Organizing for Effective Social Change

Gilbert M. Tucker

[Reprinted from Land and Freedom, November-December 1940]

I should like to add a word to the recent pro and con discussion in LAND AND FREEDOM regarding organization, in which I took the affirmative side. As is often the case, when we accentuate differences, we lose sight of major points of agreement, and I am sure that Mr. Frank Chodorov and myself are far more in accord than may be apparent.

By organization Mr. Chodorov means a group united for one of two purposes: to quote his words, "to enjoy one another's company because of this common interest, or to impose on others their common interest by the strength of numbers." If such are to be the objects of an organization, let's have none of it, and I agree with him as to the futility of any such plan. But are these the purposes at which we should aim, or are they the purposes of oganizations somewhat comparable to those we already have?

If Mr. Chodorov will read the objectives which I roughly outlined, he will, I think, be largely in agreement with me. There are countless organizations which, in a way, parallel the goal at which we should aim, all devoid of the objectives to which Mr. Chodorov rightly objects. Consider many of the professional associations of physicians, lawyers, architects, nurses, educators and the like, or more commercially-minded groups like Chambers of Commerce, trade associations and kindred organizations. Or study innumerable organizations working for mere correlation, avoidance of over-lapping and general efficiency including the great problem of financing charity organization societies, community bests and the like. True, they sometimes do have good times together and sometimes they unwisely yield to the temptation to indulge in ill-judged political action, but all this is apart from their major purposes, and indeed organization might be very useful to us in holding in check some untimely and half-baked political campaigns.

As for some lighter activities, there can be little ejection, if not overdone; need we always go about all our serious purposes devoid of all sense of comradeship or of pure fun? Even the Henry George School has its occasional dinners and jollifications and what harm do they do, as long as they are mere sideshows while serious business goes on uninterrupted in the big tent. Perhaps sometimes, if practised with moderation, as should be all amusements, the greater purpose is even furthered by such affairs as long as they remain wholly incidental.

In the same issue of LAND AND FREEDOM which carried the recent discussion, I note that many recognize the imperative need of association. Almost uniformly, these writers see, as does Mr. Chodorov, that the imperative need is education, although they may not always interpret that word in a way confined only to formal study in the class-room. Mr. Chodorov wisely states the educational objective of the School, devoted to and chartered for that specific purpose, but why limit the stimulation of the countless avenues of service, which he mentions, to work for and under the School? "An educational institution must be devoid of any political effort" and in that I would agree; I would even go further, for I am not at all sure that "to bombard editors with letters" is a proper function of a School, although training in such procedure is entirely proper. The graduates as well as many others must be encouraged to engage in many lines of work, which are almost wholly educational in the broadest sense but which nevertheless do not fall directly within the province of a chartered school.

Perhaps the greatest objectives of such an enterprise as I urge, should be correlation and financing. It should aid and encourage many activities, again generally educational, outside of the province of the class-room, and it should be the great central organ for financing our work as a whole but without the slightest interference with operations conducted by groups of a specialized or local nature. That many opportunities are lost for securing considerable sums for the promotion of our great task*is a matter of positive knowledge, and the explanation lies in the simple fact that we have no strong and stable association which represents the rank and file of Georgeists and is not limited, either positively or by policy and custom, to a specific activity.

Certainly, multiplicity of national organizations is not to be desired. Should any spirit of enterprise or cooperation be evinced, there are two existing bodies which might well be developed to fill a larger field the Robert Schalkenbach and the Henry George Foundations. Both have weaknesses which must be eliminated before either can take the place which it might assume. The Schalkenbach Foundation has no broad membership but is only a well administered trusteeship for handling certain funds. It is made up of busy men who can afford but little time for its affairs and it commands no general support from Georgeists. The Henry George Foundation, to put it bluntly, does little but promote an annual conference and hold title to George's birth-place. If either or both of these organizations would undergo a renaissance and attract real support from the many Georgeists, today so often dormant, there would be limitless possibilities ahead. Of the two, the Schalkenbach is the most hopeful and my suggestion is that some policy be developed for building up a membership call them members, associates, friends or what you will to which could be delegated some measure of responsibility for aiding its work, broadening its field and for raising funds. Every effort should be made to avoid its domination by cranks and extremists or by those within our ranks who are intolerant of every endeavor not in line with their single-track minds.

The functions of these members or associates might be only advisory and contributory but it would seem that there could be no objection to their representation on the board, for one may question whether a close corporation device, with a self-perpetuating board, is the best when a large and general support is sought. With energy and wisdom, and particularly with tact and tolerance, a strong organization could in time be developed, strengthening the Schalkenbach Foundation, enabling it to expand and develop.

The new association would be but little different from the foundations of today except in stability, vigor, more general appeal and in the possibility which it would offer to secure better co-operation and more adequate financing for our great task. What possible objection can there be to such a program?