Nov 27, 2012

Liberal counterinsurgency versus the paramilitary right

In this article I'm going to discuss U.S. security forces' changing response to the paramilitary right. I will argue the following:
  1. Although U.S. security forces have an important history of collaborating with or even sponsoring right-wing paramilitary groups in the United States, the past three decades have seen the rise of an insurgent far right that rejects the legitimacy of the U.S. government and has sometimes taken up arms against it.
  2. Security forces have periodically cracked down on this insurgent right when it has engaged in open warfare against the state apparatus, but to a large extent their approach to the insurgent right has been reactive, inconsistent, and counterproductive from the standpoint of maintaining social control.
  3. A liberal faction of the ruling class is promoting a smarter approach to combating the paramilitary right, one that is both more preemptive and more sensitive to rightist fears of state repression. This approach, which has been advanced most fully by the New America Foundation, represents an application of counterinsurgency strategy, a theory of repression that addresses popular grievances in order to bolster elite power more effectively.
Federal agencies have a long history of covert involvement in far right paramilitary organizations, but the nature of this involvement has changed dramatically as the politics of the U.S. far right have changed. During the 1960s, the FBI often refused to intervene as the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacists physically attacked civil right workers. Between 1969 and 1972, U.S. Army's Military Intelligence and the Chicago Police jointly operated a far right group called the League of Justice, which burglarized, bugged, and vandalized socialist and anti-war groups. In 1971-1972, the FBI sponsored the paramilitary Secret Army Organization, which targeted anti-war leftists with spying, vandalism, mail theft, assassination plots, shootings, and bombings. The SAO was based in San Diego and claimed branches in eleven states. Most notoriously, in 1979 an FBI informer and an agent of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms helped to plan the Greensboro massacre, in which a coalition of Klansmen and neonazis murdered five members of the Communist Workers Party. (See Donner, Protectors of Privilege, pp. 146-50; Churchill and Vander Wall, Agents of Repression, pp. 181-2.)

Starting in the early 1980s, the political center of gravity within the far right shifted from a traditional focus on targeting leftists and people of color to a fascist ideology that identified the "Zionist Occupation Government" in Washington as the main enemy. Several Klan leaders re-emerged as neonazis, such as Tom Metzger, who founded White Aryan Resistance, and Louis Beam, who joined Aryan Nations and pioneered the concept of "leaderless resistance." Some far rightists called for a White revolution to overthrow the U.S. government, as portrayed in William Pierce's 1978 novel, The Turner Diaries, while others envisioned an independent Aryan enclave in the Pacific Northwest. In 1983, members of several far-right groups formed an underground paramilitary group known as The Order, which "declared war" on the U.S. government, robbed banks and armored cars, counterfeited money, assassinated Jewish talk show host Alan Berg, and engaged in armed combat with police. Other groups followed The Order's example.

The federal apparatus responded aggressively to this shift. Leonard Zeskind writes that "the Reagan administration's Justice Department…had previously demonstrated little interest in federal prosecutions of attacks by white supremacists on black people and other ordinary citizens," but The Order and related groups pushed them to respond more aggressively. "The FBI planted more confidential informants inside white supremacist groups, started tapping phones, and made arrests in a number of incipient criminal conspiracies" (Blood and Politics, pp. 145-6). By 1985, the federal government had killed The Order's leader in a shootout and sent most of its members to prison. Over the next few years, members of several other neonazi groups were arrested and prosecuted, although the biggest effort -- the 1988 Fort Smith trial of fourteen white supremacists on seditious conspiracy and other charges -- ended in acquittals.

Although many white supremacists rejected an underground strategy, the 1980s gave the movement a list of martyrs and cemented militant opposition to federal authority as an ideological pole on the far right. In the early 1990s, neonazis began to link up with hardline Christian rightists, libertarians, and Birchite anti-globalists in the germ of what would become the Patriot movement, the first U.S. mass movement since World War II in which fascist and non-fascist rightists worked together in coalition. Patriot groups did not necessarily embrace right-wing revolution or racial ideology, but they regarded the U.S. government as part of a plot by globalist elites to take away their freedom, and they advocated forming "citizen militias" to defend themselves against tyranny. Deadly and arguably murderous operations by federal officers fed the growth of the movement, especially the 1992 siege and arrest of white supremacist Randy Weaver at Ruby Ridge, Idaho (an operation that killed Weaver's wife and teenage son along with a U.S. marshal), and the April 1993 siege of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas (in which eighty members of the cult and four federal agents died).

By 1996 the Patriot movement included some 850 identified groups. An entire subculture, encompassing hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of supporters, regarded the established state apparatus as evil and illegitimate. With tens of thousands of them organized in private armed units and a network of "common law courts" claiming to exercise government functions, the movement was creating a type of embryonic dual power in some areas. Although the majority of Patriot activists viewed this as a defensive stance, neonazis and others who advocated offensive actions against the state were a significant part of the mix.

At first, security forces did little to clamp down on the Patriot movement overtly. (Zeskind and others have pointed out that a predominantly black or brown movement spouting anti-government rhetoric and conducting paramilitary training would have been treated very differently.) But in April 1995, neonazi Timothy McVeigh and others blew up the Oklahoma City federal building, killing 168 people, and Patriot militias were widely blamed for the attack. After that, the FBI pursued a wide-ranging crackdown. Here are a few examples from 1995-1998, drawn from a Patriot movement timeline compiled by the liberal Southern Poverty Law Center, which works closely with the FBI:
  • a tax protester arrested for placing a failed bomb behind the Reno, Nevada, IRS building
  • three members of the Republic of Georgia militia charged with manufacturing shrapnel-packed bombs and training a team to assassinate politicians
  • twelve members of the Arizona Viper Team arrested on federal conspiracy, weapons and explosives charges
  • seven members of the Mountaineer Militia arrested in a plot to blow up the FBI's national fingerprint records center in West Virginia
  • former Sons of Liberty and other tax protesters set fire to the IRS office in Colorado Springs
  • eight members of a militia group arrested in connection with a plan to invade Fort Hood, Texas, and kill foreign troops mistakenly believed to be housed there
  • three men, including one with ties to the separatist Republic of Texas, charged with conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction after threatening President Clinton and other federal officials with biological weapons.
This crackdown contributed to the Patriot movement's collapse in the late 1990s. The movement remained stagnant for a decade, but has been growing fast again since President Obama's election in 2008 and is now believed to be larger than at its peak in the 1990s. Patriot movement groups continue to promote fears of a New World Order conspiracy and challenge the legitimacy of the existing state apparatus, and the movement continues to overlap with more hardline fascist currents.

The state apparatus seems to be conflicted about how to address the paramilitary right. Over the past decade, FBI reports have repeatedly identified right-wing violence as a serious threat, for example in 2004. In 2006, the FBI warned that neonazis were trying to infiltrate law enforcement agencies, and in 2007 they highlighted the threat from solo white supremacists (prefiguring, for example, Wade Michael Page's attack on a Sikh temple in Wisconsin earlier this year). But in 2009, when conservatives denounced the Department of Homeland Security for a report on the resurgence of "Rightwing Extremism," DHS repudiated the report and disbanded the unit that was studying non-Islamic domestic terrorism. Also in 2009, a report about the militia movement from the Missouri Information Analysis Center (one of the DHS-sponsored "fusion centers") met a similar fate.

Enter the New America Foundation, an elite-based think tank that addresses foreign policy, counterterrorism, and a range of other issues. In 2011 and 2012, their staffers and fellows warned in various media (such as a scholarly study, a panel presentation, and a heavily cited CNN op-ed) that home-grown "extremists" -- and especially rightists -- posed a terrorist threat as big as or bigger than Islamist groups. At the same time, NAF is critical of blundering government efforts that fuel the growth of the far right. In May 2012 they put out a detailed policy paper, by investigative journalist J.M. Berger, about an early 1990s undercover operation called PATCON, in which FBI agents created a dummy white supremacist group to gather intelligence about violent plots by far rightists within the budding Patriot movement. Among other criticisms, the policy paper argues that PATCON helped reinforce Patriot movement paranoia about government repression and agents provocateurs -- and compares this to the effect of scattershot police surveillance on American Muslim communities. In NAF's view, infiltration is still "an important tool," but it needs to be managed more responsibly and with more understanding of how it can damage targeted communities' "trust in government and willingness to cooperate with law enforcement" (p. 23). (Thanks to Nick Paretsky for pointing me to NAF's PATCON policy paper.)

