Archive for April, 2009

anarchy-flagLaina Farhat-Holzman, a self-described  “historian, lecturer, and author,” has managed to invoke the spirit of yellow journalism that characterized corporate media accounts of anarchism and anarchists at the turn of the last century. Ms. Farhat-Holzman’s sensational and inaccurate piece attempts to compare the thoughts and actions of anarchists with those of adherents to political Islam, a daunting task for even the most skilled novelist. I’d prefer to avoid engaging in the kind of amateur psychoanalysis and whole cloth fabrication that Farhat-Holman engages in, but her contempt for Islam appears to be largely personal, having been married to, and divorced from, an Iranian student and losing her  job “as the cross-cultural expert on a project that involved a number of US defense firms, US intelligence agencies, and the Iranian Air Force”  when the Shah was deposed. Her biography however, offers no clue as to what her personal problem with anarchists could be. Maybe she lost her place in the ivory tower to an anti-authoritarian and that is why she is willing to teach private classes “for groups of ten or more, able to meet in a private home or clubhouse, four-part classes are available. These classes can be arranged for every other week sequentially. Cost is $40 per person per series.” Or maybe her favorite ATM was disabled as a result of solidarity actions with Greek anarchists that occurred  in Santa Cruz?

Her take on the events in Greece appeared in the hard-right, Family Security Matters, which seems to be an outlet for private-plane populists to indoctrinate soccer moms and their families into the politics of fear and terror. The “security moms” of the 2004 election. FSM  is a front group for the Center for Security Policy, a neoconservative think-tank, who counted among it members, high ranking officials of the administration of  former president, George W. Bush. Family Security Matters gained some much deserved notoriety in 2007, when it published Conquering the Drawbacks of Democracy, which advocated appointing Bush as “president for life” and then they did their very best to “disappear” the article in question, a favored tactic of the right-wing. I was only half-serious in my advocacy of “Bush for Life”, but it was due to his knack for discrediting the ménage à trois of Church, State, and Capital

But back to the much more entertaining editorial for the Santa Cruz Sentinel entitled Anarchists have a long and nasty history. (How entertaining you ask? Entertaining enough that I am using a backup keyboard while waiting for the coffee that blew out of my nose onto the 1st string keyboard to dry, from when I first read it on Anarchist News.org)

The great historian Barbara Tuchman “The Guns of August”, the expert on how World War I erupted, wrote another book: “The Proud Tower,” 1966 in which she closely examined the players and events between 1890 and 1914, when the war broke out. We forget how much terrorism, assassination, and mayhem there was during a time we think of as a long peace. It is worthwhile to explore the similarities between that period and our own the 1980s to maybe 2014.
Anarchists. Throughout the 19th century, a fringe group called “Anarchists” terrorized Western society. The group’s intellectuals, who predicted a golden age only after we dismantled all governments and laws people would just want to be good, they said, gave rise to wooly-headed activists prepared to kill and destroy. It didn’t take long before the Anarchists realized that they would need force — governance of their own. Human virtue was not enough, they found.
During this era, anarchists murdered six heads of state — none of them tyrants — in France, Spain twice, Austria, Italy, and the U.S. President McKinley. Before that period of carnage, they murdered Tsar Alexander II of Russia, and when they murdered the Austro-Hungarian Archduke and his wife in 1914, World War I began. Later in our century, ideologues murdered heads of state in India three times, the U.S. Kennedy, and Italy Aldo Moro.

One might expect a self-described “historian” to be somewhat concerned with accuracy, especially in the area of chronology, but the “historian” extended the very late 1800’s “propaganda by the deed” current in anarchism to cover the entire 19th century. This is a neat trick since dynamite had not been invented until 1862 and the anarchists were not expelled from the International until 1872, the year after the Paris Commune. The First International originally met in 1864. The phrase “propaganda of the deed” did not enter  into popular usage until 1877. The assassination attempt against Kaiser Wilhelm I did not take place until the following year.

