Announcing “Proud for What” Compilation Pamphlet with New Introduction, “Actually, Antifa is Good”
Filed under: Anarchist Movement, Anti-fascist, Publication
Filed under: Anarchist Movement, Anti-fascist, Publication
Antifa is winning to the extent that they are willing to go further than anyone else…
– Richard Spencer, white nationalist, March 2018
We do not assume that our world is inevitably heading towards a liberatory transformation of social relations. Misery, work, starvation, slavery, war, and ecological destruction are present on a scale never before seen. Why would we think that we could have any effect upon this state of affairs? Why do we believe that we could possibly challenge the ever-accelerating rush towards a bleak future of greater social control and ecological collapse? Because we are unwilling to lie down and eat shit while we are around.
– A Murder of Crows magazine, issue #2, March 2007
As I sit down to write this introduction, I think back on the past few months since this, the first volume of Proud for What, was completed some time around the new year. In late February, two members of the Proud Boys fraternal organization (Toese and Flippo) caught felony assault charges for an attack on a random liberal in northeast Portland on June 8th, 2018. This was only one in an ever-lengthening string of incidents from last year involving the group prowling the streets after high-profile demonstrations, waiting for the scrutiny to die down just enough to seek out liberals, leftists, people of color, or queers to attack– or just anyone who is not down with their project of “Western chauvinism.” If anti-fascists of whatever stripe were about to rest on their laurels, breathing a sigh of relief at the advent of these indictments coming down at long last, a news item broke like a reminder at the end of April. Recently released Portland Police Bureau (PPB) records show what everyone paying attention already knows: the cops ignored or were actively friendly with the armed alt-right demonstrators, in this instance on August 4th, the date of a Patriot Prayer rally which was a high watermark in the highly visible and well-attended clashes of last summer (see Part One).
It was a day that saw the right-wingers perched on rooftops with rifles and tactical gear at the ready, overlooking the immediate vicinity of the counter-demonstrators, while on the ground police politely declined to enforce the supposed ban on weapons in designated demonstration areas if the gunslinger in question happened to be a patriot. And between the two assembled masses, in the street separating one from the other, the full might of the Portland Police Bureau stood shoulder-to-shoulder, decked out in riot gear, facing the black bloc, an enemy whom they literally referred to in their radio communications for the day as “the bad guys.”
And finally, it came to light last week that it was a Portland-based ICE contractor, one Nicholas Carefelle, 37, according to court records, who posted the $750 bail back in March in order to free Proud Boy Donovan Flippo from Multnomah County Jail. Carefelle works for a detention center (or is that a “residential center?”) run by the private prison corporation called GEO Group, where ICE detainees are ripped apart from their families and face abuse, assault, and rape as they await hearings in immigration court. According to an article by Katie Shepherd on the website of Willamette Week (a Portland newsweekly) the company “has access to government information about immigrants and access to immigrant detainees through detention centers, probation services, and transport operations.” The bail payment raises something a little more corporeal than just a specter of association between ICE and the paramilitary shock troops of the far-right, as well as the overlap of state priorities with those of the fraternity with the renegade pretensions.
Meanwhile, something of a meltdown has transpired between the main movers and shakers of Patriot Prayer and those of the Proud Boys. The alliance between the two groups has proved, as alliances often do, to be a shaky one. The fault lines have come to the surface in a serialized shitstorm of internet drama and posturing. While the ultimate origins of the split remain unclear, the fallout seems to involve money and sex as usual. Calling to mind the grand tradition of fascists occasionally doing us all a favor and killing each other over funds and romantic partners (behavior so befitting the principled, scrupulous, and not at all degenerate warriors who defend the honor of American patriarchy and capitalism), it seems like the No Masturbation policy of the Proud Boys has not placed their members on as even a spiritual keel as they would like us to believe. A jumble of romantic intrigue, mishandling of finances, and diverging priorities has been comically punctuated by threats of extreme violence and random bullshit. A disillusioned (and further radicalizing?) faction of Proud Boys has called out Joey Gibson’s opportunist politicking, media finagling, and lack of loyalty to the true cause. But if Gibson’s style and aspirations are too Hollywood for the goons whom he once counted among the faithful, it seems that he now has only diminishing returns to show for it, if any indication can be taken from the sad (sad!) turnout of his anti-choice rally held at a (closed) Planned Parenthood in Albany in mid-May. The day saw Gibson prematurely cross the street away from his own miniscule rally of less than a dozen (a group half-composed of a few Proud Boys dressed as clowns) in order to hang his head in despair, alone in the grass. And this on the heels of a million dollar lawsuit brought against him the week before by a Portland bar frequented by anti-fascists for repeatedly bringing violence to its premises. During the final proofreading of this introduction, a second suit was brought against Gibson for defamation.
