Archives For fascism

Quotations are useful in periods of ignorance or obscurantist beliefs.

– Guy Debord

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One of the first things I noticed upon arriving in France last summer is that battles were being waged on multiple fronts.

There was the most obvious battle, the one that the media was covering, a nationwide uproar over a set of controversial labor reforms that were widely viewed as a betrayal of the working class on the part of a supposedly left-wing government.

There was a secondary battle that was playing out alongside that uproar, a guerrilla battle against capitalism and international finance that was being waged by leftists and anarchists in the form of smashed bank windows and repeated violent confrontations with police.

And then there was the battle for the imagination, the battle of dueling narratives that leftists and fascists alike were waging on every blank surface imaginable, from street poles to mailboxes to the walls of boarded-up buildings. As opposed to the aforementioned battles, the battle for the imagination was one that the leftists were obviously and solidly winning.

The words and imagery that adorned pretty much every conceivable surface passionately and effectively reflected the world that could be, the world that they were trying to build. With stickers and graffiti and street art, those who believed that ‘another world is possible’ were successfully appealing to the hearts and minds of the populace.

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That success was reflected in not only in the physical presence of a leftist culture, but in the widespread public acceptance of many of their ideas and visions and how those ideas manifested in the physical world. Actions that would be almost universally condemned in the United States, such as the repeated destruction of ATMs, were met with an attitude that ranged from indifference to gleeful acceptance.

Even those who disapproved often expressed their sympathies with the sentiments behind such actions, despite criticizing the actions themselves. They understood why the battle was being waged, and their understanding was in part closely connected to the consistent anti-capitalist messaging that they were exposed to on a daily basis.

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The distracted person, too, can form habits. More, the ability to master certain tasks in a state of distraction proves that their solution has become a matter of habit. Distraction as provided by art presents a covert control of the extent to which new tasks have become soluble by apperception. Since, moreover, individuals are tempted to avoid such tasks, art will tackle the most difficult and most important ones where it is able to mobilize the masses.

– Walter Benjamin, ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’

In the above-quoted essay, arguably his most well-known and influential work, Walter Benjamin characterized a primary component of fascism as the politicization of the aesthetic and argued in favor of the revolutionary potential of art. Written in 1936, and grounded in his observations of the role of aesthetics as employed in Hitler’s rise to power, Benjamin detailed the transformation of art as a medium through the technologies of reproduction.

He explained how such modernization had created the potential for the utilization of art as a means in which to influence the masses, but also pointed out how that potential could and would be used for repressive and totalitarian purposes if and when the means of reproduction was concentrated in the hands of the few.

He stressed that if and when the means of reproduction were democratized, art potentially holds the same power as a tool of resistance that it held in Germany as a tool of manipulation which normalized and reinforced oppression.

While his point had always resonated with me, the truth of his statements became plainly evident after my interactions with the countless propaganda-covered street poles that I constantly encountered throughout France.

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More than anything, Hillary [Clinton] forgot that Obama owed his first victory to an image, to an idea.

I heard the comment as I walked past an art student, talking on the phone as he was waiting for the bus outside of PNCA in northwest Portland. I knew immediately what he was referring to: Shepard Fairey’s iconic ‘HOPE’ poster, which was a near-ubiquitous image during the 2008 presidential campaign.

barack_obama_hope_poster

While his actual campaign promises and proposed policies were undoubtedly a factor in his success, one cannot underestimate the degree to which his victory was on account of his winning the ‘hearts and minds’ of a disillusioned populace through the ideas of ‘hope’ and ‘change.’ The strength of Fairey’s image and the resonance of the message inspired voters to hit the polls in record numbers.

It was many of those same voters, especially those from rural areas, living in poverty and once inspired by the ideas of ‘hope’ and ‘change,’ who switched parties and voted for Trump eight years later.

They flipped in large part because the changes that they had hoped for and expected did not materialize for them, and their hearts and minds were then subsequently captured by a very different but equally captivating message.

But this time, instead of abstract concepts like ‘hope’ and ‘change,’ this message provided not only concrete promises but definitive scapegoats.

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The growing proletarianization of modern man and the increasing formation of masses are two aspects of the same process. Fascism attempts to organize the newly created proletarian masses without affecting the property structure which the masses strive to eliminate. Fascism sees its salvation in giving these masses not their right, but instead a chance to express themselves. The masses have a right to change property relations; Fascism seeks to give them an expression while preserving property. The logical result of fascism is the introduction of aesthetics into political life.

– Walter Benjamin

Among other factors, fascism gains its traction on account of a compelling narrative.

Fascism takes advantage of crumbling social conditions, evokes a false nostalgia for the ‘good old days,’ and frames the current material conditions as a ‘fall’ from that greatness. It then scapegoats specific parties as the cause of the fall, and promises a restoration to greatness if and only if the people place their trust in an authoritarian leader and give that leader free rein to rid us of the scapegoats that are responsible for the ‘problems.’

To its credit, liberal democracy also presents a compelling narrative. The promise of ‘freedom’ and ‘prosperity’ and ‘rights,’ especially as it is contextualized within the idea of the ‘American dream,’ has captured hearts and minds for generations now. While it is a narrative that realistically has only ever applied to certain segments of the population (mostly able-bodied white people), over the past few decades the promises of that narrative have repeatedly failed even those who had previously been granted that dream .

The ideology of fascism was birthed out of the ashes of World War I, birthed of the anger of a generation in which working-class people throughout Europe were brutally slaughtered in a war that was mainly fought in the interests of the ruling classes and in the name of democracy. It was the betrayal and/or failure of the narrative and the promises of liberal democracy in Europe that caused large segments of the population to embrace the narrative of fascism.

Although its been mostly forgotten in the mainstream retelling of history, the present turn of events in the United States is not the first time that the narrative of fascism has captured the interest of the American public. Fascism first rose in America in the years after the Great Depression, the last time that the narrative and promises of liberal democracy were proven to fail en masse throughout the North American continent.

While there were multiple factors that in combination were able to overpower the pull of fascism in America that first time around (such as the effects of the New Deal), it was ironically the economic boost that came from the war against fascism in Europe that acted as the nails in the coffin for the power of the fascist narrative in America.

Out of that war came the resurgence of liberal democracy in even greater forms, from the recognition of the United States as a global superpower to institutions such as the United Nations and the European Union.

It is the crumbling and decline of those powers in the present day which in large part has ushered in the current wave of fascist tendencies. History demonstrates very clearly that when the contradictions of liberal democracy, both the obvious and hidden, start to weigh heavily enough to crack the foundations of that system, those who have benefited and profited from that system and its contradictions will inevitably embrace fascism in order to secure their wealth and their safety.

In the absence of an equally compelling counter-narrative, a significant portion of the masses will also inevitably embrace fascism and history will be left to repeat itself.

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Il est interdit d’interdire (It is forbidden to forbid)

– Situationist slogan, May 1968

In the summer of 1968, revolutions and revolutionary tendencies echoed throughout the Western world, with varying degrees of success and lasting power. Among the most well-known uprisings of the time was the series of events in May of 1968 in France, which at its peak brought the entire French economy to a standstill and nearly toppled the national government. While history generally characterizes the French uprisings as being fueled by violence and physical resistance, the underlying current which sustained the uprisings was based in artistic expression, most notably the tactics and aesthetics of the Situationist International.

The SI was formed a decade earlier, a fusion of libertarian Marxist ideas and the ideologies and aesthetic expressions of the surrealist and dada art movements. Arguably the strongest idea to come forth from the situationists was the concept of the ‘spectacle,’ which Guy Debord described and defined as “a social relationship between people that is mediated by images.”

The concept of the spectacle was in itself a deep critique of capitalism, specifically the ways in which commodity fetishism had shifted society away from social relations based on direct experience and instead created an arena where individual expression was primarily exercised through the consumption of commodities. The aim of the SI was to reverse that trend, to prioritize and emphasize direct experience and to replace the manufactured desires of capitalism with actual and authentic desires.

This philosophy was central to the artistic and symbolic expressions that fueled the uprisings of May ’68. The emotional appeals of the SI, which stressed personal freedom, social authenticity, and political liberation, created a climate in which many believed that a new world was truly possible. Despite the eventual failure of the uprisings to foment an actual social revolution, the ideas and tactics of the SI left its mark on an entire generation of French youths, who continued with and passed on those ideas into the modern day.

Situationist graffiti in France. Public domain.

Situationist graffiti in France. Public domain.

The propaganda and messaging that is currently seen throughout every major urban area in France, as well as the understandings and philosophies behind it, is a direct and often obvious descendant of the imagery and emotion that characterized the SI and the events of May ’68.

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When and if fascism comes to America it will not be labeled “made in Germany;” it will not be marked with a swastika; it will not even be called fascism; it will be called, of course, “Americanism.”

– Halford E. Luccock, as quoted in the New York Times, 1938.

Many tend to position liberal democracy and its inherent values as either the prophylactic against or the antidote to fascist tendencies, just as they consider the same system to be inherently opposed and in contradiction to the narrative and the promises of fascism. The values expressed in fascism are framed as the antithesis of democracy, and it is stressed that it is the failure to uphold the values of democracy that inevitably will lead to fascism.

But in reality, they are two sides of the same coin, pun intended.

Liberal democracy is the clothing we put on to hide the obscene nature of the body exposed, so to speak. When the actualized brutality and obscenity that is necessary to uphold liberal democracy is revealed, such as the violence recently witnessed at Standing Rock, it is demonstrated for all to see that the emperor is wearing no clothes.

In that moment, liberal democracy is then maintained and upheld by the portion of the populace that continues to praise the emperor on the beauty of his garments, despite the obvious nature of the body exposed.

“The system is broken,” they say, when the actual truth is that the system is being exposed in and for its true and brutal nature, momentarily stripped of all its trappings and distractions.

It is in those moments that fascism and anti-capitalist leftism are actually in agreement, united in contradiction to the liberal democratic narrative, that in fact the system is working exactly as intended. The fascist praises and encourages the mechanics as a justified means to an end, while the leftist argues that the means do not justify the ends and that the only ethical response is to abolish the system altogether.

When the lies of liberal democracy are exposed for what they are, when the child comes forth and finally points out to the crowd that the emperor is naked, it is the narrative of either/both the fascist and/or the leftist that hold the potential power to define what is accepted as reality.

Which side actually gains power in that moment is dependent on many factors, but among the strongest factors is the ability of their respective narratives to capture the imagination.

Logical arguments do not hold much sway in those moments. Instead it is a matter of which side wins the hearts and minds of the masses.

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Nature is a temple in which living columns sometimes emit confused words. Man approaches it through forests of symbols, which observe him with familiar glances.

– Charles Baudelaire

Writers such as Baudelaire or Benjamin are far from the only ones who recognize the power inherent in imagery.

