Nazi militias down home

From the archives of the Freedom Socialist

In Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, supporters of United Front Against Fascism and Coalition Against Nazis stand up to the Aryan Nations.
In Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, supporters of United Front Against Fascism and Coalition Against Nazis stand up to the Aryan Nations. PHOTO: FSP
Share with your friends


After the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995 and George W. Bush’s election, right-wing racist militias crawled back into their holes. However, they re-emerged with Barack Obama’s win and are spreading like a cancer under President Trump.

Today, militiamen claim to be “patriots” saving the country from an immigrant “invasion” and a coming Armageddon for white folk. In June, the bodies of a 20-year-old woman, a toddler and two babies were found along the swollen Rio Grande where these militias patrol and “arrest” suspected migrants — all with the approval of supportive Border Patrol agents. The article below, published in 1995, examines the roots and role of militias in the U.S.


The April bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building brought to light a shadowy group: the some 15,000 members of U.S. militias.

However, the media is burying much of the real story. To hear them tell it, the militias are bad for two reasons: they hate the federal government, and they’re violent.

What they do not say is that this is a fascist-inspired movement, produced by a profound cynicism and despair about capitalism’s ability to solve the social crisis it creates. The vicious government massacres at Waco, Texas and Ruby Ridge, Idaho gave Nazi organizers, hard-pressed by anti-fascist forces, the martyrs they needed to revitalize their dwindling members.

Now the militia idea is spreading, spurred on by calls for gun control and fears about urban crime, immigration, and a permanent underclass. And the Nazis are recruiting again.

The politics of paranoia. Militias are groups of armed citizens outside the official structure of the army, cops, etc. In the U.S. they have been mostly a right-wing phenomenon. The Ku Klux Klan, for example, originated as a militia during Black Reconstruction after the Civil War.

But there have also been groups who armed themselves for self-defense against racist violence, and strikers who created militias to defend themselves against scabs and private armies funded by bosses.

What’s new today is the development of a Nazi militia movement that spreads out across dozens of states from Florida to Washington.

The roots of this movement go back to William Potter Gale, a virulent anti-communist and cofounder of the Posse Comitatus, a right-wing militia that built itself up by appealing to bankrupted small farmers.

The guiding lights of today’s militias are men like Rev. Butler of Aryan Nations. Local organizers tend to be part of the squeezed middle class: small-businesses, farmers, contractors, professionals, military retirees.

They peddle a crazy quilt of Christian, conspiratorial, and political ideas whose common thread is that the world is split into producers and parasites. The “parasites” exist on both ends of the economic scale, according to this view, and are ripping off the “producers” with the help of a “Zionist Occupation Government” run by Jews.

Like classic fascists, they offer a mishmash of ideas that appeal to the worst fears of desperate people, and they tailor their pitch to their audience.

Excuse for clampdown. For now, U.S. bankers and bosses frown on the militias as unreliable and disruptive to the status quo. But the ruling class will never entirely destroy them, because the day might come when they are needed to dismantle workingclass and progressive organizations, as the German industrialists needed Hitler.

That’s why the AFL-CIO, immigrants, activists of color, feminists, and the Left all oppose President Clinton’s Comprehensive Terrorism Prevention Act, an FBI brainchild put on the congressional fast-track after the Oklahoma bombing. They know this kind of legislation is always used against them, not the right.

In a bipartisan lovefest on June 7, the Senate approved Clinton’s measure 91-8 and sent it on to the House.

The bill would eliminate many constitutional protections for people accused of terrorism, especially those not born in the U.S., and would allow both citizens and non-citizens to be jailed or deported for supporting even the legal activities of groups that the president designates as terrorist. In the past, both the African National Congress and the Palestine Liberation Organization have been labeled that way.

The racist fabrication initially circulated by politicians and the press, that one of the Oklahoma bombers was Middle Eastern, served to whip up sympathy for this kind of bill targeting the foreign-born.

Question of idea-power, not firepower. Clearly, the real fight against Nazi militias will come not from politicians who strip workers of their First Amendment rights, but from a grassroots, workingclass-led movement that offers a counter-ideology promoting equality and the sharing of wealth rather than anti-Semitism, racism, sexism, homophobia, and taking by brute force.

Communists have long been caricatured as secret schemers for violent minority overthrow of the state. But this is the ultraright’s strategy for Armageddon, not ours. We believe in the right of armed, self-defense for labor and oppressed groups, but we know that the fundamental battle is for the hearts and minds of the majority.

In the end, guns don’t make revolutions — people make revolutions.

Send comments and questions to the author at

Share with your friends