Enemies on the Right: The John Birch Society and Individualism
by Dr. William L. Pierce
EVER SINCE the Oklahoma City bombing the nation’s oldest extant anti-Communist organization, the John Birch Society, has been explaining to anyone who would listen that the bombing probably was done by leftists just to embarrass genuine patriots (such as the Birchers) and tar them with the brush of “extremism.” Nothing agitates and humiliates the Birchers more than the blanket condemnation by the Clintonistas of right wingers as terrorists or potential terrorists.
The June 24 issue of the Birch Society’s weekly magazine, The New American, contains one of the group’s latest efforts to distance itself from “extremism.” It is an article titled “Hard Left’s ‘Right-Wing’ Kin” and was of special interest to me not only because it made a personal reference to me as a “neo-Nazi agitator” and hinted that I may actually be a secret Communist, but because it also reminded me of the time, more than 30 years ago, when I was briefly a member of the John Birch Society myself.
I was a young physics professor then, the war in Vietnam was raging, the Reds were busily recruiting a Fifth Column on university campuses in order to support their side of the war effort on the home front, and I was trying to make sense of it all. I had seen enough Communist propaganda — and especially enough of the greasy types behind that propaganda — to know that I didn’t like Communism, and I turned to the Birch Society chapter in the little town where I was teaching. One thing I am grateful to the Birch Society for is that it directed me to a number of books on Communism, and from those books I learned enough about the nature and background of Communism that I knew I wanted to learn much more. That was really the beginning of my education: the start of my quest for understanding about history, race, politics, and, in fact, nearly everything except the physics and mathematics to which I had devoted myself until that time.
The half-dozen or so other members of the chapter seemed to be decent enough, if not very stimulating, fellows. The term that best characterizes them is “middle class.” They were pretty much the sort one can meet in any American Legion hall, except they were a little more intense — especially when talking about the Communist Conspiracy, which was practically the only thing they talked about.
By the third meeting I attended, my studies on the subject had taken me well beyond the recommended books, and so in all innocence I blurted out: “You know, it’s clear that the reason the Reds are getting such sympathetic press coverage is because so many of the media are owned or controlled by Jews. I think we ought to emphasize the connection between the Jewish founders of Communism and today’s Jewish media bosses in our publications.” One or two of the other members present murmured their assent, but the majority looked decidedly uncomfortable. The chapter coordinator piped up, “No, that’s something we mustn’t talk about.” He pressed a copy of a pamphlet into my hand. “You take this home and read it.”
The pamphlet, written by the founder and leader of the Birch Society himself, Robert Welch, was The Neutralizers. Its message was that the only enemy was “the Conspiracy,” against which all real Americans, regardless of race, color, or creed, should be united. Anyone who raised the race issue or the Jewish issue was probably a Communist agent trying to divide anti-Communist Americans along racial or ethnic lines and thereby “neutralize” them. Certainly, there had been Jews involved in the Conspiracy, he wrote, but there also had been many non-Jews. Furthermore, some Jews were anti-Communists. Therefore, it was wrong to associate Jews with Communism.
After reading The Neutralizers I wrote a long letter to Welch, pointing out that my own studies had convinced me that Jews had much more than an incidental involvement in Communism. In fact, I told him, I was convinced that the real enemy of our people was the Jew, and that Communism was merely one of the weapons that the Jew was using against us at this time. Welch was not impressed by my evidence or my arguments, and the John Birch Society and I parted company.
Today, with Communism receding into irrelevance in most places, the great enemy of the Birch Society has been generalized to “collectivism.” Communism is a form of collectivism, as is any brand of socialism — including, especially, National Socialism. Racism and anti-Semitism also are forms of collectivism. In general, any “ism” which asks the individual to give his loyalty to a collective entity or which deals with other individuals collectively is collectivism and, according to the Birchers, is the greatest of all evils. In their eyes collectivism is the preeminent distinguishing feature of the left, whereas individualism characterizes the right.
