Monday, December 28, 2015

Woodrow Wilson, Haiti, and Democracy

Although one of Woodrow Wilson’s most famous speeches was about “making the world safe for democracy,” it is not entirely clear exactly what he meant by the word ‘democracy.’

Given his willingness to impose his will on postwar Europe, redrawing the map as he dissolved some nations and created others, it is plain that he did not subscribe to the traditional notion of popular sovereignty in which the legitimacy of the government arose from the consent of the governed.

From his dealings with, e.g., Haiti, it is obvious that Wilson did not understand ‘democracy’ to mean the right of a people freely to elect representatives constituting a republic. Superior Court Judge Andrew Napolitano writes:

Haiti was suffering from chronic insurrections by local rebels a hundred years ago. In 1915, when the rebellions came to a head, Wilson wrote to Robert Lansing, his secretary of state, “I fear we have not the legal authority to do what we apparently ought to do.” Yet, Wilson continued, “I suppose there is nothing for it but to take the bull by the horns and restore order.” To this end, Wilson deployed U.S. troops to Haiti, forcing the Haitians to elect an American puppet government.

Wilson freely admits that he lacks “the legal authority to” intervene so decisively into Haiti’s internal affairs, but he does so nonetheless, raising procedural concerns.

There was more at stake than the domestic tranquility of Haiti. As the Wall Street Journal reported on February 15, 1915,

American and French Ministers have protested issue by Haiti of $8,000,000 Treasury notes in violation of contract with National Bank of Haiti.

Wilson, however, continued his rhetoric. Not only did he use the word ‘democracy,’ he also mentioned ‘equality’ - no doubt to the surprise of the Haitians, who were experiencing neither of those two. In a speech on December 7, 1915, Wilson proclaimed about his policies toward the nations of central America and the Caribbean,

This is Pan-Americanism. It has none of the spirit of empire in it. It is the embodiment, the effectual embodiment, of the spirit of law and independence and liberty and mutual service.

Any naive understanding of Wilson’s use of the words ‘democracy’ and ‘equality’ in the context of foreign policy would be dissolved by an examination of his domestic policies. His introduction of segregation among the employees of various federal agencies, his efforts to keep African-American students from enrolling in universities, and his other blatantly racist policies undermined his proclamation, in the same speech, that

All the governments of America stand, so far as we are concerned, upon a footing of genuine equality and unquestioned independence.

The next day, the New York Times reported the skepticism at Wilson’s feigned enthusiasm for equality. (The population of Haiti is approximately 95% Black.) On December 8, 1915, the Times informed its readers that

The welcome the President expressed for the southern republics into a new equality with the United States came as a surprise to some Senators who recalled that the President would ask the Senate at this session to ratify treaties with Nicaragua and Haiti establishing protectorates over those countries.

While Wilson’s speeches were filled with references to ‘democracy’ and ‘equality,’ it is clear from his actions that his use of these words was either idiosyncratic or simply insincere. His actions were, however, emblematic for his progressivist wing within the Democratic Party.

Friday, November 20, 2015

An Amazing Moment in Economics: President Calvin Coolidge

Statistically, the Coolidge presidency is an outlier. Affectionately named ‘Silent Cal’ by the media and by the public, he managed simultaneously to reduce the national debt and to cut taxes.

Naturally, it is an oversimplification to give Coolidge alone the credit for this achievement. Congress was a necessary part of the process.

During the Coolidge years - he took office in August 1923 - the federal government’s budget was kept under control: in some years it grew a little, in other years, it actually shrank a bit. There were years of budget surplus.

Coolidge’s economic policies generated marked growth: wages rose, unemployed vanished. The benefits of this prosperity came to citizens at all income levels, especially those in the lower wage groupings.

Coolidge retained Andrew Mellon as Secretary of the Treasury. Historian Robert Ferrell writes:

The Mellon tax cuts favored “small Americans.” Seventy percent of the lost revenue under one Mellon proposal would have gone to taxpayers with incomes under $10,000 - the latter figure admittedly a handsome income in those days. Under the same proposal, the percentage going to taxpayers with incomes over $100,000 would have been 2.5.

The Coolidge administration can be seen as a continuation of the Harding administration; Andrew Mellon has been appointed by Harding. In 1920, the last year of the Wilson administration, the federal budget was a bloated $6,649,000,000 with a negligible surplus. By 1928, the last full year of Coolidge’s presidency, it was down to $3,900,000,000 with a surplus of $939,000,000.

Coolidge managed an amazing constellation of statistics: he cut the debt, he cut the budget and spending, he cut taxes, and he increased the surplus. Citizens in the lower wage brackets experienced significant increases in their wages and in the standards of living.

During the 1920s, the Coolidge administration reduced the debt, kept the budget flat, and brought in sufficient revenues through markedly reduced tax rates, both personal and corporate.

The prosperity of the 1920s ended when both Hoover and FDR turned a temporary downturn into an enduring depression by creating, for the first time in more than a decade, a deficit instead of a surplus, and then massively increasing spending, deficits, and taxes.

The presidency of Calvin Coolidge remains an economic landmark, both in American History and in World History.

Monday, November 16, 2015

The 1920s - Economic Concerns in Coolidge's Domestic and Foreign Policies

The administrations of Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge worked to stabilize the economy of the United States. Woodrow Wilson’s administration had inflicted both increasing taxes and increasing national debt on the country.

Wilson had used the Sixteenth Amendment, and Congress had complied, to increase taxation massively. For the first time in the history of the United States - apart from an experimental income tax during the Civil War - the federal government began confiscating a portion of the wages of working people.

Income tax rates soared up to 77% by 1918 during Wilson’s “progressive” administration. The war was used as an excuse for such taxation.

When President Harding was elected in 1920, the voters were tired of paying excessive taxes, and such taxes threatened to destroy the nation’s economy. Harding began to cut taxes. When Calvin Coolidge became president in 1923, he continued the trend. Historian Robert Ferrell writes:

Of course, the subtleties involved in these reductions often made large differences in the savings of individual taxpayers. In 1921, the highest personal rate was for incomes beginning at $200,000, down from the previous beginning point of $1 million. In 1924, the beginning point was $500,000; in 1926, $100,000. These categories were so far removed from the incomes of most Americans that they meant little. More important was the exemption for married taxpayers, which the act of 1921 raised from $2,000 to $2,500 and the act of 1926 raised to $3,500. The latter raise exempted 40 percent of all individuals who had paid taxes in 1924, leaving only 2.5 million taxpayers. Between 1921 and 1929, the number of taxpayers declined by 1 million. By 1927, 98 percent of the population paid no income tax. Three-tenths of 1 percent paid 94 percent of income taxes. As Mellon explained that year, “The income tax has gradually become so restricted in its application that it is a class tax rather than a national tax.”

Money was central, not only to Coolidge’s domestic policies, but also to his foreign policies. Europe was still recovering from WWI. European nations owed money to American banks; they were having difficulties repaying those loans.

The Treaty of Versailles demanded that Germany pay billions in reparations. Germany likewise had difficulty making such payments.

In the meantime, brutal communists had gained control of Russia, which was now in grips of Soviet socialism. President Coolidge had to decide which stance the United States would take toward the Soviet Union.

The international diplomatic scene of the 1920s was complex. Coolidge appointed Charles Dawes and Frank Kellogg as his key foreign policy experts. Historian David Greenberg writes:

On the international front, Coolidge had to confront several important issues in his first year in office, including the question of whether to establish diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union and calls for various treaties and institutions to protect the peace. But the most urgent and knottiest issues were those surrounding foreign debt to the United States. During World War I, American banks had let the European allies more than $10 billion, and after the war these nations, their economies ailing, were struggling to meet their payments. Then crisis struck. In early 1923, Germany, groaning under the reparations imposed by the Versailles Treaty, defaulted on its payments to France. French and Belgian troops moved into the Ruhr Valley, home to the German coal and steel industries, raising the prospect of another war. Germany printed money to pay its debts, resulting in a legendary period of hyperinflation. By October 1923, one dollar bought 4.2 trillion marks.

Vice President Dawes saved Europe from collapse by means of the “Dawes Plan,” which restructured German reparation payments, reducing the burden on the German economy. The global economy had been so close to breaking down that Dawes earned the Nobel Peace Prize in 1925.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Statism and Narrative

Narrative is a powerful force in human society. People naturally pay closer attention to narratives than to mere recitations of facts. People remember narratives better than they remember disjointed lists of data.

Emotions often engage in a narrative. Curiosity is aroused. Who’s the ‘good guy’? Who’s the ‘bad guy’? What will happen next?

Those who wish to instill ethical principles into their listeners know the power of a story. So do politicians who are promoting an ideology or who are seeking to get elected.

Historians understand the centrality of narrative. History is, essentially and necessarily, narrative. The business of historians is often to sort out and compare competing narratives.

While some have speculated about ‘doing history without narrative,’ most efforts in such a direction have floundered. They seem to strive for something which is practically impossible, if not absolutely so. Jonah Goldberg writes:

The brain was wired to take in information via stories. (It helps if they’re sung and rhyme a lot, but that’s a topic for another day.) Every important lesson of your life comes with a story.

Narrative will be implemented by both sides of serious ideological debates. Those who would assign the bulk of power and authority to the government, and who see the government as providing the solution for most problems, are often called ‘statists.’

To justify the inevitable reductions of individual political liberty, statists employ narratives. The paternalistic government, which benignly taxes and regulates, rescues citizens from a variety of crises and emergencies. Goldberg continues:

Ever since Hegel or maybe Plato, statists have been telling a story about government in which government itself is the hero in an epic struggle.

It became necessary for the government, and for the statist on behalf of the government, to find a continuous supply of problems and disasters so that the government can once again reveal itself to be the deliverer, and so that the government can once again justify regulating the life of the individual and imposing taxes.

