The ultra-right emerges from a swamp of bigotry

A group of heavily armed anti-government militia members, having taken over several government buildings, are currently destroying archaeological sites of critical importance and build their own infrastructure in defiance of the laws of the land.  They have released video footage the artifacts and sites being removed, and a new road being built in their stead. The road traverses archaeological sites that are significant to the local nations of that area. Is this the handiwork of the Islamic State (IS) fanatical militia group? Actually, it is – the responsibility belongs to Vanilla ISIS, the white anti-government ultra-right militia that has taken over the Malheur Wildlife Refuge.

The indigenous nations, the Burns Paiute Tribe, have strongly protested to the federal government, but thus far no action has been taken to preserve the lands and sites that are sacred to that nation. A number of endangered species live in the areas occupied by the ultra-rightist groups, and one of their members addressed concerns about the status of those species by stating on social media that: “You know how many endangered species we’re dealing with on our ranch right now? Zero, because it doesn’t matter any more”.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with ridiculing these ultra-right fanatics, and indeed they deserve derision for their sheer ignorance. In this case of armed rebellion by a group of gun-crazed fanatics, violent suppression by the forces of the state will only result in more bloodshed and suffering, producing martyrs for their distorted ’cause’, and legitimising the use of state violence when attacking the force of the Labour Left, the African American and minority communities. The federal authorities, namely the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) did respond with lethal force in 1993, when suppressing the fundamentalist and apocalyptic-seeking evangelical cult, the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas. Memories of that fatal engagement still inform ultra-right groups until today. Currently, there are negotiations between the FBI and the rightist militants of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge to end the standoff.

The reasons for the appeal of such groups, and the spread of their ideology, need to be found in the generalised decay of the capitalist system itself and the rightward trajectory of the mainstream political parties. Ideas such as those advocated by Vanilla ISIS do not spring up out of nowhere – they are both a symptom and a disease. As Eric Ruder explained in his article ‘Patriots versus the State?’ for the Socialist Worker online magazine:

The double standard applied to the Oregon protesters is absolutely a reflection of the racism embedded in U.S. law enforcement at all levels. But perhaps even more crucial to explaining the authorities’ polite and patient treatment of the protesters is not their whiteness, but their “right-ness”–that is, the reactionary political views they share with an influential wing of the Republican Party.

The American ultra-right, a nebulous movement with sometimes conflicting ideas, has grown and flourished in a larger political climate of hysteria and bigotry. The New Yorker magazine published an analysis of the revival of far-right groups and ideologies in its January 2016 issue. Entitled ‘The Far-Right Revival: A Thirty Year War?’ the author, Evan Osnos, traces the support of ultra-rightist groups and racist ideology back to support from the mainstream political parties in the United States. The politics of resentment, the portrayal of minority groups as privileged layers increasing their share of the ‘national pie’, drives this layer of political dissonance. Donald Trump, the bigoted, loud-mouthed presidential candidate, is just the latest figure providing a lightning rod to attract the so-called ‘white nationalist’ groupings into a coherent force.

The major political parties have provided a springboard to take radical right ideas into the mainstream. Donald Trump, the most bombastic and media-savvy of the Republican candidates, has built his political career on racism, targeting Hispanic immigrants, appealing to the most belligerent sentiments when it comes to foreign policy, and in December 2015 announced his intention to shut down all Muslim immigration to the United States. Tapping into a long and deep vein of Islamophobia in the United States, that was only the latest in a long series of semi-fascistic proposals from the rightist candidate. Trump is the loudest, but he is hardly alone in his political proposals. The Socialist Workers magazine published an insightful article regarding the support Trump is receiving, entitled ‘Why does anyone support this racist asshole?’ A perfectly valid question. While Trump is the one that garners the most media attention, his campaign has served as a springboard for racist ideas to gain a wide audience. But he is not so far outside the mainstream. As Elizabeth Schulte, the author of the article explained:

Trump may not be a fascist, but he is providing a space for racist lies and far-right ideas to flourish–and for marginalized individuals to become emboldened to take action on these ideas.

Wildly dangerous and not so far-outside the mainstream

The sub-heading above comes from an article by the always perceptive Glenn Greenwald, who wrote that while Trump’s proposal to ban all Muslim immigration is dangerous and leans towards proto-fascism, it is not so far outside the mainstream of political discourse. Trump’s role is poisonous, not so much because of his candidacy per se, but because his rantings help to normalise the expression of racial hatred. He is definitely not some aberration, but the ugliest, vilest expression of racist and semi-fascistic undercurrents in the US ruling class. Republican candidate Ben Carson, the gentle fanatic, suggested during a Republican presidential candidate debate that no Muslim should ever be allowed to become president of the United States, a proposal that openly defies the US constitution and its prohibition of religious tests for political office. Carson’s opposition to a Muslim assuming political office amounts to a complete rejection of the US constitution’s strict separation of church and state, something that a political candidate should know.

Senator Ted Cruz, no stranger to making fundamentalist statements himself, suggested that only Christian refugees from Syria should be allowed into the United States, because Muslims are more likely to commit terroristic acts. This will come as a surprise to the many victims of terrorism in Ireland, Oklahoma City and Charleston, as well as to the thousands of Iraqi and Syrian Muslim victims of ISIS attacks. In many ways, Cruz is more dangerous than Trump – the latter has no coherent ideology to speak of, except making money and bullying bigotry.

Cruz is the fanatical believer, a Christian first and an American second. Cruz said as much in an interview – one wonders about the reaction of the corporate media if a Muslim had made an equivalent statement regarding their faith. In every debate between the various Republican candidates, each tries to outdo the other in terms of their willingness to carpet-bomb other countries and place America on a war footing. Each candidate attempts to surpass the other in their belligerence and use of force – even though the proposals from the Republican candidates amount to war crimes. Trump, Cruz, Carson, Bush – all the candidates expressed their approval of policies that involve drone strikes, carpet bombing, and waterboarding. So Trump, while being the loudest and most bombastic of the lot, is in good company. Trump is not a fascist, but he is providing a pole of attraction for those with fascistic ideas; he presents himself as the populist outsider, the ‘anti-establishment’ candidate who will stand up for the average American.

Let’s not allow the Democrats an easy-ride – in fact, since 2001, with the ‘war on terror’ and the eruption of American militarism on a global scale, the hysteria regarding Islam and Muslim immigration has reached unprecedented levels, under the tutelage of Democrat politicians. Hillary Clinton made no secret of her intention to ‘obliterate Iran’, and proudly states that the Iranian people regard her as an enemy. The Obama administration escalated and refined the use of lethal drone strikes that started under the Bush-Cheney regime. Obama is responsible for unleashing militarist violence in the Middle East, devastating entire countries and creating an outward surge of refugees. Democrat Mayor of Virginia, David Bowers, spoke approvingly about the mass internment of Japanese-Americans during World War Two, and suggesting that this example could be applied to the refugees of today. The unleashing of such racist sentiment is itself an indication of the putrefaction of capitalist society, increasingly based upon financial swindling, asset bubbles, looting public money for private profit, and war drives overseas.

Symptom, not the disease

Hamid Dabashi, Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, wrote a thoughtful column about the Trump issue in Common Dreams magazine. Entitled ‘Trump is a symptom not the disease’, Dabashi makes the point that semi-fascistic egomaniacs like Trump are only the latest symptom of a diseased political culture. As he explains in his article;

Trump’s call to ban Muslims from entering the US, or his earlier remark to single out and profile Muslims, or his fellow Republican candidate Ben Carson stating point blank that no Muslim should ever become president, are only the most obnoxious versions of a much more deeply rooted bigotry and racism against Muslims that has been dominant in the US for a very long time, but particularly since 9/11.

In a system which originates in the mass murder of indigenous people and the theft of their land, the Islamic and Arab communities, with their South Asian counterparts, are the latest scapegoats in a system of racial discrimination. The incessant demonisation and singling out of the Islamic community as uniquely violent and treacherous, is part of a recycled paranoia that serves the political purpose of generating domestic support for imperial wars of conquest overseas. This toxic rhetoric does not just dissipate into thin air – it has real-life consequences, namely, the explosion of violence directed at the Muslim community inside the United States. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has studiously documented the rise of horrific attacks on mosques, Islamic community places and the Muslim people themselves. Ibrahim Hooper, communications director for CAIR, denounced the atmosphere of hysteria and fear in the immediate aftermath of the Paris and San Bernardino attacks, stating “I have never seen it like this, not even after 9/11.” The American Anti-Arab Discrimination Committee reported that their work has increased exponentially, with complaints of harassment and bullying, and discrimination at the workplace for anyone of ‘brown appearance’.

During a drive to war, the ruling class encourages the growth of the most racist and belligerent social sentiments. The war on terror has created a domestic environment where racist appeals are increasingly normalised and regarded as part of the mainstream. As social and economic inequality increases – and it has consistently under Obama – social discontent increases, looking for an outlet. Ultra rightist groups exploit such grievances, and channel that resentment into attacks on ethnic and religious minorities, as well as those aspects of government that serve social needs. There is a constant and increasing flow of money for military purposes, all the while social programmes are being curtailed. While programs such as food stamps and Medicaid face cutbacks, the US military is salivating at the prospect of further increases to its budget, receiving more funding than the rest of the ten largest militaries in the world combined. Meanwhile, homelessness in the United States is reaching epidemic proportions.

Malheur belongs to the indigenous nations

According to the ultra-rightist militia that seized the Malheur Wildlife Refuge, their goal is to restore sovereignty over the land to its rightful owners and oppose federal government tyranny. If that is the case, then we should expect them to relinquish control of that land to the indigenous nation, the Paiute nation, from whom the rapacious US federal government stole the land that now constitutes Oregon back in the 19th century. The post-US civil war administration implemented a policy of encroachment and settler expansion into Paiute territory, and forcibly enslaved the recalcitrant native American peoples.

