[This is Chapter 3 in Murphey's book Liberalism in Contemporary America.]
Phases in American Liberalism: 1920-1953
The 1920s: a period of drift and yearning
Several themes were important to liberalism during the 1920s, but the overriding tone was one of disillusionment and withdrawal.
This corresponds to the psychology of the intellectual. As an individual, an intellectual passes through a series of alternations. He is acutely sensitive to the imperfections of the world, which run counter to what he sees as possible. The weight of these things causes him to withdraw. But eventually he reenters the world, led by his fervent concerns and by his tendency, after a period of withdrawal, to forget the reasons for it. He then throws himself into passionate activity, believing that people can be brought to see things as he does and to reform themselves accordingly. But it is not long before he sees through to their essential apathy and self-interest, and before they themselves react hostilely to the inconveniences of his idealism. This sends him flying back into withdrawal, partly of his own accord, partly because that is where the world wants him.
This is the pattern described by Emerson; it is the pattern shown by the withdrawals of the 1920s, of the late 1940s, of the 1970s. Although I have described the psychology of the individual intellectual, the intellectual culture as a whole tends to reflect the cycle (not because I think there is any automatic transference of individual characteristics to a group, but as a matter of empirical observation). At the same time, a counterculture of withdrawal seems, at at least a certain level, to be a permanent institution. There were the Beatniks in the 1950s and the Hippies in the 1960s before the mass movement into mysticism in the 1970s.
As always, Herbert Croly was paradigmatic of the liberal mood. Beginning in 1922, The New Republic under his editorship began to urge an inner cultivation in place of politics. Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., says that "Croly himself lost faith in political solutions after the First World War and grew increasingly absorbed in psychology and mysticism." Eric Goldman reports how Croly "began bringing to New Republic luncheons a bearded Englishman named Orage, who explained that what the world needed was the self-discipline of yoga."1
This found its counterpart in the broader literary world. Gertrude Stein had Ernest Hemingway in mind when she spoke of "the Lost Generation," and it was a label that stuck for the entire literary generation. Malcolm Cowley's book Exile's Return tells of the "flight" of "American writers... from hometown to Greenwich Village -- from the Village to Paris -- from Paris to New England farms." The period of withdrawal lasted roughly until 1930. Cowley told his readers in 1935 that "it was during the second year of the depression that everyone began talking about a new phenomenon. The intelligentsia was 'going left'; it was becoming friendly with the Communists; it was discussing the need for a new American revolution." The withdrawal was over and a new period of ferment had begun.
One of the manifestations of the withdrawal had been the student counterculture of the early 1920s. "The students of the early twenties," William Harlan Hale wrote in 1931, "were the last word in radicalism and smart progressivism... Everyone remembers... the baggy trousers, the collegiate semi-bohemianism." In 1923, H. M. Kallen wrote of "rebellious youth," whose hero was Randolph Bourne. The youth culture's "spirit," he said, "is discontent; its cry: There is no good in the institutions of modern life." George Soule reported in 1931 that "the more intelligent escaped to Europe, to sexual experiment, to egocentric psychological fads, to religion, to esoteric literary and esthetic expression or to an irresponsible Menckenian cynicism."2
Alienation burned intensely within the intellectual culture. Its focus came to rest primarily in two prominent trials: the Mooney-Billings case and the more famous Sacco-Vanzetti case.
The Mooney-Billings case stemmed from a bomb explosion at the Preparedness Day parade in San Francisco on July 22, 1916. Thomas J. Mooney and Warren K. Billings were convicted of complicity in the explosion and sentenced to life imprisonment. For many years The New Republic crusaded for their release, arguing that they had been given an unfair trial because they were "radicals."
The case that brought liberal fury to a white heat, however, was the conviction and eventual execution of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti for the murder of a paymaster and a guard during a robbery in South Braintree, Massachusetts, on April 15, 1920. Each anniversary of their execution on August 23, 1927, was for several years commemorated bitterly by The New Republic, which at first claimed only that they had not received a fair trial (again for the reason that they were radicals) but later that they were innocent. The years prior to their execution were filled with a rising crescendo of alienation -- the proclamations of defense committees, demonstrations, fund-raising appeals, seemingly endless editorials. Sacco and Vanzetti became martyred folk heroes of the Left. (During the revolutionary fervor of the late 1960s a folk song by Joan Baez recalled their memory.) To the Left, the case symbolizes "Red hysteria" at its worst.
I have of course not been able to make a detailed study of the case to comment upon its merits, but it is worth pointing out that there were many such episodes, including labor violence and a number of terrorist attacks, each with its aftermath of prosecution and punishment, during the late nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth. During that period the Left rarely, if ever, admitted the guilt of anyone who was prosecuted. It was always as though the wrong men had been apprehended, and frequently the Left pointed to the possibility of agent provocateurs to explain the violence. The main society was always painted as venal in its response to the crimes. Because of that pattern, the protests of the Left carry little prima facie credibility. It is worth noting that the Sacco-Vanzetti convictions underwent years of review by the courts and by the governor of Massachusetts before the executions were carried out.
During these years of withdrawal and alienation, the primary intellectual focus was on Soviet Russia, newly emerged after the October Revolution in 1917. We will later discuss the 1930s as "the Red Decade," which is a label often attached to it; but even though that label is appropriate, we should not lose sight of the fact that the infatuation of the intellectual culture with the Soviets began much earlier, and that it continued through much of the 1940s.
The following items that I noted from The New Republic are representative of a phenomenon that went far beyond that single magazine, since they are typical of the liberal literature of the period: In 1923, Robert Dunn wrote an article "Seven Lies About Russia." In 1924, the first advertisement for the Daily Worker appeared, initiating what was to become the texture of the journal for the next fifteen years, during which advertisements for trips to the Soviet Union, for Communist books and journals, and for front-group meetings and proclamations were liberally distributed through its pages. In 1926, an article by Jerome Davis called "Russia Today" justified the secret police: "... every country has its G.P.U., especially in a period of war and revolution." In 1927, H. N. Brailsford wrote that "society in Russia is spontaneously evolving its own appropriate organs of democracy." Albert Rhys Williams added an article making a Pioneer (young Communist) meeting seem like a Boy Scout outing (can we imagine such an article about the Hitler Youth?).
Also in 1927, H. M. Kallen wrote in an article about religion in Soviet Russia that "dictatorship though it be, [the Soviet regime] has liberated their energies, animated them with an altogether unprecedented sense of personal dignity and inward worth."3
In 1928, the premier liberal philosopher John Dewey contributed a series of six articles about his trip to Russia. His tone: "In spite of secret police, inquisitions, arrests and deportations of Nepmen and Kulaks...life for the masses goes on with regularity...There is an enormous constructive effort taking place in the creation of a new collective mentality." The American Federation of Labor thereupon voted to expunge a tribute to Dewey because he had "aligned himself with Bolshevist propaganda," to which The New Republic editorially responded that the A.F. of L.'s action was a "stupid thing."4
Domestically, liberalism suffered "the blahs." Leaders were scarce; there was little interest, even by The New Republic, in formulating a program. In 1925 a New Republic editorial said that "liberalism is at present paralyzed politically by its lack of a program." Senator Nye's "Platform for Progressives" in 1927 set forth twelve remarkably mundane planks. In 1929, TRB (The New Republic's unidentified columnist) surveyed the existing leaders -- and found each lacking. At the end of the period, in 1930, John Dewey wrote that "liberalism today is hardly more than a temper of mind, vaguely called forward-looking, but quite uncertain as to where to look and what to look forward to...."5
The result was, as John Buenker has written, that "until the publication of Arthur Link's article in 1959, the prevailing view had always been that the 1920s was a decade of unrelieved reaction, an arid valley between two peaks of social progress." But Link and Buenker argue that something was going on, that the focus of progressive domestic legislation had simply shifted back to the states. "Despite the decade's reputation for reaction," Buenker writes, "it saw great advances in most states in the realm of welfare legislation." He cites "rent controls, public housing, regulation of the milk industry, expanded public health facilities," and the like.6
The 1930s: the New Deal
There are two sides to the intellectual history that I wish to relate about the 1930s. The first will pertain to the intellectuals' response to the New Deal of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The second will have to do with the extreme leftwing infatuation of the intellectual culture that has caused the period to be labeled "The Red Decade." I shall leave this second aspect to the next section.
