Eleanor Roosevelt to Beatrice Hauser

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Eleanor Roosevelt to Beatrice Hauser

January 1947

In ans to your questions

1. You can work to make sure that there are no other discriminations because of religion. You can follow state and federal legislation for better opportunities for colored people and thereby build up a good background for the future.

2. Yes I do. It gives other countries definite points where they can attack our democracy. This is especially true of the USSR.

3. I think some of the young men who met colored men during the war, changed their attitude to some extent.


1. "Compulsory Study of U.N. Advocated," NYT, 30 June 1946, 6; "U.N. Contest Award Made," NYT, 19 June 1947, 17.

On Communism, Fascism, and Americans for Democratic Action

Max Lerner, a Russian Jewish emigre who knew ER from his editorial work at the Nation, now edited PM, the ad-free, left-liberal New York City newspaper underwritten by ER's friend Marshall Field. January 9, Lerner wrote an editorial for PM, criticizing American progressives for failing to establish a unified movement. Admonishing the Progressive Citizens of America for "its lack of clarity and courage on the issue of dissociation from the Communists," Lerner also reproached the Americans for Democratic Action for further weakening the progressive movement by failing to promote "a clear distinction between being non-Communist and being anti-Communist. The first is essential for independence, the second can become obsessive and destructive." He then criticized the ADA for its "indiscriminate lumping of Communists and Fascists" and its refusal to invite Henry Wallace to the founding meeting.1

ER responded to Lerner's criticisms in her column two days later:

In the last few days, I have seen two individuals express diametrically opposite ideas on Communism and Fascism. In Washington last week-end, Louis Fischer, the writer, said that the two were identical. He said that if you fought Fascism, you fought Communism. And I gathered that he felt that Communism and Democracy could not exist in the same world without one dominating the other.2

Yesterday I read with interest Max Lerner's newspaper editorial stating his opinion that there is a world of difference between the Fascism of the right and the Communism of the left.3 While one may reject American Communist activities, I gather that he feels it is not only possible for us to live in the same world with the USSR, but that it is denying our own belief in Democracy to question the right of people in other countries to hold their own political beliefs.

However, I think that, for most of us, it is not enough to say that there is a difference between the Fascism of the right and the Communism of the left. We would like to have the difference spelled out for us. I, for instance, feel that there are many similarities in these two totalitarian systems. There are also great differences, but I am not yet convinced that I know exactly what these are.

It seems to me that one basic similarity between them is that the individual, as such, is not given supreme importance—and that leads to certain cruelties and to a negation of human rights. On the other hand, the Communism of the left has just fought a war in company with the democracies to do away with the Fascism of the right.4

Alfred Baker Lewis, who also attended the founding meeting of the ADA, sent his objections directly to Lerner, calling his criticism of the ADA's lack of distinction between non-Communist and anti-Communist "not quite fair."

There is only one sense in which genuine liberals should not be anti-Communist, and that is that they should never permit the government, so far as they have the power, to deny to Communists the fundamental civil rights of free speech, press, and assembly. Neither I, nor, so far as they know their records, any of the other persons who joined to form the A.D.A. have ever done that; on the contrary, they have worked to preserve the civil rights of Communists. Of course that stand in support of the rights of Communists is perfectly consistent with political opposition to Communism and exposure of their attempts to infiltrate liberal organizations under various disguises.5

Doubting that PM would publish his response, Lewis sent a copy of his letter to ER and urged her to submit a similar reply to PM, stating that "the more that are sent in replying to his criticism of us, the more likely they are to publish at least one of them."6 ER, as the letter below illustrates, did write to Lerner directly; however, as she then wrote Lewis, "I do not think it is very wise for me to appear in PM, because I do not want to seem to be forming an organization when I am primarily a member of the Democratic Party, and look to this new organization to needle that party into more effective progressivism."7

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Eleanor Roosevelt to Beatrice Hauser

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Eleanor Roosevelt to Beatrice Hauser