The Truman Era
by I.F. Stone
Vintage Books, 1973, paper
How could it be that a nation proclaiming itself the champion
of freedoms everywhere was so indifferent to, and even actively
engaged in, the destruction of its own? The American philosopher
William James once provided a useful clue to an explanation. He
said that there was a difference between feeling free, and acting
as a free person. People feel most free, said James, when they
respond with the least effort, reacting "unhesitatingly in
a certain stereotyped way." We act as a free people when
we make an effort to affirm and adopt a difficult task, to work
against the lines of greatest resistance. Perhaps the true nature
of the Truman years can be summed up in these very terms: Americans
learned to define freedom as feeling free, escaping from difficult
choices by embracing stereotypes, rather than struggling to act
and think as free people.
... the philosophical assumptions which had lain for almost two
centuries at the foundations of American life. These were secular,
skeptical, democratic, and optimistic. They had bred distrust
for the priest and contempt for the bureaucrat. They had developed
a healthy suspicion of government and a lively irreverence about
all dogma. They were reflected in separation of Church and State,
and respect for individual belief and conscience. They implied
belief in the efficacy of reason, the essential goodness of man,
and the ultimate victory of truth. The First Amendment, the cornerstone
of the American constitutional system, rested on the assumption
that since men were reasonable and good they could be trusted
to choose among freely competing ideas. American optimism and
belief in social reform drew their strength from the happy conviction
that men were made evil, rebellious, violent, or criminal only
by the miseries of material circumstance, not by some mysterious
and innate quality predestining them to damnation. To improve
man one had only to improve his conditions. The corollaries affirmed
the futility of force against human aspiration and new ideas,
and asserted the indispensability of social amelioration and free
discussion to a healthy and progressive society.
Those who had spoken out most strongly against regimentation during
the New Deal were the foremost proponents of the new regimentation
which began with the Truman era. Those who objected most to the
regimentation of property were the first to encourage the regimentation
of mind; and the reader will see ... how much of what happened
in the sphere of thought control was forecast and blueprinted
in advance by the United States Chamber of Commerce. The 1946
report of its Committee on Socialism and Communism charts a program
to drive out of opinion-forming agencies-schools, radio, movies,
television, newspapers, and libraries-all Reds, pinks, and liberals.
Socialists were considered as dangerous potentially as Communists,
though the Socialist New Leader was recommended highly. Liberals
were damned for protecting the freedom of speech of both, and
the report took exception to those who thought revolutionary ideas
could be "appeased by improvements in the standard of living
of the people." While Truman and his advisers feared to "plan"
for full employment in peacetime (the horrid word "planning"
is notably absent from the collected reports of the President's
Council of Economic Advisers), Big Business planned to establish
a glacial conformity, a chrome-plated American version of what
George Orwell saw ahead for mankind.
In this respect the postwar period merely
brought to dominance tendencies already apparent, though held
in check, during the Roosevelt period and before. The developments
exposed by Upton Sinclair in The Brass Check, which showed the
"Gleichschaltung" of the pre-World War I journalistic
muckrakers, had continued. Life was already precarious during
the '20s for liberal and radical writers and journalists. There
had always been a strongly antidemocratic tendency in American
life from Hamilton on. The old Whig spirit, the belief in government
by the rich and well-born, had never died out, though it was no
longer politic to express it frankly. In the pre-World War II
period, the extensive if forgotten volumes of the La Follette
Committee hearings showed how widespread, well organized, and
well heeled were the tendencies toward a native kind of fascism.
These un-American tendencies paraded in the name of Americanism
and soon found an effective vehicle. The Dickstein-McCormack Committee,
set up to investigate purveyors of racist and fascist views, was
converted in the hands of Martin Dies into a means of attacking
the New Deal and the left-of-center.
The House Un-American Activities Committee
showed its real direction by making its debut in the 1938 campaign
with the defeat of Frank Murphy for reelection as Governor of
Michigan. The governor who refused to expel the sit-down strikers
from the auto plants with blackjack and bullet was to be punished
for his temerity in failing to do the bidding of what Henry Demarest
Lloyd once called The Lords of Industry. Out of the same context
grew the long attempt to deport Harry Bridges, an attempt which
led to the passage, over FDR's veto in 1940, of an alien registration
bill, the Smith Act, which also embodied the first peacetime sedition
provisions in American history since the days of John Adams.
