About Schmidt: How a White Nationalist Seduced Anarchists Around the World (Chapter 4)
by Alexander Reid Ross and Joshua Stephens
Michael Schmidt’s Complicated Relationship with National-Anarchism and Pan-Secessionism
According to a source, after being exposed for his Stormfront posts in 2011, Michael Schmidt entered a phase of presenting himself a journalist with an interest in anarchism, but not an anarchist. In the book he was working on during this period, Drinking with Ghosts, he describes anarchists in passing as one of the many extreme groups of people with whom he has made friends during his journalistic career: “My craft over this period was one hell of a rollercoaster ride; along the way I made friends with arms dealers, anarchist revolutionaries, Special Forces operatives, community activists and intelligence agents” (2014, BestRed). While he continued to write for Anarkismo and other anarchist publications, Schmidt’s presence in anarchist circles would make for increasingly messy reconciliation with the other social circles in which he was allegedly rubbing shoulders.
He began to dial down his “KarelianBlue” Stormfront profile, likely as a result of the investigation into his activities by the ZACF. At the same time, however, his “Le Sueur” profile escalated his Facebook engagement. He posted about USSR gulags, a Flemish separatist party, British crimes in Ireland, and an article from an anarchist platformist site. Among cryptic statements like, “The good dream of what the bad do,” and edgy articles from the controversial Russian ex-patriot news site, The eXile (which boasts neo-fascist, Eduard Limonov, among its columnists), one finds Le Sueur posting flags with the British Union of Fascists’ lightning bolt, as well as the crypto-fascist neo-folk band Sol Invictus, boasting known ties to neo-fascism. A hot rod magazine (a hobby that he told us about) is posted along with Nazi paraphernalia like a Sturmfuhrer T-Shirt, Anarkismo articles, as well as an article from the neo-fascist site, The Occidental Observer.
Black Battlefront also saw a great deal of activity in 2011, including some passages copy-and-pasted from Schmidt’s Stormfront account listing the “propagators of [white] guilt” and “debasers of Aryan culture.” The administrator of Black Battlefront’s posts, Strandwolf, maintains the line about the Cape Party already expressed in Stormfront by KarelianBlue:
And in dispossessing our enemies, what then should our territory be?… We can rather lay claim to the western portions of the Old Cape and its hinterland, settled from 1652… Surrendering the gold- and coal-mining, industrial and financial hinterland plus the eastern ports, farms and plantations to majority-black South Africa would nevertheless leave us with a coherent territory, predominantly Afrikaans-speaking, with a white and coloured majority[.]
[W]hile all black and Asian residents of the territory shall automatically be deemed without prejudice to be foreigners, most of the blacks presumed to be South African citizens, all Aryan, Coloured, and Bushmen residents of proven Old Cape/Karras heritage shall automatically be citizens, with preferred residency and citizenship offered to Aryans of any origin[.]
After KarelianBlue floated a strategy of entryism into the Cape Party to the Stormfront community, Strandwolf elaborated on the idea in Black Battlefront, discussing the dispossession of “black and Asian residents,” along with some awkwardly egalitarian concessions to present a clean face of white separatism to the world.
However, Schmidt’s writings on white nationalism and anarchism had been compromised by an internal investigation, and his reputation was on the line. In 2012, he produced another article for Anarkismo, this time publicly addressing the contradictions between nationalism, statism, and anarchism in a review of two texts by anarchist scholar Maia Ramnath. Titled “South Asian Anarchisms: Paths to Praxis,” Schmidt’s review posits that the mixture of right and left political ideologies intrinsic to certain aspects of national liberation and separatist movements creates a precarious balance. Schmidt critiques Gandhi’s right-to-left ideology as a “völkisch nationalist decentralism” and “something of a forebearer of ‘national anarchism.’”
To explain national-anarchism (N-A), Schmidt attempts to distinguish perceived misconceptions from reality:
Misdiagnosed by most anarchists as fascist, ‘national anarchism’ fuses radical decentralism, anti-hegemonic anti-statism (and often anti-capitalism), with a strong self-determinist thrust that stresses cultural-ethnic homogeneity with a traditional past justifying a radical future; this is hardly ‘fascism’ or a rebranding of ‘fascism,’ for what is fascism without the state, hierarchy and class, authoritarianism, and the führer-principle?
Although his quotation, in context, seems critical of N-A, ironically it has been trumpeted by national-anarchists as something of a rare defense, and can be found on the N-A Wikipedia page (likely due to the removal of the stigma of fascism).
