The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Friday, June 25, 2004
 

And you thought Bush was dumb...


Taking a little time out from the current fray to appreciate the politics of yesteryear, I come across an online copy of Arthur Schlesinger's The Vital Center of 1949 [1].

From my incomplete reading, it appears to be a statement of centrist Democrat principle in the era of Harry Truman's Red Scare, triangulated between the Taft Republicans on the right and the Wallace-ites [2] on the left (for whom he has very harsh words).

In places, I'm reminded of some of Christopher Hitchens' less moderate invective for the Iraq war, and against the peaceniks: in a month in which Bo-Bo Man David Brooks has come in for criticism for his sweeping generalisations unsupported by evidence, it's interesting to note that Schlesinger cleans his clock [3] in that department [4].

When he gets more specific, he becomes interesting: in a passage (starting on page 128 [5]) on the CPUSA, we get (page 136n) a quote from Earl Browder (still party secretary, I think) in 1944, whose new line was that, in the light of wartime cooperation (Big Three pow-wows, Second Front and so forth) capitalism and communism could peacefully co-exist [6]:
If JP Morgan supports this coalition and goes down the line for it, I as a Communist am prepared to clasp his hand on that and join him to realize it.

JP Morgan died in 1943 [7].

  1. An odd but interesting assortment of etexts available at the Million Book Project. (The goal was to digitise a million books by the end of 2005. They've got up to #14,630, apparently.)

    A key difference with Project Gutenberg and Gallica (BNF) is that many of the MBP books (including Schlesinger's) are still in copyright.

    (MBP books need a 5MB DjVu Reader - don't ask.)

  2. Henry Wallace, that is, then just defeated in the 1948 presidential election.

  3. Idiom du jour.

  4. At this point, one might want to refer to George Orwell's 1946 essay Politics and the English Language.

  5. Reader pagination - why isn't there a recognised cross-platform way of indicating that you're talking about the Acrobat (or whatever) pagination, rather than the dead-tree version pagination?

  6. This paper calls it
    the Browderist heresy
  7. This was, of course, JP Morgan Jr: the guy who, testifying before a Senate committee in 1933, found himself with a midget sitting in his lap. (This was, I think, the Pecora investigations of the Senate Banking Committee (also here), rather than the Nye Committee (Special Committee on Investigation of the Munitions Industry), which also sat in 1933, and before which Morgan also appeared, I think).

    I gain comfort from my confusion from the fact that long-serving Foreign Relations Committee Chief of Staff Carl Marcy, in an oral history interview (PDF), was also confused (page 4a) ! (Marcy refers to the midget incident, though he does not seem to have witnessed it; he got from Oregon to Washington, part of the way, by riding the rails.)

    On a Tom Waits lyrics page, one finds the following (emphasis mine):

    Ladies and gentlemen, Harry's Harbour Bizarre is proud to present, under the Big Top tonight, Human Oddities. That's right, you'll see The Three Headed Baby, you'll see Hitler's brain, see Lea Graff the German midget who sat in J.P. Morgan's lap...
    Is the name genuine? Answers on a postcard...


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