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

By Eugene M. Tobin | Go to book overview

the Nation, New Republic, Common Sense, and the World Tomorrow was incalculably small. But for future New Dealers, government officials, labor leaders, and those interested in public service, these journals were required reading. The Roosevelt administration may not always have endorsed their views, but it could not afford to ignore them. In that respect, the independent progressives who wrote for such an audience were helping to shape the public policy that would affect the lives of millions of Americans for generations to come.

When the fifty-odd participants in the LIPA's first organizational meeting gathered in New York City in December 1928, no depression ravaged the country, and there was no New Deal to lift the flagging spirits of the people. Yet their discussions centered around proposals for national planning, income redistribution, public ownership, and government responsibility for the elderly, the unemployed, and the indigent. That it took the depression to attract public attention to these issues makes what took place before March 4, 1933, no less an accomplishment. It seems unreasonable to expect a group of progressives who rarely agreed among themselves to respond with overwhelming enthusiasm to everything New Dealers tried. It is true, of course, that only a handful of these older progressives played active roles in the New Deal. Most gradually found themselves at odds with the new administration on major policy questions. Perhaps, we should be less concerned with how they reacted to the New Deal than that they responded at all. The handful of independent progressives who operated the LIPA, the People's Lobby, and the National Popular Government League kept issues alive. They made public power, public works, and unemployment relief an important part of the political debate, and they refused to be silenced. Those progressives whose health and desire permitted them to stay politically active remained just as opinionated and just as impossible to ignore. That had always been their major role and their greatest public service.


NOTES
1.
League for Independent Political Action (LIPA), box 1, Williams Papers. Several scholars have considered the importance of the league's activities on intellectual and political currents. See R. Alan Lawson, The Failure of Independent Liberalism, 1933-1941 ( New York: Putnam Sons, 1971), 39-46; Donald R. McCoy, Angry Voices: Left-of-Center Politics in the New Deal Era ( Lawrence: Univ. of Kansas Press, 1958), 1-27; and Karel Denis Bicha, "Liberalism Frustrated: The League for Independent Political Action, 1928-1933, " Mid-America 48:1 ( Jan. 1966), 19- 28.
2.
John C. Bennett to Kirby Page, Dec. 23, 1928, and Kirby Page to John C. Bennett Dec. 26, 1928, box 1, Williams Papers.
3.
Mercer G. Johnston to William T. Rawleigh, Jan. 9, 1929, box 57, Johnston

-237-

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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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