The Struggle for America

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The Struggle for America

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© 2019, 2014 by Nunn McGinty Publishing All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage or retrieval system without prior written permission of the copyright owner unless such copying is expressly permitted by federal copyright law. Nunn McGinty is not authorized to grant permission for the copyrighted selections reprinted in this book without the permission of their owners. Permission to reprint these selections have been obtained by Nunn McGinty for this edition only. Credits and acknowledgments borrowed from other sources and reproduced, with permission, in this textbook appear within the text. Cover Photo: Courtesy of Rboncato

Printed in the United States of America 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

n u n n m c g i n t y. c o m

Contents

Preface Chapter 1: Reconstruction, Expansion, and the Tr iumph of Industr ial Capitalism

ix 1

Reconstruction and Race, Controversies and Consequences

2

The Backlash

4

A New Kind of Slavery

6

Meet the New South, Same as the Old South?

8

Native American Genocide and Western Expansion

10

Gold and Death in the Black Hills

12

Stealing Land and Culture

15

The Triumph of Industrial Capitalism and the Growth of American Power

16

The South as Economic Colony

17

The Transition to and Triumph of Industry

19

Business Expansion and Corporations

21

Wealth and Power, Private and Public

24

Railroads and Capitalist Development

28

Rockefeller and Carnegie, Oil and Steel, Power and Wealth

29

Creating Industrial Labor

32

The American Working Class, 1870-1900

34

Workers’ Culture, and the Challenge to Capitalism

37

Class Violence in America

39

The Capitalists Strike Back

41

iii

Contents

iv

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and the Fight Against Industrialization

47

Fury on the Farms

52

The Second American Revolution

55

Chapter 2: Liberalism: Power, Economic Cr isis, Refor m, War

57

The Crisis of the 1890s and the Turn to Empire

59

Capital vs. Labor, the Struggle Continues

64

Progressivism, Cleaning Up the Rough Edges of Capitalism

75

Corporate Liberalism

81

America Attains Global Power

86

“Democracy” in Progressivism and War

92

Versailles, American Power, and Setting the Stage for World War II

98

Red Scares and Revolutions

102

Which Side Are You On? The West Virginia Coal Wars

105

Progress and Problems

114

Chapter 3: The ‘20s: Culture, Consumption, and Crash

117

Liberals . . .

118

. . . and Backlash

120

Culture and Economic Growth

126

Black Culture, White Money

129

The Rise of a Consumer’s Culture

133

Entertaining the Masses

139

“Pop” Goes the Economy

146

Hoover’s (Non)-Response

155

The “Isolationist” ‘20s?

159

More Trouble Ahead

167

Chapter 4:FDR, New Deals, and the Limits of Power FDR and the Rescue of Capitalism

169 169

Contents

v

The Bonus Army

173

The “First” New Deal as Conservative Reform

175

Every Man a King!

186

The “Second” New Deal

192

Roosevelt’s Recession and the New Deal’s Legacy

198

FDR, Liberals, and Labor

200

In the Streets . . .

209

. . . And in the Fields

223

Dr. New Deal?

231

Chapter 5: World War and the Growth of Global Power

233

Power, Fascism, and Global Conflict . . . Europe

233

. . . Asia and Japanese Aggression

241

The United States: Neutrality, the Open Door, and Military Keynesianism

245

World War II and the American Economy

247

War for Global Power (Europe), 1941-1945

250

War for Global Power (Asia), 1941-1945

256

Economic Power Wins the War!

260

Destruction and Crimes Against Humanity

264

Rosie and ER: Women, Power, and Wartime

266

The War and the “Irony” of Race

274

The Internment of Japanese Americans

279

Labor Goes to War: The End of “Radical” Unionism

281

From Depression to Power

288

Chapter 6: The Growth of Amer ican Power Through Cold and Hot War s

291

Origins of the Cold War and Global Power

291

Strategies for Power: Economic and Political

296

Cold War! The Political Rivalry Emerges

299

Poland, Germany, and Greece

300

“National Security” and Economic Hegemony

305

Contents

vi

Berlin, Economic Power, and Cold War Success

308

Asia, Running Cold and Hot

311

Using the Military as an Economic Program

315

The Cold War Grows: The Examples of Iran, Guatemala, and Vietnam

317

The Cold War, from Europe to the Whole World

326

The Cold War at Home, or “Domestic Containment”

327

Despair and Hope in the Cold War

343

Chapter 7: Confor mity and Challenges in the Eisenhower and Kennedy Year s

347

Duck and Cover!

349

Europe—Thaw and Heat

353

American Power, and Problems, in the Middle East

358

McCarthyism, Rising and Falling

362

Prosperity, Consumerism, Conformity, and Culture

364

The “Other” 1950s

368

Music as Politics

370

“Rockin’ and Rollin”

374

What Are You Rebelling Against?

376

Paintings of Protest

378

Conformity, or Madness? The Beatniks

380

Hefner and Gaines

383

Competing Visions as “The Torch is Passed”

384

“The Testicles of the West”

389

The Fifties: Cold War, Conformity, Containment, and Counterculture

391

Chapter 8: A New Kind of Democracy? Political and Cultural Developments in the 1960s

393

Questioning Authority

394

Creating a New Democracy

396

Making a Great Society

398

I Have a Dream

402

Contents

vii

Burn, Baby, Burn! Northern Rage

413

Black Power!

417

Race and Class

421

The Death of a Dream

422

Women’s Liberation

425

Sisterhood is Powerful

429

Fighting Back at Stonewall

433

Viva La Raza!

436

The “Art” of Protest in the ‘60s

437

Movements and Democracy in the Sixties

440

Chapter 9: Vietnam, Protest, and Counterculture

443

The First Indochina War

445

The Americans Take Over

449

The Chaos Continues and America Escalates

454

Beyond Vietnam: Brazil, the DR, and Indonesia, 1964-66

458

Occupying a Hostile Foreign Country

462

Going Out With a Bang

471

Anti-war Soldiers

478

The War at Home and the Counterculture

483

Make Love, Not War

487

The “Anti-‘60s”

496

Chapter 10: Power, Lost and Found: Amer ica At Centur y’s End

499

H2OGate Blues

500

Nixon’s Economy, Oil and Shocks

505

The “Greening” of Richard Nixon? The Life, and Death, of the Environment 508 Reagan, Renewal, Riches and Poverty

524

Morning [or Mourning] in America: Central America and Iran-Contra

528

Reagan’s Military-Industrial Complex

533

Contents

viii

From Cold War to Collapse of Communism: Reagan and Gorbachev

535

Cultural Resistance in the Time of Reagan

538

Clinton, Wall Street, and Globalization

542

Prologue to 9/11/01

548

The Rise of Islamist Politics

550

The Terror Era

555

Chapter 11: Bush and Obama, War s and Economy: Power and People in an Age of Limits and Loss

559

Global War On Terror

560

The War at Home

563

The Limits of Power

568

1929, The Sequel? Tax Cuts, Wars, and Housing Bubbles

571

Barack Obama: “Hope and Change” or More of the Same?

576

Simpsons, Sopranos, Draper, and White: Anti-Heroes and American Decline

581

Conclusion/Consilium

591

Suggestions for Fur ther Reading

595

Preface

P

erhaps the most widely-used political slogan of the 1960s was “Power to the People.” It appeared on posters and buttons, and was a common chant at political rallies. The idea behind it was simple—that the vast majority of Americans, 190-200 million in that era—did not have power, but should. A small minority did—high-ranking government officials, directors of corporations, banking leaders, especially on Wall Street, wealthy international investors, justices and judges, university administrators, media owners, entertainment and sports owners, military and police forces, some elements of organized religion, and others recognized as authority. So the basic idea, and the basic struggle, was to transfer power from the few to the many. That idea was not new in the 1960s. In fact it is as old as America, coming over with the first colonists in the 1600s. There has always been a conflict, which at times got violent, between “power” and “people,” between what we will call the Ruling Classes and the overwhelming majority who did not have power, the people who have recently come to refer to themselves as the “99 Percent.” Since the U.S. developed Capitalism as its economic system, especially after the Civil War in the 1860s, this conflict has grown and become the dividing line in American life—who are the “haves” and who are the “have nots?” Surely there are other significant points of division as well—racial inequality, discrimination against women, harassment and repression of ethnic ix

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groups, attacks on people for their sexual orientation, harassment of cultural non-nonconformists like hippies or Goths, fierce assaults on those with a different political ideology, especially people considered “radicals,” or Socialists, or Communists, and those cannot be ignored. All of these conflicts emerge out of the need for those in power to maintain their position in charge of political and economic decisions, and thus their influence over American society. For our purposes, the ruling class includes the people who organize and control the political economy, and thus society, the “small minority” mentioned above. They have power. That power in usually used to increase their influence and wealth, often at the expense of “the people.” Hence the title, America from Lincoln to Trump —and it is not by coincidence that “Power” appears before people. The story of U.S. history, especially from the Civil War-Reconstruction period to the present, is that of a struggle between power and people, with power almost always coming out on top, but people protesting and rebelling on frequent occasions and for various reasons, and at times making changes happen. While there are many stories within this concept of power and people, the roles of workers, Blacks, women and other groups that were outside of power stand out. And their struggle to get a larger share of the economic wealth they created as workers, to attain rights that others, especially Whites, had simply by virtue of being born, to seek political protection, as with Civil or Gay rights, to gain cultural acceptance for those who did not conform to the majority’s social ideas, to have a life free from repression, is a major part of that story. This text argues that the most important idea in studying U.S. history from the Civil War to the present is the idea of class power. When those in power—the ruling class, the Capitalists, the elite, the “haves,” whatever you choose to call them—decide on a certain policy, they will put it into effect. If there is opposition, they will use the many strategies at their disposal—eco-nomic power, state violence, the courts, culture—to overcome any protest and create the policies they desire. And if and when change does occur, it does so because that ruling class has determined that reform will either not harm its interests or, often and even better, contribute to such interests, meaning the creation of even more power and wealth. Another fundamental idea behind this examination of U.S. history based on the idea of power is that business and the government work closely togeth-

America from Lincoln to Trump

er, as a single unit really, to increase their wealth and power. Some critics called this “the corporate state.” The government and corporations collaborate on laws and codes to regulate business and keep it as free from restrictions or control as possible, the central bank, the Federal Reserve, offers relief to Wall Street when fiscal crises hit, the courts enforce laws favorable to corporations or reject laws that might help labor or women, various political entities at all levels offer tax breaks and subsidies to the wealthy. Even the National Football League, a $10 billion a year business, is a 501 (c) (6) organization— along with the National Hockey League and Professional Golfer’s Association— and is tax-exempt because it is “not organized for profit” according to the law. Power is also used abroad, as the Spanish American War, the Great War, World War II, the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and various interventions have shown. When the ruling class has interests outside the United States—such as land in Central or South American, investment and markets in China, oil in the Middle East—it will use its economic and military power to gain the trade or resources or cheap labor it wants, and oppose those nations who try to defend themselves and retain their own rights to control their own countries—a situation that we have seen with deadly consequences in Afghanistan and Iraq especially for over a decade now. But power is not always used by corporations sending out the police to break strikes, laws and mobs attacking Blacks in the South, men preventing women from having careers or equality, or assaults on Chicanos, Gays, or Indians, to name a few. Power is also seen in the development of American culture. Even so-called “popular culture,” the amusements that let us enjoy beauty and creativity, or just distract us from everyday life, fit into this narrative of power too. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid may have been outlaw folk heroes, but were also a symbol of resistance to Capitalism in the West at the turn of the 19th Century. Babe Ruth, the great baseball player, showed the economic power of “play,” of hitting home runs out of Yankee Stadium. Edward Bernays, like the Mad Men who make up the popular television show, developed methods of advertising to expand corporate power by convincing people to buy more things. Woody Guthrie, perhaps the most influential singer in America’s past, offered a national history lesson in power and resistance through his songs about working people, labor struggles, and even outlaws like Pretty Boy Floyd. Poets and authors of the Beatnik period shouted down conformity, telling people to pursue their own creative lives and live the

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way they wanted, not simply follow orders from authority figures. Hippies did the same. Muhammad Ali, one of the greatest boxers ever, will have a greater legacy as a political figure whom rejected power and refused to fight in Vietnam. And so it goes—power can be culturally-imposed, and the resistance to it often takes cultural forms. As Bruce Springsteen sang, “we learned more from a three-minute record than we ever learned in school” as he advised “no retreat, no surrender.” Chuck D and Public Enemy were more direct, “Fight the Power, We’ve got to Fight the Powers that be.” With this focus, and covering topics like Butch Cassidy or the New York Yankees, this text sets itself apart from traditional overviews of U.S. history. Most textbooks are almost like encyclopedias; they are filled with pages of events and people who had historical significance, but the information given about them is often limited to some basic mention of an idea, a name, an episode, with no deeper investigation. In the pages of America from Lincoln to Trump, that is not the case. In this examination of the U.S. from the Civil War to the present, the theme of power provides an opening to tell a multi-layered and textured story of American history. Rather than try to include every event or person of significance, certain topics are emphasized and given detail. Too many books try to explain the origins of Capitalism after the Civil War, the labor struggles of the 19th Century, the causes of the Great Depression, the background to World War II, the reasons for the Civil Rights movement, cultural opposition, or other such topics in brief. Here they get a much more complete and thus useful narrative—one that tells a history that is both important and adequate for a better understanding. Nor does this book avoid difficult topics. The origins of the Federal Reserve or Bretton Woods Systems, the idea behind the “corporate state,” Franklin Roosevelt’s mixed response to labor, the youth revolt after World War II, even the political meanings of art and music are topics that would be barely mentioned in most studies, but here receive significant coverage. Edward Bernays, a propagandist and advertising genius, gets much move atten-tion than President Warren G. Harding, and that is for a reason—he had greater influence over a longer period of time, and frankly provides a much more interesting case study of the way American power was developed and used. America from Lincoln to Trump provides the real story, and a more full story, behind many of the crucial events in American society since the Civil War. It will explain how the past took us to the present we now inhabit.

America from Lincoln to Trump

In order to show the development of power and the response of the people in American society, politics, and the economy, the first few chapters will cover the period when Capitalism became the dominant economic form after the Civil War and created great wealth and power, and caused millions to protest against it. This period also marks the time when the U.S. started its rise to global power with its huge economic ability to manufacture goods to trade, and invest its riches, its capital, in foreign lands. It then began its role as a global power as well in the wars of 1898 and 1917-1918. But that power had its limits, at home and abroad, as the Great Depression showed, so new ways to manage Capitalism and keep Americans both comfortable and not politically militant were essential. The next couple chapters, covering the New Deal and World War II, show how that task was accomplished, as the government and business, at home and abroad, took on new powers to coordinate economic activity with in the “new corporate state.” Globally, they created the Open Door—a system of trade with minimal barriers—along with growth at home through Military Keynesianism, an economy policy with heavy emphasis on defense spending, or what is often called the MilitaryIndustrial Complex. Politically, the class leaders moved against those who challenged the dominant system, in episodes like the “red scare” or anti-labor violence. After that, the next chapters, covering the Cold War to the Vietnam War, show the benefits and at times perils of such power. At home, the economy soared and created more jobs, housing, wages, and opportunities for more Americans that ever. But many were left out—including Blacks, women, socalled radicals, and those who did not conform to the values that came to define American society. Ultimately, those who did not have a stake in the expansion of power and wealth at home protested, most notably in the Civil Rights movement, while the U.S. had to consistently go abroad to maintain, as an important document of the time called it, its “position of disparity”—its massive advantage in money, trade, production, and military strength. So Capitalism survived, and grew, but not without having to confront segregation and sexism at home, and the aspirations of countries like Cuba and Vietnam abroad. Finally, the text ends with a more brief consideration of life in America since the 1960s, as the country has become more conservative to reverse the ideas of many of the active groups of the 1960s, but also found new conflict abroad as it sought more opportunities for trade and investment.

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It concludes with an overview of the events following September 11th, 2001, a date which has transcendent meaning for American history and which has created significant changes in American life. Contemporary life, internationally and in the U.S., shows that wealth and power, even the immense levels that the U.S. gained from the Civil War until the end of the 20th Century, could be challenged and limited, as the economic crisis of 2008-09 and the wars in the Middle East have shown. Ultimately, all these idea and events will tell us something about the uses of power, how it made American society, and how it affects the American people. We will study some people and events that are virtually unknown, look at others which are well-known in much different ways, study the roles of groups that normally do not get much attention in textbooks or history classes, study the way American culture interacts with economic interests, and be both educated and maybe even entertained. Ultimately, hopefully, our understanding of U.S. history and how America became what it is today will be much more complete and we can see how the present has emerged from the past.

Chapter 1

Reconstruction, Expansion, and the Tr iumph of Industr ial Capitalism

T

he Civil War left the South devastated—economically, politically, and socially. The task at hand for America’s leaders was to find a way to fix that region, and thus the entire country. This period would therefore be known as Reconstruction, the national effort to rebuild the South and restore the United States, and move forward toward a more powerful, unified nation. The first task was to fundamentally repair the states where most of the fighting had taken place. The southern economy was a disaster, with so many of its plantations and farms destroyed, its currency worthless, over 40 percent of its wealth gone, and $1-2 billion in assets in slaves lost due to emancipation. Politically, 11 southern states had left the United States and the federal government would have to devise a way for the Confederacy to return to the Union. And socially, the most vital question of the day, and one that persists even now, was how to address the race question, namely, what to do about ex-slaves. Nearly 4 million Blacks had been freed by the 13th amendment [enacted in 1865] and would be given citizenship and voting rights [for males at least] with the 14th and 15th amendments in 1868 and 1870, yet any type of legal or civil equality, indeed even basic civil or human rights, would not be provided to African-Americans. 1

Chapter 1

2

This period of Reconstruction became vital to the future of the United States. The decisions made did not radically change the political and social conditions that had existed before the Civil War. The same people who had caused secession continued to lead the southern states. Blacks still lived with discrimination and poverty. But the country would expand and build a new economy at the same time. The long-term project to eliminate Native Americans as a barrier to expansion would be brutally fulfilled and, most importantly, the transition to Industrial Capitalism was completed and the U.S. would become, in a short time, a global economic power. To address the importance and aftermath of the Civil War and the period of Reconstruction we will thus focus on three key issues: first, the political and social consequences of reconstruction, with a particular emphasis on what it meant for ex-slaves; then the nature of expansion and Indian removal; and finally, and most critically, the triumph of Industrial Capitalism, which would be the basis for the growth of American power and have a profound impact on the American people.

Reconstruction

and

Race, Controversies

and

Consequences

The first task of Reconstruction would be to put the United States back together, but political and regional differences created great problems in accomplishing that goal. There were essentially three programs for Reconstruction, and they would be negatively affected by North-South, and Republican-Democratic differences. The programs would try to address reuniting the Union with the Confederate states and creating a new legal and social system for ex-slaves. None of the programs, however, was a great success. President Abraham Lincoln developed the first plan while the war was in progress and it was lenient toward the Confederacy [not surprisingly, since his primary goal was to restore the Union before confronting the issues of slavery or race]. Lincoln was willing to allow southern states back into the United States when only 10 percent of the White population promised loyalty to the Union. On the race issue, his plan just required the southern states to accept the reality of abolition. Lincoln even vetoed an attempt, the Wade-Davis Bill, to require a majority of the White population to swear allegiance to the Union and to give some legal and civil rights [but not the vote] to Blacks, in 1864.

Reconstruction, Expansion, and the Triumph of Industrial Capitalism

After Lincoln’s assassination, his successor, President Andrew Johnson, took a similarly soft approach, which he called “restoration.” Johnson demanded only that the Confederate states accept the 13th Amendment and renounce secession, and offered limited voting rights to some Blacks. Even then, southerners complained and refused to go along with that program. Finally, Congress stepped into the political vacuum caused by Lincoln’s death, Johnson’s weakness, and southern stubbornness, and created its own Reconstruction plan. Southern states were readmitted with only the Confederate leaders barred, in effect the “soft” approach Lincoln and Johnson had taken. Also, in March, 1865, just as the war was ending, Congress established the Freedmen’s Bureau, which would distribute food to ex-slaves, give them some modest educational opportunities, and create some limited means for Blacks to get land. This issue, land, in retrospect was the focal point of Reconstruction. If one possessed land, he could become independent. A program of land reform was thus radical, for it would essentially require that the government would take property from those with power [like southern Planters in this case] and give it to the most powerless of people, ex-slaves [the law extended some rights to poor whites as well]. Indeed, in the span of U.S. history, the American ruling class has always been hostile toward land reform. The Freedmen’s Bureau was only created to last one year, though, so Congress extended its influence over Reconstruction in 1866-67 as the South refused to renounce its past and continued its discrimination and violence against African-Americans. Within Congress, Radical Republicans [most notably Senators Thaddeus Stevens and Charles Sumner] led the crusade for Reconstruction. The Republicans were the anti-slavery party, and the South remained almost totally Democratic, so the radicals enacted the Military Reconstruction Act to set up Union military control of the South [so-called Martial Law], create new state constitutions to allow Blacks to vote, and ratified the 14th Amendment, while also extending the life of the Freedmen’s Bureau. Johnson vetoed that bill but it was overridden, and Congress even passed a law to prevent the president from removing cabinet members who supported Radical Reconstruction. In fact, when he dismissed radical Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, Johnson survived impeachment by Congress by just a single vote.

3

Chapter 1

4

T he B acklash Though the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments had great significance, other aspects of Reconstruction were failures, and southerners also took measures to lessen the impact of the constitutional changes that had taken place. In the states of the Confederacy, the pre-war leaders reemerged, with their same notions of power, class and racism. President Johnson had offered amnesty, a promise not to take legal action against the southern elites, and pardoned 13,000 of them who had been charged for seceding from the Union and waging war, and thus gave them their confiscated lands back. Southern states also established Black Codes, laws that prohibited intermarriage between races, denied certain property rights [like alcohol and arms], and made many other political rights nonexistent, while imposing curfews and residential and institutional segregation on Blacks. Most oppressively, the codes allowed public officials to arrest and imprison Blacks who did not have “lawful employment,” or jobs, so they could retain control of them as they had in the days of slavery. In essence, the south had created an apartheid system, where political and social rights would be based on race [much like modern South Africa until the 1990s]. Even though seen as the “liberators” of the slaves, many northerners exploited the ex-slaves as well. Martin Delany, a Black abolitionist and Union Army officer, warned in 1865 that “Yankees from the North [will] come down here to drive you as much as ever. It’s slavery all over again: northern, universal, U.S. slavery. . . . They don’t pay you enough . . . Those yankees talk smooth to you, oh, yes! . . . But it’s slavery over again as much as ever it was.” While the role of carpetbaggers, northerners who moved to the South to set up business and take advantage of the economic calamity there for their own benefit, has probably been exaggerated, it was clear that the ex-slaves would not gain economic independence, that northern businessmen would play a major role in redeveloping the South, and that the region itself would not have the level of economic power it had before. Much worse for southern Blacks was the emergence of a violent counterattack against them by white southerners. Groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, established in Tennessee in 1866, and many others, carried out a campaign of terror against Blacks throughout the Reconstruction period and served as an important constituency of the

Reconstruction, Expansion, and the Triumph of Industrial Capitalism

Democratic Party. The Klan and other racist terrorist groups attacked meetings of free men, intimidated Blacks from voting and taking part in civic activities, and lynched countless African-Americans. In 1871, in a small town in Mississippi, the Klan had arranged for the arrest of three Black leaders for giving “incendiary speeches.” As the trial began, White men in the courtroom shot and killed two of the defendants and the judge, and that set off a riot in which 30 free people were murdered by the racists. The U.S. government did pass laws against groups like the Klan, but the federal presence in the South was declining by the early 1870s, so the overall levels of violence continued and the Democrats assumed, correctly, that Washington D.C. would not act decisively to stop it. But the biggest failure of Reconstruction was the rejection of property rights for ex-slaves. As noted, Radicals believed that land ownership was the key to successful emancipation. If a man owned land, he could be independent. As originally developed, the Freedmen’s Bureau could provide property –“40 acres and a mule”– to ex-slaves, but that effort was short-lived. Only about 30,000-40,000 Blacks gained land from that program. Obviously, southerners hated the idea of having their land taken and given to ex-slaves. Even northerners and moderate Republicans opposed the idea. As The Nation magazine, a liberal publication, put it, the government had no right to redistribute property: “No man in America has any right to anything which he has not honestly earned, or which the lawful owner has not thought proper to give him.” Northern merchants also feared that land reform, by providing small plots to many Blacks, would destroy the old plantation system and thus badly damage the production of cotton and other important crops that were produced and traded in huge numbers. Northern farmers and workers, many of whom had fought in the Union Army and wanted slavery ended, did not support land reform either. Land ownership was difficult to come by for white men, and so they resented the idea of giving Blacks property when the government was not providing land to them, especially after their military service. And without land, Black progress would be minimal, if at all. The government program for Reconstruction had not provided jobs, land, or welfare for ex-slaves; as H.C. Bruce, a freed man in Kansas, put it, they were "set free without a dollar, without a foot of land, and without the wherewithal to get even the next meal.” Blacks were given, as one ex-slave poignantly said, “nothing but freedom.”

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6

A N ew K ind

of

S lavery

While ending slavery and gaining freedom can never be understated, the refusal to grant Blacks real independence, especially land, was the key failure of Reconstruction. Without civil and property rights, and land, the newly freed men and women would remain poor and dependent, often on the very masters who had owned them just a year or so earlier. As noted, the Freedmen’s Bureau made attempts to provide small plots of land to Black men, and Union generals in some cases had allowed African-Americans to occupy their former plantations, but Johnson, in his pardon, took that land back from the ex-slaves. In fact, the failure to address the land issue drove over 75 percent of ex-slaves into the contract labor system, or, more frequently, sharecropping. Contract labor meant that Blacks returned to fields under the terms of a contract they signed, but most ex-slaves were illiterate. Nonetheless, they “legally” agreed to work for a year at fixed pay, normally a tiny fraction (perhaps ten percent) of the value of the land and crops, and they also were forced to accept restrictions on their legal rights and civil liberties.

Figure 1-1 Sharecroppers in Mississippi

Reconstruction, Expansion, and the Triumph of Industrial Capitalism

Sharecropping, the prevailing labor system, would remain the dominant working condition for Blacks until the Great Depression. In it, a slave would make an agreement–always one-sided, often with his former master–to take responsibility for farming a piece of the land on the larger plantation and provide a share of the crops to the planter as rent. The landowner would then loan the Black farmer the money to buy the tools, seed, and other equipment needed to work. The loans for tools and seed were borrowed against the future value of the crops to be produced, which put the ex-slave in debt from the start. As a result of this “credit” system, the sharecropper would owe the planter a 50 percent or larger share of anything produced, even before he broke ground. If the sharecropper did not meet quota [and drought, flood, and market conditions always made it nearly impossible to meet their share] then the exslaves would have to get another loan from the planter. Now, the landowner would place a lien–a requirement for future payment–on the part of the crop that would have originally been kept by the sharecropper. In this way, the sharecropper owed not only the original 50 percent or more to the landholder, but an additional amount [and the interest rates for the lien would be in the 30-70 percent range] that he could rarely, if ever meet. Therefore, the sharecroppers were in constant debt to the landowner and in a condition that was not materially different than slavery, often termed debt peonage. They owed more money than they could possibly ever repay, so the solution for the landowners was to make sure the farmers could never leave. They enacted laws making it illegal to leave as long as the Black farmer owed on a crop-lien, and it was enforced vigorously. It was "better than slavery" from the landowners’ view because under slavery, an owner had obligations to provide at least some food and shelter – under the crop-lien and sharecropping systems, landowners had to provide nothing, and more often than not, still got everything. As one sharecropping contract spelled out, every cropper must be responsible for all gear and farming implements placed in his hands, and if not returned must be paid for unless it is worn out by use. . . . Croppers must sow and plow . . . oats and haul them to the crib, but must have no part of them. Nothing [is] to be sold from their crops, nor fodder nor corn to be carried from their fields until my rent is all paid, and all amounts they owe me and for which I am responsible are

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8

paid in full. The sale of every cropper’s part of the cotton [is] to be made by me when and where I choose to sell, and after deducting all they owe me. . . . Work of every description . . . is to be done to my satisfaction, and must be done over until I am satisfied that it is done as it should be.

M eet

the

N ew S outh , S ame

as the

O ld S outh ?

The emergence of sharecropping, which kept Blacks in a position more like slaves or even serfs, signaled the failure of racial Reconstruction. The social system that had prevailed for over 250 years would persist, though the legal institution of chattel slavery had been banned. With that refusal to grant equality or civil rights to African-Americans, along with the re-establishment of the old southern elite in power, it was clear that the Reconstruction had run its course. The disastrous Johnson administration was replaced in 1868 when war hero General Ulysses S. Grant was elected president, but his administration was not a model of success either. He was plagued by scandal and financial crises, and most importantly he put an end to the attempt to reconstruct American society after the brutal war between the states. By 1872, the Democrats had regained control of the South because Whites were a majority of voters, and even many Republicans believed that simply providing Blacks with citizenship and the vote was all that was needed to give them political and civil rights. By 1876, the Democrats had taken control of the House of Representatives and ran virtually every state of the old Confederacy. By that time, Grant was unpopular so the Republicans chose Rutherford Hayes of Ohio to be their candidate for president, to run against the Democrat Samuel Tilden. Neither candidate had any radical visions on race or Reconstruction, and were willing to accept the status quo. The election was incredibly close, and, like the GoreBush election of 2000, disputed votes prevented a winner from being named on Election Day. In January 1877, Congress established a commission to decide the election and, voting along party lines, the Republican majority chose Hayes. But that victory came with a series of deals and compromises. The new president promised the South extensive aid for internal improvements [roads, bridges, waterways, and the like], control of federal projects in their areas, aid for new railroad developments, federal support for business

Reconstruction, Expansion, and the Triumph of Industrial Capitalism

programs, and, most critically, the removal of all remaining Union troops from the South. The Confederacy, as southerners boasted, had been “redeemed.” Reconstruction was finished. The legacy of Reconstruction was not a pretty one. The 13th-15th amendments provided vital constitutional rights for Blacks, but otherwise, the South did not change dramatically, and the daily lives of Blacks remained far too similar to the days of slavery. Speaking some years later, the ex-slave turned abolitionist and brilliant orator Frederick Douglass provided an insightful overview of the Reconstruction era. While slavery had been abolished, violence and Black Codes [laws passed to keep Blacks segregated and poor] meant that “to-day, in most of the Southern States, the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments are virtually nullified . . . The citizenship granted in the fourteenth amendment is practically a mockery, and the right to vote, provided for in the fifteenth amendment, is literally stamped out in face of government. The old master class is to-day triumphant, and the newlyenfranchised class in a condition but little above that in which they were found before the rebellion.” Reconstruction was “radically defective” and the former slaves were left completely in the power of the old masters, as Douglass explained it. The “loyal citizen” fell victim to the “disloyal rebel.” Attacking sharecropping, Douglass found the old masters still had “the power of life and death” over African-Americans, which had been “the soul of the relation of master and slave.” They could not own or sell Blacks, but “could starve them to death. . . . He who can say to his fellow-man, ‘You shall serve me or starve,’ is a master and his subject is a slave.” Sharecroppers and other Black workers were “compelled to work for whatever his employer is pleased to pay him, swindled out of his hard earnings by money orders redeemed in stores, compelled to pay the price of an acre of ground for its use during a single year, to pay four times more than a fair price for a pound of bacon and to be kept upon the narrowest margin between life and starvation.” By way of historical comparison, Douglass noted that the serfs of Russia, among the most oppressed groups in the world, had been emancipated and given three acres of land to make a living. But when U.S. slaves were freed, “they were sent away empty-handed, without money, without friends and without a foot of land upon which to stand.” Offering advice for the future, he concluded, “greatness does not come on flowery beds of ease to any

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people. We must fight to win the prize. No people to whom liberty is given, can hold it as firmly and wear it as grandly as those who wrench liberty from the iron hand of the tyrant.” For African-Americans, that fight against racial and class tyranny–Whites with economic power versus Black people suffering under racism and poverty–would continue well into the next century, as Reconstruction, perhaps the best opportunity to address the race issue, fell victim to old political realities, a rigid class system, and persistent racism.

N ative A merican G enocide

and

W estern E xpansion

The West [the area to the west of the Louisiana Purchase] was the last frontier in the continental United States, and with the Civil War over and the slavery issue settled, it was time to make good on filling that frontier to create a truly national market, and begin creating a global capitalist power. The West was a site of hope and expansion, and, as Republican ideology would explain it, a place for White men to gain land and independence. But the West, contrary to many myths, then and now, was not empty. Native tribes had inhabited the region even before Columbus’s conquests, and, as American economic and political leaders, and “average” farmers and workers, saw it, they stood in the way of American expansion and progress. While the history of White massacre of Indians was already established, there was a legal problem for the settlers. Various treaties had recognized Indian sovereignty, or independence from the U.S. government. Indians, as it were, were like independent nations and relations with them had to be determined by treaties, like any other foreign country, not by U.S. government law. The Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851, for example, gave Indians sovereignty over the Great Plains for “as long as the river flows and the eagle flies.” But this self-determination and these treaties were never fully respected. A Cherokee official described a government official from the Bureau of Indian Affairs official as arriving “with a pocket full of money and his mouth full of lies. Some chiefs he will bribe, some he will flatter and some he will make drunk: and the results will be called a treaty.” In fact, the Fort Laramie Treaty gave rise to one of the more horrid attacks on Indians in that era, the Sand Creek Massacre [also called the “Chivington Massacre”]. In the 1851 Treaty, Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians got title to lands in what are today Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado, and Kansas. Seven years later, however, the Pikes Peak Gold Rush in Colorado brought large

Reconstruction, Expansion, and the Triumph of Industrial Capitalism

numbers of Whites onto Indian lands and in the 1861 Treaty of Fort Wise, the Arapaho and Cheyenne had to cede, or give up, the vast majority of lands granted to them a decade earlier. Some Cheyenne located in eastern Colorado, including a particularly militaristic group which also included Sioux and were called the Dog Soldiers, were furious at their leaders for selling out their lands, and, as more miners and ranchers entered Colorado, began to launch raids and even kill White settlers. By 1864, Colonel John Chivington, leader a Colorado regiment that had fought in the Civil War, was determined to exterminate the remaining Cheyenne and their Chief, Black Kettle. “Kill and scalp all, little and big,” Chivington was famously quoted, “nits make lice.” The Colorado governor ordered all Indians to report to Fort Lyon, and then they were sent to Sand Creek, about forty miles away, where they were told they would be safe. But, on November 29th, 1864, Chivington’s regiment and other soldiers from Fort Lyon attacked the Cheyenne and Arapaho and, using howitzers and other advanced weapons, slaughtered them, killing, Chivington boasted, over 600 Indians that day, warriors, women and children [the “nits” about whom Chivington talked]. For the Natives, the lesson was clear: negotiations and treaties with the White power elite would only lead to extermination. During the Civil War, conditions for Indians remained desolate and led to more terror. Many Whites, especially those with interests in mining, moved into the Great Plains area [west of the Mississippi River and east of the Rocky Mountains], and many discovered gold in the hills there. Along with a general contempt for Indians–a majority of Whites probably favored the extermination of natives even more than putting them on reservations–things were about to become more violent. In the next few years, the U.S. government signed new treaties with Indians, in 1867 and 1868. In another Fort Laramie Treaty, Plains Indians, led by Red Cloud, agreed to remain on their reservations and in return received food, clothing and arms, which led the Sioux leader Sitting Bull to label them “rascals” who “sold our country” without the consent of the natives. Just after the treaty was signed, soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 7th Cavalry, led by General George Custer, massacred a band of Cheyenne at the Black Kettle encampment in Kansas, showing how much respect the government had for their agreements with the natives. The cavalry killed over 100 Indians, including women and children, and took over 50 other women and children as prisoners, while it shot over 800 horses it had captured. Following the rout, most of the southern Cheyenne were forced onto a government-

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12

Figure 1-2 General George Custer

assigned reservation. After that, General Philip Sheridan put it bluntly: “the only good Indians I ever saw were dead.”

G old

and

D eath

in the

B lack H ills

Custer’s work was not done, however. The Fort Laramie Treaty had also given the Sioux, or Lakota, title to the Black Hills of South Dakota, a place where gold had been found. Whites often talked of the “civilizing mission” or “Manifest Destiny” when they discussed Indians–trying to claim they would bring Christianity and “civilization” and make life better for the Native Americans. In reality, it was wealth that was motivating them to move westward. White miners used new technologies to discover silver and gold in huge volume. They then killed off immense numbers of buffalo–which was a way of also exterminating Indians since they relied on those animals for food, clothing, and so many other needs. And ranchers and farmers fenced in the range–to prevent Indians from hunting and farming throughout the vast area. At the same time, Whites brought railroads, telegraphs, and machine guns and cannons [and smallpox and measles] to the West, increasing their power and ability to control and destroy Indian people. By the early 1870s,

Reconstruction, Expansion, and the Triumph of Industrial Capitalism

the government and White settlers had taken over three-fourths of the land that had been titled to Indians in the previous treaties. And Custer and the 7th Cavalry were still maneuvering in the Black Hills area. So the violence was rising, too. In 1874, in the Black Hills, in Sioux territory, an expedition of the 7th Cavalry found gold and, despite some minor government attempts to prevent an invasion of White miners, over 7000 settlers poured into the area looking to strike it rich, establishing places like Custer City and Deadwood. The Sioux, simply put, had been invaded. The Bureau of Indian Affairs demanded that the Indians report to the government reservation agencies but over 8000 refused. Thus, in June 1876, Custer’s 7th Cavalry attacked the Sioux but foolishly struck them at a strong point along the Little Bighorn River, and his forces were destroyed, with every man under his command and Custer himself killed. “Custer’s last stand,” however, would be just a setback in the white onslaught against the Sioux. The army regrouped and attacked with more ferocity and by 1877 the Sioux were forced out of the Black Hills and onto reservations, and railroad barons, miners, ranchers, and farmers started to take over the land that the Indians had held. To the northwest, the Nez Percé met a similar fate. They lived in Oregon, but white settlers began to move into their areas and use it for farming and grazing for livestock. In 1855, they signed a treaty with the U.S. government giving them about 7 million acres in Idaho, but in 1863, after a gold discovery, were forced to renegotiate and ended up with just a tenth of their original land. Some Nez Percé, led by Chief Joseph, refused to move onto the smaller reservation in Idaho. As he lay dying, Chief Joseph’s father had told him “You must stop your ears whenever you are asked to sign a treaty selling your home. A few years more and white men will be all around you. They have their eyes on this land. My son, never forget my dying words. This country holds your father's body. Never sell the bones of your father and your mother.” Chief Joseph thus was able to negotiate to remain on native lands in the Wallowa Valley of Oregon, but in 1877, the government and army decided that the Nez Percé would have to go, and Chief Joseph, to save his tribe from slaughter, agreed to leave for Idaho. In the meantime, to avoid bloodshed, Chief Joseph and about 800 Indians decided to head for Canada, with 2000 U.S. army soldiers in pursuit. For three months, the Nez Percé fought and escaped the army as they made their

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Figure 1-3 Chief Joseph, Nez Percé chief

way through Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana, but freezing weather and starvation began to take their toll on the Indians. In early October, in the Bear Paw Mountains of Montana, just 40 miles from refuge in Canada, the army attacked and overwhelmed the Nez Percé, and Chief Joseph surrendered, famously stating “I am tired of fighting. Our Chiefs are killed . . . . The old men are all dead . . . . It is cold, and we have no blankets; the little children are freezing to death. My people . . . have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, no food. No one knows where they are – perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children . . . . Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my Chiefs! I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever.” With episodes like this, the period was often referred to as the time of the “Indian Wars,” but that was a poor description. Wars involve some sense of equal combatants, fighting with similar weapons. These were massacres, with the government using its overwhelming power to exterminate entire groups or tribes of Natives.

Reconstruction, Expansion, and the Triumph of Industrial Capitalism

S tealing L and

and

C ulture

But the government did not just use force to subdue and control Indians. Whites also attacked Indian culture. White patrols used alcohol to manipulate Indians into giving up land; they caused starvation through the continued destruction of buffalo; they spread more diseases to which the Indians were not immune; and they created the idea that Indians were “savages” and Whites were civilized, and popularized “Wild West” novels to spread that idea. But the most potent attack was on the Natives’ conception of land. Indians held land in common; they did not “own” a piece of property but used it for farming, ranching, or hunting. As Sitting Bull said, “the White man knows how to make everything, but he does not know how to distribute it.” Whites believed in the concept of private property, that “civilized” people owned and controlled land and used it to produce goods or make a profit. So even as they forced Indians onto reservations, the government and White culture wanted to break down the Indians even more and divide their reservations into lots which they would give to them in “severalty,” meaning that Indians would be treated as “several” or separate individuals, rather than as sovereign tribes with common interests. To formalize this idea, congress in 1887 passed the Dawes Severalty Act to break up the reservation system. Reservations were divided into smaller areas and Indians willing to abandon their communal ways and adopt the “habits of civilized life” would be given 160 acres each. The law also granted the government the right to sell reservation land to White settlers–and continued to give Congress the right to give railroad and telegraph companies grants to Indian lands. In 1887, the year of the Dawes Act, Indians held 138 million acres. By 1900, it was down to 78 million, most of which was unsuitable for the agricultural life the government tried to force onto the Natives. And by 1930, Indians held less than 50 million acres. Not only did the government kill and take Indian land, it set out to eliminate their cultural habits. Young Indians were sent to boarding schools to learn to speak, dress, and act like White youth, even getting their hair cut to match the short styles of the White kids. The U.S. government banned ceremonies such as the Ghost Dance, a ritual that would pay homage to dead ancestors and, as the Sioux intended it, make Whites disappear so that the Indians could gain their land back. The Bureau of Indian Affairs wanted them

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to stop, and the media wrote sensational stories about the “hostile” Sioux and their dangerous dance. But the Natives resisted. Already dealing with a harsh winter and outbreaks of measles, whooping cough, and the flu in 1890, they continued to perform the Ghost Dance. So the War Department dispatched federal troops in November and December to their reservation at Pine Ridge, South Dakota to stop the Dance and arrest Sitting Bull; the army, however, killed him, and some Sioux decided to take up arms against the 7th Cavalry. U.S. soldiers, using rapid-fire rifles, met the Sioux near Wounded Knee Creek, where a shot rang out and the army responded in force. They killed perhaps 400 Sioux [the army claimed 150], including women and children. Wounded Knee was the last of those so-called Indian Wars of the 19th Century. The Black Hills was now fully open for white miners and settlers to search for gold or to ranch or farm. The Great Plains became one of the areas for agricultural production in the world. And the West was fully open to railroad development. A truly continental market had been created. And the government did not stop there. In 1898, in the Curtis Act, the government ended the sovereignty of Indian tribes, took back control of mineral rights from the Natives, and abolished tribal law and tribal courts. Then, in the 1924 Snyder Act, the government gave citizenship to Indians, leading to their assimilation into American life and all but eliminating their independent culture, but still confining them to poverty and frequent alcoholism on the reservation or in desolate rural areas. Through force, law, and culture, the government and the ruling class, after the Civil War, had used their power to fully expand into the West and create a unified nation, greatly expand agricultural lands, find gold, link the country by railroad, and eliminate anyone standing in their way, namely the Indian people.

The Triumph of Industrial Capitalism American Power

and the

Growth

of

With Reconstruction over and westward expansion settled by the extermination of various Indian tribes, powerful Americans with the greatest economic interests in the country’s growth took on their most important task–making the full transition to an industrial capitalist society. In just a few generations, the U.S. had grown from a country of farmers and craftsmen to one where

Reconstruction, Expansion, and the Triumph of Industrial Capitalism

industry was emerging as the dominant economic activity–in textiles, iron, steel, oil, and especially railroads. By the beginning of the 20th Century, Americans would be living in a nation that would have been unimaginable in 1800, with factories, national and then international transport systems and markets, and huge new forms of business organization–as well as incredible wealth and larger gaps in socio-economic class than ever before. In the aftermath of the Civil War, the United States was on its way to becoming not just a world power, but the world power!

T he S outh

as

E conomic C olony

While we almost always associate colonization as an external process–one nation taking control of a less developed place abroad–the northern industrial elite practiced “internal” colonization after the Civil War. Northern business and political leaders made the South subordinate to their own region and their power, and used its resources and labor to build up their industrial base. As the power elite was able to stop radical reconstruction and place the old ruling class back in charge in the South, northerners also created a climate in which they could invest and build businesses in the areas of the old Confederacy. Moreover, many “new” southern leaders, wanting to escape their agrarian past and enter the “modern” world, hoped to link their future to northern Capitalism, to develop a “New South” with cities, immigration, finance, business, and industry. Development in the South was not like that in the North; it would be shaped by northern domination, and the legacy of shortcomings of the Old South [agriculture and slavery]. Northern businesses controlled the southern economy and banking after the war. Southern capital had been wiped out with the devastation of wartime, so most southern banks had failed outright and Confederate money printed for the war was worthless. Also, as it had for close to a century already, the government and ruling class, those who controlled U.S. capital, favored industry over agriculture. As they knew, the great powers [Britain, France, Germany, for example] had industrialized. Agriculture was the past, factories were the future. So northern Capitalists established low-wage operations to extract raw materials or control processed products from South such as lumber, coal, turpentine, or seafood, and especially cotton for their textile mills.

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One northern observer warned the South what to expect when the war ended. “Our capitalists are going into your country,” he boasted, “because they see a chance to make money there, but you must not think they will give your people the benefit of the money they make. That will come North and enrich their heirs.” He was, indeed, right. The North already held significant economic advantages that had helped it win the Civil War. The Union had produced three times more wealth than the Confederacy as of 1861; had twoand-a-half times more railroad mileage; 9 times more merchant ship tonnage; a factory production advantage of ten-to-one; textile production that was 17 times greater; 20 times more iron production and 38 times more coal mined; and 32 times more firearms production. Even southern agriculture, the basis of the entire political and economic order of the region, was small compared to the North. The Union states had 3 times more farm acreage and almost twice as many draft animals; one-and-a-half times more livestock; 4 times more wheat; and twice as much corn produced. Only in the production of cotton, where there was a 24:1 ratio, did the South have any economic advantage. Looking at such numbers [see graph below] it is not hard to understand how the North won the war. And that advantage only grew in the postwar period. Businessmen and speculators went south as the war was ending and ended up owning half of southern farmland. Per capita income, the amount of money one made in a year, was much lower in the South too. If the national base income was $100, southerners made about $76 in 1840, $72 in 1860, $51 in 1880 and 1900, and only $62 in 1910, about a half-century after the Civil War started. By contrast,

Figure 1-4 Resources of the Union and of the Confederacy

Reconstruction, Expansion, and the Triumph of Industrial Capitalism

the Northwest and West were consistently well over $100, as was the Midwest after 1880. In 1880, total farm production in the South was still 20 percent lower than it had been in 1860. Southern farmers also lost one-third of their work animals and, in perhaps the worst blow, saw the demand for their cotton decline as India, Egypt, and Brazil emerged as rival producers. Meanwhile, manufacturing, the source of power and wealth in capitalist society, continued to develop in the North. Aided by protective tariffs and government policies that favored industry, the South fell further behind. Where southern states accounted for only 7.2 percent of manufacturing output in 1860, it shrank to a measly 4.7 percent in 1870. In 1880, not a single southern state ranked in the top 30 in per capita wealth, a clear indication of the impoverishment of the whole region. By 1900, there was $16 billion deposited in U.S. banks, and only $1 billion of that, a little over 6 percent, was held in institutions in the “Confederate” states. Such figures show clearly the North’s domination in the national economy and how badly the war had wrecked the South. Northern banks and landowners controlled southern capital and agriculture, making credit hard to get, manufacturing almost nonexistent, and land more expensive and difficult to own. Even when northern businessmen thought about opening shop in the old Confederacy, as some textile mill owners considered, it was because, as one of them put it, “labor is cheaper in the South.” Explaining himself, the northern Capitalist went on, “the hours of labor are longer” and there was no legal protection for workers, as unions in the North had fought for [a condition that has remained consistent from that time to the present]. Even today, more than 150 years after the beginning of the Civil War, the South remains economically behind the North in most major categories. The Civil War marked the triumph of Industrial Capitalism, and also proved to be a horrible blow to the southern economy and way of life. A region that was so proud it tried to leave the United States of America was now a poor collection of states depending upon its conquerors to sustain itself.

T he T ransition

to and

T riumph

of

I ndustry

From the earliest days of the Republic, political and economic leaders such as Alexander Hamilton, who presented his Report on Manufactures in 1791, and Albert Gallatin, who produced the Report on Roads, Canals, Harbors, and Rivers

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in 1808, anticipated the United States becoming a powerful industrial capitalist country with an extensive transportation network, all of which would be built with public and private monies. At that time, most Americans were still farmers, and there was little “industry,” as most work was done by individual craftsmen [shoemakers, carpenters, tailors, meatpackers, barrel makers, and the like]. If one wanted a pair of shoes, for example, he would go to a master shoemaker and get them custom made. In just a few decades, however, that would change, as merchants, acting as middlemen, would buy shoes in large quantity and go out in their wagons and sell them in nearby towns. Soon, those middlemen eliminated the master shoemakers altogether and bought raw materials and hired mostly young women to put the shoes together and paid them by the piece, hence the term “piecework” system. By mid-century, and especially after the Civil War, shoemakers, and those in other fields, would complete the industrialization process by building factories and centralizing the entire process in one place with a division-of-labor. In that way, the factory owner could produce a huge volume of his product and sell it to a growing, and eventually national, market. The skilled craftsman, however, fell by the wayside; there was no way an individual could compete against the machine. Industrial Capitalism was almost exclusive to the North, as the South was still agricultural and heavily involved in the export of cotton, tobacco and other farm commodities. In the North, however, textiles had already been established as the foundation of industrialization, and factories were becoming more common by the 1850s and 1860s. With the end of the Civil War, the development of the railroad, and the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869, industry was clearly established as the foundation of the national economy. Railroads, in fact, held over $4.5 billion in capital by 1880. The Civil War had given real impetus to industrialization, as the Union used its huge advantages in armaments, trains and rail, shipbuilding, and, of course, capital, to overwhelm the confederacy. After the Civil War, factories in the North emerged primarily for producers’ goods–iron, steel, heavy tools, railroad machinery, and so forth–to further develop the new Capitalism [a consumers’ economy was still a ways off]. Capitalism became more internally-funded too. In the first half of the 19th Century, and including the Civil War era, American manufacturers often borrowed from British banks to build their industries. Now, those monies were being raised in the United States to a much greater

Reconstruction, Expansion, and the Triumph of Industrial Capitalism

degree. But, as noted, the government [the public sector] still played a huge role in developing Industrial Capitalism. Railroad grants continued, and the Republican Party, which held political power, was friendly toward Big Business more than to farmers or wage workers, and passed laws that provided subsidies and tax breaks to iron manufacturers, textile mills, coalmines, and other industries. Perhaps most importantly, the government created a policy that protected manufacturers. Tariffs are taxes paid on goods imported into the United States. Since Britain and other European countries had industrialized prior to the United States, they could produce goods more efficiently, in higher quantity and at a lower price. So the government would enact large and burdensome taxes on foreign imports to make them more expensive than the American goods, and thus guarantee a market for the home producers. This combination of private capital and government handouts, as well as America’s abundant natural resources, led to an economic explosion. By 1880, as well as having more railroad miles than any other country, American manufacturers had developed a strong steel industry [about 90 percent of which went to the Railways]; steel output was increasing 700 percent between 18771892; copper production also rose 700 percent; and crude oil 400 percent. There were, however, prices to pay for this massive spurt of industrialization. Inflation caused by wartime borrowing and government-issued paper money–“greenbacks”–meant that manufacturers were paying off merchants for their old debts with seriously devalued money. Moreover, investments may have surged, but financial markets were unregulated [as in current times] which meant that money was being loaned out and borrowed without enough attention to the likelihood that such capital would be used productively or ever paid back. In fact, in 1873, the financial house of Jay Cooke and Company collapsed, leading to a run on banks across the country and causing the entire stock market to close for a week. Hence the country was on an economic roller-coaster in the decades after the Civil War.

B usiness E xpansion

and

C orporations

Business in the late 19th century was marked by control and expansion. Especially in large-scale industries such as railroads, steel, and oil, businesses extended control and expanded firms ever more; eliminated competition; gained access to raw materials; and more effectively marketed goods; while

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also creating “efficiency” in production and management. Politically, those with power sought “representation” by controlling public officials at all level. It was a “harmony of interests.” The biggest development, of course, was the corporation. Corporations had existed for some time before the late 1800s but they were mostly publicprivate combinations given monopoly privileges by the state to build infrastructure, like canals. The first huge corporations emerged in the railroad industry, not surprisingly. As businesses grew to massive size, it was essential to organize them differently. A Mom and Pop business could not operate at a significant level, and even banks would not have enough money to lend to larger businesses to considerably expand their firms. To truly create a big business, much more capital would be needed. Capital was not just money, but funds used particularly to develop and grow an industry, make a profit, reinvest, and continue to expand [A hundred-dollar bill used to buy a pair of shoes is not capital; money used to invest in a plant to produce them and make a profit is capital]. Hence, the incorporation of American business . . .. By establishing a corporation, the owners of a business could sell stock, or shares – a percentage of ownership in the company. In that way, they were able to get considerably more capital, as those well off enough to have some extra money could buy stock, and investments like the railroad were considered reasonably safe and profitable. By going to the public for money, corporations had access to more capital than ever before. Additionally, corporations were safer for business owners because they limited their risks [“limited liability,” it was called]. If one owned a business by himself, he was liable for all losses if the company tanked, and his creditors could seize all his possessions. In a corporation, one was only liable for his own investment, and if the company failed, the only losses incurred would be that investment in stock, and the investor would not be liable for any corporate debts accumulated beyond that [as evidenced in modern corporate meltdowns like Enron or the Wall Street failures of the early 2000s]. Corporations brought with them attempts to control markets, to create oligopolies–a business environment where just a few firms owned all the key businesses in a particular field–or monopolies–where one firm dominated the entire industry. Indeed, many of the leading businessmen of this era could realistically be called oligarchs, or individuals who controlled a particular industry, owned immense wealth, and had powerful political influence as well.

Reconstruction, Expansion, and the Triumph of Industrial Capitalism

Railroad executives began these moves toward oligopoly, centralization and control, by establishing cartels to divide traffic and set rates as a way to end cutthroat competition–not embrace it. However, financiers like Jay Gould and Jim Fiske, who were not railroad men, gained control over many railways [like many corporations and speculators today take over control of companies that operate in wholly different areas, such as General Electric owning media outlets] and started rate wars to lower the price of railroad stocks and bonds, and then they bought up the weaker rail companies at bargain prices. In the process, smaller lines were driven out of business and an oligopoly emerged and grew. One of Jay Gould’s fellow “swindlers,” a man who had worked with him in cheating smaller lines out of their money, called Gould “the worst man on earth since the beginning of the Christian era.” Those few big companies that thrived would buy more equipment, lay more rail, and get more government land. Smaller rail lines that tried to survive could not compete with the bigger investors and were out of business by the 1890s. Many other manufacturers followed this model, establishing cartels—associations of firms in the same business—so they could work together to limit production and keep prices high, until rogue operators broke the agreements and cut prices, leading to

Figure 1-5 Financier Jay Gould

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new rounds of speculation, mergers, oligopolies, and business failures [again, think of the banking meltdown of the past few years].

W ealth

and

P ower , P rivate

and

P ublic

A wealthy family in the Northeast held a treasure hunt at their estate, where they buried diamonds in the lawn and provided their guests with small golden shovels to dig for them. As extreme as this may sound, it was hardly a rare and gaudy display of riches. With the triumph of industry and Capitalism after the Civil War, Americans, especially those with great wealth, lived differently. Some showed off their money ostentatiously. This emergence of “conspicuous consumption” would expand as wealth was created and in a couple generations would simply replace the ideas of thrift and savings that the Puritans had brought with them centuries earlier. As we have seen, Capitalism created huge amounts of wealth. The Net National Product [the total output of products minus the replacement of worn-out factories, machines, and other capital goods] was $6.2 billion in 1870 and almost five times more, $30.1 billion, in 1900. In that same period, American production grew to be more than one-third more than Germany’s, twice as much as Britain’s, and over twice that of France; per capita income also rose significantly, by 110 percent. This growth cut across virtually all economic activities. Capital and capital markets—stock exchanges, bond sales, an increase in banks, the growth of insurance companies—all created huge levels of wealth, while land and property—factories being built, new buildings, transportation systems, land improvements— grew due to such investments and helped expand the market for manufactured goods, first nationally and then globally. This growth took place in many specific economic areas as well. Banking grew tremendously. In 1815, there were 206 chartered banks in the U.S., but by 1860, there were well over 1500, a 700+ percent increase. By 1900, there were over 13,000 such financial institutions, and by 1920, over 31,000, with over $53 billion in assets. Banks [along with insurance companies] expanded markets by providing capital to build factories and improve transportation; helped mechanize farm equipment by funding the creation of tools such as steel plows, threshers, and twine knitters; and, in general, revolutionized industry by making money available for investment. Where humans and animals

Reconstruction, Expansion, and the Triumph of Industrial Capitalism

once did almost all manufacturing work, now machines and technology dominated the labor process; production, usually based in the home or a small shop, moved into large factories; instead of hauling goods overland by draft animals, canals and especially railroads did the job; and population, and immigration, soared, making many more hands available for work. Advances in technology produced huge growth also. In 1834, a blacksmith applied for a patent on an electric motor to drive streetcars. In 1847, a man named Walter Hunt invented the safety pin. With the invention of the corn cutter, corporate farms could fill 15,000 cans daily, while the mechanical pea sheller could remove as many peas from their pods as 600 workers. In 1862, Dr. R.J. Gatling patented a ten-barreled shotgun, which evolved into the machine gun. In 1880, an inventor working for a tobacco company built a machine that produced 70,000 cigarettes in ten hours, and that number rose to 120,000 in just a few years. Companies we still know today—Proctor and Gamble, Ivory Soap, Quaker Oats, Borden, Heinz, Campbell Soup, Libby’s—likewise saw their production expand enormously. John Deere began producing steel plows and Cyrus McCormick in 1864 built 6000 reapers and 70,000 mowers, making it possible for farmers to purchase agricultural tools in huge numbers, such as 100,000 harvesters in 1879 alone. Thomas Edison, who was the primary inventor of electricity, by 1885 had installed over 1000 central power stations and had begun the process of bringing electricity to the whole country. Along those lines, the main source of energy changed too. In 1870, wood accounted for 73 percent of energy, but by 1920, coal produced that same percentage, and coalfields were producing over 4 million tons of coal, as well as black lung disease and environmental damage, annually. While the vast amounts of wealth created were owned privately, Capitalists had a vital ally in the government. While Americans are taught that the United States has a “free enterprise” system and many citizens agree that the government should be limited and stay out of the economy [a key element in the Tea Party and right-wing political program that was so successful in the 2010-2012 elections], that is not the historical case at all. Indeed, the power of the state was connected to the interests of big business more than ever after the Civil War, as the government passed laws and approved of institutions to make it easier for Capitalists to grow and gain more power. Just as the state had protected businesses, promoted industry, and given land and capital to key

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industries—such as the railroads, as we shall see—prior to 1860, it would continue to foster Capitalism even more in Reconstruction and after. Tariffs, as noted above, were one crucial element in the government’s support for Capitalism. Competition was dangerous to the young American industries, which could not produce goods as efficiently, cheaply, or in the quantities of the European countries that had already industrialized [such as Britain, Germany, and France]. Cloth from Britain, for example, cost much less than textiles made in Massachusetts because its industry had advanced technologically and had more capital. But the government could artificially balance the system by putting tariffs in place. Using the example above, a tariff would be put on British textiles, so they would cost more, and American consumers would find it cheaper to buy the goods made in Massachusetts or elsewhere. Tariffs, however, did not help all American businesses. They were intended to help northern industry, and this meant they would hurt agriculture. To protest the tariffs, European countries would retaliate by placing high tariffs of their own against American products coming into their ports, but almost all exports from the U.S. were farm commodities [cotton, tobacco, wheat and the like]. So farmers, especially in the South, carried the burden of the tariffs [this, for instance, was the situation in 1828 when the dreaded “tariff of abominations” passed and led to southern protests]. And, because the tariffs protected northern industries, which could keep their prices high because they did not fear European competition, the cost of farm equipment was higher too. As a leading Republican, Benjamin Eaves, put it, “free trade is a fiction.” In fact, the U.S. at that time was adopting policies that it today bans in groups like the World Trade Organization! This was no free market, but a government-designed plan to create and expand the industrial capitalist system. The Republicans, the party of northern Industrial Capitalism after the Civil War, championed the tariff. Woodrow Wilson would later claim that “the bills of the Republican Party were paid for by business men who wanted a high tariff.” Tariffs protected those capitalists against foreign competition. William McKinley of Niles, Ohio, a congressman and later president, believed that “the people of this country want an industrial policy that is for America and Americans." But the Republicans publicly defended the tariffs [which did cause higher prices because of that lessened competition] as a way to help workers. James Blaine, a Republican speaker of the house and then senator,

Reconstruction, Expansion, and the Triumph of Industrial Capitalism

explained tariffs would protect workers in the U.S. from the competition of lowly-paid foreign workers and would rescue labor “from the servitude of poverty.” Workers in tariff-protected areas like iron and textiles were paid better, and that helped offset the higher prices for goods, but they amounted to only about five percent of the whole work force. Despite the focus on working people, it was clear that the tariff was a government-business plan to enrich Industrialists. Businesses, especially the biggest ones, also gained power at the expense of smaller companies by finding ways around laws that were barely enforced anyway. Contrary to the “theory” of capitalism that tells us that competition is good because it makes factories produce better products at lower prices, the corporate elite did all it could to overrun other firms. Because competition was fierce in the period after the Civil War, those with the biggest holdings devised strategies to eliminate the threat posed by other companies. Many devised new forms of business organization, such as secret agreements in which they offered secret private rates to key customers below published prices; created pools, or cartels [as in oil or drugs today] to divide business traffic among operators in a particular industry; or consolidated their businesses by purchasing, leasing, or merging with competitive firms. The establishment of trusts was another vital element in the growth and expansion of capital and power. Earlier in the 19th Century businessmen formed corporations in order to have access to more capital and greater markets, and now even those corporations were in some cases not adequate for the staggering levels of economic growth [and corporations could not own stock in another company]. So, many corporations joined together and formed trusts. A trust was a combination of various companies, some taken over and some merged, who sold themselves to a group of trustees, men selected by the corporations to oversee all their businesses [similar to a modern-day arrangement like the National Football League, where each team is individually owned and run, but is part of a larger group, the NFL, which makes television deals, sets rules, and negotiates with the players’ union]. In return, the companies would get shares in, and profits from, that new trust [like each NFL team gets money from national television contracts]. In that way, a single group of directors controlled the operations of several enterprises. As John D. Rockefeller, the oil billionaire [more below] saw it, “the day of combination is here to stay. Individualism has gone, never to return.”

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Without formally owning the businesses, the managers of the trust could thus establish either oligopoly or monopoly arrangements.

R ailroads

and

C apitalist D evelopment

In 1849, railway mileage in the U.S. stood about 7500 miles; by 1860, it was up to 30,000 miles; and at the outset of the 20th Century, it had risen to 193,000 miles! Railroad demand rose as rapidly. In the period 1840-45, the railroads shipped about 96,000 tons of goods; in 1846-1850, it was up to 308,000 tons; in 1851-55, 565,000 tons; and in the five years before the Civil War began, an immense 762,000 tons. Now, raw materials could be constantly shifted from the coal and ore fields to the factories [without the same worries of ice and flood that made canal shipments difficult]. Goods, especially manufactures from the North, could be transported to a national market more quickly and inexpensively, thereby leading to increased sales, profits, and production. Indeed, the railroad was an overwhelmingly northern enterprise. In 1860, about 30 percent of railroad mileage was in the south [and that percentage would shrink due to wartime destruction], while the Midwest by itself had 36 percent, with similarly high percentages in the Northeast. By tying markets together, the railroads also increased the “social savings” of land. When canals and roads were used to deliver goods, most farms had to be close to those sources or transport, meaning that lands too far away from a port or highway were not cultivable. With the extension of the railway into so many new areas, however, land could now be cultivated in areas all over the countryside, and this led to a rise in crop production to about $250 million annually after the Civil War. Railroads fundamentally changed the American economy and society. Iron and then steel were needed in huge quantities, and cities emerged due to the trains—Chicago, for instance, had 2.5 million people in 1910, most lured and transported by rail. The massive growth in railroads also demonstrated, again, that the American economy would not be privately based but have equally huge levels of government intervention. Even with private capital from the sale of stocks, railroad expansion still required much more financing, and so the government, at all levels, stepped in. Local and municipal governments helped with cash subsidies and tax breaks and funded about 20 percent of railway development [much like local governments fund sports stadiums

Reconstruction, Expansion, and the Triumph of Industrial Capitalism

today]. State governments were also vital patrons of railroad infrastructure, going over $100 million into debt to provide resources to railroad investors. Significant contributions also came from the federal government, which, beginning in 1850, began making land grants, and within a decade had allocated over 22 million acres of public land to the railroads, and over 170 million acres [the size of Texas!] in the second half of the century [estimated to be worth $2 an acre, so worth $340 million, or about $8 billion today]. In the decade before the Civil War, just a few firms were capitalized at even $1 million; by 1860, railroad investments by themselves had reached $1 billion in capital. So, while the wealthy elite talked of the risks they were taking, in fact the government was giving them vast amounts of money, tax breaks, land, and other handouts, and virtually ensuring that their investments would be extremely profitable. This would become the model for American capitalism; though the public would be taught that the United States had a private economy with risk-taking entrepreneurs, in fact the government would remain highly involved in economic decisions, making sure that certain industries flourished by providing them vast sums of public money and natural resources.

Rockefeller

and

C arnegie, O il

and

S teel, P ower

and

W ealth

In this era of industrial capitalism and incorporation, two figures stand out– John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie. Rockefeller was a commercial merchant in Cleveland, selling hay, meats, and other products, making significant profits during the Civil War but also sensing huge opportunities in another area–oil! In 1863, just after the first oil wells had been tapped in Pennsylvania, Rockefeller became a part owner of the Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company, and along with his partners developed a plan to drill into the ground for oil and refine the “rock oil,” the petroleum, into kerosene for lamps. They built their first refinery in Cleveland, linked by railroad to the oil fields, and within about a year or so, a virtual oil rush took place, with 75 wells and 15 refineries in the Oil City and Titusville areas in Pennsylvania. He took control of as many aspects of the oil industry as he could. He bought fields of white oak to produce timber for his oil barrels; purchased his own tank cars, boats and even wagons and horses for transport; hired his own mechanics and plumbers and bought his own tools for them to work with; eventually had his own produc-

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tion and distribution centers; and saved up his own capital for reinvestment so he would not have to rely on outside bankers or speculators. Rockefeller also began an arrangement where railroads transporting his oil would give him “drawbacks,” a rebate of 25 cents on each dollar of oil they delivered. He so dominated the oil business that his enterprise would become a monopoly. By 1866, oil producers in Pennsylvania were producing almost 14 million barrels a year, and that led to a glut of refineries, which meant too much competition and falling prices. So Rockefeller began to consolidate the entire industry. He established the Standard Oil Company so he could control the oil market, which was often volatile with wild swings in prices and production. By creating one mega-company, Rockefeller eliminated excess capacity and controlled pricing, and, in his mind, saved the entire oil industry. But Rockefeller played by his own rules, too. He and railroad operators got together and schemed to double rail rates for other oil firms, but Standard still got its rebates and drawbacks. The other refineries could not afford the higher fees, so thus began an “oil war.” Some railroads backed down, but Rockefeller was so big, and controlled the largest refineries, in Cleveland and New York, that he weathered the storm and grew bigger. He bought out other oil companies, and, if they did not want to sell, would move his own company nearby and charge prices so low that they would be run out of business, or he would create a “barrel famine” so they could not store petroleum, and then buy them out very cheaply. By 1879, Standard Oil owned over 90 percent of the refining capacity in the entire country and almost every inch of pipeline in and out of the oil region. Rockefeller wanted domination of the industry for himself, and he called agreements with others, such as cartels, “ropes of sand.” Rockefeller’s business model was an example of both horizontal and vertical integration. Horizontal integration meant that Rockefeller would take control of the other companies in his field, and create monopolistic arrangements. Vertical integration meant that he would control all aspects of oil refining from bottom to top, from the wells that drew the oil out of the ground, to the barrels and rail lines, to the distribution centers where consumers would buy kerosene or, later, gasoline. He also developed the most famous, and infamous, trust, The Standard Oil Trust, where he turned over control and all stock and assets of his company to a group of trustees who ran every company Rockefeller owned, thereby avoiding laws and regulations restricting mergers and collusion, all legally.

Reconstruction, Expansion, and the Triumph of Industrial Capitalism

Andrew Carnegie, an immigrant from Scotland, similarly dominated the steel industry in America. He began working with his mentor, Tom Scott, on the Pennsylvania Railroad and went to Washington D.C. with him as an aide during the Civil War, where the demand for weapons turned Pittsburgh into a major industrial center. Carnegie realized how important iron and steel would be in the industrial capitalist system so he invested in all aspects of the new economy—ores, iron mills, steel plants, all with the latest technologies. Carnegie took control of much of the pig iron supply, the basic element in steel-making, in the entire U.S. so he would not have to rely on others for raw materials. He then acquired his own sources of iron ore, coal, and coke, bought his own fleet of steamships, and got a company railroad for transport. And, like Rockefeller, he got rebates and kickbacks from the railroads. His domination of steel in America was total. Carnegie had practiced “vertical integration” in that he controlled all aspects of the production of steel. As one observer explained, “from the moment these crude stuffs were dug out of the earth [raw materials] until they flowed in a stream of liquid steel in the ladles, there was never a price, profit, or royalty paid to an outsider.” By 1877, Carnegie was worth $100 million, or 5 percent of all money in the entire country! By comparison, Bill Gates, in his heyday, was worth 0.7 percent of all U.S. dollars. In 1892, Carnegie reorganized and combined seven other corporations in which he had a controlling interest, and was producing about a million tons a year by the end of the century. In 1901, he merged all of his holdings in the U.S. Steel Company, and then sold it to the financier J.P. Morgan for $500 million, and U.S. Steel became the first American corporation capitalized at a billion dollars. Just generations after craftsmen toiled in a shack outside their homes, sold to a local market or shipped goods by horseand-buggy, while using implements made of wood and maybe crude iron, Standard Oil and U.S. Steel had ushered in the modern capitalist world, with great wealth and global power. With the triumph of Industrial Capitalism, and the growth of massive corporations like Standard Oil and U.S. Steel, American production took off. Coal production, which in 1870 amounted to 20,000 tons a year, rose by 1900 to 212,000 tons, and by 1910 to 417,000 tons, a 21-fold increase. Rolled steel production, which in 1870 was 14,000 tons yearly, went up in 1900 to 303,000 tons, and in 1910 to 544,000 tons, a staggering 38-fold increase. Industrial machinery had been capitalized in 1870 at $117 million, and by 1910 grew to $512 billion. In the aftermath of the Civil War, the United States was behind

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Britain, France and Germany in manufacturing output, yet by 1900 it exceeded the combined production of those nations. And, as we have seen, this was overwhelmingly a northern economic activity. The industrial production of the entire south in 1890 was merely half of just the state of New York.

C reating I ndustrial L abor Industrial growth and great wealth turned the U.S. into a powerful nation, ready to go out and extend its reach into new areas. But it had its drawbacks too [which will be discussed further below]. The transition to an industrial economy caused the proletarianization of working people—the development of a huge class of people who worked, usually at unskilled labor, for someone else in exchange for pay. Prior to the Civil War, most Americans were farmers or craftsmen, working for themselves or in smaller workplaces. While there had always been different economic classes in the United States, it was easy for the ruling elite to maintain the fiction that everyone was roughly equal and had the opportunity to rise to greater heights. With industrialization, millions of workers lost that independence and began to work for someone else, often in a factory, for a daily or hourly amount of money. Wage labor had become the dominant form of work in capitalist America. A worker now sold his labor [or 10-14 hours of his time per day] to an employer in exchange for a wage. Various factors led to the creation of an industrial working class. First, the proletarianization process led to a shift from an agrarian to a factory-based economy [which was the key result of the Union’s triumph in the Civil War]. In 1860, about 60 percent of the American population was rural or worked in agriculture, but by 1900 about two-thirds of the labor force worked in non-agricultural occupations. The manufacturing workforce grew most dramatically with a four-fold increase--from 1.5 million workers in 1860 to about 6 million in 1900 [in that same period, the U.S. population rose from 31 to 76 million, a 2.5 fold increase, so the industrial working class grew at more than twice the rate of the general population]. Along with the shift away from agriculture, self-employment declined as large manufacturers ran craftsmen out of business [much like major corporations like Wal-Mart or Starbucks eliminate small “Mom and Pop” operations]. As one Colorado worker and labor organizer explained it, with anger and humor, “twenty years ago, [a workingman] could, by being industrious and econom-

Reconstruction, Expansion, and the Triumph of Industrial Capitalism

ical, raise himself from the days-pay condition to a little business of his own. . . Today the opportunity to start in his business for himself has been thrust from him by the greedy hand of the great manufacturers . . . . The man who can rise from the wage condition in these days must catch a windfall from his uncle or [find] a bank unlocked.” Proletarianization came with urbanization as well. Cities grew quickly with industrial development because factories were centrally located. Earlier, factories used water as their energy source and had to be located near rivers or canals, but as steam power emerged manufacturers could build plants in urban areas with better access to railroads, raw materials, consumer markets, and, of course, workers. By 1900, 90 percent of manufacturing took place in cities, and their population soared. In fact, urban population grew at twice the rate of the general population. In 1860, only New York, Philadelphia, and Brooklyn had over 250,000 people. By 1890, 11 cities were over that with Philadelphia over 1 million and New York over 1.5 million; Chicago, which had been at 100,000 in 1860, was also over 1 million by 1890. Cities also demonstrated the social transformation that came with industrial capitalism, as the elite factory owners built huge mansions not far from the slums in which the workers lived. Crime, disease, and poverty rose in the cities, but so did a new middle class of skilled employees, professionals, white-collared workers, and midlevel managers, among others. This, not surprisingly, led to a more consumeroriented society since this middle group had money to spend, and advertising and mass-marketing emerged. In barely a generation, rural America was upended and the modern city was born. These cities also grew in large part due to immigration. Just as it is today, immigration was a vital component to economic activity. Where many point to immigration as a cultural or ethnic issue, it was [and is] essentially a labor issue. Immigrants have always come to the United States to work, and that was the case in the late 19th Century. Indeed, the largest wave of immigration in history at that point occurred in the post-Civil War era. About 10 million people, mostly from Europe [and a lesser number of Asians] arrived in America between 1860-1890. In the1880s, 5.25 million arrived, more than the previous 19th century combined. Railroad and Steamship companies, among others, advertised in Europe, China, and elsewhere about the glories of U.S. democracy, but in fact were looking for cheap labor, which they secured in great numbers. By 1900, these factors–the move from agriculture to industry,

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Figure 1-6 Immigrants crowded on ship arriving to the U.S.

from economic independence to wage labor, immigration, and urbanization-fundamentally transformed U.S. life, creating national markets, unifying the political structure, and establishing new social relations with a huge, poor working class creating wealth for a small powerful capitalist elite.

T he A merican W orking C lass , 1870-1900 With the emergence of the American proletariat, the nature of work changed dramatically and caused greater divisions among workers. Skilled and unskilled workers, women and children all had different work experiences, made different wages, and endured different hardships. Skilled workers were those men who had weathered the move to industrialization with their craft intact and still worked as tailors, carpenters, shoemakers, and the like. Skilled work made up about 15-20 percent of the labor force and it was almost exclusively male, native-born, or Americanized. They often got their jobs through

Reconstruction, Expansion, and the Triumph of Industrial Capitalism

connections so various ethnic groups came to be associated with certain fields; the Irish, for instance, often worked as plumbers, carpenters or bricklayers, while Germans were furniture makers, bakers, and of course brewers, and English, Welsh, and Scotch immigrants were machinists and miners. Skilled workers had more advantages than other laborers. Because they had a specialized craft, they were not easily replaced so could seek higher wages, and have independence and control over their work conditions. Unskilled workers were not so lucky. Immigrants from southern Europe—places like Sicily—and Asia especially flooded into the United States and, along with Blacks, women, and children made up the unskilled work force–workers who did not need much training to do their jobs. Between 1850-1880, for example, the Chinese population in the U.S. grew from 7500 to over 105,000 and consisted of mostly men working dangerous railroad construction jobs in the West. All groups were poor and took whatever jobs were available such as servants, maids, farm labor, coal mining, and railroad work, and they had little, if any, control over work conditions. More so, unemployment was a constant threat. During an economic downturn in 1878, between 500,000 and 1 million workers were jobless, while in the mid-1880s, about 2 million were out of work [numbers which were roughly three times more, by percentage, than unemployment in 2010]. While a skilled worker could get decent pay–a train engineer or glass blower, for example, could make $800 a year–unskilled workers did not even make poverty wages [estimated at $500 a year]. About half of unskilled workers made less than poverty wages, and Blacks, MexicanAmericans, Chinese, women and kids made the least. Because wages were low, entire families had to work just to survive, and so the number of women and children in the work force went up dramatically in the late 1800s; by the end of the century perhaps 4 million women [disproportionately Black and immigrant females] and 1.5 million children were working. Many women worked “on the side” by taking in laundry, doing housework, or taking in boarders, and about 15 percent of wage workers were female [especially in textiles]. Women suffered low pay–a seamstress, for instance, made about five dollars a week, much less than a male tailor–and employers claimed they were just working for “pin money” so justified their poverty wages. In down times, women got laid off first, even if they were successful on the job. One female shoe seller in Iowa complained: “I don’t

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Figure 1-7 Child laborers in a canning factory

get the salary the men clerks do, although this day I am 600 sales ahead! Call this justice? But I have to grin and bear it, because I am so unfortunate to be a woman.” Work was also hazardous to women’s health. Long work days on the job and at home caused physical distress; sexual exploitation and abuse by bosses was not uncommon. The death rate of working women was two times higher than non-working women. Class, quite clearly, could be a matter of life and death. Child Labor was also common. About 15 percent of kids between the ages of 10-15 had jobs in the period 1870-1900, with about 25,000 boys in mining; 20,000 younger than 12 in southern cotton mills [with 12 hour shifts]; and large numbers in textile mills, tobacco processing plants, and print shops. Children were paid no more than a dollar a day, less than half of most adult workers. Worst off were those kids working in tenement workshops, basically apartments in which families worked in clothing production in which they were paid by the pieces produced (one family, for instance, received 65 cents per dozen pair of pants made). Tenement production, in fact, led to one of the greater tragedies of the early industrial era, the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, which will be discussed in the next chapter.

Reconstruction, Expansion, and the Triumph of Industrial Capitalism

Figure 1-8 New York City tenement

W orkers ’ C ulture ,

and the

C hallenge

to

C apitalism

Major economic changes–like the triumph of Industrial Capitalism–change culture, the way people live and work, as well. Workers, in the period after the Civil War especially, saw huge shifts in the way they lived and worked. In pre-industrial times, laborers had a great deal of independence. They tended to their fields or worked at their crafts according to the seasons or simply their own schedules. As the well-known historian Herbert Gutman discovered, there was no well-established “protestant work ethic” in colonial America or the early Republic years. In fact, many of the founders worried that manufacturing would never succeed because American workers were not diligent or industrious enough. As John Adams explained, "manufacturers cannot live, much less thrive, without honor, fidelity, punctuality, and private faith, a sacred respect for property, and the moral obligations of promises and contracts." An industrial labor force, Adams was saying, would have to be hard-working and obedient. Many, such as Benjamin Franklin, lamented workers’ habits, like going to saloons and “celebrating” Saint Monday. Since craftsmen often

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worked for themselves, they would drink and stay out late on the weekends and then take a day off, which they jokingly called Saint Monday. They might clean their workplace or tools, but would do little else. In addition, workers might take off from work on the first day of spring, go to the beach on a hot day, or bring in kegs of beer or grog, a mixture of rum distilled from molasses, at lunchtime. Franklin complained, "Saint Monday is as duly kept by our working people as Sunday; the only difference is that instead of employing their time cheaply at church they are wasting it expensively at the ale house.” Such cultural habits, however, would not be acceptable in an industrial economy. Workers would have to be at work in the factory at a designated time, work until the whistle blew for lunch or to end the day, and repeat that process six or sometimes seven days a week. A pamphlet for immigrant International Harvester workers which was used to teach English not only provided a lesson in language but also workplace obedience: “I hear the whistle. I must hurry. I hear the five minute whistle. It is time to go into the shop . . . I work until the whistle blows to quit. I leave my place nice and clean. I put all my clothes in the locker. I must go home.” Manufacturers not only wanted to control workers in the factory, but outside the workplace as well. Temperance, or anti-alcohol, movements were encouraged and funded by the bosses so that workers would be sober and able to work harder and longer hours. One New Hampshire factory banned "spiritious liquor, smoking, nor any kind of amusement" in work areas, and promised "immediate and disgraceful dismissal" of employees found gambling, drinking, or "any other debaucheries." One textile mill owner justified a six-day, 12-hour work schedule because it kept workmen and children from "vicious amusements." All over, where industry was emerging, an obedient group of workers was considered essential to capitalist success. This transformation in work culture from independence to obedience angered many laborers, who wanted to retain their old workplace habits. Huge numbers of workers, in fact, began to challenge the new capitalist system. While the media, controlled by the Capitalists, wrote glowing stories about men like Rockefeller and Carnegie and called them heroic “Captains of Industry,” others were not so impressed and thought of them as “Robber Barons.” One of the harshest critics was America’s most famous novelist, Mark Twain, who created the term Gilded Age to describe the era after the Civil War. Gild is a thin covering, usually of gold, that is intended to deceive the observ-

Reconstruction, Expansion, and the Triumph of Industrial Capitalism

er that something is valuable when it is not. At its worst, a gild simply covers up a rotting structure. That was what Twain meant. While Capitalism was creating great production and wealth, Twain saw the impact it was making on workers’ lives and attacked it. Laborers had lost their old cultures and habits, lost their crafts, had to move into crowded cities, and often lived in diseased and impoverished conditions. The media and others provided the gild for this rotting economic structure, Twain was telling Americans.

C lass V iolence

in

A merica

Millions of workers did not need Twain or anyone else to tell them about their poverty and the dangers of their jobs, and took to the streets themselves to protest this new economic system. In fact, in the period from 1877 until the 1890s, the United States saw its most sustained and violent series of workers uprisings in its history. Working men went on strike, took political action, and even took up arms against the new capitalist order. In the end, the Capitalists maintained their power against these angry laborers, but the cost in lives, bloodshed and money was enormous. Workers had begun to establish Unions, organizations of workers who could act collectively to seek better wages and jobs and more safety measures, beginning in the early 1800s but had little success. Most employers refused to negotiate with workers, telling them they lived in a free labor system and could either do their jobs or quit, as part of their free labor contract. Most workers who organized unions were skilled laborers, because, as we noted, they were not easily replaced. Many labor leaders tried to organize both skilled and unskilled workers–the entire working class–but until the 1870s were unable to create a movement of a large segment of Americans who worked. But in 1877, that changed. In 1877, labor all over engaged in “The Great Uprising.” What started as a railroad strike over safety because thousands of rail workers a year were getting killed on the job, turned into a protest over pay cuts by the bosses. Railroad men had been taking pay cuts for many years already while the owners turned profits and paid dividends. In 1877, workers in Martinsburg, West Virginia spontaneously struck against the Pennsylvania Railroad, owned by Carnegie. President Hayes send troops in to protect the railroads from “insurrection” but the presence of the army only angered the strikers more and led

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workers elsewhere to join in the strike. In Baltimore, the state militia fired on huge crowds of workers, leaving 11 dead and 40 hurt. In Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Chicago, all rail workers went on strike, and then all the industrial workers, not just those on the railroad, struck in those cities. The U.S. industrial base was virtually shut down! In Pittsburgh, a committee of strikers actually took over the city for a week and the National Guard, called out to remove them, ended up joining in the strike with the industrial workers. In Chicago, the mayor ordered the police to fire directly into crowds of strikers, and they got into shootouts with labor and killed 30. The railroads were shaken and owners raised wages and gave workers an 8-hour workday. But those gains took a huge toll. The Great Uprising lasted two weeks, over 100 died, and millions of dollars in property was destroyed. For the only time in U.S. history, workers struck nationally, and labor had acted collectively with some positive results. However, it was also clear that the government–the police, the courts, the army and other institutions–were on the side of the bosses. President Hayes wrote in his diary that the workers were “put down by force” and the government constructed armories in major cities so that troops would be prepared to put down labor uprisings in the future. Government suppression of labor would become a more troubling problem for workers as time went on. In the short term, however, the Great Strike of 1877 encouraged more workers to take collective action. In fact, the first briefly successful national union emerged–the Knights of Labor [K of L]. The K of L began in 1869 but gained a large numbers of members–some claim close to a million–after 1877. The K of L was an organization of all producers, people who actually made things or grew crops. All workers–male, female, white and black, skilled and unskilled were invited to join. Only gamblers, prostitutes and lawyers–who did not produce things of social value–were banned from joining! The K of L opposed the wage system and wanted to establish cooperatives, organizations where the workers and farmers owned and made decisions about production. The Knights believed in “an inevitable and irresistible conflict between the wage system of labor and republican system of government.” With their message of class conflict, the K of L grew well into the 1880s and was lobbying for better wages and working conditions, and a national 8-hour workday law. The head of the K of L, Terrence V. Powderly, said that workers were not “the free people that we imagine we are.” The violence and intimidation experienced during the Great Strike of 1877 certainly proved him correct, and

Reconstruction, Expansion, and the Triumph of Industrial Capitalism

so too did the Great Southwest Railroad Strike of 1886 that followed. The Great Southwest Railroad Strike began when a K of L member in Marshall, Texas was fired from his job for attending a union meeting during working hours. After he was fired in March 1886, the Knights called a strike against the Union Pacific and Missouri Pacific railroads owned by industrialist Jay Gould. The strike involved more than 200,000 workers in Arkansas, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, and Texas who began to demand better wages, safer working conditions, and an 8-hour workday. Gould responded by hiring men to replace the strikers. Pinkerton agents [detectives and thugs hired by the bosses, see below] infiltrated the union. Gould demanded military intervention from governors of the states involved in the strike. Claims of union violence were exaggerated to further discredit the workers. For instance, railway executives told stories of mobs seizing control of trains and burning rail yards. The governors of Missouri and Texas mobilized state militias, demonstrating state support for the railroad Capitalists rather than the workers. Energy behind the strike eventually weakened as thousands of workers returned to their jobs on the railroads. The strike, which ended completely by September 1886, proved to be a major defeat for the K of L and damaged the strength of the union. Congress helped to diminish to power of the K of L even more with a report that stressed the alleged violence and disorder caused by the strikers rather than the poor wages and working conditions that prompted 200,000 people to strike in the first place. The House of Representatives committee that investigated the Great Southwest Railroad Strike condemned strike leader Martin Irons as a “dangerous if not poisonous man.” The House report also emphasized the necessity of protecting communities from damage caused by allegedly unruly and vicious strikers. So, with condemnation from the railroad owners and Congress, the K of L faced its first major defeat. Any momentum gained from the Strikes of 1877 for the K of L diminished after the Great Southwest Railroad Strike, and what was left disappeared completely after the Haymarket riot in May 1886.

T he C apitalists S trike B ack What influence that was left in the K of L disappeared completely in May 1886, the year of The Great Upheaval. With the national 8-hour movement taking shape—“Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest; Eight hours for

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what we will” was their motto and a popular song—hundreds of thousands of workers planned to go on strike for the shortened workday on May 1st, 1886 [later known as May Day, a celebration of working people everywhere but in the U.S., which has its “Labor Day” in September]. At same time, a wave of labor boycotts of anti-worker businesses was spreading, alarming the Capitalists. Such activity brought a harsh business response. Pinkerton agents came in to infiltrate unions; courts routinely handed down injunctions against labor; and union leaders were fired or even jailed on conspiracy charges for organizing boycotts. The critical event of that year occurred in Chicago in early May, but labor unrest truly spread across the entire nation. Led by anarchists and German socialists, over 80,000 workers met in Haymarket Square on May 1st. On May 3rd picketers and scabs [men brought in to take jobs from the striking workers] fought at the McCormick Reaper Works in Chicago. Earlier that year the McCormick Company installed new machinery that greatly reduced the need for skilled workers and announced that it would operate as a strictly nonunion factory. During the May 3rd strike, police shot and killed four

Figure 1-9 Wood engraving depicting explosion at Haymarket Square

Reconstruction, Expansion, and the Triumph of Industrial Capitalism

unarmed workers who attempted to keep scabs from entering the factory and then beat many others. Labor radicals called for another huge demonstration in Haymarket Square the next day to protest the murders. Attendance was small due to hasty organization and bad weather, and before the rally even began, police rushed in to bust heads. An unidentified person tossed a bomb into the crowd, killing one cop and mortally wounding [causing damages that would lead to death later] six others. Panic ensued and police officers became increasingly violent, shooting wildly—even shooting other cops—in what a Chicago Herald reporter called a “wild carnage.” Hundreds were trampled and shot as they attempted to escape the chaos. Whipped into frenzy, Chicago demanded “justice.” Police arrested eight anarchists who were charged with plotting and carrying out the bombing. Seven of the eight men accused were foreign-born—six were German and one was from England. The eighth man, Albert Parsons, was born in Alabama, had served in the Confederate army, and had edited a Republican newspaper in Texas during Reconstruction. He was also married to an African-American, Lucy Parsons. Parsons moved to Chicago in 1870 because he feared political repression and racist attacks for being married to a Black woman in the South. All eight of the accused labor leaders received the death penalty despite no evidence that they knew about or had anything to do with bombing. Parsons, who had attempted to escape persecution in the South, was hanged along with three others for a crime that they did not commit. August Spies, one of the four hanged, testified in court, “I knew from experience of the past that this butchering of people was done for the express purpose of defeating the eight-hour movement.” During the week before his execution, Parsons urged workers to remain strong. “Falter not,” he said. “Lay bare the inequalities of capitalism; expose the slavery of law; proclaim the tyranny of government; denounce the greed, cruelty, abominations of the privileged class who riot and revel on the labor of their wage-slaves.” Three of the other accused were imprisoned until Illinois Governor John Peter Altgeld pardoned them in 1893. One, Louis Lingg, died by suicide while in prison. Lingg spoke eloquently about the struggle between capital and labor after his conviction: I tell you frankly and openly, I am for force. I have already told Captain Schaack, “if they use cannons against us, we shall use dynamite against them.” I repeat that I am the enemy of the “order” of today, and I repeat

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that, with all my powers, so long as breath remains in me, I shall combat it. I declare again, frankly and openly, that I am in favor of using force. I have told Captain Schaack, and I stand by it, “if you cannonade us, we shall dynamite you.” You laugh! Perhaps you think, “you’ll throw no more bombs”; but let me assure you I die happy on the gallows, so confident am I that the hundreds and thousands to whom I have spoken will remember my words; and when you shall have hanged us, then—mark my words— they will do the bomb throwing! In this hope do I say to you: I despise you. I despise your order, your laws, your force-propped authority. Hang me for it!

The media and political officials jumped on the anti-labor bandwagon, accusing labor organizers of being foreign-born radicals and terrorists. This political atmosphere encouraged the bosses, who went on a brutal counteroffensive against labor, with lockouts, injunctions, spies, troops, and frequent violence. Although Powderly condemned the bombing, the K of L, which had little to do with strike, lost membership rapidly and the dream of a national union seemed dead. Almost immediately, however, a national organization did emerge, though with a much different vision than the K of L. Samuel Gompers, a cigar maker, helped organize the first national union that would endure, the American Federation of Labor [AFL], in 1886. The AFL included crafts unions only—labor groups of skilled workers like Masons, Tailors, Hatmakers, or Cigarmakers who were easier to organize because they made more money and because their skills could not be easily replaced if they were to go on strike. Gompers, unlike the K of L or later labor leaders like Eugene V. Debs, had no conception of a larger class solidarity, and believed the AFL would be better served politically and economically by focusing on “bread and butter issues” like higher wages rather than try to restructure society. Thus unskilled workers—like the men who worked in steel mills, iron foundries, on the railroads, or in the mines—were not allowed to join the AFL, nor were “radicals” like socialists or anarchists particularly welcome; it was an organization of skilled workers only and industrial workers would have to wait a half-century to be organized. Haymarket remains one of the better-known events, but it is important to remember that labor uprisings took place across the entire nation—some

Reconstruction, Expansion, and the Triumph of Industrial Capitalism

1,600 in all. At the same time Haymarket exploded, workers in Milwaukee, Wisconsin stared down 250 National Guardsmen as they fought for an 8-hour day. What became known as the Bay View Massacre ended on May 5th, 1886 with seven dead, one of whom was a 13-year old boy. The strike had begun on May 1st because Milwaukee had passed an 8-hour bill but it had no penalty for employers who violated the law. The demonstration was initially peaceful, but as the bosses and politicians became alarmed at the growing number of strikers and marchers, conditions turned violent. By May 3rd, approximately 12,000 strikers had managed to close down all factories in the area except one: The North Chicago Railroad Rolling Mills Steel Foundry along the shores of Lake Michigan in the Bay View area of Milwaukee. Some 1,500 marchers headed toward Bay View chanting, “Eight hours, everyone must strike, onto the mills!” The governor ordered 250 National Guardsmen to “shoot to kill.” Marchers approached the mill, the militia fired, people began to flee, and, in the end, the National Guard killed 7, including the teenager. By the early 1890s, labor was on the ropes, and events in Homestead, Pennsylvania and Pullman, Illinois put the final nail in the coffin of labor organization in the late 19th century. At Homestead, members of the relatively influential Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers (AA), which included 3800 employees, challenged one of the country’s most powerful industrial corporations, the Carnegie Steel Company at the Homestead Steels Works in Pittsburgh. The AA had made some gains for workers, including an agreement on hiring new employees and the ability to regulate work pace. The local supervisor of the Homestead factory Henry Clay Frick and Carnegie, however, saw those gains as threats to their power. In 1892, Carnegie accordingly decided that the Homestead Steel Works would be a nonunion factory. To enforce the new rule, Frick fired all workers, surrounded the factory with barbed wire fencing to keep them out, and ordered the construction of barracks to house strikebreakers. Only workers who pledged not to join the union were allowed back to work. All workers, including the unskilled nonunion members, blockaded the factory. Members of the local community came out to support organized labor, too. Private security forces working for the Pinkertons arrived by water and the strikers, once warned, ambushed their barge. That day, July 6th, 1892, the armed strikers confronted the 300 Pinkertons, and during the confronta-

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tion seven workers and three Pinkertons died. After four days the governor of Pennsylvania sent a militia of 8000 to reopen the factory along management’s terms, demonstrating that the state government, again, sided with the bosses rather than labor. The workers refused to follow the governor’s demands and the strike continued until November 1892. The AA gained national and international support, yet the U.S. government chose to support Carnegie and Frick. The steelworkers’ union was losing influence quickly. The large corporation maintained power as the AA collapsed under the weight of Capitalism. A local court issued an injunction against the strikers, and those who did not return to work were fired and many were put on a list for other mill owners so they would not be hired for jobs in the future. A less famous strike in Idaho that happened just five days after violence broke out in Homestead also revealed how the federal government provided support to owners rather than workers. Workers seized two hard-rock mines in the Coeur d’ Alenes in the northern panhandle area of Idaho. Discontent in Idaho intensified when mine owners got a court injunction to prohibit union members from trespassing on company property, so a workers’ group, called a “mob” by the bosses, seized the mines on July 11th, 1892, and they killed two men and wounded six. Although violence quickly stopped, mine owners exaggerated tales of union violence so that they could convince President William Henry Harrison to send federal troops to intimidate union members. The attorney general of Idaho supported the mine owners and wanted to crush the union. He told Idaho senators, “The mob must be crushed by overwhelming force.” President Harrison, for no reason other than to eliminate the union, sent the troops. Military authorities arrested 600 men, held 350 of them in custody for a week, and arrested all union officers and held them for trial on criminal and civil charges. Miners went back to work and the union had been destroyed. Similar to Homestead and the Coeur d’ Alenes strikes was the Pullman Boycott of 1894, in which the government intervened on behalf of the capitalists and owners over workers and unions. Pullman was a company town located outside of Chicago and owned by the George Pullman Palace Car Company, which made luxury railroad cars to accommodate wealthy train passengers. As a company town, the city was owned by Pullman and the workers lived in Pullman-owned lodgings, paid rent for that housing to Pullman, purchased goods on credit at Pullman stores, and were paid in

Reconstruction, Expansion, and the Triumph of Industrial Capitalism

Pullman scrip [“money” that could only be used at Pullman businesses] rather than regular money. All of this forced the employees to funnel their wages back to the company. By 1894, a national depression decreased the demand for luxury railroad cars. In response, Pullman fired a third of workers and lowered pay by 25 percent. Eugene Debs, the head of the American Railway Union (ARU), called for a strike of industrial workers, like they had in 1877, in May 1894. Because the ARU was an industry-wide union, the strike spread across the nation and workers over the country refused to work on trains pulling Pullman cars. But Gompers and the AFL refused to support the national strike. Gompers’s conservative view of unionism, his belief that workers should simply worry about getting better wages and not worry about other issues, led him to fear that the government, as it always did, would crush the unions. President Grover Cleveland ordered troops in to break up demonstrations. In Chicago, the center of national activities, violence broke out between strikers and soldiers. By the end of July 1894, 34 people had died. Debs was arrested for contempt of court. Pullman workers gradually went back to work for the factory. The national railway strike and the ARU were broken. By the mid-1890s, labor was unable to gain much public support and actually lost ground in some areas, losing the 8-hour day in some industries for example. The first great challenge to industrial capitalism had been crushed.

B utch C assidy and the S undance K id , A gainst I ndustrialization

and the

F ight

Industrial workers and farmers across the country knew that Industrial Capitalism [and the exploitation of labor] was here to stay. Accordingly, they looked to outlaws who stole from the banks and railroad tycoons as heroes, common men in the struggle against Capitalists. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid became influential bandits who robbed trains, banks, and mines across the industrializing West at the turn of the century. Cassidy was born Robert Leroy Parker in 1866 to a devout Mormon family living in Utah. Cassidy’s father, a poor rancher, had to work additional jobs away from home, sometimes leaving his family of thirteen children and a wife for months at a time. As the oldest son, Robert Parker often acted as the head of the family while his dad was gone. At the age of 13 he took a job at a nearby ranch to

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help support his family, and worked under the supervision of small-time cowboy named Mike Cassidy, who was known as a talented horseman, a skilled gunman, and a clever cattle thief. Cassidy showed Parker that large livestock owners never noticed a few missing cattle here and there. In this way Mike acquired his cows and horses. Parker took to this lifestyle; he admired Cassidy’s freedom from the law and religion. Unlike Parker’s father who followed rules and lived honestly, but remained poor, Cassidy lived outside the law and outside of the exploitation of Capitalism. Young Robert Parker wanted a similar adventurous life. At the age of 18, Parker headed to Telluride, Colorado. Telluride had become a booming gold town full of rugged frontiersmen, gamblers, prostitutes, guns, and booze—just the adventure he sought. However, Parker quickly learned that even in Telluride he could not escape the laborious monotony of industrialization. Working the mines, Parker hauled gold and silver down mountainsides and deeply resented risking his life in the mines so that others could get rich. Longing for change, Parker eyed the local bank and knew that, in a successful boomtown, it had to be full of banknotes. Bank robberies were not uncommon during the time, but most hold-ups were unsuccessful because the thieves were oftentimes drunk and unable to plan a good escape. Parker, on the other hand, was smart and sober. Just after noon on June 24th, 1889, Parker with his friends Matt Warner and Tom McCarty pulled off a beautiful bank robbery at the San Miguel Valley Bank in Telluride. They were quiet and quick as they entered the bank, never fired a gun, and rode out of town immediately. Parker’s key to a quick escape relied on alliances with locals across the West. As Parker fled from the bank, he had friends, who resented the mine owners and bankers as much as he did, meet him at planned points along his exit route and provide him with food, water, and fresh horses that kept him well ahead of the lawmen that chased after him. After his skillful bank heist, Parker knew his mother would be horribly disappointed. He therefore changed his name to Butch Cassidy, in honor of his cowboy mentor back in Colorado. Cassidy’s partner in crime, Harry Longabaugh, who would become the Sundance Kid, grew up in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. A child of the industrial East, Longabaugh knew first hand the effects of industrial capitalism. The shy young man walked twenty-five miles each day to work along the canals for little money. Some days he worked up to twenty hours. He dreamed of

Reconstruction, Expansion, and the Triumph of Industrial Capitalism

escape. He even spent a dollar [a large sum for an industrial worker in the 1880s] on a library card so he could read pulp novels about people like Jesse James, a bank and train robber, killer, and legendary figure from Missouri. In 1882, at the age of fourteen, Longabaugh began his adventure westward when he went to work on his cousin’s ranch in Colorado. He soon established a reputation as a well-respected cowboy across Montana and Wyoming. But a horrible blizzard in 1887 changed that, as it dumped 100 feet of snow on the western plains, killed 90 percent of the livestock in Wyoming, and put the cowboys out of work. Longabaugh turned to petty crime to survive. He was not initially as talented at thievery as Cassidy, though, and wound up in jail in Sundance, Wyoming for stealing horses. After serving his yearlong sentence, he left jail with a new nickname: Sundance Kid. The Sundance Kid quickly found himself a fugitive after sloppily robbing a train in late November 1892. During the hold-up, the Kid, probably drunk, let the bandana over his face fall. Not even a day later, wanted posters with a drawing of Sundance and a $500 reward offer were plastered across the West. He fled into the wilderness, hiding along rivers and in canyons and mountains along a 1,500-mile stretch of hideouts known as “The Outlaw Trail” that reached from Montana to New Mexico. While hiding in an area of The Outlaw Trail called Browns Park in Colorado, Sundance met the infamous Butch Cassidy. They quickly took to each other and Sundance joined Cassidy and his group of around twenty outlaws known as the Wild Bunch [and sometimes called the “Hole-In-The-Wall Gang”]. Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, and the rest of the Wild Bunch took off robbing banks, railroads, and mining companies across the West. With each robbery the Wild Bunch gained support from local allies, and national fame. Workers across the U.S. extolled the Wild Bunch because they too were the enemies of the industrial elites who got wealthy by exploiting them. Economic division ran deep during American industrialization, and many admired the fact that the bandits stole from the rich. Local people who were being pushed off their ranches by corporate cattle barons, for example, helped these modern “Robin Hoods” as they made their way up and down The Outlaw Trail. Locals provided the men with fresh horses and food. Butch and Sundance left their allies gold pieces for their help—often enough so that they could keep their land for a bit longer. With local support, the gang successfully robbed a bank in Montpelier, Idaho in 1896, the Butte County Bank in Belle

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Fourche, South Dakota in 1897, and the Pleasant Valley Coal Company in Castle Gate, Utah that same year. In 1899 Cassidy and the Kid held up a train outside of Wilcox, Wyoming along the Union Pacific Railroad, owned by Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, one of the wealthiest, most powerful, and ruthless of the oligarchs. The gang separated the passenger cars before filling the engine car that carried the safe with dynamite. Unlike Jesse James, for instance, the Wild Bunch never shot a single person in any of their robberies. The explosives blew the train car high into the air, sending cash, banknotes, and gold coins everywhere. They made off with approximately $50,000 [over $1 million in today’s money]. Although ordinary people praised the gang, railroad executives, mine owners, large cattle operators, and wealthy bankers hated them and wanted to destroy Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Like the Wild Bunch, the capitalists had their own allies: the Pinkertons. After the 1899 train robbery, the chairman of the board of the Union Pacific called upon them for help. Together they waged an all-out attack on the Wild Bunch. Functioning as the capitalists’ own private police force, over 100 Pinkerton detectives arrived in Wyoming in less than a day after the train robbery. They kept elaborate files on Wild Bunch members, including details such as how the men parted their hair. They also used advanced techniques for the time and tracked the serial numbers on the stolen banknotes. The banknotes surfaced in towns throughout the West, giving away the bandits’ escape paths. The first one caught was Lonnie Logan in Montana, who the Pinkertons gunned down. Butch, Sundance, and a few members of the Wild Bunch fled to Fort Worth, Texas, to the red light district of Hell’s Half-Acre. They blended in among the cowboys, prostitutes, gamblers, and saloons. Cassidy was exhausted from the constant threat against his life and began to talk about fleeing to Argentina, a place where many ranchers purchased cattle. Some American cowboys had already decided to settle in Argentina because it felt more like the Old West than the heavily industrialized New West. But Cassidy was soon forced to run again after a local photographer, who had snapped a photo of Cassidy, Sundance, and three other members of the Wild Bunch, inadvertently gave away the fugitives’ location. The man had put the photo in his shop window as a way to advertise his skills as a photographer. A local policeman, however, saw the photo, and told the Pinkertons. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were on the run again.

Reconstruction, Expansion, and the Triumph of Industrial Capitalism

Cassidy, along with the Sundance Kid and his girlfriend Etta Place, ran to New York in February 1901, where they planned to take a steamer to Argentina. To disguise themselves, the trio dressed up as the people they hated, rich cattle barons, and blended in with the New York City elite. They ate at fine restaurants, attended plays, and Sundance even bought Etta a watch from Tiffany’s. They lived like the rich, ironically funding the lifestyle with the money they stole from them. By February 20th, 1901, the trio left New York harbor to start a new life in Argentina. Meanwhile, the capitalist takeover of the West intensified and, simultaneously, the Wild Bunch fell apart. Trains now had armed security guards aboard. Harvey Logan, a member of the Wild Bunch, died by suicide while fleeing after a bank robbery. If the Wild Bunch was coming to an end, their legacy certainly was not. In 1903 Edwin Porter released a film called “The Great Train Robbery” inspired by Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Westerns and the Wild West became their own genres of entertainment that romanticized bandits like the Wild Bunch. The Pinkertons, on the other hand, found no entertainment in the thieves, and continued their hunt for Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Figure 1-10 Harry Longabaugh (Sundance Kid) and Etta Place

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With the law on their trail and capture likely, Etta vanished. The other two were ultimately trailed to Bolivia, where they were discovered hiding in an adobe house. When the captain of the local military approached the home with his gun drawn, Butch shot him dead. This was the first and only person Cassidy ever killed. Local military and armed civilians surrounded the house and sprayed it with bullets. No one went inside the home until the following day. When they did, they found Cassidy and the Sundance Kid dead. The Kid’s body sat against a wall, with a bullet in the head. Butch was on the floor in front of Sundance, a bullet in his head. The duo had died from a murder-suicide, where Butch killed his partner and then put a bullet in his own temple. In a rather lackluster ending, the famous bandits were buried in unmarked Bolivian graves. However, their deaths represented something larger, the end of the Wild West and the triumph of Capitalism; a Washington Post article simply said that the Wild Bunch had “disappeared with the march of civilization.” Even if the Wild Bunch ended in failure and death and Capitalism triumphed, the legacy of these famous outlaws and the ideas they represented remained long after their deaths. In 1969, Paul Newman and Robert Redford starred in an Oscar-winning movie about Butch and Sundance. More recently, over a century after they rode, the popular band My Morning Jacket sang, "Butch Cassidy, I could've been your friend/And rode with you and the Sundance Kid/We'd laugh awhile and we'd smile a bit/'Cause crimes like ours aren't counterfeit."

F ury

on the

F arms

At the same time that workers held strikes and western bandits stole from the rich, farmers continued to lose their land and independence and had to go to work for others as part of a rural proletariat. As L.L. Polk from Kansas described this division in 1890, “you will see arrayed on one side the great magnates of the country, the Wall Street brokers, and plutocratic power,” said Polk, “and on the other you will see the people.” The traditional system of agriculture, the family farm–where family members grew crops and raised animals for themselves for subsistence–gave way to commercial farming–where larger, often corporate, farmers grew crops to sell to the market. This led to the specialization of crops since some crops such as cotton, wheat, and tobac-

Reconstruction, Expansion, and the Triumph of Industrial Capitalism

co were more profitable than others. But, as with industry, the economy seemed like a roller-coaster, with years of success followed by recessions and “panics,” causing farmers to grow more crops simply to stay even. Growing more crops led to a crisis in overproduction–more crops were being grown than could be sold in the American market, and so prices dropped. For example, cotton prices on the world market fell from 11 cents per pound in 1881 to 4.6 cents per pound in 1894. The dropping prices caused an untold number of farmers to lose their land. Kate Richards O’Hare, who was a young girl living on a family ranch in Kansas during the 1880s, remembered how they lost their land, home, and rural way of life due to the economic depression. After losing everything, her family was forced into the urban wage labor scene in Kansas City. “The poverty, the misery, the want, the wan-faced women and hunger pinched children, men trampling the streets by day and begging for a place in the police stations,” O’Hare recalled her childhood; “the sordid, grinding, pinching poverty of the workless workers and the frightful, stinging, piercing cold of that winter in Kansas City will always stay with me as a picture of inferno such as Dante never painted,” she wrote. Farmers, like industrial workers, decided to do something about their plight. As one agricultural agitator, Mary Lease, said, it was time to “raise less crops and more hell.” And farmers did, ultimately helping form one of the more meaningful opposition movements to capitalism in American history, Populism. Farmers, as one Nebraska newspaper editorial said, must fight against "the wealthy and powerful classes who want the control of government to plunder the people.” In a vicious cycle of debts, low prices, and overproduction, farmers had to take collective action, and in 1892 helped form “The People’s Party,” later to become The Populists. The People’s Party attracted former K of L members and its strongest base was in the South and West cotton and wheat belts. The 1892 Populist platform, written by Ignatius Donnelly, described how the U.S. had been brought to the verge of moral, political, and material ruin by the exploits of the wealthy. “The fruits of the toil of millions are boldly stolen to buildup colossal fortunes,” wrote Donnelly in the platform. To these activists, farmers had several key enemies, especially bankers, monopolists, and railroad operators. The banks favored urban and industrial investors over farmers, offering them better rates on loans and investing heavily in factories. “Monopolists” like Rockefeller and Carnegie were able to control the market and demand prices that farmers could not meet on petroleum and

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farm equipment. And Railroads, essential to the transport of crops, charged higher rates to ship agricultural than industrial goods. But the farmers had a solution. They wanted the government to inflate the currency with the free coinage of silver. Since they were producing too many crops, causing prices to drop [which is deflation], farmers believed that putting more money into circulation [like running the printing presses at the mint] would cause prices to go up and improve the farmer’s economic lives. They especially wanted the government to start issuing silver coins, because there was not an abundant supply of gold, and prices and inflation remained low. With a heavy infusion of silver in the economy, farmers believed, inflation would go up, making their debts cost less and improving their profits. From these ideas sprung the Populist Party, which ran William Jennings Bryan, a young congressman from Omaha, Nebraska, for president in 1896, declaring the election a contest between “the masses and the classes.” Among other things, the Populists advocated free silver. Bryan gained popularity after delivering an unforgettable speech at the Democratic national convention that encapsulated the farmers’ demands for free silver and he invoked the image of Jesus Christ himself: “If they dare to come out in the open field and defend the gold standard as a good thing, we shall fight them to the uttermost, having behind us the producing masses of the nation and the world. Having behind us the commercial interests and the laboring interests and all the toiling masses, we shall answer their demands for a gold standard by saying to them, you shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns. You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.” The Populist Party also supported government ownership of the railroads, and a government agency to offer cheap loans to farmers because the banks would not—both of which were considered socialist ideas and at the least were serious challenges to the very structure of capitalism. It was, in fact, arguably, the most aggressive challenge to industrial capitalism in U.S. history. The idea that the state would take over the railroads or create banks to compete with Wall Street was unthinkable. On the other hand, Republicans denounced free silver and argued that abandoning the gold standard would destroy business and prevent economic recovery from the depression. Accordingly, eastern industrialists and bankers gave millions of dollars to Bryan’s Republican challenger William McKinley. In the most expensive election to this day in U.S. history, McKinley’s campaign raised approximately

Reconstruction, Expansion, and the Triumph of Industrial Capitalism

$10-15 million—nearly 5 percent of the entire GDP [the next highest was the 1968 election at barely 1 percent]. Meanwhile, Bryan’s campaigned raised only $300,000. Banking and corporate interests, alarmed by Bryan’s support of silver, made sure their man won and that populist activists [the party merged with and Bryan ran for president as a Democrat] did not expand their influence further. Although Bryan and the populist Democrats got millions of votes 1896, McKinley won the presidential election. As with the movements of industrial workers, the Populists, despite their challenges to capitalism and some successes, met failure ultimately too. Capitalism would remain the dominant economic form, despite the inequalities it created.

T he S econd A merican R evolution Two of America’s best-known scholars, Charles and Mary Beard, have referred to the period after the Civil War as the “Second American Revolution.” They created this phrase to describe the major and significant changes that occurred after 1865, especially the transformation of the US economy from agricultural and artisanal to the triumph of industrial capitalism. With the sectional differences that had dominated American life for over two centuries resolved, and slavery abolished, a truly “united” country could now make the full transition to industry, Capitalism, and empire. The changes from the previous generation and previous system were, in fact, revolutionary. The period from the 1860s to 1900 was as important as any other in the evolution of America toward world power. Using the Civil War to establish the United States as a capitalist country with expansive borders and control over racial minorities, the ruling elite built great wealth and prosperity with their factories, banks, and free market system. Wealth and power were now based on “capital,” rather than just commerce and trade or land and slave ownership. Bankers and corporations would now have the most important place in American economic and political life, and the country would become an industrial power, with serious labor and farmer protests as a result, and, despite these conflicts over class power, the capitalist ruling class would emerge fully in control. That did not mean the struggles for economic equality, basic rights for workers and racial and gender groups, or political battles would not continue—they would—but the capitalist class was never in any danger of not having the power to control American society. So

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as the 20th Century approached, America would be solidly capitalist and expanding into a world power, but continue to witness conflicts and struggles. The people would still confront power.

Chapter 2

Liberalism: Power, Economic Crisis, Reform, War

A

s Americans welcomed the 20th Century, they were looking at a world that was considerably different than any previous generation in the United States. The pain of the Civil War was still fresh, and much of the destruction had not yet been repaired. The massive and rapid economic change brought on by Capitalism had led to at-times violent class struggle, and a society based on traditional labor like small farming and crafts work was now industrializing and workers were being paid a wage to do unskilled labor inside a factory. Already, the impact of these changes had been seen in labor uprisings, riots, and farm rebellions, all of which had been eventually crushed by the capitalist class. But those events did not end the conflict between the new elite of powerful industrial and financial men and working people. If anything, even as Capitalism was clearly established as the American economic model, social protests and struggles grew and even moved beyond U.S. borders. And all of this was due to the establishment of the ideology that would be the basis of American political-economic life from that point onward, liberalism. Today, liberals are usually identified with social causes like poverty, abortion, birth control, gay marriage, or affirmative action. But liberalism, in its origins, was an economic philosophy. While it may seem complicated, it was built on a basic idea—that private individuals and interests should own banks, 57

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factories, and other commercial institutions [the “means of production”], that government should do what was needed to help those economic leaders prosper and expand, that the state and society should enact reforms to help people live better so they could work as professionals in this new economy and, more importantly, get jobs and earn wages so they could purchase goods. It was a system of “free market” capitalism with social reform to make life better for the American people. It also would be practiced abroad, as the ruling class would begin to expand its interests to other lands, in order to find new places to sell the goods that American factories produced, to invest capital in new areas, to find cheaper labor, and to gain important resources like fruit, copper, lumber, or, later and critically, oil. Liberals created private ownership capitalism and the “open door” for trade, and they would do whatever they believed necessary to keep that system. When anyone got in the way—whether Railroad workers in 1877, steelworkers from Homestead, Populists, or anyone else—the liberals would do whatever they needed to do to end those “threats” to their system. The 20th Century brought in the era of liberalism, and imperialists, capitalists, and workers would all operate according to its political and economic rules and requirements. Indeed, liberalism, capitalism, and imperialism were so interconnected that it is not unreasonable to think of them interchangeably—they all need the others to create the system of private ownership, wage labor, and military intervention that would lead the U.S. to huge economic success and global power. American Capitalism was now virtually identical with liberalism, and the goals and problems of Capitalists would find liberal answers. The problems already evident in the late 19th Century—overproduction, surplus capital, the creation of classes and struggles between them, the quest for land and markets—would become even more pronounced as wars abroad, labor crises, reform movements, and ultimately a world war dominated the first two decades of the new century. Capitalism, or liberalism, had created immense wealth, but did not create social harmony. There were factories producing more goods than Americans could buy, capitalists with money that they had to invest somewhere, workers living in poverty and fighting for their rights, and farmers still staggered by the changes in their lives. As the United States was making the turn from the 19th to the 20th Centuries, more trouble loomed ahead as those with power would find ways to confront the often-angry American people.

Liberalism: Power, Economic Crisis, Reform, War

T he C risis

of the

1890 s

and the

T urn

to

E mpire

The Populists and other protesters were addressing a much bigger problem that had dominated post-Civil War America, the transition to Industrial Capitalism and the conditions it had created. While the likes of Rockefeller and Carnegie had created huge wealth and made the United States a powerful economic country, the system also forced workers and farmers into different kinds of work with a loss of independence, led to a surge in immigration, and created a poor working class that rebelled against this new order. In addition to protests like The Great Uprising, Haymarket or Pullman, or the emergence of Populism, the government also faced an “army” of unemployed workers marching on Washington to seek relief, the rise of Socialist and anarchist movements, and millions of Americans, like Mark Twain, attacking the gilded economy. While clearly in power, the ruling class wanted to stop these opposition movements and find a solution to the economic problems–especially overproduction and low prices–that still existed. As a result, the United States would move abroad and for the first time formally acquire foreign lands. The European powers had been acquiring such lands, colonies, since Columbus’s voyages, and used them for markets, investment, labor, and resources—just as the British in North America until 1776. So, in the United States as well, Imperialism, in this case liberal empire, would become the solution to the crisis of capitalism. The 1890s was not the first period when America looked abroad. Indeed, from colonial times onward, national leaders envisioned a country with abundant resources seeking foreign markets for its raw materials and manufactured goods. In fact, the founders developed the idea of a free trade system even before independence. Instead of having a closed colonial system, where the colonies could only trade with the Mother Country, the Americans wanted a system in which all countries traded with one another, without barriers or tariffs. By the 1890s, this idea would become known as The Open Door, meaning that trade would take place freely, as through an open door, instead of with obstacles that favored certain countries over another, or excluded the U.S. from economic relations by devices like tariffs and such. It meant that imperial countries should not have control over other places and dominate and limit trade or investment in their colonies. Instead, empires should offer an “open door” to the world, so any country—especially an economically

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powerful but not militarily strong country like the U.S.—could profit from commerce with those colonial areas. Prior to actually invading other lands, liberal American theorists, similar to the “experts” who appear on talk shows today, created the ideas that would motivate expansion and imperialism. Some argued that it was America’s Christian duty to bring salvation and order to non-white peoples [similar to “Manifest Destiny” in the 1840s]; others advocated “Social Darwinism,” which was the idea that the most “civilized country,” the U.S., would, naturally, move abroad and take over weaker societies. Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan believed that the United States had to create a large navy and acquire bases all over in order to protect American merchant ships as they expanded into new markets. Most importantly, there were economic reasons for expansion, especially overproduction and surplus capital. To many politicians, bankers and industrialists, overproduction had to be addressed immediately. It was the result of changes in technology and organization [the rise of corporations], which made it easier and less expensive to produce both industrial goods and agricultural commodities—too many to be consumed inside the United States, in fact. Others, like financial expert and influential banker Charles Conant were concerned that there was too much surplus capital, money that was basically just “sitting there” and not being invested into new enterprises. If capital was not continually reinvested, if it was stagnant, the economy would go flat. American financial men had been buying up European securities—investments that wealthy men and bankers from England, France, German and elsewhere had earlier purchased in the U.S.—and thus had more money than ever. As Conant and many others saw it, Asia would be an excellent place to create “empire” and use that capital to create new economic opportunities, much like the “globalization” period of the 1990s and early 21st Century. The need to find new markets where American merchants could sell the goods brought on by overproduction and where bankers and others could invest surplus capital were then, and would remain, the most important motivation for U.S. involvement internationally from that point onward. Before the 1890s, many Americans had already gone abroad, especially Christian missionaries who moved to other countries to convert the local people but opened up business and became prosperous capitalists. In Hawai’i, for example, missionaries in the early 1800s were trying to convert, or “civilize,” the natives but realized that there was great wealth to be made in the

Liberalism: Power, Economic Crisis, Reform, War

Figure 2-1 Queen Liliuokalani

sugar industry, so they became prosperous sugar planters. By the late 1800s, the Hawaiians were tired of the Americans dominating their island—U.S. and European landholders owned over two-thirds of the territory there and the value of the sugar produced exceeded $8 million—so their leader, Queen Liliuokalani, wanted to re-establish independence and nationalist policies. The Americans in turn overthrew her government in January 1893 and put Sanford Dole, of the Dole Fruit Company, in charge of the government. After about five years of debate, the United States formally annexed Hawai’i in 1898, for the sugar of course but also because the island could serve as a coaling station for commerce [ships were powered by coal and had to make stops to refuel when making the long trip to Asia]. It could also serve as a military base, especially at Pearl Harbor, where the U.S. Navy could protect merchant ships as Americans expanded to Japan, China and elsewhere in the Pacific. In Cuba, one of the few remaining Spanish colonies, the Americans had similar goals. Wealthy men in the U.S. had been interested in Cuba for some time—first slaveholders who wanted to obtain Cuba for agricultural reasons and to have a territory where slavery was legal, and who even created private armies, called Filibusters, to try to conquer the island. When Cuban rebels began fighting against the autocratic Spanish rule in the late 1800s and as the

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war dragged on, Americans saw an opening and investors from the U.S. began to buy lands that were being damaged in the fighting, and by the 1880s had significant holdings, as well as over $50 million invested in the sugar and mining industries. President William McKinley tried to force Spain to cede, or give up, Cuba to the United States but the Spanish continued to refuse. Ultimately McKinley sent in troops to remove Spain’s control in 1898, in what future President Teddy Roosevelt called a “splendid little war.” Rather than give Cuba independence, however, he put Americans in charge of that country, motivating many Cubans to continue fighting for real independence. They were no match for the powerful United States, however, and in 1900 McKinley and other American officials forced Cuba to accept the Platt Amendment into its constitution, thereby giving the U.S. officials the right to intervene in Cuba whenever they believed their interests were threatened. With over $200 million invested in Cuba by then, Americans were not going to trust Cubans to create their own democracy. As many Cubans saw it, they had traded Spanish control for U.S. domination, and would continue to fight for their independence until Fidel Castro’s revolution of the 1950s. Then, on the heels of taking over Cuba, the United States sent warships to the Philippines, the other Spanish colony left, and took control there too. A nationalist movement led by Emilio Aguinaldo and praised by Mark Twain fought the American marines for ten years, killing 10,000 U.S. troops and losing over 200,000 of their own, but within a decade, the United States had established colonial control there. Around this same time, the U.S. Secretary of State, John Hay, wrote the Open Door Notes, and they would serve as the basis of American international policy from that time forward. The notes Hay wrote, to various European governments, had no real power behind them, but were statements that the United States would pursue economic interests all over, especially China, and that other countries should not have exclusive rights, or a “closed” door, to trade anywhere. So the Open Door was just an idea, and a fairly simple one at that. Since the U.S. did not have a sizable army or navy yet, it could not take colonies like the Europeans had been for centuries, so it wanted to use its economic power, which was stronger than its rivals, to establish “free trade imperialism” and gain economic and political control of other lands. In both Cuba and the Philippines, for example, U.S. Military Governors Leonard Wood and William Howard Taft took charge of the islands. The United States was now a global power, with the goal of using

Liberalism: Power, Economic Crisis, Reform, War

its economic strength to gain international political power. Decades later, a prominent American, Henry Luce, would call the 1900s “The American Century,” and one could see the outlines of it in the way that challengers to Capitalism were crushed and the American empire was built. Not everyone was on board with the new imperialism, however. “Shall we?”—one of America’s most treasured writers ever asked—“That is shall we go on conferring our Civilization upon the peoples that sit in darkness, or shall we give those poor things a rest? Shall we bang right ahead in our oldtime, loud, pious way, and commit the new century to the game; or shall we sober up and sit down and think it over first?” These words, in an essay titled “To the Person Sitting in Darkness,” came from Mark Twain, who in addition to inventing Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer and warning about the “Gilded Age,” was also a zealous anti-imperialist. “Would it not be prudent to get our Civilization-tools together, and see how much stock is left on hand in the way of Glass Beads and Theology, and Maxim Guns and Hymn Books, and Trade-Gin and Torches of Progress and Enlightenment (patent adjustable ones, good to fire villages with, upon occasion), and balance the books, and arrive at the profit and loss, so that we may intelligently decide whether to continue the business or sell out the property and start a new Civilization Scheme on the proceeds?” The person in the darkness, as Twain wrote it, was one of the billions of individuals who did not have the “blessings” of western “civilization” yet cast upon him or her, who had yet had Christian missionaries descend upon Asia or Africa or Latin America, who had not yet been invaded by the Kaiser of Germany, the Czar of Russia, or the President of the United States. Who had not yet, like the Boxers in China or freedom fighters in the Philippines, had to face down the barrels of western guns and surrender independence to the new empires. Twain was surely the most famous of those who criticized America’s expansion into new parts of the world in 1898 and after, but he had plenty of company in his anti-imperialist protests. The wars of 1898, critics charged, gave "militarists" too much power; the United States could acquire coaling stations or new trading opportunities without war or empire, they explained. Many dissenters contended that the United States had no right or need to “civilize” other peoples, especially considering its own treatment of blacks at home. Conversely, some did not want America to assume control over and responsibility for nonwhite, and thus inferior, peoples. Labor leaders, such as

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the Socialist Eugene Debs and the conservative Samuel Gompers, agreed that conquest and empire were dangerous, in large measure because they feared the loss of American jobs to foreign workers who would accept lower wages [a charge echoed in the late 1900s by anti-globalization activists]. Perhaps most pointedly, anti-imperialists argued that such conquests would pervert American principles. Senator George Hoar lamented “the danger that we are to be transformed from a Republic, founded on the Declaration of Independence … into a vulgar, commonplace empire, founded upon physical force.” The Anti-Imperialist League, in which Twain, William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow were active, was tormented by the specter of Filipino blood on American hands, and even “more deeply resent[ed] the betrayal of American institutions” such as representative government at home, international law, and self-government for others. Twain even offered new lyrics to the “Battle Hymn of the Republic”: “Mine eyes have seen the orgy of the launching of the sword /He is searching out the hoardings where the strangers’ wealth is stored /He has loosed his fateful lightning, and with woe and death has scored /His lust is marching on.” Henry Adams, grandson of John Quincy Adams, often debated the issue of American imperialism with Theodore Roosevelt and other expansionists after 1898. “I incline now to anti-imperialism, and very strongly to anti-militarism,” Adams observed. “If we try to rule politically, we take the chances against us.” Populist leader William Jennings Bryan anticipated that the “just resistance” of the United States to Spanish rule in Cuba and the Philippines would “degenerate into a war of conquest,” giving others the right to charge America with “having added hypocrisy to greed.” Imperialism, he sharply added, “would be profitable to the Army contractors; it would be profitable to the shipowners, who would carry live soldiers to the Philippines and bring dead soldiers back; it would be profitable to those who would seize upon the franchises, and it would be profitable to the officials whose salaries would be fixed here and paid over there; but to the farmer, to the laboring man, and to the vast majority of those engaged in other occupations, it would bring expenditure without return and risk without reward.”

C apital

vs .

L abor ,

the

S truggle C ontinues

Bryan’s criticism was fitting, for he was connecting America’s new conquests abroad with continued labor problems at home. The Pullman Strike of 1894

Liberalism: Power, Economic Crisis, Reform, War

had marked the last battle in the first generation of class conflict in the era of Industrial Capitalism, and the Capitalists had won. In each instance of class struggle, the industrialists and bankers had too much power and could use their money, the courts, the militia, police forces, or even the U.S. army to crush the laborers and farmers protesting against the new economy. But that did not mean that the economy was operating at its most efficient levels or that Americans were happy with the changes that had occurred after the Civil War. In fact, labor, both workers and organized unions, continued to fight for their economic rights—for better wages, the right to organize a union, the right to strike, the right to have better working conditions, and, as it had before, those fights often led to armed conflict. The often-violent nature of labor struggles had become so great by the end of the 19th Century that even significant figures in the ruling class wanted it to end. While those in power knew they could crush protests if necessary, political and economic leaders would rather enjoy a system that was stable and non-violent. In fact, the harshness of labor conflicts up to Pullman led many U.S. leaders, including Congress members, to seek laws to provide workers with some basic rights—like creating legitimate Railroad unions, setting up a system for workers to be allowed to arbitrate complaints, and banning “yellow dog” contracts in which employers forced workers to sign a pledge that they would never join a union. While some public officials, media, and parts of the general population were genuinely pro-labor, most ruling class representatives wanted reform not out of their sympathy for the poor worker, but because they believed that offering them some fundamental rights would keep them from going on strikes and protesting in the streets, conflicts that were bad for business. In 1898 Congress even created an Industrial Commission to investigate workers’ issues. Mostly this was a way to give the impression that the state was concerned with the conditions of working people so that more radical alternatives, such as socialism or anarchism, would not become too popular among laborers. Much of it was symbolic, because the rights of labor to organize, strike, and picket continued to be restricted or even prohibited.And even with such measures and apparent concern for labor, conflict and violence did not end. In 1899 another labor crisis occurred as miners went on strike in the Coeur d’Alenes, as they had in 1892. President McKinley ordered troops to northern Idaho, as Harrison had, to end the strike and establish “law and order.” For two years, Army officials prevented union

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members from returning to work and conducting any union organizing or activity. U.S. troops arrested and imprisoned hundreds of miners and the army even helped Idaho officials intervene in county and town politics to remove elected officials who were considered too supportive of workers. Even though liberals sought “cooperation” between capital and labor to avoid confrontations and radicalism, the ruling class still had the ability to use force to stop workers from seeking greater economic and political rights. For labor, there was a bright side to repression. Along with the incredible growth the working class due to the rapid expansion of industry, political action by workers and repression by the government motivated more and more people to join unions and between 1897-1903, the AFL’s membership grew from 400,000 to 3 million. But those big numbers did not deter the government and corporations from harming labor and attacking workers. From 1903 to 1905, Colorado’s Governor suspended access to the courts for labor, declared martial law, and sent in the militia to destroy the biggest union in the state, the Western Federation of Miners [WFM]. In 1905, in Chicago, Teamsters had violent battles in the streets against scabs and local police. In Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, 261 miners died in 1907 in the Darr Mine Disaster due to lack of inspections and poor ventilation, which led to an explosion. In December of that year, in the unregulated and uninspected mines of Monongah, West Virginia, another 361 miners died in an explosion, the bloodiest mining tragedy in American history, which forced the government to create the Bureau of Mines [which did not effectively make mines safer or give miners better wages or work conditions]. Across the country, union leaders in Los Angeles, in 1910, were arrested for bombing the Los Angeles Times building, and violence was prevalent in many other industries, such as coal mining, meatpacking, oil, rubber, and textiles. The years 1911-1913 were particularly harsh, with major labor battles and tragedies taking place in New York, Massachusetts, and Michigan. At the Triangle Shirtwaist Company, a clothing business in Manhattan, well over a hundred girls made about six dollars a week working on the upper floors of a tenement building. As they were finishing their work one day in March 1911 a fire broke out, trapping them in the workshop. Many jumped to their deaths out of the windows, while others were stuck in elevators or crushed by girls trying to get out of the few exits in their work place, some of which were

Liberalism: Power, Economic Crisis, Reform, War

Figure 2-2 Triangular Shirtwaist Company building ablaze

locked. When fire trucks arrived, their hoses could only shoot water as far as the seventh floor, below the areas where the girls were trapped. By day’s end, 146 were dead from the Triangle Shirtwaist fire. The workshop’s owners were found not guilty of negligence, and families that sued them for the deaths of loved ones were granted only $75 apiece, while the owners received $60,000 from their insurance company. Some laws were put into effect after the fire, but industrial work remained quite dangerous. [In fact, as bad as the tenement fire was, tenement house dangers could not compare with work on the railroads, where, in the 1880s, about 30,000 workers a year might lose their lives]. Shortly later, on January 1st, 1912 a new law went into effect in Massachusetts lowering the number of hours women and children could work, and the bosses at Lawrence textile mills lowered the wages of the workers there as a result. A strike then began “like a spark of electricity,” as one scholar put it. The reduction in wages was about 30 cents a week, but that could make the difference between having food or being hungry or able to pay rent. Workers at the Everett Cotton Mill, mostly women, went on strike immediately, and within a week over 10,000 workers joined them. Thus began the “Bread and Roses” strike. Socialists, Anarchists, and representative of the

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Figure 2-3 Bread and Roses Strike

Industrial Workers of the World [the IWW, or Wobblies, which will be discussed below] rushed to Lawrence to support the workers there with relief, like food and medicine, and by joining the picket line, while local militia and police forces were called in to oppose them and stop the strike. Local workers even put their children on trains to be moved to other cities where they could be fed and cared for by pro-labor volunteers. An IWW activist, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, “The Rebel Girl,” became an outspoken strike leader and was able to gain significant popular support for the workers, especially the women. Flynn and other Wobblies talked to them about the cost of living, how the bosses had “fooled” them into thinking “they were rich ‘till they had to pay rent, buy groceries, clothes, and shoes. Then they knew they were poor.” A Wobblie songwriter, Joe Hill, even wrote a rousing tribute to Flynn, and to feminism, singing “That’s the Rebel Girl, that’s the Rebel Girl!/To the working class she’s a precious pearl/She brings courage, pride and joy/To the fighting Rebel Boy/We’ve had girls before, but we need some more/In the Industrial Workers of the World/For it’s great to fight for freedom/With a Rebel Girl.” When the bosses tried to get one of their agents to secretly plant a bomb and try to blame it on the workers, the set-up failed, and the strike became

Liberalism: Power, Economic Crisis, Reform, War

Figure 2-4 IWW activist Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, “The Rebel Girl”

more intense. At one point, a group of Italian women attacked a policeman and took his club and gun and were about to take his clothes off and throw him in the river, but other police arrived to save him. The strike continued for ten weeks, with the workers demanding bread, wages to pay for food, and roses, a work environment that was not so dirty and unsafe so they could enjoy the more beautiful parts of life. Finally, the bosses agreed to the demands of the Lawrence strikers—higher wages, pay for overtime, and no revenge against those workers who had gone on strike. It was clearly a great victory for labor, and especially for the radicals who had gone to Lawrence [the AFL refused to assist the workers there] to fight against the textile mill owners. In February 1913, thousands of garment workers in Rochester, New York, many Jewish women, went on strike and one local owner of a sweatshop shot an 18 year old worker, Ida Breiman. Over 5,000 local citizens joined in her funeral procession, and local businesses opened soup kitchens and collected clothes for the strikers. The man who killed her, as was usually the case, was not put on trial for the murder. In April, the strike ended when the bosses and local politicians agreed to take no action against the workers who had protested at the sweatshop. It would be several more

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years before the women who toiled there got better wages and working conditions. At the end of 1913, copper miners in Calumet, Michigan, about 9,000 of whom were members of the WFM, went on strike to demand that their union be recognized and they be given better wages and conditions. On Christmas Eve, as the miners were having a party, the so-called Italian Hall Massacre took place. One of the agents hired by the copper mine owners allegedly ran into the hall and yelled “Fire,” causing a stampede that led to the deaths of 73 men, women, and children. Years later, the famous folk singer Woody Guthrie wrote about the event, “The 1913 Massacre.” He described the plight of the workers—“You ask about work and you ask about pay/They’ll tell you they make less than a dollar a day/Working the copper claims, risking their lives/ So it’s fun to spend Christmas with children and wives.” After they were alarmed “A man grabbed his daughter and carried her down/But the thugs held the door and he could not get out/ And then others followed, a hundred or more/but most everybody remained on the floor/The gun thugs they laughed at their murderous joke/While the children were smothered on the stairs by the door.” As in the Shirtwaist Fire, Bread and Roses strike, and Rochester garment strike, the workers suffered and even died, while the bosses were not held accountable. One of the most horrid, and best-known, labor conflicts in US history took place in that era as well. Miners in Ludlow, Colorado and elsewhere in the West had been trying to join the United Mine Workers of America [UMWA] Union and had gone on strike for some years before 1914. The coalmine owners, known as operators, had done all they could to prevent the unions from organizing their workers, and the confrontation became increasingly bitter. Eventually, the miners went on strike for the right to join the union. At that point, the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company, one of John D. Rockefeller’s properties, forced the miners and their families to move out of the houses that the company owned and rented to the workers. The miners, their wives and children thus set up a “colony” of tents on public land. On April 20th, all hell broke loose. The company had hired private “security” forces from the Baldwin Felts Detective Agency [like the Pinkerton thugs at Homestead] to come into Ludlow to stop the strike and force the miners back to work. They planned an attack on the miners that began while many of them were celebrating Greek Easter. Some Baldwin Felts agents poured kerosene on the

Liberalism: Power, Economic Crisis, Reform, War

tents, and then they brought out an armored car with a machine gun on it— they called it “The Death Special”—and began shooting at the miners, women, and children in the colony. The miners had dug holes in the ground in the tents so they and their families could dodge the bullets, but some were hit and the gunfire, as it hit the tents doused in kerosene, started a huge fire. The exact number killed, some by gunfire, others burned to death in the foxholes in the tents, was never established, but it seems clear that at least two dozen people, including perhaps 10 or more small children, died that day in Ludlow. In the immediate aftermath, a “coal war” broke out in Colorado as miners and state and private security forces began shooting at each other, with several dozen more killed. Ultimately, the “war” faded as the forces of authority—militias, police, and private agents—crushed the miners’ resistance. Afterwards, no one from the Baldwin Felts Agency was punished for the massacre and ten National Guardsmen were court martialed and found not guilty, but many of the union leaders were arrested and “black-balled,” or kept out of, the coal industry—they could never work again in the mines. As for Rockefeller, he supported the company. At the beginning of the strike, in

Figure 2-5 Slain Miner at Ludlow Massacre

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October 1913, he wrote to the Colorado Fuel and Iron bosses that “we feel what you have done is right and fair and that the position you have taken in regard to the unionizing of the mines is in the interest of the employees of the company. Whatever the outcome, we will stand by you to the end.” After the massacre, Rockefeller stood his ground and was not apologetic. “There was no Ludlow massacre,” he said. He shifted blame away from Baldwin Felts and blamed the miners; the conflict was a “desperate fight for life by two small squads of militia against the entire tent colony,” he argued. “There were no women or children shot by the authorities of the State or representatives of operators,” he added. Rockefeller found the loss of life “profoundly to be regretted” but thought it was “unjust in the extreme” to blame it on the detective agency and militia, who were “defenders of law and property” and “in no slightest way responsible for it.” Woody Guthrie also wrote the song “Ludlow Massacre” to commemorate the event. In the final stanza, he sung “We took some cement and walled that cave up/Where you killed those thirteen children inside/I said ‘God bless the Mine Workers’ Union/And then I hung my head and cried.” Americans were used to violence against workers by 1914—indeed the first decades of the 20th Century were often called the “age of industrial violence”—but Ludlow was striking, with its images of fire, children dying, and the great tycoon Rockefeller being forced to testify about the episode. Industrial violence was certainly a solution to the “problem” of labor, but now the ruling class recognized its limits as well; class war was not good for business. This idea was not necessarily new. When Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt [often just called “TR”] became president after McKinley was assassinated in 1901, he spoke for many of his colleagues in the corporate and financial world when he said he wanted to eliminate “class consciousness.” But to TR, this meant the consciousness of workers as an oppressed and impoverished group, not the understanding among the ruling class that it should run the economy and, hence, the country. So TR, for instance, sent arbitrators—federal “referees” who were supposed to be impartial—instead of troops to address a major coal strike in 1902. Workers got some changes in their wages and work hours but the coal operators were not required to accept unions or bargain with them, and the arbitrators upheld the right of mine owners to have “open shops,” meaning that workers could not be made to join a union or pay dues, an arrangement that made it even more unlikely that workers could organize.

Liberalism: Power, Economic Crisis, Reform, War

So the outcome, whether the violence of McKinley or negotiations of Roosevelt, were not much different—in all cases labor was without power, vulnerable to the desires of the bosses, and not protected by the courts, military, or politicians. Roosevelt believed his approach would convince labor that change was possible without unions and strikes and boycotts, and thus keep workers away from unions like the WFM, which he considered a group of “undesirable citizens” who, along with other labor radicals, were Socialists and anarchists and would use violence against their bosses and even the government. TR wanted “harmony” and “cooperation” in industrial relations, meaning that workers would accept the desires of their bosses without starting a union, going on strike, or fighting back. After Roosevelt came William Howard Taft and then Woodrow Wilson, who was a strong liberal and strongly anti-labor, at first at least. Wilson, like Roosevelt, wanted to avoid “class” legislation, meaning laws that might help labor. He had no issue with a legal system that was created by and favored the ruling class. In this era, the U.S. court system became more important in dealing with labor conflicts too. Courts could issue injunctions, official decrees that forced unions to end a strike and go back to work. Judges often also banned boycotts, attempts by labor to get better wages and conditions by encouraging all people to avoid the products of the companies against which they were protesting. And then there was the Clayton Act. In 1914, Congress passed the Clayton Act with many claiming it was a “pro-labor” law. The Act especially dealt with the issue of unlawful restraints and monopolies. An unlawful restraint was some action that made it more difficult to conduct trade, and a monopoly was a condition where one company controlled an entire industry, as with Rockefeller in oil. In an earlier era Congress similarly addressed the issue of big businesses forming mergers and trusts to eliminate competition and form monopolies in the Sherman Anti-Trust Act in 1890, but that offered nothing to labor; Clayton was supposed to be different. The Clayton Act contained a section directly relating to labor. Workers often saw themselves as “tools” or “machines,” forced to do a job for a minimal wage but otherwise being denied basic rights, and vulnerable to being fired or laid off at any time. The new law seemed to humanize those who worked in the factories and farms, stating that “the labor of a human being is not a commodity or an article of commerce.” It thus forbade corporations from preventing the organization of labor unions; it also said antitrust laws

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could not be applied to labor strikes, eliminating a favorite tactic of bosses who would sue unions who went on strike and courts which, illogically, treated unions the same as it did corporations. As a result labor unions could now organize without being accused of price fixing or violating antitrust laws. But Clayton did little to aid labor; it did not help workers organize unions, get better wages, or improve work conditions. The Supreme Court declared illegal the parts of the act that offered rights and relief to unions. Labor was little better off than it had been before, and unions, like cornered animals, often fought back. While Gompers and the AFL continued to support the Democratic Party and Wilson, other workers became more radical, joining socialist or anarchist unions, the best-known of which was the Industrial Workers of the World, or the IWW, nicknamed “The Wobblies.” The IWW began in 1905 and was especially strong among miners and lumberjacks in the western states. Its goal was to abolish capitalism and wage labor and establish a system of “workers’ self-management.” This was based on the idea of Anarcho-Syndicalism, which held that workers should engage in direct action at the point of production— taking over the factories, mines, lumber fields and running them cooperatively. There would be no division between bosses and workers and all would share in the decision-making and profits of the operation. The Wobblies were never a large union but Americans knew much about them. The IWW singer Joe Hill, like Bob Dylan or Bruce Springsteen in later decades, achieved fame as he wrote about Capitalism, revolution, and even religion. His song “The Preacher and the Slave” attacked ministers who warned their flock not to join unions, but instead told them to endure suffering on earth in the factories and fields because “you’ll get pie in the sky when you die.” Not surprisingly, the government and economic leaders hated and feared the IWW. The national government used Department of Justice agents [the Federal Bureau of Investigation, or FBI, had not been created yet] and states sent local police to harass, intimidate, attack, and arrest the Wobblies. The lumber camps and mines of the west often resembled mini-war zones, with militias and private corporate armies trading gunshot with IWW members. By the time World War I came around, with a zealous campaign against “radicals,” the IWW was exhausted from the various attacks against it. Again the state had asserted its power against working people. However, the AFL supported Wilson, who was criticized by Republicans for being “pro-labor.” As he sought re-election in 1916, Wilson sought work-

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ing people’s votes, so he supported laws to help workers, including an 8-hour law for Railroad workers. This led one Republican opponent to claim, somewhat hysterically, that Wilson was stepping “away from the old democracy of Thomas Jefferson and the Federal policy of Alexander Hamilton to the socialism of Karl Marx.” But Wilson’s rhetoric or even the 8-hour law did not really make a dent in the labor issue, as the courts were still issuing injunctions against labor, state governments were still using the militia to break unions, and the Clayton Act was being torn apart. Another round in America’s class struggle had gone to the bosses, but labor was ready to continue the fight.

P rogressivism , C leaning U p

the

R ough E dges

of

C apitalism

Clearly, the ruling class Capitalists had control of the economic and political system by the early 20th Century, but there were still problems to confront. Inequality between the wealthy and poor was worse than ever, and businesses themselves were often in conflict. As a result, most Americans saw the need for reform, to clean up the rough edges of capitalism. Unlike the Populists or Wobblies, there was no desire to fundamentally restructure the system, but it needed to be tweaked, and so Progressivism would come to define the era. Progressivism meant many things in the early 1900s; the spectrum was so wide that a billionaire like Andrew Carnegie or a Socialist like Eugene Debs could both be called Progressives. In general, Progressives understood that there were still problems with capitalism that needed to be fixed—poverty, lack of opportunities, racial and gender discrimination, unregulated business and unsafe products for consumers, among others. For the most part, Americans came to define Progressivism, or the Progressive Era, as a time when people fought for reform and social justice. To the poor and working class, it meant that working conditions had to improve; to the wealthy, it meant that economic inequality had to be addressed so that radical groups could not exploit the poverty and injustice to fight for an alternative to capitalism. And to the ruling class, it mean that “stability” was essential, that competition did not become so extreme that it actually damaged their economic interests. It was a time when Andrew Carnegie could bring in $23 million but an average worker made about $500 while the cost-of-living rose by over 30 percent. Especially, it was a time when all Progressives agreed that liberalism had to change to meet new developments in capitalism.

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“Social liberals” wanted a “safety net”—a set of laws to protect the people from the worse excesses of the economic system, and “corporate liberals” demanded government action to insure their continued influence over the capitalist system. In the public’s mind, Progressivism was probably best associated with muckraking. “Muckraker” was a term coined by Teddy Roosevelt, a negative word to describe people who raked around in the much to reveal the dark side of the American economy [similar to someone like Michael Moore, Glenn Greenwald, or Edward Snowden in the 21st Century]. So-called Muckrakers like Lincoln Steffens wrote about corrupt politicians who did not take care of their cities but instead used public money to pay off their friends, or “cronies,” and not even provide basic services to their mostly poor citizens. In 1902, Ida Tarbell wrote an important article titled “History of the Standard Oil Company” in which she exposed the way Rockefeller did business, using his political connections and economic power to run other oil companies out of business [and then buying them for pennies on the dollar] and creating the massive Standard Oil Trust, as previous described. The best-known Muckraker

Figure 2-6 Slaughtering floor at Swift & Co.’s Packing House, Chicago

Liberalism: Power, Economic Crisis, Reform, War

was Upton Sinclair, a Socialist who went to Chicago to investigate the stockyards where America’s livestock was slaughtered and sold to consumers for food. But when Sinclair got to the meatpacking factories, what shocked him, more than the poor conditions and low-wages the workers got, was the disgusting nature of the stockyards. Americans were eating unsafe meat. The book that resulted from his work, The Jungle, is still today one of the more important studies of U.S. Capitalism. Sinclair described a filthy meatpacking industry without safety standards or safety codes for workers. Among his discoveries was that “there would be meat stored in great piles in rooms; and the water from leaky roofs would drip over it, and thousands of rats would race about on it. It was too dark in these storage places to see well, but a man could run his hand over these piles of meat and sweep off handfuls of the dried dung of rats. . . . and the packers would put poisoned bread out for them; they would die, and then rats, bread, and meat would go into the hoppers together” and the resulting product would be sold to consumers. Americans were outraged and, so the story goes, demanded government action, and that led to the Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act—so now the government would do inspections and assure those buying meat that it was safe. Though Roosevelt thought the muckrakers were mostly troublemakers, out to make America look bad, many saw them as idealists exposing the problems of everyday life, and more and more social liberals, who sought “social justice,” emerged to carry on the work of Tarbell, Sinclair and the others. In 1900, the Charity Organization of New York held an exhibit of tenement houses, huge apartment buildings where poor workers lived. It included photos of the sordid conditions in the apartments, statistics on poverty and disease for the tenement inhabitants, and other information on the failures of Capitalism to give people a decent life. This would motivate concerned Americans to develop the field of, and educational programs in, social work. Two of the better-known social workers of the era were Jane Addams and Helen Keller. Addams helped publicize the plight of mothers and children living in poverty, as well as the many problems facing immigrants who had recently arrived in America to take on industrial and domestic work, and motivated various public officials to enact laws regarding the poverty, living conditions, and diseases of the poor [and even received a Nobel Peace Prize in 1931]. Keller was deaf and blind and was an advocate for people with disabilities. A Socialist, she also worked for women’s suffrage [the right to vote,

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which was still denied to women in all but a few states], birth control, peace, and anti-poverty measures. Some ministers, like Washington Gladden and Walter Rauschenberg, who would inspire Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King decades later, created the “social gospel,” the idea that religion should be used to make life better for the poor. They and other theological figures became involved in politics, speaking in favor of unions, calling for government regulation of work and health conditions, and trying to establish a society built on cooperation rather than competition. Women’s rights were an important part of Progressivism too. Though the term “feminism” is usually associated with the 1960s, it has a much longer history, including the Progressive Era. Jane Addams and other women established the National Consumer’s League in 1899 to lobby for laws to protect buyers [whom were mostly women]; in 1911, these women successfully got the state of Illinois to pass an Aid to Dependent Children [ADC] law so that kids from poor or broken families could be cared for; and in 1912 they pressed Massachusetts to pass a minimum wage law for women and children. Various women’s groups took on the issue of child labor with particular energy. Kids as young as 8 or 10 were doing industrial work, paid perhaps 50 or 75 cents a day, and with no workplace safety protections. As noted, millions of kids were working in industrial factories and mines. In 1916, Congress passed a law banning any product made by child labor from being sold from one state to another, but not until the 1930s did the Supreme Court ban child labor. Women were also deeply involved in movements for suffrage, the right to vote, and for birth control and abortion rights. Alice Paul and Lucy Burn established a group called the Congressional Union to fight for women to have the right to vote, but they did so militantly compared to most women, advocating not just for suffrage but declaring that women should be equal and have access to careers and good jobs. Consequently, in 1915 a more moderate group led by Carrie Chapman Catt, the National American’s Women’s Suffrage Association, came into being and Paul was removed. Catt was a supporter of World War I and believed women could be a conservative and patriotic force to keep American families from being vulnerable to political subversion like Socialism or anarchy. In 1920, based on conservative principles, Congress and the states passed the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote nationally. The birth control issue also attracted women considered more radical, especially Margaret Sanger, a nurse who believed that large families were more

Liberalism: Power, Economic Crisis, Reform, War

likely to live in poverty and that contraception could solve many of their economic problems. Sanger saw a friend, who already had a sizable family, die from a self-induced abortion after her doctor refused to give her birth control so she went on a crusade to educate Americans about family planning. Sanger saw it as not just a feminist cause but a health and medical issue as well, but authorities arrested her for giving out information—not contraceptive devices but merely pamphlets about them—on contraception [contraception and abortion were often outlawed under obscenity laws] and she fled to Europe for a time. Upon her return, she began the National Birth Control League with its first clinic in Brooklyn, New York. Sanger had some controversial views of her own that harmed her cause [she believed, for instance, in the racist idea that birth control should be given to non-white families to prevent a larger Black or Hispanic population] and some religious people, especially Catholics, fought her efforts vigorously. Not until the development of “the pill” in 1960 and a Supreme Court case preventing states, Connecticut in this instance, from outlawing contraception, did birth control advocates win their half-century long battle. Progressivism resided in the world of ideas and art as well. It represented a “revolt against formalism,” the idea that there was a singular, formal and

Figure 2-7 Child industrial workers in West Virginia

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correct, way to think or paint or write or, as we saw above, even worship in church. Whereas novels had been highly sentimental and had clear moral sides of good vs. evil, like Uncle Tom’s Cabin, writers such as Upton Sinclair and William Dean Howells began to portray life as it really was, with poverty, conflict, and a wide range of human emotion. Artists who were used to painting natural scenes—a bowl of fruit, an animal in the wild, a hunter or fisherman—began to show images of the “other side” of life, men begging for coins, people living in the streets, children working in a factory. Thomas Eakins and others created the idea of “Ash Can Realism,” a stark departure from the romanticized work of Classic and Impressionist artists, one that showed the dark and dirty side of life in the cities and towns of America. Philosophers and other thinkers of the era gave rise to the school of pragmatism, most notably associated with William James. These men did not seek absolute truth or a formula that would always be applied to human problems, but thought ideas should be judged by how well they actually worked when put into practice, not simply by some theoretical standard. James’s best known student was John Dewey, who brought about a huge change in American education. Instead of just learning by rote and forcing students to memorize “facts” [much like today’s standardized and CORE testing] Dewey advocated “learning by doing,” going outside to learn about nature rather than reading it in a book, having direct contact with the subjects being taught rather than only being lectured by a teacher, letting individuals learn on their own and encouraging free thinking, creativity, and imagination. Some lawyers and judges likewise pursued such goals with a new, pragmatic type of jurisprudence. Instead of just arresting and sentencing people according to codes, some legal officials began looking into the circumstances that led people to commit crimes. Perhaps a young man had stolen food or fuel but the judge discovered it was because he lived in poverty and was taking care of his family . . . he might be sentenced to community service, or attending school, rather than jail. When lawyers tried cases about child labor or establishing maximum work hours for women, they often used research conducted by professors that showed the actual effect—less poverty, fewer health problems, a better family life—of such laws, and many judges agreed and upheld such progressive legislation. Whether it was muckrakers exposing the meat industry, social justice advocates trying to help the poor or get children out of the factory, women demanding the right to vote, artists taking on

Liberalism: Power, Economic Crisis, Reform, War

themes from real life, or educators urging their students to be open-minded and inquisitive, the era of Progressivism led to great changes in American life, and made capitalism a little less harsh for many of those at the lower levels of society. But there was much more to Progressivism than helping women, children, consumers, and the poor. Corporations had their own vision of reforming capitalism too.

C orporate L iberalism While the traditional story of Progressivism is a tale of muckrakers and activists seeking justice and new ways of thinking, there is a lesser-known version, the “other Progressivism,” which is highly important in understanding the reforms of that era. As noted earlier regarding Roosevelt’s views on labor, many ruling class figures wanted “stability,” “cooperation,” and “harmony” in class relations rather than the conflict, often violent, that had marked the later 19th and early 20th Centuries. Episodes like Haymarket, the Populist rising, or Ludlow showed that capitalists could crush those seeking an alternative society, but it was much better to create a system where fighting in the streets was not necessary; thus, the development of what many scholars would call “corporate liberalism.” That term may seem contradictory—Americans generally associate corporations with a conservative desire to maintain and expand their power, while they often think of liberals as people who want to smooth out the rough edges of capitalism and make life better for the have-nots. But conservatives and liberals were not as far apart as one might think. Both believed in capitalism, private ownership of businesses and banks, a government role in helping the economic elites expand the economy and their profits, and a stable system, which might mean reforming laws to help the poor or creating regulations to make class relations less angry. Corporate Liberalism is not a complicated idea. It basically means that reform comes from the top down; it is not motivated, as Americans are often taught, by “the people” practicing democracy by seeking aid or changes in the law from their elected representatives. Corporate leaders understood that capitalism was still problematic in the early 1900s; there was still significant poverty, unregulated business practices, and gross inequality. So they sought “liberal” measures to fix capitalism, so that it would work more efficiently and discourage radical ideas and groups like Socialists, anarchists, farm radicals, or

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Wobblies. By making some concessions to the poor and disaffected, the Capitalists would remain firmly in power, the economy would grow, and workers and farmers would be less likely to revolt. Corporate liberals were also concerned about the competition that was growing among businesses themselves. Though the people were told that competition was the basis of capitalism and it would motivate companies to produce better goods at lower prices in order to draw in consumers, in reality corporations did not like competition. Competition, especially from smaller firms in the same field, could be destructive and larger companies went to the government for a solution to what they believed was too much competition. Some examples will explain these concepts better. If a worker was injured or killed on the job due to unsafe conditions, there were no “workers compensation” laws to help his or her family get any benefits from the company responsible for the workers plight. This was not a small problem as, between 1888-1908 alone, there were about 35,000 worker deaths, and over 500,000 injuries, per year, especially in the railroad and mining industries. The worker or survivors could only go to court to seek compensation, and judges ruled against the workers who sued in the majority of cases, not surprisingly. Labor organizations naturally wanted laws to protect them against dangerous labor conditions and had no faith in the courts to serve them well. That comes as no surprise. But businesses, corporate liberals, began to support laws for workers compensation as well because they began to see more judges practicing judicial progressivism and feared that the courts would begin ruling against manufacturers and force them to pay large damages to the workers or families filing the lawsuits. They also believed that workers, if laws for compensation were in place, would be more content and less likely to file suits or seek radical labor alternatives like those Debs or the IWW advocated. By 1912, 42 states had workers compensation laws, with the system organized and run by the state with heavy input from the companies. Now, both corporations and workers had a stable process for handling workplace injuries and it was accomplished without riots or militiamen being called out. Still, corporations were alarmed by other conditions, including basic capitalist competition. Examples from three areas show how this developed. In the banking industry, smaller state and local banks, which had contributed to local politicians and in a sense controlled them, were operating without much

Liberalism: Power, Economic Crisis, Reform, War

oversight so they engaged in dangerous practices, giving out loans to many companies that were on weak ground and would not repay them, or offering interest rates that were too low, thus making it easier for shaky businesses to get credit that they might not be able to obtain from more “conservative” banks, but that they might well have trouble paying back in tough times. Many banks were failing and those who had deposits in them were losing their money, leading them to complain to the government and seek reform. Americans were not thrilled with bankers in any case, so they took a negative view of the entire industry. As a result, big bankers, especially the largest banks on Wall Street in New York and conservative financial leaders in other areas like Chicago and Philadelphia, wanted federal laws to regulate the industry, to drive out the unstable smaller banks and stabilize, and centralize, the entire system. By 1907, the banking industry was in crisis as there was inadequate capital to keep businesses running. The government helped [as it would again during the banking crisis of 2008] with a bailout of $38 million and the famed banker J.P. Morgan went to Europe and raised another $50 million. Just a few years later, a congressional committee headed by Representative Arséne Pujo revealed that John D. Rockefeller and J.P. Morgan, with just five banking firms, controlled 112 corporations valued at $22 billion. The country—citizens and bankers alike—were frightened into reform, before the banks crashed again or the people rose up in anger. The result was the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, still a controversial institution today. “The Fed,” as it came to be known, was a collection of the biggest private banks, especially on Wall Street, supervised by the federal government [The Washington D.C. Federal Reserve Bank] and consisting also of 12 district federal reserves banks, that would control the money supply, set reserve requirements, and set interest rates. The act came from a banker-led movement to “rationalize” their industry. The goal was to make it harder for decentralized and often unregulated small and state banks, which were giving all of banking a bad name, to operate because they could not meet the new rules established. The Fed’s responsibilities were to create a banking environment that was beneficial to Wall Street and other large banks. By setting reserve requirements, the Fed established rules regarding the amount of money a bank actually had to have on hand relative to the deposits in that institution. Smaller banks, with less than $25 million in deposits, could be required to have 3 percent on hand for reserves, while banks with more than

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that in transaction accounts might have to hold 12-14 percent in reserve. Though the numbers were less for smaller banks, it was usually more difficult for them to hold such reserves because they did not have enough capital in their vaults to cover even a small percentage; 3 percent of $25 million, for instance, amounted to $750,000, a not insignificant sum. But at the same time J.P Morgan’s holdings exceeded $22 billion, so a 12 or 14 percent reserve was much easier to meet given such immense wealth. For a Wall Street bank, however, having adequate reserves was much easier because it had such vast deposits. As a result, smaller state and local banks often could not compete and went out of business, and were often bought out by the larger banks. Reform in this case was a means to eliminate competitors and buy them out at low cost. The Fed was also given the task of regulating the money supply and interest rates. It could print money to create inflation, higher prices and wages, or take money out of circulation to help corporate and financial leaders pay lower wages and, along with that, make interest rates rise so that bankers could charge higher rates on the loans they gave out. It also regulated the rates at which Federal Reserve banks would loan money to commercial banks, and in that way it could help bigger banks with better lending practices and withhold funds from banks that were taking too many risks with their loans. The Fed still exists today and its actions in 2008, when it bailed out huge Wall Street banks and then printed money for them to cover their losses, were consistent with the purpose of creating it in 1914—to benefit the ruling class. The insurance industry had a similar problem. The period from the end of the Civil War to 1900 saw cutthroat competition; between 1890 and 1905, the number of insurance companies doubled. To attract customers many insurers charged too little for premiums and offered more coverage than they could afford, so many of them failed. The bigger insurance companies, like the big banks, demanded government regulation to force smaller insurers to meet reserve and interest requirements that were unreachable, and so they too failed and were swallowed up by bigger insurance carriers in another example of “rationalizing” the industry. Perhaps the best example came in an area already discussed, meatpacking. The story of The Jungle is so well known and credited for the progressive laws to inspect meat and make sure it was safe to be consumed. But there is another part to that story that is virtually unknown. Long before Upton Sinclair went to Chicago, there was a crisis in the meatpacking industry. The

Liberalism: Power, Economic Crisis, Reform, War

“Big Four” meatpackers, some which still exist, were Wilson, Armour, Cudahy, and Swift, and they controlled the industry, selling meat in the United States and Europe. In 1879, however, Italy restricted the import of U.S. pigs due to disease [much like many countries banned British beef in the 1990s due to Mad Cow Disease], and France followed suit in 1881. By the late 1880s, almost all of Europe barred American meat from its markets, which was a great loss of profit for American meat companies. So the packers themselves acted, cooperating with public health officials to fix the problem. In 1883, the government established the Bureau of Animal Industry in the Department of Agriculture to clean up the industry, and in 1891 Congress passed the first Meat Inspection Law. Meat was now being certified as safe by the government so the European bans were lifted. Still, the Europeans were wary of U.S. meat coming into their countries. To the Big Four, which controlled from 50 to 75 percent of the meat market, the problem was with the smaller meatpackers. Since they made fewer sales and had less money, they were more likely to sell beef or pork that might have experienced some spoilage or was not as good as that sold by the big packers, who were wealthy enough to discard bad meat instead of selling it. The smaller packers could not afford to do that, so they often sold meat that was borderline safe or even going bad. Once more the Big Four sought government help, and by 1904, the year The Jungle came out, 73 percent of beef was being inspected and in some areas, like Chicago and Fort Worth, the percentages were higher. The smaller packers were resisting inspection, however, and the big meat companies resented what they saw as a competitive disadvantage because the number of smaller packers had increased by over 50 percent between 1899-1909. So when Sinclair went to Chicago to study the stockyards, the Big Four saw a chance to take advantage of the public alarm and uproar over the bad meat to convince the government to pass the laws to demand meat inspection. Once in effect, the smaller packers could not survive the costs associated with the new standards and the losses of markets due to their inferior meat. While Upton Sinclair may have disgusted Americans with his tale of rotten meat, it was the big packers, especially the Big Four, whom got the government’s attention to pass inspection laws. As with the other industries, the result was that the people got a better deal, but the smaller companies were driven out of business, competition was eliminated, prices rose, and the big producers had forced reform from the top down

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to increase their own production and profits. This is not to suggest that The Jungle did not contribute to the new inspection laws, but that the big stockyards and corporations had more access to government officials and could more effectively lobby for new regulations. Once more, corporate liberalism was evident as reform came from the top down—whether bankers, insurance companies, or meatpackers—to eliminate competition and expand their businesses, while also giving the people what they wanted—safer banks, better insurance companies, and clean meat. This process—creating new laws and regulations on behalf of corporations and the biggest companies—would be the story of capitalist reform from then onward. The state, rather than stay out of the economy as conservatives claimed it should, had to be deeply involved in decisions regarding which corporations would prosper, or even survive, and which ones, the smaller businesses, would fail. Liberalism was not principally a movement for justice, but also, in large measure, an idea used to make capitalism bigger and more efficient.

A merica A ttains G lobal P ower The Progressive Era marked another major step in the consolidation of capitalism as the dominant economic and ideological system in the United States, but, as in 1898, there were still problems and challenges to the system that had to be confronted, and the Americans once more sent troops abroad to expand the open door and create new economic opportunities for their manufacturers and bankers. But this time, the conflict would not be confined to a few areas that could be easily subdued; this would be a global war for the open door and for empire. For decades, students were taught that “The Great War” [which became known as World War I during World War II] “began” when Serbian nationalists, who would today be called terrorists, killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, on June 28th, 1914 as he was riding in his car down the streets of Sarajevo, in Bosnia.  The assassination, the story went, led the Empire of Austria-Hungary [the “Hapsburgs”] to declare war against Serbia and forced Austria’s ally Germany to eventually begin a full-scale European conflict.  Historical events, however, do not happen that neatly or simply.  A single assassination does not cause a world war.  Indeed, the conditions that led to The Great War were evident long before June of 1914.  They were quite

Liberalism: Power, Economic Crisis, Reform, War

similar, in fact, to the causes to the American invasions of Hawai’i, Cuba, and The Philippines, and their roots went back into the late 1800s. Capitalism did not develop only in the United States.  In fact, many European countries had their industrial capitalist revolutions well before the Americans did.  And by the late 19th Century, they faced many of the same problems that the U.S. did.  Industrial powers like England, Germany, and France--as well as less wealthy states like Russia, Spain, Belgium, and The Netherlands--had been conquering areas to establish as colonies for some time, but now were finding that even with colonies, they needed new markets and areas for investment.  One of the most astute observers of this economic situation was a Russian intellectual who was kicked out of that country because he wanted to overthrow the government of the Tsar.  His name was Vladimir Lenin and while exiled in Geneva, Switzerland wrote one of the more influential works of the 20th Century, a pamphlet titled Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism.  Lenin ‘s overall work was often sophisticated, but the basic ideas were fairly straightforward.  In the most powerful countries, he began, the industrial and financial elites dominated the economic and political systems, and they were facing similar problems of overproduction and surplus capital.  But areas to colonize were becoming harder to find since the globe was already divided up quite a bit.  So Lenin predicted that there would be “inter-imperial rivalries,” meaning that the empires would start to fight against each other for lands already possessed.  Capitalism had to continually grow or it would face crisis [like a shark has to continually swim to stay alive] so the great powers began to come into conflict with one another in their quest for markets to sell goods, areas where they could invest capital, places to find cheap labor, and lands where they could get vital resources like ores for industry, land for agriculture, or water for commerce and navies. Lenin could make such observations because the situation he described was already in the works.  In South Africa, settlers from Britain and The Netherlands [the Dutch] had been fighting throughout the 1800s for control of the land, with the British gaining the upper hand and controlling most of South Africa, and the gold recently discovered there, by the late 19th Century.  From 1899 to 1902, the British fought against Dutch settlers known as the Boers in the Boer War, with Britain ultimately victorious.  At that same time, England and France nearly came to blows over an outpost in Sudan called Fashoda.  Though it had little economic value--it was near the northern Nile

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and Britain had some thoughts of creating a railway there--Sudan was one of the areas that no empire controlled yet.  Despite the presence of troops and naval forces, war did not break out, but the idea that major European empires might go to war over Fashoda showed the intensity, if not the desperation, of the drive for colonies.  Among the powers, such rivalries were getting more intense.  At the turn of the century, Britain had the world’s largest navy, but Germany wanted to catch up, and thus began a naval arms race. Between 1905 and 1914, Britain built 42 warships, while Germany constructed 29.  Both sides, it seemed, were preparing for war.  Making matters more alarming, the French, who had long-standing problems with Germany [in the 1871 FrancoPrussian War, Germany invaded and took land from France], signed a treaty with Russia, another enemy of Germany, promising that they would come to each other’s aid if the German government attacked.  Then France singed a separate treaty with Britain [the Entente Cordiale] in which they too agreed to support each other in the case of German aggression.  For its part, the government in Berlin had an alliance with Austria-Hungary pledging mutual support to each other in the event of armed conflict.  Europe was clearly ready for a big war and the military spark would be lit in The Balkans. The Balkans was the area in southeast Europe that included Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Romania, Albania and adjoining areas, between the Adriatic and Aegean Seas. Prior to 1912-13 it was part of the Ottoman Empire. The Ottomans were controlled by Turkey, but by the early 20th Century, they were falling apart and in 1912-14, the Balkan states fought a series of wars against the Ottomans for sovereignty, or self-determination, and the other countries of Europe joined in, seeking control over the resources and investment of the states once controlled by the Ottomans. It was within this context that Serbians assassinated the Archduke in 1914, and with that Europe exploded. Germany began the hostilities in August 1914 with invasions of Russia and Belgium, and England and France then joined in to fight against the Germans. The war itself was a bloody series of war in the trenches, long ditches where troops would lay low until they got up and lobbed bombs against the other side and then stood up and marched toward them. They were, invariably, gunned down in huge numbers and retreated. The other side would then do the same, and so no land was being gained or lost, but eventually millions of Europeans were killed. For the United States, the Great War was alarming,

Liberalism: Power, Economic Crisis, Reform, War

but also posed opportunities. When the fighting began, President Wilson, because the open door was also an anti-imperialist tactic to gain new markets, told Americans to be neutral, and he hoped the war would be short. The hostilities in Europe were making it harder for America to pursue open door trade, as those continental empires were empires fighting against each other for land in the Balkans, a situation Lenin predicted years earlier. Wilson’s “neutrality,” however was never a reality, and America was pro-Allies [the British and French] from the start. Wilson and his closest advisors admired the British and U.S. businesses had significant business connections with the Allies, exporting goods and making record profits. From 1914 to 1916, American trade with them amounted to $754 million, $1.28 billion, and $2.75 billion; trade with Germany, however, was only $345 million, $29 million, and $2 million [see graph below]. The Wall Street banking house of J.P. Morgan also served as an agent for the Allies, negotiating about $3 billion in loans and trade. American companies also sold vital war supplies to the British and French, including copper, steel, wheat, oil, and, most importantly, weapons and ammunition. From an economic point of view, then, it was imperative to the U.S. that the British and French win the war, so the open door would not be closed and American investments would not be lost. Wilson also used international law to help the Allies and harm Germany. As the war began, the British put mines in the North Sea to prevent ships from

Figure 2-8 United States Exports to the United Kingdom, France and Germany (1910–1918)

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bringing goods into Germany and they included on their list of “contraband”—items prohibited to go to the enemy because they could be used for warfare—items such as cotton, medicine, and food, though banning them violated international law. Indeed, Germany in 1914-1915 had what it called “the turnip winter,” because it was so short on food that people were trying to survive on what little they could grow. Britain also put American flags on its ships so it could claim they were neutral—the U.S. was not in the war yet—and not allowed to be attacked by Germany. Wilson did nothing to seriously challenge the British “starvation blockade,” but responded much differently when Germany fought back. The Germans had developed a new weapon of war—U-Boats, or submarines. Germany had 21 subs when the war began and 127 by 1917. U- Boats were particularly dangerous because they could surface without warning and blow up enemy ships, many of which had American goods or money on them. Given that Britain had significant American aid on which it could count, the Germans believed that subs were their best military hope, and they warned that all enemy ships would be attacked and also warned passengers from “neutral” countries like the U.S. to stay off enemy vessels. Wilson rejected the German claims and continued to support Britain with economic aid and by agreeing with its blockade and naval attacks while flying neutral flags. But the Germans continued U-Boat warfare, sinking over 90 ships in early 1915. In May, however, American anger grew. The Germans attacked and sunk The Lusitania, a luxury liner leaving from New York and headed for Europe, killing over 1,200 people, including 128 U.S. citizens. Even though the German government had taken out ads in U.S. papers warning Americans to stay off such ships, Wilson was furious and called on Germany to end its submarine attacks. The Germans had little else to fight with, but, hoping to keep the U.S. from declaring war and joining the British fight in Europe, it went along with the president’s demand. At the same time, American Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan told Wilson to also warn Britain about violating the international law with its blockade and flying neutral flags. Wilson refused and Bryan resigned. The U.S. almost certainly was headed to war, and Wilson even killed legislation to keep Americans safe by preventing them from sailing on British ships. But 1916 was also an election year and the president did not want to run for re-election with a war on his hands—his campaign slogan that year was in fact “He Kept Us Out of the War.” Once the election was over and Wilson

Liberalism: Power, Economic Crisis, Reform, War

had won again, however, the Americans ramped up their role in the Great War. He had already essentially promised the British that the U.S. would enter the war and when Germany resumed U-Boat strikes in 1917, Wilson broke off relations with the government in Berlin and in April went to Congress to get a declaration of war because, he said, “the world must be made safe for democracy.” Given the president’s actions to that point, his economic motives for supporting Britain and his acceptance of British violations of international law, it might seem that his claim that the U.S. would fight for democracy was insincere. Wilson, however, as we have noted, was a liberal, and one of the core ideas of liberalism was free trade, the idea that commerce between nations should occur without any barriers or any other party, like Germany, trying to restrict it. And U-Boat warfare, especially when German subs were sinking ships carrying American goods to sell to the Europeans or returning home with the gold used to pay for such goods, was most definitely not liberal. Submarine warfare, a most illiberal way to behave when ships were conducting commerce on what Wilson deemed “free seas,” was surely a violation of democracy as Wilson, liberals, and the American ruling class saw it. And so America went to war in 1917, its first experience with a global conflict since its own war for independence in the 1770s and 1780s. The U.S. military role in the war was fairly limited. The army was not large and so the government had to encourage young men to enlist and in May 1917 Congress passed a Selective Service Act, a draft, to require American males to serve in the military. By the time American troops arrived in Europe, the Germans were on the defensive and, although U.S. troops did have an important role in some key battles in 1918, they were not involved to anywhere near the degree of the Europeans. When the fighting stopped with an armistice, or a cease-fire, in November, 1918, Wilson could claim that he was part of the winning coalition, but the Americans had not fought to a truly significant level—in fact, more soldiers died from the flu and sexually transmitted diseases than from battle. The U.S. made a much larger contribution through its economic support of the allies, and in the process made significant changes to the economy at home. Mobilizing, acquiring, and preparing the men and resources needed for made the connection between the state and big business, already growing in the Progressive Era, even closer. In 1917, Wilson created the War Industries Board [WIB], headed by financial expert and friend Bernard Baruch, to over-

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see the newly militarized economy. Baruch and the WIB were given authority to essentially control the economy; they could set prices, decide where often-limited resources would be used, standardized industrial procedures, determine production, or even force factories to make military goods instead of their regular manufactures. All this, naturally, ensured huge corporate profits as the military ordered goods in huge volume and the corporations charged high prices. Wilson also created bureaucracies to administer the food supply, control railroads, and oversee the coal industry. By war’s end, over 25 percent of the country’s economy came from war production, and Congress eventually appropriated $32 billion [about a half billion dollars today] for the war, which caused the Gross Domestic Product [GDP]—the value of all the finished goods and services produced in the U.S. in one year—to double, from $39 billion in 1913 to $78 billion by 1918. Federal spending spiked too, from $2.3 billion in 1917 to $13.1 billion in 1918 and then to $18.9 billion in 1919. Military spending made vast economic expansion possible [a condition that would characterize the U.S. especially after the Second World War and would be known as the “Military-Industrial Complex” or “Military Keynesianism”]. Growth via militarism, not for human needs, would become the centerpiece of the U.S. economy. Still, the U.S. role in the Great War was limited in most ways compared to the Europeans. In the postwar era, the Americans would try to take on a role much larger than they did in the war.

