Chaos, nihilism, and the way of “No Surrender” (or, In defence of the Chaos Star and the Nihilist-Anarchists)

I will say that I am not a Chaos Magician, but I don’t think one necessarily needs to be a Chaos Magician in order to recognize the Chaos Star, also known as the Symbol of Chaos or Sigil of Chaos. The basic shape is eight-arrows pointing outward from one central point, meant to signify all possibilities expanding outward. In Chaos Magick, this star is often interpreted as a signifier for the endless potential of all action launching in all different directions instead of pursuing a fixed path. But, the Chaos Star is also one of a number of esoteric symbols that have been altered and recuperated by fascists as representations of their movement, leading some leftists to declare that the Chaos Star is itself a fascist symbol, despite the fact that it was a non-fascist symbol invented by a man whose own political convictions put him completely at odds with fascism. And recently, this has resulted in an entire tendency of anarchism, namely the nihilist anarchists, being tarred over the use of the Chaos Star in an image declaring the nihilist-anarchist position. Both anarchists and presumably Marxists take turns saying both that nihilist-anarchists are incapable of threatening the system and that they are dangerous fascist counter-revolutionaries, without the slightest bit of irony or self-awareness regarding the outright regurgitation of that old far-right trope that their enemy is strong but also weak.

Twitter drama in itself isn’t something I like the thought of covering here, but it is on Twitter that the discourse I’m trying to address is taking place, and it is important to address this discourse, because it touches on a number of important subjects. It touches on the extent to which social and cultural alterity is either allowed expression within leftist or radical spaces or condemned and cast away as an expression of fascism or reaction, a dynamic that has implications for how we view freedom of expression and has consequences for anyone trying to embrace sub/counterculture, occultism, alternative religion, and even kink within radical left-wing political spaces. It also touches on the old threat of moral panic that surfaces time and time again, and the way that esotericism is interpreted and received, as well as the arguments through which the logic of authoritarianism may be regurgitated even by people who consider themselves anti-authoritarian leftists. I also should stress that I don’t come at this from the standpoint of a nihilist, except in the sense of being very much nihilism-curious. While I don’t necessarily identify with nihilism, I have the inkling that my engagement with Max Stirner, forthcoming elaborations on Darkness, and a general interest in certain forms of revolutionary pessimism as put foward by Marxists like Walter Benjamin may end up putting me in alignment with some forms of nihilist communism and nihilist anarchism, to say nothing of recent sympathies with some of the nihilist anarchists presently being fash-jacketed. If that leads to a bias, then just know that this is the standpoint I’m coming from, and there are no neutral actors in discourse.

As far as I can tell, this all started with a tweet from Des (@queerbandit161), a queer anti-civ nihilist decolonial anarchist, originally posted on March 9th, which featured a meme depicting a balaclava-wearing wojak-style character wearing sunglasses, sporting an assault rifle and standing beneath the Chaos Star. The presumably memetic mascot for nihilist anarchism is accompanied by a quote from Blessed Is The Flame, a seminal text on anarcho-nihilism written in 2016 by Serafinski, which summarizes the basic position of nihilist-anarchism. It states that the current society cannot be saved, that hostility should be the only response to it, and that, rather than any demands for a new society, the revolution will be the “pure negation” of society. I’ll post the original meme below.

Kickass image from @queerbandit161

The post attracted a mixture of responses from various people. Some praised the post and its message, and expressed an interest in reading nihilist literature. Many, however, were quick to dismiss it and mock it, and a few of those resorted to cruelly suggesting that Des commit suicide. Some of Des’ detractors asserted that the anarcho-nihilist position was merely stuck in the bourgeois worldview, accepting its premise for the social order and merely positioning themselves as an antagonist; a strange objection for self-styled communists to make, considering they are supposed to be the material antagonists of bourgeois society.

For whatever reason, Des’ original post attracted further attention at around March 18th, 9 days after the original post, from numerous individuals spouting mostly the same lines, except that this time there were people accusing Des of being a crypto-fascist on the grounds that the Chaos Star is a “Duginist symbol”. This seems to have kicked off a whole discourse about nihilist-anarchism as a whole being somehow fascist, and besides that a wave of anarchists and socialists from other tendencies pronouncing that nihilist anarchists are ineffectual. Some users have gone so far as to claim that the Chaos Star is essentially the Sonnenrad, the Nazi sun wheel symbol (often popularly, but ultimately erroneously, dubbed the “Black Sun”). It’s at this point that we need to get into the problems with all of this discourse.

The Chaos Star as we know it was created by Michael Moorcock, the author of the Elric of Melnibone novels, as a symbol of the forces of Chaos. In Moorcock’s novels, there is constant struggle two cosmic forces, those of Law and those of Chaos, and a figure referred to as the Eternal Champion acts on behalf of the Cosmic Balance to ensure that neither Law nor Chaos come out on top for long. The forces of Law, symbolized by a single upward-pointing arrow, represent cosmic order and are credited with ensuring that anything material exists, but a world dominated by Law tends to lead to stagnation, and the Realm of Law is an empty and barren place where, in the absence of the ability to do wrong, law and justice become meaningless. The forces of Chaos, symbolized by a star of eight arrows, represent both entropy and a state of infinite possibility unfettered by any rules, and are credited as the source of the power of magic and sorcery, but a world dominated by Chaos is unstable, and all possibilities are exhausted in a state of constant change (personally I find that to be a strange idea considering that the possibilities are, well, infinite). Fans of Shin Megami Tensei, like myself, will easily notice similarities between the premise of Moorcock’s novels and the Shin Megami Tensei games that would be released decades later; in the original Shin Megami Tensei, one of the four demon generals of Chaos is called Arioch, which happens to also be the name of the gods of Chaos in Moorcock’s novels. Michael Moorcock himself was not a fascist. In fact, he has explicitly referred to himself as an anarchist, and specifically a “Kropotkinist” (that is, an adherent of Pyotr Kropotkin’s form of anarcho-communism), and he insists that his works often end with the message that “one should serve neither gods nor masters but become one’s own master”. So while the Chaos Star may not in itself be an anarchist symbol, it was created by an anarchist, and in the context of Chaos Magick it definitely dovetails with political anarchism rather more closely than fascism.

It’s worth mentioning that, although the Chaos Star as we know it was invented by Michael Moorcock, there actually was a similar older symbol that appeared in the work of Aleister Crowley. In the Thoth tarot deck, which also contained in Crowley’s The Book of Thoth, the Eight of Wands card depicts a large symbol consisting of eight arrows shaped like bolts of lightning and each extending outwards in all directions. It’s not really the Chaos Star, but it does look similar. According to Crowley, the symbol on the card represented energy that scattered at high velocity. That does sound fairly similar to the way the Chaos Star is talked about as representing infinite potential branching off in different directions. The Thoth deck project was originally initiated in 1938, and completed in 1943, and The Book of Thoth was published in 1944. That’s 17 before the first Elric of Melnibone novel, The Dreaming City, was published in 1961. It’s not quite the same symbol, but it does predate Moorcock. And, again, there’s no reason to interpret it as a symbol of fascism.

The Eight of Wands card as it appears in Aleister Crowley’s Thoth deck

This brings us to Aleksandr Dugin, the fascist advisor to Vladimir Putin, who used his own eight-pointed star symbol to represent his Eurasianist movement. Dugin’s eight-pointed star seems to have first appeared on the cover of Foundations of Geopolitics, a treatise on neo-Eurasianist ideology and politics that was first published in 1997 and has since become widely influential in fascist circles in both Russia and “the West” and has been widely read within the Russian government. Although the two symbols are similar, there are important differences between them. The star of Eurasianism is typically squared, whereas the common Chaos Star is round, and the star of Eurasianism usually has the four intercardinal arrows appear larger or longer than the cardinal arrows, whereas the common Chaos Star is typically much more equilateral, with the eight arrows all of equal size and length. These are the obvious visual differences between the Chaos Star and the Eurasianist Star, or the Star of Dugin as we might also call it. As for the symbolic meaning, it’s not clear that the Chaos Star and Dugin’s Star have any symbolic correspondence. Frankly, I’m amazed that people have even managed to confuse the two symbols.

In a now-deleted tweet, a Twitter user going by the handle @DualPowerRanger repeated a claim from Alexander Reid Ross which asserted that Aleksandr Dugin is a practitioner (or “follower”) of chaos magick, and they asserted further that there is a convergence between the Chaos Star and National Bolshevism that is not accidental, based on the purported presence of eco-fascists in the nihilist milieu. Incidentally, the same basic claim of Dugin being a Chaos Magician was put forward by Robert Zubrin, writing for the conservative magazine National Review, in an article arguing that Dugin’s Eurasianist ideology was a “satanic cult”. Oh how easy it is to find certain people on the same side as reactionaries when it’s time to make people afraid of the occult again! In any case, the basic claim is wrong-headed for a number of reasons. For starters, Chaos Magick is not a religion, and there are no “followers” of Chaos Magick. The very notion is fundamentally at odds with the radically anarchic, anti-dogmatic, and anti-organizational ethos of Chaos Magick, and arguably offensive to its practitioners. For another thing, while it is true that Dugin was interested in occultism and wrote a number of tracts on the subject when he was much younger, he is at this point very much a Christian traditionalist. Dugin was baptized into the Russian Orthodox Church since he was six years old, he is deeply involved in right-wing Christian politics in Russia which so characteristically revolves around the Russian Orthodox Church, and much of the religious content of his politics is expressly a form of Christian nationalism; he explicitly frames his struggle between a Eurasianist Russia versus the liberal/”globalist” West as a struggle between the forces of God, church, state and empire against the forces of Satan. Some people have told me in the past that there is at least a noitceable contingent of folkist neopagans in the Russian National Bolshevik movement, but I have never seen any evidence of that being the case. Even if Dugin did at one point practice Chaos Magick, he likely doesn’t now, and even if he did, this certainly doesn’t make the Chaos Star a fascist symbol.

A particularly hilarious bit of conspiracy thinking comes from self-styled leftists who appear to sincerely believe that the Chaos Star is synonymous with the Sonnenrad, or the so-called “Black Sun” used by neo-Nazis to represent their ideology. This is patently absurd for a number of reasons. The Chaos Star not only does not carry the same symbolism as the Sonnenrad, the two symbols are not even the same shape! Whereas the Chaos Star consists of eight arrows pointing outward in different directions, the Sonnenrad consists of twelve seemingly stylized sig runes through two circles, the runes each meeting at the centre of the circle, thus forming a wheel. The design was probably modelled after old Germanic ornamental disks that were generally symbols of royalty or aristocratic power, but otherwise barely resembles even those. The Sonnenrad is a distinct symbol that was created by Wilhelm Landig and commissioned by Heinrich Himmler as a substitute for the swastika to adorn the Wewelsburg Castle. As for the name “Black Sun”, the Nazis themselves never referred to it as the “Black Sun”. The symbol itself wasn’t even originally black, more like a kind of dark green. We don’t really know what the Nazis originally called it and even the original symbolism is something of a mystery, though it is speculated in scholarship that it represented a source of power for the so-called “Aryan” race. The reason I refer to it the Sonnenrad is because the word means “sun-wheel”, and that’s all that the basic symbol is; just a sun wheel made of stylized sig runes. The Sonnenrad only started being called the “Black Sun” by neo-Nazis in the 1990s, likely deriving the name from the thriller novel The Black Sun of Tashi Lhunpo. The novel was published no earlier than 1991 by the German author Stephan Mögle-Stadel, under the pseudonym Russell McCloud, who probably wasn’t a neo-Nazi himself, though Mögle-Stadel’s lack of enthusiasm for Nazi ideology didn’t stop neo-Nazis from running with the concept regardless of its expressly fictitious basis.

The very name “Black Sun” as an esoteric concept is not the historic property of the Nazis. In Western alchemy, the “black sun” was the Sol Niger, a symbol of the process of nigredo, the state of spiritual putrefaction or “death” that necessarily precedes renewal and the completion of the Great Work. There have been other “black suns” and similarly dark lights with different symbolic meanings throughout the ancient pre-Christian world. In Egypt, a “black sun” can be seen in some tombs as a devourer of the unrighteous and the enemies of the gods, and this sun was represented by a demon in the form of a black ram dubbed “The Lord of Power”. In Greece and Rome, the god Dionysus or Bacchus was sometimes referred to as the “Night Sun”. The planet Saturn was in some cultures considered to be a “sun of night”, and in Mesopotamia the sun god Utu was believed to travel to the underworld as a “night sun” to judge the dead. Mayans believed that the Sun took the form of the “Night Sun” as it journeyed to the underworld.

The logic of the comparison between the Sonnenrad and the Chaos Star is in essence the same logic used by your average conspiracy theorist to argue that every triangle or hand sign is secretly some esoteric or satanic symbol cryptically placed everywhere by a secret society of elites who for some reason want you to know that they rule the world and can’t tell you any other way. The Chaos Star is round and pointy, is employed by an occult subculture, and happens to be brandished by people you despise, while the Sonnenrad is round and jagged, maybe a little pointy in places, is linked to an esoteric movement, and is employed by people you despise, therefore, by ignoring the exact context and symbological differences between the symbols along with the precise ideological and political differences between the people who actually use those symbols, you can claim that the Sonnenrad and the Chaos Star are the exact same symbol and that Chaos Magicians and nihilist-anarchists are secret Nazis with no effort whatsoever! And the people looking to attack nihilist-anarchists seem to see fascist symbols literally everywhere, or at least everywhere in Ukraine. Another person attacking Des and accusing the Chaos Star of being a fascist symbol also claimed to see that same symbol on a Ukrainian soldier as proof that the soldier was a fascist, as part of a broader party line that Ukraine is a Nazi regime. The actual symbol was not a Chaos Star, but instead the symbol of the Sith Empire, which doesn’t at all resemble the Chaos Star and really doesn’t signify anything other than being a Star Wars fan. On a somewhat unrelated note, I’ve also seen some people claim that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was a secret Nazi on the basis of an equilateral cross-like symbol on his shirt that was somehow supposed to be the German Iron Cross. That cross is obviously not the German Iron Cross, but in fact a symbol of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The fact that Zelenskyy happens to be Jewish should be relevant to anyone trying to claim that he’s some sort of secret Nazi, but apparently that doesn’t matter to pro-Russian conspiracy theorists.

My point is, there seems to be a noticeable element of conspiracism involved in the basic claim that the Chaos Star is inherently a fascist symbol, in that justifying such a claim often involves literally just seeing fascist symbols everywhere even where there aren’t, in the same way that lots of conspiracy theorists see symbols of Satanism or their imagined secret society everywhere even where they don’t exist.

A guide I’ve made to hopefully illustrate my point

What motivated me to write this article at all was a Twitter thread written by a self-described democratic socialist named Michael Paulauski, and it’s worth addressing the claims he makes against nihilist-anarchists. The thread begins with an endorsement of @DualPowerRanger’s problematic claims against nihilist-anarchists and the Chaos Star, and his bid to connect the Chaos Star to a broader issue of fascist creep in ecological movements. He claims that people who deny the existence of eco-fascism are relevant to the Chaos Star, implying the Chaos Star is a symbol of a broader fascist creep within anarchist movements. We’ve already addressed the reasons why the Chaos Star is not a fascist symbol, so it doesn’t bear repeating here. The argument I’m much more interested in addressing is Paulauski’s claim that “doomerism” is weaponized as a tool of fascists who supposedly use it to ensure that any and all constructive progress is obstructed, and claims that the utilization of the Chaos Star as a symbol of nihlist-anarchism fits perfectly with this along with the phenomenon of anti-civ and anarcho-primitivism, both of which he reflexively dismisses without argument.

In addressing this argument, we need to discuss the concept of the “doomer”, or “doomerism”. The word “doomer” seems to be a modern term the internet gives to someone who’s basically a long-term pessimist. It can mean someone who is convinced that society will collapse within their lifetime, and in fact it used to specifically refer to people who thought that this collapse would be brought about by the demise of peak oil production, and nowadays it can be interpreted to mean a latent assumption that the end of organized human society in the form of ecological collapse, global conflict, or any number of causes is basically inevitable and can’t be stopped at this point, and for whom the only thing left to do is figure out how to survive or live with the inexorable. It can also mean someone who finds themselves given to a much more personal resignment, having accepted the idea that, for various reasons, their own lives aren’t going to get any better than they currently are. Nowadays the terms “doomer” or “doomerism”, whenever they enter mainstream political discussion, are almost always related to the broader discussion around climate change, and the term “doomer” is thrown around interchangeably with terms like “nihilist” or “collapsitarian” to denounce or dismiss people who believe that it is too late for the human species to meaningfully avert the worst consequences of man-made climate change.

There are numerous and obvious problems with asserting that pessimism as a whole is merely an appendage of fascism. For one thing, pessimism is really rather common in left-wing movements, particularly in the United States. And there’s a host of good reasons for leftists to feel pessimistic without requiring the input of fascist interference operations. The climate crisis shows no signs of getting better, and in fact it seems like we really will be unable to stop most of the worst effects of climate change from being inflicted on the world, whole species and ecosystems are still being destroyed, there’s war everywhere, with Russia presently invading Ukraine while ongoing conflicts in the Middle East remain unresolved and continue to claim thousands of innocent lives, progressive politicians either make litle to no progress in improving the lives of the people or are actively compromised by the internal hierarchy of their party establishment, while their increasingly reactionary rivals on the right continue to grow and plot their next advance towards dictatorship, millions of people are still poor, suffering, with increasingly little hope that they’ll lead better lives or that their descendants will be better off, marginalized people continue to be brutally oppressed, the “democracy” we take for granted is being eroded even in the bastions of Western “freedom”, the whole world is slowly moving towards greater authoritarianism of some form or another, the capitalist system is still universal and the rich get richer and profit off of all of the misseration I’ve described, and all the while the left so far still appears powerless to change any of this in the long-term. In that sense, being a doomer as a leftist is an inevitable possibility, and that’s not usually because fascists are convincing otherwise faithful optimists to abandon hope. Rather, it’s a natural product of the grind that is left-wing politics in a late capitalist nightmare. Climate “doomerism” is also a natural reaction to the very real scientific conclusions being drawn about how much time we have and how much we can do to stop total ecological disaster from inflicting us all. The main difference, I suppose, is that some of us like the thought of turning what would be pure pessimism into a source of power and a deepening of the radical worldview, one that goes beyond the usual palliative quotations of Antonio Gramsci.

The other major problem is that the argument made against “doomerism” could also be applied to any counterculture, or any expression of alterity within society. Neopaganism and modern reconstructionist polytheist movements are not unaware of the problem of fascists trying to use their religion as an edifice of fascist ideology, and the same is true for Satanists and many occultists, and many within those movements are all determined to root out fascism from their communities. But if we followed Paulauski’s line of thought, then we would assume that, because fascists attempt to use Paganism, Satanism, and occultism as spaces for fascist ideology, then those things are now inherently fascist, even though they aren’t. Punk music, industrial music, noise music, and black metal are all music scenes where fascist movements are known for trying to set up shop, but that doesn’t make them inherently fascist, and if we followed Paulauski’s argument those subcultures would be totally off-limits and so would the gothic subculture simply because fascists attempt to weaponize them. The same goes for gaming, which is to this day a fairly notorious place for right-wing infiltration; you wouldn’t be able to play video games and be a leftist anymore, simply because fascists exist and try to seduce gamers into their cause. The final logical conclusion of this argument is that socialism itself cannot be trusted because the idea of socialism has in fact repeatedly been weaponised by fascists. The Nazis called themselves socailists even though they were just capitalist fascists, China still calls itself communist despite just being an authoritiarian capitalist state, and there is a surprising amount of people on the internet who call themselves socialists while peddling conservative and often white nationalist ideologies. If the left followed Paulauski’s argument consistently, they would abandon socialism completely, and ironically I would say this is far more defeatist than anything that anarcho-nihilism could put forward.

Paulauski points to another thread from a user basically saying that anarcho-nihilists inundate people with “doomer shit” and then entice them with their ideology, which I’m sure is totally not elementary conspiratorial thinking. I think that there is a much more realistic way to look at it. If by “doomer shit” you mean pessimism and reasons to be pessimistic, then people are definitely exposed to that pretty regularly, but it’s not because of nihilist-anarchists. I would assume that there are far too few nihilist-anarchists in the world for them to be responsible for people becoming doomers. To me, it makes much more sense to assume that people become doomers on their own, as a response to the fact that the world around is shitty not just to them but to everyone, and to the possibility that things might get truly irreparably bad within their lifetimes for a number of reasons. You just can’t look at the current political and ecological situation, or in some sense even the basis of modern capitalism or even modern civilization, and act like pessimism isn’t a completely legitimate response to it, and nor can you look at the fact that we’re stagnating even as we know what’s going on and theoretically trying to resolve it without something isnide you telling you that maybe we’re not actually going to get this right. Pessimism is a logical reaction to all of this and, if it doesn’t lead to resignment, people can and do radicalize on the basis of pessimism, and some people will follow that path in response to the conditions they live in whether you like it or not.

The reason people defend the Chaos Star has nothing to do with whatever false sense of victory you claim for yourself, or with fascist creep. The reason people defend the Chaos Star doesn’t even necessarily have to do with the merits of anarcho-nihilism itself. The reason people defend the Chaos Star is, rather simply, because the Chaos Star is not a fascist symbol, the claim that it is a fascist symbol is laughably absurd, there are plenty of non-fascists including anarchists who use the Chaos Star to signify interest in Chaos Magick or esotericism even if probably for subcultural reasons, and anarcho-nihilism is not a fascist ideology. It’s ultimately that simple, and, frankly, I think what distresses the anti-nihilist anarchist and the anti-nihilist socialist is the idea that perhaps the nihilist-anarchists might provide a more interesting critique of capitalism and might find themselves unmoored by the limits of mainstream socialism. And yet it is ultimately an irrational fear, in the end. There is inherent reason why nihilism, anarchism, communism, or egoism cannot exist alongisde each other and cannot form a coherent political worldview side-by-side; in other words, there is not much reason why you can’t be all of those things at once.

Anarcho-nihilism is not going to make anarchism or the left as a whole more fascist, but it’s honestly quite rich that the accusation is even flung around nowadays anyway in consideration of the fact that, if there is any part of the left that is at a major risk of becoming fascism or a pipeline to fascism, it’s none other than the entire edifice of state socialism. You might think that I am only referring to Marxist-Leninists, and they definitely are reactionary (I’m sorry not sorry but it’s the simple truth), but they are not the only ones. Paulauski describes himself as a democratic socialist? Very well, let’s see what the democratic socialists are doing. The eggheads over at Jacobin are currently advocating for a decadent big tent populism that would have leftists ignore social struggles in favour of strictly economistic understandings of capitalism. This has also sometimes meant bringing on white nationalists in socialist garb like Thomas Fazi for years, and their YouTube channel is full of videos of their hosts spouting a number of conservative talking points about “identity politics” among other social issues. Speaking of Fazi, he’s one of several reactionaries who certain leftists have decided to collaborate with to form a new magazine called Compact, which is essentially just an edgier and slightly more social-democratic version of what is essentially an establishmentarian neoconservative rag – try to imagine The Weekly Standard but for Bernie-boosters. The magazine positions itself as an editorial on behalf of a “strong social-democratic state” that “defends community” against “the libertine left and the libertarian right” (that sounds just a little bit like fascism but OK). They express say that they want to challenge “the overclass that controls capital”; that is to say, they don’t want to challenge capital, they just want a new set of paternalistic elites to rule society and govern capitalism. To that end, the magazine brings leftist voices like the ostensibly Marxist Slavoj Zizek and Ashley Frawley and racist social-democrats like Malcolm Kyeyunye and Paul Embery together with outright bourgeois conservative voices like Christopher Caldwell (literally a Weekly Standard editor), Sohrab Ahmari (Catholic neocon), Peter Hitchens (British right-wing crank), and Matthew Schmitz (if “establishment conservative” were an archetype, I’d say this guy is its embodiment), as well as conspiracy theorists like Alex Gutentag. Social-democrats across Europe (and, yes, I include the UK here) have for years made numerous efforts to meet the far-right half-way by accomodating many of their demands through conciliatory policy programmes designed to fit reactionary immigration policies in with social-democratic economics, and these efforts have never succeeded in doing anything except for creating a pipeline between social-democracy and fascism. It doesn’t look like that reality is going to convince social-democratic politicians to stop doing it either, since ultimately they need as many votes as they can get, and they often have a vested interest in preventing the radicalization of their party apparatus and the working class.

The core function of the socialization of the working class that defines social-democratic electoralism, and thereby much of the mainstream left, as well as even the vanguardism of state socialist forms of Marxism, ultimately bends much of the mainstream statist left towards a greater project of socializing the working class as functionaries of a more paternalistic state order, one theoretically more benevolent than its right-wing counterpart. The unity of this function with the still ever-present conservatism of bourgeois society leads inevitably to social-democracy arcing towards a reactionary reassertion of the dominant social order, and of hierarchical domination itself, and the unity itself is rendered inevitable by the realities of social-democratic electoralism. Every radical knows that this is not the first age in which social-democracy has proven reactionary or seen fit to ally with fascism or conservatism, and it may not be the last for as long as the status quo continues to perpetuate itself. Both social-democracy and Marxism-Leninism exist ultimately to socialize the masses as functionaries of the ruling system, whichever that ruling system happens to be, and that idea is not as incommensurate with fascism as any ostensible commitment to “the left” might make it seem. That socialization will arc inevitably towards the idea of a paternalistic state order that reinforces the hierarchy from which fascism derives life. Anarcho-nihilists, by contrast, seek the ultimate negation and destruction of this hierarchy, this state socialization, the order of the state itself, and every benign illusion that keeps it alive. At any rate, I would expect alliances between social-democrats and conservatives (not even necessarily “populist” ones at that) to continue growing. Right now you’re mostly seeing things like this confined to the internet and select columns on fairly mainstream media outlets, but there’s no reason to think it’ll stay that way. The alt-right used to just be a collection of think tanks, ideologues, and bloggers that nobody knew or cared about, but they’ve since evolved into a concrete political force that has extended well beyond its former limited sphere of influence, and is now still a driving element in the growth of contemporary fascism. Not to mention that whatever reactionary transformation “the left” undergoes will have a lot of money behind it, and, if the masthead at Compact is anything to go by, the support of numerous appartchiks from the neoconservative establishment, and my suspicion is that the mainstream, statist “left” will probably end up accepting this transformation once it is completed; after all, it was only ever about getting votes.

You want to worry about a pipeline to fascism in the left? Anarcho-nihilism not only isn’t a pipeline to fascism, but even with enough red flags it doesn’t even come close to the very real pipeline to fascism involving mainstream state socialism that is being forged right now and has been in the makings for years before you idiots decided to fash-bait people over the occult again. And when it happens, at least half of you will defend it. I guarantee that much.

Things like this are why it’s important to recapture something core to Satanism: the philosophy of no surrender. People who are part of occultism or alternative subcultures or alternative religions and who are also politically radical know that they can’t afford to surrender what they love just because the ignorant commissars of mainstream socialism have only relatively recently become attuned to the problem of fascist creep and now fancy themselves to be a sort of anti-fascist community police. Indeed every anti-fascist knows that if the enemy is given an inch they will take the whole mile. Fascists need every appendage they can grab hold of in order to form a network of culture presence that then translates into political influence, so that there are countless avenues into which a person can be radicalized into fascist ideology. The only answer to this is to preserve the cultures that the fascists want to take over by driving out fascists from those spaces and asserting the anti-fascist value of those spaces. The people who want anarchists to surrender the Chaos Star would have them walk the opposite path, no doubt in the hope of sacrificing everything that doesn’t conform to the cultural regime of the late Enlightenment. That cannot be allowed.

So listen well: no surrender! That is the ethos I believe certain anarchists know well indeed, and guides their praxis, even if mainstream socialists have all but abandoned it.

Addressing Peter Grey’s terrible take on We Are The Witchcraft

I have a lot more that I’d probably prefer to talk about, which I plan to talk about over the course of this month, but first I’m afraid I find myself compelled to respond to some esoteric e-drama concerning a man whose work I’ve cited over the last year. Yes, I’m afraid it’s one of those situations again. This time the person we’re talking about is Peter Grey, a self-styled Luciferian Witch who had been an esteemed author on witchcraft known for books such as Acopalyptic Witchcraft, The Red Goddess, and Lucifer: Princeps, and who had more recently released The Two Antichrists last year. Yesterday I had stumbled upon a take of his so bad that I find myself compelled to make some sort of statement about it.

On February 24th, coincidentally the same day that Russia invaded Ukraine, Peter Grey joined Gordon White for another episode of his podcast Rune Soup, this one apparently the third module of his Protection and Malefica Course, to discuss the ethical implications of cursing in magick as well as the content of Jack Parson’s landmark manifesto We Are The Witchcraft. That’s all good, valid, and important to talk about, and it’s not like you won’t find insight here, but towards the end of that podcast is when Peter Grey decided to talk politics, and things do not get good in that department.

Ostensibly, Peter Grey is an anarchist and a radical socialist, though perhaps with certain quasi-primitivist tendencies, and in theory this approach to politics shows itself in his work. But in Rune Soup we see a different side of Grey’s politics, namely that of crass opportunism and big tent populism. Grey is apparently one of those people on the left who appears to be convinced that we really need to unite with the people who hate us, by which we mean they will either do violence against us or invoke the power of the state to oppress us, and who we hate in turn, in order to fight the much bigger foe of capitalist state repression. We see this towards the end of the podcast, after they’re done talking about Parson’s essay. First he briefly mentions the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, which took place on the same day as that podcast episode, by saying that Russia “sent the tanks” to Ukraine because “the West is falling”, whatever that means. Then he complains about people who think “Biden-style leftism” (which is absolutely not a fucking thing but go off I guess) will prevail, saying that they are in for a “very rude awakening” because of the mighty backlash from “the forces of repression”. That’s when he says “you’re going to need people on your side who at the present time you’re calling fascists, transphobes – what are the other meaningless hate words that are thrown around at the moment? – white supremacists”. He refers to these categorical descriptions as “the nonsense rhetoric of division”, and claims that anyone who reads We Are The Witchcraft and agrees with it has the duty to “do the work” to “connect with the others around” and not engage in “an endless witch-hunt” or “a purity death-spiral”. This is when Grey concludes that we need to ask “why they hell aren’t we seeing it now?” in reference to the radicalism of Jack Parsons.

Before we need to go anywhere we need to establish something right away: this is all obviously nonsense. Grey does not know that Jack Parsons would not have rejected transphobes, and he has absolutely no way to claim that he would’ve supported unity with fascists – in fact it seems very obvious that these would be his enemies. But having established this, it is important to understand what Peter Grey means when he says all of this. Grey’s overall position is that Western capitalism is collapsing, the time is approaching for anti-capitalist witches to usher in a new society, and in order to achieve this they will need all the help they can get, and so on this basis Grey argues that witches seeking to oppose capitalism should make alliances with essentially anyone who opposes the current establishment. When Grey complains about people being referred to as fascists, transphobes, or white supremacists, presumably by leftists and liberals, it might be inferred that he is referring to people who he thinks are resisting the establishment and are merely unfairly demonised by people who he refers to as “Biden-style leftists”. My guesses in that regard would be the so-called “Freedom” Convoy, TERFs who at least claim to be anti-capitalist in some way, possibly people like Derrick Jensen, or really just any self-styled radical who comes out with a bigoted take and doesn’t issue any sort of self-correction or apology for it. I suspect that he may also be responding to the discourse around attempts at left-right convergence, which are initiated either by fascists or idiots. Jimmy Dore and his buddies spring to mind.

So, Grey’s take is essentially that the far-left should unite with the far-right in order to seize the opportunity to destroy capitalism as it is collapsing. Well, there are several problems with this. It’s certainly not obvious how the invasion of Ukraine is supposed to single-handedly usher in the collapse of global capitalism, at all. It’s also not obvious why radical socialists, communists, or anarchists (which Grey claims he is) should ally with people whose primary political goals involve oppressing and destroying them. More to the point, this sort of big tent populist approach to anti-capitalist politics doesn’t work in that it doesn’t succeed in bringing us any closer to dismantling capitalism. The only thing it eventually succeeds in is normalizing not only reactionary ideology but also some incredibly toxic bigotry that goes with it. Chip Berlet already examined this phenomenon in his 1999 essay Right Woos Left and had already demonstrated therein the ways in which left-right convergences lead to fascists and anti-semitic conspiracy theories gaining influence in progressive activist circles while never actually generating any long-term political victories against the ruling class.

Not to mention, the argument is that we need to ally with reactionaries in order to fight “the forces of repression”, but if given the power those “allies” would be doing the repressing. Here in the United Kingdom we already have a government and opposition that is doing everything in its power to undermine the rights of trans people, while in many US states there are efforts to actually oppress trans people by forcing trans kids to undergo invasive “physical examinations” and abducting them from their parents if they undergo gender affirmation surgery. Isn’t this also repression, Peter Grey? What about the fact that the American right-wing seems to be increasingly interested in overthrowing elected leadership in order to abolish democracy and replace it with a dictatorship run by Trump? Would the outcome of that not be repression? You’re so concerned with the spectre of “cancel culture” on the left that it’s blinding you to what’s going on and to the reality of the people you want us to unite with.

The point regarding “rhetoric” of division is notable in that forces me to return to the subject of unity. As ever, “unity” is only valuable in a relativistic sense; unity of whom, or of who with what? Has it ever occurred to anyone that you don’t have to unite with everyone and everything, or that there are people that you should not unite with and who do not deserve such unity? Why should trans people and their allies unite with people who not only deny the very existence of trans people but also want trans people to be legislated out of existence? Why should Jewish people be asked to unite with people who hate them and want them to be exterminated or persecuted? Why should we be asked to unite with people who want to create a totalitarian system maintained through genocide? The self-styled “Luciferian” would do well to consider that the defining action expressed in the myth of Lucifer, his rebellion against God and subsequent fall from heaven, is precisely the refusal of unity with the greatest fascist of them all! Rebellion, the “renewal of the war”, is the refusal of unity by the renewal of conflict against power, against that which is, such that there can be no unity with it, and from the standpoint of certain pre-Christian cosmologies it is this and not unity in the abstract which comprises the cosmos itself.

I also see a distinct contradiction in Grey’s overall stance brought about by his big tent populist approach to anti-capitalist politics in relation to what seems to be a relatively elitist view of witchcraft. Drawing from We Are The Witchcraft along with Jack Parson’s apparent experience as a practitioner of Thelema, Grey likes to assert that witchcraft and magick are only “for the few”. However meritorious the position is argued to be, we are supposed to accept this and at the same time also accept that witches are supposed to bring anyone who happens to hate the establishment for literally any reason no matter how reactionary and bigoted into the fold of the cause. It’s like witchcraft is for the few to participate in, but for also anyone claiming to oppose the system to participate in. That makes no sense.

Bringing this back to the subject of We Are The Witchcraft, I think it’s worth drawing attention to the following passage from that manifesto, which reads thus:

Our way is not for all men. There are those who are so constricted and sick in themselves that the thought of their own freedom is a horror, and that of others a fierce pain; so that they would enslave all men. And these you should shun, or, if you must, destroy them as you will know how, for this also is bounty.

Peter Grey would like us to think that to follow in the example of Jack Parsons means that we should ally with reactionaries for the purposes of unity. This is implied by the fact that he closes his rant on the subject by appealing to the supposed loss of Parson’s radicalism in the world. But I think that a more consistent of application of the message of We Are The Witchcraft is precisely the opposite of what Peter Grey prescribes. When Parson talks about “those who are so constricted and sick in themselves that the thought of their own freedom is a horror, and that of others a fierce pain”, we can easily see that it is in fact the people Grey wants us to ally with who embody this description. The people we refer to as transphobes, for which Grey complains about us, we do so because they are in fact transphobes, and they are this because they want to prevent trans people from being liberated or acheiving the full range of rights to which they, if at least we operate from the conceits given to us under the banner of the human rights framework, would be entitled to instead of denied. The transphobes do this because trans people, along with queer people, non-binary, and all the others that do not conform to the experience of cisheteronormativity, are through their mere existence a threat to established notions of gender that have been the basis of long-standing systems of oppression and hence authority for certain individuals over others. The people we refer to as fascists, for which Grey complains about us, we do so because they are fascists, and we call them such because they want nothing less than the re-organization of the capitalist state along the precept of absolute submisson to the reified authority of a single dictator – hardly different in principle to the tyranny for which the Devil opposed God. The people we refer to as white supremacists, for which Grey complains about us, we do so because they are white supremacists, and we call them such because they want to establish, or perhaps rather reinforce, a brutal hierarchy of power based on race in which some people are privileged and the rest are oppressed. All of these either suggest a fear of freedom or even afflict it upon both the subject and the sovereigns, and those who seek to implement them are thus not the natural allies of The Witchcraft as Grey would have us believe. In fact, Parsons is quite clear as to what the Witch should do with them: “these you should shun, or, if you must, destroy them as you will know how”.

You would think that in a podcast devoted partially to an exegesis of We Are The Witchcraft would have had no trouble arriving at this understanding of the political implications of the text, but it seems that this understanding has eluded both Peter Grey and Gordon White, and I’ll be honest, the idea of getting around this and side-stepping it sounds like classic pseudo-intellectualism, seeking more of the thing than what it is and contorting the substance through sophistication. I’m inclined to think of it as a sort of privilege on Peter Grey’s part, since it really does speak of a sort of detachment from the gritty realities of radical politics in favour of some intellectual landscape, some retreat into the kingdom of thought and contemplation. Grey no doubt lives off of money generated from his relatively well-esteemed body of work and made through his company Scarlet Imprint. But of course, Grey reminds me to some extent of Rhyd Wildermuth, funny enough a man who has said he derived influence from Grey, and Wildermuth currently lives in the Ardennes, completely unconnected to any practical experience of American radical politics, making money partially through his books and his courses on neopaganism. I mean, fuck, I hate to say it but even Noam Chomsky sort of follows the trope as well, not because of Jimmy Dore’s drivel about how he’s a class traitor because he knows his “Force The Vote” campaign was never going to work, but because he looks at what’s going in Ukraine and his answer is simply to act like Russia has no agency in all this because it’s all America’s fault; and if you’re wondering how that connects to any sort of aloofness to the material circumstances at hand, you need only ask a Ukrainian translator. To be very honest, I’m getting mighty tired of this pattern.

In view of Grey’s comments, on their own I think he is merely purveying a populist outlook that naturally aligns someone towards the idea of left-right convergences as a form of praxis. And yet, there are signs of something else. For one thing, while I know him as basically an anarchist, he did in the stream briefly say that “post-anarchism” was the correct way to arrive at his interpretation of We Are The Witchcraft. It’s possible, then, that Peter Grey is technically no longer an anarchist in the sense that we might understand it, but rather some sort of “post-anarchist”, which necessarily entails that he has departed from baseline anarchism, possibly because baseline anarchism does not allow him to justify some of his positions and prejudices. The same thing basically happened with Rhyd Wildermuth, except Wildermuth nowadays prefers to call himself an Autonomist Marxist rather than “post-anarchist”, as though Autonomist Marxism is supposed to somehow better accomodate Rhyd’s reactionary socialism. Another sign I get from him is that he still whines about “social justice warriors” among other things for part of The Two Antichrists, at least if memory serves me well. This is in 2021. I’ll just say that by then I had already stopped doing that for quite a few years. Then, there’s Phil Hine mentioning in comment on the podcast that Grey had spoken positively, even fanboyishly, of Ted Kaczynski. And then there’s something that, admittedly, I didn’t initially give much thought to, but there’s the logo that used to represent Scarlet Imprint. It’s not their logo anymore, but you can still see it a lot in Lucifer: Princeps, and I can see why there would be problems with it in that it really does look like a variation of the swastika. It’s not the swastika that was used by the Nazis, to be clear on that front, and I’m guessing to them it’s an original esoteric sigil or whatever, but it looks sort of like they’ve put two triskleions together but the triskelions are in the shape of swastikas. That’s not even the only sus symbol around. Not to mention, I seem to recall him complaining at some point in The Brazen Vessel that the witchcraft community and the Left Hand Path needed to abandon “individualism”, however he defines it. But then why is “individualism” a problem if you declare that your legacy of witchcraft derives from Jack Parsons, who was literally an individualist anarcho-communist!? Suffice it to say, there is much about Peter Grey’s overall politics that is probably not as it seems, and it has some troubling implications to say the least.

All in all, the last thing to say is that for all of these reasons I will not be waiting to purchase Lucifer: Praxis after this point. I probably won’t even need it anyway for reasons I plan to explain, but really I have one important reason for spurining this book. It’s meant to elaborate the practical manifestation of his idea of Luciferian witchcraft, and the main problem there is what the political implications of it could be. Peter Grey is still not so foolish as to completely side-step the issue of politics in occultism and spirituality more broadly, he knows full well the necessity of politicizing witchcraft and indeed is known for advocating such politicization himself. But that’s very much the problem: now I have some very specific ideas of what that looks like in his hands, none of them good. His “post-anarchist” take on Luciferian witchcraft could well involve esoteric justifications for traditionalism undertaken in the name of rebellion against hierarchy, simply so as to forge an intellectual bridge for the alliances he intends to be made, and I would rather not lend any financial support to that bullshit. Take from the good parts of his work by all means, but just know that this might not be a totally unrealistic assumption on my part.

Satanic Panic and the Ukraine-Russia War

Like a lot of people, I’ve been following the Ukraine-Russia war as it has unfolded since last week, and in the process of this I’ve been observing a lot of reactions to the invasion. Most of the world condemns Russia’s actions, and has extended tremendous (at least formal) solidarity to the people and government of Ukraine. But not everyone seems to be keen to support Ukraine, or even to oppose Russia’s actions in Ukraine. Besides the so-called “anti-imperialist” socialists, there is a tendency within the far-right in Western countries to actually defend Vladimir Putin and in some cases even support the Russian invasion of Ukraine. A lot of right-wingers defend Putin for idiotic contrarian reasons, such as Tucker Carlson defending him because he believes that Putin didn’t call him a racist and try to get him fired for disagreeing with him (as though Putin isn’t doing so much worse). Russia itself justifies invading Ukraine on the grounds of “de-Nazification” against a supposedly “fascist” country, and that Ukraine is supposedly rightful Russian territory. But others in the far-right have a very different angle: they support Putin and oppose Ukraine because they believe that Ukraine is a “satanic” regime, and that Putin is fighting for Christianity.

In examining this idea, let’s go through some examples. Lauren Witzke, the white nationalist Republican and candidate for Delaware Senate, expressed support for Vladimir Putin on the grounds of his “Christian values”, further expressed solidarity with Russia as a “Christian nationalist nation”, stated that she identified more with Putin’s Russia than with Joe Biden, and argued that “Christian nationalist countries” like Russia are demonized by the media because they are “threat to the global regime”, which she refers to as “the Luciferian regime that wants to mash everything together”. It should go without saying, of course, that none of the Western ruling class are “Luciferians”, and there is no “Luciferian regime” anywhere. Luciferianism, in fact, is not even a distinct religion. It’s just a name given to any esoteric belief system that venerates Lucifer as a non-diabolical figure of enlightenment and liberation in a context that is usually (though not really always) conceptually distinguished from Satanism. Beyond this, there is no formally shared doctrine, tradition, theology, or ritual praxis, or even a shared concept of the identity of Lucifer, that could form the basis of a consistent and distinct “Luciferian tradition”. Needless to say, Joe Biden is not a Luciferian. He’s actually a Catholic, albeit a liberal Catholic. But the idea that he is running a “Luciferian regime”, here meant to be understood as a world order ruled by a conspiracy of devil-worshipping elites (thus, in this instance “Luciferian” is meant to be interchangeable with “Satanist”), is a flank within a larger Christian nationalist ideology, in which the Satanic Ritual Abuse trope positions the so-called “globalists” (the “elites”, as it were) as diabolical threats to the nation and its “freedom”, order, and ethnic make-up, which is to be preserved by a right-wing authoritarian Christian regime, whether through the democratic process or through a coup d’état.

Another example within the American right is Wendy Rogers, a pro-Trump Republican Senator in Arizona, who tweeted her support for Vladimir Putin on the grounds that he is “Russia First”, which she considers equivalent to her “America First” position, and described most European leaders as “globo Satanic bankers” (which is also just her way of saying she hates Jewish people). Mike Cernovich, a notable alt-right conspiracy theorist, has described Putin as someone “who doesn’t center Moloch” while characterizing Western leadership as un-Christian. The official Twitter account for Gab, the right-wing echo chamber billed as a “free speech” alternative to Facebook, summarized their view of the Ukraine-Russia war as “Christians liberating other Christians from the demonic, secular, anti-God globalist West”, which according to them is “pretty based”. Andrew Torba, the owner of Gab, has said that Ukraine “needs to be liberated and cleansed from the degeneracy of the secular Western globalist empire”. Alex Jones, the InfoWars man himself, has apparently urged Ukrainians to welcome an invasion by Russia if they don’t want George Soros to “cut your son’s balls off”, by which he clearly means that he thinks that if Russia doesn’t capture Ukraine then George Soros and the Western leaders will somehow “impose” transness on people (I mean, the whole mutilation trope is classic transphobia). Keep in mind also that Jones thinks all of this is the work of “satanic” cultists supposedly running the elite. It’s also worth noting that, before the invasion took place, Jones also asserted that there would be no invasion of Ukraine and that all hint to the contrary was manufactured by propaganda, but after the invasion happened, his followers started claiming that Jones predicted the invasion even though he did no such thing. When Putin gave his speech right before invading Ukraine, Jones offered nothing but praise for Putin and asserted that everything Putin said about Ukraine was true. The QAnon movement, which believes that Donald Trump is secretly arresting and executing members of a secretive conspiracy of cannibalistic devil-worshippers, seems to support Russia’s actions on the grounds that they believe that Russia, by invading Ukraine, is fighting the deep state and foiling trafficking operations taking place there; of course, there are also QAnoners who think the whole invasion isn’t even real. John Enlow, a self-professed “prophet” of QAnon”, claimed that Putin was actually fighting a clan of “Luciferian pedophiles” who were using Ukraine to enact the Illuminati’s plan to wipe out 90% of the global population. Another conspiracy theorist named Delora O’Brien claimed that Putin was on the side of God and that Russian troops discovered a “child sex trafficking den” while looking for bio-weapons in Ukraine. The QAnon movement in general, insofar as they don’t think the invasion of Ukraine is completely fake, seems to be convinced that Putin is actually “liberating” the people of Ukraine by “purging” the country of its corrupt government, which they believe to be connected to the “deep state” and/or Joe Biden and his “crime family”.

America is not the only place where you can find reactionary Satanic Panic narratives used to justify support for the Russian invasion of Ukraine. As my friend Satanicviews has recounted recently, several of the conspiracy theorists dubbed Satan Hunters have declared their support for the invasion. Richard Carvath, a British conspiracy blogger who calls himself a “journalist”, has apparently called for Ukrainians to surrender to Russia in a post that has since been deleted; such a position could be referred to as “revolutionary defeatism”. Lydia Lowe, a conspiracy theorist from Gravesend who runs a Facebook page called “Supporting SRA Survivors”, has apparently supported Putin and referred to all of his critics as “satanic”. S Hill, a member of Jeanette Archer’s QAnon-esque conspiracist personality cult, has apparently not only supported Russia but also posed for a photo in front of an aircraft with a Nazi swastika. Brian P Willmot, a British conspiracy theorist who inserted himself into the Wilfred Wong case by violating a court order protecting one of Wong’s kidnap victims, has promoted Russia Today on the subject of Ukraine and has asserted that the narrative of Russian invasion is “pure bullshit”. Wayne Fox, a British priest and a leader in Archer’s conspiracy movement, stated on February 28th that “Russia has stood up to the West”, stated that NATO wants to intervene in Ukraine because they serve “the New World Order”, who he claims want to use Ukraine as a base of operations for child trafficking hubs, adrenochrome factories (adrenochrome is believed by SRA conspiracy theorists to be harvested by devil-worshipping elites in order to preserve their vitality) and bio-laboratories, and has further stated that Putin as “against the Rothchilds” (again, another way of making this about Jewish people). These people are all part of a movement of conspiracy theorists that sprung up in relation to the Hampstead conspiracy movement of 2015, which alleged that a primary school and various individuals were kidnapping, abusing, and even eating children as part of an international cult of devil worship and human trafficking. This movement’s cause was defeated when their allegations were resoundingly disproven and rejected in court, but they never stopped harassing people on the basis of allegations of pedophilia.

There are more pro-Russian conspiracy theorist outside of this milieu. David Icke, the lizardman guy himself, seems to support Russian claims of territorial sovereignty over Ukraine by arguing that Ukraine was always part of Russia. Beyond this, it seems that Icke has been arguing that Ukraine was a pawn in American or global plots to destabilize Russia for years, presumably as part of a global conspiracy by Jewish Satanists who are also lizard people because that’s basically how David Icke conspiracies work. In Canada, there’s a restaurant in Ontario called The Leaky Tank which has gone viral for putting up a sign declaring that Russia is “de-Nazifying” Ukraine rather than occupying it and that Putin spoke out against the “Satan worshippers” supposedly behind the “Great Reset”.

It has become commonplace among reactionary conspiracy theorists to automatically side against Ukraine and defend the Russian invasion on the grounds that the people they hate all support Ukraine, or that Putin is somehow foiling some sinister or “satanic” deep state plot by invading Ukraine. Right after the invasion, conspiracy theorists started pushing the idea that Putin is invading Ukraine in order to get rid of supposed US biolabs, dubbed “satanic buildings” by an army of copy-pasting conspiracist drones, which were supposedly built in order to manufacture the next global pandemic. The fact that Marina Abramovic, the conceptual artist who had been accused of being a baby-eating devil worshipper by insane conspiracy theorists since 2016, has urged Western leaders to defend Ukraine against Russian aggression is no doubt taken as proof that Ukraine is on the side of their hated “satanic elites”. And of course, there are many anti-semitic conspiracy theorists (read: overtly anti-semitic as opposed to merely implicitly anti-semitic as most conspiracy theories are) who believe that the invasion of Ukraine is nothing more than the liberation of Ukraine from “the Khazarian mafia”, who of course are believed by these anti-semites to control the “Deep State” and practice some sadistic form of devil worship. Unsurprisingly, this idea is also one of many that can be seen promoted by members of the QAnon movement. Proponents often justify this conspiracy theory through a comparison between the Ukrainian Coat of Arms and the so-called “Khazarian Tamga”, but there doesn’t seem to any such thing as a “Khazarian Tamga”, and the symbol given that name is actually probably just a variation of the Tryzub, an ancient heraldic symbol used by the Rurikid dynasty that ruled the Kievan Rus and is basically the origin of the Ukrainian Coat of Arms. Simply put, it’s not a symbol of some secret Khazarian dynasty, it’s just a symbol that has basically always been used to represent Ukraine.