The red menace in our history is older than the Reds. No small
part of the Constitution was dictated by fear of legislation in
the interest of the poorer classes, fear of such debtor uprisings
as had occurred under Shays in Massachusetts. "My opinion,"
New York's great conservative jurist Chancellor Kent had declared
in the 1830s during the fight to enable non-property-owners to
vote, "is that the admission of universal suffrage and a
licentious press are incompatible with government and security
to property." In the 1890s the first federal income tax law
was attacked before the Supreme Court as communistic. The American
Liberty League in the 1936 campaign carried on in the same tradition
against the New Deal, and John W. Davis, one of the leading personalities
in the League, also helped to father the Un-American Activities
Committee... What the cry of the red menace was unable to accomplish
in Roosevelt's day, it succeeded in doing in Truman's. The laborer,
white-collar worker, or farmer could not be deterred by the red
bogey from demanding higher wages and better social security,
these were bread-and-butter issues he understood too well. But
in a postwar America of high living standards and full employment,
in which worker and farmer enjoyed the fruits of the New Deal,
it was easy to put over the same campaign in the distant field
of foreign policy. The average man knew little of Russia, China,
or Reds. He shared the general fear of that strange new thing
in the world, socialism. He felt impelled by patriotic impulse
in a struggle for world mastery between his own country and the
only other great power left. The Church, which had been unable
to swing the urban Roman Catholic workers against the New Deal,
was able to swing them against the menace of Communism abroad.
Though the apparent purposes lay in the
field of foreign policy, the new crusade against Communism was
shot through with domestic considerations. In an America being
mobilized emotionally for war against Russia, it was easy to drive
radicals and liberals of all kinds out of positions of influence
and thus make a new successful period of peaceful reform impossible.
The Republicans fought Russia in order to prevent a New Deal,
while the Democrats fought Russia as a kind of rearguard action
against the Republicans. As long as Truman made faces at Stalin,
it was more difficult to accuse the Democrats of being communistic.
Few seemed to notice and even fewer dared to say that, in the
process, America and American law were being distorted into the
image of that against which both parties claimed to be crusading.
In the sphere of civil liberties, America began to conform far
more closely to Vishinsky than to Jefferson. The ideas expounded
by Vishinsky in his famous treatise on Soviet law, his naive conception
that of course one does not grant the basic freedoms to those
who oppose the regime in power, were followed faithfully if unconsciously
by American anti-Communists. The notion that the security of the
state outweighs justice to the individual began to be accepted
by the Circuit and Supreme Courts in the House Un-American contempt
cases and in the cases growing out of the loyalty purge.
There are moments, looking backward, when ... wars seem as inevitable
and as irrational as the crashing of the waves upon the turbulent
sea. There are moments when the traditions of liberty seem to
exercise very little real hold upon the American mind.
If people do not achieve some vivid conception of what hell has
reigned in parts of Europe and Asia during the past decade or
so, how can one expect them to think hard enough and act firmly
enough to prevent it from happening again?
One cannot understand what one has not suffered. How many of us
are thankful that our own country was spared, that our children
did not jump from their beds as the warning air-raid sirens screamed
in the nights, that we did not huddle with our families in the
subways, that our daughters were not shipped into slavery and
our mothers sealed into death cars for the extermination camps,
that our cities are not gutted by bombs, our children's faces
pinched by hunger?
I wish it were possible to throw on some gigantic screen for all
to see some fraction of the suffering, the treachery, the sacrifice,
and the courage of the past decade. For how are we in America
to fulfill our responsibility to the dead and to the future, to
our less fortunate allies and to our children's children, if we
do not feel a little of this so deeply in our bones that we will
be unswervingly determined that it shall never happen again?
Turner Catledge quoting Senator Harry Truman, New York Times,
June 24. 1941
"If we see that Germany is winning, we ought to help Russia
and if Russia is winning we ought to help Germany and that way
let them kill as many as possible ... "
American Big Business and the Future of the Reich
Washington, March 19,1945
To a large extent, the personnel chosen
by the State Department, the Army, OSS (Office of Strategic Services),
and FEA (Foreign Economic Administration) to plan the future of
Germany is being drawn from those circles in Big Business, finance,
and the corporate bar which did a great deal of business with
the Reich before the war.
Here are a few hitherto undisclosed examples.
Allen W. Dulles of Sullivan & Cromwell is in Switzerland,
where we have been trying to stop the leak of German capital abroad.
Important agencies are depending on Dulles to advise them on facts
and policies in connection with German finance and industry. Sullivan
& Cromwell is our leading corporation law firm and before
the war served many corporations and banks dealing with the Reich.
Dulles is also a director of the J. Henry
Schroder Banking Corporation of New York, the American branch
of an old British banking house of German origin, whose operations
helped Hitler obtain raw materials and foreign exchange before
Another director of the Schroder bank,
Samarkand-born V. Lada-Mocarski, has just been appointed vice-consul
in Zurich by the State Department after many months in the supersecret
OSS, where he was an adviser on German matters.
In Pads there is a group of American bankers
and Big Business men in uniform, dealing with questions of German
policy. Among them are Paul Mellon and his brother-in-law, David
K. E. Bruce, both of the Aluminum Company of America; Alfred duPont,
of E. I. duPont de Nemours & Company; Junius Spencer Morgan,
of J. P. Morgan & Company; Lester Armour, of the meat-packing
Armours; Edward Bigelow, of the State Street Trust Company of
Boston; Lloyd Cabot Bdggs, of Abbott, Proctor & Paine, and
a number of other upper-bracket socialites and Big Business figures.
Three men, Allen Dulles, David Bruce,
and Irving Sherman, vice-president of A. G. Becker & Company,
Chicago, are doing a considerable share of the military and intelligence
masterminding in connection with the coming occupation of the
Reich. Sherman was once head of the Becker firm's Berlin office.
The reason given for leaning so heavily
for German intelligence on upper-crust business, finance, and
law is that these circles alone had contact with the Reich before
the war and can alone provide information we need in planning
the future of the Reich.
But anyone who reads the story of the
Strasbourg meeting may well doubt whether men from firms which
had close and profitable relations with German business before
the war can be relied upon for the policies necessary to make
the Strasbourg plans impossible.
Very few American businessmen dealt with
Germany before the war because they favored Nazism. They dealt
with it on a business-business basis. But there were very few
German businessmen who dealt with the USA on the same basis. There
were very few whose economic transactions were not geared into
the political program of the Third Reich, who did not help in
economic warfare, in the financing of propaganda, and in espionage.
Let us look at the Strasbourg meeting
in the light of the past. It shows, first, that German Big Business
is again preparing to play a political role, that unless stopped
it will secretly help the Nazi underground in preparation for
World War III.
This makes it essential to treat as war
criminals those German businessmen and financiers who collaborated
in the rise of Nazism and are prepared to provide the money for
its rebirth. Can their old associates on this side of the water,
most of them politically naive, be expected to deal ruthlessly
with the men they knew only as cultivated gentlemen, jolly gemutlich
burghers, able architects of business policy?
The Strasbourg meeting makes it clear,
secondly, that the Germans hope to resume their old cartel and
patent ties abroad and use these as sources of funds and influence
with which to rebuild Germany's power to fight again.
These cartel and patent agreements were
weapons of German imperial policy. But they looked different from
this side of the water. Here they were regarded as profitable
means of dividing markets, stabilizing prices, eliminating competition.
Can the American firms which were linked with German agreements
of this kind in the past be relied upon to support rigorous treatment
of these cartel and patent ties in the future?
The third important point brought to light
by the Strasbourg meeting is the fact that the German government
is now encouraging the flight of German capital abroad to provide
funds and centers of action for the future, especially in Latin
America. But from this side, this export of capital is often a
means of making profit, of recovering on German assets, of helping
old friends and business associates of the prewar period. Can
we depend on American Big Business and financial firms to help
block this flow of funds?
Security agencies in Washington know that
there have been communications between American and German firms
in recent months arranging for transactions that enabled Reich
businessmen to get their funds out of Germany. Such transactions
obviously can be mutually profitable.
Security agencies in Washington also know
that conferences between representatives of Axis and Allied firms
have been held in Lisbon during the past year.
Evidence of this may be reflected in Attorney
General Biddle's able and outspoken annual report to Congress.
The Attorney General warns, "many international agreements
allocating world territories are merely in abeyance during the
war . . . in numerous instances negotiations have already been
carried on for their resumption."
Blessed Land: Blind People
Washington, September 14, 1947
As I read the stories on the growing food
crisis, I recall my feelings on returning home from abroad last
When my plane circled-over Washington,
I saw first the broad blue Potomac and then the green fields along
its banks, and what had been a commonplace seemed a revelation.
Here was plentiful water and fertile earth. One no longer took
these for granted after seeing the parched desert lands and the
eroded mountains of Palestine.
As we swung down over the city, I saw
the wide familiar avenues, the great dome of the Capitol, the
pleasant lawns of the White House, the traffic swarming ant-like
in the streets. Here were sweet evidences of peace one no longer
took for granted after seeing the devastated acres around St.
Paul's in London and catching the sickish smell that betrays still
unburied bodies in the nightmarish ruins around the Bahnhofplatz
The country seemed blessed, but its people
seemed blind. To talk with people, to hear the debates in Congress,
to read the papers again, to listen in on the constant tidal roar
of yammer and complaint that is politics in America, was a sour
I felt that America had never been less
worthy of its past, more small-minded; that America was unappreciative
of its blessings and heedless of its responsibilities, the responsibility
of the more fortunate for the less, the duty of the strong toward
the weak, the obligation of the rich toward the poor.