“D emocracy ”

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As Wilson sent American boys to Europe to make the world safe for “democracy,” Americans had their own struggles for freedom and liberty. For Wilson, democracy meant principally that the country should have a privately-held and “free” capitalist economy; it did not mean that all people enjoyed fundamental rights. “Woe be,” Wilson warned anyone who might criticize the war or advocate peace, “to the man or group of men that stands in our way.” So as soon as the U.S. entered the war in April 1917, Wilson, who demanded full loyalty from all Americans, established the Committee on Public Information [CPI], basically a government propaganda unit that enforced support of the war. The CPI had representatives travel the country to give talks about the war, encourage people to support and donate goods for the troops [like today’s

Liberalism: Power, Economic Crisis, Reform, War

efforts by politicians and celebrities who go to Iraq or Afghanistan], and it produced anti-German events and even movies like “The Kaiser, the Beast of Berlin,” and “The Prussian Cur.” The government’s anti-German ideas filtered down through society and mobs even attacked American citizens who had come from Germany or spoke with an accent. In East St. Louis, Illinois in 1918 a group of people attacked Robert Prager, a German-born U.S. citizen, and lynched him. The courts did not find anyone guilty of causing his death. More commonly—similar to the creation of “Freedom Fries” to criticize the French for not helping the US fight Iraq in 2003—people made symbolic gestures, re-naming Bratwurst “liberty sausage” and calling sauerkraut “liberty cabbage.” Many schools quit teaching German classes, and symphonies stopped playing German composers like Bach, Brahms, and Beethoven [which made it much harder to put together a concert]. Wilson delighted in such behavior, and got Congress to pass the Espionage Act of 1917, to arrest and try Americans who were accused of aiding the enemy, and the Sedition Act a year later, which punished people for speaking or writing negatively about the war. It is crucial to understand that these laws penalized Americans for their words or thoughts, not their actions. Political “radicals”—Wobblies, pacifists, anarchists and others—were frequently harassed, arrested, or jailed under these laws, none more famously than Eugene Debs. In June 1918 Debs, who had twice run as a Socialist candidate for president, gave a speech in Canton, Ohio in which he began by admitting that he was at risk for his views and should be careful with his words. But he continued on and attacked the war as a fight for ruling class wealth. “The master class has always declared the wars,” he told the crowd, and “the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose while the subject class has had nothing to gain and all to lose—especially their lives.” Debs was charged with 10 counts of sedition, convicted and sentenced to 10 years in jail, and had his right to vote taken from him. Still, in 1920, while in prison, Debs received almost one million votes for president. In December 1921 new President Warren G. Harding commuted Debs’s sentence because of his age and failing health. He had spent about two-and-a-half years in prison for practicing freedom of speech. Even though the American government and people were harsh on Germans and radicals, no group embodied the contradictions, or hypocrisies, of the

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Figure 2-9 Photograph of Eugene Debs taken after he was freed from prison on December 25, 1921

“war for democracy” like African Americans did. Denied equality and basic rights after slavery was abolished, southern Blacks lived in a system called Jim Crow. It meant that not only were they denied basic rights like voting and a good education, but always had to “know their place,” which was inferior to Whites. They could not speak badly of White people, talk to them unless spoken to, or even look at a White woman [a crime similar to rape called “reckless eyeballin’”]. In 1896, the US Supreme Court approved of this system in the Plessy v. Ferguson decision, which said that it was acceptable to make blacks sit on different railroad cars [and thus have segregated institutions all over] so long as it was “separate but equal.” At the same time, violence against blacks continued, with about 1100 lynchings between 1900 and the start of The Great War, and about 140 during the war years, while many Blacks were in the army fighting for democracy. There was also a renewed interest in the Ku Klux Klan, the terrorist, racist group formed after the civil war to harass and attack Blacks. The KKK had fallen into some disrepute but returned with a vengeance in the 1910s, in some good part due to President Woodrow Wilson’s attitudes toward “radicals” and Blacks and his rave review of the rac-

Liberalism: Power, Economic Crisis, Reform, War

ist movie “Birth of a Nation.” The KKK became strong in both southern and northern states and boasted that it had over 4 million members—probably a vast overestimate but likely to be in the vicinity of one million—all “true” Americans who wanted especially Blacks, but also Catholics, Jews, radicals, and immigrants out of the country. Amid such conditions, Blacks pressured the government for their civil rights, and none were more well-known at the time than Booker Taliaferro Washington and his ideological rival, William Edward Burghardt [W.E. B.] DuBois. Washington was the head of the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, a historicallyBlack college, and rose to fame in 1895 with his Atlanta Compromise speech, which was better received in the White community than among Blacks. It was not time to challenge Jim Crow, he said, and African-Americans should focus on education, vocational training, and slowly working with Whites to create a more just racial system, politely and passively. Both Presidents Roosevelt and Taft, who had negative ideas about Blacks, consulted with Washington on racial issues because they knew he accepted racial inferiority. DuBois was at the other end of the spectrum on the issue of race. DuBois was the first Black to receive a Ph.D. from Harvard University, in 1895, and

Figure 2-10 Ku Klux Klan

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became a professor of sociology. In 1903, he published The Souls of Black Folk, a book in which he attacked Washington’s strategy of obedience and waiting. DuBois believed that African-Americans should never accept White supremacy, but should demand educational opportunities, seek higher goals and not settle for menial and low-paid work, and they should vigorously fight for equal rights. In 1906, he helped found the Niagara Movement, a group organized to fight for civil rights. It did not last long, however, and in 1909 he helped start an organization that would become the most important in civil rights history, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, or NAACP, the group that would be at the forefront of the legal struggles for Black rights in the 1950s and 1960s, and he was the editor of its magazine, The Crisis. DuBois, like most Black figures, believed that Wilson’s words about making the world safe for democracy should apply to African Americans as well, so he urged his community to support the Great War and used his talks and writings as a way to show how patriotic he and other Blacks could be. Even with the support of Black leaders and the participation in the war by huge numbers of soldiers, who performed courageously and admirably, Wilson did not budge, and racial animosities continued. For Blacks, this situation was becoming intolerable. Service in the military, one of the clearest marks of loyalty and patriotism, seemed to mean nothing for Black troops. Fenton Johnson, a well-known Black poet, wrote “The New Day” to describe the frustration of African Americans: “For we have been with thee in No Man’s Land/Through lake of fire and down to Hell itself/And now we ask of thee our liberty/ Our freedom in the land of Stars and Stripes.” Wilson and his successors ignored such pleas for basic rights, however. Even worse, tensions between Blacks and Whites often became violent in this period. In a St. Louis racial confrontation in 1917, Whites killed 40 Blacks and had 9 of their own die; in Chicago, in a dispute over which part of a beach was open to Blacks, 23 African Americans and 15 Whites died; and Whites even lynched 10 Blacks who were still in their U.S. Army uniforms. But the worst incident occurred in Houston, Texas. In the immediate aftermath of the incident in East St. Louis, the War Department sent an infantry battalion to Houston, Texas, to police the construction of a National Guard training facility to be called Camp Logan. Made up entirely of African-Americans in the segregated “old army,” this unit had served in Mexico, Cuba, and the Philippines and was used to reasonably

Liberalism: Power, Economic Crisis, Reform, War

fair treatment because the soldiers, even though Black, wore the uniform of the U.S. Army. Things were going to be different in Houston immediately, however. As soon as they arrived, White officers informed the men that they were to obey local customs regarding segregation [in fact, the Houston Police Department offered to provide separate trolley cars to shuttle the men around town, but commanding officer Lieutenant William Newman guaranteed his men would “obey the law to the letter”]. Perhaps most offensive to the soldiers was the treatment afforded the provost guard [the equivalent of today’s military police], who were told that they would have no arrest powers, were not to be armed under any circumstances, nor were permitted even to wear any insignia of their position. By agreement made between the commander Newman and Houston police chief Clarence Brock, Houston police would handle all arrests of military personnel and turn them over once per day. For nearly six weeks, tensions mounted as the Black soldiers did not, as Newman guaranteed, simply accept the law. Nor did they remain silent when the citizens and Houston Police Department continually referred to the soldiers as “niggers” despite the pleas from Major Kneeland S. Snow to refrain from doing so. The tensions exploded on the evening of August 23, 1917. Earlier in the day Houston police arrested one soldier and then later pistol-whipped a member of the provost guard, Corporal Charles Baltimore. Following Baltimore’s return to camp, the men of the 24th Infantry went out for revenge on the city of Houston. At about 8:30, a group of men assembled in camp and shot out telephone and telegraph wires [trial testimony indicated that several of the soldiers amassed because they believed the camp was under attack due to White officers who were approaching]. Between 75 and 150 AfricanAmericans gathered in military formation and marched from Camp Logan toward downtown Houston. While characterized by the local press and subsequent legal proceedings as a riot, it was a very controlled affair. Led by the senior non-commissioned officer, Sergeant Vida Henry, they carefully chose trolley cars, White police officers, and homes of White citizens as areas to attack as they marched. In all, the Black soldiers killed 16 Houstonians (3 of whom were police officers), wounded 12 others, and ended their mutiny around 4:00 A.M. on August 24th. The city immediately declared martial law and sent the Black soldiers to New Mexico and then on to San Antonio, Texas and conducted 3 separate

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courts martial. All told, in the largest trials of their kind in U.S. military history, the army tried 118 men and found 110 of them guilty of charges ranging from failure to obey a direct order to murder of U.S. citizens in a time of war. Of those 110 guilty, the courts sentenced 26 to death, and hanged 19, while 7 were commuted to life imprisonment; an additional 63 Black soldiers received life sentences as well. Men who had earned and sought only respect for the uniform they wore, from the nation they happily served were executed on the morning of December 13, 1917, at dawn. The army permitted no witnesses, and only informed President Wilson after the executions had been carried out. Clearly, a race war between Black soldiers and their White officers and Houstonians bore no resemblance to a war to “make the world safe for democracy.” Race relations were as bad as, if not worse, than ever in the American South despite Wilson’s words and his crusade to make a better world. Like African-Americans in the 1770s and 1780s who saw the fight against the British and the American rhetoric of liberty and freedom as having meaning in their own lives, Blacks in Houston and elsewhere during the Great War saw Wilson’s crusade for democracy in their own terms too. But effective change would not come soon in either case. Wilson’s “democracy” was specific to his economic liberalism, and he was trying to expand it globally.

V ersailles , A merican P ower , W orld W ar II

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The armistice of November 1918 ended the fighting, but the war would have to be ended with a treaty, and so in January 1919 the leaders of the great powers went to Paris to hold a peace conference at Versailles Palace, in Paris. Wilson headed to Paris with a grand vision for a new world, dominated by the open door, free trade, and an end to imperialism. The other powers— especially the Europeans who had fought and lost so many men while the American losses were much lower—were not so enthused about Wilson’s bid for leadership; “he bought his seat at the peace table at a discount,” as they described it. The president, however, was not going to be shy or reluctant to express his views. He sought to create an open door world, an international economic system where all countries would trade with one another without barriers like tariffs, because the United States had great economic power but not equally great military power; in that regard, Wilson was an anti-imperialist,

Liberalism: Power, Economic Crisis, Reform, War

not because he believed that the mostly non-white people in colonies were equal or deserved to be treated well, but because empires had closed doors for trade, and American businesses were being shut out of commerce in the colonies. Wilson also wanted to create a system of collective security, an arrangement where all the nations would join together to keep global peace. Now, if one country acted aggressively or invaded other nations, as Germany in 1914, an organization of states, not just the enemy of the aggressor, would join together to stop the hostilities and punish the country which started the fight. Even though Wilson did not have a huge military backing him, his views had to be taken seriously because the U.S. had emerged from the Great War with more economic power than ever. The Americans had entered the war as a debtor nation, owing over $10 billion to international creditors; but by the time the war ended, the situation was reversed and the U.S. was the world’s biggest creditor itself, with other states owing it more than $10 billion. Money, Wilson understood, was power. The conference at Versailles would be complex and long, covering a great number of topics. Three issues, however, stood out, both for their importance at the time and maybe even more because the failure to successfully address them led directly to a second World War; they were the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, Germany, and the League of Nations. The Great War had begun when Germany invaded Russia in August, 1914. The Russians at the time were allied with the French, and were led by a Tsar, an autocratic ruler who dominated and oppressed his people and had no desire to create a democracy. Inside Russia, various groups had been trying to overthrow the tsar and a group known as the Bolsheviks, communists led by Lenin, were gaining support by promising “peace, land, and bread” to the Russian people—an end to the war, land reform for the peasants, and food for those suffering from the famine. In March, 1917 another group overthrew the tsar, making Wilson more comfortable with having Russia in his “war for democracy,” but just months later, in November, the Bolsheviks took over. Lenin and his comrades then established a government unlike any seen before. They immediately made peace with Germany, and were forced to give a large amount of Russian land to the Germans. They eliminated private property and the state took over banks, factories, huge farms, and other businesses. They began to give land taken from the wealthy to the peasants. The

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Bolsheviks wanted to attack the power of the Russian church, which was a partner with the tsar’s government. It rejected Capitalism, the open door, and private enterprise. Americans described the Bolsheviks in theological terms, calling them “devils” . . . and not allowing them to attend the conference at Versailles. So the absence of the Russian government, along with Wilson’s badly-planned invasion into Siberia by American troops, meant that the U.S. and Russia were, and would continue to be, major enemies, and this led directly to the dominant international problem of the century—the Cold War, which would become especially intense after the Second World War. Germany was an even bigger problem, the dominant issue for all of Europe. The British and especially the French wanted to punish Germany harshly, as victors in war usually did. They insisted that Germany sign a “war guilt clause,” accepting full responsibility for the causes of and damages in the war, and that the Germans give up most of their army and navy equipment and even commercial ships. More importantly, they expected Germany to make huge reparations payments, money to be sent to the countries to rebuild from all the destruction the Germans caused and to deter them from invading again, as they had in 1871 and 1914. Even though Germany too was terribly damaged by the war, the Allies wanted it to pay $33 billion in reparations, a huge sum. Wilson, whose country was not hurt by a war fought across the ocean, opposed the reparations numbers, angering the Europeans, and instead sought reintegration. Reintegration simply meant that Germany should be able to rebuild so it could once again be an economic partner in Europe. If Germany’s economy could get strong again, it could trade and invest with Britain and France, and they would be able to rebuild. In turn, all of those European nations, once on the rebound, could have economic relations with the United States—so every country would benefit. To Wilson, German reparations should be much lower, in the range of $6-8 billion dollars, a figure established by John Maynard Keynes, the brilliant British economist who headed the reparations committee. But the Europeans held out and Germany was punished harshly, so its own economic recovery would be impossible, the economies of other countries would not get rebuilt, and in Germany, the most reactionary groups, especially the National Socialists, would exploit the depression that resulted from the Versailles treaty to come to power, creating a direct link to World War II. The third issue, and probably Wilson’s most painful failure, was the attempt to create a League of Nations, to manage and enforce collective security. The

Liberalism: Power, Economic Crisis, Reform, War

League would be an organization of all states working together to maintain peace and join together against other countries acting aggressively or threatening war. The Europeans were skeptical of the idea, as they had traditionally relied on their own military power and creating alliances with other countries to fight off their rivals. The debate, and resulting fight, over the League would demonstrate both Wilson’s vision of American power but also its global limits. While not enthused about the idea of a collective arrangement to guide international relations, the Europeans reluctantly accepted it, assuming that they would use it as it suited their needs. Wilson’s problems were not at Versailles, really, but at home. Treaties must be ratified by twothirds of the U.S. Senate, and there was plenty of opposition there. Many senators, indeed many Americans, already held negative views of America’s role in the Great War and wanted to stay out of such global disputes in the future, and some were beginning to use the term isolationism to describe their position. They feared that the U.S. would get dragged into wars in which it had no interests because the League of Nations voted for them. It was an issue of sovereignty—the ability of a country to make its own decisions independent of other nations or institutions. For many Americans, especially Senator Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts, the League was likely to limit the nation’s ability to act independently and would send U.S. boys into wars abroad, as in 1917. Some were concerned that the League might take action against the U.S. for its own behavior in other areas. The U.S. government, they believed, should make its own decisions, without outside participation, regarding foreign policy. Indeed, Wilson even had an article included in the League of Nations founding document exempting American actions in Latin America from even being considered due to the long-standing power the U.S. had asserted in the Monroe Doctrine. Some had much less political, and noble, motives. Senator James Reed of Missouri added a racist argument against the League. “Think of submitting questions involving the very life of the United States to a tribunal on which a nigger from Liberia, a nigger from Honduras, and a nigger from India . . . each have a vote equal to that of the great United States,” he said publicly on the floor of the Senate. Facing such opposition, Wilson still refused to compromise. “The Senate must take its medicine,” he said, and approve the League. Wilson’s prescription, however, was not heeded, and the Senate voted down participation in the League of Nations several times. Wilson’s own creation could not survive in his home

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country. As with the Bolsheviks and Germany, the question of the League was mishandled and Versailles in general was mostly a failure, one that would become more apparent in the next two decades as another world war became imminent. Wilson himself had already suffered a stroke, and his health would worsen as the League fight went on. Though he wanted to run again for president in 1920, the Democrats knew he could not handle the job and so Wilson retired and died in early 1924, never knowing that, his stubbornness aside, his ideas at Versailles were probably better than the ultimate outcomes of the conference.

R ed S cares

and

R evolutions

The Great War and Versailles were bad memories in the U.S. already by 1919. Americans were deeply disillusioned by their involvement in a huge foreign war and the subsequent fight over the League of Nations, all of which seemed to accomplish little. As the famed novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald later wrote, society woke up to “find all wars fought, all gods dead, all faiths in man shaken.” Inside the U.S., those responsible for the war went looking for scapegoats—parties they could blame for the various tragedies of the era—and they found Reds—traitors, socialists, communists, peace advocates, and others whose patriotism could be questioned. Wilson’s demand for total loyalty continued after the war and his Attorney General, A. Mitchell Palmer, went after Reds and other “troublemakers” with a vengeance. Palmer, hysterically, alarmed Americans by telling them that radicals would “on a certain day . . . rise up and destroy the government in one fell swoop.” With Palmer’s preposterous warning in mind, in 1919, in Hammond, Indiana, a man yelled “to hell with the United States” and at the trial for the alleged shooter, the jury took a total of two minutes to come back with a “not guilty” verdict. At a “Victory Loan Pageant” in Washington D.C., a sailor fired three bullets into the back of a man who did not stand up for the National Anthem and the crowd cheered him. In Connecticut, a salesman received a six-month jail sentence for calling Vladimir Lenin “one of the brainiest” world leaders. Such actions, fanaticism really, took place all over the United States after the Great War. The Bolshevik Revolution had shaken global politics and political leaders in the U.S. warned that there were citizens who would try to bring Communism by revolution to America. There were,

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in fact, Reds in America. The Communist Party, probably exaggerating, claimed about 50,000 members while the more moderate Socialists said they had about 40,000 in their movement—all in a population of over 106 million. And, in fact, some anarchist groups had taken credit for a series of about 45 bombings directed at government officials in April and June 1919, with two people killed, a New York City night watchman and one of the anarchists delivering a bomb. To Palmer and the government, radical political parties and bombings were proof of a much larger “conspiracy” to bring Communism to the United States by an alliance of Bolsheviks and Germans [who were on different ends of the political spectrum] and so they went after anyone who might be a Red in their minds. To a significant extent, the attack on Reds was really a campaign against labor, as radical workers and organizations were attacked harshly in the Great War era. In 1914, Utah officials arrested, convicted, and executed the famed IWW singer Joe Hill on chargers of murder that were likely contrived. Two men in Salt Lake City had been shot and killed, and 12 persons were arrested before Hill. But his reputation as a Wobblie troubadour with a huge following made him a target, and so the officials took care of him. In Hill’s last testament, he asked to be cremated and have his ashes sent to every to every state but Utah. A year later, 20 or so strikers stopped a train suspected of carrying scabs into a Chemical plant in New Jersey when factory guards shot and killed 2 of them. In late 1916, the Wobblies were targeted for a violent reaction by the state again. In Everett, Washington, the sheriff and deputies rounded up and beat with pistols and clubs 41 IWW members who were there to support a strike of shingle workers. Wobblies returned a week later by boat, but were met at the dock by the sheriff and a group of vigilantes, who opened fire. At the end of the “Everett Massacre,” perhaps 12 union men were dead and almost 30 injured, while 2 vigilantes were killed and another 20 wounded. In the battle for loyalty and labor rights, state violence was common and accepted. Another Wobblie, Frank Little, suffered a similar fate in July 1917. He was in Butte, Montana helping the IWW organize a strike against the Anaconda Copper Company when masked men broke into his room at night, kidnapped him and lynched him from a nearby railroad bridge. Dashiell Hammett, who would go on to become a famous novelist of detective tales, especially The Maltese Falcon, was a Pinkerton at the time and was offered $5000 to kill Little; he resigned immediately.

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After the war, the Red Scare was an even more important ploy in the attack on workers, who sought higher wages and working conditions and had staged 3600 strikes involving 4 million workers in 1919. Labor was under attack all over, and nowhere more so than in Seattle, Washington. In January 1919 about 35,000 shipyard workers went on strike, and weeks later over 60,000 workers in Seattle struck in other industries, all seeking higher wages because they had not received any raises during the war. The government labeled the strikers—men and women with a legitimate grievance using legal means of protest—as Reds and Wobblies and called out 1500 police to confront them. The strikers, realizing that they could not stand up to the organized violence of the state, caved and the strike ended without achieving its goals. The mayor took credit for saving the city from communism in the Seattle General Strike, proclaimed a great victory for loyal Americans, and became a well-paid lecturer about the evils of radical politics. Class struggle and conflict did not end, however. On November 11, 1919 – the first anniversary of Armistice Day—Wobblies and members of the American Legion [an organization of military veterans] had a gunfight after one of the veterans ran into the IWW hall, where a Wobblie shot him and another Legionnaire. The Wobblie, Wesley Everest, allegedly shot two more men before he was caught and, with 11 other IWW members, charged with murder, of which 8 were convicted. Everest himself never stood trial, however. A mob stormed the jail where he was held during a “coincidental” power outage, castrated him, and took him to a bridge where they hanged him. For loyal Americans, this was simply the treatment that radicals deserved. This mythic fear of Communism and revolution caught fire and Americans were looking for domestic enemies everywhere in what became known as the Red Scare. Palmer expected “100 percent Americanism” and deported over 6000 foreigners in the U.S. accused of being Communists, arresting many others, often without warrants, and detaining them for extremely long periods, often without any charges or hearings. Most were eventually released, but the warning was clear—one had to fully support the government or perhaps suffer great consequences. By 1920-1921, the Red Scare had dissipated as it became very clear that the Bolsheviks were in no position, with all their own problems in Europe, to export a revolution and that communists, socialists and anarchists in the U.S. were far too weak to cause much trouble, let alone take over the country. Still, the Red Scare gave rise to a

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political tactic that would be used time and again to go after political enemies, one that has originated in the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. Simply by accusing one’s enemies of something un-American or immoral, like witchcraft or communism, political and community leaders could discredit other people and ideas and make it much more difficult to hold a view—even asking for higher wages—that was contrary to the ruling class’s wishes. While over a million Americans could publicly belong to the KKK without any problem [and there were even rumors that the Klan made President Harding an honorary member], individuals who just held “radical” ideas could end up in jail or deported. In some areas, such as the industrial coal fields, conditions, and consequences, were much worse.

W hich S ide A re Y ou O n ? T he W est V irginia C oal W ars “They say in Harlan County/There are no neutrals there/You’ll either be a union man/or a thug for J.H. Blair.” This stanza comes from one of the more famous protests songs in U.S. history, “Which Side Are You On?”—written by a social activist and daughter and wife of coal miners, Florence Reece during a particularly bloody labor conflict in Kentucky against Sheriff J.H. Blair in 1931. In West Virginia, the question Reece posed had long been the most important one in class politics in the mining industry—would a miner identify with the union, or with the coal operators and cops they employed. While post-Civil War labor violence had a long history already, from the Great Uprising to Ludlow, no conflicts were as prolonged or bloody as the West Virginia Coal Mining Wars of the early 20th Century. Tens of thousands of miners, thousands of company thugs, and even the U.S. Army would be involved in the industrial violence that was constant in West Virginia [and elsewhere] and millions of bullets would fly in these wars between corporate power and mining folk. Western Virginians were quite different from their fellow citizens in the eastern part of the state. Prior to the Civil War, there had been sectional conflict as the westerners, resentful of eastern planter power, wanted voting rights for non-landowners, opposed slavery because it prevented Whites from getting agricultural work, and sought infrastructure—roads, bridges and the like—for commerce in their part of the state. Finally, in 1863, the disputes become irreconcilable and West Virginia seceded and became a state and

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joined the Union side. By the end of the 19th Century, a region that had once been mostly countryside was flooded with investors, machines, and workers, for one reason only—coal! As one West Virginia official described it, “We think coal and live coal. If you take our coal from us, we should go back to the days of the bobcat and the wilderness. Coal is our existence.” Indeed, coal production was soaring all over the U.S., providing the fuel for the industrialization of the economy. In 1850, U.S. mines produced 8.4 million short tons [2,000 pound units]; in 1870, that number rose to 40 million tons; by 1900 it was 270 million; and in 1918 peaked at 680 million short tons [see chart on coal production below]. West Virginia was a major source of this coal. In 1867, West Virginia mine operators produced 490,000 tons, a number that increased tenfold by 1887, and went up in 1917 to over 89 million tons. In just one area that had virtually no people in the late 1800s, McDowell County, coal production rose to 18 million tons by 1920. With that production came a flood of workers as well, especially immigrants. While there were about 3,700 miners in 1880, nearly 90,000 worked the West Virginia mines by the 1910s. With so much coal, West Virginia would seem to be a wealthy state, but in reality it contained some of the worst poverty in America. To a large extent,

Figure 2-11 U.S. Coal Production

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this condition resulted from the overwhelming level of outside ownership of the mines. After the Civil War, investors such as Charles Pratt, Abram Hewitt, and Peter Cooper began to develop the coal industry there. Pratt’s company was part of the Standard Oil trust; Hewitt was the mayor of New York City; and Cooper was his father-in-law. Two of the biggest investors in West Virginia were Andrew Carnegie, who obviously used the coal in his mills, and John D. Rockefeller, who owned numerous mines and companies, including the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company of Ludlow infamy. Not surprisingly, Railroad companies saw great opportunities in the coal industry, so the Chesapeake & Ohio, the Norfolk & Western, and the Coal & Coke companies, among others, bought into West Virginia coal, as did railroad and banking barons such as Commodore Vanderbilt, J.P. Morgan, and others. One of the biggest firms, the Briar Hill Coal Company, came out of a merger of the holdings of the Watson family—already influential in West Virginia politics—with John D. Rockefeller. In nearby Pennsylvania, one of Carnegie’s closest associates, Henry Clay Frick, invested heavily in coal, controlling 80 percent of the output there. Outsiders saw numerous opportunities in coal all over—railroad companies could get rights-of-way for transporting coal to national markets; northern factories could use it for fuel; and public utilities could mine coal and use it to electrify cities. Following a trend that was commonplace after the Civil War, northern capital was flooding into southern states to industrialize the region and take the profits back home. For the people and workers of places like West Virginia, the native-born and immigrants, of which southern Italians and Sicilians were the largest group, there was little more than harsh work and poverty. Such conditions, perhaps inevitably, led to class conflict. In the late 1800s a secretive society of mostly Irish miners, the Molly Maguires, organized and fought the coal owners in Pennsylvania. As already noted, there was a major coal strike in 1902 mediated by President Roosevelt, and in 1907 in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania and in Monangah, West Virginia, two of the worst mine disasters in U.S. history, killing over 600 miners, took place. Indeed, even given the dangerous conditions of U.S. industry, coal mining stood out for the number of accidents and deaths in the mines [as the graph on the next page comparing the U.S. with the other biggest coal producer, Britain, shows], with West Virginia alone suffering over 4,200 miners’ deaths

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in just the 1910s. Along with such safety concerns, coal miners lived in often-dire poverty, their lives controlled by the coal operators in the company town. These coal Capitalists totally owned the towns where the mines were located. There were no private homes, no small independent businesses. The coal company owned the houses it rented to the miners, the stores where food and other goods were sold, the local movie theater, even the pool rooms. It built schools and churches and YMCA buildings, and employed physicians, teachers and ministers. When miners got their paychecks, it came in company scrip, which could only be used in the company town and not at outside stores, and included deductions for all the necessities of life. Monthly costs for miners included rent at about $6 a month; lighting was $1; heating, ironically with coal, was $1-2; hospital service was $1 or so, with extra charges for childbirth or surgeries; and the biggest expense was food, which varied. Miners, according to a 1920 survey, made about $80 in a good month—they were paid by the tons of coal produced and often worked a 10-hour day—but had over $26 in deductions and debts, leaving them with a little over $50 for a month’s living expenses. Number of workers employed

Number of fatal accidents

Fatality rate per 1,000 workers

Year

United States

United Kingdom

United States

United Kingdom

United States

United Kingdom

1917

757,317

1021,340

2,696

1,370

3.56

1.34

1918

762,426

1,008,867

2,580

1,401

3.38

1.39

1919

765,000*

1,191,313

2,317

1,118

3.03*

.94

1920

775,000*

1,248,324

2,260

1,103

3.292*

.88

(*) Provisional figures.

Figure 2-12 Coal Worker Fatalities

Class divisions were stark, and so it seemed that the miners and mine owners’ militia were always shooting at each other. In 1909, in the upper Kanawha River Valley, operators at mines in Boomer, West Virginia announced they would pay their workers based on the “long ton”—2,240 pounds—instead of the standard 2,000 pounds. Labor in these mines, owned by a millionaire from

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Cleveland, Ohio with political connections all over Washington, D.C., Marcus Hanna, were predominantly from southern Italy and Sicily, and many had worked in the mines there. Hanna’s representatives in West Virginia attacked the Italians, provoking conflicts and often calling the police and using the courts to put down the “Dagos.” When the company announced it would pay based on the long ton rather than the regular ton, the Italian miners wanted to strike, but the national union leader refused to support them, suspecting that the operators actually wanted a strike because they had surplus coal and prices were low. The Italians, however, refused to listen to the union leaders or the coal operators, so, armed with rifles, organized themselves and refused to allow miners, and scabs, to enter the workplace. The media called it a “riot,” but the Italian strikers did not harm a single person. The most tense moment of the strike occurred when the Italians decided to march to the mine office in Boomer behind a large red flag with a black border—the bandierra rossa—all the while singing union songs and carrying signs that read “Victory or Death.” When the coal company superintendent tried to rush to the meeting spot and talk to the miners, bullets whizzed past him and he ran back to his office. The Italians then took a sheriff ’s representative hostage, and 50 armed deputies headed to Boomer. Soon, another 50 arrived, with a Gatling Gun, and the Italians were driven back. Thirteen strike leaders, including an 11 year old boy, were arrested and sent to the county jail for safe keeping. Ultimately, the operators agreed to the short ton standard for pay, but the Italians had suffered heavily and were never really accepted by the local miners or the bosses. A few years later, a much larger and more significant conflict took place, when in April, 1912 the Paint Creek Strike in Kanawha County began. The Paint Creek miners were organized by the United Mine Workers [UMW] earlier, but their contract was expiring and the coal owners did not want to renew their recognition of the union. With worsening conditions and violent harassment from the coal operator enforcers, the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency, a group of armed men, like the Pinkertons, who attacked labor and defended the company’s interests, the UMW declared a strike and the governor declared martial law and had the union leaders arrested. Among the key issues in dispute was the question of who would choose the “checkweighmen,” the men who weighed the coal to determine how much a miner brought in and, thus, how much he would be paid. The miners

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insisted on picking the weight checkers, because they were often cheated out of pay by company men who understated the amount of coal brought in. The union also demanded to be paid semi-monthly, so workers would not have empty pockets at the end of every month. And they wanted the right to purchase some necessities at local stores, instead of the more-expensive company stores. The operators agreed to some of these terms, but then simply did not comply, and when a meeting between the bosses and labor was scheduled for July, the miners showed up but the operators did not. Rather than negotiate or change policies, the operators brought in the Baldwin-Felts agents whom, with guns in hand, searched trains, halted strangers, ejected people considered “undesirable,” such as union men, from town, and threw miners considered troublemakers out of their company housing. BaldwinFelts agents were paid $100-125 a month, over double what the miners made, never hesitated from using force and were sometimes arrested for crimes ranging from assault to murder. None in Paint Creek were put on trial for their reign of terror. But the miners had an impressive weapon of their own show up in June, an 82 year old woman whose first and middle names were Mary Harris, but was known nationally as Mother Jones. Put on trial for encouraging miners during the 1902 coal strike, a U.S. district attorney called her “the most dangerous woman in America” before she was found guilty, though the judge suspended her sentence so she would not become better-known and seen as a martyr. In August 1912 Mother Jones gave a speech in Paint Creek calling the Baldwin-Felts “contemptible, damnable bloodhounds hired by the operators.” That summer, the strike in Paint Creek became more tense and violent. Mine owners were evicting more miners from their homes and bringing in scabs to take their jobs. Beatings, shootings, and sabotage were everyday events. In late July 3,000 miners marched to Charleston to the state capitol, where violence broke out and 12 strikers and 4 guards were killed. In September, over 5,000 miners joined the strikers in their tent colony, where they retreated after being kicked out of their company houses, and the governor sent out 1,200 troops to confiscate labor’s weapons. The strike was beginning to take its toll on the strikers and families, as the lack of food, housing, sanitary conditions, and wages was making it impossible to sustain a decent life. Frank Keeney, a rank-and-file leader of the strike said “I am a native West Virginian and there are others like me working in the mines here.

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Figure 2-13 Labor agitator Mary Harris “Mother” Jones

We don’t propose to get out of the way when a lot of capitalists from New York and London come down and tell us to get off the earth. They played that game on the American Indian. They gave him the end of a log to sit on and then pushed him off that. We don’t propose to be pushed off.” The Baldwin-Felts were not about to back down either, and in February 1913 opened fire on miners with a Gatling Gun, the “Death Special” later used in Ludlow, and killed a striker. Finally, the U.S. senate stepped in and conducted an investigation of the incident. One of the most chilling testimonies came from Mrs. Gianiana Seville, a miner’s wife. She told the senators that she was in bed and heard shots fired so got up to check things out, and saw guards doing down the hill. Then about 20 Baldwin-Felts broke into her home and 2 attacked her. As she described it, “Those guards were going into the other neighbors houses there, and they began to pick up the men that they could find in the houses. Then they came into our house, and they opened the door and . . . on the bed was my baby, and it was asleep, and I told the guards to let the baby alone because the baby was on the bed; and they struck me and I fell down, and then they kicked me in the stomach and they hit me with their fists in here, and then they knocked me down. . . [T]hey turned up the bed, then, and they wanted to get in, and they asked me to give them the

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keys to the trunk, and I refused to do it, and then they hit me and threw me down.” One senator then asked, “What was your physical condition at that time?” Mrs. Seville’s answered “I was pregnant for five months.” Finally, Governor Harry Hatfield—of Hatfield and McCoy fame—mediated an end to the strike with the right to organize a union, along with better wages and hours, semi-monthly pay, and selection of checkweightmen for the workers. Afterwards, a local banker estimated that the strike and violence cost the Paint Creek area $100 million, led to 50 murders, and caused starvation and malnutrition among miners that caused a large number of other deaths. The Paint Creek Battle would be minor compared to what was to come, the Battles of Matewan and Blair Mountain in the early 1920s. Matewan was in Mingo County, along the Tug Fork River, and home coal mining operations and thousands of miners, many of whom wanted to join the UMW, led by its energetic new president John L. Lewis. As Miners joined the union, however, the coal operators fought back, firing the worker from his job and removing him from company-owned housing—as in Paint Creek. The operators even brought in scabs, mostly Blacks and Italians, to take the strikers’ jobs, but they ended up supporting the Miners Union too. Still, by May 1920, about 3,000 Tug Fork area workers had joined the union, and nowhere was the UMW more active than in Matewan. In that city, a rare combination existed—the police chief, Sid Hatfield [again, of Hatfield and McCoy fame] had been a miner himself and he and the mayor, Cabell Testerman, openly supported the union drive and protected the miners. On the morning of May 19th, however, conditions were to change drastically and tragically. Thirteen BaldwinFelts agents, including the president Thomas Felts and his two younger brothers, arrived in Matewan to begin evicting miners from their homes. Decades later, the filmmaker John Sayles would depict the episode in his film, simply titled Matewan. Immediately, word of the Baldwin “thugs” made the rounds and hundreds of armed miners and town folk showed up at the Stone Mountain Mine Camp, where the miners’s families lived. Testerman rejected the eviction notices, and Hatfield deputized the entire crowd. That episode was over, but the operators were ready to ramp up their attack. When Hatfield tried to arrest Al Felts for conducting evictions without proper authority, a shot rang out, and the battle was on. Hundreds of shots were fired and Al Felts and Mayor Testerman, and 5 other detectives and 2 miners, were killed. Sid

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Hatfield was a folk hero, not jut in Matewan but throughout West Virginia, for his pro-labor efforts, but in August 1921, as he was walking with his wife up the courthouse steps in McDowell County, Baldwin-Felts detectives gunned him down in daylight. The miners, still seeking union recognition, still under the thumb of the operators, and now bitter over the deaths of Testerman and Sid Hatfield, thus began the biggest armed conflict in the U.S. in the period after the Civil War, the famed Battle of Blair Mountain. Not long after Hatfield’s assassination in August and September 1921 in Logan County, over 10,000 miners and 3000 police, agents, and scabs—called the “Logan Defenders”—fought over the right to organize a union. Unlike Sid Hatfield in Mingo, Sheriff Don Chafin in Logan was extremely anti-union and ready to use whatever means necessary to defeat the union and crush the miners. Chafin sent his men to the miners’ camps, but the strikers fought back and disarmed the sheriff ’s agents and sent them fleeing. Miners’ representatives then marched to Charleston and presented the governor with a petition of their demands, which he immediately rejected—as he was in the pockets of the mine operators. The union men, believing that talks would get them nowhere, planned a huge march on Mingo to free miners who had been arrested by Chafin, end martial law in Logan County, and organize the union. Mother Jones was still in West Virginia at the time and urged the miners not to take the battle into Logan and Mingo counties because she feared a bloodbath in the fight between the miners, who had only their own rifles, and the deputies, who had heavy weapons and vehicles. But the conflict was too intense to back off now, and on August 20th, over 13,000 miners met in Kanawha County and began to march on Logan. Chafin knew they were coming so set up his defense on Blair Mountain, and had the nation’s largest private army, 2,000 armed men funded by the coal operators, as well as public security forces, behind him. As the battles began, President Harding joined in, on the operators’ side, and threated to send in federal troops and air power. The miners backed down, but Chafin was still hungry for a battle so sent his men after the coal miners, who turned back to re-engage the fight. By late August, the battle was full-scale. Chafin’s men were outnumbered by over 3:1 but had better arms and higher positions on the mountain. The operators paid for private planes to drop bombs on the advancing miners as well, and gas and explosive bombs left over from the Great War were even used against the strikers. U.S.

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Army bomber planes, under the command of war hero Billy Mitchell, conducted surveillance on the strikers and gave their positions to Chafin and local agents. The gun battles continued for a week, into early September. The sheriff and operators killed perhaps 100 of the union miners during the battle, while the strikers caused about 30 fatalities on Chafin’s side, and both armies reported hundreds wounded. In some cases, men who had fought alongside each other just a few years earlier in the Great War were now shooting at each other in the West Virginia coal war. The miners realized that they could not compete against such weaponry, as well as the U.S. government, so began to retreat and throw down their weapons. Besides the human cost, the union lost politically as well. Indictments came down against 985 miners for murder, conspiracy, accessory to murder, and treason, and hundreds served jail time until paroled a few years later. The UMW’s membership fell from about 50,000 to only 10,000 and it would not recover until the 1930s. As urban uprisings had shown, the struggle of the people against industrial power was never fought on equal terms, and the coal operators, like the police at Haymarket, the Pinkertons at Homestead, or the Army at Pullman, always had the upper hand and were not reluctant to use large-scale violence. The class war surely continued—and the conflicts in West Virginia were the biggest domestic wars since 1865—but the ruling class always held advantages over the workers, farmers, and miners who wanted a better life. So miners, and workers all over, would continue confront the question: which side are you on?

P rogress

and

P roblems

The period from the late 1890s to 1920 was full of great changes in all areas of society, and Americans were taking sides. The problems of capitalism remained obvious and workers, political radicals, Klansmen, and “Reds” were active in their criticism of the new system and the new world it had created. Poverty and discontent remained high and the state and economic elites continued to use force, dissent, and fear to keep the people from protesting too much or with much effect. At the same time, most Americans, even the ruling class, knew that progress was necessary and a whole era became dedicated to making changes in the way consumers were treated, children and women were forced to work, and in the way people wrote and thought, all to create stability and deter dissent. At the same time, corporate and financial

Liberalism: Power, Economic Crisis, Reform, War

leaders, working with their colleagues in politics and the courts, gained more control over America’s economic and social activities and eliminated those who would compete for their riches. The country even became a global power to be reckoned with by joining a world war, which made the U.S. an international creditor and, thus, economic power. Twentieth-Century liberalism had brought with it conflict, reform, global involvement, and ever-growing wealth. As the 1920s approached, capitalism was ready to expand into even more areas and gain greater influence, until things fell apart in 1929.

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I

n the HBO show Boardwalk Empire, “Nucky Thompson” is a politician with mob connections, living in a world of organized crime, corruption, beautiful women in “speakeasies,” or illegal nightclubs, and plenty of illegal champagne and “bathtub gin.” It is, as many Americans imagine it, what the 1920s was like. Few decades have the reputation of the “Roaring ‘20s,” a time, in popular lore and in media and movies, when Americans finally exhaled from the trauma of the Great War, the economy expanded, sexual relations changed, and people loosened up and had fun! This version of that decade is not incorrect, but it is incomplete. Entertainment and sports became accessible to the masses. Babe Ruth—the cigar-smoking, beer drinking, womanizing New York Yankee slugger—became one of the best-known, and ironically mostadmired, men in America and made the amazing salary of $80,000 a year, more than the president. When asked about his salary compared to Herbert Hoover, he joked “I had a better year than he did.” Men and women interacted more often and more scandalously as sexuality became more overt and sex more liberated. Despite a constitutional ban on alcohol, booze flowed freely. People enjoyed popular music like ragtime and jazz, often going out with groups of friends, men and women together, to enjoy singing and dancing and a few drinks. And politicians like “Nucky” were often at the center of it all, taking kickbacks, helping their friends, and 117

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turning a blind eye to illegal activity. The anxiety and depression of the Great War seemed to be over. But that new culture was the product of a major economic transformation—one that produced advanced technology and more goods, turned more Americans into consumers, the buyers of such goods, than ever before, led to better wages for working people, and created immense wealth. But then, due to conditions in America and abroad, all came crashing down with a global economic depression unlike any in modern times.

L iberals . . . There can be no doubt that Americans took on more liberal attitudes in the 1920s on a variety of social issues. Women, who had just gained the vote, began to step out into society more, with about 15 percent holding jobs outside the home. Some women, known as flappers wore shorter dresses, smoked, drank, and danced, all considered taboo or subversive behaviors for females before then. Even with the crusade against it, birth control became more

Figure 3-1 A young flapper woman

The ‘20s: Culture, Consumption, and Crash

accessible and sexual attitudes were not quite as restrictive, so women gained more control over their own bodies and lifestyles. Men and women began engaging in more social activities together—going to carnivals or drive-in theaters, for instance, and without chaperones. Women also frequently went to jazz clubs. Jazz was a new music style, originating among AfricanAmerican musicians in New Orleans and elsewhere, with fast beats and rhythms, and lots of dancing with it. The jazz clubs and dance halls were liberating for women, places where they could be themselves instead of only filling their socially-required roles as wives, mothers and guardians of morality. They could drink, smoke cigarettes, and dance without being condemned. In this way, women, especially young women called “jazz babies,” could rebel against the Victorian culture of their elders. In jazz culture, indeed in all of American culture, drinking also had an important role. Americans liked to drink, but critics of the new culture tended to associate alcohol with the cultures of immigrants who came to America from Italy, Germany, Poland, Ireland, Russia and many other places, and wanted to get rid of both liquor and the immigrants. This led to a movement for Prohibition, a key issue for Progressives who believed they could make life better for the poor and immigrants by keeping them away from alcohol. On January 16th, 1920 every brewery, distillery, and bar closed, forced to shut by federal law, the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The prohibition movement was backed by church groups, women who saw their husbands spend their wages on booze and often become abusive when drunk, social do-gooders who said that eliminating alcohol would cut crime, and corporate bosses who wanted their workers sober and obedient [many of the same arguments that would be used in the “war on drugs” in the late 1900s and early 21st Century]. The 18th Amendment had an immediate impact—as the average consumption of alcohol per adult fell from two gallons to about threefourths of a gallon per year. But the law contained a loophole. Prohibition did not ban the consumption of alcohol, only the sale and manufacture, and there were few ways to enforce it; only 1,500 federal agents were available to maintain the ban, and individual states were expected to help uphold prohibition. As a result, those who had money or political connections—the upper class, the people who knew Nucky Thompson . . . and every city had a Nucky—consumed large quantities of home-brewed beer, “bathtub,” or homemade, gin, and often went to “speakeasies,” clubs were alcohol

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was served, illegally but without much fear of being caught because the local politicians and police were paid off to ignore the activity. As for eliminating illegal activity, the law actually increased corruption and organized crime. Al Capone, the famed Chicago mobster, brought in about $60 million a year by selling booze and engaging in other illegal activities. He paid hundreds of men to transport and protect hundreds of thousands of gallons of alcohol brought in from Canada and the Caribbean. In nearby Calumet City, Illinois, Vincenzo “Jim” Buzzancca, my grandfather, also known as “Jimmy Botts,” had his own speakeasy. In less than a decade after he had arrived destitute from Siciliy, he became affluent enough to own a car, hire a maid, get tailor made suits, and socialize with local politicians and the established “White” elite. However, the repeal of prohibition ruined his business, in his estimation. In no time at all, most cities possessed more speakeasies than there were legal bars before prohibition. Cleveland, for example, had 1,200 bars before 1920 and 3,000 speakeasies after. Capone’s bootlegging enterprise made possible an expansion of his other criminal activities, especially gambling and prostitution. Once “liberated,” Americans found more vices to enjoy with relative ease. In fact, prohibition helped the hard liquor industry expand considerably as more Americans made the switch from beer to other kinds of alcohol. But it had also fostered massive political corruption and contempt for the law and large numbers of urban police forces were on the payroll of organized crime. Increasingly, prohibition went unenforced and it bred contempt. Not until 1933 was it repealed, when the federal government, in the midst of a deep depression, sought any means to create jobs and alleviate suffering.

...

and

B acklash

While jazz was becoming more popular and booze flowing more freely, many Americans resented these changes to society and culture, and a backlash—a movement against certain social developments—was visible and strong. Alcohol, immigrants, sex, and secularism were all abundant, and they alarmed many older, God-fearing, Americans. As a result, the 1920s was a decade of new, liberal attitudes nation-wide, but also a time of reactionary movements against them, a “culture war” if you want to use that term. There was a resurgence of the KKK, and more attacks on its targets. Religious groups espe-

The ‘20s: Culture, Consumption, and Crash

cially spoke out against liquor and jazz, and with some success, as the amendment to prohibit the manufacture and sale of alcohol showed. And while many women felt liberated during the Jazz Age, most still held on to traditional views of modesty, with ambitions to be wives and mothers and thus promote social morality. Meanwhile, few issues aroused the fear and anger of traditional Americans as that of immigration [not unlike the 21st Century controversies over Mexican immigration in the U.S. Southwest]. There had long been opposition to immigrants, people coming from other lands to the U.S., led by groups advocating nativism—the belief that the country was founded and should be led by white Christians, probably conservative, and that the number of outsiders should be limited and their behavior regulated. Immigrants brought different religions with them—especially Catholicism— and, as noted, enjoyed alcohol and other amusements more than those with old puritanical views could accept. At various times, the government put quotas on immigrants—Asians in California in the early 1900s were particularly oppressed, for instance. However, there was a large and persistent need for workers in the U.S., so immigration was in fact a labor issue, though many saw it as a cultural, religious, or ethnic problem. Moreover, immigrants usually moved to cities, 23 million in the Northeast alone, where they would take up industrial jobs. Once there, the general lack of sanitation, large families crowded into small apartments, and crime added to the negative, and sometimes hysterical, attitudes about foreign-born people in the U.S. White Protestant America and its new immigrants came into conflict in a spectacular manner in South Braintree, Massachusetts in April 1920 when armed men robbed the payroll of a shoe factory and killed the paymaster and a guard during the crime. Just weeks later, police stopped two Italian immigrants who described themselves as anarchists, Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, who were carrying loaded pistols. They arrested Sacco and Vanzetti and charged them with the murder of the two men during the payroll robbery. Their trial would become a national phenomenon [much like the O.J. Simpson or Jodi Arias cases much later, without, of course, the advanced media attention]. The trial began in 1921, with Webster Thayer, a conservative, traditional, White, Ivy-Legue educated judge who often lectured about the evils of Bolshevism and anarchism presiding. The facts of the crime were secondary to Sacco and Vanzetti’s ethnicity, their political views, and the hysteria of the Red Scare. Thayer’s political ideas, his biases really, were obvious from the

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start. He rejected nearly every defense motion and made clear his desire to convict the two Italians, at one point allegedly saying “no long-haired anarchist from California can run this court.” Later, according to sworn affidavits by observers, he called Sacco and Vanzetti “Bolsheviks” and bragged that he would “get them good and proper.” Under those circumstances, a conviction was inevitable and both men were found guilty in July, though they both had witnesses claiming that they were nowhere near the crime when it occurred. Sacco and Vanzetti appealed their conviction, leading Thayer to say “Did you see what I did with those anarchistic bastards the other day? I guess that will hold them for a while! Let them go to the Supreme Court now and see what they can get out of them.” Later, the judge’s intemperate words became public and a huge outcry against the verdict rose, first in the U.S. and then in cities all over the globe. State officials, under pressure from protestors, especially Italian- and Sicilian-Americans, and lawyers and judges who were appalled by Thayer’s actions and thought Sacco and Vanzetti had been judged on their political views, not their alleged role in the crime, put together a special commission to analyze the case—led by the president of Harvard University. But they too came back with a conclusion that they were guilty. The two Italians, a fish peddler and a shoemaker, were executed in August 1927. Since then, virtually every study of the case has determined that Sacco and Vanzetti were accused and killed because of anti-Italian prejudice and political hysteria. Though an extreme case, the ordeals of these two immigrants was not that unusual, or unexpected, for foreign-born workers in America. As for the Italian anarchists, their legacy was celebrated by many artists, including Woody Guthrie, who wrote Ballads of Sacco and Vanzetti, using their own words as the lyrics to his songs. Over a half-century later, another folk singer, Charlie King, wrote Two Good Arms about Sacco and Vanzetti— “we will remember this good shoemaker/We will remember this poor fish peddler/We will remember all the strong arms and hands/That never once found justice in the hands that rule this land.” In the aftermath of the tragic Sacco and Vanzetti fiasco, immigrants were more vulnerable to state action. In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge, saying that “America must be kept American,” signed into law the National Origins Act. The law reduced the number of immigrants allowed into the U.S. to 164,000 a year, and limited entry by nationality to a number that amounted to just 2 percent of those groups in the 1890 census, and it denied entry to

The ‘20s: Culture, Consumption, and Crash

all Asians. All were huge decreases from the late 1800s and early 1900s when millions of people from other lands poured into America to take up low-wage industrial jobs and create immense wealth for a small number of capitalists. Along with the political assaults on alcohol and immigration, religious Americans fought a war against science. Just as “creationists” today try to prevent the science of evolution from being taught in schools, conservative Christians fought against evolution in the early 20th Century, leading to another sensational court case, as part of a much larger crusade for fundamentalism. From the publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origins of Species in 1859, and into the 20th Century, American Christians were alarmed at the scientific notion that humans evolved naturally rather than from the hand of God. Many intellectuals and educators, often called “Modernists,” accepted Darwin’s ideas and began to teach them to the broader public and in schools. Fundamentalists, with long-time American ancestries and often living in rural areas, however, believed the Bible contained the absolute and literal truth— God had made the world and rested on the 7th Day, and so forth. Some fundamentalist ministers gained huge followings. The Evangelical Minister Billy Sunday, a former professional baseball player, renounced gambling and became a prohibitionist. He toured the South and West, and preached in churches or pitched tents where the flock would attend his hellfire and brimstone services, with sermons telling them to accept the Bible and abandon booze or risk going to hell. “I’ve stood for more sneers and scoffs and insults and had my life threatened from one end of the land to the other by this God-forsaken gang of thugs and cutthroats because I have come out uncompromisingly against them” on the issues of gambling, liquor, and dancing, Sunday claimed. As famous as he was, Billy Sunday was nowhere near the celebrity that Aimee Semple McPherson was. “Sister Aimee” was the head of a Pentecostal church in Hollywood, the perfect place for her religious services which often appeared to be nightclub acts—with her “speaking in tongues,” conducting “faith healings” [curing the ill with her religious powers], and performing other miraculous feats. In her flowing white robes and with a charismatic personality, she was a trailblazer in using the media to spread her religious message, with her sermons broadcast over radio across the nation and her church becoming so popular a new temple had to be built to accommodate crowds of 5,000. McPherson was indeed an expert at getting attention and publicity. In 1926, she disappeared

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Figure 3-2 Aimee Semple McPherson

while swimming and most assumed she had drowned. But a month later she appeared claiming she had walked 13 hours out of the desert after having been kidnapped, drugged, and tortured. It was a hoax, and many people turned on her and left the church. Even though she was discredited, fundamentalist preachers continued to travel the country with their “old-time religion” message of accepting the Bible and rejecting modernity and science [not just Darwin, but also Sigmund Freud, the Austrian psychiatrist who spoke of, among many things, the sexual urges driving human behavior]. The crusade of Sunday, McPherson, and many others peaked in 1925 in Dayton, Tennessee, during the infamous “Monkey Trial.” With Darwinism become more widely accepted and the science of evolution more frequently taught, fundamentalists began a campaign to reform education. In March 1925, the Tennessee legislature passed a law to make it illegal for any public school teacher to offer “any theory that denies the story of the divine creation of man as taught in the Bible” [states like Louisiana and Kansas have attempted to pass similar laws in the past few decades]. John Scopes, a young substitute science teacher in Dayton, met with local supporters and lawyers who opposed the law and agreed to openly violate

The ‘20s: Culture, Consumption, and Crash

Figure 3-3 The Scopes Trial

it by reading from a biology textbook in his class. He was immediately arrested, jailed, and was the main character in the “Monkey Trial,” so named because critics claimed that Darwin was disrespecting God by saying that men emerged from apes. A group of lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), led by Clarence Darrow, defended Scopes. Darrow was perhaps the most famous lawyer of the day, having gained fame as a defense attorney in the first “Crime of the Century” trial, a murder trial that featured the first insanity plea as a defense [the case of Leopold and Loeb]. The state of Tennessee had its own team of lawyers that was assisted by the equally famous William Jennings Bryan. Bryan, the former presidential candidate and Populist reformer, was also a self-appointed “expert on the Bible,” ready to defend its literal accuracy. In a highly unusual move, Darrow called Bryan – a member of the prosecution team – as an expert witness, and ridiculed him during his testimony. On the stand, Bryan assured Darrow that a big fish really did swallow Jonah, and that Joshua had make the sun “stand still.” “The Bible states it,” Bryan vehemently announced, so “it must be true.” When Bryan protested that Darrow was “ridiculing every Christian who believes in the Bible,” Darrow had a ready reply. “We have

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the purpose of preventing bigots and ignoramuses from controlling the education of the United States.” Eventually, Darrow tricked Bryan into admitting some religious beliefs might be open to interpretation. Scopes was eventually found guilty and fined $100 but the trial was a travesty and widely mocked all over the country, making fundamentalists look like ignorant fools in many eyes. It was especially tragic for Bryan, who died less than a week after the trial ended, in large part due to the stress and the ridicule it brought down upon him. Fundamentalism had come into conflict with more “worldly” forces before— think of Salem in 1692—and continues to do so today. In recent years, fundamentalists have stepped up their attacks on “secular humanism”—the belief that humans act according to reason and that education should be based on verifiable facts and ideas, not biblical claims—and demanded that “creationism” be taught alongside evolution in public schools. Indeed, as this is written in 2014, the noted astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has come under attack from many religious groups for hosting the television series Cosmos, which is a detailed examination of the way the world was created based on longstanding scientific evidence and rejects biblical claims for the origins of the universe. Despite Scopes, America was more secular than ever, and ready to escape the trauma of the war, in large measure by buying more things.

C ulture

and

E conomic G rowth

Many of the cultural shifts in the 1920s resulted from a fundamental transformation and growth of the American economy after the Great War. As noted, the U.S. came out of the war as a creditor nation, and government bureaucracies like the War Industries Board and War Labor Board provided new ideas on government-business cooperation that would expand and create an even more vast economy. Indeed, we can refer to this as a political economy, a system in which the government and private economic interests are fully interconnected and working together for the same purposes [as we will see below, for instance, in discussing trade associations]. This, rather than the mythical system Americans are told about, one in which individual companies brutally compete against each other for market shares while the state is supposed to sit on the sidelines, is how capitalism works. And in the 1920s, especially due to the efforts of Herbert Hoover, the U.S. developed what some called “the new capitalism” and others termed “the corporate state.”

The ‘20s: Culture, Consumption, and Crash

Like the Progressive Era reforms in banking and meatpacking, and the industry and labor associations of the Great War, the new economy was structured by the state and ruling class to create a more stable environment to do business. It would be one in which workers would not have to be violently suppressed, where unruly competition would not drag an entire industry down, and where legal protections were available for corporations, banks, and other commercial interests so they could conduct their business affairs without interference from government or the courts. This “harmonious” relationship between the government and big business [with labor included in a minor role] was based on economic growth, or productionism. The basic idea was that, instead of redistributing existing wealth, as many radicals urged, American companies would produce vast amounts of goods, thereby selling more things, making more profit, and being able to pay their workers a wage large enough to keep them content and also to be able to purchase the goods that they produced. To put it colloquially, instead of cutting up and rationing the economic pie differently, capitalists would make a much bigger pie. To do this, the state and businesses would work together, and various business leaders in a specific industry [it could be automakers, steel mill owners, railroad operators, cotton farmers . . . whatever] would “associate” with each other to plan out their production and prices and avoid too much competition. So, while it may seem complicated at first glance, in fact the corporate state fundamentally meant that corporations and the government would work closely together to make economic decisions that would create more profit, avoid too much competition, and keep workers reasonably happy. And Commerce Secretary Herbert Clark Hoover was the point man in this new capitalism. Hoover accepted the cabinet position from Warren Harding in 1921 on the condition that he got control over economic policy. He mainly feared that unregulated and unsupervised capitalism [“cowboy capitalism”] would only lead to serious problems, as he had witnessed during the early 1900s in the banking, insurance, and meatpacking industries. Perhaps Hoover’s most important, and prophetic, insight was, as he said, “the trouble with capitalism is capitalists; they’re too damn greedy.” To try to keep those “greedy” capitalists from creating an unstable economy, Hoover wanted them to be regulated, but mostly to regulate themselves. His key creation toward that goal would be the trade association. In order to organize the economy along rational lines, Hoover believed that these trade associations could work together to make decisions collectively for the benefit of the entire economy,

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not just their individual business. Though most Americans might not be familiar with the term “trade association,” it is likely that they are well-aware of them. A trade association is a cooperative group of businessmen who operate in the same industry [as noted above, it could be automakers, steel mill owners, railroad operators, cotton farmers, lawyers, doctors . . . whatever] who would get together, along with government representatives, to exchange information and establish programs for production, prices, and markets. Unlike, say, the modern Tea Party that wants to get the government “out of the economy,” corporate leaders wanted the government to work with them to “rationalize” the economy and eliminate destructive competition. Capitalism, they understood, needed state involvement. Participation was voluntary, but the biggest companies in each industry made up the heart of the trade association concept. By sitting down together with their competitors and the government [and occasionally discussing issues with labor], Capitalists could make economic plans for the entire industry, not just their own firm. So, to take a well-known group as an example, the Chamber of Commerce, begun in 1920, spoke for the entire business community, eventually internationally, and presented the views of business leaders [usually the desire for lower taxes, easier trade laws, low wages and so forth] to their government representatives who, more often than not, created laws to fit those interests. Founded even earlier, in 1895, the National Association of Manufacturers represented businesses that manufactured goods—especially big industries but also smaller companies—and had a pro-business agenda similar to the Chamber of Commerce. A bit later, in 1933, businessmen in the paper industry founded the Envelope Manufacturers Association to press the government to create policies and laws that would make it easier for them to sell envelopes and other paper products [and just recently, in 2014, has urged the government to support the Post Office, and to continue to send letters and to use envelopes instead of going totally digital]. Today, trade associations like The Tobacco Institute, the National Rifle Association, the Recording Industry Association of America, and many others are powerful lobbies for businesses in their particular fields. They get together and engage in economic planning and protecting their corporate interests [like taking down “Napster,” the music file sharing service, in the 1990s] while the government supports and enforces their work. In Hoover’s original development of the trade associations, he even suspended anti-trust laws, allowed big mergers, accepted “collusion,” or

The ‘20s: Culture, Consumption, and Crash

secretive deal-making, and let companies fix prices and production—if, as he saw it, it would make capitalism more rational and thus less “damn greedy.” In today’s political economy, it is safe to say, the government and corporations and banks are so interconnected that they form a homogenized unit [much like milk and cream are the ingredients in the “half-and-half ” you put in your coffee, which is mixed together so thoroughly that you cannot tell which part is milk and which part cream]. While there are sometimes disagreements on a particular policy or tactic, they organize and control the economy in the interests of the leading capitalists, while small businesses and, even more, workers and consumers have little input into the process, but they are expected to buy things.

B lack C ulture , W hite M oney As noted, Blacks saw great opportunities when Wilson declared a war to make the world “safe for democracy” in 1917, only to see the segregated South remain violently racist. DuBois and others had thought political action and patriotic involvement in the war would create momentum for civil rights changes at home. They did not. So other African-Americans, more angry and extreme, were drawn to the doctrine of Pan-Africanism being promoted by Marcus Garvey. An immigrant from Jamaica in 1916, Garvey established himself as a vocal nationalist leader who pushed for selfdetermination, freedom, and separation from White society all together, a much more radical program than DuBois. He started the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in Jamaica in 1914 and moved it to Harlem in 1917. The UNIA became the largest black organization in history, as it claimed to have four million members [the number was likely much smaller] across 38 states and the Caribbean. Rather than integration into the American economic structure through membership in labor unions, as Black labor leaders like A. Philip Randolph and Chandler Owen championed, Garvey warned against Black involvement or cooperation with all White institutions, even those that appeared to be allied with African-Americans. As Garvey saw it, a typical White liberal was just as likely as a Georgia Klansman to join a lynch mob. The UNIA’s goal of separation from the White mainstream by returning all Blacks to Africa set it apart from other civil rights organizations.

