[Essay Help]: How did leading voices on the left criticize the limitations of the New Deal?

How did leading voices on the left criticize the limitations of the New Deal?.

5. How did leading voices on the left criticize the limitations of the New Deal? How did Franklin D. Roosevelt change the meaning of liberalism during his presidency?


If the New Deal did not end second-class citizenship for blacks, the 1930s saw the inclusion of other groups into mainstream American life. With Catholics and Jews in prominent posts in Roosevelt’s administration and new immigrant voters forming a base of the Democratic Party, the New Deal made ethnic pluralism central to American politics. The election of Fiorello La Guardia, an Italian-American, as New York’s mayor in 1933 represented the growing power of ethnic working-class voters. These ethnic groups experienced growing cultural assimilation, as immigration from Europe virtually halted, and movies, chain stores, and mass advertising penetrated immigrant enclaves. Unlike the coercive Americanization of the past, however, this Americanization incorporated ethnic identity and married it to American political ideals.

In the mid-1930s, for the first time in U.S. history, the left (including Socialists, Communists, labor radicals, and many New Deal liberals) strongly influenced American politics and culture. The CIO and the Communist Party in particular became the center of a social and intellectual impulse that helped reshape the boundaries of American freedom. The Communist Party grew from a very small and isolated organization into a mass organization. Although it never had more than 100,000 members at any one time in the 1930s, several times that number passed through its ranks. The Communists’ dedication to socialism appealed to a widespread belief that the Depression showed that capitalism had failed. But more important was the party’s constant activity on behalf of the unemployed, workers and unions, and civil rights for African-Americans. At the height of the Popular Front, when the Communists sought to ally themselves with socialist and New Deal liberals in movements for reform rather than revolution, the Communist Party was respectable. Even though tied to Stalinist Russia, the Communist Party ironically contributed to New Deal liberalism’s expansion of freedom and its pluralist conception of America.

The Popular Front vision of American society greatly influenced American culture, through theater, film, and dance. Its broadly left-wing ethos defined social and economic radicalism, not support for status quo, as true Americanism. Ethnic and racial diversity, unionism and social citizenship were what made America great, not the pursuit of wealth. The American “people,” seen by many intellectuals in the 1920s as fundamentalist and crassly commercial, were now proclaimed embodiments of democratic virtue. Artists and writers in the 1930s crafted socially meaningful work that depicted daily life for ordinary farmers and urban workers, and art about migrant workers and sharecroppers and that created by the people, such as folk music and black spirituals, were held to express genuine Americanism.

The Democratic Party, despite its new northern black and ethnic base of support, did not embrace ethno-cultural issues. But the Popular Front insisted that the nation’s greatness lay in its diversity, tolerance, and rejection of ethnic prejudice and class privilege. The CIO promoted and often embodied this idea of ethnic and racial inclusivity. It adopted cultural pluralism and welcomed groups previously excluded from the labor movement, such as blacks and Mexican-Americans. Yet, while Popular Front culture celebrated the promise of America, it did not ignore its tragedies and troubles, such as racial discrimination. This idea is best encapsulated in Martha Graham’s 1938 modern dance masterpiece, American Document.

The Supreme Court abandoned “liberty of contract” for a definition of American freedom based on civil liberties, and allowed free speech for communists, labor picketing, and initiated the repeal of numerous state laws that inhibited expression. Yet other groups also tried to restrict free speech. In 1938, the U.S. House of Representatives created an “Un-American Activities Committee” to ferret out disloyalty and “un-American” behavior and speech, and two years later Congress passed the Smith Act, which made it a crime to “teach, advocate, or encourage” the overthrow of government. Similar committees were established at the state level and used to intimidate communists and others on the left.

How did leading voices on the left criticize the limitations of the New Deal?

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *