A New Generation of White Supremacists Emerges in Charlottesville

THE RIGHT WING
A group that included many people who were college-educated or ex-military displayed effective planning. “White people are pretty good at getting organized,” said one.

Photo Credit: Youtube screencap / Vice News

The white supremacist forces arrayed in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend — the largest gathering of its sort in at least a generation — represented a new incarnation of the white supremacy movement. Old-guard groups like the Ku Klux Klan, the Aryan Nations and the Nazi skinheads, which had long stood at the center of racist politics in America, were largely absent.

Instead, the ranks of the young men who drove to Charlottesville with clubs, shields, pepper spray and guns included many college-educated people who have left the political mainstream in favor of extremist ideologies over the past few years. A large number have adopted a very clean cut, frat-boyish look designed to appeal to the average white guy in a way that KKK robes or skinhead regalia never could. Interviews show that at least some of these leaders have spent time in the U.S. armed forces.

Many belong to new organizations like Vanguard America, Identity Evropa, the Traditionalist Workers Party and True Cascadia, which have seen their numbers expand dramatically in the past year. Most of these groups view themselves as part of a broader “alt-right” movement that represents the extreme edge of right-wing politics in the U.S.

These organizations exhibited unprecedented organization and tactical savvy. Hundreds of racist activists converged on a park on Friday night, striding through the darkness in groups of five to 20 people. A handful of leaders with headsets and handheld radios gave orders as a pickup truck full of torches pulled up nearby. Within minutes, their numbers had swelled well into the hundreds. They quickly and efficiently formed a lengthy procession and begun marching, torches alight, through the campus of the University of Virginia.

Despite intense interest from the media, police and local anti-racists, the white supremacists kept the location of their intimidating nighttime march secret until the last moment.

The next day, the far-right forces — likely numbering between 1,000 and 1,500 — marched to Emancipation Park. Once again, they arrived in small blocs under military-style command. The racist groups were at least as organized and disciplined as the police, who appeared to have no clear plan for what to do when the violence escalated. The racist groups stood their ground at the park and were not dislodged for many hours.

For many of them, this will be seen as victory. “Every rally we’re going to be more organized, we’re going to have more people, and it’s going to be harder and harder for them to shut us down,” said a spokesman for Vanguard America, a fascist group, who gave his name as “Thomas.” “White people are pretty good at getting organized.”

And though police arrested James Fields Jr., a 20-year-old Ohio man, for allegedly driving a Dodge Charger into a crowd of anti-racist protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and wounding many others, the white supremacists generally avoided arrests.

They also outmaneuvered their anti-racist opponents. On Saturday, a multifaith group met at the historic First Baptist Church for a sunrise prayer ceremony featuring academic Cornel West and pastor Traci Blackmon. The anti-racists, many of them clergy members, walked quietly to Emancipation Park, where they were vastly outnumbered by the white supremacists.

Later, a band of more aggressive counter-protesters showed up at the park, chanting “Appalachia coming at ya. Nazi punks we’re gonna smash ya!” These militant “antifa,” or antifascists, were also repelled by the white supremacists.

Given the scale of the protests, the far-right groups suffered few injuries. That was particularly notable given the fact that multiple people near the protests were armed. Throughout the weekend, right-wing and left-wing militias equipped with assault rifles, pistols and body armor patrolled the streets of Charlottesville. (Virginia is an “open carry” state, so gun owners are legally allowed to tote around firearms.)

State police and National Guardsmen watched passively for hours as self-proclaimed Nazis engaged in street battles with counter-protesters.

Many of the armed men viewed their role as maintaining a modicum of order. A “Three Percenter” militia out of New York state posted itself near Emancipation Park with the intention of keeping anti-racists from disrupting the rally. The group says it disapproves of racism but is dedicated to defending the free speech rights of all.

Blocks away, Redneck Revolt, a leftist militia from North Carolina, watched over the perimeter of a park where anti-racists had gathered, committed to preventing violent attacks by the white supremacist groups.

The presence of heavily armed citizens may have played a role in the decision of authorities to largely stay out of the violent skirmishes between the white supremacists and their opponents.

Those who actually marched included many new to the right-wing cause. The victory of Donald Trump in last year’s presidential election has energized a whole wave of young people who were previously apathetic or apolitical, rally organizer Eli Mosley told ProPublica. The president has served as “megaphone” for far-right ideas, he said.

Mosley and his comrades are seeking to draw in as many of these newly politicized young people as possible. “We’re winning,” he said. “We’re targeting the youth and making a movement that appeals to the youth.”

Some of those who’ve gravitated to the extreme right milieu are former liberals — like Mosley’s fellow rally organizer Jason Kessler — and supporters of Bernie Sanders. Many are ex-Libertarians.

“I was a libertarian,” said Mosley, as white supremacists chanted “Whose streets? Our streets!” in the background. “I looked around and noticed that most Libertarians were white men. I decided that the left was winning with identity politics, so I wanted to play identity politics too. I’m fascinated by leftist tactics, I read Saul Alinsky, Martin Luther King … This is our ’60s movement.”

Golden State sets the standard for resistance to Trump agenda

California’s big pushback:

Attorney General Xavier Becerra and progressive legislators are fighting back against the Trump agenda

California's big pushback: Golden State sets the standard for resistance to Trump agenda
Donald Trump; Xavier Becerra (Credit: AP/Alex Brandon/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

After Donald Trump’s shocking meltdown on Tuesday afternoon, it’s even clearer that progressives need effective strategies to blunt the effect of having a conspiracy-theory-driven, racist authoritarian in the Oval Office, backed by a congressional majority that is still too afraid to offer meaningful checks on his worst behavior. The good news is that some of the nation’s biggest cities and states remain controlled by Democrats. Activists and politicians in those states are looking for meaningful ways to throw wrenches in the Trump agenda.