To understand the significance of this report, a bit of background about the New America Foundation is important. First, NAF represents the liberal Eastern establishment wing of the ruling class. Almost two-thirds of the members of its board of directors hold positions in business (most frequently investments), while the rest are mostly academics or journalists. Over three-quarters of the directors hold Ivy League (mostly Harvard) degrees or work at an Ivy League university, and some forty percent of them are current or former members of the Council on Foreign Relations. NAF's board is chaired by Eric Schmidt (chair and former CEO of Google); other prominent board members include hedge fund manager Jonathan Soros (son of George Soros) and "end of history" political scientist Francis Fukuyama. Not surprisingly, some right-wing conspiracy theorists have pointed to NAF as a major node linking global capitalists, Marxist journalists, and the Obama administration in a sinister plot to manipulate public opinion.

Second, NAF is a strong proponent of counterinsurgency strategy (COIN). Kristian Williams has described COIN as a style of warfare that's characterized by "an emphasis on intelligence, security and peace-keeping operation, population control, propaganda, and efforts to gain the trust of the people" (p. 84). NAF argues that "the 'global war on terror' is better conceived as a global counterinsurgency campaign, which typically involves a 20% military approach and an 80% 'softer' approach that uses other levers and incentives." The foundation has promoted this shift with regard to Iraq, Pakistan, and -- perhaps most interestingly -- India: An October 2011 article by NAF's Sameer Lalwani criticized the Indian government's heavily militarized approach to combating the maoist Naxalite insurgency as "brutal and incomplete (by western standards)" and urged institutional overhauls to redress the "distribution of power controlled by the state and elite cadres." This approach is in the tradition of the CIA funding European social democrats in the 1950s in order to undercut support for Communism.

As many leftists have argued, COIN is as much a sophisticated approach to state repression as it is a form of warfare. Williams argues that "the two major developments in American policing since the 1960s -- militarization and community policing -- are actually two aspects of a domestic counterinsurgency program" (p. 90). In The New State Repression, Ken Lawrence highlighted security forces' shift from a reactive approach -- targeting groups after they've engaged in some kind of political protest -- to a preemptive approach, which assumes that even in periods of calm, opponents of the state are "out there plotting and organizing, so the police must go find them, infiltrate them, and plant provocateurs among them" (p. 6). Lawrence traced this "strategy of permanent repression" to the work of British counterinsurgency expert Frank Kitson in Kenya, northern Ireland, and elsewhere, which involved, for example, the creation of "pseudo gangs" as a tactic to confuse and weaken genuine opposition forces. Promoted and refined by both police and military forces in the U.S., domestic counterinsurgency strategy has also been embraced by the Canadian military, as noted by Anthropologists for Justice and Peace.

Without using the term, NAF's PATCON policy paper invokes counterinsurgency strategy in several important ways. First, author J.M. Berger focuses on a specific FBI program from twenty years ago which -- unlike the bureau's better-known reactive measures -- took a preemptive, interventionist approach to the early Patriot movement, and that even created a pseudo-gang as part of this effort. In the Spring of 1991, FBI agents in Austin, Texas, created a phony neonazi organization called the Veterans Aryan Movement (VAM), which claimed to be following in The Order's footsteps: robbing banks and armored cars, stockpiling weapons, and building links with like-minded groups around the country. With this cover story, the VAM was well positioned to spy on genuine neonazis and other members of the Patriot movement that was just beginning to coalesce at this time. Officially, PATCON was supposed to investigate specific potential crimes, but in practice it was an open-ended intelligence-gathering operation. PATCON operatives reported lots of talk about violence by Patriot activists, but almost none of this information was used in prosecutions. At one point, PATCON operatives even withheld information from Army investigators about a theft of night vision goggles from Fort Hood, in order to protect their own operation. In July 1993 the FBI ended PATCON, ostensibly because it had failed to uncover actual criminal activity.

Also in line with counterinsurgency strategy, NAF's PATCON report emphasizes the need for security forces to bolster the state's legitimacy and, in Williams's words, "gain the trust of the people." The policy paper's full title is "PATCON: The FBI's Secret War Against the 'Patriot' Movement, and How Infiltration Tactics Relate to Radicalizing Influences." Berger, who first uncovered PATCON in 2007 as a result of Freedom of Information Act requests, describes how fear of infiltrators pervaded the Patriot movement during PATCON itself, and how public knowledge of the operation has fueled wide-ranging conspiracy theories about the federal government. (Although Berger's account is assuredly not the whole story, claims that PATCON included the Ruby Ridge and Waco operations and even the Oklahoma City bombing, or that it continued long after 1993, are unsubstantiated.)

Berger writes in the NAF policy paper, "The reality of the FBI's extensive infiltration of the Patriot movement helps reinforce a paranoid worldview in which the government becomes the perpetrator of crimes like the Oklahoma City bombing, thus exonerating true radical figures and providing a fresh (if usually false) grievance to fuel further radicalization" (p. 22). The report ends with a list of recommendations for assessing infiltration's "secondary effects" on targeted populations -- not to argue for abolishing police infiltration of political groups, but so that security forces can use the technique more carefully and effectively. (This emphasis on cultivating popular trust in government seems to reflect NAF's concern more than Berger's. It is lacking from Berger's other writings about PATCON, including his original 2007 report and his April 2012 article in Foreign Policy.)

Lastly, NAF's PATCON paper is concerned with improving infiltration techniques not only against rightists but against "potential extremists" more broadly. PATCON is presented as a case study of "the infiltration dilemma" alongside the NYPD's surveillance of Muslim communities in New York City. These two examples were paired more fully in a May 2012 NAF-sponsored panel on "Infiltration and Surveillance: Countering Homegrown Terrorism," in which Berger spoke about PATCON. Here the moderator asked panelists and audience members to set aside moral and legal issues and focus on the questions, when do infiltration techniques work and how well do they work?

The Council on Foreign Relations has also advanced some aspects of a counterinsurgency approach to the paramilitary right. A 2010 op-ed by CFR Fellow and counterterrorism analyst Lydia Khalil urged conservatives to stop minimizing "the serious and growing threat of homegrown right-wing extremism" and to identify rightist violence against government institutions as acts of terrorism. A 2011 CFR report by Jonathan McMasters on "Militant Extremists in the United States" argued the same points in more detail and advocated a preemptive, intelligence-gathering approach to counter rightist violence. Masters's report outlined the "domestic intelligence infrastructure" available to support such work, including the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force, the Department of Homeland Security's Fusion Center program, and the widespread adoption of "intelligence-led policing" by local police departments. While noting civil liberties concerns, the report gave the last word to CFR Adjunct Senior Fellow Richard Falkenrath, who advocates more "permissive" constraints on security forces. Neither Khalil nor McMasters addressed NAF's concern about the tension between gathering intelligence and cultivating popular support for the state, but in other ways the approaches are similar.

              *                  *                  *

From the standpoint of a ruling class trying to maintain social control, the New America Foundation's approach to rightist violence makes a lot of sense. If you are serious about combating "terrorism," then you need to deal with the homegrown paramilitary right, which has a persistent base of support and has made U.S. government institutions a target for some thirty years. Since paramilitary rightists may be organizing and planning even when they're not carrying out violent attacks, you want your security forces to get to know rightist networks from the inside instead of just reacting to the attacks after they happen. And given that heavy-handed police actions have repeatedly fueled widespread rightist fears about state repression, you need to take these fears into account if you want support for rightist paramilitary violence to shrink instead of grow.

Like many instances of counterinsurgency strategy, NAF's approach here is also well crafted to win backing from liberals and some leftists, who worry about the far right but also worry about police misconduct. In presenting the paramilitary right not just as a criminal network but as a political movement with real grievances, NAF is appropriating an argument that some opponents of the far right (including me) have been making for years. The following point by Kristian Williams applies to movements of the right as well as the left: "As a matter of realpolitik the authorities have to respond in some manner to popular demands; however, COIN allows them to do so in a way that at least preserves, and in the best case amplifies, their overall control. The purpose of counterinsurgency is to prevent any real shift in power" ("The other side of the COIN," p. 85).

We need to be clear that U.S. security forces exist ultimately to maintain ruling class control. They are not, and cannot be, defenders of democracy, and relying on them to combat supremacist movements is a dangerous mistake. While there is a long history of security forces using paramilitary rightists to carry out vigilante repression, there is also a long history of the U.S. government using fears of rightist violence to expand its powers of repression against everyone else. As Don Hamerquist has pointed out previously on Three Way Fight, "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.'"

