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

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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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Asatru’s Racist Missionary: Stephen McNallen, Defend Europe, and the Weaponization of Folkish Heathery

 

“…while the Alt Right is the U.S. and Europe were singing the identitarian’s praises, a celebrity in the U.S. pagan community was capitalizing on this to renew his call for racial tribalism.”

From Ryan Smith & Shane Burley

As they headed out into the Mediterranean, Defend Europe had the plan of interfering with humanitarian NGOs attempting to provide medical aid to refugees crossing the seas after years of war-torn violence.

After raising $200,000 through crowdfunding websites like WeSearchr, Defend Europe chartered a 422-ton ship, determined that they would block refugee boats, putting families at fatal risk so that they could prevent the “Islamization of Europe” they believed to be taking place. Heading into the Libyan “search-and-rescue” zone on August 4-5, this meant intending to block Doctors Without Borders as they desperately tried to save the lives of children floating.

Defend Europe is an extension of the “identitarian” movement in Europe, made up of controversial nationalist groups like Generation Identity that the Alt Right in the U.S. have been desperate to imitate. Defend Europe’s direct-interventionist approach is hoping, desperately, to find that there is some evidence of these NGOs practicing “human trafficking,” bringing in refugees for “forced” resettlement.

Throughout the formation of the organization and its project on the high seas, North American Alt Right figures have been active in their support. People like Lauren Southern, formerly of the caustic Rebel Media, had her Patreon suspended from her stated support.

But while the Alt Right is the U.S. and Europe were singing the identitarian’s praises, a celebrity in the U.S. pagan community was capitalizing on this to renew his call for racial tribalism.

Viking Revival

For people in the pagan community, McNallen’s name is well-known, a collage of veneration and horror. The heathen revival, particularly Asatru in the United States, comes from McNallen’s construct starting in the 1960s, bridging over a friendlier version of the racialist Odinism found across Europe. After being drawn by the stories of heroism found in the Eddas and Sagas, McNallen formed the Viking Brotherhood in 1969 with the Viking Manifesto, an ode to a young-male obsession with the warrior cult media interpretation of Norse Vikings.

Taking on a more serious tone, and adopting the magical flavor from Iceland, he created the Asatru Free Assembly in 1976, using the same meta-genetic tone of Else Christiansen’s earlier Odinic Rite, yet eschewing the harder edged racialism. For McNallen, this was to be a religion of the Northern European people, their true spiritual practice, and he could use the language of post-colonialism to argue that it was their right–just as it was that of the Tibetans to be freed from the hands of the Chinese Communist Party or for the Navajo Nation to be allowed to have ethnically-exclusive Pow Wows. This was not a new argumentation for the right; European New Right academics had been taking this turn for a few years, arguing that the wave of national liberation movements was in line with their own battle for an “authentic” European Ethno-state.

McNallen

McNallen can be best understood through his actions and ideology. The core of McNallen’s Folkish ideology is the belief in a concept known as metagenetics. Metagenetics claims culture is passed on genetically within specific groups of people. Such genetic connections to culture also determine what deities one can connect to. McNallen’s ideology also shows strong influence from Carl Jung’s Essay on Wotan written in 1936. In this essay Jung argues, based on his theory on archetypes, certain Gods are carried in the lineage of different cultures and certain people can invoke these Gods into their community. In the essay Jung claims Adolf Hitler is such an individual, asserting Hitler archetypally embodied the God Wotan.

His Asatru Folk Assembly further codifies these beliefs in the AFA’s Declaration of Principles. In it they claim only “the Peoples of the North” should practice any form of Germanic Paganism. This is further justified by claims of. Those who do not have the right ancestry are told to “drink from their own well” and leave. Folkish Asatru holds no consistent standards for what is the right or sufficient amount of ancestry to practice. In theory access to the Norse Gods, according to this form of practice, is dictated by blood heritage so anyone of the right descent should have access including a lot of non-white people. In practice the most consistent standard for determining the appropriate background is the paint swatch test.

Tribe and Tradition

McNallen has a long history with the far right. It is unclear exactly when he got involved in extreme right politics though there is little question his flirtation is decades old. The first bit of evidence is when he started his first Asatru organization, the Viking Brotherhood, in 1973 which he advertised in the pages of Soldier of Fortune magazine. The Asatru Free Assembly, his next major project, was started shortly after and lasted around a decade before imploding over the issue of overt white nationalism in the organization. In 1985, just before the old AFA disbanded, McNallen first published Metagenetics.

Between publishing Metagenetics and founding the Asatru Folk Assembly in 1994 McNallen worked as a freelance journalist publishing articles in magazines like Soldier of Fortune. One such example is a piece published in the fall 1994 issue claiming the end of apartheid meant South Africa would soon be consumed by race war where all whites would perish. His dressing up of these concerns in the cloth of anticommunism is a perfect example of his messaging strategies ever since.

McNallen, until his recent removal as head of the AFA, would utilize such methods very consistently. He dresses up his philosophy under the banner of diversity, claims he is focused on protecting the unique heritage of all groups, invokes Judaism, Shinto and Native Americans as justification and brandishes his support, on purely ethnocentric terms, of the Karin and Tibetan separatist movements. All of this is meant to distract from the basic white nationalist foundation of the organization.

McNallen’s ideas were rooted in tribalism, that allegiance to one’s people was bound by blood, and that brotherhood was defined racially, even if he utterly rejected the vulgarities of the neo-Nazi movement. It is this clash in concept that largely destroyed the original AFA, but it only took a couple of decades for the white nationalist movement to evolve into using the same language as McNallen.

As the Alt Right developed, McNallen was right with them with his newest formation, the Asatru Folk Assembly, where he had firmed up his own arguments about the meta-genetic Jungian roots of Asatru in the psyche of the spiritually distinct Nordics. He contributed early on for AlternativeRight.com, joining Richard Spencer on episodes of Vanguard Radio to discuss the first Thor film and the heroism of the Icelandic explorers, coding the language he used well enough to avoid finger pointing from the right and the left. The AFA helped to popularize the “folkish” interpretation of heathenry, that it was an ethnically exclusive religion, and McNallen traveled the world talking to de-colonization movements attempting to woo them into common cause. As many heathens can attest, McNallen helped to set the tone for what heathenry was, especially in the U.S., as he helped to flesh out rituals and theology, adding much of the aesthetics and depth needed to create a multifaceted tradition.

Wotan Network

McNallen currently holds a purely ceremonial office. Day to day affairs is handled by a new triumvirate of individuals who, by some accounts, are far less subtle in their politics. There are rumors his retirement was not voluntary and he was forced out due to a shift in the AFA’s internal politics. Regardless as this was occurring and in the immediate aftermath the AFA’s increasingly open support for white nationalism inspired a backlash in the Heathen community.

In January of 2016 McNallen publicly posted his desire for the Freikorps, the infamous far right paramilitaries who formed the backbone of the Brownshirts and the SS, to come back to Germany and deal with Muslim immigration. These comments inspired immediate backlash against McNallen and his defenders.

After McNallen’s exit, AFA social media posted that the AFA was for “white men and women,” not for transgender people, and even found allies in movements like Deep Green Resistance. Their open racialism came in concert with a new commitment from heathen organizations to stand against the folkish tendency, and the Declaration 127 campaign was born, drawing from the 127th verse of the Havamal that cites the courage to stand up for what is right.

Major organizations, like the Troth, finally cut all ties, and the AFA was relegated to the only crowd left: white nationalist. This made sense since members were attending the National Policy Institute conference, hosting neo-fascist bands at Stella Natura, and helping to build much of the meta-political culture of the burgeoning Alt Right.

Part of McNallen’s separation from the AFA was his renewed commitment to white nationalist politics, doing videos for Red Ice Creations and starting the Wotan Network.

“It’s no secret that it’s my life purpose to awaken European peoples from their sleep,” says McNallen in his announcement video for the network. “This is why my heart beats, this is why I breathe.”

“Agile, hostile, and mobile” is how the decentralized network he is creating, named after Wotan who he believes distinctly motivates the white race. McNallen, though a hard polytheist, wants whites to think of Wotan as a Jungian archetype, a racially distinct machination in the minds of Norther European stock, a mode that they can tap into so as to become a warrior in defense of their racially-exclusive tribe. McNallen has made it clear that the Wotan Network was not an issue of promoting his religion, but instead about the “existence and the destiny of our people.”

In reality this means a culture war headed by racially-motivated memedom, except using the language of terror cells to play into the eschatological machinations of the Alt Right. While he expressly says it won’t be a religious project, he is calling white followers together for a sacred Blot, this one a statement of racial awakening rather than a mythic spiritual call.

The most obvious of the projects from the Wotan Network is Operation Erwache, intended to support those in Europe who are fighting the resettlement of refugees, which they believe is the “Islamization of the West” and redefine the genetic make-up of the continent.

Defend Europe and Operation Erwache

The Wotan Network’s involvement in Defend Europe is as a supporting role. Stephen McNallen posted a call to action shortly after the Wotan Network’s Facebook group was created called “AN EXERCISE IN APPLIED MEMETICS”. He put out a call for members of the Wotan Network to create memes, advertisements and propaganda material to promote Defend Europe.

The support is not surprising given McNallen and the AFA’s explicitly anti-migrant stances. This is the logical conclusion of decades of advocating racial holy war, dehumanizing migrants and leading a white nationalist organization shares parallels with broader trends in society. Trump’s election has emboldened white nationalists and the far right like nothing else, as shown by the surge in hate crimes since November 8, 2016. The surge in far right activity parallels McNallen’s removal from office at the AFA, his own increasingly militant public statements and similar surges in Alt Right activity.

Operation Erwache is a plan to seed the Internet with Wotan Network propaganda, target specific populations who McNallen feels can be won over and build their credibility with the Alt Right. Based on McNallen’s history and pattern of behavior, there is every indication that this goes beyond simple support for his ideological fellow-travelers. By spreading his influence in the he would gain greater support, publicity and visibility in the movement and society and would flood the Heathen community with activists. In one stroke, if all goes according to plan, he would secure both of his bases of support.

In many ways Defend Europe is an outgrowth of low-level neo-Nazi violence, assaults on immigrant communities and other related activities. It also fits with the existing pattern of fascist openly filching tactics, imagery and trappings from the Left with Defend Europe showing strong similarities to the activities of Greenpeace and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

Defend Europe, in spite of all the money and publicity it received, has devolved into a total farce. Beginning with being stopped in the Suez Canal for lacking proper documentation and members of the crew detained in Turkish Cyprus for human trafficking Defend Europe’s entire operation has veered from one spectacular screw-up to the next. Their troubles only continued when Tunisian fishermen successfully organized Tunisian ports to deny use of their harbors for refueling, repair and resupply. The whole tragicomic affair climaxed with the vessel adrift at sea due to a critical mechanical failure and the freezing of funding by Patreon, leaving them at the mercy of the very aid ships they sought to impede. One has to wonder if the entire thought process behind hiring the C-Star in the first place was hanging a right at the waterfront, approaching the eye-patched bartender of the first seedy dive they found and inquiring loudly with their new friend if said disreputable fellow could help them contract a trustworthy ship for engaging in piracy, kidnapping, general mayhem, murder and assorted crimes against humanity.

The credibility and money poured into the operation strongly suggests that, for now, there won’t be any similar attempts in the immediate future. Over $100,000 was sunk into this maritime comedy of errors which succeeded in setting itself adrift at sea, humiliated and in legal jeopardy. If the intent was to mobilize public support, build positive publicity and create a brand of direct action similar to Greenpeace’s famous fleet then Defend Europe was a total disaster. Yet this clear defeat should not make those engaging in antifascist work complacent or assume the Identitarian Movement and their Alt-Right allies are beaten. If anything the history of neo-fascism has shown those people are as determined as a bloated tick.

McNallen, to his benefit, does not appear to have been a central figure in organizing Defend Europe. He has also shown a consistent ability to deflect such charges and prevent them from sticking to him. After all this is the man who continued to lead the Asatru Folk Assembly for well over a decade after the Kennewick Man debacle, an episode that would’ve destroyed a less capable demagogue. Ideological setbacks are not going to be enough to upend the Wotan Network or McNallen’s goal of installing himself as Pope of the Alt Right with Folkish Heathenry as the official dogma of the movement.

A Post-Charlottesville World

In the U.S., the Unite the Right rally on August 12th defined the conversation on the far-right for weeks as the Alt Right planned to “defend” the Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville, Virginia. As speakers like Richard Spencer, Mike “Enoch” Peinovich, Christopher Cantwell, and Augustus Sol Invictus lined up; it began to define itself by its unwillingness to “punch right” and to include everyone from Identity Europa to the National Socialist Movement and KKK organizations. This was a solid break with the more moderate Alt Light and Patriot sphere that has been surrounding the, severing where the fissure was created during the “free speech” rallies.

McNallen jumped on board with his support for Unite the Right, promising to join the crowd in Charlottesville to stand up for “white identity.” After the image of the torchlight march from August 11th came forth, where white nationalist protesters chanted “Jews will not replace us” while surrounding a church and finally attacking protesters, McNallen put up an image of the protest with the line “where there is light, there is hope” emblazoned atop it. This was signed off on with the hashtag “#wotannetwork,” owing to his penchant for branding. The next day, one woman died and nineteen were injured as a Vanguard America associate plowed his Dodge Challenger into counter-protesters before hitting the gas in reverse and running the scene. It was both one of the largest white nationalist gatherings in twenty years, and one of the most catastrophic.

In the weeks that followed these declarations, Huginn’s Heathen Hof, a well-known Heathen blog, put out a call for a joint declaration denouncing the Asatru Folk Assembly, its doctrines and its leadership as a racist organization. Since then over a hundred Heathen organizations from all over the world have signed the statement. This has isolated the AFA from many of their former allies, lost members and pushed them into a more openly white nationalist direction. Their increasingly overt white nationalism also parallels with the broader surge in far right activity across the globe. As further splits occur after the Alt Right’s violence in Charlottesville, McNallen and the AFA’s choice to continue supporting the white nationalist contingent should further be a marker to disassociate them from the heathen community they desperately want to define.

What will do the job is quarantining his followers, support network and those advancing his ideology under other names. Declaration 127 is a powerful example of how collective action can contain such groups and lay the foundation for effective confrontation of their politics, ideology and works. Even with this potent precedent more needs to be done. The Asatru Folk Assembly is, sadly, not the lone example of Folkish Heathenry or fascist ideology active in Paganism.

Anti-Fascist Pagans are uniquely positioned to counter ideologues like Stephen McNallen, Augustus Sol Invictus and any others who spring up in the coming days. We live in times that are a greenhouse for fascism yet they are not the only ones who benefit. The scales have fallen from the eyes of many as the greed, exploitation and disregard for human life at the root of Neo-Liberal Capitalism is made plain for all to see. Just as these conditions have given rise to fascism they are also providing potent fuel for a Left that has been deprived of oxygen and space for far too long. In society and spirituality an understanding of ethics, practice and values centered on human needs over human greed has become more possible than it ever has at any point since 1917.

Even with the opportunity at hand victory is not assured. Organizing, mass education, and mutual aid projects plants the seeds of the new society, providing a vision that can really unseat fascist resurgence. The danger of fascist groups, ideologies and organizations, cannot be underestimated either. At one time this movement was used as a dagger to plunge into the heart of the left and humane alternatives to the status quo. Its steel was wielded to keep the people in line during the Cold War. Now, facing either exploitation or barbarity, there is an opportunity to change the dynamic. In and out of our spiritual communities we can transform how people view human relations, society and community. That can only happen through confronting fascism’s threat, and a movement that goes beyond its insurrection and heads to the roots of the system that birthed it.


Ryan Smith

Ryan Smith is a Heathen devoted to Odin living in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is the co-founder of Heathens United Against Racism, a founding member of Golden Gate Kindred, is active in the environmental justice and anti-police brutality movements, and recently completed his Masters in modern Middle East History and economics.

Shane Burley

Shane 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

A photo of Whitefish in Montana

The Alt Right’s War on Whitefish, and the Growth of an Opposition

The heart of Montana’s Flathead Valley has always been a cash-flushed vacation destination for those hitting the nearby mountains, perusing well-oiled ski resorts and the kitschy shops that live off of its financial success. Whitefish, a town with a population scarcely above 5,000, is one of the most traveled towns along the valley, with restaurants and antique shops littering its tourism district. It is along these streets that a procession of neo-Nazis promise to march against “Jewish power,” flooding in from out of state, automatic weapons in tow.

Andrew Anglin, the host of the neo-Nazi and Alt Right blog the Daily Stormer, has called for an armed march on Whitefish. The Daily Stormer mixes traditional genocidal Nazi ideas of racial superiority and anti-Semitism with the digital tirades so typical of the new Alt Right. In the world of contemporary white nationalism, the traditional “Stormfront” crowd of skinheads, Klansman, and other insurrectionary racialists has found their access to the more hip Alt Right through Anglin’s site.

