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

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

 

By Alexander Reid Ross

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

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

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

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

 

Disingenuous Reading

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

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

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

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

 

Contending with Fascist Statism

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Bibliography

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

The Left Overs: How Fascists Court the Post-Left

By Alexander Reid Ross

 

A few months ago, the radical publication, Fifth Estate, solicited an article from me discussing the rise of fascism in recent years. Following their decision to withdraw the piece, I accepted the invitation of Anti-Fascist News to publish an expanded version here, with some changes, at the urging of friends and fellow writers.

In Solidarity, ARR

 

 

Chapter 1: The Early Composition of Fascist Individualism

 

 

A friendly editor recently told me via email, “if anti-capitalism and pro individual liberty [sic] are clearly stated in the books or articles, they won’t be used by those on the right.” If this were true, fascism simply would vanish from the earth. Fascism comes from a mixture of left and right-wing positions, and some on the left pursue aspects of collectivism, syndicalism, ecology, and authoritarianism that intersect with fascist enterprises. Partially in response to the tendencies of left authoritarianism, a distinct antifascist movement emerged in the 1970s to create what has became known as “post-left” thought. Yet in imagining that anti-capitalism and “individual liberty” maintain ideological purity, radicals such as my own dear editor tend to ignore critical convergences with and vulnerabilities to fascist ideology.

The post-left developed largely out of a tendency to favor individual freedom autonomous from political ideology of left and right while retaining some elements of leftism.  Although it is a rich milieu with many contrasting positions, post-leftists often trace their roots to individualist Max Stirner, whose belief in the supremacy of the European individual over and against nation, class, and creed was heavily influenced by philosopher G.W.F. Hegel. After Stirner’s death in 1856, the popularity of collectivism and neo-Kantianism obscured his individualist philosophy until Friedrich Nietzsche raised its profile again during the later part of the century. Influenced by Stirner, Nietzsche argued for the overcoming of socialism and the “modern world” by the iconoclastic, aristocratic philosopher known as the “Superman” or “übermensch.”

During the late-19th Century, Stirnerists conflated the “Superman” with the assumed responsibility of women to bear a superior European race—a “New Man” to produce, and be produced by, a “New Age.” Similarly, right-wing aristocrats who loathed the notions of liberty and equality turned to Nietzsche and Stirner to support their sense of elitism and hatred of left-wing populism and mass-based civilization. Some anarchists and individualists influenced by Stirner and Nietzsche looked to right-wing figures like Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky, who developed the idea of a “conservative revolution” that would upend the spiritual crises of the modern world and the age of the masses. In the words of anarchist, Victor Serge, “Dostoevsky: the best and the worst, inseparable. He really looks for the truth and fears to find it; he often finds it all the same and then he is terrified… a poor great man…”

History’s “great man” or “New Man” was neither left nor right; he strove to destroy the modern world and replace it with his own ever-improving image—but what form would that image take? In Italy, reactionaries associated with the Futurist movement and various romantic nationalist strains expressed affinity with the individualist current identified with Nietzsche and Stirner. Anticipating tremendous catastrophes that would bring the modern world to its knees and install the New Age of the New Man, the Futurists sought to fuse the “destructive gesture of the anarchists” with the bombast of empire.

A hugely popular figure among these tendencies of individualism and “conservative revolution,” the Italian aesthete Gabrielle D’Annunzio summoned 2,600 soldiers in a daring 1919 attack on the port city of Fiume to reclaim it for Italy after World War I. During their exploit, the occupying force hoisted the black flag emblazoned by skull and crossbones and sang songs of national unity. Italy disavowed the imperial occupation, leaving the City-State in the hands of its romantic nationalist leadership. A constitution, drawn up by national syndicalist, Alceste De Ambris, provided the basis for national solidarity around a corporative economy mediated through collaborating syndicates. D’Annunzio was prophetic and eschatological, presenting poetry during convocations from the balcony. He was masculine. He was Imperial and majestic, yet radical and rooted in fraternal affection. He called forth sacrifice and love of the nation.

