Archive for the 'Nationalism' Category

Sinclair Lewis – Profile of an American Demagogue (excerpt from ‘It Can’t Happen Here’)

Sinclair Lewis’s 1935 novel, It Can’t Happen Here, portrays a world where several of the popular Far Right and populist demagogues of the 1930s—including Louisiana Senator and corrupt oligarch Huey Long, antisemitic priest and radio show host Father Coughlin, and  pro-Nazi Kansas minister Gerald Winrod—combine forces. They win the presidency and turn the country into a dictatorship wrapped in a kitschy Americana. (Although Long was assassinated before the 1936 presidential campaign, Coughlin and several others did join together, forming the far right Union Party. Their candidate, William Lemke, received over 900,000 votes in the race.)

It Can’t Happen Here’s protagonist is Doremus Jessup, a liberal who is the editor of a small town Vermont newspaper. Senator Buzz Windrip—based on Long—is the book’s successful presidential candidate and, soon after, the first dictator of the United States. Lee Sarason is Windrip’s Steve Bannon—a circus-show svengali who guides Windrip’s ambitions and later takes the crown himself.

The famous passage below isn’t so much an eerie prognostication of Donald Trump—although it is that, too—so much as a description of the canned shtick of the American right-wing demagogue. Trump is merely the latest incarnation of this hackneyed role, which seems to have a perpetual audience. Far RIght demogaguery allows talented speakers to harness the emotion of the public and tap into their disenchantment at the systemic problems of capitalism. But instead of directing this anger at the system, it is channeled toward Jews, blacks, immigrants, and finance capital; and the the very structures that created these problems are reinforced.

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“Doremus Jessup, so inconspicuous an observer, watching Senator Windrip from so humble a Boeotia, could not explain his power of bewitching large audiences. The Senator was vulgar, almost illiterate, a public liar easily detected, and in his “ideas” almost idiotic, while his celebrated piety was that of a traveling salesman for church furniture, and his yet more celebrated humor the sly cynicism of a country store.

Certainly there was nothing exhilarating in the actual words of his speeches, nor anything convincing in his philosophy. His political platforms were only wings of a windmill. Seven years before his present credo—derived from Lee Sarason, Hitler, Gottfried Feder, Rocco, and probably the review Of Thee I Sing—little Buzz, back home, had advocated nothing more revolutionary than better beef stew in the country poor-farms, and plenty of graft for loyal machine politicians, with jobs for their brothers-in-law, nephews, law partners, and creditors.

Doremus had never heard Windrip during one of his orgasms of oratory, but he had been told by political reporters that under the spell you thought Windrip was Plato, but that on the way home you could not remember anything he had said.

There were two things, they told Doremus, that distinguished this prairie Demosthenes. He was an actor of genius. There was no more overwhelming actor on the stage, in the motion pictures, nor even in the pulpit. He would whirl arms, bang tables, glare from mad eyes, vomit Biblical wrath from a gaping mouth; but he would also coo like a nursing mother, beseech like an aching lover, and in between tricks would coldly and almost contemptuously jab his crowds with figures and facts—figures and facts that were inescapable even when, as often happened, they were entirely incorrect.”

But below this surface stagecraft was his uncommon natural ability to be authentically excited by and with his audience, and they by and with him. He could dramatize his assertion that he was neither a Nazi nor a Fascist but a Democrat—a homespun Jeffersonian-Lincolnian- Clevelandian-Wilsonian Democrat—and (sans scenery and costume) make you see him veritably defending the Capitol against barbarian hordes, the while he innocently presented as his own warm-hearted Democratic inventions, every anti-libertarian, anti-Semitic madness of Europe.

Aside from his dramatic glory, Buzz Windrip was a Professional Common Man.

