World War I and the 1920s, "isolationism," that is, opposition
to American wars and foreign intervention, was considered a Left
phenomenon, and so even the laissez-faire isolationists and
Revisionists were considered to be "leftists." Opposition
to the postwar Versailles system in Europe was considered liberal
or radical; "conservatives," on the other hand, were the
proponents of American war and expansion and of the Versailles Treaty.
In fact, Nesta Webster, the Englishwoman who served as the dean
of twentieth century anti-Semitic historiography, melded opposition
to the Allied war effort with socialism and communism as the prime
evils of the age. Similarly, as late as the mid-1930s, to the rightist
Mrs. Elizabeth Dilling pacifism was, per se, a "Red" evil.
Not only were such lifelong pacifists as Kirby Page, Dorothy Detzer,
and Norman Thomas considered to be "Reds"; but Mrs. Dilling
similarly castigated General Smedley D. Butler, former head of the
Marine Corps and considered a "fascist" by the Left, for
daring to charge that Marine Corps interventions in Latin America
had been a "Wall Street racket." Not only was the Nye
Committee of the mid-thirties to investigate munitions makers and
U.S. foreign policy in World War I, but also old progressives such
as Senators Burton K. Wheeler and especially laissez-fairist
William E. Borah were condemned as crucial parts of the pervasive
Communistic "Red Network."1
And yet, in
a few short years, the ranking of isolationism on the ideological
spectrum was to undergo a sudden and dramatic shift. In the late
1930s, the Roosevelt administration moved rapidly toward war in
Europe and the Far East. As it did so, and especially after war
broke out in September 1939, the great bulk of the liberals and
the Left "flip-flopped" drastically on behalf of war and
foreign intervention. Gone without a trace was the old Left's insight
into the evils of the Versailles Treaty, the Allied dismemberment
of Germany, and the need for revision of the treaty. Gone was the
old opposition to American militarism, and to American and British
imperialism. Not only that; but to the liberals and Left the impending
war against Germany and even Japan became a great moral crusade,
a "people's war for democracy" and against "fascism"
– outrivaling in the absurdity of their rhetoric the very Wilsonian
apologia for World War I that these same liberals had repudiated
for two decades. The President who was dragging the nation reluctantly
into war was now lauded and almost deified by the Left, as were
in retrospect all of the strong (i.e., dictatorial) Presidents throughout
American history. For liberals and the Left the Pantheon of America
now became, in almost endless litany, Jackson-Lincoln-Wilson-FDR.
was the attitude of these new interventionists toward those erstwhile
friends and allies who continued to persist in their old beliefs;
these latter were now castigated and denounced day in and day out,
with extreme bitterness and venom, as "reactionaries,"
"fascists," "anti-Semites, and "followers of
the Goebbels line."2 Joining with great enthusiasm
in this smear campaign was the Communist Party and its allies, from
the "collective security" campaign of the Soviet Union
in the late 1930s and again after the Nazi attack on Russia on June
22, 1941. Before and during the war the Communists were delighted
to leap to their newfound role as American superpatriots, proclaiming
that "Communism is twentieth-century Americanism," and
that any campaign for social justice within America had to take
a back seat to the sacred goal of victory in the war. The only exception
for the Communists in this role was their "isolationist period"
– which, again in subservience to the needs of the Soviet Union,
lasted from the time of the Stalin-Hitler pact of August 1939 to
the attack on Russia two years later.
upon the liberals and progressives who continued to oppose the coming
war was unbelievably bitter and intense. Many personal tragedies
resulted. Charles A. Beard, distinguished historian and most eminent
of Revisionists, was castigated unmercifully by the liberals, many
of them his former students and disciples. Dr. Harry Elmer Barnes,
the liberal dean of World War I (and later World War II) revisionists,
whose New York World Telegram column "The Liberal Viewpoint"
had achieved the eminence of Walter Lippmann, was unceremoniously
kicked out of his column in May 1940 by the pressure of pro-war
the treatment accorded to those who held fast to their principles
was the purgation from the ranks of liberal journalism of John T.