Everywhere in the huge mass of Eurasia,
from England to China, human beings were struggling with real
and terrible problems. I had seen the one-inch square of butter
that is an Englishman's ration for a week. I had heard of the
dank cellars from which the indomitable Poles were emerging to
rebuild their country. I had been humbled by the courage among
the ragged Jews of the illegal immigration. I had seen how thin
the people are on the boulevards of Paris.
Here no one seemed to appreciate what
it meant to have a roof over one's head, a job, a secure life
for one's children, food ample by any reasonable standard, cities
untouched by war, a home, a country. America seemed like one of
those idle, dissatisfied rich women with no babies to mind and
no dishes to wash and lots of time to nurture neuroses.
I recall these feelings now because this
food crisis is more than a problem in food supply. It is, in a
very real sense, a moral crisis and a political crisis, a test
of the intelligence of the average American, the measure of his
heart as well as his head.
In any system of society, it is safer,
more tactful, more expedient, to criticize the ruler by indirection,
to find scapegoats, to blame advisers. The ruler here is demos,
the people, and it is customary when things go wrong to blame
politicians, the wicked "interests," reactionaries,
and so forth.
But this is a free country. The people
have power, when they want to use it. When they want something
deeply, they can and do get it, despite the obstacles and the
weight of wealth in the scales of ordinary politics. And when
things go wrong, the people must share their part of the blame;
they are adults, they have voices- they are neither gagged nor
Why did we get rid of price control and
rationing so much earlier than we should have? Basically because
that's what people wanted; they were tired of wartime restrictions.
And, as the mail to Congress during the OPA fight indicated, people
were far more interested ;D getting theirs as farmers, producers,
and workers than ;D stabilizing prices as consumers.
The politicians in Washington deserve
their due occasionally. They've been afraid to tell the truth
about the world situation, about the special session of Congress
needed to meet it, about the necessity for reimposing some kind
of rationing and controls at home. They've been afraid to tell
the truth because ordinary Americans don't want to face up to
unpleasant facts and don't want to make even minor sacrifices
to help the less fortunate elsewhere, to help those who suffered
in the war from which we profited.
We need to ration meat to save grain,
but meat rationing is unpopular. We need to darken our bread in
order to save wheat, but gray bread is unpopular. We need to reimpose
price and wage controls, but people only want to control the other
fellow's price or wage, not their OWD. We need to forget political
prejudice and recognize that loans to get more Polish coal and
Romanian wheat are at least as necessary to stem world shortages
as loans to rehabilitate industry and agriculture in our own sphere
of influence, but it's unpopular to say a sane word about the
Our failure to meet the crisis is fundamentally
the failure of average Americans to face up to their responsibilities
in a free country and a devastated world.
The lag in European recovery, the growing
food shortage abroad, the failure to take steps in time to conserve
food here and control its price, the unwillingness to plan production
for reconstruction needs are destroying the hope that we could
escape with a quick price recession from the war's impact on our
economy. Inflation is spreading as surely as a plague; the food
on our own tables grows dearer, the price spiral dizzier. We may
pay with a really severe crash for having answered as Cain answered:
"Am I my brother's keeper?"
Toward an American police state
The Master Plan for American Thought Control
New York, March 13, 1952
The new report on Communism issued to
its members by the United States Chamber of Commerce is a carefully
worked out master plan for the extension of thought control in
America. It would bar Communists, fellow travelers, and "dupes"
from all agencies and professions affecting public opinion "such
as newspapers, radio, television, book and magazine publishing,
and research institutions." It would bar them as "teachers
or librarians," and from posts in "any school or university."
It would forbid their employment in "any field which gives
prestige and high salaries" such as "the entertainment
field." It also says they should not be employed in "any
plant large enough to have a labor union."
These proposals would impose on every
agency of public education and discussion the same "sterile
conformity" foreshadowed in the schools by the Supreme Court
decision upholding the Feinberg Law. It would subject renowned
artists and scientists to ideological snooping.
While making a clean sweep of the left
intellectuals, it would also make it difficult for any radical
workingman to make a living. To bar Communists and fellow travelers
from employment "in any plant large enough to have a labor
union" would be to put industrial workers on notice to be
careful what opinions they express in the shop or the union meeting
lest these be considered "communistic" and grounds for
loss of employment.
The United States Chamber of Commerce
proposals would ring down a Big Business iron curtain on the thinking
The source and the past record show that
these proposals need to be taken very seriously. The Chamber of
Commerce does not speak for a lunatic fringe of the Right. Its
members and directors make up a veritable Social Register of American
General Mills, Standard Oil of New Jersey,
Monsanto Chemical, General Motors, New York Telephone, First National
of Chicago are a few names picked at random from one of its "brain
Except for the National Association of
Manufacturers, there is no business group in this country which
has so well and widely organized a network for influencing legislation
and opinion. The Chamber is in some ways more powerful and more
responsible than the NAM since the Chamber speaks for American
finance as well as American industry.
