Suzanne Clara La Follette, the daughter of U.S. Congressman William La Follette, was born on 24th June, 1893. She was related to Robert M. La Follette, Sr., the leader of the Progressive Party. His wife was the leading feminist, Bella La Follette. The couple founded the La Follette's Weekly, and campaigned for women's suffrage and racial equality. Suzanne later recalled that all the adults in her life were all "good feminists."
After leaving college in 1919 Suzanne joined the staff of The Nation. The following year she became co-editor of The Freeman. Over the next few years she developed her political ideas. These were influenced by the work of Henry George, Emma Goldman and Albert Jay Nock. According to her biographer, Sharon Presley: "Though La Follette considered herself a radical libertarian rather than an anarchist, her analysis of feminist issues was as profoundly and consistently anti-statist as those of anarchist feminists such as Voltairine de Cleyre and Emma Goldman. The State, she believed, was the natural enemy of women."
In the 1924 Presidential Election she campaigned for Robert M. La Follette, Sr and Burton K. Wheeler. They gained support from the American Federation of Labor, the Socialist Party of America, and the Scripps-Howard newspaper chain. La Follette's platform called for government ownership of the railroads and electric utilities, cheap credit for farmers, the outlawing of child labor, stronger laws to help labor unions, more protection of civil liberties, an end to American imperialism in Latin America. He came in third behind incumbent President Calvin Coolidge and Democratic candidate John W. Davis. La Follette won 17% of the popular vote and carried Wisconsin (winning its 13 electoral votes) and polled second in 11 Western states.
Suzanne La Follette published Concerning Women (1926). She argues in the book: "The ultimate emancipation of women then will depend not upon the abolition of the restrictions which have subjected her to man - that is but a step, though a necessary one - but upon the abolition of all those restrictions of natural human rights that subject the mass of humanity to a privileged class." Sheila Rowbotham, the author of Dreamers of a New Day: The Women who invented the Twentieth Century (2010), has pointed out: "In her 1926 Concerning Women, Suzanne La Follette connected women's sexual freedom to a critique of culture. She asserted that the whole mass of taboo and discrimination arrayed against the unwedded mother and her child is the direct result of the subjection of women. Aware that the unmarried mother was condemned by women as well as men, she believed this was because marriage remained most women's only option. The woman who did not marry threatened 'the economic value of the virtuous woman's chief asset'. The implications of the changes sought by Eastman and La Follette presented a fundamental challenge to religious institutions, to the family and to existing patterns of work."
In 1930, La Follette founded and became editor of the New Freeman. Her biographer, Sharon Presley, argues: "The New Freeman revived the concept of the original one: it was politically libertarian and broadly humanistic, concerned with cultural and social events as well as political ones. Each issue contained several pages of commentary on current events written by La Follette, usually expressing cynicism about government meddling in foreign or domestic affairs. Occasionally the commentary would include feminist topics such as protective labor laws, the Woman's Party, prostitution, alimony, and divorce laws. Art, drama, music, and literary criticism and reviews also graced the New Freeman pages." The journal folded after 15 months. December 1934.
The Show Trials of 1936 and 1937 shocked and angered the philosopher, Sidney Hook. "The Moscow Trials were also a decisive turning point in my own intellectual and political development. I discovered the face of radical evil - as ugly and petrifying as anything the Fascists had revealed up to that time - in the visages of those who were convinced that they were men and women of good will. Although I had been severely critical of the political program of the Soviet Union under Stalin, I never suspected that he and the Soviet regime were prepared to violate every fundamental norm of human decency that had been woven into the texture of civilized life. It taught me that any conception of socialism that rejected the centrality of moral values was only an ideological disguise for totalitarianism. The upshot of the Moscow Trials affected my epistemology, too. I had been prepared to recognize that understanding the past was in part a function of our need to cope with the present and future, that rewriting history was in a sense a method of making it. But the realization that such a view easily led to the denial of objective historical truth, to the cynical view that not only is history written by the survivors but that historical truth is created by the survivors - which made untenable any distinction between historical fiction and truth-led me to rethink some aspects of my objective relativism. Because nothing was absolutely true and no one could know the whole truth about anything, it did not follow that it was impossible to establish any historical truth beyond a reasonable doubt. Were this to be denied, the foundations of law and society would ultimately collapse. Indeed, any statement about anything may have to be modified or withdrawn in the light of additional evidence, but only on the assumption that the additional evidence has not been manufactured."
