Presentation on theme: "IGCSE: The USA, 1919-41 (Depth Study) How successful was the New Deal?"— Presentation transcript:
IGCSE: The USA, 1919-41 (Depth Study) How successful was the New Deal?
Rebellion The US was in a state of rebellion when FDR took office. Desperate people were not waiting for the government to help them; they were helping themselves, acting directly. Aunt Molly Jackson walked into a local store, asked for a 24-pound sack of flour, gave it to her little boy to take outside, then filled a sack of sugar and said to the storekeeper, “Well, I’ll see you in ninety days. I have to feed some children. I’ll pay you, don’t worry.” When the storekeeper objected, she pulled out a pistol and said: “Martin, if you try to take this grub away from me, God knows that if they electrocute me for it tomorrow, I’ll shoot you six times in a minute.” Then, she walked out of the store and went home. Her seven children were so hungry that they could not wait for her to bake the dough. They ate the raw dough off of their mother’s fingers. Aunt Molly Jackson
Aunt Molly Jackson’s “Ragged Hungry Blues” All the women in the coal camps are sitting with bowed down heads, Ragged and barefooted, and the children crying for bread. No food, no clothes for our children. I’m sure this head don’t lie. If we can’t get more for our labor, we’ll starve to death and die! Don’t go under the mountains with a slate a-hangin’ o’er your head And work for just coal oil and carbide and your children crying for bread. This mining town I live in is a sad and lonely place Where pity and starvation is pictured on every face! Some coal operators might tell you the hungry blues are not there. They’re the worst kind of blues this poor woman ever had. Coal Miner’s Family (Pursglove, West Virginia, 1938)
Nate Shaw was arrested in 1932 and served twelve years in an Alabama prison for shooting a deputy who was attempting to dispossess a Black farmer. Nate Shaw: “And durin of the pressure years, a union begin to operate in this country, called it the Sharecroppers Union—that was a nice name, I thought…and I knowed what was goin on was a turnabout on the southern man, white and colored; it was something unusual. And I heard about it bein a organization for the poor class of people—that’s just what I wanted to get into, too, I wanted to know the secrets of it enough that I could become in the knowledge of it…. Mac Sloane, white man, said ‘You stay out of it. These niggers running around here carryin on some kind of meetin—you better stay out of it.’ I said to myself, ‘You a fool if you think you can keep me from joinin.’ I went right on and joined it, just as quick as the next meetin come…. And he done just the thing to push me into it— gived me orders not to join. Nate Shaw with Wife, Viola, and Son, Andrew (1907)
The teachers of this organization begin to drive through this country— they couldn’t let what they was doin be known. One of em was a colored fella; I disremember his name but he did a whole lot of time, holding meetins with us—that was part of this job…. Had the meetins at our houses or anywhere we could keep a look and a watch-out that nobody was comin in on us. Small meetins, sometimes there’d be a dozen…niggers was scared, niggers was scared, that’s tellin the truth…. O, it’s plain as your hand. The poor white man and the poor Black man is sitting in the same saddle today—big dudes done branched em off that way. The control of a man, the controllin power, is in the hands of the rich man…. That class is standin together and the poor white man is out there on the colored list—I’ve caught that: ways and actions a heap of times speaks louder than words….” Southern Tenant Farmers Union Meeting (Louise Boyle, 1937)
Hosea Hudson was a plowhand in Georgia and an iron worker in Alabama radicalized by the case of the Scottsboro Boys (nine Black youths accused of raping two white girls and convicted on flimsy evidence by all-white juries). In 1931, Hudson joined the Communist Party and began organizing unemployed Blacks. Hosea Hudson: “Deep in the winter of 1932 we Party members organized a unemployed mass meeting to be held on the old courthouse steps, on 3rd Avenue, North Birmingham…. It was about 7,000 or more people turned out...Negroes and whites…. In 1932 and ‘33 we began to organize these unemployed block committees in the various communities of Birmingham…. If someone get out of food…. We wouldn’t go around and just say, ‘That’s too bad.’ We make it our business to go see this person…. And if the person was willing…we’d work with them…. Hosea Hudson
Block committees would meet every week, had a regular meeting. We talked about the welfare question, what was happening, we read the Daily Worker and the Southern Worker to see what was going on about unemployed relief, what people doing in Cleveland…struggles in Chicago…or we talk about the latest developments in the Scottsboro case. We kept up, we was on top, so people always wanted to come cause we had something different to tell them every time.” James W. Ford, the First African-American on a Presidential Ticket (1932) The Scottsboro Boys (1931)
Workers Alliance All over the country, people organized spontaneously to stop evictions. In New York, in Chicago, in other cities—when word spread that someone was being evicted, a crowd would gather; the police would remove the furniture from the house, put it out in the street, and the crowd would bring the furniture back. The Communist party was active in organizing Workers Alliance groups in the cities. Mrs. Willye Jeffries: “A lot of ‘em was put out. They’d call and have the bailiffs come and sit them out, and as soon as they’d leave, we would put ‘em back where they came out. All we had to do was call Brother Hilton…. Look, such and such a place, there’s a family sittin’ out there. Everybody passed through the neighbor- hood, was a member of the Workers Alliance, had one person they would call. Unemployed Men Attending Meeting of the Workers Alliance Council (Scotts Run, West Virginia, c. 1936)
Unemployed Councils Unemployed Councils were formed all over the country. Charles R. Walker: “I find it no secret that Communists organize Unemployed Councils in most cities and usually lead them, but the councils are organized democratically and the majority rules. In one I visited in Lincoln Park, Michigan, there were three hundred members of which eleven were Communists…. The Council had a right wing, a left wing, and a center. The chairman of the Council…was also the local commander of the American Legion. In Chicago there are 45 branches of the Unemployed Council, with a total membership of 22,000. When that one person came, he’d have about fifty people with him…. Take that stuff right on back up there. The men would connect those lights and go to the hardware and get gas pipe, and connect that stove back. Put the furniture back just like you had it, so it don’t look like you been out the door.”
