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Volume 1458
Later reprint edition
Only Yesterday
Exit The Twenties
R.E. Prindle
   One of the surprises on ERB's bookshelves was a copy of Frederick Lewis Allens' (1890-1954) Only Yesterday published in 1931 just after the decade ended.  This was a few months after Burroughs wrote Tarzan The Invincible in which the Reds invaded his dreamland of Opar forcing La out into greater Africa.  One presumes the Reds devastated Opar as neither it nor La is ever mentioned again.

     Thus the battle between ERB and the Reds begun with Under The Red Flag in 1919 resulted at this point in the routing of the little misshapen men of Opar.

     Allen's Only Yesterday, which is a history of the twenties, begins with the events of the post-Bolshevik revolution year of 1919 and ends with the stock market crash of 1929.  There were many reasons for ERB to buy Only Yesterday not least of which it is a classic of its kind.  Mark Sullivan, another magazine editor, as was Allen, had already published half of his monumental Our Times which was among the first of the popular histories of recent events but he had not attempted anything so recent as yet and when he did it would not be so good.

     Allen handled the job extremely well.  At a first reading the book fairly glitters.  As Burroughs lived through the period he must have read the book with different eyes than one of a later generation, like myself, reading about the period.  As with any introduction to a period such a book requires several readings to properly understand it.  I read it for the fourth and fifth times for this essay.

     The first time I read it I was blinded by the light, breathless all the way through.  Over the years I began to develop some knowledge of the period but my second reading was almost as dazzling as the first although I began to be disquieted by Allen's handling of the Bolshevik-super-patriot confrontation of 1919 through 1924.  By my third reading I had real misgivings concerning his treatment of the subject, it seemed too one sided, too unbalanced.  I began to read carefully through his essay of sources.  I was surprised to find that his research was more significant to his book than his memory.  He wasn't actually recalling the times, many incidents of which he probably had only the sketchiest memories, but he was writing from a program, in other words Only Yesterday is a propaganda tract.

     In fact he based his whole description of the super-patriots on a series of articles by someone called Sidney Howard written in 1924 just at the time of the revision of the Immigration Laws which severely restricted immigration while setting the quota basis as that of the number of nationalities in the US as of 1890.  This would have the effect of  severely limiting immigration from Eastern and Southern Europe where most of the 'toxic effluvia' mentioned by Burroughs in Girl From Hollywood would have come from in the estimation of the times.

     By the third reading I became interested in this series of articles by Howard obtaining copies.  As I suspected Sidney Howard was defaming and savaging those people most ardent for the limitation of immigration.  While it is not well known it is nevertheless true that before the Great War interrupted immigration the Jews had spent millions preparing to transport the entire Jewish population of the Pale of Settlement to the United States.  Rather than have the five million plus enter through the Atlantic ports where opposition was certain the Southern ports of New Orleans and Galveston were organized to quietly accept the immigrants.

     Mr. Howard's violent response to the super-patriots, which term by the way is a defamation in itself equivalent to, say, the term kikes, was based on the failing of this plan.  Sidney Howard was of course Jewish having emigrated to the United States from Germany twenty years before.

     How much of this plan Burroughs may have known isn't clear or that he knew, however it is not impossible that someone as well informed as he did know.  Certainly the rushing through of the immigration revision was because the plan was known and the influx of another five million Jews was unwelcome.  An unpleasant fact, perhaps, but history is history.  Now, these are just facts which are available to anyone with the inclination to search so don't blame me for telling the truth.

     At any rate my discovery of the way Allen used his sources cast doubt on the objectivity of his book which I now began to see as a partisan effort different only in tone to that of Mr. Howard.  My most recent reading has convinced me that Frederick Lewis Allen was part of the Red/Liberal coalition.  Still an excellent introduction to the period.  Allen was a talented writer with a very good mind.  He followed Only Yesterday with Since Yesterday, a history of the thirties, good but not so interesting.  While Mr. Allen could view with alarm concerning the Big Red Scare he didn't see the even more alarming antics of Roosevelt, a member of his own camp, in the same light.

     His last book, The Big Change, written in 1950 was a dour look back at the changes wrought by the previous fifty years.  I would have to reread it to make comments.

     So, ERB under siege in Opar by the Reds bought his copy of Only Yesterday I would imagine on its issuance.  It was that kind of book.  Sensational in its day it has been reprinted continuously being available in more than one edition today.

