IN the United States more people now live in what may be called urban areas than in the rural regions. This was not true until the 1920's, Professor Holcombe is concerned with what effect this will have upon American political parties, which have previously based their strategy upon sectional not class interests. It will mean a change from rustic to urbane politics (as he very charmingly puts it).
Long a realistic student of American politics and author of the excellent book, "Political Parties of Today," Professor Holcombe should be better fitted than anyone else to answer the pressing question of the future of party government in these Unites States and he plunges knowingly into the heart of the matter. The cities now control a clear majority of votes for the Presidency, but due to Congressional groupings it will take, at the present rate of urban growth, ten years for them to acquire control of a majority of votes in the House and a minimum of twenty years in the Senate. Thus, while urbane politics presses upon us we need not expect its complete triumph for some years.
Urbanization means industrialization, means a growing economic class-consciousness and conflict. Attempting to belie his Harvard-Cambridge background, Professor Holcombe juggles Marxist terms with all the savoir faire of an old line Communist, and threads a logically neat path through the mazes of Communist theory to emerge with the conviction that Leninist Communism is not inevitable but quite possible if the Party is tactically well led.
The obvious alternative to this is Fascist dictatorship, the upper classes dominating the lower. Mussolini's black shirts represent this, though nationalism and post-war collapse confused the issue somewhat, and it is this toward which Hitler is tending.
What will be the fate of America, long used to sectionalism and politics devoted to obscuring economic conflicts, when she is shoved into this new situation? Will it be the Scylla of Communism or the Charybdis of Fascism? Positing that the later Greek City-States occupied a position parallel except for size with the modern state, Professor Holcombe calls in Aristotle to tell us what is possible and desirable. Let the middle class rule! Using the Communist theorist Bukharin's classification of classes he finds that the American urban middle class in alliance with the land-owning farmers can dominate the political scene. The function of this group is to avoid extremes of class conflict and to assert community interest over class interests. Their program should consist of concessions to the other two classes, avoidance of any repressive measures, and the creation of an efficient governmental machine, which functioning well, will avoid any serious stalemates.
It is no accident that Professor Holcombe should look to Aristotle as his master; they have much in common. Both are exceedingly astute, realistic students of politics. Both lack any real philosophic depth in their points of view, and from long association with what is they tend to identify what is with what ought to be. Both have studied the past so thoroughly and so well that they have come to love it and unconsciously to project it into the future. Remember that Aristotle wrote his politics as a guide to Greek City-Statesmen while tutoring Alexander who was to murder the <
Admirable political scientist that he is, his own previous book may be used against him. His earlier analysis of political parties had no indication of what our two parties are now, only eight years after it was written; his exceedingly successful use of figures fails, however, to give the dynamics of the social situation. For all of his familiarity (he teaches a course) will Communist and Fascist theory, he seems to be insensitive to the profound ethical, economic, and social challenges of today. It is impossible in this short space to enter into any of the many possible point of attack on his predictions.
Yet it is a mistake to underestimate Professor Holcombe's book. He does know a great deal about American politics, and in pointing to a via media, a middle class compromise, he may be pointing the way for this country. Class conflict might well be ruinous to so heterogeneous a state. The reviewer chiefly takes issue with his assertion that the middle class can deal with real upper and lower class politics in a peaceful way. Astute political leadership might keep class parties from developing in America, but if this fails, then the position of the middle class seems destined to be the same as in Germany, a grim menace.