Oh, he was common enough. He had every prejudice and aspiration of every American Common Man. He believed in the desirability and therefore the sanctity of thick buckwheat cakes with adulterated maple syrup, in rubber trays for the ice cubes in his electric refrigerator, in the especial nobility of dogs, all dogs, in the oracles of S. Parkes Cadman, in being chummy with all waitresses at all junction lunch rooms, and in Henry Ford (when he became President, he exulted, maybe he could get Mr. Ford to come to supper at the White House), and the superiority of anyone who possessed a million dollars. He regarded spats, walking sticks, caviar, titles, tea-drinking, poetry not daily syndicated in newspapers, and all foreigners, possibly excepting the British, as degenerate.

But he was the Common Man twenty-times-magnified by his oratory, so that while the other Commoners could understand his every purpose, which was exactly the same as their own, they saw him towering among them, and they raised hands to him in worship.”

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Sinclair Lewis, It Can’t Happen Here (NY: New American Library/Penguin, 1935/2005), pages 70­–71.

Seymour Martin Lipset on the Black Panthers and Antisemitism

Thus Stokeley Carmichael who was a leader of both the Student Nonviolent (now “National”) Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and of the Black Panthers before abandoning the struggle in America for residence abroad, accounted for the resentment expressed toward Jews by black militants as a result of “the exploitation [of blacks] by Jewish landlords and merchants,” in an article published in The New York Review of Books in 1966. Elsewhere, he wrote: “You let just one Negro get a Molotov cocktail and throw it at some Jew’s liquor store and they call out the whole damn National Guard.” In an interview with David Frost on April 13, 1970, Carmichael declared that, in his judgment, Adolf Hitler “was the greatest white man.” He went on to say that he could not describe men like Johnson, Nixon, Truman or Churchill as “great people,” since they “were doing things against my people.”

The most overt expressions of anti‐Semitism have come generally from the most militant of the black organizations, the one with closest ties to sections of the white New and Old Lefts, the self‐described Marxist‐Leninist Black Panther party. The party goes out of its way to identify as Jews those in the Establishment who oppose it and who happen to be Jews. Thus, in the Dec. 21, 1968, issue of The Black Panther, Eldridge Cleaver attacked Judge Monroe Friedman, who presided over the Oakland, Calif., trial of Huey Newton in the following terms: “If the Jews like Judge Friedman are going to be allowed to function, and come to their synagogues to pray on Saturdays, or do whatever they do down there, then we’ll make a coalition with the Arabs, against the Jews….”

The Panthers have even argued that Judge Julius J. Hoffman gave the Jewish defendants in the Chicago conspiracy trial better treatment than he gave Bobby Seale. Connie Matthews, international coordinator of the party, wrote in The Black Panther of April 25, 1970, that there was an alliance between the Jewish judge and the Jewish defendants:

“It was a Zionist judge, Judge Hoffman, who allowed the other Zionists to go free but has kept Bobby Seale in jail and sentenced him to four years for contempt charges. Bobby Seale alone stands trial again in April on conspiracy charges. With whom did he conspire? The Zionists?

“The other Zionists in the… trial [i.e., Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin] were willing and did sacrifice Bobby Seale and his role in the conspiracy trial to gain publicity.”

Now clearly Rubin and Hoffman are in no way “Zionists.” This is simply a code word for Jew, just as it has become in Eastern Europe.

Though opposed to all capitalists, the Panthers single out Jewish businessmen for attack. Thus, a statement in the May 19, 1970, issue of the party newspaper declares that they are against “Zionist exploitation here In Babylon, manifested in the robber barons that exploit in the garment industry and the bandit merchants and greedy slum lords that operate in our communities.” In describing a tenants’ action in Atlantic City against a landlord, an article in the June 13, 1970, Black Panther praises the tenants for “gathering together to form a United Front against Zionist Pig Sobel….” The article concludes with the exhortation: “ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE — DEATH TO THE ZIONIST PIGS.” And as if to prove that the reference to Sobel was not fortuitous, the paper a week later carried a story on “Substandard Housing in America” which referred to buildings “owned by a Zionist by the name of Rosenbaum.”

