Rage Against the Modern World

This is the second part of Wolves In the Interregnum, a series on Jack Donovan, Paul Waggener, and the Wolves of Vinland.

Author’s note: In my previous essay, I focused extensively on the aesthetic on Jack Donovan and the Wolves of Vinland, while heavily critiquing the moralistic reactions against that aesthetic. For some, this may no doubt seem unfair, if not outright antagonistic to the very tendencies which attempt to resist fascist movements. Why criticize American social justice and bourgeois/liberal feminism in an essay about a rising fascist threat?

The reason for such an apparent inversion will be made quite clear as we look at how the Wolves and others have rather brilliantly occupied the anti-modern and anti-globalisation politics abandoned by ‘The Left.’

Another World Was Possible…

In the last part of the 1990’s and the first few years of the 21st century, massive manifestations filled the streets of major cities of the world. These protests were part of what was called the anti-globalisation or alter-mondialiste movement, and had the astounding ability to unite people across wide spectrums of political orientation into a common struggle. Environmentalists, immigrants, labor unions, indigenous-rights groups, and even many people traditionally seen as right-wing arrived in major cities throughout the world to fight against governments, multi-national corporations, and global finance organisations.

While it is impossible to distill the myriad of political goals of the protesters, we can more easily summarize the changes in international governance, political distribution, and the regulations of global capital against which they protested.

Brokered by nations and corporate leaders, international trade agreements such as NAFTA and the GATT reduced the power of local governments, communities, and unions over the economic, environmental, and cultural activities of the people which composed or were supported by them. Meanwhile, large international monetary orgaisations like the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and the World Bank used economic crises to force austerity and privatization policies upon nations in the global south, effectively nullifying the popular will of the people through the use of weaponized debt.

All of this was happening at once, all over the world, and the consequences have been myriad. Environmental degradation in South America and Africa, mass suicides of farmers in India, famines, explosive immigration from poorer countries to richer ones, collapses of entire nations, the reduction of diversity in agriculture and the extinction of species, the weakening of trade and labor unions throughout the world, and the destruction of countless communities as local industries were destroyed and factories shut down….all of this is just a part of what the anti-globalisation movement fought against.

Partially due to the all-too conveniently-timed ‘war on terror’ and systematic counter-revolutionary actions, the mass mobilizations of the anti-globalisation movement are long-gone, and few of the critiques remain in the political platforms of any leftist or liberal movement in the United States or the United Kingdom.

However, the damage done did not simply disappear when there was no movement to fight it, and much of the current political turmoil in which we find ourselves now is a consequence both of globalisation and the left’s abandonment of that fight. The rise of fascist, Islamist and nationalist movements, acceleration of climate change, increasing poverty, mass displacement, and countless other crises can be linked to the spread of global capital. The closure of factories, the shift of investment from manufacturing to finance and internet technology, and the obliteration of local economies happened just as the protesters feared, but as with much else, rage against this destruction resurfaced as part of the platform of the fascist right, as well as featuring heavily in the political campaign of Donald Trump and the exit of the UK from the European Union (Brexit).

Just as with other elements of leftist abandonment, the political platforms of the anti-globalisation movement didn’t go away: they are now being wielded towards new goals by fascist, nationalist, and authoritarian movements against which antifascists now find themselves in a losing battle.

One of those groups? The Wolves of Vinland.

Crumbling Empires

As with their aesthetic, The Wolves present an anti-modern ideology, one that rejects Empire (or in Donovan’s words, “The Empire of Nothing”) in favor of societies formed around tribal affinities and self-selection. Crucial to such a transition is the rejection of the hegemonic rule of Liberal Democracy not just over individual and group actions, but also over self-perception and our own modes of thought. As the manifesto of Operation Werewolf puts it:

“It is not a political statement, but a bloody fist shaken in the face of all institutions of control- a furious bite to the hands that seek to leash or enslave. It is not right or left, but free of these shackles of modern dualistic thinking- it operates under the assumption that the Kings of this world have become so through the forked tongue of finance and fear, and it rejects their offerings. The warriors who make up Operation Werewolf know that the true heroes are those who are self made, physically and mentally strong, free thinkers and free doers who are both untamed and unrepentant.”

While Waggener gives very little time to political analysis, Jack Donovan does much more (it was he, after all, who was invited to a European New Right think tank). Operation Werewolf functions primarily as the self-improvement wing of The Wolves, while Donovan’s writing focuses much more on political theory. Consider Donovan’s response during a Reddit ‘ask me anything’ to a question regarding why tribalism has “a bad rap”:

“The anti-tribalist/anti-racist hysteria promoted by the progressive media is too convenient for wealthy elites.  They are, for the most part, protected from the negative consequences of the “melting pot.” The wealthy can afford security, and they can afford to live wherever they like, and they can afford to send their children to whatever schools they prefer. The representatives from other groups that they and their families interact with most are often going to be very well socialized or very successful. It’s the lower and lower middle class proles who are forced, whether they like it or not, to interact with groups of people who have radically different values or cultures.

Tribalism is inconvenient for wealthy globalists. To begin with, it creates instability that can threaten their investments. They can also make more money when they are free to outsource labor, move a factory, or import goods made in places with a lower standard of living.

If people are convinced that they are “world citizens” and shouldn’t expect any kind of local or national loyalty, globalist elites won’t have to be confronted with any sort of crisis of conscience when they sell out their neighbors and countrymen.”

