TRUE TO THE EARTH: Pagan Political Theology (A new release from Gods&Radicals Press)

Go directly to the advance sale page at this link.

Much more than traditions and customs are lost when an animist culture is suppressed or destroyed. Into the abyss of forgetting goes also an entire way of seeing humans, animals, gods, and the rest of nature, as well as the relationships these things constantly forge with each other.

These were also the worldviews of ancient Pagan cultures before the dominance of writing and monotheism supplanted them. Organic pluralism, an embrace of multiple, conflicting truths, and a deep understanding of the interconnection between humans and the natural world: all were core values of oral and animist cultures.

As global climate change and the collapse of Empire throw the earth and our modern societies into crisis, these core values are what humanity and the nature it destroys desperately need again.

In True To The Earth: Pagan Political Theology, author and professor of philosophy Kadmus weaves a narrative from the lore of Celtic, Greek, Norse, and indigenous traditions to show us how we once saw the world and how we can see it again. He unveils the modern assumptions which blind us from seeing the past and what we’ve lost, challenges the core foundations of literal, universalist thinking, and shakes us free from the unseen bonds monotheism has placed upon our understanding of ourselves and the world.

Well-researched and erudite, yet written in an engaging and accessible manner, True To The Earth offers back to us what we have lost, and gives us fertile soil from which a new earth-centered political understanding can arise.

About the Author:

Kadmus is a published academic with a Ph.D. in philosophy teaching at the college level. He is also a practicing ceremonial magician with a long standing relationship to the ancient Celtic deities.

Pre-sale

True To The Earth: Pagan Political Theology will be released 15 October, 2018. Gods&Radicals Press is offering advanced purchases at reduction from the regular price.

Advanced-purchase single copies of True To The Earth are available for $12.50 each (regular $16)

In addition, True To The Earth can be purchased together with Pagan Anarchism (by Christopher Scott Thompson), A Pagan Anti-Capitalist Primer (by Alley Valkyrie & Rhyd Wildermuth), and Witches In a Crumbling Empire (by Rhyd Wildermuth) for $37.50 (regular $52.00).

All orders will ship before the full release. All books within the package orders ship together when True To The Earth is released.

To order, please use this link.

The Factory Floor & The Witch’s Stake

To accept Empire is to deny the dead, the tortured witches of our past and the tortured rebels dying in Empire’s prisons. To not fight Empire is to defy our own bodies, defile the land and destroy the bodies of others. To accept Empire is to become Empire.

From Rhyd Wildermuth

The following essay is adapted from Rhyd Wildermuth’s speech, “Witches In A Crumbling Empire,” to be republished as part of his next collection, Our Time of Springs, Our Time of Flames (August, 2018)


The Empire under which we all suffer, under whom we are all ruled, was born upon the factory floor and upon the witch’s stake.

Industrialised capitalism started in England around 1760. Before then, almost everything humans used was made by humans with human effort, without the input of petroleum. So, in the early 1700’s, any clothing you wore and any food you ate was made or grown completely without fossil fuels.

The first coal-fired factories were built in cities swollen with refugees from the surrounding areas. Those people had just lost all access to land and the means to support themselves because of laws called the Enclosure Acts. No longer could they raise animals and plants from the earth with their own two feet firmly planted on the ground; now, their only option was to stand on wood and stone factory floors for 14 hours a day making things for other people.

Humans are hard to control. Humans don’t like working all day for someone else. They have to eat, and piss, and shit, and rest. Many women bleed every moon, sometimes they get pregnant and have to care for their children.

But Coal doesn’t tire. Coal doesn’t show up to work late after a night of drinking or fucking. Coal doesn’t need a rest, doesn’t get menstrual cramps, doesn’t daydream about how life can be better. Coal also doesn’t demand wages.

So the great ‘revolution’ of industrialisation was the slow replacement of human labor with black carbon labor from the earth. In the Americas, the people called Black were also used to replace waged labor. In both cases, the rich tried to find a low-cost, easily-managed, fully-predictable means to gain wealth.

Slaves revolt, though, and kill their masters. Coal and oil blacken the cities and skies with soot, but burned through filters, the carbon becomes invisible, escapes quietly into the atmosphere, warming the earth at such imperceptible rates that it could be ignored until recently.

What could not be ignored was the tendency of humans to revolt against their masters, be they slaves or peasants, workers or servants. Humans don’t make very good machines, we are unpredictable, tire easily, and anyway would rather be creating art or eating, then doing monotonous work for little pay.

The same era which saw the birth of industrialised capitalism also saw the birth of all modern forms of government and control. The modern city, the nation-state, so-called Democracy, representative government, prisons resembling factories resembling schools which resemble prisons. It also saw the birth of the modern police and the political order under which we now live.

But what is Empire?

By Empire I mean America, but I also do not.

By Empire I mean Capitalism, but I also do not.

By Empire I mean colonization. I mean industrialisation. I mean the slaughter of indigenous peoples and the enslavement of Africans. I mean the carbon in the air and the worker in the factory. I mean all the newly extinct species and all the dying forests. I mean the corporations which own the internet and the corporations who profit from the computers and smartphones you read this on.

By Empire, I mean the foreign wars. I mean an Arab woman cradling the corpse of her decapitated daughter and shaking her fist at the gay Black dude from Los Angeles who only joined the Army to get money to support his mother.

By Empire, I mean the Mexican child screaming as her father is taken away by an ICE agent whose grandparents fled the Nazi advance in Europe.

By Empire, I mean the Black father mourning his son killed by a cop whose ancestors sold themselves into indentured servitude rather than starve to death during the famine in Ireland.

By Empire, I mean the intersectional feminist writing essays about the exploitation of women and children on a computer made through the exploitation of Asian women and African children.

And by Empire I mean the Arab man who massacres gays in a nightclub to retaliate for atrocities none of those people committed.

By Empire, I mean the single white mother driving her disabled kid to a doctor’s appointment over roads lain by migrant workers who are about to get deported.

By Empire I mean the civitas and the polis. I mean civilization and the police, the laws and logic, the political order, the thou shalt nots and the prisons where you go when you refuse to listen.

But more than anything, I mean the Empire in each of you and the Empire in me.

I mean all that was once wild and raw and sacred in us that is now ground into machine-parts and mechanical obedience.

By Empire I mean you, and by Empire I mean me.

And finally, by Empire I mean this thing that is crumbling around us, gasping for air, begging us to keep it alive.

The Empire that is crumbling around us was born on the factory floors and the witch’s stake, and both were assaults on the human body.

Silvia Federici said it, in her essay “In Praise of the Dancing Body:

Capitalism was born from the separation of people from the land and its first task was to make work independent of the seasons and to lengthen the workday beyond the limits of our endurance…. What we have not always seen is what the separation from the land and nature has meant for our body, which has been pauperized and stripped of the powers that pre-capitalist populations attributed to it.

If the first task of Capitalism was to separate us from land and nature, they have more than succeeded. One need only look at the vastly artificial surroundings we all live in, the devices we use to speak with each other, the manufactured foods and synthetic medicines. Can you walk outside your home and find something edible growing by the pavement? Do you know which birds share your neighborhood with you? Can you point to where precisely the sun will rise tomorrow morning without a compass? Without looking outside tonight or at the internet, which phase is the moon in?

But it’s useless to rail against this disconnection. What separates us from the land and nature is not a current assault in an ongoing struggle: the war was won by them long ago. We are an occupied people, often occupying occupied land cleared long before any of us were born.

If that war was lost, though, the other war is still on going. Says Federici again:

Mechanization—the turning of the body, male and female, into a machine—has been one of capitalism’s most relentless pursuits.

Capitalism has needed us to act like machines so we can fit into the system as mere, fully-interchangeable cogs. Many of use don’t fit, though: be it our bodies themselves or our failure to conform, the process of turning us into machines is never fully complete.

Those of us who gum up the gears aren’t welcome in the factory, but Empire has a place for us too.

Empire was born on the factory floor, and it was also born on the witch’s stake. Failure to file down your rough bits, refusal to conform to the will of the political order, and worst of all encouraging others to do the same will land you at best in jail, or riddled with mental-illnesses that were non-existent in pre-capitalist lands, suffocated with a crushed trachea for daring to sell loose cigarettes or bleeding to death in the street for looking non-white when the polis tried to enforce its will.

There are countless technological distractions and institutions which have helped us forget our bodies: the masturbatory fantasies of video games and pornography, the medicalisation of any bodily refusal to be a good worker. Gyms look like factories for a reason, for it’s in the mills and on the mechanical looms where we first lost the meaning of muscle and blood. And then there is clock time, our smartphones and alarm clocks, schools which teach kids to move from class to class to prepare them to move from task to task.

Capitalism needed to separate us from the land and our body because it is the land and the body which tells you this is all wrong. The land screams as species go extinct, forests die, icecaps melt. Your body screams when you treat it as a machine.

Your body tells you this is all wrong. Starting from the body, you know you tire faster when you are doing meaningless work. You know the food on offer to you at the supermarkets is empty, you know that the air you breathe is often toxic. You know sitting for eight hours staring at a screen hurts more than just your eyes, that standing behind a counter slinging coffee to exhausted people makes you a poorly-paid drug dealer.

All that knowledge is what capitalism needs you not to know.

All those feelings are what Empire fears you’ll feel.

Capitalism needed to separate us from the land and our bodies for another reason.

Your body is always in contact with something else, something outside yourself. Your feet, the lowest part of you, the easiest part to ignore until they hurt, they connect to the entire world-soul. Taking your shoes off, standing on the grass or the sand or stone, you become no longer a machine but a body again, part of something always bigger than yourself, with a different logic, a more intuitive time, a deeper truth.

Your feet on the earth, you cannot be disconnected from the earth and the seasons, because you are also the earth and its seasons. Work in summer is not work in winter, the time of your waking and the cycles of your sleeping follow a different rhythm fully separate from the time of money-making, the time of machines.

Capitalism needs you to forget this.

Witchcraft tells you to remember.

If Empire was born on the factory floor and on the witch’s stake, it spread into every last bit of our existence, making subjects out of each one of us. While Capitalism needed to separate us from the land and our bodies, Empire needed us to become passive subjects of the political order.

Passivity is not receptivity. As a gay man I can assure you, more action goes into receptive sex than merely closing your eyes and thinking about the Empire. I suspect most women would concur.