As Hamerquist argues, we need to "worry much more about the consequences of ruling class 'anti fascism,' than [about] ruling class propensities to impose fascism from above." Building on Walden Bello's warning that leftists need to combat not only neoliberalism but also "global social democracy" (an emerging ruling-class strategy that seeks to mitigate global inequality and environmental destruction in a technocratic capitalist framework), Hamerquist suggests that an authoritarian anti-fascism could become a lynchpin of global social democracy. "The fear of fascism will become the functional substitute for improved terms in the sale of labor power. And the likelihood is, I think, that there will be a fascism to fear." Nick Paretsky has already cited the New America Foundation as a prime example of ruling-class support for global social democracy. Now, in advocating a counterinsurgency response to the far right, NAF is taking this one step further.

Nov 25, 2012

Report on Successful Minneapolis Antifa Action: Disruption of David Irving Speaking Event

The following report comes from some comrades in Minneapolis:

On November 16, 2012, David Irving, renowned Holocaust denier and Hitlerite disciple (though he prefers the phrase ‘controversial historian’) attempted to hold an event on his speaking tour, “Hitler and I,” at the Graves 601 Hotel in downtown Minneapolis. The Twin Cities, which has decades of successful antifascist and anti-racist organizing behind it, was ready for him. In a display of mass, disciplined, and coordinated action, we stood in defense of our fellow human beings.

Irving’s events have long been focused on four goals: the talks provide Irving with a venue at which to profit heavily from his work, both the books and movies he sells as well as from ticket sales for the event. Additionally, and of greater concern, these events legitimize fascism in the public eye, provide networking opportunities for local white supremacists and fascists, and provide infusions of cash to local fascist groups. The antifascists of Minneapolis and St. Paul recognize the real and present danger such events pose to our communities and loved ones, and organized to disrupt Irving’s event.

Having gotten past the lobby and up five floors of hotel elevators, we entered the room approximately 60 strong. While some antifascists videotaped attendees to help us identify local fascists, others seized the opportunity to destroy his books and dvds, depriving both him and his fascist sympathizers of much-needed funds for their violence and hatred.

Irving and his cronies are attempting to research members of the antifa crowd, posting their photos on his page, comparing to Facebook and other social and local media, and offering rewards. Their attempt to intimidate the people on the basis of their hateful property points out the common collusion of the fascists with law enforcement and the principle of capitalist profit. But not to worry: for the most part, their ‘intelligence’ is at the quality you’d expect of people often referred to as ‘boneheads,’ and has amused the local community, which long ago overcame its fear of fascists.

The photo below is from Irving's own site, and indicates the level of
disruption we achieved.

Oct 24, 2012

Golden Dawn’s fascist ideology

Continuing Three Way Fight’s series on the Greek neonazi party Golden Dawn, in this post I offer a profile of Golden Dawn’s fascist ideology, based on online writings from the party and its affiliated organizations (Women’s Front, Youth Front, and Green Wing), which I have accessed using Google’s Translate function. Although some of the auto-translation results are garbled, many passages come through clearly and major points are often repeated in different ways, so I believe the following is reasonably accurate. (For Greek language sources, I have provided URLs in the “Sources” section below, rather than hyperlinks.)

Golden Dawn’s web offerings feature a familiar set of fascist ideological themes, including aggressive and expansionist nationalism, a vision of racial purity through purging alien groups and influences, a crude anti-elitism based on scapegoating Jews, patriarchal traditionalism, homophobia, closeness to nature, rejection of both capitalism and communism, and a call for a strong state role in the economy and society.

The party glorifies a militaristic approach to politics. GD’s Youth Front blog, for example, declares “The People’s Nationalism stands [for the] neglected Values of Honor, Duty, of ethics, of Blood, discipline, power of will and self-improvement for Life and finally the heroic lifestyle.” [1] And U.S. neonazi influences are evident. The Youth Front posted a glowing tribute to Robert Mathews, leader of The Order, who died in a 1984 shootout with U.S. federal agents. [2] The Women’s Front blog main page features a version of the “Fourteen Words” slogan coined by Order co-founder David Lane: “We must ensure the existence of our race and the future of our children!” [3]

Against globalization
Historian Roger Griffin has argued that fascist ideology centers on a vision of palingenesis, or collective rebirth out of a near-fatal crisis or decline. This fits Golden Dawn well, as the party’s name suggests. “Today the country is going through a deep crisis. [A] crisis of values and ethics. [A] crisis economic, cultural and national” – a crisis brought on mainly by globalization. “We do not believe in any globalization and believe that this is the way for the subjugation of all peoples of mankind in [the] global conspiracy that exists today.” [4] GD cites damaging effects of economic globalization including “the depopulation of the countryside, methodical destruction of agriculture, closure of sugar factories, textiles and dozens of other productive sectors related to agricultural production,” as well as the closing of hundreds of factories and decline of the shipping industry. Because “multinationals operate unchecked,” Greece has become dependent on imports for 80 percent of food consumed, and cheap imports “create fictitious and false needs.” [5]

GD also argues that “the system” has brought about “commercialization of the arts and cultural alienation of our people” through imposition of “outlandish American subculture” and (presumably worse) even Turkish culture. These changes are “aimed at discrediting the Greek civilization and [causing Greeks] to forget their manners, customs and traditions of our nation.” [5]

The part of globalization that upsets Golden Dawn the most is mass immigration, which they regard as an attack on Greece’s cultural and racial purity. “Millions of immigrants have invaded and continue to invade our country unchecked… so in a few years the Greeks [will be] a minority in our land…” The “international system of globalization” is forcing Greece “to become multinational and multicultural…. Crime is now rampant. Neglected infectious diseases reappear.” The party calls for immediately arresting and deporting “all illegal immigrants” and securing the country’s borders with antipersonnel mines. [5]

Anti-elitism and antisemitism
Golden Dawn says that Greece is “under occupation” – controlled by outside forces. “The local corrupt political establishment, hooked to power, executes all the commands of dependence and subordination selling out [the] country.” [5] According to GD, real power is held by global elites, who the party refers to more or less interchangeably as “multinationals,” “capitalists,” “plutocracy,” [6] “predatory banking system,” or “international moneylenders.” [7] These terms hint at the classic fascist distinction between “productive” industrial capital and “parasitic” finance capital, but from what I have seen Golden Dawn doesn’t seem to develop this argument clearly. In any case, at the center of the conspiracy is “the one and only ruler of nations: the world Jewry.” [8]

The GD Youth Front argues that Jews use globalization “to create people incapable, [with] no future, and to eventually destroy humanity. Materialism will prevail and any value will be erased permanently from the souls of men. The consumerism will reap people and any resistance will immediately [be] suppressed.” [1] On GD’s own website we are told that Zionism (Jewish nationalism) is trying “to exterminate the ‘eternal’ enemy (the Greeks)” and that the Jewish lobby in the U.S. is behind U.S. policy in the Eastern Mediterranean region, which aims at “segmentation of the Greek State and the disappearance of the Greek Nation.” Zionism, by accelerating globalization, “put the U.S. on a slippery road [of] confrontation… with all nations of the earth.” [9])

Beyond left and right
Golden Dawn claims that “the political theories of bourgeois democracy, liberalism, Marxism and capitalism …ultimately are creations of the Jews, who incite the New World Order.” [1] Thus political left and political right are two sides of the same coin. “The right and left solutions supposedly fight each other, [but] it’s just theater[:] two partners who perpetuate the dominance of cosmopolitan internationalist and anti-national and anti-people forces.” [6] GD rejects both capitalism and communism as “instruments of the Zionist world domination attempt.” [5] “The oligarchy of money and [Bolshevik] party tyranny [are] the same. Enemies of the Nation and the People.” [6] On one side, the free market is “only the vehicle [of] internationalist capital, banks and moneylenders.” Adam Smith’s “theory of the ‘invisible hand’” (the belief that free markets channel selfish behavior into social benefits) has been disproved, because on “one finger of the hand, [is a] shining gold ring with the star of David!”

