Liberals and leftists in the United States have not always been estranged from one another as they are today. Historian Doug Rossinow examines how the cooperation and the creative tension between left-wing radicals and liberal reformers advanced many of the most important political values of the 20th century, including free speech, freedom of conscience, and racial equality.
Visions of Progress chronicles the broad alliances of radical and liberal figures who were driven by a particular concept of social progress - a transformative vision in which the country would become not simply wealthier or a bit fairer, but fundamentally more democratic, just, and united. Believers in this vision - from the settlement-house pioneer Jane Addams and the civil rights leader W. E. B. Du Bois in the 1890s and after, to the founders of the ACLU in the 1920s, to Minnesota Governor Floyd Olson and assorted labor-union radicals in the 1930s, to New Dealer Henry Wallace in the 1940s - belonged to a left-liberal tradition in America. They helped push political leaders, including Presidents Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, and Harry Truman, toward reforms that made the goals of opportunity and security real for ever more Americans. Yet, during the Cold War era of the 1950s and '60s, leftists and liberals came to view one another as enemies, and their influential alliance all but vanished.
Visions of Progress revisits the period between the 1880s and the 1940s, when reformers and radicals worked together along a middle path between the revolutionary left and establishment liberalism. Rossinow takes the story up to the present, showing how the progressive connection was lost and explaining the consequences that followed. This book introduces today's progressives to their historical predecessors, while offering an ambitious reinterpretation of issues in American political history.
The Popular Front collapsed because the Communists Party USA loyalty was to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union not to the people of the United States. The CPUPA was an agent of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union for its entire existence until Gorbachev cut off its funding in the late 1980s.
Mr. Rossinow insinuates the decline of liberals and leftists co-operating was the fault of the prejudice of the anti-communist liberals and radicals against their former Popular Front ally, the CPUSA. He claims they fell in-line with the "Red Baiting" of the Cold War. This is a tiresome New Left claim that has been continuously made from the 1960s to today. The Popular Front could not be recreated after WW II because Americans knew that the CPUSA was loyal to the USSR not the USA or its people. If any organization hoped to have any hope of getting its policies accepted by a majority of the American people it could not have as one of its prominent members an agent of the USSR.
The CPUSA demonstrated its loyalty to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union without exception and when there was a conflict with the interest of the people of the United States, it loyalty was always with the interest of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. In the 1930s the CPUSA defended Stalin's show trials, even when he had American Communists killed. In 1939 the CPUSA supported Stalin's decision to sign the Nonaggression Pact with Nazi Germany. After the Stalin signed the Pact, the CPUSA even supported the USSR invasion of Poland and Finland. In support of Stalin's new alliance with Hitler, the CPUSA completely changed its core principals: it called FDR an imperialist, argued against the USA preparation for possible war, and suspended it supposed alliance with liberals to oppose fascism. The CPUSA demonstrated that it was not an American party; it was merely an agent of the USSR. It was obvious that no American group on the left could ever trust it again.
After WW II, liberals and non-communist leftists did not have prove that the communist party was dangerous to defend their refusal to work with it; they knew that it would taint their organizations with illegitimacy to have an an agent of a foreign power as a member that had no unbendable principal other than its total support of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
Also Mr. Rossinow fails to mention that in 1944 the Communist Party of the Soviet Union had Browder removed as General Secretary of the CPUSA when he tried to show some independence from Stalin by proposing that the CPUSA be a true Popular Front-type organization by being willing to be part of a governing coalition and stop running its own candidates for office. The new General Secretary, William Forster, fell in line with unquestioned support of the USSR, including supporting the USSR's invasion of Poland and Hungary in 1956.
Liberals and non-communist leftists had no choice but to keep the CPUSA out of its organizations, if they hoped to have any credibility with a majority of the American people..
The real question is what would have happened had the CPUSA been independent of the USSR; it isn't what would have happened had the liberal and the non-communists left not "Red Bated” the CPUSA.
Also Mr. Rossinow does not mention the Democratic Leadership Council ("DLC") / "New Democrats" in this book. This omission makes the book glaringly incomplete. The New Democrats were unabashedly pro-business and they took over the Democratic Party and the Presidency of the United States from 1993 to 1999. The DLC argued that that Democrats had been too anti-business and these new "progressives" argued that Democrats could not win if this continued. Why was this omitted?