Rightists woo the Occupy Wall Street movement

Three Way Fight


by Matthew N. Lyons

Most right-wing responses to the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement have ranged from patronizing to hostile. Rightists have variously criticized the Occupy forces for–supposedly–copying the Tea Party; failing to target big government; being dirty, lazy lawbreakers; being orchestrated by pro-Obama union bosses and community organizers; having ties with radical Islamists; fomenting antisemitism; or failing to address Jewish dominance of Wall Street. (On the Jewish Question, the John Birch Society wants to have it both ways–arguing that antisemitic attacks are integral to the Occupy movement’s leftist ideology, but also that the movement is bankrolled by Jewish financier George Soros, who is backed by “the unimaginably vast Rothschild banking empire.”)

At the same time, some right-wingers have joined or endorsed Occupy events, causing some leftists and liberals to raise warning flags. Neonazis have shown up at Occupy Phoenix and been kicked out of Occupy Seattle, where leftists formed an antifascist working group to keep them out. The Liberty Lamp, an anti-racist website, has identified a number of right-wing groups that have sought to “capitalize on the success” of OWS, including several neonazi organizations, Oath Keepers (a Patriot movement group for police and military personnel), libertarian supporters of Texas congressmember Ron Paul, and even the neoconservative American Spectator magazine. Leonard Zeskind’s Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights has warned against Tea Party supporters “who want to be friends with the Occupiers,” including FedUpUSA, Ron Paul’s Campaign for Liberty, and conspiracist talk show host Alex Jones. The International Socialist Organization has focused on Ron Paul libertarians as a particular threat to the Occupy movement. In a related vein, the socialist journal Links reposted a detailed expose of Zeitgeist (aka the Venus Project), a conspiracist cult that has been involved in Occupy movement events, many of whose ideas are rooted in antisemitism or other right-wing ideology.

There is always a danger that some rightists will come to Occupy movement events to harass or attack leftists, or act as spies or provocateurs. More commonly, rightists see the movement as an opportunity to gain credibility, win new recruits, or build coalitions with leftists. When pitching to left-leaning activists, these right-wingers emphasize their opposition to the U.S. economic and political establishment–but downplay their own oppressive politics. In place of systemic critiques of power, rightists promote distorted forms of anti-elitism, such as conspiracy theories or the belief that government is the root of economic tyranny. We’ve seen this “Right Woos Left” dynamic over and over, for example in the anti-war, environmental, and anti-globalization movements.

Neo-fascists against financial elites

Rightists who support the Occupy movement aim to redefine and redirect Occupiers’ discontent. Hoosier Nation (Indiana chapter of American Third Position) pledged to join Occupy Indianapolis as a “popular uprising against the financial elites” but criticized the rally organizers’ call for human unity as “muddled thinking”: “Not to quibble, but our races, religions, and identities do matter. Our identities aren’t the problem, they’re the solution…. The notion that we don’t exist as families and nations but rather as autonomous individuals is a fiction perpetuated by our financial elites to topple the barriers standing in the way of exploiting us.”

A cruder style of rhetoric comes from Rocky Suhayda’s American Nazi Party, which champions the “White working class” against “this evil corrupt, decadent JUDEO-CAPITALIST SYSTEM.” The ANP praised the Occupy movement as “a breath of cleansing air” and urged its supporters to get involved. “Produce some flyers EXPLAINING the ‘JEW BANKER’ influence–DON’T wear anything marking you as an ‘evil racist’–and GET OUT THERE and SPREAD the WORD!” (Another fascist grouplet, the National Socialist American Labor Party, immediately repudiated the ANP’s stance and denounced Occupy Wall Street as a Jewish Communist movement.)