On the other side, the idea of class struggle “is opposed to our vision for unity of the people in a community of shared blood. The Bolsheviks did not believe in the reality of race.” [10] “In contrast with the sweat and blood of the worker, the leftists [have] the privileged status of rottenness and corruption.” In addition, GD claims, the left actually aids the capitalists they claim to be fighting. “While we are nationalists, [we have] argued from the outset against the invasion of foreign workplaces, [while] the unfortunate Marxists rushed to side on the side of smuggled migrants, essentially serving the interests of capitalists…. Who was actually the beneficiary of the massive invasion of foreign manpower in our country? [It] was undoubtedly the class of capitalists…” [7]

Rebirth of the nation
Golden Dawn aims to restore the unity, purity, and independence of the Greek nation. This involves not only purging foreigners, getting rid of corrupt politicians, and freeing Greece from the control of international moneylenders. The “ultimate aim” is to form “a new society and a new type of man” through “a radical renewal of the obsolete and counterfeit social values.” To GD, “nationalism is the only absolute and true revolution because it seeks [a] new birth [of] ethical, spiritual, social and mental values.” [6]

Golden Dawn’s “policy line is that the national interest stands above anything else…” [4] This means subordinating the individual to the nation. “It is important to society, the whole community of the People, not the person…. A person can only be one person who completes the socialization through capability, as [a] harmonious composition of social and individual values. This superior type of person is a new kind of person who seeks to realize nationalism.” [6]

Golden Dawn nationalism celebrates Greek culture as an outgrowth of Greeks’ racial heritage. “Tradition, the History of Law of our Nation and the Idea of Hellenism are the supreme values through which we experience the world and approach the concept of culture.” “We believe in a new Greek culture based on [the] great and eternal tradition of our race. We believe in a Greek way of life against the vile and vulgar outlandish customs.” [4] “Our way is the way of natural law: because Nature herself stated that Greek blood will be the most complete, most crystallized and perfect expression of human culture!” [10] “Nobody can refute the eternal natural law, no one can refute the Law of Blood!” [7] In this framework, “racial mixing is unacceptable, and almost always leads to disorder, mental illness, due to the destructive combination of inherited mental gifts, resulting in the destruction of human nature.” [1]

Women's duty
Golden Dawn proclaims “the importance of family and the value of motherhood.” Having babies is women's duty to the nation, in that “More children means more Greek[s], more opportunities for progression and creativity, more power to prevent any foreign conspiracy.” [8] When the party advocates services for women, such as more childcare centers or “support for single mothers to prevent abortion,” it is mainly to support their function as mothers. Similarly, the head of Golden Dawn's Women's Front, Eugenia Christou, said, "We want women to be educated because those will nurture their children, who are the hope and future of this country." [11]

At the same time, GD argues that traditional roles are a source of strength and pride for Greek women, in contrast to global culture's consumerism, sexual exploitation, and racial dangers. Declaring that women should not be treated as a "pleasure vessel or object," Christou proclaimed, “In today’s society, dominated by the standards of prostitution, where the role of the mother has become obsolete and has been replaced by superficial values, Women of the Golden Dawn, dynamic and informed about the nature of the female sex, strongly assert a healthy standard.” [11] A GD Women's Front blog post about a women's self-defense course explains, "our members were taught how with simple movements [they] can protect themselves, as attacks against women by hordes of illegal immigrants have already become a daily occurrence…. The course is for Greeks only.” [12]

Nature and tradition
Like the original Nazi party before them, Golden Dawn emphasizes closeness to nature. The party has an environmentalist affiliate organization called Green Wing, whose blog features articles about recycling, organic farming, the blight of strip mall construction, and traditional ways of harvesting olives. [13] Green Wing frames such concerns in a nationalist context. “Man is and should be in direct contact with nature and the natural environment. The rupture of this bond [through] urbanization leads to a decline in[to] a vulgar way of life, this American, cosmopolitan lifestyle away from their ancestral homes and Nature.” [14]

Taking this a step further, Green Wing has also promoted eugenics. In 2007 their blog reprinted an article by J. Bauge-Prevost on “Biopolitics and Eugenics,” which argued that “The hereditary burdened people [such] as paranoid, the mentally retarded, the schizophrenic, epileptic, carriers of mutated genes, incurable alcoholics, advanced drug addicts and others should [be] sterilized.” The same article listed “homosexuality, the degenerate marriages, racial intermarriage, [and] wild consumerism” along with “the soiling of the environment” as threats to the white race. [15]

A strong state
Golden Dawn's website refers to their ideal of the purified and unified nation as “the People’s State” or “the secular state.” “For the People nationalism is not only a numerical unity of people but a qualitative synthesis of people with the same biological and spiritual heritage, which is the source of all creation and expresses its power in the People’s State[:] the only state that can express the people as an organic whole and spiritual living.” “In [the] secular state there is no social stratification based on income-economic classes. The popular classes are collaborating organic[ally], other groups of people with special abilities and production skills each. Just like in a living body. The different systems contribute harmoniously and in full cooperation for their survival.” [6]

The People’s or secular state will be “a fair state where everybody is equal before the law and where the law is respected by all.” [4] But this formal equality will allow true, natural inequality to express itself. “The People’s State of Nationalism [that] delivers social equality of opportunity is grounded in meritocracy and [does] not ignore the law of diversity and difference in nature. Respecting the spiritual, ethnic and racial inequality of men can build egalitarian society and law.” [6] Specifically, “the Armed Forces and the people of Culture and Education” represent “a natural aristocracy.” “In our state they will be the leaders and guides of the nation and not the cunning politicians or government-nouveau riche plutocrats.” [4] (The reference to the Armed Forces as natural leaders of Greece evokes the rightist military dictatorship of 1967-1974, whose former leaders helped inspire Nikolaos Michaloliakos to found the Golden Dawn party.)

Golden Dawn advocates a strong state role in the economy. “As there can be no strong economy without private initiative, so it can not exist without public sector. The strategic sectors of the economy [should be] controlled by the national state.” [5] Further, “the state should control private property so that it is not dangerous for the survival of the People or can manipulate [the People].” [6] They want to nationalize those banks that have received bailout funds and merge them into a strong national bank, whose income will be invested in domestic production to make Greece self-sufficient. They also want debt relief for low-income people and “specialized programs to support workers, Motherhood, vulnerable groups and youth.” But at the same time, Golden Dawn also calls for a “dramatic reduction of government expenditure,” to be achieved by reducing the salaries of MPs, expenditures on parliament and the presidency, and cutting funding for political parties and NGOs. [5]

Foreign policy
Golden Dawn calls for an aggressive and expansionist foreign policy. “We denounce the abandonment of Northern Epirus [part of Albania], the constant retreats in Cyprus, Macedonia, [and] Aegean Thrace...” [4] “Macedonia is our land since ancient Greek times…. Today, some parts of it remain outside the National Backbone and Greeks living there [are] methodically persecuted.” GD wants political autonomy for Northern Epirus and Greek citizenship for ethnic Greeks living there. They declare that “Cyprus is Greece” and call for the liberation of occupied Cyprus from Turkish rule. They also want to expand Greek territorial waters to 12 nautical miles,  “close the Turkish consulate and [deport] agents of Ankara.” [5]

              *         *         *

Golden Dawn’s website and blogs offer a relatively traditional form of fascist ideology, not that different from what was common in the 1920s and 1930s. Like many current-day fascists, GD has adapted old themes to fit new circumstances – thus the rejection of globalization and the scapegoating of immigrants. Golden Dawn has apparently not gone in for any of the more systematic reworkings of fascist ideology, such as Alain de Benoist’s ethno-pluralism, Julius Evola’s racial mysticism, Lyndon LaRouche’s esoteric conspiracy theories, or Troy Southgate’s national anarchism. GD is also not significantly influenced by national bolshevism, Strasserism, or any other avowedly anti-capitalist variants of fascism. Although one of their articles proclaims Golden Dawn’s “own real socialism,” all this amounts to is providing a Greek-only employment agency, emergency food distribution, and a blood bank. [7]

Golden Dawn advocates a rightist revolution against Greece’s established political and cultural order, but it bolsters capitalist economic power through its attacks on the left and large sections of the working class, and by channeling many people’s frustration and rage at the economic crisis into anti-immigrant bigotry and violence. I agree with clandestina that here “capitalism uses fascism, as it also has in the past,” but I’m skeptical of their claim that the rise of Golden Dawn (“a seemingly ‘militant’ fascist organization”) was simply part of a campaign manufactured by the ruling class. Yes, there are close ties between Golden Dawn and the police, but that doesn’t explain the genuine popular support for the party or address the question of possible divisions within the ruling class or the state.

Similarly, I agree with "9 Theses on the Golden Dawn..." that Golden Dawn stands with one foot “in increasing totalitarianism, mafia and violence” but not that its other foot is in “neoliberal rationalism.” Arguing that the free market is a tool of Jewish power and that “the state should control private property so that it is not dangerous for the survival of the People” is flatly at odds with neoliberalism. It seems more likely that Golden Dawn is aligned with sections of the Greek ruling class that are resisting neoliberal demands from the European Union and global capital.

