| 31 May 1999
White Nationalism From Compounds to Congress
by Leonard Zeskind
NATO bombs may end the post-impeachment season. But the fact remains: Anxious conservatives couldn't dethrone a lying, cheating presidential posterboy for the liberal, dope-smoking, free sex Sixties. If the respectable right-wing can accomplish
so little, why should anyone worry about disreputable white supremacists and their far right cousins?
Obviously, erstwhile establishment liberals are more of a threat. For the United States, it is a Democratic president who
guts welfare support to poor people and launches cruise missiles whenever smaller countries don't pay heed. The UK's Labor prime minister follows suit with his own submarine and aircraft. And a Social Democratic chancellor is the first German leader to deploy active military force in the Balkans since Hitler.
On the other hand, militia-types never really hurt anyone but themselves (Oklahoma City and a few doctors aside). The Rev.
Pat Robertson is having a difficult time making abortion a presidential litmus test with potential candidates. And everyone
knows that job and housing discrimination and police violence are brighter, whiter threats to people of color than any skinhead or
By what standard should you pay the 2.50 pounds sterling (US$4.00) it costs to pick up this magazine? Better you should
buy yourself a curry or fish and chips.
Underneath the Clinton headlines, however, is the small print of American life. Outside green hideaways, beltway policy
centers and world-class cities, the culture war is being fought with unflagging frenzy. Here dedicated clandestine cadre still
successfully hide Army of God bombers from the law. Tens of thousands of others flock to survivalist expos, preparing for
civil unrest (read race war) or a United Nations invasion, (now that the Soviet threat is gone). More vote for a thinly
disguised Klansman, precisely because he is thinly disguised, or against civil rights for gay men and lesbians. Millions buy from
a snake oil pitchman selling middle class revolt against multicultural masses and internationalist elites.
White supremacists have taken a long march from the margins to the mainstream, like a guerilla army slowly encircling the
cities. After twenty years of torchlight rallies, preaching, radio broadcasts and grassroots organizing they have built a
distinctive middle American constituency and counter-culture institutions.
But this isn't the white supremacy of Anglo-American slavery and genocide or Jim Crow segregation or the colorblind racism so
popular today. Remember Heraclitus. You can't step twice in the same stream. A new American white nationalism is being born here in the post-Cold War world. Pat Buchanan calls it America First.
Buchanan the Candidate from MARs
Pat is back. In the 1992 Republican Party presidential primaries, Buchanan's campaign became the flagship for the anti-
abortion Christian right plus white supremacists whose hopes had been raised by David Duke's Louisiana campaigns and
traditionalists unhappy with their cosmopolitan conservative cousins. Buchanan lost, but not before mortally wounding George
Bush's reelection bid. In 1996, he ran again, this time winning the crucial New Hampshire primary and a broader constituency of
unhappy middle Americans. He added to his portfolio support from the newly re-emergent militia movement through the good offices of Larry Pratt. (Pratt is the Gun Owners of America official whose appearance on a common platform with Aryan Nations types forced him to step down as a Buchanan campaign official.) Once Pat lost again, hope was rampant on the farthest right, that Buchanan would break with the Republicans and start a third party.
"Had Buchanan run," the Liberty Lobby's Spotlight opined, "he would not have won, but he would have built a new party in
every state and received at least 20% of the presidential vote." But he didn't run a third party effort in 1996, and this year
Liberty Lobby is advising against supporting Buchanan. He has "worthy ideas," they say, "but the time for Pat's leadership has
passed. The moment is no longer his to claim." (<Spotlight> doesn't say the same thing about four time loser David Duke, who
is running as a Republican for a Louisiana congressional seat in a 1 May primary. There Duke is a very long shot.)
Nevertheless,in March Buchanan announced his candidacy for the Year 2000 presidential elections. He is running again as a
Republican on the same middle American nationalist themes which made him a contender twice before. His campaign statement said he would "redefine what it means to be a conservative." He lashed out at immigrants, abortion and other staple targets, but
he focused his fire on the economic aristocracy. "We need a new patriotism in America that puts country first," he said.
"American workers, our brothers and sisters, are not here to serve the financiers of some New World Order."