Witches, Pagans, occultists, magicians, and related folk have long understood the potential power that art and symbols have to affect reality and material circumstances.

A powerful reminder of that knowledge popped up in my inbox while I was in the process of outlining this very article.

“Have you seen this?” a friend asked, and sent me a link.

The link was to a website called Curse DAPL, complete with specific instructions and an accompanying sigil intended to curse those building the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The neverending argument around the ethics of cursing notwithstanding, the use of symbolism in the form of sigils as a method of fighting oppression and resisting is a time-tested method that spans countless cultures and societies.

On a personal level, seeing that folks in our communities are using sigil magic in order to disrupt capitalist forces filled me with pride and hope, especially considering that so many are unable to participate in the on-the-ground fight against the DAPL.

As the material circumstances that characterize our world as we know it continue to shift and disintegrate, I can only hope that such methods become more and more utilized and widespread.

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The spectacle cannot be understood as an abuse of the world of vision, as a product of the techniques of mass dissemination of images. It is, rather, a Weltanschauung which has become actual, materially translated. It is a world vision which has become objectified. 6. The spectacle grasped in its totality is both the result and the project of the existing mode of production. It is not a supplement to the real world, an additional decoration. It is the heart of the unrealism of the real society.

— Guy Debord, ‘The Society of the Spectacle’

While most corporations and retailers used Black Friday as a way to convince people to buy tangible items at rock-bottom prices, the folks at Cards Against Humanity had a different idea.

They decided to dig a literal hole in the ground for three days straight, with an appeal to the public to pay for the digging by the minute. They had a live video feed of the hole, and a running tally that looked no different from any other crowdfunding campaign.

Despite its absurdity, the stunt resonated with people on several levels, not only as a commentary on consumerism and the existential bleakness of the modern day, but as a painful and arguably hilarious example of what people were willing to actually spend money on. Excerpted from the website’s FAQ:

What do I get for contributing money to the hole?

A deeper hole. What else are you going to buy, an iPod?

Why aren’t you giving all this money to charity?

Why aren’t YOU giving all this money to charity? It’s your money.

What if you dig so deep you hit hot magma?

At least then we’d feel something.

In the same country where thousands are dying on the streets without aid and thousands more are suffering from lack of medical care, after three days, the ‘holiday hole’ brought in over $100,000. As has been shown countless times before this one, the plight of the suffering has nothing on the draw and the temptation of the spectacle.

Aside from the obvious resonance in terms of the current sociopolitical climate, my first thought was of Abbie Hoffman and the Yippies showering Wall Street with dollar bills and then laughing while the hapless traders on the floor abandoned their tasks in order to scramble for every dollar, disrupting the machine of capitalism with the very substance that fuels it.

While such tactics and stunts owe an certain debt to the situationists and the idea of the spectacle, its important to recognize that the theatrical tactics of the American ‘New Left’ were arguably responsible for replacing and displacing the last vestiges of actualized radical struggle in the United States. Once political theater became mainstream in terms of both public acceptance as well as expectation, militant tactics were for the most part abandoned by the mostly white, college-educated left in the United States. This eventually led to a massive loss of political power and social capital, which contributed to the rise of neoliberalism and the post-civil rights era conservative movements that now dominate the political landscape and control much of its discourse.

Moreover, the movements and organizations that did not abandon militant radicalism, such as the Black Panthers and the American Indian Movement, were left standing alone and subsequently targeted and destroyed from both within and without by the likes of COINTELPRO.

While the humor of such political theater doesn’t lead to direct and actualized change, the potential effect that such humorous spectacles can have on the masses should not be understated. Cards Against Humanity just proved that to the tune of $100,000, and while part of me winces at that reality, another part of me wonders if and how that tendency can be manipulated in favor of a spectacle that creates an actual means to an end.

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Mankind, which in Homer’s time was an object of contemplation for the Olympian gods, now is one for itself. Its self-alienation has reached such a degree that it can experience its own destruction as an aesthetic pleasure of the first order. This is the situation of politics which Fascism is rendering aesthetic. Communism responds by politicizing art.

– Walter Benjamin

The ‘culture jamming’ movement, which came to prominence in the political climate of the mid-1980s, was deeply influenced by the work of Guy Debord and the Situationist International, most notably their concept of détournement.

Adbusters corporate flag. Photo by Jonathan McIntosh

Adbusters corporate flag. Photo by Jonathan McIntosh

But of course, in accordance with the tendencies of capitalism, it did not take long for culture jamming itself to go from a simple method and strategy of expression to a marketed product with the emergence of publications such as Adbusters. It only took a few years for Adbusters to reposition themselves from critics of consumer culture to willing participants in commodity fetishism under the guise of ‘ethical capitalism.’

I personally think that the spirit of Guy Debord is simultaneously horrified and amused by such circumstances, as it equally acts as an insult to his legacy as well as a solid confirmation of his theories around the nature of the spectacle. But the success that Adbusters found in marketing dissent is also important lesson in terms of its reach and effectiveness and should not discourage us from carrying on the traditions of politicizing art that were pioneered by either the situationists or the culture jammers.

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“Propaganda is a soft weapon; hold it in your hands too long, and it will move about like a snake, and strike the other way.”

– Jean Anouilh

We tend to interpret the word ‘propaganda’ as information that is inherently untrustworthy. We refer to “Soviet propaganda” or “anarchist propaganda” with the understanding that those folks likely aren’t telling the ‘truth.’

Historically, propaganda was generally regarded as a neutral force, holding true to its Latin roots. ‘Propaganda’ derives from propagare, meaning ‘to propagate,’ and propaganda was recognized as a powerful weapon that could be wielded in the name of countless agendas. It was only with the rise the phenomenon that Benjamin observed, of authoritarian governments that disseminated mass propaganda through the means of mechanical reproduction in order to manipulate the public in favor of repressive tendencies, that the word took on a permanently negative connotation.

While our tendency is to distrust anything that we consider to be propaganda, we place a rather impressive amount of trust in the great corporate propaganda machine known as advertising. The assumption is that the unsanctioned graffiti or flyer or poster is trying to pull one over on us, but we tend to accept that four out of five dentists recommend Crest without much thought or criticism. We generally grant the benefit of the doubt to the claims made by advertising, despite widespread knowledge of the degree to which that medium is manipulating us.

And yet, just as the only true difference between ‘militarism’ and ‘terrorism’ is legitimatization on the part of the state, the only difference between what we consider to be ‘advertising’ and what is disparaged as ‘propaganda’ or ‘graffiti’ is legitimatization on the part of society and our acquiescence to the various ways in which the state and capital control the commons. Our trust in one over the other is rooted not in fact or substance but in our cultural programming, in our tendency to trust authority.

Those who condemn political graffiti generally do not reserve the same criticism for corporate and/or political advertising, and in that inconsistency they further strengthen the power that capital has over the commons and by extension over our thoughts and our minds.

Graffiti by Banksy, Brighton, England. Photo by ShoZu

Graffiti by Banksy, Brighton, England. Photo by ShoZu

The ubiquity of advertising in modern society and the tight control of access to that medium and the spaces it inhabits act as a current reflection and confirmation of Benjamin’s observations concerning the effects of the means of reproduction when concentrated in the hands of the few.

While the idea of ‘reclaiming the commons’ is usually centered on occupying public space and ‘commoning’ activities such as community gardens, reclaiming and rewriting the messages that currently define the modern commons is an overlooked and necessary component of creating a narrative that has the potential to challenge that of the status quo.

If fascism relies on the aestheticization of politics, fascism needs to be fought by politicizing the aesthetic.

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Imagine a city where graffiti wasn’t illegal, a city where everybody could draw whatever they liked. Where every street was awash with a million colours and little phrases. Where standing at a bus stop was never boring. A city that felt like a party where everyone was invited, not just the estate agents and barons of big business. Imagine a city like that and stop leaning against the wall – it’s wet.

Banksy

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This column was made possible by the generous underwriting donation from Hecate Demeter, writer, ecofeminist, witch and Priestess of the Great Mother Earth.

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befunky-design2

2016 marks the eightieth anniversary of the beginning of the Spanish Civil War and the Spanish Revolution. When Franco led his fascist forces against the Second Spanish Republic in July 1936, anarchist militias simultaneously fought the fascists and seized large swathes of Southern and Eastern Spain, overthrowing local authorities and collectivizing wealth. One of the most passionate and dedicated of these militias, the Iron Column, was formed largely of liberated prisoners and included women within its ranks.

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While the Iron Column fought the fascists on the front lines, however, their supposed comrades were stabbing them in the back. The syndicalists of the Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (CNT) joined the Republican government in September 1936, with three CNT members taking positions as ministers. In March 1937, the Iron Column, previously organized along egalitarian lines, was ordered to submit to incorporation into the Republican Army and accept the leadership of Republican officers hostile to their revolutionary ambitions. One of the “uncontrollables” of the Iron Column published a denunciation of this betrayal, entitled “A Day Mournful and Overcast,” in Nosotros, the daily newspaper of the Column.

The uncontrollable introduced himself as “an escaped convict from San Miguel de los Reyes, that sinister prison, which the monarchy set up in order to bury alive those who, because they weren’t cowards, would never submit to the infamous laws dictated by the powerful against the oppressed.” He had been imprisoned at the age of twenty-three “for revolting against the humiliations to which an entire village had been subjected. In short for killing a political boss.”

In this detail of his life story, he closely resembles the Chinese warrior Guan Yu, who was later deified as Guan Di and is closely associated with loyalty and righteousness. In the Ming Dynasty novel Romance of Three Kingdoms, Guan Yu explains why he left his hometown, for “there was a man from a wealthy family who was acting like a big shot and bullying everybody, I ended up killing him. I had to become a fugitive, and have been living the life of an itinerant mercenary for the past five or six years.” Like Guan Yu, the uncontrollable rebelled and fought back against injustice in his home village, and suffered the consequences for his action: he was imprisoned for eleven years before anarchists opened the gates of the penitentiary. The word “rebel,” incidentally, comes from the Latin prefix re- (opposite, against, or again) added to bellare (to wage war): thus, it literally means “to fight back.”

The uncontrollable joined the militia that had liberated him, and, like Spartacus and his fellow rebels stripping weapons from the Roman legions they defeated (Life of Crassus 9.1), he armed himself with a rifle seized from a slain fascist. While fighting the fascists, the Iron Column also “changed the mode of life in the villages through which we passed – annihilating the brutal political bosses who had robbed and tormented the peasants and placing their wealth in the hands of the only ones who knew how to create it: the workers.” The methodology and members of Iron Column, however, were denounced by their enemies:

We have been treated like outlaws, and accused of being “uncontrollable”, because we did not subordinate the rhythm of our lives, which we desired and still desire to be free, to the stupid whims of those who, occupying a seat in some ministry or on some committee, sottishly and arrogantly regarded themselves as the masters of men.