Anglin had promised to ship in neo-Nazi skinheads from the San Francisco area, including a supposed Hamas member and vigilantes from the Soldiers of Odin, to descend on the town on January 16th, Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Anglin renamed it James Earl Ray Day after the man who assassinated King on his trip to visit striking sanitation workers. While Anglin came on strong with a promise of terrorism, it was exactly his exaggeration and the Alt Right’s pattern of creating smoke without fire that created the kernel of their failure. In a world where white nationalism has become commonplace, anti-fascism has grown by mammoth proportions. Anglin’s threat was a catalyzing event that allowed anti-fascist organizations, both community-based and more militant, to take the next step towards a united community that forced Anglin to finally concede defeat.

The Alt Right Mythology

While Alt Right people associated with the Daily Stormer and the surrounding constellations of podcasts, blogs, and busy Twitter accounts have always presented themselves as a movement that is new and intellectual rather than violent, this is a façade that has been cultivated to insulate them from the long history of opposition their movement has faced. While the branding, strategy, and talking points are new, this is traditional white nationalism repackaged for the smartphone generation.  Almost every single prominent Alt Right organization, from the National Policy Institute to American Renaissance, can trace its roots back to earlier white nationalist projects that have had long histories of terrorism. American Renaissance, which built its reputation by arguing people of color have lower IQs and are more aggressive than whites, has hosted guests like former KKK leaders Don Black and David Duke, various Holocaust Deniers, and Aryan Nations members. At the National Policy Institute conference you will see former neo-Nazi skinheads, which is not so surprising after the recent video of stiffed-arm Seig Heils to round out their 2016 conference.burley

Andrew Anglin lies on the edges of this pack of open fascists, often trying to take their snarky memes and racialist talking points, and use them to bring along traditional neo-Nazism. While the Alt Right has relegated itself to podcasts and online word diarrhea, neo-Nazis have had a long tradition of stepping out into the streets in an effort to strike terror into their neighbors. What Anglin hoped to do was to return the Alt Right to its long tradition of American white nationalist organizing: the main street march. The Alt Right, with a more educated demeanor and dreams of Washington power never wanted to resort to the embarrassing role-playing so characteristic of the “revolutionary” white nationalist groups often from the rural South.

White, Montana

Anglin’s call was neither new nor arbitrary, but came at the end of years of escalation that began when Richard Spencer, the Director of the National Policy Institute and founder of the term Alternative Right, moved to Whitefish. When Whitefish became his parent’s vacation home away from their busy lives in Dallas, Spencer moved there with his new Georgian-Russian wife Nina Kouprianova. He centered the NPI there, listing his mother’s property as their headquarters, and hoped to live a quiet life there half the year working on the various racialist book, podcasts, and websites he produces.

Starting in 2014, the relationship he had with Whitefish began to crumble, first during a fated ride on a chairlift at the posh Whitefish Mountain ski resort. Seated by chance next to neoconservative GOP strategist and lobbyist Randy Scheunemann, Spencer berated him for his foreign policy blunders. Spencer comes from an Old Right sensibility about foreign policy matters, one centered on an isolationist “America First” agenda. The confrontation quickly erupted into a controversy as Scheunemann spoke to the press about why a well-paid ski resort in Montana was allowing Spencer membership.

Spencer then headed to Hungary to hold a conference on white nationalism and “pan-European solidarity.” The conference was modeled after his NPI conferences, hosting an international audience and featuring speakers like American Renaissance’s Jared Taylor, Croatian New Rightist Tomislav Sunic, and Eurasianist nationalist mystic Alexandr Dugin. The Hungarian nationalist political party Jobbik eventually pulled out and Viktor Orban himself, under pressure from the socialist party, condemned the conference and declared Spencer persona non grata. Despite the advice of his fellow Alt Right consortium, Spencer continued his plans to host the conference and took a series of flights and train rides into Budapest to avoid arrest. Despite his Bond-like attempts at stealth, the Hungarian authorities descended on his pre-conference dinner and arrested Spencer, deporting him back to the U.S., banning him from entering the European Union.

burleyWhen he returned his infamy had only grown and Whitefish had had enough. A local group named Love Lives Here had formed in 2009 in response to the showing of a Nazi film in the area, and they became an affiliate of the larger Montana Human Rights Network who had been known for countering the growth of the militia movement. A campaign was started to pass an “anti-hate” ordinance through the Whitefish city council to prevent Spencer from holding NPI events in the town. Spencer became irate, declaring that the town was trying to “make Richard Spencer illegal.” Spencer was even refused service at a local coffee shop as he waited for his drink with his then pregnant wife, and other business owners asked that he not return. City Councillor Frank Sweeney had contacted the Southern Poverty Law Center to solicit advice for how to build this ordinance at the time, noting that Spencer was creating his racialist media from their town. They ended up passing a more tepid “commitment to diversity,” one that Spencer tried to “troll” by publicly “endorsing” the call for inclusivity.

This back and forth allowed both sides to claim victory, but as they continued on, Spencer’s appeal was to a constituency of loud racists whom he had little evidence would support him in material ways. At the same time, this catalyst allowed for the Montana Human Rights Network to continue to organize in its highlighted relevancy, with a white nationalist neighbor showing exactly what was at stake.

The Year of the Alt Right?

Since 2014, Spencer’s profile has moved from Whitefish embarrassment to the national stage as scarcely a day goes by without an emerging story or profile on the most famous white nationalist in the country. 2016 became the “coming out party” for the Alt Right, taking their radical traditionalism into mainstream media discourse. During the post-election NPI conference, cameras from The Atlantic caught conference attendees using Roman Salutes as Spencer yelled “Hail Trump! Hail Our People! Hail Victory!”

While Richard was riding a wave of attention, his parents Sherry and Dr. William Spencer continued their investment in Whitefish. Sherry owned a rental property at 22 Lupfer Avenue along Whitefish’s historic commercial district. A local activist named Tanya Gersh began raising the profile of Sherry’s property ownership in town; specifically that Spencer had been using much of it as a base for his operations. While the Spencers had made it their second home, the slow burn of the Alt Right and its growing opposition finally made the relationship between the Spencers and the town crumble. According to the Virginia state corporation commission, Sherry’s multi-million dollar Whitefish home is still listed as the headquarters for NPI. Sherry began to get pressure to sell the commercial building, a prospect she considered; yet after Gersh offered to list the property herself, Sherry became incensed and published a Medium.com post about it claiming Gersh was “extorting” her.

“Whatever you think about my son’s ideas — they are, after all, ideas — in what moral universe is it right for the “sins” of the son to be visited upon the mother?” said Sherry.

That is hard for many to believe given Sherry’s own right-wing connections to fringe political candidates and her close relationship to her radicalized son. Her Facebook even included photos of her and her husband attending the H.L. Menken Club conference, a white nationalist gathering that was a precursor to the NPI conference. Shortly thereafter, Richard began publishing videos and blog posts attacking Gersh and Love Lives Here, calling them a “local hate group.”

Troll Army

It was about this point that the Internet exploded, and Anglin jumped into the lead. He began organizing a doxxing campaign of Whitefish residents, posting pictures of Jewish neighbors with golden stars emblazoned atop and the word “Jude” inscribed. Several images were stacked in front of the Burkenwald concentration camp, where so many Jews were piled into mass graves after gassings. Calls, emails, death threats, Yelp reviews, and a stream of harassment fell on Whitefish, creating a culture of frozen fear. Special derision was given to Gersh, who had to go into hiding and had her 12-year-old child targeted.

burleyWhat set off Anglin was not only that the Spencers were facing push back, but that anyone of Jewish descent could be involved. The essentialist nature of race is central to white nationalism, but also that there is a key actor in the international opera of racial conflict. This comes down to the “Jewish Question,” the belief that Jews are a tribal group who use a superior “verbal IQ” and ethnocentrism to destroy nations. Anglin hopes to reframe the issue as one of “powerful Jews” attacking plucky Alt Right heroes, and that he needs to re-live Kristallnacht, the night with the German SA burned and looted Jewish businesses. While some of those they harassed were in fact Jewish, most were not, but none of that mattered since they labeled the behavior as Jewish, as they do with anything associated with left-wing politics, feminism, or cosmopolitanism. Many on the left have argued, erroneously, that anti-Semitism is on the wane, but the Alt Right has worked hard to make the reality of anti-Jewish hatred explicit, and Anglin’s effort further politicized those he targeted.

Love Lives Here continued organizing in the Flathead Valley, first creating a “menorah card” giveaway so that residents could put the image of the menorah in their windows during Hanukah. This act of solidarity would send a message of the shared experience of this harassment, because, in this case, Anglin and his army have labeled them all as Jewish. On January 7th, Love Lives Here organized a massive diversity rally with speakers and music, including letters of support from around the country. All of this was meant to soft-peddle the opposition by creating a show of community support, and it has helped the Whitefish community to become unified in opposition to the Alt Right. While Anglin wanted to build divisions in the community, the strategy has been to simply forge bonds and to strengthen the wall against these ideas. Anglin took the bigotry from something ephemeral to a tangible threat, and now there was an imperative to come together.

Anglin’s next move was to call for an armed march in Whitefish to threaten the Jewish residents and assert power. While Anglin has posted a filled-out permit for the march, it was actually only partially completed; revealing his bluff. Love Lives Here refused to engage directly with the neo-Nazis, so other groups stepped in to build on the united community base and to develop a counter-demonstration that can block Anglin. Montana Antifa began a public call for the demonstration, along with fundraising to meet the logistics, and the radical labor union the Industrial Workers of the World and its General Defense Committee also organized a large contingent, just as they have against white nationalist projects in places like the Twin Cities. Montana Antifa asked supporters to contact the hospitality base of the Flathead Valley to warn them about Nazis trying to rent accommodations. At the same time, Columbus Anti-Racist Action in Columbus, Ohio staged a protest action along with Showing Up for Racial Justice against Greg Anglin, Andrew’s father who has been accused of supporting his neo-Nazi son. All of this happened with the kind of support that they never would have received only months before, but as Anglin overstated his own ability to create a gun-toting parade, he provided the agitation that created a broad support for Antifa.

The threat presented by much of the Alt Right, Anglin includes, is one that hovers between real and fake, but has consequences for the sense of security that many that many built on the absence of open extremism. While the Alt Right was often reported as “diet fascism,” they were instead the real deal, except this time using “dank memes” instead of swastika banners. For Anglin’s war on Whitefish, he showed the Alt Right’s hand, which was to threaten people into inaction. This time, Whitefish chose something else.

burleyWhile the Alt Right claimed 2016 was their year, it was also the year of opposition. Anti-fascist groups have grown exponentially, and the result of the Whitefish harassment campaign was a unified state and the acceptance of radical anti-fascist organizations willing to defend against a racist contingent at all costs. While the Alt Right has been unable to move rhetoric into boots on the ground, the anti-fascist left has, and Anglin’s bluff could be the deathblow to a white nationalist movement fumbling its growing pains.
When the day actually arrived, the only people to show up were the dozens of anti-fascist supporters brought by Antifa organizations, the IWW, the Queer Insurrection Unit, the Alliance for Intersectional Power, and the surrounding community of Whitefish. Patrols were conducted on the surrounding streets to see if there was a contingent of nationalists who promised to arrive anyway, yet none came. Anglin pulled back entirely when he saw his few supporters would be dwarfed by a community united.

A State Unified in Resistance

Anglin’s “day of action” reversed the power by revealing that one side was ready for a fight. The region created a series of responses to the threat of an organized racist attack, from the civic alliance of Love Lives Here to the direct opposition of the IWW GDC. The two organizations together presented a spectrum of possibilities, from the strengthening of community to the direct opposition on the street corner. It is likely this final step, that antifascists were committing to “no platform” principles, is what forced the neo-Nazis to cancel their busses. This anti-fascist project was stronger by the end of the day than they were before anyone they heard of the Daily Stormer, and that anti-fascist opposition does not suddenly disappear after the Alt Right retreats. While there may have been tactical disagreements between some organizations, a few of which did not want to publicly antagonize the Nazi contingent, in the end they came together in a complex web of support, with the militant anti-fascist organizations building on the foundation laid by the Montana Human Rights Network.

The adaptation the community made to the racist threat presents lessons for the ongoing confrontation with the white nationalism. The base building had been done not for months, but years, and the slow process helped to further radicalize a town that could barely pass an anti-hate resolution a couple of years before. Likewise, with two different approaches to the issue, with the softer community organizing from Love Lives Here on the one side and the direct confrontation presented by Antifa on the other, can have a synthesis. Without the long-term community engagement presented by the Montana Human Rights Network, there wouldn’t be a broadly unified community to resist the invasion, and without organizations willing to confront the protest directly, it could have still taken place.

The Montana Human Rights Network has been clear that they have received more hate threats and incidents since the election of Donald Trump than they had in years. But with this kind of behavior becoming commonplace, they have now created a model for how to unify a community and create an organized anti-fascist response that engages more and more residents, many of whom have no background in organizing.

What happens in Whitefish may provide a model for other small towns around the country. While Anglin has shown that the trolls can try to use traditional racist and anti-Semitic narratives to attack residents without a political backing, this climate of fear has also driven those same residents to action and to form a strong sense of community. As is happening around the country, the election of Donald Trump and rise of hate crimes has inspired new organizations to form and older ones to grow. In Whitefish, this has awakened the community and the entire state is becoming a veritable “no go” zone for the Alt Right that will have ramifications for Patriot and white nationalist groups across the state. As Anglin tries to scramble up his supporters, the anti-fascist opposition has become a wave that will make any further attempts at racialist organization fail before it begins.


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


Our publications can be found here.

With Enemies at the Gate

A Discussion Between Alexander Reid Ross and Shane Burley on Paganism and the Resistance to Fascism


SB: For people that are uninitiated, what role has paganism played in what we call the “broad fascist movement?”  What importance has it had?

ARR: Historically, I think it has had quite an impact. You don’t look at Mussolini’s attitudes, his speeches in the in the late 1910s and early 1920s and see paganism. You just don’t. You see even some atheism, and a wholesale rejection of the church’s power. And, in a way, a sort of sacralized politics that is there to replace the power of the church and the state as we know it and transform it into a total entity.

It isn’t until Hitler’s party rises out of the great depression that paganism starts to influence the fascist movement, because Hitler’s background is in Guido von Liste and people who were recreating that kind of ethnic pagan narrative in the volkish movement and out of the ultra-nationalist tendencies in Germany at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century.  So it’s not intrinsic to fascism, but it did have a huge impact and it changed the game.

So today we find ourselves in the midst of all of these spiritual takes on fascism, and one of the strongest of them is paganism.  More specifically Asatru or Odinism.

My question to you would then be, we talk a lot about Asatru and Odinism and we get to the exclusionary differentialism of it, but Else Christensen who created this new weird faith, racialist paganism, came out of the anarcho-syndicalist movement. She tried to sort of racialize anarcho-syndicalism with paganism, what is your take on that?  Its so different today with ecology and paganism being the things we identify the most, but what about workerism and paganism?

SB: Well I think the first thing is it confronts the notion that fascism is synonymous with authoritarianism or with specific political choices.   That is a narrative that was obscured by the Cold War and by free market “libertarianism” in general, which wants to position itself both as anti-Left and as anti-fascist.

What it also shows is that the center of those politics has always been race, and it’s always been a sense that if you stripped away social forms you would come to an innate inequality.  That there’s something really baked into people, not just on a biological level, but in this case a spiritual level as well.

So with Elsie Christiansen, she held onto some anarcho-syndicalist ideas, but they were superficial in comparison to her underlying beliefs.  She wanted ethnocentric tribal communities, ones that came out of a mythological version of the past.  Maybe to recreate a Viking past that she believed to be true, which isn’t necessarily historically true.

It also speaks to the fact that anarcho-syndicalism was popular inside of revolutionary movements that were undefined.  So anarcho-syndicalism itself is defined as anti-fascist, I don’t think that’s debatable, but that doesn’t mean that the people who came in constellation with it were universally anti-fascist.  And today we see the same thing happening with National Anarchism because its synonymous with what Elsie Christiansen was talking about.  It’s almost identical.  But what happens is that people develop that idea after coming in contact with post-left anarchism, coming in contact with social anarchism, and coming in contact with social movements through things like Occupy, and then bringing in a right-wing populism or a right-wing understanding of the natural world.  So it’s the same interaction [between left-wing surface politics and right-wing ideas] that we have today.  Elsie Christiansen’s just happened to be uniquely focused on Odinism.

It also needs to be said that she was not a uniquely spiritual person.  She didn’t necessarily see Odinism in the way that people see Christianity traditionally.  She saw it specifically as an archetypal force to “save the white race.”  And she thought that it was going to be an injection of a “warrior spirit,” and in that way it was useful more than it was true, in the metaphysical sense, though I don’t doubt that she grew to believe that it was metaphysically true, at least in the Jungian sense.

This is also true of Odinism broadly, maybe less true of people who use the term Asatru.  For those that use the term Odinism or Wotanism it has always been much more about the effect a religion like that has rather than the actual spirituality itself.

AAR: Like the Church of the Creator.

