Chapter 15- …The More It Stays The Same

Chapter 15 of the book Fabian Freeway.


In the future as in the past, the continuing leadership of the Socialist movement in the United States resided in America’s Fabian Society, (1) the polite but persistent Intercollegiate Socialist Society, which changed its name but not its nature in 1921. Discarding the Socialist title, that by now had become a liability, it called itself the League for Industrial Democracy—the name under which it survives today.

This alias implied no break with the destructive philosophy and goals of international Socialism. It was rather a device for pursuing them more discreetly, at a temporarily reduced speed. Few outsiders connected the term Industrial Democracy with those archetypes of Fabian Socialism, England’s Sidney and Beatrice Webb, who had used it as the title for one of their earliest propaganda books. The slogan adopted by the LID, “Production for use and not for profit,” originated with Belfort Bax, another vintage British Socialist. It was a handy formula for expressing Marxist aims in non-Marxist language.

Although most of its members and friends now described themselves publicly as liberals, basically the American society remained the same. As ever, its self-appointed function was to produce the intellectual leaders and to formulate the plans for achieving an eventual Socialist State in America. Like its British model, the LID proposed to operate from the top down and meet the working masses halfway. Voting power and financial support would come from labor, which was to be organized as far as possible into industry-wide, Socialist-led unions.

As the Lusk Committee only vaguely surmised, (2) British Socialists, not Russian nor German, had set the pattern for gradual social revolution to be followed in America and other English-speaking countries. The development of an elite, and research for planning and control purposes, were its primary tasks. Penetration and permeation of existing institutions, indirect rather than direct action, were its recommended procedures.

Owing to the greater expanse and complexity of the United States as compared to England, and to the wide variety of opinions due to the varied national origins of its people, special emphasis had to be placed on the formation of opinion-shaping and policy-directing groups at every level—particularly in the fields of education, political action, economics and foreign relations. While as yet such groups existed only in embryo, and Socialist programs were in public disrepute, sooner or later the opportunity for a breakthrough would come. The way of the turtle was slow but sure.

Superficially, some changes in LID operations were made in deference to the times. Adults were now frankly admitted to membership in an organization which they had always dominated. Student chapters, disrupted by the war, had almost disappeared; but until 1928 no direct effort was made to revive them in the name of the Students’ League for Industrial Democracy. For the moment, it seemed more prudent to operate through the new Intercollegiate Liberal League, formed in April, 1921, at a Harvard conference attended by 250 student delegates from assorted colleges.(3)

Keynote speakers at this conference included such trusty troupers of the old Intercollegiate Socialist Society as Walter Lippmann, Henry Mussey, Charlotte Perkins Gilman and the Reverend John Haynes Holmes (4)—all billed as liberals rather than Socialists. The objectives of the organization, as stated in the prospectus, were even more carefully understated than those of the former ISS. They were: The cultivation of the open mind; the development of an informed student opinion on social, industrial, political and international questions. (5) Due to the reassuring tone of the prospectus and the psychological appeal of the word liberal, three presidents of leading Eastern colleges actually consented to address the organizing conference. (6)

In his speech on that occasion, the Reverend Holmes invited students to “identify themselves with the labor world, and there to martyr themselves by preaching the gospel of free souls and love as the rule of life.” Vaguely, he predicted a revolution and added, “If you want to be on the side of fundamental right, you have got to be on the side of labor.” A militant advocate of pacificism during the war, Reverend Holmes had frequently been under surveillance by Federal agents. Intelligence sources reported that his speeches were used as propaganda material by the German Army in its efforts to break down the morale of American troops.

Subsequent meetings of the Intercollegiate Liberal League dealt with what British Fabians of the period often referred to as “practical problems of the day.” Speakers were provided through the cooperation of the New Republic, whose literary editor, Robert Morss Lovett, was also president of the LID. Both English and American Fabian Socialists responded to the call. In January, 1923, the Fabian News of London announced:

“W. A. Robson has gone to America for about six months, as a member of a small European mission which will lecture at the leading universities under the auspices of the Intercollegiate Liberal Union [sic].”

Evidently a touch of Fabian elegance was needed, for the Liberal League’s Socialist slip was already showing. In 1922, that outspoken American Socialist, Upton Sinclair, making a tour of the universities, had delivered several lectures sponsored by the Intercollegiate Liberal League(7)—and very nearly succeeded in exposing its Socialist origin. Concerning such incidents, a committee of the American Association of University Professors reported tolerantly: “The Intercollegiate Liberal League suffered from misinterpretation, and somewhat at the hands of ‘heresy hunters.’” (8) In 1922, it merged with the Student Forum and its membership numbered a select 850 on eight college campuses.

Like the young people whom it was schooling in duplicity, the parent LID cultivated a liberal look and an air of candid innocence. This pose was rendered more credible by the fact that certain troublesome “cooperators” had voluntarily withdrawn from the ISS. Gone but not forgotten were firebrands like Ella Reeve Bloor, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, William Z. Foster and Robert Minor, who had been active in the violent IWW-led strikes of other years and who later became top functionaries in the Communist Party.

No suspicion of Communist ties could be permitted to cast its shadow upon the League for Industrial Democracy, on which the future of the Socialist movement in America depended. Yet individual members and even ranking officers, acting independently or through subsidiary organizations, continued to display a puzzling solicitude for the well-being of illicit Communists. To an outsider it sometimes looked as if the chief concern of open-minded League members in the nineteen-twenties was to procure the survival of the illegal Communist Party, then calling itself the Workers’ Party, with whose methods they were officially in disagreement.

