S1E29 - Shane Burley on Confronting Fascism during the Apocalypse
Margaret talks to Shane Burley about confronting fascism during the apocalypse
Margaret talks to author and organizer Shane Burley about fascism: what it is, why it comes up during times of crisis, and what we can do about it. They discuss the ways that we organize as anti-authoritarians to confront the ultimate authoritarianism.
Shane Burley is the author of Why We Fight: Essays on Fascism, Resistance, and Surviving the Apocalypse (AK Press, 2021) and Fascism Today: What It Is and How to End It (AK Press, 2017). His work has appeared in places such as NBC News, Jacobin, Al Jazeera, The Baffler, The Daily Beast, Truthout, In These Times, and Protean. He also runs the antifascist neofolk blog A Blaze Ansuz. You can find him on Twitter: @shane_burley1.
SPEAKERS Shane Burley, Margaret
Margaret Hello, and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the End Times. I'm your host, Margaret Killjoy, I use she or they pronouns. And this week I'm talking to author and researcher Shane Burley about, well about fascism, about what it is and why it comes up during times of crisis and what we can do about it and the ways that we organize as antiauthoritarians to confront the ultimate authoritarianism which is, you know, fascism. This podcast is a proud member of the Channel Zero Network of anarchist podcasts, and here's a jingle from another show on the network.
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Jingle Speaker 5 People have been waiting for some content. The Final Straw. [inaudible] Thefinalstrawradio.noblogs.org.
Margaret So I'm here today with author and activist Shane Burley. And if you want to introduce yourself with I guess your name, which I already said, and your pronouns, and then I guess a bit of your background and how you come to know a bit about the apocalypse and fascism.
Shane Burley Sure, sure. So Shane Burley, he/him or them, both a fine. I'm based out here in Portland, and recently just wrote a book, a collection of essays sort of tying together fascism, antifascism, and the kind of feeling of the apocalypse. I've been an organizer for all my adult life, labor, mutual aid groups, housing groups particularly, and part of kind of integrated social movements on both coasts, and have definitely seen a certain kind of crisis set in—maybe a longstanding crisis—but when that really came into fruition in 2020. So the feeling of the apocalypse was something I felt like I knew really well. And it's how I became—began to kind of understand the last few years within the narrative of apocalypse, particularly kind of the religious apocalypse that a lot of us were raised with.
Margaret Okay. And that's kind of interesting to me because usually when I think about the apocalypse, and when I—when I talk about it, I actually don't think much or talk much about the religious apocalypse, like—and so that's actually a little bit outside my own purview. And I was wondering if you could expand on that, because I mean, like, I have ideas about how the current world relates to societal collapse in a secular sense. But could you explain more what you mean about religious apocalypse?
Shane Burley You know, I think a piece of it comes to how I kind of understand religion or maybe spiritual practices as a sort of folk tradition for understanding our emotions, our experiences, our relationships, both kind of small, interpersonal, but also like big social systems. And so, you know, the apocalypse is something that's such—one of those ever present—kind of perennial concepts in people's folk traditions, trying to understand themselves in the world. It can be sometimes cyclical, there's many apocalypses and many rebirths, that kind of thing could be one, long standing apocalypse. But I talk about this in my book is that, you know, I had a lot of religious terror growing up in advance of the millennium. And so, you know, I was born in 1984. So I was a teenager when, you know, what the Y2K happened. But in the years leading up to that when I was still pretty young, there was this really intensive feeling that apocalypse talk was starting to happen, particularly the kind of Christian eschatology of Revelation, the rapture, and that really sort of captivated me in the worst possible way. And something I bonded—that fear I bonded on with my mother, because she had been captivated by that when she grew up Pentecostal in kind of rural California. And so that feeling of terror about what could happen, the end of the world, that stuck with me for a very long time, and not in entirely bad ways it's—and to a degree it's kind of the narrative story I give to the emotions of feeling trapped and not sure what's about to happen or feeling like things are kind of falling to pieces. And that narrative quality sometimes helps me step back and kind of understand it. And I think, after Trump's election, a real ramping up of climate collapse, economic—just totally dissolving, watching capitalism basically begin to break apart—there was that feeling. I felt like I was 10 years old again, you know, hearing about Revelation. It felt the same. And then when I was actually putting the book together it became so obvious because when I was writing the introduction, the smoke from the forest fires out in Oregon had literally blotted out the sun. And it had this kind of sickening red glow that covered everything. And people saw photos of it, you know, they were not photoshopped, it really, really was that profoundly kind of disturbing. And so it felt like it was unmistakable that there was a continuity here, that this kind of story of the apocalypse was one that was really coming to fruition more so than it had as an adult. You know, it was ephemeral when I was a kid, it was in my mind, but this was actually coming around me, and so I started to kind of understand it in that way.
Margaret How do you think that—because I mean, most of your work, you know, when when you message me and you're saying, "Hey I, you know, I wrote this book on the apocalypse," and I was kind of like, "No, no, no, you write about fascism." Because obviously, anyone can only do one thing and obviously I'm a living example of that. But, you know, in some ways in my mind the religious aspect of it almost answers this for me in a different way than I normally think about, again, because I, I think about the world somewhat in religious terms, but I was not raised in the same kind of—I was raised a lapsed Catholic, you know, and the apocalypse wasn't something that we really talked about. I tend to think of fascism as rising in this very, very secular way. Like I think about like the material conditions or whatever, like almost like a materialist rise of fascism or something. And, and yet, I guess there's also this, well, this religious rise of fascism quite obviously. And I was wondering if you could talk about that. Why is fascism on the rise now?
Shane Burley Yeah, there's a lot there. I, I just talked about this with someone else because they had asked me why in any of my work I don't cite Marxist theories on fascism. I never do. You know, and this is like, the kind of like, well Trotsky is the kind of thing people like to cite a lot. But there's a lot of versions of this to talk about, you know, it's the splitting of the middle class, or it's the, you know, the artisan classes meet with—there's all these kind of class dimensions that are meant to kind of tell that material story. Like this, you know, A+B=C, these conditions have been met, therefore this happened. And I don't actually think in those terms. I think in not anti-materialist terms, but I actually think about it in the ways that ideology is forced because I actually think that the conditions are much more muted than had been written about, you know, it's not as specific. There's a sort of this term, I use it in the book bunch of times, it's from Robert Paxton, which is "mobilizing passion." So it's like the energy that comes from a crisis. This could go into a left wing direction, could go into a right wing direction. Generally in privileged communities that goes into a more right wing direction. And I think that that—those conditions, quote/unquote, are this simple—that's the—that is as simple as it gets. It's just that kind of crisis can lead to it. There are kind of other factors that go in and sort of geopolitics. But what I think is more important is to think about it as a crisis of identity, of breaking of, you know, the tried—attempts to return to tradition for people to kind of parse out who they are, and—I think that that story of fascism is actually what brings us continuity from interwar years.
Shane Burley Because those conditions that happened in Europe and in a few countries. Yeah, they showed no permanent stasis for how those conditions will be carried over. What happened in Germany, what happened to Italy—like in terms of the economy and those sorts of things—aren't going to happen exactly today. But what does drive them together is this crisis sense of rebirth, the the—the reification of human inequality, those sorts of things. And so we're heading to a period of a lot of instability brought on by climate collapse, economic collapse, that kind of thing. And so I think that you're seeing that tumultuous is as much of material conditions as you need.
Margaret Yeah, that um—okay, let me pitch to you my theory about the rise of fascism and how it ties into what you're saying.
Shane Burley Oh go for it.
