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On June 29-30 the League of the South will holds its annual conference in Wetumpka, Alabama. As the date approaches, it is useful to note several recent developments in the southern white nationalist group’s goals and strategies.

In light of recent setbacks for white nationalists, the new direction for the League could have an effect across the movement nationally. As its recent history indicates, this change in direction has in part been influenced by the attempted return of longtime national socialist David Duke to the top of the organized racist heap.

From the Conference to the Streets

The first transformation in the League of the South has been a shift from being a conference-oriented “intellectual” group led by professors and cultural figures to a street activist group.

As IREHR’s Leonard Zeskind wrote last year, the group was founded in 1994 as an “educational institute dedicated to defending Confederate symbols and promoting the South’s current right to secede” –similar to Jared Taylor’s American Renaissance in this respect. As Zeskind noted, it had since become “more activist-oriented, and developed a following among younger men and women with a taste for rougher politics.”

League of the South President Michael Hill had announced such a new direction as early as the group’s 2003 national conference:

“As a prelude to independence, which is still our ultimate goal…the League is going to dedicate itself now to the preservation and advancement of our people and our place. And as a result we’re going to start protesting in the streets against… immigration…against all the injustices against our people.” APPLAUSE “And if you’re not ready for the fight, you can leave now. otherwise you better put on your fighting shoes, because we are no longer simply going to identify the problem, we’re going to attack it…If you wanna do something, I’d love for you to go kick the enemy around a little bit and then come to me and say ‘look what we’ve done’ instead of coming and saying ‘may we do this?’ In other words, I want you to show some individual initiative…But let me tell you this, I could not wait for this year’s conference to get up and be able to tell you of this new direction we’re gonna take. And it’s gonna scare some people off, but we are going to get in the face of our enemies. And we are going to apply the Nathan Bedford Forest strategy.”

The last sentence refers to the Reconstruction-era leader of the Ku Klux Klan.

League of the South President Michael Hill

In line with this direction, in 2015 the group held 27 rallies, some targeting immigrants and promoting secession, but most centered on defense of Confederate symbols. Subsequently, the group promoted a Secession Petition; sponsored a Tallahassee, Florida billboard declaring “Secede;” demonstrated against U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Lindsey Graham’s (R-SC) support for amnesty for undocumented immigrants; issued statement’s defending anti-gay bigot Phil Robertson and calling for a boycott of A&E for suspending his Duck Dynasty reality TV show; and held anti-immigrant demonstrations in Tennessee and Georgia, among other activities.

The group’s on-street efforts have been met with an online indication of its following. As of late 2017 the national group had some 7,441 Facebook “likes” while 21 state and sub-state chapters had gained a total of 11,636 “likes.”

In 2016, Michael Hill took League activism to a new level, helping form the white nationalist coalition known as the Nationalist Front. The League of the South joined with the National Socialist Movement, the Traditionalist Worker Party and Vanguard America – all national socialist organizations.



Through this coalitional alliance, the League of the South played a lead role in the August 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia – an event that saw James Alex Fields, once photographed in Vanguard America garb, charged with second degree murder for allegedly driving his vehicle into a crowd of anti-fascist protesters and killing Heather Heyer. The group also organized a follow-up “White Lives Matter” rally with its Nationalist Front allies in Shelbyville, Tennessee in October 2017.

The League’s move toward activism pressed Michael Hill to explain these changes to members. In an August 2017 statement on working with “hard right groups in the Nationalist Front which are not Southern in character or by geography,” Hill stressed that “Just because we lend some support to one another in areas of common interest does not necessarily mean that we endorse them or their particular beliefs, nor they us or ours…Open cooperation with other groups on the hard right can be to our benefit, and we shall continue to pursue those opportunities to cooperate with them.”

Accompanying its rising activism, the League of the South underwent an ideological radicalization – i.e., became more openly racist and anti-Semitic. As Hill explained in an April 2018 “note to my critics,”

“Yes, we have radicalized by openly and directly addressing the Negro (and general dark-skinned) Question and the Jew Question. We are de facto and openly professed White/Southern nationalists, meaning that we seek to restore the South to the dominance of the White man and to make it our own ethnostate for our posterity. And because most Southerners (particularly evangelical Christians) are still reluctant to take to the streets to defend their civilization, we have made alliances with other radicals who are willing to stand with us in public.”

Unlike his days as a national socialist “mainstreamer,” David Duke had stressed the need for such an ideological radicalization – particularly the importance of open anti-Semitism – in the lead up to his appearance at a joint American Freedom Party (AFP)-Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC) conference held near Burns, Tennessee on June 15-17. Duke had also pressed this point at the League’s 2017 national conference. The League of the South’s Michael Hill spoke at AFP-CCC conference and several League members were reported in attendance. AFP director James Edwards is scheduled to speak at the upcoming League of the South event along with a host of regional League leaders.

