Chickens of the Interventionist Liberals - Henry Elmer Barnes

The Totalitarian Liberals Protest the Intolerance They Have Created

The totalitarian liberals have inveighed heavily against McCarthyism and what they regard as witch hunting, especially the activities of the McCarthy Committee, the Jenner Committee, and the House Committee on Un-American Activities. They are deeply stirred lest the freedom of teaching be fatally undermined. They protest against invasions of the Bill of Rights. They view with alarm the increase of censorship and what they denounce as "book burning," by which they really mean any drive on their brand of Left-wing literature, that which upholds globaloney unlimited, perpetual war for perpetual peace, and other aspects of the interventionist program.

They are greatly distressed about the glowing trend toward authoritarianism in the hands of others and the rise of military state capitalism. They deplore the end of the welfare state, whether it be the New Deal or the Fair Deal, and the fact that the money which was formerly spent for public welfare is now being devoted mainly to armament and either cold or hot war. In short, they protest violently against what is fundamentally the advent of Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-four" regime throughout the world, in general, and the United States in particular. Their epithets are directed in a personal way chiefly against Senators McCarthy, McCarran and Jenner, and Congressman Velde.

In this discussion, the writer does not propose to argue about whether the above trends which alarm and distress our totalitarian and interventionist liberals are good or bad. One argument at a time is quite enough. But, whether these tendencies be commendable or an unmixed evil, it can hardly be disputed that the totalitarian liberals regard them as most deplorable, if not absolutely fatal to the future of our country. We can note a few examples of this liberal protest.

On February 15, 1953, there appeared in the New York Times Sunday Magazine an article by Arthur Hays Sulzberger, the publisher of this most powerful of all interventionist-liberal newspapers. It was entitled "Have We the Courage to Be Free?" and was devoted to deploring the smearing of various international movements and organizations and certain books by native patriots. On February 17, 1953, in an address before leading educational administrators at Atlantic City, Mrs. Agnes E. Meyer, wife of the publisher of the ardently interventionist Washington Post, bitterly attacked what she regarded as the reactionary tendencies of our time, especially as they affect education. The Atlantic for June, 1953, devoted a large amount of its space to various articles bemoaning attacks upon educational freedom. The arch-interventionist columnist, Joseph Alsop, in particular, called for a bold stand against any intimidation of professors at his Alma Mater, Harvard University. In Harpers Magazine for June, 1953, Richard H. Rovere deplored the "enormous growth of conservative sentiment in this country in the past five or six years—alongside, a growth of out and out reaction." In his Phi Beta Kappa Oration, published in Harpers Magazine, August, 1953, under the title of "Are We Worth Saving?" Elmer Davis contended (p. 30) that "McCarthy and the spirit of McCarthyism" are more of a menace to the United States than Stalin, Malenkov, Molotov, Beria and Bulganin.

Albert Einstein has exhorted intellectuals to prepare to go to jail rather than to submit to any inquisition as to their opinions. In numerous articles, Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. has attacked many phases of what he alleges to be the reactionary tendencies of the times. A similar attitude has been reflected in editorials and articles in totalitarian liberal newspapers such as the New York Post. The Nation, in a recent promotional broadcast, has declared the country to be veritably at the cross roads:

". . . at the cross-roads between peace and atomic war so destructive as to be almost unimaginable . . . at the cross-roads between freedom and regimentation as McCarthy, Jenner, and Velde lead the attack on the citadels of free thought and speech, the free press, schools, theatre, and, very soon, our churches . . . at the cross roads between further development of our national resources for all the people and the great steal of these resources, starting with the 600 billion dollar off-shore oil grab, continuing with public lands, minerals and power, and aiming at the biggest prize of all—control of the atom for private profit."

Perhaps the most authoritative and impressive collection of liberal protests against alleged witch hunting and intolerance, especially as it applies to educators and educational activities, was contained in the Spring (1953) Bulletin of the American Association of University Professors, containing papers given at the annual meeting in Chicago in March, 1953. The Bulletin is filled with protests, credos and resolutions against "witch hunting" and intolerance, notably that alleged against the Congressional investigations. But there is not the slightest sign that the protestors recognized that they have only been caught in a net of their own weaving. Or, at least, if anybody did recognize this, he did not have the honesty or courage to state his belief.

In an article in the Atlantic for July, 1953, Mayor Joseph S. Clark Jr. of Philadelphia called upon the liberals to unite to preserve the liberal position and program, as though true liberalism still existed. As John Chamberlin has pointed out in Human Events, August 19, 1953, our totalitarian liberals of today are prone to think of themselves as being like the liberals of the 1920's. They regard the Bruce Bliven of 1953 as the same kind of liberal he was in 1923, and would equate the Freda Kirchwey of 1953 with the Freda Kirchwey of 1933. A Michael Straight is held to express the same New Republic liberalism that Herbert Croly used to give out thirty years ago. Actually there is little resemblance, save in the now distorted semantic label of "liberal."

Professor E. Merrill Root goes to the heart of the matter in an article on "Are the 'Liberals' Liberal?" in Human Events, September 23, 1953:

"Mayor Clark asks, 'Can the Liberals Rally?' I ask the deeper question: are there any liberals left to rally? My own belief is that if the 'liberals' of Mayor Clark's definition are going to rally and rule, we had better—in kindness to them and in pity for ourselves—first provide them with seeing-eye dogs."

Whether our totalitarian liberals are correct in their present critical attitude need not be considered at this time. The point which we desire to make here is that, be they right or wrong, the trends which they deplore have been produced almost exclusively, if not entirely, by the totalitarian liberals themselves. Almost without exception, the liberals who are now protesting against the alleged witch hunting and reactionary trends of our day have been interventionists since the mid-1930's. For the most part, "isolationists" and friends of disarmament and neutrality in the early 1930's, they switched and became the leaders in the movement for war-mongering, globaloney, interventionism, and the like. The chickens which were hatched from this evil interventionist movement have now come home to roost and the liberals who so light-heartedly laid the eggs are now clucking with alarm and indignation.

Had we not entered the second World War, the Cold War, and the Korean War, the trends and events which the liberals now protest against with such vehemence would have been unthinkable. They are all the logical and inevitable fruits of the great ostensible crusade for the Four Freedoms and the like—in reality, the great political plot to retain tenure and power. War psychology and interventionism, whether in hot or cold wars, provided the general mental framework for all the reactionary trends and invasions of liberty which have finally driven our totalitarian and interventionist liberals into a veritable frenzy of alarm. It need not be assumed that we would be living in a placid utopia today if we had not entered the second World War, but it can safely be asserted that our intervention therein has been overwhelmingly responsible for the situation which now so deeply stirs the totalitarian liberals.

The brighter interventionist liberals fully realized the price they would have to pay for retaining power through war. In Harpers Magazine, March, 1938, Elmer Davis wrote one of his most profound articles, entitled "We Lose the Next War." Its theme was that American liberal civilization would be the outstanding casualty of our intervention in a second World War. But, by 1942, we found Mr. Davis the head of the Office of War Information, devoting his abilities to upholding the doctrine that American civilization could only be preserved by our intervention and triumph.

Not only did the interventionist and totalitarian liberals create the program and atmosphere in which reaction and witch hunting thrive but they also initiated the specific techniques of witch hunting which they now so violently oppose. These were combined and put into operation by no other than Attorney-General Francis Biddle, who has since written a fervent book, The Fear of Freedom (1951), protesting vigorously against the very trends he set in motion. We have in mind here especially the Mass Sedition Trial of 1944-1945. In this, the chief prosecutor was O. John Rogge, who has lately been ardently defending Communists and fellow-travellers now subjected to precisely the same tactics that Rogge followed in 1944-1945. Their "cruel fate" he now bewails in his book Our Vanishing Civil Liberties (1949). The trial was warmly supported by totalitarian liberals generally, and by their leading journalistic organs, such as the Nation, New Republic, New York Post, the Washington Post, and the like.

Nothing which can even be alleged against the so-called McCarthyism, Jennerism, and McCarranism of today constitutes so great a threat to freedom of speech and action as did the Mass Sedition Trial. The liberals, Communists, and strong pressure groups sought to introduce into American judicial practice mock trials after the fashion of those in Russia during the mid-1930's. They brought into play the theory of "guilt by association," formulated mainly by Harold D. Lasswell, once a severe critic of war propaganda. Now, the totalitarian liberals and radicals bitterly criticize this procedure when it has been turned against them. That the Sedition Trial failed in its specific objective does not free the liberals and radicals from their responsibility for the sinister effort to ape the Kremlin in 1944.

Indeed, the stage was set for intolerance before Pearl Harbor by the arrogant attitude and smearing tactics of the various interventionist organizations such as the Committee to Study the Organization of Peace, the Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies, the Miller or Century Club Group, the Non-partisan Committee to Defeat Hamilton Fish, and the like, so fully, if unconsciously, exposed by Walter Johnson in his book, The Battle Against Isolation (1944), the semi-official history of the interventionist movement before Pearl Harbor. This book, even if unintentionally such, is by far the best historical introduction to the causes, rise, and triumph of present-day smearing and intolerance. It is more relevant to this theme than a whole library of books devoted to the political record and activities of Senators McCarthy, McCarran and Jenner, and Congressman Velde.

Now we find the interventionist liberals squawking violently over what they themselves have brought about. But, so far as I have been able to discover, there has been not a single instance of a leading totalitarian liberal who has confessed his guilt or error or has been willing to reverse his stand with respect to the very issues which have produced the situation that the totalitarian liberals now deplore with such vehemence. It is instructive to note that, however much the totalitarian liberals may protest against witch hunting, when it comes to opposing more stringent legislation of this type in Congress the opposition has to come mainly, not from homogenized liberals like Senators Morse, Douglas, Saltonstall, Humphrey, Fulbright, and the like, but from conservative guardians of the traditional American system, such as Senators George and Hoey.

Indeed, while they have indulged in almost unlimited rhetorical dolorosity and indignation over the increased regimentation of thought and expression, the totalitarian liberals, as a whole, have done virtually nothing which could have any real effect in eliminating the conditions under which they now seem to writhe. To do anything really effective along such lines would be almost impossible for these totalitarian liberals, since the first, and almost the only important, step would have to be a confession that their program of intervention, war and globaloney since 1937 has been a gigantic fraud and a vastly expensive hoax which Soviet Russia has been only too happy to exploit.

Being unable to repudiate the evil they have wrought, the interventionist liberals have had two alternatives: They could tacitly support the continuation of the program, with their alleged opponents in the driver's seat. To do this, they would have to swallow the bitter pill of being pushed away from the trough without enjoying even the compensation of expressing "sour grapes." This has been more than they could bear. Therefore, on the fundamental issue of globaloney, they have had to stick to the line that the street-car is still sound, on the right track, and headed in the right direction, but they would make better motormen and conductors. They have limited their criticism and acts to superficialities—anguish over any wounds of body or mind they incidentally may receive from the crowding, scuffling, clatter and bedlam, as the car moves on inexorably to the general ruination of the nation. Our totalitarian and interventionist liberals can be fairly compared to a conference of public health officials, called to deal with a menacing typhoid fever epidemic, spending their time studying the mortality statistics and debating the relative effectiveness of various antibiotics, while at the same time advocating empting the sewage of the city involved into its water system.