     A large part of the glitter was the attention Allen paid to flag pole sitting and gold fish swallowing crazes which really stand out at the first reading.  Allen covers extensively a number of other topics of a more serious nature which would have been very relevant to ERB while I'm sure he would have objected to their overly sympathetic treatment by Allen. 

     Certainly the Harding scandals would have been of great interest.  The famous Elk Hills and Tea Pot Dome oil scandal would have keenly interested ERB.  As, and this is pretty amazing to me, ERB apparently did not speculate in stocks he came through the crash unscathed except for his involvement in the Valley airport and the Apache airplane engine  but those properly speaking had nothing to do with the stock market crash.

     Apparently his friend Herb Weston was also uninvolved as the crash doesn't even figure in their correspondence which was recently published.  Seems odd, doesn't it?

     However given his trouble with the Reds as evidenced by Tarzan The Invincible I am sure that the chapters on 1919 and The Big Red Scare held the greatest interest for him.  For that reason in this essay I am going to ignore the rest of Only Yesterday and concentrate on those two chapters.  Any criticism of Allen's methods or opinions are no reflection on the overall quality of the book.  If you are a full fledged Liberal or 'fiscally conservative, socially liberal' you will undoubtedly have a greater problem with my conclusions wondering how I could find anything to criticize in Frederick Lewis Allen.  Realists and Conservatives, I hope, will prick up their ears.

     I am unaware of what Burroughs or Allen knew of the more hidden aspects of matters at the time.  Burroughs was resentful at the results of immigration, that much is clear, while Allen was part of the Liberal/Red/Immigrant Coalition.

     Not wanting to go too far, suffice it to say that Woodrow Wilson and his administration was Liberal with strong socialist tendencies.  Wilson's main objection to Bolshevism was that it was a competitor of his system or a rival religious belief.  Many socialistic goals were put into practice under cover of the war as, for instance, the nationalization of the railroads.  There was some question whether they would privatize ownership after the war while other industries, such as coal mining, were subject to the nationalizing pressures.

     More serious even than nationalization of industry was the attempt to reduce all society to one class with no differences.  Liberal circles, Jane Addams of Hull House in Chicago for instance, believed that there could be no true equality until all people wore the same clothes.  This is a fact.  I am not interested here as to whether such sameness was possible I am only relating the facts.  Therefore, the WIB, War Industries Board, under the administration of Bernard Baruch, following directions from Wilson, had organized plans to limit the available clothing to two or three styles and shoes of the same quality thereby making people dress alike with no difference in style or quality.  This is really extraordinary.  As Baruch says in his autobiography, they would have done it too but the war ended too soon.

     You don't read about this stuff in the history books, and you're not going to either, you have to dig it out.  But this plan was not secret but known by others at the time,  Henry Ford for instance.  Now you know why Ford was so viciously defamed.  Ford, the Dodge brothers and manufacturers in general had real problems with the War Industries Board. Ford was demonized while both the Dodges died mysterious deaths in 1920.

    In Something Of Value Part II went into some detail about Freud and the Revolution as the Jewish Messiah.  This revolution was to take place between 1913 and 1928.  So the Messianic Revolution would have been imagined to be in full swing during the years 1918 to 1924 with success apparently imminent.

     Ford objected to the preference shown the Jews by Wilson.  Just as Wilson undercover of the war was trying to implement his socialistic goals so the Jews undercover of the war were working to implement their revolution.

     Ford, among others, saw this which resulted in his purchasing the Dearborn Independent and publishing analyses of Jewish activities both in the US and abroad.  These articles are usually defamed as anti-Semitic lunatic essays but they aren't.  Actually Ford amassed a huge library of volumes concerning Jewish history, religion and activities.  All his articles were carefully researched, fully documented and lucidly written.  They weren't written by Ford but by his assistant William Cameron who had no axe to grind.

     After Ford was discredited as an anti-Semite he asked the B'nai B'rith what he was supposed to do with this, to me as a researcher, fabulous library.  The Brotherhood suggested he donate it to the Jewish Theological Seminary in Cincinatti.  Ford could only roll his eyes in disgust.  As far as I know no one knows what became of the library but this 'dangerous anti- Semitic' material was not donated to the Jewish Theological Seminary in Cincinatti.

     Another very interesting subject of the period was the Balfour Declaration but as that was between Britain and the Jews I leave it you to research if you're interested.  Good story, though.

     For whatever reason Allen ignored Ford's story which ran from 1920 to 1927 before Ford threw in the towel.  The story was very important to the Coalition.  This is a significant omission in The Big Red Scare chapter of Only Yesterday.