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from Seymour Martin Lipset, “The Socialism of Fools,” New York Times, January 3, 1971, page 6.

James and Grace Lee Boggs on race, radicalism, and standpoint perspective (1974)

Most rebels, black or white, react to an idea purely in terms of the social position of the person advancing the idea. Usually they will not even consider an idea unless it comes from someone in the most oppressed strata of society. They never stop to consider that any ideas of serious value will have to be highly advanced ideas — they cannot be ideas of the past, because, like it or not, the United States is a highly advanced country, and one in which the contradictions are not material or economic, but within the realm of human choice. ….
How to project an advanced idea in tune with our unique stage of human development is a serious revolutionary problem…. Malcolm X used to chide the masses, because he began with the idea that the masses are not perfect, and that they had to be transformed. He had the courage to attack the Establishment while chiding the masses for their backwardness, their superstitions, their myths and fears. Malcolm realized that the masses would have to repudiate much of what they had accepted as normal and natural, and transform themselves into new people with new values, and with a new vision, of new tasks to be performed, if black people were ever to be free. In fact, Malcolm repudiated his own past as inconsistent with a new life and new values.
But in the years since Malcolm’s death, when we should have been developing a new revolutionary vision, we have wasted our time in so much rhetoric that black and white radicals today make a virtue of irresponsibility and a virtue of vice – so long as it is the vice of an oppressed person. Today anything can be called revolutionary, regardless of how inhumane it is, so long as an oppressed militant is involved. The result is that, despite the spreading militancy and rebellion, we are moving further away from, rather than closer to, the revolutionary goal of building a new society.
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James and Grace Lee Boggs, Revolution and Evolution in the Twentieth Century (New York and London: Monthly Review Press, 1974), 191-92.

Jason Adams, “Nonwestern Anarchisms: Rethinking the Global Context” (2001)

“The future of anarchism must be appraised within a global context; any attempt to localize it is bound to yield a distorted outcome. The obstacles to anarchism are, in the main, global; only their specifics are determined by local circumstances.”
– Sam Mbah

“To the reactionists of today we are revolutionists, but to the revolutionists of tomorrow our acts will have been those of conservatives”
– Ricardo Flores Magon

 

Introduction

The purpose of this paper is to help anarchist / anti-authoritarian movements active today to reconceptualize the history and theory of first-wave anarchism on the global level, and to reconsider its relevance to the continuing anarchist project. In order to truly understand the full complexity and interconnectedness of anarchism as a worldwide movement however, a specific focus on the uniqueness and agency of movements amongst the “people without history” is a deeply needed change. This is because the historiography of anarchism has focused almost entirely on these movements as they have pertained to the peoples of the West and the North, while movements amongst the peoples of the East and the South have been widely neglected. As a result, the appearance has been that anarchist movements have arisen primarily within the context of the more privileged countries. Ironically, the truth is that anarchism has primarily been a movement of the most exploited regions and peoples of the world. That most available anarchist literature does not tell this history speaks not to a necessarily malicious disregard of non-Western anarchist movements but rather to the fact that even in the context of radical publishing, centuries of engrained eurocentrism has not really been overcome. This has been changing to an extent however, as there here have been several attempts in just the past decade to re-examine this history in detail in specific non-Western countries and regions, with works such as Arif Dirlik’s Anarchism in the Chinese Revolution, Sam Mbah’s African Anarchism and Frank Fernandez’ Cuban Anarchism. It is within the footsteps of this recent tradition that this paper treads further into the relatively new ground of systematically assessing, comparing and synthesizing the findings of all of these studies combined with original investigation in order to develop a more wholly global understanding of anarchism and its history. To begin our inquiry we first must make clear what it is that is actually meant by the term “Western anarchism.” Going back to the debates within the First International, it quickly becomes apparent that this term is a misnomer, as it is actually the opposite case that is true; anarchism has always been derived more of the East / South than of the West / North. As Edward Krebs has noted “Marx (and Engels) saw Russianness in Bakunin’s ideas and behavior” while “Bakunin expressed his fears that the social revolution would become characterized by ‘pan-Germanism’ and ‘statism.’” This debate has led some to characterize it as largely between Western and Eastern versions of socialism; one marked by a fundamental commitment to order and the other marked by a fundamental commitment to freedom (1998, p. 19). So in this sense anarchism can be understood as an “Eastern” understanding of socialism, rather than as a fully Western tradition in the usual sense of the term. At the same time it should be remembered that there also developed an extremely contentious North / South split between the more highly developed nations of England and Germany and the less developed semi-peripheral nations of Spain, Italy and others. This split was based on differences of material reality but developed largely along ideological lines, with the northern Anglo-Saxon nations siding primarily with Karl Marx and the southern Latin nations siding with Mikhail Bakunin (Mbah, p. 20). So in both the East / West and the North / South sense, anarchism has often been the theory of choice for the most oppressed peoples; particularly in those societies whose primarily feudal nature writes them out of historical agency in the Marxist understanding of the world. This may explain a good deal of why anarchism became so popular throughout Latin America, and why immigrating anarchists from the Latin nations of Europe were so well received in country after country that they visited, attempting to spread the anarchist vision.