Again, in light of the ebbing fortunes of Patriot Prayer, the recent charges against Proud Boys, and, indeed, the oft-touted collapse which followed on the heels of the meteoric rise of the alt-right, the temptation is to put all this behind us, to initiate the slow– but not inexorable– process of forgetting. Anti-fascists have always been faulted for paying any attention at all to the allegedly fringe groups of the far-right and fascism, especially when there are such bigger fish to fry. Besides, is it not tiresome to be the statistician and commentator upon fools? Does it not dignify with a response that which you would seek to minimize?
Here, in the long nightmare of industrial society’s afterlife, it’s starting to feel a little bit like we’ve accidentally left the oven on… except the oven is the world and we’re all inside. We haven’t burnt to a crisp just yet. The same semblance of functionality (and coercion) that keeps us all going back to our jobs each day even as one million species are in imminent danger of extinction is the same fraudulent social “peace” which ensures that our age– the dubiously-named “anthropocene”– remains for the moment a fertile loam out of which manifestations of the new fascism will continually sprout. Namely, whatever else we find ourselves dealing with, groups like Patriot Prayer and/or the Proud Boys will either rebound or be replaced by other specimens of a spontaneously generated, populist, ultra-nationalist force with a potentially broad and deep resonance in our unraveling conditions. That the appearance of such a force is written into the genetics of this farce called “America,” or that its prerogatives, as discussed in the essay to follow, reach back quite a bit further than this, is not an argument for its legitimacy or inevitability but an inducement to understand its trenchant, obnoxious appeal. As we shall see.
Ignore them and they’ll go away. Those who are comfortably positioned in the bleachers will always have some shit to talk. And talk… isn’t that part of the reason for the expansion of the privileged and middle classes undertaken by this colonial, capitalist civilization? Its break-up and subsumption of the traditional working class and the volatile hotbeds of revolt to which it occasionally gave rise? The diversifying cast of administrators in the neo-colonies? Among other things, post-industrial economic restructuring has meant that if everything can be kept on the surface level of representations– of standing up and being counted, of strictly symbolic actions and no end of cheap talk (or “likes” and “comments”)– then there will be that much less of a substantial challenge for the powerful to have to repress in any really physical way. Since the end of World War II– the close of fascism’s “classical” era– the piecemeal transformation which victorious neoliberal democracy has gradually affected in the processes of production and reproduction, in the ways that value is generated and assigned, have spelled nothing less than an upheaval in the whole ensemble of class society. This upheaval has been ably described by a generation of anarchists and radicals before us which includes the likes of Alfredo Bonanno and the insurrectionaries, some varieties of anti-state communist, and some voices among the civilization- and technology-critical green anarchists. The emergence of the Zapatista movement in Mexico on New Year’s Day 1994 and the Battle of Seattle in 1999 are among the early flashpoints in our lifetimes of the mass refusal of this agenda.
Forget the rhetoric about greater connection and greater choice: the explosion in information technology and obligatory networked sociality which has accompanied the change has been a massive tipping of the scales toward the pole of recuperation and self-policing, at least among the included of the so-called First World, and all of this at the behest of billionaires and military engineers. The technological lords of this world are supposed to be pioneers in the greatest boon to direct democracy yet devised. The result has been that, whatever wellings-up of dissent may momentarily steal the spotlight and whatever fanfare may accompany the efforts of charities and NGOs to conscientiously manage the apocalypse, behind the curtain of Spectacle the gears in the wheelhouse of Power still turn. The spell is so strong that even if the discontent within the society so constructed proves in fact to be enormous, deep, and hideously gnarled (rooted as it is, I would contend, in the perpetually frustrated and diverted needs and proclivities of a species), then some significant portion of that discontent will be prove, despite the ever-widening collection of talking heads and social media influencers, to be ineffable. And the ineffable will continue to be disqualified by the present order. Until it explodes.
To the point: now, perhaps more than ever, what Power needs is for people to remain calm, stay in their seats, and refrain from taking matters into their own hands. Or, in the event that they do seize the initiative, it needs them to refrain from taking things too far, to sublimate their heartbreak and rage into the new frontiers of capital.
And therein lies one of the most deeply subversive aspects of what our British counterparts like to call “physical force anti-fascism,” distinguishing it from legal or liberal anti-fascism. Its expansive liberatory potential comes from the way that a small group of determined people who have decided upon the lightning of action together contravenes, in and of itself, power’s admonition that no one should act directly upon reality. This is the brush fire of spontaneous horizontal linkage and initiative that must be prevented at all costs. This is the subversive potential that goes beyond the capacity of “the Left” to explain, to define, or, when things get out of hand, to contain. To complicate the matter, it’s an insurrectionary potential that may also, in certain circumstances, be exploited by our ultra-nationalist enemies.
The act gives terms to the ineffable. The act gives to the spirit its portal into the material conditions. The act breaks the spell. In condemning the act, you can hear the frantic whistle of the supposedly neutral referee in the voice of every aghast liberal and more than a few edgy mouth-breathing internet trolls. The thunder which reverberates from the acts of autonomous anti-fascists– not affiliated with any party, union, top-down organization, or movement managers– bowls over the pacifistic imperative of the neoliberal status quo and, by definition, rejects fascism as well. So even in the least charitable of interpretations, its appearance potentially opens a gate from the increasingly stifled and fragile confines of consensus society and onto an open field of anarchy.
In fact, despite the media hoopla centering on the specter of “antifa” in the past couple of years, anti-fascism has usually been nothing more than a relatively small but tenacious tendency. A tendency, yes, fueled by excitement at the thunder, by the satisfaction of fears overcome and enemies bested… but a tendency consisting as well– and every bit as significantly– of a set of so many strategic, usually defensive choices made by anti-capitalists and anarchists in the course of decades of more general struggles. The recent media specter of Antifa versus Patriots– this set piece opposition between two centralized, molar heaps– exists precisely to misconstrue anti-fascism and domesticate the many struggles. And the struggles of the many, when they coalesce and flare up into the prospect of insurrection, can be seen as the manifestations of one struggle, as the many heads of the hydra Anarchy menace the Hercules of civil society. In this manner of speaking, anti-fascism at its most anarchistic has been only one such hydra head, but in the scope of resistance it has been one with an idiosyncratic position. Put another way, anti-fascism is just one of the things that we do, but for long moments of danger it acts as a form insurance for all that we do.
Since long before the liberal establishment in the US was shocked (briefly) out of its self-satisfied stupor by a successful (and, for some of us, not at all surprising) Trump bid for the presidency– before, even, anyone had heard of Obama or witnessed his office allowing the resurgence of the white nationalist movement and peacefully passing the baton to the administration that now brazenly wields the weapons brandished so much more artfully by his own team– the decentralized and autonomous chapters of the Anti-Racist Action network (ARA) and associated groups constituted one bitterly necessary avenue for putting “boots on the ground.”
For those of us in our youth in the late 90’s and early aughts who couldn’t otherwise find traction in a rapidly globalizing and utterly stultifying world, it was the main avenue. In a prior phase of fascist strategy– and hence of anti-fascist resistance– the acts of anti-fascists didn’t only deliver up tangible defeats to the once-burgeoning movements of the National Front, the World Church of the Creator, and others. It didn’t just put the screws to innumerable nazi skinheads across punk and hardcore scenes nationwide, preventing their gelling into something more formidable and striking back at their terror. It not only defended our lives and bodies and those of our loved ones while seeking clinic services. Anti-fascist struggle also provided both an entry point and a defense for the several nascent struggles then in course. Long before Ferguson would become a household name or the Oakland Commune would blast a hole in the choreographed resignation called Occupy, it was under the banner of ARA that I first encountered people in the streets who weren’t just there to hold signs, collect petitions, or spectate. ARA wasn’t going to “speak truth to power.” It was going to find the fascists and render them inert. It was going to make them pay. And as it did so, it wasn’t going to give a solitary shit about the tears of liberals. A bare-bones set of Points of Unity was all that held the ARA network together, one of these points making provision for a practical anti-statism (“we don’t rely on cops or courts to do our work for us”). We don’t call 911.
Of course, it’s impossible to know with any certainty, but the chilling influence of the anti-fascists upon the white nationalist movement– the constant steady erosion of the latter– may very well be one of the principal reasons that more of us aren’t already locked up in camps. But apart from such lofty speculations, I’m not sure what else we were supposed to do as teens when nazis attacked. Or when, fresh out of high school, their demonstrations still hadn’t gone away and in some cases had swollen. Or now, when they attempt to poach followers from the edges of various anarchist and left tendencies, while the stock in fascism rebounds.
As the years wore on and the perspectives found in insurrectionary, post-left, and anti-civilization texts exerted their pull on me, I had no shortage of disagreements with ARA heads, both young and old, about a great many things. But if it’s true that they couldn’t be counted upon for everything, then the years, in so many episodes, have never failed to confirm a more consequential truth: for a few of the very most important things in the strange life of an anarchist insurgent, it has virtually been only ARA types who could be counted upon. Again and again, when the chips are down and the bad old days return, it’s a familiar team regrouping in the rogue’s gallery. Behind the mask is a face you really can trust. And trust… that’s a commodity in short supply these days.
Whether a century, a decade, or a year ago, those with detailed knowledge of fascist groupings and individuals have had a vital role to play. And now– whether we update and deploy the weapons gained thusly in the defense of struggles against the border and its world, against some industrial infrastructural project or another, against the anti-choice foot soldiers of white nationalism, or in a new round of occupations and encampments– those with capacity for and experience in beating the fascists will need to carry on that fight. Yes, even here in the last handful of decades for humanity, even as the world literally comes to an end. The time is ripe, not for forgetting, but for striking more furiously and more joyously than ever before. For one last dance.
You’re obliged to pretend respect for people and institutions you think absurd. You live attached in a cowardly fashion to moral and social conventions you despise, condemn, and know lack all foundation. It is that permanent contradiction between your ideas and desires and all the dead formalities and vain pretenses of your civilization which makes you sad, troubled and unbalanced. In that intolerable conflict you lose all joy of life and all feeling of personality, because at every moment they suppress and restrain and check the free play of your powers. That’s the poisoned and mortal wound of the civilized world.
–Octave Mirbeau, The Garden of Tortures, 1899
If the practical side of this history– the battery of tactics in the anti-fascist arsenal– is present and accounted for in what we do now, then what about the vision? What about where we are going from here? If, in given times and places, anti-fascist activity has allowed us to cut our teeth on more substantial social antagonisms than were otherwise possible, to understand and partake of the necessity of street violence, and has undeniably succeeded in staving off a more brutal and bigoted face of authority from manifesting, then what about the lesser evils that may have been bolstered as a result? What is it, exactly, that we are doing or signing off on when we are “winning?”
On this score, it may not be enough to simply muse that the problems inherent to modernity and its mass politics don’t have any tidy solutions which don’t themselves court disaster, although an avalanche of historical testimony, a chorus of anguished cries from nearly every quarter, has indeed borne this out. The bird’s eye view of the aspiring civil engineer, social worker, or politician of whatever stripe entails a power fantasy of top-down control as surely as any dream of fascism, however much more humane in the short term or for the fortunate. Even the dusty, old “big names” and neckbeards among the anarchists partially grasped this truth, at least intuiting the “poisoned and mortal wound” inside of which their lives were unfolding, their cities blossoming like bruises in the fucked up petri dish of civilization. They provided some of the earliest, if rudimentary, indications of this understanding in the industrialized world when, as long ago as the mid- and late 1800’s, they split with the authoritarian Communists over the matter of the conquest of State power. Most long-term anti-fascists today take this knowledge well in hand, and some of us never tire of retelling the triumphs and tragedies of our chosen grandparents, giving them their due for being comparably less hoodwinked than the others. But those who are born in the belly of this horrible machine (“..and the machine is bleeding to death”), however impeccable their bravery, tenacity, and intentions, might at best end up serving as only its guilty conscience. When fighting breaks out, sides are chosen, and only those not slated for termination might have the luxury to sit it out and make critiques instead. At any rate, anarchists have never claimed for the anti-fascist prong of their project the status of a solution to all social, ecological, or existential problems, nor have they claimed to be all things to all visions of liberation. Such a claim is more accurately seen as one imputed to the specter “Antifa” by the aforementioned media spectacle of late and other enemies.
In the contemporary, rising temperatures and sea levels may yet drive home an understanding which the propagation of insurrectionary, anti-civ, afro-pessimist, and the more anarchistic interpretations of anti-colonial and indigenous solidarity campaigns (to name a few) have so far failed to make coterminous with the resistance-flavored sentiment suffusing the anti-Trump horde: that to mouth platitudes like “water is life” and “defend the sacred” in the course of a failed struggle like Standing Rock while maintaining that there are any redeemable industrial projects whatsoever is the height of nonsense. If the long fine flash of resistance of the past decade culminates in little more than a resounding “not in my backyard!”… if the upshot of it all is that some people farther afield must do your dirty work, tremble under the lash, or suffer the toxins of your lifeway while their cousins secure better representation in the heart of Empire, then what is there to distinguish us from the well-meaning colonials of yesteryear?
Yet anti-fascists and others, especially since the election of Trump, still find ourselves congealing around the sanitized charnel houses known as “The Left” and “Progress,” with all their totalizing ambition (to say nothing of the Soviet fetish). The blueprints of these two temporarily and unfortunately revivified mummies have never offered up a recipe for a comprehensive and effective antidote to nationalism. Only occasionally have they pretended to. In fact, the steady but fraught advance of these antiseptic monoliths is a matter inseparable from the allegedly atavistic draw of fascism, and for a variety of reasons. The early socialists held an overwhelming positive attitude toward the national-bourgeois revolutions of their day, a type of revolution much more common in their world than any purely proletarian/socialist one. If we don’t realize that the fraudulent dream of Reason has produced more– and more voracious– monsters than the sleep of Reason could ever lay claim to, then we will find ourselves all too easily falling back on mistaken or outmoded formulas for understanding fascism and its descendents, or inadvertently making the kinds of bedfellows about whom we should really know better by now. We don’t need a blueprint– especially not of the kinds that have demonstrably and horrifically failed– but here we are, back at the drawing board, in need of visions, goals, and strategies against fascism that are worthy of going viral.
It is toward this end that these first two installments of Proud for What have been written, and are being issued together here as a “first volume” of sorts. To momentarily (and self-consciously) stay in the industrial and pathological idiom of the modern betokened by the above talk of blueprints and blackboards, of antidotes and viruses, Proud for What isn’t a read-out of diagnostics nor a blow-by-blow health plan so much as a detailed background file about the life of a patient. This is the opening ream of pages in a necessarily dense case-study, notes of a preliminary and tentative nature that should be borne in mind while reading. As such, it’s a strong possibility that more installments–perhaps a regular column?– will eventually see the light of day (for example, with more in-depth looks at populism, the militia movements, neo-fascism, anti-fascist history and prospects, etc.) Plain and simple, if you’ve passed through the threshold of radical politics in the past few years but want to delve deeper into questions about the nature of fascism, modernity, the state, and resistance, then you should fuck with this essay. You may not like everything that it has to say, and some of the ideas we are putting forth may prove wrong or incomplete, but here a fruitful dialogue may arise. Perhaps new writings such as this can help set the stage for a new generation to get down to brass tacks, armed with more plausible and actionable takes on what we’re up against than some of our forebears.
Part One, originally intended as a flyer, grew from inauspicious beginnings: a relatively brief statement on the falsity of patriotism and nationalism prompted by the clashes with Patriot Prayer and the Proud Boys in the pacific northwest in the summer of 2018. Eventually, a different flyer was indeed produced as an auxiliary to Part One which thoroughly debunks the idea of “leftist violence” as conceived by Patriot Prayer, who attempted to stoke opposition to this figment of the right wing imagination as the animus for a slew of their demonstrations. Its relevance, sadly, will probably not diminish in the days to come.
From this baseline anti-nationalist point of departure, the essay soon explodes into a confrontation with the dark heart of “civilization” and “the West” themselves. Part Two is the real meat of the feast, tracing the elements of alienation, patriarchy, authority, and reaction that imbue the nationalist and fascist projects. It goes on to flesh out a respectably lengthy and historically informed definitional foray into the term fascism itself, all followed by a somewhat grand (but hopefully not too grandiose) meditation on the strategic and spiritual import of fighting in the present terrain. Here, I should note the existence of a section in Part Two which takes the reader on a whirlwind tour through the history of the so-called western world, in which it is laid bare that to be a “western chauvinist” is really no better than to be a fascist. Whatever its strengths, this section is almost absurd in its abridgment of an utterly sprawling subject, and leaves much to be desired in its description of the involved phenomena. I wholeheartedly recommend a reading not only of the Frederick Turner book referenced in the section itself, but also of James C. Scott’s Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States for a sufficient corrective to the discussion found therein about domestication, sedentism, slavery, hierarchy, the advent of state societies, and more.
In Scott’s deeply anarchist works, the reader may dive into yet another rich tapestry of evidence for the reason that life in a country like America (or Italy, or Germany, or…) will always feel as if it stands woefully in need of being made great again: for the vast majority, life in the city-states and nation-states of civilization has never been great. For the downtrodden as well as for the relatively privileged, it lacks so many of the fundamentals of a fulfilling existence and in such sore measure that we chase evermore after a slew of cheap surrogate thrills and the social nostrums of authoritarians and salesmen, whether of the left or the right, all to no avail.
In analyzing specifically fascist ideas of national rebirth in some depth and accuracy and treating their deployment seriously, we are not attempting to legitimize them or to yoke the attention of the reader to the definitions of a bygone era, but rather to rehabilitate the discourse around an admittedly slippery term that is too often misused or emptied of any meaning, even (or especially) at this late hour. It is abundantly clear from reading the actual words of the vast majority of original fascist luminaries and even their much more sophisticated neo-fascist counterparts (let alone the buffoons of Patriot Prayer and the Proud Boys) that while they offer something distinct from simple conservatism– and that grasping the nature of this something could be one of the keys to its defeat– they nonetheless constitute a pack of the most laughably credulous, meaning-devoid, authority-worshiping, blatantly opportunistic and sycophantic man-children ever to waste a shitload of breath, paper, or effort. But the spewing of such streams of adjective-heavy aspersions– much like efforts at “fact-checking” a governmental regime or claiming the moral high ground against it– amounts to little in the material reality of things. Thus, it is always our hope when speaking of fascism that we are doing so in order to give sharper weapons to its enemies, as a prelude to leaving it all behind. These may be imbeciles that we are dealing with, but they are committed imbeciles.
The true believers, the hardcore of fascism, aren’t merely bullies attempting to hold onto their privileges or exercise their contempt for the weak and the different, though this they may undoubtedly be. They are no mere “reactionaries” attempting a literal restoration of past glories, though concern with the past constitutes a major aspect of their mission. No simple appeal to fairness, equality, goodness, progress, or truth can derail their prospects. Despite the garish or villainous bearing of its more plebeian shock troops, the commitment of the fascist is in reality charged with the seduction of an idealistic, ultimately utopian vision– a hope for a radical, futural thrust into a post-liberal New Order. Their efforts brim with a fervor that at least challenges and often surpasses anything among its nearest analogues to be found on the Left, and which inspires its possessors to kill and die in anticipation. To the continued consternation and embarrassment of leftists, these unscrupulous, cowardly dullards recruit from a broad and varied base whose members are nonetheless characterized by some level of real susceptibility to the particular vision that they put forward. It has been the intent behind Proud for What– while standing on the shoulders of the giants among the “new consensus” in fascist studies like Roger Griffin– to explicate the substance and appeal of the fascist vision… so that it can routed.
Despite fascism meeting with hapless defeat and utter discredit over and over, on a scale ranging from the conclusion of world wars to thrashings and ridicule meted out in neighborhood streets the world over, ours is the clear misfortune of continuing to tarry with these imbeciles in the imbroglio of the modern. The civilized world that gives rise to fascism, in iterations ranging from its rightful managers to its regressive castoffs, has not passed. Progress has not and will not deliver us, unless it’s to greater heights of alienation. Unlike the left-liberal spectrum of thought which smugly looks down on the “irrational” aspects appropriated by fascism while losing ground to it over and over again, we recognize that the compunction toward a motivating mythology, the need for irrational communal bonds and ecstatic states triggered by a sense of imminent rebirth, may well be unavoidable for the human animal. Even the avowedly Rational priorities of classical and Enlightenment thinking are themselves forms of myth, often spiked with their own version of rebirth ideology, satisfying similar urges toward meaning with a leap of faith congruent to the most “barbaric” or mystical among us. What’s more, liberal democratic modernity has bequeathed a nightmare world of dungeons, clearcuts, and cancer. Its robust trade in carbon emissions and gut-wrenching psychological malaise aren’t the less twisted for having confetti sprinkled on top. Its denial of the ineffable has left the door open to the fascist upstart claiming to speak in its name. Leftists can continue trying to soften the blows of democracy and do damage control for its reputation all they want. But it is the juggernaut of modernization that has resulted in this clusterfuck of multivalent possibilities and pitfalls which some like to abbreviate: the three-way fight. And it won’t be resolved so easily. In this essay, we hope to have laid the groundwork for understanding the barest contours of a mythology (or set of mythologies) that can leave the competing alternatives put forth by these two management teams– by the current neoliberal regime and its fascist outsiders– in the dust.
This obsession with needing a social majority has nothing to do with being “practical”. What it has to do with is bourgeois and defeatist thinking. This is like the left thinking that it could not build a practical anti-fascist movement in Weimar Republic Germany during the 1920s and 1930s, although millions hated Nazism and wanted to do something, because that German left was too preoccupied with fantasies of either seizing or getting elected into state power for itself.
That left was too lost in delusions of success almost within their hands, delusions of maneuvering together a majority, to bother even really understanding fascism coming up fast in their rear view mirror. The urgent need was to organize a working minority to counter fascism in a much more radical way. Not by trying to defend liberal bourgeois rule. All the real things that had to be done by scattered German anti-fascists later after the Nazis were put into power – such as to survive politically, to significantly sabotage the war effort, to rescue Jews and Romany and gays, to build an underground against the madness of the Third Reich – all these things were attempted bravely but largely unsuccessfully, because they had to be done too late from scratch. This is a much larger subject, too large to dive into now, but it is on the horizon, like the smoke of a distant forest fire.
– J. Sakai, When Race Burns Class, 2000
We’re already dead.
– Rage Against the Machine
Yesterday, the anarchist news website It’s Going Down posted what seems to be the only news story available about an incident on April 25th 2019 in Denver, Colorado involving an anti-fascist being repeatedly stabbed while removing fascist stickers placed on the side of a Goodwill store by the recently active neo-nazi group Patriot Front (Patriot Front is the new moniker of Vanguard America, which was rebranded after the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia when anti-racist activist Heather Heyer was murdered by a white nationalist and the group was discredited). So far, it seems that no charges will be brought against the known attacker, one Santi Martinez, who whispered “maybe some people deserve to be in concentration camps,” before disemboweling the anti-fascist, who happened to survive.
Meanwhile, two former Seattle leftists have recently turned fash, casting over their old allegiances as activists in the Seattle Solidarity Network (or SeaSol, a tenant and worker advocacy group). Now, as members of American Identity Movement (or AmIM, the rebranded Identity Europa) they are attempting to dox and expose their former comrades. Furthermore, both Patriot Front and American Identity Movement have made recent propaganda pushes in downtown Olympia, Washington and elsewhere. Simultaneously, a new formation called Cold Front is picking up where the Proud Boys have stalled out, harassing people and filming it and, separately, pretending to be Antifa to trick people into incriminating themselves or blundering in speech, all while fraternizing with outright fascists. And soon enough, the re-election campaign of Donald Trump will be like a wind pouring down over the coal bed of white nationalist initiatives, attacks, and provocations.
The word “radical” literally refers to the quality of “forming the root,” indicating something inherent. A return to this original usage might be the only way to give subversive content back to a word that anybody may wear. Truly, anti-fascists must be willing to go the furthest, but not merely, in the flattering phrase of alt-right poster boy Richard Spencer, in terms of “just violence, intimidating, and general nastiness.” These, to some extent, have been the stock-in-trade of all moderns, whether directly or by proxy, and we see where that’s gotten us. We can’t stop there. A new wave of anti-fascists must go further than each and all in journeying toward the roots of the quagmire we’ve inherited. Writers like Saidiya Hartman have shown amply that the ideas of “freedom” which we find at hand in this modern world are inevitably tethered to the hard fact of the slavery that made it all possible. Democracy, abolition, decolonization– each starting from the best of intentions– have all administered their own medicines only to find the un-living beast and its sickly notion still intact, if anything placing it farther beyond reproach than ever before. Still, while striving to transcend such ubiquitous and compromised notions, we may ask: in the event that such relative freedom becomes that much more curtailed, what will you wish you had done with it while you had the chance?
While gathering the courage to match our convictions, we answer with a proposal for a campaign of sustained attack and subversion against all institutions that generate or guarantee the repressive phantasm of Whiteness (or any of its prospective successors), whether these institutions prove to be the police department, the Democratic party, the grade schools and universities, the labor unions, the NGOs, the hospitals, the nuclear family, or the fucking grocery store. Taking the threat of fascism seriously and defending against it need not translate to enabling a lesser evil or hiring out as its mercenaries.
The scripts and dictates of patriarchy, statecraft, settler colonialism, democracy, and capitalism– all tributaries that feed the rise of fascism– need to be thwarted and drained of prestige wherever their ugly heads are reared, and this needs to happen whether it’s neoliberals who keep the throne or fascists who end up re-conquering state power. Furthermore, the integrity of the struggle to do so, the sprawl of tendrils connecting the work of one hydra head to that of another, needs to be assured by righteous anti-fascist violence, by vandalism against property, by expropriation of the rich, by endless ridicule or detournement of middle class values, and by what can only be considered a wild practice of total sharing in the last fruits of the earth. Only a commitment to these customs can keep away both fascist participation and liberal recuperation, and act as a lightning rod for other uncontrollables.
If the old Left “delusions of maneuvering together a majority” had zero chance of halting or even slowing the rise of fascism, then the slew of current obsessions, falling far short of even these, must be seen to have a less-than-zero chance of showing up or deflating the appeal of the new faces of ultra-nationalism, to say nothing of the unfolding eco-catastrophe: policing language and space, landscaping the hedges of one’s echo chamber, “cancellation culture,” unlimited invocations of an obviously counterfeit positivity, and that chimerical abomination known as “the community.” Each of these will speed people into the arms of fascists as surely as collegiate counter-insurgency narratives, shame-mongering identity reductionism, and declarations of “it’s not my job to educate you” are seen by most regular people to be the province of cowards, hypocrites, elitists, and petty tyrants.
As the world starts to boil alive, half-measures and pandering will get us nowhere fast. Any house of cards we might assemble by jockeying insincerely for liberal converts or playing down the horrors of pro-industrial and technological Leftism for credibility will only be swallowed whole by the mounting crisis anyway. If said crisis has narrators who are perceived to be more honest and less beholden to the bullshit of left-liberal decorum, then the day shall belong to them. At the very least, they shall set the terms. Let him who still doubts it live in the hell fashioned by his passivity and capitulation.
Unlike our erstwhile comrades in that particular portion of the post-left anarchist scene whom we find shading into apathetic, lazy, defeatist, or confused positions, or overlapping more substantially with avant-garde and crypto-fascist agendas, the essay in front of you doesn’t make an either/or proposition between fighting fascism and the alt-right on one hand, and a more genuine anarchist iconoclasm on the other. If we deign to throw our hats in the ring of the social at all, if we think that it may still be worth it to attempt the effecting of outcomes in social struggles, then we at least acknowledge it. We might change our minds tomorrow or next year, but we don’t have anything to lose by such an admission. To make any headway toward what our anarchist forebears called “the Beautiful Idea” may well depend upon, firstly, a sincerity and humility which are not the same as virtue signalling, self-effacement, or false modesty, and, secondly, the same capacity for mobilization that would allow us to go from strength to strength in the fight against fascism. To anyone with a better method we say carry on. Besides, we don’t have anything better to do anyway. Do you?
Anarchists, then, may as well say and do what only anarchists can. If the esteem placed in our ideas is poised to rise, if our affinities with comrades old and new can grow at all, it will only be by means of sticking to our guns.
In this light, we say without reservation that wild places, wild beings, and wild customs of our own– that wildness most often ignored, ridiculed, parodied, hated, or tokenized by the resigned, or else conceived outside of and separate from anti-fascist struggles– should in fact be protected, cherished, and nurtured. The myriad embodiments and iterations of wildness– but distinctly not the spectacular, civilized construction of “wilderness” and its denizens– should be centered, seen as the very grounding of any social struggle. This is not out of any adherence to “conservation” or the other accoutrement of greenwashed genocide, nor is it any longer in hopes of saving the world in some pragmatic long game of stewardship. Even if these approaches hadn’t been wrongheaded all along, it’s far too late for any of that. And it’s not just because such a footing for resistance, by force of counter-example, will tarnish the “green” luster which emanates from insurgent manifestations of fascism and will usurp their ability to appeal to such concerns. More than this, we should live and fight for the congregation of wild beings because they alone are the elements that can furnish for human cultures– here and now– a relationship of respect and reciprocity with any Other that is encountered. They alone give to humankind its only authentic basis for meaning, sociality, dignity, balance, and joy. No matter how late the hour.
It is not some shallow sense of duty or self-sacrifice but rather this outwardly enlarged circle of solidarity combined with an inwardly plumbed depth of self-sympathy that will enable a new anti-fascism to collapse those malnourished concepts of “freedom” passed down to us inside the belly of the machine and connect whatever was vital in them to the undulating expanse beyond, to a home of endless series of accords with the living to replace the thousand and one humiliations and stale routines of the living dead. Let us embrace what I am euphemistically referring to, in the parlance of the civilized, as “the wild,” because we are a part of that congregation and this is the only world we’ve got. Despite the theology of the postmodern, the system really does have an outside. It is reflected in each and every one of us and, as some have written before, we are unwilling to lie down and eat shit while we are around.
The indictments of Proud Boys will likely amount to nothing, or else a slap on the wrist. The daily police slaughter and incarceration of indigenous and black populations will go on. The drone strikes and invasions to secure the oil for our cars and factories or the cobalt for our phones will continue. The ephemeral borders of civilization and its little geo-political fictions called “nation-states” will continue to be enforced for some time more, whether by means of the border wall proffered by “reactionaries,” or else the smart technology and electronic leashes of the “progressives.” If the host of politicos and Good Citizens cried at the de-platforming of a few racist cranks and united against the sins of these illiberal antifa barbarians inside the gates, what will they do when we take the fight to the sprawling prison archipelago? When they find out we really mean to get rid of money? When the momentum needed to burn down the factories is reached? The time is now to come together and decide how we are going to conduct these struggles for maximum effectiveness, resonance, and fun.
Here in the Pacific Northwest– the land where the “Northwest Territorial Imperative” of the white nationalist movement has been taken quite seriously– the anti-fascist tendency is a few catastrophes or circuitous turns away from being forced underground. The equivocating of liberal mayors who scoff with good humane sensibility at “mutual combat laws” while upholding the present order of things means nothing. Youtube’s recent purge and demonetization of white nationalist channels means nothing. The digital reach of the fascists will contract somewhat for now, while their claims to be scorned but noble freedom fighters swimming against the current will be legitimized, inflating their appeal enough to make up for it until they recover the turf. For reasons explored in the essay to follow, we can’t content ourselves with crying foul to the referee: under his striped shirt the referee is a blood-soaked tyrant, and the game is rigged. By contrast, what we may need is some Tonya Harding-style sportsmanship. Add a little Catch Me If You Can-style social engineering and subterfuge to keep our foes confused and fighting among themselves. Mix in a lucid analysis of our enemies and of existing conditions. Top it all off with some good old-fashioned luck and magic, and let’s see what we can make of it.
The night is growing darker than Germany in the 30’s. The pristine and the pedantic, and plenty of others besides, will laugh at the gravity of the comparison. But the smart money says it’s the delusional who will be caught with their pants down as the dawn breaks upon the worst moment in the history of the world. This is our moment. This is the Age of Mass Extinction– the fruit of the western, civilized world. And here is my love song to the only tendencies that could have saved my life long enough for me to see the beginning of its end. May its melody help to put a few more partisans on the crooked path before the party’s over.
Even in the best of worlds, Death comes for us all. In the terminal phase of terrestrial life, defeat is a surefire bet. We can let this knowledge cow us into a few more years of meek servitude or we can make a few of the motherfuckers pay for their victory. We can let the knowledge that doom is certain freeze us in our tracks like a deer in headlights, or we can spring like a tiger, swatting at the helicopter which scours the jungle. We can take it lying down or we can sing, dance, and fight for the whole of our visions.
When the government turns over its Blacklists to the jackbooted thugs and they come to murder us in our beds, we’ll see if the Bernie Sanders and “I’m With Her” sets are happy with the new social reality they helped to usher in every step of the way. All good Edelweiss Pirates and their fellow travelers will likely be dead or locked up when the punchline of this bad joke finally lands on them. And if it never comes to this grim variant of the endgame scenario, then it may very well be the democratic socialists who plow us under, throw away the keys to our cells, or pioneer the technologies that can manufacture mass consensus more smoothly and completely than anything dreamed by an official of the Third Reich just three or four generations ago. If you’ve ever wondered what type and magnitude of stupidity, apathy, cowardice, cretinism, acquiescence, social conditioning, bigotry, brutality and mind-bending evil was required to make good little Germans passively accept or actively carry out the Holocaust… you can stop wondering and look around. Those of us who make it through the coming upheavals and look back with our broken bodies and grey hair will see that America has put it all to shame in our lifetimes.
We’re all bastards now. When it comes to facing the architects of the nightmare with some consequences, we might consider starting to act like it.
This is really happening.
This has been Saint Aries of the Edelweiss Pirates, Sarah Connor BrigadeMay-June 2019
If you can hear this message, you are the resistance.
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