Any reader who was politically-active during the WTO protests or any of the other manifestations comprising the anti-globalisation movement will recognize much of this rhetoric. For The Wolves, Empire is almost identical to what (anarchists) Hardt and Negri outlined in their books, as well as what most autonomous Marxists, post-colonialists, many Green Anarchists, and anti-civ theorists criticize: Liberal (Capitalist) Democratic hegemony. But also, something is obviously off, racialized, about their rhetoric.

Immigrants As Victims, Immigrants As Weapons

First, let us acknowledge the core problem which Donovan cites in his response: the mobility of global capitalism has made it impossible for local politicians and small communities to fight capitalist policies. No matter how strong the local resistance to the closing of a factory in the rust belt of the United States is, as long as the owner of that factory can re-invest their capital in another market, local protest—even violent protest–is useless. As long as cheaper labor can be found elsewhere, and provided no punitive tariffs on re-imporation are levied by governments, it will always be a good business decision for a corporation to move its production to a cheaper labor market. Because of the success of capitalist globalisation, no local political movement can effectively exert control over global capital.

Simultaneously, so-called ‘Free Trade’ agreements destroy the local economies outside the United States even more than within. The North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), signed into law in 1994, ravaged the economy of Mexico, leading to massive spikes in immigration (‘legal’ and otherwise) to the United States. For instance, in 1990, the amount of Mexican nationals living in the United states was 4.3 million; in 2000 on account of Liberal capitalist policies, that number more than doubled to 9.17 million.

It is impossible to understate the effect that adding so many more workers into the United States had both on wages and on unions, as well as the ‘cultural’ disruption 5 million more people (in a country of 280 million) would represent. Similar changes occurred in Europe as well.

Here, though, we must make a distinction between the far-right analysis of such events, the liberal one, and the (currently abandoned) leftist understanding. While the right often sees the immigrants themselves as the problem, a liberal sees only the anti-immigrant racism of the people (white, Black, or otherwise) in the communities into which they migrate as the problem. Both focus entirely on the matter of the immigrants themselves, rather than the forces which cause people to become immigrants in the first place.

PEGIDA, one of the many far-right nationalist groups who have risen to prominence in Europe.

From a Marxist view, immigrants are doubly-exploited people who function both as victim of oppression and political tool for the capitalist. Liberal economic policies (and foreign military actions) destroy the economies of other nations. Those people make the obviously difficult yet economically-inevitable decision to leave their countries to find work elsewhere. Yet when they arrive, they then function as a ‘reserve labor force’ to drive down wages in the country to which they moved, breaking the power of organized labor.

Racial tensions greatly help this process. When Black or white workers in the United States begin losing jobs or finding their wages stagnating, they accurately note a relationship between their deteriorating economic conditions and the sudden influx of immigrants. However, they miss the larger processes which entrap both the immigrants and themselves, and they can be somewhat forgiven for this failure: relentless media hype about illegal immigration, conservative politicians happy to employ racial fears for votes, and liberal politicians eager to dismiss white workers’ complaints as anti-progressive or downright stupid, all helped to insure neither the immigrants nor the workers united against the primary cause of their common suffering.

To understand how this process works, consider the plight of Russian Jewish immigrants fleeing violence to Israel, where they are then given land in occupied territories and used by the Israeli government as a buffer against Palestinian rage. Or, further back, Europeans fleeing Capitalist enclosure of land to America, then given “free” land in return for helping to kill Native Americans. In both cases, the initial displacement which victimized the people who became immigrants was later wielded to turn the immigrants themselves into weapons of Capital.

None of the current political movements accurately address quite what is happening. Unfortunately, the social justice framework is particularly shallow here: it sides with immigrants not on economic grounds, but on the field of identity and oppression (precisely as the far right does, but in inverse). While immigrants absolutely face racist oppression, the social justice political strategy ignores that this oppression is a continuation of their economic exploitation, rather than a mere moral issue. The economic exploitation of immigrants is bound-up in the same capitalist machinations which deteriorate the economic conditions of the working-class whites which Social Justice activists see as the alpha-oppressor. So while the Left stopped addressing the economic suffering of whites as the ‘working class’ (in favor of focusing on social oppression), their economic suffering continues regardless, making them a ripe field for harvesting by far-right ideologues like Donovan.

Here we can see that, as in so much else of his writing, Donovan is not really wrong in his analysis. The ‘wealthy elites’ to whom he refers do not encounter the refugees and immigrants displaced by their policies or for their profit. None of the politicians who voted for NAFTA, none of the executives of multi-national corporations, and none of the finance brokers of large investment banks experience the direct effects of their decisions, cultural or otherwise. Neither, though, will the investors who reap dividends from those moves, nor will many of the urban liberal bourgeoisie (be they tech workers or hipster business owners) even encounter the immigrants or the disgruntled working-class who directly experience these shocks except as the house-cleaners, construction workers, janitors, or the countless other manual servants who support their lifestyles.

Donovan is not really wrong, but he is also not really right, either. The ‘wealthy elites’ against which he warns benefit both from anti-racism and racism alike. “Elite” (Bourgeois) liberals and conservatives both manipulate the poor beneath them; the Capitalist class wields racist rhetoric to manipulate poor whites against Blacks and immigrants at the very same time that it wields identity politics against those whites. With both hands, the capitalists ensure those upon whom the entire system is built never unite against them.

