Over at Antiwar.com, Justin Raimondo does a wonderful recap of the US anti-interventionists of the 20th century:
“…We often hear of the alleged terrors of the McCarthy period, especially in Hollywood: a veritable army of second rate screenwriters, actors, and movie colony sycophants has for years been whining about the persecution of red subversives during the cold war. But the treatment they had to endure was a Sunday school picnic compared to the blacklisting of conservative and libertarian anti-interventionists in the fields of journalism, politics, and, yes, Hollywood, writers, journalists, politicians, during the previous decade.
The actress Lillian Gish, who was a member of the national committee of America First and a frequent speaker at their rallies, privately told General Wood that she had been blacklisted by movie studios in Hollywood and the New York theater world and couldn’t find an acting job anywhere. After much effort on her behalf, her agent had finally gotten a commitment from a studio for a contract, but it came with the proviso that she must first resign from America First. Furthermore, she was forbidden from telling the truth about her resignation, on pain of losing the much-needed contract. While never wavering in her opposition to US intervention, Gish resigned from the committee, stopped giving speeches, and never said a word in public about the reasons for her sudden and seemingly inexplicable retreat.
Flynn suffered much, both financially and professionally, from the blacklisting. On the other hand, persecution only seemed to clarify his thought. His best book, As We Go Marching [.pdf], written during the war, integrates the progressive abhorrence of war and militarism with the conservative analysis of the dangers of socialism and economic centralization. Flynn saw the growth of state power under the New Deal and the President’s drive to war as dual aspects of a unitary system: war and preparations for war fueled the economic engine of the emerging welfare state, and provided the necessary political backing from conservatives.
The third, and perhaps most important, theme of the America First movement was an acute consciousness of a raft of common enemies: the Roosevelt administration, the British, and the Eastern financial elites. These antipathies had much to do with the regional character of the America First movement, which had its headquarters in Chicago and was particularly strong in the Midwest, where German and Irish immigrants formed a ready reservoir of anti-British sentiment.
By the time the America First Committee got off the ground, there were already two major interventionist groups going full blast. The Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies, headed by William Allen White, editor of the Kansas City Emporia Gazette, took a relatively moderate position: aid to England short of war. The “Fight for Freedom” group demanded an immediate declaration of war on the Axis powers. The White Committee served as a virtual propaganda arm of the US government, working openly and closely with the White House. Both groups, in tandem with a network of pundits, such as Dorothy Thompson, worked with British intelligence, as Thomas E. Mahl revealed in his book, Desperate Deception: British Covert Operations in the United States, 1939-44, and as Gore Vidal dramatized in his novel The Golden Age. As Professor Mahl puts it in his book,
“How does the historian avoid the charge that he is indulging in conspiracy history when he explores the activities of a thousand people, occupying two floors of Rockefeller Center, in their efforts to involve the United States in a major war?”
Then there were “the interests” – the big financial combines, the banks, and especially the Rockefeller and Morgan interests. As Murray N. Rothbard pointed out in his short book, Wall Street, Banks, and American Foreign Policy, the Rockefeller interests were pushing for war with Japan throughout the 1930s in order to grab control of rubber and oil resources in Southeast Asia, and their “cherished dreams of a mass ‘China market’ for petroleum products.” The Morgan group, on the other hand, was “as usual, deeply committed to their financial ties with Britain and France,” and, on account this, “once again plumbed early for war with Germany,” as they had in the run-up to World War I. World War II, says Rothbard, “might therefore be considered, from one point of view, as a coalition war: the Morgans got their war in Europe, the Rockefellers theirs in Asia.”
And so the enemies of all these groups were banded together in the America First coalition. This new antiwar coalition – made up of disaffected liberals, conservative nationalists, Midwestern progressives, and a few scattered libertarians – faced opposition from two powerful groups. First there were what Selig Adler calls “the spiritual heirs of Theodore Roosevelt,” who, “in league with the generals and admirals, fought for large military budgets.” These Eastern internationalist Republicans, epitomized by Wendell Willkie, made sure that the GOP would fail to provide any real critique of FDR’s warmongering foreign policy….”