American Reconstruction — circa 1919

When we hear or read the term ‘Reconstruction’, those of us from the South at least, tend to think of the process that was inflicted on the former CSA, but in 1919 or so, the R-word of that day was more likely to refer to the planned process of re-making not just the world map post WWI, but remaking the minds and hearts of the former combatant nations, specifically the Western/European world.

Nowadays many people, lacking a good education in 20th century history, think that the Left’s current offensive is peculiar to our day, whereas when we look at books of the early 20th century we find that the Left was already barking mad back then. For example; there were leftist parties in America which were very much active , and in the wake of WWI there were violent episodes, such as incidents involving the out-of-control Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, also known as ‘Wobblies’). In a shocking episode, IWW members lynched and castrated a military veteran, and killed four other men in a separate shooting episode, in Centralia, Washington. The Pacific Northwest has long been a hotbed of this kind of fanaticism. Of course current sources say that IWW violence is a ”myth” but then myths don’t kill people.

The antifas, aggressive and brutish as they are, are kiddies compared to their counterparts of a hundred years ago. This is not to downplay the malice of the antifas but to remind us that the violence and unrest are not peculiar to our troubled time, but another instance of a recurrent, chronic phenomenon.

The unrest of the post-WWI era also manifested in the form of — well, manifestos. Lost of rhetoric appeared involving how humanity must learn to live together in harmony, or else — or else humanity would destroy itself in rampant senseless wars. The answer, according to our betters, who were writing book upon book urging peace at all costs, was for us all to transcend nationalism and learn to join together.

A few examples of the many books that appeared circa 1919 were: Reconstructing America (subtitle: Sociologically and Economically) by one Benjamin J. Rosenthal, and another tome, also called Reconstructing America, subtitled ‘Our Next Big Job‘. It was a compilation of essays by ‘respected’ invidivuals including Woodrow Wilson, Paul Warburg, and John D. Rockefeller Jr., From the introduction:

“We are in the throes of a new order, conscious of a new spirit of toleration and mutual interest…

Yet another book, by Cecil Fairfield Lavell, also printed in 1919, also used the word ‘Reconstruction’ in its title – (Reconstruction and National Life). Among the ideas promoted in that book were the ‘fusion’ of different ethnic and racial groups, suggesting that this would be the best answer, a sure deterrent to future conflicts. Another odd idea there: that intensified nationalism, though feared by the intelligentsia, might in fact fuel internationalism. I suppose this meant that they thought people were so war-weary (understandably so, after the horrors of WWI) that they would reject nationalism. Or were they intending to try a kind of aversion therapy by allowing nationalism to go to such excesses that people would reject it in favor of the ‘One World’ nostrum?

Shades of the Kalergists.

In all my reading of old books in the last year or two, focusing on the WWI era and earlier, it becomes obvious that the situation in which we find ourselves is not of recent origin; it’s been brewing for at least the better part of a century, and much longer than that if you go back at least to the era of the rise of the Jacobins. Yet we can only seem to see causes in much more recent times.

But these things, having deeper roots than we have imagined, will be harder to deal with if we don’t consider their long-established presence in our country and in Europe.