought so they can then reference those areas as evidence for ideology.  This is not usually done by actually injecting these ideas into the academy, though that does happen occasionally.  Instead, they come in from the outside so they can infect the dialogue in the “popularization” of academic discourse.  Therefore, things like race and IQ arguments play only inside amateur blogosphere circles, not inside actual academic conferences focusing on biology research through peer-review.

Fascism is built entirely on this untruth.  It needs it to survive.

They will have to completely rewrite our intellectual foundations, hollowing out and rebuilding science, history, philosophy, and integrated studies onto a world of outright lies.  For anyone that has spent time reading and listening to the intellectual core of the 21st century fascist movement, it will be obvious that many of these people are incredibly sincere.  Often they feel as though they are telling the truth in a world where the truth is persecuted.  In reality, they are driven by very deep feelings that nullify the common understandings of disciplines like history and evolutionary biology, where by their strong conviction requires uprooting the academic traditions if they are to make sense of the world.  How can racial nationalism be a normal and healthy thing if the Holocaust resulted from it?  How can we continue to argue for racial hierarchies and group formations when all contemporary science disregards race as a useful category?  Instead of thinking with the critical nature useful in the academy, they indulge their biases and search for intellectual justifications.  Many are even open about this, with Richard Spencer of the National Policy Institute and the Radix Journal mentioning this dynamic in his discussion of how he came to his political beliefs.  In a later conversation with the Political Cesspool’s James Edwards he makes a very sincere mention that often times your political and social background can “change the way we see facts.”[1]  He does not let himself off the hook for this even though he is talking about contemporary leftists around the Michael Brown killing, and this is certainly the case when those on the radical right choose very marginal studies and histories over the consensus opinion without a compelling reason other than confirmation bias.  They come to their ideological opinions first, then piece out whatever scraps of academic work they can use to build a structural foundation to rely on, even though those scraps are few and far between.

While it appears that this process is only happening on the fringes of the culture, it contributes sharply to a general social “mistruth.”  In the same way that obscure conspiracy theories can create distrust in complex historical narratives, or the failure of the medical establishment opens up cracks that completely untested “alternative medicine” can appear as sincere treatment, or the establishment of points of untruth about certain areas of study can have very real effects on the rest of society.  Radical analysis, science and technology are built on basic factual understandings, even if those are skewed by perception and ideology.  Disinformation allows for manipulation because the mass of information afforded in a modern technological society does not have the ability to be differentiated between those with legitimacy and those artificially constructed.

This is not a dynamic invented by white nationalists, and has instead been fostered in the “fake news” infrastructure of the contemporary American right, with talk radio, Fox News, Breitbart, Heat Street, and others pushing this extreme misuse of facts all the way into the White House.  At this point, the truth is up for political debate, a tool of ideology rather than reality.

This can destroy very constructive social projects built on analysis because researched and sourced ideas often have to compete with sensationalistic rumors.  Outside of a racial and political context, this happened very clearly with climate change.  As the evidence about the correlation between human behavior and global warming mounted, an ideological core with financial interests in continuing mass fossil fuel extraction mounted counter-information campaigns on a massive scale.

One note that is important in this discussion is that by presenting this paradigm it is not meant to validate contemporary elitist liberal notions about the sanctity of civil and educational discourse.  Facts are pliable in the same way perception is, and dominant ideologies and social systems underscore our filtration in all periods and all societies.  The deconstruction of that matrix is part of radical analysis, and revolutionary processes, but the fascist attack on facts is done to undermine our understandings of the physical world and the people in it.  Plainly put, it is a way for them to counter our underlying assumptions of the world to build their own superstructure atop it.

Fascists have often tried to use “crossover” points to bridge their politics to a less politicized group of people.  This happens by using topics where they can easily manipulate data and where average people do not have the immediate tools to refute them.  Fascist ideologues will take a known point, say a historical event or reading of science, and then shift it towards a small minority of evidence that would support their broader ideological points.  They can then use certain fields of rupture in discourse, such as conspiracy theory or “alternative” science, whereby they play on a general distrust of “the system” to provide entry point for their ideas.  Since most people are not well equipped to refute many falsehoods that make scientific sounding claims and pull at arcane and inaccessible data, it has the ability of creating distrust in the conventional narrative and sowing the seeds first for their “evidence” and then, later, for a fascist politic.

 

Killing Collective Memory

For a long time, Holocaust Denial was this crossover point.   The purpose of Holocaust Denial is multidinous, but the central function is the recovery of the idea of the racialized state or racialized society.  In recent memory, the most “successful” example of racial nationalism was the Third Reich.  It is one of the only modern examples of a fully realized fascist state built on racialist principles.  It does vary from the more “generic fascism” in that it was carelessly imperialistic, was even more ruthlessly genocidal, and, to a degree, bizarrely anti-rational and filled with silly superstitions.[2]  Scholar of Comparative Fascist Studies, Roger Griffin, noted that the obsession that modern neo-fascist movements have with Nazi Germany was bound to happen, the two will always be linked in the mythic role Hitler and the Third Reich hold because of its shocking success at meetings its aims.

Nazism was bound to provide a role model to post-war fascists committed to a racist vision of national ‘cleansing’ from degeneration.  For one thing, it was one of only two of “their” movements to have achieved state power…It was the racist aspect of Nazism, however, that was the most significant for a new generation of white neo-fascists who were less alarmed by the political or military weakness of their ‘home’ nation than by the erosion of their pan-European ethnic identity through the impact of mass immigration and multiculturalism.[3]

For the rest of the public, the brutal cruelty of the Holocaust forever demystified racial nationalism in the eyes of the world community, associating it rightly with violence and oppression.  Nazi Germany is the cleanest example of this, but it is also the most clearly realized politic of racialism and anti-Semitism.  The results of these politics were forever exemplified by the crematoria at Auschwitz, something that Alt Right advocates of the “Ethnostate” can never recover from.  As Leonard Zeskind puts it when looking at the far-right Liberty Lobby’s Willis Carto and the creation of the first institutionalized Holocaust Denial campaign within white nationalism, getting rid of the baggage of the past was crucial to building a movement built on racial nationalism.

Willis Carto (and others) needed to rewrite the history of World War Two: it was central, not peripheral, to their white supremacist project.  They all believed a civilization-level change had occurred with the defeat of Hitler…Mainstream historians, although starting from different premises, reached similar conclusions: the fight against racism and fascism in Europe had discredited these ideologies among America’s decision-making elites.[4]

To return to that politic, there is an incredible need to undo the Holocaust so that the function of racial nationalism can be disassociated with the most disgusting atrocity of the 20th century.