Whether he did so deliberately or not, to say that Schmidt misread Ramnath’s work is to understate things considerably. Over coffee in Brooklyn last Summer, Ramnath reflected on Schmidt’s reading of her work, after being shown a sample of his Stormfront activity. “When I first read it, I just thought — OK, he doesn’t get it. Whatever. Now, when read in the light of this new information, it’s just gross,” she said. ‘His approving reference to my “rediscovery’ of ‘my people’? Ew. I don’t have any ‘my people,’ I would never attempt to identify myself that way, and I would not attempt to glorify them or highlight their special contributions even if I did,” she explained. “That’s exactly the kind of ethnonationalist narrative that my work tries to get away from.”
Interestingly, however, Schmidt contradicted his position on “the state, hierarchy and class, authoritarianism, and the fuhrer-principle” in our interview earlier this year, stating that, “at one point even the [Nazi Party] was antistatist.” If Schmidt believes that the Nazi Party had been antistatist, then his entire argument distinguishing N-A from fascism falls apart. Hence, it is more likely that Schmidt was hedging his bets in the article by taking a measured public distance from national-anarchism while at the same time defending its reputation against claims of fascism. This position was likely taken in order to shield himself from accusations that he was, in fact, a national-anarchist, while still maintaining key N-A principles like that of the “proper Boerestaat.”
However, Schmidt’s attempt to delink N-A from fascism is rejected by most analysts (1, 2, 3, 4), and those who openly insist that N-A is not fascist are more often than not national-anarchists, themselves. According to anti-fascist thinker Don Hammerquist in Confronting Fascism, national-anarchism and other forms of neo-fascism represent a kind of “fascism from below,” which emerge as “thinking fascists universally see both the state and the ruling elites as active enemies” (2002, Kersplebedeb). The strategy deployed by N-A’s founder, Troy Southgate, explicitly calls for “entryism,” whereby N-A activists enter leftist groups and movements to co-opt them if their boundaries are weak, distort them if their message is ambiguous, or destroy them if infiltrators have no other option. Given Southgate’s fascist past and the coupling of an explicit strategy of entryism with the “abandonment” of the fascist tendency for a “revolutionary conservative” line, it is difficult to imagine how his national-anarchism could be taken as anything other than either fascist infiltration into the anarchist movement or an attempt to join forces with anarchists against the state while disseminating ideals of racial separatism and ultra-nationalism. In a telling contradiction, Schmidt confessed to us his belief that, rather than “misdiagnosed as fascist,” national-anarchism lies, in fact, “on the fringe of the neo-fascist camp.” Again, Schmidt’s own contradictions indicated that his original quotation distancing N-A from fascism represented nothing but another cryptic misdirection, an attempt to avoid accusations of N-A sympathies while also taking potshots at his ideological enemies within anarchism.
In perhaps his most brazen move, Schmidt attempted to affiliate N-A with “small-a anarchism,” in attempts to avoid suspicion. He told us in our interview:
The real horror for many self-described ‘anarchists’ today is not that [N-A] has misappropriated key aspects of true traditional anarchism such as decentralism and anti-statism — but rather that it has borrowed from their own much fetishised ‘post-anarchist’ / ‘small-a anarchist’ notions of subcultural semiotic rebellion (instead of mass-cultural pragmatic revolution), and of ephemeral Temporary Autonomous Zone / “Occupy autonomy” from capital (a petit-bourgeois palliative illusion in place of working class autogestive counter-power).
In other words, N-A should have given anarchists insight into the problem with “little-a anarchism” as a failure to develop a more mature class analysis. Schmidt’s own version of white nationalist anarchism seeks to create a “true Boerestaat” in which the majority of the population is white, guiding it to “true traditional anarchism” grounded in syndicalist decentralization. There is little room in this theory for feminism and “white skin privilege” analysis of “little-a anarchism.”
Schmidt’s strategy for entryism into the Cape Party to steer its largely English, liberal base toward an Afrikaner volkstaat would seem to link it to N-A and pan-separatism, but with a “big-A” twist. “By my reading,” he told us, “there is barely even a remnant of the racist ‘white labourism’ of the 1970s white power skinhead movement in N-A; class, having been eradicated from the far right and neo-fascist movements’ key agendas[,] did not make the transition into N-A along with its key theorists such as founder Troy Southgate of the UK and his fellow travelers; ethnic mysticism made the transition, but class did not.” On one level, Schmidt is correct — N-A functions more broadly on the level of pan-separatism and a mystical, traditionalist return to ancestral cultures. At the same time, these are all traits exhibited by Schmidt in his Terre’Blanche article and in private via his KarelianBlue profile as confirmed by anonymous sources. Schmidt would take another step toward public advocacy for pan-secessionism in 2014, but not before perfecting his presentation on Stormfront. The recurring themes reappearing on his various social media and white supremacist outlets show that Schmidt’s closeted writings in Stormfront and Black Battlefront served as springboards for strategic developments of white nationalism to be published for the public in sanitized form.
KarelianBlue explained his approach in a Stormfront post in July, 2014:
I believe the path of territorial self-determination, that relies upon the Atlantic Charter and subsequent UN resolutions on national self-determination (and I’m not naive about the falsehood in many of these promises), echoed in current debates around Scotland, Catalonia, the Basque Country, etc, needs to be seriously pursued in SA relating to the Old Cape. Put simply, we need to put forward to the international community a serious proposal for Old Cape (W Cape & N Cape) separatism based on cultural-liguistic [sic] history — and yes, that of necessity *must* be both white, coloured and indigenous — but NOT black. This will at least give us a true white majority in many areas of our historic heartland[…] Only a mass-level territorial secession that gives us the cities, population, media, armed forces, universities, farmlands, industry and fisheries necessary to sustain a modern territory can address that historial [sic] demand.
KarelianBlue’s post about reclaiming the Old Cape for whites reflects a practically identical position to Black Battlefront, as well as the focus on “cultural-linguistic history” present in Schmidt’s public article about Terre’Blanche. It also introduces the idea of UN self-determination clauses, which would be exercised publicly in an article Schmidt published two months later in The Daily Maverick ironically titled “The Two Faces of Global Separatism.”
After detailing some of the more horrifying aspects of what he calls separatism in Somalia, the former Yugoslavia, and Ukraine, Schmidt states, “Separatism can be a painful, even murderous, business. But sometimes it evolves from terrorism into democratic dissent.” Schmidt uses the Front de Libération du Québec, the Basque ETA, and the IRA as models for democracy-facilitating apparatuses. He also looks to the independence movement in Scotland, claiming “Many South Africans have sympathy for the cause of Scottish separatism as many Scots fought on the side of the Boers against the British Empire a century ago,” in an obvious attempt to reveal some potential pan-secessionist solidarity for mutual advancement of Boer and Scottish secession. Then he turns to South Africa, finding promising developments:
Boers certainly loved the 19th Century Irish for their resistance to Britain and for their support during the Boerevryheids Wars [translated as Boer Freedom Wars, also called the Boer Wars in English], but the socialist tinge of the Provos scared off the politically conservative Boers in the 20th Century. Now, however, the neo-Boer right such as Front Nasionaal is quite happy to look to national secessionist movements of all political stripes as justification for their renewed calls for the establishment of a Boerestaat, basing its argument on Article 235 of the Constitution and similar self-determination clauses in international conventions such as the United Nations Charter.
In this paragraph, one can already notice identical positions to KarelianBlue’s Stormfront posts. As well as the pan-secessionist solidarity involving the Boer, Schmidt locates self-determination clauses within the UN’s legal structure as an appropriate inroad toward separatism. By identifying more democratic secessionist movements and comparing them with the Front Nasionaal’s call for a Boerestaat, Schmidt presents his approval of the pan-secessionist route.
“The Two Faces of Global Separatism” continues: “The Soutie left also produced a secessionist formation, the Cape Party, which argues for independence for the old Cape Province, basing its argument on the same legal grounds (but not on ethnic hegemony), making a very Catalan-like complaint that the Cape’s tax contribution to the wealth of South Africa is disproportionately spent elsewhere by Pretoria.” Again, Schmidt’s comparison between what a democracy-facilitating Catalonian nationalism and the “proper Boerestaat” presents itself through what can easily be seen as the same kind of democratic promotion of the Cape Party called for by KarelianBlue.
Schmidt is, however, wrong in depicting the Cape Party as “left.” The Cape Party has, in fact, eschewed right or left labels; has listed “black economic empowerment, affirmative action and housing allocation policies” as “racist policies” against whites; and has been criticized as racist, itself, given the noted racism and classism of the place that it represents. It would appear that the associations with the “left” would make the Cape Party the more attractive brand of secessionism in South Africa.