In this connection, it may be pointed out that the role of the renovated LID was from the start a defensive one. After 1917, both public officials and the American public at large regarded Communism very much as Anarchism had been viewed in the eighteen-eighties and nineties. Since virtually all members of Communist parties here and abroad were former Socialists, and since a good many avowed Socialists (9) had now one foot in the Communist camp, the average American could hardly be expected to make much distinction between them. A respectable front was urgently needed.

Like the Bellamy clubs of a previous era, the LID was called upon, not only to make Socialism acceptable under other names, but to preserve the whole social revolutionary movement in this country from possible extinction. “Left can speak to left”—a principle later voiced by the British Fabian, Ernest Bevin, at Potsdam—was its undeclared but pragmatic rule of action.

There is no doubt that radicals of every kind were highly unpopular in the United States after World War I—and no doubt there were good reasons. Information had been received linking a number of left wing publications in this country with the Communist International’s propaganda headquarters in Berlin. As a result, the Department of Justice launched an all-out drive to immobilize centers of seditious propaganda in America. A series of raids was conducted in 1919-20 by order of Attorney General Mitchell Palmer, which led four Harvard Law School professors headed by Felix Frankfurter to file a protest with the Justice Department. (10) Socialist-liberal writers—enjoying themselves hugely, as Walter Lippmann recalls—joined forces to taunt and harass the earnest if unsophisticated officers of the law.

When steps were also taken in 1919-20 to close the Rand School of Social Science on grounds that it harbored known Bolsheviks, (11) there was some fear that even the Intercollegiate Socialist Society itself might soon be exposed to summary action. Not only August Claessens, but a whole flock of ISS valued “cooperators” were listed as instructors and lecturers at the Rand School in June, 1919, (12) when the New York State Legislature appointed a committee headed by Senator Clayton R. Lusk to investigate radical activities. The Senator’s methods were of a classic simplicity. He issued a search warrant and called for State Troopers to escort the investigators who descended suddenly on the Rand School, impounding records and files.

On the basis of evidence so obtained, the Committee took steps to close the school by court injunction and throw it into receivership. With the help of Samuel Untermeyer, a prominent New York attorney whose brother, Louis, taught Modem Poetry at the Rand School, the injunction was lifted and the school’s records were returned. Thereupon the so-called Lusk Laws were passed,(13) requiring all private schools in New York State to be licensed. The purpose was to close the Rand School on grounds that it did not meet the necessary qualifications.

Here the hidden source of Socialist power in New York hinted at by August Claessens, suddenly revealed itself. The attorney for the Rand School, Morris Hillquit, was backed by the mass indignation and voting power of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers and other Socialist-led trade unions. Prudently the Lusk Laws were vetoed in 1920 by that happy warrior, Governor Alfred Emanuel Smith, in what has been described as the most brilliant veto message of his career. The episode is significant because it marked the first step in an unholy alliance between the New York State Democratic organization and the Socialist-led needle trades unions: an alliance that was to put Franklin D. Roosevelt into the Governor’s mansion and eventually into the White House, and bring “democratic Socialists” into the highest councils of Government.

Governor Smith’s veto of the Lusk Laws also offered a striking example of the uses of Fabian Socialist permeation in America—the technique recommended so warmly by Beatrice Webb, explained so clearly by Margaret Cole (14) and employed so successfully by British Fabians operating inside the Liberal Party in England. It is a technique of inducing non-Socialists to do the work and the will of Socialists. No one supposes for a moment that Governor Al Smith was himself a Socialist; nor does anyone imagine he drafted that very brilliant veto message personally. Besides being an astute politician of the Tammany Hall stripe, Smith was a devout Catholic layman. To reach him required not only permeation at first hand, but permeation at second hand as well.

In this instance, it may be noted that one of Governor Smith’s counselors on matters involving “social justice” was Father (later Monsignor) John Augustin Ryan of the National Catholic Welfare Council, (15) who in 1915 founded the Department of Social Sciences at the Catholic University of America. In an objective analysis entitled The Economic Thought of John A. Ryan, Dr. Patrick Gearty has revealed that much of Father Ryan’s thinking on social and economic matters was derived from John Atkinson Hobson, the British Fabian Socialist philosopher and avowed rationalist.

In 1919, Father Ryan had already unveiled the draft of a postwar “reconstruction” plan, in an address delivered in West Virginia before the conservative Knights of Columbus. The Ryan plan has since been known by the somewhat misleading title of “The Bishops’ Program of Social Reconstruction,” because it was printed over the signatures of four Bishops who formed the National Catholic Welfare Council’s Executive Committee. It was reprinted in 1931, just prior to the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt as President.

An illuminating fact about the plan was that it took special note of “the social reconstruction program of the British Labor Party”—a program written by Sidney Webb and published as Labour and the New Social Order. Father Ryan specifically cited the “four pillars” of the Webb opus. Concerning them, he stated, “This program may properly be described as one of immediate radical reforms, leading to complete socialism …. Evidently this outcome cannot be approved by Catholics.”(16) True to Catholic orthodoxy, “complete Socialism” must be rejected; but not the bulk of the ill-begotten Fabian “reform” program. Illogically, Father Ryan praised the means while rejecting the end. Although his views certainly cannot be regarded as typical of the Catholic leaders of his day, he left disciples behind him and founded a school of thought which has since come to be accepted unquestioningly by many otherwise devout Catholic teachers and students of the social sciences.

