The Protocols argue that people are incapable of governing themselves, and only a despot using armed force can govern effectively….[The Jews have plotted their] rise to power by pitting the Gentiles against one another until, eventually…[they] will be able to enlist the masses in overthrowing their indolent gentile leaders. Thereafter the masses will be kept under firm control through an efficient government that will banish unemployment, apply taxation in proportion to wealth, and promote education. During this messianic age the Jewish masters will shrewdly promise, but never deliver, liberty.8
The so-called “pseudo-agrarian” movements…beginning in the 1890s…sought to blame rural and small-town social dislocations on an urban, plutocratic conspiracy. More often than not, this cabal was identified as explicitly Jewish, and it became a convenient scapegoat for those troubled by departures from traditional social values. It was ironical that Henry Ford, himself an agent of some of these changes…became…one of the principal voices for an anti-Semitic politics of resentment.12
Not since Father Coughlin or Henry Ford has a prominent white American so boldly and unapologetically blamed the disasters of modern world history on the machinations of international high finance in general and on a few international Jews in particular.22
[which] refers to a society’s “rejected knowledge,” beliefs considered unacceptable by such authoritative institutions as conventional religion, universities, the state, and the mass media. Second, the cultic milieu refers not simply to this body of rejected knowledge but to its expression in the form of a “cultural underground,” a “network of individuals, groups, practices, institutions, [and] means of communication.” 25
It is characteristic of this kind of movement that its aims and premises are boundless. A social struggle is seen not as a struggle for specific, limited objectives, but as an event of unique importance, different in kind from all other struggles in history, a cataclysm from which the world is to emerge totally transformed and redeemed.29
Ezekiel 38 and 39 says that Gog, a northern power, will invade Israel. Gog must be Russia. Most of the prophecies that had to be fulfilled before Armageddon can come have come to pass. Ezekiel said that fire and brimstone will be rained upon the enemies. That must mean that they’ll be destroyed by nuclear weapons. 30
[T]he act of radical withdrawal can engender a siege mentality, a sense that one is surrounded by enemies and that the battle is even now beginning. Thus survivalists are prey to the self-fulfilling prophecy, in the sense that their very preparations may lead them into actions that set them at odds with political authorities.33
To most of us, apocalyticism, at least in its thoroughgoing manifestations, is so spectacular, so potentially destructive, that is difficult to look beneath its surface….As one can see from the history of it, it nearly always arises in times of suppression, chaos, fear, or disadvantage. As such, its first appearances are a register of the degree of social and psychological pain people are suffering.34We are dealing with frightened people caught in the jaws of history, not kooks.35
We stand today at a unique and extraordinary moment….Out of these troubled times…a new world order can emerge; a new era—freer from the threat of terror, stronger in the pursuit of justice, and more secure in the quest for peace, an era in which nations of the world, East and West, North and South, can prosper and live in harmony.36
[The New World Order] means that the US and other democratic nations agree to be governed by a rule of law whereby any country breaking that law is treated much as criminals are in each country. They are tried and, if found guilty, punished. The process will be carried out in the same manner that police and courts enforce local laws.37
We began to think a little broader and look into some of the left-wing positions, and we started evolving something that can’t be called right-wing. It can’t be called Marxist and it’s not really…The word populist has been ruined by the right wing, by the manipulations of [Willis Carto’s] Populist Party. We don’t accept that. We began to take on a lot of the positions of the left, and we started recruiting people from the left.39
In its members’ contempt for the federal government, profound antiauthoritarianism, mockery of big business and finance, dedication to complete local control of the community, and desire to establish wilderness compounds, the new rural radicalism of the 1990s sounds surprisingly similar to the counterculture rhetoric of the far left in the 1960s. In fact, in northern California, the Pacific Northwest, and the rural Northwest it is not uncommon for gun-toting paramilitary leaders to live next door to latter-day hippies and marijuana growers. The…Murrah Federal Building [bombing] reminded some observers of the 1970 bombing of the University of Wisconsin’s Army-Math Research Center by a member of the local Students for Democratic Society.40
Finally, the far right believes in the subjugation of women. Although he relied almost exclusively on women to carry out his plans, Manson believes this too. Ironically, his own lifestyle obliterated even the most rudimentary semblance of home and family which, for the right, define femininity. Where Manson differs most significantly from the recent hate groups is that he was not overly concerned with anti-Semitism, populism or Constitutionality.50
Since the essence of conspiracy theories is their claim to parsimony—explaining all evil through single causes—the incorporation of satanic paternity into already existing theories of a world Jewish conspiracy gave to the theory ultimate parsimony: everything that was or is undesirable in the world has come from a single source. If that source is destroyed, the world will be perfected and the millennium will begin. Further, as with all conspiracy theories, this one defies falsification. A plot of such cunning is presumed to be able to mislead those who would try to detect it, so that any evidence that appears to contradict the theory must necessarily have been fabricated by the conspirators themselves. Paradoxically, as far a conspiracy theorists are concerned, the more innocent the putative conspirators appear to be, the more clearly they are implicated, for their apparent innocence is taken to be proof of their complicity. Thus the theory becomes a closed system of self-referential ideas, from which all contradictory information has been excluded.57
A Manichaen world view…becomes dangerous if combined with militancy. For militant Manichaens, persons outside the realm of absolute good are seen as utterly evil opponents who must be destroyed. When militancy and Manichaenism are blended with apocalyptic ideas about the world’s end being near, the potential for violence grows very great.58
Identity is, even by the standards of American sectarianism, a tiny movement. Accurate estimates of its size are impossible to obtain because of its decentralized character. It has no denominational structure, merely shifting and overlapping groups with family resemblances to one another. However, even the guesses have placed its maximum size at no more than one hundred thousand, and it may be less than half that. Further, there is no evidence Identity can attract large numbers of new members, although it has proselytized among small populations of the alienated (e.g., skinheads and white prison inmates). Consequently, it cannot look forward to a foreseeable future as a mass movement.62
Identity theology provides both a religious base for racism and anti-Semitism, and an ideological rationale for violence against minorities and their white allies.
Identity followers have little use for fundamentalist Christians on the New Right (who, in turn, view Identity theory as heresy). The fundamentalist belief in “rapture”—the instant during the last days of the world when God will suddenly appear to protect his true believers and call them bodily into his presence—seems absurd to Identity worshipers. An Identity Christian isn’t about to wait for God to save him; he puts more faith in….direct political action.63
Americans are amazingly tolerant of diverse religious beliefs. The federal Constitution incorporates the right of dissenting opinion as a basic prerequisite for a democratic republic. Respect for differing religious beliefs is a widely held core American value. Religious con men, charlatans, self-appointed messiahs, frauds, thieves, bigots, crack-pots and cranks have flourished in America as nowhere else. Consulting encyclopedias of religious sects show that America -- and the Los Angeles region in particular -- has produced more religions, sects and cults than any other region of the world. Some minority beliefs can become vastly more influential than mere numbers alone would suggest.
One such religion is Christian Identity. Incorporated in Los Angeles in 1948, Wesley Swift's Church of Jesus Christ Christian was initially an racist sect which became Christian Identity. The central belief in Identity doctrine is the existence of two races on earth: a godly white race descended from Adam and a satanic race fathered by Satan.
Swift, a Klan leader and preacher at Amy Semple McPherson's Foursquare Church in Los Angles, was never able to make much of a success out of his doctrine, but it attracted several people who became central to what was later named "Christian Identity": San Jacinto Capt, William Potter Gale and Richard Girnt Butler.
Capt was a California Klan leader and a believer in British Israelism, a doctrine which holds that the Israelites of the Bible are not the Jews, but rather Aryan/Anglo-Saxons. Gale was a stock-broker and former Army officer who briefly served on Gen. MacArthur's staff in the Philippines. Gale in turn recruited Butler to Swift's church during the 1950's. In 1970, Swift died, triggering a dispute between Gale and Butler. Ultimately, Butler assumed control and moved the church to Idaho, where he renamed it Aryan Nations - Church of Jesus Christ Christian.
The function of religion in the lives of these four men was to provide a theological justification for their racism and anti-Semitism. Stated another way, racism and anti-Semitism were their religion. William Gale claimed to have chosen the term "Christian Identity" in 1965, when it was adopted as the name of a newsletter. In Gale's mind, the Identity movement was the glue to hold together racist ideology in the United States. Though he died almost unnoticed in 1987, Gale is the central figure and inspiration for America's present white supremacist movement and Identity doctrine is his legacy to that movement.
Relying mostly on preaching, teaching, radio broadcasts and taped sermons, Gale never left much of a written record behind him. This has led to a consistent undervaluation of the central role William Potter Gale played in the formation of Identity, the Posse Comitatus, Aryan Nations, The Committee of the States, the Unorganized Militia and all the rest of the panoply of militant white supremacy in the United States today.
The War of Republic Versus Democracy
Baldly stated, the white supremacist movement seeks to undermine federal authority and bring about the collapse of the United States of America. The destruction of federal power is the prerequisite to establishing a new racial nationalist state. It is highly unlikely that such a thing is within the means of the small number of militant racists, but it is certain that they will continue to use all means at their disposal to pursue that unrealistic goal.
These means include bombings, sabotage, undermining discipline in the armed forces, counterfeiting, tax evasion, bank robbery, subversion of local governments and law enforcement, fraud, and attempts at nuclear, chemical, biological and psychological warfare. Instances of all of these acts have occurred and -- with the exception of an incident involving nuclear or chemical material -- each of these tactics have been employed in the last twelve months.
Two stories filed with the Associated press on April 6, 1996, "From Bombers To Fed-Fearing Freemen, Outlaws Seek Haven In Wild Northwest" and "Beyond Militias: Extremism's Many Faces Vex Anti-Terrorism Efforts" by AP writer David Foster list the following dozen incidents:
-A pipe bomb exploded outside an office of The Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane, Wash. Ten minutes later, gunmen robbed a nearby bank and set off a bomb as they left. No one was injured. The methods and a letter left behind bore similarities to past crimes blamed on white supremacists.
-A shed packed with explosives, ammunition and guns exploded 60 miles east of Portland, Ore., breaking windows in nearby homes. Shredded bomb-making literature rained down like confetti. A federal firearms charge was filed against the shed's owner, a self-described survivalist.
-Willie Ray Lampley called himself a "prophet of the most high' and vowed holy war against Jews, gays, abortion doctors and the government. Now Lampley, 65, is standing trial in Oklahoma, accused of plotting with three others to blow up abortion clinics, gay bars and the offices of civil-rights groups.
-Saboteurs derailed an Amtrak train near Phoenix in October, killing one person and injuring 78. No arrests have been made, but a note at the scene, signed by "Sons of the Gestapo," railed against federal heavy-handedness at Waco and Ruby Ridge.
-In December, a fertilizer bomb fizzled outside an Internal Revenue Service office in Reno, Nev. Two tax protesters were charged in the bombing attempt. One pleaded guilty, and the other faces trial in June.
-Two men accused in January of netting more than $250,000 from a string of Midwestern bank robberies may have used the loot to finance a white supremacist militia, officials said. In court papers, one defendant listed his occupation as "revolutionary" and called himself Commander Pedro of the Aryan Republican Army.
-The standoff that began March 25 between the FBI and Montana Freemen, anti-government activists who set up their own government, wrote millions of dollars in bogus checks and threatened to kill anyone who interfered.
-Right-wing extremists were suspected of stealing explosives in five states.
-A tax protester was charged with plotting to blow up an IRS center in Austin, Texas.
-A white supremacist in Ohio tricked a medical lab into mailing him vials of bubonic plague bacteria.
-And, of course, the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City.
