Fascist Performance Art: Looking Further at Augustus Sol Invictus and Trends in the Far-Right

Shane Burley I Politics & Government I Commentary I January 18th, 2016

Normally I would not be inspired to write something in response to someone else, which is why this is intended to stand on its own. On January 11th, an article was published by me called Imperium and the Sun, which outlined the fascist motifs in the Senate run of Florida Libertarian Party candidate, Augustus Sol Invictus. Scarcely a couple of days after its publishing Augustus sent us a letter and issued a statement about the article, mainly thanking us for doing a critical look at his campaign in a substantial way. This is largely because the coverage on him has focused primarily on sensational parts of his life, mainly his use of animal sacrifice as an unusual manifestation of his pagan faith. That aspect was not incredibly concerning to me when writing the article, nor was his paganism, which is not something to really turn into an oddity. It should also be noted that in his public statement he was both fair and gracious, which did not seem insincere or meant to provoke malice. Instead, it may actually drive at some of his motivating reasons for running in the first place, where he would prefer a well-grounded critique as much as any form of commentary.

In an effort to essentially continue the discussion that happened in the previous article, I am going to use this opportunity to ask questions that can go deeper than the previous article did. I am also going use a couple of comments that were made mainly because it provides an additional avenue to discuss the issues with more guarded parts of the New Right.

In Invictus' public statement, he mentioned that he actually did name his law practice after the book Imperium by Francis Parker Yockey. This was actually a bit surprising as I would have assumed that it was more the broad concept of Imperium rather than the book itself, though there are obviously reasons to think it was simply out of admiration for the book. The book by Yockey is sort of a popularization of the ideas of Oswald Spengler and his book The Decline of the West, which came out of the sense of "national humiliation" that came over German nationalists during the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. Imperium itself is less of a philosophical tome and more of an extended rant that discusses the decline of America as a decadent failed-state because of democracy, capitalism, egalitarianism, and Jews. This book was foundational to the later work of people like the Liberty Lobby's Willis Carto and is still sold as a primary text on many nationalist and traditionalist websites like Arktos, who generally deride more openly "white power" authors. Imperium is one of the most virulently anti-Semitic books in modern writing, blaming the perceived destruction of "Western man" on Jewish subversion, which happened through destroying "national consciousness" so as to achieve dominance. The book itself is largely incoherent and bizarrely structured, almost feeling as though it is the "off the cuff" belligerence of an angry madman protesting the failure of his own life.

Largely, when reading the book, I was reminded strangely of Juche. For people that look at North Korea and its development of its own nationalism based both on Korean national myths and Japanese Imperial Fascism, Juche is the state philosophy of "self reliance." The books, written by Kim Il-Sung, are in multiple volumes and in most Korean homes. When you read them, as very few in Korea have, they are largely filled with unreadable drivel lacking in depth. Brian Reynolds Myers, who wrote the analysis of North Korea's development of a paranoid, race-based nationalism in The Cleanest Race, often described it as the kind of work a professor receives from an undergraduate who wrote their term paper the night before and needed to fill up the page requirements. The books are instead meant to appear on the wall and to fill up libraries, owing to the perceived intellectual prowess of both Kim Il-Sung and the "ongoing" Korean revolution. Kim Il-Sung himself wanted to appear as a philosopher as Mao Zedong had, and so he filled up books with words just as he had. The difference was that it was largely vapid, plagiarized, and up to revision on the whims of the state. Myers maintains the Juche is not ideological in any real way since it does not contain enough substance to coordinate consciousness leading to actions. Instead, it inspires servility and elevates the leadership of the country. Imperium feels largely like Yockey's attempt to use pseudo-intellectual language in an effort to create a large volume and to create the sense that the far-Right had intellectual foundations just as the Left did.

