Know Your Enemy: A Green Anarchist Response to the Christchurch Shooter's Manifesto (Part 2 and 3)
“We must be uncompromising in our resistance, but resistance will not take us where we have to go – a fight against the forces that created him must be an all-encompassing insurrection against civilisation itself, against every edifice of racism, colonialism, patriarchy, industrialism, and capitalism that gave twisted birth to fascism.”
From Twm Gwynne
This article discusses triggering concepts involving white supremacy, fascism and extreme hate. Please take this into consideration before going further. We have carefully made the decision to publish passages of an extremely violent “manifesto”, knowing we are capable of adequately refuting its views rather than propagating them. We are confident this analysis can strengthen our fight against fascism, but we are aware it might not be suitable for everyone.
Part 1: here.
Part Two: Response
Numerous vigils and protests have sprung up in New Zealand in these days after the attack, in solidarity with the New Zealand Muslim community and as demonstrations of opposition to racism and fascism, and there are various fundraisers available to donate to victims and their families. A strong front of unity has emerged in many places, demonstrating a successful counter-response to one of the shooter’s avowed intentions:
“To incite violence, retaliation and further divide between the European people and the invaders currently occupying European soil.”
This otherwise largely strong and determined response to Tarrant’s violence has been soured in places by the nature of the government’s actions. While the Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, has been praised worldwide by liberal media, pundits, and politicians for her words and actions after the shooting, her first statement on the shooting has been derided in New Zealand:
“[The victims] are us. The person who has perpetuated this violence against us is not ... There is no place in New Zealand for such acts of extreme and unprecedented violence.”
By othering him and his actions, she places the spectre of white supremacy at a comfortable distance, turning a blind eye to the dangerous racism in this country. I have personally stood face-to face with white supremacists at a counter-protest to a National Front rally on the steps of the New Zealand parliamentary buildings, I have seen everyday racism in the actions of co-workers and employers – two of the five bosses I’ve worked for have been outspokenly, and at times aggressively, racist. My personal experience is borne out by the dark side of the responses to this shooting – from swastika-clad loiterers to distributers of the livestream and public harassment, white supremacy has a presence in this country that will only continue to grow as crises of capitalism and climate collapse worsen, further inflaming already divisive issues around immigration and population.
Ardern’s comments further remove culpability from both the State and Pākehā New Zealanders by erasing the history of brutal war against the indigenous people of these islands, and the ways in which that legacy is lived out today. This country, as “New Zealand”, was founded on exactly the sorts of ethnically-motivated violence that Ardern is now condemning, and while such violence should absolutely be condemned it’s also hypocritical to try to place that kind of ethical distance between the New Zealand State (which is still responsible for the racist over-representation of Maori people in the criminal justice system, among many other issues) and those who perpetrate racist violence in more direct ways. It’s dangerous to dismiss the problems in this country as the actions of a few extremists when some experts believe a significant part of his radicalisation happened here in New Zealand, a position I can support based on my own experiences. Although he says in his manifesto that he only moved to New Zealand to plan and train for an attack elsewhere at a later date, it’s entirely feasible that he may have either lied in his writing or, in making sympathetic connections to New Zealand white nationalists, he may have been led or encouraged to make the attack for their perceived benefit.
Beyond that the New Zealand Army is currently deployed in many countries including Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, and Lebanon, in support of imperialist foreign military deployments, predominantly from Western and European nations. Imperialism is not a new position for the country, and making a redress of these issues – which are tied inescapably into Friday’s terror attack – requires more than placing verbal distance between ourselves and the deep-rooted cruelties and oppressions in this country’s past and present.
There are also questions to be raised about the government’s response in terms of the firearms used during the shooting. While the laws are not yet finalised, on Thursday 21st it was announced that the government was immediately banning sales of military-style semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles, along with plans to shortly implement a law change finalising the ban on sales and applying it to ownership in general, and a buyback scheme to remove banned guns from the community. There have been a variety of responses to the move, from Bernie Sanders to the obvious Second Amendment tear-jerking by NRA spokespeople, but there’s more to this than Twitter liberals vs. Twitter conservatives. The terrorist acquired all his weapons legally, as far as can be known at this stage, and tying this attack into a larger debate on gun control was entirely a part of his intention:
“[One of the intentions of the attack was] to create conflict between the two ideologies within the United States on the ownership of firearms in order to further the social, cultural, political and racial divide within the United states.This [sic] conflict over the 2nd amendment and the attempted removal of firearms rights will ultimately result in a civil war that will eventually balkanize the US along political, cultural and, most importantly, racial lines.”
“I chose firearms for the affect it would have on social discourse, the extra media coverage they would provide and the affect it could have on the politics of United states [sic] and thereby the political situation of the world. The US is torn into many factions by its second amendment, along state, social, cultural and, most importantly, racial lines.
With enough pressure the left wing within the United states [sic] will seek to abolish the second amendment, and the right wing within the US will see this as an attack on their very freedom and liberty.
This attempted abolishment of rights by the left will result in a dramatic polarization of the people in the United States and eventually a fracturing of the US along cultural and racial lines.”
