AWACC and The Second Founding of the USA

AWACC – America Was A Country with Communists.

As we’ll see…

It seems pretty clear from the last thread that the presently operative, descriptivist definition of ‘Communist’ is ‘Orwell’s IngSoc Oceania from 1984‘ and, oh what the heck, some Kim and Stalin and Mao thrown in there for kicks.  In other words, Communism is now defined in the popular imagination as equivalent to the worst tyrannical abuses of certain totalitarian socialist regimes.

Ah, but once upon a time, there was another Communism, one older than any of those regimes or any of those atrocities, prior indeed to any ‘actually existing socialism‘.

What did those people mean when they said they were in favor of ‘Communism’?  What was their motivation?  Who were these people?  And since they probably didn’t prefer a political system for nothing more than its own sake, what did they want that they thought Communism would achieve?

These are all good and important questions.  But it takes many little pieces to solve a large puzzle, and sometimes it’s productive to study just one pixel in the big picture.

One of Foseti’s favorite character from 20th century American History is Tom Lamont, and one of my favorite picture elements is Charlotte Anita Whitney, about whom I came to know because she was the subject of a very famous free-speech related court case of the era just before the Great Depression. Foseti made his shot across the bow, and now I’ll make mine.  We’ll get to the case in a bit, but first a little biography.

Whitney was born into a ‘preeminent family’ (her father was a prominent lawyer and a California State Senator) in San Francisco on July 7, 1867, which made her older than Stalin and even Lenin, and graduated from Wellesley in 1889.  Here’s her pic:

Now, there’s nothing wrong with Wikipedia’s page as far as I can see, but Handle was perusing through the local archives repository, as is his want, and managed to acquire some coverage of our fair lady from Time magazine in 1925, and this excerpt is well composed.

Miss Charlotte Anita Whitney is said to be a descendant of five people who came over in the Mayflower, and of the first colonial Governor of Massachusetts; she is said to be a niece of the late Associate Justice Stephen J. Field appointed to the Supreme Court by President Lincoln.

Speaking of of the Field side of her the family, Stephen’s brother was ‘multi-millionaire speculator and magnate’ Cyrus Field, whose company laid the first telegraph cable across the Atlantic Ocean in 1858.  They were both the son of the Yale-trained, New England clergyman David Dudley Field, himself the son of Timothy Field, an officer during the American Revolution.  NYT:

On her mother’s side, she is a member of the famous Van Swearingen family [prominent Shakers], which settled in Maryland in 1645.

… it was at his [Justice Field’s] Washington home that she passed many of her girlhood days, and it was from him that she inherited the little fortune that she has so unselfishly devoted to the relief of human wretchedness.  Two of her uncles gave up their lives in the Civil War…

Spoiler Warning: I don’t want to put the cart before the horse, but I’ve just got to add one more thing here.  The article goes on:

… she was convicted by a jury (composed half of women) because of her membership in the Communist Labor Party. … Last week the Supreme Court refused to hear her appeal. Now she must go to jail unless the Governor pardons her.

And Time reported her eventual Gubernatorial pardon by Progressive C.C. Young on … July 4th, 1927.

Whoa … {catches breath} it’s like Core American overdose brain freeze.  Now that’s ‘Deep Heritage’. People, if a pre-HUAC Hollywood script-writer came up a character as absurdly American as Anita Whitney, he’s be laughed out of the pitch room.

It’s all there in our elite all-American heroine’s background!  Revolutionary War, Supreme Court, Lincoln, First Colonial Governor of Massachusetts, Yale, July 4th headlines, relatives on the Mayflower ..

Wait, ‘relatives’?  Plural?  What, like a married couple?

No, a bunch of them!

How many?




Oh really.  Sure, five, of course.  Totally believable.  Hey, why not make it ten?  Ira, he may be your nephew, but if you ask me he’s gone completely meshuge.

Just after Ms. Whitney graduated college, a very influential work of urban-reformist photojournalism was published, which I’m guessing probably inspired her to make her own excursion in NYC slum-tourism, something which had already been going on for a decade.  It was all the rage, and all the top folks were doing it, and maybe handling out a few eleemosynary goods and services here and there. Nowadays celebrities go to places like Haiti to acquire this do-gooder feeling and some good press and party with the exotic locals a little.

I don’t know if I buy the ‘profound influence’ narrative from La Wik, she seems to be on the path regardless.  Anita was a modern girl and maybe Whitney partied with some of the local immigrant residents of the tenements and fell in with their radicalism, but I think it was more of a ‘birds of a feather’ thing.  The funny thing about the slum theory is that, looking backward, (as we tend to do around here), a lot of the children who grew up in the conditions of those slums ended up accomplishing many great things.  That wasn’t thought possible by the popular theory of the time, which was that slum-life turned innocent angels into criminal devils.  The progressives road to salvation for these poor souls and their era’s version of urban renewal in general was paved with good intentions and characteristic far-sightedness.

cure juveline delinquency in the slums

Yup, that planned housing sure did the trick.

She switched from teaching into Social Work and the late 19th century version of the NGO track for eight years, eventually being promoted to Executive Secretary of the United Charities of Oakland in 1901.  She took up a lot of the popular progressive causes of her day, and became especially involved in the female voting rights movement.  She was California organizer of the National College Equal Suffrage League and she would later serve as Vice President of the National American Woman Suffrage Association.  In 1922, The New York Times would write of her:

… the American woman whose life and private fortune have been spent in an unremitting effort to relieve the sufferings and better the condition of humanity …

To get a feeling for the times (at the beginning of which Charles Dickens was an Anglosphere literary superstar), you might compare Anita to her British Equivalent, Beatrice Webb, Baroness Passfield, about whom Wikipedia notes:

Her left-wing commitments led Webb to make unfortunate justifications of some of Joseph Stalin’s excesses: for example, in speaking of the Moscow Trials, she described her satisfaction that Stalin had “cut out the dead wood”

Doesn’t that use of ‘unfortunate’ stick in your craw?  Just a little?  Anyway, what a charming lady!  Very influential too, and with quite the social network.  But let’s turn back to August 1914 and WWIEisenhower would be graduating from the class the stars fell on in just 9 months.  The climax years of one of the country’s ‘nervous breakdowns’ (as Sailer calls them) was just about to begin.

Progressives of the time were in a bit of a bind of divided loyalties.   They tended to be pacifists in favor of various forms of internationalism, but President Woodrow Wilson was one the movement’s top leaders and would increasingly nudge the country and his political allies towards entering the war.  To make a long story short, some people got on board with the program and towed the party line, but others didn’t.  Anita was in the latter category.  They dissented.  Unlike today, dissent was not considered very patriotic back then.  Wilson choose Nationalism over Socialism, not anticipating their eventual harmonious merger.

December 7th, a date which will live in infamy, but this time in 1915, when Wilson, during a State of the Union address, asks Congress to pass what will eventually become the Espionage Act of 1917 which Congress was slow to work on but which finally passed after the entrance of the US into the war:

There are citizens of the United States….who have poured the poison of disloyalty into the very arteries of our national life; who have sought to bring the authority and good name of our Government into contempt….to destroy our industries….and to debase our politics to the uses of foreign intrigue….[W]e are without adequate federal laws….I am urging you to do nothing less than save the honor and self-respect of the nation. Such creatures of passion, disloyalty, and anarchy must be crushed out.

Nice.  That’s my kind of progressivism.  Of course, it had only been 14 years since the Anarchist Czolgosz assassinated President McKinley, and Wilson certainly hadn’t forgotten the event.  Wilson was disappointed that the act didn’t give his full authority to censor the press, but, no matter, the Committee on Public Information was on the case.  Key staff included our friend Edward Louis Bernays, who literally wrote the book on Propaganda, and who was Sigmund Freud’s nephew.  Wilson also established The Inquiry, which would go on to achieve independence and become the Council on Foreign Relations.  Of course, the influence of Lippmann is everywhere, who wasn’t anti-censorship, but preferred it be handled by more enlightened, ‘tolerant’ sorts.

1917 was also an eventful year in Russian history.  Until then, from 1914 onwards, the Americans had been supplying Czar Nicholas II and later Kerensky.  But the Bolsheviks had their hands full trying to consolidate power and crush dissent through terror, and wanted out of the bloody unpopular war, and so signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with Germany.  Wilson was quite displeased, and would intervene in the Russian Civil War that followed the revolutions, an unsuccessful effort that poisoned relations for a generation, only to be revived by WWII, where the US recommenced marine shipments.

All of which helped contribute to the First Red Scare, and the wartime suppression of all the various radicals, immigrant and native alike, and even ultra-natives like Whitney.  I guess there was nothing to worry about; everybody was just hallucinating and the country wasn’t actually crawling with legions of extremist reds.  There were definitely some though.

Eleven months later, the Espionage act was amended by the Sedition Act of 1918.  According to La Wik:

It forbade the use of “disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language” about the United States government, its flag, or its armed forces or that caused others to view the American government or its institutions with contempt. Those convicted under the act generally received sentences of imprisonment for 5 to 20 years.[2] The act also allowed the Postmaster General to refuse to deliver mail that met those same standards for punishable speech or opinion. …

You think we’ve got social consequences in America these days?  It could be worse.

Well, the Armistice came was on 11-11-1918 (‘Veterans’ day’ in the US), featuring that doubly-famous railcar at Compiegne, and negotiations for the Treaty of Versailles , with Wilson’s personal participation, commenced tout de suite, culminating in ratification in July of 1919.

