The last election did not settle the future of political parties in the United States. It rather demonstrated the discontent of at least seven million voters with existing alignments. The general trend was definitely in behalf of policies which would use the agencies of government for the social control of industry and finance. It was far from an expression of confidence that the Democratic Party is capable of bringing about such control. For all who, like the present writer, believe that it is thoroughly incapable of doing the needed work, the article of Norman Thomas in The Nation of December 14 on The Future of the Socialist Party raises the question of what instrumentality will be the efficient agent for radical political change. Mr. Thomas holds that the Socialist Party alone has the philosophy which meets the political needs. Such a position certainly simplifies the situation. But it also narrows it. In view of the size of the Socialist vote, and of the extent to which it was in part an expression of confidence in Mr. Thomas personally, and in another part a protest vote from non-Socialist liberals, it narrows the problem perhaps unduly.
It is natural that Mr. Thomas should feel that the Socialist Party is the only way out. He has been twice the candidate of his party for the Presidency. There are divergences within the party, such as were manifest in the Milwaukee convention. It is not surprising that he should take the opportunity to set forth his solidarity with the section which officially controls the party; and that he should wish, even at the risk of ungraciousness to the non-Socialists who supported him and of indulging in recriminations, to clear his skirts of any leaning toward those who do not accept the ipsissima verba of official Socialist doctrine. But for the millions of the politically discontented who are outside the Socialist Party, the exigencies of the internal strategy of that party cannot go far to settle the larger question of the future of unified political action aiming at social control.
In discussing the matter I feel free to approach it from the angle of the League for Independent Political Action. I do not do so because of Mr. Thomas’s unfortunate references to that organization. The league is not a party and has no ambition to become a party. Its function is to promote education and organization looking toward the organization of the desired new alignment. Since it aims to act a s a connecting link, and as far as may be as a clearing-house, for groups and individuals who are seeking similar ends, it may stand at least as a symbol for one type of approach to the problem. We agree that a philosophy is needed a s a basis for an effective political movement. We have never prejudged the question as to just how far that philosophy agrees or disagrees with that which Mr. Thomas says is the only possible philosophy. I shall not now try to pass on that question. I shall rather set forth our philosophy positively; leaving it to the reader, Socialist or non-Socialist, to judge our degree of divergence and agreement.
The first point in our political philosophy may be stated in connection with the charge brought by Mr. Thomas that the league holds "an intellectualized version of a watered-down socialism.” For the statement shows a radical misconception of what our stand is. It is quite true that many of our planks are socialistic and agree with the more immediate demands of the Socialist platform. It is true that we recognize the educational work done by the party and by Mr. Thomas and are grateful to them. But the league’s agreements are not imitative. It has not first borrowed and then diluted. We believe that actual social conditions and needs suffice to determine the direction political action should take, and we believe that this is the philosophy which underlies the democratic faith of the American people. The belief is the mark of a positive philosophy, not of the absence of one. If charges against the League for Independent Political Action signify that our program is, in an ultimate sense, partial and tentative, experimental and not rigid, we do more than accept them as a compliment. We claim them as indications of our philosophy. We are confronted with a situation in which certain long-span economic forces are operative and which are sufficiently definite to provide a basis for a constructive political program. But we know that this situation bristles with unknowns and we cannot assume that all issues are settled in advance.