Indeed, the state of Oregon itself was founded as a white settler utopia, deliberately excluding the indigenous people and people of colour. This is not to single out Oregon as a uniquely racist, segregated state – white America began as a segregated society – but that the land of Oregon has always been regarded as a resource to be exploited, whether it be by logging, mining or agribusiness companies. African Americans were excluded from living and working in Oregon. It is no surprise that the Ku Klux Klan had one of its largest branches in that state.

However, capitalist expansion proceeded apace in the years after the end of the civil war. The role of the federal authorities, while arbitrating between the competing interests and factions of the business community, played its main role of facilitating the rapid expansion of capitalist industry in the hitherto unconquered American West. This meant the ongoing theft of native American land, and the exclusion of indigenous people. Land, water, animal life, forests, mining, railways – everything was open to industrial exploitation. In fact, successive federal governments have been the staunchest allies of the big corporations, opening up public land for privatisation and enabling laws to facilitate profitable expansion.

The ultra-right militia are hardly defending sovereignty, but occupying indigenous American territory. As the Paiute community have stated, the armed militia have no right to the land, or its resource and archaeologically significant artifacts. These lands should be placed under the guardianship of the traditional owners. That is a positive place to start.

The Oregon standoff highlights the problem of ultra-right terrorism

Imagine a bearded, heavily armed man, appearing on a television broadcast, speaking on behalf of a heavily-armed militia group that has just occupied several government buildings. He vows to not only occupy the existing ground which his group has seized, but calls upon like-minded individuals to join his movement in a crusade against the tyranny of the US government. The appeals to people of similar mind go out through social media, and the militia group gains publicity for their cause. The bearded man, brandishing a gun, pledges to fight off all attempts by the federal government to subdue him and his group. There is however, one catch – the armed man in the video is not Muslim, but a white American ultra-rightist advocate, Ammon Bundy, son of Cliven Bundy and wealthy cattle rancher in Oregon.

Having seized government buildings and property in Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Bundy’s movement, the Citizens for Constitutional Freedom, has protested what they see as the tyranny of the federal government – in this case, the Bureau of Land Management. While the immediate cause for this armed sedition is the reimprisonment of two ranchers, Dwight and Steve Hammond, on arson charges, the roots of the Oregon crisis go much deeper. The Oregon cattle ranchers rail against the oppression of the federal government, and refuse to pay minimal taxes for the land on which their cattle grazes. Before getting to the wider political and social issues raised by the Oregon standoff, let us make a number of initial observations.

Government support

The Bundys themselves, being cattle ranchers in Oregon, are recipients of various forms of government support which enables them to maintain their wealth. The hypocrisy of claiming to be a victim of government tyranny, all the while parasitising the various state-supported programs that make possible the acquisition of wealth from cattle ranching, are plain to see. Amanda Girard, writes in an article called “5 Taxpayer Handouts the Bundys Receive While Railing Against Government “Tyranny”, elaborates five ways the Bundys are generously supported by government assistance. For instance, she writes that:

The US government charges 93 percent less for cattle grazing than private landowners

One of the biggest gripes from cattle ranchers like Cliven Bundy and other Western cattlemen is that the federal government is bleeding ranchers dry with overpriced cattle grazing fees. But the opposite is true — in 2012, it cost roughly $1.35 a month for each cow to graze on federal land, as opposed to the average $20 per month charged by private landowners for cattle grazing.

The fact above alone is enough to expose the hypocrisy of the cattle ranchers’ incessant claims of government oppression by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Girard lists other ways the Bundys receive state support which can be read in her article.

Domestic terrorism

Numerous writers and journalists have pointed out the stark contrast between the softly-softly approach of the federal authorities towards this particular act of armed sedition, and the heavy-handed, militarised response of the federal government towards those of African-American and Muslim background who have carried out protests against the repressive nature of state authorities. Indeed, the introductory paragraph of the current article was taken from a thoughtful and evocative piece by Wahajat Ali, writing in The Guardian that “If the Oregon militiamen were Muslim or black, they’d probably be dead by now”. The initial description of a bearded and armed fanatic making pronouncements on social media for the violent overthrow of the federal government immediately bring to mind the usual context in this era of the ‘war on terror’ – the Muslim enemy, the bearded extremist religious leaders from the Islamic community, or one of many other ubiquitous images of a so-called radicalised Muslim expressing hateful rhetoric. As Ali explains in his article:

Of course they’re not “terrorists”: Bundy and his followers are just your average angry white “freedom fighters”, who use weapons and ammunition to protect the US constitution and American values from the government and other Americans who want them to abide by federal laws like everyone else.

But if Bundy and his followers were like the 38% of Americans who aren’t white, people across America wouldn’t be watching this surreal, dangerous episode unfold and wondering what they could do to be labeled a “militia” when occupying a federal area with guns instead of “terrorists”, “thugs”, “extremists” or “gangs”.

Ali makes the compelling case that extremism comes in different forms, colours and varieties, and racial profiling does nothing to make the country safer, but only to whip up hysteria based on simplistic stereotypes. It is also easy to see the hypocrisy of the corporate-media in the way they have reported on this Oregon standoff, and the kid-gloves with which the Oregon ultra-right fanatics have been handled by the authorities, even though they are openly brandishing their weapons. As one Sikh lawyer and human rights activist Arjun Sethi, stated in a tweet published in the Common Dreams magazine:

No National Guard. No discussion of terrorism. No police violence. No television news coverage. They must be white.

A world of difference

One cannot imagine the authorities taking such a muted approach to the protests by Black Lives Matter activists, or towards members of the Islamic community who are routinely smeared as terrorist sympathisers in the wake of domestic shootings. The relative inaction of law enforcement institutions, and the reticence of the media to describe the Oregon militia men as terrorists, stands in stark contrast to a similar episode of armed sedition – the 1967 Black Panther occupation of the California State Capitol building. To be sure, there is a world of difference between the former Black Panther Party and the ultra-rightist militias. The Black Panthers, established primarily as a defensive response to police racism, integrated themselves into their local communities, fought for different reasons to the ultra-right militia, and achieved vastly different goals.

In the 1960s, the Black Panthers utilised the existing laws of the state to police their own communities, protect African Americans against abuses by the police force, and carried their arms openly in full compliance with the law at the time. A California congressman, Don Mulford, promoted a change in the California law to ban the open-carry laws of the state – with the support of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and then California governor, Ronald Reagan. Apparently the open-carry law, allowing citizens to lawfully possess weapons did not apply to African American ‘good guys’.

In protest against this Mulford Law, 30 Black Panther activists entered the State Capitol building. They entered the building lawfully, lodged their complaints, and left the building without incident. The response of the authorities was to crack down on the Black Panthers, using infiltration, police violence, and a media scare campaign. The Black Panthers were routinely slandered as a bunch of mindless thugs, intent on accruing personal wealth and motivated by greed rather than a particular ideology. The FBI launched a full-scale counter operation to break up and suppress the Black Panthers. Named Cointelpro – the Counter Intelligence Program – the authorities used their available and overwhelming resources to violently suppress the Black Panthers and deliver a telling strike against rising black nationalism. Black civil rights groups were discredited, disrupted and broken down.

The next episode

This episode demonstrates the vastly different approaches that the authorities take with regard to race. Intersecting with race, the Oregon standoff highlights how the capitalist state treats the land and resources it occupies. It is no secret that large energy multinationals are viewing public lands as a resource to be exploited. The Oregon militia and associated cattle ranchers are the products of the seizure and privatisation of public lands, and the use of those natural resources for private profit. The festering hypocrisy of the Oregon militia – that cattle ranchers decrying the tyranny of big government are the beneficiaries of government subsidies – is not the only issue here. The government certainly provides the water, fences, roads, infrastructure and amenities upon which the ranchers wealth depends, that much is true. However, the federal government has also provided for the profits of agribusiness, mining, logging and commercial interests on land that is traditionally owned by the First Nations of the Americas, the indigenous people. The sovereignty of the indigenous nations has been undermined, their land stolen, the Paiute Nation forcibly removed to make way for the private control of public lands.

In times of economic crisis, with masses of people alienated from a decaying capitalist system, the appeal of ultra-right groups comes into focus. The proliferation of right-wing militias comes at a time when the federal government is working for a minority group – the ultra-wealthy one percent. The super-wealthy class at the top of the financial aristocracy has not only preserved its wealth, but has been handed billions in handouts over the course of the last six-seven years in the form of quantitative easing. Meanwhile, the working conditions and living standards of the vast majority have plummeted.

With the active suppression of popular forms of protest, the grievances of the population can be directed, rather than upwards against the ruling class, but outwards against racial and ethnic minority groups. Posing as victims of government tyranny, the right-wing domestic terrorist militias express their outrage precisely at those institutions of government that protect public and social services – the health care, education, and environmental arms of the state.

These issues, and the political appeal of ultra-right groups and their ability to reach a wider audience, are subjects to be explored in the next article. Stay tuned.

The US Department of Justice admits the growing problem of terrorism – from the ultra-right

The Washington Post published an article in mid-October 2015, stating that the American government’s Department of Justice (DOJ) is finally redressing the growing terrorism problem inside the United States – no, not the much-hyped and exaggerated threat from the Islamist camp, but the real and growing menace of ultra-right terrorism. The DOJ announced the creation of a new position, reporting to Assistant Attorney General John P. Carlin, to identify, combat and prosecute domestic terrorism, emanating from white supremacist, patriot militia and anti-federalist groups. The article by Ellen Nakashima, entitled ‘Domestic extremists have killed more Americans than jihadists since 9/11. How the government is responding’, elaborates on measures by the DOJ to stem the tide of ultra-rightist violence that has taken more lives than self-proclaimed Islamist groups since the September 11 attacks.