To read the five reports on Communism
which the Chamber of Commerce has issued since 1946 is to see
that behind the antics of Congressional witch-hunters, responsible
businessmen have been working in an intelligent and organized
fashion. The 1946 report suggested the loyalty purge in the government
and an investigation of Communist influence in Hollywood, a year
before the President issued his executive order for the discharge
of disloyal employees and a year before the House Un-American
Activities Committee launched its Hollywood inquiry.
In January, 1947, the Chamber of Commerce
issued a second report proposing among other things that the Department
of Justice publish "at least twice-a-year a certified list
of Communist-controlled front organizations and labor unions."
In December, 1947, the Department of Justice began the practice
of making public at regular intervals a list of "subversive"
organizations which had formerly been utilized only for the private
guidance of federal officials.
A separate report early that year on "Communists
within the Labor Movement" carried a modest footnote saying,
"It is probable that the 80th Congress will modify the Wagner
Act so that employers can work more effectively and without fear
of law violation, with American-minded employees in opposing Communists
within the labor movement." It did.
In June, 1947, Congress passed the Taft-Hartley
Law over President Truman's veto. This deprived unions of the
privileges of the National Labor Relations Act unless their officers
took a non-Communist oath. It also weakened provisions of the
Wagner Act designed to prevent employers from interfering with
their employees in their choice of representatives for collective
The 1948 report called for action to bar
Communists as teachers, librarians, social workers, and book reviewers.
It gave examples of "community action" for the guidance
and inspiration of its affiliates. Among these were the banning
of "pro-Communist commentators" from the radio, the
discharge of Stephen Fritchman as editor of the Christian Register,
the official Unitarian monthly, and the successful campaign initiated
by Counterattack to get then Secretary of State George Marshall
to refuse an award by The Churchman. Counterattack has been endorsed
by the Chamber of Commerce ever since that sheet was founded.
In addition, every anti-Communist report by the Chamber of Commerce
has recommended the right-wing Socialist New Leader, along with
the pro-China Lobby Plain Talk, to its members.
The new report proposes to bar fellow
travelers and "dupes" as well as Communists from opinion-making
fields. The wide orbit of the net cast by the Chamber is indicated
by its attack on critics of the Smith Act and on those who criticize
such informers as Louis Budenz. "Many liberals," the
report says, "including one prominent industrialist, have
fallen for the Communist bait of attacking former Communists as
unreliable. Such converts are abused as 'professional informers.'
. . . Abuse leveled against such persons discourages prospective
converts from leaving the party, much less assisting our government
in prosecuting traitors. In this matter again certain 'liberals'
are giving aid and comfort to communism."
The CIO and the Americans for Democratic
Action are criticized for opposing the Smith Act, and the report
implies that the latter at least may be itself involved in a Communist
plot. "As early as 1948," the report says, "when
the Communist Party feared that it would be driven underground,
its instructions to its members were to concentrate in the 'civil
liberties' field." The Chamber of Commerce report then asks,
"Is it merely a coincidence that today we have thousands
of so-called 'liberals,' for example, Americans for Democratic
Action, who are fighting the Communist battle precisely in this
The Chamber suggests an organized investigation
of all former Communists, which would study their records and
make possible their use as informers.
"It cannot be ignored," the
report says, "that we have in our midst several hundred thousand
former Communist Party members." It says that only "a
minority of these are known to have made a complete switch and
are thoroughly loyal and in a few cases strong anti-Communist
The report says "we have research
funds and programs to investigate everything under the sun, but
little attempt has been made to study these former Communist Party
members: why they joined, educational level, age, I.Q., what they
did, how deeply they were involved, why and when they left the
party, what they are now doing, etc."
An investigation of this kind would put
all former Communists under surveillance, registering them with
the FBI and requiring active anti-Communist action to prove their
loyalty. The proposal may sound extreme at the moment but it is
unwise to treat the proposals of this powerful Big Business body
Long before McCarthy and McCarran went
to work on the State Department, the United States Chamber of
Commerce in its 1947 report called for "exhaustive study"
by Congressional committees into foreign policies "which
appear to be more pro-Soviet than pro-American." The Chamber
said such a Congressional investigation "could go into the
influences which entered into such important decisions as the
Potsdam agreement, the Argentine policy and the China policy."
Long before the "China Lobby" became a familiar phrase
the Chamber in these reports on Communism had begun to reflect
on the loyalty of public officials hostile to Chiang Kai-shek.
In 1946 the Chamber began to call for
a loyalty purge. Its new report has shifted the attack to the
loyalty boards themselves. "The greatest weakness in our
loyalty program," the new report says, "lies in the
departmental and agency loyalty boards," and says that "Communists
or doubtfully loyal persons may be coddled at the very time that
other officials, in the tax or money-lending fields, are summarily
dismissed for questionable associations."
