September 11th saw another Nazi postering/social media campaign on Canadian campuses hot on the heels of a similar campaign by Atalante Quebec on Universities and CEGEPs in Quebec City. This is the first time that a Nazi organization has made a serious and coordinated effort to in their own words “target” campuses in Canada. As usual, these don’t advertise any event or product beyond the group’s web page. The vague exhortations to “identity” and “freedom” are part of a wider campaign to file the serial numbers off of the wider European Nazi movement which it is a part of and present it as something with no past.
At this point in time, Canada is no stranger to branches of global fascist and Nazi franchises mobilizing around Islamophobic and anti-immigrant sentiment galvanized by the election of Donald Trump and the imperialist war on predominantly Muslim countries in the Middle East. The Finnish Soldiers of Odin most notably has already spawned several offshoots in Canada such as Northern Guard and Storm Alliance. The other, the German PEGIDA, shares some history with the subject of this essay, Generation Identity. The difference between these groups is that they were never concerned with campus activity like Generation Identity is. The youth outreach compliments the attempt to repackage the same old Nazi cliches as brand new. Whereas Soldiers of Odin act like caricatured bikers and street toughts, urbane Campus Nazis, are more likely to avoid optical slip ups with the use of racial slurs and Nazi iconography.
Though it originated in France, most of the group’s significant action took place in Germany and Austria, as such it has become tailored to the political climate of those places wherein overt approaches to the country’s Nazi past are proscribed and the Nazi movement has to operate with knockoff symbolism and couch explicit racial remarks in ambiguous terms of “identity” or “ethnicity”. For all practical purposes the group exists to stop non-white immigration in order to safeguard the racial purity of Europe from ‘ethnic homogenization”, a code for miscegenation. They even claim to be protecting the “diversity” of (white, Christian) Europe. “Ethno-Pluralism” of course, refers to preserving racially pure Western Societies. According to the group’s whinging misogynist greentext of a manifesto Generation Identity: A Declaration of War Against the ‘68ers “Large-scale diversity requires small-scale homogeneity” meaning ethnic cleansing is necessary to preserve European societies. In this manifesto the groups attempts to explicitly disavow Nazism which making the ahistorical claim that anti-imperialism and internationalism in Europe were the result of Nazism itself. More notably, in it’s attempting to disavow Nazism, the group can’t help but show a distinctive provenance in the postwar Nazi movement. The manifesto’s claim “we Europeans shouldn’t fight each other over petty disagreements” itself plays a double role in reinforcing Nazi propaganda claims. Firstly, it trivializes the Holocaust and other Nazi atrocities as a “petty disagreement” or as Jean-Marie Le Pen would say “a detail of history”. Secondly, it echoes wartime Nazi propaganda, which was replete with calls wooing potential collaborators with the prospect of pan-European unity against Bolshevism.
White supremacist views by themselves are quite common among the white population, though a desire to associate with explicit and organized white supremacy decidedly less so. In order to appeal to a population that, groups like Generation Identity must distance themselves from conventional skinhead iconography and phraseology to attempt a clean break with the past in order to cultivate an air of respectability. However analyzing the group’s present practical activity or historical background swiftly puts an end to the masquerade.
The group originated in France as the youth wing of Bloc Identitaire, which was founded by members of the Nazi collaborationist monarchist group Action Francaise. The movement emerged from the French “New Right” which reheated Nazi “Blood and Soil” nationalism and “racialism” (deftly avoiding accusations of racism with an extra syllable). In the climate of France, the group took on an intellectual gloss and honed the mental gymnastics which would come in handy in spreading to Germany and Austria, both countries which prohibit the spread of overtly Nazi ideology.
In Austria the group attracted as spokespeople Youtuber Martin Sellner and the author of the aforementioned manifesto Markus Willinger (who was interviewed by the Federation Quebecois de Souches, a Quebec based Nazi organization), The group took root among young supporters of the FPO, a party founded and led for the majority of it’s existence by SS officers and those with overt sympathies to the Nazi cause. The youth wing of the FPO, the Ring Freiheitlicher Jugend Österreichis all but joined at the hip with the neo-Nazi Bund freier Jugend along with Generation Identity. Neo-Nazi groups from Hungary and Poland have been invited to participate in the group’s marches. It is also Austria in which the group has been most openly violent; carrying out assaults against refugees in the University of Vienna during the performance of a play and the staff of the University of Klagenfurt during a lecture on asylum seeking.
In Germany the group is a major presence at islamophobic PEGIDA demonstrations, alongside other Nazi groups. PEGIDA itself spawned a Canadian offshoot before Generation Identity, their most recent activity was a demonstration in London that culminated in two arrests.. According to the Berlin Senate Administration for the Interior there was a coordination of the anti-refugee movement between the Identity Movement and the Berlin NPD(Germany’s most prominent neo-Nazi political party) which reflected the increase in incidents of hate crimes that included a failed plot to bomb a refugee centre that involved members of the local branch of PEGIDA in Nurnberg known as Nugida.
The height of the group’s activity in European was “Defend Europe”, a failed attempt to obstruct humanitarian vessels in order to drown refugees in the Mediterranean. Before Defend Europe was scuttled, it managed to attract Lauren Southern of the Canadian Rebel Media infamy as part of the crew.
Though Generation Identity does not yet have a great presence in the United States, some members of the group appeared at the Jason Kessler’s nazi “Unite the Right” rally. They can be seen bringing up the rear of Vanguard America; the assassins of Heather Heyer and assailants of DeAndre Harris.
The group’s sights on campuses are by no means novel for Nazi organizations. Vanguard America and (before it’s violent collapse) Atomwaffen Division have produced numerous and extremely vulgar racist and homophobic examples to compliment the usual formula of generic posters about some variation of “white pride” coupled with the addresses of Nazi websites. Popular Rightist characterization portrays Academia as a bastion of the Left, which tempts Nazi groups to poster for provocation and publicity. If Nazi groups are coy about their intentions, as is the case with Generation Identity, it is necessary not only to expose them, but where they come from and the coded terms they use.
Canadian universities however, can, with the determined efforts of anti-fascists to master legal struggle, prove to be dangerous for the group. For one, heightened security and surveillance on campus can make identification and public exposure of Nazis more easy. Public incitement of hatred against any identifiable group(in this case immigrants) is also an offense under Section 319 (1) of the Criminal Code. In the past, legal struggle has curbed the growth of the Nazi movement in Canada, but in this volatile climate of sustained middle-class White backlash against the anti-racist movement of the working class we cannot allow our guard to slip or tie our hands from using any tools at our disposal.