A day before a federal court reaffirmed Bayou Bridge LLC could keep building an oil pipeline through Louisiana’s Atchafalaya Basin, I stood on a cypress tree stump there, viewing the destroyed trees which pipeline opponents were trying to save.
On both sides of the Bayou Bridge pipeline’s right-of-way, a path of shredded trees cut through the massive river swamp — the nation’s largest — home to abundant wildlife and fishing grounds for wild crawfish.
On July 6, a three-judge panel of the US 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Army Corps of Engineers properly granted a permit for the 162.5 mile pipeline that cuts through the basin, a National Heritage Area. The decision reverses a lower court’s ruling that temporarily blocked the pipeline’s construction ahead of a hearing challenging the Army Corps decision to issue a permit through the basin.
The controversial pipeline is being built by Bayou Bridge Pipeline LLC, a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners, the same company behind the Dakota Access pipeline. The Louisiana pipeline will serve as the tail end of a network starting with Dakota Access that will transport crude oil from North Dakota to the Gulf Coast for refining and potential export.
Construction of the pipeline across southern Louisiana from Lake Charles, near the Texas border, to a railway terminal in St. James, next to the banks of the Mississippi River, is already more than three-quarters complete. According to Bayou Bridge Pipeline LLC attorneys, the pipeline is expected to be finished by October this year.
Bayou Bridge Pipeline right-of-way on July 5.Julie Dermansky / Desmog BlogTrees splintered to clear the way for the Bayou Bridge Pipeline in the Atchafalaya Basin.Julie Dermansky / Desmog BlogA Case to Protect the Basin’s Unique Habitat
Judge Thomas Reavley dissented from the 2–1 decision. Reavley found flaw with the Army Corps’ justifications for granting the permit through the basin without a more in-depth environmental impact study.
The recent ruling stems from a lawsuit filed by Earthjustice, a nonprofit environmental law firm, in federal court on January 11 against the Army Corps of Engineers. Suing on behalf of the Atchafalaya Basinkeeper, the Louisiana Crawfish Producers Association-West, Gulf Restoration Network, the Waterkeeper Alliance, and the Sierra Club, Earthjustice asserts the Corps acted “arbitrarily and capriciously” when it issued a permit for the pipeline. The suit alleges that the Corps violated the Clean Water Act and other environmental laws when it approved a permit for the project.
The plaintiffs claim the pipeline could hurt the commercial crawfishing industry and wildlife in the area by interfering with the basin’s water flow. In addition, they say it could weaken the basin’s natural flood protection for millions of people in the Mississippi River Valley and coastal Louisiana.
The lawsuit claims the Army Corps has failed to hold oil and gas companies in the basin accountable for countless permit violations for existing pipelines and wells, which have contributed to the degradation of the basin’s wetlands. It asks the court to overturn the permit until the Corps enforces permits for oil and gas pipeline companies that are out of compliance in the basin already.
US District Judge Shelly Dick issued a temporary injunction halting work on the pipeline on February 28. Her ruling was a short-lived victory for the pipeline opponents. Her order was suspended by the 5th District Court in New Orleans on March 15, pending a final decision by the appeals court in Houston, Texas. This action allowed the company to resume construction, which it promptly did.
The latest appeals court ruling states that Dick “misperceived the applicable regulations” governing the USNational Environmental Policy Act when issuing a preliminary injunction in February that temporarily stopped construction.
The appeals court has now returned the case to Judge Dick, who will reconsider the merits of the lawsuit. However, the case likely won’t by heard until after the pipeline construction is complete.
“We are disappointed in the decision but the fight to protect the Atchafalaya from risky and harmful crude oil pipelines will continue,” Jan Hasselman, Earthjustice lead counsel in the case, said in a statement following the ruling. “It is time for the oil industry to stop treating this special place — and the many people who rely on it for their livelihoods — as a national sacrifice area.”
Dean Wilson, executive director of the environmental group Atchafalaya Basinkeeper, was also disappointed but not surprised by the ruling.
“With little to no enforcement from the Corps, pipeline companies have already devastated our coast and our Atchafalaya Basin, destroying some of the most amazing ecosystems on Earth, putting millions of people at greater risk of flooding, and making countless coastal communities inhabitable by humans,” Wilson said after the ruling.
“The Corps doesn’t even have a boat,” Wilson pointed out, which he said means the agency has to rely on crawfishers and environmental groups like the Atchafalaya Basinkeeper to alert it to compliance failures by the oil and gas industry in the basin.Monitoring the Atchafalaya Basin
It was during Wilson’s last trip into the basin to monitor the pipeline’s construction on July 5 that I saw the pulverized trees and heard more trees being ground up in the distance.View of the Bayou Bridge Pipeline right-of-way from the banks of Bayou Chene in the Atchafalaya Basin on July 5.Julie Dermansky / Desmog Blog
On a previous trip on May 31, we stopped at an area on state land already cleared of trees along the pipeline right-of-way. Wilson measured the width of the clearing in three places and found each site he measured exceeded the Bayou Bridge pipeline’s permit, which limits the right-of-way in wetlands to 75 feet.
Dean Wilson checking the width of the clearing for the Bayou Bridge Pipeline’s right-of-way on May 31.Julie Dermansky / Desmog BlogDeer in the basin near the Bayou Bridge Pipeline right-of-way on May 31.Julie Dermansky / Desmog Blog
The Atchafalaya Basinkeeper and the Gulf Restoration Network addressed the alleged permit violations found on that trip in a letter sent to the Army Corps on June 1.
It followed a letter sent on May 9 that indicated additional potential permit violations observed by the two environmental groups and the Louisiana Crawfish Producers Association-West during overflights of the area and multiple boat trips taken since construction began at the end of January.
Though the pipeline will likely be done before a final ruling on the lawsuit is reached, Earthjustice asserts that if the court eventually rules in favor of the plaintiffs, shutting down the pipeline could be an option.
“Last week’s ruling reopens the door to more business-as-usual in the Atchafalaya Basin,” Mish Mitchell of the Atchafalaya Basinkeeper told me after the ruling. “But we keep fighting, in this case and for the Atchafalaya Basin — we will always trudge ahead to protect this unique place for future generations to enjoy.”
The post Court Reaffirms Bayou Bridge Pipeline to Cut Through Atchafalaya Basin appeared first on Truthout.
Following the release of a Senate Judiciary Committee report suggesting “the Kremlin used the National Rifle Association [NRA] as a means of accessing and assisting Mr. Trump and his campaign,” Americans are right to wonder how much longer Congress is going to look the other way while foreign actors secretly influence US elections.
In the years since the US Supreme Court’s overreaching Citizens United v. FEC decision, Congress has watched political groups that do not disclose their funding sources spend hundreds of millions to elect and defeat political candidates. But rather than ensure that none of those millions came from the bank accounts of foreign individuals, corporations or governments, Congress has failed to pass basic disclosure laws that would both deter and ferret out illegal foreign spending. Federal agencies also have fallen down on the job by failing to require disclosure: the US Securities and Exchange Commission on corporate political spending, the Internal Revenue Service on nonprofit spending and the Federal Election Commission (FEC) on entities across the board.
The law banning foreign nationals from spending money in US political campaigns is solid and unambiguous. It is illegal for foreign actors to directly or indirectly spend money or provide things of value in connection with US elections.
Enforcing the ban, on the other hand, is riddled with easily exploited loopholes — a fact perfectly demonstrated by Russians allegedly funneling money through the NRA to promote Trump’s candidacy and evading detection until after the election. A simple rule requiring the disclosure of major donors quickly would patch this obvious hole, but Republicans in Congress repeatedly have blocked such an easy fix. The DISCLOSE Act, newly reintroduced in the Senate this month, is a chance for them to correct this error, as well as fix the limitations on disclosure rules that have snuck into the appropriations packages over the last few years.
When it comes to donations directly given to candidates, rather than outside groups, enforcing the ban on foreign spending is quite easy. Donors are required to disclose their name, address, employer and occupation. The media, public and the FEC then can scrutinize those donations and identify potentially illegal donations.
The same cannot be said about donations to the NRA and other politically active nonprofits that, under current law, aren’t required to disclose their donors even if they spend millions of dollars to support and oppose political candidates. Those donations are hidden completely from public view and are an obvious route for bad actors looking to evade the foreign spending ban.
Would the NRA and the Kremlin have attempted a brazen ploy to help elect Donald Trump with foreign money if the NRA had been required to file regular disclosures of its donors, as candidates and other political committees are required to do? It seems unlikely.
Even if the FBI concludes that the NRA was not, in fact, complicit in Russians illegally spending money to influence a US election, the door remains wide open for foreign actors to do so in a future election. Until Congress closes and locks that door, lawmakers’ inaction will continue to threaten our national security and sovereignty. Americans, and Americans alone, should be in charge of deciding US elections.
Under the DISCLOSE Act, any organization that spends more than $10,000 on elections would be required to promptly report their activity as well as their major financial backers. The legislation also would prohibit shell companies from hiding a donor’s identity and bar domestic corporations with significant foreign ownership from making election expenditures. This bill will give us the information we need to hold those who play in politics accountable, though it doesn’t yet change the system itself. For that next step we must move additional reforms to shift who is spending, like small donor focused public financing and overturning Citizens United.
Republicans in Congress have been unmoved by US billionaires and wealthy corporations secretly influencing US elections. Let’s hope the public’s repeated concerns about nonprofits serving as hidden conduits for a foreign government to interfere in our elections finally push lawmakers to support commonsense disclosure rules to put public eyes on this secret election money.
The foreign spending ban is on the books for a reason. We should make sure we have an easy and effective mechanism for fully enforcing it.
The post Congress Can Stop Foreign Secret Spending on US Elections Right Now appeared first on Truthout.
Newly minted Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was the kid who took down the names of misbehaving classmates while teacher was out of the room. I do not know this for a fact, but I know it. I know that kid. He’s been polishing apples since God was a baby, and look how far it has taken him.
In mainstream Republican circles, Kavanaugh’s pedigree is the equivalent of being born on Plymouth Rock with a recommendation letter from John Winthrop stuffed in your diaper. Within the realm of post-Reagan Clinton-hating GOP society, he is a product of the rage-flecked devolution that took place in the Olduvai Gorge of Republican politics after the 1992 presidential election. They came out of their crevice different, radicalized, spoiling for war to the knife, and Kavanaugh has been their loyal soldier from the start.
If you were to write a screenplay about some scuzzy little yes-sir right-wing DC hack with beady eyes locked on the big prize, you’d use Brett Kavanaugh as your template. A child of the affluent Maryland suburb of Bethesda, Kavanaugh was classmates at Georgetown Prep with Neil Gorsuch, the fellow currently camped out in what should be Merrick Garland’s Supreme Court seat.
After attending Yale for college and law, Kavanaugh deftly entered the slipstream of modern conservative mayhem politics by joining the Federalist Society, and went to work for then-Solicitor General Ken Starr during the first Bush administration. He headed the investigation into the suicide of Vince Foster, which spawned far-right conspiracy theories that linger to this day.
In 1994, Kavanaugh joined Starr’s legal team during the Whitewater investigation that ultimately led to Monica Lewinsky and the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, and was the principal author of the Starr Report. Kavanaugh was companions with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Laura Ingraham, famously of Fox News, and is married to George W. Bush’s former personal secretary.
Kavanaugh even made an appearance in Blinded by the Right, David Brock’s revelatory book about Republican politics in the Clinton era. Brock recounts seeing Kavanaugh, during a gathering at Ingraham’s house, mouth the word “bitch” at a television that was showing an image of Hillary Clinton. Kavanaugh “was a very recognizable type in Washington,” said Brock in an interview, “a young Federalist Society lawyer on the make in the conservative movement. He thought his ticket was helping bring down the Clintons.”
Well, he’s made it, almost. Kavanaugh is 51 Senate votes away from a lifetime gig on the highest perch of US jurisprudence. Decades of conservative effort and an ocean of conservative money, combined with congressional Democrats who missed the boat on the importance of the judiciary back when “Starsky & Hutch” was a thing and are still playing catch-up, have led us to the precipice of a right-wing triumph that will be with us for generations to come.
Despite Donald Trump’s desire to turn the announcement of Kavanaugh’s nomination into a reality show spectacular — I half expected Trump to hand Kavanaugh a rose — the choice ultimately surprised almost exactly nobody. Kavanaugh, a Beltway conservative insider straight out of central casting, has been the front-runner for the nomination ever since Justice Kennedy chose to step down and abandon the future of the nation to Trump’s dumpster-fire priorities.
After 12 years of conservative decisions on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Kavanaugh has left little doubt as to how his rulings from the high court will fall. Of course he will vote to overturn Roe v. Wade if given the opportunity. Of course he will vote to limit gun control laws, because he already has. Of course he will vote in favor of polluters and against net neutrality. Of course he will be a great ally in the GOP’s ongoing war against the right to vote, having written his former court’s majority opinion upholding South Carolina’s scrofulous voter ID law.
Kavanaugh is far more conservative than Justice Kennedy ever was, and will be as reliably right-wing as Justices Gorsuch and Thomas. Add Justice Alito and Chief Justice Roberts to the dogpile, and you have a historically hot mess that will still be burning when my grandchildren are dodging automatic weapons fire before homeroom, because America.
Senate Democrats can try to string out the nomination fight until after the midterm elections, but that strategy depends entirely on retaking the Senate majority. Barring that, they can try to hold their caucus together and convince GOP Senators Collins and Murkowski to also vote “No,” but that is perilous on a pair of fronts: The two Joes — Manchin and Donnelly — along with Heidi Heitkamp are running for their lives in red states (Heitkamp already voted for Gorsuch), and as the tax cut bill vividly showed us, the senators from Maine and Alaska can also be bought if the price is right.
It will be close, but not really. Brett Kavanaugh will soon be an associate justice of the US Supreme Court.
The ultimate reason why Donald Trump tapped Kavanaugh may never be fully known, but if the question appeared on the Big Board at the MGM Grand in Vegas, I’d bet all my worldly possessions on two words: Unitary Executive. See, Trump has no ideology to speak of beyond whatever serves his immediate purposes. His politics are entirely transactional — What do I get out of it? — and with Kavanaugh, Donald Trump gets a breathing “Get Out Of Jail Free” card on the highest court in the land.
Why? Kavanaugh is a devotee of the Unitary Executive theory of government espoused and deployed by Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld during the administration of George W. Bush. The theory is their retaliation for the political defenestration of Richard Nixon, which took place during the larval stage of their political careers and was profoundly transformative for both.
Kavanaugh was appointed to the DC Court of Appeals by Bush because, it was widely whispered at the time, of his support for the idea that presidents should not be sued, investigated, prosecuted or even mildly ruffled in any legal way during their time in office. “National Security” and all that noise, you see.
“Kavanaugh,” reports NPR’s Nina Totenberg, “wrote an extensive law review article in 2009 that could have implications for the special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. In that article, he said that after seeing firsthand the many difficult duties that a president encounters, he thinks, in retrospect, that presidents should operate free from the threat of civil suits — like the sexual harassment suit that led to Clinton’s impeachment — and that presidents should also be free from criminal investigations.”
And there you have it. Why Kavanaugh? Because along with Gorsuch, Thomas, Alito and Roberts, Kavanaugh represents the final inoculation against whatever charges special counsel Robert Mueller is assembling. Trump defies a deposition subpoena? A president cannot be compelled to testify while in office. Collusion with Russia? A president cannot be investigated while in office. Obstruction of justice? A president cannot be prosecuted while in office.
The Unitary Executive theory is airtight in its contra-constitutional concept of an untouchable, all-powerful president. It is the divine right of kings for the 21st century, and in the guise of Brett Kavanaugh and his four conservative compatriots on the high court, it is Donald Trump’s last, best firewall against any legal consequences for his serial misdeeds.
Oddly enough, Kavanaugh’s ties to the Bush clan were, for a small slice of time, a blight on his potential nomination. Famously, neither president Bush voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election, and the younger Bush has not been shy about voicing his opinion on the actions of the Trump administration. There is no love lost here.
Despite this usually lethal flaw, I believe Trump ultimately chose Kavanaugh precisely because he is a Bush-era Unitary Executive man. The final strangeness in all this is that the approval of Kavanaugh will mean the legacy of George W. Bush — the man history has been trying to forget — will be cemented in the law of the land for all time.
Rod Rosenstein can sleep tight tonight. There is no longer any reason for Trump to fire him, because after all the Senate votes are cast, there will no longer be any reason to fire Mueller. The special counsel can roll the rock all the way to the top of the hill. Kavanaugh and his pals will roll it right back down again.
That’s why Kavanaugh was picked. He fits right into Trump’s immediate purposes. I do not know this for a fact, but I know it.
The post Trump Card: Brett Kavanaugh and the Unitary Executive Theory appeared first on Truthout.
Donald Trump is engaged in a systematic effort to make the United States less powerful and less respected around the world. America is too great a country to be defeated and brought down by an outside power. Such damage can likely only be inflicted from within at the hands of a dangerous president, a feckless political party and their tens of millions of authoritarian followers.
President Barack Obama warned about this threat in his farewell address:
But protecting our way of life, that’s not just the job of our military. Democracy can buckle when it gives in to fear. So, just as we, as citizens, must remain vigilant against external aggression, we must guard against a weakening of the values that make us who we are. … So let’s be vigilant, but not afraid. ISIL will try to kill innocent people. But they cannot defeat America unless we betray our Constitution and our principles in the fight. Rivals like Russia or China cannot match our influence around the world — unless we give up what we stand for and turn ourselves into just another big country that bullies smaller neighbors. Which brings me to my final point: Our democracy is threatened whenever we take it for granted.
Examples of the ways Trump is weakening America’s global position are numerous: He has threatened to withdraw the United States from NATO, nearly broke apart the G7 alliance at the recent Quebec summit, has effectively surrendered economic leadership across the Pacific region to China by withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and has withdrawn from both the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris Climate Agreement.
Donald Trump’s administration has also shown a clear and obvious disdain for human rights. To that end, he has gone so far as to withdraw the United States from the UN Human Rights Council.
Donald Trump’s hostility to human rights and human dignity does not stop there. In an underreported but important story, several weeks ago the Trump administration launched an effort to remove any language from standard United Nations documents condemning racism as a threat to democracy.
Donald Trump’s white supremacist agenda is not limited to the United States. It is international.
Writing at CNN, Michelle Kosinski explains this extraordinary event, when a career foreign service officer named Andrew Veprek, who was rapidly promoted by the Trump administration to a senior State Department post, “disputed the idea that leaders have a ‘duty to condemn hate speech and incitement, and repeatedly rejected use of the words nationalism, populism, and xenophobia”:
“The drafters say ‘populism and nationalism’ as if these are dirty words,” wrote Andrew Veprek, the deputy assistant secretary for refugees and migration, in documents obtained exclusively by CNN. “There are millions of Americans who likely would describe themselves as adhering to these concepts. (Maybe even the President.). So are we looking to here condemn our fellow-citizens, those who pay our salaries?” …
Veprek also pushed to soften language about fighting racism and about racism in politics in his proposed amendments to a UN Human Rights Council resolution titled “The Incompatibility between Democracy and Racism” that is adopted without a vote, with much of the same language, every few years.
