Red Web - Blair Coan

First Petters of the Snake

There are those who have openly charged or conveyed the impression that President Woodrow Wilson brought bolshevism to the United States, but this is an unjust accusation. Whatever the fault, so far as President Wilson is concerned, it may be laid against every other petter of the bolshevik snake in America during Mr. Wilson's time and since. It is not too charitable to say that Mr. Wilson's part in bestowing altruistic lovepats upon the slick back of the reptile was due to the war, the President's professedly indiscriminate love for all mankind, his colossal inability to discern the difference between sheep and wolves in sheep's clothing, and his own misfit and un-American political philosophy.

The same ignorance that inspired Mr. Wilson to utter such plain and unadulterated nonsense as "to make the world safe for democracy," in stating the reasons for the entry of the United States into the World War, was no doubt responsible for his saying, early in 1918, when the Russian bolsheviks were preparing to betray their own country and the Allies at Brest-Litovsk, that they were working "in the true spirit of modern democracy," that they were the "voice of the Russian people," and that the voice was giving utterance to ideas of right "with a largeness of view, a generosity of spirit, and a universal human sympathy which must challenge the admiration of every friend of mankind."

The quotation is from Mr. Wilson's address to Congress, January 8, 1918. The Brest-Litovsk treaty between the Russian bolsheviks and Germany was made on the 3rd of March, 1918. There already had been ample evidence before the world that while the czarist overthrow of March, 1917, opened the way for a genuine participation in the war against Germany, under the Kerensky government, the subsequent counter-revolution under Lenin meant the end of Russia as a factor in the defeat of the Central Powers. Long before Brest-Litovsk, it was clear the bolshevik rule of Russia was almost anything but "democracy"; it was plain that, in fact, it was the most determined sort of autocracy. But when these bolsheviki accomplished their triumph in November, 1917, it was hailed by no less a person than Mr. Wilson as a manifestation of "the new day." And yet, when Mr. Wilson's vision had been somewhat cleared in September, 1918; when he had been able to see the error of his earlier conclusions with regard to the bolsheviki, and had been obliged to admit that the rule of the bolshevists was a "campaign of mass terrorism," he remained too blind to see that love pats on the slick back of a snake tend not to subdue it or make it gentle or harmless.

In the early days of the peace conferences at Paris and Versailles, the red snake of Russia was admitted to what became known as the Prinkipo conference. To this conference President Wilson appointed, as his representative, one George D. Herron.

"We have become accustomed during these past six years," said Nicholas Murray Butler of this appointment, "to the President's fondness for surrounding himself with intellectual and political midgets; but we have heretofore been spared anything so shocking as this appointment."

. . . which Dr. William A. Quayle, Bishop of the Methodist Church, referred to as "the most disreputable appointment ever made in the United States." Herron was an avowed apostle of world revolution, a socialist who had said: "I have no expectation that the present kind of civilization can be amended—it can only be ended . . . It is already too late to reform society in America. It is no longer a question whether you will have a socialistic revolution. It is only left to you to decide what kind of revolution you will have."

Mr, Herron may not have been, exactly, representative of American traditions and ideals, but his was a soul not out of harmony with those of two others of Mr, Wilson's commissioners of the time, Messrs. Lincoln Steffens and William C. Bullitt.

Nothing came of the Prinkipo conference, of course, except further assurance that the bolsheviks were bent not upon peace, but upon world revolution. The World War had ended, and peace was the purpose of the great statesmen foregathered in Europe. But that peace was not the purpose of the bolsheviks, the Prinkipo fiasco made conclusively clear. Upon President Wilson, however, the bolsheviks continued to look as their advocate, and he had so many reds and pinks gathered about him as his personal advisers both during the war and during the period of peace discussions that it is small wonder they did so look upon him.

Notwithstanding the bolshevik offensive against Poland; notwithstanding Lenin's bold words, "Germany forms the important link in the revolutionary chain, and the success of our world revolution depends to the greatest degree upon Germany"; notwithstanding the bolshevik chaos visited upon Hungary; notwithstanding the bolshevik propaganda drives already started and bearing fruit in Asia; notwithstanding innumerable evidences that the oligarchs of Russia were engaged in a determined effort to spread discontent and sow the seed of class rule in all countries; who but President Wilson made a tour of Europe, and, to the delight and the cheers of the emotional mobs that greeted him, delivered himself of such glittering "democracy" speeches as to make the wild-eyed apostles of world revolution chuckle with satisfaction?

