The concept of “leaderless resistance” was popularized on the Right through the writings of Klansman Louis Beam in the 1980s and 1990s, after having allegedly been invented by American intelligence officers in the 1960s as a possible strategy for resisting a theoretical Communist takeover of the United States.
It is really just an adaptation of the cell structure, in which an insurgent group divides itself into units of no more than a few members each, with the cells being completely unaware of the others, and with only one individual in each cell who has contact with a higher authority, who in turn transmits instructions from the central leadership. In this way, even if individual cells or even the central leadership of the group are captured and interrogated, the organization itself can survive since there is no one who actually knows everyone else involved.
Many groups have used this technique, successfully or unsuccessfully, over the last century, including the IRA, the French Resistance, the Algerian FLN (as depicted in the classic film The Battle of Algiers), the Viet Cong, the Weather Underground, and Al Qaeda being just a few prominent examples.
Leaderless resistance takes this a step further and dispenses with the concept of an organization altogether, instead advocating that small groups or individuals should, on their own initiative and utilizing nothing but whatever resources they can muster on their own, carry out attacks on the enemy. Since nothing would unite these individuals or groups apart from a common ideology, there is no way for the enemy’s security forces to track them or anticipate their moves. Eventually, once the number and intensity of attacks becomes high enough, and the sympathies of the masses are swayed, a mass movement will somehow emerge and take the struggle to the next level.
On paper, it sounds brilliant, but in practice it is always a dismal failure. Those on the Right who have carried out “lone wolf” attacks, such as Timothy McVeigh (if he can really be classified as a Rightist, which is debatable), David Copeland, Benjamin Smith, Buford Furrow, James von Brunn, and Anders Breivik all carried out acts of violence which they viewed as the starting point of a struggle that would be continued by others who would pick up their banners.
Their actions are all characterized by an equal mix of the grotesque and the pathetic, as well as a complete failure to introduce any lasting change into society apart from a sense of revulsion. The fact is that, even if such an end were desirable, the majority of people in any society are abhorred by random violence, and it is only because the worldviews of these would-be guerrillas were so distorted that they believed they were acting on behalf of a larger struggle.
Similarly, as is evinced in the writings of its strategists, it is clear that Al Qaeda was hoping that 9/11 would be the spark that would set off acts of leaderless resistance throughout the United States, Europe and the Muslim world. They had marginally greater success than did their Right-wing counterparts, at least in terms of body count, although they also failed to realize any of their goals or to establish a trend that large numbers of people would emulate. Many of their attacks only succeeded in killing the attackers themselves.
Essentially, leaderless resistance is an act of desperation which a powerless group adopts in the face of an enemy that seems invincible. Leaderless resistance only appears to be a good option when no unified or trustworthy leadership exists, and when the surrounding culture is completely hostile. That is the situation the Right has been in, in the United States and to a lesser degree in Europe, for decades.
The fact is, even in the unlikely event of so many people carrying out independent attacks that they could turn the United States into Iraq circa 2006, causing large numbers of Americans to become sympathetic and in turn overthrew the government, who would assume the mantle of leadership? There is certainly no group on the true Right in the U.S. today that is anywhere near to approaching the level of sophistication needed to take power over the entire nation – or even part of it, for that matter. Nor is there any group whom everyone would agree to follow.
Such a strategy also adds to the perception of our weakness, as Alex Kurtagic cogently explained in his essential “Masters of the Universe” address at NPI last month, as opposed to projecting an image of power. Only the weak resort to strategies of desperation.
Unfortunately, however, in spite of its repeatedly demonstrated pointlessness, many on the Right still advocate this approach. It can only be a waste of time and resources, not to mention suicidal. Not that Rightists shouldn’t have at least basic knowledge about firearms, martial arts, strategy, self-defense techniques and such, but those are inherently useful skills at any time or place, and should not become something that is emphasized to the exclusion of everything else as if it were a solution to all problems.
I would argue, however, that the primary problem with the Right today isn’t the romance of leaderless resistance, but the much more concrete reality of a leader-ful resistance.
The correct solution, especially in a democracy where such things are well within our reach, is to organize, and this requires leaders. Unfortunately, people on the Right are all too eager to become leaders. Hardly a week goes by that I don’t receive an invitation on Facebook or by e-mail to join some new Rightist organization which claims to offer the solutions to the ills of Western civilization. Many of these groups have some interesting ideas, and I believe that most of them are sincere. But typically their achievements don’t go beyond Facebook and/or a blog or website of some kind. Perhaps they manage to turn out a few issues of some sort of newsletter or journal, most of which are dedicated to attacking other groups.
