MILAN VIDMAR BETWEEN EUROPE AND AMERICA
The article presents the book by Milan Vidmar, a longtime professor of electrotechnology at the Ljubljana University and greatest Slovene chess player, in which the author describes hid impressions from the two journeys to the United States of America. In 1927, Vidmar travelled to the USA for the first time and for the second time in 1936. Accordingly, his first staying in the USA was in the time of economic prosperity, and the second was after the big economic crisis, which to his opinion revealed the fragility of the capitalist system and liberal economic policy. Vidmar, as he wrote in the USA, missed after the first journey the “soul” European cities supposedly had and American did not. In that view, the USA were marked by poor history, borrowed English language and the population that were supposedly not a “nation” but a collective of “national minorities”. At the same time, the united States were not to have had their authentic culture, which was a result of the fact that the American population were mainly immigrants. The only genuine natives were by Vidmar the American Black people.
Americans were in Vidmar’s eyes not a nation but a human army literally struggling for survival. The American comprehension of “freedom” and “democracy”, which were supposedly only fictitious for as American voters could decide about “the fate of the homeland” only every fourth year at elections with “yes” or “no”, was to him, although liberal by principle, unfamiliar. At the same time, Vidmar resolutely rejected American capitalism and liberal individualism, which were undoubtedly revealing that the USA were a battlefield. He compared “economic freedom” with the universe that was supposedly as well composed of “fragments”, which “do not care about one another”.
Human economy – as the 1929 crisis indicated – must not be left to “coincidence and chaotic dance of fragments”, for it needs order and planning. Consequently, Vidmar advocated for an economic policy based in science and reason, and for an active social policy of the state. In the USA, he was repulsed by the “obsession with money (dollar)” and consumption, and as well by “unwise exploitation of nature”. He greeted with sympathy the reform endeavours of the president of the USA Franklin Delano Roosevelt who was to Vidmar “the representative of collective benefit of all citizens”.
The author of the article finds that Vidmar’s bok should be understood in the context of circumstances in the 30s of the 20th century when after the great economic crisis it seemed the liberal economic policy experienced a complete failure. The author is of opinion that Vidmar was with his referring to “nation”, “history”, “language”, “culture”, “land” and “tradition” a typical representative of the Slovene liberal intelligentsia, and that reserved and critical views upon the USA have – as Vidmar’s book demonstrates – a longer history than generally perceived.