In this post: Andres Breivik, Counter-jihad, the English Defence League, its "Jewish" Division, Zionist conspiracies, cultural Marxism, Lyndon LaRouche, and more...
The horrific massacre in Norway occurred just before I went away, and I was too busy to put my thoughts down then, and most of what I would have said then has been said by others since. It was striking to see the way that many of my allies in the battle against the clear and present threat posed by militant Islam reacted almost with morbid glee at the first reports of the massacre, when it was assumed it was perpetrated by an al-Qaeda operative or suchlike; the outrage confirmed their diagnosis that Europe is fast becoming enflamed in the clash of civilizations. It was similarly striking several hours later, as it became clear the perpetrator was a right-wing Aryan, to see the similar, gloating glee of the pseudo-anti-fascist left.
In my view, we need to avoid both sorts of either/or, with-us-or-against-us monochromatics, and take a more sober look at the threats we face. Much of the commentary took the form of whataboutery, or rhetorical points about double standards, or saying I told you so. A tiny number of commentators, such as Joan Smith, Francis Sedgemore and Nick Cohen, made more sophisticated points.
The fact that the atrocity was committed by an Islamophobe does not mean we can take our eyes off the Islamist danger. But it does impel us to take a hard look at the global counter-jihad movement (“the Vienna School of Thought” as he calls it) from which Anders Breivik emerged, as well as its terrorist fringe.
First, it is important to be clear that this movement, and Breiviks’ own ideology, cannot be reduced to fascism, at least not in its straightforward generic form. For a start, as the CST’s Dave Rich argues, his framing is culture not race; Breiviks explicitly rejects racism and fascism. This is not the empty rhetorical re-branding of the post-fascist Griffinite BNP, but a more profound post-racial reconfiguration of right-wing thought.
As always, Chip Berlet is a knowledgeable source of description of this ideology and milieu. He draws attention to the “Cultural Marxism” element of the worldview. The term “Cultural Marxism” appears some 600 times in Breivik’s manifesto. It is a meme which circulates widely on the conservative internet to the relative ignorance of liberals. At Talk2Action, Berlet writes that “The theoretical lineage of Breivk's thesis is primarily from cultural conservatives William S. Lind and the late Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Foundation, and to a lesser extent articles published by the LaRouche network.”
To remind you, Lyndon LaRouche is an ex-Trotskyist who runs a bizarre cult which has had extraordinary influence over public discourse in recent decades, despite having very few adherents. The LaRouche network inserted the notion of a “neoconservative” cabal behind Bush into our language, and disseminated the ridiculous but now widely accepted notion that the philosopher Leo Strauss was in some sense the shadowy figure behind Bush’s war on terror.
Many of LaRouche’s hate figures turn out to be Jewish, and it is no surprise that Cultural Marxism turns out to be a Jewish plot too, in this case emanating from the Frankfurt School. The Frankfurt School was a heterogeneous group of mainly Jewish Marxist and ex-Marxist social and cultural theorists, originally located in Frankfurt before driven by the Nazis into exile in New York and California. It included Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, Walter Benjamin and Henryk Grossman, and later Herbert Marcuse and Jurgen Habermas. Here’s Berlet:
According to Dennis King, the original party line in the LaRouche cadre organization was set in an essay by LaRouche himself in 1977, "The Case of Walter Lipmann". A long examination of LaRoucher's conspiracy theory appeared as "The New Dark Age: The Frankfurt School and `Political Correctness'" in Fidelio, Vol. 1, No. 1, Winter 1992 (KMW Publishing, Washington, DC). Fidelio was LaRouche's culture and arts magazine. But since LaRouche considers himself an extension of Marx, Marxism itself is not critiqued, but a plot by the Frankfurt School ideologues to create a "New Dark Age" which crushes Christian nations. LaRouche wrote a book: The Science of Christian Economy, and other prison writings, by Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr., 1991, 506 pp, which expanded the framework for the attacks on the Frankfurt School theoreticians.
According to scholar Martin Jay, the Frankfurt School has long been a scape[g]oat for right-wing conspiracy theorists complaining about "political correctness." (See: Martin Jay, 2011, "Dialectic of Counter-Enlightenment: The Frankfurt School as Scapegoat of the Lunatic Fringe," Salmagundi, 169, (Fall 2010-Winter 2011) in which Jay traces the history of this mania including a discussion of the LaRouche connection.)
It is unclear how William Lind and Paul Weyrich took up the incoherent and always capitalised Cultural Marxism idea from LaRouche, or if they coined it separately, but in the mid-1990s they began to talk about the Frankfurt School and its spawning of “Political Correctness”, and its was from them that Breivik took the idea. (Berlet provides further links: Tom Walker, Ecological Headstand: "Confessions of a Cultural Marxist."; Berlet “Breivik cited William S. Lind, Free Congress Foundation, & the LaRouchites”.)
