Celebrating Progressives and Progressivism: Part 1
|| Class Warfare
||Genuine and Counterfeit Progressives
||Communism and Socialism Failed
Felix qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas |
Blessed is he who attains understanding of the causes of things. 1
In this ongoing series, we're celebrating outstanding progressive leaders of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries--some of whom are listed below:
Progressive Figures in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries
In this first essay in the series, we're exploring the life and activity of a great progressive of the nineteenth and twentieth century, Henry George Seldes (1890-1995).
George was born to ethnic Jewish emigres from Russia, George Sergius Seldes and Anna Saphro and grew up in Alliance Colony, a utopian community in New Jersey. George's father was a pharmacist and "a libertarian in the American tradition," who named his son after the well-known Single Tax advocate, Henry George. His father corresponded with Count Tolstoy and Prince Kropotkin and was particularly interested in Kropotkin's ideas concerning "mutual aid." George's mother died when he was six years old.
When he was nineteen George was excited to get a job as a cub reporter with a Pittsburgh newspaper, The Leader, since as a young man he had been influenced by investigative journalists such as Lincoln Steffens, Ida Tarbell, Upton Sinclair and Ray Stannard Baker.
"I call these elements Fascist. You may not like names and labels but technically as well as journalistically and morally they are correct. You may substitute Tories, or Economic Royalists, or Vested Interests, or whatever you like for the flag-waving anti-American Americans whose efforts and objectives parallel those of the Liga Industriale which bought out Mussolini in 1920, and the Thyssen-Krupp-Voegeler-Flick Rhineland industry and banking system which subsidized Hitler when Naziism was about to collapse. Their main object was to end the civil liberties of the nation, destroy the labor unions, end the free press, and make more money at the expense of a slave nation."
Seldes was a courageous war correspondent during the 1920s and 30s in World War I. For his fearless reporting and his refusal to be censored, he was officially expelled from the Soviet Union in 1923 and from Italy in 1925.
"In 1929, Seldes became a freelance reporter and author, subsequently writing a series of books and criticisms about his years as a foreign correspondent, and the issues of censorship, suppression and distortion in the press. During the late 1930s he had one more stint as a foreign correspondent, along with his wife Helen, for the New York Post, in Spain during the Spanish Civil War. "In 1940, Seldes co-founded a weekly newsletter, In Fact, subtitled 'an Antidote to Falsehoods in the Daily Press.' In it, he attacked corporate malfeasance, often using governmental documents from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). He exposed, issue after issue, the health hazards of cigarettes and attacked the mainstream press for suppressing such news, blaming the newspapers' heavy dependence on cigarette advertising. He cited J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI for anti-union campaigns. He brought attention to how the National Association of Manufacturers was able to use its advertising dollars to produce news stories favorable to its members and to suppress news stories unfavorable to them. "Having both staunch admirers and strong critics, Seldes influenced many younger journalists. He received an award for professional excellence from the Association for Education in Journalism in 1980, and a George Polk Award for his life's work in 1981. Seldes also served on the board of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR)." 2As you read George Seldes' books (see bibliography below)--as is true with all genuine progressives--you learn the truth behind historic events which had previously been clouded by mystery and propaganda in your mind. You come to the realization that world events are manipulated by capitalists through their control of political-economic-social-educational-entertainment-cultural-informational structures and institutions. If you're like me, you only wish you had developed social awareness earlier in life to discover what progressives were exposing about the truth behind the publicized lies. You wonder how it was that your family, teachers, religious leaders, and all others influencing you as a young person were able to keep you almost totally ignorant about the facts behind the myths and subterfuge.
"The Office of War Information published millions of words, thousands of pamphlets, posters and other material, most of it very valuable and all of it intended to inspire the people and raise the morale of the soldiers of production and the soldiers of the field; but it is also a fact that to the date of this writing the OWI did not publish a single pamphlet, poster, broadside or paper telling either the civilian population or the men and women in uniform what Fascism really is, what the forces are behind the political and military movements generally known as Fascism, who puts up the money, who make the tremendous profits which Fascism has paid its backers in Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain and other nations. Certainly when it comes to relating foreign Fascism with native American Fascism there is a conspiracy of silence in which the OWI, the American press, and all the forces of reaction in America are united. Outside of a few books, a few pamphlets, and a few articles in the very small independent weekly press which reaches only a few thousand readers, not one word on this subject has been printed, and not one word has been heard over any of the big commercial radio stations."|
From studying Seldes' writings, the intelligent and perceptive person learns that capitalism creates all wars as means for realizing personal profit--no matter how many millions of humans are killed in the carnage. Seldes was present when Britain, France, and the U.S. accepted an armistice with Germany to end World War I. The hidden reason for this was that the Allies wanted Germany to retain its military potential because they saw it as the only power that later would be able to mount an offensive to destroy Russia. Ferdinand Foch, the Marshal of France, was one of the major leaders of this anti-Comintern campaign.
