Traditionalist Worker Party?

I have a confession to make: I get lost down Internet rabbit holes too often for my own good. As I skimmed Google News earlier, I came across a story from the L.A. Times detailing the violence which broke out today in Sacramento between members of the self-proclaimed Traditionalist Worker Party (TWP) and anti-Nazi/white supremacist protesters. As I made my way to the end of the story, I couldn’t help but notice that TWP is headed up by one Matthew Heimbach, a young darling of sorts to white-nationalist types and an apparent Eastern Orthodox Christian. As some may recall, Heimback caused quite the stir back in 2014 when he was received into the Antiochian Othodox Church and then proceeded to beat up someone up during Bright Week while holding a large Byzantine cross. The priest who chrismated Heimbach quickly denounced the latter’s views and stated that Heimbach had to undergo a period of penance if he wanted back into the Orthodox fold. Though details are sketchy, he appears that Heimbach is still a practicing Orthodox Christian — in an Old-Calendarist jurisdiction. (Only in America folks…)

Now, let me be clear that the TWP appears to have no direct links to any canonical body of the Orthodox Church nor are its positions Orthodox (or Orthodox-informed) in any distinct manner. As a review of the Party’s official platform reveals, TWP is more or less a strange conflation of libertarianism, nationalism, racism, and (secular) traditionalism. Like many “alt-right” movements, its primary aspirations are animated by a fear of “anti-white racism” without actually doing much to clarify who counts as “white.” The term “European-American” is used in various places on the website, albeit without a working definition. For instance, does man who immigrated from Mexico to the United States legally get to call himself a “European” because — more likely than not — he has Spanish ancestry? Are Italians and Greeks disqualified from being “Europeans” because of the heavy mixture of Middle-Eastern blood in their veins? And what of the Slavic peoples of Eastern Europe? Are they “white” or are they something else? Is Russia “European”? What about Georgia? And beyond all of these queries, does it even matter to the TWP that the race idea is a rather late invention in human history and certainly not one with any deep “traditionalist” roots.

With respect to TWP’s economic agenda, well, it’s a confused mixture of libertarian-inspired anti-statist rhetoric and top-down economic interventionism. For instance, TWP supports managed trade, subsidies for purchasing homes (and perhaps other forms of real property), regulated health care, and environmental strictures — all the while eschewing the dreaded “state.” None of this is to say that all of TWP’s agenda items are bad. In fact, several of its economic policy positions are fully supported by the social teaching of both the Catholic and Orthodox communions. However, it is the racialist bent of the TWP, particularly as it comes to immigration and “non-whites” already living in America, which renders it toxic. How someone professing to be an Orthodox Christian can endorse such an outlook reveals the extent to which liberal ideology and the Enlightenment idea of “nationality” corrupts what should be patently obvious.

Judging by the aforementioned L.A. Times story, it doesn’t appear that the TWP is a particularly strong movement, but I expect more groups like this to begin popping up in the coming years as various forms of nationalism gain traction in the face of a growing global terrorist threat. In the U.S., the fracturing of the Republican Party will no doubt bring the weirdos out of the woodwork and folks who were once too ashamed to air their personal views in public will begin rallying fellow mouth-breathers to their raving-mad causes. I expect that certain pockets of traditional Catholics and Orthodox will be tempted to go along with one or more of these groups, largely out of a misguided hope that they can present a clearer way forward through the fog of liberalism than any mainstream political party currently offers. That would be a mistake, not only because race-based politics should be anathema to any right-believing Christian, but because our own respective communions have already plotted a way ahead which is divorced neither from the Gospel nor common sense.

11 comments

  1. The Trade Worker/ Trad Youth group is quite tiny. If you want to find out more, and get a good laugh in the process, check out this thread on the OC.net forum, where one of their members briefly tries to defend the group before being shamed into silence by pictures and quotes from himself and others: http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,67352.0.html

    Unfortunately, while such nonsense gets instant revulsion from most American Orthodox, I don’t think it would be too out of place among some Orthodox in the old countries.

    BTW the Old Calendarist “Genuine Orthodox Church” have a priest (Fr James Thornton) who has contributed to neo-Nazi groups like American Renaissance: http://www.amren.com/archives/back-issues/august-1996/

  2. I’m Catholic and consider myself a traditionalist, so take these comments with that in mind:

    1) “The term “European-American” is used in various places on the website, albeit without a working definition. For instance, does man who immigrated from Mexico to the United States legally get to call himself a “European” because — more likely than not — he has Spanish ancestry? Are Italians and Greeks disqualified from being “Europeans” because of the heavy mixture of Middle-Eastern blood in their veins?”

    I don’t think you know what about genetics or the modern science of race/ethnic identity. Most Mexicans have very little Spanish ancestry — it is mostly the elite of that country that carries such blood (and the typical peasant immigrating to America is usually of native ancestry or at best, is a mestizo and has mostly Amerindian ancestry.) As far as I know, there is no evidence that Italians and/or Greeks have “Middle-Eastern blood” — I’d like to see your source for such a wild claim.

    More generally, it seems strange to dismiss pride in one’s racial/ethnic heritage. I recently wrote a long piece about such pride, from a Christian perspective, which I think you find interesting:

    http://whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2016/06/ideas_versus_identity_1.html

    2) ” However, it is the racialist bent of the TWP, particularly as it comes to immigration…”

    This seems crazy — why can’t we agree to disagree about immigration? More properly, there is nothing anti-Christian about wanting limited immigration into your country or thinking that certain groups of people make better immigrants or will assimilate better into your country’s culture. It seems like the opposite is true — that to hold that everyone around the globe is nothing more than a cog in a machine that can be sent from one place to another without any negative consequences of without any consideration of culture or local folkways seems to go against the common good and therefore not a very Christian idea.

    None of these comments are meant to endorse specific ideas of the TWP — I just think that Christians need to get smarter and more sensible when it comes to racial/ethnic ideas and policies.

      1. Yes, well, I am awaiting Jeffrey S’s forthcoming piece on why I should be kicked out of his Aryan American dreamland.

    1. “More properly, there is nothing anti-Christian about wanting limited immigration into your country or thinking that certain groups of people make better immigrants or will assimilate better into your country’s culture.”

      As a Catholic, then, I’d tend to welcome Latin Americans. The Church, after all, is willing to baptize any individual and has no silly ideas about race. If we really put the interests of the Church and of Catholic culture first, then I think we’ll look favorably on almost anything which might work to make the Protestant Colossus of the U.S.A. become Catholic. If you want to argue about desirable or undesirable immigrants, talk about religion and culture, and don’t look down on your fellow Latin American Catholics – who, after all, were raised in a real Catholic culture, rather than the half-way house of Calvinist Catholicism which mostly constitutes the Church in the U.S.

    2. “I don’t think you know what about genetics or the modern science of race/ethnic identity. Most Mexicans have very little Spanish ancestry — it is mostly the elite of that country that carries such blood (and the typical peasant immigrating to America is usually of native ancestry or at best, is a mestizo and has mostly Amerindian ancestry.) As far as I know, there is no evidence that Italians and/or Greeks have “Middle-Eastern blood” — I’d like to see your source for such a wild claim.”

      If you know anything about the movements of people, invasions, etc. over the past 3,000 years, you can’t seriously expect me to buy this, can you? What is the magic cut-off date for “pure” ancestry? What about the Muslim invasions into Spain? Do you think there is some magic line of demarcation between “real Spainish” and “tainted Spanish”? If so, how does one discover it? Or what about all of the people walking around with Jewish blood in their family trees due to conversions? Come on. This isn’t even sensible.

      “More generally, it seems strange to dismiss pride in one’s racial/ethnic heritage. I recently wrote a long piece about such pride, from a Christian perspective, which I think you find interesting:”

      Maybe that’s because I’m a mut, or perhaps it’s because I couldn’t give a hoot. I am certainly interested in my family origins (to a degree), but the idea that this defines me in any substantial way is ludicrous. I have Slavic ancestors from Galicia, but I don’t call myself a “Pole” or “Ukrainian,” nor even think of myself as being constituted as a “Slav” beyond some tongue-in-cheek comments here and there. I would hope that I am far more constituted by being a Christian, and there is no blood-purity test for that.

      “This seems crazy — why can’t we agree to disagree about immigration? More properly, there is nothing anti-Christian about wanting limited immigration into your country or thinking that certain groups of people make better immigrants or will assimilate better into your country’s culture. It seems like the opposite is true — that to hold that everyone around the globe is nothing more than a cog in a machine that can be sent from one place to another without any negative consequences of without any consideration of culture or local folkways seems to go against the common good and therefore not a very Christian idea.”

      Because popes have spoken on this topic before and we owe what they said deference (to a degree). For instance, following Pius XII, we cannot simply deny refugees a place to live because we don’t like the color of their skin (though that doesn’t mean we have to afford them the same social and political rights as we do citizens, nor does that mean we have to let them stay after the crisis has abated in their respective homelands). I am all for a sensible immigration policy which favors Catholics and other Christians over other false religions, but this is not the platform the TWP is pushing. The TWP’s platform is racialist in nature and therefore out of bounds for any right-believing Catholic. We take our bearings from a different wellspring than the muddy waters of racialist ideology.

      1. >Do you think there is some magic line of demarcation between “real Spainish” and “tainted Spanish”?

        What complicates this further is the Visigothic invasions between the fall of Rome and the expansion of Islam.

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