“The government shredded landing cards and other documents that would have outright proven these people’s right to stay. These folks, mostly the children of the Windrush generation, are and always have been British citizens, heck, the passport my father came over with even says British Passport on the cover!”
From Emma Kathryn
When I watch video footage of HMS Windrush docking at the small Tilbury port on the 22nd of June 1948, I get goosebumps. I can’t help but imagine what it must have been like for all of those people aboard, their dreams and hopes of starting a new life. Many of those on board would have left children at home to be sent for when they had their houses and were working. They came to help rebuild Britain after the war, at the invitation of the government.
They were already British citizens.
My grandparents weren’t aboard the Windrush. They came later, but not much. They came in 1961 and were some of the first Caribbean settlers in Nottinghamshire, the county where I live now.
Life here wasn’t easy for them at first. When I think back to the hardship and blatant racism they went through, it makes my blood boil, and I half wish I’d been there to fuck some people right up, but hey, they made it work. My grandmother, my nana, was fierce and strong, like my aunts are now, and carried herself with pride and dignity. My grandfather worked hard for his children, and some of my best childhood memories involve my cousins and summer days in their massive garden (the land where there house was used to be an orchard, with pear and apple trees, and outhouses to explore and hide in).
Anyway, life went on, as it does, and over the years the Caribbean community has become a part of British life. When people talk about all of the ‘foreigners’ coming and taking our jobs, I often call them out, and tell them that my grandparents were the ‘foreigners’ once. They say but that was a long time ago, or, yeah but that was different. It wasn’t, at least not for me, but the point I’m trying to make here is that the Jamaicans and others who came then are a part of our culture now.
Or you would have thought so, until now that is.
If you live in the UK then you will no doubt have heard about the latest government scandal (or one of them anyway, Governments are always getting caught out doing something shady), the one where they’ve tried to deport people who came to this country legally. Not only that, they’ve used it as a cash cow, increasing the cost of citizenship and naturalisation by way over inflation. If you are unfamiliar with this story, then you can read about it here.
This one though, really hit home for my family. It happened to my dad two years ago, before anyone even had a whiff of this scandal. Who’d have thought then, two years ago, that my father’s case would have been the tip of the iceberg. We certainly didn’t.
Naive, I know.
He’d gone to work as normal and was told that the company, as all companies have to, had to do checks on their staff, that they had just been chosen randomly, and that he would need to bring in his birth certificate and passport to prove that he had the right to work here.
Even then we didn’t think anything of it, and set about getting him a new passport. It was only when he received a response from the passport office saying that he had to prove where his grandfathers grandfather was born, in order to support his claim of citizenship, that the first tendrils of worry wrapped themselves around us. The letter went on to say that he would be deported, but not to Jamaica where he’s originally from, but to Barbados, a country my dad has no links to or with at all.
My 61 year old (at the time) father thought he would be deported to a country he’s never been to. And even if it had stated Jamaica, the fact is my father came here when he was seven years old, grew up here, has his family here, his children and grandchildren. His parents are buried here. This is home.
The following months, yes months, not too far off a year in fact, were terrible, and that’s just from my perspective, so god knows how my father felt; the threat of deportation hanging over him, the thought of being sent to a country he has no links with, unable to work, all made so much worse by the callous lack of help and care from the government. Hell even its own staff couldn’t tell their heads from their arses.
I would ring the number on the letter and ask them what my father was meant to do, I mean they kept saying he needed photo ID for this and that, but of course the problem was that he had no photo ID, since coming over he’s never passed a driving test or been anywhere else. That department would pass me to another and so on and so forth until I was passed back to the first damn department. An absolute shambles.
In the end, my father went to see his local MP, who did actually get things done, but my father still had to pay, still had to go through the citizenship test (a crock of shit if ever there was one!), and go to the ceremony.
I can’t tell you how relieved the whole family were to get this sorted out, and truth be told, we couldn’t wait to put the whole mess behind us and forget about it.
That is until about a week or two ago, when the scale of the governments shameful treacherousness came to light. I’m not surprised, not really, especially when you consider the governments hostile policy (self-styled too, I might add) when it comes to immigrants.
The government shredded landing cards and other documents that would have outright proven these people’s right to stay. These folks, mostly the children of the Windrush generation, are and always have been British citizens, heck, the passport my father came over with even says British Passport on the cover! The government can’t even tell us how many people have been deported. They’ve taken innocent citizens and had them locked up in immigration detention centres – prisons is what those places really are. It’s almost beyond belief. When people have travelled back to the Caribbean for holidays or to see relatives, they’ve not been allowed back home.
It’s almost like it was all planned, don’t you think?
Everyone should see this as a wake up call.
It doesn’t matter if you are British, or not, or if your ancestors were British. It doesn’t even matter what country you live in, or what government is in power. Governments are not to be trusted.
You might be thinking, well this could never happen to me, and you may well be right, that your citizenship is never questioned, but look at the bigger picture. Governments treat us, the people, with utter disregard. They really do. They couldn’t give a shit about us, so long as we are all good little people and do as we are told. So long as we follow the rules and never question what we are told.
They do not care about people. They care about themselves. Look with open, truly open eyes at the world in which we live, and at how governments all over it treat people. We invade other countries, being told that it’s humanitarian, that we are helping people, but that isn’t true. Not at all. If it was, then why do we sell arms to Saudi Arabia, who then use those weapons against the people of Yemen? Why do we invade other countries on the pretense that we are helping the people by removing dictators and still sell arms to other dictators? We argue about the use of chemical weapons, all the while turning a blind eye when our allies use them. I could go on and on.
Well to answer those questions, you just have to dig a little deeper, and it is only a little too. They can’t even be bothered to hide their shame. Recently a number of countries, America, France and Britain, decided to take military action in Syria. Guess who’s husband’s company is the largest shareholder of BAE? That’s right ladies and gents, Theresa May’s, that’s who.
Governments put money and property before people, any people, there can be no denying it, and for me, this whole Windrush scandal solidifies that.
The bottom line is governments cannot be trusted.
My name is Emma Kathryn, an eclectic witch, my path is a mixture of traditional European witchcraft, voodoo and obeah, a mixture representing my heritage. I live in the middle of England in a little town in Nottinghamshire, with my partner, two teenage sons and two crazy dogs, Boo and Dexter. When not working in a bookshop full time, I like to spend time with my family outdoors, with the dogs. And weaving magic, of course!
This is the second part of Wolves In the Interregnum, a series on Jack Donovan, Paul Waggener, and the Wolves of Vinland.
Author’s note:In my previous essay, I focused extensively on the aesthetic on Jack Donovan and the Wolves of Vinland, while heavily critiquing the moralistic reactions against that aesthetic. For some, this may no doubt seem unfair, if not outright antagonistic to the very tendencies which attempt to resist fascist movements. Why criticize American social justice and bourgeois/liberal feminism in an essay about a rising fascist threat?
The reason for such an apparent inversion will be made quite clear as we look at how the Wolves and others have rather brilliantly occupied the anti-modern and anti-globalisation politics abandoned by ‘The Left.’
Another World Was Possible…
In the last part of the 1990’s and the first few years of the 21st century, massive manifestations filled the streets of major cities of the world. These protests were part of what was called the anti-globalisation or alter-mondialiste movement, and had the astounding ability to unite people across wide spectrums of political orientation into a common struggle. Environmentalists, immigrants, labor unions, indigenous-rights groups, and even many people traditionally seen as right-wing arrived in major cities throughout the world to fight against governments, multi-national corporations, and global finance organisations.
While it is impossible to distill the myriad of political goals of the protesters, we can more easily summarize the changes in international governance, political distribution, and the regulations of global capital against which they protested.
Brokered by nations and corporate leaders, international trade agreements such as NAFTA and the GATT reduced the power of local governments, communities, and unions over the economic, environmental, and cultural activities of the people which composed or were supported by them. Meanwhile, large international monetary orgaisations like the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and the World Bank used economic crises to force austerity and privatization policies upon nations in the global south, effectively nullifying the popular will of the people through the use of weaponized debt.
All of this was happening at once, all over the world, and the consequences have been myriad. Environmental degradation in South America and Africa, mass suicides of farmers in India, famines, explosive immigration from poorer countries to richer ones, collapses of entire nations, the reduction of diversity in agriculture and the extinction of species, the weakening of trade and labor unions throughout the world, and the destruction of countless communities as local industries were destroyed and factories shut down….all of this is just a part of what the anti-globalisation movement fought against.
Partially due to the all-too conveniently-timed ‘war on terror’ and systematic counter-revolutionary actions, the mass mobilizations of the anti-globalisation movement are long-gone, and few of the critiques remain in the political platforms of any leftist or liberal movement in the United States or the United Kingdom.
However, the damage done did not simply disappear when there was no movement to fight it, and much of the current political turmoil in which we find ourselves now is a consequence both of globalisation and the left’s abandonment of that fight. The rise of fascist, Islamist and nationalist movements, acceleration of climate change, increasing poverty, mass displacement, and countless other crises can be linked to the spread of global capital. The closure of factories, the shift of investment from manufacturing to finance and internet technology, and the obliteration of local economies happened just as the protesters feared, but as with much else, rage against this destruction resurfaced as part of the platform of the fascist right, as well as featuring heavily in the political campaign of Donald Trump and the exit of the UK from the European Union (Brexit).
Just as with other elements of leftist abandonment, the political platforms of the anti-globalisation movement didn’t go away: they are now being wielded towards new goals by fascist, nationalist, and authoritarian movements against which antifascists now find themselves in a losing battle.
One of those groups? The Wolves of Vinland.
As with their aesthetic, The Wolves present an anti-modern ideology, one that rejects Empire (or in Donovan’s words, “The Empire of Nothing”) in favor of societies formed around tribal affinities and self-selection. Crucial to such a transition is the rejection of the hegemonic rule of Liberal Democracy not just over individual and group actions, but also over self-perception and our own modes of thought. As the manifesto of Operation Werewolf puts it:
“It is not a political statement, but a bloody fist shaken in the face of all institutions of control- a furious bite to the hands that seek to leash or enslave. It is not right or left, but free of these shackles of modern dualistic thinking- it operates under the assumption that the Kings of this world have become so through the forked tongue of finance and fear, and it rejects their offerings. The warriors who make up Operation Werewolf know that the true heroes are those who are self made, physically and mentally strong, free thinkers and free doers who are both untamed and unrepentant.”
