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Mar 30, 22

Boston Shows Why We Can’t Allow the Far-Right to Take the Initiative or Hold Public Space

photo: @mgarcia6206

Last weekend in South Boston, around 50 people mobilized to counter a possible appearance by the neo-Nazi group the Nationalist Social Club-131 (a nod to both the ‘National Socialism’ of the Nazi Party and ‘Anti-Communist Action’), after public outcry grew following the group’s appearance at the yearly St. Patrick’s Day parade. At the parade, around a dozen neo-Nazis, all wearing masks and flying a flag with a white nationalist symbol, held a banner reading, “Keep Boston Irish,” and handed out flyers promoting the group and attacking non-whites. This incursion is only the latest in a string of unannounced actions and flash demonstrations which have targeted anarchist and left-wing bookstores, hospitals, and have attempted to stay one foot ahead of antifascists.

At the parade, some members of the public posed for photos with the group and seemed receptive to their message, however after people began heckling the fascists and one person held up a sign outing them as neo-Nazis, the group eventually left. Like Patriot Front and other similar organizations, NSC-131 later promoted their action in a video posted to social media that included a song by Boston Celtic-punk band, the Dropkick Murphys.

The band, who in the past has denounced neo-Nazis at their concerts and has a long history of supporting labor unions, responded to use of their song by denouncing the neo-Nazi group on social media and also sending them a “cease and desist” letter. What followed was a back and forth between members of the group and the band, with the singer of the Dropkick Murphys finally stating that he would be at a park in South Boston the next weekend walking his dogs, if the group wanted to make good on its threats to mobilize.

The story of a punk band potentially squaring off against a group of neo-Nazis drew the attention of the press and by Saturday, both antifascist groups and Dropkick Murphys supporters were ready to roll out to the park to confront the NSC; who despite threats of violence, never materialized. And aside from one far-Right supporter calling the police on a group of antifascists claiming they were armed – they were not and were soon released – the day was largely uneventful, but marked a turning point in public opposition to the group.

Rise of the “Unannounced” Model

Since the collapse of the Alt-Right following the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, the white nationalist wing of the far-Right has vacated the streets in favor of either Groyper style entryism into the Republican party or fly-by night agitation as exemplified by groups like Identity Evropa/American Identity Movement and Patriot Front. But while Patriot Front has put a lot of energy into dropping banners and putting up stickers, they have also been experimenting with a new model of action that relied on pre-planned demonstrations and marches, often carried out for the purpose of producing propaganda that would entice potential members, (largely from the existing white nationalist movement), to join. For Patriot Front, this has meant marshaling their membership to hold marches through empty city streets in Chicago at midnight, or in the case of Philadelphia, being openly attacked by locals following a disastrous unannounced romp through the city.

Despite catching hands from Philly locals, having their vehicles destroyed by antifascists in DC parking lots, and online infiltrators doxxing them left and right, unannounced rallies in DC and marching in support of the ‘March for Life’ mobilization in late 2021 and in early 2022, convinced many white nationalists and neo-Nazis outside of Patriot Front that this new model was the way forward. And while these flash demonstrations ended quickly, like heavy police protected rallies that marked the MO of groups like the KKK or the National Socialist Movement (NSM), they generated highly coveted mass media attention, which in turn, brought in donations and potential recruits. These events also resulted in no arrests, and projected a manufactured image of strength and order, as fascists in matching outfits and masks paraded behind walls of riot police, before orderly being bused back to their vehicles for the long ride home.

Building on this model were groups like the Goyim Defense League, known for livestreaming acts of anti-Semitic vandalism and harassment during long road trips, the so-called “Active Clubs” promoted by neo-Nazis in the Rise Above Movement (RAM), White Lives Matter, a collection of neo-Nazis, white nationalists, and Proud Boys who organized through Telegram, who have been holding monthly banner drops and flash demonstrations in various states, and the Nationalist Social Club-131, which has been active in the Boston and surrounding area. This activity and street action has encouraged other groups to come out in the open as well – such as members of the National Socialist Movement (NSM) holding rallies in Florida, which led to swastika armband wearing neo-Nazis attacking members of the public.

By utilizing unannounced rallies, banner drops, and other actions, these groups have been able to hold actions that project a sense of strength, while also largely avoiding direct confrontation with antifascists and the public at large. Moreover, by mobilizing ahead of time, fascist groups are able to bring out supporters who normally might fear direct confrontation and doxxing, yet whose numbers make impromptu antifascist opposition potentially dangerous.

In countering this new strategy, antifascists and broad anti-racist coalitions are going to have to think about how to adapt to this change in tactics.

NSC-131 Seeks to Build a Street Based Action Network

Speaking on a neo-Nazi livestream directly following their no-show in Boston, Chris Hood, the founder and leader of NSC-131, discussed the group’s push to build a street based politics that in many ways, mimics both the network and affinity group style of organizing common among anarchist and antifascist groups. Moreover, Hood argued that groups like the NSC are more concerned with developing a culture of street action centered around projecting force and strength, rather than “optics” or branding.

Hood commented that the goal of NSC and other like minded fascist formations is to essentially build networks of “white gangs” that are able to carry out actions, distribute propaganda, and attack their enemies. This strategy is in contrast, but not ultimately competing with or opposed to, the entryism of the Groyper movement or the organizationalism of groups like Patriot Front, which have a set brand and at least publicly, shy away from utilizing symbols such as the swastika.

Autonomous anti-capitalists and antifascists will find these organizational debates familiar, as they are questions our movements have been grappling with for centuries. The challenge they represent however, is the same threat that fascist groups have been inching towards ever since the Alt-Right began putting up stickers: control of the streets and influence within working-class communities.

Don’t Let the Fascists Have the Initiative or Hold Public Space

As last weekend in Boston showed: when the broader community mobilizes, backed up by established antifascist formations, groups like the NSC-131 are nowhere to be found. While their no-show after a week of beating their chests and threatening violence on social media is predictable, if they had shown up only to be pushed off the streets, this would have been an even bigger failure for them. Still, the decision by local anti-racists and antifascists to hold a demonstration and call on the wider community to come out in support; capitalizing on growing anger and resentment, is an example of our side seizing the initiative away from the fascists.

Seizing the initiative must also mean mapping out where fascists drop banners and put up stickers and covering these areas with our own material, not just simply waiting to take down their garbage. It means making connections in workplaces, schools, and neighborhoods were far-Right groups are active: building up networks and coalitions that can respond. It means taking the time to speak with our wider community; to get offline and educate, spreading clear information about these groups, the threat that they pose, the symbols that they use, and who their members are. It means putting pressure on those who have been doxxed and exposing their leaders through flyering, phone zaps, and online postings. It also means doing these things not just in the wake of white supremacist activity, but as part of a broader anti-racist initiative. Let’s stop reacting to them and instead work to drive them out of our areas once and for all by creating communities hostile to fascism on every level.

Lastly, we must work to build our capacity to expand and grow our networks so that we can increasingly respond to situations where we can more easily mobilize against such groups; both within a short amount of time and in increasingly greater numbers.

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It’s Going Down is a digital community center from anarchist, anti-fascist, autonomous anti-capitalist and anti-colonial movements. Our mission is to provide a resilient platform to publicize and promote revolutionary theory and action.

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