It will be worthwhile to review a number of the New Deal's specific programs, noticing the continuity that links them with the liberal thinking that preceded and has followed them. We will leave some of the main issues, however, for more detailed discussion later in this section.
1. The Tennessee Valley Authority reflected in part an aspiration for large federal reclamation projects that had been voiced in The New Republic in 1915.7
In the socialist thinking that surfaced repeatedly in liberal writing, regional "valley authorities" were seen as one of the alternative routes to socialism, especially when combined with the nationalization of natural resources, transportation, communication and banking that was so often proposed. Indeed, this was the original thinking behind the T.V.A., as The New Republic's readers were told by Jonathan Mitchell in October, 1933. He said that "the Tennessee Valley Authority was designed consciously to be the first large-scale experiment in economic and social planning ever undertaken outside Soviet Russia. It was expected to produce, as rapidly as possible, a sort of baby Gosplan which later, perhaps, might serve as a model for the nation."8
An article by John T. Moutoux in January 1934 described the extent of intended governmental activity: "The town of Norris, Tennessee,... will be the first example in the United States of what genuine, coordinated planning can accomplish... The sole landlord, the sole builder, will be the T.V.A. itself... The land and buildings at Norris will be for rent only... At one end of the common will be the town center, which will include... a hotel, a restaurant, a drug store, a barber shop and beauty parlor, a general store and a post office. All these will be built and owned by the T.V.A. It has not yet been decided whether the T.V.A. will operate them itself or lease them...."9
Perhaps most significantly, the aspiration among liberal theorists was eventually to establish such an authority in every feasible river valley in the United States. In 1936, The New Republic "warmly approved" when Senator George Norris proposed a valley authority for the entire Mississippi Valley except for the Ohio River area. Rexford Tugwell was reported by TRB to have "had great plans" in 1933-4, "such things as rehousing industrial workers in greenbelt cities and organizing farmers in collective farms." I cite this not because it related to a valley authority, but because it was in the same spirit as the Town of Norris conception. In 1943, the members of President Roosevelt's National Resources Planning Board had, according to a New Republic special section, "the vision and courage to demand that there should be a similar enterprise [to T.V.A.] wherever in America the geographical conditions make it possible." In 1949, President Harry Truman's program included a Columbia Valley Authority. It is a part of the ultimate disillusionment of liberalism that very few of these objectives were met.10
As we shall see, the American electorate has at almost all times since 1937 created what has essentially been a political deadlock between liberals and conservatives, with neither being able to enact anything approximating its full program.
2. The Securities Act of 1933 and Securities Exchange Act of 1934 established a national framework for the full disclosure of information in securities transactions. This was consistent with the article by Professor William Z. Ripley in Atlantic Monthly in 1926 that urged the Federal Trade Commission to become the vehicle for such a disclosure system.
In terms of intellectual history, however, it is significant that in 1934 Bruce Bliven, the leading editor of The New Republic after Croly's death, was critical of the "truth-in-securities" approach. He wanted much more--a determination by government of the allocation of capital. His preference was consistent with The New Republic's advocacy in 1933 of complete government ownership and operation of banking.11
3. England had created an unemployment insurance system in 1911. Germany patterned its system after England's in 1927.
In the United States in 1910, New York established the first unemployment compensation system. Forty-four states had such laws by the time the federal government came into the picture in 1935. Liberals debated among themselves about the most desirable sort of system. Wisconsin created one in 1932 that placed substantial financial incentives on employers to stabilize their own hiring. But in an article in The New Republic in 1934 Abraham Epstein opposed such a system based on individual company reserves, arguing that help for the unemployed was more important than the prevention of unemployment.12
The unemployment insurance system established by the Social Security Act in 1935 has, in common with the Social Security system in general, been criticized by liberals for having made a meager beginning. Paul Conkin says it "delegated most responsibility to the states and invited chaotic variations in always inadequate payments." During the ensuing half-century the system's scope and benefits have been substantially enlarged.13
4. Conkin says that "the Social Security Act of 1935 became the supreme symbol of a welfare state." But he adds that "it hardly deserved the honor or opprobrium," since it covered only half the population, included a tax upon the workers themselves, did not cover accident and illness during the working years, had no medical insurance feature, and "paid benefits on the basis of past earnings instead of present needs."
It, too, has been expanded over the years, but it has frustrated liberals that the United States has never adopted a system of national health insurance. Almost a half-century after the Social Security system was established, it ran into deep financial trouble. Despite the impression it creates of being an insurance system, it is not based on a fund that is actuarially determined. Essentially it is a system of benefits paid for by taxes. The tax has risen to an astonishing level that for many taxpayers exceeds that of the income tax. With the increasing number of elderly Americans, more and more of the burden is placed on the correspondingly few who are currently employed.14
5. The New Deal is closely associated in the public mind with large public works projects to provide employment. For the intellectual history of such programs, we know what H. N. Brailsford told readers of The New Republic in 1929: "The broad idea--that public works should be used as a regulator to counteract the vagaries of the trade cycle... -- is as old as the famous minority report on the Poor Law which the Webbs drafted twenty years ago...It has always been a Fabian doctrine." Most classical liberal opponents of expanded government have been unfavorable to such programs, since they believe that the trade cycle is preventable through sound monetary policy. Herbert Hoover, however, had supported the concept since at least 1922.15
The actual spending on public works during the New Deal was spotty. Roosevelt was, until his conversion to Keynesianism became complete in 1938, ambivalent between the opposing philosophies of budget-balancing and countercyclical spending.
6. With Section 7(a) of the National Industrial Recovery Act and the Wagner Act of 1935, the federal government placed its imprimatur on collective bargaining. The union movement grew enormously during the 1930s.
This would be a major fact within the history of liberalism if the union movement had not flagged and if the "New Deal coalition" had been able to stay together better than it has during the years since World War II. Since the New Deal, the labor movement has been, as it was before the 1930s, one of the anchors that has rooted liberalism in the actualities of American life. Its increasing weakness relative to other forces was well illustrated in 1976, when neither organized labor nor the intellectual culture was able to determine the Democratic presidential candidate.
7. There were many programs that I will not be able to discuss, but a final one that I will mention because of its prominence as a liberal concept after World War II is the idea of "yardstick industries." This involved having government corporations compete in private industries, thus establishing a "yardstick" to evaluate capitalism's performance. In 1974, Melville Ulmer said the idea was "one of the seminal ideas introduced in the New Deal, though its initial formulation appeared in an article by Walter Durand in The New Republic... [in] 1926." (The idea of using governmental enterprises as a way of measuring the performance of privately owned ones seems especially perverse as we look back from the perspective of the early 1990s, now that the world has seen the collapse of Communist economic systems.)16
I have left other issues for more extended discussion. The first of these is the split that occurred within the New Deal over the New Nationalist and New Freedom approaches to the regulation of business (thus continuing the liberal debate of 1912).
The New Nationalist policy suffered from a multiple personality. Three things are worth noting. First, its business supporters wanted a legal and institutional framework for a "more rational" conduct of industry that would avoid the rigors of competition. This was intended to be consistent with the profit motive and the businessmen's own control of their industries. Second, the intellectuals who supported it saw it as perhaps the best vehicle for a centralist socialism, albeit one that integrated businessmen into its administrative structure. And third, similar integrations of business and government had for several years been popular within the totalitarian ideologies.
