Questions for Liberals

by Samuel D. Schmalhausen | November 9, 1927

SIR: Your provocative editorial entitled, significantly, "Dictating to the Future," is, we believe, the first frank utterance on the part of the New Republic in relation to the most momentous question in the contemporary world, to wit, the realistic relation between the logic of class struggle and the logic of patriotic nationalism.

We wish to invite your thoughtful consideration (and therefore that of American liberals in general) to the following crucial questions, which are stated in question form because that is the simplest way of condensing a vast amount of material into brief compass.

Will you, therefore, kindly make an important contribution to general clarification by printing, and if possible, commenting, upon these fundamental queries:
1. Why can the liberal accept nationalist war, why can he not accept class struggle?
2. What precisely does the phrase "conditional class struggle" mean?
3. Is the liberal opposed to violence? Kindly cite instances from the Great War.
4. Which social class does the liberal feel himself a member of: the bourgeoisie or the proletariat?
5. If the "facts of contemporary American life" do not reveal class struggle, what do they reveal?
6. Will you concede that there is in these United States a plutocratic control of all our institutions?
7. How do you explain away the fact that the most liberal government in the world conducted itself in the Great War most illiberally?
8. Since the most liberal journal (of opinion) in America not only boasted of "having willed the War" but also gladly accepted conscription, coercion, force, murder, as legitimate methods of vindicating its liberal philosophy, can you help us to understand in what sincere and realistic sense liberalism can be said to be liberal?
9. If it is reasonably true, as a matter of economic determinism, that the financial imperialisms perpetrate behavior that ever threatens to precipitate war, what method, in your opinion, is more intelligent, more efficacious, more moral, than the revolutionary determination on the part of the victimized class (the proletariat) to oppose capitalist war with the only powerful weapon at their disposal, •viz., class war?
10. If humble men in droves of millions must die, is it not more intelligent (and infinitely more spiritual!) to teach them to sacrifice their lives for a cause that is clearly their own, namely, the preservation and perpetuation of their own class?
11. Is not the moral equivalent of war, social revolution—under capitalist imperialism?
12. If you were a self-conscious proletarian, instead of being a middle-class journalist, would it not be suicidal to believe in liberalism?
13. Is not liberalism, speaking psychoanalytically, a subtle method of evading the harsh determinisms of our socially stratified, capitalistic civilization?
14. Will you explain a little more definitely and lucidly what you mean by your definition of liberalism as "an attitude toivard human fulfillment which keeps genuine possibilities open"? Open for whom?
You will be contributing significantly to the much-needed clarification of liberal and radical doctrine by printing these inquiries. Editorial comment will, of course, be welcome.

This article originally ran in the November 9, 2011, issue of the magazine

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