The Lyndon LaRouche network, which offers a more esoteric version of fascist politics, has a long history of attaching itself to popular movements–as well as violence, spying, and dirty tricks against political opponents. LaRouchites have always denounced finance capital as one of the world’s main evils, so it is no surprise that they have joined Occupy events in several cities. True to their current attempt to package themselves as Franklin Roosevelt liberals, the LaRouchites are pushing for reinstatement of the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act’s wall between investment banking and commercial banking, which was repealed in 1999. The LaRouchites take credit for supposedly making Glass-Steagall reinstatement “a leading demand” of the Occupy movement.

Attack the System’s “Message to Occupy Wall Street”

A more sophisticated rightist overture to the Occupy movement comes from Keith Preston’s Attack the System (ATS) network. Two ATS associate editors, RJ Jacob and Miles Joyner, have produced a YouTube video titled “Message to Occupy Wall Street: Power to the Neighborhoods.” The 13-minute video is explicitly “tailored to the mainstream left” and contains many elements designed to appeal to leftists. Jacob and Joyner call for OWS to develop into a revolutionary insurgency against the American Empire and highlight their opposition to U.S. military aggression, state repression, global capitalist institutions, corporate welfare, gentrification, and other standard leftist targets. They also advocate a strategy of “pan-secessionism” to help bring about “a system of decentralized cities, towns and neighborhoods where all colors, genders, and political groups can achieve self-determination.”

What Jacob and Joyner’s video doesn’t tell us is that their organization’s vision of revolution would not dismantle oppression but simply decentralize it. ATS founder and leader Keith Preston believes that most people are herd-like “sheep” who will inevitably be dominated by a few power hungry “wolves.” Although Preston calls himself an anarchist, he has no problem with authoritarianism on a small scale and has made it a priority to “collaborate with racialists and theocrats” against the left. White nationalists and Christian rightists are major players in the pan-secessionist movement that ATS and the Jacob/Joyner video promote. (For details on Preston and ATS, see my article “Rising Above the Herd.”)

ATS elitism is reflected in “Message to Occupy Wall Street.” In explaining what’s needed to move toward revolution, the video puts a big emphasis on the development of “an intellectual and philosophical counter-elite.” It is this counter-elite that develops revolutionary ideas, which then “trickle down into the ranks of the masses.” No hint that “the masses” might develop a few ideas of their own.

“Message” also calls for a revolutionary movement that transcends left/right divisions. This is a standard theme for ATS (and many other far rightists), but the approach to it here is different from what I have seen in Preston’s work. Jacob and Joyner argue that “counter-elites” on both the left and the right have contributed to developing a revolutionary movement–but in very different ways. The leftist counter-elites “have served as leaders of systems disruption, networked resistance, informational warfare, communications, and public intelligence.” Meanwhile, “it is the counter-elites of the right who are developing an entirely new political paradigm in opposition to the state ideologies of the system.” In other words, leftists are good at developing the technologies of revolution, but rightists are the ones with the actual vision for society.

Jacob and Joyner’s list of important rightist counter-elites includes anarcho-capitalist Hans-Hermann Hoppe, paleoconservative Paul Gottfried, European New Rightist Alain de Benoist, and the ever-popular Ron Paul, among others. Their list of “leftists” who have influenced the Occupy movement is heavily weighted toward the technology/info-guerrilla side, with figures such as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, digital currency developer Satoshi Nakamoto, the Chaos Computer Club, and the hacker network Anonymous. The list also includes Ralph Nader and Kirkpatrick Sale, who among liberals have been two of the leading practitioners of left-right collaboration–Sale through the pan-secessionist movement, and Nader through the anti-globalization movement.

John Robb, open-source technocrat

The counter-elite figure who gets the most coverage in “Message” is John Robb, who runs the Global Guerrillas website, and he deserves attention here because of his murky politics and his interest in OWS. Robb is a former U.S. counter-terrorism mission commander turned independent military theorist and technology analyst. He has written about the rise of “open-source warfare“–characterized by decentralized networks of terrorists, criminals, and other non-state actors acting with a high degree of innovation and flexibility–and the hollowing out of traditional nation-states. In response to these and other trends–including economic and environmental crises–Robb promotes the development of “resilient communities,” which are autonomous and largely self-sufficient in terms of energy, food, security, and other basic needs. Robb has praised the Occupy Wall Street movement as a pioneering example of “open-source protest” that is “constructing the outlines of resilient communities in the heart of many of our most dense urban areas.”

