It seems like every time we turn on the TV, look on social media, or read a newspaper, we hear about the growth of a “movement” that doesn’t even really exist outside of the internet – the Alt-Right. The media, it would seem, won’t be satisfied until a physical fascist movement on the streets actually does appear. To paraphrase something Hitler said jokingly, democracy often paves the way for fascists to destroy it. But while reporters go gaga over “fashy haircuts,” explain what it means to be ‘red-pilled,’ and roll out the red carpet for meme culture, the real lessons of the Alt-Right are largely being lost on everyone; even those that want an end to the current system of domination and physically oppose its fascist defenders.
As the latest incarnation of the white supremacist movement in the US, the Alt-Right, signals a change in strategy and ideology for American fascists and white nationalists. It signals a turn away from former positions on gender and class, and toward a constituency that is more educated, urban, and upper class. Anarchists and anti-fascists need to take stock of these changes and differences, understand the ideas and strategy that drive the Alt-Right, and organize accordingly.
We need to understand that this divergence from previous generations (and in some cases, current ones) will cause strife and division within the white nationalist movement as a whole. At a time when white nationalists are calling for “unity” in their circles like never before, the Alt-Right is rife with tensions as jealousy, backbiting, name calling, and denunciations of individuals and groups runs rampant. This reality can been seen most clearly in the wake of the recent National Policy Institute’s conference, where several attendees gave the Nazi salute as MC Richard Spencer screamed, “Hail Trump!” The resulting media fallout sent several prominent white nationalists running to the hills, only to quickly disavow themselves of their former comrades in the press, throwing decades of connections and projects under the bus. Ironic, that a subculture so famously built on podcasts laced with the “n word” and gas chamber memes could become so embarrassed with itself for its behavior.
But while white supremacists like Richard Spencer are now given airtime on a variety of programs like stupid pet tricks, many in the media have been keen on the notion that Trump himself has led to the creation of the Alt-Right and that his election has unleashed with it a flood of far-Right mobilization by his existence alone. While it is true that Trump’s electoral win has unleashed a flood of violence, this is a reality that has been playing out for over a year, and is itself a reaction to other forces. Furthermore, such logic follows, that if Trump fades, so will his white nationalist auxiliary forces. This conception is an utter mistake.
The Alt-Right is much more dangerous than a reserve twitter army of angry men posting memes of Pepe the Frog wearing red Trump hats while harassing women and people of color from the safety of their mom’s basement. It was, and is, a growing collection of people, that while currently acting as an auxiliary force for the Trump regime is poised to become, if it continues to evolve, more of a potentially street based and ‘revolutionary’ movement. It’s origins have more to do with the white reactionary push back to the Ferguson Insurrection, feminism, the transgender movement, and Black Lives Matter, than simply just the Trump campaign. If it does continue, which it is sure to do, it will predictably splinter around questions of violence, electoralism, and class. What comes next will predictably be much more horrifying.
We as anti-fascists and revolutionary anarchists need to be confident in our own strengths and not feed into the media generated hype around the Alt-Right. By and large, the Alt-Right hasn’t been able to turn into a physical movement on the streets, yet. They don’t have offices, community centers, bookstores, publications, organizations, and unions like we do, yet. What the Alt-Right has is mainstream media hype, a tiny amount of influence in the Trump regime, and a sea of potential supporters that could also swing in other directions; but not yet a movement.
The hype around the Alt-Right is also speculative, much like our economy. And, just like the housing market, at some point, it’s going to burst. It is much like in 1997 when Spin Magazine argued that techno was going to be the new grunge; and it didn’t take long before everyone soon realized that this wasn’t going to be true. Now, in 2017, we need to remind ourselves of this reality again. The media does not create movements; it creates hype. The Alt-Right is this years’ Y2K, but at the same time we need to suss out reality from the hype while coming to grip with the real challenges we face with this new and strange opponent.
Furthermore, we need to come to terms with the media spotlight put onto the Alt-Right and what it means, as well as understand that due to the nature and makeup of our movement, we will never be given similar treatment. Lastly, we must attack this notion that the Alt-Right is simply a reaction, or a part of, the Trump campaign or phenomenon. Instead, like Trump, the Alt-Right is an elitist reaction to popular movements from below that seek to challenge systems of power and exploitation while molding support for authoritarian populism and fascism among the broader population.
Out of the Safe Space of the Internet
The Alt-Right is a collection of ideological tendencies, groups, websites, podcasts, think-tanks, internet cultures, and talking heads that have created a new breed of white supremacist within the millennial generation. While they disown this term, their ideology is based on the concept that biologically, white people living in America of European origin are different from all others. White people, according to the Alt-Right, are biologically smarter, less prone to crime, and more akin to build ‘great civilizations’ than human beings that are not.
Due to increasing numbers of non-whites in the US, many have left behind the old dream of purging all non-whites, and now instead settle on the creation of “white ethno-states” which would be politically organized around fascist lines. There is much disagreement as to the size of such states and how non-whites would be removed from its borders and placed into their own homeland/reservation, or according to some, completely removed and “sent back” to their land of origin. Thus, while choosing to label themselves Identitarians, white nationalists, race realists, or national socialists, the point remains that for them, the superiority of the white race requires the creation of a separate state and the physical exclusion of non-whites. Moreover, the resulting fascist authoritarian system would also exclude Jews, by and large homosexuals (at least from public life), Leftists, feminists, and anarchists of all stripes, and crush dissent and revolt.
But this new crop of reactionaries is by and large seemingly divorced from the old-guard of previous generations of Neo-Nazis, KKK groups, Holocaust Deniers, far-Right racist militias, and white power skinheads. While there is some overlap, there are more differences which separate the two scenes, and there is also a growing division between the more “traditionalist” brand of white supremacists and the Alt-Right. These differences hinge more on targets of recruitment, base of operation, class positions, aesthetics and rhetoric used, views on women and homosexuality, political positioning, and where the two camps place their energies through action and propaganda.
This division in the white nationalist movement is becoming more and more clear. On one side stand those that wish to continue on from where the old guard left off: the American Nazi Party, David Duke, various KKK formations, Tom Metzger of White Aryan Resistance, Aryan Nations and the Creativity Movement which sought to meld supremacist ideas with religion, and many more. The continuation of this camp can best be seen in the National Socialist Movement (NSM) and the Traditionalist Worker Party/Youth Network (TWP/TYN), headed by 25 year old, Matthew Heimbach. These two groups have recently formed the Nationalist Alliance, have begun working with skinhead gangs and KKK groups, and the NSM has even moved to stop publically displaying the swastika. By and large, these groups are (at least partially) rurally based, and present themselves as the vanguard of the white working class, and in doing so deploy a “third positionist” language that often comes across as Leftist. For instance, TWP banners read: “100% Socialist, 100% Nationalist.” While obviously this marks them as National Socialist (ie, the National Socialist German Workers Party, or Nazis), for many people, this will simply go over their heads.
But while the harbingers of the old guard in rural areas gather together for Neo-Nazi skinhead concerts and cross lighting ceremonies, in the cities, DC think tanks, universities, and upper-class fraternities, another section of the movement is growing: the Alt-Right.
The Alt-Right is made up of several key components:
- Think Tanks, book publishers, and pseudo-academic conferences and journals help to give the movement a set of ideological leaders, media spokespeople, and a collected ideology. This includes the American Renaissance headed by Jared Taylor, V-DARE, an anti-immigrant website and think tank which is fronted by Peter Brimelow, Counter-Currents Publishing that is headed by Greg Johnson, and the National Policy Institute (NPI) led by Richard Spencer, who moved from paleoconservatism into white nationalism and also coined the term, “Alternative Right.” NPI also produces the Radix journal and sells books online. These key groups, projects, and people help create an ideological leadership as well as a liaison to the mainstream media which has been crucial to their growth in exposure.
- Podcasts, websites, and internet culture act as a vehicle for communication for the Alt-Right as well as a means in which ideas can cross pollinate without being attacked. The biggest and most influential of these have been The Right Stuff (TRS) podcast network, the Neo-Nazi news website, The Daily Stormer, which produces ‘news’ and podcasts, and Red Ice Radio, which moved from concentrating on conspiracy theories into full blown Neo-Nazism. In many ways, the internet represents the only place left that white supremacists can go and congregate without fear of being confronted. Thus, in reddit groups, on 4chan, on twitter, and through podcasts, a subculture has been nurtured and is now attempting to grow out of just being confined to online spaces.
- Activist organizations such as Identity Evropa, American Vanguard, Portland Students for Trump, and more. As the Alt-Right has grown online, it has attempted to push away from the confines of the internet. Only several groups have attempted to construct themselves as an Alt-Right force on the streets, and these currently include largely Identity Evropa, which outreaches to middle to upper-middle class males in college, American Vanguard which is largely a more aesthetically Neo-Nazi version of IE, and various Alt-Right groups which have supported Trump, such as the Portland Students for Trump.
White supremacist, red blood at the NPI conference
The things that make the Alt-Right different from previous waves and formations of white supremacists are:
- They reject by and large a pseudo class analysis, and more or less any pandering to the ‘white working class.’ They are more interested in reaching out to college educated, urban based, and financially secure men than rural, poor, or working-class people. In short, the Alt-Right, speaking on terms of race, gender, and class – is an elitist movement. Moreover, they attempt to appeal to white men who react negatively to social movements that challenge systems of white supremacy and patriarchy within society. For the Alt-Right, the threat isn’t to white workers but instead to whiteness as a social position and caste within the American system. The failure of neoliberalism and statecraft in the US is that the dominant State system has failed (the Alt-Right cites the end of Jim Crow and changing immigration laws as part of this failure) to uphold these racial, gendered, and class hierarchies and thus has been made irrelevant. The only solution for them is an entirely new system: fascism and ethno-nationalism. But, much like classical conservatism, they propose that any problems that white workers or the poor face now will be fixed and corrected once a fascist ethno-state is created, or as The Daily Stormer writes, “If we were to physically remove Jews, however, [things] would probably fall into place naturally.” Lastly, it should also be stated that by and large the Alt-Right is made up of men from upper-middle class backgrounds, many of whom went to private schools, prestigious universities, who were enrolled in up-scale fraternities, and so on; Richard Spencer being a shining example. While the Alt-Right sees themselves as “dapper,” to the majority of people they appear to be is exactly what they are: rich kids. The Alt-Right’s elitist position is best articulated by Greg Johnson of Counter-Currents in the essay New Right vs Old Right:
[W]e need to adopt a resolutely elitist strategy. We need to recognize that, culturally and politically speaking, some whites matter more than others. History is not made by the masses. It is made out of the masses. It is made by elites molding the masses. Thus we need to direct our message to the educated, urban middle and professional classes and above.
- The Alt-Right doesn’t care about women and sees them politically, like poor or working-class whites, as essentially non-actors. While there are some Alt-Right women, such as Lana Lokteff from Red Ice Radio, these women are simply the exception to the rule. Furthermore, there continues to be more and more cross-over with the ‘manosphere’ and Men’s Rights Activists (MRAs), who essentially take the argument the Alt-Right makes about races being fundamentally unequal and different and applies it to gender. Well-known MRA writers such as Roosh V (who argued that rape should be legalized on private property owned by men) and Matt Forney (who looks and acts like every “SJW” the far-Right mocks) have continued to cross into the white nationalist camp, speaking at NPI events and working with Red Ice Radio. The internet has also helped to funnel a lot of people from the manosphere into the Alt-Right, through things like #GamerGate which harassed women online and threatened them with rape and violence, and propelled the career of ‘Alt-Lite’ personality Milo Yiannopoulos. As Matthew Lyons has pointed out, in many ways, this flies in the face of the “separate but equal” stance of many white nationalists who often applauded the contributions of women to fascist movements. Here, Matt Forney sums up the Alt-Right’s position on women in the Chicago Tribune:
Trying to ‘appeal’ to women is an exercise in pointlessness…. it’s not that women should be unwelcome [in the alt-right], it’s that they’re unimportant.
- The Alt-Right is anti-Semitic and views the Jews as a separate race from whites, by and large denies the Holocaust, but also normalizes and laughs about the wholesale slaughter of Jews and non-whites. Furthermore, they view Jews as having a negative impact on white people throughout history. While this borrows much from obvious sham conspiracy documents such as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the current articulation of this position is best put forward by the professor Kevin MacDonald who speaks regularly at various Alt-Right conferences, as well as Alt-Right websites such as The Daily Stormer, who wrote in their intro to the Alt-Right:
The defining value of the [Alt-Right] movement and the foundation of its ideology is that the Jews are fundamentally opposed to the White race and Western civilization and so must be confronted and ultimately removed from White societies completely.
- Another central pillar to the Alt-Right’s worldview is that (in their view) it can be scientifically proven that there are biological differences in race and this corresponds with levels of intelligence, a person’s tendency to act in criminal or anti-social ways, a person’s ability to create and maintain “civilizations,” and in the case of the Jews, the belief that they are genetically prone to destroy “white” civilizations and negatively affect them. Thus, their foundational basis for a rational society should be based upon inequality and thus the superiority of whites. As Richard Spencer wrote:
A century and a half ago, Alexander Stephens, Vice-President of the Confederate States of America, was faced with the prospect of the victory or annihilation of his nation and fledgling state in what is now referred to as the American Civil War.
