Pioneers of American Freedom: Origin of Liberal and Radical Thought in America

Pioneers of American Freedom: Origin of Liberal and Radical Thought in America

Pioneers of American Freedom: Origin of Liberal and Radical Thought in America

Pioneers of American Freedom: Origin of Liberal and Radical Thought in America

Excerpt

More recent events, notably the Alliances of World War II, have created great confusion concerning the meaning of democracy, as well as emphasizing the distinctions between free and regimented societies. Fascism, Naziism, and Russian Bolshevism, all have certain popular aspects which tend to characterize them as mass movements. Those who are unclear about democracy may therefore mistakenly describe these totalitarian phenomena as democratic.

In such a state of bewilderment of opinion which one finds even in books of American scholarship, a thoughtful and informed history of American liberalism and radicalism is a much needed discipline for our thinking.

Rudolf Rocker's essay, which I have labored to present here literally in translation, has the dual merit of exhibiting to Americans their country from the viewpoint of one trained in European traditions and of giving his interpretation of America to Europeans in the light of their own knowledge and traditions. Not since de Tocqueville, I dare say, and not even by his most important work, Democracy in America, has anyone, native or foreign, had such insight of America.

For the general viewpoint, the first and final chapters are illuminating and definitive. They enable us as Americans to see present disturbances from illiberal and reactionary factions in comparison with similar outbreaks in our past history from the beginning to the present. But the greatest contribution here is the exhibition of our distinguished liberal leaders from Paine to Lincoln as creative persons . . .

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