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Staying power : George Lincoln Rockwell’s legacy Maschmann, Sean

Abstract

This paper is an examination of the ideas of George Lincoln Rockwell, the leader of the American Nazi Party from its inception until Rockwell's assassination at the end of the 1960's. Using Rockwell's two major ideological statements - This Time the World (1961) and the subsequent White Power (1968) —this paper traces a fundamental change in Rockwell's thinking which was tied to popular conceptions of race in the United States after the Second World War. Historically, the idea of "whiteness" in American popular imagination was closely linked to being of northern European heritage. Southern Europeans, Catholics and other non-Nordic European Americans were traditionally the object of organized racism in the United States, exemplified by the Protestant Ku Klux Klan. However, as the twentieth century entered its second half, the idea of "whiteness" grew to include all Americans of European and Jewish origin to the extent that such divisions were no longer so meaningful as divisions between "whites" and visible minorities. In the early years of the American Nazi Party, Rockwell believed, like his idol Adolf Hitler, that northern Europeans were the apex of human social, biological and cultural development. In This Time the World, Rockwell again and again expounds on the supposed virtues of the "master race" of fair-skinned and blonde-haired "Nordics." However, given the changing popular perception of "whiteness," Rockwell was out of step with mainstream ideas. By the time he wrote White Power, Rockwell had undergone a radical transformation in his thinking. Inspired directly by the growing Black Power movement, whose radicalism and racially separatist ideas he strongly admired, Rockwell attempted to fashion his racist organization along similar lines. Though the American Nazi Party never had a significant following at any time, Rockwell's importance in the history of radical racism comes from his appropriation of a central feature of radical black nationalism - the idea that all Europeans constitute a "family." Just as differences between African Americans - skin tone in particular - were downplayed in the name of unity by groups such as the Nation of Islam, Rockwell underscored "white" racial unity, and ended his fixation with "Nordic" white superiority. Rockwell was responding both to popular ideas of "whiteness" and also to militant African-American leaders who preached racial unity. His idea of white racial unity remains a cornerstone of the American racist movement as a whole, and has allowed it to grow beyond its narrowly "Nordic" and Protestant origins.

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