Receptivity opens us to the world of senses, of feelings, of meaning. You are being receptive now, taking my words into you, playing with them, weaving their meaning into the tapestry of you. But passivity makes you a victim, a mere tool in the hands of the powerful. Passivity is consumption, selection between lifestyle options, an identity defined not by what you do but by what you choose. Did you vote Democrat or Republican? Drink Coke or Pepsi? Use an iPhone or Android?

Passivity reduces will to mere consumer preference. No longer will to power but a mere checkbox on a ballot or a selection on a screen. No longer desire and suffering but mere distractions to dull the fatigue of work and the anxiety of alienation.

You cannot force someone to become passive except by long applications of torture. But there is another route, a slower one, by which you can conquer the will of others by telling them not ‘thou shalt not’ but ‘thou cannot.’ Like the God of Eden’s lies to the woman in the garden, we are told we cannot survive without capitalism, cannot be safe without police, cannot find meaning outside of waged work, cannot find love without cosmetics.

And so what we did not lose on the factory floor we lost with the death of witches. Not only the women with herbs and poison roots, not only the crones bearing stories from times before private property, not only the maidens urging worship in temples of wild lust, not only the mothers feeding us from their bodies. Not only them, but also them: the women who reminded us an entire world can be made not from city and machine but forest and dirt.

Not only them, but also the heretics, the mad, the dreamers, the rebels. The men dressed like women tearing down fences along with women drest like men, refusing the enclosure of the sacred commons and the seizure of land for the profit of the few. The indigenous elders gunned down by settlers, the traditional healers dead in the hulls of slave ships. All of them taught what Empire needed us to forget: the earth knows what the computer never will, that the body bleeds a liquid more powerful than petroleum.

With them gone, we started to believe we can-not. We cannot heal ourselves without pharmaceuticals, we cannot feed ourselves without factory farms. We cannot make our own clothes, cannot craft our own homes. We must now suckle at the toxic teat of the Market while it slaps us with an invisible hand.

We started to believe we cannot resist.

But in the screaming defiance of the immolated witches was a reminder: we can refuse to submit, even in death.

It took centuries to shape us into what we are now, passive sniveling subjects of Empire and Capital. Though this may seem long, we lived outside Empire much longer. Capitalism is new and short-lived, compared even to Feudalism. It differs only in its full permeation of all our existence, and it is for this reason I call it Empire.

It is also collapsing.

The climate change caused by Capitalism cannot be stopped any longer, and its effects already cause famines and resource wars throughout the world. Between 30,000 and 140,000 species go extinct every year now; at the beginning of the 1800’s, this number was no more than 1000 yearly. Cities are beginning to flood, water tables depleting, while the oil-wells which makes the entire Empire run are going dry. Climate change will increase the refugee crises currently fueling the nationalist parties in Europe and the US, and whether they are fleeing from resource wars or unmanned drone bombers, they are undoubtedly the first quakes of Empire’s impending collapse.

Empires always pompously declare themselves eternal. The British swore the sun would never set on them, the third reich was supposed to last 1000 years. Western Democratic Capitalist Empire declared itself ‘the end of history’ in the 1990’s, but of course Fukuyama’s prediction sealed its fate.

Empires have always tried to cheat death and this one is no different. But the crone that stands on the other side of death’s door revealed her trump card, and now few can deny what this means.

Some still cling to the vain hope that Donald Trump is merely an unfortunate set-back to the progress of civilization. But reversing civil protections, installing fascist theorists in positions of power, rattling the chains of other world leaders, building a wall to keep the Mexicans out—these are not mere reversals of Empire’s progress, they are Empire trying to save itself.

Consider this wall between the US and Mexico. See past the obvious racism of such a thing and its absurd cost to what’s lurking beneath the political veneer. Consider the impending flood of climate refugees: remember your geography, look at a map displaying where the major destruction will occur first, and suddenly Trump’s idea isn’t mere xenophobic delusion.

The increase in surveillance powers, the militarization of police forces, the dismantling of the courts and the rights they are sworn to protect, the stoking of fascist flames: these are not just the actions of a psychopath, but of an engineer shoring up the ruins of Empire.

The same is happening everywhere else in the world. The capitalists know we are remembering to resist again, and so they are raising again the stakes, piling faggots beneath them, waiting for our next sign of revolt.

To accept what is around us now, to call such things “good” and “necessary,” is to laugh in the faces of the screaming witches who died so this Empire could arise. To chase after like mongrel dogs the trinkets and crumbs the capitalists throw down to us on the floor–the “rights” and “freedoms” and all the glossy junk cluttering store shelves–is to jeer at the sorrow and sufferings of our ancestors hauled to work in chains or prodded into mills by the terror of starvation.

To accept Empire is to deny the dead, the tortured witches of our past and the tortured rebels dying in Empire’s prisons. To not fight Empire is to defy our own bodies, defile the land and destroy the bodies of others. To accept Empire is to become Empire.

To fight Empire is to stare in the face of our own deaths and laugh, knowing the worst that might happen is Empire might burn us, too.

But to the witches who risked the stake to avoid forever the factory floor, the insurrectionists who risked bullets to forever avoid submission, and any who risked the rage of Empire for the possibility that Empire might fall, the choice was an easy one.

So is ours.


Rhyd Wildermuth

Rhyd is a co-founder and the managing editor of Gods&Radicals Press and a co-editor of godsandradicals.org.


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To Spite The Face: a review of Insurgent Supremacists by Matthew N. Lyons

Reviewed in this essay: Insurgent Supremacists: The U.S. Far Right’s Challenge to State and Empire, by Matthew N. Lyons (Published by PM Press)

Anti-fascism in the United States has two deep problems, neither of which can easily be unraveled. The first problem, which is the foundation of the second, is that it cannot accurately identify precisely who or what a fascist actually is.

This first problem can best be shown from a rather amusing conversation I recently encountered regarding myself and Gods&Radicals Press (where I am the managing editor). It turns out, according to some deeply wise Twitter commentators, that I’m a fascist, or possibly a proto-fascist, or an anarcho-nationalist with white-nationalist leanings.

Their evidence? A recent essay regarding the commons, an essay critiquing racial and gender essentialism, and an anti-imperialist essay.

While it’s tempting to dismiss such a conversation and laugh about the general absurdity of American social media “call outs,” their error points to something much more endemic than mere ignorance or poor reading skills. The essays selectively cited do indeed contain some ideas that could be mistaken as fascist, but not because the ideas themselves are fascist. For instance: the essay on reclaiming the commons from an anti-colonial perspective mentions the word “land” a lot. Some fascists also wish to reclaim land. Likewise, the essay against imperialism shares with some fascist tendencies a disgust for the occupation of peoples by the military. And my critique of social justice essentialism criticizes non-Marxist “feminist” reduction of men to their bodies and genitals.

That is, what the commentators were looking for were signs of fascist ideology, ticking off boxes on a checklist of fascist traits. But unfortunately, opposition to fascism is not as easy as completing a Buzzfeed quiz or reading an Everyday Feminism listicle.

In this error they are hardly alone. American antifascist organizing has faced a much larger difficulty identifying precisely who’s a fascist, or even whether any particular idea is indicative of fascist ideology. This problem leads to all sorts of practical problems, particularly when it comes to organizing against groups and theorists on the far-right who don’t fit into traditional stereotypes of fascism.

Two examples should suffice to show the problem here. First of all, Jack Donovan and the group to which he belongs, The Wolves of Vinland, cannot easily be classified as fascist according to popularly-accepted metrics. Donovan is specifically anti-imperialist, criticizes capitalism and anti-globalisation, rejects racism, and is homosexual. In addition, The Wolves of Vinland might be better described as a Pagan body-cult than a “Fascist counter-cultural tribe” , particularly because they not only do they not participate in demonstrations and have rejected alliances with alt-right groups, but have absolutely no interest in seizing political power or taking control of the state. So any litmus strip we might apply to either Donovan or the Wolves of Vinland in order to determine whether they are fascist will come back completely clean.

Likewise, fascists are at least according to popular understanding supposed to be anti-Black, anti-gay, and most definitely anti-Semitic. So that makes encountering the occasionally violent ideas of Milo Yiannopolous quite difficult: he is homosexual, has a Black man as a lover, and also happens to be Jewish. That is, he isn’t anti-Black, nor anti-gay, nor precisely anti-semitic, yet we still generally see his ideas as fascist.

This nebulous nature of Fascism also means that many leftists find themselves considered fascist because of their adherence to ideas which appear (at least at first glance) to be of fascist provenance. For instance, the anarchist publisher Little Black Cart and its publications have been repeatedly identified as fascist by other anarchists because of their anti-civilizationist and eco-extremist tendencies, both of which appear (under a glance no more attentive than what is needed for a Teen Vogue article) to be identical to some white-nationalist positions.

Similarly, those who use the works of clearly leftist philosophers such as Max Stirner or even Slavoj Zizek are often painted with a fascist brush because of the similarities between both philosophers’ rejection of Liberal Democratic capitalism and the European Nouvelle Droit’s rejections of the same regime.

This inability to distinguish between right-wing (and fascist) critiques of Liberal Democracy leads to the second and more intractable problem within American Anti-fascism. That problem? By mis-identifying Marxist and other far-left opposition to Liberal Democracy as fascist, antifascists end up siding with Capitalist interests and becoming defenders of Liberal Democracy. That is, in an attempt to fight off white supremacists and other far right challenges to the state, antifascists can enable the state to continue its oppression against the very people antifascists claim to defend.

The Revolutionary Right

Thus Matthew N Lyons’ forthcoming book, Insurgent Supremacists: The US Far Right’s Challenge to State and Empire, is a deeply needed work.

In the title itself, Lyons begins to unravel inherited, popular misconceptions about the entire political constellation in which we (often clumsily) attempt to locate fascism. Generally (at least within liberal and “progressive” anti-fascist currents), the far right is not considered a threat to Empire, but to be the political foundation of Empire itself. But while to speak of an anti-imperialist far-right seems oxymoronic, Lyons provides an almost overwhelming onslaught of detail as to how much of the Far Right is predicated on a critique of and opposition to liberal democratic imperialism.

Opposition to global capitalism and the international governance organizations which protect it, fierce criticism (sometimes backed by weapons) of oppressive policing and surveillance apparatuses, and moral reprehension at imperialist US foreign policy in the Middle East have all been parts of many movements within the Far Right in the United States. For instance, consider the following words:

When a U.S. plane or cruise missile is used to bring destruction to a foreign people, this nation rewards the bombers with applause and praise. What a convenient way to absolve these killers of any responsibility for the destruction they leave in their wake.

