Jun 21, 2015

Dylann Roof's white nationalism

The racist manifesto and photos on Dylann Storm Roof’s website spell out many of the beliefs that drove him to murder nine people at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 17. Leading white nationalist websites have distanced themselves from Roof’s terrorist actions, but many of them have praised his ideas about race and U.S. society.

Most of the manifesto (which I will assume was in fact written by Roof) is a rehash of standard white supremacist propaganda themes — African Americans are “stupid and violent”; slavery and segregation were benign; Jews stir up black people to cause trouble; and whites today are scared, disempowered, and under attack. The manifesto also rejects American patriotism as “an absolute joke”: “Many veterans believe we owe them something for ‘protecting our way of life’ or ‘protecting our freedom’. But im not sure what way of life they are talking about. How about we protect the White race and stop fighting for the jews.”

Roof called his website (which is no longer active but is archived here) LastRhodesian.com, expressing solidarity with the former white settler colonial Republic of Rhodesia. The website included many photos of Roof posing with a Confederate battle flag, a gun, a burning American flag, or the neonazi code-phrase “1488” written in the sand. (“88” stands for “HH” or “Heil Hitler,” while “14” refers to the “Fourteen Words” slogan coined by neonazi David Lane: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White children.”)

Despite his use of neonazi symbolism and rejection of U.S. patriotism, Roof differs with standard white nationalist positions on several points of racial ideology. For example, he declares that “the majority of American and European jews are White. In my opinion the issues with jews is not their blood, but their identity. I think that if we could somehow destroy the jewish identity, then they wouldnt cause much of a problem.” The manifesto also expresses ambivalence about Latinos (“there are good hispanics and bad hispanics”) and even a wish for a racist alliance between white nationalists and East Asians. Roof also rejected the idea of a racially pure white enclave in the Pacific Northwest, a vision promoted by the old Aryan Nations organization and others: “To me the whole idea just parralells the concept of White people running to the suburbs. The whole idea is pathetic and just another way to run from the problem without facing it.”

Other white nationalist websites have had mixed responses to Roof and his manifesto. Several commenters on Stormfront questioned the manifesto’s authenticity, or dismissed the Emanuel Church massacre itself as a “false flag” operation designed to discredit the white nationalist cause. On the Vanguard News Network, Tim McGreen wrote, “I rather doubt [Roof] is capable of writing anything. Unless it can be proven otherwise I am convinced that ZOG invented this whole story, complete with fake pictures of the ‘perpetrator’ and a fake ‘manifesto’.” (“ZOG” stands for “Zionist Occupation Government” and is standard neonazi-speak for the U.S. government.) A more positive spin came from “Macromedia” on Stormfront: “This young man gave a sophisticated analysis of black behavior and the media's role in it…. Though I can't condone or support the shooting of unarmed citizens in religious service, this act forces America to read his manifesto…. Perhaps this will reverse the tide by awakening many more, just like Dylann himself was awakened in the wake of Trayvon.”

On Counter-Currents, which offers a more intellectual brand of white nationalism, Editor-in-Chief Greg Johnson argued, “It seems unlikely that this manifesto is fake, since Roof is alive and could expose it if it were.” Johnson added, “If I had a son, he would look like Dylann Roof.” The general sentiment on Counter-Currents was respect for Roof’s views and disappointment about the massacre — not because of the people killed or injured but because it makes white nationalism look bad. As one commenter (“Christopher”) put it: “A cogent and insightful piece. [Roof] quite plainly is a white nationalist, and a moderately intelligent one at that. This makes his choice of target even more puzzling; based on this text, he should be smart enough to know that attacking a church would do significant damage to the cause and would do nothing to halt the kinds of things he’s upset about.”

