The Real Story Of Thanksgiving


“Learning” about Thanksgiving in our school system for some of us may be the first time we are even told about indigenous nations and people, but it is a false history. Learning about the realities of genocide, invasions, slavery, and war, we come to understand that Thanksgiving is above all, a colonial holiday that literally celebrates military victories and outright slaughter of Native Americans; made into law and custom by the government. It is not the feel good celebration of settler and indigenous relations we are taught to believe.

During a time when Native warriors and their accomplices are risking their lives fighting on the front lines while poverty, mass incarceration, pollution, continued land theft, destructive resource extraction, and abysmal conditions are the norm in many Native communities, let us all remember and reaffirm our commitment to the struggle against colonialism and the settler-State. With this in mind, we are reprinting a list of ongoing sites of Native resistance to resource extraction and beyond.

The Real Story of the First Thanksgiving

From Manataka American Indian Council 
by Susan Bates

Most of us associate the holiday with happy Pilgrims and Indians sitting down to a big feast. And that did happen – once.

The story began in 1614 when a band of English explorers sailed home to England with a ship full of Patuxet Indians bound for slavery. They left behind smallpox which virtually wiped out those who had escaped. By the time the Pilgrims arrived in Massachusetts Bay they found only one living Patuxet Indian, a man named Squanto who had survived slavery in England and knew their language. He taught them to grow corn and to fish, and negotiated a peace treaty between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Nation. At the end of their first year, the Pilgrims held a great feast honoring Squanto and the Wampanoags.

But as word spread in England about the paradise to be found in the new world, religious zealots called Puritans began arriving by the boat load. Finding no fences around the land, they considered it to be in the public domain. Joined by other British settlers, they seized land, capturing strong young Natives for slaves and killing the rest. But the Pequot Nation had not agreed to the peace treaty Squanto had negotiated and they fought back. The Pequot War was one of the bloodiest Indian wars ever fought.

In 1637 near present day Groton, Connecticut, over 700 men, women and children of the Pequot Tribe had gathered for their annual Green Corn Festival which is our Thanksgiving celebration. In the predawn hours the sleeping Indians were surrounded by English and Dutch mercenaries who ordered them to come outside. Those who came out were shot or clubbed to death while the terrified women and children who huddled inside the longhouse were burned alive. The next day the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony declared “A Day Of Thanksgiving” because 700 unarmed men, women and children had been murdered.

Cheered by their “victory”, the brave colonists and their Indian allies attacked village after village. Women and children over 14 were sold into slavery while the rest were murdered. Boats loaded with a many as 500 slaves regularly left the ports of New England. Bounties were paid for Indian scalps to encourage as many deaths as possible.

Following an especially successful raid against the Pequot in what is now Stamford, Connecticut, the churches announced a second day of “thanksgiving” to celebrate victory over the heathen savages. During the feasting, the hacked off heads of Natives were kicked through the streets like soccer balls. Even the friendly Wampanoag did not escape the madness. Their chief was beheaded, and his head impaled on a pole in Plymouth, Massachusetts — where it remained on display for 24 years.

The killings became more and more frenzied, with days of thanksgiving feasts being held after each successful massacre. George Washington finally suggested that only one day of Thanksgiving per year be set aside instead of celebrating each and every massacre. Later Abraham Lincoln decreed Thanksgiving Day to be a legal national holiday during the Civil War — on the same day he ordered troops to march against the starving Sioux in Minnesota.

This story doesn’t have quite the same fuzzy feelings associated with it as the one where the Indians and Pilgrims are all sitting down together at the big feast. But we need to learn our true history so it won’t ever be repeated. Next Thanksgiving, when you gather with your loved ones to Thank God for all your blessings, think about those people who only wanted to live their lives and raise their families. They, also took time out to say “thank you” to Creator for all their blessings.

More Notes on Thanksgiving

by Chuck Larson

1. The Puritans were not just simple religious conservatives persecuted by the King and the Church of England for their unorthodox beliefs. They were political revolutionaries who not only intended to overthrow the government of England, but who actually did so in 1649.

2. The Puritan “Pilgrims” who came to New England were not simply refugees who decided to “put their fate in God’s hands” in the “empty wilderness” of North America, as a generation of Hollywood movies taught us. In any culture at any time, settlers on a frontier are most often outcasts and fugitives who, in some way or other, do not fit into the mainstream of their society. This is not to imply that people who settle on frontiers have no redeeming qualities such as bravery, etc., but that the images of nobility that we associate with the Puritans are at least in part the good “P.R.” efforts of later writers who have romanticized them.

It is also very plausible that this unnaturally noble image of the Puritans is all wrapped up with the mythology of “Noble Civilization” vs. “Savagery.” At any rate, mainstream Englishmen considered the Pilgrims to be deliberate religious dropouts who intended to found a new nation completely independent from non-Puritan England. In 1643 the Puritan/Pilgrims declared themselves an independent confederacy, one hundred and forty-three years before the American Revolution. They believed in the imminent occurrence of Armegeddon in Europe and hoped to establish here in the new world the “Kingdom of God” foretold in the book of Revelation. They diverged from their Puritan brethren who remained in England only in that they held little real hope of ever being able to successfully overthrow the King and Parliament and, thereby, impose their “Rule of Saints” (strict Puritan orthodoxy) on the rest of the British people. So they came to America not just in one ship (the Mayflower) but in a hundred others as well, with every intention of taking the land away from its native people to build their prophesied “Holy Kingdom.”

3. The Pilgrims were not just innocent refugees from religious persecution. They were victims of bigotry in England, but some of them were themselves religious bigots by our modern standards. The Puritans and the Pilgrims saw themselves as the “Chosen Elect” mentioned in the book of Revelation. They strove to “purify” first themselves and then everyone else of everything they did not accept in their own interpretation of scripture. Later New England Puritans used any means, including deceptions, treachery, torture, war, and genocide to achieve that end. They saw themselves as fighting a holy war against Satan, and everyone who disagreed with them was the enemy. This rigid fundamentalism was transmitted to America by the Plymouth colonists, and it sheds a very different light on the “Pilgrim” image we have of them. This is best illustrated in the written text of the Thanksgiving sermon delivered at Plymouth in 1623 by “Mather the Elder.” In it, Mather the Elder gave special thanks to God for the devastating plague of smallpox which wiped out the majority of the Wampanoag Indians who had been their benefactors. He praised God for destroying “chiefly young men and children, the very seeds of increase, thus clearing the forests to make way for a better growth”, i.e., the Pilgrims. In as much as these Indians were the Pilgrim’s benefactors, and Squanto, in particular, was the instrument of their salvation that first year, how are we to interpret this apparent callousness towards their misfortune?

4. The Wampanoag Indians were not the “friendly savages” some of us were told about when we were in the primary grades. Nor were they invited out of the goodness of the Pilgrims’ hearts to share the fruits of the Pilgrims’ harvest in a demonstration of Christian charity and interracial brotherhood. The Wampanoag were members of a widespread confederacy of Algonkian-speaking peoples known as the League of the Delaware. For six hundred years they had been defending themselves from my other ancestors, the Iroquois, and for the last hundred years they had also had encounters with European fishermen and explorers but especially with European slavers, who had been raiding their coastal villages. They knew something of the power of the white people, and they did not fully trust them. But their religion taught that they were to give charity to the helpless and hospitality to anyone who came to them with empty hands. Also, Squanto, the Indian hero of the Thanksgiving story, had a very real love for a British explorer named John Weymouth, who had become a second father to him several years before the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth. Clearly, Squanto saw these Pilgrims as Weymouth’s people. To the Pilgrims the Indians were heathens and, therefore, the natural instruments of the Devil. Squanto, as the only educated and baptized Christian among the Wampanoag, was seen as merely an instrument of God, set in the wilderness to provide for the survival of His chosen people, the Pilgrims.

The Indians were comparatively powerful and, therefore, dangerous; and they were to be courted until the next ships arrived with more Pilgrim colonists and the balance of power shifted. The Wampanoag were actually invited to that Thanksgiving feast for the purpose of negotiating a treaty that would secure the lands of the Plymouth Plantation for the Pilgrims. It should also be noted that the INDIANS, possibly out of a sense of charity toward their hosts, ended up bringing the majority of the food for the feast.

5. A generation later, after the balance of power had indeed shifted, the Indian and White children of that Thanksgiving were striving to kill each other in the genocidal conflict known as King Philip’s War. At the end of that conflict most of the New England Indians were either exterminated or refugees among the French in Canada, or they were sold into slavery in the Carolinas by the Puritans. So successful was this early trade in Indian slaves that several Puritan ship owners in Boston began the practice of raiding the Ivory Coast of Africa for black slaves to sell to the proprietary colonies of the South, thus founding the American-based slave trade.

Obviously there is a lot more to the story of Indian/Puritan relations in New England than in the thanksgiving stories we heard as children. Our contemporary mix of myth and history about the “First” Thanksgiving at Plymouth developed in the 1890s and early 1900s. Our country was desperately trying to pull together its many diverse peoples into a common national identity. To many writers and educators at the end of the last century and the beginning of this one, this also meant having a common national history. This was the era of the “melting pot” theory of social progress, and public education was a major tool for social unity. It was with this in mind that the federal government declared the last Thursday in November as the legal holiday of Thanksgiving in 1898.

Sites of Resistance

Haul No: Stop Uranium Mining in the Grand Canyon:

Protect the Peaks:

Black Mesa Indigenous Support:

The Makwa Initiative: Indigenous-led movement against The Line 3 Replacement Pipeline in Anishinaabe Territory

Unist’ot’en Camp: Building a permaculture and healing lodge in the path of pipelines in unceded lands

Day of Mourning Event at Plymouth, MA:

Leonard Peltier Legal Defense Fund:

Red Fawn Legal Defense, (her trial is December 5):

Cleansing Our Waters:

Camp De La Riviere:

Camp Turtle Island:

Camp Toyahvale:

Save Lula Island: and

Hopi Water Project:

This list is by no means conclusive, check Warrior Publicans, Indigenous Action, and Santa Cruz Indigenous Solidarity for more information about ongoing struggles and campaigns.


The Obsession with ‘Both Sides’ — Maine’s ‘Rally to Denounce Political Violence’ and the right-wing imagination

Re-posted from the Portland Phoenix

Written by 

There’s a rally at the State House in Augusta on Saturday. Its organizers say it is an opportunity for all to come together to “denounce political violence.”

But over the last week, a cluster of activists and organizations have identified it as the latest in a series of “alt-right” rallies connected to — if not directly, then conceptually — Charlottesville’s “Unite the Right” rally this summer, where white supremacists openly marched and chanted while holding torches, and Boston’s two “Free Speech” rallies in May and August.

What organizers believe, or would desperately like for us media-types to believe, is that Saturday’s rally is an earnest and sincere attempt to stop political violence “on both sides” — meaning it takes as a first principle an equivalency between what they identify as “hate groups” — meaning the KKK, the organized opposition movement known as Antifa (short for antifascist), and Black Lives Matter.


