and Montana: Tierra Y Libertad
Since 1993 two chinks have appeared in the armor of the New World Order. On the surface they are disparate, but a closer look reveals similarities that some would rather avoid. We all know of the Indian insurgency in Chiapas, Mexico, that has reaped mixed rewards from a combination of armed propaganda and land appropriation. The Zapatistas have won the hearts and minds of norteamericano Leftists and radicals. These same Leftists and radicals have been quick to deride the homegrown rebels in their own backyard. I am referring to the militia movement, the latest bogeyman for the suburbs.
Why is this? Why does the Radleft lavish support on the Zapatistas and fear and loath the militias? Part of the answer is the cowardly vicarious nature of American Leftists. It's safe to root for revolution somewhere else, but when the shooting and helicopter fly-overs might threaten the family summer vacation it is a whole different matter.
Another reason is ignorance. The Left in this country has never understood the rural population. They easily forget the sage-brush rebellions that dot our history, rebellions that for brief moments have been more egalitarian and radical than any manufactured among the urban proletariat.
Yet another reason, felt in some circles, is color-coded blindness. Some Leftists actively support revolution only when the antagonists equal black versus white. They love to applaud the dark masses battling Whitey. Evidences of this trend include the treatment offered to the Black Panthers and Weather Underground. Although the Panthers had a much higher bodycount and could hardly be considered "politically correct" by today's standards, they have become folk heroes while the Weather people are condemned as adventurists, psycho-Maoists, etc.
The abovementioned mind-set frames the current debate over militias, Zapatistas and the like. This essay is intended to shed light on what is happening on both sides of the border.
On 6 Jan 94 the EZLN (Zapatista Army) issued a communique in which it sought to describe itself. The first point in the document stressed that the EZLN had no ties with any previous armed movement in Central America or beyond.
The EZLN goes to great length to remove themselves from any association with groups such as the Salvadoran FMLN or the Guatemalan URNG. Nor do the Zapataistas claim any systematic ideology. I'm sure all of their leaders have read some Marx, and probably some Baudrillard, but they seek their inspiration and draw a precedence for their actions not in the writing of European intellectuals but in the lives and legacies of Mexican leaders who fought good fights before them. This is critical.
The Militia movement as well declares itself legitimate by claiming a national tradition of honorable rebellion. In a recent ATLANTIC MONTHLY article, Conor Cruise O'Brien recommended that the writing of Thomas Jefferson be removed from the American Canon (as though there were such a thing.) O'Brien reasoned (in splendid reactionary form), that not only was Jefferson a racist, but that his writing tended to encourage rebellious elements to use violence to affect political change.
O'Brien then asks, "That is something very much like a Jeffersonian charter for the most militant segment of modern American militias, is it not?" Yes, Mr. O'Brien, it is, and the charter cannot be revoked by foreign nationals in the pages of a pseudo- intellectualized yuppie rag filled with ads for Mutual funds and Financial services. Jefferson will continue to find rebels worthy of his ideals, in the same way Emilio Zapata will.
Whether this is actually true is wholly irrelevant. National symbols belong to those who manipulate them only until someone else takes them back. The visage of Emilio Zapata appears on a Mexican bill of currency. But his spirit plots for "Tierra y Libertad" on both sides of the mapped border. Jefferson also has been heard, directly or indirectly, in the Lacandon Jungle. The Zapatista "Declaration of the Jungle" asserts the right, enshrined in the Mexican Constitution which gives "the people at all times the inalienable right to alter or change the nature of their government."(5) The language is reminiscent of the U.S. Declaration of Independence.
O'Brien complains that Jefferson accepted no limits that on the holy cause of freedom - neither geographic boundaries nor conventional ideas of morality and compassion.(6) O'Brien must believe that geographic boundaries can be placed on freedom, (a system that has worked so well in his native Ireland.) And yes, perhaps we should stick to, "Conventional ideas of morality and compassion." Thankfully such pragmatism is not quite universal. Wild-eyed peasants in Chiapas and hicksville farmers in Montana still believe the "holy cause of freedom" is worth fighting (and killing) for. They possess a moral authority that O'Brien and his owners are not capable of comprehending. But O'Brien does try to understand. He writes:
That is the mental condition of the apologists for the New World Order. The phrase, "fanatical believer in liberty," can be used as condemnation. A fanatical belief is always dangerous to those who do not share it. And fanaticism does not spawn in a vacuum. It can be the result of centuries of oppression and disregard (as in Chiapas), or it can be the result of squashed expectations and the slow strangulation of individuality (as in Montana.) The fanaticism of the Zapataistas and the militias is not blind rage, it is focused anger. It is not paranoia, it is awareness - awareness of societal contradictions in power and privilege that seemingly can only be solved by direct militant action.
