The Four F’s

(Words of world war)

In 1940, eighty years ago, a New Yorker deemed by many in the Establishment a “dictator” who had to be removed — and went so far as to conspire except that General Smedley Butler denounced the plot — was elected to a third term as the President of the corporate United States. He was an established member of the Democratic Party from an established family among the US plutocracy who had been forced by the catastrophic handling of the 1929 Great Reset, aka as the Great Depression, by his nouveau riche predecessor Herbert Hoover, to restore popular support for the regime.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was to be written into orthodox US history as a quasi-Bolshevik among US chief executives. All the measures forced upon him by populist, socialist and even communist activism were to lead to his beatification, especially after his untimely death in April 1945. Roosevelt never achieved sainthood like Lincoln, Jefferson or Washington but at least until 1980 he was widely worshipped by the survivors of the era and those who vainly clawed at US history for any soul who could redeem the plutocracy from damnation. The legacy attributed to him is also the very thin foundation upon which subsequent generations would claim that the party of slavery and Jim Crow was the “Left” or in American political jargon “progressivism” (the late 19th century intellectual notion that the plutocrats could gradually be persuaded to yield their wealth and power in favour of the mass of ordinary citizens, albeit mediated by technocrats appointed by that same plutocracy).

In fact, it was more likely than not the necessity of the day — maybe even with the advice of his personal ambassador to the Soviet Union, Joseph Davies — that led him to embrace diluted social welfare measures. However, it could just as well have been the convergence of political attitudes common to all but the most stubborn governments that state-organised relief was infinitely superior to revolution. The policies adopted and labelled for posterity as “The New Deal” were not much different from those adopted by the NS regime in Germany or Mussolini’s fascist state. In other words, countries with an industrial base and military infrastructure used both to organise unemployed workers in ways that served the State and relieved the pressure of mass unemployment and revolutionary agitation.

Europe was on the brink of war, too. Those who understood what the so-called “appeasement” in Munich really meant, like Joseph Davies, also knew that Germany was being armed for war against the Soviet Union. They also understood that France and Britain were passively supporting these preparations. With a little imagination, they could know that the US plutocracy was also supporting this effort with money and materiel. Of course, the US was engaged in its own preparations for the Pacific theatre. Later US Secretary of State Dean Acheson headed an office in the US State Department waging economic warfare against Japan.

In short, world war against the Soviet Union and Japan had been in the planning and was awaited if not openly discussed. With this in mind, it would do well to reread Roosevelt’s State of the Union Address delivered to the US Congress on 6 January 1941. It was about six months before the launch of Operation Barbarossa — the German invasion of the Soviet Union — and eleven months before the Japanese Empire would respond to US provocations by attacking the unguarded colonial naval station at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Franklin Roosevelt’s 6 January address was remembered in orthodox history as the “Four Freedoms” speech. Afterwards it was interpreted as a statement of the US philosophy behind its war aims. Roosevelt devoted much of the speech to the principles of that great political cliché “bipartisanship”:

In the recent national election there was no substantial difference between the two great parties in respect to that national policy. No issue was fought out on this line before the American electorate. And today it is abundantly evident that American citizens everywhere are demanding speedy and complete action in recognition of obvious danger. Therefore, the immediate need is a swift and driving increase in our armament production.

But after all the explanations and appeals to a Congress he expected to finance the massive war effort, it was fit and proper to give this war a moral quality it scantily possessed. Thus certainly to imitate his 1916 predecessor, there must be slogans. So Roosevelt continued:

In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and expression—everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship god in his own way—everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want—which translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants—everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear—which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor—anywhere in the world.

That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.

To that new order we oppose the greater conception—the moral order. A good society is able to face schemes of world domination and foreign revolutions alike without fear.

Naturally Franklin Roosevelt’s view of US history was that of the Empire which his cousin Theodore, among others, helped to enlarge. It was a view that took the imperial conquest of the American continent and domination of the Western hemisphere for granted. And yet there was the moral imperative to wage war and to win an insular population for another global venture.

Eighty years later, at this writing, the first man in at least a century to be elected POTUS who was not either a senior civil servant, military officer or professional politician (or CIA asset), whom the Establishment also accused of being a “dictator” or a “Hitler” is serving the remainder of his term. Having survived non-stop international opposition including a failed impeachment attempt, Donald Trump may conceivably deliver a State of the Union Address in January 2021, eighty years after Franklin Delano Roosevelt began the US participation in the world war against the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union is no more — having been defeated thirty years ago by the relentless warfare of the West.

However, the United States has never been short of countries to dominate economically, militarily, politically and culturally. As we enter the third decade of the 21st century we should not be surprised by the world war against China that the US has been preparing for at least a decade now. So perhaps it is time for another slogan, the four F’s inspired eighty years ago, why not today? Here is a suggested update, to pick up where FDR left off.

In future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human fears:

The first is the fear of admitting that the State and Business lie to us.

The second is the fear of admitting that conformity of opinion is more important than honesty and truth of information.

The third is the fear of admitting that civil and human rights really do not count, anywhere.

The fourth is fear of life itself — death with a little help perhaps, comes of its own accord.

Dr T.P. Wilkinson writes, teaches History and English, directs theatre and coaches cricket between the cradles of Heine and Saramago. He is author of Unbecoming American: A War Memoir and also Church Clothes, Land, Mission and the End of Apartheid in South Africa. Read other articles by T.P..