The Crimson Bookshelf
INTERPRETATIONS 1933-1935. By Waltor Lippmann. Selected and edited by Allan Nevins. Macmillan, New York. $2.50. 1936.
IT in surprising how fresh the Herald Tribune sage's articles remain when they are issued, frozen inside book-covers. You turn the pages from the panic mood of January, 1933, when Mr. Lipmann joined his well-modulated call to the rest of those who demanded swift executive action; through the decisive March days, through the tumult round banks and public works and beer, through the birth of the blue eagle. Here is Mr. Lippman praising the emergency legislation in March, 1933, growing warier in the late spring, doubting carnestly by July, when he sees "moral coercion by means of the blue eagle and the boycott" forcing small businesses into line with the N. R. A.'s strict discipline toward an undefined objective. He writes incisively of the logic behind general strikes, while the San Francisco movement of July, 1934, is dying because its leaders refuse to let the general strike fulfill its only possible destiny: revolution. Here he culls good from bad in discussing Section 7 (a), urging the Government to give up the hopeless job of enforcing "compulsory bargaining," but to save the principle of helping labor to organize. Here he treats the issue of public works vs. the dole, pointing to the middle line where government-made work will not so enticing and profitable that labor has no incentive to return to private employment.
There is a gratifying amount of plain common sense in these clippings, the sort to which one turns as a refuge from the partisan gas-clouds that filled the air at the time they were written, and fill it now more than ever. To the cry of inflation, he retorts with the magic word reflation, with the absolute need and desirability of a controlled expansion of credit. To the preposterous moral arguments about the abrogation of the gold clause, he replies with humor, and point to the obvious realities regarding promises to pay in gold that extend far beyond the resources of banks and governments. The curious and widely-accepted talk about the New Deal's communism or fascism, he answers with the support given it in those years by the representatives of the decidedly non-communist and non-fascist American people. The wailing over the holding companies is irrelevant, he writes, to what is simply "a revival of old-fashioned, hundred per cent American trust busting."
Political theory receives marked attention, for when the first of these articles were written, the swing to dictatorship in Europe was stirring alarm, or sometimes enthusiasm, in America. Mr. Lippmann thinks, doubtless, more in economic than in political terms; and, convinced democrat though he is, he realizes that democratic civilization, is something of a luxury, that will not work without a decent measure of security for nations as well as individuals.
But he is no more successful than Oliver Cromwell's army, or the German Republic, when he tries to solve the paradox of democracy: what to do when the majority of the people oppose democracy. There he writes in unrealities; for if a "democracy," as he suggests, uses force to defend the democratic privileges desired only by a minority, then it is no longer a democracy.
It does not seem that Mr. Lippmann had cut by 1935 any limbs on which he had parched in 1933. He grows less enthusiastic about the Roosevelt regime, it is true; he wishes the President would at last make complete statements of his reform program and of his budget policy; but he does not reverse himself on fundamental questions of executive power or economic policy. Once Mr. Lippmann favored the League of Nations-- that was long ago, in the hopeful twenties. Now he swallows without regret the Senate's rejection of the World Court, and sees withdrawal from European entanglements as the sound American policy for the present. His articles on international affairs are small in bulk, considering the series of erlscs that began in Europe in March, 1933. They, like the other places, show him to be not always a good prophet, but usually a sound observer.