Those words were written in south Mexico but they could well have been written anywhere. Millions would understand them with clarity. The tradition of armed rebellion continues to this day, on both sides of the Rio Grande. The desperation certainly differs in degree, but actions taken on behalf of the desperation differ hardly at all. Organization, webworking, armed propaganda, and the occasional violent attack or defence.
On both sides of the ever-militarizing border, revolutionary actions have begun (and will continue) in response to the same geopolitical trends. The Zapatistas call these trends, Neo-Liberalism. The militias use the term, New World Order. In both cases what the participants refer to is bureaucratized social control processes and a system of capital flight and localized blight.
While expressing support for the Zapatistas, U.S. Leftists have almost uniformly bought the state/media disinformation campaign about the militias. They rely on groups such as Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League, who manage to advise and reconnoiter for the Justice Department, major media types and anyone who will listen that the militia movement is right wing racist and anti-government. And who does the SPLC consider a part of the movement?
I (personally) fit into several of the above categories. If you are really boring you might only fit into one. Reading this list it is easy to see the ADL's and SPLC's problem with the aforementioned groups: anti-authoritarian viewpoints all the way around. Since the SPLC and company now advise those in authority, these organizations have a shared stake in maintaining the status quo. Recently, the ADL and SPLC have gone even further, launching their own undercover operations and sharing intelligence with the Feds. These groups form a natural compliment to the lesser "anti-racist," organizations, always allowing any debate on racialism or oppression to be framed squarely within the manageable confines of the Elite. Suddenly questions of political complexity become a clash of hysterical mob versus hysterical mob. And still the power increases.
The old (tired and disgraced) Left view the militias with fear and horror because they quite rightly guess these weird western conspiracy buffs have the potential to upset the balance of power in North America. The Left in this country has been irrelevant since it blinked in the face of revolution in late 1969. The staid intellectuals who have been made comfortable in the role of "Loyal Opposition," deserve a pie in the face and the eternal shame that our history will write for them. They squawk in confusion as a broad mass movement (including people of every "Color" and "Caste") has been organized for the expressed purpose of defending and increasing individual and community autonomy. This is the (re)proletarian movement the America Left spent almost a century (1878 to 1968) attempting to instigate. They failed. Now it has sprung up without their help, the result of diminished economic prospects and the (clearer by the day) realization that the national security state apparatus is foundering out of control and must be curtailed. This movement is anti-government, anti- multinational, anti-elite. This (nothing if not postmodernist) militia movement is often derided by pundits with the dismissal that it , "Enjoys no serious intellectual support." If this is true, so much the worse for the "serious intellectuals." Once again they will be passive observers, whose predictable sophistry will be invoked to justify any repression the state feels is necessary.
White Men Betrayed?
The militia movement is screened in the massed media as being primarily white supremacist paranoid middle aged crazies. No doubt this is true in individual cases, but as a summing up of the entire movement it is quite simply, bullshit.
Militias are nothing more than a group of people with guns who meet and train to defend themselves and their interests. Since there are thousands, if not tens of thousands, of militia currently operating in the U.S., their character and interests vary widely. Some are open and specific about a racial ideology, (Aryan Nations, Jewish Defense League, Nation of Islam), although I would say that this category of racialist militia accounts for no more than 15% of the militia total. They do get more screen and print exposure because their beliefs are often bizarre and exploitative. For propaganda purposes racialist militia leaders are usually willing to give media interviews, thinking it will legitimize their cause.
Most militia groups, however, espouse no racialist theory. The closest thing to a party-line in militia circles concerning race relations is not some separatist ideology, but the far more perceptive (and unnerving) commentary that the New World Order may attempt to start a race war in order to declare martial law and set up a corporate-owned police state.
Since the militia movement is a broad-based mass movement, any attempt to simplify it or make it one-dimensional will fail. The movement is black and white, old and young, male and female, urban and rural. There is no doubt that some individual militia members hold ideas and opinions many of us would find objectionable or arcane. A mass movement always involves the masses, and (like it or not) the masses in the U.S., like the peasants in Chiapas, come complete with sky-gods, gender roles and racialist ideas. Sadly, many do not know better.
