LaGuardia, New York, and Oxford

Now that the Brobingnagians have lost their foothold in New York, and a reform administration has been elevated into power, there seems to be some hope for a real experiment in municipal government. Major LaGuardia, it is true, has not much in common with Seth Low or with Tom Johnson, the conspicuous high water marks in the movement, but he has a definite program and is a man of undoubted force and integrity. The qualifications, however, which operated with Johnson and Low will also operate with him, and perhaps to an even higher degree, so that the success of his program must remain, for the time, an open question.

The most potent string on his effectiveness is the size and quality of his support. For, although his lead in the voting was clear enough, it was not a majority, and Mr. Low's experience conclusively showed that the elected person desirous of tampering with the fundamentals of government machinery needs a majority, in constituency as well as in council. Further, the Major's support was, as the support of most reform candidates must be, a compound highly unstable and volatile. He was selected by three well defined and normally hostile groups, the regular Republican machine, the illuminati, and a large class of emotional malcontents whose judgments are never continuous, and who cannot be relied upon in any crisis which attempts at reform may bring.

So simple a reform as the realignment of the municipal bureaucracy, to which Major LaGuardia is pledged, will sour the patronage list and antagonize the Republican machine. The illuminati will support it, but an examination of Mr. Walter Fisher's Chicago reform league would indicate that even an organized elite is extremely prone to diffusion, so that it is not a very significant help in a political struggle, where a pachydermatous hide is the greatest single asset, and where means must sometimes yield to ends.

Perhaps the reaction to Tammany is strong enough to coalesce the Major's support beyond election day. One can do no more than say that this has never been the case in the past. Reform candidates have always been drawn, and with great force, to one or to the other of the mammoth stools which our party system has erected. Chicago has tried the ostrich device of making municipal elections non-partisan, but in this case the old lines have undergone only a metaphysical submersion. Until philosophers are kings, or the kings and princes of this world...

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At Oxford, the October Club, a communist study group, has been suppressed. The authorities were apparently unwilling to wait even for a definite pretext, the customary speech, pamphlet, or pronouncement which "outrages decency and leaves us with no alternative." It is difficult to believe that a move so clumsy as this will onlist the support of British opinion. After all, the October Club was not much more than a symbol of conviction, and no university decree can affect the particular conviction upon which it was based. The only result will be that communists throughout the world have one more reason to enforce their contempt of capitalism as an intellectual adversary. The same congested mentalities which interfere with academic freedom are evidently at work here. From Christianity down, no vital movement has been so much as delayed by the exercise of an obvious prohibition such as that to the right of meeting. Those who have exercised it are the buffoons of history, uniformly funny and disreputable. No one thinks of Comstock today as anything but a rather bad joke, and leagues for the extirpation of communism are never patronized by capitalists of a measurable fry. The personnel of a large university, so long as they do not work explicitly, may retard the cause of social revolution with great efficiency, just as those who are successfull in the present order may retard it. But when they open their mouths to play Thor, there is nothing but a vacancy better left concealed.