The American political vocabulary of twentieth and early twenty-first centuries does not do justice to the problem of statism. Talk of ‘Republicans’ and ‘Democrats’ - talk of ‘liberals’ and ‘conservatives’ - doesn’t capture what’s at stake.

The question about statism is the question about whether we look to the government as a provider and rescuer, or whether we look to society itself, and the individuals and groupings within society, as a source of creativity and inventiveness, as the engine for constructive effort.

For Hegel, the state was the mechanism by which God worked out His will. For Marx, the State was an expression of cold immutable forces.

In historical development, Marxism and the various types of socialism which it spawned moved from seeing the government as the means to seeing the government as the end. Some versions of communism, in the early and mid-nineteenth century, aimed for the eventual dissolution of government, once it had been used to attain communal ownership of nearly everything: a sort of ‘anarcho-communism.’

But a larger segment of socialists eventually moved to a vision of the government as absorbing everything, owning everything, and regulating everything. “For the socialists who followed, control of the state was a kind of” desideratum, “but over time it became the hero itself.”

The narrative of the statist, then, incorporates the government as hero, and therefore must find the government to be an embodiment of ethical principles. Heroes, after all, are the good guys. When the typical statist of the early twenty-first century

talks about the moral arc of the universe bending towards justice, the physical manifestation of that pie-eyed treacle is always government.

Statist narratives, therefore, are stories of how the government has not only rescued its citizens, but done so in a morally noble manner. Statist histories of the past, analyses of the present, and speculations about the future follow this formula.

There is no room, in the statist narrative, for a hero who is not in some way linked to the government. There is no room for private citizens who freely assemble to form a social effort apart from the government to address any problem.

As Jonah Goldberg phrases it, when the statists of the early twenty-first century

talk about the progress we’ve made as a society, the hero is always the state (and the heroic individuals who bent it to their will). It doesn’t matter that the market, non-state institutions, and heroic individuals tend to solve most of the problems in life; the government is always shoehorned in as the indispensable author of beneficence.

What remains, then, it to examine competing narratives.

Take, for example, the statist narrative about women’s rights. The Progressivist movement would have the reader believe that women were rescued from abject servitude by the federal government, which enacted the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920. It was the benevolence of the centralized state which launched women into political equality, according to this narrative.

Yet a different narrative can be assembled from the available data. Quite aside from the point that it was the individual state legislatures, not the national government, which ratified the amendment is the point that women were already voting long before the amendment was even proposed. Women began voting in Wyoming in 1869, Colorado in 1893, in Idaho in 1896, in Utah in 1896, and in Montana in 1914. This trend continued until women were voting in 41 out of 48 states before the amendment was ratified. It was evident that the few ‘holdout’ states would soon follow the others.

Another statist narrative alleges that the ordinary citizens were saved from monopolies, trusts, and ‘robber baron’ industrialists when the federal government undertook to disperse these large commercial holdings. The statist narrative further alleges that the large corporations would inflict high prices on consumers who had no choice but to buy from a monopoly.

The competing economic narrative points out, first, that large holdings like Standard Oil achieved large market shares by offering low, not high prices to consumers. Second, Standard Oil never had 100% of the market share and so was never a true monopoly, and in fact faced competition throughout its existence which forced it to keep its prices to consumers low. Third, far from being invincible bastions of power, these industrialist empires, like Vanderbilt’s corner on the railroad market, often lasted only a few years, before competition reshaped the economic landscape: railroad dominance shifted from Vanderbilt to J.P. Morgan. The federal government’s efforts at “trust busting” were ineffectual and largely symbolic: Standard Oil was past its peak, and had been steadily losing market share, by the time the statists intervened to “save” the consumers from purported danger it posed.

A third common statist narrative tells us that FDR’s ‘New Deal’ rescued ordinary Americans from the depths of the Great Depression. Roosevelt’s high rates of taxation, massive national debt, wage-and-price controls, and make-work programs were the necessary steps to save Americans from poverty.

The competing liberty-based narrative tells us that the Great Depression was impervious to FDR’s efforts - it was in fact worse in 1937 than in 1932 - and Roosevelt’s efforts were in some cases shockingly irrational. Thousands of hogs were butchered and the meat thrown away, while families hungered: the New Deal’s attempt to ‘jump start’ consumer demand for agricultural products. The massive efforts of WWII masked, but did not end, the Great Depression. It was after the war that three factors coalesced to finally put the nation’s economy back onto a steady footing: a reduction in government spending, a reduction in taxation, and efforts to pay down the national debt. It was the postwar downsizing of government which ultimately laid the specter of the Great Depression to rest.

We see, then, that for each statist narrative, there is a competing narrative which is based on liberty and on the independence of the individual, instead of on the statist’s desire to see power centralized in a national government. Although abstract principle of ideology may ultimately be more attractive to pure reason, it is narrative which often decides the practical political perceptions of both the people and the historians.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Coolidge's Foreign Policy

The foreign policy of Calvin Coolidge might be described as located between the extremes of isolationism and internationalism. He saw the need for American engagement, and oversaw Frank Kellogg and Charles Dawes as they developed the Kellogg-Briand Pact and the Dawes Plan, respectively.

Yet Coolidge knew that the nation was weary after Woodrow Wilson had dragged it through WWI and the ensuing diplomatic entanglements of Versailles and the League of Nations. Wilson had been elected on a platform of keeping America out of the war, but he’d ultimately been unable to resist the attraction of the extraordinary powers which he would exercise as a wartime leader.

Therefore, Coolidge engaged diplomatically, but did not commit the United States militarily or in any way which, like the League of Nations, would compromise its national sovereignty.

The years of the Coolidge administration included significant foreign policy challenges, from efforts to ameliorate the problematic provisions of the Versailles Treaty, to the disconcerting awareness of Japan’s growing militaristic nationalism; from emergence of the Soviet Union as it replaced the Czarist dynasty to the irruption of civil war in China as the communists sought power.

There were, naturally, critics: some saw Coolidge as too engaged, and there was a vocal isolationist minority who doubted his decisions. But the voters overwhelming affirmed Coolidge and returned him to office, manifesting the will of the majority. Historian David Greenberg writes:

He ultimately declined to recognize the Communist government of the Soviet Union, and his policy toward the internal strife and rising anti-Western sentiment in China was uncertain and reactive. Coolidge, however, was no isolationist. Rather, his cautious temperament disinclined him from making bold ventures. He governed, moreover, at a moment when the public has lost its patience for the swashbuckling of a Roosevelt or the internationalism of a Wilson. Indeed, the president’s critics on foreign affairs were mainly those men who distrusted his internationalist forays altogether, from the Dawes Plan in his first term to his efforts to join the World Court in his second. He was fighting isolationism, not carrying its banner.

The voters seemed to like Coolidge’s foreign policy because, on the one hand, he avoided the extremes of isolationism and Wilsonian adventurism, and other the other hand, he engaged diplomatically while firmly maintaining national sovereignty.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The DNC Gets Messy

If you heard “the Democratic National Convention was a real disaster!” and if you know much about American History, you might think of the year 1968. At that time, the DNC was so chaotic that George McGovern and Richard Daley were shouting obscenities at each other.

(McGovern was a Senator from South Dakota who was seeking the party’s nomination; Daley was the mayor of Chicago. The party nominated Hubert Humphrey as its presidential candidate.)

The Democratic Party was divided into various factions which did not get along well with each other. The extremists in the party were organized into groups like ‘Yippies’ and ‘Hippies,’ and started violent riots in some of Chicago’s city parks which were located a few miles away from the building in which the convention was held.

But 1968 wasn’t the only year in which the Democratic National Convention was turbulent - or even seething.

In 1924, the Democratic Party was sharply divided on several questions. The bulk of the party continued to embrace Woodrow Wilson’s racist segregation program, but one faction, seeing that the Republicans had benefitted from the votes of African-American citizens, wanted the party to embrace racial equality.

The party was also split on economic matters. Wilson’s administration had imposed the onerous and hated income tax. Should the DNC embrace tax cuts?

The disputes at the convention became so heated that some of them were deemed inappropriate for the airwaves. Modern media made themselves felt: extensive radio coverage embarrassed the Democratic Party, as its internal fights were presented to the listening public.

The DNC finally nominated John Davis as its presidential candidate. Long losing the 1924 general election, Davis would gain notoriety by defending segregation in front of the Supreme Court in Brown vs. Board of Education. Historian David Greenberg writes:

Ten days and a record 102 ballots passed with no resolutions. The nation again listened on radio, but this time fascination curdled into horror as the deadlock persisted, with ugly rhetoric abounding. The Democrats retained a censor to keep any offensive speech off the airwaves, but to spare themselves public revulsion, they would have had to censor the convention itself. Finally, on the 103rd ballot, they settled on John W. Davis, a West Virginia native, a former solicitor general and ambassador to Great Britain, and a corporate lawyer whose firm, Davis, Polk, held prestige with the white-shoe class but not the rank and file. Despite denouncing the Klan over the summer, he was sufficiently retrograde on racial politics to appeal to the party’s white supremacists. (Davis would end his career in 1954 defending segregation before the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education). To run with Davis, the Democrats selected Nebraska governor Charles Bryan, the younger brother of their thrice-failed presidential nominee, William Jennings Bryan, creating the bizarre coupling of a Wall Street insider with a scourge of Wall Street.

The DNC, after airing its collective dirty laundry on national radio, was a fragmented coalition, barely able to feign the semblance of unity, presenting an unpalatable platform. The voting citizens could be forgiven if they also suspected that there was a lack of sincerity behind any presentation of a platform, given the internal divisions which would prevent united or cohesive support.

President Calvin Coolidge was swept back into office in November 1924 with a landslide. Even if the DNC had managed to unite itself and present a united front to the public, it still probably would have lost.

While the aura of racism clung to the DNC, Coolidge solidly refused to endorse the Ku Klux Klan, and in fact, Coolidge mocked the KKK with one of his election slogans, urging the Klan to calm itself in the words, ‘Keep Kool with Koolidge.’

Wilson’s plans for a “League of Nations” and a world government seemed, to the voters, to entangle the United States in too many foreign disputes, and to possibly infringe on national sovereignty. The DNC did not seem to offer a clear departure from Wilsonianism. Coolidge offered a foreign policy which engaged other nations diplomatically, but did not commit U.S. resources to a distant situations, and which maintained American sovereignty over American territory.

On the domestic front, voters were tired of high income taxes and regulated commerce. Coolidge offered a clear message about a free market: the citizens would be able to keep the largest share of their earning instead of having them confiscated in the form of taxes, and would be able to buy and sell as they pleased with fewer regulations.

The lessons of 1924 were, then, twofold: First, Coolidge’s vision of a free market, of racial equality, and of fewer international commitments for America was a wildly popular vision. Second, a political party could not afford to allow its intramural conflicts to spill out into the public via the convention.

The keen-eyed historian will see a number of parallels between 1924 and 1968.

In the last quarter of the twentieth century, parties reconfigured their decision-making so that the candidates, and in large measure the platforms, were chosen prior to the convention.

Conventions thus became ceremonial unveilings of the candidates and platforms, rather than the workshop in which they were made. Contemporary convention are largely symbolic, a sort of “eye candy” to launch national campaigns.

Political party conventions prior to, perhaps, 1975, and certainly prior to 1950, were more actively involved in choosing candidates and shaping platforms.

Modern electronic media have decisively shaped and reshaped political conventions. A convention, e.g., in the year 1904, could discuss and negotiate the details of a platform, and be relatively certain that the details of such discussion would never reach the eyes or ears of the public.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Multinational Experiences

Frances Slanger was born in Poland in 1913. But there was no country on the map named ‘Poland’ in that year!

The territory labeled ‘Poland’ had disappeared from the map in 1795, when it was divided into three parts and given to Russia, Prussia, and Austria. As a political state, Poland ceased to exist.

As a cultural nation, the Poles certainly continued to exist: they spoke Polish, and preserved and carried forward their musical, culinary, literary, and artistic traditions. The Poles, millions of them, were people without a country.

Dominated by Russia over a century, the Poles had no individual political liberty. The Russian nobility also occasionally had a nasty anti-Jewish side. Frances Slanger was born into a society in which there was no right to vote.

She was born with the name Friedel Yachet Schlanger, which she changed when she came with her parents to the United States in 1920. As Jews, they enjoyed freedom in the U.S., where they could buy a piece of land and do with it as they pleased, or where they could voice whatever political opinions they might have.

Delighted that she had so many options to explore, Frances decided to study nursing. Graduating in Boston, she worked for two years in a hospital there. As Vice President Dick Cheney writes,

Born in Lodz, Poland, in 1913, Frances, together with her mother and sister, secured passage on a ship bound for America in 1920. They were Jews hoping to escape persecution and build a better life. As a young girl, Frances sold fruit on the streets of Boston with her father and dreamed of becoming a nurse. In 1937 she graduated from Boston City Hospital’s School of Nursing.

By this time, the world’s attention was focused on the horrific events of WWII in Europe, North America, and the Pacific. Frances wanted to make a difference and bring liberty to people in oppressed parts of the world. She joined the Army Nurse Corps.

The western Allies had invaded Europe on June 6, D-Day. Frances arrived “as a part of the 2d Platoon, 45th Field Hospital” on June 10, 1944.

Lieutenant Frances Slanger and three other U.S. Army nurses waded ashore on D-Day plus four. Over the next five weeks they cared for more than three thousand wounded and dying soldiers. In her tent one night, as she thought about all she had seen, Frances wrote a letter to Stars and Stripes honoring the American GI.

The soldiers of the United States were called ‘GI’ because everything they wore, and all the equipment they used, was “government-issued.”

The newspapers Stars and Stripes was published for soldiers and was quite popular among them. Frances wrote her letter one October evening, in her tent, in Belgium, as her unit continued to advance eastward across western Europe.

In addition to nursing, Frances dreamed of becoming a published author. The letter which Frances wrote was published, and became a famous tribute to American soldiers. In her letter, she wrote:

To every GI wearing an American uniform - for you we have the greatest admiration and respect. Such soldiers stay with us only a short time - for 10 days or two weeks. But we have learned a great deal about the American soldier and the stuff he is made of. The wounded don’t cry. Their buddies come first. They show such patience and determination. The courage and fortitude they show is awesome to behold.

Addressing the soldiers directly, she wrote, “we wade ankle-deep in mud; you have to lie in it.”

The 45th Field Hospital advanced across much of Europe. On October 21, 1944, Frances died in Belgium near the German border. Vice President Cheney continues:

Frances did not live to see her letter published. She was killed the next night when a German shell ripped through her tent.

After her death, her letter became famous, and is still read today as a salute to American soldiers. This letter was, however, not the only famous passage she wrote. She had carefully copied this passage into her scrapbook:

There was a dream that men could one day speak their thoughts. There was a hope that men could stroll through the streets unafraid. There was a prayer that each could speak to his own God. That dream, that hope, that prayer became America.

Born in Russian-dominated Poland, she died in Europe working to liberate France and Germany from Nazi domination. But she internalized and exemplified American concepts: the value of the individual human, and the value of liberty.

She lived, and died, with the goal of freeing people from oppression: whenever and wherever governments shackle the people with regulations, people like Frances arrive to champion the cause of liberty.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Assessing the Damage Done by Soviet Spies

In the grand tradition about freedom of belief, people in Western Civilization instinctively tend to tolerate a diversity of political parties. This tendency, however, can be exploited by those who wish to destroy this civilization and its tendencies.

In the first quarter of the twentieth century, the Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA) was founded and succeeded in attracting significant numbers of members.

There was, however, a fundamental deception in the establishment of this organization: while it called itself a ‘party,’ it was not a political party in the sense that the ‘Democratic Party’ or the ‘Republican Party’ or even the ‘Libertarian Party’ are parties.

The CPUSA was, in fact, organized to instigate, in its own words, a ‘violent revolution’ to overthrow the United States government, to abolish the liberties and rights of U.S. citizens, to establish a communist dictatorship, and to do all of this by whatever means necessary, including loss of human life.

By claiming to be a political party, the CPUSA was concealing the fact that it was terrorist organization. It was ready to commit acts of sabotage and assassination. It did commit acts of espionage and disinformation. The CPUSA functioned as a branch of the Soviet military and as part of the Soviet intelligence community.

One Soviet agent, Alger Hiss, managed to start a career for himself in the State Department, and eventually rose to such high levels that he was giving face-to-face foreign policy guidance to the President of the United States. Hiss was, however, advising the president to act, not in the interests of the citizens of the United States, but rather to act in ways which would benefit the Soviet Union.

How did a confirmed Soviet spy obtain a secure position inside the United States government? The Assistant Secretary of State, Adolph Berle, attempted to alert the State Department to Hiss’s activity, but to no avail. As historian William F. Buckley writes,

Responsible officials, both in the State Department and in the White House, were twice informed about Alger Hiss. Mr. Adolph A. Berle relayed Mr. Whittaker Chambers’ report on Hiss to his superiors in 1939. In 1943, Chambers spoke with the FBI, who presumably submitted the information to the State Department. There was either a conspiracy of silence among those officers who knew the information about Hiss, or else they were so persuaded by pro-Communist propaganda, much of it of their own making, that they simply did not think it made much difference whether or not Hiss was a Communist. The last is less astounding if one recalls the celebrated statement of the influential Mr. Paul Appleby, of the Bureau of the Budget: “A man in the employ of the government has just as much right to be a member of the Communist Party as he has to be a member of the Democratic or Republican Party.”

The Soviet intelligence agencies could not have made such substantial inroads inside the United States government without the presence of those civil servants who either were knowingly and willingly aiding the international communist conspiracy, or were convinced that it was ‘no big deal.’

Sadly, it was a big deal, for the millions who died in China after the communist takeover in 1949, for those who died in the Korean war, for those who died in the Hungarian uprising in 1956, and for those who died in the Prague Spring of 1968.

Monday, August 10, 2015

History as Remembering

Can you remember something that happened before you were born? An event at which you were not present?

Scholars sometimes call this ‘historical memory’ or ‘collective memory.’ It is a powerful societal force.

Imagine three different people living in the United States: their various ancestors didn’t enter the country until after 1835. One is an African-American, one is an Asian-American, and one is a European-American. Yet all three can say that “we” rebelled against British tyranny in 1776.

While “historical memory” empowers individual citizens to use the ‘we’ in this way, it does not require them to abandon their own particular ethnic heritage.

This acquisition of historical memory is only one of many important reasons for studying history, as historian Wilfred McClay notes:

The study of the past makes the most sense when it is connected to a larger, public purpose, and is thereby woven into the warp and woof of our common life. The chief purpose of a high school education in American history is not the development of critical thinking and analytic skills, although the acquisition of such skills is vitally important; nor is it the mastery of facts, although a solid grasp of the factual basis of American history is surely essential; nor is it the acquisition of a genuine historical consciousness, although that certainly would be nice to have too, particularly under the present circumstances, in which historical memory seems to run at about 15 minutes, especially with the young.

The etymological meaning of ‘remember’ is to become part of something. By learning, rehearsing, and internalizing the country’s story, a citizen becomes part of the country, and the country becomes part of the citizen.

The success or failure of the effort to instill a collective memory into students, while retaining and celebrating their peculiar ethnic heritages, will ultimately be the success or failure of the country, and of civilization.

Not only knowing, but also perceiving one’s self to be a part of, the national narrative empowers the individual to see himself as heir to grand notions like rights and privileges, but also as inheriting duties, obligations, and responsibilities. This collective memory is necessary to human society.