Marcus Cicero* offered a detailed critique of Roof’s manifesto on his new website Majority Rebellion (tagline: “help save Western civilization”). In a guest post on Brad Griffin's Occidental Dissent blog, Cicero referred to Roof as a “drug-addled maniac [who] is obviously mentally-deranged, and has only caused an exponential increase in the level of hatred geared toward pro-White and pro-South causes and individuals.” Still, Cicero argued that the manifesto “does not come across as all that controversial or fanatical,” and that much of Roof’s discussion of U.S. society “show[s] at least a respectable understanding of the workings of both Blacks and the Jew, [and] contains truths that nearly every White Nationalist would be able to agree with.” He also agreed with Roof in rejecting the Northwest Enclave idea: “although I personally dislike having to agree with this lone-wolf fool, who has likely hurt our Cause due to his idiocy, facts are facts.” On the other hand, in Cicero’s view, Roof does not sufficiently understand the inherent genetic inferiority of Hispanics, East Asians, and Jews.

[*Note: The original version of this post mistakenly attributed Cicero’s statements about Roof to Brad Griffin, who runs the blog Occidental Dissent under the pseudonym Hunter Wallace. Griffin pointed out this error in a comment below.]

Dylann Roof’s manifesto helps us understand the Emanuel Church massacre as an expression of white nationalist politics. This is useful, but it’s not enough. Because in a larger sense, the massacre is also an expression of U.S. society as an overall system. As AlterNet’s Kali Holloway wrote in “Dylann Roof is America,” “We are a country where mass shootings are weekly news, where gun violence is a fact of daily life, where there is a legacy of terror against black people and communities, where white racists have long targeted black churches, where African-American life is so devalued it can be taken with impunity.” Roof’s reported comment to the Emanuel Church congregants before he shot them — “You rape our women, and you’re taking over our country, and you have to go” — expresses widespread, deeply rooted white myths about black people, as Jamelle Bouie has argued, among others. And as the website Africa is a Country reminded us, Roof’s glorification of white-dominated Rhodesia and apartheid South Africa puts him in the same camp as “mainstream” politicians such as Jeane Kirkpatrick, Jesse Helms, Pat Robertson, and Dick Cheney.

Photo: From LastRhodesian.com, republished on Daily Kos.

Jun 10, 2015

July 25 International Day of Solidarity with Antifascist Prisoners!!

From NYC Antifa:

"The July 25 International Day of Solidarity with Antifascist Prisoners originated in 2014 as a Day of Solidarity with Jock Palfreeman, an Australian who is imprisoned in Bulgaria for defending two Romani men from an attack by fascist football hooligans. Groups around the world took action: holding demonstrations, benefits supporting the Bulgarian Prisoners Association, writing to Jock, and talking about the plight of the Romani and Sinti people in general.

"In 2015 we would like to expand this day of solidarity to all antifascist prisoners around the world. We encourage groups to take the day to plan an event of their choice—whether it is a letter writing, demonstration, benefit, or other action—and to focus on the prisoners and related issues that are of most importance to them locally."

Read more

May 31, 2015

A few websites that monitor the Right

You probably know about the Southern Poverty Law Center, but do you know about South Asia Citizens Web or the Association for Women’s Rights in Development? There are lots of groups out there that monitor right-wing political forces and the struggles against them. In this post I highlight eight of them. I’ve picked sites that may be lesser known, and that target various branches of the right, in various parts of the world, from various political perspectives. I don’t necessarily agree with their politics, but I’m grateful for the reporting and analysis that they provide.