As Hook explained in Out of Step: An Unquiet Life in the 20th Century (1987): "The charges against the defendants were mind-boggling. They had allegedly plotted and carried out the assassination of Kirov on December 1, 1934, and planned the assassination of Stalin and his leading associates - all under the direct instructions of Trotsky. This, despite their well-known Marxist convictions concerning the untenability of terrorism as an agency of social change. Further, they had conspired with Fascist powers, notably Hitler's Germany and Imperial Japan, to dismember the Soviet Union, in exchange for the material services rendered by the Gestapo. In order to allay the suspicion flowing from the Roman insight that no man suddenly becomes base, the defendants were charged with having been agents of the British military at the very time they or their comrades were storming the bastions of the Winter Palace. In addition, although the indictment seemed almost anticlimactic after the foregoing, they were accused of sabotaging the five-year plans in agriculture and industry by putting nails and glass in butter, inducing erysipelas in pigs, wrecking trains, etc."
Hook went on to argue: "Despite the enormity of these offenses, all the defendants in the dock confessed to them with eagerness and at times went beyond the excoriations of the prosecutor in defaming themselves. This spectacular exercise in self-incrimination, unaccompanied by any expression of defiance or asseveration of basic principles, was unprecedented in the history of any previous Bolshevik political trial. Equally mystifying was the absence of any significant material evidence. Although there were references to several letters of Trotsky, allegedly giving specific instructions to the defendants to carry out their nefarious deeds, none was introduced into evidence. The most substantial piece of evidence was the Honduran passport of an individual who claimed to be an intermediary between Trotsky and the other defendants, which was presumably procured through the good offices of the Gestapo, although it was common knowledge that such passports could be purchased by anyone from Honduran consuls in Europe for a modest sum."
Sidney Hook was disturbed by the way liberals reacted to the Moscow Show Trials compared to the way that they behaved in response to events in Nazi Germany. Hook, who had little sympathy for Trotskyists as a group, believing that they "were capable of doing precisely what I suspected the Stalinists of doing - if not on the same scale, at least in the same spirit. It was indeed ironical to find the Trotskyists, victims of the philosophy of dictatorship they had preached for years, blossoming out as partisans of democracy and tolerance." However, Hook believed that Leon Trotsky should be given political asylum in the United States: "The right to asylum was integral to the liberal tradition from the days of antiquity. It was shocking to find erstwhile liberals, still resolutely engaged in defending the right of asylum for victims of Nazi terror, either opposed or indifferent to the rights of asylum for victims of Stalin's terror. Of course more than the right of asylum was involved. There was the question of truth about the Russian Revolution itself."
Hook persuaded Suzanne La Follette, Freda Kirchwey, Norman Thomas, Edmund Wilson, John Dos Passos, Bertrand Russell, Reinhold Niebuhr, Franz Boas, John Chamberlain, Carlo Tresca, James T. Farrell and Benjamin Stolberg to join a group that might establish a committee to look into the claims made during the Moscow Show Trials. Hook believed that the best place to hold the investigation was in Mexico City where Trotsky was living in exile and the ideal person to head the commission was his close friend, the philosopher, John Dewey.
As Jay Martin, the author of The Education of John Dewey (2002), has pointed out: "The leaders of the American committee... realized that a tribunal consisting entirely of Trotsky sympathizers could scarcely achieve credibility on the international stage. What they needed was a group, and especially a chairman, who had an international reputation for fairness and whose integrity could be accepted by liberals, Soviet sympathizers, and intellectuals everywhere. Encouraged by the socialist philosopher Sidney Hook, their hopes soon fastened on Hook's dissertation adviser, the seventy-eight-year-old John Dewey, as the best possible choice for chair. After all, Dewey had been celebrated in the Soviet Union when he went there in 1928 and had been asked by the Socialist Party to run on their ticket for governor of New York. But he was quoted every week or so in the moderate New York Times; he was invited to the White House for dinner; he was the friend of powerful capitalists."
