Criminalize-Prosecute-Incarcerate, the American Way

how

Are Americans Just More Depraved?

In reality, they probably aren’t but it would seem so. According to Drug Policy.org, with less than five percent of the world’s population, the United States houses almost 25% of the world’s prison inhabitants. In relation to their populations the US is the country with the most prisoners in the world. That’s more than Russia, more than China, more than Iran…

But if Americans are not five times as evil as the rest of humanity, why are so many of them in jail? It’s a long story, a veritable trail of tears, with its roots in some of the country’s most hallowed traditions: ultra-conservatism, racism, religion and the lust for power and profit. The MacGuffin has always been drugs.

 

In the Beginning Was J. Edgar Hoover

 

The story begins in the 1930s with one of the most incombustible, most powerful–and most iniquitous– public servants in American history, J. Edgar Hoover. His biographer, Anthony Summers, sums him up nicely:

J. Edgar Hoover was a phenomenon. The first Director of the FBI, he remained in office for 48 years, from his appointment after the First World War to his death in 1972, achieving fame and extraordinary power. For public consumption when he died, President Richard Nixon eulogised him as: “One of the giants… a national symbol of courage, patriotism and granite-like honesty and integrity.” He ordered flags to fly at half-mast and that Hoover’s body lie in state in the Capitol. In private, on hearing that he had died, Nixon had responded merely: “Jesus Christ! That old cocksucker!”

Bill Clinton, who as president in 1993 was mulling over whom to appoint as FBI Director, thought the reports of Hoover’s cross-dressing were hilarious. “It’s going to be hard,” he grinned during a speech at a press function, “to fill J Edgar Hoover’s… pumps.”

Harry S Truman wrote during his presidency: “We want no Gestapo or secret police. The FBI is tending in that direction. They are dabbling in sex-life scandals and plain blackmail… Edgar Hoover would give his right eye to take over, and all congressmen and senators are afraid of him.” When Hoover died and FBI agents went to his office to requisition his personal files–including the damning dossiers he had on the Who’s Who of Washington, D.C.– they found that his “indispensable” secretary, Helen Gandy, had burned them all.

Just Good Friends

Hoover1

Much is made of Hoover’s supposed homosexuality, a question which would be irrelevant today if it were not for Hoover’s vicious persecution of homosexuals. The circumstantial evidence weighs heavily. Washington Post journalist, Kenneth Ackerman, writes in 2011:

If Hoover did have a gay relationship, most likely it was with his longtime FBI associate director, Clyde Tolson, another lifelong bachelor — but even this is disputed. Hoover and Tolson worked together more than 40 years. They traveled on vacation and official business, rode to work together, shared lunch nearly every day at Washington’s Mayflower hotel and sometimes even wore matching suits. Hoover, at his death, left Tolson most of his estate. Their relationship, by all appearances, was stable, discreet and long-lasting. But what they did physically behind closed doors, if anything, they kept between them.

Hoover’s biographer, Anthony Summers, offers this on the subject:

Hoover for a while consulted Marshall de Ruffin, a Washington psychiatrist who became president of the Washington Psychiatric Society. De Ruffin’s widow Monteen recalled learning from her husband that his distinguished patient was “definitely troubled by homosexuality”. After several sessions, however, “Hoover got very paranoid about anyone finding out he was a homosexual, and got scared.” As if to compensate, Hoover lashed out at and sought to expose other homosexuals. For years he had his agents infiltrate and monitor homosexual-rights groups, while he sounded off publicly about “sex deviates in government service”.

It was one of Hoover’s lieutenants, Harry J. Anslinger, who helped elaborate and then executed Hoover’s drug policies. Alexandra Chasin, who wrote Anslinger’s biography, calls her book, Assassin of Youth, describing him:

Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics from its establishment in 1930 until his retirement in 1962, Harry J. Anslinger is the United States’ little known first drug czar. Anslinger was a profligate propagandist with a flair for demonizing racial and  immigrant groups and perhaps best known for his zealous pursuit of harsh drug penalties and his particular animus for marijuana users.