In response to one section that says national leaders have a responsibility to condemn hate speech, Veprek writes, “‘[d]uty to condemn’ goes too far. Our public figures can’t be obliged to police every intolerant thought out their [sic] at the risk of being condemned for intolerance themselves.”
Rob Berschinski, a former deputy assistant secretary of state for human rights under Obama, told CNN that Veprek’s changes seemed to reflect a feeling that “the UN language is targeted at the Trump administration, when it mentions racism in political circles. … Clearly, he is making these edits to reduce the power of the resolution, as relates to racism in politics.”
Veprek apparently also objected to language that said the UN remained “alarmed at the rise of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in political circles.”
“To refer to the ‘rise’ of racism resumes [sic] (1) there was some more innocent time when racism didn’t exist in the world; or (2) racism is increasing over some unspecified previous time,” Veprek wrote, as quoted by CNN. “Is there evidence for either of these assertions?”
There are several serious problems with the Trump administration’s effort to whitewash the UN language about racism and its relationship to human rights and healthy societies. First, as is common with Trump’s administration and the American right more generally, there is a deep disdain for empirical reality. This is especially true in discussions of the color line.
Contrary to Veprek’s claims, there is considerable evidence that racism is increasing in the US specifically and throughout the West more generally. Most notably, as evidenced by the election of openly racist candidates like Donald Trump to high office.
Structural violence persists and has expanded, with increasingly draconian and often punitive state-sponsored harassment directed against nonwhite immigrants and refugees throughout the Western world.
In the United States, police continue to kill assault, and harass innocent and unarmed black and brown people at disproportionate rates, as compared to whites. The racial wealth gap persists, and depending on how it is measured, is actually growing. It has been suggested that by 2053 the average net worth of African-American families will be zero.
There is also a coordinated effort by the Trump administration and the Republican Party in general to prevent black Americans and other nonwhites from voting, This is both part of a broader assault on civil rights and a means of locking down political power.
Trump and the Republican Party’s assault on the social safety will also disproportionately harm nonwhites. This too is a type of structural violence and racism.
Right-wing authoritarian movements based upon racism and nativism are threatening democracies around the world. In Europe and the United States this global movement has overtones of violence and views the Other — in particular, nonwhites and Muslims — as the enemy.
Public opinion and other research also shows a shift in mass opinion in Europe and America (especially among white conservatives and less educated people) toward more intolerant attitudes regarding nonwhites, immigrants and Muslims.
After the horrors of World War II and the Holocaust the United States assumed a global leadership role in advancing the cause of human rights. This was complicated by the harsh reality that the United States was a society where discrimination against African-Americans and other nonwhites remained commonplace. In the context of the Cold War and the global struggle against Soviet power and influence, Jim Crow American apartheid was a mark of shame which the Soviets exploited to their advantage to build alliances with revolutionary movements in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
The foot soldiers and leaders in the black freedom struggle also highlighted this gross hypocrisy: How could a country that fought against Nazism and condemned the horrors of the Holocaust allow lynchings, racial violence and discrimination against its own citizens?
Mary Dudziak explores this theme in her book Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the Image of American Democracy:
The lesson of this story was always that American democracy was a form of government that made the achievement of social justice possible, and that democratic change, however slow and gradual, was superior to dictatorial imposition. The story of race in America, used to compare democracy and communism, became an important Cold War narrative.
Former Secretary of State Dean Acheson once observed that “the existence of discrimination against minority groups in this country has an adverse effect upon our relations with other countries. We are reminded over and over by some foreign newspapers and spokesmen, that our treatment of various minorities leaves much to be desired. … We will have better international relations when those reasons for suspicion and resentment have been removed.”
America’s more forward-thinking elites understood that if the United States was to defeat the Soviet Union and Communism abroad it would have to confront Jim and Jane Crow and other forms of white supremacy at home. Winning the Cold War, expanding and maintaining American hegemony required it.
Trump and his allies and supporters reject this legacy of American leadership. Their policies seek to undermine human rights both globally and within the United States. In all, the Trump presidency and Republican Party are overtly hostile to nonwhites around the world.
The United States (ostensibly) defended human and civil rights both abroad and at home as a means of defeating the Soviet Union. Now, some three decades after the Cold War ended, Donald Trump has embraced the Christian nationalism and racial authoritarianism of Vladimir Putin’s Russia. It appears that Trump does not want the United States to be the world’s preeminent power but rather a country (and people) in the orbit of Russia. History repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce — and in the case of Trump’s America, as tragedy once again.
The post Donald Trump’s Startling Global Agenda: Taking White Supremacy Worldwide appeared first on Truthout.
Each summer, the radical environmentalists behind the decades-old (and notoriously rowdy) Earth First! movement wrap up their annual campout with a protest action. Over the years, typical targets have included logging operations and, more recently, fossil fuel infrastructure. This year, things were different.
On Monday, July 9, dozens of Earth First! activists emerged from the Appalachian woods to join Native American, LGBTQ and Latinx activists in temporarily shutting down a US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office in downtown Columbus, Ohio. The action resulted in 12 arrests.
The demonstration was the latest in a series of protests and direct actions in cities across the US aimed at one of the major federal agencies responsible for carrying out the mass raids, deportations and family separations that have defined the Trump administration’s crackdown on immigrants and migrant families seeking asylum. It was also proof that the movement to abolish ICE is uniting activists from various social movements as they identify how their individual issues intersect. For example, climate disruption has contributed to the flow of migrants from Central America, where Latinx and Indigenous heritages often mix.
Corine Fairbanks, a member of the American Indian Movement from Cincinnati, told Truthout that her organization has always considered Native Americans from Latin America as their “Indigenous brothers and sisters.”Ruben Castilla Herrera, an immigrant, migrant and refugee organizer with the Columbus Sanctuary Collective, takes a break between leading chants during the street blockade in Columbus, Ohio.Mike Ludwig
“We had the right to migrate anywhere we wanted before contact [with Europeans], prior to colonialism stepping foot in this land,” Fairbanks said as the police closed in on a street blockade set up by the protesters. “So, it’s fabulous that all these organizations are coming together and working together on this human rights issue, and drawing the connection on how it’s environmentally involved.”
The left has not always been united on immigration. At one time, major unions saw immigrants as a threat to domestic jobs. That changed abruptly in the early 2000s after internal pressure from Latinx members forced major unions such as the AFL-CIO to come out in support of granting undocumented immigrants citizenship. Under the Obama administration, the US government deported record numbers of immigrants, and a Democratic White House came under mounting grassroots pressure to change its policies as immigration reform stalled in Congress.
Now, the rise of President Trump and his “zero-tolerance” immigration policies are bringing broad coalitions together at rallies and mass marches across the country as activists connect the dots between migration, climate disruption and the mass criminalization of people of color. This has put mounting pressure on the Democratic Party to move left on immigration as the midterms loom.
The activists in Ohio said that the ICE office in Columbus that they targeted is part of the deportation machine. Immigrants are required to show up there for “check-ins” with officers, often unsure whether the meeting will escalate into a full-blown deportation. Some sit and wait with a single suitcase — the only item a deportee is allowed to carry. Such offices have been busy in Ohio. While the nation gasped at Trump’s now-defunct policy of separating migrant families on the southern border, recent ICE raids on workplaces in Ohio communities have resulted in hundreds of immigration arrests that could result in deportations.Police used a fire truck to extract and arrest a protester from the top of the tripod.Mike Ludwig
Operations at the state’s central ICE field office came to a temporary halt on Monday morning as small group of protesters entered the office and locked themselves together with bike locks, refusing to budge until the police came and began making arrests. Others gathered outside, filling the street and suspending an activist from a large tripod to block any vehicles carrying deportees from leaving the area. Police eventually used a fire truck to extract the climbing demonstrator, who was arrested along with several others on misdemeanor trespassing charges.
In the lobby of the office building, Earth First! activists explained that the same fossil fuel polluters that “eco-defenders” regularly work to shut down are impacting migrants targeted by the Trump administration. Research has shown that climate disruption is a major factor in migration trends, including in Central America and the Caribbean, where rising temperatures, droughts and severe weather exacerbate the food insecurity and violence driving families to seek refuge in the United States.
“Large agriculture regions have been devastated by droughts, storms and newly erratic seasons,” the protesters said, speaking in unison and referring to regions in Central America. “Residential areas are being displaced by storms and food shortages stemming from drought. Farming collapse sets the economic stage for more organized violence, by the state and gangs.”Police made 12 arrests during the action in Columbus, Ohio. Protesters have occupied and temporarily shut down operations at ICE offices across the country.Mike Ludwig
Full disclosure: In 2010, your faithful reporter briefly worked for the organization’s central media organ, the Earth First! Journal. I learned a lot about the history of the movement reading back issues of the magazine. Earth First! was founded by a group of cavalier white men in the early 1979. Women, people of color and LGBTQ people (particularly gender-nonconforming people) have long challenged its tendencies toward machismo and a singular focus on defending the wilderness. The broader environmental movement has also been criticized for its lack of diversity. The action on Monday was a sign of change.
Activists said the action was organized in solidarity with immigrant rights groups such as Mijente, a Latinx racial justice organization involved in major demonstrations against ICE in San Diego and other cities. The grassroots activism exploding around “Abolish ICE” has challenged Democrats to take up the issue, leading to a debate over whether disbanding the federal law enforcement agency is a reasonable, politically salient policy proposal or a shortsighted protest slogan. Mijente has addressed this head on with a full policy platform for overhauling the immigration system that explains how and why ICE should be disbanded, but that’s not the only demand that Mijente and other activists are making. They also want the immediate reunification of families separated at the border and the complete decriminalization of immigration.
“We are here to say that we will not stand silently by, and we’ll resist in ways unheard of right here in Columbus, Ohio,” stated Ruben Castilla Herrera, an immigrant, migrant and refugee organizer with the Columbus Sanctuary Collective.
The post Behind the Blockades: Intersectional Organizing to Abolish ICE appeared first on Truthout.
With “Mountainous” Evidence on Plaintiffs’s Side, Hundreds of Cancer Cases Against Monsanto Get Green Light
After opening arguments kicked off in California state court on Monday for a Bay Area man’s landmark lawsuit alleging that Monsanto’s popular weedkiller Roundup caused him to develop cancer, a federal judge on Tuesday ruled that hundreds of unrelated but similar cases against the agrochemical company can also proceed to trial.
US District Judge Vince Chhabria in San Francisco concluded that although he believes the evidence presented by attorneys representing the cancer patients and their families, “seems too equivocal to support any firm conclusion that glyphosate,” the active ingredient Roundup, causes in cancer, the matter should be taken up by a jury. As Reuters noted, his decision “followed years of litigation and weeks of hearings.”
It also follows the first day of trial for DeWayne “Lee” Johnson’s suit in California’s San Francisco Superior Court. Johnson is a 46-year-old father of three who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma after years of working as a groundskeeper for school district, a position which regularly exposed him to a pair of Monsanto products containing glyphosate.
Although the state of California and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) — a branch of the World Health Organization (WHO) — have classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen, US and European regulators continue to defy scientists and anti-pesticide activists’ warnings by allowing farmers to keep spraying the world’s most common herbicide.
While Monsanto maintains that its products are safe — with a company attorney claiming in court on Monday that “scientific evidence is overwhelming that glyphosate-based products do not cause cancer” — some 4,000 plaintiffs have alleged that Monsanto’s glyphosate products such as Roundup have made them sick. However, Johnson’s case is the first to go trial.
During opening statements on Monday, the Guardian reports, Johnson’s attorney Brent Wisner showed jurors photographs of legions on his client’s body that were a result of his cancer and declared: “The simple fact is he’s going to die. It’s just a matter of time.” As Johnson reportedly lowered his head and his wife cried beside him, Wisner added, “Between now and then, it’s just nothing but pain.”
The attorney argued that Monsanto — which recently merged with German pharmaceutical giant Bayer — “has specifically gone out of its way to bully…and to fight independent researchers.”Wisner, the newspaper noted, “presented internal Monsanto emails that he said showed how the agrochemical company rejected critical research and expert warnings over the years while pursuing and helping to write favorable analyses of their products.”
In addition to internal documents, Wisner also said the trial will feature depositions from 10 former or current Monsanto employees, and that there is “a mountain of data,” going back to 2000, which shows that exposure to glyphosate can cause genetic damage that could lead to the type of cancer Johnson has.
“We’re going to see for the first time evidence that nobody has seen before, evidence that has been in Monsanto’s files that we’ve obtained from lawyers and the people in Monsanto,” co-counsel Robert F. Kennedy Jr. told the San Francisco Chronicle. “I don’t think it’s a surprise after 20 years Monsanto has known about the cancer-causing properties of this chemical and has tried to stop the public from knowing it, and tried to manipulate the regulatory process.”
Kennedy added that he believes this case will help the hundreds of other clients he is representing in cases filed against the company. “So many people have been exposed to this chemical, this group of chemicals, and many of them have been injured,” he said. “The science is on our side. It is mountainous.”
The post With “Mountainous” Evidence on Plaintiffs’s Side, Hundreds of Cancer Cases Against Monsanto Get Green Light appeared first on Truthout.
Sometimes people think that a summer power outage is easier to deal with than a winter one. After all, in the summer, you don’t have to worry about freezing to … Read the rest
In the five years since the oil train disaster in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, claimed 47 lives, the world has learned much about the risks that hauling oil by rail poses. One of the clearest lessons is how little has been done to address those risks, which means that deadly event could easily happen again.Tags: Lac-Meganticbakken bomb trainsoil trainsTrump AdministrationRail IndustryDOT-111 rail carsBakken oil
ICIJ has hundreds of members across the world. Typically, these journalists are the best in the country and have won many national and global awards.
Our monthly series, Meet the Investigators, highlights the work of these tireless journalists. This month, we speak with Kristof Clerix, an investigative reporter with the Belgian weekly news magazine Knack. Clerix specializes in reporting on security topics including terrorism, intelligence agencies, drug and human trafficking, illegal arms dealing and more, and is regularly contacted by international media to comment on the Belgian security apparatus. Follow him on Twitter here.A lot of people associate Brussels with the major institutions of the European Union, including the European Commission, but it is also a hub for the intelligence world, which is an area of interest for you. How have you gone about building contacts in this world?
Over 10 years ago, when I started working as a young reporter for a magazine on international affairs, we heard through our network of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that the Iranian secret services were active in Brussels. I found this such a remarkable rumor. I couldn’t imagine Iranian 007s walking the streets in the heart of Europe.
I started digging deeper, and I found this was unreported territory, strangely enough. Brussels is not only a diplomatic capital but also an espionage capital. It has been since Nato relocated its headquarters from France in 1968, half a century ago.Related articles
Eventually, I ended up writing two books on the intelligence world. But in the beginning it was slow, painstaking work — interviews with NGOs, then the Iranian community, then a police officer. He put me in contact with another police officer, and then I got in touch with the parliamentary committee that oversees the Belgian secret services. Eventually, I found myself at a conference where I met my first Belgian spy, and so on.
As I was going about this process, there was a clear symmetry: my methods were very similar to those of the spies I was studying and writing about.As well as building contacts in the intelligence world, you have spent a long time with open source material. What are the best publicly available sources that can reveal information about the secretive world of espionage?
Many people don’t realize that roughly 80 percent of the information spies are after is actually out there already, in public sources. It’s the same in journalism; we can find a lot of stories by piecing together details from publicly available information, — even if at first sight the stories don’t appear obvious.
In Belgium, close study of legislation and parliamentary records is worthwhile, for example. Further afield, the archives of former Warsaw Pact countries — think of Czechoslovakia, German Democratic Republic, etc. — have become public. From these old papers, I found thousands of pages on the activities of intelligence agencies, mainly during the Cold War, the 1970s and ‘80s. This gave an insight into countries that had been ‘the enemy’ and had sent spies to Brussels to try and find out secret information.
That’s information that’s still relevant today. The job of spying hasn’t changed all that much. The way they recruit sources, try to penetrate networks, etc., is essentially the same tradecraft used during the Cold War. You can argue there is an additional dimension now, with IT and cyber intelligence, but this hasn’t replaced old-school espionage.
After studying these archives, I suddenly found I possessed some documents that even the Belgian secret services hadn’t seen, simply because I took the effort of going to Berlin, Bucharest and Warsaw.In recent years you’ve become an enthusiastic advocate for journalistic collaboration. Why?
Despite my early reporting focus on the secrecy industry, in recent years I’ve found more and more opportunities coming from cross-border collaborations that involve sharing, open cooperation and trust.I still like to think of the press as the fourth estate, the watchdog of democracy. But to fulfill this role today, I think it’s best if we work together.
That’s mainly been through the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists on projects such as LuxLeaks, Swiss Leaks, Panama Papers and Paradise Papers. But there have been other joint efforts, too. For example, the MEPs Project, which involves journalists from all European Union member states investigating members of the European Parliament.
This collaborative effort has focused on trying to find out what the members do with their considerable expense allowances. They are entitled to receive a lump sum of €4,342 (just over $5,000) a month as expenses on top of their salaries. It’s a lot of money, but nobody knows what they spend this public money on.
We’ve been studying this question for three years already. We tried freedom of information requests, but the European parliament refused to hand over the relevant documents. The case is now being considered by the European Court of Justice. So let’s see what comes of that.The Belgium Panama Papers team: Xavier Counasse, Joel Matriche, and ICIJ members Alain Lallemand, Kristof Clerix and Lars Bové. i Le Soir
I still like to think of the press as the fourth estate, the watchdog of democracy. But to fulfill this role today, I think it’s best if we work together.We have to work across borders that divide countries but also sometimes across the dividing lines between competing media organizations. Look at the Belgian ICIJ team: we are three journalists: one from French speaking newspaper, Le Soir (Alain Lallemand), one from financial daily De Tijd (Lars Bové) and then me, from the weekly magazine Knack. We manage to work together very effectively, although we work for three different media organizations. Together we have done more than we could have alone.You recently wrote an important report about unlicensed exports of restricted chemicals to Syria. How do you deal with stories where the investigation takes you far beyond your home country?
The story was published in April and came just a few days after the United States bombed chemical sites in Syria. Although the publication was timely, in fact the article had been many months in preparation. Again, it involved cross-border collaboration — on this occasion with Syrian Archive, which is a German-based NGO well-connected in the Syrian community.
The investigation started with a lead from the United Nation’s Comtrade database, which appeared to show a chemical called isopropanol might have been shipped by Belgian companies to Syria, despite a European embargo. This chemical has multiple uses but is known to have been used in the manufacture of sarin gas by the Bashir Assad’s regime.
Its export to Syria was supposed to be strictly controlled under an export license regime, but our freedom of information requests showed no such licenses had been issued. Eventually, we discovered that officials were asking questions, too. In fact, customs authorities were prosecuting three companies for not having the requisite export licenses. After we published our investigation in Belgium, within a few hours the story was picked up by media around the world.Did you ever feel that story wasn’t going to come together? Why didn’t you give up?
For me, the main lesson was perseverance; it took us from May 2017 until April this year to get the story confirmed. Along the way, we just didn’t know if we would ever be able to confirm our hypothesis. But the only way of getting such a story published is by not giving up. You really have to be persistent.
Lisa Page will not appear for Capitol Hill interview despite subpoena, attorney says | 10 July 2018 | Former FBI attorney Lisa Page will not appear for a private interview with two House committees despite being subpoenaed, her attorney told Fox News Tuesday. In a statement, Amy Jeffress said her client did not have enough time to prepare and had asked the the House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform Committees to schedule another date. In a statement, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said: "It appears that Lisa Page has something to hide..." Other GOP members of the Judiciary Committee slammed Page's refusal to appear, with Ron DeSantis of Florida calling it "pathetic" and Jim Jordan of Ohio said she was "once again showing the double standard."
Shell, one of the world’s largest oil companies, has gained privileged access to the UN Climate negotiations while pushing the same unworkable solutions for almost 20 years, internal company documents reveal.
DeSmog UK has previously reported on a tranche of documents first unearthed by Jelmer Mommers of De Correspondent published on Climate Files, that reveal Shell knew about the causes and impacts of climate change since at least the 1980s.
Analysis of these documents, combined with new sources freshly uncovered by DeSmog UK, shows that while Shell’s understand of the science developed, its proposed solution to the problem has remained remarkably static.Tags: #ShellKnewclimate changeshellClimate Change negotiationsUNFCCCParis Climate Change AgreementIPIECAICCWBCSD
By BRRN Social Media Team
In a move to expand the atmosphere of repression against the left, a bill specifically targeting anti-fascist or “Antifa” protesters was introduced to the Judiciary Committee in the House of Representatives in June. Titled the “Unmasking Antifa Act of 2018,” the bill is sponsored by Republican Rep. Daniel Donovan of New York (@RepDanDonovan) and calls for fines and prison up to 15 years for anyone who “injures, oppresses, threatens, or intimidates any person” while wearing a mask or disguise. Police and law enforcement are, of course, exempted.
“Mass surveillance provides the state with opportunities for unprecedented repression. This bill clearly attempts to eradicate blind spots in the state’s vision so that anonymous resistance is impossible,” says Mark Bray, author of “Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook” and a member of Black Rose / Rosa Negra Anarchist Federation.
“I think it is worth addressing because it seems to be a way to prepare for the next J20-style repression to actually work,” noted Bray referring to the now-failed charges against more than 200 protesters arrested during President Trump’s inauguration on January 20, 2017. The charges were ultimately dismissed for lack of evidence and misconduct by the prosecution but was seen by many as an effort to criminalize dissent by the Trump administration.
For more on Anti-Fascism we recommend “Interview: Antifa Means No Free Speech for Fascism” with Mark Bray. For more on anarchism generally we recommend listening to Mark Bray’s interview on Revolutionary Left Radio.
Tags: Black Rose Anarchist Federationantifamasksthe lawthe statepoliticsnot anarchistcategory: Actions
Trump pardons Oregon ranchers at center of 40-day standoff | 10 July 2018 | President Trump on Tuesday pardoned a pair of Oregon ranchers whose arson conviction became a focus for opponents of federal government land ownership. Dwight Hammond, 76, and his son Steven Hammond, 49, were convicted in 2012 and sent to prison on arson charges. They had set a series of fires on their ranch that spread to federal land. The Hammonds' case became the inspiration for the 40-day armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016. The organizers wanted to protest federal land ownership.
From Winter Oak Pressbringing down the fascist machine
“We have realized that a detachment of man from Nature, from the Life-Whole, leads to his annihilation… No longer does man alone stand in the centerpoint of thinking, but rather Life as a Whole does, as it reveals itself in all living things on earth”.
On the face of it, this statement sounds rather good. It’s the sort of thing we send out on our Winter Oak “Quote for the Day” tweets.
But in this instance, we definitely won’t be doing that. Why? Because it comes from a 1934 book called Biological Will: Means and Goals of Biological Work in the New Reich by Ernst Lehmann, a leading Nazi biologist. (1)
The occasional similarity in vocabulary or rhetoric between radical eco-anarchist thought and a certain strand of Nazi ideology has long provided a source of ammunition for enemies of radical green thinking.
Sometimes these attacks amount to little more than laughable right-wing propaganda, as with a 2018 item (2) on the Encounter Books website focusing on the “totalitarian roots” of the green movement as a whole and, in particular, of wind power.
Others are taken a lot more seriously when they warn that a radical political philosophy which is too nature-based inevitably risks carrying us down into a dark underworld of proto-fascist ideology.
While Murray Bookchin was no doubt right to take elements of the American deep ecology movement to task for not fully recognising the social roots behind ecological problems, the rhetoric he deployed, condemning what he regarded as “ecofascism”, has ultimately only increased the perceived Nazi contamination of radical green thinking in general.
Fellow social ecologists Janet Biehl and Peter Staudenmaier carried on his approach with great enthusiasm. In Ecofascism: Lessons from the German Experience, they wrote: “The National Socialist ‘religion of nature,’ as one historian has described it, was a volatile admixture of primeval teutonic nature mysticism, pseudo-scientific ecology, irrationalist anti-humanism, and a mythology of racial salvation through a return to the land. Its predominant themes were ‘natural order,’ organicist holism and denigration of humanity: Such arguments have a chilling currency within contemporary ecological discourse”. (3)
More recently, Alexander Reid Ross, a one-time editor of Earth First! Journal, has identified parts of the EF! network, as well as anarchists and left-wingers generally, as being affected by what he terms ideological “fascist creep”. (4)
There are plenty of other examples out there, plus, it should be added, actual attempts by sections of the far right to hijack environmental positions and language for their own ends. (5)
All of this has, of course, not been without an impact on the thinking of the broader environmental movement.
Sensitive to comparison with Nazi policies, Germany’s Green Party has long gone out of its way to stress its rupture from this past.
For instance in a 1987 interview with the Oxford journal Green Line, party representative Jakob von Uexküll, grandson and namesake of an archconservative behavioural biologist, said that the Greens in Germany had made a conscious decision to seek out allies in minority groups because critics had pointed out that ecological-holistic statements had historically been made by Nazi and Fascist governments. (6)
While forging alliances with minority groups is itself a positive move, the problem lies in the way that ecologists with a social critique find it safer to tack their environmentalism on to an already-existing package of left-liberal thought rather than to source it from what is seen as an entirely discredited green tradition.
Historian Anna Bramwell wrote as long ago as 1994 that since the Second World War “any talk of holism, or a love of nature that adduced certain values from nature or strove to adapt humanity to those values, was suspect” (7) – and things certainly haven’t improved since then.
We can testify to this ourselves. An article published in 2017 by Winter Oak, Envisioning a Post-Western World, proposing an exit from industrial capitalist ways of living and thinking, was only reposted by the radical American website antidote zine after much discussion and with a disclaimer that some of the arguments we put forward were “right on the knife’s edge”. (8)
The knife in question turned out to be the one being dramatically waved around by Reid Ross, which seems to have successfully intimidated a large part of the anti-capitalist movement in the US, even if some are still brave enough to publish “suspect” ideas in spite of his efforts.
But what is the truth behind this “Nazi” smear against organic deep green ideology? Is it justified? Is it something that should influence the way we collectively formulate our own vision of the world? If so, in what way?
To get to the roots of the matter, we will here be asking, and answering, the following questions:
1. What were the origins of this organic thinking?
2. To what extent was this thinking part of Nazi theory and practice?
3. Are there other possible manifestations of organic ideology?
4. What political ideology is the best fit with an organic approach?
5. Is organic radicalism the only target of the contemporary Nazi smear?
6. What is the relationship between anti-capitalism and anti-semitism?
7. So what, do we conclude, is the smear all about?
8. Why do we care so much about this issue?
9. What would we like to see happen next?
1. What were the origins of this organic thinking?
By organic thinking, we mean a vision which regards human societies, as well as the environment, as being essentially alive and of consisting of countless subtle interactions and collectivities which can never fully be described because of their rich complexity.
It regards human beings as an extension of nature. It is a holistic approach, because it understands that everything is connected, everything is ultimately one.
A holistic and nature-based view of the world was the starting point of all human cultures and inspires the indigenous spiritualities of North and South America, of Australia and Africa, and, yes, even of Europe.
It was the foundation stone on which were built the metaphysics of Chuang Tsu, Plotinus and Paracelsus. It remains a widely-shared, instinctive, “common sense” view of the world which has never been completely erased from the human spirit.
The coming of the Industrial Revolution sparked a reaction, in which some people actively sought out and revitalised these old ideas. This was not so much an intellectual movement as an instinctive response to cultural, social and environmental danger.
As Vivianne Crowley writes: “From the late eighteenth century onwards, rapid industrialization and the rape of Europe’s natural scenery and resources caused many people to feel that the time was out of joint; that common sense was being sacrificed to material progress with potentially disastrous results”. (9)
The organic thinking on which we are focusing here is this version, the one that emerged in reaction to the trauma of industrialisation, of Western civilization’s drift away from that original wisdom and towards the cold and mechanical philosophies of the modern era.
In a sense it could be termed Organic Thinking II, because it included a conscious defence of Organic Thinking I in the face of the sterile dogmas of capitalist modernity.
Everywhere affected by industrialisation saw the emergence of anti-industrial currents of thought.
The English-speaking world had the likes of William Blake (1757-1827), William Wordsworth (1770-1850), Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), John Ruskin (1819-1900), William Morris (1834-1896) and Richard Jefferies (1848-1887).
Morris spoke for many others when he admitted in 1894, two years before he died: “Apart from the desire to produce beautiful things, the leading passion of my life has been and is hatred of modern civilization”. (10)
France had its own tradition, which flowed from the anti-industrialism of the eighteenth-century philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) into the twentieth-century anti-productivism of Jacques Ellul (1912-1994) and Bernard Charbonneau (1910-1996) as well as the powerful critique of modernity voiced by George Bernanos (1888-1948), who declared: “The Civilization of the Machines is the civilization of quantity opposed to that of quality”. (11)
German-speaking Europe had a particularly strong concept of Naturphilosophie, intertwined with Romanticism, which could draw on the wisdom of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), Novalis (1772-1801), Friedrich Hölderlin (1775-1854) and Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling (1775-1854).
In her book Reenchanted Science: Holism in German Culture from Wilhelm II to Hitler, Anne Harrington traces the evolution of one thread of this thinking from nineteenth-century scientists who developed holistic approaches in their own specific fields and then, as good holists, saw that there was also a bigger picture.
“From Berlin to Prague to Vienna to Zurich, these scientists began to mingle their voices with those of other kinds of cultural critics, would-be reformers, and crisis-mongers. Those other voices from outside the sciences also typically used the oppositional imagery of machine and wholeness in order to articulate what they believed had gone wrong in politics, the community and individual existence – and to identify roads to renewal. That imagery in turn had energetic links to other, overlapping political and societal oppositions of the time: Gemeinschaft (community) versus Gesellschaft (society), an opposition made famous by the nineteenth-century sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies; (German) Kultur versus (French) Zivilization; Life and Soul versus Mind and Reason, a squaring-off associated with such ‘life philosophers’ as Ludwig Klages”. (12)
The Ruhr valley
The starting point of Organic Thinking II was opposition to The Machine and all the damage it was doing to human culture and well-being, as well as to the natural world.
The Machine, which spawned the ugly coke furnaces and iron and steel factories of the Ruhr valley, powered the militarism of Otto von Bismarck, Chancellor of the German Empire between 1871 and 1890.
There was a process of extraordinarily rapid industrialization at the end of the nineteenth century that, notes Harrington, had left many feeling “uprooted and aesthetically revolted”. (13)
And The Machine also reached inside people’s heads, breaking down older ways of thinking and remodelling minds according to the demands of the new industrial civilization.
A fragmentation of understanding was identified by critics of the modern age. Like the living communities replaced by urban dormitories for the factory wage-slaves, everything seemed to be broken down and torn apart.
In the sciences, research was increasingly specialist and narrow, geared towards utilitarian pragmatism rather than a quest for knowledge.
The success of individuals or nations was judged in terms of material wealth, of productivity, rather than in terms of inner integrity or happiness.
A sense of belonging to the land, to the past, to a continuum, was rased by the brutal demands of so-called progress.
An individual’s sense of self was swept away by the depersonalised speed and fury of steam-powered living and, at the same time, any sense of belonging to humanity as a whole was denied by the nationalistic fervour of industrial and imperial rivalry with other Europeans and officially-encouraged contempt for the “inferior” and “backward” peoples of the non-industrialised world.
The realm of offices, factories, newspapers and trains forced people into a state of existence where they seemed to exist purely in their own heads, on the surface of being, and were as cut off from their own bodies, their own physical reality, as they were from the natural world from which they had been separated for the first time in a million years of human history.
Organic Thinking II sought to counter that fragmentation, that separation, on every level, and to reinstate a sense of interconnecting wholeness.
Body and soul were not regarded as separate, but as two aspects of one and the same entity. Likewise with individuals and society – not industrial-capitalist society, of course, but the natural and organic one put forward as a healthy alternative.
Collective groups of people were described as living organisms, themselves forming part of even greater living organisms. Humanity itself was one living entity and part of the living natural world.
None of this was new. All of this had already been known by Organic Thinking I. But the difference here was that the new embrace of this holism was also a pro-active call for the realisation and return of that holism.
Organic Thinking II was a demand for change, for the overturning of shallow, fragmented, dehumanising, nature-destroying industrial society and for the rediscovery of authenticity, community, belonging and wholeness.
2. To what extent was this thinking part of Nazi theory and practice?
There is no doubt that Nazi rhetoric and ideology was partly shaped by the organic thinking that was such an influential counter-current in German-speaking Europe at the start of the twentieth century.
The Nazis painted themselves as being on a mission to put things to rights, to bring about a “great revolution in values”, to restore healthy attitudes towards nature.
Nazi language reflected the idea that human life was, and should be, interlaced with nature. Notes Nina Lyon: “All manner of lengthy compound nouns abstracting this ideal prospered: Erdebundenkeit, the binding or oneness with the earth; Volksboden, the connection of the people with the soil; Bodenständigkeit, or the nature by which life was shaped by earthly forces”. (14)
Nazi professor Friederich Sander named “the longing for wholeness” as one of the two basic motives behind the movement. He added: “Present-day German psychology and the National Socialistic world view are both oriented towards the same goal: the vanquishing of atomistic and mechanistic forms of thought: vanquishing through organic thinking, in the structure of völkisch life here, in the researching of psychological reality there”. (15)
Lehmann, cited at the beginning of this article, wrote a book, Biology in the Present Life, which included chapters on “individual wholeness”, “transindividual wholeness”, “the cosmos of life” and “völkische wholeness”.
He argued: “This striving for connectedness with all of life, indeed with Nature in general into which we are born – that, so far as I can see, is the deepest purpose and true essence of National Socialistic thinking”. (16)
This holistic tendency even reached down to a practical level. The Nazis promoted healthy eating and wholemeal bread. They were all in favour of homeopathy, herbalism and other natural therapies. There was a herbal plantation at Dachau concentration camp.
It is the jarring note of that last sentence that reminds us that there was something not quite right about the Nazi love affair with the organic ideal.
In fact, the closer you look, the more it becomes apparent that the Nazi version of organic thinking amounted to a distortion so severe as to render it philosophically unrecognisable. They used holistic and organic thought merely as “a fund of metaphors” (17) with which to present and justify their own totalitarian ideology.
Adolf Hitler himself, for instance, wrote in Mein Kampf that to replace the “dead mechanism” of the liberal state “there must be formed a living organism with the exclusive aim of serving a higher idea”. (18)
It is clearly nonsense to speak of a living organism being “formed”, as any real follower of organic thinking would immediately understand. A living organism could be freed from certain restraints, or even revived, but not formed by the machineries of political will.
Hitler is in fact talking about the Nazi state – centrally controlled and ruthlessly hierarchical – to which he is trying to lend an aura of natural authenticity by describing it as an organism in the language popular at the time.
He – and his followers – completely undermined Tönnies’ distinction between organic, bottom-up, community (Gemeinschaft) and artificial, top-down, modern society (Gesellschaft) by pretending that the Nazi Gesellschaft was really a kind of Gemeinschaft. The state and the Führer somehow magically represented the authentic will of the German people.
This notion of the state as organism had already been developed by the right wing of the organic movement, but in Nazi dogma it took on whole new proportions, because the idea of total power resting in the hands of the state was so central to their ideology.
Zeev Sternhell remarks: “Totalitarianism is the very essence of fascism, and fascism is without question the purest example of a totalitarian ideology. Setting out as it did to create a new civilization, a new type of human being and a totally new way of life, fascism could not conceive of any sphere of human activity remaining immune from intervention by the State”. (19)
The Nazi obsession with order imposed from above, with the absolute rule of the central state, is the opposite of an authentically organic vision.
As the anarcho-syndicalist Rudolf Rocker wrote: “Dictatorship is the negation of organic development, of natural building from below upwards”. (20)
A further corruption of the organic principle came from what Harrington describes as “the ‘racializing’ of holism’s struggle against mechanism” (21)
The right-wing generation before the Nazis, inspired by Houston Stewart Chamberlain and others, had already formulated the concept of “race”, which broke down humanity into distinct groups – as with the scientific tables and hierarchical classifications of minerals, vegetables and animals which were favoured at the time.
These race theorists, both in France and in Germany, took the philosophical idea of Gestalt, of underlying form, and twisted it into a justification for rigid racial typology. This then fed into a racially-based definition of the social organism which excluded those of whom they disapproved.
Sternhell explains their argument thus: “The nation is a living organism, and nationalism is therefore an ethic, comprising all the criteria of behaviour which the common interest calls for, and on which the will of the individual has no bearing. The duty both of the individual and of society is to find out what this ethic may be, yet only those can succeed who have a share in the ‘national consciousness,’ shaped over the course of the centuries: the Jews, as a foreign race, cannot enter upon this quest”. (22)
The anti-semitic thread incorporated into organic and holistic philosophy by right-wing nationalists became more pronounced in the 1920s. Germans projected on to Jews all the aspects of the German industrial capitalist system that they disliked most – Jews were demonized as being soulless, rootless and mercenary.
It was even said, or implied, explains Harrington, that the very capacity to think and see nature as a “whole” (the art of so-called Ganzheitsbetrachtung) was a trait peculiar to the “Indo-Germanic” mind, while the Jewish mind was fundamentally analytic, dissolutive, and materialistic. (23)
A 1935 article that appeared in the official medical journal of the Nazi party, Ziel und Weg, said the dissolute, sterile nature of Jewish thinking and Jewish science could lead only to “death” and contrasted this with the “simple, organic, creative” thinking of the “healthy non-Jew”, who “thinks in wholes”. (24)
The irony, of course, is that these racist and anti-semitic theories demonstrated that it was the Nazis themselves who were incapable of thinking holistically.
A holistic vision of the world understands the connection between all people, all creatures, all of nature, all of the cosmos and bases its vision on a sense of overall unity.
An organic interpretation of the human species necessarily recognises the human species itself as an organism.
There may be lesser, shifting, “organisms” within that unity – and humanity may form part of larger natural and cosmic organisms – but the human species is undeniably the clearest instance of a biological unity between the individual and the bio-system of Earth as a whole.
