• 19th Century Socialist Norman Thomas: Russia is State-Owned Capitalism

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    NORMAN THOMAS (November 20, 1884-December 19, 1968) studied political science under Woodrow Wilson at Princeton, graduating in 1905. Thomas was a pacifist who believed that the First World War was an “immoral, senseless struggle among rival imperialisms.” In 1918, he founded and edited World Tomorrow and two years later he joined with Jane Addams, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and Upton Sinclair to establish the National Civil Liberties Bureau, the precursor of the American Civil Liberties Union.

    Thomas was the Socialist Party candidate for Governor of New York in 1924. After the death of Eugene Debs, Thomas became the party’s presidential candidate in 1928, 1932 and 1936.  Although easily defeated, Thomas had the satisfaction of seeing FDR introduce several measures that he had advocated during his presidential campaigns. He was also the Socialist Party presidential candidate in 1940, 1944 and 1948. A strong critic of Soviet communism, Thomas denounced rearmament and the development of the Cold War. Other issues associated with Thomas during the post-war included campaigns against poverty, racism and the Vietnam War.

    One of his quotes seems very current: “It is the tendency even of the most democratic governments embarked upon the most idealistic of wars to sacrifice everything for complete military efficiency. To combat this tendency where it threatens free speech, free press, freedom of assembly and freedom of conscience – the essentials of liberty and the heritage of all past wars worth fighting – that is the first function of the ACLU today. To maintain something over here that will be worth coming back to when the weary war is over.”

    Offered is a superb one page, 8 ½” x 11”, TLS, September 25, 1939, to Russ Goldsmith of Brown’s Mills, New Jersey, in which he provides his strong views on Socialism.

    “Most emphatically I do not agree that the only difference between Socialism and Communism is the one that you cite…

    “Socialism repudiates the doctrine of the totalitarian state and the use of the monolithic party headed by one dictator, a contempt for civil liberty and the Machiavellian policies which are an integral part of Communism.  The Socialist goal is, by no means the kind of society that Stalin calls Socialistic Russia. Economically the Russian social order is based on a collective state owned capitalism, and since the state is not democratic, it is not true that the people own their own resources and industries.

    “I have discussed these matters somewhat in my book Socialism of the Defensive  published by Harpers which you may find in a library.

    “I see no reason at all why Socialists need be atheists because of any philosophy important to Socialism. Marx dialectical materialism is not essential to Socialism, and, in the extreme form in which certain Marxists have used it, it is my judgment a very bad metaphysics although a very suggestive method for dealing with social development.

    “Sincerely yours,

    “Norman Thomas”

    Folds, toning and light soiling and contains a number of his holographic corrections.  Letter is on his personal letterhead and the original cover is included.

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