It is easy to assume that all of these conspiracy theories are coming from America, presumably created by the QAnon movement as an application of extreme conservative negative partnership to the Ukraine-Russia conflict. However, it seems that there is actually an extent to which the Russian government, through its media apparatus, has been actively manufacturing conspiracist narratives against its enemies, and these narratives then find their way to the West as the basis of many right-wing conspiracy theories about Russia and Ukraine. As you will see, this extends to Satanic Panic as well, which would mean that the Russian government may be playing a role in keeping Satanic Panic alive. According to EUvsDisinfo, a counter-propaganda website and conspiracy theory database run by the European External Action Service, the Kremlin repeatedly promotes the idea that the West’s main plan is to use Ukraine to somehow inject Satanism into Russia and the Christian world. The report lists Rossiya 24, a news outlet owned by the Russian government, as a source of this conspiracy theory. Unfortunately I can’t actually watch the video linked in the report due to the fact that it doesn’t seem to exist anymore, and all I can ascertain from an archive link of it is that it’s a segment of a Russian talk show called “Evening with Vladimir Solovyov” that aired on September 26th 2018. Nonetheless, I have been able to find other evidence of Rossiya 24 concocting a Satanic Panic narrative against Ukraine.

On August 17th 2014, Rossiya 24 (a.k.a. Russia-24) ran a report claiming that Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the then-Prime Minister of Ukraine, and Oleksandr Turchynov, then-Chairman of the Ukrainian Parliament, were working in tandem with a newly-formed “Satanic sect” to destroy the Russian Orthodox Church. It’s obviously an absurd conspiracy theory, but like many conspiracy theories this one is built on a few small nuggets of truth that are then distorted into a larger narrative based on lies. One of the things that Rossiya 24 builds its argument on is that, on June 6th 2014, a community of apparent Satanists was officially registered in Ukraine, specifically in Cherkasy. Curiously, however, the Christian-aligned Russian media did not pick up on this story until August that year. Founded by a man named Sergey Neboga, this community is referred to as “Bozhichi”, and in September of that year they apparently opened up their first church in the Pastyrskoye village. It is reported that Neboga styles this organisation as a community of sorcerers and witches which professes devil worship and the practice of Veretnichestvo (apparently a form of Russian or Slavic witchcraft). Neboga also purportedly advocated the worship of pagan gods as part of his system of Satanism, which would make this a polytheistic expression of Satanism, perhaps a form of Theistic Satanism. However, on October 7th 2014, it was reported that on October 3rd of that year this church had been burned down by unknown arsonists, and that, by this time, the Cherkasy Regional State Administration sought to cancel the state recognition of the Bozhichi movement.

The Bozhichi movement seems to be what Russian state media accused of being part of a Ukrainian plot to destroy Russian Orthodox Christianity. That this community seems to have been very small and obscure, and in no credible position to have any political influence, probably didn’t bother the people at Rossiya 24 when concocting their narrative. Nor perhaps did it bother them that neither Arseniy Yatsenyuk nor Oleksandr Turchynov were ever Satanists – in fact, Arseniy Yatsenyuk is a member of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and Oleksandr Turchynov is a Baptist minister. Both of them are Christians and thus would have no interest in promoting Satanism, much less attacking the Russian Orthodox Church or Eastern Orthodox Christianity as a whole. But I presume that, because they do not align with the Russian Orthodox Church, Russian state media could present them as a threat simply on the grounds that they do not represent “Russian religion” by being non-Orthodox, coupled with the fact that they are part of a government that Russia has been invading. If the Russian state considers Ukraine to be “satanic”, the feeling seems to be mutual in Ukraine, since in 2014 the then-Patriarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church accused Vladimir Putin of being under the influence of Satan.

In any case, it seems that the Russian state has been spreading certain ideas about the spread of Satanism, or at least the destruction of the Russian Orthodox Church, through Ukraine for years now. In fact, other more well-known conspiracy theories may have originated in the Kremlin, or at least in Kremlin-aligned media outlets or Russian social media, or are otherwise merely promoted in those channels. The conspiracy theory which says that Russia is entering Ukraine in order to destroy US biolabs was probably actually invented by the Kremlin, or more specifically it seems to originate from yet another report aired by Rossiya 24. In 2015, Rossiya 24 covered an apparent disease outbreak in Georgia and Ukraine, which purportedly killed pigs and other livestock, and supposedly no one had figured out the cause of the disease. The reporter accused the United States government of causing the outbreaks by funding bio-laboraties in Georgia and Ukraine, supposedly for the purpose of manufacturing deadly pathogens. Of course, in reality the disease was identified and contained within the Lugar Research Center, which was established in Georgia in 2011 with the aim of detecting, containing, and combatting viral diseases. The Russian government, however, doesn’t accept that, and has been waging a misinformation campaign against the Lugar Research Center for years. In 2017, the Russian government accused the Lugar Research Center of creating illegal bioweapons and claimed that the Pentagon was trying to establish a network of biolaboratories along Russian borders, all of which are completely unsubstantiated. Sputnik, a Russian news and radio network owned by the Russian government, claimed in 2016 that the United States is creating a network of bio-laboratories with the aimed at setting up hostile military bio-infrastructure against Russia. In 2018 the New Eastern Outlook, a conspiracist website run by the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, which is operated by the Russian government, claimed without evidence not only that the Lugar Research Centre was actually a bioweapons facility but also that they were testing newly-developed viruses on the Georgian population. One American source for the conspiracy theory might be a man named Jeffrey Silverman, a conspiracy theorist who claimed in an interview with Patrioti TV, a pro-Russian Georgian right-wing outlet, that Georgians were being “used as white rats” by the Lugar Research Centre, who he believes are testing deadly viruses on humans. Silverman is also frequently cited by both Russian state media and conspiracist “alternative” websites. The claim that Russia is entering Ukraine in order to try and destroy bio-laboratories is certainly a very recent one, but it also builds on long-standing Russian state narrative that purports the existence of US biolaboratories in Ukraine and Georgia that exist to create viral bio-weapons, which has been constructed in order to attack the Lugar Research Center for years.

As another example, you may have heard about a conspiracy theory which alleged that European Union leaders were holding a “satanic ritual” to commemorate the opening of the Gotthard Base Tunnel, the longest railway and deepest traffic tunnel in the world, in Switzerland. It’s all preposterous, of course, but the idea may have originated with Asaval-Dasavali, a pro-Russian Georgian news outlet which is also notoriously homophobic, racist, ethno-nationalist, and prone to cartoonish misinformation. Another popular right-wing conspiracy theory asserts that the European Union is a Satanist project on the grounds that the Seat of the European Parliament in Strasbourg is supposedly modelled after the Tower of Babel and there are supposedly “Satanic stars” on an EU poster. Again, this is false; the European Parliament Building is known to have been modelled after Roman amphitheatres such as the Coliseum, and the stars not only aren’t “satanic” but they’re actually just regular EU stars, and the poster featuring them was created by the Council of Europe. The idea that the Seat of the European Parliament Building was designed after the Tower of Babel and thus shows that the EU is a Satanist project has been documented in Russian social media, like the website Odnoklassniki, on accounts like “Biblia i Prorochestva” dated to 2015. The same basic claim also appears in pro-Russian websites such as Protiproud, a far-right Czech news website. That said, it also seems to have surfaced much earlier on a right-wing website called Vigilant Citizen, in article dated to 2008, which suggests that this conspiracy theory was not invented in Russia but is rather simply promoted in Russia and in pro-Russian media. Fort Russ News, a US-based pro-Kremlin right-wing news outlet, often runs articles accusing Western elites of being Satanists, such as their 2020 article accusing Melinda Gates of being a Satanist for supposedly wearing an upside-down cross (which, on its own, wouldn’t prove anything). Pro-Kremlin media also asserts that the Council of Europe and the European Union are “Satanic” organisations and that allowing homosexual couples to create a family would lead to destruction.

In a similar vein, Russian intelligence may also be responsible for creating one of the most prolific conspiracy theories found in the American right-wing. According to a Yahoo News investigation by Michael Isikoff, the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (or SVR) created fake intelligence bulletins which purported that Seth Rich, a former Democratic National Convention employee, was killed by a team of assassins hired by Hillary Clinton, which was then planted in a website called Whatdoesitmean.com and then circulated in right-wing circles all the way up to the Donald Trump campaign team. Although this is not itself a Satanic Panic trope, the murder of Seth Rich was picked up by the PizzaGate movement, whose central premise involves a conspiracy of devil-worshipping pedophiles, who then made it part of its own conspiracist mythology, and then over the years others within the movement would be compared to Seth Rich so as to portray them as martyrs. Of course, Russian media denies all Russian involvement in possibly inventing conspiracy theories.

Another major Satanic Panic scare in Russia is centered around Pussy Riot, the all-girl Russian punk band who became famous in 2012 for performing a “punk prayer” protest song in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow directed against Vladimir Putin, which led to three members of the band being arrested by Russian authorities. Following this arrest, the Russian media along with Russia’s political and religious establishment was quick to condemn them as blasphemers, and this sometimes meant that Pussy Riot were framed as part of a satanic conspiracy to destroy Russia. Rossiya 24 ran a documentary presented by Arkady Mamontov arguing that Pussy Riot were anti-Christian blasphemers who were funded by exiled oligarch Boris Berezovsky and the US State Department with the intention of destroying Russian society by corrupting the souls of Russians and attacking Russian Orthodox Christianity, and even suggested that Pussy Riot’s actions constituted a path to what he called “neo-Bolshevism”. Incidentally, this is also the same Arkady Mamontov who, in 2013, claimed on another Rossiya 24 programme that the meteorite explosion over Chelyabinsk was a punishment from God for the activities of LGBT people, argued that worse would come to Russia if Russians did not preserve “traditional love”, and further claimed that the LGBT community is a way for the West to destroy Russia. During the trial of Pussy Riot, two lawyers representing a man Vladimir Potan’kin, a security guard on duty at the Cathedral and supposed “injured party”, described Pussy Riot as a “criminal conspiracy” organized by an unidentified “satanic group” and “the global government” under the direction of Satan himself. Vsevolod Chaplin, who was a leading figure in the Russian Orthodox Church, described Pussy Riot as “literally satanic rage” and accused opponents of Vladimir Putin of fomenting said “satanic rage” against the Church. Patriarch Kirill chimed into the national conversation by asserting that the Russian Orthodox Church had become the victim of an “information war” waged by the enemies of Russia. Aleksandr Dugin, the neo-fascist leader of the Eurasian Youth Union and advisor to Vladimir Putin himself, stated that “Everyone who sympathizes with liberals, Pussy Riot and the West belongs to Satan”, while calling on members of the Eurasian Youth Union to greet opposition marches, referred to as “the devil’s spawn”, with “crosses, daggers and silver bullets to stop hell”. Pussy Riot had no apparent intentions of attacking the Russian Orthodox Church, or Christianity at large, and their only goal in singing their punk prayer was condemning Vladimir Putin. But, regardless of that, Russian Orthodox Christians have frequently regarded Pussy Riot as a “satanic” attack on Christianity, sometimes asserting that the women in Pussy Riot were possessed by Satan, and many Russian conspiracy theories often place the West as the source of such “satanism” and “blasphemy”.

Russian media also promotes anti-semitic conspiracy theories involving the Rothschilds. The Russian right-wing think tank Katehon, which is run by the pro-Putin channel Tsargrad TV, ran an article accusing the Rothschilds of having an “esoteric Luciferian agenda” and controlling the global media. It is worth mentioning that Katehon’s supervisory board includes Russian politicians like Sergey Glazyev (who is sometimes considered a potential successor to Vladimir Putin) and Andrey Klimov (Russian Senator and Deputy of the State Duma), as well as the Russian secret service agent Leonid Reshetnikov. Tsargrad TV itself also promotes conspiracy theories alleging that the European refugee crisis was created by George Soros and accusing the Rothschilds of wanting world domination. The president of Katehon, Konstanin Malofeev, is a right-wing traditionalist businessman who is also connected to the Kremlin and who financed pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine. Malofeev is also known in Russia as the right-hand man to none other than Aleksandr Dugin. Russian institutions also seem to promote QAnon, which tends to come with quite a lot of anti-semitic tropes and ideas to the point that they’re actually practically a neo-Nazi movement, and other similar conspiracy theorists and movements through systematic online propaganda campaigns. The Internet Research Agency, a Russian troll farm likely financed by the Putin-linked oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, is known to have promoted QAnon, PizzaGate, and several other right-wing conspiracies after the election of Donald Trump by creating a series of troll accounts operated from St Petersburg. Guccifer 2.0, the so-called “lone hacker” known for spreading PizzaGate conspiracy theories and claiming to have exposed the “Illuminati” by breaching the Democratic National Convention, appears to have actually been a Russian intelligence officer working for the GRU, a military intelligence agency operated by the Russian government.

Russian media even sometimes promotes conspiracy theories about Covid-19. RT Deustch, the German branch of Russia’s flagship state propaganda channel Russia Today, is apparently the source of numerous German social media posts and articles alleging, among other things, that there is an unreported number of deaths caused by vaccines or that there are deadly coronarvirus experiments being carried out by the WHO. While RT Deutsch is now banned by the German government, it was one of the most popular news stations in Germany, and other Russian media outlets such as Sputnik and Pravda also enjoyed relative prominence in Germany. Tsargrad TV also ran programmes opposing the implementation of QR Codes (apparently equivalent to vaccine passports) by claiming that those who don’t have them will not be allowed to go to church and that the QR Codes constitute the mark of Satan, while arguing for prayer as the cure for Covid-19.

There is also a definite connection between Western right-wing conspiracy theorists and Russian media. David Lawrence Booth, a conspiracy theorist writing under the nom-de-plume Sorcha Faal (an alter ego usually presented as a female Russian scientist), disseminated numerous conspiracy theories of all kinds through WhatDoesItMean.com, including stories based on or adapted from Russian intelligence reports, sometimes conspiracy theories from the website end up becoming news stories on Russian media outlets such as Svobodnaya Pressa and Izvestia, and Russian troll operations connected to the Internet Research Agency boost his work. Charles Bausman, an American expat living in Russia who founded an anti-semitic pro-Kremlin news outlet called Russia Insider, was also involved in the right-wing insurrection attempt at Capitol Hill that took place on January 6th 2021, and has also appeared on Tsargrad TV. Tsargrad TV was launched with the help of Matt Hanick, a former Fox News producer, Fox News of course being arguably the biggest disseminator of conspiracy theories within US legacy media. Alex Jones has appeared on Russia Today as a guest and interviewee on multiple separate occasions; once in 2008 (here he was referred to as an “investigative reporter”), again in 2009, again in 2010, once more in 2011, again in 2012 in an interview with Abby Martin, and many more occasions. In turn, Alex Jones also hosted an interview with Aleksandr Dugin on InfoWars in 2017. Alex Jones also seems to have appeared on Max Keiser’s show on Russia Today on numerous occasions, and Max Keiser in turn has made guest appearances on InfoWars. In 2018 it was revealed that Alex Jones was interviewed by Kristine Frazao, a Russia Today journalist who would go on to join the growing Sinclair media empire. Alex Jones has also reproduced over 1,000 news articles from Russia Today, and many more from Sputnik along with several other news outlets, without their permission, according to data compiled by BuzzSumo. In 2016 Alex Jones has also appeared on Tsargrad TV with Aleksandr Dugin to discuss Donald Trump.

Alex Jones is not the only conspiracy theorist to appear on Russia Today. Russia Today has over the years lent its platform to a number of toxic cranks such truthers, birthers, climate change deniers, and even actual white supremacists. These include Orly Taitz (the man who claimed to possess a Kenyan birth certificate belonging to Barack Obama), James David Manning (that infamous homophobic pastor also known for his birtherist views), Jim Stachowiak (an extremely racist and Islamophobic militia organizer who has called for terroristic acts against non-white people and leftists), Jared Taylor (infamous white nationalist ideologue), Piers Corbyn (anti-semitic conspiracy theorist), Christopher Monckton (right-wing climate denier), James Corbett (“anarcho-capitalist” conspiracy theorist), Lyndon LaRouche (almost legendary neo-fascist crank), Mark Dice, Lori Harfenist (9/11 truther), Michael “Lionel” Lebron, David Ray Griffin (who is both a truther and a Christian theologian), Mike Adams (the guy from NaturalNews), Jimmy Dore, and even Ryan Dawson (a Holocaust denier) among presumably many others. Mark Watts, a British conspiracy theorist known for spreading false accusations of child sexual abuse and paedophile rings originally conocted by Carl Beech on his website Exaro, appeared on Russia Today via George Galloway’s show to defend his work by claiming that it was “the biggest political scandal in post-war Britain”. In fact, in 2009, on the anniversary of 9/11, Russia Today themselves hosted a special series on its website arguing that the 9/11 attacks were an inside job, and for this occasion they released several articles by Robert Bridge in which he uncritically presents the claims of 9/11 truthers as legitimate narratives of what happened on September 11th. RT Deutsch has also promoted Alternative for Deutschland, the primary representative party of the German far-right.

On top of that, Russia Today hosts sometimes join in on the conspiracy-mongering themselves. Peter Lavelle, the host of CrossTalk, claimed in 2014 that Ukraine was responsible for the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. Abby Martin, who was a host at Russia Today until 2014, used her platform on Russia Today to argue that the 9/11 attacks were an inside job and defend proponents of the 9/11 truther movement that she was a part of. Abby Martin, in her capacity as an RT host, also tried to present the Bundy standofff as the next Waco massacre. Adam Kokesh, a right-wing libertarian activist, briefly had a show on RT America called Adam vs The Man in which he ran conspiracy theories about the Bilderberg Group, the FDA, and other subjects. Max Keiser, the host of Russia Today’s Keiser Report, repeatedly asserted before the invasion of Ukraine that the Ukraine-Russia war was a hoax created by CNN, and is otherwise known for promoting many conspiracy theories about the global finacial system, such as that the Euro currency was set up to fail so that Germany could establish a “Fourth Reich”. One of Russia Today’s most prolific reporters is an American journalist named Caleb Maupin, who is also most certifiably what I would describe as a “left-fascist”. Caleb Maupin has written numerous books in which he promotes anti-semitic conspiracy theories surrounding Israel, Ayn Rand, and various left-wing political commentators on YouTube, and uncritically promotes other virulent conspiracy theorists such as the neofascist named Haz as well as transphobic conspiracist talking points of CPGB-ML vice-chairperson Joti Brar.

In the context of the current invasion of Ukraine, the biggest peddler of conspiracy theories in relation to the Ukraine-Russia war is surely none other the Russian media itself, which works tirelessly to present Russian citizens with its own manufactured vision of the conflict. When Russian forces attacked a TV tower in Kyiv, Russian media instead reported that the Ukraine was attacking its own cities, effectively accusing the Ukrainian government of carrying out a false flag operation. Russian state media channels such as Rossiya 24 and Channel One still do not refer to the invasion of Ukraine as an invasion, or the events taking place in Ukraine as a war. Instead they prefer to call it a “demilitarization operation” or “special military operation, which they assert is being carried out to target military infrastructure in Ukraine and defend the “people’s republics”. This is in stark contrast to the reality of the events in Ukraine, in which we see civilian infrastructure destroyed by Russian bombs. As Kherson was captured by Russian forces, Russian media staged a greeting wherein people from Crimea would welcome Russian troops as “liberators”. Caleb Maupin, in his livestream on the invasion, also insists that Russia is not invading Ukraine and is not starting a war there, and instead argues that Russia is simply protecting the people of Donbas from supposed genocide being carried out by Ukrainian forces, and if anything that Russia is “ending the war”. In fact, when Russia invaded Ukraine, Caleb was ecstatic, and opened up a livestream on the day of the invasion by proclaiming that the “forces of righteousness” were “scoring some blows for once”, lamenting that he has “seen Satan win” and seen “the forces of evil have so many victories” for his whole life before excited declaring that he is “watching the forces of good in the world kick ass!”. We can safely assume that Caleb believes that the “forces of good” are Russia and the two separatist “people’s republics” in Donbas whereas he almost certainly assumes the “forces of evil” or “Satan” to be the United States government, Western leaders, and the “Israel Lobby”. This seems rather ironic for a self-styled “communist”, considering that Vladimir Putin basically accused the leadership of the Soviet Union of having created Ukraine in his pre-invasion speech. Some Russian media outlets apparently even claim that there are no Russian troops in Kyiv at all, despite all evidence to the contrary. On Rossiya 24 the state pundits make all sorts of unverified claims about the conflict, such as that Ukrainian forces have been taking hostages to use as human shields, and they never talk about any Russian air strikes being carried out against Ukrainian cities such as Kyiv and Kharkiv. Rossiya 24 also seems to be the source of numerous false claims about the Ukraine-Russia conflict that later get uncritically promoted in some left-wing circles, such as the claim that the Latvian government is criminalizing support for Russia and creating a hotline to report any citizen deemed sympathetic to Russia. In general, Russian media appears to be actively trying to cover up Russian aggression in Ukraine in order to maintain popular support for Russia, in this way omitting several viral images from Ukraine or outright presenting them as attacks carried out by Ukraine instead of Russia. The sheer volume of disinformation on Ukraine coming from Russian media is pretty staggering.

At this point I have probably described the landscape of Russian conspiracism in arguably much more detail than necessary, but the point is surely well-illustrated. There is practically a whole industry of conspiracy theories produced by none other than the Russian government itself, through a network of media institutions along with sympathetic foreign media companies. The purpose of this network appears to be to promote ideological narratives created by the Kremlin as well as spread disinformation to confuse the populations of rival countries and possibly bring said countries closer to Russia’s sphere of influence. But this alone doesn’t completely explain the dynamic of the relationship between the conspiratorial right and Putin, because it also seems that there is an affinity between the Western right wing and Putin and his Russia, and the reactionary conspiracism seen in Russia has many similairities to its counterpart in the Western world. Right-wing conspiracists in America and Western Europe are enamored with the idea that any cultural influence they happen to despise is inherently “satanic”, and there are countless conspiracy theories based around the idea that certain celebrities, often politically liberal/progressive ones, are actually devil worshippers who the Illuminati or George Soros or the Deep State employ as subversives to destroy American or European culture and identity. The Satanic Temple sometimes figures into American reactionary conspiracy theories, insofar as their activism is interpreted as an open anti-Christian subversion campaign organized by their political enemies to destroy the basis of American society, and the reasoning for it is not really all that distinct from the reasoning employed by Russian state media institutions such as Rossiya 24 when accusing Ukrainian politicians of being anti-clerical Satanists or from the arguments made by the people who wanted to send Pussy Riot to prison. At the root of the ideology of Satanic Panic, whether it’s set in America or Russia, is a traditionalist conservative ideology that predicates itself on a conspiratorial worldview which positions any alterity or Other that might transform society, a trope that goes all the way back to the age of the French Revolution and the conspiracy theories that presented a new class of bourgeois liberal intellectuals as part of a diabolical conspiracy to destroy civilization.

Ideas of Satanic influence as the cause of civilizational collapse do feature in the Russian far-right in much the same way that they do in the most virulent American and Western European conspiracy theories. One example of this is the idea that the collapse of the Soviet Union was caused by Yuri Andropov, the sixth official leader of the Soviet Union, who supposedly authored a secret plan to restructure Soviet society codenamed “Golgotha” during the 1980s. No evidence for this “Golgotha” plan exists, and in fact the name “Golgotha” seems to have emerged from a Russian spoof novel titled Operation Golgotha: The Secret Plan of Perestroika, which was written by Mikhail Lyubimov (himself a former KGB colonel) in 1995, but Orthodox Christian nationalists assert that the “Golgotha” plan was developed by the CIA, who they deem “the servants of Satan”, with the intention of “crucifying” Russian Christians and creating a “new world order” ruled by the Antichrist, and also Israel and the “Khazarians” are somehow involved. Tsargrad TV has run self-styled “exposés” on so-called “American Satanists” who supposedly “openly supported the killing of children”. Andrey Kormukhin, the leader of the Forty Forties movement honored by Patriarch Kirill, claims that Europe is ruled by a clan of elites who worship Satan and want to legalize pedophilia. That he and his movement are honored by the literal Patriarch of Moscow shows that conspiracy theories like these can be endorsed by the religious and political establishment of Russia, and in some ways normalized in Russian society at large.

Vladimir Putin himself has expressed a worldview similar to that of many reactionary conspiracy theorists; during a speech to the Valdai Discussion Club in 2013, Putin accused “Euro-Atlantic countries” of “rejecting their roots”, which is to say rejecting Christianity, of “denying moral principles and all traditional identities”, and of implementing policies that “equate large families with same-sex partnerships, belief in God with the belief in Satan”. In the same speech, Putin also accused Western countries of trying to promote pedophilia by registering political parties that promote pedophilia. It’s not for nothing, then, that Putin is so readily embraced by right-wing conspiracy theorists; ultimately, it’s because there is an extent to which believes much of the same things they do. And Putin may not outright say that the West is controlled by “Satanic pedophiles” as some fake quotes have attested, the Kremlin does still like to promote the idea that Western leadership is somehow “satanic”. In 2014, the Kremlin-aligned biker gang known as the Night Wolves held a show in Sevastopol approved by Putin himself and broadcast by the Kremlin to celebrate the annexation of Crimea. The show depicted the United States and its then-president Barack Obama as “the giant black penis of Satan“, splashing the “black sperm of fascism” on Kyiv, and the Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv as having conceived “a deformed embryo with hairy face and black horns”. The message of this was clear: Ukraine and the United States represent the forces of Satanism and evil, which Russia means to do battle with in the name of God and the Russian nation. The leader of Night Wolves, Alexander Zaldostanov, argued that Russia’s invasion of Crimea “showed resistance to global satanism” as well as opposition to “the destruction of traditional values, all this homosexual talk” (suffice it say Zaldostanov is a massive homophobe). Remember, again, this kind of talk is supported by the Kremlin and Putin.