At the top of that list is California, which not only has the largest population of any state but is controlled by progressive Democrats (relatively speaking) who seem ready and eager to fight Trump, especially on the issues of climate change and immigration. (New York is the next biggest state controlled by Democrats, but intra-party warfare has crippled the ability of progressives to get much done.)

California fired a significant shot across the bow at Trump on Monday, when state Attorney General Xavier Becerra declared that the state would sue the Trump administration over threats to withdraw law enforcement grants if the local and state police refuse to cooperate with federal efforts to deport immigrants. The lawsuit will be joined with an earlier one filed by the city of San Francisco.

“It’s a low blow to our men and women who wear the badge, for the federal government to threaten their crime-fighting resources in order to force them to do the work of the federal government when it comes to immigration enforcement,” Becerra said during a press conference announcing the suit. California received $28 million in law enforcement grants from the federal government this year, money it could lose if the police prioritize actual crime-fighting over federal demands that they focus their resources on deporting people.

“The government’s plan for deporting millions of people in this country is to coerce local law enforcement to be their force-multipliers,” explained Jennie Pasquarella, director of immigrants’ rights for the ACLU of California.

Pasquarella noted that most deportations currently occur because of an encounter with local law enforcement. By resisting pressure to step up efforts to persecute undocumented immigrants, she said, California can make it safe for people to “access basic services that are vital to our state and communities without fear of deportation, like schools and hospitals and libraries and health clinics.”

Some Democrats in the state are trying to take this idea even further, backing SB 54, titled the California Values Act. According to The Los Angeles Times, the bill would prohibit “state and local law enforcement agencies, including school police and security departments, from using resources to investigate, interrogate, detain, detect or arrest people for immigration enforcement purposes.”

While SB 54 is still being worked over in the legislature, California has already made progress in resisting the Trump administration’s efforts to repeal Obama-era actions to fight climate change. In July, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill extending a cap-and-trade program to reduce carbon emissions until 2030. The bill passed by a two-thirds majority in both the State Assembly and Senate.

Many environmentalist groups have come out against the bill, arguing that it doesn’t go far enough. Still, compared to the federal government’s evident retreat, it’s progress in the right direction. California has the largest state economy in the country, and demonstrating that climate action does not have to undermine economic growth could go a long way towards convincing other states to take similar action. This, in turn, could help the country meet the goals set by the Paris Accords, defying Trump’s efforts to pull the United States out of the historic climate change agreement.

This strategy to resist right-wing policies and protect California residents predates Trump, to be clear. While much of the country was experiencing an unprecedented rollback of reproductive rights — with numerous red states passing alarming new abortion restrictions while anti-choice activists fought insurance coverage of contraception in the courts — California moved to make birth control and abortion easier and safer to get.

In 2013, responding to research showing that abortions provided by nurse practitioners and midwives are safe, Brown signed a law giving those groups authority to offer abortion services. Brown has also signed off on three provisions to make it easier for women to get birth control: Letting pharmacists dispense it without a doctor’s prescription, requiring that health care plans cover contraception without a co-pay, and allowing women to get a full year’s worth of birth-control pills at a time.

These policies were already in place before Trump’s election, but they are all the more necessary now that the president is backing conservative efforts to make contraception more expensive and harder to get. It has also helped create a model for progressive cities and states to resist reactionary policies pushed by the federal government, which is already inspiring Democrats in other states. Chicago, for instance, is also suing the federal government over the threat to sanctuary cities.

There’s a deep philosophical irony here, because for decades now conservatives have claimed they wanted to reduce the power of the federal government and hand more decision-making authority to the states. That was always a disingenuous pose, of course. This conservative “principle” was largely invented to justify state resistance to Supreme Court decisions and federal legislation legalizing abortion, desegregating schools and protecting voting rights.

Still, it’s nice to see states like California calling the Republican bluff and showing that their supposed devotion to “small government” dries up the second states and cities move to protect human rights, instead of to attack them. Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has always held himself out to be a small-government conservative, for instance. But his reaction to state and local officials who claim the power to set law enforcement priorities for themselves has been to accuse those officials of being law-breakers. This hypocrisy is already obvious, and it may soon be exposed in court.

Amanda Marcotte is a politics writer for Salon. She’s on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte

Frustrated young white men are facing class divisions more than racial divides

Why can’t white supremacists confront the fact that the source of their economic problems are white economic elites?

Why can't white supremacists confront the fact that the source of their economic problems are white economic elites?
(Credit: AP Photo/Bruce Smith)
This article originally appeared on AlterNet.

AlterNet

There’s no disputing the white anger and rage seen in Charlottesville, even if conservative publications like the National Review say these “angry white boys do not have a political agenda.”

Their anger is real and grievances differ, even if they took the old path of joining mobs spewing racist filth. Yet these white supremacists are blaming the wrong slices of society for their angst.

Racial divides are not what’s plaguing vast stretches of white America — deepening class divides are. If you think about who is to blame, it is mostly powerful white capitalists and their government servants that decimated regional economies in recent decades.

