On behalf of the New Black Nationalist Network (NBN), welcome to the Timothy Snyder Arguments forum. NBN is a network of vision holders creating political analysis, content, and conceptual models to help rebuild Black Nationalists' intellectual foundations.
For some time, Timothy Snyder has been regarded as a formidable and equally controversial historian of Russian, Eastern, and Central European affairs. NBN shares that view. We initiated the Snyder Arguments to examine how Synder's theory of the present crisis of liberal democracies and the threat of authoritarian rule emerging in America informs our analysis and strategic response to defeat Donald Trump's proto-fascist movement--one that poses an existential threat to the Black Commons.
Since the January 6, Barristers Coup accelerated the destabilization of American Empire and emboldened authoritarian impulses, NBN's thought products emphasizing support for Black self-determination, exit from the American Empire, and creating a majority Black nation-state have increased substantially. This content migration reflects the tenor of the times. NBN is sprinting to ensure our analysis maintains contact with the escalating pace of events that foreshadow 2024 as "The Year of Living Dangerously."
In September 2023, NBN released its seven-part Integrated Battlespace Doctrine assessment. The document articulates strategic options for the Black Commons to derail Trump's regime change project in league with Republican Party insurrectionists, white nationalist militias, FOX News, and hard-right financiers like Peter Theil. Should Trump lose the 2024 presidential race, his contingency plans to overthrow the government by the force of arms must be defeated.
The Timothy Snyder Arguments explore a discreet set of his writings in the following three areas.
The Nation State & Empire
Racial Conflict: Timothy Snyder and Frantz Fanon
Authoritarianism and Fascism
Professor Snyder first surfaced on NBN's political grid during our readings to adopt Fanonism as our guiding philosophical system. Snyder referenced Fanon's decolonial theory to illustrate the ontological relationship between Russia and Ukraine as one between subjects and objects, the colonizer and the colonized.
He has amassed a thick body of work on authoritarian movements, the first and second globalizations of the twentieth century, crisis theory, and governance theories of capitalist, fascist, and communist systems.
Snyder's depth of scholarship traverses this spectrum of interconnected issues. Thus, NBN can interrogate multiple lines of inquiry within a singular and coherent analytical framework. In as much as NBN's thought documents address most of these issues on our website, we have an archive of reference points to develop comparative and supplementary analyses.
Equally important, Snyder shares NBN's sense of urgency that an activist and intellectual intervention is needed to arrest the Trump-inspired authoritarian surge in the United States.
Snyder's 2018 publication of The Road to Unfreedom warned Russia's strain of authoritarianism that metastasized across Western Europe before making landfall in Donald Trump's administration could lead to the triumph of fascism.
Three years later, Oath Keeper mercenaries in military kit, Proud Boys street thugs, and QAnon cult members led by a face-painted, fur-cloaked shaman wearing a piqued helmet with horns attacked the U.S. Capitol. When the assault ended, it was clear the spectacle of medieval hand-to-hand combat was orchestrated as part of a sprawling forward strategy of Trump's Barristers Coup Plot to halt the Electoral College certification vote. In his book On Tyranny, Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, Snyder reminded us,
"It is hard to subvert a rule-of-law- state without lawyers or to hold show trials without judges. Lawyers were vastly overrepresented among the commanders of the Einsatzgruppen, the special task forces who carried out the mass murder of Jews, Gypsies, Polish elites, communists, the handicapped and others."
Snyder's penchant for detail and nuance on one hand and big-picture thinking on the other is compelling. The Barrister's Coup was more than a test run of Trump's authoritarian designs to capture American Empire. It nearly succeeded. Thus, anti-authoritarian forces committed to defeating Trump's regime change project must seriously grapple with its lessons. Few historians match Synder's scholarship chronicling the rise, rule, and fall of fascist enterprises, including Trump's efforts to establish a Midnight Kingdom of Retribution.
Over the coming weeks and months, the Timothy Snyder Arguments will critique a number of Synder's published articles and three major works: Thinking the Twentieth Century - Tony Judt and Timothy Snyder (2012), Tyranny, Twenty Lessons from Twentieth Century (2017), and The Road to Unfreedom (2018).
In the following section NBN briefly backgrounds and frames the three central issues the Timothy Snyder Arguments will address. Bullet points are provided to identify our areas of interest and issues we either concur or disagree with Professor Snyder. Individual page links for the three issues and other subjects that may be added in the future.
On the Nation-State
--The Arguments proceed from the standpoint that Professor Snyder rejects the premise that a distinct Black nation or Black "national minority" exists in the United States. We assume Snyder offers no definitive view on Black self-determination or some form of political or cultural autonomy.
--NBN concurs with Snyder that "nation-states work well is a myth," and that most major European nations began as empires before they were nation-states.
--As a small nation-state or independent city-state that would emerge out of American Empire's collapse, NBN accepts the proposition that the Vesey Republic will not exist as a fully sovereign state. The republic will have to enter into economic and military relations that in some respects will likely compromise our national interests.