Hook was aware that Dewey had been working on Logic: The Theory of Inquiry for the last ten years and was desperate to finish the book. Hook later recalled in his autobiography Out of Step: An Unquiet Life in the 20th Century (1987): "The first and most important step of the commission was to appoint a subcommission to travel to Mexico City to take Leon Trotsky's testimony. It was crucial for the success of the commission that John Dewey consent to go, because without him the press and public would have ignored the sessions. It would be easy for the Kremlin to dismiss the work of the others and circulate the false charge that they were handpicked partisans of Trotsky. Only the presence of someone with Dewey's stature would insure world attention to the proceedings. But would Dewey go? And since he was now crowding seventy-nine, should he go? Dewey must go, and I must see to it."
Dewey was warned by family and friends of the dangers of becoming entangled in "this messy business." However, he eventually agreed to carry out the task. Dewey wrote to a friend: "I have spent my whole life searching for truth. It is disheartening that in our own country some liberals have come to believe that for reasons of expediency our own people should be left in the dark as to the actual atrocities in Russia. But truth is not a bourgeois delusion, it is the mainspring of human progress."
Upon hearing that John Dewey was willing to head the commission Leon Trotsky gave a speech transmitted by telephone to a large audience at the New York Hippodrome, stating: "If this commission decides that I am guilty of the crimes which Stalin imputes to me, I pledge to place myself voluntarily in the hands of the executioner of the G.P.U."
The Dewey Commission conducted thirteen hearings at the home of Diego Rivera in Coyoacan, from 10th April to 17th April, 1937, that looked at the claims against Trotsky and his son, Lev Sedov. The commission was made up of Dewey, Suzanne La Follette, Carlo Tresca, Benjamin Stolberg, Carleton Beals, Otto Ruehle, Alfred Rosmer, Wendelin Thomas, Edward A. Ross and John Chamberlain. Dewey invited the Soviet Union government to send documentary material and legal representatives to cross-examine Trotsky. However, they refused to do that and the offer for the Soviet ambassador to the United States, Andrei Troyanovsky, to attend, was also rejected.
John Dewey opened the hearings with the words: "This commission, like many millions of workers of city and country, of hand and brain, believes that no man should be condemned without a chance to defend himself.... The simple fact that we are here is evidence that conscience demands that Mr. Trotsky be not condemned before he has had full opportunity to present whatever evidence is in his possession in reply to the guilty verdict returned in a court where he was neither present nor represented. If Leon Trotsky is guilty of the acts with which he is charged, no condemnation can be too severe."
Leon Trotsky and Lev Sedov were defended by the lawyer Albert Goldman. In his opening speech he argued: "We are determined to convince the members of this commission, and everyone who reads and thinks with an independent mind, beyond all doubt, that Leon Trotsky and his son are guiltless of the monstrous charges made against them." According to Jay Martin: "The commissioners raised various questions about the charges against Trotsky. He answered vigorously, with a remarkable command of detail and capacity for analysis... Despite his heavy accent, Trotsky spoke with exceptional clarity, sometimes even with wit and beauty, and always with impeccable logic."
The Dewey Commission was attacked by journals under the control of the American Communist Party. Its newspaper, The Daily Worker, attacked Dewey as a "deluded old man" who was being "duped by the enemies of socialism" and was charged with being "an enemy of peace and progress". An editorial in the New Masses mocked "the so-called impartial inquiry". It added that the "hearings merely presented a rosy picture of Trotsky while blackening the Moscow defendants who implicated him." The Soviet Union government issued a statement describing Dewey as "a philosophical lackey of American imperialism".
According to Hook, one of the commission members, Carleton Beals, was under the control of the Soviet Union. During the investigation he resigned: "My resignation went in the next morning. Dewey accused me of prejudging the case. This was false. I was merely passing judgment on the commission. He declared that I had not been inhibited in my questioning. He declared that I had the privilege of bringing in a minority report. My resignation was my minority report. How could I judge the guilt or innocence of Mr. Trotsky, if the commission's investigations were a fraud?"
