In The Context Of The American Extreme Right
1960 - 1978
March 2001 Edition
This document is an edited version of a Master of Arts (Honours) thesis in the Department of History at the University of Sydney.
The original was filed in early 1985 and may be found in the Fisher Library at the University of Sydney. A comparison between that edition and this version, would reveal certain changes: I have corrected a few minor errors of fact and at certain points (as marked), I have provided relevant details not then available, but which serve the reader in understanding the subject.
The study of neo-nazism was during my research period (1978-84) in its infancy, and the thesis was one of the few academic texts in English about the subject. The author investigated the subject ‘dispassionately’, but it was also true that I examined neo-nazism as an Australian Nationalist engaged in the political struggle. When the thesis was commenced Australian neo-nazis were busy playing the provocateur role against would-be Nationalist groups, a role that took new forms as the study was carried on. I brought various historical-political facts before Nationalist leaders such that they could ‘appreciate’ what they were up against. Just as the thesis was completed, the Australian neo-nazi scene seemed dead, although it was about to be revived by the ‘Australian Nationalists Movement’ which drew upon the international neo-nazi movement for inspiration. The study was thereafter applied in the struggle between the Nationalists and the neo-nazis in Australia in order to demonstrate the curious ideological-political nature of the neo-nazi movement.
The fact was that as the 1980’s unfolded neo-nazism in Australia, the United States and elsewhere, took on new forms which the thesis did not anticipate. In many cases, it climbed out of brown uniforms and concealed its swastikas but held up Nazi Germany and Hitler as quasi-religious symbols of racial-defence. Then, neo-nazism had a new wind in the 1990’s in Germany and America embracing the reunification of Germany as a sign for the success of a new militancy. The politics of ‘hate’ did indeed become its password, as articulated by a Skinhead movement, while new forms of the creed involving satanism and science-fiction occultism appeared. Thereafter, the movement commenced a ‘decline’ in its fortunes internationally that may eventually wipe it off the ‘Right’ of politics. Reasonably, neo-nazism is in terminal decline on the ‘Right’ although this decline is uneven across national boundaries and hence it may fester for years in particular circumstances and in certain countries. But these words take us too far ahead.
In this thesis, I sought to analyse the American form of neo-nazism and explain how its precepts were marketed internationally and set the tone of the phenomenon generally. My thesis concentrated on interpreting the nature of American ‘Right’ politics and was centred upon the personality of George Lincoln Rockwell, founder of the ‘American Nazi Party’. However, I also offered material on the movement after Rockwell’s death in 1967 and down to 1978.
The new literature on American and international neo-nazism, while confirming parts of the argument here augments it, and in the narrative historical material, surpasses it absolutely. I shall discuss the literature and then return to the present document and explain why this text is offered to the reader.
The new literature is extensive and covers the field, not only of the type of neo-nazism brought into being through the American Nazi Party and its successor-organization the ‘National Socialist White People’s Party’, but of other forms which ‘tone down’ the external colouring of the earlier neo-nazi groups or that engage in new ideological syntheses to adapt to new ‘markets’.
One thing is clear. Neo-nazism is a term of abuse directed by Establishment forces in every ‘western’ country against any form of Nationalist politics. For these forces (liberal journalists, politicians, some ‘academics’, Zionists), defining it would not be an advantage in the propaganda war. However, while shoddy research-journalism has continued to turn up lurid tales of neo-nazi activism and violence in books that always manage to define this political family too widely, we can now move this discussion into ideological certainties.
(a) Roger Griffin Sets Parameters.
Prominent ‘expert’ in the field of fascist studies, Roger Griffin, gave a rough typology for neo-nazism in his The Nature Of Fascism (1993). He referred to four specific forms of the ideology. First, there was a “Nostalgic Nazism”, necessarily German and the province of the old. Then there was a copyist neo-nazism “which turned its back on any form of indigenous fascism” and pretended at German Nazi forms, ideas and glories. This freak-show has appeared in many countries, including Australia. Third, there was the nazified sector of the Skinhead movement which employed dramatic motifs of racial war and violence based on the Nazi historical legacy. Fourth, there was the “assimilation of Nazism into all forms of white supremacy ideology..”. The latter situation permitted (particularly in America) synthetic-fusions with Christian Identity, cult-like racist and formally ‘occult’ groups, certain Ku Klux Klan sects and so forth. Griffin’s typologies set parameters for my argument in this new introduction. The movement had moved on from the forms examined in the thesis. It could appear in new guises. Nonetheless, it had ‘roots’ and these are examined in the document.
(b) Rockwell Biographies Reveal Crucial Data.
Two biographies of Rockwell have appeared: William H. Schmaltz, Hate: George Lincoln Rockwell And The American Nazi Party. Washington: Brassey’s, 1999; Frederick J. Simonelli, American Fuehrer: George Lincoln Rockwell And The American Nazi Party. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1999. Of course, these works essentially cut off in 1967.
The evidence in Schmaltz showed a keen interest by the ‘FBI’ in Rockwell’s activism and its search for methods to disrupt it, the effectiveness of media containment and the ‘cleverness’ of the leader in shifting ground to break into the spotlight. Schmaltz raised questions about Rockwell’s murder which possibly involved his ‘successor’ Matt Koehl, but reached no firm conclusions. Essentially, Schmaltz produced a detailed, year by year chronicle, of the Nazi Party to 1967. The work however, did not place the genesis of this peculiar experiment in fascism in the context of the political history of the American Right. It did not explain the situation which ‘compelled’ Rockwell to create this seemingly bizarre force and there was that tendency criticised by me in the thesis to down-play Rockwell and beat-up his successors. By concentrating upon Rockwell’s external ‘hate’, it might be that his nationalist-nativist-populism was overlooked? The question for the American Nationalists has been a ‘continual’ one: how to mobilize the American traditions of native-nationalism, ‘racial theory’, populism etc. into a cohesive ideological system such that a new politics and organization could be constructed innovative to all opportunities. Schmaltz did not see that point at all. Yet, this work of narrative history is a ‘must’ in the study at issue.
The evidence in Simonelli was conditioned by his book’s origins as a doctoral thesis. It is firmer and richer in quality when compared to Schmaltz’s text. We see Rockwell as a agitator who predicted the racial chaos of mid-1960’s America, who waged a psychological war not a terrorist war, who initially dressed up in a certain way for effect and who (as the thesis recorded) eventually came to start phasing the very idea of ‘Nazism’ out of his system. Although Simonelli suggests Rockwell had no potential of real note after 1963, his evidence that Rockwell was moving towards a new type of nativist ideology would surely cause that matter to stay ‘open’. But what is relevant must be the awareness of a pragmatism in this man which makes him an ‘unusual’ figure in the history of the American Right. He was willing to deal with Black Moslems and separatists of all types and change style and programme to win ‘white masses’.
Simonelli tells us that Rockwell’s line on communism and the establishment was one where he thought that the bourgeois would one day welcome his wholesome anti-communism. This ‘fault’ in Rockwell’s fascism was not taken as far as it could go. As Kevin Coogan explains in his opus, Dreamer Of The Day: Francis Parker Yockey And The Post War Fascist International (Brooklyn: Autonomedia, 2000), the matter of communism bedevilled the Right in the post-war period. Some opted to play the anti-communist card for legitimacy and support, while others refused to play the establishment game at all, pursuing neutralism and even – a ‘pro-Eastern’ orientation. Certainly, Rockwell’s ‘anti-semitism’ becomes clearer here. It was not so much ‘Hitlerian’ as traditional American anti-communism in its extreme guise. It was also opportunistic. There was the implicit appeal to the gentile capitalist to rid himself of his Hebrew competitor. Rockwell took the ‘pro-Western’ line. It didn’t help him – or any other Right figure either.
There is other critical analysis. Simonelli all but says it: that ‘Nazi’ Rockwell was murdered by a cabal of neo-nazis in the party who objected to the phasing out both of the Nazi race doctrine (Nordic superiority over Meditteraneans and Slavs), and the foreign emblems from the group. The blame for murder is cast at Koehl, William Pierce (author of The Turner Diaries and present leader of the National Alliance), and Robert Lloyd (another prominent neo-nazi of yesteryear). The evidence collected is impressive. For Nationalists, the Simonelli text is therefore a type of political dynamite in dealing with contemporary neo-nazi groups. If their martyr was murdered by their own for the reasons given, then the new creed is fatally wounded. Interestingly too, the occult nature of Pierce’s thought and the prominence of the ideology (or cosmology: see below) of Savitri Devi in neo-nazism, provides further motive in the assassination. Rockwell, as Simonelli concedes by default, did not follow this line. However, Simonelli did not address the occult dimension in the killing, but concentrated on the ideological division centred as above. He could also have said that particular neo-nazi ‘classic texts’ written by Koehl (with Pierce’s endorsement) which define the core of the ideology were declarations of war against Rockwell. Koehl’s later writings which asserted that Nazism was a racial religion codified his break with Rockwell’s native fascism.
Last, Simonelli tells us that Rockwell’s legacy was one where aspects of his activity were picked up by others. Because he dealt with Christian Identity (albeit with a tactical idea in mind), he contributed to its ‘nazification’ which had dire effects on the U.S. scene, and so forth.
Simonelli’s text is essential to any discussion of American fascism, neo-fascism and neo-nazism.
Another useful text, would be Jeffrey Kaplan's The Encyclopaedia Of White Power, (1999) which details the various lights and organizations of the neo-nazi/KKK/Christian Identity movement, and related forces.
(c)The Occult Question
British academic Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, authored the seminal study, The Occult Roots Of Nazism: The Ariosophists Of Germany And Austria 1890-1935. This work tore away the veils of foolishness often written about Nazi occultism. It showed that a particular race doctrine, spawned in Austria by Lanz von Liebenfels and Guido von List, was central to ideological-political formation in the Nazi Party. Goodrick-Clarke referred to it as a synthesis of Volk-racism and theosophy; it was ‘fantastic’ in tone, arguing for Germanic imperialism against the ‘inferior’ Slavs, for a cosmic struggle against the Jews, for knightly orders of mystics and better-breeding of the Aryan race. In the Nazi Party, it was in unstable union with other forces and played a pernicious role in the policy-making of the German state during the war period. Significantly, it is the very things which may well be ‘wrong’ about Nazism that have attracted a number of admirers after the war. Nazism became in their minds a sort of mystery-knowledge, just as the ariosophical underpinning of the historical movement had been in the earlier time. Some theorists straddled both elements. And so – ‘neo-nazism’.