Jacob and Joyner’s video characterizes Robb as a leftist, and indeed many of his ideas, such as his belief that both capitalism and the nation state are breaking down and his emphasis on decentralized solutions, sound radical. But while I don’t claim to fully understand where Robb is coming from, I am deeply wary. Robb himself avoids political labels, and Thomas Barnett has characterized him as “a serious technocrat who distrusts politics.” According to his online bio, Robb has consulted extensively for government agencies such as the CIA, NSA, and Defense Department. And his anti-establishment friends seem to be found mainly on the right. For example, he has archived the former blog of fellow military theorist William Lind and features it prominently on the Global Guerrillas home page. Lind, whose theory of “fourth generation war” has a lot in common with Robb’s ideas, is a hardline traditionalist conservative who spent many years at Paul Weyrich’s Free Congress Foundation.

Robb’s writings are often reposted on right-wing websites such as AlternativeRight.com, The Occidental Quarterly, Occidental Dissent, and Attack the System. As far as I know, he has never tried to dissociate himself from these organs. Intentionally or unintentionally, his own work often resonates with rightist themes without invoking them directly, as when he writes about “the decline of the West” (echoing Oswald Spengler) or the virtues of building a “tribe” (echoing national-anarchists, among others). John Robb’s relationship with the right merits more in-depth study, but he is no leftist.

So far, the effect of right-wing groups on the Occupy Wall Street movement has been limited. Yet the lack of clear anti-capitalist and anti-fascist analysis in much of the movement opens the door for rightists to spread radical-sounding propaganda rooted in oppressive politics. It is important for us to understand and expose this danger, in the Occupy movement and others that may follow.

20 thoughts on “Rightists woo the Occupy Wall Street movement”

  1. Great post. I don't think Robb is at all sinister. He has some far rightists popping up on his blog in the comments section, and he makes no attempt to police them, but I think it's because he sees himself as an objective theorist without a truck in anyone's political dispute.

    You can criticize *that* as faulty for a lot of reasons, but beyond that I don't really know what to say. Nowhere in his discussion of tribalism does he advocate for racially cleansed death squads. It just happens that people who do want that see Robb's theorizing as a model. But again, a military theorist who knows a lot about tanks isn't a Nazi because the Nazis used the theorist's ideas to invade Poland.

  2. 1. Not at all sinister? Someone who helps the CIA et al do their work better?

    I agree that rightists using Robb's ideas doesn't make Robb a rightist. But I think Robb's relationship with the far right–or more specifically the relationship between Robb's ideas and far right politics–merits more exploration. I'll leave it there for now.

    2. Thanks for the links. Spencer Sunshine's article on OWS for Shift Magazine is great. The only point I would quibble with is at the end, when Spencer says "only the weight of the numbers of the progressive participants" has kept conspiracist, far rightist, and antisemitic elements at bay within the Occupy movement. More important than numbers, I think, are the active efforts by leftists within the movement to shift the discourse from nebulous populism to more substantive radical analysis and action.

  3. Miles Joyner is African American and R.J. Jacob is a Lebanese Arab. The associate editor who "reposts John Robb's writings at Attack the System" is Vincent Rinehart, a Native American Indian activist from the Tlingit Tribe (not Keith Preston).

    How 'bout them Arab, African, and Indian 'white nationalists'!


    In your world, anyone who stands in opposition to the universal utopian schemes perpetrated on people in the name of "humanity" is fascist. Anyone who remains loyal to a cultural or family tradition is fascist. In this respect, Hezbollah is fascist. Filiberto Ojeda Rios (R.I.P) and the Puerto Rican independence movement for self-determination, fascist. Alfonso Cano (R.I.P.) and the Columbian FARC rebels, fascist. The Palestinian Declaration of Independence, fascist. The 'Black Panther Party Platform, Program, and Rules', fascist. The Native American Indian tribes (the original anarchists), fascist. Little blue smurfs, fascist.

    Even more amusing, "Matthew Lyons" sounds white. Nothing new. White man telling us what we can and can't have. I suppose you know what is best for my people, correct?


  4. My OWS post never describes Attack the System as either white nationalist or fascist. My longer critique of ATS leader Keith Preston, "Rising Above the Herd," specifically says that Preston is neither a white nationalist nor a fascist, although he has made it a priority to "collaborate" (his word) with white nationalists, and he shares some aspects of fascist politics. As I commented on Preston's response to "Rising," attacking someone for things that they didn't say and don't believe makes for a lazy polemic.

    That said, I'm grateful to the commenter for pointing out that several of the core people in the ATS network are people of color. This is an important reminder to critics who may be stuck in outmoded assumptions about the political right. Toward the end of "Rising," I cited as probably true Preston's statement that ATS and National-Anarchist groups have gained support among "African-Americans, Native Americans, Alaska Natives, Gays/Queers, Muslims, and others not generally thought of as being part of the American right-wing." While some sections of the right remain committed to traditional supremacist politics, others such as ATS have broken with it in various ways. We leftists ignore this at our peril.

  5. I am not responding to your 7-page critique of Preston's work.

    Lumping Arabs, Indians, and African Americans for self determination in with neonazis and right wing hate groups under the title "Rightists woo the Occupy Movement" without revealing our true identities and intentions makes for a lazy analysis.

    The post may not directly describe ATS as fascist or white nationalist but certainly presents an incomplete picture to obscure our message, goals and function while insinuating that we are part of a larger conspiracy headed by white nationalists to infiltrate the Occupy Movement (or something along those lines). What else would the anti-fascist networks circulating this article take from it?

  6. It's specious to accuse me of "not revealing" Joyner and Jacob's true identities, given that their ethnicities aren't mentioned in "Message to Occupy Wall Street" or on the ATS "Statement of Purpose" page (which lists the members of the ATS editorial group) or anywhere I can find on thedailyattack.com (ATS's sister site, founded by Joyner).

    My post describes initiatives by a diverse array of rightists who have either participated in or expressed support for OWS. There is no suggestion that these forces are part of a "larger conspiracy" or are led by white nationalists.

  7. Why are you writing about people who you know nothing about?

    If 'Woo' were a fair analysis it would acknowledge the diversity of the self determination movement. The list would include Black Africans, Arab Americans, Native Americans, Queers, Christians, Muslims, and of course, European Americans. Instead, "white nationalists" are the "major players" of the movement that "Jacob/Joyner" "promote."

    "ATS's sister site, founded by Joyner"

    The Daily Attack was not founded by Joyner.

    Again, think and research before you write.

  8. Factual correction accepted: thedailyattack.com's "About" page says that the site was founded by Jacob, not Joyner. I apologize for misreading this.

    Beyond that specific point, I stand by what I wrote.

  9. Quick comment – I and those Native Americans I count as my friends, family, associates and activist allies tend to identify as leftists. I describe Native American "anarchism" as ethno-nationalism of the left. My hope is that more leftists will recognize the validity of pan-secession; specifically focusing on the development of our respective communities' unique political ideologies, based on our respective cultures, attitudes and historical experiences.

  10. Lyons, why do you persist in referring to all folk in the ATS mileu as "Rightists"? It's less an accurate description and more of a verbal tic, at this point.