Vesey's National Divorce Reparations Plan proposes the equitable division of America's resources, land, assets, debts, military armaments, and weapons systems. Vesey's Charter of Rights balances individual rights and freedoms with the Common's collective welfare and charts a transitional New Humanist path evolving toward a non-heteropatriarchal society.
--NBN also argues that self-determination does not have to be exercised solely in the form of creating a nation-state, nor does such a state have to be located in the Black Belt South, as defined by the 1928, 6th Comintern Resolution. In majority Black U.S. cities, the creation of independent-city states and majority Black enclaves choosing to become Black-led autonomous regions of larger sovereign entities also constitute affirmative forms of self-determination. For example, we can foresee the creation of an Black majority-led autonomous region of an independent republic of California (Calexit).
--New Black Nationalists emphasize America's character as an empire from its inception to the present more so than its character as an "imperialist" power in its final stage of capitalism as theorized by Lenin at the turn of the twentieth century.
The exigencies of empire fueled Britain and America's demand for African slaves. The needs of empire spurred the transformation of vast stretches of stolen land in the Western Hemisphere from its pristine ecosystem to an agro-system, and the development of racialized social and economic systems embodied in the plantation. These factors contributed to the development of a distinct Black nation within American Empire's metropole as Martin R. Delaney argued in 1852, in the following passage,
"There have in all ages, in almost every nation, existed a nation within a nation--a people who although forming a part and parcel of the population. ...Such then are the Poles in Russia, the Hungarians in Australia, the Scotch, Irish, and Welsh in the United Kingdom...Such are the conditions of various classes in Europe; yes, nations, for centuries within nations... And however unfavorable their condition, there is none more so than that of the colored people of the United States."
--Going forward, NBN will also submit commentary on Frantz Fanon's writings about nation-building and the integration of African and Caribbean nations into wider federations. Fanon's articles in Algeria's National Liberation Front El Moudjahid newspaper while living in exile in Tunisia acknowledged the need for these newly independent nation-states to regionalize their militaries and economies to help break the yoke of neo-colonialism.
Snyder on Race and Frantz Fanon
--Commenting on the war between Russia and Ukraine in Unfreedom, Snyder states,
"When you’re faced with a war of destruction, then, naturally, you’re in an existential situation, which means the only way towards peace is victory. However, in response to Trump's growing white nationalist movement in the United States, Snyder states, "To avoid the temptation of eternity, we must address our own particular problems, beginning with inequality, with timely public policy. To make American politics an eternity of racial conflict is to allow economic inequality to worsen. ...America will have both forms of equality, racial and economic, or it will have neither. If it has neither, eternity politics will prevail, racial oligarchy will emerge, and American democracy will come to a close."
--New Black Nationalists don't question the sincerity of Snyder's call for the United States to initiate sustainable policies to reduce disparities in income and racial inequality. We question its practicality. Simply put, it's not going to happen. The Black Commons hasn't the time nor the luxury to entertain fanciful thinking. America has the highest income disparity gap of any G-7 country and continues to trend in that direction. Likewise, laws promoting racial equality and voting rights are increasingly being struck down in the predominantly Republican Red States and the Supreme Court's Lateran Council.
--New Black Nationalists further argue that Snyder's ideal society could only be pursued through two options. First, in a Democrat/Social Democrat-led nation-state created through a National Divorce separation between Red States and Blue States in which Blacks play an outsized leadership role. Second, through the creation of a majority Black-led multi-racial nation state or polity such as the Vesey Republic.
--Snyder's statement characterizes Ukraine's relationship with Russia as "existential" and requires them to "fight to victory" to achieve peace. Conversely, Snyder urges the pursuit of a public policy track concerning racial and economic policy to undermine and dissipate Trump's authoritarian and white nationalist appeal. NBN concedes there is a qualitative difference in America's circumstances edging toward the precipice of a constitutional crisis, and Ukraine and Russia being engaged in a hot war.
Nevertheless, Snyder does not take the position that Trump's MAGA forces constitute an existential threat to the Black Commons. We do. NBN's Battlespace assessment proposes and integrated strategy that encourages the Black Commons to plus-up our communities' armed self-defense capability.
At the same time, Battlespace recommends a political strategy for grassroots Black Democrats to assert their dominant bloc voting power to oust Joe Biden as the presumptive presidential nominee. Biden is a weak candidate and can be beaten by Trump. The first option to forestall the imposition of an America Apartheid authoritarian regime is to elect the strongest candidate to beat Trump or any other Republican nominee in 2024.
--NBN believes Snyder accepts universal aspects of Fanon's decolonial theory regarding the struggle between subject and object in Ukraine's war with Russia--a conflict NBN regards as a war for Ukrainian national liberation against an imperialist Russian hegemon.
That said, NBN contends Synder fails to grasp the consuming power of race in America that is the bond intensifying agent solidifying the MAGA movement. Snyder sublimates the strategic targeting of the Black Commons as the principal internal security threat to Trump's American Apartheid project. In effect, he lumps the Black Commons into the general categories of pro-democracy/anti-fascist forces or "people of color" as subalterns. That is not accurate reflection of the divisions with America's body politic. NBN can foresee as much as forty percent of the Hispanic vote going to Trump if Democrats don't have a Hispanic vice-president on the 2024 national ticket.
--New Black Nationalists' more substantive quarrel with Snyder concerns what happens when a constitutional crisis or reckoning day arrives, quite possibly in November 2024. In our view, Snyder seems to adopt a binary view that either Trump's proto-fascists will prevail and establish an authoritarian one-party state, or a Democrat Party-led anti-fascist popular front will defeat Trump's MAGA forces. If a popular front anti-fascist coalition led by Democrats win in 2024 election, presumably America would push the reset button and return to the status-quo ante of corporately managed democracy.
--NBN beseeches the good professor to consider the reality that a substantial minority of the Black Commons have no interest in abating the threat of American Apartheid only to return to the status quo ante of provisional citizenship. We did that in Reconstruction. What we received was a century of Jim Crow, followed by two decades of state-sanctioned and vigilante violence to block civil rights that are now being eviscerated.
--NBN further posits that if Trump loses the 2024 presidential election, MAGA forces will launch a civil war or secession movement to partition the country. NBN's strategic assessment projects that MAGA forces would lose a civil war and fail to capture the federal government.
In a limited war of Red State secession, however, Trump's MAGA forces could salvage a political/military stalemate and force a negotiated National Divorce accord to establish a breakaway nation. In short, an authoritarian white ethno-nationalist state and a scaled-down corporately managed democracy could co-exist on the continent.
Gaming out American Empire's collapse is a venture in uncharted waters, but in these heady times, we cannot afford a failure of imagination. NBN holds that a Black nation-state can be created out of an existential crisis that collapses the government's brittle institutions, or a violent insurrection that creates ungoverned spaces as an unintended consequence. Other sectarian racial, religious, and ideological conflicts will also generate demand for various forms of political autonomy and polities.
In this sense, NBN argues for a much more dynamic outcome than Snyder's seemingly rigid binary outlook of a post-American Empire order. For a historian who has written extensively on Eastern and Central Europe, Snyder is intimately familiar with the dissolution of the U.S.S.R.'s empire, and the partitioning of states like Czechoslovakia. Why then seemingly adopt an American exceptionalist view of the breakup and dissolution of American Empire?
The Snyder Arguments on Authoritarianism and Fascism
Timothy Snyder's writings probe the philosophy, ideology, and cultural roots of authoritarian and fascist movements and governments in Europe and America from the twentieth century to the present. His genealogical scrub of these movements in Europe is insightful and helps us understand the growth of Trump's proto-fascist movement in the United States.
--New Black Nationalists are not convinced that Snyder's writings on the 1930s America First neo-Nazi movement and Trump's proto-fascist movement,
identify the cultural and ideological roots driving fascism in the United States. While the history of these movements requires more exploration, they appear not to have generated a serious body of theoretical or ideological writings that were not memetic incantations of German Nazi propaganda.
--Further, we surmise Snyder, appears to have a blind spot, concerning his lack of commentary on the more serious theoretical works of the white ethno-nationalist intellectual wing of the New Right represented by Greg Johnson's Counter-Currents website. In New Right vs. Old Right Johnson outlines the following political distinctions,
The North American New Right, like the European New Right, is founded on the rejection of Fascist and National Socialist party politics, totalitarianism, terrorism, imperialism, and genocide.... The blending of European stocks and breakdown of more compact European national identities in North America, we are forced to stress the deeper roots of common European identity, including racial identity.
One can easily discern the difference between Johnson's New Right and the MAGA movement's brain trust of a few dilatants with graduate degrees trafficking in the dictatorship of slogans rather than generating serious theoretical concepts.
Other than Thomas Jefferson's defense of white supremacy articulated in Notes on the State of Virginia, New Black Nationalists argue there is no ideological template that embraces America's national experience based on defending a distinct culture-bearing aristocracy, enrooted peasantry, or insurgent bourgeoisie. Rather, we argue America's War of Independence was the continuation of English Civil War (1642 - 1651) struggle between the Country and Court parties during Britain's Walpolean Era. The Declaration of Independence narrative espouses a proposition nation based on high-minded Enlightenment ideals America has never fulfilled. Nor will they ever be.
The Synder Arguments forum was not conceived to critique the accuracy of Snyder's historical works. Rather this forum seeks to explore his theories and concepts. The challenges to Synder's scholarship, particularly in Bloodlands should be evaluated. Because NBN does not dismiss the importance of these controversies, we have posted two links on this page that encapsulate some of the criticism of Synder's work.
The Synder Arguments is an open forum. NBN looks forward to hearing our reader's comments and positions. Please feel free to contact us and submit your links so we can post your contributions. New Black Nationalists wish to thank Professor Snyder for his invaluable contributions and scholarship.