The violence of the movement has frequently been ascribed to "loners" and their acts described as "isolated incidents." While the violence may be committed by small groups, and separate attacks are rarely coordinated by a central authority, the pattern of this violent attack upon society comes from a shared and consistent set of beliefs. White supremacy is not monolithic. It has factions and clear distinctions can be drawn between them. The largest and most active faction has adopted the name "Christian Patriotism."
Christian Patriotism is the result of the confluence of the far-right tax resistance movement, regressive Populism, and Identity doctrine. The Christian Patriot branch of white supremacy traces its explosive growth back to the rise of William Potter Gale's Posse Comitatus, a virulently anti-Semitic paramilitary movement which began operating publicly in 1968. Founded on the principle of all-out resistance to federal authority -- which has marked all white supremacy since the rise of the Ku Klux Klan at the end of the Civil War -- the Posse carries the notion of anti-federalism to new extremes.
Most racist politics has its legal and philosophical roots in the "property rights" and "states rights" clauses in the Constitution. These sections of the Constitution were a compromise necessary to enlist the cooperation of the slave-holding states in replacing the unworkable Articles of Confederation with the federal Constitution. The exaltation of the rights of property over the rights of people is a common denominator of the entire right wing of American politics.
Right-wing political movements and establishments have been the norm, rather than the exception, in America since the founding of the Republic. The Anti-Masonic movement of the early 1800's spawned the modern school of history as conspiracy. Anti-Masonic theories -- particularly those which created the myth of the Bavarian Illuminatti's responsibility for nearly everything that has gone wrong for aristocrats, landowners, reactionary Christian hierarchies, and other inhabitants of the far right since the French Revolution -- mutated in the late 1800's from traditional Christian religious anti-Semitism into the virulent racist anti-Semitism which formed the core of international fascism's support for the Nazis rise to power.
The book which started the Illuminatti myth, John Robison's 1797 Proofs of a Conspiracy Against All the Religions and Governments of Europe, carried on in the Secret Meetings of Freemasons, Illuminatti and Reading Societies, is still popular fare among the politically paranoid. I have in my collection of right-wing literature several flyers promoting Robison's Proofs prepared and distributed in 1996 by Ben Hinkle, the leader of a Northwest Washington Populist Party splinter group called Citizens for Liberty.
Robison's fictional view of history as a Satanic conspiracy has become a paranoid pinball, banging around in history for over two hundred years and picking up momentum from the bumpers and flippers of each succeeding wave of reaction against social progress.
Towards the end of the 19th century, traditional religious anti-Semitism suddenly mutated to an explicitly racist form: the "two seed" theory. This theory is the central tenet of Identity doctrine and the basic justification for Christian Patriots' racism and anti-Semitism. The essence of the "two seed" theory is that there are two races on earth: one godly and one satanic.
In an anonymous document titled, "Our de jure county government," and attributed to the Justus Township Freemen, there is an example of "two seed" theory:
...one must understand that "Baal", is the false chief god of the Canaanities,[sic] the descendants of 'Cain', a.k.a., the "jews", none other than "Satan", the father of Cain.
According to the racist and anti-Semitic "two seed" theory, the white "Adamic" peoples descended from the union of Adam and Eve. But there was also another race beginning with Cain whose father was not Adam, but Satan -- who mated with Eve in the guise of a serpent. The descendants of Cain became known as the Jews. The Adamic peoples became the Aryans or Anglo-Saxons. The Pre-Adamic (non-white) races were not human at all, but descendants of the "beasts of the fields" described in Genesis, without souls and no more than cattle in the eyes of their Aryan betters. All three races could interbreed, but the non-Adamic blood acted like a poison to exterminate the Aryan race. In the eyes of white supremacists, race-mixing became a Satanic plot to exterminate God's chosen people, the white race.
By the "two seed" theory, Jesus was not a Jew, but an Aryan. The Adamic (Aryan) people were the lost tribes of Israel, fled to northern Europe and later became the Christian nations. There are many corollaries to the "two seed" theory which provide justification for racists to claim God's favor:
- Jesus was a Christian (Aryan), not a Jew.
- White superiority is ordained by God and slavery is not repugnant to His sight.
- The Jews are the literal "spawn of Satan" and intent on the extermination of all Christian (i.e. Aryan or Anglo-Saxon) peoples.
Needless to say, these opinions are in direct contraction to most established Christian doctrines.
The merging of the Illuminatti and "two seed" theories combined race and religion into a doctrine of hate and intolerance at a time that Western society was beginning to accept notions of cultural assimilation and cross-fertilization as normal and healthy. The conspiratorial viewpoint -- with the Satanic Jewish Illuminatti as the focus of fear and dread -- has spawned a substantial occult body of literature. These books are rarely seen or read outside of extreme right wing circles, but they continue to be circulated, quoted and adapted to the present day.
Nesta Webster, a British fascist and anti-Semite, revived Robison at the turn of the century and recast his book in explicitly anti-Semitic terms. At about the same time, the wholly fictitious The Protocals of the Elders of Zion also appeared. The Protocals are an anti-Semitic forgery which claims to provide details of a Jewish conspiracy for world domination. This short book continues to be a staple of anti-Semitic literature and is frequently included in neo-nazi and Christian Patriot books, such as Phillip Marsh's The Complete Patriot.
After the defeat of Nazism, the Jewish Satanic conspiracy was recast as anti-communism in a book by American Col. John Beatty, Iron Curtain Over America. Canadian writer William Guy Carr contributed Red Fog Over America and other conspiracy books which emphasized the role of the Illuminatti. In the 1960's the John Birch Society retold the tale in a sanitized version -- the Illuminatti are replaced with "Insiders" -- in Gary Allen's None Dare Call It Conspiracy. The third printing of Allen's book states that over 5,000,000 copies were printed.
These are only a few of the books, but these titles trace the literary descent from Robison to the present day. Most of these books, with the exception of Nesta Webster's which are quite rare, can be found in almost any town in America. They frequently show up at rummage sales and used book stores. Many of the titles in the anti-Semitic canon have never gone out of print.
The most recent resurgence of the Robison Illuminatti mythos is Rev. Pat Robertson's The New World Order, which draws on both Robison and the more explicitly racist anti-Semites Nesta Webster and Eustace Mullins. One of the more irresponsible statements contained in Robertson's tome is the claim that both Karl Marx and Frederick Engels learned of communism from a "communist rabbi" who was "linked" to the Illuminatti. This passage can be found on pages 69 and 70 in The New World Order. The only "link" mentioned in Robertson's book is that the "communist rabbi" was Jewish.
Support for Hitler (or Fascism) in the United States
by jsmog, 12/18/2004
Radical Reference, http://radicalreference.info/
HITLER OR FASCISM?
We've forgotten what a terrible time of upheaval the Great Depression was. If we think of World War II as just a continuation of World War I, it diminishes what a powder-keg America was in the 1930s. An enormous range of political activists tried to seize on the discontent of millions of unemployed, from the furthest right to the furthest left. Strange bedfellows and stranger enemies were made; Communists attacked Trotskyites, Nazis tried to undermine fellow fascists. Behind much of the crisis, which I won't discuss here, was the deadly war (and war it was) between the labor unions and the great industrialists. While there was no real danger of America becoming either a Soviet state or a Fascist one during the 1930s, the energy of the labor/management struggle during the Depression created an opportunity for the Fascists and the Communists to nearly destroy Europe and did enormous damage to the liberals in the United States, to say nothing of the fate of the Jews.
There was support for both Hitler and Fascism in the United States, and much of it was contrary. Some Fascists were anti-Hitler, and the German Nazis took pains to avoid the American Fascists, who brought unwanted attention to the Nazis most brutal anti-Semitic and anti-Labor policies in Europe.
THE GERMAN AMERICAN BUND
The German American Bund was formed in July 1933 from the ashes of previous German American societies. Wilhelm Bohle, a German undersecretary of state, organized the Nazi support for Germans abroad, consisting of agitation among German immigrants and German Americans, cooperation with other anti-Semitic groups, and direct espionage. His assistant was the spy Dr. Ignatz Griebl, the leader of the "Friends of New Germany". Griebl was later an organizer of German Americans in the New York Republican Campaign Committee in 1936, when Alf Landon was the Republican candidate. He also organzized a spy ring, which was broken up by the FBI and Griebl fled the country. (Heym 1938, 7, 40-42) The Bund was divided into three parts or "Gau": A Gau in Los Angeles, directed by Hermann Schwinn, one in Milwaukee, directed by George Froboese, and one in New York City, directed by Fritz Kuhn, a former employee of Ford Motor Company in Detroit. You'll see the name of Henry Ford again soon. The three Gau were subdivided into 93 locals or "ortsgruppen". The Department of Justice estimated that there were 8,000 members in the Bund, although they may have started with as many as 25,000. (Heym 1938, 8 ) Still, it was discovered after the war that the Nazis had a mailing list of 250,000 German Americans with relatives still in Germany, and a master file of over eight million German American names. (Hoke 1946, 299)
At first, the Bund operated under the radar. The German government actually wanted the Bund to take it easy on the marching, Red-baiting and beating of Jews in the street, as they were trying to keep the United States from becoming too involved in European politics, while they also conducted espionage. The Bund operated German language schools with a Nazi theme, and several divisions of Hitler Youth. They ran four weekly newspapers, all under the moniker Weckruf und Beobachter, in New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia and Los Angeles. (Heym 1938, 16-17, 21) That was, until 29 March 1936, when Fritz Kuhn took over the leadership of the Bund. (Higham 1985, 4-6)
Fritz Kuhn was supposed to play down the rabid Nazism of the Bund, and did so at first; Kuhn and Dr. Griebl even spoke on the radio in favor of the Republican candidate for President in 1936. The Bund also supported the failed campaign of Reverend Gerald Winrod of Kansas to the Senate and the successful campaign of Fred Gartner to the Fifth District of Congress from Philadelphia. They also had ties with Mayor Hague of Jersey City, one of the most anti-labor cities in the U.S. at the time. (Heym 1938, 30, 32) But Kuhn soon returned to his old ways. Non-Aryans were excluded from membership, and the press, always looking for a good story in the 1930s, turned most Americans, even German Americans, against the Bund eventually. Even at its peak, the Bund boasted only about 100,000 members out of the millions of German Americans. The press especially liked to mock the 22 Nazi camps run by the Bund, especially after a parade at Camp Hindenburg, near Buffalo, which was reviewed by the German Ambassador, Hans Dieckhoff, on 8 August 1937. (Heym 1938, 13-14) Fearing more bad publicity, the German government withdrew financial support of the Bund after a rally of 1150 uniformed storm troopers at Madison Square Garden two months later, on 3 October 1937. (Heym 1938, 9; Higham 1985, 8 ) The Garden banned the Bund from any more rallies through 1938, and the Gau in Milwaukee was ejected from the Federation of German-American Societies. In October 1938, Manfred von Killinger, the German Consul General in San Francisco, who was also accused of arranging the murder of a German minister of state and helping to set fire to the Reichstag in Berlin, may have accidentally set off a large explosion on the Nazi liner "Vancouver" in Oakland. Ironically, the Nazis had set up a new group in America, the Deutsch-Amerikanischer National Verband, the same month. Their slogan was "my country, right or wrong." (Heym 1938, 10, 12, 37) Fritz Kuhn also continued to attract attention; on 22 February 1939, he organized a rally for Washington's Birthday at Madison Square Garden in New York; 22000 members of the Bund, other Fascists and curious onlookers showed up with 2000 police to protect them from protests outside. (Higham 1985, 8-9) But by Christmas, Kuhn was finished, sent to Sing Sing for larceny after large amounts of the Bund's finances were discovered to have disappeared into his accounts. By then the Bund had been reduced to about 20000 members. (Higham 1985, 9; Lavine 1940, 138) Edward James Smythe, the pro-Fascist leader of the Protestant War Veterans, organized a joint meeting of the Klan and the Bund in August 1940, which came to naught; in April 1944 Smythe was charged with sedition and fled to Canada, where he was caught, deported, and released after a mistrial in January of 1945. Amazingly, he made a comeback to publish The Defender, a racist newsletter in Kansas with a circulation of 50,000. (Hoke 1946, 184-186, 193)