While Waggener gives very little time to political analysis, Jack Donovan does much more (it was he, after all, who was invited to a European New Right think tank). Operation Werewolf functions primarily as the self-improvement wing of The Wolves, while Donovan’s writing focuses much more on political theory. Consider Donovan’s response during a Reddit ‘ask me anything’ to a question regarding why tribalism has “a bad rap”:
“The anti-tribalist/anti-racist hysteria promoted by the progressive media is too convenient for wealthy elites. They are, for the most part, protected from the negative consequences of the “melting pot.” The wealthy can afford security, and they can afford to live wherever they like, and they can afford to send their children to whatever schools they prefer. The representatives from other groups that they and their families interact with most are often going to be very well socialized or very successful. It’s the lower and lower middle class proles who are forced, whether they like it or not, to interact with groups of people who have radically different values or cultures.
Tribalism is inconvenient for wealthy globalists. To begin with, it creates instability that can threaten their investments. They can also make more money when they are free to outsource labor, move a factory, or import goods made in places with a lower standard of living.
If people are convinced that they are “world citizens” and shouldn’t expect any kind of local or national loyalty, globalist elites won’t have to be confronted with any sort of crisis of conscience when they sell out their neighbors and countrymen.”
Any reader who was politically-active during the WTO protests or any of the other manifestations comprising the anti-globalisation movement will recognize much of this rhetoric. For The Wolves, Empire is almost identical to what (anarchists) Hardt and Negri outlined in their books, as well as what most autonomous Marxists, post-colonialists, many Green Anarchists, and anti-civ theorists criticize: Liberal (Capitalist) Democratic hegemony. But also, something is obviously off, racialized, about their rhetoric.
Immigrants As Victims, Immigrants As Weapons
First, let us acknowledge the core problem which Donovan cites in his response: the mobility of global capitalism has made it impossible for local politicians and small communities to fight capitalist policies. No matter how strong the local resistance to the closing of a factory in the rust belt of the United States is, as long as the owner of that factory can re-invest their capital in another market, local protest—even violent protest–is useless. As long as cheaper labor can be found elsewhere, and provided no punitive tariffs on re-imporation are levied by governments, it will always be a good business decision for a corporation to move its production to a cheaper labor market. Because of the success of capitalist globalisation, no local political movement can effectively exert control over global capital.
Simultaneously, so-called ‘Free Trade’ agreements destroy the local economies outside the United States even more than within. The North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), signed into law in 1994, ravaged the economy of Mexico, leading to massive spikes in immigration (‘legal’ and otherwise) to the United States. For instance, in 1990, the amount of Mexican nationals living in the United states was 4.3 million; in 2000 on account of Liberal capitalist policies, that number more than doubled to 9.17 million.
It is impossible to understate the effect that adding so many more workers into the United States had both on wages and on unions, as well as the ‘cultural’ disruption 5 million more people (in a country of 280 million) would represent. Similar changes occurred in Europe as well.
Here, though, we must make a distinction between the far-right analysis of such events, the liberal one, and the (currently abandoned) leftist understanding. While the right often sees the immigrants themselves as the problem, a liberal sees only the anti-immigrant racism of the people (white, Black, or otherwise) in the communities into which they migrate as the problem. Both focus entirely on the matter of the immigrants themselves, rather than the forces which cause people to become immigrants in the first place.
From a Marxist view, immigrants are doubly-exploited people who function both as victim of oppression and political tool for the capitalist. Liberal economic policies (and foreign military actions) destroy the economies of other nations. Those people make the obviously difficult yet economically-inevitable decision to leave their countries to find work elsewhere. Yet when they arrive, they then function as a ‘reserve labor force’ to drive down wages in the country to which they moved, breaking the power of organized labor.
Racial tensions greatly help this process. When Black or white workers in the United States begin losing jobs or finding their wages stagnating, they accurately note a relationship between their deteriorating economic conditions and the sudden influx of immigrants. However, they miss the larger processes which entrap both the immigrants and themselves, and they can be somewhat forgiven for this failure: relentless media hype about illegal immigration, conservative politicians happy to employ racial fears for votes, and liberal politicians eager to dismiss white workers’ complaints as anti-progressive or downright stupid, all helped to insure neither the immigrants nor the workers united against the primary cause of their common suffering.
To understand how this process works, consider the plight of Russian Jewish immigrants fleeing violence to Israel, where they are then given land in occupied territories and used by the Israeli government as a buffer against Palestinian rage. Or, further back, Europeans fleeing Capitalist enclosure of land to America, then given “free” land in return for helping to kill Native Americans. In both cases, the initial displacement which victimized the people who became immigrants was later wielded to turn the immigrants themselves into weapons of Capital.