A business proposal for the "stabilization of industry" through trade associations under federal supervision that could "stabilize prices" came from Gerard Swope, president of the General Electric Company, in 1931. In the same year, the United States Chamber of Commerce wanted the antitrust laws amended to allow competitors to allocate production with government oversight.17
Those liberal intellectuals who were inclined toward a centralized socialism wanted industry organized under government with an eye primarily to social goals. In May 1933, TRB reported Franklin Roosevelt's call for a "partnership" of government and business. "Actually, I think, control is a more accurate word," TRB said. "That this trend is distinctly towards socialization of industry is not denied. Private operation and ownership will be retained, but there will be federal planning and control." The next week, The New Republic's editors responded to the bill to establish the National Recovery Administration by saying that "conceivably, it may mark the beginning not merely of recovery but of a collectivization of the economic system...We are now about to be committed to national economic planning and control."18
A proposal that Lenin had made shortly before the Bolshevik Revolution was actually preferred by the editors of The New Republic. "Lenin's proposal went much further than Mr. Roosevelt's does in two significant directions -- control by organized labor and organization of consumers," the editors said. "Unless the partnership is extended to these important functions, monopolistic capital will almost certainly attempt to sequester too large a share."19
In Italy, Mussolini had in 1925 announced a plan for a similar organization of the economy, but he did not actually institute it until he established his 22 "corporazioni" in 1934. In 1936, an article by Paul H. Douglas said that "these are roughly comparable to the code authorities under the N.R.A., except that the workers' syndicates have nominally equal representation with the employers." A New Republic editorial had commented on the Swope plan by saying that "this type of control is exactly what Mussolini means by 'the corporate state' -- though with a considerably larger formal place both for labor and for the government...."20
In Germany, according to Malcolm Cowley in 1941, "Hermann Rauschning and his conservative friends were planning to use the Nazis for their own ends...They believed that in each industry or trade, the employers, the salaried employees and the workers should together form a corporation legally authorized to fix prices and wages and to limit production; it would be a permanent N.R.A." Nor was this simply a futile dream by Rauschning. Hitler placed industry under centralized direction, integrating its constituent elements. He, too, included a substantial ingredient of ideological cohesion.21
The New Nationalism was instituted in the United States through the National Industrial Recovery Act's establishment of the National Recovery Administration (the N.R.A.). There was a corresponding program for agriculture through the Agricultural Adjustment Act (the A.A.A.).
Under the N.R.A., industry-wide codes were drawn up in virtually every field. These codes put limits on production, raised prices, forbade "unfair competition," and set out wage-and-hour provisions, collective bargaining rights, and stipulations against child labor. Under the A.A.A., farmers were induced to cut production in exchange for government payments.
The personalities whose names are associated with one or another of the variants of the New Nationalist phase of the New Deal are Raymond Moley, Hugh Johnson, Adolf Berle, Gardiner Means, Donald Richberg, Rexford Tugwell, Jerome Frank and Charles Beard.
Almost immediately after N.R.A. was established, liberal intellectuals who were predisposed in its favor became soured. A New Republic editorial in August 1933 referred to "a heart-breaking record two and a half months after the Recovery Act came into effect" and said that "the nation's great fundamental industries...are fighting the government." In early September another editorial said that "the industrial aspect..., as it stands today, is a failure." By December, John T. Flynn, then quite prominent among The New Republic's writers, made what was to become the standard liberal complaint against the N.R.A.: that both the content and the enforcement of the codes served the purposes of business itself and not of governmentally-established social policy.22 (Flynn later became an anti-New Deal conservative.)
In April 1935, TRB said that the N.R.A. "and to a less degree the A.A.A." were "in a state of collapse." An editorial two weeks earlier urged new legislation for the direct regulation of business in place of the "partnership" represented by N.R.A., although the editors said dolefully that "the whole effort is likely to fail unless industry is socialized." Within a short time thereafter, the United States Supreme Court declared the N.R.A. and parts of the A.A.A. unconstitutional. Liberal intellectuals weren't all that sorry.23
This marked the demise of the New Nationalist phase of the New Deal, and led into what is considered the New Freedom phase. The phasing should, however, be considered mainly a classification for convenience. It should be taken with caution and reservations. After the passing of the N.R.A. the administration had no clear commitment to the breaking up of big business; nor did Franklin Roosevelt forsake entirely the effort to adopt an integrationist approach.
The new phase, such as it was, was backed by Felix Frankfurter, Thomas Corcoran, Benjamin Cohen, James Landis, Marriner Eccles, William O. Douglas, Leon Henderson and Lauchlin Curry, among others.24
Public actions during the phase included President Roosevelt's call in 1935 for a "tax on bigness" that would place high progressive tax rates on corporations and would eventually use taxation to eliminate holding companies. (The New Republic, still preferring the New Nationalist approach if properly applied from its point of view, ran an article by Jonathan Mitchell attacking "the primitive economic system of the so-called 'Brandeis group'...which was illustrated by the 'tax on bigness'....")25
In 1936, Roosevelt made his famous attack on "economic royalists" in his speech accepting the Democratic nomination; and in 1937 he strongly trumpeted the antitrust laws. Thurman Arnold was put in charge of the antitrust division of the Justice Department in 1938 and began vigorous enforcement. This was muted, however, by the onrush of World War II and by inconsistency within the administration, so that Barton Bernstein has concluded that "there was no effort to atomize business, no real threat to concentration." The administration's version of the Public Utilities Holding Company Act would have empowered the S.E.C. to give a "death sentence" to any utility holding company that it found to be without economic justification, but this
was softened by Congress.26
Notwithstanding these measures, Roosevelt made no clear philosophical commitment. Even after the "New Freedom phase" was supposedly underway, the administration obtained passage of the Guffey Act, which The New Republic said "created "a 'little N.R.A.' for coal." The Federal Trade Commission established N.R.A.-type rules for the wholesale tobacco industry. In February 1937, TRB reported that Roosevelt wanted to revamp the Supreme Court so that he could recreate the N.R.A. and the A.A.A. Donald Richberg had proposed a new N.R.A. to be run by the Federal Trade Commission.27
Roosevelt was a master politician and philosophically indeterminate. These combined to create an almost legendary inconsistency. He played all sides and made frequent use of deception, especially before elections. During the 1932 campaign, The New Republic reported "the philosophical opportunism at the base of the candidate's thought." In January 1934, the journal said that the New Deal was going partly right, partly left, following the line of least resistance. That October, Lewis Mumford spoke disparagingly of the New Deal's "pragmatism," which he called "aimless experiment, sporadic patchwork."28
Although this pragmatism was praised after the Left, including the Communist Party, shifted its support dramatically behind Roosevelt as a result of the United Front that was called for by Stalin, the ultimate verdict by the intellectual culture was expressed by Paul Conkin when he wrote that "the story of the New Deal is a sad story, the ever recurring story of what might have been." He said that "the New Deal failed to fulfill even the minimal dream of most reformers."29
This inconsistency causes some difficulty for those who have broken the period into a "First" and a "Second" New Deal (a classification that differs somewhat from the distinction, also foggy, between the New Nationalist and New Freedom phases).
Basil Rauch's The History of the New Deal in 1944 is said to have been the first commentary to speak in terms of two New Deals. The first phase was that of the N.R.A.; the second was from 1935 to 1938, consisting of "reforms intended to raise mass purchasing power and security." Walter Lippmann later spoke of the first New Deal as continuing until Roosevelt's court-packing debacle in 1937, followed by a second New Deal consisting of "the compensated economy."30
Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., has distinguished between a first New Deal of 1933-4 and a second New Deal, starting in 1935-6, that mixed the New Freedomite tendencies of Brandeis and the countercyclical spending theories of Keynes.