When he returned to Italy after the military uprooted his enclave in Fiume, ultranationalists, Futurists, artists, and intellectuals greeted D’Annunzio as a leader of the growing Fascist movement. The aesthetic ceremonies and radical violence contributed to a sacralization of politics invoked by the spirit of Fascism. Though Mussolini likely saw himself as a competitor to D’Annunzio for the role of supreme leader, he could not deny the style and mood, the high aesthetic appeal that reached so many through the Fiume misadventure. Fascism, Mussolini insisted, was an anti-party, a movement. The Fascist Blackshirts, or squadristi, adopted D’Annunzio’s flare, the black uniforms, the skull and crossbones, the dagger at the hip, the “devil may care” attitude expressed by the anthem, “Me ne frego” or “I don’t give a damn.” Some of those who participated in the Fiume exploit abandoned D’Annunzio as he joined the Fascist movement, drifting to the Arditi del Popolo to fight the Fascist menace. Others would join the ranks of the Blackshirts.

 

 

Originally a man of the left, Mussolini had no difficulty joining the symbolism of revolution with ultranationalist rebirth. “Down with the state in all its species and incarnations,” he declared in a 1920 speech. “The state of yesterday, of today, of tomorrow. The bourgeois state and the socialist. For those of us, the doomed (morituri) of individualism, through the darkness of the present and the gloom of tomorrow, all that remains is the by-now-absurd, but ever consoling, religion of anarchy!” In another statement, he asked, “why should Stirner not have a comeback?”

Mussolini’s concept of anarchism was critical, because he saw anarchism as prefiguring fascism. “If anarchist authors have discovered the importance of the mythical from an opposition to authority and unity,” declared Nazi jurist, Carl Schmitt, drawing on Mussolini’s concept of myth, “then they have also cooperated in establishing the foundation of another authority, however unwillingly, an authority based on the new feeling for order, discipline, and hierarchy.” The dialectics of fascism here are two-fold: only the anarchist destruction of the modern world in every milieu would open the potential for Fascism, but the mythic stateless society of anarchism, for Mussolini, could only emerge, paradoxically, from a self-disciplining state of total order.

Antifascist anarchist individualists and nihilists like Renzo Novatore represented for Mussolini a kind of “passive nihilism,” which Nietzsche understood as the decadence and weakness of modernity. The veterans that would fight for Mussolini rejected the suppression of individualism under the Bolsheviks and favored “an anti-party of fighters,” according to historian Emilio Gentile. Fascism would exploit the rampant misogyny of men like Novatore while turning the “passive nihilism” of their vision of total collapse toward “active nihilism” through a rebirth of the New Age at the hands of the New Man.

The “drift” toward fascism that took place throughout Europe during the 1920s and 1930s was not restricted to the collectivist left of former Communists, Syndicalists, and Socialists; it also included the more ambiguous politics of the European avant-garde and intellectual elites. In France, literary figures like Georges Bataille and Antonin Artaud began experimenting with fascist aesthetics of cruelty, irrationalism, and elitism. In 1934, Bataille declared his hope to usher in “room for great fascist societies,” which he believed inhabited the world of “higher forms” and “makes an appeal to sentiments traditionally defined as exalted and noble.” Bataille’s admiration for Stirner did not prevent him from developing what he described decades later as a “paradoxical fascist tendency.” Other libertarian celebrities like Louis-Ferdinand Céline and Maurice Blanchot also embraced fascist themes—particularly virulent anti-Semitism.

