The Evolution of the Liberal, by Westbrook Pegler

The Evolution of the Liberal

by Westbrook Pegler

(From George Spelvin, American and Fireside Chats, 1942, pp. 21-24)


Back there in the early '20s when Scott Fitzgerald's cult of adolescent crying drunks were bawling that they had lost their souls, liberalism, as we understood it in this country, was first of all opposed to discipline or regimentation. Just for extra, and to make discipline or regimentation particularly odious to free people, it was called goose-stepping, a happy invention of our liberal epitheticians, which brought to mind in a word the detestable arrogance and brutality of the German Kaiser and his government. The Kaiser had just been slapped down and millions of men on the victorious side were breaking ranks and enjoying their release from the restraints and compulsions of military life. Behind them, millions of civilians, women as well as men, also were breaking ranks, so to speak, with the relaxation of the war-time restraints. The lights came on in the streets at night, it was no longer an offense not to draw the blinds at night after dark, you could criticize the government and books of the Now-It-Can-Be-Told seriesbgan to tumble off the presses in many languages.

In the United States, prohibition appeared as a little red blotch, later to develop into a horrible corruption, which left permanent damage in contempt for law and suspicion of public officers long after repeal cured the disease itself, and great was the resentment against prohibition on the ground that a few politico-religious organizations and rich industrialists were trying to force most of the people to abide by the rule and conform to the tastes and an extreme moral verboten of a few.

Of course, there was much more to liberalism, but the kernel of it was individual rights and rebellion against compulsion beyond the minimum restraints necessary for the regulation of traffic.

Little did we think then that liberalism would curl up its tail and sting itself full of poison in its angry threshing before two decades had passed, but now ain't it the truth?

For today the surviving members of the group who fought most angrily against goose-stepping in the early '20s are almost all to be found in that element who hold that any worker who prefers to remain a loner, or individual, is a pathetic coward, a dirty traitor to his fellowmen, in receipt of secret pay from his boss, a mulish and selfish parasite, enjoying the benefits of other men's struggle and peril of a Fascist.

Whatever he is, he has no right as an individual to conduct hinself as an individual, and by trying to do so he exiles himself from human society, sets himself against his fellowmen and deserves any harm that befalls him in a contest of his own choosing. If he is thrown out of his job, in which it has been contended by the liberals that he has a property right, that is his own fault. If his family suffers mental and physical harassment and goes hungry and cold, that again is his fault, and the failure to rpotect and provide is his to answer for. If, by the verdict of a union of which he is not a member, after a trial in his absence, his is forever barred from all employment where unions govern the work, that again is his own lookout. He could avoid all these penalties, theoretically, if he would but join the union or walk the goose-step.

The day came when liberal who had fiercely hated the goose-step, goose-stepped in a sort of prisoners'-march before premises struck by minority vote to revile individual men, stone them and beat them, for their refusal to submit to regimentation and discipline. And men who had insisted that they placed truth above all things so far abandoned their liberalism that they palinly admitted that they preferred to suppress, ignore or deny truths about corruption and a thousand forms of oppression in labor unions rather than hurt their new cause of regimentation or goose-stepping.

The ball-bat and tire iron, the meat-hook and the brick are effective weapons for organization, but they do not appeal to reason.


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