Mainstream conservatives don't like all that talk about the workers. "Buchananism is a corrosive anti-institutional
populism...(that could-ed.) trap the GOP in an anti-American, anti-capitalist swamp," the D.C.-based "Weekly Standard" worried
in 1996. Of course, that is precisely what makes Buchanan attractive to white nationalists such as Sam Francis. "What has
happened in the Buchanan revolution," Francis wrote at that time, "is the emergence of a new political identity... of a particular
cultural force--Middle America--as a defining core."
These middle Americans oppose both internationalist elites, who have sold their birthright for a mess of pottage, as
well as people of color who threaten to "swamp" them with a demographic tidal wave of immigration and high birth rates. Both
are threats to their core (racial) identity. In fact, they see haute society colluding with the underclass in the
dispossession of the real (read white) Americans.
While researching the ten million who voted for Alabama Governor George Wallace's 1968 independent presidential campaign,
Michigan sociologist Donald Warren discovered this ideologically complex constituency, which he called Middle American Radicals or MARs. Unlike the conventional Right at that time, MARsians were anti-elite. At the same time, MARsians were vehemently opposed to the aspirations of black people, quite unlike the conventional Left. (From the viewpoint of this writer, Warren had given a name and an identity to that sector of the white working class and its middle class cousins which consistently betrayed their
own real interests.)
MARsians were alienated from institutions which reproduced social consensus, such as the church, media and particularly, the
state. According to Warren, MARsians saw themselves "caught in the middle between those whose wealth gives them access to power and those whose militant organization...gains special treatment from the government." This was not because MARsians are anti-government <per se> (as right-wing libertarians are), rather MARsians are anti-government because they claim it doesn't
represent their interests as a group or as individuals. MARsians are dispossessed opponents of the status quo. From this portal,
mass anti-federal government sentiment is not about "scapegoating" big government. Instead, these are real complaints similar to those of conservatives worried about a multicultural state. In its less polite form, it resembles Aryan Nations bleating that the government is Zionist Occupied.
If Middle American Radicals were Wallace voters in 1968 and Reagan Democrats in 1980, they became Buchanan supporters after the Cold War's end. Their radicalism of the center was transformed into an America first nationalism. Isolationism is
its foreign policy, as opposed to the imperial interventionism of the new class of managers currently at the helm. Tariffs rather
than free trade protect their economy, just as traditional religious fundamentalism protect their souls. While they debate
immigration in polite society as an issue of competing economic interests, their core discourse is over ethnic and racial
hegemony. Here and in the debate over "multi-cultural" history, they reassert the dominance of the racial majority which "founded" this country. It is a different, more sophisticated, more self-conscious movement than it was 30 years ago.
The Post-World War II Period
In the post-War (WWII) period, racism and colonialism suffered significant reversals. Among the causes: Hitler's
defeat discredited racism and fascism as ideologies among the Allied victors. Particularly after the division of the world into
two competing geopolitical camps, as political scientist Adolph Reed noted, elites needed to find a solution to the embarrassment
of apartheid in the American South. And more. Whatever the underlying conditions, however, it is important to stress the
role of the black freedom movement and its anti-racist ideology as subjects creating change.
It was a long slide into the abyss. The Klan and White Citizens Councils lost their battle to defend Jim Crow
segregation in the South. Alabama Governor George Wallace's third party, so successful when it won ten million votes in 1968,
disintegrated. White reactionaries were left at the tender mercies of President Nixon and the Republican Party's "Southern
Strategy." (Despite chasing the Wallace vote, Nixon furthered the affirmative action programs initiated by his Democratic
predecessor, Lyndon Johnson.) When the Vietnam War ended in defeat, the military was virtually unusable as an instrument of
imperial policy. Leftish social movements, however, were unable to press further on the gains they had already made.
Politics abhors a vacuum. And the road back up started soon after President Nixon resigned in August 1974. New
organizations restaked claims to political terrain lost during the 1960s. The Rev. Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority embodied the
first stirrings of the contemporary Christian Right, for example. The National Conservative Political Action Committee gave this New Right an electioneering arm. And all were guided by policies developed at the Heritage Foundation think tank. These groups shared an aggressive interventionist anti-communism in foreign affairs and a new color-blind racism at home. Male Supremacy was reasserted itself under the guise of "family values." As Jean Hardisty, director of Political Research Associates, has argued elsewhere, this New Right re-centered ultra-conservatives who had previously been pushed to the edge. Nevertheless, the days of openly advocating white supremacy had ended.