None of the current political movements accurately address quite what is happening. Unfortunately, the social justice framework is particularly shallow here: it sides with immigrants not on economic grounds, but on the field of identity and oppression (precisely as the far right does, but in inverse). While immigrants absolutely face racist oppression, the social justice political strategy ignores that this oppression is a continuation of their economic exploitation, rather than a mere moral issue. The economic exploitation of immigrants is bound-up in the same capitalist machinations which deteriorate the economic conditions of the working-class whites which Social Justice activists see as the alpha-oppressor. So while the Left stopped addressing the economic suffering of whites as the ‘working class’ (in favor of focusing on social oppression), their economic suffering continues regardless, making them a ripe field for harvesting by far-right ideologues like Donovan.
Here we can see that, as in so much else of his writing, Donovan is not really wrong in his analysis. The ‘wealthy elites’ to whom he refers do not encounter the refugees and immigrants displaced by their policies or for their profit. None of the politicians who voted for NAFTA, none of the executives of multi-national corporations, and none of the finance brokers of large investment banks experience the direct effects of their decisions, cultural or otherwise. Neither, though, will the investors who reap dividends from those moves, nor will many of the urban liberal bourgeoisie (be they tech workers or hipster business owners) even encounter the immigrants or the disgruntled working-class who directly experience these shocks except as the house-cleaners, construction workers, janitors, or the countless other manual servants who support their lifestyles.
Donovan is not really wrong, but he is also not really right, either. The ‘wealthy elites’ against which he warns benefit both from anti-racism and racism alike. “Elite” (Bourgeois) liberals and conservatives both manipulate the poor beneath them; the Capitalist class wields racist rhetoric to manipulate poor whites against Blacks and immigrants at the very same time that it wields identity politics against those whites. With both hands, the capitalists ensure those upon whom the entire system is built never unite against them.
Conservative-inspired white violence against immigrants ensures that those immigrants remain passive and compliant victims of global capital; Liberal social justice identity politics makes sure that the circumstances and primary cause of that violence is seen not as a result of capitalist policies, but as a result of the white (cis/able-bodied/hetero/male) it identifies as alpha-oppressor. It is a game in which capitalists have bet on both teams, and while the Left stands in the stadium slack-jawed, Donovan has been picking their pockets.
The Violence of the Gilded Age
It is here where we can begin to see that the threat the Wolves poses to antifascists is not what any of his critics think. It is not his virulent brand of misogyny, nor his intoxicating aesthetic, nor even his increasing influence and popularity. Rather, it’s that he’s beating the Left at their own politics, occupying ideological and intellectual territory they forgot they even once possessed, and building a racialized movement with the tools we left behind.
Nowhere is this best seen than in the speech he gave at Schollenrode to a New Right think-tank in February. The 20 minute presentation, called “Violence is Golden,” outlines his primary critique of Liberal Democracy and the modern world.
“We all live by the sword. Every law is a shaking sword, a glock at close range, a hungry pair of handcuffs. Every hate speech law, every anti-discrimination law, every tax that extorts the money you earned and gives it to someone you would never willingly help, who may even hate you, is backed by the threat of violence. IThe people who say they want safe spaces and peace and love will send men with guns to threaten to kill you if you do not do what you want.”
“The prevailing narrative of the Empire of Nothing—the phrase I use to describe the network of governments …is that ‘violence is evil, violence is something others do, violence something that outsiders do, something that criminals and outlaws and sick people do, violence is a disease some kind of affliction that can be cured…they believe it is a symptom of ‘toxic masculinity.’
…old rulers were proud of what they won.and defended using violence…those that give names in modern democratic states obscure that violence…
State violence is euphemized and obscured by terms like law enforcement when a criminal shoots someone its violence, when the police shoot someone its law enforcement.
Democratic violence must be presented as a reluctant, nurturing correction When acts of violence are morally sterilized in this way, good, modern civilized people can absolve themselves of the reality that the laws and regulations they depend on are obeyed only because wielding tasers tears gas batons and firearms. When you accept and internalize this narrative that violence is evil done only by outlwasd what the state does is something else, you wash the blood from your hands. It is easy to convince yourself that you live nonviolently, that you have evolved beyond violence.”
If many of these statements sound in any way familiar, they should. They are the same arguments once used by the Black Panthers, by indigenous resistance movements, by insurrectionist anarchists, by autonomous Marxists, and by every other leftist critic of Liberal Democratic hegemony in the 20th century. They are the core analysis of state violence inherent in anti-civilationist critics and the essential thrust of Ward Churchill’s deconstruction of liberal ‘nonviolence.’ You can find variations of the same statements in the work of European critical theorists like Zizek and Badiou, as well as in my own writing. In fact, last year I wrote critiques both of the way social justice relies on state violence to enforce hate crime legislation as well as how we help Liberal Democracy obscure the violence it commits on our behalf.
Whether or not Jack Donovan reached this analysis through exposure and study of leftist revolutionary theorists or came upon it through his own path, the fact remains that he wields it better than what passes for the Left in the United States. Mass movements such as Black Lives Matter, Occupy, and the mobilizations against Trump and white supremacy expend extraordinary effort to avoid direct criticism of Liberal Democracy, contorting themselves into almost absurd positions. A coalition of activists involved in Black Lives Matter, for instance, produced a platform that skirted completely the connection between the police and liberal democratic violence, offering police reform as their most radical position. Even the manifestations against white nationalists and alt-right groups by antifascist coalitions refuse to make the connection between the police who protect the fascists and the urban ‘progressive’ social order which prosecutes hate crimes on their behalf.