Italy, subsequently saved from wreck and ruin and bolshevik chaos only by the stern hand of the Fascisti, was fertile ground for the bolsheviks when President Wilson appeared there on his speech-making expedition. The hotbed of socialism in Italy was Milan, and it was there that President Wilson reached the heights of his popularity abroad when he said:

"Here in Milan, where I know so much of the pulse of international sympathy beats, I am glad to stand up and say that that pulse beats also in my own veins." The working classes, he had just told his hearers, "by their consciousness of community of interest and spirit, have done more, perhaps, than any other influence to establish a world which is not of nations, but is the opinion, one might say, of mankind."

President Wilson may not have meant precisely what they thought he meant, but he was talking internationalism as against nationalism, and that was what they wanted to hear. The bolshevik doctrine, the socialist doctrine, is one of internationalism, and the hope of its triumph rests upon the destruction of nationalism.

President Wilson, in his ignorance—an ignorance constantly nurtured by the pinks and red sympathizers who were his advisers, men like Herron, Steffens, Bullitt, Norman Hapgood, Charles Edward Russell, George Creel and innumerable others—was an unconscious ally of bolshevism abroad during his speech-making expeditions in Europe, for he was repeatedly appealing to the emotions of the crowd, inevitably appealing to the people as against their governments, endlessly prating about "democracy" and "internationalism," and constantly enthroning "peoples" and deprecating governments. He was one of the first and foremost petters of the bolshevik snake.

Unwittingly, perhaps; doubtless misled by his radical-minded advisers, the advance agents of the new socialist revolution and the new program of the pinks in the United States, Mr. Wilson's vision was so obscured that, to him, the true character of the head the bolshevik monster was then preparing to raise in America was invisible. In his blindness, therefore, and prompted by his own misconceptions of the spirit of America, President Wilson was the outstanding bolshevik dupe of his time, and contributed a share, proportionate with his prominence, in granting to bolshevism the toehold that later became a foothold and, soon thereafter, only short of a stranglehold upon the government of the United States.

"He (President Wilson) was as helpless to meet the menacing situation in America as he was to meet the appalling disaster which he had invited in Europe," says Ernest W. Young, LL.M., in a chapter on "Russia and Bolshevism," in his book The Wilson Administration and the Great War.

"Originating," Dr. Young continues, "in the perversion of the developing revolution in Russia which he had failed to recognize in its real character, it (Russian bolshevism) swept eastward and southward into farther Russia and Asia, sank Hungary in the slough, grasped Italy in its tentacles, struck at Poland, sought Germany, aimed at France and England, and reached out toward America.

"The attempt to starve and freeze Winnipeg to its knees; the attempt to overthrow civil government in Seattle; the plan to starve the people of the United States in the "outlaw" railroad strike and to freeze them into submission in the coal strike; the steel strike, directed by a horse-shoer who had never worked at a steel plant; the planned dynamiting of the home of the Attorney General of the United States and many others in nine eastern cities at one time; the constant demand for higher wages among highly-paid employes regardless of the burden it placed upon the shoulders of those outside of their particular class; the fostering of class spirit, particularly of the obstructionist or destructionist kind—these were symptoms manifested during President Wilson's incumbency that never had been seen before in like manner in the history of America. Its blow was aimed at so-called capitalism and at the very foundations of civil government itself."

It is to be noted, at this point, that Mr. Wilson himself became alarmed over the consequences to which he had been no puny contributor.

"Let us be frank about this solemn matter," he said in a message to Congress in December, 1919. "The evidences of the world-wide unrest which manifest themselves in violence throughout the world bid us pause and consider the means to be found to stop the spread of this contagious thing before it saps the very vitality of the nation itself."

But Mr. Wilson yet held to the view that to make a snake behave one must deliver oneself of soft words in the ears of the reptile, pat it gently on the top of its flat head, and pretend that the milk of human kindness is the food that makes it tame and harmless. Compromise and concession continued to be his policy; he called conferences and settled industrial disputes without settling anything; he dickered with reds, counselled with pinks, agreed with yellows and pussy-footers, and evidently reached the end of his career firm in the belief that he was himself a true apostle of "the new freedom," an inspired agent in advance of the millenium.

Duped and intimidated by organized radicals, through the Department of Labor where Louis F. Post was their outstanding champion, as well as through other channels, President Wilson had lent himself to prevent the execution of the dynamiter, Mooney; he had tolerated the notorious communist and revolutionary propagandist, Robert Minor, son of a Texas federal judge, as representative of George Creel on a mission to Russia in 1918; he had not interfered when, by some strange processes operating in Washington in 1919, this same Minor was permitted to escape punishment for intrigues with Lenin and Trotzky following his arrest by American military intelligence officers after a French secret service officer had interrupted a confab he was having in a Paris cafe with Lincoin Steffens, one of President Wilson's advisers and confidants.

