Another Truth That Is Self-Evident
LIBERTY, THE ESSENTIAL FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN LIFE
By MERWIN K. HART, President, National Economic Council, Inc.
Delivered before the Exchange Club, Utica, New York, July 6, 1944
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. X, pp. 687-690.
WHEN our ancestors won the Revolutionary War, for the first time in history a highly intelligent people became absolutely free. It is hard for us to realize how true this was. In remote parts of the earth, possibly on desert islands in the South Seas, small groups of men had had a kind of freedom. But in Europe and Asia, history shows that men had nearly always had to look to a superior lord to tell them what to do and when to do it.
So American freedom was something new. And since for some years past this liberty has been in great and growing peril, it may be well for us here now, only two days after the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, to stop and consider what is happening today.
As the world has long noted, sometimes not without envy, the liberty our Fathers won released in America the greatest aggregate amount of human energy that history has ever known. It is not alone that men became physically free. Their spirit became free. Their minds, their hopes, their ambitions, their vision were unchained. Next to the birth of Christ, the winning of American liberty was perhaps the greatest event in human history.
I will not weary you with those usual figures showing how a large part of the world's automobiles, radios, refrigerators, electric current, and a hundred other items that make for comfort in life, are produced or consumed in the United States. Let me say, just by way of illustration, however, that the oft-repeated assertion that we cannot have prosperity in the United States unless all the rest of the world has prosperity, is the sheerest bunk. The fact is, as our history shows, that the state of our economic health is of such vital importance to the whole world that the well-being of the world depends upon the continued well-being of the United States, and not the other way about.
By 1790, the 13 original States contained about four million people. They themselves were prolific. And gradually there began to come from the various countries of Europe increasing numbers of men, women and children. For about a hundred years, these people came in order to escape from Europe. They gladly left behind them the narrownesses and prejudices and hatreds and tyrannies of their particular European country. They came here to make a fresh start. They wanted to live in America and to be a part of it. And they have contributed vastly to American accomplishment.
Then, some time after 1890, the character of the immigration changed. During a very few years, following the unsuccessful Russian revolution of 1905, no less than a million Russian refugees came to our shores. Others came from south-eastern Europe. It is not too much to say that these refugees included many of the disturbing elements, or the parents of many of the disturbing elements, in the United States today. And the difference between the immigrants of the 19th century and these latter ones, was that some of the latter were revolutionaries. They did not come entirely to get away from the hatreds of old Europe. They came to bring these hatreds with them, and from our shores to aid and abet revolutionary movements, not only in the country they had left, but right here among us.
Now let us pass along to the period just after the First World War. Russia had gone down to defeat at the hands of Germany. Her government had been seized by a handful of ruthless men, some of whom, like Trotsky, had lived in the United States. But that handful of men quickly succeeded in putting into total subjection a nation of 170 million people, stretching from the Baltic on the West to the Pacific in the Far East.
These men set up a complete and ruthless dictatorship—so ruthless that many of the civilized nations of the world, including the United States, for a long time refused to recognize it.
But this Soviet Government went further. It decided that in order to safeguard its Communist form of government in Russia, it must aim to communize the entire world. It set up what was called the Third Internationale. Clever and ruthless men were sent to practically all nations in the world, to start a Communist Party. Each of these Communist Parties was a section of the Communist Internationale, which was controlled by the Communist Party in Russia.
Now, I am not talking about Soviet Russia, our associate in war. As our associate we owe her, and are certainly giving her, every help. I praise, as you do, her military achievements but I believe these victories were possible because, in part, of American supplies. But I am talking about her social system—Communism.
It is true Russia announced some months ago, the abolition of the Internationale. It is true the American Communist Party says it has disbanded. But well-informed individuals and newspapers (for instance, the Syracuse Post Standard in an editorial May 31, 1944 consider that the Communist Party of the U. S. A. is today more dangerous to America than it has ever been.