Meanwhile other militias have been moving as they should, stressing liberty and freedom over restricting ideology, staying radically democratic through group decision-making, lack of any hierarchy, and the use of only self-hidden media, (shortwave radio, webpage, fax-networks, zine). If the militias' ranks are filled with an inordinate number of middle-aged white men, it is that the tools of a militia person (electronics and weaponry) easily costs into the thousands of dollars.
Much is made of the militias' paranoia and conspiracy worldview. As a systematic analysis, conspiracy theory certainly has its drawbacks, but on at least one level it is valid. Conventional nation-states built on the European model have an elite class that jealously guards its own self-interest. Power and privilege congeal in certain strata of society and tend to stay there. Since a great deal of time, energy, and wealth goes into maintaining the illusion that American society is classless (and open and free), anyone who challenges these assumptions will be branded a racist, a fanatic or some other media-scare by-word. The only thing surprising is those who know better believe the disinformation campaign.
The militia's conspiracy theory is often critiqued as veiled anti-semitism.
The current state of conspiracy theory resembles nothing so much as postmodernism. Think of conspiracy theory as rural (de)construction. The irrelevance of whether a text is fact or fiction, the revision of history, an awareness of simulation. It is interesting to note that conspiracy theorists and postmodernists are frequently attacked from the same quarters. This is because postmodernists and conspiracy theory force a new appraisal. The practitioners come to understand all is not as it has seemed, nor how it has been written. Some relish this atmosphere; to others it is a dire threat. Every action has a reaction, and none are more reactionary than those lame knee-jerk "progressives" who are scared witless by the notion that our society can be radically altered.
"It's comin back around again..." - RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE
I find conspiracy theory and Marxism to be equally valid, and equally laughable. I would measure a movement's threat to state and order not in terms of its analysis but rather in the way a state's security forces would measure the threat, in terms of its active potential. By this quotient the militias are a major threat to the established order. The supposed experts who have written otherwise either don't know their hardware and tactics or are deliberately disinforming. The FBI knows better. Fifty-thousand people with sniper rifles, explosives, nightvision gear and satellite communications scares the hell out of Langley, Virginia and Wall Street.
Recently "Cop Watch" programs have sprung up in different cities, in which participants follow police with videocamaras and distribute anti-cop pamphlets to people on the scene. I know of several militia intelligence operations that monitor federal and local law enforcement radio and fax frequencies twenty-four hours a day. They track military special training all over the country. They have become adept at predicting law-enforcement sting operation and domestic counterintelligence maneuvers by following the money trail of federal grants flowing the Multi-Jurisdictional Task Forces. These people possess resources and hardware available to no other revolutionary movement in history. These are the serious players in the militia movement. They are far more intelligent and open-minded than the religious, the racial, and the crazy. As would be expected, many of their leaders are female, including a number of former 60's radicals and former U.S. Army officers. These "serious" militias insist that they are preparing to "Restore the Constitution," but a revolution is clearly what they have in mind.
Like the Zapatistas, the militias vow they will not strike first, but will only use violence in defense. When the battles will begin is impossible to predict. Mostly the ball is in the court of the respective federal governments of the U.S. and Mexico. If Mexican federal troops move into their strongholds in the Lacandon jungle, the Zapatistas will defend themselves (and the conflict will probably widen). The U.S. militias share no territorial imperative. The serious players say they will go to war if Constitutional guarantees such as the rights to free speech and to keep firearms are canceled. I believe them. And as far as the kooky militias (the religious, racial, and crazy), they could strike at anytime. Perhaps they already have. The layers of disinformation and counterintelligence surrounding the Oklahoma City bombing are currently impossible to peel.
A Theory for All Reasons?
