The American Fund for Public Service: Charles Garland and Radical Philanthropy, 1922-1941

The American Fund for Public Service: Charles Garland and Radical Philanthropy, 1922-1941

The American Fund for Public Service: Charles Garland and Radical Philanthropy, 1922-1941

The American Fund for Public Service: Charles Garland and Radical Philanthropy, 1922-1941

Synopsis

This study examines one organization from the radical left of the 1920s and 1930s, the American Fund for Public Service, which represented a united front of anarchists, socialists, communists, and left-liberals in attempting to end capitalism and war.

Excerpt

The 1920s, like the 1980s, were lean years for American labor and the left. However, not all "tired radicals" retreated from activism; nor did leftists, despite the sectarian rhetoric that has captured the attention of historians of the 1920s, totally abandon cooperation and their mutual goal of a new social order.

One organization, which is little known today but infamous in the 1920s and 1930s, represented a "premature" united front of anticapitalists-- anarchists, socialists, communists, and left-liberals--that attempted to revitalize the left in order to end capitalism and, therefore, war. Many of these men and women, pacifists during the Great War, had been radicalized by officially sanctioned repression during that period.

The directors of the American Fund for Public Service performed the difficult task of allocating relatively meager resources (ultimately, $2 million) to the most promising radical ventures. Charles Garland, an eccentric twenty-one-year-old Harvard dropout, provided the windfall by refusing to accept an inheritance for his own use.

The war sensitized the Fund directors to what is now called cultural hegemony--"ruling class" dominance of all aspects of society. Many of the Fund's efforts were directed to countering that dominance, particularly in education, labor organization, the media, and race relations. the Fund directors' approach was guided by Progressive Era techniques and a pragmatic philosophy that, while reducing conflict, probably inhibited effectiveness by emphasizing experimentalism over sustained support of a small number of enterprises. Their pragmatic disavowal of dogmatism precluded the support of several militant, but sectarian, proposals. Nevertheless, the activities of the Fund did demonstrate that radicals continued to function during the 1920s, frequently cooperatively.

The Fund's support of the Federated Press news service provided the beleaguered militant faction of the labor movement with sympathetic reportage. the fund-initiated Vanguard Press published hundreds of leftist . . .

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