“But neither party [Front Nasionaal or Cape Party] won seats in this year’s general election,” Schmidt’s article proceeds, “leaving it to the conservative right Freedom Front Plus to carry the Vierkleur [the four-colored flag of the Transvaal Republic of the Boer] forward — a dubious proposition given that it’s [sic] leader was seduced into cabinet by the previous Zuma administration).” Using the Boer name for the Boer War (Boerevryheids), as well as the Boer word for the four-colored flag of the Boerestaat, the Vierkleur, as well as the Afrikaaner slur for Englishman, Soutie, Schmidt’s article obviously manifests his prejudices toward a Boerestaat. His article seems to express the most appreciation for the more hard-line Afrikaner group, Freedom Front Plus (FF+); however, he also discloses a possible reason for his disenchantment with the FF+ after voting for them in the 2009 elections, and his movement toward entryism into the Cape Party by late-2010. Namely, the FF+ leader joined the administration of ANC frontman, Jacob Zuma, who Schmidt sees as the main perpetrator of “white genocide.”
Schmidt concludes, “Serious separatism involves a lot of shrewd economic and political calculations — and hard realpolitik horse-trading — but ultimately, it rests on mobilizing the historically-rooted sentiments of a defined populace, of tapping into their ‘oral and intangible heritage.’” In the end, “The Two Faces of Global Separatism” seems disaffected with the different parties, while at the same time striving for a “proper Boerestaat” based on “historically-rooted sentiments” and “intangible heritage.” In short, Schmidt strives for a territory reflective of his own Afrikaner identity, expressed in the Terre’Blanche article and “Politico-Cultural Dynamics,” but clearly sees the Cape Party as the most probable entry-point for people who have a left-to-right analysis.
Neither Left nor Reich
Although Black Battlefront and KarelianBlue had fallen off by 2012, Schmidt continued writing increasingly bizarre and contradictory texts regarding national-anarchism, fascism, and pan-secessionism. In an unpublished article presented to us by Schmidt over the course of our interview, titled “Neither Fish nor Fowl: Populism, Red Overalls and Black Shirts,” Schmidt criticizes the new political party in South Africa, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), for playing too close to a Chavista brand of populism and instigating “black racism.” His article ends, however, in a strange cluster of fascist references and references to fascists that can only be described as crypto-fascist.
Comparing the regimes of the late Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro to the parafascist regime of Juan Peron, Schmidt’s article identifies as fascist “everything from the openly neo-fascist Golden Dawn in Greece, to Morales’s ethnic-capitalist ‘Evoism’ in Bolivia, to the ultra-conservative Tea Party faction within the Republicans in the United States, in sum, a counter-hegemonic movement that has distinct left and right wings, both of which draw their oxygen from populaces disillusioned with the exhausted politics-as-usual of the ballot box.” While this incredibly broad definition of fascism is both unfocused and demonstrably inaccurate (neither Mussolini’s Fascist Party nor Hitler’s Nazi Party had any compunction using the ballot box as part of a broader strategy, and any number of populist political forms can be presented as a counter-hegemonic, extra-parliamentary movements with left and right wings), it has a certain shotgun-blast appeal that presents all enemies as united through a common, easily identifiable grouping.
Placing Bolivia’s social populist leader, Evo Morales, as fascist on the same level as Greece’s sig heiling political party, Golden Dawn, seems particularly inadequate considering that Schmidt goes to great pains to distinguish both N-A and Terre’Blanche’s AWB from neo-fascism. However, perhaps in a gesture back to his earlier estimation of the AWB as conservative rather than fascist, Schmidt goes on to declare that “this is not to say that even right-wing populism automatically converges with fascism: Julius Evola, a leading Italian ultramontane critic of the original Fascists, wrote in 1925 that ‘The so-called Fascist revolution’ is merely ‘an ironic revolution,’ because it has ‘formally accepted the existing constitutional, parliamentary, and legal order’ adding that ‘one can hardly trust’ these ‘pseudo revolutionaries to have the power to execute a real coup d’etat.’” What he does not disclose is that, while Evola may have been an aristocratic critic of Mussolini’s Fascist Party, he was also an early fascist and remains a key influence in neo-fascist thought. Using Evola’s critique of fascist parties against Morales, who he describes as both capitalist and fascist, is bafflingly difficult to unpack.
In A History of Fascism, 1914–1945, scholar Stanley Payne records that “Down to his death in 1973, Evola stood as the leading intellectual of neofascism and/or the radical right in all Europe” (University of Wisconsin Press, 1996). Troy Southgate, leading ideologue of national-anarchism, edited a 288 page anthology about Evola in 2011, published through his Black Front Press, named after Otto Strasser’s secret fascist organization. Importantly, Evola was a leading progenitor of the cultural and spiritual theory of race, rather than the biological theory of race, just like Schmidt’s own outline of cultural racism in “Politico-Cultural Dynamics” and Black Battlefront, as well as reflected by Schmidt’s own pan-European, quasi-spiritual tattoos.
Quoting Evola in relation to an apparently-anarchist critique of a fascist party has always been standard faire for national-anarchists (1, 2, 3). Citing him in relation to “the power to execute a real coup d’etat” (an inflammatory term for the Latin American left) fits with what fascist theorist Alexander Dugin calls the “fourth political theory,” which calls for a “fascist fascism” that identifies party-style fascism as a kind of vulgarization of the true fascist Idea. This idealist perspective on a “new spirit,” or a fascism that could not be dogmatized, is actually a core element of original fascist theory, from the early theorists Giovanni Gentile and Camillo Pelizzi, who called the fascist state “more than a state, a dynamo.” Such a supra-national anarchic Idea or dynamo was subverted by established parties, according to The Fascist Revolution by scholar George L Mosse: “fascism became a mass political party, which stifled creativity in the name of its truth and showed a willingness to assimilate the values of the bourgeois age which those advocating a ‘Third Force’ could not readily accept” (1999, Howard Fertig, 116). Again, national-anarchists tend to deny that they are fascists, associating fascism, as such, with vulgar populism, while evoking Evola in order to, in the words of Southgate, “transcend the beyond.”
Hence, Schmidt presents the “original Fascists” as populists in the same way that he presents Morales as “fascist” — a populist component of the capitalist system that should be overthrown, perhaps by a “real coup d’etat.” The fact that Evola maintained infamous connections to Lopez Rega’s famous AAA paramilitary group that helped overthrew the Peron regime in the 1970s and install a military junta should not be lost on us when we read Schmidt’s citation of his position on the “coup d’etat.” It should also not be lost on us that in Cartography of Revolutionary Anarchism, Schmidt admiringly describes the idea of an anarchist “junta” to coordinate the military repression of counter-revolutionaries (2014, AK Press, out of print). As if to make sure that the reader understood he is not quoting Evola by accident, Schmidt goes on to quote the psychologist of crowds, Gustave le Bon, who was also a key influence on original fascism, and along with Evola is currently the subject of efforts by the fascist New European Right to revive the fascist and conservative revolutionary tableau.
Schmidt ends the article with an insistence that “EFF is playing with fire, because while it is totally correct in challenging oligarchy, monopoly and the continued dominance of the white elite of some 320,000 people (plus about 1,500 people of color), it’s [sic] ethnicisation of the country’s troubles promises to sow dragon’s teeth in our red soil.” It is difficult to parse through the mixed metaphors in this sentence. First, “our red soil” evokes the mixture of the blood of the Boer and the “blood and soil” nationalism of Schmidt’s Afrikaner identity, which he sees as “inextricably intertwined with Africans. The fire seems to represent “the continuing dominance of the white elite,” while the “dragon’s teeth” seems to represent prospective forces of white genocide. The only apparent reading of this is that Schmidt is claiming that the EFF would ignite a kind of race war, in which the “fire” of the white elite would fall on the side of the Afrikaners, ultimately destroying the EFF and its followers.
Schmidt’s final, unpublished phantasmagoria presents an alarmist rendering of a coming race war, which is perhaps the ultima ratio of the pathology of fascist ideology. Attempting to use Evola as a critical voice in an article calling for a coup d’etats against the purportedly fascist regimes of Morales, Castro, and Chavez (grouped together with the Tea Party and Golden Dawn) was, perhaps, the absurd end result of an impossibility — Schmidt’s attempt to merge lone wolf white nationalism with a broadly accepted, leftist revolutionary position. From his argument for an apartheid system in anarchist organizations to his defense of Afrikaner nationalism, his support for the FF+, and promotion of the Cape Party, Schmidt’s crypto-fascist usage of Evola and le Bon only add to the list of deceitful maneuvers in the fading career of an international political antihero, desperate to establish an intelligible politics distinct from — and capable of competing with — the “small-a” and “identitarian” iterations of anarchism that he saw as popular adversaries.
How he actually got that far is another question entirely. One to be taken up in the final installment of this series.
Alexander Reid Ross is a moderator of the Earth First! Newswire, the editor of Grabbing Back: Essays Against the Global Land Grab and author of the forthcoming book Against the Fascist Creep (AK Press)
Joshua Stephens is a former collective member with the Institute for Anarchist Studies, and a writer whose work has appeared with The Atlantic, Gawker, AlterNet, Truthout, NOW Lebanon, and The Outpost.