La Follette's Progressive Platform

The 1920s witnessed a decline in political enthusiasm as both Republicans and Democrats embraced conservatism and abandoned political reform. But the progressive movement, which had its heyday under presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, had not entirely disappeared from national politics. In 1924, a union of farmer and union groups coalesced into a Progressive Party and nominated Senator Robert F. La Follette for president. The Progressive Party platform of 1924 attacks the power of big business and calls for federal action on behalf of farmers and labor unions; it also calls for greater efforts to ensure international peace. By keeping the tradition of progressivism alive, La Follette's candidacy looked forward to the revival of reform ideas under the New Deal, during the 1930s.

The test of the La Follette platform, adopted on July 5 by the Progressive Convention, is as follows:

          For 148 years the American people have been seeking to establish a government for the service of all and to prevent the establishment of a government for the mastery of the few. Free men of every generation must combat renewed efforts of organized force and greed to destroy liberty. Every generation must wage a new war for freedom against new forces that seek, through new devices to enslave mankind.

          Under our representative democracy the people protect their liberties through their public agents.

          The test of public officials and the public policies alike must be: Will they serve, or will they exploit, the common need?

          The reactionary continued to put his faith in mastery for the solution of all problems. He seeks to have what he calls the strong men and best minds” rule and impose their decision upon the masses of their weaker brethren.

          The progressive, on the contrary, contends for less autocracy and more democracy in government, and for less power of privilege and greater obligation of service.

          Under the principle of ruthless individualism and competition, that government is deemed best which offers to the few the greatest chance of individual gain.

          It is our faith that we all go up or down together — that class gains are temporary delusions and that eternal laws of compensation make every man his brother’s keeper.

Program of Public Service

In that faith we present our program of public service:

(1)      The use of power of the Federal Government to crush private monopoly, not to foster it.

(2)      Unqualified enforcement of the constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech, press and assemblage.

(3)      Public ownership of the Nation’s waterpower and creation of a public superpower system. Strict public control and permanent conservation of all national resources, including coal, iron and other ores, oil and timber lands, in the interest of the people. Promotion of public works in times of business depression.

(4)      Retention of surtaxes on swollen incomes restoration of the tax on excess stock dividends, profits undistributed to evade taxes rapidly progressive taxes on large estates and inheritances and repeal of excessive tariff duties especially on trust-controlled, necessities of life, and of nuisance taxes on consumption, to relieve the people of the present unjust burden of taxation and compel those who profited by the war to pay their share of the war’s costs and to provide the funds for adjusted compensation solemnly pledged to the veterans of the World War.

(5)      Reconstruction of the Federal Reserve and Federal Farm Loan System to provide for direct public control of the Nation’s money and credit, to make it available on fair terms to all, and national and State legislatures to permit and promote co-operative banking.

(6)      Adequate laws to guarantee to farmers and industrial workers the right to organize and bargain collectively, through representatives of their own choosing, for the maintenance or improvement of their standards of life.

Government Marketing

(7)      Creation of Government marketing corporation to provide a direct route between farm producer and city consumer, and to assure farmers fair prices for their products and protect consumers from the profiteers in foodstuffs and other necessities of life. Legislation to conduct the meat packing industry.

(8)      Protection and aid of co-operative enterprises by national and State legislation.

(9)      Common international action to effect the economic recovery of the world from the effects of the World War.

(10)    Repeal of the Esch-Cummins law. Public ownership of railroads with democratic operation, with definite safeguards against bureaucratic control.

(11)    Abolition of the tyranny and usurpation of the courts, including the practice of nullifying legislation in conflict with the political, social, or economic theories of the judges. Abolition of injunctions in labor disputes and of the power to punish for contempt without trial by jury. Election of all federal judges without party designation for limited terms.

(12)    Prompt ratification of the Child Labor Amendment, and subsequent enactment of a Federal law to protect children in industry. Removal of legal discriminations against women by measures not prejudicial to legislation necessary for the protection of women and or the advancement of social welfare.

(13)    A deep waterway from the Great Lakes to the seas.

Would Outlaw War

(14)    We denounce the mercenary system of foreign policy under recent Administrations in the interests of financial imperialists, oil monopolists and international bankers, which has at times degraded our State Department from its high service and a strong and kindly intermediary of defenseless governments to a trading outpost for those interests and concession seekers engaged in the exploitation of weaker nations, as contrary to the will of the American people, destructive of domestic development and provocative of war revision of the Versailles Treaty in accordance with the terms of the Armistice, and to promote firm treaty agreements to outlaw wars, abolish conscription, drastically reduce land, air and naval armaments, and guarantee public referendums on peace and war.

In supporting this program we are applying to the needs of to-day the fundamental principles of American democracy, opposing equally the dictatorship of plutocracy and the dictatorship of the proletariat.

We appeal to all Americans without regard to partisan affiliation, and we raise the standards of our faith so that all of like purpose may rally and march in this campaign under the banners of progressive union.

The Nation may grow rich in the vision of greed. The Nation will grow great in the vision of service.