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Garvey’s goal of separatism from the United States was fueled by the changing culture of the time, which he saw as corrupt and dysfunctional. In America, Blacks were targeted for advertisements for skin whiteners and hair straighteners, to look more like Caucasians. They depended on racist Whites for jobs, education, housing, and public services. Garvey, very critical of Black behavior, thus saw his own people as gullible, misled sheep that followed corrupt leaders of an enemy culture. In Garvey’s opinion, Black sickness and disease, for instance, occurred because they ate the wrong food and lived unhealthy lifestyles, and thus they died young. “Negroes won’t take medicine for 10 years and expect to be well, and when they get sick . . . they say ‘God’s spirit has left me.’ What spirit wouldn’t leave you? You ignorant good-fornothing-lot,” he complained. The only remedy was to leave the depraved culture behind to become independent, self-aware, and emancipated—Blacks had to leave America in order to achieve a cultural rebirth. A major component of Garvey’s UNIA plan for independence was separation and the creation of businesses owned and operated by African-Americans. The UNIA even had its own liner of steamships known as the Black Star Line to connect businesses in Africa, the Caribbean, and the United States. However, Garvey’s “Black nationalist” rhetoric upset U.S. government leaders, and Garvey’s radical Pan-Africanism convinced many African-American civil rights leaders to stay away from the UNIA. By the early 1920s, UNIA membership was in decline. Then the U.S. government indicted Garvey for tax evasion and mail fraud for selling stock in the Black Star Line. Eventually, he was deported to Jamaica in 1927 and the Pan-African movement faded. Nevertheless, Garvey had managed to mobilize the Black community in a movement that challenged American consumer culture and the economic establishment. Other Blacks made a much bigger impact by staying out of politics. As New York became a focal point for White cultural life in the 1920s, Garvey hated the involvement of Blacks in consumer culture but, in Harlem, White consumption of Black entertainment became commonplace. Whites were attracted to the jazz clubs, dance halls, and speakeasies of Harlem, which had become the “capital” of Black America after the “Great Migration” brought millions of African-American agricultural workers to northern urban centers during the Great War. Harlem was also home to many immigrants from the West Indies, about 150,000 between 1900 and 1930. Many of them were pro-

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fessionals with educations and others were white-collar workers. Claude McKay, who left Jamaica and became a well-known writer, was taken aback by what he described as America’s “intensely bitter” racism. Nevertheless, Whites flocked to Harlem where they enjoyed entertainment from Black artists as they escaped their own communities to enjoy the “exotic” excitement of Black New York. And they found plenty of talent to enjoy in Harlem, which became the location of the 1920s cultural movement known as the Harlem Renaissance [or, as Harlem Renaissance philosopher Alain Locke called it, the New Negro]. The Harlem Renaissance included artists, writers, and musicians who promoted the history and cultural accomplishments of African Americans. The artists announced that they were of a different generation than their parents, who often lived in subservience to Whites; the “New Negro” would rather “die fighting” than give in to White oppression. The Harlem Renaissance indeed had connections to the Garvey movement, as some artists expressed militancy, independence through expression, and a rejection of stereotypes. Their works often mixed African roots, folk traditions of the South, and the violence of the urban ghetto. DuBois warned them that the honesty of the art could act to reinforce prejudices against Blacks, but in any case their work often included protest. In “If We Must Die,” Claude McKay elegantly and angrily expressed this new Black voice: “If we must die, let it not be like hogs/Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot/While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs/Making their mock at our accursed lot. . . ./Oh, Kinsmen! We must meet the common foe/Though far outnumbered, let us show us brave/And for their thousand blows deal one deathblow! . . . /Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack/Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!” The Harlem Renaissance included many of the greatest artists in America’s history. Jazz and Blues musicians Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Cab Calloway, Nat King Cole, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Lena Horne, Ella Fitzgerald, Bessie Smith, and Fats Waller became legends. Ellington even wrote something of an unofficial anthem for the community, “Take the ‘A’ Train,” which also became a hit for Fitzgerald: “You must take the ‘A’ train/To go to Sugar Hill ‘way up in Harlem/If you miss the ‘A’ Train/You’ll find you’ve missed the quickest way to Harlem.” Literary figures such as Countee Cullen, Jessie Fauset, and Zora Neal Hurston all attained fame. Perhaps no writer was as revered or respected as the poet Langston Hughes, also a social activist, play-

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wright, and columnist. Hughes’ poetry cut to the soul of American racism, but often more with lament than sarcasm or anger. Perhaps his signature work was “I, Too,” a poem about what being Black really meant and where Blacks were headed. “I am the darker brother/They send me to eat in the kitchen/ When company comes/But I laugh/And eat well/And grow strong.” And a better day is ahead, “Tommorow/I’ll be at the table,” he tells fellow Blacks. Painters, sculptors, and graphic artists like Aaron Douglas, Meta Warrick Fuller, and Augusta Savage, among others, rose to prominence. James VanDerZee and Prentice H. Polk became nationally-respected New Negro photographers. The Harlem Renaissance, with its goal of spreading pride in African American culture as well as challenging racism and oppression, was deeply connected to a White consumer culture. White intellectuals took interest in the movement and White-owned presses published their work. White consumers made trips into Harlem to listen to jazz, look at art, dance, and drink [a practice known as “slumming”] and spend money; Whites, however, owned most of the nightclubs and jazz halls. The notorious Cotton Club was a Whites-only establishment, where patrons could listen to Armstrong, Calloway, Fitzgerald, and Horne and enjoy watching its legendary chorus line, which

Figure 3-4 Langston Hughes

The ‘20s: Culture, Consumption, and Crash

was composed of only light-skinned African-American women. Harlem indeed flourished for a moment during the 1920s, but soon the Great Depression fueled race riots that ripped through the area and dismantled the renaissance. The impact of the art, writings, and music, however remained and is vibrantly remembered today. Still, the Harlem Renaissance, like so many other movements, was characterized by White power, especially economic power, being wielded against the people, Black people in this case.

T he R ise

of a

C onsumer ’ s C ulture

A couple looks at each other longingly, as the man with the cigarette blows smoke rings towards his date. As the circle of smoke gets closer to her, it morphs into an engagement ring. In the bottom left corner of the frame is a pack of Lucky Strikes cigarettes, which makes the message clear. If you smoke Lucky Strikes, you’ll find the man or woman of your dreams and be headed to the altar. Such was the new era of advertising in the 1920s, the dawn of America’s consumer culture. The U.S. economy after the Civil War was a “producer’s” capitalism, meaning that most capital was invested in manufacturing that occurred on a large scale and in the “producer” goods sector— railroads, steel mills, machines, iron foundries, mines, lumber yards, and the like—namely the “stuff ” used to make other factories and machines, items not purchased by any typical consumer to be sure. This is an essential early stage in capitalism: creating the “means of production” in order to be able to make more goods and expand the economy. By the 1920s, the producer’s economy was well-established as factories, machines, railways, mines and banks were plentiful and profits were great. Businessmen, however, had a tremendous amount of capital and needed to find new areas for investment and production since they had already built all the railroads, factories, and ships America could use at that time. So the elite, used to building powerful machines and huge factories, also found a way to use “soft” power to expand their riches by convincing the typical American into becoming a consumer, someone whom they would convince to buy the new products being put out by U.S. companies. Americans had never had enough money or had been encouraged to purchase goods in quantity. Thrift, saving money and spending it only on necessary things like food or housing, was the American way, and spending too much money and

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showing off one’s wealth was at times even considered sinful [except for the ruling class, who were “captains of industry” and deserved their wealth, as they and their media cronies explained it]. In the 1920s, that old culture of saving and not buying goods had to be changed, and consumption had to increase. By the end of the decade, more people, prompted by advertising and loans, were spending more money and buying more things than ever before and, for a time, the economy reached levels never seen before. Americans spent less money on “necessities” like food and clothing and more on appliances, recreation, and new products. This economy based on consumption came out of various new developments. Corporations established Research and Development [R&D] departments to invest in laboratories, scientists, and new methods of production so they could invent new products. Factories and farms alike began to run on electricity, so production was cheaper and transporting goods was easier and more affordable because being close to water, the traditional source of power, no longer was vital. By the end of the 1920s, over 70 percent of industry had converted to electricity. And perhaps most importantly, scientists and engineers invented an efficient internal combustion engine, in which fuel [like gasoline] would mix with air in a combustion chamber to cause an ignition—and this, of course, would become help create the biggest industry of the era, automobiles. All of these developments quickly transformed the country. Americans started shopping at chain stores like A&P Groceries, while banks and utility companies often joined together so people could manage their money and utilities at the same place [a condition that would help lead to the later banking crisis]. Even more importantly, consumers could now buy stoves, refrigerators, vacuum cleaners, washing machines, and telephones. A booming entertainment and music industry developed as about 20 percent of American homes [about 5 million] had radios, with over 20 million people listening in, and more people were buying phonographs [record players] to listen to recorded music. By 1927, American manufacturers produced about 1 million phonographs and music companies sold over 100 million recordings. Basic items used in everyday life like fountain pens, cigarette lighters, Dixie cups, and paper towels came to the market in the 1920s. In the food industry, technologies to can and freeze-dry foods helped production, and thus profits, rise dramatically. Instead of going to the market for fresh fruits and vegetables every few days to avoid having food at home spoil, the consumer, usually

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female, could buy canned or frozen foods and prepare meals more easily and go to the store less often. Many foods we still eat today came out in the 1920s. Planter’s Peanuts, Wheaties, Kraft cheese products, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, Oscar Mayer Wieners, Peter Pan Peanut Butter, and Jell-O were all popular with consumers, who were also drinking Hires Root Beer, 7-Up, Dr. Pepper, and, of course, CocaCola. In 1920, Coke sold over 18.6 million gallons of its drink, and generated over $32 million in sales in the U.S. while marketing in Canada, Cuba, the Philippines, Guam, Panama, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, and throughout Europe and Asia as well, with over 200,000 retailers in its growing global empire. Consumption was obviously the key to economic growth as Americans were being liberated from their thrifty past and encouraged to buy more and more goods. To some degree, the rise of credit contributed to this economic growth. People had always borrowed money, but banks had to be more careful in who they loaned to, especially after the creation of the Fed, and many people went to Pawn shops or loan sharks for money. In the 1920s, however, bankers began to offer the nation’s first home mortgage loans, and house ownership rose accordingly. Manufacturers in most areas, especially automobiles [see below] began to allow buyers to buy “on time,” meaning they would pay a certain amount each week or month, with interest tagged on at the end. About 60 percent of all furniture and 75 percent of radios were bought on installment plans. Where the previous cultural norm was to save money and avoid debt—“neither a borrower nor a lender be” as Shakespeare said—the consumer’s culture advocated spending and borrowing! Perhaps even more central to this new culture was the development of a sophisticated advertising industry [the soft power referred to above]. Of course, ads had always been around, but they basically consisted of text explaining what a product did and why one should buy it. After the Great War, however, advertising became much more visual and much more sexy. Much of the credit for the advertising revolution can be given to Edward Bernays. Bernays, a nephew of Sigmund Freud, had studied psychology and had done propaganda for the U.S. government during the war. He understood that the anxiety and tragedy of the war had made an impact on people, so he wanted them to loosen up and have fun, be liberated, and buy more goods! Bernays believed that the basic ideas behind propaganda could be used in politics or,

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more profitably, to sell goods. He and his wife thus began doing work for a large number of big companies, including the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, Procter & Gamble, General Electric, General Motors, the United Fruit Company, Time Magazine, and the CBS and NBC media networks, while also serving as the personal publicists for media and political figures. Bernays’s efforts could be ingenious. One of his first clients was a hairnet company,Venida. After the Great War, women began to wear their hair differently and quit wearing hairnets, causing a big drop in sales for Venida. Bernays then convinced a labor “expert” to go to labor commissioners all over America to make hairnets a public safety issue—women would have to wear them for their own safety, so their hair would not get caught in machinery, and for public hygiene, so hair would not fall into food or other products. Venida rebounded. To promote Ivory Soap, Bernays set up a national panel of artists to conduct soap-carving contests all over the country. In general, advertising had to convince people that they had a “need” for a particular product, so, using the type of psychological techniques Bernays developed, they made people feel insecure—emphasizing body odor or bad breath, for instance—or create new products and convince consumer to buy them—like toothpaste, which replaced baking soda for dental hygiene. For instance, in a well-known ad for Scot Tissue Towels, a sinisterlooking man, with a slight resemblance to Lenin, appeared with a text asking “Is Your Washroom Breeding Bolsheviks?”—to make the point that disgruntled workers, like those who did not have paper towels to use in a clean bathroom, could cause labor trouble. Bernays and others, like Donald Draper and the Mad Men of the 1950s and 1960s, were creating a cultural revolution. Celebrities like Babe Ruth received large sums of money to advertise products, often food or cigarettes. In 1902 Uneeda Biscuits, owned by Nabisco, launched the first $1 million advertising campaign; by 1914, American companies were spending $600 million on ads, and by 1929 upwards of $3.5 billion, or about 3.5 percent of the Gross National Product [GNP]—the market value of all the products and services made in one year by the labor and property supplied by Americans—to push their products. As noted above, Lucky Strikes implied that smoking its cigarettes would make one sexually attractive. Perhaps in no area is the impact of advertising as evident and strong as in the tobacco industry. Bernays worked for Lucky Strike, owned by the American Tobacco Company, and

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went about discovering new markets—especially women and young kids. Smoking was considered “un-ladylike” so he set about to make it acceptable for women to smoke in public, even setting up groups of debutantes to light up on street corners and calling cigarettes “torches of freedom.” When women complained that the green Lucky Strike package clashed with the colors they usually wore, Bernays sponsored green fashion lunches, green balls at which women wore green gowns, and worked with fashion stores to display green suits and dresses in their window displays. He also exploited women’s fear of gaining weight, with ads suggesting that females “reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet.” At the same time, Lucky Strikes connected smoking to sex and began to include small pictures of young women in lingerie and other erotic clothing—something advertisers clearly learned from Freud. In this way, young men would purchase the goods to get the “cigarette girls” cards, which would change every few weeks, thus making the boys go back for a new pack on a regular basis, and becoming addicted to tobacco in the meantime. For tobacco, the payoffs of advertising were enormous. In 1913, R.J. Reynolds spent about $800,000 a year on advertising, which rose in 1916 to $2.2 million, and by 1921 was up to $8.7 million. Its market share was only 0.2 percent in 1913 [about the equivalent of selling 1.5 million Camel cigarettes] but by 1921 it controlled half the market [or 18.3 billion Camels]. Lucky Strike sales, 13.7 billion cigarettes in 1925 [3d in the industry] rose to over 40 billion just 5 years later and became the market leader. Bernays, incredibly, even pitched the health benefits of smoking, with an ad that read “20,679 Physicians say ‘Luckies’ are less irritating” . . . ‘It’s Toasted’ . . . Your Throat Protection against irritation against cough.” But all of these goods—biscuits, hairnets, cigarettes—it was the automobile that made the economy of the 1920s become so enormous. When autos first entered the market in the early 20th Century, only wealthy Americans could afford them. By the 1920s, more and more of the “common man” had a car and it became the main symbol of prosperity and affluence, even for those not really prosperous and affluent. No one had more to do with the evolution of the American auto industry than Henry Ford. In 1903 he incorporated the Ford Motor Company, after getting his start by building racing cars [which reached the then-blazing speed of 91 miles per hour] to promote his company. Ford’s ace driver, Barney Oldfield, traveled the country to show off the

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racing cars, while at the same time Ford himself began to produce cheaper, and slower, cars for the American people, each of which he named according to letters of the alphabet—the Model A, Model B, and so on. In 1908, he hit it big with the Model T, which cost $825, and as Ford said “any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.” A few years later he built the first assembly line and created a manufacturing phenomenon. Individuals working alongside a belt-driven conveyor would assemble the cars piece-by-piece, and the time it took to produce an auto declined from 12.5 hours in 1912 to just 1.5 hours in 1914. By 1924, the Model T cost $290, or about a quarter of the average worker’s annual wages. In 1909 Ford sold 18,000 cars, but by 1924 was selling over 1.25 million a year. The “average” American family could now afford transportation. Ford also revolutionized the industrial wage system. Instead of demanding hard work at the lowest pay possible, Ford increased pay and decreased workload. In 1909, Ford workers made $2.40 for a 9-hour workday; by the 1920s he was paying $5 for an 8-hour shift, about double the pay of any other factor worker in the U.S. [though he made the pay dependent on them not drinking, being faithful to their wives, taking care of their families and other “moral” conditions]. This, most importantly, enabled his own workers to buy the cars they made, and by 1920 Ford could brag that more Americans owned cars than had bathtubs. Ford soon had competitors. In 1923, Alfred Sloan became the president of General Motors [GM] and, unlike Ford, wanted to market his cars as symbols of wealth and status; owning a GM car meant that one had “made it.” Sloan divided his company into different lines with different designs—Chevrolet, Pontiac, Buick, Oldsmobile, and Cadillac. While Ford produced the black Model T, Sloan came out with different cars at different prices every year, and one would move up to the next model, ultimately to the Cadillac, which let everyone else know that he had made more money and gained more status. Sloan’s success was tied to consumer credit. Instead of offering affordable cars like Ford, GM offered loans so Americans could purchase cars that would otherwise be too expensive and pay for them on a monthly basis, with interest of course. Ford had to respond and in 1927 he did away with the Model T and began making more upscale cars to compete with GM. With Ford and GM both producing cars for people at various levels of society, the industry boomed. In 1920, Americans were driving about 7 million cars; by 1929, there were about 27 million autos on the road, or one

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for every household in the U.S. The auto boom had significant consequences for other sectors of the economy too. Cars were made of steel, needed oil [fuel] to power them, had glass windows, and rubber tires. Autos needed mechanics with tools to fix them, and autos had to be serviced and refueled at gas stations. With travel now made much easier, the tourist industry grew, which made the map-making industry expand. State and local governments doled out contracts to various companies to build and maintain roads and highways, and for traffic control. Building and real estate development, meanwhile, moved further away from urban centers because one could now travel to new places quickly by car. The banking industry did exceedingly well too. In 1929, about a quarter of families bought cars, with almost two-thirds making the purchase on credit, with some interest rates as high as 30 percent. So the automobile, its associated industries, and debt came to define the American economy in the 1920s. Overall, the decade was a time of great economic growth—industrial production rose by 70 percent; the GNP went up by 40 percent; per capita income [money earned per person] rose by 30 percent; unemployment was very low; prices, both wholesale and retail, were stable and wages went up by 22 percent while the typical work week declined by 4 percent.

E ntertaining

the

M asses

With more money, available credit, and an advertising industry spending billions to tell Americans to go out and have fun, while spending more money than ever, it was almost inevitable that entertainment would become bigger than ever in the 1920s as well. Amusement had many purposes, for individuals and for those in power. For the elite, it was a source of huge profits, and enabled them to provide entertainment on such a level that it could make people pay less attention to, or even forget, many of the problems of daily life. So “mass entertainment” emerged, and it gave Americans reasons to sing, dance, cheer, laugh, and cry. They spent money and focused on events, songs and games that were once relatively minor or insignificant. It gave people a release from the drudgery they might have been feeling or a reason to avoid the problems in their lives. And it made them spend money, lots of money. Entertainment power was built on getting the American people to entertain and amuse themselves as much as possible in this new Capitalism.

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As noted above, radios and record players were mass produced, thereby creating a way for virtually every American to listen to songs and radio shows, and which prompted the creation of a commercial radio industry. Henry Davis, a vice president at the Westinghouse Electric Corporation, which had founded the Radio Corporation of America [RCA] in 1919, authorized his engineers to set up KDKA in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in November, 1920— the first commercial radio station [they also started up station WBZ in Springfield, Massachusetts]. Soon, Americans throughout the country listening to local radio stations were introduced to the great Italian opera singer Enrico Caruso, and popular American composers like Irving Berlin and Cole Porter. Soon, radio stations began to broadcast not just music, but audio shows, both comedy and drama, much like today’s television shows. In September 1920, station WWJ in Detroit had an announcer on air describing a boxing match between Heavyweight Champion Jack Dempsey and Billy Miske. Just a couple months later, WTAW in College Station, Texas broadcasted the first college football game, The University of Texas versus the Mechanical College of Texas [now Texas A&M]. And the following year, on August 5th, 1921, KDKA had announcer Harold Arlin describe the action at a game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Philadelphia Phillies—the first professional baseball contest to be on radio. By 1922, almost 600 stations were broadcasting music, shows, and sports— as well as advertisements for hundreds of products—to millions of Americans, who embraced this new entertainment and consumer culture. Soon, networks moved beyond their local base. In 1926, RCA and General Electric [GE] founded the National Broadcasting Company [NBC], headed by Henry Davis who moved over from Westinghouse. A year later, the Columbia Broadcast System [CBS] was born. Americans now knew what was happening not just all over the country, but all over the world. They followed Charles Lindbergh’s nonstop flight from New York to Paris in 1928, listened to results of the presidential election, heard experts talk about the issues of the day, continued to listen to sports and music, and of course heard countless commercials. Radio, at the same time, reinforced the status quo, with stories praising celebrities and economic leaders, analysis that condemned people with different political views, shows with offensive stock ethnic figures like Sicilian mobsters and miserly Jews, and outright racist shows like “Amos ‘n’ Andy,” which featured two Blacks acting in a stereotypical minstrel show fashion in what

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became the most popular show of the era. Americans began to rearrange their lives just to hear the troubles of two Black men in Harlem, Amos Jones and Andy Brown—who were voiced by white actors—for 15 minutes, five times a week. Louisiana political leader Huey Long eventually came to calling himself the “Kingfish” after a character in the show. President Hoover loved the show, even inviting its stars to the White House. The show’s primary sponsor, Pepsodent toothpaste gained millions in sales from its advertisements on the show. By the end of the decade, nearly half of Americans owned radios. Advertisers as much as anyone understood how important the airwaves had become and started sponsoring radio shows while playing their commercials time after time. Corporations began sponsoring series like “The Green Hornet” and numerous “soap operas,” so named because soap companies tended to sponsor those shows. More Americans than ever went to the movies too, over 100 million by the late 1920s—more than church attendance! The theaters themselves made the typical moviegoer feel like royalty, with plush velvet seats, fancy chandeliers, live organ music, and ushers in uniform to welcome the crowd. In smaller towns, with little else to do, some theaters were big enough to seat half the population, since the locals attended movies at least once a week, or even more. In 1920, most films were still silent, with the dialogue coming up in frames on the screen in between the action, and accompanied by a live organist who added to the mood with appropriate music which could be frantic, frightening, or romantic. Charlie Chaplin was the most popular and most famous star of the era, but other slapstick comedians such as Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton, and Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle also played to large crowds. Arbuckle also became famous for Hollywood’s first sex scandal. He had risen to the top of Hollywood’s “A-List,” signing a 3-year contract for $1 million. And he had a reputation for enjoying the high life. After a wild 3-day party in 1921, a young actress, Virginia Rappe, became ill and died a few days later. The media immediately reported that Arbuckle, an extremely large man, had raped her and crushed her with his weight. At trial, however, little evidence existed that Arbuckle had any connection to her death, and he was found not guilty; still, his film career was over. But sexuality on the screen was becoming more common. Clara Bow was known as the “it girl,” because she had “it”—sexuality. She was the leading sex symbol in films and highestpaid personality in Hollywood. Investors could be sure of a return of at least

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Figure 3-5 “It Girl” Clara Bow

double on her films because she was so widely-loved. Other Hollywood producers and investors jumped on the lurid bandwagon, with films such as Forbidden Fruit, The Golden Bed, Ladies of Pleasure, and Women Who Give. They promised “beautiful jazz babies, midnight revels, petting parties in the purple dawn” and “pleasure-made daughters, sensation-craving mothers.” When more puritanical critics called on Hollywood to show cleaner films, Cecil B. DeMille, the biggest filmmaker of the era, produced The Ten Commandments, where he could show scantily-clad women and sexual revels, but in a biblical setting. Hollywood was now a huge money-maker, and other actors such as Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and Charlie Chaplin made over $500,000 a film plus a large percentage of the profits. In 1927, the film industry changed forever, and with it so did America. Warner Brothers, which was then in decline and in danger of closing its doors, released the nation’s first full-length feature film with sound, The Jazz Singer, starring Al Jolson. “Talkies” quickly became the rule of the day, as the public could not get enough of them. As Warner Brother’s profits soared—their stock rose from $21 to $132 a share—all of the other major film companies began producing in the new medium. Talking movies made stars out of Jean

The ‘20s: Culture, Consumption, and Crash

Harlow, Greta Garbo, and Gary Cooper, but it ended the careers of many others. As a harbinger of things to come, that same year, 1927, the image of President Herbert Hoover was transmitted via television from Washington to New York City. Until the rise of television in the 1950s, movies remained America’s main form of entertainment. The rise of the radio and film, along with the expansion of the consumer’s economy, also turned sports into a national pasttime as people had the time and money to listen to games on the air or attend them in the large stadiums that were being built all over. Americans closely followed the golfer Bobby Jones, who won 5 U.S. Amateur Championships in the decade along with 3 U.S. Opens. They were mesmerized by Babe Didrickson Zaharia, the greatest female athlete of that era, who won Olympic medals and became a successful professional golfer. Heavyweight champ Jack Dempsey was a national icon. And on the first Saturday in May, millions of Americans sat by their radios to listen to the Kentucky Derby. Professional sports became a huge industry, as well as a distraction from the problems of society, with teams and players like the New York Yankees and Babe Ruth, the National Football League and George Halas, or the Notre Dame “Fighting Irish” and their famous coach Knute Rockne becoming icons of that era. Long before Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, or Peyton Manning became sports stars and appeared in dozens of advertisements, sports figures in the 1920s became, though the word was not used, “superstars.” The New York Yankees became the most famous team in sports, and remain so, when it created a baseball dynasty featuring Babe Ruth, the “Sultan of Swat.” In 1914, a brewery owner, Jacob Ruppert and another man bought the Yankees for $460,000 and put the team in their famed pinstriped uniforms that year. Ruppert later bought out his partner for over $1.2 million, a huge sum in the 1920s. The Yankees’ best move, however, was making a trade with the Boston Red Sox to get the best player in the game [he was both the best pitcher and best hitter] George Herman “Babe” Ruth, giving the Red Sox $25,000 in cash and an “I.O.U.” worth $75,000. Ruth singlehandedly changed the game by hitting more home runs than anyone in baseball history at that time, and drawing record numbers, about 1.3 million fans in 1923, into Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, which came to be called “The House That Ruth Built.” Maybe more importantly, Ruth rescued baseball from the “Black Sox Scandal” of 1919, an allegation that players for the Chicago White Sox threw the world

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series for money. A few years later, the Yankees added the great first baseman Lou Gehrig and began to dominate baseball. Ruth often hit more home runs than the rest of the league combined and in 1927 set a record that would last for over 40 years by slamming 60 out of the park. He and Gehrig led the Yankees to several World Series titles in that era, as the Yankees lineup became known as “Murderers’ Row.” As noted earlier, Ruth earned more money than President Herbert Hoover and became the first sports star to be featured in advertisements for various products such as underwear, cereal, Girl Scout cookies, soap, and cigarettes , though the Babe himself was a big cigar smoker. Football exploded as a national phenomenon at the same time. In August 1920, representatives from 4 football teams in Ohio and ten others met in Canton, Ohio and formed the American Professional Football Conference, renamed the National Football League [NFL] in 1922.  Its first president was Jim Thorpe, a gold medal winner at the 1912 Olympics and known as “the world’s greatest athlete,” and he gave the league publicity and legitimacy.  But another figure would come to overshadow even Thorpe, George Halas.  Halas was a football star himself, and represented the A.E. Staley Company, a starch manufacturer out of Decatur, Illiniois, at the 1920 founding meeting. In 1921, Staley turned the team over to Halas, who won the NFL championship and moved the team, thus founding the Chicago Bears.  Halas played for and coached the team, and in 1925 convinced the best-known player in college football that year, Harold “Red” Grange, to play for the Bears.  Halas and his Grange became so famous that they were given a meeting with President Calvin Coolidge who was told they were from the Chicago Bears” and responded, seriously or not, “I’m glad to know you. I always did like animal acts.” Coolidge’s indifference aside, Halas and the Bears became America’s favorite football team and, more than any other unit, helped make the NFL the American institution that it still remains today. Even more than the Bears, a college team truly brought football hysteria to America, “The Fighting Irish” of Notre Dame, a small Catholic school in South Bend, Indiana and its coach, Knute Rockne. Rockne was born in Norway, moved to the U.S. at age 5, and played football at Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish had become known for beating several major schools in the Midwest, but were denied entry into the Big 10 when Michigan coach Fielding Yost and others refused to allow a Catholic school to join their conference. The team never lost a game while Rockne

The ‘20s: Culture, Consumption, and Crash

played there and he and quarterback Gus Dorais revolutionized the sport in 1913 when, in a game against Army, they introduced the forward pass as an essential part of the game [they did not “invent” the pass, as some myths insisted, but used it more than any team prior to then had]. In 1918, just four years after graduating, Rockne becames Notre Dame’s head coach, and he and the school became the stuff of legends. In 1920, Notre Dame star player George Gipp died from strep throat. Later that year, to inspire his team against Army, he said that Gipp’s final words were “Rock, when the team is up against it, when things are going wrong and the breaks are beating the boys, tell them to go in there with all they’ve got and win just one for the Gipper. I don’t know where I’ll be then, Rock. But I’ll know about it, and I’ll be happy.” Whether Gipp really said that or Rockne was using it as a motivational ploy, the Fighting Irish beat Army that day and Gipp [and Rockne] became immortalized in a Hollywood film. In 1924, the famed sportswriter Grantland Rice added to the legend by publicizing “The Four Horsemen of Notre Dame.” During another victory over Army—which was a football powerhouse in the 1920s—he wrote per-

Figure 3-6 Babe Ruth and President Harding

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haps the most quoted phrase in sports history: “Outlined against a blue, gray October sky the Four Horsemen rode again. . . They formed the crest of the South Bend cyclone before which another fighting Army team was swept over the precipice at the Polo Grounds this afternoon as 55,000 spectators peered down upon the bewildering panorama spread out upon the green plain below.” By 1927, more than 120,000 fans filled Chicago’s Soldier’s Field to watch Notre Dame’s 7-6 victory over USC. The Irish became “America’s Team” long before the Dallas Cowboys were even founded. They played games all over the country, becoming known as “Rockne’s Ramblers” for their travels and they were, and remain, both the most beloved, and hated, team in college football history. Rockne died in a plane crash in March, 1931 and the nation mourned as it would—without the same media of course— when Princess Di or Michael Jackson died decades later. Rockne still holds the record for college coaching success, with 105 wins, 12 losses, and 5 ties, a winning percentage of .881. Along with the Yankees and the Babe, the Bears, and other sports heroes of the decade, Rockne and Notre Dame made sports both popular, incredibly profitable, and a social priority in an era that seemed to offer endless entertainment. That would all change, soon, however.

“P op ” G oes

the

E conomy

Economists, politicians, and professors often talk of an economic “bubble,” a condition where prices and assets rise incredibly high based on “irrational” confidence in the market, and then burst, causing a major economic downturn [like the “dot com” bubble of the late 1990s or housing bubble of 2008]. People may speculate that a particular capital purchase will bring back huge returns [like Enron or the tech investors of the late 20th century] or be lured by low, or nonexistent, interest rates [like those individuals who bought houses in the early 2000s], and then find that their investments were worthless, their money gone. No bubble ever burst like the U.S. economy in 1929. While we generally associate the well-known stock market crash of 1929 with the calamities of that era, which we call The Great Depression, the market was just one cause of the largest economic crisis in American history; there were many reasons the prosperous bubble of the 1920s popped. From 1929 until the Second World War, Americans endured the deepest economic crisis in national history. The enormity of the depression can be

The ‘20s: Culture, Consumption, and Crash

expressed in two ways. First—the data, the numbers that show the steep decline in the U.S. economy. The GDP in 1929 reached about $104 billion, dropped to $92 billion a year later, went down to about $59 billion by 1932, and bottomed at $57 billion, barely half of what it was 4 years earlier, in 1933. Private investment, $170 million in 1929, fell to below $40 million, a decrease of more than 80 percent, by 1933. Global trade, a key indicator of economic health, plummeted from about $3 billion in 1929, to less than $1 billion in 1933, a decline of almost 70 percent. For individuals, the crisis was grave as well. Wages, based on $1 in 1926 value, stood at $1.04 in 1929, but by 1932 fell to 90 cents, and in 1933-1934 were below 80 cents. Finally, unemployment, barely 3 percent in 1929, rose to about 9 percent within a year, to 16 percent in 1931, again to 24 percent in 1932, and peaked at about 25 percent the following year. Considering that many people, especially women, worked “off book” so to speak—taking in laundry, doing domestic work, babysitting— those numbers were likely quite higher. Second, and on a more intimate level, the depression should be viewed as a huge humanitarian crisis. Those millions

Figure 3-7 Florence Owens Thompson, famous Depression-era photo by Dorothea Lange, later an image on a U.S. postage stamp

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unemployed were more than numbers—they were men who could not feed their families, mothers who saw children go hungry, elderly who had no means to survive, farmers whose land was seized by their creditors or whose business failed because prices dropped so low, children who had no dreams of a better life, ill Americans who died because health care was unavailable. Tragically, even the national suicide rate rose significantly, from 12 per 100,000 persons in the period from 1920-1928 to over 18 in 1929, and remained above 15 throughout the 1930s [by comparison, today it is about 12 per 100,000]. The U.S. economy, in just about half a decade, fell from immense prosperity to an enormous depression, so the obvious question is simply “what happened?” But there is no simple, or single, answer; economists, historians, journalists, politicians, and others have offered many reasons for the crisis of 1929 onward. There were various causes for the economic crash—by themselves important but probably not enough to cause the situation to become so dire, but when connected together, creating an environment in which the depression was likely and would become worse. Singularly, no reason was dominant; collectively, they were catastrophic. Surplus Capital. Surplus capital, one of the main causes of the crises of the 1890s, also was a main factor in creating the Depression of the late 1920s. With new technologies and consumer goods like autos and radios creating huge profits, both industrial and agricultural output increased while net investment actually went down. Wages were slightly higher, but the gap between the affluent and poor in fact increased. The result of these conditions was easy to predict, more money. Corporations had more capital on their hands than ever before. They invested significant amounts abroad—from $3.5 billion in 1914, to double that in 1919, soaring to $17.2 billion in 1930, and then, starting to fall, at $14.9 billion in 1933. Foreign investments in the U.S. went up too, but by much less—$7.2 billion in 1914, before the Great War, and then down to $3.3 billion in 1919, back to $8.4 billion in 1930, and declining again to $5.4 billion in 1933. Overall, America’s creditor position [the money others owed to the U.S.] was $3.7 billion in 1919, but around $10 billion by the beginning of the 1930s. Corporate incomes jumped too, from $4.3 billion in 1921, to $7.5 billion in 1924, about $9 billion in 1927, approximately $11 billion in 1928 and 1929, but then dropped dramatically to $6.4 billion in 1930, $3.6 billion in 1931, and barely $2 billion in 1932. What do all these numbers mean? Many things—they are indicative of a number of

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economic conditions, but here they are cited to indicate that there was a tremendous, growing amount of capital in the hands of U.S. bankers, corporate heads, businessmen, commercial traders, and investors of all sorts, and it was idle. There were few outlets for investment—capitalists in the producer’s sector had built the plants and railroads and ships and so forth needed for economic growth and had made as many products as American consumers could purchase in the 1920s. In 1898, the U.S. spread its power abroad to find new markets, resources and areas for investment. But that option, in the horrible aftermath of the Great War, did not exist in 1929. As already seen, global trade was about to take a deep dive. Foreign Economic Crisis. This free fall in global trade points to another important factor, the economic catastrophe rising out of the Great War and settlement at Versailles. In stable economic times, that surplus capital would have been invested in domestic production and international trade. But there was already a problem with overproduction—inventories had risen over 300 percent by 1929 while construction spending fell from $11 billion in 1926 to $9 billion in 1929 and auto sales declined rapidly, by one-third in the first 9 months of 1929 alone. At the same time, trade, as noted, fell from $3 billion in 1929 to $900 million in 1933. Normally, extra capital would be invested abroad—especially in Europe. However, the major economic partners— England, France, Germany—were in the depths of their own economic crises and could not absorb U.S. capital because their own industry and commerce had been so badly damaged during the war and not recovered yet, plus they had their own financial obligations to meet. Without begin able to invest in Europe, American capital might have found a home in the colonial areas [as it had in 1898] but those places—Africa, much of Latin America, parts of Asia—were still so underdeveloped, without any industry or even accessible raw materials in many cases, that investments there would have been wasted. This also led to around of competitive devaluations by major countries. Devaluation occurs when a country decreases the value of its money in relation to others. [For instance, if $1.70 bought £1, but then the U.S. devalued to $2.55 or $3.40—33 or 50 percent—American goods would cost less. At the original price, for instance, bottle of American wine in London might cost £10, but if devalued to $3.40, it would cost only £5. So the U.S. would export more wine, which, at the lower price, would sell in higher volumes. Exports would rise and the U.S. would have more revenues]. In the early

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1930s, however, as soon as one country devalued its currency, it was likely that the other major powers would do the same, so the devaluations never led to an increase in exports but just created inflation without added trade. But the biggest problem came from the decisions made at Versailles. By imposing such huge reparations on Germany, $33 billion, the Allies made it impossible for Berlin to recover. It could not rebuild its own industries while so profoundly in debt, so it could not make reparations payments to England or France, either in cash or in goods it produced. London and Paris, meanwhile, were deeply in debt to the U.S. for the loans and financial support that Washington and Wall Street offered during the Great War, but they could not repay their loans either. Britain’s economy was woeful, with exports down by 65 percent in 1921 and unemployment in the 25-30 percent range. Woodrow Wilson’s ideas at Versailles, rejected by the Europeans, had been vindicated. U.S. economic prosperity depended on European reconstruction, and with Germany, England, and France all suffering, America’s economy was stuck in the mud too. Britain did offer the U.S. a plan to have some debts canceled in return for London canceling some of Germany’s reparation, but President Warren G. Harding turned it down. In 1924, the U.S. tried to stimulate Europe’s depression with the Dawes Plan, a program by which Germany’s reparations would be adjusted to a lower amount and Americans and foreign investors would send $200 million to Berlin to help rebuild. This, alas, led to an economic triangle—the U.S. sent loans to Germany; Germany sent that money in the form of reparations to England and France; and then London and Paris repaid the U.S. for wartime debts with the same money [see graphic below]. As John Maynard Keynes, the famed economist and British representative to the reparations commission at Versailles [who, like Wilson, had warned against the huge reparations for Germany], explained it, “reparations and debts are mostly settled on paper and not in goods. The United States lends money to Germany; Germany transfers its equivalent to the Allies; and the Allies pass it back to the United States Government. Nothing real passes; no one is penny worse.” The U.S. tried again in 1929, offering the Young Plan, which further reduced German reparations and offered loans to Berlin, but it was too little too late by that time, as the Depression had already hit hard. The absence of foreign outlets for surplus capital surely was a sign of economic distress, and the depression would worsen before getting better.

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Britain/France

Debts

U.S.

Reparations

Loans (Dawes/Young)

Germany

Figure 3-8 “Debt-Loan-Reparations Triangle”

Stock Market Crash of 1929. If one were to randomly ask people “what caused the Great Depression?” there is no doubt that a vast majority of respondents would answer “the stock market crash of 1929.” The “crash” of 1929 and the depression have been linked together for over 8 decades now, and the meltdown of the market is still generally cited as the cause of the long-term economic crisis that followed. It would be foolish to suggest that the two events were not connected, but the crash of 1929 did not cause the depression. It was an important factor, with the ones we have mentioned already [surplus capital and foreign economic crises] and others we will discuss below, in creating and confirming the depression. Stock markets are a core component in capitalism, but work with other aspects of the political economy to create both national and global economies. In 1929, the market crash was thus a huge factor, but not the effective reason, for the depression. By the late 1920s, financial and industrial leaders were plagued with surplus capital and insufficient outlets for investment. The ruling class, with so much money from profits and so few places to use it, turned to financial speculation—putting their millions in the stock market. Between 1926-1929, corporate heads began to put more and more money into the stock market. In 1926, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was approximately 100; by 1928, it had doubled; and by September 1929 the market peaked at 381. As the Dow

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rose, it created a bandwagon effect and more people invested in stocks, simply because the numbers were rising so quickly and creating huge financial profits. The prices of the stocks, however, were not consistent with actual production and demand [or purchase]. The average earnings per share from 1923 to 1929 rose by 400 percent, a huge, and often called “irrational,” leap. Investments in the stock market are supposed to make businesses grow—to build new plants, develop new equipment, hire more labor, and so forth. But by 1929, there was no longer any significant need for plants, equipment, or new workers—the economy had reached its maximum limits. So, despite all these rising figures indicating economic success, industrial leaders began to pull out of the market by the latter part of 1929; they understood that consumer demand had peaked and that stocks were overvalued, and thus withdrew about $7 billion in short order. As the market began to decline, other investors followed the bandwagon again, this time in the other direction, and began selling and the demand for stocks dried up. On Thursday, October 24th , 1929, the stock bubble popped. On Black Thursday, as it was called, there was a massive sell off on the New York Stock Exchange. Within three hours $11 billion dollars in value had disappeared. By noon, bankers and members of the Stock Exchange each put up $200 million to try to steady prices and it seemed to work. Within an hour U.S. Steel was up $15, General Electric $21, Montgomery Ward $23, and AT&T had recovered $22 per share. Those first few hours, however, had shaken bankers, brokers, and the public confidence that the market was sound. A rumor spread that federal troops were on the way to protect the market from being mobbed by the public. Another rumor suggested several brokers had committed suicide. President Hoover, seeking to calm a nervous nation, announced that the “fundamental business of the country…is on a sound and prosperous basis.” Americans remained anxious over that weekend to see if Hoover’s pronouncement was valid. They found out soon. On Monday, when the market opened, there was a rush to sell. AT&T was down again, this time by $24. Eastman Kodak lost $41 per share. A day later, on October 29, Black Tuesday, the Stock Market crashed. Stockholders dumped a record volume. As one security guard described the chaos, “It was like a bunch of crazy men…every once in a while when [a] Radio or Steel [stock] would take another tumble, you’d see some poor devil collapse and fall to the floor.” In the panic to sell, $30 billion in market value disappeared.

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A block of White Sewing Machine stock, for example, went for one dollar, down from a high of $48 a share. Making matters worse, many bigger investors bought their stocks “on the margin,” or with a line of credit, meaning that they only paid 10 or 20 percent of the value of their shares up front, and thereby borrowing the other 80-90 percent against the future value of the stock. If the stock rose and made money, margin buys were no problem. But in the late 1920s, they made the market rise “irrationally” because the stock purchases gave the impression that the product had value, when in fact its price was rising because of the debt incurred by investors who bought at margin prices. When prices fell, however, those margin investors could not afford to pay their brokerage firms for the stocks they had bought, and the brokerages/banks had to eat the debt. Consequently, within one short week, the bull market of the 1920s [all of the stock exchange’s profits] was gone. Within a year, the average value of a share of stock fell 90 percent. From the beginning of the crash in October 1929 to June 1932, the nation’s markets lost close to $180 billion in value. With surplus capital and inadequate trading opportunities, men of wealth speculated on the market, and lost, big. Banking and Credit. If stock markets are in crisis, then, inevitably, banks will be too. In the 1920s banks provided both commercial and investment services; they offered bank accounts and home loans as part of their commercial role, and sold securities and stocks to investors. With a flood of money coming their way in the 1920s, commercial bankers became more speculative. They offered huge loans to corporations to expand, and to consumers to buy new goods, all of course, at interest. Bank income, however, is not simply the amount that individuals put in banking accounts or the interest on loans given out; banks themselves invested heavily in the stock market, helping it reach the heights discussed above. Banks, because they too were in the stock market, issued excessive loans, often unsound, to the companies in which they had invested and, even riskier, advised their clients to invest in those same stocks. The combination of easy money from banks that had invested in a particular company, along with that same bank encouraging other investors to buy stock in that same company, was, realistically, a financial shell game, and it 1929 it fell apart. Making conditions worse, bank failures were common, meaning investors would lose all their deposits. While Wall Street banks dominated the industry and could go to the government and Fed for help, there was a significant

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number of smaller banks in immediate crisis. In the mid-1920s, there were 25,000-30,000 banks, mostly small- or medium-sized [unlike, say, J.P. Morgan or CitiBank]. These banks did not have the reserves to meet a run on the banks—a situation in which numbers of depositors, feeling pessimistic about the economy pull all their money out and cause the bank to crash—and thus many failed, probably over 10,000 and almost all of them smaller institutions. As banks failed, Wall Street “tightened” credit, making it harder to get loans, which meant businesses would have less money to pay their workers and that labor would have less money available to buy goods. The Fed, more concerned about its Wall Street allies, maintained a tight money policy whereas making money cheaper—expanding the currency supply to make it easier to get loans—might have eased the crisis, according to some experts. This crisis was particularly bad in the agricultural sector. Smaller farmers were already in debt from buying new machines because they could not compete with the larger commercial farms [as the Populists had pointed out decades earlier], production was rising because of those machines, but consumption was static because people were not buying more food and farmers were not able to increase their exports. When the perhaps inevitable day came that they could not pay their mortgage notes, farmers, already in debt, had their land seized by the banks. At that point, the large, still stable commercial farms and banks would buy the lands for a fraction of their value at auction. Bankers were not popular during the Depression [as if they ever were] and Woody Guthrie wrote a song about them a few years later, “The Jolly Banker”: “When your car you’re losin’, and sadly your cruisin’/I’m a jolly banker, jolly banker am I/ I’ll come and forclose, get your car and your clothes/Singin’ I’m jolly banker, jolly banker am I.” Poverty. Economic experts often used the phrase “maldistribution of buying power” to describe one of the key elements of the crisis of the depression, but that simply meant that the typical American did not have enough money to buy the “stuff ” he or she needed—including food, housing, health care, and other necessities. As production rose, farmers and workers were not seeing a corresponding increase in wages, so by 1929 over half of U.S. families lived at or below the subsistence level. They were too poor to buy necessities or autos or appliances or enjoy entertainment even as warehouses were full off goods. Fundamentally, this was they key problem in the economy—the problem of the depression was a problem of consumption. All these data on GDP, trade, bank

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holdings and such were to a meaningful degree caused, and made worse, because Americans, and foreigners whom might buy American exports, just did not have adequate wealth to participate more fully in the new economy. Collectively, these factors such as surplus capital, foreign economic crisis, the stock market collapse, the banking meltdown, and lack of purchasing power formed a perfect economic storm, and in 1929, virtually everyone felt it.

H oover ’ s (N on )-R esponse For decades, Herbert Hoover did not enjoy a positive historical legacy. He was president when the economy crashed in 1929 and so, naturally and unfairly, took most of the blame. Shacks and shanties where homeless people lived came to be called “Hoovervilles.” An empty pocket, signifying you had no money, was a “Hoover Flag.” He was blasted, often by Democrats, as aloof, clueless, and uncaring—in one instance, in order to spread the message that life should continue as normal, the White House released photos of Hoover’s day, including one picture of his dog eating table scraps; it had the opposite of its intended effect, angering people that the president’s dog was eating steak while millions of Americans were dumpster diving for food. Obviously,

Figure 3-9 President Herbert Hoover

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Figure 3-10 A “Hooverville” in Portland, Oregon

Hoover’s policies as president did not cause the depression—the data we have already seen shows that—but nor was he uncaring or distant. Hoover did respond to the economic crisis of the 1930s in various ways, yet all were ultimately ineffective. Hoover might have believed in government-business collaboration in trade associations and such, but he did not believe it was the state’s role to take over and fix the economy, and he did not see the crisis as grave at first [describing it as a market “correction,” as did Keynes] and called for “voluntary cooperation.” He asked factories and farms to continue production, not lay off workers, not reduce wages, and for all Americans to keep buying goods. After briefly going along with Hoover’s request, those big firms halted or reduced production, laid off millions of workers, and seriously reduced wages, building up their already surplus capital. And the average worker did not have enough money to buy much more than food and shelter, if that. The problem with capitalism, as Hoover well knew, was the “damn greedy” capitalists. Voluntary efforts would not work. Yet Hoover was facing a situation in which at least a quarter of all workers were unemployed, production was down by at least half, and investment had virtually disappeared, down by over 95 percent.

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With the poverty line at $2,500 a year, over 60 percent of families were below $2,000 annually, and 40 percent were below $1,500. But the top 1 percent, which controlled 20 percent of U.S. wealth in 1919, now held over 30 percent of the nation’s income. Class power had grown enormously while the people suffered more than ever. And with money unavailable due to what Keynes would call a “liquidity crisis”—not enough capital available in banks for companies to borrow for expansion or consumers to buy goods—the economic numbers just kept getting worse in 1930 and after. Hoover’s millionaire Treasury Secretary, Andrew Mellon, had a solution—cause an even bigger economic meltdown. “Liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate farmers, liquidate real estate... it will purge the rottenness out of the system,” Mellon advised, basically saying that farms and factories should be allowed to fail and workers lose their jobs and go hungry. But there was a payoff in this oligarch’s mind, “ high costs of living and high living will come down. People will work harder, live a more moral life. Values will be adjusted, and enterprising people will pick up from less competent people.” Even Hoover understood that Mellon’s program was cruel and would lead to devastation, so he scrambled for economic solutions. In 1930, Hoover persuaded Congress to pass the Smoot-Hawley Tariff, which raised import duties to record levels on nearly 20,000 different goods. It raised tariff rates by 60 percent on 3,200 goods, while hiking overall tariffs by about 20 percent. The idea was fundamental: make goods from other countries so expensive that people would have to buy products made in the U.S., a practice known as protectionism. It killed trade. While imports declined significantly, as intended [from $4.4 billion in 1929 to $1.5 billion in 1933], it also motivated other nations to raise their tariffs as well, to engage in a trade war. So U.S. exports, at a time when global trade was shrinking abruptly anyway, went down ever further—from $5.4 billion to $2 billion. World trade, as noted above, declined by about 70 percent in that period. Few goods were being sold, so there was little reason to manufacture more, or to pay workers to produce items that would not sell. The Democrats made Smoot-Hawley a key issue in their attack on Hoover and pledged to repeal it when they got the chance, which they did after taking over the White House and Congress in 1933. Hoover, with his call for industry and banks to voluntarily maintain production and credit and then his use of tariff policy, was addressing the depression as a problem of production, but it already was, and would grow as, a problem of consumption.

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People did not have enough money, to put it simply, to buy the stuff they needed. Trying to regulate production to maintain exports, and instituting high tariffs made goods cost more, so production went down and prices went up. But without adequate wages or jobs—and unemployment continued to rise—none of these measures did anything but worsen the problem. Unemployment rose from 5 million in 1930 to 11 million a year later. Hoover had to break with his own ideas and get the government more involved than ever in the economy, and two measures stood out. He finally addressed the impact of the foreign economic crisis on the U.S. and he established a government agency to provide help to both industry and labor—and both were too little and too late. In 1931, Hoover acknowledged the huge role of the depression abroad in the severity of the economic crisis at home. The “debt-loan triangle” mentioned and shown above had made global recovery impossible. So Hoover broke with Harding’s 1924 decision and proposed a moratorium, or temporary suspension, of reparations and war debts, and then extended it to include private debts too. In 1924, a moratorium might have improved the crisis; by 1931, investment, trade, and employment had sunk too low for it to matter enough to fix the global economy, and in Europe, especially Germany, conservative and far-right forces were gathering political advantages and preparing for a continent- and then world-wide confrontation. By December, 1931, Hoover, facing a re-election campaign the next year with a desolate economy, was desperate. He thus went to Congress to establish a Federal Land Bank, a system where financial institutions which held mortgages on farms and homes could receive cash from the government to pay off farmers’ and workers’ debts instead of foreclosure [the liberal Democrats who controlled Congress during the 2009 crisis made no such effort]. In that way, Hoover hoped, banks could stay afloat and people’s property would be on hand. More importantly, and a forerunner to many of his successor’s early programs, was Hoover’s creation of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation [RFC]. Hoover, who was active in economic planning for the Great War and in development of trade associations, saw the RFC as a similar “public-private” institution. The RFC would loan government money to banks, state and local governments, railroads, mortgage associations, and others. It made funds available to banks that could not make loans or pay off depositors and, like the Fed [then and now] bailed out the banks, the bigger ones, that were closest to government officials. But there were, again, significant problems from the

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start. The RFC was only supposed to loan to institutions that had sufficient collateral [the ability to pay back the loan] so the vast majority of that federal money went to big banks and corporations, a large number of which held on to the funds instead of loaning them out or reopening their factories or expanding production. Many companies, in fact, used RFC money to pay down their own debts and lay off workers. Critics called it a “bread line for big business.” Making matters worse, RFC money could only be used on public projects—growing crops, building dams, erecting bridges—that would pay for themselves, through tolls, rents as in public housing, purchases as from the post office, or through tax receipts. The RFC was ultimately unsound because it did not help those who most needed it—consumers. Hoover continued to attack the problem of the depression as a problem of production [as his successor initially would] so only about 10 percent of the $300 million available was even loaned out; only about $300 million, or 20 percent, of the $1.5 billion public works budget was released; and the Fed increased interest rates, thereby making money scarce and collapsing the economy further. So long as government officials and the ruling class continued to focus on the problem of production, the problem was not going away. As Hoover and other American leaders surveyed the world in 1932, it seemed as though there were two alternatives to global depression—Communism as practiced in the Soviet Union, and a new economic model, Fascism, which was emerging in Italy and Germany. Neither were options for the United States, so new ideas, and new deals, had to be worked out.

