An entry for Ephraim Ben Raphael's An Examination of Extra-Universal Systems of Government:[link]
Another crapsack world courtesy of yours truly.
“My grandfather really did believe in the Second Revolution.” Margaret Bristol handed me a faded black-and-white photograph of a young man, grinning into the camera and holding a pistol proudly. The man wore a tattered, mismatched US Army uniform with a black armband. “I remember him telling me over and over again that things would change on the mainland. He really believed that. He was an optimist until the day he died.”
Miss Bristol continued to describe her grandfather, one Colonel Conrad Miller of the 2nd Texas Regiment, in between sips of iced coffee. The conversation drew several eavesdroppers, mostly the local Mexicans who were interested in the history of their hostile northern neighbor.
“Freedom. Individualism. Liberty. Those were the slogans of the day. Whenever I watch the news, I see the same words on the black and red banners of the Liberty Party. I wonder sometimes if those words ever meant anything to them.”
I ask Margaret who “they” were.
“The Party, of course. I don’t think Chairman Ackerson really believed, of course, but sometimes I wonder how many of his followers are truly loyal to him and how many are just afraid to speak out.”
Margaret looks back at the picture of Colonel Miller.
“He was a patriot. That word doesn’t mean much in America now but that was the core of his identity. He loved his country and the principles it was founded on. He fought for it, bled for it. After he left, I don’t think he ever let himself see how irreparably wrong the system has become. He wouldn’t have been able to take it.”
I wait a while before asking Miss Bristol a hard question.
“I don’t blame him. I can’t. It was a scary time. Between the stock market, the gangs, Comrade Thälmann in Berlin and Marshal Stalin in the Soviet Union, everyone was scared. Libertism offered a way out of the mess. Nobody knew, except maybe Ackerson, how things would play out.”
The American Confederation was founded by Liberty Party chairman Wilbert Lee "Pappy" O'Daniel in 1947 after the Second American Civil War (known as the Second Revolution by Americans both inside and outside the Confederation). During the first half of the 20th century, the United States of America was suffering from what was called the Great Depression. The Depression began with the 1929 Stock Market crash and continued on for most of the 1930s. American president Franklin Delano Roosevelt attempted to counteract the Depression with his New Deal programs. Although the economy had been making progress, in 1937 the second phase of the Depression began.
In 1941, O'Daniel, believing that his Southern Democrats made too many concessions to the New Dealers, founded the Liberty Party on the principles of small government, states’ rights and Constitutional guarantees. At first, the Party only succeeded in siphoning off votes from the Democrats and Republicans, although its populist appeal helped O'Daniel in defeating Democrat Lyndon Johnson for Senator. In an attempt to become more visible as an anti-government party, the Libertists began to adopt various portions of Ayn Rand’s objectivism, even if Rand denounced the Party from the beginning and fled when they won the Civil War.
By 1942, the economy was at its worst and the Roosevelt administration began trying to implement more stringent policies, causing much dismay among the conservative coalition of Republicans and Southern Democrats. Whether or not the government could have counteracted the Depression as it had before is unknown, as Congressional deadlock over the issues of the New Deal and the Second Sino-Japanese War prevented the federal government from doing much of anything. As the people lost faith in the New Deal, more and more conservatives filled Congress. Meanwhile, the economy was still declining and futures uncertain, giving people little reason to invest in anything. Unemployment rates were higher than they ever were in American history and soup lines grew longer by the day. Even the military was on edge, with many veterans of the Great War demanding pay the government could not provide.
By late 1943, the US government attempted to seize gold from banks around the country, so it could lend the gold to investors as many banks refused to lend anything in order to keep what little they have for any customers they have left. Contrary to Libertist propaganda, this was not a first resort move by a malevolent administration, as the US government’s attempts to adopt a fiat currency system were blocked by the Supreme Court and hiking up taxes was blocked by the conservative coalition.
The banks would not stand for this “robbery” and began a mass transfer of their assets overseas. Mirroring the illegal whiskey trade during the days of Prohibition, gold flowed out of the country, instead promising their customers their own gold-backed bank notes. Banks bribed local and state officials to look the other way, and Prohibition-era gangs jumped into the new gold smuggling business and regained substantial power. The Mexican and Cuban governments, the prime recipients of American gold in the south, began to serve as safe havens for criminals on the run. City streets slowly turned into chaos as gangs and federal agents fought it out and corrupt cops gamed the system.
The mass exodus of gold out of the country destroyed the value of the dollar, and the growing chaos made many businesses leave the country altogether. Extremist organizations, growing in power thanks to the widespread disaffection, benefited from the chaos and communists, socialists, anarchists and libertists filled the streets and tried to assert their own political ideology over various communities. The Liberty Party founded its own military organization, the Minutemen, to fight in street battles against “enemies of the Second Revolution.” These Minutemen were little more than gangsters under the Party payroll. In Washington, both sides played the blame game for the quickly degenerating situation. The military was caught between duty and family: they could only get paid by following orders, but what the government could pay was quickly losing value. When President Roosevelt finally died in 1944, the federal government was tearing at the seams.
By early 1945, the country was in a state of all-out civil war. The Canadians were sending pro-federal peacekeepers south of the border while Britain was busy dealing with Stalin. Many in the US military deserted, refusing to fight their own countrymen, or sided with the better-paying counterfederals. Some generals became de facto warlords and enforced their own authority over various cities. O'Daniel left the Senate and began to lead the Liberty Party and its Minutemen. By late 1945, the civil war spilled over into Canada proper via the actions of various warlords. Most of the British Dominion’s forces were busy fighting against the communists in Europe, a key factor in Canada’s eventual defeat.
For most of the Civil War, the Liberty Party was only a force in the South and Southwest, where it sided with the banks and was bolstered by Mexican funds. Its lack of power projection and regional strength made it impractical for federal forces to focus on. It was only in the middle of 1945 that the Liberty Party began to march northward, aligning itself with secessionist organizations, local gangsters and dissatisfied military personnel, mopping up federal forces exhausted from fighting other groups. In some instances, the Libertists sided with the federals against communist and socialist groups. The Libertists had popular support in most of the country, as they presented themselves as the party of the people and the defender of the small man against big government. By 1947, the federals were on their last legs and fleeing to Hawaii.
The American Confederation was officially formed on August 7, 1947. A new Constitution, one that severely weakened the central government, was drafted and passed by the new government. Presidential elections were no longer decided by the electoral college, but by the governors of each state. The federal tax was banned by Constitutional amendment, both an attempt to live up to the Libertist ideal and to attract American businesses that had fled the country during the war. The democratic system was kept intact, but voting was left up to the established Liberty Party representatives as the situation was deemed too chaotic to allow elections at the moment. Instead, O'Daniel led the Reconstruction effort as Chairman of the Liberty Party, the de facto leader of the new Confederation. The Minutemen were converted from a militia to a security force to fight against “communist and federal conspiracy.”
Although the war was over, the Confederation’s problems were far from gone. Many institutions the old government provided were in disrepair or had gone completely, and the Libertists debated on whether providing the new federal government the power to reestablish them was a good idea. State governments bickered over the new responsibilities given to them and competed both with the new federal government and each other. Criminal enterprises flourished during the war and the Libertist government had little power or ability to stop them. Although some business returned to America, many were still unsure about the stability of the new regime and stayed away. The economy was in an even worse state than before the war and many were unemployed, and the government debated over whether or not to put these people to work through the same New Deal programs they had opposed for years. In 1949, O'Daniel relented and passed legislation that allowed limited public works.
Eventually, the inner conflict became ideological in nature. The moderate Libertists opposed the radical Randist faction (which proposed extreme legislation such as the banning of religion) and the more traditional conservative groups of the old conservative coalition in a three-way struggle. When Chairman O'Daniel died of food poisoning in 1953, a loose coalition of Democrats, Republicans and the Minutemen arose to block the Randists from taking power. Minuteman leader Gerard Benedetti, an Italian mob boss turned military commander during the war, took advantage of this rivalry and ordered hits on Randist politicians. At the same time, he built up an image of the Minutemen as the protector of the Confederation, organizing publicity stunts to build public support for his organization. To achieve this, he aligned himself with the young propagandist Stanley Ackerson, his eventual successor as Chairman of the Liberty Party.
Benedetti would seize the position of Chairman on June 6th, 1954, when he produced a “lost” last will and testament of Chairman O'Daniel naming him the next Chairman. In an effort to look legitimate, the Presidency was given to the Republican Robert A. Taft, although the position was in truth powerless through the use of Minuteman muscle. Benedetti’s political opponents attempted to remove him by legal means, but Benedetti held no legal office in the Confederation and he was too powerful to be arrested for any crimes he may have committed. Many of his opponents publically admitted that they were counterrevolutionaries and needed to be punished. Others had accidents and were never heard of again. In the name of safety from communist and counterrevolutionary plots, the Constitution was consistently amended so that more and more measures could be taken by the central government. Speaking out against the Party or Chairman was counterrevolutionary and antidemocratic, and these men the Confederation could do without. In the name of freedom, the Minutemen patrol the streets on the lookout for suspicious characters. By the time of his death in 1984, Benedetti had established one of the most effective police states in the world.
“We see this same phenomenon over and over again.” Scott Barber, a political science professor at the University of Cambridge tells me. “Stalin’s Soviet Union, Thälmann’s Europe, Mao’s China. It seems that any extremist revolution, whether on the left or on the right, goes down the road of totalitarianism.”
I ask him why he thinks this.
“There are many factors to take into account. The normalization of violence during the revolutionary period, for example, is a big one. But personally I think the biggest reason is idealism. The leaders convince the people that the idea behind the state is more important than anything else. Once that is ingrained in the people’s consciousness, the state is permitted to do anything.”