This study examines one organization from the radical left of the 1920s and 1930s: the American Fund for Public Service. Little known today, but infamous in its time, the American Fund represented a united front of anticapitalists-anarchists, socialists, communists, and left-liberals-which attempted to revitalize the left in order to end capitalism and, therefore, war. Financed by Charles Garland, an eccentric, 21-year-old Harvard dropout, the Fund performed the difficult task of allocating relatively meager resources among the most promising radical ventures, typically militant labor organizations. The philanthropy's directors represented a who's who of the labor left of the period: Roger Baldwin, Norman Thomas, Scott Nearing, James Weldon Johnson, and more. The fund anticipated philanthropies later in the century which meant to challenge the status quo beyond reformism. This study will be of interest to scholars of labor relations, radical politics, American history, and philanthropy.
America searched for an answer to "The Labor Question" during the Progressive Era in an effort to avoid the unrest and violence that flared so often in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. In the ladies' garment industry, a unique experiment in industrial democracy brought together labor, management, and the public. As Richard Greenwald explains, it was an attempt to "square free market capitalism with ideals of democracy to provide a fair and just workplace." Led by Louis Brandeis, this group negotiated the "Protocols of Peace." But in the midst of this experiment, 146 mostly young, immigrant women died in the Triangle Factory Fire of 1911. As a result of the fire, a second, interrelated experiment, New York's Factory Investigating Commission (FIC)—led by Robert Wagner and Al Smith—created one of the largest reform successes of the period. The Triangle Fire, the Protocols of Peace, and Industrial Democracy in Progressive Era New York uses these linked episodes to show the increasing interdependence of labor, industry, and the state. Greenwald explains how the Protocols and the FIC best illustrate the transformation of industrial democracy and the struggle for political and economic justice.