To Become Famous and Influential in Washington You Need an Enemy

Drugs, thanks to an essentially baseless wave of hysteria generated by Hoover and Anslinger, became the American public enemy number one, subject to a set of draconian laws that distorted the drug issue. Ironically, the “issue” had a simple solution: regulate them in the same manner that alcohol had been regulated. What prevented that from happening? Two principal factors, which should never have been permitted to intervene: fanatical law-enforcement fervor and fundamentalist religion. Heroin and marijuana were sinful.

American law enforcement’s approach to mind-altering drugs, since the 1930s, has had a far-reaching influence on other societal issues, such as health, penology, race relations and, of course, business. The prohibition of drugs, like that of alcohol, gave rise to fabulous illicit business opportunities. Drug regulation would also have gone a long way towards solving that problem, though nobody thought of that at the time. Though alcohol was eventually re-cast as a controlled–and taxed–substance, drugs remained on the banned –and severely castigated–list.

From the beginning Anslinger associated drug use, race and music. He was quoted as saying, “Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men. There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the U.S., and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing, result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others.”

Nixon Resuscitates the War on Drugs for His Own Ends

Forty years after Anslinger’s first onslaught President Nixon declared in June 1971 his own “war on drugs.” He dramatically increased the size and presence of federal drug control agencies and pushed through measures such as mandatory sentencing and no-knock warrants.

A top Nixon aide, John Ehrlichman–a former Eagle Scout who later would become a key figure in the Watergate scandal, for which he was convicted of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and perjury and served a year and a half in prison–later told the truth:

You want to know what this was really all about? The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying. We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.

Nixon relegated marijuana to Schedule One, the most repressed category of drugs. For a few years after that American white kids got a taste of the treatment the black ones had been experiencing for four decades. In 1972, the commission unanimously recommended decriminalizing the possession and distribution of marijuana for personal use. Nixon ignored the report and rejected its recommendations.

Drugs Are the Pretext, African-American Citizens the Victims

Today, even as marijuana is slowly being legalized around the country, Americans still have not shaken off the racist and xenophobic foundations of their appetite for the severe punishment of drug offenders. According to Deborah Small, Executive Director of Break the Chains, the growth of the merciless incarceration culture is due in part to the overly harsh consequences of drug convictions. More than 1.6 million people are arrested, prosecuted, incarcerated, placed under criminal justice supervision and/or deported each year on drug-law violations. But mass incarceration is just one part of the repressive system of criminalization, aggravated by the war on drugs.

Small enumerates some of the side effects of over-zealous prosecution of the law:

“Mass incarceration is one outcome of the culture of criminalization. Criminalization includes the expansion of law enforcement and the surveillance state to a broad range of activities and settings: zero tolerance policies in schools that steer children into the criminal justice system; welfare policies that punish poor mothers and force them to work outside of the home; employment practices that require workers to compromise their basic civil liberties as a prerequisite for a job; immigration policies that stigmatize and humiliate people while making it difficult for them to access essential services like health care and housing.”

In October, 2016 Human Rights Watch and the ACLU issued a 196-page report, “Every 25 Seconds: The Human Toll of Criminalizing Drug Use in the United States.” The report concludes that zealous enforcement of drug possession laws causes unjustifiable harm to individuals and communities across the United States. The consequences include separation of families; exclusion of people from job opportunities, welfare assistance, public housing, and voting; and lifetime discrimination. While more people are arrested for simple drug possession in the US than for any other crime, criminal justice initiatives rarely question whether drug use should be criminalized at all.

This brief video produced by Human Rights Watch and the ACLU bears terrifying witness to the criminalization-prosecution-incarceration abuses in the United States.

A Drug Policy Alliance statement issued on November 17, 2016, expresses concern about racial minorities being deprived of their voting rights:

Because of felony disenfranchisement, over two million Black people could not vote in last week’s week election, in large part because of the drug war and other reprehensible policies that purposefully target Black communities. Check out this powerful video on felony disenfranchisement from our partner, Pastor Kenneth Glasgow, and read more here: http://bit.ly/2gn67Ql.

 

Incarceration Rates Skyrocketed in the 1980s 

us_incarceration_timeline-clean-fixed-timescale-svg_-400x267

Drug Policy. org offers us A Brief History of the Drug War, from Ronald Reagan’s promotion of a long period of skyrocketing rates of incarceration, largely thanks to his unprecedented expansion of the drug war, until Obama’s more progressive drug initiatives–which are now being countermanded by Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, who has made it clear that he does not support the right of states to legalize marijuana, and believes “good people don’t smoke marijuana.”

In the late 1980s, political hysteria about drugs led to the passage of draconian penalties in Congress and state legislatures that rapidly increased the prison population. In 1985, the proportion of Americans polled who saw drug abuse as the nation’s “number one problem” was just 2-6 percent. The figure grew through the remainder of the 1980s until, in September 1989, it reached a remarkable 64 percent – one of the most intense fixations by the American public on any issue in polling history.

Thoughtco.com on Mandatory Drug Sentencing Laws

Mandatory drug sentencing laws came about in the 1980s at the height of the War on Drugs. The seizure of 3,906 pounds of cocaine, valued then at over $100 million wholesale, from a Miami International Airport hangar on March 9, 1982, brought about the public’s awareness of the Medellin Cartel, Colombian drug traffickers working together,  and changed U.S. law enforcement’s approach towards the drug trade. Lawmakers began to vote more money for law enforcement and began to create stiffer penalties for not only drug dealers, but for drug users.

Today the criminalization-prosecution-incarceration assault on American citizens continues, with 700,000 people arrested for marijuana offenses each year and almost 500,000 people still behind bars for nothing more than a drug law violation.

Drug Policy.org concludes their article, “We look forward to a future where drug policies are shaped by science and compassion rather than political hysteria.”

 

Read more rantings in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.
Thanks for liking, commenting and sharing.

 

 

Democracy Ain’t What It Used to Be

shell-game_narrow

Wikipedia: The shell game (also known as thimblerig, three shells and a pea, the old army game) is portrayed as a gambling game, but in reality, when a wager for money is made, it is almost always a confidence trick used to perpetrate fraud.

A Burning Bush on the Way to the Dentist’s Office

One day I’m walking to the dentist’s office  and I notice the bold bronze letters glowing over the door of a Granada University building: “Facultad de Sociología y Ciencias Políticas.” That was when it finally hit me. The traditional base elements of democratic politics–idealism, honesty, goodwill, life, liberty and the pursuit of the happiness of the citizenry–have been substituted for sociologized “political science.” The essence of western democracy has been downgraded to pandering to the lowest common voter, by means of numbers, statistics and opinion polls. The modern political model, which the United States has exported all over the world, calling it “democracy,” is no longer about noble ideas and the struggle for human rights, equality and citizen well-being.  It’s about opportunism, not idealism, as the leaders of the Free World would have you believe.

Abraham Lincoln would not recognize his country’s governors.

Beware the American Political-Science Shell Game

The unique objective of this political-science shell game is winning elections, and at that the Americans are masters. Winning political power is the end that justifies all means. Elected officials adhere to largely-irrelevant agendas designed for them by election-manipulation specialists turned out by political science/sociology departments, well armed with polling techniques and statistical sleight of hand. Though these agendas are generally financed nowadays by corporate sponsors and sold to voters as programs to benefit the society, the truth is that they are designed uniquely to win and exercise power.

Let’s Not Forget the Ethical Aspect

Where do ethics or idealism enter into the equation? They don’t. What enters into the equation is expediency and adherence to a pre-determined ideological agenda. That’s the desired end. Whether or not the program benefits the voters in any way is irrelevant. The bottom line is that the United States government has become not a democracy but a scam. The irony of this chilling state of affairs is that it was achieved through entirely legal means. What is meant by “legal,” anyway? It means “in accordance with the law.” Who makes the federal laws in the United States of America? The United States Congress, the House of Representatives and the Senate. There, you see, it’s not that complicated, after all. They bake it and they eat it.