These were backlash movements aimed at restoring the unquestioned hegemony of white men: against the Equal Rights
constitutional amendment for women, against school bussing for racial integration, against taxes to pay for welfare, against
newly-won abortion rights, against the separation of church and state embodied in the end of school prayer, etc. Although broad
social movements always include radical elements, these new groups acted primarily as a pressure on the Republican Party's
right wing. The election of President Ronald Reagan was the result, not the cause of this resurgence.
New white supremacist movements also formed during this same time period: David Duke and his Knights of the Ku Klux Klan,
Richard Butler and Aryan Nations, and William Gale and the Posse Comitatus, for example. These were manifestly not backlash
movements, however, but revolutionary groups.
Ken Lawrence, an anti-repression researcher from Mississippi, explained this distinction between backlash (or restorationist) and revolutionary movements at a 1982 conference of the National Anti-Klan Network. There he argued that the
1950s-1960s era Klan, although it had violently fought the freedom movements, had aimed at defending Jim Crow segregation.
For this reason, it had been essentially reactionary or conservative in character. Thus, we can reason today, it had
been a backlash movement aimed at restoring the status quo ante, much as the contemporary Christian right is now. (There
are nevertheless, significant differences between the two over what specifically they were trying to restore, as well as the use
of armed terror).
The 1980s-era Klan and neo-Nazis, on the other hand, aimed at creating a new order, not restoring the old one. The same was
true of Posse Comitatus and Christian patriot-types, although they dressed their new society in the clothes of America's
A most precise formulation of this difference between white supremacists in the 1950s and those in the 1970s-80s was made by Klansman-turned-Aryan-strategist Louis Beam. He argued against a return to Jim Crow. Segregation "was a temporary political measure that's time is long past," he wrote in 1983. No more low-wage black working class and system of white privileges. "We intend to purge this entire land area of EVERY non-White person, gene, idea and influence." In short: a white nation in a white republic.
Here I assert that there were two distinctive aspects of this specific white ideology: 1) While restorationists wanted to
keep black people "in their place," in the new order there was to be no place for black people; and 2) the belief that
international Jewry controlled world events.
The first point was a response to a perceived loss of status. The perception was only half accurate. Affirmative
action for white people was still in place, as the New Abolitionists say, and the privileged status of white people vis
a vis black people had changed little. The easy equation of "white" with "American" was successfully challenged, however,
in myriad conflicts generated by an insurgent black freedom movement.
Remember that if abolitionist movements can end slavery, then the obverse can be true as well, racists actually
participate in the creation of racism. Like slaveowners forced to reconsider their own safety after Nat Turner's rebellion,
white supremacists were forced to re-strategize their goals after losing these key battles. Racist movements are subjects, not the
unself-conscious objects of blind economic structures. They make history, they just don't do it under conditions of their own
For the second point, international Jewry was a <faux> ruling class, a way of explaining how decisions were made,
particularly in the world economy. Despite its seemingly "extremist" and irrational aspect, such a worldview is rooted in
Western Civilization and Christian theology.
Significant differences existed within this movement over how to establish an Aryans-only nation. Could a militant
vanguard create havoc and terrorize other whites into submission? Was it necessary to establish a numerical majority among white people? Could status-quo conservatives become allies? Should the existing state apparatus be dismantled first, or could it be taken over and used?
Some established all-Aryan zones on remote compounds in the Ozark or Rocky Mountain ranges. At the Covenant, Sword and Arm of the Lord camp, for example, 100 men, women and children lived in cabins, logged the surrounding forest and collected large arms caches while waiting for society to collapse so that they could emerge triumphant and declare a "New Jerusalem."
At the other end of the spectrum, the Liberty Lobby road-tested several electioneering challenges to the two-party system.
Its goal: taking over the existing organs of government, not destroying them. Liberty Lobby searched for allies inside the
corridors of power (and occasionally found one or two). But farmers revolting against Federal Reserve banking, tax rebels and
white patriots were its truest comrades. Liberty Lobby was in the 1980s, and remains today, the largest of the movement's
The conflict between the movement and the status quo was accompanied by cooptation and even collaboration. Paramilitary
survivalism, for example, moved from isolated compounds to congress through National Rifle Association and Gun Owners of
America influence on the Republican Party's right-wing. A semi-permeable membrane separated cultish Christian Identity zealots from the influential Christian right lobbyists. Thus ideas and constituents passed in both directions, and a common call for a theocracy under "God's Law" was heard at school board meetings and ballot boxes. David Duke translated white dispossession from a cowpasture battlecry into electionspeak, with Pat Buchanan as interpreter. The white revolution might not be televised, but it certainly could be absorbed.