Preoccupation with the Islamic community

The main preoccupation of the United States law enforcement authorities, and the corporate-media, has been the threat (real or imagined) of Islamist groups, mislabeled ‘jihadist’, since the terrible atrocity of September 11. There is extensive, interminable discussion about the ideology of Islamism, analysis by reams of experts about what is contained in the pages of the Quran, whether that text endorses violence, bombings, killings, beheadings, suicide assassinations, female genital mutilation – the list of crimes is seemingly endless. There are intimations that the wider Muslim community, sharing the basic theological tenets of the Quran and Hadith, are a sympathetic reservoir of passive support for extremist and radicalising elements. There are calls by political leaders for further surveillance, monitoring and intelligence-gathering of the Islamic community.

Politicians of all stripes demand that the Islamic community denounce terrorism, investigate the mosques and whether they are incubators of ‘radicalisation’ – and even the latter term is open to debate. Images of ISIS abound in the media, this group seemingly epitomising the Islamist extremism that we are meant to be afraid of – even though the case can be made that it is a serious mistake to blame Islam for the rise of gangterish militias like ISIS. The latter is an inevitable product of the policies that US and Saudi imperialism have pursued in the Arab world, and indeed the ruling circles of the United States have a long and sordid history in deliberately cultivating the most fanatical segments of Islamic and Arab countries as political allies. Be that as it may, the US government’s single-minded focus on Islamic radicalism has meant that the increasing and violent attacks by ultra-rightist terrorist groups has gone largely overlooked. Hopefully, this imbalance will change, because the targets of ultra-rightist violence are not only government officials and law enforcement authorities, but members of ethnic and religious minority communities.

Ultra right extremists, motivated by a combination of ideologies involving white supremacy, Christian identity and patriot sovereign citizen federalism, have plotted and carried out attacks against the Islamic community, Muslim religious institutions, and persons of ‘Middle Eastern appearance’, whatever the latter phrase may mean. In the wake of the Boston marathon bombings in 2013, the entire Islamic community in Boston has been subjected to greater intrusive surveillance, entrapment operations and suffered a new wave of hostility and racial attacks.

It is not just the Muslim community that is facing increased animosity; the old anti-immigrant canard, the Latin American ‘brown’ menace, has been resurrected by leading Republican presidential candidates (most notably but not exclusively by Donald Trump) to whip up obnoxious bigotry against Mexican and Latino migrants. To be sure, the noxious rantings of a buffoonish, ignorant braggart hardly qualify as a terrorist threat – but when such a repulsive ideology is promoted by leading politicians of a major political party, such messages reach an audience of millions, and create a groundswell of ethnic hatred in which localised racial attacks on minority groups becomes possible.

New domestic terrorism counsel

Assistant Attorney General John Carlin, when announcing the new position of domestic terrorism counsel, elaborated the scope and operation of the new position, and he explained the rationale behind this new role:

The domestic terrorism counsel is one of the ways the Justice Department is responding to extremists in the United States. Mr. Carlin explained that although threats from Al Qaeda and ISIL are a danger in the United States, more people have died in attacks by domestic extremists harboring anti-government views, racism, bigotry, anarchy and other hateful beliefs. He cited examples such as the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and the recent mass shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina.

The study of domestic extremism is hardly new; in 2014, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists summarised the findings of a 2009 report issued by the US Department of Homeland Security’s Homeland Environment Threat Analysis Division. The article in the bulletin, entitled ‘Looking clearly at right-wing terrorism’, examined the expanding activities of ultra-right movements and the political climate that routinely discounts the threat posed by right-wing extremist groups. Charles P. Blair, the article’s author, explained that:

In the five years following the report’s release, far-right extremists have also plotted against and, at times, successfully attacked a wide-range of additional targets, including government buildings and leaders, law enforcement personnel, polling stations, courthouses and judges, a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade, anti-racist gatherings, a Mexican consulate, synagogues and other Jewish institutions, mosques, a Sikh temple, African-Americans and other minorities, and interracial couples and families.

Interestingly, Blair notes that the foot-soldiers of the ultra-right, whether they be from white supremacist or patriot militia backgrounds, are more likely than potential Islamically-inspired militants to use unconventional weapons, chemical or biological – weapons that cause mass casualties and maximum disruption. The use of such weapons indicates not only a psychopathic disregard for human life, but the intent to make a political statement, and maximise the propaganda-utility of such attacks for the underlying ideology of ultra-rightist violence.

The American ultra-rightist political landscape

West Point Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Centre issued a report in November 2012 called ‘Challengers from the Sidelines: Understanding America’s Violent Far Right’. This report provides the best, accurate synopsis of the political landscape inhabited by the ultra-right. There are three broad, interconnected strands of political ideology that can be classed as the ultra-right.

The first and best known is the white supremacist and racist movement. Traditionally this space has been occupied by the Ku Klux Klan, and similar homegrown segregationist militias. This has broadened out to include neo-Nazi types, national alliance skinhead groups and white supremacist militias that intermingle American white racism with concepts of cultural superiority, and intend to enforce racial-cultural hierarchy over what they see as the threat from immigrant and minority communities. Rejecting any foreign influences in the culture and economy of American life, they are most likely to attack individuals from racial and religious minority groups, religious institutions and community centres that involve non-Anglo Saxon migrants.

The second, and less-well known, strand in the ultra-right comprises the libertarian anti-federalist movement, which views government intrusion as the main crime in American society. Believing that the American government is rapidly descending into a tyrannical dictatorship, the anti-federalist movement portrays itself as the true defenders of the original liberties and values enshrined in the US constitution. Challenging the legitimacy and credibility of all American government institutions, the patriot and sovereign citizen militias constitute an armed ideological opponent of the US government.

The rationale behind these militias is multi-varied, but they share a common distrust of what they see as an American government hijacked by special interest groups, a purported New World Order (NWO) that has not only corrupted the American government, but intends to absorb it into the control of the United Nations, the international banking cartels, or some other shadowy international cabal. Alex Jones is the most outspoken and media-savvy exponent of this anti-federalist, libertarian and conspiracy-peddling ideology. Actually, the case can be made that there is nothing but a new world disorder, and that the US ruling class is the most lawless brigand in this international disorder, but that is a separate debate.

The third and final category in ultra-rightist ideology is the Christian Identity movement, a fusion of Christian supremacist thinking with racialism. A multi-faceted social layer, the Christian identity groups maintain the ultimate sovereignty of Christian doctrine, inspired by what they believe is the literal inerrancy of Biblical scripture. They maintain a particular interpretation of religious texts in which the Anglo Saxon race is considered the chosen people, the lost tribe of ancient Israel, regarding modern Europeans, and Anglo Saxons in particular, of being biologically descended from the biblical tribes of Israel that were subsequently scattered by succeeding invasions of Hittites, Assyrians and Babylonians. The Anglo Saxon settlement of the American continent has resurrected the lost tribe, and they are engaged in a religious-racial war with the non-Anglo communities, starting with the indigenous Americans and expanding to include the migrant communities in the United States. Advocating a theology of hate, violence carried out by Christian supremacist groups normally targets members of ethnic minorities and non-Christian denominations.

The above summary is meant to provide a basic ideological framework, and of course individuals and groups do not come in neat, organised packages. There is cross-over and intermingling between the three tendencies of ultra-rightist ideology identified above. And it is no secret that the Republican party, and its political strategists, pander to such sentiments hoping to convert them into electoral success. The main point is that no individual’s actions or ideology can be considered in isolation from the wider political climate from which they emerge.

The DOJ and law enforcement authorities will certainly prosecute the individuals that engage in acts of ultra-rightist violence, but that on its own is not enough. It is time to confront the message of hate, xenophobia and desperation that leads individuals and groups to carry out violent acts of hatred. Bigotry and racial extremism can only thrive in a political and economic system which is in an advanced stage of decay and terminal crisis. As the capitalist system lurches from crisis to crisis, and more people face impoverishment, it is high time to recognise that there is a minority that is a huge threat to our safety and existence – but it is not welfare recipients, migrants, Muslims, Latinos, single mothers, indigenous people, or any other favourite target of the ultra-right. It is the ultra-wealthy one percent, the top one percent that owns more than half of the world’s wealth, while the majority of the world’s population struggle to make ends meet in this global wealth pyramid.

We can start by heeding the words of the late Eugene V. Debs, American socialist and labour activist, who said:

I am opposing a social order in which it is possible for one man who does absolutely nothing that is useful to amass a fortune of hundreds of millions of dollars, while millions of men and women who work all the days of their lives secure barely enough for a wretched existence.

For once, the New York Times is correct – the threat of ultra-right terrorism is real and growing

In the spirit of giving credit where it is due, even to ideological opponents, it is with considerable respect that we must state that the New York Slimes, the loyal lapdog of the US imperial empire, finally got something right. In June 2015, the august newspaper of American ruling class expansionism published an article called ‘The Growing Right-Wing Terror Threat”, which elaborated upon the threat posed by the politically active ultra-right. Written by Charles Kurzman and David Schanzer, the opinion piece elaborates on the numerous studies and data sets aggregated by academic institutions and think tanks across the country that highlight the mortal danger of far-right terroristic violence. While the headlines of major newspapers and media channels are dominated by hyperbole regarding terrorism from Islamist-inspired individuals, the writers go on to state that:

But headlines can mislead. The main terrorist threat in the United States is not from violent Muslim extremists, but from right-wing extremists. Just ask the police.

It is easy to find stories that regale the public with the threats (real or imagined) from groups that proclaim themselves Islamist-oriented. Since the ‘war on terror’ and the September 11 attacks, public anxiety about such movements has reached incredible levels, and almost every discussion in the corporate media about terrorism immediately focuses on the issue of Islam, the Islamic ideology, and the presence of the Muslim community as an allegedly stealthy reservoir of support for terrorist activities. Blame for attacks by Islamist individuals warrant apportioning onto the entire Islamic community.

