‘The Turner Diaries’ – William Luther Pierce 

IMG_0192Contemporary literary culture has little acceptance for novels that outright condone a race war between White and minority populations. Neither did the 1978 canon, as White Nationalist leader William Luther Pierce’s, alias Andrew Macdonald, novel The Turner Diaries failed to make The New York Times’ Best Seller list. In fact, the book was only available by mail-order (through Pierce’s National Alliance magazine) until Lyle Stuart had it re-published in 1997. The F.B.I. declared the novel as the ‘Bible of the Racist Right’ and allegedly served as the ‘blueprint’ for the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1991. Now there is speculation that the novel was an influence on Dylann Roof’s massacre of nine people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina. In an effort to understand the literature behind the pathology, Living with Literature decided to review The Turner Diaries.

The Turner Diaries opens in the year 2099. Author Andrew Macdonald informs readers it is the centennial of the Great Revolution. A century prior, a White-supremacist militia, known as ‘The Order’, took control of world power and ousted any and every minority. The Introduction concludes with the publication of the recently discovered diary of Earl Turner, a  guerrilla fighter in the Great Revolution. What follows is a journalistic chronicle of ‘The Order’ and their fight against the “liberal-Zionist” government known as ‘The System’.

When approaching an ideological-driven novel like The Turner Diaries, it is important to investigate the roots underpinning the motivation. In this case, what elements fuel the prejudice. To Earl Turner, and by proxy William Pierce, Blacks, Asians, and Hispanics are unsavory ancillary components of a base cause. That is, as professed at length in the novel, Judaism and the Israeli state. The diary-structured manifesto argues that Jews condone race mixing and thus can be guilted for nearly every ill plaguing the United States and Western society.

“And is that not key to the whole problem? The corruption of our people by the Jewish-liberal-democratic-equalitarian plague which afflicts us is more clearly manifested in our soft-mindedness, our unwillingness to recognize the harder realities of life, than in anything else.”
While followers of Judaism and Zionism are attributed fundamental blame, the Diaries slanders America’s Black and Hispanic population for quotidian crimes. In the mind of Turner and Pierce, if an interracial relationship occurs, it is undoubtedly against the will of a (predominately female) caucasian. The lack of prohibition against these ‘crimes’, the author argues, is as much a consequence of the ‘liberal Zionist agenda'(e.g.’Cohen anti-gun bill’) as the White population’s fear of being labeled a ‘racist’:

“I have been surprised to see how callous our volunteer Blacks are toward their own people. Some of the older Blacks, who haven’t been able to fend for themselves, are obviously near the point of death and starvation and dehydration, yet our volunteers handle them so roughly and pack them so tightly into the cars that it makes me flinch to watch them. When one overloaded Cadillac started onto the eastbound freeway with a lurch this morning, an ancient Negro lost his grip and fell off the roof, landing headfirst on the pavement and crushing his skull like an egg. The Blacks who had just loaded the car roared with laughter; it was apparently the funniest thing they’ve seen in a long time.”

The most intriguing feature of The Turner Diaries is the representation of the past. Like in this world, history has heavily effected the alternative future of the novel. There is little surprise that Turner and Pierce believe Nazi genocide in the 1940’s was a noble cause. However, this ignores many of the other conspiratorial and complex elements cited in the novel’s neofascist historical lens. This misunderstanding of history by the general public, the novel argues, is precisely what Pierece and followers of the movement feel legitimize their convictions and ambitions for various forms of ‘re-education’:

“But it was immediately apparent to the Revolutionary Command – and it soon became apparent to everyone else – that a new element had entered the picture. From our contacts inside one of the Federal police agencies we learned that our people are being killed by two groups: a special Israeli assassination squad and an assortment of Mafia ‘hit men’ under contract to the government of Israel. Where both these groups are concerned, U.S police have been given a hands off order by the FBI. (Note to the reader: The Mafia was a criminal confederation composed primarily of Italians and Siclians but usually masterminded by Jews, which flourished in the United States in the eight decades prior to the Great Revolution. There were several half-hearted government efforts to stamp out the Mafia during this period, but the unrestricted capitalism then flourshing provided ideal conditions for large-scale , organized crime and its concomitant political corruption. The Mafia remained in existence until virtually all its membmers – more than 8,000 men – were rounded up and executed in a single, massive operation by the Organization during the mopping-up period which followed the Revolution.)”

The difficultly with The Turner Diaries is categorization. Despite the alternative future, it does not read like a science fiction novel. Nor is it ‘dystopian’, as that leads the reader to believe there is a protagonist whom beats the injustice or becomes a maytr during the attempt. Instead, Pierce conceives a blueprint on how to achieve his vision of utopia. While politically opposite, the pyschological passages in ‘The Turner Diaries’ correspond most with the wildly influential pan-Africanist advocate writer Frantz Fanon. One supposes the most appropriate label for this vein of writing would be ‘racially-conscious’ literature.

The Turner Diaries
has been condemned by the Anti-Defamation League, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and many others. Author and Dr. William Luther Pierce has likewise been a persona non grata since leaving his Oregon State University teaching post in the 1970’s to become an outspoken white supremacist. This is, as contemporary culture deems, as it should be. In fact, most readers cringe and cower at the idea of reading such a vitriolic, yet undoubtedly important novel. However, for a culture supposedly so entrenched in socially-progressive initiatives, at least relative to genocide-supporting neofascists, why is there a fear of investigating the designated enemy? This is not a call for compulsory reading of The Turner Diaries. Or The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Or any other neofascist literature. Rather, it is a call for social awareness to rationally and intellectually reckon with deeply-rooted prejudice as a way to, hopefully, prevent future tragedy.

Burmese Days – George Orwell (1934)

0108_Burmese_days__Penguin_book_cover_-_1969_with_borderThese days the term Orwellian is overused and almost without meaning. So much so that conspiracy-minded thinkers could develop a theory that the term has acquired mainstream usage and thus dissuades further investigation into authoritarian political action. Nevertheless, the term Orwellian was not born with the publication of 1984. Nor should the radical politics and writings of George Orwell be solely subject to the contemporary news cycle. So, in an effort to better understand the man and etymology behind the term Orwellian, Living with Literature is looking at Orwell’s first novel, Burmese Days.

Burmese Days examines British imperialism in the Burmese town of Kyauktada. The story centers around the lonely English expat John Flory and the nasty domestic politics which ensnare him. While power is predominately designated to the ruling British, a corrupt local Burman named U Po Kyin seeks to aggrandize his personal authority within the country’s existing bureaucratic structure.. His method? Pit the virulently racist British in Burma against Flory and the growing Nationalist movement that he (unassumingly) represents. Ironic and paradoxical? Yes, but so is the world of Burma under British rule.

The most obvious characteristic in Burmese Days is the transparency in Orwell’s motives of criticism and themes. Empire. Imperialism. Power structure. The characters in the novel are important, yes, but in the same way chess pieces are important to the player. Orwell, who spent five years as a police officer in Burma, translates this reality without regard for nationality or personal association:

“Since then, each year had been lonelier and more bitter than the last. What was at the centre of all his thoughts now, and what poisoned everything, was the ever bitterer hatred of the atmosphere of imperialism in which he lived. For as his brain developed — you cannot stop your brain from developing, and it is one of the late tragedies of the half-educated that they develop late, when they are already committed to some wrong way of life — he had grasped the truth about the English and their Empire. The Indian Empire is a despotism – benevolent, no doubt, but still a despotism with theft as the final object. And as to the English of the East, the ‘sahiblog’, Flory had come so to hate them from living in their society, that he was quite incapable of being fair to them.

