National Anarchists: Rebranding Fascism
December 20 2008
On September 8, 2007 in Sydney, Australia, the anti globalization movement mobilized once again against neoliberal economic policies, this time to oppose the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) summit. Just as during the protests against the World Trade Organization in Seattle, Washington, in1999, the streets were filled with an array of groups, such as environmentalists, socialists, and human rights advocates. And also just like in Seattle, there was a "Black Bloc"—a group of militant activists, usually left-wing anarchists, who wore masks and dressed all in black.
By Spencer Sunshine
Public Eye Magazine
Vol. 23, No. 4
In Sydney, the Black Bloc assembled and hoisted banners proclaiming "Globalization is Genocide." But when fellow demonstrators looked closely, they realized these Black Bloc marchers were "National- Anarchists"—local fascists dressed as anarchists who were infiltrating the demonstration. The police had to protect the interlopers from being expelled by irate activists.
Since then, the National Anarchists have joined other marches in Australia and in the United States; in April 2008, they protested on behalf of Tibet against the Chinese government during the Olympic torch relay in both Canberra, Australia, and San Francisco. In September, U.S. National Anarchists protested the Folsom Street Fair, an annual gay "leather" event held in San Francisco.
While these may seem like isolated incidents of quirky subterfuge, these quasi anarchists are an international export of a new version of fascism that represent a significant shift in the trends and ideology of the movement. National Anarchists have adherents in Australia, Great Britain, the United States, and throughout continental Europe, and in turn are part of a larger trend of fascists who appropriate elements of the radical Left. Like "Autonomous Nationalists" in Germany and the genteel intellectual fascism of the European New Right, the National Anarchists appropriate leftist ideas and symbols, and use them to obscure their core fascist values. The National Anarchists, for example, denounce the centralized state, capitalism, and globalization — but in its place they seek to establish a system of ethnically pure villages.
In 1990, Chip Berlet showed in Right Woos Left how the extreme Right in the United States has made numerous overtures to the Left. "The fascist Right has wooed the progressive Left primarily around opposition to such issues as the use of U.S. troops in foreign military interventions, support for Israel, the problems of CIA misconduct and covert action, domestic government repression, privacy rights, and civil liberties."1 More recently, the fascist Right has also tried to build alliances based on concern for the environment, hard-line anti-Zionism, and opposition to globalization.
Fascism has become increasingly international in the post World War II period, particularly with the rise of the internet. One of the most obvious results of this internationalization is the continual flow of European ideas to the United States; for example, the Nazi skinhead movement originated in Britain and quickly spread to the United States. In trade, Americans have exported the Ku Klux Klan to Europe and smuggled Holocaust denial and neo Nazi literature into Germany.2
The National Anarchist idea has spread around the world over the internet. The United States hosts only a few web sites, but the trend so far has been towards a steady increase. But it represents what many see as the potential new face of fascism. By adopting selected symbols, slogans and stances of the left wing anarchist movement in particular, this new form of postwar fascism (like the European New Right) hopes to avoid the stigma of the older tradition, while injecting its core fascist values into the newer movement of anti-globalization activists and related decentralized political groups. Simultaneously, National Anarchists hope to draw members (such as reactionary counter culturalists and British National Party members) away from traditional White Nationalist groups to their own blend of what they claim is "neither left nor right."3
Despite this claim, National Anarchist ideology is centered directly on what scholar Roger Griffin defines as the core of fascism: "palingenetic populist ultranationalism." "Palingenetic," he says, is a "generic term for the vision of a radically new beginning which follows a period of destruction or perceived dissolution." Palingenetic ultranationalism therefore is "one whose mobilizing vision is that of the national community rising phoenix like after a period of encroaching decadence which all but destroyed it." 4
For the National Anarchists, this "ultranationalism" is also their main ideological innovation: a desire to create a stateless (and hence "anarchist") system of ethnically pure villages. Troy Southgate, their leading ideologue, says "we just want to stress that National Anarchism is an essential racialist phenomenon. That’s what makes it different." 5
Why should we pay attention to such new forms of fascism? There is no immediate threat of fascism taking power in the established western liberal democracies; the rise to power of Mussolini and Hitler in the 1920s and 1930s occurred in a different era and under different social conditions than those that exist today. Nonetheless, much is at stake.