Needless to say, all such classifications have had their critics because of the complexity of the subject-matter and the ambivalence of the administration. Huthmacher represents a sizeable body of thought when he writes that "the attempt to define a Second New Deal may be as misleading as the attempt to depict the so-called First New Deal of 1933 in terms of a coherent, prearranged plan of action." He says that "the Brandeis-Frankfurter faction failed to win a clear-cut victory during the Second Hundred Days." The New Deal in general, he says, was characterized by a "bewildering pattern of conflicts."31
In the preceding discussion, the reader will have noticed the references to Keynes and to the theory of countercyclical spending. The victory of the Keynesians in 1938 established one of the main features of liberalism as it emerged into the post-World War II period. We have already seen that in 1929 H. N. Brailsford referred to the idea of government spending to counteract the trade cycle as "as old as the famous minority report on the Poor Law which the Webbs drafted twenty years ago," and that he added that "it has always been a Fabian doctrine." In 1931, Gordon Hayes wrote that "for more than a hundred years, socialists have been fond of attributing depressions to the inability of the masses to buy the products...However, it is only recently that the idea has been accepted in...respectable circles." 32
John Maynard Keynes, then, did not originate the idea. He was, however, its chief twentieth century theoretician and popularizer, especially through his General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, published in February 1936. He also played an important role in the dissimulative dynamic of American liberalism, since he provided a more current source for the ideas, which since that time have not had to be attributed to socialist thought. A similar role has been played by Berle and Means with regard to the Marxist concept of the separation between ownership and control in corporations.
According to Dean May, the concepts of the "multiplier," of the "propensity to consume" and of "liquidity preference" which are at the heart of the Keynesian system all existed independently of Keynes.33
The New Republic's George Soule gave what he called a "brief and oversimplified" summary of "the essentials of the theory of a compensatory fiscal policy." These include the idea that "there is a tendency for people to save money faster than money is invested in new production. This means that there occurs, from time to time, a net reduction in... purchasing power... The result is depression...The government can compensate for this shrinkage by spending more than it collects in taxes."34
Before he became converted to Keynesianism in 1938, Franklin Roosevelt was torn between balancing the budget and countercyclical spending. The administration spent freely in late 1933, but curtailed spending in early 1934. TRB said later that Keynes' influence was "enormous" among New Dealers in 1934-5. In 1935, there was the $4.8 billion work-relief program, but the P.W.A. was dismantled in the same year and Henry F. Morgenthau, Jr., a staunch advocate of a balanced budget, came to the fore. In December 1937, Roosevelt vowed to veto any new spending. But then in April 1938 he responded to the downturn of 1937-8 by embracing the Keynesian system.35
The New Republic said that Leon Henderson had been "one of the first and sternest evangelists of the consumer-purchasing-power theory." But it was Marriner Eccles, with the assistance of Harry Hopkins, who won both Morgenthau and Roosevelt over to the Keynesian view in early 1938.36
Keynesian-type fiscal policy has played a central role since World War II, although not without increasing difficulty due to the dilemma of "stagflation" (which, contrary to the Keynesian expectation, combines inflation and unemployment). Liberal thinkers have often urged going beyond it, seeing social goals beyond mere stabilization. Dean May is correct, though, when he says that "the eventual widespread diffusion of the idea that budgetary policy is really social policy was one of the significant consequences of the New Deal response to the events of 1937-38."37
This is not to say, however, that the New Deal ever really solved the problem of the depression. There is much to support the conclusion that Herbert Hoover stated in his memoirs that the New Deal strung the depression out. In March 1935 -- two years after Roosevelt was inaugurated -- 22 million people were on relief. The downturn in 1937-8 was as sharp as in 1929-30. As late as 1940, eight million people were unemployed, constituting 14.6 percent of the workforce.38
The New Deal's political support arose in large part, of course, from Franklin Roosevelt's popularity and from the Depression, but political theorists speak also of what has become known as the "New Deal coalition." This was a diverse combination: organized labor, ethnic and religious minorities, the Solid South, the big-city political machines, farm laborites, liberal Republicans and the intellectuals (when, especially after the United Front began, they chose to lend support).
The coalition had been a long time in coming. Woodrow Wilson had tried to put it together in 1912, hoping to combine Catholics, Jews, labor, immigrants and the South. The Al Smith candidacy in 1928 had, according to TRB in 1968, "opened the doors" to millions of newcomers; there had been 20 million immigrants between 1880 and 1910. Smith's candidacy "made it possible for FDR to put together his 1932 coalition."39
The coalition has provided the political base for liberalism, but also committed it to the "interest group politics" that came under such fire from the New Left purists in the 1960s. Perhaps, too, the most remarkable thing about the coalition has been its diversity and fragility. It is no wonder that liberals have been searching for a "new coalition" since at least 1968.
As I read The New Republic for the New Deal period, I was surprised by the extent of the intellectuals' hostility toward various parts of the coalition. In 1935, an editorial referred to "reactionaries of the South" and to "sordid political machines." The next year, the editors criticized James Farley and "machine politics." In 1939, Bruce Bliven was talking about the "ladling out of federal patronage to crooked politicians." In 1943, Bliven said that Southern Democrats and corrupt city machines "never were convinced in their hearts that the New Deal was a good thing." And in 1947, James Loeb, Jr., lamented that "there never existed an authentic liberal coalition which could survive the loss of Roosevelt." Henry Wallace looked back and said that even during the New Deal Roosevelt had "no unified labor movement and no coherent liberal movement with which to work."40
The deadlock that has existed in American politics became evident in about 1937. According to Leon Keyserling, "FDR lost his power to put through domestic legislation circa 1937, when the Southerners in Congress withdrew their support." Since then, with the exception of the brief period following the election of 1964, there has been no time when there has been both a liberal president and a clearly liberal Congress. Roosevelt lost momentum in the late 1930s as a result of the fight over his court-packing proposal, his effort to purge certain conservative Democratic senators, and the Republican victory in the 1938 congressional elections. He sought no significant legislation after 1938.41
So far as the intellectual culture was concerned, it remained far to the left of the New Deal until, as I have said, the United Front, seeking a unified opposition to Hitler, caused it to become much more favorable. The New Republic repeatedly called for a new labor party in 1931 and 1932; it urged its readers to vote for Norman Thomas, the Socialist candidate, and not for Roosevelt, in 1932. Despite its brief interest in the N.R.A., it set down a drumbeat of criticism of Roosevelt: as he came in as president it said that he did not understand "the fundamental malady" and was offering a patch-up job; after he had been in office a year, the editors spoke of his "dismal" record; after another year, John T. Flynn opined that the New Deal was "crumbling" and was "a grand bust"; in June, 1936, the editors said the New Deal was "sadly deficient" compared to their socialist aspirations.42
But then in late 1937 the journal's mood changed dramatically. The editors exulted that "we have made more progress toward a socialized economy in the past four and a half years than in the two previous decades." And the next June an article by John Chamberlain was able to make the change appear a thing of the distant past: "Only a few short years ago <sic.> it was a favorite ideological sport of radicals, whether Communist, Socialist, Brandeisian or free-lance, to pour scorn upon Franklin Delano Roosevelt's 'confused' [efforts]...to make the American economic system work." "I must," he said, "plead guilty with the rest." Granville Hicks, long on the extreme Left, was even able to write a book entitled I Like America. It was a time when the Communist Party was declaring Communism the very pillar of free enterprise.43
I will close this discussion of the New Deal by telling of an issue that throughout the 1930s was one of the intellectual culture's major themes: the call for "planning." In January 1931, The New Republic editorialized for a national structure to "allot new capital according to plan, regulate prices, profits and incomes." Rexford Tugwell said in 1932 that "... the interest of the liberals among us in the institutions of the new Russia of the Soviets...has created wide popular interest in 'planning'...."44
Oddly, in light of the fact that there was so much open support for socialism, "planning" served as a euphemism that perpetuated a certain amount of dissimulation. Many liberals, however, were at that time willing to be as forthright as Edmund Wilson was when he wrote that "we have always talked about the desirability of a planned society... But if this means anything, does it not mean socialism? And should we not do well to make this perfectly plain?"
Beginning in March 1931, George Soule became one of the leading advocates of planning: "We shall have to have a textile plan, a coal plan, a housing plan. Indeed, there ought to be a general staff for every industrial group, heading into the General Staff... Private investment will have to be planned...." This remained his theme for several years. His book A Planned Society appeared in 1932; in 1939 he set out extensive details for a structure of "scientific planning." That same year, W. Jett Lauck called for a "National Planning Board," with "Industry Councils" consisting of "equal representation of industry, labor and the public." There would be a "Capital Issues Banking Board" to determine the direction of investment.45
An interesting twist is that John T. Flynn, who had written prolifically for The New Republic during the '30s, eventually became a crusader against the dissimulative introduction of socialism through "planning." In The Road Ahead he warned that "planning" was a euphemism for socialism and that, although George Soule and Stuart Chase had supported it for several years, it became "respectable" as the program of a broad movement in about 1938. His warnings came after his falling out with The New Republic. By that time, he had moved toward conservatism. He had earlier associated himself with the journal during years in which it was far to the left.