However, the New York Times writers, summarising the findings of numerous studies into the subject of terrorism, state otherwise:

Despite public anxiety about extremists inspired by Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, the number of violent plots by such individuals has remained very low. Since 9/11, an average of nine American Muslims per year have been involved in an average of six terrorism-related plots against targets in the United States. Most were disrupted, but the 20 plots that were carried out accounted for 50 fatalities over the past 13 and a half years.

In contrast, right-wing extremists averaged 337 attacks per year in the decade after 9/11, causing a total of 254 fatalities, according to a study by Arie Perliger, a professor at the United States Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center. The toll has increased since the study was released in 2012.

Collective responsibility, applied far and wide to the Muslim community when a terrorist perpetrator is ostensibly motivated by his/her religion, evaporates into thin air when the perpetrators of violence are white. When Jerad and Amanda Miller, in Las Vegas in 2014, killed two police officers stating that the citizen revolution had begun, were they speaking for white America when they placed the Gadsden flag, and a swastika, on the bodies of the slain police officers?

The rightist killers had, six days prior to the killing, posted a rambling manifesto on their Facebook page, explaining that they were joining the militia movement to fight the government oppression of their kinfolk. Patriot and far-right groups cloak their actions in the mantle of liberty and fighting tyrannical government, citing the doctrines of America’s Founding Fathers (the founders of white America that is). After all, are they not just remaining faithful to the literal interpretation of the foundational documents of the American constitutional system?

Rightist and white supremacist violence are routinely interpreted as isolated incidents, blown out of proportion by the allegedly liberal bias in the American media. The Department of Homeland Security would disagree with that interpretation, issuing a report detailing the rising and constant menace of ultra-rightist terrorist groups. The shootings at Charleston, South Carolina, back in June 2015, by white supremacist Dylann Roof, refocused some attention back on the terror threat presented by the ultra-right. Al Jazeera (American edition) carried a story in July 2015 analysing the understated yet intimidating menace of white supremacist terrorism. At a White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism, hosted by President Obama in February 2015, there was extensive discussion about Islamic-inspired movements, such as Islamic State, and their propensity for violence. However, ultra right extremism did not rate a mention.

Since September 11, numerous legislative measures have been taken to combat the ostensible threat of Islamic extremism, legislative measures clamping down on civil liberties have been approved by political bodies on the basis of combating this terrorism, and the character of Western political society has changed, perhaps irrevocably. The purported rationale for launching the ‘war on terror’ was precisely the combating of Islamist groups that resort to violent methods. Domestic and foreign policies have been influenced by this paradigm, even though the scale of this eruption of American militarism is poorly understood by the public. It is interesting to note that the multiple interventions carried out by the United States has not actually reduced the threat of terrorism. The rationalisation of US invasions overseas as part of a war on terror only serves to disguise the violent methods and predatory aims of American imperial conquest.

It is necessary for the New York Times writers to ask the next question – what steps are being taken to combat the rise of ultra-right terrorism, directed against federal authorities and minority groups? Surely white supremacist shooters are not as likely to use the same methods as Islamic fanatics, like flying airplanes into buildings on a suicide mission? Well, actually, ask that question to the residents of Austin, Texas.

It is not just a question of greater numbers, or more violent methods, of ultra-rightist violence. White supremacist and sovereign citizen militia groups are allowed to flourish and recruit because of deep-level sympathies their ideologies draw from Republican and associated right-wing parties. The disparity in media scrutiny between white ultra-right terrorism, and Islamist-based attacks, serves to shift public attitudes away from examining the racism and discrimination that pervades American capitalist society itself. Right-wing violence results in greater casualties, higher fatalities, but is met with lower rates of prosecution of the perpetrators by the federal authorities.

Make no mistake – white supremacist groups have been waging an ongoing war on the African American community for decades, something that is under-reported but deeply entrenched in the capitalist system. Dylann Roof was caught, but the threat has not subsided. The ultra right threat is not only physical, but political as well. If the ideologies motivating its practitioners find a level of community support, then extremism becomes the new normal. Social and economic policies can be changed to influence the character of the society in which we live to be more intolerant, xenophobic, and based on ultra-competitive individualism. The ultra right can commit its atrocities because the ideologies that underpin it are ubiquitous, aided and abetted by a culture of complicity that refuses to recognise the magnitude and extent of racism in capitalist society.

The Confederacy lost the civil war, but found acceptance in fighting America’s imperialist wars of conquest

April 2015 marked the 150th anniversary of the end of the US civil war. The sesquicentennial was celebrated with many commemorative activities, historical reenactments, seminars, documentaries and presentations by academic associations. General Robert E. Lee, the overall commander of Confederate forces whose Army of Northern Virginia had twice tried to invade the North and failed, finally surrendered on April 9 1865 at Appomattox Court House, Virginia to the commander of Union troops, General Ulysses S Grant. Lee’s forces had abandoned the Confederate capital, Richmond, in the face of advancing Union soldiers, and had no option but to surrender.

The year of 1864 was actually the decisive year of the American civil war, when the fate of the United States hung in the balance. Either side was still capable of winning, and the slave-owning secessionist war showed no signs of slowing down. In July 1863, General Lee’s second foray to carry the war into the North failed, with his defeat at the Battle of Gettysburg. Grant was appointed commander of all Union military forces in March 1864, and began a series of heavy, bloody battles with the Confederacy. The Emancipation proclamation, freeing around four million African American slaves, had been in effect for just over a year. Millions of former slaves flocked to the Union armies, depriving the Confederacy of essential labour power.

The Gettysburg Address by President Lincoln, along with the Emancipation Proclamation, transformed the Union’s attempts to defeat a secessionist rebellion into a revolutionary war. The economic and social underpinnings of the Southern slave-owning economy were being attacked. After all, the Emancipation Proclamation can rightly be considered the largest, government-sanctioned expropriation of private property in world history until the Russian Bolshevik Revolution of 1917.

Add to that the following: in November 1864, Union General William T. Sherman launched his March to the Sea, (otherwise known as the Savannah Campaign) a military attack designed to cut the Confederacy into pieces, and destroy its economic base. Sherman’s Army of the Tennessee left their supply lines behind, lived off the land, attacked the economic infrastructure of slavery and liberating thousands of slaves. Having captured Atlanta, Georgia in September 1864, Sherman’s army was well placed to launch a serious offensive aimed at destroying the Confederacy’s transport networks, industrial base, as well as military targets.

Sherman captured Savannah Georgia at the end of 1864, the Confederacy’s economy destroyed and the slaves liberated. By the end of the year, the slave-owners rebellion was in retreat. By April 1865, the civil war was over. The slave-owning Confederacy was defeated, but white racial supremacy as a political ideology was not long in recovering, and reasserting itself in a different way.

150 years later, the struggle against racism continues

Abayomi Azikiwe, writer and activist for the Workers World Party in the United States and the editor of Pan-African News Wire, wrote an article about the end of the civil war and the efforts at Reconstruction. He wrote that while formal emancipation and the defeat of the Confederacy were historic steps forward, the effort to construct a nation without racial oppression is still unrealised. The former Confederate states, having lost the military campaign, now resorted to underground and rearguard actions to preserve racial segregation. Under the Federal government’s programme of Reconstruction, former slaves acquired land, competed for jobs, sought out education, and raised money to improve their economic position. The hungry and unemployed mass of African American labourers were now looking for work and economic security. All this was done in the shadow of millions of US troops stationed at strategic points in the South.

The Southern power structures resorted to dual tactics to resist the desegregation of public life. The former Confederate general and slave trader Nathan Bedford Forrest founded the Ku Klux Klan to advance the cause of white racial supremacy and waged a racist terrorist war against the black communities of the South. This terror campaign targeted the Reconstruction process, and attempted to sabotage efforts at racial integration.

Democrat politicians in the South whipped up a campaign of white racial hatred against the African American community, helping to pass a series of laws that racially segregated public and economic life in the South. These laws became the basis of Jim Crow legislation, a system of racial caste laws that enforced racial segregation in the economy, education, infrastructure and in public interactions between blacks and whites.

These were the laws overturned by the Civil Rights movement decades later in the 1950s and 1960s. Lynchings and racist terror against the African American community undergirded the systematic exclusion of the later, and their enclosure into impoverished ghetto-communities. The Reconstruction process ended in 1877, and while it is not the purpose of this article go into a rigorous examination of its successes and failures here, it is important to note that American capitalism, while demolishing the secessionist basis of slavery, still needed racism in its drive for economic conquest. The American civil war – the Emancipation Proclamation and the liberation of slaves – encapsulated revolutionary ideas about equality in the social and economic spheres. These ideas are at direct odds with the underlying basis of the capitalist system as an exploitative, class-based social structures. This contradiction came to the fore in years of Reconstruction.

While the Confederacy was defeated, its cause found re-acceptance into the American family – firstly through the waging of wars against the indigenous nations of the United States, and secondly through the launch of imperialist conquests overseas.

Endless wars need and reinforce domestic racism

The sub-heading above comes from an informative article by Greg Grandin, history teacher at New York University and author of the essay “The Confederate Flag at War (But Not the Civil War)”. The Stars and Bars, the Confederate flag, was lowered after the surrender at Appomattox Court House. But it found readmission into the American family with the wars against the first nations of the Americas. In the era of westward expansion, as white settlers interacted with the native American nations, conquest and annexation were the order of the day. The ‘Lost Cause’ of the Confederacy found renewed expression in the racist wars to subjugate the indigenous populations. As Grandin states in his article:

But Confederate veterans and their sons used the pacification of the West as a readmission program into the U.S. Army. The career of Luther Hare, a Texas son of a Confederate captain, is illustrative. He barely survived Custer’s campaign against the Sioux. Cornered in a skirmish that preceded Little Big Horn, Hare “opened fire and let out a rebel yell” before escaping. He then went on to fight Native Americans in Montana, Texas, the Pacific Northwest, and Arizona, where he put down the “last of the renegade Apaches,” before being sent to the Philippines as a colonel.  There, he led a detachment of Texans against the Spanish.