These new permutations have the potential of playing havoc on social movements, drawing activists out from the Left into the Right. For example, when the Soviet Union collapsed, a number of non-Communist left wing groups suddenly emerged in Russia offering the promise of a more egalitarian society sans dictatorship. However, the group that became dominant was the National Bolsheviks, who are probably the most successful contemporary Third Position fascist group (see glossary). Catching the imagination of disaffected youth by taking up many left wing stances and engaging in direct action, they successfully obliterated their rivals by absorbing their demographic base en masse. The leftwing groups disappeared and the National Bolsheviks remain a powerful political movement today with a huge grassroots and youth base. As they grow older, they will remain influential in Russian politics for decades.
Even when small, Jeffrey Bale suggests it is important to pay attention to these fascist sects because they can serve as transmission belts for unconventional political ideas, influence more mainstream groups, and link up into transnational networks.
Over the years, the anti-globalization movement has also created an opening for these Left Right alliances. The Dutch antiracist group DeFabel van de illegal pulled out of the anti-globalization movement in 1998 because of its links with far right forces. Pat Buchanan, the paleo-conservative politician who holds racist and anti-Semitic views, spoke on a Teamsters Union platform during the demonstrations against the IMF/ World Bank in Washington D.C. in April 2000.7 Meanwhile, racists like Louis Beam (who has worked with the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and Aryan Nations) and Matt Hale (of the World Church of the Creator) praised the Seattle demonstrations against the World Trade Organization in 1999.8
At the same time, parts of the anti-imperialist Left (including many anarchists) have built alliances with reactionary Islamist movements such as Hamas and Hezbollah, called for open acceptance of anti-Semitism, and embraced nationalist Artist’s rendering by Debbie Hird struggles.9 This history prompts many cosmopolitan anarchists to worry that the overtures of new-style fascists to radical Leftists could meet with some success.
Sect History and Strategy
The National Anarchists have their origin in the National Front, a far right British party with an impressive 1977 dark horse electoral success based on their xenophobic anti-immigrant platform. After the election, the group fractured into many internal factions before splintering into different sects. Troy Southgate, the main English language National Anarchist ideologue, is a veteran of this internecine maze. He joined the National Front in 1984, and subsequently joined a splinter group that eventually split again before becoming the National Revolutionary Faction (NRF), a small cadre organization openly calling for armed guerilla warfare.10
In the late 1990s however, the NRF started to morph into the National Anarchist movement; the two were referred to interchangeably for a number of years, until the NRF disbanded in 2003.11 Southgate’s ideology does not seem to have changed substantially with the shift, and he continues to circulate his NRF era essays.
The NRF’s only known public action as "National Anarchists" was to hold an Anarchist Heretics Fair in October 2000, in which a number of fringe of the fringe groups participated. However, when they attempted a second fair, a variety of anarchists and anti-fascists blocked it from being held. After the same thing happened in 2001, Southgate and the NRF abandoned this strategy and retreated to purely internet based propaganda.12
The fair reflected Southgate’s adaptation of the Trotskyist practice of entrism — the strategy of entering other political groups in order to either take them over or break off with a part of their membership.13 Southgate argues, "The NRF uses cadre activists to infiltrate political groups, institutions and services... It is part of our strategy to do this work and, if we are to have any success in the future, it is work that must be done on an increasing basis."14 He claims that the NRF infiltrated the 1999 Stop the City demonstration and the 2000 May Day protest, as well as activities of the Hunt Saboteurs Association and the Animal Liberation Front.15
Beyond its tactical uses, entrism is a philosophy for the National Anarchists as they recruit members from the Left and in particular anarchist groups. Instead of simply calling themselves "racist communitarians," they purposely adopt the label "anarchist" and specifically appropriate anarchist imagery. Examples include the use of a purple star (anarchists typically use either a black star, or a half black star, with the other half designating their specific tendency, i.e., red for unionists, green for environmentalists, etc.), or a red and black star superimposed with a Celtic cross (the latter being a typical symbol of White Nationalists). The allied New Right factions in Australia and the UK also use the "chaos symbol" —an eight pointed star —which they adapt from leftwing counter cultural anarchists.