The 1930s: the Red Decade
Although the intellectual culture kept one foot in the domestic political scene, the other was squarely planted in far-Left ideology. We have already seen the infatuation with Soviet Russia in the 1920's. By the late '20s, this had become a passionate theme.
In my earlier discussion of the 1920s, I cited examples of the intense interest in Soviet Russia that appeared in The New Republic.
This continued at an even higher intensity during the 1930s. The excitement was reflected in The New Republic by advertisements for Communist causes, manifestoes of front organizations, enthusiastic letters from readers, all combined with innumerable editorials, articles and book reviews. Although there is no substitute for reading the actual journals of that period, I hope that a few examples from The New Republic will give some idea of the tone:
Bruce Bliven, who spent many years with the journal and was the leading editor after Croly, wrote in 1931 that "even with all proper cautions..., I still find this graphic picture of Russia's material progress tremendously exciting." M. R. Werner said that Stalin emerged from a book he was reviewing "as a person for whose character one has a tremendous respect." The next year, Edmund Wilson wrote that "Communism...has for the first time brought humanity out into the great world of creative thought and work." In 1935, Waldo Frank, a frequent contributor, sent in a letter saying that "I wish to stress...my entire loyalty to the Soviet cause and my strict partisanship with its government in its struggles against a hostile world... The U.S.S.R. is the 'fatherland' of all true revolutionaries, the world over."46
In 1937 Andre Gide asked in The New Republic "Who shall say what the Soviet Union has been to us? More than a chosen land -- an example, a guide. What we have dreamt of, what we have hardly dared to hope, but towards which we were straining all our will and all our strength, was coming into being over there."47
The Nation was just as far left. Its editor Oswald Garrison Villard wrote after a trip to Soviet Russia in 1929 that "it is all so new, so genuinely thrilling." In 1934, The Nation editorialized that the New Deal was just "a half-baked capitalism with so-called liberal trimmings"; and in 1937 that "the Soviet government... [is] the leadership of the anti-fascist forces in the world...the chief element of hope." 48
So engrossing was this ideological partisanship that it led to what future generations will almost certainly consider an intellectual scandal of unspeakable proportions. A major fact about the 1930s is that the world intellectual culture condoned and even justified the mass slaughter within the Soviet Union, just as it has been a major fact since World War II that Hitler's Holocaust has been made the justifiable subject of absolute moral condemnation while the Gulags under Stalin, the execution of many millions under Mao, the genocide in Cambodia, and countless other atrocities under Communist regimes have in the main been ignored by the intellectual culture when they have occurred and then have been given only passing attention.
We have seen that in 1926 Jerome Davis wrote a justification for the Soviet secret police in The New Republic when he said that "...every country has its G.P.U., especially in a period of war and revolution." In 1927, an article told of the execution of twenty-two counter-revolutionaries in Russia, and attributed it to Soviet fears caused by the West and by the assassination of the Soviet ambassador to Poland. In 1930, there was an article justifying the "rooting out" of the kulaks (the prosperous and not-so-prosperous peasants). On the same page, Vera Micheles Dean was the author of a strangely non-judgmental article about the Soviet drive to "liquidate" the kulaks. Later that year, after the New York Times reported the execution of "scores of men" for shortcomings in carrying out the Soviet Five-Year Plan, the New Republic's editors wrote: "Well, in America we execute people for murder and for holding unorthodox political opinions; in Russia they execute people for abusing positions of high responsibility."49
In 1931, William Henry Chamberlain informed The New Republic's readers (and, if they didn't know already, its editors) of the "ruthless smashing of the kulaks... [who are] banished to concentration camps and places of remote exile." But later that year Herman Simpson reviewed Anna Louise Strong's book The Soviets Conquer Wheat and argued that "the violence which has marked the agrarian revolution seems... to be an inevitable accompaniment of so profound and far-reaching a transformation...." In the issue of October 11, 1933, Maxwell S. Stewart spoke of "the bountiful harvest of 1933," and said that "in view of the truly remarkable advance made during the past year, it is difficult to explain the large number of reports in the American press depicting famine conditions in Russia...."50
In 1934, Joshua Kunitz reported that "with the exception of a relatively few kulaks and anti-Bolshevik die-hards, the Soviet population stands solidly behind the government." In 1935, The New Republic ran an article by Anna Louise Strong (with an equivocating editorial note introducing it) which said that "there are 'labor camps' in many parts of the country, as part of the Soviet method of reclaiming anti-social elements by useful, collective work... Men in the labor camps draw wages, have vacations...."51
In 1937, a book review by Corliss Lamont praised the Soviet Union for building production with "less suffering than capitalism at any time." That same year, Maurice Hindus looked back and praised the collectivization of agriculture and "...the brilliance with which this leadership has converted the most disastrous calamity, which collectivization was in its early years, into the most consummate triumph of the Revolution, if not of all history."52
But slowly the terrible truth began to seep through. Eugene Lyons wrote a letter to The New Republic in 1937 saying that "Mr. Josephson is egregiously in error in asserting that in 1932 American intellectuals were 'misinformed' about Soviet blunders of that period. Not misinformed, but uninformed. The 1932 equivalent of today's Josephson's prevented knowledge from reaching their brethren by shouting down every unpleasant truth...." In 1939, John Chamberlain wrote of "...the great 1932-33 famine, in which three or four million peasants died as a result of the inept handling of the drive for agrarian collectivization." [Notice that even then he attributed the famine to "ineptness," and that he went on to blame the famine primarily on the West's refusal to give Russia capital.] 53
Two months later, Vincent Sheean wrote that "a program of collectivization in agriculture was enforced from 1931 onwards by means of the most ghastly sacrifices, in which six or seven million peasants are believed to have died of starvation in the Ukraine alone." The intellectual tragedy of the period is encapsulated in his admission that "this is the first criticism I have ever made of the Soviet Union."54
Eugene Lyons, whom I quoted above, became staunchly anti-Communist after being editor of the Soviet Russia Pictorial and working for four years for Tass, the Soviet news agency. After he broke with Communism, he wrote The Red Decade, in which he revealed that "in the winter of 1932-33 a famine greater than any in Russia's history devastated...the Ukraine, North Caucasus and Central Asia. What made it unspeakably sadistic was that it was... a planned famine...." He said that "we all saw it coming. We all knew that the government could head it off by spending a few million dollars for Canadian or South American grain. But these little men in the Kremlin.... decided to 'punish' a population of forty or fifty million for their sullen passive resistance against the state's seizure of their land, tools and livestock... How many millions died? Maurice Hindus, while still among the leading apologists for Soviet horrors, 'admitted' three million corpses. Soviet officials and journalists in private conversation put it at seven millions -- mentioning the figure, sometimes, even a little boastfully."55
Adam B. Ulam has cited a figure of "four or five million." He mentions that during the famine "the state exported a million and a half tons of grain to secure foreign currency for industrialization."56
From what we have seen, it is little wonder that in December 1984 a later generation of the New Republic's editors would look back and say that "the scandal in the history of this journal is that in the '30s and '40s it accommodated to the Zeitgeist (with occasional and important dissents...) by downplaying at best and justifying at worst the crimes of Stalinism."57
The intellectual scandal was, however, much broader than simply within the The New Republic. In 1963, Malcolm Muggeridge wrote about "the monstrous cruelties which accompanied the collectivization of agriculture" that had occurred while he had been a correspondent in Moscow, and how both "the flower of the English intelligentsia" and prominent Englishmen had ignored the horror. Frank A. Warren III has told how in the United States Louis Fischer, Maurice Hindus and Walter Duranty (each of them a prolific liberal author) had all justified the slaughter on the basis that "the end justifies the means."58
Although the largest part of the intellectual culture turned a blind eye to the starvation of the kulaks (and additionally to the imprisonment of many millions in the Gulags over more than a thirty-year span), it watched Stalin's purges with intense interest. The purges bitterly divided the Left as the 1930s went on and as the slaughter, often of Bolshevik leaders whom the liberals who had traveled to Soviet Russia knew personally, mounted. The purges were one of several "shocks" that eventually led many intellectuals to oppose Communism.
