IT’S NOT often that the press gives us an opportunity to answer character assassinations of Henry Wallace in the same issue. I greatly appreciate the courtesy extended to me by the Atlantic Monthly to reply so promptly to Gardner (“Pat”) Jackson’s article.
Paul Appleby, when he was Mr. Wallace’s Under Secretary of Agriculture, told Jackson, “You spend all your life throwing bricks but you never laid a brick in your life.” Once again “Pat” is throwing bricks — viciously, irresponsibly.
Item.-Jackson says Lew Frank, Jr., was a “Peace Mobilizer till Hitler moved against Russia.”This is false; Frank was an ardent interventionist in 19391941.
Item. — Jackson says Clark Foreman and I were “ready to throw Wallace overboard" shortly before the 1944 Democratic Convention. This is a flat misstatement. Both Foreman and I went down the line for Wallace before, during, and after the convention. Furthermore, I did not see President Roosevelt from the time I left the government in November, 1943, until his inauguration in 1945.
Item. — The core of the Jackson attack is a distorted quote from a speech before the Congress of American-Soviet Friendship, November 8, 1942. Wallace actually said: ”Some in the United States believe that we have overemphasized what might be called ’political or bill-of-rights democracy.”Jackson’s unfairness is typically reflected in his misinterpretation of this carefully selective quote to support the false charge that Wallace thus advocates “a moderate application of the methods and procedures of authoritarianism or dictatorship.” Henry Wallace thoroughly detests dictatorships. He simply doesn’t believe that the dissolution of the Russian dictatorship will result from threats, force, or suicidal war.
Item.—Jackson again uses elliptical treatment to bolster his own misinterpretation of Wallace’s philosophy when he cites Wallace’s statements at Evansville, Indiana, April 6, 1948. He simply leaves out the lines: “The New Party is the greatest single hope for the maintenance of independent business enterprise, free trade unions and a productive capitalist economy.”
Item.-Jackson, strangely or perhaps not so strangely, picks out of the hundreds of contributions to the Wallace campaign those of the ”Greek-American Committee for Wallace and the “Armenian-American Committee.” Whether Jackson is being chauvinistic here or simply trying to use the Ku Klux Klan approach to politics, I don’t know, but it’s certainly reflective of the Thomas Committee approach, just as Jackson refers to Wallace’s church supporters as “river Baptists.”
The most amazing charges Jackson makes are those that center on Wallace and the problems of racial and religious discrimination. No man in public life has fought so consistently or sacrificed more to fight discrimination. At the Democratic Convention on July 20, 1944, Henry Wallace told the delegates: —
The future belongs to those who go down the line unswervingly for the liberal principle of both political democracy and economic democracy, regardless of race, color and religion. In a political, economic and educational sense there must be no inferior races. The poll tax must go. Equal educational opportunities must come. The future must bring equal wages for equal work, regardless of sex or race.”
No one recognizes better than Henry Wallace the weaknesses of the entire New Deal administration on some basic issues.
I think the matter can be best summed up by a conversation I had with Wallace a few months ago. We had been talking about the courses that it was sometimes necessary to pursue in the Department of Agriculture when long-term programs were temporarily sacrificed to the political exigencies of the moment.
“Do you remember how you and Rex Tugwell, Will Alexander, and the boys used to come in at times with blueprints for programs which the country really needed, and how we had to pare them down, make them ‘practical’ because of the attitude of Congress? The New Deal was certainly a broad coalition. We made many advances. But we sometimes had to compromise for gains. Today these liberals who want to play along with the machines and the Southern reactionaries can only compromise to lose, not gain. Our biggest mistake wasn’t those compromises: it was failing to build political machinery to defeat the old reactionarv gang.”
Wallace’s grasp of political realities was best summed up in his comments to me about the situation in Illinois, where Paul Douglas is the Democratic candidate for the Senate. Douglas had a reputation as a liberal-one which Wallace himself commented on favorably before learning that. Douglas was engaging in violent attacks on the New Party in Illinois and on major planks of the Wallace program. Opponents, playing on the Douglas pre-war record rather than his recent stands on present-day issues, have tried to make capital out of the Progressive Party’s opposition to Douglas.
Wallace pointed up the very heart of it all when we were talking about the Douglas matter. “Beanie,” he said, “we can’t deal with lesser evils. That, after all, is the reason we have formed a new party. What is more — our liberal friends shouldn’t be criticizing: they should be jubilant that our forces have already broken the power of the old Democratic machine in Chicago. Bill Miller and the boys out there have done a truly historic job months ahead of the election. It’s precisely what Douglas himself was calling for a dozen years ago. If Paul Douglas were still a progressive he would have been in the middle of the fight. But instead I am afraid he has become a political opportunist, sacrificing his principles on both foreign and domestic policy in an effort to be elected. The progressives in Illinois won’t stand for this kind of political opportunism and I stand firmly behind their position.”
Last month, in discussing the question of civil rights with a Portland, Oregon, audience, Wallace made some pointed remarks about the need for a new party: —
“I think back to my days in Washington when I knew — when I knew and when I said — that we had a major responsibility to extend and protect civil rights. I made a lot of speeches on the subject. I took some effective and some very ineffective actions to help the cause of civil rights. I would look at something like the poll tax and say, ‘Democracy is based on free elections. The poll tax stops free elections. The poll tax must go. It was a clear, simple argument. I reasoned it out-and said it with complete conviction.
“Today, after again traveling through the South, I recognize more than ever what the poll tax means. I know that it is not enough to say, ‘The poll tax must go.’ I know that we must fight it with everything we have. I know that we must organize. I know that we must mobilize all our strength to speak the language politicians understand-the language of votes. That’s a major reason for the New Party. It just isn’t enough, and it isn’t effective, to be a liberal spokesman in an old party that is run and ruled by bigots and reactionaries both North and South, who want to keep the evil, hateful practices of segregation.
“ The independent course we have traveled in the past months — the course we have traveled in building a new people’s party — has done more to advance civil rights than all the speeches of all the liberals in the old parties for years past.”
It would be absurd for anyone to deny that racial discrimination did not exist throughout the government during the New Deal. There were many officials who did nothing about it. Wallace, as Jackson well knows, was constantly working not only to eliminate discrimination in government but to broaden and expand government programs which served a large portion of our Negro population. It is significant but understandable that Jackson would say nothing about the program of the Farm Security Administration, which was created to give assistance to low-income farm owners, tenants, sharecroppers, and farm laborers and which was constantly under fire because of its efforts to help this segment of our farm population without regard to the color line. I had the responsibility, under Wallace’s direction, of administering this program in spite of constant threats and intimidation which came largely from the Southern Congressmen and leaders of the Farm Bureau and other powerful farm groups. Henry Wallace backed this program to the limit, even when Congress threatened to withhold appropriations from other agencies of the Department of Agriculture. This was the test under fire. Wallace did not retreat.
Wallace’s decision to strike out as an independent candidate and to build a new party was not made in haste.
In 1942 Wallace had stirred the hearts and hopes of men and women everywhere in his “Price of Free World Victory” speech. He spoke clearly the objectives for which the people were fighting and dying. In 1946 he saw these objectives then being undermined by the Wall Street-military team which moved in after Roosevelt’s death. He saw President Truman embrace Churchill’s Fulton, Missouri, provocations to world disunity. He saw Herbert Hoover welcomed back at the White House by F.D.R.’s successor. Wallace still believed in the wartime goals towards which Roosevelt had consistently worked. He wrote a letter to President Truman, outlining the dangers of a gettough foreign policy. That letter was a plea to return to the policies of Franklin Roosevelt-policies which were capable, like the New Deal policies, of leading to progressive advances toward One World. He still had hope that he could fight the financial-military combine within the government and the Democratic Party.
In September, 1946, he went to the White House with a speech he was to give at a meeting I had helped arrange in New York. He went over his new plea for a practical policy with the President. They covered it line by line, and the President approved the speech in its entirety.
One week later he was forced to resign, because Jimmy Byrnes and the real powers in the Administration disapproved. But Wallace still felt that he could work in the Democratic Party. He campaigned for progressive Democrats for Congress.