While anti-fascists heavily rely on ‘no-platforming, this complete leftist abandonment of revolutionary attacks against Liberal Democracy actually gives the far-right their platform. It is as if Leftists built a stage, set up a mic and speakers, and brought in a massive audience, but while they became distracted by Liberal Democratic crises (the war on terror, the 2016 presidential elections) and glittering distractions (gay marriage, identity politics), men like Donovan stumbled upon the script and the live mic and began improvising before an eager crowd.
Because while Jack Donovan and the other theorists of the New/Fascist Right are deeply intelligent, their ideas are completely derivative. They are experts at salvage and refurbishment, but aren’t actually able to create anything new. In this way, they are hardly much different from the Nazis who borrowed endlessly from whatever mythic past they could find, repurposing Leftist critiques and even Liberal Democracy itself, into a deadly configuration.
The Gods Are What Has Failed To Become of Us
Most important of the Wolves’ work—and least understood by their critics, is their reclamation of a mythic, anti-modern spirituality in the form of Heathenism. Antifascists, liberals, and conservatives alike tend dismiss these aspects as mere oddity or primitivist nonsense, missing that it is from there they derive their true power.
It is useful here to remember first that before Jack Donovan was a hyper-masculinist Heathen, he was Jack Malabranche, a Satanist who spent much of his time in endless troll-sessions with trans women on internet sites. Those who remember him from that time recount a completely different man, one so insecure with his masculinity and beliefs that he could become enraged at the slightest friendly jab about his figure or perceived intelligence.
In his Heathen incarnation, Donovan finally found a milieu in which he could operate, a mythic system more easily-accessed, and something that Left-Hand path work couldn’t offer: a framework of community. Unlike most Pagan, Witch, and Magician paths, Heathenry in the United States emphasizes familial and friendship bonds, a complete moral code of tribe-based solidarity, and a pre-existing masculinist aesthetic into which even the most awkward, socially-inept man can find a sense that he is something more than just a capitalist failure.
Like the rest of his ideas, Donovan’s Heathenry is largely derivative. The tattoos on his chest are standard: the Black Sun, Icelandic staves: nothing every Black Metal-loving suburban kid doesn’t get by the time he’s 19. His occasional quotations of the Eddas or recounting of Odinic tales to illustrate a point are almost awkward to read: they have a greeting-card quality to them, rather than of someone actually initiated into Odinic mysteries.
Paul Waggener and Operation Werewolf are the more dominant influence. Waggener’s esoteric work, however, is more aesthetics than serious magic—for instance, Vakandibok—a Taufr of Awakening, is frankly not much different in scope than the useless drivel that comes out of major pulp-occult publishers like Llewellyn. However, aesthetically it is significantly different: darker, more primitive, and with significantly less New Age ‘bullshit.’ It also offers a cultural aesthetic far less worshipful of hyper-capitalist modernity than most of what non-racialized Paganism offers.
Ultimately, however, the “ancient” spirituality of the Wolves is a political aesthetic. Here we must remember: it’s too easy to dismiss the aesthetic of romanticist primitivism used by groups like the Wolves of Vinland as “mere” aesthetic, as if aethestic had no power. Vikings, European tribalism, return to simpler and more embodied ways of relating to the world, unsubstantiated and patently false notions of racially-pure pasts cannot be dismissed merely because they are aesthetics divorced from historical fact. So, too, the pretensions of modern life, the religious assurances that technological progress, endless growth, and hyper-consumerism have brought peace and equality are likewise mere aesthetic with no reference to truth. Its falsehood is irrelevant to the truth it creates.
What the Wolves are creating through their spiritual aesthetic is of course not a return to ancient ways of being, but an aesthetic of ancient return against a wholly-alienating capitalist, modern present. Whether they believe themselves to be returning or not is not the point; only that, given enough power, the return will happen in their (false yet now-true) ancient way.
Baudrillard’s point that it is impossible to rob a bank in an ‘inauthentic’ way is important here. You cannot simulate a hold-up: regardless of whether you really mean the gun in your hand, you were honest in your written note to the teller, deeply and truly meant to kill hostages if the money were not delivered, or truthfully meant to return the money afterward, the bank is robbed regardless. Authenticity and faithfulness to the original do not matter: everything is always reproduction of an unapproachable and missing original.
Against The Modern World
Thus, whether or not the Wolves are faithfully copying ancient Germanic religion and culture is a question only a liberal (themselves forgetting that Democracy is likewise inauthentic) might find relevant. For the rest of us, the primitive return to Odinic rites and sacred warrior brotherhoods that the Wolves propose must be seen as a wholly political aesthetic akin to the Marxist creation of the proletariat or the Nazi fabrication of the volk, as well as the social justice creation of the oppression identity. Nation, Race, Gender, and Religion are all likewise political aesthetics whose power is undeniable.
