Sunday, August 10, 2014

Chapter 13 - A Veteran Of The Great War: Part 1 - Introduction

Korzybski: A Biography (Free Online Edition)
Copyright © 2014 (2011) by Bruce I. Kodish 
All rights reserved. Copyright material may be quoted verbatim without need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder, provided that attribution is clearly given and that the material quoted is reasonably brief in extent.

After the Pan-American Labor Conference, Korzybski returned to San Antonio, wrote up his report about it for the Fuel Administration, and rested a few days. He had gotten word that his job would be terminated at the end of the month. On November 25, he took a train to New Orleans and from there to Washington (riding in Pullman Sleepers, his custom on long trips). He arrived in Washington on November 27, checked into a hotel, and spent the next few weeks settling his accounts with the U.S.F.A. and exploring job possibilities.

Alfred did not yet know how his mother, other family members, and friends were doing back home in Poland. He assumed he would probably be going back sometime soon. On the other hand, he did not seem in a great hurry to return. Throughout his time in Canada and the U.S., he had maintained contact with individuals and organizations in the Polish émigré community. Of course, he felt interested in helping to relieve the immediate desperate social-political-economic situation in Poland and Europe. But he considered that by staying in the United States for a while he might be able to do something constructive, not only in regard to his own immediate welfare but also for Poland and Europe.

He had already come to some conclusions about the role of America in the world. In a speech he had given at a Chamber of Commerce meeting in Texas, Alfred compared the cramped spaces and dense population of Europe to the wide-open and less densely-peopled U.S., which seemed to him like a giant “department store” of opportunity for more people to able to help turn Europe into “a large department store of democracy” as well.(1)

This ‘store’ would be based on President Wilson’s vision of peace as presented in his "Fourteen Points", in particular the final one—the establishment of an association with the purpose of mediating just and peaceful settlements among disputing nations. Of course, independent Poland—the thirteenth point of Wilson's program—would play a significant part in this community of nations. But Korzybski feared that opposition to the League of Nations, as well as other factors, might prevent the League from acting effectively. Alfred had some ideas about how to improve its chances for success. He wasn’t shy about writing a letter to the President to offer his help. He hoped to meet with a representative of Wilson to present his ideas before the President left for the Peace Conference in Europe. Unfortunately, Korzybski must have missed seeing the news of when the President’s ship for Europe was leaving (December 4). There is no indication anyone at the White House ever responded to Alfred’s offer.(2)

Along with such lofty goals, if Alfred was going to stay in the U.S.—even for a brief time—he needed to address some more immediately practical concerns. For one thing, still technically a Russian national, he needed to clarify his status as a resident alien. One of the first things he did after his arrival in Washington was to fill out a form for the Naturalization Service of the U.S. Department of Labor, declaring his intent to “renounce allegiance to The Present Government of Russia.”(3) As an ethnic Pole born in Warsaw, he soon was recognized as a citizen of Poland.

And in the meantime, though he had collected salaries and spent little money since coming to North America almost three years before, he needed to find some employment. Among other possibilities, Alfred offered his services as a translator to Harry Garfield, the head of the U. S. Fuel Administration, whom—he had learned—was planning a trip to Europe. No go. An anticipated job with the Anthracite Board of Conciliation in Scranton, Pennsylvania also didn’t come through. Then, since government service appealed to him, he applied to the Department of Justice – Bureau of Investigation (the immediate forerunner of the F.B.I.) for a position as a “Special Agent”. With his intelligence background and experience with legal work, he probably would have made a good one. His application came armed with recommendation letters from three U.S. senators and his sterling record of wartime service. With his status as a foreign national and his war injury ( “Am very healthy, and strong but a little lame.” ) working against him, he lied about his age. Being just about six-months short of his 40th birthday, he gave his age as “34”. (4)  It didn’t help. He kept on looking. With connections he was making with Poles in Washington and elsewhere in the U.S., and with contacts he had made in the U.S. government, in military intelligence, and elsewhere, he hoped to find something soon.

You may download a pdf of all of the book's reference notes (including a note on primary source material and abbreviations used) from the link labeled Notes on the Contents page. The pdf of the Bibliography, linked on the Contents page contains full information on referenced books and articles. 
1. "Ideal Democracy. Officer of Polish Army Says U.S. Is Department Store for Europe to Copy". Unamed Newspaper (Eagle Pass, Maverick County, Texas). 11/12/1918. AKDA 1.45. 

2. AK to Woodrow Wilson, Undated letter, (1918). AKDA 5.91. 

3. Alfred Korzybski, "Facts For Declaration of Intention [to renounce allegiance to The Present Government of Russia'], U.S. Dept. of Labor, Naturalization Service", nd. [probably Dec. 1918]. AKDA 5.35. 

4. Alfred Korzybski, "Application for Appointment to Position of Special Agent of the Dept. of Justice", 12/9/1918. AKDA 5.39. 

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