In his greatest address, “The Cornerstone of the Confederacy,” he did not speak (mendaciously) about “states rights” or any kind of Constitutional legality. He instead cut to the heart of the social order he was opposing. He stressed that the Confederacy was based on the conclusion that Thomas Jefferson was wrong; the “cornerstone” of the new state was the “physical, philosophical, and moral truth” of human inequality.
Ours, too, should be a declaration of difference and distance—”We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created unequal.” In the wake of the old world, this will be our proposition.
- The use of terms and talking points used in “identity politics” towards their own ends.
- Lastly, according to the Alt-Right, all those that oppose them (and other white nationalists of all stripes), are in fact protectors of the dominant political and economic order, essentially “work for the Jews,” and act as defenders of both neoliberal corporate capitalism and “communism.”
The enemies of the Alt-Right should take note of these differences if they are to destroy it.
Growing Reaction to Black Revolt and Popular Movements
The increase of both the Alt-Right and a new wave of Neo-Nazi, KKK, and general white nationalist action, violence, waves of vandalism, and more was part of a growing reaction to the Ferguson Insurrection and the Black Lives Matter movement, not simply egged on by the Trump campaign. In short, paramilitary action to the fear of black rebellion were the seeds for the new movement, not simply the coattails of Trump. This growth post-Ferguson has impacted all aspects of the far-Right, such as the 3%ers and Oathkeepers militia groups. As Shane Bauer wrote for Mother Jones as he went undercover in the 3%ers:
A Marine veteran and IT manager from Colorado named Mike Morris, known here as Fifty Cal, felt that if threepers were going to restore the Constitution, they needed to be organized and well trained. In 2013, he founded 3UP and became its commanding officer. Membership “exploded” after the Ferguson protests, he says. He boasts that the 3UP’s Colorado branch, its largest, now has 3,400 members.
As we wrote in Bern Notice:
In the past year, we have seen this play out in the streets several times. In Olympia, we watched as Neo-Nazi skinheads took to the streets in support of the police. In Minneapolis, white nationalist members of the Patriot movement (and Trump supporters), fired upon demonstrators during the #JusticeforJamar occupation. In Seattle, members of the Hammerskin Nation attempted to march in a predominantly queer neighborhood. Moreover, in the face of almost a total media blackout, a wave of arson attacks against black churches was carried out throughout the South. In short, the far-right has hit the streets more in the last two years than they have since the 1990s. Its also important to note that in all of these instances, as it was in Anaheim, it took people physically confronting them to drive them out.
Since the time of that writing, we have seen attempted large scale far-Right mobilizations in Sacramento which led to violent clashes, shut downs of the KKK in North Carolina, ruckus protests outside of NPI’s conference in Washington DC, disruptions and protests of Milo’s latest speaking tour, and more.
It is important to remember that the growth of the far-Right as a whole in the current period is a grassroots reactionary push back against all popular movements from below, and this reality follows similar trajectories from the past. In 2006, as the immigrant rights movement grew and took to the streets, in reaction the militia and white nationalist movements swelled as armed gangs of men headed to the border to police “illegals.”
Going back farther still, some of the first original American Nazis such as George Rockwell and the the American Nazi Party (ANP) grew to be their most influential when they intervened in protests against attempts to integrate housing in suburbs outside Chicago as well as decrying “race-mixing” as a conspiracy of Jewish communists. Going back farther still, organizations such as the KKK were created in order to use terror to enforce the subjugation of black workers that generated massive amounts of wealth for the white land owning aristocracy. But this terror quickly grew to include other targets, as the KKK soon went after radicals, union organizers, and white people people that pushed back against the Klan.
Back to present day, we are also seeing beyond just the Trump campaign and anti-immigrant circles, the growth of another ‘cross-over’ issue growing around Blue Lives Matter, as many reactionary elements seek to support the police who are (literally) coming under fire as thousands rise up against continued police murders and brutality. This drive to support and defend the police who are being fought against by grassroots movements, from Chicago to North Dakota, is of course being supported by a wide range of white nationalists.
To overlook the role that reaction to popular movements, especially black revolt, plays in feeding into far-Right movements does a disservice to understanding fascism in the present day and white supremacy more broadly.
