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Don't agonize; organize! To ensure that a focused effort by knowledgeable people was taken against the loss of constitutional government, Robert Welch created the John Birch Society.

As veteran readers of this publication are aware, THE NEW AMERICAN is the successor to a magazine begun in 1956 by Robert Welch, the eventual founder of the John Birch Society. Having worked closely with this remarkable individual for many years and having read everything he ever published (and some items he never released for publication), I know of the importance he placed on the printed word. But I also know of his determination to put legs under the information he dispensed, to have those he informed organize to bring about change where it was needed and uphold sound principles when they were under attack. He was fairly intolerant of those who, though they knew action was needed, remained closeted in their own comfortable library or their own not-so-comfortable bunker. Especially did his anger rise when he encountered someone who merely agonized over enemy progress rather than organizing to do something about it.

A great lover of the American system, he became so disturbed by New Deal socialism that he wrote a short essay entitled "A Weight On My Shoulders" in the early days of the Roosevelt administration. In it, he praised the marvelous system America's Founders had created, but then lamented that "my America is being made over into a carbon copy of thousands of despotisms that have gone before."

By 1950, his concerns grew to such lengths that Robert Welch thought gaining political office would enable him to begin reversing the nation's slide leftward. He offered himself as a candidate for the Republican Party's nomination as Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts. Though he waged a vigorous campaign and threw a scare into the professional politicians of that day, he came in second in a six-man primary. In other words, as he always said, he lost. But the experience demonstrated to him the utter folly of expecting a political victory that wasn't based on an identifiable ideology, and it fostered the idea of building an ideological base to stimulate action among individuals who would come together, plan together, and work together. In other words, there had to be organization.

Patriotic Exemplar

The lessons he learned as a result of his only personal foray into politics spurred him to assist others in their political quests (such as Senator Robert Taft, who offered a clearly Americanist ideology). But he was becoming increasingly disturbed as he detected a pervasive unawareness among the public about enemy gains and about sound principles. His books, May God Forgive Us (1952) and The Life of John Birch (1954), won him many new friends and a large number of additional pen pals.

The year 1956 saw Welch launch an occasional periodical bearing the title One Man's Opinion. It was, indeed, the opinion of Robert Welch alone. As it grew in circulation, and as he began to spend more time planning his next step --an organization--he enlisted others to contribute articles, and he renamed the publication American Opinion. It is this monthly and its sister weekly, The Review of the News, that were folded in 1985 into THE NEW AMERICAN. But we're getting ahead of the real purpose of this historical review. By the late 1950s, Robert Welch had concluded that information alone wasn't going to save America. He decided to form an organization, and he eventually named it after one of America's most remarkable military heroes, U.S. Army Captain John Birch.

As Welch himself wrote in his book about John Birch, he discovered this unique man's very existence in 1953 while "reading the dry typewritten pages in an unpublished report of an almost forgotten congressional committee hearing." Alone in a committee room inside the Senate Office Building, he was "brought up sharp" with a brief account of this heroic army officer's exploits as they were delivered at his funeral in China. Welch learned that while on an official mission, and in the uniform of a Captain in the U.S. Army, Birch had been murdered by Chinese Communists only 10 days after the end of World War II. Further digging into Birch's career, including a visit to his parents in Georgia and help supplied by Senator William Knowland of California, led a year later to the 1954 book about Birch mentioned above. The life and deeds of this exceptional American, especially including the suppression of his deeds by leftist influences in our own government, added to Welch's growing awareness that some sort of organization had to be created to counter the influence of already well-entrenched subversive forces.

Because of my close contact with the man we called "the boss," I can state without hesitation that the following recommendation addressed to "Friends and Fellow-Citizens" by the Father of Our Country summarizes the thinking that led to the John Birch Society. Washington said:
 Promote, then, as an object of primary
 importance, institutions for the
 general diffusion of knowledge. In
 proportion as the structure of a government
 gives force to public opinion,
 it is essential that public opinion
 should be enlightened.


