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The Institute for Propaganda Analysis:
Protecting Democracy in Pre-World War II
By Zachary Reisch
Submitted to Professors Darin Hayton and Linda Gerstein
in partial fulfillment of the requirements of
History 400: Senior Thesis Seminar
April 25, 2014
What is democracy? This is the question that liberals in late 1930s America tried to
answer as they discussed the many issues facing their nation. The rise of communism and
Nazism, as well as military conflict in Europe and Asia, forced Americans to consider what was
important to them and what was worth fighting for. Liberals, whose goal was to promote
democratic principles, framed their debates around the term democracy. They evaluated the
claims to democracy that many groups in America made in the second half of the 1930s. Nazis,
communists, and anti-communists all characterized their ideologies as democratic, as did British
agents trying to coax America into helping England in its attempt to contain Nazi Germany.
Additionally, President Franklin Roosevelt’s administration urged Americans to support a
Western Hemisphere united against Nazism; the Hemisphere encompassed the United States and
the Central and South American “republics,” many of which were clearly dictatorships.
In order to advocate their particular visions of democracy, all of these groups used what
Americans in the 1930s called “propaganda.” The term propaganda had developed a negative
connotation in America after World War I. Following the war, Americans had learned that
England and its allies had manufactured much of the seemingly objective information about the
conflict in order to foster support in America. Propaganda, therefore, became associated with
persuasion; it was seen as the opposite of promoting the truth. For many liberals, evaluating the
(un)democratic natures of the diverse groups promoting democratic principles involved looking
behind their propagandistic rhetoric.
The Institute for Propaganda Analysis (IPA) was one such liberal organization. Founded
in 1937 by a group of liberal academics, the IPA aimed to evaluate the propagandas that
inundated Americans in order to determine which ones truly promoted democratic values. For
the IPA, Nazism, communism, the conservative anti-communism movement, England’s foreign
policy, and Latin American dictatorships were all undemocratic. By labeling these groups as
such, the IPA promoted a democratic society based on freedom of speech and citizen
participation in government, and also attempted to accomplish concrete goals such as preventing
the rise of Nazism in America.
I would like to thank Professors Hayton, Gerstein, and Saler for their feedback
throughout my writing process, as well as the library staff for its invaluable assistance during this
project and throughout my time at Haverford. I would also like to acknowledge my advisor,
Professor Graham, who inspired me to become a history major and who has provided me with
excellent advice. Thank you, finally, to my parents and to my friends, for everything.
INTRODUCTION .................................................................................................................................. 4 “PROPAGANDISTS FOR DEMOCRACY” ................................................................................ 11 Democracy in the IPA’s Bulletins ............................................................................................................... 11 Free Speech: Clyde Miller and Democratic “Propaganda” .................................................................. 14 Citizen Participation: Robert Lynd and Propagandizing for Democracy ......................................... 18 Other Perspectives ......................................................................................................................................... 22 FIGHTING “HITLERISM” .............................................................................................................. 24 Fear of Fascism ............................................................................................................................................... 24 Fighting Nazism with Democracy ............................................................................................................... 26 The IPA’s Definitions of Democracy .......................................................................................................... 28 The Springfield Plan ...................................................................................................................................... 29 “Education for the Common Defense” ...................................................................................................... 31 COMMUNISM ..................................................................................................................................... 35 Critiquing the Popular Front ...................................................................................................................... 35 Harold Lavine and James Wechsler .......................................................................................................... 39 Other Reasons for Publication .................................................................................................................... 40 The IPA Attacks the Dies Committee ........................................................................................................ 43 Other Reasons for Publication .................................................................................................................... 45 Epilogue: IPA Accused of Communism .................................................................................................... 48 FOREIGN POLICY ............................................................................................................................ 50 Questioning England’s Devotion to Democracy ...................................................................................... 50 A Unified Western Hemisphere .................................................................................................................. 55 Epilogue: The IPA Bids Farewell ............................................................................................................... 61 CONCLUSION ..................................................................................................................................... 64 BIBLIOGRAPHY ................................................................................................................................ 67 4
Change and debate characterized America in the late 1930s. Newspapers and radios
informed concerned Americans about new government philosophies, namely fascism in Italy and
Nazism in Germany. The latter became especially worrisome after an anti-Semitic pogrom
known as Kristallnacht, or the Night of the Broken Glass, swept through Germany on November
9, 1938.1 Americans looked at the racism and economic despair around them—the Great
Depression deepened following a recession in 1937—and wondered if similar violence could
occur at home. They also considered what “home” meant. Various groups began using American
patriotic rhetoric in the mid-to-late 1930s, including Nazis and communists; this shift inspired a
harsh reaction from those who did not believe these groups represented American values.
However, Americans also had to decide how their beliefs concerning Nazism and communism at
home influenced their views toward foreign affairs. World War II would not begin in Europe
until Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. However, throughout the 1930s American
citizens debated their nation’s position on the world stage as England called for help in its
attempt to contain Nazism.
The liberal intellectual community discussed all of these issues in the late 1930s, and
their conversations were linked by one word: “democracy.” Philosopher John Dewey described
the importance that American liberals placed on democracy when he wrote in 1937 that
American liberalism “is fundamentally an attempt to realize democratic modes of life in their full
meaning and far-reaching scope.” Specifically, “The value of upholding the banner of liberalism
in this its insistence upon freedom of belief, of inquiry, of discussion, of assembly, of
Wayne S. Cole, Charles A. Lindbergh and the Battle Against American Intervention in World War II (New York:
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1974), 44-5.
education...”2 As they grappled with a changing world filled with totalitarian regimes and
defined by economic collapse, liberals in the late 1930s tried to protect American freedom from
what they believed to be undemocratic forces. In doing so, they struggled to articulate what
democracy meant in a country where New Dealers, communists, and Nazis all claimed the term
for their own.
The Institute for Propaganda Analysis (IPA) was one liberal organization that attempted
to understand democracy in the late 1930s. The IPA was officially incorporated as a non-profit
organization in New York on September 23, 1937.3 Founded by a group of liberals, including
Columbia University Professor Clyde R. Miller, and with initial funding from businessman and
philanthropist Edward A. Filene, the organization lasted for a little under four years, closing in
1942.4 Its advisory board consisted of academics, including the famous historian Charles Beard
and the sociologist Robert S. Lynd, author of the well-known book Middletown (1929).5 During
its short lifespan the IPA produced three books, curricula for high schools and colleges, and a
monthly newsletter, Propaganda Analysis, which included evaluations of specific propagandas
and educational sections with discussion questions.
The IPA was connected to America’s liberal community. It advertised in publications
such as Common Sense, The New Republic, and The Nation, magazines that scholars have
John Dewey, “Democracy is Radical,” Common Sense, January 1937, 10.
J. Michael Sproule, Propaganda and Democracy: The American Experience of Media and Mass Persuasion
(Cambridge University Press: 1997), 131. Sproule’s chapter on the IPA in Propaganda and Democracy is the most
in-depth history of the IPA that I have found; it is based not only on the IPA’s publications, but on the personal
papers of its members as well. For a briefer version of the organization’s history see J. Michael Sproule, “The
Institute for Propaganda Analysis: Public Education in Argumentation, 1937-1942,” in Argument in Transition:
Proceedings of the Third Summer Conference on Argumentation, ed. David Zarefsky, et al. (Speech Communication
Association, 1983), 486-496.
Sproule, Propaganda and Democracy, 131.
Ibid., 83, 131.
characterized as liberal.6 When it announced its closure in January 1942, the IPA told the
subscribers to its Propaganda Analysis bulletin that Common Sense would take over its
subscriptions, explaining:
There have been many evidences that [Common Sense’s] readers and those of the
Institute Bulletins have much in common. Some of the Institute’s Board members and
writers have been among the leading writers for Common Sense; the two publications
have in the past made joint subscription offers with considerable success.7
The IPA, therefore, believed that its audience was the same as that of a liberal magazine. At least
one IPA board member, Leonard Doob, recognized the IPA’s liberal bent: he believed that the
main difference between the Propaganda Analysis bulletins and liberal magazines was that the
IPA publications discussed propaganda. In a letter criticizing one of the IPA’s bulletins, Doob
wrote that if the IPA did not focus on propaganda, “our subscribers may begin to think that the
staff has run out of material and is turning the Institute into another liberal magazine.”8
Doob was justified in making this assertion because the IPA discussed issues important to
liberals, including democracy, in its bulletins and other publications. In doing so, the IPA
promoted its own conception of the term democracy.9 The IPA equated democracy with “truth,”
“Statements of Advertisements in Magazines for Period from October 1, 1939 through August 31, 1940,” Box 1,
Folder “File #5.” Institute for Propaganda Analysis Records. Manuscripts and Archives Division. The New York
Public Library. Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations (hereafter cited as IPA Records). See Frank A. Warren, Noble
Abstractions: American Liberal Intellectuals and World War II (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1999) for
an analysis of how these magazines fit into the liberal intellectual community during this period. See also Donald L.
Miller, The New Radicalism: Alfred M. Bingham and Non-Marxian Insurgency in the New Deal Era (Port
Washington: National University Publications, 1979), 146.
“We Say Au Revoir,” Propaganda Analysis 4 (January 1942): 7.
Doob to Miller, September 17, 1940, Box 2, Folder “Advisory Board: Leonard Doob,” IPA Records.
While other scholars have recognized that the IPA promoted democracy in order to defend America from
undemocratic forces, they have not analyzed the IPA’s rationale for doing so. These writers dwell on the fact that the
IPA claimed to not propagandize but in fact failed to keep its own opinions out of its analyses. They do not,
however, discuss what opinions the IPA actually held with regards to democracy. I will discuss what exactly the IPA
believed was undemocratic about communists, anti-communist conservatives, Nazis, England, and Latin America,
and will try to understand what other stakes existed in the IPA’s decision to label these groups as undemocratic. In
her 1950 Master’s thesis on the IPA, Phyllis Meadows Hojem argued, “the Institute’s own analysis was a kind of
counter-propaganda against the forces it feared” (Phyllis Meadows Hojem, “A Study of Propaganda and of the
Analyses of the Institute for Propaganda Analysis, Incorporated” (M.A. diss., University of Colorado, 1950), 120).
as demonstrated by its willingness to advocate democracy despite its refusal to “propagandize,”
and it believed that its purpose was to promote the democratic values of free speech and citizen
participation. While this promotion can be seen as part of the larger liberal attempt to define
democracy, it also served practical purposes. For instance, the IPA accentuated the dichotomy
between democracies and totalitarian regimes in order to prevent Nazism from becoming popular
in America. The IPA was not as concerned with the rise of communism, but nonetheless
critiqued communist patriotic rhetoric and defended itself against charges of leftism by pointing
to the undemocratic lack of free speech in communist theory and practice. In doing so, the IPA
promoted a Popular Front ideology that accepted the differences between communism and
liberalism for the sake of fighting Nazism in America. The IPA also fought fascism and
protected itself against attacks from the conservative anti-communist movement by labeling the
See also Marvin Bressler, “Mass Persuasion and the Analysis of Language: A Critical Evaluation,” Journal of
Educational Sociology 33 (1959): 17-27; Sproule, Propaganda and Democracy, 129. Sproule recognized that the
IPA promoted “a democratic, antipropaganda critique.” However, he did not elaborate upon what forms of
democracy the IPA promoted, or how exactly it fought against what it perceived to be anti-democratic forces. See
Barbara A. Biesecker, “By Way of a Long and Circuitous Route: Propaganda and Democracy and/as a Lesson in
Effective History,” in Critical Studies in Mass Communication 15 (1998), 450-51 for a brief discussion of how
Sproule did not fully analyze the term “democracy” in his book. However, scholars have mainly focused not on the
IPA’s attitude toward democracy, but on its anti-propaganda mindset. Sproule described the IPA as the epitome of
the “progressive” propaganda analysis paradigm, which was characterized by a skeptical attitude toward propaganda
and which involved uncovering the forces that were trying to convince the public of certain ideas (J. Michael
Sproule, “Propaganda Studies in American Social Science: The Rise and Fall of the Critical Paradigm,” The
Quarterly Journal of Speech 73 (1987), 62-66). Many scholars who have discussed the IPA as a historical
organization have placed it within this context. See David Goodman, Radio’s Civic Ambition: American
Broadcasting and Democracy in the 1930s (Oxford University Press, 2011), 247-253; Timothy Glander, Origins of
Mass Communications Research During the American Cold War: Educational Effects and Contemporary
Implications (Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2000), 16-25; Todd Bennett, “The Celluloid War: State and
Studio in Anglo-American Propaganda Film-Making, 1939-1941,” The International History Review 24 (2002), 77;
Bressler, “Mass Persuasion and the Analysis of Language,”17-27; Jodie Nicotra, “Dancing Attitudes in Wartime:
Kenneth Burke and General Semantics,” Rhetoric Society Quarterly 39 (2009): 331-352; Brett Gary, The Nervous
Liberals: Propaganda Anxieties From World War I to the Cold War (New York: Columbia University Press), 77;
Sheryl Tuttle Ross, “Understanding Propaganda: The Epistemic Merit Model and Its Application to Art,” Journal of
Aesthetic Education 36 (2002): 17; Garth S. Jowett and Victoria O’Donnell, Propaganda and Persuasion, 4th ed.
(Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2006), 226-29. The IPA has also been commonly cited as an anti-fascist
organization, although the connection between its anti-fascism and its view of democracy has not been discussed.
See, for instance, Sproule, Propaganda and Democracy, 143-45. Other, non-historical writing on the IPA has
focused on the organization’s well-known “propaganda devices,” which identify the means by which propagandists
spread their ideas. These have been referenced in many works. See, for instance, Hojem, “A Study of Propaganda,”
which is a sociology thesis.
movement undemocratic: it argued that the House Un-American Activities Committee was
unwilling to evaluate evidence, a task essential to any citizen participating in a democracy.
Finally, the IPA applied the undemocratic label to both England’s foreign policy, which it
claimed was guided by selfishness more than any ideology, and Latin American governments,
although it drew a distinction between traditional dictatorships in Latin America and
“totalitarian” regimes in Europe. The IPA promoted an isolationist stance with regard to
England, but it advocated for finding common bonds with Latin American countries in their
fights against Nazism.10
The IPA’s attitudes toward democracy highlight some of the most interesting components
of 1930s liberal thought. Its belief that democracy equaled truth, for instance, epitomizes how
liberals claimed to accept all viewpoints, yet only thought one view, the democratic one, was
legitimate. The modern reader, used to Cold War paranoia, will perhaps also be surprised that the
IPA was more concerned with the rise of Nazism in America than it was with the rise of
communism. At the same time, those familiar with the Popular Front period, during which
American communists and liberals joined in a united front against fascism, will read about a
liberal group that did not take the communist version of American patriotism at face value, but
which also critiqued the anti-communist movement. Finally, readers will learn about the nuances
of isolationist policy in 1930s America, which put American democracy above all else.
The Institute for Propaganda Analysis was both a stand-alone entity and an organization
used by individuals to express their ideas. I will use the IPA papers located at the New York
This is a novel interpretation of the IPA’s foreign policy. See Sproule, Propaganda and Democracy, 151-52.
Sproule argued that the IPA acted as a “bystander” with regard to foreign issues by analyzing both British and
German propaganda. I will argue that the IPA was not a “bystander,” but advocated an isolationist position. See also
Richard Gid Powers, Not Without Honor: The History of American Anticommunism (New Haven: Yale University
Press, 1995). Powers connected the IPA’s anti-fascism to anti-isolationism during this period, because some
isolationists in America had fascist sympathies. I argue that an examination of the IPA’s attitude toward foreign
policy reveals that the IPA was isolationist, which complicates Powers’ argument.