Many Democrats keep saying inequality is the top economic issue, as Eduardo Porter wrote for the New York Times in a piece that recaps the party’s national political agenda. However, the conventional wisdom that Democrats need to “recover the support of the middle-class — people in families earning $50,000 to $150,000, whose vote went to Mr. Trump,” especially in swing states “where three-quarters of voters are white” — is not acknowledging the roots of America’s latest outburst of white supremacy.

“Our economy is in very serious trouble. Ten or fifteen years from now, the standard of living of our average citizen may actually be lower than it is today,” writes Steve Slavin, author of the new book, “The Great American Economy: How Inefficiency Broke It and What We Can Do To Fix It.” “Large swaths of the suburbs will be slums, and tens of millions of Americans will have joined the permanent underclass. There will be three separate Americas — the rich and near rich, an economically downscaled middle and working class, and a very large poor population.”

Slavin cites eight major economic trends, pointing out that almost everyone who is not living in wealthy enclaves — usually coastal cities or inland hubs — is facing a downward spiral that’s been decades in the making. These are the same stretches of suburban and rural America that elected Trump, elected the right-wing House Freedom Caucus, where hate groups are concentrated, and where many of those arrested in Charlottesville come from. They hail from the losing end of the trends Slavin cites and forecasts for the country.

It may very well be that the external circumstances of the whites protesting are “pretty good,” as the National Review’s Kevin Williamson writes, compared to non-white America. That’s even more reason to condemn their visceral rage and hate speech. But as Slavin notes, the national economy and sense of well-being is on a downward slide that accelerated in recent decades.

Those responsible are largely white politicians, white business executives and more recently the graduates of elite business schools — where the curriculum involved outsourcing domestic industries that once allowed people without degrees to prosper.

The culprit here is primarily class — even though race and class are often synonymous. If anything, the downwardly spiraling sections of white America today eerily resemble inner cities in the 1960s, where non-whites called for economic justice. Those urban cores were abandoned after two decades of white flight to the suburbs and manufacturers also leaving.

Here are eight overarching economic trends that Slavin notes have clobbered the middle class, working class and poor.

1. Manufacturing has mostly vanished. Notwithstanding Trump’s announcements that a few companies based overseas are returning, factory jobs have largely disappeared from the interior of America, where from World War II through the 1980s they anchored cities and counties.

2. Many cities have fallen into decline. Starting after WWII, the government and industry promoted suburbia, abandoning scores of cities to the mostly non-white poor. Detroit’s carmakers bought and dismantled public transit. That led to today’s costly transportation needs with a nation of commuters paying a lot for private vehicles, gas and insurance and spending hours away from home.

3. Health care costs have left wages frozen. Average wages have not seen increases, after being adjusted for inflation, for decades. A big part of the reason is businesses that provide health insurance have to keep paying more to insurers rather than employees. Meanwhile, insurers keep finding ways to draw on what’s left in people’s pockets.

4. Public education is vastly underfunded. Suburban schools in wealthy enclaves might be fine, but nationally half of high school graduates are not at the same level as graduates of other countries and their better achieving peers. That forecloses opportunity.

5. The government is not reinvesting in America. This is not simply about neglected roads and bridges. The U.S. government supports a beyond bloated military industrial complex that accounts for 40 percent of global spending on weapons. This may be domestic spending, but it is not spending on domestic needs.

6. The criminal justice system is bloated. Here too, the U.S. has the highest incarceration rate of any industrialized nation; a predatory system that targets lower-income people and creates taxpayer-funded private police forces.

7. The make-work private sector’s useless jobs. This isn’t just the growth of service industries, but “more than 15 million Americans hold jobs that do not produce any useful goods or services,” such as bill collectors, telemarketers, sales reps paid on commission, etc., Slavin writes.

8. The bloated financial sector. This is Wall Street’s diversion of savings from productive investments to speculative ventures, where money is made from tracking the movement of other assets or the public is sold repackaged securities that generate fees.

In every one of these eight areas, wealthy whites in positions of power and privilege have made decisions that collectively have set the country on the path to today’s downward economic spiral. Right after World War II, the federal government would not lend money to black veterans to buy homes in newly expanding suburbs. They gave real estate investors like Fred Trump, the president’s father, money to build what became urban housing projects where many occupants were non-white renters.

There were not many non-white executives in Detroit when the auto industry acted to destroy public transit systems. There were not many non-whites on corporate boards in the 1980s, when the first wave of moving manufacturing abroad hit. The business schools minting sought-after MBAs were teaching predominantly white students to take operations to countries where labor was cheaper, or extolling the virtues of businesses like Walmart that decimated entire Main Streets across small-town America.

The list goes on and a pattern emerges — a class division, more so than race — which has deepened and afflicts America today. As Slavin writes, “Perhaps the most persuasive indicator of our nation’s economic decline is that millennials are on track to be the first generation in our nation’s history to be poorer than its parents’ generation. In January 2017, CNBC reported, ‘With a median household income of $40,581, millennials earn 20 percent less than boomers did at the same stage of life, despite being better educated, according to a new analysis of Federal Reserve data by the advocacy group Young Invincibles.’”

The Young Invincibles are a progressive group concerned about health care, higher education, workforce and finance, and civic engagement. But their name could also be used to describe the belligerent attitude of the white marchers in Charlottesville.

As Williamson writes derisively in the conservative National Review, “What does an angry white boy want? The fact that they get together to play dress-up — to engage in a large and sometimes murderous game of cowboys and Indians—may give us our answer. They want to be someone other than who they are. That’s the great irony of identity politics: They seek identity in the tribe because they are failed individuals. They are a chain composed exclusively of weak links. What they are engaged in isn’t politics, but theater: play-acting in the hopes of achieving catharsis.”