Like Blanchot, the Nazi-supporting Expressionist poet Gottfried Benn called on an anti-humanist language of suffering and nihilism that looked inward, finding only animal impulses and irrational drives. Existentialist philosopher and Nazi Party member, Martin Heidegger, played on Nietzschean themes of nihilism and aesthetics in his phenomenology, placing angst at the core of modern life and seeking existential release through a destructive process that he saw as implicit in the production of an authentic work of art. Literary figure Ernst Jünger, who cheered on Hitler’s rise, summoned the force of “active nihilism,” seeking the collapse of the civilization through a “magic zero” that would bring about a New Age of ultra-individualist actors that he later called “Anarchs.” The influence of Stirner was as present in Jünger as it was in Mussolini’s early fascist years, and carried over to other members of the fascist movement like Carl Schmitt and Julius Evola.

Evola was perhaps the most important of those seeking the collapse of civilization and the New Age’s spiritual awakening of the “universal individual,” sacrificial dedication, and male supremacy. A dedicated fascist and individualist, Evola devoted himself to the purity of sacred violence, racism, anti-Semitism, and the occult. Asserting a doctrine of the “political soldier,” Evola regarded violence as necessary in establishing a kind of natural hierarchy that promoted the supreme individual over the multitudes. Occult practice distilled into an overall aristocracy of the spirit, Evola believed, which could only find expression through sacrifice and a Samurai-like code of honor. Evola shared these ideals of conquest, elitism, sacrificial pleasure with the SS, who invited the Italian esotericist to Vienna to indulge his thirst for knowledge. Following World War II, Evola’s spiritual fascism found parallels in the writings of Savitri Devi, a French esotericist of Greek descent who developed an anti-humanist practice of Nazi nature worship not unlike today’s Deep Ecology. In her rejection of human rights, Devi insisted that the world manifests a totality of interlocking life forces, none of which enjoys a particular moral prerogative over the other.

 

 

Chapter 2: The Creation of the Post-Left

 

 

It has been shown by now that fascism, in its inter-war period, attracted numerous anti-capitalists and individualists, largely through elitism, the aestheticization of politics, and the nihilist’s desire for the destruction of the modern world. After the fall of the Reich, fascists attempted to rekindle the embers of their movement by intriguing within both the state and social movements. It became popular among fascists to reject Hitler to some degree and call for a return to the original “national syndicalist” ideas mixed with the elitism of the “New Man” and the destruction of civilization. Fascists demanded “national liberation” for European ethnicities against NATO and multicultural liberalism, while the occultism of Evola and Devi began to fuse with Satanism to form new fascist hybrids. With ecology and anti-authoritarianism, such sacralization of political opposition through the occult would prove among the most intriguing conduits for fascist insinuation into subcultures after the war.

In the ’60s, left-communist groups like Socialisme ou Barbarie, Pouvoir ouvrier, and the Situationists gathered at places like bookstore-cum-publishing house, La Vielle Taupe (The Old Mole), critiquing everyday life in industrial civilization through art and transformative practices.  According to Gilles Dauvé, one of the participants in this movement, “the small milieu round the bookshop La Vieille Taupe” developed the idea of “communisation,” or the revolutionary transformation of all social relations. This new movement of “ultra-leftists” helped inspire the aesthetics of a young, intellectual rebellion that culminated in a large uprising of students and workers in Paris during May 1968.

The strong anti-authoritarian current of the ultra-left and the broader uprising of May ’68 contributed to similar movements elsewhere in Europe, like the Italian Autonomia movement, which spread from a wildcat strike against the car manufacturer, Fiat, to generalized upheaval involving rent strikes, building occupations, and mass street demonstrations. While most of Autonomia remained left-wing, its participants were intensely critical of the established left, and autonomists often objected to the ham-fisted strategy of urban guerrillas. In 1977, individualist anarchist, Alfredo Bonanno, penned the text, “Armed Joy,” exhorting Italian leftists to drop patriarchal pretensions to guerrilla warfare and join popular insurrectionary struggle. The conversion of Marxist theorist, Jacques Camatte, to the pessimistic rejection of leftism and embrace of simpler life tied to nature furthered contradictions within the Italian left.