More concretely, Father Ryan defended in speeches and articles the right of the five expelled Socialist Assemblymen to be seated in the New York State Legislature. In 1922, his name appeared on the letterhead of the Labor Defense Council, a joint Socialist-Communist construct, set up to obtain funds for the legal defense of illegal Communists arrested at Bridgman, Michigan, whose attorney of record was Frank P. Walsh.

Although controversial Catholic clerics of conservative economic views have occasionally been silenced, somehow John Augustin Ryan contrived to do very much as he pleased. At a later date he was frankly known as the padre of the New Deal; and for services rendered was honored in 1939 with a birthday dinner attended by more than six hundred persons. The guests included Supreme Court Justices Frankfurter, Douglas and Black, Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins, Secretary of the Treasury Henry A. Morgenthau, Jr., plus a liberal assortment of left wing trade union leaders, progressive educators and New Deal congressmen.

There is no question that the moral influence of Father Ryan, coupled with considerations of practical politics, led Governor Smith in 1920 to intervene on behalf of the Rand School. In other respects, also, Smith anticipated that tolerance for Socialist programs and personalities which characterized his successor, Franklin D. Roosevelt. During Smith’s campaign for the Presidency in 1928, most of his eager supporters scarcely noticed it when he announced “over the radio” that he favored “public ownership of public power.”

The Lusk Laws were briefly revived in 1921 under Governor Nathan Miller, but the Rand School continued to operate happily without a license. It even collaborated in opening a summer school at Camp Tamiment vaguely patterned after Fabian Summer Schools in Britain. There New Republic regulars George Soule and Stuart Chase, Mary Austin, Evans Clark and other LID pundits (17) tutored the humbler Rand School rank-and-file in Socialist politics, economics and general culture.

With time and patience, the school settled its legal difficulties and has survived to the present day as a teaching, research, publishing and propaganda center of “peaceful” Marxism known as the Tamiment Institute. It has lived to enjoy 40th, 45th, 50th and 55th anniversary dinners, complete with souvenir booklets celebrating old times and old-timers. During its lifetime, it has been regularly favored with visits by leading British Fabians: from Bertrand Russell, John Strachey, M.P. and Norman Angell to Margaret Bondfield, M.P., Margaret Cole and Toni Sender, (18) representative of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions at the United Nations. While no change in the Rand School’s outlook has ever been recorded, so far has Socialism been rehabilitated, that the present Taminent Institute now wears an aura of respectability in some academic circles.

In the same year that the Lusk Laws were revived and every known radical organization in the country seemed to be under fire, the LID chose Robert Morss Lovett, professor of English at the University of Chicago, as its president, a post he was to hold for seventeen years. He was a man of keen intelligence, quiet charm and unfailing courtesy, with a thorough knowledge of nineteenth-century English prose sometimes called the literature of protest. To paraphrase Henry Adams, Lovett had been educated for the nineteenth century and found himself obliged to live in the twentieth, a situation to which he was never quite reconciled.

Born on Christmas Day to thrifty, pious New England parents, he came of pilgrim stock but never referred to it. He had graduated summa cum laude from Harvard in the days when Bellamy-type Socialism, adorned with touches of John Ruskin and William Morris, was attracting young Cambridge intellectuals; and he made connections there that lasted until his death at the age of eighty-four. During the eighteen-nineties, Lovett went to Chicago to assist University President John Rainey Harper in bringing culture and scholarship to the booming Midwest. Soon he became a sort of campus legend by virtue of his wit, audacity, kindly disposition and practically unshakable aplomb. An inveterate diner-out and something of a bon vivant, he was punctual in keeping appointments and punctilious in meeting his commitments, academic or social. Because of a certain engaging simplicity of manner, all his life people were eager to protect him and insisted he was somehow being taken advantage of—though the fact was that he invariably did as he chose, without excuses or explanations.

Through his wife, a close friend of Jane Addams and Florence Kelley, Lovett was drawn into the circle of settlement workers, social reformers, pacifists, American Socialists and visiting British Fabians that revolved around Hull House. Due to his own pacifist activities during World War I, he became a scandal to patriots and a hero to Socialists. The event that transformed the rather aloof university professor into a public figure was a mammoth peace meeting in Chicago which ended in a riot.

The circumstances under which Lovett happened to preside at that gathering shed some light on his subsequent career. At the last minute, the original chairman of the meeting failed to appear, and other possible substitutes evaporated. Nobody of prominence could be found willing to take the responsibility for an event almost sure to provoke a public scandal. Obligingly and with a certain amused contempt for the absentees, Lovett agreed to act as chairman, thereby inaugurating a long and tangled career as front man for a legion of left wing organizations and committees. At moments when no one else of established reputation cared to expose himself, Lovett was always available. After the heat was off, others were pleased to take over.

In 1919, Lovett was invited to New York to become editor of The Dial, a literary monthly attempting to endow radicalism with a protective facade of culture and to provide an outlet for the talents of young college-trained Socialists then beginning to throng to the great city. Among his youthful staff assistants on The Dial were Lewis Mumford, (19) who has since become something of an authority on civic architecture and city planning, and Vera Brittain, who later married Professor George Catlin, a prime architect of Atlantic Union. In a year or two, Lovett was made literary editor of the New Republic, a position he occupied six months of the year while retaining his chair at the University of Chicago. He was also named to the Pulitzer prize fiction awards committee. These vantage posts not only provided liberal cover for a confirmed Fabian Socialist, but enabled him to promote the new literature of protest, with its emphasis on “debunking” American institutions, that became popular in the nineteen-twenties and thirties.

