American Strasser

Three Way Fight


by Kdog

Tom Metzger is dead. Fuck that muthafucker. 

Photo of Tom and John Metzger with dog

For those of us that came of age in the 1980s antifascist wars against white power boneheads—Tom Metzger was an arch-enemy. The California TV repairman and ex-Klansman was the founder and leader of White Aryan Resistance (WAR), a radical and innovative fascist group that was among the first to embrace the alienated young proles in the white power music scene.

Metzger played a crucial role in 1970s-1990s American fascist movement—one that left him with bloody hands that he never fully paid for. Back in the late 80s I was told by multiple sources that Metzger had put out a hit on me and a couple of Black anti-fascist skinheads—one from Chicago, and one, like me, in Minneapolis. In the early 90s my now partner, traveling from Chicago, was thrown up against the wall with dozens of other anti-racist skinheads by Portland cops while protesting outside Metzger’s famous trial. We thought about that fucker—and he was more than aware of us.

Metzger could read the playing field better than any other American fascist of his time – and he was committed to making an impact. This made him incredibly dangerous to people of color, to the Jewish community, to queer folks, to antiracists and leftists. But Metzger was also regarded as dangerous by the System, which while still as structurally racist as ever, was anxious to modernize the face and methods of its rule in the post-Civil Rights era. In fact, in contradiction to widespread leftist assumptions of constant police-fascist collusion, Metzger’s organizing was repeatedly infiltrated and spied upon by agents and informants.


When fans of the British white supremacist band Skrewdriver first started catching on at the margins of the North American punk scene, most fascist leaders saw them only as trouble: lumpen, violent, disorganized, drug users, etc. Metzger though, probably grinning and rubbing his hands together, saw only (to borrow a quote) “good trouble, necessary trouble.”

Metzger re-oriented his entire operation towards this emerging generation of radical racists. His new organization adopted the militant name “White Aryan Resistance (WAR),” and his newspaper combined crude racist cartoons with revolutionary calls to smash the system. Metzger didn’t have time for a right-wing version of “Respectability politics”—he embraced confrontation. WAR’s shocking appearances on Oprah Winfrey’s and Geraldo Rivera’s TV shows spread the word in the pre-internet era that there was a new racist in town—one who wouldn’t back down. This was underlined in red, when WAR kicked Geraldo’s ass on TV, leaving him with a busted nose.

But propaganda stunts weren’t their only game. Metzger was a committed organizer who would take personal phone calls from outcast racist youth from all over the country. (An Anti-Racist Action militant recently recalled calling up the WAR Hotline to leave a nasty antifa message, only to be left speechless when the devil himself answered.) WAR promoted the white power music scene—like the “Aryan Woodstock” music concerts—a decade before the National Alliance was convinced to fund Resistance Records. And crucially, Metzger sought to recruit them into an organization. Alongside WAR, Metzger promoted the White Student Union, WARSkins, and the Aryan Women’s League as different avenues leading to the same place.

It was not just Metzger’s nose for opportunity that made him so influential—but also his politics. Metzger was the most serious proponent of “Third Position” politics (“neither capitalism or communism”) among American fascists of this era. Metzger saw himself as a revolutionary, not a conservative; an anti-capitalist, not an elitist. For anti-fascists, understanding the politics and approach of Metzger and WAR, will give us a better understanding of the spectrum of nazi politics and the specific threats and potentials posed by the Third Positionist wing of the fascist movement.

When a mass white power gang culture emerged on the streets of Portland OR in the late 80s (law enforcement estimated there were 300 nazi skins in the city of 300,000), Metzger was the only nazi organizer to respond. A young WAR organizer Dave Mazella was sent up to Portland to try and cohere and organize the several white power skinhead gangs, like East Side White Pride (ESWP), into a more political and disciplined force. This was an Aryan version of the Fred Hampton approach. Mazella partied with and agitated the gang members and three weeks into the mission, a crew of ESWP skins attacked and beat to death an Ethiopian student named Mulugeta Seraw with baseball bats.

The conflagration that followed included years of organizing and streetfighting by militant anti-fascists for the streets of Portland and the soul of its youth subcultures, a special state-wide gang unit aimed at containing this breach of social peace, and a lawsuit by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) to try and take Metzger off the field.

Anti-Racist Action and other anti-nazi skins being searched
by police outside of Metzger’s trial in Portland.