The Council’s weapon is democratic force of numbers, and their function is to prevent evictions of the destitute, or if evicted to bring pressure to bear on the Relief Commission to find a new home; if an unemployed worker has his gas or his water turned off because he can’t pay for it, to see the proper authorities; to see that the unemployed who are shoeless and clothesless get both; to eliminate through publicity and pressure discrimination between Negroes and white persons, or against the foreign born, in matters of relief…to march people down to relief headquarters and demand they be fed and clothed. Finally to provide legal defense for all unemployed arrested for joining parades, hunger marches, or attending union meetings.” “Not King Kong—King Co. Sheriff, Claude Bannick: No picture can do justice to an animal who at the bidding of mortgage-holder and judge throws out families into the street.” (Voice of Action, Communist Party, Seattle, 1 May 1933)
Self-Help Organizations People organized to help themselves, since business and government were not helping them in 1931 and 1932. In Seattle, the fishermen’s union caught fish and exchanged them with people who picked fruit and vegetables, and those who cut wood exchanged that. There were twenty-two locals, each with a commissary where food and firewood were exchanged for other goods and services: barbers, seamstresses, and doctors gave of their skills in return for other things. By the end of 1932, there were 330 self-help organizations in thirty-seven states, with over 300,000 members. By early 1933, they seem to have collapsed; they were attempting too big a job in an economy that was more and more a shambles. After working in the fields, self-help cooperative members receive their wages in vegetables (Los Angeles County, 15 January 1933).
Perhaps the most remarkable example of self-help took place in the coal district of Pennsylvania, where teams of unemployed miners dug small mines on company property, mined coal, trucked it to cities, and sold it below the commercial rate. By 1934, 5 million tons of this “bootleg” coal were produced by 20,000 men using 4 thousand vehicles. When attempts were made to prosecute, local juries would not convict, local jailers would not imprison. “Bootleg Coal” A Bootleg Coal Miner Revolutionary Possibilities These were simple actions, taken out of practical need, but they had revolutionary possibilities.
Paul Mattick: “All that is really necessary for the workers to do in order to end their miseries is to perform such simple things as to take from where there is, without regard to established property principles or social philosophies, and to start to produce for themselves. Done on a broad scale, it will lead to lasting results; on a local, isolated plane it will be…defeated…. The bootleg miners have shown in a rather clear and impressive way, that the so-much bewailed absence of a socialist ideology on the part of the workers really does not prevent workers from acting quite anticapitalistically, quite in accordance with their own needs. Breaking through the confines in private property in order to live up to their own necessities, the miners’ action is, at the same time a manifestation of the most important part of class consciousness—namely, that the problems of the workers can be solved only by themselves.” Paul Mattick
From instinctive practical necessity, Roosevelt and his advisers, the businessmen who supported him, quickly took measures to give jobs, food baskets, relief, to wipe out the idea “that the problems of the workers can be solved only by themselves.” The Roosevelt reforms went far beyond previous legislation. They had to meet two pressing needs: to reorganize capitalism in such a way to overcome the crisis and stabilize the system; also, to head off the alarming growth of spontaneous rebellion. From an average failure of 100 banks a year in the 1920s, the rate of collapse had reached the catastrophic figure of 4,004 in 1933. During FDR’s first day in office, to sustain the nation’s property structure, he used executive power to close the national banks temporarily. FDR’s First 100 Days FDR’s First Inauguration (4 March 1933)
During FDR’s first 100 days, his objective—to stabilize the system for its own protection—was most obvious in the National Recovery Act (NRA), the major law of Roosevelt’s first months in office. In addition to the NRA, Roosevelt pushed emergency legislation through Congress: the Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA), the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA), the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC), and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). Congress quickly passed these acts without examining or debating them. Additionally, Roosevelt used Hoover’s RFC to loan $10 billion to the railroads, as well as to many large and small businesses. Political Cartoon (26 April 1934)
Roosevelt responded to requests by trade associations for direct government backing by proposing the NRA. Based on precedent established during World War I, the NRA legalized the trade-association agreements on production and prices. Section 7(a) of the law recognized the right of labor to bargain collectively, but most union growth in 1933 and 1934 came in the form of company unions. The NRA was designed to take control of the economy through codes agreed on by the government, management, and labor fixing prices and wages, limiting competition. From the first, the NRA was dominated by big businesses and served their interests. Roosevelt moved to make some concessions to working people where organized labor was strong, but “where organized labor was weak, he was unprepared to withstand the pressures of industrial spokesmen to control the…NRA codes.” NRA Beauty Pageant
Bernard Bellush (The Failure of the N.R.A.): “[Title I] turned much of the nation’s power over to highly organized, well-financed trade associations and industrial combines. The unorganized public, otherwise known as the consumer, along with the members of the fledgling trade-union movement, had virtually nothing to say about the initial organization of the NRA or the formulation of basic policy…. The White House permitted the National Association of Manufacturers, the Chamber of Commerce, and allied businesses and trade associations to assume overriding authority…. Indeed, private administration became public administration, and private government became public government insuring the marriage of capitalism with statism…. FDR surrendered an inordinate share of the power of government, through the NRA, to industrial spokesmen throughout the country.” Barton Bernstein (Towards a New Past): “Despite the annoyance of some big businessmen with Section 7a, the NRA reaffirmed and consolidated their power….” NRA Logo
Roosevelt responded to advice from conservative farm organizations, representing large famers, to have the federal government set limits on production by proposing the AAA, which ordered the slaughter of six million pigs and the plowing under of ten million acres of cotton. The AAA was an attempt to organize agriculture. It favored the larger farmers as the NRA favored big business. The CCC took many jobless young men out of the cities, gave them uniforms and military discipline, and put them into work camps. The FERA was a radical means to maintain stability and to lesson rebellious discontent among the unemployed by releasing federal funds to the states for relief of the jobless and the starving. AAA Poster CCC PosterFERA Distribution of Clothing
The HOLC loaned billions to homeowners to enable them to pay their mortgages. The TVA was an important experiment in regional planning and an unusual entrance of government into business—a government-owned network of dams and hydro- electric plants to control floods and to produce electric power in the Tennessee Valley. The TVA developed the rural area along the Tennessee River and its tributaries, building fertilizer factories. It gave jobs to the unemployed, helped the consumer with Lower electric rates, and In some respect deserved the accusation that it was “socialistic.” TVA Map
By his quick actions from March to June 1933, FDR had stopped the disintegration of the society, of the economy, and of the property structure of the nation. The economic status quo in banking, industry, and agriculture had successfully been sustained. But the New Deal’s organization of the economy was aimed mainly at stabilizing the economy, and secondly at giving enough help to the lower classes to keep them from turning a rebellion into a real revolution. Once economic disintegration had been halted, Roosevelt expected to stop deficit spending, but he believed that the political and legal marriage of the national government and corporations was a permanent necessity. Wood Cowan, “Let’s Leave Out the Joker” Boston Evening Transcript
Roosevelt’s New Deal came under heavy attack from both the right and the left, from the rich and the poor. The Supreme Court in 1935 declared the NRA unconstitutional, claiming it gave too much power to the President and undermined the power of the states, but most critics of the New Deal felt Roosevelt was not doing enough to end the depression. In 1934, Poet Langston Hughes expressed the frustration of many Americans in “Ballad of Roosevelt.” Opposition to the New Deal The pot was empty, The cupboard was bare. I said, Papa, What’s the matter here? I’m waitin’ on Roosevelt, son, Roosevelt, Waitin’ on Roosevelt, son. The rent was due, And the lights was out. I said, Tell me, Mama, What’s it all about? We’re waitin’ on Roosevelt, son, Roosevelt, Just waitin’ on Roosevelt.
Sister got sick And the doctor wouldn’t come Cause we couldn’t pay him The proper sum— A-waitin’ on Roosevelt, Roosevelt, A-waitin’ on Roosevelt. Then one day They put us out o’ the house. Ma and Pa was Meek as a mouse Still waitin’ on Roosevelt, Roosevelt, Roosevelt. But when they felt those Cold winds blow And didn’t have no Place to go Pa said, I’m tired O’ waitin’ on Roosevelt, Roosevelt, Roosevelt. Damn tired o’ waitin’ on Roosevelt. I can’t git a job And I can’t git no grub. Backbone and navel’s Doin’ the belly-rub— A-waitin’ on Roosevelt, Roosevelt, Roosevelt. And a lot o’ other folks What’s hungry and cold Done stopped believin’ What they been told By Roosevelt, Roosevelt, Roosevelt— Cause the pot’s still empty, And the cupboard’s still bare, And you can’t build a Bungalow Out o’ air— Mr. Roosevelt, listen! What’s the matter here?
Huey Long, a senator from Louisiana, criticized the New Deal for its lack of concern for the poor of America. Long demanded justice for the poor, not relief. He organized 27,000 Share-Our-Wealth clubs across the entire country, reaching 7 million people. Long demanded a minimum wage for all workers and pensions for retired people to be financed by a heavy tax on the rich so that “every man could be a king.” Francis Townsend, a 67-year-old doctor from California, organized a national movement of older people. The American population was aging as the birthrate had declined for decades and as immigration was curtailed in the 1920s. Townsend called for a pension of $200 a month for every person over sixty. The money was to be raised by a national sales tax. Francis TownsendHuey Long
Charles Coughlin was a Roman Catholic priest and political leader with a weekly radio broadcast that reached 30 million listeners. He was an early supporter of Roosevelt’s New Deal but quickly turned against it, claiming the New Deal primarily benefited bankers. In 1934, Coughlin established the National Union for Social Justice, demanding monetary reform, nationalization of major industries and railroads, and labor protections. Coughlin combined this populist message with support of the fascism of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini and with anti-Jewish rhetoric. With Roosevelt interested only in stabilizing the status quo, workers decided to take matters in their own hands. For the first time since the US Civil War, workers demonstrated enough solidarity in city after city to enable them to match the violence used against them by the ruling class. In 1934, 1.5 million workers in different industries went on strike. Charles Coughlin
Longshoremen on the West Coast, in a rank-and-file insurrection against their own union leadership as well as against the shippers, held a convention, demanded the abolition of the shape-up (a kind of early- morning slave market where work gangs were chosen for the day), and went out on strike. Two thousand miles of Pacific coastline were quickly tied up. The teamsters cooperated, refusing to truck cargo to the piers, and maritime workers joined the strike. The police moved in to open the piers; the strikers resisted en masse. A general strike was called in San Francisco. With 130,000 workers on strike and the city immobilized, 500 special police were sworn in and 4, 500 National Guardsmen assembled, with infantry, machine gun, tank and artillery units. Two strikers were slain. The pressure to end the strike became too strong. The longshoremen accepted a compromise settlement, but they had shown the potential of a general strike. Funeral March of 40,000 for Slain Workers (San Francisco, 1934)
In Minneapolis, truck drivers, struggling to unionize, mobilized support from 20 thousand workers to defend themselves successfully against the police and management vigilantes who attempted to break their strike. Soon nothing was moving in the city except milk, ice, and coal trucks given exemptions by the strikers. Farmers drove their products into town and sold them directly to the people in the city. The police attacked the strikers, killing two. After a month, the employers gave in to the teamsters’ demands. The largest strike of all started when 325,000 textile workers in the South left the mills and set up flying squadrons in trucks and autos to move through the strike areas, picketing, battling guards, entering the mills, unbelting machinery. The strike impetus came from the rank-and- file, against a reluctant union leadership. Deputies and armed strikebreakers in South Carolina fired on pickets, killing seven. Striking Teamsters Battle Police (Minneapolis, 1934)
The textile strike spread to Lowell, Massachusetts and to Saylesville and Woonsocket, Rhode Island, where the National Guard murdered another striker. By September 1934, 421,000 textile workers were on strike throughout the country. There were mass arrests, organizers were beaten, and the death toll rose to thirteen. Roosevelt stepped in and set up a board of mediation, and the union called off the strike. In the rural South, too, organizing took place, often stimulated by Communists, but nourished by the grievances of poor whites and Blacks who were tenant farmers or farm laborers, always in economic difficulties but hit even harder by the Depression. The Southern Tenant Farmers Union started in Arkansas, with Black and white sharecroppers, and spread to other areas. Striking Textile Workers and State Troopers (1934)
Roosevelt’s AAA was not helping the poorest of farmers; in fact, by encouraging farmers to plant less, it forced tenants and sharecroppers to leave the land. Farm laborers moving from farm to farm, area to area, no land of their own, in 1933 were earning about $300 a year. By 1935, of 6.8 million farmers, 2.8 million were tenants. The average income of a sharecropper was $312 a year. Black farmers were worst off. The leaders of the AFL, which left hundreds of thousands of workers out of its tightly controlled, exclusive unions, condemned the militant strikes but began organizing in the new mass production industries—auto, rubber, packinghouse. John L. Lewis of the United Mine Workers, Sidney Hillman of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers, and David Dubinsky of the International Ladies Garment Workers visualized the possibility of industrial unions within the AFL outside of craft lines, all workers in a plant belonging to one union. They set up a Committee for Industrial Organization within the AFL. Sharecropper’s Child Suffering from Rickets and Malnutrition (1935)
While the poor believed Roosevelt was not doing enough to end the Great Depression, the rich believed he was doing too much. In 1933, a group of wealthy bankers invited retired Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler to lead a fascist coup against Roosevelt and to assume near-absolute power as “Secretary of General Affairs.” Butler exposed the conspiracy, testifying before Congress in 1934. Angered by the lack of Congressional action, Butler said in 1935, “Like most committees it has slaughtered the little and allowed the big to escape. The big shots weren’t even called to testify. They were all mentioned in the testimony. Why was all mention of these names suppressed from the testimony?” “Gen. Butler Bares ‘Plot’ by Fascists, Newtown Square, Pennsylvania” (Universal Newsreel)
The spontaneous strikes across the country in 1934 forced Roosevelt and his advisers to consider legislation to provide some permanent security for workers and the elderly. Unlike Hoover, however, FDR was flexible in the means he used to sustain the existing property patterns in the country. To head off radicalism, he was willing, in an emergency, to engage in deficit spending to keep unemployment under control. Roosevelt: “I am fighting Communism, Huey Longism, Coughlinism, Townsendism.” In his message to Congress in 1935, Roosevelt launched a second New Deal, declaring, “We have not weeded out the over-privileged and we have not effectively lifted up the underprivileged.” The Second New Deal FDR Addressing Congress (1935)
In 1935, FDR signed into law the Wagner Labor Relations Act, which established a National Labor Relations Board. The NLRB undermined unions by redirecting workers’ anger, energy, and spontaneity into a lengthy election and certification process. The Wealth Tax Act of 1935 increased the income tax for upper-income groups and established higher inheritance and gift taxes. The Social Security Act of 1935 provided pensions for workers when they reached the age of 65. They were to be payments from a government fund from wages matched by payments from employers. Large numbers of workers, however, were excluded from social security, but the law provided funds to the states to pay unemployment compensation. Federal funds also went to the states to support the children of dependent mothers. Additionally, FDR increased the use of federal funds to provide jobs for the unemployed in the Works Progress Administration (WPA). A WPA Construction Site (Kansas)
The Wagner Act of 1935, setting up the National Labor Relations Board, was an attempt to stabilize the capitalist system in the face of labor unrest. A steel corporation challenged the Wagner Act in the courts, but the Supreme Court found it constitutional. Unions were not wanted by employers, but they were more controllable—more stabilizing for the system than the wildcat strikes, the factory occupations of the rank and file. Two sophisticated ways of controlling direct labor action developed in the mid-1930s. First, the NLRB would give unions legal status, listen to them, settling certain of their grievances. Thus it could moderate labor rebellion by channeling energy into elections—just as the constitutional system channeled possibly troublesome energy into voting. The NLRB would set limits in economic conflict as voting did in political conflict. And second, the workers’ organization itself, the union, would channel the workers’ insurrectionary energy into contracts, negotiations, union meetings, and try to minimize strikes, in order to build large, influential, even respectable organizations. The Wagner Act successfully limited the power of organized workers.