Public Library in order to discover how individual IPA members influenced the organization’s
publications. This archive contains correspondence written by the IPA’s editorial board and by
its staff, including its founder, Clyde Miller, and its editorial directors, Harold Lavine and Clyde
Beals. I will also use documents located at the Rockefeller Archive Center in Sleepy Hollow to
contextualize board member Robert Lynd’s attitude toward the IPA: Lynd participated in a
Rockefeller-sponsored seminar related to the role of experts, such as the IPA, in a democracy.
I will use these archival sources to help me understand the intent behind the IPA’s
publications. The primary publication that I will discuss is the monthly newsletter, Propaganda
Analysis. This bulletin, the first of which was published in October 1937, contained both a
propaganda analysis section, in which an example of propaganda was analyzed or the IPA’s
theories concerning propaganda were discussed, and an educational section that included
discussion questions. Both “adult study groups” and high school and college teachers took
advantage of the discussion questions.11 The propaganda analysis sections were also written so as
to attract both older and younger readers.12 The bulletins were “popularly written,” and were
“intended...for the ‘man in the street.’”13 For the IPA, the “man in the street” was anyone who
was not a “student” or a “scholar.”14 Therefore, the bulletins were designed for both school
groups and adults who were no longer or had never been in school. The bulletins had a relatively
large circulation: in its September, 1939 bulletin, the IPA noted that 7,000 Propaganda Analysis
“Let’s Talk About Ourselves,” Propaganda Analysis 2 (1939), 107.
Dale to Beals, August 14, 1941, Box 2, File “Advisory Board: Edgar Dale,” IPA Records; Beals to Dale, August
28, 1941, Box 2, File “Advisory Board: Edgar Dale,” IPA Records.
Violet Edwards, “Brief Statement of Objectives and Methods of the Institute for Propaganda Analysis,” Folders
6088-6096, Series 1, Box 571, Folder 6094, General Education Board records, Rockefeller Archive Center
(hereafter cited as RAC). This document was part of a grant proposal that the IPA submitted to the Rockefeller
subscriptions had been purchased.15 Both the educational and propaganda analysis portions of
the bulletins were unsigned.16
In its bulletins, the IPA promoted its own ideology by presenting its readers with what it
claimed to be unbiased information. Neutrality or being unbiased does not always mean a lack of
intent to persuade: some people who disseminate ideas for the purpose of persuasion, or
propagandists, claim to be providing the public with neutral information.17 What’s more, the
propagandist might believe that what he or she is saying is objectively true. According to Kevin
Sharpe, the word propaganda “originated from a committee of Roman cardinals responsible for
foreign missions, for propagating the faith, and so implied no misrepresentation or insincerity—
rather the opposite.”18 The IPA, like the cardinals, believed that it was promoting a fundamental
truth when it advocated its brand of democracy, as the next section will show. Additionally,
some IPA members did not see themselves as propagandists because they were promoting truth.
This interpretation of the word propaganda, however, obscures the fact that the Institute for
Propaganda Analysis articulated certain attitudes in order to accomplish concrete goals, such as
preventing the rise of Nazism in America. The IPA, through its bulletins, attempted to convince
its readers to think in particular ways.
“Let’s Talk About Ourselves,” 105.
A 1938 letter from board member Hadley Cantril to Clyde Miller showed why this was the case. Cantril stated,
“As a propagandist,” he believed the bulletins should be anonymous “since our pieces should be greatly
strengthened if they are unsigned. With such an august body of celebrities as we have on our board, it seems to me it
does give a great emphasis to our publications to let our readers assume that all of us have been active in compiling
the releases” (Cantril to Miller, February 11, 1938, Box 2, File “Hadley Cantril.” IPA Records).
Jowett and O’Donnell, Propaganda and Persuasion, 30.
Kevin Sharpe, Selling the Tudor Monarchy: Authority and Image in Sixteenth-Century England (New Haven:
Yale University Press, 2009), 18.
Democracy in the IPA’s Bulletins
The Institute for Propaganda Analysis promoted two aspects of democracy in its
publications: citizen participation in government decisions and freedom of speech. According to
the IPA, citizens in a democracy were essential to decision-making and therefore needed to learn
how to reach informed conclusions. In his introduction to the IPA’s book The Fine Art of
Propaganda, IPA founder Clyde Miller wrote:
The first principle of action in a democracy is that all mature members share through
their representatives in the making of decisions affecting public policy...It is thus
essential in a democratic society that young people and adults learn how to think...19
In a bulletin, the IPA attributed even more power to American citizens, stating that they played a
larger role in decision-making than their representatives: “ meeting problems, judges and
legislators do a great deal of our work for us. But in the last analysis, it is the mass of peoples in
a democratic country who must make the decisions.”20
In order to help its readers participate in democratic society, the IPA strove to teach them
how to make decisions. The Group Leader’s Guide to Propaganda Analysis, written by
educational director Violet Edwards, described the important role that educators played in a
complex society: “...the majority of our problems are in the realm of ideas, and in this area we learn about things not from seeing and experiencing them, but by reading and hearing
about them.”21 When Edwards said “ideas,” she meant problems not directly related to one’s own
well being. Whereas “[u]ntil the turn of the century almost all of the problems with which we
Clyde Miller, foreword to The Fine Art of Propaganda: A Study of Father Coughlin’s Speeches, edited by Alfred
McClung Lee and Elizabeth Briant Lee (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1939), viii.
“Where England Stands,” Propaganda Analysis 3 (September 1940): 6.
Violet Edwards, Group Leader’s Guide to Propaganda Analysis (New York: Institute for Propaganda Analysis,
Inc., 1938), 18.
[Americans] dealt were with concrete things, such as...wresting a living from the soil,” in the
1930s “we face the problem of distribution, different from and more complex than that of
production, less than a century ago.”22 Edwards was writing during the Great Depression, and
her main concern was therefore the “distribution” of wealth amongst America’s struggling
citizenry. This was a problem that few Americans had experience dealing with, so educators
needed to help them understand the complicated issues involved.
While the IPA recognized that experts, including educators, were necessary if citizens
were to make informed decisions, it also wanted Americans to be able to determine which
experts to listen to: “Although the problems in a democracy must be solved by laymen, only
experts can supply the necessary information, and usually we must make decisions concerning
the qualifications and judgments of the experts.”23 According to the IPA, some people who
claimed to be experts promoted “propaganda,” not “facts.” The IPA drew a distinction between
“propaganda” and “scientific” information: “The propagandist is trying to ‘put something
across,’ good or bad, whereas the scientist is trying to discover truth and fact.”24 According to
the IPA, propagandists advocated their opinions in order to “bring about a specific action,” while
scientists aimed to help people understand the truth.25 Americans did not have to worry about
scientists, but they did have to worry about propagandists: in order to “have clear understanding
of conditions and what to do about them,” Americans “must be able to recognize propaganda, to
Ibid., 13-14.
“Where England Stands,” 6.
“Announcement,” Propaganda Analysis 1 (October 1937): 1.
Ibid., 1. Propagandists used truth, however, to convince people of their opinions. In a 1941 bulletin the IPA wrote,
“Propaganda is a means of rationalizing the facts so as to make the propagandist’s cause seem desirable and wellsanctioned, customary or in accord with prevailing moral views...” (“American Common Sense,” Propaganda
Analysis 4 (1941): 1). Propagandists, therefore, presented facts or performed actions in ways that made people
believe particular ideas. Scientists, on the other hand, did not use facts to convince people of their opinions; they
used them to teach people the truth.
analyze, and appraise it.”26 The IPA assisted with this analysis: “By objective and scientific
scrutiny of the agencies, techniques, and devices utilized in the formation of public opinion, it
[the IPA] will seek to show how to recognize propaganda and appraise it.”27 The IPA, therefore,
believed in a two-part analytic process: distinguishing propagandas from scientific expressions
of truth and then “appraising” the propagandas. By helping citizens recognize and evaluate
propaganda, the IPA promoted a democratic nation in which the people made informed
The IPA used a democratic standard based on a free society when it “appraised”
propagandas; it thereby promoted democracy as defined by freedom of expression. In a speech
before the National Council of Teachers of English, Clyde Miller explained that:
The Institute for Propaganda Analysis has a major assumption—namely, that the
democratic way of life, whose criteria are set forth in the Bill of Rights, is the most
desirable way of life. Here opinions are respected no matter whence they come...28
The IPA did not question whether democracy was good or bad. Rather, it “assumed” that a
democratic country, as defined by the freedoms enumerated in the Constitution, was desirable.
The IPA would run all propagandas through a democratic sieve in order to pick out the ones that
promoted a free society. Readers of the IPA’s bulletins were introduced to this analytic method
in the first issue of Propaganda Analysis. The bulletin listed the freedoms of religion, of speech,
and of assembly as outlined in the Bill of Rights, then stated, “These freedoms are the essence of
democracy. In terms of them, the Institute will subject propagandas to scientific analysis and
seek to indicate whether they conform or not to American principles of democracy.”29 In laying
Ibid., 1.
Ibid., 1.
Clyde R. Miller, “Propaganda and Press Freedom,” The English Journal (December 1939): 823-24.
“Announcement,” 2.
out its strategy, the IPA promoted democracy as the ideal standard by which all expressions of
opinion should be judged.
Free Speech: Clyde Miller and Democratic “Propaganda”
Clyde Miller believed that promoting the democratic value of free speech was an
essential component of the IPA’s mission, although he did not see this form of promotion as true
propaganda, which involved advocating for opinions, but rather as an attempt to teach people the
truth.30 At first glance, the IPA’s ideology suffered from a contradiction. In the same bulletin
that explained its democratic bias, the IPA wrote, “It shall not be within the purposes or powers
of the corporation to engage in propaganda or otherwise attempt to influence legislation...”31 The
IPA had earlier defined propaganda as “expression of opinion or action by individuals or groups
deliberately designed to influence opinions or actions of other individuals or groups with
reference to predetermined ends.”32 By stating that it would judge all propagandas by democratic
standards, the IPA seemed to be expressing its opinion that democracy was the ideal way of life;
while it did not explicitly tell its readers to think the same way, by publishing its opinion the IPA
implicitly argued that this way of viewing the world was correct.
This apparent disparity was not a contradiction in Clyde Miller’s mind: while Miller
believed that the IPA advocated democracy, he did not consider this promotion to be
propaganda. Miller asserted this belief in his response to a 1937 Washington Post editorial about
the IPA, which argued that “the institute is committed to a program patently designed to
See Gary, The Nervous Liberals, 270 for the assertion that the IPA drew a distinction between education, or
promoting the truth, and propaganda, or promoting opinion. Gary only mentioned this point in a footnote, and he did
not tie this distinction to the IPA’s attitude toward democracy. See also J. Michael Sproule, “Clyde Miller:
Twentieth Century Pioneer of Free Speech,” Free Speech Yearbook (1985): 27-37. In this article, Sproule described
Miller’s interest in promoting free speech and the IPA’s analyses of forces that inhibited free speech. However,
Sproule did not discuss the connection in Miller’s mind between promoting free speech and propagandizing.
“Announcement,” 4.
Ibid., 1.
safeguard and strengthen democratic principles. This is a worthy objective, but it implies a bias
which puts the organization itself in the class of propaganda agencies.”33 Miller’s reply provides
insight into his view towards the relationship between propaganda and democracy:
If all of us were to agree that propaganda is any opinion on any subject...your conclusion
would be correct. Your implied definition, however, is broader than the one accepted by
the institute. Under your definition a physician would be a propagandist because he
definitely takes a stand that the saving of life must be his constant objective. By the same
definition any scientist would be a propagandist because he takes the stand that the
discovery of new truths must always be an objective. By your definition The Washington
Post or any other reputable newspaper would be a propagandist enterprise because it
asserts its belief that maintenance of the freedom of the press is necessary.34
Miller concluded that the IPA, along with newspapers such as the Post, believed:
that the freedom of the press and the responsibility that freedom implies are essential
aspects of democratic living. We do not believe that our adherence to this democratic
principle makes us a propagandist enterprise any more than it makes The Washington
Post a propagandist enterprise.35
For Miller, promoting the “democratic principle” of freedom of the press was not propaganda,
just as promoting the saving of lives or promoting the scientific search for “new truths” was not
propagandistic. This reasoning was predicated upon the idea that promoting a free society was
equal to searching for truth, a notion Miller hinted at when he said the IPA “assumed”
democracy was the favorable way of life. If “trying to discover truth and fact” was the opposite
of propagandizing, as the IPA’s first bulletin stated, then promoting freedom of speech was as
“What is Propaganda?” The Washington Post, October 4, 1937, 8.
Clyde R. Miller, “What is Propaganda: Definition in Editorial Too Broad, Says Writer,” The Washington Post,
October 10, 1937, B9.
This view that propaganda and American democracy were inherently opposed was a common one in the 1930s.
David Welky, in a book about the relationship between Hollywood and totalitarian governments, has clearly
described this mindset: “Most producers understood propaganda as totalitarian, government-sponsored, ominous. To
them, a film with an all-American message was not a ‘message film.’ In some hazy way, movie moguls believed
Americanism was right and propaganda was wrong” (David Welky, The Moguls and the Dictators: Hollywood and
the Coming of World War II (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 59). If the word “democracy”
However, Miller seemed to contradict this opinion one year later in a letter to Harper’s
magazine writer Bernard DeVoto. DeVoto had written an article critical of the IPA’s bulletin
about propaganda in the movies. He argued that the IPA’s “analysis of propaganda is itself a
form of propaganda” because the IPA approached the movies with a scornful attitude that
betrayed bias.37 Miller ignored this assertion, responding instead that the IPA did:
have a conviction or bias or opinion—namely, we prefer a democratic organization of
society in which many propagandists can compete...In that sense and in that sense only, it
might be truthfully said that we are propagandists for democracy, which means
propagandists for competition of propagandas and propagandists for analysis of the
competing propagandas.38
Whereas Miller had written in his letter to the Washington Post that the IPA was not a
propagandizing organization because it promoted free speech, he told DeVoto that the IPA
propagandized for competing propagandas.
However, an analysis of the “competition of propagandas” theory that Miller referred to
reveals that Miller’s assertion to DeVoto was not any different from his statement to the Post. In
its first bulletin, the IPA argued, “suppression of unpopular opinions or propagandas is contrary
to democratic conceptions of government.”39 This was because inhibiting propaganda was
equivalent to preventing free speech, as is shown by an article in the Springfield Republican that
the IPA cited in its first bulletin:
It is safe, in the long run, to leave truth and falsehood to fight it out in a free and open the liberal’s defense of uncurbed free speech and free press against
replaced “Americanism” in this passage, then Welky would be describing the IPA’s mindset perfectly. Interestingly,
recent scholarship has argued that despite their claims to support “Americanism,” leaders of Hollywood studios
modified movies so they would be acceptable to audiences in Nazi Germany, a large market for American films. See
Ben Urwand, The Collaboration (Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2010), 7. Based on
this argument, pro-Americanism and anti-fascism were not necessarily synonymous during this period, even if the
IPA characterized democracy as the antithesis of fascism.
Bernard DeVoto, “The Fallacy of Excess Interpretation,” Harper’s, June 1938, 110.
Miller to DeVoto, May 27, 1938, Box 1, Folder “File #4,” IPA Records.
“Announcement,” 2.
complaints of the most impudent abuses and of those ‘clouds of propaganda,’ oftentimes
so malignant, which confuse the public intelligence.40
According to Miller and other liberals, it was democratic, and therefore essential, to let everyone
advocate their own ideas. They believed that when “true” propagandas competed with “false”
ones, the truth would win in the end. Although the newspaper article did not say it outright,
Miller’s attitude toward democracy shows that for him, and probably for many other liberals,
“true” propaganda was democratic propaganda that promoted free speech.
Miller, therefore, only saw a promotion of competing propagandas as propaganda to the
same extent that he saw promoting freedom of the press as propaganda. In the next sentence of
his letter to DeVoto, Miller supported this idea when he said that the IPA may be a propagandist,
but “In a comparable sense, a physician who holds the conviction or bias that life is preferable to
death and that a physician’s work should be to save and extend life, is also a propagandist.”41
Miller’s response to the Washington Post article showed that he thought promoting life was the
same as promoting a search for truth. Therefore, while Miller called the IPA’s promotion of
democracy “propaganda” in his letter to DeVoto, he was referring to propagandizing for truth, a
concept that did not exist in Miller’s mind.
The distinction between propaganda and truth, which was common in the 1930s,
stemmed from Americans’ attitudes toward propaganda following World War I. After the Great
War ended, a series of publications by British authors revealed that the seemingly objective
information about the war that had been distributed in America was actually created by and
biased toward England and its allies. Americans were particularly taken aback when they learned
that certain German atrocity stories had been fabricated, and they began to equate attempts to
“Clouds of Propaganda,” Springfield Republican, September 3, 1937, Box 2, Folder “Advisory Board: General,”
IPA Records.
Miller to DeVoto, May 27, 1938. IPA Records.
persuade, or propaganda, with these lies; the word propaganda developed a negative connotation
as a result.42 This attitude toward propaganda continued into the pre-World War II period. For
example, in his 1935 book Propaganda, future IPA board member Leonard Doob argued that
while educators promoted scientifically proven, universal facts such as those discovered by
chemists, propagandists attempted to convince others that their subjective beliefs were facts even
though they were not.43 Doob also pointed out that some educators were unaware that they were
teaching their own opinions rather than facts:
These to perceive the unintentional propaganda because they regard the
aims of this type of propaganda as efforts in the direction of ‘truth’; in other words, they
have been unable to disentangle themselves from their customs and traditions.44
Clyde Miller fit Doob’s description of the unaware propagandist perfectly. He recognized that
the IPA advocated democracy, although he did not consider this action to be propaganda because
he thought that promoting free speech was an “effort in the direction of ‘truth.’”45
Citizen Participation: Robert Lynd and Propagandizing for Democracy
Board member Robert Lynd also believed that the IPA should promote democratic
values, although he did not shy away from calling this advocacy propaganda. Additionally, he
emphasized citizen participation rather than freedom of speech. In order to understand Lynd’s
Gary, The Nervous Liberals, 23-4.
Leonard Doob, Propaganda: Its Psychology and Technique (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1935), 79-81.
Ibid., 79-80.
Miller’s unwillingness to label advocating for democracy as propaganda can perhaps also be explained by his
recognition that Americans viewed the word propaganda in a negative light. That the IPA was aware of this
perception is shown by a grant proposal to the Rockefeller Foundation, in which the IPA wrote, “The whole
approach of the Institute for Propaganda Analysis is based upon the belief that there is nothing inherently bad in
propaganda. Since the World War, the word has taken on an increasingly evil connotation, it is true; but it did not
have such a connotation originally; and it should not now, the Institute believes. Persuasion—special pleading—
should be judged on its merits, we believe” (Edwards, “Brief Statement of Objectives,” RAC). Even if Miller
believed that persuasion was not inherently bad (as shown by his belief that advocating for democracy was good) his
recognition that others thought all propagandas were bad could explain why he did not want people calling the IPA a
propagandist for promoting free speech.
position, it is necessary to analyze how the IPA fit into his democratic philosophy. Lynd was
concerned with the state of democracy in the 1930s. He thought that laissez-faire capitalist
economics had resulted in big businesses gaining power over less wealthy individuals.46 As a
result, while the government assumed that American consumers had a “rational power of
choice,” Lynd did not believe that this was the case.47
Lynd argued that average American consumers were irrational when making decisions
because they did not have enough information to make intelligent choices and because they were
too busy thinking about their daily lives. This philosophy was predicated upon a concern, typical
during the New Deal, with large private industries.48 Dominant private interests inundated
Americans with “the most devastatingly aimed barrage of advertising and merchandising that
any generation of consumers has ever had to face.”49 The average American, according to Lynd,
was not able to decipher these advertisements and choose the best products because he lacked
“education” in the available merchandise; he was not “literate as a buyer.”50 This lack of
information was also facilitated by private ownership of media outlets: newspapers and the radio
only shared “such information as is profitable to diffuse.”51 As a result, the average American
“stands there alone—a man bare-handed” against big businesses and their advertising machines:
He knows he buys wastefully in terms of time, energy, and money, that his desires and
insecurities are exploited continually...but he needs an overcoat...and he must somehow
John H. Bunzel, “The Commitment to Power of Robert S. Lynd,” Ethics 71 (January 1961): 92.
Ibid., 4.
Alan Brinkley, The End of Reform: New Deal Liberalism in Recession and War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf,
1995), 5.
Robert S. Lynd, “The Consumer Becomes a ‘Problem,’” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social
Science 173 (May 1934): 6.
Ibid., 4.
Robert Lynd, untitled memorandum, c. 1940, Record Group 1.1, Series 200 R, Box 224, Folder 2674, Rockefeller
Foundation records, RAC.
get on with the cluttered business of living, so he pays down his money and hopes the
purchase will turn out all right.52
According to Lynd, lack of information and the “cluttered business of living” got in the way of
rational decision-making in the marketplace.
Lynd applied his theory of the irrational consumer to other issues as well. He was
concerned that Americans, due to a lack of sufficient information about important problems,
were not able to make rational decisions about major issues; he thought that this situation was
hurting American democracy.53 Lynd believed that democracy “is founded on the assumption
that ‘the will of the people’ controls, i.e. that authority and initiative rest with them, and only
delegated respons[ibility] with their leaders. But this basic assumption has been progressively
weakened by” Americans’ inabilities to “grasp” issues that have become too “big.”54 This
situation was worsened by the fact that, as a result of the economic conditions brought on by the
Great Depression, “the need for coord[ination], planning, and control are forced upon us.”55
Lynd worried that because average Americans were becoming lost in a sea of issues that they
could not understand without guidance, “the scene is set for the ‘liquidation’ of public opinion as
an active controlling force and its exploitation by those administrating affairs.”56 He believed
that “The whether...needed information can be given, discussion can be stimulated
on crucial issues, and informed public decision can be made vocal.”57 The question for Lynd was
“whether democracy can survive in the face of the inescapable necessity to coordinate and plan
Lynd, “The Consumer Becomes a ‘Problem,’” 6.
The IPA publications expressed the same concern when they acknowledged the need for experts to help
Americans make decisions on complicated issues.
Lynd, untitled memorandum, RAC.
our economy and related aspects of our national life.”58 Lynd believed that certain segments of
“national life” had to be controlled by experts, but he also thought it was necessary to prevent the
common American’s voice from being completely smothered. If average citizens could not
express their views on important issues, then American democracy would crumble.
The Institute for Propaganda Analysis, Lynd thought, was one way to get the
“information” needed for the preservation of participatory democracy to average Americans. He
wrote to Clyde Miller in 1940, stating:
Today, our democratic institutions are exploited by a private press and radio, public
relations counsels and other ex parte agencies that operate largely unchecked in the
vacuum between over-large issues and the individual citizen. It is into this dangerous
vacuum that the Institute for Propaganda Analysis has moved, with great courage.59
Lynd brought his fears concerning democracy into his work with the IPA. He saw the Institute
for Propaganda Analysis as one way to counteract the private interests that dominated American
society.60 In an earlier letter to Miller, Lynd explained that the IPA, by filling the “vacuum”
between “individual citizens” and “over-large” issues, would help Americans make informed
choices: “If one believes at the value of encouraging free and informed thought, one can
not but welcome such a device as the Institute for Propaganda Analysis.”61
Lynd to Miller, August 16, 1940, Box 2, Folder “Advisory Board: Leonard Doob,” IPA Records.
In the IPA’s terms, Lynd believed that the IPA was an “expert” organization that could help people make
informed decisions.
Lynd to Miller, c. 1937, Box 2, Folder “Advisory Board: Robert S. Lynd,” IPA Records. Lynd’s desire to provide
the public with unbiased information, or facts, can also be seen in early journalist work that he performed. In 1922
Lynd worked as a missionary in the Rockefeller oil camp of Elk Basin, Wyoming. He was upset by the working
conditions there, and published an article for Survey magazine that revealed the sad situation he had encountered.
Rockefeller responded with an article conceding to Lynd’s complaints. By publishing his muckraking article, Lynd
hoped to change the situation in Elk Basin. However, he also believed that it was important for the public to know
the facts surrounding Elk Basin’s oil project, even if nothing was changed (Mark C. Smith, Social Science in the
Crucible: The American Debate Over Objectivity and Purpose, 1918-1941 (Durham: Duke University Press, 1994),
Although Lynd did not specifically address whether he thought the IPA should
propagandize, his discussion of pro-democratic propaganda in his book Knowledge for What?
suggests that he would have approved of the IPA propagandizing for democracy. In this work,
Lynd argued that social scientists needed to gather information for particular ends, rather than for
the sake of collecting new data. He thought that they could play an especially important role in
making sure that American citizens received unbiased information:
here, as elsewhere, the responsibility of social science is to find a way through. What
kind of culture would it be in which information needed for the democratic functioning of
the culture came through without suppression, bias, or curtailment to every citizen...?62
In order to achieve a society in which citizens had enough information to make rational
decisions, social scientists should propagandize for democracy. Lynd argued:
In a world bristling with dictators wielding all the arts of propaganda, democracy will no
longer be able to survive with a laissez-faire attitude toward public opinion. It must take
the offensive in its own behalf and use these new and potent instruments for the ends of
If Lynd saw the IPA as an organization attempting to provide American citizens with unbiased
information in order to create a democratic society in which the people could express their views,
then he would also think that the IPA had a right to promote its agenda through what he called
“propaganda.” He would agree with Miller that it was acceptable for the IPA to help its readers
make informed decisions by acting as a “propagandist for analysis of...competing propagandas.”
Other Perspectives
Other IPA members agreed that the Institute for Propaganda Analysis was devoted to
promoting democracy in general; some used the word “propagandizing” and some did not. The
Robert Lynd, Knowledge for What? The Place of Social Science in American Culture (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1948, orig. 1939), 219.
Ibid., 219.
IPA’s first editorial director, Harold Lavine, commented on the assertion that “we [the IPA]
propagandize for democracy” by writing, “That is true.”64 Board member Edgar Dale, in a 1940
letter to Miller evaluating the IPA’s progress, wrote that one area:
at which we need bolstering is in reiterating, reformulating, and reinforcing articles of
faith. The best antidote against the evil doctrine of Fascism and racial prejudice is a
fundamental faith and conviction in the democratic process...analysis carried on by a
person who holds to the articles of faith embodied in a democracy is not going to be
taken in.65
The IPA’s anti-fascism will be discussed in the next section. What is important for the moment is
that Dale thought the IPA should promote democratic principles.
One board member, Leonard Doob, seems to have disapproved of the IPA’s democratic
bias. While Doob did not specifically criticize the IPA’s democratic bent, he did often comment
on the bulletins’ lack of objectivity. For instance, in 1939 he wrote to Miller in response to the
bulletin on the American Communist Party: “The Institute’s bulletins, especially this one, should
be written with more objectivity. During the last three or four months a kind of sneering tone has
crept into the sentences. One can be objective as well as enthusiastic simultaneously.”66 As will
be discussed later, this bulletin attacked the Communist Party for claiming to be democratic
while it in fact promoted undemocratic values. Doob, who was aware of the psychology behind
unknowingly promoting beliefs as fact, might have been aware that the IPA did not understand
the degree to which it was promoting a belief by advocating American democracy. Doob noted
that he had “argued” about the IPA’s objectivity with Harold Lavine, however, suggesting that
his views conflicted with those dominating the IPA’s editorial office.67
Lavine to Speer, June 11, 1940, Box 2, Folder “Advisory Board: Robt. K. Speer,” IPA Records.
Dale to Miller, August 29, 1940, Box 2, Folder “Advisory Board: Leonard Doob,” IPA Records.
Doob to Miller, February 27, 1939, Box 2, File “Advisory Board: Edgar Dale,” IPA Records.
Fear of Fascism
If democracy was undeniably true for Clyde Miller and other IPA members, then fascism
or totalitarianism, as defined principally by Nazi Germany, was false; by contrasting fascism and
democracy, Miller hoped to keep fascism from gaining a foothold in America.68 Miller was
inspired to create a propaganda analysis curriculum at Columbia University, and to then help
found the Institute for Propaganda Analysis, after observing Nazi propagandists in Germany in
the early 1930s and recognizing the similarities between how Germans and Americans responded
to propaganda. Miller feared that, without propaganda analysis training, Americans would fall
under the spell of fascist demagogues who preached intolerance in America.69 That Miller and
the IPA were concerned with Nazism is demonstrated by the emphasis on fascist propaganda
throughout the IPA’s publications.70 For instance, the IPA’s first book, The Fine Art of
Propaganda, deconstructed the radio demagogue Father Coughlin’s speeches and argued that
they were propagandas for anti-Semitic and fascist sentiments. The IPA also published a
Propaganda Analysis bulletin about Father Coughlin, as well as ones about American fascist
organizations and propaganda in Germany, called “The Attack on Democracy” and “Propaganda
Techniques of German Fascism” respectively.
I will use the terms Nazism (or Hitlerism), fascism, and totalitarianism interchangeably to refer to Nazi
Germany’s ideology, because this is what the IPA did. In an article entitled “Just What Are These ‘Isms’?”, Miller
associated the words “Fascism” and “Nazism” with Germany (Clyde R. Miller, “Just What Are These ‘Isms’?: A
Comparison of Communism, Fascism, and Democratic Capitalism,” The Clearing House (October 1937), 75). The
IPA used the term “totalitarianism” in association with Germany in its bulletin about propaganda in Latin America,
as will be discussed in this paper’s final section (“Propaganda and Latin America,” Propaganda Analysis (December
1940), 6).
Hojem, “A Study of Propaganda,” 19. Hojem paraphrased a 1949 letter to her from Clyde Miller. Miller’s antiNazi viewpoint is clear from his actions outside of the IPA as well. For instance, he “addressed a mass meeting in
protest against the Nazi persecutions in Germany” in Westchester, New York in 1938 (“Protest in Westchester,”
New York Times, November 16, 1938, 8).
Sproule, Propaganda and Democracy, 143-45. See also Hojem “A Study of Propaganda,” 43; Powers, Not
Without Honor, 165-66.
