By Bernard E. Harcourt
“Political Warfare Attacks – A Primer. As used here, “political warfare” […] refers to political warfare as understood by the Maoist Insurgency model. Political warfare is one of the five components of a Maoist insurgency. Maoist methodologies employ synchronized violent and non-violent actions that focus on mobilization of individuals and groups to action. […] In Maoist insurgencies, the formation of a counter-state is essential to seizing state power.”
— Rich Higgins (White House, NSC), POTUS & Political Warfare (2017)
The Praxis 4/13 seminar, “Critique & the Alt-Right,” began by questioning what to call the growing right-wing movements in the United States and around the world. Should we use the expression “Alt-Right,” the preferred term of Richard Spencer (who claims to have coined it), one that connotes perhaps an innocuous or respectable idea (as Zeynep Gambetti suggested) of offering merely an “alternative” to the traditional Right? Should we use, instead, following Jason Stanley, the term “Fascist,” or following Ruth Ben-Ghiat “fascistic”—or would that elide the differences between mid-twentieth century fascists like Mussolini or Hitler and our unique historical circumstances today? Should we turn instead to the language of counterinsurgency and of a new American “Counterrevolution,” as Jeremy Scahill and I discuss on the Intercepted—and as George Shaw titles Part V of his collected volume, A Fair Hearing: The Alt-Right in the Words of Its Members and Leaders: “Counterrevolution”? Or should we call these movements “White Supremacist,” but again does that elide differences with Antebellum and post-Reconstruction America? (Should those differences matter?) Or should we draw instead on other terms such as “White Nationalist” or “Ultranationalist,” or “Far Right,” or “the New Right” as the French press did in the 1970s, or “Right Populism” as Etienne Balibar (1:58:13) suggested at the seminar? Or is there, instead, perhaps, a strategic reason to call them “Gramscians of the Right,” as Karl Ekeman suggests (see especially video at 2:14:53)? And in all this, I might add, should we capitalize any of these terms?
Words matter, we all agree—in fact, that may be our one point of agreement, even with these contemporary right-wing extremists. As Ekeman underscores, the texts we read consist, at their core, of dictionaries that redefine, recast, and infuse with political meaning ordinary language terms. They consist principally of what the authors refer to as “Metapolitical Dictionaries”: Guillaume Faye’s Why We Fight is essentially an alphabetized glossary – from pages 72 to 262, practically 200 pages of the 271-page book is definitional; and Daniel Friberg too has a lengthy metapolitical dictionary in his The Real Right Returns.
Language is political. In fact, if you read these texts closely, it is the main site of struggle—the main battle, in Friberg’s words, is over “shaping people’s thoughts, worldviews, and the very concepts which they use to make sense of and define the world around them.” (Friberg, 24) It is precisely what triggers, on both sides, the “emotions, identifications, and fantasies” that, as Renata Salecl observes, provoke, worry, and incite to action, especially in our increasingly anxious digital age. Cesar Sayoc is the most recent frightening example. And finding the right term to use is itself a form of critical analysis, perhaps one of the most precise.
Having rewatched the seminar, listened again carefully, and continued to read and ponder the question, I have reached the (tentative) conclusion that any naming must take account of the following guideposts:
1/ On Fascism: The formal term “Fascist,” etymologically tied to the Roman fascio as the symbol of law-and-order, describes a political regime that, at least to me, predates our general awareness of Hitler’s “Final Solution” to the Jewish question. In this sense, there is almost a before and after to the term fascism. There is, on the one hand, the ideal of fascism as an identifiable political regime: an authoritarian, law-and-order, single-party, executive power detained by a dictator who governs in the name of the people in an ultra-nationalistic manner. And on the other hand, there is the reality of fascism, post-1930s, as genocidal. Although fascism today retains the earlier formal character, it is practically impossible now to speak of fascism without including the genocidal dimension. Hence the confusion whether the term describes the before or the after—and hence my preference for referring to the latter as neo-fascist: neo-fascist in that one can now only speak of fascism after the Holocaust as having a genocidal dimension.
