139 East 35th Street
October 4, 1941
Mr. DeWitt M. Emery
1635 Pittsfield Building
Dear Mr. Emery:
Here is the outline of the Organization Plan which we discussed. This is only a brief, general plan, covering the most important points. I don’t know how this will fit in with the by-laws of the National Small Business Men’s Association, but I assumed that this was to be an entirely separate branch, so I outlined the manner in which I think it should be organized. You will notice the main precautions which I mention to keep the organization from being kidnapped by the wrong element, in particular the absense of general elections. This is most essential—or the whole thing will be snatched right from under our feet as soon as it shows signs of succeeding.
I read your Memorandum of September 24 with great interest. I think it is much better than the printed booklet. There are a few things in it with which I don’t quite agree, but they are minor. I will mention them to you when I see you, if you wish my detailed opinion. There is only one suggestion I should like to make here: I think the tentative name you propose for the organization, “American Neighbors”, is very wrong. The name of an organization is its trade-mark and its slogan. It must suggest some idea of what the organization stands for. It must have a certain ring, an inspiring quality. “American Neighbors” is wrong because: 1. The first thing it brings to mind is the “Good Neighbor” Policy; people’s first impression will be that it has something to do with South America. 2. It is actually meaningless—because it could mean anything; it doesn’t convey any suggestion of our cause. 3. It is too deliberately prosaic; it’s not inspiring; personally, if I heard of an organization by that name, I would not join it—I’d distrust it. Whatever name we decide upon, it must not be anywhere in these categories.
Now, as to the article “The Evolution of Freedom” which you sent me for comment. I think it is extremely bad. It is so confused, so involved that it’s impossible in places to understand what the author is talking about. It seems to be written by an amateur determined to sound like a professor,
with all the worst qualities of a pseudo-academic style. Of one thing I am certain: the person who wrote it is not on our side. Trust the nose of a good bloodhound on this subject—I can always smell the quality of a person’s convictions. The author might believe (might, but I doubt it) that he is a defender of capitalism, but his thinking is muddled and his real inclinations show through.
1. The idea that Nazism is worse than Communism. That’s pure Communist Party Line nowadays. Any sincere defender of capitalism must oppose both these “isms” as equal evils. And of the two, Communism is much the greater menace in this country. Anyone who doesn’t realize this is tainted with a great big dose of New Deal germs, whether he knows it or not.
2. The author’s definitions of the ideologies of Communism and Fascism are so grossly unfair that out of a whole mess of semi-incomprehensible sentences only one thing stands out clearly: a defense of Communism. I quote: “Communistic aims have been: to equalize opportunity, to make men free under representative government, to assure abundance for all, and to eliminate private profits.” Oh yeah? This is as beautiful—and dishonest—a sales-talk for Communism as I’ve ever read. The rest of that sequence is practically double-talk, so its only purpose seems to have been the above glowing definition—introduced “objectively”. Is that ineptitude? Or intention?
3. The author’s argument against Communism is reduced to that old, old one about “the-ideals-are-noble-but-the-practice-is-evil.” Well, THAT’S precisely the Party Line of all pinks and New Dealers. They all hate Stalin, but love Communism. This kind of propaganda is no service to our system of free private enterprise. It’s the surest and quickest way to undermine it. Communism must be fought not on the grounds of its practice, but precisely on the grounds of its theoretical ideals.
4. The author talks about evaluating ideologies—and hasn’t the faintest idea of what constitutes an ideology. He doesn’t know how to think down to fundamentals. Such a sentence as: “Religious freedom has to come first—historically, as in our Bill of Rights—for without the assumption that men strive towards the good, such political concepts as ‘the betterment of society’ and ‘the general welfare’ would be entirely meaningless”—such a sentence is pure drivel. It sounds big and means just exactly nothing. What is “good”? Are “good” and religion synonymous? Can’t one strive for “good” outside of religion? Where’s the meaning—and so
what, if any? One doesn’t found ideologies upon a great big vague assumption like that. If one were to present such a sentence as an argument to the young intellectuals who are leaning to the left nowadays because they are desperately seeking an honest faith—they’d laugh.
