Any campaign in defense of democracy and diversity that does not factor
in the role of corporate interests, public and private institutions that
promote or tolerate racism, sexism, homophobia, antisemitism, and other
forms of supremacy, and state agencies with their potential for repression,
is doomed to failure in the long term.
Sara Diamond is frustrated by the ideological blinders imposed by pluralist
extremist theory, especially when it portrays the Christian Right as
a "extremist" ally of the far right.
. . . liberals organized against the Christian right can make hay by
exploiting the "radical right" paradigm.... Were liberal critics
to analyze the Christian right as a natural ally of corporate Republicanism,
they might find themselves labeled as "radicals." The New
York Times and CNN would stop calling, and the foundation dollars
would dry up. . . .It does no good, then, to see the Christian right
through the blinders of a "radical/extremist" paradigm. It
is outrageous that the right wants to pad-lock gays in the closet, deprive
women of reproductive freedoms, enforce antiquated and monolithic school
curricula-the litany is well known. But in the coming season of local
and statewide elections, the Christian right will hold the high ground
as well-organized, well-heeled, and genuinely discontented opponents
of the Clinton era status quo. To crudely blast politically active evangelicals
as "extremists" will only increase their claimed underdog status.
The only way for opponents to beat back otherwise inevitable Christian
right gains will be to disavow namecalling and instead-with cool heads-conduct
grass-roots voter education on the true policy aims of the Republican/
Christian right alliance.
While the tactics used to fight the far right should be different from
those used to confront the religious right, the basic theory of organizing
remains the same. The theoretical and academic concerns discussed in
this paper have real meaning for community organizers seeking to confront
racism and antisemitism and other forms of supremacy in local areas.
Since the needed solution will be based on the analytical framework,
there is a need to understand the framework before organizing effectively.
The overt and conscious racism and antisemitism of the old Ku Klux
Klan or Neo-Nazi groups is easy to point out and organize against. With
the rise of new paranoid conspiratorial movements, with more coded and
obscure messages, this task becomes more difficult. The forms of prejudice
become important to decode. Overt or covert? Conscious or unconscious?
Institutional of individual? Personal or political? Is it possible to
drive a wedge between persons who hold prejudiced views and persons spreading
messages of race hate? Is this ignorance or ideology? These are important
questions for the community organizer.
In times of economic and social distress, people often turn towards
swift solutions and the strong leadership of the "man on the white
horse." Authoritarianism undergirds militarism outside our borders
and repression inside our borders. When combined, as it is now, with
the theocracy of right-wing fundamentalists, and the corporatist assumptions
behind global restructuring on behalf of multinationals, the goal of
democracy seems hopeless. It is easy to see why febril conspiracy theories
about secret teams, evil elites, bilious bankers, corrupt politicians,
jack-booted Gestapo's, and UN troops carrying new world orders have such
an attraction to some on the left. They certainly are far more entertaining
than systemic analysis and social movement theory.
The problem, however, is not some mythic cabal of secret elites that
confused conspiracist columnists such as Alexander Cockburn imagine ruling
the world. That analysis leads us into the arms of the proto-fascist
militias and asks us to set aside the struggles for racial and gender
justice. We must heed the words of the late African leader Amilcar Cabral
who advised: "don't shoot shadows." We must call the demons
out by name: Racism, White Supremacy, Antisemitism, Homophobia, Patriarchy,
Corporatism, Authoritarianism, Militarism, Reaction, Christian Theocracy,
Neofascism, Neonazism, Race War, Genocide.
These words and the concepts behind them are woven throughout books
such as Roads to Dominion by Diamond and White Lies - White
Power by Novick, despite their disparate perspectives. They give
us the vocabulary and vision we need to block the right-wing backlash
and begin rebuilding a truly progressive movement for peace, economic
fairness, and social justice.
Liberal demonization of all conservative Christian evangelicals as
Bible-thumping stormtroopers, and all members of the armed militia movement
as neonazi terrorists makes a serious public discussion of fascist potentials
in these movements difficult. Overtly genocidal racist and antisemitic
hate groups, neonazi organizations, remnants of the splintered Ku Klux
Klan, and other such groups with fascistic tendencies are unlikely sources
of large-scale proto-fascist mass movements, although they can be aggressive
and murderous on an individual level. Acts of terrorism from the far
right are more likely to cause state repression than a fascist mass movement.
The best defense against fascism is a truly democratic alternative
to the status quo. Human rights organizers working for social and economic
justice need to encourage forms of mass political participation, including
democratic forms of populism, while simultaneously opposing scapegoating
and conspiracism that often accompanies right-wing populism. Given the
trends we are facing, people who want to defend democracy have to fight
on four fronts. We must organize against:
- The rise of reactionary populism, nativism, & fascism with roots
in white supremacy, antisemitism, subversion myths, and the many mutating
offspring of the Freemason/Jewish banker conspiracy theories.
- Theocracy and other anti-democratic forms of religious fundamentalism,
around the world, which in the US is based in Protestant Eurocentrism
with its subtexts of patriarchy and homophobia.
- Authoritarian state actions in the form of militarism and interventionism
abroad and government repression and erosion of civil liberties at
- The neocorporatism of transnational capital with its attack on the
standard of living of working people around the globe. We must build
multinational coalitions to hold corporations accountable where they
extract resources, employ labor and build facilities, develop markets
and sell products, and stress the environment by creating waste or
As we promote progressive solutions, we must also join with all persons
across the political spectrum to defend the basic ideas of mass democracy
in a pluralistic and diverse society, even as we argue that it is an
idea that has never been real for many people here in our country. The
principles of the Enlightenment are not our goal, but resisting attempts
to push political discourse back to pre-enlightenment principles is nonetheless
a worthy effort.