Unfortunately, the morality of killing is not so superficial. The truth is, the use of a truck, a plane or a missile for the delivery of a weapon of mass destruction does not alter the nature of the act itself.

These are weapons of mass destruction — and the method of delivery matters little to those on the receiving end of such weapons.

Whether you wish to admit it or not, when you approve, morally, of the bombing of foreign targets by the U.S. military, you are approving of acts morally equivalent to the bombing in Oklahoma City …

These words by Timothy McVeigh (the far-right bomber of a federal building In Oklahoma City that killed 168 people, many of them children) might just as easily have been written by indigenous resistance leaders, the Black Panthers, or other leftist revolutionary groups in the United States. Or as I note in an essay about him,  many of Jack Donovan’s critiques of the police state and of liberal democracy could just as easily have been written by those same groups.

Unlike those leftist revolutionary groups and also unlike Jack Donovan, Timothy McVeigh was a white nationalist, expressing fondness for the white supremacist book The Turner Diaries, as well as selling copies of it at gun shows. And so there is where someone like McVeigh fits into our preconceived notions of what makes a fascist…except as Lyons points out in his book, white supremacist ideas are not a clear indicator of fascism, either.

That difficulty of pinning down precisely what makes someone on the far right a fascist might otherwise plague such a book as his, but Lyons wisely dispenses with the question altogether until the very end (a previously-published essay included as appendix). Rather than attempt to build a catalogue of fascist ideologies and movements in the United States, he instead details all the Far Right movements which intersect with this slippery category.

The first part of Insurgent Supremacists provide a detailed sketch of five ideological movements (Neo-Nazis, Christian Dominionists/Theocrats, The Alt-Right, the Patriot movements, and the LaRouche Network), and at least for the first four groups, readers with only a surface understanding of Right-wing ideology may find themselves surprised to learn how thoroughly different each ideology is from the others. While crossovers absolutely exist, many of the adherents of each group would be just as likely to vehemently oppose the other groups as to claim them as fellow travelers.

In the second section, Lyons then looks at each group again through the lens of their views on gender & sexuality, decentralization, and anti-imperialism, and here again the average anti-fascist may find their original analysis uncomfortably complicated by what Lyons details. Particularly of interest are the problems of anti-imperialism and decentralization (anti-federalist– or in some cases even anti-government–positions ), both of which are critiques autonomous Marxists and anarchists share with many on the far right (albeit for different reasons).

The third section, however, is the most useful and unfortunately the most short. In it, Lyons discusses the complicated relationship that police and the FBI have had with far right groups, as well as the influence the Liberal political structures (especially the Democratic Party) has had on creating the conditions for the rise of these groups as well as increasing police oppression of society at large in the name of fighting them. Returning to McVeigh’s bombing, Lyons points out:

The Clinton administration also used the Oklahoma City bombing to help win passage of the 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, which loosened restrictions on the wiretapping and other surveillance of alleged “terrorists,” expanded the use of secret evidence to deport non- citizens (which means that the defendants have no opportunity to see the evidence being used against them), and, in the words of legal journalist Lincoln Caplan, “gutted the federal writ of habeas corpus, which a federal court can use to order the release of someone wrongly imprisoned.” The law made the death penalty more “effective” by making it much more difficult for death row inmates to appeal their sentences, even though a notoriously high proportion of death sentences have been shown to have serious flaws.” (174)

Antifascist Alliances with the Capitalist State

In fact, it’s Lyons’ consistent (but understated) criticism of liberal politics throughout his discussion of the Far Right that makes Insurgent Supremacists most useful. Lyons runs directly counter to most popular antifascist thought by insisting that the Far Right is not made up of idiots without political sensibilities or actual grievances. People like McVeigh were absolutely right to be incensed about the government’s slaughter of innocents in Waco or at Ruby Ridge, just as many of those who supported Trump in the recent election had absolutely legitimate grievances against the Democratic Party’s destructive hyper-capitalist economic policies and imperialist expansionary foreign policy positions.

Of course, such a position runs counter not only to the received wisdom of many antifascists, but stands directly in opposition to Liberal dismissals of the Right as merely ignorant or hateful.   Accepting this Liberal position is how antifascists have gotten to the place they’re in now, finding themselves continuously pulled toward the Democratic Party’s “centrist” positions and thus unable to distinguish a leftist from a fascist.

This is not merely an unfortunate problem of mis-identification, however. As in the case of McVeigh, Lyons points out that antifascism and opposition to far right ideologies have historically sometimes served to increase State violence and power.

Many people think of growing state repression as a trend toward fascism. But these events of the 1930s and ’40s highlight the fact that antifascism can itself serve as a rationale for increasing repression, as Don Hamerquist has pointed out: “when did this country outlaw strikes, ban seditious organizing and speech, intern substantial populations in concentration camps, and develop a totalitarian mobilization of economic, social, and cultural resources for military goals? Obviously it was during WWII, the period of the official capitalist mobilization against fascism, barbarism and for ‘civilization.’” (166)

The particular difficulty here, which Lyons touches on occasionally, is that the political interests of Capital are able to manipulate opposition to far right ideologies, particularly through the Democratic Party. And here many looking for easier answers will likely either dismiss or take offense at his discussion about whether or not Trump (or the US government in general) is fascist or in “process” of becoming fascist.

Each of these claims that the U.S. government or public officials are driving us toward fascism represents a misuse of the term, one that blurs the line between fascism and the more repressive, racist, and militaristic sides of the United States’ liberal- pluralist political system (181)

In particular, Lyons critiques the dogmatic approach to Trump of Alexander Reid Ross (an antifascist writer I’ve criticized before for mis-identifying leftist opposition to capitalism as fascist or fascist-adjacent):

Radical journalist Alexander Reid Ross argued that we should look at fascism “as a ‘process’ rather than an ‘outcome’,” and that “Trumpism” was “part of a process of ‘fascist creep,’ meaning a radicalization of conservative ideology that increasingly includes fascist membership while deploying fascist ideology, strategy, and tactics.” This approach rightly emphasized that many political initiatives occupy a gray area between fascist and conservative politics and that the political character of such initiatives can change over time. But Ross simply assumed that Trump’s campaign—unlike previous right- wing populist candidates such as George Wallace and Pat Buchanan—had an inherent tendency to move toward fascism and would not be co- opted by the established political system. (197)

But then, if Trump isn’t fascist and if many of the implementations of oppressive (and often explicitly racist) policies and powers of the United States isn’t fascist either, than what exactly is fascism? In an appendix of the book, Lyons discusses the difficulty of defining fascism and looks at others’ attempts to do so before coming up with a definition that will satisfy very few:

Fascism is a revolutionary form of right- wing populism, inspired by a totalitarian vision of collective rebirth, that challenges capitalist political and cultural power while promoting economic and social hierarchy.

This definition will be unsatisfactory to most because of what it doesn’t explicitly include (white supremacy, misogyny) as well as what it does include (a challenge to capitalist political and cultural power).  With such a definition we are forced to question almost everything we think we know about fascism’s traits, and find none of our checklists or listicles make sense anymore.

That’s a good thing, but with a caveat. Because the culture of constant reaction within America, especially via the reductionist forms of internet “discourse,” makes it very likely that capitalists and the government which serves their interest will continue to summon antifascists to their defense. While the challenge fascism presents to capitalist power is not our challenge, we must avoid making façile concessions to the Liberal Democratic state out of fear that the fascists might win. As Lyons points out in the case of the House UnAmerican Activities Committe during the middle of the last century (which was originally set up to prosecute fascists!), supporting (or even celebrating) government repression of the far right always empowers the state to then turn its weapons on the left.

Antifascists can and must oppose both the capitalist liberal democratic state as well as fascists, and must do so always at the same time. To make alliances with the state against the Far Right which threatens it will also lead the left to abandon their own challenge to the state, cutting off our nose to spite the face.


Rhyd Wildermuth

Rhyd Wildermuth is a co-founder of Gods&Radicals and one of its co-editors. He is currently teaching a course on Marxism, and currently lives in Bretagne. Follow his dispatches from other shores here.


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A preview of Circling The Star

Anthony Rella’s new book, Circling The Star, will be released into the world 14 February, 2018, and is available at a reduced rate for pre-order.

You can read more about it here, or view a sample chapter (including the foreword from T. Thorn Coyle) at the following link:

Circling The Star (sample)

CIRCLING THE STAR

With your freedom, what would you make of this world?

Gods&Radicals Press is pleased to announce our newest release: Circling the Star, by Anthony Rella.

 

Circling The Star is a practical journey into the esoteric wisdom of the Iron Pentacle for activists, witches, rebels, and mystics seeking a deeper understanding of themselves and of the world they wish to transform.

Circling The Star offers the seeker a spiritual philosophy which will empower their resistance to capital and Empire. Weaving together psychology, Egyptian polytheism, queer and occult theory, Kabbalah, intersectional feminism, and Feri witchcraft, witch and therapist Anthony Rella offers us a powerful manual for personal and political liberation.

Those already familiar with the workings of the Iron Pentacle but seeking a more engaged witchcraft will find Circling The Star invaluable. Those new to these workings will find Circling The Star an ideal introduction. And the many of us wary of mass-market glossy ‘magic’ texts and white-light spiritual bypassing will find Circling The Star an exhilarating glimpse of what engaged, radical witchcraft can be again.

Drawing on his years of magical practice and spiritual study, Tony blends his own devotional practice with his training in psychotherapy. The result is a deep understanding, coupled with a dash of poetry. He calls on us to open to states of wonder. To plumb our depths. To be strengthened and renewed.

These tools can change you, too, if you let them.

–T. Thorn Coyle

Featuring illustrations from Alley Valkyrie, cover art from Li Pallas, and a foreword from T. Thorn Coyle, Circling The Star is due for release on 14 February, 2018, the 3-year anniversary of the birth of the beautiful resistance that is Gods&Radicals.

Specifications: 140 pages, Perfect Bound 6″x9″, Matte cover, black&white with illustrations.


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  • Circling The Star by Anthony Rella
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To order, please use this link to go to our online bookstore, A Beautiful Resistance.

Know the Enemy and Know Yourself: A Review of “Fascism Today”

Book Review of Shane Burley’s Fascism Today: What It Is and How to End It.
From Christopher Scott Thompson

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Photo by Laura Cantal

Those who would rather wring their hands than use them to punch Nazis might not want to admit it, but we are in a state of conflict. The angry men currently marching through the streets carrying Tiki torches and calling for genocide are our enemies. Since we have to fight them, we owe it to ourselves and everyone endangered by fascism to win the fight. Shane Burley’s Fascism Today: What It Is and How to End It is a valuable tool for winning this conflict.

