I wrote a piece back in November of last year, about “Inner Dynamics of Revolutions.” [stderr] And, as I watch the news today, I realize I was being much too oblique. So, let me try again; warning, I’m going to talk about current US politics.
In a civilization where there is an established power-bloc (“the establishment”) that controls the body politic, there are going to be forces that disagree with the establishment; let’s call them “the opposition”. The establishment is going to tend to be somewhat unified; after all, it’s in power because it uses its power effectively, which only happens when you’ve got a sufficient mass of people propelling things in the same direction. If the opposition is able to displace the establishment, they have a successful revolution. The problem with revolutions – that inner dynamic I was referring to – is that sometimes the opposition represents a loose coalition that is not entirely unified; the opposition temporarily unifies in order to overcome the establishment, then immediately falls to internal backstabbing because they were only really ever in agreement about one thing: the establishment must fall.
We can see this inner dynamic in the republican party’s opposition to ACA; it is a perfect mirror in which we can see that process – they are unified in their opposition to ACA but not unified in their follow-through agenda. In terms of revolutions: their revolution has succeeded but they are failing at the nation-building that inevitably must follow unless everything will collapse into a dictatorship. The French revolution, and the Russian revolution, both demonstrated the process: the aristocracy was overcome and then the newly-powerful could not form a functioning society, so there was chaos until a strongman stepped in. If you look at the republicans today, they are a loosely bound collective that has been trained to and optimized for foiling Barack Obama. Now that he is not on the scene, they haven’t “won” their revolution, they’re re-fragmenting into sub-groups across an ideological spectrum – sub-groups that do not necessarily agree. I’m extremely contemptuous of them because, as I see it, anyone who thought about history and politics for a little while would have seen this coming. I suppose that’s good news, because a Hitler, a Bonaparte or a Stalin would have.
The nazis had a similar problem and there was a great deal of “inner consolidation” that took place as the SS purged the SA [wikipedia] because they clearly were not going to be able to form a unified political establishment to control their newly-accessed power. Someone had to go. The German nazis started by killing a lot of each other, before they were organized enough to start on anyone else. Why do American nazis think they will magically avoid the inner dynamics of revolutions? The holocaust really kicked into gear after the consolidation of the nazi establishment and the Wannsee conference.[wikipedia] That was when the direction of the “final solution” was agreed-upon, and what triggered it was the number of internally-displaced refugees they had created. If there’s a race war or a new civil war in the US, there will be internally displaced refugees, too. I am not aware of white supremacists who are thinking about what a problem that’s going to be. And it’s a serious problem: the collapse of Iraq into sectarianism and ISIS, the collapse of Somalia, Libya: that’s what happens when you destroy the establishment without a plan for nation-building in the aftermath.
There is an excellent (though chilling) movie called Conspiracy about the Wannsee conference, with Kenneth Branagh as Reynhard Heydrich; it’s worth a watch. It’s only representational/reenactment but it’s exactly the kind of sorting-out that happens after a revolution. In the case of the French revolution(s), as I’ve mentioned before [stderr] it took a lot of sorting out.
So, what is going to happen with today’s white supremacists, if they win? They are agreed that they want white power, and are unified in their hatred of colored people and immigrants. Or, no, wait – maybe some of them are OK with immigrants from central Europe, but not Mexico. And – immediately – boom – they fragment. Then there’s the question Heydrich asked at Wannsee: what do we do with them? In the case of nazi Germany, the attendees at the conference agreed with Heydrich because he was a horrible, ruthless, human being who scared the shit out of them. But supposing today’s white supremacists actually won something, somehow: they are likely to collapse immediately into their own “night of the long knives and clan hoods” as the hardcore fascists suppress the alt-right poseurs and (inevitably) someone ruthless with willingness and skills at killing comes and establishes a dictatorship.