     As I mentioned in passing in An Empire Of His Own and more fully above, the Jews just prior to the War had organized the migration routes from the Pale of Settlement to Hamburg, Germany from whence most of the immigrants embarked for the US, to transport the entire five million or so to America.  Just as the post war exodus from Europe was being organized immigration restrictionists succeeded in slamming the door leaving the five million where they were.

     Once again Lewis ignores an important topic concentrating only on portraying the Bolshevik threat as a fantasy while belittling and defaming the 'super-patriots.'  As his only source for this condescension he used the series of articles that appeared  in the New Republic, itself a Communist magazine, in 1924.  Sidney Howard's articles are intemperate, vituperative and inflammatory as one might expect from a revolutionary writer who is trying to reverse the immigration laws of 1921 and 1924 so as to permit the fulfillment of the plan to transfer his people from the Pale.  Needless to say Mr. Howard's articles failed to reverse the immigration policy although they did succeed in blackening the names of his victims.

     This then is the background against which Allen presents his arguments.  I have no doubt that Mr. Allen's intent was to be benevolent, as I'm sure all Liberals think they are, but just because you believe you're doing the right thing doesn't mean you are.  Just because one apposes a mistaken benevolence doesn't make one malicious, one can be equally as benevolent or more so but in a different manner.  There are two or more sides to a story unless you're a Liberal and then there is only one.  God help the dissenters.

     I hope the above will clarify my opinions on Allen's understanding of the period.  I have no doubt that he is being coy, while on the other hand there is no reason for either he or Burroughs to have a full understanding of what was happening.  It should be noted though that Allen admits any objections of his opponents merely discounting them as folly.

     Let it be said of Burroughs, whatever his private feeling may have been, that he had the good sense to steer clear of anything that might have been construed as anti-Semitic.  Perhaps he learned from the Ford imbroglio but he seldom mentions Jews by name.  Certainly he must have been aware of the accusation of Jewish involvement in the Bolshevik revolution and Jewish activities in the US from at least 1913 to 1924, yet when he wrote the Moon Men he portrays his sole Jew as the kindest and most benevolent of men.  The picture seems a little overdrawn to me but I don't want to read anything into the episode.  He may have been watching Ford.  Suffice it to say that Burroughs knew when a battle could only end in disaster as it had for Ford.  ERB has a clear record as far as any charges of anti-Semitism go.


     In explicating the events of 1919 to 1924 one can't expect Mr. Allen's facts to be wrong.  However the selection of facts and their interpretation do falsify his conclusions.  After all if you're writing history facts themselves are unavoidable.  As Mark Twain is reported to have said:  Everyone is entitled to their opinion but not their facts.   Mr. Allen takes all the usual Red/Liberal dodges to discredit his opponents, which is to say defame them as weak minded fools while misrepresenting Red/Liberal intents and involvement.  I grant him his facts.

     According to Allen the Bolshevik threat was minimal and no cause for either alarm or reaction because it was nominally unsuccessful, hence what is defeated is never a threat.  You know how it is, you defuse a bomb and it is no longer a bomb and hence was never a threat.

     Of the people who made the effort to defuse the threat Allen says, p. 45  (First edition, first printing):

     They seriously thought - or at least millions (of Americans) did, millions of otherwise reasonable citizens - that a Red revolution might begin in the United States the next month or next week, and they were less concerned with making the world safe for democracy than with making America safe for themselves.

     Were millions of Americans unreasonable or were they diffusing the threat before it materialized?  This is a partisan issue but that as may be I obviously believe they took the necessary precautions and thank them for it.  Nor do I disparage them for caring less to make the world safe for democracy  than making America safe for themselves.  It is almost necessary to ask what  kind of fool was Allen.

     Allen argues that since the actual numbers of Communists within the borders of the united States was small it follows that they couldn't have been a threat.  He neglects to point out that the number of Communists in Russia at the time the Bolsheviks seized power was even smaller than in the United States and yet this 'small band of brothers'  was able to exterminate any who refused to accept their ridiculous agenda to the tune of tens of millions.  Why argue that 'it couldn't happen here?'  The Reds would reverse even that opinion after Hitler arguing that 'it could happen here' necessitating the liquidation of 'Fascist elements.'  Allen must have know the fallacy of his argument.  I no longer have any confidence in his integrity.

Sinclair LewisKurt EisnerBela Kun
    The Communist revolution could have happened here which is what Burroughs argues. His novel The Moon Maid is a story of when 'it did happen here.'  A better novel, I might add, than Sinclair Lewis's It Couldn't Happen Here.

