Decline of the Old Right

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This is
Chapter 11 of The
Betrayal of the American Right.

After the
death of Taft and as the Eisenhower foreign policy began to take
on the frozen Dullesian lineaments of permanent mass armament
and the threat of "massive nuclear retaliation" throughout
the globe, I began to notice isolationist sentiment starting to
fade away, even among old libertarian and isolationist compatriots
who should have known better. Old friends who used to scoff at
the "Russian threat" and had declared The Enemy to be
Washington, D.C. now began to mutter about the "international
Communist conspiracy." I noticed that young libertarians
coming into the ranks were increasingly infected with the Cold
War mentality and had never even heard of the isolationist alternative.
Young libertarians wondered how it was that I upheld a "Communist
foreign policy."

In this emerging
atmosphere, novelist Louis Bromfield's nonfiction work of 1954,
A
New Pattern for a Tired World
,1 a hard-hitting
tract on behalf of free-market capitalism and a peaceful foreign
policy, began to seem anachronistic and had almost no impact on
the right wing of the day.

Bromfield
charged:

Aside from
the tragic drain on our youth, whether drafted for two of the
best years of their lives or maimed or killed or imprisoned,
the grandiose "containment" policy means an immense
and constant drain in terms of money. . . .

And further:

One of
the great failures of our foreign policy throughout the world
arises from the fact that we have permitted ourselves to be
identified everywhere with the old, doomed and rotting colonial-imperialist
small European nations which once imposed upon so much of the
world the pattern of exploitation and economic and political
domination. This fact lies at the core of our failure to win
the support and trust of the once-exploited nations and peoples
who are now in rebellion and revolution in all parts of the
world but especially in Asia. We have not given these peoples
a real choice between the practices of Russian Communist imperialism
or Communism and those of a truly democratic world in which
individualism, American capitalism and free enterprise are the
very pillars of independence, solid economics, liberty and good
living standards. We have appeared to these peoples themselves
. . . in the role of colonial imperialists . . . and of supporters
in almost every case of the rotting old European empires. .
. .

None of
these rebellious, awakening peoples will, in their hearts or
even superficially, trust us or cooperate in any way so long
as we remain identified with the economic colonial system of
Europe; which represents, even in its capitalist pattern, the
last remnants of feudalism. . . . We cannot appear to these
Asiatic peoples in the role of friend and benefactor while we
are at the same time financing, attempting to restore to power
and even providing arms to the very forces of the dying colonial
empires, against which they are in rebellion.

This is
exactly what we are doing in Indo-China and in Hong Kong and
elsewhere in the world under a confused policy based upon the
doomed past rather than upon the inevitable dynamic pattern
of the future. We leave these awakening peoples with no choice
but to turn to Russian and Communist comfort and promises of
Utopia. We make it possible everywhere . . . for the Communists
. . . to create the impression that what in fact is merely an
intense assertion of nationalism is really a Communist liberation,
planned and carried out by Communist influence. . . .

We are
playing the politics of a vanished world, blindly and stupidly
attempting to surround and contain what can not be contained,
blocking the free exchange of goods and keeping the world in
a constant uproar by making alliances and setting up military
installations everywhere. It is an antique pattern of power
politics.2

Again on
Asia:

The battle
in Indo-China engages . . . countless Indo-Chinese . . . who
hate French domination. . . . Yet there are even those, principally
in armed forces of the U.S., who would, if they dared, advocate
drafting American boys from Ohio, Iowa, Kansas and elsewhere
and sending them into this struggle where they or the nation
itself have no proper place and where our intervention can only
serve to do us tragic harm in the long run. . . .

[Korea]
may well prove to be not the martyred heroic nation which the
sentimental have made of her, but merely the albatross around
our neck which can carry us deeper and deeper into tragic complications
and future wars. Because we have no real reason to be in Korea,
unless, as every Asiatic suspects, for reasons of power and
exploitation. To say that a country so remote and insignificant
as Korea is our first line of defense is to say that every nation
in every part of the world is also our "first line of defense"
– a conception which is obviously fantastic and grotesque
to the borders of megalomania. . . .