From Secession to the Whole White World

In recent years, the League of the South also transformed from a strictly secessionist organization to a group that seeks to join league with a transnational white nationalism that aims to claim the south, the United States and Europe for white people. By all evidence, this change has been influenced by the League’s relationship with longtime national socialist David Duke as well as its interactions with a new crop of white nationalist organizations.

Duke spoke at the League’s 2017 conference and an April 2018 League event “honoring” the former Knights of the Ku Klux Klan leader. He is also slated to speak at the group’s upcoming conference.

From its inception, the League of the South stressed “southern independence,” i.e., secession. Describing the 1994 “Secession Conference” that led to its formation, League president Michael Hill recounts telling the 40 attendees,

“Everyone who favors forming an organization dedicated to Southern independence, line up against the wall to my left. Now, everyone who favors forming an organization to reform the current U.S. system line up against the wall to my right.”

Twenty-seven went left. Thirteen went right and eventually drifted away. The League was formed, Hill reading a statement of purpose inspired by a note passed to him at lunch by paleo-conservative Clyde Wilson: “The Southern League…We seek to advance the cultural, social, economic, and political well-being and independence of the Southern people by all honorable means.”

Over the years, the League remained true to this vision. “The League’s goal is the survival and well-being of the Southern people. We believe secession – and independence is the best way to achieve that goal,” Hill wrote in 2014. “The League of the South does not advocate the overthrow of the government of the United States; rather, we wish to leave peaceably and form our own country (or countries), as the people of the South shall freely decide.” Hill rejected Tea Party reformism, criticizing the far right movement’s “America First” politics and electioneering as “reinforcing the proposition…that Southerners are the United States. But the point of Southern nationalism is not that the U.S. acts wrongly, but that it is a foreign power occupying Southern soil.”

Hill even rejected basing Southern Nationalism on the U.S. Constitution, asking “why would Southern nationalism define itself around the Constitution for the very country it is attempting to secede from?” Rather, Hill called for state nullification and the possible mobilization of the state militia (not the national guard “which can be ‘federalized’”).  While Hill might see allies in rural areas of the Midwest and Mountain West, the mantra of secession was repeated time and again through 2016 – the goal was secession, not reforming or overthrowing the U.S. government in total.

In 2017, when Arkansas League of the South leader R.G. Miller stepped to the podium at the group’s annual conference, this vision seemed intact – even if adapted to recent movement developments. The bearded mid-20s Miller addressed a topic of growing internal importance for the neo-Confederate movement: “the relationship between southern nationalism and the broader alt-right.” Characterizing the “alt-right” as a collection of “opposition right-wing entities” converged around opposition to globalism, many rallying around Donald Trump’s “nationalist polices,” Miller stressed,

We are not the international nationalism, the right-wing, the alt-right…We are southern nationalists. Our goal is not to create a name and a place for each nation, or even for each white nation on earth, free from undue influence and control by foreign players. We are for the southern people. Our own people…[The] U.S. based alt-right have a much more universal and theoretical vision – some, so-called white ethno-state, a renewed and demographically stable American republic, or whatever. This isn’t our vision.” Miller added that, “we don’t have as our ultimate end and goal the destruction of the current system.” (italics added)

Arkansas League Leader R.G. Miller: “We are not the international nationalism”

Miller, however, counseled attendees that “southern nationalism is a member of the international political alignment…of nationalism against globalism.” He warned that the aim of “keep[ing] company only with those with which they do not have a strong disagreement…has locked southern nationalists out of much of our public society in the past years.” Miller called for a strategic alliance with the “alt-right,” but stressed that,

“The furthering of southern interests must take preeminence in any action we take, and in our relationship with any other nationalists, and the alt-right…There is only one final question, when it finally boils down to it. It is not whether southern nationalists support the alt-right, but whether the alt-right supports the ends and the goals of southern nationalism…But we will ally with them if they advance our interests in reality and substance.”

Miller cited the defense of the Confederate flag and monuments as an area for potential alliance.

Just such a vision had informed the League’s alliance with national socialists in the Nationalist Front, an entity which declared that,

“We believe in the creation of a Federation of White states within the ethno-state, bonded together by blood in the model of the Articles of Confederation. This will allow movements of different religious or ideological differences to establish a place for themselves within the new ethno-state while still retaining our racial loyalty to one another within the same shared ethno-state.”

Modeled as it is on the Articles of Confederation, this vison fit both the desire of such national socialists to organize on an America-wide basis and the goal of regional autonomy promoted by the League of the South. A devotion to the Articles of Confederation has also been proffered by the Posse Comitatus movement and anti-Indian activists such as John Fleming.