Conservative-inspired white violence against immigrants ensures that those immigrants remain passive and compliant victims of global capital; Liberal social justice identity politics makes sure that the circumstances and primary cause of that violence is seen not as a result of capitalist policies, but as a result of the white (cis/able-bodied/hetero/male) it identifies as alpha-oppressor. It is a game in which capitalists have bet on both teams, and while the Left stands in the stadium slack-jawed, Donovan has been picking their pockets.

The Violence of the Gilded Age

It is here where we can begin to see that the threat the Wolves poses to antifascists is not what any of his critics think. It is not his virulent brand of misogyny, nor his intoxicating aesthetic, nor even his increasing influence and popularity. Rather, it’s that he’s beating the Left at their own politics, occupying ideological and intellectual territory they forgot they even once possessed, and building a racialized movement with the tools we left behind.

Nowhere is this best seen than in the speech he gave at Schollenrode to a New Right think-tank in February. The 20 minute presentation, called “Violence is Golden,” outlines his primary critique of Liberal Democracy and the modern world.

“We all live by the sword. Every law is a shaking sword, a glock at close range, a hungry pair of handcuffs. Every hate speech law, every anti-discrimination law, every tax that extorts the money you earned and gives it to someone you would never willingly help, who may even hate you, is backed by the threat of violence. IThe people who say they want safe spaces and peace and love will send men with guns to threaten to kill you if you do not do what you want.”

“The prevailing narrative of the Empire of Nothing—the phrase I use to describe the network of governments …is that ‘violence is evil, violence is something others do, violence something that outsiders do, something that criminals and outlaws and sick people do, violence is a disease some kind of affliction that can be cured…they believe it is a symptom of ‘toxic masculinity.’

…old rulers were proud of what they won.and defended using violence…those that give names in modern democratic states obscure that violence…

State violence is euphemized and obscured by terms like law enforcement when a criminal shoots someone its violence, when the police shoot someone its law enforcement.

Democratic violence must be presented as a reluctant, nurturing correction When acts of violence are morally sterilized in this way, good, modern civilized people can absolve themselves of the reality that the laws and regulations they depend on are obeyed only because wielding tasers tears gas batons and firearms. When you accept and internalize this narrative that violence is evil done only by outlwasd what the state does is something else, you wash the blood from your hands. It is easy to convince yourself that you live nonviolently, that you have evolved beyond violence.”

If many of these statements sound in any way familiar, they should. They are the same arguments once used by the Black Panthers, by indigenous resistance movements, by insurrectionist anarchists, by autonomous Marxists, and by every other leftist critic of Liberal Democratic hegemony in the 20th century. They are the core analysis of state violence inherent in anti-civilationist critics and the essential thrust of Ward Churchill’s deconstruction of liberal ‘nonviolence.’ You can find variations of the same statements in the work of European critical theorists like Zizek and Badiou, as well as in my own writing. In fact, last year I wrote critiques both of the way social justice relies on state violence to enforce hate crime legislation as well as how we help Liberal Democracy obscure the violence it commits on our behalf.

Whether or not Jack Donovan reached this analysis through exposure and study of leftist revolutionary theorists or came upon it through his own path, the fact remains that he wields it better than what passes for the Left in the United States. Mass movements such as Black Lives Matter, Occupy, and the mobilizations against Trump and white supremacy expend extraordinary effort to avoid direct criticism of Liberal Democracy, contorting themselves into almost absurd positions. A coalition of activists involved in Black Lives Matter, for instance, produced a platform that skirted completely the connection between the police and liberal democratic violence, offering police reform as their most radical position. Even the manifestations against white nationalists and alt-right groups by antifascist coalitions refuse to make the connection between the police who protect the fascists and the urban ‘progressive’ social order which prosecutes hate crimes on their behalf.

While anti-fascists heavily rely on ‘no-platforming, this complete leftist abandonment of revolutionary attacks against Liberal Democracy actually gives the far-right their platform. It is as if Leftists built a stage, set up a mic and speakers, and brought in a massive audience, but while they became distracted by Liberal Democratic crises (the war on terror, the 2016 presidential elections) and glittering distractions (gay marriage, identity politics), men like Donovan stumbled upon the script and the live mic and began improvising before an eager crowd.

Because while Jack Donovan and the other theorists of the New/Fascist Right are deeply intelligent, their ideas are completely derivative. They are experts at salvage and refurbishment, but aren’t actually able to create anything new. In this way, they are hardly much different from the Nazis who borrowed endlessly from whatever mythic past they could find, repurposing Leftist critiques and even Liberal Democracy itself, into a deadly configuration.

The Gods Are What Has Failed To Become of Us

Most important of the Wolves’ work—and least understood by their critics, is their reclamation of a mythic, anti-modern spirituality in the form of Heathenism. Antifascists, liberals, and conservatives alike tend dismiss these aspects as mere oddity or primitivist nonsense, missing that it is from there they derive their true power.

It is useful here to remember first that before Jack Donovan was a hyper-masculinist Heathen, he was Jack Malabranche, a Satanist who spent much of his time in endless troll-sessions with trans women on internet sites. Those who remember him from that time recount a completely different man, one so insecure with his masculinity and beliefs that he could become enraged at the slightest friendly jab about his figure or perceived intelligence.