Goodrick-Clarke then went on to author Hitler’s Priestess: Savitri Devi, the Hindu-Aryan Myth And Neo-Nazism. New York: New York University Press, 1998. This work is of the most crucial importance in any appreciation of neo-nazism. It studied the career of the remarkable Savitri Devi (born Maximiani Portas in 1905, died 1982), who wrote extensively after 1945 about Hitler and Nazism. She proclaimed Nazism to have been a cosmic movement “against time” itself. Hitler became an “avatar” sent to wage a battle of truth against the destroyers of the Aryan race. Hitler was to bring a new “Golden Age” through wars of extermination. But he was cast down and he returned to the racial spirit world. His movement must return, even if not in the same form, to carry out the divine mission. Devi’s breezy account of Nazism’s rise and fall, with the Nazi leaders as disciples and the movement as a destiny in motion, obviated the ‘need’ for it to be analysed politically. Her accounts are like fairy-tales and in the destruction of 1945, it reaffirmed its truth in martyrdom. Devi’s occultism has been the secret message of neo-nazism. It was not Rockwell’s belief, but it inspired his successors, and in various ways has inspired the neo-nazi cadre in many countries. Devi’s ideas have inspired other neo-nazis who have seen Hitler as a “magician”, a “political alchemist” and the “collective unconscious” of the Aryan race.
Goodrick-Clarke's Black Sun: Aryan Cults, Esoteric Nazism And The Politics Of Identity (New York, 2002), has appeared. This text examines the 'occult' neo-nazi movements of the last five decades. Like all his work, it will be necessary reading in the scholarship of the neo-nazi phenomenon. There are some faults to this text. The author fails to set out a typology of neo-nazism, ignores the state role in groups like 'Combat 18' and tends to overstate the position of neo-nazism within the movements for Euro-cultural renaissance. Goodrick-Clarke's text is also a set of disjointed chapters. Nonetheless, it is clear that we are dealing with a movement of the occult type; it is hardly any sort of development from German Nazism. Goodrick-Clarke wisely sees the new movements as 'neo-ariosophical' in tone.
As I have elaborated in a doctoral thesis (see this Internet site), the occult question is essential in understanding neo-nazism. It is the core system of belief around which the typologies can be constructed. It explains its durability and a certain consistency across frontiers and over time.
Once we appreciate that the neo-nazis are movers in the occult (not simply “religious cultic” politics as I argued in the thesis), then it is possible to understand why their kingdom (ie. their ‘Reich’) is not of this world. It might show why, even the most sophisticated neo-nazis (like William Pierce of the American National Alliance) find it difficult to intervene appropriately in the political struggle but can only ‘plan’ for the apocalypse; they cannot create a party, but rather alternate between passive cadre-schools and violent street or terroristic gangs. Their minds are cast backwards towards their model and fantastically forwards into their dreams.
(d) The Broad American Scene
As the literature of the Right has developed throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s, there is now a solid corpus of material both for the student and – the Nationalist thinker and activist. The journal Terrorism And Political Violence, a state-connected publication, has published at length on “racist terrorism” and neo-nazism. Various books on every aspect of American Right politics have appeared. The footnotes in the above mentioned works should direct the reader there. What is clear is the fragmentation of the racial-nationalist community along lines of political imbecility. The dominance of Christian Identity, Klan and neo-nazi groups over that milieu is regrettable. Groups which have tried to redefine American Nationalism have found the pitch contaminated and some have moved towards ‘softer’ markets, despairing of their inability to mould some of the people shunted into marginalization and otherwise organize Americans without the intrusions of these other forces. Of course, there were positive signs of a revival of Nationalist politics from the mid 1990’s.
Because the present thesis predated the second-wind of neo-nazism in the 1980’s it did not ‘predict’ the way in which the American state would sideline formations with potential and ‘promote’, while at the same time necessarily targetting, aggressive racist-extremist groups. By the 1990’s, ordinary Americans could reasonably have concluded that the supposed challenge to the destruction of the American identity was the province of the theatre of the absurd.
The revival of historical interest in the origins of neo-nazism may – paradoxically perhaps – offer Americans a way to define the history of the racial-nationalist movement since the 1970’s and struggle to redefine it – but that is another matter and not the issue here.
(e) The Broad Picture
An extensive literature has emerged particularly throughout the 1990’s devoted to the study of the post-1945 ‘Right’ in all countries. It is too voluminous to be cited here; but the reader can, after viewing the bibliographies of any of the works discussed here, locate it all for himself.
What is significant in the study of neo-nazism is its basic lack of any mass mobilizing strategy. Because (as below) it could be understood as a variegated cult, it serves to undermine Nationalist politics and organization in certain ways. It can attract the occasional good person or group of young militants. It can, when under the leadership of negative personalities or provocateurs (as the British group Combat 18 was – controlled by MI-5!!!), carry out harassment of Nationalist groups and leaders.
It is essentially my position that neo-nazism can be understood as a ‘system’ with two basic foundations
First, it has an ‘occult’ core. As discussed above, this means it will say two things: (i) It is put that neo-nazism (or “National Socialism”) is a movement with a message of timeless dimension, with a ‘secret code’ of racial rebirth implicit both in the forces which produced Nazism (ariosophy) and in the applied racial science of Hitlerism (ie. ariosophy in political form). To grasp this truth is to achieve personal redemption and to fight with one’s fellows means to redeem the race. (ii) It is said that “National Socialism” is a test-case example of the eternal idea and its forms and ‘church-history’ are essential components of world-view.