The crucial moment for the full rehabilitation of the ‘Lost Cause’ arrived at the end of nineteenth century, when the United States ruling class embarked upon its own programme of imperialist conquest. Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines and Guam – these were the first countries to be fully subjugated by the projection of American military power overseas, and were wrested from the control of the Spanish empire. The Spanish-American war of 1898 marked the rise of the United States as an imperialist power in its own right, and the seamless integration of the Confederate-brand of racism into the imperial project. Since the days of slavery, Cuba was viewed as a potential slave state. Now, the American army left the shores of the United States waving the Confederate flag, joined by Confederate veterans and their descendants.

In June 1898, as the United States conquered Cuba, veterans of the Confederacy were gathering for a reunion in Atlanta Georgia. The city was festooned with Confederate flags. The event was marked by speeches appreciative of the historic conquest of Cuba, valorising the heroism of the soldiers that gone to subjugate the island. Long gone were any references to equality, emancipation and liberation, ideals that permeated former President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and Gettysburg Address. Here was the language of class rule and conquest. President McKinley, on a victory tour of the South, praised the invincible fighting spirit of the American military, united as one, to vanquish foreign enemy. To quote from Grandin’s article again:

War with Spain allowed “our boys” to once more be “wrapped in the folds of the American flag,” said General John Gordon, commander of the United Confederate Veterans, in remarks opening the proceedings. Their heroism, he added, has led “to the complete and permanent obliteration of all sectional distrusts and to the establishment of the too long delayed brotherhood and unity of the American people.” In this sense, the War of 1898 was alchemic, transforming the “lost cause” of the Confederacy (that is, the preservation of slavery) into a crusade for world freedom. The South, Gordon said, was helping to bring “the light of American civilization and the boon of Republican liberty to the oppressed islands of both oceans.”

During World War One, then-President Woodrow Wilson, a Southerner, re-segregated Washington, pushing out African Americans from federal jobs, and began the annual tradition of laying a wreath at the Arlington Cemetery’s Confederate war memorial. He screened the racist film, Birth of a Nation, in the grounds of the White House with major political figures and officials in attendance. This film depicted the ‘Lost Cause’ of the South as a noble, unflagging venture against the unscrupulous racially-integrative project of the capitalistic North.

But more than that, Wilson willingly appropriated the Confederate cause into his own advocacy of militant, messianic imperialism. World War One was not just about justice, but about America going out to conquer. Confederate veterans and their descendants rallied in Washington in June 1916 to demonstrate their support for Wilson and empire-building. The conquered banner was no longer relegated to the past, but was rehabilitated as an active participant in American wars overseas. The Confederate flag was hoisted by American troops in battle fields around the world – Okinawa, northern Europe, and later in Vietnam. It was also hoisted by serving American soldiers in Baghdad in 2007. Grandin quotes African American soldiers serving in Vietnam, who witnessed the proliferation of Confederate flags among the white troops in that conflict. One African American trooper wrote home’ “and we still have some people who are still fighting the Civil War.” Two weeks after he wrote these words, he was dead – officially killed in action.

As American militarism engages in mass violence and wars overseas, whether through drone strikes, outright invasions, and the use of greater domestic repression at home, racism is not confined to one particular geographic region or economic system. It is a necessary pollutant that sustains an unjust, inequitable, and exploitative system. Imperialist wars not only eat away at the fabric of the republic, they toxify the cultural and political environment. Democratic ideals, enshrined in documents such as the Emancipation Proclamation, are shunted aside as more repressive tactics are adopted by the ruling class, and suggestions by top-level political figures for further suppression of ethnic and minority groups are considered to be quite normal.

As the capitalist system remains mired in terminal crisis, greater levels of police violence are directed against the African American community, and indeed against minority communities across the United States. We in Australia need to re-examine our political and economic directions, as we are tobogganing head-first into the American scenario. If the United States is characterised by social decay, racist violence and economic growth that benefits only the ultra-wealthy, why is this example being held up as worthy of emulation?

Charleston, the Confederate flag and racism – the political intersection of ultra-right terrorism

In June 2015, a young gunman Dylann Roof, shot dead nine people of African American descent in the Emanuel African Methodist Church in Charleston, South Carolina. He was attending a bible study group and prayer service, when he took out an automatic weapon, opening fire, and killing nine persons including the senior pastor and state senator the late Clementa C Pinckney. Roof, the shooter shouted racial slogans, declaring that African Americans were destroying his white kinfolk.

He deliberately spared the life of one person so that she could bear witness to the attack. Roof hoped that the living witness would explain to the wider world his motivations for the shooting. His decision to kill was motivated by his desire to stop black people taking over the country, as he saw it. After his arrest, he stated to police that his intention was to ignite a racial war. The facts of the mass murder are well established.

In the immediate aftermath of the killing, there was an intense debate among politicians, media commentators and the corporate media about whether the mass murder at Charleston constituted an act of domestic terrorism, a hate crime, or both. The governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley, in speaking about the atrocity, stated that she cannot and never will understand what motivates someone to enter a holy place of worship and kill.

Well, it is true that the motivations driving the perpetrator in each and every case of murder are complex and multifarious. In the more recent case of the Chattanooga shooting, involving the death of four US marines, there was never any doubt that this act constitutes a case of terrorism, especially given the fact that the shooter’s name is something like Mohammed Yousuf Abdulazeez. In this case, the shooting is immediately categorised and understood as terrorism. However, when a white mass murderer is arrested by police, he is provided with a hamburger meal, and a bullet-proof vest for his protection should he be the target of vigilante violence.

Let us help Governor Haley understand the motivations of Dylann Roof by having a closer look at his picture – on his jacket, he is wearing two flags, one of the previous apartheid South African regime, the other the flag of the white supremacist state of Rhodesia, as Zimbabwe was previously known. Indeed, Roof’s own web page, in which he elaborated his melange of white racist and sovereign-citizen-militia ideas as a manifesto, described himself as the ‘last Rhodesian’. Roof never made any secret of his ultra-rightist political motivations.

As Eugene Puryear, author of the article “Charleston Massacre: Yet another terrorist act against Blacks in America” explains it, the reason for the obfuscation of this issue as an expression of ultra-rightist terrorism is clear:

The establishment in capitalist America is fearful of revealing the depth of racist oppression that continues to exist. Particularly in South Carolina, a state run by hard-core Tea Party types with a deep strain of racism that involves quite a bit of Confederate boosterism.

The leaders of South Carolina, then, will be loathe to admit their own complicity in not only the terrorism of the past but its glorification in the here and now.

The Confederate flag – the long reach of the US civil war

South Carolina, one of the states involved in the Confederacy’s secessionist war of the 1860s, has a long history of deep-seated racism. South Carolina’s government, in 1961, raised the Confederate flag atop the state government headquarters as a direct response to the rise of the black American civil rights movement and racial desegregation. South Carolina state authorities resisted desegregation for as long as they could, and the ubiquity of the Confederate, slave-owners flag throughout the southern states is astounding: it can be seen on licence plates, coffee mugs, articles of clothing, and body tattoos. Roof was not unaware of this cultural and historical context.

Indeed, April this year marks the 150th anniversary of the end of the US civil war. In the wake of the Charleston shooting, there is renewed interest in the legacy of that war, and the question of racism in American society has taken on political urgency. Roof chose the target that he did, not out of sheer coincidence, but for specific political reasons. Barry Sheppard, long-time socialist and anti-racist activist in the United States penned a thoughtful article called “Racist Charleston massacre has clear political roots”. In it, Sheppard states that:

Roof’s choice of the Emanuel African Methodist Church as the scene of his terrorist attack was also political. It is one of the oldest Black churches in the South, having been established as a refuge for slaves in the early 1800s. Ever since, it has played an important role in the fight for Black rights, including up to the present.

One of the founders of the church was a former slave, Denmark Vesey, who had been able to buy his freedom from his owner. Vesey was the main leader of a planned armed slave revolt in 1822.

South Carolina, being one of the defeated states after the civil war, has a long history of terrorist violence against black Americans. In the immediate aftermath of the US civil war, when the slave-owning class and its economic base were smashed, South Carolina witnessed a white supremacist backlash against Reconstruction, with newly-formed racist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan launching an underground war of terror to sabotage any attempts at racially integrating the political and economic structures of the state.

Eric Foner, professor of history at Columbia University and an expert on race relations in the US, wrote that South Carolina authorities resisted the federal government’s Reconstruction programme tooth and nail, and appealed to white resentment against black ‘encroachments’. This generated an interpretation of US civil war and reconstruction history where whites were the aggrieved party, facing a hostile takeover by the formerly subservient African Americans. Roof’s exclamation that ‘you are taking over the country’ has historical resonances that derive from this interpretation of white ‘victimhood’. Southern ‘victimhood’ provides an outlet for the Dylann Roofs of the world to vent their racial hatred wrapped in the mantle of purported injustice.

When elaborating his reasons for committing the crime, Roof provided his own perverse fascination with a mythologised history of the Confederate white-supremacist political platform, drawing from the reservoir of the ‘lost cause of the South’. The slave-owning Confederacy is not just a long-defeated historical artifact, but lives and breathes through its lineage with racist terrorism aimed at the African American community.

The Confederate flag was finally lowered from South Carolina’s state house in July 2015, after a concerted campaign by political and community figures across a wide spectrum of American society. As Monica Moorehead, activist and writer for the Workers World party stated in her article “Who gets credit for removing Confederate flag?”:

Finally. The profoundly offensive, pro-slavery Confederate flag no longer flies high in front of the State House grounds in Columbia, the capitol of South Carolina. It was taken down on July 10, 43 years after it was first hoisted in a ceremony “officially” marking the centennial of the start of the U.S. Civil War.

