THE THIRD POSITION IN NORTH AMERICA: GROWING DANGER OR OVERBLOWN HYPE (OR BOTH?) A CASE STUDY OF "KAISER BILL" WHITE
Background: the Third Position Internationally
Recently the growth of the political tendency known as the "third position" -- a fascist tradition with roots in the left-wing of the German Nazi Party under Otto and Gregor Strasser -- has been trumpeted loudly from all corners. A recent article in Playboy magazine (1) authored by a leading member of the Southern Poverty Law Center uses the concept to attempt to tie together such diverse political tendencies as Islamic fundamentalism, anti-abortion terrorism, neo-Nazism, Earth First!, and other hinted-at-but-not-named anarchist tendencies. For liberals such as the SPLC and the Anti-Defamation League, the concept of the fascist "third position" is precisely the necessary construct to justify an attack on the anarchist movement under the cover of "anti-racism."
The "third-position" label has also been an attractive description for many radicals trying to understand a populist cultural rebellion that often didn't fit into traditional left/right distinctions. It explains popular xenophobia, racism, and anti-Semitism that isn't based around the Nazi fetishism or cultishness of the extreme right, and it has the veneer of the liberatory struggle of the left without the stigma of "red" Marxism. But reality is never so simple. While there may be some similarities between, say, the militia movement today and the forces which supported the stormtroopers in the early days of the Nazi movement -- both of these cases show movements in which genuine revolutionary feelings exist alongside but haven't managed to overcome the mysticisms of flags, uniforms, nations, and "race" -- its a cop-out to present them as part of the same guiding tradition.
What's described as "third positionism" in mass movements (militias, environmentalists, talk-radio show callers, whatever) is, more accurately, the beginnings of revolutionary consciousness among masses of people, deformed and stunted by the racism that underlies all of white America. However, in its actual organizational form, the "third position" is for the most part a few dozen intellectuals, whose actual organizing consists of manipulating reality to make it appear that their position has support, and who often have no qualms about allying with the neo-nazi right against the revolutionary left, their claims of being "beyond left and right" not withstanding.
One prime example: the National Revolutionary Faction, a British splinter group that evolved out of the National Front, has been at the forefront of promoting 'third-positionism' internationally: NRF member Troy Southgate started an email discussion group to promote the tendency and writes articles regularly for Pravda. But the NRF, like most third-positionists, seems to do no actual organizing. The only tangible result of their work is that possibly as a result of their influence, the British National Party, formerly a dogmatic Hitlerian sect, has begun to take up slicker, more radical positions, which have won it some notable working-class support and been difficult for the left -- still stuck in outdated liberal and Trotskyist assumptions -- to combat.
Bill White, "Kaiser Bill" from the DC area, is a similar example of this tendency. As with many of the third positionists, he's never quite what he seems. On the one hand he's a master of self-promotion and disinformation, but on the other hand the delusions that come out in his writing are sometimes so huge and glaring that you have to wonder if he crosses the line from intentionally stretching the truth to actually believing reality is just a bit different from what everybody else sees. While his political allegiances are easy to pin down (even people that don't know anything about his politics know him as "Nazi Bill White"), what's a little more disorienting to some are the arguments he, probably more than any other figure on the American Right, has worked to hone over the last few years, since his abandonment of the lone wolf, loose-cannon style he had staked out for himself historically, and his attempt to remake himself as some kind of external ideologue and propagandist for the neo-fascist political right wing.
History: From Mad Bomber to Law-Abiding Nazi
Bill White started his political career as a student at the University of Maryland College Park in the mid-90s. He portrayed himself as an apolitical "anarchist" -- something like what you might become if your only exposure to anarchism was from reading "The Anarchist Cookbook." He liked to talk a lot about explosives and shooting cops, but had little to no grasp of the dynamics of class struggle, anti-racism, and anti-authoritarianism that underlied the entire anarchist critique. He claimed over a thousand members for his "organization," the Utopian Anarchist Party, although two or three is probably a much more accurate count. One UAP event at the 'height' of their organization -- a Mayday event in 1997 -- drew maybe 15 people, all of whom were there to heckle.
