American extremists are reaching out to their counterparts abroad, especially in Europe; editor Mark Potok examines this new spirit of cooperation in a historical context.
For most of its history, the American radical right has enthusiastically rejected all things foreign.
In the 1850s, the "Know Nothings" of the Order of the Star Spangled Banner railed against German Catholics and other "aliens," insisting that members promise never to vote for "papists" or the foreign-born.
In the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan — then numbering some 5 million members — expanded its "defense" of native Protestantism by attacking Jews as well as Catholics. In the 1950s, the John Birch Society of the "red scare" years was all about "100% Americanism."
What a difference a few decades make. Today, American right-wing extremists are reaching out to their counterparts abroad, especially in Europe — and the European extremists are responding in kind.
Professional racists and anti-Semites on both sides of the ocean increasingly share a variety of interests: white power music, Holocaust denial, Internet and radio propaganda. Most importantly, they have come to agree on precisely who is their leading antagonist.
The enemy, it turns out, is America itself.
America as Champion of Multiculturalism
Around the world, the United States is seen as the chief representative of political and economic globalization, the champion — along with unifying frameworks like the European Union and the United Nations — of multicultural and multiracial societies.
It is viewed as the main architect of multinational capitalism, which shrugs off racial and national distinctions in favor of the efficient pursuit of profit. On both the far left and the far right, extremists see the United States as crushing local cultures in favor of a drab American monoculture of fast food restaurants and strip malls.
"The labels 'left' and 'right' don't apply anymore today," says former ultra-left-wing German terrorist Horst Mahler, who last year became a principal in the neofascist political party. "The NPD is against globalization. ... [It] knows that the only power that can stand up against globalization is the nation."
To much of the contemporary American and European radical right, the "nation" to which members claim allegiance is nothing more than their race. Leading U.S. neo-Nazi William Pierce, for example, says that his National Alliance defines "nationality in terms of race, not geography."
The same is true of British neofascist Mark Cotterill, who recently told a supportive American audience that "today we are only one nationality — white."
He added, "It is not an American fight or a British fight or a German fight. It is a white fight, and we have got to win it."
Civic vs. Ethnic Nation
As Paul Hockenos points out in his Free to Hate, a book about neofascism in Eastern Europe, there are two competing concepts of the nation — the civic and the ethnic. The civic, rooted in the democratic values of the French Revolution, refers to all those who live within the borders of a nation-state, with citizens afforded equal protection under a set of laws.
"The ethnic nation, on the other hand, is a folkish community," Hockenos writes, "bound not by a common legal code or state borders, but by descent, language, customs and history" — a family, that is, of blood.
As we enter the 21st century, these competing definitions are important.
While the United States has been multiracial since its founding (despite its historical oppression of non-whites), that is not true of other Western nations. In Europe, most modern nations were originally based on some kind of shared ethnicity — in Germany, in fact, the notion of blood as the basis of citizenship is still enshrined in the Constitution.
But European leaders, attempting to face the future as a region, have endeavored to unify under the aegis of the European Union. And that has made them enemies of the radical right, which typically sees unification as a Jewish plot to encourage immigration and race-mixing and to eradicate the true "nation."
Across the Western hemisphere, the radical right has become increasingly international in scope, tactics and goals — mirroring the increasingly interdependent global order and its institutions.
As a result, those who hope to battle the spread of hate must also do so in a way that transcends national borders.
Editor's Note: Numerous individuals and organizations generously assisted the Intelligence Report in the production of this issue, which examines the growing interrelationship of the radical right in America and in Europe.
The magazine would like to extend special thanks to the Anti-Defamation League; Antifaschistische INFO-Blatt, a German anti-fascist group; the B'nai B'rith Anti-Defamation Commission Inc. in Australia; Devin Burghart and the Center for New Community; Kevin Coogan; Expo, a Swedish anti-facist group; Martin A. Lee; Daniel Levitas; Never Again, a Polish anti-fascist group; Searchlight, an anti-fascist magazine in Britain; Kenneth A. Stern and the American Jewish Committee; and Leonard Zeskind of the Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights.