Two days before AR’s letter below, Emery had written a note to her requesting that she “read and return [it] with your comments.” Also, dated the same day (September 23) as her letter, is a telegram from Emery: “Need your suggestions for revising booklet can you mail today.”
This letter was previously published only on the Ayn Rand Institute website.
September 23, 1941
Mr. DeWitt M. Emery
1635 Pittsfield Building
Dear Mr. Emery:
If I tell you that it is now 5 a.m. and I have just finished typing my version of the booklet which I am enclosing—you will forgive me for my delay in sending you the material I promised.
Not only did I have one of my busiest weeks, with heavy rush assignments from the studio, but I had to hunt for a new apartment and to make arrangements for moving day after tomorrow. I thought that you wanted the outline of the organization first, so I had not worked on the booklet until today—I only had a general idea of what I wanted to do with it. When I got your wire, I had to make arrangements with the studio to give me the day off. I hope that I have not inconvenienced you too much by the delay and that this will reach you in time.
I re-typed the whole thing—using parts of your version and substituting others. I hope that I have not departed too far from what you wanted. I made an outline of what I thought was the aim and purpose of the booklet—then stated it in my own way. I hope that it will meet with your approval—but you know that I am always open to and grateful for criticism.
I know that you will see for yourself what reasons prompted me to make such changes as I made. But if you want my written criticism of the booklet’s original version—for any possible discussion with your colleagues—I will state it here briefly:
1. There is a glaring, dangerous, unresolved contradiction between the opening of the booklet—the statement that national defense is destroying small business—and the later declaration that “the unconditional building of an impregnable defense” is the first aim of the NSBMA. As long as the defense situation is being used as the basis of the booklet’s whole appeal—our attitude towards it has to be stated unequivocably, beyond any un-patriotic suspicion and to
the advantage of our cause.
2. Page 12 of booklet: Defense should not be placed as the first aim of a business men’s organization. It sounds false. If a prospective member is interested chiefly and primarily in defense—he will go to the U.S.O. or some such place.
3. Page 12. If an amateur like me may be permitted to be very emphatic about anything—I shall be so about the point of “labor’s rights” and “collective bargaining” being placed as one of the three sole, cardinal aims of a business men’s organization. Why, in the name of heaven, must we do that? Can’t we be considered respectable in defending our own rights and concerns without having to proclaim ourselves as champions of labor’s rights? For that noble purpose there’s the C.I.O. It is doing quite well. And I don’t see any declarations about protecting the rights of business men in its pamphlets. If that point was introduced into the booklet only as a sort of protection to cover the second part of the same paragraph—about “abolishing racketeering from labor unions”—it doesn’t work. It merely sounds like Willkie’s Elwood speech—and you know what that cost us. The whole subject of business men’s attitude towards labor is much too delicate. It is better not to touch it—unless we can devote to it pages and pages of full, clear-cut statement. A pious generality destroys the confidence of both labor and business men.
4. I think the printed booklet is too short. When we over-cut and over-simplify, we cannot help but be reduced to generalities. In this case, I think it is simply poor business practice. It looks as if we are trying to sell a pig in a poke. We say that we object to certain propaganda and we offer people to buy our counter-propaganda, but we never give a concrete indication of the nature of either. We say in effect that we’ll sell you “a product”—come and pay for it without asking what it is. After all, when a business man advertises an important commercial product, he puts out a long, beautiful, detailed prospectus—with fancy text and photographs. Shouldn’t ideas be sold in the same way? We must remember that people who are in a position to contribute money to our cause are still terribly bitter about the millions they poured into the Willkie campaign and the miserable results they got. I know that from the people who were connected with the Willkie Clubs. They all feel stung. Willkie, too, promised anti-government propaganda—and look at him now. That is why any mild, compromising generality reminds people too much of the barefoot boy from Indiana. Unless we can be strong, clear, positive, militant—as
you were in your radio speech—nobody will trust us or follow us. Besides, take this much from an author: people would rather read twenty pages that give them some meat and hold their interest than ten pages of boiled down generalities that bore them.
Please don’t be angry at me for this criticism—and don’t tell me that I am “talking to you like to one of the masses”, as you snapped at me once. I think you know all this. I think also that you must have some “appeasers” on your board—all organizations of our side have them—and these arguments are intended for your use against them.
I shall type the outline of the organization set-up, which we discussed, this week-end and airmail it to you immediately. I am moving on Thursday evening. My new address will be:
139 East 35th Street
New York City
I don’t know yet what my new telephone number will be, but if you should want to reach me before I send it to you, the operator will give you the new number when you call the old one.
Please let me know what you think of my version of the booklet as soon as you find time. I shall be most anxious to hear it.
My best regards,
On September 26, Emery responded that he had received her letter and turned it over to his colleague John Pratt. The only other reference in the Archives to Rand’s letter is Emery’s undated apology for not answering—“but I will.”