The reference to those “occupying a seat in some ministry” clearly referred to the supposedly anarchist-syndicalist CNT, for it was not only fascists but also anti-fascists who condemned the Iron Column: “Not only the fascists considered us dangerous, because we treated them as they deserved, but in addition those who call themselves anti-fascists, shouting their anti-fascism until they are hoarse, have viewed us in the same light.” And the uncontrollable knew exactly what kind of people love to shout their anti-fascism until they are hoarse: “people who wish to be regarded as leaders.”

Lucia Sanchez Saornil, one of the founders of Mujeres Libres. [Public Domain]

Lucia Sanchez Saornil, one of the founders of Mujeres Libres, an anarchist women’s organization that maintained independence from the CNT. The process of militarization re-established the gender roles that Mujeres Libres sought to destroy. [Public Domain]

We can distinguish, then, between two types of anti-fascism. On the one hand, there is a purported anti-fascism proclaimed by aspiring politicians: one that defends the State, that participates in Popular Fronts, and that demands militaristic unity and obedience from all other factions. And it is not only liberals and Stalinists who espouse this type of anti-fascism, but also Socialists, union organizers, and even so-called “anarchists.” On the other hand, there is the anti-fascism practiced by the uncontrollables: one that is liberatory, that changes the mode and rhythm of every day life, and that refuses both to submit to authoritarianism and to enforce it in turn. The Heathen and Polytheist milieus have seen too much of the former type of anti-fascism and too little of the latter.

The uncontrollable is a pariah. And moreover, the uncontrollable is a mystic seeking to “penetrate the obscurity of the fields and the mystery of things” at night while fighting the fascists by day:

On some nights, on those dark nights when armed and alert I would try to penetrate the obscurity of the fields and the mystery of things, I rose from behind my parapet as if in a dream, not to awaken my numbed limbs, which having been tempered in pain are like steel, but to grip more furiously my rifle, feeling a desire to fire not merely at the enemy sheltered barely a hundred yards way, but at the other concealed at my side, the one calling me comrade, all the while selling my interests in most sordid a manner, for no sale is more cowardly than one nourished by treason.

On those nights, the uncontrollable was possessed by the urge to run wild and destroy all that sought to grind him and his comrades down:

And I would feel a desire to laugh and to weep, and to run through the fields, shouting and tearing throats open with my iron fingers, just as I had torn open the throat of that filthy political boss, and to smash this wretched world into smithereens, a world in which it is hard to find a loving hand to wipe away one’s sweat and to stop the blood flowing from one’s wounds on returning from the battlefield, tired and wounded.

There is an ancient Greek word for this kind of hands-on dismemberment: σπαραγμός. Sparagmos is associated in literature with the Dionysiac cults, which contained many women and slaves, just as the Iron Column was comprised of ex-prisoners. Euripides wrote in Bakkhai that the mainads needed no weapons but their hands to hunt their prey:

They, with hands that bore no weapon of steel, attacked our cattle as they browsed. Then wouldst thou have seen Agave mastering some sleek lowing calf, while others rent the heifers limb from limb. Before thy eyes there would have been hurling of ribs and hoofs this way and that; and strips of flesh, all blood-bedabbled, dripped as they hung from the pine-branches. Wild bulls, that glared but now with rage along their horns, found themselves tripped up, dragged down to earth by countless maidens’ hands. The flesh upon their limbs was stripped there from quicker than thou couldst have closed thy royal eye-lids.

But it is not only destruction that characterizes the Dionysian spirit, but “the wildly irrepressible desires we carry in our hearts to be free like the eagles on the highest mountain peaks, like the lions in the jungle.”

Dionysos mosaic [Ancient Images / Flickr]

Dionysos mosaic [Ancient Images / Flickr]

The uncontrollable wrote that precisely in his moments of despair, he would find renewed enthusiasm in his dreams:

I would abandon myself joyfully to dreams of adventure, beholding with heated imagination a world that I knew not in life but in desire, a world that no man has known in life but that many of us have known in dreams. And dreaming, time would fly by, and my body would stand weariness at bay, and I would redouble my enthusiasm, and become bold, and go out on reconnaissance at dawn to find out the enemy’s position, and…. All of this in order to change life, to stamp a different rhythm onto this life of ours; all of this because men could be brothers and I among them; all of this because joy that surges forth even once from our breasts must surge out of the earth, because the Revolution, this Revolution that has been the guiding light and watchword of the Iron Column, could soon be tangible reality.

The word “enthusiasm” also comes from ancient Greek: ἐνθουσιασμός denotes the condition in which a god (θεός) is inside (ἐν) a person. Compare the previous quote with a passage from Friedrich Nietzsche’s Birth of Tragedy:

Under the magic of the Dionysian, not only does the bond between man and man lock itself in place once more, but also nature itself, now matter how alienated, hostile, or subjugated, rejoices again in her festival of reconciliation with her prodigal son, man. The earth freely offers up her gifts, and the beasts of prey from the rocks and the desert approach in peace. The wagon of Dionysus is covered with flowers and wreaths. Under his yoke stride panthers and tigers.

If someone were to transform Beethoven’s Ode to Joy into a painting and not restrain his imagination when millions of people sink dramatically into the dust, then we could come close to the Dionysian. Now is the slave a free man, now all the stiff, hostile barriers break apart, those things which necessity and arbitrary power or “saucy fashion” have established between men. Now, with the gospel of world harmony, every man feels himself not only united with his neighbor, reconciled and fused together, but also as if the veil of Maja has been ripped apart, with only scraps fluttering around before the mysterious original unity. Singing and dancing, man expresses himself as a member of a higher unity. He has forgotten how to walk and talk and is on the verge of flying up into the air as he dances. The enchantment speaks out in his gestures.

In both of these texts, we find sympathetic magic between the joy of the earth and the liberation of humans, the possibility of universal camaraderie between human and human, and a dreamlike transcendence that becomes incarnate within material reality.

Dionysian methodologies of warfare cannot be described as “non-violent,” but they supersede the linearity of rigid militarization by striking where unexpected, by changing the very time and space within which the “battle” is waged. Euripides’s mainads first and foremost caused disruption by abandoning the οἶκος (oikos), the household centered around slavery and gender roles, whence we derive the word “economy:” management of the οἶκος.

But when pursued, they fought “with the thyrsus, which they hurled, caused many a wound and put their foes to utter rout, women chasing men, by some god’s intervention. Then they returned to the place whence they had started, even to the springs the god had made to spout for them; and there washed off the blood, while serpents with their tongues were licking clean each gout from their cheeks.”

Another individual known for having snakes coil about his face, the Thracian gladiator Spartacus, whose wife was a prophetess, also won a battle by a Dionysian miracle. Spartacus and his fellow runaway slaves, who were primarily of Thracian and Gaulish origin, were besieged on top of Mount Vesuvius:

But the top of the hill was covered with a wild vine of abundant growth, from which the besieged cut off the serviceable branches, and wove these into strong ladders of such strength and length that when they were fastened at the top they reached along the face of the cliff to the plain below.

Descending on these ladders of wild vines, the rebels caught the Roman legion by surprise and defeated them in battle. Like the Iron Column, they were supported by the locals: “they were also joined by many of the herdsmen and shepherds of the region, sturdy men and swift of foot, some of whom they armed fully, and employed others as scouts and light infantry.” The escaped slaves and shepherds of Vesuvius were literally anti-fascists: Roman officials were preceded by lictors carrying fasces as symbols of their political authority.

Death of Spartacus, Hermann Vogel. [Public Domain]

The pro-Dionysian spirit of the Iron Column has resurfaced lately. In June 2016, Neo-Nazis and anti-fascists fought with sticks and knives at the California state capitol in Sacramento, resulting in hospitalizations on both sides for blunt force trauma and stab wounds. In September 2016, prisoners revolted at Holmes Correctional Institution in Florida and at Turbeville C.I. in North Carolina, and hunger strikes and work stoppages have proliferated in prisons across the nation. Prisoners in Greece and in Mexico have acted in solidarity. In Holman Correctional Facility in Alabama, the prison guards themselves went on strike, not in solidarity (obviously), but due to “increasingly dangerous conditions and fears that they may be killed while on duty.” The warden at Holman was stabbed during a queer-led riot in March and subsequently quit, and a guard was stabbed and killed on September 1.

Michael Kimble, a black gay anarchist incarcerated at Holman, writes that prisoners’ struggle will not always be non-violent, echoing the Iron Column in his uncontrollability: “If your solidarity and support is predicated on prisoners being ‘non-violent,’ we don’t want or need it, because you are trying to control us.”

The Iron Column’s revolutionary war against fascism and prisons and the society that produces both is alive and well. And it is once again being fought by partisans, by people who desire first and foremost to change their own lives, “to stamp a different rhythm onto this life of ours.” Ill Will Editions writes that the concept of the “partisan” is “best understood not as a splitting of a totality into competing parts or factions each defined via mutually contested claims over the management of the whole, but rather as the intensification of asymmetrical differences that were already there within the way we live.”

The Polytheist and Heathen milieus are plagued by “people who wish to be regarded as leaders” of movements, who wish to claim “management of the whole.” Some of them wish to maintain the supposedly apolitical nature of the whole, others to defend the whole against the very real threat of fascist infiltration. Both positions accept and reify the continued existence of the πόλις (polis), which exists only in contrast to actual communities and traditions. My position is not apolitical, but anti-political.

Mujeres Libres wrote, “To be an anti-fascist is too little; one is an anti-fascist because one is already something else.” Like their syndicalist predecessors who became Ministers, those who claim to be anti-fascist because they are aspiring managers do not seek the “different rhythm” of life that I seek. The uncontrollables of the Iron Column speak from their mass graves, warning us never to trust these would-be politicians:

History, which records the good and evil that men do, will one day speak. And History will say that the Iron Column was perhaps the only column in Spain that had a clear vision of what our Revolution ought to be. It will also say that of all columns, ours offered the greatest resistance to militarization, and that there were times when because of that resistance, it was completely abandoned to its fate, at the front awaiting battle, as if six thousand men, hardened by war and ready for victory or death, should be abandoned to the enemy to be devoured.

History will say so many, many things, and so many, many figures who think themselves glorious will find themselves execrated and damned!

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The views and opinions expressed by our diverse panel of columnists and guest writers represent the many diverging perspectives held within the global Pagan, Heathen and polytheist communities, but do not necessarily reflect the views of The Wild Hunt Inc. or its management.

