The political spectrum of the United States compared to states with similar origins ,predominately settler-colonial states such as Israel, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia, has always been remarkably limited when representing various political tendencies in governmental office. Aside from not having a parliamentary system where most of the votes could count in some way with coalition building, the United States has a winner take all ballots of two parties available to voters. This barrier, a barrier of choices between two business parties (Democrats and Republicans), has been noticed and remarked on by radical leftists for quite some time. In 1893 Engels aptly points out the difficulties of the American two party system being one that pits together mainly ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ ideals which are ultimately limited by the “Constitution… which makes it appear as though every vote lost that is cast for a candidate not put up by one of the two governing parties.” Outside these governing parties though the United States has been known for having radical forces on both sides of the political spectrum that have seen upsurges on the left with sustained and coordinated collective disruptions to achieve labor, immigrant, women’s, LGBT, and civil rights through various political methods outside the Democratic party, yet this has not been able to be sustained long enough to create a left option or workers party. On the other side of the spectrum as well we see far-right elements not only within the already firmly right and conservative Republican party with Tea Party and Libertarian members, but we as well see past the messianic Evangelical elites that control large portions of this political party that fascist and far right militia elements of the United States have been quite present throughout its history. However, as of recently (1980-2014) there has been a frightening surge of right wing ideology and hyper individualism amongst many reactionaries in the United States with us beginning to see these groups of ‘patriotic’ militias are beginning to grow in numbers substantial enough to take on the federal government.
Robert Brenner in his New Left Review article back in January of 2007 was able to map out the further right word turn amongst mainstream political parties in the United States prior to the 2000’s. Understanding the re-orienting strategies that came with the political climates post ‘68 and solidifying farther right responses from the likes of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan, the left begins to really loose many of the gains that they had won in the past. Brenner as well though notices something crucial about the “new Republican Right” compared to the Democrats whom are pushing all politics in the United States further to the right. This analysis he put’s forward goes as follows:
The new Republican right had made its point of departure a dynamic, modernizing South that was already the most right-wing region of the country, possessed of the weakest trade unions and welfare infrastructures. To this core base, it sought to add an analogously right-wing Mountain region, shorn of its once radical miners; suburbs and ex-urbs across the country that had become the new redoubts of white working-class families, in flight from both black or Latino inner cities and increasingly expensive older suburbs. It aimed to appeal especially to white working-class men, suffering long-term economic decline compounded by new threats to patriarchal authority. With these forces, combined with its traditional backers in what remained of small-town America, the Republican right appeared to have the electoral potential to break beyond America’s anaemic version of welfare statism and to launch a new imperial project. In other words, it could hope to amass sufficient white working-class support to realize its straightforwardly anti-working class project—and thus to overcome the problem that had bedevilled the American right since Goldwater: how to win electoral support for a domestic programme that was transparently against the economic interests of the great mass of the population, and a foreign policy that appeared both reckless and redundant?
The answer, as we have seen, was to look to the South, both as model and as electoral base, to construct an anti-statist individualist ideology founded on white supremacy, defence of the patriarchal family and Protestant fundamentalism. It was the Republican right’s success in constructing this ideological formula, and in identifying the liberal state as a central threat to the racial status quo and ‘traditional family values’, that provided it with the wherewithal to contend for power on a brazenly pro-business programme. Its targets were the key aspects of the New Deal–Great Society settlement that no administration, Democrat or Republican, had so far dared to touch: Social Security, progressive taxation and (a good part of) the business regulatory regime, including the EPA and OSHA. The Reagan Revolution had been pulled up short by the deep recession of 1981–82, which allowed the Democrats to recover lost ground in the House and limited the Republicans’ momentum. Reagan was obliged to rescind a good part of his tax relief to the rich and restore a significant share of social spending. To transcend this stalemate was the project of the Republican right. – Robert Brenner, Structure Vs. Conjuncture, New Left Review 43, January-February 2007
This larger shift to the right within the mainstream political parties, and especially the Republicans, is important with framing the current events that have been occurring at much more frequent rates throughout the United States, and that is: White-Supremacist Terrorism.
In the media as of lately we have begun to see more and more analysis pointing out that the many armed far-right militiamen and women as well as blatant fascists are being called more and more either sick, crazy, or more common, “gunmen”. This dismissive attitude accompanied with these spikes in ‘Lone Wolf’ shootings by predominately frustrated white males throughout the United States have avoided the terminology of being categorized as terrorists. Whether it be Wade Michael Page, Adam Lanza, Robert James Talbot, Jr., or Frazier Glenn Miller, we have seen the media completely avoid terming these men as motivated terrorists. Although these men have various ideologies that come from a place of racism, privilege, or frustration of a lack of privileges compared to their counterparts, we see these men rather labeled ‘sick’ or ‘lone gun-men’. The psyco-analysis usually begins to kick in immediately within the news segments with an utter lack of a context and self-awareness the United States culture has been notorious for. Rather than reflecting while attempting to understand these quick and violent bursts of rage by both very racist and patriarchal men we see these analysis dodge these very reflective questions upon the larger culture and society that has been breed on this part of the continent. The United States popular dialogue while trying to understand this fails to realize that not only are these mass shootings quite ingrained within our recent history, but these shootings are occurring quite frequently and are often forgotten. The most frightening part of many of these shootings is that it seems more and more this has occurred since wages have stagnated, white men in precarious classes (poor, working, and middle class) in the global economy have begun to loose significant privileges they used to wield, and the general decline of assistance towards former military vets from failed foreign occupations. These conditions, intersecting within the events of the past week, show a frightening portrayal and challenge to the left to both combat these reactionary politics realistically now as well as on the horizon.
The Bundy and Frazier Glenn Miller cases are on two spectrums of a similar trajectory of American politics outside the mainstream. Although there is a growing left solidarity movement in the United States trying to pull the struggles together of the successful Chicago Teachers Union Strike, Occupation of Wisconsin, Post-Occupy, the BDS campaign, and anti-police brutality work, there are as well spikes in far-right activity in response to the tasks of resisting against Neoliberalism. While the left’s concern has been with community building, combating oppression, and creating an alternative to the Democrats, it appears the United States far-right has appeared less and less discombobulated as well with orchestrated responses to 2008 with such events like the Bundy Ranch standoff where hundreds of gun-activists and militiamen had a week long stand off against the Federal Government unscathed. In a less organized fashion, and more of a fashion of disparity, the more fascist leaning Frazier Glenn Miller, who’s desires an ethnically exclusive southern state modeled on the state of Israel’s policies towards Arabs, went on a rampage killing 3 in a Jewish Community Center screaming “Hail Hitler”. This shocking display of white supremacy and anti-Semitism by what appears to be a leading member of the white power movement in the United States (Miller had been a long KKK member as well as attempting to set up para-military the White Patriot Party) has been largely played down by the American media ignoring both the man’s past as participating in the killing of Communists at protests in 1979 as well ignoring this man’s terrorist actions. The problem though, is Frazier’s background, a former Green Beret during Vietnam, has been the historical recruiting grounds of fascists in the United States and it appears that this still is the case.
Recently in the New York Times Kathleen Belew covered an important factor with the rise of the far right in the United States and these ever-frequent mass shootings. In the articles she states that a new report by the Department of Homeland Security in 2009:
“Singled out one factor that has fueled every surge in Ku Klux Klan membership in American history, from the 1860s to the present: war. The return of veterans from combat appears to correlate more closely with Klan membership than any other historical factor. “Military veterans facing significant challenges reintegrating into their communities could lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups or lone wolf extremists carrying out violent attacks,” the report warned. The agency was “concerned that right-wing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to boost their violent capabilities.” – New York Times, Veterans and White Supremacy
This concern, emphasized by the Department of Homeland Security, is striking to me in the larger political analysis of the United States as a whole and the causal mechanisms that have led to the numerous outbursts of violence throughout the United States and often linked to far-right ideologies. This is that the United States, mirroring a rise of violence with more and more economic instability, as well fuels its own violence with having elements of the military, not only at times being recruited on far-right grounds, but as well returning with a triple threat of a high rate of PTSD, difficulty re-emerging into civilian society with lack of social services, and ultimately a feeling of being forgotten by a country that highly disapproves of possible war crimes these men have committed. This combination of frustration, and lack of a political current or alternative they can turn to, the far right connections to the military has served as major recruiting grounds of proto-fascists out of the military fueling a further siege mentality by these formerly occupying forces in now ‘patriotic militias’. These ‘patriotic militias’ represent something deeper though. Past the violent socialization of men in this country, and maneuvering past the utter instability of the gargantuan inequality that is present here, we as well see that the population of men in this country engaging in violence are harkening back to older tactics of Southern Terrorism (from ‘Reconstruction’ to now) and former settler violence on the Western frontier. This desired time period was a time when economically precarious white men with reactionary ideologies could rationalize using the oppressed and innocent as their punching bags for the failure of them attaining the privileges and backward society they desire.
I write this not as a polemic that the United States would inevitably have a far-right resurgence with the greatening divide that comes with what Thomas Picketty has called the Second Gilded Age. However, this should cause leftists to fret, for although many begin to denounce class politics and analysis’ towards situations that have been unfolding especially in the neoliberal era, as Terry Eagleton has stated “[Marx] is accused of being outdated by the champions of a capitalism rapidly reverting to Victorian levels of inequality.” Although we have seen a large sway towards the far-right in recent decades, we see that this is a response to the inequality that has projected reactionary elements of the working class into areas of fascist ideologies. However, although this is the case, many on the right are beginning to see the state and economics in the United States as a fallacy. This opportunity to stress on this fallacy, and provide consistency of a radical left analysis, could assist with attempting to show a pull of attraction amongst workers who would otherwise be persuaded by these reactionary politics, Communists, Socialists, and Labor Activists can show their utter consistency with keeping up with the actual interests of working people. This is going to be a difficult project though, and does not demand our full attention at the moment, but should receive concern and analysis in the months to come with attempting to not only win over the growing majority of oppressed individuals in the United States either as a result of racism, sexism, transphobia, and economic instability but as well the recently rescinding minority of the white working class. This provides a difficulty for the left to create a sustained and coordinated collective disruption to the system to show the validity of our politics, but unfortunately our alternative is large swaths of our military and society defecting into far-right paramilitary ideologies and organizing around such.