The question thus isn’t whether or not the primitive, Heathen aesthetic of the Wolves is true, but why it has power. Here is where we see yet again another deep failure of the Left, a great abandonment of territory occurring at precisely the same time as the Left largely abandoned anti-globalisation. The globalist (neo-liberal, or actually just Liberal) political transformations that have occurred in the last two decades have done for societies now what Marx noted was accomplished by the bourgeoisie in the 19th century:
“The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his “natural superiors”, and has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous “cash payment”. It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom — Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation.
The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honoured and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage labourers.
The bourgeoisie has torn away from the family its sentimental veil, and has reduced the family relation to a mere money relation.”
Alienation of the body, destruction of local cultures and communities, destruction of religious systems and moral frameworks around which people cohered: these are all the effects of capital’s globalized spread in the name of civilization:
“It compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production; it compels them to introduce what it calls civilisation into their midst, i.e., to become bourgeois themselves. In one word, it creates a world after its own image.”
Whilst Marx and Engels argued that such transformations were inevitable and would lead to worldwide class revolt, the Messianic promise never manifested. The industrialisation of work under the religious banner of modernity nevertheless succeeded in disrupting every social relation, destroying every cultural form which stood in its way (indigenous, ancient, or otherwise).
The recent rise of new-old religious and cultural forms (such as the Wolves’ anti-modern Heathenry), then, is a political reaction to global capital, regardless of whether or not they identify it as such. There is nothing actually fascist about such reactions; the Left mistakes anti-modernism as fascist only because it has drank the bloody offerings at Capitalism’s altars of progress. Walter Benjamin noted this in his criticisms of the bourgeois-left political formulations in Europe against which the Surrealists fought, especially their dogmatic belief in the conquest of nature and the march of history:
“Marx said that revolutions are the locomotive of world history. But perhaps things are very different. It may be that revolutions are the act by which the human race travelling in the train applies the emergency brake.”
The world of global capital means more environmental, social, and cultural destruction in the name of progress, modernity, and civilization; thus an anti-modern political aesthetic such as what the Wolves utilize is essentially a reaction to capitalism. But it is not quite an anti-capitalist politics, or isn’t any longer now that these critiques are abandoned by the overly-credulous and hyper-modern Left.
These critiques originate in anarchist, socialist, post-colonialist, and anti-imperialist thought, and were once a primary feature of mass movements against global capital. Anti-imperialism, particularly in Africa, the Caribbean, and Central and South America has always made as one of their foundational critiques the overthrow of French, American, and Anglo attempts to ‘civilize’ the conquered natives. Marxist and Anarchist theories, stripped of their European exceptionalism, transformed alchemically into autonomous movements embracing traditional and indigenous ways of being, and where they became strong enough to influence or transform government (as in Bolivia), their aesthetics were ultimately anti-modern (as for instance Evo Morale’s enshrinement of Pachu Mama as an entity with legal rights).
As with the questions of gender, sexuality, and bodily autonomy mentioned in the previous essay, the Wolves and other fascist groups have merely squatted aesthetic political territory ceded by the Left.
Here, much more than elsewhere, American Leftists deserve the fiercest of criticisms. A peculiar sort of American urban exceptionalism has arisen which belittles those who do not partake in bourgeois hipsterism. Those who are not part of urban realities, who do not know (or care) about the latest social media frenzy, who experience the modern as relentless alienation and are slow to be educated into the latest pronoun-shifts or poly-bi-non-pan sexualities are ultimately written-off as reactionaries, just as the political cries of those whose material existence has been shattered by global capitalism’s destruction of factories and communities are dismissed as backward or inherently racist.
Stealing Back What’s Stolen
With no leftist alternative to the relentless death-march of globalisation, what the Wolves of Vinland propose is actually an attractive option. A new-old ancient aesthetic built around familial ties, moral codes, re-approach to the land, tribal community, and ethics of self-fulfillment and the reclamation of the body is precisely what Capitalism cannot promise but what resistance to Capital requires. With the exception of Green anarchist, primitivist, anti-colonial, and indigenous movements, the left dismisses such political aesthetic as fascist or least reactionary. But it is neither, except that it is a ceded territory now occupied by fascists.
The primary weapon of anti-fascist organising in the United States has been the use of protests and disruption to silence the voices of fascists and white supremacists. Such tactics, however, can only suffice if those doing the silencing have something equally compelling to say. Unfortunately, few if any of the political aesthetics antifascists offer speak any longer to the crises caused by these new expansions of global capitalism.
It is not enough to say that immigrants must not be discriminated against. Without a conceptual framework which acknowledges how the economic destruction which causes mass immigration in the first place is tied to global capitalism and the policies of the Democratic party in the United States, the left, by focusing their energies only on the racist aspects of anti-immigrant sentiment, is only treating a tertiary symptom of a systemic disorder. Both the horrible economic plight of the immigrant as well as their structural exploitation as weapons against community coherence must be addressed simultaneously, directing our politics back against the capitalists who initiate and maintain the cycle.