Continue reading ‘Jason Adams, “Nonwestern Anarchisms: Rethinking the Global Context” (2001)’

Bakunin: the “reactionary” consequences of national liberation movements (1866)

“Today no revolution can succeed in any country if it is not at the same time both a political and a social revolution. Every exclusively political revolution – be it in defense of national independence or for internal change, or even for the establishment of a republic – that does not aim at the immediate and real political and economic emancipation of people will be a false revolution. Its objectives will be unattainable and its consequences reactionary.”

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from Mikhail Bakunin, “National Catechism,” 1866. In Bakunin on Anarchism, edited by Sam Dolgoff (Montreal: Black Rose, 1972/2002), page 99. The entire essay is online here.

RADICAL ARCHIVES NOTE: There are is shortage of workerist anarchists who wish to turn Bakunin and classical anarchism into a bottom-up version of the Marxist-Leninism that many of these workerists are strongly influenced by. One of the more outrageous claims they attempt to marshall evidence for, usually by selective quotations of Bakunin’s work on federalism, is that he supported national liberation movements (eg after his pan-Slavist period). Since Bakunin made explicit denunciations of national liberation struggles that were not also thoroughly and completely radical struggles, these writers are clearly banking on most anarchists’ ignorance of their own tradition.

Neighbors Network – “Hatred In Georgia” and other publications (1989-1994)

Radical Archives is delighted to present the monitoring publications of the Neighbors Network, including Hatred in Georgia. These publications, covering the years 1989 to 1993, document the extensive far right organizing in that state.

The Neighbors Network was an independent, Atlanta, Georgia-based grassroots anti-Klan/anti-Nazi group; it was founded in 1987 and disbanded in 1996. These years were a high-water mark for far right organizing in the post-Civil Rights era of the U.S., and Georgia was one of its centers.  The traditional distinction between various independent Klans (then experiencing their own revivals) and the Nazis was eroding. In 1987, a small march in Forsyth County (which had been reputed to be all-white since multiple lynchings in 1912) by local residents and civil rights activists was forced to flee when attacked by a stone-throwing mob, despite protection from both State and local law enforcement. A follow-up march by anti-racists the next week was met by thousands of angry counter-protestors, in what many consider to the largest pro-segregation demonstration since the 1960s.

Emboldened by the often lackadaisical response from local governments or communities, Nazi and Klan groups, often in conjunction with old time segregationists or Populist Party members, held frequent public events in towns across Georgia. These ranged from flyering at shopping malls to cross burnings and Nazi skinhead rallies that drew hundreds of attendees. There were numerous assaults on queer folks, people of color, immigrants, the homeless and anti-racist activists — as well as a number of murders. These far right factions ultimately lent their support to “legitimate” right-wing activity, such as Cobb County’s 1993 anti-gay resolution. It was in this context that the Neighbors Network was formed.