Quimper Cathedral, (CC Tom DL)

Quimper Cathedral, (CC Tom DL)

The cobbles outside are slick from a chill September rain, and I’m a bit unsteady on my feet, even with the aid of the large staff of Alder I’d been carrying for several days through the streets of Quimper.

Also, I’m inebriated. Pour a libation to Dionysos at a Breton gay bar the night before you intend to climb a sacred mount known to be both a Druidic site as well as hosting likely shrines to Brighid and Maponus, and it’s near impossible not to get drunk.

I’m on my seventh beer, and my limit is normally two. I hadn’t bought a single one. The attractive bartender and several equally fascinating Breton patrons have decided to get l’Americaine utterly smashed.

I was awfully grateful for their generosity and for their attention. The Bretons fascinated me, and particularly this city with its ancient rivers, its dark alleyed warrens, and it’s almost skeletal cathedral to one of the Seven conquering saints of Bretagne, St. Corentin.

Mention of St. Corentin to the men in the bar yielded a surprising reaction. Most French gay men with whom I’d spoken about the Catholic saints become immediately dismissive, but there was a dark ferocity in the words from the men in this bar about him.

“He saved us, sure,” said one who’d bought me several drinks. “But he stole from us our joy and took away who we were.

The Breton cultural identity is not necessarily “Pagan,” but it’s hardly Christian and most definitely not French. Bretagne is one of several culturally -and linguistically- distinct regions in France that suffered severely from the French government’s attempts to create a “French” identity throughout its state and colonies. Only 200 thousand people still speak Breton (more closely related to Welsh and Cornish than to Irish and Scottish Gaelic) and, though signs are printed both in French and in Breton, you hear no-one speaking it on the streets.

Breton nationalism, however, is soaked in Pagan thought and imagery. The Breton Druidic revival had a similar birth to that of the Welsh revival–both had illustrious and charismatic figures who were also nationalist. That is, the revival of Paganism in Bretagne was significantly influenced by political independence movements forged to build cultural and ethnic identity and autonomy against a hegemonic, democratic, and imperialist power (for the Welsh, England; for the Bretons, France.)

One can certainly draw a parallel between these independence movements and similar resistance movements within the Americas. In the United States, particularly, Black Nationalism and First Nations independence movements spoke heavily of cultural and ethnic identity against a colonial (and slave-taking) power which had sought to eradicate non-White identities and beliefs through economic and political violence.

Racialism and Pagan Identity

Olympiongc9

Street battle between Anarchists and Greek Fascists (Public Domain Photo)

Any discussion of ethnic and nationalist movements would be dishonest without addressing the parasitical spectre of Racism which sometimes attaches itself to such struggles. Readers of European news will certainly be aware of the recent resurgence of highly racialized nationalist parties in Europe (The Front National in France, UKIP in Britain, and the frustratingly named Golden Dawn in Greece among many others.) These far-right parties often evoke imagery of a pure and nostalgic notion of “the folk,” pure of ethnicity and oppressed by foreigners (be they international bankers, powerful states, or immigrant workers.)

Through political and cultural rhetoric, such parties create an ideal innocent “we” similar in symbolic structure to the Nazi Volk or the American “Moral Majority,” salt-of-the-earth innocents who wish only to live lives of peace and prosperity as their forefathers did.

The American political analysis of such movements is either to deny parallels between conservative rhetoric and other “extreme” ideologies elsewhere or, the equally disturbing liberal answer, which is to abolish all expressions of ethnic and political difference within society, sacrificing identity at the altar of Capitalist assimilation.

I’ve seen no polls on the political affiliations of self-identified Pagans in the United States, but I’ve met only a few who don’t admit to leaning more on the liberal side of most things. Such tendencies are unsurprising, seeing as conservatives in America are generally Christian and push political agendas which Pagans have had to fight against in order to be recognized as practicing legitimate religions. The strong feminist and environmentalist traditions within American Paganism also make such alliances more tenable.

That being said, Liberalism is also what restrains Paganism because of its insistence on a flattening of differences and its sublimation of subversive identities. One can be whatever one wishes to be, provided that identity does not challenge the Capitalist, Disenchanted order. Beliefs and practices which refer to narratives in conflict with the Disenchanted order become marginalized quickly. One can be Muslim provided one not believe it too authentically, be Queer as long as one not act upon such desires in the public sphere. Here, I’d refer also to recent backlash against polytheistic beliefs within Paganism–one can believe in gods, provided one does not really act as if they exist.

Liberalism claims, likewise, to stand as a bulwark against Racist ideologies such as those rising in Europe (and also existing in America, though without strong political presence) through this flattening of difference, but denies the very difference within itself. The banning of religious icons (veils, minarets) and practices (Halal and Kosher butchery) by Liberal governments in Europe serves as a great example of this process. In the name of secularism, spiritual and cultural practices become commodities to be regulated, while the actually-existing religious practices of Europeans are relegated to a place of invisibility even as they continue to exist and exert influence. That is, the West disenchants both the beliefs of others and itself, flattening or annihilating identity difference in order to maintain power.

And worse, Liberal, colonialist tendencies within Paganism actually continue violence against oppressed peoples through the commodification of belief and maintains Western disenchantment of itself.

Colonialism Within Paganism: The Monomyth and Sensuous Ants

Two writers, neither of them avowedly Pagan, have contributed significantly to modern Paganism’s adoption of colonialist stances regarding indigenous beliefs of oppressed people. And though both of them have opened to many a basic understanding of mythic and diverse ways of thinking, their methods unfortunately re-inscribe the very flattening of human spiritual experience which has been described by many as Disenchantment.

Neither Joseph Campbell nor David Abram have ever made claims that they themselves are Pagan; that being said, the influence of Campbell’s work on so-called Neopagan (particularly Archetypal conceptions of the gods, building upon some readings of Carl Jung) theology is profound, and David Abram has appeared in so many reading lists of Pagan sites and forums that one might begin to suspect him of a foundational influence. And though both have certainly enriched the spiritual understanding of many, both wield colonial tools against the diversity of (non-white, non-western) religious and cultural experiences so well that their mistakes appear almost invisible.

Joseph Campbell’s conception of the similarities and pattern of sacred stories and myths across cultures, the so-called Monomyth, appears on the surface to be a particularly useful way of promoting understanding between peoples. The Monomyth functions almost as a universal key with which the stories of others can be unlocked and comprehended. But inherent in his notion that the sacred myths of people can be reduced to a universally-recognized pattern is the statement that all other human people groups can be understood by modern (capitalist, disenchanted) Westerners because all other stories are based on the same pattern of the West. That is, Western society becomes the rule by which all other peoples (many of which the West has subjugated) can be measured.

David Abram makes a much more subtle mistake in his The Spell of the Sensuous. While a surface reading of his work engenders a general respect for the animistic beliefs of non-European peoples, from an anti-colonialist reading, his re-narration of the experiences of the people he encounters is terrifyingly imperialist. In an oft-quoted part of the introduction to his work, Abram explains an encounter with people in Bali leaving offerings of rice to their household spirits:

“What a waste! But then a strange thought dawned on me. What if the ants were the very “household spirits” to whom the offering were being made? (p.12)

He then re-inscribes Western materialist logic into the indigenous practices of his hosts by describing how the offerings to the household spirits actually functioned to create a boundary between the home and the ant colonies. And while giving tacit acknowledgement to the statement of his hosts, he then blames not his own Western, materialist narrative as the source of misunderstanding, but insists that the Balinese have a less complex understanding of what “spirits” actually consist. That is, while attempting to explain to a disenchanted audience the animist beliefs of non-Westerners, he disenchants those very beliefs.

Assimilation and Cultural Appropriation

Here we can see how the logic of Capitalist disenchantment then functions as a force of assimilation and cultural appropriation, as well. Written into the narrative of European/American culture is the insistence that the beliefs of our ancestors are so far removed from our current existence that they exist almost in a pre-historic past, unreachable from our current position as “modern” peoples except as reconstruction or a sort of utterly different, new system of beliefs borrowing only the imagery of the past (one of the reasons I generally reject the label “neopagan,” as it enforces a difference I do not suspect actually exists.)

More so, the religious experiences of similarly modern (but not-white) peoples become discounted as part of this narrative, so that European secular beliefs (which can better be described as Christianity reformed through the Enlightenment) posit themselves as more advanced than the beliefs of Arabic, Indian, Japanese or Chinese societies, despite those societies being of equal complexity.

This narrative not only excludes the experiences of other peoples, but it attempts to erase–by both omission and rewriting—its own so-called “primitive” practices. By such exclusion, European peoples whose practices, beliefs, and behaviors do not fit into the progressive march towards an enlightened future become either invisible or categorized as other—heretics, mentally-ill, criminals, etc.

Thus, Western society disenchants itself, erasing its own spiritual, cultural, and ethnic diversities towards a flattened identity in which any acceptable and acknowledged variations must be part of that universal narrative. Like Campbell’s hero in the Monomyth, each individual within Western society, in order to obtain an identity, must follow a universal formula which does not deviate from the grand narrative of modern Progress.

Whoville Alley Valkyrie

Capitalism continues its displacement of people from land (Whoville, photo by Alley Valkyrie)

The bizarre and brilliant trick of Capitalism, in every society it touches, is to sever its subjects from access to their own production, offer it back to them in a commodified form, and then present this severance and re-packaging of human activity as “progress.” Just as all the most basic aspects of human existence (food, housing, clothing) have become commodities restricted to the market, so, too, has the process of value-creation—that is, meaning itself.

Consider the explosion of “lifestylists” in the 90’s, or the proliferation of hipster culture currently. Meaning and identity, previously created through the tension of personal and community interactions, is now offered on the market. Almost every anti-hegemonic, radical subculture has become available through the market. The Hippies, Street Rap, Punk, Goth and a host of other initially anti-authoritarian and anti-bourgeois movements all very quickly became commodified lifestyles so that the radical potential in each group is easily forgotten (and sometimes untraceable).

This mechanism replicates itself repeatedly, and it isn’t just limited to American “countercultures.” Consider the question of Cultural Appropriation and the repeated losing battles that many indigenous peoples have waged to protect their religious and cultural practices from becoming commodified. It need not be mentioned that, unfortunately, we Pagans have been particularly guilty of this, voraciously purchasing books on native beliefs, adopting identities and practices as if every belief is merely something to be bought.

But this isn’t a screed against cultural appropriation. We all know it’s wrong, if we’ve even had the briefest of conversations with a person from a subjugated culture. Rather we should look at the very reasons why people in a politically powerful cultural group find themselves seeking “authentic” beliefs in the stolen relics of oppressed peoples, wearing their garb, practicing their rituals with equal longing and callousness.

Consider, again, our reliance upon “the market” for our most necessary means of survival: food. In the mind, food becomes not something merely to be grown, cooked, and eaten–it’s a commodity, something only to be obtained through exchange of money. Our modern distance from the production of food severs us from the reality that it is something we create.

