Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Rightists woo the Occupy Wall Street movement

by Matthew N. Lyons

Most right-wing responses to the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement have ranged from patronizing to hostile. Rightists have variously criticized the Occupy forces for--supposedly--copying the Tea Party; failing to target big government; being dirty, lazy lawbreakers; being orchestrated by pro-Obama union bosses and community organizers; having ties with radical Islamists; fomenting antisemitism; or failing to address Jewish dominance of Wall Street. (On the Jewish Question, the John Birch Society wants to have it both ways--arguing that antisemitic attacks are integral to the Occupy movement's leftist ideology, but also that the movement is bankrolled by Jewish financier George Soros, who is backed by "the unimaginably vast Rothschild banking empire.")

At the same time, some right-wingers have joined or endorsed Occupy events, causing some leftists and liberals to raise warning flags. Neonazis have shown up at Occupy Phoenix and been kicked out of Occupy Seattle, where leftists formed an antifascist working group to keep them out. The Liberty Lamp, an anti-racist website, has identified a number of right-wing groups that have sought to "capitalize on the success" of OWS, including several neonazi organizations, Oath Keepers (a Patriot movement group for police and military personnel), libertarian supporters of Texas congressmember Ron Paul, and even the neoconservative American Spectator magazine. Leonard Zeskind's Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights has warned against Tea Party supporters "who want to be friends with the Occupiers," including FedUpUSA, Ron Paul's Campaign for Liberty, and conspiracist talk show host Alex Jones. The International Socialist Organization has focused on Ron Paul libertarians as a particular threat to the Occupy movement. In a related vein, the socialist journal Links reposted a detailed expose of Zeitgeist (aka the Venus Project), a conspiracist cult that has been involved in Occupy movement events, many of whose ideas are rooted in antisemitism or other right-wing ideology.

There is always a danger that some rightists will come to Occupy movement events to harass or attack leftists, or act as spies or provocateurs. More commonly, rightists see the movement as an opportunity to gain credibility, win new recruits, or build coalitions with leftists. When pitching to left-leaning activists, these right-wingers emphasize their opposition to the U.S. economic and political establishment--but downplay their own oppressive politics. In place of systemic critiques of power, rightists promote distorted forms of anti-elitism, such as conspiracy theories or the belief that government is the root of economic tyranny. We've seen this "Right Woos Left" dynamic over and over, for example in the anti-war, environmental, and anti-globalization movements.

Neo-fascists against financial elites

Rightists who support the Occupy movement aim to redefine and redirect Occupiers' discontent. Hoosier Nation (Indiana chapter of American Third Position) pledged to join Occupy Indianapolis as a "popular uprising against the financial elites" but criticized the rally organizers' call for human unity as "muddled thinking": "Not to quibble, but our races, religions, and identities do matter. Our identities aren't the problem, they're the solution.... The notion that we don't exist as families and nations but rather as autonomous individuals is a fiction perpetuated by our financial elites to topple the barriers standing in the way of exploiting us."

A cruder style of rhetoric comes from Rocky Suhayda's American Nazi Party, which champions the "White working class" against "this evil corrupt, decadent JUDEO-CAPITALIST SYSTEM." The ANP praised the Occupy movement as "a breath of cleansing air" and urged its supporters to get involved. "Produce some flyers EXPLAINING the 'JEW BANKER' influence--DON'T wear anything marking you as an 'evil racist'--and GET OUT THERE and SPREAD the WORD!" (Another fascist grouplet, the National Socialist American Labor Party, immediately repudiated the ANP's stance and denounced Occupy Wall Street as a Jewish Communist movement.)

The Lyndon LaRouche network, which offers a more esoteric version of fascist politics, has a long history of attaching itself to popular movements--as well as violence, spying, and dirty tricks against political opponents. LaRouchites have always denounced finance capital as one of the world's main evils, so it is no surprise that they have joined Occupy events in several cities. True to their current attempt to package themselves as Franklin Roosevelt liberals, the LaRouchites are pushing for reinstatement of the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act's wall between investment banking and commercial banking, which was repealed in 1999. The LaRouchites take credit for supposedly making Glass-Steagall reinstatement "a leading demand" of the Occupy movement.

Attack the System's "Message to Occupy Wall Street"

A more sophisticated rightist overture to the Occupy movement comes from Keith Preston's Attack the System (ATS) network. Two ATS associate editors, RJ Jacob and Miles Joyner, have produced a YouTube video titled "Message to Occupy Wall Street: Power to the Neighborhoods." The 13-minute video is explicitly "tailored to the mainstream left" and contains many elements designed to appeal to leftists. Jacob and Joyner call for OWS to develop into a revolutionary insurgency against the American Empire and highlight their opposition to U.S. military aggression, state repression, global capitalist institutions, corporate welfare, gentrification, and other standard leftist targets. They also advocate a strategy of "pan-secessionism" to help bring about "a system of decentralized cities, towns and neighborhoods where all colors, genders, and political groups can achieve self-determination."