SOURCES (titles translated from Greek):
[1] “Fighting the People’s Nationalism, fighting the natural order!” Resistance-Hellas, 5 January 2012,
[2] “Robert Jay Mathews,” Resistance-Hellas, 8 December 2011,
[3] Golden Dawn Women’s Front main page,
[4] “Front Youth,” Golden Dawn,
[5] “Our positions,” Golden Dawn,
[6] “Identity,” Golden Dawn,
[7] E. Karakostas, “Our own real socialism!,” Golden Dawn, 14 October 2012,
[8] “Our Ideas,” Golden Dawn [former website],
[9] Apostle Karaiskos, “Zionism and Globalization,” Golden Dawn, 25 September 2012,
[10] “The Meaning of Struggle,” Golden Dawn, 3 October 2012,
[11] “Women meeting fronts T.O. Upper Llosa,” Women’s Front, 2 August 2012,
[12] “Women’s Self Defense Lessons,” Women’s Front, 9 October 2012,
[13] Golden Dawn Green Wing, posts dated 21 March 2012, 14 April 2011, and 18 November 2011,
[14] “Where Nature Meets Tradition,” Green Wing, 11 November 2011,
[15] “H Republic condemns innocent creatures lifelong torture,” Green Wing, 14 May 2007, A critique and translation of this text is available on the Persona at

Golden Dawn-affiliated websites and blogs:
Golden Dawn (
Youth Front (
Women’s Front (
Green Wing (

Related posts on Three Way Fight:
Golden Dawn violence and police collaboration, 12 October 2012
White nationalists praise Golden Dawn, 8 October 2012

Oct 18, 2012

Black Orchid Collective on strategizing against repression and fascism

The Seattle-based Black Orchid Collective has a great post on developing strategies for combating both privatized repression and insurgent fascism. The piece is intended to prompt discussion and touches on a lot of issues and resources: police outsourcing repression to private security forces, gangs, and far rightists; Don Hamerquist on the hollowing out of states; ruling-class theorist John Robb on open source warfare and counterinsurgency; the book Confronting Fascism; the Sojourner Truth Organization on anti-fascist strategies; and Trotsky's strategy of a united front against Nazism.

A united front means "a tactical alliance of mutual protection that operates at the street level, not the electoral level" in which "each group maintains its politics [and] the radicals don't subordinate or hide ours." In applying this, as the BOC's post emphasizes, it's important to avoid sliding into a popular front approach (in which radicals are instructed to tone down or abandon their politics to unite with liberals). It's also important

"to account for how some of the fascists are an insurgent right-wing movement from below. They are competing with the Left and the anarchists to express the anger that many people feel against the capitalist system. Any force that gets too close with electoral reformism could get discredited as this reformism leads to new rounds of austerity and capitalist crisis. This could happen to Syriza too [the largest socialist party in Greece]. All the other socialist electoral parties have ended up imposing austerity and subordination to imperialism and global capital. If Leftists get too close to these parties and do not criticize them, the fascists can say 'look, the Left failed to fight austerity, we are the only force left capable of doing it, so side with us'."

Read more

Oct 12, 2012

Golden Dawn violence and police collaboration

Following up on my previous post about white nationalist responses to the Greek neonazi group Golden Dawn, I want to pull together some information and analysis about Golden Dawn itself. This post focuses on GD’s campaign of violence and its close relationship with the police. A later post will focus on GD’s fascist ideology.

Greek anti-fascists have emphasized that Golden Dawn is far more violent than most far-right parties in Europe. This violence is primarily directed against immigrants and refugees but also against leftists, LGBT people, and others who don’t fit GD’s fascist vision for Greece. The website Infomobile (“information with, about and for refugees in Greece”) reported on August 13 that there had been “more than 500 fascist attacks against migrants in the last six months.” Whether or not all of these attacks have been perpetrated by Golden Dawn members, it’s clear that the party is spearheading and driving the racist campaign.

As a snapshot of this violence, the blog ANTI published a chronology of selected racist attacks in Greece during the week following the June 17 elections. Here is a summary:

          June 17 early hours – A mob of seventy stops buses in central Athens, punches and kicks non-Greek passengers; similar attacks take place at three other locations in the city. Local kiosks of the leftist parties ANTARSYA and SYRIZA are vandalized and torched. In Chania (on Crete) a gang of four attacks two Algerians with knives and metal bars, sending them to the hospital.
           June 17 night – A group of Golden Dawn supporters attacks an immigrant in an Athens subway station, as part of wider night of violence celebrating GD’s electoral success. In Chania, a homeless Egyptian immigrant is attacked with a metal bar, and is beaten so badly that he has to have emergency surgery to remove his kidney. 
          June 18 – Two teens punch non-Greek street sellers in Alimos and hit them with clubs. A Pakistani cyclist near Corinth is chased down by a group of six on motorbikes and beaten with clubs; police dismiss the attack as an inter-Pakistani feud and arrest ten of the victim’s friends for being undocumented when they visit him in hospital. 
          June 20 – Two teens attack street-sellers in Palaio Faliro. 
          June 21 – A group of ten thugs attacks immigrant street-sellers in Kalamaki.
          June 23 – A Golden Dawn gang in the Athens suburb of Nikaia goes to every shop owned by a non-Greek and threatens violence if they don’t leave within a week; their visit is closely observed by police who do not intervene. In the Elaionas neighborhood of Athens, a group of twenty thugs attacks non-Greeks with clubs, then vandalizes four immigrants’ houses; later, the local “ordinary” Greeks attack the remaining immigrants; police respond to both attacks by arresting undocumented immigrants.

Golden Dawn’s campaign of violence is connected to the police in at least two ways. First, the Greek police are implementing their own official campaign to crack down on immigrants and refugees. Since April there has been a series of mass sweeps leading to arrests and deportations. In “Operation Xenios Zeus” (named for the ancient Greek god of hospitality), police rounded up 6,000 people in the greater Athens area in one day alone. Christoph Dreier on World Socialist Web Site reports:
“According to eyewitness reports published in the Guardian newspaper in Britain, the police teams acted with the utmost brutality. Police are said to have randomly stopped foreign-looking individuals and packed them into windowless buses. After several hours, the officers searched them and checked their papers. Those who could produce a residency permit were released; all others were taken to police stations and a temporary detention facility near Athens…. Other reports speak of humiliating scenes in which the victims had to spend hours kneeling on the ground. There are reports of violent attacks by police officers on detainees.”
These operations reflect the fact that Greece’s mainstream ruling parties have embraced nativist politics, even if they don’t endorse Golden Dawn’s pogromist tactics. As Dreier reports,
“The minister responsible for civil protection, Nikos Dendias of the conservative New Democracy, denounced refugees seeking asylum as worse than the German troops who invaded Greece during World War II. Speaking to Skai TV, he described them as ‘occupiers’ who have turned the country into an ‘immigrant ghetto.’”
At the same time, there is a close relationship between the Golden Dawn fascists and the police -- whether or not claims that 50 percent of police officers voted for Golden Dawn are correct. The chronology of racist attacks summarized above includes several incidents when police either ignored the attack or punished the victims, a pattern that has been widely reported elsewhere. Recently, forty anti-fascist protesters arrested in Athens told the Guardian that they were tortured and humiliated at the central police station, and that officers threatened to give their home addresses to Golden Dawn.

Sociologist Sappho Xenakis helps place Golden Dawn’s violence and police collaboration in historical context, noting that in the 1950s Greek police worked closely with far-right paramilitary groups in targeting leftists and labor unionists. Discussing political violence in the 2000s, she writes:
“Compounding the impact of state coerciveness has been the perceived immunity accorded to far-right violence, and open collaboration between far-right activists and the police in violent engagements. The number of organized and spontaneous attacks against immigrant, far-left, and anarchist targets by groups of far-right activists appears to have climbed over the 2000s. By 2009, far-right mobilizations against immigrants in central Athens by platoon-like formations of around thirty to forty black-clad and capped individuals, armed with sticks, were regularly being reported in the media. These acquired greater public recognition in 2010, when their ‘patrols’ became routine in the Athenian district of Agios Panteleimonas, a place of high tension between immigrant and Greek residents. The visibility of far-right violence reached a new level on May 12, 2011, with the daylight chasing and beating of immigrants by an estimated crowd of five hundred far-right extremists in central Athens (thought to include members of Chrysi Avgi, known as Chrysavgites), the reported injury of nineteen immigrants and six Greeks, and damage to the shops of immigrants.