Note that our nation's first president knew and valued the importance of enlightened public opinion. But even more, note that he urged the creation by citizens of "institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge." These institutions wouldn't be government agencies spewing out self-serving government propaganda. They would be citizen-created organizations springing up from amongst the people, and they would compete with one another to gain the confidence of a populace that wanted to guard the great heritage belonging to every American.

During 1957 and 1958, Robert Welch diligently analyzed a bevy of small, already-existing organizations dotting the land. He also looked back over recent history to determine why so many groups had failed and disappeared. Then, he visited friendly foreign leaders who shared his love of liberty and detestation of Communism. In Germany, he met with Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, who listened intently to a summary of the plans for a future John Birch Society. It was to be an information gatherer and dispenser, said Welch, but also an action organization. As Welch would later tell us, "Der Alte," as Adenauer was affectionately known, applauded the proposal and added that something similar to what had just been outlined should exist in every nation.

Finally, in December 1958, Robert Welch and a few of his closest friends met in Indianapolis over two days and launched the John Birch Society. He spoke to 11 men for 17 hours. The text of his message can be read in The Blue Book of The John Birch Society. In it can be found what he frequently termed "an energizing realization of the danger," but also the strategy and tactics for the organization he believed could reverse America's drift into totalitarianism and begin to restore America's greatness. It would spread information, yes. But this new organization would also coordinate coast-to-coast action using only moral and lawful tactics. Now, Welch maintained, concerned citizens could pool their efforts and fight together on decidedly important matters rather than going off in separate directions to wage a lonely and frustrating battle over a personal pet peeve.

Toward the close of his marathon oration, Welch asked his friends for their help. But rather than presume anything of them, he added: "If every man in this room should decide, for whatever reason, that he wants no part of my proposals, I would simply go back to small groups of plain citizens in [my home state of] Massachusetts, and myself start organizing local chapters of The John Birch Society." He did receive their help however, and most of these men became the core of the national advisory council he formed a year later.

Early Victories

Very quickly, the newly formed JBS scored a small victory when, prodded by Welch's early recruits, Newsweek magazine admitted that one of its reports about a foreign Communist venture contained serious error. Member action also led to the scuttling of a series of betrayals that included more foreign aid and more dignity for the criminals leading the USSR, all of which were scheduled for agreement following a 1959 U.S.-USSR Summit Conference. Additional fallout from that effort disrupted the visit to America by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev and led to the cancellation of President Eisenhower's plan to visit the USSR.

Each of these small victories added up to a significant setback for the growing campaign known as "bridge building," between two supposedly diametrically opposed systems. Individual citizens would not have gained these victories had there not been concerted action arising from widely scattered parts of the nation.

Colleagues have reported in the pages of this issue of THE NEW AMERICAN about numerous other successful campaigns won through organized efforts of ordinary citizens who put the information streaming out of Welch's organization to work. The victory I so well recall saw the blocking of ratification of the deceptively named Equal Rights Amendment. That effort began in 1972 when Welch discovered how very dangerous this proposal truly was, and how it had already quietly achieved passage in both houses of Congress and approval by 20 state legislatures. He didn't believe anyone but a few subversives would back such a proposal. But when it was well on its way to ratification, he urged JBS members to combat efforts to gain further state approval.

Armed with reprints of incisive American Opinion articles explaining the ERA's danger, Welch's legions went to work and created a storm of opposition where none had previously existed. Incredulous fellow citizens and startled state legislators soon began to realize that the nice-sounding proposal would empower the federal government to make law in any area dealing with men or women--in other words, virtually everything imaginable. Legislators in several key states expressed profound gratitude after being enlightened about the matter. The JBS Speakers Bureau sent forth a cadre of speakers who told JBS-assembled gatherings and radio and television audiences across the land how subversive the proposed amendment truly was, and that it was far more about dramatically increasing federal clout than it was about rights for women.

When the seven-year time limit for ratification had passed without the necessary approval by three-fourths of the states, Congress bowed to revolutionary pressures and extended the time for consideration by three more years. Rather than throw in the towel, Welch's legions used the extra time to persuade several state legislatures to withdraw their previous ratifications, and the so-called Equal Rights Amendment died.

