Blood in the Face is a book and movie combo about white supremacy under the direction of James Ridgeway, who writes for the Village Voice in New York City.
The book covers general trends in white supremacy over the last century, while the movie documents a single white supremacist conference held in rural Michigan in 1990. Between the two, the creators paint a sketchy picture of these movements which offers a lot of good information but not much understanding of the roots of racism, national oppression and the material basis for fascism in Amerika.
Taking something of a zoo-goer's approach, these efforts tend to look at the masses of white supremacists as alienated deviants, manipulated and duped by greater powers. According to this romantic (and common) view, working class whites don't benefit from white supremacy, but are themselves victims of it.
For example, the book emphasizes the leadership of powerful monopolists such as Henry Ford, who was the "main publicist" of Jewish conspiracy theories in the 1920s. Ridgeway quotes Adolf Hitler as saying, "I wish I could send some of my shock troops to Chicago and other big American cities to help in the elections ... We look to Heinrich Ford as the leader of the growing fascist movement in America...... (p.43)
Although Ridgeway & Co. place too much emphasis on the demagogic leaders of white supremacist movements, they correctly warn of the increasing tendency toward openly fascist organization among white workers, most of them originally "normal" people, not freaks.
One Nazi tool-and-die worker from a Michigan auto Plant tells the filmmakers: "We're just common people, working class people, everyday all-American people ... and we've realized that the only thing we've got to thank for the position we're in is our white culture, and we're not going to let it be destroyed by any sub-human trash."
Theoretician Bob Miles--a former Republican party leader, insurance executive, and official in the George Wallace presidential campaign in 1968 (p. 22)-- explains in the Film that white supremacist converts "will come from the working class, and that's where our strength is even today. When we had 2,000 members of the Klan in Michigan back in 1970, the bulk of our people came out of the auto factories ... that's not the upper class, that's the working class."
The book includes a fairly complete genealogy of supremacist groups going back to the original KKK, which, although useful, serves to create an artificially sharp distinction between the open white supremacists and the mainstream of Amerikan politics.
George Wallace was "pro-labor" for white people, and the Southern white working class supported him almost entirely. He won 77% of all working class votes in Birmingham, Alabama in the 1968 election. (That support was echoed by David Duke followers in last year's governor's race in Louisiana.) The failure of white industrial unions in the South is in fact largely due to the national leadership's shift toward integrationism during the Civil Rights Movement(1)
When the Montgomery carpenters' union in 1956 erected a gallows in the city's downtown, and hung the NAACP in effigy, the structure bore the sign, "Built by Organized Labor."(2)
The effects of openly white supremacist movements on the political mainstream are important, and for that reason it's not useless to document the groups and leaders Ridgeway & Co. focus on. Counting 3,000 violent racist incidents between 1980 and 1986--including 138 attempted or successful bombings (p. 24)--is worthwhile, even the producers and writers of Blood in the Face arbitrarily leave out countless acts of police brutality and common exploitation.
Ridgeway does deal with supremacist splits, especially over the issue of "going mainstream" as practiced by Duke. Some supremacists see Duke as a hopeless liberal sell-out, while others see his incursion into electoral politics as good strategy.
The relationship between openly fascist groups and mainstream politics is usually ignored. In the mid-1920s there were 3-4 million Klan members.(p.34) Now there are less. But is white supremacy any weaker? Ask Rodney King. That's the link missing here.
1.Robert J. Norrell, "Labor Trouble: George Wallace and Union Politics in Alabama"; in Robert H. Zieger, ed., Organized Labor in the Twentieth Century South. The University of Tennessee Press: Knoxville, 1991, pp. 266-67
2. Ibid, p 254.
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