It is essential to read Jason Stanley’s analysis in How Fascism Works to identify the multiple ways in which these extreme-right writings function along fascist lines. The parallels are unmistakable. “Demography is destiny,” Shaw writes (xi). Diversity is making “white societies poorer, more dangerous, and finally unlivable for whites,” he adds. (xi) Friberg talks of “natural selection” (60), of women’s “natural role in society” (61), and of the right of “Europe’s native populations” to self-determination and self-defense (6). Guillaume Faye writes that “The base of everything is biocultural identity and demographic renewal.” (37) “A people’s long-term vigour lies in its germen, i.e., in the maintenance of its biological identity and its demographic renewal, as well as in the health of its mores and in its cultural creativity and personality. On these two foundations a civilisation rests,” Faye emphasizes. (37) “Islamic power is threatening to install itself in France,” he adds (40); but “there is an alternative: reconquest.”(41) Richard Spencer talks of the superiority of the white “and not just white, but Anglo and Germanic,” at quarterbacking. (101) There is also ample material in the American collected volume that justifies the “physical removal” of Jews, Muslims, LGBTQ, and others (Shaw, 206-214). This contemporary discourse works in the same way as classic fascism did.
Yet when we remark that FDR was attracted to Italian fascism, or that FDR was tempted by fascism in the 1930s, we are not suggesting that he was drawn to the extermination of Jews. In this sense, the Final Solution, or rather our association of fascism with Hitler’s Final Solution, transformed the meaning of fascism. The definition of fascism may not change with the Holocaust, but the connotation of fascism does, such that we need to make a distinction between fascism in the early 1930s and neo-fascism today: today, any embrace of “fascism”—or charge of “fascism”—must include the claim of a willful and deliberate (whether explicit or not) embrace of genocidal violence against those who are not considered part of the people (or at the very least, a willful ignorance or carelessness about the Holocaust or genocidal possibilities). To deploy the term “fascist” today is to inevitably include the element of genocide. History has radicalized the term. And so, I would prefer “neo-fascist” today as a way to underscore that genocidal dimension.
One further point. Regardless of whether we use the term “fascist” or “neo-fascist,” the term itself makes it very easy for anyone accused of fascism to ridicule its usage or to counter the charge, particularly by using the endorsement of right-wing political leaders in Israel as a form of inoculation. Comparing a person to Hitler or Mussolini, or to Stalin for that matter—putting aside persons who are openly Neo-Nazi (notice the use of the term “neo-“ there)—has been such a trope over the decades since 1945, that the charge has been somewhat watered down. This too may militate in favor of the prefix “neo-”.
2/ On Counterrevolution: These texts betray a clear counterrevolutionary ambition. The language of war is all over the writings—both explicitly and between the lines. “Civil war is already upon us,” Augustus Invictus writes. (Shaw, 214) “The war beings within you!” the Friberg book closes. (117) Europe “is at war” Faye writes in bold. (29) “Why do we fight?” he asks. “We fight only for the cause of our own people’s destiny.” (39) The entire final section, Part V, of George Shaw’s volume A Fair Hearing is called “Counterrevolution.” As noted earlier, some contributions go so far as to marginalize General Pinochet, suggesting that Pinochet’s methods of summary execution (by throwing victims out of helicopters) were not efficient enough (Shaw, 210-11). Throughout, the counterrevolutionary paradigm is modeled on counter-insurgency theory. Hence the importance of highlighting “The Counterrevolution” in any description and identification of these extreme-right movements.
The relation back to Maoist insurgency theory—which is at the source of what the French commanders called “la guerre révolutionnaire” or what became known in this country as “modern warfare” or “unconventional warfare”—is explicitly made in the white paper “POTUS & Political Warfare” written by Rich Higgins when he was part of the strategic planning office at the National Security Council in President Donald Trump’s White House, before being fired by H.R. McMaster for writing it. Higgins argues there that Trump is the target of insurgency warfare, or what he calls “political warfare,” that traces back directly to Mao’s strategies. He defines “political warfare” in a short “primer”—here too, we have a “metapolitical dictionary”—in the following terms:
Political Warfare Attacks – A Primer. As used here, “political warfare” does not concern activities associated with the American political process but rather exclusively refers to political warfare as understood by the Maoist Insurgency model.FN2 Political warfare is one of the five components of a Maoist insurgency. Maoist methodologies employ synchronized violent and non-violent actions that focus on mobilization of individuals and groups to action. This approach envisions the direct use of non-violent operational arts and tactics as elements of combat power. In Maoist insurgencies, the formation of a counter-state is essential to seizing state power. Functioning as a hostile competing state acting within an existing state, it has an alternate infrastructure. Political warfare operates as one of the activities of the “counter-state” and is primarily focused on the resourcing and mobilization of the counter state or the exhaustion and demobilization of the targeted political movement. Political warfare methods can be implemented at strategic, operational, or tactical levels of operation.