Recently there has been a small hysteria in some circles concerning a short document entitled Leaderless Resistance. The author is Louis Beam. Beam is the former head of the Texas Knights of the Klu Klux Klan. In 1987 he was arrested for Conspiring To Overthrow the U.S. Government. (He was acquitted.) Sometime in 1992 he published his essay on revolutionary war. The concept is simple. Beam defines it as
Beam explains that since the non-army is united in viewpoint they will react to news reports and other informational sources in a similar way. They will "Strike when the time is ripe and take their cue from those that precede them." Beam favors this "Phantom Cell" non-structure because "a single penetration of a pyramid style organization can lead to the destruction of the whole. Whereas, leaderless resistance presents no single opportunity for the Federals to destroy a significant portion of the resistance."(12)
Louis Beam is no mere racialist leader. He is a racialist non-leader with a revolutionary theory. His work is often talked about but apparently only read by FBI agents and potential terrorists. There have been reports of the document circulating in the Middle East and Latin America. Beam's theory has also been adopted by militia units from across the ideological spectrum. In the U.S. the concept of Leaderless Resistance has caused a minor outpouring of shock and condemnation. Callers to National Public Radio have actually asked idiot hacks what they could do to stop Leaderless Resistance and ant-government plots in their own neighborhoods. Numerous analogies have been made between the Oklahoma City bombing and the tactics of Mr. Beam. What no one has said is that Leaderless Resistance is one of the most radical and revolutionary concepts ever imagined by a white man. Mr. Beam is a racial ideologue, he may beat his dogs too, but to appreciate his theory it doesn't matter. What he has come up with is the idea of an army without commanders. Leaderless Resistance should be of vital interest to anyone considering themselves anti-authoritarian. For logically, when an army without commanders wins, does it suddenly organize itself into a regime? No, it becomes a society without rulers.
The militias' grass-rooted nonorganization makes it impossible to believe they could agree amongst themselves long enough to ever set up any revolutionary government structure above the county level. All the better, we have no need to fear an(other) Aryan Republic. The militias will never overthrow the government in the vanguardist style. However, it is within the realm of possibility that they could very well make large portions of North America ungovernable. Whether one would favor such a nonstate of affairs depends to a large degree on how much one has to lose. The residents of Starr County, Texas, south central Los Angeles and north Idaho might agree it would be an improvement.
The tactics of the U.S. and Mexico governments toward their homegrown rebels have been identical.
The U.S. Justice Department has used a strategy to combat the militias it employed to great success in the crisis of 1968 to 1972. The aim is to get the leadership of the movement under federal indictment regardless of guilt. This tactic attempts to freeze the leadership and forces the movement to expend resources and slow down it's operations. As of Jan. 97 there were thirty-six cases pending in the U.S. against (supposed) militia groups for a variety of plots. Many, if not most, of these cases are the result of FBI sting operations and represent little more than the Feds taking out the easy marks (the gullible, the insane, the idiotic) in the militia milieu.
The Mexican government has attempted the same maneuvers, albeit at a much lower level of sophistication. They have also attempted the charade of official negotiations with the Zapatistas, negotiations which seem to be perpetually on again-off again. These negotiations are intended to (re)engage the EZLN into the official democratic process and isolate them from their popular support among moderate statists. These negotiations are roughly analogous to the 1994 congressional elections in the U.S., in which the media gave much attention to the (supposed) ant-government revolution lead by Newt Gingrich and his crew of sky god fearing stooges.
These tactics have failed, both in the U.S. and Mexico. The Zapatistas have consolidated their movement and been joined by several other guerilla bands, all opposing the elite controllers of Mexican society. And despite the terror of the Oklahoma City bombing the militias have grown as well, with the added serious awareness on the part of the participants that involvement in militia units can get one killed or sentenced to life in a federal gulag. But even with that shared knowledge the militias have grown and spread their web. Far from falling into stunned disarray, (like the anarchists post-Haymarket or the radicals post-Kent State) the militias have grown stronger under open oppression.
At this point the Zapatistas and the militias look remarkably similar. Hounded by security forces, patronized by politicians, these women and men appear to be revolutionaries settling in for a long haul.
In late October 96 U.S. Representative Maxine Walters spoke on National Public Radio concerning the then-breaking story of the CIA/Contra/Cocaine scheme. She said African-Americans were perhaps "Behind the curve" on what was really happening in America. She said people all over the country were "Waking up" to what had been portrayed in the media as "Angry white middle-aged male syndrome." Perhaps forty-plus years of police-state repression is coming home to roost in Mexico, southcentral L.A., the Rocky Mountains and Great Plains. The expressions will be diverse and rooted in local culture. The strains will not be synonymous. No single Big Theory unites them. Those of us who continue to dream (and work toward) the emergence of revolutionary situations welcome them all, even if we do not wish to actively sign up for any of them. For these are the expressions of the monolith cracking.
from RACE TRAITOR
#8, Winter 1998
1. 6 Jan 94 communique included in Russell, Phillip
L., THE CHIAPAS REBELLION, Mexico Resource Center. Austin 1995.