Again, it is a history that can be illustrated graphically through the pages of The New Republic:
There was an ironic optimism in a 1933 editorial which forecast that "there will be a new 'purging' of the [Soviet] Communist party...to weed out incompetents, traitors and the indolent." Then its reports of the actual purges began. Its issue of December 19, 1934, reported that "since the assassination of Sergei Kirov, member of the all-powerful Political Committee..., 127 men and women have been arrested. Of these,...sixty-six were executed within twenty-four hours." The editors were non-judgmental. A month later they argued that "fairness demands a suspension of judgment until all the facts are available."59
The issue of August 26, 1936, spoke of the trial of Zinoviev and Kamenev, and reported that they and 14 others had been executed for allegedly participating in a plot in which Trotsky collaborated with the Nazis. "The evidence points," the editors said, "to the genuineness of the plot."60
In January 1937, Edmund Wilson and Malcolm Cowley wrote opposing articles about Stalinism. Wilson attacked, Cowley defended. In February, the editors professed their agnosticism toward the treason trials. In April, they reported that John Dewey had become chairman of the American subcommission of the "commission of inquiry into the guilt or innocence of Trotsky." By June, their mood had become bewilderment: "The world was puzzled and disturbed by news from the Soviet Union of further convictions and executions for treason, including eight prominent generals." Finally, they shed their neutrality, at least temporarily, saying that "the events...carry their own implications."61
The New Republic did not, however, swing decisively to the anti-Stalinist camp. It continued to reflect the competing views. In July it carried an article by Walter Duranty defending Stalin. Duranty said of "the Kremlin's enemies" that "their Trojan horse is broken and its occupants destroyed." In October, an article by John Stevens upheld Stalin: "The trials and arrests definitely strengthened the Soviet Union."62
On the other side, the editors reported in December that "Dr. Dewey said the members of the committee 'are appalled by the utterly discreditable character of the whole Moscow trial proceedings, at once flimsy and vicious.'" The editors wrote in January 1938 that "nearly every member of the group that made the Russian Revolution is gone" -- and called it "a major disaster." Nevertheless, they reiterated their inability to make a judgment. This was followed by a long interval during which the purges were hardly mentioned. Then in June 1939 the editors said that "we have seen no evidence conclusive to us that the political trials were 'frame-ups'...."63
A startling accumulation of events, which included the purge trials, laid the foundation for a reevaluation of Communism and the Soviet Union. The purges had created doubt and bitter division. Then the brutality of Communist power-seeking against the other leftist factions during the Spanish Civil War precipitated the breaking away of others, most notably John Dos Passos. Finally, the Hitler-Stalin Pact, followed almost immediately by the invasion and partition of Poland by Germany and the Soviet Union, and then within a short time by the Soviet invasion of Finland and of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, shook the intellectual culture to its core.
Unfortunately much of the old affinity was reestablished after Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941 and after England and the United States became allies of the Soviet Union in World War II. But things were never totally the same, and the "shocks" that rocked the Communist world after World War II (such things as the Lysenko affair, the Hungarian Revolution, Krushchev's revelations about Stalin, the "Polish October," and the crushing of the Dubcek regime in Czechoslovakia) continued to erode the position of the Soviets within the world intellectual community.
The announcement of the Hitler-Stalin Pact on August 23, 1939, stunned the intellectual culture. The New Republic called it "paralyzing." The Nation said "the disillusion which will follow among the left forces here and abroad will be bitter."64
The shock was compounded by embarrassment. On August 10, less than two weeks before the Pact was declared, a group of America's most prominent liberal writers, calling itself "the Committee of 400," had issued its famous letter stating their collective faith that political dictatorship was only a transitional phase in the Soviet Union and that "the Soviet Union continues as always to be a bulwark against war and aggression." The signers included many of the names best known to readers of the liberal journals: Waldo Frank, Granville Hicks, Matthew Josephson, Max Lerner, Robert Morss Lovett, Frederick L. Schuman, Vincent Sheean, Maxwell Stewart, I. F. Stone, and James Thurber.
The shock was not enough, however, to keep a tenacious New Republic from rationalizing the Pact: "The Russian explanation of why the treaty was signed seems to make good sense... it frees her from having to fight on two fronts at once in case of a major conflict with Japan."65
In late September the journal reported the Soviet armistice with Japan and invasion of Poland. The next week, a letter from Granville Hicks told why he was resigning from the Communist Party, but pledged to continue to defend the party and not to denounce the Soviet Union. Then in early November Vincent Sheean's description of the Soviet Union as a "fascist state" appeared. In mid-December the editors finally came forward: "There never has been a clearer case of...aggression...than the invasion of Finland by the Soviet Union."66
This eventual candor was followed by surprisingly little comment in The New Republic during the next year and a half. There was no introspection into the role it had played. Even after reporting the assassination of Trotsky in Mexico in 1940, the journal chose not to mention it again for several months.
This insouciance lasted until Hitler attacked the U.S.S.R. on June 22, 1941. The New Republic immediately urged aid to the Soviet Union (a policy favored, as well, by Winston Churchill). In November, Roger Baldwin wrote hopefully that there would now be a way to influence the Soviets toward "socialist democracy." In the same issue, A. Jugow glowingly praised the social justice within the Soviet Union, and Maurice Hindus argued that Stalin's ruthlessness had had the advantage of hardening the Soviet Union for its contest with Germany. The new mood, which for many was a renewal of the old, was captured by Vice President Henry Wallace in a speech in early 1942: "Russia... was changed from an illiterate to a literate nation within one generation and, in the process, Russia's appreciation of freedom was enormously enhanced."67
During World War II
Everyone knows, of course, that the Allies won militarily in World War II, defeating Germany, Japan and Italy. But it is equally significant that the non-Communist world lost the peace. Within slightly more than four years after the war ended, the Soviet Union had taken the eastern half of Europe and the Communists under Mao had conquered China. This set the stage for the Cold War and for the Korean and Vietnam wars.
I will leave a more complete discussion of this to my chapter on liberalism's international worldview and policies. For the present, it will be sufficient to refer ahead to the subject and to observe that the major cause of the disastrous aftermath of the war lay in the illusions that the Left and liberalism fostered about Communism.
The tone of the intellectual culture during the war is well illustrated by The Nation's having run a number of articles by Anna Louise Strong, for many years prior to her own fall from grace one of the most unquestioning apologists for the Soviet Union. One of these was her 1944 article "With the Red Army."68
While Winston Churchill saw the war in realistic geopolitical terms and sought a strategy that would minimize the post-war position of the Soviet Union, Roosevelt overrode him. This was due to a blindness born out of the illusion spawned by the ideological context that I have been tracing. In vitally important ways, although not entirely, Harry Truman continued to act under this illusion after he became president. Although liberalism has been ambivalent, the illusion remained for decades as a vitally important part of the liberal worldview. An understanding of its presence and of the consequences that have flowed from it is essential to a comprehension of the second half of the twentieth century.