Political warfare is warfare. Strategic information campaigns designed to delegitimize through disinformation arise out of non-violent lines of effort in political warfare regimes. They principally operate through narratives. Because the left is aligned with lslamist organizations at local, national and international levels, recognition should be given to the fact that they seamlessly interoperate through coordinated synchronized interactive narratives. (Higgins, 3)
The reference, in footnote 2, is to “Thomas A. Marks’ treatment of the Maoist model as discussed in Maoist People’s War in Post-Vietnam Asia (Bangkok, Thailand: White Lotus Press, 2007), 1-14.” (Higgins, 3 n.2)
So the explicit foundation of the ongoing struggle that Trump purportedly faces is modeled on Maoist insurgency theory—and of course we all know what the proper response to a Maoist insurrection is: counter-insurgency practice.
What these writings make clear is that the ‘internal enemy’ that must be defeated—the insurgents—include Muslims and Latinos (as Trump made clear with the Muslim Ban and more recently with his constant pre-Midterm demonization of the “caravan”), the Movement for Black Lives, civil rights advocates, and trans* persons (what Higgins refers to as “ACLU and BLM” and “transgender acceptance,” at 1-2), and now as well the “Cultural Marxists.” (Higgins, 1) Sam Moyn just published an important piece in the New York Times the day before our seminar on the trope of “Cultural Marxism” and the increasingly threatening discourse, fantasies, and attacks aimed at the post-modern Left. Moyn draws our attention to new research on the way in which “Cultural Marxism” has been deployed by the extreme-right, including a fascinating article by Jérôme Jamin.
The category of “Cultural Marxism” has become the most efficient way for these extreme-right counterrevolutionaries to identify the ‘active minority,’ in the language of counter-insurgency theory, because the category regroups and serves as an umbrella term to capture the range a targets—including Muslims, Blacks, trans* and other minorities. Moyn and Jamin document this well: From the viewpoint of extreme-right conspiracy theorists, the shift from materialist Marxism to cultural Marxism (supposedly achieved by the Frankfurt School) entails a shift from one conception of the proletariat as working class men to another conception based on identity politics. The right-wing conspiracy theorists see in the Gramscian or Frankfurtian turn, the creation of a new proletariat, with “Cultural Marxist” theorists becoming both their protector and the extreme-right’s greatest nemesis:
Marxist must now extend their defense of the “proletariat” to the “new proletariat,” who are now made up of women to be protected against “macho men”; foreigners protected from “racist nationals”; homosexual people from “homophobes”; Humanists from “Christians”; juvenile delinquents against “violent and aggressive police”; and so forth. Regarding strategy, the theory states that Cultural Marxists must accuse their enemies of being racists, anti‐Semites, homophobes, fascists, Nazis, and conservative, which allows for the implementation of a “politically correct” language, and the banning of criticism of Cultural Marxism. (Jamin, 6-7)
Rich Higgins, formerly of Trump’s White House, provides his own “primer” on “Cultural Marxism”—again, note the “metapolitical dictionary”:
Cultural Marxism relates to programs and activities that arise out of Gramsci Marxism, Fabian Socialism and most directly from the Frankfurt School. The Frankfurt strategy deconstructs societies through attacks on culture by imposing a dialectic that forces unresolvable contradictions under the rubric of critical theory. The result is induced nihilism, a belief in everything that is actually the belief in nothing.
That post-modern (diversity/multiculturalism) narratives seeks to implement cultural Marxist objectives can be demonstrated by reference to founding Frankfurt School theorist Herbert Marcuse’s repurposing of the term tolerance. In a 1965 paper, Marcuse defined tolerance as intolerance; said it can be implemented through undemocratic means to stop chauvinism (xenophobia), racism, discrimination; and should be extended to the left while denied to the right (Higgins, 4).