A sense of this unity is integral to the organic, holistic world-view, and yet it is entirely absent from racist, anti-semitic, Nazi ideology.
The ideas of universalism and humanism were anathema to Nazism and regarded as cosmopolitan Jewish inventions designed to undermine the German sense of national and racial identity.
Their stunted sense of human solidarity was limited to those they defined as being their own people. Anyone outside of that Teutonic enclave was simply a non-person, an object.
Like certain postmodern thinkers of a later era, the Nazis denied the very existence of humankind, which, as Johann Chapoutot points out, “makes fraternity, feeling the suffering of the other, impossible as an emotion and invalidates it as a principle”. (25)
This was what lay behind the cold look in the eyes of the Nazi scientist famously described by Primo Levi in Survival in Auschwitz. He was looking at the Jewish prisoner as if he was observing a sea creature through “the glass window of an aquarium”. (26) There was no sense of human connection.
The anti-semitism displayed by the scientist here is not simply a prejudice, but a prejudice solidified into something self-justifying by a belief in the validity of the Nazis’ pseudo-scientific racial theorising.
Chapoutot says of this racism: “Slavs were presented as such strange beings that no communication of a human kind could be imagined with them. As for the Jews, they weren’t even considered as a foreign race, but rather as a phenomenon of a bacteriological or viral type”. (27)
It was this capacity to regard fellow human beings as mere bacteria which enabled the Nazi state to embark on its inhuman policies of racial screening, sterilization, castration, experimentation and mass extermination.
Far from being inspired from a holistic view of the world, this outlook stems from the very fragmentation of which the proponents of organic thinking complained. This is mechanical thinking.
The Nazis’ approach is marked by a desire not to understand, to include and to connect, but to separate, to classify and to objectivise. As Hitler himself said: “Nazism is applied biology”. (28)
Rather than making a break with the cold, soulless, mechanical age, the Nazis were pushing it on to new levels of inhumanity.
As earlier as 1933, the psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich observed that fascism was not about Wholeness at all, but rather was the culmination of modern civilization’s mad worship of The Machine. It was possible because fascist man had let himself be transformed into a machine that was alienated from all authentic biological impulses and thus capable of ‘machine murder’. (29)
Much the same point was made in an article by Gerhard Portele in Gestalt Theory in 1979 when he argued that, despite the Nazis’ use of holistic language, the essence of their ideology lay in their neglect of the whole: “The Nazis with their calculating book-keeping rationality were trained in piecemeal thinking to an extreme degree and viewed people as cogs”. (30)
This fundamental incompatibility between organic, holistic thinking and Nazi ideology became increasingly apparent once their romantic rhetoric collided with the pragmatic realities of running the German industrial-capitalist state.
Hans Driesch (1867-1941), a biologist whose organic vision was defiantly internationalist, was among the first non-Jewish German professors to be forcibly retired after Hitler came to power in 1933 and in 1935 all public speaking and travel privileges were taken away from him.
After Germany’s defeat in World War II, a number of other organic theorists, such as the philosopher and historian of biology Adolf Meyer-Abich, came forward to report that they too had been actively persecuted by the Third Reich because of the perceived threats their holism posed for Nazi policies.
The Nazi faction which had twisted organic thinking into a racist and anti-semitic theory was itself displaced by an even more hardline group.
Harrington explains: “The second faction was made up of more pragmatic medical technocrats who wanted to use a hard-nosed form of Mendelian genetics, Darwinism, and racial biology as the basis for Nazi social policy and military strategy. This group had found a home for itself under the jurisdiction of Himmler’s SS and its daughter racial organizations, the Lebensborn and Ahnenerbe”. (31)
Human geneticist Karl Astel and his technocratic colleagues, outraged at the influence wielded by the likes of Karl Kötschua and his “nature therapy”, hatched a plot to discredit holistic views, which, he correctly concluded, flew completely in the face of narrow Nazi theories of racial supremacy.
In the same way as today’s anti-holistic propagandists try to blacken its name by linking it to the Nazis, these Nazis smeared holism by linking it to the Roman Catholic Church.
A 1936 article “exposing” this Catholic plot described “a skillfully organized and well-camouflaged attack on the entire exact sciences, including genetics and racial hygiene”.
Under the name of holism, it said, sinister Jesuits were using scientific dupes to spread a Catholic doctrine and undermine Nazi science. Their cunning ploy involved making “full intentional use of words that sound National Socialistic, like ‘wholeness’, ‘organic’, ‘biologic’, and so on” in order to spread confusion while appearing to be on-message. (32)
As a result of this propaganda, even Nazi exponents of organic theory were now hounded out of positions of influence. In 1938 Lehmann, previously quoted, was expelled from the Biologen Verband (Biologists’ Organization) which he had headed since 1931 and removed from his position as editor of Der Biologe.
A new organization within the SS was created, the Reichsbund für Biologie (Reich Division for Biology) which, under the direct supervision of the Ahnenerbe and ultimately of Himmler himself, took over the editorship of Der Biologe.
Nazism didn’t look much like a nature cult
An organic theory of life, with its emphasis on natural harmony, human interconnectedness and symbiotic relationship, stood in stark ideological contradiction to the aims of the Nazi regime, which wanted to build up Germany’s industrial and military power, build motorways, develop scientific racial engineering to strengthen “The Master Race”, explore the potential of nuclear physics, and ruthlessly eliminate “alien” human elements from German society.
The new SS-run version of Der Biologe made it clear that there was no room for the woolly, holistic views of men like Lehmann and the völkisch anthropologist Ernst Krieck, even if they were Nazis and anti-semites. “Biology is research about facts!” it barked in a 1939 editorial.
Facts! This is the language of the atomistic, mechanistic, industrial thinking of The Machine, the very language that the Nazis had claimed to be opposing, at the stage when they were wooing the German population.
From the 1890s onwards, there had been a cultural battle between two German tendencies. On one side stood the tradition of Goethe, of a Romantic desire for life, for soul, for wholeness. On the other side was the new Germany, obsessed with efficiency and Technik, the militarist “machine nation” of 1914.
While Nazism was clearly influenced on one level by the first, Romantic tradition, and happy to use that association to garner support from a German public despairing of capitalist modernity, it proved ultimately to belong firmly to the second.
It incarnated, in an exaggerated form, the thinking of the industrial capitalist Machine, for whom human beings are nothing but fodder. It was not simply a question of racism; even those accepted as German were expected to be “productive”, to serve the purposes of the Machine-State in some way. Non-performing, non-productive Germans (leistungsunfähige Wesen) and scroungers (Asoziale) were not deemed worthy of living in German society.
Because of the hideous crimes committed by the Nazi regime, there is today near-universal agreement that we do not like the Third Reich and its ideas.
But we should be clear as to what it is that we don’t like. We don’t like the mass extermination. We don’t like the anti-semitism and racism. We don’t like the warmongering militarism. We don’t like the blind nationalism. We don’t like the police state. We don’t like the eugenics. We don’t like the propaganda and mass hysteria.
There were other elements present in Nazism which are not among these evils and which do not necessarily pave the way towards them.
Is wholemeal bread a bad thing because the Nazis said it was good? Are herbal plantations insidious because there was one at Dachau? Is all organic thinking suspect because a version of it was harnessed, and distorted, by some Nazi ideologues?
Continuing her discussion of the Nazis’ use of an organic and nature-based vocabulary (see above), Lyon, who describes herself as a Jewish writer, adds: “There is nothing intrinsically problematic about any of these three terms. Their adoption to make the argument that one race of people should be superior to others, because it stemmed from those values and that soil, was where it all went wrong…” (34)
3. Are there other possible manifestations of organic ideology?
As we have already noted in the last section, non-Nazi versions of organic ideology are not only possible, but existed in a very real form alongside the now-discredited right-wing racist variety.
Harrington correctly points out that it is useful to know something about the history of German holistic science, in order not to fall into the trap of thinking that any alternative to the prevailing mechanistic worldview is to be avoided because it somehow points inevitably towards fascism.
She adds: “It is important that we resist ‘discovering’ the outline of a terrible future in holism’s past or imagining that all holistic, vitalistic, or teleological views of nature are part of a larger ‘destruction of reason’ that can be tracked in some straight, degenerating line from the romantics to Hegel to Nietzsche to Hitler”. (35)
Sometimes these investigations might lead simply to the revelation that a particular scientist or thinker was not actually a Nazi. The biologist Jakob Von Uexküll, for instance, was certainly very conservative, politically, but was no white supremacist: he argued that all human groups must be respected in their distinctiveness, because all in the end are expressions of the same creative life energy. (36)
At other times, it goes a lot further than that and we see the enormous ideological potential in variants of the organic theme which point in a libertarian, humanist, internationalist, left-wing direction.
Driesch, for example, defended an ideal of cultural cosmopolitanism and rejected any idea that a nation-state could be seen as an organism. The only supra-personal collective organism he was prepared to consider was the concept of a humankind that recognised no national or völkisch boundaries.
Before Hitler came to power, Driesch had been warning, both in academic and newspaper articles, of the dangers of the growing nationalistic mood. To counter this, he stressed the biological unity of the human species. He also voiced his opposition to militarism, describing this as the “the most terrible of all sins” against the vitalistic principles of life, holistic cooperation and higher development. (37)
The Russian-Swiss neurobiologist Constantin von Monakow (1853-1930) also developed a holistic and organic theory which retained its logical coherence by talking about interconnected wholes, rather than veering off into the fragmented and divisive particularism of Nazi dogma.
Constantin von Monakow
Monakow came up with the idea of the horme, a kind of all-pervading intrinsic motivating and guiding force. He explained: “The horme is nothing other than the activity of the universe (Worldhorme), within which we human-children are highly organized necessary parts. As such we are temporally and partly also spatially – through free mobility – closely bound up with one another: we form ties with animals and plants and also with nonorganic bodies, into which last we merge after death. There is an undeniable glory in the thought that an indelible temporal bond links us, not only with our ancestors and our descendants, but above all also with the whole rest of the organic world”. (38)
He interpreted our relationship to the outside world in terms of expanding concentric circles of awareness. The most basic level of existence involved a preoccupation with self and survival. This was often extended to a focus on family and the immediate community around the individual.
But more evolved human beings could grasp their belonging to increasingly larger entities, up to the human species, the organic world and the cosmos.
Monakow’s holistic vision of all life as being enmeshed in one dynamic process of evolution thus naturally involved an internationalist perspective. Nothing else, in fact, would have made sense in that context.
It also placed him in opposition to the thinking of an industrial age which rejected any idea of organic subject-to-subject relationships with fellow parts of the natural organism in favour of a subject-to-object relationship based on domination and exploitation.
He saw that to heal itself and set itself back on its true evolutionary course, humanity had to trust in its deepest biological impulses. All the wisdom we needed to find that course was already within us, but stifled by the constructs of modern society. We had to tap into that natural sense of direction and rightness, he said, and realise that every tiny living fibre inside us is “so much more wonderful than all the wonders of technology and a thousand times more clever”. (39)
One of the most enthusiastic advocates of Monakow’s approach was Kurt Goldstein (1878-1965), a Jewish socialist critic of modernity, who set out to combine holistic and organic German philosophy with the values of reason, democracy and individual freedom.
Throughout his life, he warned against the dangers of applying narrow, fragmented scientific ways of thinking to other realms.
He wrote in an unpublished 1965 paper: “The progress by the application of science to all fields, also those which are related to the spiritual side of man, as education, psychology, sociology, etc, seems to be so enormous that somebody who today dares to oppose even a little this trend and warns against the fateful consequences for human existence is considered either stupid or uneducated, irresponsible or prejudiced”. (40)
From Goldstein’s holistic perspective, everything was interconnected, outside and inside the individual human being. The words ‘mind’ and ‘body’, for instance, did not point to genuine entities but were just ‘symbols’, human abstractions, denoting different aspects of an overall organic reality that could not in fact be divided.
He has been described, by Ruth Nanda Anshen, as having introduced “a new doctrine of organism which may be said to be taking the place of the materialism with which, since the seventeenth-century, science has enmeshed philosophy”. (41)
The psychologist Max Wertheimer (1880-1943), took Goethe as a starting point, developing the idea of Gestalt, or underlying form, in a promising direction far removed from the dead-end of racism into which the Nazis tried to divert it.
Born in Prague, he fled central Europe before Hitler came to power and continued his work in the USA, later becoming an American citizen.
While the Nazis claimed piecemeal or fragmented thinking was a Jewish trait, Wertheimer, who was himself Jewish, turned this round against them. He argued that the modern world had cropped humanity’s thinking capacity. Piecemeal thinking – strings of propositions torn from their original living context – was being used by demagogues and certain intellectuals to hoodwink people into accepting their ideas.
In the 1934 essay ‘On truth’ he distinguished between truth and mere facts. Facts (as fetishised by the SS biologists – see above) meant nothing on their own. Truth was a holistic understanding of the significance of various facts in the wider context of their relationship to one another and to a larger whole. He wrote: “A thing may be true in the piecemeal sense, and false, indeed a lie, as a part in its whole”. (42)
Wertheimer judged that the key concepts of truth, ethics, democracy and freedom were all under attack from contemporary academic thinking, influenced by positivism, pragmatism and cultural relativism. Indeed this anti-holistic stance had itself helped prepare an intellectual field in which it had become possible for the Nazis to succeed.
In an essay on ethics, he took a critical look at ethical relativity which – like the Nazis with their German/Aryan particularism – denied the existence of ethical universals.
As a believer in the organic unity of humankind, Wertheimer disputed this and insisted that experience showed that most people, “when faced with clear, actual injustice”, responded spontaneously in ways that human beings would universally consider decent and ethical. (43)
Gestalt psychology, which Wertheimer developed along with Kurt Koffka (1886-1941) and Wolfgang Köhler (1887-1967), was an influence on the anti-capitalist Critical Theory of Herbert Marcuse (1898-1979), Max Horkheimer (1895-1973) and the Frankfurt School in general.
The organic and anti-mechanistical approaches taken by Jewish thinkers like Wertheimer and Goldstein illustrate the fact that there existed a broad anti-industrial current in German-speaking Europe which was not simply non-Nazi, but anti-Nazi, and whose fundamental principles placed it in direct opposition to fascism.
The French-Brazilian sociologist and philosopher Michael Löwy has explored in depth the intellectual movement, mainly Jewish, which he terms “anti-capitalist Romanticism”.
Löwy writes: “In many respects, the Jewish intellectuals of Mitteleuropa, in the utopian-Romantic movement, grouped around Martin Buber’s review Der Jude, expressionist publications (such as Die Aktion), the Bar-Kokhba circle in Prague, the Frankfurt School or various left-wing parties, set themselves apart from Western or Eastern European Jewish intellectuals, as well as from their peers, the ‘gentile’ intellectuals of German culture, by the kind of culture they produced”. (44)
Their vision, he says, revolved around “a cultural critique of modern capitalist civilization in the name of pre-modern or pre-capitalist values” and they were revolting “against the quantification and mechanisation of life, the reification of social relationships, the dissolution of community (Gemeinschaft) and, above all – to take up the terms used by Max Weber – the disenchantment of the world (Entzauberung der Welt) resulting from the instrumental rationality (Zweckrationalität) and the corresponding calculating spirit (Rechnenhaftigkeit) which dominated modern culture”. (45)
The Jewish identity of thinkers like Buber or Gershom Scholem did not stop them drawing partly on the heritage of the German Romantic tradition to condemn the emptiness of modern life and search for a meaning to existence in myth, history or religion.
Buber, for instance, put forward a vision of libertarian socialist society inspired by, but not limited by, communities of the past. He wrote: “The new organic whole, founded on the regeneration of the ‘cells’ of the social tissue, will be the renaissance (rather than the return) of organic community in the shape of a decentralised federation of small communities”. (46)
His position was echoed in France by that of Bernard Lazare (1865-1903), a Jewish anarchist who rejected the myth of progress and the allure of the modern in favour of a respect for the past, particularly for medieval guilds or rural communities.
There was nothing reactionary in this opposition to the mass-produced solitude of the modern capitalist world and the desire to revive, in a different form, the organic communities which had been steamrollered by The Machine.
Löwy comments that Lazare was “projecting his Romantic nostalgia for the past into a utopian future, by embracing anarchist ideas”. (47)
Walter Benjamin, for his part, insisted: “The deconstruction of the ideology of progress isn’t carried out in the name of conservation or of restoration, but in the
name of revolution”. (48) He pointed out that, in stark contrast, fascism involved the typically modern combination of technological progress and social regression. (49)
From this radical organic perspective, fascism is clearly revealed to be a counter-revolutionary force protecting the industrial capitalist system.
4. What political ideology is the best fit with an organic approach?
A good starting point is the immensely influential German sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies (1855-1936), famous for contrasting Gemeinschaft (traditional community) with Gesellschaft (modern society).
His analysis was not new in itself and could virtually be said to be part of Organic Thinking I, as set out above. It was almost a traditional way of regarding authentic society as being one rooted in the symbiotic human relationships of small-scale community.
But Tönnies’ own experience was shaped by the mechanisation and commercialisation of the German society in which he lived. His theory was very much a political response to industrial capitalism and therefore part of the ideological wave we have termed Organic Thinking II.
It is clear throughout his best-known work, Community and Society, as well as in Geist der Neuzeit, that Tönnies regarded the Western transition from Gemeinschaft to Gesellschaft as a social and cultural decline rather than a triumph of progress.
Since the Middle Ages, people had been reduced from participants in a generally harmonious, living entity into atomised victims of a system which imposed its demands and laws from above.
Tönnies spelled out clearly the difference between the two ways of living: “There exists a Gemeinschaft of language, of folkways or mores, or of beliefs; but, by way of contrast, Gesellschaft exists in the realm of business, travel, or sciences… Gemeinschaft is old. Gesellschaft is new as a name as well as phenomenon”. (50)
The term “organic” is used frequently, and always in a positive sense, by the sociologist and is placed in direct contrast with the word “mechanical”.
He writes, for instance, in Community and Society: “In contrast to Gemeinschaft, Gesellschaft is transitory and superficial. Accordingly, Gemeinschaft should be understood as a living organism, Gesellschaft as a mechanical aggregate and artifact” (51) and adds that “the tendencies and inevitableness of organic growth and decay cannot be understood through mechanical means”. (52)
Tönnies subscribes to the holistic view of the human being, writing: “The conclusion is drawn that the soul (or the will) influences the body. This is impossible as both are identical”. (53)
He puts forward the idea of “natural will”, a kind of individual manifestation of Gemeinschaft – innate, organic and artistic – as opposed to the “rational will” of increasingly artificial modern society.
Tönnies refers to “the masterly analysis of Karl Marx”, (54) one of his principal influences, and clearly presents a left-wing anti-capitalist version of organic ideology – it was not for nothing that he was ousted from his long-term presidency of the German Sociological Association when the Nazis took power in 1933.
