Fascist Counterculture, Underground Music and Antifascism: The Agalloch / Allerseelen Tour Revisited

Overview

Despite the concern of anti-fascists and anti-racists, the Austrian far-Right post-industrial project Allerseelen proceeded on a West Coast tour from December 15 – 22. Four of the six Allerseelen dates were in support of the popular Portland “dark metal” group Agalloch. These four shows took place in Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. In response to this Agalloch / Allerseelen tour—and two earlier Allerseelen shows without Agalloch in Portland and Salem—Rose City Antifascists issued a statement documenting the politics and associations of Gerhard Petak and his Allerseelen project. Significant controversy followed. We aim here to address some of the responses to our activity; to clarify our position in cases where the content and intent of our writing has been misrepresented or misperceived; and finally to stress why we believe antifascism is important, why counterculture matters, and why fascist countercultural efforts should be opposed.

We invite readers to first take a look—or a second look—at our original statement of December 13. The document features extensive references for those who wish to further investigate the issues surrounding Allerseelen for themselves. While the statement’s arguments have been flatly denied by many of Allerseelen’s defenders, no critic has been able to find any actual error of fact in its research. It should be noted that Rose City Antifascists are not taking a unique position regarding Allerseelen. Turn It Down: A Campaign Against White Power Music has for many years listed Allerseelen as a “fascist experimental” act on its white power bands list . European antifascists have frequently campaigned against planned Allerseelen shows, and indeed statements from such antifascist campaigns are amongst the materials referenced by the Rose City Antifa document. Even academic works such as Nicholas Goodrick-Clark’s Black Sun: Aryan Cults, Esoteric Nazism, and the Politics of Identity (New York University Press, 2002) discuss Petak in relation to “the neo-fascist avant garde.”
Denial and Hostility: The Responses

A week since the end of the Agalloch / Allerseelen mini-tour, Agalloch have still refused to make any statement as to why they decided to promote a far-Right act by having Allerseelen play support for them, or why they have cultivated other links with Gerhard Petak such as appearing on a compilation CD on his label. The only exception to Agalloch’s lack of responsiveness is Aesop Dekker, the group’s drummer, who wrote a two-word comment referring to Rose City Antifa’s analysis as a “witch hunt.” At the very least, Agalloch have taken no responsibility for promoting a fascist in their latest tour and exposing Petak / Allerseelen to new audiences. Equally reprehensible is Agalloch’s booking agent, Nathan Carson of Nanotear Booking, who still does not consider his role in keeping Allerseelen on the tour as a “real problem.” Mike King, ex-booking agent at Berbati’s Pan who now works for Mississippi Studios, is likewise responsible for making sure that the fascist propaganda of Allerseelen reached an audience at the Portland Agalloch / Allerseelen show.

A barely superior response came from The Variant, a “radical community art space” in Northeast Portland which was to be the venue for the December 15 Allerseelen show prior to the performances with Agalloch. This event was cancelled at The Variant after a Rose City Antifa representative contacted the space and stated our organization’s concerns. However, the nature of The Variant’s cancellation—which came combined with accusations of “harassment” by anti-racists from the person who was respectfully approached by our organization, and an official statement from The Variant that Allerseelen is not “overtly fascist or violent”—was unprincipled and dishonest. The decision of The Variant to go on the attack against Rose City Antifa rather than stand in solidarity with anti-racists—against all reason and argument—has left an extremely sour taste in our mouths. The Portland show for Allerseelen originally booked at The Variant was moved to a basement venue where it went on to a presumably smaller audience.

The response of Gerhard Petak—the main person behind Allerseelen—adds little to his previous denials, and is not worth discussing in depth. Petak’s claim that he is concerned with “art and music,” and that there is “no space at all for ideologies or politics” in his work, is typical of his statements when confronted. Other than its convenience for people already supporting the Allerseelen tour, Petak’s threadbare defense need not have fooled anyone. The original Rose City Antifa statement already answers the question of how someone could profess distance from politics, while also making statements in favor of the Romanian Iron Guard, and replicating fascist themes, imagery, and content through his cultural activities.

Petak attempted to further confuse matters by mentioning “two Allerseelen songs written by people imprisoned in concentration camps,” yet both of these songs, in context, serve as references to the SS-mysticism Petak is so fond of. The first of these songs was “written by prisoners of the concentration camp close to the German castle Wewelsburg” according an entry on Discogs.com . Wewelsburg was redesigned to serve as an SS leadership hub; the song was included in a vinyl version of the “Gotos=Kalanda” album, whose original tracks all took their lyrics from Karl Maria Wiligut, the Nazi mystic linked in some accounts to the SS refurbishing of Wewelsburg. The second song cited by Petak, takes its lyrics from Friedrich Bernhard Marby, a rival runeologist and völkisch mystic to Wiligut. When Marby was interned in a concentration camp, this may have been at Wiligut’s command. Both of these songs therefore relate back to Petak’s fascination with Wiligut and his world; as criticisms of the Third Reich, they at best express ambivalence.