One of the main culprits for “Cultural Marxism,” Higgins and others maintain, is the academe. Higgins writes of the academe that “Academia has served as a principle counter-state node for some time and remains a key conduit for creating future adherents to cultural Marxist narratives and their derivative worldview.” (Higgins, 2) But academics are not the only ones who benefit from all this and engage in political warfare, Higgins tell us. Others benefit and are captured by “Cultural Marxism” as well, including “‘deep state’ actors, globalists, bankers, lslamists, and establishment Republicans.’” (Higgins, 2) (We will come back to the term “globalist” shortly; as for the “deep state,” Higgins views it through a Hegelian lens.)
As Jamin writes “the ultimate goal of Cultural Marxists, according to the conspiracy theory, is to discredit institutions such as the nation, the homeland, traditional hierarchies, authority, family, Christianity, traditional morality in favor of the emergence of an ultra‐egalitarian and multicultural, rootless, and soulless global nation.” (Jamin, 7) The conspiracy theorists trace this all back to an insurgent Frankfurt School. Jamin cites a wonderful passage from Pat Buchanan’s book, The Death of the West (2002):
The Frankfurt School packed its ideology and fled to America. Also departing, was a graduate student by the name of Herbert Marcuse. With the assistance of Columbia University, they set up their new Frankfurt School in New York City and redirected their talents and energies to undermining the culture of the country that had given them refuge. (Buchanan, 2002, pp. 78–80) (cited in Jamin, 7)
And Jamin points us to the PR language for a film by James Jaeger called Cultural Marxism. The Corruption of America (2011) that describes how “the Frankfurt School, a Marxist splinter group, established itself at Columbia University and began ‘the long march through the institutions.’ The idea was, and still is, to infiltrate every corner of Western culture and pervert traditional values with ‘political correctness’ and Marxist ideologies. The ultimate goal is to destroy American free‐enterprise capitalism by undermining its economic engine, the Middle Class and the basic building block of society, the family unit.” (Jamin, 8, quoting the film’s official website)
For the extreme-right, especially the conspiracy theorists, the greatest threat today is this “Cultural Marxism,” with its roots in Gramsci and the Frankfurt School, that draws its tactics from the “political warfare” model of Mao’s insurgency theory. So much so in fact that, as Moyn opens his editorial, William Lind begins his 2014 novel “Victoria” with the crusading massacre of the faculty at Dartmouth College: “In less than five minutes of screams, shrieks and howls, it was all over. The floor ran deep with the bowels of cultural Marxism” (quoted in Moyn’s editorial). The counterrevolutionary dimension is essential.
3/ On White Supremacy: It is also important to underscore that the central aim of these authors is, as Jason Stanley correctly notes, the “attempt to send words into the respectability space.” The European extreme-right texts, and particularly Daniel Friberg, do a better job at that than the more boorish Americans collected in George Shaw’s edition. And there are even subtle distinctions between the Swedish and the French texts—with Friberg eschewing the talk of revolution or violence (34-35) by contrast to Faye (29-35)—as well as comparative levels of crassness among the American texts.
For the most part, the American texts are far more explicitly and single-mindedly focused on race. Although all the extreme-right texts share attacks on Muslims, Jews, women, LGBTQ, among others, the American texts really center race. As noted in the introductory post, Shaw’s very first utterance, the very first sentence of his edited collection, is that “If alt-right ideology can be distilled to one statement, it is that white people, like all other distinct human populations, have legitimate group interests.” (Shaw, ix) Overall, the American texts have a far more “White Supremacist” tone linked back more directly to the White Supremacy politics of the Antebellum and post-Reconstruction period in the United States.
Here too, then, it might be important to qualify the term “White Supremacist” with “neo-” in order to distinguish these works within their national historical traditions. The American texts are inflected with the American history of slavery; the European texts, by contrast, are infused with the history of colonialism. It is necessary to distinguish between these different strands of extreme-right writings.