Our permanent
occupation of Korea in order to maintain her economic and political
independence artificially is an act against the whole trend
of world revolution and the irresistible forces of our times.
. . . We must stay in Korea indefinitely and eventually retire
and accept defeat or involve ourselves and the world in a war
which may well be for us and will be certainly for all Europe
the end of the road. . . . The Korean situation . . . will not
be settled until we withdraw entirely from an area in which
we have no right to be and leave the peoples of that area to
work out their own problems.3

Bromfield
concluded that the whole of our foreign policy was not "worth
the torture or the life of one unwilling conscript, even if it
were not the most dangerous and destructive of policies to the
peace and welfare of the world."4

In this period
of slippage of devotion to peace, in a right wing on which the
Bromfield book made little impact, I determined to try to reaffirm
the older foreign policy tradition in the conservative-libertarian
movement. In April 1954, William Johnson put together an all-isolationist,
all-peace issue of Faith and Freedom that was one of the
last intellectual gasps of the isolationist-libertarian Right.
The issue included an article by Garet Garrett, "The Suicidal
Impulse," which continued his analysis of "The Rise
of Empire." Garrett declared that the American Empire had
built up "the most terrible killing machine mankind had ever
known," that we were brandishing our "immense stock
of atomic bombs," that there were American troops and air
bases throughout the globe, and that there was "from time
to time a statement from an eminent American military person saying
the American Air Force is prepared to drop bombs in Russia with
the greatest of ease, on targets already selected." Garrett
concluded that the "allure of world leadership weaves a fatal
spell. The idea of imposing universal peace on the world by force
is a barbarian fantasy."5

Also included
in the Faith and Freedom issue was Ernest T. Weir, the
right-wing union-busting industrialist of the 1930s, World War
II isolationist, and head of the National Steel Corporation of
Pittsburgh. Weir, the Cyrus Eaton of the 1950s, had been stumping
the country and publishing pamphlets calling for a negotiated
peace with the Soviet Union and Communist China and an end to
the Cold War. In his article, "Leaving Emotions Out of Foreign
Policy," Weir declared that

we have
to accept the fact that it is not the mission of the United
States to go charging about the world to free it from bad nations
and bad systems of government. We must reconcile ourselves to
the fact that there will always be bad nations and bad systems
and that our task is to contrive some basis other than warfare
on which we can live in the world.6

My own contribution
to the issue was "The Real Aggressor," under the nom
de plume of "Aubrey Herbert," in which I tried to
establish a libertarian basis for an isolationist and peaceful
foreign policy, and called for peaceful coexistence, joint disarmament,
withdrawal from NATO and the UN, and recognition of Communist
China, as well as free trade with all countries.

For our pains,
both Mr. Weir and I were red-baited in the Social Democratic New
Leader by William Henry Chamberlin. The fact of Chamberlin's
growing influence on the intellectual Right was symptomatic of
its accelerating decay. A former Communist fellow-traveler in
the 1930s, Chamberlin seemed able to shift his principles at will,
writing assiduously for both the Wall Street Journal and
the New Leader, supporting free-market economics in the
former publication and statism in the latter. He was also capable
of writing a book7 praising isolationism and the Munich
pact for World War II, while at the same time denouncing present-day
isolationists and opponents of the Cold War as "appeasers"
and proponents of "another Munich." But in one sense
this new Chamberlin was consistent; for he was one of that growing
legion of ex-Communist and ex-fellow traveler journalists who
spearheaded the ideological front for the Cold War and the world
anti-Communist crusade. In his article "Appeasement on the
Right,"8 Chamberlin charged that Weir's article
"could have appeared in the Nation, perhaps even in
Masses and Mainstream"; as for my article, I had laid
"down a blueprint for America policy tailor-made to the specifications
of the Kremlin."

It was the
first time that I had ever been red-baited, though it was not
to be the last, and to a professed "extreme right winger"
this charge was something of a shock. When I replied in the New
Leader and noted that Chamberlin himself had hailed appeasement
and Munich a short while before, Chamberlin responded in characteristic
fashion: that Ernest Weir had been recently hailed in the Warsaw
Trybuna Ludu, and that perhaps I would soon "receive
[my] appropriate recognition from the same or a similar source."9

Soon afterward,
I signed on to replace Chodorov as monthly Washington columnist
of Faith and Freedom, and month in and month out, until
the end of 1956, I hammered away at the statism of the Eisenhower
administration. Troubled at the growing adherence to militarism
and the Cold War on the right wing, I particularly blasted away
at these trends. While calling for withdrawal from the United
Nations, I urged that it recognize reality and admit China to
membership; calling for neutralism and isolationism, I expressed
the hope for neutralism abroad and a neutralist and peacefully
reunified Germany; attacking permanent expansion of the United
States beyond our shores, I called for granting Hawaii, Alaska,
and Puerto Rico their independence instead of incorporating them
as permanent states. In early 1956, I attacked the Eisenhower
administration for torpedoing the second Geneva conference and
its hopes for détente and disarmament: first, by presenting
a demand for German reunification under NATO as our prime demand
at the conference; and second, by withdrawing our longstanding
demand for simultaneous disarmament and inspection as soon
as the Russians had agreed to our own position, and later substituting
instead Ike's demagogic proposal for "open skies." A
few months later, I sharply criticized the Right for springing
to the defense of the Marine drill instructor who brutally ordered
six men to watery graves in a senseless death march at Parris
Island. How is it, I asked, that only the left-liberals had risen
to champion freedom against brutality and militarism?

