John T. Flynn

John T. Flynn

John Flynn was born in Bladensburg, Maryland, on 25th October, 1882. After graduating from Georgetown Law School he became a journalist with the New Haven Register. In 1920 he moved to New York City and was appointed financial editor of the New York Globe.

Flynn became a freelance writer in 1923 and wrote for the New Republic, Harper's Magazine and Collier's Weekly. In 1932 he was a strong supporter of Franklin D. Roosevelt in his attempts to become president.

In February, 1934, Gerald Nye submitted a Senate Resolution calling for an investigation of the munitions industry by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee under Key Pittman of Nevada. Pittman disliked the idea and the resolution was referred to the Military Affairs Committee. It was eventually combined with one introduced earlier by Arthur H. Vandenberg of Michigan, who sought to take the profits out of war.

The Military Affairs Committee accepted the proposal and as well as Nye and Vandenberg, the Munitions Investigating Committee included James P. Pope of Idaho, Homer T. Bone of Washington, Joel B. Clark of Missouri, Walter F. George of Georgia and W. Warren Barbour of New Jersey. Flynn was appointed as an advisor and wrote most of the reports published by the committee.

Public hearings before the Munitions Investigating Committee began on 4th September, 1934. In the reports published by the committee it was claimed that there was a strong link between the American government's decision to enter the First World War and the lobbying of the the munitions industry. The committee was also highly critical of the nation's bankers. In a speech in 1936 Gerald Nye argued that "the record of facts makes it altogether fair to say that these bankers were in the heart and center of a system that made our going to war inevitable".

Flynn played an important role in the reports published by the Munitions Investigating Committee. He also became a leading figure in the mounting attacks on President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He particularly disliked the Social Security Act, National Labor Relations Act and the National Recovery Administration, an organization that Flynn described as "regimenting American life."

Flynn also became concerned about Roosevelt's foreign policy. In 1936 he described Roosevelt as "a born militarist" and argued that he would "do his best to entangle us" in an European war. Flynn also compared Roosevelt with Benito Mussolini and wrote: "We seem to be a long way off from the kind of Fascism which we behold in Italy today, but we are not so far from the kind of Fascism which Mussolini preached in Italy before he assumed power, and we are slowly approaching the conditions which made Fascism there possible."

In September 1940, Flynn helped establish the America First Committee (AFC). The America First National Committee included Flynn, Robert E. Wood and Charles A. Lindbergh. Supporters of the organization included Burton K. Wheeler, Hugh Johnson, Robert LaFollette Jr., Hamilton Fish and Gerald Nye.

The AFC soon became the most powerful isolationist group in the United States. The AFC had four main principles: (1) The United States must build an impregnable defense for America; (2) No foreign power, nor group of powers, can successfully attack a prepared America; (3) American democracy can be preserved only by keeping out of the European War; (4) "Aid short of war" weakens national defense at home and threatens to involve America in war abroad.

Flynn played a major role in the organization's publicity campaigns. This included one advertisement that read: "The Last War Brought: Communism to Russia, Fascism to Italy, Nazism to Germany. What Will Another War Bring To America?"

Supporters of the America First Committee in the Senate attempted to defeat the administration's Lend Lease proposal. Gerald Nye, Burton K. Wheeler, Hugh Johnson, Robert LaFollette Jr., Henrik Shipstead, Homer T. Bone, James B. Clark, William Langer, and Arthur Capper, all voted against the measure but it was passed by 60 votes to 31.

The America First Committee influenced public opinion through publications and speeches and within a year had 450 local chapters and over 800,000 members. The AFC was dissolved four days after the Japanese Air Force attacked Pearl Harbor on 7th December, 1941.

Flynn, like other former members of the AFC, was unpopular during the rest of the war. He lost even more support when he wrote a bitter attack on President Franklin D. Roosevelt in his 1944 pamphlet, The Truth About Pearl Harbor. This was followed by As We Go Marching, a book that accused Roosevelt of leading the nation towards fascism.

After the war Flynn had difficulty getting his work published. This included the article Why the Americans Did Not Take Berlin. In the article Flynn accused Roosevelt of promising Joseph Stalin at the Yalta Conference that the Red Army could take control of Eastern Europe.

In 1948 Flynn published The Roosevelt Myth. In the book Flynn claimed Roosevelt's New Deal had resulted in Communists joining the government. Flynn was now a leading figure in what became known as McCarthyism. His extreme right-wing views were expressed in a series of books claiming that the American Communist Party had penetrated the Democratic Party. This included The Road Ahead: America's Creeping Revolution (1949) and While You Slept (1951).

