During all the years Mussolini was sending his armies to fight in Spain for Franco fascism, some historians estimate the Italian army at 100,000, others estimate it to have been 200,000, but in either case it was the main land force on the fascist side. The entire German air force saw service in Spain. Goering's plan was to have each and every squadron get actual war experience in preparation for the world war Hitler was planning the year the Spanish conflict was ended.
When Ken failed us as a weekly journal "one step left of center" and not one newspaper or magazine with a million circulation or more did an honest job of reporting the Fascist International's plan to take over all of Europe and the rest of the world, all of us who were friends of the Spanish Republic were desperate. There was a meeting in Carnegie hall in New York at which notable persons spoke. There were plans for a protest march on Washington to picket the White House - we accused FDR of overlooking the facts that Germany and Italy had violated the neutrality pact by sending fighters and military supplies to Franco. And so while the Fascist armies and navies were fighting a war, the American friends of the Republic were making speeches and taking a poll of all the writers of the country.1
One year after the Ken disaster a stranger called on me and proposed starting a new popular illustrated weekly that would support the Loyalist cause. I applauded his plan and his idea, but I said that it would take about one million dollars just to get out the first issue.
"Well," replied the stranger, "I've got a million dollars."
He put his hand in his jacket pocket and took out a bulging leather thing. He opened it. There were bonds, certificates of deposit, bank statements, and the like, all for large sums of money.
When the stranger was leaving I asked him to repeat his name because I did not get it when he phoned me. It was Gilmor - without an e; his father was or had been a noted admiral in the U.S. Navy. I never saw Mr. Gilmor again. I had been certain the reason for the meeting was to offer me an editorial job, but that never eventuated. What did eventuate was a weekly called Friday, an amateurish sort of thing that lasted a little while, made no impact, and disappeared.
In 1939 the Italian infantry and German aviation, aided by a very few Spaniards, finally captured Madrid and established a fascist dictatorship. The Republic had held out for three years with no military aid, no armaments from abroad and no food.2
After the failure of Friday, several friends meeting at my rented house near Wilton, Connecticut, talked about starting a modest four-page weekly newsletter, printed on cheap newsprint, selling for fifty cents or one dollar a year. We figured we could get a start with, say, five thousand dollars. Inasmuch as the commercial press was, as usual, about ninety percent anti-labor, we decided to appeal to the new union labor movement known as the CIO for subscriptions at the beginning. Bruce Minton, who would edit the weekly newsletter with me, had a friend who would sound out the CIO immediately. We discussed a name. I spoke up for making the weekly absolutely fair and factual, printing straight news, no slanted pro-labor news, just the facts. Helen said, "Why not just call it In fact?" By May 1940 our CIO subscription solicitor presented us with a subscription-in-advance list of six thousand names and three thousand dollars in the bank. From the first issue on we were successful. Our subscription list approached 200,000 - which we figured would be about one million readers; and we would have gone far beyond that had not almost every newspaper in the country and every crooked and prostituted journalist in the country united in red-baiting us - and finally destroying In fact.
Although the majority of friends of my newsletter did not ask that their names remain secret, the situation that Representative martin Dies and Senator Joseph McCarthy created, the atmosphere of fear that prevailed for years, the complete irresponsibility of these two men, made it almost certain that every friend, no matter how firm and powerful he was, would be harmed and perhaps destroyed. Here are the names of the most notable individuals and groups that contributed news items or encouragement to my publication:
Among the enemies of my newsletter, naturally enough, almost all were the large-circulation and powerful newspapers of the country, notably the press chains, Scripps-Howard, Hearst and Gannett, which either permitted or encouraged their syndicated columnists to attack In fact and libel its publisher. Equally disastrous for us was the silence of the great "respectable" press, notably The New York Times, whose managing editor, Edwin L. James, had given orders to his staff never to mention my newsletter or my books or my name. (I had testified for the Newspaper Guild in its NLRB suit against The Times in 1934 and James frankly told me on leaving the hearing that he would revenge himself in this way.) Other enemies included:
Here are some facts about two sample enemies of my newsletter, the journalist Randolph Churchill and Congressman Karl Mundt:
When Roy Howard's United Features Syndicate employed Sir Winston Churchill's son, Randolph, as a columnist I pointed out in In fact that this man had favored both Hitler and Mussolini and helped to overthrow the Spanish Republic by writing a series of falsehoods favoring the traitor Franco. The article concluded with the statement that Randolph Churchill was more pro-fascist and any journalist in America.