But the long, sanguineous war, and the excitement of the Bolshevik drama and the promise of radical, rapid social change through revolution, had hardened the leftists’ politics and sense of confidence.  And they were getting impatient and bold.

By mid 1919 it was getting serious.  We have, for example, passage of the California Criminal Syndicalism ActCriminal syndicalism being the effort to accomplish social change through ‘criminal’ acts, but a basic codeword for anti-communist.  But the key element of which was the notion that one’s mere membership in an organization where such activities were occurring was amount to membership in a conspiracy (circumstantial evidence of common criminal intent) and thus criminal liability that was both joint and strict.  That’s what got Whitney in trouble.  Al Qaeda and Affiliated Network members enjoy a fairly similar legal status today. And now let’s turn to our series of cases:

And we have the back-to-back Supreme Court cases of Abrams v. U.S. and Schenck v. U.S., upholding the constitutionality of the wartime speech controls of both the Sedition and Espionage Acts.  Those holding would remain valid for 50 years until 1969’s Brandenburg v. Ohio, which help only speech given with the intent and reasonably foreseeable effect of inciting imminent violence could be restricted by law.  But as we all know, Modern US History didn’t begin until 1968 anyway, so we needn’t bother much with what came before or lend any respect to prior understandings and precedents.

Abrams, of the New York City Judeo-Bolshevik persuasion, had written and distributed pamphlets denouncing the US intervention in the Russian Revolution.  Schenk, was of a similar disposition, and Secretary of the Socialist Party of America, (of which Anita Whitey was also an enthusiastic member) but instead wrote to draftees in opposition to military conscription, which would later become a more mainstream attitude, especially amongst libertarians who, like Milton Friedman, would indeed prove influential in creating the ‘all volunteer force‘ (stop-loss policies aside) of the American military.  It is from these cases that we get the free-speech concepts of ‘competition in the marketplace of ideas‘ and ‘clear and present danger‘.

Not that it helped either of these Jews, because their convictions were upheld.  Danger doesn’t actually mean dangerous. Justice Holmes:

The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that the United States Congress has a right to prevent.

Ah, not actual ‘danger’ then, like more of a ‘risk’ that something anti-social will occur, not always rising to the level of, “… falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic.

Back to Whitney.  Earlier in the year, the 1919 party elections of the SPA included the passage of a referendum calling for the SPA to affiliate with the Communist International in MoscowThe Left Wing Section of the Socialist Party wanted even tighter connections, inter-organizational and ideological, to the Soviets, and called forth the 1919 Emergency National Convention, which makes a cameo appearance in Warren Beatty’s Reds.

There was an irredeemable schism, and the Left wing split to establish the Communist Labor Party of the United States, and Whitney went with them.  La Wik:

Whitney, who did not think the Socialist Party sufficiently progressive, threw herself into the Communists’ cause, drumming up support for the new Communist Labor Party throughout California.

Which group is more progressive than the Socialists?  The Communists.  People, it’s right there in front of you.

Also, note that having an implacable Communist Left Wing of the Socialist Party of America, already overwhelmingly in alignment with Moscow (whose members and sympathizers would be running American public-opinion interference for the Soviets for two generations), will be awfully helpful in self-proving your self-perception as something other than a ‘Communist’.  No matter how much daylight is between your camps, or whether you insist on Pas D’Ennemi à Gauche it will still come in very handy during occasional, temporary reversals of the winds.

Fast forward to 28-November-1919. Whitney was scheduled to give a speech in Oakland to the California chapter of the National Civic League, of which she was President.  Take a look at the founders on the national organization.  Sometimes I just stand in awe of the energy and multiplicity of organizations founded and managed by the same small group of key characters, whose names appear over and over as you research this era.

It really is like we had a whole other set of Founding Fathers of the United States that we don’t recognize with the same honorific, but whose influence on future events is completely comparable.  When Lippman and Dewey et al were talking about a New Republic, they weren’t kidding (Thomas Carlyle is portrayed as Donald Gorden in the English satirical novel of the same name).  It really was The Second Founding.  Maybe the third or fourth; it depends how you count these things.

There was a municipal ordnance in Oakland that required the approval of the Chief of Police before any public program could be presented.  Upon learning that Whitney would be speaking, and the subject of her talk, the Chief refused to approve her participation.

The subject of her talk was, “The Negro Question” as the New York Times wrote, ‘… a then pertinent issue because of the pending national anti-lynching legislation. [which didn’t pass]’

Speaking of the negro question, six years later, after her pardon, Whitney gave a speech to the National Women’s Party in San Francisco where she digressed somewhat from her theme of Susan B. Anthony.  Time magazine reports her words:

Now one-tenth of the women of our country [the Negresses] are not enfranchised. . . .

“It will be years before we have courage to declare for complete suffrage State by State. And the result is our present intermarriage law.