5. The author has got his history all mixed up. Where on earth did he get the idea that religious freedom preceded political freedom in history? That’s simply rubbish. There’s never been a society that had religious freedom before it had political freedom. There’s no such case in history. When the pilgrim fathers came here, they had political freedom, but no religious freedom; the Puritans had plenty of religious restrictions and persecutions. England had the Magna Charta in 1215—and the Inquisition under Bloody Mary in the XVI century. No country, nowhere, at no time, had any “freedoms” until political freedom was given reality by the economic freedom of capitalism. Again, this made me wonder about the author: was it sheer ignorance—or a subtle little job of boring from within—with the object of assuring people that it might be all right to lose our political freedom since it would not interfere with the freedom of our souls? (Note Mr. Roosevelt’s latest on “religious freedom” in Soviet Russia.)
6. The author’s conclusion—a demand for “economic democracy”—is more than dubious. Just what does he mean by the “right to labor”? If he means the right of a worker to work inspite of a strike—it’s one thing. But if he means that the government must guarantee a job to every man—that’s quite another. No good propagandist could allow himself to be vague and muddled on a big point like that—unless the muddle is intentional. And the only sentences that seem to stand out clearly (all through page 6) point to the second meaning—jobs guaranteed by the government. See the vague something on top of page 6 about “abuse of economic power through technological advancement or the reduction of enterprise.” What is being defended and what is being attacked here, for heaven’s sake? See the mention of Soviet Russia as seeking “economic freedom.” But, above all, see the very last paragraph of the article: “When democracies fail to evolve the economic democracy that is required of them, they endanger the political freedoms that they have long established.” Boy, oh boy! If this isn’t collectivist Party Line, I’ll eat “Das Kapital” unabridged. The loudest hue and cry of all pinks, reds and liberals is now “Economic Democracy”. That’s the standard polite term for Communism. Thomas Mann has been yelping for the last four years about “economic democracy.” Another word for it is “Extended Democracy.” What in hell are we asked to evolve? Capitalism does not need to “evolve” economic freedom—it has it, or did have. It’s the whole heart of the capitalist system. But you notice the author does not speak of
“economic freedom”—he speaks of “economic democracy.” Such a little difference! An innocent one? Not on your life!
Of course, the standard technique of good “Trojan Horses” is never to come all-out for Communism. It’s always to be “objective.” It always goes like this: muddle the issue, throw a few bones to the “right,” but be sure the bones are pretty lean, then bear down heavily on the “left” and make certain that the “left” is what stands out best in the reader’s mind after he’s through. Read Walter Duranty, Harold Laski, Dorothy Thompson and the rest of the experts. It’s a set formula. And this author has followed it faithfully. That is why the paragraphs which were marked in red (on page 4) do not impress me. Just to say “Men desire freedom” means nothing. All the pinks talk about “freedom.” (Even four freedoms.) To conduct a subversive campaign under the cover of a few capitalistic-sounding slogans is an old, old trick.
This article has no author’s name and I know nothing about the organization that released it. If the author is honest and well-meaning, then he is one hell of a poor propagandist for our side. But my guess would be that he is clever—too clever. My guess is that he’s a Trojan thoroughbred.
You did not say why you were interested in this article. If you are considering using it—or hiring its author—or collaborating with this organization in some manner—then my opinion is: NO!!! (I wish I knew how to reproduce a scream on paper, for that’s what I’d like it to be.) Perhaps you sent it as a test for me—or just sent it casually, and I took much too long in discussing it. But I was frankly worried when I read it—worried about the nature of your connection with these people or your planned connection—and I felt that I must give you as complete a report on it as I could.
Enough for one letter?
By the way, do you read my letters? I wrote to you in the last one that I had moved, but you sent me a letter to my old address. So I’ll repeat myself: the new address is: The Bromley, 139 East 35th Street, New York City. My new phone number is: Murray Hill 6-6549.
Hope you didn’t have as hard a time moving as I did. I’m just beginning to get settled now. All this and moving too is almost more than a human being can handle. But I guess I’ll survive—and hope you will, too.
My best regards,
Of the subsequent letters from Emery in AR’s files, none refers to AR’s criticism of “The Evolution of Freedom.” The proposed organization discussed with Emery and Channing Pollock was never established.