In his Heathen incarnation, Donovan finally found a milieu in which he could operate, a mythic system more easily-accessed, and something that Left-Hand path work couldn’t offer: a framework of community. Unlike most Pagan, Witch, and Magician paths, Heathenry in the United States emphasizes familial and friendship bonds, a complete moral code of tribe-based solidarity, and a pre-existing masculinist aesthetic into which even the most awkward, socially-inept man can find a sense that he is something more than just a capitalist failure.

Like the rest of his ideas, Donovan’s Heathenry is largely derivative. The tattoos on his chest are standard: the Black Sun, Icelandic staves: nothing every Black Metal-loving suburban kid doesn’t get by the time he’s 19. His occasional quotations of the Eddas or recounting of Odinic tales to illustrate a point are almost awkward to read: they have a greeting-card quality to them, rather than of someone actually initiated into Odinic mysteries.

Paul Waggener and Operation Werewolf are the more dominant influence. Waggener’s esoteric work, however, is more aesthetics than serious magic—for instance, Vakandibok—a Taufr of Awakening, is frankly not much different in scope than the useless drivel that comes out of major pulp-occult publishers like Llewellyn. However, aesthetically it is significantly different: darker, more primitive, and with significantly less New Age ‘bullshit.’ It also offers a cultural aesthetic far less worshipful of hyper-capitalist modernity than most of what non-racialized Paganism offers.

Ultimately, however, the “ancient” spirituality of the Wolves is a political aesthetic. Here we must remember: it’s too easy to dismiss the aesthetic of romanticist primitivism used by groups like the Wolves of Vinland as “mere” aesthetic, as if aethestic had no power. Vikings, European tribalism, return to simpler and more embodied ways of relating to the world, unsubstantiated and patently false notions of racially-pure pasts cannot be dismissed merely because they are aesthetics divorced from historical fact. So, too, the pretensions of modern life, the religious assurances that technological progress, endless growth, and hyper-consumerism have brought peace and equality are likewise mere aesthetic with no reference to truth. Its falsehood is irrelevant to the truth it creates.

What the Wolves are creating through their spiritual aesthetic is of course not a return to ancient ways of being, but an aesthetic of ancient return against a wholly-alienating capitalist, modern present. Whether they believe themselves to be returning or not is not the point; only that, given enough power, the return will happen in their (false yet now-true) ancient way.

Baudrillard’s point that it is impossible to rob a bank in an ‘inauthentic’ way is important here. You cannot simulate a hold-up: regardless of whether you really mean the gun in your hand, you were honest in your written note to the teller, deeply and truly meant to kill hostages if the money were not delivered, or truthfully meant to return the money afterward, the bank is robbed regardless. Authenticity and faithfulness to the original do not matter: everything is always reproduction of an unapproachable and missing original.

Against The Modern World

Thus, whether or not the Wolves are faithfully copying ancient Germanic religion and culture is a question only a liberal (themselves forgetting that Democracy is likewise inauthentic) might find relevant. For the rest of us, the primitive return to Odinic rites and sacred warrior brotherhoods that the Wolves propose must be seen as a wholly political aesthetic akin to the Marxist creation of the proletariat or the Nazi fabrication of the volk, as well as the social justice creation of the oppression identity. Nation, Race, Gender, and Religion are all likewise political aesthetics whose power is undeniable.

The question thus isn’t whether or not the primitive, Heathen aesthetic of the Wolves is true, but why it has power. Here is where we see yet again another deep failure of the Left, a great abandonment of territory occurring at precisely the same time as the Left largely abandoned anti-globalisation. The globalist (neo-liberal, or actually just Liberal) political transformations that have occurred in the last two decades have done for societies now what Marx noted was accomplished by the bourgeoisie in the 19th century:

“The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his “natural superiors”, and has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous “cash payment”. It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom — Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation.

The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honoured and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage labourers.

The bourgeoisie has torn away from the family its sentimental veil, and has reduced the family relation to a mere money relation.”

Alienation of the body, destruction of local cultures and communities, destruction of religious systems and moral frameworks around which people cohered: these are all the effects of capital’s globalized spread in the name of civilization:

“It compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production; it compels them to introduce what it calls civilisation into their midst, i.e., to become bourgeois themselves. In one word, it creates a world after its own image.”

Whilst Marx and Engels argued that such transformations were inevitable and would lead to worldwide class revolt, the Messianic promise never manifested. The industrialisation of work under the religious banner of modernity nevertheless succeeded in disrupting every social relation, destroying every cultural form which stood in its way (indigenous, ancient, or otherwise).

The recent rise of new-old religious and cultural forms (such as the Wolves’ anti-modern Heathenry), then, is a political reaction to global capital, regardless of whether or not they identify it as such. There is nothing actually fascist about such reactions; the Left mistakes anti-modernism as fascist only because it has drank the bloody offerings at Capitalism’s altars of progress. Walter Benjamin noted this in his criticisms of the bourgeois-left political formulations in Europe against which the Surrealists fought, especially their dogmatic belief in the conquest of nature and the march of history:

“Marx said that revolutions are the locomotive of world history. But perhaps things are very different. It may be that revolutions are the act by which the human race travelling in the train applies the emergency brake.”

The world of global capital means more environmental, social, and cultural destruction in the name of progress, modernity, and civilization; thus an anti-modern political aesthetic such as what the Wolves utilize is essentially a reaction to capitalism. But it is not quite an anti-capitalist politics, or isn’t any longer now that these critiques are abandoned by the overly-credulous and hyper-modern Left.

These critiques originate in anarchist, socialist, post-colonialist, and anti-imperialist thought, and were once a primary feature of mass movements against global capital. Anti-imperialism, particularly in Africa, the Caribbean, and Central and South America has always made as one of their foundational critiques the overthrow of French, American, and Anglo attempts to ‘civilize’ the conquered natives. Marxist and Anarchist theories, stripped of their European exceptionalism, transformed alchemically into autonomous movements embracing traditional and indigenous ways of being, and where they became strong enough to influence or transform government (as in Bolivia), their aesthetics were ultimately anti-modern (as for instance Evo Morale’s enshrinement of Pachu Mama as an entity with legal rights).

As with the questions of gender, sexuality, and bodily autonomy mentioned in the previous essay, the Wolves and other fascist groups have merely squatted aesthetic political territory ceded by the Left.

Here, much more than elsewhere, American Leftists deserve the fiercest of criticisms. A peculiar sort of American urban exceptionalism has arisen which belittles those who do not partake in bourgeois hipsterism. Those who are not part of urban realities, who do not know (or care) about the latest social media frenzy, who experience the modern as relentless alienation and are slow to be educated into the latest pronoun-shifts or poly-bi-non-pan sexualities are ultimately written-off as reactionaries, just as the political cries of those whose material existence has been shattered by global capitalism’s destruction of factories and communities are dismissed as backward or inherently racist.

Stealing Back What’s Stolen

With no leftist alternative to the relentless death-march of globalisation, what the Wolves of Vinland propose is actually an attractive option. A new-old ancient aesthetic built around familial ties, moral codes, re-approach to the land, tribal community, and ethics of self-fulfillment and the reclamation of the body is precisely what Capitalism cannot promise but what resistance to Capital requires. With the exception of Green anarchist, primitivist, anti-colonial, and indigenous movements, the left dismisses such political aesthetic as fascist or least reactionary. But it is neither, except that it is a ceded territory now occupied by fascists.

The primary weapon of anti-fascist organising in the United States has been the use of protests and disruption to silence the voices of fascists and white supremacists. Such tactics, however, can only suffice if those doing the silencing have something equally compelling to say. Unfortunately, few if any of the political aesthetics antifascists offer speak any longer to the crises caused by these new expansions of global capitalism.

It is not enough to say that immigrants must not be discriminated against. Without a conceptual framework which acknowledges how the economic destruction which causes mass immigration in the first place is tied to global capitalism and the policies of the Democratic party in the United States, the left, by focusing their energies only on the racist aspects of anti-immigrant sentiment, is only treating a tertiary symptom of a systemic disorder. Both the horrible economic plight of the immigrant as well as their structural exploitation as weapons against community coherence must be addressed simultaneously, directing our politics back against the capitalists who initiate and maintain the cycle.

So, too, the left can no longer hope that condescension and belittling of anti-modern politics will suffice to stop those politics arising in the first place. Social alienation, the reduction of the human to worker and consumer, the flattening of urban and non-urban life into a great worldwide market in which the same products and same cultural forms annihilate local difference: all these cultural and societal destructions caused by global capitalism will not go away just because urban leftists have made peace with their Instagram accounts and daily lattes, their iPhones and hip clothing made possible by capitalism’s conquest of the entire world.

Particularly the refusal of American leftists to make connections between the police and military violence which gives them access to the resources of the world must be acknowledged and then fought. The hyper-modern urban existence, cluttered with the technological spoils produced by the very same Capitalist exploitation which destroys both indigenous cultures in the global south as well as those of the poor white worker in the United States, must be abandoned. No longer can we pretend inter-connected existence through Facebook and Twitter are adequate replacements for the resilience of local communities and distinct cultural experiences which they displace.

From there, a solidarity can arise with the colonized peoples who have been fighting to preserve their land, culture, and distinction against Empire’s commodification of the world. From such a solidarity, racist and nationalist rhetoric will be easier to fight; when a Mexican immigrant or a Syrian refugee is seen as an ally of the out-of-work American worker against global capitalism, we will no longer need to silence fascists: the poor white worker will no longer have a reason to listen to them.

Unfortunately, we have few examples of what a re-invigorated, anti-modernist, anti-globalist political aesthetic might look like in America except the Wolves of Vinland, and they are not a model we should emulate, but rather a warning of what is replacing us because we fail.


Rhyd Wildermuth

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

He lives in Bretagne.


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We Are The Real Emergency

Not so long ago, we had the governments of the world terrified, their leaders trapped in a hotel, begging for soldiers to rescue them.

 


I‘m not so old. Almost 40. Not so old I that I can remember the 80’s very well, but the 90’s are a lot clearer. The beginning of alt-rock, the birth of web-browsers, the dissolution of the Soviet Union, NATO’s obliteration of Yugoslavia. The world changing rapidly, globalisation and cell-phones and this strange exuberance repeated by the leader of every Capitalist country in the world that we were at the “end of history.”

That idea comes from a man name Francis Fukuyama, a policy advisor to Ronald Reagan. He wrote an essay in 1989 on the topic, and then later an entire book on it in 1992.  His main premise is pretty simple. Let me quote him:

What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of post-war history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.

I bolded the last sentence. Mind if I pull it apart for a moment?  First, he says that we’re witnessing:

 “the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution.”

Though you can’t really apply evolutionary theory to ideas, that’s never stopped people from trying. In fact, it’s the basis for all of Western political and economic thought since the Enlightenment. Before men like Hobbes and Locke and Bacon and Descartes, we were all stupid and backwards and primitive in our thinking. After them, because of them, we’re basking in the light of reason. That’s why it’s the called the ‘Enlightenment,’ after all.

The important part of Fukuyama’s theory is the end point.  You see it in the next part of that sentence, where he tells us we’re now going to see:

“the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.”

Final. You hear that?  We’re done. We arrived. Liberal Democracy is the end point of history, our final form. All that’s left is to keep making it better and spreading it to the rest of the world. Ideology doesn’t matter any more. Western capitalist government is the height of all our human evolution!

Sound ridiculous?  Well, it is. The thing is, everyone believed him, or acted like they believed him. The Liberal Democratic leaders from the 90’s and early 2000’s, Clinton, Blair, Bush, Chirac, Schroeder, etc., all treated this as true.  Democracy won. Capitalism won. Now we just all needed to wait for the rest of the world to catch up and evolve.

But, well, something else was happening…


The Revolt of Turtle Suits and Fairy Wings

In the last months of the 90’s, 60,000 people stood around in the grey, rainy streets of Seattle, shouting at international bankers and world-leaders inside a hotel.  Inside that hotel, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) was meeting, a Liberal Democratic body created by a trade-treaty called GATT.

60,000 protesters is a lot for any city, but Seattle had just under 540,000 people, so this was 11% of its total population. And Seattle also only had 1000 police officers, so 1 cop for every 60 angry people.

You seeing this in your head? 60,000 angry people. Some of them dressed like sea turtles, others held massive puppets. Some wore union t-shirts, some wore fairy wings, some wore black hoodies and masks. All of them shouting, demanding a better world. That’s pretty intense.

wto_protestors_1999_20680767813
World leaders were terrified of this.

Long story short, they shut the meeting down. The US Secretary of State at the time, Madeline Albright, was trapped in the hotel and called Bill Clinton, demanding he call up the national guard. So he did, and tear gas filled the streets. Soldiers chased protesters uphill from downtown Seattle into the gay neighborhood. Queers leaving bars got gassed, while old women and drag queens threw bottles out of windows at the soldiers and cops.

It took weeks to clean up the city afterwards. The police chief was fired, the mayor didn’t get voted back in, and the WTO eventually began meeting behind large concrete barriers topped with razor-wire.

Seattle in 1999 wasn’t the end of this. In the years that followed, the G8 meeting of world-leaders saw even larger protests wherever they met. In the United States, the Democratic and Republican National Conventions were also under a constant state of siege. Everywhere the wealthy and the political-elite met, regardless of where they were in the world, they were attacked.

Not everyone believed history had ended.


An Other-World Is Possible

Many of those protests were called Anti-Globalisation protests. That was the way the media and the politicians spun them, anyway.  In Europe, the same movement was called Alter-Mondialisme or Alter-Globalisation, a better name. It meant ‘alternative’ or ‘other’ globalisation, and its rallying cry everywhere was the phrase, “Another World Is Possible.”

What’s Globalisation, though? The definition is pretty varied, depending on who you ask. Some (especially if you believe Silicon-Valley Tech CEOs) see it as the breaking-down of distance between peoples, the spread of technology and information. Facebook is supposed to be part of that, and Twitter, and all those companies that make lots of money from our communications with each other.

No one in Seattle was protesting the spread of information, of course. In fact, the WTO makes spreading information harder, enforcing patents and copyrights across the world. Worse, it makes it easier to claim common knowledge as private property. A company patented Basmati rice, for instance, something that had been grown for thousands of years in India. Indigenous healing knowledge, too: using tumeric as a medicine was patented by a US company until 2013. If globalisation were just about the open spread of information, it would have been the rich who were protesting it, not the poor.

Globalisation is actually the term for Liberal Democratic trade policy. Powerful and rich countries need open markets for their products and cheap supplies of resources (including workers). So, Liberal Democracies push for free-trade deals so they can exploit poorer countries. Coltan (essential to smart-phones) from Africa, cheap labor from China, and the destruction of local economies and environments all over the world are the result of free-trade.

Free-trade make things truly global. From here:

coltan7
Don’t worry, these aren’t African child-laborers. They’re just kids playing the popular children’s game, “Mine-the-Coltan-Or-Get-Shot.”

To here:

foxconn
Casual day assembling iPhones in an open-plan office at Foxconn industries in China.

To here:

Impoverished Stanford students desperately trying to eke out a living at the end of history. Or was that the end of the supply chain?

Liberal Democracy claims to be the highest evolutionary political state of humanity. If that were true, then of course it should spread throughout the world, and globalisation is the way it’s supposed to happen.

One of the excuses for globalisation is that it supposedly creates peace. Large white Liberal Democracies don’t go to war with each other very often. The United States and Canada don’t fight each other, because it would destroy each others economies. Same with France and Germany.

Of course, they still go to war, just with small African, South American, and Middle-Eastern countries that can’t really defend themselves. Darker skin helps make this palatable. So, too, does the oil and other resources those countries are sitting on. It’s okay to attack them, in the same way that you couldn’t attack other Christians in Europe during the Middle-Ages, but Muslims and heretics were fair game.