Farhat-Holzman, who espouses an extreme right-wing worldview and may have a different definition of “tyrant” than a freedom-loving person would. There are some historians who credit anarchists  with bringing about an end to absolute monarchy in Europe. Franz Ferdinand was assassinated by members of a Serbian national liberation movement or Serbian military intelligence, but not anarchists. None of the examples she mentions from the latter century were anything resembling anarchists. The unnamed heads of state in India were assassinated by members various national liberation/sepratist movements. The unspecified Kennedy, despite all the wacky theories surrounding the death of JFK, none are so wacky as to suggest that anarchists were involved in any way, shape or form.

Islamists. The modern version of anarchists are the various Islamist cults — the most clever being al-Qaida. They too believe in a brave new world that will emerge when they destabilize the power structures of the rest of the world. They think, like the Anarchists, that with global rule of a Caliph world dictator, people will just want to be Muslim — or be snuffed out if they don’t. They too assassinate, the latest being Benazir Bhutto, who would have led Pakistan. Not that the official anarchist movement is dead. London got a taste during the G-20 meeting. There were activists against government, capitalism, global warming, abuse of animals, and abuse of land. They range from naive ideologues to murderers, ready to kill and do whatever necessary to take down governments, science laboratories, or companies they dislike.

Of course. What could be more closely related to post-Enlightenment libertarian social theory than 7th century authoritarian ethical monotheism, from the same mythical patriarch who cursed the planet with Judeo-Christianity? And what self-respecting neo-con would miss pass up an opportunity to perpetuate the enduring myth of a shadowy organization called “al Qaida” I’ve heard anarchists advocate for some silly things but “the global rule of a Caliph world dictator” is a new one. Where are all of these “ready to kill” anarchists? Getting arrested on purpose, having dance parties and continuing debates on whether a breaking a window is an act of violence, is a long way from “ready to kill.” That distinction belongs to the US right-wing, especially after the election of a Democratic president.

Tactics. The 19th century assassins had no difficulty in reaching their targets. Today with better security, they prefer sheer terror aimed at civilians — hijacking airliners, the 9/11 attack, suicide bombings, truck bombings, decapitations on television, murder of athletes at the Olympic games, and rampant kidnappings. These are low-tech methods, effective in sowing terror, but winning them nothing yet.
Asymmetric Warfare. Both anarchists and Islamists believe that they are powerless in conventional war with the world’s major powers. They pretend to be David fighting Goliath — and when Goliath slaps them down, they cry foul. The recent warfare in Gaza was such a case. The Israelis finally got tired of kidnappings, rains of missiles, and general mayhem and went in. The howl of world rage was hypocritical.

No wonder this self-described “historian” appears to be pretty much unemployed. Regardless of orientation or affiliation there is a difference between assassins, hijackers, and kidnappers. She should have consulted some of friends in military intelligence to explain the difference. The era of hijacking has pretty much long since passed, due to “better security” and the murder at the Olympic games was almost 40 years ago, hardly “today” , but context is the enemy of conservatives. Good thing Farhat-Holzman doesn’t allege to be a mathematician.

Anarchists don’t  “believe that they are powerless in conventional war with the world’s major powers”  we are certain of it. We know not to engage in direct military confrontation with a vastly superior force, especially given our lack of will, training, and equipment. Besides, no CIA-like organization is stepping up to give us that kind of aid. They know we aren’t Islamists in Afghanistan. Farhat-Holzman does not. These are not the urban guerillas of 30-40 years ago.

In my 20 years of association with anarchists, I have yet to hear anyone compare themselves to the mythological character, David, whether it is the David from the book of Middle Eastern folklore called “The Bible” or the silly TV show, Kings. I didn’t notice any “howl of world rage” over the IDF’s random killing spree, as the other governments would have to question their own State monopoly on violence.

In Gulliver’s Travels, Jonathan Swift gave us a gentle hero who was tied down by Liliputian people only a few inches tall. He could have smashed them but didn’t — to his regret later. They were small but nasty.
Asymmetric warfare tactics are growing in daring. Australia recently had a devastating province-wide fire that looked suspiciously like multiple arsons. Daniel Pipes Daniel Pipes Blog, March 26, 2009 notes that police and investigative reporters finger the arsonists as Islamists. Josh Gordon in Melbourne’s Age newspaper, says: “a group of Islamic extremists [is] urging Muslims to deliberately light bushfires as a weapon of terror” against Australia. Al Qaeda has congratulated the arsonists and cites it as a model for future action. Jihadi pyroterrorism has also been used in Israel, beginning in 1988. Other anarchist groups, Earth and Animal Liberation Fronts in the U.S., have also used arson in attacks. It’s cheap, easy, and lethal.
They are not David — and we had better not let them think we are Goliath. Goliath lost. We must not lose.
Laina Farhat-Holzman is a historian, lecturer, and author. You may contact her at Lfarhat102@aol.com or globalthink.net.

Finally, an actual fact about persons associated with anarchism. Arson has been committed in the name of the ELF and ALF, but they are not formal organizations. To my knowledge, no ELF or ALF action could be considered “lethal”, unless you are referring to injuries to “corporate personhood”.  I have my doubts that at least a few of these actions are not insurance fraud by developers to offset cost overruns.

fsm__conquering_the_drawbacks_of_democracy


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The word ‘”fascism” has been overused to the point that it has little relation to its original meaning, like when the right-wing refers to the moderate Republicans known as “Democrats”, as “socialists”.Well, a UNC-Chapel Hill student organization is apparently attempting to reclaim it. The Youth for Western Civilization, which proudly bills itself as “America’s (sic) Right-Wing Youth Movement” on their website. When I first heard the name, I thought they were merely concerned with making sure Western Civ. was on the curriculum. They make no excuses for their embrace of fascist ideology and symbolism, even using the fasces, the Roman symbol of State power and authority, which was generally embraced by governments, even after its adoption by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini as a name for his movement, which he sought to connect with Imperial Rome.

Logo of campus fascist group, Youth for Western Civilization

Logo of campus fascist group, Youth for Western Civilization

Here is their unapologetic mission statement:

Our mission

Youth for Western Civilization will educate, organize and train activists on campuses across the nation to create a culture that will promote the survival of Western Civilization and pride in Western heritage. This movement is focused on the support of Western history, identity, high culture, and pride and opposition to radical multiculturalism, political correctness, racial preferences, mass immigration, and socialism.

What Is Youth for Western Civilization?

Youth for Western Civilization is the West’s right wing youth movement. This is an organization for students who believe Western Civilization is moving in the wrong direction and want to do something about it. This is for people who are proud to be members of the West and want to work in defense of their people, culture, and traditions.

This will include hosting speakers and debates, hosting and attending conferences, holding protests and educational events, producing publications, creating social events, and all other activities that will further the organization’s mission.

What We Want to Accomplish

We want a campus movement that will accomplish three things:

1. Inspire Western youth to organize on the basis of pride in their American and Western heritage, and counter radical multiculturalism on campus.

2. Counter and ultimately defeat leftism on campus by pushing the activist agenda, changing college policies in a conservative or right wing direction, and restoring a curriculum that focuses on Western history, not political correctness.

3. Create a social movement on campus where a right wing subculture — similar to the left wing subculture that currently exists — will provide a healthy alternative to a poisonous and bigoted left wing campus climate.

Our long term strategy

Initially, we would like to set up as many active campus chapters as possible that will host events such as speakers, debates, and protests.

In the medium term, we want these groups to run for student governments, defend against left wing organizations and create new groups. We also want to change the social atmosphere of the school, with YWC becoming the focus of social life at the school as well as political activism.

In the long term, we want the majority of students to leave college more right wing than when they arrived. Eventually, we would like to start changing curriculum on campus to restore an emphasis on real education and classical learning, rather than trendy multiculturalism.

In the US, the elites tend to avoid an outright connection with fascism, for a more nuanced approach, unlike the cosplay and Hitlerism of right-wing organizations that encourage working people to betray their class interests.  One such organization by and for the children of the elites, Protest Warrior avoided connections to historical fascism, as they correctly noticed that it ran contrary to their unconditional support of the state of Israel. Protest Warrior did not last very long, as the working class right-wing did not “get the joke”, resulting in physical confrontation by their allies. The anarchist tradition of direct confrontation with fascists was also problematic for the Protest Warrior movement, since they believed their own propaganda about all anti-war demonstrators being liberal pacifists who respect “free speech” rights, and their instigation at the 2nd Bush inaguration, did not go as well for the PWs as the 2004 RNC where they had better police protection (and were able to kick a person restrained by law enforcement), resulted in a whooping that was effectively the end of the “Warriors”, whose purpose seemed to be to make sure no one said anything bad about Dubya.

The Youth for Western Civilization are also in the sights of anarchists, who have already disrupted several (1)of their events at UNC (photos). Nativist former-politician, Tom Tancredo, who is the group’s national chairman, was run off by anti-fascist students and elected xenophobe, Virgil Goode, was only able to speak as result of police repression against dissenting students, resulting in arrests. Despite the increase in violent rhetoric that accompanies the election of Democratic presidents in the US, being exacerbated by the fact that  Obama’s father was Kenyan, the liberal students are still enabling and encouraging these hate groups by insisting that neo-nazis deserve “free speech”.  The UNC administration even apologized for their inability to ensure that Tancredo could spew his racist nonsense.

“I feel very embarrassed about how the student body went about doing this,” Lopez said. “It got completely out of control.”

We need more students like those at UNC, who refuse to share their campus with the likes of Tancredo. Whether the fascists wear tailored suits or swastika armbands, their hatred has no place in this world, and we will continue to deal with this threat. If you wish to help, contact your local anti-racist or anti-fascist group.

Struggling local musicians join current and aspiring politicians are the latest individuals to attempt to exploit the Stanton Heights shooting for personal gain. Rusted Root, an awful hippie world beat/jam band who enjoyed some local popularity in the 90s and Joe Grushecky, blue collar rocker famous for knowing Bruce Springsteen, join awful. canned country from former Povertyneck Hillbillies, young  rapper Whiz Khalifa, and assorted has-beens, never-weres, and cover bands for a May 25 concert billed as: Fallen Not Forgotten: Memorial Benefit Concert for the Fallen Police Officers. One need not possess a finely honed sense of irony to notice that the relationships between police, and hippies, rappers, and the working class have historically been strained, to say the least. This contradiction is irrelevant for publicity seeking musicians, their managers, and promoters.

Members of local vigilante group, Lawrenceville United were the first to use this incident for publicity for Tony Ceoffe’s bid for magistrate. Mr. Ceoffe wasted no time in cranking out a letter to the editor of the local paper to make sure he could get a little publicity for his campaign. This would seem innocent enough or part of the regrettable human tendency to kiss up to power, but not where this publicity/power hungry vigilante is involved.

A more repulsive publicity stunt was pulled off by this non-profit lynch mob when the right-wing gunman’s grandmother, who was already a victim of her family associations with this nazi kook, who couldn’t have been fun to live with, chained herself to the railing of the now boarded-up house where the shootings took place and began chain smoking and praying with her cat, wrapped in a Steelers blanket. A pathetic scene to say the least.

Publicity Stunt by Local Vigilante Group

Publicity Stunt by Local Vigilante Group

The scene became even more pathetic with the arrival of Jenny Skrinjar, sister-in-law of deceased former Mayor O’Connor’s, hype man, Dick Skrinjar. Bulldog impersonator, Miss Skrinjar (I can’t call an old lady “Jenny”)  the president of the Lawrenceville United vigilante group, whose relationship with Ceoffe is uncharacterized, but they seem pretty close, is not one to waste a chance to be on TV. She showed up with another scary looking woman an crude scary. memorial wreaths, who told the media:

“The focus needs to be on these police officers. She just wants attention, and she’s trying to direct attention away from them.”