SB: The Church of the Creator is a good example because not only does it not have a spiritual foundation, it doesn’t have a philosophical foundation either.  It has no ideas.  Its ideas are that white people are superior and must reign over others.  Creativity is just a name that’s given to a very primitive white supremacist concept.

In the modern context, and when you start seeing these strange different strands of fascist politics like the New Right in Europe and the Alt Right in the U.S., what role does paganism continue to play in the extreme right?

AAR:  For a while National Anarchism looked like something that was going to be a significant entryist trend.  It sort of fizzled out a little bit.  It was shut down.  People like Spencer Sunshine and New York City Antifa did a really good job of putting the kibosh on their attempts, at least in New York, and publicizing why that was urgent.  But you still have similar groups, like Jack Donovan’s group the Wolves of Vinland and the anti-Muslim Soldier of Odin, a sort of biker gang operation, and this group in Ukraine, the Misanthropic Division.  These sort of formations springing up, sort of like biker gangs, pretty violent seeming, in a lot of ways “anti-civ” leaning.  Drawing on a lot of those National Anarchist ideas.

Pan-secessionism is another great example.  There is also the Asatru Folk Assembly, which seems to be holding numbers, though they may have been falling off since the recent controversy.

I don’t see it as leading, though.  I don’t see Odinism or paganism as coming out in front of the new fascist movement.  Part of that is the robust resistance within pagan groups to the steps that the AFA, especially, has taken in recent months, if not years, to clarify their stance on immigration and gender.  That is sort of what it takes, recognizing where and how fascist tendencies within each of these milieu’s creeps up.  Whether it’s Odinism or whether it is the ecology movement or whether it is the workers movement.  It means identifying it and confronting it, using the internal truth of those milieus to isolate and push out the fascists so they can’t organize in them.

Can you talk a little bit about what the Left Hand Path is, what has been going on regarding Augustus Sol Invictus, and what your opinions on that are?

SB: So the Left Hand Path traditionally meant not being tied to conventional morality, and in that way it meant a sort of  “selfishness” or “self-worship.”  In a lot of ways it was associated with right-wing politics that were not necessarily racialized, but they were hierarchical and sometimes libertarian.  So you see figures, a lot of which are kind of cartoonish like Anton Salvador LaVey, who writes these silly books that plagiarize other books like Might is Right.  Its all about a will to power, its about gaining power.

With occult stuff it sometimes means gaining power through black magic, and not judging your spiritual morality on allegiance to a God since you, yourself, can be that God, in a lot of ways.  And that’s not, I don’t think, dominant in occult or pagan circles.  Traditionally, it seems like you come across a lot of people who have a strict Karmic set of ethics when it comes to those sort of things.  This idea that we should put out what we want to get in, and the Left Hand Path is often really against that.

It needs to be said really clearly that 90% of Left Hand Path people would have nothing to do with those fascist politics.  It’s very sexually libertine, so homophobic and transphobic politics have usually been out.  As have Traditionalist gender roles, those are often gone.

But I think, someone like Augustus Sol Invictus is the logical ideological conclusion of these things.  It makes perfect sense.  His entire notion has been about regaining a sort of warrior power, one that takes power over others.  Augustus Invictus’ actually spirituality is pan-European.  What he believes is that different European pantheons of Gods are different names for the same Gods, but culturally interpreted.  So he would like to return to something closer to pagan Rome.  Which is something that people like Richard Spencer (Alt Right leader) probably have a fondness for too.  Though I don’t think that they believe in literal pagan Gods in the way that August Invictus does.

So I think that those circles have that element, and after all his negative publicity he has been pretty much expelled from pagan circles.  But there is also a reckoning inside of paganism, broadly.  Its not just Heathenry or Left Hand Path.

Obviously, inside of Heathenry it’s happening.  The Asatru Folk Assembly finally drew a line in the sand by saying that they were for “white children,” that they stand for traditional gender roles, and also showing support for the Soldiers of Odin.  Asatru Alliance and the Odinic Rite, which is one of the largest Odinist specific groups, are all of the “folkish” camp, but every other Heathen group has admonished them, saying that Heathenry is for everybody.   That’s happening inside Left Hand Path circles too.  They’re having a reckoning.

It doesn’t mean that I don’t personally find parts of Left Hand Path stuff problematic.  I always have.  I think that there is a problematic element anytime your sense of ethnics is based on a “might is right” concept.  I think that has what you see on a macro-modern scale in fascist movements.

It means that for those in pagan circles you have to look at the core ideas of why you are there, which is incredibly challenging.  For Heathenry specifically, the entire theology, the philosophy that has been constructed to give it depth, has been done by racists.  That work has been done, historically, was done by nationalists.  It’s not true of Celtic paganism, Wicca, and a lot of other traditions.  But for Reconstructionist Germanic paganism, the reason it was reconstructed was to embolden a national identity.  It was reconstructed out of a romantic nationalism.  That was its entire function for being, so it’s harder to decouple that, but absolutely not impossible.

There is a lot of other, even Traditionalist reasons, to join Heathenry that is not necessarily of that racist tradition.  For example, start by looking at the use of archetypal Gods and decouple that from the older racial doctrines.  What underlies this fascist interpretation of Heathenry was that archetypes were racial.  So that Odin, and Thor, and Freyja were the racial ideas of the collective unconscious of Aryan people.  But if you take away that notion and say no, the Gods themselves are archetypal spiritual concepts, but they aren’t unique to racial groups, and say instead they are unique to personalities, you have a concept that underlies a lot of Universalist Heathenry.  That on its own is a real challenge to the folkish ideas that run underneath many of those more problem groups.

AAR: You could argue that in books like Man and His Symbols that Jung actually goes in that Universalist direction rather than in a racial one.

SB:  Modern Jungianism is much more indebted to things like feminist Goddess worship.  Its walked away from those racial ideas, because the racial science that inspired them has been completely discredited.  And so has most of these racist spiritual ideas, they have not proven justifiable.

Even for anti-racist pagans, one of the things that drive it is a quest for pre-modern folkways.  For a lot of people the idea of centering on a tradition that you have a history with because you have a history with it has some problematic associations.   Eclectic paganism that takes pieces from non-white cultures is also often identified as problematic for its cultural appropriation.  What answers do you have for people who are on this search and both believe that these spiritualties are not rooted in their genetics and hold critiques of cultural appropriation?

AAR: That’s a good question.  It goes back to me personally, and I’ve always hung out with people that are very spiritual, and I’ve always been close to people with these ideas, but I’ve always been agnostic.  An agnostic leaning atheist, or an atheist leaning agnostic.  So, it’s difficult for me to provide advice to other people about it since I have such a different association with spirituality.

I do think that in my experience, the people I have been able to have affinity with, have been people who have generally opened up their identity and beliefs to all different kinds of people.

On the cultural appropriations side of things, the most important thing is to have a lot of respect for other cultures’ autonomy and sovereignty.  In the 19th Century, the “spiritual awakening,” a lot of that happened because of colonialism.  They were bringing in new spiritual ideas from areas that had been colonized.  So there was an influx of Native shamanic ideas imported from America or Brazil.  These Hindi ideas from India and the subcontinent, which was an English colony at the time.  The fascination with African masks, and other spiritual pieces that were seen as mystical oddities.  So this sort of eclectic fascination was, in a way, a result of the parasitic spirit of colonial Europe in the late 19th century.

People like Renee Guenon, the far-right Traditionalist thinker, tried to say, “No, what we’re saying is ‘modernism’ isn’t that cool and we think Sufism is really interesting.  And Islam is really interesting.”  Back then it was much more open than it is today, for a variety of reasons.

Of course, their assessments of these things were very partial, very Orientalist.  They were trying to make an effort to open up the modern sensibilities of Europe to other ideas that could, in some ways, be more creative.  Or an “exit strategy” to the factory system or scientific thinking that was, at the time, very racist.  And remains, in many ways, innately white supremacist.

So its possible to have this sort of open minded respect for other spiritualties, and how, in some ways, when you read about them they are sort of integrated into your life.  That is what happens when you read a book.  That is what happens when you learn about different traditions.  It’s easy to go way too far and to all of a sudden think that you’re some kind of Druidic or Dervish wonder.  And a lot of that is just based on racist interpretations of people one never encounters.  So I think the advice I would have would be to keep an open mind in regard to other spiritual practices, without taking things too far and adopting these practices as if they were one’s own, when in fact the relationship is just not there.  And all the baggage of white supremacy and privilege weighs down the interpretation.

A lot of that goes back to the big palingenisis word, which I think you were sort of breaking the issue down to.  This desire to go back to a pre or post-modern period, a return to something that happened before and could re-manifest as a renaissance or a reawakening for all people.  I wonder, to what extent, you see paganism in things like the bioregionalist movement or in various Traditionalist sects.

My question is to what extent does paganism play a role in the modern fascist movement?  How are those two things the same, and how are they different?

SB: On the one hand, it’s artificial because Traditionalism, in the Evolian sense, rejected neo-paganism.  It rejected it completely because it lacked the chain of initiation and thought that traditions could only be “true” if they could be traced back.  So the only major modern pagan traditions that they thought were valid were Hinduism and Shinto, and various constellations and other smaller religions.  Shinto itself had a uniquely Japanese context, but they thought Hinduism descended from an ancient, Indo-Aryan white tribe.  So they thought that Hinduism was a white, ethnic religion.

Traditionally, while Evola might have venerated European paganism, he thought it was useless nature worship.

AAR:  Right. Anarchic, in fact.

SB:  So its not Traditionalist in any way.  There’s an irony about this when you look at some of these journals that either claim Heathenry or claim Traditionalism.  TYR is a good example.  Michael Moynihan edits it, and it describes itself as a “journal of radical Traditionalism.”  Colin Cleary, who wrote The Gods Who Summon and What is a Rune?, published by the white nationalist publishing house Counter-Currents, also edits it.  Those two books are very complicated studies of heathenry on the one hand, and really complicated looks at people like Heidegger on the other.  It gives the sense of depth when it comes to these traditions, relaying the idea that Heathenry is not just symbolism but instead has a deep underlying philosophy.

But what you see in places like Tyr are discussions about Evola, and specifically republishing of Evola, and then, in the very next article, discussions on what it means to be an Odinist.  These two ideas are in very clear contradiction with each other, since Evola’s Traditionalism excluded heathenry.  What is not in contradiction, however, is the racism implicit in both ideas.  So that is where they are able to find a common idea, it is not in the Heathenry or in the Traditionalism.  That’s the defining quality of journals like Tyr; it’s the reactionary politics and social views.  This is true of the spirituality of the whole New Right, or Alt Right as it were today in America.

So Traditionalism is a great sounding label they use, and they can point to really big and complicated books that cite it as a key influence, but many of the people using the term are not Traditionalists in any way that you would normally understand it (Not that there is anything to be proud of there anyway.).

So, the people who run the Traditionalist Workers Party are both Orthodox Christians as well as Presbyterians.  These have been the most public religious affiliations mentioned, though there may be others.  They have also had some involvement by National Anarchist, which is part of their conscious recruitment of skinheads, many of which are identifying as Odinists or with Asatru.  Matthew Heimbach, the leader of the Traditionalist Workers Party and the Traditionalist Youth Network, had a lot of respect for those beliefs (even though he is an Orthodox Christian) because he sees them as folkish religions.  He disagrees, he thinks that Christ is for everyone, but he understands and respects the attempt of moving towards a pre-modern folkway.  What he likes to say is that “modernity ruins everything,” and will ruin your paganism too.

So, one thing that you said is that Odinism is not going to be out front of the Alt Right or new fascist movement, but I think that it will be behind it.  I no longer think that there is going to be a dominant faction of religious pagans, but I think it will always be the clothing that they choose to wear.  It’s what they want to bring into their holiday celebrations.  It’s in the music they prefer, genres like neofolk.  There are even neofolk bands playing at the National Policy Institute conference the last couple of years.  What they talk about a lot if that they want to reclaim those traditions even if they don’t believe in it religiously.  They think that it represents an authentic, European theological and philosophical rebirth.

So in that way they are traditional pagans, because a large part of the modern pagan movement has used paganism as a tool to reclaim things that are “para-spiritual.”  That may be true of any religion, a lot of people return to traditional Christianity because they want a certain type of family or memory about their past.  A lot of people turn to paganism because of the desire for connection, maybe with nature and history.  So its not disingenuous in any way, but what many of the nationalists are now starting to say that they are not really religious pagans but paganism is how I think of myself in an identitarian way.

That’s true of the European New Right as well.  What Alain de Benoist was arguing in On Being a Pagan was not arguing that we should literally believe in them, but that they were archetypes for European people.  Someone like Stephen McNallen, on the other hand, would agree with his analysis of where these Gods come from, but also believes that they are literally true.

AAR: But they are sort of a metaphor.  A sort of story that we tell ourselves.

SB: And that is a sort of Evolian concept as well, the beliefs that myths were true only in a sense.  That’s why in his anti-Semitism he knew that the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion was a fabrication, but he said it didn’t matter because it was a myth that proved itself true.

AAR: And that is perhaps why people like Moynihan, or Troy Southgate, can claim Evola and paganism.  While the Traditionalism and the paganism are incommensurate, in some ways paganism becomes one of those mytho-poetic things that can reinforce Traditionalism even though they are at odds.

SB:  It is kind of like the left-right synthesis, because they are at odds, but they are both “anti-imperial” or have other types of surface level agreement.  They are both, theoretically, “against the modern world.”

Satanism is a great example too.  What does Satanism, in any way, have in common with Asatru? Or have in common with Rene Guenon’s understanding of Sufism?  Absolutely nothing.  There is no correlation, whatsoever, other than maybe a valoration of strength.

AAR: And people like Anton LaVey saying that Odinism was a Satanic idea.

SB: It’s more of a cultural force to say, “we reject your world.”  It’s more of a cross-religious alliance, really.  And then when those spiritual ideas mingle enough they end up having ideological crossover, because they develop theory together.  Whenever people take spiritual ideas like this seriously, it develops a body of philosophy that pairs with it and progresses on and further develops.  No matter what the intentions are, when these different spiritual paths mingle enough they begin to meld together, in some ways.

AAR:  Isn’t there an idea that Satanism itself is a sort of paganism?  That Satan himself was ushered into the Christian religion later on through the church, not so much through the scriptures, as this Pan God.  This Demi God.  Cloven hooves, horns, the “God of fun.”

SB:  It goes back to this anti-Semitic caricature that has come back into resurgence.  It is sort of a Gnostic idea that Yahweh, the Jewish God, was a sort of demon.  That is where the Alt Right joke of the Jewish “Volcano God” comes from.  It’s close to the ideas of Esoteric Hitlerism and Miguel Serrano that the Jewish God is a demiurgic demon that has taken over the Earth.  It was the Jewish ethnic God who has taken over, and dethroned, all other Gods, so whites must reclaim their ethnic Gods to fight their demonic, lesser God.  Though a few probably believe that narrative literally true, it is often believed on the radical right as metaphorically true.   And a lot of the Alt Right seems to believe that metaphorically, that the Jewish religion is evil and their religious values have basically colonized the rest of the world and made whites work against their interests, which were conscious when they were manifested in their Nordic ethnic Gods.  This drives from really deep Nazi anti-Semitism that says that the power for Jews to destroy Western man comes deep in their race and religion.

AAR:  Sure, it was even Jared Taylor who went on one of those podcasts to say that he thought there was a case to be made that the Jew had a plan to take down Western Civilization, and that it should be looked into and taken seriously.

SB: Because Christianity has waned on the far right, there is this idea that Christianity is a Jewish disease has permeated their ranks.  The alternative to that would then be a white ethnic religion.  In that sensibility, the image of Lucifer as a “God insulted” or a deity that has been lied about by Judeo-Christianity is a Gnostic idea because it is reinterpreting the scriptures to mean its opposite.  There is theistic Satanist groups that do believe that, like The Order of Nine Angels and the Joy of Satan, which believe something similar.  It also has an underlying idea that Jewish religion made universal through Christianity tells people to behave altruistically or with forgiveness when instead we should be exerting force to destroy our enemies to create a white empire.  That is one of the key aspects of Satanic fascism, which is about rejecting Jewish ideas of compassion and reclaiming a warrior spirit.

AAR:  How should pagans interact with this tacit theme of “the Judeo-Christian menace,” rationalism, legalism, etc?  These different sorts of catchwords ascribed to Judeo-Christian ideas, as if there is a pure lineage of oppression from Christianity that has to be overcome.  How can pagans interact with some of the anti-Semitic themes that are often in this discourse of rejecting Christianity’s modern influence?

SB: I think if paganism is a sort of “protest vote” for you, then it might be important to look at what the protest vote is against.  There are these workshops that I have seen going around with names like “Decolonizing Whiteness,” which are problematic in some ways, but also come from a real place of Christianity’s colonial history in Europe as well as the rest of the world.  Take Mjonir, the Thor’s hammer pendant, which became really cemented in heathen culture after Christianity was cemented in the Nordic world, barring Christians from trading with heathens.  It was then that Mjornir was used by Vikings to show allegiance to the Old Gods rather than this new imperial religion.  There’s an impulse now to maintain that narrative, a resistance to Christianity’s colonizing effect.