The Dragons

Tracing Tom Metzger’s path is useful in understanding fascist politics and organization in North America. Metzger had been the California chief of David Duke’s revitalized and “nazified” Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. He was part of an important generation of state Klan leaders—”Grand Dragons”—including Louis Beam in Texas (went on to author the influential “Leaderless Resistance” strategy), Don Black in Alabama (later founded the “Stormfront” discussion board), and Glenn Miller of the Carolina Knights of the KKK (pioneered adopting camouflage and armed marches and was a participant in the Greensboro Massacre death squad).

Like most of this crew, Metzger was a veteran—enlisting in the U.S. Army in the early 60s. After getting out of the military, Metzger moved from Indiana to work in California and it was there his affiliation to the radical Right began. Metzger attended anti-communist luncheons sponsored by the Douglas Aircraft Company (a predecessor to the McDonnell Douglas aerospace giant) and joined the far-right John Birch Society. Metzger worked on the presidential campaigns of Barry Goldwater and George Wallace and on Ronald Reagan’s gubernatorial run—but soon found that framework too tame. Even the virulently anti-communist Minutemen militia, which he was briefly involved in, was not radical enough. He also found himself disagreeing with the Right on a key issue—Metzger opposed the U.S. war in Vietnam.

Metzger was still deeply racist and antisemitic—he preached that people of color were sub-human “mud people” and that Jews were a sinister race of manipulators holding white workers in check. These themes remained continually embedded within his political outlook.

In Duke’s Knights of the KKK, Metzger began to hit his stride. He successfully combined provocative action with mainstream media engagement. Metzger and his California Klan ran armed “Border Watch” patrols against Mexican immigrants that received wide attention and created a blueprint used by racist vigilantes today.

Klan rally at Border Field State Park, July 4, 1979. 
Metzger stood on a picnic table, surrounded by Klansmen 

and shouting a racist speech through his bullhorn.

In 1980 Metzger led his California Klan into a militant confrontation against the police and left-wing anti-fascists at Oceanside CA. Metzger’s KKK eschewed the white robes for motorcycle helmets, battle shields, and dogs. Anti-fascist protesters that day first assumed that the assembling white supremacists were sheriff’s deputies in riot gear. The rally and counter-protest turned into a melee with fists and clubs swinging on all sides. Bruce Kala (who later became a well-known anarchist activist in the East Bay), was taken down by several Klansmen and viciously beaten with baseball bats—leaving him with permanent injuries. Metzger’s crew also fought the police that day and a Klan member’s Doberman pinscher was shot and killed after attacking a cop.
Metzger’s explicitly revolutionary (as opposed to conservative) approach and his consistent attempt to wrap his vile racism and antisemitism in class struggle colors represented a break with much of the U.S. white supremacist scene. Metzger fits more in the tradition of the Strasser brothers than typical nazis or fascists.
San Diego Union reporting on 1980 Oceanside, CA clash
between Klan, anti-fascists and cops.
Metzger’s Klan versus the police with 

Klansman’s dead doberman.


Gregor and Otto Strasser were German national socialist activists whose careers and activity ran parallel with Adolf Hitler.  After serving in Germany’s military in the First World War, both the Strasser brothers joined the proto-nazi street militia “Freikorps.” While Gregor became a well-known figure and led the Lower Bavarian “Storm Battalion,” Otto actually defected to join the mass German Social Democratic Party for a time. Both brothers reunited in Hitler’s NSDAP, after it had gained hegemony over the mass, disparate milieu of right-wing World War I vets. But inside the Nazi Party the Strassers maintained their clear “revolutionary” brand of national socialism that called for the Nazis to liquidate the German ruling-class through mass mobilization of the working-class, and establish a rabidly racist and antisemitic dictatorship. This position found an echo in the ideas of the even more influential Ernst Röhm, leader of the Nazi SA (“Brownshirts”)—who advocated a “second revolution” of Aryan workers against the bankers and monopoly capitalists.

Hitler, however, was interested in sealing a deal with the German elite—and was willing to calm their nerves by suppressing the “socialist” aspect of the National Socialists. Gregor Strasser was removed as editor of one of the Nazis’ daily newspapers and then kicked out of the Party. Both Gregor Strasser and Ernst Röhm were killed during the “Night of the Long Knives,” an organized purge that eliminated a number of Hitler’s rivals and served to show the German ruling class that the Brownshirts could be reined in. Otto Strasser had already left the Nazis, forming his own separate fascist party “the Black Front,” advocating for the overthrow of Hitler from exile. “Strasserism” has become the label for nazis who seek to emphasize the “socialist” aspect of their politics alongside the national and racial. “Third Position” is another broader name for a similar set of politics.