In the field of labor the Chamber asks
amendment of the Taft-Hartley Law to tighten up the anti-Communist
provisions, and prosecutions for perjury where affidavits have
been filed. "Since the proof that even one national officer
perjured himself," the report says, "would debar all
locals from NLRB facilities, it should not be too difficult for
the Department of Justice to prove that any purported resignation
[from the Communist Party] was not bona fide."
In the field of free speech for workers
the Chamber makes two proposals. One is "a collective bargaining
clause" in union contracts which would permit "the discharge
of any worker who is a Communist or who continues to join in pro-Communist
activities." The other is an amendment to the Taft-Hartley
Act "to permit a union to expel and demand the discharge
of a Communist member under a union-shop contract." The Chamber
of Commerce complains that at present employers "are bound
by contract to submit protested discharge cases to grievance procedure."
It says, "Unions have sometimes defended discharged Communists
and arbitrators have upheld the claim."
In the field of opinion-making professions,
the Chamber gave the cue long ago to the Peglers and McCarthys.
Thus the 1946 report said "a prominent and highly regarded
metropolitan newspaper has followed the Communist line in its
reporting and editorials on foreign affairs." The Right's
lunatic fringe attacked the New York Herald Tribune as the "uptown
The attack on Little, Brown which led
to the discharge of Angus Cameron was foreshadowed in that same
report, which took sideswipes at "a well-known conservative
magazine from a conservative city, and a book firm in the same
city . . ." The 1948 report also gave the cue to similar
attacks on the literary pages. It said public libraries were in
danger not so much from the librarians themselves as from "the
fact that many of their important book review sources are infiltrated
by Communists or sympathizers." This was later widely amplified
by the spokesmen for the China Lobby.
The Chamber of Commerce and its allies
are out to surpass the success achieved by Big Business after
World War 1, when anti-Red hysteria enabled it to establish its
"American Plan" open-shop philosophy in industry and
to control all the agencies of American public opinion, restricting
dissent largely to peripheral and precarious publications.
This time the campaign must contend with
a more powerful labor movement, but is helped by big-power rivalry
between the United States and the USSR.
Another new factor is the new political
power of the Catholic Church and Catholic parties in Western Europe
and the United States. The chairman of the Chamber's Committee
on Communism from 1941 to 1950, the chairman of the committee
which prepared the first four postwar reports on Communism, was
Francis P. Matthews, a papal chamberlain and former head of the
Knights of Columbus, a man who lost his job in the Truman cabinet
as Secretary of the Navy because he took MacArthur's side against
Truman and publicly advocated preventive war against Russia in
The Chamber, representing most of America's
richest banks and corporations, wields great power in Congress
and seeks also to build a grass-roots community "anti-Communist"
organization "among business, labor, service, veteran, patriotic
and religious groups."
It advises its members to "be on
the alert for Communist sympathizers in your community,"
to "find out from reputable sources such as Counterattack,
Alert or the American Legion about Communist sympathizers in the
entertainment field," to watch out for Communists "promoting
appeasement in the name of peace," to "support patriotic
ex-Communists who cooperate with the FBI," and to "identify
public officials . . . displaying softness towards Communism."
This is a clear invitation to terrorize
radicals and to make it unsafe to voice radical views. The Chamber
is digging in well in advance to fight any new period of reform,
even if it has to create an American variety of fascism to do
 The government has a right to a man's cooperation in dealing
with ordinary crime. It has no such right in dealing with political
prosecutions. The law of other free societies has long recognized
the difference between crime and political cases.
Political prosecutions deal with men's
thoughts. Such prosecutions violate the oldest traditions and
arouse the deepest misgivings of free society. A man may disagree
with another's thinking; he may abhor its assumptions and hate
its tendencies. Yet he may, and if a true libertarian he will,
fear the greater danger in allowing the state to police men's
thoughts. To inform under such circumstances is as much a violation
of conscience and moral obligation as it once was to return an
escaped slave to his master.
Can we have prosperity without war?
New York, June 24,19S2
Can the United States keep its economy
going without war alarms, war orders, and war?
If the United States cannot prosper without
war, then the rest does not matter. It does not matter whether
Russia is Communist or capitalist. It does not matter whether
Stalin is intransigent or conciliatory. It does not matter whether
Russian power retreats to its old borders or remains on the Elbe
and the Danube. It does not matter whether China remains Communist
or Mao Tse-tung invites Chiang Kai-shek to come back and take
If the United States cannot prosper without
war, then new excuses for war fevers will be manufactured as the
old ones disappear, just as at Panmunjom new obstacles to agreement
have been found when older ones were cleared away.
This does not mean that American disagreements
with Russia are not real, or that American leaders are "insincere"
when they claim to want peace, or that there are not genuine difficulties
in the way of reaching a settlement. But nations, like men, cannot
be judged merely by what they say.
Anxieties, lines of least resistance,
unconscious convictions too fearful to be faced in the full daylight
of the mind, affect the conduct of nations as well as men. It
is said to be Communist propaganda that America fears peace. But
no one can read the commercial and financial journals of this
country with any regularity without seeing the extent to which
business is haunted by a fear of what will happen if the armament
boom falls off.
These anxieties cannot be attributed to
something that businessmen read in Pravda, or hear about on Radio
The problem is muddied because people
often confuse two closely related but different questions. One
question is: Can America prosper without war? To this the answer
We had prosperity without war in the '20s.
We had recovery without war in the '30s. We learned from both
experiences. It would be defeatist in the struggle for peace,
and it would be untrue from the standpoint of logic and economics,
to say that America cannot prosper without war alarms, war orders,
The other question, however, is a harder
one. Can the American people and the American government muster
the will, the intelligence, and the sense of common purpose to
solve their economic problems without war?
The United States has been on an inflationary
binge. The main component in the drink which has kept its economy
"high" is preparation for a new war. It would be wrong
to say that the United States cannot possibly pull itself together.
But it would also be wrong not to see that it is a lot easier
for that rosy gent at the bar to go on drinking himself to death.
The United States can prosper without
war alarms, war orders, and war, but only at the cost of some
painful adjustments. It is the painfulness of these adjustments
which makes the outlook for peace so precarious.
In a sense it might be said that we need
to allow more free enterprise in our foreign trade while accustoming
ourselves to less in our domestic economy. The non-Communist world
cannot go on forever living on the handouts which war alarms extort
from Congress. Ultimately, in peacetime, it can be a stable market
for American goods only if permitted to earn dollars in return
by trading more freely in the American market. Lower tariffs are
essential to a prosperous peacetime America, but American business
is even now asking greater restrictions against foreign imports.
The non-Communist world cannot prosper
unless the United States government, working with, through, and
on occasion against, private business, keeps the American economy
at a high level of activity. This, like the lowering of tariff
barriers, can only be achieved by overriding private interests.
There's the rub.
In last Sunday's New York Times, Professor
J. K. Galbraith wrote an article which purported to answer "the
Communist argument that we fear peace would bring on depression."
Professor Galbraith said that if peace broke out we could promote
prosperity by such measures as "a vigorous housing and public
works program." He said, "The Missouri, as we have recently
been reminded, is still untamed." More untamed than the Missouri
are the private interests which block such alternatives to war
Professor Galbraith "proves"
that fear of peace is a Communist lie by saying that government-directed
spending to raise living standards at home and abroad could take
the place of war orders and war alarms. So they could.
But it is a lot easier to make faces at
Stalin than at the power trust. It is a lot easier to get appropriations
out of Congress to contain Communism than to contain the Missouri
and the St. Lawrence.
American productivity has grown terrifying
in its enormity. Where war would ruin America, peace would now
make possible within our lifetimes the complete eradication of
poverty in our own land and much alleviation of misery elsewhere.
But this is where Roosevelt came in and Wallace went out. This
is the old New Deal program long ago hooted down as "communistic."
To replace war orders at anywhere near
the present level would require far more than marginal public
works. Either we create new slums in war or wipe out the old ones
in peace. The magnitude of spending and planning necessary is
enough to make any politician falter. Taft himself was called
a Red for a very minor housing program. Who today would dare talk
of the domestic improvements necessary to replace the billions
being spent on armament?
It is not difficult to plot on paper the
economic measures necessary for prosperity in a peaceful world.
It is difficult to muster the political resolution to make those
measures feasible. The Cold War has created an atmosphere which
makes it more comfortable to drift on to catastrophe. Here lies
the main roadblock to peace.
The Horrid Word "Socialism"
Chicago, March 3, 1950
The panic which is sweeping over the American
people does not have its origin in atom bomb or H-bomb, though
both have intensified it. The panic has its origin in fear of
this new force let loose in the world called socialism. Until
this fear is overcome, the chances of peace abroad and permanent
prosperity at home are slight. It is the difficult, unpleasant,
but necessary task of a third-party movement like the Progressives
to tackle that fear.
In a two-party system, neither party willingly
assumes the task of leadership. The Republicans try to rope in
as many liberals as they can without antagonizing too many conservatives
and the Democrats try to rope in as many conservatives as they
can without antagonizing too many liberals. "Me-too-ism"
is inseparable from two-party politics in normal times, as may
be seen from the British election just over, in which the Tories
outbid the Laborites in social welfare promises.