If something so vital to human existence has become distant to our recognition, how much so also the cultural and spiritual rituals and practices interwoven into the history of all human societies?

Towards a Radical (and Non-Racist) Pagan Identity

Recovering, then, the spiritual and cultural heritage of Pagan peoples is not just a religious movement–it’s a political project. Restoring the practices of people who’ve long allowed themselves to be told that their gods and spirits are dead, their ancestors “primitive” and “unenlightened,” liberates space within the hegemonic, disenchanted order not just for themselves, but for those currently fighting the destruction of their beliefs and cultures.

Just as the Breton and Welsh Druid Revival movements were both Pagan and political, and the current independence movements among those same peoples are soaked in the imagery of Pagan identity, so, too, the general anti-authoritarian, anti-chauvinist, and ecological aspects of American Paganism are signs of its radical potential.

But there is a danger in this project. Consider again the rise of Racist Nationalist movements in Europe. While few have managed to capture the imagination of significant Pagan revival movements in Europe, it’s undeniable that the language of ethnic and cultural identity has great appeal to those wishing to restore their ancestral practices. As the Greek fascist party Golden Dawn established itself in New York City, warnings went out through many Polytheist channels about its racist proclivities in order to inoculate Hellenic reconstructionists against its influence. Heathen networks have done similar work, leaving certain influential writers in the precarious position of being attacked both by Pagans bent on turning spirituality into White Supremacist ideologies and by Pagans insisting that belief in really-existing gods is a primitive throwback or even a form of mental-illness.

Though Western Liberal Capitalism, with its logic of modernism and disenchantment, presents itself as a bulwark against the rise of Racialist ideologies, its history of subjugation of ethnic and cultural identities might actually be the very thing which breeds racial hatred and fuels the fascist appropriation of ethnic movements.

At the gay bar, drunk among the Bretons, I’d asked about a piece of news I’d heard earlier that day. The Front National (FN), France’s racist political party headed by Marine Le Pen, had announced plans to campaign heavily in Bretagne, hoping that the strong desire among a long-oppressed people for autonomy and cultural identity would bring many in line with their anti-immigrant, anti-Arab political ideologies.
No one in the bar thought the FN had a chance, but I thought I sensed a palpable fear in the air, an uncertainty which felt much like my own anxiety about my ascent of Menez-Hom the next day.

Elections in March of this year did not yield for the racists the hoped-for success, but they had significant success elsewhere. What I saw in visions the night atop that Druidic site seemed related to the same question I have for the future of Pagan identity. A figure dressed in sea-foam hurriedly showed me how to build a fortification around a Pagan temple, and seemed impatient that I hadn’t already learned to do this.

If Pagans are to claim their own identity outside of the commodification of culture created and sustained by Liberal Capitalism and its disenchantment of the world, and to do so without succumbing to the seething hatred of fascist ideologies, we all better learn to do so. And quickly. She was awfully impatient.

 

Last month, in one of my regular link roundups, I mentioned the extremist Greek political party Golden Dawn, and how Greek Jews were increasingly fearful of their rabid antisemitism. In closing that brief blurb, I made mention of the fact that the party had, when it suited them, appropriated Hellenic and pre-Christian trappings to reinforce their pure Greek identity.

“For those wondering, the party did/does embrace nationalistic pseudo-pagan trappings, but has also realized the populist potential of catering to Greek Orthodoxy. Like most fascists, belief and tradition are simply avenues to power.”

Shortly after that post, I received an email from a supporter of the Golden Dawn, chastising me (as a Pagan) for not being on-board with the controversial political party.

Golden Dawn rally at Thermopylae, congregating around a statue of King Leonidas of Sparta

Golden Dawn rally at Thermopylae, congregating around a statue of King Leonidas of Sparta.

“In an article by Jason Pitzl-Waters, you make mention that Greece’s Golden Dawn is only using tradition and esoteric nostalgia to get into power, and accuse them of also working in [with] Greek Orthodox Christianity. Yet you make no mention of the Greek Orthodox turning against Golden Dawn and accusing them of being ‘Pagans.’ The church asked the party to clarify its position on paganism, including worship of ancient Greek gods. Golden Dawn accused them of kowtowing to the establishment. Why have you not mentioned this? And why have you not spoken about the Golden Dawn’s pilgrimage to the oracle in delphi? Or the recent spiritual honoring of King Leonidas at a statue built in his honor? They have also been accused of making sacrifices to ancient Greek gods. Who knows if that is true, but have you heard of any political parties anywhere in the world this open and friendly to paganism? yet you attack them with your words. Why not be friendly to these people, who only want to save Greece and crush international Zionism and the banking system. Golden Dawn may only be around for a short time maybe only decades who knows, maybe a lifetime, but while they are here, a task has been assigned to them. Golden Dawn are not followers but leaders, and any church that has attacked us can be sure to receive wrath in the future. Any group that we have extend our hand to in kindness that then turns around and attacks us will be handled without mercy. This can be said for any church or religion that has attacked our Golden Dawn and our great leaders, including the Greek Orthodox church. Not to mention those who we never approached in friendship like the jewish, Zionist controllers of Greece today. Today is only a day but tomorrow a great golden dawn will rise, not just in Greece but across all Europe and the world. As our great leader Nikos Michaloliakos has promised ‘When we are strong, we will be merciless!’

I’ve spared you the link to the white nationalist/supremacist site Stormfront that was included in the message, though I think the anti-Semitic rhetoric and with-us-or-against-us language makes it pretty plain where the writer stands. I was going to simply ignore the letter, archiving it my ample “cranks” file, but I felt this issue deserved more attention. Especially now that the Greek government has taken action against Golden Dawn for their role in the murder of an anti-fascist musician and activist.

Extreme-right Golden Dawn party senior lawmaker Christos Pappas is escorted by anti-terrorism police officers to a courthouse in Athens October 3, 2013. Photo: Yorgos Karahalis/REUTERS

Extreme-right Golden Dawn party senior lawmaker Christos Pappas is escorted by anti-terrorism police officers to a courthouse in Athens October 3, 2013. Photo: Yorgos Karahalis/REUTERS

“Some 35 people associated with the political party Golden Dawn, which gained 18 MPs in parliament last spring, were arrested on Saturday in a crackdown sparked by the stabbing murder of an anti-racism rapper last month. ‘This government is determined not to allow the heirs of the Nazis to poison our social life, to commit crimes, to terrorize and to undermine the foundations of the country that gave birth to democracy,’ Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said in a brief televised address after the death of rapper Pavlos Fyssas.”

So how deep are the Golden Dawn’s ties to Hellenic polytheism and modern Paganism in Greece? Do any of them support this party with deep ties to fascist ideals? I turned to Christos ‘Pandion’ Panopoulos, a Hellenic polytheist in Greece, who admitted that the issue of Paganism/polytheism in Greece is “a pretty complicated picture,” but that, for the most part, Hellenic polytheists and Greek Pagans aren’t falling in line with the toxic racism and ultra-nationalism of the Golden Dawn.

Christos 'Pandion' Panopoulos

Christos ‘Pandion’ Panopoulos

“As far as organizations are concerned , at least the few 4-5 visible ones, usually they do not openly support any political party, although looking at leading members opinions within can show tendencies. The only exception to the rule has been as far as I am aware of Panagiotis Marinis the leading figure (and founder) of Elliniki Etairia Arxaiofilon (one of the first and centered around a personality groups, now mostly inactive and most members having moved to YSEE), who has made several open statements in favor of GD, despite its Christian characteristics with  the “logic” that the biggest problem from modern Greece is the immigrants etc. All this of course falls alongside with his known racial – in the strict term of the word-  outlook on many things.  I think his opinions and reasons can sum up for most of the few polytheists who have done the same.

Other than that I can only speak for myself and for my community “Labrys,” but probably expressing the opinions of a major percentage of Hellenic polytheists as well, that having as a defining characteristic a. Religion b. The Hellenic culture, we find almost all modern political  ideologies more or less incompatible with our culture one way or another even more so concerning parties that are openly pro-Christian for religious reasons and even more so parties with fascist ideologies that are not only pro-Christian but totalitarian in the deepest and worst monotheistic example, which of course is the exact opposite of our ancestral culture. As such we see GD as a threat and even if we try to publicly abstain from political debates (in order to keep the religious character as our primary guide without further and for the most part objective distinctions) individually we usually raise our voices against such phenomena.  Personally I have written a few blog entries addressing some of these issues after this effort to mark pagans as GD supporters or GD as a pagan party appeared which you can find here.

To sum up I cannot possibly think of any reason that a Hellenic polytheist would vote for or support GD and I strongly believe that the character of such parties/ideologies etc are deeply monotheistic in their origin having nothing to do with traditional polytheism (not only the Hellenic one but others as well) and they are just using our imaginary, myths, holy symbols etc just to promote their agendas and at the same time causing issues for us.”

Panopoulos points out that some of the confusion stems from “arxaiolatres,” a term used for Greeks fascinated with ancient Greece, but not in an explicitly religious fashion. Several Golden Dawn supporters in recent years, according to Panopoulous, have embraced a romantic view of ancient Greece to justify their beliefs.

“In the last couple of years it seems that there was a rise of Golden Dawn supporters within the larger umbrella group of “arxaiolatres” not to be identified with actual polytheists, mainly involving those that have ‘found’ ancient Greece for the wrong reasons. Atheism and antisemitism, antisemitism becoming anti-Christianism, easily found ‘brilliant’ quotes out of context to support whatever modern twisted ideology etc, pumping up of lost national pride with childish videos about Spartans (of course containing the 300), stupid articles of how the Greeks were always better and fought for freedom and things like that, being targeted to and created by semi-educated middle class people that never learned many things about their history and feel better parroting low quality blog articles etc.”

Scholar Alexandros Kalozoides, who wrote a paper on the history of Greek Paganism and radical politics, echoes Panopoulos, and points out that there is “no central community – no such thing as a ‘Greek Pagan Community’ in the sense that it is found abroad.”

“There are lots of small groups which come together for some festivals, but are usually at each others throats the rest of the time. The official body representing Hellenic Paganism, (Supreme Council of Ethnic Hellenes) is not anti-semitic, it’s anti-Christian in the sense that Christianity is perceived to have destroyed the old religion. It certainly does not support the Golden Dawn, but their followers may well drink from both cups, and it would not make the slightest difference whether they came out with an official statement or not. However, their response to questions regarding their political values in their FAQ is both unambiguous, and encouraging.
 The other thing is, the Golden Dawn are not openly pagan, they are deliberately vague about religion. The ‘Pilgrimage to Delphi’ was marketed as paying tribute to ‘our ancient ancestors.’ The dynamics of paganism are different here – you get faithful Christians who still partake in the practice of honouring the ancient ancestors without it being a matter of faith – it’s a matter of shared (mythic) history.”

