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R. Fahan


Vital Issues Lie Behind Luce ‘Humor’

(March 1943)

From Labor Action, Vol. 7 No. 10, 8 March 1943, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Many a political career has been launched in this country on worse wisecracks and if Clare Luce has decided to rise to public fame by coining that poetic and delicate phrase, “globaloney,” which has so excited the panting admiration of the Hearst and Scripps-Howard editors, we for one have no particular objection. After all, each trade has its own tools and those of congressional politics are none too discriminate. But behind the furor which Mrs. Luce’s maiden speech to Congress created – actually, of course, it was a completely premeditated publicity stunt by a combination of the isolationist press and the Time-Life-Fortune outfit – there is an extraordinarily important political issue which merits discussion,

Mrs. Luce fears that that wild-eyed radical, Vice-President Henry Wallace (who had just a few days ago made a speech declaring his faith in the “decency” of American big business), will, if his post-war plans are carried into practice, give away the great opportunity, for American imperialist world domination: the rule of the skies.

There can be no doubt that once the war is over, air transit and air power will play a role far greater than ever before. The airplane, while not supplanting other means of communication and transit, will certainly take a leading role. And whichever power will control the major resources of airplane production, the best air fields and the most efficient air lines, will have a powerful weapon in its attempts to attain control over the economic resources of the world. It is a prospect which the imperialists of the world view with trembling lips and feverish eyes. Imagine, if you will, what an incredible opportunity it appears to them! Control this new, magical means of transportation, this new, deadly and unsurpassed means of warfare – and perhaps they have found the means of perpetuating the rule of their tottering imperialisms!

Is it any wonder that correspondents from London record “official nervousness” at Mrs, Luce’s brusque and unladylike declaration that America must control the world airways and not be so sappy as to allow the British to rule the air as they rule the seas? Is it any wonder that the British loose Lady Astor on Mrs. Luce with an equally unladylike rejoinder? This is an issue of life and death for them; they see in air power what the aging Ponce de Leon sought in the fountain of youth: perpetual virility.

And Clare Luce was so terribly frank! She spoke openly of the “historic American air policy of sovereignty, of the skies.” And “sovereignty” is nothing but a two-dollar word for domination. As for this being an “historic American air policy” ... well, as The Nation of last week rather aptly remarked: “History is something that happened before Mrs. Luce’s time, and we have no wish to put her at a disadvantage.”

She speaks openly of complete American domination of its “own” skies – where’s your mortgage, Clare? – and at the same time of “keep[ing] the air supremacy it now has and tak[ing] henceforth in the skies the position of enlightened democratic leadership that Britain held and still holds on the seas.” Nothing could be plainer. Britain’s “enlightened democratic leadership on the seas” was the means by which she maintained and still maintains the greatest empire of recent history; America’s domination of the skies means the same thing to Mrs. Luce.

Nor does Mrs. Luce speak for herself alone. It is no accident that the Scripps-Howard press went into such spasms of rapture over her speech. She speaks for an increasingly powerful sector of American business. It is by no means isolationist in the Chicago Tribune sense; on the contrary, it is aggressively internationalist and imperialist,

This group is impatient with President Roosevelt’s domestic policies; it proposes a more severe anti-labor turn, though it is not in agreement with the Smith-Cox Southern Democrats, who want to start an open anti-labor lynch party immediately. For the Luce crowd realizes that it needs the support of labor, for a while at least. Its main difference with the Roosevelt Administration at present, however, is over the conduct of the war and the perspectives of the post-war world. The Luce thinkers want it made clear as daylight that they’re in this war for world domination, that America is entering its super-imperialist stage and that its magic weapon in achieving this aim is air power. It places great emphasis on aid to China, since it sees in the Far East a great field for imperialist penetration.

In line with this perspective, it is violently anti-British, recognizing in Britain a potential rival which might try to grab part of the post-war imperial spoils; it even toys with the idea of making some soft of agreement with Stalin whereby he would be entrenched in Eastern Europe ans parts of Asia, while America would get most of everything else, and Britain would retain its honor.

Of course, with much of this perspective the Roosevelt group agrees. But since Roosevelt and Wallace have the power, and hence the responsibility, they feel more urgently the need for placating labor and see more urgently the need for touching up some kind of attractive post-war aims. Hence, Wallace’s speeches. But the group for which Mrs. Luce has spoken says: “No! We must bluntly and frankly proclaim our aims and fight to achieve them. The coming American century will be the century of American imperialism – and don’t you be ‘making any speeches, Henry Wallace, which might put the slightest shred of doubt into anyone’s mind about that.”

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