All this is to point out that Metzger’s revolutionary and anti-capitalist rhetoric is not novel. And the historical precedent suggests that there will continue to be a “left-wing” trend within fascism. We can’t be caught off-guard by this and must be prepared to combat this trend’s particularities as well as its familiar white supremacist, patriarchal, and antisemitic pillars.

Third Position

It’s unclear to me when and how Metzger moved fully into Third Position politics. I haven’t built up the stomach to wade through the many episodes of his “Race & Reason” TV talk show or issues of the WAR newspaper to discover if there are clues. We do know that Metzger had a falling-out with David Duke—first over what Duke was doing with the dues paid by state KKK chapters, then over Duke’s suit-and-tie strategy of mainstreaming the fascist message and eventually joining the Republican Party. Metzger regarded Duke as becoming just another bourgeois politician, unwilling to be bluntly honest or take needed militant action.

Metzger was also a student of political history and of the Left. Metzger was a big fan of Jack London, the famous author of The Call of the Wild and The Iron Heel, who was an ardent socialist AND racist. Metzger bragged of recruiting leftists to WAR—much of this was probably hype, but he did enlist and promote an ex-member of the Socialist Workers Party and a former member of the Industrial Workers of the World.

In 1985 Metzger attended a Louis Farrakhan speech and made a donation to the Nation of Islam (a path already walked by American Nazi Party leader George Lincoln Rockwell in 1961). Metzger’s daughter organized the Aryan Women’s League—promoting the image of women as “brave racial warriors” in contrast they said to the passive image of women that Judeo-Christianity encouraged. And Metzger heaped praise on the soon to be expelled anti-immigration “Deep Ecologists” of Earth First.

Metzger loved to troll the Left. When the John Brown Anti-Klan Committee (JBAKC) started targeting Metzger, he responded with an article in his newspaper praising the Weathermen as “young white street-fighters” (Metzger being well aware that JBAKC traced its political roots to the Weather Underground).

John Brown Anti-Klan Committee flier against Metzger.

But beyond the trolling and PR stunts, there was another aspect of Metzger’s politics that seems influenced by the Left: the question of organization. Metzger aimed to make White Aryan Resistance into a popular, insurrectionary organization of political combat. An organization based in the (white) working class, lumpenproletariat, and petite bourgeoisie and hostile to and contemptuous of the elite and their law & order.

Metzger hoped his media efforts would spark organic racial “resistance” among lower-class whites and wanted WAR to be an organization that straddled the line between legalistic and armed struggle.

Metzger’s consistent solidarity with neo-nazi prisoners—or “POWs” as he called them—like the captured terrorists of The Order, was clearly modeled on similar efforts by the Left on behalf of Puerto Rican, Black liberation, and anti-imperialist prisoners. And similar to much of the Left, WAR argued for solidarity with these prisoners despite advocating a different strategic approach than underground armed struggle.

It was only after the SPLC bankrupted Metzger and crippled WAR in their civil lawsuit on behalf of the family of Mulugeta Seraw that Metzger jettisoned his mass public approach in favor of advocating clandestine “lone wolf” tactics. Instead of seeing “lone wolf” tactics as cutting edge, we should understand them as the establishment apparently sees them: a marginalizing and losing strategy – and one they believe can be imposed on formerly dangerous groups.

Third Position vs the threewayfight

We need to sum up the aspects of Metzger’s legacy that are distinct and represent a Third-Positionist/Strasserite tendency posing unique problems for anti-fascists—but also understand why Metzger and his brand of fascism are an enemy of all of the alienated, exploited, and oppressed—including, so-called “whites.”

Third Positionism is dangerous even if it remains marginal among organized fascists.  It can serve to sharpen up the overall fascist movement—make it more aware of class grievances within the white working-class and provide cover to accusations of class collaboration with the white elite. 

It can also be used by the State and the media to try and muddy the differences between revolutionary anti-authoritarians and the fascists, to present struggles against capitalism, patriarchy and the State as racist and antisemitic.

Metzger shows that fascists can and will advocate revolution against the system, clash with police and mainstream institutions, embrace a strategy that looks to organic popular militancy and aims to spark (white) working class-based action. Metzger was open to alliances with nationalists of other ethnicities (except Jews) and to allowing independent organizations of white women.

While all of this conflicts with common Left understandings of fascists, none of it is actually liberatory and it just represents a different kind of threat to the multi-racial working-class. Third Positionism does not break with the colonialist conceptions of “race” brought about by emperors, plantation owners, and slave catchers—it positions it as the central struggle of humanity. Capitalism isn’t opposed by these fascists for its exploitation of human labor and destruction of the earth—but for its tendency to favor profit over any racial loyalty to white workers. These nazis may want to eliminate the present ruling class, but they want a new, sharper social hierarchy—one they delude themselves into believing is built on the firmer foundation of Nature and/or God.