The UAP generally made their name by defending people nobody else in the anarchist movement could or was willing to defend. During the wave of school killings in 1998-99, Bill White managed to defend every single massacre of innocents -- without ever suggesting a solution that would stop such drastic measures from being necessary. "The only thing Michael Carneal [who shot up his school in Kentucky] did wrong was not take out more of these Christian pigs. By eliminating three future Bible-thumping lunatics he did America a service, and we should thank, and not revile, him for it." (2) As usual, he salivates talking about death and destruction, but is only half-coherent politically. (From our point of view, on the other hand, any such attempt at rebellion should be explained and not blindly condemned, but this kind of terrorism which says nothing and leads nowhere is nothing to celebrate.)
Among the UAP's advertised "programs" was something called the "Runaway Railroad" -- supposedly set up to offer safe houses and resources to runaway teenagers.trying to start life independently of their parents. This was an example of a project desperately needed in the anarchist movement, which led maybe a few of us to hopefully believe White's "movement" was for real. In reality, however, the so-called "railroad" was most likely (to the extent that it even existed) just a scam for Bill to find underage girls to hook up with and influence. Most of the anarchist movement concluded that he was useless and dangerous at best, and most likely a police agent provocateur to boot. Still, a few people who didn't have to deal too closely with him held out judgement in the hopes that he might be just ignorant but well-intentioned and enthusiastic.
In early 1999, White's political delusions reached a feverish pitch -- the final straw was claiming that the Columbine "Trenchcoat Mafia" were UAP members acting under his command, and that the UAP had similar attacks planned across the country. Around this time he was arrested in a scuffle with a cop. He got scared, realizing that his mouth was gonna be used against him, pleaded insanity at trial, was committed to a mental institution, and disappeared from the activist scene for several months. When he resurfaced, he had stopped calling himself an anarchist, turned over control of the Utopian Anarchist Party (must've been a tragedy to give up that one!) and taken on the new label "libertarian socialist." After a brief period of involvement with the Libertarian Party, he moved on to join Pat Buchanan's Reform Party campaign. The Washington Post carried a photo of Pat Buchanan around this time in which Bill White is visible in the background.
Racism is almost always based in psychological or sexual problems to some degree; in any case, its not too crucial to get into those details in a brief political overview like this. Its enough to point out that in the view of many people who have watched Bill White's "development" over the years, the racism he's known for today came out of his cowardice and impotence when the shit hit his fan. "He still wants to be an ego maniac and grab attention... but he knows that anarchists and even progressives and leftists won't allow him to speak for them, he needs to be sensational and controversial but he can't do that any more by advocating terrorism, whats the most 'legal' controversial thing he can do is advocate racism." (3)
At some point, he got hooked up with a gig as a correspondent for PRAVDA, the once-famous paper of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation -- who White proudly cites as a leading force in third-positionism worldwide. (In one article, he proudly quotes -- as if this were a mark of distinction -- a spokesman for the Union of Jews of the Former Soviet Union: "Many KPRF leaders are openly antisemitic, support antisemitic media, or give indirect or direct support to antisemitic groups or individuals... With the rise of extremist nationalist ideology in post-Soviet Russia, a new form of Communist antisemitism has emerged as some members of the KPRF have begun using antisemitic rhetoric borrowed from nationalist extremists to drum up political support." (4))
Strategist for the Neo-Nazis?
In 2000-2001, White started to refine his image, from a lone wolf provocateur on the fringes of the anarchist movement to a funnel of information and analysis to the neo-fascist right. While White was not exactly greeted with open arms at first by the nazis -- after his reporting on the National Alliance's 7/29/01 rally at the German Embassy, NA leader Will Williams threatened him and called him a "lying troublemaker" -- relatively quickly he was able to convince the NA of his usefulness. Soon enough, he was exchanging friendly correspondence with Billy Roper, "deputy membership coordinator" of the National Alliance, and developing arguments for Roper to use to attack the anti-racist left.
