Anarchist Reflections on the Christchurch Shootings


Just over one week ago two New Zealand mosques were attacked by a white supremacist carrying four firearms. 50 people were killed, another 50 injured. The gunman lives streamed the attack on the internet and the resulting video was quickly shared. He also issued a 78-page manifesto giving a glimpse into his mindset and why he carried out the act that he did.

Since then much discussion has been held around about New Zealand’s colonialist past, its own far-right groups and the existence of racism in New Zealand society at large. All important conversations that need to be had, but cannot really explain what happened in this instance and why. This was an international event that just so happened to have been in New Zealand.

To really understand the nature of the occurrence of racism and white supremacy then the present system we live under, capitalism has to be examined, and how it has used racism and continues to use it, to its own benefit for controlling and dividing workers. It also requires a careful analysis of who benefits from racial oppression. Simply labeling the recent fascist attacks as something unusual, or as the act of an ‘evil’ individual is not enough.

Capitalism is intertwined with racism. As an idea, it was developed and used to help justify colonisation and slavery. Its use as a form of discrimination and oppression was used to create and justify high levels of exploitation and was an important factor in the development of capitalism. The end of the more overt racist structures of slavery and empire have not buried racism.

Racism survives as an idea and as a practice, as it continues to serve two key functions under capitalism. Firstly, it allows the capitalists to secure sources of cheap, unorganised, and highly exploitable labour, for example, immigrants and minorities. Secondly, racism allows the capitalist ruling class to divide and rule the working class as it is used to foster divisions within the working class at home, classically in the scapegoating of immigrants and refugees for “taking away jobs and housing”; and abroad by bolstering the image of the nation-state by being used to create a sense of superiority over other workers of other nations, creating an appearance of common interest between workers and capitalists of a race or nation, with whom in reality workers have nothing in common.

It goes without saying that we need to counteract these ideas. Racism does not benefit any workers. Even workers who are not themselves directly oppressed by racism lose out from racism because it divides the working class.

Despite this many working class people often support racism because of the capitalist control over ideas. Capitalists do not simply rule by force, they also rule by promoting a capitalist world-view. They feed the working-class ideas of national and racial superiority and pride through the education system, the media, and literature. The impact of the drip feed of this propaganda throughout life cannot be underestimated.

Another factor is the material conditions of the working class itself. Poverty leaves people open to ideas of being able to take pride in their superiority over another when their own economic-social status is low. Working class people are also locked in competition for a limited amount of jobs, housing and other resources, and it easy to take advantage of any privilege that you may perceive.

With the increasing loss of many jobs to technology, the increasing precariousness nature of work, and stagnating and falling wages, many members of the white working class have lost the security they once took for granted. The resurgence of white-supremacy represents anxiety about a descent into conditions that capitalism and racism had earlier let most whites escape.

If, as we claim, it is capitalism that continually generates the conditions for racist oppression and ideology, then it follows that the struggle against racism can only be consistently carried out by overthrowing the capitalist system. The overthrow of capitalism, however, requires the unification of the working class internationally, across all lines of colour and nationality.

This is not to argue that the fight against racism must be deferred until after the revolution. Instead, we are arguing that only a united working class can defeat racism and capitalism and that a united working class can only be built on the basis of opposing all forms of oppression and prejudice and winning the support of all members of the working class. It is in the interest of all workers to support the struggle against racism.

Banning assault rifles, asking internet providers to block access to certain sites, demanding the spies spy on the right will not end racism. Neither is looking to politicians for solutions when they have themselves have often been responsible for helping lay the foundations for the attack. This has to be the work of the ordinary people of New Zealand.

Anti-racism should occupy a high priority in the activities of all anarchists. This is important not simply because we always oppose all oppression, but also because such work is essential to the vital task of unifying the working class, a unity without which neither racism nor capitalism can be ended. The world we need to create is one without racial categorisation, without “whiteness”, and without capitalism. One crucial way of working toward such a world is defending the marginalised in the here and now. Communities must come to the defence of people of colour.