The WPA gave federal money to put thousands of writers, artists, actors, and musicians to work—in a Federal Theater Project, a Federal Writers Project, a Federal Art Project: murals were painted on public buildings; plays were put on for working-class audiences who had never seen a play; hundreds of books and pamphlets were written and published. People heard a symphony for the first time. It was an exciting flowering of arts for the people, such as had never happened before in American history, and which has not been duplicated since. “Revolt of the Beavers” (Federal Theater Project, 1937); “Pursuit of Happiness” (Federal Art Project, 1937); Book Display (Federal Writers Project, n.d.)
Despite the second New Deal, rank-and-file workers continued to criticize Roosevelt for not doing enough. Workers in the rubber industry in Akron, Ohio engaged in a new tactic of resistance—the sit-down strike. The workers stayed in the plant instead of walking out, with clear advantages: they were directly blocking the use of strikebreakers; they did not have to act through union officials but were in direct control of the situation themselves; they were not isolated, as in their work, or on the picket line; they were thousands under one roof, free to talk to one another, to form a community of struggle. In early 1936 at the Firestone rubber plant, makers of truck tires, their wages already too low to pay for food and rent, were faced with a wage cut. When several union men were fired, others began to stop work, to sit down on the job. In one day, the whole of plant #1 was sitting down. In two days, plant #2 was sitting down, and management gave in. In the next ten days, there was a sit-down at Goodyear. The strikers ignored a court issued injunction against mass picketing, and 150 deputies were sworn in. Soon, they faced 10,000 workers from all over Akron. In a month, the strike was won. Opposition to the Second New Deal
Louis Adamic: “Sitting by their machines, cauldrons, boilers and work benches, they talked. Some realized for the first time how important they were in the process of rubber production. Twelve men had practically stopped the works…. Superintendents, foremen, and straw bosses were dashing about…. In less than an hour the dispute was settled, full victory for the men.” The idea of the sit-down spread through 1936. In December, the longest sit-down strike of all, at Fisher Body plant #1 in Flint, Michigan, began. It lasted until February 1937. For 40 days, there was a community of 2,000 strikers. Committees organized recreational activities, a postal service, and sanitation. A restaurant owner across the street from the factory prepared three meals a day for the strikers. There were classes in parliamentary procedure, in public speaking, and in the history of the labor movement. Graduate students from the University of Michigan gave courses in journalism and creative writing. Louis Adamic’s Dynamite (1934)
A procession of 5,000 armed workers encircled the plant. Police attacked with tear gas and the workers fought back with fire hoses. In the gunfire, 13 workers were wounded, but the police were beaten back. The sit-down spread to other General Motors plants. Finally, there was a settlement, a six-month contract recognizing that from now on the company would have to deal with a union. The idea of the sit- down spread. In 1936, there were 48 sit-down strikes; in 1937, 477. The sit-downs were especially dangerous because they were not controlled by the regular union leadership. Striking Workers during the Flint Sit-Down Strike (1936-37)
The AFL leadership was hostile to the rank and file, so the sit-down strikers withdrew to begin a new labor movement, the Congress of Industrial Organization (CIO) in 1936. The CIO rapidly gained 2 million members as the newfound sense of worker solidarity exploded in massive illegal sit-down strikes where the workers occupied automobile and steel plants. No longer able to count on federal troops or even the police as they had before 1929, corporations like General Motors and Ford spent $1 million a year for spies and a private police force to fight the strikers. Worker discipline gradually defeated the automobile and steel companies and established CIO unions throughout these industries. Woolworth Workers’ Sit-Down Strike (Detroit, 1937)
Once established, however, the CIO turned against sit-down strikes. CIO leader John L. Lewis told the New York Times, “A CIO contract is adequate protection against sit-downs, lie-downs, or any other kind of strike.” The Communist party, some of whose members played critical roles in organizing CIO unions, seemed to take the same position. One Communist leader in Akron was reported to have said after the sit-downs had been successful: “Now we must work for regular relations between the union and the employers—and strict observance of union procedure on the part of the workers.” The CIO, a militant and aggressive union, sacrificed the power of the workers for respectability. John L. Lewis Cover, Time Magazine (2 October 1933)
Labor unrest continued, however, and authorities responded violently. In Chicago, on Memorial Day, 1937, a strike at Republic Steel brought the police out, firing at a mass picket line of strikers, killing ten of them. Autopsies showed the bullets had hit the workers in the back as they were running away. This became known as the Memorial Day Massacre. In the end, Republic Steel was organized. Chicago Police Shooting Striking Workers in the Back (30 May 1937)
Minorities and Women in the New Deal From 1933 to 1940, Roosevelt gave groups outside the male WASP establishment a new sense of participation in national life. Blacks, Catholics, women, lower-middle-class white southerners, academic intellectuals, and artists who could not obtain a place under the business leadership of the 1920s were mobilized by Roosevelt in the Democratic party of the 1930s to support his New Deal programs. Margaret Bourke-White, “Louisville: Great Ohio River Valley Flood, 1937” (Blacks line up, seeking food and clothing from a relief station.)
