Thursday, April 9, 2009
I grew up in an experiment in socialism, created by Eleanor Roosevelt and run by the government of the United States of America. It was called Greenbelt, Maryland, and it incorporated many of the advanced ideas of the time, around 1935, as to what the ideal living environment should be. Many of those ideas were what would be called “socialist” today.
Although the residents did not “own the means of production”, they did “own” all of the retail stores in the town, and each year they received a percentage of the profits in proportion to their expenditures in those stores.
This town and its amenities were built from scratch in abandoned farmland 7 miles from the northeast Washington, D.C. border. I started to write a book some 15 years ago about my experiences there. I researched old documents in the Tugwell Room of the Greenbelt library to get a feel for what was going on at the time. It was interesting to read Eleanor Roosevelt’s impassioned speeches before Congress which got this experiment started.
As I recall, Congress got tired of the experiment in the early ‘50s, and sold the town. Some bought the homes they were living in but my parents chose to move out to neighboring Hyattsville, Md. I was 16 at the time.
This post is inspired by a film I just discovered, entitled “The City”, by Ralph Steiner and Willard Van Dyke. It’s a propaganda piece by the Government about Greenbelt, but the part I’ve clipped out for your viewing enjoyment was shot in my neighborhood, and the shots of kids riding their bikes could have been a home movie of me and my friends, just a few years later.
Someday maybe I’ll finish that book. I’ve always wondered what the results of the experiment were. Maybe I’m it.
(Ed. Note: The narration of this clip is filled with falsehoods. I’m not sure why they felt it necessary to invent stories when the reality was itself very good.)
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