In the American context, the term “White Supremacy” as a political ideology was called out more frequently in political and judicial discourse in the twentieth century, I believe, than now. I’ve been noticing, but I’d have to do more research, a number of opinions from mid-20th century that discuss White Supremacy in a more open way than today. Chief Justice Earl Warren refers specifically to “White Supremacy” in Loving v. Virginia (1965), the case striking down Virginia’s antimiscegenation laws. “The fact that Virginia prohibits only interracial marriages involving white persons demonstrates that the racial classifications,” Warren wrote, were “measures designed to maintain White Supremacy.” (388 U.S. 1, 11) Associate Justice Rehnquist refers to White Supremacy specifically in Hunter v. Underwood (1985), striking down Alabama’s voter disenfranchisement laws. At an important juncture in his opinion, Rehnquist highlights what John B. Knox, president of the convention, said in opening the 1901 constitutional convention in Alabama (of which the delegates were all white): “And what is it that we want to do? Why it is, within the limits imposed by the Federal Constitution, to establish white supremacy in this State.” (471 U.S. 222, 229) (see also Louisiana v. United States, 380 U.S. 145, 149 (1965); but again, I need to do more research on this).
In any event, today, the passage of time has rendered white supremacist ideology more radical, extremist, and more of an outlier than it was during the Antebellum period. It would be important to historicize and reanalyze the term now—leading me to believe that the use of “neo-” might be appropriate here as well.
4/ On Social Darwinism: What became clear during our discussion—especially from our lengthy discussion with Zeynep Gambetti over the place of neoliberalism in these extreme-right texts and the continuities from neoliberal evisceration of institutions to the extreme right—was the important dimension, as well, of social Darwinism. But not any kind of Darwinism. What became apparent, in order to maintain the coherence of certain passages (Friberg 30-31, 57-59), is that this social Darwinism is not focused on the individual, at the level of selection, but on ethnic and racial groups. The claim is not that individual traits compete or select, but that group traits matter. That’s why these writers extol the racial superiority of whites or native Europeans. Theirs is an ethnicized social Darwinism that has little resemblance to natural selection and, instead, a far greater proximity to eugenics.
5/ On Nationalism: Finally, and quickly, the texts differ importantly in the ultranationalism of the American extreme-right, by contrast to the European nativism of Friberg and Faye.
With these five guideposts in mind, I’ve come to the conclusion that, rather than call these extreme-right movements “the Alt-Right,” we should be careful to distinguish the European texts from the American.
For the U.S. writings—the writings by Spencer, Shaw, etc. in A Fair Hearing—and for the broader extreme-right movement of which President Donald Trump now forms a part, as well as now many in the Republican Party who are fellow-travelers of the extreme-right base, I would prefer to use the expression: neo-fascist-white-supremacy-ultranationalist counterrevolutionaries.
For the European Right texts we read, I would use the term: neo-fascist-European-nativist-counterrevolutionaries.
Tragically, to watch this all unfold in real-time, one need only pay close attention to President Trump’s words at press conferences and campaign rallies.
Last week, on November 7, 2018, at a White House news conference, President Trump explicitly rehearsed the neo-fascist-white-supremacy-ultranationalist counterrevolutionary position on the supposed “racism” of anti-racism. This is a central tactic of these extremists: to turn concern about racism and the encroaching extreme-right into a racist position. Trump made the exact move that Guillaume Faye, Friberg, and the American authors proscribe: to boomerang the charge of racism back at their opponent. Faye writes at length of “the repressed racism of the dominant anti-racist ideology” (230, bold in original). He emphasizes that anti-racism “in fact is an inverted racial obsession. What’s called ‘anti-racism’ is but a pathological expression of xenophilia.” (Faye, 262) Friberg writes that “to be ‘anti-racist’ is […] to be part of a movement which is directly linked to a reckless hatred for Europe and her history.” (10) In other words, anti-racism, believe it or not, is “racist.” This is at the very core of these texts.
Trump deployed this ideology in the most shocking and deliberate manner. It was total and complete dog whistle politics. Listen to the exchange, or even more, view it here:
Yamiche Alcindor (PBS Newshour): “On the campaign trail, you called yourself a ‘nationalist.’ Some people saw that as emboldening white nationalists. Now people are also saying. …”
Donald Trump: “I don’t know why you say that, that is such a racist question.”