The fascist use of the "black bloc" political formation at demonstrations is also an appropriation of anarchist and far left forms. In recent years, German fascists calling themselves Autonomous Nationalists have marched in large black blocs, waving black flags (a symbol of traditional anarchism), and even appropriated the symbolism of the German antifascist groupings.16
As far back as 1984, Pierre André Taguieff, an expert on the European New Right, condemned the "tactic of ideological scrambling systematically deployed by GRECE," a rightwing think tank that embraced some leftist critiques of advanced capitalism while promoting core fascist ideas.17 Here we see that ideological scrambling deployed on a grassroots level.
It needs to be stressed that, despite the name, National Anarchists have not emerged from inside the anarchist movement, and, intellectually, their origins are not based in its ideas. Anarchists typically see themselves as part of a cosmopolitan and explicitly antinationalist leftwing movement which seeks to dismantle both capitalism and the centralized state. They seek instead to replace them with decentralized, non-hierarchical, and self-regulating communities. Although similar to Marxists, anarchists are just as adamant in their opposition to racism, sexism, and homophobia as they are to capitalism. In the United States, anarchists were key players in the formation of labor unions, were the only political faction to support gay rights before World War I, were leaders in the free speech movement, and were active in helping to legalize birth control. The White Nationalists’ embrace of the anarchist label and symbolism is more than little ironic, since anarchists have a long history of physically disrupting White Nationalist events, for instance by groups like Anti Racist Action. Anarchist military units were even formed to fight Franco in Spain and Mussolini in Italy.
The Question of "Fascism"
The National Anarchists claim they are not "fascist." Still, Troy Southgate looks to lesser known fascists such as Romanian Iron Guard leader Corneliu Codreanu, and lesser light Nazis like Otto Strasser and Walter Darré. Part of Southgate’s sleight of hand is to claim to be ‘against fascism’ by claiming he is socialist (as did Nazis such as Strasser) and by supporting political decentralization (as do contemporary European fascists such as Alainde Benoist). Sometimes he proclaims fascism to be equivalent to the capitalism he opposes, or promoting a centralized state, which he also opposes.
Southgate is undoubtedly sincere in his aversion to the classical fascism of Hitler and Mussolini, and has cited this as a reason for his break from one of the National Front splinter groups. He sees the old fascism as discredited, and an abandonment of the true values of revolutionary nationalism. But his ultimate goal, shared with the European New Right, is to create a new form of fascism, with the same core values of are vitalized community that withstands the decadence of cosmopolitan liberal capitalism. This cannot be done as long as his views are linked in the popular mind to the older tradition.
One of the two main influences on National-Anarchists is a minor current of fascism called Third Position. The origins of Third Position are in National Bolshevism, which originally referred to Communists who sought a national (rather than international) revolution. It soon came to refer to Nazis who sought an alliance with the Soviet Union. The most important of these was "left-wing Nazi " Otto Strasser, a former Socialist who advocated land redistribution and nationalization of industry. After criticizing Hitler for allying with banking interests, he was expelled from the party. His brother, Gregor Strasser, held similar views but remained a Nazi until 1934, when other Nazis killed him in the Night of the Long Knives.
A number of postwar fascists continued this train of thought, including Francis Parker Yockey and Jean-François Thiriart. 18 They saw the United States and liberal capitalism as the primary enemy, sought an alliance with the Soviet Union, and promoted solidarity with Third World revolutionary movements, including Communist revolutions in Asia and Latin American, and Arab anti-Zionists (particularly those with whom they shared anti-Semitic views). Thiriat’s followers in Italy formed a sect of "Nazi-Maoists" based on these principles, and after a gruesome August 1980 bombing in Bologna which killed 85 people, 40 Italian fascists fled to England, including Robert Fiore.
Fiore was sheltered by National Front member Michael Walker, editor of the Scorpion.19 This paper subsequently spread Third Position and New Right ideas into Britain’s National Front, and Troy Southgate openly credits it as a major influence.20 Third Position ideas also spread through the National Front via the magazine Rising.21 After a 1986 split, this new influence resulted in a reconfiguration of the party’s politics. Prominent members visited Qadafi’s Libya, praised Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini and forged links with the Nation of Islam in the United States.