THE AMERICAN LIBERTY LEAGUE
Although it was savaged in the press as a silly "cocktail putsch" at the time, the actions of the American Liberty League came as close as the United States has come to overthrowing the elected President in a coup d'etat. After the extent of his New Deal plans to end the Great Depression became known, many of the wealthy industrialists in the country considered President Franklin Roosevelt at the minimum a "traitor to his class" and a pawn of "Jewish Communism". They formed the American Liberty League, no gathering of crackpots, but a roll-call of the most powerful American capitalists, a list which reminds me of the credits before a PBS show...including J.P. Morgan, the DuPonts, Andrew Mellon, the Rockefellers, E.F. Hutton, and Joseph Pew of Sunoco. The value of the Liberty League, according to one estimate, was 37 billion dollars...in 1938 dollars! (Archer 1973, 31) At the time, DuPont and Alfred P. Sloan of General Motors were in control of the powerful anti-labor National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) With the help of Joseph Pews, NAM subsidized the Sentinels of the Republic, the first industrial group to declare "the New Deal is Communist" and to openly decry the "Jewish threat". (Seldes 1943, 80, 97)
During July of 1933, two men claiming to be representing the American Legion (of which we'll hear more later) came to Major General Smedley D. Butler, looking for a man to help rally the members of the "bonus army", a group of disgruntled World War I veterans estimated at 500,000 men. These men stated that they were planning to combine the American Legion, the Bonus Army and the Veterans of Foreign Wars into a new group based on the Croix de Feu, a powerful Fascist veterans organization in France. Just a few years before, the Bonus Army had been dispersed from Washington by Douglas MacArthur. The plan of the Liberty League was to descend upon Washington with this "army" and install Butler in a position as the Director of National Security, essentially making him an "assistant President" to "help" President Roosevelt. In reality, Roosevelt would have been a mere puppet. (Archer 1973, 24-25; Seldes 1947, 210) Although it was censored from published versions of later Congressional testimony, they indicated that the DuPonts were willing to finance weaponry for the entire army. (Archer 1973, 161)
When he realized what the men wanted, Butler was aghast. He called on James Van Zandt, the head of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, in concern. Van Zandt was also approached by representatives of the Liberty League and quickly rebuffed them. Butler wanted to go to Congress and the press, but needed evidence, so he continued to meet with the men from the Liberty League, while an editor friend assigned reporter Paul French of the Philadelphia Record and the New York Post to investigate. Butler drew more names and information from the men, and thinking that he was nearly ready to "come around", they offered him $18000 in cash on 24 September 1933. The meetings continued for another year, until French broke the story on 20 November 1934. (Archer 1973, 139, 178)
When questioned by Congress, Van Zandt corroborated the plot, along with Douglas MacArthur, Colonel Theodore Roosevelt Jr., and the former Commander of the American Legion, Hanford MacNider, who were also approached by agents of the Liberty League. (Archer 1973, 176)
Nearly unknown today, Smedley D. Butler is a real hero in many respects. He turned down money and power in the service of his country, and also continued to speak candidly about his career in the Marines. He went on the radio to continue the attack against the Liberty League and groups like it, and staged a speaking tour in 1935. He wrote a book, War Is a Racket, in which he made the following statement: "I spent 33 years [in the Marines] and during that period I spent most of my time being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer for capitalism...I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested." (Archer 1973, 209, 219; Seldes 1947, 212)
Butler refused an attempt to draft him for a run against Roosevelt in 1936, but Butler did succeed in getting Congress to pass a bonus bill for the World War I veterans over Roosevelt's veto. (Archer 1973, 227) Thus rather than lead them into treason, he gave the "Bonus Army" the just due it had been demanding since 1919.
With their candidate soundly defeated, the American Liberty League collapsed after the election of 1936. (Archer 1973, 229) This was the end of the true Fascist uprising in the United States. Many groups continued, as we shall see, but they were never able to muster great monetary or logistical support from industrialists again, as they had in Germany, Japan and Italy. As a political force, anti-Semitism didn't work, as the Jews were already integrated into American society, unlike in Europe; racial hatred in America was more successfully directed against blacks, a lesson the German American Bund and other American Fascists learned (fortunately) too late. After the collapse of the Liberty and the assassination of Huey Long, the contest for control of the American government moved from brute unconstitutional force to political oratory. (Ward 1935, 56)
THE AMERICAN LEGION
What? You might ask how the venerable American Legion fits into a discussion of Fascism and Hitler. Well, in 1922, before the Fascists had even taken control in Italy, Colonel Alvin Owsley, then the Commander of the Legion, declared that the Legion was poised to fight "Soviets, anarchists, I.W.W.'s, revolutionary socialists and every other 'red'." Owsley invited Mussolini to speak at almost every yearly convention of the Legion. "Do not forget," he said, "that the Fascisti are to Italy what the American Legion is to the United States." This was real Fascism; "What comes nearer true Fascism is this kind of violent anti-labor activity, carried on not by hired strong-arm men or state troopers but by volunteers in the nature of vigilante groups." (Bingham 1935, 186) Owsley, incidentally, was later a minister to Ireland and then Denmark. (Seldes 1943, 109-111) The Legion was not unique, either; even the Daughters of the American Revolution supported a rather gentle description of Fascism in their 1934 Handbook. (Seldes 1938, 150-151)
Members of the American Legion committed violent anti-labor acts all through the 1920s, and any pro-union posts were expelled. The Legion endorsed the anti-labor Christian American Association, a Ku Klux Klan front, in the middle of the war during May 1943; they also accepted 20 million dollars from NAM. Their involvement with the Liberty League and the plot to take control of the American government has already been described. Indeed, the hold of the industrial elite on the Legion did not end until after World War II, when unions organized a drive among their own Legion members to throw out the Legion leadership, one post at a time. (Seldes 1943, 114-115, 117, 120)
THE CHRISTIAN FRONT
Today the charismatic Father Charles Coughlin is barely remembered, but along with Huey P. Long, he was a real American Fascist. At first, amazingly, Coughlin was an energetic backer of Franklin Roosevelt. As a Catholic priest, he hated the Ku Klux Klan and the local Detroit Fascist Gerald L.K. Smith; he attacked Wall Street bankers for their oppression of the working people and used as his motto "Roosevelt or Ruin!" throughout the 1932 Presidential election. But he was not Union man; Father Coughlin used his power to arrange for a Ford Company Union to keep the CIO and the AFL out of Detroit. Henry Ford, of course, was an early supporter of Hitler beginning in 1922, a charge never denied by Ford. (Seldes 1943, 130, 136) Coughlin's Radio League of the Little Flower, started in 1930, had a radio audience of between three and 15 million regular listeners. (Lavine 1940, 117-119) Father Coughlin's Guild of Saint Sebastian claimed to have 400,000 members. (Piller 1945, 76)
But then Coughlin broke with the New Deal, and formed the Union Party with his old Detroit nemesis, the Fascist Gerald L.K. Smith. They supported William Lemke as the Union candidate in the 1936 Presidential election; even so, Lemke received only 891,858 votes, a good measure of the extreme right-wing support in the country at the time, when over fifty million voted. (Hoke 1946, 129; Lavine 1940, 124) Still, Coughlin as a Catholic could not really ever be a true Fascist leader. (Bingham 1935, 188) The remarks he did make were enough to get him attacked his own Archbishop and by the Vatican itself. (Carlson 1943, 57)
In 1937, Father Coughlin was associated with the Committee for Constitutional Government, organized by newspaper publisher Frank Gannett (now the publisher of USA Today), who distributed more than 760,000 books. The CCG also included the famous Reverend Dr. Norman Vincent Peale and Father Edward Curran, an old supporter of Coughlin and founder of the American Rock Party. (Piller 1945, 17-19) The Committee for Constitutional Government also included Dr. Edward A. Rumely, who served a year in prison during WWI as a German agent (until he was pardoned by President Calvin Coolidge), newspaper syndicator Samuel McClure, a propagandist for Mussolini and Italian Fascism who spent two years in Italy, and former Senator Edmund Burke of Nebraska and a former Khaki Shirt. Under pressure from his constituents, the Reverend Dr. Peale later resigned. (Hoke 1946, 225; Seldes 1947, 213) Peale formed Guideposts in 1944 to support Republican Thomas_Dewey in his race against President Roosevelt that year. (Piller 1945, 22)
In May 1938, Father Coughlin became even more seditious, urging his followers to form platoons of 25 men each; and thousands did as he asked. He attacked the very nature of democracy, holding up the Fascist governments of Italy and Germany as models to be copied. His platoons peddled his Fascist rag Social Justice on street corners, selling about 300,000 at its peak; although Coughlin claimed to have a mailing list of over one million readers. (Higham 1985, 72) Even in a sophisticated city like New York, the Christian Front often started street fights with blacks and Jews; the police would occasionally join in until Police Commissioner Lewis J. Valentine cracked down. (Lavine 1940, 88, 97-98, 129) By then the Christian Front was operating in New York City with a small group called the Paul Revere Sentinels, including Father Curran (another Catholic priest with fascist inclinations) and William Goodwin, who later ran for Mayor of New York. Father Curran tried to make his mark with a raucous pro-American rally on 30 October 1938 at the Biltmore Hotel. (Piller 1945, 27-28)
Finally, Coughlin's show was kicked off of WMCA in 1939; the station was picketed for months by the Christian Front to no avail. In January 1940 seventeen members of the Christian Front were tried for sedition. The charges were dismissed but more damage was done. Social Justice stopped printing in the spring of 1942, not due to outside pressure but because of financial improprieties. (Hoke 1946, 123-124; Piller 1945, 30)
The first Fascists in the United States were European; Italian Black Shirts and German Brown Shirts. But without the industrial support (after the collapse of the Liberty League) and the jealous nationalism surfacing in Europe, these groups soon failed. The homegrown Fascist, however, were a more threatening kind of animal, although most of them were in the game more for financial gain than any political power. (Ward 1935, 55) "These 'shirt-movements' were too obvious imitations of European Fascism to be genuine; they were all rackets of one sort or another, and an American Fascism will unquestionably be so indigenous as not even to call itself Fascist or recognize itself as Fascism." (Bingham 1935, 186) True enough; the closest America ever came to a dictator, Huey Long of Louisiana, himself said "Fascism in America will arrive on an anti-Fascist platform." (Seldes 1938, 192) He was referring to the Communists, although he could just as well have been looking in the mirror, until a young dentist put a bullet in him. As Norman Thomas, the perennial Socialist candidate for President during this period said, "Huey Long, Father Coughlin, and Dr. Townsend suggest the kind of appeal which the Fascists will use." (Thomas 1936, 148)
A real character in this Fascist mileau was William Dudley Pelley, the founder of the Silver Shirts. Pelley was a failed newspaperman who went to Hollywood and wrote sixteen scenarios for the silents. Although he later claimed to be persecuted by Hollywood Jews, Pelley left the screenwriting life after he had a dream in April 1928 of dying and being led by angels into the afterlife. Shortly thereafter he began a pseudo-religious white supremacy rag, The New Liberator. (Lavine 1940, 178-180) A few years later Pelley had relocated to Asheville, North Carolina, and formed the Silver Legion of America. The day after Hitler became Chancellor of the German Reich in 1933, Pelley created the Silver Shirts. (Heym 1938, 35; Lavine 1940, 182) Even as estimated by other Fascists, there were never more than 10000 Silver Shirts; Pelley was much more important to the Fascist movement with his Skyland Press, which according to some distributed one million publications a year. (Lavine 1940, 185) During the war he received a sentence of fifteen years in prison for sedition. (Hoke 1946, 222-223)
