Tag Archives: World War I

Subversive Historian – 08/27/09

The Kellogg-Briand Pact

Back in the day on August 27th, 1928, the Kellogg-Briand Pact was signed in the city of Paris by fifteen nations pledging to halt wars of aggression. In the wake of the ravages of the First World War, the United States and France had originally approached the notion of the pact through a bilateral agreement. U.S. Secretary of State Frank Kellogg and French Foreign Minister Aristide Briand discussed formally abolishing any possibility of war solely between the two nations, when Kellogg thought it best to extend the invitation to all nations. Among the initial signatories to the pact that called for the “renunciation of war as an instrument of national policy” were France, the U.S., the U.K., Germany, and Japan. Forty-seven nations would follow in formal adherence. Of course, wars of aggression would also soon follow, as was the case, for instance, when Italy invaded Ethiopia.

By not clearly delineating the boundaries of self-defense and having no enforcement behind it, the Kellogg-Briand Pact was practically useless in achieving its aim as evidenced most tragically by the outbreak of World War II.

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Subversive Historian – 07/28/09

The Eviction of the “Bonus Marchers”

Back in the day on July 28th, 1932, hard up World War I veterans encamped in Washington D.C. were forcibly evicted. Having taken place during the depths of the Great Depression, the marchers, dubbing themselves the “Bonus Expeditionary Forces,” and numbering in the tens of thousands, pressured Congress to accelerate payments promised to them for their services. Tensions escalated, however, when a newly introduced bill that proposed to pay out the cash bonuses much sooner than the originally scheduled year of 1945 was blocked in the Senate. A month later, eviction orders were given to clear out the encampment. In the initial attempts, bonus marchers resisted and when word reached President Hoover’s desk the army was called in.

The soldiers of the time, commanded by Douglas MacArthur, descended upon the veterans of yesteryear as the encampment ended up engulfed in flames. So too did the hopes of the destitute marchers who were abandoned in their time of need by a government they once put their lives on the line for.

Subversive Historian – 07/27/09

Albert “Ginger” Goodwin

Back in the day on July 27th, 1918, labor leader Albert “Ginger” Goodwin was shot to death in Canada. Originally from Yorkshire, Goodwin immigrated to Canada and worked as a coal miner. When his travels took him to Cumberland on Vancouver Island, the future martyr cut his teeth as an organizer and effective orator against coal companies joining the Socialist Party of Canada and eventually running for office under its banner. After participating in the Cumberland Strike, Goodwin moved on to Trail where he led another strike effort for an eight hour workday in a smelter plant there. It was at this time that the fiercely anti-war labor organizer was conscripted for World War I only to be deemed temporarily unfit. However, after the picket lines assembled, he was re-categorized but fled to the hills of Vancouver Island rather than report to the military.

A single bullet took Goodwin’s life when special constable Dan Campbell led police in a search for draft resisters. The labor movement gave one of its leaders a fitting eulogy, however, when the first general strike in British Colombia’s history took place days later.

Subversive Historian – 07/22/09

The Preparedness Day Parade Bombing

Back in the day on July 22nd, 1916, a suitcase bomb exploded during the Preparedness Day Parade in San Francisco killing ten and wounding forty more. With World War I raging in Europe, the city’s Chamber of Commerce organized the event in support of the United States entering the conflict militarily. With sizable public sentiment against such a move, and with labor strife gripping San Francisco, the parade was criticized as an instrument for self-interested war profiteers. The bomb was detonated about a half-hour into the procession as the investigations that followed were immediately focused on the radical left. Two labor organizers, Thomas Mooney and Warren K. Billings, were arrested and tried in connection with the crime. Despite false testimony and perjury, the two men were found guilty with Mooney sentenced to death. After much protest, an investigative commission was set up and Mooney’s sentence was commuted to life in prison.

With overwhelming evidence of their innocence mounting, the persecuted labor leaders were finally released only after two decades of their lives were spent behind bars.

Subversive Historian – 05/07/09

The Sinking of the Lusitania

Back in the day on May 7th 1915, the Lusitania, a British luxury liner, was sunk by a German U-boat off the coast of Ireland. Departing six days earlier from New York to Liverpool, a single torpedo was able to destroy the ship in eighteen minutes. Nearly 1,200 passengers aboard were killed including more than one-hundred U.S. citizens. The British and U.S. governments claimed that human cargo was all that was aboard the Lusitania, but the Germans insisted that munitions were being shipped clandestinely in order to break a World War I naval blockade that they tried to impose. Indeed, despite the firing of a single torpedo, a second explosion on the Lusitania hastened its downfall and lent credence to the notion that secret munitions were among the cargo.

The British declared it an act of piracy and the U.S. utilized their version of events to stir up public opinion in favor of eventually entering the war. Divers later confirmed the presence of munitions in the ship’s wreckage, however, once again going to show that governments engage in “Lies! Lies! Lies! Yeah.”

Subversive Historian – 04/02/09

Jeannette Rankin Takes Her Seat

Back in the day on April 2nd, 1917 Jeannette Rankin was sworn in as the first Congresswoman in the history of the United States. It didn’t take long for this pacifist woman from the state of Montana to make trouble in the halls of Congress. Just four days into her term, she cast one of the few votes against U.S. entry into World War I stating, “I want to stand by my country, but I cannot vote for war.” Her stance was quickly vilified along gender lines by those who saw women as unfit to be politicians and Rankin lost her seat two years later. After a number of years working for peace, Rankin sought and won re-election to the House of Representatives in 1940. Now among a handful of women legislators, Rankin distinguished herself and made history once more. With World War II raging overseas, she cast the sole vote against U.S. entry into hostilities.

Looking back at Rankin’s career, it’s true as they say, “well behaved women seldom make history.”

Subversive Historian – 03/04/09

Victor Berger: The First Socialist Congressman

Back in the day on March 4th, 1910, Victor Berger became the first socialist ever elected to the House of Representatives. Coming from the socialist stronghold Milwaukee, Wisconsin – must have been the something in the cheese – Berger’s first term in office was characterized most notably by his calls to establish a pension system for the elderly. He ultimately lost his seat in 1912 but returned to win in 1918. As a socialist who upheld his party’s opposition to World War I, the House of Representatives refused to seat him, however, as his anti-war views collided with the notorious Espionage Act. On appeal from a twenty year prison sentence, Berger won his seat back the very next year in a special election only to be refused once more.

In time, the socialist congressman would run again after his Espionage Act conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court and win terms during the 1920’s. His campaign for a senate seat included the slogan – “tax the profiteers” – not bad advice in these current times.