Let me read you the last two sentences from the oath which, until fairly recently at any rate, every member of the Communist Party of the U. S, A. was obliged to take:
1. "I pledge myself to rally the masses to defend the Soviet Union, the land of victorious Socialism.
2. "I pledge myself to remain at all times a vigilant and firm defender of the Leninist Line of the Party, the only line that insures the triumph of Soviet power in the U. S."
(See Page 20, pamphlet entitled "Thirteenth Plenum," published by Workers Library Publishers.)
Presumably Communists in the other 50-odd principal countries of the world were obliged to take a similar oath.
Now, with this far-reaching organization throughout the world, it is not surprising that when, in 1936 revolution developed in Spain, the Communist Parties in most of these 50 countries sent troops, enlisted by the Parties themselves. The Communist Party in the United States sent men. Ironically enough, the name assumed by the roughly 2,000 American troops enrolled here, and sent, by means of passports mysteriously, if not fraudulently, obtained, was the "Abraham Lincoln Brigade." When what was left of the Brigade after the war returned from Spain, a photograph published in New York papers just before the men left the' ship at New York, showed most of them giving the Communist salute of the clinched fist.
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I know something of this situation because I spent several weeks in Spain in the Fall of 1938, while the Spanish Revolution was in progress. Perhaps you will be interested to hear something about this.
Following an illness in early 1938, my doctor advised me to take a sea voyage. I like to go to interesting places when something is going on. So I made the acquaintance of Franco's representative and applied for a visa to visit Spain. It took me over a month to get it. I took my car and spent a month there. I went largely to investigate opportunities j for post-war trade, but partly to write a series of articles for the "New York Herald-Tribune" and to interview whom I could. These articles and interviews were all published, together with a book I wrote on Spain.
On returning to New York in October, 1938, I was astonished to see how little the Spanish situation was understood in America. The Communist crowd here, together with radical news writers, of whom there are a good many, was giving a false impression of what was going on. Our people were being deceived. Something was being put over On them.
Now, I had reached certain definite opinions with respect to Spain. First, that the two thirds of Spain Franco then held was well-governed, and that Franco was going to win the war; second, that after he won, he would grant no special favors to either Germany or Italy, from whom Franco had purchased considerable supplies—that neither of those countries would get any airplane bases or other cessions of any nature; third, that Franco would be able to govern Spain fairly well; fourth, that if there were a European war, Franco would make every effort to keep Spain out of the war, and would probably succeed; and lastly, that it was to the interest of the United States to keep on good terms with the Franco government because of the trade possibilities (to whom the British government has always paid close attention) and because of the cultural influence that Spain naturally has throughout Latin America.
As a matter of fact, all of these beliefs on my part have been borne out by subsequent events. Nor was I the only one who felt this way, for many well-known persons, including the former American Ambassadors Ogden Hammond, and the late Irwin Laughlin, as well as such men as Ellery Sedgewick, then editor of the "Atlantic Monthly," and Cameron Forbes, former Governor-General of the Philippines and ambassador to Japan, seemed to hold generally similar views and expressed them.
And the rather interesting fact is that the policy of our State Department ever since then has been such as to indicate that it does not differ widely from them.
Thinking men realize that if our State Department had not followed this course, it might not have been so easy for the American Army to land in North Africa last year.
You may have noticed that Winston Churchill, certainly a statesman of a high order, devoted no small part of his speech of May 24th in the House of Commons to a factual statement of the extent to which Spain had helped in the African landing of the Americans and British, and in its preparation. He said:
"I am here today to speak kind words about Spain. Let me add this hope, that she will be a strong influence for the peace of the Mediterranean after the war.
"The internal political arrangements in Spain are a matter for Spaniards themselves. It is not for us to meddle in these affairs as a government."
And he added:
"We do not include in our program of world renovation any forcible action against any government whose internal form of administration does not come up to our ideas . . ."
When an opposing member of the House of Commons asked him what the difference was between fascist Italy and "fascist" Spain, Churchill answered: "The reason is that Italy attacked us. There is a clear line of distinction between nations who go to war with you and nations who leave you alone."
Yet, as some of you probably know, I have been bitterly attacked by the Communistic press and their followers because on a number of occasions I stated the views I gave you a few minutes ago.
Undoubtedly, the Franco government is a dictatorship, and we want no dictatorship—fascist, Communist, or any other kind—here in the United States. I have repeatedly said this, and I have never said anything to the contrary.
But, can anybody say that Russia, our military associate, is not a dictatorship? Can anybody deny that most of the South American republics are dictatorships? The plain fact is that American Communists cannot forgive Franco for defeating the Communists in Spain, and he did give them a first-class trouncing. Because of this, and because I have been outspoken in my views, believing it to be in the interest of my country that it know the truth, I have been accused of the most absurd things. False statements have been made as to what I have said or done. It has been stated that I was hired to go to Spain—that I was a paid propagandist. Of course, if this crowd believed their own accusations, it would have been their duty to secure my prosecution as an unregistered foreign agent. As you may guess, my trip to Spain and what I have said or done in connection with Spain, was at my own expense, on my own time, and on my own responsibility. I was merely exercising my right as an American citizen to express an opinion on public affairs. And I shall continue to do so.
As a matter of fact, ever since the defeat of the Spanish Reds in 1939, there has been continual propaganda on our shores, conducted by the Communists and their misguided followers, endeavoring to start a fresh revolution in Spain. During 1940 and 1941, there was an almost uninterrupted barrage of newspaper stories to the effect that the Franco government was about to fall. There is no better newspaper correspondent than Henry J. Taylor, author of the book, "Men in Motion," and now with the Scripps Howard Press. During a visit he made to Spain some months ago, and following a long talk with Franco, he put a quietus on these stories when he said, on December 20th, 1943, in the "New York World-Telegram":
"Observers abroad have reckoned that the big event in Italy (Mussolini's fall) must be a very discouraging omen for the regime of Dictator Francisco Franco. Actually the impact on Franco of Mussolini's fall is exactly the reverse. Noticing the results of the Italian policy where
Mussolini made the blunder of participating in the war, the outcome now is regarded in Spain as proof of the Spanish leader's greater wisdom."
Yet this propaganda continues. You have heard of the Free World Association, which publishes the "Free World Magazine." Its purpose seems clearly to mold American foreign policy, though many of its editors and writers are aliens or alien refugees, intent on influencing American public opinion for the benefit of their particular partisan interests in their respective countries. One of the officers of this magazine is a former minister in the defeated Red government of Spain.
The "New York Herald-Tribune" of June 29th contained a story to the effect that 100,000 Spanish refugees in Latin America were trying to stir up counter-revolution in Spain. There you have the bold truth. And Spanish refugees in the United States are taking part in this same movement.
I have no brief whatever for Spain. But, like you, I love my own country and I place its welfare first—thus taking the same position Churchill and the British justly take with respect to Britain, Stalin and the Russians with respect to Russia. I want to caution you as Americans to watch out for refugees from any other country who try to embroil us in further wars.
A New York columnist pointed out on May 26th that one of the reasons Churchill was praising Spain was that the British have been making great progress on post-war trade treaties with Spain. And this is indicated by other parts of Churchill's speech, from which I quoted.
Note, then, that while Britain, worldly-wise and looking to her own interests, has been making trade treaties with Spain for after the war, the chief activity of which the public knows in the United States with respect to Spain is that of a handful of Spanish revolutionaries who have taken refuge here in order that they may stir up trouble with a nation with whom we are at peace. And many of us are so befuddled as to where our own vital interests lie that these mischievous people might involve us in another war.
Now, we already have two wars on our hands. The Spaniards are among the best fighters in the world. They could put a million men in the field. I think the patience and good sense of our own State Department, and probably of the Spanish government also, can be depended upon to keep things on an even keel. But it is disturbing that these aliens should be plotting in our midst. Have we Americans so little on our platter today that we are going to let these revolutionaries, who have no interest in the United States, involve us in a war with Spain—especially when Britain, our nearest ally, so clearly sees the wisdom of preserving friendly relations?