You can tell from the scope of the discussions, however, that the membership of most of them doesn’t go beyond the “leader” and the few of his friends whom he persuaded to sign up. And typically, 90% of these groups vanish within a few weeks or months for one reason or another (usually either laziness or internal squabbles), littering the Internet with their dormant textual remains. “And another one bites the dust” plays in my head whenever I come across such sites.
Although the Internet itself is still relatively new, the phenomenon that is now occurring in cyberspace is just the latest manifestation of an old problem: the Right is its own worst enemy. Our movement is riven with enormous egos and obsessional people. So many among our ranks are convinced that only they hold the correct solution, and are so much in love with their own ideas that they will not tolerate even a slight disagreement over matters of philosophy or policy. I’m not a psychologist and will not attempt to speculate on why the Right is so prone to this phenomenon, although it seems endemic to all social movements, even if the Right in recent decades clearly suffers from a particularly acute case of it.
This problem isn’t restricted to those who start organizations, either. Whenever someone starts something that enjoys even a little bit of success, the jangling chorus of detractors and conspiracy theorists begins to make itself heard, eager to rip it apart. A common way to do this is to attack the characters of the people behind it, often, but not always, based upon information from dubious sources. In this way, we do our enemies’ work for them. It’s no wonder that few intelligent or talented people can stomach being involved with the Right for very long before they go away in frustration.
The fact is that, unless we want to remain eternal hobbyists on the margins of society as we are now, we are eventually going to have to agree to put aside our differences and unite behind specific causes, leaders and organizations, and get to work in the real world. Having dozens of tiny groups advocating different messages and techniques, and spending much of their energy trying to win over the same, tiny number of people who are already in our “scene” by defaming all the other groups, has accomplished nothing. If we are serious about playing a significant role of any kind in the future life of our civilization, we need to identify those points which are the most fundamental and figure out how to actualize them. A concern for the future of the European/White identity is clearly one of them. The need for some sort of restoration and resacralization of our culture along traditional lines is another.
I am not saying that we should squelch dissent or discussion. Such is crucial to the healthy life of any movement, and as circumstances change, the goals and strategies may need to be adjusted as well, and this can only occur if diverse viewpoints are allowed to be fostered. But ultimately, we need to figure out exactly what our “political minimum” is in terms of a platform, something which will appeal to a broad base of sympathizers. Once that is done, the next task is to figure out how to realize it.
At the same time, I do not believe the time is yet ripe to establish a political party whose intention it is to enter the American political mainstream and fight in elections. The cultural foundations are simply not there yet. As the European New Rightists correctly observed, the cultural groundwork and the accompanying changes it will inculcate must be accomplished among our people before there can be any thought of a political struggle. I believe that Counter-Currents is setting a good precedent for this, as are a handful of others, by presenting a wide range of possibilities which can be pruned and developed until we arrive at something like a coherent ideology.
This is also what my own organization, Arktos, is attempting to achieve by offering intellectual and cultural resources to stimulate the type of new thinking, new myths and new symbols that will need to be embraced if a successful movement dedicated to our principles, and which is capable of motivating a large number of people, is ever to be born.
This doesn’t mean that only intellectual or cultural work is desirable, or that other types of activism aren’t possible here and now. As I mentioned in my earlier essay on Islamism, successful revolutionary social movements start at the grassroots level by doing things like providing basic services such as food, education and housing. If we can find the funds to do this, it would be an excellent way to start building something on the local level which could later grow into something of nationwide significance, as well as generate a lot of good will among people who might not presently regard themselves as our allies.
I admit that what I am asking for is quite ambitious. There are occasions when I wonder if the hour might already be too late to get such a project underway. If there was one thing I would want readers to take away from this essay, however, it is this: don’t start a new group. Don’t write yet another manifesto. Don’t waste your time attacking somebody else’s group. Rather, do something constructive. Create something that embodies what you stand for, or else get to work supporting an effort by someone else that’s already underway. And we all must recognize that, sooner or later, it will be our task to submit to someone else’s authority and follow orders. Not unthinkingly or without judgment, of course, but with humility. No movement can thrive consisting entirely of leaders. What we need most are people who can be good followers.