John A. Stormer. None Dare Call It Treason…25 Years Later. Liberty Bell Press, 1990, 1992. See here to purchase the book.
None Dare Call It Treason was a national bestseller in 1964, when conservative Barry Goldwater ran for President. Written and published by John A. Stormer, it professed to reveal Communist infiltration in American institutions. Stormer vigorously argued that American foreign and domestic policy, public education, news media, liberal churches, mental health facilities, unions, and tax-exempt foundations were serving the cause of international Communism. From the Presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt to Stormer’s own day, Stormer contended, Communists were weakening American resistance to Communism on the foreign and domestic fronts, thereby paving the way for the U.S. to become a Communist country. The U.S. government has made decisions that have undermined national defense, enabled the Communists to advance worldwide, and moved the U.S. towards economic collectivism. Meanwhile, prominent institutions propagandize against free enterprise and the traditional family and demonize anti-Communists in government and the private sector.
Twenty-five years later, it was 1989. Ronald Reagan had just been President, and George H.W. Bush was early in his term. Communism appeared to be collapsing throughout the world, with Glasnost, Perestroika, and the fall of the Berlin Wall. While one might think that this would give an anti-Communist like Stormer cause to rejoice, Stormer remained concerned. For Stormer, the alleged collapse of Communism was a mere ruse, designed to encourage the West to bail out the failing Communist economies. Communists still ruled in the Eastern European countries, and Gorbachev in speeches continued to voice his commitment to socialism and world Communist revolution. On the domestic front, Communists still infiltrated or influenced American institutions. They used government welfare agencies to foment protest and agitation, formed alliances with the left to oppose Reagan’s anti-Communist policies and the Bork nomination, and thwarted the candidacies of anti-Communist Democrats like Gary Hart. Meanwhile, public educational curricula and liberal churches continued to deride the traditional family, Christianity, and morality, all in accordance with Communist ideology. Through all of this, surveillance of domestic Communism was virtually abandoned, as institutions like HUAC became a thing of the past.
Stormer seems to treat Reagan as sincere in his conservative, anti-Communist convictions, but he has reservations about Reagan. As a result to the Iran-Contra affair, staunch anti-Communists like Oliver North have been marginalized within the Reagan Administration or removed from it entirely. Reagan ceased believing that the Soviet Union was an evil empire by his second term, and the arms control agreements that he made with the Soviets gave the Soviets an advantage and failed to live up to Reagan’s proclaimed goal of “trust but verify.” Stormer’s Christian religious convictions deepened between 1964 and 1989, and he came to believe more strongly that spiritual renewal was essential for the defeat of Communism. In light of that, he disapproved of Nancy Reagan’s consultation of astrologers.
This book preserved the vast majority of the 1964 text, while adding over three hundred pages of new material. It slightly altered the 1964 text to remove obsolete information. In the final chapter of the 1964 version, Stormer recommended conservative periodicals, which included Human Events, the Wanderer, and the Dan Smoot Report. In the update, he suggested Human Events and informed readers of its new address. Why he omitted the Wanderer is a mystery to me because it was still around in 2009, when I attended a conservative Catholic church.
Stormer’s book is well-documented. Critics accused Stormer of taking quotes out of context, as Stormer says the left has done in its treatment of such conservatives as Joseph McCarthy and Edwin Walker. Indeed, for much of what Stormer says, there undoubtedly is another side to the story, for the people who instituted the policies that Stormer criticized probably did not justify them on the grounds of wanting to give the Communists a strategic advantage. Stormer occasionally gives readers a glimpse of their arguments, as when he attempts to refute the contention that the U.S. in the 1950’s would have risked war with Russia had it helped the Hungarian protesters. In some cases, the picture that Stormer paints is incomplete. He criticizes Truman for prohibiting General Douglas MacArthur to bomb the Yalu river, across which Communist China sent supplies to North Korea, but he fails to mention MacArthur’s intention to take over Communist China or (alleged) desire to use the atomic bomb. Stormer is aware of the accusation that the Nicaraguan contras are cut-throats, yet he largely ignores anti-Communist atrocities and focuses on Communist brutality. In addition, the data that Stormer presents may fit into other narratives than some grand plot for Communist world domination. Of course, Communists share many of the same goals as the left and may work with the left in pursuit of those goals, but does that mean that any domestic agitation or social justice measure should be treated as a Communist plot to take over the country? Perhaps they are attempts to work within the system and make it fairer and more receptive to the marginalized. Maybe Stormer was correct that there were psychologists who deemed devotion to far right ideas as neurotic, but does that necessarily mean that they intended to confine all right-wingers to mental institutions?
Overall, though, this book is engaging to read. Stormer offered an economic insight that interested me, in explaining why the U.S. does not experience hyper-inflation, even though it prints lots of money: his answer is that it is because other countries are buying American assets. The quotes that Stormer criticizes are insightful in that they present formidable critiques of traditionalism, yet Stormer makes a legitimate point when he argues that such critiques have no place in public school curricula. Families are imperfect, and there are reasons to question religion, but should students be taught in public schools to question their parents and traditions? Is that not indoctrination? On the other hand, would not treating those institutions as infallible result in an insipid, banal, and even inaccurate education? As was said above, the additions to this book are more religious than the 1964 original, and Stormer offers a rigorous (albeit one-sided) biblical defense for freedom of speech and religion, as well as private property.
I first read None Dare Call It Treason in the sixth grade. Reading it as an adult, I noticed details that escaped me before. There was Karl Marx’s lament that the proletariat he championed actually held to conservative ideas and aspired to be like the bourgeoisie rather than overthrowing it. There was Stormer’s acknowledgement that prominent labor unions were led by staunch anti-Communists, along with his dismissal of wealth inequality through his argument that most Americans own some sort of stock. There was also an ex-Communist’s testimony that, in working for FDR to shape the New Deal, his goal was for FDR to be like Kerensky in Russia, who was replaced by the Bolsheviks. One might wonder how the Communists failed to take over the U.S. before now, if Stormer’s narrative is accurate.