Why No “Peace” Movement in WWII?

“The problem in the summer of 1941 was that many regular Americans were not ready for war, since their country – the United States – had not been attacked. For American Communists, however, their country – the USSR – had been attacked. They were gung ho.”  Paul Kengor

World War II is unique among the five wars the United States fought in the 20th Century, in that there was virtually no left wing “peace movement” trying to undermine America’s war effort.

During the First World War, President Wilson’s government jailed or deported hundreds of war protestors, most of whom were Communists or Socialists. During the Vietnam War, leftist radicals organized a “peace movement” that eventually undermined support for the war among the broader public. Similar left wing protests took place to a smaller extent during the 1991 Gulf War and the Korean Conflict of the 1950’s.

But the Second World War was different.

There is a reason WWII was the only war the American Left didn’t have a problem with. The reason was something Adolf Hitler did on June 21 of 1941, nearly six months before he declared war on the United States. Hitler invaded the Soviet Union on that day, and earned the enmity of the Communist Party USA and its various front groups.

The Communist Party USA, or CPUSA, actually made two abrupt changes in its position toward Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist Party. First the Communists opposed Hitler and his Nazis. When Hitler and Stalin formed a partnership of aggression in 1939, CPUSA turned on a dime and launched a full scale “peace movement” to undermine American support for the nations Germany was attacking. Then, when Hitler violated his deal with Stalin by invading Soviet-held territory, the American Communists reversed field again and urged the government to support our suddenly-noble British allies in their war against the suddenly-evil Germans.

Six months later, when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and Germany declared war on the United States, American Communists rejoiced that the rest of the American people were finally willing to go to war.

Hitler and Stalin: Partners in Crime

On August 23 of 1939 representatives of the Soviet and German governments signed the ironically named “Non-Aggression Treaty” between their two governments. In effect, the foreign ministers of the two countries stood in front of a map of Europe like two butchers in front of the diagram of a steer, negotiating which parts of the carcass each of them would take. They drew a line down the middle and agreed that the Germans would take everything to the west of the Line, while the Soviets would consume everything to the east.

Within about a year Hitler’s National Socialists had annexed France, Belgium, and the Netherlands, in addition to their assigned portion of Poland. Only Winston Churchill’s leadership, and a steady stream of materiel from the US, kept England from falling. The Soviet Union quickly sacked Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia; along with portions of Finland, Poland, and various other eastern European countries.

During this period of Nazi-Commie collaboration Communist Party members in the US, and even in England, did everything they could to support both Russia and Germany.

In the US, Communist Party Chairman Earl Browder published a book titled The Second Imperialist War to portray England’s war effort in a negative light.1 A number of Communist front groups worked to mobilize left wing sentiment against the British; one, the American Peace Mobilization did such a good job of taking in well-meaning American leftists that its rallies and demonstrations were endorsed and promoted by various liberal Christian pastors, and even by at least one Jewish Rabbi!2

For forty-two days in May and June of 1941 the American Peace Mobilization and its gullible liberal supporters maintained a  ‘round the clock protest in front of the White House. The goal of these “peace” marchers was to pressure President Roosevelt to cut off the Lend Lease and other aid programs that were helping England keep the Nazi’s at bay.

In England, Communist Party members actually spied on their own nation’s air defense installations and sent the information back to the Kremlin, as the Verona documents have shown.3

But this was one left wing anti-war movement that was not going to last. Late on June 21 the “peace” demonstration in front of the White House suddenly ended. The protesters packed up their picket signs and went home. It was after midnight in Poland; the early hours of June 22, and Germany had just invaded Russian held territory.4
Hitler had become Stalin’s enemy, and that made him the enemy of left wingers in the United States as well.

When Nazis are Bad

Communists in the United States always put their loyalty to the Soviet Union ahead of their loyalty, if any, to their own country. The Party’s reaction to Hitler’s 1941 invasion makes that fact undeniable. The Party’s position after June 21 was exactly the opposite of its position before that date.

No longer interested in “peace,” the Communists now feigned patriotism, and urged the Roosevelt administration to enter the war. The members of the American Peace Mobilization renamed their organization the American People’s Mobilization, and began pushing an anti-Nazi position just as aggressively as they had pushed an “anti-war” position prior to the invasion.5

Conclusion

World War II goes down in the history books as the only twentieth century war this nation was able to fight with near-universal support from the American people. Some on the Left were supporting the war more enthusiastically than they supported the US, and for reasons that had nothing to do with America’s welfare, but at least they didn’t get in the way.

Al Fuller

1Herbert Romerstein and Eric Breindel, The Venona Secrets, Regnery paperback edition 2001, p. 513
2Paul Kengor, Dupes, ISI Books 2010 p. 149
3The Venona Secrets, pp. 23-25
4Dupes, pp. 151-155
5Ibid, pp. 155-159

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7 thoughts on “Why No “Peace” Movement in WWII?

  • Most people who protested the Vietnam war simply did not want to go and die in the jungles of a country that didn’t even care to defend itself. That war was senseless then, and it is still senseless now .

  • Interesting but incomplete history. I don’t think the American public, if asked, wanted to go to war. If it were not so, why had both Roosevelt and Dewey promised to keep us out of World War II. We know Roosevelt would eventually lead us into the European War, even if a deranged Hitler had not declared war on us! Like the Zimmerman telegram, that move defies logic.

  • To Brian:

    The 60’s peace activists agenda was self-aggrandizement and ego-inflation. Most were from the privileged class, and protesting beat having to kill their successful parents.

  • Not all communists were loyal to Stalin. Anti-stalinists were also there but they were weak. The Socialist Workers Party was a anti-stalinist communist party and did not support Stalin or his totalitarian empire.

    Most communists supported Stalin not because they loved totalitarianism. They believed Stalin was good and that the USSR was a ”workers” paradise. Many western people supported the USA because they believed in democracy and human rights. They did not know ( or did not want to know ) that the USA was supporting right-wing dictatorships ( Mobutu, Suharto, Pinochet, Marcos ).

    Communists are not bad people, many were misguide by idealism. So are many Republicans. I think the the lowest members of the Republican Party are not bad. I think they are misguided by the propaganda of the party, just like the communists were by Stalin and Mao.

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