Another Fascist group, the Khaki Shirts, was started by Major L.I. Powell, a former aide to William Pelley in 1932. The Khaki Shirts were completely American in their fascism, and even encouraged Jews to become members. Like Father Coughlin, though, anti-Semitism soon became part of their program. Art Smith, a leader of the Khaki Shirts, once accused an anti-Fascist of murder, and was corroborated by Samuel Wein, one of his "Jewish generals". When Wein later recanted his testimony, he claimed in court that Smith had threatened "he would kill all the Jews in America" if Wein didn't cooperate. "Did you believe that?" the judge asked Wein with incredulity. "Well, I didn't want to be the first," Wein replied. (Thomas 1934, 192)
Dudley Gilbert, a New York socialite, took control of the Khaki Shirts and remolded them into the American Nationalists in April 1935. He claimed to have 500,000 members by that summer. According to anti-Fascist researcher Harold Lavine, "American Nationalist, Inc., never had five hundred members, to say nothing of five hundred thousand." (Lavine 1940, 67-68)
Perhaps the most violent and colorful group of homegrown Fascists was the America First Party of Gerald L.K. Smith in Detroit, not to be confused with the America First Committee we'll be looking into later. (Piller 1945, 76) Smith started out with Huey Long in Louisiana, and tried to pick up the pieces of Long's Share the Wealth movement after his assassination. He started the pro-Fascist Nationalist News Service. (Hoke 1946, 222-223) He ran for President in 1944, and received less than 2000 votes out of 50,000,000 cast. Then a year later he tried to disrupt the United Nations conference in San Francisco during May 1945. (Piller 1945, 85)
There were a mulitude of other racists jumping on the Fascist bandwagon. Joseph P. Kamp printed over two million copies of his anti-labor pamphlet, "Join the C.I.O. and Help Build a Soviet America" which he advertised with the Ku Klux Klan. Millionaire John Kirby in Houston began publishing the anti-black, anti-labor Christian American in support of "right to work" legislation. The anti-black, anti-Semitic Commoner Party was started by wealthy farmer James Shipps in Conyers, Georgia. Even during the middle of the war, the pro-Fascist Citizens USA Committee was formed in Chicago during 1943. (Piller 1945, 35, 48, 56, 67) Former Congressman John Hoeppel of Arcadia, California, kicked out of office for selling appointments to West Point, started the pro-Fascist newsletter National Defense during the war, and Dr. A.J. Lovell, the leader of the pro-Fascist National Kingdom, part of the racist Anglo-Saxon Federation, gave a rousing anti-Semitic anti-Hitler (!) speech at the Embassy Auditorium in Los Angeles on 10 July 1944. (Piller 1945, 97, 99)
Perhaps the oddest Fascist group were the National Blue Star Mothers of Pennsylvania, not to be confused with the normal National Blue Star Mothers supporting the troops during World War II. Under pro-Fascist Agnes Waters, the National Blue Star Mothers of Pennsylvania used franked envelopes provided by sympathetic Congressmen and also obtained casualty lists; she had her friends mail vicious anti-Semitic and anti-Roosevelt letters to the bereaved parents of recently killed soldiers. Waters was linked to Gerald L.K. Smith in 1944, and also to the National League of Mothers in 1939, another fake group started by Father Coughlin, whose membership was claimed to be in excess of 500,000. (Hoke 1946, 172-173; Piller 1945, 115)
It should also be noted that there was a significant Fascist movement in Canada under Adrien Arcand, a former aide to Premier Duplessis of Quebec. (Heym 1938, 4) Just as Asheville and then the Midwest had the Silver Shirts and the Khaki Shirts, in Quebec they were called the Blue Shirts. (Haider 1934, 234)
However, none of these movements were ever taken seriously. The Fascists were considered crackpots until the fall of France. (Lavine 1940, 7) During the late 1930s, the press liked to talk about the "fifth column", an expression that arose during the Spanish Civil War, when a Fascist said during the siege of Madrid, "We have four columns of soldiers and the fifth column will rise up from within Madrid to help us." (Lavine 1940, 4) I've included the following long comment by Lavine about the fifth column, partly because it is amusing but mainly because it show the paranoid upheaval of the country during this dark time:_"Once again the words reverberated: "Fifth Column." And now the horror mounted to hysteria. Members of Jehovah's Witnesses, an innocent group of religious fanatics who refuse to salute the Stars and Stripes because their religion forbids the worship of symbols, were mobbed in the streets. A foundry worker in Sparta, Mich., killed his neighbor because "he was in the Fifth Column." In Sapulpa, Okla., it was decided that Technocrats were Fifth Columnists, and one was actually jailed. An Erase-the-Fifth-Column, Inc., was formed in Los Angeles. Jeff Davis, self-styled King of the Hoboes, appointed One-Eye Connolly, the hobo gate crasher, to watch for the Fifth Column on freight trains riding the rods. Some fifty women, meeting in New York, started an organization pledged to shoot down German parachutists, with the acting regional director of the National Legion of Mothers as their head. The Erie County, New York, American Legion mobilized to keep Fifth Columnists from crossing the border at Niagara Falls. In this uninhibited mood of emotionalism the Fifth Column soon came to include everyone you didn't like. The Communist Party, USA, whose hatred for Leon Trotsky was gargantuan, assailed the Trotskyites as Fifth Columnists, adding that JP Morgan, whom it also doesn't like, was one too. Dorothy Thompson found the Fifth Column lurking "in our great industries...the line taken with them is that Nazism represents the logical quintessence of industrial--as opposed to financial--capitalism." A fellow publicist, Thomas F. Woodlock, of the Wall Street Journal, found it elsewhere--in John Dewey's theories of progressive education. New Dealers caught the Fifth Column marching in the ranks of the G.O.P. Republicans saw it slithering up the White House steps. A speaker before the New York State Association of Young Republican Clubs declared: "We must see that no Fifth Column operates in this party." He was referring to Kenneth Simpson [chairman of the Republican National Committee]. As usual, George U. Harvey, New York's most effervescent politico, outdid everyone, including himself. Mr. Harvey announced that " Fifth-Column parachutists" had been landing in the United States for nigh onto two decades. They "don't wear uniforms or bristle with guns," he explained. "They are disguised as so-called 'liberals'..." (Lavine 1940, 5-6)
THE AMERICA FIRST COMMITTEE
The America First Committee was a different animal than the German American Bund or the homegrown Fascists, and they were far more powerful. These were Americans from many different backgrounds who shared a desire to end the war with Germany and Japan, but not out of any pacifist streak. The most prominent member to us today would be Colonel Charles Lindbergh, an internationally known figure due to his solo flight from New York to Paris in 1927. Along with Lindbergh, other prominent members of the Committee included: World War I air ace Eddie Rickenbacker, industrialist Henry Ford, Thomas McCarter, the Director of Chase National Bank, Robert Wood, Chairman of Sears Roebuck, Douglas Stuart, a member of the Quaker Oats family and owner of the Fascist publication Scribner's Commentary, and even Alice Roosevelt Longworth, Teddy Roosevelt's socialite daughter and a distant cousin of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. At its peak, the Committee boasted a following of 5 million members. (Higham 1985, 13) They had friends in high places, too; from Senator Wheeler, who supported the America First Committee by selling them a million franks (the free postage given to Congress and Senate members), and from Senator Lundeen, who was later killed in a mysterious plane crash with the FBI man following him. Lundeen had hired George Viereck as a speechwriter; Viereck was later convicted as a Nazi agent. (Hoke 1946, 105, 108)
George Viereck was also linked to the publishers of the Fascist Herald and Scribner's Commentary in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Scribner's published articles by Lindberghs and many other Fascist apologists, and when the FBI raided the Lake Geneva complex, Fascist Ralph Townsend disappeared into Canada, while several German agents were arrested. (Hoke 1946, 158) The future members of the Committee were not detered. In November 1939, Charles Lindbergh wrote the following for the Reader's Digest: "Our civilization depends on a united strength among ourselves; on a strength too great for foreign armies to challenge; on a Western wall of race and arms which can hold back either a Genghis Khan or the infiltration of inferior blood; on an English fleet, a German airforce, a French army, an American nation, standing together as guardians of our common heritage, sharing strength, dividing influence...we can have peace and security only so long as we band together to preserve that most priceless possession, our inheritance of European blood, only so long as we guard ourselves against attack by foreign armies and dilution by foreign races." (Seldes 1943, 149)
The Reader's Digest, not surprisingly, was owned and published by the pro-Fascist and anti-labor DeWitt Wallace. (Seldes 1943, 175) Among the other right-wing, if not outright pro-Fascist publications were the Chicago Tribune, the Hearst newspapers, the newspapers of Frank Gannett, the Scripps-Howard (later UP) Syndicate, and the Washington Times-Herald. (Seldes 1943, 208) Throughout the 1930s, the Chicago Times offered rewards of $1000 to $5000 to prove that certain items in the Tribune were NOT lies. The rewards were never claimed. President Roosevelt himself denounced William Randolph Hearst, the UP Syndicate and the Chicago Tribune for their support of Hitler. (Seldes 1943, 223-224)
Originally, the idea for the Committee began at an amazing 1939 meeting between the German Consul of Boston, the German Consul of San Francisco, representatives of General Motors and Pierre DuPont, Colonel Lindbergh, movie mogul Joseph P. Kennedy, then ambassador to Britain, industrialist Henry Ford, Fascist advertising director Bruce Barton, former President Herbert Hoover, and Senator Vandenberg of Michigan. (Seldes 1943, 75-78) Not all of these men were Fascists, of course, but all of them were interested in making peace between the Fascist powers and the United States. O.K. Armstrong of the American Legion and Lindbergh created the No Foreign War Committee in June 1940, but Lindbergh pulled out by 1941 because the Committee was infiltrated by members of Father Coughlin's Christian Front. The America First Committee was also eventually taken over by members of the German American Bund and the Christian Front, but not before Lindbergh finally destroyed his credibility with the American public in September 1941 by blaming the British, the Jews, and President Roosevelt for dragging the United States into war. (Hoke 1946, 209, 214-216) On 17 December 1941, just a week after Germany declared war on the United States, Lindbergh offered to help negotiate a peace agreement, subjecting him to further ridicule.
One of Lindbergh's closest associates was Lawrence Dennis, a critical figure in the growth of American Fascism. Dennis had been a minor diplomat for the State Department in Romania, Nicaragua and Honduras. Dennis was also an intellectual who wrote numerous books and articles, edited the Fascist periodical The Awakener, assisted Lindbergh with his speeches and helped his wife, the popular columnist Anne Morrow Lindbergh, with her fascist apologia and anti-war book The Wave of the Future. (Dennis 1935, 73; Higham 1985, 56) This book was disturbing to many Americans, including my own grandmother, whose copy I now own; although pacifist in tone, it was openly supportive of the German position, and Colonel Lindbergh's thought that
Dennis himself stated that Fascism was the party of peace. "Fascism has been denounced by the liberals, pacifists and socialists as a war breeder," he said, "yet, at the time this book went to press, it was the latter who, along with the international banking and pro-English interests and sympathizers everywhere, were on record in the Italian-Ethiopian situation as supporting sanctions which could only mean a world war." (Dennis 1936, 282) An odd remark considering his own close ties to major American banks, but for what the Communists and Socialists did for hyperbole, the Fascists in the 1930s seemed to do for mendacity. Just a year before, Dennis stated, "...I see the captains of industry, along with the realistic leaders of radical reaction to prolonged depression, climbing on the fascist band wagon." (Dennis 1935, 63)
The difficulty regarding the Lindberghs, according to my grandmother and other sources, was the enormous popularity of Mrs. Lindbergh, who had suffered through the tragic kidnapping and murder of her child, and for years wrote a popular and interesting column on the Lindbergh's global travels.