One thing that did stick from Yockey, and we are seeing today in many sides of the New Right, is a call for unity between the Right and Left. Yockey called for a "red-brown alliance," which would be the association between fascists and anti-Zionist communists (since he saw the Jews as essentially the primary problem), and this has been much of the discussion of a Third Positionism that sees both capitalism and communism as problematic. Today, we see this incredibly present in National Anarchism, National Revolution, and National Bolshevism, as well as various strains of racialist Asatru/Odinism and parts of the Alt Right. It should be noted that they do not borrow from the Left in terms of underlining ideas, but just in tactical notions like opposition to capitalism and support of deep environmentalism.

The fact that Sol Invictus sees Imperium as such a central text is telling, primarily from a racial direction as he often eschews racial language in his speeches and interviews (though not entirely).

One criticism Augustus provides, which is much less of 'Imperium and the Sun' and more of some of the reporters who I use as sources, is using a former relationship of his who would like to remain anonymous. In this she said that Augustus had a "dim view of women," which he takes exception with because, as he says, "he worships a goddess." He notes several times is that he worships the "feminine," a point which he believes absolves him of sexism. This is one of the more transparent parts of his claims since this is essentially the religious version of "I have a female friend."

The distinction needs to be made between "worshipping the feminine" and being progressive towards, and affirmative of, women. Augustus' worship of the "feminine" is primarily a notion built on the idea that women are essentially feminine. This provides a narrative for women based on his perception of their natural essence, a notion that is both stifling and erroneous. To have relationships with women that reflect respect and equality, which is what is needed to not have the "dim" view, he would have to negate this idea that women are "essentially" feminine or any other quality. It would also require one to be critical of toxic masculinity and the oppressive nature of historic patriarchy, and this is certainly not a direction Augustus seems to go with his narrative. Some people are feminine, others are not, but this is a shifting personality characteristic that is not adequately rooted in biology or spiritual essences. This, I think, is largely something that Augustus is aware of, and something he would be unwilling to do as his conception of the "modern world" he opposes is one that believes gender is performative rather than natural. This is really the distinction between the "feminine" and "feminism," which is to say that a feminist interpretation of gender and support for female autonomy is not something Invictus sees as central to his worldview. If his perception of women as having a distinct nature that they must fulfill then this is a radically dim view of women, and one that is certainly not negated by providing a laundry list of women he respects.

Augustus took clear issue with my reference to his intended destruction of the public education system. He has said on more than one occasion that he would "gut the Department of Education," which is not unusual for a libertarian candidate; and most people, even on the moderate Left, would see as destructive for lower-income communities. The first objection he makes to this assessment is simply that he does not oppose "equal access to education," which I assumed would be the real victim of his plan. This could be an ideological assessment of this, but when looking at the proliferation of charter schools in privatized educational enclaves it is pretty clear what the results would be of demolishing the public education system in the current state of capitalism. He then mentioned that what he wanted to do was get rid of the "Marxism" that has infected our schools. He then said that I am a Marxist, which I am not, and so that this is likely not a point we could find common ground.

The problem with this line is that is lacks even a cursory understanding of Marxism as it has ever been understood, both by Marxists and by critical eyes. A term that floats around the far Right, which is not used by literally anyone outside of it, is Cultural Marxism. The term is used to designate the Frankfurt School Marxists who developed areas of critical theory and used revamped understandings of Marxism to discuss social systems. They often note that this Cultural Marxism is either created as a pseudoscience by Jews to destabilize Western man so as to support their own ethnic interests, or that Jews simply think in rash relativisms that lead the smarter ones to overly complex nonsense. This, on its face, is ridiculous anti-Semitic conspiracy theory, but it also reveals a real problem in the way that the Right (including even moderate Republicans) thinks about Marxism.

Marxism itself really did not branch extensively into social issues, and instead the ideas that they lend to "Marxist infiltration" have much different origins. In general, this broad social left sphere actually comes from the interactions of feminism, queer liberation, the civil rights movement, radical environmentalism, and other intellectual and social struggles with anarchism, which is the ideological center of this discourse, sometimes explicitly, but more often implicitly. The fundamental core of the anarchist project is an opposition to social hierarchy. This has its core in capitalism in the contemporary world, but it also intersects and has individualized hierarchies through oppressed identities and social experiences. This is a constantly evolving sphere of understanding and struggle, one that certainly owes some criticisms of capitalism from Marx, but really little else. Marx himself drew together a system of "base and superstructure." This meant that the foundations were economic, and culture and social systems derived from the relationships to material production. The Frankfurt School certainly tried to evolve it, but it did not actually catch on because of its alienating academic nature. I am often surprised that the far-right does not attack Autonomism or Situationism as they successfully evolved some of Marx's ideas for social revolution, and in fact the far-right often cites both of these threads in Marxism to support certain positions and to discuss the alienating condition of the "modern world."

Today, much of the far-right derives its discussions about Cultural Marxism in a much more specific form from former UC Long Beach professor Kevin McDonald's work. His book series, called the Culture of Critique, is supposed to be an "evolutionary psychological" look at Judaism as a "group evolutionary strategy" that is a result of Jewish ethnocentrism and high "verbal intelligence." He goes through different movements that he claims were dominated by "strongly identified Jews" and then essentially tries to prove that they were pseudoscience used to confuse and destroy the Gentiles. Cultural Marxism is one of these, where he sees it as an attempt by Jews to destroy white identity and racial consciousness as a way of protecting them from anti-Semitism. It should be said openly that he has almost no support for the radical wing of his claims, though the level of anti-Semitism increased as the volumes were released. Today, his ideas have been almost roundly rejected, where he is often accused of being misinformed about genetics, industrial history, and even what the realities of group evolution. Likewise, most of his theories involve basically counting people who may or may not be Jews, then assuming they have some coordinated conspiracy or subconscious drive to destroy white people, and then deciding that certain academic of political fields were more influential than they were. This is especially true of Frankfurt School Marxism, which he blames for just about every aspect of the progressive culture.

So then, really, why is Marxism still accused of having this effect? The reason seems to be that Marxism has historically been the dominant left revolutionary force when fascism was first developed, and a narrative about Jewish involvement in Bolshevism was so heavily relied upon during its interwar resurgence that it would be hard to create a continuity between the past and the present by rejecting Marxism as the dominant force of degeneration. Almost all levels of Marxism, from its Leninist interpretations to Trotskyist middle-road attempts to Maoist insurrectionaries and Situationist counter-cultures, are difficult to interpret for those looking to find a direct center of what they see as a force to destroy "nation and identity." This is especially difficult given the role that Marxism has played in third-world nationalism, much of which I would assume Augustus would favor. Likewise, Trotskyism seems to be an incredibly easy subsection for the far-right to highlight, often saying that it is synonymous with the Cultural Marxism that the Frankfurt School represents. This is embarrassingly misguided as there is almost no theoretical connection between the party-oriented political work of modern Trotskyist groups and the Negative Dialectics of Adorno. It is not just that they have different subsets; they are of a completely different world. Today, much of Frankfurt School Marxism has actually founded the basis for Primitivist thought, people like David Watson and John Zerzan, who are often derided for having parts of their analysis shared with those on the more esoteric "green fascist" Right. They certainly lack the "mass cultural orientation," as Zerzan calls it, that Augustus would find problematic in the global contemporary Left.

The key point here is that the effect that Augustus rails about in schools, which would be egalitarianism and general left-liberalism, has no direct correlation to Marx. I assume that I am going to receive emails in the next couple days with long citations that "prove" the correlation between transgender identity and 19th century Marxism, then to the Jewish Talmud, but beyond their racism, almost no evidence, scholarship, or political action supports this thesis.