He explicitly equates Gesellschaft, the opposite of his organic Gemeinschaft, with capitalism. “The merchants or capitalists”, he writes, “are the natural masters and rulers of the Gesellschaft. The Gesellschaft exists for their sake. It is their tool”. (55)
The move to Gesellschaft “meant the victory of egoism, impudence, falsehood, and cunning, the ascendancy of greed for money, ambition and lust for pleasure”. (56)
The city, for Tönnies, is the epitome of the soulless, artificial, capitalist modern world: “The city is typical of Gesellschaft in general… Its wealth is capital wealth which, in the form of trade, usury, or industrial capital, is used and multiplies. Capital is the means for the appropriation of products of labor or for the exploitation of workers”. (57)
Alongside his critique of how mercantile relationships – capitalist society – destroy authentic communities, comes a scathing condemnation of the modern state.
The state, says Tönnies, “is nothing but force” (58) and totally opposed to the “folk life and folk culture” (59) which underpin the cohesion of Gemeinschaft, suppressing all possibility of “a natural order in which every member does his part harmoniously in order to enjoy his share”. (60)
The common people are all too aware that the state acts against their interests, he says, and effectively stops them existing as an organic entity.
“The state is their enemy. The state, to them, is an alien and unfriendly power; although seemingly authorized by them and embodying their own will, it is nevertheless opposed to all their needs and desires, protecting property which they do not possess, forcing them into military service for a country which offers them hearth and altar only in the form of a heated room on the upper floor or gives them, for native soil, city streets where they may stare at the glitter and luxury in lighted windows forever beyond their reach! Their own life is nothing but a constant alternative between work and leisure, which are both distorted into factory routine and the low pleasure of the saloons. City life and Gesellschaft down the common people to decay and death…” (61)
This understanding of the state as an artificial entity which claims to embody community, but in reality kills it, is very much part of the classical anarchist tradition, particularly when combined with Tönnies’ class awareness and fundamental rejection of the capitalist mindset.
Anarchists insist that we have a natural tendency to co-operate
The idea of an organic community, Gemeinschaft, which is prevented from flourishing because of the state, is in fact essential to the anarchist argument.
Opponents claim that doing away with the state would lead to chaos, but anarchists maintain that this is not the case, because people have a natural capacity (even if this is not realised) for living harmoniously and cooperatively outside of any state hierarchy.
The anarchist vision is inherently organic, because it is based on the concept of free and authentic communities as living, collective entities.
Theodore Roszak draws attention to this in Where the Wasteland Ends, noting: “Anarchism has always been, uniquely, a politics swayed by organic sensibility; it is born of a concern for the health of cellular structure in society and a confidence in spontaneous self-regulation”. (62)
Up against this, he identifies “the anti-organic fanaticism of western culture”, which is essentially the Gesellschaft’s hatred of Gemeinschaft.
Roszak explains: “Organism is spontaneous self-regulation, the mystery of formed growth, the inarticulate wisdom of the instincts. Single vision cannot understand such a state of being, let alone trust it to look after itself”. (63)
The concept of (possible) organic community, allowing human beings to live without a top-down state structure, is necessarily implicit in all coherent anarchist thought, but is sometimes more explicitly expressed.
Gustav Landauer (1870-1919) was a German-Jewish anarchist close to Martin Buber and very much part of the anti-capitalist tradition identified by Löwy. His philosophy illustrates the exciting potential of organic thinking which is developed in an anarchist and internationalist direction.
“Landauer represents a left-wing form of the völkisch current in thought,” say Russell Berman and Tim Luke in their introduction to his book For Socialism. (64)
Landauer condemned the “unculture” of mechanistic capitalism and wrote that “anarchism’s lone objective is to end the fight of men against men and to unite humanity so that each individual can unfold his natural potential without obstruction”. (65)
Like Monakow, Landauer extended his concept of the organic to a cosmic level, regarding the universe as a living creature with a collective soul and writing that “the psyche [das Seelenhafte] in the human being is a function or manifestation of the infinite universe”. (66)
He rejected the idea that the onward evolution of humanity was dependent on the progress of science and proposed instead a regeneration based on social spirituality, or Geist, the collective energy animating authentic human community.
The Russian anarchist Peter Kropotkin (1842-1921) is well known for having developed the idea of mutual aid as a way of understanding human society.
He argued, against right-wing social Darwinists, that co-operation is at least as important in evolution as competition and that, therefore, human beings have the capacity to live together in a free anarchist society, based on organic solidarity, without any state control.
But, in fact, Kropotkin went even further in developing a nature-based philosophy which was similar in many ways to those of Driesch, Monakow and Goldstein.
He argues, in Ethics, that not only are we human beings physically part of nature but that our thinking, too, including our morality, arises from the same source. Nature was “the first ethical teacher of man” (67), he says, our ideas of bad and good being reflections of what our ancestors saw in animal life. (68)
“Mutual Aid-Justice-Morality are thus the consecutive steps of an ascending series, revealed to us by the study of the animal world and man. They constitute an organic necessity which carries in itself its own justification, confirmed by the whole of the evolution of the animal kingdom, beginning with its earliest stages (in the form of colonies of the most primitive organisms), and gradually rising to our civilized human communities. Figuratively speaking, it is a universal law of organic evolution, and this is why the sense of Mutual Aid, Justice, and Morality are rooted in man’s mind with all the force of an inborn instinct”. (69)
Like Tönnies, Kropotkin looks back favourably on the Middle Ages and previous societies where customs and codes served to protect the collective community from greedy or power-hungry individuals.
He does not shy away from talking about the “social organism” (70) and from expressing a classically holistic and nature-orientated view of the world. He writes, for example, that “we are compelled to acknowledge that every natural phenomenon – the fall of any particular stone, the flow of a brook, or the life of any one tree or animal, constitutes the necessary manifestation of the properties of the whole, of the sum total of animate and inanimate nature”. (71)
This should not surprise us, even if many of Kropotkin’s 21st century anarchist successors seem afraid of any talk of nature, social organisms, inborn instincts and universality.
Anarchism is a political philosophy whose revolutionary, destructive aspect only makes sense if it is backed up by this positive vision of a natural, organic society which will be set free to flourish once the state-capitalist machine is brought down.
It is, to directly answer the question at the top of this section, quite clearly the best political fit with the current of holistic and organic philosophy that we have been outlining in this article.
5. Is organic radicalism the only target of the contemporary Nazi smear?
So far we have seen that, although a certain strand of Nazi ideology was influenced by aspects of organic thinking, it was very much a departure from that tradition. In rejecting a universalist humanist vision in favour of narrow racism, these Nazi thinkers essentially turned their back on holism as a philosophy.
Their fragmented, piecemeal, divisive approach instead reflected the fragmented thinking of the industrial age which the new wave of organic thought had emerged to attack. Critiques of industrialism within the Nazi movement were almost entirely eclipsed by a pragmatic obsession with Technik and industrial advance.
Indeed, fascism looks more like a grotesque caricature of the inhuman industrial society opposed by organic thinking, a chillingly efficient 20th century upgrade of the steam-powered capitalist machine of the previous era.
So why, we might ask, do so many political writers seek to make a connection between the Nazis and anti-industrial, ecological, organic ways of thinking?
To help answer this, it is worth placing the issue in a wider context and looking at another instance in which alleged Nazi associations have been deployed as a political tool.
The global anti-capitalist movement, ever since the heady successes around the turn of the 21st century, has often being accused of harbouring some kind of hidden fascistic or anti-semitic tendencies.
One of the main themes of this critique was that voiced in June 1999 by the Dutch organisation “De Fabel van de illegaal” (“The myth of illegality”) which withdrew from the anti-globalization movement, complaining that it was leading left-wingers towards a kind of nationalism.
While examples were given of right-wing individuals or groups influencing the fringes of the movement, the gist of the criticism was more ideological.
De Fabel wrote back then that analyzing in terms of “international capital” or “speculation capital” is “potentially anti-Semitic”. “Potentially”, because the ideology of this kind of anti-capitalism was said to show “enormous structural similarities with anti-Semitism” even when there was no talk of “the Jews” owning international capital, as Eric Krebbers explained in 2003. (72)
In the same article, Krebbers also took issue with the solidarity with Palestinian struggles being expressed by anti-capitalists, complaining: “At the recent huge demonstrations in Italy, where the anti-globalization movement probably is the strongest, Palestine seems to have become the central point of reference. Many activists speak of ‘a worldwide intifada against globalization’ and they often shout: ‘We are all Palestinians’. Why do anti-globalization activists need to identify with ‘the Palestinians’, with some ‘nation’? Why do these inhabitants of worldpower European Union continually make out Israel and the US as ‘main imperialist enemies’?”
A similar point was made three years later, in 2002, in an article entitled ‘Anti-Globalization: The New Anti-Semitism’ which appeared on “the leading Jewish content website” aish.com.
This suggested there was an “association between the Arab world and the anti-globalization movement” which “has its roots in a common opposition to American ‘domination’. Israel and the Jews represent American capitalism”. (73)
The same line of attack was notably developed the late Moishe Postone, an academic who detected affinities between forms of anti-capitalism and anti-semitic conspiracy theory.
The anti-elitist, anti-capitalist message of the 99 per cent against the 1 per cent, which was so central to the Occupy movement, is seen from this perspective as being a disguised attack on Jews.
If you talk about bankers and financiers running the world, controlling the media, and cheerleading for war, it is argued, you are really blaming Jewish people or, at the very least, falling into the hands of those who do.
As Daniel Finn crucially pointed out in a 2018 article in Jacobin magazine, insinuations of anti-semitism can thus be used, not merely to defame critics of Israel, but “to discredit any radical critique of capitalism or imperialism in the modern world”. (74)
6. What is the relationship between anti-capitalism and anti-semitism?
At this point it is worth lending some historical perspective to this alleged connection between anti-capitalism and anti-semitism.
Very instructive in this respect is the work of Lazare, one of Löwy’s anti-capitalist Romantics, who became known as one of the principal defenders of Alfred Dreyfus, a famous victim of institutional 19th century anti-semitism in France.
As a young man, Lazare had read socialist and anarchist literature explaining that Jews were big businessmen and capitalists, and so he decided that he himself could not possibly be ‘Jewish’, even if he remained an ‘Israelite’.
He wrote in 1890, at the age of 25: “The Jew (there are many who become Jews, without being destined by their race to do so, but who are rather doomed by their native virtues) is someone who is dominated by the sole preoccupation of making a quick fortune, which he will more easily obtain by fraud, lies and cunning. He despises virtue, poverty, selflessness”. (75)
Lazare was therefore driven into an absurd form of anti-semitism by the social stereotype of the Jew as a capitalist – any anti-capitalist, it appeared even for this young Jew, therefore had to be anti-‘Jewish’.
Wertheimer was later to comment on this phenomenon in his 1935 essay on ethics. Here he describes “a young, idealistic party member” – Nazi Party, that is – who is “passionate in the negative evaluation of members of a certain race” – in other words, of Jews.
Wertheimer adds: “This young man perhaps behaves thus only because he has been brought to this state through suggestion, propaganda, through the wanton slander that this race is a poisonous snake. He does not really behave with respect to A (members of this race) but to a B which he has been taught to identify with this race”.
In other words the young idealist is instinctively opposed to capitalism, usury, greed or whatever other negative qualities have been ascribed to Jews by the Nazis. Because of their anti-semitic propaganda, he associates these negative qualities entirely with Jews and is thus turned into an anti-semite, even though he did not necessarily originally bear any ill will towards Jews as such.
Says Wertheimer: “The real problem here lies not only in the behaviour of the young man, but in the enforcement of the blind identification… To take away by artifice the possibility of seeing the true situation, through the enforcement of blind judgments, of improper narrowing of the mental field, induction of blind centering, deprives man of the prerequesites for our problems”. (76)
While a non-Jew might find themselves stuck in this induced anti-semitism, Lazare’s own Jewishness enabled him to quickly realise that what he really disliked were the materialistic and greed-driven capitalist attitudes which made life a misery both for non-Jews and for ‘Israelites’ like himself.
He wrote in another essay: “There are now thousands of Jewish workers in France, exploited like the Christians, dying of hunger like the Christians, unhappy like the Christians. They are also there in England, in Germany, in Russia…” (77)
As he matured, Lazare asked himself why it was that the sins of capitalism were conventionally heaped on this scapegoat figure of the archetypal Jew.
He noted, in an 1892 article entitled ‘Jews and Anti-Semites’ that when “liberal anti-semites” declared war on the Jews they claimed to be opposing crooked financiers. But, in fact, they were targeting anyone who was circumcised or went to the synagogue, including workers. (78)
Anti-semitism suited the upper classes
Increasingly Lazare saw this phenomenon as one carefully fabricated by the upper classes. They used the stereotype of the greedy materialistic Jew to divert attention and anger away from their own greedy materialism.
Anti-semitism, he wrote in 1899, “is good for vicars, reactionaries and the bourgeoisie, because they are the only ones who can – or who hope – to gain from it; they rely on it to dodge the blows coming their way and to solidify their power”.
He added: “Beware of those pseudo-socialists who tell you that if your wages are too low, the fault lies with foreign workers and Jews, and that you’ll be happier when
they’ve all been kicked out. How the bourgeois would laugh if he could set you against your brothers in misery, against your companions in chains, so as to save his own skin”. (79)
Lazare refuted the supposed link between materialism and Jewishness and pointed out that there were plenty of Christian capitalists around, not least the Roman Catholic Church, which even had its own banking wing. Indeed, he suggested, the influence of Roman civilization was in fact behind many of the social ills blamed on Jews. “The deification of money, capitalist barbarity, ignorance of all human interest other than the financial or commercial interest, are the traits of the Roman soul, but not of the Jewish soul”. (80)
Lazare thus clearly explained the way that anti-semitism was used, by the ruling classes, as a way of deflecting attention away from the fundamental problems and injustices of their hierarchical industrial capitalist society and of shunting opposition into a sordid dead end of racial scapegoating.
He died in 1903, but he would surely have identified exactly the same processes at work in Nazi Germany. The Nazis were used by the ruling classes to save Germany from a genuine rebellion against industrial capitalism.
People’s natural and healthy animosity towards profiteering materialism, towards the commercialisation of society, was deliberately hijacked and diverted into anti-semitism, leaving the field clear for German capitalism to storm ahead under the Nazi banner.
Industrial-military capitalism thrived under the Nazis
The key element which allowed this scapegoating to take place was, obviously, the equation of Jewishness with capitalism, materialism and so on – the fake definition which had confused the young Lazare.
To stop it ever resurging, it would therefore seem crucial to break that link, to demolish the lie that capitalism was the property of any one people, nation or religion.
However, unfortunately, the Jewish stereotype lives on today. Even more unfortunate is that it is often kept alive by people who are ostensibly countering anti-semitism.
As we have seen, left-wingers who criticise bankers, industrialists and capitalist organisations are sometimes accused of deploying a “coded” form of anti-semitism.
Now, perhaps those making the allegations are justified in fearing a return of the scapegoating of Jews under the pretext of anti-capitalism. But it is beyond dispute that in automatically equating opposition to the global banking system with anti-semitism, they are in fact reinforcing the old stereotypes.
What appears to be happening, in some cases at least, is that the “Jewish banker” figure is again being deliberately deployed to thwart opposition to capitalism.
Previously, it was used to steer people away from anti-capitalism and into anti-semitism, but now the aim is rather to steer people away from anti-capitalism with the threat of being labelled anti-semitic.
The aim of this ideological scaremongering is not, in fact, to combat anti-semitism, but to use the smear of anti-semitic associations as a means of discrediting opposition to the dominant economic system.
In other words, capitalists, in the past, deliberately whipped up anti-semitism to protect themselves from popular fury (as Lazare outlines) and their successors are now differently – but equally dishonestly – using the spectre of that very same anti-semitism to protect themselves from a 21st century wave of anti-capitalist anger.
7. So what, do we conclude, is the smear all about?
There are several factors that might lie behind the way that radical ecological thinking is sometimes tarred with Nazi associations – wrongly, as we have established.
One is that there is a genuine fear that organic language could again be co-opted and diverted into a sinister direction by modern-day fascists. The trauma inflicted by Nazism remains so intense, more than 70 years later, that terms (mis-)used by its adherents in the past are still capable of triggering fearful reactions.
Another possible cause for the misunderstanding may lie in the way that our civilization and culture have drifted ever further from a nature-based understanding of humankind, and the organic approach is thus faced with a concrete wall of non-comprehension, which leaves the way clear for all kinds of misinterpretations of the intentions behind its approach.
Most likely is that both these factors have played a role and that they have combined to reinforce a still-more important element – a deliberate attack on the deep green, organic, ideology.
The aim of this would be, like the anti-semitism accusations described by Finn, “to discredit any radical critique of capitalism or imperialism in the modern world”.
As with the anti-semitism smears, the “eco-fascism” accusation is presented as a noble attempt to stop a new form of fascism from arising, thus seeking the support and gratitude of people who fear that very outcome.
But, in reality, it is a cynical ploy designed to attack anti-capitalist thought from behind the safe smokescreen of anti-fascism.
It has just enough evidence (of the superficial similarities of rhetoric we have discussed, of various right-wing extremists trying to co-opt deep green thought, etc) to make the claim sound plausible for those who do no further research of their own, but the accusation is fundamentally disingenuous.
To understand what is happening we need to go back to the 19th century, at the time when Organic Thinking II was developing. It was, as we have said, a reaction against
The Machine in all its guises, against the industrial capitalist system that was destroying communities, countryside, everything that was worthwhile, authentic, beautiful and everlasting about our world.
To counter this opposition, The Machine (by which we mean a theoretical collective entity consisting of all the individuals who worked for it and with it) disguised itself as something other than the exploitative, destructive, inhuman, monstrous phenomenon that it really was.
Everywhere it depicted itself as representing “progress”, “prosperity”, “scientific advance” and so on and its enemies as backward-looking barbarians, stuck-in-the-mud reactionaries and dim-witted Luddites.
In German-speaking Europe, this Machine also managed to recuperate part of the very movement which had emerged to oppose it by stealing parts of its language – in the same way that capitalism recuperated punk music, for instance, or that Tony Blair’s New Labour used the language of social democracy to gain power for a neoliberal clique.
The promotion of communal Gemeinschaft, social organism and mutual aid against mechanistic industrial capitalism was transformed into a narrow racism and nationalism which diverted criticism of capitalism on to Jews and foreign powers, leaving the industrial capitalist system in Germany very much intact.
Fascism was, as we have seen, nothing but a reincarnation of The Machine itself.
It was not the only incarnation, though – and after defeating fascism, and using some of its know-how and personnel in its struggle against Soviet communism, the US/UK branch of the Machine was keen to present itself as the world’s great defender of democracy.
But by “defining democracy” what they really mean is repelling all threats to the continuation of their military-industrial-economic-prison-complex, the capitalist Machine.
In the language of contemporary “centrist” neoliberals, any political position which challenges their version of capitalism is necessarily “extremist”. They like to claim that extreme right and far left are essentially the same thing; a “red-brown” alliance against the neoliberal democratic values enshrined and protected by the USA and its allies.
This is the context in which anti-capitalism is equated with anti-semitism and in which deep green organic thinking is equated with fascism.
The Machine which we face today is indisputably the same Machine which provoked the anti-industrial, anti-capitalist philosophical revolt of the 19th century. There is an unbroken continuity there.
