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Behind the Headlines
by Justin Raimondo

War is a Racket, by
General Smedley Butler
A revolutionary idea
Peace Symbol
whose time has come?
The Great Madness
The Great Madness
The birthplace
Jekyll Island clubhouse
of the creature

Randolph Bourne 1886-1918

John Dos Passos wrote that if ever a man had a ghost, it was Bourne:

A tiny twisted unscared ghost in a black cloak
hopping along the grimy old brick and brownstone
streets still left in downtown New York,
crying out in a shrill soundless giggle:
War is the health of the state.

Dos Passos, 1919 (N.Y.: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1932), pp. 105-106.

When World War I erupted it came as a surprise to the overwhelming majority of American intellectuals. Its barbarity stuck them as anachronistic and they tended to view the conflict as a temporary sidetrack in the march of civilization, an expression of residual animal instincts. The dawn of the Enlightenment and the tremendous progress made in the Nineteenth Century made war seem quite uncharacteristic (in their view) of humanity's evolving nature.

Of course, they saw themselves as important and instrumental in defining and fine tuning that nature. On the leading edge of political and social brilliance, ivy-league educated, born to lead and with the silver spoon in the mouth to prove it, they were socialists. And when President Woodrow Wilson (who had been re-elected as a peace candidate under the slogan, "He kept us out of war") opted to throw the full weight of the country's resources into the European conflict, they rallied to his support.

Randolph Bourne, who was to die in the flu epidemic shortly after the Armistice, cried out alone against the betrayal of the values of civilization by his fellow writers. He and his magazine paid a heavy price and, of course, he did not live to see the backlash following the war. The damage had been done.

The stage was set for the bankers' punitive conditions at Versailles, the plunging of Britain and the US into economic depression, the collusion of central bankers a few years later against Germany's booming competitive economy, their inhumane destruction of the great cities of European culture within the next thirty years, and their unopposed ceding of half of a prostate Europe to Bolshevism.

Bourne's articles appeared in a magazine, The Seven Arts. Two of his essays, The War and the Intellectuals and War is the Health of the State appear here. I hope that these may prompt a new generation's student to pursue further research into the brief life and ideas of a man who, as Dos Passos wrote, does indeed have a ghost.

Stewart Ogilby
Sarasota, FL


BigEye's readers might also enjoy the following --

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How and Why International Bankers Make War

Randolph Bourne - The Heath Anthology of American Literature

"The Great Madness" by Scott Nearing

Randolph Bourne - Selections

A brief Bourne biography

The Randolph Bourne Institute

War is the Health of the State - Chapter from Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States

Our Enemy, the State by Albert Jay Nock

The Warfare State - A Brief Synopsis

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