Sometimes however, similar conspiracy theories are actually directed against Putin’s leadership, and a key example of this can be found in the context of the global Covid-19 pandemic. When Russia was implementing its emergency measures to try and curtail the spread of Covid-19, some vocally opposed the restrictions, and among those, some of them accused the Russian government of declaring war against Christianity. Sergii Romanov, a controversial Russian Orthodox monk, branded the Covid-19 pandemic a “hoax”, condemned the Russian government for ordering the closure of churches, denounced a so-called “vaccine conspiracy” to supposedly organised by Bill Gates to exterminate 90% of the global population, claimed that 5G towers spread coronaviruses, hit out at “the satanic leadership” for supposedly mulling over a plan to microchip the population through vaccines, and asserted that the Antichrist would come from Russia and look like a clone of Vladimir Putin. These are all claims that are very similar if not identical to the claims made by QAnon and similar right-wing conspiracy theorist movements.

A core part of the affinity between right-wing conspiracy theorists, along with hard right-wing nationalist politics in general, and Russia or Vladimir Putin, is the idea that Russia represents an alternative to Western society, with Russia ostensibly representing a society more “traditionally Christian”, more “religious”, and more defined by “spiritual values” on the one side, and the West representing every aspect of modern secularism and liberalism that they despise on the other side and which they link to all of their various conspiracy theories about Satanism, the LGBT movement, and/or Jewish people. Maksim Shevchenko, a Russian nationalist journalist and the leader of the Russian Party of Freedom and Justice, arguably illustrates this seeming difference of values in his denouncement of the West as a place where “there is no more sin or holiness”, where instead there are “desires, opportunities to achieve them and the permission of society”, where faith is considered “antisocial”, and where religion is considered “radical”. Patriarch Kirill asserted in 2012 that Russian faith in Orthodox Christianity caused its enemies to hate Russia. By the time that members of Pussy Riot were arrested for calling on the Mother of God to drive Putin away, the Russian establishment was keen to define itself and Russian identity in terms of religious character and Christian faith. In this context, Sergei Markov, a prominent political scientist and professor at Moscow State University, asserted that the Russian Orthodox Church was a depository of Russian national identity and culture, while claiming that there was a powerful international conspiracy working to destroy that identity. Russian society is also so grotesquely reactionary that there was actually a movement in Russia to protest the criminalization of domestic violence, on the grounds that they thought such legislation would destroy the traditional family and make the family “inhospitable to life”, and there’s also a law against “homosexual propaganda” in Russia, while gay people protesting for their rights have been brutally beaten up by the Russian police.

It’s not hard to see why people who believe in things like the QAnon movement, PizzaGate, Satanic Ritual Absue conspiracies, and similar right-wing conspiracy theories would find themselves ideologically aligned with Vladimir Putin and Russian traditionalism. The heritage of all of these conspiracy theories is the idea of a traditional hierarchy predicated on religious authority and meaning, or at least a very specific idea thereof, and also often a hierarchy of racial power and privilege, which is always threatened by some nebulous Other; a religion that does not quite conform to the dominant one and is therefore to be deemed evil, a race that is deemed foreign to the dominant one and is considered a threat, new norms that perhaps challenge the old ones and are therefore determined to be a threat to civilization. At the center of these conspiracy theories is a form of Christian apocalypse, the idea that the forces of righteousness will bring deliverance to a godless world ruled by the forces of darkness and lurching towards chaos and tyranny. Vladimir Putin presents himself and Russia in much the same light, positioning his authority and the power of Russian Orthodox Christianity as a vanguard against the supposed decadence of the Western world. Being an authoritarian strongman at the helm of a hegemonic imperial state that claims to represent a traditional Christian order, it’s not for nothing that Putin is considered to be the spiritual leader of the Western far-right. Konstantin Malofeev also presents a similar idea, claiming that a “Christian Russia” can “liberate the West from the new liberal anti-Christian totalitarianism of political correctness, gender ideology, mass-media censorship and neo-Marxist dogma”. The irony of this statement is surely palpable in the context of his alignment with the Kremlin.

In considering the connections between right-wing conspiracism and Russia, at the back of my mind I knew I couldn’t ignore Aleksandr Dugin, the neo-fascist traditionalist and advisor to Putin who also basically authored the invasion of Crimea. Dugin has multiple connections with the American right-wing. Besides having held interviews with Alex Jones, he was also interviewed by alt-right e-celebrities Lauren Southern and Brittany Pettibone, has publicly endorsed Donald Trump during the 2016 US presidential election, had a foreword for one of his books written by the paleoconservative Paul Gottfried, was endorsed by former Trump campaign man Steven Bannon, and was frequently invited to speak in conferences with white nationalists/supremacists such as Richard Spencer, Matt Heimbach, and David Duke. Dugin is also the main source of the ideological mission behind Tsargrad TV, which he presents as representing a “silent majority” supposedly oppressed by modern liberalism. Dugin believes that every aspect of the modern world stems from a “Satanic idea” that has captured most of the world and supposedly spells doom for mankind, and that the only way to save mankind is through “tradition”, which in his ideology corresponds to the assertion of God, the church, the empire, the “congregation of the faithful”, the state, and the “people’s traditions”. Considering the fact that Dugin has publicly called for genocide against Ukraine, it’s clear that he certainly does not mean all people’s traditions. But in any case, when correctly understood, we can see that one the bases of Dugin’s ideology is none other than a form of Satanic Panic; he believes that the modern world and its elites represent a kind of Satanism, which he believes threatens to destroy mankind, and that only a return to tradition might save the human species. Thus, the goal of his Eurasianism is to be understood as the creation of a new empire based on Christian traditionalism, as well as “a more fascist fascism”, to oppose what he considers to be the forces of Satan. As war broke out, Dugin claimed on Facebook that the invasion was not a war with Ukraine but instead a “confrontation with globalism as a whole planetary phenomenon”, war between Russia and the Euro-Atlantic liberal elites rather than war between Russia and Ukraine, and asserted that Russia must either “build her world” or “disappear”. The basic justification for war given by Dugin is in essence the same justification given by the QAnon movement and several right-wing pundits who are now defending Russia in the face of international condemnation.

The affinity between Dugin’s notion of traditionalism and the Western right-wing conspiracist movements is not difficult to assess. Maybe the QAnon movement, for instance, doesn’t share all of Dugin’s views on geopolitics and other subjects, they share a belief with Dugin that the Western world is ruled by a class of people who represent a kind of “satanic” liberalism and that Russia is the international vanguard of Christian civilization. Indeed, I would go so far as to argue that Russian traditionalism in a way serves to complete the right-wing conspiracist worldview in the Western world, by giving it a vision of the world that corresponds to the desires of the conspiracists in a way that consists beyond the negative partisanship in the context of liberalism that pervades much of the right. Simply put, the world Dugin puts forward may yet be the world that many right-wing conspiracists would like to see, and the struggle that both Dugin and Putin present is in essence identical to the struggle put forward by the far-right in the West. Traditionalism, therefore, might be the ideology and world political order that links Russian and Western conspiracism.

So, now that we have all of this context at our disposal, let’s establish a summary of our findings. Russian state media, Russian intelligence services, and pro-Kremlin media in both Russia and elsewhere in Europe compose a vast propaganda network dedicated to spreading conspiracy theories about not only Ukraine but also the European Union, vaccines and Covid-19, the United States, and Jewish people among many other subjects, and in many cases these conspiracy theories come with a Satanic Panic element, the idea that a conspiracy of Satanists are controlling the world, or trying to, and are weaving sinister plots in the world. Conspiracism seems to be widily prolific in Russian politics, to the point that conspiracy theory is both rife among the Russian ruling class and media and to some extent prominent enough among Russian society as a whole. The conspiracies weaved by Russian institutions often make their way to right-wing conspiracy theory circles in the United States and Europe, and sometimes even in some radical left-wing (specifically the so-called “anti-imperialist”) circles as well, and sometimes Western conspiracy theories make their way to Russian media and become prolific enough that Russian media outlets hold interviews with experts to discuss them as though they were credible stories. The conspiracy theories generated by the Russian state correspond to a radical right-wing politics that is also ultimately in harmony with Russian traditionalist ideology, the two worlds being easier to bring together under the same sphere of influence, and both operate along an ideology of Satanic Panic.

All of that is not particularly hard to see once you know what I’ve established thus far, but it’s also not hard to see what’s wrong with all of it. Again, I have to stress above all else that there is no Satanic elite within modern liberal society. There are only Satanists who themselves might be convinced that they are part of some kind of esoteric elite, but who otherwise hold no political power whatsoever, and nearly all Satanists you will meet are not interested in messing with kids or eating human flesh, certainly none of them have any plans to inject microchips in your body to control you. And Russia is almost certainly not invading Ukraine over the presence of supposed Satanism in Ukraine, let alone bio-laboratories or child sex trafficking dens. The Russian state, and particularly Putin himself, have made it clear that they consider Ukraine to be Russian soil, to be absorbed into Russia as part of a long-term goal to re-establish Russia as an imperial power. The Russian government no doubt considers those who view Russia as waging Christian holy war against Ukraine to be useful insofar as it means they support Russia’s actions and will agitate against Western support for Ukraine, but holy war is not necessarily what Putin has in mind, even if it probably is what Dugin ultimately has in mind. If there is a religious aspect to the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, it certainly has nothing to do with any struggle against Satanism, and could instead be understood as a struggle involving the national churches of Ukraine and Russia, but this is merely incidental (though not unconnected) to the basic conflict at hand.

Moreover, in a broader sense, despite Dugin’s assertion that the myth of progress is a “Satanic idea” or emerges from said idea, conservatism and traditionalism, in all reality, still emanate the myth of progress in their own way. I mean, traditionalists constant wail about the evils of “degeneracy”, but “degeneracy” is a concept that is actually fairly teleologically progressive in its conceits, its core meaning being to “decline” from a supposedly more “advanced” state, to “regress” from a more “civilized” state. Social degeneration theory is an idea often associated with reactionary political ideologies aimed at consolidating a rigid social hierarchy that excludes essentially anything that does not conform to a “traditional” form of human experssion (which tends to a very militantly patriarchal, authoritarian, cisheteronormative, and ascetic conception of human life), but while it seems to modern audiences like an entirely pre-modern way of thinking, social degeneration theory was actually a product of the Enlightenment as a way of justifying the inequality and oppression that some people suffered through the application of “scientific” principles, and in this light it enjoyed popularity throughout the 19th century and well into the 20th century. Central to social degeneration theory is the idea of linear progress as an objective phenomenon, with human evolution having a definite teleological aim or purpose, and that humans were to conform to this idea of objective evolutionary progress and behave accordingly, and if they didn’t, then they would be labelled “degenerates”. Crime itself was described as a failure to conform to such progress, as a step backward in human evolution towards a more “primitive” state, and hence “degeneracy”, while miscegenation was believed to cause the eventual regression of the evolution of the human species. In this light, the purpose of eugenics was from the standpoint of social degeneration theory to preserve a supposed objective path of human progress and evolution, by rooting out those who did not conform to that pattern of social progress and evolution. Thus in this way I would say that traditionalism, ethno-nationalism, certain forms of conservatism, indeed all of these modern reactionary ideologies that think they’re resisting modernity, shedding the Enlightenment, and transcending the myth of progress actually operate entirely from an Enlightenmentarian starting point that assumes an objective and ascending pattern of social progress and evolution that arcs towards the perfection of the human species, just that this is often couched in the assumption of restoring an originary and prelapsarian state of purity. The myth of progress is an evident enough part of modern conservatism that it’s actually fairly explicit in some cases; Vladimir Putin himself defined conservatism as something that “prevents movement backward and downward, into chaotic darkness and a return to a primitive state”. In simple terms, preserving an objective teleological movement of progress, by controlling or rooting out anything that would “go back” from that into “primitivity” and “chaotic darkness”, the freedom that might exist if humanity were not directed as civilizational agents of some objective historical movement.

In any case, I believe I’ve elaborated about all that I need to elaborate here, and I understand that this was quite a lot to go through. I have to admit, I can still remember a time where I might have treated some of what I’ve explained as itself conspiratorial, and there was definitely a time where a lot of people believed that there wasn’t an integrally connected Russian disinformation/propaganda machine sowing conspiracy theories into the West. But, if nothing else, I’d say that the fact that so many right-wing conspiracy theorists nowadays are all now defending and justifying Russia’s actions in Ukraine should convincingly alert many people to the realities of the Russian psyop machine. It is evidently clear that people in Western countries live their lives caught in the middle of a massive propaganda war being conducted between Western governments on one hand and the Russian conspiracy complex on the other.

From my standpoint, the ideological basis of thorough-going anti-fascism has to entail a deconstruction of the ideological basis of reactionary conspiracism, right down to the myth of progress (and its Christian roots) that underlies even the traditionalism of Aleksandr Dugin. It must also take the realities of the Russian conspiracy complex as one more reason to reject certain calls to embrace a campist one-sidedness that refuses to challenge Russia as an imperialist power with the same vigour that America is rightfully challenged, especially since, if we’re being honest, Russia appears to either be more systematically fascist or possess a much more systematic network of fascist organization than what is the case for Ukraine. Those who seek to fight Satanic Panic would do well to recognize it in the context of this conspiracy complex, and recognize the broader connections, tropes, and patterns seen in Russian conspiracism, and recognize the propaganda war being waged in the background. The more we look into Russian conspiracism, the more it looks to us like the kind of conspiracism we can see in America, and maybe then some too. And that’s no surprise, because American right-wing conspiracy theorists will defend Russia’s actions on the basis of the same ideas swirling around in Russia, some of which may well have already become what is now believed in the West.

The Cathedral of the Annunciation in the Kremlin, Moscow; Russian Orthodox Christianity might be on the front lines of the conspiracy war that has been waged by Russia for years

Democracy versus autocracy, or oppression versus oppression?

As the possibility of war in Ukraine gradually unfolded yesterday (as of the time of this writing, Russia has now invaded and declared war with Ukraine), with Russian and Ukrainian troops gathering in the eastern Ukraine after the sham “people’s republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk were declared sovereign states by Vladimir Putin, I caught a Twitter thread from a Finnish liberal (well, I suppose he much prefers the term “leftist”) named Janne M. Korhonen, who argued that Putin’s actions in Ukraine were part of a broader plan to undermine and ultimately bring down the European Union. Korhonen’s idea of “the left”, or what “the left” should be, of course boils down to support for Nordic social democracy, which is essentially just capitalism with a human face as guided by the ideals of an ideology of progressive welfarism, and to preserve this order he feels that Finland should join with NATO in the hopes of protecting Finland from the possibility of being drawn into a war with Russia. Suffice it say, as far as “leftism” goes this certainly is fairly weak.

I will say that there are a number of valid points that Korhonen raises when he’s talking about Russian actions within Ukraine and the reasons why Finland and the Baltic states would fear any hint of Russian aggression or even expansion in Europe. However, the part of Korhonen’s thread that I wish to bring into focus is his overall narrative that what’s happening represents a struggle between “democracy” (referring to the West, of course) and autocracy (referring to competing imperialist dictatorships such as Russia and China). I find this to merely be liberal version of a phenomenon found in some corners of the left that is referred to as campism. Campism is a vulgar form of anti-imperialist analysis that frames the world as divided between, as the name suggests, two geopolitical camps; one “imperialist”, the other one “anti-imperialist”. In contemporary Marxist or even some non-Marxist socialist movements (and honestly even some nationalist and fascist circles), this means seeing the “imperialist” camp as consisting of the West, particularly the USA and NATO, and the “anti-imperialist” camp as any nation that can be seen to actively oppose the US-NATO sphere of influence, such as Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, and Syria. The campist approach to anti-imperialist politics typically entails uncompromising support for the latter “anti-imperialist” camp of nations, often regardless of whether said nations could even be called socialist countries or even regardless of their actual imperialist actions (such as Russia’s actions in Ukraine, Georgia, and Chechnya). But of course, the liberal has their own version of campism in practice. From the liberal standpoint, if Russia is doing imperialism, then surely NATO is the anti-imperialist party in all this, regardless of the nature of Western imperialism and the atrocities involved in its continuance, and if Russia represents autocracy and authoritarianism then the West must be the party of democratic freedom, regardless of the oppressions that plague the Western world.

It is on this note that I would highlight an important and disturbing development from the so-called “leader of the free world” that is the United States of America, or more specifically the state of Texas. On February 22nd, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced that, according to the Office of the Attorney General, gender affirmation surgery constitutes “child abuse” under Texas law, and further announced that the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services would be directed to investigate any reported instances of children receiving gender affirmation surgery in Texas, and investigate the parents of the children who receive them. All licensed professionals and even members of the general public are now required to report to the authorities on such surgeries, and those who refuse to report to the state will be subject to criminal penalties.

What this means is that it is illegal for trans children to undergo gender affirmation surgery in order to embody their real gender identity, since Texas law deems this to be “child abuse”, and that the parents of trans children can be arrested and investigated by the state for supporting the individuality of their children, along with any medical professionals who facilitate gender affirmation surgery. This is oppression. This is oppressing people for being trans. And it’s not like this is too big a surprise considering that the same state also implemented a law that allowed basically anyone to sue anyone for providing an abortion, thus oppressing reproductive rights through the incentives of the legal system.

Some may think “at least the US isn’t Russia!”. Maybe. Technically they’re right that the entirety of the US doesn’t work the way Russia does, and even in Texas there aren’t brutal crackdowns of LGBT protests, or at least none that I know of. But even then, such an objection misses the point. Oppression is oppression, and it does not matter what form your oppression takes. And besides, Texas is not the only US state that is oppressing trans children. In Florida, schools are permitted to carry out invasive “physical examinations” of children to make sure they aren’t trans, so as to enforce a ban on trans athletes competing in sporting events. Something similar has been proposed by Republican lawmakers in Utah, who want to ban trans students from competing in sports events and enforce that ban through a commission that would examine the bodies of children to make sure they’re eligible to compete (read: to make sure they’re not trans). And even outside the issue of LGBT rights itself, are we really going to ignore the fact that certain states are trying to ban books and make it practically illegal to protest against police brutality?

The United States of America is at this point an increasingly oppressive country. Its media can’t even acknowledge the issue of trans rights, without first pointing to how Russia banned trans people from adopting children, as though you’re supposed to be grateful that you don’t live in Russia, as if you’re not supposed to see that there is more than one oppressive country in the world. In this sense, just as pro-Russian campism obscures the real dynamics of imperialism as a global system by ignoring the way Russia engages in flat out imperialist aggression, and putting you squarely on the side of authoritarianism for as long as it means opposing the USA and NATO, so too does liberal pro-Western campism obscure or even sometimes excuse the nature of oppression as it takes place in the US and similar countries, such as the oppression of trans people that can be seen at present. Besides, the American liberal may whine that Russia is worse, but this is only because they cannot conceive the American conservative constructing a more systematic and equally brutal hierarchy of oppression than what exists in Russia. Oh, and for any British liberals who might be reading this, don’t fall asleep; Britain is much nicer to trans people than America is at the moments. You won’t see too many British conservatives gas on about the way God supposedly made you, but you will see even the Labour Party support the oppression of trans people – they’ve even tried to cover it up.

To return to Korhonen’s thread, which I used as a springboard for this much broader discussion, I will say straightforwardly that one of my disagreements with Korhonen is his belief that “violence cannot build a sustainable world”. To be frank, I think that Korhonen is simply wrong here. The entire geopolitical order of liberal-democratic that Korhonen so lauds was built and maintained through violence; whether that’s the revolutionary violence that inaugurated the age of bourgeois republics in the dawn of the Enlightenment, the war and revolutionary violence that was waged against chattel slavery in order to abolish it, the violence of the police force and system of incarceration that was created ultimately to defend the privilege of private property, the war that was waged to stop Nazism or fascism from taking over the whole world, and the conflict between the West and the so-called “communist states” that led up to the so-called “end of history”, culminating in the geopolitical order we see today. And not only is the world we live in built on some form of violence or another, so were all worlds before it, and so perhaps will whatever world succeeds this one – that may well be true for communists and anarchists, since how else is the capitalist state and the global system of imperialism to be defeated? Korhonen, thus, is wrong.

And the whole reason I raise this point is that in addition to creating new worlds, it is often necessary in order to preserve life and freedom. I have said before, not long ago, that the US left should consider being prepared for all-out war with the reactionaries that are increasingly threatening their lives. In the wake of the new Texas legislation, it is not unreasonable to see similar calls for militarization in order to resist the abject oppression being put forward. Only active resistance to oppression will lead to the triumph of liberation and the defeat of oppression. “Reform”, insofar as it still maintains the mechanisms of oppression, will still support oppression. Oppression and imperialism are global systems, and should be fought on those terms. Campism, thus, means consignment to an illusory perspective of the world, which serves only to hinder the struggle against oppression on behalf of one of the oppressors.

Janne Korhonen is thus only faintly correct in framing our situation in terms of democracy versus autocracy, if we refer specifically to Ukraine versus Russia, insofar as at least in Ukraine you could vote for Zelensky or someone else and vote out whoever’s in charge. That’s not much, but the same can’t be said for Russia. But if we’re talking about some bigger narrative of the democratic West, led by America, versus Russia, as a contestation between the principles of democratic freedom versus authoritarian autocracy, that’s just detached from reality when you look at the oppression being carried out right now. Whereas Janne Korhonen would say that the world is democracy versus autocracy, I prefer to see that the world is oppression versus oppression, and the real war worth fighting is the war against the global system of oppression.

It may seem strange to discuss both the thread, the war in Ukraine, and the mounting US oppression of trans people in the same post, but in a weird way it all kind of comes together, once we try to consider the claim that we’re dealing in the world that Korhonen would hope we do. Plus, all of this is going on at the same time, and neither can be readily ignored in favour of the other. Suffice it to say this has been an eventful timeline in more ways than we might prefer.

In closing: this should go without saying, but my solidarity goes to the oppressed trans people in the United States of America, to anyone in America who plans to fight this oppression, to the people of Ukraine escaping and fighting Russian invasion, to the Russian anti-war protesters who risk being brutally curtailed by Putin’s fascist thugs, and to the working class and anarchists in Ukraine, Russia, and Russian-controlled territories who are actively fighting imperialist war and oppresion in their lands!

The problem with Canada’s response to the “Freedom” Convoy

Canada is at the moment wrangling with an ongoing protest referred to as the Freedom Convoy, which is a generally right-wing protest whose core focus seems to be on vaccine mandates and Covid-19 restrictions. For a self-described convoy, many of the protesters aren’t actually truckers, but what is true is that their protests involve blocking highways in order to try and extract concessions from the Canadian government through external pressure. Their goal seems to be the abolition of all Covid-19 restrictions in Canada.

Now, make no mistake; the Freedom Convoy protesters aren’t necessarily advancing a good cause. For one thing, their actual demands, if met, would likely only ensure that Covid-19 spreads to more Canadians and probably kills more of them, and in typical right-wing fashion they seem to lack any thought given to the question of “what about my freedom to not get Covid-19 from you?” or the fact that a lot of the oppression we’re seeing in Western countries actually seems to concern corporations forcing people to go to work even if they have Covid-19 symptoms. For another, it seems that at least a few of them might be aligned with the far-right and some of them do appear to be racist, as suggested by the appearance of swastikas and Confederate battle-flags among some of the protesters – the latter sometimes appears in other anti-vax protests outside of Canada as well as within Canada. But, while it is right to oppose the so-called Freedom Convoy, there’s also a different problem in relation to it, namely the response carried out by the Canadian government.

On February 14th, the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the Canadian government would invoke the Emergencies Act, with the aim of expanding the powers of the Canadian police to seize the trucks of anyone participating in the protests, freeze their corporate accounts, and suspend their vehicle insurance. This also apparently meant that the Canadian government would give Canadian banks the authority to freeze the accounts of anyone suspected to have given support to the Freedom Convoy, without being required to obtain permission from the courts. Banks who decided to investigate and freeze accounts suspected of supporting the Convoy would be granted legal immunity by the government and be permitted to share more information from these accounts with the government. It was also announced that the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada would be given the power to monitor funds sent through GoFundMe and other payment providers used by the protesters, as well as crypto-currency transactions.

It’s obvious what’s happening. The Canadian government is expanding the powers of surveillance and the police and incentivizing private corporations to effectively financially punish anyone who took part in the convoy protests. It can be thought of as a soft power response, and a military dispersion of the protests does not seem forthcoming, but this is still a carceral response. The reasons for the government doing this are not especially difficult to understand. The blockades matter mostly because they present economic difficulties, preventing products from moving across the country. That said, it also seems to have impacted emergency services, often preventing them too from crossing. In any case, it is the regular functioning of the system that I suspect presents the biggest priority for the Canadian government. Whenever I hear about this, for some reason I’m reminded of the whole discourse surrounding Extinction Rebellion and Insulate Britain here in my country, and the various blockades that they enacted not too long ago. Although their actual reasons for protesting were very different from those of the Freedom Convoy, the former demanding immediate action to fight climate change and the latter campaigning for environmentally friendly insulation of all homes within the next few years, a lot of the social discourse and political response focused not so much on their demands but on the disruption of the economy and functioning of the system, which is then framed as an attack on the livelihoods of ordinary people. For daring to make demands of the government through external pressure, Extinction Rebellion and Insulate Britain were accused of “not being constructive” and “alienating ordinary people” and faced suppression by the police, and the British government expanded the powers of the police to “stop and search” protesters and enforce harsher penalties for motorway disruptions, not particularly mindful of the damage such moves would do to the right to protest.