Reading Fascism Today, I found myself thinking of a quote by Sun Tzu:

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.

Burley’s book might as well have been written with this passage in mind. In part one, Burley reviews several existing definitions of fascism and addresses the strengths and weaknesses of each one. I was especially glad to see him debunking the idea that fascism is primarily defined by censorship or political violence – a misunderstanding that has been used by both fascists and liberals to demonize Antifa as “the real fascists.” Burley clearly defines what makes a movement fascist, and why such movements are dangerous rather than merely offensive.

He then discusses many of these factions at length, including traditional American white supremacist groups, proto-fascist militia groups, esoteric and neopagan fascism, the “Men’s Rights” misogynists, the Alt-Right, and many others.

These groups may disagree with each other on many points but they share a common commitment to undo what they see as the degenerate egalitarianism of the modern world and return to a society defined by strict hierarchies and inflexible roles, all of which would be enforced by violence and the fear of violence. They cannot hope to achieve this while a majority of people consider the open expression of bigotry to be socially unacceptable – so if they want to win, they have to make bigotry acceptable again.

As Burley argues, the defining strategy of the current fascist resurgence is metapolitics – the manipulation of culture to create a subtle yet significant mental shift toward the acceptance of their ideas. This type of strategy was originally suggested by leftist thinker Antonio Gramsci, but has since been hijacked by the Alt-Right. (In fact, Altright.com features a quote by Gramsci: “Any parliamentary struggle must be preceded, legitimised, and supported by a metapolitical struggle.”)

The fascist street factions can look so bizarre and frankly ludicrous that it’s hard to think of them as a serious threat – until they’re standing right in front of you with clubs and shields in their hands. That surreal mix of frog cartoons, American flags, Swastika imagery, and body armor is not merely an aesthetic catastrophe – it’s a metapolitical strategy to make fascist ideas appear humorously edgy rather than murderously violent.

In part two of “Fascism Today,” Burley lays out a convincing argument for a multifaceted approach to antifascist struggle that incorporates this concept of metapolitics and turns it back against the enemy. If their primary strategic goal is to make society safe for fascism again, our primary strategic goal must be to build a society that is broadly and deeply antifascist.

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Photo by Laura Cantal

Obviously this cannot be restricted to a few dozen black-masked streetfighters in every city. Burley presents a number of realistic and achievable ideas for how to win the war of metapolitics, by building an antifascist coalition that goes far beyond the narrow social circles of anarchist and communist purism without making concessions to liberal complacency.

This would still include traditional Antifa tactics like intelligence-gathering and no-platforming, but would also expand to include massive popular manifestations like the recent antifascist victories in Boston and elsewhere, in which the Black Bloc was only one small part of the coalition. If antifascism is something anyone and everyone can participate in, then the fascists will find themselves outnumbered every single time.

If there is one thing the recent “Antifa Civil War” panic demonstrates, it’s that the enemy does not understand us at all. Anyone who has ever been involved with Antifa knows it as a decentralized network with no chain of command. Yet the American Right still sees Antifa as a highly-organized top-down revolutionary organization with sinister nationwide plans (including “Antifa supersoldiers” under UN command!). According to Sun Tzu, an enemy who does not understand us cannot hope to win more than one battle out of every two.

If we know our enemy and know ourselves, Sun Tzu tells us we will prevail in every battle. Shane Burley’s Fascism Today is a big step in that direction.

Fascism Today: What It Is and How to End It, Published by AK Press


Christopher Scott Thompson

CSTshortbeardBW

Christopher Scott Thompson is an anarcho-communist, martial arts instructor, devotee of Brighid and Macha, and a wandering exile roaming the earth. Photo by Tam Zech.


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Fascism Today (an excerpt)

The following is excerpted from Shane Burley’s new book: Fascism Today: What It Is And How To End It, published by AK Press. A review by Christopher Scott Thompson will appear 15 December here at Gods&Radicals.

The fascist project has always tried to root itself in a transcendent, spiritual impulse. Much of the racism that permeates the fascist right is rooted in theories that utilize spiritual explanations for racial differences, rather than the falsified “data” of “racial science.” The earliest construct for contemporary racism comes out of two key tracts from sixteenth century Spain and Portugal. The first, and dominant one, was that non-white people were “pre-Adamic,” meaning they were humanoid mammals that arrived before proper people did. To square things with the Bible they placed these “creatures” as animals created before the true “Adamic” race. The second tract says that they are a degenerate people, and their failure to reach true “Aryanness” comes from their failing moral lineage. Both pieces were foundational in the creation of racial science, but both are mythic in their explanation and are maintained in many racialized interpretations of Christianity, Hinduism, and Neo-paganism.

The early periods of Bavarian romanticism saw something essential about identity that went beyond the physical form; it was as true in spirit as it was in blood. As fascism advanced as a political response to the economic crisis after World War I, it did so out of the growing desire to find a strict identity founded in esoteric teaching, occult mysteries, and initiatory paths. While the NSDAP and Hitler moved in the direction of vulgar racial science, a feature of the Alt Right today, they had a parallel spiritual track that has had enduring influence. Identitarianism, various Third Position ideologies, and the various incarnations that we see popping up have deep roots in certain types of esotericism, which has provided special tools for fascism to build on and given it a unique appeal for people in transition, crisis, or on a quest for answers to life’s big questions.

As was true of many eras of fascist ideological development, from the mystical anti-rationality of the Germanic volkish movements to the European New Right, Christianity is often seen as responsible for the disastrous effects of “modernity.” As social ecologist Janet Biehl points out, Christianity seeks an end to alienation and toward a pure “essence,” which is mirrored in identitarianism, Traditionalism, and Third Positionism:

In the view of the “New” Right today, the destruction of the environment and the repression of nationalities have a common root in “Semitic” monotheism and universalism. In its later form, Christianity, and in its subsequent secularized forms, liberalism and Marxism, this dualistic, homogenizing universalism is alleged to have brought on both the ecological crisis and the suppression of national identity. Just as Judeo-Christian universalism was destructive of authentic cultures when Christian missionaries went out into the world, so too is modernity eliminating ethnic and national cultures. Moreover, through the unbridled technology to which it gave rise, this modern universalism is said to have -perpetrated not only the destruction of nature but an annihilation of the spirit; the destruction of nature, it is said, is life-threatening in the spiritual sense as well as the physical, since when people deny pristine nature, their access to their “authentic” self is blocked.Part of this opposition is then a result of the “anti–Americanism” that runs through much fascist thought, in that they oppose the globalized systems of capitalism, “McCulture,” and universalized spiritual identities. This is a reminder of the contradictions so present in the radical right milieu: that one sector can brand themselves -patriots, à la the KKK of the 1920s, while another trend, such as National Revolution, can label themselves traitors to Western capitalism and imperialism.

God of Thunder, God of War

For those encountering neo-fascism today, the most common form of esotericism is neo-paganism. Mystics rediscovered the pre–Christian European religions during the early periods of capitalism, industrialism, and mass cultural orientation as a way for Europeans to find an identity for themselves that was rooted in their own uniqueness. This was a way to separate themselves from the “universalism” of Christian salvation, as well as its Jewish nature. Since the seventeenth century paganism, first with neo-Druidic study and then various other traditions, has been a testament to the romanticism that developed out of early industrialization and urbanization, which took its toll on agrarian life and unsettled deeply rooted communities. While these more traditional folkways should not be seen through rose-colored glasses, they still had a connection with neighbors and the commitment to a “life of the soul” that many pined for. This, paired with nationalism in many cases, inspired much of the aesthetic and religious basis that we saw in fascist movements in the twentieth century.

Heathenry, the Germanic-Nordic pagan religion, is the most common type of neo-paganism to be found in an explicitly racialized form. Odinism, as it has often been called, was developed by Else Christensen in the first half of the twentieth century as an explicitly racial religion, one that was equal parts anti-capitalism and tribalism. Christensen’s background was rooted in anarcho-syndicalism, which she attempted to synthesize with the racial ideas that were coming out of Germany. She imagined tribal non-state communities founded on indigenous religions, which were racially exclusive and built on traditional craftsmanship and ecological sustainability. Odinism has gone on to be known as an explicitly racialized religion and sees Odin as the figurehead of the spiritual pantheon that is unique to those of Northern European people.

What drives much of this movement is the early work of Carl Jung, who, at one point, saw the development of psychological archetypes as racial. In his influential essay “Wotan,” Jung outlines the idea that Hitler and the Third Reich were the unrestrained spirit of Wotan (Odin) resurrected in the Germanic soul. In this perspective, the gods and goddesses of indigenous religions are unique to those with that ancestry. In the Jungian concept, the archetypes of the warrior, the pursuer of knowledge, and the conqueror are manifested in Odin, and other ethnicities and cultures have archetypes in their gods that are unique to their biological and spiritual character. This is the foundational idea that has driven much of the racialized heathenry, and it is what fuels European New Right scholars like de Benoist, who wrote in his seminal book On Being a Pagan that Europeans should identify with their pagan archetypes.

For many, the archetypes are not good enough, and they see them both as metaphors and, literally, as gods and goddesses, different spirits and impulses that are made religious and knowable through the images of gods and the stories of the lore. Heathenry is singled out because much of the theological work was done by and for this racialist purpose, as a way of providing a counter-cultural identity to whites. Building on the image of the Vikings, it countered modern narratives and argued that the true nature of Northern Europeans was that of a tribal warrior who prioritizes his “in-group” over his “out-group.”

In the U.S., a slightly less racialized version of heathenry named Asatru became dominant. It was more focused on magic and the unique interpretation of Icelandic lore. While Asatru did not champion the open Nazism of many Odinist groups, it maintained a “folkish” distinction in many kindreds, and asserted itself as the religion of the Northern European peoples through genetic priv-ilege. The Asatru Folk Assembly and its founder, Stephen McNallen, maintain this idea, and the principles of Asatru are centered on its European identity and “answering a call” that comes deep from their ancestors. A focus on “reconstruction” and historical accuracy has reigned, and they attempt to bring Germanics back to the most “untainted” version of their tribal religion. Anti-racist heathens, who are the vast majority, share much of the archetypal vision and view on tradition and customs but the folkish community has been increasingly vocal.

