Influences of the World Wars

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Haywood, William. 1919. “Industrial Workers Of The World. With drops of blood. The history of the Industrial workers of the world has been written” Chicago, Illinois.

In this document, Secretary William Haywood of the Industrial Workers of the World lists the ways in which workers across the world have been abused and killed by companies seeking to expand with little to no regard for their employees.  Haywood lists murder, starvation, kidnapping, and arrests amongst his list of charges against the companies he believes have conspired against the general public in an effort to exploit their labor in an effort to expand their companies.  Considering a critique of the efforts by American business to push the United States government to expand westward, the scathing critique of the business practices of these same companies illustrates their unethical business practices in expanding their own business (Colby 2011).  Considering the exposure of these practices and the efforts to improve the working conditions of American workers at the time, one may argue that these efforts by American businesses to expand overseas was an effort to find new labor forces to exploit (Johnson 2005).  Expansion abroad allowed the U.S. government to avoid scrutiny in the U.S. for poor worker protection while guaranteeing high profits for companies by allowing them to expand abroad (Colby 2011).  Outsourcing and globalization begin during this stage immediately following the First World War as the world became more interconnected and industrialization allowed for increases in production.

Keppler, Udo J. 1911. The magnet. United States. Photograph. Library of Congress.

Keppler’s cartoon represents an unnamed American businessman holding an extremely large magnet that pulls high value recourses and commodities associated with various regions of the world towards the United States from all directions. Given the time period of the illustration, one can infer that the artist intended to satirize American policies of global free trade as policies of American greed rather than mutually beneficial strategies for other nations (Cutter 1927).  In addition, given the fact that the businessman uses a magnet and does not leave the United States to obtain the goods, it appears that they are being taken by force from their countries of origin (Santamarina 2000).  Again, seizure by force implies that the policies and practices used by American business that have been sectioned by the government only benefit American businesses and seek to promote American profits above all else (Johnson 2005).  While this document originated during the period of the First World War, the United States has continued to prioritize its own interest in using the same strategies pioneered during this period (Johnson 2005).

“Open for Business,” 1914. Digital Public Library of America.

Following the construction of the Panama Canal, one of the pinnacles of American Expansionist policies, the canal was advertised in this political cartoon as a new store that was now open for new business (Missal 2008).  With a ‘Welcome’ sign on one side and Uncle Sam with his arms outstretched on the other, this cartoon emphasizes the effort of the United States to connect the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans together as a means of expanding trade.  Furthermore, the title ‘Open for Business’ implies that efforts undertaken by the United States government in creating this canal will be directly felt by the businesses attempting to participate in trade from the Atlantic to the Pacific (Missal 2008).  While efforts by the government to promote business are not inherently bad, the methods used by the United States in the development of the Panama Canal were inhumane and the annexation of the Canal Zone by the United States were not carried out in an ethical manner (Missal 2008).  As discussed previously with Colby, in the construction of the Panama Canal, one can again identify the racist policies of the United States designed to exploit indigenous peoples to promote American profits and prioritize U.S. interests across the globe (Colby 2011).

“It is based upon the belief that the security of a nation lies in the strength and character of its own people. It recommends the maintenance of armed forces sufficient to defend this hemisphere from attack by any combination of foreign powers. It demands faith in an independent American destiny. This is the policy of the America First Committee today. It is a policy not of isolation, but of independence; not of defeat, but of courage. It is a policy that led this nation to success during the most trying years of our history, and it is a policy that will lead us to success again.

We have weakened ourselves for many months, and still worse, we have divided our own people by this dabbling in Europe’s wars. While we should have been concentrating on American defense we have been forced to argue over foreign quarrels. We must turn our eyes and our faith back to our own country before it is too late. And when we do this, a different vista opens before us. Practically every difficulty we would face in invading Europe becomes an asset to us in defending America. Our enemy, and not we, would then have the problem of transporting millions of troops across the ocean and landing them on a hostile shore. They, and not we, would have to furnish the convoys to transport guns and trucks and munitions and fuel across three thousand miles of water. Our battleships and submarines would then be fighting close to their home bases. We would then do the bombing from the air and the torpedoing at sea. And if any part of an enemy convoy should ever pass our Navy and our air force, they would still be faced with the guns of our coast artillery and behind them the divisions of our Army.”

Lindbergh, Charles A. 1941. “Address delivered at the America First Committee meeting in New York City” New York, NY. Charles A.

Lindbergh was known for supporting domestic policies that prioritized American interests as opposed to American foreign policy that considered the situation of other nations. Commonly referred to as ‘isolationism’ Lindbergh’s ideas were held by many in the American public during the interwar period, and in 1941 when he gave this speech, as many Americans were wary of becoming involved in another ‘European conflict’ that they did not believe would have direct repercussions on them (Malchow 2016). Instead, Lindbergh and others believed the United States should instead focus on domestic development and remain in economic cooperation with European powers rather than military conflict. Though his strategy was not accepted as the United States entered into the war shortly after his speech, this ideology clearly illustrates the prioritization of American economic prosperity over the larger geopolitical concerns of the time.


One can clearly identify the correlations of Lindbergh’s America First Committee with policies the United State pursues in domestic policy and international relations today.  Cobbs Hoffman centrally argues that the modern policies of the United States are no longer imperial as they were in the past by using annexation and war to expand the United States (2013).  Rather the United States uses the power and influence it attained from acting imperially to serve as an ‘umpire’ on the global scale who prevents conflict and facilitates trade.  While the U.S. may have changed its rhetoric to imply the strategy that Cobbs Hoffman argues, the correlations between Charles Lindbergh’s speech and current U.S. policies are too significant to ignore.  With over 700 bases abroad and military forces on land and at sea that can reach any portion of the globe almost instantaneously, the United States clearly illustrates its goal of promoting American capitalist policies and interests above all else.