It is unfortunate that is took the Charleston shooting, a terrorist tragedy, to finally achieve even this limited step, but a forward step it is for race relations in the United States. It required a mass outpouring of public justifiable outrage after the Charleston mass murders for the political establishment to remove this symbol of slavery and racism.

However, consider the following: the US military still has major bases named after Confederate slave-owning military figures. In the Workers World online magazine, Sara Flounders lists the following symbols of US military domination honouring the slave-owning officers:

Fort Hood, Texas, is the largest military base in the U.S., named after a Confederate general, John Bell Hood.

Fort Rucker, Ala., named for Confederate Col. Edmund W. Rucker, is where all of the Army’s aviation training has taken place since 1973.

Fort Bragg, N.C., named to honor Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg, is home to the 82nd Airborne Division and Special Operations Command Center.

Fort Benning, Ga., named for Confederate Brig. Gen. Henry L. Benning, is home to the formerly named School of the Americas, which provides military training tactics of torture, assassination and subversion for Latin American military officers.

Fort Gordon, Ga., is home to the U.S. Army Signal Corp and the former base of a military police school. The base is named after Confederate Lt. Gen. John Brown Gordon, head of the Ku Klux Klan in Georgia. Gordon was a vicious segregationist who fought Black Reconstruction following the U.S. Civil War with racist terror.

This issue goes deeper than just names and symbols. The Confederate influence in the US military goes beyond symbolic honours. While after the US civil war, little united North and South, and the Confederate cause was defeated, there was one area where the white separatist cause could find reconciliation and acceptance; the pacification of the indigenous American nations and the emergence of American imperialism.

How and why that happened will be the subject of the next article – part two.

Summing up Part One

The Charleston shooting was a wake-up call not just about the issue of racism in the United States, but also about an equally important trend – the resurgence of ultra-right terrorism. Dylann Roof’s political motivations were the product of a very fertile soil – the continuing presence of not only a white supremacist political platform in American society, but the growth of the ultra-right and its propensity for violence against minority groups. As Brendan McQuade, a visiting assistant professor in international studies at DePaul University states in his essay for Counterpunch online magazine, the reanimation of the Ku Klux Klan, the Sovereign Citizens and patriot militia groups, the John Birch Society and its influence in the ultra-right libertarian Tea Party, point to the need for a serious examination of the visceral racism and white supremacy that is built into the social and economic roots of the capitalist system. If an anti-racist alternative is too limited or weakened, there will be a steady stream of willing recruits, the Dylann Roofs of future generations.


The US criminal justice system gives ultra-right terrorism a free pass

In Australia, there is ongoing and extensive commentary about the actions and motivations of Man Haron Monis, the Iranian-born self-styled Islamic sheikh who took hostages in the Lindt chocolate cafe located at Martin Place, Sydney, in December 2014. This attack was immediately elevated to a national terrorist threat by the Australian federal authorities, and media coverage of the siege itself and subsequent tragic shootout was at saturation level. Monis and two hostages were killed in the police raid that ended the cafe siege.

This hostage-taking has become part of the Australian national conversation about terrorism and its origins – Monis is the subject of regular articles, labeled a monster by some journalists, and every aspect of his individual psyche and religious affiliations is examined in careful detail. Monis was known to Australian police and intelligence agencies, and he did not actually have any connections with Al Qaeda, ISIS, or any other Islamist fundamentalist group.

A federal inquest was held into the Lindt cafe siege, although it does not appear to have answered many questions. However, one thing is certain, Monis has become the archetype for jihadist terrorism in Australia. His actions are portrayed as part of an international terrorism threat originating from the Islamic communities and religion, even though his motivations have been assessed as a mix of mental health problems, criminality and narcissistic attention-seeking, as well as extremism. The notoriety surrounding the name of Man Haron Monis should find comparable expression with that of the American Robert Doggart.


Christian terrorist

Meet 63-year old Robert Doggart, an ordained minister in the Christian National Church, former US Naval Sea Cadet Corps serviceman, electrical engineer, and businessman resident of Tennessee. He was arrested for plotting, along with nine other men, to massacre the entire Islamic community of Islamberg, a rural hamlet in Delaware County, New York. Stopped by the FBI before he and his co-conspirators could carry out their intended attacks, Doggart made no secret of his intentions. The residents of Islamberg, mostly African-American people of the Muslim faith who left New York to escape its endemic poverty, corruption, racism and lack of opportunities, have been living the quiet life in their city – much like the Amish and other religious minorities in the United States.

Doggart was chillingly clear in his social media posts, articles and statements about how and why he wanted to eradicate Islamberg and its residents from the map. He planned to start a military-style assault on the town, armed with automatic weapons, burn down the mosque and schools, and kill all the people in the town. In an article for The Daily Beast called “America snores when Christian terrorist threatens to massacre Muslims“, writer Dean Obeidallah quoted Doggart’s words that, backed up by members of an ultra-right terrorist militia from Texas and South Carolina, the people of Islamberg would face extermination by his self-styled holy Christian warriors:

“We will be cruel to them. And we will burn down their buildings [Referring to their mosque and school.] …and if anybody attempts to harm us in any way… we will take them down.”

He also detailed the weapons he would use in the attack, including an M-4 military assault rifle, armor-piercing ammunition, explosives, pistols, and a machete, because  “If it gets down to the machete, we will cut them to shreds.”

Doggart expressed a hope that he would survive the terror attack, but explained, “I understand that if it’s necessary to die [in this attack] then that’s a good way to die.”

Doggart explicitly based the rationale for his actions in his religion:

Doggart’s own words highlight his motive being grounded in at least partially in his view of Christianity:“Our small group will soon be faced with the fight of our lives. We will offer those lives as collateral to prove our commitment to our God.” Doggart continued, “We shall be Warriors who inflict horrible numbers of casualties upon the enemies of our Nation and World Peace.”

What is noteworthy about this case?

Doggart and his associates were never charged with any terrorism-related offences. While admitting that he spent months collecting weapons, plotting his attack, bringing weapons and far-right militia members together for the purpose of burning Islamberg to the ground and killing all its people, he was charged with interstate communication of threats, soliciting others to violate civil rights, and attempting to damage religious property. He was released on bail.

Islamberg residents responded, through their legal and collective representatives, that Doggart and his accomplices should have been charged with terrorism, as every Muslim American suspect has been similarly arraigned, regardless of how tenuous or fragile the case against them may be. A spokesperson for the Islamberg community stated the following:

Our community consists of veterans, doctors, lawyers, teachers, etc. We are true American patriots, unlike Doggart, who is not representative of Christianity, but more like the American Taliban.

The community has cooperated with federal and local law enforcement authorities, and no links have ever been found between the residents of Islamberg and any fundamentalist or extremist Islamist groups. However, that has not stopped the constant rumours of “jihadist training camps” circulating about the town, spread by always-credible news outlets like Fox News.

Looking clearly at ultra-right terrorism

The obsessive preoccupation with the threat of jihadist fundamentalism, and the subsequent smearing of the entire Islamic community, blinds us to the very real and greater danger that lurks within our society, the terrorism of the ultra-right. The increased surveillance of Muslim American communities, FBI-manufactured plots clearly based on entrapment, and the misguided belief that mass surveillance of the Islamic communities is necessary but unfortunate, are based on an enormous and erroneous assumption – that the Muslim faith encourages violent solutions to societal problems, and that Muslim communities are more conducive to take up violent actions in response to their challenges. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The sub-heading above is derived from an article by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists called “Looking clearly at right-wing terrorism.”  That article’s author states quite clearly that ultra-rightist groups have a long, and more violent, track record than any Al Qaeda or Islamist fundamentalist organisations:

Far-right terrorism in the US is more common than other types of violent radicalism. A recent study by the New America Foundation found that since 9/11, far-right extremists “have killed more people in the United States than have extremists motivated by al Qaeda’s ideology.” And perhaps most important, far-right terrorists are more prone to seek unconventional weapons—that is, weapons that might generate mass casualties or mass disruption. The study found that while no “jihadists indicted or convicted in the United States” had obtained or employed chemical or biological warfare agents, 13 individuals motivated by far-right extremist ideology, “acquired or used chemical or biological weapons or their precursor materials.” In the recent past, far-right extremists have also plotted the use of radiological weapons.

Since September 11 2001, the ‘war on terror’ has influenced the public perception and media conversation about terrorism as a purely foreign, mostly Islamic, importation. The focus of law enforcement authorities on the Islamic communities is underscored by an obsessive prejudice against anyone perceived to be Middle Eastern. The domestic ‘jihadist’ menace, if there is one, was superseded long ago by the violent activities of the white supremacist, and Christian Identity, ultra-rightist movements. The United States does have a serious terrorism problem, but simply refuses to tackle it.

Back in 2012, the Combatting Terrorism Centre at West Point issued an extensive report called “Challengers from the Sidelines – Understanding America’s Violent Far-Right (pdf).” It details the extensive political landscape of the ultra-right, its activities, growth, motivations and trends. Does the US criminal justice system regard the main targets of ultra-right terrorism, ethnic and minority groups, expendable and less worthy of attention than victims of white Anglo-American extraction?

We remember the Boston marathon bombing – but do not forget what happened at Oklahoma City

Twenty years ago this month (April 19, 1995 to be exact), a truck laden with explosives, 13 plastic barrels of ammonium nitrate fertiliser and nitromethane fuel, blasted the entire complex of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma. This explosion devastated the building in which the truck bomb was located, damaged downtown Oklahoma City, killing 168 people including 19 children. Five hundred were injured.

Initial speculation in the American and Australian media pointed the finger of blame at Islamic suspects. The attack was actually carried out by white, American radical rightist extremists, former soldier Timothy McVeigh and his accomplice Terry Nichols. Both of these men were stepped in the conspiratorial and hateful ideology of ultra-rightist sovereign citizens and patriot movement militia, a form of domestic terrorism that receives little, if any, coverage outside of specialist circles.

You can read an extensive list of terrorist bombings, conspiracies and plots arranged and executed by the ultra-right at the Southern Poverty Law Center.