The vast majority of American citizens never supported any Fascist group, which explains why none of the movements of the 1930s extended "to effective anti-Fascism. Mussolini and Hitler were too distant, and the domestic radical Right did not present a serious threat. Its motley ranks--the Liberty League, Silver Shirts Legion, German-American Bund, Ku Klux Klan, Father Coughlin, Huey Long, etc.--lacked the programs, funding, organizers, and conditions to develop a substantial following. Native Fascists remained on the periphery of American politics. (Ceplair 1987, 196) Indeed, the most effective anti-Fascist was undoubtedly no single group, but the broadcaster Walter Winchell, who exposed many Fascists and Fascist apologists to his newspaper and radio audience of some 50 million. (Piller 1945, 172)
The opposition to Fascism, of course, was still far more significant and long-lasting than the disorganized Fascists themselves. They were often not heard, however, because of infighting between labor, the Communists, the Socialists, and other splinter groups; in many ways they were as disorganized as the Fascists, a situation the industrialists and the liberals took advantage of. The Fascist apologist Lawrence Dennis was correct when he said "the Communists believe that Fascism is the last kick of dying capitalism." (Dennis 1935, 62) The left, Communist and Socialist alike, focused on the Fascists, ignored the real drive to war, and paid the price. Ironically, some Communists believed that President Roosevelt's concentration of power was the real prelude to Fascism; the "overwhelming dominance of one party". They saw the Socialist and Democratic attacks on Communism as inherently Fascist, and expressed not with cross-burning or anti-Semitic leaflets, but anti-labor violence. (Ward 1935, 58) But the Fascists did not suffer the fate of the far left; first the Trotskyists, and then the Communists (who had condemned the Trotskyites as a fifth column) lost their civil liberties under the Alien Registration Act of April 1940, which made it a crime to organize the overthrow of any government within the United States. By definition, it covered every Communist of any flavor.
The Anti-Fascist Alliance of North America was formed by Italians Americans in April 1923 in reaction to Mussolini. (Ceplair 1987, 183) But most Americans were impressed by Mussolini and how well he organized the Italian economy...until the invasion of Ethiopia. With a small and well-integrated Jewish population, Italian Fascism did not overtly imply anti-Semitism, and there was little indication of the horrors ahead. Industrialists and other powerful figures also supported the Fascists at first, including George Ryan, the President of the New York Board of Education, Thomas J. Watson, the President of IBM, and stockbroker Charles M. Schwab. (Seldes 1938, 191)
"Though Hitler's appointment as Chancellor of Germany spurred activity, Communist determination to control the anti-Fascist groups that formed provoked division, fragmentation, and weakness." There were actions, of course. The National Student League, formed in December 1932, voted an anti-Fascist plank into their platform. The American League Against War and Fascism was a Communist front, with only 20,000 members by 1939, but they organized 1,023 affiliated organizations (in excess of 7 million members), the largest anti-Fascist organization in the United States. At their 2nd congress in September 1934, there were delegates representing 1,807,210 members; at the 3rd congress, delegates representing 3,291,906 Americans and 350,000 in the Canadian League Against War and Fascism. (Proceedings 1936, 50) By May 1933 there were anti-war committees on 90 college campuses, and the AFL not only condemned Hitler's treatment of Jews in October 1933, but recommended a boycott (which was opposed by the Jews themselves...keep reading.) These actions, like them or not, were organized by the Communist Party U.S.A., although the American Federation of Labor had voted to oppose both the Communists and the Fascists in 1928. (Ceplair 1987, 184-188)
Even like today, students were the backbone of the anti-war and anti-Fascist movements (which did not always agree; as World War II was the end result.) 25,000 students organized a peace strike on 13 April 1934, a successful strike that spurred creation of the American Youth Congress. The following year, the student peace strike of 12 April 1935 involved some 175,000 students and 150 schools! Nearly forgotten now, the student movement of the 1930s laid the groundwork for many of the activists for civil rights in the 1950s and against the Vietnam War in the 1960s. In December 1935 the National Student League, a relatively benign group, became the activist American Student Union, with 20,000 members. Along with the AYC, they organized even larger peace strikes in 1936 and 1937. (Ceplair 1987, 189, 193, 195) The strike against war in April 1936 also included the radical ideas of abolishing mandatory ROTC and protesting the Nazi Olympics that summer in Berlin.
The jealous conflict between the Communists and the Socialists was omnipresent during this time. The Jewish Labor Committee was formed, but refused to cooperate with any Communist groups, limiting its appeal. They did, however, publish Nazism: An Assault on Civilization, including essays by Alfred E. Smith and Rabbi Stephen S. Wise. At the same time, the End Poverty In California (EPIC) movement was gathering strength in California. Based on the theories expounded by Upton Sinclair in an essay of 26 December 1933, by November of the following year, 1000 EPIC clubs and 100,000 EPIC members existed in California, attacked by both the Communists and the Fascists. When he ran for Governor of California on the EPIC ticket, Sinclair received only 879,537 votes (37.3 percent); yet 29 EPIC candidates were elected to the State Assembly and one to the State Senate. (Ceplair 1987, 190-192)
The zeal of the anti-Fascists was amusing to some: "All over the country were organizations which for years had done little else than spy on anti-Semitic, pro-Fascist and pro-Nazi propagandists in the United States. Perhaps the most energetic of them was (and is) the News Research Service of Los Angeles, whose [undercover] activities once caused an official in the Silver Shirts to complain: "If those Yids ever resigned from the Silver Legion we'd lose half our membership." (Lavine 1940, 7)
And what of Jewish groups, who could see their fellow Jews being oppressed and murdered in Germany? It is difficult to understand their lack of action today, but in the 1930s, most American Jews were intent on assimilating, not creating a situation where their "otherness" could be remarked upon. With many groups struggling for identity during the Great Depression, many American Jews demanded a "normal" life, a life outside the community of International Jewry. It is also important to remember the unique position of the German Jews in the heirarchy of Jews in general; they were the "top of the ladder" in America, the wealthiest and the most powerful, often exploiting and in turn being resented by the great mass of Polish, Czech, Russian and Ukrainian Jews in this country. In Germany, they were the leading financiers, scientists and professionals, considering themselves German first (many fought for their country in World War I) and Jews second. They themselves could not imagine what was coming until it came. (Arad 2000, 114, 159)
The primary organizing body was the American Jewish Committee. Even among fellow Jews, they could find little support, at first, against Hitler. The first anti-Nazi rally at Madison Square Garden in March of 1933 was lightly attended, and a conference in May 1933 failed to produce any results in the Roosevelt Administration. Even American Jews on vacation in Germany saw little oppression, due to careful planning by the Nazis themselves, although they did hear from the German Jews themselves as the oppression grew more serious; but ironically, the strongest voice against oppression of the German Jews was Michael William, the editor of the Catholic Commonweal, who begged American Jews not to be fooled by Fascist propaganda. (Arad 2000, 108, 112)
Jewish opposition to the Fascists remained fragmented for two years after Hitler's elevation to Chancellor. A planned boycott of Germany was abandoned when the Nazis threatened to begin a complementary anti-Jewish boycott in Germany. (Arad 2000, 150)
Then came the Nuremberg Laws of September 1935, stripping German Jews of their citizenship, and the "Anschluss" or occupation of Austria on 12 March 1938. Americans of all races and religions read in horror of the brutal treatment received by Jews in Vienna. President Roosevelt called the Evian Conference in France to decide what to do about Jewish refugees; the conference was a failure, but the Nazis could no longer hide their machinations. On 9 November 1938 a young Jew killed the Third Secretary of the German Embassy in Paris and the next day in Germany began the pogrom of Kristallnacht, with hundreds of Jews killed, thousands imprisoned, and enormous numbers of businesses and synagogues destroyed. Nearly 1000 newspaper editorials appeared in America alone against Germany. (Arad 2000, 180-181, 196, 198) In many ways this was the end of any real public support in the United States for the Fascist.
In retrospect, of course, the growing anti-Fascist sentiment in the United States did not translate into more assistance for European Jews, who soon would be dying in the millions, like the millions of Ukrainians being starved to death by Josef Stalin. By the end of November 1938, 160,000 people in Berlin applied for US visas. Few were granted, and even a bill to admit 20000 refugee children failed in Congress shortly thereafter. (Arad 2000, 199, 203) After the German-Russian Nonaggression Treaty of 1939, the anti-Communists were proven right regarding Russian treachery; but as the backbone of the anti-Fascist movement, without the Communists, the anti-Fascist movement collapsed permanently. (Ceplair 1987, 201)
The Fallacy of “Neither Left nor Right”: Militia Fever
At a time when the political sands have shifted massively to the right nearly everywhere, when the right is riding high while the left languishes in debris, it is increasingly common to hear the cry “Neither left nor right!” Few right-wingers issue this cry — but then, why should they? Their political label is the toast of several continents today. The fact is that the strongest political winds are blowing many leftists, like the rest of the society, toward conservatism and a glorification of the market.
Although the cry has become more common since the collapse of the Soviet system, it did not originate in this era. Realo Greens were known to define their party as “neither left nor right” in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Much earlier in this century, in the interwar years, European fascists who intended to reject both capitalism and communism used a related concept to find their supposed “third way.” During the Spanish Civil War, the Falangists thought of themselves as “neither of the left nor right nor centre,” according to one farmer:
We were a movement with our own spirit, out not to defend the rich but also not to put the poor above the rich. In many points we agreed with the socialists. But they were materialist revolutionaries and we were spiritual ones. What differentiated us most was that we lacked the hatred of capitalism which they exhibited. The marxists declared war on anyone with wealth; our idea was that the right must give up a part in order to allow others to live better.
In recent months the insurgent militia movement has occasioned still more rejections of the left-right dichotomy. In the leftist Nation, Alexander *censored*burn describes a “Patriot” rally in Michigan as “amiable.” The Boston Globe advises its readers that the “Freemen” movement of Montana, with its ties to the militias and to apocalyptic religiosity, is “so far off the generally accepted political scale that terms like ‘left’ and ‘right’ do not apply” (3/30/96). Jason McQuinn, formerly editor of Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed and currently editor of Alternative Press Review, denounces left and right as two sides of the same problem:
Left and right have both proved their bankruptcy throughout this century. And neither can lay legitimate claim to our loyalties. It’s way past time that both traditions received the scathing critiques they deserve, so that we can take what is best from them and discard what is worthless. It may be true that the left has often added far more of value to the defense of community and international solidarity than the right has ever been able to conceive. But both left and right have ultimately colluded in their support for the two “opposing” sides of capitalist development.
Meanwhile libertarian author and publisher Adam Parfrey objects to leftists who would uphold distinctions between left and right, who “stump for the division of anti-establishment rightists and leftists,” since they are ultimately serving the interests of the ruling system. In the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing, he argues, the militias have lamentably “become a scapegoat, a justification for intelligence agencies’ headlong rush into technocratic dystopia, where every financial transaction is instantly monitored by computers operated by the Fortune 500 and its omnipotent police force.” Those who criticize the militia movement, like the Anti-Defamation League, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and Political Research Associates, ultimately serve the conspiracy itself. Chip Berlet of Political Research Associates demands “ideological purification” that “creates divisions between individuals,” while Holly Sklar, in her book on the Trilateral Commission, advances a “crypto-Socialist theology.” So runs Parfrey’s argument.
