Revolution #258, February 5, 2012

Newt Gingrich and the
Genocidal General Andrew Jackson

Editors’ note: The following article from a reader notes how Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich cited Andrew Jackson as a model, and then delves into the role that Jackson played in America’s bloody history. While we are not able here to analyze the Gingrich phenomenon in any depth, it should be noted that he is playing a particularly vicious role in the Republican presidential primaries and the overall climate of official politics. He has spewed out, on national media, blatant racist talk: declaring that Black people should “demand paychecks and not food stamps,” that Black kids should be put to work as school janitors because “they have no habit of working,” that Palestinians are an “invented” people, and so on. There’s also his arrogant bully posturing that exudes white privilege, and violent rhetoric about killing America’s enemies.

The promotion of Gingrich as a “legitimate” contender to be the Republican presidential candidate reflects the fascistic direction of American society that is being pushed by significant sections of the U.S. capitalist-imperialist ruling class, and that others at the top think should at least be a major “theme” in this “election year.” Whatever happens with Gingrich’s candidacy, it has already served to further legitimize this poison in the mainstream discourse and energize the white chauvinist hard-core base of the Republican Party.

The focus on Gingrich also serves as a way to channel people who are becoming increasingly disillusioned with Obama back into the camp of the Democrats and electoral politics. The deadly logic in operation is that the most “realistic” way to oppose extremists like Gingrich is to get behind someone like Obama who tries to find a “middle ground,” even as he continues systematic oppression in terms of policy (for example, the mass incarceration of Black and Latino people, especially youth)—as opposed to working to overturn this whole system that was founded on slavery and genocide, and that continues to fuel and feed on the kind of racist shit coming out of Gingrich.

From a reader:

At last week’s GOP “debate” in South Carolina, Newt Gingrich brought up the specter of Andrew Jackson as a model of someone who had a good “idea about America’s enemies: kill them.” The fascist social base in the room, and in U.S. society, cheered. This was a blood-curdling moment for anyone who knows American history. It was an open celebration of genocide as clear and loud as any that has been issued from this pack of hyenas that are government officials and presidential candidates.

Andrew Jackson is well known as the “extermination president”—particularly of Native Americans and Black people. The symbolism of such racist vitriol being spewed in South Carolina, where the U.S. civil war began, should not be missed.

In his well-researched historical account, American Uprising: The Untold Story of America’s Largest Slave Revolt, author Daniel Rasmussen has a brief but damning segment about Andrew Jackson. He tells of an abandoned British garrison that had become a safe haven for freed slaves called Prospect Bluff with about 300 Black men, women and children:

General Jackson saw the presence of these armed free blacks just sixty miles away from the American border as a terrible danger, even though these people had given no indication of aggressive intentions. “I have little doubt of the fact that this fort has been established by some villains for the purpose of rapine and plunder, and that it ought to be blown up, regardless of the ground on which it stands,” he wrote to his commander. (p. 184)

And blow it up was just what Andrew Jackson did in July of 1815, instantly slaughtering 273 of the occupants and injuring another 60. The survivors were re-enslaved. There’s more:

To Jackson, free black people were necessarily “stolen negroes” and slavery was the only suitable place for them in America.... Jackson, in direct violation of international law, began a series of violent military and paramilitary cross-border expeditions. His illegal gallivants culminated in 1818, when his armies stormed through Florida to wipe out the remaining Native American tribes and capture escaped slaves. When the Spanish governor of Pensacola protested that Jackson’s invasion was illegal and threatened to expel him from Spanish territory, Jackson simply invaded Pensacola. (p. 185)

James Monroe, U.S. president at the time, said that Spain’s control of Florida was “a relic of the past, a figment of maps and treaties but no longer of reality,” with the border between the U.S. and Spanish Florida being “an imaginary line in the woods.” This is the history of that supposed immutable U.S. border that is brutally fortified today against Mexican and other immigrants. And there’s still more as captured by Rasmussen:

In 1828, Jackson ... was the nation’s most celebrated killer of Native Americans, known for subjugation of the Creek Indians, his subsequent crushing of the Seminoles, and finally his elimination of the Spanish presence in Florida and conquest of that territory for the United States. [That year he] was elected to the nation’s highest office. As president, Jackson presided over one of the most notorious episodes in American history: the Indian Removal of 1830. (p. 184)

The Indian Removal is aptly called the Trail of Tears (and I would add of Blood). It’s all part of U.S. history leading up to the civil war. The implications need to be fully confronted where a proven mass murderer like Andrew Jackson is being emulated by Gingrich and sections of U.S. society and ruling circles. Where was the condemnation from Obama? If you think the ruling class of BOTH parties are not FULLY aware of this history and imagery, you are being played for a fool. To paraphrase Malcolm X, the power structure knows what they are doing, given how long they’ve been doing it.

This bloodlust by Gingrich had me go re-read the pamphlet by Bob Avakian,The Coming Civil War and Repolarization for Revolution in the Present Era. In the piece by the same title, about the 2004 elections, he said:

Just to be clear, I didn’t choose this title lightly or facetiously, but in all seriousness. In speaking to “a coming civil war” I am “drawing inspiration” from Newt Gingrich... who made the observation that what’s happening now in the electoral arena and the broader things that it reflects in U.S. society is analogous to what was going on in the U.S. in the 1840s and the 1850s, and that this isn’t something that will go away. It will only be decided when one side or the other wins out. While, obviously, we don’t take at face value things that representatives of the ruling class say, we do have to think seriously about this, and I do think that this reflects—through the prism of Gingrich’s own point of view, it does reflect a very profound reality. (p. 6)

I think this essay and the entire pamphlet by Avakian is as timely and relevant to the 2012 elections as it was to the one in 2004, and recommend it for all thinking and reality-based people to ponder on what is unfolding in the current elections, including the trap of relying on the liberal wing of the ruling class (aka Democratic Party) to get us out of this. Instead, there is real urgent work to build the movement for revolution.  

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