Flynn and Oswald Garrison Villard. In his regular column in the
Nation, Villard had continued to oppose Roosevelt's "abominable
militarism" and his drive to war. For his pains, Villard was
forced out of the magazine that he had long served as a distinguished
editor. In his "Valedictory" in the issue of June 22,
1940, Villard declared that "my retirement has been precipitated
by the editors' abandonment of the Nation's steadfast opposition
to all preparations for war, for this in my judgment has been the
chief glory of its great and honorable past." In a letter to
the editor, Freda Kirchwey, Villard wondered how it was that
a pacifist in the last war, keen to see through shams and hypocrisy,
militant for the rights of minorities and the downtrodden had
now struck hands with all the forces of reaction against which
the Nation had battled so strongly.
editorial reply was characteristic: such writings as Villard's were
frightening, and "a danger more present than Fascism,"
for Villard's policy was "exactly the policy for America that
the Nazi propaganda in this country supports."4
John T. Flynn,
in his turn, was booted out of his column "Other People's Money"
in November 1940; the column had appeared continuously in the New
Republic since May 1933. Again, the now pro-war editors could
not tolerate Flynn's continuing attacks on war preparations and
on the artificial boom induced by armament spending.
the old-time libertarian leaders fare much better. When the libertarian
and isolationist Paul Palmer lost his editorship of the American
Mercury in 1939, H.L. Mencken and Albert Jay Nock lost their
monthly opportunity to lambaste the New Deal. His national outlet
gone, Mencken retired from politics and into autobiography and his
study of the American language. Apart from a few essays in the Atlantic
Monthly, Nock could find an outlet only in the isolationist
Scribner's Commentator, which folded after Pearl Harbor and
left Nock with no opportunity whatever to be heard. In the meanwhile,
Nock's personal disciples, who constituted the libertarian wing
of the Henry George movement, were dealt a heavy blow when his outstanding
disciple, Frank Chodorov, was fired as director of the Henry George
School of New York for maintaining his opposition to American entry
into the war.
But Nock had
managed to get in a few blows before the changing of the guard at
the Mercury. Nock had warned that the emerging war in Europe
was the old story of competing imperialisms, with the Liberals available,
once again, to provide ideological cover with such Wilsonian slogans
as "make the world safe for democracy." Nock commented
scornfully that "make the world safe for U.S. investments,
privileges, and markets" far better expressed the real intent
of the coming intervention. Thus "after the sorry sight which
American Liberals made of themselves twenty years ago," they
were ready once again "to save us from the horrors of war and
militarism [by] plunging us into war and militarism." Decrying
the developing hysteria about the foreign Enemy, Nock pinpointed
the true danger to liberty at home:
State policy will ever disturb us unless our Government puts us
in the way of it. We are in no danger whatever from any government
except our own, and the danger from that is very great; therefore
our own Government is the one to be watched and kept on a short
of war were not only being shut out from liberal journals and organizations
but from much of the mass media as well. As the Roosevelt administration
moved inexorably toward war, much of the Establishment that had
been repelled by the left-wing rhetoric of the New Deal eagerly
made its peace with the government, and swiftly moved into positions
of power. In Roosevelt's own famous phrase, "Dr. New Deal"
had been replaced by "Dr. Win the War," and, as the armaments
orders poured in, the conservative elements of Big Business were
back in the fold: in particular, the Wall Street and Eastern Establishment,
the bankers and industrialists, the Morgan interests, the Ivy League
Entente, all happily returned to the good old days of World War
I and the battle of the British Empire against Germany. The new
reconciliation was typified by the return to a high government post
of the prominent Wall Street lawyer Dean Acheson, now in the State
Department, who had departed his post of Undersecretary of the Treasury
in the early 1930s in high dudgeon at Roosevelt's unsound monetary
and fiscal schemes. Still more significant was FDR's appointment
as Secretary of War in June 1940 of a man who virtually embodied
the wealthy Eastern Establishment – Acheson's mentor, Henry
Lewis Stimson: a conservative, pro-war and imperialist Republican
Wall Street lawyer close to the Morgan interests who had been a
devoted follower of Teddy Roosevelt, Secretary of War under Taft,
and Secretary of State under Hoover. The fruit of the new policy
was the famous "Willkie blitz" at the Republican national
convention, in which the 1940 Republican nomination was virtually
stolen from the antiwar favorites for the presidency, Senator Robert
A. Taft and Thomas E. Dewey. A tremendous Wall Street pressure campaign,
using all the devices of the Eastern-controlled media and blackmail
of delegates by Wall Street bankers, swung the nomination to the
unknown but safely pro-intervention big businessman, Wendell Willkie.