What often happens, however, is that some people will use that idea as a tool to say “We are victims imperialist colonialism too, just like people of color.”  And that is a factually untrue idea.  It doesn’t’ mean that there wasn’t an imperialist history of Christianity in Europe, but it does not have a comparable history and ongoing legacy that white colonialism has in the global South.

What paganism can act as, for some, is a form of spirituality that is just untainted.  A lot of people discuss the switching to Yule celebrations instead of Christmas because when they were growing up Christmas was a time when you went to a scary church with violent rhetoric with abusive family members.  That was a very unhappy holiday.  But we still want a Winter holiday, and since paganism is such a reconstructed religion, it is often people reconstructing something for themselves that is unique to their needs and condition that may be without some of the baggage of their earlier experiences of religion.  Also having something that feels old can be important and therapeutic.

So having a clear idea of what you are doing and why can help to avoid that problematic dimension.  If the problem with Christianity is that it is Judaic in origin, or that it is universalist or destructive to nations, then it is a problem no matter what religion it is tied to.  That is true of Atheism as well (New Atheism especially).  What drives a lot of those far right critiques of Christianity is that the religion is problematic because of its own internal logic, a criticism that I think is patently untrue.

Also, whether or not the value systems implicit in a person’s paganism are shared with the more questionable avenues is worth exploring.  Sometimes I will walk into a pagan or New Age shop, and you will see some Asatru items, and a lot of Wiccan stuff, and various Welsh, Celtic, and other items.  And then all of a sudden you will see a Baphomet, or stuff for the Temple of Set.  The ideological, philosophical, and spiritual core of those religions could not be more different.  It would be like having statues to Satan inside of a Christian bookshop because Christians believe in Satan.  We shouldn’t revel in those contradictions anymore, we should be spiritually consistent.  We reject “Might is Right” logic seen in a lot of left-hand path religions.  If you have a warrior dimension in your pagan spirituality and that means that it is a ferocious spirit against the challenges of life, then great.  But that is worlds away from a warrior spirit whose manifestation is domination over others, yet both spiritual philosophies are often represented inside of pagan spaces since they have similar iconography and myths.  I think drawing those lines and saying “we believe this, but we do not believe that” is the kind of consistency that really blocks out problematic elements.

AAR:  Yeah, for example, indigenous warrior societies in North America who are resisting oil pipelines.  They are going up against police in very serious ways, though blockades, and other actions.  It can be associated with a kind of warrior identity, but it is not an authoritarian and hierarchical warrior character that takes their power on top of the peasantry. Instead with fascist warrior spiritual image, the kind that Evola invoked regularly, it is about fighting to enforce a caste structure of the wolves over the sheep.

It was very baked into the Years of Lead in the 1970s, where Evolian terrorists were going around bombing civilian sites, infrastructure and what not, in order to act out this kind of fantasy of the warrior spirit.  What would later become known as the “political soldier.”  And it is really in that realm that Roberto Fiore from Terza Posizione went up to England to escape charges for bombing the Bologne train station, which was the worst act of terrorism during the Years of Lead.  I think they killed over 80 people.  In England he was sheltered by Michael Walter of the National Front, with Patrick Harrington and Nick Griffin (former leader of the British National Party) they formed the Political Soldier faction of the National Front.  This later became known as the Official National Front, a sort of splinter group.  They were the ones who were recruiting the skinheads.

Through that time period, the mid to late 1980s, Blood and Honor came about, the racist skinhead movement was shipped from England to German and France and the United States.  That’s why even white nationalist skinheads have these weird crossover spiritualties between Odinism, Creativity, and hard line Christianity.  The warrior culture was for them a tool to reclaim their belief that they were the authority in an oppressive social structure.

SB:  What this conversation brings me back to the Wolves of Vinland.  They have gotten a lot of attention in pagan circles because they have an evolving tradition; they define their own specific spirituality.  A lot of Heathens get criticizes for their reconstructionist use of ancient rituals, which some critics like to call “reenactments.”  The Wolves of Vinland instead try to do their own thing, like the funeral to Baldur they hold every year where they ritualistically set a wooden boat on fire.  It is a unique tradition, they develop the rituals themselves, and they have their own evolving esoteric understanding of what they call “tribal spirituality.”  They often discuss it as an effort to embody the “Germanic hero aesthetic.”  They use the Gods in a way that secularly would be a sort of inspiration, but in a spiritual sense it would be a type of “becoming.”  Through the rituals and folkways they hope to internalize the spirit of Odin, which is the name for this kind of Germanic spirit based on the acquisition of knowledge and the discovery of power.

I think that that idea, when decoupled from its obviously problematic aspects, is actually one that is very striking and attractive in pagan circles.  On the one hand, it is a very well thought out form of mysticism, and it provides a very fresh reading of the lore.  So when we talk about the warrior culture, embodying the spirits of those Gods and stories does not have to be done in this oppressive way and can instead be spun into a positive, and maybe even revolutionary, context.

You see in paths like the Reclaiming Tradition, the effort to take stories about care and community, especially between women, the inspiration that you live out in your own life.  In a way its unquestionably true since it is putting a name, in this case Gods or spirits, on a quality that is very much alive in people’s communities.  It gives people an image to meditate on, to decide they want to bring it into their own life.  In that way it can be incredibly empowering, it can be the opposite of the way the far right attempts to co-opt those myths.

You see that with Circle Ansuz, the anarchist Heathen collective that was very big on taking the Viking warrior culture and using it to fight for a just community.  It was a war against reactionary forces, a war against inequality and fascism.  That kind of “warlike feature” was not baked in implicit violence and oppression, and instead seems like the concept of “spiritual warfare,” the war we have in our lives to become the better version of ourselves.

That’s not unique to paganism either; you see it in a lot of left-wing Christianities. There, the concept of salvation is really critical to overcoming oppression, on the one hand, but also overcoming yourself, and finding the best way to live your life.

AAR:  “I have come not to bring you peace, but a sword.” It has been interpreted various ways, of course, but there’s an obvious sort of militant aspect to that sort of evangelism.

I think the one person that we have really sort of passed over in this discussion is Alexandr Dugin.  Talk about your spiritual warfare!  Dugin, like no one else, has been on top of these themes.  War, sacrifice, violence.  Also couched in the language of National Conservatism, which is a trend I have seen increase in recent years. Especially with people like Gianfranco Fini the Italian post-fascist. Dugin is sort of post-fascist with his own idea of the “Fourth Position.” This idea that you have had democracy, communism, and fascism, they have all gone by the wayside, and we are all scrambling to piece together this Phoenix rising from the ashes that will truly embody the human spirit.  They are trying to dance around the fact that it is just repackaged fascism.

Dugin’s big concept is geopolitics, and he has a similar sort of openness to intersecting occult far-right ideas, kind of like people such as Michael Moynihan. Where he takes what he needs to get his own idea of power and tradition.

SB:  I see Alexandr Dugin as the new Rasputin. Sort of the empire’s mystic.

As has been reported, Dugin has switched his focus from Evolian Traditionalism to Chaos Magick.  On its simplest level, Chaos Magick often takes on the power of specific thinking.  If we create our own reality, then maybe we can give ourselves spiritual placebos directly into our own subconscious.  You do sigil work, maybe that sigil will go deep into your subconscious and become manifest.  Perhaps you do a hyper sigil, maybe a piece of fiction that you want your life to become and you put your energy into it.  Some of it is undeniably true; if you envision your goals then you are more likely to manifest it.  Then there is the harder edge version that sees it more magically, and it is that harder edge that Dugin seems to be invested in.  And some of that banks up on the “Might is Right” occult perspective.

The dividing line I have often heard from occultists is if you believe there is no moral consequence for your magical behavior.  Most people do, for example, the Wiccan Rede of “Do what thou whilt, but harm none.”  Instead, in Thelema’s Book of the Law, written by Aliester Crowley, it just says “Do what thou whilt.”  That is a massive philosophical distinction.  The Left Hand Path religions would call the Right Hand Path ones beholden to false morality, we do not believe in those responsibilities because we don’t believe in your false Gods.  That would seem to be the angle that Dugin is taking, seeing that he simply wants to claim power.  A Will to Power.  He is invested then in whatever tradition he believes will give him power over others.

In some ways, it shows that this Will to Power may be a key part of the Left Hand Path tradition broadly, and it outlines why it bothers me when people focus only on  Invictus’ racism.  Augustus Invictus is a racist by anyone’s standards. But is he completely invested in this racialist understanding of the world? Probably not.  But that is not the only thing that is important.  The racism is the low hanging fruit.  We can almost always agree that racism is atrocious and needs to be confronted, both interpersonally and systemically.  What we cannot seem to agree on is the myriad of other aspects of their politics that are problematic. Their views on gender. Their view of bodies, how they want to wipe out fat and differently abled bodies. Invictus hits this hierarchical and unequal view of the world in a whole host of ways, with race only being a small part of his overall worldview.

This makes it an intersectional fascism. It is about finding all the ways you can have an oppressed identity and then creating a reactionary opposition to progress on the lines of that identity. If it is gender, it is the Men’s Rights movement. If its bodies, it is about valorizing a specific body ideal.  With someone like Dugin, it is about maintaining oppression and hierarchies wherever they arise.  At least he is more honest about it: he wants to build those hierarchies under himself.  He wants to be at the center of this, it is not a universalist politic.  Invictus is honest about this in some ways as well in that he admits that his vision of an oppressive warrior empire is something that would benefit himself, not necessary most people in the world.  He thinks he would do pretty well in that type of world.  So I think that Dugin represents a strange philosophical current that is all about Will to Power, and ties in those other reactionary ideas about maintaining inequality and hierarchy.

The racism is obvious, but if you focus on more than just the racism you start to see that there is a whole complex ideological undercurrent that, even if they tone down the racism, is still frightening.  It also shows that fascists expand beyond just the racism.  Their ideology is larger and more pervasive than many have considered because the logic of it has been baked into different counter-cultural circles that no one has analyzed and identified.  If your spiritual idea is to institute a Will to Power dominance over others, if you believe human beings are not all equal, and you believe that hierarchy is a natural structure, then you are holding a fascist politic no matter how you color it.

What do you think a way for pagans to really confront these issues would be?

AAR:  You have to go where you’re most powerful.  I’ve talked to some people from Anti-Racist Action, and they would confront Nazis on the street and say, “You have to get out of here.”  But there would be five of them, and one Nazi.  They would carry a point, not just one Baldie going up against five white power skinheads.  That’s suicide.  Similarly, you don’t want to be the one person jumping into a hall full of Nazis.  You have to get people together, and you have to do that where your interests already lie and where you power is.

So it is important for pagans to turn around and have a real reckoning about who is in this movement, why they are here, and what to do about it.  Getting events shut down when people like Augustus Sol Invictus are speaking at them, especially when venues are not responding to community concerns.  It is not going to work every single time, but there is an opportunity there to build a community against this trend, and that is really important.

Marginalizing and isolating the Asatru Folk Assembly, and groups like it, is an important thing.  This can play out in a number of ways.  People could show up to AFA gatherings and try and disrupt them.  Earth First!, the radical environmental movement, had a real right-wing pitch to it I the early 1980s.  This got turned around in the late 1980s for a number of reasons, one of which was that some anarchists from Olympia calling themselves Alien Nation went down to an Earth First! meeting and started blaring rap music and confronting and getting in arguments with people.  Edward Abbey came up to antagonize them, calling them “sissies” and stuff like that.  They just argued with him until he was blue in the face and finally left defeated.  Later that night there was a “Buckaroo Squad” that went through the camp, cracking bullwhips and yelling homophobic slurs, and trying to intimidate people.  That behavior really exposed them, it made them look terrible.  There was an article published in the Earth First! Journal, and elsewhere, talking about what happened and exposing the right-wing kernel.  It created a huge rift in the movement itself.  Soon after that Edward Abbye died, Dave Foreman went to jail, and there was an opening that allowed IWW member Judi Bari to become one of the most important leaders of the movement.  This was a 180-degree turn around from the politics that came before.

So these anarchists who agreed with ecological politics but didn’t like the right wing actually influenced the course of the movement.  That can still happen in Asatru as well; these kinds of disruptions are valuable as long as you are staying safe.  The main point is that it does need to be confronted in the pagan movement itself.  The wrong thing to do is the over-the-top, optimistic revolutionary program that often seems so appealing for those on the fringe.  “We just need to put aside our differences and realize that we don’t like ‘liberal multiculturalism’ or ‘Judeo-Christian ethics,’ and that is what we need to smash first, and then have the reckoning after we accomplish that.’  It is that kind of logic that allowed fascism to begin in the first place.

This was the type of arguments that people like Georges Sorel and Charles Maurras used to say, that ‘some are from the left, some are from the right, and we can mince words about these differences after the revolution.  Then we can differentiate ourselves territorially.  But for the time being we need to overthrow liberal democracy, which we all hate.’  That is the synthesis of fascism.  It is left and right meeting together to attack liberal democracy.

The left needs to recognize the right as an equal or greater threat.

SB:  It is also the right taking over the left.  Using left wing tools and structures to express right wing values.

AAR:  A lot of those values that we think of as essentially left are not.  Our assertions that the left wing is about working class struggle aren’t necessarily completely accurate.  I think Donald Trump is a great example of how right-wing struggle can also be about identifying as working class.  There’s obviously a racialized difference between left and right there, but sometimes it is harder to see.  That is the murky area of authoritarianism and elitism and other interpersonal dynamics that the left needs to focus on.  Because, similar to Christianity and Judaism and paganism, Marxism and anarchism and green politics, can all contain authoritarian personalities that can take over and take pretty strong groups in radically bad directions, which have significant crossover with fascists.  If not becoming outright fascist themselves.

Last, but not least, there’s question as to a fascist group or a fascist movement.  Even if something like the Workers World Party is clearly identifying itself as a left-wing party, when they are attending a conference that is put on by fascists and organizations like the League of the South, whether or not they identify with the left is irrelevant.  The real question is if they are willing to take part in a fascist movement.  The real question is which side are they on.

So for pagans it’s important to associate with the politics of the left, which I see as generally a belief in equality that traverses class, race, sex, and gender.  And it is important to subvert authoritarianism even when (or especially when) it’s for the sake of equality.

SB: One thing I might add, one of the strongest things inside of paganism or just in general is to have a serious and developing understanding of racism.  One of the key things that will undermine fascist entryism is the ability to counter their narratives, to undermine their arguments.  And you do this by having a strong anti-racist perspective even independent of fascist threats.  It is also good to develop that politic through discussion and forgiveness of errors, because that way you can develop a really keen sense of the problems.  Right now, with the way that fascists have forced entry into pagan spaces, it would be almost impossible for a pagan who has been involved in this community for 20 years to have never have had an association with someone who turned out to be pretty problematic.  Or to not have ever come across these ideas.  So it is going to be an ongoing process of hashing out what a strong anti-racist politic looks like in this context.

Also having consistency, which is something we lack in both politics and spirituality, is important.  To analyze the positions we have taken, to understand why we have made certain choices, to challenge ourselves, and to have a clear understanding of where our beliefs and actions come from.  When we talk about the left-right crossover that fascism relies on, often times the left takes on problematic ideas from the far right without even realizing it, and does it uncritically.

We see this even in anti-racist circles; they can take on the behavior of ethnic nationalism.  Some of the ways that we talk about issues like cultural appropriation; we do not see the long-term ideological assumptions this can maintain.  It is good to present the question of whether the choices we are making are in line with a well thought out anti-racist belief structure, rather than one that essentializes race, creates strong divides between ethnic groups, and is antithetical to a multicultural society.

I think that is something that is tough, and is instead an ongoing process.  It is continuing to develop, and we do not have every answer.  Right now we have anti-racist ideas emerging, and we are trying things out and making mistake.  If you have a real investment in these issues it means being willing to make those mistakes.

AAR:  Yeah, I think the left has shot itself I the foot somewhat with spirituality.  There is a real pugnacious tendency to write it off entirely, and that alienates a lot of people who have beliefs or are soul-searching or going through different stages in their lives or are committed to a spiritual movement.  They end up seeing the left as almost an enemy, because who is really representing the left?  Is it Maoists?  Is it Marxist-Leninists?  Or is it even hostile materialist anarchists?  Because there is a lot of hostility in leftists against questions of faith.

In a way you can see it transplanted onto left wing politics, as left wing politics become sacralized.  It becomes about sacrifice.  It becomes about “good faith vs. bad faith?”  It becomes about determinant course of the universe that you have “tapped into” and “understand completely,” with a problematic sense of certainty about all political or social issues.  So it is easy for the left to become a religion, and dogmatic, while writing off less dogmatic, and often more interesting, spiritual tendencies.  I think that is a real dilemma.

