When Americans think of organized hatred, they inevitably conjure up the "invisible empire" of the Ku Klux Klan, the group that in a variety of different forms has terrorized u.s. minorities for some 135 years. But, in fact, white supremacists in America owe a major debt to racist European groups and ideas.

Today, that debt may be clearest in the development of the so-called "Third Position" — a political strain that began in Europe and rejects both communism and capitalism. It is also evident in the growing number of European groups like the International Third Position (ITP) that have ties to like-minded U.S. counterparts.

Since the 1989 formation of the ITP — a British group created by a breakaway faction of the English neofascist National Front party and Italian fascists — Third Position concepts have increasingly gained a following on the international hard right.

The ideology is important. "Politically," says Gerry Gable, co-editor of the British antifascist magazine Searchlight, "the ITP is the most sophisticated group operating on the far right in Britain and a number of other places in Europe. And I've had sight of inside material and it contains a lot of addresses in the U.S.A."

Two key players in the formation of the ITP — Italian Roberto Fiore, convicted in absentia of terrorist association, and Briton Nick Griffin — have helped spread these ideas widely in Europe.

Although he claims to have abandoned the ITP years ago, Griffin, the new leader of the neofascist British National Party (BNP), has introduced Third Position ideas into his party's platform.

Earlier, Griffin had disseminated similar ideas by writing anonymously for "green" and leftist publications. In Italy, Fiore helped to build a new far-right party, Forza Nuova, even as he lived in British exile. The party recently polled nearly 100,000 votes in European Parliamentary elections.

'Socialism' with a Twist
The ideas of the Third Position go back to, among others, brothers Otto and Gregor Strasser. The Strassers were important early Nazi leaders who appealed to working-class Germans by advancing a pro-labor "socialism" in highly nationalistic and racist terms.

Both men had left the Nazi Party by the early 1930s, and Gregor, who earlier led the Nazi Party's left wing, was murdered on Hitler's orders in 1934. Despite the brothers' early leadership roles, Hitler rejected their pro-labor program in favor of an alliance with Germany's industrial leaders.

Third Positionists also see their intellectual forebears as fascists like Spaniard José Antonio Primo de Rivera, Italian Benito Mussolini, American Francis Parker Yockey and Romanian Corneliu Codreanu.

But at the same time, reflecting the Third Position's adoption of traditionally "left" ideas and tactics, these same people applaud "leftists" like Che Guevara, Mao Tse-tung and American writer Jack London.

Despite this kind of flirtation with the left, virtually all Third Positionists identify their prime enemy as the "multiculturalist" Jew. In more muted terms, many also despise blacks and immigrants. "Europe is falling apart," says one ITP Web site.

"In the inner cities, a whole generation of our [white] youth are being influenced into talking, walking and acting like blacks. Something has to be done now."

Aside from their views on race, most European and American Third Positionists today advocate a redistribution of wealth; family-owned business and workers' cooperatives (many backers support "distributism," an economic system that aims to encourage widespread property ownership); abolishing interest and nationalizing banks; outlawing of the use of animals for scientific testing; respect for the environment; and political power devolved to the lowest level possible.

These ideas have awakened the interest of many Americans. James Porazzo, leader of the Third Positionist American Front, recently described his initial reaction to the ideology: "I was most attracted," Porazzo said in an interview posted on the Internet, "by the Front's totally revolutionary nature: The fusion of right and left views, which created something quite ABOVE and BEYOND either one.

"There was nothing like it in the so-called movement."