If the Eastern
Big Business conservatives were solidly back in the Roosevelt camp
on the agreed program of entering the war, why were interventionist
forces successful in pinning the "extreme right-wing"
label on the anti-interventionist or "isolationist" position?
For two reasons. First, because the Old Left and the official organs
of liberalism had been captured by the pro-war forces, who had successfully
purged the liberal media of all those who continued to cling to
their original principles of antiwar liberalism and leftism. The
pro-war liberals were thereby able to serve as the intellectual
apologists for the Roosevelt administration and the Eastern Establishment,
spearheading the latter in vilifying the isolationists as "reactionaries,"
"Neanderthals," and tools of the Nazis. And second, not
all of business had swung into line behind the war. Much of Midwestern
capital, not tied to investments in Europe and Asia, was able to
reflect the isolationist sentiments of the people of their region.
Midwestern and small-town business were therefore the stronghold
of isolationist sentiment, and the pre-war years saw a powerful
struggle between the mighty Eastern and Wall Street interests tied
to foreign investments and foreign markets, and Midwestern capital
who had few such ties. It was no accident, for example, that the
America First Committee, the leading antiwar organization, was founded
by R. Douglas Stuart, then a student at Yale but a scion of the
Chicago Quaker Oats fortune, or that leading supporters of the organization
were General Robert E. Wood, head of Sears Roebuck of Chicago, and
Colonel Robert R. McCormick, publisher of the Chicago Tribune.
Or that the isolationist leader in the Senate, Robert A. Taft, came
from the leading family of Cincinnati. But the Eastern propagandists
were cunningly able to use this split to spread the image of their
opposition as narrow, provincial, small-minded, reactionary Midwesterners,
not attuned as they themselves were to the great, cosmopolitan affairs
of Europe and Asia.
Taft (who had
been denounced as a dangerous "progressive" by Mrs. Dilling
only a few years before) was particularly exercised at being dismissed
by the Establishment-liberal-Left alliance as an ultra-conservative.
The occasion of Senator Taft's critical analysis arose from an essay
published just before Pearl Harbor, by a young Arthur Schlesinger,
Jr. (Nation, December 6, 1941). Ever ready to pin the "business"
label on opposition to liberalism, Schlesinger attacked the Republican
Party as reflecting a business community dragging its heels on entry
into the war. Senator Taft, in a rebuttal that appeared the week
after Pearl Harbor (Nation, December 13, 1941) sharply and
keenly corrected Schlesinger's view of the true locus of "conservatism"
within the Republican Party:
Nor is Mr.
Schlesinger correct in attributing the position of the majority
of Republicans to their conservatism. The most conservative members
of the party – the Wall Street bankers, the society group,
nine-tenths of the plutocratic newspapers, and most of the party's
financial contributors – are the ones who favor intervention
in Europe. Mr. Schlesinger's statement that the business community
in general had tended to favor appeasing Hitler is simply untrue.
. . .
say without question that it is the average man and woman –
the farmer, the workman, except for a few pro-British labor leaders,
and the small business man – who are opposed to the war.
The war party is made up of the business community of the cities,
the newspaper and magazine writers, the radio and movie commentators,
the Communists, and the university intelligentsia.6
In short, in
many ways the struggle was a populist one, between the mass of the
populace opposed to the war and the elite groups in control of the
national levers of power and of the molding of public opinion.
Thus, the drive
of the New Deal toward war once again reshuffled the ideological
spectrum and the meaning of Left and Right in American politics.
The left and liberal opponents of war were hounded out of the media
and journals of opinion by their erstwhile allies, and condemned
as reactionaries and Neanderthals. These men, as well as old progressives
hailed by the Left a few short years before (such as Senators Nye,
LaFollette, and Wheeler) found themselves forced into a new alliance
with laissezfaire Republicans from the Middle West. Damned
everywhere as "ultra-conservatives" and "extreme
Rightists," many of these allies found themselves moving "rightward"
ideologically as well, moving toward the laissez-faire liberalism
of the only mass base yet open to them. In many ways, their move
rightward was a self-fulfilling prophecy by the Left. Thus, under
the hammer blows of the Left-liberal Establishment, the old progressive
isolationists moved laissez-faire-ward as well. It was under
this pressure that the forging of the "old Right" was
completed. And the ugly role of the Communist Party as spearhead
of the smear campaign understandably turned many of these progressives
not only into classical liberals but into thoroughgoing and almost
fanatical anti-Communists as well. This is what happened to John
T. Flynn and to John Dos Passos, what happened to some extent to
Charles A. Beard, and what happened to such former sympathizers
of the Soviet Union as John Chamberlain, Freda Utley, and William
Henry Chamberlin. To a large extent, it was their uncomfortable
"Third Camp" or isolationist position on the war that
started such leading Trotskyites as Max Schachtman and James Burnham
down the road to the later global anti-Communist crusade, and that
led the Trotskyist-pacifist Dwight MacDonald to his bitter opposition
to the Henry Wallace campaign of 1948.
The venom directed
against the opponents of war by the left-liberal Establishment war
coalition was almost unbelievable. Responsible publicists regularly
and systematically accused the isolationists of being "fascists"
and members of a "Nazi transmission belt." Walter Winchell,
at the beginning of his longtime career as calumniator of all dissent
against American war crusades (he was later a fervent supporter
of Joe McCarthy and always, early and late, a devoted fan of the
FBI), led in denouncing the opponents of war. While Communist leader
William Z. Foster denounced isolationist leaders General Wood and
Colonel Charles A. Lindbergh as "conscious Fascists,"
interventionist publicist Dorothy Thompson accused the America First
Committee of being "Vichy Fascists," and Secretary of
the Interior Harold C. Ickes, the bully-boy of the Roosevelt administration,
denounced Wood and Lindbergh as "Nazi fellow travelers,"
and pinned the same label on his old friend Oswald Garrison Villard.
And Time and Life, whose publisher Henry Luce was
an ardent supporter not only of our entry into the war but also
of the "American Century" which he envisioned as emerging
after the war, stooped so low as to claim that Lindbergh's and Senator
Wheeler's salutes to the American flag were similar to the fascist
salute. An organization that became almost a professional vilifier
of the isolationists was the left-liberal Rev. Leon M. Birkhead's
Friends of Democracy, which denounced the America First Committee
as a "Nazi front! It is a transmission belt by means of which
the apostles of Nazism are spreading their antidemocratic ideas
into millions of American homes!"7
of the isolationists was not confined to vilification or loss of
employment. In numerous cities, such as Miami, Atlanta, Oklahoma
City, Portland, Oregon, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia, the America
First Committee found it difficult or impossible to obtain halls
for public meetings. Another tactic that was used systematically
before, during, and immediately after the war was private espionage
against the Old Right by interventionist groups. These agents employed
deception, abused confidences, stole documents, and then published
sensationalistic findings. Sometimes these agents acted as agents
provocateurs. The most famous use of private secret agents was that
of the Friends of Democracy, who sent Avedis Derounian into the
isolationist groups under the name of "John Roy Carlson";
Carlson's report on his adventures was published as the bestselling
Under Cover by Dutton in 1943. Carlson's book lumped isolationists,
anti-Semites, and actual pro-Nazis together, in a potpourri of guilt
by association, as constituting the "Nazi underworld of America."
Under Cover was dedicated to the "official under cover
men and women who, unnamed and unsung, are fighting the common enemy
of Democracy on the military front abroad and the psychological
front at home," and the book opened with a quotation from Walt
Stride on, Democracy!