Margaret It's a very pessimistic theory because when people ask me, I basically say that like in the 20th century we were sort of able to defeat fascism, like, as an organized political entity on some level. Obviously we didn't defeat authoritarianism. We did defeat nationalism. We didn't defeat all of these other things. But I kind of think we never will be able to again, because—not that we can't like a beat it down. But my theory is that basically as climate change makes more resources scarce to more people, it—and makes more places unliveable, there will be mobility of people and there will always be people who respond to the mobility of people with like fear and scarcity and complete sort of ignorance of how labor creates all wealth and that more people means you can do more things. And so there's always going to be people who have like the "I've got mine, fuck you" response to crisis. And I just see that crisis deepening as climate change sets in. I don't know, does that map with what you're talking about?
Shane Burley Yeah, I think he does. And I think this is gets down to that kind of collapsing of the middle that's been used a lot—why you have the radicalization of both the left and the right. Because this kind of centrist modicum of liberal politics is built on stability, it's built on the idea that this current system—which feels like it's lasted forever but it's only been here a short period of time—that's gonna, that's going to continue. And actually, when you're having increased crisis, you actually have the edges built out. And so part of, I think—part of what I think antifascists actually bring—and particularly like radicals anarchists actually bring to the antifascist project—is a battle for who owns the edges in general. So like, you're saying, we have this crisis of migration—it's not actually crisis, is totally invented by folks who are enemies of migration. But it does create that sense of crisis, and we actually end up engaging in a war with them for how we're going to approach that. Is this period of crisis going to strengthen us as a people through a revolutionary vision? Or is it going to divide us into these nationalisms that are kind of worn out? I do think that in a way we have a choice between socialism and barbarism here, that there—like we're actually going to—we kinda have to win it, otherwise somebody else is going to. So I think, like, I half agree with the pessimism. I think that there—we could be pessimistic about this. But we actually are kind of called to question on this. So we are having the question call on us right now. Like, are we going to take the challenge of the fringes to a degree? Are we going to look at this moment of crisis and say, "No, we're going to tip over and create a new revolutionary society out of that crisis." Because we don't have a choice now, it's not a matter of pushing back the crisis and trying to retain some kind of progressively moving forward center, that just can't happen anymore. The conditions don't allow for that. So instead, we have to live in the crisis.
Margaret Okay, so basically—so maybe it's not that we can't beat them this next time, it's that the center can't beat them this time. Right. Like, like a very centrist—I mean, you know, obviously, all—anything you call centrist depends on what perspective you're looking at, right. But like, theoretically, an alliance of sort of centrist powers defeated, you know, the far right last time.
Shane Burley Yeah totally.
Margaret The tankies listening will love that I'm calling the USSR centrist. But that's more polite than what I would normally call the USSR. So and—so this time it actually has to be the radical left, it has to be socialism, it has to be the idea of, like, we're all in it together to some degree, as like the only way to actually try and keep it beaten down which then maybe—I'm just trying to repeat back what you're saying, cuz I'm trying to, I'm trying to think it through. So you're saying that the thing we have to do is that when people are leaving the center, we have to help them leave the center in a good direction instead of a bad direction? Is that kind of where you're getting up?
Shane Burley Yeah, I think—I mean, in a way it's just a call to everyday radicalism to like not abandon any communities, to offer them like a tangible vision. I mean, part of the problem here is that the left loses. And the left loses so consistently, so spectacularly, that it's hard to maintain the argument at certain times, we have a revolutionary vision to offer. We abandoned certain communities, we disregard so many types of folks. And so we actually have to build that up and have a real viable alternative and the ability to win something from it. You know, like, part of why the centrist powers—you know, the great global powers—were able to defeat fascism is that they had something to offer, they were offering, like, you know, stable homes, they were—I mean, they weren't really everyone, but there was an image of it, there's like a certain kind of, like, white middle class that developed in the 50s and stuff, and they were making these arguments. All of those promises have had the rug pulled out from under them. They're all kind of revealed to be such a fraud. And people are living with that reality now. And so we—in a way we have the ability to capture that energy, and we have to deal with like a cogent vision, something really profound to offer. And I actually think that 2020 was a good example of what we have to offer, which is we don't have money and things like that, we have each other. We have the ability to share things and do it together.
Margaret But what if instead of creating a viable alternative and creating really good visions of what we want, what if instead we create a sort of pure elite click of radicals and then anyone who doesn't totally align with us we abandon to the center and/or the right. Have you thought about that as a as an option?
Shane Burley Let's just create affinity groups and do little a like ideology test before people can join, you know, that will be the vision of the revolutionary future. It was something—someone was asking me about, like, the things that—the things that 2020 did wrong. Like, the few different things that organizers did wrong. I just—my answer was the revival of the affinity group as a model of success. Nothing felt more alienating or most more closed off, more impactful for most people.
Margaret So I want to push back against that idea. And maybe it's defensiveness, right. But I think that the concept of the affinity group isn't inherently flawed—like this concept, for anyone who's listening isn't aware, as far as I understand that the concept of the affinity group is that one of the primary makers of change that you can participate in is basically you, like, crew up with some of your friends and you figure out what you want to do and then you do it together. And you have like, really tight solidarity within that group. And it's a, it's a means that has, like, primarily been pushed towards, like, direct actions and demonstrations and things like that, right? It hasn't been leveraged as much in mass actions, and, you know, labor actions and things like that. But it has been used to, like, mutual aid organizing and things. But I don't know, this something—actually is really interesting. This is something I've been thinking about a lot recently. I've been thinking about how people do and don't come to the left, and specifically the anarchist left or the anti authoritarian left or the anarchic left or basically the "we can't, we're not going to tell you exactly what to do" left. And on some level, we can tell people like, "Hey, here's a bunch of really good ideas." And they can be like, "Oh, cool. I want to join." And we don't usually have a good system for which—by which they can join, right? Because especially if we organize an affinity groups, it's like, well, we organize with our friends and we don't know you, you're not our friend.
Shane Burley Yeah.
Margaret So good luck. We have your back in the streets, probably, maybe, if we know you. I mean, ideally, right? As compared to people who organize, like, I think both churches and to some degree the right wing—well the far right actually, I think, has some of the same organizing problems that the left does. But it immediately becomes your friend group if you go join other types of organizations, right. And it provides a sense of meaning. And I would hold that it's actually a sense of meaning and affinity that holds most people into politics, into an ideology or a culture. So I see some, like, real limitations to the affinity group. But I also don't think it's wrong that people want to, like, organize with the people that they know and they care about. And I actually think it makes us more resistant to certain types of ideological takeovers and like—
Shane Burley It does.
Margaret —strong figureheads and things like that. But I, I just, I think we need to solve this problem of like, how do you give people places, like , you know, my argument that I've been making lately—sorry, I know, that was me interviewing you and I just, I've been thinking about this a lot. I don't get to talk to humans all that much.
Shane Burley No, go for it. You're good.
Margaret I've been thinking a lot about, like, what does it mean to instead of gatekeeping on the left, like, usher. Be an usher for the left, right? It's like, helping people find the place that they belong, which might not be with you, you know? I don't know actually. Okay, so that's my like vague defensiveness. But I'd like to hear your critique of the affinity group before we get back into what is fascism and how to fight it.
Shane Burley I mean, I—I think I fundamentally agree with you and I, in all my years organizing and doing things, it is strong bonds and ideas and ideology that actually keep people there. There's this mythic idea that someone joins organizing through a perfect storm of experiences that are validated non political ways, you know, like, they were about to lose their house and the tenant union came in, they saved it and they join the movement. Now they're radical, that's the way you do it. Not, you know, I knew somebody or somebody introduced an idea to me at a party or something. Like, that's the "bad way" to come. And so no, and I also think it's important to work towards depolitisizing spaces. I don't like and I was—I've been in a number of these groups when I was younger that had this almost, like, discouraging people from being like intimately involved with each other as people, you know, as if that would weaken the project.
