Manchester Guardian, January 24th 1935
UNITED STATES UNDER ROOSEVELT
[In an article in
yesterday’s issue Mr. Gareth Jones described the growing centralisation of
governmental power in the United States.]
By Gareth Jones.
Los Angeles, JANUARY.
judgment of President Roosevelt expressed in the views of most business men and
members of the bourgeoisie whom the traveller encounters on a journey across the
United States comes as a surprise to those who have believed that the President
commanded the support of the vast majority of his fellow-countrymen. It is
none the less true that a more formidable opposition to the “New Deal”
exists in all parts of the country than is realised.
personality of the President is the first target of those conservatives whom one
usually meets in the clubs and dining-cars across the continent. He is
regarded as a will-o’-the-wisp, who flits lightly from one fundamental
decision to another which is its complete contradiction, who attempts policies
which clash violently in their results, and who can be all things to all men,
concealing behind a charm of countenance the wiles of a wizard.
of the President, which is far more widespread than his over-whelming victory at
the elections of November 6 would indicate, is based upon the old American fear
of governmental interference in business, arising out of the belief that
politics is synonymous with graft and that the United States has no Civil
Service honest enough to deal capably with the problems and responsibilities
which increasing Government control of industry is bringing into American life.
The much-abused and overused phrase “rugged individualism” still has the
power of arousing the business man’s wrath against the “State Socialism”
which the President is accused of introducing and against the
“regimentation” which is a red rag to those still maintaining the
pioneer’s and the frontiersman’s tradition of independence. Brought up
in the belief that there must be a series of checks upon the power of the
President, lest the day come when the White House will abuse those powers and
become dictatorial, the old-fashioned American shakes his head at the rights of
action bestowed upon President Roosevelt.
RELIEF “CAMPAIGN CHEST”
American who clings to the slogans of the past and is unaffected by the wave of
liberalism which is so rapidly transforming the United States believes that the
President is not only wrecking the Constitution but that he is undermining the
national character. How almost humorously typical was the remark of the
Middle Westerner: “I believe in our old individualism. In the old days
the folk used to move out West without money, only with a wagon - and a wife and
children. A spade and a gun were almost everything the pioneer had.
Many of them were killed by Indians, but it strengthened the determination of
the rest. It is that spirit of America which is being destroyed by
Roosevelt.” And the Middle Western Babbitt, secure from Indians and
other dangers, will recline in his club chair and bewail amid a cloud of cigar
smoke the iniquity of the Government in its policy of robbing the population of
its independent mentality by large-scale Federal relief.
word “relief” arouses reactions in the American mind which are completely
foreign to the British tradition. It immediately brings to the American of
the old school the fear that it will be used - as no doubt it is being used -
as the most powerful trump card in the game of party politics. The direct
Federal expenditure of the Democrats and the promises of increasing financial
aid in relief work have been called “the greatest campaign chest in
history,” and Al Smith’s remark that no one is going to shoot Santa Claus
has been interpreted as a prophecy that the Democrats will continue the use of
large sums of Federal money as a tool to secure millions of votes in future
cost of relief is another cause of alarm to business men, and their fear of its
leading to higher taxation and inflation may be the main reason for their
antagonism to President Roosevelt and for their belief that until currency and
budgetary uncertainty is cleared away there can be no real recovery.
Bankers call the currency devaluation and the repudiation of the gold clause in
contracts a “great moral disaster,” and await with anxiety the decision of
the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the ‘resident’s reduction of
the gold content of the dollar. While few believe that inflation is
imminent, there are many who fear that a payment of the soldiers’ bonus, a
Federal deficit growing at a rate of over $4,500,000,000 (£900,000,000) per
annum, and any development along the lines of large-scale national planning will
place Senator Elmer Thomas, of Oklahoma, the inflationist, in a position to
carry out the policy of his song:
I had a billion dollars,
know just what I would do,
buy a great big printing press
print another one or two.
TRADE UNION “RACKET”
about the financial future is combined with uncertainty about the relations
between the Companies and the “labour unions”. How much more
reactionary the United States is in this respect than the so-called
‘conservative’ Britain! “No labour unionist shall stay in my
town”. Declared one manufacturer in a tone of possession which sounded like a
Lancashire mill owner speaking in the early nineteenth century. The spirit
in which the industrialists with whom I spoke referred to the trade unions and
to the collective bargaining indicates that the present hush on the labour
front is merely temporary and that the battle for power between owners and
unions is not yet ended, especially among the steel and automobile worker and
the longshoremen. Belief among the industrialist that the unions are
merely a form of racket is so deeply ingrained for the capitalistic elements to
accept without a struggle the claims of the unions for closed shop and against
the “yellowdog” contract by which workers signed the agreement with the
employer not to join the labour union. They now wait before taking action the
judgment upon the Houde decision of the National Labour Relations Board, in
which the Board upheld that “when a person, committee, or organisation has
been designated by the majority of employees in a plant or other appropriate
unit for collective bargaining, it is the right of the representative so
designated to be treated by the employer, as the exclusive collective bargaining
agency of all employees in the unit.” The judgment upon the Houde case
will be one of the most vital in American history.
FOR ALL THAT
by the time the traveller has reached the Pacific coast he is sadly
disillusioned about the amount of popular support behind President Roosevelt.
he begins to reflect, and slowly he realises that, while the business men are
reactionary and optical, there is among the mass of the, people a new faith and
a new confidence in the future, that the whole outlook is brighter than it was
in 1932, that in spite of conservative antagonism President Roosevelt has
achieved in less than two years the task of saving the banks, of abolishing
child labour and the sweat shops, of giving to the workers the right to
organise which they have had for many years in Great Britain, of saving many
hundred thousands of farmers from foreclosure, of creasing the price of farm
produces, and of introducing a new philosophy of security through social
insurance for the worker which was conspicuously absent from the nomadic,
unsettled United States of pre-Roosevelt day.
traveller recalls that there has bee a steady improvement in business and in
production since October, and that there is a prospect of further improvement.
He remembers that there has been a reconciliation between the President and big
business and banking which has been called the ‘New Realism,” and which may
lead to a return of confidence.
is, however, confronted with grave doubt when he reads in the President’s
Message to Congress the prospects of future spending of huge sums, and learns
that a deficit of $4,528,50S,970 (over £900,000,000) is expected in the fiscal
year July 1, 1935, to June 30, 1936, over and above the deficit of
$4,869,418,338 forecast for the year ending June 30, 1935.
summing up his impressions, he feels that up to January, 1935, in spite of
severe criticism throughout the country, the United States has made under
President Roosevelt considerable progress in the welfare of its citizens.