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

By Eugene M. Tobin | Go to book overview

which underlay such mistrust. Progressives, who were powerless without union participation, still could not accept an equal or subordinate role in sharing that power.104 For their part, trade unionists had little faith or respect for progressives who espoused the merits of the "public" interest but decried the need for special interest legislation. In a campaign intended to emphasize current economic problems, laborites grew impatient with progressives' familiar denunciations of special privilege. Fearful of political retaliation by the two major parties and skeptical of any movement that diverted labor from basic economic goals, the CPPA's union leaders saw no advantage in tying themselves to a handful of discredited intellectuals. From organized labor's perspective, there was nothing remotely "progressive" about the La Follette-Wheeler movement except its self-proclaimed name, and even that was in dispute.

Developments between 1921 and 1924 also revealed basic inadequacies in progressive tactics. Just as politicians often enjoy campaigning more than governing, the Harding years exposed the limitations in progressives' political strategy. Reformers received their greatest pleasure from the behind-the-scenes battling, lobbying, and maneuvering which preceded the actual campaign. Their influence diminished once a candidate was selected and platform approved. They functioned best in small, elite, and homogeneous groups and were notably less successful when mixing with others holding divergent views. Though progressives paid lip service to the idea of a liberal-labor coalition and could wax eloquent over an alliance of "hand and brain," they demonstrated no real commitment to the ideal of organization or cooperation. Such a partnership required the sharing of decision making, an acknowledgment of intellectual parity, and a willingness to accept and reconcile differences to the satisfaction of all parties. Most independent progressives could bring themselves to do none of these things because they refused to accept organized labor as an equal.


NOTES
1.
Basil M. Manly to Robert M. La Follette, Sept. 15, 1920, Series B, box 86, La Follette Papers.
2.
Robert M. La Follette to Lynn Haines, editor, Searchlight on Congress, Dec. 15, 1920, box 35, Haines Papers.
3.
H. R. Mussey, executive secretary, PLS, to Mrs. Agnes Brown Leach, May 9, 1921, Document Group 4, box 3, American Union Against Militarism Papers, Swarthmore College Peace Collection.
4.
"The League's Plan of Work for the People's Program in Congress," PRL Pamphlet, box 42, Amos Pinchot Papers; see also Benjamin C. Marsh, Lobbyist for the People: A Record of Fifty Years ( Washington, D.C.: Public Affairs Press, 1953), 69-70.

-160-

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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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