This is White's danger, far more than his actual news reporting. Though people are occasionally taken in by his pretences at journalistic objectivity (for maybe a few weeks), his absurd accounts of events are pretty generally assumed to be made up, by his friends on the right wing just as much as by the left. But he has often proved to be somewhat perceptive in reading between the lines of movement dialogue, picking up on divisive issues and figuring how how to bring out those issues. And even the most rigid and ideological groups on the fascist right have shown themselves willing to take up his suggestions, at least in their dealings with the anti-racist movement.
For example, White has been writing for a several months now that the anti-racist left are "left-fascists," "one of the strongest supporters of the government" on account of our attempts to "crush the right of free speech." The argument in its full form is that powerful corporate interests (who he equates in his usual half-truth way with the Democratic Party, ADL, NAACP, etc.) are using "anti-racism" as cover to crush dissent in all its forms, and that the anti-fascist movement is merely duped into playing the extra-legal role these interests require for their master plan. On a particularly honest day, he'll go so far as to admit that these interests are "nearly all Jewish." While this is a patently absurd formulation, it has a certain power in that it derives from real debates on the left between anti-statist radicals and liberals over the question of "free speech for fascists" -- an issue that has been exploited plenty by fascist moles every time its arisen. Most recently, this has been echoed by Billy Roper in a letter sent to the home addresses of anti-racists and random bystanders arrested at the York, PA mobilization: "All you have to do is get a better mask and a new pair of running shoes, and you'll be set to go again and continue your adolescent terrorism against free speech and in support of the government."
And this role is hardly undercover. Several of his recent Pravda articles have contained advice directed clearly at the National Alliance; one, an actually interesting and informative (if seriously exaggerated) article called "Nazi group sees explosive growth in wake of September 11 attacks" (5) even uses relevant passages out of Mein Kampf to critique the NA's failure to set up front groups to draw in the supporters he sees them inevitably attracting -- to keep them from weakening the organization while they're still being schooled in the basic principles of national socialism.
Perhaps taking his cue, as many white supremacists have, from the hysteria pumped out by many pro-state liberals at the growth of the anti-capitalist movement, White has consistently tried in the past to present the anarchist anti-capitalist movement as a vehicle of "third positionist" anti-Jewish politics in this country. A number of his articles have cited "sources within the Black Block" (whether real or imagined) offering their own regurgitations of "Protocols of the Elders of Zion"-type conspiracy theories. But recently, as his manipulations have come to naught, he's been reduced to fuming to no one in particular, "I told you... this is what happens when you let the [Chuck] Munsons and the Barricadas run the Black Block... violence against "white supremacists" in York... and no violence against Jews in New York."
At this point (although maybe its years late), Bill White and his positions have been completely isolated within the anti-capitalist movement. A recent anonymous indymedia posting claiming to be from a Palestinian woman accusing Anti-Racist Action and the Barricada Collective of having close ties with the fascist Jewish Defense League was solidly refuted and exposed from every corner. His attempt to sign on as an endorser of the Anti-Capitalist Convergence's call to protest the World Economic Forum (which, unsurprisingly enough, he describes as "under Jewish control... founded by Jewish businessman Maurice Levy, managed by Jewish businessman Richard Attias" (6)) was unanimously blocked. The time when third positionists could hope to find potential interest from within the radical anti-capitalist movement has come to a close, and Kaiser Bill has had to change with the times, orienting his approach to the far right. Toning down the "anarchist" elements of his politics in favor of the racial and nationalist elements.
