Blood and Politics: The History of the White Nationalist Movement from the Margins to the MainstreamAvailable Now

“Zeskind’s rigorously researched and eloquent book is a definitive history of white nationalism.” —Publishers Weekly

“Zeskind offers a well-placed warning ” —Kirkus Reviews

“Recommended for all libraries.” —Stephen L. Hupp, Library Journal

“Exhaustively researched, Blood and Politics is not only a brilliant account of the origins, modes of operation, collaborations, and internecine disputes of white supremacist, neo-Nazi, Holocaust-denier, and anti-Semitic groups in America, but alerts us to the fact that despite—or perhaps because of—significant improvements in race relations and changing demographic patterns, we are likely to witness a resurgence of their activities.” —Drew S. Days III, Professor of Law, Yale University, and former U.S. Solicitor General

www.BloodandPolitics.com

Excerpt from my Presentation to the NAACP National Convention

Excerpt from presentation to the NAACP National Convention

Branch, College & Youth Councils Officers Luncheon

July 11, 2010

I am going to talk briefly about the Tea Party phenomenon and why it is important for all of our branches to educate themselves and their communities about this dire threat.

The Tea Parties are a little bit like a poison apple--with three layers. At their center is a hard-core group of over 220,000 enrolled members of five national factions, and hundreds of thousands more that we have not yet counted but are signed up only with their local Tea Parties. At the next level is a larger less defined group of a couple of million activists who go to meetings, buy the literature and attend the many local and national protests. And finally there are the Tea Party sympathizers. These are people who say they agree with what they believe are the Tea Parties' goal. These rank at about 16% to 18% of voters, depending on which organization is doing the polling. That would mean somewhere between 17 million and 19 million adult American voters count themselves as Tea Party supporters.

This is an overwhelmingly white and solidly middle class slice of the population, slightly older and less troubled financially than the rest of us. Please, remember this point when some political pundit or the other tells you these are economically strapped Americans hitting out at scapegoats. These are not populists of any stripe. These are ultra-nationalists (or super patriots) who are defending their special pale-skinned privileges and power.

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A Rebirth at IREHR.org

A Re-Birth at IREHR.org
The Zeskind Fortnight No. 21

A Personal Statement by Leonard Zeskind

 The Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights (IREHR) is a different kind of organization.

 We didn't hesitate to point at the racism motivating the Tea Party protests.  We are dedicated to countering the machinations of anti-immigrant organizations with hard facts and a principled call for human rights for all.  We understand that the fight against ant-Semitism is central to any battle to curb white nationalism.  We don't hesitate to expose efforts--whether from the right or the left--to undermine the sovereignty of native peoples; guarantees that were written into treaties long ago and violated by the United States government from the start.  We support the reproductive rights of all women, and oppose doctor-killers, clinic bombers and bigotry against gay men and lesbians. And IREHR is just getting re-started.  I invite you to take a look at www.IREHR.org to see what we are doing and how we are taking on these and other key issues.

 The Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights began in 1983 as an effort to expose and fight racism and anti-Semitism and to educate the public about the dangers the far right posed to the promise of democracy in the United States. It was an all-volunteer operation, a rarity in the world of non-profit organizations where collecting a paycheck is often more important than fighting for a cause.  It published nine issues of a magazine, with even the printing costs donated and a relatively small number of paid subscriptions and donations covering the costs of sending it to a mailing list of almost 2,000 individuals and institutions.  When the farm and rural economic crisis of the early 1980s resulted in the growth of anti-Semitic organizing in the Great Plains-Midwest, we wrote, printed and distributed 5,000 copies of an indispensible pamphlet debunking the myth that "Jewish bankers" were responsible for this rural crisis.  Entitled, "Who Is Behind the Farm Crisis," more than 40,000 copies were distributed by religious groups and farm organization as part of a successful campaign to counter the anti-Semites who were then trying to drive farm families into a complete political ditch.

