The following essay was written by Nicholas Golina, a cofounder of Momentum Advocacy. He is the Analytics Director for the Jessica Scarane Campaign for US Senate and works for multiple other organizations including The Morgan Harper Campaign for Congress, Ohio for Bernie, and WolfPAC Ohio. He is also a graduate student at Kent State University in Data Science with his Bachelor’s degree in Labor Economics from the University of Akron.
The views expressed in this essay are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the entire Eclectablog staff. They are presented here for information and discussion.
White supremacy is an ideology that has been endemic to the American experience since its inception. But since World War II, the Neo Nazi movement had existed on the fringe of American politics for decades. This changed after the Unite the Right Rally where racist and anti-Semitic protesters swarmed Charlottesville Virginia to protest the removal of a statue of the racist Confederate General Robert E Lee. During the ensuing chaos, a counter protester named Heather Heyer was murdered by a white nationalist in one of the worst terrorist attacks of the 21st century. When the current President of the Electoral College, Donald J Trump, said that those protesters were “very fine people”, it was the sign of a new era of right wing fascism. But in order to win this war against the fascist movement it is important that we understand the macro level trends in American fascism, while also understanding the characteristics of its members. That is where the Iron March Forum will come in.
American Fascism and Its Trumpian Resurgence
Since the 2016 election, American fascism has been on the rise and it can be traced to the stochastic terrorism that Donald J Trump practiced during and after the campaign. Since the 2016 election, the Southern Poverty Law Center documented that there were 1,863 bias incidents as of June 2017. The Center also noted that a disturbing part of that trend was a number of lynchings that disproportionately affected Black Americans, which explains why polling shows that most Americans believe that race relations have gotten worse under the leadership of Donald Trump. There was also a 30% increase in the number of hate groups over the past 4 years, which can be attributed to persistent political, economic, and ethnic polarization that can be linked to an increase in terrorism from right wing extremist groups. According to our analysis of data from the Global Terrorism Database at the University of Maryland, the number of terrorist attacks from right wing or Fascist groups in the United States increased by 208% in 2018 compared to 2016 and 19.3% compared to 2017 to its highest level since 1970.
Additionally, 2018 was the year with the highest number of fatalities and injuries from right wing and fascist terrorism in recorded history.
The explanation for this link to an increase in violence can be gathered by studying the social geometry of societies. Donald Black of the University of Virginia explained that when unchecked technological innovation is combined with social isolation, it lowers the barriers for terrorism to flourish in societies that are built on alienation. That is why it is clear that American fascism is on the rise in the US, and it is important to assess the role that Iron March plays in this equation by understanding its members.
What is Iron March?
Iron March was the website and chat room that many people went to in order to learn about the core principles of fascism and plug themselves into hate groups across the globe. According to Vice News, the site was used as a linchpin for 9 different fascist groups and was linked to a number of terrorist attacks. Though the forum had members with a diversity of opinions, its founder, who went by the username Slavros, espoused an accelerationist ideology, which is the idea that economic neoliberalism would push society so far to the brink of destruction that this is where fascism would be able to strike and spread across the world. Additionally, Slavros also envisioned a hierarchical society based on an esoteric ideal to organize people into their role in the newly formed fascist movement and societies to follow. This of course serves as a way to keep loyalty of followers towards the movement itself through the development of a cult of personality that is characteristic of every single fascist movement in history.
The website was taken down in November of 2017, however, an SQL data dump was done giving information on all its members including posts, IP addresses, polls, etc. The network included potential military members, and spanned 1207 core members of the forum. After writing a script using python to scrape the locations of all its members from the IP addresses, it was identified that these people spanned almost all major continents of the globe.
In terms of how these members are distributed within the US, the southern census region contained the most members, while the Midwest contained the least amount of Iron March members.
Strangely though, despite the fact that the south had a plurality of the members, the two states with the largest amount of members were New York and California who are dominant blue states, while Texas was number 3.
So, the main takeaway from this geographic representation of the data is that the fascist movement has inroads to every major part of the country and it is important to be mindful of its presence in order to win the progressive struggle of racial justice.
What Do They All Have in Common?
After diving into the details of the 626 Iron March members in the United States, there are a number of important insights that can be gleaned by combining the data that was scraped with publicly available data from the American Community Survey. This data on the location of the members in the US also complements the fact that there were some important polls conducted on the forum that present dangerous warning signs for the future of US democracy.