Invictus makes an interesting note about the back and forth assertions regarding his own fascist politics and his family make-up. Without going into it too deeply, his partner is Latino/a, as are his children. This has led many to counter that he simply could not be racist, which is clearly not true, but also it drives at something more difficult about the correlation between white supremacy and fascism. Augustus himself wants to note that having Latino/a children does not mean he is not a fascist. This shows a couple of things. First, that he likes to take the label of fascist. For most looking at the far-right, this is both surprising and not surprising. While most on the Alt Right (Neoreaction, contemporary White nationalism, and other sub-divisions) think of themselves as ideologically different than fascism, which they believe is a specific politic lost in interwar Europe, they do not necessarily deride it either. Likewise, they often use the term as a semi-joke, calling each other "fashy." This is actually why I referred to Augustus' hair as "fashy," which he took exception to, which actually comes from the way that people like The Daily Shoah often call that hair style, now popular with the Alt Right after Richard Spencer chose it.

Second, he seems to be aligning himself with a sort of fascism that is primarily one of power and hierarchy rather than having its roots in race. This may seem confusing, and it is, but there have been fascist movements whose nationalism and ideals were less oriented on race (like that rising in Brazil). Augustus has made his image a very thought-out and well-crafted piece of performance art. He chooses aesthetics that would make people immediately step back in horror because of their perceived "fascist" roots. He uses a straight face, an almost ironic appearing pose, for making videos where he looks into the camera with a 10,000-yard stare. When speaking, he does the modern equivalent of screaming in front of an iron eagle, where he often uses contradictory language about "the system" while hailing from both the Left and the Right. As mentioned in the last article, he hams up his accent so much that you almost expect him to say, "I've always depended on the kindness of strangers." This is the ideological hallmark of Third Positionist fascism, while also being innately rhetorical. Over and over again he calls for revolution, then he even specifies that he does not mean to vote or volunteer for his campaign. He means revolution, and believes that he was born to lead a civil war. This is followed up by literally calling for people to support him as a candidate for office with relatively conventional political stances. It may seem like an act meant to make people feel as though they are doing more than voting; think of the 2007 Ron Paul campaign. This is likely true, but it is also driving at a fascist rhetorical strategy of fomenting revolution in spirit while not going as far as to stage actual insurrection. Instead, he wants to inject the political sphere with the feeling of revolutionary struggle with the hope that this will lead to a culture of "will to power." Augustus seems to want to recreate the feeling of fascism, the powerful speeches, the calls for unity and strength, the resurrection of the heroic motifs. He purposely references Rome in the same way that Mussolini did, which both has the same effect of dog whistling to his nationalist base while having plausible deniability when it comes to WWII tyrannies. In this way, his politics are clearly built more on the image of strength, which is backed up by his calls for natural hierarchy and eugenics, and it may or may not include race.

Augustus sent over a speech he gave at the University of Florida looking at fascism, before which he did a reading of three Cantos of Ezra Pound on usury at the Jack Kerouac house. Usury itself, the unethical lending of money, is often used as an anti-Semitic caricature of Jewish lending practices. Much of this comes from periods in European history where Jews were restricted from owning property and most professions and had lending sometimes as the only source of income, which led the anti-Semites to find another way to denigrate the Jewish community. The use of the term usury could, theoretically, mean lending with huge interest rates, but the term itself is chosen very carefully so as to bring up the Jewish caricature. Ezra Pound, who he is referencing in both speeches, was an undisputable fascist and virulent anti-Semite, and one of the few far-right intellectuals that they still have to draw on.

The racial issues are confusing in that he really does seem to shift with the environment. In a recent December 8th presentation at a small bar in Jacksonville, Florida, he stood in front of a Rock Against Communism flag as he derided the Federal Government. ROC is a punk movement that was the neo-Nazi equivalent of the growing non-racist Oi! scene, and created the foundation of the "white noise" music culture and racist skinhead gang community. One of the people helping him set up had, on his shaved head, the Heathen Mjonir and another runic symbol often associated with neo-Nazis. It could be argued, as I'm sure it will be, that these could theoretically be non-racist as well (I even own a Mjonir necklace myself), but in this particular situation it certainly would be a remarkable coincidence. Augustus then gave a speech with showed clear support for "nationalists and white racialists" and calls to "name our enemies." All of this was started with a story about a farmer being removed from his land by the federal government and another unnamed enemy. This draws heavily on the Posse Comitatus militia narrative that tries to inter-mix class struggle by re-orienting the enemy as various covert agents inside of the government, namely the Jews. He continues, throughout the speech, to accuse Marxism as seeping into the culture, which again re-orients the struggle as between near eternal enemies coming from deep in the past. He even mentioned Robert Matthews, a deceased member of the white racialist insurrectionary group The Order, who is radical even for Invictus to mention. When on shows like The Daily Shoah, he certainly seems to stand in support of their white nationalism, but he does avoid taking a clear stance on this.