In his book The Lattimore Story (1953), Flynn attempted to expose "a conspiracy involving over four dozen writers, journalists, educators and high-ranking government officials - almost all Americans - to force the American State Department to betray China and Korea into the hands of the Communists.".

Flynn was a strong supporter of Joseph McCarthy and defended his tactics with the article, What is Senator McCarthy Really Trying to Do? Flynn argued that McCarthy was carrying out the important task of removing communists and socialists from government.

Flynn then made the serious mistake of attacking President Dwight Eisenhower. In an article entitled Phony War on Communism, Flynn complained that although Eisenhower was taking action in stopping the spread of communism in Europe, Asia and Africa, he was uninterested in domestic communist subversion. Flynn's objection to increased military spending isolated him from other Americans on the far right.

In 1955 Flynn began criticizing the United Nations. In one article he argued: We must rid this nation of the United Nations, which provides the communist conspiracy with a headquarters here on our own shores, and which actually makes it impossible for the United States to form its own decisions about its conduct and policies in Europe and Asia."

John Flynn died in 1964.

Primary Sources

(1) Report on Activities and Sales of Munition Companies (April, 1936)

Almost without exception, the American munitions companies investigated have at times resorted to such unusual approaches, questionable favors and commissions, and methods of 'doing the needful' as to constitute, in effect, a form of bribery of foreign governmental officials or of their close friends in order to secure business. These business methods carried within themselves the seeds of disturbance to the peace and stability of those nations in which they take place.

While the evidence before this committee does not show that wars have been started solely because of the activities of munitions makers and their agents, it is also true that wars rarely have one single cause, and the committee finds it to be against the peace of the world for selfishly interested organizations to be left free to goad and frighten nations into military activity.

(2) John T. Flynn, As We Go Marching (1944)

Fascism will come at the hands of perfectly authentic Americans who have been working to commit this country to the rule of the bureaucratic state; interfering in the affairs of the states and cities; taking part in the management of industry and finance and agriculture; assuming the role of great national banker and investor, borrowing billions every year and spending them on all sorts of projects through which such a government can paralyze opposition and command public support; marshalling great armies and navies at crushing costs to support the industry of war and preparation for war which will become our nation’s greatest industry; and adding to all this the most romantic adventures in global planning, regeneration, and domination, all to be done under the authority of a powerfully centralized government in which the executive will hold in effect all the powers, with Congress reduced to the role of a debating society.

(3) John T. Flynn, The Road Ahead (1944)

Most people in this country believe that the American Communist Party and its dupes are the chief internal enemy of our economic system and our form of government. This is a serious mistake. The Communists are a traitorous bloc in our midst, but if every Communist in America were rounded up and liquidated, the greatest menace to our form of social organization would still be among us. This most dangerous enemy is the American counterpart of the British Fabian Socialist, who denies that he is a Socialist and operates behind a mask which he calls National Planning.... Unless they are recognized for what they are, and are stopped, they will destroy this country."

(4) John T. Flynn, The Roosevelt Myth (1944)

First, and most important, was the NRA and its dynamic ringmaster, General Hugh Johnson. As I write, of course, Mussolini is an evil memory. But in 1933 he was a towering figure who was supposed to have discovered something worth study and imitation by all world artificers everywhere. Such eminent persons as Dr. Nicholas Murray Butler and Mr. Sol Bloom, head of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House, assured us he was a great man and had something we might well look into for imitation. What they liked particularly was his corporative system. He organized each trade or industrial group or professional group into a state supervised trade association. He called it a corporative. These corporatives operated under state supervision and could plan production, quality, prices, distribution, labor standards, etc. The NRA provided that in America each industry should be organized into a federally supervised trade association. It was not called a corporative. It was called a Code Authority. But it was essentially the same thing. These code authorities could regulate production, quantities, qualities, prices, distribution methods, etc., under the supervision of the NRA. This was fascism. The anti­trust laws forbade such organizations. Roosevelt had denounced Hoover for not enforcing these laws sufficiently. Now he suspended them and compelled men to combine.