Southgate claims to have abandoned Third Position fascism. 22 This is a duplicitous claim. He has rejected a centralized state, and therefore its ability to nationalize industry or create an "ethnostate." Nonetheless, National-Anarchists retain the two main philosophical threads of Third Position. The first is the notion of a racist socialism, as a third option between both capitalism and left-wing socialism like Marxismor traditional anarchism.23 The second is the stress on a strategic and conceptual alliance of nationalists (especially in the Third World) against the United States. Just as the National Front praised the Nation of Islam and Qadafi, the National-Anarchists praise Black and Asianracial separatist groups, and support movements for national self-determination, such as the Tibetan independence movement. Unlike many White Nationalists (such as the British National Party), National-Anarchists are pro-Islamist —but only "if they are prepared to confine their struggle to traditionally Islamic areas of the world."24
As Chip Berlet and Matthew Lyons note, Third Position fascism influenced U.S. groups such as the White Aryan Resistance (WAR), the American Front and the National Alliance; Christian Identity pastor Bob Miles also held similar views.25 Often overlooked by commentators is the American Front’s affiliation with Southgate’s NRF, which he boasted of for years.26 Like the National Front, U.S. fascists Tom Metzger and Lyndon LaRouche also forged ties with the Nation of Islam.27 More recently, the National Alliance has incorporated Third Position politics. They attempted to cross-recruit left-wing activists by launching a fake anti-globalization website, and, in August 2002, held a Palestine Solidarity rally in Washington D.C.28
An early attempt to directly transplant National-Anarchist ideology to the United States was made by political provocateur Bill White. Starting his political odyssey as a left-wing anarchist, White briefly adopted a National-Anarchist stance at the height of the anti-globalization movement. He penned an infamous article for Pravda online in November 2001, which falsely claimed that National-Anarchists were part of anarchist black blocs.29 Later White linked up with the National Alliance before embracing the undiluted Nazism of the National Socialist Movement.
Currently there are two U.S. websites directly affiliated with the National-Anarchists. 30 One is the work of a prolific Christian ex-Nazi skinhead, while the Bay Area site has established a regional "network." It is this small group that claims to have taken part in demonstrations for Tibetan independence and protests against the Folsom Street Fair.
Additionally, as an identity within the White Nationalist scene, National-Anarchists continue to attract a number of followers in the United States. For example, one of the early collaborators of the Oregon- based magazine Green Anarchy affiliated with their perspective.31 U.S. National-Anarchists also frequently enter into discussions on Stormfront, the main internet gathering place for White Nationalists. There they defend their racial-separatist and anti-Semitic credentials to traditional fascists, many of whom look upon Third Position politics with skepticism, if not outright hostility. Apparently hearing White Nationalists promoting Islamist, Communist, and anarchist thinkers is as difficult for some of the Right to digest as it is for the Left.
Benoist and the European New Right
Besides Third Position fascism, the other major ideological influence on the National-Anarchists is the European New Right, especially the thinker Alainde Benoist. National-Anarchists have adopted his ideas about race, political decentralization, and the "right to difference."
Benoist founded the think-tank GRECE, and has spent his life creating an intellectually respectable edifice for a core of fascist ideas. Like Southgate, Benoist loudly proclaims that he is not a fascist, but scholars such as Roger Griffin disagree. Griffin says that the New Right "could by the end of the 1980s be credited with the not inconsiderable achievement of having carried out a ‘makeover’ of classic fascist discourse so successfully that, at least on the surface it was changed beyond recognition." 32
Benoist extended the notion of an alliance of European nations with the Third World against their main enemies: the United States, liberalism, and capitalism. But against the fascists who desired a united Europe under a super-state, Benoist instead calls for radical federalism and the political decentralization of Europe. Roger Griffin describes this vision as:
The pluralistic, multicultural society of liberal democracy was to give way, not to a culturally coordinated, charismatic, and, in the case of Nazism, racially pure, national community coterminous with the nation-state, but to an alliance of homogeneous ethnic-cultural communities (ethnies) within the framework of a federalist European "empire."33
Benoist also incorporates many sophisticated left-wing critiques, sometimes sounding like a Frankfurt School Marxist. Today he denounces capitalism, imperialism, liberalism, the consumer society, Christianity, universalism, and egalitarianism; he defends paganism, "organic democracy," and the Third World. He questions the role of unbridled technology and supports environmentalism and a kind of feminism.34 He also rejects biological determinism and embraces a notion of race that is cultural.35 Southgate follows practically all of these positions, which are not necessarily present in Third Position.
