League for Industrial Democracy

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Depression-era poster

The League for Industrial Democracy (LID) was a leftist group that came into existence in 1921 when the Intercollegiate Socialist Society renamed itself. It was active until the 1930s, when Socialists mostly left the party, joined the Democractic Party and supported the New Deal Coalition. The group did not cease to exist however, it remained alive by the charity of a few of its remaining leaders.[1]

The League for Industrial Democracy had few initiatives during the 40's and 50's, however, they did reconstitute their student wing in 1945 which was called the SLID, or Student League for Industrial Democracy. The SLID became SDS in the 1960s.

Name Change

In 1921, a vote was held to which Harry W. Laidler announced: "the members of the Intercollegiate Socialist Society had declared themselves in favor of the change in name and purpose."[2] In November,[2][3] the organization officially became the LID and set its sights beyond college campi. They also presented their new guiding principle: "Education for a New Social Order Based on Production for Public Use and Not for Private Profit."[3][4]

Gentle and Deadly

The League chose their new guiding principle because they believed it to be "gentle and deadly".[5] Arthur Gleason,[6] a member of the League's Executive Committee[2] said:

Only one main idea is in sight with driving force and the power to capture the imagination of men. That idea concerns itself with changing the basis of civilization. It is the idea of production for use. Production for use is a seemly phrase, so sound that sections of the church have accepted it, so far-reaching that it will bring down the walls of Jericho. It is gentle and deadly. It says that the present order is ethically indefensible and economically unsound.[7]

Quasi-Think Tank

The LID would increasingly function as a kind of think tank, publishing books for its own purposes as well as for various member-authors.[8][9]

Student League

After changing its name from the Intercollegiate Socialist Society to League for Industrial Democracy, the group expanded its view beyond colleges and universities. But it never gave up on those original goals. The LID had several internal organizations specifically for students over the years.

Intercollegiate Student Council

The first student subdivision was called the Intercollegiate Student Council. This group was short lived, and changed its name to Student League for Industrial Democracy in 1932.[10]

Student League for Industrial Democracy


The first SLID only lasted a first few years before merging with the communist National Student League. According to testimony given by Nathaniel Weyl[11] before the Dies Committee, the two groups merged to become the American Student Union. The merger was completed late in 1935.[12]


Formed again in 1945,[1] the SLID(And LID) had a major breakthrough when they merged with another little group called the "Schactmanites" who were led by Max Shachtman. One of the promising new radicals that came into the group was Michael Harrington. In the early 60's, the SLID changed their name to Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and became the genesis of the New Left campus unrest of the 1960s.

Important members

Important members of the LID include:

Affiliated Leagues and important members

The DCC Social Problems Club was founded by Walter Reuther and was affiliated with the LID.[24]

Published Books

LID Organization


Family Tree

Intercollegiate Socialist Society
    ↳ League for Industrial Democracy     →                    →                    →
            ↳ Student League for Industrial Democracy (1932)     → American Student Union
            ↳ Student League for Industrial Democracy (1945)     → Students for a Democratic Society
                                                                                                            ↳ Weather Underground


  1. 1.0 1.1 (2007) Encyclopedia of U.S. Labor and Working-class History, Volume 1. New York: Taylor & Francis, 795–796. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "I.S.S. Gives Way to New League for Democracy", New York Call, November 19, 1921. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Brick and Clay Record: A Semi-monthly Record of the World's Progress in Clayworking..., Volume 68, 852. 
  4. "PLAN TO WIN STUDENTS TO 'NEW SOCIAL ORDER'; League for Industrial Democracy Speaker Calls Agricultural 'Bloc' Communistic.", The New York Times, January 1, 1922. 
  5. (1922) The Survey, Volume 47, 805. 
  6. (1922) Machinists' Monthly Journal, Volume 34, 161. 
  7. (1921) The New Republic, Volume 27, 73. 
  8. (2007) Encyclopedia of U.S. Labor and Working-class History, Volume 1. Taylor & Francis, 795. ISBN 978-0415968263. 
  9. (1997) A Tale of Two Utopias: The Political Journey of the Generation of 1968. W. W. Norton & Company, 40. ISBN 978-0393316759. 
  10. (1976) National Activist Student Organizations in American Higher Education, 1905-1944. University of Michigan, School of Education, 12. 
  11. Nathaniel Weyl testimony corroborating Alger Hiss as member of CPUSA secret apparatus. House Un-American Activities Committee (Monday, February 23, 1953).
  12. (2008) Social History of the United States (10 Vol. Set ). ABC-CLIO, 133. ISBN 978-1598841275. 
  13. Harry Wellington Laidler. Wesleyan University (Apr. 4, 2011).
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 14.4 (1922) The challenge of waste, 2. 
  15. Machinists' Monthly Journal. Official Organ of the International Association of Machinists, 1922
  16. STUART CHASE, 97; COINED PHRASE 'A NEW DEAL'. New York Times (1985).
  17. Kurtz, Stanley (2010). Radical-in-Chief: Barack Obama and the Untold Story of American Socialism. Simon and Schuster, 31. 
  18. Horowitz, David (2006). The Shadow Party: How George Soros, Hillary Clinton, and Sixties Radicals Seized Control of the Democratic Party. Simon and Schuster, 85. 
  19. Everything you need to know about the war on poverty. Washington Post (January 8, 2014). “Many historians, such as Harrington biographer Maurice Isserman, credit Harrington and the book [The Other America] (which John F. Kennedy purportedly read while in office, along with the MacDonald review) with spurring Kennedy and then Johnson to formulate an anti-poverty agenda.”
  20. (1967) The Socialist Party of America: A History, 56. 
  21. DeSilver Legacy Society. ACLU.
  22. Lewy, Guenter (1990). The Cause That Failed : Communism in American Political Life: Communism in American Political Life, 176–178. 
  23. (1980) Workers' rights, East and West : a comparative study of trade union and workers' rights in Western democracies and Eastern Europe. Transaction Publishing / League for Industrial Democracy, 150. 
  24. Victor G. Devinatz, "Reassessing the Historical UAW: Walter Reuther's Affiliation with the Communist Party and Something of its Meaning - a Document of Party Involvement, 1939." Labour 2002 (49): 223-245. Issn: 0700-3862 Fulltext: in History Cooperative Reuther later insisted he was never a member.

See also

Further reading