Through S. K. Ratcliffe, the New Republic’s long time London representative, and through that magazine’s opposite number in Britain, the New Statesman, it was easy enough to keep regularly in touch with the fountainhead of Fabian Socialism. So many eminent British Fabian authors and educators were busily traveling back and forth across the Atlantic, to share in the wealth of a country whose crassness they deplored, that they passed each other in transit on the high seas. Scarcely a one missed being entertained at the New Republic’s weekly staff luncheons, and Lovett and his associates were helpful in booking many on the lucrative university lecture circuit. As he confided to friends, Lovett longed to visit England; but was blacklisted by the British Foreign Office because he had aided some Hindu revolutionaries, only incidentally financed by German agents, during the war. Thus contacts between the Fabian Society of London and the titular head of its American affiliate necessarily remained indirect. For the time being, perhaps it was better so.


Throughout the nineteen-twenties—while the United States was enjoying a giddy whirl of industrial growth and paper profits, and the outwitting of Prohibition agents became a major national pastime—there was always that same small, close-knit core of studious men and women bent on remaking the country according to a more or less veiled Marxist formula. Bitterly disappointed that world war had not produced a world-wide Socialist commonwealth, they still found much to console them in the international picture. The predominance of the Social Democratic Party in Germany; the existence of a somewhat crude but frankly all-Socialist State in Soviet Russia; and the emergence of the Fabian Socialist-controlled Labour Party as the second strongest political party in Britain: these developments gave them hope of being able some day to bring the unwilling United States to heel.

True, the Socialist movement in America still seemed a comparatively small affair, foreign to the great majority of average Americans. Its appeal was still confined chiefly to social workers, rebel college professors and students, a handful of ambitious lawyers and wealthy ladies, and a few militant Socialist-led unions that were far from representing a majority in the ranks of American labor. The postwar scene, however, was enlivened by the addition of many college-trained young people, cut adrift from family discipline and religious moorings, who found companionship, a faith and ultimately well paid careers within the reorganized Socialist movement. The prestige of British Fabian authors in New York publishing and book review circles helped to open doors for their liberal brethren in the United States. Superficially, the American version of the British Fabian Society almost looked, as it had in England, to be a species of logrolling literary society.

Political power, however, was the prize for which it secretly yearned, insignificant as its efforts in that direction might appear at the moment to be. Socialist intellectuals already aspired to influence the military and foreign policy of the United States and continued to plan quietly for the creation of a Socialist State in America within a world federation of Socialist States. Their postwar aspirations had been foreshadowed in a “Wartime Program” issued early in 1917 by the American Union Against Militarism: a program that in a small way echoed the British Fabian Socialist plan contained in Leonard Woolf’s International Government. The “Wartime Program” stated:

“With America’s entry into the war we must redouble our efforts to maintain democratic liberties, to destroy militarism, and to build towards world federation. Therefore, our immediate program is:

“To oppose all legislation tending to fasten upon the United States in wartime any permanent military policy based on compulsory military training and service.

“To organize legal advice and aid for all men conscientiously opposed to participation in war.

“To demand publication by the Government of all agreements or understandings with other nations.

“To demand a clear and definite statement of the terms on which the United States will make peace.

“To develop the ideal of internationalism in the minds of the American people to the end that this nation may stand firm for world federation at the end of the soar.

To fight for the complete maintenance in wartime of the constitutional right of free speech, free press, peaceable assembly and freedom from unlawful search and seizure. With this end in view the Union has recently established a Civil Liberties Bureau ….” (20)

Founders of the organization issuing that statement were described as “a group of well-known liberals. (21) Closer inspection, however, reveals that virtually every member of its founders’ committee was a long-standing “cooperator” of the Intercollegiate Socialist Society, later the League for Industrial Democracy. (22)

When it became evident after the war that the Union’s dream of world federation must be postponed, the LID remained the directive and policy-making body behind a gradual Socialist movement soliciting public support on a variety of pretexts. Its aims were promoted through a handful of closely related organizations, invariably staffed at the executive level by directors and officers of the League. Chief among them were the American Civil Liberties Union ( ACLU ), the Federated Press, and the American Fund for Public Service, also known as the Garland Fund, a self-exhausting trust which helped to forestall deficits in the other organizations and even contributed charitably to the subsistence of masked Communist enterprises.

Through such organizations, the Socialist movement maintained discreet contacts with illegal Communist groups in the nineteen-twenties. William Z. Foster, identified then and later as a leader of the Communist Party, was both a director of the Federated Press and a trustee and indirect beneficiary of the Garland Fund. As late as 1938, four acknowledged Communists served on the national committee of the ACLU. (23)

While the LID stood aloof, taking no responsibility for the actions of its subsidiaries, their unity was visibly confirmed by the fact that Robert Morss Lovett held top posts in all four organizations. He was not only president of the LID, but a director of the A(:LU and the Federated Press, which served a number of labor papers and left wing publications, both Socialist and Communist. Lovett also sat on the board of trustees of the Garland Fund, and he chaired a host of ephemeral committees. In fact, he appeared in so many capacities at once that he was sometimes compared to the character in W. S. Gilbert’s ballad who claimed to be the cook, captain and mate of the Nancy brig plus a number of other things.