Strike with vengeful stroke!
his cohorts were certainly being avid in pursuing Whitman's injunction.
was the smear campaign that at the end of the war John T. Flynn
was moved to write an anguished pamphlet in protest called The
Smear Terror. It was typical of the time that, while Carlson's
farrago was a bestseller that received sober and favorable appraisal
in the pages of the New York Times, Flynn's rebuttal could
emerge only as a privately printed pamphlet, unknown except to what
would now be called an "underground" of dedicated right-wing
One of the
most common accusations against the isolationists was the charge
of anti-Semitism. While the ranks of the Old Right included some
genuine anti-Semites, the pro-war propagandists were hardly scrupulous
or interested in making subtle distinctions; all of the isolationists
were simply lumped together as anti-Semitic, despite the fact that
the America First Committee, for example, included a great many
Jews on its staff and research bureau. The situation was complicated
by the fact that the vast bulk of American Jewry was undoubtedly
in favor of American entry into the war, and virtually deified Franklin
Roosevelt for entering the war, as they thought, to "save the
Jews and Jewish organizations helped agitate for war, and helped
also to put economic pressure upon opponents of the war. This very
fact of course served to embitter many isolationists against the
Jews, and again create a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy; this
resentment was intensified by the hysterical treatment accorded
to any isolationist who dared to so much as mention these activities
by Jews. In early 1942, the Saturday Evening Post printed
an article critical of Jews by the liberal pacifist Quaker Milton
Mayer, an act that was used by the Establishment to fire the conservative
and isolationist editor Wesley N. Stout and his entire editorial
staff (which included Garet Garrett) and replace them with conservative
The most famous
case of flak on phony charges of anti-Semitism stemmed from the
celebrated speech of Charles A. Lindbergh at Des Moines on September
11, 1941. The most popular and charismatic of all opponents of the
war and a man who was essentially nonpolitical, Lindbergh had been
subjected to particular abuse by the Interventionist forces. The
son of a progressive Congressman from Minnesota who had staunchly
opposed entry into World War I, Lindbergh particularly angered the
war forces not only for his charisma and popularity but also because
of his obvious sincerity and his all-out position against any aid
to Britain and France whatever. While most of the isolationists
temporized, favoring some aid to Britain and worrying about a possible
German attack on the U.S., Lindbergh clearly and consistently advocated
absolute neutrality and hoped for a negotiated peace in Europe.
The matter was made still more piquant because Lindbergh was in
a way a "traitor to his class," since his wife, Anne Morrow,
also a distinguished opponent of the war, was the daughter of a
leading Morgan partner and virtually the only member of her family
and circle not enthusiastic about the war.
months of unremitting abuse (e.g., the ultrainterventionist playwright
Robert E. Sherwood had flatly called Lindbergh a "Nazi"
in the august pages of the New York Times), Lindbergh calmly
mentioned the specific forces that were driving the United States
toward war. It is obvious from his memoirs that poor, naive, honest
Charles Lindbergh had no idea of the hysteria that would be unleashed
when he pointed out that
most important groups who have been pressing this country toward
war are the British, the Jewish, and the Roosevelt administration.
Behind these groups, but of lesser importance, are a number of
capitalists, Anglophiles, and intellectuals who believe that their
future, and the future of mankind, depends upon the domination
of the British Empire.
it help Lindbergh that he added,
It is not
difficult to understand why Jewish people desire the overthrow
of Nazi Germany. The persecution they suffered in Germany would
be sufficient to make bitter enemies of any race. No person with
a sense of the dignity of mankind can condone the persecution
the Jewish race suffered in Germany.
The abuse of
Lindbergh was a veritable torrent now, with the White House press
secretary comparing the speech to Nazi propaganda, while the New
Republic called upon the National Association of Broadcasters
to censor all of Lindbergh's future speeches. Frightened General
Robert E. Wood, head of America First, almost dissolved the organization
on the spot.10
obloquy, private espionage – these were not all the hardships
faced by the isolationist "Old Right." As soon as the
war began, the Roosevelt administration turned to the secular arm
to smash any remnants of isolationist dissent. In addition to routine
FBI harassment, such isolationists as Laura Ingalls, George Sylvester
Viereck, and Ralph Townsend were indicted and convicted for being
German and Japanese agents respectively. William Dudley Pelley,
along with 27 other isolationists, was tried and convicted in Indianapolis
of "sedition" under the Espionage Act of 1917. The infamous
Smith Act of 1940 was used, first to convict 18 Minneapolis Trotskyists
of conspiracy to advocate overthrow of the government (to the great
glee of the Communist Party), and then to move, in the mass sedition
trial of 1944, against an ill-assorted collection of 26 right-wing
isolationist pamphleteers with the charge of contriving to cause
insubordination in the armed forces. The prosecution of those who
were universally described in the press as the "indicted seditionists"
was pursued with great zeal by the Communist Party and its allies,
the Old Left generally, and such Establishment hacks as Walter Winchell.