Second, it has an identifiable set of elements present, each to varying degrees and accents, in each version of the phenomenon. My doctoral thesis on this site, identifies six central ideological ‘interests’. Neo-nazis will preach white-race internationalism over any concept of nationality or place; they will show an exaggerated interest in Indo-European racial pre-history; they refer to the maytrydom of Rudolf Hess (and other Nazi heroes); they argue for a Jewish conspiracy in history; they show a fullsome interest in revising the history of the Second World War to exculpate Germany of all wrong-doing; they ‘deny’ the Jewish ‘Holocaust’ occurred; they profess a cultised love of Hitler. The belief system crosses all frontiers which the neo-nazis do not recognise. Each aspect of the system may well be a separate idea. In neo-nazism they exist in fused form. So why is the present work of value to the debate?
When the work was composed, I did not know of certain factual details (eg. about the occult dimension of neo-nazism generally and in the Pierce/Koehl motive in the Rockwell killing, of the actual link between Rockwell and Christian Identity which suggested a real political pragmatism, of the extent of the containment policy employed against Rockwell and the character of the FBI’s war against the entire American Right) I made errors in explaining the movement. I was limited to what was known in the period. As an activist in Nationalist politics I made these analytical errors; it is then likely that similar errors were made by other militants throughout the movement in many countries. As new forces of radical-nationalism developed (particularly in the English-speaking countries where neo-nazism has served as a disruptive competitor for the attention of some radical youth or potential cadre), it was necessary to address neo-nazism. Our knowledge has grown slowly. Readers of thesis will note how an effort was made to apply the then-known truth to the material. We should recognise that the study could not stay still, but was bound to develop. By reading the thesis, the reader will understand that the study should continue. There is no reason why the Nationalists cannot be involved in defining the neo-nazis.
The second point is that, unlike certain ‘academics’ my goal has been to explain the neo-nazi movement in a way which serves the development of Nationalist ideology, politics and organization.
The third point is that unlike the new academic assessment of Rockwell’s limitations, I locate particular issues which show the generalised potential of a revised nativism/populism/nationalism. This means that Rockwell, or any person like him, with this ideology had some potential in 1960’s America. It also points to this ideology (even today) as the generalised ‘core’ idea for any movement for American national rebirth. That is, of course, a matter for the Americans.
The fourth point is that the neo-nazi movement may not owe much to Rockwell other than ‘motif’. As an occult movement with a set typology it can be identified as something quite separate from the neo-fascist movement that Rockwell intended to construct. This is ironic, but it seems so.
(e) Style Fault.
The material before the reader was scanned to disk and corrected. The reader will note a particular stylistic imperfection. Footnotes appear in the body of the text (albeit in a smaller type size) as the reader wades through the work. This might cause some break in the flow.
The reader will also observe certain comments written because on occasions in the hallowed halls of ‘academia’ one must choose one’s words with care. I ask to be excused these concessions to the dominance of liberal ideology.
I trust this work will assist new radical-nationalist activists in Australia and elsewhere in understanding the vexing subject of neo-nazism. Because the thesis also discusses other national revolutionary movements, it might also assist in the formation of cadre and ideology. I hope this is so.
American Nazism has been mainly a subject for journalistic inquiry and even then the volume of print devoted to it has not been great. There has been very little analysis of the history of the Nazi movement since 1967, the time of the assassination of its founder, George Lincoln Rockwell. The movement’s history to 1967 rated a chapter here and there in books devoted to sensationalising America’s “far-right”. Books such as Mark Sherwin’s The Extremists, George Thayer’s The Farther Shores Of Politics, Giovanna and Del Boca’s Fascism Today, J. Harry Jones’s The Minutemen, William W. Turner’s Power On The Right and Dennis Eisenberg’s The Re-Emergence Of Fascism, can be mentioned in this context.
Common to all these works is a certain impressionistic quality. Each rested on a basic and partially justifiable assumption: that America’s Nazis were mere play actors, who revelled in the trouble that they caused. (2) Some of these authors detected ‘dark conspiracies’ behind the movement’s facade, found ‘links’ with South American Nazi exiles and detected ‘unusual’ psychological aspects in some U.S. Nazis. Such writers had a contradictory perspective: on the one hand they treated the Nazis as
1 Mark Sherwin, The Extremists, New York, 1963; George Thayer, The Farther Shores Of Politics, New York, 1965; Mario Giovanna and Angelo Del Boca, Fascism Today: A World Survey, London, 1970; J. Harry Jones, The Minutemen, New York, 1970; William Turner, Power On The Right, Berkeley, 1971; Dennis Eisenberg, The Re-emergence Of Fascism, London, 1965.