If all these wars seem to go against the very nature of Liberal Democracy, it’s only because we’ve bought the lie they sell us, just like we buy their products. Liberal Democracy is first and foremost capitalist government, and free-trade only ever favors the rich.

Privileging capitalism and free-trade is supposed to make all our societies more free and more democratic. But like other things, there’s a religious belief behind this: when the wealthy do well, everyone does well. A ‘rising tide raises all ships,’ or so they say.

Sounds nice, huh? It doesn’t work, though, because tides always go out, the rich always want more, and anyway the poor can’t really afford boats.  Never mind that capitalism is raising sea-waters through global warming, either.

Those massive protests in the last decade weren’t trying to stop a rising tide; they were trying to stop the theft of the world, the expansion of capitalism, and the destruction of the planet.

All those people in the streets knew this, and they created an emergency…


In Case of Emergency…

Let’s go back to Madeleine Albright.  Being stuck in a hotel in downtown Seattle with hundreds of other world leaders, corporate CEOs, oil execs, and heads of banks seems pretty scary to me. For Madeleine Albright, though, what was scarier were the tens of thousands of people on the streets (with puppets and fairy wings and turtle costumes) demanding living wages, environmental protections, and fair trade, rather than free-trade.

Maybe not so surprising she was scared. She is, after all, the same woman who  told millennial women they were going to hell because they voted for Bernie Sanders, and also said this about half-a-million dead Iraqi children:

(this is what Liberal Democracy looks like)

So, Albright called the President and demanded he send soldiers to save her and everyone else in the hotel. And next thing you know, there’s a State of Emergency, the National Guard is deployed, and the beatings began.

States of Emergency are what leaders declare when they need to suspend regular laws for a little while. Liberal Democracies promise rights and protections and due-process, but they can suspend those at any time. Of course, they always say it’s just a for little while, but there’s little to stop them from making them permanent.

They do this more frequently than you might think. The United States currently has 32 declared National States of Emergency in effect. Some of them are old: one is from 1979, declared by Jimmy Carter. Another was passed at the end of 2001, in response to the terror attacks in New York City. Obama just renewed that one a few months ago.

It’s not just the United States that does this, though. Every Liberal Democracy in the world has the ability to suspend any part of its constitution for a ‘temporary’ period, and to renew those suspensions until the emergency is over (including Canada: check out the ‘notwithstanding clause‘). And almost every one of them passed some sort of emergency declaration in the last decade to fight terrorism.

“Terrorism” is a funny word, though. Like globalisation, it’s a cover-word for something else. Suicide bombers are terrorists, but so are people who release trapped minks on a fur farm. Mass-shooters are terrorists (well, when they’re not white), but so is someone who damages a bulldozer being used to uproot a community garden.

You can’t really fight terrorism. Terrorists aren’t part of any government. They generate spontaneously. They also spread quickly, especially each time a drone strike kills children at a wedding or a Liberal Democratic bomb kills women at a funeral. You could stop the wars that create them, but then you wouldn’t get the oil and other resources those bombs are meant to secure. No Liberal Democracy is going to do that: like Madeline Albright said, half-a-million dead children is “worth it.”

So, if they won’t stop the reasons for terrorism, what can they do?  They declare States of Emergency. There’s a problem here: suspending certain freedoms, certain rights, increasing surveillance, making lists and checking them twice, setting up secret prisons, torturing suspects…none of that actually stops terrorism.

So, why do it?


Counter-Revolution

Pretend you’re a capitalist or a world leader for a second. Imagine what it must have been like in 1999, being trapped inside a hotel by people wearing masks and turtle suits and fairy wings.  History was supposed to be over, Liberal Democracy had won, and most of all, you were the saviors of humanity.  Yet people were revolting. Liberal Democracy, capitalism, Free-Trade: that’s supposed to be our final world, but somehow, everywhere you tried to meet, more and more people kept showing up to stop you.

This was a revolt. Of course, no leader would want to admit this. Calling it a revolt might have inspired more people to join in. This would have given the poor the idea that they they were winning. Liberal Democracy couldn’t just do nothing, though. The protests were getting bigger and it was getting harder and harder to stop them. Without a State of Emergency, Liberal Democracies couldn’t break enough of their own rules to stop the revolts.

Good thing the terrorists showed up, huh?

In the name of fighting terrorism, every Capitalist government could develop massive surveillance networks, increase the armaments of their police forces, curtail previously-promised rights, and arrest anyone who fit into their ever-expanding category of terrorist.  Of course, this was all officially to protect us from dark-skinned Arabs who hated our freedom. But terrorism wasn’t the real emergency, though.

We were.


The Real Emergency

The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the “emergency situation” in which we live is not the exception but the rule. We must arrive at a concept of history which corresponds to this. Then it will become clear that the task before us is the introduction of a real state of emergency…

-Walter Benjamin

Every Liberal Democracy has been building up massive police and surveillance states for the last two decades. The police have been militarized, governments collect data on almost everything we do, and each government has claimed the right to do even more. Though they’ve been telling us it’s to protect us from terrorism, they’ve actually been doing it to protect themselves from us.

To turn from a Liberal Democracy into an authoritarian state, you need only one thing: a State of Emergency. Every Liberal Democracy has that power. Suspend the usual rights and protections for a little while, promise it’s only temporary, and you can do whatever you want. Just like Mussolini did, and Hitler, and Franco. After all, Italy, Germany, and Spain were Liberal Democracies before they became fascist.