It is also important to take Jews off of the register as victims of genocide, and to continue to aid in the general conspiracy theory that is required for white nationalist anti-Semitism.  If they are to place Jews at the top of the pyramid of racial revenge, bent on controlling and destroying the “sovereignty” of the white race, then it is not impossible for them to have been victims of such violence.  Many people on the far-right have actually wanted to maintain a narrative of Jewish genocide in as much as they are open about the degree to which they have a ravenous hatred of Jewry.  This is much of the dichotomy that Leonard Zeskind lays out in Blood and Politics, where by the radical revolutionary politics positioned by the National Alliance and William Pierce refused to deny the Holocaust (at least to some degree) in that they shared the need for this level of destruction of the Jews.[5]  On the opposite end was Willis Cato, founder of the Liberty Lobby and the Populist Party, who needed Holocaust Denial as a centerpiece since there was no way they were going to achieve “white populism” with nationalism having that level of blood on its hands.[6]  The choice between the two is whether or not you want to use the Holocaust to claim victory against the Jews, or to, in turn, deny that it happened so as to lighten the image of the Third Reich and continue to show how much control Jews have over the discourse of modern history.[7]  This is not to suggest that Pierce did not peddle in Holocaust Denial as his National Alliance certainly did sell classic works of denial as a way of drumming up anti-Semitic hysteria, he just did not want to rest his case against the Jews and for fascism in the strength of that argument.[8]

To actually deny the Holocaust, there are a few fracture points that deniers tend to go after.  Andrew E. Mathis explains a clear definition of Holocaust Denial that is in line with what the modern Hitler apologists contend.

Before discussing how Holocaust denial constitutes a conspiracy theory, and how the theory is distinctly American, it is important to understand what is meant by the term “Holocaust denial.” Holocaust deniers, or “revisionists,” as they call themselves, question all three major points of definition of the Nazi Holocaust. First, they contend that, while mass murders of Jews did occur (although they dispute both the intentionality of such murders as well as the supposed deservedness of these killings), there was no official Nazi policy to murder Jews. Second, and perhaps most prominently, they contend that there were no homicidal gas chambers, particularly at Auschwitz or Birkenau, where mainstream historians believe over 1 million Jews were murdered, primarily in gas chambers. And third, Holocaust deniers contend that the death toll of European Jews during World War II was well below 6 million. Deniers float numbers anywhere between 300,000 and 1.5 million, as a general rule.[9]

Since there are such varying claims inside of the Holocaust Denial camp, most of which completely contradict one another, it is almost impossible to keep a comprehensive deconstruction of all claims.  To do so would be a full-time project of simply going through increasingly bizarre theories that have no basis in fact.

One of the principle ideas that deniers put forward, as Mathis mentions, is that there was no direct order of extermination going all the way up to Hitler.  In Deborah Lipstadt’s book Denying the Holocaust, she traces a history of these denials from World War II forward.  This looks into the life and work of David Irving, a right-wing popular historian who skated a long road from apologetics to straight revisionism.  This started by altering his book Hitler’s War in later editions to remove reference to Hitler’s order of the Holocaust, as well as claims that Hitler did not have clear understandings of different German war efforts.  Leipstadt’s book made clear that Irving was a liar and a denier, doing so out of racial animus.  Irving, in turn, sued Leipstadt in British court for libel.  Since Liepstadt refuses to actually debate with deniers, she simply counter sued and a theatrical court case ensued where Irving represented himself in trying to defend his claims as historically sound and not done out of racial hatred.  This became one of the more revealing episodes in the destruction of the Holocaust Denial narrative, where it was shown that Hitler’s decisions about the “final solution” happened in stages and was definitive even if it did not have the kind of paper trail that Irving was looking for.  They went through instances where 30,000 plus Jews were killed through specially designed trucks that pumped exhaust into the storage compartments.  Irving was finally pressed to say that this was both deliberate and a part of a larger systematic extermination.  Later, there have been claims that the deaths in the camps were simply because of disease or were actually from Allied bombing campaigns, all of which lack literally any proof.  Instead, things like the IBM punch card system shows the systematization that executions went through in camps like Auschwitz and Dachau.[10]

Hitler himself, was never shy about his intentions with the Jews.  In 1922 he told an interviewing journalist:

Once I really am in power, my first and foremost task will be the annihilation of the Jews. As soon as I have the power to do so, I will have gallows built in rows – at the Marienplatz in Munich, for example – as many as traffic allows. Then the Jews will be hanged indiscriminately, and they will remain hanging until they stink; they will hang there as long as the principles of hygiene permit. As soon as they have been untied, the next batch will be strung up, and so on down the line, until the last Jew in Munich has been exterminated. Other cities will follow suit, precisely in this fashion, until all Germany has been completely cleansed of Jews.[11]

He made almost identical claims in January and August of 1939 and December of 1941.  Goebbels mentions this plan in his diary, saying the health of the nation requires that “therefore no other recourse left for modern nations except to exterminate the Jew.”   He went on in his diary to provide entries on February 1th and March 27th that outlined that “60 per cent of them will have to be liquidated whereas only 40 per cent can be used for forced labor.”  These are really just small snippets of the volumes of evidence that trace Hitler to the final solution and to the planned extermination of European Jewry.[12]

Revisionists will then go on to contest the numbers of the Jews who died, saying that the 6 million number is hyperbolic.  They will suggest that there actually were not that many Jews in Europe at that time, and so the number of Jews left in Europe at the conclusion of the war is actually much closer to the number that was there before.  The numbers of Jews who then died in the concentration camps is then pegged at anywhere from 150,000 to just over a million, and this is ascribed to death from illness, over work, and incidental executions not tied to any over-arching genocidal plan.  It should be noted, however, for even these narratives to be true deniers have to admit to some of the vilest institutional treatments of Jews that lead to murderous death ponds.

The first point that needs to be made about the claim as to the numbers of Jews who died during the Shoah is that it is physically impossible to artificially trump up the numbers to this degree.  It would require millions of people, working with unlimited budgets, on every continent, with the knowing participation of dozens of nations to continue this kind of lie.  The infrastructure would be tremendous, massive even, making up a sort of “secret government” that can control media and history.  If this is a narrative that moves you, then there are even bigger issues at play, but this is simply not how power works in the modern world.  The ruling class institutions work despite their incompetence, not out of divinely inspired efficiencies.  The reasons they give for claimed ruse is the development of the State of Israel that needed the Holocaust as justification, but this is simply not a straight enough line to justify the most massive coordination of lies in the history of the world.

Right from the start, however, the numbers are proven to be literally true.  The number exactly is closer to 5,721,500 Jews executed, with the total breakdown between countries looking like:

Germany – 195,000
Austria – 53,000
Czechoslovakia – 255,000
Denmark – 1,500
France – 140,000
Belgium – 57,000
Luxemburg – 3,000
Norway – 1,000
Holland – 120,000
Italy – 20,000
Yugoslavia – 64,000
Greece – 64,000
Bulgaria – 5,000
Romania – 530,000
Hungary – 200,000
Poland – 3,271,000
USSR – 1,050,000

There is credible analysis and sourcing on this, and the burden of proof of this is on the deniers.  They do, often, come up with “documents” that intend to throw a stick in the wheel on these claims, yet there are so dismal and piece-meal that legitimate scholars have to wonder why they will take non-credible sources over the piles and piles of corroborating material from verified repositories.  Deniers will jump on the fact that there were rounded numbers and that the numbers are flexible, but this is true of literally every global event.  The claims by many on the far right that this was merely “Soviet lies” has yet to be proven true even after the mass data dumps that happened after the Berlin Wall fell, but it also seems to believe its own propaganda in that so-called “communist” countries had a special interest in protecting Jews.  This comes from the continued notion that Marxism is a Jewish idea used to destroy the natural hierarchies and “organic societies” of the West.  This is a painful bit of ahistorical propaganda, one that erases the anti-Semitism suffered in the U.S.S.R.