2 This opinion would have resulted from the sensationalist quality of Nazi literature, particularly that issued by Rockwell.
figures of ridicule, but on the other they saw them as sinister agents of exiled revanchists or pathological social pyromaniacs who represented a dangerous ‘new fascism’ This was the fate, not of the U.S. Nazis alone, but the Right generally. English-speaking countries have a peculiar view of their respective Extreme-Right organisations, a view which finds little echo amongst Continental commentators. (4) The U.S. Right has been, through countless shoddy articles and surveys, linked to German Nazism, or McCarthyism or anti-semitism or to all of these things, and more. Huge and richly endowed organisations like the Zionist Anti- Defamation League of B’nai B’rith help to maintain this public attitude through intense propaganda. This may help to explain why few historians have set out seriously to analyse the Extreme-Right (from which, as I will explain later, I have excluded the John Birch Society and the Goldwater campaign) in recent decades. The verbal and printed vulgarities not only of the U.S. Nazis but the whole Extreme-Right, may have encouraged the superficial ‘surveys’ at the expense of the serious effort of research. Even books dealing with the Ku Klux Klan, such as David Chalmer’s Hooded Americanism and William P. Randall’s The Ku Klux Klan: A Century of Infamy are similarly shallow and journalistic.
3 This would be the result of characteristics of the ‘fascist beast’ which arose in wartime propaganda. Further, fascism on the Continent was endowed with deeper social - historical - intellectual roots than fascism in the English-speaking world.
not only in their treatment of the 1960’s Klan but in their analyses of the KKK of earlier times. (4) The 1940’s liberal-democratic conceptualisation of fascism may have conditioned such an approach. Sander Diamond in his The Nazi Movement In The United States remarked:
Among the salient features of the alleged fascist threat was the consistent characterisation of Nazis and other fascists as gangster types, thugs recruited from the gutters and flop-houses of the world to serve as Hitler’s willing henchmen. (5)
Despite the passage of time, some writers have suggested that the American Extreme-Right of the 1960’s can be seen in this light. Mark Sherwin is one example. The documents of the Jewish Defence League posit such a view. A British magazine called Searchlight, popular in the U.S. for its exposures of the British Extreme-Right, paints its enemies in these colours.
The only work which has attempted to integrate U.S. Nazism into an historical and social framework is Leland V. Bell’s In Hitler’s Shadow: The Anatomy of American Nazism. (6) However the severe limitation of Bell’s interpretation - ninety per cent of his book deals with the German American Bund of the 1930’s - was made clear when he argued:
4 David Chalmers, Hooded Americanism: The First Century of the KKK 1865 - 1965, New York, 1965; William P. Randall, The Ku Klux Klan: A Century of Infamy, London, 1965.
5 Sander A. Diamond, The Nazi Movement In The United States 1924-41, Ithaca, 1974, p. 39.
6 Leland V. Bell, In Hitler’s Shadow: The Anatomy Of American Nazism, Port Washington, 1973.
Bundists of the 1930’s and Rockwell’s Nazis of the 1960’s shared common characteristics. Both aped the outward forms of German Nazism... Their ideology was basically the same: adoration of Hitler as the saviour of mankind... Both aimed appeals to a vaguely defined group: White Christian Americans... Both tried to transplant Nazism to America by means of bombastic pronouncements, demonstrations and dire prophesies. This extremism created fear, hatred and divisiveness. (7)
My thesis will attempt to refute such an argument. Rockwell’s Nazism was much more complex than Bell allows. More enlightening is a 1979 work, Defending My Enemies: American Nazis, The Skokie Case And The Ends of Freedom, (8) by a U.S. Jewish civil rights lawyer, Aryeh Neier, which argued that U.S. Nazism (of the late 1970’s) was of little real significance and only of “value” to American Zionists in their fund-raising and intimidatory campaigns amongst U.S. Jews. (9)
While there is little written specifically on American Nazism, a number of books, theses, and articles have indicated certain avenues of possible inquiry. For example, Ethel Hedlin’s thesis “Ernest Cox and Colonisation A White Racist’s Response to Black Repatriation”, Gail Sindell’s study “Gerald B. Winrod and the Defender: A Case Study Of The Radical Right” and James Vander Zanden’s “The Southern White Resistance Movement to Integration”
7 ibid., pp. 4-5.
8 Aryeh Neier, Defending My Enemies: American Nazis, The Skokie Case And The Ends of Freedom, New York, 1979.
9 ibid., p. 34.
raised important questions and contain useful insights into the movements and ideas of the extreme-right. Each examined the context, religious, social, political and racial, in which the extreme right developed. But these remain limited studies.
Necessarily then, this thesis rests on primary research. The material on which it has drawn exists in abundance. I was able to gain access to primary literature relating to the Rockwell period through correspondence with one of his former lieutenants, Reverend Ralph Forbes of Nebraska. Through the agency of Rev. Forbes I was able to read most numbers of Stormtrooper and many editions of Rockwell Report and other American Nazi Party documents, leaflets and posters. More recent American Nazi literature was much easier to come by. White Power, Stormer, New Order, NS Review and White Power Report were obtained and I have examined most numbers of these publications. Internal newsletters were made available by members of Nazi organisations. I have also managed to correspond with a few U.S. Nazi operatives and some of this correspondence provided additional useful information, though some of it was of a conjectural kind (for example, one writer alleged that homosexual “networks” existed in one Nazi group and that Rockwell was a victim of a plot hatched amongst his “officers”). (10) I have also read deeply into the assorted literature of
10 James N. Mason, Secretary, National Socialist White Workers’ Party, letter to author, June 29, 1979.
the American Extreme Right in order to put Nazism into its ideological context. I have read hundreds of numbers of Thunderbolt, Crusader, Fiery Cross, Cross and the Flag, Common Sense, The Klansman and Attack/National Vanguard and the other similar publications.