“Furthermore, images of uniformed far-Rightists (suspected Chrysavgites) emerging from, or alongside, police ranks, armed with Molotov cocktails, batons, and knives, to attack anarchists and far-Leftists during demonstrations and riots, and even caught on film returning for protection behind these lines, has persuaded many of the existence of a close cooperative relationship between the far-Right and the police over recent years. One such illustration was provided on May 9, 2009, when dozens of far-right activists (again, suspected Chrysavgites) passed by police lines to attack Asian refugees housed in Omonia, central Athens, armed with shields, sticks, and grenades, leading to the injury of five immigrants.” (Sappho Xenakis, “A New Dawn? Change and Continuity in Political Violence in Greece,” pp. 445-6, available at with free login) [or even without the login -- see Comment below]
Two closing thoughts for now: First, the fascist threat in Greece is not a future potential or a secondary issue compared with the crisis of capitalism and the so-called austerity measures that the Greek state and the European Union have imposed on the people of Greece. Fascist violence is an immediate, physical threat now, and it plays a major role in defining the political and social direction of the country. Beyond that, Golden Dawn’s successes and aggressiveness inspire and embolden far rightists around the world.

Second, the close relationship between Golden Dawn and the Greek police doesn’t mean that Greek neonazism functions simply as a tool of the Greek state, the ruling class, or capitalism as a system. Historically, fascist movements have had a complex, contradictory relationship with the capitalist ruling class, serving its interests in some ways but clashing with them in others. To understand how that relationship plays out in the case of Golden Dawn, it would be important to look at tensions within the Greek ruling class (notably in relation to global capital and the EU's demands and constraints) as well as tensions between the security apparatus and economic or political elites (possibly left over from the end of military rule of 40 years ago).

Here are some good sources of information about the struggle in Greece:
Related posts on Three Way Fight:
Golden Dawn's fascist ideology, 24 October 2012
White nationalists praise Golden Dawn, 8 October 2012

Oct 8, 2012

White nationalists praise Golden Dawn

The anti-racist website Imagine 2050 recently posted a useful article about the Greek neonazi party Golden Dawn. Author Aaron Patrick Flanigan warns that GD’s newly formed New York City chapter may try to build connections with North American white nationalist, anti-immigrant, and Islamophobic groups. I agree that this type of networking seems likely and it is one of the main reasons that Golden Dawn’s North American venture is dangerous. For much of the far right, the flip side of nationalism is an emphasis on international solidarity with like-minded groups.

Here are some examples of praise for Golden Dawn on North American white nationalist websites:

Faith and Heritage (“a webzine presenting the views of Occidental Christians who are determined to preserve both Western Civilization and Western Peoples”) recently posted a videotape of a Golden Dawn meeting with the comment, “Hopefully this is a foretaste of a greater nationalist awakening that will sweep the West in the wake of this global economic crisis.” (The Council of Conservative Citizens, probably the biggest white nationalist organization in the U.S., lists Faith and Heritage on its homepage blogroll.)

White Reference, in a September 9 post about a Golden Dawn attack on immigrant street traders, comments, “Golden Dawn shows us what can happen when suits and boots decide to work together as one. And since Golden Dawn considers it just as important to be effective than [sic] it is to be respectable, they're winning over more support with each passing day.” (White Reference is a blog that offers “reports of crime and oppression against White people worldwide, as well as accounts of White resistance.”)

Renaissance Vanguard (also known as Renaissance Party of North America) issued a September 23 press release welcoming Golden Dawn to North America, and applauding Golden Dawn’s “efforts to resist and overcome the genocidal multi-culturalist, and anti-Hellenic agenda of the New World Order.”
 “‘We welcome the presence of Golden Dawn in NAmerika to encourage and support the development of an adolescent nationalist movement here and to build bridges where bridges may be built,’ said Sebastian E. Ronin, Chairman of the RPN [Renaissance Party of North America]. ‘We look forward to a possible opening of a Golden Dawn office in Toronto which also has a large Greek population.’” (Renaissance Vanguard describes itself as “a nascent Canadian federal political party that advocates the political synergy and recognition of Peak Oil, Ethno Nationalism, and Regional Secessionism on the NAmerikan continent.”)

Jim Goad, editor of the paleoconservative Taki’s Magazine, concedes in a May 14 article that Golden Dawn “play[s] the role of fascist street goons con mucho gusto,” but defends the party’s nativism as a natural response to the “mass immigration of mostly unassimilable and often culturally hostile foreigners.” “Only a deluded leftist ideologue or a media-brainwashed useful idiot would keep scratching their head at the persistently stubborn resurgence of nationalism without pausing to ponder that perhaps tribalism is an ineradicable human instinct rather than a sinister psychological aberration.”

Goad also highlights Golden Dawn’s proclaimed hostility to globalist elites. “Although media outlets cast a harsh spotlight on Golden Dawn’s immigrant-bashing, they don’t focus nearly so much attention on their fervid criticism of ‘global loan sharks,’ ‘bailout dictators,’ and ‘international speculators’ who are ‘selling us out and looting the sweat of the Greek people.’ For some Greeks, it seems to have come down to a choice between Golden Dawn and Goldman Sachs.”

The anti-immigrant is more guarded in its comments about Golden Dawn. Contributor Brenda Walker both minimizes and excuses Golden Dawn’s extensive violence against immigrants, claiming: “The tribal violence is regrettable, but predictable. The Greeks are acting like typical humans, hard-wired to protect their group’s interests.” Walker also highlights the August firebombing of Golden Dawn's offices in Athens, implying that the party is more victim than victimizer.

VDare founder Peter Brimelow cites Greece as a model for the United States on “how to handle illegal immigration,” citing measures such as randomly grab[bing] illegals off the street and deport[ing] them,” which the Greek government has implemented largely in response to Golden Dawn’s rise. Brimelow euphemistically refers to Golden Dawn as an “insurrectionary Right-wing party.” (Interestingly, the other model of anti-immigrant toughness that Brimelow cites is Israel, highlighting the pro-Zionism that sets VDare apart from most U.S. white nationalists.)

Related posts on Three Way Fight:
Golden Dawn's fascist ideology, 24 October 2012
Golden Dawn violence and police collaboration, 12 October 2012

Sep 30, 2012

Greek neonazi party opens North American offices

Golden Dawn is the Greek neonazi party that won 7 percent of the vote in elections for the Greek parliament earlier this year. The party is notorious for its physical attacks against immigrants and political opponents, yet recent opinion polls in Greece put its popularity at 22 percent.

Now Golden Dawn has formed chapters in New York City and Montreal, to build support among diaspora Greeks and bolster the party's charity work at home (for non-immigrants only, of course). They have also set up, or are trying to set up, a chapter in Melbourne, Australia.
Commenters on the U.S. far rightist websites American Renaissance and Stormfront applauded Golden Dawn's international expansion. One of them wrote on an AR thread, "The success of Golden Dawn and similar parties in Europe would change the political paradigm. It may be time for those of us sharing a broader European identity to materially support one of these nationalist parties regardless of our nationality."

The hacker group Anonymous immediately shut down the Golden Dawn New York chapter’s website.

Jul 28, 2012

Speak out against FBI raids & Grand Jury repression in Oregon and Washington

We are reposting the follow solidarity appeal from the Committee to Stop FBI Repression. For a discussion that puts these raids in the context of recent state repression against leftists, see Grand Juries & the FBI’s Targeting of Anarchists in the Occupy Movement by Kevin Gosztola at See also Ken Lawrence’s classic The New State Repression (1985, republished 2006), which analyzes the modern state’s strategic shift from reactive, intermittent repression to pre-emptive, permanent counterinsurgency.


Please sign the Solidarity Statement: Speak out against FBI raids & Grand Jury repression in Oregon and Washington

The Committee to Stop FBI Repression is circulating the following statement on FBI raids and grand jury repression in Portland, Oregon and in Olympia & Seattle in Washington. We urge all progressive organizations to sign on to this statement. To add your group’s name to the solidarity statement, please send an email to:

On Wednesday July 25th, the FBI conducted a series of coordinated raids against activists in Portland, Olympia, and Seattle. They subpoenaed several people to a special federal grand jury, and seized computers, black clothing and anarchist literature. This comes after similar raids in Seattle in July and earlier raids of squats in Portland.

Though the FBI has said that the raids are part of a violent crime investigation, the truth is that the federal authorities are conducting a political witch-hunt against anarchists and others working toward a more just, free, and equal society. The warrants served specifically listed anarchist literature as evidence to be seized, pointing to the fact that the FBI and police are targeting this group of people because of their political ideas. Pure and simple, these raids and the grand jury hearings are being used to intimidate people whose politics oppose the state’s agenda. During a time of growing economic and ecological crises that are broadly affecting people across the world, it is an attempt to push back any movement towards creating a world that is humane, one that meets every person’s needs rather than serving only the interests of the rich.

This attack does not occur in a vacuum. Around the country and around the world, people have been rising up and resisting an economic system that puts the endless pursuit of profit ahead of the basic needs of humanity and the Earth. From the Arab Spring to the Occupy movement to now Anaheim, people are taking to the streets. In each of these cases, the state has responded with brutal political repression. This is not a coincidence. It is a long-term strategy by state agencies to stop legitimate political challenges to a status quo that exploits most of the world’s people.

We, the undersigned, condemn this and all other political repression. While we may have differences in ideology or chose to use different tactics, we understand that we are in a shared struggle to create a just, free, and liberated world, and that we can only do this if we stand together. We will not let scare tactics or smear campaigns divide us, intimidate us, or stop us from organizing and working for a better world.

No more witch-hunts! An injury to one is an injury to all.

See the Committee to Stop FBI Repression website for the original statement and current list of signers.

Jul 7, 2012

Book notes: Michael Staudenmaier on the Sojourner Truth Organization

I am in the middle of reading Michael Staudenmaier's Truth and Revolution: A History of the Sojourner Truth Organization, 1969-1986. This is a detailed, thoughtful account of one of the most interesting radical groups to emerge from the 1960s left. STO was one of very few Marxist groups in the U.S. that promoted both revolutionary politics and open debate and discussion. They had important things to say about racial oppression in the U.S., the working class as complex political actors, and how dialectics can be a useful, practical tool -- not just dogma or dead theory.

STO's approach to the threat of fascism also helped lay the groundwork for this blog, Three Way Fight. STO rejected two ideas common on the left -- on one side, that fascism is simply a tool of the capitalist state or ruling class; on the other, that the way to defeat far rightists is to rely on the state and its liberal allies. Instead, STO argued that fascism represents an autonomous current with the potential to gain a mass following, and that it "contains an anti-capitalist 'revolutionary' side that is not reducible to simple demagogy" (p. 294). And within the framework of building a broad United Front against fascism, STO helped promote a militant, direct-action approach to antifa work that was later taken up by groups such as Anti-Racist Action.

Staudenmaier's book is the first in-depth study of STO, and it has a lot to say about how STO's story speaks to current political struggles. The book is published by AK Press and is available through major distributors. You can check out online reviews by Ian Scott Horst on the Kasama website and by Nate Hawthorne at Ideas and Action. Also check out Hawthorne's longer essay "Truth and Revolution and Parenting," on the Black Orchid Collective site, which takes Staudenmaier's book as a starting point to explore the issue of parenting in STO and in current left groups.

Many of STO's writings and publications can be found at the Sojourner Truth Organization Digital Archive. For STO's distinctive approach to fascism, see in particular the group's "Theses on Fascism" (1981), Noel Ignatin, "Fascism: Some Common Misconceptions" (1978), and Ken Lawrence, "The Ku Klux Klan and Fascism" (1982).

May 7, 2012

South Side Chicago Anti-Racist Action Annual Zine #3 available

From the South Side ARA blog:

Annual South Side ARA Zine #3 (Mid 2011- April 2012)

Download readable version here
Download printable PDF here

"This is South Side ARA's 3rd annual zine. This zine, just like the ones before it, is filled with intel on local fascists, action reportbacks and analysis. It represents a written documentation of the work we have done, supported, or have taken interest in from mid-2011 to April of 2012.

"It's important that we recognize fascism as a component (or opponent) in the class struggle; it is a force that may influence the disenfranchised and those with potentially insurgent desires. They use populist, resurgent and nationalist politics in their attempts to sway people toward a world based on discipline, control, hierarchy and order. Those who reject the illusionary appeal of mainstream politics and capitalist wage slavery are the same people that we need in order to truly challenge capitalism and the state, towards a world based on freedom, creativity, and the fulfillment of our desires - reclaiming control of our lives and all the possibilities therein.

"This zine is an attempt to not only document ARA's work, but to push others to analyze and understand fascism as a complex social movement, as well as think about the relevance of militant anti-fascism: an area of work less likely to be bogged down in reformist and liberal doctrine, being firmly rooted in practice as well as theory.

"We're fighting for a free society and a world without racists – and we intend to win."

[Full disclosure: In this zine, the South Side ARA folks have reprinted some of my writings: two recent pieces about the Occupy movement and an older piece about fascist ideology.]

Mar 13, 2012

Palestinian activists' statement denounces Gilad Atzmon's racism and antisemitism

Twenty-three Palestinian activists and organizers have signed a public statement titled
"Granting No Quarter: A Call for the Disavowal of the Racism and Antisemitism of Gilad Atzmon." The signers "call for the disavowal of Atzmon by fellow Palestinian organizers, as well as Palestine solidarity activists, and allies of the Palestinian people, and note the dangers of supporting Atzmon’s political work and writings and providing any platforms for their dissemination. We do so as Palestinian organizers and activists, working across continents, campaigns, and ideological positions."

Here is another excerpt from the statement:

As countless Palestinian activists and organizers, their parties, associations and campaigns, have attested throughout the last century, our struggle was never, and will never be, with Jews, or Judaism, no matter how much Zionism insists that our enemies are the Jews. Rather, our struggle is with Zionism, a modern European settler colonial movement, similar to movements in many other parts of the world that aim to displace indigenous people and build new European societies on their lands.

We reaffirm that there is no room in this historic and foundational analysis of our struggle for any attacks on our Jewish allies, Jews, or Judaism; nor denying the Holocaust; nor allying in any way shape or form with any conspiracy theories, far-right, orientalist, and racist arguments, associations and entities. Challenging Zionism, including the illegitimate power of institutions that support the oppression of Palestinians, and the illegitimate use of Jewish identities to protect and legitimize oppression, must never become an attack on Jewish identities, nor the demeaning and denial of Jewish histories in all their diversity.

Indeed, we regard any attempt to link and adopt antisemitic or racist language, even if it is within a self-described anti-imperialist and anti-Zionist politics, as reaffirming and legitimizing Zionism. In addition to its immorality, this language obscures the fundamental role of imperialism and colonialism in destroying our homeland, expelling its people, and sustaining the systems and ideologies of oppression, apartheid and occupation. It leaves one squarely outside true solidarity with Palestine and its people.


Mar 7, 2012

Feb 22, 2012

Between Pro-Fascism and Left-Populism: Reading Loren Goldner on the Bolivian MNR

I recently read Loren Goldner's 2011 article on Bolivia's Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario (MNR) and I think it has a lot to offer for ThreeWayFight readers. The title is a mouthful: "Anti-Capitalism or Anti-Imperialism? Interwar Authoritarian and Fascist Sources of a Reactionary Ideology: The Case of the Bolivian MNR." Since the article is over 27,000 words (plus footnotes), I will try to summarize some of its main points here, but I encourage people to read the original. (The article appeared in Insurgent Notes #3 but is available in more readable format as a PDF from Goldner's website, Break Their Haughty Power. All page numbers below refer to the PDF version.)

1. The MNR was formed in 1941/42 and took power in the 1952 Revolution. Although few North Americans remember that event today, it was one of the most important political upheavals in 20th century Latin American history. The armed working class dissolved the army and installed a new MNR government, which quickly nationalized the holdings of the big tin producers (Bolivia's main export), established universal suffrage, broke up big land holdings, and abolished peonage labor in the countryside. But as Goldner shows, the MNR was founded by Nazi sympathizers and was originally an antisemitic, pro-Axis party. Its path from there to the 1952 Revolution was "a prime example of the recycling of proto-fascist and fascist ideologies of the interwar period in 'progressive' and 'anti-imperialist' form after 1945" (12).

2. The MNR didn't simply move from the right to the left -- it combined fascistic and left-populist politics in ways that shifted and changed. Its 1942 program, written when Hitler's power was at its height, denounced "the maneuvers of Judaism" as "anti-national" and called for an "absolute prohibition of Jewish immigration, as well as any other immigration not having productive efficacy." Yet that same year MNR head Víctor Paz Estenssoro strongly supported the Catavi miners' strike and condemned a government massacre of miners and their families. By the early 1950s, the MNR had long abandoned its anti-Jewish language and pro-Axis stance, largely due to U.S. pressure. But a 1953 book by one of the party's leading intellectuals, Carlos Montenegro, offered a vision of all "national" classes unified against the "foreign" elite, in terms that borrowed directly from Oswald Spengler's racial theory.