The Alt-Right and Trump
As the grassroots autonomous far-Right has fed off of the white reaction to black insurrection and the growing power of social movements, so too have politicians. As CrimethInc. recently argued, Trump’s electoral win does not signal the coming of fascism, but instead white supremacy attempting to rearticulate itself:
Fascism is not just any extreme right-wing position. It is a complex phenomenon that mobilizes a popular movement under the hierarchical direction of a political party and cultivates parallel loyalty structures in the police and military, to conquer power either through democratic or military means; subsequently abolishes electoral procedures to guarantee a single party continuity; creates a new social contract with the domestic working class, on the one hand ushering in a higher standard of living than what could be achieved under liberal capitalism and on the other hand protecting the capitalists with a new social peace; and eliminates the internal enemies whom it had blamed for the destabilization of the prior regime.
Trump showed contempt for democratic convention by threatening to intimidate voters and hinting that he might not concede a lost election, but his model of conservatism in no way abolishes the mechanisms that are fundamental to democracy.
There is, in fact, nothing fascist about Trump.
They go on to write:
Although the billionaire’s narrative of victimization—which the media has compliantly disseminated—is frankly pathetic, whiteness in the United States is indeed facing a crisis. Not because “whites are becoming a minority” or any other paranoid supremacist fantasy, but because in the last few decades, the paramilitary functions of whiteness have largely been absorbed by an increasingly powerful government that can do with judges, prisons, and urban redevelopment bureaucracies what yesteryear it had to do with lynch mobs—to such an extent that, paradoxically, even a black man can be put in charge of the whole apparatus.
Before Trump, the Tea Party movement began speaking to the crisis of whiteness, and was rewarded with an outpouring of support. The Donald simply named the anxiety more explicitly, and spoke from a larger platform.
Whiteness was created to destroy solidarity among the oppressed and to encourage loyalty to the rulers. On the streets of Ferguson and other cities, we saw how it also completes the paramilitary function of disarming people of color and preventing white people from directly taking part in the rebellions where racial divisions start to finally melt down.
Whiteness is a war measure. There are a thousand forms of mutiny, but all of them require the recognition that a war is going on.
But to get to the heart of their thesis:
The media in general have suggested that Trump’s appeals to whites were so effective because of the economic situation: working-class whites have felt threatened as their privileges and their social standing decline, so the story goes. Yet the racial gaps in wealth and standard of living have grown since the crisis. If economics were the bottom line, white Americans would feel more secure, not less secure, after Obama’s presidency. White privilege, in this sense, continues to pay its dividends. I would argue that it is actually the paramilitary function that is an ingrained part of whiteness which is in crisis, and which mobilized large numbers of whites for Trump.
In short, the physical and psychological wage of the cross-class nature of white supremacy is still paying out to white workers, but actions that used to be carried out by self-organized paramilitary organizations are now instead handled by a massive, bureaucratic, and neoliberal state.
Trump, just like the Alt-Right, saw a potential base within this reality, and acted accordingly. In many ways, this mirrors previous election cycles such as those of Barry Goldwater and George Wallace. Both campaigns saw massive support from various white supremacist groups, from the KKK to Neo-Nazis. In the case of Wallace, out of the ashes of his campaign’s failure came one organization, the National Youth Alliance for Wallace, which spawned the National Alliance, whose leader William Pierce would go on to publish the Turner Diaries, inspiring a wide range of terrorist groups from The Order to Timothy McVeigh.
Back in our current period, the response to Trump’s electoral victory from white nationalists, including and in particular the Alt-Right, has been extremely lackluster. We mean this in the sense that the majority of the movement seems to be giving Trump the benefit of the doubt, concentrating on ‘holding his feet to the fire,’ and also attempting to influence the regime. Groups such as the Traditionalist Worker Party have articulated such a standpoint at the risk of alienating some of their supporters. As one angry commenter wrote on their website:
So another WN group falls to the wayside through Trump worship. He was only worth supporting because he disparaged all the other candidates in a corrupt system. But he always was a crony capitalist piece of shit, and now he should be treated as such accordingly.
You should be working to bring down the system like the radical left does. Instead, you idolize someone who has been in bed with jew finance his entire life. America went into serfdom with the Trump supported bank bailouts of 2008. He granted them permanent rent seeking status when he did that, and it was pure treason.
On the Alt-Right, those in the leadership of “the movement” are pushing to influence the Trump regime in extremely organized ways. For instance, Richard Spencer is moving the National Policy Institute to Washington DC to be closer to the administration. According to Forward.com:
Richard Spencer now lists Arlington Virginia as NPI’s headquarters and says he plans to spend more time in Washington D.C. as the “alt-right” continues its efforts to influence the mainstream.