Lack of Diversity and Support for Racial Discrimination
The aforementioned ACS data shows that over 60% of the members live in zip codes with less than 35% people of color. This shows that generally the US members tend to live in very racially homogenous areas.
The phenomenon follows a poll that was done among the site’s members where the vast majority supported either deporting all non-whites or ethnically cleansing them. This trend can be compared with previous literature on explaining support for nationalist political priorities. According to Jonathon Rothwell’s paper on explaining nationalist political views, one of the number 1 predictors of support for Trump was racial homogeneity. Thus it is important to use this as a lesson in ethnic polarization. When the social distance between white people and people of color grows, the frequency and volatility of extremism multiplies. That is why the need to close social distance between all races, classes, and social groups must be at the center of any social justice framework. This includes school desegregation, where the rising trend in income inequality has contributed to current levels of school segregation by race and socioeconomic status. But while this is an important finding, the economic characteristics of this group should be analyzed.
Economic Inequality and Nazi Economics
The economic dimension of this reality is extremely salient when considering the role that economic volatility played in the rise of Nazi Germany. When examining the Iron March dataset, the US members were more likely to come from zip codes with levels of economic inequality higher than the 2017 Gini coefficient for the entire country.
This is significant because there is some recent literature that suggests that economic inequality can be a determinant of racial bias. But even more telling is how the members answered a question to a poll on economic systems. The majority of respondents said that they preferred Nazi Economics as the proper economic system. This is important, because Nazi Economics is a distinct form of ideology that takes a statist approach to the economy. This approach involves the state setting the macroeconomic goals of the economy, while firms and industry fulfill the microeconomic means to achieve those goals. In the case of Nazi Germany, an integral aspect of this was the idea of a war preparedness economy, where the value set that defines the system is based on military efficiency when it is needed for wars of aggression. In other words, the economy was viewed as a way to satisfy the racist and xenophobic social, political, and military goals of the state.
The promotion of such an ideology is a warning sign for the progressive movement. There needs to be a synergy between class consciousness and racial solidarity with the rise of fascism, which is in response to economic volatility. In a pamphlet from the Philadelphia Workers’ Organizing Committee, the committee noted, as part of a collection of Black labor writings between 1955 and 1980, which “The plain fact of the matter is that it takes Black-white unity, the unity of the working class, to really beat racism back. Only a united, fighting working class has the numbers and social power, a power inherent in the worker’s role as the producer of all social wealth, to force the struggle against racism beyond its present stalemate.” Thus, the movement to combating white supremacy must utilize an anti-racist working class framework that brings workers of all races together against elite structures that use racism as a weapon to preserve economic power, while being completely oblivious to the fragility of their own economic order. Thus, it is important to discuss the environmental part of this phenomenon in light of these worrying signs.
Rising Ecological Fascism
Environmental politics are being increasingly embraced by the fascist right in the United States and the Iron March data only reinforces this reality. A poll conducted among its members showed that nearly half of all the respondents said that climate change was human caused and induced. What this shows is that the warning calls of Neo Nazi groups trying to infiltrate the environmental movement are warranted and are leading to real world consequences. As an example of this, The Intercept reported that the recent terrorist attack in El Paso was partially motivated by environmental concerns driven by a Malthusian conception of immigration as an external threat to the environmental stability of the nation. In response, progressives should embrace democratic socialism as a solution to the ecological crisis, by putting social control over investment decisions in the hands of workers and communities. As a NASA funded study found that the key problems that egalitarian and equitable societies do better at is reducing economic stratification and the exploitation of resources, which are the most important determinants of a potential collapse of industrial civilization.
The politics of the current moment is not one of progress, but of precarity. This insecurity is one not just of the mind and body, but also spirit. As the Philosopher Achille Mbembe puts it “Neoliberal capitalism has left in its wake a multitude of destroyed subjects, many of whom are deeply convinced that their immediate future will be one of continuous exposure to violence and existential threat.” And we are seeing this play out with the rise of Coronavirus Capitalism, which seeks not to resolve the pandemic we find ourselves in, but to profit off of it in most horrendous ways imaginable. If the collective spirit of America continues to be one of hopelessness and despair, then the road to economic and social degradation will continue to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. This is why the disease of demagoguery is spreading like a cancer and it will only get worse if political institutions do not promote a vision of universality over one of dystopianism.