The chief purpose of a high school education in American history is as a rite of civic membership, an act of inculcation and formation, a way in which the young are introduced to the fullness of their political and cultural inheritance as Americans, enabling them to become literate and conversant in its many features, and to appropriate fully all that it has to offer them, both its privileges and its burdens. To make its stories theirs, and thereby let them come into possession of the common treasure of its cultural life. In that sense, the study of history is different from any other academic subject. It is not merely a body of knowledge. It also ushers the individual person into membership in a common world, and situates them in space and time.

One cause, then, for an individual’s feeling of alienation is the failure of the educational system to help him overcome distances, not only of time and space, but also of race and gender, to identify with the national narrative.

It is possible, desirable, and necessary for social well-being that the ‘we’ of collective memory cross lines of race and gender: an African-American can look at a portrait of the Founding Fathers signing the Declaration of Independence and say ‘we.’ A European-American can look at Frederick Douglas or W.E.B. DuBois and say ‘we.’ A woman can look at George Patton or Douglas MacArthur and say ‘we.’ A man can look at Amelia Earhart or Susan B. Anthony and say ‘we.’

Yet the educational system cannot instill this historical memory alone. This is a larger project, requiring intentional participation of parents, neighborhoods, clubs, teams, performing arts groups, etc. It is a grand task, requiring society’s various networks.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

America's Schizophrenic China Policy

Starting in the 1920s, China was engaged in a civil war. Mao’s communists hoped to gain control of the country from the nationalists led by Chiang Kai-shek.

(‘Mao Zedong’ is sometimes transliterated as ‘Mao Tse-tung’ and ‘Chiang Kai-shek’ is sometimes rendered as ‘Jiang Jieshi.’)

Between 1927 and 1937, the nationalists introduced democratic reforms to increase political liberty in China. Free and fair elections made Chiang president. For this reason, the United States and other western allies were inclined to support the nationalists during China’s civil war.

The USSR, however, supported Mao. If the communists took control of China, it would work with the Soviet Union to intimidate and dominate smaller regional powers, and impose communism on those weaker countries.

Joseph Stalin, the Soviet leader, found a way to decrease American support for Chiang. A network of communist agents, operating inside the United States, could disseminate misinformation about the situation in China, and influence both policymakers and public opinion against Chiang.

This espionage network operated behind the cover of a ‘front’ organization - a group with a seemingly innocent purpose, hiding the real activity of its members. This organization was the Institute of Pacific Relations (IPR). Allegedly a think-tank of academics and journalists, it connected Soviet operatives. Historian Willmoore Kendall writes:

The IPR was in considerable part responsible for the proposal, finally put forward by the United States, that Chiang Kai-shek form a United Front coalition government with the Communists. Chiang, to be sure, knew from the first that the coalition in question would be only a first stage in an eventual Communist takeover of China: he resisted the proposal at every turn, and only under constant pressure from Washington officials, who were in turn being prodded by the IPR, was in induced to yield, little by little, on first one point of substance, then another. During the celebrated China civil war truce engineered by ambassador George Marshall, for example, Chiang found himself stripped of nearly all forms of military assistance (he was refused ammunition for the very weapons the United States had placed in his hands). “I was informed by the Chinese Government officials that they had ceased to receive war equipment manufactured in the United States,” General Chennault subsequently testified. “When I inquired why, they said that General Marshall had forbidden its shipment from American-held islands and from the United States.” The Chinese Communists, of course, made the most of the truce - to built up their army with equipment that the Soviets had captured from the Japanese-Manchurian army and turned over to them.

The results of the IPR’s influence were inconsistent and contradictory policies. The United States, supporting Chiang, gave him weapons, but then later refused to give him the ammunition for those weapons.

To defend China, the United States sent General Claire Chennault and his famous Flying Tiger group of fighter pilots; some of the most skilled air combat specialists, they fought for China starting in 1941. Yet American policy was soon content to allow China to fall into the hands of the communists, who executed millions of Chinese and subjugated the rest under a harsh tyranny.

The Soviets succeeded, therefore, in using the IPR as a tool to weaken American support for Chiang, and to eventually ensure Mao’s victory and the establishment of a bloody dictatorship in China.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Stalin Plants Spies and Uses Dupes

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union quietly set up ‘front’ organizations in the United States. These groups appeared to be benign social groups - academic or cultural organizations, labor unions, educational foundations, etc. - but were in fact a facade behind which the USSR could carry out its spy operations.

One such was the Institute of Pacific Relations (IPR). Founded in 1925, allegedly as an intellectual forum for the discussion of economics and policy, it had perhaps innocent beginnings. In any case, it was soon infiltrated and subverted by Soviet espionage agents, if it was not founded by them.

Front organizations typically had members who fell into various categories: the ‘dupes’ who were unaware of the group’s true nature and believed that they were simply working for some noble-sounding humanitarian goal; the ‘sympathizers’ who neither members of the Communist Party of America (CPUSA) nor Soviet agents, but who were inclined to support communism; those who were party members; and those who were employed by a Soviet intelligence agency like the NKVD, MGB, or KGB.

People in any of those categories could be immigrants or citizens born in the United States. The term ‘fellow traveler’ was sometimes also used.

To be a member of the CPUSA was not merely holding a set of political views or voting for certain candidates. It was not like being a Republican or a Democrat.

The CPUSA stated explicitly that it sought a “violent” revolution in the United States. To be a member was to advocate violence, to advocate the overthrow of the United States government, and to advocate the elimination of the political liberties which citizens enjoy.

Historian Willmoore Kendall writes:

The IPR found room in its organization not merely for a wide range of Communist sympathizers and dupes, but for Communist espionage agents a well - Michael Greenberg, for example, a British-born Communist who in 1941 became managing editor of IPR’s Pacific Affairs. (By 1942, Greenberg was the proud occupant of an office in the White House.) IPR’s reliance on persons with Communist affiliations who also had close ties with the State Department is fully documented in the IPR hearings.

Three main sources of information revealed the extent of the Soviet espionage network inside the IPR. First, investigations by the FBI and other American law enforcement agencies uncovered, bit by bit, links between IPR associates and Soviet spies. Second, some members of the international communist conspiracy defected and revealed information about IPR members and friends. Third, when the Cold War ended between 1989 and 1991, previously classified documents became available: from both sides.

Of the various front organizations operated in the United States by the Soviet Union, the IPR was particularly relevant to the situation in China. Starting in the 1920s, there was an internal struggle between Mao’s communists and Chiang Kai-shek’s nationalists. It was a civil war.

Stalin’s USSR supported Mao, and the United States lukewarmly supported the nationalists. Stalin tasked the IPR with weakening U.S. support for Chiang Kai-shek, by influencing the thinking of policymakers, and with providing the Soviets with classified information about the situation in China, by stealing confidential documents from various government agencies which had been infiltrated by IPR operatives.

The fact that Mao gained control over China - a fact which caused the deaths of millions - is due in part, but not in whole, to the communist infiltration of the IPR.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

A Seemingly Innocent Conversation

When a Foreign Service Officer (FSO) named John Service met with some members the Institute for Pacific Relations (IPR) in late 1944, it might have seemed like an obvious and mundane event - perhaps even boring. It would have seemed natural for a State Department bureaucrat, one of whose tasks it was to write regular reports from China about China and send them to Washington, to meet with a few members of what seemed to be an academic organization of scholars who studied contemporary eastern Asia.

Why would anyone care about, or be interested in, a bunch of tedious intellectuals gathering to discuss diplomacy between China and the United States?

Because they were all Soviet communist spies.

FSO John Service was actually working for Stalin’s intelligence agencies. He gathered information about the situation in China, and about U.S. policy toward China, and handed it off to operatives who forwarded it to Moscow. He had detailed, confidential, and sensitive information about the struggle in China: that nation was in the throes of a civil war between Mao’s Communists and Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists.

The Soviet were working to aid the Communists. The Soviets were also working to persuade the United States not to support Chiang’s Nationalists (‘Chiang Kai-shek’ is also spelled ‘Jiang Jieshi’).

John Service wrote reports from China to Washington, allegedly to inform U.S. policymakers about conditions in China so that they could shape U.S. diplomacy toward China. In reality, Service’s reports were Maoist propaganda pieces, designed to deflate U.S. support for Chiang.

While sending disinformation to Washington, Service sent accurate information to the Soviets, both about China, and about how Washington was thinking about China.

The Soviet operatives with whom John Service networked were an impressive list of communist spies: Owen Lattimore, who did not have academic credentials, was nonetheless given a post at Johns Hopkins University; the Soviets brokered this deal for him because it gave him a credible base from which to launch propaganda, and it gave him a cover for his espionage activity. Lattimore also worked for Pacific Affairs, the official publication of the IPR, and for Amerasia, the unofficial publication of the IPR.

The IPR had, on paper, no connection to Amerasia, but a list of IPR employees and Amerasia employees was essentially the same list. Those who sat on the board of directors for the IPR were also working at Amerasia.

This information became interesting when the FBI found plentiful evidence that the staff of Amerasia had stolen documents from the government which were marked ‘classified’ or ‘secret’ or ‘confidential’.

Another of Service’s discussion partners was John Carter Vincent, who was, like Service, an FSO who’d worked in China. Like Service, Vincent seemed more determined to undermine Chiang than to relay information about the situation. Historian Stan Evans writes:

At all events, Service did talk to the Washington IPR, and would thus plug into the shadowy network of pro-Red China watchers who would now figure decisively in his story. In attendance were the ubiquitous Lattimore, IPR employee Rose Yardumian, State Department official Julian Friedman (an aide to Vincent), and Friedman’s friend and federal colleague, Andrew Roth. A former IPR researcher, Roth was at this time a lieutenant in the Far East division of the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI), liaising with Vincent’s State Department office. He would prove to be a crucial liaison as well in the strange adventures of John Service.

