Book Review: Appeal To The Nations

Appeal To The Nations, by Norman Thomas

Although this book was published in the immediate aftermath of World War II, before it became completely clear just how morally and intellectually bankrupt Soviet Communism and its fractious socialist kin were, the book is surprisingly topical even today.  Given the recent popularity of democratic socialism, which the author represented in various unsuccessful campaigns for political office in the 1940’s, in the contemporary political career of Bernie Sanders [1], the ideas of this book have gained a certain degree of popularity, and it is interesting to see how the writer positions himself to the left of FDR (who he views with a certain degree of disdain) and how he views the authoritarian Communist state of the Soviet Union with a certain degree of hostility as well, largely because of its abuses against its own people, and for its failure to go far enough when it came to socialism.  The author also finds a lot of fault with other globalists [2], especially for their desire to weight the United Nations in such a way as to give large nations more power.  The author provides in this book something that is an appeal, not a blueprint, but rather a rhetorically impassioned call for what it is that socialist pacifists want.  Since we have a large number of those people around us, especially here in the Pacific Northwest, it is worthwhile to know what it is that such people believe even where, especially where, it is deeply misguided and mistaken.

This book is written in a way that focuses a great deal more on rhetoric than it does on facts.  The author presents himself as someone who has a great deal of principle and character and has a lot of criticism to make of many people–including rivals on the left and center-left, various imperialist interests within the United States, foreign powers as well as Russian/Soviet imperialism, and on it goes.  The book consists of a variety of short chapters that detail the arguments on the side of the left (which are fascinating to read as they come from an insider’s perspective) as well as the likelihood that many Americans and others in the West would happily subvert the United States in the case of a conflict with the USSR, something which it was no longer popular to admit on the left after the McCarthy hearings in the 1950’s, but which remained no less true until the defeat of the Soviet Union.  He is especially insightful in pointing out the damaging results of FDR’s insistence on unconditional surrender and the likelihood that it was not necessary to use the nukes on Japan to get the peace that we ended up with, which may be an optimistic statement.  The author deserves some praise for being honest, even if in many cases he shows himself to be honestly wrong, and an extremely critical person about all of the institutions on which his goals of world peace and income redistribution would depend.  We may not like the instruments we have been handed as statesmen, but they are what we have to work with if we want to do good in this present evil world.

Ultimately, this book is not a good prescription for world peace.  It is useful, at least, in looking at the fundamental demands for globalist democratic socialists in seeking income redistribution and a drastic lowering of armament as well as a sense of hostility to any sort of patriotism, whether it is our own or that of Israel (which the author discusses in considerable detail), or that of any other nation.  His appeal is one to the nations, but it is a starkly anti-nationalist appeal, even if it recognizes that the appeal of nationalism and the great difference between world cultures would make democratic socialism impossible on the model that he would want for the United States.  Mercifully, the United States has not fallen to this sort of political leadership like many smaller nations in Europe, but the ideals of the author are appealing to many Americans nonetheless, and because of that it is worthwhile that we should at least see others as they see themselves, especially where they do us the favor of being candid about their assumptions and worldviews, as they would not be as likely to do in debate with us.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, History, International Relations and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Book Review: Appeal To The Nations

  1. jamesbradfordpate says:

    I read and blogged through a biography of Norman Thomas a few years ago. For some reason, a post I wrote on Thomas’ critique of the New Deal still gets a steady stream of views!

  2. Pingback: Book Review: Principles Of International Politics | Edge Induced Cohesion

  3. Pingback: Book Review: What Does Europe Want? | Edge Induced Cohesion

  4. Pingback: Book Review: FDR Goes To War | Edge Induced Cohesion

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