Shane Burley But what I'm—I think, when I'm talking about more is that there is a real lack of, like you said, moving people into things, of finding ways to get people included, to reaching out to them. So you know, over 2020 there's a lot of mutual aid projects. And I remember trying to touch base with a number of them—and this, this is something this is—this is something I've talked to other people about, I think it's a tough situation. It's partly, you know, getting older is part of this, maybe not feeling as tender to radical spaces as you get older. You know, I know that like having chronic health issues or experiencing disability, things like that will sometimes pull you out of those things. And I remember feeling like very tough to feel like I had a home space in the mass protests that were happening in 2020. And often feeling like people were moving without me or kind of chase—trying to chase those groups because the tight affinity group model was based on something that I wasn't invited to and a lot of people weren't invited to. And so that, if that's the the tight knit entry to it, it ends up I think having kind of a heartbreak for a lot of people that have not been able to find their way into it. And so that's sort of the thing is, if we have too many boundaries on it, and we haven't found that way of actually getting people to form that, it almost feels like a, like a romantic dream, the affinity group that you'll never have.
Margaret Yeah, which has, like, I've always been a, you know, perpetual outsider, right? Like, there's any group I'm in, I always am convinced forever that I'm, like, not really the—I'm not part of the core of it, you know, they like, you know, when I was younger I was like, people don't even tolerate me here. Which may have been true, might not have been true. It was kind of annoying. And then as I get older, it's like, oh, they tolerate me, because I'm, like, interesting, but I'm not part of it. Right. And I think that that's actually a very common sentiment. I've talked to a lot of—a lot of anarchists who have that feeling despite being part of a sometimes really cliquey culture.
Shane Burley Oh, absolutely. Yeah.
Margaret So yeah, that's, uh, I don't know, that's a good point. It's funny because I'm like, well, I didn't experience that that much in 2020 because I wasn't super involved in the streets like I went sometimes, right. But I didn't work with an affinity group I tested riot materials and made shields and—
Shane Burley Yeah that was great.
Margaret —ran a podcast, you know. It's like I found, I found my, like, individual ways to help. And I really like that and maybe idealize that, where it's like, oh, everyone has their thing they can do and all I have to do is figure how to like, plug all these puzzle pieces together.
Shane Burley In that way it's like, the more you need those affinity group support—and the kind of support that goes far beyond just organizational support, like the ones that really intervene in your life in a way—the more you need, that, the harder it is to find, you know. I remember years ago both my parents died in like really rapid succession. And I felt like I forgot how to talk to other people, you know, I'd just kind of stare in conversations for a really long time, much longer than people would have expected. And I think, in a way, you know, the political spaces I was doing stuff, people's reaction was that—on that—was to sort of back away from me. And to make it so that all the expectations that come along, both spoken and unspoken, I no longer could meet, therefore I couldn't really be there. You know, I couldn't travel to meetings, I couldn't necessarily be as dependable as I used to be, all those sorts of things. Really dramatically pulled me out of a shared space of mutual aid. So I spent a lot of time thinking, like, what would it mean to flip that script? What how would we create something that, like, not just, like, creates a stable mutual aid but, like, seeks people out? That kind of like grasps after them? And I don't—it's not like I have a great answer about that. But I do like the idea that that's like our mission.
Shane Burley Is to, like, constantly like reaching out towards them.
Margaret I think that's like one of the biggest questions that we have to ask ourselves as a, as antiauthoritarians, because we have to say, you know, it's so much easier when you can say, "Well, here's the plan. We all do this, which Joe over there told us to do, you know, and all praise Joe, and we'll get this done." You know, and then because someone is, like, lost and they don't know what to do with their life, right? It's like cults recruit that way. So do fringe ideological movements. You know, so do churches, all of these three things are roughly the same thing sometimes. And, you know, it's very effective, but it's predatory. Right? You know, it's like, I always say that, like, antiauthoritarian revolutionists, we're playing—we're playing the game on hard mode, but it's also the only way to get the good ending if it's a video game, you know? Like, if you play it on easy you actually, no matter what you do, you get the bad ending. You have to play on hard mode to get to the good ending where we don't create more tyranny.
Shane Burley This is, I mean, it's also a question of, like, organizing in general. You know, I remember being part of groups where the term "social insertion" was used a lot, you know. Which led to lots of great jokes, but like, it was this idea that, like, you know, you have an analysis, that analysis is well forged—you know, many—lots of people have got into this thing. And so you're going to go into a social movement and you're going to help shape it in a positive direction. You're inserting into this. But you're not predatory. No, no. Because you really believe in that social movement, right. Therefore, you can't be predatory. It's not entryism because you're totally well intentioned. It—now I, you know, when you look back a lot—and this is the foundation of organizing in general, you know, anyone that has like, you know, be like a union organizer talks about, like, agitational conversations. You draw people's trauma, you agitate it, and then you move it towards a path, right? Like that's the function of the classic organizing. But it does, there's a lot—like you are really going in there with the intention of moving people at vulnerable stages, moving people's projects at vulnerable stages. It's a, it's a really tough balance. And it's not one that I think is perfect. There's been a lot of times in these organized spaces where I'll see these conversations happen and I'm just like, I don't feel good about this. I feel like I was just, you know, selling somebody a Macbook or something.
Margaret Yeah, I mean, you know, it's something I think about with, like, it's easier for me to think about with like my veganism, right. I don't seek to proselytize veganism. Like, one, I just straight up don't believe it's the answer for everybody. You know, some people don't even have a question so why would they need an answer? But when people come to me, and they're like, oh, what's the deal? Why do you do this? I'm very happy to talk about it. Right? And say, like, this is why it works for me. And I kind of tried to do that with anarchism, but it, you know, but it feels a little bit more urgent, right? With anarchism. But that urgency is dangerous, right? It's the same thing as like a Christian missionary because, you know, a Christian missionary, you have to go do this because you're literally saving people from eternal damnation. And so there's this, like, similar drive sometimes into saying, like, well, there's oppression and anti-oppression, and I need to teach everyone anti-oppression. And it's true. But also, it's not going to work until people are ready to like come to it which, of course, also doesn't have any reflections within the church and come to Jesus. I don't know. Yeah, the social insertion thing always bothered me even though I on some level, right, I do it, but I do it subculturally, right. If I'm involved with a subculture I try to like stake out a presence for, like, radical ideas within that subculture that, like, come from that subculture, you know. I'll try and say, like, well, I'm involved in goth and here's all the, like, things that I reflect well with about the goth subculture that work with my values as an anarchist. And I'll definitely like tell people that. And in my head that's different than saying, like, I'm going to demand that all goth spaces be leftist. I might demand that all goth spaces be free of Nazis. But that's only to do my part to make sure the entire world is free of Nazis.
Shane Burley I feel almost like less conflicted when it comes to a subcultural space. You know, so it's like, you know, like, we've talked about, like, neofolk and stuff. Like, I am entering a neofolk space to change the rules and kick out all the Nazis totally intentionally, like, I—like they should be scared. It's a nefarious plan. We want to eliminate them from the space entirely. But, like, when someone's sort of, like, sharing their, like, human vulnerability, I feel like we need to hold that with care, you know, and sometimes that's a really tough balancing act. You know, there's, there's a lot—I mean, I used to feel uncomfortable with the radical politics-to-church analogy, but it's very true. And in a lot of ways, just common human impulses, right, to try and come together with other people figure out a solution for this mess. You know, we have our own version of eschatology. We have our own version of the Second Coming, like, all those sorts of things, in a way, I feel like maybe it's a common human story just told with profoundly different language. And so I it's—I mean, this was true all in 2020, because there was so much trauma. Just—all of the kind of political friction was built on trauma, all the transitions were traumatic ones. So the question was, how do you radicalize this moment but also, like, really holding true to supporting people through that trauma.
Margaret So this idea of how—I'm answering the beginning of what he said instead of the end of what he said because I got fixated on it. This idea of, like, you entered the subculture and you kick the Nazis out, right, and that is your, your entryism. That is your, you know, I'm trying to change this. And it's interesting because it's, that's different than saying, "I'm going to enter neofolk and make it an anarchist space." But instead it's saying, "I'm going to enter neofolk and to make it a space that is okay for me and mine and my, like, leftism, and drive out the Nazis." And so, I actually do think that's different than like walking in and saying, "Everyone needs to be this." And so that's actually, I think that reflects onto, like, antifascism as a larger movement. I think this answers the question of how to change the world perfectly and we've solved everything. Is that antifascism—you know, it's like people use anarchists and antifascism almost interchangeably if they're talking shit in the media, right? And also, like, you know, historically, right, like you know, anarchists are the forefront of antifascism and then also, if you look at the period in which, you know, authoritarian left was like not really a player on the scene for, like, until more recently again, you know, anarchism, antifascism were fairly synonymous, right? But it's different because it's saying, we want to drive out the Nazis, like, we want to stop Naziism and make it okay for us to be anarchists or anarchic or, you know, some other leftist position that is a reasonable one. And then when we do that the thing that we're united about is drive out the Nazis. And I find that that, like, naturally tends towards people being, like, "Hey, what are the alternatives to the Nazis?" And like thinking more for the—on their own, "How do I get involved in making sure I'm part of a society that has no room for Nazis, period." And then come to the left and that way.
Shane Burley It's sort of like capturing another mobilizing passion too, you know. Like, the passion of music, or of a musical space or a subculture—so there's a lot of really emotive experiences in there that somebody else is capturing. Like somebody else is telling that story. We're not there. And so it's a totally contested space. And I think there's a chapter in the book that talks about this. But it's, it ends up being a [inaudible] struggle. That's one that's like so overlooked in a lot of political groups, they look kind of down on that or don't see it as productive work because they don't want their movements and remain subcultural so they avoid engaging in subcultural struggle. The other part is you kind of have to be a part of that subculture to deal with any sicerity.
Shane Burley But it is something where you're sort of like saying, I'm not allowing these people to take energy anymore. Like we are, like, it's like a war for that energy and space.
Margaret Yeah, because I think people are attracted to subculture for the same reason that they're attracted in some ways to ideology, which is that they desire a sense of meaning. And I would say subculture is usually more about, like, aesthetic meaning, right? Which is incredibly valid, and I care about it deeply as a person. And yeah, like, subculturalism gets a lot of shit. And actually, I think it's comparable to the way affinity groups get shit, right? Because, like, if you have the cool kids and you're not one of them, then it's really natural and actually an antiauthoritarian and good urge to be, like, well then fuck the cool kids. Right?
Shane Burley Yeah.
Margaret But and I think we—
Shane Burley I've always said, fuck the cool kids, for sure.
Margaret Yeah. And then what's funny is then you end up being the cool kids who say fuck the cool kids and you're like, you can't join because you have a baseball cap, and then you're like—or whatever. I don't know what the cool kids I—well, all the cool hipster anarchist all have baseball caps now anyway. But, you know, it's like, you're like a normal guy wearing khakis, you can't join, you know, because fuck you. It's like, nah, you're actually just being the cool kids. But, so if we—people who don't like subculturalism within radical politics, it makes sense, right? If you think—if you conflate punk and anarchy, right? And you're not a punk, you therefore think, well, I'm, I can't be an anarchist. And as a—and then probably there's a bunch of dumb punks who are like, "Oh, the fact that I'm a squatter is the only good real way to be an anarchist." Right? And so then, you know, they're gatekeeping, anarchism, etc, right? And I find that the answer is not to then, like—I remember when all of a sudden all the punks, like, started trying to dress as normal as possible in order to, like, infiltrate the mainstream.
Shane Burley Yeah.
Margaret And I think some people did that to infiltrate the mainstream, but I actually think most of them did it because they actually wanted to dress normal, or dress in a different aesthetic than they were previously. And they were actually making room for you to dress in a different aesthetic within the radical movement. And so I think that's good. I think that the, like—my answer has always been we just need to make every subculture a space that engenders radicalism, you know, and we need to—and then we just need to make sure that they all, like, get along with each other where it's not, like, "Oh, well you're, you know, you're into metal that's dumb" or whatever, right?
Shane Burley You know, I think in a way—I don't know if this is a step too far—but a liberated society is a web of very collaborative subcultures. You know? Because people, people are different, they'll have different tastes, religions, like, you know, ways of living life, diets, things like that. And the goal is to allow people with different while eliminating nationalism and like those dividing lines and hierarchies. And so I respect people's subcultures. And a lot of—you know, I talked about—I have a chapter in the book called "Contested Space," and I talk about neofolk, I talk about heathenry a lot. A lot of these things like, if you—when you talk to antiracist heathens, you ask them why you do this work they're like, "Because nobody else will care. They'll just give this away to people," right? Like, people don't care about our subcultures, except for us. And to remain true to that, like, we're the only ones that can do it. So it becomes, in a way, a really essential political struggle because the struggle to, like, whether or not we have the ability to create spaces that really reflect us.
Shane Burley And a lot of ways like all these Nazi infiltrations into a lot of subcultures is like a direct attack on our ability to, like, enjoy life, to have like an aesthetic way of living.
Margaret Yeah. And then, so this all comes back into this thing where it's like, it's about solidarity instead of unity. It's instead of saying, like, it's not about everyone suddenly becoming the same and all having the same ideas. It's just literally about, like, not hating people for having other different religious ideas, or aesthetic ideas, or even political ideas within a certain frame. Right? As long as the frame allows for other people to have political ideas, you have a lot more freedom to accept them, right? Okay, so how would you describe fascism? And how would you suggest the fight against fascism, what it might look like? Those are probably—those are really simple questions.
Shane Burley [Laughing] I'll give you, like, 10 word answers then we'll be good.
Margaret Yeah, listicle maybe.