Obviously, Lovett could not really have directed all the organizations and committees over which he presided in the twenties and after. The administrative and editorial work of the League was handled by Harry Laidler, aided after 1922 by the former clergyman Norman Thomas in the sphere of Socialist politics and by Paul Blanshard as LID organizer. Paul Blanshard later directed the Federated Press. (24) More recently, he has been identified with an organization known as “Protestants and Other Americans United for the Separation of Church and State,” dedicated to expunging all references to God from public schools and public life in America. He anticipated G. D. II. Cole, the president of the London Fabian Society, who smilingly advocated “the abolition of God”!

Though Lovett’s actual duties—aside from his work as an editor, teacher and public speaker—always remained somewhat mysterious, he appears to have acted mainly as a liaison between top-level Socialists and Communists as well as academic and moneyed groups. During the Socialist movement’s period of temporary regression, he was in his glory. His contacts were numerous, and his personal amiability combined with discretion, made him acceptable to all. “Let one hand wash the other” and “recoil, the better to spring forward” (Reculer pour mieux sauter) were the private maxims that guided him on his variegated rounds. It was hard to believe that so delightful and considerate a dinner guest, as Felix Frankfurter has described in his autobiography, and so informed and sober a classroom figure could be so dangerous a radical.

Yet an old friend, who never shared his political views, still recalls how the normally serene Robert Morss Lovett once remarked with sudden intensity: “I hate the United States! I would be willing to see the whole world blow up, if it would destroy the United States!” His startled companion dismissed the incident as a momentary aberration —and refrained from mentioning to Lovett that his words were much the same as those of Philip Nolan in The Man Without a Country.

Most conspicuous of the postwar organizations manned by League for Industrial Democracy members was the American Civil Liberties Union. Like the LID, the ACLU has survived to the present day, acquiring a patina of respectability with the passage of time and the decline of old-fashioned patriotism, for which both bodies cherish an ill-concealed contempt.

Formed in January, 1920, the ACLU was a direct outgrowth of the wartime Civil Liberties Bureau, a branch of the American Union Against Militarism. The Bureau assumed “independent” life in 1917 when a young social worker from St. Louis named Roger Baldwin moved to New York to direct the work of its national office. (25) During the war, it furnished advice and legal aid to conscientious objectors, thus gaining the support of some quite reputable Quakers. When it was reorganized on a permanent basis after the war as the ACLU, Roger Baldwin, who had just finished a prison term for draft-dodging, returned as its executive officer. For all practical purposes, he ran the organization for approximately forty years.

While the ACLU was still in the process of formation, Baldwin wrote in an advisory letter: “Do steer away from making it look like a Socialist enterprise. We want also to look patriots in everything we dot-We want to get a good lot of flags, talk a good deal about the Constitution and what our forefathers wanted to make of the country, and to show that we are really the folks that really stand for the spirit of our institutions.” (26) Such deceptive practice was in the classic Fabian tradition—symbolized by the wolf in sheep’s clothing that decorates the Shavian stained-glass window at a Fabian meetinghouse in England. Promptly adopted by Baldwin’s associates, this tactic has succeeded in deluding not a few well-intentioned Americans.

The immediate function of the American Civil Liberties Union in 1920 was to combat the postwar flurry of arrests, deportations and court actions against Communists and other seditionists, many of whom were foreign born. Baldwin had previously described such individuals “as representing labor and radical movements for human welfare,” and contended they were being “insidiously attacked by privileged business interests working under the cloak of patriotism.” (27) Twin weapons of the quasi-forensic ACLU were legal aid and a species of propaganda designed to arouse public sympathy for the “victims” of the law—an expedient normally frowned upon by the American bar.

If it was Roger Baldwin who defined the propaganda line, another founder of the ACLU,(28) Harvard Law Professor Felix Frankfurter, provided the legalistic approach. In his protest of 1920 to the Department of Justice; in his argument as amicus curiae before a federal court in Boston, where he assured the right of habeas corpus to criminal aliens awaiting deportation; (29) and earlier, in two reports submitted as counsel for President Wilson’s Mediation Commission, Frankfurter initiated the mischievous practice of invoking the Constitution for the benefit of its avowed enemies.

Perhaps more than any other American, Frankfurter helped to establish the fiction that it is somehow unconstitutional and un-American for the United States to take measures to defend itself against individuals or groups pledged to destroy it. His reports on the Preparedness Day bombings and the Bisbee deportations won him a sharp rebuke from that forthright American, former President Theodore Roosevelt, who wrote in a personal letter to Frankfurter:

“I have just received your report on the Bisbee deportations …. Your report is as thoroughly misleading a document as could be written on the subject . .