T he “I solationist ” ‘20 s ? The 1920s bracketed the two biggest wars in world history—the Great War, eventually called World War I, and World War II—but was a period of relative global peace, a time of “isolationism” according to most Americans. From the days of George Washington on, the U.S. claimed it wanted to avoid becoming tangled up in the problems of the world; it wanted to be “isolated” from the kind of issues that drove Europe to war in 1914 and led Wilson to intervene in 1917. So the 1920s, Americans still believe, was an era of Isolationism, a brief period of relief in between two bloody and destructive wars. But was the 1920s a time of isolationism? What kind of international policies did the U.S. pursue, or avoid, in that decade? Was America truly isolationist, or was

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that description a legend, a myth, a convenient explanation that lacks evidence? Actually, the U.S. was intricately involved in global affairs in the 1920s to a great and expanding extent; isolationism was an easy way to describe the avoidance of war, but it was not an accurate description of America’s role in the world. As noted in several places already, the American economy was growing with more investment, more trade, more production, more external economic arrangements. Given the importance of the data already seen, it is useful here to consider this entire issue—global economics—in a section by itself. This is worth noting not just because the economy of the 1920s was a pivot point between affluence and depression but, more importantly actually, the economic decisions made by the ruling class in this period had decisive long-term consequences, ultimately creating the conditions for the U.S. to emerge as the world’s biggest economy in the second half of the 20th Century. In the early 1900s the U.S. opened doors, practiced diplomacy using dollars, and outraged sovereign nations—all as part of a much larger systemic plan to create a global empire based on trade and investment, not on armies and occupation, as we discussed with regard to the events of 1898. The ideas and tactics developed while invading and occupying Hawai’i, Cuba, the Philippines, and elsewhere grew stronger and more complex as American power rose to global stature. The open door, the pursuit of trade, investment, resources and labor everywhere without barriers or unfair advantages to empires, remained the dominant goal throughout the administrations of Roosevelt, Taft, and Wilson and into the 1920s. William Howard Taft tweaked that a bit with his idea of “dollar diplomacy,” the idea that the U.S. would use investment rather than war, send bankers and industrialists abroad rather than soldiers, that it would be “substituting dollars for bullets” in the quest for more global power. Soonto-be President Woodrow Wilson even more candidly described these goals in 1907, boasting that “since . . . the manufacturer insists on having the world as a market, the flag of his nation must follow him, and the doors of nations which are closed against him must be battered down. Concessions obtained by financiers must be safeguarded by ministers of state even if the sovereignty of unwilling nations be outraged in the process.” Wilson could not have been more clear. The U.S. government, and its navies, had a responsibility to protect American investors and commercial traders as they sought new areas for business, even if those areas were unwilling and their independence had

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to be “outraged” in the process of imposing American power upon them. So, in this so-called time of isolation, the U.S. was deeply involved all over the globe. Even Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, who more than anyone killed U.S. participation in the League of Nations, admitted that “never [was there] a period when the United States [was] more active and its influence more felt internationally than between 1921 and 1924.” To be clear, there were in fact sincere isolationists in this era. The memory of the Great War was strong and most Americans lamented becoming involved and wanted to avoid further conflict; in fact, a senate investigation [conducted by the Nye Committee] later officially concluded that the U.S. joined the war as a way to create business, and profits, for weapons manufacturers, not to make the world safe for democracy. Many of the senators who opposed Wilson’s treaty continued to reject most forms of American involvement abroad. The most prominent were Senators William Borah of Idaho and Hiram Johnson of California, often called “Sons of the Wild Jackass” because of their contrarian views and their western roots. They, along with other isolationists genuinely feared that the U.S. would again be drawn into conflict as it had in 1917, that American sovereignty needed to be secure, that wars were started to benefit corporations who would profit from military production, and that foreign affairs would lead to a suppression of civil liberties at home, as during the Red Scare after the Great War [and repeatedly since then in U.S. history, as with the PATRIOT Act today]. The Wild Jackasses wanted to emphasize national prosperity and saw no reason to try to make the world safe for democracy when there were problems at home to be solved. Johnson in fact was angry that U.S. money was used to “maintain dictators in power” abroad. Johnson and Borah were both smart men, and they understood what Hay, Taft, Wilson, Hoover and others were trying to do—create a new global system based on economic power and frequent and easier trade as a way to avoid war and keep radical groups at home, meaning labor, from causing trouble. To some degree, the Jackasses accepted those ideas—they promoted better relations with the Soviet Union, for instance, because it would make the world safer and might become a profitable trading partner. But they did not envision the world Wilson and Hoover and others did, that world of the corporate state with its emphasis on order, stability, cooperation, and harmony. They were not men who believed in state intervention to “rationalize” the market, or who created trade associations to make business

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work together and end destructive competition. They were not capitalist visionaries with a dream and a plan to conquer the globe. So, to be frank, they were men of a bygone era, passed by in the rapid expansion of capitalism all over the globe in the early 1900s and especially the 1920s. Republican Presidents Herbert Hoover, Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge, Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes, and well-connected financiers and politicians like Henry Stimson, Bernard Baruch, and Charles Dawes could see the future, and it was not isolationist. “Free” and expanding trade would create more profit, and thus political power, keep global aggression down, and prevent the Bolsheviks from becoming a legitimate political alternative because prosperity would be so widespread. Hoover, in 1924, echoed Woodrow Wilson’s claims from decades earlier when he claimed that exports were so crucial to the American economy [both because it was way to sell goods and to get currency in exchange] that the government had to provide “protection and support to Americans interested in the development of American enterprise abroad.” Coolidge already believed that American capitalism now required global connections to survive and grow. “Our investments and trade relations are such,” he explained, “that it is almost impossible to conceive of any conflict anywhere on earth which would not affect us injuriously.” Wars and turmoil in areas where there was U.S. investment would de-stabilize American corporations and banks—as the Great War had done—so had to be avoided. Foreign economic policy also sought to solve the problems of surplus. Hoover simply said, “we must find profitable markets for our surplus,” sounding much like McKinley or Roosevelt in 1898. John Foster Dulles, a well-connected lawyer who had helped develop the Dawes Plan and was influential in the Republican Party, went even further. “We must finance our exports by loaning foreigners the where-the-with-all to pay for them,” he argued “Without such loans we would have the spectacle of our neighbors famishing for goods which were rotting in our warehouses as unusable surplus.” Dulles’s ideas about sending loans abroad so that the poor countries receiving American funds could then turn around and buy U.S. goods was widely accepted, and would be a core part of American economic policy for the entire century—a form of welfare for the military and corporations as it were. Hoover and Dawes believed that such loans were the biggest path to economic success. If the U.S. loaned adequate amounts of capital to other places,

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the foreign countries receiving the loans could, as Dulles pointed out, use those dollars to buy American goods. The U.S. would gain more political power by turning its allies into debtor nations that would have to abide by American decisions. As we have seen in the Dawes and Young Plans, loans could promote recovery from the Great War. Government-backed lending could help U.S. banks accumulate capital by allowing them to sell subscriptions [the sale of bonds and securities by banks as investments to individuals which would be part of a foreign loan package]. And for agriculture, loans would bail out farmers by providing funds to buy surplus commodities and enable people to retain land in rural areas. That combination of economic policies and the economic surge of the 1920s created great wealth, certainly not indicative of a time of isolation. Between 1914 and 1929, overall exports more than doubled, to $5.4 billion, while private investment abroad soared, from $3.5 billion to over $17 billion. Ford, GM, and American Telephone and Telegraph [AT&T], to name just a few companies, were heavily invested in Europe. “Extractive” industries—those that took raw materials out of the ground such as oil, copper, ores, or even water—were deeply invested, and involved, in Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East. American Capitalism was working just as theorists predicted, and maybe in no area as effectively as Latin America. Those countries to the south of the United States had long been subject to U.S. desires, from the Monroe Doctrine onward at least. By the early 20th Century, U.S. control over the southern Americas was overwhelming. Direct U.S. investment, $1.26 billion in 1914, rose to $3.52 billion in 1929, as American electricity, construction, fruit, sugar, oil, copper, and mineral investments just kept growing [as the depression hit, they declined, but not precipitously—by 1936 investments were down to $2.77 billion]. American exports to Latin America tripled in the 1920s, and accounted for 20 percent of all U.S. exports by the end of the decade. In Chile, American investments in nitrites and copper doubled, from $200 million to $400 million in the 19201928 period. By 1929, American companies were producing half of Venezuela’s oil while International Telephone and Telegraph [ITT] owned the communications industry of Cuba. Everyone, everywhere, drank Coca-Cola. Meanwhile, to make sure the economy kept moving at a brisk pace and profits flowed back to U.S. companies, experts who were called “money doctors,” economists and public sector specialists, usually from Ivy League or other elite

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schools, went to Chile, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and elsewhere to “advise” the local governments on how to set up and run their economies—and their advice was always to allow as many American companies in to their countries as possible without barriers or requirements. With so much involvement, and so much money flowing back to the U.S., it was not surprising that many Latin Americans were not pleased with the arrangements, with many calling America “the new Rome.” When dollar diplomacy did not work as easily as intended, the U.S. was more than willing to act like a traditional empire and use force, which it did often in the Caribbean and Latin America. In 1915, Haiti was in turmoil, with the government under attack from various rebels. Germany and France had ownership shares in the Haitian National Bank, and this alarmed the president who feared [as Americans had since the 1823 Monroe Doctrine] that Paris and/ or Berlin would come in and take control of a country near America’s area of domination. So Wilson sent in the U.S. Marines, who put the Haitian Customs House [where all international trade and finance exchanges took place] under American receivership [like trusteeship, a form of control] and then went after the rebels, killing over 2200 Haitians while losing 16 of their own. At that same time, American troops and warships traveled to Nicaragua to show support for a pro-U.S. government in Managua. With American money and weapons, the government maintained power and U.S. Marines kept a presence there from the early 1910s until the 1930s, keeping the oligarchy in power and eventually fighting against a rebel movement led by Cesar Sandino, whom they captured and killed. During that time, U.S. investment, $4.5 million in 1914, nearly tripled to $13 million by 1930. U.S. troops, sent to “preserve order” or “protect human rights,” were in fact in these countries to safeguard the investments and property of U.S. businessmen there, to defend wealth. Closer to home, the U.S. played a major role in a revolution in Mexico, where Wilson sent American troops to the port of Veracruz to support a group fighting for power led by Venustiano Carranza, whose main rival was guerrilla leader Ernesto “Pancho” Villa. One arms peddler from Brownsville, Texas, working secretively, sent over $600,000 worth of weapons to the Carrancistas. The U.S. support, along with preventing Villa from obtaining arms, was vital to Carranza’s success and Wilson extended official recognition to his government in October, 1915. Though the Mexican Revolution would continue with many twists and turns, the U.S. had decided

The ‘20s: Culture, Consumption, and Crash

which side would win. In the 1920s, without the fanfare of the Mexican intervention, the U.S. funded and armed a group in Honduras that took over the government and was friendly toward American corporate interests; and it sent in troops to ferociously attack anti-government, and thus anti-U.S. and anti-Capitalist, rebels in Honduras. Rather than practice isolationism, the U.S. was deeply involved throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, either with money doctors, military troops, or mercenaries. Ruling class power, already evident at home, was just as easy to find in the southern part of the Americas, and the conditions for U.S. control, and brutality, for the rest of the century were already in place. Perhaps surprisingly, the U.S. role in Asia, which was the area that prompted Hay’s Open Door Notes, was fairly minimal compared to most parts of the world, mainly because the continent, except for Japan, was in turmoil and not yet developed with industry or banking to any meaningful level. Still, the American dreams of getting into Asia, especially the “China Market,” remained strong. China’s population, 400 million in 1900, rose to 472 million by 1920, and exceeded 500 million in the early 1930s—if American manufacturers and bankers could get into that market, the potential for growth and profits was virtually unlimited. But getting into China would not be easy. In 1900, young nationalists tired of Europe taking over ports and resources, began the antiforeigner “Boxer Rebellion.” They killed hundreds of Christian missionaries and attacked the embassies and consulates of foreign countries. The Europeans finally resorted to force, sending in over 15,000 troops to subdue the Boxers, and President McKinley, without consulting congress, deployed 2500 U.S. troops to help put down the revolt. In the aftermath, the western nations forced China to pay $300 million to cover the damages done by the Boxers. The Chinese nationalists, though defeated, exposed that China was weak and in decay, so the U.S. and Europeans began to “modernize” it, hoping to exploit the huge markets there. President Taft proposed funding a bank in the Chinese region of Manchuria, a northern province with minerals and other valuable resources, and later suggested that American bankers get together to provide a huge loan to China so it could “neutralize,” or internationalize, its own railways so they could be used by all countries to trade, as envisioned by the open door idea. Neither plan worked because the unrest begun by the Boxers continued and led to the Revolution of 1911, when the old dynasty was finally overthrown and a new, pro-western and pro-capitalist, government

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came to power. Still, the U.S. could not take advantage of the changes in China to any real degree because Japan stood in the way. Japan had long maintained that it should have a primary role in Chinese affairs, both because it was close and because they shared a cultural heritage in the fight against “white supremacy.” Mostly, however, the Japanese wanted China’s resources and markets, just like everyone else. In 1915, Tokyo issued “21 Demands” of China, essentially taking control of China by confirming its seizure of ports and railways, mines and metallurgy industries, and taking control over its finances and police, while forbidding the Chinese from having economic relations with other countries. Just two years later, in the “LansingIshii Agreement,” the U.S. and others had to acknowledge Japan’s “special interests in China,” meaning its domination. So, with its goals in China beaten back, the U.S. began expanding its economic interests in Japan. Ford set up factories and built the first autos made in Japan. Americans invested in Japanese companies in the chemical and electronic industries, and provided utilities and phone services to many Japanese cities. Ultimately, the U.S. invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Japan, but would continue to look for ways to get into the markets of China, and this would eventually lead to the events of December 7th, 1941. If the term had been used at the time, Latin America and Asia would have been called “emerging markets,” meaning they were still in the process of industrializing, banking, and trade, but had the potential for serious economic growth in the future. That term certainly would have applied to the oil-rich Middle East as well. The petroleum industry began in the U.S. under the direction of John D. Rockefeller in the 19th Century, and it became the most important global commodity—needed for both commerce and military operations—by the time of the Great War. Yet geologists were concerned that the world supply of oil was “precarious” by the 1920s. While U.S. companies still produced about two-thirds of the world’s oil, other nations, like Britain and The Netherlands, were competing against American firms and gaining new markets, which would seriously damage the establishment of the open door; and no area was as important on this issue as the Middle East. After the Great War, the British gained an upper hand in the oil trade, and made agreements with Kuwait and Bahrain that shut out American oil companies. The U.S. government, working as expected as an agent for private corporations, sponsored geological surveys [searches for oil fields] on behalf of Exxon, Texaco,

The ‘20s: Culture, Consumption, and Crash

Gulf, Atlantic Refining, Sinclair, and Standard Oil of Indiana. Given the economic size of that group and the support of the American government, the European companies gave the Americans an equal share in the oil of Iraq. As the price for getting into the Middle East oil markets, the U.S. agreed to the “Red Line Agreement” which required that all the members of the oil industry working in the Middle East—the U.S., France, Britain, the Dutch—respect each other’s holdings and not compete against each other for the oil business of the old Ottoman Empire. At this point, the oil of the Middle East was still a more potential than real source of wealth, but the Americans had gotten their foot in the door, and that area would become as important as any in the world by the end of the 20th Century.

M ore T rouble A head Given such economic efforts in Europe, Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East, it is clear that the U.S. was not “isolationist” in the 1920s, and was in fact creating conditions that would lead to both global power and global conflict in the coming years. Not everyone was a fan of such developments. The famous historian and social critic Charles Beard’s observed that the 1920s were marked by a “return to the more aggressive ways . . . [used] to protect and advance the claims of American business enterprise.” Even more harshly, a Marine General who had been active in crushing Latin American rebellions and protecting American interests, Smedley Butler, became perhaps the bestknown critic of America’s role abroad. . Butler wrote a famous essay attacking America’s economic role in the world in this era, titled War is a Racket. He bitterly wrote: I spent thirty-three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country’s most agile military force, the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to MajorGeneral. And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I suspected I was just part of a racket at the time. Now I am sure of it. Like all the members of the military profession, I never had a thought of my

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own until I left the service. My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of higher-ups. This is typical with everyone in the military service. I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested. During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.

Despite Butler’s anger over America’s economic expansion, there was no going back, and as a new president took office in 1933, he would have to contend with the continuing economic depression and global crises even worse than the Great War. America looked dramatically differently than it had at the turn of the century; its culture had changed dramatically to encourage consumption and pleasure; African-Americans and women had different roles in society; new government-corporate arrangements had created a new capitalism, one that would create the biggest economy ever known in a short time; and then it would all fall apart. American economic power had grown dramatically in the first 3 decades of the 20th Century, and the American people had prospered, and then suffered, as the economy rose and fell. Something had to change, and new ideas and new deals were soon on the way.

Chapter 4

FDR, New Deals, and the Limits of Power

H

erbert Hoover, fairly or not, received blame for the Great Depression, so even though he was running for president in 1932 it was obvious that he had little chance to be re-elected. And on November 8th, Americans overwhelming voted him out of office. His opponent enjoyed the largest margin in U.S. history up to that time, carrying 42 states worth 472 electoral votes, and over 57 percent of the popular vote, while the incumbent won only 6 states worth 59 electoral votes and under 40 percent of the people’s votes. It would now be up to Governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt [FDR] of New York to find some way out of the deepest economic crisis in American history.

FDR

and the

R escue

of

C apitalism

The Great Depression confirmed the predictions of many critics of Capitalism. Communists had been claiming that a system built on the private ownership of production and banks by a tiny percentage of wealthy Americans who got rich off the labor of low-paid and often impoverished masses could not last long. Even those who were Capitalist, but devised a new form of political economy known as “corporatism,” or more commonly fascism had issued warnings about a possible collapse of the U.S. economy. No matter what ideology one held, it was clear that there were limits to Capitalism, and FDR’s 169

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job was to rescue it without resorting to an alternative economic or political system, and also make it stronger and less likely to crash again. Though he did not use the phrase, he surely would have agreed with Hoover about the problem of “damn greedy” Capitalists, and so he set about to fix, reform, and regulate the system more than any government ever had before—in order to save it. FDR was born into wealth. In the 1830s, a man named Warren Delano became rich as a narcotics trader in China during the so-called Opium Wars. Delano’s daughter, Sara, later married a wealthy neighbor, James Roosevelt, who had made money in railroads and coal and had invested profitably. In 1882, while living on the family’s luxurious estate in Hyde Park, New York, they had a son and named him Franklin Delano, after his grandfather. Roosevelt’s family hired tutors to home school him, and then sent him to Groton, perhaps the most elite preparatory school in America, between 18961900. At Groton, FDR attended a talk given by Vice-President Theodore Roosevelt, a 5th cousin, and this motivated him to want to become a public figure, a politician. After prep school, FDR went to Harvard and graduated

Figure 4-1 Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1933 inauguration at the U.S. Capitol

FDR, New Deals, and the Limits of Power

with average grades in 1904, and after that he attended law school at Columbia and passed the bar, but chose not to practice. Roosevelt’s academic career was not impressive, but he more than made up for that with his personality—he was handsome, fun-loving, charming, and well-liked by many women. In 1902, however, he met Eleanor Roosevelt, Teddy’s niece and a distant cousin, and they fell in love and got married in 1905, with now-President Roosevelt giving the bride away. With his name and connections, he had immediate access to power. He soon began a career that mirrored his cousin’s, and in time would become even more famed. He earned a seat in the New York state senate, and then became assistant secretary of the navy (like TR had in 1897-98), and in 1920 the Democratic Party nominated him for vice president, an election he and James Cox lost in a landslide. Roosevelt’s name and connections had served him well, but he was still not a national figure like his cousin Teddy. A personal tragedy changed his life, however, and turned him into a serious man and public servant. In 1921, while on a fishing trip off the coast of Canada, he got polio, permanently paralyzing him from the waist down. His paralysis turned out to be like Abraham Lincoln’s “log cabin” story—a symbolic way to sympathize and connect with the problems of the common man because of his own background and problems. And FDR would realize as he became president that, while he could afford health care and remain comfortable, the typical person was getting crushed by the depression, and the White House had to do something to make things better. After coming down with polio, and a couple years rehabilitating at Hyde Park, Roosevelt returned to public life not as a fun-loving playboy, but as a serious public figure. In 1928, he made a well-received, eloquent speech nominating Al Smith—the governor of New York and first Catholic to be a major party candidate—at the Democratic Convention. Two years later, he was elected New York governor, again emulating his cousin TR, who had held that office in 1899-1900. FDR, more serious, kinder and gentler, was now arguably the most important Democrat in America, and with Hoover’s presidency in crisis, his name immediately surfaced as a future presidential candidate. And, so, in 1932, he ran for office. Given the depths of the depression, his path to the White House was not going to be difficult, hence his huge victory. FDR’s triumph was also a victory for liberals, those who, like the Progressives a generation earlier, sought to reform capitalism by making the lives of workers,

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women, the poor, and children better. But liberalism, as noted, was rooted firmly within Capitalism and private ownership within the economy. It was not some type of state takeover of business as envisioned by the Left or an authoritarian state as constructed in Fascism. Liberals did not try to change the system, but in fact address its problems to make it strong again, to put companies back in business and workers back on the job. They were not radicals, they were not revolutionaries, they were not Socialists or Communists, they were not anarchists, they were not advocates of some foreign idea of government, they did not seek to turn over power and wealth to workers and farmers, they did not want to take from the rich and give to the poor, they were not suggesting that the government take over businesses and agriculture, they did not want to deprive Americans of their fundamental constitutional liberties . . . they were liberals. During the 1932 presidential campaign, Roosevelt and the liberals, knowing they had to do little to convince Americans to vote Hoover out, did not offer many specific ideas about dealing with the depression. FDR promised, however, a “New Deal for the American people” and even that contained few concrete proposals. Still, that phrase—New Deal—would become FDR’s political program and constitute his historical legacy. During the campaign, the only two pledges he made were to end prohibition and balance the budget, relatively easy promises and widely supported. But Roosevelt’s strength did not come out of his policies or ideas for governance but because of what Barack Obama in 2008 would essentially take from FDR—a promise of hope and change. Roosevelt’s rhetoric, his sympathy toward those who had suffered, and his wife’s activism on issues of importance to the unemployed, the destitute, women, children and others who were suffering from the depression all appealed to the American people. He was already wildly more popular than Hoover, even though he had not done anything yet. Roosevelt calmed the nation’s anxiety by assuring Americans that he was prepared to act. “The country needs, and unless I mistake its temper the country demands bold persistent experimentation,” he told the country. “It is common sense to take a method and try it: If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something. The millions who are in want will not stand by silently forever while the things to satisfy their needs are within easy reach.” In speaking so, FDR was, as he frequently put it, being America’s “quarterback”—he’d call a play and if it did not work, he would change strategy and try something different, and keep adapting until something worked.

FDR, New Deals, and the Limits of Power

T he B onus A rmy Roosevelt faced a monumental task in dealing with the depression, but even before he was inaugurated there was a crisis he would have to confront. Everyone was aware of the human crisis of the depression and Hoover’s failure to fix it, so Americans were bleak and restless for help already. Yet, somehow, amid the economic crash, a political crisis emerged to actually makes Americans feel more alarmed—the Bonus Army. Americans who had fought in the Great War had been promised a bonus, basically a pension, that they would receive in 1945. They were homeless and hungry by the early 1930s, however, and wanted to relieve the pressures on them and their families, and contribute to the problem of consumption by spending money so they asked the government to give them their bonuses early, in 1932. They also began arriving in Washington, D.C. to make their requests, or demands, in person. Their “Military Certificates,” [basically, bonds] supposed to mature in 13 years, amounted to over $3.6 billion [about $50 billion today], a huge sum in any circumstances let alone during a financial meltdown, so Hoover, still president, did not offer the veterans a friendly welcome. Congress had already tried to help vets by establishing a fund that allowed them to borrow a little over 20 percent of the value of their certificates, and in 1931 doubled the amount they could take out as loans. By 1932, a significant percentage of political leaders, and the population in general, began to support the movement to provide the entire bonus to each vet immediately. While the vets and others thought that the bonus money would stimulate spending and consumption, Hoover opposed it. He was a “classical” liberal in the sense that he believed that budgets had to be balanced, that debts and deficits harmed the economy by forcing the government to pay interest on loans it would have to take out to create revenues, or to raise taxes. Indeed, the balanced budget idea was like a biblical truth to virtually all politicians from both major parties in the early 20th Century. So Hoover , naturally, believed that early payment of the bonuses would create a massive budget crisis, since over $2 billion of the trust fund, or about 55 percent, was still unpaid. An increase in the federal deficit , he feared, might lead to severe cuts in current relief programs, such as soup kitchens or shelters, or higher taxes—and Hoover had already raised corporate taxes and increased the top tax bracket from 25 to 63 percent, expecting the wealthy to do more to help the country out of the depression.

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Still, Americans felt strongly that the “Bonus Army” vets who had risked their lives in the Great War deserved to receive their money in 1932. The senate began to debate a measure to pay the bonds off in June 1932, but the “Bonus Expeditionary Force,” as the veterans called themselves, arrived in the capital and made a camp at Anacostia Flats, in southeast Washington, on the Maryland side, and within sight of the U.S. Capitol. There were about 17,000 veterans in camp, and, leading a crowd of about 45,000, led a march on the Capitol to demand full bonuses. The senate nonetheless defeated a bill to offer early payment, so the Bonus Army veterans decided to stay in Washington and continue to fight for their money, and they built a large encampment, a “shantytown” really, in Anacostia and resolved to stay until paid their pensions. Washington politicians sensed that conflict was inevitable and a siege mentality took over Hoover’s White House. Soon, the president heard that two Bonus Army vets were reported dead from gunfire so he took drastic action. Hoover ordered Army Chief of Staff General Douglas MacArthur, who had commanded many of the vets during the Great War, to clear out the Bonus Army, and MacArthur assigned a young major, Dwight D. Eisenhower, to work with the local police to oust the protestors who wanted their bonuses. Negotiations and promises were not going to work, however, so Commander Major George S. Patton set up detachments of infantry, several machine gun crews, 6 tanks, and cavalry and began to attack and forcibly remove these veterans of the Great War from the nation’s capital. Patton deployed his men across Pennsylvania Avenue, within sight of the White House, and then began moving toward the Capitol. At first, many of the veterans and spectators did not realize that the troops were attacking and some even applauded the marchers. When soldiers fixed their bayonets and put on gas masks, the rest of the veterans knew they were there as enemies. Soon Patton’s men launched tear-gas grenades. Some veterans responded by throwing bricks and stones; most were unarmed so simply broke and ran, many to Anacostia Flats, which was now unsafe. Near nightfall, having cleared downtown Washington of veterans, MacArthur exceeded his orders. The Army crossed into the encampment at Anacostia Flats. Within hours, over 10,000 inhabitants—the first of many “Hoovervilles” to come – had been defeated and dispersed. By morning, only a burnt-out and smoking mass of the shantytown remained. Hoover, oblivious to the angry and appalled mood of the nation, proclaimed victoriously, “A challenge to the authority of the

FDR, New Deals, and the Limits of Power

Figure 4-1 Bonus Army campsite ablaze in Washington, D.C.

United States Government has been met, swiftly and firmly.” Hoover so badly botched this situation that Roosevelt’s victory in the coming fall election, already quite likely, was assured. Ironically, FDR, like Hoover, had opposed the early bonus payments, but handled the situation in a much different way. Instead of sending troops out, his wife went to visit the soldiers with trays of cookies and tea to relax them and the new president initially set aside 25,000 public jobs for the veterans, many of whom went on to build the Overseas Highway in the Florida Keys. Congress finally voted to grant early payment of the bonuses in 1936, only to have it vetoed by Roosevelt but then overridden by Congress. Finally, seven years into the Great Depression, Great War veterans received their bonuses, though by that time the poverty, hunger, and homelessness had become more dire than ever.

T he “F irst ” N ew D eal

as

C onservative R eform

In Roosevelt’s inaugural address, he uttered words that would become famous—“the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” But, in truth, there was much to fear. Over 10 million Americans were unemployed, millions

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were homeless, countless Americans were hungry and either had to eat at charity kitchens or look for food in garbage cans. Factories and farms were shut down, prices had fallen, and, most importantly, the typical American did not have enough to buy the basic goods he or she needed to live. “Fear itself ” was hardly worth mentioning given the terrifying consequences of the depression on the common man. Yet, Roosevelt’s words were soothing. They made people feel more at ease, as if someone who cared and understood the severity of the problems was now in charge and was going to do something about the crisis. And he did have to confront the depression. Capitalism was on the ropes, people were suffering, and everyone was looking to him for a solution. His first approach, more of a statement of priorities, came with the “3 Rs”—relief, recovery and reform. Relief simply referred to the basic task of saving people’s lives, like doing triage in an emergency room. Social workers, humanitarians, local officials and others would find the most destitute cases and try to provide basic needs like food and shelter, setting up soup kitchens and providing lodging simply to prevent starvation and homelessness. Recovery was an eco-

Figure 4-3 People waiting in line for food in New York City, February 1932

FDR, New Deals, and the Limits of Power

nomic goal—to help the businesses wrecked by the depression rebuild, to get factories re-opened and farms growing crops again, and thus put people back to work. Reform was the most long-term goal, which involved figuring out the causes of the depression and fixing the system so that an economic crash of such size did not happen again. Various programs that we call “The New Deal” then emerged from this overall sense of what America needed. And even then, the New Deal was not a single program, but in fact included various programs addressing various problems, and changing with some frequency. Although FDR is still acclaimed as a liberal hero, his initial attempts, his “First New Deal,” was oriented toward big business and conservative at its core. Roosevelt’s first action, in fact, was to bail out the banking industry [similar to what Barack Obama would do in 2009]. While some leftists were calling on the president to “nationalize” the banks—that is have the government take them over and run them—FDR never considered such a radical measure. Instead he assigned Treasury Department officials with the task of creating an assistance program for banks; the government would provide funding for banks that were on precarious grounds to keep them open. He

Figure 4-4 Police announce bank closure to crowd, 1933

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also called a “Bank Holiday” to shut them down so depositors could not make a run on them and leave their vaults empty. As one Congressman described it, FDR “drove the money-changers out of the Capitol on March 4th—and they were all back on the 9th.” Some of the programs in the First New Deal aimed to help those in need. FDR established a government corporation, the Tennessee Valley Authority, to bring electricity into the Tennessee authority, a particularly hard-hit area. He created the Civilian Conservation Corps [CCC], one of the most successful and beloved programs, in order to put young men to work cleaning up the environment, building parks, planting trees, and so forth. Maximum enrollment at any time was 300,000 in the CCC [the cumulative total for the 9 years of the program was about 3 million], and in many areas Blacks and Latinos were not allowed to participate. Corpsmen built over 30,000 wildlife shelters, stocked rivers and lakes with a billion fish, cleared beaches and campgrounds, built over 800 parks, and planted nearly 3 billion trees. The men in the CCC got shelter, clothing and food, along with a small stipend of $30 a month, of which $25 had to be sent home to one’s family, in order to stimulate some

Figure 4-5 Members of the CCC work on a Department of Agriculture project in Maryland, 1933

FDR, New Deals, and the Limits of Power

consumption. The CCC did provide relief to millions, but not at levels adequate to really fix the depression. The PWA, or Public Works Administration likewise put people to work. Headed by Interior Secretary Harold Ickes, it was a large-scale public works program to build bridges, dams, hospitals, schools, and other public institutions. It was capitalized at $3.3 billion for 1933, and $6 billion total—all to go to private construction firms which bid on projects—but most of that money was never spent and, like the CCC, did put people to work and help consumption but was far too inadequate for the enormity of the depression. FDR’s real emphasis during his first years in office would be big business, the producers, because the president still failed to see that the problem of the depression was a problem of consumption. In particular, Roosevelt wanted to address the main pillars of the U.S. economy: industry, agriculture, and banking, and he did so in conservative, capitalist ways. To fix industry, FDR got Congress to pass the National Industry Recover Act [NIRA], to be administered by the National Recovery Administration [NRA], known to all by its logo, a blue eagle. While the NRA created minimum wage

Figure 4-6 TVA employee working on the construction of the Douglas Dam in Tennessee, 1942

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and maximum hours requirements, and established the right of workers to create unions in Section 7a, it was more an expansion of Hoover’s trade association concept. FDR, noting that production had grown tremendously in the 1920s, wanted to lower industrial output and thereby raise prices, assuming that this would create more profits for factory owners who could then expand their operations and bring on workers at decent wages. There was not a single thought given to redistributing power or wealth. FDR appointed Hugh Johnson, an admirer of the system of “corporatism” in Italy and Germany, to head the NRA and he thought such policies might work in the U.S. too. Corporatism—which came to be known as fascism in Europe—was an economic system, much like the trade association idea that brought together firms in the same industry to create codes to regulate themselves, with government cooperation. Indeed, Herbert Hoover himself deemed the NRA “fascist” [without, of course, the oppressive attacks on certain groups or the restrictions on liberty and freedom that defined Mussolini’s and Hitler’s political views]. In Johnson’s conception, FDR would have had virtually had the power of a dictator to run the economy. That, of course, did not happen. FDR in fact relied on industrial titans, particularly Gerald Swope of GE, Charles Schwab of Bethlehem Steel, Henry Harriman, president of the Chamber of Commerce, and E.H. Harriman of the Union Pacific Railroad, to set up the NRA. The agency allowed industries to get together and establish codes for themselves, made it legal to create monopolies, and let firms, especially the largest ones, set up rules regarding production and pricing. The key goal was to limit production and thereby inflate prices, which, New Dealers argued, would lead to more business, more companies reopening, more jobs, and more purchasing. Some critics called it government “of big business, by big business, and for big business.” Like the trade associations, groups of individuals who headed large industries would sit down with the government and plan out economic policies, obviously to their benefit. They could then set rules on how much could be built [how many cars, how much steel, how much coal, and so forth] and set prices at which they would be sold [which would be set artificially high to create greater profits]. To use an example that may seem slight but is telling, broom makers in their NRA association created codes to require that brooms be made a certain width and length. Smaller companies often could not afford to make changes in their machinery to meet the new rules, so went out

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of business, where they were usually bought up by the bigger firms. Similarly, a New Jersey businessman was jailed because he charged less than 40 cents to dry clean a suit. Imagine this in all industries, and one gets the sense of the NRA’s mission—it provided government support and funding to limit production, while allowing the most powerful Industrial Capitalists to dominate even more. In fact, the NRA probably made it more difficult to fix the depression by restricting trade and raising prices, and it surely hurt small businesses. The Supreme Court then invalidated the NIRA [the “Sick Chicken Case”] in just a couple years because it gave the federal government too much power, but it did little to help the economy anyway, as unemployment was at 24 percent in 1934 and businesses often kept the government funds they received rather than open or expand businesses and create jobs. Roosevelt, attacked as a radical and even Socialist by conservatives, had in fact given the NRA power to do as it pleased, but with no real success. The NRA worked successfully, as Hugh Johnson saw it; it was “exactly what industry organized in trade associations makes it.” FDR’s approach to the agricultural crisis was the same. Congress passed the Agricultural Adjustment Act [AAA] to, again, limit production and raise prices, this time on farm commodities. Farmers, led by those with the most acreage and generally loyal Democrats, got together to determine the codes for the agriculture industry. They set limits on production and prices and determined which farms would receive the largest government payouts. In a controversial move, the NRA also created programs to reduce the surplus in farm goods already produced. Farmers who planted wheat, corn, rice, tobacco, rye, barley, peanuts, sugarcane and potatoes, among other goods, could dump their goods and get a government reimbursement. The AAA also created hog-reduction and cattle-reduction programs, so livestock farmers could kill off their animals to reduce their surplus and raise prices. Just in Nebraska, the government paid farmers to plow under over 10 million acres of cotton and slaughter 470,000 cattle and over 400,000 pigs. The same methods took place in Oklahoma and other farm states. Overall, in 1933 the AAA paid farmers to slaughter over 6 million hogs and over 220 thousand mother sows, at a cost of $30 million. For most farmers, this became their most important source of income and it instituted the system of “farm subsidies”—paying farmers to not grow crops that has existed since then. While it helped some farmers, the biggest agricultural interests gained the most and even then,

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northerners, who owned over half of southern land, got government aid, not the actual farmers in the South and West. When crops were reduced, the farmers took land from sharecroppers and tenant farmers, not from their own holdings, so the biggest farmers received government money to remove crops from production and kill livestock while millions went hungry. Subsequently, hundreds of thousands of poor farmers working in such fields, including 75 percent of Blacks, some of whom had been on their land since Reconstruction, now had no source of income and took off for the North or other areas, especially California. Adding to the problem for the poorest farmers, the agricultural corporations often took AAA money to buy new machines for their crops, thus raising production and needing less labor, which created more unemployment. By 1939 wheat and cotton production was half of what it had been when the AAA began, but farm poverty was still huge. In any event, 1936 the Supreme Court killed the AAA [in United States v. Butler] because the administration was raising money for the subsidies it gave out by taxing processors and giving that money to farmers, which the court ruled was not a real tax and therefore beyond the government’s power. To address the financial crisis, FDR again let the ruling class take control of matters, in this case the banking system. On June 16th, 1933 the president signed the Glass-Steagall Act into law to address the stock market and credit crises that had helped cause the depression. As noted, Capitalists had huge sums of surplus capital in the 1920s and speculated heavily in stocks at a time when there was no separation between commercial and investment banks. Commercial banks are the institutions with which Americans are familiar—you can open a savings or banking account, get a loan for a car or house, or buy a Certificate of Deposit or Treasury Bill. Investment banks are essentially brokerage firms, where one buys stocks. As noted in the section on the causes of the depression, banks were making unsound loans because of the lure of surplus capital and investing heavily on Wall Street, often without adequate reserves, and also advising clients to invest in the same stocks to raise their prices and thus bank profits. By separating the two types of banking, GlassSteagall created a barrier so consumers could feel that their money was safe and so bankers could not use “commercial paper”—those deposits and interest from loans—to speculate wildly on stocks. The Act also created the FDIC, or Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, so depositors could be repaid by the

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government if their banks failed for up to $5000. Glass-Steagall helped bank depositors to be sure, but also was created as a way to preserve Capitalism, by making sure banks used sound practices for loans and investments and could not invest wildly with billions of dollars of capital. More important for bankers, FDR also created the Securities and Exchange Commission [SEC] to oversee and regulate Wall Street. A security is a financial asset that has a monetary value, like a stock in a publicly-traded company or a bond issued by a government or corporation, and in the depression too often such securities became worthless paper. Congress had passed the Securities Act in 1933 and a year later the Securities and Exchange Act, which set up the SEC. One of the better examples of the crisis in securities involved Samuel Insull of Chicago. Insull had helped Thomas Edison set up General Electric and then on his own gained control of utilities in 5000 towns in 32 states. When many cities began establishing their own utility companies [electricity, gas, water and so on], Insull began financing politicians to protect him. Still, customers claimed that he was overcharging them, and the government began to investigate him. What they found was a huge financial scheme. Insull had set up a holding company—a firm that has no real assets or operations of its own but controls the stock of other companies, and often avoids tax payments on them, also commonly called a “shell company.” Insull’s holdings gave him control over 65 enterprises worth over $500 million, though he had only $27 million in assets of his own. Insull kept borrowing money, and then creating new companies so he could borrow more—though none of them actually produced anything. But Insull had created the illusion that his businesses were solid and profitable, so thousands invested in them, and when the stock market crashed, they lost all their money and Insull went bankrupt. Without any government oversight or regulation [again, as in the 2008 economic crash], there was little anyone could do to protect investors against people like Insull. Thus, Congress created the SEC. In its simplest form, the SEC required brokerages to give out all relevant information on the securities they were selling and the risks involved, made brokers, dealers and exchanges treat investors honestly, and monitored corporate mergers and takeovers. The 1934 Act also regulated “secondary trading,” or the resale of securities or assets from the original company that bought them. The New York Stock Exchange, for example, is a secondary financial market where one buys stocks from investors who have sold theirs. To FDR, these

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laws were necessary not to punish bankers, but to keep Wall Street stable and keep Capitalism safe. Still, many bankers opposed them as government intrusion into a private market. So FDR got representatives of large banking and brokerage houses such as James Forrestal of Dillon, Read and Robert Lovett of Brown Brothers Harriman, as well as commission brokers to endorse and promote the Act. Those who opposed the new regulations believed, unnecessarily, that the New Deal would threaten banking, but that was never even considered by FDR. No one ever considered nationalizing banks or punishing brokers—just preserving the banking system and fixing problems that had helped cause the 1929 crash and protecting investors against the huge losses they had suffered when the depression hit. In fact, one need only to note that the first Chair of the SEC, appointed by Roosevelt, was Joseph P. Kennedy, a wealthy investor and merchant and patriarch of America’s most famous political family, to recognize that it was a conservative institution that posed no threat to Wall Street. Like the NIRA and AAA, the Securities laws had the same goals, to prevent radicalism, to give benefits to the biggest industries, and to make the corporate liberal state work even better. Even today, FDR’s New Deal is still criticized as being too liberal or even radical, but, much like Barack Obama’s programs in his first term as president, his policies were established to strengthen the bonds between the state, corporations, banks, and other huge economic concerns. The goal was to have the government involved in the economy, as Capitalists wished. As one critic of the NRA explained, Roosevelt based his programs on the desires of the ruling class to have the government enforce price control, production, and trade practices. “Industry wanted not freedom from regulation,” he explained, “but the right to enjoy regulation.” By suspending many laws that would have prevented collusion and trust laws, the bosses could join together and gain more control over their industries, especially their labor, in their trade associations. Big business did not have the NRA, AAA or SEC forced upon it, but in fact wanted those programs so it could run off smaller firms that cut corners and cut costs just to stay alive and could not afford the regulations required by New Deal plans. The “new Capitalism” or “corporate state” was, as intended, even more fully developed in the First New Deal as Roosevelt and the wealthy bosses tried to address the problem of the depression by altering production and eliminating smaller competitors. As for the depression, conditions changed little. Unemployment in 1935 was still above 20 percent; over 5 million families, which included over 20 million men, women and

FDR, New Deals, and the Limits of Power

Figure 4-7 Pigs slaughtered as part of the hog reduction program, 1933

children, depended on relief for food and shelter; 70 percent lived on incomes of less than $1500 a year, below the poverty line; the GDP had risen to $73 billion, but that was still less than it had been in 1931 and far below the $103 billion of 1929. The Dow Jones average was between 100-110, far below its 1929 peak of 381. While millions of hogs were slaughtered and huge tracts of farms plowed under there were people in Kentucky boiling and eating dandelions and poor Texans were hunting and eating armadillos. Sadly, some families resorted to eating “road kill” or even family pets just to survive. One young girl wrote to the Roosevelts: Barboursville,W. Va. August, 23, [1934] Dear President & Wife; This is the first time I or Any of my people wrote Any president. And I am here to ask you for $8.00 to get me a winter coat. This may seem very strange for a girl 12 years old to do but my father is a poor honest working Laundryman and he works on a percentage a week we have 10 in our fam-

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ily and my father does not have enough money to get him a bottle of Beer. He is a democrat and did all he could to have you voted. The N.R.A. [National Recovery Administration] is coming alone fine. As little as I am I know just as much about depression as a grown person. I’m 12 years old and am in the 8th grade curly hair Brunette & brown eyes & fair complexion & weigh 76 lbs. Hoping to hear from you soon I remain your true Democrat J. A. G. p.s. We would have loved if Mrs. Roosevelt when she was visiting Logan to come around to our small town she was only about 60 miles from here.

Roosevelt’s “First New Deal,” pro-business and conservative, had not made a significant dent in the economic depression, and the popularity and at times adulation that FDR received was beginning to decline. And then, the Left began to act up.

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a

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The governor of Louisiana, a large, charismatic, colorful man loved to make speeches and talk to his people, especially the poor. He loved attention and wore clothes that looked like “an explosion in a paint factory.” Invited to dine with FDR during the 1932 Democratic Convention, he showed up wearing a patterned sports jacket, orchid shirt, and pink tie—to the gasps or amusement of all. He even wrote a song that he would perform for the citizens of his state: “Ev’ry man a King, ev’ry man a King/For you can be a millionaire/But there’s something belonging to others/There’s enough for all people to share.” His name was Huey Long and by 1935 he would be the biggest thorn in FDR’s side, but the governor, a populist at heart who loved to attack the wealthy ruling class and wanted to “share the wealth,” was just one of the many people on The Left who had turned on Roosevelt and the First New Deal. Soon, this “Thunder on the Left,” as the famous historian Charles Beard called it, would force the president to reevaluate his policies up to that point and eventually find new approaches and new solutions to the depression.

FDR, New Deals, and the Limits of Power

Figure 4-8 Huey Long

In the 1930s, there was a serious “left” in the U.S.—many millions of Americans who thought FDR was too friendly with big business, the corporations, and the bankers and not doing enough to help the common man who was being destroyed by the depression. They believed that the very few who had great riches needed to be taxed or somehow forced to use their wealth to help the poor [much like the “99 percent” in the Occupy Movement of 2010]. Union memberships reached all-time highs with many who joined identifying as Socialists or Communists. In the 1932 presidential election, Norman Thomas and William Z. Foster, the Socialist and Communist candidates, combined for nearly a million votes. Four years later, progressive candidates who criticized the New Deal got over 1.1. million votes. Floyd Olson, the governor of Minnesota from the Farm-Labor Party, went so far as to say “I am not a liberal, I am what I want to be - I am a radical... What is the ultimate we are seeking? The ultimate is a Cooperative Commonwealth.” But it wasn’t just governors and politicians who were attacking from the left; there was a strong cultural left as well. Just as today’s artists like Bruce Springsteen, Chuck D, or Ani DiFranco or satirists like Stephen Colbert speak out on social issues, singers, playwrights, and others spoke out in the 1930s.

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Artists of all kinds helped create an oppositional culture, one that led people to think about American life in different, and more critical, ways. Marc Blitzstein, a composer, wrote an opera about working-class struggles called The Cradle Will Rock, directed by another famous artist, Orson Welles, and gained national attention when the Roosevelt administration, which had given him a grant for the work, pulled funding because it was too left-wing, forcing the cast to find an empty theater to put on the show themselves. Another playwright, Clifford Odets, wrote Waiting for Lefty [“Lefty” signifying socialism], which showed the struggles of workers and a strike against the taxi company where they worked. The best-known author of the time was John Steinbeck, especially famous for his Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Grapes of Wrath, the story of “Tom Joad” and his family, who left Oklahoma during the depression looking for a better life. Tom, as he’s about to leave a worker’s camp to avoid police who have implicated him in a murder, offers one of the more famous speeches in movie history, telling his mother that all people [especially in the horrors of the depression] are linked together and, even though he’ll be far away, his spirit will be with them: “I’ll be all around in the dark - I’ll be everywhere. Wherever you can look - wherever there’s a fight, so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever there’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there. I’ll be in the way guys yell when they’re mad. I’ll be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry and they know supper’s ready, and when the people are eatin’ the stuff they raise and livin’ in the houses they build I’ll be there, too.” While most famous for his fiction, Steinbeck was a political activist as well and particularly forlorn that most Americans were liberals and few went beyond that. “Socialism never took root in America,” he lamented, “because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.” Will Rogers was a popular critic too, a political humorist–sort of a Jon Stewart or Colbert of his day. Rogers made movies, wrote a newspaper column, traveled the country doing rope tricks, and taking jabs at political leaders. Rogers was particularly biting when it came to world affairs. “Our foreign policy is an open book - a checkbook,” he joked as a way to criticize the economic motives behind the U.S. role abroad. He added that he was “shocked” one day when he “saw a Marine on U.S. soil,” a reference to the frequent military interventions the U.S. conducted into other countries. But the most important cultural critic, maybe of the entire century, was Woodrow Wilson Guthrie, better known as just Woody.

FDR, New Deals, and the Limits of Power

Figure 4-9 Woody Guthrie

Guthrie was a political activist, a folk musician, and the inspiration for generations of singers and protestors to come, especially Bob Dylan. He was born in Oklahoma and wrote songs of the people who had been left on the margins– like the characters in Steinbeck’s plays, the farmers, the homeless, the “Okies.” Guthrie was deeply immersed in labor politics and culture, and his music reflected that. He made a working class hero out of Jesus Christ, who “said to the rich, ‘Give your money to the poor,’” and so the “bankers and the preachers” and the “cops and the soldiers” did him in, they “nailed Him in the air.” As noted, in “1913 Massacre,” he wrote of over 100 workers and their family members being killed when company thugs incited a stampede at a party at the Italian Hall in Calumet, Michigan. Wall Street was one of his favorite targets and “Jolly Banker” was one of his most biting songs. “Tom Cranker” is the jolly banker, and Guthrie mocks his pitch: “When your car you’re losin’, and sadly your cruisin’/I’m a jolly banker, jolly banker am I/I’ll come and forclose, get your car and your clothes/Singin’ I’m jolly banker, jolly banker am I.” Guthrie even made a folk hero out of the outlaw Pretty Boy Floyd, turning him from a criminal into a Robin Hood figure who helped the poor. Taking another swipe at bankers, he wrote, “but a many a starving farmer/ The same old story told/How the outlaw paid their mortgage/And

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saved their little homes/Others tell you ‘bout a stranger/That come to beg a meal/Underneath his napkin/Left a thousand dollar bill.” And he concludes, “yes, as through this world I’ve wandered/I’ve seen lots of funny men/Some will rob you with a six-gun/And some with a fountain pen/And as through your life you travel/Yes, as through your life you roam/You won’t never see an outlaw/Drive a family from their home.” But Woody Guthrie’s most lasting work was “This Land is Your Land”—a song he wrote as an angry response to Kate Smith’s patriotic anthem, “God Bless America.” “This Land” was a song about democracy and citizenship in which Guthrie claimed that all people, not just the rich and powerful, owned America and had a right to its bounty, “from the Red Wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters.” He also took a dig at the ruling class in a stanza that is hardly known: “As I went walking I saw a sign there/And on the sign it said “No Trespassing”/But on the other side it didn’t say nothing/That side was made for you and me.” With his music and his dedication to the downtrodden, Woody Guthrie made millions of Americans aware of the hardships of depression life and helped put pressure on the politicians to do something about it. But more than cultural figures, politicians put real heat on FDR, and did so while the First New Deal was just getting started. Roosevelt’s focus on the production side of the economy through programs like the NRA and AAA, which paid companies and farms to reduce production to raise prices, had done little, so now many of those who had supported him in the 1932 election were criticizing him for taking care of the bosses instead of the workers and the poor, and seeking alternatives to his programs. One of the first politicians to take on the New Deal was already well-known, Upton Sinclair. After writing The Jungle he had remained active in radical politics [he wrote the novel Oil in 1927 upon which the movie There Will Be Blood was based in 2007] and in 1934 decided to run for California governor. Sinclair created a movement he called EPIC, or End Poverty in California, in which he recommended that the state take over shut-down factories and farms and turn them over to the unemployed so they could make goods they could use themselves, furniture and so on, or grow crops for their own consumption, basically a state-managed collective economy. This was far more radical than anything the New Deal ever considered and raised charges of Socialism. The people of California, however, saw it differently and Sinclair easily won the Democratic primary for governor. At that point, conservatives and big business were

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alarmed and spent more money on any state campaign up to that time to defeat Sinclair, a task made easier by FDR’s refusal to even endorse him and the distance kept by New Dealers from EPIC. While Sinclair may have been in the same party as the president, EPIC was not rooted in capitalist ideas like the New Deal was. Sinclair lost the general election by a large margin, but the message to FDR, and thus EPIC’s legacy, was clear—he had to do something to make the lives of ordinary Americans better in order to avoid radical alternatives. Also coming out of California was Dr. Francis Townsend, who, concerned with the problems of the elderly, devised an intricate pension plan. Funded by a 2 percent “transactions tax” [a tax paid by the seller on every commercial, business, or financial transaction] each American at age 60 would receive $200 a month. The recipient had to be retired, not a criminal, and, most importantly, had to spend the entire amount every month—and thus create greater consumption and put young people to work as the elderly could now retire. Within a couple years of announcing his program, it was immensely popular, with 56 percent of Americans supporting it. Over 7000 “Townsend Clubs” with 2.2 million members existed, and in 1936 Townsend delivered petitions with over 10 million signatures to Congress to demand a pension plan. As with Sinclair, Townsend’s ideas did not succeed, but the New Deal got the message from his popularity, and the issue of pensions would soon be addressed. Probably the most vocal and noted critics of FDR were the United Mine Workers leader John L. Lewis [discussed below], who called the NRA the “National Run Around,” and Huey Long. Long undoubtedly had the largest following, and got under Roosevelt’s skin more than any others. In a February 1934 radio talk, Long announced his “Share Our Wealth” program, which rivalled the Populists of the 1890s in its critique of the affluent and proposed solutions to redistribute wealth. Long proposed that personal fortunes be limited to $50 million [$870 million today] and then lowered it to between $5-8 million [$90-140 million today]. He would also limit annual income to $1 million [$17 million or so now], and limit inheritances to $5 million [about $90 million in 2014]. His plan would also guarantee every family an income of at least $2200, free college tuition or vocational training, veterans benefits and healthcare, a 30 hour work week, pensions for everyone over 60, and state regulation of production to keep prices stable and affordable. Long in par-

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ticular hated oil companies, successfully sued Standard Oil for unfair business practices, and even suggested if he became president, he would only tax oil corporations, at exorbitant rates of course. Long was charismatic and likeable, so posed a threat to the New Deal. Indeed, he frustrated even his own party members when he frequently made speeches claiming that there was almost no difference between Democrats and Republicans and calling for a redistribution of wealth [“but there’s something belonging to others/There’s enough for all people to share”]. By mid-1935, over 7.5 million Americans had joined over 27,000 Share Our Wealth clubs. There were no membership dues, and the clubs were open to both Whites and Blacks who would meet regularly to discuss Long’s ideas and try to develop ways to put his plans into practice. When the KKK and other racist groups attacked Long for including Blacks in his clubs, he responded that he was trying to help the poor, and African-Americans were the poorest group in the U.S. By most accounts, Long was thinking about running against FDR for the Democratic nomination in 1936, but in September 1935 he was assassinated, shot by the relative of a political enemy in the state capital of Baton Rouge. His political ideas, however, lived on, and continued to challenge the New Deal even after Long’s death.

T he “S econd ” N ew D eal The “Thunder” from leftist critics of the New Deal, and, even more, the continued high rates of unemployment, low wages, homelessness, and hunger made it necessary for FDR to adapt. Roosevelt was a dedicated Capitalist, to be sure, but a brilliant politician as well, so he was never so ideologically rigid that he could not try out new ideas or programs. Consequently, he listened, at least to some degree, to his critics, and in 1935 began to create new policies to address the depression, and that became known as the Second New Deal. Finally, to some extent, FDR was addressing the problem of the depression as a problem of consumption, and he took measures to create jobs so that typical needy Americans could get wages and thus buy the goods they needed to survive. Many of his critics claimed that Roosevelt had adopted the ideas of John Maynard Keynes, the British economist who argued that the main economic purpose of government was to increase employment—and thus wages and purchases—and that, contrary to the “bible” of the balanced budget, the

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state should be willing to run deficits, by borrowing money, in order to create programs to make work for people in need. Roosevelt, although he would indeed increase government spending to new levels and engage in deficit spending, for a time, was not really a Keynesian. He was a traditional, classical liberal Capitalist who believed in private enterprise and balanced budgets, and so the Second New Deal would make lives better for many but would not successfully end the depression. Still, in key areas, FDR’s policies did make a difference, especially with regard to pensions, job creation, and labor rights. Collectively, the Second New Deal referred to programs enacted between 1935 and around 1938 which focused on the needs of people rather than corporations. As such, it stepped away from the pro-business conservative ways of the First New Deal and tried to resolve the problems raised by FDR’s leftist critics, and the problem of consumption, while of course preserving corporate Capitalism. This New Deal made some small improvements in the lives of women and minorities. Most government program jobs went to men, but about 500,000 women did get work because of NRA codes for the garment industry, and, though symbolic, FDR’s wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, became an outspoken advocate for women, minorities, and the poor. Most famously, when a conservative group, the Daughters of the American Revolution, refused to allow the Black opera singer Marian Anderson to perform at Constitution Hall in Washington, Eleanor resigned her membership in the group and instead had Anderson give a concert for over 75,000 people at the Lincoln Memorial. Her husband, however, was reluctant to help Blacks due to his need for votes in the South so he did little to create work for African-Americans, kept CCC camps segregated, and did not even fight for anti-lynching laws in the South. Mexican workers were treated even worse. Because unemployment was so high, millions of migrant workers in agriculture were deported, even children born in the U.S. and thus citizens. Native Americans, with the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 did gain tribal control over some of their lands, and were no longer under the jurisdiction of state courts, where they usually did not receive justice. Farmers did better, as Congress created new laws, including a second AAA to subsidize them for not growing crops and to reduce crop acreage. And many typical Americans were able to get lodging as the United States Housing Authority, created by Congress in 1937, built new homes for over 500,000 Americans.

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But the centerpiece of this second New Deal consisted of 3 new laws: the Social Security Act, the creation of the Works Progress Administration, and the Wagner Act for labor. With these new programs, Roosevelt got the government more involved than ever in the economy, ran up more peacetime debts than before, and made the state responsible for employment and consumption to a greater degree. The problem of the depression, FDR finally acknowledged, was a problem of consumption, so he had to find ways to get money into working people’s hands so they could buy the necessities of life. One of the first measures, and probably the most successful, became law on August 15th, 1935. For the first time, all working Americans would be guaranteed a government-backed pension [similar to Townsend’s plan] known as Social Security, when they retired or if they became disabled, they or their survivors would receive benefits if they died in industrial accidents or before they themselves could receive their own benefits, which amounted to about $20 a month initially. The Act also included Unemployment Compensation [or Unemployment Insurance] to provide pay to workers a percentage of their wages for a limited amount of time when they were laid off due to the economic crisis. The Act was financed through a double tax—both employers

Figure 4-10 Social Security poster featuring an old man

FDR, New Deals, and the Limits of Power

and labor would have money taken by the government [the so-called FICA tax still on pay stubs today] and put into the Social Security fund until the workers were eligible to receive it. While many industrialists opposed the Act because of the contributions they were being forced to make, FDR had plenty of corporate support for Social Security, including the heads of many of the biggest banks like Chase Bank and Goldman Sachs, the directors of Kennecott Copper and the U.S. Rubber Company, executives from Proctor & Gamble, and Henry Harriman, the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. With such ruling class support, it was certain that Social Security would be much different than Townsend’s more radical plan. In fact, it had several flaws. There were many exemptions, so farm workers, domestics, and those who worked for themselves were not covered. More so, since it was funded by taxes on both bosses and workers, it actually took money out of circulation at a time when more purchasing power was needed. But, for the elite, the Act stabilized Capitalism. It raised people’s expectations for the future by giving them a stake in the economic recovery—if the depression eased, then they would have more money to invest in their pensions, so it was in everyone’s interests to fix the economy. It was, however, a conservative program in that it maintained the current capitalist structure of ownership, production, and distribution, and it included most Americans, including the wealthiest, which is why it remains an important program today. It did not take from the wealthy and give to the impoverished, nor did it give the recipients—laborers—any decision-making rights regarding taxation or benefits. But it did, especially for the aged, create more hope that they would soon have some money to spend and sent the message that Roosevelt was listening to the complaints of average Americans. FDR also reached out to labor, signing the so-called Wagner Act to allow workers to legally form unions and bargain with their employers in 1935 [see section below]. But, in terms of addressing the depression, the creation of the WPA, the Works Projects Administration, on April 8th, 1935 was much more vital. The WPA put the government in the business of creating jobs in peacetime as never before, 8 million total with a peak of 3.3 million in 1938, and thereby providing wages and increasing consumption, which was the central issue of the depression. The WPA was a response to the criticism of people like Sinclair and Long, and it was most-funded government jobs program to

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Figure 4-11 WPA bridge

that time at $5 billiion in 1935 and $13 billion overall. An immense number of people benefitted from the numerous, over 250,000, WPA projects. Under the WPA, the government built 110,000 public buildings—including bridges, post offices, courthouses, hospitals and waterworks, 600 airports, 500,000 miles of road, almost 6000 new schools, 9300 auditoriums, 1000 libraries, 2300 stadiums, 52 fairgrounds and rodeo arenas, over 1600 parks, 3000 playgrounds, over 800 swimming pools, and countless handball and tennis courts, botanical gardens, horseshoe pits, ice-skating rinks, golf courses, and ski jumps. The WPA taught over a million Americans to read and even funded well known cultural figures like Thomas Hart Benton, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Orson Welles in its Federal Art Project. In one of its most enduring contributions, the WPA paid interviewers to travel throughout the South and collect “slave narratives,” that is to conduct oral histories with every living former slave they could find, thereby giving us our greatest understanding of slave life yet. The WPA, however, employed few Blacks, and few women for that matter. On the whole, however, it provided millions of poor Americans

FDR, New Deals, and the Limits of Power

Figure 4-12 WPA mural by Mitchell Jamieson entitled, “An Incident in Contemporary American Life,” depicting Marian Anderson’s concert at the Lincoln Memorial

with work, and thus wages, so they could buy basic items and thereby survive the depression. While attacked as “Socialism” or worse, the point of the WPA was, once more, to save Capitalism by preventing the poor from rebelling or seeking truly radical alternatives, but FDR publicly used new language to describe his programs. With this new, people-oriented, reform in place Roosevelt ran for re-election in 1936 as a “man of the people” against the “malefactors of wealth.” In his speeches he attacked the ruling class [even as he was working with it and trying to preserve it], saying “they are unanimous in their hate for me—and I welcome their hatred.” The class rhetoric worked, and FDR and the Democrats won huge victories in the elections. And, it seemed, the New Deal was working. By 1937, the GDP was up to $93 billion, the highest since 1929, private investment numbers were back to 1930 levels, the unemployment rate was down to 14 percent, wages were back to predepression numbers, and a real recovery from the depression seemed likely. FDR, using government activity and deficit-spending, seemed to have finally found an effective way to confront the economic crisis. But Roosevelt, as

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noted, was not a Keynesian, and the huge debts accruing due to programs like the WPA were beginning to alarm him. So, on the verge of success, FDR killed the very policies that had improved the U.S. economy to that point.

R oosevelt ’ s R ecession

and the

N ew D eal ’ s L egacy

Just as it seemed that the depression was going away and economic health was returning, FDR switched gears. He turned away from the federal programs to create jobs, and thus create deficits, and caused what came to be known as the “Roosevelt Recession” of 1937-1938. FDR began to worry about inflation and the growing deficit, since so much money had been put into circulation, so took measures to slow the economy down. Pressured by Treasury Department officials, FDR raised taxes. He cut funding for the WPA and other programs, and even cancelled some projects already under-construction in order to reduce the deficit [today, these same issues are being debated by “liberals” and advocates of “austerity”]. Many New Deal relief measures were reduced or eliminated, so millions had to go back to digging through garbage cans for food. From the fall of 1937 through the summer of 1938, unemployment, which had fallen every year of the New Deal, went back up to nearly 20 percent, or 4 million workers losing their jobs, while industrial production declined by 37 percent, and wages fell by 35 percent. In addition, the Federal Reserve “tightened” the money supply, making it harder to get loans. With far less money in circulation, consumption naturally fell significantly, and any hint of recovery was gone. FDR has snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, as economic and social conditions deteriorated in 1937 and the Great Depression was not close to ending. Human misery continued, as a letter from a young girl in Missouri to Eleanor Roosevelt in 1939 showed I am a 17 year old girl. I am writing to you for help in solving a very serious problem. My mother is very ill she may not live long. She has been sick for about 8 years. My step-dad is also sick. My mother has cancers. My step-dad has T.B. He has been sick for a long time too. . . My step-dad is a World’s War Veteran. He gets $100.00 a month. But that isn’t enough to

FDR, New Deals, and the Limits of Power

keep us on. It would be enough if we weren’t in debt. We are in debt about $500. Everything we get we get on Credit. We have gotten in so deep in debt that we can’t get out. We are desperate. We can’t think of any way out. . . We can’t go to school because we are in debt. . . . We don’t even have decent clothes to wear and with winter coming on we don’t know what we’re going to do for bed clothes. Nothing we have is paid for. . . . We are worse off than a W.P.A. worker . . . sometimes it makes me so blue just thinking of it I cry and sometimes think I’ll kill myself but that wouldn’t solve anything for the rest of them. Collectors come every day wanting their money but we haven’t got it. When pay day comes we have about 1/ 10 of what it takes to pay up. It is about to run me crazy. You can investigate us if you want to. We have no friend because of debt. I need glasses but I can’t get them because I haven’t any money. We didn’t have any Christmas last year and I guess we won’t this year. You have heard my story so please please please help us if you can because you don’t know what it’s like to be in debt. If you want a list of the people we owe I will send them. Respectively Yours. N. C.

FDR, despite the attacks by his political enemies that he was a radical or a leftist, was not even a Keynesian, though programs like the WPA seemed to have features of Lord Keynes’s ideas in them. He thought that the jobs programs and economic stimulus policies he had pursued had done enough and the depression was ending, so cutting back on jobs and other “pump-priming,” or economic stimulus, policies would create a balanced budget, which was his priority. Instead, of course, they reduced money and wages and that was deadly for the New Deal. In mid-1938, FDR did go to Congress and get $3.75 billion in new spending, and the Fed eased up on credit, so there was

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a slight bump in the economy. At the same time, he launched what some referred to as the “Third” New Deal, putting an assistant attorney general, Thurman Arnold, in charge of a campaign to file anti-trust suits against major economic conglomerates [such as the American Medical Association] for their anti-competitive policies, collusion, and other illegal activity. FDR hoped that holding the biggest businesses accountable would force them to spend and hire and thus help the economy rebuild, a strategy that had failed already under Hoover and in the First New Deal. Little came of the effort. Still, America in 1938 was substantially different than it had been when the depression hit in 1929 or when FDR took office in 1933. To his supporters, Roosevelt conducted a “largely successful attempt” to increase the federal government’s power to restore economic stability, often through regulation, and promote growth, sometimes with deficit spending, and thus increase mass purchasing power. FDR was not trying to create a new, collective economy, but to reform Capitalism and make future depressions less likely, and he clearly did that. To some degree, Roosevelt even saw that deficit spending and monetary expansion [increasing the money supply by the Fed] could help stimulate growth. But doing so within the context of the domestic economy was not a possibility. Giving the “public” sector—the government that build roads and post offices and airports and schools and so on—so much money and responsibility was too similar to Socialism for his critics, so he dared never come too close to that. What ultimately made the New Deal seem a success, and solidify FDR’s historical reputation as a great president, was the coming war in Europe [as we will see in the next chapter], where FDR went “all-in” with Keynesianism, but with the military, not “radical” public programs for buildings or jobs. Through it all, Roosevelt remained a Capitalist, and a moderate one at best.

