IT CAN'T HAPPEN HERE
I don’t pretend to be a very educated man, except maybe educated in the heart, and in being able to feel for the sorrows and fear of every ornery fellow human being. Still and all, I’ve read the Bible through, from kiver to kiver, like my wife’s folks say down in Arkansas, some eleven times; I’ve read all the law books they’ve printed; and as to contemporaries, I don’t guess I’ve missed much of all the grand literature produced by Bruce Barton, Edgar Guest, Arthur Brisbane, Elizabeth Dilling, Walter Pitkin, and William Dudley Pelley.
This last gentleman I honor not only for his rattling good yarns, and his serious work in investigating life beyond the grave and absolutely proving that only a blind fool could fail to believe in Personal Immortality, but, finally, for his public-spirited and self-sacrificing work in founding the Silver Shirts. These true knights, even if they did not attain quite all the success they deserved, were one of our most noble and Galahad-like attempts to combat the sneaking, snaky, sinister, surreptitious, seditious plots of the Red Radicals and other sour brands of Bolsheviks that incessantly threaten the American standards of Liberty, High Wages, and Universal Security.
These fellows have Messages, and we haven’t got time for anything in literature except a straight, hard-hitting, heart-throbbing Message!
Zero Hour, Berzelius Windrip.
During the very first week of his campaign, Senator Windrip clarified his philosophy by issuing his distinguished proclamation: “The Fifteen Points of Victory for the Forgotten Men.” The fifteen planks, in his own words (or maybe in Lee Sarason’s words, or Dewey Haik’s words), were these:
(1) All finance in the country, including banking, insurance, stocks and bonds and mortgages, shall be under the absolute control of a Federal Central Bank, owned by the government and conducted by a Board appointed by the President, which Board shall, without need of recourse to Congress for legislative authorization, be empowered to make all regulations governing finance. Thereafter, as soon as may be practicable, this said Board shall consider the nationalization and government-ownership, for the Profit of the Whole People, of all mines, oilfields, water power, public utilities, transportation, and communication.
(2) The President shall appoint a commission, equally divided between manual workers, employers, and representatives of the Public, to determine which Labor Unions are qualified to represent the Workers; and report to the Executive, for legal action, all pretended labor organizations, whether “Company Unions,” or “Red Unions,” controlled by Communists and the so-called “Third International.” The duly recognized Unions shall be constituted Bureaus of the Government, with power of decision in all labor disputes. Later, the same investigation and official recognition shall be extended to farm organizations. In this elevation of the position of the Worker, it shall be emphasized that the League of Forgotten Men is the chief bulwark against the menace of destructive and unAmerican Radicalism.
(3) In contradistinction to the doctrines of Red Radicals, with their felonious expropriation of the arduously acquired possessions which insure to aged persons their security, this League and Party will guarantee Private Initiative and the Right to Private Property for all time.
(4) Believing that only under God Almighty, to Whom we render all homage, do we Americans hold our vast Power, we shall guarantee to all persons absolute freedom of religious worship, provided, however, that no atheist, agnostic, believer in Black Magic, nor any Jew who shall refuse to swear allegiance to the New Testament, nor any person of any faith who refuses to take the Pledge to the Flag, shall be permitted to hold any public office or to practice as a teacher, professor, lawyer, judge, or as a physician, except in the category of Obstetrics.
(5) Annual net income per person shall be limited to $500,000. No accumulated fortune may at any one time exceed $3,000,000 per person. No one person shall, during his entire lifetime, be permitted to retain an inheritance or various inheritances in total exceeding $2,000,000. All incomes or estates in excess of the sums named shall be seized by the Federal Government for use in Relief and in Administrative expenses.
(6) Profit shall be taken out of War by seizing all dividends over and above 6 per cent that shall be received from the manufacture, distribution, or sale, during Wartime, of all arms, munitions, aircraft, ships, tanks, and all other things directly applicable to warfare, as well as from food, textiles, and all other supplies furnished to the American or to any allied army.
(7) Our armaments and the size of our military and naval establishments shall be consistently enlarged until they shall equal, but—since this country has no desire for foreign conquest of any kind—not surpass, in every branch of the forces of defense, the martial strength of any other single country or empire in the world. Upon inauguration, this League and Party shall make this its first obligation, together with the issuance of a firm proclamation to all nations of the world that our armed forces are to be maintained solely for the purpose of insuring world peace and amity.
(8) Congress shall have the sole right to issue money and immediately upon our inauguration it shall at least double the present supply of money, in order to facilitate the fluidity of credit.
(9) We cannot too strongly condemn the unChristian attitude of certain otherwise progressive nations in their discriminations against the Jews, who have been among the strongest supporters of the League, and who will continue to prosper and to be recognized as fully Americanized, though only so long as they continue to support our ideals.
(10) All Negroes shall be prohibited from voting, holding public office, practicing law, medicine, or teaching in any class above the grade of grammar school, and they shall be taxed 100 per cent of all sums in excess of $10,000 per family per year which they may earn or in any other manner receive. In order, however, to give the most sympathetic aid possible to all Negroes who comprehend their proper and valuable place in society, all such colored persons, male or female, as can prove that they have devoted not less than forty-five years to such suitable tasks as domestic service, agricultural labor, and common labor in industries, shall at the age of sixty-five be permitted to appear before a special Board, composed entirely of white persons, and upon proof that while employed they have never been idle except through sickness, they shall be recommended for pensions not to exceed the sum of $500.00 per person per year, nor to exceed $700.00 per family. Negroes shall, by definition, be persons with at least one sixteenth colored blood.
(11) Far from opposing such high-minded and economically sound methods of the relief of poverty, unemployment, and old age as the EPIC plan of the Hon. Upton Sinclair, the “Share the Wealth” and “Every Man a King” proposals of the late Hon. Huey Long to assure every family $5000 a year, the Townsend plan, the Utopian plan, Technocracy, and all competent schemes of unemployment insurance, a Commission shall immediately be appointed by the New Administration to study, reconcile, and recommend for immediate adoption the best features in these several plans for Social Security, and the Hon. Messrs. Sinclair, Townsend, Eugene Reed, and Howard Scott are herewith invited to in every way advise and collaborate with that Commission.
(12) All women now employed shall, as rapidly as possible, except in such peculiarly feminine spheres of activity as nursing and beauty parlors, be assisted to return to their incomparably sacred duties as home-makers and as mothers of strong, honorable future Citizens of the Commonwealth.
(13) Any person advocating Communism, Socialism, or Anarchism, advocating refusal to enlist in case of war, or advocating alliance with Russia in any war whatsoever, shall be subject to trial for high treason, with a minimum penalty of twenty years at hard labor in prison, and a maximum of death on the gallows, or other form of execution which the judges may find convenient.
(14) All bonuses promised to former soldiers of any war in which America has ever engaged shall be immediately paid in full, in cash, and in all cases of veterans with incomes of less than $5,000.00 a year, the formerly promised sums shall be doubled.
(15) Congress shall, immediately upon our inauguration, initiate amendments to the Constitution providing (a), that the President shall have the authority to institute and execute all necessary measures for the conduct of the government during this critical epoch; (b), that Congress shall serve only in an advisory capacity, calling to the attention of the President and his aides and Cabinet any needed legislation, but not acting upon same until authorized by the President so to act; and (c), that the Supreme Court shall immediately have removed from its jurisdiction the power to negate, by ruling them to be unconstitutional or by any other judicial action, any or all acts of the President, his duly appointed aides, or Congress.
Addendum: It shall be strictly understood that, as the League of Forgotten Men and the Democratic Party, as now constituted, have no purpose nor desire to carry out any measure that shall not unqualifiedly meet with the desire of the majority of voters in these United States, the League and Party regard none of the above fifteen points as obligatory and unmodifiable except No. 15, and upon the others they will act or refrain from acting in accordance with the general desire of the Public, who shall under the new régime be again granted an individual freedom of which they have been deprived by the harsh and restrictive economic measures of former administrations, both Republican and Democratic.
“But what does it mean?” marveled Mrs. Jessup, when her husband had read the platform to her. “It’s so inconsistent. Sounds like a combination of Norman Thomas and Calvin Coolidge. I don’t seem to understand it. I wonder if Mr. Windrip understands it himself?”
“Sure. You bet he does. It mustn’t be supposed that because Windrip gets that intellectual dressmaker Sarason to prettify his ideas up for him he doesn’t recognize ’em and clasp ’em to his bosom when they’re dolled up in two-dollar words. I’ll tell you just what it all means: Articles One and Five mean that if the financiers and transportation kings and so on don’t come through heavily with support for Buzz they may be threatened with bigger income taxes and some control of their businesses. But they are coming through, I hear, handsomely—they’re paying for Buzz’s radio and his parades. Two, that by controlling their unions directly, Buzz’s gang can kidnap all Labor into slavery. Three backs up the security for Big Capital and Four brings the preachers into line as scared and unpaid press-agents for Buzz.
