Since Charlottesville the Alt-Right has fallen into infighting, backpedaling, and reeling after a suspected member of the neo-Nazi group Vanguard America killed antifascist protester Heather Heyer on August 12th. In the wake of her murder, multiple neo-Nazi and Alt-Right websites have been kicked off their platforms and numerous attendees of the ‘Unite the Right’ rally have been fired from their jobs and outed for their white supremacist beliefs. Groups like Act for America, a far-Right and anti-Muslim group which held demonstrations across the US on June 10th that relied heavily on Alt-Right and militia muscle to build it’s numbers, canceled 67 upcoming rallies on September 10th. Moreover, tens of thousands took the streets in Boston and in the Bay Area against “free speech” far-Right rallies which were set to feature speakers from Unite the Right.
In the face of popular opposition that isn’t controlled, organized, or contained by the Democratic Party and seeking a bogeyman to demonize, the mainstream media, sections of the Left, “extremist” watchdog groups like the ADL and SPLC, the entire Right, and the security state have all set their sights on ‘antifa.’
Meanwhile, out of the view of much of the media and raising no eyebrows from the government is a growing call from within the Alt-Right itself to go underground and engage in “leaderless resistance.” For anyone who is paying attention and who knows the history of far-Right and white supremacist groups in the US, this should set off major alarms, for leaderless resistance set in motion a strategy of targeted murder and terror. Moreover, Alt-Right groups in the last several months have switched up their tactics, and are now openly targeting what they call “soft targets,” or liberal and social justice groups which are unable or refuse to fight back.
These strategies also aren’t being hidden, they’re openly discussed and promoted on Alt-Right and neo-Nazi chat rooms and discussed in youtube videos. In Discord chat rooms as leaked by Unicorn Riot, not only did members of the Alt-Right celebrate Heather Heyer’s death, but they called for an escalation of violence and leveling up the use of firearms at future demonstrations.
These realities of where the Alt-Right is headed fly in the face of liberal and Centrist delusions about the movement. Far from simply wanting to troll, these groups have a political project that they hope to promote and if they are unable to do so with conventional methods they are more than willing to switch to terror and wholesale murder. As we will show, this is simply taking a page from their not so ancient history.
— It's Going Down (@IGD_News) August 31, 2017
On August 31st, Vincent Law, the same person who penned a series of articles on AltRight.com (run by Richard Spencer) promoting ‘Unite the Right’ in Charlottesville authored an essay entitled, Leaderless Resistance. The essay should be seen as the second part to another piece entitled, The Alt-Right Are Finished Debating. In that essay, published on August 22nd, only 10 days after Charlottesville, Law argues that the time for outreach, discussion, and open debate is over, and that the Alt-Right now can only talk among it’s own “tribe.” In is they argue:
The public will see very soon that debate is pointless. There are no principles at play anymore. Only our tribe and theirs. And only one group out there has drawn a line in the clay and decided to make a stand for what is theirs by birth, by blood and by the will of God.
The Alt-Right is finished debating, negotiating, surrendering. We’re ready to close ranks and fight for what is ours. Post-Charlottesville our fleet lies at the bottom of a deep and troubled sea and we can only march on forward like Cortez once did.
And like him, we stand poised to conquer the continent.
In many ways, the article sets the ground work for an argument that the Alt-Right needs to go “underground,” and in the essay Leaderless Resistance, Law encourages just that. In it he argues that instead of pivoting towards ‘positive actions’ like organizing Hurricane Harvey relief or previous paths like entryism into the GOP, instead the Alt-Right should focus on creating a network of cells which can fundraise and carry out actions on it’s own, outside of central leadership. Law writes:
The older generations had abandoned us. The structures had failed us. We were way way out there in uncharted territory without any tether.
Get out there and network. Start fundraising any way you can. Harden yourself emotionally, physically and if at all possible, financially. Start thinking pro-actively about what you can do for the movement. Like it or not, the period of passive red-pilling is coming to a close. We’ve been too successful and so they are coming to clamp down on us. We have to work with what we have for now. In other words, if you are reading this, you are the vanguard now.
Congratulations on the promotion by the way.
By promotion, Law is referring to the idea that under the concept of “Leaderless Resistance” which was first popularized by KKK leader, Louis Beam, who Law quotes from at length. Under Beam’s idea of leaderless resistance, cells of white supremacists are free to take action and initiative and carry out acts of violence and terrorism, specifically against Left targets as well as people of color, queer and trans people, and Jews. True to his word, Beam carried out a series of actions which fit into this tactical framework. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center:
Beam was arrested in the early 1970s in Houston and charged in connection with the bombing of a left-wing Pacifica radio station and a machine-gun attack on the local Communist Party headquarters, but the charges were later dropped. Later in the decade, he was arrested for the attempted assault of Deng Xiaoping, the visiting leader of Communist China, in Texas.