And that Machine, which in its fascist guise co-opted organic terminology for its own ends, is now happy to use that co-option, that misuse of organic language by the
fascists, to try to discredit the original, non-fascist, organic philosophy by a fake association with fascism.
It aims to disqualify organic/holistic thought, a philosophy which threatens the domination of its industrial capitalist system.
To do this it will use which ever means seems most effective – and the “Nazi” smear is the perfect weapon.
The immensity of this ideological deceit becomes even clearer if we look again at what it is that we, today, particularly dislike about Nazism. It is, as we said, the mass extermination, the anti-semitism and racism, the warmongering militarism, the police state, the blind nationalism, the eugenics, the propaganda and mass hysteria.
Which of those elements is present in deep green organic thinking? None of them! How can you accuse an ideological current of being “fascist” or “eco-fascist” if it doesn’t contain the ideological elements typical of fascism?
What are you left with if you start from a hypothetical “fascism” and then strip away nationalism, racism, militarism and authoritarianism? That’s simply not fascism any more. There can be no such thing as an internationalist, anti-racist, anti-militarist, libertarian “fascism”. The label is simply not appropriate and if you want to criticise it, you will have to find another language with which to do so.
Mainstream capitalism learnt a lot from fascism…
Now let’s look at the industrial capitalist system. How does that compare with the Nazi model? Warmongering militarism? Yes. Police state? Yes. Propaganda and mass hysteria? Yes. Blind nationalism? Yes, despite its global character, capitalism is always happy to use this to rally the public. Eugenics? Yes, although they don’t call it that these days. Cold inhumanity? Yes. Racism? Very much so.
Anti-semitism? Although anti-semitism exists in our society, it is not systematically encouraged by the ideology of industrial capitalism. It is, however, systemically abused, as we have seen – being turned into an ideological weapon to be used not principally against anti-semites, but against anti-capitalists. The victims of this cheap weaponising of the term will be those who find it leaves them horribly exposed to the real thing.
Contemporary capitalism has not yet plumbed the depths of depravity achieved by the Hitler regime and operated mass extermination camps, but that is pretty much the only way in which it can claim any moral high ground over Nazism.
In other respects, it shares the thinking of the Nazi Machine, which is not surprising because it is essentially the same Machine. It is obsessed with industrialisation, production, technology and war. It regards people as human resources, as labour units, as consumers, as cannon fodder and as collateral damage. Its thinking is utilitarian, fragmented, non-holistic. It is cold, mechanical, exploitative. Its own inner logic of self-interest blinds itself to all morality, ethics, humanity.
And this system dares accuse its opponents of being “fascist”?
8. Why do we care so much about this issue?
Why open this particular can of worms about supposed fascist influences on organic, nature-based ideology? Why do we think this issue is so important that we feel the need to address it in this article?
There are two aspects involved here. The first is that we are concerned at the adverse effects the “Nazi” smears, and the fear of such smears, have had on radical thinking.
There are, again, strong parallels with the “anti-semitic” smears levelled against some forms of anti-capitalism.
The aim of equating talk of “the one per cent” with anti-semitism is presumably to deter people from drawing attention to the existence of a very real capitalist ruling class.
Instead, anti-capitalists are supposed to address the matter in a convoluted, theoretical way which may make sense to postmodern academics but is never going to spark a wave of public support in the way that the direct approach can.
In radical environmental circles it likewise becomes impossible to talk about nature, a return to the land or organic communities without someone like Staudenmaier popping up to identify a “chilling” resemblance to Nazi thought.
This simply rips the heart out of the ideology, destroying its fundamental coherency. How can we criticise modern capitalist society, and propose a radical alternative, if the language in which we do so has been ruled out of bounds by some kind of ideological thought police?
Instead of getting to the core of the problem with industrial capitalism, and everything that goes along with it, people are forced to retreat into positions which do not fundamentally challenge capitalism.
Either they end up accepting its claims that we “need” economic growth, never-ending technological progress and so on, or they adopt superficial nihilistic approaches which condemn capitalism without being able to propose an authentic alternative.
The second aspect of the problem relates to the ideological gap left by the abandonment of organic anti-capitalist thinking by left-wingers scared off by the smear campaigns.
Just because those ideas are not being expressed in certain circles, does not mean that they do not exist, or that they will magically be stopped from taking shape in people’s minds.
Imagine a young person who feels aesthetically revolted by the capitalist society in which they have been brought up – by its materialism, environmental destruction, fragmentation and consumer shallowness.
In contrast to all of that, this young person imagines a different world, a world where people live more simply and sanely, in small communities imbued with healthy
values, feeling a strong connection to the land and to the other creatures who live on it.
This young person looks around for other people saying the same thing, for a movement which voices those ideals and seeks to realise them.
The ideology they are looking for is organic radicalism, green anarchy, but maybe, thanks to the efforts of the ideological thought police, this ideology is no longer visible.
Imagine that there is, however, a group expressing some of these ideas in a slightly different way. They talk of going back to the land, building healthy small-scale communities and of respecting nature. The only thing is that they also talk a lot about kinship and ethnic identity, which our young person is not quite sure about, but feels is perhaps just one detail that they can learn to live with.
Later, the new recruit discovers that this movement has been exposed as extreme right-wing and fiercely criticised. But because the criticisms come from a left-wing movement which seems to reject all of the young person’s ideals, they fall on deaf years. “If these ideas are extreme right-wing ideas,” they think to themselves, “then I myself must naturally belong to the extreme right”.
This is roughly the same process that led Lazare, a Jew, into expressing anti-semitic ideas because he had swallowed the lie equating capitalism and Jewishness and the process that Wertheimer depicts twisting the mind of the young Nazi idealist.
Maybe in due course our young person will, like Lazare, see through the emptiness and inhumanity of fascist rhetoric and walk away from it in order to rebuild their own personal philosophy on a healthier basis, but that is far from being sure.
The damage will already have been done by the way the left has turned its back on a deep critique of capitalism with a powerful vision of an alternative society.
This, in fact, is what happened a hundred years ago, when much of the left, particularly in German-speaking Europe, had abandoned a nature-based, holistic anti-capitalism in favour of an industrially-orientated Marxism. (81)
Marxist socialism failed to oppose industrialism
Juan J. Linz, in ‘Some Notes Toward a Comparative Study of Fascism in Sociological Historical Perspective’ explains that “the lack of understanding of traditional Marxist theory and especially Central European social democracy for the plight of the peasant and pre-industrial strata” (82) left the way clear for Nazi recruitment. “A romantic youth protest against bourgeois society was captured by the fascists,” (83) he adds.
Landauer was very aware of this problem. Berman and Luke explain that he saw the need for society to break free from “the false mechanical concepts of science that impoverish human understanding” (84) but understood that Marxism was itself trapped inside this mindset, with its “scientific” belief in the supposedly inevitable transition of capitalism into socialism.
This meant orthodox Marxists had to applaud capitalist growth and capitalist progress. “In the light of Landauer’s critique, nineteenth century scientific socialism ceases to appear as a radical critique of the status quo. Rather, behind its revolutionary pretenses, it buttresses the development of capitalist structures”. (85)
In failing to take up the Romantic struggle against industrial capitalism, building on the rich organic and holistic philosophy which was being developed in German-speaking lands, the Marxists allowed this powerful anti-capitalist current to flow into the stagnant waters of fascism.
Comment Berman and Luke: “The turn of völkisch thought to the right is ultimately not indicative of the quality of such thought, but rather of the self-imposed constraints of the traditional Marxist left, which failed to appropriate the leftist potential of the völkisch movement”. (86)
The Marxist left of that place and period had become sterile and dogmatic and shied away from appealing to those who wanted to fundamentally challenge the assumptions and infrastructures of capitalist society, who were ready to embark on a total revolt against the Gesellschaft of state and business.
As Sternhell notes: “With their thirst for action for action’s sake and struggle for struggle’s sake, the fascists appeared to be the only authentically revolutionary political organizations, the only movements unconditionally opposed to the established order, the only people whose revolutionary credibility – unlike that of the parties of the left, including the communist parties – had not been damaged by compromise”. (87)
It is ironic that contemporary leftists are being urged to steer clear of emotive anti-capitalism and nature-based organic environmentalism, because of an alleged taint by Nazi associations, when it was actually a previous left-wing generation’s drift in that very same direction – its abandonment of authentic anti-capitalist ideals – which allowed the Nazis to co-opt and distort those ideals for their own dishonest ends.
9. What would we like to see happen next?
Antidote zine, the American website which reposted our Envisioning a Post-Western World article, commented that “it behooves people in contested cultural terrain to, well, contest it”. (88)
This is what we would like to see happen next. We would like to see the terrain of organic ideology contested with the aim of lifting the Nazi curse which has stifled its voice and restoring it to its rightful role as the ideological heart of anarchist and anti-capitalist thinking.
We wrote above that the holistic philosophy which emerged in the 19th and early 20th century was a kind of Organic Thinking II, because it had added a specifically anti-industrial and anti-capitalist layer on top of the older holistic heritage.
It is now time to develop Organic Thinking III, a 21st century version of the ideology that is not only anti-industrial and anti-capitalist, but specifically anti-fascist.
The reasons for this should by now be obvious. By clearly defining and explaining itself as anti-fascist, Organic Thinking III can not only shake off the smears with which Organic Thinking II has been attacked, but also shed light on the real successor to fascist ideology – the authoritarian, militaristic, racist, industrialist, science-obsessed, capitalist Machine.
It will condemn fascism not for being the “religion of nature” that it never really was, but for being the epitome of industrialism, the death-cult military-technocratic system pushed to its brutal limits.
Organic Thinking III will include the awareness that the Machine has tried to destroy anti-capitalist organicism by tarring its language with the broad brush of a deliberately misinterpreted fascism.
It will relaunch the ideological war on industrial capitalism begun by Organic Thinking II, but inoculate itself against a new take-over bid by the extreme right by placing at its core the left-wing values of humanity, solidarity, compassion and universality.
It will declare itself an implacable enemy of fascism and present a coherent and self-contained organic political vision that could never be acceptable to fascists – one fuelled by the ideas of anarchists, non-nationalist socialists and Jews, from Morris to Goldstein, from Monakow to Kropotkin, from Tönnies to Wertheimer, from Landauer to Roszak.
It will be unflinching in its complete rejection of this capitalist-fascist system in all respects – its economics, its infrastructures and its ideology.
It will condemn all the new forms being taken by fascism – the sinister techno-totalitarianism of genetic engineering, nanotechnology, surveillance, drone warfare and transhumanism.
It will challenge head-on the productivist obsession with quantity over quality, with profit, with economic growth, with “progress” and it will call for a society built on ethics, values, humanity and solidarity.
It will favour the authentic over the artificial, the beautiful over the ugly, the living over the sterile.
It will understand the distinction between Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft, as set out by Tönnies, and struggle for the revival of the former.
It will pay no heed to the demands of authority, with its states, currencies, laws, police forces, armies, courts, prisons and concentration camps.
It will reject the mercantile mindset and seek to build a society based on exchange, mutual aid and common interest, where food is grown and objects are produced on the basis of collective need rather than for private gain.
It will refuse the false construct of land ownership, recognising the land as something to which we belong, rather than as something which could ever belong to us.
It will go beyond contemporary society’s toxic separation of body and mind and embrace the holistic reality of our being.
It will likewise embrace the holistic unity of humankind and insist that within that unity all borders are fluid, all particularisms imbued with the universal human essence.
It will condemn the arrogance of Western civilization in imposing its structures and ideology on the rest of the world and find inspiration and alliance with peoples everywhere seeking to protect or restore non-Western, non-capitalist, ways of living and thinking.
It will acknowledge that humankind is a nothing but part of nature and that our future can only be healthy in the context of a healthy natural world, free from pillage, pollution and destruction.
It will understand that the universe itself is a living entity and that human well-being depends on individuals acting as part of a greater whole, a social organism.
It will know that these individuals can only be free within a free community and that this free community must always be made up of free individuals.
It will break through all the lies and taboos to spread the message that the planetary destruction being wreaked by the industrial capitalist system must be stopped.
It will inspire people to dream, to hope, to speak out, to discuss, to write, to mobilise and to turn their ideas into action.
One day it will bring down The Machine – the industrial, capitalist, fascist Machine – and clear the way for natural life once more to flourish
1. Ernst Lehmann, Biologischer Wille. Wege und Ziele biologischer Arbeit im neuen Reich, (Munich: J.F.Lehmann, 1934), cit. Anne Harrington, Reenchanted Science: Holism in German Culture from Wilhelm II to Hitler (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999), p. 177.
6. Anna Bramwell, Ecology in the Twentieth Century: A History, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1989, pp. 272-73.
7. Anna Bramwell, The Fading of the Greens: The Decline of Environmental Politics in the West (New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 1994), p. 43.
9. Vivianne Crowley, Wicca: The Old Religion in the New Millennium (London: Thorsons, 1996), p. 32
10. William Morris, ‘How I Became A Socialist’, News From Nowhere and Selected Writings and Designs, ed. by Asa Briggs, (London: Penguin, 1984) p. 36.
11. Georges Bernanos, ‘La France contre les robots’, cit. Aux origines de la décroissance – Cinquante penseurs, coordonné par Cédric Biagini, David Murray, Pierre Thiesset (Paris: L’Échappée, 2017), p. 28.
12. Harrington, pp. xvii-xviii.
13 Harrington, p. 20.
14. Nina Lyon, Uprooted: On the Trail of the Green Man (London: Faber & Faber, 2016), p. 192.
15. F. Sander, ‘Deutsche Psychologie und nationalsozialistische Weltanschauung’. Nazionalsozialistisches Bildungswesen. 2. pp. 641-643, cit. Harrington, p. 178.
16. Lehmann, cit. Harrington, p. 177.
17. Harrington, p. 188.
18. cit. Harrington, p. 175.
19. Zeev Sternhell, ‘Fascist Ideology’, Fascism: A Reader’s Guide. Analyses, Interpretations, Bibliography, ed. Walter Laqueur (Aldershot: Scolar Press, 1991), p. 356.
20. Rudolf Rocker, Anarcho-Syndicalism (London: Pluto Press, 1989), p. 75.
21. Harrington, p. 182.
22. Sternhell, pp. 324-35.
23. Harrington, p. 181.
24. Alfred Böttcher, 1935, ‘Die Lösung der Judenfrage’, Ziel und Weg 5: 226. cit Harrington, pp. xx-xxi.
25. Johann Chapoutot, La révolution culturelle nazie, Paris: Gallimard, 2017
26. Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz: The Nazi Assault on Humanity, trad. Stuart Woolf, (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996), p. 105.
27. Chapoutot, p. 79.
28. Chapoutot, p. 85.
29. Harrington, p. 189.
30. Gerhard Portele, ‘Gestaltttheorie und Wissenschaftstheorie. Pläyoder für eine alternative Wissenschaft’, Gestalt Theory I (I), pp. 26-38, cit. Harrington, p. 211.
31. Harrington, p. 195.
32. NSDAP’s Mitteilungen zur weltanschaulichen Lage, Nov 27, 1936, cit. Harrington, p. 196.
33. Harrington, pp. 197-98.
34. Lyon, p. 192.
35. Harrington, p. xxi.
36. Harrington, p. 62.
37. Harrington, p. 190.
38. Harrington , p. 92.
39. Harrington, p. 98.
40. Harrington, p. 172.
41. Ruth Nanda Anshen, ‘Open letter to Dr Kurt Goldstein in commemoration of his eightieth birthday, November 6, 1958, Goldstein Papers, cit. Harr, p. 172.
42. Max Wertheimer, ‘On truth’, Social Research 1 (2), cit. Harr pp. 133-34.
43. Max Wertheimer, ‘Some problems in the theory of ethics’, Social Research 2 (3), cit. Harrington, p. 134.
44. Michael Löwy, Juifs hétérodoxes: Romantisme, messianisme, utopie (Paris: Éditions de l’éclat, 2010).p. 23.
45. Löwy, Juifs hétérodoxes, pp. 33-34.
46. Michael Lowy, Rédemption et utopie: le judaïsme libertaire en Europe centrale, (Paris : Editions du Sandre, 2009), p. 74.
47. Löwy, Juifs hétérodoxes, p. 82.
47. Löwy, Juifs hétérodoxes, pp. 82-83.
48. Löwy, Juifs hétérodoxes, p. 36
49. Löwy, Juifs hétérodoxes, p. 121.
50. Ferdinand Tönnies, Community and Society: Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft, trad. Charles P. Loomis, (New York: Dover Publications, 2002), p. 34.
51. Tönnies, p. 35.
52. Tönnies, p. 36.
53. Tönnies, p. 121.
54. Tönnies, p. 89.
55. Tönnies, p. 83.
56. Tönnies, p. 202.
57. Tönnies, pp. 227-28.
58. Tönnies, p. 216.
59. Tönnies, p. 225.
60. Tönnies, p. 208.
61. Tönnies, pp. 230-31.
62. Theodore Roszak, Where the Wasteland Ends: Politics and Transcendence in Postindustrial Society (New York: Doubleday, 1972), p. 424.
63. Roszak, pp. 95-96.
64. Russell Berman & Tim Luke, ‘Introduction’, Gustav Landauer, For Socialism, trans. by David J Parent, (St Louis: Telos Press, 1978), p. 8.
65. Gustav Landauer, Revolution and Other Writings: A Political Reader, ed. and trans. by Gabriel Kuhn, (Oakland: PM Press, 2010), p. 22.
66. Gustav Landauer, Skepsis und Mystik: Versuche im Anschluss an Mauthners Sprachkritik, (Cologne: 2d ed, 1923) p. 7, cit. Charles B Maurer, Call to Revolution. The Mystical Anarchism of Gustav Landauer, (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1971) p. 69.
67. Peter Kropotkin, Ethics: Origin and Development (Dorchester: Prism Press, n/d) p.45.
68. Kropotkin, pp. 16-17.
69. Kropotkin, pp. 30-31.
70. Kropotkin, p. 18.
71. Kropotkin, p. 87.
75. Bernard Lazare, ‘Juifs et Israélites’, La Question Juive (Paris: Éditions Allia, 2012), p. 26.
76. Wertheimer, ‘Some problems in the theory of ethics’, cit. Harrington, p. 135.
77. Lazare, ‘La Solidarité Juive’, p. 41.
78. Lazare, ‘Juifs et Antisémites’, p. 58
79. Lazare, ‘Antisémitisme et révolution’, p. 84.
80. Lazare, ‘Conception Sociale du Judaïsme’, p. 185.
81. See Paul Cudenec, The Stifled Soul of Humankind (Sussex: Winter Oak, 2014).
82. Juan J. Linz, ‘Some Notes Toward a Comparative Study of Fascism in Sociological Historical Perspective’, Fascism: A Reader’s Guide, p. 17.
83.Linz, p. 19.
84. Berman & Luke, p. 7.
85. Berman & Luke, p. 11.
86. Berman & Luke, p. 8.
87. Sternhell, p. 343.
President Donald Trump pardoned Oregon cattle ranchers Dwight Hammond and his son, who had both been targeted by the BLM & the federal government in a harassment campaign that lead to the 2016 occupation of an Oregon wildlife refuge. [...]