Conflict and collaboration turned white supremacists from a lonely band into a militant vanguard of the respectable right-wing. From there it is a short step to influencing society as a whole. The process accelerated after the Berlin Wall fell.
The New World Order
President George Bush called it a New World Order. One school of elite thought postulated the End of History, an era of
triumph for open markets and liberal democracy, free from competing ideologies. But History didn't end, even if the Cold
War did. A new era of nationalist conflicts replaced superpower contention at the heart of world geopolitics. Three different
types of conflict warrant mention here.
One is between Third World nationalism and the military-economic heavyweights. Some call it a "North vs South" battle
between have and have-not nations. Benjamin Barber called it,"Jihad vs. McWorld," in his book of the same name. A fuller
discussion is beyond our immediate scope.
Two is between historic nationalities within the same state, primarily in the East. Long restrained by the exigencies of the
Cold War, and now freed from the monolithicity imposed by the common battle against the West, the Soviet Bloc crumbled.
Borders were re-drawn along ethnic nationalist rather than geopolitical lines. Czechs and Slovaks separated peacefully.
But Armenians fought Azerbaijanis, Chechens fought Russians, etc. The Yugo war began in a search for mini-state independence and devolved into the kind of ethnic war which Aryan Nations or Combat 18 only dream of in their happiest nightmares.
Three, a mirror-opposite conflict emerged in the West. No longer bonded in a common battle against communism, long-
simmering differences within the bodies polity boiled over. As noted above, white supremacists had long before converted from
defense of the established order to become its opponents. Now a breed of traditional conservatives broke ranks and joined white
supremacists in challenging the dominant national mythologies.
This realignment of the right as a political enterprise occurred within an even larger change in mass white consciousness. The consubstantiation between American identity and whiteness had already been challenged by the civil rights movement and its aftermath. Now new changes were afoot. During the Cold War, anti-communism had been the defining feature of the official U.S. national identity. We were the freedom-loving people who were not the communists. Communism wasn't considered just wrong, but "unAmerican." Without these constraints, a new contest emerged over U.S. national interests abroad and the definition of national identity itself--who rightfully belonged "in" and who was "out."
In addition, this debate about (white) political personality took place on a different economic terrain than had prevailed in the 1950s and 1960s, when the American motor unquestionably drove the free world economy. First, Europe and Japan, with their
rebuilt manufacturing plant, forced the dollar off the gold standard. This was followed by a period of "transnationalization," or in today's popular parlance globalization, which undermined the unique role of nation-based economic elites. Capital had previously moved "vertically" from rich imperial countries to poorer countries, now capital also moved "horizontally" more freely. The formation of the European market and the merger of industrial concerns across geo-political boundaries, for example, signaled a diminished role for the nation-state itself in prescribing market boundaries. This process accelerated to the point where the term globalism is now more well-known than well-understood.
Today, the United States is still the preeminent superpower, but public perception of lost sovereignty abounds. Free trade treaties such as the North American Free Trade Agreement and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade are of the same piece as sentiment against the United Nations. Despite the dominance of American power in these and other international institutions, a new generation of radicals justifiably concluded that economic elites had abandoned national sovereignty in favor of
If the nationalism of the bourgeoisie had been opposed by the internationalism of the working class 150 years ago, this current generation of radicals opposed the internationalism of the bourgeoisie with its own new nationalism. At the close of the century, white supremacists have joined angry middle Americans in constructing this new nationalism.
If the words read like this a backlash or restorationist movement, the gestalt is that of a new social movement, seeking
its identity in a world awash in nationalist conflict. In the New World Order it incorporates elements of the Klan, Posse
Comitatus and neo-Nazi movement of the post-War period, appropriating its identification of nation with race and its
opposition to the status quo. But this is a broader stream of white nationalism. It courses through the central avenues of
American life, not cowpastures and mountain hideaways. And it draws on the large reservoir of the Christian right, particularly
those who believe this country's majority is no longer moral. Some of its champions, such as Sam Francis, believe white racial consciousness should be explicit. Others believe its race doctrine should remain unstated.
In the end, it is every bit as revolutionary as Louis Beam's Klan-turned-Aryan strategy, because its essential claims are the