Jack Donovan’s Wolves of Vinland, a closed heathen group known for mixing tribal spirituality and the structure of a biker gang into a type of National Anarchism, and their recruitment tool, Operation Werewolf, is one of these, attempting to redefine the boundaries of heathenry by focusing on the violence and male virility of a tribally defined spirituality. Operation Werewolf reflects Wolves of Vinland founder Paul Waggener, who mixes his own brand of nihilist philosophy, exercise regimens, and black metal aesthetics. While the Wolves are a close-knit group that is hard to join, Operation Werewolf has worked as a tent that former skinheads, bikers, MMA fighters, powerlifters, and others moving to the fringes can unite under. Its decentralization and focus on what we could call “lifestyle fascism” presents a concerted -meta-political threat as it is creating a close-knit subculture of rightist men who were unable to find shelter in insurrectionary organizations on the wane.

Paganism is dominant among non-Christian white nationalists and has a deep influence on even secular nationalist philosophy, arts, and aesthetics. Fascist neofolk music is centered in a similar romanticism of Europe’s past, and everyone from NPI to the Daily Stormer venerate the Nordic gods of Odin, Thor, and Freyja despite not believing in them in a literal sense. The most violent interpretation, known as Wotanism, was developed by The Order terrorist, and former Aryan Nations member, David Lane and still proliferates among skinheads and white supremacist prison gangs. Other than just seeing racialism as a component of their spirituality, Wotanism sees racial identity and warfare as the driving focus of it and uses apocalyptic warrior language to justify mass violence in the name of racial preservation and expansion.

Though not nearly as prevalent, there have been racialized interpretations of Celtic and Welsh paganism, traditions more closely associated with leftist interpretations and Wicca. Reconstructionism itself has come under fire as a concept as it is so closely allied with nationalists looking for identity. Rodnovery’s connection to Russian nationalism, Hellenism with Greek nationalism, orthodox Shinto reconstructionism in Japan, and Hindu nationalism all draw connections between the “native faith” and the national identity, which centers ethnic identity in sectarian conflict. The spiritual foundation here is not found in a particular tradition’s lore and customs but in the uniquely modern idea that spirituality is particular to the metaphysical psychology of a particular ethnic group. This has increasingly driven political movements in many countries, where a strong meta-politic has to be developed in order for the citizenry to accept nationalism.

Book of Shadows

Outside of heathenry and ethnic paganism, Left Hand Path (LHP) traditions differ in their rejection of conventional morality. Posing in opposition to the “universal morality” and the redemption offered by what they call Right Hand Path religions, LHP traditions make up various different strands of thought including Satanism, Thelema, the Temple of Set, and various Middle Eastern and Hindu sects. While the term “Left Hand Path” is not a great dividing line for actually studying religion, those who use it often make up different esoteric paths that venerate the self. Though the vast majority of contemporary LHP people denounce racism, there are groups that have notoriously mixed the religion and racism.

The Order of Nine Angels advocated a type of “Satanic Nazism” that proposed eugenics in the form of human sacrifice. The Joy of Satan, similarly, shared members with known Nazi groups and advocated a Gnostic reading of Biblical scripture that reframed Yahweh as the evil “Jewish” God that people had to overcome to discover their true destiny.

The National Socialist Liberation Front (NSLF), originally founded by hippie-dropout-turned-fascist revolutionary Joseph Charles Tomassi in 1974, was modeled on Yockey’s own European Liberation Front as a “propaganda of the deed” project. It was taken up by the occult-minded James Mason, who used Satanism and an obsession with Charles Manson to advocate for a new type of terror war against the globalizing commercial influences of the “Zionist Occupation Governments” in NSLF’s newsletter Siege.

Thelema, the esoteric religion developed by infamous occultist Aleister Crowley in the early twentieth century, focuses heavily on the discovery of “True Will” in participants and the use of formal ritual magic and the worship of archetypal gods, often of Mesopotamian and Egyptian origin. A marginal attorney and Libertarian Party of Florida Senate candidate made waves in 2015 as his mix of Thelema and nationalism brought the support of skinhead groups like the American Front. Augustus Sol Invictus, the name given to him in a religious ceremony, had many high-profile incidents that drew media attention, like going on a desert spirit quest and sacrificing a goat on camera. Invictus’s own politic is one that aligns with many LHP adherents, which is a “Will to Power” desire for themselves. Invictus believes that human sacrifice to the gods unites a nation, and he worships “pan-European” gods, believing that all European gods were just different names for the same transcendent forces. Invictus became active in supporting various fascist organizations, including speaking at the National Socialist Movement conference and the reformation event for the American Front, whom he also defended in court against terrorism charges.

While Hinduism is not an essential part of the American fascist movement, the white savior of Nazi Vedas remains important for the meta-political underpinnings. Savitri Devi was a French-born Greek who turned to the Hindu myths in a search for a more authentic and non-Semitic spirituality. Following the Indo-Aryan mythology about the Caucasian origin of the Vedas, Devi believed Hinduism was an ancient Aryan religion, even if contemporary Indians had been ruined through race mixing. Following the Vedic cycle of ages and search for avatars, Devi saw Hitler as the reincarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu, who many in Hindu nationalism venerated and saw as a model for how to treat the Muslim population in India. Both during and after the war, Devi became a focal point for international fascist projects, living the life of a nationalist aesthetic committed fervently to her own brand of heretical mystic Hinduism.

While race is only one component of these religions, their beliefs are centered on human inequality and the necessity of domination. If you strip fascism of its racial components, which some ideological currents do, the belief in the cruelty of formalized hierarchy and violence is still implicit. If these occultist paths reject equality and a basic respect for universal human dignity, which is part and parcel for the rejection of historic “religious” morality inside of the LHP movement, then it intersects so clearly with fascism that it is difficult to come to its defense even though it denies bigotry.

Spiritual Warfare

Fascism is not the logical conclusion of any spiritual path, no matter how historically reactionary or steeped in the institutional oppression of marginalized people. Instead, the open nature of most spiritual paths and its flirtation with spaces of power allow it to channel ideas that people intend to inlay with significance. The same Catholic Church fueled the social climate that built interwar fascism as well as Liberation Theology and the Catholic Workers Movement. What religion provides is a unique identity, tactical set, and meta-politics that can be useful for inspiring followers to go much further than would be coaxed by materialist political gains, and that can shift both right and left.

Religious groups have traditionally been one of the most central antifascist projects, both because churches are center to people’s social lives as well as their starting point for engaging with social issues. Those inside of spiritual paths are a massive constituency who can meaningfully confront fascism on their own terms and where it affects them personally.

One of the most prescient of these intercommunity confrontations is inside of paganism, with heathenry becoming well known as a battleground between the folkish and antiracist camps. Because racists have done so much of the theological work, it requires rethinking the foundations from a non-ethnic viewpoint. Over the past several years, heathenry has begun to see a reckoning take place with antiracist heathens taking a stand.

The group Circle Ansuz made a huge impact on this discourse in its short life by presenting an anarchist-specific interpretation of Germanic heathenry. They created a synthesis they called Heathen anarchism—a choice to see the faith in its historical reality as both inspired and flawed:

There are two main pillars that serve as the foundations of Heathen anarchism. The first is the justification based on historical data, the social practices of the ancient Germanics, and modern archeology. The second justification is rooted in the most commonly accepted creation epic, the Voluspol, and in the spiritual truths inherent in cyclical cosmology.They saw the egalitarian practices in the Viking spiritual culture as inspirational but incomplete, and they rejected a romantic rewriting of history. Instead, the cyclical nature of the spirituality, the individualism and anti-hierarchical relationship to the gods, and the anti-imperial traditions of heathenry against the expansive colonization of European Christianity provide inspiration. They took the “warrior spirituality” implicit in some of heathenry as inspiration in a battle against fascism and made confrontation with fascist influences in countercultural spaces a key component of their platform. Before going dormant, they had “kindreds” (religious formations) in San Francisco and Portland and also allowed for general “at large” membership, in an effort to mimic the structure of general heathen organizations, providing a real alternative for religious heathens who wanted the spiritual community.

Over the past several years, heathen organizations around the country have begun to go from passive acceptance to explicit rejection of folkish heathenry. When McNallen passed on the leadership role of the Asatru Folk Assembly to a new generation, they began taking to social media proclaiming their allegiance to traditional gender roles and “white men and women.” McNallen himself has become an increasingly controversial figure, seeing blowback for his relationship with the Alt Right and anti-immigrant stances. In response to the Asatru Folk Assembly’s behavior, heathen organizations around the country have issued statements denouncing the folkish interpretations, drawing a line in the sand. The Troth, the largest heathen organization in the U.S., has always had a “universalist” stance on inclusions but in 2016 finally issued a statement unequivocally saying that heathenry was not an ethnic religion and was instead open to all believers.

Many joined together for the Declaration 127 campaign, which cited the 127th declaration in the Havamal, a book of Viking quotes used as a holy book in many heathen kindreds. The declaration reads, “When you see misdeeds, speak out against them, and give enemies no fri.” Blogs and organizations around the U.S. signed on, saying that it was a heathen imperative to speak out against racists in their religion. They have committed to not work with organizations that have discriminatory policies, like the Asatru Folk Assembly, especially since many of the racialist heathen organizations sell many of the religious items and books that pagans use in spiritual communion.Organizations like Heathens United Against Racism (HUAR) have been taking this work a step further, organizing publicly against racialist paganism as heathens. In an attempt to unite -antiracist heathens, they are further marginalizing the folkish voices that have dominated public perception of the faith. On May Day 2016, Beltane on the Germanic pagan calendar, they held the Light the Beacons event, a chance for antiracist heathens to light fires, including candles and bonfires, and to share it publicly as an act of antiracist defiance. This was inspired by the bonfires held in Germany on May 8, 2015, celebrating the seventieth anniversary of the defeat of Nazism. HUAR relies heavily on a social media convergence to create a strong anti-racist heathen counter narrative. Their “Stephen McNallen Doesn’t Speak for Me” campaign had heathens from around the world posting photos of themselves holding handmade signs, explaining their background and why McNallen and his folkish clique do not share their heathen voice.

Beyond just attacking this tendency internal to heathens, the relationship that many pagans have had to this racialist sector has created a culture of resistance inside many pagan communities as well. The website Gods & Radicals has asserted an anti-capitalist understanding of paganism, attempting to connect those walking a spiritual path to a uniquely Marxist and anarchist perspective. This has meant taking explicit stances against fascism, which feeds on paganism due to their shared devotion to gods. After one of the editors, Rhyd Wildermuth, published a short profile on the New Right and the figures that often use paganism as a spiritual justification for fascist politics, he was accused by large swathes of the folkish community of a villainous “witch hunt.” This reflected his experience as an organizer of the Many Gods West polytheist conference in Olympia, Washington, where panels on fascism in paganism were denounced as divisive.