There Must Have Been Nobler Times, No?

I was so naive that I used to believe that there was a time when politics was about brilliant and noble men (There weren’t many women in politics in those days.) who had ideas and ideals and wanted to promote them for the good of society. To find that time you had to go quite a ways back, maybe to Lincoln or Washington. Or maybe even farther back. Washington, let’s not forget, was the richest man in the colonies, thanks to his wife, Martha’s extensive land–and slave–holdings in Virginia.

I would still like to believe that there was a time when there was an element of decency in American politics, some remnant of consideration for the commonweal. Maybe Franklin D. Roosevelt embodied some of that. But I’m still not sure. What I do know for certain is that contemporary American politics–and by extension most of the rest of the world’s “democracies”–is bereft of any hint of idealism. Anybody who believes otherwise is a dupe. Today’s aspirant to public office doesn’t need ideals. All he needs are some powerful corporate sponsors, the ability to read a script and a team of political scientists/sociologists. (As for “the ability to read…” President Trump has shown us that not even that is absolutely essential. And it explains why the incumbent president so frequently wanders off script.) A connection to an established political organization can also be useful, as demonstrated by President Truman, a middle-American mediocrity who was placed in the vice-presidency and then the presidency in 1948 by the Missouri Democratic Party boss, Tom Pendergast.)

What do the candidate’s sociologists do? They design and run polls to determine scientifically what it is that voters want, no matter how banal or counterproductive those desires may be. The candidate has no need to introduce to the voters any higher ideas or projects for their intellectual or moral uplift. His mission is just to promise–if not always to deliver–them the pre-digested kibble of advanced consumer society, flavored with the standard seasonings of facile patriotism, self-interest, fear and good old-time religion.

America’s Uniqueness Lies in the Misuse of Powerful Innovations

Now there is a new twist on this already convoluted system. It’s called “big data.” Thanks to sophisticated systems of collecting and analyzing citizens’ tastes, likes, friends, purchases, credit ratings, manias, affiliations and associations, political fixers don’t
even need to run polls. They just gather up all the available data on virtually everybody and sift it, categorize it, quantify it and create campaign propaganda based on the results. These political ads, adversarial videos and campaign strategies, applied in exact
doses on all available media, including, of course, Internet, permit astute political teams to win elections handily, with no concern for values, good or evil, ideas, programs, citizen wellbeing nor any other nonsense of that nature. Citizens are not considered human beings. They’re just chips on the table. The bottom line is that today’s American democracy is pure marketing. It’s all about salesmanship and packaging.

The big-data tsunami has thrown up an interesting by-product which may prove to be as influential as data-mining itself: extreme right-wing big-data billionaires who have joined the ranks of the sinister oil billionaires in their efforts to skew the American democratic process. The prime example of this trend is Robert Mercer, who made billions developing big-data applications and implementations for business, and now spends part of his great wealth on retrograde political mind-bending both in the US and abroad. He sent big-data and media teams to the UK in 2016 to influence the June 23rd Brexit referendum vote in that year. Their efforts were a factor in the pro-Brexit
victory and the resulting splitting of Europe and fortification of US-British tilted-playing-field bi-lateral relations. (The British seem never to learn.)

How Low Can You Go?

This scheme of things has another advantage for the American ruling classes. It guarantees the gradual stagnation of citizens’ thoughts and aspirations for a better society or for any suggestion of collective solutions. (The dreaded socialism! The only Americans who benefit from true socialism are all the members of the US Senate and House of Representatives, who blessed themselves with free, socialized health and dental care as well as generous pension plans paid for by American taxpayers from sea to shining sea.)

The end result of this process of stagnation is–in case you hadn’t noticed–the dumbing down of the majority of that benighted country’s unfortunate citizens. This is how the United States got recent presidents of the lamentable intellectual and moral stature of Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, George W. Bush (and Dick Cheney, his expert and essential puppeteer) and, of course, President Donald Trump and his ghoulish cohort.

The way out of grave situations like today’s in the United States used to be the ballot box. But that was before political science and big data virtually assured the election of hollow men to high places. What can Americans do today? Only their tent preachers have the answer: “Get on your knees and pray.”

Read more rantings in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.
Thanks for liking, commenting and sharing.

American Chicken Hawk Militarists Boldly Lead the Charge–From Behind

President Donald Trump arrives at Newark International airport
Washington’s illustrious company of Chicken Hawk Militarists, war-mongering politicians who didn’t actually do any military service, has a new Chicken Hawk in Chief, President Donald J. Trump. It’s a dubious honor.

The Chicken Hawk, the Most Ignominious Bird of All

The military service records–or lack thereof–of American war-mongering politicians are an excellent place to scrutinize their particular kinds of patriotism. The patriotic sentiments of those lacking in military experience are usually not of the Nathan Hale “I-only-regret-that-I-have-but-one-life-to-give- for-my-country” variety. The most common type of patriotism to be found among your non-combatant militarist politicians is of the vocal variety. Their mouths are admirably patriotic, the rest of their makeup not so much. These reluctant warriors who strongly support military action everywhere, all the time, yet went out of their way to avoid military service when of age are aptly referred to as “Chicken Hawks.” The term has a nice ring to it and an interesting set of connotations. Continue reading “American Chicken Hawk Militarists Boldly Lead the Charge–From Behind”

How Drones Have Made War Fun and Easy–3/3

drone_truck

The Abuse of Power Is a Downward Spiral

What we have seen in the transition from the Obama to the Trump administrations is that the abuse of power under one administration leads to the abuse of power under another. Trump may be driving it more recklessly, but he’s still operating a machine the Obama administration built.

During his last year in office, responding to increasing criticism, Obama gave a speech attempting to clarify the boundaries of his drone target selection and his “signature killings,” based exclusively on behaviors observed on the ground considered indicative of possible terrorist activity, whatever that means.

“America’s actions are legal,” the president asserted of the drone war, which he claimed was being “waged proportionally, in last resort, and in self-defense.” Self-defense? Obama might be able to claim the self-defense justification if he were killing enemies in the heat of battle in Ohio or Utah, but Iraq or Somalia? Not quite. This is just another case of clear and present bullshit. Continue reading “How Drones Have Made War Fun and Easy–3/3”

Just Say Goodbye — 1/3

senegal2

Are You Fed Up?

So, you’re finally fed up with the seemingly endless string of cynical,  self-serving, and ruthless magnates, politicians, and generals, and the infirm society they have created for you and your fellow Americans.  You’re frustrated, ashamed and depressed. You really want out.  You’re convinced, ready to make your move.

Would you like to hear a few suggestions from someone who’s been through it, and who has met a lot of people over the years who have achieved the goal that you aspire to? Maybe I can help you out. Expatriating one’s self is like any other worthwhile project; it requires some planning. You don’t just pack your bags. First you think the whole thing through, consider your alternatives, make preparations, and cultivate contacts, both in your home and destination countries—you’re going to need all the friends and business contacts you can get.

Heady Stuff

This is one of the most exciting and rewarding times in the process of leaving. You’re actually beginning to act, to make choices, to savor the taste of change. This is the stage of active dreaming, and it’s heady stuff. Everything is possible. You get to choose your destination, make work plans, marshall your resources and do endless research on the Web. During this stage you can permit yourself the luxury of taking it easy and making careful plans.  Now that your mind is made up, there’s no urgency. More-careful preparation will save you surprises down the road. And you’re lucky, because leaving your country is not a cataclysmic, all-or-nothing act.  You get to test the water before diving in.

Be Discreet

First of all, be discreet. Do your best not to publicize your move as a protest or flight from an insufferable situation.  That will only complicate matters.  The fewer explanations you have to give, the better. And don’t worry about the legal aspects; they will sort themselves out in time.  This is, after all, a long-term project.  I arrived in Spain to stay at the end of 1968, but I didn’t renounce my American citizenship and take Spanish nationality till the early 1980’s. It was a 15-year process.  If they had asked me in the beginning if I wanted to become Spanish, I would have said no. I wasn’t ready yet. But, little by little, the country and I began to understand and appreciate one another, and over time—a matter of years—a bond was created which I wouldn’t trade for anything. So don’t be impetuous.  Don’t try to renounce your citizenship.  Under current American policy they won’t let you do that, anyway.  Don’t burn your passport. Don’t burn your bridges. You’re an idealist, but you’re not stupid.

Shall I give it to you straight in two words?  Just leave. Come up with a project which will take you abroad. Do your homework. Make a plan. Then do your best to carry it out. It doesn’t even have to be long-term or definitive. Make your first goal something feasible: “I’d like to spend a year teaching English in Italy.”  Why not? Go for it! As my old boss, Charlie Craig, used to say, “What’s the worst that can happen? You’ll have to go back home and get a job.” When I came to Spain I had no idea that I would spend the rest of my life here.  My initial goal was to stay out of the U.S. for five years, an objective which seemed to me wildly extravagant at the time. That was 50 years ago. One thing led to another and the next thing I knew I had a wife and family, a house and garden, dozens of Spanish friends, then a whole clan in Spain, and enough animals to fill the Ark.

The “Business Plan”

A candidate for expatriation needs something very like a business plan, and if you’ve ever written one, you’ll recognize the similarities immediately.  Though you’re not primarily interested in profit, you’ve got a project and you’ve got a product.  Your project is expatriation and your product is you. You’ve got some resources and a timetable. You may be surprised to hear that your most important resource probably isn’t economic. It’s probably moral; call it conviction, desire, or aspiration. Mere money won’t get you where you want to go. You need vision, heart and a sound value system.

Though it’s a spiritual endeavor you’re embarking on, your expatriation project lends itself perfectly to a businesslike SWOT analysis. You’ve got Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and

cover-turncoat-final1_187Threats, and they can be written down and analyzed on a four-square matrix. This simple exercise is not only fun, but it will permit you to get a clearer idea of what you’re about to do, what your chances are of success, and maybe even how to head off disaster. How to go about it? Look it up in Google.

Next, in Part II, How to Get Started
Read the full story in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.
Thanks for commenting and sharing.

The U.S. American White Trash Values Are Mutating and Migrating

America, Your Deodorant Is Letting You Down

“Poor White Trash,” was originally a despective term for impoverished,  landless sharecroppers who differed from black slaves only in their skin color. They were white, and that whiteness spared them from being considered–and considering themselves–the lowest scum on the earth.

They were unwashed, undernourished and unlettered. But, by God, they were white. That gave them an ascendency over black people: they could kill them with impunity. The name for that time-honored southern tradition is lynching, and its legacy lives on in various forms, in police forces, in the penal system, in education and employment… Continue reading “The U.S. American White Trash Values Are Mutating and Migrating”

USA Driven by a Familiar Fear: The Russians Are Coming!–1/2

100  Years of Using Fear of Russians to Keep American Citizens in Line

.Russians_coming3

My opinion—and I think I can sustain it with evidence–is that fear is the principal factor that has given rise to the United States’s world view since the early 20th century, and that fear still underlies much of what official America thinks and does both at home and—especially–abroad.

First a word about linguistcs. It’s neither fair nor correct to use the term “Americans” carelessly and all inclusively, as if the United States were made up of a homogenized, monolithic population. No, there are many flavors of Americans, each with its own political philosophy, from semi-literate, gun-toting  white supremacists and Nazis to dedicated radical leftists and, in the middle, a great grey mass of well-meaning, faith-driven folks who just believe what they’re told to believe. And that’s the problem—what they’re told to believe.