The post War, Trade, Law: The Next Stage of Fascism is Beginning appeared first on It's Going Down.Ami du Radical returns with some real words of warning and a sobering analysis on the current context; from trade war to actual war.
June of 2018 marks the 18th month of both the Trump administration and the realization of a modern neo-fascist movement in the United States. As popular mobilization against the government has gradually combined into the outline of a mass liberatory movement, fascism has rapidly evolved away from haphazard street violence and towards an institutionalized model of anti-left authoritarianism.
With the revelation that the government has already implemented an ethnic cleansing program complete with concentration camps came a surge of public outrage, but also the solidification of a fascist voter bloc inured to the suffering of others. This key component of fascism – absolute loyalty to the leader and a rejection of universal civil rights – has arrived at the same time as two other components, namely, a corrupt judicial system and the curtailing of political freedoms. Taken as a whole, the last month of news confirms that the birthing phase of fascism has passed, and its next stage of growth is beginning. We are fortunate that so many of us have recognized the threat early, and that so many brave and compassionate people have thrown themselves into the fray, undertaking the Herculean labor of building a nationwide base of resistance from the ground up. Nonetheless, it is time to grapple with the reality that we stand at the precipice of a particularly dark chapter in history, here and around the globe, and clearly reassess the state of fascism in America. This essay will unpack the political alchemy currently taking place which may well give rise to a profoundly perverse moment of violence, inhumanity, and conflict.CONSERVATIVES HAVE EMBRACED THE POLITICS OF CRUELTY
On June 30th, approximately 700 sister-marches protested the policy of child separation implemented by the government. At present, over 2000 children are still in legal limbo, while the Pentagon has been advised to prepare for the extended detention of some 12,000 migrants . The zero-tolerance stance of the government has enabled ICE to grow exponentially in size and scope, expanding the authority of the agency to frightening levels. Early in 2017, reports emerged of plainclothes agents sneaking into our communities, waiting outside traffic courts and elementary schools to ambush migrant parents who had been in America as long as 20 years on expired visas. In January, border agents were filmed destroying water jugs left at waypoints in the southern desert, ruthlessly jeopardizing the lives of migrants for the sake of “deterrence” .
But probably nobody was prepared for the announcement that the government had, just a year and a half after Trump’s election, already constructed and filled state-run concentration camps with children stolen from their parents as punishment for crossing the border. The nightmarish stories and photos spoke for themselves. Children were found locked in cages in the hollowed-out remains of a Wal-Mart, wrapped in blankets on the floor. As part of their internment, they’re made to recite the Pledge of Allegiance every morning. The recording of children sobbing helplessly for their parents became public knowledge, later used by DSA members to rightfully shame DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen for her complicity in this horror. And yet it was only days later that the conservative bloc began to sincerely defend and justify the implementation of a policy synonymous with Naziism.
This is a critical moment that was, perhaps, inevitable, but is no less frightening to witness. The president, through his gladiatorial appeals to white anxiety and anti-left resentment, has engineered a voter base that finds political and spiritual catharsis in deliberately cruel behavior. Various polls indicated that the president’s approval rating didn’t even budge following the announcement of the child camps’ existence . And why would it? This is, after all, what conservatives wanted from a Trump presidency, a desire expressed in everything from his border wall to the Muslim ban. But the decision to double-down when faced with a naked, no-shit government program of ethnic cleansing is an ethical point of no return for conservative America. It occupies the same bubble of anti-human ideas as the killing of enemy combatant’s families, the execution of drug dealers, and the stripping of citizenship from anyone who burns an American flag in protest.
A key feature of fascism is the embracing of cruelty as a virtue, “a disdain for human rights,” as theorists call it. As Mussolini wrote in his original manifesto, “The Fascist State expresses the will to exercise power and to command. Here the Roman tradition is embodied in a conception of strength. Imperial power, as understood by the Fascist doctrine, is not only territorial, or military, or commercial; it is also spiritual and ethical.” Under fascist ideology, cruelty is the rejection of inner weakness, while conquest and malice are signs of virility and worthiness. This sentiment is rife within the neo-fascist movement and conservatism as a whole. It’s visible in the rejection of so-called “political correctness,” which in actuality is a rejection of empathy, a condemnation of the “weakness” in any person who is concerned for the emotional wellbeing of others. Fascism considers willfully offensive behavior to be a demonstration of dominance, and actively encourages the degradation, humiliation, and punishment of other humans, or even of nature itself. This is why xenophobia, misogyny, violent outbursts, science denial, and racial bigotry have become desirable character traits among conservatives, both in themselves and their leaders.
In this same vein, the politics of white nationalism have been openly accepted by the American right. Trump has spun the news of child separation into paranoid fantasies that play to the fearful bigotry of his constituents; speaking just days after the child-camps became public knowledge, he alleged that child immigrants were actually being used as cover for members of MS-13 to gain asylum. “They’re sending not their finest,” he said. “Does that sound familiar? Remember I made that speech and I was so badly criticized? Turned out I was 100 percent right. That’s why I got elected.” 
In recent months, conservatives have elevated Arthur Jones, a neo-Nazi and holocaust denier, to the November ballot in Illinois, as well as Corey Stewart in Virginia, a neo-Confederate who has associated with Jason Kessler and Paul Nehlen. Steve King of Iowa, who has repeatedly amplified and repeated the messages of neo-Nazis in social media and advanced the rhetoric of white nationalism, remains entirely unmolested by the GOP leadership. North Carolina’s Russell Walker, winner of his primary race, claims that god himself is a white supremacist. Although each group denies it, every sector of conservatism includes a strong preference for a shared history and culture in which white society is responsible for all major human advances, and blameless for every atrocity committed along the way. Moreover, the core of conservatism is a demand that the oppressed allow themselves to be neglected, so as not to alter the dynamics of a four-century old colonial society they believe is their property alone.
When this disdain for humanity, refusal of equality, and racially vindictive attitude comes to a boil, fascism becomes the bloodthirsty engine of destruction that systematically snuffed out six million lives in Germany, and still more in Italy. The glimmers of this utter hatred for human life are visible in the government’s response to Puerto Rico’s staggering death toll, and to the recent massacre in Gaza, neither of which weighs on the conservative bloc’s conscience even one ounce. With three atrocities to its name in just two years, the neo-fascist movement has successfully normalized human expendability in the minds of millions of right-wingers. This is to say nothing of the wave of white supremacist violence ushered in by Trump’s election and the efforts of blakshirt organizations in every state.
What makes this all the more terrifying is the knowledge that Trump’s voter bloc is so viciously loyal that they have forfeited the ability to question him. Any lie that serves the American civic religion is accepted as fact and doggedly defended from critique, especially if it paints their political enemies as the “true evil.” Trump has falsely claimed that ICE has “liberated” towns in America from MS-13’s control, a fabrication that is bafflingly easy to disprove, yet one taken as fact by a large portion of the country. Despite obvious evidence to the contrary, conservatives are willing to accept Trump’s allegation that the Democrats instituted the zero-tolerance policy that he championed during his presidential campaign, and personally instituted when in office . This is a man who could invent any policy, no matter how grotesque, and make any claim, no matter how contradictory or factually untrue, and still retain the number of votes that won him the presidency. More dangerously, that loyalty is an instrument of his will, with which he can shape national politics by proxy. In multiple primary races around the country, Republican candidates who had been critical of Trump to any degree whatsoever were defeated after Trump accused them of disloyalty . It’s not just that Trump can say and do whatever he likes; that invulnerability is also rewarded to anybody who demonstrates absolute public obedience to him, personally, and the conservative bloc has learned that lesson remarkably quickly.
This is an administrative environment in which brutality is rewarded over empathy, personal loyalty is the only measure of one’s qualifications, fact and truth are so fluid as to be meaningless, and the spectacle of racial hatred is the primary tool of unification. There is no limit to the depravity that could be borne out by such poisonous conditions.
When you lead a cult that has will, on order, disregard what you said an hour earlier, you can do stuff like this and people will think it's CNN's fault for reporting it. https://t.co/3kfiFdP0Jc
— Tom Nichols (@RadioFreeTom) June 30, 2018A ONE-PARTY SYSTEM IN A TWO-PARTY NATION
The Trump administration is almost comically corrupt. In addition to his troubles with the FBI, the list of this administration’s conflicts of interest stretched from Rex Tillerson’s oil fortune, to recently-departed Scott Pruitt’s amazing rap sheet of scandals and insider dealing, all the way to Trump’s own children, who have significantly enriched themselves during his presidency . The triangle between Michael Cohen, Sean Hannity, and Donald Trump is a less competent, more sniveling version of Godfather politics, analogous to basically every other legal problem the president has ever had. But now, instead of running chickenwire casinos on shady financing, Trump is running the world’s most powerful and destructive state. Worse, he’s caught the nation during a time of economic decline and waning geopolitical influence, the incubation chamber of authoritarian politics.
His government is, seemingly, comprised of roughly 15 to 30 yes-men who use cloak-and-dagger tactics to enforce his decrees. He has refused to be held accountable in even the smallest matters, and bungles simplistic functions of government on a daily basis. Yet this Hindenburg of an administration remains afloat due to one factor alone: when Trump came to power, the GOP secured control of the House, Senate, and Supreme Court as well. Even the most useless official can achieve broken-clock successes when they have maximal control of the state. Rather than a consensus-builder, Trump is a kneecapper of competitors.
The Trump administration has poured its resources into weakening, dismantling, circumventing, or eliminating the legal barriers which, to however small an extent, have limited the president’s power in past administrations. He has turned the Mueller investigation into an extended attack on the FBI and the Department of Justice, gradually inciting conservatives to view the intelligence community as a den of conspirators – quite a feat in itself. He has delegitimized the media to cast doubt on any information that might damage his image, truthful or not, and stacked every government agency with his cronies so as to smoothen his interactions with state machinery.
It is Trump’s incredible laziness that has compelled him to find ways of eliminating dissent, avoiding discussions and hearings, and skipping over the tediousness of parliamentary procedure. His favorite tool is the executive order; it requires minimal effort and patience, and would require a two-thirds majority to overrule which, in this administration, will never occur. But in his efforts to simplify his job, Trump has accidentally managed something remarkable; he has built a one-party system inside a two-party system.
The epitomization of this concentration of power lies with the Supreme Court. The GOP forestalled the replacement of Justice Scalia long enough to secure power, then altered the Senate rules to quickly cram Gorsuch into the vacancy, all with the blessing of the president; one branch conspired with another branch to fundamentally change the third. Now, the government has scored a second seat, meaning that by the end of July, the conservative bloc will have smothered decades of civil rights gains, and paved the way for a generation of case decisions rubber-stamped to their specifications. This is a crushing level of power to wield, and the GOP did it by following Trump’s lead, abandoning their decades-long masquerade as a party of rigid devotion to constitutional standards. The Democrats, duped and outplayed for the billionth time, have no real power in the Capital. In the span of a short week, the Supreme Court has handed down decisions that codified anti-LGBTQ hatred under the guise of “religious freedom,” upheld the Muslim band, and eviscerated public unions in the aftermath of successful teachers’ strikes. This ticks three more essential boxes on the fascist agenda: the conjoining of religion and law, the legalized scapegoating of minorities, and the demolition of organized labor. In the near future, the GOP is aiming for the elimination of affirmative action, and potentially a reversal of decisions on abortion and same-sex marriage.
This is the kind of behavior Trump has publicly envied in other national leaders. Trump has frequently congratulated, complimented, and lauded the successes of tyrants like Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un. Without the political acumen or cleverness to actually pull it off himself, Trump is left to make pitifully transparent asides about the “respect” and “admiration” shown to these strongmen leaders. However, his commentary on their methods still helps to normalize the idea of authoritarian rule among his supporters, who were already hungry for unilateral destruction of their sociopolitical boogeymen. Just like with his opinions on trade, the media, and alliances with NAFTA or NATO nations, conservatives have shifted their opinions to match their leader’s own; more Republican voters now hold a positive opinion of Putin than in 2016, and fewer consider Russia to be a threat to America – this, from the voter bloc that drooled over Reagan’s Cold War antics . Their thirst for social vengeance leads them to see, in dictators around the world, the kind of iron-fisted rule they envision for America. Some of the most virulent pro-Trump fascists in America are still wearing t-shirts referencing Pinochet, amusing themselves with the idea of forming death squads of their own.
Real autocracy is still out of Trump’s reach, but the GOP’s shell game with the Supreme Court has certainly given him a potent weapon against his enemies. Now, rather than passing bills, Trump can effectively shape the laws of the nation by simply funneling as many civil rights cases as possible up the judicial ladder, feeding them through the conservative-run Supreme Court like pine board through a wood chipper. Decisions can be hammered out to suit rightist ideology, punishing both marginalized people and political radicals alike, potentially cutting off many avenues of resistance currently available to us. Trump can sit back and allow Jeff Sessions to pick up any case that suits their purposes – campus free speech disputes, asylum laws, protections for protesters, anti-suppression laws for voters – and secure a new legal precedent that reflects the GOP’s draconian social views. With no opposition party to struggle against, a government full of obsequious toadies behind him, and this level of autocratic power at his command, even a flaccid dope like Donald Trump could construct a terrifyingly oppressive regime. It will be nothing like the openly despotic and carefully calculated behavior of Putin, but it will nonetheless have devastating consequences for us all.
It’s important to remember that neither Mussolini nor Hitler formed particularly “popular” national parties, nor even won a single popular vote. Rather, in both instances, fascism grew out of a combination of mass cronyism, extreme corruption, support from the capitalist class, and the collaboration of police with far-right vigilante squads. One other element provided the ignition for fascism to arise; a weakened national economy, and capitalist fears of a socialist uprising.FINANCIAL DISASTER IS ON THE WAY
As of July 7th, the US government has imposed heavy tariffs on $34 billion worth of Chinese exports to American shores . In retaliation, China is ready to strike back with equally severe measures, cleverly targeting products from Republican-held states, such as Iowan soybeans and Kentucky bourbon. The Trump administration, unable to back down for fear of looking weak, is now threatening to impose eventual tariffs totalling $500 billion. China is expected to match this pugilistic behavior tit-for-tat. This is an apocalyptic level of economic damage, made worse by the squabbles Trump has picked with Canada, Mexico, and the UK.
This strategy, if it can even be called that, will eventually result in catastrophe for America. The other nations of the global capitalist hegemony can trade amongst themselves to offset the damage, and will likely find ways to strengthen their economic bonds in the immediate future. America, however, will be isolated and suffer a drop in revenue that, as always, will weigh heaviest on the working poor. Meanwhile, the government is relaxing banking regulations installed after the 2008 collapse, and has implemented a tax plan that concentrated more wealth in the hands of the elite at the expense of the workers. The stock market, which has risen since 2009, is now being roiled by the oncoming trade war and is primarily being driven by corporations buying back their own shares; buybacks this quarter totalled $434 billion, nearly doubling the previous record .
Our financial security is bleak. Wages are stagnant, corporate mergers have produced a network of monopolies that control or profit from most of our daily transactions, and collectively, the workers of America have almost as little stability as they did in the years preceding the Great Depression. Inequality has reached a historic high water mark. When the economic blow from the trade war connects with America, there is no telling how disastrous the result will be – for us, of course, not for the aristocracy. And contrary to assumptions of accelerationism, there is no guarantee that when we suffer another free market bust, the desperate masses will rush to support leftism. There is just as much chance that, like in Italy and Germany, economic strife could convince moderates to make peace with the fascist cause rather than abandon capitalism.
Exacerbating the threat of this economic instability is exactly the crisis the government attempted to preempt with zero-tolerance border policies. Across the globe, imperialist capitalist nations have wrought destruction through conquest, exploitation, and environmental havoc. This, in turn, has resulted in a mass migration of people fleeing tyrannical governments and ecological nightmares alike, comprised of people who have no choice but to flee to more stable environments, namely, the very nations who have profited from this global piracy. In all, there are an estimated 200 million human lives at risk . The rise of fascism throughout Western civilization is, ultimately, a case of karmic realignment; the governments and proprietors who have plundered the world are facing popular uprisings on a daily basis, from citizens who would rather throw open the borders than cower like rats on a sinking ship. Nationalists have embraced fascism as a way to blame these ills on immigrants, refugees, and enemy nations, and to justify shutting their borders and leaving these wayward peoples to die unseen, all to preserve the privilege and comfort of their own short lives.
Collapse is almost a certainty, given the nature of the forces inherent to capitalism, the recklessness of the American state, and the instability of the planet itself. The extent of the damage cannot be predicted at this time, but a scenario similar to the housing collapse isn’t out of the question. When that moment arrives, it will be the catalyst of either increased fascist mobilization, a flourishing of the mass movement, or possibly both. But we have already seen the outcome if American hypernationalism fills the void of stability; forced labor camps for the outsider, political repression for the radical, and death for those targeted by state violence or blackshirt vigilantes.WE ARE MANY, THEY ARE FEW
Grim though they may be, the elements of fascism listed above are not a historic certainty, nor are they impossible to overcome. As we have seen throughout the last two years, there is no lack of courage, compassion, and ingenuity in the workers of America. We have been taught religiously that we are incapable of change except through the gatekeepers of representative democracy and capitalism, and that we require both a rigid hierarchy and the violence of the state to keep us from devolving into chaotic beasts. Yet while brave souls reach out to migrants, feed the hungry, advocate for the oppressed, and fight back against fascist thugs, it is the government that indulges in paranoia, cowardice, deception, inaction, and uncouth violence. The aristocracy have become a rat king of feckless, self-serving bastards who hoard unbelievable wealth, insist on imhuman levels of privilege, and protect themselves through the most base means imaginable. It is the public that holds the power, builds the movement, and reimagines the world as a better, more equal place.
The occupation of numerous ICE offices in America is just one example of the mass movement becoming more coherent, deliberate, and tenacious. Repeated police actions haven’t dampened the spirits of the occupiers, nor ended their struggle. However, we should remember that when the government steps up its oppressive behavior, when disaster soon galvanizes the blackshirts yet again, millions of people outside of the American antifascist and anarchist cause will suffer the consequences. It will not be political leanings or group affiliation that defends the people against repression, but a shared sense of humanity. Ultimately, electoral politics remains unlikely to avert the coming storm; the Democratic party, even if it nominally accepts socialist influences, will always bend in service of capitalism and, therefore, fascism. But outside of state machinery, there is a burgeoning movement that strives for the liberation of all people, without reservation. It includes the fight for refugees and immigrants, for the autonomy of women, for the equality of all sexualities and genders, for indigenous self-governance, for stewardship of the planet, and an end to artificial social dividers of classes, borders, owners, and rulers.
We should take heart knowing that for every inch of ground fascism has gained so far, liberationists have taken one as well. The abolition of ICE, police, and prisons are gaining traction as legitimate political ideals. White supremacy and its violent tendencies are being confronted on the microcosmic level, as well as the macrocosmic. Not everyone is willing to submit to the continuation of capitalism, and some are willing to openly declare their opposition to it. There is a groundswell of energy that has not yet fully blossomed, but is beginning to push its way out of the dirt and through the cracked husk of this indefensible empire we call America. Fascism has fallen before, and it will fall again. The question is what will take its place.SOURCES
The purpose of this survey is to identify youth cooperatives globally.
