“In January you’ve still got the choice
You can cut the weeds before they start to bud
If you leave them to grow high they’ll silence your voice
And in December you may pay with your blood”
– Peggy Seeger, Song of Choice
An alt right conference over the weekend of March 9 was intended to be a moment of regroupment for the American white identity movement. In reality, however, it merely revealed the deep divisions and isolation of white power activism in America. The conference was hosted by an alt right legal front group called The Foundation for the Marketplace of Ideas. This event was intended to bring together various Neo Nazi groups such as Identity Evropa (yes that’s how they spell it), The Traditionalist Worker Party (again they spell it that way) and Shieldwall Network. The event was intended to bring together “identitarian and alt right leaders and activists to… coordinate their activities,” according to the national socialist Traditionalist Worker Party.
However the conference had to be canceled as venue after venue revoked its reservations with vaguely named The Foundation once they realized who it was a proxy for. The only scheduled event that occurred that weekend was a speech by Richard Spencer. Spencer’s thought combines piss poor readings of German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche with racist resentment at the fact that white males in America are no longer the legally dominant social class and have to make do with mere de facto economic and political supremacy. His speech was intended to be part of an ongoing college tour that has seen violence break out at several public universities, it ended up being the last such event.
It cannot be denied that the alt right is in desperate need of course correction, after the disastrous Unite the Right rally last August ended in vehicular murder. This decline has come from three main factors; the pressure of anti fascist opposition, the movement’s own internal divisions and the isolation of white nationalism from even its potential allies on the hard right. The conference put all three of these factors on display, and revealed for all the world that the emperor has no clothes.
The conference was organized in a highly cloak and dagger fashion, FMI communicated the itinerary on a tightly controlled email list. “Armed security” was provided by Patriot Front according to discord logs leaked to Unicorn Riot; a left-wing media collective. Patriot Front is composed former affiliates of Vanguard America, the group to which Heather Heyer’s murderer belonged. These security precautions reveal a real fear of attack by members of the far left antifa movement. Antifa, or militant anti fascism, is a tradition of political struggle that focuses on using direct action and aggressive public pressure to shut down fascist organizing. However, in spite of all these efforts, the conference was still shut down by the fascist’s revolutionary antagonists.
Antifascist forces harried the conference all weekend, forcing several “private venues” to cancel events booked by the Neo Nazis according to Altright.com. Two bars are confirmed by Detroit Free Press to have canceled events scheduled by FMI after being informed of the controversy surrounding the alt right. The leading attendees ended up hunkered down with guns in a mansion outside of Detroit according to the Twitter of Stop Spencer MSU, the principle group involved in countering the conference.
The conference organizers intended the weekend to be capped off by a speech by white nationalist thought leader Richard Spencer at The University of Michigan. The talk was part of Spencer’s college tour, which has seen him sue for the right to speak on college campuses around the country. Previous talks saw Spencer speak in front of variously curious or hostile crowds. These events are in Spencer’s own words, aimed at entering the politically hostile terrain of left-wing academia and engaging in intellectual Q and As with what he defines as “normal students.”
However, since Charlottesville it has become increasingly clear what kind of movement the alt right is and the general public has become increasingly supportive of antifascist counter protests and increasingly unwilling to dialogue with neo fascists. No amount of clever rhetoric or incoherent yammering about (((the media))) can make the videos of Deandre Harris getting beaten and Heather Heyer being murdered go away. Anyone who is not a committed Neo Nazi, whatever their thoughts on the higher points of Marxist theory, hates Spencer’s guts. Since Cville every alt right event has been marred by violence and large counter protests, from a white lives matter rally ending in the TWP’s leadership attacking an interracial couple to an attempted shooting when Spencer spoke at The University of Florida. What makes matters worse, from a propaganda perspective, is that in most cases it has been incompetent violence. In this case, antifascists decided not to give the fascists the chance to start fights on their terms.
The protests against Spencer’s speech began early, as groups of anti fascist demonstrators gathered outside of the Agricultural building where the event was to be held. They intended to blockade the building and prevent conference goers from attending the speech. The coalition was organized under the banner of “Stop Spencer MSU” and included groups such as Democratic Socialists of America and Solidarity and Defense. The blockade, which included over 700 people, began the day by disrupting police attempts to create a cordon through which to lead ticket holders. In service of this goal a cadre of antifascists surrounded and neutralized an armored police van. This forced Spencer to push back the start time by an hour.
Most of the violence occurred when a column of around 50 Neo Nazis led by Matthew Heimbach attempted to break the antifascist blockade. The band of would be stormtroopers was turned back by a mob of soy boys, and was only saved from complete humiliation by police intervention. Cops broke the two crowds up using bicycles. In the end, Heimbach decided to pull his forces out of the area to avoid “an establishment orchestrated riot.” Police arrested 13 people, only one of whom was Neo Nazi. In the end, Spencer spoke to a crowd of a few dozen rather that the three hundred who held tickets for the event. In a YouTube video released after the speech Spencer declared his intention to end the college tour, because “antifa is winning” by destroying the “fun” of his appearances on college campuses. He vowed to use other means of entering the academic world.