But a third party in a two-party system
cannot hope to get anywhere as a "me-too" party. It
must have the courage of its nonconformist convictions. It does
no good to curry favor with the powers that be; they are too well
served by the major parties. To the extent that the radical party
rids itself of the radical label, it rids itself of the enthusiasm
of the spark-plug minority which can alone give a third-party
movement vitality. This is why flight from ticklish truths to
comfortable fantasies can only divert the Progressives from the
one essential task they might perform without bringing them any
closer to power.
"The big job on the domestic front
in the United States," Wallace told the Progressive Party
convention, "is to convert our present reactionary capitalism
into progressive capitalism which is willing to plan effectively
with government to prevent depression by expanding the peacetime
production and trade of the entire world- including Russia and
the new China."
This is pure unadulterated pie-in-the-sky.
Wallace could hold prayer meetings in every Chamber of Commerce
in the United States without ever getting that kind of a conversion.
If we wait for the conversion of "reactionary" capitalism
into "progressive" capitalism, we shall wait a long
time. It will not be brought about by exhortations from the Progressive
Party, however respectable and politically antiseptic it may become.
The Chambers of Commerce are interested
in peddling another kind of firewater. They stake their all on
the bogeyman. They fight government planning and public ownership
for full employment- by the scare-word of socialism. They fight
trade with Russia and the new China-by the scare-word of Communism.
The Progressive Party has to destroy the
bogeyman if it is to succeed. If it accepts the bogeyman, even
by implication, it loses the fight before the fight has hardly
Every speech on international affairs
always contains the word "understanding." Without some
understanding of the other fellow's way of life there can be no
peace. Understanding is necessary. But almost no one takes the
effort to create it, because this involves the risk of being smeared
as a Red or pink. Someone has got to begin to tell the American
people that Communism and socialism are in the world to stay,
to help them understand how they arose and what needs they serve.
Until these seem reasonable responses
to the conditions that evoked them they will appear so monstrous
that any weapons seem justified against them. This task of education
for peace cannot be performed until Americans look on socialism
and Communism in an adult way, as part of the facts-of-life of
The world has been moving toward socialism
for two generations, and every form of society, whether revolutionary
or democratic or counter-revolutionary, ends by increasing the
power of the state ova the economy at the expense of private rights
in property. The more force is used to fight this trend, the more
extreme becomes its final manifestation. Complex societies require
complex controls. Traffic at 42nd Street and Broadway cannot be
left at the mercy of the individual motorist's whims. The heavier
traffic grows, the more the rules necessary to keep it moving
There is no doubt that the movement toward
statism involves genuine dangers. AU change is dangerous. Only
death is changeless. The task of wise leadership is, while moving
with the tide, to seek to anticipate and avert these dangers.
This can be done only by a calm acceptance of the trend; otherwise
energies are wasted in combating the inevitable. This calm acceptance
is not possible until more people have the courage to use the
scare-word of socialism, to explain it, to preach it, to apply
it, until its terrors are overcome. Fears can be vanquished only
by facing them.
The Progressive Party under current conditions
of hysteria can hardly elect a dogcatcher outside of New York.
This weakness can be its strength. It has nothing to lose by being
honest. It is down to bedrock. People who are still Progressives
are too tough to be frightened off. Many of them are old-time
Populists, wobblies, anarchists, Socialists, or Communists who
know the score better than their leaders. Others are thinking
youngsters more likely to be held and attracted by a vigorous
radicalism than by phony talk about "progressive capitalism."
It is better to win a few people thoroughly
to real understanding of present problems than to collect a dozen
times that many so thoroughly confused by illusory slogans as
to be disarmed for real attack on concrete problems. Thus I plead
for a strong infusion of socialism into the anemic veins of the
Progressives. They're not kidding anybody but themselves anyway.
We Americans like to think of ourselves as rootin' tootin' individualists,
but in a huge country of 160,000,000 people we all awake to the
language of the same alarm clocks, listen to the same radio programs,
gobble the same breakfast food, wear the same clothes, read the
same news-agency reports in the same kind of newspapers, take
in the same ideas from the same big national magazines, and listen
solemnly to the same platitudes from the two big-and very much
the same-political parties. The American in a mass production
industrial society is not much less standardized than the Russian
It is true that the American, unlike the
Russian, can still buy a Compass, a Nation or a New Republic,
or even a Daily Worker, but the small circulation of this nonstandardized
opposition press speaks for itself, and many Americans are getting
as nervous about buying a radical paper or magazine as a Russian
is about being seen with a foreigner. "There is no room,"
Justice Douglas said of Russia, "for a crusading journalist."
There is also very little room for a crusading journalist in America.
On this, I can testify from experience. Five more years of the
present trend and it will be as impossible for a dissident voice
to be heard in Washington as it is in Moscow.
I. F. Stone page