Anton Shekhovtsov’s blog is written by Ukrainian political scientist Anton Shekhovtsov, whose research interests center on far right politics in Europe, particularly central and eastern Europe, as well as red-brown alliance-building. A number of related resources are available via Shekhovtsov’s website. Here are some examples of recent articles on his blog:
Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) is a global feminist member organization with offices in Capetown, Mexico City, and Toronto. One of their areas of focus is their Challenging Religious Fundamantalisms program, which shares information about fundamentalist movements and supports efforts by women’s rights activists to combat them. Some recent articles in AWID’s Facing Fundamentalisms Newsletter have included the following:
Autonomous Action (Avtonomnoe Deystvie, or AD) is a libertarian communist federation with branches in Russia, Ukraine, and Belorus. Its Manifesto includes an emphasis on anti-fascism and anti-nationalism, among other themes. AD reports on far right activities, anti-fascist activities, and state repression against anti-fascists.
Center for New Community is a Chicago-based liberal social justice organization that places special emphasis on countering anti-immigrant nativism and related forms of bigotry. Its Resources page (http://imagine2050.newcomm.org/resources/) features a series of brief articles and charts on topics such as eugenics and Islamophobia. Here are some recent articles from its Nativism Watch section:
South Asia Citizens Web (SACW) is a left-leaning secularist website that provides reports and commentary on a wide variety of topics related to Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and South Asians in the diaspora. SACW devotes a lot of attention to Hindu nationalism, the Islamic right, and other forms of "communalism" (ethnoreligious bigotry and violence). Here are some of their recent publications:
Tahrir-International Collective Network (Tahrir-ICN) is a an online network whose tagline is “bringing together anarchist perspectives from the Middle East, North Africa and Europe.” Tahrir-ICN’s Manifesto notes that radical movements  in all of these regions face “similar challenges: the implementation of a liberal economy and the threat from the extreme right, whether Christian or Islamic.” Recent posts have addressed events in Syria, Palestine, Morocco, Kurdistan, Iraq, Bahrain, Egypt, Germany, France, and Israel.
Talk To Action is a leading forum for research and analysis on the Christian right in the United States, covering topics such as Christian Reconstructionism, the New Apostolic Reformation movement, Opus Dei, the Left Behind book series, biblical patriarchy, and the ties between Christian rightists and the neo-confederate movement. Regular contributors include Rachel Tabachnick, Frederick Clarkson, Bill Berkowitz, Frank Cocozzelli, and others. Here’s some of their recent work:
We Hunted the Mammoth (WHTM) is freelance writer David Futrelle's blog about the “Manosphere” — an online antifeminist subculture that has exploded in recent years, largely outside traditional right-wing patriarchal networks such as the Christian right. In Futrelle's words, “WHTM tracks and mocks the New Misogyny online, focusing especially on Men's Rights, Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW), and Pickup Artist (PUA) sites.” The phrase “We hunted the mammoth” comes from an old Men's Rights quote about all the unappreciated things men had supposedly done for women since the Stone Age. (Futrelle used to call his blog Manboobz, which he concedes was “kind of a dopey name.”)
Photo credit: By Reategui12 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

May 30, 2015

Feb 5, 2015

The National Prayer Breakfast: validating theocracy

Barack Obama speaks at National Prayer Breakfast 2-5-09
This morning, as he has done every February since 2009, Barack Obama addressed the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. The National Prayer Breakfast is sponsored by a secretive theocratic Christian organization known as The Family or The Fellowship, a group I first learned about from Jeff Sharlet’s scathing 2008 exposé, The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power. Here’s a quote from my review of Sharlet’s book:

“The Family is all about power. It believes that the wealthy and powerful are chosen by God, and its mission as an organization centers on bringing them to Jesus, bringing them into a spiritual ‘covenant’ of total unity with each other. ‘Hitler made a covenant,’ [Family head] Doug Coe is apparently fond of saying. ‘The Mafia makes a covenant. It is a very powerful thing’ -- all the more so when it is based on submission to Jesus (54). The Family teaches that those who hold worldly power, as long as they pledge obedience to Jesus, can kill, torture, rape, steal, and lie on a mass scale with no moral constraints whatsoever. This, too, sets the Family apart. Christian rightists generally present themselves as defenders of civic morality. However twisted or hypocritical that claim may be in practice, it's a far cry from the Family's absolute repudiation of ethical principles.”
Every president of the United States since Eisenhower has been a featured speaker at the National Prayer Breakfast, validating and bolstering the influence of the theocratic organization that sponsors it. With rare exceptions, mainstream media treats this as completely uncontroversial.

But as former Christian rightist Frank Schaeffer asked in a 2010 New York Times column, “Would President Obama speak at a prayer breakfast organized by the KKK? Would Jim Wallis and other ‘progressive’ Christians attend?”

Because The Family doesn’t just work with hardline conservatives. It’s also happy to work with moderates and liberals, Republicans and Democrats, anyone who will help further its work of Christianizing the ruling class. Hillary Clinton, for example, has had a close relationship with The Family for a decade or more.

(For more on this group, see also Sharlet’s follow-up book, C Street: The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy, which among other things details the Family’s involvement in Uganda, including heavy support for the 2009 bill that would have made homosexuality punishable by death.)

