The War on Hitler


Two viewpoints expressed over the American Forum of the Air, from Washington, D. C., May 4, 1941

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, 560-56 .

By STANLEY HIGH, Author and Lecturer

EITHER Hitler's defeat is of desperate, deadly importance to us or it's of no importance whatsoever. If his defeat is of desperate, deadly, importance then—now, immediately and at once—we have got to go all-out and whole-hog to defeat him. If his defeat is of no importance to us—then we've got to stop slapping his wrists, let him devour Britain and stock its bones in the New Order mausoleum where the remains of his other victims are lodged. It's one or the other. To say we want Hitler's defeat and to try a delicate side-step at the all-out job of defeating him is, first, a guarantee that he'll win; it's second, a guarantee that, having won, he'll hate us with a hatred backed up by the resources of four-fifths of the world; and, third, it's a doctrine of turn-tail defeatism that's a travesty on everything American and an insult to the memory of those who—in blood and toil and tears and sweat—gave us America.

I think that Hitler's defeat is of desperate, deadly importance to us and that the time has come to stop aiming at his wrists and aim for his chin—and do it with the total armed might of the United States of America.

To do that may take us to war. Granted. But not to do it won't keep us at peace; not, that is, the kind of peace in which decency has elbowroom and the free spirit of man can go to work mending the torn fabric of our civilization. In this world there isn't any of that peace.

In this world there is peace of two sorts: There is the kind of peace that's come to the Poles, the Czechs, the Norwegians, and now the Greeks. If all you mean by peace is an absence of fighting—then those people have it. But if by peace you mean the defense and nurture of those inalienable rights among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness—then the peace of those peoples is the peace of the dead.

There's another kind of peace we can have. We're getting it already. It's the peace of an armed camp—in which, for the indefinable future, our resources, our energies and our skills will be of use only as fuel for the engines of war and our lives of use only if they're bound and shackled to the war machine. That's the kind of peace the isolationists prescribe. That's why with almost one accord in Congress, they vote to load down our democracy with multiplied military billions and our nation with a wholly alien, completely militarized way of life. They're willing to do that because they know that, if we don't beat Hitler today, we've got to keep ready to beat him tomorrow—any tomorrow.

That kind of peace—for a grim interlude—may have no fighting in it. But neither will it have in it any room for those creative ventures, those civilized dreams and undertakings by which man, one day, may redeem himself from beastliness. That's the other kind of peace—the only other kind—we can have. It means a world—and a United States of America—whose moral climate will be fixed, not by the aspirations of free men, but by the blood-lusting ambitions of Adolf Hitler.

That becomes more sure with every Nazi victory. Today can be ours. Tomorrow certainly will be Hitler's. Today we've got Allies. Tomorrow we'll have none. Today, the British control the seas. Tomorrow they won't. Today Hitler has the continent of Europe. Tomorrow he and his associateplunderers will control four-fifths of the earth and its resources. Today our production can be decisive. Tomorrow in every war-making asset Hitler will out-match us five, ten, twenty, to one. Today—there's hope and, therefore, resistance among the people he has conquered. Tomorrow, hope having died, these people will not only be conquered, they'll be subdued. Today his ideological missionaries in South America are making headway against odds. Tomorrow—as emissaries of an unbeatable, world-conquering regime there'll be a wholesale flocking to their banners? Today Hitler's American kinsmen work under cover or wrapped in the flag. Tomorrow, they'll strut their foul stuff in the open.

With that Nazi noose round our necks, what chance will there be for that working democracy for which men like Norman Thomas so long have labored? Our social gains, our civil liberties and the dreams and ambitions of our younger generation will be swallowed up in the dire needs of a nation with its back to the wall. Give our youth five-ten years of that and at the end—the ways and the fruits of freedom will be as strange to them as they are to the youth of Germany.

The people of the United States aren't of a surrenderingbreed. They won't surrender now. They won't surrender—because what's at stake is more than a place on the map which we can call our own. What's at stake is the chance for us and for our children to call our lives our own. We can either beat Hitler now—or we can deliver into his hands the power to fashion our future.

By NORMAN THOMAS, Nat'l Ch'man, Socialist Party

HOW far should the United States go to insure the defeat of Hitler? Well, after all, it isn't Hitler the man, but Hitlerism that is the disease, and there is a great deal too much emphasis on one mortal man, and Hitlerism isn't born of the devil; it is born of a bad system. I believe we should go not so far as to insure the triumphs of an American Hitlerism, and that would be the probable consequence of our entry into total war far more probably than under any other circumstances. The issue we are discussing in reality is war, total war, of indefinite duration which will have to be fought on the Atlantic, the Pacific, in Asia, Africa and Europe. To continue wishful and unrealistic thinking or desperate gambling on anything else but war is intellectual stupidity and moral hypocrisy. We cut a sorry figure telling other people that they must fight on and on unless we are willing to fight. Our present tactics are hurtful to our own morale and our reputation. I disagree with this new Fight for Freedom Committee but have a respect for it that I do not feel for these who believe we can take further steps short of war.

To be specific it is still as true as when the President stated the fact that convoys mean shooting and shooting almost certainly means war. Even if it doesn't, I do not suppose there are five advocates of convoys in all Washington who will not admit, if they are honest, that naval convoys alone cannot guarantee complete British victory. If that is our goal the cry for convoys will be just one more maneuver to get an unwilling people into war. Against dive bombers convoys don't mean much unless we send out fighter planes to protect them. Thus do we stumble towards war.

The question is, ought we to go to war? It is not a question to be answered simply by contemplating the undeniable crimes of the Nazi regime or by asserting what I have always admitted, namely that British Imperialism offers fewer dangers to America than German and is less of a curse to the earth.

The question is whether the means of full entry into this war by America will gain the end of peace and freedom for mankind or, to put it in another form, whether the dangers which our entry into war will bring upon us are not greater than any conceivable dangers which may come upon us if we stay out of war.

A wise Government policy must face probabilities. It must deal with them as scientifically as it can in the spirit of the engineer, the scientist or the surgeon who recognizes the limits to what can be done by wishful thinking and the impossibility of achieving the desirable simply because it is desirable.

The possibilities serious enough to deserve attention are these: (1) a German victory, before an America unprepared for aggressive long range war, can make her weight felt; (2) a complete Anglo-American victory over the Axis and probably Japan, after a long and costly struggle; (3) some degree of stalemate with exhaustion and then perhaps Stalin as the final victor. It is this third possibility which seems to me, on the evidence, the most probable. Any of these possibilities, given the realities of war, America's own unsolved problems, and the American temperament, will require us to lose our internal democracy for the duration of the war. The reaction to an unpopular and bitterly costly war will make for an indefinite continuance of conditions wholly unsuitable to democracy. On the other hand, victory would be accompanied, not by the achievement of the noble purposes which a minority of the interventionists profess, but by an American or Anglo-American imperialism which would perpetuate armaments, and for which Fascism at home in this generation must be the inevitable accompaniment. Against this there is a far better possibility of our blessing ourselves and ultimately mankind by making our own democracy work in the relative security of this continent, yes, and of a hemisphere which we can make friendly by the right sort of statesmanship. The real question is how far should the United States go to preserve and increase democracy rather than to spread fascism by spreading the area of total war?