APRIL 13, 1950
NEW YORK, Thursday—I was reading the other afternoon about the beginnings of what is now the League for Industrial Democracy. It was first called The Intercollegiate Socialist Society, with Jack London as president, Upton Sinclair and J. G. Phelps-Stokes as vice presidents, and Owen R. Lovejoy as treasurer, all of them pretty well-known names today.
But what interested me in the account was that Thomas Wentworth Higginson, "the grand old man of Harvard," was attacked in an editorial in Collier's magazine for lending his name to the call for the formation of this organization. Mr. Higginson replied that the primary aim of the society was to create students of socialism, not to produce Socialists, and that those who criticized this object "must be classed with those medieval grammarians who wrote, 'May God confound thee for thy theory of irregular verbs."'
Mr. Higginson then went on to point out that a great many things formerly left to private initiative were becoming the public's business. He pointed to an increase in free libraries, free water supplies, free lecture courses, even free universities, which were all called socialistic when they were first proposed, and which so able a man as Herbert Spencer pronounced as socialism until his dying day.
I wonder if those who denounce the so-called welfare state will please mark and take note that Mr. Higginson was considered a fairly level-headed and conservative patriot in his day!
The 45th anniversary of this society is going to be celebrated on April 15. There are still some very well-known men and women associated with the group who think this society is doing a useful and educational piece of work. They hope that this anniversary will lead to better understanding of some of the aspirations of people toward a better life in the United States. These aspirations are backed by the League for Industrial Democracy, and this celebration, they hope, will tend to broaden interest in human rights and better social and economic conditions throughout the United States.
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I was glad to see in one of the newspapers the other morning that in Congress, at last, there are a few people who are beginning to understand that the Point IV program is not something to be lightly tossed about. It may mean for us the difference between being able to hold and improve our present standards of living or sinking to a much lower level. Production must expand and we must develop better marketing and distributing machinery. Only thus can we keep full employment in this country.
The Point IV program is little understood by the people of our country as a whole. They do not know that unless we can teach people throughout the world through sending them some of our knowledge and skill how to live better and produce more themselves, we will not be able to increase our markets.
Point IV has nothing to do with charity. It is a pure economic proposition and a good business proposition at that. It is true that there may be cases in which we will have to clean up a health situation or provide certain kinds of food or medicine before we can do anything else, but those are purely temporary measures.
The crux of the matter is to teach people how to help themselves and that is a doctrine the people of the United States should sympathize with, once they understand it.