Photo credit: Pete Souza [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Feb 2, 2015

Moscow conference draws fascists, neo-Confederates, U.S. leftists

For decades, some far right opponents of the U.S. empire have been trying to make common cause with leftists. They got another opportunity in December 2014 at an international conference in Moscow on the “Right of Peoples to Self-Determination and Building a Multi-Polar World.” The conference was organized by the Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia (AGMR). Participants included U.S. leftists from the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC) and the International Action Center (IAC) -- both of which are closely associated with the Workers World Party -- alongside Russian and Italian fascists and U.S. white nationalists from the neo-Confederate group League of the South. It’s worth looking at this convergence in some detail as it speaks to an important pitfall confronting leftists involved in anti-imperialist coalitions.

UNAC and IAC articles about the Multi-Polar World conference portrayed it as a progressive event against war, racist violence, and repression. The IAC reported, “Major themes of the discussion were the US-backed war against the people of Donetsk and Lugansk in eastern Ukraine, the expansion of NATO into the former Soviet Union and economic war against Russia, Venezuela and Iran, and the ongoing uprising against racism and police brutality in the United States.” Neither IAC nor UNAC mentioned that a number of far right groups were represented. UNAC did note that attendees included Israel Shamir, “a leading anti-Zionist writer from Israel,” but didn’t mention that Shamir is also a notorious antisemite.

The conference declaration was in keeping with the UNAC/IAC portrayal. It called for an international “united front against discrimination, violation of human rights, religious and racial intolerance” and condemned the “predatory foreign policy of the US and its NATO allies.” The declaration also denounced the oppression of people of color in the U.S. and demanded the release of U.S. political prisoners such as Palestinian activist Rasmia Oda, Leonard Peltier, and Mumia Abu Jamal. The declaration urged “the consolidation of the progressive part of mankind” and promised that “we will make every effort to build a multi-polar world!”

Maybe it’s a coincidence, but the phrase “multi-polar world” is a major theme in the work of Aleksandr Dugin, Russia’s leading fascist theoretician, as in his 2012 book, The Theory of a Multi-Polar World. Dugin is leader of the Eurasia Party and the international Eurasianist movement; he envisions a renewed Eurasian “empire” based on authoritarianism, patriarchy, and traditional religion, in which Russians will play a “messianic” role. Dugin disavows biological racism but has called for “the rebirth of the primordial Aryan conscience.”

It’s unclear to me how close the relationship is between the Anti-Globalization Movement and Dugin, but members of the Duginist Eurasian Youth Union took part in the AGMR’s December 2014 conference and have worked with AGMR at other events.

Like Dugin, the AGMR envisions a broad alliance of political forces against U.S. imperialism, ranging from grassroots social movements to Communist Party states to right-wing dictators. The lynchpin of this alliance is Russia. The AGMR website features a list of seven “Faces of Antiglobalization,” almost all of whom are or were friendly with Putin’s government: Belorussian president Alexander Lukashenko, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, Iran’s ex-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the late Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, Venezuela’s deceased left populist president Hugo Chavez, and Cuba’s Fidel Castro. The one outlier on the list -- and only non-state figure -- is Subcomandante Marcos of the Zapatista Army for National Liberation, whose 1994 uprising was a pivotal event in the global justice movement’s development.

The overall position statement on the AGMR website opposes “the emerging unipolar world” – i.e., the international dominance of the United States and its allies – and “supports the full sovereignty of nation-states including the sovereignty of Russia as an independent player on the political, economic and cultural world stage.”

The AGMR position statement seems carefully designed to appeal to both leftists and rightists. For the leftish side, it criticizes “the global dominance of transnational corporations and supranational trade and financial institutions.” For the other end of the spectrum, it warns against “the attempts to impose a ‘new world order’” and the threat of “a single mega-totalitarian world state,” both of which are standard targets of right-wing conspiracy theories. AGMR also “aims to promote all aspects of the national security and traditional moral values.” (According to Interfax news service, the AGMR joined with several rightist groups in 2013 to plan a public protest against same-sex marriage outside the French embassy.)