Alex Milan Tracy

Of all the responses to Rose City Antifa, that of Portland-based British expat journalist Alex Milan Tracy is in a class of its own. Tracy had previously covered an anti-fascist protest in Portland which our organization had co-sponsored, and subsequently even granted permission for us to reuse one of his photographs on our website. When writing his latest article —published on the Demotix photojournalism site on December 18, and then reposted to Portland Indymedia two days later—Tracy made no effort to contact our organization for perspective. His piece is a combination of copy-and-paste elements from Wikipedia and other sources, combined with fuming against Rose City Antifa’s position: “heavily one sided research,” “may [be] view[ed] as an acutely targeted ignorant smear campaign,” “biased rhetoric,” and so forth. Tracy finishes his piece by literally giving the last word to the fascist Gerhard Petak. Tracy’s article is characterized by rambling segments in which the author attempts to speak on behalf of the criticized party, such as:

There is no denying that the band [Allerseelen] used a picture of Leni Riefenstahl, a German film director and actress for the cover of their single 'Alle Lust Will Ewigkeit'. Her most famous film was 'Triumph des Willens (Triumph of the Will), a propaganda piece created at the 1934 Nuremberg meeting of the Nazi party. She had a friendship with Adolf Hitler. Most likely there are no political motives behind this and it is just an expression of art within the realm of music.

While it would be a mistake to give Milan Tracy’s “copypasta” journalism more attention than it deserves, a few points to bear mentioning. Tracy not only defends Gerhard Petak and Allerseelen in his piece, but also Petak’s friend Michael Moynihan of the Blood Axis musical project. Tracy writes:

Allegations that Moynihan is a Neo-Nazi are apparently seeded within a 1994 interview with No Longer a Fanzine, suggesting that he is a ‘major purveyor of Neo-Nazism, occult fascism and international industrial black metal music.’

This statement includes several misrepresentations. Firstly, a reader could take this to suggest that Rose City Antifascists based their arguments about Moynihan on the No Longer a Fanzine interview, in which Moynihan claimed that he would have “more lenient entry requirements” for extermination camps than the Nazis had. In fact, while Rose City Antifa spent approximately one page discussing Moynihan in its original statement, the No Longer a Fanzine interview was neither discussed nor cited. This represents a fundamental inability by Tracy to confront what our organization has actually stated—Tracy similarly quotes an editor of Hex magazine about the alleged “logic of the RCA,” rather than referring to examples of Rose City Antifascists’ logic from the organization itself. Tracy’s statement also gives the impression that Rose City Antifascists consider Moynihan to be a “Neo-Nazi” whereas our statement was clear in discussing him as a fascist and an “American far-Rightist.” Finally, Tracy’s sentence could be considered as attributing the phrase “major purveyor of Neo-Nazism, occult fascism and international industrial [and] black metal music” to No Longer a Fanzine , while it actually was taken from a Fall 1999 issue of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Report , another source neither mentioned nor cited by Rose City Antifascists. (Tracy, through copying and pasting text from Wikipedia, also misses an “and” used in the Intelligence Report writing, that got cut for some reason in the Wikipedia entry for Michael Moynihan—presumably Tracy’s source.)

Not a fascist act? 1999 Blood Axis show poster
Many of Tracy’s distortions are laughable. Tracy attempts to portray Rose City Antifa’s analysis of Petak’s syncretic belief system as being syncretic itself, just as he discusses antifascist criticism as being “fascist in it's [sic] own right.” While Tracy’s seeming inability to think may at times prove amusing, at other points it is not so funny. For example, Tracy claims—incredibly—that “Within the scene, although these NSBM [National Socialist Black Metal] bands have an alignment with certain ideologies they are not viewed as dangerous when compared to bands such as Skrewdriver, a white power skinhead band.” The idea that neo-Nazis who listen to tinny-sounding Nazi black metal, are somehow quaint compared to neo-Nazis who listen to “Rock Against Communism” groups, is as untrue as it is dangerous. Recent photos of gatherings by the neo-Nazi Volksfront International organization show that NSBM fans as well as more stereotypical white power boneheads both have a presence in the organization. (Rose City Antifa wrote about the Oregon NSBM scene here .)

Finally, Tracy alleges in his article that Rose City Antifascists would “blacklist the community space [The Variant] and anyone involved in it” should the venue prove uncooperative. In fact, while Rose City Antifascists are strongly critical of The Variant’s fascist-neutral stance, our ability to enforce a blacklist is highly questionable even had we desired to do so. Any consequence experienced by Nathan Carson, Mike King, members of Agalloch, or The Variant such as withdrawal of funds, is the decision of affected countercultural scenes rather than the purpose of our organization. Because of such misinterpretations during the Allerseelen fiasco, now seems to be a good opportunity to clarify our positions on fascism and anti-fascism in countercultural scenes, ideas of “free speech” versus “no platform,” as well as the role of organized anti-fascists.

Fascism and Anti-fascism in Countercultural Scenes

WhoMakestheNazis.com , a blog aimed at exposing fascistic tendencies within various subcultures, provides an overview of the problem:

[There is a] fascist presence in various 'transgressive' (by their own estimation) musical subcultures. The claim is that at the fringes of these milieus, ideas about the sanctity of art and the irresponsibility and fundamental 'amorality' of the artist provide perfect cover behind which fascist and pro-fascist ideologues are allowed to spread their ideas. Currently these cultures include 'post-industrial', 'martial', 'neo-folk', 'apocalyptic folk' and 'darkwave', among others. It is not a matter of condemning these subcultures, which in fact contain many non-fascist, liberal, socialist, anti-fascist, etc., supporters, but rather of drawing a clear line between the fascists and non-fascists within them by showing the latter the nature and extent of the problem, in the hope that they will themselves marginalise and ultimately reject fascist participation in their 'scene'.

It is this practice of “drawing a clear line between the fascists and non-fascists” in countercultural spaces that is of interest to Rose City Antifa, especially as such a line is too often not drawn at all. While it would be unrealistic to expect all members of subcultural (e.g. punk, metal, industrial, noise etc.) communities to know everything about fascism or anti-fascism, we hope to help build a certain knowledge base within such communities, and nurture a willingness to learn about these topics. We consider these scenes to be ideologically contested terrain, every bit as much as the skinhead scene. The skinhead subculture met with successive waves of fascists trying to co-opt it for their political aims, unfortunately with enough success that many in the public now think of “skinhead” and “neo-Nazi” as synonyms. Roddy Moreno, a skinhead who founded Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice (SHARP) in opposition to the incursions of fascists into his scene, and who plays for the anti-racist group The Oppressed, explains what happens when fascists are left unopposed: “If you don't care, they will take your scene, they will ruin it and suck the lifeblood out of it.” This is not just a warning that concerns the skinhead scene—the punk subculture has long had to grapple with similar fascist tendencies, and a small neo-Nazi “hatecore” or “NSHC” (National Socialist Hardcore) scene now also exists parallel to the hardcore music scene as a whole. The metal scene is similarly contested, with the NSBM (National Socialist Black Metal) milieu being one of the scenes most closely affiliated to neo-Nazi organizing, perhaps matched only by the white power bonehead “Rock Against Communism” genre.

The bonehead, NSHC, and NSBM scenes all generally wear their politics on their sleeves, and have a tendency to move quickly to violence so as to cultivate an aura of danger and power, as well as to enforce their order on broader countercultural turf. By contrast far-Right influence in the post-industrial, martial, neo-folk, and related genres discussed by WhoMakestheNazis tends to operate not on a strategy of scene conquest by force, but rather of culture war popularizing key fascist attitudes and perspectives, often without more explicit political baggage. Another part of the black metal scene’s far-Right periphery is also drawn towards such “metapolitical fascist” efforts, which appeal to the values of elitism and aloofness celebrated by the genre. In the post-industrial scene, it may be hard at times to know when fascist themes are consciously being promoted, and at what points artists are merely uncritically reproducing ideas already in the subculture. From a standpoint of anti-fascism, it becomes clear that building a physical counter-force to fascist intrusion may be less relevant in these scenes. If an anti-fascist strategy means in part that “We go where they go,” within the post-industrial scene this means firstly being committed to fighting the battle of ideas, and exposing fascist discourse there for what it is. It also means that, in unambiguous cases of fascist activity, it is far from inappropriate to ask labels or promoters to show some discernment and responsibility for their activity. Finally, we wish to celebrate non- and anti-fascist voices in these countercultural spheres—if you’re active in these scenes, we want to hear of anti-racist voices and projects that deserve support and promotion.

In trying to summarize two different approaches of fascists to countercultural involvement, we have stressed the difference between “violence first” and “values first” approaches amongst fascists. This contrast generally also mirrors that between explicitly political and more metapolitical fascist efforts. However, these differences, while analytically important, are not absolute. Far-Right post-industrial events often try to at least create a climate of intimidation for the outsider. For example, when Changes, the Right-wing “folk noir” act popular in segments of the post-industrial scene, played the Alberta Street Pub in 2005 at a show organized by Markus Wolff, one witness described an audience member who attended the show wearing a Nazi uniform—something obviously less than ideal for racial tensions in the gentrifying neighborhood where the event took place. Similarly, the National Anarchist fascist tendency which often has a metapolitical orientation and attempts influence in post-industrial scenes, also has participants who actively work in common with the more traditional (though still loosely “Third Position”) neo-Nazis of Volksfront International and the American Front. The anti-fascist fight may deploy different tactics in different scenes and different circumstances, but overall it remains one project.

The Free Speech Argument and “No Platform”

In the current difference of opinion over the fascist / European New Right content of Petak and his Allerseelen project, the “free speech” argument has repeatedly come up. The argument claims that each person has a right to voice their opinion, regardless of their political persuasion. The idea of this right, however, can only have actual substance in relation to the state and state power—for example a government’s ability to ban particular forms of political expression, guarded against in the US system by the First Amendment and with similar limits on government power in many other democratic states. This is not, of course, to state that the liberal democratic state always lives up to its own professed values or observes its own free speech principles—merely that the state is central in discussions of “free speech.” Properly understood, free speech places no obligation on a venue to let itself be used for a fascist concert, does not force a journal to print every letter received, and does not require that a record label release every act that sends it a demo recording. Likewise, theories of free speech do not mean that that oppressive speech should be placed on a pedestal, or that condemning and arguing forcefully against such speech is wrong. As the free speech argument centers on state power, it should also be noted that not all speech is permitted by the law—try arguing for specific acts of insurrection and see how well that turns out. It should also be remembered that, in the context of fascist organizing and free speech, that fascist states have historically been totalitarian and cracked down on internal dissent (and out-populations) in a highly ruthless manner.

Rose City Antifascists absolutely do not believe that fascist perspectives should be respected, promoted, and cherished—a position often promoted under the banner of “free speech” but in fact rooted in opposition to criticism and contempt for human dignity. Such a position is not only spineless, it’s also offensive. It demands that nothing be done if anti-gay messages get spray painted on city blocks, if mosques or synagogues are vandalized, or if racist epithets once again become a commonplace occurrence. While far-Right cultural expressions may or may not contain outright advocacy for such acts of intimidation, all promote a deeply anti-egalitarian worldview and provide a cultural backdrop for acts enforcing the dominance of some over others. When an artist drools over some of history's most vile humans and organizations, this deserves condemnation and rejection, not sympathy, tolerance, or approval.

Given the historic precedents of both fascism’s rise and also of resistance to it—so frequently constrained and insufficient at the crucial moments—Rose City Antifascists join with the “No Platform” tradition of militant antifascism. Fascist movements have historically deployed violence and intimidation against political rivals, as well as against whole target populations. Reliance on the state to counter such movements has historically been a major mistake. No Platform argues that fascist organizations must be confronted and broken up by autonomous community mobilization rather than allowed to grow. The stance of No Platform is oriented towards fascist political organization ; if a neo-Nazi bonehead show is disrupted, this is because of its connection to ongoing fascist mobilization, with its program of race attacks and broader agitation. Such a No Platform stance accepts that those taking the fight to the fascists will have a contentious relation with the state. As much as No Platform stresses direct confrontation, it still sees politics as primary—it remains committed to a vision of human dignity, liberation, and community solidarity in opposition to both the status quo and fascist politics. Opposition by physical force, even when necessary, is a tactic not an end in itself.

An understanding of No Platform antifascism explains Rose City Antifa’s stance towards Allerseelen. We believe that fascist counterculture deserves discussion, opposition from within affected scenes, and a withdrawal of support from scene promoters and tastemakers. However, projects such as Allerseelen—or European New Right culture war efforts to change values—do not have the same fundamentally violence-oriented political nature as generic fascist groups. Attempts to merely smash up such projects therefore have less of an immediate purpose—which is not to excuse the fascist-enablers of Portland, or to argue that metapolitical fascist projects should not be opposed in terms of their ideological goals. In countercultures we need discussion and awareness of history, and scenes anchored in respect for human dignity rather than fascist tripe. These needs are what drove our writing about Allerseelen, and what will inform our counterculture-linked activity for tomorrow.