But Williamson only hints at what they seem to want — and it’s exactly what Slavin nails. These angry whites are being bypassed by structural changes in the economy that are narrowing their options. Needless to say, most people in dire straits do not embrace violence and racism. But it seems the heart of their grievances appear to be based on class frustrations, not race. If the white marchers want to blame someone, they ought to point their fingers at the wealthy whites on Wall Street and in Washington.

 

Salon

7 things to know about the mindset of the neo-Nazis

The era of the loud and proud white racist is upon us.

7 things to know about the mindset of the neo-Nazis

(Credit: Getty/Chet Strange/Salon)

AlterNet

The neo-Nazis with whom Donald Trump openly sympathizes fit a psychological profile for the most part, according to two psychologists who just released a survey on the subject. Patrick Forscher and Nour Kteily, researchers from the University of Arkansas and Northwestern University respectively, compiled their findings into a working paper titled “A Psychological Profile of the Alt-Right.” To arrive at their conclusions, they polled 447 neo-Nazis who self-identify as members of the “alt-right,” and compared their answers with 382 non-group affiliated survey subjects.

Writing at Vox, Brian Resnick highlights Forscher and Kteily’s most salient conclusions. The two researchers found that much of what seems obvious about the neo-Nazis of the alt-right — their racist outlook, their dehumanization of others — holds true when members are questioned about their beliefs. Especially because the respondents were so forthcoming, as Resnick notes. The era of the loud and proud white racist is upon us, from Charlottesville to the White House.

Forscher and Kteily also found a slight schism among the self-identified alt-right respondents, with some skewing more extremist than others. They labeled the less extreme alt-right members “populists,” while more extreme members were clustered into a subgroup they called “supremacists.” They note that the difference might be a matter of indoctrination level. “It is possible, for example, that the clusters represent two stages in a developmental trajectory of alt-right identification, with people starting in the populist cluster and then moving into the supremacist cluster as they acquire more alt-right friends — a possibility consistent with our finding that those in the supremacist cluster were relatively ideologically embedded among fellow alt-righters. Becoming more embedded within alt-right social networks may further motivate people to express prejudice, both for value-based and normative reasons, causing more dehumanization and aggression.”

Forscher and Kteily hope that examining the thinking of alt-righties may contribute to changing their beliefs. “If we can change the motivation to express prejudice,” they suggested to Resnick, “maybe that gives us a way to prevent aggression.”

Here are seven things to know about the mindset of the alt-right.

1. They’re not lone wolves.

Every time some white guy gets into major trouble, especially if it involves violence against others, someone brings up how quiet he was, what an unassuming loner he seemed to be. We’ve seen this a bunch of times before, from Dylann Roof to Adam Lanza, and now in the case of James Alex Field Jr., who viciously killed Heather Heyer with his car on Saturday. The New York Times cited sources who alternately described Field as a “very quiet little boy” who “had some trouble in school making friends” and “kept to himself a lot.” No one describes him as “no angel” — that kind of talk is reserved for unarmed black kids who are killed by cops — but it should be implied by the crime.

In any case, this inherently sympathetic idea doesn’t hold up here. The researchers write that “compared to the non-alt-right sample, the alt-right reported relatively similar levels of closeness . . . to their friends.” Sure, that doesn’t discount the idea that maybe some of these guys are archetypal loners who found community in the alt-right. But that never seems to engender much sympathy for gang members when they commit crimes, so not sure there’s much difference here.

2. It’s not the economy, stupid.

Producing articles about the economic anxiety that plagues Trump’s base has become a virtual cottage industry at certain media outlets. (I see you, New York Times.) That’s a good way of ginning up sympathy for Trump’s most fervent supporters — including the alt-right — but a bad way of getting to the truth of what truly motivates them. The short answer to that question is, racism and bigotry.

Forscher and Kteily had alt-right respondents “assess each of their personal economic” situations and “rate whether they expected their personal and the national economic situations to get worse or improve.” Not only did respondents not report any uniquely high worries about the economy, researchers write that “the alt-right expected more improvement in the state of the economy relative to the non-alt-right sample.”

3. They think other groups are less human.

Unsurprisingly, alt-right adherents saw other racial and religious groups as less human and evolved than white people, who were rated, of course, as the most fully human of all.

Using a scale of 1 to 100, respondents rated white people’s humanity at 91.8, Jews at 73.09, Mexicans at 67.75, black people at 64.72, Arabs at 58.77, and Muslims at 55.4. The respondents scored men’s humanness at 88.47 and women’s at 83.12, while feminists’ humanity ranked far below at 57.22. Weirdly, at the very bottom of the list was Hillary Clinton, whose humanity they placed at 54.83.

Dehumanization is at the heart of every campaign of genocide and system of oppression. Dehumanization yields a justice system that criminalizes, over-polices and over-incarcerates entire groups, which is horrifying enough. When you continue the trend of describing people as not fully human, it becomes a lot easier to put them in gas chambers and internment camps; render them as chattel property; or kill off the native people of countries you’ve colonized.

4. They’re pretty open about their anti-black racism.

Vox notes that alt-righties co-signed statements including “I avoid interactions with black people,” “My beliefs motivate me to express negative feelings about black people,” and, “I minimize my contact with black people.” The outlet goes on to note:

Forscher explains it like this. When he runs these questions on samples of college students, he usually sees average scores around 2 (out of 9, meaning people largely don’t agree with these questions). “In the alt-right samples, I’m seeing numbers around 3 or 4, relatively close to the midpoint. In all the samples I’ve worked with, I haven’t seen means at that level.” In other words, members of the alt-right are unabashed in declaring their prejudices.