One of the most virulent claims of the denial camp, and one that has received the most media attention, is that of the gas chambers.  In the 1990s, neo-Nazi Erdnst Zundel, went to infamy for being arrested under Canadian hate-speech laws for publishing two pamphlets: “The Hitler We Loved and Why” and “Did Six Million Really Die?”  He then brought in David Irving to testify in his trial that was designed to prove that the evidence of the Holocaust is a legitimate question and not driven by racial hatred.  They hired Fred A. Leuchter, a man known in the U.S. for having built execution devices for prison death rows.  They sent him on a trip to Auschwitz, which the strange Leuchter also used as his honeymoon with his new wife, and he took sample from the gas chambers and examined their construction.  After the tests were run on his samples, he concluded that these could not have been gas chambers and that there was only a “surface” level of Zyklon B.  When analyzing the Leuchter Report, the first of several documents he put out that were lauded by deniers worldwide, it became clear that the findings were shockingly without merit.  The testing that was requested were the wrong tests, and the lab chemists that did the tests spoke at the trial that their results actually do reflect the amount of the toxin that would have been present on the external bricks.  Leuchster did not have an engineering degree or license, and none of his break downs of the facility seem to show even a cursory understanding of engineering or architecture.  The claims that the Zyklon B was only used for delousing was destroyed when the lab that did the testing explained how the amount used for delousing was a much higher concentration, which is why the lower level of the residue appeared on internal chamber bricks.  Leuchter was slowly blacklisted in his work, and no one would buy his faulty electric chairs or gas chambers for their prisons any longer.[13]

The claims about the gas chambers have been refuted by thousands of eye witness testimonies, the look of legitimate engineers, the documentation en masse at each execution camp, and from tests that are ongoing.   One thing is true however: many of the gas chamber facilities were both substandard in design and destroyed by the Nazis themselves to hide their work as the Allies moved closer.  The BBC summarized what actually happened to the gas chambers well and why the claim that no Zyklon B vents could be found (which is still untrue) would be a red herring.

Deniers have said for years that physical evidence is lacking because they have seen no holes in the roof of the Birkenau gas chamber where the Zyklon was poured in. (In some of the gas chambers the Zyklon B was poured in through the roof, while in others it was thrown in through the windows.) The roof was dynamited at war’s end, and today lies broken in pieces, but three of the four original holes were positively identified in a recent paper. Their location in the concrete matches with eyewitness testimony, aerial photos from 1944, and a ground photo from 1943. The physical evidence shows unmistakably that the Zyklon holes were cast into the concrete when the building was constructed.[14]

For the gas chambers to have been “faked” it would again take thousands of eye witnesses to lie, engineers to be wrong, Nazi records to be forged after the fact, and graves and crematoria to be artificially tainted.  There, the records of the ash collected has been explicit with photos of the mass disposal of crematoria waste, as well as its use in fields for fertilizer.[15]

Holocaust Denial was able to crossover into other fields of thought because people did not have the immediate knowledge to refute it right from the start.  Most discussions of the Holocaust in school curriculum do not go over these fine details because they have no relevant need to, therefore past students are not equipped with the tools to counter the denier’s claims.  Every effort was made to strip the discussion of anti-Semitism so as to make it simply a disagreement over the evidence, and, just as with debates over creationism, they wanted to “teach the controversy” over the two ideas about World War II.  The problem there as with here is that there is literally zero debate amongst historians about whether or not the Holocaust happened as it has been explained in consensus literature.

The next option for many deniers is what many people refer to as “soft denial,” which is to de-emphasize the importance of the Holocaust itself.  While there are a lot of deaths and genocides in war time, there is no reason why the destruction of European Jewry should take special precedence.  This is one of the more thinly veiled arguments, yet one that has seen more credence on the Left who attempts to look at Jewish issues in a different context in connections to issues around Palestine.  This soft denial lacks the understanding of the unique role of anti-Semitism throughout history, where by generation after generation of Jews had their community defined by anti-Semitic purges and pogroms.  The Holocaust was then the grand summary of this persecution, and one that has yet to be matched in terms of its systematization and group propaganda.  The idea that the Holocaust is just “one more tragedy” in the world of international warfare is factually false; it stands as significant and the codify how the contemporary world instituted racial and anti-Semitic thinking.  It is not just one ethnic group that got the brunt end up the warfare gun, but the natural result of the nationalist worldview.[16]

Denial itself was so thoroughly debunked after episodes like the Irving trial, the expose done by Skeptic magazine and the subsequent debate between the Institute of Historical Review’s Mark Weber and Skeptic Magazine’s Michael Shermer, and various condemnations of the Barnes Review and the Journal of Historical Review.  The Institute for Historical Review consistently saw its products decline in sales over the last decade, a sign that the questioning narrative has lost steam.  Weber himself, a suit and tie nationalist and former National Alliance member who poses as a history researcher, has publicly walked away from Holocaust Revisionism and has stated that it really has not had an effect on helping the cause of maintaining anti-Semitism.  He notes that no matter who is discussing the Holocaust, revisionists included, no one can dispute the suffering of the Jews during WWII, and therefore even if they think their argument about numbers is intriguing it comes across as “heartless quibbling.”  Weber still makes clear that he feels the public perception of the Holocaust is exactly a result of what he labels as “Jewish power” and that Holocaust Revisionism is no longer having the effect he would like.

In short, the Holocaust assumed an important role in the social-cultural life of America and western Europe in keeping with, and as an expression of, a phenomenal increase in Jewish influence and power. The Holocaust “remembrance” campaign is not so much a source of Jewish-Zionist power as it is an expression of it. For that reason, debunking the Holocaust will not shatter that power.[17]

The same trend is happening with people like Counter-Current’s Greg Johnson has said almost identical things, and notes that the Holocaust is simply the result of ethnic conflict between Jews and Germans.  Instead of trying to answer for it, he simply wants to “step over it” in the same way that those on the Marxist-Leninist left just ignore the abuses of Stalin, Mao, or Hoo-ha.  This notion is that Nazism was simply just a militant response to the threat of Jewish Soviet Marxism, one that should not be repeated, but also should not be apologized for.[18]  This idea is taking over the previous Holocaust denial camp where the notion is now that the execution of the Jews was simply what happens when the parasitic nature of the Jews themselves force a population into ethnic conflict.  This takes elements both of the Pierce version of Holocaust celebration and of the soft Holocaust denial, where the idea that ethnic conflict is natural and normal is taken as fact and the solution being ethnic nationalism where Jews are removed so they cannot risk destruction for tempting the host people.