Shane Burley So in my first book I basically have two [inaudible] in the definition of fascism. So one is the belief in human inequality, that people are fundamentally hierarchical and unequal, for a myriad of reasons, biological or racial or spiritual. And the other thing is that identity is fixed, immutable, and determines who you are. So those identities and the hierarchies are bound together. Race is the most common one you see, but gender plays in there, sexual orientation, sometimes religion, there's other factors case—there's different versions of this that can play out. And but we use intentionally vague language so that you can include a bigger swath of types of far right movements that have that kind of base commonality. Well, part of this is a revolutionary return to a pre-enlightenment way of living or a pre kind of modern way. So you'll take kind of earlier modern racial ideas and try and bring them up to the current day by using, you know, pseudoscience, or reinterpreting spiritual values, things like that. There's a revolutionary element to it, it does seek to basically undermine the basic assumptions of society. So that it can achieve both the hierarchy and the identity models. And it has a populist element to it. And that's, I think, one thing that gets sometimes lost in this and it particularly gets lost in some of the older kind of Marxist tropes about finance capital, or monopoly capital, things like that, is that the working class does fascism, the white working class in particular does it in a really mass level. People participate in fascism, it's not just happening from the top, it actually happens in a lot of ways from the bottom or the middle. But it happens from mass complicity. And the violence is a really central part of that as well, because violence is kind of understood as the fulcrum of hierarchy and identity. It's how politics happens in this kind of revolutionary cycle. It's turning back on the center with a new revolutionary, not to turn things back to where it was, but they take the reactionary things they like from the past and modernize them, which is a very complicated series of forces. Why I think it's really hard to answer, you know, there's, you know, hundreds of hundreds of books written about what fascism is and almost none of them actually agree with one another, which makes it really, really hard to fight it. I think—so there's a few things, having a clear understanding of what is fascist and what is not, I think, is really important. And I think that has actually been built up pretty well over the past five or six years, people actually have a much more sophisticated understanding of politics, like just everyday folks, because they've been forced to do it and to really orient to it. The fundamental core way to fight fascism is to disallow its presence. And so fascism has to do all the normal organizing things to grow, it has to talk to people, it has to build sometimes groups, both formal and informal. Deplatforming is the process by which those things seek you no longer have access to other people. So breaking that chain is the fundamental core of antifascism. I think another core piece of that is having a revolutionary vision to offer people that runs counter to that, that exposes the lie for it and actually brings people together in something that really gets at their needs, you know, that really gets at the solutions to economic inequality are the feelings of alienation, the lack of community, those sorts of things. I think that's the other piece of it. Antifascism is an inherently negative thing. And I think we actually kind of caught earlier about why. It's actually a really simple proposition. We're not trying to build everything, we're just trying to stop this one place so we can exist. But when we exist, we do the other thing, right? The other thing is part of how we exist. It's like a civic life, to live a joyous life is to actually build that community. And that's how I kind of—I talked about this in the book. That's how I think of a revolutionary vision is us building something that supports us in our own image, like when we're doing that you're engaging in that revolutionary project.
Margaret Okay. Given like, so basically saying in some ways, it's actually hard to defeat it with centrism, it's hard to defeat it with—certainly anyone who's like disaffected by the status quo is obviously not going to be super attracted to the status quo. One of the things that—okay, so what about like, I'll just pitch my, like, my thing that I think about a lot with how to defeat fascism, is that I think the fascist mindset is an attraction to individual power. And, like, to be strong—maybe community power—but like, to be like strong with your buds, right? And against this thing that you're afraid of. Like, I think that—I think that essentially fascism is a cowardly position. It comes from this—and I—this is like very pejorative, I mean, obviously I love pejoratives to say about Nazis—but like, it comes from this position of fear, right? Like, these people are coming, they will therefore destroy my way of life. I am not strong enough to live my own life if these other people are around. This kind of thing. But also, like, I think people want to get high on power, and especially, like, street level—like, it seems like fascism has historically tended to have a paramilitary element of, like, you know, people run around beating up people that don't like, right? And I think those people are very much attracted to strength. And when they get beat up, it's not fun anymore. Like when they can show up in enough numbers to when it's real fun. And then when they get their asses handed to them, it's not anymore. And maybe this is like kind of leftover from some of them—the pre—like, we've learned a lot about confronting fascism in the past three or four years, right? I'm basing this mostly on my experiences of talking to primarily European, especially Eastern European, antifascists who are doing work, like, over the past, like, 10-20 years, is this idea that like, yeah, when it's not fun anymore, when when you're not strong anymore, you quit. I don't know. Does that? Am I wrong about that? Are we've been proven wrong? Or is that, how does that tie in?
Shane Burley No, I mean, there's, there's a really old through line from like Adorno and folks—like Adorno wrote, you know, "The Authoritarian Personality" about this kind of process, you know, that was really at the heart of what fascism was. I think, you know, I think there's a sort of rebellion against soft power, the idea that power is gained through consensus and compromise and lobbying and persuasion, and like a sort of return to hard power that, like, wins by force and strength, like sort of cuts out all the other stuff. Which feel as though—at least have been told to them—is how things are done now, which is why you're in x, y, and z situation, which is why your life is going nowhere, because of this kind of coercion of softness.
Margaret They can punch their way out of all this talk.
Shane Burley Right, right. And this is a deep, I think this is a deepseated thing in our culture, in general. There's this Marxist named Moishe Postone who wrote this really famous essay on antisemitism called "Antisemitism and National Socialism." And he talks about the commodity form—basically that the way that products are made sort of bifurcates labor. There's like the good labor of, like, artisans, people use their hands. And then there's like the bad labor of, like, finance, capital, or maybe like real estate people, bankers, that kind of thing. But the reality is that both of them are a part of the system, right? They're actually both a piece of capitalism. And really an equal measure. But we don't see it that way. And so we ended up experiencing a bifurcation whereby we start to resent this one type of capital, when we start to like, you know, celebrate the other type of capital. And I think there is a really deeply layered process in that where we create a false image of what's responsible in our lives. And then we look at this sort of producer's mentality of a strong person using their hands, laboring, that honest person, and that person has to be the one that's being kind of attacked by the other person, the other person is basically characterized by their, you know, greedy persuasion and their lies and their, you know, board rooms and their greasy hands and that kind of thing. And so I think we ended up having a culture that helps to build this in, that it helps to tell the story that if you were only to just be strong, and to essentially use violence, you would be able to see through all the petty perversions of society, all the things that make us so sick. If you could just overcome that and be like the artisan instead of the finance capitalist, then you would somehow come out. And I think there's a deep mythology, because what's happening is that story is being told. But then there's real impulses underneath it. People really are losing their homes and they're losing their farms. They really don't know the community, they don't have neighbors, they don't have good jobs, they don't talk to the kids. I mean, those things are real. And so I think that that process—having a real tactile experience, right? It's going out with your buddies in your goofy polo shirts and hitting someone, it feels like you're doing something, right? Like, you're really reaffirming that dichotomy. That's profoundly powerful thing. And I think that, you know, when you see people out in that kind of, those—again, I've been a lot of these Proud Boy rallies where they attack people, and not just Proud Boys, other groups—like, they are as high as people could be. I mean, there's almost like a spiritual dimension to setting yourself up for that kind of violence. It imbues so much meaning in their lives, and they attach so much meaning to it. So I think you're right, I think there's this process about claiming individual power. But the reality is, I mean, you know this, it's not like a secret that that's not power at all. That's maybe one of the weakest things a person can do. What's powerful is coming together with other people and realizing your vulnerability with them. And having the ability to actually change something. Like that's, that's a—I mean, it's infinitely more powerful. But again, we're being told that that's the slimy way of doing things in a way. That that's the, that's the coercive way. That's a soft way. That's the way of liberals and people who have gotten this in this situation in the first place.
Margaret Yeah. And then I think about—I mean, there's like, there's ways that we always have to be on guard. I don't want to say, like, antifascist is the same as fascist. It's just not true, right. Antifascist violence is like an inherently defensive quality that—on the other hand, I mean, I'm sure Nazis would say that theirs is defensive, too, about their way of life or whatever the fuck right? But—
Shane Burley They always frame it as defense.
Shane Burley That's, it's so consistent always. Even when—the beginning of the Holocaust they framed is self defense.