The AGMR position statement also includes a lot of language about tolerance and self-determination, for example, “respect for other peoples and their sovereignty, value systems and lifestyles.” Such phrases appeal to both leftists and liberals, but are also favored by the neofascists of the European New Right (ENR), who have replaced traditional fascist talk of national or racial supremacy with slick appeals to “ethno-pluralism” and “biocultural diversity.” Aleksandr Dugin is the ENR’s leading representative in Russia.

On one of its web pages, AGMR also gives a hat tip to the Lyndon LaRouche network as some of the “like-minded people” from around the world who took part in conferences that laid the groundwork for the AGMR’s founding. The LaRouchites promote a quirky crypto-fascist ideology and in recent years have become increasingly aligned with the Russian government on geostrategic issues, for example echoing a pro-Russian line on the civil wars in Syria and Ukraine.

In addition to the Duginists from the Eurasian Youth Union, the December 2014 Multi-Polar World conference also included representatives of the right-wing Rodina Party (which in 2005 was barred from participating in Moscow Duma elections for inciting racial hatred against immigrants) and the Italian neofascist group Millennium, which has had a close relationship with Dugin’s organization for several years. In December 2013, AGMR head Alexander Ionov spoke at a Millennium-sponsored far right conference in Milan. 

The Multi-Polar World conference also drew representatives from Novorossiya, or New Russia, the entity in eastern Ukraine that, with Russian backing, has declared its independence from Kiev. The UNAC/IAC folks portray the Ukrainian conflict as aggression by neonazis and U.S. imperialists against the people of eastern Ukraine – utterly ignoring the Russian far rightists who are heavily involved in the eastern separatist movement, as well as the Russian government’s own expansionist aims in the region.

U.S. participants in the Multi-Polar World conference included representatives of two southern secessionist groups, the League of the South and the Texas Nationalist Movement, who promoted their own version of “self-determination.” League of the South President Michael Hill spoke at the Multi-Polar World conference and offered a report on the LS website:  
“Hill discussed The League of the South and its goal of the survival, well-being, and independence of the Southern people and how the South’s identity as an historic ‘blood and soil’ nation conflicts with the current globalist agenda of the USA regime. He emphasized the importance of The League’s work not only in preserving a particular people living on a particular land, but also its direct Southern nationalist challenge to the political, economic, and financial engine of globalism—the Washington, DC/European Union alliance.”
While the Texas Nationalist Movement seems to avoid taking positions on other political issues besides Texas independence, the League of the South is well known for its advocacy of white nationalism and Christian theocracy. Still, it’s a bit surprising to see them openly invoking the Nazi-identified phrase “blood and soil.”

The Multi-Polar World conference has drawn some criticism. In a mid-January email to the UFPJ-Activist listserv (UFPJ = United for Peace and Justice), Andrew Pollack criticized UNAC leaders’ participation in the conference. Pollack denounced the presence of U.S. white supremacists at the event and the AGMR’s involvement in homophobic activism and support for dictators Gaddafi and Assad. He also highlighted the UNAC representatives’ praise for the Putin regime, as in the following passage from UNAC co-chair Joe Lombardo’s official report on the conference:
“While in Moscow, we also watched the TV coverage of Russian president Putin giving his annual press conference…. During the press conference, Putin gave figures to show that their economy has been growing in the past year. He then addressed the question of the falling ruble. He explained that they will be able to weather the crisis but it has pushed them into a position where they need to create more diversity in their economy. This, he projects to happen within a two-year time period…

“Moscow is a modern city much like any large U.S. city. The people were dressed well, and looked healthy and cared for. We learned that many of the social benefits that existed under the Soviet Union still exist. These include free universal healthcare. For most people, college was free, and students received a stipend for their living expenses. Putin is very popular with a high approval rating among the Russian people. The people see him as a kind of populist leader.”
Pollack commented, “If only someone would tell the Russian working class how well off they are!” He concluded: “Lombardo announced that ‘The leaders of the Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia have expressed an interest in attending UNAC’s conference in May.’ Let’s make sure the racist scum who UNAC is playing footsie with don’t come!”

In an email reply to Pollack, Lombardo wrote that the AGMR supported gay rights and its leaders denied having joined any anti-gay demonstration. Lombardo also stated that the Multi-Polar World conference organizers strongly repudiated the views of the Texas secessionists who attended, and that the organizers’ participation in a Black Lives Matter solidarity protest at the U.S. embassy proved they oppose racism.

