United states history


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The worst of the crisis of the Great Depression had passed by the end of Roosevelt's first term. His second term was then devoted to developing permanent reforms that would prevent future depressions. In this excerpt from his Second Inaugural Address on January 20, 1937, Roosevelt discusses the remaining challenges facing the nation.
I see a great nation, upon a great continent, blessed with a great wealth of natural resources... I see a United States which can demonstrate that, under democratic methods of government, national wealth can be translated into a spreading volume of human comforts heretofore unknown, and the lowest standard of living can be raised far above the level of mere subsistence.

But here is the challenge to our democracy: In this nation I see tens of millions of its citizens  a substantial part of its whole population  who at this very moment are denied the greater part of what the lowest standards of today call the necessities of life.

I see millions of families trying to live on incomes so meager that the pall of family disaster hangs over them day by day.

I see millions whose daily lives in city and on farm continue under conditions labeled indecent by a so called polite society half a century ago.

I see millions denied education, recreation, and the opportunity to better their lot and the lot of their children.

I see millions lacking the means to buy the products of farm and factory and by their poverty denying work and productiveness to many other millions.

I see one third of a nation ill housed, ill clad, ill nourished.
Source: Richard Current, American History: A Survey, (New York: Knopf, 1961), p. 747.

The New Deal program of Franklin Roosevelt dramatically increased government involvement in a wide range of economic and social activity. That heightened involvement prompted a debate, which continues to this day, concerning the aims of the New Deal and its impact on the citizens and institutions of the United States. I have reprinted below two views of the New Deal.
Organized enterprise is obtaining an increasingly large proportion not only of national income, but of all savings and of all wealth... Within the corporate structure itself the concentration is progressing...

This amazing concentration of the corporate ownership of wealth has been accompanied by a similar concentration of dividend distribution. The great and powerful business organizations which dominate the economic scene are owned by a numerically insignificant proportion of the total population... Less than 1% of all American corporate stockholders are the beneficiaries of one half of all the dividends paid in this country...

As the concentration proceeds, the flow turns away from organized business to government... The inevitable and inescapable result of continued concentration in big business is the final triumph of big government...

If we are agreed...that we want to preserve free enterprise...it must be perfectly clear that any remedy that does not stop the steady progress of concentration will be utterly futile and will end only in an all powerful government...

The only remedy to save a democratic economy is to be found in making the economy democratic.
From the Final Report... of the Temporary National Economic Committee, 1941.

The New Deal is nothing more or less than an effort sponsored by inexperienced sentimentalists and demagogues to take away from the thrifty what the thrifty or their ancestors have accumulated, or may accumulate, and to give it to others who have not earned it...and who never would have earned it and never will earn it, and thus indirectly to destroy the incentive for all future accumulation. Such a purpose is in defiance of everything that history teaches and of the tenets upon which our civilization has been founded.

Nothing could threaten the race as seriously as this [the New Deal]. It is begging the unfit to be more unfit. Even such a measure as old age insurance...removes one of the points of pressure which has kept many persons up to the strife and struggle of life.
Quoted in George Wolfskill, The Revolt of the Conservatives, 1962.
Source: John M. Blum, The National Experience: A History of the United States (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1989), p. 629, 633.

The following vignette describes the violent confrontation between Chicago police and striking steelworkers at Republic Steel in 1937.
Republic Steel stood abrupt out of the flat prairie. Snakelike, the line of pickets crossed the meadowland, singing at first: Solidarity for­ever! The union makes us strong, but then the song died, as the sun-drenched plain turned ominous, as five hundred blue-coated policemen took up stations between the strikers and the plant. The strikers' march slowed, but they came on. The police ranks closed and tightened. It brought to mind how other Americans had faced the uniformed force of so-called law and order so long ago on Lexington Green in 1775; but whereas then the redcoat leader had said, "Disperse, you rebel bastards!" to armed minutemen, now it was to unarmed men and women and children that a police captain said, "You dirty sons of bitches, this is as far as you go!"

Once there was an illusion somewhere that the police were gentle souls who helped lost children, but a striker put it afterwards: "A cop is a cop, that's all. He's got no soul and no heart for a guy who works for a living. They learned us good.

About two hundred and fifty yards from the plant, the police closed in on the strikers. Billies and clubs were out already, prodding, strik­ing, nightsticks edging into women's breasts and groins. But the cops were also somewhat afraid, and they began to jerk guns out of holsters.

"Stand fast! Stand fast!" the line leaders cried. "We got our rights! We got our legal rights to picket!"

The cops said, "You got no rights. You red bastards, you got no rights."

Even if a modern man's a steelworker, with muscles as close to iron bands as human flesh gets, a pistol equalizes him with a fat-bellied weakling... Grenades began to sail now; tear gas settled like an ugly cloud. Children suddenly cried with panic, and the whole picket line gave back, men stumbling, cursing, gasping for breath. Here and there a cop tore out his pistol and began to fire; it was pop, pop, pop at first, like toy favors at some horrible party, and then, as the strikers broke under the gunfire and began to run, the con­tagion of killing ran like fire through the police.

They began to shoot in volleys at these unarmed men and women and children who could not strike back or fight back. The cops squealed with excitement. They ran after fleeing pickets, pressed revolvers to their backs, shot them down, and then continued to shoot as the victims lay on their faces, retching blood. When a woman tripped and fell, four cops gathered above her, smashing her flesh and bones and face.

And so it went, on and on, until seven were dead and more than a hundred wounded.

Source: Howard Fast, "An Occurrence At Republic Steel (1937)" reprinted in Isabel Leighton, ed., The Aspirin Age, 1919-1941 (New York, 1949), pp. 386-387.

In contrast to other Asian Americans who looked to entrepreneurship for economic development, many Filipino Americans believed that working-class organizations such as unions would provide economic security. One of the most effective of these unions was the Cannery Workers and Farm Laborers Union (CWFLU), Local 18257, a predominately Filipino Union organized in Seattle in 1933. A brief account of the union appears below.
Not until the winter of 1932 did efforts at unionization among Filipino salmon-cannery hands in the Pacific Northwest begin. Pence Torres recalled that only "a few people (met) to plan something to improve ourselves." They congregated in secret for fear of reprisals by contractors and canners. Torres explained that they could not "possibly get many people at one time...We have to do it between school days." Planning around school schedules indicated the central role played by students in the effort. More than Filipinos, students felt the constraints on their expectations for social mobility during the depression, which explains their interest in changing the labor recruitment and management practices in the industry. Nonetheless, this early cabal barely included a dozen members.

The small group of planners concluded that "the only solution to the problem is to be organized," and in June 1933 they held a special public meeting of the Filipino Laborers' Association to discuss affiliation with the American federation of Labor (AFL). The "big crowd" of seven Filipino union officers and nineteen others listed to C.W. Doyle of Seattle's Central Labor Council, carefully discussed the issue, and voted in favor of affiliation. On June 19, 1933, the Filipinos entered the AFL as the Cannery Workers and Farm Laborers Union (CWFLU), Local 18257. Although the reasons for AFL endorsement of the local are unclear, CAWIU successes in organizing California field laborers may have jolted the AFL into action to head off what it perceived as a communist-led insurgency.

The newly affiliated local stressed goals that revealed the barriers to be overcome if the workers were to improve their condition. The union pledged to foster the attainment of higher skills and efficiency among its members. Although unions invariably used such language, Filipinos did need to cultivate their canning expertise in order to make possible their movement into the specialized tasks monopolized by Chinese and Japanese. The local also proposed shorter working hours, which would either bring greater overtime pay in rush periods or force the hiring of larger crews and thus provide more jobs for unemployed Filipinos.

To achieve its goals, the local also had to unite a divided Filipino community. This proved no easy task. In Seattle, for example, most Filipino immigrants were Ilocanos, but the community also had Tagalogs, Pangasinans, and Visayans--each group with its own dialect--as well as other ethnic associations. In 1923 Tagalogs in Seattle had founded a branch of the Caballeros Dimas Alang (its title originating from revolutionary Jose Rizal's pen name). In that political, nationalistic, and self-help organization, members conducted rituals and secret meetings in Tagalog to the exclusion of other groups. Not every Filipino association was based on ethnicity, however. In the late 1920s, students at the University of Washington had formed a Filipino Club that fostered their academic pursuits, helped with their social lives, and provided economic assistance. Contractors helped raised money to run the club, and they used that connection as an avenue to a labor supply. Small-group activity was symptomatic of the factions among Filipino immigrants. The manner in which Filipinos entered and worked in the industry further heightened their reliance on such groups.

Before the depression, the use of family, friendship, and ethnic networks to gain employment had its advantages for Filipinos, who faced a Chinese and Japanese oligarchy over labor recruitment and management in the industry. That strategy also helped at the plants where Filipinos worked in the small groups characteristic of their immigration. Sylvestre A. Tangalan explained that at the cannery where he worked: "We were happy, mostly Bauanganians," fellow villagers from La Union. Segregation at the cannery reinforced, rather than destroyed, Filipino ethnic and immigrant ties...

To compete with the contractors and aspirant agents even more successfully, the CWFLU adopted a series of social welfare programs for members. It gave $50 to a Filipino-owned cafe in exchange for the restaurateur's providing meals to "indigent active members." The local also loaned money to members. In 1935, for example, it approved a $50 loan to a Filipino who a year earlier had supported the local's efforts in a farm workers' strike near Seattle. Such actions helped members avoid indebtedness to contractors and encouraged nonunion Filipinos to think seriously about joining. Allocation of the local's financial resources, for any purpose other than supporting cannery organization, however, led to charges of favoritism and misuse of union funds. In spite of the charges, the local's efforts to provide meals and money for some of its members reveal that some money was returned to the rank and file.

As the union's membership grew to several hundred in the first few years, it created its own job ladder, separate from that of the existing hierarchy of cannery tasks. At first, titles were awarded as recognition of service to the union and carried status only. Financial stability soon allowed the local to pay its officers for their contributions. The salaries for 1935 reveal the significance of income from a union position relative to the average cannery worker's $25-$50 a month during the canning season. The CWFLU monthly salary scale for officers was: president, $80; vice-president, $40; secretary, $60; treasurer, $40; trustees, $40; guard, $20; guide, $20. Their salaries also touched off resentment, especially when they voted raises for themselves.

The local also became politically active in an attempt to achieve recognition as the voice of the Filipino community. Its appearance at the NRA code hearings marked it as an early advocate for the Filipino community. Elsewhere, the local's records indicate no activity concerning the Tydings-McDuffie Act (1934), which proposed eventual independence for the Philippines but also convinced stringent immigration restrictions. The CWFLU did get involved in at least two other legislative actions at he state level. In 1935 the local sent a three-person delegation to Olympia to fight against antimiscegenation bills in the Washington state legislature. Also, in 1937, the local protested a Washington state bill that would prevent Filipino immigrants from owning or leasing lands because of their newly acquired "alien" status under the Tydings-McDuffie Act. Such highly visible political lobbying enhanced the local's status in the Filipino community. Among contractors, only Pio De Cano took up broader community concerns, challenging in state courts the application of anti-alien land laws to Filipino immigrants between 1937 and 1941.

The local also cultivated community support through its public relations efforts. It gave to the Philippine American Chronicle a 4 percent interest loan as well as gifts of cash. In return, the CWFLU asked for a regular labor column in the paper. Thereafter, the Chronicle became for all practical purposes the local’s official organ. This was no great concession for the paper because two officials of the local, Virgil Dunyungan and Cornelio Mislang, were the publishers. While the local's involvement with the Chronicle gave it a wider voice within the community, it also fostered deeper divisions because the other major newspaper, the Philippine Advocate, lined up against the local and the Chronicle and was backed by Ayamo's Filipino Protective Labor Association...
Source: Chris Friday, Organizing Asian American Labor--The Pacific Coast Canned-Salmon Industry, 1870-1942, (Philadelphia 1994), pp. 136-137, 144-145.