While the bombings perpetrated by Islamic fundamentalist groups and individuals tend to receive saturation coverage in the corporate media (such as the Boston marathon bombing), domestic terrorism carried out by ultra-right hate groups are not only subject to passing commentary, but the causes of the right-wing violence is rationalised away as the actions of mentally disturbed individuals, lone wolves cut off from the rest of society and unable to find healthy avenues to express their grievances. While the entire Islamic community is held responsible for the criminal actions of minuscule fundamentalist groups within its midst, and expected to repeatedly apologise for their actions, the criminal enterprises of the ultra-right are almost always dismissed as the unfortunate aberrant actions of disturbed individuals.

Through the media’s prejudiced lens

The sub-title above comes from an article in the Socialist Worker, published in April 2013, elaborated on the anti-Islamic hysteria that swept the United States in the immediate aftermath of the Boston Marathon Bombing. Politicians of all stripes, media pundits and self-proclaimed experts on the subject of Islam were on the television and radio airwaves explaining how this bombing was the result of a clash of civilisations, the Muslim population representing a unique and direct threat to ‘our western way of life’. There was little questioning of the suspects’ motives, their actions or their reasoning – the Boston marathon bombing was an assault on us by Islam. The Muslim community experienced a new wave of hostility, repression and surveillance.

Let us look clearly though, at ultra-rightist violence – no less an authority than the United States Department of Homeland Security issued a report back in 2014 called ‘Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment’. A summary of the report, and an examination of its findings, was elaborated in an article published by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. The report’s author, Charles Blair, stipulates that the government had ample warnings about the rising tide of, and increasing recruitment to, sovereign citizens ultra-rightist groups. The anti-immigrant and far-right political groups have attacked a range of targets, not just federal buildings, but ethnic community centres, mosques, religious places of worship, courthouses, the parade for Martin Luther King day, African American institutions, inter-racial couples – the list goes on.

The ultra-right and its underlying ideology

Since the Oklahoma City bombing, ultra-right groups have grown in number, media reach, community appeal and organised violence. For instance, there has been an expansion of patriot militia groups, many of them having links to white supremacist and Confederate organisations. The combined ideology of white separatism and hostility to the federal government is a useful breeding ground for ultra-rightist organisers and activities. The gradual intermingling of white racist views, anti-government sovereign citizen militias, nostalgia for the separatist Confederacy, and fascination with guns has produced a toxic cocktail of hate that periodically explodes.

However, white supremacist attacks are usually dismissed as ‘mass shootings’, and the ideological motive behind those actions is almost always downplayed. No matter, the numerically inferior crimes perpetrated by Islamist groups (however vague or tenuous their links to Islam) are recycled constantly – the media has moved on to the Charlie Hebdo killings, repackaged and marketed as yet another Islamic problem for the self-righteous West.

In Australia, we have the December 2014 Sydney siege crisis – immediately publicised as a brazen Islamist terrorist attack – to preoccupy ourselves. Maintaining an atmosphere of hysteria only serves those who wish to increase the powers of the corporatist state at the expense of civil liberties. The narrative was unrelenting – a counter-terrorism operation was required to deal with this Islamist outburst on our free society, even though the attacker in question had no links to ISIS, Al Qaeda or any organisation, let alone an Islamist group.

In the meantime, there is a terror threat that is increasing in frequency and volume. The Department of Homeland Security has highlighted the ultra-rightist domestic sovereign citizens movement as the main concern of its personnel. That was from assessments published in February 2015. As the summary published by CNN states:

Some federal and local law enforcement groups view the domestic terror threat from sovereign citizen groups as equal to — and in some cases greater than — the threat from foreign Islamic terror groups, such as ISIS, that garner more public attention.​

CNN quotes Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, who explained that deteriorating economic conditions have created a reservoir of poor and disaffected people that the sovereign citizen militia groups can attract. Persons facing foreclosure on their homes, or bankruptcy, find a friendly and welcoming presence in the patriot movement, the latter encouraging them to defy the federal government. Their grievances are channeled away from purely economic issues into a wide-ranging opposition to supposed government tyranny. There is a government tyranny – the financial aristocracy that is protecting its wealth and privileges from the demands of the increasingly impoverished population. Hospitals and schools are closed, jobs cut back, people thrown out – but the ruling class, a financialised aristocracy, continues to rake in enormous profits.

Twenty years on from the Oklahoma city bombing, the time to acknowledge that the United States has a serious terrorism problem is way overdue. However, over and above the need to confront the ultra-rightist threat, there is another extremist ideology that has seized the highest levels of economic and political power. The damage inflicted by this ideology’s proponents is brutal and lasting. What is this ideology? The ideology of capitalist corporatisation, the dogmatic and fundamentalist belief that everything public should be privatised and subject to corporate control. The extremists who propound this ideology sit on company directorships, university boards, chair political parties, and devise economic policies in the IMF and World Bank. This free-market fundamentalism condemns millions to poverty, squalor, and immiseration. The people marginalised by this extremism, end up on the streets, vulnerable and desperate. They lash out in various ways, against a system that has abandoned them. It is time for all of us – white, black, Muslim, Christian, – all of us representing the diversity of the human experience, to unite and fight this extremist ideology, before another Oklahoma City explosion shakes up our collective conscience.

Chapel Hill is the latest outburst of a long-simmering toxic hate

In early February 2015, at Chapel Hill, North Carolina, a middle-aged American man, Craig Stephen Hicks, murdered three young persons of Muslim background – Deah Shaddy Barakat, his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, and Yusor’s sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha. Barakat was of Syrian descent, while the two women were Palestinian.

The three victims were shot, execution-style, in a car park near the Chapel Hill campus of North Carolina University. The Chapel Hill police were quick to announce that the killing was motivated by a dispute over a parking space – Hicks had a history of belligerent, aggressive behaviour, was quick to lose his temper, and had confronted many of his neighbours over similarly trivial reasons. The police, and Ripley Rand, U.S. district attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina, were at pains to point out that this killing could not be construed as a hate crime, directed at a group of people because of their ethnic and religious background.

It is important to investigate every possible motive for a crime, in order to ascertain the identity of the perpetrator, and to take steps to ensure that such a crime does not happen again. With the Chapel Hill killings, it is difficult to take the official explanation seriously. As Ramzy Baroud stated in his article, “Parking Space Terrorism”, published in Counterpunch, the murder of three Muslims by Hicks is not just a random act of violence perpetrated by a lone individual, however mentally disturbed the killer may be. This killing is the latest in a long-simmering seam of hatred, Islamophobia, promoted and nurtured by the American corporate-military elite since the 2001 ‘war on terror’. The tide of Islamophobia, targeting the Muslim community as the eternal outsiders, potential terrorists and a fifth column eating away inside our tolerant society, has fuelled explosions of toxic hate such as Chapel Hill. The latter killings are not an exceptional occurrence.

After the Chapel Hill killings, the Quba Islamic Institute in Houston, Texas, was set on fire in an arson attack. In Dearborn, Michigan, an Arab-American family was attacked, leaving the father of the family needing hospitalisation. These attacks occurred in a wider social and political context of a cultural-political narrative that singles out Muslim communities as incapable of reasoning, predisposed to violence, and unable to adapt to the cultural norms and values of the society in which they live. If the Islamic community is targeted as being more prone to violence and intolerance than others, it makes more socially acceptable to ostracise and attack them.

Hicks himself attempted to rationalise his actions on the basis of being an anti-theist, a particular brand that has become popular due to so-called ‘New Atheism’. There is nothing particularly new about ‘New Atheism’, and its most identifiable spokespeople, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Daniel Dennett, have gained a wider platform for restating atheist and non-religious views. What is different about this narrative is that atheism has been distorted and blighted by the ‘war on terror’, providing a secular banner for the project of building a new American empire. As Luke Savage argued in Jacobin magazine:

At face value, and by its own understanding, New Atheism is a reinvigorated incarnation of the Enlightenment scientism found in the work of thinkers like Bacon and Descartes: a critical discourse that subjects religious texts and traditions to rational scrutiny by way of empirical inquiry and defends universal reason against the forces of provincialism.

In practice, it is a crude, reductive, and highly selective critique that owes its popular and commercial success almost entirely to the “war on terror” and its utility as an intellectual instrument of imperialist geopolitics.

Hicks has been able to position his hate crime within the context of ‘new atheism’ that posits Islam as a uniquely violent, messianic challenge to ‘our Western’ democratic and secular values. The assertion that Islamic people are somehow inherently non-rational and immune to reason can be easily dispensed with; the scientific and mathematical achievements of the Arab and Islamic worlds, hundreds of years prior to the European Renaissance, occurred during the golden age of the Islamic empire. What is not easily discarded is the toxic environment created by a climate of fear and hostility engendered by the relentless barrage of propaganda from the industrial-financial ruling class. Anti-Muslim bigotry also plays a useful functional role in manufacturing consent for US imperial wars in the Arab and Islamic countries.

The Centre for American Progress, a nonprofit progressive think tank and public policy research institute, published a scathing report entitled “Fear Inc. 2.0 – The Islamophobia Network’s Efforts to Manufacture Hate in America”. This report exposes the nationwide network of conservative and Religious Right groups, and the millions of dollars at their disposal, to disseminate anti-Islamic prejudice in communities across the United States. Their influence and connections reach into the political corridors of powers, into police and law enforcement departments, and media broadcasting networks. Every Muslim community is viewed as a potential terror threat, and every mosque the incubator of extremist suspects. Viewing the Islamic community through the prism of security, serves to dehumanise and demonise an entire people.

