Left and Right

The Alt-Right: History, Ideology, and the Future of a Fascist Movement

An interesting and generally accurate discussion of the Alt-Right from a far left perspective.

As one who was present at the time of the founding of the Alt-Right, and has remained peripherally associated with the Alt-Right milieu ever since, I have developed my own perspective on the role of the Alt-Right in contemporary politics and what is fueling the Alt-Right. In many ways, the Alt-Right can be compared to the Religious Right of the 1970s and 1980s in the sense of being a reaction against rapid political and cultural change. The Religious Right was a reaction against the Sexual Revolution of the 1960s, and the ongoing secularization of the wider society (for example, the removal of religious instruction from public schools). However, the Religious Right was a much larger, and much more influential movement. It leaders actually got invited to the White House during the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations.

Obviously, the leadership of the Alt-Right is not going to be invited to the White House. The Religious Right had many millions of adherents, fueled in large part by televangelist empires like those of the Reverend Jerry Falwell and Reverend Pat Robertson. Perhaps most importantly, the ideas of the Religious Right were not nearly as radical as those of the Alt-Right. For example, the Religious Right did not want to break up the United States into “theo-states.” They simply wanted to restore the politics and culture of the 1950s,  just as there are now many mainstream conservatives who pine for the “good old days” of the Reagan era of the 1980s.

The Alt-Right is clearly a much more radical movement than the Religious Right in that it has no interest in American-style evangelical Christianity, and many on the Alt-Right are opposed to Christianity altogether. Additionally, there is little enthusiasm for traditional American patriotism on the Alt-Right. Many Alt-Rightists are more likely to view America a failed project of Enlightenment liberalism. Alt-Rightists normally express zero interest in American imperialist wars (empire building under the guise of spreading “democracy” or “human rights”). Many Alt-Rightists also embrace traditionally “anti-American” ideologies such as neo-fascism, neo-monarchism, or even national-bolshevism. The Alt-Right is a much, much smaller movement than the Religious Right, with far less in the way of material resources or political access.

However, the Alt-Right is more radical than the Religious Right because the changes in society they are reacting against are more radical than what the Religious Right was reacting against. The Religious Right was reacting against changes in American society that remained largely within the traditional American cultural and political paradigm. For example, the Supreme Court decisions that removed prayer and Bible reading from public schools represented something of a tilt away from America’s radical Protestant heritage towards a parallel anticlerical heritage represented by figures like Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and Thomas Paine, and a more leftward interpretation of the First Amendment’s non-establishment clause. The changes that occurred in American society as a result of the Sexual Revolution were cultural as much as they were political or legal, and the liberalization of laws pertaining to contraception, divorce, abortion, sexual practice, etc. during this time represented a more leftward interpretation of traditional American jurisprudence involving the privacy rights implicit in the Constitution. Perhaps most importantly, the Religious Right was not a racially-motivated movement (even if most of its adherents were white).

The changes that the Alt-Right is reacting against are much more radical in nature in the sense of having the effect of abolishing the historic American nation altogether, the demographic replacement of the once dominant White Anglo Saxon Protestant majority, and the ongoing institutionalization of the ideology of the radical cultural left.

As an illustration, the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s was not about abolishing historic America as much as it  was about extending the traditional constitutional rights of American citizens to a citizen group that had been excluded from these rights due to skin color. The same was largely true of the cultural movements that followed on the heels of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. The antiwar, anti-draft, feminist, gay, disability, and other movements that developed during that time had plenty of precedents in past American antiwar, anti-draft, labor, suffragist, and “free love” movements. While these might have represented a leftward shift in the wider political culture and social mores, all of these were well within the American tradition, albeit its more leftward currents.

The Alt-Right has been made possible largely by the changes that have occurred in the United States (and elsewhere) since the 1990s, i.e. the end of the Cold War, globalization, the advent of the Internet, mass immigration and the resultant radical demographic change, and the rise of political correctness.

On an international basis, historic nations are largely being absorbed into the wider global system that is increasingly interconnected and governed by transnational forces such as international financial organizations, multinational corporations, trade blocks, the global media, political forums such as the United Nations, etc. There is nothing inherently sacred about the nation-state system itself. It is largely an outgrowth of the decline of the old royal dynastic empires, and efforts by peoples sharing a particular linguistic or cultural identity to create unitary states for themselves. Ironically, the nation-state system is largely a product of eighteenth and nineteenth century radicalism along with liberalism and socialism. There is no reason to think that the nation-state system should endure forever. Obviously, the older royal systems did not last forever.

However, it is not reasonable to expect the radical demographic and cultural changes that are taking place to occur without criticism or resistance. In the United States, for example, it is clear enough that the political Left has as its goal the abolition of the historic American nation. This being done by means of demographic transformation that involves reducing the size of the historic WASP core to minority status, and by eliminating the historic American nation’s public symbols. For example, some on the mainstream Right, including Donald Trump, have suggested that the present efforts to remove Confederate monuments are merely a prelude to what will likely be efforts to remove the historical memory of the American nation itself. I believe these claims are correct. Already, there are efforts to, for example, change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day, or eliminate the “Star Spangled Banner” as the national anthem due to the supposed racism of the anthem’s lyrics. In the future, we will likely observe efforts to eliminate references to such figures as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson (slaveholders and all that).

The objective will be to replace monuments to these figures with monuments to historical abolitionist, suffragist, labor, civil rights, feminist, gay, environmentalist, transgender, etc figures. Whether this is good or bad may be an individual value judgment, but it is unlikely that such things are going to occur without protest. Far more serious are ongoing efforts to eliminate civil liberties and constitutional rights that are the product of centuries of struggle for the sake of politeness and ideological convenience, to expand the tentacles of the public administration state into every area of society for the sake of advancing ideological objectives or social goals, and to create an intellectual and cultural climate where those who dissent from the paradigm of political correctness are subjected to McCarthyism-like inquisitions and repression. There is no reason to think that a future American empire, state or ruling class that functions under the guise of a leftist, multicultural, internationalist ideological superstructure will be an improvement over an American empire, state, or ruling class that functions under guise of a traditionalist, Christian, nationalist ideological superstructure.

It is to be expected that the changes that have been described above will be met by resistance to these changes. The Alt-Right is not a prototype for a future American fascism. It is more like a signal flair rising from a sinking ship. The current left-wing hysteria over the rise of the Alt-Right is comparable to the “Satanic panic” of the 1980s in the sense of a transgressive subculture being vilified as an ominous threat to the wider society. There is no more chance of, for example, Richard Spencer becoming a future American head of state than there was of Anton Lavey becoming an American President.

This is not to say that there are not many, many problematic features of the Alt-Right. The Religious Right often complains about the encroachment of left-wing authoritarianism in ways that impact their own cultural milieu (for example, putting Christian bakeries out of business for refusing to bake gay wedding cakes). However, the objective of the Religious Right essentially amounts to wishing to replace the present day “bad” kind of “liberal” authoritarianism with the older kind of “good” conservative, Christian authoritarianism. It’s rather amusing to observe religious conservatives who never spoke critically of sodomy laws crying oppression in the face of antidiscrimination laws, even if I agree with the religious conservatives in principle on this question. Similarly, the opposition of the Alt-Right to the rising institutionalization of left-wing authoritarianism is necessary and important, but likely rooted in selective indignation. It is not uncommon to hear Alt-Rightists discussing the possibility of suppressing left-wing organizations in a future Alt-Right regime, or making jokes about throwing political opponents out of helicopters. The new boss is usually not that much different from the old boss.


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