Identity Evropa members at NPI conference in Washington DC
Identity Evropa has articulated that the Alt-Right needs to push harder to take over the mainstream of the right-wing in the wake of Trump. Speaking on the recent NPI conference they wrote:
There was a will to capitalize as fully as possible on Trump’s win. At the conference, you got a real sense of where this movement is going. That we are the intellectual vanguard of the American right cannot be doubted. Now is the time to press harder than we have before to make ourselves and our ideas more prominent on the national stage. Our movement is no longer a head without a body. We have the momentum to propel ourselves into the future, and Identity Evropa will be on the front lines of this fight helping to lead our people to a better and brighter future.
To date, there has been repeated crossover between the Trump campaign and the Alt-Right, such as the connections made with Breitbart and it’s chief editor Steve Bannon who is now appointed to Trump’s cabinet, Donald Trump, Jr. coming on the white nationalist podcast The Political Cesspool, Neo-Nazis and white nationalists staffing Trump officers, various white power groups doing calls and volunteering for Trump, to many within the Trump campaign following white nationalists on twitter and Trump parroting much of Alex Jones’ talking points, to Trump even outright retweeting memes from white supremacist twitter accounts. While this is certainly enough to make one sick, while on the other hand the regime has been quick to distance themselves from much of the far-Right. Eric Trump even went so far as to say that David Duke “deserves a bullet.”
What is more clear is that the Trump campaign mined the Alt-Right for talking points, sound bytes, and ideas. While those on the Alt-Right would be overjoyed for this relationship to continue and grow deeper, on top of putting more and more of their people inside the establishment, at the same time, it seems unlikely that the current regime is going to be enough to satisfy the white nationalist movement over a long period of time.
It is also worth noting that the move made by the NPI to land in DC in order to influence politics as usual, mirrors very much the the Liberty Lobby headed by Willis Carto, which functioned in much the same way from 1958 until 2001, and even had a office located in downtown Washington DC. The Liberty Lobby presented itself much as the current Alt-Right does; as the defenders of ‘true’ conservatism and with no ties to outright anti-Semitism and Neo-Nazism. While the politics of the organization where clear to many, Carto was also quick to set up many other side organizations, such as the Institute for Historical Review (which was based around Hitler worship, studying the third reich, and Holocaust Denial), as well as The Spotlight publication, which reported white nationalist news on everything from Patrick Buchanan to Neo-Nazi skinheads.
But the Liberty Lobby was also a lesson in the ability of far-Right groups to splinter and fracture. For instance, Carto established the National Youth Alliance for George Wallace, only to lose it to William Pierce. He helped establish the Populist Party, only to watch as wave after wave of participants dropped out once the group’s ties to Nazis and the Klan came more out into the open. Fights, often violent and leading to drawn out court cases broke out between various factions over mailing lists, which at the time were the lifeblood of such organizations staying afloat, because they meant access to donations.
In the end, the Liberty Lobby placed its bet on politics and the electoral runs of Patrick Buchanan, only to see them fail time after time. Eventually the Liberty Lobby fell apart after lawsuits and splits. Carto was buried in a cemetery for Veterans. Before he died he joked:
“I’m probably America’s biggest Hitler fan, but I’ll be buried alongside all these World War II vets…”
All in all, we don’t see things playing out much differently for the Alt-Right in today’s current environment, but we have a role to play in their downfall as well.
The Alt-Right and the Media, the Media and Us
Revolutionary anarchists and anti-fascists will never be given the same spotlight as the Alt-Right is getting, we need to except this reality and deal with it.
The Alt-Right is an abnormality to the media which it finds enticing because it is a white supremacist movement that doesn’t look like one. This is a story that they will never get tired of telling, and as white nationalists are America’s number one killers, it’s unlikely to stop grabbing headlines anytime soon. But in doing so, they will normalize and spread the basic talking points of the Alt-Right far and wide. And, as the Trump campaign has shown, many of these formerly extreme positions are becoming much more center of the road.
But furthermore, the media loves the Alt-Right because it plays by the rules. The Alt-Right doesn’t organize massive shut downs, occupations, strikes, and riots like we do – first of all, they can’t, but moreover they fill out paperwork for permits and work with the police. The Alt-Right doesn’t cover their faces in black bloc and ski masks in order to avoid arrest, they hide behind the police and look for media people to tell their side of the story to. The Alt-Right is an upper middle class package of ‘activism’ that already makes sense to the media: legalistic, seemingly following the rules, cleancut, articulate, male, and of course: totally white. Finally a social movement that was made for air time!
