Gareth Jones

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The Manchester Guardian, January 24th 1935


The “New Deal”   


Supporting Masses  

[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.

The 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.

The 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.

Mistrust 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.


The 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.

The 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 elections.

The 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:

If I had a billion dollars,

I  know just what I would do,

I’d buy a great big printing press

And print another one or two.  


Uncertainty 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.


Thus by the time the traveller has reached the Pacific coast he is sadly disillusioned about the amount of popular support behind President Roosevelt.

Then 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.

The 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.

He 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.

But 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.








Dollar,  Yo-Yo.


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