Maybe the Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia’s extensive contacts with fascists and right-wing nationalists result from bad judgment rather than ideological affinity. Either way, their Multi-Polar World conference provided a useful service for far rightists who want to sanitize their image among liberal and leftist audiences.

Unfortunately, UNAC and IAC aren’t the only leftists willing to play along with this. Marxist academician Efe Can Gürcan, for example, recently discussed Eurasianism (specifically including Duginism) as an ideological challenge to NATO and US imperialism, but didn’t mention that Aleksandr Dugin is a fascist. When I objected, Gürcan replied that “One should not avoid potentially transformative dialogue with such movements [as Dugin’s] merely because they are not leftist or because their practices are in some areas objectionable” (Socialism and Democracy, March 2014, p. 170). As a self-delusional rationale for red-brown coalition building, this is hard to beat.

Special thanks to Michael Pugliese for pointing me to much of the information in this post, and to Andrew Pollack for permission to quote from his UFPJ-Activist memo.

Dec 20, 2014

Interview with an Antifascist Prisoner in Sweden

The following interview is being mirrored from Kersplebedeb at http://kersplebedeb.com/posts/interview-with-an-antifascist-prisoner-in-sweden/

Joel is an antifascist prisoner in Sweden. In July 2014, he was sentenced to five and a half years in prison for attempted murder, violent disorder, and carrying an illegal weapon. The sentence followed a collective defense against a Nazi attack on an antifascist demonstration in Stockholm. The interview was conducted in the fall of 2014. Explanatory notes have been added.

You were sentenced in connection with an antifascist demonstration in Kärrtorp, a suburb of Stockholm, in December 2013. Can you tell us about that day?

During the weeks before the demonstration, there had been trouble in Kärrtorp and the neighboring suburbs. The Swedish Resistance Movement (Svenska motståndsrörelsen, SMR) had tried to establish itself in the area. They went through the usual Nazi routine of spraying swastikas on the local school and attacking people who have no place in the world they envision – in some cases with knives.

I'm not sure, but I think Network Line 17 already existed before the demonstration. In any case, it was this network that organized it. (1) There were indications that Nazis might show up to disrupt the event, but when I checked in with people in the morning it seemed that everything was going to be fine. Since there was a solidarity benefit for an imprisoned antifascist the same night, I thought I would only stop by the demonstration for a short while before heading into town to help prepare the evening event. When I got to Kärrtorp with a few friends, we were about ten minutes late.

Five minutes later, the Nazis came. (2) We saw them from about 200 yards away. Everything became very chaotic; we weren't prepared and spread out across the square. We also had very little to defend ourselves with. The Nazis began to shower us with bottles. It didn't seem to matter to them that there were many children and pensioners among us. They advanced onto the square while we retreated.

One of the strongest memories I have from that day is a policewoman standing between us and the Nazis and then suddenly running away. When I read the police report later, I understood that she went to get her helmet because of all the flying bottles, but at the time it felt like this was going to get really dangerous, even life-threatening. Everyone knows how happy SMR members are to use their knives. (3)

Once the initial confusion was over, we managed to gather and start a counterattack. We stopped the Nazis' advance but that was not good enough. A front line formed. The police didn't have a clue what was going on and beat us at least as hard as the Nazis. It was still chaotic, but now we were at least coordinated. We pushed back the Nazis further, and this is when I first saw one of them with a knife. I started heading towards him but lost sight. Meanwhile, the Nazis tried to regain ground. There were serious skirmishes and I saw another Nazi with a knife. If, at that point, the Nazis had gotten the upper hand and one of us had fallen to the ground, it could have been fatal. That's when the Nazi closest to us got stabbed.

A number of demonstrators who had first left the square now returned. With their help, we managed to push the Nazis from the square to the adjacent bus station, then past some buildings out into the forest. More police arrived only when we were already at the bus station. I had hurt my knee in the melee and didn't go with the others. Soon, the police shielded off the Nazis and protected them. (4) I waited for my friends to return to the square, then I went, as planned, into town to help prepare the evening event.

You said that it wasn't "good enough" to stop the Nazis' advance. What do you mean by that?