So I think that there is an opportunity for pagans to carve out niches in the left against these other attitudes that can be driven by right wing impulses.  And I do that it is important, at the end of the day, to activate that universality that would enable alliances on the left, in terms of equality as it really happens and not just an abstract notion.  That means that, for me, the more differentialist ideas, according to race or place of birth, distill an “essential” pattern, and a traditional and exclusionary field of identity that is a problem.  Those “essentialist identity” ideas have pretty negative implications in the long term.  I don’t deny that unique cultures exist in different places.  And I also don’t deny that they share a lot in common when they are held up against one another.  I just don’t think that this synchronism of “they’re all the same” work, and I also don’t think that they are all so radically different that cross-participation is intrinsically colonial.  I think there has to be an opening for exchange on an equal and just level.  Which is why I think that the white supremacist application of cultural appropriation arguments, which you see in things like the AFA and with Stephen McNallen, is clearly in line with fascism.


Shane Burley

Shane Burley is a writer, filmmaker, and organizer based in Portland, Oregon. His work as appeared in places such as In These Times, Truth-Out, Labor Notes, Waging Nonviolence, CounterPunch, and Perspectives on Anarchist Theory. He contributed a chapter on housing justice movements to the recent AK Press release The End of the World As We Know It?, and has work in upcoming volumes on social movements. His most recent documentary Expect Resistance chronicles the intersection of the housing justice and Occupy Wallstreet movement. His work can be found at ShaneBurley.net, or reach him on Twitter at @shane_burley1.

Alexander Reid Ross

Alexander Reid Ross is a contributing moderator of the Earth First! Newswire. He is the editor of Grabbing Back: Essays Against the Global Land Grab and a contributor to Life During Wartime: Resisting Counterinsurgency. His new book, Against the Fascist Creep, was released by AK Press earlier this year.


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Rainbow Heathenry: Is a Left-Wing, Multicultural Asatru Possible?

For those who raise the bowl in offering and veneration of the Old Gods, there is a glimmer of their connection to the past. Much of the Yule Celebration is based around this key concept for those who identify with Asatru, the revival of the traditional Norse pagan religion. It is the attendance to and memory of ancestors, the veneration of them just as the Gods, both of which can be traced back in a familial lineage. As Thor, Freya, and Odin are mentioned, faces around the table can envision what those names meant to their family deep in the past. The power of thunder. The perseverance in battle. The strength of conviction.

Yet it is not those elements that most of those with quick glances see when they notice a small silver Mojinir around a believer’s neck. Today Asatru is one of the most divided areas of the new pagan groundswell that is happening world wide. This is not simply because of its origins, or the warrior ethic present in its primary source materials, the Eddas and Sagas. It is the clear association between Heathenry and an openly racialist subculture, one that has taken on Norse myth and symbols as a primary form of identification. Hundreds of neo-Nazi and white nationalist bands and magazines take their names from the Northern Tradition. Some of the most militant racist prison gangs, skinheads, and open fascists venerate the same Gods of the Aesir. Across the far-right spectrum you will see the stories of Vikings and their pantheon represented as Gods of a purely white constituency, bound by blood and soil. Even amongst the more moderate view the “folkish” ideal–that says this tradition is unique only to those of Northern European ancestry–attempts to soften the blow of racial separatism.

But what is it about Asatru that creates a trajectory towards the folkish interpretation? Is Asatru today possible of having distinctly left-wing and multiracial interpretations?

The Roots of Modern Heathenry

The history of Heathenry in the modern context comes out of a certain impetus that drove its reconstruction. During the beginning of a truly industrial society of the mid 18th century, there developed a strong consciousness about the encroaching modernity and what might be lost from a direct connection with the natural world. This drove a broad interest in the traditional paganism implicit in pre-Christian Europe, but it had a unique perspective in the Germanic context.

Here, a strong sense of ethnic nationalism developed out of German Idealism and Romanticism, one that drew to find something unique and powerful inside of the Germanic peoples. This developed the strong Aryan mythology that led into the 20th century, where we see mysticism like the Thule Society developing a pseudo-spiritual base for the rise of the Third Reich. The notion was that there was a spirituality that was not just to be acquired and universalized (as Christian missions behaved), but one that you simply were by birth. The German Volkish movements needed a long-standing mythology to justify “blood and soil” and show why not only were Aryans owed control of Europe, but why they held Godlike qualities.

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Else Christensen (right)

The direction of this tradition in the post-WWII European tradition was the development of Odinism by early Gothi like Else Christensen. Here Odinism explicitly took the Nordicist concept, which saw the Nordic people as a subspecies superior in a pseudoscientific understanding of early race theory and its further breakdown of “Caucasian” as a category. The Odinic Fellowship, and later the Odinic Rite, took a decentralized Volkish communal idea, which mixed the racial mysticism that came from pre-Nazi Germanic theory and the anarchist labor ideas of her earlier anarcho-syndicalism. Many of these ideas are represented in the Third Positionist National Anarchist milieu today, which attempts to take many left-wing revolutionary elements and match them with openly fascist ideas about race, gender, and hierarchy. (1)

While Odinism was traditionally an openly racialist position, Asatru was intended to be the more moderate approach. Inspired mainly from the Scandinavian and Norse countries who were reconstructing both the traditional religious and folklore ideas of the ancestors, the term Asatru meant “those who follow the Aesir,” the main pantheon of Heathenry. While Asatru was not an explicitly racialist concept, it was not opposed to it necessarily either.

The first spark of the Asatru tradition in the United States came with the formation of the Asatru Free Assembly, coming from the earlier Viking Brotherhood. It is here we get many of the most relatable interpretations of the Lore and traditions, as well as a starting point for the organizations today. The racial interpretation was present from the start, but instead of outright allying with white nationalist and fascist convictions on race they preferred a softer “folkish” interpretation. This says that the Gods are literally the ancestors of the Northern Europeans, and that their archetypal image and presence is unique to those with that ancestry. This allowed for the Asatru Free Assembly to attract neo-Nazi and organized racist converts, which eventually forced the AFA to split into a number of organizations. Today the founders of the original AFA founded the new Asatru Folk Assembly, while others created the folkish Asatru Alliance and the universalist(non-folkish) Troth. (2)

The Politics of Asatru

The story of Asatru in America has really been centered on its most proselytizing and missionary member: Stephen McNallen. Founder of both incarnations of the AFA, McNallen is known for popular books and articles as well as speaking on radio and television programs wherever a microphone seems to be available. In his seminal work, Asatru: A Native European Religion, he offers up the idea of “meta-genetics,” which is to say that white Europeans have a unique characteristic amongst themselves. Avoiding rhetoric of racial superiority, he prefers a line of “racial distinction,” where he uses antiquated studies to try and push the notion that there are key fundamental racial differences. What this draws on in terms of spirituality comes from Carl Jung’s theories of archetypes in the collective unconscious.

hitler-reich-party-dayDuring the rise of Hitler and the Third Reich, Jung wrote one of his most infamous essays titled “Wotan” where he said that this brutal militaristic spirit was the rise of Odin in the collective unconscious of the Germanic peoples. The notion here, which is much different than the actual evolutionary psychology in which Jung wrote about archetypes, is that the Norse Gods are unique to the minds and spirits of Germanic peoples and that they have a calling towards them that comes deep from within their bodies and their past. This is to say it is a voice bringing them home, and trying to instruct them about their instinctual nature and the best way of organizing communities.

The direct inheritor of the original AFA was the Asatru Alliance initiated by Valgard Murray, a former organizer with the American Nazi Party who worked with Else Christensen in the original Odinist Fellowship. Murray took an even more accommodating view than McNallen about the inclusion of neo-Nazi and organized racist types, and has brought controversy for allegedly threatening queer-identifying Heathens and publicly criticizing universalist Asatru. (3)

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David Lane

The distinct racial elements of these archetypes are key to another, and much more violently racist interpretation of the lore often referred to as Wotanism. This comes from a branch more closely associated with Nazism, popular in prison and amongst disparate skinhead gangs. The term Wotan was focused on by former Order member David Lane, who is well known for his attempt to start a race war in the 1980s and for coining the “14 words.” (“We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White Children.”) Lane, who formerly was a member of the anti-Semitic and white supremacist Christian Identity church, preferred the name Wotan since it could stand for Will of the Aryan Nation. It should be made clear that all branches of regular Heathenry, including the ethnically focused folkish and racialist groups, condemn the violent racism of Wotanism. Much of the consciousness of Heathenry’s association with racism comes from the high-profile crimes of Wotanists and their calls for violent white revolution. (4)

Today, further steps have been taken into the extreme edges of Heathenry, whereby racialism is only a part of the analysis. The Wolves of Vinland uses the structure of a biker gang, with its exclusionary nature and foundations on violence. Members are expected to fight and train, where differences in body type are as disallowed as differences in skin tone. While they take a hard line on folkishness, they also unite with an Evolian view of the world as degenerate and in the “Kali Yuga,” instead rejecting modernity and arguing that members should “rewild.”

Here the term tribalism is taken even more literally, where the entire function of the Wolves is to create an “Odinic wolf cult” that is defined by an in-group and an out-group. In recent months they have gotten even more notice as they gained high profile members like neo-tribalist and anti-feminist writer Jack Donovan–as well as Youth for Western Civilization and American Enterprise Institute faculty member Kevin DeAnna–joined their ranks. Their work on runic magick and on customizing and personalizing ritual has made them incredibly popular, and shows where heathen and pagan communities often focus too heavily on reconstruction rather than keeping the spirituality alive, but it has clouded the judgement of onlookers who are not seeing their direct connections to white nationalist institutions like Counter-Currents Publishing or the National Policy Institute.

The Heart of Asatru

To really understand the true nature of Asatru you need to look at its component parts. This is especially true of all pagan faiths in that followers come to them in post-modern times, where few were raised with them and they are inherently a reconstruction or a non-fundamentalist approach.

What this means is that there are few “pagan literalists,” those who take the word of myths to be literally true. Instead, the reconstruction or eclecticism itself needs to have a sort of “logical” part where people reason why these ideas and traditions are valuable and real to them. Pagans rarely take myths themselves solely as their instruction for spiritual ideas, but instead they apply already existing or developing ideas to the Myths and Gods that speak to them.

Their faith then, in this context, has a few component parts: The Myths and the Gods, The Theology, and The Philosophy.

HEIMDALLEDDAThe Theology is largely at the core of the ideas inside of a pagan worldview, and this can academically read as concepts such as pantheism, panentheism, or even “hard polytheism.” This says how you actually see the Gods and the stories told about them. Do they represent parts of nature and the cosmos? Are they both archetypal and real? Do they literally exist, but do we shift between them by culture? These ideas can be stripped away from the Myths and traditions in a certain sense, even if they are deepened and developed in relation to spiritual practice and study.

The Philosophy looks at what types of social tropes and concepts are important to find in the faith, such as courage, caring, egalitarianism, tribalism, heroism, etc. These can, again, feed from your experience of the religion, but they can also exist outside it and can be explained in secular terms as well.

This then makes the Myth and the Gods super-structural: they color, specify, and invoke the Theology and the Philosophy. This idea has been controversial amongst many pagans, especially in Germanic Neopaganism since there is such a strong Theodinist sphere that attempts to not only reconstruct stories and ritual, but to literally inhabit the minds of the ancestors and their relationship to the Gods. The religion itself, the source materials and the literature of the Gods are the cultural lens through while the complex and mystical ideas of Theology and Philosophy can be seen. This is to say, the divine itself is so complex that we need these vessels in which to place a human context. This does not make the Myths or Gods any less true to pagans, but instead represents the way that they reveal themselves to the people.

Within this idea, Asatru holds a lot of things in many of these interpretations that are clearly not in its Myths and Gods as displayed in the Eddas and Sagas. The key concept that is proposed in these ethnic Asatru conceptions is that the Gods are specific to genetic groups of people. Second, it is that those Gods actually exist in the bodies and spirits of those peoples, yet not others. When Stephen McNallen is asked to describe Asatru he often says that the best way to describe it is that “It is a Native European Religion.” This statement actually says nothing about the religion if by the religion you mean the Myths, Gods, and traditions, since nowhere in the Eddas and Sagas do they make any racial or genetic distinctions. What this does show, however, is a distinct worldview of his Philosophy that is key to his total concept of what Asatru is as a religion.

The Myths and Gods are then colored within this frame of reference, where things like the Innangardh and Utangardh (Tribal in and out groups), the warrior heroism displayed by Gods like Odin, and the hierarchy found in Viking tribal orders are focused on heavily. There are equally problematic elements in other areas of European reconstructionist paganism, including gender and power differentials in Celtic and Druid traditions, but what we see in things like Wicca (especially Dianic Wicca), Druidry broadly, Reclaiming, Feri Tradition, and a whole host of other paths that draw on the past are the use of these Myths to focus on things like ecology, feminism, queer liberation, and anti-capitalism.

This is to say that with similar mythological structure, history, and God descriptions, these traditions today still vary very seriously in term of Philosophy. The Norse myths can be transferred to these left-leaning ideas just as easily as those traditions, with gender parity more prevalent in Norse traditional cultures, transgender aspects of the Gods, as well as a certain kind of anarchist individualism.

At the same time, the rest of the mentioned pagan traditions could be forced to the political and social right, but they don’t. For example, ancestor veneration is key in most of these pagan traditions, but it is only through Heathenry that adherents focus on the “blood and soil” interpretation of that concept.

The point here is that the Philosophical and Theological work that has been done for Heathenry, its extensive writing and development, was started–and has been continued–by a nationalist, right-wing current.

The Theological underpinnings that create folkish interpretations, the academic writing that celebrates that racial distinction, and the mysticism that has created false mythologies about people with Northern European ancestry has developed a cult of Heathenry that is uniquely its own, and is uniquely right-wing while the source material is without contemporary political or racial content. The understanding that there is an entire tradition of racial Asatru and Odinism is not an attempt to uproot a “logical understanding” of the faith, because there isn’t one. Even through contradictions you will find that the main joining point in the Heathen philosophical circles is the racial and socially rightist concepts over the Myths and traditions.

An example of this has been in the publishing world that has developed around Heathenry. The editor of the Heathen journal Runa, which publishes open white nationalists like Colin Cleary, is also an editor of the aptly named Tyr journal. This journal notes itself as ascribing to the Radical Traditionalism of people like the proto-fascists Julius Evola and Renee Guenon. Here editors like Michael Moynihan brings over people like Cleary to write again about Odinism, while the traditionalism itself denies paganism outright as it lacks a “chain of initiation.” (5)

Likewise, Moynihan has been closely associated with the Church of Satan, Social Darwinist organizations, and with cultish groups around Charles Manson, all of which are mythological and Theologically conflicting with Norse paganism. You will see this crossover with people like The Troth’s Stephen Flowers and the left-hand path Temple of Set, and a lot of dabbling in Satanist, Crowleyian, and other dark esoteric traditions. (6) None of these follow any of the key precepts outlined in any traditional material on Lore, but that isn’t the point in the first place. The point for these adherents is to find a true mythological and religious justification for right-wing ideas about strength, social hierarchy, race and gender. The fidelity is not to Heathenry; it is to racism.

Historiography and genetics are twisted to create a discourse mirroring academic explanation, but it fails to live up to those field’s academic standards. The genetic argument, specifically, is emphasized so heavily among folkish journals and authors, yet the understanding that there are no significant genetic markers inside racial groups as there are between racial groups is mistaken. The idea that, on a historical time frame, there are no purely Asatru peoples of the North, nor is there a historic justification for the idea that Heathenry cannot be taken by people of different origin is always forgotten. Instead of following the academic rigor that is established in academic research, preference is given for concepts that have nothing to do with the fields they reference.

As Mattias Gardell outlines in his study on various ethnic and racial forms of paganism in Gods of the Blood, if the ethnic Asatruar’s claims that the folkish basis is not founded in racism, then you would find a welcoming atmosphere for multi-ethnic pagans with some Northern European ancestry. But here those questions faltered even further, with many members saying that it was too complicated. Valgard Murray went as far as saying that they needed to “look like a white man,” and that they would question AA members about their ethnic background and if they can “act white.”

Whiteness here is associated with mental and behavioral qualities such as trustworthiness, honesty, industriousness, nobility, honor, courage, and self-reliance—that is, exactly the virtues believed by white racists to be inherent in whiteness. If this were to think and act white, then to think and act “red,” “brown,” “black,” or “yellow” would, at least implicitly, be characterized by a lack of these same virtues. (7)

The Future of Asatru

Because of the influence of the racialist interpretations of Heathenry we have seen the most vocal parts of the Asatru tradition shift to the right, while the rest of contemporary paganism shifts (for the most part) to the left.

Right from the start the the idea of Asatru as an ethnic religion made many pagans who were Northernly inclined revolt. Gamlinginn, a long-time pagan antifascist organizer stated bluntly that the tradition out of Asgard could simply could not be exclusive to one group of people. “Every culture that has ever existed in the world has inherently esteemed the virtues esteemed by Asatru,” he said. “Asatru is a multi-ethnic religion—not because that might be ‘politically correct’ at this point in time, but because multi-ethnicity is fundamental to the theology of Asatru. Asgard, home of the Gods is multi-ethnic. For example, Magni and Modi, the sons of Thor, are also the sons of their mother, Jarnsaxa, who is Jotunn. [referring to one of the other races listed in the Eddas] Who will tell Thor that his sons should not participate in something because they are not of ‘pure descent.?” (8)

While groups like the AFA, AA, and numerous other Asatru and Odinist organizations loudly proclaim folkish values, a large current of explicitly universalist and anti-racist Heathens have emerged and are espousing a line that is more closely associated with other types of contemporary pagan thought and spirituality.

HUAROnline, Heathens United Against Racism celebrates a fully diverse group of Heathens, often hearing from people of color in the Global South who follow the Norse tradition. The spiritual Theology here is that the Gods and Goddesses can call a person directly, and that a person feels that this particular cultural tradition best represents their connection to the divine. This does help elevate the archetypal distinction that the Gods are, while real, also symbolic and uniquely represented and interpreted through human metaphor. They have utilized campaigns to confront what they identify as racist Asatru currents, including a campaign where Heathens of all different backgrounds declare their ancestry and take photos holding a sign reading “Stephen McNallen does not speak for me.” (9)

circleOne of the most radical divergences from the folkish interpretations of Germanic Neo-Paganism came from the Circle Ansuz collective from the U.S. West Coast. The group identifies with the label of “Heathen anarchist” or “Germanic anarchist,” which is to say that they stand with “red and black” anarchism of the broad revolutionary left tradition as well as following a Heathen path. Their organization, which hosted both kindreds and individuals, made political organizing and explicit anti-fascism a key part of participation. Here they refuted any racial or ethnic origins to the faith and called on heathens to participate in both confronting fascist organizing, right-wing influences in musical culture, and the problems in other Heathen organizations. Circle Ansuz’s praxis for spirituality comes from the same texts and history as the Asatru Folk Assembly, yet here they emphasize the equality of genders, the independence and free-association of individuals, and the cyclical nature of the Voluspol.

In Heathen anarchism this process is proof that free will, free choice, and autonomy are inherent elements of all life. The gods do not give humans freedom or constrain their freedom because they acknowledge that humans, by the simple virtue of living, already possess these qualities. If even the gods that created us have no right to place any constraints on our autonomy then no human institution has any right to limit our inherent autonomy by force, fraud, or coercion. Just as the gods created the universe through discussion, council, and consensus it follows all human systems should be founded on similar principles. (10)

There is no effort here to simply re-write the tradition to fit a political agenda, nor to ignore the reality of history as they acknowledge perfectly that the Viking past was far from a revolutionary utopia. The difference is that they find the tools within Heathenry to have a spiritual component to their lives that are also framed through the political commitment. Their confrontation of the broader Heathen community has been profound, where they even have a full four-part expose of Stephen McNallen focusing on his association with racialist groups internationally.

the_troth_emblem_logoCurrently The Troth, formerly The Ring of Troth, is one of the largest Heathen organizations in the world. It represents the “universalist” wing of Heathenry, and states openly that it will not tolerate racism, sexism, homophobia, and other forms of oppression. Though many of the folkish organizations often state that they are opposed to racism, The Troth takes a clear stance that anyone, regardless of ancestry, can practice Heathenry. (11) There are also many middle-ground positions that reject folkishness as a purely genetic option. The “tribalist” position is universal in who can practice Heathenry, but restrictive about whether or not it can be eclectic. The “moderate” position does support a certain understanding of folkishness, but also makes exceptions for those raised in or profoundly inspired by Germanic and Norse culture.

The notion of ancestry and culture may also simply play as a more complex series of inspirations for the faithful, which the author of Essential Asatru, Diana L. Paxson, sees as being a source of cultural inspiration since it is not possible to cleanly identify who is of what “genetic origin.” Here, the culture of ancient Europe defines much in our world and it may simply be the route to the Gods and the Earth that someone prefers. (12) Ancestry may very well be the inspiration for some, while the uniqueness of it could be the driving force for another, and for many modern Heathens all of these are acceptable as long as they are not exclusionary.

IcelantOutside of the United States, and in countries from which the Germanic traditions were originally found, the traditions are notably different. The Ásatrúarfélagið, the Icelandic Asatru organization, recently spoke publicly about the backlash from right-wing, American Heathens to their universalist and queer affirming practices. Notable for their left-leaning stance on religious and social issues, they officiate gender-neutral marriage, support progressive causes, and invite anyone in who feels draw to the religion. In many post-Nazi countries, like Germany, they are even more reluctant to allow right-wing sentiment in because of the way that the Third Reich appropriated Runic symbols. At the same time, the more violently neo-Nazi versions of Norse paganism still present a growing problem in Germany and much of Scandinavia, which they want to draw distinction away from even further.

For pagans drawn to the Aesir and Vanir, the avenues are available for building a Heathen foundation that is friendly to a multi-ethnic and progressive community.

If people from the polytheist traditions want to challenge racialized interpretation of the Asatru faith, there has to be a conscious Theology and Philosophy that can undermine the folkish traditionalism that has dominated much of the ideas inside of the “cult of Odin.” Many pagans see that this could come in the form of eclecticism that allows for openness and integration of other traditions. Many folkish Asatru oppose eclecticism and prefer a stricter form of reconstructionist fidelity, which often comes from the fact that the traditions they see as bound to their blood. Instead, pagans may find that moving past a strict adherence to traditions may leave them open to a more diverse understanding of Myth and the Gods. Likewise, it could simply mean drawing on many of the different Philosophies and Theologies that are prevalent in other traditions (though there are really every type of Philosophy and Theology at play in every pagan path).

An example of this: many of the ideas that have fueled Starhawk’s Reclaiming movement, which takes a uniquely panentheist understanding of the Gods and specifically sees an importance in the progressive values inside of Myth and practice. These ideas were never God/Myth specific, yet a strong sense of syncretism could allow a new synthesis that builds an emerging tradition that is both coherent and Philosophically strong.

The pagan traditions, both old and new, often evolve based on what parishioners bring to it. The ideas that evolve both inside and outside of spiritual practice, where it is the broad experience of life, relationships, and the earth that guide some of the most profound insights that are brought into practice. With Asatru, pagans can again bring those experiences in and make it more of an exchange between the living world and that of tradition, between the follower and the Gods. Only here can the old strictures be challenged, and followers can build up the Asatru that they have already be drawn to in the way they see it from the power of the Myth.


 

Notes

  • 1. Goodrick-Clark, Nicholas. Black Sun: Aryan Cults, Esoteric Nazism, and the Politics of Identity. New York University Press. New York: 2002. Pp. 257-277.
  • 2. Gardell, Mattias. Gods of the Blood: The Pagan Revival and White Nationalism. Duke University Press. Durham: 2003. Pp. 258-282.
  • 3. Ibid.
  • 4. Gardell, Mattias. Gods of the Blood: The Pagan Revival and White Nationalism. Duke University Press. Durham: 2003. Pp. 191-256.
  • 5. “About The Journal.” Tyr-Journal Website. Last retrieved September 14, 2015. http://tyrjournal.tripod.com/about_the_journal.htm.
  • 6. Goodrick-Clark, Nicholas. Black Sun: Aryan Cults, Esoteric Nazism, and the Politics of Identity. New York University Press. New York: 2002. Pp. 213-230.
  • 7. Goodrick-Clark, Nicholas. Black Sun: Aryan Cults, Esoteric Nazism, and the Politics of Identity. New York University Press. New York: 2002. Pp. 257-277.
  • 8. Gamlinginn. 1997. “We Are Not Racists.” Widdershins, issue 6 (Yule) http://www.widdershins.org/vo13iss6/index.html (18 October 2000)
  • 9. “Heathens United Against Racism.” Facebook.com.
  • 10. “The general theory of Heathen anarchism.” Circle Ansuz. July 4, 2013. https://circleansuz.wordpress.com/2013/07/04/the-general-theory-of-heathen-anarchism/.
  • 11. “About the Troth.” The Troth. December 27, 2013. http://www.thetroth.org/index.php?page=about&title=About%Us%20|%20The%20Troth&css=style2&pagestyle=mid.
  • 12. Paxson, Diana L. Essential Asatru: Walking the Path of Norse Paganism. Citadel Press books, Kensington Publishing Group. New York: 2006. Pp. 153-156.


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Shane Burley

Shane Burley is a writer, filmmaker, and organizer based in Portland, Oregon. His work as appeared in places such as In These Times, Truth-Out, Labor Notes, Waging Nonviolence, CounterPunch, and Perspectives on Anarchist Theory. He contributed a chapter on housing justice movements to the recent AK Press release The End of the World As We Know It?, and has work in upcoming volumes on social movements. His most recent documentary Expect Resistance chronicles the intersection of the housing justice and Occupy Wallstreet movement. His work can be found at ShaneBurley.net, or reach him on Twitter at @shane_burley1.

 

Fascism Against Time: Nationalism, Media Blindness, and the Cult of Augustus Sol Invictus

The New Right is a particularly worrisome influence on many Pagan, Polytheist, and Magical communities. We are particularly pleased to host this long-form essay by Shane Burley on the ideas of the New Right and their relationship to Fascism as seen through the platform of Augustus Sol Invictus.

We’ve also included a special page on the New Right, their intersections with Paganism, and how a Pagan Anti-Capitalism can better address these same issues.


At about 9:00pm on Tuesday, March 1st, Rose City Antifa (RCA) sent out an alert that a neo-fascist politician from Florida was having an open “meet and greet” in Northeast Portland. Augustus Sol Invictus had begun his “Northwest tour,” and was publicly congregating at the Radio Room in the trendy Alberta neighborhood. RCA, it seems, had been monitoring his Facebook, which he leaves public so as to create a constant stream of contact with supporters and vague ideologues.[i]

After anti-fascists protesters began calling in, Augustus and friends were kicked out and went down the road to the Bye & Bye, which refused both to remove the growing crowd of Invictus supporters or to defend them against the roaring collection of protesters that were amassing just outside its doors. Augustus was not shy about what came next, posting on his Facebook at length.

First of all, fuck you to the piece of shit bartender at Bye & Bye who refused to call the cops, saying. “Not my problem, man.” When there is a woman in the bar about to be jumped, it “is” your fucking problem. The day you and a woman you’re with are about to get jumped by twenty people, I hope the bartender tells you the same thing. Second, fuck you to the antifa who hit one of my supporters with a 2×4 and smashed the windows out of the car of another supporter. One day you’re going to pull that shit on someone who is armed, and you will get what you deserve. Come to Florida with that, and see what happens to you. Third, fuck you to the manager at Radio Room who kicked us out because you were so offended at the fact of my mere presence in your bar. I can get a cheeseburger at a thousand different bars in my short stay in Portland: you will always be an idiot, no matter what bar you manage. Fourth, thank you to the score of antifa who came by to take me out. I didn’t take the death threats seriously until tonight. You could have just left me alone and let me make my speeches in peace, but you decided to make a movement to assassinate me. I have been waiting for a worthy enemy all my life, and you have given me the best gift a man could ask for. Fifth, thank you to the supporters who refuse to be intimidated by threats of blackmail and violence. Remember that this is what the Fasces means: As individuals we can be broken, but together we are invincible. [ii]

Below that he gave a special “fuck you” to Mark Zuckerberg, since Facebook had taken down the original post for violating their terms of use. The reaction to the news that Augustus was in Portland came hard and fast as a street action to confront him dropped onto the Alberta arts district like a lightening bolt. [iii]

In RCA’s report back they noted that Augustus’ phone had died, which actually may have decreased the number of supporters that came to clamor at his internet stardom. While Augustus was angry with certain Bye & Bye staff members, RCA also wrote that “the Bye and Bye bouncers went so far as to act as bodyguards for Augustus.”[iv]


 

Earlier that day I had walked into a Panera Bread on Holgate to find that Augustus was as early as I was.

A couple of months ago I wrote an article, “Imperium and the Sun,” looking at the neo-fascist politics of Augustus Invictus, his campaign and his associations. He wrote me back a letter outlining some problems he had with the article, but generally commending it for being a fair and biting critique of him. I followed it up with “Fascist Performance Art,” where I went deeper into his politics and aesthetics, as well as the ways that I think Augustus tries to insulate himself from criticism. In his letter, he referenced coming to Portland as a part of his Northwest tour, and mentioned he wanted to grab a cup of coffee if I was up to it. After a bit of mental pacing, I decided to do this, as I had more questions forming that I wanted direct answers to. At the end of “Fascist Performance Art,” I listed 14 questions for Augustus, all of which were designed to be straight forward and provide the kind of answers about his political ideas that had remained clouded behind a wispy ambiguity.

When I arrived, Augustus was reading Jack Donovan’s The Way of Men, a sort of manifesto of “male tribalism.” Jack, also living in Portland, has had his own infamy grow over recent years. His first book, Androphilia, was a call to other queer men to drop what he saw as the “gay identity,” and to instead reclaim their masculinity. He has gone on to write heavily about masculinity and male tribalism, now speaking at White Nationalist allied organizations like the National Policy Institute and American Renaissance. Most recently he has made news for joining the controversial group the Wolves of Vinland, a “folkish” heathen collective that combines many of the tribalist ideas of motorcycle gangs with Germanic neo-paganism.[v]

Augustus was on his way to get a tattoo from Donovan after our meeting, which was his campaign’s logo on his back. This is an eagle, wings outstretched, clutching a “fasces.” This, as I mentioned in the other articles, is a bundle of sticks bound together, the image for Mussolini’s Fascist Party. It is also the image above the Roman senate of antiquity, a move towards the plausible deniability of the Invictus campaign. In his comment on Facebook, he mentions this “fasces,” a motif he is happy to resurrect.vi

falcon-fasces-logo
Campaign logo for Augustus Sol Invictus. The bound sticks are called fasces.

Past polite pleasantries, we jumped headfirst into the meat of it as I delved into pointed questions about his positions on race, gender, nationalism, and other topics that have made his “Fireside Chats” so controversial. For his part, Augustus not only answered honestly, but seemed to fight to do so. I have interviewed dozens, perhaps hundreds, of people in my life, but almost none tried quite so hard to give an honest answer as he did across the table from me. Here he took time to analyze his own thoughts and to be as clear and as fair as possible, all of which is done to keep himself in line with some of the values that make up his own image of heroism.

I led with a question about race and IQ, asking if he believed that there were genetically defined racial difference in intelligence. This has been one of the most common edge arguments of White Nationalists over the last decade, creating a “field” known as “Human Biological Diversity.” This was formerly known as “race realism,” but HBD sounds even more innocuous and less likely to raise flags immediately to uninitiated onlookers. Augustus’ family is bi-racial, as he has bi-racial children with a woman from Puerto Rico.

He answered clearly that he thought that there was not enough evidence to make a determination one way or the other, and that IQ studies tended to be “political” and overly prejudiced. When I asked whether it gave him pause when thinking about his own children, he said no.

“No, I know my kids are smart,” he said, referencing that they were in the gifted program.

“I would say that I have never seen the work of Charles Murray [The Bell Curve] or J. Philippe Rushton [One of the best known proponents of racial differences in intelligence] disproved. I have seen many people offended by their work—but I have never seen anyone disprove it….I am largely agnostic in this area. I try to keep an open mind to all studies, because I am inclined to believe that anyone working to prove something about race—whether proving equality or inequality—likely has some sort of agenda.” [vii]

Equality, however, is not something that Augustus approves of nor believes in, and when asked if he thought people were generally equal despite their own particular differences he replied, “absolutely not.”


 

In Augustus’ response to my first article, he took issue with my use of a source that said he had a “dim view of women.” His response included saying that he “worshiped the feminine,” which he meant to include Goddess worship as a part of his religious practice.

In my second article I wrote that this argument was essentially the “religious version of saying I have a female friend.” He told me that when he first saw this second article he was using LSD as a part of a religious ceremony and it made him incredibly angry. He later went on a White Nationalist podcast, Radio ThreeFourteen, and mentioned it, saying that my first article was fair and the second one was despicable trash.viii He re-read the article later on and, while taking great issue with that particular statement, found it reasonably fair.ix

I brought this issue back up. I said, both to him and in the article, that worshipping the “feminine” and believing that you respect women is not the same thing as being allied with feminism. “So, then, do you believe that men and women have different prescribed roles?”

He answered that they did, that they were fundamentally different, which I responded was certainly not a feminist or progressive reading of gender or women. He agreed:

“Men and women are biological compliments. To treat them as identical is to allow ideology to override common sense and thousands of years of historical evidence (“groundbreaking” studies of far-flung indigenous tribes aside).”

The “groundbreaking” work he is talking about, whether anthropological or socio-biological, is generally mainstream at this point, whereas the notion that there is a gendered “essence” specific to someone’s assigned birth gender has been largely discredited. This discourse is one of the last holds that the far-right has in modern culture, as the battles over gender identity form the hallmark of the fascist crossover into Evangelical ecstasticism or GOP punditry.

Much of the previous discussion brought in some of what seemed like a series of paradoxes about Augustus’ politics, which is not unusual when looking at the syncretic ideas in fascist movements. I assumed that the primary focus of his own right-wing ideas, and the reason he supported groups like the American Front even though he is in bi-racial relationships, is that he supports a general Will to Power and the use of categorical hierarchies to stratify society.

American Front poster
American Front poster

He confirmed this, saying that he believes that hierarchies are both natural and normal. We discussed this at length, where he used well traveled analogies, citing the differences in ability in certain skills and professions as examples of these hierarchies. He added that he and his family would do well in a “warrior” society that was heavily stratified, and that this fact is what is important to him rather than what the average person would experience. He made it clear that he would prefer his own vision of a warrior civilization, based on the will of strong men, which is why he allies with them despite the monoracial ideas of his colleagues.

This does not mean, however, that he believes in a multi-racial, multicultural society. He stood firmly as a nationalist, though he disagreed with “rigid” racial nationalists. To Augustus Invictus, racial nationalism was never a feature of past society, nor is it likely to be achieved. In his broader nationalism, Latino people may be allowed over the border.

“My view of nationalism is broader than racial or ethnic nationalism. But I do ally myself politically with racial and ethnic nationalists—whether white, black, Hispanic, or Chinese—because, as I see it, we all have the same goal of the self-determination of peoples.”

He often brought things back to how he sees his own family, where certain types of diversity may be allowed to be present—for example, someone dating his daughter. His nationalism was more cultural, and reminded me of the America First politics of far-right political parties in the ’60s and ’70s, or perhaps the positions of Pat Buchanan in 1992 or Donald Trump today. When asked if he would allow a Jew or African American person to date his daughter, he said he would be less likely, since they would be further from his own “culture.”

These racist politics are not cleanly defined as they would be in the American Front, and seem to require mental backflips at times. However, Augustus still has clearly put a lot of thought into them. He mentioned his affection for Malcolm X, stating that his Black Nationalism was not out of a “hatred of white people” but instead a “love of his own people.”

This is not an uncommon talking point, but one that seems to lack even a basic understanding of the differences between Black Nationalism and White Nationalism. The Black Nationalist movement was not simply an attempt to reclaim identity as some sort of essentialist tribal marker. Members of the Black Nationalist movement hoped to find a sense of personhood that had been robbed by white colonial enslavement, and to create a community so as to resist oppression. White Nationalism is, as best we can see, the last gasp of reactionary whites attempting to hold on to some sense of privilege, or the identity that was formed through the subjugation of other peoples.

Androphile
“Androphilia,” a book by Jack Donovan. New Right ideology often advocates for hypermasculinity (even homosexual) to oppose the influence of Feminism.

He took a great deal of time to explain how he not only was not homophobic, but could not even understand how a person could be. He said several times that he “advocated bisexuality,” which could mean either that he condoned it or that he thought it was the preferred way of being. This is part of why he said he only dates bi-sexual woman and that it would be fine if his son dated a bi-sexual woman, but he was less likely to accept his daughter dating a bi-sexual man.

When asked about transgender people, he said that he did not like what seemed like the “blaming of heterosexual people” by transgender people, but he thought that he should not have any political control over them. He did, however, say that they made him personally uncomfortable, and that they would likely not be allowed in his own “tribe.”

He made this tribal distinction often, lacking political “universalism.” There were no answers about what was “right,” but what would be allowed in his own perfect social sphere—a culture where the weak are dominated by the strong (whatever that means). Certain types of queer relationships may be allowed, and certain ones not. Some types of racial communion would be acceptable, while others would undermine the national identity that he prefers. He sees his own nationalism as “concentric circles” similar to Jean-Marie Le Pen—first the family, then the neighbors, then the community, and so on. He feels that this is compatible with people like the American Front.

The only conversational point where he seemed a bit cagey was about the Jews. His law firm, Imperium, is named after the anti-Semitic fascist tome Imperium by Francis Parker Yockey, and he often goes on anti-Semitic programs to promote his campaign. He does not say much about Jews publicly, except a visceral opposition to AIPAC and all things Israel. He has been accused of Holocaust Denial in the past, so I asked him if he doubted the official numbers in the historical record of the Holocaust. He confirmed that he did, saying that while most Jews likely had no negative intentions towards “Western civilizations,” some certainly did. He later tried to clarify that he did not think blanketing Jews with a broad category made sense.

“I was trying to say is that grouping all Jews as “THE JEWS!” is fallacious, just as it is asinine to call all Scotsmen, Frenchmen, White Americans, and White Australians as “WHITE PEOPLE!” and ascribe to all “WHITE PEOPLE!” all the unjust treatment of all non-white people in the world. As I’m sure you are aware, there are many different Jewish groups, and none of them can agree on anything… Point being, trying to bait me on “THE JEWS!” is probably not productive.”

This does not undo what has been a deep relationship with anti-Semites, his public declaration of Holocaust Denial, and his sideline remarks about the Jews and their role in “Cultural Marxism.”

While he certainly answered in person that he did not believe the official reportage of the Holocaust, or found that the “numbers had changed,” he would not put that answer in print when answering the questions. Instead he focused on the person who had originally made this claim about him, which happened when they were traveling through The Netherlands.[x]

“So with all due respect, Mr. Burley, I won’t be put on the defensive for the dirty tricks of [He has been naming this woman in the press, but she would prefer to remain anonymous].”


“Health Over Sickness, Strength Over Weakness”

A lot has been said about his stated support for eugenics, which comes from an article he wrote in law school after working on philosophical papers as an undergrad. He later dropped his support for eugenics as a state policy, but only because he said that if the kinds of people that are in power today took control over it then it would become a “dysgenics program.” My written questions included asking what type of eugenics program he would want to see implemented in the U.S., if, for some reason, he had total control over it.

“I value health over sickness, strength over weakness, intelligence over stupidity. I would not, however, be so ambitious with any eugenics program that I would seek to promote these things, though my opponents would love to hear me say that. The only thing I ever promoted was the lessening of human suffering. For instance, if it is a certainty that a child will be born with AIDS or Huntington’s Disease or mental retardation or severe physical handicap if two people came together to create a life, that is an evil that should be prevented. I still believe that, but I doubt whether a state-sponsored eugenics program is the right mechanism for it. I also doubt that many people actually read the article I wrote in law school, but the aim was always to prevent unnecessary suffering, not to create the Nietzschean Superman; which, incidentally, I believe must be created outside of all human civilization. Still, I would reiterate that any eugenics program, no matter how modest in its ends or means, would likely be used for evil by the bureaucrats put in charge of it, and this is too likely a danger to justify that risk. This is why I have stated repeatedly and publicly and without qualification that I do not advocate state-sponsored eugenics programs.”

Ernst Rudin, the primary artictect of Nazi Germany's Eugenics programs
Ernst Rudin, the primary architect of Nazi Germany’s Eugenics programs

What he describes here is less of a eugenics program and more of a state-run form of sterilization and abortion based on the idea that allowing disabled people to be born would be a form of civilizational cruelty. The eugenics notion would be that this intervention would eventually rid the gene pool of certain “weaknesses,” such as genetically prescribed disabilities. It could then be taken to its next logical step by trying to isolate and breed in “positive qualities.” While he has suggested intelligence would be one of these, in past periods of “racial hygiene” this often included things we would today consider subjective and situational, such as attractiveness, racial purity, and criminality.

We do not oppose eugenics simply because it is racist (which it is), but because it is scientifically incorrect. There is little evidence (beyond “groundbreaking” studies on Human BioDiversity blogs) that you can control disability in this way, nor that controlling disability actually leads to human benefit. I can agree with Augustus about one thing in this however: if the state ran a eugenics program it certainly would be a tool of unprecedented human brutality.

Eugenics may be the most taboo part of the Human Biological Diversity movement, as this tends to be paired almost universally with their ideas about Asian superior intelligence and Kenyan superhuman running capabilities. Race scientists like Richard Lynn have continued to argue in this direction, while non-scientific, culturally-focused White Nationalists at places like the Radix Journal regularly make claims like homosexuality could be abolished through eugenic selective breeding programs.[xi]

The new focus on eugenics may seem like the revival of earlier periods of now discredited science, and it is, but the process of doing this is an essential and profound one for them. To do this, you make a few clear statements:

  • First, the qualities that eugenics programs favored are essentially valuable. This means, for example, intelligence, as it is very narrowly defined in this instance, is innately a sign of superiority, and must be preserved as such.
  • Second, the move away from these now-discredited racial and socio-biological sciences, which discussed the innate inferiority of the “lower classes” and the biologically defined roles of women, but also claim that we need to move backwards to old “truths.”
  • Third, eugenics means that we can now use ideology to drive evolution, and can craft a world that has been ideologically predicted by people like Friedrich Nietzsche and Ernst Junger. Invictus certainly mentions that he does not mean to use eugenics to build a “superman.” Instead, that happens outside of a state. This does not mean that he would oppose driving biological evolution in the direction of what he sees as superior qualities.

Much of the conversation traced through his experiences running his campaign, how he negotiated his libertarian politics, and what his intentions were after the fact. His relationship with the Libertarian Party of Florida is a complicated one, as are most libertarian political outposts. Rather than a location for coherent economic politics, they are often the stop-over spot for those on the radical right attempting to crossover into some part of mainstream discourse. The anti-tax movement on the 1990s was an entry point for KKK members, skinheads, and various neo-Nazis, as was paleoconservatism and paleolibertarianism a vessel for a coherent far-right politic boring into the GOP in the 80s.

The libertarian movement is often broken up today by those who align with socially liberal values, and were brought on to the Ron Paul campaign on 2007-8, often associated with the Caito Institute and Reason Magazine, and those on the further fringes who decry the slow creeping liberalism into their hardened anarcho-capitalism. Free market capitalism seems like the ideological foundation of the Libertarian Party, its entire reason for existence, but for Augustus, this is not all that important. Though he often says buzz lines about destroying the “social safety net,” he is also incredibly clear in calling for its maintenance to shelter those lower on the economic ladder. This seems to be in line with his own nationalism, where a “nation” should be served by its government. It is those that are outside of the nation, whether ethnically or by whatever vague dividing line Augustus claims for himself, that would be stricken from governmental aid.

This is not a libertarian distinction, nor are many of his policies beyond ending the drug war and destroying the Department of Education. Instead, the Libertarian Party seems like a place where he can enter into a semi-mainstream public discourse without being immediately flagged as outside a reasonable frame of debate. He told me he that he originally intended to run a few years into the future as a Democrat.

Paganism, Fascism, and Obscurantism

We went into his religious practice quite a bit, where he outlined his own interpretations of Thelema more deeply. This includes seeing most European pagan gods as being culturally interpreted versions of each other, which is to say that Heathen gods are somewhat the same as Roman gods, yet with different names and cultural stories. He did not say whether or not this included non-European traditions, though I’m sure he would have granted it some degree of universality, while saying that he would only respect the European ones. He was consistent in his support for traditional paganism, and promised to sanction human sacrifice if given full reigns of world affairs. According to Augustus, collective sacrifice our enemies to the gods would bring a great deal of national unity, since the gods gain their power from blood.

The difficulty to find coherence in Augustus’ politics by many trying to defend him against claims of fascism comes not from his own incoherence (though there is some of that), but from the lack of discourse about the evolution of fascist politics in America and Europe. Not only is fascism not a label that Augustus finds too offensive, he generally revels in the label as a medal in a war for offensive individuality.

He is a fascist in all the ways in which that political title is true, even if he does not share the raving white supremacist racism and homophobia that many have come to expect from the cartoonish buffoons that occasionally hide behind police protection in public. Instead, he believes in the innate inequality of people, the need for tribal nationalism based on in- and out-groups, the different prescribed roles for men and women, a conspiratorial view of certain ethnic groups, and that we need to restructure society along a heroic warrior model.

What is difficult when we look at Augustus is that many people, who no one would describe as having National Socialist leanings, have found him attractive. Inside of individualist pagan circles, especially those allied with the Left Hand Path, critiques of Augustus as being on the radical right have gained little traction. Part of this comes from the penchant that many in those circles have for offensive and iconoclastic rhetoric, as well as a philosophical ethos to move outside of conventional moral strictures.

Augustus’s own rhetoric, of destroying the system and abolishing conventional politics (both right and left) has also been taken up by the less discerning elements of the left that find any kind of revolutionary character a plus. When people went through the lists of supporters in Portland there were a lot of personalities you would expect, as well as many you wouldn’t.

Collin Cleary, another New Right author.
Collin Cleary, another New Right author.

Known left-wing activists have been traveled on his page, as well as progressive pagans who know far less about his problematic politics than that he is the most public pagan politician in America currently. Without a keen lens as to the history of Third Positionist and esoteric fascist politics, and with a definition of fascism that only reveals a shaved head and a Klan robe, how would people even know without taking up a research project?

When talking with Augustus a quote from Steven Weinberg, a 1979 Nobel Prize in Physics winner, came echoing through my mind. This particular quote is often used by problematic New Atheists and is meant to deride the religious, but I think it could be used for political orientations of this type as well.

Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.xii

Augustus was courteous and friendly throughout our entire conversation. He was both sincere and open to criticism, genuine in his demeanor. It sounds as if he is likely kind to his family and friends and generous in the circles he runs in. In a different world, he could likely be a friend. In this world, however, he was holed up in the Bye & Bye. In this world, he organizes a political movement that continues to found itself in xenophobic racism, sexism, nationalism, oppression, and violence. His politics, to him, are good natured and logical, but they also have consequences, ones that are very real for those who have been the target of these fascist movements, both in outbursts of violence and in the few cases when they are able to take political power.

 

Intersections with Libertarians & Confrontations with Antifa

What brought Augustus out here were some American Front events, starting across the Columbia River in Vancouver, Washington. Augustus first raised eyebrows by defending American Front members against criminal charges in Florida, and eventually helping them formally disband the organization. He has said many times that he is friends with AF members, and lives with one currently. However, he would not be allowed to be a member, because of his bi-racial relationships.

After his private speech to the American Front, it was posted online as one of his “Fireside Chats.” Here he used the talking points one might expect, such as the fact that the AF deserves fair representation, yet in reality they could not get an attorney besides himself. Groups like the ACLU regularly represent neo-Nazis, and while many oppose this, nobody assumes that they share in their politics. That is likely because they do not publicly call themselves nationalists or fascists, nor do they speak at their events.

It was this very connection that eventually put a dramatic, and public, hold on Augustus’s Northwest tour. The primary purpose for him coming out was to speak at an additional American Front event in Vancouver, British Columbia. Vancouver Against Racism then started a campaign calling for the venue, The Railway Club, to cancel the event, which they did. Vancouver Against Racism also pushed for a counter-demonstration that would dwarf the original political event. Counter-organizers in the area had discussed a “creeping fascism” in their subcultural space, a term that is often used for the way that fascist ideas can seep into left-associated spaces through shared counter-cultural roots. They mention bands like The Night Profound, with fascist and skinhead connections, using their fan base to promote Augustus’ event. The band had previously turned heads when they brought in controversial bands like Death in June. [xiii]

Augustus was determined not to be influenced by increasing numbers of fingers pointed at him, making jokes about the growing anti-fascist contingent that saw him as a public target. As he went to cross over into Canada from Washington, he was detained by the border authority, who asked him questions several hours before essentially denying him entry. He was technically allowed to reconsider his application for entry, but this was likely semantics at this point.

In a press release put out several days later, which seems likely written by Augustus in the third person, it notes that his interrogation was about his “affiliation with neo-Nazis, about the charges of Fascism, and about allegations of racism:”

“I was a politician traveling to give a speech and yet they treated me like a gang member trying to run guns across the border. They said that no good could come of my entry into the country because violence would certainly ensue…There is no question my expulsion from Canada was due to political reasons.” [xiv]

He tried to tell the border guard that it was not him issuing threats of violence, but the “communists” instead—but to no avail. The Canadian government stated that he had no legitimate purpose to enter Canada except “to cause trouble.” Augustus alleged that they went through his text messages and emails, asked personal questions about his girlfriend and ex-wife, and got much of their information from the Antifa organizers blocking the Vancouver event. [xv]

Rose City Antifa
Rose City Antifa

He almost immediately went on Facebook to say that Antifa had “won the battle,” and posted the “Allowed to Leave Canada” paperwork that he had to sign as he was forced back stateside. Grandeur seemed to be the reserved place for Augustus to lick his wounds after this set-back as he took to social media in long, angry tirades referring to himself as a “leader” and providing advice for those that have to deal with Antifa:

Advice for those who are not professional street brawlers:

  • – Do not travel to or from the event alone. Antifa are cowards without honor. They travel in numbers, and they attack only when the numbers are asymmetrical.
  • – Assume an ambush. Antifa are cowards without honor. They will hide in the shadows to jump unsuspecting passersby.
  • – Keep your head on a swivel. Antifa are cowards without honor. They are sucker punching bitches who wouldn’t know a fair fight if they saw it on pay-per-view.
  • – Film everything. Antifa are cowards without honor. They will hit you and run to the police when you hit them back. It would be a good idea to have proof that you acted only in self-defense.