The dangers of white identity politics must be explained to white members in their community and workplaces. Any hopes of building an anti-racist movement require white radicals educating other whites to identify that progress for other groups means that all workers benefit and that their rise does not mean another’s fall. We need to challenge those that say “maybe immigration is too high” or “Muslims are different”. We need to stop politicians and media commentators using their platforms to abuse Muslims and migrants for political point scoring.

Without these kinds of actions the far-right will continue to gain footholds amongst the white working-class as they present themselves as the alternative people are looking for, and the answers to the changing world around them.

We need to combat any fascist organising in public, without any exceptions. When fascists feel free to organise in public their discourse becomes normalised and supporters can gain strength and confidence from this. Furthermore, fascist organising is a threat to the lives of the people they scapegoat. Don’t be swayed of arguments for free speech, these people aren’t interested in debate, they are already convinced of the correctness of their ideas, and they just want power.

However, it must be remembered at all times that racism cannot be fought by anti-racism alone. The fight against capitalism and the struggle against racism are two sides of the same coin. Neither can succeed without the other. The right has been good at presenting a vision of an alternative to the discontented, we need to do the same, and we need to do it better, after all our vision of an all-inclusive, egalitarian future is more rewarding.

One more thing to reflect on is the common cry since the shooting has been “this is not who we are” but we have to remember there is no “we” that encompasses the whole people of Aotearoa New Zealand. This country, like every other in the world, is a class-divided society, made up of opposing classes, with conflicting class interests, and only one of those classes rules, the capitalist class. That is the class who Jacinda Ardern represents, and amongst all the glorification of the Prime Minister, this has to be remembered. While we can look for the common values that represent us as exploited workers and the response of the New Zealand public in coming together has been heartwarming, there are no common values between the ruling class and ours. Jacinda Ardern, despite the way she has handled the tragedy, as a representative of the ruling class and their institutions that lead to the white-supremacist that carried out this attack is part of the problem, not the solution.

signed, anarchists in Aotearoa/so-called New Zealand

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This is better than most of the articles I've seen on Christchurch, though not entirely free of the attempts to exceptionalise the event and blame it on “whiteness” which taint a lot of the commentary.

These kinds of racist attacks are nearly always carried out by working-class people (with or without disabilities, with or without illicit economy backgrounds) from areas negatively affected by capitalism. They parallel very closely the similar attacks carried out by “radical” Muslims who, aside from their ethnicity/religion, have an almost identical profile. They also parallel very closely mass-killings with no explicit political element, which as Berardi has observed, involve the “losers” in a social Darwinist economy avenging themselves on the perceived “winners” (while continuing to embrace social Darwinism).

Recent documentaries by a Muslim filmmaker
suggest that the main motivations for far-right and Islamist violence are desire to make an impression, to be seen and heard, to have power; and desire to belong, to be part of a group, an autonomous network.
He is white working-class and socially marginalised; he is from a small Australian town which is going through a mental health crisis due to mass unemployment and general desperation; his town IS being invaded, but not by Muslims (instead, by gentrifiers); he was in Europe at a time when Islamist attacks happened, and “changed” after these attacks (i.e. he was NOT “radicalised” online, but reacting to trauma). There's also evidence of sadism and violent/psychopathic propensities, as well as social withdrawal to the internet. From his manifesto, it's clear that he's also a Nazi (he denies this, preferring “ecofascist”) with strong social Darwinist views (which according to Berardi, are common among mass killers regardless of their politics), a particular hatred of Muslims lifted almost word-for-word from post-9/11 propaganda... but also a strong sense of being part of a world which is under siege and being destroyed by a hostile, corrupt political elite (which actually suggests a higher level of political consciousness than most of his opponents). It's also fairly clear that this is something he fantasised about doing for a long time, but gave up on previously (destroying his manifesto) before deciding more-or-less impulsively to revive the plan.

The general picture, therefore, is that Muslims have unjustly borne the brunt of legitimate working-class anger which was unable to find its proper target: the bosses and the system.