I have also examined major newspapers for their commentary on U.S. Nazi activities. The New York Times gave Rockwell substantial coverage in the 1960’s, while the Chicago Tribune gave full coverage to the activities of The National Socialist Party of America in the 1970’s. To obtain an understanding of the Left’s perspective on fascism and U.S. Nazism, various communist publications such as the Militant, Workers' Vanguard, Revolutionary Worker and The People were read closely.
I consulted various works to provide an appropriate historical and political framework for U.S. Nazism. Seymour. Lipset and Earl Raab’s The Politics of Unreason, Gustavus Myers’ A History Of Bigotry and John Higham’s Strangers In The Land were helpful. (11) However, the basis for my conclusions on American Nazism remains the primary-source material collected in the course of this study.
American Nazism, particularly during the Rockwell period 1959-67 was more than simply an aspect of American
11 Seymour Lipset and Earl Raab, The Politics Of Unreason: Right Wing Extremism In America, New York, 1970; Gustavus Myers, A History Of Bigotry In The United States, New York, 1970; John Higham, Strangers In The Land 1860 - 1925: Patterns Of American Nativism, New York, 1965.
race relations or just a part of the politics of protest. By the close of its first phase (1967) the Rockwell movement represented a nascent American fascism with clear roots in its U.S. environment. Its second phase, dating from Rockwell’s death, was marked by a loss of political relevance through an over-insistence on the theories of German Nazism and a consequent loss of its American characteristics.
U.S. Nazism is in one sense an object of ridicule. It has been throughout its existence a movement highly attractive to cranks, thugs and exhibitionist elements. (12) On the other hand, the Nazis have formed part of an expanding, vocal racist minority exploiting the sour atmosphere of U.S. race relations and a movement which has catered for the political and psychological alienation of some American youth.
I have divided my study into two parts. The first deals with the Rockwell period 1959-67; the second with the post-Rockwell period. Leland Bell and Rockwell’s successors agreed on one point: that the first phase was experimental,” “sensational” and “ineffective,” and the second was more “serious” in terms of party building and ideological development - despite the failure of the post 1967 movement to gather a significant following. This study has argued the reverse. While, of course, Rockwell’s party did experiment and was sensational, it was not ineffective; further, whereas Bell and the post-1967 Nazis saw new groups such as the National Socialist White People’s Party
12 Leland Bell, op. cit., p. 113.
as the culmination of Rockwell’s experiments, I have argued that the post 1967 movement dissipated the popular support won by Rockwell. Bell maintained that Rockwell took Nazi ideology (that is, German Nazi ideology), literally and dogmatically, and inflexibly sought to apply it to America; my contention is that Rockwell was an ideological innovator, who initially used the Nazi ideology to mobilise a section of the Extreme-Right into action, enabling it to attain notoriety. He then moved in the direction of establishing an American fascist ideology.
Clearly the Rockwell Period was, as Bell and others have maintained, characterised by violence, media sensationalism and organisational chaos. These characteristics will be examined against the background of Rockwell’s perception of his ‘mission’ and of his immediate objectives. However, a close study of Rockwell’s style of propaganda as evidenced in Stormtrooper and as revealed through his public activities and utterances will establish the point that he was not merely a wild sensationalist, but that he was America’s foremost (public) fascist agitator and ideologue of the post 1945 era. Rockwell achieved a continuous praxis; he was able to agitate and to reflect, and, after reflection, to carry out further agitation, each time developing his ideology and his organisation.
Rockwell’s ideology, I will argue, developed against the background of the Cold War, the ineffectiveness of the 1950’s Right, and latent U.S. anti-semitism. His Nazis arrived on the scene when the right had split into anti-semitic and anti-communist elements. Rockwell emerged as the civil rights movement gained impetus and race became, once more, an issue of political contention and violence. His emergence was related to these developments; he was not, therefore, merely an oddity or an anachronism. Rockwell’s policy was to unite whites against the “negro revolution” (his phrase) and against the group allegedly responsible for launching this revolution - the Jews; and here Rockwell struck out in the direction of a redefined American nativism.
Rockwell’s nativism was part of a fascist system of thought. Initially it grew as much from misunderstanding as from political analysis. Rockwell perceived that the bourgeois WASPs were not willing to make any sacrifice to defend the America in which they professed to believe. WASPs were not revolutionaries and Rockwell reasoned that only a revolution could save America. This being so, he was forced to search for an alternative power base. At first he sought a geographical one in the state of Virginia, where his Nazism was dressed in states rights/Confederate clothing. But his public support and the size of his party remained small. Later, in 1966, Rockwell won an ethnic base in Chicago. Rockwell’s misunderstanding of German Nazism told him that the European New Order proclaimed by Hitler’s Germany transcended national boundaries and loyalties; adapting this idea Rockwell argued that he could break~down ethnic barriers between whites in America through an appeal to a white racist reaction against integration. (13) This can
13 Rockwell viewed Nazism as Pan European, which precluded intra-European national chauvinism. But as below, he also criticised official Nazism for “chauvinism”.
be illustrated through a full examination of Rockwell’s ideas and of his successes in Chicago in 1966, when he led thousands of whites in Polish-Lithuanian neighbourhoods against ‘black power’ Although this new-nativism conflicted with his pronouncements on the “Nordic race,” Rockwell was prepared to countenance these changes in a surprisingly pragmatic fashion to produce a potentially virile racism.