Beals received considerable media attention when he published an article on the case in the Saturday Evening Post: "I was unable to put my seal of approval on the work of our commission in Mexico. I did not wish my name used merely as a sounding board for the doctrines of Trotsky and his followers. Nor did I care to participate in the work of the larger organization, whose methods were not revealed to me, the personnel of which was still a mystery to me. Doubtless, considerable information will be scraped together. But if the commission in Mexico is an example, the selection of the facts will be biased, and their interpretation will mean nothing if trusted to a purely pro-Trotsky clique."
In the article Beals made no attempt to defend the case made against Trotsky at the Moscow Show Trials. Instead he concentrated on stating his belief that Trotsky had been in contact with the people found guilty and executed in Moscow: " I decided to jump into the arena once more with a line of questioning to show Trotsky's secret relations with the Fourth International, the underground contacts with various groups in Italy, Germany and the Soviet Union. Trotsky, of course, had steadfastly denied having had any contacts whatsoever, save for half a dozen letters, with persons of groups in Russia since about 1930. This was hard to swallow."
Beals also accused Leon Trotsky of having an unreasonable hatred of Joseph Stalin: "His mind is a vast repository of memory and passion, its rapierlike sharpness dulled a trifle now by the alternating years of overweening power and the shattering bitterness of defeat and exile; above all, his mental faculties are blurred by a consuming lust of hate for Stalin, a furious uncontrollable venom which has its counterpart in something bordering on a persecution complex - all who disagree with him are bunched in the simple formula of G.P.U. agents... This is not the first time that the feuds of mighty men have divided and shaken empires, although, possibly, Trotsky shakes the New York intelligentsia far more than he does the Soviet Union."
The Dewey Commission published its findings in the form of a 422-page book entitled Not Guilty. Its conclusions asserted the innocence of all those condemned in the Moscow Trials. In its summary the commission wrote: "We find that Trotsky never instructed any of the accused or witnesses in the Moscow trials to enter into agreements with foreign powers against the Soviet Union. On the contrary, he has always uncompromisingly advocated the defense of the USSR. He has also been a most forthright ideological opponent of the fascism represented by the foreign powers with which he is accused of having conspired. On the basis of all the evidence we find that Trotsky never recommended, plotted, or attempted the restoration of capitalism in the USSR. On the contrary, he has always uncompromisingly opposed the restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union and its existence anywhere else.... We therefore find the Moscow Trials to be frame-ups. We therefore find Trotsky and Sedov not guilty".
In April 1939, Walter Krivitsky, a former NKVD agent, published an article in the Saturday Evening Post, where he warned of the dangers of Soviet agents in the United States. Suzanne La Follette became a close friend of Krivitsky. On 7th January, 1941, Paul Wohl contacted La Follette and told her to inform Krivitsky that he had seen Hans Brusse in New York City. He added the comment: "I want him (Krivitsky) to remain alive to envy the fate of Medusa for having been allowed to die at the sight of her own image." Wohl later told the FBI that he had seen the tall Dutchman was wearing a European overcoat, grayish-green with raglan sleeves, and carrying a dark brown leather briefcase. When he heard the news, Krivitsky became convinced that Brusse was in the country to organize his assassination. Krivitsky told his lawyer, Louis Waldman: "Mr. Waldman, it is now finished. I am a dead man. Hans never misses."
On Sunday 9th February, 1941, Krivitsky checked into the Bellevue Hotel in Washington at 5:49 p.m. He paid $2.50 in advance for the room and signed his name in the register as Walter Poref. The desk clerk, Joseph Donnelly, described him afterwards as nervous and trembling. At 6:30, he called down for a bottle of Vichy sparkling water. The bellboy considered him a typical foreigner - "quiet and solemn".
The young maid, Thelma Jackson, knocked on Krivitsky's room at 9.30. When she did not receive an answer she assumed the room was free for cleaning and inserted her passkey. She opened the door and discovered a man lying on the bed the wrong way round, with his head toward the foot. She noticed he had "blood all over his head". The police were called and Sergeant Dewey Guest diagnosed the case as an obvious suicide. Coroner MacDonald issued a certificate of suicide that afternoon.
Krivitsky left behind three suicide notes, each one in a different language known to him (English, German and Russian). Police handwriting expert, Ira Gullickson, was shown the notes found with the body and declared that they were without any question written by the man who signed the hotel register. Gullickson argued that the notes were written on different times, because they showed an increase in nervous tension.
The first letter, in English, was addressed to his lawyer, Louis Waldman: "Dear Mr. Waldman: My wife and my boy will need your help. Please do for them what you can. I went to Virginia because that there I can get a gun. If my friends should have trouble please Mr. Waldman help them, they are good people and they didn't know why I bought the gun. Many thanks."
The second suicide note, in German, was addressed to Suzanne La Follette: "Dear Suzanne: I believe you that you are good, and I am dying with the hope that you will help Tonia and my poor boy. You were a good friend." This letter raised several issues. It is true that in the early days of their relationship he did write in German because his English was poor. However, in recent letters, he had used English.
The third letter was to his wife, Antonina Porfirieva: "Dear Tonia and dear Alek. Very difficult and very much want to live but I can't live any longer. I love you my only ones. It's difficult for me to write but think about me and you will understand that I have to go. Don't tell Alek yet where his father has gone. I believe that in time you will explain since it will be good for him. Forgive difficult to write. Take care of him and be a good mother - as always be strong and never get angry at him. He is after all such a such a good and such a poor boy. Good people will help you but not enemies of the Soviet people. Great are my sins I think. I see you Tonia and Alek and embrace you."
Gary Kern, the author of A Death in Washington: Walter G. Krivitsky and the Stalin Terror (2004) claims that two sentences in this letter cause certain problems: "Good people will help you but not enemies of the Soviet people. Great are my sins I think." He goes on to argue: "These two statements have the look of a political recantation and, as such, suggest either a mental breakdown or something dictated by the NKVD."
On hearing of Krivitsky's death, his lawyer, Louis Waldman, called a press conference and announced that he had been murdered by the NKVD and named the killer as Hans Brusse. (1) An NKVD agent (Hans Brusse) who had twice before tried to trap Krivitsky had appeared in New York City, where Krivitsky lived. (2) Krivitsky planned to buy a farm in Virginia, thus he intended to live. He had changed his name, applied for citizenship, bought a car. (3) The NKVD was expert in forgery and had samples of Krivitsky's hand in every language.
Whittaker Chambers definitely believed that he had been killed by the NKVD: "He had left a letter in which he gave his wife and children the unlikely advice that the Soviet Government and people were their best friends. Previously he had warned them that, if he were found dead, never under any circumstances to believe that he had committed suicide." Krivitsky once told Chambers: "Any fool can commit a murder, but it takes an artist to commit a good natural death." Suzanne La Follette, Martin Dies, and Isaac Don Levine all believed Krivitsky was murdered.
Suzanne La Follette ran unsuccessfully for the House of Representatives from Manhattan's 19th District on the Conservative Party ticket in 1964. During the 1964 Presidential Election she campaigned for Barry Goldwater. She claimed that she saw "nothing strange in her ultraconservatism despite the liberal background of her family". She argued: ''I haven't moved. The world has moved to the left of me. I swear I believe if old Bob (La Follette) were alive today he'd support Goldwater.''
Suzanne La Follette died on 23rd April, 1983.
No sooner was the Committee for the Defense of Leon Trotsky organized than it turned out that the name we had automatically selected was a misnomer. Among the first rationalizations offered by individuals who refused to lend their names to the dual purposes of the organization political asylum for Trotsky and his right to state his case-was that the committee was partisan, biased in Trotsky's favor because it announced itself as a "defense" committee. Now it was standard practice in those days, whenever a committee was organized to insure fair play for someone, to call it a defense committee: the Tom Mooney Defense Committee; the Sacco-Vanzetti Defense Committee, etc. Officially such committees took no stand on the guilt or innocence of those it was defending; the agitation was over their right to a fair trial, unprejudiced by perjured testimony or a hostile press or unfair prosecution. It is true that the committee's office staff was largely made up of volunteers, either members or sympathizers, from the Trotskyist movement; but I can testify that on the executive committee, of which I was a leading member, they played a subordinate role. The problem of political asylum for Trotsky was soon solved. President Lazaro Cardenas, with the encouragement of Diego Rivera, had opened the borders of Mexico. The main problem became the organization of the Commission of Inquiry into the Truth of the Moscow Trials.