To beat our head against a wall and continue to point out that far-Right white men have killed more police officers than anyone and that white nationalists make up the biggest terrorist threat on American soil, is a losing struggle in the face of the media. The media isn’t interested in the truth, they’re interested in selling papers and advertising.
The mainstream media will never paint us in a similar positive light, nor allow us to articulate our ideas; our movement will always be anathema to them. Revolutionary anarchism and militant anti-fascism flies in the face of everything that the mainstream bourgeois media holds dear. We don’t want basic reforms of the system, we want a social revolution that changes life fundamentally on all levels. We don’t work legalistically to hold polite demonstrations; when possible, we shut down streets, attack the storefronts of corporations, clash with police, occupy buildings, and go out on strike. Also, unlike the Alt-Right, our movement is multi-racial and involves people of various backgrounds, genders, and sexualities. To paraphrase something Noam Chomsky once said, if the media was smarter it would allow radicals on the air more often, in order to make them look completely alien. For the media, it is clear which side is more ‘camera ready.’
While we do not think we should shy from stating our positions to the mainstream media when given the opportunity, we think the continued belief held by many Leftists that essentially more media means us closer to our goals is a mistake. While popularizing and normalizing our ideas is important to all of us, ultimately we will have to do this through our own infrastructure and networks. Furthermore, if anarchist ideas are to have any sort of currency, they will have to be backed up with action and people’s’ ability to become involved in organizing, fighting, and building a different way of life – not just sharing memes, twitter updates, and listening to podcasts.
As always, we need think about how we can use our online resources to grow the existing movement we have on the streets, not retreat farther and farther back into cyber-space.
The Alt-Right Isn’t All Right
As we have laid out in this essay, there are major fractures in the Alt-Right which will continue to play out, especially as Trump is now the head of a new regime. We see these as:
- Questions of class: Many in white nationalist circles have long laughed at the Alt-Right as an upper middle class movement, and we see this trend continuing. As the Alt-Right tries to transition into street action, more and more they will also come up against their upper-middle class base being a problem. Moreover, the reality that anti-fascists are willing to physically confront them means that they will have to consider how they will respond. While we hold no illusions that groups such as Identity Evropa would beat the shit out of us if they could or were able, at the same time, we know that currently their image would be tarnished if they were portrayed on the same footing as anti-fascists, fighting in the streets. While the media may love their “dapper” rich boys now, once violence enters into the equation they will be quick to turn them into “menacing supremacist thugs.” But if the far-Right is to grow into more of a physical movement, it will need bodies in the street to protect the leadership of its elitist cadre. Thus, at some point the Alt-Right will most likely attempt to make common cause with the more ‘traditional’ white power movement in order to provide muscle (as Matthew Heimbach has done) or will simply attempt to openly recruit from the white working-class and the poor. While the idea of Richard Spencer trying to recruit poor whites is laughable, the question of class will continue to fracture and split the Alt-Right.
- Questions of violence: As Nathan Damigo wrote recently on twitter, the failure of the current ‘work within the system’ breed of Alt-Right organizers will lead to a much more violent collection of white nationalist militants. While of course in the US and around the world we’ve seen the growth of far-Right violence and terrorism for decades, it is very possible that this tendency will grow and expand as it is felt by the broad base of the insurgent far-Right that Trump (and overall democracy) has failed them. As this shift happens, questions of violence will again take center stage and the movement will continue to fracture over disagreements.
- Questions on tactics: Many on the far-Right proclaimed that Trump is the last electoral hope for the far-Right. That if Trump lost, the only possible way to uphold white supremacy in the United States would be to create a revolutionary movement that took state power. While it appears that many on the far-Right and the Alt-Right are biding their time and waiting for the Trump Train to roll out, at some point, Trump will begin to disappoint them just like all politicians. At this point, perhaps several years down the line, the movement will split again over questions on what to do. Should they again put all their chips behind a candidate or instead focus more on building a movement? Only time will tell who will go where, but in the end, not everyone will be on the same page.
- Question on Links to Neo-Nazism: As the reaction to ‘HeilGate’ shows, not everyone in white nationalism is on the same page, and moreover many are quick to sell out their former comrades if they feel the heat is too hot. While overall, white nationalists are attempting to move into a more ‘mainstream’ appearance (getting rid of swastikas, etc), as was stated before, this is still a subculture that was built on memes with Hitler in them and references to ’14/88.’ One thing is clear, that publically, no one on the Alt-Right, and even in white nationalism, wants to be labeled a Neo-Nazi or white supremacist. Anti-fascists are thus going to have to continue to expose the networks and connections between these groups while also explaining how their ideas are essentially the same, despite the various degrees of separation or aesthetic differences that they have.
Lessons and Challenges for Anarchists and Anti-Fascists
In closing, revolutionary anarchists and anti-fascists have several lessons to take away from the current moment:
- The mainstream media is not our friend and currently is in a crisis and losing money. While it presents itself as a neutral force within society and as a watchdog against wrongdoing, in reality it is designed to sell advertising and is driven by the same forces that own it. While the media acts as “shocked and appalled” by the growth of the Alt-Right, it at the same time does not understand how to be against a fascist movement that does not look how they expect a fascist movement to look and on the surface, appears to be legalistic and democratic in nature. While the hype around the Alt-Right we expect will fade with time, we cannot expect the same kind of spotlight on our movements due to the aims that we hold and our revolutionary ideas and militant actions. We must deal with the normalization of far-Right ideas by continuing to promote and popularize our own.
- The Alt-Right and the much larger insurgent far-Right has grown in size in the wake of black insurgency and the growth of popular social movements and struggles from below, not simply from the Trump campaign. Like Trump however, the Alt-Right is seeking to mold this reaction into support for political power, albeit in a completely different fashion.
- The Alt-Right will continue to splinter and fracture as time goes on under the Trump regime. Some will fall away. Others will tow the classic line of “hold our elected leaders accountable,” while others will call for militant action. In time, many will attempt to break with legalistic and democratic tactics, while others will argue against such measures. Over all, the Alt-Right will also have to come to terms with the fact that it is an elitist movement that does not have much of a rank and file that can operate in the streets. Instead, the Alt-Right seems more interested in working inside the system, than against it. As time goes on, these positions will lead to more and more splits, and the Trump era of unity will again be shattered.
In closing, we face several challenges:
- How do we confront a fascist force that does not operate on grounds that we are used to, or even have access to? What do you do about a group of people who are members of a frat which had 5 Presidents come through it’s doors? How do we combat white nationalists who are corporate lawyers and have vast amounts of family money at their disposal? If we know anything (or think we know) about political people in positions of wealth and power it’s this: they don’t like to be embarrassed. Let’s drag their names and their politics through the mud, as much as possible. At their homes, at their work, at their school, everywhere. Let’s remind everyone that we offer no platform and no peace for fascists. As the May 1st Anarchist Alliance wrote recently on their analysis of a disruption of a Milo event:
One of the middle class students waiting for Milo made a racist remark, and I said he was a middle class piece of shit. He corrected me and said he was upper middle class. He was afraid of being included with the regular middle class and no doubt horrified at the thought of being identified with the working classes, but where is he going? Somehow I assume he sees his future as being tied with gaining/maintaining the upper hand against working people, communities of color, women, Muslims, Latinos, and so on. He hopes that by allying himself with Milo and Trump and a developing fascist movement, he will carve out a space for himself and comfort for himself at the expense of people beneath him. He wants to join with Milo and Trump to be on top against the rest of us.
The cops escorted Milo into the hall through another entrance and then attacked the anti-fascist forces and opened the way for milo’s supporters to enter the hall. This frenzy of trying to gain advantage at someone else’s expense, this frenzy of hating women and Muslims, this frenzy of taking up white nationalism and war fever, these are the dangers. This is not the old time klan, these college students are so lame that they think it makes them hip to support Milo and to embrace or consider embracing fascism.
- We have to build up a presence on college campuses again and not leave the schools to become playgrounds for the far-Right. Let’s work to build connections on campus, both with groups when possible, and networks of friends.
- Continue organizing militant confrontations with fascists, keep releasing their info, and stay up on counter-recruiting. Give them no quarter, go after them in every way, and build up a capacity to out organize them.
- Confront their ideas politically. We have to attack the foundational ideas of white nationalism head on within wider society. We have to expose and show how concepts that seek to justify fascism and an authoritarian system are false and work against poor and working people. This requires us talking and organizing with people as much as it does with showing that there are different ways of thinking critically about society beyond false and racist notions that “the Jews run the world.”
Our movement has survived everything from Pinkertons, the KKK, Russian gulags, to World Wars. One thing is clear, we ain’t afraid of no memes.