Why would you worry about expressing your prejudices when they’re shared with people like the president? No wonder they’ve taken off the sheets and masks.

5. They score highly in ‘dark triad’ traits.

The alt-right grew out of trollism, a culture that festered and grew in the bowels of 4chan and Reddit. Studies of trolls have found they score highly in “dark triad” personality traits, a trio that includes narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy. Turns out that the apple doesn’t far fall from the rotting tree. Alt-right adherents have higher than normal levels of these traits. Forscher and Kteily emphasize that these personality traits are “associated with callous, manipulative behavior.”

6. They are unashamedly aggressive.

Researchers looked into “the self-reported frequency of online and offline name-calling, physical threats, harassment, and making statements because others find them offensive” as well as doxxing “and sharing memes intended to offend others.” Alt-right respondents were much more likely to report engaging in those behaviors than non-members of the alt-right. Those who researchers identified as supremacists were most likely to admit having perpetrated those acts.

7. They believe in collective action for whites, and no one else.

An actual majority of white Americans believes anti-black racism is over, and a significant number believe whites experience more racism than blacks. So it’s not that surprising that members of the overwhelmingly white alt-right think like most of their white American counterparts. Guess that makes that thinking not so “fringe,” huh? These are the beliefs, by and large, of many white Americans.

Where alt-righties scored higher than other people is in their support for “collective action on behalf of white people.” In large part, they agreed with the statement, “I think there are good reasons to have organizations that look out for the interests of whites.” There’s a circularity here that seems self-evident: if you see yourself as a victim of some imaginary multicultural takeover and think groups that are focused on white power — like the alt-right or the Trump coalition — are doing the right thing, you’re likely to join those groups. The more indoctrinated you are as a member of those groups, the more likely you are to believe in their necessity, however much observable reality and peer-reviewed studies prove that thinking wrong.

For the record, despite the alt-right’s insistence that everyone should be proud and fight for their own rights, alt-right members were less keen on the idea in practice. They were particularly likely to register opposition to Black Lives Matter, and to agree with the statement, “I think [BLM] has been very harmful to our country.” (BLM has been bad for the U.S., by this logic, but the Klan hasn’t. Absolutely stunning how these people will twist rational thought to fit an agenda.) It’s worth noting that both the alt-right populists and white supremacists gave high levels of support to these ideas.

http://www.salon.com/2017/08/17/7-things-to-know-about-the-mindset-of-the-neo-nazis_partner/

“If you’re not resisting, you’re partaking”

A historian on Trump’s failure to call evil by its name

The president had a chance to take a stand against fascism. He didn’t.

 

A man makes a slashing motion across his throat twoard counter-protesters as he marches with other white nationalists, neo-Nazis and members of the ‘alt-right’ during the ‘Unite the Right’ rally August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
 Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

“This was our Beer Hall Putsch. This was the beginning of our revolution.”

Thus concluded a post on the Daily Stormer, a popular American neo-Nazi website in which the author, Andrew Anglin, recapped the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, this weekend.

The original “Beer Hall Putsch” was the first Nazi spectacle in 1923. It was modeled explicitly after Mussolini’s March on Rome. The putsch was an attempt by Hitler, the leader of the nascent Nazi Party, to seize power from the German government by marching to the center of Munich, alongside 2,000 fellow Nazis.

The putsch failed, amounting to little more than a crazed mob. Hitler was arrested and charged with treason. But the event became central to Hitler’s rise, as he used the subsequent trial to perform fiery speeches that were printed and reprinted in German newspapers.

On Sunday, I reached out to Timothy Snyder, a professor of European history at Yale University. Snyder has made a career of studying the history of 20th century fascism, and earlier this year released a book titled On Tyranny, a tightly argued warning about the dangers of encroaching American fascism.

I wanted to know what he thought about the events this weekend in Charlottesville, about the fact that the self-described alt-right protesters were shouting chants like “You will not replace us” and “Blood and soil” (the latter a direct reference to Nazi ideology), and about President Donald Trump’s unwillingness to condemn white supremacy in clear terms.

“There are moments,” he told me, “when there isn’t a gray zone, when there isn’t really room for nuance, where if you’re not resisting, you’re partaking.” Saturday was one such moment, and Trump’s insistence that the violence is “on many sides” was a missed opportunity to take a stand against an emergent threat.

You can read our full conversation below.

Sean Illing

What was your reaction, as a historian of fascism and a citizen, to what you saw yesterday?

Timothy Snyder

Well, my very first reaction has to do with the codependence of the American far right and Islamic terrorism. This is an administration that depends, for its legitimacy, on the threat of Islamic terrorism. And it makes policy which would seem to make Muslim terrorism more likely (i.e., the Muslim ban).

And then, at the same time, you have this incident in Charlottesville, where an American right-wing terrorist tried to take the lives of people by driving his car into a crowd of citizens, which I immediately recognized as a copycat attack modeled on the last several Muslim terrorist events in Europe, in Nice and England in particular.

That was the very first thing that struck me, that American white nationalist terrorists are copying the very people they say they abhor, that they claim to be defending us from.

Sean Illing

Obviously, there’s nothing new about white nationalists or neo-Nazis in America, but did yesterday strike you as a flash point event that might trigger more organized violence?