It’s a Pyramid

At the top of this tutti-frutti pyramid are the Americans in Charge (AiC): big businessmen (including a surprising number of psychotic billionaires with extravagant political agendas), a truculent, predatory military-industrial complex bent on world domination (euphemistically, in their own words, “full spectrum dominance”) and a political class the likes of which we have never seen before in terms of cynicism, opportunism and utter lack of human values. At the top of the pyramid reigns a louche, narcissistic and infantiloid maniac, the paradigm of ignorance and arrogance in a world endowed today with a surfeit of maniacs.

So, what exactly do the Americans fear? The answer to this question comes in pyramid form, too. Let’s start from the top down. The Americans in Charge (AiC, see above) since the early 20th century all fear the power of a better idea. (Americans used to be fond of saying, “Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door.” That was when they built better mousetraps. Now that Slovakia builds better mousetraps that old saying has fallen somewhat into disuse.)

The Better Idea Looked Dangerous

That better idea reared its head in 1917, after centuries of tyrannical Tsarist rule in Russia, with the socialist October Revolution led by Vladimir Lenin. There followed a civil war between Lenin’s Bolsheviks and a coalition of monarchists, capitalists and Menchevik socialists. Eight foreign countries, including Britain, France and half a dozen other countries belonging to the World War I Allied armies, also intervened against Lenin’s forces, but to no avail. The war was resolved in 1923 in favor of the Bolsheviks after six years and a toll of between seven and twelve million casualties, mostly civilians.

At that crucial point in the early 20th century the world was weary of rule by European royal autocrats and American robber barons. It was ripe for more egalitarian governments. In those days, before Soviet communism had revealed its dark side, many world citizens aspired to imitate the solutions of the recently-created Soviet Union for a fairer distribution of the wealth of nations.

Institutional Fear Triggers Overwhelming Responses

In America there was a short history of labor activism before the 1920s. The ultimate response to these inconveniences to business as usual was the Haymarket Square Massacre at a rally of leftist demonstrators in Chicago who were demanding an eight-hour day. Someone threw a bomb that killed seven police officers and at least four civilians and, though it was never made clear who was responsible for the bomb, of the eight defendants one committed suicide and four were hanged. Six years later in 1893 Illinois’s new governor, John Peter Altgeld, pardoned the remaining defendants and criticized the trial.

It was events like this and the deadly stalking of the International Workers of the World (IWW, the Wobblies) that set the scene for the enhanced persecution of the left, then in the context of the post-World-War-I nationalist hysteria and the Russian Revolution. These events were referred to subsequently as “the first Red Scare” (1917-1920). The IWW, founded as an industrial union in 1905 in Chicago, grew to 150,000 members by 1917. Its founders included some of the great names in the history of progressive America: William D. (“Big Bill”) HaywoodJames ConnollyDaniel De LeonEugene V. DebsThomas HagertyLucy ParsonsMary Harris “Mother” JonesFrank BohnWilliam TrautmannVincent Saint JohnRalph Chaplin, and many others. (Thank you, Wikipedia.)

More Gratuitous Repression: The Palmer Raids

American big business, which had enjoyed a free hand (and wielded it) against workers and unions before 1917, was quick to perceive the threat of losing control and responded in panic mode. The Attorney General, A. Mitchell Palmer (with the inestimable help of his promising protégé, 24-year-old J. Edgar Hoover), carried out in November of 1919 and January of 1920 the so-called Palmer Raids to capture, arrest and deport suspected radical leftists and anarchists. Palmer’s attempt to suppress left-wing organizations was characterized by inflammatory rhetoric, illegal searches and seizures, unwarranted arrests and detentions, and the deportation of some 500 “alleged” radicals and anarchists.  There would have been many more deportations if the U.S. Secretary of Labor, William B. Wilson, had not intervened on behalf of workers, who had neither been tried nor convicted of anything.

Coming soon Chapter 2/2

Read more rants in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.

Thanks for sharing and commenting.