Hal Draper

Whipping Up the War Spirit –
It’s All in the Mobilization Day Plan

With M-Day Not Far off the Generals Have Perfected
the Methods of Propaganda and Censorship
Which Will Be Used in Mobilizing the Morale of Workers for War

(May 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 35, 23 May 1939, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

There is a French book on the last war called How They Mobilized Our Consciences. Today, before the war crisis, the government frankly considers your Conscience – your Morale they call it – as an article to be mobilized along with quartermaster supplies and the lives of drafted men.

Bernard M. Baruch, the “theoretician” of the Industrial Mobilization Plan, likes to speak of the “five M’s” which have to be mobilized; these are: men, money, maintenance or food, material resources, and morale. Assistant Secretary of War Johnson states:

“To conduct a modern war successfully, a nation must provide men for the armed forces, military supplies and equipment, and a supporting public opinion. Securing all these things is our problem.”

The new emphasis which is placed upon morale on the home front was expressed by Baruch before the Army Industrial College (training school for the army’s I.M.P. Men):

“I need hardly bring to your attention what must be done by a nation in arms – the discipline and mobilization of its moral and material forces. Judgment born of experience shows that the moral or spiritual is the greater of the two forces ... Ludendorff bitterly complained that his military front remained impregnable long after what he called ‘the home front’ had crumbled. Napoleon said: ‘In war, the moral is to the physical as 3 to 1.’ Civil morale therefore is fully as important as military morale.”

The problem of “civil morale” is divided into two aspects – negative, that is, censorship, and positive, that is, propaganda. The Plan puts both of these functions into the hands of an Administration of Public Relations.

Even through the official statements in the Plan itself can be seen the Iron Heel which will be set upon the masses in wartime. The I.M.P. outlines the functions of the Public Relations Administration as follows:

“To mobilize all existing mediums of publicity ... To coordinate the publicity programs of the various Government agencies ... To act as a bureau of information to which the public and the world may look for proper and reliable information concerning aims and activities of the Government. ... To combat disaffection at home ... To combat enemy propaganda at home and abroad ... To establish rules and regulations for censorship ... To enlist and supervise a voluntary censorship of the newspaper and periodical press.”

The Plan further proposes that the Administrator gather together a personnel comprising “capable journalists, advertising councillors, writers, motion-picture experts, and others whose practical experience and whose influence in their respective fields are extensive and whose professional and business associations give them intimate knowledge of and access to the important mediums of publicity.”

The Public Relations Administration will be divided into five divisions, with appropriate bureaus:

  1. Division of Administration.
  2. Division of News – domestic; foreign.
  3. Division of Pictures – films; posters; cartoons; photographs; scenarios.
  4. Division of Civic Cooperation – speakers; women’s organizations; war expositions.
  5. Division of Advertising – radio; newspapers; magazines; billboards; bulletins.

The radio is taken care of by the Communications Act of 1934 – a measure carefully fostered and piloted through Congress by the Roosevelt Administration. By the terms of this Act, the President can take over all radio and wire offices in any “national emergency.”

How Censorship Will Work

The Plan’s reference to a “voluntary” censorship of the press is of course an official joke. The meaning of this gag was explained by Herbert Bayard Swope, testifying before the War Policies Commission several years ago as a World War expert in “public relations.” Censorship of the press, he said, “can be brought about in part by voluntary agreement, but behind this there must be some sort of licensing system established so that offenders may be punished.”

The Plan itself contains the licensing system. Any business “over which Government control is necessary” must secure a license in order to operate. The President has the power to decide whether it is “necessary.” As a result of the twinging of the Congressional conscience, some of the later I.M.P. bills exempt the press from the licensing provision, but all of them (including that of Senator Nye) include another provision which is just as effective.

This is the “priority” provision, according to which the government can deprive a given newspaper of paper, ink and all other supplies, and thereby punish it if it refuses to submit to the “voluntary” censorship. Nye’s own investigation committee made a point of proving that this entails the power of censorship, and the War Department admitted it at the hearings. The War Department further admitted that “any ingenious man, familiar with the newspaper business, could in two hours work out 40 different ways to establish a press censorship” by the terms of the I.M.P.

Making You Love It

As for the propaganda angle of “public relations,” we can give a foretaste here by quoting Herbert Bayard Swope on the art of propaganda, before the Congressional committee:

“The desire for victory must become universal. To win is to carry out the will of God in the popular mind; to win becomes the great national purpose. So in the philosophy of war opposition becomes disobedience to the divine will – sacrilege – as well as unpatriotic ... assuming a nation to be activated by a nearly universal impulse, sharp measures can be taken against the few opposing the national will – however intellectual, however honest, however courageous they may be ...

“Censorship and propaganda are the agencies of domination ... It is rare – it is never – that a nation is instantly galvanized into the vast emotionalism that is needed in war ...

“The issues, colored and excitative, must be brought home to each. Every manner of appeal must be employed ...

“... propaganda, ... however naive at times, shall proclaim our virtues, sublimate our aims and accentuate our successes and indict the vices of the enemy and minimize his achievements ...

“For home consumption all wars are defensive and all are based upon questions of national honor ...”

Last updated on 17 January 2016