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Susan Green

ADA Program Is Inept and Misleading

Mr. Berle and the Liberal Credo

(1 March 1948)

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 9, 1 March 1948, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Everybody and his uncle is today a “liberal.” There are Democratic “liberals” and Republican “liberals” and of course Wallace “liberals” of the Stalinoid variety. But the purest strain – to be written without quotation marks – supposedly congregate in the Liberal Party of New York State. The state chairman of the Liberal Party, A.A. Berle, Jr., calls himself “a lifelong New Dealer.” Though Franklin D. Roosevelt, hirer of the New Deal, fired it in favor of Dr. Win-the-War, Mr. Berle continues to pay homage to FDR – an inconsistency you are not supposed to notice.

In the special election in the 24th Congressional District of the Bronx (see page 1 for story on election – Ed.) Mr. Berle is campaigning for the candidate of the Liberal Party on the basis of his independence, of his “strong, clean American liberalism,” as opposed to the Democratic Flynn machine, the Republican big interests, the Stalinist American Labor Party. But down in Washington, Mr. Berle, no longer so independent, pays court to the White House and in the November election, as in the past, he and his party will undoubtedly line up behind the Democratic ticket – a lack of political independence we are also not supposed to notice.

Mr. Berle’s Credo

These are some identification marks of the “strong, clean, independent liberal” and “lifelong New Dealer.” For a better understanding of Mr. Berle and liberals in general, nothing is more helpful than to examine Mr. Berle’s own credo. In his party’s paper, The Liberal, issue of November 25, 1947, there appeared (we are told in abridged form) his credo “for modern progressives,” There, black on white, we see that the ground the liberal stands on is quicksand.

“A liberal program thinks of people,” says Mr. Berle – and what politician doesn’t declaim his love for the people! Ah, but liberals “start from the demonstrated fact that the United States has adequate resources and capacity to provide not only for the present consumption but for an increase of production and of consumption capable of giving an adequate standard of living and opportunity for every man, woman and child in the country.” Revolutionary socialists have long ago demonstrated the fact that there can be plenty for all, including not merely “an adequate standard of living” but the luxuries and beauties of life for all. However, the question always is, HOW? How do we get this?

The weakness of all liberalism is that it does not answer this question. Mr. Berle’s variety is no exception. Though Mr. Berle’s specific aims and demands may be very worthy (to this we will come later), he does not provide the fundamental HOW? His whole program, therefore, is a snare and a delusion.

Mr. Berle, of course, understands “the evils of private enterprise.” On the other hand, to him “it is equally clear that a wholly statist economy can unloose abuses as great or greater.” So having nothing to offer as a third alternative, in the final showdown some liberals – like Mr. Berle and Mrs. Roosevelt – go over kit and caboodle to private enterprise with all its evils, and other liberals – like the Wallace crew – go over to Stalinism with all its abuses.

The revolutionary socialist says that the evils of private enterprise cannot be overcome WITHOUT ENDING THE SYSTEM OF PRIVATE ENTERPRISE. The revolutionary socialist also says the horrors of Stalinism must be avoided – and can be by the socialization of industry under a truly representative workers’ government, truly representative of the workers, the farmers, the small fry, the great masses, as opposed to a totalitarian system; and by basic workers’ control of industry as opposed to bureaucratic control. But liberals act as if this third alternative to private enterprise and to what they call statism, has never even been mentioned.

Peculiar Notions

They have other peculiar notions. For instance, Mr. Berle in his credo says he wants to abolish “the concept” of the proletariat. Is the proletariat then only a concept, only a figment of the imagination, or is it the expression of the real relationship between the capitalists who own the means of production and the workers who do not? One can understand why Mr. Berle prefers to consider the proletariat merely as “a concept.” “A concept” can be abolished by wrinkling the brow and thinking real hard about it. But the actual relationship between the capitalists and the workers, between the possessors and the dispossessed, can only be changed by revolutionary action against the capitalist class. A liberal will not go near such a struggle with a tea-foot pole. He likes to believe that the evils of capitalism can somehow be wished away without disturbing the capitalists too much.

In character with this wishy-washy-ness are all of Mr. Berle’s general tenets. He makes the point that “the job of meeting economic and social misery can be done whenever the United States wants to do it. The technicians have the knowledge on demand.” The rock bottom fact is that a CAPITALIST United States, with the profit motive predominant, will not want to do “the job of meeting economic and social misery” as the people need this job done. And the technicians who have the know-how for this job, are not at the service of humanity while they are beholden to and in the employ of the profit-motivated capitalist class. Therefore, lip-service to the “abolishment” of economic and social misery far exceeds accomplishment.

Mr. Berle’s specific points to meet the pressing social problems fare no better on examination than his general principles. To avoid depressions recurring with such infallibility, Mr. Berle believes that “continued expenditures of capital is the first line of attack.” Along this line, “the first, and least controversial, is for the government to provide capital to private enterprise.” What do we have here? The liberals want public money to go to private enterprise at a time when private enterprise proves itself a failure. This is the measure of the neurotic dependence of liberalism on private enterprise. They want it maintained at all costs, even at the cost of public funds which should be used for the people’s living needs rather than to pump oxygen into the corpse of capitalism.

The second line for the flow of capital, according to Mr. Berle, is the well-known one of government projects to provide employment. Mr. Berle gives a list of them, including more TVA developments, urban construction, soil conservation, and so on. To the question, “What are you going to do for money?” Mr. Berle answers that money can be obtained “whenever there is need for it.” He doubtless has in mind the oodles of money spent for war. But here are things of different categories.

Waging war is a necessary task of capitalism for its international life and survival and for this the capitalist politicians are obliged to make appropriations. Note, however, that right after the war the campaign started to reduce taxes, to cut government expenditures, to slice the Marshall Plan even though it also is designed for capitalism’s survival. The many, many billions needed for a program such as Mr. Berle outlines for public construction and developments, and for public health and education, will never be appropriated by a private enterprise system out for private profit.

Only a planned socialist economy, democratically governed and worker-controlled, will set aside from the public wealth the required amounts of developing national resources, for public construction for housing, for health, for education. Mr. Berle’s program in this respect is as inept as Mr. Truman’s pre-election “liberalism.” Mr. Truman says he wants many of the things Mr. Berle says he wants, and both have not the slightest intention to disturb private enterprise to get these things. There is indeed little choice between Mr. Berle’s “strong, clean American liberalism” and Mr. Truman’s pre-election brand. It is easy to understand why liberals finally cast their votes for Mr. Truman on Election Day.

The instrument for workers’ independent political action is an independent Labor Party, in all respects free from capitalist ties. With such a party a real fight can be made for the needs of the masses, and great strides can be taken toward that workers’ government, that democratic socialization, that workers’ control of industry, without which no permanent progress can be made.

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