The American Review - 1930s


The American Review was founded by the conservative publisher Seward Collins in 1933 as the successor to his periodical The Bookman. In a period during which Jewish and Eastern European communist and socialist writers, journalists, and philosophers were gaining increasing predominance in publishing centers in New York City, Collins intended it to serve as a vehicle for promoting traditional maintstream American literary veins. Later the American Review began exploring new ideas such as distributism and subsidiarity. Jewish leftist circles reacted voicerferiously against the review associating its policies of localism, agrarianism, and nationalism, as reactionary ideas promoting an American version of fascism. After frequent clashes in the press and inexorable isolation from the city's increasingly Jewish-influenced financial and political establishment, the American Review ceased publication in 1937. However, during its period, Collins published many notable literary and social critics, including T. S. Eliot, G. K. Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc, and many of the Southern Agrarians. Among the latter, Allen Tate made many appearances in the pages of The American Review.

The 1930s period in America was one in which various competing political philosophies ranging from socialism to capitalism and corporatism to distributism made inroads into the national psyche. Previously, because much of philosophical modern language arose from Papal encyclicals, many supporters of distributism were seen as monarchists who favored a strong role for the church—usually Anglo-Catholic or Roman Catholic and a return to a hierarchical society modeled on that of the Middle Ages. Furthermore, most of the dominant North-Eastern Establishment viewed those parts of distributionism which arose from American tradition as sometimes of a reactionary nature harking to an intemperate recollection of ante-bellum and Southern American values. However, the populism, agrarianism, and elements of the urban progressivism of the late 19th century combined with aspects of the Arts and Crafts Movement and Craft Unionism of the American Federation of Labor in providing a fertile ground for traditional American movement still reeling from the growing industrialization and corporate centralization of the West which was seen as a grave threat to the existence of a republican and ethical state. Consequently, the periodical served for its brief period as a highly successful national platform for English Distributism, which advocated broad property ownership, local means of production, and subsistence farming.

Although ethnic classes closely associated with Socialism and Communism served as the primary public opponents of distributionists and periodicals like the American Review, it was larger socio-economic and geopolitical changes which proved decisive in pushing the movement and literary works such as the American review to the side. Roosevelt's New Deal policy and subsequent battles in court over the policy's control of the economy and at last compromise with national corporate leaders squeezed out and finally marginalized the other groups. Although the policy of distributionism and local freedom ran counter to the later dictatorship of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, the early years of both leaders appeared favorable toward ending centralized capitalism on the one hand and international communism on the other. Thus, in the inaugural issue of The American Review, Collins praised Benito Mussolini for creating an ethical state which protected workers and small businesses and also wrote favorably of the election of Adolf Hitler to Chancellor of Germany whose new program, Collins believed, heralded the end of the Communist threat. Although, Collins's turned from these positive reviews of the growing fascist regimes and became disenchanted with the growing politization and eventual abandonment of distributism by both governments, critics on the left continued to falsely portray The American Review as a fascist organ throughout its literary lifespan for the earlier remarks.

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