ASSUME DEADLY FORCE WILL BE USED. The antifa have openly declared their intent to assassinate me and to begin a civil war at this event. Take them at their word. If you are attacked, do not hold back.” xvi

He continues to focus on the bi-racial ethnicity of his children, his relationships with non-straight people, and his worship of the goddess as a protection against many of the allegations of bigotry that were leveled against him.

The news of his removal from Canada exploded like a social media frag grenade, heading to places like Gawker, Vice, and Raw Story, where they did not go much further than mentioning that a fascist who “drinks goat’s blood” has been blocked from entry. His own press was as equally outraged as he was, with right-libertarian and “race realist” Christopher Cantwell coming to his defense with anger.

“Speaking of liberal idiocy, Senate Candidate Augustus Invictus was refused entry to Canada this week because he has ‘no legitimate reason to enter the country and will just cause trouble’. That is quite odd since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau seems to think open borders are such a fantastic idea, at least when it comes to Syrian “refugees.” Perhaps the leftist immigration agenda has nothing to do with freedom at all, and is rather about flooding countries with welfare dependent non-white voters who will perpetually favor the expansion of government.” [xvii]

This story revealed the uncomfortable relationship that libertarians, and, by strained association, Invictus, have to mainstream conservatism. As the anti-fascist contingents swelled in response to Augustus’s upcoming speech, libertarian internet press continued to push forward to support the event. Lauren Southern, a right-wing libertarian with Rebel Media and Press for Truth, came out to cover the event and bait protesters.

After yelling at the crowd that there were “only two genders” and mocking rape allegations, a protester came by and threw urine on her. Press for Truth then dug their heels in to focus on the story, calling the protesters feminists and “SJWs [Social Justice Warriors].” xviii

They never mention any details about who Augustus Sol Invictus is, or why the protesters are there. Organizers refer to Southern as their “local Ann Coulter,” saying that the protest was a “smaller crowd of wing-nut conspiracy theorists, and other right-wing weirdo[s].”xix

Drawing together the subcultural elements of Augustus’ campaign that allowed him to be invited to Vancouver in the first place, as well as the reaction by the right wing to Antifa’s policy of “no platform,” organizers used this as a temperature check.

By not engaging critically with ideas, and preferring subcultural markers to a personal and political affinity with one another, people are leaving an open door to anyone who’s critiques of capitalism, “communism”, “corporatism” and “international financiers” is just subliminal messaging meaning Jews. By refusing to look into or take seriously pre-and-non-christian(sic) religions and occultism, just because it is not clearly associated with what they see as conservative capitalist values, people are leaving the door open to right-wing interpretations of Odinism, Satanism, etc, that reinforce racial hierarchies and create fear and hatred of immigrants on the basis of being “other” and not being “western”.

Disallowing fascism doesn’t mean being exclusive. It means being invested in an idea, and open with more intention. Not only would this be a serious thorn in the side to any fascist movement attempting to grow in sub-cultures, it might create an even more vibrant, creative, and interesting culture in which to mingle.

Another interesting quality to the right-wing mobilization around Augustus is the extreme reaction to ‘callout’ and anti-oppression culture. We see this in Lauren Southern’s rhetoric, and it was quite apparent in many of the Facebook memes and comments of Augustus himself and his supporters…The caricature of the spoiled brat university kid demanding a safe space (which can at times be embarrassingly accurate) is now being evoked, even by fascists, to justify the most disgusting misogyny and white-supremacy.xx

This story was then uncritically picked up in Tea Party allied sources like Breitbart News, continuing to be echoed throughout the right-wing press as Southern being assaulted for her views on transgender people. What she was doing, coming out to favorably cover an event hosted by the American Front, seemed beyond the purview of BigGovernment.com. The rest of the coverage turned Augustus into the side-show that they have generally made of him, making sure to focus first on the internet famous goat-head and his stream-of-consciousness “LSD journals,” rather than the nationalist content of his speeches.[xxi]

Media Sensationalism = Media Complicity?

It was exactly this vapidity, the focus on the sensation of Augustus rather than the real story, that led to us casually talking over medium-roast in a Portland Panera. He reached out for me not because he had affection for my politics, but because there had been no one on the opposition that had been able to see his presentation as anything other than Live-Action Role Playing. It is exactly this paradox that kept him off the radar of anti-racists for months, largely because the dearth of coverage he garnered showed him as an insane creature clamoring for internet stardom rather than a dangerous fascist.

Instead, a real ideologue was proposing a growing base of far-right ideas that drew on subcultural fascist notions that had reshaped and been repackaged over the decades of anti-fascist organizing. For months, no one saw Augustus because the image of him climbing through the desert, preparing goat sacrifice for the camera was only enough to inspire trendy Twitter hashtags rather than an opposition. While this was happening, he was amassing supporters, not to get him elected, but to further a movement of Will to Power dissension that may continue to see its ranks swell as disaffection continues to flow through the country.

When asked if he opposes mass democracy as a concept, he said “absolutely.” This is unique for a candidate in a representative system, but that is because elections are simply a canvas on which he can paint with his own mix of spirit, water, and blood. He enjoys references to his movement as a “weird sect,” making fun in jokes about its cult status.

The support of the American Front is no fluke. Augustus has now accepted an invitation by the National Socialist Movement to speak at a Rome, Georgia, event on April 23rd. The event, which is co-sponsored by the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, was actually taken down from his campaign’s Facebook after it was first put up. The post was then archived over at the American Third Party Report, where he posted a multi-page explanation. He resurrected the analysis that nationalists, including both himself and the NSM, were challenging “McCulture” and the oppressive state.

“And this is all one can ask for in an ally. The question is why this is so difficult for so many. As I have said in several of my speeches & interviews, I have never been attacked by a white nationalist or black nationalist—physically, verbally, or otherwise – for having an [sic] Hispanic family or for tolerating homosexuality or for drug use or for anything else; but I *have* been attacked—physically, verbally, and otherwise – by leftists for exactly those things, and for my refusal to denounce white nationalists as the Devil’s spawn. The willingness of the NSM to have someone like me speak at their event, combined with the willingness of the Antifa to stop me by any means necessary, should be a glaring demonstration of where the true intolerance lies.

So I will speak in Rome. And I will make it the best speech I have ever given. And I will speak to the Nation of Islam if they ever get around to asking. And I will speak to the Cuban nationalists in Miami and the Puerto Rican nationalists in San Juan. We are all in this together, no matter our race or ethnicity, against the special interests that would destroy our respective cultures for their own profit under the guise of humanitarianism. “xxii

This shift to the right, if not in rhetoric at least in relationship, is a telling point for the direction of Invictus, further pushing outside of acceptable discourse and away from anything the Libertarian Party would publicly associate with. His previous stop over at the more “respectable” neo-fascist milieu was short-lived, and now even those Alt Right depositories where he has done many interviews would likely find his most recent announcement politically toxic.

This turn may seem logical when looking at the most recent reactions to Augustus, which put him in a long history of antagonism between the shape-shifting far-right and the increasingly militant anti-fascist left. Before Rose City Antifa’s sharp confrontation and the organized response to his event in Vancouver, there was little conversation that discussed him exactly within the fascist context that he spoke. Now his connections and ideas have been placed front and center, putting all of his more moderate connections into question.

Part of this is done through the singling out of Augustus by the anti-fascist left, which has hardened his resolve to abandon most leftist appeasements and allies. This could useful to anti-fascist organizers who need to shed his false allegiances and clouded discourse in order to cleanly identify him as a dangerous right-wing revolutionary. If the Canadian libertarian press tried to redeem him through vilification of the “SJWs,” this was entirely undone as he announced an event with cartoonish neo-Nazis who cover their blackshirts with swastika patches.

In a certain sense, Augustus has cemented opposition to him while closing the door on any of the political crossover that he was hoping for with the Libertarian Party of Florida. Roger Stone, former Donald Trump lobbyist and right-wing ideologue, was rumored to be brought in to run against him simply to save the name of the party. Augustus did not see this happening since the Invictus campaign had “nothing to lose,” and Stone was in poor health. At this point, no one would be surprised if LFP Chairman Adrian Wylie would pull a “hail Mary” in a desperate attempt to save the party from the only person who could fundamentally destroy it. The destruction of the LFP would close that bridge between the far-right and the GOP, as well as the neoliberal economic cover that seeks to influence beltway conservatism.


 

“The Will To Power”

The toxic hand of Invictus now seems as though it will poison all who touch it, and that is not reserved simply for party politics. Augustus had been long listed as a speaker at the upcoming International Left Hand Path (LHP) Consortium in Atlanta, Georgia, taking place from April 8th to 10th. The event’s website is ornamented with the expected pictures of greasy ponytails, leather trench coats, and pastel drawings of naked women with dragons. It pledges to bring together Satanists, Thelemites, tribal religionists, and other people who “eschew conventional morality” and have a rough individualism in their occultism. Anti-racists have brought concerns to the organizers of the event, including Atlanta Antifa.The convention organizers posted a response in a snidely made “Critics Corner” on their website.

Their amateurish understanding of neo-fascism is one that seems to only see fascism as being synonymous with the political structures it used during WWII. Instead of being able to see that fascism’s nationalism and anti-egalitarianism has used a variety of political forms, they parrot back tired caricatures and clichés about the far-right that should have been dispelled with a simple Google search. They begin by going through references to the fasces on Augustus’ campaign images, which they find examples of just about everywhere. They then go on to defend Augustus’ eugenics paper, saying “Can you name one person who has not written or said something in their youth who later regretted it?” This is lukewarm as they then not only voice their support for eugenics in the same way Augustus had, but also to note that the LHP tradition would as well.

While we, at the LHP Consortium do not in any way, shape or form condone racism, neo-Nazism, or eugenics programs, we do strongly feel that the United States government has favored a decadent ideology that rejects the beauty of strength. And we also strongly believe that this country has enabled and even encouraged the exponential growth of weakness and ignorance by dumbing down the populace through disinformation campaigns, fear mongering, and defunding education programs in favor of feeding billions into the military industrial complex as well as funding corporate and foreign welfare. Our government habitually bails out corporations and banks while cutting funding for education and wounded veterans. The country has transformed the movie ‘Idiocracy” from a comedy into a documentary by encouraging and rewarding ubiquitous weakness and ignorance. [xxiii]

They continued to mock allegations that Augustus is “both a fascist and an anarchist,” without even a cursory understanding of the anti-state fascist trend. Fascism has not been synonomous with authoritarian political forms, which were in fashion during the interwar period far beyond their fascist implementations. Instead, fascism defines itself through its exclusionary ultranationalism, its enforced hierarchy, heroic mythos, elitism, anti-democracy, and anti-egalitarianism. They went on to define the LHP as a uniquely opposed to the “self-deception” and “false morality” of the conventional Right-Hand Path religions.

Left Hand Path philosophy often sees altruism as a form of self-deception that is created and promoted by Right Hand Path religions. This is because most altruistic actions reap some sort of benefit or reward for the person or organization who is accomplishing the deed. For instance, if you donate money to Planned Parenthood to make birth control available to indigent and homeless women, you help to reduce society’s financial burden of caring for unwanted, sick, and drug addicted children, which in turn, should keep your taxes from going up and help to maintain a stronger, healthier community in which the altruist lives. [xxiv]

These right wing sentiments are not modern addendums to the LHP tradition. The ideas of a egoist “self-worship” and a kind of Might is Right “overcoming” was central to LaVey’s notions of morality in the Satanic Bible, aligning itself with the kind of “strongman” politics that fails to be universalistic, egalitarian, or democratic. That being said, the LHP Consortium is also going to be filled by edge spiritual and occult practitioners who would be horrified by this discourse, and whose idea of ego-worship does not include the notion of the biological inferiority of entire groups of people. Their rough libertarian talking points attempt to insulate them from criticism for including someone whose behavior would be considered publicly abhorrent, but this superficial rage is only a veiled reference to the same “Will to Power” that Augustus has made his own life’s law. The work that many would want to do to undermine the right-wing contingencies inside of the LHP Consortium has already been done through their unwavering support of Augustus, which, after the NSM announcement, rippled through participants, shrinking their numbers and further breaking the LHP community from broader occult, New Age, and pagan contingents.

The irony of the Consortium’s response became apparent as they led two other pagan/occult organizations in dropping Augustus after the pressure mounted. Taylor Ellwood and Ken Henson, both presenters at the event, said that they would “not take part with Invictus.” It was actually Invictus’ own behavior that got him the final boot as the organizers were clearly going to side with him against Antifa. On a private forum, which was later deleted, Augustus went after the protesters with explicit language that insinuated violence.

You “protesters” are swine. I will not go out of my way to placate or sweet talk cowards, fools, & hypocrites. You claim to be practioners of the Left Hand Path. No member of the Left Hand Path that I have ever in my life met has been a soft, moralizing ninnie like the lot of you “protesters.” You call yourselves men and women. Some of you even dare to call yourself gods. All I see are keyboard warriors with SJW dicks so far up their asses they have their brains scrambled…You say I am a fascist. It is hilarious that your fear of Fascists far exceeds the fear Christians have of LHP practitioners. If only they knew how pathetic you really were. If only they could see the pitiful, pudgy face of Rufus Opus, claiming to be a representative of the occult community, worried to death that his delicate reputation is going to be smeared by association with a right-wing politician. You call yourselves fearsome, but I smell the fear on you from 2,000 miles away. You call yourselves individuals, but anyone else with eyes can see your sheepish conformity to society’s values. You call yourselves freethinkers, but look at what slaves you are to the reigning political dogma.xxv

The Consortium’s website has now taken down the Critic’s Corner page, and the original statement in defense of Invictus.

Augustus’ rage has become expected at this point as his response has just been a heart beat of increased anger, spewing out without restraint at any objection to him and his program. His response is quite telling for what this wing of those communities think about this type of leftist moral anger.

Modern attempts to whitewash the occult are a desecration of the sacred. In our line of inquiry, the more mainstream the discipline becomes, the more profane. To blacklist a speaker for voicing unpopular beliefs is not only outrageously hypocritical; it is self-defeating. And if this is the road we are going down, I thank you for counting me out. [xxvi]

The War for the Past & The War for the Future

The injection of his ideas into paganism is both modern and recent, which is true both for racialist heathens and for ultra-liberal Wiccans. The argument that these modern political ideas were absolutely present in ancient pagan religions is more than hyperbolic, both for the far right and the far left. To a large part, this requires contemporary pagans to acknowledge the actual modern role that their religions have, even if reconstructed from incomplete records of the past. These religions do not have continuity to their original implementations, and are instead just as subject to contemporary understandings of philosophy, politics, and theology.

The battle over values is happening inside of Goddess worship just as it is happening in mainstream Christian churches, and both sides of those agreements turn to practice and lore as justification. Augustus’ arguments in favor of animal sacrifice are also intended to make the argument that he is resurrecting the “real” pagan tradition of the past, which mainstream American paganism abhors, and is likely the direction he goes in when voicing support for human sacrifice.

Augustus himself seems only energized, at least publicly, by this increase in oppositional attention. There has to be something personally hurtful for him during this as he continues to state publicly that people are simply misreading his positions and that their accusations are baseless. Though much of his rhetoric has been a smokescreen to make his previously unconscionable ideas palatable to a larger audience, the veil is dropping and his fascism is becoming known. The movement that he had been cultivating, a sort of “para” campaign to his public political one, now faces a challenge of opposition that it lacked for many months. The real questions are how Augustus is going to change, how far to the right he is going to shift, and how those “border agents” who enjoy straddling the line between mainstream occultism or GOP politics and the radical right are going to negotiate someone whose political orientation is becoming more and more plain.

After our meeting I sent an email to Augustus thanking him for talking with me and answering my questions, which is something I noted that he really had no obligation to do. He offered me several compliments in his reply, something that I have to note he likely intends to see reflected in the way I talk about him. Many people would criticize even having this level of back and forth with him, but I think that being open to listen closely allows us to better understand exactly what creeping fascism looks like today. Beyond headlines about blood letting and dropping acid during ceremonies, a certain media vacancy has permeated the discussion around the Invictus campaign—a trend that seems to be ending as the laughter turns serious. Rose City Antifa transformed the ephemeral into something concrete: a movement that is unwilling to grant his politics any showing in the public sphere.

The real question is less of intention and more of pragmatic politics, and how a senatorial campaign can continue once its façade has all but burned away.


 


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Shane Burley

Shane Burley is a writer, filmmaker, and organizer based in Portland, Oregon. His work as appeared in places such as In These Times, Truth-Out, Labor Notes, Waging Nonviolence, CounterPunch, and Perspectives on Anarchist Theory. He contributed a chapter on housing justice movements to the recent AK Press release The End of the World As We Know It?, and has work in upcoming volumes on social movements. His most recent documentary Expect Resistance chronicles the intersection of the housing justice and Occupy Wallstreet movement. His work can be found at ShaneBurley.net, or reach him on Twitter at @shane_burley1.