Political theory clearly is not the Birchers’ forte. They claim to be patriots, but what could be more collectivist than patriotism?
In the June 24 issue of The New American a Birch writer rails at various “right-wing extremists,” including former National Alliance member Robert Mathews:
From The Turner Diaries Mathews borrowed the concept of an oath-bound subversive underground, organized in autonomous cells, whose mission is to foment a race war. His eager study of neo-Nazi literature led him to develop a passionate attachment to collectivism. In a 1981 speech before a neo-Nazi gathering Mathews urged: “Let us not only preach, let us live racial economics. In [our movement] we are not only eating, breathing, and sleeping, we are growing together as one mind and one body. . . . [W]e know not the meaning of ‘mine,’ it is ‘ours,’ our race, the totality of our people . . . .” While such sentiments are alien to the individualist right, they are quite compatible with the collectivist ethics of the left.
What the Birchers want to demonstrate is that the folks the media and the Clintonistas are denouncing as dangerous “right wing extremists” are not really rightists at all but really are leftists, not only because of their collectivism, but also because of their use of leftist ideas and tactics. Furthermore, the author of the article hints darkly, their real purpose may be to give the Birchers a bad name and implicate them in “extremism.”
To support this point the article quotes from one of my American Dissident Voices broadcasts, in which I predict an escalating cycle of anti-government terrorism and government repression. Says The New American:
What is truly remarkable about this observation from a supposed denizen [Pierce] of the “far right” is its similarity to the strategic vision offered by Marxist theoretician Carlos Marighella in his Mini-Manual for Urban Guerrillas. Terrorists attack innocent people and subvert public order, explained Marighella, in order to provoke governments “to intensify repression. The police roundups, house searches, arrests of innocent people make life unbearable. . . . Rejecting the ‘so-called political solution,’ the urban guerrilla must become more aggressive and violent, resorting without letup to sabotage, terrorism, expropriations, assaults, kidnappings, and executions, heightening the disastrous situation in which the government must act . . . .”
Another interesting parallel between Pierce and Marighella is provided by the description Pierce offers of The Turner Diaries. Contradicting those who say the novel was a blueprint for the Oklahoma bombing, Pierce maintains that the “action in the novel is urban guerrilla warfare” — in other words, the type of subversive violence which Marighella and other Marxists have extolled. . . .
Professor [Brent] Smith [of the University of Alabama, the Birchers’ “expert” on terrorism] sees a remarkable kinship between the Marxist Marighella and the neo-Nazi Pierce: “The similarities between these guys are rather amazing. Both of these guys authored relatively obscure books which have influenced terrorists. Both of them have promoted urban guerrilla warfare conducted by subversives who use the cellular model of organization. They advocate the use of the same violent methods to achieve almost the same political goals.”
Is this a case of the “extreme right” mimicking successful initiatives of the “extreme left,” or is there perhaps a deeper affinity involving conscious deception and agents provocateur? There are precedents which suggest that the latter alternative is a very realistic possibility.
In other words, my theoretical analysis of the dynamics of the interaction between revolutionaries and government in a modern, industrialized and urbanized society has some similarities to the analysis made by the Marxist Marighella. Therefore, Marighella and I must be in bed together. Furthermore, my real aim is to discredit respectable right wingers: i.e., the Birchers. Otherwise, why would I write books that cause the media and the government to say nasty things about right wingers?
Are the Birchers really that obtuse?
Probably not. The thing to understand about the Birchers is that they are characterized more by their social situation than by ideology. They are quintessentially bourgeois. There can be no doubt that they genuinely loathe and fear Communism, although their anti-Communism has different motivations from mine. They hate Communism because of its levelling tendency: because it is a threat to property and social status, not because it is a threat to the race.