That said, perhaps there’s a peculiar difference. For one thing, it’s said that members of the Freedom Convoy have weapons on hand. But also, the protests carried out by Extinction Rebellion and Insulate Britain all, after some time, faced the exercise of hard power by the government, whereas this doesn’t necessarily appear to be the case for the Freedom Convoy; not yet, anyway. Indeed, at the moment it seems that there are counter-protesters in Canada that have faced getting dragged off the scene by police officers. It’s a very strange expression of the carceral state. For right-wing anti-vax protests, the government responds with what is essentially a drastic expansion of surveillance powers or the outsourcing thereof in order to financially target protesters, which will inevitably be a problem for the left should they cross their own bridge. But for left-wing counter-protests, the standard police suppression is often deployed. It can comparatively seem to some like the government’s playing nice with the anti-vaxxers, insofar as freezing their bank accounts and generally invoking emergency powers to disperse and disincentivize them was ever the “nice” response. But, this is still a broadly carceral response, one that is more versatile than certain traditional notions of authoritarianism. This carceral state employs numerous tactics, seemingly on a selective basis per the groups it targets, favouring a mix of leverage and blunt force.

It’s worth being stressed that what ultimately matters isn’t the Freedom Convoy, they’ll likely come to nothing at the end of it, but rather the nature of the state and the powers it may invoke whenever its interests and the order upon which it depends are seen to be threatened. It’s this conversation that matters, for much the same reasons that I covered in my article on Boris Johnson’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic in Britain. The carceral nature of the state colours everything from state responses to protest to the course of the way the Covid-19 pandemic was handled and spread across the world, and so our conversations about protest and the Covid-19 pandemic should hinge on a much larger conversation about the conditions of the carceral state. I’m inclined to think that the political climate we have surrounding Covid-19 would be very different if our governments hadn’t carefully exploited the pandemic in order to establish states of exception and control to be justified via the pandemic.

The problem with liberal Christianity

Contrary to what some of us might have assumed, the Western world does not live in a “post-Christian” era. Not yet, anyway. Christianity is still the dominant religion in Western countries and composes much of the prevailing superstructure of bourgeois society in its religious aspects, as well as festering in the background of some of the more secular mythologies prevalent in the West. In the case of the United States of America, it’s not even the fact that Christianity is more “moderate” or “progressive” nowadays (such that it ever was anyway), as reactionary Christian nationalism continues to grow ever stronger, forming a key plank of the increasingly radical right which now threatens to install a fascist dictatorship in the White House via coup d’état. In addition to this, we can see that Christian creationism, far from having been consigned to the dustbin of bad ideas, is still alive and continues to enjoy a sizeable platform via well-funded propaganda outlets such as Prager “University”, and there are attempts in parts of America to ban books that are deemed “homosexual material”.

Christian hegemony is alive and well, but virulent reactionism is not the only way that Christianity tries to preserve its hegemony. Sometimes Christianity is defended by liberal and progressive or even leftist voices, both Christian and secular, who advance that all of the hallmarks of reactionary Christianity are little more than misinterpretations of the “true” Christianity, which is held to be much more progressive. Similar efforts are directed towards Islam in response to prevalent racism against Muslims, which can lead to people forgetting that Islam, in all reality, isn’t much more progressive than Christianity in many aspects. In both cases there’s often a great deal of special pleading and creative interpretations of scripture involved, and in this regard the focus of this article is Christianity.

One of the core problems with Christianity’s attempts to engage with the modern world regards the Christian attitude towards homosexuality. Christian opinion of homosexuality has been historically, and consistently, negative, and therefore homophobic. Many contemporary Christians may today be fairly tolerant and even accepting towards LGBT people, and increasingly so, but the idea of “hate the sin not the sinner” is still trafficked to this day. There are those who insist that Christianity is not actually homophobic because, among other things, Jesus said nothing about homosexuality. Stephen Colbert, a Catholic liberal, is known for popularizing this idea to liberal audiences. The first problem with this is that at face value, at least, this establishes only that Jesus had nothing to say, and consequently that Jesus cannot defend homosexuals or their human rights. The second problem with this is that Jesus made it explicitly clear that he did had no intention of overturning the law of the Old Testament or the word of its prophets, saying “I did not come to destroy them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17). Old Testament law is painfully clear on the subject of homosexuality, and in this regard it’s worth addressing the arguments made in defence of Biblical scripture as not inherently homophobic.

For our purposes, let’s consult the Human Rights Campaign (which, by the way, endorses anti-LGBT politicians while claiming to defend LGBT rights) for a summary of the arguments against attributing homophobia to the Bible. One argument is that the injunction in Leviticus that “man must not lie with another man” is that it “coheres with the context of a society anxious about their health, continuing family lineages, and retaining the distinctiveness of Israel as a nation”. The problems with this should be fairly obvious. For starters, this doesn’t change the explicit nature of “man must not lie with another man”, just that perhaps tells us a little something about the origins of monotheistic homophobia. Second, if the context for it is “anxiety about health”, that definitely doesn’t reduce the homophobia. Depending on what’s meant by health, all it establishes is that the ancient Israelites probably considered being gay itself to be a health risk, which is still in itself homophobic. So is the idea that being gay presents a threat to “the distinctiveness of the nation”. In other words, it’s still homophobic, and the homophobia comes with a bit of nationalistic moral panic behind it. 1 Corinthians 6:9 is explained as “more than likely about the sexual exploitation of young men by older men”. Well “men having sex with men” really says nothing about the age of the men in question. To be blunt, it could be any men in any age dynamic. Indeed, does tying homosexuality to pedophilia not service reactionary homophobia? 1 Timothy 1:10 refers quite explicitly to “those practicing homosexuality” alongside “the sexually immoral”, and it rather does stretch credulity to assume that this is only referring to some elite Greek practice of pederasty. Paul’s homophobic comments in his letter to the Romans are described as “part of a broader indictment against idolatry and excessive, self-centered lust that is driven by desire to “consume” rather than to love and to serve as outlined for Christian partnership elsewhere in the Bible”. This is still homophobic. It still means that homosexual sex, when portrayed in the Biblical context, is portrayed as a negative, more specifically as a sort of giving in to “self-centered” passions which itself is framed as a punishment from God for the crime of worshipping any gods other than God.

A lot of the argument hinges on the idea that the authors of the Bible had no idea what “sexual orientiation” in our modern use of the term was, but this is a bit like saying that tuberculosis actually didn’t exist until the 19th century simply because it wasn’t called tuberculosis until then, even though it had otherwise existed for centuries under many different names. In fact, when it comes to the issue of trans rights, the line that the authors of the Bible had “no concept of trans people” is curiously not employed, and instead it is recognized that being trans has been real and recognized in various ways for centuries. Another refrain would be that the Bible doesn’t condemn loving (presumably in the emotional or Platonic rather than physical sense) same-sex relationships, which is just nonsense. Even if the Bible says nothing about non-sexual homosexual relationships, it’s still rather clearly hostile to same-sex relationships whenever they come up, even if that’s mainly the sexual sense. But besides, why would the difference matter so much? If you’re condemning homosexual sex because it’s homosexual, and presumably not heterosexual sex in the same way, the condemnation emerges from the premise that homosexual sex “goes against nature”, which is simply homophobia. Paul is rather explicitly clear about men “abandoning natural relationships with women” in favour of “lust for one another”, and Romans 1:27 (which the Human Rights Campaign barely examines) explicitly states that men who did this would “receive the due penalty” for it, and that is exactly how the fathers of the Christian church have interpreted homosexuality; as an unnatural lust. If that was the wrong interpretation, then that just means that everyone in the early Christian movement somehow misinterpreted an otherwise LGBT-positive message supposedly inherent in the Bible, which would be interesting considering that as far as I can see none of the church fathers or even many “Gnostics” ever expressed tangible opposition to, say, John Chrysostom’s declaration that gay people were “an insult to nature”. And even if the Bible doesn’t say that essentially emotional, platonically romantic gay relationships are a sin, so what? It never affirms such relationships, and again, that’s important. If you want to be LGBT-positive, you have to affirm the validity of same-sex relationships as being valid in and of themselves, which neither Jesus nor anyone in the Bible ever does. The argument that God “wouldn’t judge” on its own just doesn’t cut it, and at any rate has little to do with the scripture upon which Christianity is necessarily based. Besides, if you want to affirm loving relationships, you have to affirm the sexuality of these relationships as well, since that is an inseparable part of it at least for many relationships.

If the best that Christianity can say for itself is that the Bible hates it when gay people have sex but not when they love each other emotionally, then that’s just the same thing as when conservative homophobes say that they only hate it when gay people “act on their desires”. If any form of love between LGBT people is endorsed, if we take the Human Rights Campaign seriously, it’s a fundamentally reified, abstract, and de-sexualized love, which is legitimated not of itself but as a representation of marriage between Christ and the Church, or as a vessel through which God’s “love” is fulfilled; LGBT love is thus, from the Christian standpoint, legitimated only insofar as Christ or God are legitimated, not because it is valid on its own, because in Christianity everything is validated only through God. Luke 15 is brought up as somehow evidence that the Christian God had already accepted LGBT people into his communion, which is hardly evident in that text. If anything, if there’s supposed to be a reference to homosexuality in there, what do you think the chance is that it’s not the “sin” referred to by the son who confessed before his father and before God. Remember also that Jesus said “go and sin no more” to a woman who was about to be stoned for supposed adultery. It seems evident that this is to be taken as a counsel to not repeat any behaviours deemed sinful, which has implications for homosexual sex which is still repeatedly regarded by the Bible and the church fathers as sinful.

Another appeal to scriptural gaps can be found in relation to the argument regarding “gender complementarity”, which conservative and homophobic Christians base in the Book of Genesis’ statement that God created a sexual or gender binary that is then used as an argument against gay marriage; in other words, the classic homophobic “it’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!” canard that was once frequently trotted out by the Christian right. The counter-argument summarized by the Human Rights Campaign is that the account says nothing about gender and does not say that God only created the gender binary. That might be a point to made regarding the inclusion of trans, intersex, and non-binary people, but addresses nothing about gay marriage. Again, so? The Bible also never actually affirms the idea that gender is not a binary, and, again, that is important since you can’t build a consistent LGBT-positive worldview based on the fact you merely (or rather ostensibly) say nothing about it; especially when there’s still explicit homophobia in the mix.

And why don’t we apply this to other aspects of the Bible as well. Like, for instance, the Biblical stance on slavery. Although Christianity is often popularly associated the movement to abolish chattel slavery, the Bible not only does not oppose slavery, it actually seems to support slavery, and not only that it also seems to offer counsel on how the slaves should obey their slave-owners and how slave-owners should treat their slaves. Luke 12:47 counsels slave-owners to beat their slaves if they knowingly disobey their commands, and that slave who disobeys unwittingly is still to be beaten, just a little more mercifully. In Exodus 21:20-21, it is counselled that a slave-owner is to be punished if they beat their slaves to death, but if the slave survives the beating and recovers after a few days then the slave-owner would not be punished for it. This is a pretty clear endorsement of slavery and the abuses inflicted through it. Now we could talk about the context of the time in which it was written, which is to say a time in history where slavery was widespread and considered a matter of course even by the victims of slavery, but does this change the content of the pro-slavery verses or the fact that the Bible never challenges the system of slavery? No, it doesn’t. Likewise, what changes about the verses in which homosexual sex is expressly condemned by appealing to the context of the times, or asserting that the authors of the Bible had no concept of homosexuality in their time?

The way the issue of trans rights in the Bible is covered isn’t too much better, even though you can argue that there’s actually a better case for trans-inclusion in the Bible than for particularly enligthened attitudes towards gay people and women – which if we’re honest is kind of saying something weird. A verse apparently used by transphobes to justify their bigotry against trans people is Psalm 139:13-14, which states that God knitted the individual person together in their mothers’ womb. For the Christian transphobe this verse is taken as proof that God fixed the individual gender identity of each person before birth, thus supposedly invalidating trans identity. But in the argument given by the Human Rights Campaign, we’re told that this verse is supposed to mean that God lovingly created everyone such that every part of them was created with dignity, and that there was no textual basis for excluding gender identity. Besides the problem that some might argue that God just gave them the wrong body by, say, giving men the bodies of women thus leading them to be assigned female at birth when really they’re not (I suppose admitting that would raise serious problems for the concept of divine omniscience), and besides the other problem of what happens when children are born with terrible genetic disorders and this is to be interpreted as being “lovingly made”, it doesn’t seem all that clear that the Bible actually does affirm trans identity or the idea that gender identity itself is not a binary. The closest we come to a Biblical affirmation of trans identity is through the eunuchs. On the one hand, Deuteronomy 23:1 says that “men with crushed or severed genitals” may not enter the “assembly of the Lord”. On the other hand, Isaiah 56:4-5 seem to suggest that eunuchs who sufficiently serve God will receive a monument and name “better than sons and daughters” and a name that shall not be cut off, which seems to suggest some special place in God’s eyes. Thus we see that the Old Testament has a rather internally contradictory stance on the role of eunuchs; they can’t enter the “assembly of the Lord”, but at the same time if they serve God loyally God will give them everlasting names and monuments. That said, it is not like the practice of eunuchry is thus endorsed by the Bible, and the law of Deutoronomy is still pretty explicit against eunuchs. The difference is that, in Isaiah, God offers an abrogation of that law on the condition that the eunuchs sacrifice their own prerogatives on behalf of conscientious obedience in keeping God’s Sabbath. On a semi-related note, Deuteronomy, specifically Deutoronomy 22:5, also forbids the practice of cross-dressing. This verse is usually one of the only verses that transphobes can theoretically point to in order to justify their bigotry, and when applied to trans people problems obviously abound. It is textbook transphobic bigotry to assume that trans people are merely “dressing up” as the gender they “aspire to be”, as opposed to outwardly confirming their real inward gender identity, so there isn’t much reason to assume that cross-dressing in itself can be taken as a reference to being transgender. On the other hand, a lot hinges on whether or not the Bible actually affirms the inward gender identity of trans people, which there’s no explicity sign of anywhere in the Bible, and meanwhile the Bible contains legal condemnations of men who castrate themselves and engage in homosexual relationships with men, both of which are practices that, in a lot of the ancient world, were taken as signs of a man casting off his maleness and embracing femininity, thus crossing traditional lines of gender identity.

In Matthew 19:12, Jesus doesn’t seem to condemn eunuchs, and even referred to those who made themselves eunuchs in service of heaven. But, there’s a complication. Firstly, the context of Matthew 19 as a whole is that Jesus is talking about marriage and divorce. Jesus says in Matthew 19:4 that God created humans in male and female, citing Genesis 1:27 to that effect, which at least could conceivably be interpreted as endorsing a gender binary, and in a broader context this is meant as an argument by Jesus against divorce. Jesus argued that Moses merely permited men to divorce their wives because their hearts were hard, and that this was not originally the case, further stating that if a man divorces his wife then, unless he does it in response to “sexual immorality”, he is committing adultery. Second, where the eunuchs come in is that they are among the people who cannot be given to marriage and thus cannot “accept this word”. I shouldn’t really need to explain that being trans does not or at least should not render you incapable of matrimony, but more to the point several Biblical commentaries suggest that eunuch here, or more specifically those who make themselves eunuchs in service of heaven, is likely meant as a reference to celibacy, self-denial, and self-mortification, rather than the castration practiced by the eunuchs. Indeed, the Pulpit Commentary suggests that it cannot refer to literal “excision”, since this is apparently deemed contrary to the order of creation as established by God. Origen, who was accused by Eusebius of having castrated himself, explicitly advocated against literal interpretations of Matthew 19:12 as a counsel to actually castrate yourself. Given this, it’s very unlikely that the Biblical attitude to gender affirmation surgery would have been particularly positive, and there is certainly no express affirmation of the practice that can be pointed to anywhere in the Bible, on top of which it’s reasonable to assume based on the moral condemnation of self-castration and Augustine’s hatred of the priests of Cybele that such a practice would have been condemned as an attack on God’s order.

Through all this let’s return to the subject of Old Testament law and Jesus’ relationship with it. From the perspective of Judaism, the law of the Old Testament was the law set to the Israelites by God, as part of the covenant they made with said God, which the Israelites needed to follow in obedience to God in order to cultivate righteousness and atone for the sin that humanity inherited from Adam and Eve. Jesus was pretty clear on the point that he had no intention of overturning that law or the word of the old Hebrew prophets. That means that the law about how eunuchs wouldn’t be admitted into the assembly of God, the prohibition of homosexual sex, the prohibition of cross-dressing, the rules regarding slavery let alone the very existence of slavery, all of this Jesus had no intention of challenging or abolishing, since his stated mission was to “fulfill” the law and the prophets. So even if he said nothing about LGBT people, that doesn’t matter because he isn’t standing up for them either, since he has no intention of challenging the prohibitions that would have oppressed them.

The ultimate thing to remember is that liberal and progressive efforts to rehabilitate Christianity as a progressive force are essentially a form of Christian apologetics. Apologetics is a branch of Christian theology that exists to intellectually defend the Christian faith against objections from various sources. For the early Christian movement, this tended to mean defending the faith against criticism from polytheists as well as defense against accusations of various (often lurid) wrongdoings levelled against Christians. In a more general and traditional sense, it can mean defending Christianity by giving a theoretically rational reason to believe in God or accept the claims of Christian teaching, as well as address serious questions regarding the role that evil and suffering plays in the creation of an otherwise “benevolent” God; in this sense, theodicy (the philosophical vindication of God) functions as a branch of apologetics. But while the usual brands of apologetics have often proven unfashionable, progressive apologetics seems to be popular. And it is apologetics in the most basic sense, just that in this case Christianity is being defended against arguments that Christianity is inherently bigoted, which would undermine the moral legitimacy of the faith. It’s all part of defending Christianity in much the way that it has always been defended, and in the modern context it serves as a way to forestall Christianity’s inevitable demise.

The final point to make as regards progressive apologetics concerns God himself, and strangely enough I find myself seeing it come up from self-described Luciferians. A Gnostic Luciferian who goes by the handle serpentchrist69 objects to the description of God being a tyrant by suggesting that such a description speaks more to the people writing the Bible being problematic than the being inspiring said writing, which is to be balanced against the perceived “good” within the text, and that to call God a tyrant is simply an oversimplistic kneejerk reaction. Well, perhaps it’s worth looking at what God does throughout the Bible. The Old Testament begins with God punishing Adam and Eve for eating the fruit of a tree that probably wouldn’t even be in the garden of Eden if not for him in order to prevent Adam and Eve from joining the gods and becoming immortal. He then declares all the other gods to be unworthy of worship, promises to turn women who aren’t traditionally submissive into burnt deformities, interferes with human free will by hardening people’s hearts, and in this way ensuring the continued persecution and suffering of his own believers, as well as the suffering and deaths of innocent Egyptians, and has repeatedly ordered the genocide and enslavement of non-believers, not to mention all the prohibitions we discussed before. In the New Testament, we are introduced to the idea that the soul will be thrown into a lake of fire prepared for the Devil and his angels if he does not sufficiently believe in God or his son, and that the world will eventually end with a gruesome Judgement Day in which those who believe will be saved while the unbelievers will be ground in a wine-press by angels or simply damned until the end of the age. It also affirms not only the absolute authority of God but also, based on that, the legitimacy of all earthly authority, which must be obeyed without question. In this context, we can easily see how the picture of God as a tyrant forms on the basis of the scripture devoted to him. You can argue that it’s all just a flawed interpretation of an ineffable divine being forged from the understandings of people with old attitudes, but then it’s impossible to parse God’s actual character this way, and this hardly even gets into how the God who we’re meant to assume is still all good even if his scripture gets him wrong lets suffering and evil run rampant in his own creation or is actively responsible for it as the creator of everything. Besides, a similar argument can and has been made in the context of the gods of polytheism. God’s not special, in this regard.

Here’s the thing: if you give God an inch, he’ll take the whole nine yards. We already saw what happened when even non-Christian progressives put their faith in Pope Francis or more specifically the hope that maybe he’ll reform the Catholic Church to make it more inclusive and accepting, and then it never happened. Instead the church still refuses to support gay marriage, and pushed for the Italian government to not prosecute anti-LGBT hate crimes. The icing on the cake is that there’s still no actual action on the rampant institutional child abuse within the church, and under Francis’ tenure more revelations of more ecclesiastical abuses of children have emerged.

And here’s the other thing: why should we want this? Why should we want a more benign and progressive way to serve YHWH when the point should be to be free from the rule of God and his son? Why should we depend on God to justify the rights of marginalized people when their existence should derive validity from itself and thus their liberation counts for more? Why does society need to defend the legitimacy of Christianity, or at least more particularly the Catholic Church, so badly? Is the thought that perhaps the world might leave Jesus behind, let alone in favour of either the Devil or the gods of old, so unbearable? I think that there seems to be a “need” among certain people to maintain in themselves the idea of Christianity as some sort of positive and even progressive force, rather than question the reason why it merely appears munificent and then freely abandon Christianity. The world, it seems, cannot yet come to grips with the idea, or indeed the reality, that Christianity is a false hope that was cruelly inflicted upon the world.

The last thing I want to say concerns the very Christianized direction being introduced by the Gnostic Luciferian Christopher Williams (a.k.a. serpentchrist69), since it kind of touches into the realm of apologetics I’m discussing here, and to be honest I couldn’t be asked to delegate these matters to a separate article. He appears to see his Luciferianism as a synthesis involving Christianity, his form of Gnostic Luciferianism based on the Valentinian sect of Christianity, which holds the Demiurge to be ultimately a valid part of the cosmos, and insists that God should not be seen as a tyrant. In this, he frames the opposition to Christianity, and any attendant attraction to Satanism, as essentially just a kneejerk response motivated by trauma experienced by the oppression of the church and its authorities. It’s a very American perspective, obviously, not without a modicum of merit, and yet I think it fails to consider that not everything about how people receive and react to religious ideas is about trauma, and not everyone despise Christianity because they were hurt in some way by their Christian parents or community. I was born in a country where people are fairly tolerant when it comes to religion. My parents were and still are Christians but they were never fundamentalists about it (not always really devout for that matter) and they seemed to tolerate people who weren’t straight. But all the same, I never liked Christianity in the overall, and when I was a kid my only connection to Christianity consisted of doing one or two prayers to Jesus to save the rainforests and telling a teacher I believed in Jesus to avoid punishment, meanwhile I refused to go to church the first time I was told to. My hatred of Christianity does not come from trauma. It comes from Christianity. And frankly, I find the more progressive apologia that appeals to trauma in order to make its adherents sound like they “understand” you is actually more annoying that conservative Christian proselytism. The conservative Christian is undeniably toxic and authoritarian, but this new shit where you act like the only thing wrong with Christianity is your parents hurt you in the name of God is an insidious mode of condescending obscurantism, in which you think you can ignore everything wrong with God and his creeds by reducing all objection to it as a mere trauma. Well not every conversation about religion is about trauma let alone some stupid rhetoric about “healing”. To be honest, I don’t think I like what you’re doing, Christopher. You may call yourself a Luciferian, and there’s nothing stopping you from doing so, but as far as I’m concerned the form of Luciferianism you espouse and the way you talk about much of the Left Hand Path, and the things you accuse us of, puts you alongside the dogs of the Christian church, just that you prefer to recuperate the power of transgression in service of God. It’s nothing but liberal Christianity, which is to say a way of restoring or perhaps renewing the hegemony of Christianity, whether that’s in the vain hope of “transcending” it or not.

Why should we pretend that we have no problem with Christianity, Judaism, and Islam just because a couple billion people happen follow these religions, or more accurately are blindly conditioned into it? If your response to Christianity is to perform meaningless apologetics to coddle the masses rather than liberate them then you really have no issue with Christian hegemony except that it’s not sufficiently open to change. Well I don’t care if Christianity “changes”, because my desire is for it wither away, and for mankind to abolish it in themselves of their own free will.

Joe Biden and Pope Francis (image taken from Getty Images)

War in Ukraine?

So apparently, Russia is planning to invade Ukraine. Maybe. Or at least that’s what we’re all being told. Western leaders insist that war is imminent and Russia is planning on invading Ukraine. The British government appears to think that the Kremlin is conspiring to install a puppet regime in Ukraine. More recently, the United States has claimed, without presenting evidence, that Russia is planning to fabricate a Ukrainian attack on Russia or Russian-speaking Ukrainians in order to justify invading Ukraine. Vladimir Putin and the Russian government have predictably denied all impropriety and blame Western/NATO leaders for increasing tensions by their aggression against Russia, though they do seem to be assuring that there will be “consequences” if the West doesn’t agree to its “security demands”. Ukraine itself seems to be giving mixed signals on the issue: on the one hand the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky is saying that the West is hyping up the threat of Russian invasion to create panic, and the people cited by the British government have explicitly refuted the government’s claims; on the other hand, the Ukrainian government has apparently taken the British government seriously, is accepting military aid from Britain, America, and other countries, and is concerned that other countries such as Germany are not on their side.

What are we to make of all of this? Should we take the West completely at face value and accept that war with Russia is a necessity? I think that can be flatly ruled out. Yet, this does not mean that Russian invasion is distinctly impossible. Russia will, of course, claim that it has no plans to invade Ukraine, but that’s to be expected of Russia. There is a significant extent to which the statements of Russia cannot be relied upon or taken at face value. However, it is certainly true that there is an extent to which the Western narrative is lurid and quizzical, given to dysfunctional conspiracy theory, eager to frame Putin as irrational, and absolutely certain of invasion. The build-up is surely familiar at least.

There are many important things to consider when discussing Russia, and in establishing a consistent anti-imperialist position in the context of the Ukraine-Russia conflict. There are several reasons not to take the Russian side of the conflict, or certain arguments from some who defend Russia on at least theoretically anti-imperialist, at face value. Russia will insist that it has no plans to invade Ukraine. But there are obvious problems. Russia has amassed 100,000 troops beside the Russian-Ukrainian border, and there are some reports which suggest that there are not only weapons but also blood supplies and medical equipment being brought to the region. It’s not clear what non-military purpose all of this should have. If the invasion thesis holds water, they are almost certainly amassing units for the purpose of entering Ukraine. If it doesn’t, we still have to assume there is some other reason for 100,000 troops coming with a medical team on standby to treat wounded combatants, and a mere drill would stretch credulity. Perhaps they are preparing to remain on the Russian side of the border so as to be in a defensive position against NATO? That too is possible. It is also possible that nothing will happen, but we’ll cross that bridge later.