***

The far-right requires some type of spirituality because it needs to define itself as being “beyond politics.” Even if this is just taken metaphorically, it has always helped fascist ideologies define themselves, which puts religious people in both a troubling and advantageous position. The ability to confront this violence from inside a spiritual community provides leverage and could reach across religious and racial divides to develop the type of community that creates a barrier to reactionary movements.


You can order Shane Burley’s book, “Fascism Today: What It Is And How To End it” at this link.


Shane Burley

12375190_1270053539678590_6582607531732468985_oShane Burley is a writer and filmmaker based in Portland, Oregon.  He is the author of Fascism Today: What It Is and How We Stop It (Forthcoming 2017, AK Press). His work has been featured in places like In These Times, ThinkProgress, Roar Magazine, Labor Notes, Make/Shift, Upping the Ante, and Waging Nonviolence. He can be found at ShaneBurley.net, and on Twitter @Shane_Burley1


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Reacting to Reactions to Reactions: a review of Angela Nagle’s Kill All Normies

While social justice activists have gotten quite good at shaming those with subtly different views from their own, all their internet crusades combined will never match what the alt-right has shown that it can do–and is more than willing to do–to its chosen enemies.

From Rhyd Wildermuth, a review of Kill All Normies, by Angela Nagle


The other morning, just before starting my morning tea, I looked at my phone. I once made a practice of not looking at my phone for the first hour after waking, but I’ve let that habit slip because my lover often sends me texts in the morning, and I miss him a lot. He lives in Ireland, we don’t see each other often enough–those messages kinda get me through, you know?

So groggy, before tea, I looked at my phone, and saw I had a message from someone I didn’t know:

I’m the editor of an anti-capitalist website and publisher. I get hate mail all the time, and I generally have a rather thick skin. But for some reason, this message was harder to deal with than the ten or so others I get a week. That same day I’d also gotten accused of being the ‘real’ fascist by someone who themselves actually is one, a ‘mansplaining’ message about how I obviously don’t understand capitalism, and some others I really don’t want to recount here.

Precisely why it bothered me, though, wasn’t clear until the next day when I was engaged with a commenter whose last message to me ended with this:

“This is the clearest indication of what a trans antagonistic POS you are and completely unable to take responsibility for the harm that you cause. Really, you’re nothing but a spiritual bypassing fuck.”

In case anyone is tempted to ask the social justice version of “but what was she wearing?” suggesting I may have deserved that statement, I’ll briefly explain myself. The latter was in a post where I’d criticised Trans Exclusive Radical Feminist (TERF) ideology, saying it didn’t belong in Anarchist thought. And I’ve some history of being attacked by TERFs: photos and misquotes of me have been used by actual trans-hating people to attack me as a ‘threat to women.’ I and the other co-founder of Gods&Radicals were both attacked last year for our anti-TERF stances (she got the worst of it, getting banned from Facebook by a notorious TERF lawyer). Previously I have also been threatened with a libel suit for revealing how someone tried to prevent myself and other writers at another site from writing anything critical of anti-trans ideology.

So perhaps ‘trans antagonistic POS’ is not precisely accurate.

Getting harassed from people on both sides of an argument is always a bit perplexing. I now get as much hate mail from would-be fascists as I do from the social justice ‘left,’ and by the time I saw that last comment I had reached what felt like critical mass. There’s only so much online ire that one can comfortably digest before you just feel over-full, nauseated, and sort of done with it all.

But these last two statements rattled me deeply, and not just because I try very hard to be supportive of trans folk and also not to be an “oppressive reductionist mansplaining misogynist.” What shook me about them (besides the fact they both came from people I do not know, one anonymously), was that I recognised the attacks from somewhere.

Last year, we published a piece that cast light upon the influence of the New/Alt-Right within Paganism. For months afterwards my inbox was full of threatening emails attacking my character, calling me a fascist, a racist (against whites), a “Marxist Demagogue,” a liar, a misogynist (because I’d criticized a woman who called for the return of a ‘conservative monarchy,’) and many more things. I also lost my writing position at a Pagan site, someone bought URL’s of my name and created an attack site against me, and I still haven’t fully lived down rumors that I have collaborated with the government and the FBI.

Going back and reading some of those messages I began to understand precisely why I recognized these newer attacks. They follow the same form, the same logic, despite having different moral content. On the one hand I’m a cultural marxist feminist out to harm anyone who I don’t agree with, and on the other hand I’m a ‘mansplaining misogynist’ and ‘trans antagonistic POS’ who causes harm to strangers.

Online Markets of Virtue

No doubt most will feel a little uncomfortable drawing equivalency between alt-right types and social justice warriors. One wants fascism, the other wants tolerance, and I generally agree with that assessment. But undoubtedly, they use the same tactics, and the question remains: why do they act the same way? Published this summer, Irish author Angela Nagle’s recent book, Kill All Normies, comes closer to the answer to that question than many will find comfortable.

Kill All Normies is first and foremost a cultural history of the alt-right and of internet political culture in general, focusing primarily on the last five years.  Yet its fiercest criticisms have come not from the far-right, but from the social justice ‘left,’ because like any good historian, Nagle refuses to narrate the social and cultural forces which birthed the alt-right in terms of good and evil, guilty and innocent, or righteous and barbaric.

Nagle opens her book with a discussion of an event few reading this could possibly have missed: the first explosively viral internet phenomenon, Kony 2012. If perhaps you were living in a forest and were not one of the 100 million people to have seen it, Kony 2010 was a short film produced by Jason Russell for a Christian children’s ministry to drum up support for a campaign to catch or kill the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, Joseph Kony.

Seemingly overnight, everyone with an internet connection knew about the video. And then, not long after, everyone with an internet connection knew about another one, too:

Angela Nagle correctly sees this event as a significant shift in mediated cultural and political consciousness. Suddenly, millions of people knew about a social injustice in Africa about which few had previously cared. Similarly, all those people also learned that the immense cultural and social capital accumulated by a single person could be completely wiped out just as suddenly, and by the very same mechanism by which they accumulated it.

Like the markets of capital, internet social markets giveth and taketh away, and we are now all subject to invisible hands clicking ‘like’ or ‘retweet.’

This point, unfortunately, is an only minor thread of her rather profound book. She weaves it in and out of her primary narrative deftly, and it is more than enough to stitch the entire book together, but readers unfamiliar with the applications of Marxist thought to social phenomena can be forgiven for overlooking it. However, no such leniency should be granted some of the critical reviewers of her work, who rely instead upon the very same dogmatic social justice tropes which Nagle criticises.

Because Kill All Normies isn’t just about the alt-right, but also about the social justice left. In fact, the story of the rise of Richard Spencer and Milo Yiannopoulos and the social pogroms they employ against women and oppressed people cannot be told without examining the mechanisms of those crusades themselves. But to do so, those mechanism have to be looked at without their aesthetic-moral content, and that leads to some very uncomfortable questions for the new breed of online social justice advocates who have arisen from internet culture.

We are unaccustomed to viewing violent tactics from a materialist standpoint, temporarily suspending our feelings and personal allegiances to look at the act itself. A case in point would be the complete failure of the American left to regard Obama’s war tactics (and particularly the use of drone assassinations) with the same scrutiny with which they viewed Bush’s employment of those tactics. Obviously, we generally liked Obama–he was charismatic, POC, and somewhat ‘on our side,’ so we were happy to overlook his expansions of the security state and extra-judicial slaughter of American ‘enemies.’

That same inconsistency occurs when we regard other political tactics. When an alt-right troll publishes the personal information about a feminist activist (doxxing) causing her to lose her job, have to leave her home, and fear for her life, we are certainly right to see that as a violent tactic. However, when the same doxxing occurs to people in attendance at the public fascist rallies which have swept through the United States recently, our criticism falls silent. If anything, collecting and publishing the names, phone numbers, employers, and home addresses of alt-right members became a celebrated social justice cause itself.

Tumblr-Liberalism, Virtue Scarcity, and the Employment of Shame

To view the tactics as-themselves. without their moral/aesthetic content (who the target is, why it felt justified, who was using it), doesn’t necessarily lead to moral equivalency. When I receive harassing emails from TERF’s or social justice ‘leftists,’ I do not then automatically see them as ‘just as bad’ as the threats I receive from white nationalists. From such a vantage, however, I am able to note that the weapons are the same, similar to how  the gun in the hands of a domestic abuse victim and the gun in the hands of a bank robber are both guns. If one decides that doxxing is ‘bad’ in the hands of 4chan trolls but ‘good’ in the hands of social justice activists, we can no longer say doxxing itself has any moral content.

So to note that the tactics employed by social justice activists and by the alt-right are the same then begs a more important question: how did they both become so common?

Nagle’s book answers this very well by presenting a cultural history of online communities, tracing the growth of ideas and narratives through both 4chan and its social justice (and let’s not forget–porn) twin, Tumblr.  Particularly of note for her is the explosion of new gender identities birthed in the alembic of Tumblr’s virtue-market, paralleling 4chan and the ‘manosphere’s’ obsession with misogyny.

While gender non-conformism is nothing new, and has certainly been ever more mainstream since the beginning of the sexual revolution and the gay liberation movement, this is part of the creation of an online quasi-political culture that has had a huge and unexpected level of influence. Other similar niche online subcultures in this milieu, which were always given by the emerging online right as evidence of Western decline, also include adults who identify as babies and able-bodied people who identify as disabled people to such an extent that they seek medical assistance in blinding, amputating or otherwise injuring themselves to become the disabled person they identify as.

You may question the motivations of the right’s fixation on these relatively niche subcultures, but the liberal fixation on relatively niche sections of the new online right that emerged from small online subcultures is similar in scale – that is, the influence of Tumblr on shaping strange new political sensibilities is probably equally important to what emerged from rightist chan culture.

As she points out, not conforming to the gender binary is hardly a new thing. What is new is how we talk about gender variations, how we argue about them, and what sort of recognition they require. While sites like Tumblr (founded only ten years ago) are not the only place people have discussed new ideas about gender, there is an extra capitalist mechanism at play which mediates those discussions.

That mechanism? Attention, distributed through the accumulation and appropriation of virtue.