Timothy Snyder

As your question indicates, this really depends on us. It depends on how local government reacts, how state government reacts. It depends on people keeping their heads. It depends upon law enforcement enforcing a law. In a normal situation, I would say that it depends upon how the federal government reacts. But we know that we’re not in a normal situation. What’s most striking, if you want to try to link what happened yesterday to our own history, is that we now have a president who doesn’t regard Nazis as a symbol of evil.

That’s the really striking thing. His reaction to this event is to say that everyone is at fault, and we should all hold together. That’s not the reaction that one would expect from the president of the United States. But it is consistent with what I’ve been trying to get across for the past few months. It’s consistent with Trump and Steven Bannon’s attempt to do away with the part of the American story that celebrates entering and winning the Second World War. It’s consistent with their attempt to do away with the part of the American identity that has to do with being anti-fascist, or anti-Nazi. It’s consistent with their botching the Holocaust Remembrance Day in January. It’s consistent with the utterly bizarre way that Sean Spicer talked about the Holocaust, when he said Hitler didn’t kill his own people. It’s consistent with Trump being the first major American politician in recent memory to skip visiting the Ghetto Memorial when he came to Warsaw in August.

And above all, it’s consistent with his “America First” slogan. This is what America First means. America First means an America where a Nazi Germany was not the enemy. So that’s the broad historical circle. We have an administration which has “America First.” What “America First” meant when it was used during the WWII era was that we should not resist Nazi Germany. Mr. Trump’s remarks on Saturday are totally consistent with that.

This is who and what the administration has been from the very beginning.

Sean Illing

It’s also consistent with Trump’s conspicuous unwillingness to offend or alienate white nationalists, on whom he apparently depends for votes.

Timothy Snyder

With Mr. Trump, there are two questions. There’s a question of his own convictions, and there’s the question of what he sees as politically useful. In terms of his own convictions, well before he became a politician, he was doing quite dubious things. For example, publishing that ad in 1989 in New York in which he prematurely called for the death penalty for those five African Americans falsely accused of rape. I just don’t think he would have done that if those people had not been African Americans.

I find it very striking that basically everybody on the alt-right sees Trump as part of their story. They all think that Trump is a stepping stone toward where America should be going. The white nationalist leader Richard Spencer, for example, talked about Trump as John the Baptist, which means he thinks Trump is clearing the way for the world Spencer wants to create, which is this white supremacist America.

Sean Illing

When the stakes are this high, when we’re confronting this kind of violence, the difference between actively enabling and refusing to condemn is negligible.

Timothy Snyder

There are moments, there are times, when there isn’t a gray zone, when there isn’t really room for nuance, where, if you’re not resisting, you’re partaking. And if you’re the president of the United States, you’re literally the last person in the country who has the right to indulge in nuance, who has the right to stay in some of kind gray zone at this time.

In other words, Mr. Trump’s failure is the greatest failure that one can imagine in this situation. There are things he could do that are worse, of course. He could actually endorse National Socialism in so many words. But short of that, not recognizing that these events, in their moral and historical seriousness, is just about the worst thing that a chief executive can do.

Sean Illing

When you look at what’s happening right now, do you see echoes of 20th century European fascism? And by echoes I don’t simply mean parallels — those are obvious enough. I mean, do you see reasons to be seriously alarmed?

Timothy Snyder

Okay, let me try to break that down and answer it in a calm way. First of all, it’s of course true that America has a history of the extreme right. We have a history of fascism, and even National Socialism. In 1939, you could get 20,000 people to Madison Square Garden to listen to a pro-Nazi speech. The tamer view of America First, that the Nazis are basically our allies in the civilizational struggle, that view attracted much, much more support than that. And, in general, the America of the ’20s and ’30s was not so different from the Central and East European societies that we now tend to criticize for their historical anti-Semitism.

Is there an increase in this racism, in this anti-Semitism? Yes. Everybody who measures this sort of thing says that there has been since the end of last year. The Southern Poverty Law Center says that there’s been an increase in incidents of the threats and violence under the Trump administration. Are we at a point where we should say that this is a threat to the system of the society as such? No, we’re not at that point yet.

But when the Daily Stormer writes today that “This was our Beer Hall Putsch,” they’re referring to the history of the German National Socialist Party. So in order to see the phenomenon for what it is, we have to have some sense of the history. The neo-Nazis are well aware of their own history, as it were. And we have to recognize what’s in front of us.

Sean Illing

You stress constantly the importance of language. Terms like “fascist” and “Nazi” have been emptied of meaning over the years due to overuse or misuse. But they absolutely apply here, and the people about whom we’re talking happily embrace them. So how do you think we should talk about these groups, how should we engage them? What sort of language is necessary?

Timothy Snyder

I think you make a good point that the terms suffer from erosion. And I think the only way to react is to always use terms with precision oneself. So when one refers to Richard Spencer as a leading American white supremacist, that’s exactly what he is. That’s how he describes himself. When one uses the word “fascist,” that’s a word that almost no one uses to describe themselves. So one has to have some definition of what a fascist is.

For example, a fascist is someone who believes in will over reason, whose politics begins with separating the outsider from the insider. A fascist is someone who believes that the main issue with global politics is a conspiracy against one’s own group. Given all that, it’s safe to call the kinds of people we’re talking about “fascist.”

The second thing, I think, one has to do is to build context around the people that we’re talking about. So if the language they use or the symbols they employ or the torches they carry are conscious references to Nazi Germany, which they are, then we have to fill in the context, we have to thicken those references, so that people remember all that is involved, in what they’re talking about.