The quest for commissioners proved to be very formidable. The counterattack against the whole idea of an investigation had already begun, and there were very few American liberals who were willing even to consider the prospect of serving - certainly not Arthur Garfield Hayes and Roger Baldwin or most of those who had been active in protesting the Reichstag Fire trial a few years earlier. Bertrand Russell was willing to lend his name to the appeal for asylum and to a hearing for Trotsky, but could not serve on the commission. On the strength of Dewey's and Russell's moral support for the project, I wrote to George Santayana. He wrote back a rather indignant letter of refusal, expressing astonishment that I of all persons, who claimed to understand his philosophy, should have sought to embroil him in such an affair. It brought an end to our correspondence. It was clear that Dewey would have to serve on the commission, but it was also clear that his distinguished presence would not be sufficient. He was already seventy-eight at the time. I finally resolved to invite Albert Einstein, with whom I had exhanged correspondence about the possibility of appointing Hans Reichenbach to a professorship at New York University.
I shall forgo until a later chapter giving the fascinating details that led to his rejection of our invitation. Naturally we did not broadcast the refusal of Einstein to serve on the commission, but we were hard put to find individuals to accept. Nonetheless we were able to put together a group of persons well enough known in the liberal community to command respect. It consisted of Edward Alsworth Ross, Suzanne La Follette, Benjamin Stolberg, John Chamberlin, and for international representation, Otto Ruehle and Wendelin Thomas, former members of the German Reichstag living respectively in Mexico City and New York, and Alfred Rosmer, formerly editor-in-chief of L'Humanite. The presence of Stolberg, La Follette, and Chamberlin on the commission reflected our failure to induce prestigious academic figures - whom I preferred - to join. Stolberg suggested his friend, Carleton Beals, unaware apparently of Beals's close association with Toledano, the head of the Mexican Communist Union organization. James T. Farrell, who had been active in the committee, very much wanted to serve on the commission, and he was backed by the Trotskyists, but Stolberg and La Follette vetoed it on the ground that he had already publicly espoused Trotsky's cause.
The first and most important step of the commission was to appoint a subcommission to travel to Mexico City to take Leon Trotsky's testimony. It was crucial for the success of the commission that John Dewey consent to go, because without him the press and public would have ignored the sessions. It would be easy for the Kremlin to dismiss the work of the others and circulate the false charge that they were handpicked partisans of Trotsky. Only the presence of someone with Dewey's stature would insure world attention to the proceedings. But would Dewey go? And since he was now crowding seventy-nine, should he go? Once more I had visits from Morrow and Solow. Dewey must go, and I must see to it. The difficulty was that I had been urging Dewey to abandon all his other interests and concentrate on completing his book, Logic: The Theory of Inquiry. He had been working on it for years. To add to my discomfiture, Dewey asked me outright whether he should go to Mexico City to head the subcommission. I refused to advise him - partly because I felt it would be hypocritical for me to encourage him to go in view of my constant admonishment about his neglecting Logic, partly because I feared being held responsible, especially by his family, if anything untoward happened to him in Mexico, and partly because I wanted to spare him the torrents of denunciation that would be his if he accepted. Yet I could not bring myself to advise him not to go, which would have been sufficient for him to decline.
Though La Follette considered herself a radical libertarian rather than an anarchist, her analysis of feminist issues was as profoundly and consistently anti-statist as those of anarchist feminists such as Voltairine de Cleyre and Emma Goldman. The State, she believed, was the natural enemy of women. "It is evident from the very nature of the State," she wrote in a passage directly reflecting the influence of Franz Oppenheimer's The State, "that its interests are opposed to those of Society; and while the complete emancipation of women ... would undoubtedly imply the destruction of the State, since it must accrue from the emancipation of other subject classes, their emancipation, far from destroying Society, must be of inestimable benefit to it."
La Follette was apparently not influenced by the nineteenth century anarchists, but she did make one favorable comment on anarchism in her book, in connection with her discussion of men's control over women:
I know of no stronger argument for the social philosophy of the anarchist; for there is no more striking proof of the incapacity of human beings to be their brothers' keepers than man's failure through sheer levity, over thousands of years, to govern woman either for his good or her own....
Her belief that economics was at the heart of women's problems led La Follette to a healthy skepticism about the reformist politics of the organized women's movement. "Even if we assume that the establishment of legal equality between the sexes would result in complete social and economic equality," she pointed out, "we are obliged to face the fact that under such a regime women would enjoy precisely that degree of freedom which men now enjoy - that is to say, very little." The State, she asserted, could be forced to renounce all legal discrimination against women without affecting its fundamental discrimination against the propertyless, dependent class - "which is made up of both men and women." She concluded that "until economic freedom is attained for everybody, there can be no real freedom for anybody... The State represents the organized interest of those who control economic opportunity ... those who control men's and women's economic opportunity control men and women."
La Follette had no clear-cut solution for the problem of State control of economics, except education. Considering the ballot "ineffectual," she thought it would only be useful when voters came to understand the true nature of the system. People needed to recognize that the "essential nature of freedom ... comes out in the abolition of monopoly, primarily monopoly of natural resources, resulting in complete freedom of the individual to apply his productive labor where he will. It is freedom to produce, and its corollary, freedom to exchange - the laissez-faire, laissez-passer of the Physiocrats." Showing the influence of Henry George as well as of the nineteenth century classical liberals, she also asserted, "The right to labour and to enjoy .the fruits of one's labour means only the right to free access to the source of subsistence, which is land."
One of the kinds of legally imposed economic discrimination against women which La Follette analyzed in detail was protective labor legislation. In a lengthy chapter which closely foreshadowed modern libertarian feminist concerns, she pointed out that protective labor laws and minimum wage laws reduced women's chances of getting employment, and also reduced their ability to compete: So rapidly do [protective labor laws] increase, indeed, that women may be said to be in a fair way to exchange the tyranny of men for that of organized uplift. They are sponsored by those well-meaning individuals who deplore social injustice enough to yearn to mitigate its evil results, but do not understand it well enough to attack its causes; by women's organizations whose intelligence is hardly commensurate with their zeal to uplift their sex; and by men's labour organizations which are quite frankly in favor of any legislation that will lessen the chances of women to compete with men in the labour market.
In her 1926 Concerning Women, Suzanne La Follette connected women's sexual freedom to a critique of culture. She asserted that "the whole mass of taboo and discrimination arrayed against the unwedded mother and her child is the direct result of the subjection of women. Aware that the unmarried mother was condemned by women as well as men, she believed this was because marriage remained most women's only option. The woman who did not marry threatened "the economic value of the virtuous woman's chief asset". The implications of the changes sought by Eastman and La Follette presented a fundamental challenge to religious institutions, to the family and to existing patterns of work.
As the war continued and the tide of battle turned against Hitler, many of the old fellow-travelers who had been frightened into silence by the Hitler-Stalin Pact and the fifth column propaganda of the Communist Party began to creep out of their shelters and became increasingly vocal about the higher democracy and culture of the Soviet Union. The military defeats of the Red Army were forgotten. Its military victories were regarded as evidence of the virtues of the Soviet Union. Some who would have scoffed at the idea that Czar Alexander's victory over Napoleon was proof of the superiority of the Russian feudal system over the bourgeois society of the West, who would have been outraged by the suggestion that Hitler's early military triumphs over the Western democracies was testimony of the greater validity of totalitarianism, cited the military victory of the Red Army as evidence that the Soviet Union was really a higher form of democracy. Its government, they maintained, enjoyed the full confidence of the people, whose basic rights to food, clothing, shelter, and employment were guaranteed-in contradistinction to the formal democracies of the West.
