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No one should be surprised the Portland attacker felt the Bern

On Friday, May 27, Jeremy Joseph Christian accosted a Muslim woman, then stabbed three men in Portland. Two have died – one a 23-year-old, the other a veteran and father of four. The third victim’s injury reportedly missed being fatal by one millimeter. This morning at his arraignment, the grand jury returned a 15-count indictment that could grow longer – and could include the death penalty.

Some are surprised to learn that this white supremacist supports Bernie Sanders, opposes the free market, and hates Christianity. Those familiar with the teachings of fascism, or the modern racialist movement, should not be jolted.

Opposing free trade, supporting Sanders and Stein

Christian noted his support for Sanders and Green Party candidate Jill Stein on social media.

"Bernie Sanders was the President I wanted. He voiced my heart and mind," Christian wrote on Facebook in December. The senator “spoke about the way America should [have] gone. Away from the Military and Prison Industrial Complexes.”

Before the election, he vowed “to Odin, Kali, Bastet and all other Pagan Gods and Goddesses in my Aryan Theosophical Nucleus” to kill Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. “This is my duty as a Viking and Patriot. In Jesus name....I Feel The Bern!!!!”

Despite that reference and his misleading surname, Christian despised the Christian faith, as well as other major world religions. He once called for a “Monotheist Holocaust” encompassing Jews, Christians, and Muslims. While most people understand a neo-Nazi prejudice against Judaism and Islam, fewer know of its anti-Christian teachings.  

The view that Christianity renders Western men too timid to crush others for the sake of the volk is typified by Revilo P. Oliver, a onetime National Review contributor who drifted into racialism. “Christianity has always been deleterious to our race,” he wrote, “a spiritual syphilis that has now reached the tertiary stage, paresis and insanity.”

However, economic concerns motivated much of Christian’s activism.

The Oregonian paraphrased Shane Burley, the author of a new book on fascism, who concluded that the attacker “supported Sanders because he was against globalization” – that is, free trade. Christian also expressed “solidarity” with Standing Rock protesters against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Christian shared both his antipathy toward Christianity and the free market with Holocaust Museum shooter James Wenneker Von Brunn. Von Brunn, who murdered a guard in 2009, wrote in his book, Kill the Best Gentiles, that “WESTERN SOCIALISM, represents the future of the West, and the end of JEWRY on Western soil. … [A]ll wars and revolutions are financed by JEW CAPITALISTS.” (Screaming capitalization in original.)

In the Nazi imagination, the free market is synonymous with perfidious Jewish merchants. Thus, it must be brought under the control of a “pure” Aryan superstate.

A few concrete economic policies may be found in the now-defunct neo-Nazi group Aryan Nations’ “Platform for the Aryan National State,” which calls on future fuehrers to (quoting their words):

  • [E]liminate the current practice of damaging and poisoning life and environment.
  • Provide honest aid to farmers and other business people, and shall restore to all citizens rightful land ownership.
  • Make the necessary provisions for the aged, who have been impoverished by fraud (inflation).
  • Confiscate all unearned wealth, stolen by fraud or usury and that which is gain from war.
  • Nationalize all monopolies and multi-national interest[s].
  • Immediately bring about land reform and completely prohibit land speculation and ownership of land and industry by racial aliens.

All of this echoed the original 25 Point Program of the Nazi Party. The 1920 document called for the “abolition of unearned (work and labour) incomes,” “the total confiscation of all war profits,” “the nationalization of all (previous) associated industries (trusts),” “a division of profits of all heavy industries,” “an expansion on a large scale of old age welfare,” enabling “every capable and industrious German to obtain higher education,” “land reform,” and the death penalty for usurers.

“We demand the formation of a strong central power in the Reich,” it concluded.

Neither Marxism nor fascism is possible without a massive concentration of power in the hands of the government.

In Nazi Germany, the state did not confiscate the means of production but instead had the government direct and control the production and distribution of industries, which remained in private hands. Princeton economist Otto Nathan, a friend of Albert Einstein, described Nazi Germany as a “highly planned economy,” in which “a comprehensive planning mechanism was imposed,” so that “no institution … remained unaffected.”

Once the individual is denied economic resources, the advancing State inevitably encroaches upon other rights and ultimately, the right to life itself. Adolf Hitler outlined his vision in 1937, saying, “The main plank in the National Socialist program is to abolish the liberalistic concept of the individual and the Marxist concept of humanity, and to substitute therefore the folk community, rooted in the soil and bound together by the bond of its common blood.”

Seeing the gathering threat, Ludwig von Mises became an outspoken critic of racial collectivism before fleeing the Nazis. He dedicated a chapter of Human Action to rejecting race-based philosophy (“racial polylogism”) alongside Marxist dialectical materialism.

The modern racialist movement has yet to forgive him. In 2010, The Occidental Quarterly offered a $1,000 prize for essays “racial nationalist critiques of libertarian individualism.”

“In terms of fundamental moral principles, libertarian individualism and racial nationalist collectivism could not be more opposed,” the website proclaimed. Authors were invited to answer the pressing “question of whether libertarianism is a Jewish intellectual movement.”

Different scapegoats, but the same savior

If the fascist corporatist state differs from orthodox Marxism, so does the platform of the contemporary American Left. Sanders did not campaign on nationalizing industries – merely comprehensively regulating them, taxing them, and redistributing their fruits.

Barbarism must be overcome with gentleness, which emanates from a heart illumined by the light of God's presence.

And whether one believes the economy is “rigged” by an ethnic clique or a capitalist cabal, the ideologies are built upon the same envy and propose similar government interventionist policies to make things “fair.” It should come as little surprise that there is some overlap between the two movements now, as there was in the 1930s.

To be clear, nothing in this essay should imply that Bernie Sanders is a Nazi, or that Democratic Socialists like Sanders or Stein favor fascism. The two philosophies are distinct in their methodologies, platforms, and intended results.

However, neither Marxism nor fascism is possible without a massive concentration of power in the hands of the government, ideally at the highest possible level. Once the governmental apparatus is in place, its limits depend only upon its master – and the level of popular resistance it meets. Freidrich von Hayek wrote that “National socialism … is simply collectivism freed from all traces of an individualist tradition which might hamper its realization.”

On a practical level, the diffusion of power – between levels of bureaucracy, between the government and civil society, and between public and private economic resources – is the only way to preserve the right to life, freedom of conscience, the free exercise of religion, and freedom of expression.

On a deeper level, collectivist terror can only be fought only by recognizing the inherent human dignity of all people. Barbarism must be overcome with gentleness, which emanates from a heart illumined by the light of God's presence.

The two fatalities in Portland are a tragic loss. They should remind us of the harm that could befall innocents were its perpetrator's ideology armed, not with a folding knife, but with the full economic and military resources of the State.

(Photo credit: Robert Thivierge. This photo has been cropped. CC BY-SA 2.0.)


Rev. Ben Johnson is a senior editor at the Acton Institute. His work focuses on the principles necessary to create a free and virtuous society in the transatlantic sphere (the U.S., Canada, and Europe). He earned his Bachelor of Arts in History summa cum laude from Ohio University and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. 

Rev. Johnson was a panelist at the 2016 CPAC. His writings have appeared in The (UK) GuardianHuman EventsThe Stream, Real Clear Policy, Aleteia.org, Conservative ReviewThe Daily Caller, and have been cited by National Review, CBS News, and Fox News. 

He was managing