Wednesday, May 25, 2016

War Is Expensive: Paying for Independence

When the thirteen colonies fought for their independence, one of the chief obstacles they encountered was a lack of resources. The Continental Congress was not able to provide large quantities of men or materiel.

To address this problem, the American military used the practices of impressment and conscription. While the two terms are similar, ‘impressment’ is usually used to refer to the act of seizing property. ‘Conscription’ is refers to mandatory military service, or the ‘draft’ in modern terminology.

These practices constituted a challenge to the identity of the new nation: their grievance against England was partly based on the British army’s practices of conscription and impressment, and one of their goals in the war was to end conscription and impressment.

Was it, then, consistent or plausible to use these tactics in the effort to abolish these tactics? Historian John Maass writes:

Logistical and manpower problems and North Carolina’s efforts to resolve them occupied civil and military leaders, as well as ordinary citizens, throughout the Revolutionary conflict. These unremitting demands led to two of the most burdensome intrusions into the routines of Carolina inhabitants during “these troublesome times”: impressment and conscription. Both of these expedients produced antipathy and resistance to Patriot authorities, and undermined support for the new state in general. Moreover, they added significantly to the debilitating disorders within the state during most of the war years. Impressment, the act of seizing property for public service or use, was a lawful yet deeply resented practice adopted by North Carolina out of military necessity given the woefully inadequate logistical apparatus the state established. Despite the legitimate basis for impressment, it was subject to considerable abuse, was often overly broad in scope, and became a license to steal in the hands of some disreputable agents. This practice, vehemently opposed by merchants, planters, and poor families alike, was employed during most of the conflict, so that it affected what must have been the majority of Carolinians, whose resultant anger was directed primarily at the state. Such a widespread practice not only caused inhabitants to resist the state’s incessant demands, but also led others to join the enemy.

The practices generated resentment and bitterness among the populace, so much so that it some cases it threatened to nudge individuals to change their allegiance: to cease supporting the bid for independence and embrace instead the British colonial masters.

The Americans encountered a problem which is inherent in any society which embraces liberty as one of its highest values: any government which is strong enough to protect liberty will also be strong enough to damage liberty, and may indeed infringe on liberty in its effort to defend it.

Must one sacrifice part of one’s freedom to keep that freedom? Surrender bits of freedom to pay for the effort to defend it?

Yet the alternative was for the colonies to continue under the harsh rule of the British imperialists.

The Americans took a risk. They wagered that their government would give back the wartime powers it used in impressment and conscription. They gambled that, if they granted power to the government long enough to establish freedom from England, then the government would relinquish those powers once the thirteen colonies had established their independence.

The great historical singularity is this: that America’s risk, gamble, and wager paid off. From 1775 to 1783, Americans surrendered some of their liberty in the effort to permanently increase their liberty. It worked. In 1784, Americans had measurably more political liberty than they did in 1774.

Friday, May 20, 2016

A Terrorist Organization: the CPUSA

When the Cold War ended between 1989 and 1991, historians began to get access to data which had previously been classified and kept secret by various world governments. A whole host of mysteries were made available to the reading public.

Not only during the Cold War, from 1946 to 1990, but even earlier, since the beginning of the Soviet Union, the Communist Party in the USA had shown a surprising durability and resiliency.

When leaders like Bill Haywood, who organized one of the CPUSA’s “front” organizations, the IWW, got into trouble or were being investigated by the FBI, they fled to the Soviet Union - the source of their organization’s support.

The Industrial Workers of the World, known as the IWW or the “Wobblies,” was only one of several Soviet-funded operations inside the United States. This funding was kept secret. The public didn’t know that the IWW ultimately answered to Moscow.

The IWW was instrumental in organizing the Seattle General Strike of 1919, in which thousands of ordinary citizens were held hostage by socialist and communist terrorists who controlled the city for several days, keeping families confined to their houses for many hours per day, and controlling every aspect of life with totalitarian rigidity.

Not only during the ‘Cold War,’ generally defined as lasting from 1946 to 1990, but also starting even as early as 1919, the USSR was funding, organizing, and directing activities in the United States.

Through its various ‘front’ organizations, the international communist conspiracy hoped to achieve a “violent” revolution in North America. The conspiracy explicitly used the word ‘violence,’ and envisioned sabotage, assassinations, and brute force to impose its socialist agenda on the populace.

As historian John Earl Haynes notes,

My research colleague, Harvey Klehr, and I were extremely fortunate to be the first historians to explore several major long-closed archives: the Communist International and Communist Party of the USA (CPUSA) records in Moscow, the decrypted Soviet cables of the National Security Agency’s Venona project, and the KGB archival notebooks of Alexander Vassiliev. Among the most surprising discoveries was that the Soviet Union’s secret subsidies of the CPUSA were much larger and lasted much longer than we expected, only ending in 1988 with a $3 million secret payment. In addition, the number of American sources recruited into Soviet espionage between 1935 and 1945 was much larger than we had earlier expected, and the extent of the CPUSA’s direct involvement in that espionage, making itself into an auxiliary of Soviet intelligence, was much more extensive than we expected.

The USSR was directly involved with the CPUSA even before it was officially formed. In January of 1919, Vladimir Lenin formed contacts within a socialist party in the United States.

The Leninist-Communist elements within the United States then broke away from this particular socialist party and formed two communist parties. Moscow, however, wanted only one party, in order to facilitate easier command and control.

Directives from the USSR ensured that by mid-1921, there was one unified CPUSA. From that point forward, a direct and continuous link brought funding and instructions from the Soviet Union to the CPUSA.