I mentioned in the original article that he is a "left-hand path (LHP)" follower of Crowley's Thelema. He noted my mention, going on to let me know that he will be speaking at the Left Hand Path Consortium in Atlanta on April 10th with a lecture titled "The Nature of Power." I want to say clearly that I am far from an academic versed in esoteric traditions, but I do know my way around this discussion. The term, which is actually usually avoided in the academy, refers to two ways to possibly interpret esoteric and religious traditions. Most religions are Right-Hand Path, which sees things like universal ethical codes that are generally utilitarian. LHP rejects morality as a key dividing line, which is why it is often associated with black magick and relativism or nihilism. Iconoclastic in its roots, the most prominent forms of LHP magick is associated with Satanism, both of the metaphorical LaVeyan sensibility and the more theological type associated with organizations like the The Order of Nine Angels. The Temple of Set, Ordo Templi Orientis, some types of Hinduism and Sufi Islam, and some smaller tribal religions, could also be described as such. Much of the discourse inside of the LHP is about the attraction to power, and much of it is often associated with the desire to dominate over others and to instill hierarchies. Esoteric, elitist, and often focused on personal gain, LHP really does separate its traditions from most values associated with religion.

Many people on the Left love to joke around the Church of Satan because of its anti-Christian roots and its advocacy of sexual freedom. They often do not go deep enough to see its more ingrained right-wing ideas, where private property, personal power, and, as Crowley said, letting one's "will" be the whole of the law, are what they are founded on. This tradition plays almost perfectly into both Invictus' politics and public image, as well as the idea of Imperium that drives his life and program.

Augustus clearly liked the article about him, primarily because very few people got beyond gawking at his peculiarities so as to look at his politics. It is because of this that I think he would be willing to answer some open questions, which I am sure he would answer honestly and sincerely given his composure and penchant for honorable behavior. I put together a short list of questions, all of which are intended to be tough and revealing. A first glance, it may seem as though they are just sensationalistic, and, in a sense, they are. But they are also getting at something real, and I sincerely do not know the answers to them. The politics that Augustus is accused of, as well as those he happily embodies, have, for various reasons, not been incredibly clear to the general public. Therefore, I want to avoid any double-speak, "politician talk," or dodging that is so common even in smaller political races. Augustus has said many times that he wants a political discussion that is not simplified or dumbed down, so I think that he will appreciate being challenged in this way.

Questions for Augustus Sol Invictus:

1. Are you a racial or ethnic nationalist?

2. Do you share the view with many of the outlets in which you have spoke, that there are IQ differences that are biologically different between racial groups?

3. Do you share the idea in Imperium that the Jews are innately enemies of Western society?

4. Do you think that the Holocaust did not occur in the numbers and specifics of the standard narrative?

5. What kind of eugenics program would you want to see implemented in the U.S. if you were to have complete control over it?

6. Do you see men and women as having innately different natures?

7. In what way does Thelema influence your political ideas?

8. In this natural hierarchy that you spoke of, what types of people end up near the top, and what types of people end up towards the bottom?

9. Can you explain, in detail, what you think Marxism to be and how it has been a dominant force in Western society?

10. How would you rid society of the subversive elements, be them Marxist or Jewish or whatever you believe them to be?

11. Do you generally oppose mass democracy as a concept?

12. Do you think that people are generally equal, despite their own particular differences?