“If a full-grown man and woman wish to live together as man and wife it is only decent to allow them to do it, no matter what their color.

“Our laws forbidding intermarriage of Negroes and whites reduce the colored girl to the position of a dog, without the respect which should be accorded human beings, and without the redress of wrong accorded the white woman.”

When she had done, 50 listening ladies laid down the teacups and applauded.

In this we have a great foreshadowing of Loving v. Virginia (1967), and the intellectual heritage of Hollingsworth and Windsor (both 2013)I don’t know if the colored girls made out quite like they hoped.  The historical consequences seem very one sided (he missed Justice Thomas), but you definitely aren’t allowed to say that or explore why.

Anyway, back to Oakland, 1919.  Whitney gave the speech anyway, and was arrested on the criminal syndacalist charge of being a member of the Communist Labor Party.  Her trial opened on January 27th, and hers became quite the cause celebre. But the youngest son of her lawyer, the famous and brilliant San Francisco attorney Tom O’Connor (namesake of this fellow), become fatally ill with the famously morbid Flu of 1918 yet the judge refused a continuance.  O’Connor himself caught the bug and also died soon thereafter.  The judge ordered a little-prepared lawyer who was assisting with the case, J.E. Pebberton, to take over.  C.C. young would later excuse his pardon on the basis of such ‘trial irregularities’.

Most of the trial focused on the various local crimes of members of Industrial Workers of the World, people with whom Anita had definitely associated, but without prosecutors definitively proving that Whitney has anything to do with those crimes.  She was convicted, and she appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, which unanimously rejected her appeal and upheld the constitutionality of California’s law.

Even prior to her pardon, Whitney stayed active in politics.  in 1924, she ran for California State Controller.  Years later, in December of 1935, apparently dissatisfied with the New Deal, she, ‘was convicted of “false swearing” to signatures on Communist petitions for a place on the ballot’.  Also ‘To the chagrin of many a sympathizer, most of whom were mild liberals, Anita Whitney promptly marched back to the Communist battle line as an orthodox Stalinite’  La Wik:

Her stature among radicals only enhanced by the conviction, Whitney was named the national chairwoman of the Communist Party in 1936. …

California’s Communists nominated Whitney for the U.S. Senate twice.

Anita Whitney’s popularity among the country’s radical leftists never completely disappeared. Although trailed by a protracted record of political harassment and accusations by the California Tenney Committee, compounded by the anti-communism promoted locally by actor and future governor Ronald Reagan in Los Angeles and across the nation by Wisconsin Senator McCarthy, her 1950 campaign for Senator won close to 99,000 votes.

Anita Whitney died on February 4, 1955, aged 87, in San Francisco, California.

And so ends the life of the Red Lady.  But the formidable Justice Brandeis wrote a concurring opinion in her case that left its mark on the American Scene for years to come, and indeed, maintains its relevance to the present day (now more than ever, actually).  It is here that he composed the famous line:

If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.

Which, in the popular misquotation, has become, ‘The remedy for bad speech is more [good] speech’.

And it is here at last we come to social consequences and L’affaire Dickinson, and Derbyshire, and Watson, and Richwine, and Kanazawa, and so on, and so on, etc.  Good grief, even Tuffy the Rodeo Clown.

None of these people went to jail, but they were made lessons of, nonetheless.  Quite the ‘remedy’ indeed.  If only today’s progressives and volunteer auxiliary thought police would hear Brandeis’ words and understand their actual lesson.  I’m confident that when he said ‘more speech’ he didn’t mean it in the form of ‘Burn The Witch!’

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8 Responses to AWACC and The Second Founding of the USA

  1. peppermint says:

    “a lot of the children who grew up in the conditions of those slums ended up accomplishing many great things. That wasn’t thought possible by the popular theory of the time, which was that slum-life turned innocent angels into criminal devils.”

    “planned housing sure did the trick”

    Perhaps it would have worked, for Whites. What happened was, when public housing was built, the face of the the urban poor was changed. Maybe we can see if Chinese in public housing end up using the stairwells as toilets.

    • Handle says:

      ‘Deep Heritage’ is both genetics and culture. Both can be positive or negative (enter the 2×2 matrix).

      If you’re bad on both, public mansion gated communities won’t help you.
      If you’re good on both, slums won’t hurt you.

      If you’re bad on one and good on the other, then it could go either way.

      Public interventions to prevent things going bad are most likely to be effective for this group of people.
      But, as we well know, at the stage of development of most developed countries, the government can do very little about genetic talent.

      So, logically, instead of concentrating on futile efforts or diminishing marginal returns in the attempt to bring up the performance of the bottom, a sane government would focus on reinforcing a positive culture for the less capable.

      The proof of the government’s insanity in this regard is that it is doing the exact opposite of this, and refuses to change course despite constant failure. Brings to mind, ‘Your entire system of government is incurably insane’

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