"At Versailles . . . [in] the secret memorandum of Field Marshall Smuts [South African and British Commonwealth leader] . . . Wilson and all the other leaders are urged not to destroy the German martial spirit, Junkerism, and German armaments, but to preserve them for action against Bolshevism."Capitalists the world over were planning the next world war even while negotiating the armistice to end World War I. As Seldes and other progressives make clear, capitalism can only survive through constant imperialist wars sold to the booboisie as a patriotic defense of "their" country from the current, contrived enemy: Naziism, Bolshevism, terrorism, ad nauseum.
George Seldes, Tell the Truth and Run, 1953
Seldes met most of the European leaders during the era of the two world wars. He often explained what was really going on by quoting these leaders. Seldes explained the totally anarchic condition of Germany during the 1920s--which inevitably led to the Hitler/Nazi horror--by quoting German Reich Foreign Minister Walther Rathenau.
"Germany is a colony of the Allies. We are ruled from without. The French want to keep us weakened forever, because they fear a second World War. But the manner in which they rule us encourages no one more than the Rightists who will make that war. England fears our revival as a rival on the Continent of Europe. The United States confuses our Socialism with Russian Bolshevism: it actually keeps us from making those Socialistic reforms which will preserve the Republic and guarantee the peace in Europe." 3
Capitalist, death-dealing control over Germany by the Allies--and their German financier-militarist co-conspirators--was nowhere more clearly illustrated than when within a few months Rathenau, a positive force in Germany, was murdered by fascist goons.
Fascist Capitalism Destroyed the Spanish Republic
George Seldes--like so many progressives--was always able to see the grand scheme of world events--while also acting in very specific ways to assist the world cause of progressivism.
"By the end of the year  the Spanish war had become, I thought, an attack not only on people but on culture and on civilization, and it was made by all the forces of reaction in the world, a reaction which aimed to go back to feudal times, if not to barbarism.
"The least we could do, we felt, was to get into this war through daily journalism, and fortunately for me the New York Post was willing to give me credentials as a war correspondent. Late in 1936 Helen [his wife] and I went to Paris, and from there to Barcelona, Valencia, and Madrid." 4
On the train bound for Spain, Seldes and his wife travelled with a motley group of young and old men, who were members of the International Brigade, "the first volunteer international army going to war since the time of the Crusades."
"Twelve hundred men at rough count got into the train, and by this accidental meeting I saw the beginning of the most noble act of our time. . . They were on their way to reinforce the few hundred French and other nationals who, happening to be in Spain five months earlier when France and the officers betrayed their country, had joined with native workers and other civilians to save Madrid." 5
The clearly fascistic nature of capitalists and their reactionary co-conspirators worldwide--the Roman Catholic Church, Protestant denominations, the press, the schools and colleges--was revealed by the American capitalists and the Roman Catholic hierarchy intimidating and threatening U.S. newspapers and forcing them to stop printing anything that was pro-Spanish Republic and start publishing only pro-fascist accounts.
"Fascism, international Fascism, the nations of the Anti-Comintern Pact, a union proposed by Foch and Churchill in 1918 and perfected in 1936 by Adolf Hitler, was marching in Spain. It was not attacking Communism (as the Fascist propagandists everywhere and the great Vatican propaganda machine were saying); it was fighting democracy. It was fulfilling the famous Palazzo Venezia speech of October 8, 1931, in which Mussolini predicted a 'struggle between two worlds.' (Fascism and Democracy) . . . It was We or They in Madrid. It was the first battle in a new world war."
Progressivism enables intelligent persons to separate the truth from the lies, to identify the thugs pretending to be leaders, to understand the facts behind the lies and subterfuge.
As we study the lives and activities of progressives, we're develop the capability to live and act in The World of Truth.
Henry George Seldes' indictment of the mainstream news as "prostitutes" of the capitalist cabal in his book Brass Check is still relevant today.
" IT DOESN'T matter what the subject is, you cannot get the facts in the American newspaper or magazine press. . . The biggest issue of our time is the attempt of the few to rule America. FDR said so and fought the enemy. Republicans like Sen Aiken, Democrats like Sen Murray, are united on this. But even when they make it an issue in Congress, the press suppresses the news. The magazines are no better. The radio [and television] is controlled by the same people."
The kind of open suppression of news that Seldes condemned is still common practice today. On October 27, 2013, during an exchange that occurred between Bill Keller of the New York Times and Glenn Greenwald of the Guardian, Keller attempted to whitewash his role and that of the Times in withholding information at the behest of the government and publishing state propaganda in the guise of 'news.
A major part of our ongoing job is to make the truth about world events available to intelligent people who want to understand themselves and their world. One means of doing this is to study the ideas and actions of progressives in the last two centuries.