A joke making the rounds of the DC activist scene these days is that its a good thing that Bill has finally started to get cozy with the nazis, because when he tries to pull the sort of shit with them that he's been trying on the left for the last five years, they won't just laugh it off, they'll shoot his ass, and we'll finally be rid of him. Of course, its funny cause its true... For the moment, he can claim to represent a "third position" but in reality do nothing but provide ideological cover for neo-Nazis. But sooner or later, it'll come time to put up or shut up. And at that point, he'll either be reduced to taking orders from William Pierce and his like (though one would think that the National Alliance could find a propagandist who could actually spell and write complete sentences) or trying to strike out on his own to maintain his image. Judging by the means he's used to try and draw recruits from the left, this would mean anonymous "poison pen" attacks, spreading snitch jackets and lies to break up potential alliances, and generally misrepresenting any and every event to fit his own personal reality -- stuff that's not likely to go over too well in a movement that's known for leaving people who fall out of favor in comas.
Fun with Rumors and Lies
What keeps Bill amusing is the number of outright lies and rumors he spreads. When you keep in mind that none of it is real, it almost makes a nice spy story. "Often i find myself attacking myself from one IP address, defending myself from another, and then watching the dopes try to take sides and taking all my manifestations seriously." (7) So you get, for example, a post claiming to be a press release from him saying he's joined the National Alliance, then 5 minutes later a post from him denying it but saying it was a nice joke, then a joking post from Billy Roper.
The rumors he spreads about activists are just as easy to dismiss. 75% of what he reports is made up, and its easy to tell what parts that is -- usually the parts where the mystical racial fetishes show though the most clearly. When, for example, he claims that such-and-such a "Jewish ARA member" (especially when the individual in question is neither Jewish nor a member of ARA) turned information over to the police about the organization, nobody believes it anyways.
The thing to keep in mind in dealing with all this is that we know exactly who Bill White is and what he stands for, so none of these rumors matter in the least. Whether he's a member of the National Alliance, or the Church of the Creator, or the 'leader' of a thousand teenage terrorists, he's still just a lone neo-nazi, and at that, one who's too unstable to be part of any organization for too long anyhow.
How to Respond?
The first conclusion we draw from this overview of Bill White is that, at least in the mid-Atlantic U.S. region, the so-called "third position" that Bill White supposedly represents can't be said to be an authentic third position; that rather than being an alternative both to the right and left, it represents more of an argumentative style being developed by independent individuals on the right for the benefit of the traditional fascist right against the left. For this reason, despite Bill White's apparent organizational and ideological independance from the neo-Nazi movement, he should be seen and treated as an integral part of their scene. This conclusion should be widely supported by activists who have been dealing with him for years.
More generally, we would argue that third positionists can only be understood in the context of providing external guidance and building broader support for the neo-fascists. America is full of millions of people who feel a deep dissatisfaction with their lives and a longing for some kind of radical change, but at the same time are infected with the racism, the uptight patriarchal attitudes, and the need to respect leaders and authority that come out of the economic and psychological insecurity of their lives. Plus, these are people who for the most part instinctively reject the swastika or the KKK. People like Bill White or Troy Southgate see this situation and are offering their services to the organized racists, to help create propaganda which can draw these masses of undecided people into at least passively supporting the efforts of white supremacist groupings. Our task is to undercut this as deeply as we can, pointing out the absurdities in the fascists' ideas and offering the real solutions that they promise but never manage to deliver.
1. Michael Reynolds, "The New Sinister Fascists." Playboy, February 2002.
2. from an Anarchist News Service press release on overthrow.com, 1997.
3. interview with a DC-area activist
4. Bill White, "Anti-Globalist Resistance Beyond Left and Right: An Emerging Trend that is Defining a New Paradigm in Revolutionary Struggle." Pravda.ru, 3 Nov 2001.
5. "Nazi Group sees Explosive Growth in Wake of September 11 Attacks: National Alliance Sees Numbers Triple as Protests Show Strength." Pravda.ru 15 Nov 2001.
6. "Trapped in a Race Riot: Violence in York After White Supremacists Rally." Pravda.ru, 17 Jan 2002.
7. posted to National-Anarchist at yahoogroups.com, 11 Jan 2002.
[from Anti-Racist Action Research Bulletin #3]