Reflecting on the Interwar Right

An examination of the interwar American Right must begin by defining what the “Right” is. For purposes of this presentation we are referring to critics of mass society who hankered after an older America. We also mean by the same designation opponents of modern democracy, understood as the pursuit of democratic equality, and scorners of the American administrative state that began taking a by now recognizable form at the beginning of the twentieth century. The interwar American Right also typically opposed overseas military involvement, which as the poet Robinson Jeffers complains in his poem “Pearl Harbor,” embodied “the hope to impose on the whole world an American peace.” Jeffers also in the same poem lamented that Americans needed war to forge an otherwise missing collective identity: “America has neither race nor religion nor its own language: nation or nothing.” Therefore it tried to “run up the flag” in as many places as possible; and mobilized “when the war that we carefully for years provoked catches us unprepared, amazed and indignant.”

Please note this rightist opposition to war must be distinguished from the objections of Communist sympathizers or generic leftists to certain wars for ideological reasons. For example, George McGovern, who was a longtime Soviet apologist, protested the Vietnam War, while defending his own role in dropping bombs on helpless civilians in World War Two. For McGovern the “good war” was the one in which the US found itself on the same side as the Soviets and world Communism. Clearly McGovern did not object to American military engagements for rightist reasons.

Memoirs of a Superfluo…
Albert Jay Nock
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