It was not only former fellow-travelers who took this line. Well-known Establishment figures were wallowing in the euphoria of the approaching defeat of Hitler. The arch-enemy after him were the Japanese, and there was hope that Stalin would open a Second Front against them. It required courage to keep a critical head and insist that the Soviet Union was a totalitarian power with a long record of broken promises and betrayals. Even worse, as part of wartime propaganda, the moving picture Mission to Moscow was produced, based on the book of that name by Joseph E. Davies, former American ambassador to the Soviet Union-a political illiterate who owed his post to the campaign contributions he and his family had made to Roosevelt's electoral campaign chest. Without the slightest new evidence, and in the teeth of the argument, analysis, and evidence of the Dewey Commission of Inquiry, Davies contended that the defendants of the Moscow Trials were all fifth columnists, guilty as charged, and that the great ruthless purge of Soviet society was not an affliction but the necessary means of sweeping away Hitler's potential allies. The victory of the Red Army over Hitler was achieved, not despite of, but because of the terror. It was testimony to Stalin's genius!
As Truman gradually came to regard Stalin as "good old Joe," and as more and more Americans saw in the Soviet Union our "gallant democratic ally," only the Social-Democratic weekly, The New Leader, with its limited circulation, continued its lonely fight for the truth. Only the remarkable personality of its executive editor, Solomon Levitas, saved it from extinction.
Once more John Dewey accepted the burden of defending the liberal cause-or rather the cause of simple truth. In a letter to The New York Times, written on January 11, 1942, Dewey sharply attacked Mission to Moscow as an apologia for Stalinist terrorism. It was one thing, he contended, to accept the Soviet Union as a cobelligerent against a common enemy. It was quite another to idealize the internal regime of a concentration camp police state. To do so was ultimately to jeopardize American convictions about the centrality of human freedom and to make a mockery of the ideals in whose behalf we were resisting Hitler. When Mission to Moscow appeared as a film, Dewey, together with Suzanne La Follette, drew up a bill of particulars for The New York Times, revealing its crass historical distortions (May 9, 1943), but his efforts, reinforced by those of us around The New Leader, were overwhelmed by the massive promotional campaign launched by Hollywood, with the active help of every Stalinist organization in the country. The movie broke box office records and prepared the way for even grosser propaganda films glorifying Stalin's Russia, like The North Star and Son of Russia. At a Madison Square rally in November 1943, Corliss Lamont, chairman of the National Council of Soviet-American Friendship, before a widly cheering audience, awarded certificates of appreciation to Joseph Davies and the film's producers for presenting "the truth about the Soviet Union."
Suzanne La Follette, an early feminist who wrote on conservative issues and was a founding editor of several magazines, including The National Review, died last Saturday at the Stanford University Hospital Nursing Home in California. She was 89 years old.
Born on a large wheat ranch in the state of Washington, Miss La Follette spent many years in New York City, living at the Chelsea Hotel and writing for or editing such magazines as The Nation, The American Mercury and The Freeman.
She wrote several books, including Concerning Women, which came out in 1926 and pressed for civil rights for women, and Art in America, a 1929 work that traced American artistic development from Colonial times.
Miss La Follette was active in early anti-Soviet causes and served as secretary to the commission headed by John Dewey that investigated the Soviet trials of Leon Trotsky, finding that the exiled Communist leader had been framed.
The daughter of Representative William L. La Follette of Washington, Miss La Follette was a cousin of Senator Robert M. La Follette, Republican of Wisconsin.
Miss La Follette ran unsuccessfully for the House of Representatives from Manhattan's 19th District on the Conservative Party ticket in 1964. She did little campaigning in that race, saying that the conservative stance of the Republican candidate, Henry E. Del Rosso, was satisfactory to her.
Miss La Follette said she saw nothing strange in her ultraconservatism despite the liberal background of her family, especially Senator La Follette, who served from 1906 to 1925.
''I haven't moved,'' she said in 1964. ''The world has moved to the left of me. I swear I believe if old Bob were alive today he'd support Goldwater.''
Miss La Follette was a founding editor of The Freeman, a weekly journal of opinion that was begun in 1930. She said at the time that she founded the journal because ''newspapers have no policy of enlightenment anymore and do not inform the public what is actually going on.''
''One has to know what is behind the news in the newspapers,'' she said. ''There are no crusading newspapers anymore.''