There is, I think, a general pattern that sadistic projection of desire is proliferating today, as direct, affirmative forms of desire are blocked through the suppression of autonomy (in everyday life as well as politics). People are also getting (as Fanon famously wrote) the endless message “get ready to fight”, which, in the absence of a liberation struggle, creates conditions for endless internecine killing. Far-right mass killings are one symptom of this projection. COIN responses of demonising attackers and carrying out martial-law lockdowns and retaliative punitive measures are ALSO symptoms. As are idpol attempts to leverage guilt as a pretext to beat down the egos of “privileged” groups. As, for that matter, is ITS.

There is a paradox of responding sadistically to sadism, which was first theorised by Nietzsche. It relies on and reinforces the very force it seeks to suppress.

Fascism is not caused by “ideologies” or “mindsets” (an idealist picture of social realities driven by consciousness). Fascism is a particular way of channelling discontent onto scapegoats, articulating affects (emotions) arising from the historical situation in particular ways.

The account of “ideologies”, “mindsets”, “radicalisation” and so on, is part of the COIN arsenal designed for use against Muslims, which is now extended to the far-right. The general purpose of COIN ideology is to cover up the causal role of the system in relation to symptoms of social breakdown, and to portray “extreme” acts as arising from a separate layer of bad (or at best, manipulated) actors outside the norm of capitalist society. The possibility that “extremism” may involve verifiably true beliefs about the status quo (as in the cases of Romanos, Kaczynski and so on), or that it may channel legitimate grievances in distorted ways (as with Muslim and far-right “extremists”), is foreclosed in advance. Instead, attempts are made to “socially triage” those with extreme views, including anarchists and other radicals, through supermax/isolation-style prisons, censorship and denial of platforms, homogeneous vilification and demonisation, and surveillance systems designed to detect and disempower dissent as early as possible. In this context, anything which feeds the COIN narrative or the COIN strategy is suicidal for anarchists. Punitivity and “othering” of mass killers are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

The idpol agenda damages anarchist responses because it feeds the idealist account of the causes of violence and racism, and it deflects attention onto attacking “whiteness”, instead of fighting the system. It doesn't challenge legitimate grievances away from racism and into something else.

Instead, the important tasks are 1) to relativise mass killings to the normal violence of capitalism and statism, and 2) to oppose the COIN responses which destroy whatever rights/political space the state has previously conceded.

Amidst irrational emotional overreactions to the horrific killings themselves, people have once again lost sight of the main enemy and the main danger. Hence the lack of condemnation and protest against the counter-terror police state which is being rolled out in New Zealand, as it was previously in America, Britain, France and Germany: lockdowns affecting hundreds of thousands of innocent people, including schoolchildren – even AFTER the attacker was caught; at least THREE arrests, even though only one person was charged (often in these cases, pigs wrongly arrest family members, friends or housemates and get away with it); attempts to censor the accused and deny him the right to defend himself at trial, so as not to “give him a platform” (which has HUGE implications for future anarchists on trial); banning his manifesto (which also makes it much harder to test whether the press is telling the truth about his motives); Orwellian moves to deny the killer a name, deny him any “place” in society, and in general, to use him as a wedge to undermine human rights protections. This amounts to the extension of the counter-terror police state to New Zealand for the first time. He is now, like Breivik, El Chapo, the Guantanamo inmates and many others, at risk of severe human rights violations within the prison system, on the pretext of “risk management” and “counter-extremism”. Furthermore, this regime – once in place – is also a threat to any future anarchist, left, black radical, green, or other rebels – as we've already seen everywhere else (Eric King in the US, anarchists in Italy, Russia, etc).

It's basically the same structure as fascist ideology: identify an outgroup, label it as absolutely other, and exterminate it literally or figuratively.

And it is suicidal to support the fascism of the powerful against the fascism of the (relatively) powerless.