The increasing political strength of Catholics pressured Roosevelt to support labor unions and social security between 1933 and 1935. Catholics brought an outlook of social responsibility with them when they began arriving in large numbers in the 1880s and 1890s. As a consequence they were more willing to support the unionization of labor and to advocate that labor play a leadership role in national politics. In 1919, the Catholic Bishops Program for Social Reconstruction had called for public housing for the poor, for minimum-wage laws, and for unemployment, health, and old- age insurance. Father John A. Ryan, Cardinal O’Connell of Boston, Cardinal Mundelein of Chicago, and Cardinal Dougherty of Philadelphia saw the Roosevelt plan of social reconstruction as the Catholic plan but criticized Roosevelt for not doing enough to make labor a major participant in the industrial process. FDR and Cardinal Mundelein (27 October 1938)
Senator Robert Wagner (D-NY), a Catholic, provided the leadership to pass legislation that encouraged the expansion of labor unions. FDR increased the proportion of Catholics appointed to federal offices and placed two Catholics, James Farley and Thomas Walsh, in his Cabinet. In the “progressive” era between 1890 and 1917, many women, such as Florence Kelley and Jane Addams, openly advocated social-welfare legislation, calling for minimum-wage and maximum-hour laws for workers, public housing, and health, old-age and unemployment insurance. Although their political aspirations were blocked in the 1920s, the concept of social welfare gained support as the number of professional social-work schools increased from 15 to 40. When FDR broke precedent in 1933 and brought the federal government into relief and welfare, he relied upon the experience of professional social workers, appointing Frances Perkins, the first woman Cabinet member, as Secretary of Labor. FDR Signing Wagner Act with Theodore Peyser, Frances Perkins, and Robert Wagner (5 July 1935)
There was no great feminist movement in the 1930s, but many women became involved in the labor organizing of those years. A Minnesota poet, Meridel LeSeuer, was thirty-four when the great teamsters’ strike tied up Minneapolis in 1934. Meridel LeSeuer: “I have never been in a strike before…. The truth is I was afraid…. “Do you need any help?” I said eagerly…. We kept on pouring thousands of cups of coffee, feeding thousands of men…. The cars were coming back. The announcer cried, ‘This is murder….’ I saw them taking men out of cars and putting them on the hospital cots, on the floor…. The picket cars keep coming in. Some men have walked back from the market, holding their own blood in…. Men, women and children are massing outside, a living circle close packed for protection…. We have living blood on our skirts…. Tuesday, the day of the funeral, one thousand more militia were massed downtown. It was over ninety in the shade. I went to the funeral parlors and thousands of men and women were massed there waiting in the terrific sun. Meridel LeSeuer
One block of women and children were standing two hours waiting. I went over and stood near them. I didn’t know whether I could march. I didn’t like marching in parades…. Three women drew me in. ‘We want all to march,’ they said gently. ‘Come with us.’” Alice Lynd was the wife of Staughton Lynd, the son of the couple who had conducted the Middletown studies. In the 1930s, she was a laundry worker and union organizer. Alice Lynd: “You have to tell people things they can see. Then they’ll say, ‘Oh, I never thought of that’ or ‘I have never seen it like that….’ Like Tennessee. He hated Black people. A poor sharecropper…. He danced with a Black woman…. So I have seen people change. This is the faith you’ve got to have in people.” To most white Americans of the 1930s, however, North and South, Blacks were invisible. Only the radicals made an attempt to break the racial barriers: Socialists, Trotskyists, Communists most of all. Staughton and Alice Lynd (1951)
The CIO, influence by the Communists, organized Blacks in the production industries. Blacks were still being used as strikebreakers, but now there were also attempts to bring Blacks and whites together against their common enemy. Mollie Lewis (“Negro Women in Steel,” The Crisis, February 1938): “While the municipal government of Gary [Indiana] continues to keep the children apart in a system of separate schools, their parents are getting together in the union and in the auxiliary…. The only public eating place in Gary where both races may be freely served is a cooperative restaurant largely patronized by members of the union and auxiliary…. When the black and white workers and members of their families are convinced that their basic economic interests are the same, they may be expected to make common cause for the advancement of these interests….” Steel Workers
Needing the support of southern voters for his New Deal, Roosevelt refused to take any liberal positions on Black issues, informing the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) that he would not support an anti-lynching bill. Although Blacks benefited from many New Deal programs, they were discriminated against in most government agencies. For Black people, the New Deal was psychologically encouraging, but most Blacks were ignored by the New Deal programs. As tenant farmers, as farm laborers, as migrants, as domestic workers, they did not qualify for unemployment insurance, minimum wages, social security, or farm subsidies. Black workers were discriminated against in getting jobs. They were the last hired, the first fired. Blues singers, such as Washboard Sam and Casey Bill Weldon, sang of the empty promises of the New Deal. Sharecropper
Washboard Sam’s “CCC Blues” I’m goin’ down, I’m goin’ down to the CCC. I know that the WPA won’t do a thing for me. I told her my name and the place I stayed. She said she’d give me a piece of paper, come back some other day. I’m goin’ down, I’m goin’ down to the CCC. I know that the WPA won’t do a thing for me. I told her I had no fevers and the shape I was in. She said she would help me but she didn’t say when. I’m goin’ down, I’m goin’ down, goin’ down to the CCC. I know that the WPA won’t do a thing for me. I told her I needed a job, had no relief. On my rent day, she sent me a can of beef. I’m goin’ down, I’m goin’ down to the CCC. See, I know that the WPA won’t do a thing for me. She said she’d give me a job, everything was nice and warm, Takin’ care of the dead in a funeral home I’m goin’ down, I’m goin’ down to the CCC. I know that the WPA won’t do a thing for me. Washboard Sam (1931)