Every Liberal Democracy is one “Emergency” away from fascism. All those surveillance powers, suspensions of rights, and increased police and interrogation authority they’ve been building up for the last 20 years can quickly be turned on us. Watching what’s been happening at Standing Rock, or in the Black Lives Matter uprisings, it’s pretty obvious they’ve already started.

We’re what they’re afraid of. All our massive protests in the last decade scared them to pieces, and they’ve been trying to make sure we can’t do that again. Because they believe they’re the end of history, the highest evolutionary form of government, they pretend like their sudden mutation into their dark fascist twin is just a temporary state, a response to an emergency.

We should take heart, because that emergency is us.

Not so long ago, we had the governments of the world terrified, their leaders trapped in hotels, begging for soldiers to rescue them.

That time is coming again.

If this sounds scary, difficult, and overwhelming, don’t worry. Just remember Madeline Albright screaming into a phone at the president, begging him to save her and all the other world leaders and CEOs trapped in a hotel, surrounded by people dressed up like fairies and sea turtles.

Like, seriously: I think we got this.


Rhyd Wildermuth

Rhyd WildermuthRhyd’s a co-founder and the managing editor of Gods&Radicals. He writes here and at Paganarch, or you can also read about his sex life on Fur/Sweat/Flesh, or read his near-daily “Anarchist Thought of the Day” on Facebook.  He lives nomadically, likes tea, and probably really likes you, too.


Like this essay? You’ll really like Christopher Scott Thompson’s book, Pagan Anarchism, then.

Joy is Beautiful Resistance

Man_Alone_WTO1999_by_J.Narrin
Image from the WTO protests in Seattle, 1999. Massive political manifestations against trade organizations and treaties became a major tactic of the Anti-Globalization (or Altermondialist) movement.  Free-trade agreements like NAFTA and the WTO’s enforcement of ‘balance-trade’ have destroyed the local economies of many poor countries, allowing corporations to ‘out-source’ work and environmental destruction to poorer peoples and undermining the sovereignty of communities. [image J.Narrin, GFDL, cc-by.3.0]

Welcome to our many new readers!

Interested in helping out?  We’re always looking for more writers, links to events or groups resisting Capitalism, and also very interested in your input!

Also, if you like what you’re reading here, could you tell others?  You can find our feeds on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and G+.

Thanks!

Coming this week:

  • Monday: Linda Boeckhout–Paradise Lost
  • Tuesday: Kadmus–Paganism, Value, and Capitalist Leveling
  • Wednesday: Heathen Chinese–Review: Almanac of the Dead by Leslie Marmon Silko
  • Thursday: Lorna Smithers–Lost Watercourses and Resacredization in Penwortham and Preston
  • Friday: Syren– Liberation Magic
  • Satyrday:  Jonathan Woolley– Never Shall Be Slaves II (Britain’s Colonial Past – Normans)

 Links

A damaging trade agreement, called the Trans-Pacific Partnership, is being negotiated right now.  Most dangerous?  It will lower environmental regulations on fossil-fuel exploration.  Here’s more.

Also, in case you hadn’t heard, the data-collection by the US Government (catching many non-citizens, too), first revealed by fugitive/hero Edward Snowden, has been ruled illegal.

Want to keep up on the latest (tragic, sad) news about the destruction Capitalism’s doing to the inhabitants of the world?  Best source on the internet is Extinction Symbol’s twitter feed.

And need some hope to help with the despair?  Both Fjothr’s piece on Joy and Lia Hunter’s The Enchanted last week are quite inspiring.

Glossary

Alienation

In economic terms, Alienation describes Capitalism’s disconnection and distancing from the social relations that create a good or service.

Alienation occurs in many forms, and makes it difficult for a consumer to understand the human and non-human exploitation caused in the creation of a product.

For instance, while Apple is a US corporation, its manufacturing is elsewhere.  Someone who buys an iPhone has no relationship to the poorly-paid Asian workers assembling the item, lives far removed from the lakes of toxic waste created by cell-phone manufacture, and seems to relate only to Apple.  The consumer is alienated from the production of the iPhone, while the workers are alienated from the end use and profit derived from their work (few can afford an iPhone).

Alienation, also, allows a Western consumer to live in ‘green’ and ‘environmentally friendly’ neighborhoods while never confronting the slaughtered species, exploited humans, and razed forests which sustain their privileged position as conscientious consumers.

Paganism’s insistence on interconnectedness and interdependence, then, is a crucial antidote to alienation.  Exploring and insisting upon the connections between our actions and others helps reveal the horrors Capitalism actively hides from us.

Quote

“I have heard it said that a land wight does not care about the politics of who summons it.  This is a glib statement. It is politics which enables the destruction of the very land which the wight stands guard over.  Man is a political animal, those who say that they stand outside of, or above politics are the esotericists whose clean hands are washed in the blood of those who have no choice but to put their hands in the machinery .Politics is not optional for First Nations, women, queers, blacks or any of the other slave classes. Abstention is a position of privilege which aids the pattern of destruction, arguing only for our impotence. There is no left-right dichotomy, there are those who are destroying the body, and those who stand against them.  Economics is war by other means, and in this asymmetric war against life itself, you do not have the luxury of choice.”

–Peter Grey, Apocalyptic Witchcraft