My most severe
tangle with the pro-war Right came in a series of debates in early
1955 on whether or not to fight for Formosa, a question which
loomed large in that year.

In my March
column I called for withdrawal from Formosa, attacked the manic
logic which demanded an endless series of bases to "protect
our previous bases," and asked how we would feel if
the Chinese were occupying and fortifying an island three miles
off our coast? Furthermore, I hailed the call for peace
recently delivered by the hero of the war right, Douglas MacArthur,
and also praised Rep. Eugene R. Siler (R., Ky.) for picking up
the old isolationist baton and voting against the blank-check
congressional resolution of January 29 on Formosa because he had
promised his constituents that he would never help to "engage
their boys in war on foreign soil."

This article
precipitated a debate with a fellow columnist on Faith and
Freedom, William S. Schlamm, another leader of the new trends
on the right wing, and formerly book review editor of the then-major
intellectual right-wing magazine, the Freeman. Schlamm
was typical of the New Rightist: formerly a leading German Communist
and editor of Die Rote Fahne, Schlamm was now dedicating
his career to whipping up enthusiasm for the crushing of his old
comrades, at home and abroad. In his zeal for the world anti-Communist
crusade, I could never – and still cannot – detect one
iota of devotion to freedom in Schlamm's worldview. What was he
doing on Faith and Freedom to begin with? When National
Review was founded in late 1955, Schlamm became its book review
editor and, for a while, its chief theoretician; later he was
to return to Germany and gain a large popular following for an
ultra-hardline foreign policy against the East.

Schlamm and
I had a series of two debates – "Fight for Formosa –
or Not?" – in the May and June issues of Faith and
Freedom. I accused him of advocating preventive war, and reminded
our readers that we had not been attacked by either Russia or
China, and that a world war would mean the total destruction of
civilization. And why, I asked, as I had before in those columns,
do the pro-war conservatives, supposedly dedicated to the superiority
of capitalism over Communism, by thirsting for an immediate showdown,
implicitly grant that time is on the side of the Communist system?
I then reaffirmed that surely any libertarian must hold "the
enemy" to be not Russian Communism but any invasion of our
liberty by the State; to give up our freedom in order to "preserve"
it is only succumbing to the Orwellian dialectic that "freedom
is slavery." As for Schlamm's position that we had already
been "attacked" by Communism, I pointed out the crucial
distinction between military and "ideological"
attack, a distinction to which the libertarian, with his entire
philosophy resting on the difference between violent aggression
and nonviolent persuasion, should be particularly attuned. My
puzzlement should have been solved by realizing that Mr. Schlamm
was the furthest thing from a "libertarian." I also
called for realistic negotiations with the Communist world, which
would result in mutual atomic and bacteriological disarmament.

More important
in trying to stem the efforts of the war crowd to take over the
Right was the redoubtable Frank Chodorov. It turned out to be
a tragedy for the libertarian cause that Frank had liquidated
his magnificent analysis in the early 1950s and merged
it into Human Events, where he then served as an associate
editor. Frank was also my predecessor as Washington columnist
of Faith and Freedom. In the summer of 1954, Frank took
up the editorship of the Freeman, the leading organ of
the intellectual Right, previously a weekly and by this time reduced
to a monthly issued by the Foundation for Economic Education.
In his September Freeman editorial ("The Return of
1940?") Chodorov proclaimed that the old isolationist-interventionist
split among conservatives and libertarians was once again coming
into play. "Already the libertarians are debating among themselves
on the need of putting off the struggle for freedom until after
the threat of communism, Moscow style, shall have been removed,
even by war." Frank pointed out the consequences of our entry
into World War II: a massive debt burden, a gigantic tax structure,
a permanent incubus of conscription, an enormous federal bureaucracy,
the loss of our sense of personal freedom and independence. "All
this," Frank concluded,

the "isolationists"
of 1940 foresaw. Not because they were endowed with any gift
of prevision, but because they knew history and would not deny
its lesson: that during war the State acquires power at the
expense of freedom, and that because of its insatiable lust
for power the State is incapable of giving up any of it. The
State never abdicates.10

Any further
war would be infinitely worse, and perhaps destroy the world in
the process.