  11. I recognize that some people within the ATS milieu consider themselves non-rightists or leftists, and some of their political work may well be consistent with leftism. But to the extent that ATS folks support, advocate for, and promote the growth of ATS, they are acting as rightists, because ATS is rightist both in its practice and its underlying principles. ATS accepts and promotes authoritarianism and hierarchy based on ethnicity, gender, and other factors through its strategic willingness to ally with racial nationalists, Christian rightists, etc. under the pan-secessionist umbrella. In particular, the ATS Statement of Purpose defends efforts to "cultivate a relationship" with "moderate, reasonable, conciliatory, and polite" white nationalists. This orientation follows logically from the philosophical elitism proclaimed by ATS founder, leader, and chief spokesperson Keith Preston, who argues that most people are by nature herdlike sheep unable to exercise significant independent thought or agency. Not everybody in the ATS network shares this philosophical elitism, but Preston's detailed exposition of it on the ATS blog received enthusiastic praise from most commenters. MRDA, for example, called it "one of my favorite articles" by Preston. (See http://attackthesystem.com/2011/07/03/a-reply-to-matthew-lyons-part-three-sheep-wolves-and-owls/)

    The ATS network's fundamentally rightist orientation is embodied in the "Message to Occupy Wall Street" video, which as I noted calls for a left-right alliance but presents rightists — and only rightists — as the ones who are developing a new vision for society. One of six rightist thinkers that the video lists as particularly important is Troy Southgate, "the innovative anarchist thinker." For those who don't know, Southgate is a veteran of the British neonazi movement who founded National-Anarchism as a reworking of fascist ideology. Take a look at his N-AM Manifesto, written a year ago, starting with his claims that "an elite coterie of Jews and their allies have effectively manipulated world events for their own interests" and "as a result of Jewish involvement in the bootlegging and criminal racketeering of 1930s America,… eventually went on to finance the Zionist takeover of the Hollywood film industry and, by 1948, brought about the establishment of the bandit-state of Israel." (See http://www.national-anarchist.net/2010/09/part-one-anti-zionism.html)

  12. Matthew,

    Do you consider Hasidic communities like Kiryas Joel and New Square, the Amish communities of Pennsylvania, or the South African community of Orania to be quasi-fascist oppressors or are they simply different "tribes" with their own unique cultures and ideologies minding their own business and pursuing their own ways of life? If the former, how do you plan on preventing such communities from forming without an overarching totalitarian state imposing rigid ideological uniformity on a universal level? If the latter, how are they any different from what ARV/ATS is promoting?

  13. How would you respond to these comments from some of our participants?

    From RJ Jacob:

    "So we’re not dismantling oppression by smashing the state, the ruling classes, and western economic supremacy? We have to burn the boats and bridges of people who hold rightist views? Is this guy just another Marxist or is he with the anarcho-authorities?"

    From Kan-Wil-Sal:

    "Do people like Matthew Lyons even consider why other people have different opinions on how they want to live and that they just might want that freedom?
    I read your previous debate with him, he can not defend government from fascists, government is fascisms no matter what ideology they claim to have they all behave the exact same with central power, a decentralized world full of various city states and collectives will not be perfect, but we will have choices, real choices. It will force small municipalities/ tribal councils/theocracies/democracies or whatever else exists to treat people well, because if you don’t, I pack my bag and leave, as easy as that."

  14. To Mr. Preston's first comment, I don't consider the communities he lists to be equivalent. Hasidim and Amish in the U.S. are examples of traditionalist cultural minorities, who are subject to varying degrees of stereotyping and marginalization — although most members of these groups are also defined as white, which gives them a degree of relative privilege. Within their communities, systems of oppression such as patriarchy operate somewhat differently, but not necessarily more severely, than in the larger society. I don't have a blueprint for how revolutionary movements should deal with issues of hierarchy or mistreatment within these communities. I believe in respecting cultural differences and honoring the positive aspects of different ways of living, but I also believe this doesn't simply trump concerns about oppression. Generally, radical change that comes from within communities is much more meaningful and effective than anything imposed from the outside, although even the most insular community is influenced by what happens around it. I would tend to look first to people who have been silenced or marginalized within these communities, such as queer Hasidic Jews, for guidance or leadership in this area.

