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Susan Green

Senator Wheeler: False Crusader

(11 August 1941)

From Labor Action, Vol. 5 No. 32, 11 August 1941, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Senator Wheeler, leader of the so-called isolationist group in Congress, has mounted a white charger and is crusading against the warmongers in Washington. He would be a very formidable opponent – except that his sword is suspect.

He storms against the Administration for getting into the war behind the backs of the people. He accuses the newspapers and Hollywood of becoming war propaganda mediums.

He even gets Warlord Stimson to call some of his doings “very near the line of subversive activities against the United States, if not treason.” Whereupon Senator Hiram Johnson, another so-called isolationist, pats him on the back and says in effect: “Go to it, Burt, I’ll join you in the concentration camp.”

All very fine staging and, except for the accusations against the warmongers, which are true; a lot of political buncombe.

Being a boss politician of long experience, Wheeler knows darned well that the capitalist system – which he staunchly supports – must have foreign markets, that foreign markets are fought for, that wars are not carried on by democratic means.

Thus, when Iceland was occupied by United States forces, he reacted in harmony with his basic capitalistic convictions. His opposition to this dictatorial administrative war measure, taken without the consent of his dear people and without the sanction of his sacred Congress, was of the yes-and-no variety.

“I would have no objection to the occupation of Iceland purely as a defensive measure,” said Wheeler – plainly a distinction without a difference. Mussolini occupied Albania as a “defense” measure; Hitler occupied the Low Countries as a “defense” measure; Stalin occupied parts of Fin:land as a “defense” measure. Always (who has any doubt?) imperialist military maneuvers are purely “defensive” actions.

Again, when Stimson lambasted Wheeler for sending anti-war post cards to men in the army, on what basis did the fiery senator defend himself? “I would not write to men in the army to urge them to write to the President,” explained this limping crusader. It was purely accidental that a few army men, whose names just happened to be on the commercial mailing list Wheeler used, got those post cards.

Why shouldn’t this loud defender of “democratic” rights send his anti-war cards to men in the army? Why shouldn’t he urge those most vitally concerned by war to express their views to the President?.

Why? Because “anti-war” Wheeler agrees with Warlord Stimson that the capitalist class must have an army rigidly controlled from the top. “Theirs not to reason why; theirs not to make reply; theirs but to do and die” – as the poet put it. An army that has the right to ask for reasons, to discuss, to say yes or no, will refuse to fight for imperialist interests. Wheeler, as a boss politician, knows this. No wonder Warlord Stimson accepted his explanation and issued a public apology.

More than a week ago, Senator Clark, also an isolationist, came out with the blunt proposal that the United States simply take over the whole western hemisphere. He advocated following. He Hitler example of setting up “puppet governments which we could trust to put American interests ahead of Germany or any other nation in the world.”

To date Senator Wheeler, who is quite vociferous on all subjects, has made no public disclaimer of sharing Senator Clark’s “aggressive approach” to Canada, Central and South America.

That noted “isolationist,” Lindbergh, Wheeler’s political partner, also advocates taking by force of arms, if need be, every strategic point in this hemisphere to insure complete control by the home-grown crop of world imperialists. It certainly becomes necessary to write “isolationist” in quotation marks. These capitalist politicians know their stuff about the necessity for FOREIGN MARKETS AND SPHERES OF INFLUENCE.

After the series of moves taken by Roosevelt in the Far Eastern situation, which unquestionably brought the United States nearer to a war with Japan and which just as unquestionably were made without the consent of the people or of Congress, Wheeler gave his complete approval. He told the Washington correspondents: “I think the President did the right thing. You may say for me that I agree with him – for the first time.”

This “anti-war, isolationist” leader is not against war with Japan nor against intervention in Asia. Over the rich markets of Asia, he gets so excited that he forgets to put on his anti-war, isolationist mask.

What distinguishes Wheeler & Co. from the pro-Roosevelt politicians is simply this:

The “isolationists” are willing to fight for American imperialist interests in the Western hemisphere and in the Far East. Intervention there is right up their alley. But they fear that by entering the exhausting European war, American imperialism will be biting off more than it can chew. No little impressed by fascist methods, they would rather make a deal with Hitler on the European front.

On the other hand, Roosevelt is willing to take a chance. By going the whole hog he hopes that, as senior victor in the European war American imperialism will sit on top of the whole world.

No wonder the Kiplinger Business Service reports: “Secret politics are being played with the anti-war groups.” There is much in common between the “isolationists” and the interventionists.

The fine “democratic” ideals that Wheeler shouts as he brandishes his rubber sword are just politics – meant for consumption by a predominantly anti-war public. His “ideals” are no more to be relied on by the workers than the assurances of the Roosevelt warmongers that they are fighting for democracy.

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