Lind and Weyrich proposed a “cultural conservatism” to combat Cultural marxism. Just as Breivik himself was not a racist in the traditional sense, cultural conservatism, and its organs like the Free Congress Foundation and World Congress of Families, do not preach the kind of racism that the fascist far right have done. But subtler forms of cultural racism permeate cultural conservative language, for instance their insistence that Europe and North America face a “demographic winter” as those of European heritage are outbred by those of other heritage. (Breivik pinpointed 2083 as the year the demographic winter will hit; 2083 is the title of his manifesto.) Joe Conason, Bill Berkowitz and others have pointed out the threads that link this new right to more classical forms of fascist and antisemitic right-wing politics.
Oh, and here is Carl Packman in defence of Cultural Marxism.
More key players in the counter-jihad movement that Breivik was a fringe part of are Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer. I’ve written about them before, so I won’t repeat myself. Modernity looks at Geller. At HP, the Centrist (no relation to the New and Contentious ones) and Edmund Standing look at Spencer, as part of their important on-going project of fighting anti-Muslim bigotry. While Geller and Spencer have taken pains to disassociate themselves with Breivik, Pat Buchanan has semi-endorsed him. See also Matthew Lyons on mainstream Islamophobia and the SPLC on white nationalists’ responses.
Marko has an original and interesting take on the Wilders/Spencer/Geller movement:
Such views are often justified by their holders as being ‘pro-Western’, whereby ‘the West’ is counterposed to ‘Islam’, as if the two were binary opposites. In reality, the very opposite is true: modern European civilisation was built upon foundations that were Islamic as well as Christian, Jewish, pagan and others. The Enlightenment gave rise to a Europe in which the sectarian religious animosities that characterised the pre-Enlightenment age could be transcended; modern Western liberal and secular values are founded upon the principle of religious toleration.Far from being ‘pro-Western’; our contemporary right-wing Islamophobes, in seeking to rekindle the religious divide between Christians and Muslims that characterised pre-Enlightenment Europe, reject Western values in favour of pre-Western values. During their successful Vienna War of 1683-1699 against the Ottoman Empire, Austrian Habsburg forces slaughtered, plundered, expelled or forcibly converted to Christianity the Muslim population of the Hungarian and Croatian territories they reconquered, which were forcibly de-Islamised; the Austrians burned the Ottoman Bosnian city of Sarajevo to the ground. The subsequent Ottoman Bosnian victory over Habsburg forces in the Battle of Banja Luka of 1737 saved the Bosnian Muslims from their destruction as a people that an Austrian conquest of Bosnia would have involved. Yet when the Austrian Habsburgs did finally succeed in occupying Sarajevo and Bosnia in 1878, they protected the Muslim population and respected the Islamic religion. Europe, in the interval, had experienced the Enlightenment. It is the pre-Enlightenment Europe to which today’s right-wing Islamophobes look back nostalgically; something symbolised in the name of the anti-Islamic hate-blog, ‘Gates of Vienna’, named after the Ottoman siege of Vienna of 1683 and cited approvingly by Breivik. Hence Breivik’s own obsessive demonising of the Ottoman ‘other’ and its history, all the way back to the Middle Ages.
And, related, here Nick Cohen refutes some of the most pernicious conspiracy theories about multiculturalism.
The first serious vigilant[e] action happened in Dalston, where large Turkish shopkeepers organised to chase away looters. Which destroys the case of the Enoch Powell Defence League at a stroke. Those pesky immigrants with their shops and communities and comradeship! Coming over here. Defending our streets. Restoring order. Margaret Thatcher must be turning in her grave.
There is an undeniable link between certain currents of Zionism and the global counter-jihad movement of which Breivik is a marginal outrider. However, suggestions floating around the wackier edge of the pseudo-left blaming Zionism for his atrocity are ridiculous, and generally come wrapped up in antisemitic and/or paranoid-delusional ideas. Conspiracy theorist Wayne Madsen, published by cranky truther Alex Jones’ Infowars (a site that is often linked to from Indymedia, Dissident Voice and other ZLeft sites) blames Mossad, and calls on people to start reporting “suspicious contacts with Israelis or Israeli sympathizers”. Ex-Israeli self-publicist Gilad Atzmon, much-loved by many British anti-Zionists and long-connected to the SWP, also blames evil manipulative Zionists. Bill Weinberg dissects some of this sort of crankiness here. Mike Whine gives other instances of this sort of anti-Zionist conspiracy thinking response to the attacks:
A leader of the Waltham Forest Palestine Solidarity Campaign [Ellie Merton] wrote over the weekend [on Facebook]: "As far as I can see, globally, Christian far-right supremacists work hand-in-hand with Zionist fascists, since their aims are mutually inclusive. This geezer was actively hooked up with EDL, who as we all know is inextricably linked with Zionist Federation in the UK". Another writer "read somewhere that the Labour Party youth had voted on a proposition to boycott all Zionist Entity goods and services. Could this be why Mossad programmed ABB to go on the rampage?"[More from Jessica Elgot.]
A further example of this sort of thing comes from Slavoj Zizek in CiF. While not as nutty as Atzmon, this is more alarming, because Zizek should know better and so should CiF. Or maybe not.
If the left adopted the meme that Breivik was a Zionist whose actions indict all conservative politics, the right adopted the meme that he was merely some lone wolf madman who indicts nobody but himself. I couldn’t put this better than Marko:
Some commentators have argued that this psychopathic mass-murderer represents such an exceptional case that his actual beliefs are irrelevant to understanding his actions. According to Simon Jenkins in the Guardian, ‘The Norwegian tragedy is just that, a tragedy. It does not signify anything and should not be forced to do so. A man so insane he can see nothing wrong in shooting dead 68 young people in cold blood is so exceptional as to be of interest to criminology and brain science, but not to politics.’ As a rule, Jenkins is absolutely wrong about everything, and this is no exception.
One of Breivik’s biggest ideological debts appears to be to the English Defence League, although he claims he was an ideological influence on it. The CST’s Dve Rich shows that Breivik had become more dismissive of the EDL in recent months, seeing is naive and overly confident about liberal democracy:
This may reflect the development in Breivik’s political thinking towards terrorism, as much as any changes in the EDL. However, Breivik is not the only convicted far right terrorist to have had contact with the EDL. It may be best to view the EDL as a gateway organisation: one which does not carry out or explicitly support terrorism itself, but creates and promotes the political discourse and identity-based grievance narrative, from which a small number of individuals move on to terrorism.
It is timely, then, to keep looking hard at the EDL, the way they are different from generic fascism and the way the are related to it. Flesh has a very thoughtful post on the EDL and forms of resistance to it, which I strongly recommend. As always, the scurrilous Malatesta blog has the best summaries of recent EDL activities. The most recent dispatch features their drunken, racist vigilante attempts during the riots; the one before shines the spotlight on their Anders Breivik connections, leadership troubles, the English Nationalist Alliance, and so on; and the one before that focuses on the Norway issue and the hapless EDL “Jewish Division”:
The EDL got into a right kosher pickle recently when paper Jewish Division leader Roberta ‘EDL No’ Moore tried to link up with the Jewish Task Force whose leader had been in jail for terrorist offences. Oops! Moore was eventually booted out for making mental statements and generally being a PR liability. And now there are ongoing problems with her replacement Robert Bartholomeus who appears to be endorsing Breivik’s actions much to the irritation of the various EDL forum posters.After the Moore fiasco many on the EDL forums were angry that they should be seen to be supporting Israel when they were the ‘English’ Defence League. Tommy [Robinson] responded in no uncertain terms that EDL support for Israel would continue. Is this because of Alan Lake by any chance? Lake has been accused of being a Zionist and has been bankrolling Tommy for some time now and Lake, Moore and Tommy have all been photographed together. On the neo-Nazi websites accusations of being a ‘Zionist,’ ‘red’ or ‘nonce’ are frequently made and many have called the EDL a Zionist front and for once the accusation may prove true. If Lake is still funding Tommy then he’s hardly going to allow him to renounce one of his principle interests – which is Zionism. So although a lot of EDL members thought they were flapping the Star of David to annoy ‘muslamics’ the Star is now there for good and the EDL leadership, i.e., Tommy, is going to find it difficult to extricate himself from Israeli extremism. Paul Ray who was booted out of the EDL by Twitching Tom has been ranting away on his website about being a Knight’s Templar and attempting to link Breivik somehow to Alan Lake but this has yet to bear fruit. (And Knight’s Templar? That’s soooo 12th Century!).
Meanwhile, what of the BNP? Carl provides yet more proof of its fascism, but suggests it might be reaching its end game.
As I said at the start of this post, the Breivik’s right-wing Islamophobic terrorism should not let us forget the threat posed by Islamism. Not everything in his manifesto, and certainly not everything said by the counter-jihad ideologues he quoted, is false. A healthy response to the ultra-conservative right also includes standing up to the Islamist right, and we have no credibility as anti-fascists if we are not also firmly opposed to Islamist forms of fascism. We need to take seriously the imaginary and also very real fears that drive people towards groups like the English Defence League.
However, doing so involves navigating a fine and treacherous line. As Steve Hanson writes in relation to the courting of the EDL by the Blue Labour project (and I doubt if he felt any more comfortable finding himself in agreement with Peter Mandelson than I did), we “need to understand why the EDL is happening, we should be hearing the EDL, but not aiding them: we should be listening to them in order to create a landscape on which their language will become irrelevant, on which it will become noise, and this means making multi-cultural landscapes not only possible in places where they are assumed to be unwelcome, but everyday”. Related insight from Paulie in “Glassman: I’m not racist but...”
More links here.