This idea is born out most fully in former University of California-Long Beach professor Kevin MacDonald’s work, a series of books called The Culture of Critique.[19]  Here he outlines Judaism itself as a Group Evolutionary Strategy, where by a certain ethnic group created a model of parasitism and attack on ethnic identity as a way of preserving their own ethnic interests and survival.  With this idea, McDonald creates a “grand theory” of anti-Semitism while also perpetuating the idea that “genetic interests” are actually a legitimate scientific concept (they are not), and also delegitimizing ideas such as “Frankfurt School Marxism” by stating that they were only concocted by Jews to destabilize white nations.  His theory was that Judaism is a “group evolutionary strategy” that Jews use to out-compete non-Jews for resources, developing over time as a socio-religious notion that develops ethnocentrism and tribalism.  MacDonald, for example, argues that Jews internally plotted to undermine anti-immigrant legislation that maintained a white majority in the U.S.  They did this, he alleges, to make the U.S. a multicultural and internationally aligned country.  Through institutions like Boasian anthropology, Jews hoped to promte the “ideology of racial equality,” all to weaken the self-interests of whites and so they can manipulate other races to control the larger host population.[20] His conception of Jews and Judaism is largely the understanding that permeates the Alt Right, where Jews are portrayed as a tribal caste who use superior, evolutionarily-derived, verbal intelligence to bore into host white societies and to sow discord in white unity so that they can preserve their own ethnic interests.  The effect of this is multi-pronged.  It reinforces traditional antisemitism by allowing it a fully realized theory backed up by what appears to be scientific research.  It also reframes all of history as defined by ethnic conflict, and further validates their ideas about racial group interests, motivations, personalities, and identity.[21]

While MacDonald’s work is certainly novel in that is uses an interdisciplinary approach caked in tangential research and very smart sounding words, it falls in line with the most renegade views from neo-Nazi right.  For example, Richard Butler, the enigmatic leader of the Aryan Nations until its destruction from a Southern Poverty Law Center lawsuit, lays out the Jewish enemy in almost identical terms.  If the entire history of different species is the competition for survival, than Jews are white’s direct adversary.  While MacDonald uses the social sciences to drum up a narrative about the pernicious Jewish threat, Butler metaphorically translated that to the spiritual realm by weaving a mythic history of Jews as a demonic race that is set on perverting the natural order of man through the subversions of egalitarianism, feminism, capitalism, communism, and what have you.  While caked in Nazi references and esoteric readings of the Bible, Butler mirrors the same model that MacDonald does.  Jews, because of their lack of rootedness in the soil, use abstractions to destabilize the hard, material world of white nations.  Their parasitic nature, and weakness, means they will always be a threat, whether through their control of financial markets, their “invention” of miscegenation, or emerging forms of cultural degeneracy and deracination.[22]

MacDonald’s work has been largely rejected by his colleagues in evolutionary psychology, including the founder of the field John Tooby, stating that his conclusions violate the basic tenets of the field and inaccurately utilizes group-selection theory.  MacDonald’s work made huge leaps beyond what any established research on selection models have created, making wild conjecture about Jewish social cohesion, attempting to link up things like small Jewish organizational support for immigration policy to supposed genetic consciousness drummed up in ancient Egypt and sanctified in the Talmud.  The books are filled with value laden language, describing Jews in horrific terms and citing them with blame for everything from the crimes of Stalin to the perceived terrors of clinical psychology, the theory of relativity, and international trade.  While MacDonald says he is generally “on the fence” about the “official” story of the Holocaust, he continued to testify at Ernst Zundel’s trial to argue that the Holocaust is used to manipulate the public to insulate Jews from criticism.[23]

The reality is that Holocaust Denial is a point of utility, not scholarly intervention.  The purpose of Holocaust Denial is to continue a conspiratorial view of Jews as the source of modern woes through their own use of cabals of crypsis.  MacDonald’s view is simply a sanitized and footnoted version of classic anti-Semitic canards, ones that are at the heart of the logic that drives denialism.  The scale of the conspiracy they claim is so totalizing and so overwhelming that it has an inflective with narratives about the centrality of Jewishness to social instability, and these narratives reinforce each other beyond facts and logic.  This plays into the racial pseudo-science, where Jews remain suspect despite the stereotypes that nationalists attribute to them.

The likelihood is that the resurgence of Holocaust Denial will continue as the presence of the memory, and significance, of the Holocaust fades.  The reality is that with overwhelming evidence supporting the facts, it is not a debate over history that maintains the conspiratorial worldview.  Instead, it is an intentional undermining in systems of thought and logic to ensure that complex and false narratives seem more plausible than reality.  To confront that in the long-term means re-enforcing education and make these organizing opportunities from the earliest encounters with these issues.

Endnotes

[1] This is cited from a now unavailable episode of the Radix Journal Podcast concerning Michael Brown.  After their mass platform denial, this podcast is no longer present online and there is not bibliographic record.

[2] Nazi Germany is by no means the “ideal type” when discussing fascism for a number of reasons, yet few examples really are.  Instead, when we try to “define” fascism as a method of understanding it, we find the common aspects that these movements hold in common to create a sketch of the underlying principles.  This would include essentialized identity, inequality, mythological violence, and mass politics committed to elitism.

[3] Roger Griffin, “Nazism as a Manifestation of Generic Fascism,” A Fascist Century: Essays by Roger Griffin, ed. Matthew Feldman (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008): 110.

[4] Leonard Zeskind, Blood and Politics: The History of the White Nationalist Movement from the Margins to the Mainstream (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009), 56-57.

[5] Ibid, 58.

[6] George Michael, Willis Carto and the American Far-Right (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2008).

[7] Zeskind, Blood and Politics, 56-57.

[8] Martin Durham, White Rage: The extreme Right and American politics (London and New York: Routledge, 1998): 28-29.

[9] Andrew E. Mathis, “Holocaust Denial, a Definition.” The Holocaust History Project, July 2, 2004. [No longer available]

[10] “The Trials of David Irving,” PBS/NOVA, 2000.

[11] Adolf Hitler, 1922. (Josef Hell, “Aufzeichnung,” 1922, ZS 640, p. 5, Institut fuer Zeitgeschichte. http://www.ifz-muenchen.de/archiv/zs/zs-0640.pdf Translation at Nizkor.

[12] Ben S. Austin. “Holocaust Denial: How to Refute Holocaust Denial,” The Jewish Virtual Library, http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/how-to-refute-holocaust-denial.

[13] Fred Leuchter Jr., Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter Jr., directed by Errol Morris (1999; Toronto: Lions Gate Films), DVD.

[14] Deborah Lipstadt, “Denying the Holocaust,” BBC, February 17, 2017, http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/genocide/deniers_01.shtml.

[15] The Nizkor Project, http://www.nizkor.org/ftp.cgi/camps/maidanek/ftp.cgi?camps/maidanek//maidanek.04.

[16] Zach Ben-Amots, “The Rise of ‘Soft’ Holocaust Denial,” The Tower, October 2016, http://www.thetower.org/article/the-rise-of-soft-holocaust-denial/.

[17] Mark  Weber, “How Relevant is Holocaust Revisionism?” The Institute for Historical Review, January 7, 2009, http://www.ihr.org/weber_revisionism_jan09.html.

[18] Greg Johnson, “The Burden of Hitler,” Counter-Currents, April 20, 2011, https://www.counter-currents.com/2011/04/the-burden-of-hitler/.

[19] Kevin MacDonald, The Culture of Critique: An Evolutionary Analysis of Jewish Involvement in Twentieth-Century Intellectual and Political Movements, (Praeger 1998), Separation and Its Discontents Toward an Evolutionary Theory of Anti-Semitism (Praeger 1998), A People That Shall Dwell Alone: Judaism As a Group Evolutionary Strategy, With Diaspora Peoples (Praeger 1994).

