Revisionism and the Historical Blackout - Henry Elmer Barnes

Attacks on John T. Flynn and Upton Close

Probably the most extreme job of smearing ever turned in on a liberal who attacked the foreign policy of Roosevelt was done on John T. Flynn, whose revisionist writings were limited to two brochures on Pearl Harbor and to a few passages in his book, The Roosevelt Myth. Flynn had long been a special favorite of the liberal journals. He was probably the leading specialist for the New Republic in exposing the evils of finance capitalism. His Security Speculation was a masterpiece in this field. His Graft in Business was, perhaps, the ablest indictment of the business ideals and methods of the Harding-Coolidge era. He was one of the staff who 50 aided Pecora in his investigation of the sins of Wall Street. He was also an assistant to Senator Gerald P. Nye in the famous munitions and armament investigation. He was at one time a member of the Board of Higher Education in New York City and a lecturer at the New School for Social Research. Few men rated higher in the esteem of eastern Liberals.

But when Flynn became a leading member of the America First movement and began to oppose President Roosevelt's war policy, his erstwhile liberal admirers, who had taken to war-mongering, turned on him savagely. Their animus increased when Flynn revealed the fascist trends in our war policy in his book, As We Go Marching, and when he told the truth about Pearl Harbor in two trenchant brochures. Since that time he has been the victim of incessant smearing by the totalitarian liberals and the interventionist crowd. They have done their best to drive him into penury and obscurity. Only his fighting Irish spirit has enabled him to survive. Even the Progressive, despite its anti-war policy, joined in the smearing.

A good sample of the irresponsibility in smearing Flynn is the statement of Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., in the New York Post, to the effect that the Yalta Conference will redound to the honor of Franklin D. Roosevelt "unless a Fascist revolution installs William Henry Chamberlin and John T. Flynn as official national historians." It so happens that Flynn has, for more than a decade now, been recognized as one of our most stalwart libertarians and individualists, and has even been smeared for being such by persons in Schlesinger's intellectual circle. One of the reasons for their frenzied hatred of him is his revelation of fascist trends in Roosevelt foreign policy and its political results. Chamberlin is also conspicuous for his libertarian trends and his protests against military state capitalism.

The blackout contingent was even more successful in their attacks on Upton Close. As a result of his candid radio broadcasts on our foreign policy he was driven off the air, from the lecture platform, and out of the press, and his books on the Far East were virtually barred from circulation.

Though I have personally written nothing on Revisionism relative to the second World War beyond several brief brochures seeking to expose some of the more characteristic methods of the blackout contingent, the Smearbund has gone to work on me far more vigorously than was the case following all my revisionist articles and books combined after the first World War. The silent treatment has been comprehensively applied to anything I have published recently, in whatever field. When my History of Western Civilization appeared, in 1935, it was very glowingly reviewed on the front page of the New York Times Book Review, of the Herald Tribune Books, and of the Saturday Review of Literature. The American Historical Review gave it a long and favorable review by the foremost American authority in the field. When my Society in Transition was published, in 1939, the Times accorded it the unique honor of reviewing a college textbook on the first page of its Book Review. But when my Survey of Western Civilization and Introduction to the History of Sociology were published in 1947, and my Historical Sociology in 1948, none of the above-mentioned publications, so far as could be discovered, gave any of them so much as a book note. Apparently the movement has gone so far that authors are being suppressed or given the silent treatment for fear that they might, later on, publish some little truth on world affairs. The author of this chapter was, naturally, suspect because of his writings on the first World War.

The sub rosa activities of the blackout Smearbund have gone much further. I have been smeared as both an extreme radical and an extreme reactionary and as everything undesirable between these two extremes. One historian smeared me as a "naive isolationist" though, in actuality, I was working for sane internationalism at the time of his birth. The Smearbund has not only condemned my books to the silent treatment, barred me from all leading periodicals, and sought to dissuade publishers from accepting my books on any subject, but its members have also carried on extensive subterranean intrigue seeking to discourage the use of my textbooks in the fields of the history of civilization and sociology, where the content of my tomes does not touch even remotely on the issues of Revisionism. Going beyond my writings, the blackout "Gestapo" forced the most powerful lecture manager in the United States to drop me from his list of lecturers.

The blackout boys have not rested content with smearing those who have sought to tell the truth about the causes of the second World War. They have now advanced to the point where they are seeking to smear those who told the truth about the causes of the first World War. At the meeting of the American Historical Association in Boston in December, 1949, two papers were read by Richard W. Leopold and Selig Adler that endeavored to undermine the established revisionist writings regarding the prelude to that conflict. Adler implied that Revisionism, after 1918, was, in its origins, a sort of Bolshevik plot, and that revisionist writers were, consciously or unconsciously, dupes of the Bolsheviks and unrepentant Germans. Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., in an article in the Partisan Review, 88 has even gone so far as to attack those who have written in a revisionist tone on the causes of the Civil War. The next step will be to attack the revision of historical opinion relative to the causes of the American Revolution and to find that, after all, "Big Bill" Thompson was right in his views of that conflict and in his threat to throw George V into the Chicago Ship Canal. In other words. Revisionism, which only means bringing history into accord with facts, now seems to be rejected by the blackout boys as a mortal sin against Clio, the Muse of their subject. This attack on Revisionism, even with respect to the first World War, is now creeping into the routine college textbooks. It provides the leitmotiv of Harrison's above-mentioned book, This Age of Global Strife.

Not only are books concerned primarily with an honest account of the diplomacy connected with the coming of the second World War ignored and smeared, but similar treatment is accorded to books which even indirectly reflect on the official mythology in this area. For example, A. Frank Reel's splendid and courageous book on The Case of General Yamashita was rather generally attacked, and outrageously so by John H. E. Fried in the Political Science Quarterly, September, 1950. W. T. Couch, who had done splendid work as head of the University of Chicago Press, was relieved of his post in part because of criticism of his publication of this book. The best book on Japan which has been published since Pearl Harbor, Mirror for Americans: Japan, by Helen Mears, was allowed to die quietly by its publishers after the blackout contingent began to exert pressure against it.

While the Smearbund has usually rested content with an effort to defame and impoverish those of whom it disapproves, it went even further in the case of Lawrence Dennis and sought to jail him on the charge of "sedition." Dennis, a brilliant Harvard graduate, had served in important posts in the American diplomatic service for eight years. He had been one of the first to enlist in the Plattsburg training experiment before the first World War (1915) and had served with distinction as an officer in the war. After retiring from the diplomatic service, he was employed by leading banking and brokerage firms as an expert on foreign bonds. Like John T. Flynn, he was then a favorite of left-wing American liberals and had exposed the foreign bond frauds in the New Republic at about the same time that Flynn was doing a comparable piece of work on the investment trusts.

He incurred the wrath of the liberals by bringing out a book in 1936 entitled The Coming American Fascism. Here he predicted that the New Deal would wind up in a system of Fascism, whatever the name given to it, and described what the system would probably be like. The interventionists were enraged by his Weekly Foreign Letter, which opposed our entry into the second World War, and by his The Dynamics of War and Revolution, the best book written in the United States on the institutional forces pushing us into war and on the probable results of such a war. The pro-war forces induced Harper & Brothers to withdraw the book almost immediately after publication.

Though Dennis is, actually, an aggressive individualist, he was accused of being an ardent fascist and was railroaded into the mass sedition trial in Washington in 1944. That the trial ended in a farce was due mainly to the fact that Dennis personally outlined and conducted the defense. But, though surely one of the most talented writers and lecturers in the United States today, he has been driven into complete obscurity; not even Regnery or Devin-Adair dares to bring out a book under his name.