With anti-authoritarianism, ecologically-oriented critiques of civilization emerged out of the 1960s and 1970s as significant strains of a new identity that rejected both left and right. Adapting to these currents of popular social movements and exploiting blurred ideological lines between left and right, fascist ideologues developed the framework of “ethno-pluralism.” Couching their rhetoric in “the right to difference” (ethnic separatism), fascists masked themselves with labels like the “European New Right,” “national revolutionaries,” and “revolutionary traditionalists.” The “European New Right” took the rejection of the modern world advocated by the ultra-left as a proclamation of the indigeneity of Europeans and their pagan roots in the land. Fascists further produced spiritual ideas derived from a sense of rootedness in one’s native land, evoking the old “blood and soil” ecology of the German völkische movement and Nazi Party.

In Italy, this movement produced the “Hobbit Camp,” an eco-festival organized by European New Right figure Marco Tarchi and marketed to disillusioned youth via Situationist-style posters and flyers. When Italian “national revolutionary,” Roberto Fiore, fled charges of participating in a massive bombing of a train station in Bologna, he found shelter in the London apartment of Tarchi’s European New Right colleague, Michael Walker. This new location would prove transformative, as Fiore, Walker, and a group of fascist militants created a political faction called the Official National Front in 1980. This group would help promote and would benefit from a more avant-garde fascist aesthetic, bringing forward neo-folk, noise, and other experimental music genres.

 

 

 

 

While fascists entered the green movement and exploited openings in left anti-authoritarian thought, Situationism began to transform. In the early 1970s, post-Situationism emerged through US collectives that combined Stirnerist egoism with collectivist thought. In 1974, the For Ourselves group published The Right to Be Greedy, inveighing against altruism while linking egoist greed to the synthesis of social identity and welfare—in short, to surplus. The text was reprinted in 1983 by libertarian group, Loompanics Unlimited, with a preface from a little-known writer named Bob Black.

While post-Situationism turned toward individualism, a number of European ultra-leftists moved toward the right. In Paris, La Vieille Taupe went from controversial views rejecting the necessity of specialized antifascism to presenting the Holocaust as a lie necessary to maintain the capitalist order. In 1980, La Vielle Taupe published the notorious Mémoire en Défense centre ceux qui m’accusent de falsifier l’histoire by Holocaust denier, Robert Faurisson. Though La Vielle Taupe and founder, Pierre Guillaume, received international condemnation, they gained a controversial defense from left-wing professor, Noam Chomsky. Even if they have for the most part denounced Guillaume and his entourage, the ultra-leftist rejection of specialized antifascism has remained somewhat popular—particularly as expounded by Dauvé, who insisted in the early 1980s that “fascism as a specific movement has disappeared.”

The idea that fascism had become a historical artifact only helped the creep of fascism to persist undetected, while Faurisson and Guillaume became celebrities on the far-right. As the twist toward Holocaust denial would suggest, ultra-left theory was not immune from translation into ethnic terms—a reality that formed the basis of the work of Official National Front officer, Troy Southgate. Though influenced by the Situationists, along with a scramble of other left and right-wing figures, Southgate focused particularly on the ecological strain of radical politics associated with the punk-oriented journal, Green Anarchist, which called for a return to “primitive” livelihoods and the destruction of modern civilization. In 1991, the editors of Green Anarchist pushed out their co-editor, Richard Hunt, for his patriotic militarism, and Hunt’s new publication, Green Alternative, soon became associated with Southgate. Two years later, Southgate would join allied fascists like Jean-François Thiriart and Christian Bouchet to create the Liaison Committee for Revolutionary Nationalism.