The keynote speaker at the League’s 2017 conference personified the “international nationalism” that Miller had rejected. He was a “universal white nationalist” who seeks a “much more universal and theoretical vision – some, so-called ethno-state.”

He was longtime national socialist David Duke.

In contrast to Miller, Duke offered,

“The first thing that I will say to my fellow southern nationalists, and white nationalists, is that there is no south, there’s no southern nationalism without preserving the white race.”  APPLAUSE. “There is no America, there’s no Canada, there’s no Australia, there’s no New Zealand, there’s no UK, there’s no France, there’s no Germany, there’s no Europe without preserving the European people – that’s what we’re fighting for.” APPLAUSE “We’re not giving up and we’re not running off to the Northwest. We’re gonna take this country back! There’s no freedom until we take out the tyrants who’ve taken over their country.” APPLAUSE. “And we’re not gonna stop at the Tennessee, or Kentucky, or Maryland border.”

In addition to contradicting Miller’s south-first vision, Duke dismissed those varieties “running off to the Northwest,” such neo-Nazi Harold Covington’s Northwest Front. Instead, Duke pressed for transnational white nationalist cooperation and declared that “I am no longer content with just trying to kick the Yankees and the Jews out of the south……And we are not even gonna just fight for the south, and our own brothers in the south – we’re gonna fight for our white brothers in the north, and the west, and we’re not gonna stop until all of America is free again!! All of America!!” (italics added)

David Duke – International White Nationalist

By February 2018, Michael Hill had embraced David Duke’s transnational project, sounding much more like Miller’s dreaded “international nationalist” than the strictly secessionist neo-Confederate of 1994. In a League of the South “Statement on Southern/White Nationalism,” Hill wrote,

“I am a Southern nationalist (SN). I am a proud White man. I suppose that also makes me a White nationalist. So in reality I am a Southern/White nationalist. What does this mean? We Southern nationalists in The League see our fellow SNs as brothers and sisters, part of a nuclear biological/genetic kith and kin family that shares a common cultural and geographic—and sometimes ethnic—background…But we dare not isolate ourselves and ignore the plight of our White cousins elsewhere—in other States, Canada, Europe, southern Africa, Australia, New Zealand…[W]e ought to seek them out as allies, supporters, and often as actual members…We should elicit their support and even their membership in our organization if they show a willingness to serve the primary cause we serve: the survival, well-being, and independence of the Southern people.

By fighting to preserve the blood and soil South and her people, we are indirectly serving the cause of a larger White nationalism. The South is likely to be ground zero in the battle for the very survival of our race. Much of Europe seems already lost, at least for the time being, as do other regions of North America. Only in the South is there the residue and remembrance of recent resistance to the anti-Christian globalist order. Over the past 150 years traditional Southerners have fought harder than anyone else against the poison of equality, multiculturalism, and leftist ideas of diversity and tolerance. And we still fight today.

But we do not fight only for ourselves; rather, we fight to aid in the re-establishment of a White hegemony over all the lands we have inherited from our noble and courageous ancestors. Once we make the South White Man’s Land once again, we must use it as a base from which to reconquer all that our people have lost, especially in the remainder of North America and in Europe. Our enemies must be completely deprived of any footholds or bridgeheads in our territory lest they use them to renew their attacks against us and our posterity” (italics added).

In this spirit, following Traditionalist Worker Party (TWP) leader Matthew Heimbach’s arrest on domestic violence-related charges, Michael Hill wrote, “We pray for Mr. Heimbach and his family in these difficult times…Moreover, The League extends an offer to those former TWP members who are looking for another nationalist home in the wake this sad development. We will gladly welcome you into our ranks as League members.”

While Hill still appealed to the goal of “independence of the Southern people,” his end game had shifted. The League of the South had embraced Duke’s transnational white nationalism, seeing the south “as a base from which to reconquer all that our people have lost, especially in the remainder of North America and in Europe.”

Toward a “Cultural Vanguard”

If the League had moved from the conference hall to the streets, and expanded its ultimate aim from just the south to the entire U.S. and Europe, it has also undergone strategic organizing changes. These changes developed in response to repeated confrontations between white nationalists and anti-fascists in places like Berkeley and Charlottesville, as well as recent setbacks by white nationalists on and off college campuses – including Kyle Bristow’s exit from the Foundation for the Marketplace of Ideas; national socialist Matthew Heimbach’s potential jail time on domestic violence charges; National Policy Institute leader Richard Spencer re-thinking his campus strategy; and other leaders of the Charlottesville event becoming mired in legal conflicts – including the League of the South itself, which in March settled a lawsuit by agreeing not to engage in further armed demonstrations in Charlottesville.