To the chagrin of the Left and Center, the trial fizzled as a result
of the spirited legal defense, especially the defense led by the
brilliant defendant Lawrence Dennis, a leading isolationist intellectual
who has generally, and with little foundation, been called the "leading
American fascist." The death of presiding Judge Eicher –
a signal for the Left to charge that he had been "murdered"
by the persistent defense – provided the opportunity for the
government to drop the case, despite the insistence of the Left
that the persecution be resumed.11
All in all,
the Old Right was understandably gloomy as it contemplated the inevitable
approach of war. It foresaw that World War II would transform America
into a Leviathan State, into a domestic totalitarian collectivism,
with suppression of civil liberties at home, joined to an unending
global imperialism abroad, pursuing what Charles A. Beard called
a policy of "perpetual war for perpetual peace." None
of the Old Right saw this vision of the coming America more perceptively
than John T. Flynn, in his brilliant work As We Go Marching,
written in the midst of the war he had done so much to forestall.
After surveying the polity and the economy of fascism and National
Socialism, Flynn bluntly saw the New Deal, culminating in the wartime
society, as the American version of fascism, the "good fascism"
in sardonic contrast to the "bad fascism" we had supposedly
gone to war to eradicate. Flynn saw that the New Deal had finally
established the corporate state that big business had been yearning
for since the end of the nineteenth century. The New Deal planners,
of a change in our form of society in which the government would
insert itself into the structure of business, not merely as policeman,
but as a partner, collaborator, and banker. But the general idea
was first to reorder the society by making it a planned and coerced
economy instead of a free one, in which business would be brought
together into great guilds or an immense corporative structure,
combining the elements of self-rule and government supervision
with a national economic policing system to enforce these decrees.
. . . This, after all, is not so very far from what business had
been talking about. . . . It was willing to accept the supervision
of the government. . . . Business said that orderly self-government
in business would eliminate most of the causes that infected the
organism with the germs of crises.12
The first great
attempt of the New Deal to create such a society was embodied in
the NRA and AAA, modeled on the fascist corporate state, and described
by Flynn as "two of the mightiest engines of minute and comprehensive
regimentation ever invented in any organized society." These
engines were hailed by those supposedly against regimentation: "Labor
unions and Chamber of Commerce officials, stockbrokers and bankers,
merchants and their customers joined in great parades in all the
cities of the country in rhapsodical approval of the program."13
After the failure of the NRA, the advent of World War II re-established
this collectivist program, "an economy supported by great streams
of debt and an economy under complete control, with nearly all of
the planning agencies functioning with almost totalitarian power
under a vast bureaucracy."14 After the war, Flynn
prophesied, the New Deal would attempt to expand this system to
that the federal government would maintain vast spending and controls
after the war was over, Flynn predicted that the great emphasis
of this spending would be military, since this is the one form of
government spending to which conservatives will never object, and
which workers will welcome for its creation of jobs. "Thus
militarism is the one great glamorous public-works project upon
which a variety of elements in the community can be brought into
agreement."15 Hence, as part of this perpetual garrison
state, conscription would also be continued on a permanent basis.
of people are for it. Numerous senators and representatives –
of the Right and Left – have expressed their purpose to establish
universal military training when the war ends.
and glamorous industry is here – the industry of militarism.