At the beginning of the last decade, if I wanted to express my gender in a way that did not fit in with the dominant modes in my community, the amount of work I would have to do in order to convince people would be quite extensive. I might have personal friends who were supportive, might even be able to meet people who felt in similar ways, but merely saying that I was an “ambigender Otherkin” wouldn’t really get me far. Through Tumblr we are now able to find hundreds of people around the world who feel exactly the same way, or read our account and ‘discover’ that they, too, are also an Otherkin ambigender.

Upon discovery of kindred Otherkin ambigenders, a sense of community is created around which each person with similar experiences can share their joy and sorrow and especially their struggles against a world that doesn’t embrace, understand, or (likely most painful of all) has never heard about Otherkin ambigenders (!!!). From such communities can then arise political narratives which explain the oppression that one might experience when others refuse to acknowledge your identity.

Demands for better recognition, for protection, and collective actions against those who erase or dismiss your existence are now much easier to organise through such mediums, so much so that Tumblr can be said to have significantly contributed to the liberation of ambigender Otherkin.

Whether you as a reader find such discussions a bit ridiculous or truly liberatory, a more important question arises. How, then, do we judge the oppression of peoples? What moral frameworks should we use to prioritize in whom we will invest our limited political attention and energies? Is the struggle for disability recognition, the protection of women’s access to contraception and abortion, liberating Black men from the prisons, and bathroom access for trans people all equal to the needs of the Otherkin ambigender community? And can an intersectional social justice framework hashed out through social media by means of listicles on Everyday Feminism and Teen Vogue really help us answer that question?

Rather than answering that question in any meaningful way, Tumblr-Liberalism (Nagle’s description, and apt one) has provided us instead with a playbook to get attention for our cause, to get our concerns heard. To do so, we must accumulate virtue through a highly-ritualized social process invoking the demonic spirits of ‘shame’ and ‘privilege’ to coerce others into action on behalf of each individual cause.  And when virtue is too equally distributed and its ‘buying power’ lessened by inflation, we must then appropriate the virtue of others by showing them no longer worthy of it (the social justice ‘call out’).

This playbook works because very few of us want to appear like assholes, and invoking virtue is a way to make others feel like they have wronged someone and should make amends. So if while reading my explanation of the oppressions faced by Otherkin you smirked or rolled your eyes, you just engaged in Otherkin-shaming. You showed your privilege as someone who is not Otherkin. And no–it’s not up to ambigender Otherkin to educate you on their oppression. And because you likely do not want to be a bad person, or at least do not want to appear as a bad person, such accusations may shame you into being more willing to listen to the concerns of ambigender Otherkin, help them raise awareness, ‘call-in’ your friends whose actions are obviously antagonistic micro-aggressions against ambigender Otherkin, etc..

Nagle asserts that virtue is the core capital of social media interactions. I want to appear virtuous, to appear as if I care about people (because I do). So I express things which show my virtue on the internet, and that grants me virtue capital. But when I do something un-virtuous, I can lose that very quickly as others seize the opportunity to accumulate the virtue I have forfeited by saying something ‘oppressive’ on-line. And even if I have not said something oppressive, it can be enough for virtue competitors to convince others that I have by changing the rules on what is oppressive or not, redefining oppression in a way that benefits the virtue competitor.

Rejecting the cumbersome and solipsistic nature of these closed systems of virtue has given great strength to the alt-right. The popularity of charismatic figures like Milo Yiannopoulos derives precisely from his boldly-stated rejections of the economies of virtue. But what the alt-right (especially 4chan denizens) do to political enemies (particularly women) operates on the very same mechanism. Women have had to flee their homes and people have actually killed themselves because of the social media campaigns against them, but whereas with Tumblr-liberalism the stakes are your social status, with the alt-right it is that and also your physical safety.

Shame is the core weapon in both political tendencies, the goal in both cases to ‘ruin’ the transgressor, and though the consequences of such ruin are different, the processes are so similar that we cannot help but wonder why they got that way.

This is another place where Angela Nagle’s book feels a little too short. One wishes it were not just a cultural history but a psycho-analytical study unraveling why both the alt-right and social justice left act like schoolyard bullies, the latter banishing transgressors from the popular group and the former kicking them in the shins and stealing their lunch money.

Misogynist Masculinists and Anti-male Feminists

To attempt such an analysis, however, would make the book even more uncomfortable, because underlying the two tendencies is the unspoken matter of gender-difference itself. The “manosphere,” 4chan and all other related subcultural/political milieu are overwhelmingly male, while their victims are primarily female. On the other hand, while Tumblr users are only slightly more often female than male, the social justice left sees maleness to be the most oppressive of the hundreds of genders existing on Tumblr.

While it may seem too simplistic or reductive to re-insert the gender binary here as a political tool, Nagle comes to the same conclusion as I previously outlined in my series on Jack Donovan (someone she briefly mentions in her book).  That is, the anti-feminist “Manosphere” cannot be talked about without also speaking to the flaws in feminist thought to which they react.

This crop of forum dwelling-obsessives would be horrified to learn that the original men’s movement grew out of and alongside the feminist movement and the sexual liberation movement as a critique of rigid traditional sex roles, according to masculinities scholar Michael Kimmel. Men’s liberation later grew apart from the feminist movement as second-wave feminism became increasingly antagonistic towards men, criticizing men as a whole in its rhetoric around rape and domestic violence. Splits and tendencies developed as the question of men’s experience of their societal role took different thinkers and factions in radically different directions. It was by the 90s that the men’s movement became primarily focused on institutions in which men were excluded or discriminated against. [emphasis mine]

“Criticizing men as a whole” is basically essentialism, ascribing to all men traits and behaviors which oppress women, and it is this which actually opens up territory for the very oppression feminism attempts to fight. To quote my essay on Donovan:

Jean Baudrillard expanded Walter Benjamin’s work on aesthetics by noting how, now that we only have reproduction of art, we now also only have reproduction of politics. The ‘real’ we imagine is always a copy, a simulation of the real. Those copies and simulations become how we determine what is real, affecting our behaviour and the construction of our identities.

Whereas once the aesthetic was the visual representation of a way of being, the aesthetic is now our only blueprint. We do not know what it is like to be masculine except by the representation of the masculine, anymore than we know what it is to be anti-modern without representations of the anti-modern.

More dangerous, however, is that the negatives of images reproduce themselves as well. The aesthetic of hyper-masculinity from which Donovan and Waggener build their politics is produced from the negative space of liberal feminist critiques which reduce men to enemy, alpha-oppressor, toxic, and dangerous.

It will not seem surprising that it is on this point which Nagle has received the most ire from social justice/leftist critics, who have accused her variously of blaming feminists, trans people, and social justice advocates for being worse than the alt-right. But on the contrary, if there is anywhere that Nagle could be accused of moralizing, it’s in her accounts of what the alt-right has done to women. Her history of the harassment of women during “Gamer Gate” is harrowing and she spares no details, and particularly her criticisms of Milo and the “manosphere” are everything but gentle or sympathetic

Kill All Normies is just as much an indictment of the social justice left as it is a warning about the alt-right, but it is not completely without flaws. Much attention already has been given to one particular aspect of the book, so much so that I was told to read the book was to side with the enemy. “She hates trans people,” I was informed, because of her sympathetic discussion of the incidents surrounding Germaine Greer and her rejection of no-platform tactics.

These aspects deserve further attention. Germaine Greer is a feminist thinker in the United Kingdom who has been no-platformed by trans-activists for her public rejection (15 years ago) of trans identity. Her feminism is indeed trans-exclusive, and while Nagle makes clear she herself supports trans issues, her sympathetic treatment of Greer has led some to claim the opposite.

First, the entire section in question:

These dynamics, which began in subcultural obscurity online, later spilled over into the campus wars over free speech, trigger warnings, the Western canon and safe spaces. Trigger warnings had to be issued in order to avoid the unexpectedly high number of young women who had never gone to war claiming to have post-traumatic stress disorder. They claimed to be ‘triggered’ by mention of anything distressing, a claim with no scientific basis and including everything from great works of classical literature to expressions of pretty mainstream non-liberal opinion, like the idea that there are only two genders.

At the height of all this Germaine Greer was announced to speak at Cardiff University about ‘Women & Power: The Lessons of the 20th Century’. The women’s officer at Cardiff University Students’ Union, Rachael Melhuish, decided that Greer’s presence would be ‘harmful’. In her petition calling for the event’s cancellation, she claimed:

Greer has demonstrated time and time again her misogynistic views towards trans women, including continually misgendering trans women and denying the existence of transphobia altogether… Universities should prioritise the voices of the most vulnerable on their campuses, not invite speakers who seek to further marginalise them. We urge Cardiff University to cancel this event.

The petition was signed by over 2,000 people and Greer was transformed overnight from a leading veteran figure who worked for her entire life for the cause of women’s liberation to a forbidden and toxic TERF (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist), whose name was dragged through the dirt. As far as this new generation of campus feminists was concerned, Greer may as well have been on the far right. Greer had not published any comment about transgenderism for over 15 years, which was ‘not my issue’, she later told Newsnight. In response to the controversy, Cardiff University’s vice-chancellor pandered to those attacking Greer, saying: ‘discriminatory comments of any kind’ and how it ‘work(s) hard to provide a positive and welcoming space for LGBT+ people’.

Not satisfied with the attacks on Greer thus far, online activist Payton Quinn, identifying as ‘non binary’ and a ‘trans feminist activist and all round ethereal being’ penned an angry public letter suggesting Greer’s actions were criminal in an article titled ‘Entitled to Free Speech But Not Above the Law’.

Greer’s feminism undoubtedly falls into what most would describe as Trans-Exclusive Radical Feminism, and though it is not up to me to decide whether Greer deserves a platform to speak, Greer’s no-platforming seem neither the social justice victory trans activists believe it to be, nor does it seems nearly the great loss which Angela Nagle suggests.

Nagle’s reason for bringing Germaine Greer up at all is not to defend her brand of trans-exclusive feminism, but rather to elucidate how no-platforming and Tumblr-liberalism has led to the left having no coherent intellectual discourse against the alt-right. Few theorists or intellectuals can accumulate enough virtue capital to withstand the friendly-fire long enough to iterate a coherent political and cultural ideology that can weaken the alt-right’s position. But here she makes a rare intellectual error herself, because Greer’s feminism is precisely the sort that hobbles the efforts to cultivate  something that can oppose the core brilliance of alt-right fascism.

Greer’s feminism is actually not much different from the feminism we see in Tumblr-liberalism; both heavily rely on the notion that men are the alpha-oppressors of women, and merely differ on whether trans women are part of that oppressor class or part of the sacred oppressed. For a TERF, the answer is the former: male socialization and/or the possession of a penis at some point in ones life makes you part of the privileged male oppressor class no matter what surgery or life experiences might make you feel otherwise. But the social justice position on trans women (they are no longer men, maybe never were men, are just as oppressed and even more so than women) is no more radical. It keeps the same basic article of faith (men are bad) and only disagrees with TERF ideology on whether or not maleness can ever be mediated.

While both sides resort to harassment, no-platforming, doxxing, and even direct violence against each other, the alt-right continues to build support from men (who are after all the alpha-oppressors with no chance ever of undoing their patriarchal male privilege, so why not embrace it?). No one on the left could possibly articulate a way out of that anti-masculinist deadlock–to even question such articles of faith is to risk all your virtue capital, if you are even listened to at all. And so while social justice activists have gotten quite good at shaming those with subtly different views from their own, all their internet crusades combined will never match what the alt-right has shown that it can–and is more than willing–to do to its chosen enemies.

At the end of Kill All Normies, Nagle ends with an understandably bitter indictment of the feminist social justice left after the death of Mark Fisher:

During the period examined in this book, Mark Fisher stood out as one of the few voices not on the right who had spoken out against the anti-intellectual, unhinged culture of group hysteria that gripped the cultural left in the years preceding the reactive rise of the new far right online. In January 2017, when news broke that Fisher had committed suicide, those in the same online milieu that had slandered and smeared him for years responded as you might expect—by gloating.

Stavvers (aka Another Angry Woman), an influential Twitter figure among what the alt-right call SJWs, had already written ‘Vampires Castle’ sarcastically down as her Twitter location and responded to the news of his death by tweeting: ‘Just because Mark Fisher is dead, doesn’t make him right about “sour-faced identitarians”. If only left misogyny would die with him,’ with the follow-up: ‘*dons vampire cape, flies off into the night*,’ This response is a fairly typical example of precisely the sour-faced identitarians who undoubtedly drove so many young people to the right during these vicious culture wars. The left’s best critic of this disease of the left had just died and dancing on his grave was a woman who once blogged about baking bread using her own vaginal yeast as a feminist act.

While a tragic tale, reading it made me feel a little less alone. While I am hardly excited about the onslaught of anonymous messages from TERFs calling me a “oppressive reductionist mansplaining misogynist,” or angry comments from trans people calling me a “spiritual bypassing fuck” that this review will elicit, the very fact that Angela Nagle wrote this book at all gives me hope.

Perhaps this will all change soon. Perhaps enough people will read her book and decide to opt-out of the 4chan/Tumblr outrage machine, holding the line against the absurdity with thoughtful critique and actual organizing. Because the people who actually benefit from the call outs and doxxing and harrassment are neither the victims nor the perpetrators themselves. It’s the capitalist machines profiting from every click and retweet, every social justice crusade and manosphere pogrom–not us.


 

Rhyd Wildermuth

Rhyd Wildermuth is a spiritual bypassing fuck an anarchist, bard, and  co-founder of Gods&Radicals, as well as its managing editor. His work can be also be found at his blog, Paganarch. And you can also call him out for his micro-aggressions against ambigender Otherkin support him on Patreon.


Hey! Can you help us pay our writers next year? Here’s the link to our fundraiser. And thanks!

Margaret Killjoy’s Fantastic Aesthetic Anarcho-Fun Heresy

Olympia is one of those towns subject to a relentless misdirection spell. No magician or witch cast it, though–it arose organically in the alembic of poor urban planning confronting wily land spirits and chthonic forces who will never quite care where you intended to go because they want you to show you something…or someone.

So my best friend and I were suddenly headed north through downtown Olympia, though we’d meant to go south. For the third time.

“Fuck,” she moaned, trying to steer the van into a turn lane. “Again?”

“It’s like something’s fucking with us,” I started, and then saw a figure crossing the street in front of us. I had no time to finish the sentence. The light was about to change, and the person would be gone.

“HeyI’llberightbackIhavetogosayhitosomeone” I blurted out, jumping out of the van.

“What? Where are you? Okay, I’ll park.”

Among heretics, few words are necessary. When something happens to one, the other just knows. My best friend can stare suddenly down an alley mid-sentence and I don’t need to ask what she is seeing. I can jump out of a van in the middle of traffic and she knows something’s about to happen.

I ran down the sidewalk, then suddenly slowed, remembering that I looked like a 200 lb shaved-head man chasing a long-haired steam-goth down the street. That looked bad. Besides, my target seemed happily oblivious, lost in thought, so jumping up from behind her like that seemed really rather rude.

“Hey,” I called, really clumsily. “Are you…? We’ve never met but you’re my hero.”

That was the best I could come up with. I don’t really have heroes, let alone get a chance to meet the ones I do have. So I don’t really know how to talk to them, and I’m anyway awkward as fuck. But a few seconds later, my companion was behind me. “Holy fuck, Magpie?”

Of course my companion knew them, too. Among heretics, there are no chance meetings.

If you’ve never heard of Margaret Killjoy, you’ve probably already encountered her anyway. There are a few humans who do things that make it so that other humans do things which then inspires others to do things. Like grandmothers, but not old enough to have grandchildren so they’re grandmothers to ideas and art and movements and ways of living. Margaret’s one of those people.

This is supposed to be a review of her new book, and it will be, I promise. But there’s that weird thing where reviewers are supposed to be objective and to disclose any relationship to the author they have, and that’s a really complicated thing to do here because I have to tell you some stories.

Stories like the one I began with, where I’m driving in a van with my best friend, who’s one of those people who also grandmothers existence into being, and then I see Margaret Killjoy crossing the street and jump out of the van and then my best friend comes up behind us and it turns out they know each other too, hadn’t seen or heard anything of each other for ten years and had been just as inspired by her as I was.

And there’s other stories, like maybe 15 years ago or more when I was trying to figure out how my anarchism and my Paganism fit together when all the anarchists around me were atheist and all the Pagans around me were bourgeois Wiccans. And then I read the introduction by Alan Moore to Steampunk Magazine (Margaret Killjoy was its editor), and then I realise that there are anarchists and occultists and they’re the same people. But I also realised there were anarchists who are into steampunk, not just into it because it was a cool aesthetic but because…well, because stories.

And myth.

And magic.

Because here’s why Margaret Killjoy was my hero for so fucking long (still is, actually). What she saw about an aesthetic built on fantasy and an alternative vision born of the industrial age is what every really good fantasist, but also every good theorist and mystic, sees: the world not only could have been different, it still can be. And not only can it be, but the certain sorts of people who give way too much time thinking about how it still can be different are the ones who have the potential to make it different.

Because steampunk ultimately was about what might have happened if all the clockworks and steam engines and airships didn’t go away just because the capitalist industrialists realized they were inefficient. We could still have had machines that made sense, whose workings you could watch, alien as they were to the peasants and townsfolk of Europe and its colonies. You could open up a clock and see how it worked, and because you saw how it worked you could have power over it. You could turn a valve that ran a factory and make the factory stop, or you could rig up your own brazier and basket and ask your geeky seamstress friends to stitch together a big canvas for you and next thing you know? You’re floating over the city with your friends.

Now? Now everything’s gotta be bought, even steampunk shit. The capitalists ruin everything.

Steampunk Magazine was an anarcho-anti-capitalist fantasy that felt just as true, just as possible as all the downtowns full of skyscrapers and stores full of credit card machines that ‘actually exist.’ There was something about the way it presented fantasy that made it feel less fantastic while making everything else around you seem like pure fiction. Why couldn’t the Luddites have destroyed the factories and replaced them with clockwork automatons so we all had time to build cool goggles and cobble together houses from machine parts or clothing from scraps, and then adorn it all in gilded Anarchy symbols made with cogs?

If humans can come up with the internet, Walmart, or nuclear waste, we humans ought to be capable of prettier shit, too.

That’s what I learned from Margaret Killjoy, back when I was a wee anarchist lad living in a crumbling two-story witch-house, planting sacred trees and hanging runes and sigils made from clock pieces and broken glass from their branches. Everything was possible, everything else was possible, and it could be beautiful and absurd and fantastic and fun and as anarchist as we wanted it to be.

Towards that end, Margaret put together a pretty awesome book, too. Mythmakers and Lawbreakers, a collection of interviews with and writing about anarchist fiction.  For that book Margaret interviewed one of my other heroes, and even cooler got to stand next to that other hero and talk to people:

Because Ursula K Le Guin is another one of those people who tell you that it’s possible to have and be something else if you just convince others that they can also do it too, at which point there are enough of you to make that world.

That’s fiction. But it’s also myth. And more than anything, that’s what magic has always been.

So, oh. This is supposed to be a book review and not a slobbering fanboy propaganda piece (but it’s that too). Because Margaret’s got a new book out, published by that swanky fantasy publisher TOR.

The book’s called The Lamb Will Slaughter The Lion, and I think you should read it. You should read it if you’re an anarchist or a witch, and definitely if you’re an anarchist and a witch. And also you should read it if you aren’t, because it’s damn good.

It’s a novella, so I shouldn’t tell you too much about the plot. Except that it’s about squatted land in the middle of nowhere inhabited by people who decided to stop caring about gender or the State or buying and selling, and maybe also decided to summon a land spirit to protect their community against the police and people who might want to take over their utopia. And that goes wrong, just like many other utopias go wrong.

You get to read about some cops getting gored.

You get to read what it might be like to live in a world where gender and sexuality isn’t a thing people even think about at all.

And by reading it you’ll get to see what it might be like to live in a world where people write things like that, things that make you feel like even more things are possible, and that maybe one day we can live in a world where everything that we think of now as fiction becomes more true than what everyone else tells us is real. Because we’re already living in that world, in no small part thanks to Margaret Killjoy’s fantastic aesthetic anarcho-fun heresy.

The book comes out August 15th, but you can pre-order it from Red Emma’s. While you’re waiting you can read the first chapter here, and also read this short story by Margaret on Tor’s online site.

And check out everything else Margaret has done–it’s amazing, and maybe you’ll get as inspired as I’ve been.


Rhyd Wildermuth

Rhyd is the managing editor and a co-founder of Gods&Radicals. He is a poet, a writer, a theorist, and a pretty decent chef. He can be supported on Patreon, and his other work can be found at Paganarch.

He lives in Bretagne.