[20] MacDonald, K. Population and Environment (1998) 19: 295. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1024652205516

[21] Shane Burley, “Anti-Semitism in the White House: Stephen Bannon, Donald Trump and the Alt-Right,” Truthout, November 20th, 2016, http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/38412-anti-semitism-in-the-white-house-stephen-bannon-donald-trump-and-the-alt-right.

[22] Raphael S. Ezekiel, The Racist Mind: Portraits of American Neo-Nazis and Klansman (New York: Penguin Books, 1995): 138-141.

[23] Rajani Bhatia, “Green or Brown? White Nativist Environmental Movements,” Home-Grown Hate: Gender and Organized Racism, ed. Abby L. Ferber (New York and London: Routledge, 2004): 218.

The Alt Right is Back Offline

The last year has been difficult for the Alt Right.

Since Charlottesville the counter-organizing by antifascists and the broader community responses have forced Richard Spencer and his growing white nationalist cadre further into the shadows. Starting in 2015, the Alt Right began moving its fascist ideology into the more public realm through publishing, podcasts, activist organizations, and by linking up with the slightly more moderate Alt Light. That all changed in the wake of Trump’s election as the counter-movement grew, and that exploded after the debacle and murder at Charlottesville.

The two largest venues for struggle were their appearances and their web platforms. Antifascists made the Alt Right throw its hands up and stop public appearances as it became too difficult to operate in public. A parallel, but equally powerful, effect has been that public pressure has forced web companies to pull the Alt Right from using their services. Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, website companies like Cloudfire and WordPress, financial platforms like Patreon and PayPal, chat functions like Disqus, all have banned the Alt Right over this year, and that number only continues.

While Richard Spencer and his various websites, many associated with the National Policy Institute, thought that he had weathered the storm, he is now officially back offline.

 

GoDaddy had been handling the hosting for Spencer’s AltRight.com, a trashy tabloid style hate-site that is considered low-brow even for this most racist followers.  Composed mainly of racist blog threads, rambling podcasts, and synth-fash aesthetics, it had become a main venue for his inner-circle.

GoDaddy did issue a statement as to why, outlining the content.

In instances where a site goes beyond the mere exercise of these freedoms, however, and crosses over to promoting, encouraging, or otherwise engaging in specific acts of violence against any person, we will take action.  It is our determination that altright.com crossed the line and encouraged and promoted violence in a direct and threatening manner.

This came shortly after Spencer’s two Facebook pages for AltRight.com and the National Policy Institute were taken down, a common thread for the Alt Right.  Right now Spencer is still on Twitter, but that has a short count-down to it.

As this “shuttening” continue to limit their ability to recruit, they are starting to shrink in numbers and turn to infighting.  This is a standard cycle for white nationalists, who cannot sustain a movement when opposition is strong from organized antifascists.

Antifascism Today: A Conversation Between Shane Burley and Alexander Reid Ross

As the far-right is constantly shifting and redefining itself, both in the U.S. and in Europe, it can be hard to pin down the enemy so as to create a successful counter force.  Antifascism today requires a deep understanding of the underlying principles and behaviors of the fascist right, as well as to understand how social movements can and should operate in the 21st Century.

Below is a conversation between Shane Burley (Fascism Today: What It Is and How to End It) and Alexander Reid Ross (Against the Fascist Creep) about what makes up the fascist movement today, how it is changing, and how antifascism can be strengthened.  A particular amount of time here has been dedicated to the idea of “decolonizing antifascism” and how antifascist can think about fascism as a truly international force that is not only cemented to Europe and the U.S.

The Alt Right Arrives at Michigan State on Monday, Resistance Will Follow

Richard Spencer has moved from fascist ideologue to most hated person in the country as he targets college campuses.  Spencer has relied heavily on state institutions to protect his access to public venues since private locations, such as hotels or conference centers, are often more vulnerable to organized public pressure.  Since 2016, and later with the platform denial the Alt Right faced after Charlottesville, Spencer has had a plan to exploit the loopholes in policies at publicly funded universities (Which are actually funded by massive fees and tuition that students are straddled with debt to pay.).  He will make bogus “free speech” claims to force his way onto campus at the cost of students, which he has successfully done at Texas A&M, the University of Florida, and others.

Next is Michigan State, which he was able to secure despite organized student antifascist pressure because of lawsuits put forward by white nationalist attorney, and Michigan State alumni, Kyle Bristow.  Cameron Padgett was the person who issued the lawsuit against MSU for denying him the ability to manipulate the school’s facilities.  After months of fighting, the day is finally coming where Richard Spencer will be speaking at Michigan State and bringing a bevy of angry and violent white nationalists with him.

On March 5th, 2018, Spencer will be speaking at the Pavilion for Agriculture and Livestock Education, on the southern edge of the campus.  The choice to hold it at this facility on the outskirts of campus seems to be a method by the administration to hold back the inevitable conflict between antifascists and white nationalists in attendance.  There is also a counter-event being held at the All Saints Episcopal Church on Abbot Road in East Lansing a ways away, which is really an attempt to draw protesters away from the campus so that the university can make this go as quietly as possible.  While events like the “Celebration of Diversity Festival” are not bad on their face, they act as a safety valve to negate actual resistance that is happening at the point of contact.

Stop Spencer at Michigan State University, formed by antifascist students and community members in response to the white nationalist event, are planning the protest action right at the facility where Spencer will be speaking.  Students across the Michigan State University system have been protesting since last year, arranging student walkouts at universities and communities colleges while the administration were in negotiations with Spencer’s people about the potential of a large white nationalist event.

There are now protests planned both in East Lansing and Ann Arbor (Click here for all the logistics information, how to get there, the Facebook event, and the transportation and parking info).

Spencer’s March 5th event will likely draw a large crowd of white nationalists and neo-Nazis, especially considering there is an Alt Right conference nearby in Detroit on March 4th.  The StopSpencer coalition has put the below instructions for the event:

People in East Lansing are expecting hundreds of people out on the streets, including students, community members, staff, and faculty. The fascists are going to be rolling into town the morning of March 5th from Detroit, after attending an Alt-Right conference the day before, on March 4th.

The actual speaking event is scheduled to take part inside a room which is located within the MSU Pavilion for Agriculture and Livestock Education from 4:30-6:30 PM. The area surrounding the pavilion is largely farmland and golf courses, and moreover, there are only several entrances into the Pavilion off of two main roads. In short, we want to flood the area with people – to shut down the Alt-Right in its tracks.

On our end, we will be mobilizing up the road at a set of large parking lots, which are located at Farm Lane and Mt. Hope Road. Parking is free, and this convergence point is located less than half a mile from the campus.

It is critical to show resistance on Monday, to make sure that campuses will not be an incubator for violent white nationalists and to make them centers for antifascist resistance.  Come out and join the movement!

Antifa: The Film

The far-right media circuit has turned “Antifa,” whatever they think that means, into their catch-all boogeyman. This movement has its roots into the fight against the rise of interwar fascism, the battle against the National Front in Britain and neo-Nazis in post-war Germany, and Anti-Racist Action in the U.S.