That Parfrey’s neither-left-nor-right approach has found a congenial home in the pages of McQuinn’s Alternative Press Review reflects the drift of a major American anarchist editor away from the movement’s leftist roots. Meanwhile, some militia members themselves are happy to meet Parfrey and Quinn halfway in their rightward lurch. Bob Fletcher, chief propagandist for the Militia of Montana, is reassuring: “We don’t want to hear about left and right, conservative and liberal, all these bullshit labels. Let’s get back to the idea of good guys and bad guys, righteous governments — the honest, fair, proper, American government that all of us have been fooled into believing was being maintained.”
To some extent, Americans of all political stripes have received a libertarian education. The United States was born in a revolution, and some of its most revered Founding Fathers extolled the right to make one. A too-obvious betrayal of the main pillar of the American promise — the ideal of democracy — could potentially inspire rebellion, even at a time when capitalism is deeply embedded in American social life. Antidemocratic forces that serve the interests of a privileged few rather than the people as a whole find that they must either mask their activities entirely or else stupefy the population by using the mass media. Still, suspicion of government persists, even intensifies today, as the institutions of the American republic are ever more palpably hocked to capitalist masters. Distrust of capitalism has not kept pace with distrust of government, even though corporate rapacity has at times been so extreme as to beget movements like the Populists of the 1890s that cast capitalism’s “creative destructiveness” as a betrayal of the American promise.
It was a year ago this month that the militia movement came to national attention, denouncing “the tyranny of a run-away, out of control government.” In the wake of bungled government attacks on a militant separatist at Ruby Ridge (where an FBI sniper killed two people) and on an apocalyptic preacher and his followers at Waco (in which more than seventy people died), sentiment ran high that the government was out to divest ordinary Americans of their rights as citizens. In particular, the right to bear arms seemed under threat by the passage of the Brady bill, which authorized the beginnings of gun control. These smoldering resentments were intensified by real grievances among working-class people in the American heartland, where global and domestic restructuring was bringing downsizing, declining real wages, and permanent layoffs. Resentments burst into flames, and militia groups were established in at least forty states.
This movement swore to uphold American sovereignty against an array of international forces that seemed intent on diminishing it: the “new world order.” The Trilateral Commission, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Federal Reserve, international trade treaties like NAFTA and GATT, and the United Nations had all at one time or another been castigated by the left; now the militias saw these institutions as components of a “new world order” subverting American sovereignty. They perceived, and still do perceive, a global conspiracy in which unseen but powerful hands are manipulating the American government and economy.
Conspiratorialism has a long history, as Michael Kelly recently wrote in The New Yorker, one that dates back to the late eighteenth century, when some began to believe that conspirators have been at it for more than two thousand years, perpetuating their plots through a succession of secret and semisecret societies arcing across time and cultures from the early-Christian-era Gnostics and the Jewish Cabalists, and on to the Knights Templars of the twelfth century, the Rosicrucians of the fifteenth, the Bavarian Illuminati of the eighteenth, and from there, through the Freemasons, to the schemers of the twentieth — the Council of Foreign Relations, the Bilderbergers, and the Trilateral Commission. Along the way, step by step toward one-worldism, the plotters have caused everything from the French and Russian Revolutions to the creation of the Federal Reserve, the United Nations, and the Gulf War.
In the nascent militia ideology, black helicopters, the Hong Kong police, microchips inserted under the skin, and programs to change the weather all become parts of the world-conspiratorial plot. An army representing the “new world order,” composed of United Nations troops and inner-city gangs, was soon going to occupy America and reduce its citizens to slaves. The Militia of Montana, one of the earliest and most influential of the militia groups, warns that “the Conspirators to form a socialist one world government under the United Nations are ... at work treasonously subverting the Constitution in order to enslave the Citizens of the State of Montana, The United States of America, and the world in a socialist union.”
The remnant left objects with equal ardor to the ongoing globalization and centralization of social, political, and economic forces, but its warrant is not that these forces are threatening American sovereignty; it makes no appeal to patriotism. Nor would the old leftist analysis perceive a sinister conspiracy manipulating the course of events. Rather, it rightfully argued, a specific social force is siphoning off people’s control over their lives and pulverizing their communities, commodifying social life and despoiling the biosphere, enervating convivial relationships and reducing people to wage slaves when they are at work and to mindless consumers the rest of the time. That system is capitalism.
To be sure, elite planning bodies do exist, according to Holly Sklar, author of Trilateralism, but they are not conspiracies:
Going back to the early 20th century, there are organizations that have placed fundamental role — not conspiracies but elite planning bodies, there’s a fundamental difference — in planning not just U.S. policy but global policy. I want to distinguish how I see the Trilateral Commission from a conspiracy theory. It’s not a conspiracy that pulls puppet strings and controls everything and everybody. It is the single most important international planning and consensus building organization among people from Western Europe, Japan, the U.S. and Canada who represent the interests of global corporations and banks — corporations like Exxon, General Motors, Sony, Toyota, Siemens, etc... Too many think there’s either a grand conspiracy that controls everything all the time, or there are no important institutions whose motives and goals we need to understand. Too many people look at the Trilateral Commission that way. Either it’s a conspiracy or it’s a joke. That’s completely absurd.
Some leftists have apparently suspended this rational understanding of social and economic forces to find a certain sympathy with the militias. The siren song of conspiratorialism, with its facile explanations and its occasional relish for dystopia, makes it all too easy to forget the overwhelmingly structural social forces that have produced misery in the world today. “This is the terrain,” as Philip Smith puts it, “where the Liberty Lobby meets the left, where the Trilateral Commission runs the world, and one-time Vietnam War protesters join militias to fend off the New World Order.” Distinctions between left and right can fall by the wayside, on the “climb toward the speculative heights where Communism and Capitalism are merely facets of the one great conspiracy.” Avowed anarchist McQuinn maintains that while we must always remember our social analysis, we should not shut our minds to conspiracies: he would investigate and expose “the workings of the real world, whether this leads down the road to conspiratorial or structural explanations, or both.” Meanwhile Parfrey, a true conspiratorialist, defends the militias as kindred albeit misinformed spirits, since “the militia man with his Manichean conspiracies and apocalyptic dreams” presents a challenge to the “interlocking network” of government, private corporations, foundations, universities, and media.
Militia members do share some views with traditional leftists, including left-libertarians. Indeed, militia ideology shares with traditional anarchism not only an opposition to a “new world order,” however one may define it, but a commitment to resisting government tyranny in defense of individual rights. In a passage that could have come from any leftist who takes seriously the legacy of the American Revolution, the Militia of Montana states that it intends to “put at odds any scheme by government officials to use the force of the government against the people.
When the codes and statutes are unjust for the majority of the people, the people will rightly revolt, and the government will have to acquiesce without a shot being fired, because the militia stands vigilant in carrying out the will of the people in defense of rights, liberty, and freedom. The purpose of government is in the protection of the rights of the people, when it does not accomplish this, the militia is the crusade who steps forward, and upon it rests the mantle of the rights of the people.
In statements that would not have been outlandish in the traditional left, the militia movement calls for the people to be armed, in defense of individual rights:
The security of a free state ... is found in the citizenry being trained, prepared, organized, equipped to and lead [sic] properly so that if the government uses its force against the citizens, the people can respond with a superior amount of arms, and appropriately defend their rights... Remember Thomas Jefferson’s words that the primary purpose of the second amendment was to ensure that Americans as a last resort would be able to defend themselves against a tyrannical government.
Although the notion is distasteful to many on the left today, calls for an armed people were once well known at that end of the political spectrum. At a meeting of the Second International in Stuttgart in August 1907, the congress adopted a resolution co-authored by Lenin and Luxemburg that called for the establishment of militias:
The Congress sees in the democratic organization of the army, in the popular militia instead of the standing army, an essential guarantee for the prevention of aggressive wars, and for facilitating the removal of differences between nations.
Structurally, as a loose network of small groups rather than a centrally controlled organization, the militia movement calls to mind traditional anarchist movements. The local groups are to be coordinated “using correspondence committees, which is the traditional method.” “These committees do not attempt to act as regional, state, or national organizations, but only to facilitate communications among local units, the sharing of literature, and the building of a consensus for action.” The whole movement “must be committed to the same cause ... but specific tactics should be left up to the individual elements.” In other words, militia members are to think globally but act locally.
Again echoing anarchist opposition to hierarchy and leadership elites, militia ideology advocates a concept of “leaderless resistance.” According to this concept, “All individuals and groups operate independently of each other, and never report to a central headquarters or single leader for direction or instruction.” Reflecting this decentralization, the movement was organized overwhelmingly through Internet newsgroups and fax networks, which allowed for a wide dissemination of ideas and dispensed with the old former necessity for a demagogic, crowd-stirring leader. The purpose of “leaderless resistance” is “to defeat state tyranny... Like the fog which forms when conditions are right and disappears when they are not, so must the resistance to tyranny be.”
Decentralized in structure, tactics, and action, the movement’s purported aims are decentralist as well. Militia members look with favor upon local political units, indeed define themselves in terms of their locality, denying the legitimacy of political entities beyond. According to the Constitution Society:
The militia, like citizenship, is fundamentally local. We are first and foremost citizens of our local community. The word “citizen” has the same root as the word “city.” Although people may also be concurrently citizens of larger political entities, such as states or the nation, and although those entities may be considered to be composed of their citizens, they are essentially composed of localities, and it is the local community that is the basis for the social contract, although it may be considered to include a certain amount of surrounding territory. Today we would usually identify the locality with the county.
The county as the highest level of legitimate government is a notion that has a long currency in the far right. It ultimately derives from the Posse Comitatus, a white supremacist movement that rejected government authority and called for popular sovereignty. Today a county supremacy movement has brought direct legal challenges to the authority of the federal government over public lands, asserting that these lands should be subject to county control. Talk of direct democracy is scarce, however, in the militia movement. The sheriff is to be the highest elected official — but the nature of his power and his accountability are undefined, leaving open authoritarian possibilities. No inkling do we glean of community self-management, and little is said of self-government in towns and cities, where most people live today.
Here it is instructive to compare militia ideology with libertarian municipalism, the political dimension of social ecology. Social ecology, a legatee of the traditional left, looks to the neighborhood, town, and city as the locale for popular direct democracy. Its first political aim is the development of free, democratic cities through a process of civic education, creating citizens out of present-day constituents and taxpayers, showing disempowered people the power of citizenship in assembly, exercising their powers of self-government, and expanding the latent and existing democratic institutions of the municipality at the expense of the state. As readers of Green Perspectives are well aware, libertarian municipalism calls for these freed, democratized cities, increasingly scaled to human dimensions, to confederate, constitute a dual power, and ultimately eliminate the existing nation-state.
It is a quintessentially social revolutionary process. The militia movement, by contrast, speaks of no such process and proffers no concept of citizenship or civic education. Nor does it explain how society is to be organized — socially, politically, economically — in a county-dominated polity. Instead, the tactical emphasis is on an armed people — and by armed people, it most often appears to mean armed individuals who perform individual actions, like refusing to pay taxes, get social security numbers, or use driver’s licenses or license plates. Its heroes are strong, even Rambo-esque individuals like Bo Gritz, who was David Duke’s running mate in his 1992 presidential campaign for that electoral battalion of neo-Nazis and Klan members known as the Populist Party.