Hitler in Mein Kampf, lays forth his ideas on terror and about a `Master Race.' Those ideas would take tragic form for Germans, for Europeans, for the rest of the world nearly twenty years later.
I achieved an...understanding of the importance of physical terror toward the individual and the masses. Here, too, the psychological effect can be calculated with precision. Terror at the place of employment, in the factory, in the meeting hall, and on the occasion of mass demonstrations will always be successful unless opposed by equal terror.

The impression made by such a success on the minds of the great masses of supporters as well as opponents can only be measured by those who know the soul of a people, not from books, but from life. For while in the ranks of their supporters the victory achieved seems a triumph of the justice of their own cause, the defeated adversary in most cases despairs of the success of any further resistance.

The more familiar I became, principally with the methods of physical terror, the more indulgent I grew toward all the hundreds of thousands who succumbed to it.
Human culture and civilization on this continent are inseparably bound up with the presence of the Aryan. If he dies out or declines, the dark veils of an age without culture will again descend on this globe.

The undermining of the existence of human culture by the destruction of its bearer seems in the eyes of a folkish philosophy the most execrable crime. Anyone who dares to lay hands on the highest image of the Lord commits sacrilege against the benevolent creator of this miracle and contributes to the expulsion from paradise.

We all sense that in the distant future humanity must be faced by problems which only a highest race, become master people and supported by the means and possibilities of an entire globe, will be equipped to overcome.
Source:  Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, (Boston, 1971), pp. 44, 383-384.

Adolf Hitler's racial attitudes reflected longstanding European prejudices but they also helped determine the specially horrendous character of the Nazi state. In Mein Kampf he describes his evolving anti-Semitism.
Today it is difficult, if not impossible, for me to say when the word `Jew' first gave me ground for special thoughts... Not until my fourteenth year did I begin to come across the word `Jew,' with any frequency, partly in connection with political discussions... There were few Jews in Linz. In the course of the centuries their outward appearance had become Europeanized and had taken on a human look; in fact, I even took them for Germans.

Then I came to Vienna... Once, as I was strolling through the Inner City, I suddenly encountered an apparition in a black caftan and black hair locks. Is this a Jew?, was my first thought... Is this a German?

Wherever I went, I began to see Jews, and the more I saw, the more sharply they became distinguished in my eyes from the rest of humanity. Particularly the Inner City and the districts north of the Danube Canal swarmed with a people which even outwardly had lost all resemblance to Germans.

In a short time I was made more thoughtful than ever by my slowly rising insight into the type of activity carried on by the Jews in certain fields. Was there any form of filth or profligacy, particularly in cultural life, without at least one Jew involved in it?

The fact that nine tenths of all literary filth, artistic trash, and theatrical idiocy can be set to the account of a people, constituting hardly one hundredth of all the country's inhabitants, could simply not be talked away; it was the plain truth.

When I recognized the Jew as the leader of the Social Democracy, the scales dropped from my eyes. A long soul struggle had reached its conclusion... I gradually became aware that the Social Democratic press was directed predominately by Jews; yet I did not attribute any special significance to this circumstance, since conditions were exactly the same in the other papers. Yet one fact seem conspicuous: there was not one paper with Jews working on it which could have been regarded as truly national, according to my education and way of thinking. From the publisher down, they were all Jews.

I took all the Social Democratic pamphlets I could lay hands on and sought the names of their authors: Jews. I noted the names of the leaders; by far the greatest part were likewise members of the `chosen people,' whether they were representatives in the Reichsrat or trade-union secretaries, the heads of organizations or street agitators....One thing had grown clear to me: the party with whose petty representatives I had been carrying on the most violent struggle for months was, as to leadership, almost exclusively in the hands of a foreign people; for, to my deep and joyful satisfaction, I had at last come to the conclusion that the Jew was no German.
Source:  Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, (Boston, 1971), pp. 51-61.

