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

By Eugene M. Tobin | Go to book overview

IX
Conclusion

Political activists occupy a peculiar position in American life. We do not so much revere as respect them; we envy their energy, occasionally question their judgment, frequently wish they would go away, and are usually grateful for the necessary role they play. We rarely ignore them, since they will not be silenced.

American liberals between 1913 and 1933 experienced all these sentiments as they confronted their insurgent critics. These were men and women whose names graced the letterheads of countless organizations but were not "professional" liberals. They did not wear their progressivism on their sleeves in public and store it in their closets after hours. They were the managers, directors, technicians, and followers of independent organizations who relentlessly pursued the goals of equal justice and equal opportunity. But they were not saints; they distrusted power yet desperately sought it. They were suspicious of privilege though never hesitant to use it. They envisioned themselves as custodians of the democratic tradition and named their organizations accordingly-- the National Popular Government League, the People's Lobby, the People's Legislative Service--yet they were most comfortable and effective in small, exclusive, elitist groups and most ineffective and awkward when dealing directly with the public. So they were neither perfect nor innocent, and few pretended otherwise. They failed far more often than they succeeded, yet they made a difference by forcing friends and adversaries to consider their views.

Many first came to political maturity as soldiers in the Bull Moose crusade. Struggling with the limitation imposed by the two-party system, they quite early demonstrated a disquieting willingness to sacrifice principle (loyalty to Robert M. La Follette) for glory. Shaken by TR's dismissal of them as "ultra-progressives," they nonetheless enjoyed the

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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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