“Six doesn’t mean anything at all—munition firms with vertical trusts will be able to wangle one 6 per cent on manufacture, one on transportation, and one on sales—at least. Seven means we’ll get ready to follow all the European nations in trying to hog the whole world. Eight means that by inflation, big industrial companies will be able to buy their outstanding bonds back at a cent on the dollar, and Nine that all Jews who don’t cough up plenty of money for the robber baron will be punished, even including the Jews who haven’t much to cough up. Ten, that all well-paying jobs and businesses held by Negroes will be grabbed by the Poor White Trash among Buzz’s worshipers—and that instead of being denounced they’ll be universally praised as patriotic protectors of Racial Purity. Eleven, that Buzz’ll be able to pass the buck for not creating any real relief for poverty. Twelve, that women will later lose the vote and the right to higher education and be foxed out of all decent jobs and urged to rear soldiers to be killed in foreign wars. Thirteen, that anybody who opposes Buzz in any way at all can be called a Communist and scragged for it. Why, under this clause, Hoover and Al Smith and Ogden Mills—yes, and you and me—will all be Communists.
“Fourteen, that Buzz thinks enough of the support of the veterans’ vote to be willing to pay high for it—in other people’s money. And Fifteen—well, that’s the one lone clause that really does mean something; and it means that Windrip and Lee Sarason and Bishop Prang and I guess maybe this Colonel Dewey Haik and this Dr. Hector Macgoblin—you know, this doctor that helps write the high-minded hymns for Buzz—they’ve realized that this country has gone so flabby that any gang daring enough and unscrupulous enough, and smart enough not to SEEM illegal, can grab hold of the entire government and have all the power and applause and salutes, all the money and palaces and willin’ women they want.
“They’re only a handful, but just think how small Lenin’s gang was at first, and Mussolini’s, and Hitler’s, and Kemal Pasha’s, and Napoleon’s! You’ll see all the liberal preachers and modernist educators and discontented newspapermen and farm agitators—maybe they’ll worry at first, but they’ll get caught up in the web of propaganda, like we all were in the Great War, and they’ll all be convinced that, even if our Buzzy maybe HAS got a few faults, he’s on the side of the plain people, and against all the tight old political machines, and they’ll rouse the country for him as the Great Liberator (and meanwhile Big Business will just wink and sit tight!) and then, by God, this crook—oh, I don’t know whether he’s more of a crook or an hysterical religious fanatic—along with Sarason and Haik and Prang and Macgoblin—these five men will be able to set up a régime that’ll remind you of Henry Morgan the pirate capturing a merchant ship.”
“But will Americans stand for it long?” whimpered Emma. “Oh, no, not people like us—the descendants of the pioneers!”
“Dunno. I’m going to try help see that they don’t. . . . Of course you understand that you and I and Sissy and Fowler and Mary will probably be shot if I do try to do anything. . . . Hm! I sound brave enough now, but probably I’ll be scared to death when I hear Buzz’s private troops go marching by!”
“Oh, you will be careful, won’t you?” begged Emma. “Oh. Before I forget it. How many times must I tell you, Dormouse, not to give Foolish chicken bones—they’ll stick in his poor throat and choke him to death. And you just NEVER remember to take the keys out of the car when you put it in the garage at night! I’m perfectly SURE Shad Ledue or somebody will steal it one of these nights!”
Father Stephen Perefixe, when he read the Fifteen Points, was considerably angrier than Doremus.
He snorted, “What? Negroes, Jews, women—they all banned and they leave us Catholics out, this time? Hitler didn’t neglect us. HE’S persecuted us. Must be that Charley Coughlin. He’s made us too respectable!”
Sissy, who was eager to go to a school of architecture and become a creator of new styles in houses of glass and steel; Lorinda Pike, who had plans for a Carlsbad–Vichy-Saratoga in Vermont; Mrs. Candy, who aspired to a home bakery of her own when she should be too old for domestic labor—they were all of them angrier than either Doremus or Father Perefixe.
Sissy sounded not like a flirtatious girl but like a battling woman as she snarled, “So the League of Forgotten Men is going to make us a League of Forgotten Women! Send us back to washing diapers and leaching out ashes for soap! Let us read Louisa May Alcott and Barne—except on the Sabbath, of course! Let us sleep in humble gratitude with men—”
“SISSY!” wailed her mother.
“—like Shad Ledue! Well, Dad, you can sit right down and write Busy Berzelius for me that I’m going to England on the next boat!”
Mrs. Candy stopped drying the water glasses (with the soft dishtowels which she scrupulously washed out daily) long enough to croak, “What nasty men! I do hope they get shot soon,” which for Mrs. Candy was a startlingly long and humanitarian statement.
“Yes. Nasty enough. But what I’ve got to keep remembering is that Windrip is only the lightest cork on the whirlpool. He didn’t plot all this thing. With all the justified discontent there is against the smart politicians and the Plush Horses of Plutocracy—oh, if it hadn’t been one Windrip, it’d been another. . . . We had it coming, we Respectables. . . . But that isn’t going to make us like it!” thought Doremus.