In history of radical politics, KC researcher connects dots

In history of radical politics, KC researcher connects dots

Leonard Zeskind hunches over, one eye clamped to a loupe, and inspects an old black-and-white photograph taped to his office door.

The picture and what he’s looking for tell a lot about what has been on Zeskind’s mind the past few decades.

Taken in 1967, it shows the funeral of George Lincoln Rockwell, the assassinated leader of the American Nazi Party. Standing among the two dozen grievers, next to a floral display in the shape of a swastika, is a thin young man with dark hair, wearing a jacket and narrow tie.

Zeskind wants to figure out whether it’s a young David Duke, the one-time Ku Klux Klansman who went on to score startling electoral success in the early 1990s as a Louisiana political candidate.

“I think he’s too tall,” Zeskind said, postponing a conclusion until he gathers more evidence.

To Zeskind it’s another dot to connect in the evolution of radical, right-wing American politics. In the past 30 years, most of them spent toiling quietly in Kansas City, he has become known as one of the most effective and dogged researchers on the topic, an indispensable resource on fascist and neo-nationalist movements around the globe.

This week brings the culmination of what is essentially a life’s work — or at least a project he started 15 years ago. His new book, “Blood and Politics,” is being issued by a major New York publishing house, and for a few moments at least, Zeskind will step into a public spotlight he normally shuns.

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