“Here again you are engaged in excusing men precisely like the Bolsheviki in Russia, who are murderers and encouragers of murder, who are traitors to their allies, to democracy and to civilization . . . and whose acts are nevertheless apologized for on grounds, my dear Mr. Frankfurter, substantially like those which you allege. In times of danger nothing is more common and more dangerous to the Republic than for men to avoid condemning the criminals who are really public enemies by making their entire assault on the shortcomings of the good citizens who have been the victims or opponents of the criminals …. lt is not the kind of thing I care to see well-meaning men do in this country.”(30)

One of the more sensational events in which early leaders of the American Civil Liberties Union took a hand was the case of the “Michigan Syndicalists.” The circumstances leading up to it were peculiar, to say the least. In August, 1922, a Hungarian agent of the Communist International, one Joseph Pogany, alias Lang, alias John Pepper, arrived illegally in the United States. Having assisted in setting up the short-lived Bela Kun Government in Hungary, he was presumed to be something of a specialist in the bloodier forms of revolutionary behavior. Pogany brought with him detailed instructions for organizing both legal and illegal branches of the new Communist Party USA. Those instructions were to be divulged by him at a secret Communist convention, held at a camp in the woods near Bridgman, Michigan, which was duly raided by the authorities.

As a result, seventeen Communists—including William Z. Foster, then editor of the Labor Herald–were arrested and arraigned under Michigan’s anti-syndicalist laws. At his trial in Bridgman, Foster, who later openly headed the Communist Party, testified under oath that he was not a Communist, thereby escaping conviction. Many others attending the conclave had prudently slipped away the night before the raid, leaving a mass of records and documents behind. In sifting this material, it was discovered that several of the delegates were connected with the Rand School of Social Science. Some, like Rose Pastor Stokes and Max Lerner, have since been listed as “cooperators” of the LID. (31)

Max Lerner, a bright young intellectual who had been a student leader of the Intercollegiate Socialist Society at Washington University in St. Louis, was among the seventeen persons arrested in or near Bridgman. Like Foster, he claimed to have attended that secret convention in an editorial capacity. What his other motives may have been are not recorded, since from that time forward Lerner appeared to operate strictly within the framework of the Fabian Socialist movement. For years he continued to write articles for The Nation, The Call and The New Leader, and to lecture on economics at the Rand School, the New School for Social Research and more conventional institutions of learning. He was a lifelong admirer of the self-proclaimed Marxist, Harold Laski, who found Lerner’s political outlook close to his own.(32)

When Laski was quoted in 1945 by the Newark Advertiser as condoning bloody revolution, he sued for libel in a London court—and lost the case. It was Max Lerner (together with Harvard Professor Arthur M. Schlesinger, Sr.) who took the initiative in collecting an American “fund” for Laski,(33) to help defray the latter’s court costs of some twelve thousand pounds. More recently, we find an unreconstructed Max Lerner writing a widely circulated column for American newspapers. In an article sent from Switzerland in August, 1963, he deftly exploited the malodorous Stephen Ward pandering case (forced into prominence by the Fabian Harold Wilson, M.P.) as a means of promoting sympathy for Socialism.(34)

The pained outcry that the Bridgman case evoked in the twenties from Socialist-liberal writers and publicists was symptomatic of a curious phenomenon never explained by medical science: Wound a Communist, and a Socialist bleeds! A circular letter of April G, 1923, soliciting funds for the legal defense of the arrested Communists, described them plaintively as a “group of men and women met together peacefully to consider the business of their party organization.” This letter appeared on the stationery of the Labor Defense Council, whose national committee included the names of well-known Communists. It was signed by eight equally well-known members of the LID and/or ACLU. (35) At about the same time, Robert Morss Lovett persuaded the wealthy wife of a University of Chicago professor, to post securities valued at $25,000 as bond for the Bridgman defendants. The securities were subsequently forfeited when several of the accused jumped bail and fled to Moscow.

A more enduring cause celebre, in which both Socialist- and Communist-sponsored “defense” organizations battled jointly to reverse the course of justice, was the Sacco-Vanzetti case. Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were Italian immigrants of admitted Anarchist views (36) who were arrested in 1920 for the robbery and murder of a paymaster and paymaster’s guard in South Braintree, Massachusetts. Found guilty and sentenced to die, they were finally executed in 1927. Since several million words have already been written about the case in the form of legal briefs, editorials, articles and books, it would be superfluous to review the matter in detail. Some $300,000 was contributed for the legal defense of those “two obscure immigrants about whom nobody cared”—as Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. has described them sentimentally in The Age of Roosevelt.

Left wing leaders had apparently promised Sacco and Vanzetti they would be saved at any cost, and a mighty effort was made to that end. All the available propaganda stops were pulled out. The whole spectrum of leftist literary lights, from Liberal to Socialist to Communist, was brought into play. Academic Socialism’s foremost figures were enlisted to dignify the campaign, and student organizations were rounded up. Among the legal scholars who helped to prepare documents on the case was Harvard Law Professor Francis B. Sayre, son-in-law of Woodrow Wilson and a relative of the Reverend John Nevin Sayre. (37) The Brandeis family became so emotionally involved in the cause of the two allegedly persecuted immigrants that Justice Brandeis felt obliged to disqualify himself when the question of reviewing the case reached the Supreme Court.

For several years the Harvard campus was split down the middle on the issue of Sacco and Vanzetti’s guilt or innocence. Professors Felix Frankfurter and Arthur M. Schlesinger, Sr. rallied the innocence-mongers. They were supported by Roscoe Pound, Dean of the Law School and a disciple of Brandeis in the field of sociological law. On the other hand, University President A. Lawrence Lowell urged moderation and suggested that some credence be placed in the good faith and common sense of Massachusetts’ judges and law enforcement officers. So vehemently did Felix Frankfurter denounce his academic superior that it was suggested the little law professor resign. “Why should I resign?” asked Frankfurter, adding insolently, “Let Lowell resign!” When it was all over, the long-suffering President Lowell wrote in mild exasperation to Dean Pound that he thought “one Frankfurter to the Pound should be enough.”

Not only The Nation and New Republic, but at least two respected New York dailies, insisted to the end that Sacco and Vanzetti were the blameless victims of a Red scare or public witch hunt. So impassioned and so confusing was the public debate that some Americans today are still under the impression that Sacco and Vanzetti were somehow “framed” or “railroaded” to their death. Only recently a final confirmation of their guilt has come to light. It was contained in a quiet announcement by Francis Russell, a man who has spent the better part of his life seeking to demonstrate Sacco and Vanzetti’s innocence.

In the June, 1962, issue of American Heritage Russell told how he finally traced the long-missing bullets found in the body of the paymaster’s guard, Berardelli, to a police captain, now deceased. Two ballistic experts, using modern techniques, analyzed the bullets and testified they had unquestionably been fired from the .32 caliber pistol which Sacco was carrying at the time of his arrest. Thus Francis Russell was forced to conclude that Sacco wielded the murder weapon and that Vanzetti was at least an accessory.

Oddly enough, a similar conclusion based on less objective evidence was made public by Upton Sinclair in 1953. In a memoir published serially in the Rand School’s quarterly Bulletin of International Socialist Studies, (38) Sinclair quoted Fred A. Moore, an attorney for Sacco and Vanzetti, as saying he believed Sacco to be guilty of the shooting and Vanzetti to have guilty knowledge of it. Sinclair further relates how Robert Minor, a Communist Party official, telephoned him long distance in Boston and begged him not to repeat the attorney’s opinion. “You will ruin the movement! It will be treason!” cried Minor.

From that indiscreet telephone call, it is inferred that Sacco and Vanzetti may have robbed and killed to fill the Party’s underground treasury, as Stalin and his Bolshevik comrades are known to have done in Russian Georgia during 1910-11. At any rate, the missing payroll funds, amounting to nearly $16,000, were never recovered. A third man, reported by witnesses to have assisted at the South Braintree crime, vanished coincidentally with the cash. This, however, is not the “legacy” referred to by Professor Arthur M. Schlesinger, Sr., who in 1948 wrote the introduction to an emotion-packed volume perpetuating the martyr legend of “the poor fish-peddler and the good shoemaker.” (39) As of 1962, Schlesinger’s son, Arthur, Jr., was a member of the national committee of the American Civil Liberties Union, which had handled the appeals and coordinated the propaganda in the historic Sacco and Vanzetti case.(40)


1. Forty Years of Education (New York, League for Industrial Democracy, 1945), p. 56. A telegram to the League on its fortieth anniversary from Mandel V. Halushka, a Chicago schoolteacher, read, “Birthday greetings to America’s Fabian Society!”

2. Only two direct references to the Fabian Society occur in the Lusk Report, and the first is misleading:

“In England during the ‘80’s the Fabian Society was formed which remains an influential group of intellectual Socialists, but without direct influence on the working man or Parliament.” Revolutionary Radicalism, Vol. I, p. 53.

“We have already called attention to the Fabian Society as an interesting group of intellectual Socialists who engage in a very brilliant campaign of propaganda.” Ibid., p. 145.

Obviously, the Lusk Committee underestimated both the current and potential influence of the Society.

3. Depression, Recovery and Higher Education. A Report by (a) Committee of the American Association of University Professors. Prepared by Malcolm M. Willey, University of Minnesota, (New York, McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1937), p. 317.

4. Ibid.

5. Italics originally added, now removed.

6. Ibid.

7. At other colleges and universities Upton Sinclair’s lectures were sponsored by local units of the Cosmopolitan Club–an organization similar in character and inspiration to the Intercollegiate Liberal League.

8. Ibid.

9. Algernon Lee, author of The Essentials of Marxism, said: “A large proportion in the early nineteen-twenties went Communist, and of these only a few have found there way back.” Quoted in August Claessens’ autobiography, Didn’t We Have Fun? (New York, Rand School Press, 1953), p. 20.

10. Helen Shirley Thomas, Felix Frankfurter: Scholar on the Bench (Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1960), p. 19. Distributed in England by the Oxford University Press.

11. Who’s Who in New York for 1918 lists A. A. Heller as a director of the Rand School. Treasurer and general manager of the International Oxygen Company, which had benefitted from wartime contracts, the Russian-born Heller served as commercial attache of the unofficial “Soviet Embassy,” whose chief, Ludwig Martens, left the United States under pressure.

12. In 1919, instructors and lecturers at Rand School included: Max Eastman, Charles Beard, Elmer Rice, Oswald Garrison Villard, John Haynes Holmes, Harry Laidler, Lajpait Rai, Joseph Scholossberg, August Claessens, Harry Dana, Henrietta Epstein, E. A. Goldenweisser, James O’Neal, Eugene Wood, A. Philip Randolph, I. A. Hourwich, Henry Newman, Harvey P. Robinson and Joseph Slavit. Bulletin of the Rand school, 1918-19. See Appendix II.

13. The year that the Lusk Laws were passed and vetoed by Smith, 1920, the School heard Louis Lochner on Journalism, Gregory Zilboorg on Literature, Leland Olds on American Social History, Frank Tannenbaum on Modern European History, and James P. Warbasse on the Cooperative Movement, Bulletin of the Rand School, 1919-20. See Appendix II.