Miller’s concern with Nazism was part of a larger liberal fear in the 1930s that fascism
could gain a substantial following in America as it had in Germany.71 Economic hardship as a
result of the Great Depression made some worry that Americans would support an authoritarian
ruler if he could lead the country into less troubled waters; race prejudice and anti-Semitism
were also points of concern. The IPA expressed these worries in “The Attack on Democracy,”
It would seem that the same propaganda techniques that were successful in Germany
might be successful in the United States among thousands who have been made ripe for
them by childhood conditioning, combinations of adult experiences, and depression
The “childhood conditioning” that the IPA referred to included “anti-Jewish, anti-Catholic, antiItalian, [and] anti-‘foreign’” sentiments that were “abundan[t]” in America.73 The bulletin ended
on a pessimistic note, warning:
anti-democratic movements have swept the country before, and if they have not
captured it, they have nevertheless come much too close for comfort—like the Ku Klux
Klan. It would, therefore, be well to understand these movements: how they arise,
wherein their appeal lies, and why.74
The bulletin’s educational portion then focused on the conditions in America that could lead to
fascism. The existence of right-wing extremist organizations in the United States fueled antifascist sentiment and the fear of Nazism. In “The Attack on Democracy” the IPA demonstrated
the belief that such groups had a large presence in American society when it wrote, “Today in the
Frank A. Warren, Noble Abstractions: American Liberal Intellectuals and World War II (Columbus: Ohio State
University Press, 1999), 8. See also “How to Beat Hitler,” Common Sense, July 1941, 208.
“The Attack on Democracy,” Propaganda Analysis 2 (January 1939), 22. For the fear that economic troubles
could lead to dictatorship, see Robert S. Lynd and Helen Merrell Lynd, Middletown in Transition: A Study in
Cultural Conflicts (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1937), 505.
“The Attack on Democracy,” 22.
Ibid., 21.
United States there are some 800 organizations that could be called pro-fascist or pro-Nazi.”75
American Nazi sympathizers participated in a widely condemned public display on February 20,
1939 at Madison Square Garden, during which 20,000 supporters gathered in support of antiSemitism and race hatred.76 To make matters worse, many of these Nazis claimed to be
democratic. As the IPA noted, “the great majority” of the pro-Nazi groups in America “talk
blithely of democracy, or ‘Constitutional Democracy,’ but work hand in glove with the
outspokenly-fascist groups and distribute their literature.”77
Fighting Nazism with Democracy
The IPA and other liberals tried to prevent fascism’s rise by promoting democratic ideals
that opposed Nazi ideology; by drawing a dichotomy between fascism and democracy, they
countered fascist groups that claimed to be democratic. For these liberals, the world was divided
into two camps: democracy and fascism.78 The only way to defeat fascism, therefore, was by
supporting democracy: a July 1941 Common Sense editorial noted, “Hitlerism can be beaten—
but only by an internal victory of democracy rather than an external [military] victory.”79 The
IPA fought fascism at home by advocating democratic values that contrasted with Nazism. This
strategy worked particularly well for the IPA because, as has already been noted, in its initial
bulletins the IPA established democracy as a fundamental truth. It could therefore attack other
ideologies, such as fascism, by contrasting them with democracy.80
Ibid., 13.
Leland V. Bell, “The Failure of Nazism in America: The German American Bund, 1836-1941,” Political Science
Quarterly 85 (December 1970): 592.
“The Attack on Democracy,” 13.
Warren, Noble Abstractions, 8.
“How to Beat Hitler,” 208.
The IPA discussed this propagandistic tactic in its bulletin on American fascist groups, stating, “The fascist
technique is simple. First, make the words ‘Jew’ and ‘Communist’ so odious that people will shrink from anything
In its bulletins, the IPA used fascism as a foil for democratic society in which the
citizenry participated. Miller stated in his Preface to the first volume of Propaganda Analysis
In the world today there is conflict between two faiths: that of the democrat, who holds
that man is an end in himself, that everything worthwhile in life depends on respect for
the individual...and that of the new dictators, glorying in power and war, hating and
despising the ‘humanitarian weakness’ of democracy.81
This conception of democracy, which emphasized individualism, does not appear at first glance
to include citizen participation. However, Miller believed that individualism was essential to
decision-making in a democracy. In his introduction to The Fine Art of Propaganda, Miller
stated that in order to help their representatives make decisions:
young people and adults...must come to conclusions, but at the same time they must
recognize the right of other men to come to opposite conclusions. So far as individuals
are concerned, the art of democracy is the art of thinking and discussing independently
According to Miller, individuals in democratic societies “thought” and “discussed”: they
participated. When Miller claimed that democracies appreciated individuals, then, he was also
saying that democracies supported individuals participating in government as members of a
larger body of citizens. Additionally, when he stated that “the new dictators” did not listen to
individual voices, he was condemning a lack of democratic citizen participation.
The IPA also criticized the lack of free speech in fascist countries. Specifically, the IPA
expressed the difference between propaganda in a democracy, where there are competing
or anybody on which they may be pinned. Then, you have only to call those people you don’t like ‘Communist’ or
‘Jewish’ in order to destroy them” (“The Attack on Democracy,” 14). The IPA used the fascists’ own tactic against
them: it established in its first bulletin that democracy was the standard by which propagandas should be judged, and
then labeled a philosophy that it opposed, Nazism, undemocratic.
“Preface,” Propaganda Analysis 1 (1938): iii. By “new dictators” the IPA meant European dictators who had
come to power within the last few years, such as Hitler in Germany and Benito Mussolini in Italy. See this paper’s
final section for the distinction between new, “totalitarian” dictators and traditional dictators.
Miller, foreword to Fine Art of Propaganda, viii. Emphasis in original.
propagandas, and in a dictatorship, where there is a monopoly of propaganda. In its bulletin
“Propaganda Techniques of German Fascism,” the IPA stated that a “monopoly” of propaganda
“is seen most clearly in totalitarian states where all channels of communication are controlled by
the government,” while “[i]n democratic countries this monopoly aspect of propaganda is held in
check by rivalries between competing organizations.”83 The IPA had established in its first
bulletin that the democratic way of life, characterized in part by an allowance of competing
propagandas, was the standard by which all other ideologies should be measured. Therefore, by
noting that German fascism promoted a “monopoly” of propaganda, the IPA implicitly
condemned the “totalitarian” regime.
The IPA’s Definitions of Democracy
The IPA also attempted to contrast fascism with democratic principles in less obvious
ways: through its definitions of democracy. The IPA officially defined propaganda in two
different ways throughout its bulletins, and both definitions were extensions of its two general
ways of looking at democracy. The first definition tied into the IPA’s belief that democracies
promoted various freedoms, while the second advocated an intelligent citizenry that could make
its own decisions with the help of expert advice. In its first Propaganda Analysis bulletin, written
by Miller, the IPA stated that its definition of democracy was derived from the Constitution and
federal legislation.84 In the bulletin Miller wrote, “Democracy has four parts, set forth or implied
in the Constitution and federal statutes.”85 These parts of democracy were:
1. Political—Freedom to vote on public issues; freedom of press and speech to discuss
those issues in public gatherings, in press, radio, motion pictures, etc.
“Propaganda Techniques of German Fascism,” Propaganda Analysis 1 (May 1938): 38.
For Miller’s authorship of the first bulletin see Sproule, Propaganda and Democracy, 132.
“Announcement,” 2.
2. Economic—Freedom to work and to participate in organizations and discussions to
promote better working standards and higher living conditions for the people.
3. Social—Freedom from oppression based on theories of superiority or inferiority.
4. Religious—Freedom of worship, with separation of church and state.86
This list was an extension of the “political” democratic freedoms promoted in the Bill of Rights,
including freedom of speech, which Miller saw as inherent to American democracy.
Four years after the IPA published its “Announcement” bulletin, an issue of Propaganda
Analysis titled “Propaganda Over the Schools” established a more open-ended definition of
democracy when it called on the IPA’s readers to question the IPA’s definition. In the
educational portion of the bulletin the IPA wrote, “We must know what we mean by
‘democratic’ if we are to appraise our school and its teachings.”87 The IPA referred to its fourpart definition of democracy based on the Constitution, then told the reader to:
Use the Institute’s yardstick after thorough discussion of it—or, better still, build your
own...Your librarian, your...teachers you to many points of view concerning
democracy if you ask them. But, in the final analysis, you will want to think through the
concept of democracy for yourself...88
By telling its readers to get advice from “librarians” and “teachers” but to come up with their
own definitions for democracy, the IPA was attempting to foster democratic citizens who looked
to experts for information but who trusted themselves to make final decisions.
The Springfield Plan
Both of these approaches to defining democracy were connected not only to the IPA’s
democratic vision, but also to movements designed to prevent fascism from rising in America.
In the late 1930s and early 1940s Miller participated in the Springfield Plan, a pro-tolerance
educational curriculum that began in 1939 in Springfield, Massachusetts. Miller played an
Ibid., 2.
“Propaganda Over the Schools,” Propaganda Analysis 4 (February 1941): 13.
Ibid., 14. Emphasis in original.
essential role in the Springfield Plan, applying his propaganda analysis work to issues of
tolerance.89 The educators who put the program together were concerned with overcoming
fascist tendencies in America by promoting democracy.90
Miller, in his introduction to the 1945 book The Story of the Springfield Plan, tied the
four-part definition of democracy that he had used in the “Announcement” bulletin of
Propaganda Analysis to this anti-fascist ideology. While this book was written eight years after
the IPA’s first bulletin, it provides insight into how Miller might have been thinking about his
definition of democracy in 1937. In the book, Miller articulated “four fatal delusions” that
Americans must “escape” from; he tied the “delusions” explicitly to Germany and Japan, the
latter of which had become America’s enemy after attacking Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941:
The first is the delusion that one’s own church, cult, sect, or group alone expresses
God’s will on earth...We have seen this delusion in the Shintoism of Japan, in Emperor
worship...But this delusion has not been confined to the Japanese. The second is the
delusion that one race is superior. Nazi Germany and Japan were victims of this delusion.
So are millions of Americans. The third is the delusion that one class is superior, that it is
therefore entitled to govern and oppress other people. The fourth is the delusion that one
group can obtain for itself more of the goods and opportunities of the world if it denies
such advantages to other groups.91
These “delusions” characterized societies inimical to Miller’s conception of democracy, which
emphasized accepting what all groups had to say and therefore not seeing one group as
inherently superior to others. It makes sense, then, that Miller believed four principles of
democracy could be used to overcome the delusions. He wrote, “The Springfield program is an
attempt to eliminate the four delusions by putting into practice the ideals of the Constitution of
Lauri Johnson “‘One Community’s Total War Against Prejudice’: The Springfield Plan Revisited,” Theory and
Research in Social Education 34 (2006), 309.
Ibid., 302.
Clyde Miller, introduction to The Story of the Springfield Plan, by Clarence Chatto and Alice Halligan (New
York: Hinds, Hayden and Eldredge, Inc., 1945), xv.
the United States—by replacing the delusions with loyalty to four kinds of democracy...”92
Miller then listed the same four types of democracy (religious, political, economic, and social)
described in the “Announcement” bulletin of Propaganda Analysis from eight years earlier.93 In
the context of the Springfield Plan, Miller’s four parts of democracy were meant to counter the
four “delusions,” which were linked to German and Japanese ideologies. While the IPA’s
emphasis on Germany as the epitome of fascism means that Miller was probably more concerned
with countering German values than Japanese ones when he defined democracy for the IPA, the
connection to the Springfield Plan still suggests that Miller wanted the IPA’s definition of
propaganda to be seen as directly refuting fascist ideals.
“Education for the Common Defense”
The IPA also wanted its second, open-ended definition of democracy to fortify
Americans against Nazism, as shown by the link between the February 1941 “Propaganda Over
the Schools” bulletin and the National Education Association’s (NEA) November 1940
Education Week, themed “Education for the Common Defense.”94 During the months
surrounding this Education Week, many papers and pamphlets were issued discussing how
education could serve national defense efforts.95 For instance, the Educational Policies
Commission (EPC), an organization created by the NEA in the late 1930s in order to protect
Americans from anti-democratic forces both in America and abroad, published an antitotalitarian, pro-democracy pamphlet entitled Education and the Defense of American
Ibid., xvii.
Ibid., xvii.
“Education: For the Common Defense,” Time Magazine, November 18, 1940, accessed February 20, 2014,,9171,777536,00.html.
“Editorial Comment,” The Phi Delta Kappan 23 (1940): 89.
Democracy in September 1940.96 The concern with national defense in late 1940 was logical
given events in Europe at this time. World War II had begun in Europe on September 1, 1939,
after Germany invaded Poland despite warnings by Britain and France that doing so would result
in war. Germany defeated France in June 1940, and in September, Japan, Germany, and Italy
became allies with the signing of the Tri-Partite Pact. Britain and Germany engaged in an aerial
battle over England between July and October 1940. Although the British Royal Air Force
fought off the German Luftwaffe, it could not prevent German pilots from dropping bombs on
London; Germany would continue to bomb England throughout the war. Americans became
concerned with their own safety as they read about the news from Europe, and they began to
create strategies to defend themselves against Germany and its Nazi philosophy in case Britain
was defeated.
The IPA was no exception: it promoted the anti-fascist policies articulated in Education
and the Defense of American Democracy by telling its readers to devise their own definitions of
democracy. A copy of the EPC pamphlet is included in the folder called “Propaganda Over the
Schools” in the IPA Records at the New York Public Library, suggesting that the IPA looked at
the pamphlet when it was preparing the “Propaganda Over the Schools” bulletin.97 This
hypothesis is further supported by the similarities between “Propaganda Over the Schools” and
Education and the Defense of American Democracy. The EPC pamphlet pessimistically looked
to the dominance of “totalitarian” nations in Europe and urged Americans to “renounce all
Ibid., 99. For info on the EPC see Benjamin Alpers, Dictators, Democracy, and American Public Culture:
Envisioning the Totalitarian Enemy, 1920s-1950s (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2003), 157.
See also Ronald D. Cohen, “Schooling Uncle Sam’s Children: Education in the USA, 1941-1945,” in Roy Lowe,
ed., Education and the Second World War: Studies in Schooling and Social Change (Routledge, 2012), 47.
This is also suggested by the fact that the word “Worksheet” is written in pencil at the top of a mass-distributed
memo called “Defending American Democracy” that was attached to the EPC pamphlet, and which advised readers
on how to apply the information in the pamphlet. “Worksheet” is probably a reference to the educational portion of
the Propaganda Analysis bulletins, which were called “Propaganda Analysis Worksheets” until the IPA’s second
year. This note suggests that the IPA intended to use the EPC pamphlet to compose the educational portion of its
“Propaganda Over the Schools” bulletin.
wishful thinking and gird themselves to face the darkest period of their history.”98 Even if
England was not taken over by Nazi Germany, the pamphlet asserted, the postwar world’s
“moral pattern will be set by the victorious totalitarian powers.”99 In the face of such danger,
Americans needed to be careful not to “abandon the ways, the values, the ideals of democracy”
by replacing them with totalitarian “morals.” Specifically, it was important to not “force the
individual into subjection to the state...”100 Americans had to reassert their own moral principles
in order to create national unity. To promote a “moral defense of democracy,” Americans needed
to consider what democracy meant for them:
In the moral defense of democracy the first requirement is that the American people
achieve a clear understanding of the nature of democracy and of the goals to which this
democracy aspires...They must again think their way through the problem of the
individual and society and put vital content into the great words of human liberty,
equality, and dignity which come so easily to their lips but which have lost much of
their meaning.101
Additionally, “[e]ducation can help to clarify the nature and goals of democracy.”102 In order to
unify against fascism, then, Americans needed to define democracy for themselves with the help
of expert educators. By thinking through the issue of democracy, Americans would be preserving
the role of individual thought in a democratic culture rather than “subjecting” individuals to the
state. The IPA also told its readers to determine what democracy meant to them in order to foster
individual thought. The IPA’s bulletin, therefore, can be seen as an extension of the EPC
pamphlet. Based on this analysis, the IPA did not only advocate for effective citizenship by
Educational Policies Commission, Education and the Defense of American Democracy (National Education
Association of the United States and the American Association of School Administration, 1940), 4.;view=1up;seq=3.
Ibid., 4.
Ibid., 7.
Ibid., 12.
Ibid., 12.
asking its readers to think about democracy. Rather, by basing its “Propaganda Over the
Schools” bulletin on the EPC pamphlet, it tried to create a society that was the opposite of Nazi
Critiquing the Popular Front
The IPA also drew a distinction between communism and democracy, although it did not
do so in order to prevent America from becoming a communist society. While the “Attack on
Democracy” bulletin discussed the possibility of a fascist America, the IPA’s March 1939
bulletin about the American Communist Party (CPUSA), written by Clyde Miller and editorial
director Harold Lavine, expressed less anxiety: the bulletin concluded, “for the present, at least,
revolution is just as remote from the mind of any Communist as Mars.”103 According to the IPA,
the CPUSA was more concerned with American politics than it was with a working-class
uprising. The bulletin’s educational portion did conflate communism and fascism as threats to
American society, stating, “Two great social, political, and economic systems today are
challenging what most Americans would probably consider ‘the American way of life.’ They are
Communism and fascism.”104 However, the educational portion focused on the distinctions
between American, communist, and fascist concepts of democracy, rather than on the aspects of
American society that could lead to communist domination. While the IPA labeled both
communism and fascism as threats to American society, it was predominantly scared of
The IPA did have a reason, however, to contrast communist and American notions of
democracy. By making this comparison, the IPA critiqued the communists' Popular Front
“Communist Propaganda U.S.A.: 1939 Model,” Propaganda Analysis 2 (March 1, 1939): 42. In a letter to Clyde
Miller, IPA board member Leonard Doob stated that he was planning on bringing complaints about the bulletin to
Lavine, suggesting that Lavine was responsible for the bulletin’s content. The fact that Doob was lodging his
complaints with Miller suggests that Miller also had a say in the bulletin. See Doob to Miller, February 27, 1939,
Box 2, File “Advisory Board: Edgar Dale,” IPA Records.
“Communist Propaganda U.S.A.: 1939 Model,” 43.
J. Michael Sproule noted the different levels of fear expressed in the domestic Nazism and domestic communism
bulletins, although he did not explain this difference, as I will below. (Sproule, Propaganda and Democracy, 147).
rhetoric. In August of 1935, the Seventh Congress of the Communist International, or
Comintern, called for a shift in Communist policy around the world. Instead of isolating
themselves from capitalists by promoting a working-class revolution, communists were to create
a Popular Front by joining with all groups opposed to fascism.106 In America, communists joined
labor unions and supported the New Deal.107 Additionally, the CPUSA began to couch
communist ideas in American patriotic rhetoric.108 For instance, the CPUSA General Secretary,
Earl Browder, called communism “twentieth century Americanism.”109 He divided the world, as
did liberals such as Clyde Miller, into the two camps of democracy and fascism, and stated that
the CPUSA supported democracy over fascism in America:
The Communist Party throws all its resources into forming and strengthening the united
front of all progressive and democratic people to defeat the reactionary threat [the fascist
threat supported by wealthy capitalists], to preserve the Constitution for the people, to
maintain and extend American democracy.110
Support for democracy, therefore, was an essential component of the CPUSA’s Popular Front
The Popular Front lasted in America from 1935 until August 1939, when the Soviet
Union signed a non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany. American communists, following the
Soviet line, dropped their anti-Nazi rhetoric after this point and accused New Dealers and
liberals generally of trying to involve America in war against Germany.111 Many liberals left the
Frank A. Warren, Liberals and Communism: The ‘Red Decade’ Revisited (Bloomington: Indiana University
Press, 1966), 103. See also Albert Fried, Communism in America: A History in Documents (New York: Columbia
University Press, 1997), 227.
Gary Gerstle, American Crucible: Race and Nation in the Twentieth Century (Princeton: Princeton University
Press, 2001), 146.
Ibid., 146.
Ibid., 146.
Earl Browder, The People’s Front (New York: International Publishers, 1938), 237.
Harvey Klehr et al., The Secret World of American Communism (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995), 10.
Front after this point, although some rejoined in 1941 when the CPUSA began to support
American democracy again following Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union.112 The Popular
Front policy increased communist membership in America: from 1935 to 1945, CPUSA
membership rose from a few thousand to nearly 100,000.113
The Institute for Propaganda Analysis, in its CPUSA bulletin written before the NaziSoviet pact, critiqued the communists’ Popular Front rhetoric by arguing that the CPUSA did not
in fact support true American democracy. The bulletin did not explicitly address the Popular
Front, but it did recognize that “The democracy which the Communists once despised they now
laud.”114 For the communists, the “dictatorship of the proletariat” was “real democracy” because,
according to communist writer Edward Magnus, “for the first time in history, the government
represents power exercised by the majority over the minority.” However, the IPA argued that
there was a:
difference between the concept of democracy held by Mr. Magnus and that expressed
in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. For, basic
to American democracy is the belief that members of the minority have rights, too...and
that democracy will endure only so long as those rights are protected. To protect them,
we have set up innumerable safeguards, ranging from the Constitution’s first ten
amendments to such legal doctrines as habeas corpus and trial by jury in open court.115
The IPA was responding to Magnus’ 1935 book Professionals in a Soviet America, in which
Magnus described the communist theory that the working class should overthrow its capitalist
oppressors. He described “the period of ‘proletarian dictatorship,’ which means simply that after
the workers have overthrown the power of the capitalists, they themselves hold the state power
Ibid., 11.
Gerstle, American Crucible, 147.
“Communist Propaganda, U.S.A.: 1939 Model,” 40.
Ibid., 40.
until the time when the ‘state’ becomes unnecessary.”116 The IPA ignored the long-term goal of
creating a stateless society in which everyone was equal and focused instead on the “proletarian
dictatorship.” This period, based on Magnus’ description, did indeed contradict the idea that
everyone in society had equal rights. Magnus wrote:
Dictatorship is the exclusive exercise of power by a class...Proletarian dictatorship, like
every form of state power, is directed against the enemies of the ruling class...No one has
reason to fear a proletarian dictatorship except the enemies of the proletariat.117
It is easy to see why the IPA, which supported a society in which all voices were heard, would be
concerned about a revolutionary theory that advocated suppressing a particular group of people.
This philosophy, for the IPA, was undemocratic.
The bulletin also argued that real-world applications of communism were contrary to
American, and specifically democratic, beliefs, stating, “The Soviet Union, Communist
propagandists would have you believe, is the greatest of all democracies.”118 The tone of this
sentence suggested that the IPA did not believe the “Communist propagandists,” although the
IPA did not explain its skepticism. Additionally, the IPA pointed out that all Party members
thought alike because they would be expelled if they disagreed with the leadership.119 This
group-mind was different from the American political system, in which “Democrats are expected
to disagree. And so are Republicans.” However, “No Communist would ever think of
denouncing Earl Browder. Any Communists who did would immediately be expelled.”120
Although the bulletin did not explicitly state that the communist mentality was undemocratic in
Edward Magnus, Professionals in Soviet America (New York: Workers Library Publishers, 1935), 34. Online at
Ibid., 35.
“Communist Propaganda U.S.A.,” 40.
Ibid., 36.
Ibid., 36.
this regard, the IPA implied this distinction by pointing out the difference between the American
political system, which promoted free expression of ideas, and the communist one. By arguing
that communist philosophy, both in theory and in practice, was undemocratic, the IPA called the
CPUSA’s Popular Front rhetoric into question.
Harold Lavine and James Wechsler
The IPA’s view that communists were not democratic can be traced to its editorial
director, Harold Lavine, and his colleague, James Wechsler. Lavine had been a member of the
Youth Communist League, but left the organization before joining the IPA as editorial
director.121 Lavine was friends with James Wechsler, with whom he co-wrote the IPA book War
Propaganda and the United States in 1940; this book discussed propagandas concerned with the
war in Europe, including CPUSA propaganda. Wechsler had attended Columbia University with
Lavine, and they had worked together on the school’s newspaper, the Daily Spectator.122
Wechsler joined the Youth Communist League while he was a student at Columbia, but
left the Party in 1937. He became disenchanted because of the Moscow Trials, a series of show
trials that Soviet leader Josef Stalin used to destroy his political enemies, as well as the general
lack of freedom within communist circles. In his autobiography, Wechsler explained that during
his visit to the Soviet Union in August 1937, at which point he was still a member of the Party,
D. D. Guttenplan, American Radical: The Life and Times of I. F. Stone (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux,
2009), 142. I have not been able to find any other evidence that Lavine was a former member of the Communist
Party besides this book. However, in a personal email D. D. Guttenplan told me that he thought he had learned about
Lavine’s past in the Youth Communist League from an interview with Arnold Beichman, an anti-communist writer
(D. D. Guttenplan, e-mail message to author, March 3, 2014). Interestingly, Harold Lavine conducted an interview
with Earl Browder for the liberal magazine P.M. in 1944. In this interview, Lavine said, “I don’t presume to be a
Marxist; I am at a great disadvantage here, but as I have always understood it, Communists and Socialists are
supposed to believe that crisis is inherent in this system...” (Harold Lavine, Communists and National Unity: An
Interview of PM with Earl Browder (New York: Workers Publishers, 1944), 10. Online at If
Lavine was a former member of the Youth Communist League, then his assertion that he knew nothing about
communist ideology suggests that he did not want people to know about his communist past.
D. D. Guttenplan, e-mail message to author, March 3, 2014.
he began “to see that the issue was freedom, and nothing we saw or heard encouraged the hope
that there were any fresh winds bringing any freer air to Russia’s multitudes.”123 He witnessed
Russians unwilling to criticize the Party or the Moscow Trials for fear of being punished by the
government and concluded that the Soviet Union was “the concrete triumph of the monolithic
mind; this was the rigid pattern of the communist movement expanded into a whole society.”124
While Wechsler did not explicitly contrast this “monolithic” ideology with democracy, based on
the IPA’s standards this restriction of free speech and lack of respect for individuals was
undemocratic. Lavine, who was working with Wechsler on War Propaganda and the United
States when he wrote the CPUSA bulletin, was perhaps influenced by Wechsler’s views when he
pointed out the difference between communist and American views toward free expression.
Alternatively, Lavine may have come to similar conclusions as Wechsler during his time in the
Other Reasons for Publication
The IPA had other reasons besides philosophical ones to declare communism
undemocratic in 1939. The immediate reason for the bulletin’s publication was a desire to
analyze propagandas from both sides of the political spectrum.125 In a February 1939 letter to
Miller, IPA president Hadley Cantril described his colleague George Gallup’s belief in “the socalled bias of the Institute in analyzing only reactionary [rightist] propaganda.” In order to
“further establish the Institute’s impartiality,” Cantril suggested analyzing “New Deal
James Wechsler, The Age of Suspicion (New York: Random House, 1953), 115.
Ibid., 116.
This is the reason that Sproule gives for the bulletin’s publication. See Sproule, Propaganda and Democracy,
147. I have not found any secondary literature connecting the IPA to Popular Front rhetoric.
propaganda, C.I.O., or Communist propaganda...”126 This letter shows that Miller and Lavine
wrote the bulletin in response to critics who accused the IPA of having a left-wing bias, a
criticism that hurt the IPA’s image as an organization that did not propagandize for any
particular viewpoint (besides democracy).
Miller was also interested in separating the IPA from communist ideology at this time
because he and the IPA had been accused of being not only left-wing, but “Red.” In a 1947 letter
to board member Alfred Lee, Miller recalled:
the pressure placed upon me at [Columbia University’s] Teachers College in 1938 to
‘junk’ the Institute...I was to denounce certain of my colleagues as Red. After I rejected it
[the proposal] I began to find that I was being denounced as Red and likewise the
In March 1939, therefore, Miller was being labeled a communist. No matter what Miller thought
about the CPUSA’s politics and theories at this time, the IPA would not have been considered
unbiased if it was also seen as a communist organization. Therefore, Miller had a stake in
separating the IPA from communist doctrine.
It is also possible that the IPA wanted to point out the undemocratic nature of
communism in order to fight against the Popular Front coalition. Some liberals supported the
anti-fascist coalition, arguing that an enemy of fascism was a friend whether or not the
communists sincerely believed in true American democracy.128 However, others rejected the
Popular Front, especially after the Moscow Trials of 1937 and 1938.129 Anti-Popular Front
liberals thought that communist values were antithetical to democratic principles, no matter what
Cantril to Miller, February 2, 1939, Box 2, File “Hadley Cantril.” IPA Records.
Miller to Lee, August 26, 1947, Box 1, File “I.P.A.,” IPA Records.
Warren, Liberals and Communism, 120. See, for instance, Heywood Broun, “One Thing at a Time,” The New
Republic, April 19, 1939, 304.
Michael Nash, “Schism on the Left: The Anti-Communism of V. F. Calverton and His ‘Modern Quarterly,’”
Science & Society 45 (1981/1982), 449-450.
Earl Browder claimed.130 They did not think that either the theoretical idea of a working-class
revolution or Stalin’s practical ruthlessness could be considered democratic.131 By expressing
these points of view, the IPA might have been criticizing the Popular Front as a whole.
However, a more likely interpretation is that the IPA was softly criticizing the CPUSA in
its bulletin while still supporting the Popular Front. Some liberals who joined the Popular Front
also criticized the communist notion of democracy. For instance, journalist Freda Kirchwey
argued, like the IPA bulletin, that communist group-mind was contrary to American democracy,
and historian Van Wyck Brooks did not believe that Stalin promoted freedom. These two
liberals, however, supported the Popular Front coalition.132 That the IPA did not reject the
Popular Front is suggested by its choice of editorial director to replace Harold Lavine, who
resigned in 1940.133 The IPA chose Clyde Beals, former editor of the Guild Reporter. The
Newspaper Guild, the union that the Guild Reporter represented, was a Popular Front
organization that united liberals and communists in many cities.134 Beals edited the Guild
Reporter from 1935 to 1941, a period which included the first half of the Popular Front era, and
therefore presumably supported the Popular Front coalition.135 Beals revealed that he did not
James Wechsler, “Stalin and Union Square,” The Nation, September 30, 1939, 343.
See, for instance, “The ‘Red Menace’ Again,” Common Sense, March, 1938, 4.
Warren, Liberals and Communism, 118.
Doob to Miller, October 19, 1940, Box 2, Folder “Advisory Board: Leonard Doob,” IPA Records. In this letter,
Doob discussed his “feelings about Hal Lavine’s resignation.” He was bothered by Lavine’s “journalistic flair and
his ever present tendency to turn the smart-aleck phrase,” as well as his “straight journalistic approach” that largely
ignored propaganda analysis itself. Doob recognized that his opinion was out of the ordinary, stating, “Like the rest
of you I have had a great deal of respect for Hal, but unlike a few others I have also been extremely critical.” Lavine
probably resigned to work for the new liberal magazine PM, which started publication in 1940. See Wechsler, The
Age of Suspicion, 160 for a description of Wechsler’s interactions with Lavine at the new magazine.
Michael Denning, The Cultural Front: The Laboring of American Culture in the Twentieth Century (Verso,
1998), 88.
“From the Morgue,” The Newspaper Guild: Communications Workers of America, accessed March 6, 2014.; “From the Morgue,” The Newspaper Guild, accessed March 6,
2014, These web pages from the current-day Newspaper Guild
website mention the dates that Beals became editor and resigned from the editorship.
mind working with communists when he wrote to Clyde Miller that the communists at the Guild
Reporter were “those who insisted most strongly upon the widest discussion and majority
decision on Guild issues, and whether they are Communist or not they are making an important
contribution toward a peaceful evolution of American society.”136 Beals was not a communist,
but he agreed with communist progressive ideals. While Beals only arrived at the IPA after the
CPUSA bulletin’s release, the fact that Miller was willing to hire Beals suggests that he was not
himself strongly opposed to the Popular Front.
Seeing the IPA as a Popular Front organization provides interesting insight into the IPA’s
mindset. First, such an interpretation would explain why the IPA emphasized the Nazi threat
more than the communist one. For Popular Front liberals who did not agree with communist
rhetoric, communists were the lesser of two evils: the point of intersection between liberalism
and communism was anti-fascism.137 Characterizing the IPA as a Popular Front organization also
complicates the organization’s democratic philosophy. While the IPA’s members believed that
promoting democratic values was an important part of the organization’s mission, they were
willing to work with an undemocratic group in order to fight Nazism.
The IPA Attacks the Dies Committee
The IPA did not feel any bond, however, with conservative anti-communists, even
though they were also labeling communists undemocratic in the late 1930s. The House Special
Committee on Un-American Activities, established in 1938 and headed by Republican
Congressman Martin Dies, epitomized the conservative attack against communism.138 The
Committee was created “to investigate...the extent, character, and objects of un-American
Beals to Miller, February 3, 1941, Box 1, File “Institute for Propaganda Analysis,” IPA Records.
Warren, Liberals and Communism, 108.
Ibid., 158.
propaganda activities in the United States,” as well as “the diffusion within the United States of
subversive and un-American propaganda that...attacks the principle of the form of government as
guaranteed by our Constitution...”139 In practice, “un-American” primarily meant communist,
although the Committee also investigated fascist organizations.140 Dies believed that the CPUSA
wanted to destroy American democracy, stating, “it is enough to take the words of Earl Browder
himself to establish incontrovertibly the guilt of the American Communist Party in operating on
behalf of Stalin to destroy the cherished institutions of our democracy.”141 While this notion of
an aggressive CPUSA was incompatible with the IPA’s statement that communists were not
planning a revolution in the near future, Dies at least shared with the IPA the idea that
communists were undemocratic.142
However, the IPA’s bulletin about the Dies Committee, called “Mr. Dies Goes to Town”
and published on January 15, 1940, claimed that the Committee’s methods were inimical to
citizen participation in a democracy. The Committee members, according to the bulletin, rarely
examined the veracity of witness testimony during hearings: “The accusers sit and talk, piling
charge upon charge, and rarely does anyone bother to ask on what evidence the charges are
based.” The IPA quoted the New York Times, which described “the mixture of plausible
testimony with fantastic, the practice of committee members of putting words in witnesses’
mouths, their almost universal failure to seek development or proof of startling accusations...”143
Whereas in its reports the Committee “rejected at least 90 per cent of the charges made before
Investigation of un-American Propaganda Activities in the United States: Hearings Before a Special Committee
on un-American Activities (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1938), title page.
Gerstle, American Crucible, 158.
Martin Dies, “The Challenge to Democracy: Foreign ‘Isms’ Threaten Us,” September 17, 1939. Online at
Dies’ fear of communism can perhaps be attributed to the fact that he made this statement just one month after
the Nazi-Soviet Pact.
“Mr. Dies Goes to Town,” Propaganda Analysis 4 (January 1940): 1.
it,” during its hearings it allowed testimonies and accusations to be left unconfirmed. As a result,
“the charges appeared in the newspapers, and they must have impressed themselves upon the
minds of many newspaper readers.”144 The IPA implied that the Committee’s unwillingness to
search for the truth behind accusations was undemocratic when it wrote in the educational
portion of the bulletin:
Since the concept of proof is a concept which is involved in all situations where
conclusions are to be reached and decisions made, no thoughtful citizen of a democracy
can avoid the necessity of examining the evidence in support of the great variety of
conclusions he is pressed to accept.145
“Examining the evidence” was essential for citizens in a democracy, who needed to make
informed decisions so they could participate in government. However, the IPA had already noted
that the Dies Committee did not sufficiently analyze evidence during its hearings. Therefore, the
Committee members were not acting as “thoughtful citizens of a democracy.”
Other Reasons for Publication
Again, the IPA was not only influenced by its philosophical opposition to the Dies
Committee’s tactics when it wrote its January 1940 bulletin. As the bulletin itself noted, there
were those who “look upon the committee as a sounding-board for every anti-labor propagandist
in the United States, out to destroy the...New Deal, and, indeed, all liberal and progressive
organizations by smearing them with red paint.”146 According to this argument, Dies was
investigating liberal groups that he disagreed with politically while he claimed to be searching
for communist and fascist organizations. The IPA did not say in the bulletin whether it agreed
with this assertion. Rather, it noted that the argument over whether attacking liberal groups was
Ibid., 5.
Ibid., 12.
Ibid., 2.
Dies’ primary concern was “like the one about the chicken and the egg...And, when it was all
over, the interest would be merely academic...”147 What really mattered was how much of the
Committee testimony was true, and this is what the IPA focused on throughout the bulletin.
However, IPA members were concerned with Dies’ attack against liberals.
Board member Paul Douglas suggested analyzing “the smearing tactics of the Dies Committee”
in a November 30, 1938 letter to Miller.148 Douglas, a future United States Senator, spoke out
against “the dangers of a united front with the Communists” during the Popular Front period.149
However, witnesses at the Dies Committee hearings accused him in August and October 1938 of
belonging to a pro-communist organization and of supporting communists in the Spanish Civil
War.150 Douglas most likely wanted the IPA to discredit the Committee in order to prove that the
accusations against him were incorrect. IPA president Hadley Cantril was also concerned with
addressing Dies’ attacks against liberals. In a December 1939 letter to Miller, Cantril referenced
a recent Gallup poll that revealed that the majority of Americans supported the Dies Committee.
He stated that a new poll would show that most Americans did not in fact approve of the
Committee’s actions:
Ibid., 2.
Douglas to Miller, November 30, 1938, Box 2, File “Advisory Board: Edgar Dale,” IPA Records.
Paul H. Douglas, In the Fullness of Time: The Memoirs of Paul H. Douglas (New York: Harcourt Brace
Jovanovich, Inc., 1971), 81.
Investigation of Un-American Propaganda, Volume 1, 875; Investigation of Un-American Propaganda, Volume
2, 1332. The Spanish Civil War, which lasted from 1936 to 1939, was fought between the elected Spanish
government (the Loyalists) and General Francisco Franco’s military forces. While America’s official policy toward
the war was one of neutrality, many Americans opposed Franco, who they viewed as fascist, and supported the
Loyalists; some Americans even went over to Spain and fought for the Loyalists. However, because the government
in Spain was a Popular Front coalition of liberals, socialists, and communists, some in America viewed support for
the Loyalists as support for communists. This is what the witness who testified against Douglas thought. He cited a
statement written by Kirtley Mather, another IPA board member, which called on Americans to support their fellow
citizens who were fighting “for the preservation of democracy in Spain.” The witness stated, “How the learned
professor expected the American public to swallow the fact that the democracy he speaks of is nothing more nor less
than Communist dictatorship is a horse of another color.” He listed Paul Douglas as someone else who supported
“Spanish democracy” (Investigation of Un-American Propaganda, Volume 2, 1332).
You will recall that [Gallup’s polling Institute’s] past surveys have asked the single
question, ‘Do you think the Dies Committee should be continued?’ About two thirds of
the population say, ‘Yes.’ This has always seemed to me a somewhat distorted
question, for I suspect that many people approve in general of the investigation...They
[also] think that the Dies Committee is definitely prejudiced and doing harm to real
American progressive groups. If this is the situation, the current Institute poll will bring it
out, and I think it would be an important fact to include in your release [on the Dies
While this new poll was not included in the bulletin, Cantril believed that it was important for the
IPA’s readers to know that “many people” thought the Dies Committee was harming
“progressive groups” in America. Whether or not Cantril agreed that Dies was harming liberal
organizations, he was aware of this concern and thought it significant enough to make public.
Finally, in his February 1939 letter to Miller concerning the CPUSA bulletin, Leonard Doob
Let me register to you, as I did to Mr. Lavine, my complete objection to publishing this
analysis of Communism right now...I feel that we will be playing into the hands of the
Dies committee and others who at this moment like to identify anything progressive or
liberal with Communism...152
Miller, therefore, had received multiple letters expressing concern with the Dies Committee’s
attacks against liberals by the time the bulletin about Dies was published.
The IPA may have also been trying to suppress Nazism when it called Dies
undemocratic. In his November 1940 review of Dies’ book The Trojan Horse in America, James
Wechsler argued that Dies did not investigate Nazi organizations as much as communist ones
because of his fascist sympathies, concluding, “The pattern of [the Dies committee’s] activity is
not the product of blundering and ineptness; it is part of a pre-fascist build-up for a crusade
against liberal institutions.”153 According to Wechsler, the book “is essentially a belated anti151
Cantril to Miller, December 7, 1939, Box 2, File “Hadley Cantril,” IPA Records.
Doob to Miller, February 27, 1939. IPA Records.
James Wechsler, “Trojan Horse Doctor,” Nation, November 23, 1940, 507.
New Deal campaign pamphlet, shielding the right wing while directing an indiscriminate
bombardment against the left, and adding nothing but confusion to the difficult and complex task
of democratic self-defense.”154 Wechsler’s associates at the IPA may have also believed that
Dies was attacking liberals and communists while refusing to put as much effort into
investigating fascist groups, a particularly scary notion considering Dies was claiming to defend
democracy. By attacking Dies in its bulletin, therefore, the IPA may have been trying to discredit
a politician who it believed was supporting Nazism in America.
Epilogue: IPA Accused of Communism
Although the IPA condemned indiscriminate accusations in its bulletin on the Dies
committee, it fell victim to the “red scare” that began after the signing of the Nazi-Soviet nonaggression pact in August 1939.155 The IPA’s bulletin about the Dies Committee inspired J. B.
Matthews, the Committee’s chief researcher, to accuse the IPA of communist leanings, although
nothing ever came of Matthews’ investigation.156 Individual IPA members were also charged
with being communists during this period. On January 18, 1941, Alfred Bingham, the editor of
Common Sense magazine, wrote to Clyde Miller that the IPA’s new editorial director, Clyde
Beals, “is necessarily under suspicion of Communist sympathies because of his long connection
with the Guild Reporter.”157 A week later, he reiterated his sentiments in another letter, noting
that he had “no confidence in any of the analyses of the Institute with Mr. Beals in the position of
Ibid., 507.
See Larry Ceplair, Anti-Communism in Twentieth-Century America: A Critical History (Santa Barbara: Praeger,
2011), 53-64, for a description of the “red scare” that lasted from the non-aggression pact in 1939 to the German
invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941.
See Sproule, Propaganda and Democracy, 149-50 for a description of this incident. See also “Dies Scrutinizes
Propaganda Study: Inquiry Into the Institute for Analysis Follows Alleged Left-Wing Expressions,” The New York
Times, February 23, 1941, 1.
Bingham to Miller, January 11, 1941, Box 1, Folder “Clyde R. Miller,” IPA Records.
editor.”158 One possible explanation for Bingham’s attitude toward Beals is their conflicting
views toward the Popular Front.159 Bingham had argued against the Front due to the CPUSA’s
undemocratic beliefs, while Beals, as already noted, had edited a Popular Front publication. It is
possible, therefore, that Bingham’s animosity toward Beals was caused by their past
disagreements on the Popular Front question.160 Whatever the reason for Bingham’s accusation,
the IPA investigated Beals’ editorial past and concluded that he was not a communist.161
Bingham to Miller, January 18, 1941, Box 1, Folder “Clyde R. Miller,” IPA Records.
Sproule suggested that Bingham’s attack against Beals was inspired by Bingham’s recent decision to promote
intervention in the brewing European conflict, a philosophy that did not coincide with the IPA’s bulletins about
foreign affairs (Sproule, Propaganda and Democracy, 164). However, given the nature of Beals’ accusation, it
seems more likely that it was inspired by disagreements related to communism.
Sproule also inadvertently provided another possible explanation, noting that Bingham’s membership in the
American Civil Liberties Union, an organization often accused of being a communist front, made his accusations
against Beals hard to understand. In fact, given the anti-communist atmosphere in America after the Nazi-Soviet
non-aggression pact, it makes sense that Beals would have wanted to separate himself from the Communist Party as
much as possible, especially if he had been accused of being a Communist in the past. See Sproule, Propaganda and
Democracy, 164.
Sproule, Propaganda and Democracy, 166.
Questioning England’s Devotion to Democracy
In its bulletins about America’s foreign affairs, the IPA labeled both England’s foreign
policy and Latin American countries’ political structures as undemocratic. However, while the
IPA rejected an alliance with England due to its undemocratic intentions, it advocated finding
common ground with Latin American nations despite their undemocratic political systems. This
philosophy characterized an isolationist policy that supported anti-Nazism in the Western
Hemisphere but not war against Nazi Germany in Europe. The IPA was willing to work with
dictators in Latin America in order to keep Nazism out of the Western Hemisphere, just as it was
willing (assuming it was a Popular Front organization) to accept an alliance with undemocratic
communists in order to prevent fascism’s rise in America.
The IPA’s attitude toward foreign affairs was a common one amongst American
isolationists. In response to Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia in 1936 and Germany’s 1938 and 1939
offensives in Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland, liberal isolationists, despite their dislike for
Nazi Germany, advocated preserving U.S. independence in European affairs by not allying with
either England or Germany.162 That the IPA promoted an isolationist European policy is
demonstrated by the fact that before war in Europe was officially declared, the IPA was skeptical
towards Britain’s argument that because the United States and England had similar political and
cultural traits, such as democratic governments, they also had shared interests in foreign affairs.
In its June 1939 bulletin “Britain Woos America,” the IPA pointed out Britain’s emphasis on the
democratic connection between the U.S. and the U.K. The British King’s speeches during his
1939 tour in Canada and the United States, for instance, “have invariably touched upon
Manfred Jonas, Isolationism in America 1935-1941 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1966), 6.
democracy, and upon the link between the democracies of North America and British
democracy.” The British pavilion at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York also emphasized the
connection between American and British ideology: “Center of the exhibit is the Magna Charta,
Britain’s famous charter of liberties, from which America’s liberties are in part derived. Nearby
is George Washington’s family tree, emphasizing that the ‘Father of Our Country’ was of British
stock.” The IPA questioned whether these British overtures, which were based on “symbolism”
and appeals to “emotion,” implied a connection that was relevant to current affairs, stating, “the
interests of the United States may actually be identical with Britain’s. Or they may not. But the
fact that George Washington’s family came here from England...doesn’t prove it, one way or the
other.”163 The IPA saw a distinction between America’s “interests” and its “cultural” and
“political” ties to the United Kingdom.164
The bulletin’s educational portion did not only question the connection between
American and British interests, but argued against such a connection and implicitly advocated an
isolationist policy. This section listed suggested readings, but only described one book’s contents
in depth. The bulletin stated, “For one side of the questions [sic], ‘Does an identity of interest
and ideals between Britain and the United States actually exist?’ individuals and groups will
want to read Mr. [Quincy] Howe’s treatise on Britain’s stake in America.”165 The IPA quoted
Howe’s 1937 book England Expects Every American To Do His Duty as saying, “It would be
difficult to name any two countries that have fewer common interests or more points of
difference than Great Britain and the United States.”166 The bulletin did not reference any books
“Britain Woos America,” Propaganda Analysis 2 (June 1939), 77, 78.
Ibid., 78.
Ibid., 79.
Ibid., 80.
that argued for a connection between these two countries: the other books it included were
accounts of British propaganda techniques during World War I. As a result, the only arguments
for the connection between British and American interests that the bulletin provided were the
ones, such as showing George Washington’s British lineage, that the IPA dismissed as
unsubstantial appeals to emotion.
Although the IPA did not explicitly advocate an isolationist position in its bulletin, an
examination of Howe’s book suggests that the IPA wanted its readers to take an isolationist
stance. One part of Howe’s argument was that America and England diverged on the issue of
protecting democracy. Howe argued that if America joined England in its attempt to protect the
world from fascism, America would not be fighting to preserve democracy. Howe did not
question England’s democratic nature.167 Rather, he argued that while England claimed to
support democracy over fascism, it was in fact more concerned with preserving its dominance on
the world stage than it was with preserving any one political ideology. According to Howe, while
England’s empire dominated world politics in the 19th century, its demise “dominates world
history during the twentieth.”168 England was threatened by “nationalism and revolution” in its
colonies, in Germany, and in the Soviet Union. In order to fight off these threats and return to the
powerful status that it had held in the 19th century, England had to “maintain the status quo in a
world of increasingly rapid change.”169
In Europe, England had to contend with both the “social revolution” epitomized by the
Soviet Union and the “nationalism” that inspired the “Fascist International” of Italy and
Others during this period did, however. One common argument was that England’s empire made it an
undemocratic nation. See Bennett, “The Celluloid War,” 67.
Quincy Howe, England Expects Every American To Do His Duty (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1937), 107.
Ibid., 108.
Germany.170 Both communist and fascist nations, the British government believed, threatened its
empire. Sometimes England had to choose between the lesser of two evils, as was the case in
1933 when British Prime Minister Lloyd George supported Hitler because he saw the Nazi
regime as a bulwark against communism: “A Communist Germany,” Lloyd George had said,
“would be infinitely more formidable than a Communist Russia.”171 In this case, England had
been willing to sacrifice democracy in Germany in order to preserve its own sense of security; it
only turned against Hitler when he became too aggressive in support of General Franco during
the Spanish Civil War.172
England, then, was more concerned with staying in power than it was with preserving any
one ideology. Howe argued that if, as England now hoped, the Nazi government collapsed in
Germany, a communist regime would have a good chance of replacing it due to the German
people’s unhappiness with its country’s economic situation; if this happened, then England
would most likely declare communist Germany its new enemy.173 Therefore:
The least...that the Anglo-American alliance offers is a crusade against revolution; at
most it may include an additional, preliminary crusade against Fascism before the Redhunt begins. All of which has exactly nothing at all to do with the present outcry against
dictatorship and the present enthusiasm for democracy.174
The British government was not concerned with democracy: all England wanted was to preserve
its own empire by defeating its strong enemies. If America supported England, it would be
helping to create an Anglo-American empire that did not advocate democracy or civilization, but
Ibid., 192.
Ibid., 132-33.
Ibid., 139, 198
Ibid., 196.
Ibid., 198.
rather existed, like the Roman Empire during its last days, “through a combination of inertia,
experience, and armed might.” Howe asked:
...if it can be shown that the defense of the British Empire is not synonymous with the
defense of civilization or the defense of democracy, how can its continuance be justified
except on the same grounds of expediency that justified the continuance of Roman rule,
long after Rome’s contribution to civilization and human progress had ended?175
By allying itself with England, America would be halting democratic progress by propping up an
empire that did not promote democratic principles. The short-term result of defeating Hitler did
not make up for the long-term result of preserving the British Empire beyond its appropriate
lifespan, an act that would prevent democracy and civilization from flourishing.
Howe believed that only a strict isolationist policy with regard to Europe could preserve
civilization and democracy in America. His ideal isolationist policy had three components:
First, it must keep the United States out of war abroad and defend the American people
against foreign attack. Second, it must make the United States economically independent
during a period of foreign war. Third, it must take measures to prevent what happened in
Germany from happening here.176
This passage explains why someone would not support England in its fight against Germany
despite his or her intense dislike for Nazism. For Howe, and for the IPA, it was more important
to fight fascism at home than it was to fight fascism abroad. Joining England would mean
sustaining an empire that did not support democracy, and this was therefore not the appropriate
course to take. Instead, America should focus on fighting, as the IPA was already doing, Nazism
in the United States.
The “Britain Woos America” bulletin’s bias toward Howe’s isolationist ideology can be
traced to Harold Lavine, who was still editorial director when the bulletin was published. In a
letter to board member Robert Speer, Lavine wrote that he did not want to join the interventionist
Ibid., 199.
Ibid., 201.
Council for Democracy because, although the IPA did “propagandize for democracy,” some
organizations associated with the Council:
propagandize for other things. For example, there is one group...which carries on
propaganda for the Allies. Now it may well be that propaganda for democracy is
synonymous with propaganda for the Allies, but such admitted democrats as John
Chamberlain, Quincy Howe, John T. Flynn, etc. don’t think so (and neither, for that
matter, do I).177
That Lavine agreed with Quincy Howe’s assessment of England’s foreign policy explains why
the IPA bulletin that he either wrote or edited promoted Howe’s interpretation.
A Unified Western Hemisphere
Isolationists did not reject all foreign connections: many, worried about Nazism
spreading across the ocean, supported the Roosevelt administration’s efforts to form bonds with
Latin American nations.178 When Franklin Roosevelt was sworn in as President in 1933 he called
for a “good neighbor” policy in foreign affairs.179 In practice, this policy required that the United
States not involve itself either militarily or politically in Latin American countries.180
Meanwhile, America would increase trade with these nations.181 By the late 1930s and early
Lavine to Speer, June 11, 1940, IPA Records. See Sproule, Propaganda and Democracy, 175 for a discussion of
this letter.
Uwe Lübken, “‘Americans All’: The United States, the Nazi Menace, and the Construction of a Pan-American
Identity,” in Amerikastudien/American Studies 48 (2003), 392. See also Jonas, Isolationism in America, 5. Jonas
discussed how American isolationists were not true isolationists unwilling to interact with any foreign nations.
Rather, they “advocated a form of unilateralism, a policy of independence in foreign relations which would leave the
United States free at all times to act according to the dictates of national self-interest.” While Jonas did not discuss
Roosevelt’s Latin America policy, isolationists’ support for this doctrine shows that they considered preventing the
rise of Nazism in Latin America to be of “national self-interest.”
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, “FDR’s First Inaugural Address,”, accessed March 20, 2014.
Bryce Wood, The Making of the Good Neighbor Policy (New York: Columbia University Press, 1970), 160.
Abraham Berglund, “The Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act of 1934,” in The American Economic Review 25
(1935), 411.
1940s, America’s desire to unite with Latin America was based largely on anti-fascism.182
Americans were scared that Germany would take over their southern neighbors and then invade
the United States; they based this fear upon German economic interests in Latin America and the
large number of Germans living in Latin American countries.183
The Roosevelt administration established the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American
Affairs in 1940 to promote cultural and economic unity between Latin America and the United
States.184 Additionally, the government sponsored pro-U.S. broadcasts to Latin and South
America. In order to promote its good neighbor policy at home, the government repeatedly told a
skeptical American public that Latin American countries were democratic “republics,” and that
they were therefore ideologically linked with the United States.185 In fact, administration officials
realized that many of the regimes in South and Latin America were dictatorships, and many
Americans also understood that this was the case.186 Nonetheless, a unified Western Hemisphere
was popular in America: in February 1941, a Gallup poll showed that 86 percent of respondents
supported a military response to a European invasion of any Central or South American
country.187 A threat to Latin America, North Americans felt, was a threat to the United States.188
Fredrick B. Pike, FDR’s Good Neighbor Policy: Sixty Years of Generally Gentle Chaos (Austin: University of
Texas Press, 1995), 231.
Lübken, “Americans All,” 392-93.
Nicholas J. Cull, The Cold War and the United States Information Agency: American Propaganda and Public
Diplomacy, 1945-1989 (Cambridge University Press, 2008), 12-13.
Lübken, “Americans All,” 397-98, 400.
Ibid., 402; Wood, The Making of the Good Neighbor Policy, 160.
Lübken, “Americans All,” 392.
The attitude that the United States and its southern neighbors were united in a Western Hemisphere can be traced
to the Monroe Doctrine of 1823. This statement of U.S. foreign policy asserted that an attack against or an attempt to
colonize any of the independent nations of Central and South America would be seen as an attack against the United
States. Similarly, in the 1930s the Roosevelt administration, and many Americans, viewed Nazi infiltration of Latin
American countries as a direct threat to the U.S.
The IPA supported the Roosevelt administration’s attempts to create unity between
undemocratic Latin American nations and the United States in order to fight Nazism. In its
December 15, 1940 bulletin “Propaganda and Latin America,” the IPA described American and
Nazi propaganda efforts in Latin America. The bulletin recognized that many Latin American
countries were not democracies:
None of the Latin American nations is totalitarian in the German sense of the word: on
the other hand, few of them are democratic as most Americans understand democracy.
The majority are old-fashioned dictatorships; the overwhelming majority of whose people
live in poverty and have no voice in government. The ruling classes do not encourage the
spread of democratic ideas: they are not without sympathy for Hitler and Mussolini.189
In a footnote to this quote the IPA cited The All-American Front. In this book, Duncan Aikman
explained the distinction between a “totalitarian” government and an “old-fashioned
dictatorship.” He argued that dictatorships were inherent in Latin American culture: “Scolding
the ‘sister republics’ for putting up with a good deal like scolding a man with
malaria germs in his blood for having chills and fever.”190 Certain dictatorial characteristics,
including “the habits of being bullied and of looking on any statesman who fails to rule with an
iron hand as a weakling,” were built into Latin Americans’ characters and could not be stymied
by “democratic processes.”191
The loosely structured Latin American dictatorships were different from the “rigid”
totalitarian, or fascist, regimes in Germany and Italy:
Life in Latin America does not move at totalitarian tempos...It is difficult to think of
inflicting the ‘goose step’ psychology on Andean mountain villages...To think of ruling
such people through a rigid ideology is not even intelligent.192
“Propaganda and Latin America,” 6.
Duncan Aikman, The All-American Front (New York: Doubleday, Doran & Company, 1940), 174.
Ibid., 173.
Ibid., 300.
This argument was predicated upon the belief that Europeans and Latin Americans were
fundamentally different: people moved slower in Latin America and their lives were less
structured. Latin American dictators did not “roar aloud about their racial superiority” and they
left their subjects “comparatively free in their private lives and amusements,” to such a degree
that they “rarely succeed in forcing them to obey the simplest and most rational traffic
regulations...”193 Latin American dictatorships, therefore, were less worrisome than totalitarian
ones even though they were not democratic.194
According to the IPA, traditional Latin American dictatorships should unite with America
in order to defeat “totalitarian” propaganda. Democratic and totalitarian propagandas were at
odds in Latin America:
Totalitarian propaganda is fundamentally different from democratic propaganda. It does
not seek primarily to convince. The Fascist propagandist is more concerned with dividing
the opposition, for once the enemy is fighting himself, the highly-organized Fascist
minority can easily take advantage of the resulting chaos to seize control.195
The IPA associated the “convincing,” “democratic” propaganda with the U.S. and the “divisive,”
“totalitarian” propaganda with Germany.196 This dichotomy did not follow the IPA’s typical
distinction between democratic nations that promoted free speech and totalitarian ones that did
Ibid., 301.
For a brief description of this ideology in the context of President Roosevelt’s foreign policy, see David F.
Schmitz, Thank God They’re On Our Side: The United States and Right-Wing Dictatorships, 1921-1965 (Chapel
Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1999), 72. Schmitz focused on Roosevelt’s fear of communists coming
to power in Latin America. Schmitz also described how, after the start of the Cold War, America again distinguished
between “traditional authoritarian dictatorships and communist or fascist regimes” (126-27). However, during the
Cold War the totalitarian dictatorships were primarily communist rather than fascist. Ronald Reagan’s ambassador
to the United Nations, Jeane Kirkpatrick, articulated the distinction between traditional dictatorships and communist
totalitarian ones when she wrote, “Only intellectual fashion and the tyranny of Right/Left thinking prevent
intelligent men of good will from perceiving the facts that traditional authoritarian governments are less repressive
than revolutionary [communist] autocracies, that they are more susceptible to liberalization, and that they are more
compatible with U.S. interests” (Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, “Dictatorships & Double Standards,” Commentary, November
1, 1979, online at 40 years earlier, the IPA had argued that Latin American
dictatorships were not as bad as fascist totalitarian regimes.
“Propaganda and Latin America,” 3.
Ibid., 9.
not. Instead, it characterized democracy as a unifying force rather than a “dividing” one in order
to associate FDR’s good neighbor policy with the IPA’s ideal term, democracy.
The IPA implicitly supported attempts to create a feeling of commonality between the
United States and Latin America when it wrote:
Any society has within it conflicts; nor can all conflicts be eliminated. Effective
propagandists for hemisphere unity must, first, make the similarities more important than
the differences, the common interests more important than the conflict of interests. Once
this is done, the job of the propagandist must be to make people aware of the importance
of their common interests and ties.197
The IPA did not include any similar suggestions for Axis propagandists, implying that it
supported America’s propaganda efforts “for hemisphere unity.” Additionally, the IPA’s list of
suggested readings included books that promoted finding common ground with Latin American
nations in the face of fascist advances there. For instance, Aikman, whose book was included in
the list, wrote:
A concert of friendly nations can be built up in the Western Hemisphere only by
reconciling the incompatibilities of races differentiated in values, in customs, in their
ways of looking at life by almost every factor of economic circumstance and of historic
and racial inheritance.198
Given the fundamental “racial” differences between Latin American nations and the United
States, including their different attitudes toward dictatorship and democracy, America needed to
search for common ground. Only by creating this sense of unity would America be able “to hold
to our side the twenty republics continuously exposed to the economic seductions and military
scare threats of Fascism...”199
Ibid., 11.
Aikman, The All-American Front, 337.
