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Why the Left Needs an Economic Justice Agenda
January 30, 2008
By Michael Hirsch
Michael Hirsch's ZSpace Page
[The text is a slight revision of remarks given to the annual convention of the Democratic Socialists of
America's New York City local on Oct. 13, 2007 at Judson Memorial Church.]
Addressing a rally at the old Madison Square Garden at the tail end of his first presidential re-election
campaign, Franklin Roosevelt caught the ethic of what I'll call the enlightened wing of the ruling class --
even if that wing was just Franklin and Eleanor.
Standing in front of 18,000 screaming supporters, including a solid contingent of members of the newly
formed American Labor Party -- formed precisely to boost Roosevelt in New York State and take votes
away from socialist Norman Thomas --FDR also gave them a little of the red meat they were hoping for.
"We had to struggle with the enemies of peace -- business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless
banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering," Roosevelt said about his first term in office.
"They had begun to consider the government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own
affairs. We know now that government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by
Now those of us who are socialists would take exception to FDR's casual treatment of "the mob," not to
mention his bristling at "class antagonisms." After the work of Eric Hobsbawm and George Rude and Jesse
Lemisch and other modern left historians and scholars of crowds and collective behavior, we don't conflate
"the mob" or "class struggle" with witless, disaggregated actors united only by demagogues. Working class
self-activity always looks like frenetic mob action to those with something to lose.
But FDR certainly got the "government by organized money" part right. It's not the whole of a socialist
critique, but it's a good start. It certainly si