And when the war is ended the country is going to be asked if
it seriously wishes to demobilize an industry that can employ
so many men, create so much national income when the nation is
faced with the probability of vast unemployment in industry. All
the well-known arguments, used so long and so successfully in
Europe . . . will be dusted off – America with her high purposes
of world regeneration must have the power to back up her magnificent
ideals; America cannot afford to grow soft, and the Army and Navy
must be continued on a vast scale to toughen the moral and physical
sinews of our youth; America dare not live in a world of gangsters
and aggressors without keeping her full power mustered . . . and
above and below and all around these sentiments will be the sinister
allurement of the perpetuation of the great industry which can
never know a depression because it will have but one customer
– the American government to whose pocket there is no bottom.16
predicted that imperialism would follow in militarism's wake:
. . . upon a career of militarism, we shall, like every other
country, have to find the means when the war ends of obtaining
the consent of the people to the burdens that go along with the
blessings it confers upon its favored groups and regions. Powerful
resistance to it will always be active, and the effective means
of combating this resistance will have to be found. Inevitably,
having surrendered to militarism as an economic device, we will
do what other countries have done: we will keep alive the fears
of our people of the aggressive ambitions of other countries and
we will ourselves embark upon imperialistic enterprises of our
that interventionism and imperialism had come to be called "internationalism,"
so that anyone who opposes imperialism "is scornfully called
an isolationist." Flynn went on:
is an institution under which one nation asserts the right to
seize the land or at least to control the government or resources
of another people. It is an assertion of stark, bold aggression.
It is, of course, international in the sense that the aggressor
nation crosses its own borders and enters the boundaries of another
nation. . . . It is international in the sense that war is international.
. . . This is internationalism in a sense, in that all the activities
of an aggressor are on the international stage. But it is a malignant
pointed out that countries such as Great Britain, having engaged
in "extensive imperialist aggression" in the past, now
try to use the hopes for world peace in order to preserve the status
quo is the result of aggression, is a continuing assertion of
aggression, an assertion of malignant internationalism. Now they
appeal to this other benevolent type of internationalism to establish
a world order in which they, all leagued together, will preserve
a world which they have divided among themselves. . . . Benevolent
internationalism is taken over by the aggressors as the mask behind
which the malignant internationalism will be perpetuated and protected.
. . . I do not see how any thoughtful person watching the movement
of affairs in America can doubt that we are moving in the direction
of both imperialism and internationalism.19
according to Flynn, will ensure the existence of perpetual "enemies":
We have managed
to acquire bases all over the world. . . . There is no part of
the world where trouble can break out where we do not have bases
of some sort in which, if we wish to use the pretension, we cannot
claim that our interests are menaced. Thus menaced there must
remain when the war is over a continuing argument in the hands
of the imperialists for a vast naval establishment and a huge
army ready to attack anywhere or to resist an attack from all
the enemies we shall be obliged to have. Because always the most
powerful argument for a huge army maintained for economic reasons
is that we have enemies. We must have enemies.20
A planned economy;
militarism; imperialism – for Flynn what all this added up
to was something very close to fascism. He warned:
The test of
fascism is not one's rage against the Italian and German war lords.
The test is – how many of the essential principles of fascism
do you accept. . . . When you can put your finger on the men or
the groups that urge for America the debt-supported state, the autarchial
corporative state, the state bent on the socialization of investment
and the bureaucratic government of industry and society, the establishment
of the institution of militarism as the great glamorous public-works
project of the nation and the institution of imperialism under which
it proposes to regulate and rule the world and, along with this,
proposes to alter the forms of government to approach as closely
as possible the unrestrained, absolute government – then you
will know you have located the authentic fascist.
come at the hands of perfectly authentic Americans . . . who are
convinced that the present economic system is washed up . . . and
who wish to commit this country to the rule of the bureaucratic
state; interfering in the affairs of the states and cities; taking
part in the management of industry and finance and agriculture;
assuming the role of great national banker and investor, borrowing
billions every year and spending them on all sorts of projects through
which such a government can paralyze opposition and command public
support; marshaling great armies and navies at crushing costs to
support the industry of war and preparation for war which will become
our greatest industry; and adding to all this the most romantic
adventures in global planning, regeneration, and domination all
to be done under the authority of a powerfully centralized government
in which the executive will hold in effect all the powers with Congress
reduced to the role of a debating society. There is your fascist.