Without question, had the JBS organization not been energized to fight this battle with hard-hitting analysis spread far and wide by well-informed citizens, and done so at a moment's notice and then with unyielding perseverance, the amendment would now be a part of the U.S. Constitution. The victory could never have been achieved without the organization Welch had built.

During this same period, when the nation was preparing to celebrate its 200th anniversary, the World Affairs Council produced a document entitled "A Declaration of INTERdependence." Calling for a United Nations-led new world order and the overturning of our nation's hard-won independence, its promoters had already gathered formal endorsements from 124 members of the U.S. Congress, had planned to gain many more, and had intended to present the document to the UN's secretary-general during 1976. Once he learned of this incredibly subversive plan, Welch gave the green light to expose the plan and the traitors in Congress who endorsed it. In short order, JBS members went to work distributing an article about the treachery to the public, to those in Congress who had signed the declaration, and to other congressmen and senators who hadn't.

The results were immediate. Many in Congress who had indeed signed on pleaded ignorance about the use of their names and demanded that the World Affairs Council remove them. No more members of Congress added their names to the declaration. And the incredibly subversive call for INTERdependence at the expense of our nation's independence during the 200th anniversary of our nation's birth faded like a bad dream.

Again, organization made the difference. There simply is nothing even closely resembling the power and ability of the John Birch Society and its affiliated publishing arm that could have scuttled such an obvious attack on our nation's sovereignty in so short a time. As the effectiveness of the Welch creation became better known, a steady parade of requests, which asked that the Society put its muscle behind other causes, began arriving at JBS headquarters.

Organization the Key

The need to recognize an enemy's strength so as to be better positioned to combat its destructiveness was always on Robert Welch's mind. He knew that the enemy of civilization was indeed highly organized. But he also knew that the John Birch Society was something new and forceful. He addressed a major feature of its uniqueness as follows:
 There are several basic reasons why
 this kind of association has never
 been achieved before. The first is that
 good men and women are,
 necessarily, those who
 believe in the responsibility
 of the individual;
 who are, therefore, individualistic
 in their thinking
 .... As individualists,
 the truly good men and
 women are reluctant to
 merge themselves into
 any secular body where
 close ties with others,
 who may have divergent
 views, might call for defenses or
 compromises of their own beliefs.
 But we have to overcome that obstacle
 by our insistence that we do not
 even want men and women whose
 characters and personal beliefs have
 rounded edges....

 We must agree basically on morality,
 integrity and purpose; and on
 the fundamental goals of the Society,
 which are less government, more
 responsibility, and a better world.
 Otherwise there would be no point in
 our coming together, and there is no
 reason for anybody not subscribing
 to those principles to join our great
 undertaking.


The John Birch Society has scored many victories and built a base of understanding that has frequently been energized to fight for our nation's survival, and has enormous potential to completely rout a foul conspiracy that threatens the life, liberty, and property of all of mankind. With the highly reliable facts and perspective supplied every two weeks by THE NEW AMERICAN, the volunteer JBS army has the artillery it needs and wants. But, just as an army is highly organized to keep it moving forward toward the ultimate goal of victory, so too must those who seek to preserve this nation and its still-existing guarantees of God-given rights become organized. Non-joiners had better overcome their aversion and become a part of what is truly a crusade.

Several close watchers of what the John Birch Society and its publications have accomplished over many years--some from foreign nations--have expressed the view that, had there never been such an organization, there would today be no independent United States of America.

At the end of his many speeches, and in some of the tracts he authored, Robert Welch made a habit of inviting his listeners and readers to "Come join us in our proud companionship and in our epic undertaking." His hope that many would do so is certainly ours as well.

To all who detect that something is wrong about the direction in which our nation is being taken, we say, "Don't agonize; organize." And we add that there's no need to start something new because the John Birch Society, with its proven track record and immense potential for ultimate victory, is already in place and needs only more muscle to return this world gone crazy back to sanity once again.

John F. McManus is former president and now senior executive advisor and Council member of the John Birch Society.
COPYRIGHT 2005 American Opinion Publishing, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2005, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:HISTORY--STRUGGLE FOR FREEDOM
Author:McManus, John F.
Publication:The New American
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 19, 2005
Words:2593
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