An important point to address is the subject of annexation in Ukraine, since it is often relitigated. It is frequently pointed out that in 2014 there was a referendum in Crimea in which its people voted to be absorbed into Russia. The problem with this, however, is that before the referendum was held the parliament of Crimea in Simferopol was already seized by pro-Russian gunmen in February 2014, checkpoints in the region had already been seized, and in that month Russia was already sending tanks, personell carriers, and troops into the area. It was strictly after this that the Supreme Council of Crimea held a referendum, the outcome of which was apparently decisive but also disputed. It was claimed that 85% of Crimeans had voted in the referendum, delivering a decisive majority in favour of joining Russia. However, a report that was briefly and accidentally leaked by the Russian government suggests that both the turnout and the people who voted for annexation were considerably less than that; according to that report, only 22.5% of Crimeans actually voted for annexation, and on a turnout of 40% of the Crimean electorate. This would mean that Russian claims that the Crimeans voted in a majority to join Russia are a lie. But even if they were true and a majority did vote to join Russia, the fact that this was done right after parliament and checkpoints had already been captured invites us to consider the outcome as a inspired by coercion; if the Crimeans did vote in a majority, as Russia claimed, they might as well have done so with a gun pointed to their heads. After all, Crimea had practically already been invaded at this point, parliament had already been sieged, so from a certain point of view, what would be the point of resisting what is already fait accompli, especially if a vote to remain in Ukraine might have triggered further violence? If that’s democracy, then democracy is just a joke. In fact, years later, some Crimeans believe there should be a second referendum, and the current president of Ukraine isn’t ruling that out.

At this point let’s just be clear here, based on the facts. What happened in 2014 was an annexation. Before the referendum on Crimea happened, Crimea was invaded. This was an invasion. Russia set out to conquer Crimea, and it did, because it wanted to take Crimea for itself, probably because Crimea was considered to be the “rightful” property of Russia. This is more or less fact, and cannot be disputed. The main people who do try to dispute it are Russia and its allies, so it’s the word of the country that invaded Crimea, and the people who support said country, against everyone else and the facts of the matter, and the line that Crimea is actually “theirs” comes from Russia. What happened in Crimea can’t be treated as anything other than the invasion and capture of Crimea by Russia. Everyone involved knows it, including the Russian government, which is part of why the Russian government and state media has worked to suppress the truth. This is imperialism, of the sort that might be recognized as such if only it were carried out by the West. Since Crimea will come up again as a subject in any discussion of whatever Russia intends to do this year, it’s worth establishing this basic fact as a reason not to trust Russian statements regarding its plans. To do anything else, to not believe your own lying eyes and assert that this was not an invasion, or an annexation, even if said annexation really was “chosen by the people”, is nothing more than political correctness by any and indeed all definitions of the term.

For this and other reasons it is also profoundly unwise to assume that Russia has no expansionist or militarist goals on its own side of Europe. Russia, under the oversight of Putin and previously under the US-backed Boris Yeltsin, bombed and invaded Chechnya several times over two decades, killings tens of thousands in the process, and in 2007 Putin installed Ramzan Kadyrov as the puppet dictator of Chechnya. Incidentally, Ramzan Kadyrov also supported the Russian annexation of Crimea. Returning to the subject of Crimea, there is certainly an expansionist motive with ideological grounds. The Russian government has repeatedly stated that Crimea is rightfully a part of Russia, that annexing it was the correction of a perceived historical injustice, and that Ukraine itself is rightfully a part of Russia. This basic idea is, incidentally, also supported throughout the hard right in Western countries, including Donald Trump, the former President of the United States. Aleksandr Dugin, the ultra-reactionary and arguably fascist advisor to the Russian government, has stated that he does not believe Russia should stop at Crimea, argues that Russian aggression in Ukraine is part of a broader struggle for the “reunification of Slavic peoples”, and that according to him Russia is not to compromise with Western Ukrainians. From the Western standpoint Dugin may appear to be some sort of crank, but the Russian government takes his ideas seriously.

The Russian government has also justified aggression in Ukraine with the argument that Ukraine is a fascist country with a fascist government. There are many leftists who appear to believe this to be the case as well, no doubt guided to this conclusion by the fact that the Ukrainian government drafted the neo-fascist Azov Battalion (which has also received support from the governments of America and Israel) as a mercenary contingent of its armed forces as a bulwark against pro-Russian separatist forces. I could talk about the broader and fairly amoral political and military realities that underpin that from the standpoint of the Ukrainian government, but however logical it might be it’d go nowhere. Instead, however, I think it would be more prudent to point out that not only is the Ukrainian government still basically not unlike many Western governments in ideology, but also that Russia too supports and is supported by fascists. In fact, Aleksandr Dugin is considered to be part of a hardline faction of the Kremlin (referred to as the “war party” by Russian media) which favours full-scale invasion of Ukraine and rejects the Minsk ceasefire. Another fascist in the Russian government is Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who was the deputy chairman of the State Duma and is the leader of the “Liberal Democratic” Party of Russia, and he called for Ukraine to be destroyed and for its territory to be divided between Russia and its neighbours, arguing that the continued existence of a sovereign Ukraine was a “historical error” that is to be “corrected”. Furthermore, the Ukrainian Azov mercenaries are not the only fascists doing the fighting in Ukraine.

There’s also a Russian ultra-nationalist group called the Black Hundreds, named after the old genocidal tsarist movement in Russia which opposed revolution and incited pogroms (and also opposed Ukrainian nationalism while regarding Ukrainians as Russian), which fights Ukrainian forces with the aim of overthrowing its government and then eventually the Russian government. Its members, once among them Anton Rayevsky, wear Nazi imagery as tattoos and describe themselves as fascists, so they could also be described as fascists and arguably neo-Nazis. Its leader, Alexander Shtilmark, certainly is a neo-Nazi. Alexander Zakharchenko, who led the pro-Russian separatist Donetsk People’s Republic until he was killed in a bomb attack in 2018, was an anti-democratic traditionalist anti-semite who referred to Ukrainian politicians as Jews in order to lambast them. The Donetsk separatists also accept fascists from other countries to fight for them, just as the Ukrainian Azov Battalion does. Pavel Gubarev, the former leader of the Donbas People’s Militia was a member of a Russian neo-Nazi group known as National Unity, has apparently still thanked them for influencing him, and was the member of the Progress Socialist Party of Ukraine which is practically a National Bolshevik Party and seems to be aligned with Aleksandr Dugin. National Unity was also involved in trying to stage a referendum outcome in Donetsk. Igor Girkin, the man who helped Russian forces capture the Crimean parliament before the referendum and now poses as an opponent of Putin’s regime, was a fascist admirer of the anti-communist White Army and was a commander for the white supremacist Russian Imperial Movement. The Russian Imperial Movement is a prominent part of the international white supremacist movement as a whole, maintaining contacts with neo-Nazis across the Western world while training Russian white supremacists, and advocates for the restoration of Russian tsarism and the organization of the Russian state along ethno-nationalist lines.

The Luhansk People’s Republic is supported by National Bolshevik militias, including Interbrigades from the Other Russia party as well as the Prizrak Brigade, whose former leader Aleksey Mozgovoy was also a Russian Imperial Movement commander, an anti-semite who believed that Ukraine is ruled by “miserable Jews”, and such an authoritarian extreme misogynist that he would ban women from entering cafes – this was after he ordered the execution of a man suspected of rape. He was incidentally hailed by the Morning Star newspaper as an anti-fascist hero in a now-deleted web article, and after his death anti-semites claimed that he was killed by Jews as some kind of sacrifice. Igor Plotnitski, the leader of the Luhansk People’s Republic, is a viciously reactionary anti-semite who believes the Ukranian government is controlled by Jews and accuses Jewish people of being responsible for the Ukranian Revolution which overthrew Vladmir Yanukovych. Another notorious though now-defunct pro-Russian militia was Rusich, a neo-Nazi organization run by Alexei Milchakov, a sadistic fascist thug who is literally the kind of evil bastard that would kill and torture puppies, and whose followers practiced torture and committed war crimes and ranted about how they believe Hitler didn’t kill enough Jews. A Russian mercenary outfit known as the Wagner Group seem to be neo-Nazis, on top of being known for committing war crimes against and human rights abuses esepcially against Muslims, and was founded by a man named Dmitry Utkin, a Russian former special forces lieutenant who admired Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany to the point of naming his unit after Richard Wagner, who was Hitler’s favorite composer. Into the present day, Milchakov doesn’t seem to regret his time in Luhansk. Russia also enlisted members of far-right and even neo-Nazi parties across Europe to act as election observers during the Crimean referendum, along with even some pro-Russian leftist politicians, and invited members of Jobbik to visit Crimea after its annexation. Jobbik also appparently invoked anti-semitism in its argument for why it decided to abandon its support for the Svoboda party in Ukraine in favour of supporting Russia. And finally, we cannot forget that the main media outlet taking the side of the Russian government on Crimea is a fascist news outlet called Russia Today, which manufactures consent for Russia’s actions in Ukraine through propaganda and censors criticism of Putin’s actions.

If this is what the Russian government, pro-Russian separatists, and Western defenders of Russia consider to be an alliance against fascism, then they mock anti-fascism as a concept. I mean, it’s not like there aren’t Nazis in Ukraine. There definitely are, and in fact Ukraine is still notoriously a place where neo-Nazis can gather, network, receive training from militants and become mercenaries or insurgents, likely aiming to take advantage of the Ukrainian warzone as a place to prove themselves as “Aryan” warriors and perhaps help turn Ukraine into a kind of microcosmic Fourth Reich; not to mention, this is the country home to the infamous Asgardsrei Festival, a neo-Nazi music festival where Nazi bands play and far-right terrorists go and socialize. But even despite that, Russia’s narrative of some sort of anti-fascist conflict in which Russia is merely defending its citizens from an orgy of fascism is rich when we consider that the pro-Russian side of the war in Ukraine is represented by fascist militias that aren’t so different from what the Azov Battalion is, and has fascist ideologues behind it hoping to either conquer or destroy Ukraine. The difference is that the Azov Battalion just happens to be working for the Ukranian government (who, as I understand, they ultimate would like to overthrow), opposes Russian expansion into Ukraine, and happens to be the bigger fish when it comes to neo-fascist militias. But you cannot look at a conflict that consists of Nazis versus Nazis and expect to paint one side as the anti-fascist versus the other. Such an error portrays anti-fascism as meaningless, and that cannot be abided.

In this light, I actually consider Russian arguments that justify military involvement in Ukraine on the grounds of fascism to be virtually identical to the arguments made by Western imperialists, particularly the United States, and right-wing ideologues who argue for the invasion of various countries in the Middle East, such as Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The West argues for military adventurism and imperialism in the Middle East on the grounds of containing the ideology of “radical Islam” and fighting terrorism, even as the United States exports terrorist violence throughout the world in service of the power of the Western bourgeoisie and the capitalist system they rule. In the same sense, it seems to me that if Russia is truly interested in anti-fascist struggle, perhaps Russia should invade itself, since Russia has fascists in its government and is supporting fascist and white supremacist militias on its side of the Ukraine conflict.

Now, I have been very harsh on the Russian side of all this, and frankly I think that’s because Russia deserves such unsparing criticism as this. But all I’ve done so far is to establish reasons to doubt Russia’s claims as to its lack of desire for aggression, and perhaps reasons why future aggression might be credible, though not necessarily certain. It’s difficult from this to conjure proof at this time, and Russia certainly isn’t going to give any proof of its intentions if they mean to invade. And yet, there’s an elephant in the room, by which I course mean the other imperialism at large: Western imperialism.

NATO might well care about Ukraine enough that they seem willing to lend support to the Azov Batallion even despite the fact that they seem to be neo-fascists who wear Nazi insignia, but we can hardly take this as proof that they actually care about Russian authoritarianism in principle, or even any authoritarianism rising in Ukraine for that matter (more on that later). After all, where was NATO when Russia was busy with its brutal suppression of Chechnya? Perhaps Saddam Hussein’s corpse and his phantom weapons of mass destruction were just too pressing a matter for America to busy themselves with the massacres, tortures, and rapes committed in Chechnya, let alone the installment of a clerical fascist puppet. The simple truth is that America operates in a manner not terribly different from Russia, and on a grander scale. America, at least since the end of World War 2, has gone into numerous countries in order to invade them, overthrow their often elected leadership, and manufactured consent for it via propaganda and phony elections. Of course, America doesn’t tend to claim that Grenada, for instance, is rightful American soil, as Russia does for Ukraine or at least Crimea, but America does perform a very similar pattern of imperialism across a broader share of the world, and often with the greater death toll and greater trail of destruction to its name. Not to mention that Russia is still not the only country that can claim aggression against other peoples as an act of assuming its rightful territory. Who can forget the enterprise of Manifest Destiny that came with the birth of the United States as we know it, and who could forget the ongoing occupation of Palestine by Israel (who, I’d like stress again, supports the Azov Battalion).

But this of course leads us to the other main angle repeated in standard arguments about imperialism: that Russia is not intending to invade Ukraine, and that US/NATO aggression is the single cause of escalating tensions. For starters, we don’t actually know that Russia isn’t intending to invade Ukraine, and there are a fair few reasons to assume that in fact they might. Yet, there are reasons to think that perhaps he might relent or that he might not intend to invade Ukraine. Russia might be able to pick off Chechnya and Georgia on their own, but it is doubtful that they could emerge victorious from a confrontation with NATO, and it would be wrong for Western commentators to assume that Putin does not consider that a possibility. A likely defeat is not proof that Russia will not try to invade Ukraine, after all America has become notorious for embarking multiple failed military expeditions in living memory; Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan spring to mind. But I suppose America’s overconfidence and its size might have been a theoretically assuring factor for many. And I suppose that America does not have tons of Russian or Chinese bases surrounding itself, whereas Russia has tons of NATO bases surrounding it.

NATO has played a substantial role in shaping the situation as it exists. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, NATO expanded its sphere of influence over the former Soviet states in Eastern Europe, even after a not necessarily formal agreement to the contrary. But, I would stress that NATO cannot be the sole cause of aggression and escalation in the region, for the simple reason that this requires us to assume that Russia has no motives of its own. Already we can see reasons why it is necessary to doubt that assessment. It also requires omitting the fact that the West are not the only people arming militants in Ukraine. Russia has for years given arms to pro-Russian separatists and supported the “people’s republics” in Donetsk and Luhansk – who, by the way, have had a habit of banning Ukrainian media, kidnapping journalists as well as priests and Jewish citizens, and getting involved in violent insurrections as well as committing war crimes and even employing child soldiers – and in the wake of recent escalations the Russian state may continue arming them. But having said that there is one important factor that puts Russia in common with NATO: imperial grievance. It is often said that NATO and America’s current designs for aggression against Russia can be traced to certain humiliations suffered by the Western sphere of influence. The cataclysmic fall of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the Taliban and the subsequent re-establishment of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan last year is likely what is meant by such humiliation, having cast serious international doubts on the efficacy and moral authority of American hegemony. But this is ultimately a recent humiliation, and from the looks of it America and NATO are not poised into deep decline because of it, at least for now. From the standpoint of Russia, the humiliation of Russia would be deeper and more long-running.

The Soviet Union may not have been the biggest empire in history, but in its time it was certainly one of the largest and most expansive powers in the world, capable of standing toe to toe against America, and so from the Russian standpoint it represented a time in living memory when Russia could exercise a vast sphere of influence in the world and be capable of challenging the West. This is one reason why the memory of at least the idea of the Soviet Union, even if moreso than its reality, is a source of pride for the Russian state, even functioning as a sort of national mythos, which just like any other capitalist state is readily employed so as to mobilize the Russian masses along the lines of national pride, and mobilizing a patriotic mass in support of the government is exactly part of Putin’s goals and agenda. Indeed, Putin himself is no communist, certainly not a socialist, but he too employs the memory of the Soviet Union as national identity via the cult of Josef Stalin, which the Russian government also reinforces by suppressing critics of Stalin’s authoritarianism and human rights record. The collapse of the Soviet Union represented the loss of Russia’s ability to take on the West, and NATO’s expansion into the former Soviet countries represented the loss of Russia’s former sphere of influence, leading thus to the sense of the Soviet Union as a sort of “former glory” for Russia. In this sense, any talk of the West having been “emasculated” as some suggest is easily also applicable to Russia, if not moreso.

It is obvious that Russia has at least some interest in re-establishing a credible sphere of influence in Europe so as to once again challenge the American or NATO sphere of influence. For the Russian ruling class, the benefits include no longer being dependent on raw exports to global markets, and for the Russian state, it means continuing to exercise authority over territories formerly under Soviet control. Chechnya, for example, was a Soviet republic from the 1930s until the Soviet Union’s collapse, and when a Chechen independence movement formed it was opposed by Boris Yeltsin, ironically the same man that America helped get elected as the new “democratic” face of Russia, thus Russia opposed Chechen sovereignty by arguing that Chechnya, and not to mention its oil reserves, were part of Russia, and enforcing that argument through continuous warfare. As it turns out, America is not the only country to wage war for oil. A much more recent event, though, that I think illustrates my point, concerns another former Soviet republic: Kazakhstan. When protest over increased gas prices occurred in Kazakhstan, to which the government responded by cracking down on protesters and shutting down the internet, Putin intervened by deploying Russian paratroopers to protect the government of Kazakhstan and attack protesters. This was done with intention of securing Russian influence in the region; in fact, after the unrest ended, Putin promised the other ex-Soviet states that Russia would protect them as well. This coupled with the history of Russian participation in the suppression of dissent by neighbouring governments such as Belarus shows that Russia wants to demonstrate that it will militarily support its allies, which would allow Russia to cultivate a credible military sphere of influence of its own.

But does this in itself mean that Russia will soon invade Ukraine? There is one other possiblity I may be inclined to entertain: the possibility that nothing will happen and that recent speculation to that effect is all hype. Volodymyr Zelensky seems convinced of this, insisting that the West is trying to incite panic in Ukraine through its talk of Russian invasion, and there are many people in both Russia and Ukraine, particularly the ordinary citizens of those countries, who are not convinced that war is coming and suspect that both Putin and the West are just talking tough because that’s just what leaders do. Even the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres thinks that Russia is not going to invade Ukraine and hopes that the situation in the region will de-escalate; if anything Guterres seems much more concerned about the fate of Afghanistan than the fate of Ukraine.

There are good reasons to believe that perhaps this is the reality of the situation. The US has come alarmingly close to starting a new war under the Trump administration, but the suspense has met no payoff. The Trump administration has bombed Syria twice, despite ostensibly promising a non-interventionist policy in Syria, but this did not lead to a full-scale war in Syria. In the outset of 2020, the Trump administration bombed Iran and killed Qasem Soleimani, leading to rampant speculation about possible war with Iran and some tough talk from Iranian leadership. But months later, after all that, nothing happened and there was no war against Iran. War with Venezuela was also speculated during the Trump administration, but while the US government made attempts to smuggle units and weapons into the country and manufacture a “democratic” coup, nothing happened.

It’s also possible that Putin thinks he may not even need to invade Ukraine, but rather instead use the threat of invasion to exercise soft power over the region. That’s the argument that Loren Thompson gives, anyway. He argues that Putin tends to prefer to challenge NATO and thus appear to be standing up to NATO aggression, but in a way that still means he can take as few risks to Russia as possible. And there are perhaps reasons to believe that this might be true. For one thing, it would serve as a credible alternative explanation for why Russia is stationing troops on the border just outside Ukraine as opposed to inside Ukraine or even spread across the separatist “people’s republics” or in Donbas. It may also make sense of how Russia is keen enough to mobilize in countries like Chechnya or Georgia, but not directly in Ukraine. Ukraine represents the possibility for NATO to sit close to the heart of Russia, and is thus a serious risk for Russia, whereas Chechnya or Georgia do not present that same risk, which may allow Russia relative free reign in terms of the exercise of power. Alternatively, the Ukrainian socialist activist Taras Bilous suggests that a full-on invasion of Ukraine is not likely because it is too expensive and not cost-effective enough for the Russian state, and too unpopular with Russians, and suggests that the real threat from Russia would instead be Russian expansion into Donbas via the territories already controlled by pro-Russian separatists. More recently, the Ukrainian deputy defence minister Hanna Maliar, while still asserting that Ukraine is at risk of a Russian attack, appeared to suggest that perhaps nothing will happen in Ukraine because of the West calling out Russia on the subject via alarmism. Perhaps that is possible, but it does smell an awful lot like a self-fulfilling prophecy.

One thing that could easily be neglected in conversation is that Russia is still a nuclear power. In fact Russia has threatened to deploy nuclear missiles in Europe in response to perceived plans by NATO to do the same. According to the Federation of American Scientists, Russia currently possesses over 6,000 nuclear weapons, which is apparently more nukes than even the United States. None of this has gone unnoticed in media coverage of the current escalations in Ukraine. I trust that it is safe to assume that nobody wants a situation in which organized human life is wiped out by nuclear war, and so I believe it is reasonable to conjecture that perhaps this may motivate the progress of an ultimately diplomatic resolution. At the same time as Boris Johnson is pledging to get the UK militarily involved in Ukraine, he also seems to have agreed to hold diplomatic talks with Putin. Perhaps it’s not impossible that war will in fact be averted.

But, ultimately, at this point in time, everything is a matter of speculation, conjecture, and possibility. There’s no proof as yet that Russia is definitely going to invade Ukraine, and, if there are plans to invade, Russia is certainly not going to tell us anything about it until it’s too late, preferring instead to deflect the conversation towards the West. I consider the following to be possible: (1) Russia is preparing for a planned invasion of Ukraine, (2) Russia is merely using its troops as leverage with which to exercise soft power in Ukraine rather than an invasion, (3) NATO might attempt to attack Russia in order to pre-empt an invasion of Ukraine, though this to me seems unlikely, or (4) nothing will happen and everyone is just talking tough. Of these, although it seems to me that a Russian invasion of Ukraine is distinctly possible, I am also inclined to consider that the possibility that the hype may be for nothing is the strongest hypothesis.

But, with the question of whether or not Russia will invade Ukraine more or less fully explored, we must consider how we want the tensions in Ukraine to end, and what is the best outcome in accordance with anti-imperialist principle. The most obvious anti-imperialist recourse might be that NATO should simply pull out of Ukraine, recede its presence in the former Soviet bloc, and end all aggression against Russia. This is certainly desirable and a part of the classical anti-imperialist expectation as regards the US-NATO alliance. But, there is still a problem. We know that Russia to some extent desires to absorb Ukraine, or parts thereof, into its own territory or sphere of influence. The invasion and subsequent annexation of Crimea is surely proof of this, and the actions of Russia outside of Ukraine show a broader agenda to establish a strong military and political axis. There’s no guarantee that Russia won’t simply absorb Ukraine once NATO pulls back and, short of the collapse of imperialism as a global system, this is going to be a problem that needs a non-military solution.

I cannot stress this enough: in my opinion, for Ukraine to be absorbed into (or perhaps conquered by) Russia would be the worst possible outcome for Ukraine and its people. In saying this I’d like to stress one last time that I do not intend on downplaying or ignoring the problems with Ukraine. I already mentioned that the Azov Battalion is part of the Ukrainian armed forces, to say nothing of the fascists running around in Ukraine while not affiliated with the government, and this poses serious problems. The incorporation of the Azov Battalion along with other reactionary measures comprises what I suspect to be efforts by the Ukrainian government to appease dangerous elements that its leadership knows might threaten to overthrow the government, a possibility surely validated by the overthrow of Viktor Yanukovych during the Ukrainian Revolution in 2014. There is also a concerning degree of authoritarianism in Ukraine, as Zelensky’s government is censoring opposition and members of Right Sector are slowly gaining government positions. But I tell you now, a Ukraine that is absorbed into Russia will be worse than the status quo!

We know already that the self-declared “people’s republics” in Donetsk and Luhansk are drastically more authoritarian and actually dictatorial than the Ukrainian government. Internet shutdowns are a feature of these governments, and so is the abduction and torture of journalists, threats against schools who refused to host polling stations for the militias, and beatings and tortures for anyone in these republics who dared to question pro-Russian talking points. We know that the separatist militias who establish these republics tend to commit gruesome war crimes against their enemies. We know that Crimea, under the rule of Russian authorities, has repressed and tortured leftists, including Marxists and anarchists, and justified these actions by claiming that they were “extremists”. This alone should already demonstrate the true nature of Russia’s false concern for fascism in Ukraine, and perhaps serve as a preview of the nature of Russian domination in the rest of Ukraine. Although communist symbols are banned in Ukraine, I think it’s fair to say leftists aren’t rounded up and tortured or executed by the Ukrainian government. Not limiting my analysis to Ukraine, we know that Chechnya, under the rule of Ramzan Kadyrov, sees political opponents get assassinated and gay people get rounded up and killed. If Ukraine is allowed to be absorbed by Russia, or established as a puppet state similar to Chechnya, then Ukraine will not be free of tyranny and fascism, and instead these will dominate and magnify in Ukraine under the thumb of Russian rule. I would expect that Ukrainians would no longer be able to vote for their leadership once subject to Russian rule, and the cruel repressions seen in Chechnya, Kazakhstan, and the “people’s republics” may be facts of life there. For those who are interested in peace and freedom just about anywhere, that cannot be allowed. Thus it is perhaps not for no reason that perhaps some Ukranians are prepared to take up arms against Russia.