Information flowed through a far-flung network of Soviet operatives who’d hidden themselves as “moles” inside various government offices. Rose Yardumian was married to Peter Townsend, a British journalist and link between Mao’s communists and English leftists.

If Yardumian and Townsend were the bridge to the communists hidden in Britain, then Andrew Roth was the bridge to Soviet operatives in postwar Germany. Roth was employed by the Office of Naval Intelligence and therefore privy to highly secret military information. Stan Evans writes:

Though a bit player in the Service drama, Roth was an intriguing figure, if only for what his career revealed about security standards of the era. In addition to his work at IPR, he had publicly defended the activities of something called the “Free German Committee,” a Communist operation based in Moscow. Despite this, he had been commissioned an intelligence officer in the Navy. The former head of ONI explained this, as quoted in a U.S. Senate report, by saying “The fact that an officer was a Communist was not a bar to a commission.” As seen, this was a perfectly accurate statement of the wartime practice.

The IPR also had offices in New York, which Service would later visit. Service would also travel to the West Coast to meet with communists in California.

Were John Service and individuals connected with the IPR responsible for the fall of China and for Mao’s communist tyranny which would execute millions of Chinese? While they may not bear sole responsibility, they were certainly a contributing factor.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

FDR at Yalta: Giving Poland to Stalin

In 1939, Stalin’s USSR was closely allied with Hitler’s Nazis, and they jointly invaded Poland. By the end of 1939, Poland was occupied by Soviet and German soldiers. Its political liberty had tragically disappeared.

The nature of the Soviet occupation manifested itself in 1940, when 22,000 Poles were executed by the NKVD, a branch of the Soviet secret police, in or near a place called Katyn. The victims were unarmed prisoners, mostly civilians who had nothing to do with the war effort: professors, lawyers, engineers, physicians, teachers, writers, and journalists.

The massacre at Katyn was not part of any combat operation: the fighting in Poland had ended in late 1939. This was an attempt, by the international communist conspiracy, to eliminate the intellectual and leadership potential among the Poles.

In 1941, Stalin’s political allegiances changed. After Hitler betrayed him, Stalin joined forces with the western allies. The USSR became an ally of the United States and of England.

President Roosevelt did a quick about-face: he presented the Russians, whom he’d previously presented as enemies to the American people, as our friends and allies. Overnight, Americans were told to stop viewing the Soviets as dangerous foes, and instead embrace them as partners in the fight against Hitler.

Although Stalin’s alliances had done a complete turnaround, swapping enemies for friends and vice-versa, the communist designs on Poland did not change. The western allies, hurriedly welcoming the Soviets, overlooked the USSR’s aggression toward Poland. Historians Stan Evans and Herbert Romerstein write:

The reason for this reversal was that, between the beginning of the war and its conclusion, the Soviets had been converted from foes to allies, and in this new guise continued to press their claims on Poland. When Hitler invaded Russia, the Communists were thrown willy-nilly into alliance with England. Grateful for backing from any quarter, Churchill embraced them as newfound friends and praised them in extravagant fashion. As has been seen, similar notions would prevail at the Roosevelt White House, in terms exceeding the views of Churchill. The pro-Soviet attitudes now suffusing Western councils would spell the doom of Poland.

At a famous series of wartime conferences, key Allied leaders met not only to coordinate the last phases of the war, but also to plan the postwar world. Among these meetings, the most famous were at Teheran in 1944, and at Yalta and Potsdam in 1945.

Stalin made his participation in the Allied war effort conditional on certain postwar demands. (Whether or not Stalin was truly able or willing to broker a separate peace with Hitler aside from the Allies, they yielded to his desires.)

Foremost among such demands was that the Soviets keep the part of Poland they had seized in 1939 in common cause with Hitler. Despite efforts by some in the State Department to oppose this, and occasional statements to the contrary by FDR, the Americans and British would concede the point early on, with virtually no resistance. Tentatively at Teheran, more definitely at Yalta, they agreed to bisect the prewar territory of Poland and consign roughly half of it to Russia.

President Roosevelt, it later became clear, was suffering from a variety of physical ailments which prevented him from thinking clearly at these conferences. Quite aside from the post-polio symptoms which he’d had for over two decades, by 1944 FDR was dealing with hypertension, cancer, and heart failure.

At the Yalta conference, in February 1945, Franklin Roosevelt was not simply ill. He was dying. By April of that year, he would be dead.

Participants at the conference were shocked by his condition. He fell asleep in the middle of conversations, and answered questions with nonsequiturs.

He was in no condition to participate in complex political, economic, and military analyses, even with the most honest of allies, let alone with the wily and deceitful Stalin.

In the end, the USSR received 77,000 square kilometers of Polish territory as a reward for having murdered thousand of innocent Polish civilians.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Wyatt Earp Meets Doc Holliday: History in the Making

Sometimes an individual plays such a pivotal role in history that he quickly passes into myth and legend, and the basic data of his life are almost lost among the fables and tales told about him. Not only is this true of historical figures who lived many centuries ago, but it can happen in the case of a man who lived quite recently.

Wyatt Earp was born in 1848 in Monmouth, Illinois. He had five brothers, Morgan, Newton, Virgil, Warren, and James. He had two sisters named Adelia and Mariah Ann. In 1849/1850, the family moved to Pella, Iowa. Here the parents, Nicholas and Virginia, lived with their children for around a decade.

The Earp family was strongly attached to the Republican Party, and so the older sons fought for the North during the Civil War: Virgil, James, and Newton. Wyatt was too young to join the army, although he tried repeatedly.

By 1869, Wyatt had reached adulthood, become a lawman in Missouri, and married his wife Urilla. But Urilla died in 1870, leaving him broken-hearted.

For the next few years, Wyatt Earp had no steady home. He roamed through Arkansas, Kansas, South Dakota, and the “Indian Territory” (later known as ‘Oklahoma’). He prospected for gold, worked as a ‘bouncer’ or private security man, and eventually returned to working for law enforcement agencies. His career began to stabilize itself somewhat when he became a marshal in Dodge City, Kansas.

Interrupted by a stint of gold prospecting in South Dakota, Wyatt was marshal in Dodge City in 1876/1877 and in 1878/1879.

Contrary to the images of tough guy heroes in western movies, Wyatt habitually avoided alcohol.

While in his capacity as one of Dodge City’s marshals, Wyatt followed a criminal to a small town located near the army’s Fort Griffin, Texas. He knew a barkeeper in that town named John Shanssey. John introduced Wyatt to Doc Holliday. Wyatt and Doc would become friends and coworkers. Historian David Fisher writes:

John Shanssey also introduced Doc Holliday to deputy US marshall Wyatt Earp. Shanssey and Earp had met several years earlier, when the future lawman had refereed one of the future saloon man’s bouts. This time, Earp had come to “the Flats,” as the town near Fort Griffin was called, hunting a train robber named “Dirty Dave” Rudabaugh. Perhaps at Shanssey’s request, Doc told Earp what he knew: While playing cards with Rudabaugh a few days earlier, he’d heard the man say something about going back to Dodge City. Earp sent that information by telegraph to Dodge City’s assistant deputy, Bat Masterson, who eventually made the arrest. But that encounter marked the beginning of the more important relationship of Doc Holliday’s life.

Wyatt Earp’s life seemed to go from steady to haywire after the death of his wife. He moved from town to town, and from job to job.

Doc Holliday’s life was similarly unraveled by a diagnosis of tuberculosis. ‘Consumption,’ as TB was then often called, was almost a death sentence. Many patients died soon after diagnosis. Holliday was himself a medical practitioner, and understood well his prognosis. Like Wyatt, he began a nomadic life, and became known as a formidable gunfighter. The knowledge that he was likely to die soon from tuberculosis erased any fears he might have had in shootouts. His behavior in confronting criminals was courageous bordering on reckless.

Both Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday would outlive their gunfighting days and die of other causes.

But when they met and teamed up, they both were engaged in dangerous attempts to enforce justice.

Wyatt Earp was himself an ornery character. He’d been a boxer and a gambler; he’d worked on the railroads, as a constable, and as a horse thief. There were a lot men like him in the Old West, people who just flowed with the opportunities life presented to them. For the previous few years, he’d been working mostly as a strongman, keeping the peace in brothels. He’d moved to Wichita in ‘74 to keep the peace in his brother Virgil’s house of ill repute, while also working as a part-time peace officer for the city. When Earp first crossed paths with Doc Holliday in ‘77, he had recently been named Dodge City’s chief deputy marshall.

After Holliday met Earp at “the Flats,” Holliday and his girlfriend Kate followed Earp back to Dodge City.

Presumably, Earp welcomed the Doc and Kate, who found lodgings at Deacon Cox’s boarding house when they arrived in Dodge. If it wasn’t the roughest town in the West, it definitely was high on the list. As a letter that appeared in the Washington Evening Star complained, “Dodge City is a wicked little town. Its character is so clearly and egregiously bad that one might conclude … that it was marked for special Providential punishment.”

This was the beginning of a collegial relationship between Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. Their most important, and most famous, work lie several years ahead of them, in Tombstone, Arizona, in 1881, in the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

After Reconstruction: Civil Rights Violated (Civil Rights Setback)

After the end of the war in 1865, an era of flourishing civil rights began for the newly-freed African-Americans. Ex-slaves began voting, owning property, and even running for office; more than a few of them were elected.

Within fifty years, however, most of this progress would be undone.

How did this happen? How did a civil rights triumph turn into a civil rights debacle? Historian Wyatt Wells notes that the threat to Black liberty began with the Compromise of 1877. The electoral college contained some ambiguous ballots after the presidential election of 1876.