Chodorov's
editorial drew a rebuttal from the indefatigable Willi Schlamm,
and the two debated the war question in the pages of the November
1954 Freeman. Chodorov's rebuttal, "A War to Communize
America," was his last great reaffirmation of the isolationist
Old Right position. Chodorov began,

We are
again being told to be afraid. As it was before the two world
wars so it is now; politicians talk in frightening terms, journalists
invent scare-lines, and even next-door neighbors are taking
up the cry: the enemy is at the city gates; we must gird for
battle. In case you don't know, the enemy this time is the U.S.S.R.11

Chodorov
centered on the question of conscription, since "to fight
a war with Russia on foreign soil," the interventionists
conceded, required this form of slavery. "I don't think a
single division could have been raised by the volunteer system
for the Korean adventure." And if the American people do
not want to fight in such wars, by what right are they to be "compelled
to fight them?" And: "We are told that we must fear
the Russians. I am more afraid of those who, like their forebears,
would compel us against our will to fight the Russians. They have
the dictator complex."12 Chodorov then reiterated
that any further war would end whatever liberty we had, that slavery
to an American master was no better than slavery to some foreign
master: "Why go to war for [the] privilege" of choosing
one or the other? As for ourselves being invaded, there was no
real possibility of such a thing happening. The only thing we
had to fear in the current situation was "the hysteria of
fear" itself. The only way to remove this fear on both sides,
Chodorov concluded, was for us to "abandon our global military
commitments" and return home.

As for the
alleged Russian threat to Western Europe if we should withdraw,
"it would be hard on the Europeans if they fell into Soviet
hands; but not any worse than if we precipitated a war in which
their homes became the battlefield."13 And if
these countries do, in fact, desire communism, then "our
presence in Europe is an impertinent interference with the internal
affairs of these countries; let them go communist if they want
to."14

Unfortunately,
shortly afterward Chodorov was ousted as editor; a man of stubborn
independence and integrity, Chodorov would not submit to any form
of mental castration. With Chodorov gone, Leonard Read could return
to his long-standing policy of never engaging in direct political
or ideological controversy, and the Freeman proceeded to
sink into the slough of innocuous desuetude in which it remains
today. Chodorov was now deprived of a libertarian outlet, his
great voice was stilled; and this loss was made final by the tragic
illness that struck in 1961 and in which Frank spent the last
years of his life. Aggravating the tragedy was his ideological
betrayal by close friends such as young William F. Buckley, whom
Frank had discovered as a writer while editing Human Events
(and who in a recent "Firing Line" exchange with
Karl Hess dared to bring up the name of the dead Chodorov as a
libertarian sanction for his own pro-war stance). Even more poignant
is the history of the Intercollegiate Society of Individualists,
which Frank had founded in 1952 as a "fifty-year project"
to win the college campuses away from statism and toward individualism.
In 1956, ISI left FEE's offices to take up headquarters in Philadelphia.
Frank's selection to succeed him as head of ISI, E. Victor Milione,
has since taken ISI squarely into the traditionalist-conservative
camp, even to the extent – at about the time of Frank's death
in late 1966 – of changing the name of Chodorov's brainchild
to the "Intercollegiate Studies Institute." It seems
that the name "individualist" was upsetting conservative
businessmen, to whom it conjured up visions of the rebels of the
New Left. Oh, liberty! What crimes are committed in thy name!15

Another grave
blow to isolationism and the Old Right was the loss of Human
Events. From the beginning, the three owners of Human Events
had been Felix Morley, the theoretician; Frank Hanighen, the
journalist; and Henry Regnery, the financial supporter. Before
and during World War II, all had been isolationists, but after
the war Hanighen, followed by Regnery, began to jump on the anti-Communist
and pro-interventionist bandwagon, much to the resistance of Morley.
Morley, who in his autobiography paid high tribute to the influence
of Nock, scoffed at his colleagues' emphasis on the Hiss case.
Once Franklin Roosevelt, guided by Harry Hopkins, had brought
about a "Communist victory," declared Morley, "it
seemed silly to bother about the hole-and-corner machinations
of a few fellow-travelers as accused communist turncoats."
In addition to ideology, Hanighen was particularly motivated by
moolah: Hanighen

believed
that the Hiss case would prove sensational, as indeed it did,
and that we could greatly increase our circulation by exploiting
it, as also Senator McCarthy's sweeping charges. He was probably
right, since after I left it the little publication grew rapidly
by climbing aboard the anti-Communist bandwagon.16

Finally,
the split came in February 1950, over Hanighen's insistence that
Human Events go all-out in support of American intervention
in behalf of Chiang Kai-shek's regime now holed up in Taiwan.
Regnery sided with Hanighen, and so Morley was bought out by his
partners. Looking back on this forced separation Morley concluded:

In retrospect
I see this episode as symptomatic of that which has come to
divide the conservative movement in the United States. Frank
and Henry, in their separate ways, moved on to associate with
the far Right in the Republican Party. My position remained
essentially "Libertarian," though it is with great
reluctance that I yield the old terminology of "liberal"
to the socialists. I was, and continue to be, strongly opposed
to centralization of political power, thinking that this process
will eventually destroy our federal republic, if it has not
already done so. The vestment of power in HEW [the Department
of Health, Education and Welfare] is demonstrably bad, but its
concentration in the Pentagon and CIA is worse because the authority
is often concealed and covertly exercised. Failure to check
either extreme means continuous deficit financing and consequent
inflation which in time can be fatal to the free enterprise
system.17

Morley, a
friend of Bob Taft, had been slated for a high appointment in
the State Department if Taft had become President in 1953; but
it was not to be.

But by the
mid-1950s the battle for Old Right isolationism had not yet been
completely lost. Thus, at the end of 1955, For America, a leading
right-wing political action group headed by Notre Dame Law School
Dean Clarence Manion, issued its political platform. Two of its
major foreign policy planks were "Abolish Conscription"
and "Enter No Foreign Wars unless the safety of the United
States is directly threatened." Not a word about liberating
Communist countries, or about stopping Communism all over the
world. As for our small libertarian group, right-wing anarchists
Robert LeFevre and Thaddeus Ashby were able to gain control, for
a short but glorious time, of the right-wing Congress of Freedom,
headed by Washingtonian Arnold Kruckman. On April 24, 1954, LeFevre
and Ashby managed to push through the Congress a libertarian platform,
specifically calling for the abolition of conscription, the "severing
our entangling alliance with foreign nations," and the abolition
of all foreign aid. The platform declared: "We decry the
war we have lost in Korea and we will oppose American intervention
in the war in Indochina." More orthodox rightists, however,
managed to regain control of the Congress the following year.

The last
great political gasp of the isolationist Right came in the fight
for the Bricker Amendment, the major foreign-policy plan of the
conservative Republicans during the first Eisenhower term. Senator
John W. Bricker (R., Ohio) had been the ill-fated right-wing candidate
for president in 1948, and was Taft's natural successor after
the death of his fellow Ohioan. The Bricker Amendment to the Constitution
was designed to prevent the threat of international treaties and
executive agreements becoming the supreme law of the land and
overriding previous internal law or provisions of the Constitution.
It provided that no treaty or executive agreement conflicting
with, or not made in pursuance of, the Constitution, shall have
any force; and that no such treaty or executive agreement shall
become effective as internal law except by domestic legislation
that would have been valid in the absence of the agreement. Favoring
the Amendment were a battery of right-wing groups: veterans and
patriotic organizations, the American Farm Bureau Federation,
the Chamber of Commerce, Pro America, the National Small Business
Association, the Conference of Small Business Organizations, Merwin
K. Hart's National Economic Council, the Committee for Constitutional
Government, Rev. Fifield's Freedom Clubs, Inc., and large chunks
of the American Bar Association. The major opponent of the Amendment
was the Eisenhower administration, in particular Secretary of
State Dulles and Attorney General Herbert Brownell, ably seconded
by the forces of organized liberalism: the Americans for Democratic
Action, the AFL, B'nai B'rith, the American Jewish Congress, the
American Association for the United Nations, and the United World
Federalists.

The
climactic vote on the Bricker Amendment came in the U.S. Senate
in February 1954, the Amendment going down to a severe defeat.
While the overwhelming majority of right-wing Republicans voted
for the Amendment, there were some significant defections, including
William Knowland and Alexander Wiley (R., Wis.), a former isolationist
who was playing the iniquitous "Vandenberg role" as
Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee in what might well
have been the last Republican-controlled Senate.18

It is indicative
of the later decline of the Old Right that the Bricker Amendment
was to race away and disappear totally in right-wing councils,
never to be heard from again. In particular, the New Right, which
began to emerge in force after 1955, was able to bury the Bricker
Amendment, as well as the isolationist sentiment that it embodied,
in some form of Orwellian "memory hole."

If the Bricker
Amendment was the last isolationist pressure campaign of the Old
Right, the third-party ticket of 1956 was its last direct political
embodiment. I had been yearning for an Old Right third party ever
since the disgraceful Republican convention of 1952, and some
Taftites tried to launch a Constitution Party, nominating Douglas
MacArthur that very fall, only to lament that there was not enough
time, and that 1956 would be the Year. Third-party discussions
and movements by disgruntled Old Rightists began in late 1955,
and numerous conservative, Constitution, and "New" Parties
sprang up in various states. But there was precious little organization
or money or political savvy in these attempts, and none of the
top right-wing leaders endorsed their efforts.

I myself
was involved in two third-party attempts in New York, a minuscule
Constitution Party and a larger Independent Party, headed by an
elderly man named Dan Sawyer. I vividly remember a good-sized
rally held by the Independents in early 1956. One featured speaker
was Kent Courtney of New Orleans, who with his wife, Phoebe, was
the main founder of the new party. A particular feature was a
colorful old gent, whose name escapes me, looking like a stereotyped
Kentucky colonel, who limped his way to the stand. The Colonel,
for such I believe he was, though from Texas, proclaimed that
he was an unsung founder of the science of public opinion polling,
and that he had been President Coolidge's opinion poll adviser.
(And had Hoover only listened to him! . . .) At any rate, the
Colonel assured us, from the very depths of his public opinion
know-how, that any Democrat was certain to defeat Eisenhower
in the 1956 election. Such was the acumen of the third-party leadership.
Unsurprisingly, the Independent Party of New York held no further
meetings.

The Constitution
Party of New York was even shorter lived. Again, I attended only
one "mass" meeting, presided over by a young lawyer
named Ed Scharfenberger in a tiny Manhattan restaurant. Scharfenberger
gave me to understand that I could help write the platform of
the party, but something told me that the party was not long for
this world. The Constitution Party's great talking point was its
connection with a mini-network of Constitution groups headed by
the party in Texas, which actually got on the ballot and ran some
candidates.

My own personal
candidate for president in 1956 was Governor Bracken Lee of Utah,
who was certainly the closest thing to a libertarian in political
life. There were indeed few other governors who advocated repeal
of the income tax, sold state colleges to private enterprise,
refused Federal grants-in-aid for highways, denounced social security,
urged withdrawal from the UN, or proclaimed foreign aid to be
unconstitutional.

In fact,
a third party did get underway, but once again it began very late,
in mid-September of the election year, and so could get on the
ballot in only a few states. The New Party, in a States' Rights
Convention, nominated T. Coleman Andrews of Virginia for president,
and former Representative Thomas H. Werdel (R., Calif.) for vice
president. Andrews had made himself an antitax hero by serving
for several years as Eisenhower's Commissioner of Internal Revenue,
and then resigning to stump the country for repeal of the Sixteenth
(income tax) Amendment. I firmly supported the Andrews-Werdel
ticket, not the least of whose charms was the absence of any call
for a worldwide anti-Communist crusade. The Bricker Amendment,
opposition to foreign aid, and withdrawal from the UN was the
extent of their foreign affairs program, and the same in fact
could be said about the Constitution parties. Andrews-Werdel reached
their peak in Virginia and Louisiana, where they polled about
7 percent of the vote, carrying one county – Prince Edward
in Virginia – while J. Bracken Lee collected over 100,000
votes in Utah in an independent race for president in his home
state.

While I supported
Andrews-Werdel, I made clear to my Faith and Freedom readers
that between the two major candidates I favored Adlai Stevenson.
The major motive was not, as in 1952, to punish the left Republicans
for taking over the party. Presaging my later political career,
my major reason was the decidedly more pro-peace stand that Stevenson
was taking: specifically in his call for abolition of testing
of H-bombs as well as his suggestion that we abolish the draft.
This was enough to push me in a Stevensonian direction.

Soon after
the election, Bill Johnson, who had always commended my columns,
flew East to inform me that I was being dumped as Washington columnist.
Why? Because his Protestant minister readership had come to the
conclusion that I was a "Communist." Red-baiting again,
and this time from "libertarians"! I protested that,
month in and month out, I had consistently attacked government
and defended the individual; how could this possibly be "Communist"?
The lines were tightening. Faith and Freedom itself collapsed
shortly thereafter (not, I must hasten to add, because
of my dismissal). Bill Johnson went on to join Dick Cornuelle
in the Volker Fund operation.