(5) John T. Flynn, The Roosevelt Myth (1944)

Roosevelt was interested in bringing into American labor unions as many voters as possible and in capturing their leadership to be used to build up a powerful labor faction which could control the Democratic party and which he and his allies could control through the vast power of the government and the vast powers of the labor leaders, along with the immense financial resources that so great a labor movement would have. The Communists were interested in getting into key positions as union officers, statisticians, economists, etc., in order to utilize the apparatus of the unions to promote the cause of revolution. I think we have to be fair in saying at this point that neither Roosevelt nor Lewis realized the peril to which they were exposing both the unions and the country. This thing called revolutionary propaganda and activity is something of an art in itself. It has been developed to a high degree in Europe where revolutionary groups have been active for half a century and where Communist revolutionary groups have achieved such success during the past 25 years. It was, at this time of which I write, practically unknown to political and labor leaders in this country and is still unknown to the vast majority of political leaders. The time came when Lewis saw the gravity of the situation and faced it frankly and dealt with it immediately. But as we shall see, Roosevelt, through a combination of events and influences, fell deeper and deeper into the toils of various revolutionary operators, not because he was interested in revolution but because he was interested in votes.

For the time being, however, he capitalized heavily on the activities of the CIO. The CIO put up half a million dollars for Roosevelt's 1936 campaign and provided him with an immense group of active labor workers who played a large part in the sweeping victory he won at the polls. But among them now were a large number of Communists in positions of great power within the new union movement, some of them actually moving close to the center of power. This was the crack in the wall through which they entered. Their power was to grow and prosper.

(6) John T. Flynn, The Roosevelt Myth (1944)

The net result of all these various conferences and agreements was that our government put into Stalin's hands the means of seizing up a great slab of the continent of Europe, then stood aside while he took it and finally acquiesced in his conquests. We gave him the planes, tanks, motor transport, guns, oil and other supplies to the extent of over 11 billion dollars without which he would have been helpless. We withheld out attack on Fortress Europe against the advice of all our military leaders until the prize was almost in Stalin's grasp. Then in a series of conferences with him we yielded it all in return for his promise to come into the United Nations on terms which enabled him to wreck that as an instrument of settling any serious international dispute.

It will not do to say that all we yielded was eastern Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and parts of Rumania; that as to Yugoslavia, Rumania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, Stalin took these over by violating the agreement he made with us to hold free elections. Did Roosevelt really think Stalin would hold free elections when he agreed to let the Russian dictator conduct the elections ­ Stalin who had been exhibiting for years his ideas of "free elections" in Russia?

At the end of all this, Russia held in her hands a vast belt of land running from the Baltic sea in the north to the Black Sea in the south, comprising eleven nations with a population of 100 million people. These she held, not as parts of the Soviet Union, but as puppet states, presided over by Red Quislings of Stalin's own selection who represented him and not the people they governed, any more than Quisling represented the people of Norway.

(7) John T. Flynn, The Roosevelt Myth (1944)

Roosevelt did not restore our economic system. He did not construct a new one. He substituted an old one which lives upon permanent crises and an armament economy. And he did this not by a process of orderly architecture and building, but by a succession of blunders, moving one step at a time, in flight from one problem to another, until we are now arrived at that kind of state­supported economic system that will continue to devour a little at a time the private system until it disappears altogether.

He did not restore our political system to its full strength. One may like the shape into which he battered it, but it cannot be called a repair job. He changed our political system with two weapons ­ blank­check congressional appropriations and blank­check congressional legislation. In 1933, Congress abdicated much of its power when it put billions into his hands by a blanket appropriation to be spent at his sweet will and when it passed general laws, leaving it to him, through great government bureaus of his appointment, to fill in the details of legislation.

These two baleful mistakes gave him a power which he used ruthlessly. He used it to break down the power of Congress and concentrate it in the hands of the executive. The end of these two betrayals ­ the smashing of our economic system and the twisting of our political system ­ can only be the Planned Economic State, which, either in the form of Communism or Fascism, dominates the entire continent of Europe today. The capitalist system cannot live under these conditions. The capitalist system cannot survive a Planned Economy. Such an economy can be managed only by a dictatorial government capable of enforcing the directives it issues. The only result of our present system ­ unless we reverse the drift ­ must be the gradual extension of the fascist sector and the gradual disappearance of the system of free enterprise under a free representative government.

There are men who honestly defend this transformation. They at least are honest. They believe in the Planned Economy. They believe in the highly centralized government operated by a powerful executive. They do not say Roosevelt saved our system. They say he has given us a new one. That is logical. But no one can praise Roosevelt for doing this and then insist that he restored our traditional political and economic systems to their former vitality.

(8) Michele Flynn Stenehjem, An American First: John T. Flynn and the America First Committee (1976)

John Flynn and other America Firsters believed that government should regulate business by preventing monopolies and cartels from controlling large sectors of the economy. However, Flynn and his colleagues did not think that government itself should become a large economic power. This condition would restrict individual freedom, which was the essence of their definition of liberalism.... Flynn and his colleagues rejected Franklin D. Roosevelt’s brand of liberalism, in which government entered the economic community as a large employer and customer.