Book Write-Up: It’s Very Simple, by Alan Stang

Alan Stang. It’s Very Simple: The True Story of Civil Rights. Western Islands, 1965. See here to purchase the book.

Alan Stang wrote for the ultra-conservative John Birch Society. It’s Very Simple, published in 1965, is a criticism of the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement.

Some items:

A. Stang quotes American Communist documents that indicate a desire for black self-determination, which is similar to the self-determination of other colonized people in the world. Self-determination essentially means, in this context, that African-Americans are to be their own nation, which is to be located in the urban areas where they dwell. That sounds like separatism. Stang engages the question of how one can reconcile this vision with the Civil Right’s Movement’s aspiration for racial integration. What he seems to suggest is that the Communists hope that black national consciousness will develop as a result of the African-American push for integration. But there are other competing visions, as well. Stang quotes passages in which Communists desire a focus on class rather than race, and he interprets Martin Luther King, Jr.’s newfound focus on class issues in light of that; this appears to contradict black separatism. Stang also highlights Black Muslims’ mockery of integration, and he treats the Black Muslims, too, as part of a Communist conspiracy. If there is a conspiracy, it is obviously not monolithic.

B. Stang argues that Communists and Communist sympathizers have prominent positions in the American Civil Rights Movement. He bases their identify as Communists, in part, on FBI research and testimony that ex-Communists have made to the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Participation in numerous Communist fronts, like the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, is also a strike against them. Stang is also concerned about Black Muslims’ rapprochement with Communism, as Malcolm X meets with leftists in Cairo, seeks to build bridges with Red China, and expresses hope that the Communist-dominated UN will intervene in American racial conflicts and stop white racist oppression.

C. As they have done in other nations they have sought to take over, Stang argues, Communists instigate violence. They provoke riots, and Martin Luther King, the apostle of non-violence, is in coalition with people in the Civil Rights Movement who advocate violence and unlawful disruption. Stang speculates, though, that the Communists are not just agitating for violence on the African-American side, but also on the white conservative side, as well, as that brings more sympathy to the Civil Rights Movement. Stang cites an example of how Communists infiltrated a right-wing movement in Russia prior to the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, and he thinks that Communists, likewise, may have instigated the bombing of African-American churches in the South, as well as police brutality. Stang is slightly inconsistent about the Communists’ M.O., though. On the one hand, he seems to argue that Communists have no problem with violence, for they have shown themselves to be a brutal people. On the other hand, in arguing that the bombing of Carl and Anne Braden’s house (or, more accurately, the house in which they moved an African-American family) may have been by Communists rather than white racists, he notes that no one was killed by the bombing as a possible indication that it was staged. Stang’s argument is slightly difficult to accept. Why would Martin Luther King want to bomb his own home? Stang never explicitly says that he would, but he eventually does seem to treat King as an active, high-ranking member of the Communist conspiracy (after initially equivocating about how in-the-know King is), and, if Communists are in the business of bombing houses, what other conclusions could one reach?

D. Stang is critical of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, seeing that as oppressive federal overreach and as suppressive of individual rights to private property and even free speech (since, according to Stang, a provision against agitating for racial hatred could be applied to crack down on people who write letters to the editor against racial integration). Stang also is critical of the Great Society, as he argues that Communists run divisions of it and encourage agitation (i.e., rent strikes) and African-American militancy. What does Stang think should be done about race relations in the United States? He believes the solution is capitalism, which has made even the poor in America richer than most people throughout the world, and which rewards the industrious, regardless of race.

E. Stang talks about the alliance between the Nation of Islam and George Lincoln Rockwell of the American Nazi Party. He refers to this within the context of talking about Communist infiltration of right-wing movements. One area in which the two are united is in their opposition to Jews, but Stang wonders if they may find common ground on other areas as well. Stang quotes Rockwell’s publication, which acknowledges that blacks have received a raw deal and endorses foreign aid. That surprised me, since Rockwell speaks against foreign aid in some of his writings.

F. An interesting feature of Stang’s book is when he quotes mainstream American media and academic assessment of Castro and the Communists in China. Essentially, they initially held that Castro and the Chinese Communists were different from the Soviet Communists in their ideology and approach, and Stang’s argument is that they turned out to be incorrect in their assessment. Maybe he is right, but the different flavors and nuances of Communism intrigued me. Another interesting discussion in this book was the history of the Nation of Islam.

This book is not always an easy read, especially when Stang alternates between events in the U.S. and acts of Communist instigation and revolution in other countries. It is well-documented, though. As far as Stang’s argument goes, I cannot blow off the Civil Rights Movement as a Communist front, especially when it was standing against real acts of oppression and humiliation of people on account of their race, as well as broader issues such as poverty. Stang’s confidence in capitalism as a solution is not totally unfounded, but his argument could have been stronger had he fleshed out how to bring free markets to the inner-city and if he argued that racial segregation laws in the South were themselves statist and suppressive of individual rights.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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