Miss Skrinjar’s companion could be referring to herself and the former hairdresser. The local media coverage was non-stop. It was never about anything but the cops. These sad women needed attention and to make it about them.

We are second-class citizens when police are involved and the court proceedings have been no exception. DA Zapalla has made a career of reminding citizens their lives matter less than those of police officers, for whatever higher political aspirations he may have, and gag orders were denied so that the police and politicians could make their case to the public, in the name of memorial services. Governor Rendell, of course, wants this to pretext to make the shooter’s paranoid gun-grab fantasies come true.

Last and certainly least, local rich boy neo-nazi, who “only” killed a civilian and whose wealthy family could pay for legal representation and get him off, also found his way back into the spotlight, with features in the local media. Hopefully, in the future, the police will think twice about the protection and bus rides they give to neo-nazi demonstrators, as their relationship has seemed convivial in the past.  For once I was pleased to see them beat someone until their head looked like a beach ball.

The echo chamber of the mainstream political right has taken a cue from the historical revisionists on its fringe who have turned Holocaust denial into a cottage industry.  One of many things mainstream right-wing pundits share is a remarkable ability to focus on the same talking points, delivered in their personal style. This consistency is a key ingredient of their success in winning the hearts and minds of an alienated, demoralized, US working class.  No, the recent alliance between the Christian Right and neo-conservatives, as well as other unconditional defenders of the Israeli state and general Muslim-haters has broken down, but they instead seek to capitalize on popular ignorance and a failed education system to revise the political spectrum as it has existed since the wake of the French revolution.

There is a concerted effort by the right-wing to portray orthodox right-wing ideologies of the 20th century, such as Hitler’s National Socialism and Mussolini’s Fascism as left-wing ideologies, using pundit/comic Jonah Goldberg’s shrill polemic Liberal Fascism as about 99% of their source material. This is quite the feat of mental dexterity, considering their frequent use of the kind of red-baiting emotional politics that gave rise to the real fascist movements of the past.

Filmmaker, Adam Curtis, has done a great job of charting the parallel courses of political Islam and neo-conservatism in his outstanding BBC documentary, The Power of Nightmares. Maybe it isn’t a stretch for people like the Taliban and mega church crowd, who believe their sacred texts are to be taken literally, to interpret the names that other homicidal father figures give to their movements and parties literally. It reminds me of a line from This is Spinal Tap, where David St. Hubbins says, “I believe virtually everything I read, and I think that is what makes me more of a selective human than someone who doesn’t believe anything. ”

Another important component of fundamentalism is a lack of context and a dualistic, black and white view of reality.  Therefore, National Socialism is considered a left-wing ideology, since the word “Socialist” is in its name. The word “National” is to be disregarded. Although in their defense, even I have to wonder if the “Republic” in People’s Republic of China refers to their brutal, state capitalist economy, of the kind favored by the GOP and Wall Street. Given their mutual fetish for heavy-handed “law and order”, productivity, and environmental devastation, maybe Mao was inspired by the Republican Party?

Given my morbid fascination with right-wing media, not a weekday goes by where I don’t hear the syndicated (from syndicalism?) right-wing pundits state that their hyper-nationalist myths are simply ‘good American exceptional liberty as favored by baby Jesus and the Founding Fathers’. Reagan/Thatcher conservatism are billed as the only right-wing ideologies, and every other political, social, or economic belief is ‘leftist’ or ‘Marxist’.  They quickly threw Polpalwaski under the bus, despite the similarity of their belief systems and rhetoric. The upsurge in putsch rhetoric that accompanies the election of Democratic president in the US, has been exacerbated by the racial and ethnic divisions that have been used by elites to manipulate the masses.

A simple way to figure this out for confused pundits who actually interested in accuracy, which is probably none of them, is using the Spanish Civil War. The Republican side-anarchists, communists, and social democrats are the left and the right wing is the Loyalist side-Fascists, Nazis, Clergy, Nobility and landowners.

Although they had been trying to keep their distance in the wake of the police shootings in Pittsburgh, right-wing pundits rallied their misguided, working-class fans with racial and religious fascists in Pittsburgh’s Market Square, as well as the rest of the US, for what was billed by some of its sponsors as a “Tax Day Tea Party”. These events were sponsored by a handful of lobbying and public relations firms and promoted by a very effective right-wing noise machine, with help from the mainstream media, and other private-plane populists, but the liberal bloggers have that covered. Even though the event was held on a work day, attendance could not have been much of problem, since the attendees were largely rallying on behalf of their bosses.

The conservative elites have done an impressive job of speaking to the needs of working people and convincing them to abandon their own interests in favor of Wall Street’s needs. The contradictions are almost too overwhelming to notice. Like Samuel Wurzelbacher’s “Joe the Plumber” character, speaking at anti-union rallies, when the best economic times for the working -class were the days when they were heavily unionized. The business unions and liberal elites have no one to blame but themselves, having long abandoned working people in favor of middle-class academicians and bohemians. The Republicans, especially since the days of their persistently-vegetative icon from Hollywood,  have managed to deliver, at least in small ways, to their base, something the Democrats have refused to do for years.

Anarchists and their rivals in the authoritarian Leftist alphabet soup, especially those concerned with building mass movements, have an even poorer recent track record of relevance to ordinary people. Part of the blame lies with the success of consumer capitalism in recuperating social movements and writing dissent off as nothing more than youthful rebellion. A refusal to acknowledge that global consumer capitalism is not the same as it was in the 19th century or even the 1960s continues to marginalize revolutionary ideology and theory. The centralized, industrial economies that continue to inhabit most of the rhetoric have not existed for quite some time, and critical thinking on this matter is often met with resistance from backwards thinking radicals.

I’ve learned to never put any faith in demonstration head counts, but some of these events appear to be pretty sizable, although my brave anti-fascist source on the ground reported only about 200-300 people in Pittsburgh (local right-wing paper says 1000, the other paper says “several hundred” , local pundits who spoke said thousands on morning show).  Present in this crowd were any number of neo-fascist boneheads. It is difficult to tell for sure, given the popularity of close-cropped hairstyles for men (and big hair for women) during Republican administrations and among those who wish to live vicariously through US military personnel (and their domestic equivalent, the police). Some of them made it easy by wearing  clothing clearly marked with symbols and slogans sold by neo-nazi record labels and clothing companies. Internet chatter and other intelligence suggested that Keystone United, (formerly known as Keystone State Skinheads) would be recruiting at these events. These morons have changed their name (perhaps inspired by the success of local racist vigilante group, Lawrenceville United) and their logo to capitalize on the resurgence of violent nationalist rhetoric in the US that occurs during Democratic administrations. Many leftists and anarchists incorrectly believed that an Obama presidency would be good for progressive movements and working people, but myself and others pointed out the kinds of violent, flagsucking rhetoric that the right-wing engages in when they don’t control the US government.

That’s not to say the Tea Parties were solely the work of white supremacists, (it was lobbyists) but it’s a very short walk from nationalism to fascism. Mainstream pundits on the right  push a diluted, more accessible version of the same message that the Hollywood, dress-up nazis do, the obvious difference being divergent views on the state of Israel.

Here are some pictures of a few of the nazis at the Pittsburgh tea party:

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The "master race" eats its enemies

The "master race" eats its enemies

The eugenic "ideal" sloping forehead, thick brow, underbite, and bifocals

The eugenic "ideal" sloping forehead, thick brow, underbite, and bifocals

The shirt reads "Good Night, Red Side" it's some neo-nazi slogan, but like the others, it makes no sense.

The shirt reads "Good Night, Red Side" it's some neo-nazi slogan, but like the others, it makes no sense.

Full view of shirt

Full view of shirt