In this compromise, which was never written or reliably documented, Republican candidate Rutherford B. Hayes obtained the presidency, but the Democrats demanded that the Republicans withdraw federal officers from the South - officers who’d been stationed there to ensure civil rights for the African-Americans. Historian Wyatt Wells writes:

Although the Compromise of 1877 terminated Reconstruction, it did not settle the questions of what race relations and politics would look like in the postwar South.

After a decade of Republican influence, “many northern Republicans expected” that the Democrats would allow Blacks to continue voting and holding elected office. Because of the alleged Compromise, the Republicans expected the

Democrats to respect the rights of African Americans, and at least a few of the latter promised to do so. African Americans often voted and, in some areas, held public office. In most southern states, the Republican Party still functioned, electing local officials, state legislators, and the occasional U.S. Representative. In the 1880s a coalition of Republicans and dissident Democrats won state elections in Virginia, and in the 1890s alliances between Republicans and Populists did the same in North Carolina and Louisiana.

For a decade or two after the Compromise of 1877, the Republicans were able to generate some civil rights for the African-Americans. “Nevertheless, during these years,” the security of those rights was beginning to unravel:

Democrats often used fraud and intimidation to eject Republicans from office, and southern states enacted the first Jim Crow statutes. In 1890 a petition from blacks in Oklahoma to President Benjamin Harrison lamented that “[t]he passage of unfair laws affecting elections, labor and the landlord and tenant system, by the legislatures of southern states, has caused widespread unrest and discontent” and “produced a feeling of profound discouragement and utter dismay among Africo-American [sic] voters in the entire country.”

By the turn of the century, Black civil rights would be in full retreat as the Democrats increased their domination of the South. Kentucky, led by Democrat governor J.C.W. Beckham, passed its infamous “Day Law” in 1904, which prohibited students of different races from attending the same schools. Woodrow Wilson’s administration began to segregate federal agencies which had been desegregated and integrated during the 1870s.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Rewriting the Cold War’s History

For decades, a small but well-organized group of writers sought to downplay the dangers of the Cold War. They worked to deny that the United States faced a serious threat from a coordinated espionage network of operatives placed within various agencies of the U.S. government.

They also sought to direct suspicion away from American Communist Party (CPUSA). This group was not merely interested in articulating a point of view, but was rather dedicated to a “violent” revolution inside the United States, and to obtaining classified military information and forwarding it to Moscow.

The CPUSA’s insistence on violence - its printed internal documents used the word ‘violent’ as defining characteristic of its anticipated revolution - brought it to the attention of law enforcement agencies like the FBI. Its coordination with the KGB, NKVD, and MGB meant that it was stealing U.S. government secrets and giving them a hostile enemy power.

One example of an effort to deny or downplay the dangers which faced the United States during the Cold War is a 1978 book by David Caute titled The Great Fear. The thesis presented by Caute and others is that concerns about threats of a Soviet espionage network inside the United States were baseless and irrational.

In 1995, the ‘Venona’ project was declassified and some of the information which U.S. intelligence agencies had intercepted and decoded became public. These were encrypted cables between various members of the Soviet intelligence establishment.

These post-Cold-War revelations refuted claims made by Caute and others that the CPUSA was not operating a spy network inside the United States. An editor for the University of Michigan’s Michigan Law Review wrote:

Contrary to Caute’s preposterous claim that Communists were innocent idealists, the American Communist Party was linked to Stalin like an al-Qaeda training camp to Osama bin Laden. As John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr wrote in their book Venona, the American Communist Party was “a fifth column working inside and against the United States in the Cold War.” The cables “expose beyond cavil the American Communist party as an auxiliary of the intelligence agencies of the Soviet Union.” They said, “While not every American Communist was a spy, hundreds were.” It was a striking admission coming from Haynes and Klehr. In their earlier book on American Communism, they had stated matter-of-factly that “few American Communists were spies.” The disgorging of decrypted Soviet cables forced the professors to revise that assessment.

The Cold War is often defined as lasting from the mid-1940s to the fall of the Soviet Union around 1991. An argument can be made for a starting point a decade or two earlier, inasmuch as the USSR was operating an active spy network inside the United States in 1930s. The Soviets had also been involved with a general strike in Seattle in 1919; an alleged labor union, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) was actually communist front and took the residents of the city hostage for several days.

In addition to infiltrating the United States government, the communists also operated a variety of such ‘front’ organizations: cultural clubs, academic foundations, artistic groups, and political and labor committees. These seemingly innocent groups, apparently promoting noble humanistic causes, were facades behind which communist agents carried out their work. Historians Stan Evans and Herbert Romerstein write:

Communist covert actions against the United States and other target nations were relentless and effective, far more than most historians have imagined. The Kremlin used such tactics in systematic fashion, made them key elements of state policy, and devoted enormous resources to them. The data also show the manner in which the West fought back against this challenge, though in most cases we were on the defensive, playing catch-up, and far less practiced in secret warfare. We thus for many years experienced more defeats than triumphs, though with some victories to our credit.

Since the end of the Cold War, evidence has been released which details the scope, breadth, and depth of the espionage network operated by the Soviet Union inside the United States. It is clear that during the Cold War, few Americans understood the size of communist spy system, and the gravity of danger it posed.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Cold War Overview

As a topic, the Cold War has many different dimensions. Although most famous for the years between the 1950s and the 1970s, it began as early as 1919, when the IWW held the city of Seattle hostage for five days in a general strike.

Allegedly a labor union, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) was actually a Soviet front organization. Over the next few decades, the USSR would establish a number of such ‘front’ organizations: groups with ostensibly benign or salutary purposes, but which in fact functioned as intelligence-gathering, propaganda-spreading, or policy-influencing organs of the Soviet Union.

Such front organizations might be cultural or historical societies, labor unions, professional associations, academic groups, political committees, or any other seemingly harmless assembly. Some members of a front would be key leaders, aware of the group’s true purpose. Others might have no idea that their efforts or donations were going to support an enemy government.

In the early years of the Cold War, the Communist Party (CPUSA) was a center for networking many Soviet agents. The CPUSA was not merely expounding a political view, but rather stated in writing that it sought a “violent” revolution in the United States.

Then as now, most Americans wanted to preserve freedom of speech and freedom of the press for all citizens. But the CPUSA was not interested in ideas: is deliberately used the word ‘violent’ in its publications. It wanted to cause the deaths of U.S. citizens.

Later in the Cold War era, the CPUSA had been largely discredited, and Soviet agents used other, more secretive, ways of networking. Historians Stan Evans and Herbert Romerstein write:

Considering only its larger aspects, the Cold War story is of course well-known and doesn’t need much elaboration. With the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, conflict between the new Soviet rulers of Russia and the non-Communist nations was foreordained and, despite numerous tactical zigzags, would persist for generations. The hostility stemmed in part from conditions on the ground in Europe during World War I, but mainly from the belief of Soviet commissars Lenin and Trotsky that their victory would be the precursor to Red revolution elsewhere, and that the new Communist state would lead the way in making this happen. Soviet methods of secret warfare were developed to advance this revolutionary vision.

The United States faced a greater threat than many citizens realized at the time. Only after the end of the Cold War could previously classified reports be released, both by U.S. intelligence agencies, and from the files of what had been the Soviet government.

As the details became more widely known, the American public learned that the danger had been much greater than previously imagined. In 1995, details about the “Venona Project” became declassified. This project was carried out by the intelligence community in the United States, and managed to intercept and decrypt a small percentage of messages sent and received by Soviet agents in the U.S.

Although the KGB may be the most famous Soviet intelligence agency, it was organized in 1954. Several other agencies operated prior to it, including the NKVD and the MGB, going back to 1934.

The Soviet espionage network inside the United States was well developed. An editor of the University of Michigan's Michigan Law Review wrote:

The scale of the conspiracy was unprecedented. Hundreds of Soviet spies honeycombed the U.S. government throughout the forties and fifties. America had been invaded by a civilian army loyal to a hostile power. There was no room for denying it. Soviet operatives were stealing technical information from atomic, military, radar, aerospace, and rocket programs. The cables revealed the code names of the spies, their technical espionage, and the secret transmission of highly sensitive diplomatic and strategic policies.

While the direct members of the international communist conspiracy were willing and knowing agents, other “dupes” unwittingly aided the Soviet effort by supporting what seemed to be innocent and benevolent humanitarian organizations - organizations which were actually fronts.

American counterintelligence efforts proceeded with great caution. Much of what it learn about the Soviet espionage network was not revealed, even to other branches of the government, because the information would become useless if the Soviet learned what the Americans knew.

Different offices within the State Department, and in the Department of Treasury, were staffed by agents from the USSR. Paid Soviet spies held positions in the U.S. government and ranked high enough that some of them, like Alger Hiss, had face-to-face meetings with President Roosevelt.

Other agents gained access to the most detailed information about atomic weapons. Through the work of spies like Klaus Fuchs, Julius Rosenberg, and Ethel Rosenberg, the USSR gained the technology to build its own atomic bomb.

In hindsight, the international communist conspiracy held an incredible position inside the United States government, and almost succeeded in its desire to kill Americans and bring an end to political liberty.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Amana Colonies

The United States has hosted a variety of religious communities over the centuries. Some, like the Amish and Mennonites, have endured over the years; other, like the Shakers, no longer exist.

In Iowa County, Iowa, the Amana Colonies represent a type of communities which not only had a religious nature, but also an interest in economic systems. The Amana Colonies are neither Amish, nor Mennonite, nor Shaker.

Like many religious communities, the Amana Colonies have their roots in Europe and are the result of immigration. Officially titled the ‘Community of True Inspiration,’ they trace their founding to northwestern Germany, when, in the year 1714, the preaching of Friedrich Camisard was organized by two leaders, Jhann Rock and Eberhard Gruber, into a series of congregations.

In 1817, a second wave of leaders - Michael Krausert, Barbara Heinemann, and Christian Metz - gave new momentum to the movement, especially in the regions of Alsace, Hesse, and the Palatinate. The followers developed a separatist lifestyle, refusing to send their children to government schools, swear allegiance to the government, or engage in military activity.