As an anarchist, for me the question of gun control is a convoluted one – I hate the machismo of gun culture, particularly in America, and the links between the culture of gun violence and lack of gun control are clear in that country, while in New Zealand the last mass shooting occurred before I was born. I’m also opposed to the existence of the hyper-industrial framework required to produce them in the first place. With that in mind, though, I think guns can be used in a deeply liberatory way - whatever liberals want to tell you, basically every liberation movement in history, even the supposedly pacifist ones, had at least some armed backing, from the Civil Rights Movement with the Black Panthers through to Ghandi and the Indian National Army. Guns and armed struggle have opened doors for oppressed people by allowing individuals and movements access to a little of the same kind of strength available constantly to the State, helping to combat the unjustifiable monopoly the government, its armies, and its police hold on force. While his actions represent one of the worst possible abuses of a potential tool for self-defence and liberation, I don’t think that in and of itself is an argument against an armed working class. There is also evidence emerging from the terror attack to suggest that the relatively low death toll at the second mosque was owed to a “good guy with a gun” returning fire, but other stories discussing the acts of heroism by Abdul Aziz at Linwood Mosque that no doubt saved many lives have not included that information. Essentially, the argument for arming oppressed groups and minorities to facilitate their self-defence against oppressive forces such as the State, and fascists like Tarrant, is one I find very compelling.
I also think it’s important to point out that the police are only becoming more heavily armed, and the number of – mostly mentally ill –people they’ve killed (here in New Zealand) is growing correspondingly. To me it is naïve to assume that broad narratives of gun control have had at their heart the aim of reducing violence, just shifting who is targeted by it – I reiterate that New Zealand maintains an active military presence in many countries, and I also think it’s important to point out that in the past gun control has been used as a front to disarm radical groups like the Black Panthers in America, while gun ownership by leftist and indigenous radicals in New Zealand has also been harshly and illegally targeted by the State in the recent past. The article on the Black Panthers just linked also discusses the NRA’s support of restrictive changes to American gun laws in the 1960s motivated by racist fear of radical groups such as the Black Panthers; ironic in the face of their current refusal to budge on issues of gun control when the danger is terrorism by white men – an issue that is both seriously underreported and more prevalent than Islamic terrorism in America.
Part Three: Counter-Attack
“Expect death, expect struggle, expect loss that you will never forget. Do not expect to survive, the only thing you should expect is a true war and to die the death of a true soldier.”
I do not want to convert you, I do not want to come to an understanding. Egalitarians and those that believe in heirachy [sic] will never come to terms. I [sic] don’t want you by my side or I don’t want share power. I want you in my sights. I want your neck under my boot.
SEE YOU ON THE STREETS YOU ANTI-WHITE SCUM”
I’d have liked to make a snarky comment diminishing what he’s saying in those two quotes, because they’re ridiculously melodramatic and you can almost see him starting to froth at the mouth writing them, but he killed people. Not taking fascists seriously has killed people before, and if this is news to you I’d suggest firstly looking up World War II, then nearly every hate crime perpetrated in the Western world after it. The recently mounting violence between the far right and far left in America has already claimed lives; now another fifty names are added to the roll of needless deaths caused by racist hatred. It’s past time for us to stop thinking candlelit vigils are going to do anything at all to stop fascists. Tarrant was radicalised by right-wing media, and tolerance for the existence of that media, for the survival of those “philosophers”, for the platforming of the pundits and propagandists responsible for his radicalisation and so many others, must stop. To be blunt, they must be confronted and crushed. Richard Spencer is afraid to leave his own house now because of the work and struggle of anti-fascists in America, Milo Yiannopoulos is going broke, Jordan Peterson is protested almost everywhere he goes, Stefan Molyneux and Lauren Southern are in the same boat. The pressure is building against them, but protest and flag-waving is not now and can never be enough, not when they themselves are setting the stakes at life and death. The left has fought a defensive fight of non-violence and moralism for too long now, and innocent lives have been the mounting cost of that idleness.
The rise of the militant anti-fascist left in America has demonstrated unequivocally the tactical success of the black bloc structure in riots, but a riot is largely directionless, and what Tarrant did was a long way above that in terms of sophistication and planning. If there’s one thing to take away from this essay, I hope you take this: we’re behind the times. The fascists are organising much faster than us, left or post-left, and they’re stealing our own tricks to do it. I remember reading a pamphlet called “Principles of Anarchist Organisation” a few years ago that discussed the use of small leaderless cells as both a successful military structure and a general organisation principle for decentralised mutual aid groups, a tactic that has worked excellently for direct-action activists like the ELF, the ALF, and Earth First!, but now being co-opted and altered by terrorists across the political spectrum, from ISIS to fascists like Tarrant. Much of the information regarding his attack is vague, but it is generally understood that he did not perpetrate this attack alone, and it’s also ridiculous to assume that he had no contact with fascist groups in New Zealand. He says outright that his “mission” was “blessed” by another far right group:
“I did contact the reborn Knights Templar for a blessing in support of the attack, which was given.”