14. Margaret Cole, The Story of Fabian Socialism (London, Heinemann Educational Books, Ltd., 1961), pp. 84 ff.

15. Renamed in 1923 The National Catholic Welfare Conference.

16. Italics originally added, now removed.

17. The year after the Lusk Laws were repassed in 1921 marked the opening of Camp Tamiment. Evans Clark taught Political Science, William Soskin, Modern Theatre, Mary Austin, American Literature, Otto Beyer, Industrial Problems. Robert Ferrari lectured on Crime, Taraknath Das on the Far East. The roster of lecturers also included Clement Wood, Arthur W. Calhoun, George Soule, Joseph Jablonower, Norman Thomas, Solon DeLeon, Jessie W. Hughan and Stuart Chase. Bulletin of the Rand School, 1920-21. See Appendix II.

18. Toni Sender’s salary was partially paid by the AFL-CIO, an item regularly reported in its annual budget.

19. See Appendix II.

20. David Edison Bunting, Liberty and Learning. With an Introduction by Professor George S. Counts, President, American Federation of Teachers. (Washington, American Council on Public Affairs, 1942), p. 2.

21. Ibid., p. 1.

22. This committee was composed of Lillian D. Wald, of the Henry Street Settlement; Paul U. Kellogg, editor of Survey Graphic; the Reverend John Haynes Holmes; Rabbi Stephen S. Wise; Florence Kelley, president of the Intercollegiate Socialist Society and head of the Consumers League of America; George W. Kirchwey; Crystal Eastman Benedict; L. Hollingsworth Wood, a prominent Quaker attorney; Louis P. Lochner, afterwards of The New York Times Bureau in Berlin; Alice Lewisohn: Max Eastman; Allen Benson and Elizabeth G. Evans. Ibid. See Appendix II.

23. Ibid., p. 10. See chart of political affiliations of national committee, American Civil Liberties Union.

24. Paul Blanshard was a contributor to the official 1928 Campaign Handbook of the Socialist Party, entitled The Intelligent Voter’s Guide and published by the Socialist National Campaign Committee. Other contributors were: W. E. Woodward, Norman Thomas, Freda Kirchwey, McAllister Coleman, James O’Neal, Harry Elmer Barnes, James H. Maurer, Lewis Gannett, Victor L. Berger, Harry W. Laidler and Louis Waldman. All were officials of the League for Industrial Democracy. See Appendix II.

25. Bunting, op. cit., p. 2.

26. Revolutionary Radicalism, Vol. I, p. 1087.

27. Bunting, op. cit., p. 3.

28. Thomas, op. cit., p. 21.

29. Ibid., p. 19.

30. Roosevelt to Frankfurter, December 19, 1917, The Letters of Theodore Roosevelt, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington, VIII, 1262.

31. See Appendix II.

32. Kingsley Martin, Harold Laski: A Biographical Memoir (New York, The Viking Press, Inc., 1953), p. 86. “Among the younger men, including, for instance, Max Lerner, he [Laski] found intellectuals whose political outlook was close to his own.”

33. Ibid., p. 168.

34. San Francisco Examiner (August 11, 1963). “We underestimate,” writes Lerner, “how deeply most people need a rebel-victim symbol. There is a lot of free-flowing aggression in all of us, and one of the functions of a cause celebre is to give us a chance to channel some of it. . . . This brings us back to Ward as the rebel against society, and the victim of its power-groups.”

35. Signers of this letter were: Freda Kirchwey, editor of The Nation; Norman Thomas, leader of the Socialist Party; The Reverend John Nevin Sayre; Mary Heaton Vorse, contributor to The Nation and the friend and inspirer of Sinclair Lewis; Roger Baldwin, director of American Civil Liberties Union; The Reverend Percy Stickney Grant: The Reverend John Haynes Holmes; Paxton Hibben, director and solicitor of funds for the “Russian Red Cross” in the United States. All are listed by Mina Weisenberg as “cooperators” of the League for Industrial Democracy. See Appendix II.

36. In this connection, it is interesting to note that in June, 1919, the first issue of Freedom–a paper published by the Ferrer group of Anarchists at Stelton, New Jersey–stated editorially: “It may well be asked, ‘Why another paper?’ when the broadly libertarian and revolutionary movement is so ably represented by Socialist publications like the Revolutionary Age, Liberator, Rebel Worker, Workers’ World and many others, and the advanced liberal movement by The Dial, Nation, World Tomorrow and to a lesser degree, the New Republic and Survey. These publications are doing excellent work in their several ways, and with much of that work we find ourselves in hearty agreement.” (Author’s note: One of the founders of the Ferrer School, Leonard D. Abbott, was also a founder of the Intercollegiate Socialist Society. He was associate editor of Freedom. Members of that short-lived paper’s editorial staff were teachers at the Rand School.)

37. The Reverend John Nevin Sayre was a founder of the ACLU and signed the appeal for funds in the Bridgman case.

38. Upton Sinclair, “The Fishpeddler and the Shoemaker,” Bulletin of International Social Studies (Summer, 1953).

39. Cf. Louis G. Joughlin and Edmund M. Morgan, The Legacy of Sacco and Vanzetti. With an introduction by Arthur M. Schlesinger (New York, Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1948).

40. Freedom Through Dissent, 42nd Annual Report, July 1, 1961 to June 30, 1962, American Civil Liberties Union, New York, 1962. (List of officers, directors, national committee members, etc. Page not numbered, opposite p. 1.)

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