It is important to understand that the Nazis came to attack us. They didn't come to have a counter-rally, as they claim. Had it been up to them, they would have chased everyone from the square and, ideally, hurt some folks in the process. The attack was not just about preventing people from taking a stand against them, it was also about propaganda. The goal was to prevent any resistance to their recruitment efforts in the area and to use the action itself as a recruitment tool. Anyone who doesn't understand this, chooses to ignore reality. Kärrtorp isn't unique, that's how it works everywhere. If we don't fight on the streets, where are we going to fight?

I'm digressing, but it's really important to point out how crucial it was to not only stop them but to chase them out of Kärrtorp. If you want their activities to end, this is needed.

You also mentioned that everyone knows how happy SMR members are to use their knives. Can you give examples?

The readiness of SMR members to use knives is well documented. About a year before the Kärrtorp attack, a person was stabbed to death by SMR members in Vallentuna, just outside of Stockholm. Only a few days before the Kärrtorp attack, someone was severely injured just a few suburbs away. And at least one of the people who murdered the union activist Björn Söderberg (rest in peace) was connected to SMR. (5) There are more examples, but these should suffice. SMR tries to attract people – mostly young ones – with revolutionary romanticism and a sense of community that builds more on violence than ideology.

When did you get arrested?

About a week later. I was picking up my son from school.

It seems that you've been active in Sweden's antifascist movement for quite some time. Can you tell us a little about this?

I grew up in Linköping during the 1980s and '90s. Just like in the rest of Sweden and Europe, Nazis were on the rise. In Sweden, the "Laser Man" wreaked havoc, and the band Ultima Thule topped the charts. (6) Linköping was strongly affected by this. It was a center for the production of White Power music and several leaders of the different Nazi organizations that existed in Sweden at the time were living in or around the town.

I was born in Chile, so I have personally experienced the everyday racism that still exists in Sweden. When I was little, I was physically attacked by Nazis. Once I got older, I started to fight back and defend myself. I realized that this made things much easier for me.

When I was 13 years old, I started going to hardcore punk shows. At the time, the hardcore punk scene was much more political than today. At a gig in 1995, someone asked me if I wanted to travel with him to Denmark to protest a march celebrating the German Nazi Rudolf Hess. I didn't hesitate a second.

It was during this trip that I really embraced antifascism. I hadn't known that there was a real antifascist movement out there. Everything in Denmark seemed so organized. There were lots of people from all ages at the demonstration, and this didn't change even when we got into skirmishes with the police trying to keep us away from the Nazis. You could call it an initiating experience. It took some time before I got organized myself, but it was during this trip that I really understood that I was an antifascist.

Was the antifascist movement in Denmark better organized at the time than in Sweden? Has this changed?

I can't really say how well antifascists were organized in other parts of Sweden at the time, but in Linköping there was no organization at all, or at least you didn't notice it. In the late 1990s, however, an extraparliamentary left developed in Linköping as well.

I don't want to go into details regarding antifascist organizing in Sweden, but once I had gotten involved myself, I noticed that things were really progressing. All aspects improved: research, recruitment, infrastructure. We only dropped the ball in one respect, and that was tactics. While the Nazis experimented successfully with new forms of politics, we didn't make that leap.

Is the far right a big danger in Sweden? What does the movement look like today?

That depends on how you define the far right. The Sweden Democrats are now the country's third biggest party. I reckon that is a big threat. (7) It seems that the political situation in Sweden mirrors that in the rest of Europe. Far-right parties are gaining ground everywhere.

With respect to Nazi organizations, there is little risk that they will enter parliament. (8) But Nazis will always pose a physical threat to anyone fighting them. Whenever Nazis are left alone, they grow. This is evident if you look at what has happened in Sweden during the last ten years: in towns where antifascists were strong, Nazis pretty much had to abandon their efforts. Those who deny that connection don't know what they are talking about.

Antifascist activism can sometimes feel tough and unrewarding, but in a town like Örebro, for example, where Nazis were very active just a few years ago, there is now basically no activity at all. Other towns where militant struggle on the street has brought results are Linköping and Gothenburg. For different reasons, Stockholm is a difficult town to work in, but even there Nazis have been pushed back several times.