The Knights Templar, if you aren’t aware, are the same group that the white nationalist Norwegian mass shooter Anders Breivik claimed to be a part of in his own manifesto. In the last few days questions have also emerged regarding a financial link between Tarrant and the far-right European group “Generation Identity”, which I take as further evidence of broader links between him and his cronies’ apparent “lone wolf” attack and a much larger and more significant support network enabling this act of targeted violence. This structure of above-ground organisations for propagandising and recruitment feeding into illegal cells of direct action is a bog standard practise for a wide variety of radical groups, but far-left radical cells in the Western world, in spite of increased anti-fascist militancy, really haven’t got off the ground in the same way as the fascists have, at least to my knowledge.
Tarrant claims diversity is weakness – in this he is deeply wrong. Nature is totally opposed to monoculture, and the success of real ecosystems is owed largely to their diversity – complimentary, mutually-beneficial communities are the norm in nature, with endless interplay and flow between individuals and types. Our communities should resemble those found in nature, without the compartmentalisation typical of industrial civilisation, but our war on fascism, on industrialism, on capitalism, on patriarchy, on white supremacy, on every rotten pillar of his ideology, should resemble nature too. Like weeds that spring up from cracking concrete, when our movements make themselves known they emerge from widely dispersed, untraceable seeds, with deep roots of rage, wisdom, and community, breaking what was already straining, and in the flower creating inspiration for further strikes. Avoid attack on what is heavily defended, unless there is no other option – with a little creativity, new, softer targets emerge in multitudes. Fascists walk undefended, and doxxing doesn’t save lives. Never be a coward – he was a coward, mowing down children at prayer, and fleeing at the first sight of resistance – but do not become a martyr. Living, free heroes are always preferable to dead or imprisoned ones. Water wears away stone over time and grinds valleys where there were mountains – it does this by avoiding the strong places and stripping away the weak. Without that support the hard places crumble. His attack had online support, and direct non-combatant support, if the information about his European connections is accurate, and he was created by the persuasive bile of right-wing “intellectuals”; they are not now in prison. These are the weak places, now we must be the water.
Our unity must be based on hard-earned trust – work with your closest friends, and bring in new faces slowly, if at all. Form new cells, don’t join movements: where one is tight-knit and resilient, the other is easily infiltrated and derailed. Signs and signals for co-operative action should be arranged; as I said before fascism cannot be fought in a vacuum, and, contrary to their narrow understanding of the world, our diversity, our variety, is one of our greatest strengths. Your attack is something only you can fully direct, as only you can understand the limits of your own ability and what is most needed where you are, right now. These principles need not be violent – I think doxxing, protesting, and internet arguments are not where our energy is most needed, but if that’s all you are able to do then do it, and do it well. The insurrection needs propagandists, it needs support networks, medics and suppliers and trainers and whatever else it takes, but most of all right now it needs fighters – the insurrection means attack. But the attack must be wise, or it will fail. All of us, living in the anger and the pain and the sorrow that has been forced on us as we scrape through our lives, have to let go of those emotions – I’m not saying don’t get furious, because rage, frankly, is the only sane response to these times we’re living through, but I am saying never let those emotions rule you. Become aware of them, move past them, breathe through them. Let go of the heat, allow yourself to cool, then make plans. Never act in anger, never act in sorrow. That is when you will be caught, or defeated. Take inspiration from deep and powerful emotional experience, but never make yourself a slave to it. Tarrant outright claims provocation as one of his intentions:
“To agitate the political enemies of my people into action, to over extend their own hand and experience the eventual backlash.”
Do not play into their hands. Act wisely and cautiously. While the State holds great resources and armies, we have very little. Our positions are not enviable, but much has been done by people with vastly less than we have access to.
What Tarrant has failed to realise, I think, is that his attack is having a significant counter-productive effect. Anti-fascism was taboo in this country, and is now talked about at the dinner table. Racism that festered silently is being strung up by mainstream media outlets, and opinion pieces from both the Islamic community here and anti-racists in general have flooded public discourse with intelligent conversation about these issues – discussions that are also beginning to seriously confront the anti-indigenous racism in Aotearoa as well, allowing a wonderful flow-through of anti-racist ideology to areas where it has been seriously under-represented. In the city where I live, Wellington, there are anti-fascist groups organising even as I write this, building the momentum he unwittingly created. Things are a long way from perfect, we have a long way to go, and struggle must massively intensify and expand if we intend to prevent tragedies like this from happening again; he hoped to incite a race war, and, in places, he succeeded in creating hostility – America and the UK in particular, from what I hear, are struggling with right-wing backlash. That backlash must be challenged and destroyed. We must be uncompromising in our resistance, but resistance will not take us where we have to go – a fight against the forces that created him must be an all-encompassing insurrection against civilisation itself, against every edifice of racism, colonialism, patriarchy, industrialism, and capitalism that gave twisted birth to fascism.
It is a fight we are capable of winning, if only we commit ourselves to it.