In one of the (highly recommended) Arena episodes chronicling Orwell’s life, a friend mentions that while the writer despised imperialism, he saw it as a necessary evil to educate primitive cultures. An argument can be made to substantiate that such sentiments were had. However, such a thesis is still too elementary to detail Orwell’s understanding and vicarious connection with native Burman life. While the friend continues to detail the writer’s problem with ‘ridicule from Buddhist monks’, passages in Burmese Days illustrate such conflicts were unavoidable as a result of imperialism — and that the culture can be appreciated despite of them:

“‘I knew this would interest you; that’s why I brought you here. You’ve read books and been in civilized places, you’re not like the rest of us miserable savages here. Don’t you just think this is worth watching, in its queer way? Just look at that girl’s movements — look at that strange, bent-forward pose like a marionette and the way her arms twist from the elbow like a cobra rising to strike. It’s grotesque, it’s even ugly with a sort of willful ugliness. And theres something sinister in it too. Theres a touch of the diabolical in all Mongols. And yet when you look closely, what art, what centuries of culture you can see behind it! Every movement that girl makes has been studied and handed down through innumerable generations. Whenever you look closely at the art of these Eastern peoples you can see that – a civilization stretching back and back, practically the same, into times when we were dressed in a woad. In some way that I can’t define to you, the whole life and spirit of Burma is summed up in the way that girl twists her arms. When you see her you can see the rice fields, the villages under the teak trees, the pagodas, the priests in their yellow robes, the buffaloes swimming the rivers in the early morning, Thibaw’s palace.'”

What Orwell obviously understands is power. Whether it be from his English home or as a Burmese transplant, how to achieve and keep control over others is his grand thesis in Burmese Days and (from what I’ve read) his other literature. As many have read in 1984 and Animal Farm, it is not through kind motives that such control is implemented. Rather, in Orwell’s view, it is through fear and manipulation:

“U Po Kyin had even sent one of his anonymous letters to Mrs. Lackersteen, for he knew the power of European women. Dr. Veraswami, the letter said, was inciting the natives to abduct and rape the European women – no details were given, nor were they needed. U Po Kyin had touched Mrs. Lackersteen’s weak spot. To her mind the words ‘sedition’, ‘Nationalism’, ‘rebellion’, ‘Home Rule’, conveyed one thing and one only, and that was a picture of herself being raped by a procession of jet-black coolies with rolling white eyeballs. It was a thought that kept her awake at night sometimes. Whatever good regard the European might once have had for the doctor was crumbling rapidly.”


Labeling an act as Orwellian is, of course, citing an example of arbitrary power. However, contemporary usage forgets the depth of the man behind the label. Orwell did not simply see and describe dystopian socialist worlds as a malignant display of power. Rather an accurate use of Orwellian would encompass the entire scope of social injustice, from individual to institution, the bad as well as the good. Anything else is a rewriting of biography.

‘1919’ – John Dos Passos

livro-1919-john-dos-passos-21201-MLB20206812462_122014-OThe second installment of John Dos Passos’ U.S.A trilogy is a world apart from its predecessor. Or, well, an ocean apart. 1919 moves from away the 42nd Parallel‘s rambunctious pre-war American landscape to post-World War I Europe. It is expected to be a time of peace. However, as echoed by various characters in the 1919, “If you thought the War was bad, wait until the Peace.”

While the narrative setting in 1919 has changed, Dos Passos’ intoxicating Modernist style has not. Or, as I like to call it, his “lighting prose”. Dos Passos exceptionally synthesizes individual experience with the then-contemporary cultural atmosphere. While this skill is prevalent in the previous book, the author has matured for a more concise presentation in 1919. Some wonder if Dos Passos actually shared the “historically correct” racial slurs of his characters. Knowing his deeply Leftist sentiments, I find it doubtful. Nevertheless, this atmospheric rendering not only stands as an entertaining historical artifact, but one without any painfully archaic feeling:

“Nedda wouldn’t get undressed, but wanted to see Joe’s money. Joe didn’t have any money, so he brought out the silk stockings. She looked worried and shook her head, but she was darn pretty and had big black eyes and Joe wanted it bad and yelled for Charley and Charley came up the stairs and talked wop to the girl and said sure she’d take the silk stockings and wasn’t America the greatest country in the world and tutti aleati and Presidente Veelson big man for Italia. But the girl wouldn’t go ahead until they’d gotten ahold of the old woman who was in the kitchen, who came wheezing up the stairs and felt the stockings, and musta said they were real silk and worth money, because the girl put her arms around Joe’s neck and Charley said, ‘Sure, pard, she sleepa with you all night, maka love good.'”

Another noticeable improvement in 1919 is the Camera Eye sections. These stream-of-consciousness interludes were undoubtedly the most underdeveloped portions in The 42nd Parallel; even if they were enjoyable and, as many believe, autobiographical. Some blogs, so incensed by the Camera Eye sections, even decry the narrative intrusions as a reason to remove the U.S.A. trilogy from the Canon. In 1919, while the prose remains irreverent, the vision becomes vicarious. The subject is the reality of World War I and the horrors of mustard gas and trench warfare — which any high school graduate knows about. Not to mention, Dos Passos also tackles the nefarious Versailles Peace Treaty that laid the groundwork for World War II. These sections, undboutedly, illuminate readers on why 1919 is labeled the most “anti-war” of the trilogy:

“[R]emembering the gray crooked fingers the thick drip of blood off the canvas the bubbling when the lungcases try to breathe the muddy scraps of flesh you in the ambulance alive and haul out the dead”

I have yet to read The Big Money, the final installment of U.S.A., but hear that Dos Passos noticeably pivots to the political Right. Many credit this ideological shift to the contradictory actions of the Communists in the Spanish Civil War; specifically the murder of José Robles (which irrevocably broke the friendship of Dos and Hemingway). Dos Passos was also turned off by the lockstep adherence of American Leftists to Soviet policy — even under Stalin. Nevertheless, 1919 sees Dos Passos at his farthest Left. Like the anti-war Camera Eye sections, a rigorous strain of pacifism is obvious in the writing. Dos Passos is unequivocally blunt in his sentiments that war is encouraged by potential profiteers (e.g. munitions dealers) and the conflict’s victims are, inevitably, “the working class“:

“Joe got to talking with two guys from Chicago who were drinking whiskey with beer chasers. They said this wartalk was a lot of bushwa propaganda and that if working stiffs stopped working in munitions factories making shells to knock other working stiffs’ blocks off with, there wouldn’t be no goddamn war. Joe said they were goddam right but look at the big money you made. The guys from Chicago said they’d been working in a munitions factory themselves but they were through, goddam it, and that if the working stiffs made a few easy dollars it meant that the war profiteers were making easy millions. They said the Russians had the right idea, make a revolution and shoot the goddam profiteers and that ‘ud happen in this country they didn’t watch out and a damn good thing too. The barkeep leaned across the bar and said they’d oughtn’t talk thataway, folks ‘ud take “em for German spies.”

Opinion on 1919 remains divided. This is the usual consensus on every middle piece of a trilogy, as the narrative is neither a beginning nor an ending. However, middle pieces, especially in the case of U.S.A., are an integral part of the narrative and authorial tapestry.

Dos Passos’ sharp turn against Soviet Communism and its long tentacles seeking to control the American Left would seriously affect his writing. The author’s reaction and political re-alignment was so fierce that he penned op-eds against Roosevelt’s New Deal actions and, eventually, wrote for arch-conservative Bill Buckley’s National Review. This monumental transformation was occurring while Dos Passos’ penned the second installment of U.S.A. and it would permeate throughout the rest of his literature. In fact, many believe that after The Big Money, the author had lost his imagination.

Thus, the importance of this particular middle piece, 1919, is a radical confronting his optimistic idealism for Soviet Communism with the increasingly horrific execution by Stalin (pun heavily intended). And that makes for good literature.