Max Lerner to Eleanor Roosevelt

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Max Lerner to Eleanor Roosevelt

22 January 1947

Dear Mrs. Roosevelt:

It is good of you to write me about the Americans for Democratic Action, and I was also interested in reading in one of your recent columns a discussion of my editorial along with Louis Fischer's remarks.

I fear I have not made very clear to you my attitude on the ADA. I agree wholly that a liberal movement in America must be independent, and cannot therefore admit Communists to policy-making and staff positions. It is the failure of the other organization, the PCA, to say this sharply that has led me to criticize it on that score.8 But I still have a caveat about the ADA, based on its statement lumping Communists and fascists together as equal dangers.9 And I have some fear, judging from the rather narrow range of opinion among those invited to the Washington meeting, that it may develop a provincialism of its own. To my mind the danger of provincialism in any liberal organization is greater than the danger of Communist infiltration—great as that is. For provincialism means narrowness and leads to sterility. What we need above all else at the present stage of rebuilding the liberal movement in America is a sense of creativeness which can come only from the honest scrutiny of divergent opinions, and cannot come from excluding brands of non-Communist opinion which one may not happen to like.

I am certain that you agree with what I have said. But I have taken this opportunity to spell it out, so that there can be no question about where my emphasis falls.