FDR, L iberals ,

and

L abor

The 1937 Recession came especially as a blow to working people and the poor, who more than anyone needed an economic recovery so they could simply purchase food, housing, health care and other necessities. In the rebound of 1935, worker’s lives had improved and the New Deal, and in particular the Wagner Act, got a great deal of credit for the increased standards of living. Indeed, if any issue can be used to understand and evaluate the New

FDR, New Deals, and the Limits of Power

Deal and FDR, it is probably his approach to labor. After all, well over 10 million Americans were unemployed and many more were on relief and hungry and lacked medical attention. Because of that, FDR’s policies toward labor, and the response, and often resistance, of working men and women is undoubtedly important to study. The 1930s are generally seen as a period of great accomplishment for labor—for workers and especially unions. Coming off years of anti-labor state violence, court decisions, and the depression, workers and unions finally made headway in the New Deal years. Roosevelt and New Deal Democrats—mostly liberals—stood up for workers and helped them organize unions, go on strike, and get better wages. Or so the story goes . . . None of those interpretations is necessarily wrong. Labor did emerge from the New Deal in a much stronger position than before, with legal rights to organize unions, bargain for wages and work conditions with their bosses, and in some cases legally strike. None of these accomplishments should be understated—they were vital to making life better for working men and women in the “new Capitalism.” But the New Deal did not bring about any fundamental change in labor’s role in the economy. Nothing “radical” emerged out of the New Deal—no Socialism, no Labor Party, no equal power with Capital. Labor achieved reform, sometimes meaningful, but it was subordinate, and clearly so, to the bosses. FDR fixed the system to make Capitalism stronger, and that meant, as New Deal supporters often said, “giving labor a seat at the table,” which meant that unions would be consulted on certain economic policies and would have certain legal rights of organization, bargaining and strikes—conditions certainly preferable to industrial violence. That transformation helped the U.S. recover from the depression to some extent, but firmly within the Capitalist system and without any major changes that affected the relationship between the corporations, which had power, and the people who were organizing and joining unions, who did not have power. When FDR took office, about 15 million Americans were unemployed and most banks had closed. Labor understood that the problem of the depression was inadequate consumption, and wanted jobs and wages so it could purchase the necessities for living. Labor was also tired of the repression by state and company police and the “cooperation” of the 1920s that did little to make their lives better. One of the Roosevelt’s first decisions was to appoint Frances Perkins as Secretary of Labor—the first woman to ever hold a cabinet position.

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She, like FDR, was a “patrician” reformer, one with a sense of obligation [noblesse oblige] because she or he came from a higher class to help those lower on the social ladder. They did not necessarily see labor relations as negotiations between equal partners, but as a form of charity work. Their first approach was similar to Wilson’s policy during the Great War, namely to put the economy on a crisis [or “wartime”] footing and make significant efforts to fix the crisis. Similar to Hoover in 1929, FDR wanted industry, agriculture, finance, and labor to make adjustments—reduce production, cut back on hours of labor, guarantee collective bargaining, stabilize prices, in short, to engage in national economic planning. But FDR became president 4 years after the depression hit and worsened, and went back-and-forth on his policies more than his predecessor, at times being a conservative reformer and occasionally posing as an activist or even “radical” advocate of labor. For Roosevelt, again like Hoover, the key point was that he and his New Deal firmly supported Capitalism, with its private ownership of the means of production, free from state control. So FDR would reform, smooth out, and tweak the system, but state control or even coercive central government involvement, let alone anything like workers control or redistribution of wealth, or of course Socialism, were never even considered. FDR’s priorities were to fix industry and agriculture rather than make labor his principal area of concern. In the NIRA, he did affirm minimum wage laws, forbade child labor, and support unions and collective bargaining in section 7a, but employers were always hostile to it and Roosevelt vacillated between supporting Capital and labor at different points. He did, however, assure industrialists that 7a was “not a law to foment discord and it will not be executed as such. This is a time for mutual confidence and help.” Hoover could have uttered those very same words. For labor, the effect of 7a varied. With the UMW, it helped increase membership significantly as John L. Lewis told the miners that the president [he did not specify whether he meant FDR or himself] expected them to join the union, and mine operators were confused too so the workers’ union took advantage of the situation. Lewis assumed that since the UMW was supporting the New Deal that FDR would defend their interests—unions, bargaining, and strikes—but the president, once more like Hoover, wanted to avoid conflicts in the coal industry. The steel industry was more difficult. Steel companies opposed unions and came up with schemes to create company unions—

FDR, New Deals, and the Limits of Power

unions located within the plant and organized by the bosses with no outside labor representation allowed—and they fired labor activists and militants. Workers, in response, conducted a series of strikes in various industries in 1933, making the class struggle even more intense. At that time, under 7a, the success of union activism often depended on the size of the company involved. In smaller firms, if wages were the biggest cost of production, then collective bargaining was more effective as such companies could not afford losing production time to strikes. So the garments unions, with fewer employees, saw their memberships rise, but larger firms in textiles and other industries just refused to recognize organized labor, and the NRA backed them up, so strikes were commonplace [see next section on labor strikes and conflicts in the 1930s]. The man appointed by FDR to head the NRA, Hugh Johnson, was a supporter of industry, making labor’s task difficult. As Johnson explained it, “it is not the duty of the administration to act as an agent to unionize labor, in any industry and . . . it will not so act.” Roosevelt, seeking a compromise to keep labor from becoming too “radical” and maintain industrial peace created an agency in August 1933 to require employers to allow union elections with secret ballots. Employers were increasingly frustrated, and sometimes furious, at the mixed signals from the NRA and FDR. But corporations knew that Hugh Johnson was an ally. He ruled that company unions remained legal and he endorsed the open shop. Section 7a, he emphasized, “is not intended to enthrone any national labor organization or to disobey any local organization.” FDR was on board too, explaining “just as in 1917 [World War I] we are seeking to pull in harness, horses that kick over the traces will have to be put in a corral.” Labor was adrift. Certain labor officials were friendly to workers, but had virtually no power; the bosses were still anti-union and the NRA administrators seemed to be as well. FDR, like a yo-yo, kept changing his own opinions, leading Lewis and others to criticize the NRA as the “National Runaround.” Labor militancy was all but dead by 1934. As in the 1890s, early 1900s, and during the Red Scare, corporations in basic industries had defeated unionism and maintained the open shop. Labor, and key allies like Senator Robert Wagner of New York, kept up the fight, though. They understood that better wages for workers was the key to creating mass purchasing power, that the problem of the depression was a problem of consumption. Wagner’s staff wrote a bill that he introduced into

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the senate on March 1st, 1934. It outlawed company unions, required employers to recognize independent unions voted upon by the workers, guaranteed the right to strike, endorsed Department of Labor conciliation during disputes, established 7-person boards for grievances, and allowed the closed shop if state law said it was legal. Since the NIRA had allowed corporations to form trade associations, Wagner pointed out, workers deserved the same right to organize collectively too. Corporations opposed Wagner’s bill immediately, especially the auto industry. The NRA code for the carmakers gave them the right to hire and fire “on merit” so they were able to dismiss union advocates at will. Ford, GM, and the others could do more-or-less as they wished without any fear of legal consequences. In fact, FDR lectured labor, not industry, on its responsibilities and ethical industrial behavior. Corporations and their allies posed the Wagner bill in alarmist, political terms: “class conflict” or “harmony.” For Americans, the choice was easy; class struggle was not part of the U.S. political tradition and the myth of harmony was accepted in education and media institutions. Still, after a series of strikes, in May Wagner amended his bill to exempt domestics [maids, nannies, and such], agricultural workers, and any establishment with 10 or fewer workers—that is to say, he excluded millions of workers from basic labor rights. One of Wagner’s allies, Senator David Walsh of Massachusetts, eased Americans who feared class conflict [meaning labor protest; corporate power was not usually considered class-oriented], explaining “the policy of the Government is founded upon the theory of collective bargaining, not upon the theory of class war, a conception foreign to industrial conditions in this country.” Even this amended version was too strong for FDR, who in June established a Steel Labor Relations Board, like the auto board, so that the steel manufacturers could establish their own codes for business, not be subject to federal laws. FDR’s goal was to achieve industrial peace, not help unions. The Vice-President of U.S. Steel was thrilled. “My guess is that” FDR’s actions “will end for the time being at last many of the troubles in that respect.” But, once more, workers took to the streets to use the leverage they had— the ability to withhold their labor and stop production. In 1934, there was one of the largest strike waves in U.S. history, and this forced FDR and the Democrats to move back closer to labor. Over 350,000 workers from Maine to Alabama went on strike, and many radicals took on leading roles as the

FDR, New Deals, and the Limits of Power

labor protests included workers from just about every type of political group. Roosevelt, unlike his cousin or other predecessors, maintained real neutrality during the strikes—he did not send in troops to crush the labor protests and sometimes sent in mediators to negotiate and try to help workers. Wagner and pro-union Congressmen were continuing their efforts and on June 19th, 1934, created one of the more important institutions in labor history, the National Labor Relations Board [NLRB]. The NLRB could investigate industrial disputes, require representative elections, and make employers bargain with a union chosen by the workers. For labor, the NLRB seemed like a huge change in luck, and workers began to demand union elections in various industries. Employers, however, continued to ignore the law and Hugh Johnson and FDR did little to support the NLRB or workers. Corporations believed that Roosevelt’s policies for the auto and steel industry associations had established the practice of individual bargaining and company unions, and the Justice Department would not bring suit against companies ignoring the NLRB [most notably in the Houde case]. FDR, after originally seeming to support the new Board, said in January 1935 that it could not have priority over code authorities where the NRA had jurisdiction, including in the auto, steel, textiles, newspapers, petroleum, and shipping industries—virtually the entire essential industrial base of America involving millions of workers. Making matters more difficult for labor, in February 1935 the courts upheld the rights of steel corporations to refuse union elections because manufacturing was not a form of interstate commerce [which the federal government could constitutionally regulate] so the NLRB could not make rules on relations between workers and bosses. NLRB supporters could only lament that employers had successfully defeated union elections “in every case.” Once again, Wagner entered the fray. In February 1935, he introduced new legislation to guarantee the rights of workers as free men; let them choose representatives at work without coercion by bosses; and abide by majority rule. Wagner wanted to eliminate the problems that caused strikes, not provoke them. His law was a conventional, liberal approach, not radical . . . Even so, FDR and Perkins remained reluctant, and they wanted the NLRB under the control of the Department of Labor—and more traditional liberals—rather than have it independent and staffed by mostly young lawyers who were far more “militant” than the typical New Deal bureaucrat. Even though cor-

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porate opposition was strong, this time labor succeeded, and FDR signed the new law, the National Labor Relations Act, better known as the Wagner Act, into effect on July 5th, 1935. Though often seen as “radical,” the new law was actually an alternative to more militant labor politics and it did not in any way affect any private property rights of corporations nor redistribute wealth or power from Capitalists to workers. It was a major transformation, and was radical compared to many previous labor policies in that it strengthened the rights of workers by putting the power of the state behind unionism. The NLRB allowed workers to organize and bargain collectively, outlawed yellow-dog contracts, oversaw elections, and had the right to go directly to circuit courts of appeal to enforce its decisions. The Wagner Act also was an economic policy, in that it recognized that the crisis of the depression required greater federal attention, and regulation, to create more income, and therefore increased consumption. None of the sponsors wanted Socialism or collectivism or cooperatives, but, like FDR, wanted to fix Capitalism to make it work better for everyone, including working men and women. The ruling class hated it because it put the federal government squarely into an area—labor relations—that had been seen as private and voluntary [the “free labor” system] and under its control, and because it acknowledged a difference, or conflict, in the interests of different classes. Industrial employers now believed [incorrectly] that the federal government was strongly pro-labor, but even so, continued, as they had always done, to resist the law and ignore NLRB rulings. Auto, steel, rubber and electric companies—with huge financial interests and employing hundreds of thousands of workers— still fired union activists, formed their own company unions, did not allow free elections, and counted on the Supreme Court to invalidate the Act in a short time anyway. There was reason for corporations to count on the courts, which had traditionally overturned labor law and began to muck up parts of the law quickly, declaring some of it unconstitutional. The Act, however, was also a political issue and with conservatives and corporations so vehemently opposed to labor and the Democrats, FDR and New Dealers in general had to count on union support in the upcoming 1936 elections more than ever. Even with the Wagner Act now in effect there were still labor problems. The AFL was still the largest labor organization in America, but it remained a collection of craft unions. John L. Lewis and the UMW, however, were part of a much

FDR, New Deals, and the Limits of Power

larger movement—an attempt to organized unskilled workers in mass industries like coal, autos, and steel. The AFL and Lewis had very different approaches to unionism—with the AFL seeking to maintain good wages for skilled workers while Lewis wanted to organize millions of workers in mines and factories all over America. Finally, the split became so great that Lewis and other “militants” formed a new union, the Congress of Industrial Organizations [CIO] in November 1935. FDR, already dealing with corporations, now had the AFL nipping at him, so in the coming elections he would count on liberal New Dealers and the CIO to get Democratic votes in 1936. It was the most “left” FDR would ever go. This marked the high point of Roosevelt’s and the New Deal’s support of labor. Senator Robert LaFollette of Wisconsin even chaired a committee to investigate corporate use of agents like the Pinkertons and Baldwin-Felts, strikebreakers, and industrial violence by employers. With such apparent support, the UMW alone spent $600,000 on the Democrats in the election, an immense amount at that time. FDR won the election overwhelmingly and labor union memberships rose by 3 million after the 1936 elections. Over 23 percent of non-agricultural workers were now unionized, the highest ever to that point. The 1936 elections had brought several pro-labor, pro-New Deal representatives into government, which gave unions more power than ever before [and probably more than they have had since]. So labor success, as in the Flint Strike [see next section] resulted because Democrats at the national and state levels did not give in to corporate demands, as they usually did. The law, and even a Supreme Court decision upholding the Wagner Act and NLRB in April 1937, were not as important as the political power labor enjoyed in 1936 and early 1937. Labor had a brief window of opportunity and favorable political circumstances, and that accounted for its success. Labor’s honeymoon was short, though. In 1937, after re-election, FDR backed away from his pro-labor position. He suggested adding justices to the Supreme Court [which had overturned many New Deal programs] and thus alienated a huge segment of Americans who believed the courts should not be a political institution [though they always were]. Even worse for labor, he moved away from economic policies that were finally fixing the economy and that led to the “Roosevelt Recession,” as already noted. Politically, both Republican and Democratic Congressmen, especially southerners, began to turn on labor, especially the Flint sit-in strikers. By early 1937, anti-labor

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Congressmen introduced new anti-labor laws and all over “labor’s allies were on weaker ground than their opponents.” For his part, Roosevelt was working more closely than ever with major industrialists. With Thomas Lamont of J.P. Morgan’s Banking House as his main contact, FDR and the head of U.S. Steel met in March 1937 and agreed on the approach to take with Steelworkers, who signed a contract just thereafter. The president also worked with Bill Knudsen and Walter Chrysler, directors at GM, and received support from the Harrimans and Carl Grey of the Union Pacific Railroad, as well as other railway titans. Walter Teagle of Standard Oil, Gerald Swope of GE, and Robert Armory, a leading textile producer, came on board with the New Deal and Wagner Act as well. As Labor Secretary Frances Perkins admitted, “it may be surprising to some people to realize that men looked upon as the conservative branch of the Roosevelt administration were cooperative in bringing about a new, more modern, and more reasonable attitude on the part of employers toward collective bargaining.” Obviously, had FDR been “radical,” these corporate leaders would not have worked with him. Now that public opinion was not pro-labor and FDR was on such good terms with corporate leaders, labor had another wave of strikes [again, see next section] but politicians who had been at least neutral before now turned against labor. Democratic governors in union-friendly states like Ohio and Indiana sent out the militias to break strikes and protect scabs, as they always had in the old days. Even FDR, less than a year after a re-election heavily supported by labor organization and money, said “a plague on both your houses” to workers and bosses during the so-called Little Steel Strikes. Roosevelt no longer saw the political benefit in Democrats being seen as so pro-labor, and they retreated from the CIO and mass-production unionism. Making matters worse, labor itself was having a virtual civil war. While the NLRB remained a friend to unions, employers and many politicians attacked it as pro-CIO, and found an unexpected ally in their fight against labor—the AFL! The CIO’s rival union, rather than show class solidarity and work out its differences over the importance of mass industrial unionism compared to smaller craft unions, joined forces with conservatives and corporate leaders to change the Wagner Act. This led to full-on attack on the CIO and the NLRB by Republicans, southern Democrats, corporations, and the AFL, all of which also began to “red bait”—accuse the CIO and NLRB of having Communists in its ranks or being otherwise influenced by “Reds”—pro-labor activists. In

FDR, New Deals, and the Limits of Power

particular, a congressional committee headed by Texas Representative Martin Dies—the House Un-American Activities Committee [HUAC] went after the CIO and labor “militants.” But the AFL’s opposition was the NLRB’s and CIO’s bigger problem. Without a united labor movement, sustaining the Wagner Act and getting fair treatment for workers would be all the more difficult. The AFL, however, was more interested in maintaining its position as the most important labor organization in America rather than work with other unions to help workers and its president, William Green, incredibly said “we will mobilize our political and economic strength in an uncompromising fight until . . . [the NLRB] is driven from power . . . The Board is a travesty on justice.” As a result, in the 1938 Democratic primaries, AFL-backed [and thus corporate-backed] candidates trounced New Deal and CIO-endorsed candidates, and in that November’s general election the Republicans gained 81 seats in the House of Representatives and 8 Senators. The new Congress, aided by corporations and the AFL, went after the Wagner Act and NLRB with great energy, but the Supreme Court did uphold it, as noted. For workers, the right to organize a union and have it bargain collectively was sustained, and union membership grew. Still, the hopes of so many labor leaders and NLRB activists of creating a new relationship between employers and workers was not realized. Labor law did become a permanent feature of the economy, but those brief moments of triumph in 1935-1936 faded, as the corporate leaders, aided by the AFL, regained their dominant power over the working class. FDR and New Deal Liberals, who spoke so passionately about their concern for labor and the poor, in the end were more concerned with maintaining traditional Capitalist relationships with corporations holding power over working people. The crisis of the depression and rise of radical unionism forced their hands to make changes, but it was always reform clearly within the established system of Capitalism. And even then, it was the effort of working men and women, time and again in the 1930s, taking to the picket lines that made what reform did occur a reality.

In

the

S treets . . .

The Wagner Act surely helped workers unionize and gain more workplace rights than ever before but, as seen above, FDR, the Congress, the conserva-

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tive AFL, and of course corporations all, to varying degrees, limited the impact of the new law. Ultimately, throughout the entire 1930s, workers themselves took things into their own hands and staged widespread protests and even violence on a level only seen in U.S. history in the late 1800s. Perhaps more than at any time before or since, America was witnessing class warfare, with working people taking on ruling class power. Americans were acting out the words of the old labor anthem The Internationale—“And so begins the final drama/In the streets and in the fields/We stand unbowed before their armor/We defy their guns and shields.” From the earliest days of the depression until the start of World War II, the American economy was defined by what seemed to be constant class struggle, with employers and workers going against each other in various industries from coast to coast. Even before FDR took office, class protest was evident. In England, Arkansas on January 3d, 1931, over 500 farmers carrying weapons marched on the business section of town, demanding food and announcing that they would just take it unless somehow provided to them at no cost. In Detroit, on July 9th, 500 unemployed men were turned away from a housing shelter so they began a “riot” that only ended when police were called in. In the biggest protest of that year, on August 5th, 1500 jobless and hungry men stormed the plant of the Fruit Growers’ Express Company in Indiana Harbor, Indiana, demanding that they be given jobs. The company called the police, who attacked the men with clubs and sent them away. A year later, working people began to hold “hunger marches,” the most violent of which took place on March 7th, in Detroit, home of the Ford Motor Company. As the march ended in nearby Dearborn, Ford called on the local police, its own security forces, and the fire department to stop the marchers. The fire department opened its hoses on the 5000 or so demonstrators and police began shooting into the crowd, killing 5 and injuring 50 while arresting dozens, including some men in their hospital beds. At a memorial for the marchers killed, over 80,000 attended and listened to a labor band play “The Internationale.” By comparison, the hunger march on the White House on Thanksgiving Day, with about 500 protestors demanding food and jobs, was barely noticed, despite their chants, “We march on starvation/We march against death/We’re ragged/We’ve nothing but body and breath/From north and from south/from east and from west/the army of hunger is marching.” As FDR took office, labor went on the offensive. The First New Deal was a pro-business program but the NIRA did include Section 7a, which labor saw

FDR, New Deals, and the Limits of Power

Figure 4-14 wo men fight during a Ford Motor Company strike

as a green light for organizing. Employers, however, did not view it the same way, so 1933-1934 saw one of the more intense strike waves in U.S. history, a real manifestation of class struggle. Labor militancy began even before FDR’s inaugural. In January 1933, the Briggs Manufacturing Company, which made auto bodies and upholstery and in 1925 alone had made an $11 million dollar profit [about $147 million today] was struck by workers who called it a “hell hole” and complained of starvation wages which were actually being cut, and long work hours. When Briggs ownership threatened another 20 percent wage cut, its workers went on strike, and Briggs had to withdraw the pay cut. A few weeks later, Briggs again announced a 15 percent cut in wages in its Motor Products division, and those 1500 workers went out. On January 23d, the entire workforce, over 10,000 strong, struck against Briggs and the company again had to fold, recognizing workplace committees, establishing a minimum wage of 30 cents and hour for women and 40 cents for men, which in some cases was more than a 50 percent pay increase. Walter Reuther, a union militant, later president of the United Auto Workers [UAW], and considered “the most dangerous man in Detroit,” was optimistic that “the present strikes in the automobile field are the most significant and encouraging developments in the history of the industry. The union claims it has the key men in the body

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plants organized 100 percent and production cannot be resumed without them. If the workers win it will be the beginning of a new era in the struggle of labor to emancipate itself.” [As for Briggs, the company owner, Walter, bought the Detroit Tigers in 1935 and refused to allow Blacks to sit in box seats and was the next-to-last team in baseball to sign an African American player]. Teachers in Chicago, not better off than the Briggs workers, fought back as well. They founded the Chicago Teachers Union and stayed on the job despite not getting paid, but raised over $100,000 for clothing and breakfast for their poor students. In March 1933, however, the teachers learned that janitors, many of them friends of local politicians, had gotten raises while their pay was being cut. They then marched on the mayor’s office and then on banks that had received millions in federal aid. The teachers were angrier in April, when over 5000 of them went to Chicago’s largest banks, turned over desks, smashed windows, and threw ink on the walls, demanding “Pay us! Pay us!” as they created havoc. This action got the mayor’s attention, and he announced that the teachers would receive 4 of the 9 months pay owed to them immediately. He did not, however, demand that local banks loan money to the schools, as they consistently had refused to do amid the depression, and watched as the Chicago Board of Education approved even more cuts in July. By the beginning of the next school year, tens of thousands of teachers and citizens protested so much that the Board had to repeal its cuts. In 1934, with money from the federal government, Chicago teachers finally got all their pay back. On the West coast, class struggle was just as contentious. In the spring of 1933, agricultural workers in California began a series of strikes that would last throughout most of the year. Almost 50,000 workers participated in these work protests, and most were under the direction of radical and communist cannery unions. All told, farm workers picking cherries, pears, peas, peaches, sugar beets, grapes, and, finally, cotton went on strike. The cotton strike in October was the largest, with over 12,000 workers leaving the fields. Cotton pickers wanted their pay raised from 60 cents to a dollar per 100 pounds picked [it had been $1.50 in 1929]. The growers themselves, while resisting higher wages, began to fear that the strikers might destroy the cotton crops so called out their private security forces to remove over 200 striker families from their homes and often attack them. The violence peaked on October

FDR, New Deals, and the Limits of Power

18th when ranchers organized a caravan of 30 cars to invade a union meeting in Pixley, then opened fire and killed three men and wounded many others. Finally, the federal government sent in troops to stop the violence, and 80 percent of farmers received a raise to 75 cents per hundred pounds. The farm owners were not required to recognize a union and many of the workers were migrants from Mexico, and there were mass deportations of those who had struck. Worse for the migrant workers, laws like the Wagner Act and Social Security exempted agricultural workers, so they could not even get the full benefits of their labor. Not far away, in Los Angeles, garment workers, mostly Mexican women, struck as well. The garment industry was doing well, valued at $3 million, but it hired immigrants, about 75 percent of the work force, to keep wages low. By the fall of 1933, they demanded union recognition, a 35 hour work week, minimum wages, the elimination of home-work [completing jobs at home when not done at the sweatshops], and safer working conditions. The employers refused. On October 12th, the women went on strike, with over 3000 picketing, and stayed out for 26 days. Many of the women tried to physically stop scabs from entering the workplaces and the Los Angeles Police Department arrested 50 strikers for unlawful picketing and assault. While they claimed they were protecting the workers, in truth the police department’s “Red Squad”—a special unit in all major cities created to investigate and harass unions and other militant groups—was protecting the interests of the sweatshop owners. Finally, in early November, the strikers went back to work, with a minimum wage, a 35 hour week, and recognition of a union with over 2600 members. In Wisconsin, milk farmers were in a state of rebellion for most of the year. Milk prices had fallen seriously due to the depression so milk farmers began to withhold production in a series of strikes in February, May, and then October-November of that year. They set up roadblocks to stop milk deliveries, 5000 marched on the capital at Madison and were met by tear gas and mass arrests, and they then dumped 34,000 pounds of milk in Racine, where Guardsmen shot 2 teenagers and killed one. In response, some farmers tainted over 25,000 pounds of milk with kerosene. By fall, the third wave, the strikes were more violent. Farmers bombed 7 creameries and dynamited 8 cheese factories, destroying tons of milk and other dairy products. By the time the strikes subsided—and the AAA subsidies kicked in—farmers had lost about

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$10 million in dairy products due to the protests and class resentment in Wisconsin was higher than ever. While FDR had to confront all these labor protests immediately upon becoming president, events in the following year would be even more difficult. Throughout 1934, one of the biggest strike waves in U.S. history hit—with workers in countless industries from coast-tocoast attacking the shortcomings of the New Deal and demanding that Roosevelt do more to help the “common man,” the person who more than anyone voted him into office. From April to June 1934, workers at Auto-Lite, an auto parts company in Ohio, struck for union recognition and higher wages. By late May they held rallies that attracted up to 6000 supporters. Eventually, the sheriff called out local police and officers from nearby municipalities. The Auto-Lite private forces used tear gas on the protestors and attacked them with fire hoses, iron bars, and gunfire. The crowd was virtually unarmed, as it had to collect bricks and stones to throw at the police and through factory windows, and hand-tohand fighting ensued. National Guardsmen then came in as reinforcements, with machine guns, but the strikers refused to retreat and the class war continued, with the Guard firing on the crowd of strikers, killing 2 and wounding over a dozen. Finally, the bosses feared that the “Battle of Toledo” had gone too far; their factories were shut down, and thereby not producing goods and making money, and the violence was escalating to alarming levels, raising fears of radicalism like the Wobblies and other groups in the late 1800s had. AutoLite finally relented, recognized the union, gave workers a pay raise, and agreed to rehire all the workers they had fired because they feared a renewal of union violence. Direct action by the working class, not New Deal support or laws, made success possible for labor in Toledo. As the Toledo strike raged, Teamsters in Minneapolis, Minnesota who had been refused recognition by city officials went on strike. On May 21st and 22d, over 20,000 strikers and supporters began to protest throughout the city, and local police attacked the strikers and the city seemed to give in. Within weeks, however, it had still refused to acknowledge the union, so the strike resumed. Heavily armed police with scab workers behind them attacked the strikers, fired into a crowd, and killed 2 and wounded 65—many shot in the back. Again, the stakes had become too high and the threat of radical politics too great, so Minneapolis gave in on May 25th, recognizing the union and meeting their wage and workplace demands. Not long thereafter, in July, two workers died and 40 others were injured when the National Guard used tear gas, rifles,

FDR, New Deals, and the Limits of Power

and shotguns to break up a strike by workers of the Kohler Company, in Kohler, Wisconsin. The owner blamed Communists and “outside agitators” for the strike, while the workers refused to yield, and labor conflict between workers and the Kohler Company continued, often violently, into the 1960s. Meanwhile, on the West coast, Longshoremen led by Harry Bridges were engaged in one of the most famous class conflicts of that era, in U.S. history in fact. Dockworkers had planned on striking in March, but agreed to a request from FDR to postpone it and try to negotiate a solution without a strike or possible violence. Their 6-week effort at talks failed and on May 9th, Longshoremen and Teamsters refused to move cargo from ships. The docks were shut down. By early July, the shippers were losing $100,000 a day but still not willing to give raises and improve work conditions for the dock workers, so the owners, with the support of the mayor and San Francisco police, decided to forcibly “open the port.” They attacked strikers with clubs, tear gas, and guns, and the dockworkers threw bricks and railroad spikes back at them—within hours one striker was dead and many others injured. A couple days later, on July 5th, forever known as “Bloody Thursday,” police fired into a crowd of 5000 and killed 2 workers and shot over a hundred oth-

Figure 4-13 Confrontation between police and strikers at the San Francisco general strike, 1934

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ers. The Governor sent 1700 National Guardsmen in to the ports to restore order—meaning to stop the strike—and they installed barbed wire and machine gun nests and were given orders to shoot to kill the protestors. The Teamsters, however, still refused to move any goods so over 250 ships were stalled between San Diego and Seattle, and the companies were now losing $1 million daily. The mayor and owners blamed “Communists” for the strike and violence and they clearly meant Bridges, who headed the Longshoremen and then called a General Strike for the entire city. All of San Francisco seemed ready to explode into class warfare as Bridges, the dockworkers, the Teamsters, and a number of Communists were refusing to back down against the violence of the state. But Bridges’ tactic worked. After shutting down the entire city for 4 days, the shippers finally gave in. The Longshoremen and Teamsters got their demands and more violence was averted. Again, rather than rely on politicians and drawn-out negotiations, labor took to the streets to get a living wage and better work conditions. As much as the San Francisco action alarmed Americans, perhaps the largest and most violent labor confrontation began on Labor Day, September 3d, in South Carolina when 65,000 textile workers walked out of work. Within a day it grew to over 200,000 workers, and a day later to 325,000. Angry confrontations and violence were the norm, none worse than on September 6th, at the so-called Honea Path Massacre in South Carolina. Sheriffs and armed strikebreakers fired on pickets there, killing 7 and wounding over 20. “It was on Labor Day,” an Atlanta labor lawyer observed, “that I witnessed the closest thing this country has had to a revolution.” The massacre caused more textile workers to join the strike, and it moved northward. In Rhode Island, a crowd of 3000-4000 came out after state troopers with machine guns and local police had fired on them earlier. They imprisoned scabs in the factory and then attacked and took possession of the plant until deputy sheriffs shot 5 and 300 more Guardsmen arrived on the scene. Within days, by September 12th, strikers and National Guardsmen were engaged in class struggle in every state of New England but Vermont and New Hampshire. In nearby Pennsylvania, about 50,000 textile workers went on strike. It had become one of the biggest labor actions in U.S. history and was growing. FDR implored the mill owners and workers to settle their disputes and urged the firms to rehire all the union organizers and workers they had fired, but the bosses refused, so as late as October 23d, over 340 mills remained shut down, while

FDR, New Deals, and the Limits of Power

textiles workers, branded “Communist” by many employers, were afraid to join unions because of the threat of retaliation from the bosses. Finally, the union called off the strikes when Roosevelt promised government mediation. For the men and women who had been out of work for months and suffered in violent confrontations with police and Guardsmen, there was a great disillusionment with both the New Deal and their own union leaders for accepting mediation. Overall, labor’s aggressive confrontations with the employers throughout 1934 paid dividends. The strikes stopped production, caused tens of millions of dollars in damages, and alarmed a ruling class which already feared radical, Socialist, anarchist, or other “militant” labor movements. The various class struggles of 1934 were like a siren to the Capitalists who preferred “stability” and “harmony” to violence. Consequently, as seen in the previous section, Senator Wagner finally got a bill passed to give workers the right to organize unions and have them established as labor’s bargaining agent. Worker activism in the streets, much more than any liberal politics, created the motivation for the Wagner Act, and union membership grew accordingly. The Wagner Act and the NLRB, however politically crucial to labor they were, had little impact at first. Employers just ignored it and even New Deal Democrats did little to defend union rights. So the direct action of workers confronting bosses, if anything, increased. Following their traditional pattern, employers simply ignored the law, continued to harass union activists, refused to negotiate with labor representatives, and denied requests for wage increases. Wagner Act notwithstanding, the class conflict between employers and workers returned to the streets, and 1936-1937 were turbulent years. In November 1935, barely a few months after the Wagner Act became law, rubber workers at the Goodyear truck tire department devised a new tactic for strikes, one that would define future labor struggles—the sit-down strike. The idea actually came from baseball team that had been unionized and refused to play in a game with a non-union umpire. In the industrial world, rather than refuse to enter the plant and set up pickets on the outside, workers inside the plant sat down on the job, refusing to work so that no goods were made and scabs could not be brought in to resume production. Goodyear had announced a plan to cut pay, lay off workers, and increase the pace of the factory line, so the workers just stayed in the plant and did no work. The first sit-down did not even last a day, and management restored pay cuts it was

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trying to make. On January 29th, 1936, over 2500 Firestone workers struck, aided by the CIO, and the bosses retreated and gave in to their demands in days. Within 3 months, 19 sit-downs took place in the Akron area and then they spread to Michigan. Labor had found an effective new weapon to use— staying inside the factory to stop production and keep scabs away. By the end of the year, the sit-down strike would forever change the course of labor history. As workers in Akron and elsewhere sat down, labor at the Remington Rand Typewriter factory, organized by the AFL, took a more traditional approach. After a long struggle to unionize, Remington Rand began to spread rumors that it was going to sell the company to a firm that would dissolve the union, and also that it had purchased a new site so it might close the union plants already in operation. The company president, James Rand, then made tensions increased when he published an article explaining the “Mohawk Valley Formula”—a process whereby the employers would break strikes and unions by intimidating workers, calling out police, fortifying plants with military weapons, employing scabs, and threatening to close the factories to get rid of the unions. The National Association of Manufacturers widely shared the article and corporations began to prepare for more class war. In fact, just one plant, the Youngstown Sheet and Tube Company, had 8 machine guns, 369 rifles, 190 shotguns, and 450 revolvers with over 10,000 rounds of ammunition, as well as 109 gas guns with 3000 rounds of gas ammunition. The Mohawk Valley formula was not original—as Haymarket, Homestead, Ludlow and so many other places had shown—but it had been shelved over the past decades of “industrial harmony.” Now the bosses were threatening violence once more, and the NLRB called the formula a “battle plan for industrial war.” In a huge report on the Rand situation, over 120 pages long, the NLRB forced the company to recognize the union and make restitution to the workers, while the LaFollette Committee was putting pressure on companies, like Youngstown Sheet and Tube, to disband their private armies. These events were the opening act to the greatest labor struggles of the century, taking place in late 1936 and early 1937 at plants across the country, but especially in Flint, Michigan. Labor was energized by the 1936 elections, the NLRB, and the creation of the CIO and decided it was time to unionize millions of workers in the mass industries like automobiles, steel, rubber, electricity, and others. In fact, the Steel Workers’ Organizing Committee [SWOC],

FDR, New Deals, and the Limits of Power

the group responsible for unionizing workers, committed $750,000 for union organizing after the 1936 election, an incredible amount for a union at that time. Not only had the CIO helped re-elect FDR but also created the SWOC and, in 1936, convinced the United Auto Workers [UAW] to join them and leave the AFL. The main target in the CIO’s sights was General Motors, which had made profits of $284 million that year and had spent over $1 million on anti-union activities such as intimidating pro-labor workers and surveillance [spying on union meetings and reporting back to employers]. When, in November and December, a wave of sit-down strikes occurred, it was clear that the class conflict that had been boiling throughout the 1930s was only going to get worse. That fall, workers in South Bend, Indiana, Kansas City, Detroit, and Atlanta, among others, conducted sit-down strikes. In December, at the Kelsey-Hayes Wheel Company, which made wheels and brake drums, Reuther, a toolmaker who had been fired by Ford years earlier and traveled in the Soviet Union where he developed radical politics, was the UAW representative and strike leader. When workers sat-in as their shift ended, about 500 men and women who supported them rallied to the plant to block the entrances and over a thousand more pro-labor local citizens jointed in the picket and protest. It was impossible for the company to get any products or machines from the plant and when it sent in spies and scabs, they were beaten and thrown out. By this time, Ford was running low on parts and told Kelsey-Hayes to settle. On Christmas Eve, the strikers received a pay raise to 75 cents an hour, a UAW-elected committee to conduct labormanagement affairs, a seniority system for layoffs and recalls, and a reduction in the speed of the assembly line. Just days later, on December 28th, over 7000 workers sat in at Cleveland’s Fisher Body Plant. The working class was organized and militant as it had not been since the 1890s, and its biggest battles were yet to come. Conditions at the Ford plant in Flint, Michigan were close to intolerable. Wages were low, there was no overtime or sick pay, and if machines broke down or the plant was changing models, it would close down and not pay workers. There were no safety requirements, no medical help at the work site. “Lots of workers lost fingers and hands and some were killed,” as one Flint worker described it. For those injured or killed, there was no compensation. In the summer, temperatures rose to over 100 degrees but the bosses refused to slow down the production lines. “You were allowed a half hour for lunch,

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if they let you take it. There were no breaks in an eight- or 10-hour day and half a day on Saturday,” the mill hand added. “If you wanted to get a drink of water or go to the bathroom, there were no relief people to cover for you. A lot of workers would soil or wet themselves.” As a result, hundreds of workers would die from the heat amid such conditions. On December 30th, 1936, all that was about to change. At 8 p.m. that night over 2000 workers in the GM Fisher Body Plant #1 in Flint sat down and refused to leave the factory. Like the strikers in other cities in the Fall of 1936, they wanted the UAW recognized as their union and bargaining agent, higher wages, a grievance system to judge illegal actions by employers, an end to GM sending work out to non-union plants, and safety measures to protect the assembly line workers from injury. Alfred Sloan, GM’s president, immediately announced that he would not even negotiate with the workers until they left the plant; they refused. The workers had a huge advantage in this action—they controlled the means of production, so no cars were being manufactured. They also had significant local support, and the families of the strikers and owners of local diners sent in food to the protestors, despite the efforts of Sloan and others to prevent that. GM even got a local judge to issue an injunction against delivering food to the strikers, but it was revealed that he owned $200,000 in GM stock, so he was disqualified from the case. Sloan then decided to play hardball and had the heat in the plants shut off, but the workers wrapped themselves in coats and blankets and refused to leave. On January 11th, local police tried to cut off the food deliveries to the plant, but UAW supporters outside fought back in the “Battle of the Running Bulls,” in which 16 workers and 11 police were injured. The food got through and the UAW then took over the Fisher Body #2 plant next to #1. When security forces again tried to rush the plant, the wives and children of the workers inside stood in front of the Guardsmen, basically daring them to attack women and kids. They backed down. On February 1st, the union took control of the huge Chevrolet #4 engine factory. GM’s output, usually about 50,000 cars a month, went down to just 150 in February. CIO President Lewis appealed to FDR to intervene on behalf of the GM strikers, given their support of his 1936 re-election, but FDR, and the governor of Michigan, refused to take sides and reprimanded Lewis for his request for federal intervention. Still, neither the president nor state officials, contrary to virtually every industrial strike to that point, did not send in troops to break the strike, a key ele-

FDR, New Deals, and the Limits of Power

ment in CIO-UAW success. Ultimately, events in Flint turned violent. Company police used tear gas to try to dislodge the strikers and shot into the plant. But the strikers retaliated with everything at their disposal. Given the frigid January temperatures, they shot water hoses as the police and, as one striker described it, “bring up those hoses . . . stones, bottles, bricks, hinges, bolts. Flying through the air, not much for defense but that’s all we have. Some of our men are down. Lousy, shooting a man when he has no gun.” After 44 days, with production of automobiles stopped and the federal and state government unwilling to break the strike, GM began to negotiate with UAW officials. In mid-February, GM gave up, recognizing the union and giving workers a 5 percent raise and, among other things, the right to speak to each other in the lunchroom. The Wagner Act might have established the right to unionize, but the freezing workers with water hoses and bolts trained at the police, along with the shutdown in business, actually led to UAW success. The government’s main contribution was doing nothing, but within the context of the historical struggle between Capital and Labor, that amounted to a significant advantage for the union. UAW membership soared, from 166,000 to over 400,000 by October and nearly 500 sit-down strikes took place in 1937. Just days after the Flint victory, one of the more unusual, and unknown, strikes took place when over 4000 Polish-speaking women working at 6 cigar factories in Detroit held a sit-in strike for over 2 months. Among other issues, their wages had been cut, some by 50 percent, during the depression, and their factories were filled with toxic tobacco dust. When the first workers decided to strike, they did not even have a union, having been rejected for membership by the AFL. The women began consulting with the UAW and CIO, however, and local politicians and plant owners finally responded, ordering a brutal crackdown in which they grabbed and twisted women’s arms, pulled their hair and clothing off, and even threw a pregnant supporter off her porch. The president of the UAW threatened a general strike unless the violence ended and the women’s union was recognized and a rally in defense of the cigarmakers drew over 200,000 supporters and the UAW’s representative Victor Reuther promised two auto strikes for every woman evicted from a factory. The resolve of the woman was crucial—they did not budge despite the violent backlash against them and on April 23d, 1937, they officially formed Cigar

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Workers Union Local 24 and affiliated with the CIO. Industry, however, still fought against the unions, leading to the violent Little Steel Strikes in the spring. The first sit-down strikes took on industrial giants like Ford and GM, which made such huge profits they could afford to pay higher wages, but there were smaller manufacturers which continued to refuse to recognize unions in their workplaces, and companies like Republic Steel and Youngstown Sheet and Tube stockpiled weapons and hired additional private police forces. This was the CIO’s next target, and led to another major strike wave in 1937. On May 26th, over 75,000 steelworkers both sat in and walked out of their plants at various locations in the Midwest, including Republic and Youngstown Sheet and Tube, for better wages, health benefits, and safer working conditions. As at Flint, supporters brought food and supplies to the strikers, even renting a plane to drop goods into the plant. The strike became most violent in Chicago, where police fired upon unarmed strikers and their supporters, killing 10 and wounding at least 100 others on May 30th. This event, which became known as the Memorial Day Massacre, shocked Americans, but did not motivate the factory owners to back down. The Little Steel conflict continued for several more years across the nation. In fact, in 1938, class conflict even reached Hawai’i, where dockworkers had gone on strike demanding wages equal to those of longshoremen on the U.S. west coast. The shippers called in scabs in August, and as unarmed strikers went to the docks to meet their ships police opened fire on them, wounding over 50 in the Hilo Massacre, including 2 women and 2 children. Labor tensions went down after that, mostly because the coming of war in Europe brought military contracts that led owners to reopen their plants and rehire workers. With production again secured, it was easier for bosses to accept unions and collective bargaining because profits were rising. Still, conflict continued until the U.S. actually entered the war. In fact, there were more strikes in 1941 than any year since 1937—in the auto industry, shipyards, transportation, the building trades, textiles, steel, and coal. In just that year there were almost 4300 strikes, with over 2 million workers involved, and 23 million man-hours of labor lost. Still, labor relations in the U.S. had changed, significantly, as workers could now form unions without being fired or intimidated by their bosses. But these changes were not radical; they did not challenge the capitalist system. While the sit-downs surely would have made the Wobblies smile, the major struggles of the 1930s were movements for inclusion, to receive rights and recognition,

FDR, New Deals, and the Limits of Power

and higher wages and better working conditions, inside the capitalist system. While there were a good number of real “Reds” in unions, particularly in the CIO, they did not conduct class war to change the economic system or redistribute wealth. Even when the employers “lost,” as in seeing the Wagner Act passed, they retained firm and overwhelming control of the workplace and the economy. The 1930s marked the high point for labor and class radicalism in America, but the outcome was never in doubt—U.S. Capitalists were firmly in control.

. . . A nd

in the

F ields

As the crisis of the depression continued, with poverty, unemployment, class struggle, and political turmoil all making recovery more difficult, Americans faced a horrific environmental disaster at the same time, the Dust Bowl, which roughly covered the period from 1931 to 1938. As agriculture became more mechanized, the amount of land being farmed grew extensively, and often led to overproduction [as during the crisis of the 1890s]. Between 1925-1930 farmers plowed over 5 million new acres of land and produced record crops

Figure 4-15 Dust cloud approaching Rolla, Kansas on April 14, 1935

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during the 1931 season. They were simply abusing the land by overplowing in order to grow more crops and, in turn, make more money. With far too much land being farmed, and trees being cleared for agribusiness [or “corporate farming”], the ecology of the west was already disturbed, and then a long-term drought hit, creating a regional, and eventually national, environmental catastrophe. Without adequate rain, crops died, and with millions of trees cut to create open fields for crops, there was no wind break, so terrible dust storms occurred. Nor could farmers could grow grain or wheat to feed their livestock because of the drought and dust storms. During the winter of 1934 there was even red snow in New England from the dust that had blown in from the Plains. The fallout was a huge tragedy, both for nature and humans. One farmer told of pulling undigested food from manure piles in a hopeless attempt to feed his animals. Farmers continued to harness and rope their starving horses and desperately tried to make them work the fields, which would normally be grounds for “cruelty to animal” charges. “I fear that before next year’s crop can be matured we shall be called upon to provide the means of sustenance, not for thousands, but for hundreds of thousands of people in the Midwestern empire,” a Congressman said. That agricultural “Midwest Empire” simply crumbled as land dried up, work animals died, and crop production came to a halt. The Dust Bowl began in the summer of 1931, when portions of Texas, western Kansas, southeastern Colorado, northeastern New Mexico and onethird of the Oklahoma Panhandle were plowed under, leaving little but dirt that would be kicked up by the frequent and intense wind storms. The disaster affected some 100 million acres of land from Texas to North Dakota and disrupted the lives of 5 million farmers and their families who sought federal help. Crop production in 1934 onward was dismal; cattle were too weak to stand and were slaughtered by the thousands. In 1934 alone, the financial cost of the drought amounted to one-half the money that the U.S. spent on the Great War. Federal officials estimated that a single dust storm in May blew away 300 million tons of topsoil in a day. Within 2 years, farm losses reached $25 million a day. Making the economic losses worse, and life more unbearable, intense heat storms were common. During the summer of 1934, Nebraska reached 118 degrees and Iowa reached 115 degrees. Incredible heat killed 370 people in Illinois that summer. One Illinois resident, who had been living in a refrigerator to escape the heat, was treated for frostbite. Most

FDR, New Deals, and the Limits of Power

Americans, from FDR to the common man and woman, understood that the disaster was indeed a manmade calamity [unlike the frequent denials of global warming in the 21st Century]. For the federal government, the massive amounts of dust killing agribusiness was specifically troubling because it ruined crop production and thus made the economy even worse. Thus, political leaders had to figure out a way to provide federal disaster relief to the farmers of the Midwest Empire and restore agribusiness. As farmers inhaled the dry earth and coughed up wads of dusty mucous, they knew they were in a new world; that the old quiet times of self-sustaining toil in the countryside were gone [that, after all, was the point of Populism decades earlier]. The common farmer realized he was part of a much larger system of Capitalism, and that this more complex agribusiness required more complex leadership and support from the nation’s capital. So he looked to Roosevelt for a solution to the dilemma facing all farmers such as him in the Midwest Empire. The Dust Bowl happened at a pivotal moment of government expansion and activity to deal with the Great Depression—more bureaus, more departments, more committees and offices to organize and disperse relief. Roosevelt and Congress made the government grow throughout the Depression decade with the creation of at least 100 agencies. They were not originally created to deal with natural disasters, but they nonetheless provided disaster relief to Dust Bowl farmers during the huge environmental calamity. Existing New Deal programs—most notably the WPA and the AAA—were used to provide disaster aid. The New Deal offered a way for centralized disaster relief for the Dust Bowl to be brought into the growing government involvement in the national economy during the Great Depression, and to therefore save agricultural Capitalism. Although the Dust Bowl lasted for an entire decade, the most intense years were from 1934-1936. Over those three years, FDR gradually intensified the state’s reaction to the drought by providing disaster relief to landowning farmers, and the families left homeless and/or jobless by the dust bowl. Roosevelt’s style of disaster relief was not to provide handouts to anyone who stood in a line. Like Hoover, Roosevelt was adamant that there would be no payouts to people who did no work. Instead, FDR used New Deal programs such as the WPA and the AAA to provide disaster relief in the drought states for only certain classes of people. His program centered not on single tenant farmers, but rather land owners and their families. The

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AAA disproportionately favored large farm owners [and much of the land was owned by out-of-state, and often eastern, bankers] and those who supported the Democratic Party. The AAA attempted to raise crop prices back to pre-Great War levels by eliminating surplus crop production and, as we have noted, provided subsidies to not grow crops and paid farmers to take land out of production, which ended up harming tenant farmers and sharecroppers mostly. The goal of federal Dust Bowl relief was to help farm families once again produce for themselves, as they had been before the dust came, and not rely on long-term government aid. In a 1935 interview, Harry Hopkins, the WPA director, explained that the government’s goal was “to get these farm families off the relief rolls by enabling them to become self-sustaining.” And there were plenty of families to help in the 142 counties that were declared drought emergency areas. An early relief plan called the Land Utilization Program attempted to provide suffering farmers with the tools necessary to recover from the drought. According to Hopkins, the program would purchase submarginal [poor] land from farm families as a component of rural rehabilitation. The administrators of the Land Utilization Program concentrated efforts in areas with the highest relief loads (the Cotton South, the Appalachian South, and the northern and southern plains). The $25 million program had three essential elements. First, it was to make available seed, farm animals, and equipment—which seemed a bit counterintuitive when considering that the AAA was still removing hundreds of thousands of sick animals from the drought zones. Second, the government provided trained specialists in agricultural and home economics to teach farmers how to properly work the ground and to provide their wives with lessons in thrift. Finally, representatives from the program would work with each drought family to develop a customized financial plan to maintain a decent standard of living. Again, this was certainly not a case of direct government handouts; it was not a dole. It was a lesson in home economics that placed the burden of surviving the dust bowl on individual families rather than the federal government. The Land Utilization Program also diminished the seriousness of the drought and depression by suggesting that wives should just become more frugal or husbands should simply plant their crops more carefully But, notes prominent Dust Bowl historian Donald Worster, “It was here the government entered more completely into a family’s life and, unavoidably, marked them as not

FDR, New Deals, and the Limits of Power

quite competent to manage their own affairs.” The federal government had entered the lives of ordinary citizens by providing them relief aid. The average rural rehabilitation budget for a farm family [and as of December 1935 there were 132,000 in the program with thousands more projected to join] was not extravagant: farm equipment and work stock, $440; livestock, $70; feed, seed, fertilizers, $110; maintenance during growing season, $100; administration, $55; total $775. Of the total, about $210 was financed by loans through local agencies or other federal agencies. The other $465 came as a loan through state rural rehabilitation corporations, financed by the federal government. Again, farm families received loans rather than aid from the federal government, a much different set of conditions than, say, industries had with the NIRA. Loans created another condition. Jobless farmers often had no way to repay the loans extended to them by the federal government and local agencies. They needed jobs and often got work through the WPA, which gave them wages and helped improve drought conditions and prevention by building projects like dams and levees. Farmers hit with the drought—that is, land-owning farmers who had a family—were put to work by the thousands through the WPA. Farmers began constructing and improving national infrastructure, erecting government buildings as they earned paychecks from the federal government to pay off loans underwritten by the federal government. By the summer of 1935, an impressive list of accomplishments, related to the dust bowl, under the WPA appeared: 2,161 miles of levees built, 399 miles improved; 227 miles of riprap built, 80 miles improved; 42 miles of retaining wall built; 113 miles improved; 582 miles of bulkheads constructed, 14 miles improved; 452 miles of river dredged. Other men worked restoring bridges and roads, repairing water mains and sewers, burning dead animals, and dispersing chloride and lime for disinfection. Water conservation was a major objective of the WPA. By the summer of 1935, over 2,000 small dams were constructed on both public and private properties. Thousands and thousands of farm and garden pounds were dug—1,550 in Kansas alone. Completed WPA projects in water conservation alone made for a remarkable total: 3,118 dams built, 184 improved; 4,927 wells built, 1,159 improved; 116 lakes built, 69 improved; 932 storage reservoirs built, 200 improved; 4,390 ponds and waterholes built. Erosion control made for a similarly lengthy list: 3,084 erosion control projects, 525 square

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miles of land protected, 1,528,500 acres of drought area land plowed using improved techniques, 271,760 acres of land terraced, 5,707,000 trees planted, and 1,682,000 shrubs planted. However, FDR constantly made clear that Dust Bowl relief was only a benefit for landowners. When meeting with the governor of Iowa, for example, Roosevelt gave a stern warning. “A governor—I will not say which one, quite far from here—worked hard the other day to try to get me to say that we would relieve his state from the obligation of taking care of the unemployables,” said Roosevelt. “I said, ‘No locality, no county, can put any unemployables onto federal relief.’ So we have to make that very clear to all our local people. We are working together taking care of the employables [sic]. They still have got to take care of the maimed, the halt and the blind. This is out of their own funds.” As with most New Deal programs, Roosevelt made clear that disaster relief helped only a certain portion of the population. While he listed blind and maimed halt as disqualified for federal disaster relief, he could have also listed singles and the non-landholding. With this class-bias, the federal government left out many drought sufferers—and Roosevelt admitted that. His disaster relief initiative was more like a back-to-work program for upright citizens, rather than nondiscriminatory aid for anyone and everyone. FDR further explained his conservative views, “And you take the next step it would mean in the case of trees that the Federal government would go and put the trees on the individual farm without contribution by the individual— it would mean in the case of terracing, the Federal Government to come in and terrace the individual farmer’s land free of charge. It is an awfully dangerous precedent to start.” The Roosevelt administration did indeed expand relief in a way like never before in history. It did this not just through buying cattle and providing loans, but also through the erection of dams, roads, reservoirs, schools, sewage disposal systems, bridges, airports, and parks through the WPA as programs to end both the depression and suffering from the drought. But Roosevelt consistently stressed that aid—be it through loans or jobs—was to be provided to only a certain part of the American population and jobs were to be provided to upright citizens as a temporary means toward rural rehabilitation. “Certainly neither the President, nor the Congress, nor Harry Hopkins, has ever regarded the WPA . . . as offering a solution to unemployment,” explained a White House official to the American people over America’s Town Meeting of the Air,

FDR, New Deals, and the Limits of Power

one of the country’s first radio talk shows. “These agencies were set up, not to solve the problem of unemployment, but to meet the problems of the unemployed. This distinction is extremely important.” As mentioned, disaster relief during the Dust Bowl was intended primarily for landowners, which created problems for those without land. To qualify for federal relief, farmers had to first plant a garden to prove that they were at least trying to survive on their own before taking federal aid. But, to plant a garden, one also had to have land, perhaps a house, and be stationary. Therefore, Roosevelt’s Dust Bowl disaster relief left out tenants and sharecroppers, forcing thousands upon thousands to migrate in search of work and new homes. Those migrants became commonly known as “Okies”, “Arkies”, and “Texies” but came from every drought state. Over 2 million people fled the Dust Bowl, a great number heading west to California, in America’s largest concentrated migration. In fact, the influx of dust bowl refugees into California became so great that state officials began to demand identification at the border and were refusing entry to people from other states, a clearly illegal practice. Woody Guthrie even wrote a song about it in which he had California officials telling people to go back Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas or wherever if they did not have the “do-re-mi,” meaning money to survive. Small business owners and teachers who got no benefit from crop loans or cattle purchasing programs also made up many of the migrants. Others were young laborers who did not own any land. Many male teenagers were labeled “transients” as they ran away from their parents in search of a better life. Many parents of transients sent descriptions of the runaways to Washington, D.C. in hopes that leaders would help them find their children. When seventeen-year old James Dwyer left his home, for example, his parents sent a detailed description of the young man to Washington. We learn that he was 5 foot, 7 inches, 135 pounds, wore white gold-rim glasses over his brown eyes, and was last reported in Kansas City, Missouri, searching for a job to help his family. It is unclear what happened to James. For most Americans, the reality of the dust bowl hit home because of John Steinbeck’s novel, The Grapes of Wrath, a story of people fleeing the droughtridden and dusty Midwest for California. But Steinbeck’s story was more than a tale of human tragedy; it was a critique of Capitalism, a system where people who had farmed land for generations were forced out with no savings, few possessions, and no good prospects. In a famous scene, an “Okie” con-

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fronts a banker who arrives on his land to tell him to leave and threatens to kill him. The banker explains that he is not the landholder and some banker in Tulsa owns the farm— “He got his orders from the bank. The bank told them: Clear those people out or it’s your job.’” The Okie was not satisfied with that answer; “Well,” he said, “there’s a president of the bank. There’s a Board of Directors. I’ll fill up the magazine of the rifle and go into the bank.” Again, the banker told him that the bank who held the title to the land was owned by another bank in the East, a common condition often called “absentee ownership” in post-Civil War America. Finally, the exasperated and tearful Okie made a plea, “but where does it stop? Who can we shoot? I don’t aim to starve to death before I kill the man that’s starving me.” The Okie, like the Joad family, never did know who took his land from him, and he headed out to a life that promised nothing but more dust and more hardship. In addition to the environmental crisis facing farmers every day, political problems with the New Deal disaster relief program were common as a result of local-level control over the federal aid programs. Local control of federal funds left room for petty politicians, mismanagement of relief funds, and sloppy administration of aid. For example, local leaders in eastern Kentucky simply ended federal aid because they considered the people in need to be “all poor white trash and communists.” The relief supervisor in that area of Kentucky, Miss Caroline Boone was more sympathetic; she estimated there were at least 150,000 starving Dust Bowl victims in the area. “Every morning little groups of the people—those who still have enough strength to walk anywhere from one to ten miles—came straggling in and stand staring helplessly,” she lamented. On one occasion, Boone took all of the money in her purse to the bank, had it changed into 50-cent pieces, and gave it to the hungry people. In the end, the Dust Bowl episode demonstrated how the federal government desired to preserve and repair Capitalism during times of emergency, illustrating a political economy that gave priority to agribusiness. Never before had the federal government spent so much money on natural disaster aid. The WPA and the AAA managed to incorporate millions of Americans into a national welfare state. Millions of farm families survived the Dust Bowl due to WPA jobs and AAA loans. But those who received direct assistance from the federal government were only a certain class of Americans living in the Dust Bowl region: land-owning farmers and their families. Time and time

FDR, New Deals, and the Limits of Power

again local leaders resisted outright welfare. Time and time again FDR stressed that there would be no dole. The government’s relief plan for “rural rehabilitation” left out countless thousands of needy people. The disaster relief program was created to help most those who could preserve the Midwest agricultural empire. That idea was at the root of this entire clip of American history: How best could American corporate farming proceed into the future? The Roosevelt era began the very long trend of funneling federal disaster relief through a federal government most concerned with stabilizing a capitalist economy—not helping farmers. In general, federal disaster relief exhibits problems demonstrated by the individuals it often leaves out—those who do not own property. This happened in the 1930s, but was also evident in modern day disasters such as Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

D r . N ew D eal ? It is almost inconceivable to imagine all that happened in the 1930s—global depression, government crises, economic upheaval, class struggles, violent strikes, environmental catastrophe, and a real transformation in the very nature of American society and life, politically and economically. Yet, there was more to come. As FDR was grasping for ways to fix the depression, Europe was preparing for another Great War, one that would be immensely bigger than the one that plagued the continent in the 1910s. As Wilson did, FDR would wait to enter the war, but when he did, it would even more dramatically transform U.S. power. FDR, who referred to himself as “Dr. New Deal,” would have to shift priorities and become “Dr. Win-the-War.” But Dr. New Deal had not cured the country before the next great war began. Surely, the American economy was in better shape by far than it had been in 1929. The New Deal transformed Capitalism, but it did not change the economy. Private ownership of production, agriculture, and banking remained the basis of the political economy, and workers and farmers would still be struggling for the necessities of life. Workers had legal rights to organize unions and go on strike, but even with the frequent street violence remained too often at the mercy of their employers. Farmers who held large amounts of land got government subsidies to slaughter livestock and destroy crops, but their tenants and sharecroppers remained hungry and homeless far too often. Capitalist power had its limits, as all could see. Still, there was a glimmer of

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hope, for FDR did express his concern for the American people and certainly was willing to adapt government policies to seek solutions to the most destructive economic calamity in U.S. history. By the end of the 1930s, the government was involved in the economy in ways that were not imaginable earlier—setting up industrial associations to determine production and prices, giving workers the right to have unions, but not creating a level playing field between Capital and labor, offering relief to the needy, but expecting them to work to earn their keep in an era of incredible unemployment and loss of land. But FDR’s main goal in 1933 was to save Capitalism, and he indeed did. By regulating industry, agriculture, and banking he saved the system from the “damn greedy” businessmen who had caused the turmoil and tragedies of the depression. In 1938 and 1939, the unemployment rate was still close to 20 percent, and millions remained on relief. Dr. New Deal had saved more than a few patients from absolute ruin, perhaps millions, but they remained in economic intensive care. Sadly, it would take the dark clouds of war in Europe to finally lead to a brighter economy in the United States.