If this is to be avoided without violence then the only way forward is for tensions to be alleviated or dispelled through diplomacy cultimating in a mutual non-agression pact. Necessary terms would include the disarming of pro-Russian separatist groups in Ukraine, a halt to Russian aggression in Ukraine, and guarantees that Russia not interfere with Ukranian sovereignty. Such terms would also ideally the restoration of Crimea to Ukraine, but I expect that Russia would never agree to it even in exchange for NATO withdrawing bases from Eastern Europe. I’m told that this is essentially what the Minsk agreement, as was being brokered by France and Germany, is supposed to be. A problem is that previous peace deals brokered over the war in Donbas had failed to stop fighting in the region and collapsed after two attempts. The point being, though, guarantees for the sovereignty of Ukraine have to be established between the West, Russia, and Ukraine as part of a peace process, and if it means NATO has to recede its bases in order for Russia to uphold said guarantees, all the better. But this is something that will have to be committed. Apathy can’t really be accepted in this situation. If Western countries recede and Ukraine doesn’t get those guarantees in place, then maybe it could be argued that Western imperialism has been thwarted in Ukraine, but this would happen only at the cost of Russian imperialism prevailing instead, with Russia using the opportunity to at least eventually take over Ukraine. Only a binding non-agression and non-interference agreement, made between all involved parties, can prevent a situation in which war is rendered inevitable. If this is not acheived, then there’s no telling what will happen with Ukraine. Ukraine will certainly seem forced to fight to prevent being absorbed into Russia, and maybe, with the help of European allies, they stand a chance of winning. But if Russia were to somehow succeed in invading Ukraine, then even if Russia fails to capture Kyiv, it would mean swathes of Ukrainian territory may fall into Russian hands and end up like Crimea.

To be anti-imperialist is to recognize imperialism as a global system. There is not simply the US-NATO alliance versus an axis of “anti-imperialist nations”. Imperialism is something that is participated across the world by developed capitalist hegemons and a competition of nation states that participate in a might makes right contest for dominance, political influence, and control over or access to global markets and resources. In understanding this, it makes no sense to take the side of Russia simply because it opposes the US-NATO alliance. Rather, if imperialism is a global system, then it can only be opposed as a global system, and anti-imperialism thus means opposing and seeking to dismantle the global mechanism of imperialism. The absorption of Ukraine into Russia simply means the victory of one imperialism against another, in addition to the triumph of murderous Russian fascism.

But, all that said, short of the dismantling of global imperialism, pretty much all we can do at this point is hope that talks between Russia, Ukraine, and the West don’t completely collapse and result in more imperialist war. And in the mean time, our solidarity is to be reserved neither for the Russian autocracy and its fascist-imperialist appendages nor for the Western imperialism of the US-NATO alliance, but instead for the Ukrainian socialist movements who oppose imperialism from both Russia and the West, for the people of Crimea whose land was stolen from them by Russia, for the people living in fear and oppression under the “people’s republics” in Donbas, and, of course, for the whole working class of both Ukraine and Russia, neither of whom benefit from the imperialist war in Ukraine.

Pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk; image from Vox

What I don’t understand about the way Joe Rogan fans interpret freedom of association

I don’t really care about the brew-ha-ha surrounding Neil Young’s decision to take all his songs of off Spotify. It’s his decision, plus I’m not a big fan of either Neil Young or Joe Rogan. What brothers me, though, is the way some people talk about it like Neil Young has morphed into some kind of authoritarian ideologue for…voluntarily deciding that he doesn’t want to share a platform with someone he disagrees with and hence requesting that his songs be removed from there.

Understanding this requires only a very basic examination of the concept of freedom of association. Freedom of association means that an individual has the right to voluntarily join or leave a group of their choice, that a collective entity has the right organize on behalf of its members, and that groups can accept or decline membership based on what criteria they decide. Based on that rather basic overview, there’s really nothing Neil Young did that goes outside of that concept. All he did was decide that Joe Rogan’s talking points about vaccines (which often objectively constitute misinformation) meant that he couldn’t share a platform with Joe Rogan, and requested that Spotify remove his songs, which they did.

Whether we agree with that decision or not, and personally I don’t really care what he does with his music, all this amounts to is Joe Rogan exercising his freedom of association. But apparently, exercising your right to freedom of association is not only worthy of mockery, for some it actually represents a form of censorship and authoritarianism. I can’t stress enough how backwards you have to get these concepts in order to arrive at that conclusion. True, Neil Young did ask for Spotify to remove The Joe Rogan Experience podcast from their platform on the grounds of Covid-19 misinformation, but when Spotify refused, he merely chose to leave the platform rather than call upon “big government” to censor the podcast, and from there Spotify took no action that was not in accord with the voluntary request of Neil Young. Perhaps if they decide to remove The Joe Rogan Experience as a response to some public outcry, then maybe we could theoretically talk about censorship, and even then you could also argue about freedom of association, since that also mean people or groups being free to decide who gets to use their platform based on their own criteria. The so-called “free speech alternatives” are if anything often more restrictive than mainstream social media. Gab can actually censor you if you post certain memes or porn, and even Trump’s new social media project bans speech that is deemed “hateful”. But every time I see that stuff, the people on those sites justify it. So whose freedom of association is valid and whose isn’t?

You know, everyone likes to quote George Orwell. Yes, even Marxists do it. Anyone who is even remotely familiar with his famous novel 1984 should recognise the concept of doublethink, usually defined as the practice of accepting two mutually contradicting beliefs and ideas as simultaneously true. In 1984, this happens as a result of indoctrination. But in the real world, people train themselves into it all the time, and Joe Rogan’s defenders demonstrate this process themselves. The usual example of doublethink given for the novel is that classic slogan, “War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength”. But in the case of the Joe Rogan squad, freedom of association is oppression and voluntary acts unto yourself are compulsion of others.

There really isn’t much more to say here and it really is a non-issue, an inflated controversy, so let’s just leave that there.

Boris Johnson is not a libertarian

All too often in mainstream British political discourse surrounding government policy as regards the still-ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson as well as the broader Conservative Party are pursuing a “libertarian” approach to Covid-19 policy. This description is, of course, a fatuous reference to the fact that Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party have been deliberately trying to avoid an increase in regulations and restrictions as the Omicron variant of Covid-19 continues to spread through England, thus seemingly taking a laissez-faire attitude to the issue, and derives from Boris Johnson’s own apparent self-description as a “libertarian”. But what is the truth of this “libertarianism”?

I must admit that a few years ago, for some time, I had been unduly skeptical of Jeremy Corbyn on libertarian grounds, but his recent opposition to Covid passports and mandatory vaccines (for NHS workers, at least), in spite of other trends in the Labour Party and the “centre-left” has had me off guard, and gotten me curious. On December 14th 2021, Jeremy Corbyn along with several other left-wing Labour MPs, including Diane Abbott and Zarah Sultana, voted against a series of measures that including Covid passports and mandatory vaccines for NHS workers, joined by a 100-strong contingent of Conservative rebels who opposed the government on these same measures. At first I did not know Corbyn’s argument, and this made me want to hear it, but recently a Double Down News video featuring Corbyn has proven to be rather clarifying on the subject.

Corbyn’s argument is that instituting a policy of requiring Covid passports would lead to a situation in which there would be a massive databank of citizens that can be held by the state for its own purposes against their privacy and civil liberties, and his argument against requiring NHS workers to be vaccinated is that this would potentially mean losing vital staff at a time when the NHS needs all hands available to manage hospitalization of people infected with Covid-19. I must say, it’s hard to oppose this line of argument, and I find myself agreeing with it, in parts cautiously and in parts enthusiastically. And once we start from this argument, or rather the observations it speaks to, the narrative of Boris Johnson’s “libertarianism” unravels into abject falsity.

For all the predictable bromides concerning the tradition of “English liberty”, the British government has fared little better than the rest of the world in its march towards the enactment of a long-term state of exception. After sitting on its hands and waiting for Covid-19 to spread across the UK and kill hundreds of people, the government mandated a protracted lockdown over a months-long period before the summer season, the exact length depending on which part of the UK you lived in. In England, particularly, things had become so draconian that there were even reports that casual sex had been banned (outside your own home, of course). And then, in 2021, peaceful protests and vigils against police violence in the wake of the rape and murder of Sarah Everard were met with violent suppression by the police and an effort by the Conservative government to impose new restrictions against the right to protest, and thereby the basic rights to freedom of speech, expression, and assembly. So much for this “English liberty” we were all told about.

In this light, Boris Johnson can’t possibly be taken as a “libertarian” with any grain of seriousness. But then how do we make sense of his ostensibly laissez-faire approach to the pandemic as of late. Well there are a number of ways. I suspect one viable explanation is that he can’t possibly maintain a position in which to impose further restriction after he himself violated the very restrictions he imposed upon everyone else. But I have another theory. Remember that, as Covid-19 was spreading across Europe and the UK had its first confirmed cases, the government waited until the middle of March to enact any serious policies to combat, or more accurately control, the spread of Covid-19. It was in the vacuum of apparent inaction and mounting viral transmission that a repressive state of exception soon followed. My suspicion hence is that the government had deliberately arranged our extant circumstances so as to allow for the necessity of a state of exception, most likely as part of a strategy to bide time and preserve the order of uninterrupted exchange of capital and goods while the government cooked a set of restrictions to stall the virus and compensate the rich.

This understanding also applies to the proposal to require NHS workers to be vaccinated. In theory it should make sense, but in practice the logical outcome of this means that any NHS workers who, for whatever reason, have not been vaccinated will lose their jobs. The problem here is obvious: that potentially means less staff for the NHS, which means less people to perform the various functions of the NHS which it needs especially in order to manage the negative cascading effects of a pandemic. There is already a staff shortage in the NHS as it is, with thousands of workers absent because of Covid, and this has led to critical incidents in British hospitals, disruptions of vital medical functions including unloading ambulances, military personnel being deployed to plug the gaps, and a general demoralisation among remaining NHS staff. With this in mind, legally requiring NHS staff to be vaccinated in order to continue their duties could deepen the pressures facing the NHS by leading to further shortages, creating gaps that are then harder to fill, leading to a general crisis for the NHS. This, in my opinion, constitutes a direct attack on the NHS, one befitting a government that had already take many millions of pounds of money out of the NHS and continued a regime of privatisation that has been active since before Boris Johnson became Prime Minister. Incidentally, it should be stressed that privatisation has, in the years prior to the global pandemic, been pursued not only by the British government but also the government of Italy, thus eventually weakening the ability of public health services to effectively combat the pandemic.

Thus it is empirically clear what the Conservative government is doing. Far from pursuing a “libertarian” approach to the pandemic, the government is attempting to establish a biopolitically-controlled carceral state, whose order over the masses is based on a broad restriction of freedom that is itself sustained by a constant state of crisis management. This crisis management, of course, pertains to a continuous emergence, recession, and then resurgence of Covid-19, which, while obviously not created itself by the government, is facilitated by the government in that it conditions its ability to cyclically re-establish itself. There have been many voices in the political and scientific establishment

The UK is not the only country in the world where Covid-19 regulations, under the purview of certain authoritarian governments, have served as a pretext to expand the dictatorial powers of the state. In Greece, Covid-19 restrictions were invoked as a pretext for allowing the Greek police to violently suppress protests against the government and censure members of the Greek parliament. In Austria, there is already a raft of draconian restrictions being implemented, including vaccine mandate enforced by fines and police checks, and has enacted a lockdown and curfews specifically for unvaccinated citizens. In France, President Emmanuel Macron has vowed to curtail several freedoms for the 5 million French citizens who have not yet been vaccinated; although he doesn’t plan to vaccinate everyone by force, he does plan to ban unvaccinated citizens from going to restaurants, cafes, cinemas, theatres, and many other public venues. In the United States of America, President Joe Biden tried to implement a policy of mandatory vaccination for employees, but it was blocked by the Supreme Court. And this is to say nothing of the way China has handled the pandemic since it was still largely confined to Wuhan.

My point is that all over the world one of the main cascading effects of Covid-19 has been a raft of states of exception, countries ratcheting the expansion of authoritarian state power by using the continued presence and resurgence of Covid-19 to exercise greater authority over the citizens, and Jeremy Corbyn is right to talk about this happening, he is right to be concerned about how all of this is going to lead up to a future of police states down the line, and he is right about how none of this requries you to be an anti-vax nutjob who thinks that mass vaccination itself is just a control mechanism. If we are at all concerned about civil liberties, we would be fools to ignore Corbyn’s argument. And we should also recognize the Conservative government under Boris Johnson for what it is: an increasingly authoritarian state of exception, which should be dismantled like any other tyranny.

Now, since there’s rumours of Jeremy Corbyn starting a new Peace and Justice Party, even if it’s not going to happen, Corbyn’s talk about civil liberties honestly has me hoping that maybe his new party might be worth supporting. I mean, ultimately no party is going to deliver any country from capitalism in the long-term, and the track record for so-called communist parties is not particularly good, and I would espouse a form of anti-capitalist libertarian communist form of self-reliance that holds that even Corbyn is not the salvation people think he is, but having said all of that, if Corbyn’s Peace and Justice movement has any more of the civil liberties concerns that Corbyn seems to be expressing, then I just might be willing to support it, solely on the grounds that it might be the only chance within the British electoral system of seeing an actual civil-libertarian movement in mainstream British politics. Of course, the only problem with this is that it doesn’t matter if (1) the party never makes any siginificant victories and (2) the British union is destroyed from within as a result of Scottish and Welsh secession which I sincerely hope happens. Seriously, in all honesty, the fragmentation of the United Kingdom into small but independent nations is the one thing that might make Brexit worth it in the end, and the main reason that I don’t actually hold out hope for Labour undoing Brexit, and it’s for this reason that I personally would vote for Plaid Cymru in any Welsh elections, despite the fact that I don’t consider them to be all that left-wing, solely for the possibility of bringing about Welsh independence.

But, if Peace and Justice were to come along as an actual, then despite everything I might be inclined to support them against the Conservatives and against the Labour Party. Because let’s face it, the Conservatives are not the only carceral force in British politics, and the Labour Party has no interest in civil-libertarianism and ultimately no desire to resist the post-pandemic trend towards states of exception, rather they merely want their own, more “competent”, more “forensic”, quasi-social-democratic carceral state.

An anti-government protester photographed in London; image from South China Morning Post

Nazism is not, and never was, Pagan

You are all probably all too familiar with the creeping presence of esoteric fascism and folkism within alternative religious communities and subcultures, and how frequently this is used by outsiders to attack our validity. You probably also have some idea about the problem of NSBM in the black metal scene, and if you’ve been reading this blog lately it’s a problem I’ve been giving a lot of focus to in recent years. Our communities have a great need to fight this problem, and to do so, we must challenge a very pernicious myth about the Nazis: namely, the myth that the Nazis were anti-Christian Pagans. It seems to me that this myth is at the root of the phenomenon of certain esoteric Nazi or fascist enterprises as well as the spread of neo-Nazi folkist Paganism and the idea of NSBM. To give an example of what I mean, remember that there are Nazi black metal musicians, such as Anthony Mignoni from the band Seigneur Voland, who praised Adolf Hitler for his supposed “will to found a neo-pagan empire in Europe”. And do I really have to say anything about Varg Vikernes alone? What I’m trying to say is that a lot of all this comes from a residual mythology that casts the Nazis as Pagans looking to overturn the Christian world order, and this mythology serves as a way for Nazis to try and exploit certain themes within Paganism, occultism, and the Left Hand Path for their own purposes. But, as you will see, the whole idea that the Nazis were esoteric Pagans is a lie.

If there is one thing that I think dispels the idea of Nazism being Pagan more than anything else, it would probably be the opinion of none other than Adolf Hitler on the subject of Pagan revivals. It is popularly claimed that Hitler extolled the value of Christianity in public, while also denouncing Christianity as a religion based on weakness even as he praised Jesus as some sort of honorary Aryan, and that the Nazis were some sort of almost uniquely anti-Christian powerhouse (I say “almost uniquely”, given that the other 20th century anti-Christian powerhouse commonly referred to is the Soviet Union). The presence of volkisch ideology and the pretences to Germanic paganism within the Third Reich, combined with Hitler’s supposed disdain for both Christianity and atheism, has led some to believe that he was some sort of avatar for the revival of Paganism, as has been the contention of Christian intellectuals and commentators. Carl Jung’s essay on “Wotan” as an archetype of wild ethno-nationalist frenzy and irrationalism has been influential in generating a supposed link between Germanic neopaganism and Nazism, and meanwhile a whole generation of pretentious Christian intellectuals have further poisoned the well with their own nonsensical pronouncements on the subject. But what did Hitler actually think of Paganism of any sort, and what was the actual religious alignment of Nazism as a whole?

In his Table Talks, Hitler described the re-establishment of the worship of pre-Christian Germanic deities as “foolish” and said that the old pre-Christian mythology “ceased to be viable when Christianity implanted itself”. In other words, Hitler considered Christianity to be superior to Paganism, which is on its own all the confirmation you need at least that Hitler wasn’t a Pagan. But, there’s more. In Hitler: Memoirs of a Confident, which was published by Otto Wagener in 1985, Wagener recounted that Hans Schemm, an esteemed Nazi educator and Gauleiter (regional leader), expressed his frustration at people who espoused “a lot of nonsense talked about blond men, about the Nordic race, about the cult of Wotan and the spirit of the Edda”, likely referring to certain neopagan elements of the Nazis, accused them of creating inferiority complexes and inspiring hatred among non-blond Germans and from there promoting division between Germanic and non-Germanic peoples (the irony of this coming from a Nazi officer has to have been lost on both Schemm and Hitler). Hitler interrupted by saying that he expressly and repeatedly forbade expressions of neopaganism within the NSDAP, mocking what he dubbed “All that rubbish about the Thing places, the solstice festivals, the Midgard snake, and all the rest of the rubbish they dredge up from the German prehistory!”. After this, Schemm further denounced the “solstice festivals” he heard about as being propagandistic rather than atavistic and jeopardizing the “Volk community”, Hitler then agreed and asserted that “We Germans in particular must avoid anything that works to create even more divisiveness”. Wagener recounted that he feared that the “Old Germanic Festivals” were increasingly reshaping the mission of the Hitler Youth somehow. Hitler apparently also stated that he had no issue with Christmas, instead objecting to the association of Christmas with pre-Christian nature worship, and asserted that he did not want to rob the Christian church of its holy day, though he then ultimately told his advisors not to worry about the festivals, claiming that he thought that whatever brought the Hilter Youth closer to “the godhead” was good and that whatever separated them from it, “even if it was a Catholic priest”, was bad.

Keep in mind that Schemm was very much a Christian, and in fact his notable slogan was “Our religion is Christ, our politics Fatherland!”, clearly suggesting his belief that Nazism was a Christian ideology. If Hitler and the NSDAP were such militant neopagans that would exclude or even liquidate Christianity from their Third Reich, Hans Schemm would probably not have the official status he did within the NSDAP. Instead, in reality, the Nazis honored Schemm after his death in 1935 by naming entire schools and streets after him, and he was evidently important enough for the Nazis that Hitler personally ordered a surgeon to fly to Bayreuth in an attempt to save him from the injuries that Schemm received in the plane crash that killed him. As it turns out, for a supposed anti-Christian, Hitler seemed to value certain Christian officers while ridiculing his more “neopagan” subordinates.

The Nazis are fairly notorious for their seeming and widely mythologized interest in the occult, even despite the fact that the Nazis, when they entered power, criminalized even volkisch mystic organizations. The reputation of the Nazis as occult obsessives can be traced in large part to Heinrich Himmler, the Waffen SS commander who was known for an interest in esotericism and self-declared non-Christian status. Himmler, however, was not much of a Pagan, if it could even be said that he was a Pagan at all. He had an interest in incorporating solstice celebrations into the SS, but this same SS was modelled on the Society of Jesus, otherwise known as the Jesuits, which tells me that he was simply layering ostensible Pagan custom onto what was ultimately an organization inspired by Christianity. Apparently he sought to challenge the customs of Christianity on the grounds of his own synthetic occult belief system, but there is no evidence that he ever worshipped any pre-Christian gods or that he was a polytheist, animist, nature-worshipper, or anything usually defined as part of the spectrum of Pagan religiosity. Himmler was quite explicit in saying that being in the SS means to believe in “a God Almighty who stands above us” and accepting the doctrine that God created the earth, the “Fatherland”, and its “volk”, and that he sent Adolf Hitler to earth, and further insisted that anyone who did not believe in God was unsuitable for SS membership and should be considered “arrogant, megalomaniacal, and stupid”, all of which is more consistent with a very volkisch interpretation of Christianity than any concept of Paganism. Himmler may have formally left Christianity or at least the Christian church, but he still believed in some religious premises that were rather close to Christian doctrine. If we are to take his apparent non-Christian status seriously, you could say he ascribed to a kind of Latent Christianity.

Some within the SS seem to have sought after the existence of a “true Christianity”, which they believed to have originated in Atlantis, which they believe was inhabited by “Aryans” who practiced monotheism. Himmler is also known for establishing the Ahnenerbe, a branch of the SS dedicated to exploring parts of the world in search of esoteric secrets that would “prove” the superiority and lineage of the “Aryan race”. But Hitler himself had no interest in these expeditions, and if anything he mocked them, lamenting that under Himmler’s watch “we might as well have just stayed in the Church”. In fact, for a German volkisch nationalist, Hitler really didn’t seem to appreciate Germany’s past. He denounced ancient Germans for “living in mud huts” while their Roman counterparts were “erecting great buildings”, and derided Himmler for apparently digging up ancient Germanic villages to reveal a past that Hitler considered embarrassing because he considered it inferior to Greece and Rome, who he thought had “already reached the highest stage of culture”.

Furthermore, the supposedly “Pagan” National Socialists declared from the beginning that they saw themselves as a Christian movement and not a Pagan one. In the NSDAP Party Program of 1920, the Nazis emphatically stated in Point 24 that their party represented “positive Christianity”, while of course claiming to demand freedom for all religious confessions; at least, so long as they “do not endanger its [the state’s] existence of conflict with the customs and moral sentiments of the Germanic race”. The Nazis chose “positive Christianity”, effectively a volkisch interpretation of Christianity, as a representative of the “customs and moral sentiments of the Germanic race” (Germans at that time consisted mostly of Christians), and as a vehicle through which to oppose “Jewish materialism”. “Positive Christianity” can be thought of as a highly revisionist form of Christianity (which, don’t get confused, is still a form of Christianity; we’re not doing the “No True Christians” fallacy here) meant to present a “true” or more authentically “Aryan” form of Christianity. This meant removing any trace of Jewish influence, including much of the Old Testament, from Christianity, recasting Jesus Christ as an “Aryan” warrior instead of King of the Jews, and reframing the Christian conception of the struggle of Good versus Evil as a struggle being “Aryan” light and “Semitic” darkness, thus pitting Germans and Jews against each other in a racialist holy war. Many Christians in Germany, far from being repelled by Nazism, actually embraced Nazism and its “Positive Christianity” as an affirmation of Christian values against secular uncertainty, and although some churches opposed Nazism (these were grouped together as the “Confessing Church”) and faced persecution because of it, many other churches, clergymen, and ordinary Christians remained complicit with the Nazi regime, and after the fall of Nazi Germany, Christianity in Germany struggled with the silence they demonstrated during this period.

Several Nazis held to the idea of “Positive Christianity” in some form. Artur Dinter, the Gauleiter of Gau Thuringia, formed a religious organization called the “Spiritual Christian Religion Community” (later renamed the “German People’s Church”) in 1927, which sought to divest Christianity of its Jewish influences and establish National Socialism as an expressly religious movement dedicated to Christianity. Dinter and Hilter did oppose each other, but this is because Dinter’s goals conflicted with Hitler’s own plans to present the NSDAP as neutral on religion. Dinter did not believe that Jesus was a mere political centerfold, rather he indeed believed in the doctrine of Jesus as the only incarnated spirit who never “misused his free will to sin”. He also opposed the Old Testament because it was “too materialistic”, and believed that its expurgation would reveal the “true” teachings of Jesus. Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi arch-propagandist, was also a religious Christian. Goebbels believed that the idealized “struggle” against Jews upheld by Nazism was also a struggle between God and the Devil, he considered God to be on the side of Adolf Hitler, he believed that God was absolute and that nothing existed outside of God, he loved the New Testament and read the Sermon of the Mount every evening, and he even believed himself to have conversed with Jesus Christ. True, he did have anti-clericalist tendencies, but this is only to the extent that he thought Christianity was in need of renewal and that its churches and “false priests” have failed. Dietrich Klagges, a prominent Nazi educator and friend of Goebbels, emphasized the divinity of Jesus and wrote a whole book expounding what he believed to be the meaning of the Gospel. Walter Buch, one of the most powerful officials in the Nazi Party, likened the aims of Nazism to the struggle of Jesus, and upheld Point 24 of the 1920 NSDAP Party Program as “the cornerstone of our thinking”, thus he seemed to affirm Positive Christianity as the core religious ideology of Nazism.

Adolf Hitler himself can ultimately be characterized as a volkisch Christian, despite all common assertion to the contrary. For one thing, Hitler believed in Jesus Christ, just that he believed Jesus was an “Aryan” instead of Jewish. Indeed, Hitler proclaimed Jesus to be “the true God” and “our greatest Aryan leader”, and declared that the “true message of Christianity” could only be found in Nazism. For another thing, Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf that it was the duty of the “folkish-minded man” to fulfill “God’s will” and not let it be desecrated, on the grounds that it “gave men their form, their essence and their abilities”, and he proclaimed that anyone who “destroys His work” is “declaring war” on God’s will and creation. Hitler also referenced the myth of the Garden of Eden by stating that “Whoever would dare to raise a profane hand against that highest image of God among His creatures would sin against the bountiful Creator of this marvel and would collaborate in the expulsion from Paradise”. He believed that Jews were “alien” to “true Christianity” because of their supposed materialism, and considered violence against Jewish people to be “fighting for the work of the Lord”. In 1919, Hitler wrote an unpublished tract in which he advocated for the “purification of the Bible”, that is to say the expunging of the Old Testament from the Bible, which was not only a cornerstone of revisionist Nazi Christianity but also an idea held by nationalist and volkisch Protestant theologians such as Adolf van Harnack before the NSDAP was even born.