There was justifiable and understandable outrage at the attack on the offices of the satirical French magazine, Charlie Hebdo, in January 2015. Twelve people were killed, and the French state, media and political establishment provided virtually 24-hour round-the-clock coverage of the details of this heinous crime. A campaign of solidarity went viral on social media networks, with the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie being picked up and circulated in the millions. Numerous heads of state gathered in Paris soon after the shootings to demonstrate their solidarity with the victims, and promote the ostensibly prized values of free speech and a free press. The attack on Charlie Hebdo was portrayed as yet another demonstration of the utterly irreconcilable differences that separate the Muslim ‘them’ from the democratic ‘us’.

Leaving aside this orgy of hypocrisy, given that the politicians who marched in Paris are responsible for the suppression of free speech and lethal attacks on journalists, the outpouring of solidarity and compassion raises questions about the current social climate. Where is the equivalent hashtag campaign, the similar outrage and viral social media outpouring regarding the killings at Chapel Hill? The political leaders of the imperial states are responsible for unleashing wars of aggression in the Middle East, where the majority of the world’s Muslim population lives. These wars, on Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Somalia, the drone warfare on Yemen, have not only radicalised the populations in these countries, but constitute an imperialist onslaught against the Islamic countries. In 2003, in the opening stages of the American war on Iraq, the Baghdad offices of al Jazeera were bombed, leaving three journalists dead. Israeli forces have murdered numerous journalists during its successive wars on the Palestinians in Gaza – eliciting no such campaigns for free speech.

There is a deeper dishonesty in the reporting about the Charlie Hebdo murders, a dishonesty that is directly relevant for our purposes. This is the representation of the slain journalists at the newspaper as martyrs for free speech. French republicanism has a long tradition of satire, and much of that fire is directed at organised religion. Subjecting the official powers, including religious authority, to ridicule and scorn is a mainstay of French republican free-thinking. Caricatures and satirical portrayals are an inevitable and welcome development in a democracy. Charlie Hebdo has long since abandoned this tradition when it decided to recycle outdated, crude and frankly racist caricatures of an ethnic minority. As Hana Shafi explains in her column for the Huffington Post, the Charlie Hebdo cartoons were racist, not satirical:

Yes, there is such a thing as respect. We can have respect for the family and friends affected by this horrible attack. But, we can also call out the elephant in the room: Charlie Hebdo was a notoriously racist publication, one that made its fame and capital through Islamophobia, among forms of bigotry.

We tote free speech and solidarity with Charlie Hebdo without questioning the limitations of free speech. Is racism a part of free speech? Can hate speech be excused? People scream in unison “it’s just satire!” But to me, and others, satire is something like George Orwell’s Animal Farm, not racist caricatures of minorities with elongated noises and frightening eyes reminiscent of early Nazi propaganda with anti-Semitic illustrations of Jewish people.

Satire directed at the powers-that-be, mocking the powerful and privileged, serves as an outlet for the disenfranchised and marginalised to express their dissent at an unfair system. Satire directed at ethnic minorities, already suffering from widespread discrimination, only serves to further alienate already-ostracised communities. The Islamophobic cartoons in Charlie Hebdo belong in the same category as the similarly stereotypical (and satirical) cartoons of Japanese that were ubiquitous in the United States during World War Two. The crude and sinister caricatures of the Muslim deployed in Charlie Hebdo are highly reminiscent of the Orientalist tropes in the propaganda used by the American authorities during the 1930s and 1940s to incite a climate of hostility and fear against the Japanese people.

It is not entirely correct to state that there has been no outpouring of grief and community solidarity over the latest killings at Chapel Hill, and the associated escalation of violence against Muslims. Vigils, rallies, and demonstrations organised by various activist and human rights group have been held under the banner Muslim Lives Matter. Similar to the BlackLivesMatter campaign, the purpose of this endeavour is to regain our common humanity, to find meaning and purpose in the face of seemingly senseless violence, and to remember that human lives matter, regardless of ethnic origin or religious affiliation. Multiracial and multiethnic unity is necessary to construct a society that is free from hate crimes.

The ultra-right UKIP surges, and British politics undergoes UKIP-ization

UKIP is exploiting anti-establishment, (and opposition to EU) sentiment to channel discontent into its pro-business, xenophobic platform.


The title comes from an article written by expert commentator on British politics and culture Richard Seymour. In his article ‘The UKIP-ization of English politics’, he examines the emergence of the racist, ultra-right United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) as a major third electoral force on the English political landscape. Seymour deconstructs their populistic phrases, disguising a hard-right anti-immigrant bigotry. It is well worth reading Seymour’s incisive analysis in its entirety.

Previously, the current author has examined the rise of the ultra-right xenophobic parties in Europe. The surge of UKIP in recent months gives us reason to evaluate the ongoing threat of the ultra-right party, the crisis in the British ruling establishment, and how working class anger at years of austerity and cutbacks is being channeled into creating a mass, racist and right-wing populist party as a respectable alternative.

UKIP is pushing politics in Britain to the ultra-right. The traditional parliamentary alternatives, the two main bourgeois parties, are undergoing a crisis of legitimacy. They are strongly associated with the unpopular policies of austerity and the corresponding impoverishment that they have caused. UKIP is exploiting this breech in the parliamentary walls and gaining support from its anti-EU and populist rhetoric.

UKIP speaks for those sections of the English ruling class who are Euro-sceptic, a strong undercurrent in the existing Tory party. Withdrawal from the European Union, it is contended, would be more advantageous for the English establishment in the view of the Euro-sceptics. Basing themselves on anti-immigrant hostility and British national chauvinism, these ruling class circles regard abandoning the European Union as a viable measure, intending to further pursue the exploitation of the working class through more privatisation and deregulation.

Rochester and Strood seat is the second parliamentary victory for UKIP, after the defection of a second Conservative MP to that party. The Conservatives lost the seat of Clacton earlier this year when another Tory MP defected to UKIP. These defections reflect widespread dissatisfaction with the ruling Tory-LibDem coalition government.

This is a strong blow to the Tories, but Labour cannot take any consolation from this situation. While Labour hung on to win the by-election in the seat of Heywood and Middleton earlier this year, it was a narrow victory, with Labour hemorrhaging votes and disaffected Tory voters supporting UKIP.

This situation is not just another turn in the inevitable fluctuations of bourgeois politics. There is deepening concern at the pervasive economic and social problems of capitalism, and electoral protests like this are symptomatic of deep-seated hostility to the Westminster establishment.

UKIP is posing as a defender of the average working person, expressing populist hostility to the Westminster elites. This is a perverse claim, given that UKIP originates from that very Westminster elite. The supporters and backers of UKIP originate in the highest echelons of the British financial oligarchy. The leader of UKIP, Nigel Farage, is a wealthy stockbroker and former Conservative party member. The treasurer of the UKIP party, Stuart Wheeler, is himself an Eton-educated businessman. The list of the party’s influential bankrollers goes on. UKIP is most definitely a party lead by a section of the ultra-wealthy aristocratic elite. But make no mistake – UKIP has been able to attract disaffected voters from all classes of society, including working class people.

Owen Jones, columnist in The Guardian and expert commentator on British politics, elaborates that while UKIP originates from the elite part of town, the beliefs and sentiments that propel its supporters are often those that are advocated by the Left. The leaders of UKIP are unashamedly ultra-Thatcherite in their politics, their voting base, polled on several occasions, support traditional left-wing demands such renationalisation of railways and banks, higher taxes on the rich, and an increase in the minimum wage. While UKIP portrays itself as a people’s revolt against the establishment, it is basing itself on the very real grievances that the working class has against the policies and programme of the British financial elite.

The Tory party is facing a terminal crisis, and the Labour party is not in much better shape. UKIP has appealed to disaffected Tory voters, pushing its anti-immigrant and anti-EU message in the short term to pick up seats. But is electoral success, while worrying, is only part of the larger picture. After years of austerity, preceded by economic policies that have seen industries shut down, communities abandoned because of closing factories and lack of employment, the privatisation of education and the closing of educational opportunities for the poor, people are hurting economically. Disillusioned with the main parties that have delivered variations of the same free-market fundamentalist ideology, people are looking for a political alternative.

Jo Cardwell, writing for the Socialist Review magazine, writes that UKIP is dragging British politics to the Right, having successfully exploited the convergence of three political factors; anti-austerity, anger at the British establishment, and anti-immigrant and anti-refugee racism. Working class communities throughout Britain have been decimated over decades of relentless ruling class attacks on their jobs and living conditions. As Owen Jones writes in his Guardian article:

Over the last generation or so, working class identity, culture and community have faced a relentless battering. Many of the old skilled jobs – back-breaking and male-dominated as they could be –gave people a sense of pride, but were stripped from the economy. Industries that were once the focal point of communities disintegrated. A sense of solidarity, sometimes cemented by a strong trade union movement, was eroded.

In some working class communities, a sense of Englishness filled the vacuum. I grew up near the centre of Stockport: publicly displayed English flags were not uncommon.

English nationalism has indeed been a social cement, bringing together once-thriving communities now afflicted by the combined problems of immiseration and unemployment. Flying the English flag is just one outward symbol of a people discarded by an economic system that treats them as disposable commodities, reaching as they are for some sense of belonging. The outsider is the migrant, the refugee, the alleged ‘threat’ that they pose not just to ‘Englishness’, but now transformed into an economic menace. The Labour Party, basically dancing to UKIP’s tune, has lost much of its traditional working class base as its has implemented the capitalist programme of cutbacks and privatisation, policies that have undermined working class solidarity.

However, economic crisis does not inevitably mean the rise of anti-immigrant UKIP-style parties. Owen Jones, writing in The Guardian, provides an elaborate description of a successful, politically powerful and left-wing alternative that has emerged out of economic chaos – Podemos in Spain. There is no doubt that Spain has experienced an unmitigated economic disaster, with high unemployment and declining living standards. Yet the Podemos political party, capitalising on the anti-establishment and anti-politics sentiment of the people, has surged ahead as a strong political alternative offering the politics of hope for the disaffected. It is an unfolding and burgeoning Green Left political alternative.

Go read Owen Jones’ article the Guardian here.