On October 10, Nick Lowles, editor of the London-based magazine Searchlight, joined with several IREHR board members for a re-launch of the organization in the Seattle area. Leah Henry-Tanner opened the program, reminding everyone that we were all walking on land that has always been the home of Native peoples. And she told the group in attendance that the fight against racism and the far right was not over and that the IREHR was prepared to play its part in the contest ahead. Devin Burghart described the current state of the white nationalist movement in the area, and began the process of re-connecting local activists to a national–indeed international–strategy and outlook.
Lowles gave an overview of ultra-nationalist and anti-immigrant parties in Europe and the votes they have received in parliamentary election. He described a process currently underway that was accelerating the growth of several far right parties: immigration, the rapid and borderless movement of capital, and the importance of supra-national institutions–including the adoption of the Euro monetary unit. In the United Kingdom, he said, the British National Party had gained a foothold in both local municipal councils and in recent elections to the European Parliament–endowing the party with both funds and legitimacy that was changing the nature of the fight to oppose it. The battle was toughest in those communities that had once been dominated by the coal and textile industries, and Lowles described the growth of a new form of middle English identity that was being stoked by the far right.
Leonard Zeskind talked about his book, Blood and Politics: The History of the White Nationalist Movement from the Margins to the Mainstream. He pointed to the fact that the white nationalists and the far right had not yet developed a programmatic approach to unemployment and economic distress among their putative constituency, instead choosing to defend middle class privileges. Tea Partiers denigrated those they considered the undeserving poor and opposed those they regarded as social and economic elites. He talked about the multifaceted character of the Tea Parties and argued that it was a political bloc still in the process of developing. They were anything but “Astroturf,” or fake grass roots, Zeskind said. And that treating them as such had been one of the reasons Democrats had been blindsided by angry crowds during the August recess.
IREHR does not plan to make that mistake.