The effrontery of Ludwig C.A.K. Martens, unrecognized but none-the-less officially designated representative of the Lenin-Trotzky government in the United States with credentials signed by the soviet foreign minister, George Tchicherin; his opening of headquarters in New York City with a large official staff, and his public appearances as a frank advocate of sovietism, were precedent to Mr. Wilson's appearance before Congress in December, 1919.

[Illustration] from The Red Web by Blair Coan


Throughout his incumbency, both before and after his address to Congress in December, 1919, President Wilson maintained a peculiarly inconsistent attitude with respect to the intrigues of the red radicals and to other forms of disloyalty and anti-Americanism. There were occasions when he gave encouragement to stern and uncompromising methods of dealing with the menace, but usually such occasions were followed by a yielding to the counsels of his pink and pussy-footing advisers and to the clamor of organized groups engaged in the correlated "causes" of pacifism and radicalism. Mitchell Palmer's bold stand against the reds, after he had become Attorney General in 1919, had little if any sympathy or actual encouragement from his chief in the White House. Newton D. Baker's softness of heart toward the reds and disloyalists, while Secretary of War, was as well known as his seemingly inherent pacifism; and William G. McAdoo's vast following of the sundry shades of red and pink, to whose support he looked in his fight for presidential nomination in 1924, was won for him by his subservience as a dupe of the radical movement while serving as director general of the railroads.

While strikes and threats of strikes in the steel, coal and transportation industries were bringing the country to the brink of that state of stagnation which makes bolshevik power possible, and while the agents and disciples of Lenin and Trotzky were boldly and brazenly carrying on their propaganda in press and public gatherings, even within the very shadow of the White House and the Capital, President Wilson found himself almost inextricably embarrassed by his own utterances and actions, so that he could not take a firm stand with conviction and, as is ever the case, he could not dispel the menace with soft words. Of these first petters of the snake, Ole Hansen, in his Americanism versus Bolshevism, published in 1919, very aptly said:

"The government started, stopped, started again, conciliated, pandered, and generally pursued a skimmed-milk policy. Argument was tried, kindness, public statements appealing to patriotism, and this to a class of men who know but one argument, force; who think kindness is weakness, and who have no patriotism."

"Listen to me carefully," Trotzky said to Colonel Raymond Robins, before the Central Powers had been brought to the end of their string in 1918. "Follow me step by step. We have started our peace negotiations with the Germans. We have asked the Allies to join us in starting peace negotiations for the whole world on a democratic basis—no forcible annexations, no punitive indemnities, and a full acceptance of the principle of selfdetermination of all peoples. The Allies have refused to accept our invitation. We still hope, of course, to compel them."

Compel them? The phrase was a bit strong, thought Colonel Robins, and when he gave voice to his curiosity on this point, Trotzky replied:

"By stirring up the comrades in France and in England and in America to upset the policy of their governments by asserting their own revolutionary socialist will."

An obvious and frank confession that not only England and France, but the United States, were honeycombed with "comrades" of the Russian red dictators, and that it was the business of these "comrades" to do the will and wish of the bolshevik oligarchs of Russia. It may be true that they overestimated their power then; it may be true that they overestimated their power in the years that followed; it may be true, also, that they overestimated their power to carry out so grand a coup as they hoped for in the United States in 1924. But the purpose, nevertheless, is evident, or should be evident, to the thinking mind. If the bolsheviks aspired at the outset to bolshevize the world, which they did; and if they have not given up that aspiration, which they have not, then they have been striving assiduously from the cutset to bolshevize the United States.

It was long the boast of the I.W.W. that the bolshevik revolution in Russia was planned in Seattle, Washington, United States of America, when Lenin and Trotzky were in that city en route to Russia. This boast may or may not be true. But whether or not it is, what is true is that the bolshevik activities in the United States were very definitely organized and in operation almost simultaneously with the ascent of Lenin and Trotzky to power in Russia. This was during the Wilson administration.

"We still hope, of course, to compel them," said Trotzky to Colonel Robins, as quoted above.


"By stirring up the comrades in France and in England and in America to upset the policy of their governments by asserting their own revolutionary socialist will."

To upset the policy of their governments! Certainly. Not merely in its relation to the World War or to the peace that followed it, but ever and thereafter until such governmental policies have been so upset or so weakened as to make the international socialist revolution possible and the "dictatorship of the proletariat" a subsequent actuality!