The demise
of Faith and Freedom, and of its controlling organization,
Spiritual Mobilization (SM), was symptomatic of the grievous decline
of the libertarian wing of the Old Right in the latter half of
the 1950s. In the midst of libertarianism's – and the Old
Right's – gravest crisis since World War II, Spiritual Mobilization,
instead of providing leadership in these stormy times, turned
toward what can only be called neo-Buddhist mystical gabble. In
the mid-1950s, the Reverend Fifield had turned over day-to-day
operation of SM to Jim Ingebretsen, a libertarian and old friend
of Leonard Read who had been an official with the Chamber of Commerce.
No sooner did he assume the reins of SM, however, than he –
and the rest of the influential SM group – fell under the
charismatic influence of the gnomic English neo-Buddhist mystic,
Gerald Heard. Heard, who liked to think of his murky lucubrations
as the requirements of "science," had already converted
Aldous Huxley and Christopher Isherwood to Heardian mysticism
(it was Heard who had provided the model for the guru who converted
Huxley's sophisticated hero to mysticism in Eyeless
in Gaza
). Heard had set up shop in a retreat provided
by a businessman patron in an estate called Idyllwild in the Los
Angeles area; and there he organized retreats for all the once-active
libertarian Old Right businessmen. In particular, Heard, blathering
about the "Growing Edge" and the paranormal, organized
mystical sessions which included experiments in hallucinogenic
"mad mushrooms" and even LSD. It is fascinating that
Heard and his crew were proto-Timothy Leary types – an incongruous
leap into a genteel but highly debilitating form of right-wing
"counter-culture." One thing that plunging into this
nonsense accomplished, of course, was to convince the participants
that liberty, statism, economics, politics, and even ethics were
not really important; that the only thing that really counted
was advances in personal spiritual "awareness."

Even though
presumably not designed for that purpose, this was a beautiful
way to destroy an active ideological movement. All the participants
became tainted in one way or another. Thaddeus Ashby, who had
become assistant editor of Faith and Freedom, influenced
Johnson, and Gerald Heard obtained a regular column there, every
month issuing incomprehensible Confucius-like pronouncements.
(A typical column began: "People ask me, Mr. Heard, will
there be war? And I answer: u2018Have you read Maeterlinck's The
Life of the Bee
'?" – I am sure a most useful
answer to the burning foreign policy question.) Ashby ended up
dropping out of libertarian ideology altogether, and pursuing
the mad mushroom in Mexico and the bizarre path of Tantric Yoga.
Bill Mullendore's enthusiasm for liberty weakened. And Ingebretsen
was so influenced as to go virtually on permanent retreat. Business
contributions fell off drastically, despite a last-minute desperate
attempt to transform Faith and Freedom into an exclusively
antiunion organ, and the Rev. Fifield, who had run SM since the
1930s, resigned in 1959, thus sounding the death knell for a once
active and important organization.19

Even Leonard
Read was affected, and Read's flirtation on the fringes of the
Growing Edge group could only accelerate the steady deterioration
of FEE. Leonard had always had a mystical streak; thus, he treated
every newcomer to FEE to a one-hour monologue to the effect that
"scientists tell me that if you could blow up an atom to
the size of this room, and then step inside it, you would hear
beautiful music." (I forbore to ask him whether it would
be Bach or Beethoven.) Apparently, this nonsense went over well
with many FEE devotees. It, of course, could not go over at all
with Frank Chodorov, a down-to-earth type who enjoyed discussing
real ideas and issues. It's no wonder that Chodorov lasted for
such a short time in such an intellectually stultifying atmosphere.

In the meanwhile,
libertarian social life in New York City had been a lowly
business. There were no young libertarians in New York after Dick
Cornuelle moved West, and what few there were – who included
no anarchists – clustered around the Mises Seminar at New
York University. A path out of the wilderness came in late 1953,
when I met at the seminar a brilliant group of young and budding
libertarians; most were then seniors in high school, and one,
Leonard Liggio, was a sophomore at Georgetown. Some of this group
had formed a Cobden Club at the Bronx High School of Science and
the group as a whole had met as activists in the Youth for Taft
campaign in 1952. The conversion of this group to anarchism was
a simple matter of libertarian logic, and we all became fast friends,
forming ourselves into a highly informal group called the Circle
Bastiat, after the nineteenth-century French laissez-faire
economist. We had endless discussions of libertarian political
theory and current events, we sang and composed songs, joked about
how we would be treated by "future historians," toasted
the day of future victory, and played board games until the wee
hours. Those were truly joyous times.

When I first
met them, the Circle had, after the Taft defeat, formed the libertarian
wing of a conservative-libertarian coalition that had constituted
the Students for America; in fact the Circle kids totally controlled
the Eastern branch of the SFA, while its president, Bob Munger,
a conservative with rightist political connections, controlled
the West. Unfortunately, however, only Munger had access to the
financing, and when he was drafted shortly thereafter, SFA fell
apart. From then on, we continued throughout the 1950s as an isolated
though rollicking group in New York.

