Thursday, August 7, 2014

Chapter 12 - "Buy Liberty Bonds And Work Like Hell.": Part 6 - Armistice

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.

Soon after he got to Texas, Alfred met John Wilkinson, District 21 President of the United Mine Workers Union. They became friendly while both were visiting the mines in Thurber. Wilkinson, entranced by Alfred’s lively manner and fascinated by his discussion of developments in Europe, sponsored a speech by him on “The General War Situation”, at the Thurber Opera House on October 28. The end of the war seemed imminent. Allied forces had been steadily recapturing territory in German-occupied France (American forces and Polish troops were both playing their part), pushing the Germans back towards the Belgian border. The government of the Kaiser’s Germany, steadily losing ground, pressed by an economic blockade, and threatened with revolution at home, was hoping to prevent Allied armies from marching to Berlin. It had already begun to 'fish' for the possibility of an armistice with a number of the Allied powers, including the United States.

Alfred had just received a letter from Koepler, his boss at U.S.F.A. headquarters. With coal production high and a possible end of the war in sight, the bureau would be reducing its speaking personnel. Speakers were encouraged to look for other positions and Alfred began to send out feelers for jobs. As an astute networker, he made use of his contacts and friends, who were only too happy to help him. He wrote to Koepler, expressing his interest in continuing government service and asking Koepler to keep an eye out for any positions open. Wilkinson wrote a number of letters on Alfred’s behalf to United Mine Workers colleagues, letting them know that Alfred would be available and able to do speaking and organizing work. Wilkinson also wrote letters of recommendation for Korzybski, which he sent to Senators Owens and Gore from Oklahoma and Senator Morris Sheppard from Texas.

From Wilkinson, Alfred learned about the upcoming Pan-American Labor Conference to be held from November 13 to 16 in Laredo. American Federation of Labor (A.F.L.) President Samuel Gompers and other A.F.L. representatives would be meeting with labor representatives from Mexico and South America. Since Alfred had been working as a production inspector in Texas, he had learned about labor issues related to Mexican miners, who constituted a large and problematic group for both Texas mine operators and union organizers. Wilkinson suggested that Alfred would be the ‘perfect’ person to represent the U.S.F.A. at the conference, where Inter-American labor issues were to be addressed. Korzybski, strongly anti-Bolshevik, supported the organized labor movement as represented by Gomper’s group and felt enthusiastic about going. 
Wilkinson wrote a letter to James Neale, head of the Fuel Administration Production Department, promoting Alfred’s attendance. Already expecting to get permission, Alfred headed on to Laredo. However, because of his constant traveling he only got the letter giving him the definite go-ahead two days after the start of the conference, which he was already attending.

On November 11, on his way to Laredo, Alfred had found himself in San Antonio. It was the day Armistice was declared (although the United States didn't officially end its state of war with Germany until 1921). He was not entirely pleased. This was not the way he wanted to see the war end. The day before, he had addressed an audience of 1400 soldiers at Camp Eagle Pass.(30) 
I was in that military camp delivering, not officially, but by invitation, a long lecture on what not, in connection with this war. We were smelling already that some monkey business with the armistice was coming, I call that deliberate[ly] monkey business. The great mistake the French did, and this was strictly French, they were bled to such an extent  that they simply refused to fight anymore. That was the high command, not the soldiers. Simply a question of self-preservation of the country—they were bled so white. So they agreed in a hurry to an armistice instead of marching in comparatively small doses to Berlin. That is what they should have done. In [the] long run it would have been much cheaper to have done [it] this way. It would have prevented future troubles and eventual future preparations for war and what not. And then the Versailles treaty would appear more reasonable. The Germans for the long time advertised after the war that they lost the war, but they were not defeated in the field. It was not really true. They were defeated in strategy and with ammunition. And they they bit more than they could chew, but the fact that they [the Allies] were not marching on Berlin but began to negotiate an armistice, and the officers and myself we felt very bad about it, very bad, because we knew the consequences. And I remember I was on the streets of San Antonio and talking to an officer, an American officer, when through the loudspeakers, newspaper headlines, came news that the armistice was signed. We both hugged and cried. (31) 
November 11 was momentous for Korzybski for more than the end of the war. He was no longer ‘a man without a country’. In Warsaw, a new independent Polish government had been declared, with Pilsudski, just released from German captivity, at its head. (32)
Korzybski in San Antonio, November 1918

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. 
30. "Speakers' Daily Report", Nov. 10, 1918. AKDA32.445. 

31. Korzybski 1947, pp. 196-197. 

32. Watt, p. 61. 

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