The Jewish community center shootings: White-washing white terrorism

Overland Park, a city of fewer than 200,000 in the heartland of the U.S. just south of Kansas City, is an unlikely setting for a terrorist attack. But on April 13, Frazier Glenn Cross, aka Frazier Glenn Miller, brought terror to Overland Park. With the intention to “kill him some Jews,” Miller, former Grand Dragon of the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, and FBI informant showed up with weapons in hand at a Jewish community center and a retirement home and murdered three Christians whom he mistook as Jewish.

 

While the authorities needed “more investigation” regarding Miller’s motive, the national media made the obvious connection characterizing the attack as a hate crime. But neither the media nor the authorities dared to call it what it was – a terrorist attack.

 

For Miller, there was no ambiguity. Shouting “Heil Hitler” from the back of a police car, his intentions, and motivations were made clear. His was a political act with a political meaning that at its core was meant to not just intimidate, but terrorize a whole community. Strangely, however, when it comes to acts carried out by the racist, radical right, the media and state authorities seem loath to characterize them as acts of terror. The reluctance to identify the domestic terrorist threat from the radical right is also seen in the U.S. Congress.

 

In 2009, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a report on the growing threat of white supremacist extremist groups and their close connections with military personnel. The DHS report was based on data and analysis from an FBI report prepared under the Bush Administration in July of 2008 titled “White Supremacist Recruitment of Military Personnel since 9/11.” In that report, the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division found that white supremacist organizations were pushing their followers to join the military and enter either the Special Forces or the infantry, in order to gain the necessary skills to prepare them for the “coming race war.” As a result, the report found that:

 

“…military experience is found throughout the white supremacist extremist movement as the result of recruitment campaigns by extremist groups and self-recruitment by veterans sympathetic to white supremacist causes.”

 

And what was the response from Congress? Incredibly, the right wing in Congress alleged that the report was a partisan attack on them and as a consequence were able to have the report rescinded and wiped away from the DHS website – and out of the public’s awareness.

 

Burying the DHS report did not result in the elimination of the very real threat posed by the more violent wing of the radical right, a threat being played out by extremist forces throughout Europe, as well as the U.S.

 

The attack launched by F. Glen Miller should not have been unexpected. This individual has been around, and on law enforcement radar, for quite some time. He was at the infamous Klan attack in Greensboro, North Carolina in 1979 that resulted in the deaths of five anti-racist activists and has a long history with some of the most dangerous right-wing elements in the U.S.

 

The real question that a reasonable person might ask and that the media and certainly state authorities would want to answer is, how many more of these individuals might be out there? And there are other questions – why is it that national state authorities fail to characterize acts like the Kansas shootings as domestic terrorism, and does that failure represent a conceptual inability to “see” the threat of radicalized white supremacists or a cynical political decision to downplay the existence of domestic terrorists?

 

The rise of the racist, radical right is not a figment of the imagination, or a partisan political attack. When they show up at anti-Obama rallies with guns in hand or when they attack Jewish schools or gun down African Americans while wearing the uniforms of the police, all of us must recognize the very real threat that we face today in this period of intense anger, scapegoating, confusion and manipulation.

 

We all have a stake in the defeat of white supremacy in all of its expressions. If we fail to engage in the hard struggle to strip away the pretenses of whiteness and its distorted worldview, and prepare people for the ultimate reality that they are going to have to give up most of the privileges of being white and living at the center of the empire, the crazed terror attack carried out by the neo-Nazi in Kansas will be only a harbinger of what is to come.

 

The McCutcheon ruling and zombie democracy in the U.S.

I have always found discussions on democracy in the U.S. curious and at times hilarious. While I have always been impressed by the skillful way elites construct a narrative of democratic values and practice in a country that is, in reality, the antithesis of a democracy, the fervor with which that fairytale is embraced, even by intellectuals, has always been a source of curiosity for me. But at other moments, like the one we are in now, I can’t help but find some of the arguments used to support the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent McCutcheon decision—and even some of the comments lamenting how the decision will destroy democracy in the U.S.—somewhat funny.