One of Saturday’s organizers actually did help assemble the first Boston “Free Speech” Rally, described at the time as “a group of veterans, ex-police, Tea Party Republicans and young people affiliated with the self-described ‘alt-right’ — a conservative faction that mixes racism, white nationalism, anti-Semitism and populism.” That organizer is John Rasmussen, a 32-year-old former Occupy Wall Street participant and Portland Occupy-er, who now lives in northern Maine. Rasmussen told me he had no affiliation with the “Unite the Right” rally, but it’s worth noting that the free speech rally he did organize shared some of the same speakers as Charlottesville.

A statement released last week (“titled “Identifying the Alt-Right in Maine”) by an anonymous member of the southern Maine chapter of the labor group IWW (Industrial Workers of the World) stated that a coalition of activist groups are planning organized opposition to Saturday’s rally. The statement lauded the principles of opposing political violence and protecting free speech, but believed the rally was advancing different motives, that it was “purporting to be celebrations of the right to free speech, but is actually featuring violent right-wing activists.”

Seen through one lens, the panel of 10 speakers can look like run-of-the-mill Libertarian Party politicians from Maine and Massachusetts. And to Jarody, the other of the event’s two organizers, a standard-issue Libertarian rally is exactly what it is.

On Monday, I met with Jarody at a restaurant in Augusta.

In our conversation, he tells me that he has no idea where organizers have affixed any notion of white supremacy to his event. By his account, progressives have deduced that he himself is a white supremacist because they’ve seen him post photos of “a stupid little frog” on his Facebook page. He scoffs at liberals informed by mainstream media who want to police how he communicates with memes, and have come to hysterically link any appearance of that frog (known as Pepe) with Nazism. He denounces the “fuckin’ idiot Proud Boys,” a far-right men’s rights organization that showed up at the Boston Free Speech Rally, and disagreed with some of the speakers at that same rally last month, which was met with a reported 40,000 counter-protesters.

The IWW statement originally misstated that Jarody was a pseudonym or avatar of Rasmussen. This is inaccurate. They are separate men. Jarody has no surname (he showed me his driver’s license — it’s literally just Jarody). He explains that his ideal version of Saturday’s event would be for his invited speakers “to get the chance to speak without fear of being shouted down or blocked or blockaded, or, god forbid, violence happening.” Jarody says a “regular, boring rally” is what he’s hoping for, but he doesn’t seem hopeful that’ll happen.

“We’ve got groups like Antifa and the John Brown Gun Club [Maine’s chapter of the national anti-racist organization Redneck Revolt] coming to oppose us,” he explains to me. “I’d like to see the organizers of the counter-rally make sure to rein in those on their side who might show up to incite violence,” he says, adding that he’s been in touch with some opposition groups about how Saturday will go. He anticipates disproportion. “It’s a number of groups coming to do their side, while it’s primarily a dozen or so people getting the work done on my side.”

Jarody doesn’t identify as alt-right or white supremacist. Or, in fact, even right-wing. He points out what he sees as an irony that it’s being opposed by the left, while most of the organizers and speakers at this event have “huge amounts of Occupy cred.”

“The way I look at myself, it’s always been a situation where I’ve been trying to slow down the next trouble. Whether it’s wearing a suit at the legislature testifying on bad bills or through Occupy Augusta.” He says the Tea Party started off as a grassroots movement before it was “moneyed into” by mainstream politics and became a tool of the GOP. The Occupy Wall Street movement seemed a logical step. “Occupy came by and I was like, alright, true counter-politics.”

In practical terms, Jarody is a registered Libertarian. When I met him with his girlfriend (and fellow rally organizer) Katt Jones and their three-week-old daughter, he couldn’t tell me where he identified on the spectrum of left or right. That seemed like sound rhetorical strategy while talking to a reporter you suspect might disagree with you, but Jarody’s politics are legitimately harder to parse than I expected.

Before he was organizing rallies like these, he hosted concerts benefitting #NoDAPL pipeline activists at Standing Rock. He says “the immigration thing” is a problem, but recognizes that an enormous reason why is because of America’s sustained military aggression abroad, and doesn’t blame refugees for wanting to find safety and stability. His definition of “political violence” that the rally purports to denounce should include those who “have escaped countries of political violence, who have managed to make their way to the state and become a fresh round of Mainers.” (Both Jarody and, later, John Rasmussen tell me they’re “in contact” with anywhere from one to three immigrant speakers to join the rally, though no names have been added at press time.)

But this is the most I’m willing to concede.


In an article published last week in the Los Angeles Review of Books titled “Free Speech Year,” Joshua Clover writes about the unfortunate recent trend of journalists covering each subsequent right-wing rally as if it were unrelated to the last. “Repeatedly over the last year, people — people in positions of significant power — have treated each rally, gathering, or other event as if it had arisen from nowhere, or from some subterranean roil.”

The organizers of this right-wing rally, like those before them, want desperately for people to ignore the political context we’re in. It’s seldom clear while talking to its adherents that this is concerted right-wing strategy, but the constant shifting of framework is telling. Two months ago, it was about uniting the right. Then it was about defending free speech. Now it’s to denounce political violence — each framing a sort of threat from the left and expanding the territory of those who might identify with their political agenda.

Meanwhile, each rally drives a stake in the ground for sustained right-wing political organization while seeming to lure its opposition — whether it’s the liberal Democrats or Antifa — into betraying its own supposed ideals. In doing so, the right-wing then set to tarnish the message of their opposition via its various media channels — including the White House — allowing them to move that stake even further. There’s a reason that Maine First Media, the largely anonymous, hysterical right-wing website (that basically functions as a Maine-version of Breitbart) proposed to sponsor the event. (Jarody told me he refused, and that he wasn’t allowing sponsors of any kind.)

“Such gatherings have been a longtime feature of US politics,” Clover writes, “rising from the nation’s unbroken history of white supremacy and the ineradicable lure of European fascism. It is no easy task to hold these complex and enduring histories in mind while still accounting for what seems like the emergence of a new and volatile political phenomenon, and all too easy to get tangled in invidious debates about whether it’s really new, really fascism, and so on.”

I lobbed a softball of a question about the KKK to Jarody. He fouled it off. Yes, there were Klan pamphlets dropped in Augusta, but they were the work of “just some kids,” he believed.

Then I asked him, given what he knows about the person who drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters in Charlottesville, whether he’d consider that political violence. He couldn’t. Referring to it as a “car crash,” Jarody was noncommittal.

“Nobody knows what’s going on inside that guy’s head,” he told me, explaining that James Alex Fields might have driven his Dodge Challenger into 19 people as a form of self-defense. “Nobody knows what his intentions were. Even though we have footage of it, that’s basically the work of lawyers. I’d have to listen to what he says up on the stand.”

(Edit: Since the publication of this article, more information on Jarody’s politics, legal history, and proclivities contained in his online presence has surfaced.)


Since it’s in question, here’s a reminder of what white supremacy means. Wikipedia has it as a “political ideology that perpetuates and maintains the social, political, historical, or institutional domination by white people.” It shouldn’t be contentious or partisan to say that Donald Trump, his cabinet, and a sizable chunk of his followers are willfully complicit with this definition — if you need any proof, just look at the president’s tweets about football this past weekend.

If you’ve got a few minutes, there’s a fascinating YouTube video titled “What is Kekistan?” that’s useful here, if only to understand the exact tone with which this demographic of heavily online white guys handles the political terms of the day. In it, a snarky but somewhat guy-next-door-ish type white dude, around 30 years old, explains the “brilliance” behind Kekistan, a fictional online country that functions as a “beautiful joke” lampooning identity politics. For the online self-declared “refugees” of Kekistan (for whom Pepe the frog is an official mascot), you’re guilty of “oppressing them” on identitarian grounds if you don’t take them at face value, thus betraying your own liberal ideals. If you do believe them, the joke’s still on you.

Saturday’s rally deploys nearly exactly the same rhetorical trap.

If the Kekistani flag doesn’t harken to a racially pure world (it’s virtually the same structure, different coloration, as the Nazi flag), it imagines a fantasy world not far off, one where (predominately) white men exclusively set the rules and discourse about what constitutes oppression, while brushing off the experiences and voices of anyone else making the same claim in the real world.

I also talked with Rasmussen, the event’s other organizer, whose political affiliations are less online than Jarody’s and run deeper into the right-wing organizational structure. Rasmussen met Jarody through Occupy, and iis now a resident of Perham, Maine, a Washington county hamlet counting fewer than 400 people. Asked what he wanted from Saturday’s event, Rasmussen said that he wanted “the press to come away denouncing political violence. That includes people stopping taking sides of the two groups of extremists wreaking havoc on each other through threats of physical violence.”

It’s not clear what he’s talking about. Antifa has its roots in opposing fascist regimes in Germany, Italy and Spain in the 1920s, and, in various incarnations, have been rejuvenated in the decades since whenever extreme right-wing have coalesced around power. The Trump election has certainly galvanized their movement, with many iterations of the group pointing out the ineffectiveness of liberalism to combat and confront real political threat.

Rasmussen believes he’s been made into an “alt-right bogeyman” in order to “legitimize violence” from those who disagree with his politics. Speaking over the phone, he’s considerably harder to talk to than the mild-mannered Jarody. He interrupted frequently, and accused me “of playing into the hands of these violent people” when I asked him how he finds an equivalency between white supremacist coalitions and their organized opposition.

In fact, over the course of our conversation, Rasmussen must have said the phrase “on both sides” close to twenty times. I recognized with him that yes, there have been a handful of recorded incidents where Antifa, or regular people, have punched or shoved someone at a rally, knocked out someone wearing a swastika, or knocked off a MAGA hat. But Rasmussen insists that this threat is equivalent to a violent far-right political coalition which, in the last year alone, has activated KKK factions across the country (and in Maine); that beat 20-year-old DeAndre Harris with pipes at Charlottesville; who drove a car into 32-year-old activist Heather Heyer, killing her; that stabbed nine antifascists at a rally in Sacramento led by the Golden State Skins; that shot a protester outside of a Milo Yiannopoulos speech in Seattle in January; that led to teens attempting to lynch an 8-year-old biracial boy in New Hampshire; that chant “Blood and Soil” and “Jews will not replace us” while marching the streets of Charlottesville; or that have averaged more than 300 politically motivated violent attacks on U.S. soil since 2001 (per a study by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point).

Free speech is indispensable. And, of course, political violence is to be denounced. But Saturday’s rally has intentions beyond that. It functions the same way that the right-wing imagination helped formulate Kekistan — damned if you confront it; damned if you leave it alone.

It is, in a sense, a standard-issue, right-wing libertarian rally. It’s also very possibly a strategic trap set for the left, so that they can be lured into a type of opposition that can be used to make white conservatives appear to the public as victims. And whether its organizers acknowledge it or not, it’s another step in a long arc of far-right political mobilization that advances white supremacy. Jarody, Rasmuseen, or the speakers may not identify that way, but in an era where agents promoting white nationalism and white supremacy are in power and spreading their message, it’s not unreasonable to hold those accountable who help build the scaffolding that supports them.

