Justice Douglas Tosses a Credo into the Ring

Cabbages and Kings

It is now reasonable to predict that at the Democratic National Convention labor-liberal forces will find it politically impossible to back President Truman regardless of the availability of General Ike. In this connection the Yulce Lecture Justice William Orville Douglas delivered March 22 at the University of Florida assumes extreme significance. Here a jurist brilliantly analyzed the world crisis and made quite clear how he would tackle this nation's dilemmas. His address was "political" in timing and content. Douglas himself has high political sex-appeal stemming from the frank informality of his appearance and the lusty variety of his background.

The Douglas stance on public questions fundamentally opposes Administration policy but keeps equally clear of Henry A. Wallace. On the domestic front he is pro-labor and eloquently defends minority rights and civil liberties. In defining the tieup between the national and international scene he outlines three basic and irreconcilable differences separating the polar forces of the globe. Democratic political philosophy in the first place rejects the absolutes characteristic of the totalitarian Right and the totalitarian Left. It furthermore shuns that political technique intended "to transform one small clique of men into the State." But most crucial of the distinctions marking American-Russian hostility rests with the Madisonian concept disputed by Marx. Douglas elaborates:

The struggle inside every state has been to keep any one group or interest from getting too much power...if la not this struggle for position between groups which is the danger. That indeed is a sign of health. Every society is an aggregation of pressure groups. Their activities are not things to deplore. The danger lies in one group gaining the ascendancy, moving into a dominant position, and exploiting the other groups...

To assume today that the basic struggle is between workers and employers, between labor and capital is to make a most egregious error...It is between the industrial plant and society that there is the greatest potential conflict...An expanding economy, increased productivity, and widespread and full distribution of goods are essential if we are to raise the real income of our people to levels hitherto undreamed . . . Communism was not conceived as an answer to this problem. Communism is essentially a political idea, not a scientific blueprint for a machine age.

This direct antithesis between communism and democracy renders prospects for peace "gloomy" but the fact is nonetheless that war no more than appeasement will solve the problem which confronts us. For war would only produce an environment of devastation "in which ideas as virulent as Communism and Fascism flourish."


Communism to date is a political program backed by force . . . The answer . . . is a dynamic and vital political program on the democratic front . . . If we want the hundreds of millions of people of the world in the democratic ranks, we must show them the way with practical programs of social reconstruction.

We must stand ready to support with sanctions all liberals . . . There are in many countries men who may not be in the government but who have the inner strength and vitality to formulate programs for their people. James Yen has such a program for China a program of mass education and reconstruction. . .

With our backing and support it can do more than save China from Communism. If can set in motion a force that will sweep Asia...When we stand behind the liberal and progressive forces in other countries. We become in the eyes of the peoples of the world, identified with their interests. Then the democratic cause will gain strength and character. Then the flood tide of Communism will begin to recede.

Our greatest error would by to fashion our foreign policy merely in terms of anti-Communism.

Douglas wants a "strong, alert, and mobile military machine" to back up this course of action. Whether he feels Universal Military Training and Selective Service necessary is undisclosed. Specific declarations may have to wait until closer to convention-time. For the moment the Justice has set forth a liberal credo that is remarkable in vision and courage on its own.