Marxism and the Militias

Doug Henwood dhenwood at
Sun Aug 27 10:41:59 MDT 1995

At 8:55 PM 8/26/95, Bryan A. Alexander wrote:

>Re: Cockburn and the militias -
>        I saw Cockburn speak at a local bookstore a few months ago.  His
>points about the militia movement were based on a view that the militias
>had several good ideas that happened to be somewhat skewed.  Examples: 1)
>that there is a one world government out to get ordinary citizens.
>cockburn opined that although the Bilderbergers are probably not in charge
>of your bank and the Illuminati didn't survive the 18th century,
>nevertheless corporations and finance capital to a large measure do in
>fact control much of the world, and they have institutions that directly
>(World Bank) and indirectly (US fed gov) enforce their hegemony.  2)
>militias fear government assaults.  Why not? asks the journalist.  After
>all, the US gov *does* often attack its subjects.  C credits the militias
>for mentioning COINTELPRO in public.  Just because the paranoids fear the
>state doesn't mean the state isn't out to get you.  3) Cockburn admired
>the militia acts, in that they are actually out in the streets and
>organizing.  He lambasted liberals who stayed home and sucked down NPR,
>moaning about the lack of real things being done.
>        Obviously Cockburn was saying all this in part to annoy a crowd
>of Ann Arbor liberals in a gadfly sort of way.  But he also clearly
>believed that this had a large degree of truth.  I think he was right on,

Alex is mostly right, though the term "militias" is pretty imprecise. Chip
Berlet estimates there are about 40,000 militia members (i.e. about half as
many people as subscribe to The Nation!), but about 5 million sympathizers
with "Patriot" ideology. [For a deep taste of Patriot ideology, check out
<>.] It's deeply wrong to call this ideology
"fascist," with or without any softening qualifier like "crypto" or
"proto." It's mostly classic American individualism -
Jeffersonian/Madisonian in its fantasies of decentralization of yeoman
self-reliance, and populist in economics (except for a love of the gold
standard, ironically enough - but gold is a non-state form of money, thus
their love for it). It seems petit bourgeois to the roots - critical of
finance and big business, but quite fond of the smaller variety. It's the
spontaneous form of American radicalism, and I hope we haven't so demoted
Lenin that we forget the lesson of WITBD - spontaneous radicalism is
something serious political intellectuals and organizers have to engage,
but not something that should be adored uncritically.



Doug Henwood
[dhenwood at]
Left Business Observer
250 W 85 St
New York NY 10024-3217
+1-212-874-4020 voice
+1-212-874-3137 fax

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