Margaret And so then it's like an interesting thing where in some ways I'm saying, well, like, the way is that if you beat them up successfully enough, they go away. And, you know, that is in some ways holding on to hard power or promoting hard power. But yet I—and maybe I'm wrong about this—but okay, there's like this story that has always sat with me. I was talking to an antifascist, an old punk from Asheville who was part of the antifascist kicking out shit, Nazi punks in the 80s. And he was like, well they outnumbered us, right? But we won eventually on some level of driving fascist organizing out of Asheville. And the way we would do it, is we gave them no rest. You see a Nazi, you jump a Nazi. And he was talking about this time where he was, like, walking home, he sees three Nazis, he's alone, and he jumps them. He jumps all three of them. And he gets the shit kicked out of him, right? But it's like—but it still breaks their sense of security and rightness. Because they're not the ones who instigated that, you know? And eventually it kind of drove people away. And, and maybe this is bullshit, but I think about how, like, theoretically—like Nazis will play the underdog card if it's all they got, right? But like, what they—their good card is claiming underdog without being underdog that's like their strong card in their deck. But claiming underdog while being underdog doesn't really work very much because only the most like deeply ideologically committed Nazis stay Nazis in that sense. Everyone else is kind of like, yes, isn't really fun anymore. And again, I don't know if this is outdated. And I wonder—I questioned my own in this case, like, insistence on hard power. And I think that there's all kinds of, like, soft power that goes behind this. And like, it seems like antifascist organizing has at least as long of a history of, like, organizing, and also like counter recruitment, and like, soft stuff.
Shane Burley You know, it—it's like those things you're indicating, those are actually approached as organizing, right? So it's like never letting you rest. And this is something I've heard from other groups. You know, when I interviewed Rose City Antifa for my last book they said they basically were able to successfully take down Volksfront—which was like a, you know, a big confederation skinhead gang in the 90s centered in Portland—just because they were so tenacious, because they never stopped, right? They made it so impossible. But that was like an organizing project. It actually wasn't just about like building up muscles and taking them down. It was about, like, you know, how do you look at a situation and find all the ways to make them totally unsuccessful, you know, to make them unstable at home and at work. So it was almost like in a way of like, those sorts of things, whether or not they're engaging in physical resistance was almost like a secondary thing to the negotiation of being like a community organizer and being like in that community and thinking—and there's the other different too is that they really are defensive. I mean, people are being pushed to defend themselves because of the violent presence of Nazis if, you know, if neo-nazi skinheads weren't out murdering people in the 80s I doubt a movement of people would have formed to take them on. Like they—their violence was so ever-present that they—people were forced to do it. You know, and I also, as much as people I know there's like, you know, riot porn videos and stuff, I never really hear antifascists doing a ton of celebrations of violence, because I don't think that there's a lot of like joy in that for most folks.
Margaret Yeah. And then I almost think that the ones that have the most joy are the sort of, like, when it's almost like you're like clowning them. Like, obviously, it is not totally the same to put a pie in someone's face as punch them in the face. It's almost like you're doing it to make sure that people laugh at them. You know, like, I just think of the Richard Spencer punch, you know. Like it wasn't, like, he got taken to the ground and, like, you know, kicked to death or something. Right? It was just like, he was talking and now he can't because someone sucker punched him.
Shane Burley Yeah, it was like a humiliate—like a public humiliation. You know, it also, it stops their continuity. I mean, like Richard Spencer could no longer just go talk to a camera anymore, right? It's too uncomfortable to do that. So the function wasn't that, like, stopping them with the fist, it was now they have the specter hangover of not be able to do x, y, and z activity. That work was—I mean, it was so clear with Richard Spencer too because he was so upfront about it. I talked about in the book, too. I mean, like, that's what stopped them was that they could not do the events anymore. So they couldn't do the practical organizing they wanted to do, their organizations really couldn't function anymore. So it was sort of like taking that to its logical conclusion, like, how do you see through the situation and like a real organizer way, which is why I think part of why the left is different—or radicals are different—because it is about a community building project. Because at the fundamental core, it's about how do we realize an actual vibrant, loving community?
Margaret I'm just, like—I mean that's probably what they say. But there's a difference just literally in whether or not ours is about, you know, ours is about inclusion and theirs is about exclusion, you know? Okay, well, how does all this tie into apocalyptic survival, right? We're talking about what is fascism? How do we stop fascism? You know, why—I mean, I know the answer to this, but why am I having you on this prepper podcast? What is—how does how does this tie together?
Shane Burley I think there's a couple things here. I think the first is acknowledging what we're actually living in, which is much more severe than I think where—what is normative to discuss. And I think part of why it, we, we don't encourage that kind of discussion is that we are afraid it would lead to apathy, we're afraid it would lead people to not fight, you know, things like climate change, to not try and push back on, like, emission standards, whatever the reforms are, you know, and I think there's a fear that pushing past that would then disallow us all the kind of both morally and practically accessible things to do. The other thing is just living with the actual reality of where we're at, you know. What's that mean, like, [inaudible] a lot, you were trained to live in a world that no longer exists. That's a really profound thing that we have to kind of sit with. And so I'm now in a situation where in the next couple of months, within a few miles of my house, the entire ancient forests that surround my city will ignite in the flames, right? And they'll blanket everything with a toxic smoke where I'll have to wear a gas mask and we have to use air purifiers. That's, that's what this is now. We can expect that, we put on calendar. That's what our life is like now for that period. We're living in an era where literally, like, people's financial investments are dominated by stuff like cryptocurrency. I'm not even trying to make fun of people, I just, this is just the kind of chaos of the modern economies, where we're heading to a place where, you know, states—while as kind of monstrous as they are—are still things that we've sort of depended on, those are starting to break down in their practical functions, they literally couldn't meet the challenges of 2020. It wasn't just they get it in a shitty way, it's that they could not do it at all. And so what that does is it sort of forces us into a counter power project where these sort of things like mutual aid stuff take on a level of importance that they didn't have for every person all the time, you know, there—I know you've been a part of bunch of mutual aid groups, I've done a bunch, you know, Food Not Bombs when I was younger, and a lot of them were really bad. And I feel kind of bad, like, drawing out the worst examples of them over the last year because I've talked about this a lot.
Margaret You mean like how we thought eggplant should be cooked in Food Not Bombs?
Shane Burley We'd like—you know, there was just times when I was like, I was like, you know, the food we're cooking is subpar. We're like two hours late because we're hung over. And just stuff like that all the time. And the reality was that the soup kitchen down the road, which we had all kinds of ethical problems with, did it much better. Like they just did what we were trying to do a lot better. That has actually in a way collapsed in on itself where the idea that there is a service space that exists and non-politicized way has sort of disappeared, and we're all that's left. And also our ability to do it has gotten better. And there's better examples historically, you know, like, survival pending revolution programs with the Panthers, there's other groups that done it really well. But we're hitting an era of capacity where we're actually in a way sort of able to take it on. And what I saw in 2020 was, you know, mutual aid groups come together really quickly around the Coronavirus, then those mutual aid groups to the protests, and grow that and create the whole infrastructure. And then that infrastructure then pivots to the fires, which then pivots to the next thing. And we're actually able to do that in a really profound way. So as this crisis is unfolding and we're living through profound prices, our ability to survive through collective action is really ramping up. And so I'm seeing these different projects as ways of not just seeing through how to survive the crisis, but what's on the other side? You know, our ability to survive now and to do it in a vibrant way is that revolutionary project that comes next. And so, when I think about the apocalypse, I don't just think about, you know, all like the kind of, I don't know, eschatological fantasies of like the Left Behind series, you know, where like, it's like fire and brimstone and, you know, people being beamed up to heaven. I think about what does it mean to bring something to an end. And I think, like, if we're thinking about collapse and things like that, that's endemic to our society now. That's not an end of anything. That's just a continuation of what we've had to a degree. What ends it is changing our underlying conditions. And so I think by responding to this crisis in the way that we're doing—and this is just the seed of it, hopefully it just grows as we create really vibrant structures of survival, healthcare networks, of solidarity networks to support people in tenant situations, all the kinds of things that we're going to need. By doing that we actually do have the ability to shift to the next stage, that we actually answer the crisis, not with more crisis, but by bringing this thing to an end so we can build something new.