Tired of government oppression, the group began to emigrate in 1842, settling near Buffalo, New York, and organizing themselves under the name ‘Ebenezer Society’ in 1843. In 1855, they relocated to Iowa, purchasing 26,000 acres of land and developing what would eventually become the seven villages known as Amana Colonies. Historian Leon D. Adams writes:

The Amanas and their wines are something out of another world. The colonies are seven Old World villages on the banks of the Iowa River ten miles north of Interstate 80, eighteen miles southwest of Cedar Rapids. An eighteenth-century German communistic and religious sect called The Community of the True Inspiration came here in 1854 from Ebenezer, New York, purchased 25,000 acres of virgin prairie, and built a utopia named Amana, a biblical word meaning “remain true.” Three more colonies, Middle, West, and South Amana, were built two miles apart, an hour’s travel by ox team. High and Upper South Amana were added in between, and the small town of Homestead was purchased outright.

When historians describe the Amana Colonies as ‘communist,’ the reader must understand that this was long before the times of Lenin and Stalin. The word ‘communism’ had not yet taken on the connotations of the oppressive and militant atheism which figured so prominently in the twentieth century.

Instead, the Amanas instituted a pacifistic and spiritual communism, modeled in part after the earliest followers of Jesus. They officially incorporated their organization in Iowa as the ‘Amana Society’ in 1859. Leon D. Adams continues:

Communism survived here for almost three generations. Everything was owned by the Amana Society; the members worked without pay in the mills, shops, and and fields and had their meals together in communal kitchens. But in 1932 the Depression threatened them with bankruptcy, and communism was forsaken for capitalism. The colonists became stockholders of a corporation which paid them wages, and capitalism worked: one of the colonies’ several industries, Amana Refrigeration, has become the biggest maker of home freezers in the world.

The change in economic system did not change the spiritual beliefs and practices of the colonies. They do not baptize in any way, and regard sacraments as purely symbolic.

They have adapted well to modern economic patterns. Their location on a major east-west highway is well suited for the tourism industry.

The five tiny Amana wineries make Piestengel and grape wines in the basements of the owners’ homes. Piestengel is rhubarb wine; the word means pie stalk in German. It comes both dry and sweet, white and pink, and usually doesn’t taste of rhubarb; it has a flavor of its own. Nine tenths of Amana wine is sold to tourists, who taste and buy it in the cellars and drink it in the local restaurants.

In 1973, when Leon D. Adams wrote his account of the Amana Colonies, wine production in Iowa was low, prices for wine were low, and the state government intensely regulated the sale of wine. At that time, Adams wrote:

The tourists are happy to pay six dollars a gallon for the Amana product - double the price of many standard wines - because, in the rest of Iowa, wine to take home can only be bought in the state monopoly liquor stores. A special section of the Iowa law, adopted when Prohibition was repealed, allows the native wineries to sell their homemade wines to anyone, but they are not sold in the state stores. Most Amana wines are labeled “other than standard wine” because to reach their usual 16 percent alcoholic content more sugar must be added than Federal wine regulations allow.

Starting in the mid-1940s, two herbicides or weedkillers known as “2,4-D” and “2,3,5-T” came into use. One sad side effect of these two agents was that they killed a number of types of grapevines, including some of those used to make wine.

In the old days each Amana colony had its communal winery, which provided each family with a daily allowance of wine. Workers in the fields received an extra portion at three each afternoon. “Our village winery was under our church,” recalls Friedrich Ackerman, who owns the South Amana Winery. “But our elders ordered all the barrels emptied when Prohibition became the law in 1920, and the wine ran in ditches for hours.” The vineyards were abandoned during the 1920s, and when the wineries reopened at Repeal, they got their grapes from a vineyard near Fort Madison on the Mississippi. Then the Fort Madison vineyard was ruined by 2,4-D, and most of the grapes since have come from Fred Baxter’s vineyard across the river at Nauvoo.

While the grape sources are important for Amana’s wines, the colonies also produce fruit and rhubarb wines.

One Amana winery has its own vineyard because Ramon and Bette Goerler, who own the Old Wine Cellar Winery, believe they should grow their own grapes as their forebears did. Goerler, a Navy veteran and a graduate of the University of Iowa, planted the vineyard in 1966, six acres of Fredonia, Concord, and Beta grapes a mile north of town.

Writing as he did in 1973, Adams reported the production levels at that time:

In 1880, when the national census of winegrowing was taken, Iowa produced 334,970 gallons of wine, thirteen times as much as the 26,000 the state produces today.

Happily, things have improved in Iowa since then. In 2008, the state produced 186,700 gallons of wine; in 2009 it produced 212,891 gallons; and it 2012 it produced between 243,571 and 296,900 gallons.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Scott, a Solid Man; Mexico, a Fragmented Society

The war between Mexico and the United States, fought from 1846 to 1848, while ostensibly a border dispute, reveals characteristics of the two nations and of the men who led them.

The personalities shaped the war from the U.S. side: President James Polk, General Zachary Taylor, and General Winfield Scott. Both generals had political potentials, ambitions, and aspirations - to varying degrees. Polk was anxious to minimize the amount of direction competition which the two general could pose for him, and to influence the outcome of their political competition with each other.

Winfield Scott already had a long and distinguished military career behind him when the war started. In 1810, as an officer in the U.S. Army, he had been falsely accused of dishonorable conduct. Historian Brion McClanahan writes:

Scott was forced out of the army for a year. He continued his studies, immersing himself in military strategy. The knowledge he acquired at this time would serve him well during his sixty-three-year career, forty-seven of which years he served as general. When the War of 1812 began, Scott was in New Orleans. He immediately left for Washington, was promoted to lieutenant-colonel, and was transferred to Philadelphia and then to New York to take part in the defense of that state and possibly an invasion of Canada.

While Winfield Scott had an integrated personality and a psychological resilience which allowed him to endure setbacks, the nation of Mexico was, during the first half of the nineteenth century, internally fractured. The country had claimed its independence from Spain in 1821. In the decades before and after that war of independence, historian Irving Levinson informs us, Mexico was divided into a collection of demographic groupings:

Florescano, the preeminent modern historian of this period, characterized the colony as “a disintegrated mosaic of contrasting peoples, ethnic groups, languages, and cultures, disseminated in an extensive territory with poor communication.”

The attainment of independence did not create a sense of national unity. The Mexicans used the term criollo to designate an individual of Spanish ancestry who was born in Mexico. Not only were the criollos one separate group among many, but they were not internally united.

Mexico’s War of Independence did not change this situation. That conflict ended in 1821 with the criollos firmly in control of the newly independent state. This minority divided into two factions.

The questions splitting the criollos were about suffrage, religion, and the power of the government. What degree of freedom would the Mexicans receive? One segment of the criollos

favored the preservation of the colonial social structure, a state religion, very limited suffrage, and a centralized federal regime dominated by the landed and the wealthy.

At stake was whether the Mexicans would merely exchange the oppression of the Spanish crown for a local tyranny, or whether individual political liberty would triumph. If the Mexican government could be structured so that it did not interfere in the markets, and did not burden the people with taxes, then Mexico would have a chance at those benefits which are bundled together under the title of the “New World.”

The other segment of the criollos, Irving Levinson tells us,

opposed all of these objectives and, to varying degrees, sought a more open and egalitarian society. For much of the period from 1821 to 1846, the traditionalists remained in control and emphatically rejected such contemporary Spanish concepts as universal male suffrage. During the 1820s, less than 1 percent of Mexico City’s estimated population of 200,000 owned the property necessary to qualify as voters.

This internally divided nation declared war on the United States in April 1846. By May of that year, the United States had declared war on Mexico. The question at hand was the exact boundary line between Texas and Mexico, and about the ownership of lands which would eventually be parts of Arizona, California, and New Mexico.

Into the mix of personalities on U.S. side entered William Wallace Smith Bliss, a man of exceptional intellect. A brilliant professor of mathematics, he was also gifted in linguistics, and had learned to speak several different Native American (“Indian”) languages. On the political side, he would also eventually marry Zachary Taylor’s daughter after the war, and after Taylor had become president.

Bliss’s intelligence and his political familial connections seemed to destine him for greatness or fame, but he died in 1853 of yellow fever at the age of 37.

Two factors seem to ensure that Zachary Taylor made a reasonable showing in the war: William Bliss, and Taylor’s horse, Old Whitey. Historians Allan Millett and Peter Maslowski write:

Although Polk had no military experience, he acted not only as commander in chief but also as coordinator in chief for the war effort. In the country’s first example of prewar strategic planning, after consulting with his cabinet Polk had contingency war plans drafted more than six month before Arista’s cavalry attacked Taylor’s dragoons north of the Rio Grande. Once the war began he exercised tight control over every aspect of it, setting precedents that subsequent presidents built upon to make the White House, not the Capitol, the center of wartime authority. No problem perplexed Polk as much as the senior Army commanders, Scott and Taylor, who were as different as their nicknames implied. “Old Rough and Ready” Taylor rarely wore a uniform and had limited strategic or tactical ability. His interest in military intelligence and planning for campaigns was deficient that Scott assigned Captain William W.S. Bliss as his chief staff officer. Considered the Army’s brightest intellect, “Perfect” Bliss would compensate for Taylor’s own conception of warfare, which rarely went beyond marching, firing, and charging. Taylor’s strength was his battlefield imperturbability. Sitting atop Old Whitey, one leg crossed over the pommel, and chewing on a straw, he never panicked. “Old Fuss and Feathers” Scott, who became the commanding general in 1841, loved fancy uniforms and had considerable strategic and tactical abilities. Although not a West Pointers, he had a keen interest in military affairs, read widely on the subject, and wrote tactical manuals. A meticulous planner, he insisted upon a thorough military reconnaissance before maneuvering or fighting.