In late 2017 a new strategy for the group was articulated by the its Public Relations Chief Brad Griffin – aka, Hunter Wallace of the white nationalist Occidental Dissent. In articles responding to the fallout from Charlottesville, and media coverage of the open racism and penchant for violence displayed at white nationalist events, Griffin articulated a call for a “Cultural Vanguardism.” In a description linked from the League of the South website, Griffin rejected both “mainstreaming” and “stupid vanguardism” – the former involving racists watering down their message to gain a broad electoral constituency; the latter “retreating to a rural area to await the demise of civilization or taking up arms and attempting to overthrow the US government.”

Brad Griffin, aka “Hunter Wallace”

Rather, Griffin argued that “Cultural change happens when 10 percent of the population comes to hold an unshakable belief.” To garner such a constituency, Griffin stressed that the movement must “Create a polarizing social media spectacle” to “attract the angry, alienated, disaffected and disillusioned and organize them into a cultural vanguard.” This involved continuing to hold “conferences, public rallies, private social events, cultural events, [and] speaking engagements”- including events at which Confederate and even Nazi flags would be allowed and guns displayed. Strategically, however, Griffin announced that “We aren’t safe in leftwing strongholds” like Berkeley or Charlottesville, but “there’s no reason why we can’t just avoid those places and continue to hold public events. Also, if we want to hold rallies in leftwing cities like Charlottesville, flash rallies are safer and preferable.”

In March 2018 the League of the South carried out perhaps its first event under the aegis of the cultural vanguard strategy. Some 35-45 members held an unannounced rally in Knoxville, Tennessee. As one attendee described, they aimed to hold a demonstration “with no prior announcement, no permits, and hopefully no overwhelming or oppressive police reaction.” The aim was to “actually interface with the general public and pass out some of our literature. Of course local chapters of the League have often done this on an even smaller scale, however this time there would be uniforms, flags and banners…Approximately two dozen of us lined the street at Wall Ave., while some of our group marched with their Confederate and Southern Nationalist flags back and forth around the square from Union Ave…we passed out literature, meeting more than a few friendly faces, and…there was not one protester.”

League of the South, Knoxville, Tennessee, March 2018

Despite Griffin’s rejection of “stupid vanguardism,” the League of the South has coupled paramilitarism to its newfound “cultural vanguardism.” In February 2017 the group began recruiting for a “Southern Defense Force,” invoking the need to oppose antifa and Blacks Lives Matter activists and calling on a body of “able-bodied, traditionalist Southern men to join our organization’s Southern Defense Force for the purpose of helping our State and local magistrates across Dixie combat this growing leftist menace to our historic Christian civilization.” Members would offer themselves as deputies to “local and State authorities,” and “As a League member, you will have opportunities to increase your proficiency with hand-to-hand defense skills, firearms training (both pistols and long weapons), and other related skills. Also, you will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with other Southern warriors in an organization dedicated to the survival, well-being, and independence of the Southern people.”

Dovetailing the “cultural vanguard” approach, the League of the South is attempting to gain recruits disaffected by the lack of a vigorous response against Confederate monument removal by “heritage groups” such as the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV).  While Hill notes that some early League members belonged to SCV, he wrote in 2016 that, “Unlike the various heritage organizations that are under the thumb of the feds because of their tax-exempt status, the League is free to pursue cultural, social, economic and political goals.” In his 2017 speech at the League’s conference, R.G. Milller elaborated that,

“We don’t need to spend any more time pulling and tugging with anyone in the heritage crowd over how being southern is going to be defined. Those days are done. Ever since the Dylann Roof incident in Charleston there is no way to be respectable in U.S. society and defend southern heritage. The leadership of the SCV…has stepped out of the public square as we have seen time and time again, such as the defense of our monuments in New Orleans. They are cowards by the way.” APPLAUSE. “Anyone who publicly defends southern heritage in the present day and in the future is going to be defined by the southern nationalist hard line, whether they like that or not. The rainbow confederacy was never real and never could be in the first place.” APPLAUSE

In his own 2017 League speech, David Duke stated that, “I’ve got a lot of friends in the SCV too, over the years. A lot of them voted for me. But I hate to say it, and…the average SCV person’s a great guy, but something’s wrong with their leadership,” because they told people not to vote for Duke “because he’s a racist.”

By radicalizing its white nationalist message, targeting areas where anti-fascist opposition is scant, and pressing a vision compatible with nation-wide organizing, the League of the South could affect white nationalist strategy beyond Dixie. Anti-fascists and those who support democracy may need to shift their own strategies to meet this new challenge.

Chuck Tanner

Author Chuck Tanner

Chuck Tanner is an Advisory Board member and researcher for the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights. He lives in Washington State where he researches and works to counter white nationalism and the anti-Indian and other far right social movements.

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