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James M. Fenwick

Off Limits

Taking Off, Mr. Bolte?

(20 January 1947)

From Labor Action, Vol. 11 No. 3, 20 January 1947, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the ETOL.

Charles G. Bolte, national chairman of the American Veterans Committee, has just been granted a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University, England. His two-year course of study will begin this fall.

This is the same Bolte of whom PM in a gushing biographical sketch once wrote: “AVC was the agent that jelled Bolte’s personality. Later he was to remember a motto he had seen mimeographed in an early AVC Bulletin. It was Sir Francis Drake’s prayer as he sailed into the harbor of Cadiz, ‘O Lord, God, when Thou givest to Thy servants to endeavor any great matter, grant us also to know that it is not the beginning but the continuing of the same, until it is thoroughly finished, which yieldeth the true glory ...’ The italicized section Bolte took as his text.”

Despite this piety, his numerous articles on the veteran, his spare speaking style, and his culture, Bolte reveals himself as another bright Ivy League liberal using the veterans for what Shakespeare once called “young ambition’s ladder.”

The AVC has largely been identified with Bolte. His taking off now for a two-year exposure in the most caste-ridden school of the most cast-ridden country of Europe can have only adverse effects. There will be a tendency to think of the AVC as led by persons seeking only to feather their own nests. Bolte leaves, further, at a critical juncture in the growth of the AVC. His leaving likewise permits the Stalinists to bang away hypocritically at the seersucker set controlling the national AVC, whom they have constantly charged with dilettantism and conservatism.br />  

Up from Dartmouth

Bolte comes from the upper middle-class. His life has been a carefully cushioned one. His father is a $20,000 a year advertising executive who moves in the circles of Henry R. Luce. Bolte graduated from Dartmouth, a “good” eastern school. While there he engaged in normal campus literary activities and in exceptional ones like discussing with Robert Sherwood, the playwright and literary mechanic to whom Roosevelt subcontracted many of his speeches. After a passing phase of pacifism Bolte became what he himself identifies as a “warmonger and one of> the most unpopular men in the history of Dartmouth College.” Shortly after graduation he enlisted in the British army, where he became an officer. After he was wounded at El Alamein he was invalided home. He did a turn writing propaganda for the OWI. Then followed the organization of the AVC.

Other leaders in the AVC have much the same . background: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr., William L. Batt, Jr., son of the well-known Philadelphia capitalist and recently democratic candidate for Congress; Oren Root, Jr., Republican campaign manager for Willkie in 1940. The young AVC had roots in the democratic administration and in the business world. Eleanor Roosevelt showed an early “interest” in the AVC. The publishers Marshall Field and Eugene Meyer were early financial angels of the organization. It is from such circles that a considerable section of AVC’s national leadership gains financial and ideological sustenance. Politically they can be described as New Dealers.br />  

Walking on Eggs

Under these circumstances it should surprise no one that the AVC program can be criticized for lack of aggressiveness. The AVC’s opposition to the bonus; the indecent slobbering over Omar Bradley, who initiated the wage cuts in the on-the-job-training program; the lack of militant prosecution of the housing fight; and the persistent putting of the damper upon demonstrative actions of the most justifiable kind are of ultimate benefit to capitalism – and not the veteran.

Overlooking the cold political calculation which leads a Stassen to discover what a buddy he is of the AVC membership, and overlooking the career boys like Bolte, for whom the AVC is a means to a personal end, what is the objective significance of the role played by persons such as Root, Roosevelt, or Bolte? The simple answer is that the AVC is utilized to keep the veterans’ demands within reasonable bounds – i.e., capitalist ones.

It is this condition which permits the Stalinists to conduct a “plausible” fight against the milk and water policy of the national organization. The Stalinists, needless to say, are interested in a militant program for the AVC only insofar as it permits them to gain control of the organization to use it as another pressure point in Russian foreign policy.

The answer is a MILITANT policy based upon the present progressive beginnings which have made the AVC unique in its field.

The answer is not, like Bolte, to turn from the real world of struggle to the illusory peace of the academic groves. Moreover, Bolte’s course has its own logic, whatever he may personally thinks motivates his action: he yields ground to the Stalinist totalitarians at home, and, under the present international constellation of forces, serves to help create those ideological ties linking British and United States imperialism together for the contemplated atomic war against Russia.

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