White Riot: Charlottesville and Combating the Alt Right
Let us look at the structure of the rally in Charlottesville:
The alt-right, while a sexy public face for white nationalists, is structurally a much smaller movement than we have been led to believe, and especially so when compared to other fascist organizations that were present at Charlottesville. This is partially due to their organizational structure (or rather, their lack of organizational structure) and partially due to the fact that their organization is entirely dependant on the work of a very small number of people centrally organizing alt-right events. The alt-right thrives in their hidey holes online, where they can distribute information freely. Their greatest risk to the left is their ability to manipulate information.
However, recent events have centered the real life implications of fascists taking public platforms. In light of this, the alt-right recedes somewhat from view. Their decentralized structure makes their events scattered and opportunistic. In part due to their primarily digital form of organizing, their rallies and marches, such as antagonistic protests in Berkeley, Seattle, and Charlottesville, are best understood as fuel for digital world they inhabit, rather than attempts to influence the same political or economic spheres as the left. While this may be influenced by their anti-materialist worldview and obsession with fictitious forces they have identified rather than the real drivers of history, it neuters their ability to engage in the terrorist violence that characterizes other far-right wing organizations.
I believe the alt-right is aware of this, and has made attempts to engage with this organizational issue — this rally was termed “Unite The Right” for a reason. The alt-right is a low-commitment, low-influence organization; drawing its mostly younger, mostly affluent membership into coalition with the real pillars of white supremacy in America would be a major accomplishment for the far-right wing. Unfortunately the class divides between comfortable bourgeois children or upper class gun-nuts and ex-working class white nationalist terrorists is a major point of tension that has stymied any lasting coalitions.
What is significant now is that David Duke and other old-style white nationalist organizers who have been in this business for decades were able to bring alt-right groups and Oathkeeper/3%er and KKK organizations together. This coalition still failed at its original goal and were ejected from the park, but not before engaging in terrorist violence resulting in the murder of an IWW member. In the aftermath of this disaster and amidst intense press coverage, a humiliating press conference further hammered home the difficulty the alt-right has functioning as an organization out in the open. They are awkward, and their usual glib attitude towards critics fell flat in the face of the outraged protests that chased them out of town. The militias that attended, by contrast, largely slunk off to their homes with little media coverage, with most outrage surrounding the attack focusing on the alt-right. It is unclear how long the coalition between the alt-right and more structured organizations will last, or how strong it really is.
Before I analyze anything further, it must be made clear that the alt-right is a dangerous terrorist organization. They desire our deaths and will make good on that. Our resistance to them must be absolute and unrelenting, even in the face of the horrors they will present us.
What we must also remember, however, is that it is Oathkeeper/3%ers and KKK who actually have organizations that meet, recruit, and maintain sizeable memberships are the main drivers of far-right protest and activism. The alt-right is effective at amplifying their own voices, inciting violence, and little else. They do not collect dues, they do not have structured meetings, they do not integrate themselves into the community, they do not engage meaningfully with the world around them. Right Libertarians at least become involved in local politics (see: New Hampshire), the KKK is able to rally support for political candidates, but the alt-right do not and cannot lift a finger. They are an extended fan club of astroturfed leaders with whom their movements live and die.
Therefore, we should probably use our left-wing organizations to focus more on disrupting Oathkeeper/3%ers and KKK activity than alt-right activity to more effectively attack far right presence out in the world. There are many avenues to attack organizations like this, including using direct action to attack their sources of income, their leaders, and the structure of their organization. However, the complication is that these organizations, due to their increasingly embedded relationship with law enforcement, are functionally immune from structural attacks that require law enforcement to back up. Additionally, unlike the alt-right, who mostly crumples under the threat of violence due to their intense cowardice and inexperience, Oathkeeper/3%ers and KKK organizations have a long history of engaging in violent activity that can and will escalate to massacres of their opposition, massacres that largely go unpunished or receive tacit state sanction. To attack them effectively and protect our comrades, attacks against the structures of their organizations are needed. This requires a strong, long-term, lingering leftist presence in areas (typically rural and impoverished areas) where far-right groups thrive and recruit, and an equally robust set of leftist organizations that can engage far-right groups and their bourgeois allies directly.
And so, these alt-right fascist organizers face a fork in the road. Do they further radicalize and engage in more terroristic violence, or do they assemble as a legitimate political organization, essentially re-entering the Republican Party as a reliable voting block? The seams are showing, the heat under the collar growing; those who wish for a deeper radicalization from the alt-right have been validated with some of the organizers of the Charlottesville march, who have issued statements that they will “not back down.” It is clear that a significant portion of this group intends to return to a city they have agitated, where they have overstayed their welcome, and where they will once again be hammered back.
And yet, voices from that whispery void now sing another tune, anonymous Lee Atwater-wannabe’s encouraging a covert rebranding, avoiding the very organizational issues that define the alt-right.
They are facing a more effective organized body of leftists who have, over and over exposed the alt-right as a violent chaotic mess, and their are voices demanding that they rapidly legitimize themselves, shed the identity that allows them to be targeted, return to the bosom of the Republican Party, and hope for incremental advances in racist policies at the national level, as we have seen in Greece with Golden Dawn or in the UK with UKIP. It is important that we remember that the alt-right sprung out of a dissatisfaction with Republicans who they termed “cuckservatives,” and that a major theme of their early political organizing was defined in opposition to mainstream right wing political currents. Could this have been an intentional and astroturfed mechanism to draw the Republican Party to the right, in much the same way as the Tea Party did? Perhaps, but resistance to the alt-right within mainstream right wing circles, as well as its relative unpopularity compared to far less politically manageable groups like the Oathkeeper/3%ers and KKK makes this transition towards legitimacy difficult.
The far-right wants to play necromancer, pulling the revenant corpse of a dead world up and staggering it around. It draws no breath, it crumples like a ragdoll when left on its own. It only appears to live in the jerky, stuttering motions they animate it with. History is repeating itself and the farce is lost. There is and will be no rebuilding their supremacy, so instead they play-act supremacy. In response to the murder in Charlottesville, their would-be right wing allies in media have hung them out to dry. Alone, exposed, and watched — the alt-right is in a confusing place for an organization that lacks any internal structures to protect itself and its members.
The alt-right is a collection of violent, terroristic individuals worshipping the figure of death, but they are weak. A weakness infects the soul of their organization, and emerges in their rallies, their meetings, their hidden cabals. This weakness is the anti-solidarity, it is the atomized, bourgeois liberal individual, seeing himself as the island, and hating the crowd. It is the supremacy, the cold isolation they seek, that builds the hell they wish to condemn themselves to. What successes they have are stolen from them, or turn to ashes in their mouth. The movements they build only isolate them more and more from the world, only draw them away from life, from changing their lives, from seeing some benefit from their work with these organizations.
They are made weak and hollowed out by this anti-solidarity. More powerful allies, those who engage with the real might of the American empire, use the alt-right opportunistically, a throwaway tool left behind as they move towards greater aims. Further debasing themselves, these young fascists are obliged to reflexively support clownish demagogues like Trump, not out of any true allegiance, but because they do not know how to organize their own platform. The semi-coherent babble of a septuagenarian billionaire can, on some hyper-real plane, become a declaration of undying allegiance with their cause. However, their hate is not sustenance enough, and they are consumed by their weakness. They lack the internal organization to drive their own movement and so must piggyback off of movements that command much more support, with vastly different goals, to whom they are nothing more than the servile dogs of empire, howling for flesh and being fed scraps.