Because of these views, the European New Right is very different from the U.S. New Right, whose Christianity and free market views are anathema to the Europeans. The Europeans are closer to the paleo-conservative tradition in the United States, and connect with The Rockford Institute, publisher of Chronicles.
Benoists’s main intellectual formulation is the "right to difference," which upholds the cultural homogeneity and separateness of distinct ethnic-cultural groups. In this sense, he extends the anti-imperialist Left’s idea of "national self-determination" to micro-national European groupings (sometimes called "the Europe of a Hundred Flags"). The "right to difference" has influenced the anti-immigrant policies of Jean-Marie Le Pen’s National Front in France, and a number of GRECE members joined this party, even though Benoist himself rejects Le Pen.36
Benoist has also influenced U.S. White separatism. Usually based around the demand for a separate White nation in parts of Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming, this became a popular idea in White Nationalist circles starting in the early 1980s.37 This decentralized regional perspective was matched by decentralized organizational schemas which emerged at the same time. Louis Beam advocated "leaderless resistance," and the "lone wolf" strategy for far-right terrorism 38, while Christian Identity Pastor Bob Miles started referring himself as a "klanarchist."
Inverting language, Benoist claims that he is an antiracist. Racism, he argues, is a function of universalistic ideologies like liberalism and Marxism, which purportedly wipe out regional and ethnic identities. He says "Racism is nothing but the denial of difference."39 But Taguieff, a keen observer of the European Right, identifies a "phobia of mixing" at the core of this form of racism. It is part of the "softer, new, and euphemistic forms of racism praising difference (heterophilia) and substituting ‘culture’ for ‘race.’"40
The influence of these New Right ideas on the National-Anarchists is explicit. In Australia, the National-Anarchist group is for all practical reasons coextensive with "New Right Australia/New Zealand" and at one point they claimed that "New Right is the theory, National-Anarchism the practice."41 In Britain, Troy Southgate has been involved in New Right meetings since 2005.42 But while Benoist claims that he does not hate immigrants, repudiates anti-Semitism, and endorses feminism, the National Anarchists show what New Right ideas look like in practice: crude racial separatism, open anti-Semitism, homophobia, and antifeminism. The "right to difference" becomes separate ethnic villages.
The New Right also has had a limited influence on elements of the Left intelligentsia. In the United States, the influential journal Telos (known for disseminating Western Marxist texts into English) moved rightward in the 1990s as its editor showed sympathy for Europe’s New Right and published Benoist’s works.43 It continues to publish Benoist, and explores the thought of Nazi legal theorist Carl Schmitt. Many Leftists now consider the once venerable journal anathema.44
Although Benoist advocates decentralized federalist political structures, the Australian National- Anarchists make clear that he does not go so far as to advocate anarchism itself.45 Instead the claim to "anarchism" apparently stems from Richard Hunt’s notion of "villages." Originally an editor at the British magazine Green Anarchist, which advocated an intensely anti-industrial environmental ethic, Hunt was expelled from the editorial collective for his right-wing views before founding Green Alternative, which is seen as an "ecofascist" publication.
Hunt adopted an apocalyptic, Mad Maxesque vision of a post-industrial society. Southgate comments that "to say that we have been hugely influenced by Richard Hunt’s ideas is an understatement," and Southgate took over the editorial helm of Hunt’s magazine when he fell ill.46
Hunt’s critique also reverberated with the environmental strain of classical fascism, such as the views of Hitler’s agriculture minister Walter Darré. Southgate openly gushes over Darré’s "Blood and Soil" ideology in one article47 while white-washing him in another, referring to him merely as a "nationalist ecologist."48 Many other contemporary fascist groups, especially WAR in the United States, also embrace environmentalism.