This new documentary sheds light on the reality of Antifa, speaking with experts like Mark Bray and the One People’s Project’s Daryle Lamont Jenkins.

Unions Against Fascism

 

Patriot Prayer isn’t known for its good taste.

 

The far-right organization, known for linking up “Patriot” militias with Alt Right white nationalists, became notorious for taking up the “free speech” rally model started by Lauren Southern in the “Battle for Berkeley.”  In Portland, Oregon, and the surrounding suburbs, their organizer, Joey Gibson, instigated violent clashes with leftist protesters as he refused to tone down the “America First” rhetoric.  In May, Jeremy Christian, a man who eagerly joined Patriot Prayer’s events, murdered two on Portland public transit in an Islamophobic frenzy.  Gibson’s response was to hold his June 4th rally just a couple of weeks later in a federal park, which drew over three thousand protesters in a show of unprecedented antifascist unity.

On August 26, in the wake of the savage race riot and vehicular murder in Charlottesville, Gibson decided to bring his act down to the Bay area, where a number of far-right provocateurs were intending to join him.  This would start with a “Freedom Rally” along the waterfront, which activists countered with a mass “poop in” by bringing their dogs to the beach without waste bags.  The following day they the “anti-Marxist” message would be brought to the streets, picking up on the white supremacist conspiracy theory that modern “progressive” values are actually the result of subversive Jewish “Cultural Marxism.”

Patriot Prayer’s plans sparked one of the quickest engagements of mass organizing in years as coalitions formed around the city with everything from radical art shows to a mass marches to disallow Gibson access to the streets or city parks.  While the Bay’s progressive line-up began their plans, it was the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 10 that stepped out in front to lead this community revolt.  Just days before the Alt Right was to descend on the city, Local 10 passed the “Motion to Stop the Fascists in San Francisco,” calling for “all unions and anti-racist and anti-fascist organizations to join us defending unions, racial minorities, immigrants, LGBTQ people, women and all the oppressed.”  ILWU was instrumental in raising the antifascist coalition’s profile enough to force Gibson to cancel the event, and when he tried to move it to San Francisco’s Alamo Park, the union took to the streets and helped form a block to prevent entry.  

Right now, labor in the United States is being pushed to a state of execution.  With the political power in the hands of the beltway right, attacks on public sector unions, collective bargaining, exclusive representation, and the rights of workers to organize, are forcing labor to look past immediate contractual gains and to the larger contradictions the working class faces.  Capital’s attack on unions is happening at the same time as a radical right populism is sweeping the U.S., with Trumpism ushering in what the Freedom Party brought to Austria, Brexit offered to the UK, and what Le Pen could have leveled on France.  With the Alt Right as the militant fascist edge of this movement, organized labor is placed where it is often put in times of crisis: uniquely targeted and decisively necessary.

 

“Then they came for the trade unionists…”

Looking at the historical fascist movements that rose to power in interwar Europe, labor is crushed swiftly and decisively.  As the Nazis rose to power in Germany, the SS took control of the trade unions in 1933, banning them as working class institutions and molding their organs into the German Labor Front.  With 7 million members, Germany had one of the largest labor movements in the world, bolstered by the social democrats and the revolutionary German Communist Party (KPD).  In Italy, Mussolini took a different approach and captured the unions entirely, creating large Fascist Trade Unions with over four million members.  These organizations were extensions of the fascist state, losing their ability to fight for workers interests as Mussolini gained power by cruelly crushing socialist and anarchist partisans.  The attack on unionists was, largely, an extension of the fascist attack on the organized left as leaders rightly understood that both sides had the ability to pull heavily from the experiences of the working class.  While Hitler and Mussolini appealed to the bourgeois classes by suppressing worker movements, it was an appeal to the broad masses that gave fascism its power.  The class conflict implicit to capitalism is then suppressed in favor of mediated class collaboration; the fire for change the fuels class struggle then rechanneled into reactionary battles between identities, racial, sexual, and otherwise.  

The unions themselves were, at the time, the largest and most successful results of social movements, a hundred years of struggle to create massive organizations that took on the interests of the oppressed classes.  That strength, rooted in the ability to withhold labor, could bring the country to its knees, and its nature is rooted in the working class unity that necessitates antiracism.  If the unions are weakened, removed as militant vehicles for the desires of working people, then mass movements lose one of their key strategic vessels.

Unions today are often defined by their concessions, what was allowed to them by the state during the 1920s and 1930s.  But a union is more that Collective Bargaining Agreements and grievance procedures.  It is simply an expression of unified class power, the ability of a group of workers to exert power through solidarity.  For workers today (and throughout the history of organized labor), their subjective experiences of class and identity are more than just pay scales, but include everything from racial discrimination by management to the fear of violence they have leaving their houses in the morning.  For non-white workers, that violence continues, both from the state as police murders continue unchallenged, and through vigilantes, from the KKK in earlier generations to the Alt Right terrorizing campuses and city centers today.  Unions can expand their conception of working class struggle to take on issues not only at the bargaining table, but also throughout the world that workers inhabit, something that is only becoming more necessary as those traditional rights are legally eroded.  With a larger financial infrastructure than most left organizations and the growing injection of labor into broad coalitions, they have the tools and membership to be active in directly undermining the radical right surge.  

 

IWW General Defense Committee

For many syndicalists, the IWW has been a centerpiece of this radical experiment for a century, starting as an alternative to the increasingly compromised AFL models of negotiated labor.  The IWW continues to explode at moments of contradiction, organizing that stretches models to the point of redefinition.  The non-contract campaigns of the Burgerville Workers Union, the prison organizing of the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, and solidarity networks are windows into what is possible when the strictures shackling organized labor are ignored and the basic principles of organizing are opened up to the imagination.

It is no wonder that the IWW then looked to the past to rebuild a project that could extend the reach of the organization into the increasingly caustic world of tenancy, police violence, and insurrectionary racist threats.  The General Defense Committee (GDC) was first started in 1917 as a technically-separate organization from the broader IWW to take on issues like state repression of members around anti-war protests and during later red scares.  Because it was a legally separate entity, it could take some shelter from state attacks on the IWW that seemed imminent.  The GDC was brought back to take on issues that were not strictly workplace derived, and antifascist work has become the brand it is best known by.  The Twin Cities branch chartered a GDC in 2011, yet their antifascist committee started long before that as members had previous experience as founders of Anti-Racist Action in the 1980s and the Torch Network that is known for linking up Antifa organizations.  The GDC has grown to over 200 members with committees being chartered across the country.  

The Twin Cities GDC Local 14 started by confronting a 2012 appearance of David Irving, the notorious WWII historian turned Holocaust Denier, building the praxis that would instruct their later work.  As opposed to the close-knit and highly secretive format that describes most Antifa organizations, the GDC has used a “mass antifascist” approach.  This means focusing on bringing in large coalitions of people, generally being public about their image, and trying to do popular education and engagement.  This still results in the battle over “contested spaces,” music venues, public arenas, and college campuses.  This can also mean in direct engagement, forcing the neo-Nazis out of their speaking event or meeting spaces, but it is done through appeals to huge community contingents.  Mixing a radical analysis, direct action, and broad community involvement are the same principles that have made the Wobblies such a success in workplace organizing, and it those winning methods that they are using to turn entire neighborhoods and social networks into mass antifascist forces.  Since the rise of the Alt Right starting in 2015, the GDC has been present in almost every major action, from shutting down far-right agitator Milo Yiannoupolous in Seattle, De Paul, and the University of Wisconsin, challenging Infowars at the Republican National Convention, and shutting down fascist neofolk artists like Blood + Sun.  

