Sowing Confusion

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Rightist efforts to recruit from or join the antiwar movement caused problems across the country, especially attempts by followers of neo-fascist Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr. to forge ties with liberal and left antiwar coalitions. Other fascist groups organizing against the war included the Populist Party, Liberty Lobby, and some elements of the white supremacist movement. Other far-right and ultra-conservative groups opposing the war included some factions in the Libertarian movement, the John Birch Society, and groups purveying general rightist conspiracy theories.

Most persons in the antiwar movement seemed unaware of the backgrounds and ideology of the several rightist groups that sought alliances during the Gulf War period, and merely were hoping to build a broad-based alliance. Still, some activists fear that in the future, fragile coalitions around peace and social justice issues could be seriously damaged by the presence of bigoted ultra-right forces, and argue that on moral grounds alone, coalitions with fascist, racist, and anti-Jewish groups are not acceptable.

Some of the rightist and anti-Jewish groups that opposed the Gulf War also have a racialist white supremacist ideology that not only considers persons of Jewish and Arab heritage to be inferior, but believes no person of color has a legitimate claim to citizenship in the United States. Within weeks of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, there were reports of physical attacks on and threats against both Arab and Jewish institutions and persons of Arab and Jewish descent. Left groups which tolerate or apologize for persons who have allied themselves with the racialist ultra-right send a message that such views, which motivate acts of discrimination and assault, are an acceptable part of political debate in our society.

Most conservatives and rightists supported the U.S. involvement in the Gulf War. The actual attempts by the sectors of the political right who opposed the war were varied by both locale and method.

The antiwar rightist groups generally did not seek actual coalitions with the left, but instead passed out handbills at large antiwar demonstrations as a recruitment mechanism. For example, the ultra-conservative and conspiracist John Birch Society distributed antiwar flyers at Merrimack College in Massachusetts, and at a downtown Boston antiwar rally.

For many on the left, this was their first experience with a courtship by the ultra-right. Author Sara Diamond urges left activists to be suspicious of the motives of the opportunistic right which approached the left during the Gulf War. Diamond, whose book Spiritual Warfare chronicled the religious right in America, warned, "one can only speculate that they wanted to recruit people into their own organizations and then leave the left discredited." She added that no matter what the motivation, however, the proposed alliance was a bad idea.

One danger posed by the right wing's recruitment attempts is that the widespread conspiracism in some sectors of the far right has found fertile ground among naive or uncritical forces on the left. The problem is exacerbated when rightists put forward their paranoid and sometimes anti-Jewish theories in progressive circles where conspiracist or prejudiced sentiments have been tolerated rather than routinely confronted. Within the U.S. progressive movement, the issue of an undercurrent of anti-Jewish bigotry among some pro-Palestinian, Black nationalist, and left groups has been under discussion for several years.

What the left faces is the task of carefully drawing distinctions between views that are solely anti-Zionist or critical of the state of Israel's policies, and views that reflect bigoted conspiracy theories about persons of Jewish heritage. If peace and social justice forces do not publicly reject anti-Jewish bigots, this task becomes impossible, and the charge of anti-Semitism will taint the entire progressive movement.

The utilization of scapegoating conspiracies is by no means limited to the fascist right, but during the Gulf War some antiwar activists became attracted to scurrilous conspiratorial theories of elite control circulated by right-wing researchers. One conspiracy theorist who gained high visibility during the Gulf War was Craig Hulet. Another conspiracy theorist, Antony Sutton, avoids explicit anti-Jewish rhetoric, but pursues a line promoting arcane banking conspiracies (often involving Jewish banking families traditionally scapegoated by bigots). Sutton also has supported racial separatism between Blacks and whites in South Africa. Another theorist, Eustace Mullins, is a notorious anti-Jewish bigot who focuses on anti-Jewish conspiracy theories in which the Rothschilds and other Jews control the world economy. Mullins' work is promoted by U.S. white supremacist and neo-Nazi circles. Persons supporting the neo-fascist Populist Party used Hulet's radio appearances on progressive Pacifica network radio station KPFA in San Francisco to organize study groups where the theories of Mullins and Sutton were promoted.

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