Internationally, Sweden is still seen as an open and liberal country. How does this go together with the far-right currents that you're describing?

I think that whenever Nazis go from talk to action, that is, when they kill immigrants or rob banks, it is usually swept under the carpet. And whenever this is not possible – for example in the case of Malexander (9) or Kärrtorp – the politicians make a big media circus out of it, full of condemnation and outrage. So either Nazis aren't seen as a problem, or, when they are, the politicians give the impression that they will take care of it.

What are the perspectives for the country's left?

I assume you mean the extraparliamentary left. Not sure if I'm the right person to ask since I'll be out of the game for some time, but I think there needs to be better collaboration between different leftist groups and we need to establish more common goals.

Can you give examples for such goals?

I think we should be active in the areas that concern us all, especially in those where the underclass is attacked most heavily – this concerns, for example, the privatization of council flats or precarious labor relations. I also think that it is important to engage in small projects where you can actually experience victories and see that it's possible to change things. That's crucial for our morale. A good example was the campaign against JobbJakt.

What was it about?

JobbJakt is a website offering jobs. Some years ago, they wanted to introduce a bidding feature where the person ready to do the job for the lowest wage would get it. So, say, someone wants his bathroom redone, and then one person offers to do it for 150 crowns an hour, another for 100 crowns, etc. This is clearly wage dumping and hostile to the working class. It was important for us not to let such practices take root in Sweden and so we campaigned against the website – successfully.

You've been stressing the importance of organization in political work. Can you elaborate on this?

The importance of organization speaks for itself. If we do things together we are stronger. How exactly we are organized is secondary. It can be in a band, a union, a militant group, a pacifist group, a cultural center, a social center, a publishing house, a bookshop, or whatever. It doesn't need to be die-hard activism either. But it's important that organizing doesn't stop with your own project. We need to make use of our movement's diversity. Networks and umbrella organizations are important. At this point, the extraparliamentary left hardly feels like a movement at all.

What is your personal situation like? As a prisoner, what kind of support do you consider most important?

Right now, I'm at the prison in Kumla waiting for an evaluation. Kumla is a "Class 1 Prison" in Sweden, that is, a maximum security facility. Once the evaluation is done, I will probably be transferred to another maximum security facility. (10)

Support? I'd be very happy if more people got active and, especially, organized.

Some final words?

Let me quote Madball: "Times are changing for the worse / Gotta keep a positive outlook / Growing up in such violent times / Have some faith and you'll get by."

If you want to send mail to Joel, please check the current address at the Facebook page "Free Joel".


(1) The Network Line 17 (Nätverket Linje 17) is a network of community groups along the southern end of Stockholm's subway line 17.

(2) There were about thirty SMR members involved in the attack.

(3) During the attack, there were only about a handful of police officers present. Reinforcements took several minutes to arrive.

(4) Twenty-eight SMR members were arrested. So far, sixteen have gone to court, seven of whom have been sentenced. The highest sentence so far has been eight months in prison for violent disorder.

(5) On September 21, 2012, Joakim Karlsson was murdered in Vallentuna. On December 7, 2013, Fidel Ogu was severely injured in Hökarängen. On October 12, 1999, Björn Söderberg was killed outside his apartment in Sätra in southern Stockholm.

(6) From August 1991 to January 1992, the "Laser Man" John Ausonius killed one person, the Iranian student Jimmy Ranjbar, and severely injured ten more in a series of shootings targeting people he considered "foreign" (in the beginning, Ausonius used a rifle with a laser sight, hence the name). Ultima Thule was a popular Swedish rock band with ties to the neo-Nazi milieu.

(7) At the 2014 parliamentary elections, the far-right Sweden Democrats (Sverigedemokraterna) received 12.86% of the vote.

(8) The Party of the Swedes (Svenskarnas parti), which until recently was called the National Socialist Front (Nationalsocialistisk front), also participated in the elections. It received 0.07% of the vote.

(9) On May 28, 1999, two policemen were shot dead by neo-Nazis in the small town of Malexander in southern Sweden following a bank robbery.

(10) Shortly after the completion of this interview, Joel was moved to the maximum security prison of Tidaholm. For updates, please see the Facebook page "Free Joel".