An extensive interview with Neighbors Network founder Walter Reeves is now online at the Political Research Associates website.

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Hatred in Georgia, 1989-1993

Hatred in Georgia, 1989: A Chronology of Hate Activity, written and compiled By Patrick Kelly, edited By R.S. Cross (Atlanta: Neighbors Network, 1990).

Hatred in Georgia, 1990: A Chronology of Hate Activity, compiled by Patrick Kelly, edited by Eva Sears and R. S. Cross (Atlanta: Neighbors Network, 1991).

Hatred in Georgia, 1991: A Chronology and Analysis of Hate Activity, compiled by Patrick Kelly; text by Steve Adams, Patrick Kelly, S. Stanton, W. B. Reeves, and Eva Sears; edited by S. Stanton (Atlanta: Neighbors Network, 1992).

Hatred in Georgia, 1992 Report: A Chronology and Analysis of Hate Activity, written and compiled by Patrick Kelly, Marcy Louza, W.B. Reeves, Sandra Garrison, Eva Sears, Steve Adams and Norman Burns (Atlanta: Neighbors Network, 1993).

Hatred in Georgia, 1993 Report: A Chronology and Analysis of Hate Activity, written and compiled by Patrick Kelly, W.B. Reeves, Eva Sears, Janine Landon, David McBride, and Steve Adams (Atlanta: Neighbors Network, 1994).

Neighbors Network reports:

Hidden Agenda: The Influence of Religious Extremism on the Politics of Cobb County, Georgia, compiled and written by W. B. Reeves; produced for the Cobb Citizens Coalition (Atlanta: Neighbors Network, 1994).

Shadow of Hatred: Hate Group Activity in Cobb County, Georgia, written and compiled by: W. B. Reeves, Patrick Kelly, and Steve Adams; produced for the Cobb Citizens Coalition (Atlanta: Neighbors Network, 1994).

Eldridge Cleaver (Black Panther Party): “Jews were able to do precisely the same thing that Afro-Americans must now do” (1968)

“The parallel between the situation of the Jews at the time of the coming of Theodore Herzl and the present situation of black people in America is fascinating. The Jews had no homeland and were dispersed around the world, cooped up in the ghettos of Europe. Functionally, a return to Israel seemed as impractical as obtaining a homeland for Afro-American now seems. Renowned Jewish leaders were seriously considering transporting Jews to Argentina, en masse, and developing a homeland there. Others seriously considered obtaining from England the territory of Uganda in East Africa for the same purpose.

The gravitational center of the Jewish population at that time was in Eastern Europe. With the outbreak of the massive pogroms in that area near the end of the nineteenth century, the Jewish people were prepared psychologically to take desperate and unprecedented action. They saw themselves faced with an immediate disastrous situation. Genocide was staring them in the face and this common threat galvanized them into common action.

Psychologically, black people in America have precisely the same outlook as Jews had then, and they are therefore prepared to take common action for the solution to a common problem. Oppressed because of the color of their skin, black people are reacting on that basis. A nationalist consciousness has at last awakened among the black masses of Afro-America.

The facts of history show that the Jews were able to do precisely the same thing that Afro-Americans must now do. When Theodore Herzl founded the Jewish National Congress, he virtually founded a government in exile. They would build their organization, their government, and then later on they would get some land and set the government and the people down on the land, like placing one’s hat on top of one’s head. The Jews did it. It worked. So now African-Americans must do the same thing.

In fact, when he moved to found the organization of Afro-American Unity, this is precisely what Malcolm X was doing, founding a government in exile for a people in exile. Stokely Carmichael and Rap Brown are now speaking in the name of that sovereignty, in the name of a nation.”

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Eldridge Cleaver in Post-Prison Writings and Speeches, edited by Robert Scheer (NY: Ramparts/Vintage, 1969), pages 67­–69. Essay is dated April/May 1968.