On the domestic front, Roosevelt in 1943 proposed his "American Charter" for the post-war period. This included his "Economic Bill of Rights," with its explicit politicization of the problem of individual economic well-being, and a number of interventionist measures. A T.V.A.-type project was proposed for all feasible river valleys. Roosevelt's 1944 State of the Union address expounded on his "Second Bill of Rights."69
The issue of racial segregation began to appear in liberal writing. In April 1943, The New Republic declared that "segregation has made possible the greatest injuries to the Negro people."70
In May 1944, The New Republic published "A Platform for Progressives" that corresponded to Roosevelt's proposals. Although it wanted "more T.V.A.'s," it did not otherwise call for socialism. Rather, there was to be a strengthening of what the journal referred to as "the social service state." The editors included a forceful call for a fight against racial discrimination.71
A conservative coalition controlled both houses of Congress. There was, in addition, dissension among the factions of the "New Deal coalition." It infuriated the intellectual culture, for example, when William Green,
the president of the American Federation of Labor, endorsed Martin Dies, the chairman of the House Committee on Un-American Activities, for reelection. In another matter, The New Republic denounced "corrupt big-city machines" and "Southern Tories" for having forced Henry Wallace out as Roosevelt's running mate in 1944.72
Truman's "Fair Deal"
Domestically, the years of the Truman administration between 1945 and 1953 were marked by the scaling down of liberal aspirations from those of socialism to those of a "welfare state," which Michael Straight, by then the editor of The New Republic, described in 1949 as "a cooperative, state-aided capitalism dedicated to human welfare."73
Throughout the post-World War II period, the most prominent liberal authors retained their aspiration for socialism, but this was relegated to the background because there seemed no route to attain it. At the same time, a number of historic factors brought European socialism to embrace a combination of the market economy and the welfare state. The British socialist G. D. H. Cole wrote in The New Republic in 1952 that the social democratic variant of Marxism in Western Europe "has accepted the idea of using the parliamentary instrument for advancing in the direction of the Welfare State." Ben Seligman said, in commenting on a book by Harry K. Girvetz, that "the positive program for today's liberals that he offers is a compound of Beveridge, Keynes and Hansen, with Britain and Scandinavia set up as suitable models."74
This was the beginning of the type of liberalism that we have known since World War II, a liberalism that has consisted of a "liberal agenda" before the Congress for measures leading to a piecemeal expansion of federal power.
Since many of the proposals were of the "foot-in-the-door" variety, with liberals intending further growth of the function once government began to exercise it, conservatives labeled it -- correctly, I think -- "creeping socialism."
In early 1946, The New Republic praised Truman's State of the Union message, which Henry Wallace later said "contained a magnificent New Deal program." The speech proposed federal aid to education, a national public works program, a federal health system, a permanent Fair Employment Practices Commission, an increased minimum wage and a federal scientific research agency.75
Keynesian economics was institutionalized by the Employment Act of 1946. After his conversion to conservatism, one of The New Republic's writers, Garet Garrett, described the Act as "a law of revolutionary purport" that "delivered into the hands of government ultimate control of the American economy." The Act committed the federal government to maintain full employment.76
In the 1948 presidential election campaign, Truman went to the country with what TRB described as "the most radical platform in presidential history." Among other things, the platform, he said, "advocates government ownership and operation of transmission lines from government dams right up to the consumers' electric stoves." A New Republic editorial reported that Truman "has chosen to fight on principles of militant liberalism."77
Then in his 1949 State of the Union message in which he set forth his "Fair Deal," Truman proposed what TRB called "a social-welfare state [that] amounts to the most leftward-leaning program ever sent by an American president to Congress." Truman urged creation of a Columbia Valley Authority for the Northwest. To TRB, the Brannan Plan for agriculture was "breath-taking." He wrote that "the basic theory's simple and revolutionary: We give a particular class economic security in return for quite heavy regimentation." The administration called for public housing, the extension of Social Security, and more progressive rates for the income tax.78
From all of this it may seem that those were exuberant years for a liberalism willing to content itself at least temporarily with the incremental techniques of a welfare state. But such an impression would seriously miss the mark.
Although Truman's program and rhetoric were applauded by liberal intellectuals, the actual direction of his administration was not to their liking. In 1946, a New Republic editorial reported that progressives no longer had a major spokesman within the administration. In 1948, Henry Wallace wrote that "no significant part" of the "magnificent New Deal program" that Truman had submitted two years before had been enacted. In May of that year, the editors complained that Truman's actions had been quite different from his speeches, and that the New Dealers in the administration had been replaced by men from the military and from Wall Street.79
The New Republic endorsed Truman for election later that fall after he stepped up his militant rhetoric and after Henry Wallace (who was editor for a very short time) was replaced by Michael Straight as editor. But in 1949 TRB observed again that there was "a basic paradox" in "the difference between the President's almost radical words and the men advising him." James Wechsler's verdict years later was that Truman "was something less than a resolute, adventurous liberal crusader... [He] could gruffly pay his rhetorical respects to progressive legislation but he was neither creative nor original in this realm."80
Even if Truman had had the qualities that a man like Wechsler would have wanted, there were three obstacles standing in the way of the Fair Deal program: the presence of the Republican 80th Congress in 1947 and 1948, the Republican-Southern Democrat coalition in Congress the rest of the time, and the Korean War that began in June 1950 and drained away the possibility of domestic innovation.
During all of this, there was a struggle within the liberal intellectual culture over the movement's relation to Communism. The far-left Progressive Citizens of America (P.C.A.) was formed in December 1946. This stimulated the formation of the Americans for Democratic Action (A.D.A.) in early 1947, which Chilton Williamson, Jr., says "adamantly opposed...working with Communists and fellow-travelers." According to Wechsler, the A.D.A. became "a leading factor in the rout of the U.S. Communist movement in the 1948 campaign" when the Communist-run Progressive Party failed to attract widespread liberal support.81
Thus, the main body of American liberals had broken with the Communist Left. Instead, in Wechsler's words, "the A.D.A. has provided the stimulus of a sort of American Fabian Society." It is interesting how this was seen by the differing points of view: to the Left it meant a major movement of American liberalism to the right; to conservatives the Fabian tactic of piecemeal socialism seemed just as threatening as before.82
It will be best for me to leave my discussion of liberalism's relationship to international affairs during this period to my later chapter on that subject, since it deserves detailed attention. The capsule summary that follows is necessarily oversimplified:
American liberals slowly struggled toward the doctrine of containment vis a vis Communist expansion, proposed by George Kennan in 1947. Nevertheless, American policy was disastrously influenced by the continuing illusion about Communism, which unfortunately was not fully dispelled by the split between the P.C.A. and the A.D.A.
Over Churchill's objections, Eastern Europe was allowed to fall into the hands of the Red Army and to become consolidated as part of the Soviet empire; the Soviet Union was encouraged to come into the war against Japan despite the United States' possession of the atom bomb, and this gave the Communists great strategic advantages in their fight to conquer China; illusions were vigorously advanced about the nature of the Maoist movement in China, and the anti-Communist government of Chiang Kai-shek was vilified unmercifully, leading to policies that resulted in the Communist victory in late 1949; and policies were pursued and declarations made that encouraged the North Korean Communists to invade South Korea, which they did in on June 25, 1950.
On the other side of the ledger, Western Europe was maintained and strengthened as part of the non-Communist world. Once the idea of inviting the Soviet Union to join in the Marshall Plan was out of the way, the Marshall Plan became a major instrument on behalf of the free world. In Greece, the Truman Doctrine successfully defeated the Communist insurgency. This prevented a shift in the balance of power to the Soviet Union in the eastern Mediterranean. It is worth observing, however, that the Truman Doctrine was strenuously opposed editorially by both The New Republic and The Nation.83
1. New Republic, June 7, 1922, p. 34; New Republic, April 8, 1972, p. 23; Eric F. Goldman, Rendezvous With Destiny (New York: Vintage Books, 1977), p. 223.
2. New Republic, May 13, 1931, p. 348; New Republic, January 10, 1923, p. 168; New Republic, January 31, 1931.
3. New Republic, June 6, 1923, p. 42; New Republic, April 9, 1924, p. 187-III; New Republic, October 13, 1926, p. 211; New Republic, June 1, 1927, p. 36; New Republic, September 21, 1927, p. 112; New Republic, November 2, 1927, p. 279.
4. New Republic, November 21, 1928, p. 12; New Republic, December 12, 1928, p. 79.
5. New Republic, December 23, 1925, p. 123; New Republic, September 28, 1927, p. 133; New Republic, February 20, 1929, p. 15; New Republic, February 5, 1930, p. 295.