Thus, Hitler, like many of the rest of his Nazi compatriots, was a volkisch Christian, one who believed in a “true” Christianity that he thought was obfuscated by the Old Testament, and thus wanted to get rid of everything about Christianity that he thought was too Jewish to represent the teachings of Jesus. And let’s make no bones about it, it’s an absurdly revisionist take on Christianity, it almost certainly seems heretical when put next to the more mainstream forms of Christianity, and its premises stem less from scripture and more from the racist volkisch mysticism that sprung up in Germany in the 19th and early 20th century, but it was nonetheless a form of Christianity, and particularly a representation of volkisch, nationalist Protestanism. It has often been claimed that Hitler was an atheist, but this is without basis as has already been discussed. He may certainly have thought of himself as anti-mystical and anti-clericalist, but when you consider that he believed himself to be an exponent of “true Christianity”, that is to say an “authentic” and “Aryan” Christianity not represented by the churches, then his opposition to the Church could be seen to have more or less the same basis as Goebbels’ Christian anti-clericalism. Hitler hated the Catholic Church, for instance, because of what he believed to be its “elaborate Jewish rites”, suggesting his belief that Roman Catholicism was a Jewish revision of Christianity.

There’s nothing about any of this that could be classed as “Pagan” except from the standpoint of Christians who will deem anything they don’t like to be “Pagan”, and none of it is without precedent in Christianity. For starters, the idea of Roman Catholicism as a “Jewish” religion is lifted straight from Houston Stewart Chamberlain, who claimed that the Roman Catholic Church preached a “Judaized” form of Christianity that had no resemblance to the supposed “true Christianity”, which he believed was established by an “Aryan” Jesus Christ, and that the Catholic Church did this as part of a conspiracy to destroy the “Aryan race”. Hardly a Pagan thing to long for the re-establishment of “True Christianity”. There’s also a very ancient precedent that to the Nazi enterprise of “de-Judaizing” Christianity in Marcion, a Christian who argued that the God of the Old Testament was actually an evil and false deity whose punitive nature stood opposed to the “true” God of the New Testament who represented love. And of course, it is impossible to overlook the influence of Martin Luther, the anti-semitic father of the Protestant Reformation, in shaping Nazi ideology. In fact, the Nazis themselves took Luther’s infamous tract On The Jews And Their Lies and displayed it prominently wherever they could, and repeatedly expressed their affinity for Luther’s anti-semitism, even comparing Hitler himself to Luther and hoping to “witness his [Luther’s] reappearance”. So what we get in terms of the religious underpinnings of Nazism is, in all reality, a form of Protestant Christianity that carries on the basic premise of Marcionite Christianity while recodyifing that in terms of struggle between two races as opposed to dualism between two versions of God, and all filtered through the revisionist volkisch ideology that was contemporary to the Nazi movement.

There’s also the matter of Hitler’s beliefs concerning the afterlife. Hitler apparently rejected Hell, denounced it as a barbaric doctrine, and instead subscribed to an annihilationist perspective in which those who would be damned to Hell would instead simply fade into oblivion. But this annihilationism is not some “Pagan” idea, and in fact it is a development of Christian theology whose supporters base their claims on Biblical scripture, and it is not without supporters among modern Christians. Moreover, annihilationism itself seems to go all the way back to early church fathers such as Tertullian. Meanwhile, Hitler does appear to have believed in some concept of Heaven, and at least nowhere in Mein Kampf or anywhere else do we see any sign of Hitler rejecting the idea of a heavenly afterlife. There also doesn’t seem to be any major evidence that Hitler rejected the belief in an immortal soul, despite what certain historians appear to have thought.

It is popularly assumed that Hitler actually hated Christianity behind closed doors, and that he wanted people to choose between being German and being Christian on the grounds that he supposedly thought they could not be both. The problem with this should be obvious. If Hitler seriously thought that you had to choose between being German and being Christian, while favouring the former over the latter, he would have at least required members of his Nazi Party to renounce Christianity before becoming members. But this is clearly not the case, as many Nazi officers, including the most powerful, were expressly religious (albeit volkisch) Christians. Moreover, Hitler would have to have required all of Germany’s Christian population to renounce Christianity in order to prove their loyalty to the German state. But this doesn’t seem to have happened either. And Hitler, as the one man who had the absolute power override all decisions and impose his own without objection, could conceivably have turned Germany into either a volkisch neopagan state or a state atheist regime (like the Soviet Union and other Marxist-Leninist countries) through sheer imposition of his dictatorial will via the Fuhrerprinzip alone. But the only Christian churches Hitler persecuted were those who publicly criticized Hitler and refused to comply with the Nazi state. Every other chruch was allowed to exist through their complicity with the Nazi state, and the majority of Nazi German citizens were some form of Christian, suggesting that the Nazi state did not seek to eradicate Christianity and replace it with some form of “Paganism”, since otherwise the Nazis would have just ordered the mass deconversion of Germany’s Christian population. The one source for the claim that Hitler was privately anti-Christian is Hitler Speaks by Hermann Rauschning, which is considered dubious scholarship and even outright fraudulent, and its author, while claiming to have had several meetings and coversations with Hitler, was only ever a Nazi Party member for two years (from 1932 to 1934) and his sole importance to the party was as administrator of the Free City of Danzig. Being a conservative reactionary, Rauschning’s primary objection to Nazism was that he believed it was a “nihilist” and anti-Christian revolution that supposedly destroyed all traditions and ceased to be nationalist, and argued for the restoration of the German monarchy as the sole alternative to Nazism.

But in any case, Hitler Speaks is not considered to be an accurate account of Hitler’s views and words. Rauschning also seems to be cited in arguments that Hitler was possessed by demons and that this explained his evil actions, so….make of that what you will! And so, it is best to reject the claim that Hitler privately hated Christianity as a concoction of Christian conservatives seeking to assert the moral inscrutability of Christianity. Furthermore, Hitler expressly denounced any enterprises that harkened back to Germany’s pre-Christian past in Mein Kampf, where he described neopagans as “the greatest cowards that can be imagined”, mocked any ideas of “old Germanic heroism” as well the “dim pre-history” of the Germanic peoples, and accused neopagans of running away from “every Communist blackjack” while preaching struggle at the same time. So Hitler was pro-Christian, albeit in a very revisionist way, and anti-Pagan.

There is one important detail we should note, however. Hitler seems to have insisted that the Nazi Party, as a political apparatus, should not specifically be a formal religious movement, This meant Hitler sometimes conflicted even with devout Christians in his movement, such as Artur Dinter, since they wanted the Party to be a more avowedly religious movement. It is easy to come away thinking that Hitler meant his movement to be an entirely secular one because of this, but since the NSDAP Party Program explicitly stated a commitment to “Positive Christianity”, this is likely not the case. And besides, the Republican Party in the United States of America is not, in the strict sense, a religious movement in the sense that Artur Dinter would have wanted the NSDAP to be, yet it clearly operates along the lines of religious politics, in that it premises its political ideology on the perceived rightful governance of America by a Christian moral order. In fact, the whole concept of opposing certain churches because of their “foreign” character is not unfamiliar to right-wing opposition to certain sects or religions on the grounds of their “foreign” nature in the present as is found in modern Christian nationalist movements.

The supposedly “Pagan” Nazi Germany also seems to have venerated the Christian Frankish king Charlemagne, who destroyed the sacred Irminsul and massacred thousands of Saxons in Verden as part of his campaign to make the Saxons convert to Christianity. Curiously enough, there has been division about Charlemagne within the pre-Nazi volkisch movement and even among Nazis, but Charlemagne was celebrated by the Nazi German state in the form of a huge commemoration event in 1942 to mark the 1,200th anniversary of the birth of Charlemagne. There was also a whole unit of the SS that was named after Charlemagne to honour him as a “pan-European Germanic hero”. Alfred Rosenberg opposed the veneration of Charlemange, and argued that his Saxon enemy Widukind should be honored instead of Charlemagne, but he was privately told by Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels to cease his public condemnations of Charlemagne, suggesting that the Nazi leadership favored the Christian king. Of course, from Goebbels’ standpoint, it was all to remain in alignment with popular opinion, which of course favored Charlemagne. This isn’t a surprise when you understand that the majority of the population of Nazi Germany self-identified as Christians, and particularly favoured Protestant Christianity. There’s no record of anyone in Nazi Germany outside maybe a handful of Nazi officers ever supporting or practicing any form of Paganism. Furthermore, it seems that the time of the Weimar Republic was seen by many German Christians of the time as a direct assault on God’s order, due to the secularism of the Weimar government and its attendant, or at least relative, de-privileging of Protestant Christian imperatives. This sense, combined with the “war theology” embraced by nationalistic Protestant theologians, which saw God favoring Germany in an interventionist quest to “liberate humanity from materialism” and establish his order, did not require much effort to transform into a theological imperative for “Aryan Christianity” to triumph against “Jewish materialism”.

On Alfred Rosenburg, we should note that it is true that he opposed Christianity, but for an apparent supporter of “Paganism”, his actual beliefs don’t seem all that “Pagan”. He believed in a monotheistic God who created mankind and divided its constituents into a hierarchy of separated races and imbued the “Germanic Nordic Aryan” with a unique soul corresponding with the Platonic ideal of humanity. He seemingly did call for the abolition of Christianity in the sense that he wanted Nazi Germany to replace all crosses with swastikas, the Bible with Mein Kampf (which, as I’ve established before, was not a non-Christian book), and the dominon of the National Reich Church of Germany over all churches, and he did call for a “new religion of the blood”. And yet he still denounced Jews specifically for their hatred of Jews and identified them with the Antichrist. In many ways Rosenberg’s views on Jesus and Christianity were not so different from Hitler’s. He believed that Jesus was the true god of the Europeans, rejected all notion that Jesus was Jewish, and argued for the replacement of mainstream Christianity, which he deemed both false and outdated, with “Positive Christianity”. He viewed Jesus as a superhuman mediator between mankind and God and as the biggest “storm” against “Jewish nature”. At no point is Rosenberg shown to refer to multiple pre-Christian gods, or make reference to any individual pre-Christian gods, except for when he is referring to the Norse god Odin as an example of a Christian quest for the kingdom of heaven within as referred to by Jesus. At his most “anti-Christian”, Rosenberg was actually more specifically anti-Catholic in practice, and meanwhile he praised the Christianity advocated by Marcion, who argued that the God of the Old Testament was the false God and the God of the New Testament was the true God. He may have opposed the veneration of Charlemagne, but this alone is not sufficient evidence that he was a “Pagan”, and in his light even his desire to replace the symbols and text of Christianity can be seen in keeping with the contention that these were symbols of an old and “false” Christianity to be replaced by a new and “true” Christianity.

If you were a Pagan or a believer in some other alternative religion and you lived in Nazi Germany, you would probably have been prosecuted by the Nazi state, and then probably thrown into a concentration camp like what happened to Jews and Jehovah’s Witnesses there. Although some Nazi officers were allowed to hold some ostensibly non-Christian views, practicing occultism or pursuing occult interests outside of the SS was not permitted. Friedrich Bernhard Marby, a German occultist who sought the revival of pre-Christian Germanic religion, was arrested by the Nazis for being an unauthorised occultist whose ideas “brought the holy Aryan heritage into disrepute and ridicule”. His colleague, Siegfried Adolf Kummer, was arrested for the same reason. From there Marby apparently spent eight years in concentration camps until his release in April 1945, while Kummer’s fate is still a mystery. Erich Ludendorff’s Tannenbergbund, a volkisch nationalist organisation which expected its members to abandon Christianity in favour of a volkisch brand of Nordic polytheism, was banned by the Nazi government in 1933, shortly after Adolf Hitler took power. It’s not clear why the Tannenbergbund was banned, but I think it might have had something to do with Ludendorff having fallen out of favour with the Nazi establishment after previously having helped the Nazi Party rise to prominence. Ludendorff’s wife, Mathilde von Kemnitz, attempted to insert a new anti-Christian religion that involved polytheism and nature worship into the Nazi movement, but her efforts were rejected by Hitler, who thought she was delusional. Ludwig Klages, a philosopher who espoused his own unique and rather abstract form of Romantic neopaganism, was disliked by the Nazis and denounced by the Nazi press due to his denunciations of National Socialism, and in 1938 his writings were banned by the so-called “neopagan” Alfred Rosenberg on the grounds that they were too “hedonist” for him. The Germanic Faith Community, a Germanic Pagan revival group founded by the artist Ludwig Fahrenkrog, faced several restrictions to their freedoms when the Nazis took power; they were no longer allowed to hold public meetings, they were barred from using a swastika as their symbol, since this had now become the official symbol of the Nazi Party, and in 1934 Fahrenkrog’s paintings were forbidden from exhibition by the Ministry of Propaganda.

A major exception to this trend, of course, was the volkisch neopagan German Faith Movement, but while it did seemingly advocate for the return of polytheism and purported pre-Christian rituals, it also apparently included a syncretism of Christian rituals as well alongside non-Christian counterparts. Its founder, Jakob Hauer, hoped that his own particular brand of Hinduism-inspired occult volkisch neopaganism would be adopted as the official religion of Nazi Germany. But this never happened, and in 1936 Hauer left the movement and abdicated its leadership, though he did become a member of the NSDAP the following year. Otto Sigfrid Reuter, as an NSDAP member and volkisch ideologue honored by Nazi academic institutions, would also be an exception to the trend of neopagans being persecuted or ignored by the Nazi state. Little is known about the Indepedent Free Church, founded by Friedrich Hielscher to express a more or less polytheistic belief system built around a belief in both God and the pre-Christian Germanic gods, though it seemed to continue existing. That said, Hielscher and other Independent Free Church members, along with his church itself, were involved in the underground anti-Nazi resistance movement, for which Hielscher was arrested by the Nazis in 1944.

Turning away from the subject of Paganism in strict terms, we should note that several occult organisations were suppressed under Nazi rule. Fraternitas Saturni, the Luciferian magical order that broke away from Ordo Templi Orientis, was banned by the Nazi government in 1936, and its leader Eugen Grosche was arrested and bound for a concentration camp, before an apparently sympathetic officer helped him get released and get out of Germany. Ordo Templi Orientis itself was banned by the Nazi government, and so were Aleister Crowley’s books and the religion of Thelema as a whole. Karl Germer, who was the head of the OTO, was arrested by the Gestapo on Hitler’s orders in 1935 and was sent to the Esterwegen concentration camp, but was temporarily released later that year upon his case of blood purity being put before Nazi authorities. Ernst Schertel, an occult philosopher and sexual liberation activist notable for his book Magic: History, Theory and Practice, although he apparently did send a copy of his book to Adolf Hitler, was himself arrested by the Nazis, imprisoned for seven months, and had his doctoral degree revoked. Other occultists, even racialist ones, had been banned, apparently as early as 1934, and it is alleged that the occultist Franz Bardon was interned in a concentration camp by the Nazis for three months in 1945. Many forms of magic and alternative spirtual practice, such as witchcraft, astrology, fortune telling, and spiritual healing were all banned by the Nazi government, while Freemasonry in particular was viciously persecuted by the Nazis who thought that they were allies of a Jewish conspiracy against Germany.

Sometimes it’s claimed that Schertel in particular represented a direct link between Hitler and the occult, and thereby establishing the occult and even supposedly “Satanic” heritage of Nazism, based on the fact that Hitler apparently annotated his copy of Magic: History, Theory and Practice. But having examined the book, or at least the annotations, in light of the wider history of Nazism and its broad Positive Christian agenda, I honestly don’t see much reason to assume that the annotations meant anything for the ideological substance of Nazism. The sole annotation mentioned by Timothy Ryback, the author of Hitler’s Private Library, was “He who does not have the demonic seed within himself will never give birth to a magical world”. There is also no clear idea of how it connects back to the ideological formation and political practice of Nazism, nor can we determine the extent to which Hitler was actually interested in the ideas contained within Schertel’s book. Given that Hitler banned several occult groups and the practice of magic (except for certain Nazi officers like Heinrich Himmler), and that the Nazis arrested Schertel himself, it’s highly unlikely that Hitler gained any real respect for occultism as a result of reading Schertel’s book, and it seems obvious to me that Hitler likely treated the book as merely a piece of curiosity. If Hitler did derive anything substantial from it, it’s not clear what, and perhaps we may never actually know if the book was ever really influential at all. Though, even if it was, it was surely not nearly as infuential on Hitler as the prevailing volkisch Protestant ideology of his day. And to be quite honest, anyone who thinks that Hitler was some sort of esoteric Satanist is operating in complete ignorance of what Nazism stood for and who the Nazis were.

And of course, atheists and secularists were also criminalized by the Nazi government. In 1933, the Nazi government banned all “freethinking” and atheist organisations. One of these was the German Freethinkers League, a forum for atheists and materialist thinkers which was shut down in 1933, on Hitler’s orders and on the demands of Christians within Nazi Germany. Hitler also opposed secular schools on the grounds that all moral instruction had to emerge from religious faith (which, in practice, meant Hitler’s revisionist Christian faith). This is rather strange for a supposed atheist, as Christians often claim Hitler was, to do.

All of this paints a rather clear picture of the reality of the religious identity of the Nazi movement and the Nazi state. Although certain people of various stripes, ranging from Christians to certain anti-Christian neo-Nazis, want to believe that Hitler was this great rupture of anti-Christian revolution in the midst of Christian Europe, this is a myth that has no bearing on reality, and not only that it seems to actively distort and misconstrue reality in service of its own pre-determined conclusion of history. The actual reality of Nazism is that it was a movement that sought to construct its totalitarian state along the lines of a religious volkisch ideology whose prerogatives constituted the realization of the “true” Christianity. In essence, this was a revisitionist Christian project which saw itself as simultaneously restoring and renewing Christianity, simultaneously creating a new Christianity for a new era and restoring the “true” substance of the teaching and cultus of Jesus, by purging anything about Christianity that they felt was too Jewish or too materialist for them. The ultimate religious goals of Nazism consisted of bringing all German Christians into a single new Christian church in line with the new volkisch ideology, waging total holy war with Jews and Communists who they believed to be the forces of the Antichrist come to wage war with God, and in realizing the “true Christianity” that was supposedly contained in their volkisch interpretation of Christianity, by recreating the Bible and the major edifices of Christianity in the image of what they believed to be this “true Christianity”; even if, in practice, this could just as easily be said to be their own image. Insofar as they attacked Christianity, beyond the broader rammifications of their volkisch revisionism constituting a severe heresy against the Christian church, the Nazis preferred simply to attack the “Confessing Churches” who opposed them, while content with the other churches who complied with or supported them. And while Christianity was more or less still instituted and supported within Nazi Germany, we know that Paganism, atheism, occultism, and alternative religious/spiritual beliefs were attacked and often banned or persecuted by the Nazi government.

Take stock of what that means, as it is all too relevant for those in alternative subcultures, occultism, neopaganism, and Satanism and the like who seem willing enough to embrace some form of neo-Nazism. They are only rehashing the same fantasy that Heinrich Himmler had back in his day, when he thought that he might some day replace Adolf Hitler as Fuhrer and perhaps steer Nazi Germany away from Christianity. Now, just as then, this is an illusion. If the Third Reich were to be restored tomorrow, or if a new neo-Nazi regime were to be established, then they would be persecuting “degenerate art” as well as all expression of alternative religion and belief just as before. If you’re a metalhead (including a black metal enthusiast), a goth, a punk, even a skinhead, an occultist, a mystic, a Pagan, a Satanist, or anything like that, no matter how racialist you are, then a new Nazi government would curtail your freedom, imprison you, and/or throw you straight into one of their concentration camps alongside Jews, other non-white/non-“Aryan” people, LGBT people, the disabled, and political dissidents. It’s not for nothing that many neo-Nazi movements are still their own brand of Christian as opposed to being neopagans. If you support Nazism in any way, all that means is you’re selling who you are and your own kind to a Christian fascist agenda in the name of your own meaningless hatred against certain people. Whether you’re doing this because you got convinced that Nazism was good or because you just want to be a contrarian, do us all a favour and follow your new leader.

But why does this idea of the Nazis as some kind of neopagan occult empire persist even if the facts contradict it? The answer, in my opinion, is not very complicated. It’s obvious to me that Christians need the myth of Nazism as a sort of Antichrist state in order to save the legacy of Christianity from being forever damaged by its role in the development of Nazism and in facilitating the Third Reich. It seems that, in strict terms, much of our ideas about the religious identity of Nazism are propagandistic, the work of certain wartime figures looking to juxtapose the otherwise Christian Nazi state against the Christianity of contemporary Western liberal democracies by casting the Nazis as adherents of an esoteric Pagan revivalist religion. But I think, at root, the most basic motivation comes from the fact that Nazi Germany was such a systematically malevolent and sadistic state, and Nazism so seemingly alien to the “values” of the Western world (I mean, unless you count the fact that the Nazis were inspired by the practices of American colonialism and racism as well as that of the British Empire), that it could not possibly reflect the supposed Christian message of love, universalism, and salvation. In other words, Nazism appeared to be so evil that surely it couldn’t possibly be Christian, even though that is what the evidence bears out.

It appears that Christians are not the only ones who are convinced of this myth. Indeed, the idea of the Nazis as being a force of sheer anti-Christian power and archetypical evil seems to have echoed throughout our culture as a memetic presence, to the point that it is sometimes internalized by some who seek to oppose and rebel against Christianity. It’s the reason why certain ideas of embracing Nazi aesthetics as a form of transgression could be found in the early days of the modern Satanist movement, it’s ultimately the reason of why Nazi occultism sometimes finds its way in Left Hand Path circles and the reason why Nazi Satanism is a thing at all, and it’s part of the reason why Nazi aesthetics are sometimes taken up in transgressive subcutlures as a means of rebelling against bourgeois society. In this sense, it is also the reason why black metal sometimes finds itself struggling with the influence of Nazi bands, even despite the fact that Nazism, at its root, is built on a Christian ideology.

It is thus clear what is to be done in order to overcome the problem of creeping Nazism in the Left Hand Path circles as well as the problem of folkism and NSBM. For one thing, resisting fascism means taking an explicit and active anti-fascist stance of some kind, and it has to be more than liberal objection to the extremity of fascism. Rather, it must devote itself to a full conceptual opposition to Nazism and fascism, which stems from the full acknowledgement of what Nazism and fascism are at their root. For any movements dealing with a creeping fascism problem, this means that there needs to be a commited opposition to capitalism, imperialism, colonialism, statism, authoritarianism, hegemony, LGBT-phobia, bourgeois-patriarchal morality, and other forms of bigotry, and thus it also means that trying to remain “apolitical” in the sense of a general stance is strictly impossible, since maintaining a committed anti-fascist opposition is an inherently political act. For our task, we are also charged with deconstructing the inherited dysfunctional myths we have concerning the religious basis of Nazism, as well as deconstructing folkist ideology of both the past and the present. To put it plainly, the problems we face require us to ruthlessly attack the premise that the Nazis were an anti-Christian or “neopagan” or occult movement at every chance we get, armed with the facts of history on our side. All of this is vital for us on the Left Hand Path, Pagan and similar milieus for our struggle against fascism, since it means attacking the myths that are used to legitimate its presence, and refusing to brook any elements who would allow the infiltration of fascism into our communities.

Additionally, if there are supposed anti-fascists who seem to be on our side of the struggle only to then turn around and accuse us of being fascists because of Paganism, then we cannot call them friends or comrades, and if anything they might just be our enemies. It is empty to profess opposition to religious bigotry only to turn around and insist that you are a fascist simply for brandishing ancient runes (and I’m talking about the actual Germanic runes, not the symbology that was created or adapted by the Nazis) or wanting to re-establish the worship of the old gods. If there are those who insist the contrary, then they are against us, and they operate under the same bias that is used to obfuscate the volkisch Christian roots of Nazism, and practically operate in service us the same myth invented by the Christian establishment, even if their actual guiding myth might be the abolition of all religion on the grounds that religion itself is somehow fascist or reactionary.

In summary, the big picture is clear. Nazism is not Pagan, and never was Pagan. Nazism is a political movement that derives a religious basis and justification in the idea of “Positive Christianity”, which is a revisionist and folkist form of Christianity that sought the emergence of a new Christianity, which is also meant to be the “true Christianity”, which is thus “freed” from its supposed Jewish trappings. This idea emerges from a line of volkisch/nationalist Protestant theology, and has its predecent centuries earlier in Martin Luther’s anti-Semitic writings and in the radically dualist Christianity of Marcion. Paganism only represented a minority of Nazis, and otherwise it was generally banned and persecuted, while occultism had no substantial influence on Hitler’s ideology, was mostly the reserve of the SS, and was otherwise banned and persecuted. Ideas of Pagan or occult Nazism are the product of a sort of post-war mythology that sought to make sense of the horrors of Nazism by presenting them as the metaphysical enemies of “Western”, here meaning Christian, civilization. This myth has been internalized in certain areas of modern Western occultism and folkist neopaganism, but it is a myth all the same, one that is at odds with and in opposition to reality. Therefore, the nature of our struggle within Paganism, occultism, Left Hand Path spirituality, and any and all subcultures that are adjacent to them, against fascist/Nazi creep consists in part of an active assault against the erroneous Christian mythology that has sought to assert the moral superiority of the Christian faith by trying to frame Nazism as the product of rival creeds.

We must be uncompromising in this battle, or we will fall.

Image from @WolfJointAktion on Twitter