In the US, the “anarcho-primitivist” or “Green Anarchist” tendency had been taken up by former ultra-leftist, John Zerzan. Identifying civilization as an enemy of the earth, Zerzan called for a return to sustainable livelihoods that rejected modernity. Zerzan rejected racism but relied in no small part on the thought of Martin Heidegger, seeking a return authentic relations between humans and the world unmediated by symbolic thought. This desired return, some have pointed out, would require a collapse of civilization so profound that millions, if not billions, would likely perish. Zerzan, himself, seems somewhat ambiguous with regards to the potential death toll, regardless of his support for the unibomber, Ted Kaczynsky.

Joining with Zerzan to confront authoritarianism and return to a more tribal, hunter-gatherer social organization, an occultist named Hakim Bey developed the idea of the “Temporary Autonomous Zone” (TAZ). For Bey, a TAZ would actualize a liberated and erotic space of orgiastic, revolutionary poesis. Yet within his 1991 text, Temporary Autonomous Zone, Bey included extensive praise for D’Annunzio’s proto-fascist occupation of Fiume, revealing the disturbing historical trends of attempts to transcend right and left.

Along with Zerzan and Bey, Bob Black would prove instrumental to the foundation of what is today called the “post-left.” In his 1997 text, Anarchy After Leftism, Black responded to left-wing anarchist Murray Bookchin, who accused individualists of “lifestyle anarchism.” Drawing from Zerzan’s critique of civilization as well as from Stirner and Nietzsche, Black presented his rejection of work as a nostrum for authoritarian left tendencies that he identified with Bookchin (apparently Jew-baiting Bookchin in the process).[1]

Thus, the post-left began to assemble through the writings of ultra-leftists, green anarchists, spiritualists, and egoists published in zines, books, and journals like Anarchy: Journal of Desire Armed and Fifth Estate. Although these thinkers and publications differ in many ways, key tenets of the post-left included an eschatological anticipation of the collapse of civilization accompanied by a synthesis of individualism and collectivism that rejected left, right, and center in favor of a deep connection with the earth and more organic, tribal communities as opposed to humanism, the Enlightenment tradition, and democracy. That post-left texts included copious references to Stirner, Nietzsche, Jünger, Heidegger, Artaud, and Bataille suggests that they form a syncretic intellectual tendency that unites left and right, individualism and “conservative revolution.” As we will see, this situation has provided ample space for the fascist creep.

 

 

Chapter 3: The Fascist Creep

 

 

During the 1990s, the “national revolutionary” network of Southgate, Thiriart, and Bouchet, later renamed the European Liberation Front, linked up with the American Front, a San Francisco skinhead group exploring connections between counterculture and the avant-garde. Like prior efforts to develop a Satanic Nazism, American Front leader Bob Heick supported a mix of Satanism, occultism, and paganism, making friends with fascist musician Boyd Rice. A noise musician and avant-gardist, Rice developed a “fascist think tank” called the Abraxas Foundation, which echoed the fusion of the cult ideas of Charles Manson, fascism, and Satanism brought together by 1970s fascist militant James Mason. Rice’s protégé and fellow Abraxas member, Michael Moynihan, joined the radical publishing company, Feral House, which publishes texts along the lines of Abraxas, covering a range of themes from Charles Manson Scandinavian black metal, and militant Islam to books by Evola, James Mason, Bob Black, and John Zerzan.

In similar efforts, Southgate’s French ally, Christian Bouchet, generated distribution networks and magazines dedicated to supporting a miniature industry growing around neo-folk and the new, ”anarchic” Scandinavian black metal scene. Further, national anarchists attempted to set up and/or infiltrate e-groups devoted to green anarchism. As Southgate and Bouchet’s network spread to Russia, notorious Russian fascist, Alexander Dugin, emerged as another leading ideologue who admired Zerzan’s work.

Post-leftists were somewhat knowledgable about these developments. In a 1999 post-script to one of Bob Black’s works, co-editor of Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed, Lawrence Jarach, cautioned against the rise of “national anarchism.” In 2005, Zerzan’s journal, Green Anarchy, published a longer critique of Southgate’s “national anarchism.” These warnings were significant, considering that they came in the context of active direct action movements and groups like the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), a green anarchist group dedicated to large-scale acts of sabotage and property destruction with the intention of bringing about the ultimate collapse of industrial civilization.

As their ELF group executed arsons during the late-1990s and early-2000s, a former ELF member told me that two comrades, Nathan “Exile” Block and Joyanna “Sadie” Zacher, shared an unusual love of Scandinavian black metal, made disturbing references to Charles Manson, and promoted an elitist, anti-left mentality. While their obscure references evoked Abraxas, Feral House, and Bouchet’s distribution networks, their politics could not be recognized within the milieu of fascism at the time. However, their general ideas became clearer, the former ELF member told me, when antifascist researchers later discovered that a Tumblr account run by Block contained numerous occult fascist references, including national anarchist symbology, swastikas, and quotes from Evola and Jünger. These were only two members of a larger group, but their presence serves as food for thought regarding important radical cross-over points and how to approach them.

To wit, the decisions of John Zerzan and Bob Black to publish books with Feral House, seem peculiar—especially in light of the fact that two of the four books Zerzan has published there came out in 2005, the same year as Green Anarchy’s noteworthy warning against national anarchism. It would appear that, although in some cases prescient about the subcultural cross-overs between fascism and the post-left, post-leftists have, on a number of occasions, engaged in collaborative relationships.

 

 

 

 

As Green Anarchy cautioned against entryism and Zerzan simultaneously published with Feral House, controversy descended on an online forum known as the Anti-Politics Board. An outgrowth of the insurrectionist publication Killing King Abacus, the Anti-Politics Board was used by over 1,000 registered members and had dozens of regular contributors. The online platform presented a flourishing site of debate for post-leftists, yet discussions over insurrectionism, communisation, green anarchy, and egoism often produced a strangely competitive iconoclastism. Attempts to produce the edgiest take often led to the popularization of topics like “‘anti-sexism’ as collectivist moralism” and “critique of autonomous anti-fascism.” Attacks on morality and moralism tended to encourage radicals to abandon the “identity politics” and “white guilt” often associated with left-wing anti-racism.

Amid these discussions, a young radical named Andrew Yeoman began to post national anarchist positions. When asked repeatedly to remove Yeoman from the forum, a site administrator refused, insisting that removing the white nationalist would have meant behaving like leftists. They needed to try something else. Whatever they tried, however, it didn’t work, and Yeoman later became notorious for forming a group called the Bay Area National Anarchists, showing up to anarchist events like book fairs, and promoting anarchist collaboration with the Minutemen and American Front.

An important aspect of the Anti-Politics Board was the articulation of nihilist and insurrectionary theories, both of which gained popularity after the 2008 financial crisis. In an article titled, “The New Nihilism,” Peter Lamborn Wilson (aka Hakim Bey) pointed out that the rising wave of nihilism that emerged during the late 2000s and into the second decade could not immediately be distinguished from the far right, due to myriad cross-over points. Indeed, Stormfront is riddled with users like “TAZriot” and “whitepunx” who promote the basic, individualist tenets of post-leftism from the original, racist position of Stirnerism. Rejecting “political correctness” and “white guilt,” these post-left racists desire separate, radical spaces and autonomous zones for whites.

Through dogged research, Rose City Antifa in Portland, Oregon, discovered whitepunx’s identity: “Trigger” Tom Christensen, a known member of the local punk scene. “I was never an anti [antifascist] but I’ve hung out with a few of them,” Christensen wrote on Stormfront. “I used to be a big punk rocker in the music scene and there were some antis that ran around in the same scene. I was friends with a few. They weren’t trying to recruit me, or anybody really. They did not, however, know I was a WN [white nationalist]. I kept my beliefs to myself and would shut down any opinions the[y] expressed that seemed to have holes in them. It’s been fairly useful to know some of these people. I now know who all the major players are in the anti and SHARP [Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice] scene.”

