No nationalist movement can exist without paying heed to the past, the present, and the future. But for many years, The League of the South was criticized, both rightly and wrongly, for “living in the past.”
Let me explain. Those men who formed The League back in 1994 were well versed in history, particularly American and Southern history. Many of them were also members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV), a genealogical society dedicated to defending the reputation of Confederate soldiers and their noble cause. Also, we believed we must make an historic case for the rightness of the South’s cause from 1860-65, particularly the right of secession, and the error of the north’s opposition to Southern independence. We were, in effect, laying a moral and historical foundation for what we wanted to accomplish in our own day: a free and independent South. In my opinion, this was a step that was necessary to get us to the present and future.
But we stayed in that “past” phase of our movement for too long. In fact, by mid-1990s, The League was regularly being called a “heritage organization,” despite the fact that the lion’s share of our publicity had come from our being correctly labeled as a modern day “secession movement” by both the US and European media. Some even saw us as a sort of radicalized version of the SCV.
I have gone back and examined our speeches, articles, publications, and other media for roughly the first ten years of our existence (1994-2004) and they are predominately past-oriented. There were exceptions, of course, many in fact. But we had become mired in the past, at least in the public perception. We were even called “neo-Confederates.”
If The League had an “official” banner during that time, it was the third national flag of the Confederacy. Why? Because it was the last flag that represented the CSA government in 1865. From the start, however, all the League founders realized we were not trying to resurrect the old Confederacy and said so many times. In fact, in the mid-1990s and early years of the current century, I called for a flag design that would be The League’s own, but with very little interest or input and no success. So we kept the third national for lack of a better symbol.
That symbol, along with the battle flag and historic southern banners, is associated more with the 1860s than with today. To escape the perception that we were “neo-Confederates” longing to restore the defunct CSA government and the world of the 19th century South, we were going to have to find ways of changing the public’s perception of us.
In 2004, I began to publicly speak on the fundamental notion of Southern nationalism. That is, I began identifying the Southern nation correctly as the Southern people (whites) and not as a current or defunct political entity. By that time, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) had already designated us a “hate group” largely because of my insistence that we stand for the Anglo-Celtic people of the south and that we defend our historic Christian faith. Therefore, I think it is correct to say that as we began our second decade, we were in the process of becoming a Southern nationalist organization and not a neo-Confederate one.
Now just what is the difference between a Southern nationalist and a neo-Confederate? Simply put, the Southern nationalist believes that his nation—his people—is of fundamental importance. Thus, a Southern nationalist organization should have as its goal the survival, well-being, and independence of the Southern people, what historian Frank L. Owsley called our “Folk.” [Many of you will no doubt recognize the phrase, “the well-being and independence of the Southern people” from The League’s original statement of purpose adopted at the founding.] The neo-Confederate is concerned more with abstractions such as “liberty,” “constitutionalism,” “States rights,” and other political and social theories. He believes that anyone who embraces these propositions can be a neo-Confederate and be at home in the South. He is dedicated to developing a “liberty-based society” for all who choose to live here.
My intention was always for The League to be a Southern nationalist organization; however, it took us ten years to get to that point. The fault for this is entirely mine. If I could go back to the beginning in 1994, I would do many things differently. But you know what they say about hindsight.
Over the last ten years or so—and especially the last four or five—we have become a modern Southern nationalist movement, working in the present and looking confidently to the future. Because of the changes we’ve made, we have become a much younger organization. For this I am pleased because the future belongs to the young. Without them, our movement would die with the passing of the older generation.
As I said at the beginning of this article, a successful nationalist movement cannot exist without a proper balance between past, present, and future. Yes, we now have adopted a Southern nationalist flag—a black St. Andrews cross on a white field—that is The League’s own banner. It is not intended to replace any of our historic Southern/Confederate flags; it is merely our own contribution. It is a symbol that belongs uniquely to us as a Southern nationalist organization.
Now, when we are in the streets or other public venues, standing up for our people, no one is going to confuse us with other groups such as the SCV or the KKK who both tend to use the historic flags. And because we are not a heritage group, this is quite appropriate in my view.
For all our current focus on the present and the future of the south, however, let us not forget the heroes who came before us. They are our blood and we have a duty under the fifth commandment to honor them. Who among us does not marvel at the battlefield exploits of the magnificent Forrest? Who does not admire the steadfast determination of President Davis? Or the sublime legacy of Lee or the stoic courage of Jackson? What Southern man or woman does not get chills at the marvelous Southern nationalist oratory of Rhett or Yancey? Or at the prophetic vision of Dabney and Thornwell? [All of these men, once universally admired, are now, not coincidentally, under attack by the forces of political correctness.] Other inspiring examples exist, not just in the antebellum and war era, but throughout some 400 years of Southern history.
We in The League do not live in the past but the past does live in us. Let us use the past as a guidepost, learning as best we might what to do and what to avoid as we take our Southern nationalist movement through the present and into what can be, with God’s help, a bright and promising future.