The ways in which Rockwell adapted European Nazism to America can be observed through a close study of his socio-economic ideas. These aspects of his ideology can be gleaned from his 1967 manifesto, White Power, from the official American Nazi Party programme and from other written and oral statements.
Socio-economic theory was not a strong point arnong U.S. Nazis before or after 1967. They have been better at denouncing the American socio-economic system than in enunciating alternatives. Nonetheless Rockwell was shrewd enough to appeal to the people in the vein of American populism. His assaults were directed at Eastern bankers and finance capitalism, rather than at “productive” free enterprise. Rockwell’s socialism was essentially petty bourgeois. In my view Rockwell did not understand the strong socialistic implications of German National Socialism. In order not to alienate right-wing support, Rockwell denied that his movement had collectivist ambitions.
14 Rockwell’s socialism also appears remarkably similar to the French Poujadist movement of the 1950’s.
However, I argue that a “populist” economic platform was more to Rockwell’s taste and this also places him in an American, rather than European, context. This study also connects Rockwell’s “nativism” and “populism” with the American fascism of the 1930’s.
Rockwell’s adoption of Nazi symbols and rites has been misunderstood by writers such as Thayer, Sherwin and Bell. These elements of the Rockwell movement appear to preclude the possibility of Rockwell having any relevance to contemporary America. I argue that Rockwell’s activities went through stages connected with his ideological development. Rockwell’s swastikas and Hitlerphilia were both tactical and an expression of his feelings in the first years of the Nazi Party. (15) He sought to rid his movement of all traces of conservatism which he believed were wrecking the Right’s chances. He also genuinely believed that Hitler was a misunderstood man, a “great man” who provided a model of political behaviour necessary for success. Rockwell was “forced” into such a course of action by his deep loathing of the 1950’s Right; he therefore wished to modernise the Right and place it on the path to power. Further, he wished to win publicity, and the tactical side of his Nazism is overwhelmingly demonstrated in his 1960 manual In Hoc Signo Vinces. The tactics described here, when put into practice enabled Rockwell to achieve the
15 George Lincoln Rockwell, In Hoc Signo Vinces, Arlington, 1972, passim.
notoriety he required. I will also show how Rockwell’s fascism developed and how it came into conflict with the European aspects of his ideology. This is not inconsistency as such; rather, it symbolises Rockwell’s developing ideology emerging out of the party he founded, and through his initiatives. My conclusion is that Rockwell would have had formally to abandon his Nazi trappings and that, given his record of pragmatism, he would have been prepared to do this in order to achieve success.
Rockwell’s Nazi party was not a mere postscript to the German - American Bund, as his opponents and some of his erstwhile followers have maintained, or simply the product of irrational bigotry. Nor can Rockwell be placed in the context of the old traditional fundamentalist nativism, since he mirrored Hitler’s distaste for religion-based politics. (Special Note: as my new Introduction establishes, Rockwell did initiate a pragmatic alliance with the early Christian Identity movement, hence my point is only partly correct)
Rockwell’s movement, confined as it was to the northern states, the mid-west and the west coast, was primarily a reaction against the New Left activists and radical riots of these more socially dynamic regions. Such radical protest supplied the very agents essential for Rockwell to build his racist anti-Marxist movement through confrontationist action. Rockwell’s Nazi Party can also be located in the context of a certain international revival of neo-fascism after 1960 and I shall advance certain conclusions on Rockwell’s role in this movement.
The history of American Nazism in the post-Rockwell period is the history of various conflicting Nazi parties which grew from Rockwell’s organisation of their respective schisms and generally ineffectual activities. The later Nazis attempted to become serious revolutionaries and tried to dispose of the sensationalist aura which they believed Rockwell had given to the movement. (17) However, as I conclude, Rockwell played the clown for serious ends; his successors played at being serious and ended up as fools. The post-Rockwell Nazis tried to advance from populism to socialism, from charismatic organisational procedure which characterised the Rockwell phase, to practical Leninism. They sought to professionalise party functions and publish high quality literature, as Rockwell had planned to do. The later Nazis tried to take control of sectors of various movements: the Wallace campaign of 1968, the Hard Hat Revolt, the anti-busing organisations- but they failed to do so. The history of the post-Rockwell movement is longer than that of the Rockwell party but it is less significant. (Special Note: it depends how that point is conceptualised, given the revival of neo-nazism in the 1980’s) In this later period (1967-78), the importance of the Nazis declined in relation to the overall expansion of the Extreme-Right. In terms of the international extreme-right they are no longer as significant as Rockwell’s movement was. (18)
The post-Rockwell Nazis attempted to rewrite Rockwell, that is, to turn his words into new arguments. In particular, Rockwell’s Hitlerphilia was transformed into a
17 G. T. Parker, “Nothing Can Stop Us Now,” Australian National Socialist Journal, Summer 1970, pp. 2-3.
18 Some of the European neo-fascist movements, 1958-77, are mentioned to place the U.S. Neo-Nazis in the context of international fascism.
doctrine which proclaimed Hitler an Aryan Jesus Christ. (19) In other areas they bastardised his thinking; they ignored Rockwell’s actual achievements and made him (as much as Hitler) an object of their cult worship. This religiosity, may provide a certain socio-psychological context for conclusions on the membership of the post-Rockwell movement. To illustrate the political irrelevancy of the post 1967 Nazis by comparison with Rockwell’s party, I have examined the Boston anti-busing fight of 1974-5 when, despite circumstances which were apparently in their favour, the Nazis’ attempt to exploit the situation fizzled badly. The continuing fragmentation of the Nazis in the 1970’s has consigned them to sectarian existence.