Alcindor: “There are some people who are saying that the Republican Party is now supporting white nationalists because of your rhetoric.”
Trump: “Oh, I don’t believe that, I don’t believe that, I don’t believe that. Why do I have my highest poll numbers ever with African-Americans? Why do I have among the highest poll numbers with African-Americans? That’s such a racist question.”
[Alicodor tries to intervene].
Donald Trump: “Honestly, I know you have it written down and everything. Let me tell you, that is a racist question.”
[Alicodor tries to intervene].
Donald Trump: “You know what the word is? I love our country. I do. You have nationalists, you have globalists […] But to say that, what you said, is so insulting to me. It’s a very terrible thing what you said!”
It would be hard to imagine a more pristine illustration of turning anti-racism into racism against whites. Trump was calling out to his neo-fascist-white-supremacy-ultranationalist counterrevolutionary base.
Donald Trump’s language is coded—the words he uses, the things he is willing to say, when he says them, where, how, how many times, everything about Trump’s discourse is coded. When he uses the word “globalist” here and elsewhere—as when he responds to Laura Ingraham that “she’s just a globalist, and I don’t see any other connotation than that”—we know that he is communicating to his base the anti-semitism that is hidden behind that word. It is a term that has become, effectively, an anti-semitic slur. Rich Higgins wrote of “globalists” the following: “Globalists and lslamists recognize that for their visions to succeed, America, both as an ideal and as a national and political identity, must be destroyed. Atomization of society must also occur at the individual level; with attacks directed against all levels of group and personal identity. Hence the sexism, racism and xenophobia memes. As a Judea-Christian culture, forced inclusion of post-modern notions of tolerance is designed to induce nihilistic contradictions that reduce all thought, all faith, all loyalties to meaninglessness.” (Higgins, 2) The term is so fraught.
Trump’s cultivated silences about right-wing terrorism, such as the violence at Charlottesville or Cesar Sayoc’s pipe bombs—as compared to his lashing out at non-White Supremacist violence is calling out to his neo-fascist-white-supremacy-ultranationalist counterrevolutionary base. Trump’s repeated use of the term “political correctness,” especially in the context of the Muslim ban, picks up directly on extreme-right thinkers, such as William Lind author of “What is ‘Political Correctness’?,” that, in the words of Jamin, use the term to “evoke the all‐powerful nature of a new state ideology in the United States.” Lind calls this “’Political Correctness,’ and immediately associates it with Cultural Marxism, that is to say what he calls ‘Marxism translated from economic into cultural terms’ (Lind, 2004, p. 5).”
We are now watching, in real time, neo-fascist-white-supremacy-ultranationalist counterrevolutionary discourse define the American Presidency. This is utterly intolerable, and it is inconceivable to me how the American public has allowed this to happen. The 2018 Midterms were a first corrective. All the same, Leo Strauss must be regaling.
“A man of independent thought can utter his views in public and remain unharmed, provided he moves with circumspection. He can even utter them in print without incurring any danger, provided he is capable of writing between the lines.”
 Again, Paul Street does a good job of synthesizing all this here: https://www.truthdig.com/articles/the-signs-of-creeping-fascism-are-all-around-us/
 On the “Deep State,” Higgins writes: “The successful outcome of cultural Marxism is a bureaucratic state beholden to no one, certainly not the American people. With no rule of law considerations outside those that further deep state power, the deep state truly becomes, as Hegel advocated, god bestriding the earth.” (Higgins, 2)
 Zeynep Gambetti emphasized how these writings represent “a specific mode of re-politicization in an age of neoliberal depoliticization, but one that exacerbates the problems plaguing political systems instead of effectively overcoming them.” Along these lines, in Gambetti’s words, the texts are radicalizing and politicizing practices that “liberals themselves have helped constitute and normalize.”
 The exchange with PBS Newshour’s Yamiche Alcindor is here on YouTube: https://youtu.be/7bSMiSTdthE. Paul Street does an excellent job of analyzing this exchange here at TruthDig: https://www.truthdig.com/articles/the-signs-of-creeping-fascism-are-all-around-us/
 Jamin J. Cultural Marxism: A survey. Religion Compass. 2018;12:e12258. https://doi. org/10.1111/rec3.12258 (available at https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/rec3.12258).