Another such action is to declare a local area, even an individual farm or dwelling, to be sovereign — outside the legal jurisdiction of the United States. An obscure theory (known as “allodial title”) dating from feudal times and advanced in Militia of Montana literature purports to validate claims that individuals who own land outright can be considered sovereign. Hence the so-called “Freemen” enclave in northeastern Montana, renamed “Justus Township,” and dozens of other such enclaves around the country.
When it comes to defining its enemies, militias tend to confuse individuals with institutions. That is, they “take aim” not at a social order but at individuals, threatening to murder members of specific group of people — government employees, simply by virtue of their holding government office. Militias have sent death threats to senators and local officials alike. In 1995 the “Justus Township” members of the “Freemen” placed a million-dollar “bounty” on the sheriff of Garfield County — they said they would try him in one of their own “common law courts” and hang him if he were found guilty. They threatened to hang the county attorney by a rope from a bridge, without even the nicety of a “common law” trial. Two other “Freemen” issued a death threat against a U.S. district judge in Billings. Such tactics are calls not to social revolution but to private acts of cold-blooded murder.
Despite their belief in government at the county level and below, militia members commonly say they uphold the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. To fight the takeover of the United States by the New World Order, the Militia of Montana announced its aim “to defend the Constitution of The United States of America and the Constitution of The State of Montana against All Enemies, Both Foreign and Domestic.” In a country that still basically reveres its Constitution after two hundred years, such language falls well within the range of conventional political discourse. In fact, so ardently do militias champion the Constitution that an influential group within the Militia of Montana call themselves Constitutionalists. To libertarians like Parfrey, the militias’ apparent commitment to civil liberties is a point in their favor. “Militias remain largely defensive,” he writes, “chartered to protest the erosion of constitutional rights... Militias are sure to react as the government continues to overturn the Constitution, discarding the right to keep and bear arms, suffocating the right to free speech, or roping off the right to public assembly.” Progressives may even feel a measure of sympathy for people so committed to upholding the Bill of Rights that they are even willing to sacrifice life and limb.
These assertions of fealty, however, are not what they seem. Militias like that of Montana recruit new members precisely by using such unimpeachable language in the course of championing broadly popular conservative causes like the assault on gun control or environmental regulation or abortion. The Constitution and Bill of Rights that these militia members are actually supporting is not the one that constitutes the fundamental law of the United States today. The latter, Constitutionalists believe, is an illegitimate document. Only the original Constitution, as it came out of the Philadelphia convention in 1787, is valid, in their view, along with the original ten amendments that make up the Bill of Rights. The Constitution is to be interpreted strictly, as it was originally written, much as fundamentalists read the Bible. And it is to be read in the context of its time, not according to any later judicial interpretations. At the time the original Constitution was adopted, most citizens were white Christian men, enjoying rights with which God endowed them — they were what the militias call “state” or “organic” citizens. It is almost certainly these citizens to which the Militia of Montana refers when it says it is “dedicated to the preservation of the freedoms of all citizens ... of the United States of America.” Since Jews are not Christians, they would not be part of the polity defined by the original Constitution. Contrary to widespread conservative belief, however, the original Constitution gives no preference the Christian religion; the First Amendment prohibits Congress from making laws “respecting the establishment of religion.”
The later constitutional amendments that followed after number ten — like the ones that protected the rights of newly freed slaves and gave the vote to women — were not part of the original Constitution and as such are considered neither legal nor binding. People who gained their citizenship only by these later amendments are called “Fourteenth Amendment” citizens and have rights and duties only under the amended Constitution. The additional amendments, however, invalidated the Constitution, and somehow therefore white males need not obey it or defer to it. Indeed, inasmuch as they were given neither rights nor duties by the Fourteenth Amendment, they are not necessarily citizens under the amended Constitution.
In fact, to disclaim their association with the present governmental system all the more dramatically, a number of militia members have publicly renounced their citizenship. One group that did so explained their reasons to the local newspaper in Ravalli, Montana:
in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, [I] solemnly Publish and Declare my American National Status and rights to emancipate absolute my “res” in trust from the foreign jurisdiction known as the municipal corporation of the District of Columbia, a Democracy. Any and all, past and present, political ties implied by operation of law or otherwise in trust with said democracy are hereby dissolved. By this emancipation I return to an estate of primary sovereignty and freedom that preexists all government(s).
Presumably they were returned to the “state of nature” — the ultimate sovereign individual, exempt from the necessity of obeying any laws apart from the “common law,” the governments they set up for themselves, and the Bible. Indeed, white Christian males are supposed to be exempt from paying federal income tax, presumably on the grounds that the IRS was created by a later amendment. Since the “Internal Revenue Code is completely in violation of the Constitution,” individuals have the right to defend themselves against the IRS when it intrudes on their sovereign territory. The IRS, of course, as a tool of the state, would not be part of the moneyless, post-scarcity society toward which social ecologists strive; “taxes” would be relevant only when people in assemblies decided they were necessary in some form and imposed them on a face-to-face, democratic basis. But “Freemen” need not pay taxes for a different reason, as one of those in the 1996 Montana farmhouse siege, Rodney Skurdal, explained in 1994: “[If] we the white race are God’s chosen people ...and our Lord God stated that ‘the earth is mine,’ why are we paying taxes on ‘His Land’?” (Because of his own refusal to pay taxes, Skurdal’s own property had previously been confiscated by the IRS.) If “Freemen” are tax exempt, however, “Fourteenth Amendment” citizens aren’t so fortunate — they must pay the income tax. In fact, an outrageously twisted reading of the very amendments that guaranteed blacks freedom is interpreted to mean that blacks must return to slavery.
In the United States today, overtly racist words are unacceptable in broad political discourse, so that those who wish to express racial hatreds must use code words as a substitute. Most recently, in the Republican presidential primaries, Patrick Buchanan referred to Latinos using the codeword “José” and to Jews by invoking “Goldman Sachs” and “Brandeis students”; he expressed his ethnic preferences not by using words derogatory to blacks but by supporting the flying of the Confederate flag. Similarly, the “Constitutionalism” of the militia ideology is in its essence an oblique vehicle for expressing racism. A large number of white supremacists today use this vehicle, designating themselves Christian Patriots and advocating the “Constitutionalist” exclusion of blacks, Jews, and women from the American polity.
The “Freemen” in the Montana farmhouse, too, are a Christian Patriot or Constitutionalist group, and it is by virtue of these beliefs that they have their own “common law” court system that issues bounties for the “arrest” of county officials. Nor need Christian Patriots obey existing American laws, according to Skurdal.
How many of the People of Israel (Adam/white race) have rejected the words of Almighty God, and rejected their “faith” (surety) in Almighty God, to worship man made laws, “color of law,” such as applying for a social security card/number, marriage licenses, driver’s licenses, insurance, vehicle registrations, welfare from the corporations, electrical inspections, permits to build your private home, income taxes, property taxes, inheritance taxes, etc., etc., etc... Once you have applied for these benefits ... you have voluntarily become their new “slaves” to tax at their will, for you are no longer “free,” i.e., a “freeman.”
At this writing, the “Freemen” under seige by the FBI have given notice that they will defend their sovereign land by force if necessary: “Our Special orders ... is for our special appointed constables and our Lawful Posse to shoot to kill any public hireling or 14th amendment citizen who is caught in any act whatsoever of taking private property.” Here, “Constitutionalism” has become a shoot-to-kill license against people that “Freemen” despise, simply because they despise them.
The militias oppose laws, too, because they are the laws of a state that they abhor. But judging by their pronouncements and their actions, the new political units that would replace the state would be at least as bad as the existing one. The death penalty would remain in place, and private property would be preserved. People would be excluded on the basis of ethnicity, and women would lose the franchise. Environmental conservation, land-use planning, and zoning would recede to dim memory. The individual would be so disencumbered of community responsibilities and obligations that the atomized, self-interest-maximizing, egotistical individual of classical liberal political theory would seem the soul of benevolence by comparison. At the same time, a fundamentalist Christian religion would be established, available to justify any exercise of authority as divinely sanctioned.
US Domestic Terrorism
One of a number of semi-official
‘Christian Identity’ logos.
Following the election of Obama, many folks involved with a spectrum of different anti-racist work were left dumbfounded by the rise of the aggressive and often explicitly racist white Tea Party movement. Though the Tea Party Movement had been funded in the millions, enjoyed the enthusiastic backing of Fox News and was being manipulated by powerful forces on the right, it was also clear that the right was comfortably engaging with a sector of the North American working class largely abandoned by the broader left. In the throes of economic crisis many formerly enfranchised whites were looking at serious setbacks. In response the left for the most part smugly responded by dismissing the crazy tea baggers while white supremacists and conservatives moved into largely uncontested territory. In looking for exceptions, I decided to check out the John Brown Gun Club, a group of white working class anarchists who before the emergence of the Tea Party movement, had been sowing class struggle and anti-racist solidarity amongst mostly white gun enthusiasts in Kansas. Here Dave Onion interviews long time anti-racist gun slinger Dave Strano.
You were part of the John Brown Gun Club in Kansas and now are involved with Redneck Revolt in Denver. What are these groups are about? What sort of folks were involved and are you coming from politically?
The John Brown Gun Club was a working group of Kansas Mutual Aid, an anarchist collective active in Northeast Kansas from 2002 until early 2009. Kansas Mutual Aid focused on a variety of organizing initiatives and social programs including free food distributions, support for political prisoners and prisoners of war, copwatch and legal support, anti-military recruitment, and firearms and self defense trainings.
The John Brown Gun Club focused on two main program points. We worked to provide skillshares and trainings in the tactical use of firearms within the radical community and also to distribute free anti-racist literature at gun shows in Kansas and Missouri. We managed to table at over 30 different gun shows in a three year period, and distribute hundreds of copies of anti-racist and anti-Minutemen literature during that time period. We even managed to make some close allies with several other gun show vendors, one of which quit the Minutemen. That connection would later prove very advantageous after my move to Denver, as that vendor helped provide some of the first tabling space for the Redneck Revolt project at gun shows in this area.
Kansas Mutual Aid was mostly comprised of working class anarchists, few of who seem to meet the normal demographic of ex-punk and ex-middle class backgrounds. The majority of the folks that made up the John Brown Gun Club working group even went as far as to openly identify as rednecks. Our shared experiences of growing up in poor or working class white communities, in trailer parks and run down apartment buildings, surrounded by redneck culture, made it easy to find commonality.
The term "redneck" started to become part of our political identity. We produced literature specifically targeted toward white working class people, urging them to abandon their kneejerk racism and allegiance to whiteness and to instead build alliances with working class brown and black folks. This effort culminated in a widely distributed piece of literature, "An Open Letter to Other White Working People..." The essay was distributed by the hundreds to attendees at gun shows and later at Ron Paul's "New Liberty Movement" rallies and events.
Kansas Mutual Aid disbanded in early 2009, and I moved to Denver in April of that same year. 2009 was a big year for the Tea Party and their efforts to mobilize and organize. I penned a new essay, "Of Tea Parties and Patriots" and launched a new organizing effort, Redneck Revolt.
Redneck Revolt never has really amounted to more than just my singular efforts at agitation and education, mostly due to the birth of my daughter and my large time commitments to the work of the Denver Anarchist Black Cross. It's a project I'd like to focus on more, especially as the worker's revolts in Wisconsin bring white working class supporters of the Tea Parties into the streets to back the horrific attacks on the broader working class. There is political affinity to be found in the Rocky Mountains with other radical rednecks, but the efforts have been put on hold for the last year.
Another reason that Redneck Revolt hasn't been developed as much as it could be, is that another project I am affiliated with already fulfills half of the mission of the original John Brown Gun Club. The Denver Armed Resistance Committee (DARC) is a working group of the Denver Anarchist Black Cross that focuses on firearms and tactical defense. The group offers a free monthly introductory class through the Denver Free School, as well as multiple live fire exercises throughout the year. DARC is much more formal and better organized than the John Brown Gun Club ever was, but only fulfills half the mission of the predecessor project.