Casey Bill Weldon’s “WPA Blues” Said my Baby told me this morning just about the break of day, My Baby told me this morning just about the break of day, Said, “You oughta get up this morning, get you a job on that WPA.” I says, “I am a gambler, and I gamble night and day.” Says, “I don’t need no job on that WPA!” She said, “I’m leaving you now, Daddy; yeah, that’s all I got to say.” She said, “I’m gonna get me a man that’s workin’ on that WPA!” And all the women hollerin’, and they hollerin’ night and day. All the women hollerin’, and they hollerin’ night and day. “I’m gonna quit my pimp, get me a man on that WPA!” So hard luck has overtaken me, had to throw my dice and cards away. Hard luck has overtaken me, had to throw my dice and cards away. Yeah, I’ve gotta try to get me a job on that WPA. Casey Bill Weldon
Black Harlem, with all the New Deal reforms, remained as it was. There 350,000 people lived, 233 persons per acre compared with 133 for the rest of Manhattan. With 10,000 families living in rat-infested cellars and basements, tuberculosis was common. In Harlem Hospital in 1932, proportionately twice as many people died as in Bellevue Hospital, which was in the white area downtown Harlem was a place that bred crime, what Roi Ottley and William Weatheby referred to as “the bitter blossom of poverty.” Half of the married women worked as domestics, traveling to the Bronx and gathering on street corners—“slave markets,” they were called—to be hired. Prostitution crept in. Ella Baker and Marvel Cooke (“The Bronx Slave Market,” The Crisis, 1935): “Not only is human labor bartered and sold for the slave wage, but human love is also a marketable commodity. Whether it is labor or love, the women arrive as early as eight a.m. and remain as late as one p.m. or until they are hired. In rain or shine, hot or cold, they wait to work for ten, fifteen, and twenty cents per hour.” Harlem in the Great Depression
On 19 March 1935, even as the New Deal reforms were being passed, Harlem exploded: 10,000 swept through the streets, destroying the property of white merchants while 700 policemen moved in and brought order. Two Blacks were killed. Langston Hughes wrote about the bitter hopes of Americans in “Let America Be America Again.” Harlem Riot (19 March 1935) …I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart, I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars. I am the red man driven from the land, I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek— And finding only the same old stupid plan. Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak…. O, let America be America again— The land that never has been yet— And yet must be—the land where every man is free. The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME— Who made America, Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain, Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain, Must bring back our mighty dream again. Sure, call me any ugly name you choose— The steel of freedom does not stain. From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives, We must take back our land again, America!...
Roosevelt took no public stand on discrimination against Blacks until A. Philip Randolph, head of the Sleeping-Car Porters Union, threatened a massive march on the national capital in 1941 to protest the failure of the government to integrate Blacks into war industries. Under this pressure, Roosevelt created a committee on Fair Employment Practices to require corporations doing government work to hire Black workers, but the FEPC had no enforcement powers and changed little. Roosevelt did nothing to end segregation in the armed forces. The President’s wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, however, visualized a new politics in 1936 in which women, Blacks, and organized labor would play a dynamic role to end all discrimination against these minorities. Influenced by his wife, Roosevelt appointed Blacks to important positions in the federal government for the first time in American history, including Mary Bethune, William Hastie, E. K. Jones, Laurence Oxley, Ira DeA. Reid, and Robert C. Weaver. A. Philip Randolph and Eleanor Roosevelt
When the economy began to make a modest recovery in 1936, Roosevelt cut back on WPA expenditures. This cut in government expenditures produced a sharp recession in 1937, and unemployment again doubled, from 5 million to 10 million. In 1939, with the country more stable and the New Deal reform impulse weakened, programs to subsidize the arts were eliminated. These cut backs demonstrated the contradiction of the New Deal: an attempt to address the economic crisis without abandoning the capitalist system, a system that creates permanent crisis for some and cyclical crisis for almost all. Not until his 1940 budget message to Congress did Roosevelt speak of the possibility of permanent government manipulation of the economy to sustain prosperity, but that would be a permanent wartime economy based on government military spending instead of spending on the arts. Evaluating the New Deal
The New Deal showed more clearly than before the dilemma of working people in the US. The system responded to workers’ rebellions by finding new forms of control—internal control by their own organization as well as outside control by law and force. But along with the new controls came new concessions. These concessions did not solve basic problems; for many people, they solved nothing. But they helped enough people to create an atmosphere of progress and improvement, to restore some faith in the system. For example, in 1938, Congress passed a Fair Labor Standards Act, which established a 40- hour workweek and a very low minimum wage of 25¢ an hour. But it was enough to dull the edge of resentment. Housing was built for a small percentage of the people who needed it, but the sight of federally subsidized housing projects, playgrounds, vermin-free apartments, replacing dilapidated tenements was refreshing. The TVA suggested exciting possibilities for regional planning with local control. Social Security provided meager benefits in comparison to the benefits accrued by large, established businesses, and it excluded farmers, domestic workers, and old people, and offered no health insurance.
When the New Deal was over, capitalism remained intact. The ruling class remained intact. Roosevelt was a hero to millions, but the same system that had brought the Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression— the system of waste, or inequality, of concern for profit over human need—remained. Roosevelt’s Foreign Policy Roosevelt and his advisers were sure that foreign trade was essential to American prosperity, and he was ready to use political and military power to protect that trade. In 1935, Roosevelt argued, “foreign markets must be regained if America’s producers are to rebuild a full and enduring domestic prosperity for our people. There is no other way if we would avoid painful economic dislocations, social readjustments, and unemployment. Roosevelt’s intentions were frustrated, however, by a rising tide of neutralist sentiment within the US.
