Huey Long: a study in populism…and racism

March 27, 2013 at 7:26 pm (Andrew C, Cross-post, Democratic Party, fascism, history, Jim D, Latin America, populism, Racism, United States)

With populism  in the air at home and abroad, our old friend Coatsey draws our attention to this exposé of the horrible (but still supposedly “left”) CounterPunch magazine’s attempt to paint the racist Huey Long as some sort of progressive in the Hugo Chavez mould. Regular readers will know that here at Shiraz we don’t share the prevailing liberal-leftist adulation of el Comandante, but to compare him to the racist Long is simply an insult to Chavez (and a particularly ironic one: see below). It’s time that some leftist idiots realised that anti-capitalist rhetoric does not a socialist make.

Mike Whitney has posted an article on CounterPunch titled Our Chavez: Huey Long. There seems to be an effort in recent years on the part of some people to try to portray the sometime governor of Louisiana and U.S.Senator as a great champion of the people, no doubt because of his anti-capitalist rhetoric. Yet when one takes a closer look at his life, it becomes clear that things were not that simple.

During Long’s lifetime, most of the Left regarded him with deep wariness, if not outright hostility. There were good reasons for that. First of all, he governed Louisiana as a virtual dictator. He even organized a secret police force to keep watch on his opponents as well as on his followers.

Long was also a white supremacist. He maintained Louisisana’s Jim Crow laws. (Long would sometimes smear his opponents by spreading rumors that they had “coffee blood”. This gives a bitter irony to calling him “our Chavez”.) Long’s apologists point out that he didn’t talk about white supremacy in his speeches. This was perhaps because he didn’t need to. In 1935, Roy Wilkins interviewed Long for The Criis. They discussed an anti-lynching bill that Long opposed in the Senate…

Read the full article here


  1. Michael Leuker said,

    This is a ridiculous allegation. Huey Long was a moderate compared to other Southern politicians and rarely engaged in “nigger-baiting”. Black people actually praised him for his reforms that benefited many of them just as much as white women and men.

    Long actually took position against the Ku Klux Klan in the 30s, calling its then leader “… a son of a bitch, and I’m not referring to the circumstances of his birth.” There were allegations that he was a member of the Klan at some point … all lies as it turned out.

    To accuse Long of upholding the Jim Crow laws 30 years before it became even remotely possible to change them shows an appalling ignorance of historical facts. Huey Long did more for black people than anyone could have realistically expected in his time.

    Besides: Who cares about a democracy in which the tables are tilted in favor of the few rich? Does it really matter on how many shoulders the mandate of the people rests as long as their will is enacted? It doesn’t! Our Louisiana-style “democracy” isn’t worth the paper its corrupt statutes are written on and Huey did the right thing to try and dismantle it.

    The end does justify the means after all. Some accuse(d) the Kingfish of thinking “that he was it” and acting accordingly. They narrowly miss the point: He indeed was it and had all the right in the world to act accordingly. Whatever else he was, his primary concern were always the little people. What a few “special sessions” in Congress could have done for them!

    Alas, it was not to be. Huey Long gave his life for the vision of a better, more just future for all people, not just a chosen few.

  2. Jim Denham said,

    Michael: I am all in favour of bearing socio-historic context in mind, when commenting upon past events. However, when you state:

    “Huey Long was a moderate compared to other Southern politicians and rarely engaged in “nigger-baiting”. “…

    …I have to say that the operative words would seem to be “compared to ” and “rarely”.

  3. Michael Leuker said,

    Jim: Thank you very much for your reply! Isnt WP a thing of beauty? On FB it all would long have slipped into oblivion – here I can write an answer 5 months later … The following is taken from the revised comment at “The Spanish Prisoner”:

    You mentioned that “compared to” and “rarely” don’t really disarm the above statements, but isn’t that an “all-or-nothing” argument that confuses the existential with the ethical? Just because we can’t do everything does not mean we can’t do anything, especially in politics. Huey Long sure took Bismarck to heart and saw politics for what it was: The art to do the utmost at a given point. In this context, rather than calling him a racist it would be much more appropriate to see him as an enabler for black people, making gradual change possible without the upheavals of the 60s and 70s.

    Watch the Ken Burns Huey Long documentary if you haven’t yet and take a look at the poor old black man nearly moved to tears when reminiscing about the things Huey did for him and his people, regardless of the color of their skin. Can one who acted ethical in the context of his time truly be called such an ugly word? People have tried to smear Huey Long while he was alive and they had the past 80 years to drag his name and legacy through the dirt. But it is like Gerald L. K. Smith once said: “His greatest recommendation is that we who know him best, love him most.”

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