What on Earth do White Supremacists Want?


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 agreement at the time this photo was taken. Later, not so much.

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.

Grozny 1995

Berlin, 1945

Atlanta, 1864

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.

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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.)

 

Comments

  1. komarov says

    One of the most chilling aspects of those three (former) city-scapes is that they’re difficult to tell apart. The ruin of a city from 150 years ago looks pretty much like that of a modern one. All that ‘civilsation’ and ‘technological advancement’ vanishes pretty quickly. And modern weapons have made it much simpler to send someone else back to the proverbial stone age.

  2. cartomancer says

    I have a suspicion that for many of them the last thing they would want is for their side to win. Some of them seem genuinely to define themselves as rebels against modern, tolerant, inclusive values, and participate as a performative statement of their regressive identity rather than to change the world to be more like them. They need society to be progressive and tolerant, or else they won’t stand out in any way. It’s an ego trip for these people.

    How many are like this and how many genuinely believe in the ideals of the fascists I don’t know.

  3. says

    cartomancer@#2:
    I have a suspicion that for many of them the last thing they would want is for their side to win. Some of them seem genuinely to define themselves as rebels against modern, tolerant, inclusive values, and participate as a performative statement of their regressive identity rather than to change the world to be more like them.

    To a certain degree, I sympathize. I’m generically “anti-” a bunch of things: imperialism, racism, capitalism, sexism, and I probably even share some of my “anti-“s with the alt-righters. For example, I am anti-“social interference” – I think that governments and religions and corporations’ ability to tell me what to do ought to be limited. I suspect there were as many unhappy Verizon customers (for example) on both sides of the march. This is the “anarchist’s dilemma” – if you’re going to destroy government, what do you replace it with? If you’re going to wipe out Verizon, what makes you think AT&T is going to magically be any better?

    In many situations, it seems to me that the smartest path forward is to work within the system, if only because of the cost factor: once you overthrow a system, you need to build a whole new system and you’ll either make whole new mistakes or you’ll make the same old mistakes. If the white supremacists accomplished their race war, are they collectively wise enough to bring into being a white supremacists’ paradise?

  4. says

    Lofty@#3:
    I think they just want their own 72 virgins, except they want them while they’re still warm.

    Exactly. If that’s what they want, this is not how to get there.

  5. kestrel says

    I was really struck by your comment that so many minorities had been drafted and then trained to kill. You are so right. One of my neighbors is a guy like that; hispanic guy trained as a sniper. And damn good at it, has the medals and bullet wounds to prove it. Recently he was threatened with being shot at by a bully here who likes to cause trouble, and of course instead of being scared, the veteran told him, “bring it, I’m ready” whereupon the bully decided discretion was the better part of valor.

    If only all the bullies had that much common sense…

  6. says

    Marcus

    this is not how to get there.

    Quite. When all you’ve got is incoherent rage, all you can do is lash out against your perceived enemies, bugger the consequences.

  7. sonofrojblake says

    I am not aware of white supremacists who are thinking about what a problem that’s going to be

    Well there’s a sentence that went on longer than I expected.

    The military is also a problem: a lot of it is abroad

    But where has all their surplus equipment gone? There are relatively few militaries worldwide who could stand up to the weapons, equipment and training available to the civilian police forces of the USA. If the establishment can mobilise them effectively against your insurgency, the stomping flat would not be slow. Getting them to shoot at white people who can shoot back might be a problem.

  8. cartomancer says

    Marcus, #4

    Noam Chomsky tends to recommend that those working towards societal change make an effort to build the structures of the new society within the old one first. The example he tends to give is setting up worker-run, worker-owned cooperative enterprises (like the Mondregan collective in Spain, or the many small-scale collectives in the former Rust Belt), which can eventually take over from big corporations (or possibly even from local government) when someone manages to find a way to loose the bonds of state-supported capitalism on society.

    The problem is that this requires a hell of a lot more work, and an even greater degree of cooperation and coordination among those working for change. On the other hand it can provide all kinds of benefits in and of itself that don’t hinge on the collapse of society.

  9. chigau (違う) says

    If the USA breaks up into a bunch of “independent” states, who controls the nukes?