What we call a “youth coop” is a cooperative led by and for youth. Examples include a young workers cooperative, a student cooperative or a cooperative program to help young farmers set up. But the youth cooperators have to be associated to the governance of the cooperative.
Why identify youth cooperatives now? Because the Executive Committee of the Youth Network of the International Cooperative Alliance is organizing a large campaign to identify, map and connect youth cooperatives around the world. The starting point is this survey, and the campaign will continue until July 2019. In July 2019 an event for youth will be held. Those who complete the survey may be selected to come for free, with your travel costs covered.
This is not an anonymous survey. The responses will be used to populate a foundational database of youth cooperatives in the world that we hope to build on. We also would like to ask you some questions about what you think is needed to further proliferate the involvement of youth in co-operatives. It will take 15 to 20 minutes of your precious time, and your participation will be highly appreciated. This survey can be stopped and started. You will not lose your information if you need to stop and pick it back up later. The survey should be completed by one representative from each youth co-op. When you finish, please share this survey with other youth coops you know of! Complete the survey on SurveyMonkey
Go to the GEO front page
As we announced back in April, the Co-operative Party commissioned this independent piece of work from the NEF because we want to see a step-change in the co-operative sector. While consumer and employee owned businesses here in the UK are still seen as a little unusual, edgy or even ‘alternative’, in countries like France, New Zealand and the Netherlands, co-operative businesses make up a significant percentage of the economy, and are considered part of the mainstream business landscape.
So today’s report, containing practical steps policymakers can take to double the size of the co-operative sector, is undoubtedly great news for UK co-operatives, and for our co-operative movement.
But why should those outside of the UK co-operative sector care about how big it is?
Go to the GEO front page
A lot of people like to think that the SHTF is some distant thing that probably won’t ever happen. But, in reality, it happens every single day, … Read the rest
The post RIOTS: 3 Places All Hell Has Broken Loose in the Last Few Days appeared first on The Organic Prepper.
We’ve received the following report from participants in the occupation around the Portland facilities of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). While our collective has no official position on issues internal to the occupation, we consider it important to promote constructive conversations about power dynamics within our movements and the ways that they can impose limits on what we can accomplish together. For more material on this subject, consult our earlier report, “The ICE Age Is Over: Reflections from the ICE Blockades.” Shortly, for the sake of amplifying multiple perspectives, we will add one more text from Portland.
“Criticize the comrade, take a criticism from the comrade.” -Bambu
“We do NOT touch the police tape. We do NOT block the street,” a “leader” of the Portland occupation screamed through a megaphone at a crowd of newly arrived demonstrators near the reopened ICE facility. Organic anger from a group of mostly liberals led to a brief confrontation with Federal Protective Services (FPS/DHS), which was quickly quashed by an internal security team. People were ushered onto the sidewalk and scolded for not following supposedly “collective” agreements. The building remained untouched as protesters who were eager to agitate were made to feel guilty and illegitimate.
In the last three weeks of Portland’s occupation at the ICE building, we’ve found ourselves caught between a desire to build with folks and a need to critique the ways that violence is sustained by our work. We’ve failed to address interpersonal violence and have left people isolated from the movement. We’ve prioritized the security of our “leaders” because of their contributions and their assumed necessity to our commune rather than making space for conversation about sexual violence and the strategies we must implement to make sure folks are held accountable rather than simply “vouched for.” And we’ve lost sight of the initial goal of abolishing ICE.
Our occupation is said to be leading the movement against deportations across the country. We’re currently cohabitating with the ICE facility; as their work continues, we continue to sit back with our La Croix in hand and practice “self-care.” In many ways, this commune has been helpless since its inception, demonstrating the need to build conversation and criticism into our work.
When it comes down to it, the vast majority of us here have no idea how to coexist in a commune; we are improvising. We offer up this criticism knowing that it’s much easier to critique than to build. We write this in hopes of making space for continual analysis, collective reflection, and commitment to future organizing.
More than anything, we must practice humility and be conscious of our role in this organizing work. Shutting down an ICE building for over two weeks is a huge feat, and we do not want to diminish this accomplishment. But we cannot forget the people who our commune is said to be built on behalf of: undocumented folks, and specifically undocumented children, who are suffering in detention centers around the country. We remind ourselves first and foremost that these people do not need our saving. Amazing organizing efforts have been led by undocumented folks in and out of detention centers, often largely by undocumented women. They’ll be doing that whether or not we sleep out here tonight. Still, solidarity efforts are crucial to dismantling these walls and to abolishing ICE.
The commune is exciting because it’s an opportunity to experiment with different organizing strategies and visions for another world. We have an amazing kitchen staff, an incredible kids area, and overall an impressive space. But we also have a pseudo-policing unit, extremely flawed approaches to navigating accusations of sexual violence, and potential security threats. At this point, preserving the commune has become a more central project than actually disrupting ICE. We’ve failed to build a space to assess and change our strategies as they inevitably fail or are co-opted. Consequently, our commune has done little to interrogate the ways it reproduces and legitimizes policing, surveillance, and heteropatriarchal violence.
Ultimately, much of our work has been whitewashed, neutralized, and made non-threatening to the state—that’s how we’ve been able to be legitimized as an action that will not be touched by the Portland Police Bureau (PPB). We supposedly decided that the commune will now only engage in “passive resistance,” a concept as oxymoronic as “good policing” or “public property.” The commune’s internal police force, known as the “Care Team,” has worked to ensure that protesters “keep in line.” Our commitment to the commune’s continued existence has become a commitment to establishing a framework in which insurgent and revolutionary politics become unimaginable.
“All Cops” Means the Pretend Ones Too
Seizing the lack of structure as an opportunity for a power grab, a group of people created a self-appointed security team within the first few days. Sporting pink bandannas as an emblem of this new committee, the group established a visible manifestation of their higher status.
From the beginning, the team consisted primarily of individuals with a pattern of taking control and policing others at past demonstrations. Masquerading as anarchists and radicals, these people implement authoritarian practices and recreate the state structures we have set out to abolish. The ideology of many of those on the security team is indecipherable; sometimes it appears that their primary motive is power.
The security phenomenon is a recurring issue in Portland. At almost every rally or march, one finds the same dozen people role-playing as cops, following around “suspicious” people. They hold themselves above the participants, who they are there to “protect.” The people who assume this role never appear on the front lines fighting riot police; they can’t be found when there is a real security threat. They pounce on the lone agitator, getting enough action to bolster their ego
and flex their power. The anarchist symbols covering the camp are purely aesthetic, since we
continue to let security govern us.
The security team created a monopoly on information, keeping important reports about threats to themselves. Using this lack of transparency to their advantage, security members were able to justify their existence through distorted threats and the instilling of fear—a tactic habitually used by the state. Calling a “code red” one night, security commanded people to retreat into tents while refusing to offer information as to what the situation was. Terrified newcomers and children scrambled back with no grasp on how severe the threat actually was.
Their authority allows them to determine the political legitimacy of people’s thoughts and actions, as well as deciding which actions are “too risky” for the commune to engage in. We’ve seen women enter the space with questions about the work, only to be told, “Do you really want to know or are you just being facetious?” We’ve seen folks heckling Homeland Security Officers told that they’re “kids” and therefore should get back in line and listen to the commune authority. We’ve seen comrades lambasted and told to leave for attempting civil disobedience.
All of this is done under the guise of “protecting” people of color and trans folks. We are open to discussing tactics, but we will not stand for a security team that grounds its work in the patriarchal protection of black, brown, and trans people and that insists on policing all forms of political action, analysis, and engagement.
The members of the security team are able to absolve themselves of responsibility for their policing efforts by leaning on “consensus-based decisions.” In confronting someone who is “out of line,” they argue that they’re simply carrying out orders. Whose orders these are is entirely unclear. Consensus by itself can be employed as a tactic for repressing autonomous action. But the commune takes it one step further by neglecting to actually engage in true consensus decision-making. The general assemblies here occur sporadically and happen at inaccessible times. The result is that an invisible, unknown, exclusive committee of people reach a decision which is then stamped as group consensus and forced on everyone else. There is a hidden rigid hierarchy disguised in careful leftist language to isolate critics. Blatantly false statements are thrown around, such as “EVERYONE living at camp agrees that…” or “the overwhelming CONSENSUS is…” This destroys any space for critique and gives those new to the camp the impression that everyone is in unanimous agreement.
We understand the need to disrupt the “ally industrial complex” in which white people, those new to the movement, and other “privileged” folks sit on the side and cheer on our POC comrades. At this point, more and more people want to get involved, and that’s crucial. People who show up must be understood as potential comrades and legitimate political actors. The liberal who decides to scream at the cops is engaging in an activity that might further radicalize them—and yet we choose to police that work, tell them it’s out of line, and demand that the ways we disrupt ICE be narrow and pre-approved. How do we expect to expand this movement if we teach our potential comrades that their political analysis is irrelevant? Why should they return to this work if they are told that their ideas, opinions, and forms of action are incorrect? If our goal is to build a new world, we have to start by not replicating the old. Ultimately, we’re isolating potential comrades and disciplining our collective political imagination.
Security Team 2.0: Your Misogyny is Showing
After initial criticism of the internal police force, the security team rebranded themselves as “the Care Team.” This attempt to rebrand leans on understandings of the importance of care—the feminized labor that sustains the social and emotional well-being of the commune. When we think of care, we think of our kitchen staff, the folks who hold down the childcare tent, and those partaking in other forms of feminized work. Excluding those folks from “the” Care Team is not only a tactic the internal police uses to to avoid accountability, but is also a disrespectful manipulation of feminist understandings of care.
We hear more and more in leftist circles about the need to build a new world based on a politics of care. We understand care as feminized work of listening, working to understand people’s emotional needs, and validating and supporting all who enter our spaces. It’s a call to collectivize our traumas and strategies for healing, which should not be conflated with neoliberal notions of “self-care.” We see much of the work of care tied to Black Feminist analysis, the work of the Movement for Black Lives, and in prison abolitionist circles. We want to expand that work in order to build a movement for each other.
Contrary to many beliefs, “care” is not about a practice of patriarchal protection, nor a politics based on policing potential threats. The current campaign of Critical Resistance, “Care Not Cops,” does the necessary work of disrupting notions of “good policing,” making it clear that policing and care are incompatible. Care is an acknowledgement of our vulnerability to others and a recognition of the need to collaborate for our collective survival.Men Ruin Movements: Addressing Gendered Violence within Our Communities
Within minutes of entering the commune we learn that one of the core organizers is a person with serious accusations against them. Of course, it’s not our job to snoop around and try to determine whether or not this specific person is “guilty,” nor necessarily to call for their immediate removal. But we do want to know whether there is a process by which accusations are heard, people’s experiences are validated, and action is taken to hold people accountable and to ensure that those making these accusations feel welcomed in. We want to see a commitment to addressing and disrupting gendered violence and other forms of harm. And we want to know that these conversations are at the forefront of the community we seek to build.
When men are in charge, apparently, this becomes too much to ask for. When we ask why someone is still on the core “Care Team,” we are told that despite accusations, this person has been “vouched for.” His leadership position and the amount he’s contributed become grounds for delegitimizing and failing to address accusations. We hear excuses about organizational capacity used to put accusations of sexual violence on the back burner until we can give them the attention they need.
Our shared critiques of criminal justice procedures and commitments to abolishing the prison industrial complex are being used to justify not addressing the sexual violence accusations against people. The counterargument that people of color are more likely to face incarceration is not wrong; however, to use this as a justification not to hold people accountable is disappointing. To manipulate these realities in order to avoid even having conversations about feminist praxis only further embeds our work in the same patriarchal structures that we claim to oppose.
The work of transformative justice is tricky and we’ve seen few attempts at it done well. But that should not cause us to conclude it is not necessary in our work. If we learned anything from zines like Why Misogynists Make Great Informants, essays like Betrayal: A Critical Analysis of Rape Culture in Anarchist Subcultures, and the book The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities, it is that this sort of misogyny in our circles is nothing new. We know that these forms of violence and harm take place within our communities. We build with our shared commitment to holding ourselves and each other accountable.
What’s the Point: Passive Resistance and Smashing the State
If you’ve spent any time at the camp, you are probably familiar with the obsession with “passive resistance.” It’s hard to miss. The phrase is posted on the entrance to the camp, mindlessly thrown around by “leaders,” and praised by the liberals who come and go. As much as it is used, nobody seems to know what it means or how we came to embrace it. This section will not be focused on the failures of nonviolence. That story has been written countless times and we’ve all sat through arguments over it. Instead, we focus on how self-appointed leaders twist the idea to shut down virtually any resistance to ICE.
Passive resistance is not about passivity, it is about resistance. It is peaceful, but it is not compliance. At the camp, the term is being pulled further and further from its definition. When a few daring comrades tried to lock arms on the side entrance, blocking in the federal agents, they were attacked for not practicing proper resistance. Other people tried linking themselves together in the driveway, but were criticized by leaders for poking the bear. Even yelling at police is a bit too provocative. Passive resistance has lost its meaning and value, and it seems that the leaders don’t care about resisting, just about passivity.
The assumption at the camp seems to be that by engaging in their version of passive resistance, we will swing the media coverage and stall a police attack. It sounds great in theory, but it appears to ignore history altogether. Those who embrace this framework are operating under the illusion that if we are peaceful and compliant with police orders, we can exist in harmony with the state. This ignores every peaceful protest that has been ambushed by riot police, every “passive” mobilization that has been squashed by the state, every instance of police brutality. It buys into the notion that our behavior dictates how the police will treat us, the same idea recited by Fox News pundits after police murders. In reality, the state cares little about how we behave. The authorities make their own excuses with the assistance of the media and attack on their own initiative. The goal of abolishing ICE and the practice of physically shutting it down puts us in conflict with the state. Since the camp is diametrically opposed to the state and its wishes, a police attack is inevitable. Peacefulness and compliance will not seduce the state into inaction, it will just take away our power. In conceding our power, we let our safety lie in the hands of the police.
On June 28, while most of the camp slept, federal police cleared the entrances and arrested multiple people. Our barricades were ripped down, and the veteran camp in the driveway was torn to pieces—despite their peacefulness. The police proved that they didn’t need an excuse to move on the camp. Yet leaders are still calling for “passive resistance” and employing vulnerability politics to suppress militancy.
The Care Team frequently falls back on the claim that any escalation would “put __ group at risk,” using the most convenient marginalized identity at hand to make this argument. The “risk” that they claim to be defending people from is the potential for arrests or police brutality directed towards people of color and trans people. This analysis is not incorrect; less privileged people will be further targeted by police, face harsher sentences, and gain less sympathy from white civil society. However, the weaponizing of identity in order to police certain actions not only means speaking on behalf of a population “in need of protection,” it also attempts to make any discussion about risk, tactics, and actions impossible and to shut down political conversation.
If we believe that we can remove risk and danger from this work, then we ultimately must commit to reproducing the existing social order. There will be risk in disrupting ICE and danger in threatening white civil society. People should analyze the risks, the dangers they face personally, and determine whether or not they want to take an action or be in a specific space. We need to build in support so we do not reserve specific actions for more privileged people—but winning with “passive resistance” is a fantasy.
To assume that we must resist passively in order to accommodate more vulnerable commune members falsely ties militance to whiteness. We think of Jackie Wang’s essay, “Against Innocence: Race, Gender, and the Politics of Safety,” in which she takes on this question of risk. Wang writes,
“When an analysis of privilege is turned into a political program that asserts that the most vulnerable should not take risks, the only politically correct politics becomes a politics of reformism and retreat, a politics that necessarily capitulates to the status quo while erasing the legacy of Black Power groups like the Black Panthers and the Black Liberation Army.”
We think about people who have been resisting in deportation centers since before ICE’s inception,about militant direct action taken by undocumented students across the country and the need for further militancy to dismantle patriarchy, white supremacy, and the settler-colonial state.
A feeling of complacency has spread throughout the camp as it has transitioned from a militant attempt to shut down ICE operations to a sort of Burning Man commune peacefully coexisting with DHS. With an assortment of sparkling water, open yoga sessions, and nightly concerts contrasted by armored snipers on the roof and makeshift barricades covered in circle-As, the camp has the look of a leftist music festival—Anarchoachella, if you will. Camaraderie is important and nothing is inherently wrong with creating a comfortable space. But our focus has been abandoned and our inclination towards action has dissipated.
When attempting to initiate an urgently-needed discussion on possible actions the night before ICE resumed work in the building, organizers were met with hostility for interrupting a music show and berated by a crowd of mostly newcomers about the necessity of “self-care” and “taking a break.” After a night of dancing and consuming kale salads, they put up no resistance as ICE agents poured into the building the next morning. While this is unintentional, we are capitalizing on the suffering of children and wasting resources to live out our collective ideological fantasies. If holding space is prioritized over disrupting deportations and separations, the commune is nothing more than a bourgeois liberal playground.
Stop Embarrassing the Movement
In our struggle to smash the borders and end the deadly policing of them, we have replicated the same institutions we oppose. Our camp is encircled in barriers separating ourselves from the capitalist hellworld and the flow of people is strictly controlled. Our own security cameras monitor the movements of occupiers and the entrances and exits are restricted to a few gates. We have created categories of those who belong and those who don’t. A list has been compiled of commune exiles that includes critics, utopians, and anti-authoritarians. ACAB adorns the wall but the “Care Team” is a border patrol of its own. Rampant anti-houseless rhetoric prompts exclusion of those perceived as houseless while simultaneously labeling ourselves a tent city. If nothing changes, our commune will collapse before the police even attempt to raid it.
The occupation has been remarkable in garnering support and sparking grand aspirations. The amount of effort and organization put into sustaining the commune is commendable. But right now, we are doing nothing to hinder deportations or support detainee organizing. Occupiers are living comfortably while ICE continues its reign of terror next door. With all its flaws, the commune has taught us and transformed us. Still, it’s time to abandon our notions of space and romanticized community and consider what it would mean to build a movement based on unconditional hospitality, real care, and actual militancy.
If it stays as it is, the commune will continue to drain resources and police insurrectionary potential while amounting to nothing more than a mild inconvenience to ICE employees. With the widespread popularity of increasingly radical abolitionist politics, we have the opportunity to bring people into our analysis and agitate against state control and hierarchy in general. We must back up our utopian visions by showing the revolutionary possibility of a world free of borders and authority. This is not a call to abandon the occupation altogether or to allow ICE to resume as normal. This is a reminder of the need for constant critique and a space to have these conversations. We ask our comrades to consider our goals and examine our tactics. Opportunities for meaningful action exist within the commune but only if we overhaul our current commitment to passivity and let go of our desire to be palatable to the state.
Furthermore, we call for a decentralized approach. ICE isn’t just a building, so don’t let your actions be limited to it. Seek out all of the appendages that keep the machine running and strike while we have the power. The information is out there. Find your comrades, form an affinity group, and get to work. Redecorate your local GEO Group building, throw a block party in front of an ICE agent’s house, and always hold yourself and your comrades accountable. ICE is starting to melt, but we’re just warming up.
Your local mindless anarchists hell-bent on nothing but destructionTags: portlandoccupy icetacticscategory: Essays