Kalozoides also pointed to an editorial published in a prominent Greek esoteric magazine, penned by editor Georgios Ioannidis, that clarifies and debunks the notion that the Greek Golden Dawn is somehow connected to the magickal order of the same name.

“The syncretic magical system followed by the HOGD has a clearly esoteric character that supports the mage in his attempt to know and contact the subtle planes of the universe, with the aim of spiritual regeneration, which is to say a golden dawn of his transmuted self.  This model of thought and practice is far removed from the “paganism” of the nationalist movements, that, just as with German national socialism, was cultivated only to the degree whereby it could forge a connection between modern man and the ancestral tradition, thus creating an illusion of unbroken continuity, with the ultimate aim of stressing the sense of cultural and racial superiority in relation to religions that originated mainly in ancient Palestine.”

All of these views, coming directly from Greeks familiar with the Pagan, polytheist, and esoteric communities in Greece, underline my initial thesis: that the Golden Dawn party utilizes Hellenic culture and religion to gain power and followers, but have little to do with organized Paganism or esotericism in the country (despite the preferences of scattered individuals). They wrap themselves in a flag of “Greek-ness” and purity, and will gladly exploit any community that will further their noxious goals.

As for the wider world, Pagan, polytheist, and esoteric groups have been quick to publicly condemn the values of the Golden Dawn, and clarify that they in no way support the controversial political party. In late September US-based Hellenic polytheist organization Hellenion recently released a statement clearly rejecting the use of Hellenic polytheism to promote any kind of hatred. Earlier in that same month, The Open Source Order of the Golden Dawn categorically rejected any possible connection with the “racist, and arguably fascist, Golden Dawn political organization of Greece.”

“The Open Source Order of the Golden Dawn stands against racism and intolerance. Our Golden Dawn tradition stems from a magickal Order begun in Victorian-era England, and we are not in any way aligned with the racist, and arguably fascist, Golden Dawn political organization of Greece (The People’s Association – Golden Dawn, Greek: Λαϊκός Σύνδεσμος – Χρυσή Αυγή, which has been in the news recently. We are a constitutional democratic institution and reject authoritarianism in its fascistic or other forms. We accept applications for membership from all sincere applicants who are local to an OSOGD Lodge, regardless of race, sex, ethnicity, physical abilities, ancestry, gender identity, religion, or sexual orientation.”

In addition, author and magician Donald Michael Kraig has issued a call to all Golden Dawn leaders to make plain their views on the political party, stating clearly that “Greece’s Golden Dawn does not represent the ideals of any group claiming to be associated with the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.” As a result, more orders are doing exactly that.

Whatever happens in Greece, and with the Golden Dawn political party, we must remain vigilant that fascists and violent ultra-nationalists do not co-opt our faiths, and we must stand firm with the Hellenic polytheists, Greek Pagans, and esoteric practitioners in Greece as they weather this crisis. There will always be groups and individuals that will try to exploit our faiths, using a brew of romanticism and nationalism to claim power in the name of the people. We must not allow that to happen, not in our names, and certainly not in the names of our gods.

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

Evo Morales receiving the blessing of the Aymara priests.

Evo Morales receiving the blessing of the Aymara priests.

  • Is Bolivia imposing an animist/indigenous worldview on Christians? That’s the charge some Christian groups are making in the wake of a new law which oversees the recognition of religious groups in the country. Quote: “They want to control the activities of the evangelical churches,” Agustín Aguilera, president of ANDEB, told the Santa Cruz newspaper El Deber. “Article 15 (of the law) would force all religious organizations to carry out our activities within the parameters of the ‘horizon of good living,’ which is based on the [ethnic] Aymara worldview. This is an imposition of a cultural and spiritual worldview totally foreign to ours.” It should be noted that the ethos of “Living Well,” while originating in indigenous thought, does not force a particular theology. Since Christianity Today is so concerned with people being forced to conform to religious philosophies not of their choosing, I’m sure they’ll speak out against a monarch in Nigeria who converted to Christianity and is now jettisoning traditional practices beloved by the locals. Right? Any day now…
  • Sociologist Robert Bartholomew says there’s a “sudden upsurge” in cases of mass psychogenic illness, better known in the common parlance as “mass hysteria” Worse, Bartholomew says that it can now spread via social media, which is bad news for those trying to prevent another “Satanic Panic,” or plain-old witch-hunt for that matter. Quote: “In a paper titled “Mass Psychogenic Illness and the Social Network: is it changing the pattern of outbreaks?” Bartholomew writes, ‘Local priests, who were inevitably summoned to exorcise the ‘demons’, faced a daunting task given the widespread belief in witchcraft, but they were fortunate in one regard: they did not have to contend with mobile phones, Twitter and Facebook.’ However, the old and the new are more intertwined than one might expect. Two separate strangers messaged Thera through Facebook saying she needed an exorcism.”
  • Greek Jews live in fear of the Golden Dawn, an extremist political party that’s been on the rise in the wake of austerity and fiscal crisis. Their words and actions are getting increasingly reminiscent of another European political party that arose during a time of fiscal crisis.  Quote: “In Athens on July 24, another song was heard — a Greek version of a Horst Wessel song, a Nazi anthem. The Golden Dawn Party blasted it outside its headquarters while handing out free food to “Greeks only.” Golden Dawn says it wants to “clean” Greece of foreigners. Its black-shirted supporters attack poor South Asian and African migrants, claiming they’re all in Greece illegally. The violence scares Orietta Treveza, a Greek-Jewish educator who has three young daughters. ‘It’s very scary because we think that we are next,’ she says. ‘It’s not going to end with the immigrants.'” For those wondering, the party did/does embrace nationalistic pseudo-pagan trappings, but has also realized the populist potential of catering to Greek Orthodoxy. Like most fascists, belief and tradition are simply avenues to power.
  • Satanic Panic bottom-feeder Bob Larson and his troupe of teenage exorcists have hit London, and the results are pretty much exactly what you’d expect. Quote: “Savannah seriously weighed in on why London is full of dark forces, explaining, ‘I think it’s been centuries in the making, but I believe it all kind of came to a pinnacle, a peak, with the Harry Potter books that have come out, and the Harry Potter rage that swept across England.’ Her sister Tess agreed, commenting, ‘The spells and things that you’re reading in the Harry Potter books? Those aren’t just something that are made up– those are actual spells. Those are things that came from witchcraft books.'” There’s the fruit of reality television for you, anything so long as it draws attention. Oh, and there’s going to be new Harry Potter soon, so I guess Satan wins again?
  • A United Nations housing expert has criticized a new “bedroom tax” in the UK, so naturally the Daily Fail accuses her of being a Marxist Witch. Quote: “Her lengthy CV lists countless qualifications, civic achievements, books and publications – but Raquel Rolnik makes no mention of dabbling in witchcraft. Yet the architect and urban planner appears to be an avid follower of Candomble, an African-Brazilian religion that originated during the slave trade. The academic, brought up a Marxist, actually offered an animal sacrifice to Karl Marx…” This is yet another reason why Pagans should not support or link to this tabloid.
An image from the "Abused Goddesses" campaign against domestic violence.

An image from the “Abused Goddesses” campaign against domestic violence.

  • A lot of attention has been paid recently to the “Abused Goddesses” awareness campaign against domestic violence, which features representations of Hindu goddesses that carry bruises and cuts from beatings. However, reactions from Hindus have been somewhat mixed. Praneta Jha of the Hindustan Times says that “trapping women into images of a supposed ideal is one of the oldest strategies of patriarchy – and if we do not fit the image, it is deemed alright to ‘punish’ and violate us.” Sayantani DasGupta at The Feminist Wire notes that “these images of Hindu goddesses looking sorrowful and downtrodden undermine culturally located sources of female power – however ‘contradictory’.” Lakshmi Chaudhry calls it a “giant step backward for womankind,” and USF professor Vamsee Juluri adds that “there has been such a great deal of misrepresentation, if not outright malicious propaganda, about Hinduism, that the campaign already seems to many Hindus to be a perpetuation of that, rather than a sincere attempt to address the real problem of domestic violence.” Finally, Suhag A. Shukla says that “what will be the ultimate test of the success of this campaign, however, is if it is able to stop the first of many abusers from letting his raised hand meet its intended target.”
  • Does philosophy have a problem with women? Katy Waldman at Slate.com ponders: “Taken one by one, the various explanations for philosophy’s woman problem are like Zeno’s arrow, inching ever closer to a target they can’t quite hit.”
  • In Israel, the tradition of participating in the kaparot ritual using a live chicken has caused debate after MK Rabbi Dov Lipman of Yesh Atid called the practice “deplorable” and “pagan.” Quote: “The ritual involves circling a live chicken over one’s head three times and symbolically transferring one’s sins to the animal. The chicken is then slaughtered and eaten. Many have the practice of donating the chicken’s meat to the poor […] Lipman urged Jews to perform the kaparot ritual with money or with flowers instead, as many currently do.”
  • Mitch Horowitz writes about how the occult brought cremation to America. Quote: “Cremation was introduced to America in the 1870s by a retired Civil War colonel, Henry Steel Olcott. As a Union Army staff colonel and military investigator, Olcott had amassed a distinguished record, which included routing out fraud among defense contractors and making some of the first arrests in the Lincoln assassination. In his post-military life as a lawyer and journalist, Olcott developed a deep interest in the esoteric and paranormal — which drove his fascination with the then-exotic rite of burning the dead.”
  • Definition of a slow news day: these leaves and overgrowth on power lines look somewhat like a witch! Wow! Really? Let’s get that spread around as quickly as possible.

That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of these I may expand into longer posts as needed.

Pagan Community Notes is a series focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. Reinforcing the idea that what happens to and within our organizations, groups, and events is news, and news-worthy. My hope is that more individuals, especially those working within Pagan organizations, get into the habit of sharing their news with the world. So let’s get started!

Witchesmustdie001jpg-2568309_p9Last week, several Pagans became aware of a Facebook page entitled “Witches Must Die By Fire,” and a group called “Those Witches And Wizards Must Die By Fire By Force.”  While hate speech complaints seemed to initially work, the page is back up, and Facebook is sending back an automated message saying it doesn’t violate hate speech guidelines. A number of Pagan responses have emerged from the controversy as growing numbers of our interconnected community discover the page and group. These responses include a petition, a group on Facebook dedicated to removing hate pages and groups, a call to involve Interpol, and an overview of the issue from South African Pagan Damon Leff, who notes that rhetoric about burning witches shouldn’t be taken lightly.  Quote: Throughout Africa women, men and children frequently become targets for witch-hunters. Incitement to burn Witches anywhere in Africa must be taken deadly seriously and response to such credible threats of violence against Witches on Facebook aught to be immediate and decisive.” As an Atlantic Magazine article published yesterday about Saudi Arabia’s ongoing and deadly hunt for witches and sorcerers illustrates, the global problem of witch-hunts and witch-killings are not merely idle talk, and rhetoric underlying these actions should not be simply dismissed. The Wild Hunt is currently in contact with several Pagan organizations about further responses and constructive paths forward.