What the white supremacists and “south will rise again” blockheads don’t realize is that they are not a unified political force that is capable of challenging the establishment. During the American Civil War, the establishment divided itself; it was already divided. At that time the US economy was also fairly divided and the logistics of armies were such that there was no highly integrated structure necessary: the south could peel itself away and go to war with the troops it had (although they experienced some pretty bad equipment shortages early on) but today’s military logistics are much more integrated; you’re not going to get a clean north/south divide, you’ll get a godawful mess. The military is also a problem: a lot of it is abroad and at sea – suppose the white supremacists/revolutionaries get their wish and there’s a second civil war; it won’t look like a civil war it’ll look like a spotty insurgency with separate factions running all over the place sometimes shooting at each other and sometimes shooting at the establishment. Which, presumably, will eventually stomp them slowly flat. Unlike in the first civil war, the southern states won’t cleanly flip to the side of white supremacy (or whatever) they will, perhaps declare themselves in rebellion, and will instantly be full of 5th columns of their own insurgencies.
You already know what it’ll look like: it’ll look like Syria.
It will not look like Germany or the first American Civil War; Germany was small and could be quickly consolidated by the nazi establishment – the US is not that small. The US at the time of the first civil war was divided into industrial/agrarian economies* and had already done a fair amount of the hard work of separating political entities. Or, more precisely, had done a poor job of unifying political entities that were separated as a legacy of the oligarchic political hacks we laud as the “Founding Fathers.”
Earlier, I likened the white supremacists to today’s anti-Obama republican party. If you look at what they have accomplished, it’s pretty much only the anti-Obama stuff, because that’s all they can agree on. They fantasize about the times of the first civil war, when the subordinate part of the population was cowed and disarmed; that’s not the case, either. If the south seceeded tomorrow, there would be hell to pay because the US’ draft policy in the Vietnam War, which disproportionately sent minorities to learn how to kill people, would come back to bite them, big time. The goons strutting around in tacticool gear in the south, right now, are strutting around in front of people of color who have probably killed more people than they’ve killed in their masturbatory fantasies. Those veterans will watch and see what happens, and pick sides – and that sure as hell won’t look like the first southern secession.
If you want some fun, ask a group of white supremacists what their plans are once they have taken over the country. Ask them what they think will happen to the hundreds of thousands of armed refugees they will create in their back yards. I’m sure they think they are eugenic supermen who will be able to handle it all just fine, but they’re wrong: Sam Colt really did do a lot to make all men equal. He did a lot to make women equal, and to erase skin color, too.
Within the white supremacist/alt-right movement, you’ve got major divisions waiting to express themselves. There are supremacists, separatists, jew-haters, immigrant-haters, this, that, and the other thing. Separatists fantasize about having white people live apart from everyone else – presumably on the nice parts of the country, while everyone else … uh, what do they do? Do they get shot? Do they get in refugee-boats? Do they move to Canada? The supremacists may align temporarily with the separatists, to the extent that they share common hatreds, but they’re going to also have a mix of non-aligned agendas for their post-whatever world. Not that I think they will triumph, but if they did, they will immediately have a fight on their hands, as the supremacists decide who reigns supreme among the supremacists; it’s as predictable as the tide coming in.
You cannot build a new political establishment by being against something; you have to be for something. And it has to be achievable; Mussolini’s dreams of making Rome great again were as nonsensical as Trump’s – except that Rome was great once.
I know what’ll happen if the south secedes again, or they get their race war. Their cities will look like Mosul, Berlin, Tokyo, Raqqa, Grozny, or Atlanta after Sherman’s march. They will not get their white paradise; a lot of them will get killed and see everything they loved go up in flames. They won’t be alone, of course, misery loves company – but their companions in misery will be the very people that they want to get away from.
Ask them what they expect will happen. Ask them what they think they will accomplish. They have to have an actual political objective that they can build a new working establishment upon.
If you really want to get technical, you can ask them how they intend to keep the Russians from arming Mexico so that Mexico can take back Texas and New Mexico and maybe southern California once the US is too enfeebled to hold itself together. Because the obvious move, if the white supremacists managed to kick off their race war, would be for the Chinese and the Russians to laughingly arm everyone and sit back and watch the US face punch itself to death.
Young Dugashvili (Stalin) sure was a handsome devil, wasn’t he?
One think you’ll notice about revolutions: they knock you so hard you turn gray-scale. That’s right, it blows all the color right out of everything. The shattered stuff and lives all look the same because guillotines, explosives and bullets are color blind.
(* I love the “US south was divided into industrial and agrarian economies…” trope. It was, of course, because the north had industrialized into metastatic capitalist wage-slavery, and the south had built its economy on chattel slavery. Of course they were different economic systems; they both sucked but one sucked horribly worse.)