What Jacob and Joyner's video doesn't tell us is that their organization's vision of revolution would not dismantle oppression but simply decentralize it. ATS founder and leader Keith Preston believes that most people are herd-like "sheep" who will inevitably be dominated by a few power hungry "wolves." Although Preston calls himself an anarchist, he has no problem with authoritarianism on a small scale and has made it a priority to "collaborate with racialists and theocrats" against the left. White nationalists and Christian rightists are major players in the pan-secessionist movement that ATS and the Jacob/Joyner video promote. (For details on Preston and ATS, see my article "Rising Above the Herd.")

ATS elitism is reflected in "Message to Occupy Wall Street." In explaining what's needed to move toward revolution, the video puts a big emphasis on the development of "an intellectual and philosophical counter-elite." It is this counter-elite that develops revolutionary ideas, which then "trickle down into the ranks of the masses." No hint that "the masses" might develop a few ideas of their own.

"Message" also calls for a revolutionary movement that transcends left/right divisions. This is a standard theme for ATS (and many other far rightists), but the approach to it here is different from what I have seen in Preston's work. Jacob and Joyner argue that "counter-elites" on both the left and the right have contributed to developing a revolutionary movement--but in very different ways. The leftist counter-elites "have served as leaders of systems disruption, networked resistance, informational warfare, communications, and public intelligence." Meanwhile, "it is the counter-elites of the right who are developing an entirely new political paradigm in opposition to the state ideologies of the system." In other words, leftists are good at developing the technologies of revolution, but rightists are the ones with the actual vision for society.

Jacob and Joyner's list of important rightist counter-elites includes anarcho-capitalist Hans-Hermann Hoppe, paleoconservative Paul Gottfried, European New Rightist Alain de Benoist, and the ever-popular Ron Paul, among others. Their list of "leftists" who have influenced the Occupy movement is heavily weighted toward the technology/info-guerrilla side, with figures such as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, digital currency developer Satoshi Nakamoto, the Chaos Computer Club, and the hacker network Anonymous. The list also includes Ralph Nader and Kirkpatrick Sale, who among liberals have been two of the leading practitioners of left-right collaboration--Sale through the pan-secessionist movement, and Nader through the anti-globalization movement.

John Robb, open-source technocrat

The counter-elite figure who gets the most coverage in "Message" is John Robb, who runs the Global Guerrillas website, and he deserves attention here because of his murky politics and his interest in OWS. Robb is a former U.S. counter-terrorism mission commander turned independent military theorist and technology analyst. He has written about the rise of "open-source warfare"--characterized by decentralized networks of terrorists, criminals, and other non-state actors acting with a high degree of innovation and flexibility--and the hollowing out of traditional nation-states. In response to these and other trends--including economic and environmental crises--Robb promotes the development of "resilient communities," which are autonomous and largely self-sufficient in terms of energy, food, security, and other basic needs. Robb has praised the Occupy Wall Street movement as a pioneering example of "open-source protest" that is "constructing the outlines of resilient communities in the heart of many of our most dense urban areas."

Jacob and Joyner's video characterizes Robb as a leftist, and indeed many of his ideas, such as his belief that both capitalism and the nation state are breaking down and his emphasis on decentralized solutions, sound radical. But while I don't claim to fully understand where Robb is coming from, I am deeply wary. Robb himself avoids political labels, and Thomas Barnett has characterized him as "a serious technocrat who distrusts politics." According to his online bio, Robb has consulted extensively for government agencies such as the CIA, NSA, and Defense Department. And his anti-establishment friends seem to be found mainly on the right. For example, he has archived the former blog of fellow military theorist William Lind and features it prominently on the Global Guerrillas home page. Lind, whose theory of "fourth generation war" has a lot in common with Robb's ideas, is a hardline traditionalist conservative who spent many years at Paul Weyrich's Free Congress Foundation.

Robb's writings are often reposted on right-wing websites such as AlternativeRight.com, The Occidental Quarterly, Occidental Dissent, and Attack the System. As far as I know, he has never tried to dissociate himself from these organs. Intentionally or unintentionally, his own work often resonates with rightist themes without invoking them directly, as when he writes about "the decline of the West" (echoing Oswald Spengler) or the virtues of building a "tribe" (echoing national-anarchists, among others). John Robb's relationship with the right merits more in-depth study, but he is no leftist.

So far, the effect of right-wing groups on the Occupy Wall Street movement has been limited. Yet the lack of clear anti-capitalist and anti-fascist analysis in much of the movement opens the door for rightists to spread radical-sounding propaganda rooted in oppressive politics. It is important for us to understand and expose this danger, in the Occupy movement and others that may follow.