By the mid-1950s,
the Old Right was demoralized politically with Taft dead, the
Bricker Amendment defeated, and Eisenhower Republicanism triumphant,
while intellectually the fading of the Old Right left a vacuum:
the Freeman was to all intents and purposes finished, FEE
was declining, Chodorov was incapacitated, Garrett dead, and Felix
Morley, for persistent isolationism, was ousted from the Human
Events that he had helped to found. Faith and Freedom and
Spiritual Mobilization were likewise dead.

Finally,
the death of Colonel McCormick in April 1955 deprived isolationism
and its Middle-Western base of its most important and dedicated
voice, as the publisher molding the Chicago Tribune. There
were by now literally no libertarian or isolationist publishing
outlets available. The time was ripe for the filling of the vacuum,
for the seizure of this lost continent and lost army, and for
their mobilization by a man and a group that could supply intelligence,
glibness, erudition, money, and political know-how to capture
the right wing for a very different cause and for a very different
drummer. The time had come for Bill Buckley and National Review.

Notes

  1. (New York:
    Harper and Bros., 1954).
  2. Louis
    Bromfield, A
    New Pattern for a Tired World
    (New York: Harper and
    Bros., 1954), pp. 49–55.
  3. Ibid.,
    pp. 60–63.
  4. Ibid.,
    p. 75.
  5. Garet
    Garrett, "The Suicidal Impulse," Faith and Freedom
    5, no. 8 (April 1954): 6.
  6. Ernest
    T. Weir, "Leaving Emotions Out of Our Foreign Policy,"
    ibid., p. 8.
  7. William
    Henry Chamberlin, America's
    Second Crusade
    (Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1950).
  8. William
    Henry Chamberlin, "Appeasement on the Right," New
    Leader (May 17, 1954).
  9. Ibid.,
    p. 21; letter from Aubrey Herbert and reply by Chamberlin, ibid.,
    June 21, 1954, p. 29. As far as I know, the Polish accolade
    never came. As for the demoralized and bleeding domestic Left,
    one of the few pieces of recognition of the anti-imperialist
    Right was in the New York Compass of January 2, 1952,
    seconded by the National Guardian of January 9, 1953,
    both of which praised an excellent article by Garet Garrett
    in the Wall Street Journal. Garrett had attacked the
    bipartisan imperialist foreign policy and denounced all the
    presidential candidates, including Taft, for supporting it.
  10. Frank
    Chodorov, "The Return of 1940?" Freeman (September
    1954): 81.
  11. Frank
    Chodorov, "A War to Communize America," Freeman
    (November 1954): 171.
  12. Ibid.,
    p. 172.
  13. Ibid.,
    p. 174.
  14. Ibid.,
    p. 173
  15. The idea
    of the name change originated in the fall of 1960 with Bill
    Buckley, but Chodorov never accepted the change. It took until
    near the point of Chodorov's death that Milione was willing
    to make the break, and thereby symbolize another takeover by
    the Buckleyite New Right. George H. Nash, The
    Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945

    (New York: Basic Books, 1976), p. 390.
  16. Felix
    Morley, For
    the Record
    (South Bend, Ind.: Regnery Gateway, 1979),
    p. 430. In a rather sharper and less mellow account of the break
    written for a 30th-anniversary celebration of Human Events,
    Morley wrote that Hanighen was beginning to consider him "soft
    on Communism." Felix Morley, "The Early Days of Human
    Events," Human Events (April 27, 1974): 26,
    28, 31. Cited in Nash, Conservative Intellectual Movement,
    pp. 124–25.
  17. Morley,
    For the Record, p. 437. Morley pays tribute to the fact
    that Regnery, despite these criticisms, was happy to publish
    his book.
  18. On the
    Bricker Amendment struggle, see Frank E. Holman, Story of
    the "Bricker" Amendment (The First Phase) (New
    York: Committee for Constitutional Government, 1954). Holman,
    a past president of the American Bar Association, was a leader
    in the forces for the amendment. Included as appendices to the
    book were pro-Bricker Amendment statements by the veteran individualist
    and isolationist Samuel Pettingill, Clarence Manion, Garet Garrett,
    and Frank Chodorov.
  19. For an
    illuminating discussion of the mysticism that laid Spiritual
    Mobilization low in the late 1950s, see Eckard Vance Toy, Jr.,
    "Ideology and Conflict in American Ultraconservatism, 1945–1960"
    (Ph.D. diss., University of Oregon, 1965), pp. 156–90.

Reprinted
from Mises.org.

Murray
N. Rothbard
(1926–1995) was dean of the Austrian
School, founder of modern libertarianism, and academic
vice president of the Mises
Institute
. He was also editor — with Lew Rockwell —
of The
Rothbard-Rockwell Report
, and appointed Lew as his
literary executor.

The
Best of Murray Rothbard

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