 

Pacific Northwest Antifascist Workers Collective

In Portland, a group of trade unionists whose roots in militant antifascism went back thirty years came back to that anti-racist organizing by looking exactly at where they work.  In places like the Carpenters Union, workers were regularly forced to interact coworkers who were openly adorned with neo-Nazi iconography, such as portraits of Hitler in visible tattoos.  For many neo-Nazis who had been involved in skinhead gangs and were felons, building trade unions provided a pathway to a good and stable job that often shielded them from political fallout and did not penalize them for criminal histories.  Organizers from the Carpenters Local 1503, Ironworkers Local 29, International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) Local 10, and antifascist organizers came together to form the Pacific Northwest Antifascist Workers Collective (PNWAWC) to confront the influx of the far-right from inside of the labor movement.

One of PNWAWC’s key strategies was to put through antifascist resolutions in union locals whose membership may actually have some allegiances to white supremacist formations.  IUPAT Local 10 and the Carpenters Union Local 1503 passed this resolution, next attempting to build antifascist committees internal to the local.  IUPAT went as far as forming an Anti-Racist Mobilization Committee that will be used to get union members to support antiracist community actions and to reach out to other trade unions to do the same.  

Their work extends to antifascist strategies that are often well known to Antifa and Anti-Racist Action groups, which many of their members started in.  This includes organizing as a coalition with groups like Rose City Antifa to confront far-right assemblies, especially in “contested spaces,” refusing access.  Doxxing, information dissemination, and popular education are all a part of this, as well as committing many of their members to act as community defense and security in situations that could result in fascist intimidation.  After a local public-sector union had been hosting antifascist events from groups like the Portland Assembly and Demand Utopia, threats began coming down on the union hall.  When several alleged far-right agitators showed up, donning masks, the collective coordinated unionists and organizers to surround the building, refusing to allow them on the property.

 

Portland Labor Against Fascists

Many organizers with some relationship to PNWAWC came together to form the Portland Labor Against Fascists coalition to have a labor presence at the growing number of collisions between far-right rallies and the public.  When Patriot Prayer announced its June 4th rally despite the pleas of the city, including the Mayor’s office, multiple groups organized to surround the event.  On one side was a more mild-manner coalition of progressive groups brought together by the International Socialist Organization, while adjacent to the in the park was the united Antifa block.  On the south side of the far-right rally was the labor coalition, organized, in part, by Trotskyist organizations like the Internationalist Group and Class Struggle Workers, and with members from the various building trades as well as Amalgamated Transit Union 757, CWA 7901, and different AFL-CIO affiliates.  

The rhetoric here was simple: destroying the narrative that the Patriot militia and blue-collar white power groups have, that they are acting in the interests of the white working class.  With Ironworkers and IBEW electricians on the megaphones, they were able to speak to worker exploitation, not from “mass immigration” or affirmative action, but from mega-corporations that are crushing wages and collective bargaining.  Since some participants in the Alt Right come from those represented trades, hearing from people in the same professions and workplaces makes a difference. This has been the strategy of non-labor specific organizations like Redneck Revolt, who use the language of gun-rights and government mistrust to speak to the same crowd that the militia movement recruits from.

 

Labor’s Turn

As the cultural wave of reactionary anger turned into a Trump presidency, many in the broad labor movement were forced to speak up out of the crisis of circumstance.  With the heavy focus of Alt Right groups like Identity Europa on campus recruitment, student and faculty groups have found common cause in confronting their threat.  The Duke Graduate Student Union and the University of California Student Workers have come out to endorse student projects like the Campus Anti-Fascist Network, which is using a nationally coordinated approach to long-term mass antifascist movement building.  As Patriot Prayer’s event loomed on the horizon in Berkeley, a large coalition formed for the Bay Area Rally Against Hate that would link up a huge swath of community and labor organizations.  This again drew from unions with an association with education and college campuses, including the Berkeley Federation of Teachers, AFSCME Local 3299 (a UC Berkeley local), SEIU Local 1021, and UAW Local 2865, as well as a contingent of Berkeley student workers.  The Alameda Labor Council and San Francisco Labor Council both signed as endorsers, a success for such a highly partisan affair.  ILWU Local 10 was a leader in the effort to block Patriot Prayer, bringing out retired members who had joined the movement against South African apartheid in the 1980s.   IUPAT Local 10 voted in a resolution and public statement that put their full support behind the ILWU’s decision in the bay, saying that they take from their example “in the struggle for workers’ rights against racism, war, and police repression.”

While many large unions have avoided using the language of antifascism, there has been an impetus for many to rise up on the primary issues of racial victimization in the Trump era.  AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka joined the Canadian Labour Congress President Hassan Yussuff in a “categorical rejection” of Islamophobia, and after the comments Trump made after the Charlottesville violence he decisively pulled out of the American Manufacturing Council.  Trumka is far from a radical unionist, but it shows the tone that is shifting inside large labor institutions.  In years past, the rhetoric of “America First” echoed into union halls as jobs were being offshored.  This attempt to stoke a subtle racism while mobilizing workers against de-industrialization lost them the ability to effectively fight the experiences of racism that workers face, and there are signs this decision is being reversed as they continue to lose ground with their attempts at class collaboration.  The movement by many unions, from UNITE HERE Local 2850 to National Union of Healthcare Workers, to become “sanctuary unions” is another turn, acknowledging the horror of ICE deportations that are entering into their member communities.  Local 2850 has been working to add protections for immigrants into contracts as well as going for local and statewide resolutions in support of their immigrant workforce.

The role of large labor organizations is more mixed than militant unions, but with their large memberships and financial infrastructure there are opportunities they can lend to antifascist movements.  This may end up more passive than anything, the allying of resources, buildings, and participation in coalitions, while leaving the more open antifascist work to organizers free from the strictures of non-profit status.  As unions have increasingly diverse membership, they will be pressured to stand up for the issues that fascist ideologues have owned, confronting mass deportations, the victimization of racial and gender minorities, and the increased threat that far-right politics represent to their membership.

The position of unions as a conceptual force is even more central as its mechanisms of class power are some of the most profound in history.  The ability to use solidarity to dethrone the authority in a workplace can be expanded to the community, and the mass base, the ability to strike and worker empowerment can all be pivoted to see not only institutional injustice, but also the insurrectionary violence of white supremacy, as a target.  Fascist politics splits the working class, a fragmentation that spells defeat in even the most class reductionist sense, and there is every reason for union members to be on the front lines.

