Organize or Perish: America's Independent Progressives, 1913-1933

By Eugene M. Tobin | Go to book overview

V
Liberals and the Postwar Reconstruction, 1919-1920

The immediate postwar years represent a significant and formative period in the growth of American liberalism. The events, proposals, and developments of this time were, however, neither novel, unexpected, nor enduring. This is not to dismiss the optimism, enthusiasm, and creativity which pervaded this reconstruction era. Nor are these generalizations intended to diminish the significance of liberal-labor calls for "industrial democracy," nationalization of natural resources and transportation, or creation of a new political alignment. These were important and essential issues which established the agenda and set the tone for liberal-labor relations until the Great Depression.

But there are other questions which reach beyond strategy and programs to touch the core of the immediate postwar liberal experience. At the heart of that core is failure: failure to recognize the distance which separated liberal rhetoric from practice; failure to acknowledge labor's right to a position of equality in any political or economic alliance; failure in the ability to rise above class prejudice; and, perhaps most contemptible, the absence of integrity and the liberals' propensity for self-indulgence and unquestioning acceptance of their own propaganda.

This failure is all the more disturbing when compared with superficially comparable British developments. There, a successful wartime movement of pacifists, socialists, and liberals coalesced into the British Labour Party (BLP). The latter's emergence as a powerful economic and political force served as a model for American progressives, yet our own experience pointed to a less successful, more destructive, and hypocritical side of postwar liberalism. Because Anglo-American liberal and labor relations seemed to parallel one another so closely, their subsequent divergence clearly shows American liberals at a disadvantage. In both countries a majority of each nation's liberal and labor leaders quickly

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Organize or Perish: America's Independent Progressives, 1913-1933
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Recent Titles in Contributions in American History ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Copyright Acknowledgments v
  • Contents ix
  • I- Introduction 3
  • Notes 11
  • II- Amos R. E. Pinchot And George L. Record: The Radical Progressive Alternative, 1912-1916 13
  • Notes 37
  • III- Liberal-Labor Relations Before the War 43
  • Notes 61
  • IV- The Road From Henry Street To Wall Street 67
  • Notes 89
  • V- Liberals And The Postwar Reconstruction, 1919-1920 97
  • Notes 124
  • VI- Independent Progressives, 1921-1924 131
  • Notes 160
  • VII- The Wilderness Years, 1925-1928 167
  • Notes 197
  • VIII- Rehearsal for Reform 203
  • Notes 237
  • IX- Conclusion 245
  • Note 250
  • Bibliographic Essay 251
  • Index 261
  • About the Author 281
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