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In the platform and speeches of the Convention last week of one of the two major parties, there was stressed the need to win the war as soon as possible and to bring the boys home. This certainly struck a chord in the heart of every American*
And to this end we Americans should from now on have increasing regard for American vital interests. Too long have we permitted aliens to play a part in the molding of American policy. Other countries have not tolerated such a practice. At the moment, we are a military ally of Soviet Russia. Stalin himself has testified—as well he might—to the importance that American production has been in bringing Russian victories. We have been generous with all of our allies.
Why, then, should it be necessary for the Soviet Embassy to have today in the United States as stated in the "Washington Times-Herald" of May 31st, 2,400 Soviet agents, each with diplomatic status—with 1,300 more in Latin America? Since the Congress and the President have been fully supporting aid to Russia, the question arises whether the purpose is not somehow to influence American policy. Has the United States 2,400 political agents in Soviet Russia? The "Times-Herald" article, from which I have quoted says that congressional investigators have found that Russia has established in this hemisphere one of the greatest propaganda agencies in history; that these 3,700 "diplomatic agents" (1,300 of them are in Latin America) are "busily engaged in the furthering of Soviet interests in industry, trade, business, finance, education and entertainment in the two Americas: "that while the United States is occupied, after defeating Germany, with its war with Japan, Russia, which obviously has no intention of aiding us against Japan," will be free to pursue its expansionist policy in North and South America;" that "hemispheric headquarters for the Soviet propagandists have been set up in Mexico City;" that when one Jesus Hernandes, minister of education of the defeated Spanish Red government, and who fled to Russia when Franco won, landed at Seattle some time ago without a passport, he was not detained by our government, which would have been the usual procedure, but was officially escorted to Mexico, where he is now one of the leaders in the Soviet propaganda headquarters. Lastly, this article said that the Soviet propagandists were cultivating the Hollywood moving picture colony, and have put before the State Department a proposal to confer Soviet decorations on the movie moguls who have produced pictures lauding the Soviets.
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We Americans need to re-survey American policy—and from the purely American standpoint. We need to wake up.
We need, young and old, to study our own history, so long neglected in our schools and colleges. We need to re-acquaint ourselves with the reasons for our country's greatness. We shall at all times be ready enough to help our Allies, but at times we have actually placed the interests of other nations ahead of our own. We need to return to the normal attitude of placing American interests first.
No other nation on earth permits such an influx of propagandists as we have had from other countries. To be considerate of the needs of other nations is all right—and we have usually been very considerate. But to let other nations walk into our house and push plans that may be utterly inconsistent with our own vital interests is just plain soft-headed. If this policy continues, we shall be courting—and we shall deserve disaster.
We need to remember that America, because of the freedom she has had, has shown the world new horizons—has set new and higher standards, not only materially, but in charity and philanthropy and in science.
We need to remember that, while we are willing to accept ideas from whatever direction, yet we can't have been wrong about our political and social institutions for a hundred and fifty years.
Our American civilization has been based on the Christian precept of the sacredness of the individual; on the Christian charity of the Apostle Paul; on good will toward men; and plain hard work.
The framers of the Declaration of Independence held certain truths to be self-evident.
We can now hold as equally self-evident that the liberty they won has been the essential foundation of American life; that that liberty is now in grave danger of destruction, not so much by enemies without as by enemies within. We need to realize that this danger has not just happened, but has been planned; that it has succeeded so far because so many of us have been too busy, with our work or our pleasures, to realize what's going on.
When Benjamin Franklin, at the end of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, was asked what kind of government they were setting up, he replied, "A Republic, if we can keep it." We have kept that Republic more than a century and a half because we had freedom, and held American interests first.
Are you now willing that we should lose it?