William L. Shirer, an American correspondent assigned to cover Germany and central Europe for CBS News during the 1930s, has provided a revealing glimpse of life in Germany under the Nazi Party. Here are excerpts of his Berlin Diary.
Paris, June 30, 1934

Berlin was cut off for several hours today, but late this afternoon telephone communication was reestablished. And what a story! Hitler and Goring have purged the S.A., shooting many of its leaders. Rohm, arrested by Hitler himself, was allowed to commit suicide in a Munich jail... The French are pleased. They think this is the beginning of the end for the Nazis.

Paris, August 3

Hitler did what no one expected. He made himself both President and Chancellor.... Hitler had the army swear an oath of unconditional obedience to him personally.

Nuremburg, September 4

Like a Roman emperor Hitler rode into this medieval town at sundown today past solid phalanxes of wildly cheering Nazis... Tens of thousands of Swastika flags blot out the Gothic beauties of the place... The streets are a sea of brown and black uniforms.

Nuremburg, September 5

I'm beginning to comprehend some of the reasons for Hitler's astounding success. Borrowing a chapter from the Roman church, he is restoring pageantry and color to the drab lives of 20th Century Germans. This morning's opening meeting in the Luitpold Hall was more than a gorgeous show; it also had something of the mysticism of an Easter Mass in a great Gothic cathedral. Even Hitler's arrival was made dramatic. The band stopped playing. There was a hush over the 30,000 people packed in the hall. Hitler appeared in the back of the auditorium and followed by his aides, he strode slowly down the long center aisle while thirty thousand hands were raised in salute.

Nuremburg, September 6

Hitler sprang his Arbeitsdienst, his Labor Service Corps, on the public for the first time today and it turned out to be a highly trained, semi-military group of fanatical Nazi youths. Standing there in the early morning sunlight, fifty thousand of them, with the first thousand bared above the waist, suddenly made the German spectators go mad with joy when without warning, they broke into perfect goose-step. The boys formed an immense chanting chorus─and with one voice intoned─"We want one Leader! Nothing for us! Everything for Germany! Heil Hitler!

Bad Saarow, April 21, 1935

The hotel mainly filled with Jews and we are a little surprised to see so many of them still prospering and apparently unafraid. I think they are unduly optimistic.

Berlin, April 20, 1937

Hitler's birthday. He gets more and more like a Caesar. Today a public holiday with sickening adulation from all the party hacks, delegations from all over the Reich bearing gifts, and a great military parade. The Army revealed a little of what it has: heavy artillery, tanks, and magnificently trained men. Hitler stood on the reviewing stand as happy as a child with tin soldiers, saluting every tank and gun. The military attaches of France, Britain, and Russia, I hear, were impressed. So were ours.

Berlin, June 15

Five more Protestant pastors arrested yesterday. Hardly keep up with the church war any more since they arrested my informant, a young pastor; have no wish to endanger the life of another one.

Berlin, September 27

The strain on the life of the [German] people and on the economic structure of the state is tremendous. Both may well crack. But the youth, led by the S.S., is fanatic. So are the middle class "old fighters" who brawled in the streets for Hitler in the early days and now have been awarded with good jobs, authority, power, money. The bankers and industrialists, not so enthusiastic now as when I arrived in Germany, go along. They must, It is either that or the concentration camp.

I leave Germany in this autumn of 1937 with the words of a Nazi marching song in my ears:

Today we own Germany

Tomorrow the whole world
Vienna, March 22, 1938

On the streets today gangs of Jews, with jeering storm troopers standing over them and taunting crowds around them, on their hands and knees scrubbing the Schuschnigg [former Austrian Prime Minister] signs offs the sidewalks. Many Jews killing themselves. Jewish men and women made to clean latrines. Hundreds of them just picked at random off the streets to clean the toilets of the Nazi boys. The wife of a diplomat, a Jewess, told me today she dared not leave her home for fear of being picked up and put to "scrubbing things."

Rome, May 3

The town full of [detectives]─fifty thousand of them, they say, German and Italian, to protect the two great men [Hitler and Mussolini]. All the foreign Jews here have been jailed or banished for the duration of the visit. The Italians hardly hide their hostility to the Germans. They watch them walk by, and then spit contemptuously.


Source:  William L. Shirer, Berlin Diary, (New York, 1941), pp. 11-192.

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