The diminished prestige of the corporations caused by the depression made it possible for the “farm bloc” senators to strengthen their critique of a foreign policy based upon corporate expansion. Senator Gerald P. Nye (R-ND) revealed to the public the profiteering of munitions manufacturers in WWI, and he used the resulting public outrage to pass Neutrality Acts in 1935, 1936, and 1937, designed to keep the American economy from being integrated into that of warring nations. Protestant ministers and college professors supported the “farm bloc” senators promoting isolationism. They argued that bankers and munitions makers had used propaganda to drag the United States into WWI, a capitalist civil war that grew out of commercial rivalry. Senator Gerald P. Nye Speaking against War (20 February 1936)
In 1937, Roosevelt gave speeches on German, Italian, and Japanese aggression, hoping to gain support for the end of isolationism. He failed to rally public opinion in support of his foreign policy, but he did persuade Congress to enlarge the navy in 1938. Not until 1939, as Europe approached the outbreak of World War II, could Roosevelt persuade Congress to modify the Neutrality Acts and end the embargo on the sale of arms. In 1940, the Congress passed a huge $18 billion appropriation for military preparedness and the first peacetime conscription act. FDR, who had been transferring government armaments to private interests so they could be sold to England, acted directly by issuing an executive agreement in which he made a gift of 50 destroyers to England in return for the right to establish military bases on several British possessions. US Naval Destroyers Transferred to Royal Navy (9 September 1940)
The overwhelming majority of Americans supported neutrality, forcing Roosevelt to campaign in the 1940 presidential election on a peace platform. After the election, however, Roosevelt moved rapidly to integrate the US with the war effort of England. He persuaded Congress to pass a Lend-Lease Act in 1941, making it possible for the government to give England all the arms and supplies it needed. Roosevelt initiated an initiated an undeclared war on Germany in mid 1941, ordering the navy to attack German submarines in the North Atlantic that interfered with supply ships bound for England as far as Iceland (more than two-thirds of the ocean). The undeclared war became a declared war when the Japanese attacked the US fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on 7 December 1941. Political Cartoon in Favor of Lend-Lease (Dr. Seuss)
The outbreak of World War II in 1939 enabled Roosevelt to forge a new alliance with corporate leaders and provided him with a way to end the depression while preserving the capitalist system. Anticipating war and calling on his experience with the “industrial-military complex” of 1917, Roosevelt appointed a War Resources Board headed by Edward Stettinius of US Steel. Business leaders had bitterly attacked Roosevelt for doubling the national debt from $19 to $43 billion to help the poor and the unemployed, but they were willing to accept unlimited deficit spending for national defense. Helping the poor and unemployed strengthened democracy and increased the possibility of challenges to the US ruling class. Military spending, however, provided economic stimulus without strengthening democracy and even promoted corporate control. World War II Ends the Great Depression The War Resources Board
Massive government spending on the military proved acceptable to business, organized labor, and the average voter. Large corporations, in making an alliance with the Roosevelt New Deal, accepted the administration’s inclusion of organized labor within the establishment, and labor leaders gave their blessings to large-scale government spending on the military. The bulk of this government spending passed to the largest corporations, where unions had most strongly established themselves. Charles Wilson of General Motors said, “This defense business is big business. Small plants can’t make tanks, airplanes, or other complex armaments…. What’s good for General Motors is good for the country.” World War II, not the New Deal, ended the Great Depression. Charles E. Wilson Cover, Time Magazine (13 December 1943)
The coming of World War II also weakened the labor militancy of the 1930s because the war economy created millions of new jobs at higher wages. The New Deal had succeeded only in reducing unemployment from 13 million to 9 million. It was the war that put almost everyone to work, and the war did something else: patriotism, the push for unity of all classes against enemies overseas, made it harder to mobilize anger against the corporations. During the war, the AFL and CIO pledged to call no strikes. Norman Rockwell’s “Four Freedoms” (1943) Oil Paintings of Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms State of the Union Address” (1941)
Evaluating FDR Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the only US president to be elected to more than two terms. According to historian John A. Garraty, this was because Roosevelt had the magic of charisma. He was able through the power of his personality and the genius with which he used radio to persuade Americans that the US was winning the war against economic depression. Roosevelt inspired people with the joy of victory. It was this power of personality joined with the power of the role of commander- in-chief in a war on the depression that made it possible for Roosevelt to demand and be given a third and fourth term as President. The cult of personality was so strong that hiss personal physicians were afraid to reveal to national leaders that the President was dying even as he called for his re-election because his leadership was indispensable. Americans Listening to Roosevelt’s “Fireside Chats”
Describe Roosevelt’s inauguration and the “Hundred Days.” What was the New Deal as introduced in 1933? What was the New Deal legislation? What were the “alphabet agencies” and what was their work? What were the economic and social changes they caused? How far did the character of the New Deal change after 1933? Why did the New Deal encounter opposition? Describe the opposition to the New Deal from the Republicans, from the rich, from the business interests, from the Supreme Court, and from the radical critics like Huey Long. What were the strengths and weaknesses of the New Deal in dealing with unemployment and the Depression? Why did unemployment persist despite the New Deal? Did the fact that the New Deal did not solve unemployment mean that it was a failure? Review Questions