Observers typically report that General Winfield Scott was the more gifted military leader of the two, although Taylor was not without some merit. Scott more than Taylor brought about Mexico’s defeat.

On the Mexican side, the leadership had been desperate enough allow General Santa Anna, who’d been exiled, to return in hopes that he’d lead the Mexican military to a victory over the United States. To the Mexicans he promised that he’d abandoned the political ambitions which had led to his exile; to the United States he secretly promised that he’d betray Mexico and cede the disputed lands to the U.S. once he’d taken control of the Mexican government.

Once back in Mexico, he violated his promise not to seek power and declared himself president. He also violated his promise to the United States and led the Mexican military against it.

The strategy developed for the U.S. forces was that Taylor would have an army on the northeastern border of Mexico, maintaining a presence there to keep some percentage of the Mexican military occupied. Scott would take another army, on ships, south across the Gulf of Mexico, and make an amphibious landing on the southern end of Mexico’s east coast, fighting inland toward Mexico City.

A few smaller units of the U.S. Army would be active along Mexico’s northwestern border.

Taylor, however, was not content to be merely a presence or a diversion. He insisted on advancing his army further into Mexican territory. Historian Russell Weigley writes:

Plunging into Mexico to Monterrey and beyond for strategically dubious purposes, General Taylor mismanaged his logistics so that his troops were too often sick and supply too often uncertain, allowed a relatively lax discipline in regard to plundering the inhabitants, fought battles unsubtly and expensively to clear the Mexican army from his path, and after he became angered by the detachment of 4,000 men including nearly all his Regulars for Scott’s campaign, disobeyed Scott’s orders to retreat to a strong defensive line around Monterrey. Instead Taylor placed his remaining troops in a position difficult to defend and dangling on a precarious supply line, eighteen miles south of Saltillo at the hacienda of Agua Nueva. His excuses for this last decision were that he understood Scott’s orders only as advice, and that the Mexican army could not cross the 200 miles of barren country between San Luis Potosi and his position anyway. When General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna surprised him by marching 20,000 Mexican soldiers across the barren country to attack him, Taylor, now reduced to 5,000 troops, retreated three miles to slightly better position at the hacienda Buena Vista. There he displayed his best and redeeming qualities, by so inspiring his mostly inexperienced army and so skillfully maneuvering its units from one threatened place to another, that he repulsed the Mexicans with 1,500 to 2,000 casualties to about 750 casualties of his own. Buena Vista is a deservedly famous tactical triumph of American arms; but in strategic conception and conduct, Zachary Taylor’s campaign in Mexico was a throwback to the amateurishness of the War of 1812.

It seems, then, that the main threat to Taylor was his own bad judgment and lack of military skill. Yet both Scott and Taylor would emerge as military heroes in popular accounts of the war.

Taylor was nominated by the Whig Party in 1848 and became president. Winfield Scott was nominated by the same party in 1852, but lost the national election.

Zachary Taylor owned numerous slaves, and saw slavery as a political problem to be solved through negotiation. Polk was also a slaveowner. Winfield Scott was a fierce abolitionist, and saw the elimination of slavery as the only possible or acceptable resolution.

One question raised by the war with Mexico was whether this newly acquired land in the United States would be “free” territory or “slave” territory. Although the U.S. won the war with Mexico, it may have fueled, by doing so, the debate which would eventually erupt into the Civil War.

Monday, June 15, 2015

A Complex Cast of Characters: Cold War Spy Narratives

In the deadly triangle defined by Beijing, Moscow, and Washington, the espionage network maintained by the international communist conspiracy during the 1930s and 1940s was densely populated by many Soviet agents, working undercover inside various offices in the United States government.

Lauchlin Currie was an advisor to FDR 1939 to 1945) and later an officer in the World Bank (1949 to 1953); when it was discovered that he working for a Soviet intelligence agency, he defected to Columbia.

John Service was a Foreign Service Officer (FSO) sent by the State Department to China; from there, he sent reports back to Washington which were supposed to inform policymakers about the domestic situation in country, but which in fact were pro-Mao pieces designed to nudge the United States away from supporting Chiang Kai-shek. He was in China during the 1930s and 1940s. He also sent useful information, both about China and about America’s policy toward China, to Moscow by means of agents like Max and Grace Granich.

Owen Lattimore was more likely an unwitting dupe than an employed Soviet agent. His affectionate statements about Stalin have been richly documented. Lattimore was employed by the Institute for Pacific Relations (IPR) as an editor for its periodical Pacific Affairs. The IPR was infiltrated by communist spies. Lattimore also worked as an advisor to Chiang Kai-shek, whom Lattimore secretly betrayed. Until 1963, he taught at Johns Hopkins University, and until 1970 at the University of Leeds in England.

John Vincent was, like John Service, an FSO in China, who similarly worked to undermine American support for Chiang Kai-shek.

Harry Dexter White's extensive work for the Soviet intelligence community has been thoroughly documented. He worked for the Treasury Department, influencing U.S. economic policy.

Solomon Adler was a link between the operatives in different agencies, because he was a Treasury Department representative in China. Adler formed a bridge between the Soviet moles in the State Department and those in the Treasury Department. Like John Service and John Vincent, his reports from China were essentially Maoist propaganda pieces.

Henry Morgenthau was Secretary of the Treasury for FDR. He was most likely neither a communist nor a Soviet agent, but he was manipulated into doing Stalin’s work. Harry Dexter White was in a position to ensure that Morgenthau received reports from John Service and Solomon Adler, and White also ensured that Morgenthau would not receive other, more reliable, reports about what was happening on the ground in China. Thus programmed, Morgenthau would brief President Roosevelt. Unsurprisingly, Morgenthau’s presentations about Mao were enthusiastic.

A point of connection for this wide-ranging cast of characters was the autumn of 1944 in Washington, D.C., when Service, after several years of work in China, returned to America. Historian Stan Evans reports about a series of meetings at that time:

Currie of course had plenty of reason to talk with Service, as China was Currie’s portfolio in the White House, there was ongoing contact between them, and Service would perform, as he later put it, as Currie’s “designated leaker.” The two also had many influential friends in common, most notably Owen Lattimore and John Vincent. The White contact seems more puzzling at first glance, but makes sense when Service’s ties to Adler are considered. White was Adler’s boss and received regular updates from his minion in the field, relayed to Morgenthau and others. White also obtained through Adler various reports of Service. There thus would have been no shortage of things for White to check out with the returning FSO.

One more character enters the drama in the person of Harry Hopkins, who’d worked for FDR in the 1930s, designing the WPA (Works Progress Administration). By the 1940s, he was still working for President Roosevelt, as an diplomatic and economic advisor. The evidence is inconclusive as to whether Hopkins was employed as a Soviet agent, or was merely manipulated as an unwitting dupe.

When questioned about his meetings in Washington in late 1944, John Service was quite defensive, as Stan Evans reports:

Yet another intriguing Service link to White occurred in connection with this visit. Shortly after he got back to the United States, Service was asked to give an off-the-record briefing to the Washington branch of the IPR, and did so. In testifying about this talk, Service would somewhat oddly stress that he had official clearance to give it, saying: “I got approval. I talked to Mr. Hopkins, Mr. White, and various other people.” Why Service needed approval from White to give this or any other talk was not explained, nor did anyone at the State Department hearing where he said this bother to ask this obvious question.

Although this list of characters may seem complex, it is in fact merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The number of Soviet agents, and the various government agencies into which they had insinuated themselves as moles, is long indeed.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Voting Rights: the “Force Bill”

During the years of Reconstruction, after the Civil War, newly-freed Blacks in the South exercised their civil rights. They began voting in significant numbers, running for office, and winning seats in Congress.

But after the first few postwar decades, the Democratic Party began to reassert itself. By the end of the nineteenth century, African-Americans saw their civil rights shrink.

Political liberty for Blacks in South reached its peak sometime between the end of the Civil War and the end of the century. By 1900, fewer Blacks were voting - scared away from the polls by intimidation tactics - and fewer were being elected to office.

The Republicans wanted to open more opportunities for African-Americans to vote. The GOP proposed the ‘Force Bill,’ as historian Wyatt Wells explains:

Many Republicans sympathized with the plight of southern blacks. They valued the GOP’s history as the party of freedom and recognized that the Democrats’ lock on the South made it much harder for their party to win national elections. Unfortunately, the Democrats controlled the U.S. House of Representatives for most of the 1880s, allowing them to block civil rights legislation. In 1888, however, the GOP won control of the presidency and both houses of Congress, and Republicans came to Washington with an ambitious agenda that included a voting rights bill. Senator George Hoar (R-MA) and Representative Henry Cabot Lodge (R-MA) took charge of what its opponents soon dubbed the “Force Bill.” This measure provided for the appointment of federal election inspectors in any congressional district where a certain number of voters requested it. These inspectors would keep track of voting practices and election returns, and ideally, their very presence would discourage chicanery. If, however, inspectors disagreed with local or state authorities about the outcome of an election, the federal courts would decide the winner. Although less sweeping than the voting rights measures of Reconstruction or the Civil Rights era — among other things, it only applied to elections to federal office — the Force Bill would have acted as a brake on the pervasive fraud and intimidation that characterized elections in the South and might have set a precedent for further action. It enjoyed strong support among rank-and-file Republicans. As a party operative in Indiana wrote, “Our people are just as anxious for the passage of new elections laws as they were for the pension bill [for veterans of the Civil War]” — a strong statement considering the central role of veterans in the GOP.

Sadly, the Democratic Party had control of most of the state, county, and city governments in South. The Republicans were able to hold on to local offices only as long as the Blacks were voting.

Once the African-Americans had been scared away from the polls, the Democrats quickly took control of local government in the South. The ability of the federal government to correct the situation was limited.