3. Goldner (who is a friend) has long been critical of populist anti-imperialism and of leftists who embrace it. He writes here, "contrary to what contemporary complacent leftist opinion in the West thinks, there is a largely forgotten history of reactionary populist and 'anti-imperialist' movements in the underdeveloped world that do not shrink from mobilizing the working class to achieve their goals. This little-remembered background is all the more important for understanding the dynamics of the left-populist governments which have emerged in Latin America since the 1990's" (1-2).

4. The Great Depression and rise of radical workers movements spurred many Latin American ruling classes to remake their political systems, away from traditional oligarchic regimes based on classical liberalism and limited suffrage, toward various forms of state-corporatism based on mass politics. Cardenas's Mexico, Peron's Argentina, and Vargas's Brazil are all examples of this. (Corporatism refers to a formalized system of "social partnership" between representatives of different classes and economic sectors that is sanctioned or imposed by the state.)

5. The MNR emerged from a broader Bolivian nationalist-populist current that advocated a cross-class alliance of all true Bolivians against foreign influence and control. This current blended influences from Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Primo de Rivera's dictatorship in Spain, and Italian and German fascism. In a context where "democracy" was identified with brutal capitalist rule and subservience to Angle-American imperialism, many middle-class Bolivians – including left-leaning ones – liked the idea of an anti-liberal alternative that emphasized national unity and strength. The fact that one of Bolivia's three major tin barons, Mauricio Hochschild, was Jewish meant that populist anti-elitism could easily be channeled into Jew hatred.

6. Germany's influence on Bolivian populism was especially strong. In Bolivia as in much of Latin America, Africa, and Asia, many members of the local elite admired Germany as a model of national development that challenged the dominant imperialist powers economically, militarily, and culturally. Goldner traces Bolivian populist nationalism back to the writer and politician Franz Tamayo (1878-1956), who developed a paternalistic celebration of indigenous Bolivian culture -- based on German romantic race theory. In the decades before World War II, many Bolivian students studied at German universities and often absorbed German rightist ideas. Right-wing German officers also came to Bolivia as military advisers – most notably Ernst Roehm, founder and leader of Hitler's stormtroopers, who served in Bolivia from 1928 to 1930 and briefly joined the Bolivian General Staff.

7. Bolivia's traumatic defeat in the Chaco War against Paraguay (1932-1935), like Germany's defeat in World War I, created a protracted crisis that fueled the growth of fascist-influenced political forces. These included Razon de Patria (RADEPA), a secret organization formed by junior army officers released from Paraguayan POW camps, and the newspaper La Calle, founded in 1936, which "became an organ for German fascist propaganda and virulent anti-Semitism" (43) and included several future leaders and intellectuals of the MNR.

8. Between 1936 and 1952, control of Bolivia's government shifted back and forth between populist nationalists and traditional forces representing the mine owners (known as "La Rosca"). David Toro and German Busch's "military socialism" (1936-1939) borrowed elements from Italian fascism (such as "a corporate type of regime in parliament, mandatory worker savings plans, a social security system, and state-subsidized food stores" [42]) and was friendly with Nazi Germany. So was the government of Gualberto Villarroel (1943-1946), which included RADEPA and the MNR, until Washington forced Villarroel to declare war on the Axis and fire MNR cabinet members in mid 1944. Yet these pro-Axis governments also endorsed labor unionization and took at least formal steps to address indigenous rights and problems facing peasants. During the years when the pro-U.S. forces of La Rosca were in control, repression against workers and peasants was much harsher.

9. During the 1940s, Bolivia's main Stalinist party, the Party of the Revolutionary Left (PIR), developed a close alliance with the mine owners under the banner of anti-fascist unity – to the point where PIR militants took part in murderous repression of workers. Partly for this reason, Bolivia was one of the few countries in the world where Trotskyism (centered in the Revolutionary Workers Party, or POR) became the dominant current in the working class. The head of the mineworkers' federation, Juan Lechin, developed close ties with both the POR and the MNR in the 1940s, and held an important cabinet post in the 1952 revolutionary government. Goldner argues that both Lechin and the POR provided far-left cover to the MNR during the 1952 Revolution, restraining the working class from more radical action and enabling the MNR to consolidate a new state apparatus. (The MNR responded with large-scale arrests of POR members within two years.)

10. The 1952 Revolution modernized Bolivian capitalism but did not transform social relations for the mass of Bolivians in any fundamental way. The workers and peasants who took up arms to bring about change ended up disempowered by new bureaucratic structures, such as the new government-owned mining corporation, COMIBOL. The United States could not use a military coup to overthrow the MNR because the army had disintegrated, so instead it pumped in lots of aid, and the new government willingly let itself be co-opted. Within a few years, the Bolivian revolution's radical momentum – and any larger threat to U.S. power in the region – had been neutralized.

11. The MNR transformed itself from an openly racist, pro-fascist organization to a left-nationalist party that received substantial U.S. aid. But, Goldner argues, its core ideology and program did not change. Before and after, it promoted an "irreducible, anti-universalist 'Bolivianness,' counterposed to everything 'foreign'" (78), in order to rally all classes behind its project to modernize the capitalist nation-state. The leftists who hoped to push it in a more radical, socialist direction fell into a mistake that "has been employed again and again, from Bolivia under the MNR to Algeria under the FLN to Mitterand's France to the Iranian mullahs after 1979. The far-left groups in question see themselves in the role of Lenin's Bolsheviks to Kerensky's Provisional Government, when in fact their role is to enlist some of the more radical elements in supporting or tolerating an alien project which sooner or later co-opts or, even worse, represses and sometimes annihilates them" (99).

* * *

This account of the MNR highlights the continuities between fascism and other forms of populism. It belies simplistic conceptions of the political spectrum where fascism, imperialism, and ruling-class repression are lumped together on the right; while working-class militancy, anti-imperialism, and popular movements converge neatly on the left.

The early MNR (in both its pro-Axis phase and during the 1952 Revolution) shared with classical fascism a belief that national unity transcended all other loyalties, and that the nation must be reborn out of a deep crisis by purging "foreign" influences. Like fascism, the MNR spoke to real popular grievances, offering a twisted anti-elitism that defined the oppressors not as an integral part of the existing social order but as an alien intrusion. This could include scapegoating Jews (as in the original MNR program) but did not require it. Like fascists (despite standard leftist claims to the contrary), the MNR challenged direct capitalist control of the state and advanced policies that clashed with big business's immediate interests, yet remained committed to an exploitative economic system.

On the other hand, the early MNR's close relationship with organized labor and progressive measures such as land reform set it apart from classical fascism. Above all the MNR apparently did not share classical fascism's drive to establish a totalitarian state, in which all spheres of society would be forcibly subordinated to one ideological vision. In this sense, the MNR's challenge to the established social order was much more limited than fascism's.

Goldner's portrayal of the MNR fits with the idea of fascism as one of various strategies for modernizing capitalist nation-states. This is a useful piece of the picture to explore, although fascism is never just this, and arguably has the potential to break with capitalism more fundamentally.

Jan 24, 2012

Anti-capitalist perspectives on the Occupy movement

The January issue of Insurgent Notes, an online left-communist journal, is devoted mainly to the Occupy movement, with a lead editorial, reports from Occupy campaigns in six U.S. cities, and an article on "class struggle in the US from the 2008 crash to the eve of the Occupations movement." Here's a quote from the editorial:

"The Occupy movement discovered the remaining central public space as the one place of visibility capable of reaching large numbers of people. 'Making shame more shameful still by making it public' (Marx) was an important part of what OWS and its spinoffs were about, after decades in which so much degradation and rollback had been suffered in atomized silence, buried by the trashy feel-good media and the enforced anonymity of people who suffered increasing job insecurity, the reality or threat of homelessness, ever-more expensive health care or no health care at all, useless diplomas and 'retraining' from dubious fly-by-night educational scams, downsizing, lengthening work weeks and declining real income with two and three precarious jobs, disappearing pensions, skyrocketing school tuitions, arbitrary week-to-week shift changes and scheduling (designed for no other reason than to tire, and demoralize, and fragment any potential workplace solidarity), electronic surveillance, and 'just in time' production methods. Like the Argentine piqueteros who realized the increasing limits of struggle focused on the factory, and expanded it instead to the supermarket, the hospital, the police station and the freeway blockage, OWS discovered a form of militant organization in which a thousand different grievances could be aired and made visible, not least through its often skillful use of new electronic media."

Also check out Hella Occupy!, a pamphlet distributed on December 12th with articles by Occupy activists in New York City, Chicago, Detroit, Portland, Oakland, and Seattle. Hella Occupy! was "put together by revolutionaries from across the country. The purpose is to broaden and deepen our analysis of the Occupy Movement, and develop a deeper understanding of its potential beyond any particular city or location."