As anti-racists, why would you ever identify as rednecks?
I'll first quote directly from the Redneck Revolt blog:The history of the term redneck is long and complex. One of the earliest recorded uses of the term comes from the 1890s, and refers to rednecks as “poorer inhabitants of the rural districts…men who work in the field, as a matter of course, generally have their skin burned red by the sun, and especially is this true of the back of their necks”.
In 1921, the term became synonymous with armed insurrection against capitalists and the state, as members of the United Mine Workers of America tied red bandanas around their necks during the Battle of Blair Mountain, a two week long armed labor uprising in the coalfields of West Virginia.
Today, the term redneck has taken on a demeaning connotation, primarily among upper class urban liberals who have gone out of their way to dehumanize white working class and poor people. Terms like “white trash” have come to signify the view among these same upper class liberals of poor and rural whites.
To us, the term redneck is a term that signifies a pride in our class as well as a pride in resistance to bosses, politicians, and all those that protect domination and tyranny.
We're very upfront about our position of being not only opposed to white supremacy, but to the shared culture of whiteness being one that has only been defined by being an oppressor race. What unites white skinned people currently is a shared history of being the footsoldiers of oppression. We want to ensure that as many whites as possible reject this commonly understood idea of whiteness and instead join in a common struggle with workers of all skin colors in a struggle for total and real liberation.
We feel like it's important to understand our backgrounds and roots, to understand where we come from and organize within those communities. It has been stated over and over again from our comrades and allies within black and brown liberation struggles that only whites can help organize within white communities. We wish to step up and start to build a white, anti-racist working class element of the broader working class movements active in the U.S.
The call ourselves rednecks then, to celebrate the history of treason to whiteness and allegiance to the working class that this term once embodied.
We talked earlier about your work tabling at gun shows. What sort of reactions and dialog has come out of that work? What sort of materials did you use?
The efforts of the John Brown Gun Club were definitely more successful than the efforts in Colorado in this area of struggle. In Kansas and Missouri, we were on a first name basis with gun show organizers. After about a dozen shows, the Minutemen actually stopped tabling at shows. Of course, the Kansas Minutemen also almost entirely dissolved during that time period, certainly not solely from our efforts. We were able to build some alliances with gun dealers and other vendors, as I detailed just vaguely earlier in this interview.
However, I don't want to downplay how negative a lot of the reaction was either. We received death threats at more than one gun show. We had consistent moments of loud and explosive arguments during many shows.
There was a specific incident involving members of a Confederate Hammer Skin crew when we tabled in Kansas City that was particularly tense.
The reactions in Colorado, where the Minutemen have had a stronger foothold have been definitely more on the negative side. Unlike Kansas, where we had some direct confrontations, but never from actual members of the Minutemen, we've had Minutemen members threaten to break our arms or mob up on our table threatening to have us kicked out of the show. Despite these reactions, Colorado has a higher percentage of non-white gun show attendees, and the reactions from these gun owning black and brown folks has been amazingly positive.
Our typical table setup has been pretty consistent whether in Kansas or Colorado. We typically have several dozen literature titles, some focusing on firearms and tactical defense mechanics, but the vast majority are typically anti-white supremacy essays and pamphlets. Titles like David Gilbert's "Looking at the White Working Class Historically" and James Murray's "From Chiapas to Montana" have been among the more popular.
However, there isn't a whole lot of radical anti-racist literature out there that is specifically written towards the experiences of white working class people. Most anti-racist literature targeted toward whites is written for folks that already identify as radical, or written by folks that have no frame of reference for what it's like to be a redneck or white working class person. My experience has always been that it's easier and more effective for radical rednecks to craft these pieces ourselves, as we have the backgrounds and experiences to begin to reach folks from these communities.
Our tables usually include some sort of visually appealing graphic heavy display that gives an overview of who we view our real class enemies and allies as, and a small TV with a radical video on repeat. Typically our favorites have been anti-police state documentaries, old Black Panther films, IRA documentaries, or anything that is heavy on gun related imagery. It tends to play better to people than anything that may make us appear as anti-gun liberals.
We also definitely display weapons on the tables, to add some credibility to our organization and our views, and to yet again, illustrate that we're not some pro-gun control liberals. I can't overstate how important it is for us, as anti-racists trying to organize within the white working class, that we distance ourselves from upper-middle class democrats.
So many white anti-racists have been at a complete loss of how to approach the upswell in racist organizing we've seen most visibly inside the Tea Party movement. You've been to some of their gatherings. Can you talk about what sort of work you've done there ?
Throughout 2009 and 2010, I've distributed over 2,000 copies of my pamphlet "Of Tea Parties and Patriots", which is an over glorified open letter to working class whites that have been swept up in the Tea Party fervor. These have met mixed reactions at Tea Party events, but almost always have led to long, drawn out, productive conversations with folks in attendance. I've been to 5 or 6 Tea Party rallies, including a rally that specifically targeted the migrant community here in Denver.
While close comrades from local anti-capitalist migrant organizations have stood across the street holding signs against the Tea Party, I find myself on the other side, distributing literature, engaging in dialogue and causing trouble for the rally organizers.
I won't try to make some argument that my efforts have produced a whole lot, but I've made some interesting contacts, and definitely have seen some folks that were at the last Tea Party event come to support radical, and even pro-migrant events just several weeks later.
We've seen conservatives and fascists speak directly to (and often manipulate) some of the racialized fears of working class white folks who've either felt or fear the sting of the economic crisis. Why do you think anti-racists and voices from the left were so absent in these circles?
Let's be honest about this. The white working class has been completely abandoned to the right wing. The left has pushed white working class folks aside. Most liberals and progressives have very little activity with any sort of working class organizing, let alone white working class organizing.
Working class whites are more often the topic of jokes or ridicule than the target of any organizing efforts from our quarters. And I don't mean to say that the white working class hasn't earned a lot of that derision from the left. They have historically sided with the capitalists and the state and turned on non-white working people at nearly every opportunity.
But we also can't ignore the internal classism prevalent amongst many members of the Left, especially the institutional Left (non-profits, NGOs, etc). The folks in leadership positions are almost always white upper class liberals, and they have done much to cement their class leadership at the expense of working class people of all colors who may or may not be the perfectly educated political machines that the leaders of the liberal left yearn to be.
We, as radical and progressive movements are also quick to push anyone away who doesn't use the right words or does use the wrong words, or anyone that we're suspicious of being tainted by oppressive behaviors or thoughts. Of course, this means that 90% of the working class is automatically an enemy, and the ranks of the Left are instead filled with upper middle class educated academics that know what words are acceptable and anti-oppressive and have the time and resources to have attended a never ending series of anti-oppression workshops and classes.
This is not to downplay the need for these workshops, classes, and even attitudes toward oppression, but we need to be real. If we imagine a broad based people's movement that includes working class people, then we have to be able to meet people where they are at, and make these struggles relevant to their everyday lives.
The last thing a poor or working class redneck that is a paycheck away from being evicted from their rundown trailer wants to deal with is some upper or middle class college educated kid from the burbs talking down to them because they use an offensive word.
We also need to be honest, that the folks that can actually speak to the white working class (namely radical white working class people) are few and far between, and that many are actively silenced and ridiculed for their backgrounds by affluent white organizers. While much has been done to point out the inherently racist issues that plague many progressive and radical organizations, almost nothing has been done to point out the inherent classism that runs rampant on the left.
Folks seem to think that if they have a job as a union organizer, or have a friend that's a union member, or have attended a labor rally they are somehow not classist...
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AN OPEN LETTER TO THE DENVER PATRIOT COMMUNITY
November 7, 2009, 4:21 pm
Filed under: Analysis, Opinion | Tags: Conspiracy theories, Denver, Patriot Movement, Skull and Bones, Zionist World Conspiracy
I appreciate you sending me the forwards and other messages. Thanks. Please keep me updated if there are any events, etc, that I can attend or come support.
I do have some things I want to start to dialogue with you about, though.
I feel like I have a lot in common with what your end goals and desires are. We want a safe and secure future. We want an end to a meddling government. We don’t want to have to scrape together pennies just to survive. We want liberty.
However, I think we have far different takes on who the enemy is that we should be fighting. Your literature is filled with comments about Jews and other types of secretive quasi-religious groupings that are trying to control us.
I feel that this analysis misses many key concepts and points about what is really going on here. The world is divided between rich and poor. Those who control property relationships, and those that work to maintain those property relationships. This is something we can see everyday at play in our communities, neighborhoods, workplaces, schools, etc.
I would argue that the rich are not made up of any one demographic. They are made up of those that have exploited the rest of us for centuries. You call them Jews. I call them bosses, politicians, and the ruling elite. Most Jews I know are poor and working class. They’ve been hunted down and destroyed for centuries.
If anything, the ruling class created a buffer middle class and managerial class of Jewish people over the last several centuries, so that we, as working people, would fight the Jews, not the real people pulling the strings and controlling our lives.
I understand your want to do something, to confront the people who are merely parasites who ruin the lives of the vast majority of us. However, labeling them Jews or trying to associate them with some mythical cultish organizations does nothing to help this struggle.
First, it marginalizes allies in this struggle. Let’s be real. Jewish folks have historically been a people that struggled against ruling elites. The movements of Jewish workers in this country and others created a base for confrontation with the rich and business owners at the turn of the last century that we can only dream of today. By labeling Jews as the enemy, not only are we adding to the oppressive power of the state structure by helping in the oppression of a people based merely on their ethnicity/religious identity, but we’re also pushing away natural allies in a struggle for a world of liberty and freedom against tyrannical rule. We are harming our own struggle while we also harm other people who are struggling against the same conditions that we are.
Secondly, by pinpointing that cause of our problems on secretive cult-like groups such as the Skulls and Bones, we are creating a mythology that prevents us from strategically understanding the situation we find ourselves in. The Patriot movement’s focus on these types of conspiracy theories only undermines any goals of liberty or freedom it may have. These theories prevent us from having a concrete analysis of our social conditions. We ignore the relationships between those in power and those without power. We ignore the plain realities we see of predatory economic, social, and political models within our own communities. We fictionalize the enemy. If we keep chasing after these cults, then we don’t chase after the power relationships that cause these conditions in the first place.
We chase the Skull and Bones cloak and dagger types. But we don’t chase our own bosses. We chase the NWO but ignore the internal contradictions of global empire. We can never strategically change our social conditions by creating a mythological enemy and trying to fight it.
Lastly, the insistence by the Patriot Movement that immigrants are also an enemy in this struggle will ensure that yet again, our movement is not only marginal and ineffective at creating actual freedom and liberty, but that we are denying that same liberty and freedom to other people engaged in similar struggles as us. If we continue to be the foot soldiers of the state’s form of oppression, especially when it comes to issues on the border, then we must immediately strike the word liberty from our websites, pamphlets, and dvds. We are not fighting for liberty. We are helping destroy it.
I want to work with you and other folks who are genuinely concerned about our futures and who want to build a real movement for freedom and liberty, that is why I opened up this dialogue the way that I have. Let’s work together, because that is what will make us strong. And let’s start fighting the real enemy. The time to take sides is far overdue, and unfortunately, the vast majority of us have chosen the wrong side for our entire lives. I just recently have come to understand how my role in similar Patriot style movements back in Kansas has been a part of strengthening our enemies. I hope more folks will join me in this critical analysis.
In the end, deep down, I cling to the idea that we want similar things, but we’ve been duped into thinking that the current strategy of the Patriot Movement will get us those things, when in reality, it has only kept them even further away from us.
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