The Warrior's CallA call has gone out to Pagans in the United Kingdom to participate in a public ritual at Glastonbury Tor designed to “protect Albion from Fracking.” Quote: “Albion is in peril. Her sacred sites threatened like never before. Chalice Well and the Goddess Sulis (Bath’s geothermal springs) are in danger of becoming toxic. The Great Mother’s flesh is to be cracked open and drained dry, uncaring for consequence to bird and beast, land and life. All those of good intent are summoned hither – regardless of age or gender, color or Creed – to gather at noon on Saturday the 28th of September atop Glastonbury Tor. There, we are to engage in group magickal working for the betterment and protection of this sacred landscape.” One of the co-sponsors of the ritual is Wiccan Marina Pepper, a politician and environmental activist, who has made the issue of fracking a key concern. Pepper’s concern seems well founded, as Heritage Daily has also sounded the alarm over potential damage to the famous wells of Aquae Sulis by hydraulic fracturing. As I mentioned last week, prominent UK Pagans like Damh the Bard and Philip Carr-Gomm have already been protesting fracking operations, and it seems like concern over this issue is only intensifying as Britain’s natural landscape is threatened by this process.

Peter Dybing

Peter Dybing

This past week Pagan activist Peter Dybing, a logistics specialist who works in disaster management, has been in Idaho helping to fight the wildfires raging through Sun Valley, the biggest fire in 25 years. Wildfires are currently spreading throughout the Northwest region of the United States, which has been plagued by drought and dry weather. In a missive posted to his blog, Dybing noted how his Pagan faith, and his work fighting these fires intertwine. Quote: “Today I am back from a fire, in Boise, resting, planning and preparing to respond again. As I reflect on my actions it is clear that the most profound influence my beliefs have had on me are my instinctive actions in crisis. When direct decisions are necessary NOW, they are laced with compassion, internal tears for the destruction Gaia faces in this firestorm and the need to be of service. The most profound expression of my Pagan beliefs and practice shine through most brightly when I have little time for piety.” Our prayers go out to Dybing, and all the brave first responders fighting these fires. May the rains return soon.

In Other Pagan Community News:

  • Modern Witch Magazine is now accepting submission for its fifth volume, entitled “Veils and Visions.” Quote: “The theme is centered on working with the other side, ancestors, energy work, and psychic development.” Deadline is September 25th, you can find guidelines and more information, here.
  • Water, the quarterly newsletter of the Pagan Educational Network, has just released its Lughnasadh edition. The publication is for members only, but you can get a membership subscription on a sliding scale.
  • September 27th through the 29th in Salem, Massachusetts will see the debut of “OCCULT,”“weekend long Esoteric Salon honoring, exploring and celebrating the intertwining vines which feed both Magick and Creative Art.” Co-produced by Aepril Schaile and Sarah “Jezebel” Wood the event promises to “recognize that, especially together, both Magick and Art are greater than the sum of their parts, and each in dwells the other; they are rooted together…To raise consciousness, challenging false perceptions of separation between these so-imagined opposed sorceries. With OCCULT, we seek to challenge old beliefs through the juxtaposition of beauty and magick, of art and ritual, blending the ingredients to make an event of highest harmony, a conjunctio of non-opposites.” You can see a lineup of OCCULT workshops and events, here. Artist line-up, here. Presenter bios, here. There will also be a masque.
  • This Saturday, August 24th, Friends of the Gualala River are starting a public action campaign to convince a winery to spare 154 acres of Gualala River’s redwood forest in California. Pagan author and activist Starhawk will be on hand to do a ritual that will (hopefully) turn “wine back into water.” Quote: “I’ve been working with Friends of the Gualala River and representatives from the Kashaya Pomo to help build a campaign to save an important Kashaya heritage site from being clearcut for vineyards.  Artesa, a Spanish company and the third largest wine corporation in the world, is planning this conversion.  It’s the last redwood-to-vineyard conversion planned in California, after the defeat of the huge Preservation Ranch proposal, which thankfully was defeated.”
  • Medusa Coils reports that the Lammas issue of Seasonal Salon, the online publication of the Re-formed Congregation of the Goddess International, has been released.
  • On September 22nd, the Stella Natura festival, held in Sierra Nevada’s Tahoe National Forest Desolation Wilderness will begin, and will include the Norwegian experimental runic band Wardruna in an exclusive American performance. Meanwhile, Circle Ansuz, a Heathen Anarchist collective, has begun a series of posts digging into the beliefs and past of influential Heathen Stephen McNallen, whose Asatru Folk Assembly is acting as co-sponsor for Stella Natura. I will be following this story in the coming weeks, and will update you on any responses or new information.
  • As I noted previously, the Gerald Gardner documentary “Britain’s Wicca Man,” renamed “A Very British Witchcraft,” was finally aired in the UK after being shown in a truncated version in Australia. You can see the 46-minute version of the documentary on Youtube, here (for as long as it lasts). Enjoy!

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of these I may expand into longer posts as needed.

At the beginning of June, copies of a new anthology, “Crowley: Thoughts & Perspectives, Volume Two,” started arriving at the homes of individuals who ordered the book. Published by Black Front Press, the volume received generally positive feedback from commenters at the Aleister Crowley Society. On June 10th, well-respected esoteric publishers Scarlet Imprint released a statement regarding Black Front Press, and its head, Troy Southgate.

“We were approached recently to contribute to Troy Southgate’s Black Front Press whose last published work was a Crowley anthology. After a little research, we were disturbed to find their rather murky history hidden beneath the anti-corporate, anti-capitalist and permaculture ideals. Though we are very happy to promote the independent esoteric and occult authors and publishers whose work and dedication invigorate and stimulate our community, it is entirely another matter to contribute our energy to a project which would seem to be attempting to use a multiplicity of voices from the occult scene to promote the ideas of the so-called New-Right.

It seems that Southgate is the leading figurehead for the “National Anarchist” movement, a political extension of the European “New Right” (not to be confused with neoconservativism). National Anarchists endorse a manifesto that defines Zionist Jews as “vampiric parasites intent on carving up the world’s resources in an attempt to create a single, global market,” rejects egalitarianism, and is pro-racial separatism.

“Race defines who we are, it provides us with an identity and exists for a damn good reason. Without maintaining this essential diversity, something you can find throughout nature, the world will become increasingly drab, standardised and monotonous and the only people left on the planet will inevitably form part of a coffee-coloured mush of uniform humanity. National-Anarchists wish to preserve the different races of the earth and believe that multi-racialism ends with the dissolution of all races. Racial separatism is the only way that the organic balance can be restored. We realise that it is impossible to separate people in the large cities and towns, many of whom have racially-mixed children or wish to live among foreign populations, and neither should we attempt to do so. Indeed, we believe that the nation-states of the West are likely to collapse in the next few decades and that our respective countries will begin to fragment along racial and cultural lines. So there is clearly no need to treat people inhumanely by herding them into camps or deporting them in the way that the Nazis and Soviets did in the last century; something which ended disastrously for those concerned. National-Anarchists must form new communities based on their own racial and cultural values. The maxim of the future will be respect for others and unity in diversity.”

Scarlet Imprint noted that they held a “profound” disgust for the views expressed in the National Anarchist manifesto, and stated that “what is clear in magickal history is that racial mixing has been incredibly beneficial.” The well-regarded San Francisco esoteric book-seller Fields Books thanked Scarlet Imprint for their stance, and promises “a longer and more nuanced response to all of our customers soon” on the matter. In response, some Crowley fans instantly went on the defensive, wondering if there was going to be a “blacklist” of contributors, bemoaning the “war of ideologies” that will be raised on the issue. This is exactly the kind of response that National Anarchists like Southgate hope for, since a veneer of an apolitical “pox on both your houses” attitude is what gives these New Right/third positionist groups their oxygen.

“The danger National-Anarchists represent is not in their marginal political strength, but in their potential to show an innovative way that fascist groups can rebrand themselves and reset their project on a new footing. They have abandoned many traditional fascist practices—including the use of overt neo-Nazi references, and recruiting from the violent skinhead culture. In its place they offer a more toned down, sophisticated approach… Their cultural references are the neo-folk and gothic music scene, which puts on an air of sophistication, as opposed to the crude skinhead subculture. National Anarchists abandon any obvious references to the Hitler or Mussolini’s fascist regimes, often claiming not to be “fascist” at all.

Like the European New Right, the National-Anarchists adapt a sophisticated left-wing critique of problems with contemporary society, and draw their symbols and cultural orientation from the Left; then they offer racial separatism as the answer to these problems. They are attempting to use this new form to avoid the stigma of the old discredited fascism, and if they are successful like the National Bolsheviks have been in Russia, they will breathe new life into their movement. Even if the results are modest, this can disrupt left-wing social movements and their focus on social justice and egalitarianism; and instead spread elitist ideas based on racism, homophobia, antisemitism and antifeminism amongst grassroots activists.”

Before Southgate and his apologists muddy the water on the debate that will no doubt gear up, lets be clear that his views are extremist, but always with the added caveat of “we’ll leave them alone if they leave us alone.”

“The most important thing for us is the Natural Order. It is natural for men and women to procreate. Anything which threatens the harmony of Nature must be opposed. Feminism is dangerous and unnatural not because it threatens to leave men with a pile of dirty washing-up and a few smelly nappies (as some of its adherents claim), but because it ignores the complimentary relationship between the sexes and encourages women to rebel against their inherent feminine instincts. Anyone interested in the opposing view should read The Female Woman by Arianna Stassinopoulos (Davis-Poynter, 1973) or Chapter 20 of Julius Evola’s Revolt Against the Modern World (Inner Traditions, 1995). Homosexuality is contrary to the Natural Order because sodomy is quite undeniably an unnatural act. Groups such as Outrage are not campaigning for love between males – which has always existed in a brotherly or fatherly form – but have created a vast cult which has led to a rise in cottaging, male-rape and child sex attacks. Nature is about life and health, not death and AIDS. One of the most eye-opening pamphlets produced on this issue is Alexander Baron’s truly excellent Guide to Gay Sex: A Primer For Young People (Infotext Manuscripts, 1994). But we are not trying to stop homosexuals engaging in this kind of activity like the Christian moralists or bigoted denizens of censorship are doing, on the contrary, as long as this behaviour does not affect the forthcoming National-Anarchist communities then we have no interest in what people get up to elsewhere. I just hope these people respect our own right to live in the way we choose. As far as abortion is concerned, this process violates the sanctity of life and once again the killing of an unborn child is flying in the face of Nature and one could do far worse than read Abortion: Yes Or No? by John L. Grady (Tan Books, 1979).”