Ibid., 318. See also Clark Foreman and Joan Raushenbush, Total Defense (New York: Doubleday, Doran and
Company, Inc., 1940). This book, which the IPA also included in its suggested readings section, argued, “Unless we
act quickly and with courage, Germany will be able to capture the markets of Latin America. It will be able to attract
many of the dynamic elements there. Once economic domination is achieved, political domination will follow. The
Nazi aims, methods, and success constitute a revolutionary challenge to American democracy.” In order to defeat
Just as importantly, the IPA did not include in its suggested reading list a book by
Carleton Beals, The Coming Struggle for Latin America, which argued against the American
effort to support undemocratic regimes in the fight against fascism. Beals believed that America
should stop attempting to create bonds with dictatorships. America, according to Beals, needed
to “recall our naval and army missions home from Brazil and Perú and Guatemala” because
“[t]hey are helping unpopular governments, which means they stand against the people.”200
Additionally, America should stop sending pro-democratic radio broadcasts to Latin America
because doing so imposed a foreign ideology on other nations just as communist and Nazi
propaganda did:
Our broadcasts...stress democracy. But for Latin America, democracy is still a
revolutionary concept...To advocate it is propaganda. It is propaganda far more
revolutionary there, far more an alien doctrine than either totalitarianism or
According to Beals, the fact that Latin American countries were undemocratic meant that the
United States had an obligation to leave those countries alone. The IPA had referenced this book
in an earlier bulletin that briefly discussed the Spanish Civil War’s impact on Latin America, so
IPA members had read the book. Its exclusion from the “Propaganda in Latin America” bulletin
suggests that the IPA did not want its readers to consider Beals’ point of view.
The IPA’s emphasis on hemisphere unity tracked the Roosevelt administration’s good
neighbor policy; this correlation between the IPA’s attitude toward Latin America and the
the Nazis, “We need a total defense for the whole Hemisphere which means the economic as well as the military
defense both of the United States and of all the other American countries” (no page numbers). While this passage
did not explicitly argue for building cultural connections between the U.S. and Latin America, it did advocate a
unified Western Hemisphere in order to prevent the Nazis from hurting American democracy.
Carleton Beals, The Coming Struggle for Latin America (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1938), 311.
Ibid., 294.
Roosevelt administration’s philosophy can be attributed to Hadley Cantril.202 Cantril suggested
writing “a first class release on Nazi propaganda” in Brazil in November 1937.203 Two years
later, when the IPA published the bulletin about Axis and Allied propaganda in Latin America,
Cantril was working for Nelson Rockefeller’s Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American
Affairs. In September 1940, three months before the “Propaganda and Latin America” bulletin
was released, Rockefeller asked Cantril “to set up mechanisms which would gauge public
opinion in Latin America. Roosevelt was eager to know what effect, if any, Nazi propaganda was
having on the opinion of people in that part of the world.”204 Cantril, therefore, was discussing
propaganda in Latin America with government officials around the time the IPA was preparing a
bulletin that provided advice on how to create “propaganda for hemisphere unity.” Cantril’s
work with the government seems to have bled into the IPA’s ideology.
Epilogue: The IPA Bids Farewell
While the IPA’s bulletins aligned with isolationist ideologies, it presented itself as a
neutral organization with regard to world affairs. Clyde Miller refused to accept money from
both interventionist and isolationist groups, showing that he did not want the IPA to be seen as
an isolationist organization. He wrote to Clyde Beals:
I am sure that the Institute could have obtained money from interventionist and also
from isolationist sources, but there would have been strings tied to such money. The
Institute could neither solicit nor accept such money and still retain its integrity.205
Cantril was on the IPA’s board until May 1941, when he resigned because “I do not like to feel any responsibility
when I cannot physically find time to assume the responsibility my connection should require” (Cantril to Lee, May
30, 1941, Box 2, File “Hadley Cantril,” IPA Records.). Sproule noted that Cantril had been helping to compile
polling information for the Roosevelt administration since 1940 (Sproule, Propaganda and Democracy, 168). It is
possible, therefore, that Cantril did not want to associate with the isolationist IPA while he was working for an
interventionist White House.
Cantril to Miller, November 13, 1937, Box 2, Folder “Hadley Cantril,” IPA Records.
Hadley Cantril, The Human Dimension: Experiences in Policy Research (New Brunswick, 1967), 28.
Miller to Beals, November 19, 1941, Box 1, Folder “Miller, Clyde R,” IPA Records. See Sproule, Propaganda
and Democracy, 174-77 for a description of the effect that the IPA’s supposed neutrality had on its closing.
According to Miller, the lack of funds resulting from this neutral policy is what caused the IPA
to announce in October 1941 that it would soon be releasing its final bulletin. The last bulletin,
called “We Say Au Revoir,” was published in January 1942. The bulletin did not mention
financial issues, although it maintained that the IPA was a neutral organization. The bulletin
The publication of dispassionate analyses of all kinds of propaganda, ‘good’ and ‘bad,’
is easily misunderstood during a war emergency, and more important, the analyses could
be misused for undesirable purposes by persons opposing the government’s effort. On the
other hand, for the Institute, as an Institute, to propagandize or even to appear to do so
would cast doubt on its integrity as a scientific body.206
While reasserting its role as a “dispassionate,” “scientific” organization, the IPA also
acknowledged that it supported the American government enough to shut down rather than
provide the Axis with ammunition for anti-Ally propaganda. The IPA had made the decision to
close, the bulletin said, after President Roosevelt had announced on October 27, 1941 “that the
United States had entered the ‘shooting stage’ of the War...”207 He had made this statement
during an address concerning the attack on the U.S.S. Kearney by a German submarine.208
According to the bulletin, the IPA wanted to help American democracy, but not through
supporting intervention. After the Kearney attack:
there was pressure from both interventionists and anti-interventionists to make partisan
analyses of the other fellow’s propaganda. Also, good friends and former supporters
became convinced that since we could not be partisan, their own effort to aid democracy
in the crisis should be made elsewhere...209
“We Say Au Revoir,” Propaganda Analysis 4 (January 1942): 1.
Ibid., 1.
Robert Divine, The Reluctant Belligerent: American Entry into World War II (New York: John Wiley & Sons,
Inc., 1965), 151.
“We Say Au Revoir,” 1.
The IPA believed, therefore, that it was not “partisan” because it refused to analyze only one
side’s propaganda.
The IPA argued that democracy, as characterized by freedom of expression and citizen
participation in government, was indisputably the best form of society; it contrasted various
ideologies and countries with democracy in order to both promote its own version of democracy
and to accomplish specific goals; and it did all of this, as its final bulletin showed, while
asserting its impartiality. If one had asked the IPA board and staff members whether they
believed that it was contradictory for the IPA to both promote particular ideas and claim to not
propagandize, they might have replied in various ways. Clyde Miller probably would have said
that there was no contradiction because all of the attitudes that the IPA expressed were designed
to articulate democratic principles, the promotion of which was equivalent to objectively
teaching the truth. Others might have pointed to the IPA’s willingness to analyze propagandas
from both sides of the political spectrum as a sign of its impartiality, thereby ignoring the biased
nature of the bulletins themselves; this is the strategy that the IPA took in its last bulletin.
Perhaps some would have said that the IPA only pretended to be impartial in order to add weight
to its own subtle arguments.
However, all of the members most likely would have agreed that, in the end, the IPA’s
objectivity was not nearly as important as its ability to promote democracy and fight Nazism. All
of the democratic ideals that the IPA promoted were motivated in some way by anti-Nazism. By
pointing out the difference between totalitarianism and democracy, the IPA hoped to advocate
democratic values that directly refuted fascist principles. By critiquing the communist definition
of democracy while not characterizing communism as a threatening force on par with Nazism,
the IPA accentuated the Nazi menace by showing that other undemocratic ideologies were not as
worrisome. The IPA’s willingness to unite with Latin American dictators against fascism made a
similar point. Finally, the IPA attacked the Dies Committee, which some claimed was protecting
fascist organizations. These examples show that while the IPA was motivated and influenced by
many factors when it composed its bulletins, its underlying fear was that Nazism could become
the prevalent ideology in the United States.
An America in which people were scared that Hitler’s philosophies could gain a strong
foothold is probably hard for many readers to visualize. This disconnect is not only the result of
the over 60 years that separate the current world from the one in which Nazis had power in
Germany, but is also the result of what happened during those years. After World War II ended,
America turned its attention away from the defeated Nazis and toward the communist Soviet
Union. During the 1950s, the Popular Front ideology, with its emphasis on anti-Nazism, was
criminalized in the public mind. Communists, former communists, and liberals who had joined
Popular Front organizations to fight Nazism in the 1930s were hauled before the House UnAmerican Activities Committee, headed by Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy. McCarthy and
other conservatives publicly attacked liberals for collaborating with communists in the pre-war
period. For these conservatives, the world was divided into two camps: democratic and
communist.210 They rejected the liberals’ pre-war distinction between democracy and fascism,
focusing only on the fact that the liberals had allied with the ultimate enemy: communists.211
Ceplair, Anti-Communism in Twentieth Century America, 137.
Paul Buhle and Dave Wagner, Radical Hollywood: The Untold Story Behind America’s Favorite Movies (New
York: The New Press, 2002). Buhle and Wagner described the ordeals of liberal Hollywood employees before
McCarthy’s committee. James Wechsler was one ex-communist who faced McCarthy. He described the experience
in his autobiography, which he wrote in 1953 in response to allegations that he had never truly left the Party.
Wechsler pointed to the anti-communists’ obsession with one aspect of his past, hoping that his “story may
underline the nightmare quality of some of the inquiries to which the country is now being subjected. Once upon a
time what a man did or thought fifteen or eighteen years earlier was not the crucially important thing about
him...That no longer seems to be true; the obsession with the thirties has deepened” (Wechsler, The Age of
Suspicion, 9). This feeling was probably shared by many ex-communists and supporters of the Popular Front, whose
acceptance of one particular ideology in the 1930s suddenly defined them fifteen years later.
Discussing the Institute for Propaganda Analysis’ fervent anti-fascism can be seen,
therefore, as recovering a part of America’s past that has been obscured in the public conscience.
The nuances of the Popular Front period are not ignored in the scholarly literature, but it is
nevertheless important to emphasize that anti-Nazism was a real force in America between the
World Wars. Understanding the ways in which anti-Nazism affected the IPA’s attitudes toward
democracy in various contexts helps debunk the idea that liberals in the 1930s were defined
solely by their sympathy toward communists. Such an interpretation turns 1930s liberalism into a
one-dimensional philosophy, which is exactly, as the IPA’s struggle to define liberal democratic
values demonstrated, what it was not.
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Books and Journal Articles
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Propaganda Analysis Bulletins
“American Common Sense,” Propaganda Analysis 4 (1941).
“Announcement,” Propaganda Analysis 1 (October 1937): 1-4
“Britain Woos America.” Propaganda Analysis 2 (June 1939): 73-80.
“Communist Propaganda, U.S.A.: 1939 Model.” Propaganda Analysis 2 (March 1, 1939): 35-46.
“Let’s Talk About Ourselves,” Propaganda Analysis 2 (1939): 105-9.
“Mr. Dies Goes to Town.” Propaganda Analysis 4 (January 1940).
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“Preface.” Propaganda Analysis 1 (1938): iii-v.
“Propaganda and Latin America.” Propaganda Analysis 4 (December 1940).
“Propaganda Over the Schools,” Propaganda Analysis 4 (February 1941).
“Propaganda Techniques of German Fascism.” Propaganda Analysis 1 (May 1938): 37-53.
“The Attack on Democracy.” Propaganda Analysis 2 (January 1939): 13-28.
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Records. Manuscripts and Archives Division. The New York Public Library. Astor,
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Bingham, Alfred. Letter to Clyde Miller. January 18, 1941. IPA Records.
Cantril, Hadley. Letter to Clyde Miller. December 7, 1939. IPA Records.
Cantril, Hadley. Letter to Clyde Miller. February 2, 1939. IPA Records.
Cantril, Hadley. Letter to Clyde Miller. February 11, 1938. IPA Records.
Cantril, Hadley. Letter to Alfred Lee. May 30, 1941. IPA Records.
Cantril, Hadley. Letter to Clyde Miller. November 13, 1937. IPA Records.
Dale, Edgar. Letter to Clyde Beals. August 14, 1941. IPA Records.
Dale, Edgar. Letter to Clyde Miller. August 29, 1940. IPA Records.
Dale, Edgar. Letter to Clyde Miller. March 8, 1939. IPA Records.
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Doob, Leonard. Letter to Clyde Miller. October 19, 1940. IPA Records.
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Douglas, Paul. Letter to Clyde Miller. November 30, 1938. IPA Records.
Kefauver, Grayson. Letter to Clyde Miller. February 26, 1941. IPA Records.
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Miller, Clyde. Letter to Bernard DeVoto. May 27, 1938. IPA Records.
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Other Archival Documents
“Statements of Advertisements in Magazines for Period from October 1, 1939 through August
31, 1940.” IPA Records.
Edwards, Violet. “Brief Statement of Objectives and Methods of the Institute for Propaganda
Analysis.” General Education Board records, RAC.
Lynd, Robert. Untitled memorandum, c. 1940. Rockefeller Foundation records, RAC.
Marshall, John. “Clyde Miller’s Letter of May 22nd,” May 27, 1941. General Education Board
records, RAC.
Newspaper and Magazine Articles
“12,000 Communists Rally at Garden.” The New York Times. February 28, 1939.
“Clouds of Propaganda,” Springfield Republican, September 3, 1937. IPA Records.
“Defending American Democracy.” IPA Records.
“Dies Scrutinizes Propaganda Study: Inquiry Into the Institute for Analysis Follows Alleged
Left-Wing Expressions.” The New York Times. February 23, 1941.
“Editorial Comment.” The Phi Delta Kappan 23 (1940): 89-90.
“Education: For the Common Defense.” Time Magazine. November 18, 1940. Accessed
February 20, 2014.,9171,777536,00.html.
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“Further Dies Committee Inquiry Is Favored By Most Voters in U.S., Gallup Survey Finds.” The
New York Times. November 1, 1939.
“Good Neighbor Policy: Hull Stresses Importance of Our Latin-American Relations.” New York
Times. December 15, 1940.
“House Votes $75,000 for Dies’s Committee; Ickes Asks Him to Resign and He Retorts.” The
New York Times. January 26, 1940.
“How to Beat Hitler.” Common Sense. July 1941.
“Ickes Hits Takers of Hitler Medals.” New York Times. December 19, 1938.
“Propaganda and the War.” Common Sense. February 1942.
“Propaganda Over the Schools.” Propaganda Analysis 4 (February 1941).
“Propaganda Techniques of German Fascism.” Propaganda Analysis 1 (May 1938): 37-53.
“Protest in Westchester.” New York Times. November 16, 1938.
“The Dies Committee.” The New York Times. December 16, 1939.
“The ‘Red Menace’ Again.” Common Sense. March 1938.
“What is Propaganda?” The Washington Post. October 4, 1937.
Anderson, Paul Y. “Investigate Mr. Dies!” Nation. October 31, 1938.
Bernays, Edward L. “Does Propaganda Menace Democracy? A Debate. Part I: Melting Pot of
Ideas.” The Forum. n.d. Box 2. File “Clyde R. Miller: Articles.” IPA Records.
Broun, Heywood. “One Thing at a Time.” The New Republic. April 19, 1939.
DeVoto, Bernard. “The Fallacy of Excess Interpretation.” Harper’s. June 1938.
Dewey, John. “Democracy is Radical.” Common Sense. January 1937.
Miller, Clyde R. “Propaganda and Press Freedom.” The English Journal (December 1939).
Miller, Clyde R. “What is Propaganda: Definition in Editorial Too Broad, Says Writer.” The
Washington Post. October 10, 1937.
Wechsler, James. “Stalin and Union Square.” The Nation. September 30, 1939.
Wechsler, James. “Trojan Horse Doctor.” Nation. November 23, 1940.
Dies, Martin. “The Challenge to Democracy: Foreign ‘Isms’ Threaten Us,” September 17, 1939.
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to Congress on the State of the Union: 01/06/1941,” Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential
Library and Museum, accessed 20 February 2014,
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March 20, 2014.
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