Homophobia, Antisemitism, Antifeminism
The National-Anarchists are quite open about their antifeminism and desire to exile queer people into separate spaces, but tend to hide their deeply anti-Semitic worldview. Troy Southgate says of feminism, "Feminism is dangerous and unnatural… because it ignores the complimentary relationship between the sexes and encourages women to rebel against their inherent feminine instincts."49
The stance on homophobia is more interesting. Southgate said:
Homosexuality is contrary to the Natural Order because sodomy is quite undeniably an unnatural act. Groups such as Outrage are not campaigning for love between males — which has always existed in a brotherly or fatherly form — but have created a vast cult which has led to a rise in cottaging, male-rape and child sex attacks… But we are not trying to stop homosexuals engaging in this kind of activity like the Christian moralists or bigoted denizens of censorship are doing, on the contrary, as long as this behaviour does not affect the forthcoming National-Anarchist communities then we have no interest in what people get up to elsewhere.50
What this means in his schema is that queer people will be given their own separate "villages." The recent National-Anarchist demonstrations in San Francisco were against two majority-queer events, the Folsom Street Fair and the related fair Up Your Alley. Their orchestrator, "Andy," declares that he is a "racist" who hates queer people.
Andy also denies the charge of anti-Semitism against National-Anarchists, claiming that they merely engage in a "continuous criticism of Israel and its supporters," 51 as do the majority of Leftists and anarchists. Once again, this is a typical disingenuous attempt by National-Anarchists to duck criticism. Anti-Semitism is an important element of the political world views of Southgate and Herferth.
Southgate actively promotes the work of Holocaust deniers, including the Institute for Historical Review, and holds party line anti-Semitic beliefs about the role of the international Jewish conspiracy. As a dodge, he sometimes uses the euphemism "Zionist"; for instance, he says "Zionists are well known for their cosmopolitan perspective upon life, not least because those who rally to this nefarious cause have no organic roots of their own."52 In another interview he says that, "there is no question that the world is being ruthlessly directed (but perhaps not completely controlled) by International Zionism. This has been achieved through the rise of the usurious banking system."53 And he describes the Protocols of the Elders of Zion (a forgery which is the world’s most popular anti-Semitic text) as a book which "although still unproven, accords with the main events in modern world history."54
Meanwhile, his Australian counterpart Welf Herferth is even more explicit in his neo-Nazi anti-Semitic views. In one speech, he describes the Holocaust as an "extrapolation" that "has been an enormously profitable one for the Jews, and one which has brought post-war Germany and Europe to its knees," before referring to Israel as "the most powerful state in the Westernworld." Herferth concludes that "by liberating Germany from the bondage to Israel and restructuring a new Germany on the basis of a new ‘volksgemeinschaft,’ the German nationalists will liberate Europe, and the West as well."55
Recently new groups of National-Anarchists, recruited through Southgate’s internet activism, have made the leap from contemplating their idiosyncratic ideas on the internet into making them the basis of really-existing politics, by joining demonstrations in Australia and San Francisco. Web pages and blogs continue to pop up in different countries and languages.
The danger National-Anarchists represent is not in their marginal political strength, but in their potential to show an innovative way that fascist groups can rebrand themselves and reset their project on a new footing. They have abandoned many traditional fascist practices—including the use of overt neo-Nazi references, and recruiting from the violent skinhead culture. In its place they offer a more toned down, sophisticated approach… Their cultural references are the neo-folk and gothic music scene, which puts on an air of sophistication, as opposed to the crude skinhead subculture. National Anarchists abandon any obvious references to the Hitler or Mussolini’s fascist regimes, often claiming not to be "fascist" at all.
Like the European New Right, the National-Anarchists adapt a sophisticated left-wing critique of problems with contemporary society, and draw their symbols and cultural orientation from the Left; then they offer racial separatism as the answer to these problems. They are attempting to use this new form to avoid the stigma of the old discredited fascism, and if they are successful like the National Bolsheviks have been in Russia, they will breathe new life into their movement. Even if the results are modest, this can disrupt left-wing social movements and their focus on social justice and egalitarianism; and instead spread elitist ideas based on racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism and anti-feminism amongst grassroots activists.