6. John D. Buenker, Liberalism and Progressive Reform (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1973), pp. 230, 231, 51.
7. New Republic, April 10, 1915, p. 250.
8. New Republic, October 18, 1933, p. 272.
9. New Republic, January 31, 1934, p. 330.
10. New Republic, April 22, 1936, p. 302; New Republic, March 1, 1939, p. 100; New Republic, April 11, 1949, p. 14; New Republic, April 19, 1943, p. 536.
11. New Republic, May 16, 1934, p. 13; New Republic, March 15, 1933, p. 118.
12. New Republic, November 30, 1927, p. 42; New Republic, November 21, 1934, p. 38.
13. Paul K. Conkin, The New Deal (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1967), p. 61.
14. Conkin, The New Deal, p. 61.
15. New Republic, May 15, 1929, p. 355; New Republic, November 28, 1928, p. 27.
16. New Republic, January 5, 1974, p. 14.
17. New Republic, September 23, 1931, p. 137; New Republic, October 14, 1931, p. 217.
18. New Republic, May 24, 1933, p. 44; New Republic, May 31, 1933, p. 57.
19. New Republic, May 17, 1933, p. 4.
20. New Republic, March 4, 1936, p. 105; New Republic, November 15, 1933, p. 4.
21. New Republic, August 25, 1941, p. 260.
22. New Republic, August 23, 1933, p. 33; New Republic, September 6, 1933, p. 87; New Republic, December 6, 1933, p. 100.
23. New Republic, April 3, 1935, p. 21; New Republic, March 20, 1935, p. 146.
24. Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., The Age of Roosevelt: The Politics of Upheaval (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1960), p. 387.
25. New Republic, July 3, 1935, p. 205.
26. New Republic, January 29, 1936, p. 334; Richard S. Kirkendall (ed.), The New Deal: The Historical Debate (New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1973), p. 131; Conkin, The New Deal, p. 66.
27. New Republic, September 4, 1935, p. 87; New Republic, February 24, 1937, p. 72.
28. New Republic, September 28, 1932, p. 164; New Republic, January 17, 1934, p. 263; New Republic, October 3, 1934, p. 223.
29. Conkin, The New Deal, p. 73.
30. Bernard Sternsher, Rexford Tugwell and the New Deal (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1964), p. 122; New Republic, December 25, 1944, p. 877; New Republic, July 25, 1960, p. 21.
31. New Republic, September 26, 1960, p. 23.
32. New Republic, June 3, 1931, p. 67.
33. Dean L. May, From New Deal to New Economics (New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1981), p. 59.
34. New Republic, January 28, 1944, p. 268.
35. New Republic, July 5, 1939, p. 250. 36. New Republic, May 10, 1939, p. 3; May, From New Deal, p. x.
37. May, From New Deal, p. 26.
38. Sternsher, Rexford Tugwell, p. 76 (re Hoover); New Republic, March 20, 1935, p. 141; May, From New Deal, p. 4; Louis A. Zurcher, Jr., and Charles M. Bonjean (ed.s), Planned Social Intervention (London: Chandler Publishing Company, 1970), p. 213.
39. Lewis L. Gould, The Progressive Era (New York: Syracuse University Press, 1974), p. 97; New Republic, September 7, 1968, p. 6. N
40. New Republic, May 22, 1935, p. 33; New Republic, January 1, 1936, p. 211; New Republic, February 8, 1939, p. 12; New Republic, May 17, 1943, p. 660; New Republic, January 27, 1947, p. 3; New Republic, December 16, 1946, p. 785.
41. New Republic, October 27, 1958, p. 13.
42. New Republic, March 8, 1933, p. 89; New Republic, March 14, 1934, p. 116; New Republic, January 9, 1935, p. 245; New Republic, January 30, 1935, p. 332; New Republic, June 10, 1936, p. 157.
43. New Republic, September 29, 1937, p. 201; New Republic, June 15, 1938, p. 163.
44. New Republic, January 21, 1931, p. 259; Howard Zinn (ed.), New Deal Thought (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1966), p. 14.
45. New Republic, January 14, 1931, p. 234; New Republic, March 11, 1931, p. 89; New Republic, November 8, 1939, p. 29; New Republic, July 5, 1939, pp. 244, 245.
46. New Republic, May 27, 1931, p. 42; New Republic, June 10, 1931, p. 102; New Republic, May 11, 1932, p. 349; New Republic, February 27, 1935, p. 77.
47. New Republic, March 31, 1937, p. 231.
48. The Nation, Vol. 129, p. 515; The Nation, October 31, 1934, p. 498; The Nation, Vol. 145, p. 521.
49. New Republic, October 13, 1926, p. 211; New Republic, June 29, 1927, p. 137; New Republic, March 5, 1930, p. 59; New Republic, December 3, 1930, p. 57.
50. New Republic, February 25, 1931, p. 42; New Republic, December 16, 1931, p. 142; New Republic, October 11, 1933, p. 230.
51. New Republic, January 17, 1934, p. 277; New Republic, August 7, 1935, p. 358.
52. New Republic, January 20, 1937, p. 363; New Republic, August 18, 1937, p. 35.
53. New Republic, December 29, 1937, p. 229; New Republic, September 6, 1939, p. 112.
54. New Republic, November 8, 1939, p. 7.
55. Eugene Lyons, The Red Decade (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1941), p. 97.
56. New Republic, March 27, 1976, p. 13.
57. New Republic, December 10, 1984, p. 10.
58. New Republic, November 9, 1963, p. 47; Frank A. Warren III, Liberals and Communism: The 'Red Decade' Revisited (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1966), pp. 71, 72.
59. New Republic, January 4, 1933, p. 198; New Republic, December 19, 1934, p. 151; New Republic, January 23, 1935, p. 293.
60. New Republic, August 26, 1936, pp. 58, 88.
61. New Republic, January 20, 1937, pp. 345, 348; New Republic, February 10, 1937, p. 33; New Republic, April 28, 1937, p. 343; New Republic, June 23, 1937, pp. 169, 174.
62. New Republic, July 14, 1937, p. 272; New Republic, October 20, 1937, p. 296.
63. New Republic, December 22, 1937, p. 182; New Republic, January 5, 1938, p. 240; New Republic, June 28, 1939, p. 202.
64. New Republic, August 30, 1939, p. 85; The Nation, August 26, 1939, pp. 212, 228.
65. New Republic, September 6, 1939, p. 118.
66. New Republic, October 4, 1939, p. 244; New Republic, November 8, 1939, p. 7; New Republic, December 13, 1939, p. 219.
67. New Republic, June 30, 1941, p. 871; New Republic, November 17, 1941, pp. 651, 654, 665; New Republic, May 25, 1942, p. 725.
68. The Nation, Vol. 159, p. 121.
69. New Republic, April 19, 1943, p. 523.
70. New Republic, April 19, 1943, p. 492.
71. New Republic, May 8, 1944, p. 644; New Republic, October 22, 1945, p. 515.
72. New Republic, March 6, 1944, p. 301; New Republic, July 31, 1944, p. 115.
73. New Republic, August 15, 1949, p. 2.
74. New Republic, March 24, 1952, p. 10; New Republic, March 12, 1951, p. 20.
75. New Republic, January 28, 1946, p. 108; New Republic, January 5, 1948, p. 9.
76. Garet Garrett, The American Story (Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1955), p. 387.
77. New Republic, November 15, 1948, p. 3; New Republic, September 27, 1948, p. 32.
78. New Republic, January 31, 1949, p. 3; New Republic, May 9, 1949, p. 3.
79. New Republic, September 30, 1946, p. 396; New Republic, January 5, 1948, p. 9; New Republic, May 17, 1948, pp. 14, 18.
80. New Republic, August 8, 1949, p. 3; James A. Wechsler, The Crucial Decade: America, 1945-1955 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1956), p. 47.
81. New Republic, February 9, 1974, p. 23; Wechsler, The Crucial Decade, p. 55.
82. Wechsler, The Crucial Decade, p. 56.
83. New Republic, March 24, 1947, p. 6; The Nation, Vol. 166, p. 342.