  10. springa73 says

    Yeah, I think that many people who think about a “new civil war” in the USA think in terms of different sections of the country neatly divided and facing each other, not realizing that a current-day civil war in the US would be more like a giant version of Syria, with multiple factions fighting each other as well as what’s left of the federal government, and various enclaves under siege and guerilla war and massive refugee problems. Not to mention the issues of possible foreign intervention and the question of who has control of the nuclear weapons. It would be a nightmare.

  11. says

    chigau@#10:
    If the USA breaks up into a bunch of “independent” states, who controls the nukes?

    You’re really really not going to like this answer. Since I’m not sure if you’re asking semi-rhetorically, or not, I’m going to answer with the technical details.

    National Command Authority (NCA) goes with the “football” and is, in principle, in the hands of “the real government.” So, in principle, the nukes go with “the real president” except for the ones that don’t. Big monsters in silos have Permissive Action Links (PALs) that prevent the warheads from arming unless they get the correct code from the football. (up until the end of the Clinton administration, at least, the code for the football itself was 8 zeroes) But there are lots that don’t have PALs. The ones that don’t have PALs are the ‘special munitions’ for MLRS launchers, most of the smaller air-droppable bombs like the ones the US Air Force has proliferated all over NATO, and the ones in the ballistic missile subs.

    Here’s how the scenario plays out: the US collapses into civil war and Turkey, Germany, Great Britain, etc, – that are hosting USAF munitions under the NATO fig-leaf, announce publicly that they are sequestering the weapons and will return them to US control when the US recovers from its crisis. Then, armed people show up and explain that to the worried, confused and scared US soldiers that are guarding those munitions. In other words, 200 German soldiers show up and take the weapons politely into custody and nobody gets hurt and nobody gets nuked (although it means that Turkey just became a nuclear power, because chances the US would get those weapons back are hovering close to zero). In the ballistic missile subs, it’s different: the subs’ commanders have full release control of the civilization-killer load that each sub carries. If you saw that movie Crimson Tide that’s pretty much what would happen in each sub, although it gets trickier because: the subs can only communicate with command authority via encrypted links; their commanders would probably wait for orders from the US Navy command, whatever that was. So it’s not like the commanders of the subs would be getting “launch! launch!” requests from random people within the chain of command; their commanders would probably announce that the government was having a crisis and the NCA had not given any instructions, and they were going to wait and see what happened. The commanders of ballistic missile subs are generally pretty squared away people though they tend to be authoritarian followers (because that’s the kind of person that it takes, to be prepared to end civilization based on a txt message). The ballistic missile subs wouldn’t be as big a problem as the carrier task force groups (which allegedly may carry small nukes) – but they would probably react similarly. Although, you can bet they would almost immediately make full speed back home, so their combat air groups could help either quash the rebels, or overthrow the government, depending. There are theater-level commanders in the US Army artillery, who have release authority over small nukes in MLRS. Fortunately, the battlefield nukes aren’t very long-range and are fairly tightly tracked. But that’s the scary scenario for me: rebels have a sympathetic artillery commander who knows how to make them fly, and – when the rebel government-to-be leaves Washington to establish their battle capital, the rebels nuke Washington. I want to avoid terms like ‘crazy’ but ‘extremely unwise’ doesn’t cover it. If the southern states seceded and established their capital in Richmond, then nuked Washington, a ballistic missile sub would probably eradicate Richmond and Atlanta and too many other places.

    99% likely, a new secession would never happen. If it did, it would be crushed fairly quickly. If it wasn’t, somehow, the US would get to learn how to live with “interior mutual assured destruction.” Oddly, the ‘triad’ model works for internal disputes as well.

    I think I’ve floated this point elsewhere in my other discussions about revolutions, but almost always, revolutions depend on when the professional military takes or switches sides. In which case, it’s more like a military coup than a revolution. If Trump had not worked so effectively to alienate the military, a coup might be possible. But the way things look right now an ‘impeachment with extreme prejudice’ would probably be more likely. In which case the nukes would transition smoothly along with the reins of political power.