 During the 1990s, IREHR rarely acted in its own name.  Instead, we focused on helping other organizations develop their strategies for countering far right wing bigotry.  Just recently, however, we decided to rekindle our own more direct efforts.  The board of directors, which I serve as president, did not treat this decision lightly.  But we know that there is more than a little something unique that this organization will contribute. As such, we have started a serious institution-building effort.
 
 We aim to broaden the strategic understanding of the issues at hand; to locate this battle against bigotry on the terrain of politics and history, rather than simply in the paranoia and personality disorders of violent perpetrators.  You will notice, for example, that our effort to counter the anti-immigrant movement is situated in the context of citizenship and national identity.  To help connect those who battle against racism directly and those who "fight the right," we have just started to build the analytical bridge necessary to connect the problem of prejudice and institutional racism with the more ideologically defined threat by the white nationalist movement. 

 We will continue to add an international framework to our program of countering the far right, racism, anti-Semitism and white nationalism in the United States.  Consider in this regard our recent re-launch in Seattle, where a local meeting featured a presentation by Nick Lowles, editor of Searchlight magazine, an anti-fascist, anti-racist monthly based in London.  A write-up of that event is on our website.
 
 Rather than simply parrot the received wisdom on these issues, we at IREHR intend to take a new look at old problems. See for yourself and decide if this organization is going in a direction that you want to go.   Sign up at www.IREHR.org

Leonard Zeskind is president of the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights.

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Guns, History, Nazis, and "Enemies of the State"

Guns, History, Nazis, and "Enemies of the State"

The Zeskind Fortnight No. 20

by Leonard Zeskind

 He was a lone figure in this video posted on the Kansas City Minuteman Civil Defense Corps website.  Carrying a small piece of cardboard with "Tax the Rich" scrawled on it, he wore a white tee-shirt with a picture of a handgun crossed out in red by the universal "no" symbol.  The rest of the crowd, estimated by organizers at 500 patriots, at the United We Stand Freedom Fest on Sunday September 6, clapped the speakers and paid the tax the rich guy little mind.  Except for one freedom fester who came over to argue.  First the topic was health care, and you can imagine that the fester wanted the government to get out of health care.  Then the topic turned to history.

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Guns, the NRA and the Obama Opposition

Guns, the NRA and the Obama Opposition

by Leonard Zeskind

Guns, ammo and paraphernalia were bought and sold like baseball trading cards at sixty-one gun shows in twenty-seven states during the ten days between August 14 and August 23.  Certainly, there are still sportsmen at these gun shows who use their rifles for hunting game and their pistols for target shooting competitions.  A few collectors remain, who display antique weapons in the same way as their cousins might collect stamps, particularly at the smaller weekend events. Nevertheless, as anyone who has been around these shows long enough to remember the time when mahogany exhibits of Civil War muskets were the rule and not the exception, the larger expos have changed.  Fewer deer rifles and more assault-style guns are sold each year. Hunter orange has been replaced by camouflage fatigues. Preparing for societal collapse has taken precedent over cleaning and oiling up your 30-06 bolt action Springfield. 

This transformation of the gun show business reached its apotheosis in the 1990s, when restless young men like Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh traveled these circuits like itinerant preachers looking for new souls to save.  Even today, vigilantes such as the anti-immigrant Minutemen and the re-emergent militia groups search for recruits among the mountains of lead bullets and brass shells available at these shows.  There is one organization that stands above all others, however, in its ability to channel the raw anxiety, fear, and anger of these gunners into money and political power: the National Rifle Association (NRA).  And it has used both, largely in the service of an ultra-conservative agenda.

