American Radicals Some Problems and Personalities

By Harvey Goldberg | Go to book overview

Foreword

American radicals have honored democracy by trying to make it better. With the courage and conviction to stand hard against the current, they have contributed new ideas and helped to build better institutions. For this they have won love and affection from some of their fellow Americans, while drawing the resentment and fear of others. But their record stands well in a democracy, which requires far more than lip service for success. Out of both conviction and necessity they have sought to give it what it needs--vitality, variety, choice. Their offense against timid society has been the recognition that "faith without deeds is dead."

For very compelling reasons, the study of American radicals should be essential homework for this generation: because their record can give heart and stomach to Americans who are watching democracy weaken under the weight of conformism; and because their insights and errors, their accomplishments and failures can cast light, even many years later, on the problems of the present.

There are many threads that tie the essays in this volume together, although it makes no attempt to be a systematic treatise on American radicalism. It is far from that. But it certainly suggests the richness and variety, the resources, the individuality, as well as the dilemmas, of the radical past. To the extent that it succeeds, it will be a blow against today's counsels of conservatism.

My deep appreciation goes out to the men who contributed the essays and displayed unfailing patience toward an inexperienced editor. The entire enterprise depended on the constant support of my good friends Leo Huberman and Paul Sweezy, who encouraged the idea and published the volume, and on the great editorial skill of John Rackliffe. Throughout the venture, I was sustained by the generous friendship of Russell McMasters and Kenneth Hamman.

-ix-

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