Rachel Tabachnick is a PRA research fellow and member of the Public Eye editorial board. She researches the impact of the Religious Right on policy and politics in education, economics, the environment, and foreign policy.
The John Birch Society, Libertarians, and Nullification
Founded in 1958, the John Birch Society (JBS) fiercely opposed the Civil Rights Movement during the 1960s and 1970s. Decades later, the rise of the Tea Party and the ongoing “Ron Paul Revolution” have helped the JBS make a comeback as it attracts young people by re-branding itself as “libertarian.” The organization is a significant force behind promoting the nullification of federal laws, as described in the most recent issue of The Public Eye. The JBS has also helped provide fodder for accusations that President Obama, considered by most Democrats to have governed as a centrist, is a Marxist.
John Birch Society and Opposition to Civil Rights
While many Americans have been puzzled by the use of the term “anti-colonialist” within the context of such accusations, author Claire Conner has helped illuminate the historical and rhetorical linkages among the JBS, opposition to civil rights, anti-Communism, and accusations of anti-colonialism. Her recent book,Wrapped in the Flag, is an autobiographical account of growing up as the daughter of two of the organization’s earliest and most dedicated members. (See an interview with Conner by Theo Anderson, editor of The Public Eye.) Conner’s descriptions of the JBS’ opposition to the Civil Rights Movement are further supported by many primary sources, including the JBS’ own media campaigns. Examples include pamphlets republished as advertisements in newspapers in the mid-1960s, in which the Civil Rights Movement is described as a communist conspiracy to form a “Negro Soviet Republic,” as well as a pamphlet written by a member of the JBS National Council most famously known as the father of the Koch brothers. Both publications are described below:
“WHAT’S WRONG WITH CIVIL RIGHTS?”
The first example of the JBS campaign to oppose the Civil Rights Movement is an advertisement in the October 31, 1965 issue of the Palm Beach Post titled, “The John Birch Society Asks: What’s Wrong With Civil Rights?”
The half-page advertisement begins with the statement that nothing is wrong with civil rights, just with the Civil Rights Movement. According to the JBS, it constituted a communist plot to build a “Negro Soviet Republic” in the United States.
The Average American Negro
The “average American Negro,” according to the JBS in 1965, “has complete freedom of religion, freedom of movement, and freedom to run his own life as he pleases.”Moreover, “The pursuit of happiness enjoyed by the average American Negro has been far superior to that of any race or any people among at least ninety percent of the earth’s population.”
The ad continues, “So what is all the complaining about?” The problem, according to the JBS, is that communist agitators are beginning to see the results from “patiently building up to this present stage for more than forty years.”The reader is informed that this Soviet strategy in the U.S. is a continuation of anti-colonialism fermented by communists in Africa and Asia and conducted by those who have no interest in civil rights. According to the John Birch Society, both the push for civil rights in the U.S. and anti-colonialist activism in Africa and Asia are a communist plot to destroy all that is good and holy—namely, capitalism.
Big Lie of Anti-Colonialism
The advertisement then seeks to expose the “big-lie” of anti-colonialism: “Its specific core of falsehood has been that the colonial peoples of Asia and Africa wanted and deserved their ‘independence’ from the nations of Europe which were oppressing and exploiting them. Actually, by 1926, the French in Indochina or Algeria, the Dutch in Indonesia, the Belgian in the Congo, and other ‘imperialistic’ powers, were giving their colonial subjects a very enlightened and benevolent rule.”
The next step in this communist plot, as stated in the ad, is the formation of a “Negro Soviet Republic” in the U.S. that would include the major cities of the South. JBS claimed this to be the real intent of American civil rights leaders. The ad continues, “A careful study quickly reveals that every part of the civil rights program has been designed, and is being carried forward, as a step in the Communist strategy for these purposes. And the current leaders of the nationwide civil rights campaign have such extensive records of affiliating with Communists, of being guided, trained, and supported by Communists, and of themselves supporting Communists agents and causes, as to make their real purposes as obvious a sunrise to anybody who will simply use honestly the intelligence that God gave him.”
American Negroes Don’t Want Civil Rights
The JBS authors close by stating that “American Negroes as a whole” did not plan this or want this and and “are no bigger dupes in yielding to the propaganda and coercion of the comsymps among them, than are the white people in the United States in swallowing the portions of that propaganda which are labeled idealism. “Comsymps” was JBS shorthand for communist sympathizers.
Across the bottom of the half-page ad is marketing of other JBS pamplets and books through American Opinion publishing, including It’s Very Simple and New York: Communist Terror in the Streets, both by Alan Stang. Stang published many works through the John Birch Society’s American Media, and also wrote widely on Christian Reconstructionism. Stang was a contributor to the Gary North-edited The Theology of Christian Resistance, one of many examples of the overlap between the JBS and theocratic Christian Reconstructionism.
If You Like Ron Paul, You’re Going to Love the John Birch Society
Stang passed away in 2009 and was eulogized in the pages of the JBS’ New American magazine. Yet other 1960s-era JBS leaders are again leading the charge in a contemporary state’s rights projects: nullification. Leaders who were involved with the organization in the 1960s include its current president, John McManus. McManus was the surprise guest speaker at the Ron Paul Rally for the Republic, the counter-rally to the Republican National Convention in 2008. In his remarks, he told the audience, “If you like Ron Paul, you’re going to love the John Birch Society.”
– See more at: http://www.politicalresearch.org/2014/01/21/the-john-birch-societys-anti-civil-rights-campaign-of-the-1960s-and-its-relevance-today/#sthash.aB5kDPPN.dpuf