A number of elements distinguish Henry George Seldes from other progressives of his time. A true progressive never advocates violence as a means of change, unlike Emma Goldman who participated in assassinations or even Emmeline Pankhurst who used arson as a tactic. A genuine progressive is never taken in by the mythologies of "good communism," "good capitalism," "a free Soviet Union," or "a free America." Even an otherwise progressive thinker such as Lincoln Steffens was totally taken in by the Soviet communist propaganda.
"Intrigued by Mussolini, Steffens was captivated by Lenin, whom he interviewed briefly during the revolution. He became one of the first of that sad little band of Western intellectuals who fell head over heels for the Soviet Union. Unlike most of them, he did not deny the stories of atrocities leaking out of the workers' paradise. Even more chilling, he simply believed them necessary to bring about the great changes to come. He never wavered from his infamous first impression of the U.S.S.R., 'I have seen the future, and it works.' Instead, living comfortably on money he made from the stock market, he insisted that 'nothing must jar our perfect loyalty to the party and its leaders,' and that 'the notion of liberty . . . is false, a hangover from our Western tyranny.'
Unlike Jack Reed, Louise Bryant, Lincoln Steffens, Eugene V. Debs, John Howard Lawson, and many other pseudo- or partial-progressives, Henry George Seldes never got taken in by the Soviet lies. Instead, when he went to the Soviet Union (two times) he reported, not the mythology, but the true conditions:
"Freedom, liberty, justice as we know it, democracy, all the fundamental human rights for which the world has been fighting for civilized centuries, have been abolished in Russia in order that the communist experiment might be made. They have been kept suppressed by the Cheka."
Henry George Seldes, You Can't Print That, 1929
"The final, and the desperate effort of any reactionary regime to preserve the economic-financial status quo, can be called Fascism provided it acts according to the Fascist pattern . . . it must employ violence, it must use armed force, it must if necessary impose itself through armed seizure of power and armed maintenance of power. This has been proved true elsewhere, it is the pattern for Fascism in America." George Seldes, You Can't Do That, 1938
George Seldes Bibliography:
- Seldes, George (1929). You Can't Print That!: The Truth Behind the News, 1918-1928. New York: Payson & Clarke Ltd. Retrieved August 31, 2011.
- Seldes, George (1931). Can These Things Be!. New York: Brewer, Warren & Putnam. Retrieved August 31, 2011.
- Seldes, George (1933). World Panorama: 1918-1933. Boston: Little, Brown and Company. Retrieved August 31, 2011.
- Seldes, George (1934). The Vatican: Yesterday - Today - Tomorrow.
- Seldes, George (1934). Iron, Blood, and Profits: An Exposure of the World-wide Munitions Racket. New York: Harper. Retrieved August 31, 2011
- Seldes, George (1935). Sawdust Caesar: The Untold History of Mussolini and Fascism. New York: Harper. Retrieved August 31, 2011.
- Seldes, George (1935). Freedom of the Press. Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company. Retrieved August 31, 2011
- Seldes, George (1938). Lords of the Press. New York: J. Messner, Inc. Retrieved August 31, 2011.
- Seldes, George (1938). You Can't Do That. New York: Modern Age Books. Retrieved August 31, 2011.
- Seldes, George (1939). The Catholic Crisis. New York: J. Messner, Inc. Retrieved August 31, 2011.
- Seldes, George (1940). Witch Hunt: The Technique and Profits of Redbaiting. New York: Modern Age Books. Retrieved August 31, 2011.
- Seldes, George (1942). The Facts Are: A Guide to Falsehood and Propaganda in the Press and Radio. New York: In Fact, Inc. Retrieved August 31, 2011.
- Seldes, George; Seldes, Helen (1943). Facts and Fascism. New York: In Fact, Inc. Retrieved August 31, 2011.
- Seldes, George (1947). One Thousand Americans: The Real Rulers of the U.S.A.
- Seldes, George (1949). The People Don't Know: The American Press and the Cold War. New York: Gaer Associates. Retrieved August 31, 2011.
- Seldes, George (1953). Tell the Truth and Run. New York: Greenberg. Retrieved August 31, 2011.
- Seldes, George (1960). The Great Quotations. New York: L. Stuart. Retrieved August 31, 2011.
- Seldes, George (1968). Never Tire of Protesting. New York: L. Stuart. Retrieved August 31, 2011.
- Seldes, George (1976). Even the Gods Can't Change History.
- Seldes, George (1987). Witness to a Century.
- Seldes, George (1985). The Great Thoughts.
- Holhut, Randolph T. (1994). The George Seldes Reader.
1 Publius Vergilius Maro (70-19 BCE), known in English as Virgil or Vergil,
a Latin poet during the early years of the Roman Empire
2 The section immediately above is from Wikipedia
3 George Seldes, Tell the Truth and Run, 1953
Reference and Updates: