The Pledge of Allegiance was Written by a Socialist

Here’s a fun fact I bet you didn’t know: The pledge of allegiance was written by a socialist. I’m not quite sure what Francis Bellamy was thinking; although he imagined all the people of the world pledging to their various flags, the result of the exercise is inevitably nationalistic.

But Bellamy was a socialist, and he wrote the pledge, and a treatise on the etiquette surrounding it. Much of that was slurped up by the flag code (although the text of the pledge has undergone two significant edits). The flag code includes language that states one should face the flag while speaking the pledge, and remove any non-religious headwear while one salutes the flag.

Uh, Whups, my original source contains the phrase “non-religious”, but the current code does not. I’m very curious when the change was made. If the flag code were on GitHub this would be much more transparent.

Most of this same etiquette has been transferred to the national anthem. So let’s get this straight. If sitting or kneeling or quietly protesting is bad, shouldn’t ignoring the whole pledge be worse? Not an act to raise awareness, just pure sloth. Sitting around, yapping to the people around you, absolutely ignoring the flag out of pure contempt should be far worse.


Tune in and watch your congress during the pledge tomorrow morning. Watch the senate. Glory in the patriotism. All those fuckers are far worse than a conscientious athlete hoping to deliver a message. Most of your elected representatives just don’t care. There is protest, and there is contempt.

2 thoughts on “The Pledge of Allegiance was Written by a Socialist

  1. It isn’t unlikely that, pre-World War II, a socialist might also be a nationalist. There were a lot of them; many wanted to remake civil society along military lines with the national leader at the top, for example, and that would probably be considered nationalist today.

    I’ve been reading a lot of Chesterton lately, and he was especially disdainful of socialists who argued in favor of what we would probably call a nationalist approach to solving the world’s problems, an approach he called “the scientific state”.

    The objection to a cataract is not that it is deafening or dangerous or even destructive; it is that it cannot stop… The State has suddenly and quietly gone mad. It is talking nonsense; and it can’t stop.

    I was just reading a pre-World War II science fiction novel, Olaf Stapledon’s Star Maker. Stapledon appears to be a socialist in the H.G. Wells style, and Star Maker is an appeal to both a cosmic communism and to a more nationalist socialism that could lead to it.

    For instance, in the loosest possible sense, all were communistic; for in all of them the means of production were communally owned, and no individual could control the labour of others for private profit. Again, in a sense all these world-orders were democratic, since the final sanction of policy was world-opinion. But in many cases there was no democratic machinery, no legal channel for the expression of world-opinion. Instead, a highly specialized bureaucracy, or even a world-dictator, might carry out the business of organizing the world’s activity with legally absolute power, but under constant supervision by popular will expressed through the radio.

    In this happy phase, then, which might last for a few centuries or for many thousands of years, the whole energy of the world would be devoted to perfecting the world-community and raising the caliber of the race by cultural and by eugenical means.

    Even the Nazis themselves, the modern exemplar of what we mean by nationalist in all its worst ways, were very socialist, at least when they started. Their epochal program included not just things like “only Germans can be Germans” (only slightly paraphrased) but also demanded “all unearned income should be abolished”, “profit-sharing in large industries”, and “the abolishment of all personal profit arising from war”.

    Some progressives of the time lionized the national socialists in Europe; for example, I have an old collection of Chicago Daily News interviews by Edward Price Bell which includes the following about Mussolini (this would be about 1925):

    Mussolini… has become a portent and a promise in the civilization of the world.

    They call him dictator. To the unpatriotic, to the anti-social and anti-civilized, to the lawless, to the bolshevists, he is dictator. To Italy—full of sterling human worth—to Italy, in my judgement, Mussolini is liberator.

    This is not to say that Bellamy (or even Bell) was a Nazi, only that he would not have been out of the ordinary combining both socialist and nationalist sentiments. Some socialists believed that socialism was best served through nationalism; some that socialism was best served by having a strong man at the top of the political structure to enforce socialism; and some combined both those ideas.

    • Thanks for that excellent response.

      To be honest, I don’t know why I discounted the possibility that Bellamy was a national socialist when I wrote that. Perhaps I thought that since he was encouraging nationalism in other nations as well, he wasn’t just a “Yay we’re the best” sort of guy.

      But that doesn’t rule out that he believed everyone should be a nationalist for their respective nation.

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