The domestic peril: the radical alien and the rise of corporate Americanism, 1912-1919
AffiliationArts - School of Historical Studies
Document TypeMasters Research thesis
CitationsDebney, B. (2010). The domestic peril: the radical alien and the rise of corporate Americanism, 1912-1919. Masters Research thesis , Arts - School of Historical Studies, The University of Melbourne.
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2010 Ben Debney
In the years preceding the First World War, corporate propaganda in the United States weighed in against the menace of the ‘radical alien,’ said to be a clear and present threat to American freedoms. This propaganda blamed strikes and other manifestations of class antagonism on unassimilated immigrants, who it claimed were, at best, vulnerable to peddlers of ‘un-American’ unionism, and, at worst, importers of the ‘alien’ ideologies upon which organised labour was said to be founded. This thesis argues that this propaganda was part of a conscious campaign of class warfare conducted by the National Association of Manufacturers and other representatives of Corporate America, who formed the vanguard of Corporate Americanism. Corporate Americanism, an ideology equating the self-interest of Corporate America with the interest of all, proclaimed as its operating principle that ‘those who are not for America are against it.’ In reaction to the Lawrence Strike of 1912, composed mostly of foreign-born workers and led by the hated Industrial Workers of the World, big business manipulated half-truths through propaganda to develop the mythology of the ‘radical alien,’ responding to the perceived peril with the movement to ‘Americanise’ the immigrant. Under the guise of providing lessons in English and Civics, this movement functioned to neutralise the threat of union militancy on the part of foreign-born workers by indoctrinating them in Corporate Americanist civic orthodoxies. The movement to Americanise the immigrant led to an experiment in Industrial Americanisation in Detroit in 1915, an experiment that sought to combine the indoctrination process of Americanisation with the benevolent paternalism of industrialists such as Henry Ford to provide a means of incorporating foreign-born workers into an industrial order in which they would be submissive pawns. With the onset of war the mythology of the ‘radical alien’ menace combined with war-fever to produce conditions in which the Americanisation movement would be accepted as state policy and the core principles of Corporate Americanism would come to be seen not as the self-interested ideology of a powerful lobby group, but rather as the desirable traits of citizens. Representing a significant shift towards corporate oligarchy, this thesis argues that these changes laid the foundations for the Red Scare of 1919-1920 as well as providing continued political cover for Corporate America’s campaign of class war.
Keywordshistory; United States of America; immigration; Americanism; Americanization; Progressivism; Progressive Era; corporations; corporate propaganda; National Association of Manufacturers; NAM; Henry Ford; Five Dollar Day; Detroit; unions; unionism; Lawrence strike 1912; Massachusetts bread and roses; radicals; radicalism; socialism; socialist; anarchism; anarchist; anarcho-syndicalism; anarcho-syndicalist; Industrial Workers of the World; IWW; WW1; First World War; George Creel; Committee on Public Information; CPI; radical alien; War on Terror; Red Scare; Terror Scare; whiteness; xenophobia; racism; paternalism
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