For a time, Christensen says he hung out with post-leftists and debated them like Yeoman had done. Less than a year later, however, Christensen followed up in a chilling post titled, “Do You Think It Would Be Acceptable To Be A ‘Rat’ If It Was Against Our Enemies.” He wrote, “I had an interesting thought the other day and wanted peoples opinions. If you were asked by the Police to provide or find evidence that would incriminate people who are enemy’s [sic] of the movement, i.e. Leftists, reds, anarchists. Would you do it? Would you ‘rat’ or ‘narc’ on the Left side?” Twenty one responses came beckoning from the recesses of the white nationalist world. While some encouraged Christensen to snitch, others insisted that he keep gang loyalty. It is uncertain as to whether or not he went to the police, but the May 2013 discovery of his Stormfront activity took place shortly before a grand jury subpoenaed four anarchists who were subsequently arrested and held for contempt of court.

In another unsettling example of crossover between post-leftists and fascists, radicals associated with a nihilist group named Ultra harshly rebuked Rose City Antifa of Portland, Oregon, for releasing an exposé about Jack Donovan. An open member of the violent white nationalist group, Wolves of Vinland, Donovan also runs a gym called the Kabuki Strength Lab, which produces “manosphere” videos. As of November 2016, when the exposé was published, one member of Ultra was a member of the Kabuki Strength Lab. Although Donovan runs a tattoo shop out of the gym and gave Libertarian Party fascist Augustus Sol Invictus a tattoo of the fasces there, a fellow gym member wrote, “Obviously Jack has very controversial beliefs and practices that most disagree with; but I don’t believe it affects his behavior in the gym.” Donovan, who has publicly parroted “race realist” statistics at white nationalist gatherings like the National Policy Institute and the Pressure Project podcast, also embraces bioregionalism and the anticipation of a collapse of civilization that will lead to a reversion of identity-bound tribal structures at war with one another and reliant on natural hierarchies—an ideology that resonates with Ultra and some members of the broader post-left milieu.

It stands to reason that defending fascists and collaborating with them are not the same, and they are both separate from having incidental ideological cross-over points. However the cross-over points, when unchecked, frequently indicate a tendency to ignore, defend, or collaborate. Defense and collaboration can, and do, also converge. For instance, also in Portland, Oregon, the founder of a UK ultra-leftist splinter group called Wildcat began to participate in a reading group involving prominent post-leftists before sliding toward anti-Semitism. Soon he was participating in the former-leftist-turned-fascist Pacifica Forum in Eugene, Oregon, and defending anti-Semitic co-op leader, Tim Calvert. He was last seen by antifas creeping into an event for Holocaust denier, David Irving.

Perhaps the most troubling instance of collaboration, or rather synthesis, of post-left nihilism and the far right is taking place currently in the alt-right. Donovan is considered a member of the alt-right, while Christensen’s latest visible Facebook post hails from the misogynistic Proud Boys group. These groups and individuals connected to the alt-right are described as having been “red-pilled,” a term taken from the movie, The Matrix, in which the protagonist is awakened to a dystopian reality after choosing to take a red pill. For the alt-right, being “red-pilled” means waking up to the “reality” offered by anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, misogyny, and white nationalism—usually through online forums where the competitive iconoclasm of “edge-lords” mutates into ironic anti-Semitism and hatred. Among the most extreme forms of this phenomenon occurring in recent years is the so-called “black pill”—red-pillers who have turning toward the celebration of indiscriminate violence via the same trends of individualism and nihilism outlined above.

“Black-pillers” claim to have shed their attachments to all theories entirely. This tendency evokes the attitude of militant anti-civilization group, Individuals Tending to the Wild, which is popular among some post-leftist groups and advocates indiscriminate violence against any targets manifesting the modern world. Another influence for “black-pillers” is Adam Lanza, the infamous mass shooter who phoned John Zerzan a year before murdering his mother, 20 children, and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Zerzan has condemned Individuals Tending Toward the Wild, and months after Lanza’s horrifying actions, he penned a piece imploring post-left nihilists to find hope: “Egoism and nihilism are evidently in vogue among anarchists and I’m hoping that those who so identify are not without hope. Illusions no, hope yes.” Unfortunately, Zerzan developed his short communiqué into a book published by Feral House on November 10, 2015—the day after Feral House published The White Nationalist Skinhead Movement co-authored by Eddie Stampton, a Nazi skinhead.

 

 

Conclusion

 

 

In light of these cross-overs, many individualist anarchists, post-leftists, and nihilists tend not to deny that they share nodal networks with fascists. In many cases, they seek to struggle against them and reclaim their movement. Yet, there tends to be another permissive sense that anarchists bear no responsibility for distinguishing themselves from fascists. If there are numerous points in which radical milieus become a blur of fascists, anarchists, and romantics, some claim that throwing shade on such associations only propagates fallacious thinking, or “guilt by association.”

However, recalling the information in this essay, we might note that complex cross-overs seem to include, in particular, aspects of egoism and radical green theory. Derived from Stirnerism and Nietzschean philosophy, egoism can reify the social alienation felt by an individual, leading to an elitist sense of self-empowerment and delusions of grandeur. When mixed with insurrectionism and radical green thought, egoism can translate into “hunter versus prey” or “wolves versus sheep” elitism, in which compassion for others is rejected as moralistic. This kind of alienated elitism can also develop estranged aesthetic and affective positions tied to cruelty, vengeance, and hatred.

Emerging out of a rejection of humanism and urban modernism, the particular form of radical green theory often embraced by the post-left can relativize human losses by looking at the larger waves of mass extinctions. By doing this, radical greens anticipate a collapse that would “cull the herd” or cause a mass human die off of millions, if not billions, of people throughout the world. This aspect of radical green theory comes very close to, and sometimes intertwines with, ideas about over-population compiled and produced by white nationalists and anti-immigration activists tied to the infamous Tanton Network. Some radical green egoists (or nihilists) insist that their role should be to provoke such a collapse, through anti-moralist strikes against civilization.

As examples like Hakim Bey’s TAZ and the lionization of the Fiume misadventure, Zerzan and Black’s publishing with Feral House, and Ultra’s defense of Donovan indicate, the post-left’s relation to white nationalism is sometimes ambiguous and occasionally even collaborative. Other examples, like those of Yeoman and Christensen, indicate that the tolerance for fascist ideas on the post-left can result in unwittingly accepting them, providing a platform for white nationalism, and increasing vulnerability to entryism. Specific ideas that are sometimes tolerated under the rubric of the “critique of the left” include the approval of “natural hierarchies,” ultranationalism understood as ethno-biological and spiritual ties to homeland and ancestry, rejection of feminism and antifascism, and the fetishization of violence and cruelty.

It is more important today than ever before to recognize how radical movements develop intersections with fascists if we are to discover how to expose creeping fascism and develop stronger, more direct networks. Anarchists must abandon the equivocations that invite the fascist creep and reclaim anarchy as the integral struggle for freedom and equality. Sectarian polemics are the result of extensive learning processes, but are less important than engaging in solidarity to struggle against fascism in all its forms and various disguises.

———

 

Alexander Reid Ross is a former co-editor of the Earth First! Journal and the author of Against the Fascist Creep. He teaches in the Geography Department at Portland State University and can be reached at aross@pdx.edu.

[1] Black writes, “Bakunin considered Marx, ‘the German scholar, in his threefold capacity as an Hegelian, a Jew, and a German,’ to be a ‘hopeless statist.’ A Hegelian, a Jew, a sort-of scholar, a Marxist, a hopeless (city-) statist — does this sound like anybody familiar?’ Full text available on Libcom at https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/bob-black-anarchy-after-leftism