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The Mothers’ Movement As A Model

With the Age of Obama following the Age of Bush, America is looking like a decaying strip mall. Finance-Capital continues to loot the assets of the country. This comes on top of multiple wars destroying the economy. We could go on but what’s the point?

The point is this: The officially recognized, sanctioned ‘opposition’ is the Tea Party. They are willfully blind to the machinations of Finance-Capital. They are ignorant of the difference between Industrial-Capital which is productive, and Finance-Capital which is parasitic. And, of course, they never met a war they didn’t like. They gush on fake patriotism.

A left acquaintance, with whom I disagree–he considers me an ultra nationalist and white chauvinist–nonetheless summed up the denizens of the Tea Party fairly well:

“My point is that the tea partiers are of the age where they didn’t want to apply their hearts and minds to figure out the score on civil rights or Vietnam . . or, if they had figured out the score, they just plain lacked the guts to be independent and stand up to power over those issues. Now, as they age, they are terrified that someone who looks like Barrack Obama is going to ask out their daughter, so they all turn out for the lobbyists to wave signs calling the president names . . . and they might get their aging mugs on TV to boot.

“My assessment of the tea party crowd is that as a group they’re never going to get any gutsier or get any smarter . . . so they’re not be capable of being a genuinely independent force (though they might get to play one on television). And when pressed on any political question, they fall apart.”

Which brings us to a genuine opposition movement that was both gutsy and independent. I’m speaking of what historians today call the Mothers’ Movement. This was a loose alliance of anti-World War II, anti-Roosevelt, far right groups. A few were started by men, such as the National Legion of Mothers of America by Father Coughlin. But most were founded by women with names like National Blue Star Mothers, Crusading Mothers of America and We, the Mothers, Mobilize for America, plus myriad local groups.

Prior to Pearl Harbor, US public opinion was split almost 50-50 into entering the European war. Charles Lindbergh and the America First Committee are most remembered today. But the Mothers’ groups were probably more effective at the grass roots level.

The Mothers’ groups are intensely interesting because they were a rare example of a Right-wing anti-war movement. And they were led by women. While the members were very diverse in age, religion, class and education, the leaders were mainly white, middle-age, college-educated Christians from the upper middle-class.

Unlike America First and the other non-interventionist groups, this alliance of groups did not disperse after Pearl Harbor. Indeed, unlike the menfolk, they became even more vocal. They picketed the United States Capitol, harangued Senators and went on a speaking tour around the country. These activities continued until the Great Sedition Trial off 1944 when three of their number, Elizabeth Dilling, L. Fry (pen name of Paquita de Shishmareff) and Lois de Lafayette Washuburn, were among those indicted. (It would end in mistrial).

The leaders were on their own. Probably they learned their organizing experience from women’s clubs, political parties or movements led by men. The guts they got on their own.

While the initial membership no doubt included many pacifists and isolationists, the leaders were more than that. They were for  a strong national defense but were opposed to a war against the Axis Powers. They felt the world’s chief war-mongers, in fact, were a sinister alliance of the Roosevelt Regime, British government and the Jewish financial conspiracy. The fact that many were pro-Axis and anti-Jewish made them controversial.

They were also not blind reactionaries. Important leaders like Agnes Waters, Catherine V Brown and L Fry were Coughlinites who supported Catholic social teachings. For example, if you desire  women in the home, then pay the menfolk a Family Wage.

The Left, strangely enough, condemned the Mothers for their ‘unfeminine’ aggression. They were denounced for being a ‘thundering herd.’ In reaction, Elizabeth Dilling embraced the term.

The Mothers’ groups lasted on paper until the early Sixties when their  aging leaders began to pass. But they long since lost their mass base. Irish and German Americans who had been a backbone of their movement enlisted in the Cold War against ‘godless communism.’ Traditionally isolationist Midwest business interests found there was money to be made in the Cold War. And the Mothers’ sometime exotic anti-Jewish conspiracy theories (and some other eccentricities) went out of style.

But their model of local grass roots efforts, modest dues base, and their sheer guts can serve as a model today.

By the way, in the early 1960s, I briefly corresponded with the now aged L. Fry and Lyrl Clark Van Hyning, President of We, the Mothers, Mobilize for America. Elizabeth Dilling just sent a short note along with copies of her newsletter.


About mauryk2

Vietnam veteran. Succeeded Jeff Sharlett as editor of VIETNAM GI, 1st anti-war paper put out by Nam vets. Edited RAP!, underground paper at Ft Benning. Until retirement from Postal Service, put out the POSTAL HARDHITTER, another underground newsletter. Presently, I'm a free lance writer.

One response to “The Mothers’ Movement As A Model

  1. Pingback: Oskorei » Blog Archive » Lästips: Mauryk2

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