     When that 'harmless romantic poet' Kurt Eisner at the head of a miniscule Bavarian Communist element seized power how numerous was his party?  Miniscule, do I repeat myself, why then I repeat myself, as were the Communists led by Bela Kun in Hungary.

     So this standard dodge of the defamers is nonsense.  What is necessary is for these small cadres to create the appropriate climate in which a highly organized, coordinated, dedicated band can seize control.  The ideal climate in Russia, Bavaria, Germany and Hungary was created by the Great War and its aftermath.

     The attempt to create a similar environment in the United States was made by the tremendous wave of strikes and bombings during The Big Red Scare.

     In a second standard Red/Liberal dodge Allen argues that it can't be proven that the strikes and bombings were led by Communists, anarchists, socialists or radicals.

     At the same time he says, p. 47: 

    The Socialist party watching the success of the Russian revolution, was flirting with the idea of violent mass-action.  And there was too, a rag-tag and bobtail collection of Communists and anarchists, many of them former Socialists, nearly all of them foreign born, most of them Russians, (read Jews) who talked of going still further, who took their gospel direct from Moscow and, presumably with the aid of Russian funds, preached it aggressively among the slums and factory-town population.
      Thus while contradicting himself at least we have the comfort of knowing that these totalitarians were only a 'rag-tag and bobtail collection.'  Humph!  Very contemptible.  It is fruitless to argue these points but if bomb-throwers and fomenters of labor discontent weren't Communists, anarchists and radicals, then who?

     It is true that as a piece of propaganda a book has to be reasonably short because most people don't like to read long books, three or four hundred pages equals the attention span  of the average reader.  That's about mine;  I resent nothing more than a long winded writer, like myself, who rambles on for a thousand closely packed, small print, 10" by 6" pages.  On the other hand you can't really do an effective job in less than a thousand pages.  Anyone who can write his autobiography in less than two thousand pages has either had his memory banks shorted out or doesn't know how to write his story.  But I digress. 

     As a piece of propaganda Only Yesterday is very effective.  While I was dazzled by it I strangely remained unconvinced.  I would imagine that Burroughs who was not of the Red/Liberal persuasion read it with the same jaundiced eye.

     After making excuses for the radicals Allen finds fault with their opponents.  And there was the problem with Allen's history.  He had taken sides; while trying to dissimulate it he was for the Reds.  Even though  he didn't put it into these words he though that resistance to the Reds was immoral.  Allen was of the Red faith or belief system.

     Thus he characterizes the 'super-patriots' in this manner, p. 46:

     It was an era of lawless and disorderly defense of law and order, of unconstitutional defense of the constitution, of suspicion and civil conflict - in a very literal sense it was a reign of terror.

     That is certainly one way of looking at it.  Having granted his facts, his opinions are skewed.  Perhaps a better description might be a period of undeclared martial law necessary to protect law and order.  How Mr. Allen could if not excuse at least ameliorate the series of bombings he himself describes  culminating in the incredible Wall Street blast and then describe the necessary reaction as a reign of terror boggles the imagination.

     One imagines that ERB reading this tripe in 1931-32 when he himself was under attack by Red terrorists snorted in disbelief and disgust.  What reasonable, informed, balanced person wouldn't?

     Really, for all his seeming cool detachment FLA was off the deep end.  Just as his kind would be in the American defence against the Reds after WWII would be.  In fact none of the arguments and strategies changed.  In 1954 and in 1920 when the defense had been made in the former case by Senator McCarthy and in the latter case by the Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer both men were slandered into oblivion.

Attorney General A. Mitchell PalmerJoe McCarthy
     ERB had a vested interest in reading Allen's popular history which must be why this volume so out of consonance with this collection found its way there.

     A careful examination of ERB's library may turn up other surprises.  The recent issue of the correspondence between ERB and Herb Weston has given us additional insight into the nature of ERB's thought processes.  Now, if we could get Danton Burroughs to release additional correspondence, say, between ERB and Bob Davis and his publishers we might be able to bore further into the mental processes of the real ERB.

ERBzine Refs
Edgar Rice Burroughs Personal Library
Frederick Lewis Allen on ERB's Library A2 Shelf
Only Yesterday: eText
Under The Red Flag: Moon Maid entry in ERB C.H.A.S.E.R
Something Of Value Part II by R.E. Prindle
Kurt Eisner
Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer
Senator Joseph McCarthy

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