A few weeks before Randolph Churchill's last visit to Franco Spain, Reynolds News, a great liberal London newspaper, said, "The Spanish embassy here is on the lookout for an English journalist who will visit Spain to write up the Franco scene. This report will be submitted to newspapers as an 'objective' account. Franco is offering a fat salary for the 'independent' review."
Churchill returned. He wrote a series in praise of Franco. The articles were distributed in Europe and America.
Imagine my surprise when I was notified that I would be sued by Churchill for libel if I did not retract the item I had reprinted from Reynolds News.
It had been my policy to correct every error of fact whether a correction was asked for or not. I insisted not only on truthfulness but also fairness. On receiving the request I wrote a simple statement, saying the item had appeared in Reynolds News and that Churchill objected. Meanwhile Reynolds News wrote me it was not being sued for libel or threatened; it stood by its story that Churchill was being paid by Fascist Spain. I so notified Churchill's lawyer. He again threatened to sue me despite the fact that the item was not challenged in England where the libel laws are a hundred times as severe as in America.
My lawyer told me it would cost $25,000 to defend a libel suit. I had no money. I had to apologize in print to Randolph Churchill for facts he could not deny in his native land.
One of the best illustrations of the difficulties of printing facts in the dark Dies-McCarthy era is the case of Karl Mundt and three others who constituted the South Dakota delegation in Congress.
The Chairman of the Democratic Party organization in South Dakota, Walter H. Burke, wrote me, asking if I could identify a dozen easterners who had raised a slush fund and bought four Republicans: Mundt, Bushfield, Case and Gurney.
I easily identified Irenee Du Pont, Lammot Du Pont, Alfred E. Sloan of General Motors, Joseph Pew of Sunoco and Sun Shipbuilding, members of the Mellon family and others who incidentally were the controlling interests of the National Association of Manufacturers (N.A.M.), and whose names were also listed in one of the La Follette Committee reports and the Temporary National Economic Committee reports as among the 207 who controlled American industry and business.
The Democratic Party issued a sensational statement denouncing these eastern interests for buying the South Dakota election, but with the exception of the little Millala, S.D., Pioneer, not one newspaper reported this news. I sent the story to a friend, Senator Joseph Guffey of Pennsylvania, who inserted it in the Congressional Record after denouncing the Mundt slush fund in a speech on the floor. But this news was again suppressed with the following exceptions: columnist Drew Pearson and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch - which said editorially that the Pews, Du Ponts and other corporate heads "got away with murder in South Dakota."
Not one commercial newspaper or magazine investigated this scandal.
For years In fact noted the votes of Messrs. Mundt, Bushfield, Case and Gurney on measures favored by the great lobbies in Washington, notably that of the N.A.M., and in every instance every bill big business wanted and the labor unions opposed was supported by the South Dakota quartet.
Mr. Mundt replied to In fact's exposure of the slush fund by making slanderous statements in the House and inserting libelous statements in the Record, secure in the knowledge that the only place in America where slander and libel are privileged are the houses of Congress and their daily publication. Mr. Mundt, by this outrageous although legal action, thus armed all the obviously dishonest columnists, notably lewis and Sokolsky, who were beneficiaries of the same N.A.M. money that had helped him to repeat the falsehoods that eventually destroyed my newsletter.
1 Of five hundred replies those who favored the Republic numbered 495, neutrals numbered four, and there was one pro-Franco vote, a woman named Atherton who wrote a novel entitled Black Oxen. Among the neutrals there was one noted name: e.e. cummings. The anti-Franco 495 were headed by Dreiser, Lewis and Hemingway.
2 In the eighteen months, 1936-1937, when Helen and I were in Madrid for the New York Post, one of the less than one percent of the entire American press favoring the Republic, we lived on four starches: bread, potatoes, rice and churos - something that looked like doughnuts but was extruded from a machine and sold by the meter; it was made of dough. We journalists, however, were the fortunate ones, for every four months or so we could take the train, cross the border into France and eat. The Spanish Republicans had no guns, food or medicines and the world press published falsehoods about them, called them "reds" and let them die.