The NRA’s annual convention usually show cases both its ability to draw the largest group of gun enthusiasts as well as to draw as many as possible to into its troubling political web. Last May in Phoenix, for example, a total of 64,329 people visited the NRA's Exhibit Hall.  By personal experience I can attest to the fact that everything from the latest styles in backpack-holsters to black powder reload equipment has been available at these expos in past years. In Phoenix some 6,000 also attended the banquet dinner and listened to Oliver North and 20/20 host John Stossel.  (At the 2008 banquet, TV and radio talker Glenn Beck gave the keynote address.) 

The board of directors elected this year included names from the conservative and Republican stable of leaders, including American Conservative Union boss David A. Keene, now the organization’s first vice president; Larry Craig, disgraced former senator from Idaho; the infamous Bob Barr from Georgia; Robert K. Brown, publisher of Soldier of Fortune magazine, Ollie North and a host of other similarly styled luminaries.  They are joined by an occasional anomalous figure such as Harvard-trained attorney Sandra Froman. 

Gun and ammo industry leaders are also on the board, and as Josh Sugarmann of the Violence Policy Center has repeatedly pointed out, there are numerous instances when the NRA protects the business interests of the firearms manufacturers over the rights of its own members.  For example, it pushed for legislation limiting the liability of gun makers when they were sued for producing defective weapons that injured their users.  The organization also opposed putting traceable tags in black powder, putting the gun lobby on the opposite side of the fence from federal and state law enforcement--agencies that it pretends to support.

In the 2008 election cycle, the NRA’s Political Victory Fund PAC spent $17,938,707 in independent expenditures—money not directly given to candidates, but used to support campaigns and issues through mass mailings and advertisements of every kind.  It gave a little over a million dollars directly to federal candidates, and 78% of that went to Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Highest on their list for attack was Barack Obama, now characterized by the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action as “our greatest danger.”

The Political Victory Fund PAC is already extremely active in the 2010 election cycle. As of June 30 this year it has received over $5 million in new contributions, and spent almost $900,000, according to Federal Election Commission documents.  Among the many state and federal candidates it has already made direct contributions to 33 of the 93 members of the nativist House Immigration Reform Caucus.  NRA also gave money this year to Wisconsin Congressman James Sensenbrenner (Rep.), not a member of the caucus, but an advocate of draconian anti-immigrant legislation nevertheless. (His bill failed to pass in 2005.)  These funds are of particular note because early financial support is often the hallmark of a winning candidate--and the NRA knows this well.  And the candidates are sure to show their appreciation.  In addition to opposing Obama by giving money to his Republican opponents, the NRA mobilized as many resources as it could to oppose the Judge Sonia Sotomayor elevation to the Supreme Court.

The broad culture war politic of the gun lobby is best summed up in a recent pamphlet entitled, "Freedom in Peril."  The enemies list here includes: "the gun-ban bankrollers," exemplified by the "Hungarian-born" George Soros; "the gang of opportunists," meaning liberals and Democrats all; "the one-word extremists," you guessed it the United Nations; the "animal-rights terrorists;" and the "illegal alien gangs."   The NRA concludes that "Second Amendment freedom stands naked in the path of a marching axis of adversaries far darker and dangerous..." You get the picture.

One would never guess that gun rights are now fairly anchored in American life. The Supreme Court recently held (for the first time ever) that the Second Amendment includes a right to the individual ownership of guns.  Nor would you understand that it is recently passed state-level legislation backed by the NRA that allows those anti-Obama protestors to carry guns at public events.

Not all gunners are convinced by the NRA's racist fantasy politics.  Some understand the  ultra-conservative politicking, and they oppose it.  This fall, when deer season comes to Missouri, a small group of trade unionists, farmers and friends will gather in the north central part of the state to hunt and then clean and package their collective catch.  These are pale-skinned men and women, angry at the government’s continued inability to serve the interest of ordinary working and poor people like themselves. Significantly, not one of them will be a National Rifle Association member.

Leonard Zeskind is the author of Blood and Politics: The History of the White Nationalist Movement from the Margins to the Mainstream, and president of the Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights.  He blogs at www.LeonardZeskind.com

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