So, too, the left can no longer hope that condescension and belittling of anti-modern politics will suffice to stop those politics arising in the first place. Social alienation, the reduction of the human to worker and consumer, the flattening of urban and non-urban life into a great worldwide market in which the same products and same cultural forms annihilate local difference: all these cultural and societal destructions caused by global capitalism will not go away just because urban leftists have made peace with their Instagram accounts and daily lattes, their iPhones and hip clothing made possible by capitalism’s conquest of the entire world.
Particularly the refusal of American leftists to make connections between the police and military violence which gives them access to the resources of the world must be acknowledged and then fought. The hyper-modern urban existence, cluttered with the technological spoils produced by the very same Capitalist exploitation which destroys both indigenous cultures in the global south as well as those of the poor white worker in the United States, must be abandoned. No longer can we pretend inter-connected existence through Facebook and Twitter are adequate replacements for the resilience of local communities and distinct cultural experiences which they displace.
From there, a solidarity can arise with the colonized peoples who have been fighting to preserve their land, culture, and distinction against Empire’s commodification of the world. From such a solidarity, racist and nationalist rhetoric will be easier to fight; when a Mexican immigrant or a Syrian refugee is seen as an ally of the out-of-work American worker against global capitalism, we will no longer need to silence fascists: the poor white worker will no longer have a reason to listen to them.
Unfortunately, we have few examples of what a re-invigorated, anti-modernist, anti-globalist political aesthetic might look like in America except the Wolves of Vinland, and they are not a model we should emulate, but rather a warning of what is replacing us because we fail.
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.
This is the first piece in a series about dirt and its magics: the works of the Earth itself, of foundation, of terroir, of foot-tracks, of land spirits, of the dead. Dirt as a magical materia arguably presents uniquely fierce resistances to monetising it. Dirts are overlooked allies, and they are what grassroots are grown from. The literally downtrodden.
I thought I’d be starting with a rundown of magical theories and occult operations concerning the gathering and usages of dirt. After all, I wanted to be practical – you know, grounded. But that’s not what the gnomes wanted. They wanted a true story of lived work. They wanted a journey about home. Seems a lot of earth elementals don’t see the difference between personal and political, between history and journeys. The land remembers.
Do not take the ground beneath you for granted. Trust me, I write this with smeared Safe Travel oil salving my soles halfway over the North Atlantic through severe turbulence. Swallowing my many guilts at the expense of travelling strapped to one of humanities’ thirstiest fossil fuel engines in order to embrace my sister and parents. To stand on the land of their home, my home for eighteen solid (and a whole bunch more part-time) years, five minutes down the road from the site of my birth. It has been the longest period apart from them I have ever spent.
We hadn’t planned for me to move to American lands this soon.
I had come because Love, because our hallowed anniversary, with a ticket back to Blighty and every intention of using it. Border-crossing and making a new home in the US is a complex, nail-biting, shadowy bureaucratic procedure. I had been warned by the blackshirted borderguard on this latest entry: you’ve done everything by the book, but we still don’t trust you – if you try this again, we’re bouncing you back. And when I did leave the country, we could face at least six months waiting for the correct paperwork to be done to let me return more permanently. And so, being magicians and all, a deal was cut and a shortcut opened up. I was damned if I was taking the alternative – spending half a year separated from my beloved. Just because our gods do, doesn’t always mean we can. Or should.
I had not been long on American shores before realising I would need some very specific dirts to assist me in being able to stay here. Fortunately, I had a guide. Having made the usual pocket change offering at an entrance to New York Below – coppers for Love – I rode the metal worms under Manhattan’s establishment to its southernmost shore. Blinking into a bracing November mid-day with a murmured thanks to the gnomes and the dead of the Subway, I navigated the bizarrely fenced-off miniature maze fortifying Castle Gardens, and rendezvoused with La Gitana. We had a very important Lady to meet.
Although we were visiting two islands very much a part of the Big Apple – indeed, it is not a stretch to say they are both historically and mythically foundational – the enclosed queues, tickets, bag searches, and metal detectors are most reminiscent of an airport. The Gitana and I unwind our twinsies keys from around our wrists, and hope security don’t ask what the empty mason jars are for. Nothing to declare but our genius loci.
When you live in a city, especially if you’re born there, a lot of the iconic destinations become part of the background. The City pulls a reverse magic-eye where the sharks and sailboats sink into flat swirl-static. The past is a foreign country: a lot of people never visit. Storied landmarks – born from the sweat, hopes, and wages of the locale’s ancestors – become mere spectacle, tourist trapezes to swing foreigners around and upend the hard rain of coinage. What’s beacon to the visitor is the old hat of the resident, brimming world-weary. But the beacon-light of those mythic locales and monuments often has a very real illuminating quality for meeting and dealing with the spirits of a place. And we were off to visit the biggest torch around.
In a boat full of foreigners – albeit tourists and not prospective immigrants – I could feel the keeling shift, felt us riding waves of more than just the New York Harbour. That which we had stretched out had caught an echo, and our current-writing was waking the trace of that historical, that underlying historic of so many journeys past. It’s all foot-track magic, when you get right down to it; I mean, eventually. The palimpsest, I told my Romany companion.
With my mouthed heart and stranger’s accent, with hopes of making a new home here, and with stray foreign currency still in back-pockets, under a flag of sky, She hove into view. She who welcomed the tempest-tossed. She who ushered in those yearning masses: the builders, the craftsmen, the servicemen and servicewomen, who built roads, schools, hospitals and undergrounds. The Lady of Liberty.
Hold fast. I am absolutely not here to magesplain to you how chintzy nationalism can be detourned. And I am certainly not here to persuade you to forget the mass graves of native genocide the United States are built on. There are no blank slates.
Someone was always here before you. And every land is a land of many stories, many kinds of story. Standing between a hope and a lie is a torch-bearing Lady, welcoming the restless and forgotten – Herself made in the image of a foreign mother – crowned in the diadem of the stars. And make no mistake: She has priests. Visit them. Listen to them tell Her stories of hopeful crossings, of proud bootstrapping, of making something of yourself, that old Dream. On pain of Paine, sometimes you can see tears in their eyes. American hearts, purpled, pierced with nine swords.
When the French donated the Statue, they neglected to spring for the plinth necessary to actually seat Her. So a fundraising campaign was waged, and its chief means? To market little Statues of Liberty. Not to tourists, mind, but to residents. To put it in terms of a Borges story (and why else would you practice magic?), the Lady of Liberty was called forth from idols, from the focused support and charity of those who, believing in a song of liberty, enthroned their conductress of its harmonies.
Liberty Island is also a former military base. They don’t really talk as much about that.
Every land is a land of many scars. The lesson in the lesion was clear: learn those stories, recognise the siren song, and remember to hear the voices of both those spoken of and not spoken of – those for which She was not the first hopeful glimpse or beckoning promise. Those who did not choose to come here, even by the forced choice of hunger. Those who were stolen. Remember. There is no such thing as the voiceless, only the unheard. And there are many kinds of journeys across great waters.
With respects paid and poured to the saints and shades of the isle – the designer, the sculptor, the poet, and, of course, the workers who hammered Her penny-thin form – we collected dirt from Her feet. Paid in foreign and local currency alike, we push coppers deep into the soil, plant them like seeds and the dead into the womb and tomb of soil. Pray that penniless shades may see their way across the waters.
I was lucky enough to have got to choose to be here, to be supported by so many that mean so much to me. And when in the newest Rome, you buy an overpriced postcard from the gift shop, right? Prior to being plinthed, various unassembled pieces of the Statue were displayed at fairs, with tickets to climb upon Her sold as a further means of raising funds. The postcard is a photograph: Her disembodied arm and torch, apparently emerging from the earth. A chthonic Ace of Wands.
If the beacon isle of the Lady was the land of rousing nationalist anthem, a scratchy old record of hopeful promises and inclusive opportunity gone yellow around the edges, and an American Dream awoken from like scratching gold fig leaf from lead weights and transatlantic chains, the next island was the home to the gated bureaucratic reality of immigration. The sorting hall. The staircase of assigned futures. The Old World’s afterlife, complete with pylons and passwords, judges and supplicants. Ellis Island.
Any magical practitioner worth their salt will tell you names have power. And this is a place of Lost Names: where beautiful native consonants were hacked into acceptable White mouths. Where people’s very selves were deloused, re-ordered, and made to measure up. A harrowing of Dantes becoming Dans.
Yet even here – in the midst of people chalked, weighed, and herded as cattle, stripped of land, tongue and the very name your mother called you by – there are places of compassion, hot points of Love Triumphant. At the foot of the staircase assigned to those whose admission to the US was approved (the left hand path, incidentally) is a place where love overcame even the most officious prods of state apparatus and would not be filed away, where shouts of joy overwhelmed administrators’ orders to move along. The spot became known as the Kissing Post, where families and lovers separated in crossing were reunited. Because even in the very bowels of dehumanising prison rules, there can be heartbeats of Love welcoming you back into eternal arms. One way or another. And besides. Falling in Love is punk as fuck.
Gathering dusts and laying our tricks, we eventually processed ourselves outside, where recent reparations of a sort have been undertaken, in the form of a wall of names which curves like time. Ancestral immigrants with my surname can be found there. Whether or not they are blood relatives is unimportant here – I bear the name of those who walked this path before me. George. Hannah. Louis and Anna. Margaret. Mary. Patrick. Patrick. Patrick Joseph. Thomas and Bridget. Thomas. Here at the crossroads gate to life in the United States, I pour liquors, sing prayers, whisper secrets, plant coins, and scrape dirts from corners, from footpaths, from the dusty cracks of steps.
When I wed my beloved on the First Day, the Gitana officiated. Amongst the many offerings and materia for the rites made to Our Scarlet Lady were dirts and dusts from these places. And so, in the city identified with the typical depiction of the Fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, we make and nurture our home and songs of our sacred dirts. Our carolled Gardens.
Al Cummins is an Anglo-Irish Midlander, necromancer, and occasional supply teacher. He’s just finished a PhD on early modern magic and the passions and moved to New York, and did both because Love. He mainly works goetia, grimoires, seventeenth-century England, hoodoo, and a pretty damn fine chana paneer jalfrezi.