Originally Published in the Anarcho-Syndicalist Review

We Stand With Tariq Khan

The trolling culture that has marked the Alt Right since 2015 has been treated with kid gloves by most media outlets, seeing it almost as a form of pranksterism that avoids the real cost and violence it has ensured.  On college campuses, Alt Right white nationalists are recruiting young men, often dissidents from College Republicans or Students for Trump organizations, leading them into a world of paranoid conspiracies, racial supremacism, and vigilante harassment and violence.  This hatred has been directed at marginalized students and faculty alike, forcing many to have to leave campus fearing for their life.  Recently, antifascist academic George Ciccariello-Maher had to leave the tenured position he earned at Drexel University after facing massive harassment from Alt Right and Alt Light groups, and teachers like Mark Bray, Mike Isaacsson, and many, many others have faced this kind of treatment.

It is exactly this type of unending harassment and threats that graduate student, educator, and organizer Tariq Khan of the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign has faced.  The harassment against Khan has been laid town by the organization Turning Point USA, which is affiliated with Alt Right/Alt Light movements with close associations with white nationalism.  It’s media wing, Campus Reform, has been used to create a campaign of fear against Khan and his family, drawing in the Alt Light media sphere with places like Breitbart.

Tariq Khan has been smeared for his campus organizing, confronting hateful, white nationalist and far-right contingents on campus.  TP USA and far-right supporters began mischaracterizing Khan’s work immediately, framing him as aggressive and violent and publishing his personal information publicly.  The attacks on Khan have relied on racist and Islamophobic characterizations, further targeting him because of his Pakistani ethnic background.  This further builds on TP USA’s shameful use of populist Islamophobic anger, a tool that has been successful for them in drawing in angry white recruits.  The public campaign against Khan and his family has reached a fever pitch, with articles and posts being sent out by people like former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci.  For people of wealth, power, and privilege, they are using racist attacks to brutalize a struggling teacher who is standing up against racist violence.  Khan is also an Airforce veteran, something that the far-right desperately wants to ignore as they use Islamophobic slurs to create an insufferable picture of his life.

As the Campus Antifascist Network has pointed out, this campaign by the Alt Right has also turned it’s attention to the history department in which he studies.

The Department of History at UIUC has also been harassed since this incident. TPUSA/Campus Reform posted links to the department’s public website with Khan’s contact information. Khan and others in the department have since received threatening and harassing emails, including death threats, threats of physical violence, and racist and Islamophobic language. These threats were reported to the University Police by Khan and by department faculty. For his own protection, Khan has been forced to withdraw from academic spaces, even removing his email address from the department website, at the expense of future career prospects.

It is questionable whether Khan and his partner will be able to continue their studies uninterrupted, putting their dreams on hold until racists can stop making harassment their pet cause.  This is disgusting, and it is not something we are going to stand by and just let happen.  Khan is a respected academic and scholar, a celebrated educator, a committed student, and an amazing father and husband.  We will not allow college campuses to be the killing fields for Alt Right terror, and we stand with Khan and anyone else who has been victimized by this kind of threat.

We will be standing with Tariq Khan and doing whatever is possible to support him in the organizing against this injustice.

Khan has asked three things of people to help, and we call on people to join in and give this support:

1. I need good leftist journalists to cover what is happening to me.
2. I need a lot of people to call or write in to the university’s Office of Student Conflict Resolution to respectfully but firmly demand that they drop all charges against me.
3. I need organizations to put out public statements of support for me: statements which include a) statement of support for me, b) condemnation of TPUSA and the far right’s campaign of vilification, racist harassment, and threats against me and my children, c) condemnation of the university administration’s complicity in the far right’s campaign to hurt me, and d) demand that the university drop all charges against me unconditionally.

1. The far-right fake outrage machine has been vilifying me all over the place. High profile spokesmen of the worst, most racist elements of the far right such as anti-immigration zealot Lou Dobbs, short-lived Trump White House Press Secretary Anthony Scaramucci, conspiracy peddler Alex Jones, and fascist “Proud Boy” Gavin McGinnis among others have been publicly vilifying me, and spreading TPUSA’s dishonest narrative to smear me all over the internet because of my openly anti-fascist politics.

At the same time this is all going on, the far right has mobilized its online troll army to bombard my department and university administration with demands I be harshly punished, fired, expelled, arrested, killed, etc., and when university administrators look it up to find information, there are only far-right narratives for them to refer to. The university discipline officer who is treating me as a criminal is using as his main piece of evidence a video with a TPUSA logo on it. Think about that for a moment. Further, the way the university discipline system is set up, he acts as both the prosecutor and the judge. He was thoroughly unconcerned about the fact that a TPUSA member with a known history of stalking and harassing people made a veiled threat against my children. My attorney was not allowed to represent me in the university system. The Office of Student Conflict Resolution decided I was guilty before I ever even got a chance to defend myself, and when I was making my statement to him, he cut me off before I was even a quarter of the way through to tell me he doesn’t have time for all that. In other words, I was not afforded even a fair hearing.

Despite the attacks against me from high profile mouthpieces of the far right, no high-profile counter-narrative has emerged in the media. When university administrators get these emails and calls about me from the alt right’s troll army, they look it up online and only find the far right’s narrative. There is nothing out there challenging that narrative. Not a single story. No reporter, other than a couple of shady right-wing propagandists who I won’t talk to, has even contacted me about this for a story. The result is that the right wing has control over this narrative, and that narrative is what the cowardly, narrow-minded university administrators are now treating as the truth. This has left me isolated and vulnerable to university “discipline” which could potentially make it impossible for me to qualify for funding to finish my dissertation and cut my academic career short before it has even started. I need a counter-narrative to emerge in the media. There are plenty of great leftist journalists out there who I am friends with or friends of friends with. I need you to cover this story. I need more than one of you to cover this story.

2. I need people (as individuals or as organizations) to write in respectfully but firmly to pressure the OSCR to drop all charges against me unconditionally. My labor union, the Graduate Employment Organization did this already, but one email is easy to ignore, especially when there are hundreds of emails from the far right demanding the opposite. I need as many people as possible to write to the Assistant Dean of Students and the Associate Dean of Students to let them know that the charges they have against me are unjust, and that they need to send a clear message to the “alt-right” fascist TPUSA bullies on campus and the larger right-wing outrage machine by dropping all charges against me unconditionally. Also demand they issue a public apology to me and my family (and my children who a TPUSA member threatened, which is what sparked this entire episode) for the OSCR’s complicity in carrying out TPUSA’s malicious agenda.
Assistant Dean of Students, Rony Die: ronydie@illinois.edu
Associate Dean of Students, Justin Brown: justbrow@illinois.edu

3. I need organizations to publicly post statements of support for me. Don’t just send them to me privately. Private statement are nice and I appreciate them, but they don’t do anything to challenge the right’s very public vilification of me, which is what I need right now. Statements should include a) statement of support for me, b) condemnation of TPUSA and the far right’s campaign of vilification, racist harassment, and threats against me and my children, c) condemnation of the university administration’s complicity in the far right’s campaign to hurt me, and d) demand that the university drop all charges against me unconditionally.

I appreciate the extraordinary amount of support I have received so far in the form of donations to my legal defense fund, kind words, letters of support, and other acts of kindness. Several people have asked me what they can do to help. These three things are what I need right now. Solidarity.
– Tariq Khan

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

Taking on Fascism and Racism from the Ground Up.