Beam would go on to make alliances between the KKK and the neo-Nazi group, Aryan Nations and in the early 1980s even moved onto the compound’s grounds. Beams written works such as Essays of a Klansman and newspapers like The Seditionist would go on to influence a wide range of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and KKK members who would go on to carry out violent action. One of these groups is the infamous “Order;” creators of the “14 words” which carried out a string of bombings, robberies, and murders across the Pacific North West. Other supporters of leaderless resistance included Tom Metzger of White Aryan Resistance (WAR), which attempt to mold the neo-Nazi skinhead subculture into a fighting force for the ‘race war.’ Metzger’s “war skins” would go on to commit a host of atrocities, inspired in part by the idea that with each act of racial terror they were bringing their ultimate goal of an all white fascist state closer to fruition.
Later, the concept could be seen in the actions of Timothy McVeigh, who carried out the bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City which killed 168 as well as the massacre of 9 people at a church in South Carolina by Dylann Roof. The SPLC describes the concept of leaderless resistance as such:
“[L]eaderless [R]esistance”…called on white revolutionaries to abandon planning in large groups, and to instead take action in small cells of one to six men. The basic idea was to avoid the destruction of revolutionary organizations when they were infiltrated or in other ways compromised by law enforcement officials, limiting damage to a single cell at most. Rather than act on orders from above, Beam thought the cells should act independently. These “lone wolves” would “act when they feel the time is ripe, or [would] take their cues from others who precede[d] them.”
It’s important to keep in mind that Beam crafted the idea of leaderless resistance after a trial in 1988 which sought to charge him with conspiracy to overthrow the US government along with a variety of white supremacist leaders. Then, like now, white power organizers saw the playing field of above ground activism closing around them, and instead moved to embrace a strategy of targeted violence and terror.
Antifascists and anti-racist community organizers should take these signs and threats seriously. AltRight.com is fully aware that they are quoting from a KKK leader that engaged in acts of targeted violence as are they aware that they are endorsing bringing such a strategy back.
For those of us that know this history we should take note. If the Alt-Right begins to take a page from Beam, it means that they may again begin to plan acts of violence, murder, and outright wholesale slaughter in order to advance their agenda where grassroots activism and outreach has failed them time and time again. It also means that if they follow Beam’s lead, their first target would be, us.
— The Red Elephants (@RealRedElephant) August 27, 2017
We can also begin to see widespread acceptance of such a strategy within the wider Alt-Right and far-Right. In the wake of the massively successful antifascist mobilizations in the bay area on August 26th and 27th which mobilized tens of thousands of people, the white nationalist livestreamers with The Red Elephants remarked as they drove out of Berkeley that they needed to form militias in order to kill counter-protesters and start a war. They also stated that the mass numbers of antifascists in the streets made them sympathetic to the murderer of Heather Heyer. Here we can see, as with AltRight.com, a desire to engage in targeted acts of murder and terror in order to make up for their low numbers and lack of support and organization.
Picking “Soft Targets”
While the media has covered a lot of aspects of the Charlottesville demonstrations, outside of local papers like The OC Weekly, few journalists have covered the fact that white nationalist groups are going after what they call “soft targets.” Soft Targets is used by white supremacists to refer to liberal and social justice groups which in general will not physically fight back, defend themselves, or attempt to stop Alt-Right groups from disrupting their events. With this in mind, Alt-Right and neo-Nazi groups have specifically targeted liberal, social justice, and community based organizations because they know they can get away with it and they will face little, if any resistance.
Neo-Nazis have now disrupted + attacked liberals + social justice mtgs in Florida, Santa Monica, + Austin. pic.twitter.com/S9ylB1RFSV
— It's Going Down (@IGD_News) August 8, 2017
Examples of this strategy includes two disruptions in Santa Monica at racial justice workshops over the past two months. These actions have included members of the neo-Nazi group Rise Above Movement and livestreamers from The Red Elephants and have been attended by Augustus Invictus and Baked Alaska who were both scheduled to speak at Unite the Right. At the last confrontation which took place days before Charlottesville, neo-Nazis were heard yelling, “Warm up the ovens!,” and threatening that they would would come back with hundreds. These disruptions faced hardly any opposition and in the case of the first disruption which featured masked men sitting throughout a training, people simply let them sit there and film the entire crowd.
Baked Alaska participates in neo-Nazi disruption of racial justice training in Santa Monica. Several days later he attended Unite the Right in Charlottesville.
Identity Evropa, one of the main groups which organized and attended Unite the Right in Charlottesville also have carried out two disruptions of social justice events in Florida in the last several months. These disruptions faced no resistance and the neo-Nazis were allowed to stay during the events they were disrupting while holding a banner.
— It's Going Down (@IGD_News) August 8, 2017
Vanguard America, the group that the killer of Heather Heyer is suspected to have been a member of, organized a rally in June which ended in an attack on a member of the progressive group Indivisible. After the group held a rally at the capitol in Texas, they then headed to a bar where Indivisible members were meeting. The neo-Nazis proceeded to hurl anti-Semitic insults and vandalized one Indivisible member’s vehicle. Later on a podcast, participants in the attack bragged about assaulting queer folks and other marginalized people on the street. Like the other mentioned events, the original neo-Nazi rally was not announced before hand on social media and thus faced no opposition. In short, the lack of any sort of resistance allowed the neo-Nazis to physically attack both liberals and people on the street, despite the fact that they had not been provoked. Clearly, it didn’t matter.
— It's Going Down (@IGD_News) June 17, 2017
Of course the greatest example of neo-Nazis in recent memory going after a “soft target” took place on August 11th in Charlottesville, VA, the night before Unite the Right. At the local university, hundreds of members of the Alt-Right and neo-Nazis marched while chanting “Jews will not replace us!,” and screaming racist slurs. They then descended on a small group of students who had locked arms around a statue and proceeded to beat and attack them, even pouring tiki torch fluid on them. Those attacked included students as young as 17 and one person that was in a wheelchair.
All of these examples share a similar theme: they were all soft targets. In all of these instances, those targeted had no knowledge that their events would be disrupted and that they would be on the receiving end of potentially bodily harm. Moreover, almost all were unprepared, or unwilling, to defend themselves.
Such actions also throw out the window the idea that neo-Nazis and the Alt-Right do not “provoke” violence from their enemies, or that they are bound by some sort of code of ethics. In all of these cases the groups involved chose to attack liberal and social justice groups because they knew that antifascists would not be around to physical protect them. Moreover, the ability to film these events and put them on the internet was a plus. In short, they wanted an easy win against an enemy that they knew wouldn’t pose a threat to them.
Such a reality flies in the face of calls from the ADL and the SPLC to “just ignore them” as well as liberals that say by confronting fascism we “give them what they want.” In all of these cases, community defense could have prevented physical violence, kept people safe, protected people’s identities, and also stopped neo-Nazis from being able to organize and disrupt that of others.
Another escalation we have seen is the direct targeting of places of worship, synagogues, Holocaust memorials, and also private store fronts. A report in The Huffington Post documents that just in the few weeks since Charlottesville the wave of attacks and acts of racist vandalism that has been carried out by neo-Nazis and the Alt-Right is staggering.
— It's Going Down (@IGD_News) September 1, 2017
Meanwhile in Berkeley, CA, it appears that a tattoo parlor is only the most recent business to be attacked following an Alt-Right rally. On August 31st, it was reported that a tattoo parlor with an anti-hate sign had its windows broken out in the Downtown area and its owners suspect the Alt-Right. This attack mirrors similar ones which have taken place in the city against other businesses which in the past have been targeted after other Alt-Right rallies for having Black Lives Matter and antifascist signs.
Building Broad Community Defense
Liberal detractors claim that antifascists and anarchists want simply an escalation of violence with the far-Right. This is untrue. As events in Boston and the Bay Area show, by bringing more people into the organizing and making more people aware of the threat of far-Right and Alt-Right violence, we all become safer and it becomes easier to shut them down. At the same time, the more people there are in the street, the more afraid both the State and the police become. This is one of the reasons that they are attacking ‘antifa’ now, in order to split the movement and scare people off the streets, for fear that it will grow into a movement against Trump himself.
But regardless of big numbers on the streets, this doesn’t mean that the far-Right and the Alt-Right are going to stop being a threat to our safety. As we have seen, their tactics are already adjusting to a period in time where they won’t have to be public in order to attack the enemies of their future ‘ethno-state.’ With this in mind, the more of us out there protecting each other and looking out for one another, the safer we all will be.
Experts on ‘extremism’ from the SPLC, to the ADL, to Reveal, are all based around the idea that ultimately the State will protect us from the threat of the far-Right and fascism. That democracy and ‘civil society’ give us all the tools we need to protect against genocide, as if our current system isn’t itself a product of it. But as we have seen these last several months, the State cannot protect us, in fact, its making it worse. Not only has the Trump administration used the far-Right as a base of support, but it has also pulled from it in terms of ideas, messaging, money, and even staff positions. If the Trump era has taught us anything, it’s that we as community members must come together to keep each other safe, and in doing so, ultimately this means committing to being able to defend ourselves from threats of violence.