Margaret Okay, so that actually answers my pessimism at the beginning of it, right, is—like, there's going to be something new. Things are not going to continue. Now. I mean, I'll be real, like, people thought capitalism is gonna fall before. I actually don't want to put all my eggs in the capitalism is definitely going to collapse basket, or even the nation states are going to collapse basket, just because they're oddly resilient. Right? But it's gonna be fucking different.
Shane Burley Yeah, yeah, exactly.
Margaret And, and it completely certainly could collapse, which people just sort of forget is possible, and then they remember it as possible. But now the Biden's president they forget as possible again. And so then, if everyone's looking at this escalating crisis, there needs to be an answer we offer. And Nazis are offering an answer, which is blame the migrants, be strong by being a fucking coward. You know, masculinity taken to its ultimate and—not even its ultimate extreme, a weird, twisted side path of masculinity. And so yeah, I guess we got to do something new instead. And that's the answer to the pessimism is everyone's going to change their mind about how society should work. So we just have to fuckin good enough answer.
Shane Burley And I actually am optimistic about it. You know, one of the, one of the realities—I think we—I have gotten historically caught up in this kind of, this under resourced space. Like, we don't have money, they have the money. We don't have the time, we're always working trying to survive. But the reality is, we have the one thing that this new model is built on, we have each other. That is all that we actually need. And the reality is I think that maybe this is the materialism of the—maybe this is the dialectic is that the conditions have met into a place where I think, like, for example, we have social media tools that do allow us to connect in ways we didn't before. We have the ability to travel and be with people in a way we didn't have before. We have the ability to spontaneously rise up in coordinated fashion that was really hard, you know, a couple of decades ago. Conditions are ripe to actually realize what it means to build a society of relationships. That is possible. And by doing it now, by living that through, it inherently challenges power. That is a revolutionary process right there. You know, it's not one that leads to a revolution, is it right there. Like, living that new society is that revolutionary process because it creates the friction and tension. And the reality is that we are, like you said, it's not like capitalism and the state are going to disappear tomorrow, but they are going to devolve even further into more outstanding cruelties. Which, in a way, puts the necessity on us because we can only survive by doing it together, that—we can always survive through a new society.
Margaret Yeah, when people ask me, you know, when people I'm—like, um, you know, I prepare for the apocalypse or whatever, like—or even like, I want to have an anarchist society or I want a totally different society, people will be like, "Well, how would you do this, that thing or the other?" And you're like, well, how do we do it now? Like, people will be like, "Well, how would a revolutionary society make antibiotics?" And you're like, well, I literally don't know because I don't know how we do it now, but there are people who do know how and many of those people might join us and tell us how, or just keep doing it. You know, and—yeah, you're right, we always fall into this idea that, like, we—I think overall one of the biggest problems is I think that, like, leftist revolutionists, anarchists, whatever the fuck, like just don't know how to, like, take themselves seriously and act big. Like, because we are so used to being told we can't do anything but, like, throw a tantrum. And now I'm not like talking shit on rioting, I think that's actually a great way of expressing power and learning to find power with each other, you know, but that—we're being told that all we can do is, like, stir things up a little bit. And, you know, we even run into this within, like, ostensibly left spaces where people are like, "Oh, well, you know, you antiauthoritarians don't actually accomplish anything." And they're actually just lying. Like, they're just, they're either wrong or lying. We have we accomplish things on massive scales constantly. Probably the most interesting revolutionary project happening in the world right now is the democratic confederalism of northern Syria, at least in terms of like scale that it's happening on, you know? And we can do that, you know? It doesn't require—I mean, it requires organization which actually gets into that soft—I don't know. Ah, man, there's just so much to fuckin think about all this.
Shane Burley In a way it gets at the problem—it gets it the reality of the problem—which is that we're not engaging in revolution because it's easy.
Shane Burley We're doing it because it's hard. Like we didn't—like, easy doesn't get us where we're trying to go, right? Like we just talked about earlier, it's actually the hard. You know, one of the—I used to love this, coming from a kind of authoritarian communist that would try and stack up their list of accomplishments. And I'm like, name one of those, that was a liberated society. Not one of them. Never one. Like, the reality is that like, it's just hard. And it's unlikely too. That's the other thing, it's a journey. And so we, it does require sort of throwing it all in, which used to feel scary, except we are all in all the time now. You know, like, we live in a war society now. And so it's never going to be a situation where the comforts of stability are just there that we can kind of retreat to for safety. Instead, all we have is each other, which has a volatility to it, but it's one that we control.
Margaret And there's upsides to this, like, no one thinks the normal is normal anymore. You know? Like, I don't—I never actually want to fall into the, like, "Collapse of society is good, actually." Right? Because like, yeah, the existing society was a nightmare, but like, the breakdown of it causes so much trauma, pain, and death—
Shane Burley So much pain.
Margaret —that you can't, yeah, you can't celebrate it. Like because it's also a failure. We didn't successfully, like, shift before this happened, right? But there's something nice about like, you know, like people believing that your position is a lot more reasonable than they used to believe. Like, even just stuff like, oh hey, I'm going to go to this medical training. Or before the inauguration, I'm going to spend $1,000 on trauma medical supplies and make sure that they're distributed to people. Or whatever the thing is, right? I can say that to, like, coworkers and stuff now, right? Because people are like, yeah, I mean, okay. It's not necessary, what they would do, but like, it doesn't seem as far fetched as it used to.
Shane Burley Yeah, I was talking with Scott Crow and I was working on the book and, you know, we're talking about the Common Ground Clinic, and we're talking about the real early days of being in, in the kind of Katrina—in like the aftermath of the hurricane.
Margaret Could you, could you explain for people who don't know what you're talking about?
Shane Burley Yeah, yeah. So we're talking about in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, Scott Crow and number of folks came out there and worked to develop this kind of community-run clinic, this kind of mutual aid project—a number of mutual—actually it became an interlocking web of different types of mutual aid projects. And one of the things he was talking about, like, you know, you want to fight collapse. Like you want to—there's really no—nothing should be romanticize about collapse. There's also a reality of, like, things were gone. There is actually a void there now. And so in a way we, you know—he's like, what I had to offer—which felt so partial in other situations—what I had to offer was what was necessary then. It's all there was. And so in a way there's less competition for how to solve problems, in a sense. Because we've seen that like there is—there really isn't an offered solution. It's not like we can take the temporary solution that state is offering when it comes to the Coronavirus. All that was there was us helping each other. No one else is going to show up at our house and deliver medication, it just wasn't gonna happen. And so in a way, like, our ideologies and like the ideas that underskirt that suddenly have an incredible relevance for people because they actually answer the question everyone has. And I think there is that common experience makes the case better than we ever could have. It makes the case in a very sincere way. And it's one that we don't have to pump full of kind of this ideological performance. We're just there trying to exist in this kind of supportive, overcoming way. And, maybe it's just the silver linings playbook in a way, but it's about looking at a lot of these crisis happening and seeing, like, how can I be there in the best version of myself I can with other people. Like, how can I show up and live this out and try and support community and build it with the confidence that doing that is a revolutionary act, that it does actually get us somewhere? You know, in a time—I mean, like, this was, this was fucking hard. Like, this was a really hard year and a half. And coming through it, we did it with each other and we really saw a vision of what we were. And I—it comes down to—I think, you know, Robert Evans I think talked about this on the podcast. You know, people are smart and kind with each other in crisis for the most part. The non—there's an elite panic of rich people that will kind of force that crisis and stuff that survivalists, right wing survivalists often talk about. But what we see is that our ability to handle this crisis is incredibly resilient, and incredibly caring. And in a way it runs counter to every narrative and structure we have in society. So I—seeing that, it gives me a lot of hope and optimism, not just that we can make it through this incredible sense of collapse, but also that we can build something new out of it. And maybe that's the dialectic, the conditions we were always sort of promised.
Margaret I really appreciate your optimism, partly because I think I usually try to be the more optimistic person—not necessary on this podcast, but in conversations in my life, and that I sort of needed this pep talk today. So I actually really appreciate it. It actually ties into—it makes me think about—we got to wrap this up in a moment. But I think about um, you know, sometimes you work and your work and you work in a project, and it just doesn't resonate with people. And maybe you care about it so you keep doing it. And sometimes you work and you work and you work and it resonates with people way beyond, like, what you put in is—you get way more out of it than what you put in. And this podcast has actually been an example of that. My previous podcast is not an example of it. I I ran a podcast called We Will Remember Freedom which was an anarchist fiction podcast, and it had listeners and had people cared about it, right? And I put a lot of work into it.
Shane Burley Yeah I listened to that.
Margaret And I'm proud of that podcast. And then I made this podcast right before the Coronavirus and it resonated more with people. And, while both things are important to me, it actually makes sense to do these things that resonate with people, and mutual aid and rebellion are kind of what we've been doing forever—not like just you and me, but like, you know, the antiauthoritarian left—and it's resonating with people right now. And it's a really good time to let it keep resonating with people and to, like, put energy in when it's coming back. And, I don't know.
Shane Burley It's—I actually think it's almost, in a way, like what we're talking about the subculture is like people like survivalism. They want to be able to do these things and they don't feel welcome in those spaces. So there's this—I think, this idea that like, yeah, I think this is kind of cool. I'd like to be able to, you know, do edible plants or do, you know, medical training, like build self defense—they want to do all these things but then they go and look at the spaces where those are available and don't see themselves in is all. So when when someone gives them the option of like, yeah, I'm actually going to validate your desires and we're going to allow you to be yourself with it, that's like a really profound thing. I think that, but that's happening all over the place with mutual aid and survival things, with DIY stuff is having a huge Renaissance. People want to have that really hands on, tactile effect in their lives. And I think because they've seen that so many things were sort of outside of our control, and we're doing it in this way that brings us together. And I think having, combining those things and not having this isolationist survivalists fantasy allows people to really rethink, what would it mean, like—what would it mean to build community in a crisis? And I think that—it is optimistic in the end, I think it's giving people a real path forward.
Margaret And I will say to anyone who's listening, my favorite type of response that I've gotten from this podcast is—well, I mean, the most nice in my personal life is when I go to something and people are like, "Oh my god, I love your podcast." That's really fun. But overall, hearing from people who were, who weren't necessarily leftist, but just like weren't right wingers who were like, well, I like living in the woods and I have always been kind of into preparedness. And, you know, it's refreshing to hear people talk about this who don't think antifa are terrorists or whatever. Right? And, you know, and who are concerned about the rise of fascism. And, I don't know, I appreciate that so much. Because for all I'll talk about, like, I really mean it when I say, if I enter a space, all I want to do is kick out the Nazis. I don't want to tell people they have to ideologically agree with me beyond "don't murder me for being trans." You know? I don't know. Okay, but do you have like, last thoughts about fascism, apocalypse, survival? And then, if not, or at the end of, would you like to let listeners know more where they can find your books and your other content?
Shane Burley I think, you know, one of the threads in the book is that people can make apocalypses in your life, like the belief in white genocide has created an apocalypse in many people's lives in the form of mass shooting and really cruel violence. And there's no reason to believe that in the next couple of years, suddenly those forces will disappear, which I think is why community support, defense, mutual aid, is so crucial. Not just in times of trauma, but all the time. And so I don't, I don't want to have it be an optimism that's based out—you know, that doesn't see the real crisis and trauma that we're in, that could be coming, that has happened. It's about trying to do it together as much as possible. The simplest, most basic element of my politics is about being here with each other. It's hard to make it much more complicated than that. So, I think if we're able to answer that, how we do those things together, how we survive together, we'll end up answering a lot more questions than we thought we would.
Shane Burley Find my stuff. Yo, I'm on Twitter. I'm very online @shane_burley1. My book is "Why We Fight." Pick up AK Press if y'all want. They're the publisher, but you can also buy directly from them. And I'm doing a bunch of writing all over the place right now.
Margaret Okay. Yeah, do you still run a music blog?
Shane Burley Oh, I do. I do. So you can find it at antifascistsneofolk.com. It's called the Blaze Ansuz. I'm trying to do more interviews than I have been lately. But basically what I'm doing is interviewing antifascist neofolk and similar musicians. It's a lot of ways all over the political spectrum that they all are just united on on hating Nazis and wanting to boot out the far right from the, some sort of music scenes that they've been a part of. And we've discovered a lot of great bands, a lot of bands have come out, have come together with it. I know that there's some music festival coming up in the works. You might know more about that than I do. And there's a bunch of compilations with some colleagues over at Left Folk. They'll be putting together and doing a bunch of work over the next year promoting as many bands as possible because the numbers of bands identify as antifascist neofolk are just like, it's like dozens and dozens of dozens, just growing really fast.
Margaret Cool. We're taking over. Speaking of subcultural insertion. And don't worry listeners, if you don't know what neofolk is, neither do we. It is a very hard to understand conceptually genre. All right. Well, thank you so much for for coming on the podcast.
Shane Burley Yeah. Thank you so much for having me. I really do love the podcast. So it's a real treasure to be able to join.
Margaret Oh, thanks. Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed this episode or this podcast in general, please tell people about it. Tell people about it on social media or, you know, ideally in person. And also do all the algorithm shit like rating and reviewing and subscribing and doing all that shit because it feeds algorithms. [Singing] Algorithm, algorithms, they rule the world. Okay, and if you'd like to support the podcast more directly, you can do so by supporting me on Patreon. Although in the very near future, that's going to shift over to supporting us on Patreon. But for the moment, because I'm starting with some other people who work on the show with me we're restarting a zine publisher that's existed—an anarchist zine publisher that's existed since 2005 or so called Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness. And I'm really excited for that project to come back to life. And it will be supporting this show and supporting a lot of other things including a monthly zine and hopefully more podcasts and all kinds of cool stuff. And my Patreon will be shifted over to become a Strangers Patreon. And if you'd like to support currently me, soon us, you can do so by supporting me on Patreon. My patreon currently is patreon.com/margaretkilljoy. If you're listening to this in the future, it might be something like strangers in a tangled wilderness, or tangled wilderness, or I don't know. Damn, this is gonna be a problem when that happens. Hooray, complicated things with computers and me talking about it at the end of my show when I should probably—I'm not even going to cut this out. I'm going to keep it. In particular I'd like to thank Chris and Nora and Hoss the dog and Kirk and Willow, Natalie, Sam, Christopher. Shane, The Compound, Cat J, Staro, Mike, Eleanor, Chelsea, Dana, Hugh, and Sean. Thank you all so much, your contributions allow this to happen, allow us to keep happening, and allow us to move—I keep promising that we're moving towards weekly but I swear to you, we're moving towards weekly, and I'm really excited about it. And yeah, I hope you all are doing as well as you can with everything that's going on and I will talk to you all soon.