We have already written about Death in June in two separate Calls to Action. Additionally there have been a number of excellent articles written about them by others outlining in detail why they are problematic. This libcom article, as well as this piece by NYC Antifa are particularly good. This is an article written by a former fan of Death and June who changed their mind after attending a show. There are many more articles out there. In an effort to save time by not rehashing every single point, we will briefly give an overview here, then move on to the common arguments defending Di6, and why we think it is very important that Portlanders take time out of their lives to actually show up for this.
Death in June is a vanguard neo-folk band fronted by Douglas Pearce. Di6 utilizes Nazi imagery and references throughout their music and presentation. It is the dominant theme of the band. The most common argument defending Di6 is that it is merely done for artistic effect and has no political meaning (or, even more absurdly, that it is actually a critique of fascism). This is a terrible argument on many levels, and is also patently false as Pearce has done a number of things to specifically align himself with fascist politics (such as donating money to Croatian fascists, honoring "White Wolves" responsible for a racist bombing campaign, etc). However, Pearce remains just cryptic enough in his interviews to apparently satisfy the portion of his fanbase that are not white supremacists but employ extremely selective skepticism, refusing to apply the slightest amount of critical attention to Pearce’s words whereas out-of-hand denying any factual information put forth by anti-fascists. Besides the neo-folk goth fans that are annoying to argue with but are mainly just into the music, the other segment of Pearce’s fanbase is overt neo-Nazis. This is what we would like to emphasize here. Nazis came to the last show in Portland and they will come again.
So here’s the thing: We don’t care what Pearce believes. It doesn’t matter. These arguments so often get shifted to an individual's thoughts and beliefs by those that are making defenses for racist and fascist actions. For example someone makes a racist joke, then says “I’m not racist!” as if their intent is the main factor determining harm. That creates an argument that is unwinnable, since the burden of proof becomes the intangible. This is reflected in the statements of Dyami Clement, Alhambra's general manager, "We did a lot of research, and we finally came to the conclusion that the symbolism [Pearce] uses is purely artistic, and that he is not a Nazi." Clearly they did not do a lot of “research” unless by research they mean ran the profit figures and decided that having a sell-out show was more important than doing the right thing. There is an overwhelming body of evidence showing that Di6 profits off of the deaths of millions of innocent people and that Di6 creates cultural space for fascism, a mission that Alhambra and Engine Driver Presents are now complicit with. We do not need to examine the contents of the hearts and minds of those doing these things. What matters is actions and what the consequences for those actions are in the real world.
- It doesn’t matter that Pearce is gay. The end.
- Creating cultural space has political meaning on its own. Meta-political fascism in an aesthetic context is important to oppose. Fascism had to take many roles after WWII and venturing into apolitic aesthetics was one of them. So even if it is "just art" it’s damaging to the cause of anti-fascism.
- The specific history in Portland of institutional racism and insurgent white supremacy mean we need to be particularly vigilant in not conceding space to fascists. Portland has a particularly racist past and present in terms of structural white supremacy. Because of the hostile climate here for POC and the overwhelming white population, Portland became a destination for white nationalists and racists. It was regarded as the capital of white supremacy in the United Stated in the 1990s. That is not awfully long ago and many of those people are still here. The white supremacists have retreated to the suburbs (or merely transitioned to less visible outfits) after being beaten back by the combined forces of anti-racists in the 90s including the Lesbian Avengers, Anti-racist skinheads, punks, ARA, Black Panthers, ministers, The Coalition for Human Dignity, militant queers, and innumerable others. If white supremacists know that they can crawl out of their hidey holes in Oregon City and have a big party in Portland, how long will it be until they are bashing queers, terrorizing POC, and killing immigrants again? We cannot take that chance. It is worth one Saturday night of your life to stop that.
- Hipster racism and gentrification are important factors in considering this issue. Unlike the 1990s, Portland these days is even whiter and a lot richer. This changing race and class dynamic means a few things, not least of which is that a lot fewer people are willing to stand up for anti-racism. Gentrification and hipsterfication mean loads of Burzum shirts, Pork Army parties, and Di6 back-to-back sell-out shows. While these hipsters are just flexing gross levels of white privilege and are not likely doctrinaire Nazis, they normalize "ironic" or "artistic" racism and create space for the actual Nazis. They add insult to injury on the heels of POC being driven out of Portland by skyrocketing housing costs, and create a sneering, hostile climate for nonwhites. The wine bar yuppies and mustachioed hipsters certainly are not bothered that POC no longer feel welcome in neighborhoods that they grew up in. They benefit from this climate of humiliation, degradation, and terror. Nazis in Portland do the dirty work of gentrification. They are the patrolling guard dogs. Middle class people think it’s funny to pretend to appropriate “low brow culture” by donning a Pork Army vest with a swastika. It is a disturbing parody of working-class whites that selects the most racist element to identify with, the portion that will have white solidarity across class lines, rather than class solidarity across race lines. The swastikas and death heads and grinning SS pigs are really all important microaggressions asserting a culture of white supremacy, anyone that’s not in on this massive joke, or the super deep meta-fascism in the case of Pearce, is not welcome here.
- Alhambra’s reaction means we need to up the ante. Many people called the Alhambra Theatre last time to register complaints. The Alhambra did not change their course but actually doubled-down in their commitment to host the fascist act. Alhambra is motivated by money. Because of this the level of community pressure needs to be significantly higher, it needs to cost them money and peace of mind. Alhambra has demonstrated that they do not care if they are creating a social space for Nazis to hob-nob with pretentious Ayn Randian goths. They do not care if Volksfront can snatch up some recruits from the disaffected whites that embrace Pearce’s music. Their solution was to enforce a dress code so that no one could wear political symbols of any kind. The promoter, Chase Varga, used absurd language pretending that it was not specifically fascist symbols that were the problem. This is such a passive-aggressive Portland answer to the problem, so similar to colorblind racism. If we can’t tell they're Nazis, then the problem goes away. While Alhambra tried to strangely blame this dress policy on antifa, really it was a way for them to side-step the issue and shield themselves from criticism for having proud, flag-waving Nazis in their venue.
Actions Not Words /// No Pasaran!
4811 SE Hawthorne Blvd
Portland, OR, US 97214
Engine Driver Presents