• Isolationism and the Foreign New Deal Chapter 5 of The Betrayal of the American Right

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    During
    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.

    Still worse
    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.

    The pressure
    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
    advertisers.3

    Typical of
    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

    Freda Kirchwey,
    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.

    Kirchwey's
    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.

    Neither did
    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:

    No alien
    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
    leash.5

    The opponents
    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.
    . . .

    I should
    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

    The oppression
    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
    Whitman:

    Thunder on!
    Stride on, Democracy!
    Strike with vengeful stroke!

    Carlson and
    his cohorts were certainly being avid in pursuing Whitman's injunction.

    So virulent
    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
    readers.

    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."8

    Influential
    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
    interventionists.

    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.

    After many
    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

    the three
    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.

    Neither did
    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

    Calumny, social
    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,
    declared Flynn,

    were thinking
    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
    international affairs.

    Foreseeing
    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.
    Flynn declared:

    All sorts
    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.

    The great
    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

    Flynn unerringly
    predicted that imperialism would follow in militarism's wake:

    Embarked
    . . . 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
    own.17

    Flynn noted
    that interventionism and imperialism had come to be called "internationalism,"
    so that anyone who opposes imperialism "is scornfully called
    an isolationist." Flynn went on:

    Imperialism
    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
    internationalism.18

    Flynn then
    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.

    This 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

    Imperialism,
    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.

    Fascism will
    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.

    Finally, Flynn
    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

    1. Elizabeth
      Dilling, The Roosevelt Red Record and Its Background (Chicago:
      Elizabeth Dilling, 1936).
    2. For the
      grisly record of the liberal flip-flop, see James J. Martin, American
      Liberalism and World Politics, 2 vols. (New York: Devin-Adair,
      1964).
    3. 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.
    4. Martin,
      American Liberalism and World Politics, pp. 1155–56; Michael
      Wreszin, Oswald Garrison Villard (Bloomington: Indiana
      University Press, 1965), pp. 259–63.
    5. Albert Jay
      Nock, "The Amazing Liberal Mind," American Mercury
      44, no. 176 (August 1938): 467–72.
    6. Quoted in
      Martin, American Liberalism and World Politics, p. 1278.
    7. See Wayne
      S. Cole, America First (Madison: University of Wisconsin
      Press, 1953), pp. 107–10.
    8. 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
      House, 1968).
    9. Quoted in
      Wayne S. Cole, America First: The Battle Against Intervention,
      1940–1941 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1953),
      p. 144).
    10. Lindbergh's
      puzzled reaction to criticisms of his speech by more politically
      minded isolationists was characteristic. Thus:

    John Flynn
    . . . 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.

    Also his
    conversation with Herbert Hoover:

    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)

    1. 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,

      is one
      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)

      One particularly
      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.

    2. John T.
      Flynn, As We Go Marching (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday,
      Doran and Co., 1944), pp. 193–94.
    3. Ibid., p.
      198.
    4. Ibid., p.
      201.
    5. Ibid., p.
      207.
    6. Ibid., p.
      212.
    7. Ibid., pp.
      212–13.
    8. Ibid., p.
      213.
    9. Ibid., p.
      214.
    10. Ibid., pp.
      225–26.
    11. Ibid., pp.
      252–53.
    12. Ibid.,
      pp. 255, 258.

    Table
    of Contents: The Betrayal of the American Right

    Murray
    Rothbard Archives

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