“(T)he first and simplest way to describe the last year has been an experiment in the naturalization of this project,” writes Clover. “To what extent can we walk the streets freely? How much nativist fascism can we get away with? In so doing, the complementary goals are to unify in practice groups conjoined already in their political orientation.” In other words, Saturday’s rally is a container for which genuinely apolitical dudes who hang out on 4chan might feel most comfortable fraternizing with white supremacists under the common bond of defending free speech. “Because it is an experiment, each positive result will be followed by a test that pushes the limits further; each failure requires a retreat, recognizing that for the moment the limit has been exceeded.”

* * * * * 

White supremacist sentiment can be discreet. Several times, Jarody and Katt James explained they had no idea where the idea came from that white supremacists were behind this. The evening after I spoke with them, Jarody messaged me to tell me that speaker Pete Harring dropped out. Harring issued a Facebook post declaring his reasons why. citing that “something does not smell right,” and that he had been contacted by several friends “from all sides” with concerns about the event.

One commenter, whose avatar depicted a white middle-aged male, was livid: “Today’s Hitler is a mulatto madman named Barack Hussein Obama,” he posted. “His henchmen are Sharpton, Jackson, Van Jones and the ‘liberal democrats’ (aka: Commies), the money is George Soros and their propaganda ministry are CNN, MSNBC, NBC, ABC, the NY Times, and Washington Post.”

Signing off the thread, the commenter wrote: “Lock and load, patriots, lock and load.”

The Internet is full of trash like this, and its sentiment is certainly not worth the ink it’s printed on here. But this community of people online also live in the real world. And it’s telling that the very organizers who told me they had no idea where allegations of white supremacy came from had no problem clicking the “love” button on this post.


Phone Zap! Stop Prisoner Abuse in New York

Jermaine Reynolds, a prisoner being held at the Upstate Correction Facility in Malone, NY, is currently suffering in solitary confinement with injuries to his kidneys, head and leg after being beaten up by his chow escort on Oct 7, 2017. His wife, who reported the situation, has already contacted the NY Inspector General, and is requesting help from IWOC to keep her husband safe, and demand accountability from those responsible for his appalling treatment. She says:

“[Jermaine’s] disposition is full of lies and inaccuracies [..] they charged him with assault to an officer but no correctional officer name is attached [..] He has had X-rays taken and his head has been hurting [..] his wounds just healed since Oct 7th [..] Other inmates witnessed his attack, and threats were made towards the other inmates. Those inmates were beaten for protecting him. It is hard to understand his “guilty” charge on his disposition. He was handcuffed with his hands behind him. So there is no way for him to have hit anyone with his hands.”

We are calling for a “comms zap” to the Upstate Correctional Facility, demanding that the prison administrators remove Jermaine from the Secure Housing Unit, and launch a full investigation into his assault and subsequent hearing:

Mail: Upstate Correctional Facility, 309 Bare Hill Road, Malone, NY 12953
Phone: (518) 483-6997 (Franklin County)

We are also requesting that folks file complaints with the Office of Special Investigations:

Call: 1-844-OSI-4NYS
Online: Submit an online complaint
Mail: Using a standardized complaint form please mail the complaint to:

Office of Special Investigations – Intake Unit
NYS Department of Corrections and Community Supervision
The Harriman State Office Campus
1220 Washington Avenue
Albany, New York 12226-2050

Feel free to use your own words, but one suggested script that you could use might be:


I am contacting you about the case of Jermaine Reynolds, #16A4692, who was recently assaulted by staff at Upstate Correctional Facility. I understand that other inmates witnessed his attack, and threats were made towards the other inmates. Those inmates were beaten for protecting him. At the time of the alleged assault, he was handcuffed with his hands behind him. So there is no way for him to have hit anyone with his hands. I demand that he be removed from the Secure Housing Unit, and that you launch a full investigation into his assault and subsequent hearing. Please be aware that DOCCS may be held legally responsible for any harm that comes to inmate Reynolds as a result of your failure to fulfil your duty of care towards him.

Thank you”

IWW Picket Met with Violence in Portland: Solidarity and Calls Needed

Watch the video at:

The following report comes from the Burgerville Workers Union, who has launched a campaign in the Portland area for higher wages and job place improvements. Less than a week ago, the corporation hired anti-union thugs to attack and harass picketing workers. Solidarity is needed, and people are being asked to call in and demand that this harassment and intimidation end and the corporation negotiate with the union.

On the night of Friday, November 10th, a private security firm hired by Burgerville physically assaulted workers and their supporters standing up for their rights during a peaceful union picket at the Convention Center location. This security firm not only created an intimidating atmosphere through acts and threats of violence but actively and recklessly endangered the lives of everyone who stood up that night for the rights of workers.

“Apparently Burgerville thinks it’s okay for people they hire to assault their workers,” says Burgerville worker Mark Medina. The guards, he says, “don’t care about our rights, don’t care about our civil rights, don’t care about us as human beings.”

The picket itself was part of a long unionization campaign at Burgerville, which has met with intense union busting from corporate. Workers are fighting for living wages, affordable health care, reasonable scheduling, and basic dignity. These demands, however, were answered by Burgerville with violence.

As documented in the video interview above, filmed immediately after the events of November 10th, Burgerville’s private security guards used force to stop a worker at the Convention Center Burgerville, Chris Merkel, from entering his own place of work.

“One of these big burly men,” says Chris, “ran back behind me and bumped me really hard, and I stumbled forward.”

Chris’s manager and a security guard also accused him of trespassing, despite Convention Center being his workplace and despite him being in the store not a half hour before the action.

“That didn’t make any sense to me because I work here,” says Chris. “I’m trying to stand up with other Burgerville workers and members of the community, trying to fight for a better community and a better workplace, and it’s so weird to me that a company like Burgerville would try to intimidate us like that, and physically threaten us.”

Mark describes how the security team laid hands on several people inside the store. As soon as workers and their supporters entered the store, says Mark, a guard “started walking aggressively toward us…and immediately started pushing us back,” going so far as to elbow Mark and shove another picketer.

In a video filmed by the Portland DSA, linked here, you can see evidence of a guard physically pulling a community supporter back by the collar of his jacket.

Acts of violence, however, did not end inside the store. Given the escalation the union moved the action outside, setting up picket lines alongside the sidewalks and off of Burgerville property, where security firm followed them. When a car approached the picket line, a security guard hurried up and “literally pushed people aside…to let the car through,” says Mark, despite not even being on Burgerville property.

Nikki Thompson, also a Burgerville worker, describes the effect of this as “people stumbling into the street” with oncoming traffic, who “almost got hit.”

For Mark, it was the impunity with which the guards acted that was most frightening. When picketers told the guards that they were committing assault, the guards mocked them. Mark felt like they were saying, “We will hurt you and we will harm you, and who are you going to tell.”

Though this is not the first time Burgerville’s security firm has acted threateningly, having come armed with guns to previous pickets, this marks a new, grave escalation in the company’s anti-union campaign.

“They felt like they were powerful and they felt like they could get away with it,” explained Mark, referring to why the guards acted with such aggression. “And until Burgerville acknowledges what they did and changes that, apparently they can.”

Call In Campaign

Out of concern for the safety of Burgerville workers and the union’s supporters, we feel it necessary to bring this man to the community’s attention. He was responsible for much of the intimidation and physical aggression during Friday’s picket, personally grabbing, shoving, and body-checking multiple workers and supporters. If anyone sees him in their workplace or community, please take precautions, and if anyone has information regarding this person that might help the union keep people safe in the future, please let us know.

We call on Burgerville to acknowledge and answer for the completely unacceptable, deeply unethical, and frighteningly reckless actions taken by this man on Friday. In the meantime, the union will be seeking legal counsel as to how we should proceed.

To all our supporters, we ask you to call corporate today and show the company that Portland will not stand idly by as Burgerville allows its private security to threaten, intimidate, and assault its own workers.

The number to call for Burgerville corporate is (360) 694-1521.

Sample Script:

“Hi, my name is [blank], and I’m calling to demand that you, Burgerville, call off your private security and honor the rights of workers to engage in union activity in their workplace and organize for better working conditions. The violent actions of your hired security on the night of November 10th were unacceptable. The Portland community is watching, and will not tolerate your intimidation tactics.”

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For more information and daily updates, go here.

The Rich Kids of Fascism: Why the Alt-Right Didn’t Start with Trump, and Won’t End With Him Either


Dec. 16, 2016


It seems like every time we turn on the TV, look on social media, or read a newspaper, we hear about the growth of a “movement” that doesn’t even really exist outside of the internet – the Alt-Right. The media, it would seem, won’t be satisfied until a physical fascist movement on the streets actually does appear. To paraphrase something Hitler said jokingly, democracy often paves the way for fascists to destroy it. But while reporters go gaga over “fashy haircuts,” explain what it means to be ‘red-pilled,’ and roll out the red carpet for meme culture, the real lessons of the Alt-Right are largely being lost on everyone; even those that want an end to the current system of domination and physically oppose its fascist defenders.

As the latest incarnation of the white supremacist movement in the US, the Alt-Right, signals a change in strategy and ideology for American fascists and white nationalists. It signals a turn away from former positions on gender and class, and toward a constituency that is more educated, urban, and upper class. Anarchists and anti-fascists need to take stock of these changes and differences, understand the ideas and strategy that drive the Alt-Right, and organize accordingly.

We need to understand that this divergence from previous generations (and in some cases, current ones) will cause strife and division within the white nationalist movement as a whole. At a time when white nationalists are calling for “unity” in their circles like never before, the Alt-Right is rife with tensions as jealousy, backbiting, name calling, and denunciations of individuals and groups runs rampant. This reality can been seen most clearly in the wake of the recent National Policy Institute’s conference, where several attendees gave the Nazi salute as MC Richard Spencer screamed, “Hail Trump!” The resulting media fallout sent several prominent white nationalists running to the hills, only to quickly disavow themselves of their former comrades in the press, throwing decades of connections and projects under the bus. Ironic, that a subculture so famously built on podcasts laced with the “n word” and gas chamber memes could become so embarrassed with itself for its behavior.

But while white supremacists like Richard Spencer are now given airtime on a variety of programs like stupid pet tricks, many in the media have been keen on the notion that Trump himself has led to the creation of the Alt-Right and that his election has unleashed with it a flood of far-Right mobilization by his existence alone. While it is true that Trump’s electoral win has unleashed a flood of violence, this is a reality that has been playing out for over a year, and is itself a reaction to other forces. Furthermore, such logic follows, that if Trump fades, so will his white nationalist auxiliary forces. This conception is an utter mistake.

The Alt-Right is much more dangerous than a reserve twitter army of angry men posting memes of Pepe the Frog wearing red Trump hats while harassing women and people of color from the safety of their mom’s basement. It was, and is, a growing collection of people, that while currently acting as an auxiliary force for the Trump regime is poised to become, if it continues to evolve, more of a potentially street based and ‘revolutionary’ movement. It’s origins have more to do with the white reactionary push back to the Ferguson Insurrection, feminism, the transgender movement, and Black Lives Matter, than simply just the Trump campaign. If it does continue, which it is sure to do, it will predictably splinter around questions of violence, electoralism, and class. What comes next will predictably be much more horrifying.

We as anti-fascists and revolutionary anarchists need to be confident in our own strengths and not feed into the media generated hype around the Alt-Right. By and large, the Alt-Right hasn’t been able to turn into a physical movement on the streets, yet. They don’t have offices, community centers, bookstores, publications, organizations, and unions like we do, yet. What the Alt-Right has is mainstream media hype, a tiny amount of influence in the Trump regime, and a sea of potential supporters that could also swing in other directions; but not yet a movement.

The hype around the Alt-Right is also speculative, much like our economy. And, just like the housing market, at some point, it’s going to burst. It is much like in 1997 when Spin Magazine argued that techno was going to be the new grunge; and it didn’t take long before everyone soon realized that this wasn’t going to be true. Now, in 2017, we need to remind ourselves of this reality again. The media does not create movements; it creates hype. The Alt-Right is this years’ Y2K, but at the same time we need to suss out reality from the hype while coming to grip with the real challenges we face with this new and strange opponent.

Furthermore, we need to come to terms with the media spotlight put onto the Alt-Right and what it means, as well as understand that due to the nature and makeup of our movement, we will never be given similar treatment. Lastly, we must attack this notion that the Alt-Right is simply a reaction, or a part of, the Trump campaign or phenomenon. Instead, like Trump, the Alt-Right is an elitist reaction to popular movements from below that seek to challenge systems of power and exploitation while molding support for authoritarian populism and fascism among the broader population.

Out of the Safe Space of the Internet

The Alt-Right is a collection of ideological tendencies, groups, websites, podcasts, think-tanks, internet cultures, and talking heads that have created a new breed of white supremacist within the millennial generation. While they disown this term, their ideology is based on the concept that biologically, white people living in America of European origin are different from all others. White people, according to the Alt-Right, are biologically smarter, less prone to crime, and more akin to build ‘great civilizations’ than human beings that are not.

Due to increasing numbers of non-whites in the US, many have left behind the old dream of purging all non-whites, and now instead settle on the creation of “white ethno-states” which would be politically organized around fascist lines. There is much disagreement as to the size of such states and how non-whites would be removed from its borders and placed into their own homeland/reservation, or according to some, completely removed and “sent back” to their land of origin. Thus, while choosing to label themselves Identitarians, white nationalists, race realists, or national socialists, the point remains that for them, the superiority of the white race requires the creation of a separate state and the physical exclusion of non-whites. Moreover, the resulting fascist authoritarian system would also exclude Jews, by and large homosexuals (at least from public life), Leftists, feminists, and anarchists of all stripes, and crush dissent and revolt.

But this new crop of reactionaries is by and large seemingly divorced from the old-guard of previous generations of Neo-Nazis, KKK groups, Holocaust Deniers, far-Right racist militias, and white power skinheads. While there is some overlap, there are more differences which separate the two scenes, and there is also a growing division between the more “traditionalist” brand of white supremacists and the Alt-Right. These differences hinge more on targets of recruitment, base of operation, class positions, aesthetics and rhetoric used, views on women and homosexuality, political positioning, and where the two camps place their energies through action and propaganda.

This division in the white nationalist movement is becoming more and more clear. On one side stand those that wish to continue on from where the old guard left off: the American Nazi Party, David Duke, various KKK formations, Tom Metzger of White Aryan Resistance, Aryan Nations and the Creativity Movement which sought to meld supremacist ideas with religion, and many more. The continuation of this camp can best be seen in the National Socialist Movement (NSM) and the Traditionalist Worker Party/Youth Network (TWP/TYN), headed by 25 year old, Matthew Heimbach. These two groups have recently formed the Nationalist Alliance, have begun working with skinhead gangs and KKK groups, and the NSM has even moved to stop publically displaying the swastika. By and large, these groups are (at least partially) rurally based, and present themselves as the vanguard of the white working class, and in doing so deploy a “third positionist” language that often comes across as Leftist. For instance, TWP banners read: “100% Socialist, 100% Nationalist.” While obviously this marks them as National Socialist (ie, the National Socialist German Workers Party, or Nazis), for many people, this will simply go over their heads.

But while the harbingers of the old guard in rural areas gather together for Neo-Nazi skinhead concerts and cross lighting ceremonies, in the cities, DC think tanks, universities, and upper-class fraternities, another section of the movement is growing: the Alt-Right.

The Alt-Right is made up of several key components:

  • Think Tanks, book publishers, and pseudo-academic conferences and journals help to give the movement a set of ideological leaders, media spokespeople, and a collected ideology. This includes the American Renaissance headed by Jared Taylor, V-DARE, an anti-immigrant website and think tank which is fronted by Peter Brimelow, Counter-Currents Publishing that is headed by Greg Johnson, and the National Policy Institute (NPI) led by Richard Spencer, who moved from paleoconservatism into white nationalism and also coined the term, “Alternative Right.” NPI also produces the Radix journal and sells books online. These key groups, projects, and people help create an ideological leadership as well as a liaison to the mainstream media which has been crucial to their growth in exposure.
  • Podcasts, websites, and internet culture act as a vehicle for communication for the Alt-Right as well as a means in which ideas can cross pollinate without being attacked. The biggest and most influential of these have been The Right Stuff (TRS) podcast network, the Neo-Nazi news website, The Daily Stormer, which produces ‘news’ and podcasts, and Red Ice Radio, which moved from concentrating on conspiracy theories into full blown Neo-Nazism. In many ways, the internet represents the only place left that white supremacists can go and congregate without fear of being confronted. Thus, in reddit groups, on 4chan, on twitter, and through podcasts, a subculture has been nurtured and is now attempting to grow out of just being confined to online spaces.
  • Activist organizations such as Identity Evropa, American Vanguard, Portland Students for Trump, and more. As the Alt-Right has grown online, it has attempted to push away from the confines of the internet. Only several groups have attempted to construct themselves as an Alt-Right force on the streets, and these currently include largely Identity Evropa, which outreaches to middle to upper-middle class males in college, American Vanguard which is largely a more aesthetically Neo-Nazi version of IE, and various Alt-Right groups which have supported Trump, such as the Portland Students for Trump.


White supremacist, red blood at the NPI conference

The things that make the Alt-Right different from previous waves and formations of white supremacists are:

  • They reject by and large a pseudo class analysis, and more or less any pandering to the ‘white working class.’ They are more interested in reaching out to college educated, urban based, and financially secure men than rural, poor, or working-class people. In short, the Alt-Right, speaking on terms of race, gender, and class – is an elitist movement. Moreover, they attempt to appeal to white men who react negatively to social movements that challenge systems of white supremacy and patriarchy within society. For the Alt-Right, the threat isn’t to white workers but instead to whiteness as a social position and caste within the American system. The failure of neoliberalism and statecraft in the US is that the dominant State system has failed (the Alt-Right cites the end of Jim Crow and changing immigration laws as part of this failure) to uphold these racial, gendered, and class hierarchies and thus has been made irrelevant. The only solution for them is an entirely new system: fascism and ethno-nationalism. But, much like classical conservatism, they propose that any problems that white workers or the poor face now will be fixed and corrected once a fascist ethno-state is created, or as The Daily Stormer writes, “If we were to physically remove Jews, however, [things] would probably fall into place naturally.” Lastly, it should also be stated that by and large the Alt-Right is made up of men from upper-middle class backgrounds, many of whom went to private schools, prestigious universities, who were enrolled in up-scale fraternities, and so on; Richard Spencer being a shining example. While the Alt-Right sees themselves as “dapper,” to the majority of people they appear to be is exactly what they are: rich kids. The Alt-Right’s elitist position is best articulated by Greg Johnson of Counter-Currents in the essay New Right vs Old Right:

[W]e need to adopt a resolutely elitist strategy. We need to recognize that, culturally and politically speaking, some whites matter more than others. History is not made by the masses. It is made out of the masses. It is made by elites molding the masses. Thus we need to direct our message to the educated, urban middle and professional classes and above.

  • The Alt-Right doesn’t care about women and sees them politically, like poor or working-class whites, as essentially non-actors. While there are some Alt-Right women, such as Lana Lokteff from Red Ice Radio, these women are simply the exception to the rule. Furthermore, there continues to be more and more cross-over with the ‘manosphere’ and Men’s Rights Activists (MRAs), who essentially take the argument the Alt-Right makes about races being fundamentally unequal and different and applies it to gender. Well-known MRA writers such as Roosh V (who argued that rape should be legalized on private property owned by men) and Matt Forney (who looks and acts like every “SJW” the far-Right mocks) have continued to cross into the white nationalist camp, speaking at NPI events and working with Red Ice Radio. The internet has also helped to funnel a lot of people from the manosphere into the Alt-Right, through things like #GamerGate which harassed women online and threatened them with rape and violence, and propelled the career of ‘Alt-Lite’ personality Milo Yiannopoulos. As Matthew Lyons has pointed out, in many ways, this flies in the face of the “separate but equal” stance of many white nationalists who often applauded the contributions of women to fascist movements. Here, Matt Forney sums up the Alt-Right’s position on women in the Chicago Tribune:

Trying to ‘appeal’ to women is an exercise in pointlessness…. it’s not that women should be unwelcome [in the alt-right], it’s that they’re unimportant.

  • The Alt-Right is anti-Semitic and views the Jews as a separate race from whites, by and large denies the Holocaust, but also normalizes and laughs about the wholesale slaughter of Jews and non-whites. Furthermore, they view Jews as having a negative impact on white people throughout history. While this borrows much from obvious sham conspiracy documents such as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the current articulation of this position is best put forward by the professor Kevin MacDonald who speaks regularly at various Alt-Right conferences, as well as Alt-Right websites such as The Daily Stormer, who wrote in their intro to the Alt-Right:

The defining value of the [Alt-Right] movement and the foundation of its ideology is that the Jews are fundamentally opposed to the White race and Western civilization and so must be confronted and ultimately removed from White societies completely.

  • Another central pillar to the Alt-Right’s worldview is that (in their view) it can be scientifically proven that there are biological differences in race and this corresponds with levels of intelligence, a person’s tendency to act in criminal or anti-social ways, a person’s ability to create and maintain “civilizations,” and in the case of the Jews, the belief that they are genetically prone to destroy “white” civilizations and negatively affect them. Thus, their foundational basis for a rational society should be based upon inequality and thus the superiority of whites. As Richard Spencer wrote:

A century and a half ago, Alexander Stephens, Vice-President of the Confederate States of America, was faced with the prospect of the victory or annihilation of his nation and fledgling state in what is now referred to as the American Civil War.

In his greatest address, “The Cornerstone of the Confederacy,” he did not speak (mendaciously) about “states rights” or any kind of Constitutional legality. He instead cut to the heart of the social order he was opposing. He stressed that the Confederacy was based on the conclusion that Thomas Jefferson was wrong; the “cornerstone” of the new state was the “physical, philosophical, and moral truth” of human inequality.

Ours, too, should be a declaration of difference and distance—”We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created unequal.” In the wake of the old world, this will be our proposition.

  • The use of terms and talking points used in “identity politics” towards their own ends.
  • Lastly, according to the Alt-Right, all those that oppose them (and other white nationalists of all stripes), are in fact protectors of the dominant political and economic order, essentially “work for the Jews,” and act as defenders of both neoliberal corporate capitalism and “communism.”

The enemies of the Alt-Right should take note of these differences if they are to destroy it.

Growing Reaction to Black Revolt and Popular Movements

The increase of both the Alt-Right and a new wave of Neo-Nazi, KKK, and general white nationalist action, violence, waves of vandalism, and more was part of a growing reaction to the Ferguson Insurrection and the Black Lives Matter movement, not simply egged on by the Trump campaign. In short, paramilitary action to the fear of black rebellion were the seeds for the new movement, not simply the coattails of Trump. This growth post-Ferguson has impacted all aspects of the far-Right, such as the 3%ers and Oathkeepers militia groups. As Shane Bauer wrote for Mother Jones as he went undercover in the 3%ers:

A Marine veteran and IT manager from Colorado named Mike Morris, known here as Fifty Cal, felt that if threepers were going to restore the Constitution, they needed to be organized and well trained. In 2013, he founded 3UP and became its commanding officer. Membership “exploded” after the Ferguson protests, he says. He boasts that the 3UP’s Colorado branch, its largest, now has 3,400 members.

As we wrote in Bern Notice: 

In the past year, we have seen this play out in the streets several times. In Olympia, we watched as Neo-Nazi skinheads took to the streets in support of the police. In Minneapolis, white nationalist members of the Patriot movement (and Trump supporters), fired upon demonstrators during the #JusticeforJamar occupation. In Seattle, members of the Hammerskin Nation attempted to march in a predominantly queer neighborhood. Moreover, in the face of almost a total media blackout, a wave of arson attacks against black churches was carried out throughout the South. In short, the far-right has hit the streets more in the last two years than they have since the 1990s. Its also important to note that in all of these instances, as it was in Anaheim, it took people physically confronting them to drive them out.

Since the time of that writing, we have seen attempted large scale far-Right mobilizations in Sacramento which led to violent clashes, shut downs of the KKK in North Carolina, ruckus protests outside of NPI’s conference in Washington DC, disruptions and protests of Milo’s latest speaking tour, and more.

It is important to remember that the growth of the far-Right as a whole in the current period is a grassroots reactionary push back against all popular movements from below, and this reality follows similar trajectories from the past. In 2006, as the immigrant rights movement grew and took to the streets, in reaction the militia and white nationalist movements swelled as armed gangs of men headed to the border to police “illegals.”

Going back farther still, some of the first original American Nazis such as George Rockwell and the the American Nazi Party (ANP) grew to be their most influential when they intervened in protests against attempts to integrate housing in suburbs outside Chicago as well as decrying “race-mixing” as a conspiracy of Jewish communists. Going back farther still, organizations such as the KKK were created in order to use terror to enforce the subjugation of black workers that generated massive amounts of wealth for the white land owning aristocracy. But this terror quickly grew to include other targets, as the KKK soon went after radicals, union organizers, and white people people that pushed back against the Klan.

Back to present day, we are also seeing beyond just the Trump campaign and anti-immigrant circles, the growth of another ‘cross-over’ issue growing around Blue Lives Matter, as many reactionary elements seek to support the police who are (literally) coming under fire as thousands rise up against continued police murders and brutality. This drive to support and defend the police who are being fought against by grassroots movements, from Chicago to North Dakota, is of course being supported by a wide range of white nationalists.

To overlook the role that reaction to popular movements, especially black revolt, plays in feeding into far-Right movements does a disservice to understanding fascism in the present day and white supremacy more broadly.

The Alt-Right and Trump

As the grassroots autonomous far-Right has fed off of the white reaction to black insurrection and the growing power of social movements, so too have politicians. As CrimethInc. recently argued, Trump’s electoral win does not signal the coming of fascism, but instead white supremacy attempting to rearticulate itself:

Fascism is not just any extreme right-wing position. It is a complex phenomenon that mobilizes a popular movement under the hierarchical direction of a political party and cultivates parallel loyalty structures in the police and military, to conquer power either through democratic or military means; subsequently abolishes electoral procedures to guarantee a single party continuity; creates a new social contract with the domestic working class, on the one hand ushering in a higher standard of living than what could be achieved under liberal capitalism and on the other hand protecting the capitalists with a new social peace; and eliminates the internal enemies whom it had blamed for the destabilization of the prior regime.

Trump showed contempt for democratic convention by threatening to intimidate voters and hinting that he might not concede a lost election, but his model of conservatism in no way abolishes the mechanisms that are fundamental to democracy.

There is, in fact, nothing fascist about Trump.

They go on to write:

Although the billionaire’s narrative of victimization—which the media has compliantly disseminated—is frankly pathetic, whiteness in the United States is indeed facing a crisis. Not because “whites are becoming a minority” or any other paranoid supremacist fantasy, but because in the last few decades, the paramilitary functions of whiteness have largely been absorbed by an increasingly powerful government that can do with judges, prisons, and urban redevelopment bureaucracies what yesteryear it had to do with lynch mobs—to such an extent that, paradoxically, even a black man can be put in charge of the whole apparatus.

Before Trump, the Tea Party movement began speaking to the crisis of whiteness, and was rewarded with an outpouring of support. The Donald simply named the anxiety more explicitly, and spoke from a larger platform.

Whiteness was created to destroy solidarity among the oppressed and to encourage loyalty to the rulers. On the streets of Ferguson and other cities, we saw how it also completes the paramilitary function of disarming people of color and preventing white people from directly taking part in the rebellions where racial divisions start to finally melt down.

Whiteness is a war measure. There are a thousand forms of mutiny, but all of them require the recognition that a war is going on.

But to get to the heart of their thesis:

The media in general have suggested that Trump’s appeals to whites were so effective because of the economic situation: working-class whites have felt threatened as their privileges and their social standing decline, so the story goes. Yet the racial gaps in wealth and standard of living have grown since the crisis. If economics were the bottom line, white Americans would feel more secure, not less secure, after Obama’s presidency. White privilege, in this sense, continues to pay its dividends. I would argue that it is actually the paramilitary function that is an ingrained part of whiteness which is in crisis, and which mobilized large numbers of whites for Trump.

In short, the physical and psychological wage of the cross-class nature of white supremacy is still paying out to white workers, but actions that used to be carried out by self-organized paramilitary organizations are now instead handled by a massive, bureaucratic, and neoliberal state.

Trump, just like the Alt-Right, saw a potential base within this reality, and acted accordingly. In many ways, this mirrors previous election cycles such as those of Barry Goldwater and George Wallace. Both campaigns saw massive support from various white supremacist groups, from the KKK to Neo-Nazis. In the case of Wallace, out of the ashes of his campaign’s failure came one organization, the National Youth Alliance for Wallace, which spawned the National Alliance, whose leader William Pierce would go on to publish the Turner Diaries, inspiring a wide range of terrorist groups from The Order to Timothy McVeigh.

Back in our current period, the response to Trump’s electoral victory from white nationalists, including and in particular the Alt-Right, has been extremely lackluster. We mean this in the sense that the majority of the movement seems to be giving Trump the benefit of the doubt, concentrating on ‘holding his feet to the fire,’ and also attempting to influence the regime. Groups such as the Traditionalist Worker Party have articulated such a standpoint at the risk of alienating some of their supporters. As one angry commenter wrote on their website:

So another WN group falls to the wayside through Trump worship. He was only worth supporting because he disparaged all the other candidates in a corrupt system. But he always was a crony capitalist piece of shit, and now he should be treated as such accordingly.

You should be working to bring down the system like the radical left does. Instead, you idolize someone who has been in bed with jew finance his entire life. America went into serfdom with the Trump supported bank bailouts of 2008. He granted them permanent rent seeking status when he did that, and it was pure treason.

On the Alt-Right, those in the leadership of “the movement” are pushing to influence the Trump regime in extremely organized ways. For instance, Richard Spencer is moving the National Policy Institute to Washington DC to be closer to the administration. According to

Richard Spencer now lists Arlington Virginia as NPI’s headquarters and says he plans to spend more time in Washington D.C. as the “alt-right” continues its efforts to influence the mainstream.


Identity Evropa members at NPI conference in Washington DC

Identity Evropa has articulated that the Alt-Right needs to push harder to take over the mainstream of the right-wing in the wake of Trump. Speaking on the recent NPI conference they wrote:

There was a will to capitalize as fully as possible on Trump’s win. At the conference, you got a real sense of where this movement is going. That we are the intellectual vanguard of the American right cannot be doubted. Now is the time to press harder than we have before to make ourselves and our ideas more prominent on the national stage. Our movement is no longer a head without a body. We have the momentum to propel ourselves into the future, and Identity Evropa will be on the front lines of this fight helping to lead our people to a better and brighter future.

To date, there has been repeated crossover between the Trump campaign and the Alt-Right, such as the connections made with Breitbart and it’s chief editor Steve Bannon who is now appointed to Trump’s cabinet, Donald Trump, Jr. coming on the white nationalist podcast The Political Cesspool, Neo-Nazis and white nationalists staffing Trump officers, various white power groups doing calls and volunteering for Trump, to many within the Trump campaign following white nationalists on twitter and Trump parroting much of Alex Jones’ talking points, to Trump even outright retweeting memes from white supremacist twitter accounts. While this is certainly enough to make one sick, while on the other hand the regime has been quick to distance themselves from much of the far-Right. Eric Trump even went so far as to say that David Duke “deserves a bullet.”

What is more clear is that the Trump campaign mined the Alt-Right for talking points, sound bytes, and ideas. While those on the Alt-Right would be overjoyed for this relationship to continue and grow deeper, on top of putting more and more of their people inside the establishment, at the same time, it seems unlikely that the current regime is going to be enough to satisfy the white nationalist movement over a long period of time.

It is also worth noting that the move made by the NPI to land in DC in order to influence politics as usual, mirrors very much the the Liberty Lobby headed by Willis Carto, which functioned in much the same way from 1958 until 2001, and even had a office located in downtown Washington DC. The Liberty Lobby presented itself much as the current Alt-Right does; as the defenders of ‘true’ conservatism and with no ties to outright anti-Semitism and Neo-Nazism. While the politics of the organization where clear to many, Carto was also quick to set up many other side organizations, such as the Institute for Historical Review (which was based around Hitler worship, studying the third reich, and Holocaust Denial), as well as The Spotlight publication, which reported white nationalist news on everything from Patrick Buchanan to Neo-Nazi skinheads.