Of course, these are deadly serious times and the McCutcheon decision, which makes it easier for the corporate and financial elite to buy elections and candidates, is a serious ruling that conveys a devastatingly simple message: that the furtherance of the neoliberal project and the maintenance of the U.S. Empire require the evisceration of democracy.  

That message has always been clear to those of us on the margins who have never had the luxury of embracing illusion as a way of life. For us, democracy in the U.S. has always been a “zombie democracy”—a rotten facsimile that looked a little like democracy, sounded like democracy and even had some democratic forms, but was never the real thing, never really alive.

The possibility of democracy was aborted by Thomas Jefferson and the white, male, property-owning, settler “revolutionaries” who declared their independence in 1776. It was aborted by the first American coup in Philadelphia in 1787, when men of property ignored the mandate from their state legislatures to strengthen the Articles of Confederation and instead met in secret to produce a document that would solidify their power.  The resulting Constitution consolidated a white, male, property-owning republic that reduced black people to 3/5th of a person, marked the indigenous for genocide and did not mention democracy anywhere in its text.

It was the people’s struggle over time that injected what little life there is in the walking corpse that is democracy in America.

Democratic reforms, limited as they have been, have nevertheless represented high marks in the people’s demands for democratic rights and dignity. Therefore, it should not be a surprise that during the current phase of right-wing reaction; liberal capitulation; leftist opportunism, confusion and demobilization; and the hegemony of an NGO culture of de-politicized issue fragmentation, that a political culture has been created that has given a reactionary clique on the Supreme Court the confidence to brazenly demonstrate its class bias with the series of decisions we have seen it make over the last few years.

The Citizens United case, the gutting of the Voting Rights Act last year, the rash of state-level laws passed to suppress democratic participation, felony disenfranchisement, and now the McCutcheon ruling—they all signal that the democratic zombie apocalypse is upon us now. And we all know from popular culture what you do when you encounter the walking dead.  So let’s put this zombie out of its misery.

Left-right white solidarity? A comment on the new face of 21st century neo-fascism – part one

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” (George Santayana)

 

Some years ago Italian anarchist Camillo Berneri suggested that while not always visible in the social practices of everyday European life, the racist foundation for European fascism was still present, safely confined to a space in the European psyche but always ready to explode in what he called a racist delirium.

 

Today, white workers and the middle classes in Europe and the U.S., traumatized by the new realities imposed on them by the decline of the Western imperialist project and the turn to neoliberalism, are increasingly embracing a retrograde form of white supremacist politics.

 

This dangerous political phenomenon is developing in countries throughout the European Union and in the U.S. Just recently, the National Front, a racist, authoritarian party that labored on the fringes of French politics for years, has emerged as one of the dominant forces in French politics. The Tea Party in the U.S., Golden Dawn in Greece, the People’s Party in Spain, the Partij Voor de Vrijheid in the Netherlands – in these and other countries, a transatlantic radical racist movement is emerging and gaining respectability.

 

The hard turn to the right is not a surprise for those of us who have a clear-eyed view of Euro-American history and politics. In all the 20th Century fascist movements in Europe, two elements combined to express the fascist project: 1) the rise of far-right parties and movements as the political expression of an alliance of authoritarian, pro-capitalist class forces bankrolled by sections of the capitalist class and constructed in the midst of capitalist crisis; and 2) racism grounded in white supremacist ideology.

 

The neo-fascism that is now emerging within the context of the current capitalist crisis on both sides of the Atlantic has similar characteristics to the movements of the 1930s but with one distinguishing feature. The targets for racist scapegoating are different. The targets today are immigrants: Arab, Muslim and African in Europe; Latinos and the never-ending target of poor and working class African Americans in the U.S.

 

What makes the rise of the racist radical right even more dangerous today is that it is taking place in a political environment in which traditional anti-racist oppositional forces have not recognized the danger of this phenomenon or for strategic reasons have decided to downplay the issue. That strategy has been tragically played out in the “immigrant rights” movement in the U.S

 

The brutal repression and dehumanization witnessed across Europe in the 1930s has not found generalized expression in the U.S. and Europe, at least not yet. Nevertheless, large sectors of the U.S. and European left appear to be unable to recognize that the U.S./NATO/EU axis that is committed to maintaining the hegemony of Western capital is resulting in dangerous collaborations with rightist forces both inside and outside of governments.

 

The manufactured crisis with Russia over the issue of Ukraine is a case in point. The incredible recklessness and outrageous opportunism of the U.S./NATO/EU axis in destabilizing Ukraine – knowing that the driving forces on the ground were racist, neo-Nazi elements from the Right Sector and the Svoboda party – demonstrated once again the lengths that this axis is prepare to go to achieve its geo-strategic objective of full-spectrum economic and political global domination.

 

Yet strangely, not only did many radicals in the U.S. and Europe not see the potential threat that this situation represented but they seemed unable to penetrate the simplistic cold-war propaganda that suddenly reemerged to frame events in Ukraine.

 

Instead of being concerned that as a direct consequence of U.S. actions a government came to power in Europe that for the first time since the 1930s included ultra-nationalist, racist neo-Nazis in key positions, the left along with the general population allowed the corporate media and U.S. propagandists to turn the narrative away from U.S./EU destabilization of Ukraine to Putin’s supposed expansionist aspirations.

 

The ease in which the corporate media was able to flip that script and to make Putin the new face of evil has been truly astonishing. And the fact that that narrative was embraced by most liberals and large sectors of the white left in the U.S. only affirmed that having abandoned class analysis, anti-imperialism and never really understanding the insidious nature of white supremacist ideology, the U.S. left has no theoretical framework for apprehending the complexities of the current period.

 

The inability to extricate itself from the influences of white supremacist ideology has to be considered as one explanation for the strange positions taken by large sectors of the white liberal/left over the last few years. How else can one explain the bizarre incorporation of the discourse of humanitarian intervention and the obscenely obvious racism of the “responsibility to protect?

Could it be that many white radicals have fallen prey to the subtle and not-so-subtle racial appeal to a form of cross-class white solidarity in defense of  “Western values,” civilization and the prerogative to determine who has the right to national sovereignty that is at the base of the rationalization of the “responsibility to protect” asserted by the white West?

 

The apparent incapacity of white leftists to penetrate and understand the cultural and ideological impact of white supremacy and its powerful effect on their own consciousness has weakened and deformed left analysis of U.S. and European foreign policy initiatives.  It has also resulted in the U.S. and European left taking political positions that either objectively championed U.S./NATO imperialist aggression or provided tacit support for that aggression though silence.

 

As a consequence of the abandonment of anti-imperialism and an active class/racial collaboration with the Western bourgeoisie, an almost insurmountable chasm has been created separating the Western left from its counterparts in much of the global South.

 

Instead of more resolute anti-imperialist solidarity, broad elements of the white left in the U.S. and Europe have consistently aligned themselves with the policies of the U.S/NATO/EU axis that are giving support to right-wing forces from Ukraine to Venezuela.

 

Exaggeration, racial paranoia, an overly simplistic and a divisive, even “racist” assessment of the liberal/left will be the charge. We accept those charges. We accept them because we know they will come. For those of us living outside the walls of privilege who must nevertheless accept the realities of the colonialist/imperialist-created global South, we don’t have the luxury of comforting illusions. Our lived experiences negate the false history of Europe’s benevolent civilization. We see developing in Europe and the U.S. and very real possibility of a left-right racial convergence fueled by crisis, leftist ideological confusion and what appears to be a mutual commitment to maintaining the global structures of white supremacy.

 

Understanding the violent history of the Western project and the pathological nature of white supremacy, we are forced to see with crystal clarity that within the context of the volatile economic and social conditions in Europe, giving legitimacy to neo-fascist forces like the ones in Ukraine might just be the fuel needed to ignite that racist, fascist delirium Berneri referred to.