And I think the final thing one has to do is to remember that history is there so that we can see the present, not so that we can dismiss the present. People often say, “Well, this is not exactly like 1933. Therefore, it’s not a big deal.” That misses the point. The point is to use the past to recognize the present, to see what’s actually going on in the present.

If we fail to do this, if we fail to see what’s happening in front of our faces, we will not be prepared for what comes next.

https://www.vox.com/2017/8/14/16141078/charlottesville-unite-the-right-nazi-history-timothy-snyder

Robert Reich: Trump Is Trying to Start a Civil War

NEWS & POLITICS
White supremacy was part of his political strategy from the start.

Photo Credit: Screenshot / RobertReich.org

Two days late, Donald Trump has finally condemned violent white supremacists. He was pushed into it by a storm of outrage at his initial failure to do so in the wake of deadly violence to Charlottesville, Virginia.

But it’s too little, too late. Trump’s unwillingness to denounce hateful violence has been part of his political strategy from the start.

Weeks after he began his campaign by alleging that Mexican immigrants were criminals and rapists, two brothers in Boston beat up and urinated on a 58-year-old homeless Mexican national, subsequently telling police “Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported.”

Instead of condemning the brutality, Trump excused it by saying “people who are following me are very passionate. They love this country and they want this country to be great again.”

During campaign rallies Trump repeatedly excused brutality toward protesters. “You know what they used to do to guys like that when they were in a place like this? They’d be carried out on a stretcher, folks.”

After white supporters punched and attempted to choke a Black Lives Matter protester, Trump said “maybe he should have been roughed up.”

Trump was even reluctant to distance himself from David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan.

Since becoming president, Trump’s instigations have continued. As Representative Mark Sanford, a Republican from South Carolina, told the Washington Post, “the president has unearthed some demons.”

In May, Trump congratulated body-slamming businessman Greg Gianforte on his special election win in Montana, making no mention of the victor’s attack on a reporter the night before.

Weeks ago Trump even tweeted a video clip of himself in a WWE professional wrestling match slamming a CNN avatar to the ground and pounding him with punches and elbows to the head.

Hateful violence is hardly new to America. But never before has a president licensed it as a political strategy or considered haters part of his political base.

In his second week as president, Trump called Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the National Rifle Association to the White House.

Soon thereafter, LaPierre told gun owners they should fear “leftists” and the “national media machine” that were “an enemy utterly dedicated to destroy not just our country, but also Western civilization.”

Since then the NRA has run ads with the same theme, concluding “the only way we stop this, the only way we save our country and our freedom, is to fight this violence of lies with a clenched fist of truth.”

It’s almost as if someone had declared a new civil war. But who? And for what purpose?

One clue came earlier last week in a memo from Rich Higgins, who had been director for strategic planning in Trump’s National Security Council.

Entitled “POTUS & Political Warfare,” Higgins wrote the seven-page document in May, which was recently leaked to Foreign Policy Magazine.

In it Higgins charges that a cabal of leftist “deep state” government workers, “globalists,” bankers, adherents to Islamic fundamentalism and establishment Republicans want to impose cultural Marxism in the United States. “Recognizing in candidate Trump an existential threat to cultural Marxist memes that dominate the prevailing cultural narrative, those that benefit recognize the threat he poses and seek his destruction.”

There you have it. Trump’s goal has never been to promote guns or white supremacy or to fuel attacks on the press and the left. These may be means, but the goal has been to build and fortify his power. And keep him in power even if it’s found that he colluded with Russia to get power.

Trump and his consigliere Steve Bannon have been quietly encouraging a civil war between Trump’s base of support – mostly white and worried – and everyone who’s not.

It’s built on economic stresses and racial resentments. It’s fueled by paranoia. And it’s conveyed by Trump’s winks and nods haters, and his deafening silence in the face of their violence.

A smaller version of the civil war extends even into the White House, where Bannon and his protégés are doing battle with leveler heads.

National security advisor Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster fired Higgins. Reportedly, Trump was furious at the firing.

McMaster was quick to term the Charlottesville violence “terrorism.” Ivanka Trump denounced “racism, white supremacy and neo-nazis.” Reportedly, chief of staff John Kelly pushed Trump to condemn the haters who descended on Charlottesville.

Let’s hope the leveler heads win the civil war in the White House. Let’s pray the leveler heads in our society prevent the civil war Trump and Bannon want to instigate in America.

 

Robert B. Reich has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. His latest book is “Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few.” His website is www.robertreich.org.

http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/donald-trump-white-supremacists?akid=15986.265072.4zevyR&rd=1&src=newsletter1081204&t=6

The political and social roots of fascist violence in the US

15 August 2017

The eruption of Nazi violence in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend has come as a shock to millions of people in the United States and around the world. The images of pro-Nazi white supremacists assaulting counter-protesters and the brutal murder of 32-year-old Heather Heyer have exposed the socially and politically rancid state of American society. Nazi thugs rampaged through a university town and terrorized students and other residents while smirking policemen stood by and winked their encouragement to the attackers. The country that presumes to preach morality to the world and holds itself up as the beacon of law and democratic stability is breaking apart at the seams.

There is a vast difference between the deep-felt anger of millions of ordinary people over the events in Charlottesville and the formal hand-wringing and hypocritical condemnations of violence by politicians from the Democratic and Republican parties and the corporate media. Their statements reek of insincerity. Their pro forma denunciations of the violence in Charlottesville are devoid of any serious examination of the underlying social and political conditions out of which it arose.

Typical was Monday’s editorial (“The Hate He Dares Not Speak Of”) in the New York Times, which speaks for the Democratic Party. The editors criticized Trump for not condemning the white supremacist groups responsible for the violence. They declared that Trump “is alone in modern presidential history in his willingness to summon demons of bigotry and intolerance in service to himself.” The president is clinging to white supremacists, the editors added, “in his desperation to rescue his failing presidency.”

Were it not for Trump, the Times implies, the streets of America would resound with hymns of brotherly love. But the “Evil Trump” interpretation of history explains nothing. The swaggering thug in the White House is, like the violence in Charlottesville, a symptom of a deep and intractable crisis.

As a political and social phenomenon, fascism is a product of capitalism in extreme crisis. Analyzing the rise of the Nazi movement in Germany in 1932, Trotsky explained that the ruling class turns to fascism “at the moment when the ‘normal’ police and military resources of the bourgeois dictatorship, together with their parliamentary screens, no longer suffice to hold society in a state of equilibrium… Through the fascist agency, capitalism sets in motion the masses of the crazed petty bourgeoisie and the bands of declassed and demoralized lumpenproletariat—all the countless human beings whom finance capital itself has brought to desperation and frenzy.” (“What Next? Vital Question for the German Proletariat”)

Fascism is not yet a mass movement in the United States. The national mobilization of far-right organizations to oppose the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee drew only several hundred people.

Notwithstanding their limited support among the broad mass of the population, however, these reactionary elements enjoy the backing of powerful sections of the state, including the White House itself. They have the financial support of billionaire backers (Stephen Bannon, Trump’s fascistic chief strategist, has developed close ties to hedge fund executive Robert Mercer). And they have the active sympathy of significant sections of the police and military apparatus.

Throughout his campaign and his first seven months in office, Trump and his fascistic advisors have pursued a definite political strategy, based on the belief that they can exploit widespread social anger and political disorientation to develop an extra-parliamentary movement to violently suppress any popular opposition to a policy of extreme militarism and social reaction.

However, Trump is less the creator than the outcome of protracted economic, social and political processes. His administration, composed of oligarchs and generals, arises out of a quarter-century of unending war, four decades of social counterrevolution and the increasingly authoritarian character of American politics. Torture, drone assassinations, wars of aggression, police murder—overseen by both Democrats and Republicans—form the backdrop to the events in Charlottesville.

Trump’s greatest asset has been the character and orientation of his political opponents within the ruling class. He defeated Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election because the Democrats ran as the party of the status quo, the embodiment of complacency and self-satisfaction. Since the election, their opposition to Trump has been oriented entirely to the intelligence agencies and the military, where fascist elements flourish, on the basis of demands for a more aggressive policy against Russia. They are unable and unwilling to advance a program that can command any significant popular support since they represent an alliance of Wall Street and privileged layers of the upper-middle class.

Trump has been able to win a certain base in regions of the country that have been devastated by deindustrialization, profiting from the reactionary role of the trade unions, which long ago abandoned any opposition to the demands of the corporations, promoting instead the poisonous ideology of economic nationalism. The “American first” agenda of the Trump administration has found fertile ground among the privileged and thoroughly corrupt trade union executives.

An additional ideological factor has served to fuel the rise of white nationalist organizations: the legitimization of explicitly racialist politics by the Democratic Party. While the Democrats and their media affiliates have denounced the openly racist actions of the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, the fact remains that the white nationalists have been aided and abetted by the relentless promotion by the Democratic Party and its allies of race as the primary category of social and political analysis.

Endless columns and articles have appeared in the pages of the New YorkTimes and other publications promoting the concept of “whiteness” and “white privilege.” It was Times columnist Charles Blow who, in a June 2016 column denouncing the film Free State of Jones, attacked “the white liberal insistence that race is merely a subordinate construction of class.” As the World Socialist Web Site commented at the time, Blow “is not a fascist, but he thinks very much like one.”

The obsessive fixation on racial politics, from the Democratic Party and the fraternity of pseudo-left organizations that operate in its orbit, reached a peak in the election campaign of Hillary Clinton, which was organized on the principal that all social problems are reducible to race and racism, and that the grievances of workers who are white are the product not of unemployment and poverty, but of racism and privilege.

The racialist interpretation of politics, culture and society by the Democrats was politically convenient in that it served to divert attention from the issues of social inequality and war, while blaming white workers—not the capitalist system and the ruling class—for the election of Trump.

As the Trump administration was intensifying its cultivation of fascistic forces over the past several months, Google—in alliance with those sections of the state particularly associated with the Democratic Party—was implementing a program of censorship targeting left-wing and progressive websites, above all, the World Socialist Web Site. The response of all factions of the ruling class to the social and political crisis that has produced Trump is to seek to block and suppress any challenge to the capitalist system.

Long historical experience has demonstrated that fascism can be fought only through the mobilization of the working class on a socialist and revolutionary program. The fight against the extreme right must be developed through the unification of all sections of the working class, of all races, genders and nationalities. Opposition to fascism must be connected to the fight against war, social inequality, unemployment, low wages, police violence and all the social ills produced by capitalism.

So long as the interests of the working class are not articulated and advanced by taking on an independent political form, it is the forces of the extreme right that will benefit. The urgent task is to build a revolutionary leadership in the working class.

Joseph Kishore

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/08/15/pers-a15.html