Antifa’s primary victories have not been military in nature. In fact, in most cases it is antifascists who have taken the most injuries, arrests and even deaths in these battles. Antifascist success has come almost entirely from its ability to increase the social cost of participating in fascist organizing. Strategic doxxing of white nationalists who participated in Unite the Right has gotten people fired from jobs and evicted from their apartments, while intel has made sure that antifa is aware of any large-scale fascist mobilization as soon as it is planned. Every alt right event since Cville has been swamped by counter protesters, making it clear that the majority of Americans actively reject fascist poison. Mass antifascism, that relies on building broad coalitions and mobilizing whole communities, has defeated the latest attempt build white power street movement.
Talk of Unity
White collar intellectual racists have traditionally held the skinhead street fighters at arm’s length, and Altright.com described the weekend as representing some form of unity between working and upper class fascist groups. However, it signified nothing so grand. In practical terms, it merely signaled the unity of Traditionalist Worker Party and Richard Spencer’s personality cult.
Further undergirding how flimsy the supposed “unity” represented by the conference was the fact that Traditionalist Worker* felt the need to spend a good chunk of their article on the event denouncing Andrew Anglin, founder of the website Daily Stormer for ‘cucking on optics.’ They accused Anglin and his volkskomrade Weev of pushing a safe, not openly racist enough doctrine of “American nationalism.”
In the days since the event, Daily Stormer has purged TWPs podcast Action! and Spencer has become involved in a Twitter war with members of Identity Evropa over American Nationalism and other issues. This is very interesting because Spencer played a key role in founding the IE, and he appears to feel deeply betrayed. This is the aftermath of what was supposed to be the great unification of the alt right!
A Movement Isolated
The internal catfights and divisions of the alt right speak to the kinds of people who are attracted to the movement. The individuals who join young fascist movements tend to be highly alienated, and alienated people are alienating. Thus alt right is dominated by angry individuals with a deep hatred of society and themselves; the school shooter demographic. These are hate groups in the most literal sense of the word, and groups founded on nothing but hatred (especially vague hatred) tend not to foster healthy dynamics. The external result of these internal dynamics of hatred, anger and ego is a movement isolated from American society at large and its own natural allies. Successful fascist movements have always had tactical alliances with the police. However, since the alt right refuses to behave itself and allow the police to protect them such a coalition is impossible. At Charlottesville, alt right VIPs refused police escort and decided to directly confront antifascist crowds. Recordings from police officers on the day of the event show them saying that “[Spencer and co] don’t want this end well.”
Even more troubling for the Nazis has been their isolation from even other sections of the far right. Right wing politicos and activists may denounce antifa as “enemies of free speech” but this is almost always followed by equal condemnation of the Nazis. They may dislike the left, but the alt right carries far too much baggage to make them viable allies. People interested actually passing laws and winning elections have no use for the PR disaster that comes from blocking with Swastika waving lunatics, while antifascist pressure has made even covert coalition work impossible.
The isolation of the alt right does not make them less dangerous, it just means that the threat is of individual and small group violence not a seizure of any kind of state power. It is important to remember what “individual and small group violence” looks like, the most dramatic act of Neo Nazi terror in recent memory is still the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. This attack which left 168 people dead and another 680 wounded was carried out by a single white nationalist individual named Timothy McVeigh. Small group violence is much more common, and ironically tends to have a lower body count. These kinds of attacks include opportunistic attacks on individuals deemed enemies of the white race (Jews, people of color, and anyone who critiques them) and street battles against left-wing counter protesters such as the skirmish detailed in this article.
Nothing better encapsulates the isolation of the alt right than it’s failure to build any long-term relationships with the militia movement. The militia movement is a loose network of armed conservative-libertarian groups that exists within the broader right-wing patriot movement. The movement is most famous for the Bundy standoff, where several hundred militia members saw off agents of the Bureau of Land Management. Other militia actions have included public services during natural disasters and open carry marches against gun control.
While the alt right made several efforts to form alliances with the militia movement, the patriots wisely rejected these overtures. Instead, various patriots groups took a pro law enforcement line, choosing to stand between antifascists and their fascist opponents. This neutral stand demonstrates a deep split between the openly white nationalist far right and more mainstream conservative-right populist forces, even those that have an insurrectionary strategy. While the alt right has reached the limits of its organizing, other forms of right-wing activism have not gone away. These threats will be the subject of my next article, especially as it relates to the immigration debate.
The alt right are a clearly detestable collection of social pathogens, however; they are merely the most obvious symptom of a malignant cancer in our society. Donald Trump is still president, and the #resistance is far to compromised by loyalty to the status quo to challenge him on anything but the most trivial of issues. The right wing forces that actually got Trump elected; Breitbart, Infowars and The Tea Party movement, were completely unscathed by the downfall of a few Neo Nazi bandits and their intellectual allies. In fact, a group as openly thuggish and racist as The Proud Boys managed to totally avoid the reaper’s scythe simply by skipping Charlottesville and trading open white power for “Western chauvinism.” These would be muscadins are openly committed to the use of force against the left, and model themselves on a street gang with beat ins (albeit fairly pathetic beat ins, any actual gangster would fall mover laughing upon seeing them) and degrees of membership.
Now is not the time to rest on our laurels, but to use the momentum and public space gained by the antifascist struggle to build movement that can genuinely counter the ruling class and their system. The far right offers only a phony revolution, a resistance to the status quo that only serves to entrench established hierarchies. We offer genuine liberation in the long term, and real material gains in the short term. The current task is the slow, boring task of building a movement by and for working class people. This this will involve a lot of door knocking and conversations, and not a lot of punch ups. Antifascism is a defensive posture, in order to win American socialists have to go on the offensive.