When Wallace saw the defeated Democratic Party begin to smear liberals with a red label, he barnstormed the country in an effort to build a resistance movement within the Democratic Party. But the Democratic Party continued to swing so far to the right it became almost indistinguishable from the Republican Party. Democrats joined Republicans in passing loyalty orders, killing price controls, and passing the Taft-Hartley Act.
Wallace also saw the get-tough policy coming to bitter fruition. The Truman Doctrine was proclaimed; more and more aid was being sent to back reactionary monarchies, the corrupt government of Chiang, fascists, and cartel interests; armaments programs were expanded, and production for peace was delayed.
All these factors led Wallace to the conclusion that “we must break clean.”
Wallace’s position in July, 1946, and July, 1948, is precisely the same. It is his belief that peacetime cooperation between the United States and Russia is every bit as practical as wartime coöperation. He maintains that there is no issue between the two which force can settle, nor any difficulty which cannot be settled by peaceful negotiation. He demonstrates that we are sacrificing our own basic free doms, our fundamental principles, our living standards, and our hopes for the future by continuing the cold war. He opposes the program of guns instead of butter, tanks instead of plows, military missions instead of medical missions.
The treatment accorded Wallace’s Open Letter to Stalin certainly bears out his contention. Although the Russian press criticized many of its provisions, Stalin considered it a reasonable basis for discussion. This is, I feel, evidence of the Russians’ sincere desire for peace. The Truman administration, on the other hand, after reneging on Ambassador Bedell Smith’s note to Molotov, again told the world we would not confer with Russia. Wallace’s challenge to Secretary Marshall, Senator Connally, and Senator Vandenberg to debate him on the bipartisan foreign policy went unanswered.
He has consistently had the forthrightness to point out that the international political movements of consequence to Americans are not one — communist — but three: communist, clerical, and capitalist. He hasn’t forgotten the lessons of the Spanish war. He knows that ideas aren’t fought with guns. He speaks of William James’s “replacing power of the higher affection,”and proposes policies which will build a democratic atmosphere in the world in which ideas can truly compete. He fights for a strong United. Nations leading to world government.
The silence in Washington tends to confirm Wallace’s contention that the cold war is really directed not at Russia, but at democracy — at home and abroad. His “liberal” critics may shut their eyes to our intervention in Greece and China; they may stretch the humanitarian aspects of the European Recovery Plan to cover the ruthlessness with which we are gathering up markets and industrial shares in Europe at the same time that we pressure its governments toward the right. But they can scarcely ignore the ominous revival of reaction and the drift toward an American brand of fascism.
We cannot forever avert a disastrous depression by buttressing reactionary capitalism with prodigal arms expenditures here or abroad. Wallace believes American capitalism can survive only as progressive capitalism; that American capitalism has “an untapped vitality which can keep us prosperous for generations” if we curb monopoly, bolster independent business, and plan as carefully for peace as we do for war.
Wallace thinks it evident that millions of Americans, including American Communists, are opposed to war. He will not repudiate any support which comes to him in the interests of peace. He refuses to help spread a red smokescreen behind which American reactionaries are attacking our democratic institutions. He will not help whip up a war spirit against Russia. It is his opinion that those who think it is impossible to live in a world which includes Communists must accept the inevitability of war; he does not.
Wallace’s goal is simply to create a better America for everyone, not just for the privileged few. He advocates price control, repeal of the Taft-Hartley Act, support for labor’s demand that it be paid higher wages out of the current recordmaking industrial profits, a dollar minimum wage, outlawing of racial discrimination, immediate and long-range housing programs, control of our rivers, a world food granary, an expanded Social Security program with increased benefits, a national health insurance act, strengthening the coöperatives, and similar steps.
He is increasing the public demand for such measures, and at the same time he is slowing the drift toward war and an American brand of fascism. He is giving confidence to millions of heretofore isolated Americans who openly and silently are with him. He lives by the pledge of his 1942 speech; —
“Strong in the strength of the Lord, we who fight in the people’s cause will not stop fighting until that cause is won.”
C. B. BALDWIN, Campaign Manager National Wallace for President Committee