Thesis

Conspiratorial politics: the Friends of Progress and California’s radicals of the right in California during World War Two

This thesis offers an analysis of the activities of the radical Los Angeles anti-interventionist group the Friends of Progress (FOP) during the 1940s. This group, while advocating non-intervention, also sympathized with Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan and aggressively attacked the Roosevelt administration. Embracing the belief that sinister international forces were poised to destroy the American way of life, the FOP adopted fascist propaganda to facilitate their campaign to inform and arouse the American public. Their use of Nazi propaganda before and during World War II signified not only the influence of Hitler and Nazism but also the prevalence of conspiratorial politics in Californian society. The same climate of paranoia that influenced the FOP also infused the efforts by state and federal officials to eradicate radical wartime dissent and un-Americanism. A byproduct of southern California’s radical politics of the 1930s, the influence of radical Right movements is critical to understanding California’s radical wartime dissent—and its suppression—at the onset of World War II. A number of historians have addressed the volatile nature of radical politics during the tumultuous 1930s; however, many analyses either emphasize the re-emergence of the Left in U.S. politics or the larger radical Right organizations such as the German American Bund, Father Charles Coughlin’s Union for Social Justice, or Huey Long’s Share the Wealth movement. Less known are the smaller groups, like the FOP, that arose after the eradication of larger radical movements at the hands of the federal government. Additionally, the onset of World War II often serves as a demarcation line separating the political unrest of the Great Depression from the unifying experience of World War II. This work emphasizes southern California’s radicalism of the 1930s and its continuing influence on California radicalism at the onset of World War II. This thesis draws primarily on legislative records from the California Department of Justice, in particular the records of the Attorney General, and California Appellate Court Third District records housed at the California State Archives. These records provided an uncontested framework for establishing events chronologically and conceptualizing details underpinning key aspects in the trial. Also important was the report of the California Joint Legislative Fact Finding Committee from 1943, which chronicled California’s investigations into subversive activities using the testimonies of Committee investigators, investigators from public organizations and suspected subversives. Other primary resources included contemporary accounts and political tracts, as well as articles from the Los Angeles Times and Time magazine. Finally, secondary accounts also informed my analysis, with a reliance on the work of Richard Hofstadter, Carey McWilliams, Kevin Starr, and David M. Kennedy. The analysis of the Friends of Progress uncovered not simply a radical Right group ultimately indicted and convicted of subversion under California law at the onset of World War II. Rather, the FOP also exemplified the continuity between southern California’s radical Right movements of the 1930s and their continuation in the form of smaller anti-war organizations as the U.S. entered World War II. The association of radical Right groups with extremism, anti-Semitism, and Nazism fed the ongoing perception of Fifth Column infiltration and fueled California’s anti-subversion efforts during World War II.

Thesis (M.A., History) -- California State University, Sacramento, 2011.

This thesis offers an analysis of the activities of the radical Los Angeles anti-interventionist group the Friends of Progress (FOP) during the 1940s. This group, while advocating non-intervention, also sympathized with Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan and aggressively attacked the Roosevelt administration. Embracing the belief that sinister international forces were poised to destroy the American way of life, the FOP adopted fascist propaganda to facilitate their campaign to inform and arouse the American public. Their use of Nazi propaganda before and during World War II signified not only the influence of Hitler and Nazism but also the prevalence of conspiratorial politics in Californian society. The same climate of paranoia that influenced the FOP also infused the efforts by state and federal officials to eradicate radical wartime dissent and un-Americanism. A byproduct of southern California’s radical politics of the 1930s, the influence of radical Right movements is critical to understanding California’s radical wartime dissent—and its suppression—at the onset of World War II. A number of historians have addressed the volatile nature of radical politics during the tumultuous 1930s; however, many analyses either emphasize the re-emergence of the Left in U.S. politics or the larger radical Right organizations such as the German American Bund, Father Charles Coughlin’s Union for Social Justice, or Huey Long’s Share the Wealth movement. Less known are the smaller groups, like the FOP, that arose after the eradication of larger radical movements at the hands of the federal government. Additionally, the onset of World War II often serves as a demarcation line separating the political unrest of the Great Depression from the unifying experience of World War II. This work emphasizes southern California’s radicalism of the 1930s and its continuing influence on California radicalism at the onset of World War II. This thesis draws primarily on legislative records from the California Department of Justice, in particular the records of the Attorney General, and California Appellate Court Third District records housed at the California State Archives. These records provided an uncontested framework for establishing events chronologically and conceptualizing details underpinning key aspects in the trial. Also important was the report of the California Joint Legislative Fact Finding Committee from 1943, which chronicled California’s investigations into subversive activities using the testimonies of Committee investigators, investigators from public organizations and suspected subversives. Other primary resources included contemporary accounts and political tracts, as well as articles from the Los Angeles Times and Time magazine. Finally, secondary accounts also informed my analysis, with a reliance on the work of Richard Hofstadter, Carey McWilliams, Kevin Starr, and David M. Kennedy. The analysis of the Friends of Progress uncovered not simply a radical Right group ultimately indicted and convicted of subversion under California law at the onset of World War II. Rather, the FOP also exemplified the continuity between southern California’s radical Right movements of the 1930s and their continuation in the form of smaller anti-war organizations as the U.S. entered World War II. The association of radical Right groups with extremism, anti-Semitism, and Nazism fed the ongoing perception of Fifth Column infiltration and fueled California’s anti-subversion efforts during World War II.

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