A kinder, gentler hatred on the rise, writer warns

Lee persuasively argues in his book that fascism is not a relic of the past. Far-right parties are gaining influence internationally. According to Lee, the National Alliance Progress Party in Italy gets 15 percent of the vote, while the Freedom Party in Austria gets 28 percent. There are more than 60 fascist groups in Russia.

Lee has written extensively on neo-fascist movements for the Village Voice, the Nation and Mother Jones. He is also the author of two other books, "Unreliable Sources," and "Acid Dreams: The CIA, LSD, and the Sixties Rebellion."

Lee says in an interview that he worries that people focus on the most "obnoxious and obvious groups" like young Nazi skinheads, who, while violent, are not politically dangerous.

In the United States, although there's no legitimate political arena for them, at least 25 percent of an estimated 225 far-right paramilitary formations "had explicit ties to white hate groups."

And there's more to the story, Lee says. As he writes in the book, "Despite their proven penchant for bloodshed, the militias had several champions within the Republican party and on Capitol Hill."

He points out in the book that several GOP officeholders spoke at local militia events and vied for the support of Pat Robertson, "whose conspiratorial worldview was just a nuance away from the Oklahoma City bombing."

In addition, he writes, "House Speaker Newt Gingrich stymied a much-needed congressional probe into right-wing paramilitary activity in the United States."

On the subject of hate movements outside the United States, Lee says that old-guard Nazis, though condemned as criminals after the war, have been successful in financing political operations through ODESSA, an SS veterans' association.

"What's been focused on is how Swiss banks were funded. [But] there's more to it than that," he says. "It wasn't just that money was kept in Swiss banks — which is bad enough. It was utilized for Nazi political objectives."

Many far-right groups got their funding from drug trafficking, he says.

"Militia groups have been involved with selling meta-amphetamine. There are many examples of extremist groups on the far right getting involved in heroin traffic."

Raised in a secular Jewish home on Long Island, N.Y., Lee was made aware of the Holocaust early in his life. His maternal uncle, Max Monk, originally from Czechoslovakia, survived five different concentration camps.

"He knew that his wife and family were able to avoid capture. That's what kept him alive," Lee says.

Most of Lee's maternal relatives were killed in the war. "The Beast Reawakens" is dedicated to Monk. "He was the first person I ever met with numbers on his arm," Lee says.

Lee says he hopes his book will illuminate for readers the rise of a new, subtler form of fascism.

"It's important to educate ourselves, not just simply to focus on what happened in the past but to be very, very alert to the present."