1985 WAR newspaper headline. At this stage Metzger used
both American Resistance and Aryan Resistance as names.

For all of Metzger’s noise about fighting the system, a look at the pages of the WAR newspaper will show that he was most committed to one kind of war—a race war against Black people, the Jewish community, and Mexican immigrants. In Portland it was not a banker, or a CEO, or an elitist politician— and not an antifa enemy combatant—who Metzger’s contacts in the field murdered, but an unarmed college student from one of the poorest countries on the planet.

However “radical” Metzger’s strategy, it would only mean massive violence and bloodshed among the multi-national working classes of the United State Empire and the abdication of any moral, human grounding for its white participants. These fascists might fire-up a base on hatred for the rich—but their fire is not directed upward. And ironically, this makes this kind of politics potentially interesting to the rich and their security services. When the chips are down and forces are needed that can speak the language of “socialism,” the Third Position could become useful.

To oppose these horrors, we must take to heart the slogan of the CNT labor union in the Spanish Civil War: “The War [Against Fascism] and the Revolution are Inseparable”. We must understand that fascism is capable of a “revolutionary” face—and must never cede our opposition to the system. Left support for the status quo allows the fascists the mantle of righteous opposition. And our opposition is not only to this present arrangement of the pyramid—because unlike the fascists we oppose ALL forms of exploitation, oppression, and rank.

The alternative we champion cannot just live in slogans and theses, but must be perceivable on the ground, in the culture of our campaigns and organizations. The threewayfight is for freedom.

For further reading:

Elinor Langer, A Hundred Little Hitlers: The Death of a Black Man, the Trial of a White Racist, and the Rise of the Neo-Nazi Movement in America (Macmillan, 2003).

James Ridgeway, Blood in the Face: The Ku Klux Klan, Aryan Nations, Nazi Skinheads, and the Rise of a New White Culture (Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1990; Haymarket Books, new edition forthcoming 2021).

Erin Yanke, Mic Crenshaw, and Celina Flores, It Did Happen Here podcast (independently produced, 2020).

Don Hamerquist, J. Sakai, et al., Confronting Fascism: Discussion Documents for a Militant Movement (Kersplebedeb Publishing, 2002; 2nd edition 2017).

Hilary Moore and James Tracy, No Fascist USA! The John Brown Anti-Klan Committee and Lessons for Today’s Movements (City Lights/Open Media, 2020).

Leonard Zeskind, Blood and Politics: The History of the White Nationalist Movement from the Margins to the Mainstream (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009).

Photo credits:

1) Tom and John Metzger. Photographed by Brian Smale for Rolling Stone.

2) Anti-racist skins outside Metzger trial. Photographed by Tom Treick for The Oregonian.

3) Metzger and Klansmen at 1970 border rally. Photographed by Robert Lachman for The Los Angeles Times.

4) Front page of The San Diego Union, 1980.

5) Metzger versus police. Photo courtesy of Bettmann Archives, via Getty Images.

6) Stop Klan Terror. Flier produced by the John Brown Anti Klan Committee. Reproduced here courtesy of Wikipedia.

7) Fragment of headline from WAR newspaper, 1985.

2 thoughts on “American Strasser”

  1. Excellent breakdown kdog. Explicating the historical connections of Metzger with Strasserite “revolutionary” nazism I think is correct, and——most importantly——useful in developing an modern anti fascist strategy that understands and addresses the challenges facing organizing self-consciously anti racist/anti fascist white working class communities. Unless the anti fascist left is there——in the workplace, the neighborhood, the bar, the show, the chat room or thread——offering and arguing for more genuinely liberatory alternatives to a bankrupt and ersatz “white revolution”’, I don’t see how we can expect to make serious inroads and win concrete victories moving forward.

    The limited, but significant, successes that Anti-Racist Action in the late 80s/90s had in these areas came by building open and horizontally-organized structures that challenged members to learn and grow and should rightly be lauded as an example of one kind of militant organized grouping can have lasting and positive impacts on individuals and communities. Times have changed, and so should tactics, but I think a a commitment to re-centering anti-racist/anti fascist strategy within the working class, and incorporating a smart and clear anti-capitalist perspective needs to be taken as a given. I’m just not so sure the current anti fascist movement would agree…

    In any case, I hope we can look forward to reading more of your analyses—

    Good luck, and be careful out there.


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