But the Liberty Lobby was also a lesson in the ability of far-Right groups to splinter and fracture. For instance, Carto established the National Youth Alliance for George Wallace, only to lose it to William Pierce. He helped establish the Populist Party, only to watch as wave after wave of participants dropped out once the group’s ties to Nazis and the Klan came more out into the open. Fights, often violent and leading to drawn out court cases broke out between various factions over mailing lists, which at the time were the lifeblood of such organizations staying afloat, because they meant access to donations.

In the end, the Liberty Lobby placed its bet on politics and the electoral runs of Patrick Buchanan, only to see them fail time after time. Eventually the Liberty Lobby fell apart after lawsuits and splits. Carto was buried in a cemetery for Veterans. Before he died he joked:

“I’m probably America’s biggest Hitler fan, but I’ll be buried alongside all these World War II vets…”

All in all, we don’t see things playing out much differently for the Alt-Right in today’s current environment, but we have a role to play in their downfall as well.

The Alt-Right and the Media, the Media and Us

Revolutionary anarchists and anti-fascists will never be given the same spotlight as the Alt-Right is getting, we need to except this reality and deal with it.

The Alt-Right is an abnormality to the media which it finds enticing because it is a white supremacist movement that doesn’t look like one. This is a story that they will never get tired of telling, and as white nationalists are America’s number one killers, it’s unlikely to stop grabbing headlines anytime soon. But in doing so, they will normalize and spread the basic talking points of the Alt-Right far and wide. And, as the Trump campaign has shown, many of these formerly extreme positions are becoming much more center of the road.

But furthermore, the media loves the Alt-Right because it plays by the rules. The Alt-Right doesn’t organize massive shut downs, occupations, strikes, and riots like we do – first of all, they can’t, but moreover they fill out paperwork for permits and work with the police. The Alt-Right doesn’t cover their faces in black bloc and ski masks in order to avoid arrest, they hide behind the police and look for media people to tell their side of the story to. The Alt-Right is an upper middle class package of ‘activism’ that already makes sense to the media: legalistic, seemingly following the rules, cleancut, articulate, male, and of course: totally white. Finally a social movement that was made for air time!

To beat our head against a wall and continue to point out that far-Right white men have killed more police officers than anyone and that white nationalists make up the biggest terrorist threat on American soil, is a losing struggle in the face of the media. The media isn’t interested in the truth, they’re interested in selling papers and advertising. 

The mainstream media will never paint us in a similar positive light, nor allow us to articulate our ideas; our movement will always be anathema to them. Revolutionary anarchism and militant anti-fascism flies in the face of everything that the mainstream bourgeois media holds dear. We don’t want basic reforms of the system, we want a social revolution that changes life fundamentally on all levels. We don’t work legalistically to hold polite demonstrations; when possible, we shut down streets, attack the storefronts of corporations, clash with police, occupy buildings, and go out on strike. Also, unlike the Alt-Right, our movement is multi-racial and involves people of various backgrounds, genders, and sexualities. To paraphrase something Noam Chomsky once said, if the media was smarter it would allow radicals on the air more often, in order to make them look completely alien. For the media, it is clear which side is more ‘camera ready.’

While we do not think we should shy from stating our positions to the mainstream media when given the opportunity, we think the continued belief held by many Leftists that essentially more media means us closer to our goals is a mistake. While popularizing and normalizing our ideas is important to all of us, ultimately we will have to do this through our own infrastructure and networks. Furthermore, if anarchist ideas are to have any sort of currency, they will have to be backed up with action and people’s’ ability to become involved in organizing, fighting, and building a different way of life – not just sharing memes, twitter updates, and listening to podcasts.

As always, we need think about how we can use our online resources to grow the existing movement we have on the streets, not retreat farther and farther back into cyber-space.

The Alt-Right Isn’t All Right

As we have laid out in this essay, there are major fractures in the Alt-Right which will continue to play out, especially as Trump is now the head of a new regime. We see these as:

  • Questions of class: Many in white nationalist circles have long laughed at the Alt-Right as an upper middle class movement, and we see this trend continuing. As the Alt-Right tries to transition into street action, more and more they will also come up against their upper-middle class base being a problem. Moreover, the reality that anti-fascists are willing to physically confront them means that they will have to consider how they will respond. While we hold no illusions that groups such as Identity Evropa would beat the shit out of us if they could or were able, at the same time, we know that currently their image would be tarnished if they were portrayed on the same footing as anti-fascists, fighting in the streets. While the media may love their “dapper” rich boys now, once violence enters into the equation they will be quick to turn them into “menacing supremacist thugs.” But if the far-Right is to grow into more of a physical movement, it will need bodies in the street to protect the leadership of its elitist cadre. Thus, at some point the Alt-Right will most likely attempt to make common cause with the more ‘traditional’ white power movement in order to provide muscle (as Matthew Heimbach has done) or will simply attempt to openly recruit from the white working-class and the poor. While the idea of Richard Spencer trying to recruit poor whites is laughable, the question of class will continue to fracture and split the Alt-Right.
  • Questions of violence: As Nathan Damigo wrote recently on twitter, the failure of the current ‘work within the system’ breed of Alt-Right organizers will lead to a much more violent collection of white nationalist militants. While of course in the US and around the world we’ve seen the growth of far-Right violence and terrorism for decades, it is very possible that this tendency will grow and expand as it is felt by the broad base of the insurgent far-Right that Trump (and overall democracy) has failed them. As this shift happens, questions of violence will again take center stage and the movement will continue to fracture over disagreements.
  • Questions on tactics: Many on the far-Right proclaimed that Trump is the last electoral hope for the far-Right. That if Trump lost, the only possible way to uphold white supremacy in the United States would be to create a revolutionary movement that took state power. While it appears that many on the far-Right and the Alt-Right are biding their time and waiting for the Trump Train to roll out, at some point, Trump will begin to disappoint them just like all politicians. At this point, perhaps several years down the line, the movement will split again over questions on what to do. Should they again put all their chips behind a candidate or instead focus more on building a movement? Only time will tell who will go where, but in the end, not everyone will be on the same page.
  • Question on Links to Neo-Nazism: As the reaction to ‘HeilGate’ shows, not everyone in white nationalism is on the same page, and moreover many are quick to sell out their former comrades if they feel the heat is too hot. While overall, white nationalists are attempting to move into a more ‘mainstream’ appearance (getting rid of swastikas, etc), as was stated before, this is still a subculture that was built on memes with Hitler in them and references to ’14/88.’ One thing is clear, that publically, no one on the Alt-Right, and even in white nationalism, wants to be labeled a Neo-Nazi or white supremacist. Anti-fascists are thus going to have to continue to expose the networks and connections between these groups while also explaining how their ideas are essentially the same, despite the various degrees of separation or aesthetic differences that they have.

Lessons and Challenges for Anarchists and Anti-Fascists

In closing, revolutionary anarchists and anti-fascists have several lessons to take away from the current moment:

  • The mainstream media is not our friend and currently is in a crisis and losing money. While it presents itself as a neutral force within society and as a watchdog against wrongdoing, in reality it is designed to sell advertising and is driven by the same forces that own it. While the media acts as “shocked and appalled” by the growth of the Alt-Right, it at the same time does not understand how to be against a fascist movement that does not look how they expect a fascist movement to look and on the surface, appears to be legalistic and democratic in nature. While the hype around the Alt-Right we expect will fade with time, we cannot expect the same kind of spotlight on our movements due to the aims that we hold and our revolutionary ideas and militant actions. We must deal with the normalization of far-Right ideas by continuing to promote and popularize our own.
  • The Alt-Right and the much larger insurgent far-Right has grown in size in the wake of black insurgency and the growth of popular social movements and struggles from below, not simply from the Trump campaign. Like Trump however, the Alt-Right is seeking to mold this reaction into support for political power, albeit in a completely different fashion.
  • The Alt-Right will continue to splinter and fracture as time goes on under the Trump regime. Some will fall away. Others will tow the classic line of “hold our elected leaders accountable,” while others will call for militant action. In time, many will attempt to break with legalistic and democratic tactics, while others will argue against such measures. Over all, the Alt-Right will also have to come to terms with the fact that it is an elitist movement that does not have much of a rank and file that can operate in the streets. Instead, the Alt-Right seems more interested in working inside the system, than against it. As time goes on, these positions will lead to more and more splits, and the Trump era of unity will again be shattered.

In closing, we face several challenges:

  • How do we confront a fascist force that does not operate on grounds that we are used to, or even have access to? What do you do about a group of people who are members of a frat which had 5 Presidents come through it’s doors? How do we combat white nationalists who are corporate lawyers and have vast amounts of family money at their disposal? If we know anything (or think we know) about political people in positions of wealth and power it’s this: they don’t like to be embarrassed. Let’s drag their names and their politics through the mud, as much as possible. At their homes, at their work, at their school, everywhere. Let’s remind everyone that we offer no platform and no peace for fascists. As the May 1st Anarchist Alliance wrote recently on their analysis of a disruption of a Milo event:

One of the middle class students waiting for Milo made a racist remark, and I said he was a middle class piece of shit. He corrected me and said he was upper middle class. He was afraid of being included with the regular middle class and no doubt horrified at the thought of being identified with the working classes, but where is he going? Somehow I assume he sees his future as being tied with gaining/maintaining the upper hand against working people, communities of color, women, Muslims, Latinos, and so on. He hopes that by allying himself with Milo and Trump and a developing fascist movement, he will carve out a space for himself and comfort for himself at the expense of people beneath him. He wants to join with Milo and Trump to be on top against the rest of us.

The cops escorted Milo into the hall through another entrance and then attacked the anti-fascist forces and opened the way for milo’s supporters to enter the hall. This frenzy of trying to gain advantage at someone else’s expense, this frenzy of hating women and Muslims, this frenzy of taking up white nationalism and war fever, these are the dangers. This is not the old time klan, these college students are so lame that they think it makes them hip to support Milo and to embrace or consider embracing fascism.

  • We have to build up a presence on college campuses again and not leave the schools to become playgrounds for the far-Right. Let’s work to build connections on campus, both with groups when possible, and networks of friends.
  • Continue organizing militant confrontations with fascists, keep releasing their info, and stay up on counter-recruiting. Give them no quarter, go after them in every way, and build up a capacity to out organize them.
  • Confront their ideas politically. We have to attack the foundational ideas of white nationalism head on within wider society. We have to expose and show how concepts that seek to justify fascism and an authoritarian system are false and work against poor and working people. This requires us talking and organizing with people as much as it does with showing that there are different ways of thinking critically about society beyond false and racist notions that “the Jews run the world.”

Our movement has survived everything from Pinkertons, the KKK, Russian gulags, to World Wars. One thing is clear, we ain’t afraid of no memes. 


Here’s One Union That Can’t Be Touched by ‘Right to Work’ Laws

Reposted from The Nation

by Arvind Daliwar

Between thrilling customers with their repertoire of Broadway hits, servers at Ellen’s Stardust Diner have formed a “solidarity union” to fight for better working conditions.

I vividly remember being so anxious and miserable at work that I was getting drinks for a table, singing a peppy show tune, and crying,” says Meghan Doherty, who worked for six years at Ellen’s Stardust Diner, the Times Square restaurant popular with tourists because of its waitstaff, who perform numbers from Broadway musicals between taking orders. Doherty is just one of more than 50 Ellen’s employees who unionized for better working conditions in August of 2016 and allegedly faced mass firings and accusations of theft in retaliation. Yet, despite these challenges, Doherty and her coworkers are proving that unions don’t have to resign themselves to a slow decline—they just have to be different.

Waitstaff at Ellen’s say that, while they had long suffered from the routine miseries of the restaurant industry, the arrival of a new management team in January of 2016 made their already-poor working conditions unbearable. To the litany of complaints about verbal abuse, health and safety violations, and illegal worker’s compensation denials, employees could now add arbitrary firings, wage theft, intimidation, and harassment. “People were terrified to come to work because they might be written up or fired for not picking up straw wrappers fast enough,” says Doherty. For its part, management denies any wrongdoing: “We have always treated our staff quite well—with fairness, flexibility and respect,” says Ellen’s owner, Ken Sturm, in a statement.

In response to the worsening conditions, Ellen’s staff began casting about for a union to help them. Although they put out many calls, they only received one answer: from the Industrial Workers of the World.

Founded in 1905 in Chicago, the IWW is an international labor union that advocates worker self-organization. With members, affectionately known as “Wobblies,” embracing a philosophy of revolutionary unionism predicated on worker control of industry, the IWW grew rapidly around the globe. According to Wobblies of the World: A Global History of the IWW, the organization had locals in at least 17 countries on all six of the inhabited continents by 1927. At the union’s height, over 100,000 Wobblies were leading campaigns, strikes, and boycotts that were to forever change the working conditions of millions—most famously with the 1912 “Bread and Roses” strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts. No doubt because of this strength, the IWW was also the target of brutal suppression from all levels of government, and membership dropped precipitously by the 1930s. But the Wobblies never quite died out, and their membership rolls have been steadily growing in recent years. Carrying on its history of organizing workplaces that other unions overlook, the IWW has more recently supported employees at Starbucks and Jimmy John’s, as well as undocumented workers, like those of Tom Cat Bakery in New York City. (Full disclosure: The author is a member of the IWW, although he has not been involved in the Ellen’s Stardust campaign.)

Right from the start, the IWW set itself in opposition to the American Federation of Labor (today the American Federation of Labor–Congress of Industrial Organizations). Specifically, the Wobblies opposed the AFL’s roots in craft unionism and its “business unionism.” The IWW saw business unionism as forming a bureaucratic class meant to negotiate with employers and politicians on behalf of workers. Instead, Wobblies strongly advocated what they called “solidarity unionism,” in which workers self-organize to challenge their bosses on the shop floor through direct action. “Solidarity unionism is based on workers’ using their power in the workplace to achieve what they need,” explains Marianne LeNabat, a 17-year IWW member and former New York City branch secretary. “It is rooted in workers making democratic decisions for themselves about how to proceed with their campaign—as opposed to a paid staff member from a union.”

When employees from Ellen’s reached out to the IWW, LeNabat and other Wobblies hosted discussions about workplace problems and led workshops on organizing to achieve solutions. But, significantly, the decisions regarding what to do and how to do it were left to Ellen’s staff themselves. It can be incredibly demanding for workers to take on the duties of organizers in addition to their professional and personal obligations, but Wobblies see no other way for their interests to be truly represented. So, despite the magnitude of the challenges ahead, more than 50 employees from Ellen’s decided in August of 2016 to go public with Stardust Family United, their branch of the IWW.

Since becoming Wobblies, SFU members have pursued long-term resolutions typical of more traditional unions—such as filing lawsuits and Unfair Labor Practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board—but they’ve also embraced direct action to win immediate goals. They’ve banded together to stage shift strikes, collectively refused uncompensated work, blockaded trucks delivering supplies to the restaurant, and marched on management to reinstate tip buckets (often a full third of their income). Their demonstrations outside of Ellen’s typically featured them serenading customers to discourage them from crossing the picket line. At one memorable picket, workers sang “Happy Birthday” to a boy who was planning on having his party at Ellen’s, cheerfully dissuading him at the last minute. “This would’ve been impossible within a business-union model,” says Amanda Brasher, SFU’s treasurer and a 10-year veteran of the

Management responded to SFU’s going public in 2016 by allegedly launching a drawn-out union-busting campaign. News of SFU’s formation kicked off a ceaseless barrage of anti-union propaganda and crescendoed with two mass firings of known SFU members, including Doherty and Brasher. Sturm claims that these employees were fired for theft (“We want to be clear that these terminations were for lawful reasons that were made clear to the employees in question and have absolutely nothing to do with anyone’s union activity,” he says in his statement), but his evidence of misconduct has been found insufficient by judges on both the NLRB and the Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board. This didn’t prevent Sturm from attempting to sue his former employees in Manhattan federal court—a case that The New York Post reported on by shamefully publishing workers’ photos and names with amounts they allegedy stole, as if they were wanted fugitives.

But solidarity unionism prevailed. “Almost zero percent of the information disseminated in the boss’s union-busting meetings and propaganda applies to solidarity unionism, causing him to spend huge amounts of money in vain,” explains Brasher. Typical anti-union objections to forced dues payments and compulsory membership do not necessarily apply to solidarity unionism. IWW dues are paid voluntarily by members, rather than being deducted from their paychecks, as with most business unions. And because the IWW is not the exclusive collective bargaining-agent for Ellen’s employees, union membership is in no way required. In fact, because the IWW does not claim to be the exclusive collective-bargaining agent, an NLRB election to recognize the union is unnecessary. Yet the IWW retains many of the protections afforded by the National Labor Relations Act, as organizing—with or without winning an election—is considered protected activity. Even now, these distinctions between solidarity unionism and business unionism appear to elude Ellen’s management. “The group saying they want a union has resisted the NLRB vote for reasons only they can explain,” says Sturm in his statement.

And as for the terminated workers, funds for their relief and legal support were provided through SFU dues and self-organized cabaret fundraisers, complemented by donations collected by other local Wobblies and grants awarded by the national organization. It may seem like little compared to the coffers of business unions, but the results speak volumes. Fired workers continued to participate in the union as much as possible, while in-house members were able to rebuild their numbers despite the two rounds of firings. Business unions may have money, but solidarity unions have, well, solidarity.

The particular nature of solidarity unionism also makes it less susceptible to attacks from anti-labor legislation. So-called “Right to Work” laws prohibiting mandatory union dues collection among private-sector employees have been the bane of business unions, but they hardly affect the voluntary associations championed by the IWW. It’s for these same reasons that Wobblies have little to directly fear from the results of the upcoming Supreme Court case Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which could usher in public sector “Right to Work” laws to the absolute detriment of the AFL-CIO. (On the other hand, the general weakening of organized labor across the country would, of course, force the IWW to operate in a harsher environment.)

Earlier this month, just over a year since they went public, SFU celebrated their biggest victory yet. Days before the NLRB trial over their firings was set to begin, the restaurant settled, offering the 31 terminated employees reinstatement as well as back pay, with Sturm’s accusations of theft also quietly going away. Doherty has decided to not return to Ellen’s at this time (although she says she may consider it in the future), but Brasher will be among the 13 fired workers immediately going back to the restaurant.

Despite their huge legal win, SFU are adamant about keeping up organizing efforts. As management still admits no wrongdoing and the pain of being smeared in the New York Post remains fresh, Ellen’s employees understand their struggle is far from over. “We are already seeing that this battle is about control, not things,” explains Brasher. SFU’s next steps include demanding a clear disciplinary policy, growing their membership, and establishing a committee to address routine grievances and to form collective action plans.

On a wider scale, there are hopes within SFU to spread the model of solidarity unionism that has won them so much. Despite the difficulties they’ve already faced and the challenges still to come, Brasher is enthusiastic about the possibilities. “I’d like to be a part of establishing something that could improve the lives of my fellow workers throughout the food-service and entertainment industries,” she says. It is a testament to the idea that a unionism based on sincere solidarity can be victorious. And as that principle is winning at one restaurant in Times Square, it could be winning everywhere else too. Because, though customers may show up at Ellen’s to hear their favorite Broadway songs, behind the scenes the workers there are singing a different tune: ‘Solidarity forever, for the union makes us strong.’”

Labor Radicalism and Repression in the Woods of Maine

Reprinted from The Activist History Review

by Tyler Clyne

The recent confrontations between white supremacists and anti-racist protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia are the latest in a series of clashes in the wake of Donald Trump’s election between the forces of growing right-wing extremism and their left-leaning opponents. Even in a seemingly staid state like Maine, the Ku Klux Klan and other right-wing groups have increasingly made their presence known. In the wake of Heather Heyer’s death in Charlottesville, we must be especially aware of the dangers, historical and contemporary, posed by the alt-right.

White supremacist groups are not a historical anomaly in Maine, as the state once saw the rise of a large, politically active, and paramilitary-tinged Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s. This movement successfully influenced the state’s politics, including the election of a sympathetic governor in 1924, and engaged in campaigns of repression against ethnic minorities and labor radicals. Some of these labor radicals, organized under the umbrella of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), defied the Klan and set an example of resistance for their spiritual successors today.

In September of 1924, the Maine Ku Klux Klan was jubilant. Its favored candidate for governor, Republican state senator Ralph Owen Brewster, had ridden into office on the largest turnout in the history of Maine elections. His opponent had declared “that the Republican victory was a distinct victory for the Ku Klux Klan.”[1]

With estimates of its secretive membership ranging from 40,000 to 150,000, the Klan found a receptive audience in the state willing to hear its anti-Catholic conspiracies and engage in midnight acts of terror against its enemies.

Seven months prior to Brewster’s election, on a cold morning in February, the Klan had shown that its efforts extended well beyond the electoral sphere. It engaged in what the Portland Press Herald called a “drawn battle” with predominantly Franco-American Catholic lumbermen organized with the Industrial Workers of the World in the small town of Greenville.[2] The Klan’s efforts to expel labor organizers through intimidation reflected the confluence of ethnicity, ideology, and material conditions that animated their work in the state.

With estimates of its secretive membership ranging from 40,000 to 150,000, the Klan found a receptive audience in the state willing to hear its anti-Catholic conspiracies and engage in midnight acts of terror against its enemies. Its authority was built upon painting Catholic political involvement and labor unrest as part of the longstanding machinations of the Pope and his “political machine.”

An important mouthpiece for the Klan in the state was its newspaper, the Maine Klansman Weekly. From its pages, Klansmen railed against Catholic efforts to educate their children in parochial schools, promoted causes like temperance and the Protestant doctrine of reading the Bible in public schools, and attacked prominent Catholic political and social figures. Bishop Louis S. Walsh of Portland, a vocal opponent of the rising Klan movement in Maine, was an important target of the Klan’s vitriol. One Klansman called Walsh a “pompous-minded churchman, gander-like, [who] spat and sputtered his diatribe” when he condemned the Klan as a bigoted movement in 1923.[3]

“Masthead,” Maine Klansman Weekly, Nov. 8, 1923, 4, Maine Historical Society.

Walsh was the subject of abuse from the Klan upon their declaration of victory in a local Portland election in 1923, as he received a telegram that read:

Dear Bishop: — Perhaps you have noticed that no Catholics got elected in the recent election in Portland. It is the 18th place in New England that the Klan has kept Catholics from holding office. Hereafter no niggers Catholics nor Jews will ever hold office in Portland. We begin a big drive in Saco this week.[4]

The Klan’s aggression towards minority groups and behavior that supposedly threatened the social cohesion of Maine made it a popular force that proved capable of influencing elections.

One of the groups standing in the Klan’s way was the Industrial Workers of the World. The IWW in many ways held the polar opposite of the Ku Klux Klan’s conservative worldview. As historian Patrick Renshaw writes in The Wobblies: The Story of Syndicalism in the United States, “the IWW planned to combine the American working class, and eventually wage earners all over the world, into one big trade union with an industrial basis, a syndicalist philosophy and a revolutionary aim.”[5]

The IWW’s syndicalism sought the formation of worker-operated and democratically-organized industrial organizations, a replacement of the capitalist economic order that nevertheless stood apart from, and in competition with, Marxist conceptions of radical change. By 1924, the IWW had passed its peak as a force for radical labor. Internal divisions over Russian Bolshevism and the rising tide of pre-depression capitalism all served to blunt its effectiveness and limited its membership. The same wartime hysteria that empowered the Klan and other nativist movements hampered the IWW’s ability to organize and indeed led to some of its leaders’ imprisonment and deportation.

Labor radicalism like that espoused by the IWW was one of the threats that the Maine Ku Klux Klan saw itself as arrayed against.

At the same time, as the conflict in Greenville proved, it remained an important organizational force for laborers and a thorn in the side of capitalistic society. Indeed, labor radicalism like that espoused by the IWW was one of the threats that the Maine Ku Klux Klan saw itself as arrayed against. In its “Klansman’s Creed,” published in an issue of the Maine Klansman, the Klan condemned “unwarranted strikes by foreign labor agitators” and supported the need for “a closer relationship of capital and labor.”[6] As the confrontation in Greenville would show, the Klan’s attack was not limited to print.

The “Battle of Greenville” was rooted in this ethno-religious and economic conflict in Maine during the early-twentieth century. The standoff began on February 4th after Greenville’s selectmen ordered IWW organizers to leave town, an order the Wobblies refused. Robert Pease, the chief organizer of the IWW in Greenville, when asked why the organizers were being opposed, declared that it was “because we want good wages, 8 hours a day in the lumber camps and clean linen in our bunks. The day of the old logging camp and the lumberjacks is about over with.”[7] Pease’s successes worried the lumber camp’s proprietors, who claimed that he and his fellow organizer “[had] succeeded in instigating some dissatisfaction…it is said that some of the operators are careful not to hire men who have been infected with the I.W.W. virus.”[8]

IMG_0568 2-page-001
“Political Cartoon,” Maine Klansman Weekly, Dec. 6, 1923, 6, Bishop Louis S. Walsh file, Diocesan Archives, Diocese of Portland, Portland, ME.

The Ku Klux Klan built its reputation for vigilantism and intimidation in Maine on threats against minority communities and the maintenance of a conservative order in Maine, and its efforts in Greenville were no different. A local paper reported that “the latest story is that the Ku Klux Klan is backing up the selectmen” who attempted to have the organizers expelled and have “told the organizers that they must leave town or be ejected.”[9]

Pease mocked the Klan and its support for the capitalist order in Greenville, saying “we are going to stick, and if the Klan starts anything, the I.W.W. will finish it. The slave drivers, the Great Northern Paper Company and [the] Hollingsworth and Whitney [paper mill] people do not want us here, but we are too strong for them.”[10] Pease also declared that most of the lumbermen in the IWW camps were French Catholics, a further sting to the Klan’s efforts. Backing up Pease’s claim of strength, the Piscataquis County sheriff reported the arrival of IWW men from local camps and that he expected “several hundred” within the day.

Opposing the IWW, “Klan members are organizing and the K.K.K.’s leaders have not given up the idea of forcing the I.W.W. men to get out of town.”[11] The town supported the Klan, echoing modern connections between right-wing extremists and the police state. The town elite refused to allow Pease and his men to stay in local boardinghouses in an effort to enforce its expulsion order. Pease rebuffed the town again, with the Press Herald stating that he planned to “walk the streets and [his men] would build bonfires to keep from freezing.” The situation died down the next day, as Pease and the rest of the IWW left Greenville and returned to the lumber camps.

Few today would be surprised that the harshest repression following the confrontation in Greenville was not against the right-wing paramilitary organization but against members of the IWW. Pease and three others were put on trial for conspiracy, with Pease and two of the others convicted and sentenced to up to two years of hard labor in state prison on March 22nd, 1924. The trial had been the scene of some farce, as thirty-seven Wobblies marched through Dover-Foxcroft, seat of Piscataquis County in which Greenville was also located, and into the courthouse, only to find that the trial had been delayed a day and that their demonstration had been for naught.

While the Wobblies were sent to prison, the Ku Klux Klan remained a vital force in Maine politics.

The IWW members “appeared to be somewhat disappointed upon learning that their supposed comrades would not be placed on trial today.”[12] It was also reported that the Wobblies “were said to be lingering about the village and officials are keeping close watch of them.” At the trial the next day, “none of the three men appeared much disturbed when sentence was passed and smiled as the deputy sheriffs took them from the court room.”[13] Pease was reported to have encouraged the other Wobblies gathered in the courthouse, telling them, “good luck, boys, keep the ball rolling.” One of the others replied, “You bet we will – they can’t stop us.”[14]

While the Wobblies were sent to prison, the Ku Klux Klan remained a vital force in Maine politics. In 1924, the Klan campaigned hard for Ralph Owen Brewster, a Republican state senator from Portland. Brewster’s attacks on public funding for private religious schools, such as the parochial schools in Franco-American and other Catholic communities, made him a favorite politician of Farnsworth and the rest of the Klan. Brewster’s own ties with the organization are cloudy, as he often denied being a member but never denounced the organization’s support for his gubernatorial bid.

“Political Cartoon,” Maine Klansman Weekly, Nov. 8, 1923, 4, Maine Historical Society.

Brewster’s opponents in the GOP primary, his Democratic opponent, William Pattangall, and the sitting governor, Percival Baxter, all attempted to attack the Klan’s support for Brewster, yet he was swept to victory in September 1924 by a record-setting margin. Pattangall, speaking after his defeat, claimed that his candidacy was “defeated by a combination of religious intolerance and blind partisanship that Maine will not long endure—the rule of the Klan.”[15] The Klan did not long endure, as infighting hampered its organizing efforts while the anti-Klan wing of the state Republican Party worked to wrest control from Brewster and his allies. But its legacy has lived on in the state.

Despite Maine’s reputation as an idyllic Vacationland, it has been and continues to be the site of fierce ethnic rivalry, political repression, and vigilantism.

The Ku Klux Klan’s rise in Maine and its clash with the forces of labor radicalism are important facets of the state’s history. Despite Maine’s reputation as an idyllic Vacationland, it has been and continues to be the site of fierce ethnic rivalry, political repression, and vigilantism. These were not isolated incidents, or events that can be consigned to the dustbin of history. Donald Trump’s presidential campaign was fueled by anti-immigrant and racial rhetoric, which has legitimated the resurgence of hate groups in Maine and across the country.

The Klan’s legacy in the state has far outlasted the movement’s 1920s heyday. From its support for long-lasting electoral reforms in Portland that stripped ethnic minorities of political influence to the racist rhetoric of the current governor, racialized and exclusionary rhetoric has long held sway in Maine. Trump’s right-wing populism earned him one of Maine’s electoral votes and brought him within three percentage points of winning the state outright. His election threatens the social fabric of the state, which still contains vulnerable ethnic minorities. It demands an organized, proud resistance dedicated not just to Trump’s apocalyptic vision, but to the realization of a better world for all.

The mantle of opposition epitomized by the IWW’s resistance in Greenville has been taken up by today’s Left across the country, a necessary antidote to stem the tide of right-wing extremism unleashed by Trump’s election. The radical optimism and resilience of people like Robert Pease and Heather Heyer in the face of state and extralegal oppression should be a source of inspiration in the days to come.

tcclineTyler Cline recently completed his MA in history at the University of Maine. His work focuses on nativism and the intersection of religion, ethnicity, and nationalism in Northeastern North America.


[1] “Largest Vote in History of Maine Elections,” Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME), Sept. 10, 1924, 1.

[2] “K.K.K. and I.W.W. Wage Drawn Battle in Greenville,” Portland Press-Herald (Portland, ME), Feb. 5, 1924, 1.

[3] L.M., “A Reply to Bishop Walsh’s Attack on the K.K.K.,” Maine Klansman Weekly (Portland, ME), Nov. 8, 1923, 4.

[4] Telegram to Bishop Walsh, Bishop Louis S. Walsh file, Diocesan Archives, Diocese of Portland, Portland, ME.

[5] Patrick Renshaw, The Wobblies: The Story of Syndicalism in the United States (New York: Doubleday & Company, 1967), 21.

[6] “The Klansman’s Creed,” Maine Klansman Weekly (Portland, ME), Nov. 8, 1923, 8.

[7] “K.K.K. and I.W.W. Wage Drawn Battle in Greenville,” Portland Press-Herald (Portland, ME), Feb. 5, 1924, 1.

[8] “I.W.W. Activities Excite Greenville,” Bangor Daily Commercial (Bangor, ME), Feb. 4. 1924, 2.

[9] Ibid.

[10] “K.K.K. and I.W.W. Wage Drawn Battle in Greenville,” Portland Press-Herald (Portland, ME), Feb. 5, 1924, 1.

[11] Ibid.

[12] “I.W.W.’s Invade Town at Trial of Comrades,” Portland Press-Herald (Portland, ME), March 20, 1924, 1.

[13] “Pease Urges Boys to Keep Ball Rolling,” Portland Press-Herald (Portland, ME), March 22, 1924, 3.

[14] Ibid., 1.

[15] “Largest Vote in History of Maine Elections,” Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME), Sept. 10, 1924, 1.