    Addendum: That’s one of the reasons I think nuclear weapons are a bad idea. Politicians don’t realize that they decrease the inner stability of their nation; how’s this for a scary scenario: an ideological ballistic missile sub commander convinces his crew to attempt nuclear blackmail against the government: “resign, or else.” Might make for a fun screenplay but it’s a shitty reality.

  12. says

    bmiller@#11:
    The Free Market does. Plenty of profit in distributing bombs!

    I am mentally picturing rebels selling nukes to North Korea and Iran. Naaaaaaah, no way.

    Remember when the USSR collapsed and there was some concern that the missiles in Ukraine might wind up on the open market? All of that was resolved quietly and fairly effectively. The US sent some teams, in fact, to consult with some of the former Soviet states to help them deal with plutonium, etc. “I wonder where it is, now” would be disengenous; I suspect it’s at Pantex, in Amarillo, TX. But none of us need to know.

  13. says

    cartomancer@#9:
    Noam Chomsky tends to recommend that those working towards societal change make an effort to build the structures of the new society within the old one first.

    I think that’s got to be the obviously right way. For one thing it thrashes out those inner disagreements during the process of pre-reconstruction, so there’s a likelihood that the new government will have a mandate. It’s very expensive but when you look at Syria, it seems to be a good deal.

  14. says

    kestrel@#6:
    Recently he was threatened with being shot at by a bully here who likes to cause trouble, and of course instead of being scared, the veteran told him, “bring it, I’m ready” whereupon the bully decided discretion was the better part of valor.

    Exactly. Some of those old veterans are really scary people, who don’t want to be scary because they’ve seen the elephant. But I sure as hell wouldn’t want to try to deport someone like that’s relative or friend.

  15. says

    sonofrojblake@#8:
    If the establishment can mobilise them effectively against your insurgency, the stomping flat would not be slow.

    That’s a coup scenario. We are (still) too divided for a coup.

    I hope.

  16. says

    The white power would be revolutionaries are likely the same as most would be revolutionaries, they all think they’ll have an Important Part to play in the revolution. None of them figure they’ll be the guy who digs latrines, or gets run over by a tank without ever seeing a “race traitor” to kill.

  17. Siobhan says

    @19 timgueguen

    The white power would be revolutionaries are likely the same as most would be revolutionaries, they all think they’ll have an Important Part to play in the revolution. None of them figure they’ll be the guy who digs latrines, or gets run over by a tank without ever seeing a “race traitor” to kill.

    See: All the Nazis whose first and last experience of German glory was dying in a Normandy ditch.

  18. says

    What on Earth do White Supremacists Want?

    At least in Latvia they want all the non-Latvians, non-Christians, people of color, and LGBTQ people to quietly disappear. They don’t care about how they disappear, all the “bad” people could be quietly deported, emigrate on their own, or die from a God’s plague. The end result they wish to achieve is a utopian country where everybody has the “right” skin color, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation.

    Incidentally, due to me being queer, several “kinder” people have told me to emigrate. And a few “less kind” people told me to die, expressing a hope that their God will kill me soon. All their talking about how they hate certain groups of people actually has some minor “results” — I know a few people who really did emigrate once they became sick of discrimination and hate speeches. So maybe they are hoping that with enough hate speech they can make everybody emigrate?

    None of Latvian supremacists wants a civil war. Here people still remember their grandparents’ war time horror stories and are fully aware that a war would mean lots of deaths on their side as well. Nobody wants demolished cities either.

  19. brucegee1962 says

    Many of the 2nd Amendment tub-thumpers like to say “The founding fathers wanted us to have guns so we could overthrow the government if it becomes tyrannical.”

    If I had the time and inclination to troll their web pages, I’d love to ask them, “Do you, then, support MIcah Xavier Johnson’s actions last year when he shot five police officers? After all, if anyone has a right to feel that the government is becoming tyrannical, it’s someone like him who’s a disproportionate target of police shootings due to his race.”

    “Oh, you don’t support someone like him shooting police? Well, do you support Jared Leigh Laughner when he shot Gabriel Giffords?”

    “No? Well, if you want guns to overthrow the government, but you don’t want to shoot police, and you don’t want to shoot politicians, then who exactly were you planning to shoot?”

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