Amazingly, the “we’ll let you live in peace apart from us come the revolution” defense seems to often work. Allowing views that would get them painted as neo-fascists to get lost in a constructed apolitical fog. However, any direct contact with self-proclaimed National Anarchists makes plain what they are, and apologists end up having to twist themselves into pretzels in order to insulate figures like Southgate from the odious effects of their pseudo-intellectual rhetoric.

I don’t think there should be a “blacklist” for those duped into thinking Black Front Press was truly apolitical in orientation, but once enlightened, it will become increasingly hard to erect a firewall between Southgate’s publishing arm and the views he and his followers espouse. Just because this book on Crowley avoided becoming a pamphlet for neo-fascist views doesn’t mean the publishing house that produced it should be given a free pass. Ultimately, there’s an expectation that intelligent people will consider who is funding and distributing a project. If your work is helping to bolster the image of a company that endorses the philosophy of the National Anarchists, if your work helps these groups further insinuate themselves within Pagan and esoteric communities, then the fig leaf of apoliticism must be challenged.

When it comes to politically transgressive art, where does the line get drawn between exploration and endorsement? If you sing about fascists, does it make you a fascist? Does such art empower and fuel extremism? The post-industrial musical genre known as “neofolk” has long dealt with these questions, with many artists having to issue position statements due to past collaborations or friendships with various infamous individuals. The whole issue gets progressively murkier the more individual bands and artists are put under the microscope by music critics and various “antifa” (anti-fascist) activists. Why does this matter to the modern Pagan community? Because there is a significant overlap between neofolk and various Pagan, Heathen, and occult groups, and we should be alert and educated to how these conflicts may affect us.

The reason I’m bringing this up now, is that Rose City Antifascists, the Portland, Oregon chapter of the Anti-Racist Action Network, has put out an alert about the Austrian band Allerseelen (who broadly affiliate themselves with Paganism), who are touring the West Coast and Pacific Northwest this month, and opening for the popular metal band Agalloch on certain dates.

“This December, the Austrian far-Right “post-industrial” and martial music project Allerseelen is set togive a series of performances on the US West Coast. Allerseelen is the project of Gerhard Petak (AKAKadmon and Gerhard Hallstatt) who also incorporates other performers into the act when playing live. Several of the Allerseelen shows are scheduled to take place in larger venues supporting the prominentPortland, Oregon “dark metal” group Agalloch, who will be touring to promote their new album. Thehitching of Allerseelen onto the tour of a larger heavy metal act will provide new outlets for Petak’sextreme-Right messages. Agalloch, the group which Allerseelen will support, is at present crossing overfrom underground cult status to something nearer the mainstream, the group’s latest album even beingpromoted with a write-up and “exclusive first listen” on National Public Radio’s music webpage. It istroubling that the act Agalloch chose to expose to its growing audiences has a long history of far-Rightinvolvement and propaganda, and is attempting to make aspects of fascist discourse acceptable.Agalloch’s decision to further link itself to Petak / Allerseelen by appearing on a new compilation CDreleased by Petak’s label is likewise of concern to anti-fascists and is of similar poor judgment.”

Nathan Carson, owner of the booking agency Nanotear, denies any fascist intentions in putting the tour together, and  claims he’s being harassed by anonymous individuals spurred on by the Rose City Antifascists.

“Anti-fascist bloggers calling me out for booking an Allerseelen tour. I guess they don’t know about my Jewish blood (and big nose). […] they phoned me from a blocked number at 10:30 this morning to get a statement from me. I refused to be quoted on 6 hours of sleep but told them I was entirely unaware of any fascist connections and that I’d make a personal decision myself after spending a week in the van with Allerseelen (who are also staying at my house.) […] they’ve posted my private cel # on some sort of site or list. I’m fielding blocked calls from uppity college students that are demanding to know why I’m promoting a fascist band in Portland. When I ask them their names and why they are calling from a blocked #, they invariably hang up. I’m anti-fascist in principle too, of course. But I don’t see a smoking gun or a strong case in this instance.”

So how fascist, or neo-fascist, is Allerseelen and frontman Gerhard “Kadmon” Petak? They cite his admiration of traditionalist philosopher, and Nazi/fascist sympathizer, Julius Evola, his links to European New Right publications, and song lyrics that seem to praise various Nazi figures. All of which seems to make him a politically unsavory individual that I would prefer to avoid, but the report gets murkier when they start digging into his ties with “right wing occultism,” his admiration of Leni Riefenstahl, and connections to figures like musician/publisher Michael Moynihan (who also edits the “radical traditionalist” journal Tyr). As for Petak himself, he claims to have no political motivations (and denies fascist affiliations), something the Rose City Antifascists refute.

“What is the meaning of Petak’s denial of any politics or political motivation? While not referring explicitly to Allerseelen, Anton Shekhovtsov’s article “Apoliteic music: Neo-Folk, Martial Industrial and ‘Metapolitical Fascism’” points to an answer by discussing Evola’s concept of apoliteia as well as European New Right influence in relation to certain sectors of the post-industrial scene. 91 From a stance of apoliteia, Petak is able to claim detachment from worldly politics, yet apoliteia far from the same as pure political apathy. Rather, Petak appears to be active in a metapolitical “invisible order” engaged in anti-Enlightenment culture wars, along the lines of the European New Right and its Right-Gramscian project. While Petak does not dirty his hands in Right-wing Party-building, he nevertheless contributes to a climate favorable to fascist politics, through fighting for the hearts and minds of countercultural audiences. He knows what he is doing.”

So is Petak a stealth neo-fascist softening the underground for traditionalist takeover, or is he more of a dilettante engaging with transgressive politics and figures in order to gain attention? I personally find bands who recklessly/cynically dabble in Nazi/fascist imagery and themes tiresome and wouldn’t support them with my time or money, but I’m not sure enough of a case has been built here to tar Agalloch, or the tour promoter, as neo-fascist supporters/sympathizers by working with this band. I’ll leave it up to the readers to decide whether Allerseelen are a pernicious influence, or just creatively bankrupt.

As I said at the beginning of this piece, politics in neofolk can get murky, especially when you are dealing with terms like “radical traditionalism”, which might mean different things to different groups. Make no mistake, there are racist and neo-fascist bands within genres like neofolk, metal, and punk, and they should be opposed when they try to increase their audience by infiltrating Pagan or Heathen communities, but we should also be careful to thoroughly investigate for ourselves before acting. Whether this is such a case, is up to each individual to decide.

The New York Times has report on a rising tide of violence against Muslim immigrants in Athens, Greece.

Immigrants have been beaten and stabbed near central squares, and several makeshift mosques have been burned and vandalized. In the most grievous attack, at the end of October, the assailants locked the door of a basement prayer site and hurled firebombs through the windows, seriously wounding four worshipers. “The attacks are constant — I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Naim Elghandour, who moved to Athens from Egypt in the 1970s and now heads the Muslim Association of Greece. “I used to be treated like an equal. Now I’m getting death threats.”

The Greek media are linking the rise in violence to Chrysi Avgi (“Golden Dawn”), a neo-fascist Greek organization that, like several European racist groups, embraces a National Socialism-tinged brand of Pagan occultism. While Chrysi Avgi’s ideology nows tolerates Greek Orthodox Christianity (most likely out of political necessity), their continued embrace of Paganism has alienated some Hellenic Nationalists. Nor is this simply a small band of  thugs with dreams of a Fourth Reich, this “Golden Dawn” have gained political clout and popular support on a wave of discontent over Greece’s fiscal meltdown, getting their founder, Nikolaos Michaloliakos, elected councilman in the Athens Municipal Council on November 7th.

The party appears to have fed off public anger against illegal immigrants in central Athens, a sentiment that has been rising partly because of the troubled economy. “Chrysi Avgi is still marginal, but it is not a welcome development,” says [University of Athens political science professor Kostas] Ifantis. “When things in a society are not going well, there is room for demagogues.”

Meanwhile, politicians who criticize this troubling trend, like current Republic of Cyprus president Dimitris Christofias, are defensively criticized and ridiculed when they dare to speak out.

Christofias became the first Cypriot president to address the Hellenic Parliament to mark 50 years of the Cyprus Republic. During his speech, he made reference to the coup by the Greek junta, and subsequent Turkish invasion, saying that some had not learned from the past. He referred specifically to the appearance in Cyprus of “destructive” mentalities of extreme organisations like Chrysi Avgi (Golden Dawn) and others.

“Every democrat feels indignation and outrage when they see on the internet the unrepentant grandfather teaching his three-year-old grandson the slogan ‘Long live the junta’ in front of the framed shield of the fascistic junta hanging on the wall…the child holding the pistol and being taught to kill Turks and communists,” Christofias said. He was referring to a video posted on Facebook by a civil servant in a senior position made public last week. An opinion piece in Phileleftheros yesterday accused the president of taking an isolated incident of “blatant perversion” and using it in the most historic speech ever given by a Cypriot president.

What’s clear is that violence and tensions continue to rise, and extreme right-wingers are growing ever-more bold.

“A large mosque with minarets in the city center will be a provocation,” said Dimitrios Pipikios, the head of a residents’ group in Aghios Panteleimonas, where Chrysi Avgi drew 20 percent of the vote in recent elections. Mr. Pipikios said the only way to ease tensions was to deport immigrants. “There is no room for us all,” he said, adding that extreme rightists were patrolling the area “because the police are not doing their job.”

The tactics, beliefs, and rhetoric of Chrysi Avgi are a stain on Athens, and on the reputation of Pagans living in Greece that are fighting for equal treatment in the Orthodox-controlled country. No matter what the true depth of their connection to modern Pagan worship is, neo-fascist appropriation of pre-Christian symbolism, thinkers, and beliefs harms us all. Giving ammunition to those who would brand fascism as an outgrowth of “pagan” belief systems. There can be no alliance or sympathy for those who twist and appropriate our faiths in this manner, who think that violent thuggery is the proper response to immigration or poverty. One can only hope that the election of Michaloliakos was an aberrant political blip that will soon correct itself.

If any of my Greek readers can give me further insights on Chrysi Avgi, the election of Michaloliakos, and the current anti-Muslim/anti-immigrant tensions, please leave your thoughts in the comments. Also, as a warning, comments that sympathize, endorse, or apologize for racist thug fascists risk immediate deletion. There are plenty of places to engage in thinly-veiled pro-fascist sophistry, but this isn’t one of them.