Their generalization of their anti-Communism to anti-collectivism is flawed, as noted above, because it denies them the patriot status which they also claim. Certainly, many Birchers really are patriots — in the old-fashioned, geographical-nationalist sense, in which any featherless biped born north of the Rio Grande and south of the 49th parallel or duly “naturalized” is a fellow countryman — instead of doctrinaire individualists. But hyperindividualism — the doctrine that the individual owes no loyalty to any entity beyond himself and that he should judge every other person only as an individual and disregard group characteristics — does suit a great many Birchers, especially those in leading positions in the organization.
Thus, there are Birchers who really do prefer the company of wealthy Jews and Blacks to working-class Whites, despite the fact that the organization is virtually all White and Gentile — except for a handful of Jewish writers associated with Birch publications and two or three showcase Black conservatives. Most Birchers in arguing the race problem will offer the undeniable fact that there are decent, hard-working Black families with clean, well-behaved children who make better neighbors than some trashy, welfare Whites with undisciplined children, and they will consider that that fact settles the argument. In other words, their mental horizons simply do not extend beyond individualism: they do not concern themselves with the race-wide implications of issues, because only the personal, individual implications are meaningful to them.
It would be a mistake, however, to predict on the basis of ideology alone what position the Birch Society is likely to take on a given issue. The average Bircher will never take a position that is likely to get him drummed out of the country club in disgrace, regardless of ideological considerations. The Birchers customarily bend ideology to suit the needs of fashion.
For example, Birch ideology is as unequivocally pro-Second Amendment as it is anti-Communist, but the almost universal Jewish opposition to the Second Amendment makes the average Bircher no more leery of Jews generally than does the Jewish role in Communism. A couple of years ago a recruiting advertisement for the Birch Society in The New American headed “Stick to Your Guns!” was pointed out to me. The ad presented the Society as a supporter of the American’s right to keep and bear arms, but instead of criticizing Congressman Schumer or Senator Feinstein for their support of anti-gun legislation it took a swing at Adolf Hitler with the statement: “Hitler required gun permits for all but Nazi officials. The German people were disarmed and were unable to oppose the Nazis.”
I wrote to the editor of The New American to correct his error. Among others my letter contained the paragraph:
The National Socialist government of Adolf Hitler required most German citizens to obtain a permit before purchasing a handgun. No permits were required for rifles or shotguns. The National Socialist law requiring a permit to purchase a handgun was actually an amelioration of a law which had been enacted by a predecessor government. Many German citizens took advantage of their right to purchase firearms and bought both handguns and long guns in substantial numbers during the Hitler period. The German people were not disarmed by Hitler’s National Socialist government; they kept their personal firearms until they were disarmed by the democrat/Communist Allies in 1945.
I sent the editor a complimentary copy of my documentary book, Gun Control in Germany, 1928-1945, along with the letter. I received no acknowledgment in return, and the Birch Society continues to parrot its line about Hitler being a gun grabber. It’s not really important to the Birchers that National Socialist Germany was militantly anti-Communist and supported its citizens’ right to armed self-defense, or that there were fewer “collectivist” demands on the individual German under Hitler than there are on the individual American under Clinton: what is important to them is not suffering the fate of Marge Schott by saying anything nice about Hitler or anything critical of Jews.
More than that, the Birchers are so desperate to be “respectable” that they spend half their time distancing themselves from those “extremist” patriots who believe that the time has come to do more than write polite letters to Congress — which is why the Oklahoma City bombing has been such a nightmare for them. The Birchers really believe that it is possible to save America from “the Conspiracy” without jeopardizing either their bank accounts or their country club memberships, if those awful right-wing extremists — who are probably leftists in disguise trying to embarrass Birchers — would just go away.
Most of this mind-set is innate, an aspect of the stereotypical bourgeois personality. But just to be sure that the rank-and-file Birchers are thoroughly “neutralized,” the Birch leadership has declared individualism and anti-collectivism to be the official ideology of the Society.
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Source: National Vanguard magazine, Number 116, August-September 1996