And the sooner America realizes this dreadful fact the sooner it
will arm itself to make an end of American fascism masquerading
under the guise of the champion of democracy.
warned that while the Communist Party was an enthusiastic supporter
of his new dispensation, it would be a mistake to call the new order
"communism"; it will rather be "a very genteel and
dainty and pleasant form of fascism which can not be called fascism
at all because it will be so virtuous and polite." In his concluding
sentence, Flynn eloquently proclaimed that
my only purpose
is to sound a warning against the dark road upon which we have
set our feet as we go marching to the salvation of the world and
along which every step we now take leads us farther and farther
from the things we want and the things that we cherish.22
Dilling, The Roosevelt Red Record and Its Background (Chicago:
Elizabeth Dilling, 1936).
- For the
grisly record of the liberal flip-flop, see James J. Martin, American
Liberalism and World Politics, 2 vols. (New York: Devin-Adair,
- Clyde R.
Miller, "Harry Elmer Barnes' Experience in Journalism,"
in Harry Elmer Barnes: Learned Crusader, A. Goddard, ed.
(Colorado Springs, Colo.: Ralph Myles, 1968), pp. 702–04.
American Liberalism and World Politics, pp. 1155–56; Michael
Wreszin, Oswald Garrison Villard (Bloomington: Indiana
University Press, 1965), pp. 259–63.
- Albert Jay
Nock, "The Amazing Liberal Mind," American Mercury
44, no. 176 (August 1938): 467–72.
- Quoted in
Martin, American Liberalism and World Politics, p. 1278.
- See Wayne
S. Cole, America First (Madison: University of Wisconsin
Press, 1953), pp. 107–10.
- In fact,
Roosevelt's devotion to saving the Jews was minimal, as can be
seen from such recent "revisionist" books on the subject
as Arthur D. Morse, While Six Million Died (New York: Random
- Quoted in
Wayne S. Cole, America First: The Battle Against Intervention,
1940–1941 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1953),
puzzled reaction to criticisms of his speech by more politically
minded isolationists was characteristic. Thus:
. . . says he does not question the truth of what I said at
Des Moines, but feels it was inadvisable to mention the Jewish
problem. It is difficult for me to understand Flynn's attitude.
He feels as strongly as I do that the Jews are among the major
influences pushing this country toward war. . . . He is perfectly
willing to talk about it among a small group of people in private.
But apparently he would rather see us get into the war than
mention in public what the Jews are doing, no matter how tolerantly
and moderately it is done.
conversation with Herbert Hoover:
told me he felt my Des Moines speech was a mistake. . . . I
told him I felt my statements had been both moderate and true.
He replied that when you had been in politics long enough you
learned not to say things just because they are true. (But after
all, I am not a politician – and that is one of the reasons
why I don't wish to be one.) (Charles A. Lindbergh, The Wartime
Journals of Charles A. Lindbergh [New York: Harcourt Brace
Jovanovich, 1970], pp. 541, and 546–47)
- An excellent
and detailed account of the mass sedition trial can be found in
the totally neglected book, Maximilian St. George and Lawrence
Dennis, A Trial on Trial (National Civil Rights Committee,
1946). St. George and Dennis were astute enough to see the irony
in the fact that "many of the defendants, being fanatical
anti-Communists," had openly supported the Smith Act of 1940
under which they were to be indicted. "The moral," St.
George and the "fascist" Dennis added,
of the major points of this book: laws intended to get one
crowd may well be used by them to get the authors and backers
of the law. This is just another good argument for civil liberties
and freedom of speech. (Ibid., p. 83)
striking parallel of this mass sedition trial with the Chicago
conspiracy trial a generation later was that Justice Eicher,
notably hostile to the defense, had Henry H. Klein, a lawyer
for one of the defendants who had withdrawn from the case, hauled
back to the court and jailed for withdrawing from the case without
the judge's permission. Ibid., p. 404.
- John T.
Flynn, As We Go Marching (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday,
Doran and Co., 1944), pp. 193–94.
- Ibid., p.
- Ibid., p.
- Ibid., p.
- Ibid., p.
- Ibid., pp.
- Ibid., p.
- Ibid., p.
- Ibid., pp.
- Ibid., pp.
pp. 255, 258.