    Orania, an Afrikaner separatist community in South Africa, involves some of the same issues — but with a radical difference, because it’s a community directly rooted in apartheid racism, designed to protect and preserve the country's traditional oppressor caste. Orania is for whites only; people of color may visit, but with sharp constraints on where they can go and what they can do. Oranians may claim that they're just minding their own business and preserving their culture, but what kinds of racial and political attitudes and practices does Orania promote, and what impact do these have on South African society? And to Mr. Preston's question about the "overarching totalitarian state," is it totalitarian to tell someone that they can't treat other people like garbage?

  15. To RJ Jacob: Pan-secessionism is based on the premise that the large central state is the main part of class rule, and that dismantling the large central state would result in smashing the ruling classes. I believe this is an illusion — a utopian fantasy. Capitalism is a system that includes the state but is not ultimately created by it. If you don't attack that larger system you are reconfiguring capitalism, not ending it. Same for racial oppression, and male supremacy, and national oppression, and so on. Assuming that pan-secessionists succeeded in smashing the state — that they didn't simply get coopted by a declining but still powerful U.S. empire, extending its current policy of outsourcing social control tasks to client states, private contractors, gangs, etc. — the result would still be a world of tremendous inequality, exploitation, and violence, but even more of the lines would be drawn geographically than they are now.

    As for smashing western economic supremacy, clearly that's not the same as dismantling imperialism as a global system. A capitalist world with the U.S. empire replaced by hundreds of mini-states would quickly see the rise to dominance of new imperialist superpowers, notably China. A coalition of "rogue states" led by a National-Bolshevist Russia, whose rise Keith Preston fantasized about in one essay, might also help fill the gap.

    To Kan-Wil-Sal: Saying that all centralized government equals fascism renders the concept of fascism meaningless. A fascist state, a liberal "democracy," an absolute monarchy, and a Soviet-style "Communist" state all exercise power in different ways and require different strategies of those seeking to create a liberatory society.

    The idea that simply eliminating the centralized state will result in a sort of free market of community options that people can freely pick and choose from is, again, a utopian fantasy. It completely ignores the many ways — economic, psychological, cultural, political, etc. — that hierarchy and social control operate within and between small-scale institutions. The fact that this fantasy is specifically rooted in capitalist "free market" ideology reinforces my point that ATS is fundamentally a right-wing movement.

  16. A final note: Although ThreeWayFight has received occasional comments from rightists in the past, I believe this is the first time that a single 3WF post has received a whole cluster of comments from the same rightist tendency. Most of these comments have been substantive and have helped to clarify important issues, which is why I have approved them for publication. However, ThreeWayFight does not exist to provide a forum for rightists or help them to refine their arguments, and I am not able or willing to continue this exchange indefinitely. If you want to know what ATS folks have to say and what they are up to, check out attackthesystem.com and thedailyattack.com. Comments on this thread are now closed.

  17. the zeitgeist movement isn't the venus project, nor is it about conspiracies, antisemetism, or right-wing ideology. please do better research before knocking people who are trying to make the world a better place. i'm sure you would want the same courtesy.

  18. The article I cited about Zeitgeist, by Jack Ferguson (at http://links.org.au/node/2567), was written in 2010. The website of the Zeitgeist movement (http://www.thezeitgeistmovement.com/faq) says that a split between Zeitgeist and the Venus Project developed in 2011, but that "the differences between the two organizations rest in function & strategy while the broad goal is essentially the same." Sorry for conflating these two groups.

    Ferguson argues that an important part of Zeitgeist's core ideas is derived from antisemitic conspiracy theories and related right-wing ideology, although this is not explicitly reflected in Zeitgeist's presentation of the ideas. For details, I encourage people to check out Ferguson's article at the URL given above, including the lively debate in the comments section.


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