A few days ago, Anarchist News ran the statement by Nikos Romanos, opposing Greek terror laws which allow people to be charged with terror and jailed for longer because of political motivations.
Romanos rightly frames these laws as thought-crime laws, “prosecuting an idea”. However, we now simultaneously have anarchists in America, Australia and New Zealand supporting EXACTLY THE SAME kind of terror laws against lone wolf far-right attackers – even though these laws can and will be used against anarchists and other radicals, and against people of colour such as Muslims. This shows how so many of today's anarchists cannot see beyond the end of their noses.

At the same time, the anti-immigrant and “war on terror” rhetoric which encourages racism continues unabated. New Zealand's neoliberal prime minister tried to distance far right extremism from “legitimate” anti-immigration concerns – such as the murder of hundreds of refugees by the Australian navy on the SIEV X, the ongoing torture/terror regime at the Australian camp on Nauru, and the recent cut in the number of refugees accepted by New Zealand. Australian media have routinely portrayed “boat people” as “invaders”, potential terrorists, carriers of disease, and generally as a threat – so it is no surprise that Australians are picking up this message. Australian police also murder Aboriginal children in custody in large numbers, while Australian soldiers take part in genocidal wars such as those in Afghanistan and Iraq. The only difference between the Christchurch attack and routine Australian military/police policy is that the attack was carried out by an unlicensed working-class person who lacked proper statist credentials to be a state-endorsed murderer. The fact that racist ideology is propagated by the state – not brought “from outside” by extremist groups – is usually covered-up. In 2017, Darren Osborne carried out an Islamophobic van attack in Britain. He was portrayed, as usual, as far-right, extremist, and “radicalised”. Closer inspection reveals that he was “radicalised” only two weeks before the attack – by watching a documentary on the BBC (the state TV channel) about Muslim sex abuse gangs. Only AFTER he'd been radicalised did he start following far-right groups like Britain First. Why is nobody asking what the British state is doing, running anti-Muslim “documentaries” so extreme as to turn someone to fascism?

How, also, do we respond to the fact that – when kept in adjacent cells – Kaczynski, Timothy McVeigh, and Ramzi Yousef found they actually had a lot in common?

The punitive, sadistic responses are just outpourings of ressentiment. The usual statist desire to extract pain in payment for debt. If the issue is simply safety, it would suffice to exile the most dangerous racists to somewhere sufficiently remote from other groups. But this takes away people's “right” to get revenge, to act out self-righteous sadism against their enemies. Can we consider the possibility that (shock, horror) we're not actually in a war of extermination between two utterly incommensurable groups?

We need to be a lot clearer about this. Civilisation causes immense distress and social breakdown (not in a good sense!) which produces a set of “soul wound” symptoms, of which mass killing (and in most cases suicide) is an extreme form. This is what we can expect in social pressure-cookers which turn everyone against one another and put people under unbearable amounts of stress. To avoid genuinely disruptive explosions, the system encourages displacement of antagonisms among different groups who are all affected in the same way. This is deflection. The main enemy is the state. One must never be tempted to side with the state in the suppression of smaller enemies. There is no excuse for lockdowns, censorship of prisoners, supermax-style imprisonment (or indeed, imprisonment full stop), executions, drone assassinations, thought-crimes, guilt-by-association – the entire arsenal of the COIN state. It's not possible to fight fascism with fascism. Victory over fascists is meaningless if it ends up with all of us in one big racially-neutral concentration camp where (only) the police are allowed to massacre people.

Just immediately pull the @ cards of any "anarchist" who suddenly jumps on board with the police state because something terrible happened. That's when you get a really good look at someone's priorities and analysis, liberals gonna liberal.

I feel that the term "terrorism" is inadequate in describing the social event, it should be prefixed with "alienation", then the school shootings can be categorized also as acts of alienation terrorism. Another in describing war should be described as State sanctioned terrorism.
This word "terrorism reminds me of Orwell's 1984 observation, --
" Contradictions,,,,,are deliberate exercises in double think"
And I will add, symptoms of binary warfare politics.,.

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