This thesis demonstrates that Rockwell has been the major figure in the whole U.S. Nazi phenomenon and the potential “man on the horseback” for the Right. Because of the foreign ideology with which his fascism was associated Rockwell failed to rally the right behind him; however, I argue that Rockwell’s prestige after 1966 was on the rise, as was his American-centred fascism, which placed him in a favourable position to unite the Right in subsequent years. The Nazis who followed him, failing to appreciate where Rockwell was moving, derailed the movement. (Special Note: or possibly they understood enough to murder him?) Rockwell emerges from this study not only as a major contributor to U.S. political lore of the 1960’s, but a major figure in American extremism, a keen judge of circumstance and very able agitator.
19 Matt Koehl, The Future Calls, Aarhus (Denmark), 1972.
The Chapter One of this study contains an overview of the American Extreme-Right. Separate tendencies are identified and the movement is rooted in American experiences. The argument is that an American fascism was emerging by 1941, but that it was cut short by the war. This fascism was a combination of tendencies longstanding in America; it was a synthesis of nationalism, racism, isolationism and economic theories which echo populist positions. While any single aspect of this creed cannot be called ~fascist;’ I contend that their combination represents fascism in the American context. This argument is related to Rockwell’s case. I then survey the 1950’s Extreme-Right and locate Rockwell within it.
Chapter Two traces the history of Rockwell’s party and analyses his theoretical Nazism. It surveys his relations with his right-wing competitors and examines his links with international Nazi activism. This chapter establishes the scope of Rockwell’s activities, his originality and grip of political tactics. The chapter also gives a history of the Nazi Party to 1967.
Chapter Three covers the history of the post-Rockwell Nazi movement. The attempted codification of Rockwell’s world view is examined as are the ways in which this conflicted with his actual position - and that of German Nazism. I proceed to compare Rockwell’s pragmatic utterances with the ideological rigidity of his successors. Rockwell’s successors failed to understand that successful fascism required ideas and slogans which could be adapted to a changing environment. The chapter traces the decline of the Nazi movement to insignificance.
Chapters Four, Five and Six, demonstrate that Rockwell was able to synthesise various ideas into an American fascism. I favour an elastic definition of fascism now in use by a range of historians: that fascism was (and is) a creed relevant to its national application, a dynamic (though frequently unstable) synthesis of racism, nationalism, authoritarianism and socialism.(20)
Chapter Four covers Rockwell’s new-nativism by detailing his activities in Chicago in 1966. I also analyse various racist ideas adhered to by the Rockwell and post-Rockwell movement. I argue that anti-coloured 'racism' was an essential part of an American fascism, since it did (and does) mobilise some Americans. I assert that Rockwell’s racism became increasingly rooted in the American experience and mirrored deep prejudices, and that the alien aspects of his early racism, for example, his nordicism, receded.
Chapter Five compares Rockwell’s understanding of Hitler’s socialism with the German practice. I find that Rockwell was not faithful to German Nazism. His socialism was designed to cement further the loyalties of people won over by racist agitation and was in the populist tradition. Rockwell’s insistence on a social programme establishes his originality; in this, he is unlike the other organisations of the extreme-right. Essentially, Rockwell also held
20. Juan B. Linz, “Some Notes Towards a Comparative Study of Fascism in Sociological and Historical Perspective;’ Walter Lacquer, (ed.), Fascism: a Reader’s Guide, London, 1979, pp. 13-78.
to elitist sociological concepts; however I conclude that his beliefs were not based on his readings into German Nazism but were derived from other sources. Rockwell’s vision of a perfect American society was essentially an American formulation, expressed in American terms.
The post-Rockwell movement, however, returned to the German model, with poor results. I catalogue several of its failed efforts to win a social base with students and workers. I note also that, despite their ‘revolutionary’ rhetoric, the post-1967 Nazis denounced the advocates of socialism in their organisations and incorporated glaring inconsistencies into their ideology and patterns of activity. In these ways the synthesis which Rockwell had begun to forge was destroyed.
Chapter Six examines the Nazis’ conspiracy’ theories of history and their relationship to their world-view. Rockwell created a conspiracy doctrine which “explained” aspects of American social or political weakness , and this doctrine was squarely based on the American context or tradition. Rockwell’s conspiracy ideas gave him, for a while, the ear of sections of the American right which he hoped to convert to his American fascist ideology.
Chapter Seven contains my conclusions relating to the significance of the Rockwell and post-Rockwell Nazi movements, and to the uniquely American fascist ideology which Rockwell established. The Nazi movement became irrelevant politically by the 1970’s and the reasons for this are examined. (Special Note: see the new Introduction for the neo-nazi ‘revival’)
American Nazism In The Context Of The American Extreme Right 1960 - 1978