Chapter 5

World War and the Growth of Global Power

P

resident Roosevelt and Congress surely had their hands full trying to fix the American economy in the 1930s. The crisis of that period was almost certainly the worst economic depression in U.S. history and required massive and intense efforts to stop the downturn and then create better conditions. Along with those efforts, however, U.S. officials, from the White House on down, had to confront global aggression in both Europe and Asia of a kind that no one had seen before, which led to the greatest war in global history, World War II. The war spanned 6 years, almost 4 of which involved the U.S. as a combatant nation. It was fought on 2 continents, in dozens of countries, and involved hundreds of millions of people, entire societies, and caused death and devastation on a scale unthinkable before the war. It was arguably the defining event of the 20th Century, if not modern times.

P ower , F ascism ,

and

G lobal C onflict . . . E urope

To describe the events that led to World War II chronologically would produce a complicated timeline of numerous events that would seem to have little connection. It makes more sense to look at the crises of the 1930s as they unfolded in the 3 major geographic areas of concern: Europe, Asia, and the United States. In Europe, Italy and especially Germany were trying to 233

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restore traditional imperial power. In Asia, Japan was seeking domination of the continent and removal of the western powers that had colonized the area for so many centuries. And the United States, still dealing with the depression and a policy of “isolationism” regarding foreign interventions, had to revive its economy and prevent the Germans, Italians, and Japanese—who were later allied in what was known as The Axis—from taking over crucial economic parts of the globe like Central Europe and East Asia. Throughout the 1930s, these countries and others would jump from crisis to crisis, witness the emergence of dangerous governments with huge armies, and eventually fight another world war that would be tremendously larger than the conflict of 1914-1918. Europe in the 1920s was still recovering from the Great War, with vast economic problems and political controversies regarding Germany and the Soviet Union. By the latter part of the decade, there seemed to be some stability on the way. In Italy, a new political idea took hold, seemed to stabilize its economy, and would be a huge factor in the conflicts of the next generation. After the war, the Italian labor movement was strong and conducted strikes and factory takeovers. At the same time, a political movement led by Benito Mussolini gained the support of the industrialists and large landholders and they linked together in ways similar to that envisioned in Herbert Hoover’s political program in the U.S., but with far more ominous consequences. Mussolini promoted a form of corporatism that would be known as fascism, in which various branches of industry and agriculture would form committees of government officials, the bosses, and, to a slight degree, workers to decide working conditions, productions, wages, and business codes— much like Hoover’s trade associations. Italian fascism, however, rejected democracy and liberty and Mussolini created paramilitary units to attack the unions, Socialists, and anyone else who went on strike, took over factories, or in any way rejected the corporate leadership of Italy’s economy. The bankers gave loans to fascist groups to stimulate the economy and crush labor and the left, and the Vatican even gave Mussolini its blessing, with Pope Pius XI calling him “a man sent by Providence.” Mussolini was known as “Il Duce”—the leader, or dictator—and seized the role of Prime Minister in 1922. With this power he had visions of himself as a modern-day Caesar who would restore Italy to the glory of the Roman Empire. Mussolini in fact made the first aggressive moves in Europe after the

World War and the Growth of Global Power

Great War. In the 1920s, Italy began to create Italian East Africa, which involved the takeover of Somaliland, Eritrea, and Ethiopia, as well as getting control of Libya in North Africa. Mussolini also had designs on Albania and the Greek island of Corfu. The conquest of Ethiopia in 1935-36 was particularly brutal, with Italian forces killing 275,000 and wounding 500,000 more Ethiopians. Mussolini’s successful aggression showed how weak the League of Nations was, as he just ignored the League’s condemnation of the invasion. The British and French did little more, criticizing the Italian moves but not imposing sanctions or cutting off oil supplies. Italy’s gains in Africa made Mussolini confident that he could become a major world leader [on par with Adolph Hitler of Germany] so he seized Albania in 1939 and initiated a war against Greece in October 1940. The Greeks, however, counterattacked and forced an Italian retreat and then occupied a good part of Albania. Finally, to Mussolini’s embarrassment, Germany invaded Greece in April 1941 to end the war and bail out Italy. Germany, of course, gets the most attention during this period, and rightly so. Barely a decade after its stinging defeat in the Great War and at Versailles, the Germans were rebuilding and hoping to restore their traditional role as the most powerful country in Central Europe. Germany had been devastated by the events of 1914-1919. Its costs for the war equaled two-thirds of its total national prewar income; its army was limited to 100,000 troops; it could have no aircraft, tanks, or artillery; its navy was supposed to be turned over to the British but the Germans scuttled most ships rather than do that; it was to have no submarines and even had to hand over parts of its merchant marine and fishing fleet; and the Rhineland, a border region between France and Germany, was to be demilitarized, meaning Germany could have no troops or military presence in this region of its own land. Germany had to agree to a statement that it caused “all the loss and damage” of the war, and, as we have seen, was given a massive reparations amount to pay, and also told to make yearly coal deliveries to France, Italy, and Belgium to pay for the destruction in those countries. Yet, out of this destruction, the Germans rebuilt and remilitarized quickly enough to become the greatest threat to global peace by the early 1930s. In the aftermath of the war, political groups from the right and the Socialists tried to gain power inside Germany. The Socialists and other leftists resented the reparations payments as much as anyone but advocated “fulfill-

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ment,” or making payment. The conservatives did not and seized power and began a policy of “passive resistance” in the mining industry, meaning that miners refused to work and thus produced no coal to deliver to France or others for reparations. But this caused economic chaos inside Germany as the government just printed money to pay the miners and other workers, which caused inflation to soar. In 1914, a dollar was equal to 4.2 German marks; by 1923, it was worth 4.2 trillion. The harsh settlement at Versailles had indeed made matters much worse. Woodrow Wilson’s fears had come to pass. Politically, the economy and a resurgence of German patriotism against the other western powers for what they had done at Versailles had greater consequences. In the mid-1920s Germany did reach agreements with Britain and France on borders and was admitted into the League of Nations, but when the global depression hit in 1929, the right-wing made major advances. In September 1930 elections, the National Socialists, better known as Nazis, went from 15 to 107 seats in parliament. The Nazis, like Mussolini in Italy, were advocates of fascism and restoring traditional military power. Most alarming, in January 1933, barely a month before FDR became president in the U.S., Adolph Hitler became the German chancellor. Hitler’s rise and ideas are wellknown—he blamed Jews and Communists [which he saw as virtually the same thing] for Germany’s postwar problems and began to steadily reverse the effects of Versailles and regain German glory. Although Hitler’s views on race and ethnicity—he believed that Germany should control the lands where there were a majority of German people [such as Austria, Czechoslovakia, or Poland]—were most noticed, they did not represent a major shift in European thinking. For generations, Europeans, particularly the ruling classes, had blamed Jews for their problems and created the idea that they controlled the banking system. Indeed, Shakespeare’s play The Merchant of Venice was about anti-Jewish attitudes and that was written around 1597. The West in particular feared that Hitler would get control of Central Europe and close it off economically to the rest of the world. Fascist economic policy was based on the idea of autarchy, a condition in which a country had absolute sovereignty, produced its own good for its own consumption, and did not have commercial relations outside of its own empire. If the Nazis succeeded in establishing an autarchic system, then the rest of the West would have no access to German materials, trade, or investment—which, again as Wilson warned, would create havoc and disrupt, if not destroy, the Open

World War and the Growth of Global Power

Door. If German and Italian fascism [and similar Japanese policies in Asia] took hold, then the U.S. and others would lose access to huge parts of the world and the raw materials, labor, trade and investments there, and their own economies would be in even deeper trouble. More than anything, then, World War II was a war for the Open Door. And Hitler made those fears come true almost immediately. He withdrew Germany from the League of Nations and began a program of rebuilding the military—contrary to the Versailles agreements. He also announced a policy of Anschluss, or political union with Germany, for Austria and gave support to the Austrian Nazis in their efforts to take over their government. In March 1936, German troops went back into the Rhineland and the French gave way, even though it was later discovered that Hitler had given orders to retreat if France stood its ground. The Europeans were following a policy of appeasement. Appeasement has been used, and misused, countless times to suggest that the Europeans were afraid of Germany and would simply give Hitler whatever he wanted. But it was in fact an established diplomatic policy to avoid war. Given that the Great War had been so destructive, the economy so bad, and Germany was trying to restore its traditional positions and no one had any idea what Hitler would do in the coming years, appeasement was an attempt to keep some stability and peace in Europe. Of course, within a half-decade, it would be clear that Germany’s goals went beyond anything expected and appeasement was a mistake, but it would be hard to see that coming in 1933-34. The western powers assumed that Germany would establish a status quo similar to that before the Great War and then Europe would return to a “normal” state of affairs, such as those that existed before 1914. They, we now know, were wrong. Hitler’s aggression continued. Not long after retaking the Rhineland, on November 1st, Italy and Germany became Allies in the Rome-Berlin Axis, and Germany signed an “Anti-Comintern Pact” with Japan just weeks later. Various other agreements took place until September 1940, when Germany, Italy, and Japan signed the “Tripartite Pact” and officially became the Axis. In 1936, however, much of Europe’s attention was shifted toward Spain. A fascist-like group of military officers, Falangistas or The Falange Party, with Catholic and corporate support and led by Generalissimo Francisco Franco was trying to overthrow the government of Spain, a Republic that had been democratically elected and enacted reforms to give more rights to workers and women and reduce the

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power of the Catholic Church in Spanish politics. Franco asked Germany and Italy for help, and both Hitler and Mussolini offered support [in 1937 the air forces of both countries brutally attacked the Spanish village of Guernica, depicted in the famous Pablo Picasso painting]. The Spanish government looked to the West for aid but Britain, France, and the U.S. did little, both because of their policies of appeasement and isolationism and due to pressure from the Catholic Church to stay out of the civil war there. To the Catholics and Franco, the Spanish Republic was dangerous and leftist. Consequently, even though the Spanish government was not communist, the only country to come to its aid was the Soviet Union. Since Hitler had gained power in 1933 Joseph Stalin, the Soviet leader, stood virtually alone in calling for action against the German leader, since his ideology aimed to destroy not just Jews but Communists too. In what was something of a preview of the coming war, the Germans and Italians stood with Franco against the Soviets and the Spanish government. In 1939, the Republic fell and Franco and his right-wing supporters took over, becoming associated, though not officially allied, with Germany. Between 1933 and the Spanish Civil War, Hitler had become increasingly aggressive— rearming, leaving the League of Nations, remilitarizing the Rhineland, helping the Spanish militarists—and saw the European policy of appeasement as a green light for further action. Germany’s first conquest was Austria, in the Anschluss, which it invaded without much effort in March 1936 and put a Nazi government in power. Next Hitler looked to Czechoslovakia, particularly an area called the Sudetenland, which shared much of Germany’s western and northern borders and was inhabited by 3 million Germanic people, which he invoked to justify his interests there. France and the Soviet Union both had agreements to defend the Sudetenland against the Germans, but Britain, to avoid a conflict, agreed that Hitler could take the region if he would refrain from a military invasion and promise to seek no more territory in Europe. In March 1938, Hitler even met with the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, and others in Munich, where they accepted the German land seizure, without giving the Czechs a say in the matter. Chamberlain returned to London proclaiming that Hitler’s expansion would now stop and that they had achieved “peace in our time.” In reality, they were buying time to start rearming because they now understood that Germany was seeking to conquer all of Central Europe, if not more.

World War and the Growth of Global Power

So, despite Hitler’s pledge that he would seek no more conquest, the Germans invaded and took all of Czechoslovakia in March 1939. The West, again, did nothing to stop him. There could no longer be any doubt as to the ultimate aims of the Nazis, and their promises to stop taking over new lands could not be taken seriously, so events in Europe become even more complicated in 1939. Since 1933, Stalin, almost alone among world leaders, was alarmed by Hitler’s rise, but without any other support. So in August 1939, he switched rather than fight. The Soviet Union and Germany made an agreement, known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact for the foreign ministers who signed it, but also known as the Stalin-Hitler Pact, that they would not fight against each other and, among other things, divided up parts of the Baltics and Poland. Barely a week later, on September 1st, 1939, with the Soviet Union no longer a threat, Hitler invaded Poland, a date generally regarded as the official start of World War II. By this time, the western policy of appeasement was dead, and the British and French declared war on Germany, but there was really nothing they could do to help Poland, which fell quickly. The Germans employed a new form of warfare, blitzkrieg, or “lightning war,” in which they sent troops, armored and motorized infantry, and close air support into battle all at once, a stark contrast to the trench warfare of 1914-1918. Poland, with horseback infantry, was overrun in just weeks. Europe’s nightmare had gotten worse. Germany, since 1933, had rebuilt its military, retaken the Rhineland, and taken Austria, Czechoslovakia and now Poland. Central Europe was now, for the most part, under Hitler’s control, the Open Door was in peril, and the West was deeply alarmed. For the next 8 months, Germany made no moves, leading some political figures to believe that Hitler had met his goals and would no longer seek new lands. Journalists referred to the period as “the phony war,” or sitzkrieg, sitting war. Any hope that Hitler was done, however, was wishful thinking, as the Germans began their most ambitious campaign in early May 1940—the invasion of France! France was considered a military power at the time, and had built a series of fortifications along its border with Germany, The Maginot Line, which included gun turrets, artillery and armored forts and, the French boasted, was “impenetrable.” Germany, however, simply invaded to the north, through Belgium and Luxembourg, going through the Ardennes Forest—none of which was covered by the Maginot Line. French forces quickly collapsed and the Germans moved southward toward Paris. Italy, seeing an opportu-

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nity to get a piece of France, joined the war in early June; Paris fell on June 14th and the government gave up on June 25th. In just 7 weeks, Germany had taken over France, a major western power. Many French who were antiNazi, led by the conservative Charles de Gaulle and a significant number of Communists, began an underground movement to fight against Germany, but the future did not look positive. This, safe to say, was the bleakest moment of the war. The West could understand, and to a point tolerate, Hitler’s moves on Austria, the Czechs, and Poland, since that was part of Central Europe and traditionally part of German’s area of interest. But the invasion of France, as it had been in 1871 and 1914, was something much bigger—a sign of German’s larger ambitions to take over all of Europe. Hitler’s next moves would, ultimately, determine the outcome of the war— invading Britain and the Soviet Union. In July 1940, Hitler began air attacks against Britain with the German Luftwaffe. No country had ever used just air power to defeat an enemy, but Hitler was determined to vanquish Britain with his air force, and then, when it was sufficiently weakened, begin an invasion across the English Channel, code-named Sea Lion, to finish it off. By August, the Luftwaffe attacked British airfields in the hopes of destroying the Royal Air Force [RAF] before its planes could get off the ground, and then launched a grand offensive with the goal of controlling the skies above Britain in anticipation of the cross-channel invasion. If Hitler were to succeed, Europe would be under Nazi control. The British, however, offered up much more resistance than Germany expected. They had developed radar and the RAF performed admirably while British industry was in high gear and replaced downed aircraft quickly. In August and September 1940, the Germans destroyed 832 fighter planes and damaged 532 others. The RAF, however, downed 668 Nazi fighters, damaged 436, and also shot down 500 bombers. The easy success Hitler expected did not occur, so in September he went to a 3d phase in his air war, general attacks on the people of London. The idea behind such “terror bombings” was to create such panic among the population that it would demand that the British government surrender. The people of London, however, created a system of safety shelters and never lost their morale, and Hitler finally had to call off Sea Lion. The Luftwaffe raids continued through late 1940 and into the spring of 1941, but Britain was not seriously in danger of being defeated by then. Finally, the Nazis had met failure, and the West could relax a bit.

World War and the Growth of Global Power

That did not mean, however, that the war was over—far from it. One major reason Hitler called off the attacks on Britain was to shift his attention to the East and begin fighting there—in retrospect his gravest error. On June 22nd, 1941, the German Army, the Wehrmacht, invaded the country it had allied with in August 1939, the Soviet Union, code-named Operation Barbarossa. The Soviets were not well-prepared for the invasion. Hitler had moved well over 3 million German and other Axis forces to the East and invaded with about 130 divisions, while holding 70 or so more in reserve for future use. The Germans, however, did not have huge numbers of trucks, tanks, and other supplies that would be crucial for an extended invasion of a country as vast as Russia. Even though the Nazis had been massing troops and equipment on the eastern front, Stalin seemed surprised by the invasion, especially since their non-aggression treaty was not even two years old. He also believed that Germany would try to finish its British campaign before turning eastward, and he ignored warnings from Soviet intelligence officials that Germany was planning to attack them, saying it was just British propaganda to make him and Hitler distrust each other. He was wrong and the initial German invasion cut through the Soviet lines and made steady progress. But the Soviet military, especially the Red Army, was a formidable force. By mid-1941 it had 5.7 million troops, 4.6 million of which were ground forces, in 316 divisions. It had about 120,000 guns and mortars, and over 18,000 aircraft. Perhaps its greatest advantage was in tanks, with over 25,000. Though in the initial phases, Germany was quickly destroying Soviet defenses, again alarming the West, the Russians would rally. By mid-1941, Hitler had now gone to war across all of Europe, from Britain in the West to the Soviet Union in the East. The U.S. and Britain, though hardline anti-Communist, offered aid to Stalin because they sensed, correctly, that Germany was a much greater threat. As the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill explained, “if Hitler invaded Hell, I would make at least a favourable comment to the devil in the House of Commons.” Stalin, from then on, would be America’s “devil” and the Red Army would play the decisive role in Europe in the Second World War.

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If America were to establish an Open Door world, Asia would be its most important target. Hay’s notes, the Great War, the 21 Demands, the Lansing-

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Ishii Agreement, and other events all pointed to the importance of Asian markets for trade, materials and investment in order to create a world of free trade. Standing in the way, as U.S. leaders saw it, were two forces—European imperialism, and Japan. Various countries of Europe had established colonies throughout Asia, and the U.S. would spend a good part of the 20th Century trying to change those conditions. Within Asia, Japan was the greatest interest, because it was the most “modern,” or industrialized nation in the region and thus on roughly equal terms with western nations. In the 1895 SinoJapanese War and the 1904-05 Russo-Japanese War, the government and military in Tokyo proved they could compete as a world power. Shortly after, Japan began a policy of conquest, invading and occupying Korea in 1910 and ruling it ruthlessly, sending Korean men to Japan to work in factories as virtual slaves and making Korean women travel with their army as “comfort women.” For the U.S., Japan’s rise was troubling. Americans were already investing in Asia and it was critical to their economic interests. Asia furnished 51 percent of the prewar raw and crude materials imported into the U.S. British Malay and the Dutch East Indies [now Malaysia and Indonesia] supplied 86 percent of the crude rubber and 87 percent of tin used in the U.S. Overall, Asian countries produced 85 percent of the tungsten, one-third of the mica [a mineral essential insulation and electrical equipment], 99 percent of the jute [a fiber used for sacking and cordage], and 98 percent of the shellac [varnishes and sealants] brought into America. Given the economic importance of Asia, Japan’s claim to supremacy there, based on cultural and geographic similarities, could threaten the American economy if commercial relations turned bad. Thus the U.S. had to recognize Japan’s role in Asia and its military power. In 1921-22 the Americans, British, and Japanese reached agreements on the size of naval forces allowed and sought to cut the number of ships each country had, while conceding Japan’s upper hand but trying to maintain the Open Door. Japan, however, had no interest in sharing the resources or markets of Asia and aimed to create a Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, a complex sounding term for a relatively basic concept. The “sphere” was an imperial project, a policy in which the Japanese would dominate East Asia and keep it safe from western imperialists, meanwhile asserting control over the resources and markets of the region. Like the Germans in Europe, the Japanese were trying to close the door to “free trade.” Taking Korea was but a first step in a much larger pro-

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gram and the ultimate goal, not surprisingly, was to take control of China. Japan had already established its “special relationship” with China but wanted more formal authority there. In the first moves in what would become a crisis and then war, in 1931 Japanese army forces blew up a section of the Mukden Railroad in the northeast region of Manchuria, full of mineral and coal reserves and a potential railway to the markets of Russia and Europe. When the Japanese blew up the railroad, the U.S. Secretary of State Henry Stimson devised the “Stimson Doctrine,” which was a refusal to recognize any gains that Japan made through force, and an attempt to use “moral suasion” to force Japan out. Much like the appeasement of Germany, persuasion failed in Japan too, and the Japanese took over the entire region, giving it the name Manchukuo and putting a “puppet” government, one that would do what Tokyo told it to do, in place. The U.S. was angry and anxious about Japan’s intervention, but could do little about it other than denounce it, and the League of Nations, as in Europe, did virtually nothing to deter Japan. With no one to stop it, Japan invaded China in 1937, aiming to take control of the entire country, a move that again incensed and alarmed the west. FDR called for a “quarantine” of the Japanese—a plea for other countries to punish Japan for its moves—but he could not back it up either. Japan in fact sunk an American gunboat off Chinese waters in late 1937 and apologized for its “blunder,” but FDR did not believe it was a mistake. The Americans began to consider their options, including freezing Japanese assets, such as investments, in the U.S. but wanted to avoid conflict in Asia and so continued trading with Japan [in 1940 U.S. trade with Japan came to $227 million while with China it was just $78 million]. Additionally, the U.S. saw Germany as the greatest global threat and wanted to buy time in Asia. Japan had a major weakness, however. It had no domestic source of oil. To that end, it invaded the Dutch East Indies [home of Dutch Shell] in September 1940, right after the U.S. had embargoed aviation fuel and scrap iron—resources vital for warfare. Some members of FDR’s cabinet wanted him to embargo oil too, but the president still hoped to maintain some cordial relations with Japan in order to avoid a war in the Pacific. By 1941, however, it was clear that Japan was intent on controlling Asia and denying the Open Door, so Roosevelt stopped all trade, seized Japanese assets, and embargoed oil. The American actions were damaging Japan’s ability to manufacture war

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goods and fight so they took drastic action, attacking a U.S. naval base in Hawai’i, Pearl Harbor, on December 7th. Japan’s successful attack was due to U.S. mistakes, missed signals, and some incompetence but was not, as some critics charged, a case of Roosevelt “allowing” Japan to attack so he would have an excuse for war [if that were the case, U.S. hostilities with Germany in the Atlantic would have been a sufficient cause for war]. FDR, calling it “a date which shall live in infamy,” asked Congress for a declaration of war, which he received. Germany, Japan’s Axis partner, then declared war on the U.S. and World War II had officially begun. The Japanese attack was something of a desperate measure. Running short of resources, it hoped that the Pearl Harbor action would shock the Americans and force them to negotiate and avoid military conflict. It did not. Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, head of Japan’s navy, predicted that he would be able to control the Pacific for 6 months to a year but was “utterly without confidence” after that, once American military production was at full strength and its forces deployed in the Pacific. He even allegedly said [it has not been verified] “I fear all we have done is awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with terrible resolve.” In any event, Japan and the U.S. were now in a war for the Open Door in Asia.

Figure 5-1 Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941

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T he U nited S tates : N eutrality , M ilitary K eynesianism

the

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The United States spent the 1930s trying to avoid foreign conflicts. It was not, as we have seen, isolationist in the sense that it was removed from the world—U.S. trade grew in fact. Americans, however, did not want to go through another experience like the Great War, which was still fresh in their memories. Toward that end, the U.S. stayed out of the growing crises provoked by Germany and Japan as much as possible, while trying to prevent fascist success and maintain the Open Door. Given the unpopularity of the previous war, the priority of finding a solution to the depression, the Nye Committee’s findings, and many other factors, U.S. politicians wanted to keep the country out of harm’s way. In 1935, Congress passed the first Neutrality Act to prohibit the president from selling or shipping any weapons or other goods for war to any parties involved in a conflict, in this case Italy and Ethiopia. While the law was intended to keep the U.S. out of war, it did not promote peace of stability. In fact, by preventing aid to all parties to a conflict, it meant that the bigger and more aggressive powers, in this case the fascists, would not have to worry about the U.S. helping their intended victims. A year later Congress extended the Neutrality law and in January 1937 it included a ban on aid to the government in Spain, even though it was a legitimately-elected Republic under attack by fascist forces [heavy lobbying by the pro-Franco Catholic Church was a major factor too]. Another Neutrality Act in 1937 eased up a bit, and allowed the president to send aid on a “cash and carry” basis to antifascist countries. Trying to avoid the issues that plagued Wilson during the Great War such as German submarines attacking American ships and Britain taking out huge loans, the U.S could sell goods, especially to help Britain, if it paid for them in cash and then sent its own ships to U.S. ports to carry them back. This way, the U.S. would accrue no debt and its ships would not be at risk, but American merchants could maintain a prosperous wartime trade. Still, the Neutrality Act of 1939 banned the arming of merchant ships [if a merchant ship was armed, it could be attacked much like a naval vessel] or their entry into war zones. In fact, Congress even came close to passing a law, the Ludlow Amendment, that would have required a national vote on whether to go to war, rather than leave the decision up to the president and his cabinet. Yet, FDR was alarmed by Germany’s growing aggression in

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Europe and in 1939 began increasing arms sales to Britain and France on the cash and carry basis. The fall of France and battle against Britain subsequently accelerated FDR’s involvement in European affairs. In September 1940, the U.S. resumed a military draft but the president, running for re-election, promised he would stay out of the war [much like Wilson had in 1916]. In a message to the mothers of America he said “your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars.” His Republican opponent, Wendell Willkie was furious, saying “that hypocritical son of a bitch! This is going to beat me!” Roosevelt did win the election easily. Meanwhile he authorized naval patrols in the Atlantic and said he was willing to enter hostilities. With a racist joke, he explained “if we fire and sink an Italian or German [ship] . . . we will say it the way the Japs do, ‘so sorry. Never happen again.’ Tomorrow we sink two.” By the summer of 1940, FDR and British Prime Minister Churchill were coordinating operations against Germany in the Atlantic Ocean in the so-called Undeclared War. Unknown to most of the world, the American navy was engaging in hostilities against Germany long before Pearl Harbor. In July 1941, FDR gave orders to the navy approving military operations: “…the presence of any German submarine or raider should be dealt with by action looking to the elimination of such ‘threat of attack’ on the lines of communication, or close to it.” Not long after, in October, German submarines torpedoed two American ships, the Kearny and the Reuben James, killing 11 Americans in the first instance and 115 in the second. Though war had not been authorized, programs like cash and carry and Lend-Lease, along with the Undeclared War, meant the U.S. was in reality in hostilities against Germany. At that point, the U.S. would be making plans for warfare. The British and Russians allied after the German invasion in the East in June 1941, and the U.S. joined, creating the Grand Alliance, after December 7th. Though Allies with a common goal of stopping fascism, the 3 countries had different overall goals. As much as Germany was the main enemy, its aggression in Europe a threat to the heart of American commerce, FDR also used the war as a way to pursue the Open Door and actually break apart Britain’s Empire, which was a closed economic system preventing the U.S. from access to many of its markets. In September 1940, Roosevelt began to chip away at Britain’s imperial system with the Destroyers for Bases deal. As the battle over the skies of London raged, the U.S.

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offered to help Churchill by sending 50 old destroyers and in exchange received 8 British bases which were important to the Open Door, including ports at Newfoundland, Antigua, the Bahamas, Jamaica, and Trinidad. In August 1941, FDR and Churchill met in Newfoundland and devised the Atlantic Charter, which set the terms for military cooperation and, importantly, called for equal access to trade and raw materials, an end to trade barriers, and “open seas,” meaning that the U.S. could have commercial rights in British territories. Roosevelt and Churchill had a good relationship—“it is fun to be in the same decade with you,” the president wrote to the Prime Minister—but it was clear that the U.S. saw a significant opportunity to use the war against Germany as a way to also break open the British Empire’s closed trading system. As for the Soviet Union, Stalin had his own goals in addition to defeating Hitler, especially creating a defensive zone in Europe to protect against any future invasions, and creating new opportunities for Communists on the continent.

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While FDR was navigating the politics of neutrality at home while trying to keep Western Europe out of Nazi hands, the Axis aggression did provide an important bonus to the U.S.—a way out of the depression. After the “Roosevelt Recession,” there was a slight improvement in the economy in 1939 often attributed to shifts in “monetary” policy, namely the decision by the Federal Reserve to go to “easy” on money and credit. The Fed released much more money into circulation--$45-48 billion in 1938-39 [compared to $30 billion in 1933]—and now businesses could get credit and reopen or expand operations, thus creating jobs and consumer demand. But from early 1940 onwards, economic success was based on fiscal more than monetary issues, and those were connected to a tremendous surge in government spending on various military projects to help in the fight against fascism. This military spending buildup showed results almost immediately and, it is crucial to point out, they began and took hold before the U.S. actually joined the war after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Military spending finally put the depression to rest. This policy was often referred to as Military Keynesianism because it took the foundation of Keynes’ thought—massive government spending, and thus debt, to stimulate employment—but attached it to the

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military, not civilian or public works projects. Even then, the economy would remain in private hands, as FDR leaned on corporate leaders from early 1940 on, especially the head of GM, William Knudsen. From this point on— through World War II and the Cold War and the duration of the 20th Century—this Military Keynesian approach would be the core U.S. principle as economic success would be always linked to expanded military spending to stimulate business and create jobs. In this sense the U.S. “went to war” in the second quarter of 1940 [economists divide the year statistically into 4 quarters of 3 months each, beginning in January, April, July, and October], a full 18 months before Pearl Harbor—but economically, not militarily. From that point on, “military–driven fiscal expansion dominated the latter half [of the 1939-41 period] and thus completed the recovery from the Great Depression.” In 1940, unemployment still remained high, at 15 percent, but in 1941, fell below 10 percent. Government expenditures as percent of potential real GDP—what the economy would produce if operating at full capacity, or the value of all things desired and the ability to produce them even if American workers did not make them—“started to explode.” Potential GDP more than doubled between the 2d Quarter of 1940 and December 7th, 1941, or as noted before, in peacetime. Military spending was $1.5 billion in 1939 and originally supposed to be $2.5 billion in 1940 but then increased to $5 billion and again to $10 billion, and went up to $15 billion in 1941. The export crisis ended as well. By early 1940, American exports rose by 70 percent; British and French purchases of American goods went up by over 50 percent; Soviet Union purchases soared by more than 300 percent; and even Italy, an Axis member, purchased 89 percent more American goods [since the U.S. was not at war and thus “neutral,” it was still selling goods to Italy and Japan]. In June 1940, the magazine Business Week wrote, “National Defense has become the dominant economic and social force in the United States today . . . [It] will reach into every phase of our Business life, and bring increased employment, higher payrolls, widening demands for machinery, and the construction of new factories.” It was not coincidence that the huge increases in military spending occurred right after the Nazis took over France, for the fall of Paris was considered catastrophic in the West. At the same time, FDR in June 1940 also began to strip military arsenals to send weapons to Britain in anticipation of a German attack [Sea Lion]. As used weapons went to Europe, new orders

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went out to replace the old stock—including 500,000 rifles and 76,000 machine guns—so stripping the arsenal gave a huge boost to American production. Just after that, in August 1940, Congress passed another bill, as noted above, which doubled spending from $5 to $10 billion. A congressional report noted that since June 1940, Ford, GM, Chrysler, GE, Westinghouse, and “practically all of our great mass-producing corporations have begun work on war orders.” The New Deal may have had some limited successes, but Military Keynesianism had come to the rescue! Perhaps most importantly, this huge growth in military spending created jobs. In September 1940, Congress passed the Selective Service Act to institute a military draft and authorize an army of 1.4 million men. In June 1940 there were 458,000 military personnel, but a year later that number was up to 1.8 million, and they were receiving paychecks. As a result, 1 percent of the entire labor force was employed in building military training camps. Employment quadrupled between 1939-1940 in the aircraft engine divisions of certain plane manufacturers, and output in that industry tripled in the same period. The coming naval buildup led to 450,000 new shipbuilding jobs, another full percentage point of the total labor force. New England machine tools factories hired on 65,000 new workers and aircraft employment in Los Angeles County rose from 12,000 in October 1938 to 57,000 in early 1941 and again to 100,000 by late 1941—again, it is worth stressing, before the U.S. entered the war in December. Business Week estimated that federal military expenditures would jump to $16 billion in 1941 [out of total national income of $85 billion] and $24 billion in 1942 [out of total of $93 billion]. With so many new jobs being created, consumption, the fundamental problem of the depression, began to rise. Between 1939-41, consumer spending rose 16 percent. Military spending was thus not just going to big items like tanks and planes, but reaching virtually every household in America. Because of rationing and shortages after the U.S. entered the war, spending did not rise significantly and so people saved their new incomes, but after the war, between late 1945 to 1948, consumer spending soared by over 50 percent overall and 31 percent per capita. Clearly, military spending for World War II had created incredible prosperity in America, and it began before the U.S. even entered the war. In a December 29th, 1940 speech, FDR told his radio listeners that the U.S. would be an arsenal for democracy, meaning that it would provide weapons for the British or any other state fighting against the Nazis.

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This declaration had a dual purpose, to defeat Germany and to expand the American economy. On March 11th, 1941, still 9 months before Pearl Harbor, the president went further, announcing the Lend-Lease program. The U.S., FDR promised, would provide aid to Britain, the Soviet Union, China, anti-fascists in France, and other anti-Axis groups to fight against Germany and Japan. Congress appropriated $50 billion for Lend-Lease, an amount equivalent to about $800 billion today. With this new aid, about one-fourth of all British munitions came from Lend-Lease supplies. The Soviet Union, whose rail industry was shut down by the German invasion, received 2000 locomotives and 11,000 rail cars, and the Soviet Air Force got 18,700 planes, while about two-thirds of the Red Army’s trucks were U.S.-built. After U.S. entry into the war, American production soared, as did manufacturing by the British, Russians and other Allies. By the mid-1940s, military spending reached 41 percent of the GDP, the highest rate ever, and by 1945 expenditures for the war and other defense measures accounted for 88 percent of all federal spending. What critics would soon call the “Military-Industrial Complex” was already on display, had gotten America out of the depression, was waging world war, and would create an economic surge unlike any seen before or after the war was over.

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World War II was history’s largest and bloodiest conflict, affecting dozens of nations and billions of people. It caused destruction on a massive scale and death in huge numbers, involved a horrid ethnic and cultural genocide, and introduced new weapons of warfare to the world with deadly consequences. It was fought on two continents and two oceans and, in the span of a halfdecade, changed the entire system of global politics—with former powers defeated and laying in waste while others, especially the U.S., in positions of strength and power far beyond their prewar levels and any other countries. It changed the world politically and economically, and had a huge impact in the countries where the war was fought as civilians were targeted more than any conflict before and entire societies, not just armies, had direct roles in the conflict. Given the immensity of the war, it is not possible to discuss it in detail here, so we will consider some of the more critical aspects of the war itself in Europe and Asia, the outcomes, and the consequences for the future. In Europe, Germany’s successful aggression of the 1930s had finally been

World War and the Growth of Global Power

Figure 5-2 Map of WWII in Europe

stopped somewhat in the Battle of Britain in 1940-41, but the German offensive into the Soviet Union was making headway. Should Hitler capture parts of Russia, he would have access to vital raw materials, railways to transfer goods and troops, and oil. The initial stages of the invasion in June 1941 went better than planned, as the Germans broke through Soviet lines, their air force knocked out Russian airfields, and Stalin, despite advice from his commanders to do a tactical retreat, kept his troops on the line fighting and suffered huge losses. By October, however, the German advance was slowing. The Nazis had moved so quickly through the Soviet Union in the first few months that they had outrun their system of logistics [acquiring, storing and distributing material to armies and personnel; transporting troops to the front; maintaining and operating facilities like forts and bases; getting supplies and reinforcements into the battlefield; communicating between armies and staffs, and providing medical support, among other things] and had to slow down in

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order to get more troops and equipment. This delay gave the Soviets time to regroup and when the German offensive resumed in November, Russian tanks were in position to attack and the weather had become bitterly cold [temperatures dropped into the -40 range and German soldiers were still wearing light uniforms because Hitler had assumed the invasion would end quickly] so soldiers froze to death, diesel fuel froze in the tanks, and food was in short supply, while the Russians were better-equipped to handle the freeze. Germany did conquer the Ukraine, a vital part of southern Russia just east of Poland, and laid siege to Leningrad [formerly and again St. Petersburg], a major industrial city in the central part of Russia on the Baltic Sea. The siege would eventually cost a million Russian lives over 900 days, but in December 1941, despite the dire circumstances, Stalin’s government rallied. The Red Army got new leaders, the Soviets expanded production of tanks, planes, and artillery, Lend-Lease aid began to arrive, and, most impressively, the Russians took apart entire factories and shifted and rebuilt them across the Ural Mountain range, far from German forces. By December 1941, even as Germany was approaching Moscow, the Russians had effectively delayed the invasion and were safe from conquest. With Pearl Harbor occurring at the same time, the lineup for the war was now set: the Allies—the U.S., Britain, and the Soviet Union, versus the Axis— Germany, Italy, and Japan. Though the world was at war on 2 continents, the U.S. and Britain easily decided on a “Europe First” strategy since that region was most vital to preserving the Open Door, and thus creating prosperity. But it was an uncomfortable alliance, as noted, with the 3 powers having different goals—the Open Door, Empire, and Security and Communism. Almost immediately the first major disagreement between them emerged, the establishment of a Second Front. Since the Germans had sent millions of troops into Russia in the East, Stalin wanted his allies to establish a military front in the West, in France preferably, to force Hitler to take a significant number of troops and equipment away from the Soviet theater and shift them to the west, thus reducing the Soviet Union’s losses and responsibility for taking on the Wehrmacht. In the meantime, as the Allies debated the Second Front, the German offensive continued but the Russians prevented it from taking over the agriculture, industry, and oil of the Caucasus, the area abutting Turkey and Iran on the Black Sea. The Second Front controversy exposed divisions between the U.S. and

World War and the Growth of Global Power

Britain. The British were not eager to open another theater, leading Stalin to accuse Churchill of allowing the Soviet Union to fight Germany virtually alone and continue to lose men and see its land destroyed. The Soviets accused the British of being willing to “fight to the last Russian soldier.” The Americans, however, agreed with Stalin on the need for another front to be quickly established, recognizing the Soviet contributions. Roosevelt told General Douglas MacArthur, American Commander in the Far East, “the Russian armies are killing more Axis personnel and destroying more Axis material than all twenty-five United Nations [the Allies] put together.” One American officer explained, “if we’re to keep Russia in, save the Middle East, India, and Burma, we’ve got to begin [air attacks in] West Europe, to be followed by a land attack as soon as possible.” FDR agreed, and told the Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov to “inform Mr. Stalin that [he] expected the formation of a second front this year.” Roosevelt did not keep his word, however, and instead gave in to British pressure for an invasion of North Africa, Operation Torch, which led to invasions of Sicily and Italy rather than the creation of a Second Front. Britain was more concerned with the Balkans

Figure 5-3 U.S. soldier receiving blood plasma after wounded in Sicily, August 9, 1943

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and southern Europe, the traditional lines of transport for imperial trade, and would not risk those interests to help its Russian Allies fight the Germans in the East. General Dwight Eisenhower, the Commander of Allied Forces, was upset, saying it could be the “blackest day in history” if Russia were forced out of the war because of the failure to set up another front in the West. With the Second Front postponed, Operation Torch began in November 1942. It was what Churchill called the “soft underbelly” approach, using the analogy of fighting a crocodile by attacking not its massive jaws but its soft stomach region. The first target was Sicily, an island off southern Italy, which the allies cleared in a month, at which point the Italians deposed Mussolini and Italy switched sides, handing over its navy, air force, and merchant ships to the allies to fight against Germany. One would think that Italy was now in allied hands, but the Germans came in and occupied northern Italy and fought a brutal series of battles through 1944-45 even though there was no real strategic objective there for either side. Stalin, angrier about the failure to set up a Second Front, had no choice but to continue fighting the Germans. By 1943, after losing a major battle at Stalingrad and retreating from the Caucasus, Hitler really had no hopes of an offensive victory against Russia. The Soviet Red Army began to wear down the Germans, especially with its tanks, and Hitler began to suffer manpower shortages from the Russian attacks. By the end of the war, the Red Army would be responsible for over 80 percent of the German soldiers killed in Europe, thus more than any country defeating the Nazis. With Germany now in retreat, the Soviets in January 1944 moved into Poland and Rumania and by mid-year had advantages over the Wehrmacht of 4:1 in manpower and 6:1 in armor. The Red Army was sweeping through the Baltics and Eastern Europe, heading toward Berlin to defeat Germany. This was a problem for the U.S. and it was the major reason behind FDR’s insistence on a Second Front. If the Soviets were to conquer Germany without allied support, they would be able to determine what the German government and society would look like after the war, and a Communist Germany would be a major threat to the Open Door. Given their fears of the Red Army liberating Germany, FDR made the establishment of the western front a priority, and on D-Day, June 6th, 1944, allied forces landed on Normandy Beach in France to begin an offensive against Germany, thus putting the Nazis in a vise between the U.S. and Britain in the West, and the Red Army in the East. The

World War and the Growth of Global Power

Russians were pouring through Eastern Europe now, clearing the Nazis from Yugoslavia, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia, and, most importantly for the postwar era, leaving occupation troops and setting up Communist governments in the areas they liberated. In addition to the land campaign, the Allies were also conducting an intense air war. With American planes in the lead, they dropped 2.7 million tons of bombs on Germany, 72 percent of them between July 1944-May 1945. They also used incendiary bombs—weapons dropped from planes with napalm, a gel consisting of gas that would explode and cause massive firestorms on impact. In Hamburg in July 1943, the fire bombings killed about 40,000 civilians, wiped out over 6000 acres, burned 300,000 homes, and left 750,000 homeless. In February 1945, American planes hit the city of Dresden, with similarly huge death and destruction. With only a brief pause in the allied offensive, the so-called Battle of the Bulge in late 1944early 1945 when the Nazis found a hole, a “bulge,” in the allied lines and made a brief attack, the U.S., Britain, and Soviet Union were crushing Germany. In the East, the Red Army had an 11:1 manpower advantage, 7 times more tanks, and 20 times more artillery and aircraft. Germany was on

Figure 5-4 Members of the U.S. Coast Guard watch the explosion and sinking of a Nazi U-Boat, April 17, 1943

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the ropes and Americans and Russians met at the Elbe River and marched into Berlin together. Hitler killed himself, and the Germans surrendered on May 8th, 1945, known as VE, for “Victory in Europe,” Day. The Nazis, such an imposing force with designs on world conquest just 4 years earlier, were now defeated and Germany was in ruins, which would lead to serious consequences after the war, the so-called Cold War.

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G lobal P ower (A sia ), 1941-1945

Yamamoto’s prediction after Pearl Harbor was correct; Japanese forces did “run wild” in the Pacific for several months after December 1941, and he was right to lack confidence thereafter. Japan took advantage of America’s unprepared state and with its big navy—10 carriers, 11 battleships, 40 cruisers, 100

Figure 5-5 Map of WWII in the Pacific

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destroyers, 63 submarines, and 3000 planes—and also struck Guam, Wake Island, and Hong Kong. Americans expected to be more successful in the Philippines, its colony, but Japan destroyed most U.S. planes there and began a land campaign that lasted from December 1941 until FDR ordered his commander, General MacArthur, to withdraw in April 1942. MacArthur, who had investments in land, mining, and industry in the Philippines, famously pledged “I shall return.” As for the Japanese, they took over Indochina [Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos], Malaya, the Dutch East Indies for its oil, and Burma [now Myanmar]. By mid-1942 Japan was at the height of its power, dominating the western Pacific Ocean and Southeast Asia and looking for more gains in the Indian Ocean, Australia, and the Central Pacific. In late spring-early summer of 1942, the Japanese and Americans had their first significant encounters, in the Battles of Coral Sea and Midway. The Coral Sea was near Australia, a key prize for the Japanese. Both sides had carriers in the water and caused significant damage, and though suffering greater losses the U.S. did turn back the Japanese threat to western Australia. Barely a month later, in July 1942, Japan tried to extend its “sphere” to Midway, at the western end of the Hawai’ian Island chain. It sent a major fleet commanded by Yamamoto to Midway to fight against a smaller American group of ships. U.S. planes flying from carriers destroyed 4 Japanese carriers and, for the first time, America was a clear-cut victor over Tokyo’s Imperial Navy and had ended Japan’s hopes for a short war. The U.S. from that point on had the strategic initiative in the Pacific, in large measure because American industry was now producing ships at full capacity and sending out a fleet that would be much larger than Japan’s. Immediately after Midway, both sides headed for the Solomon Islands, to Guadalcanal, where they would have a brutal battle from August 1942-February 1943. The Japanese wanted a base at Guadalcanal to harass and deny supply and communication lanes between the U.S., Australia, and Britain, while the Americans wanted to use it and nearby Tulagi to go after a major Japanese base at Rabaul on nearby New Britain. Through 1942, Japanese ships attacked the U.S. fleet and Japanese forces on land dug in and fought ruggedly, but by February of the next year, Japan had absorbed too many losses and abandoned the area, losing its reputation for being invincible. From then on, 1943-45, the war in the Pacific steadily turned against Japan as America sent more ships and sailors to the region and wore down the enemy.

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In the April 43 Battle of Bismarck Sea the U.S. for the first time used landbased bombers to destroy the Japanese armada and kill 3000 sailors headed toward New Guinea Then, in June 1943, MacArthur and Admiral William “Bull” Halsey, commander in the South Pacific, launched new operations in the Solomons and New Guinea with the objective of Japanese bases at Bougainville and Rabaul, with few American losses but far greater casualties for the enemy. By late 1943-early 1944, the area was safely in American hands. In the Central Pacific, forces led by Admiral Chester Nimitz began a campaign in November 1943 to gain bases in the Gilbert Islands as a stepping-stone to the Marshall Islands chain. At the center of the Gilberts lay an atoll named Tarawa that would be the sight of one of the more tenacious battles of the Pacific war. The U.S. opened with a massive bombardment that the Japanese withstood, preventing Marine landing craft from reaching the beach. Due to Japanese fire and the tides, and then 4 days of savage fighting, over 1600 marines died and 2000 were wounded. But the Japanese suffered a worse fate, losing almost 4700 personnel, as many laborers as military troops, and having only 17 sur-

Figure 5-6 U.S. soldiers at the invasion of New Guinea, April 22, 1944

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vivors. Nimitz effectively attacked Japanese forces in the Marshalls, gaining control in February 1944, and moved on to the Mariana Islands, one of the few areas still held by Japan [along with the Caroline and Palau Islands and the Philippines]. There, from mid-June to early-July 1944, the U.S. pounded Japanese soldiers in the Battle of Saipan and then destroyed the enemy fleet in the Philippine Sea, which positioned the U.S. to strike at the Philippines and threaten the Japanese oil supply from the East Indies, while using the Marianas as a base for bomber attacks against Japan. The war, irrevocably, had turned against Japan by mid-1944 and it was in retreat everywhere. MacArthur was now ready to retake the Philippines but first had to endure a rugged 2-month battle to root the Japanese out of the Palaus, which cost the U.S. 2000 casualties. Meanwhile, naval aviators attacked Luzon, in the Philippines, Formosa, one of China’s offshore islands, and the Ryukus, an island just south of Japan and east of China. In those battles the U.S. shot down over 500 Japanese planes while losing 79 American aircraft. On October 20th, 1944 U.S. forces landed at the Leyte Gulf in the Philippines, prompting MacArthur’s famous statement, “I have returned.” In the Leyte Gulf, Japan set its entire fleet and used kamikaze tactics, deliberately flying planes on suicide missions into American ships, but to little avail. The Americans destroyed 4 Japanese carriers, 3 battleships, 6 heavy and 4 light cruisers, 11 destroyers, and 500 planes. By February 1945, U.S. forces were ready to enter the capital, Manila, where they fought against Japan street-tostreet, building-to-building, house-to-house for over 3 months, with over 100,000 civilians killed until the country was liberated in the spring of 1945. In the northern Pacific, Nimitz invaded Iwo Jima on February 19th, a small island about 650 miles south of Tokyo, both to eliminate Japanese fighter planes from being based there and to use as an advance base for U.S. bombers to hit the mainland. The fighting there continued into late March and was brutal, with 6800 Americans killed and 19,000 wounded, and almost 19,000 of the 22,000 enemy forces dead. Nimitz also went after Okinawa, about 750 miles south of the mainland, on April 1st and the Japanese had 120,000 troops waiting. Desperate fighting raged for 6 weeks and Japan made its last stand, until the battle ended in June. The U.S. suffered 12,000 killed and about 36,000 wounded but almost the entire Japanese force was killed. At the same time, the U.S. unleashed a savage air war against Japan. Under the command of General Curtis LeMay [whom

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many say was the inspiration for the “Jack D. Ripper” character in “Dr. Strangelove,” a satirical 1964 movie about nuclear war] the U.S. dropped incendiary bombs on major Japanese cities. On March 9th, over 300 B-29 bombers dropped the napalm-laced bombs on Tokyo, which destroyed 16 square miles of the city and killed 85,000 Japanese, almost all civilians. The U.S. was ready to march on Japan, setting up a land invasion to finish off Tokyo’s Imperial Army and end the aggression of the “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.” With promises of Soviet intervention secured in February, it was only a matter of time before Japan would be beaten [see next chapter].

E conomic P ower W ins

the

W ar !

Ultimately, success in the Pacific, and in Europe, came from the industrial strength of the Allies. Between 1941-1945, the factories of the U.S., Britain, and the Soviet Union were able to produce dramatically more weapons than the Axis. Just to cite some figures, the U.S. and Russia combined manufactured close to 200,000 tanks and self-propelled guns, over 750,000 artillery pieces, over 300,000 mortars, over 4 million machine guns, and more than 2.5 million military trucks [with 2.3 million produced by Americans], and 41 billion rounds of ammunition by the U.S. alone. Britain’s production numbers were much smaller, but still substantial. Germany, Japan and Italy combined, however, built about 115,000 tanks, 170,000 artillery, 125,000 mortars, about a million machine guns, and 200,000 trucks. The advantage in aircraft production was equally great. The U.S. and Soviet Union produced around 633,000 aircraft of all types while the Axis made just 278,000. The Americans built about 125,000 naval ships and boats, while the enemy far fewer, and had an advantage in merchant tonnage of 33 million to 4 million. These figures should not be surprising when the massive edge of the Allies in the raw materials essential for the production of industrial military goods is taken into account. American, British, and Russian factories produced about 4 billion metric tons of coal, 500 million tons of iron ore, 1 million metric tons, or about 7 million barrels [about 85 percent American] of oil, and over 500,000 millions tons of steel [again, almost all American]. Conversely, the Axis produced 2.5 billion metric tons of coal, 260 million tons of iron ore, 500,000 tons of crude oil—which combined the amounts produced in Germany, synthetic fuels, and

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oil taken from occupied countries—and 150 million tons of steel, mostly German. By the end of the war, 70 percent of everything used to defeat the Axis came from an American factory. Among those recognizing the feat was Stalin, who raised a toast during a 1943 meeting with FDR and Churchill to “American production, without which this war would have been lost.” American factory workers and Red Army soldiers, above all, had made Allied victory possible. The Military Keynesian approach that came with the onset of the war in Europe had helped rescue the U.S. economy even before American participation after Pearl Harbor. Escalating production for the war then created greater economic power as the conflict was fought. Preparing for war, the process of mobilization, led to major changes in the economy, a continuation of the type of ideas put forth in Hoover’s trade association concepts and FDR’s First New Deal. That meant the government and businessmen had to work as one, planning out schedules, quotas, deadlines, finance, and distribution for the immense amount of war material to be manufactured. Henry Stimson, now Secretary of War, explained, “If you are going to try to go to war, or to prepare for war, in a capitalist country, you have got to let business make money out of the process or business won’t work.” The greater unification of the state and corporations led to huge economic growth, especially for the bigger industrial firms that got most of the government contracts. Antitrust violations were suspended so the largest companies especially could do as they wish—merge, collude, fix prices and production—and not fear problems from the Attorney General or courts. Consequently, many of the largest firms providing materials for the war doubled their profits, or more, while smaller producers often went out of business, a situation similar to the reforms of the Progressive Era, the Hoover years, and the early New Deal. In the first year after U.S. entry into the war, America’s industrial output, as seen above, had soared and already surpassed than the Axis, and by 1944 reached production numbers more than double those of the enemy. American industrial output itself more than doubled between 1942-1945, giving more evidence for Stalin’s observation above. To manage this economy and create such growth, Roosevelt re-shaped the economy with new programs and bureaucracies. Businessmen, many of whom had been upset with Second New Deal programs, now rushed to Washington D.C. to run the agencies created to oversee production, working as “dollar a

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year men,” meaning they received a symbolic salary of one dollar for their work. But the profits that their companies [and thus they] would gain as a result of their decisions would be massive. To begin, they created a system of “costs plus” contracting, in which the government would pay for all research and manufacturing and give businesses a percentage profit on products they made, and would cover overruns, the “plus,” if their initial projections on costs were short. FDR also guaranteed low-rate loans to industries to re-tool their machines for war equipment and to subsidize the construction of new factories. To run the economic side of the war, the government created various agencies, a National Defense Advisory Commission, the Office of Production Management, the Office of War Mobilization, and, importantly, the War Production Board. Teams of government and private industry representatives managed all the agencies, with the principal aims of making the “stuff ” needed for war—tanks, planes, ships, guns, bullets, shells, uniforms, medical supplies—and making big profits at home. As the figures on production cited above show, the system worked exceptionally well. More importantly, this model would continue permanently after the war was over, creating the most vast economic power the U.S., or the world, had ever seen. The government also sponsored R&D, or Research and Development, for wartime industries [and agriculture to a lesser extent]. The Germans had assembled a team of scientists involved in developing new weapons and types of war material, such as synthetic fuels, so FDR, to keep up, established the Office of Scientific Research and Development [OSRD] in June 1941, controlled by civilians and managed by an engineer, Vannevar Bush. The OSRD developed weapons and new technologies and also conducted medical research into the mass production of penicillin and other “sulpha drugs,” antibiotics that were essential to battlefield medicine. It invented new pesticides and insecticides and drugs to treat malaria and syphilis. As a result, it was able to reduce by half the number of deaths from infection and other battlefield diseases from the Great War. With almost 1000 employees, the agency produced over 30,000 reports, handled 2500 contracts, and was valued at over $500 million. These agencies helped create immense wealth. The per capita income of Americans rose from $370 in 1940 to almost $1100 by 1945, a 3-fold increase. Personal income, due to wartime profits and the spike in employment, rose

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from $81 billion to $180 billion, over a 200 percent increase. Since millions of women entered the workforce [see section below], family incomes rose even more as many families had more than one breadwinner. With this major infusion of money into the economy all of a sudden, inflation became a problem, with prices rising nearly 20 percent in the first year of the war, and some items were unavailable as the military had priority on all goods. Congress thus gave the Office of Price Administration the power to regulate costs and regulate and ration goods. Americans received a book of ration coupons, one for canned foods and another for meat, fish, and dairy goods, to limit what they could purchase. Soon, the government rationed gasoline, tires, and even clothing. Because production in steel, rubber, and glass was so essential to the wars in Europe and Asia, the government made auto manufacturers stop making cars for civilian use and stopped the production of radios, refrigerators, and some other small appliances. By 1945, the government had either stopped manufacturing or limited production on about 300 different goods. As noted above, many Americans had more money than they could spend due to wartime shortages and rationing, and this led to a huge rise in consumption immediately after the war. All of these changes—in government economic

Figure 5-7 Cartoon by Charles Shows poking fun at wartime conservation

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policy, production, and consumption—would lead to major developments inside the U.S. too, as women, labor, and ethnic groups all saw a transformation in their conditions and roles in American society as a result of the world war. The combination of the Open Door abroad and military production at home led to a huge growth in American power and wealth.

D estruction

and

C rimes A gainst H umanity

That success, however, came at a horrific cost. With so many tanks, planes, ships, and munitions being produced, the number of deaths was staggering, perhaps 60-80 million total, or about 2.5 percent of the global population at the time [a similar carnage today would take 175 million lives]. Precise numbers are difficult to come by, but no one disputes the Soviet Union suffered the gravest losses in the war, with estimates ranging from 20-28 million, or about 14 percent of its total population [a similar death rate in the U.S. would have meant about 18 million were killed]. China suffered an immense number of deaths too, anywhere from 10-20 million. Germany saw 7-9 million of its people killed, Poland lost about 6 million, Japan approximately 3 million, and Italy about 500,000. The Americans and British, by comparison, lost about 400,000 each, while France had about 600,000 killed. The Asian theater was particularly bloody, with the Dutch East Indies losing about 4 million people, India and Indochina about 2 million each, and the Philippines about 1 million. World War II was the first “modern” war in another way—the vast majority of those killed were civilians, not fighters, about 60 percent. Many of that number, of course, perished in the Nazi Holocaust, Hitler’s attempt to create a “pure” race of Germanic peoples by eliminating “undesirables” like Communists, Gypsies, Homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Freemasons, the disabled, and of course Jews. The Holocaust is perhaps the most widely-known aspect of World War II, given the horrors inflicted on victimized groups and the sheer size of the genocide, a deliberate attack and destruction of a group based on racial, ethnic, cultural or other similar factors [similar, in U.S. history, to the extermination of Indians in the aftermath of the European conquest of the New World or African slavery]. Nazi views on political ideology, ethnicity, and race were well-known by the time the war began. Hitler wrote his anti-Jewish manifesto Mein Kampf [“My Struggle”] in 1925-26 and German attacks on Jews,

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Figure 5-8 A truck load of dead prisoners from the Nazi Buchenwald concentration camp in Weimar, Germany, April 14, 1945

most notably Kristallnacht, or the “night of broken glass,” a series of attacks on Jews and their stores, homes, and synagogues in Germany and Austria in November 1938, gained significant attention. Likewise, many were aware of Nazi concentration camps, areas where Jews and others were sent to live in prison-like conditions for some contrived misdeeds they had committed. After Kristallnacht, for example, the Nazis put 30,000 Jews in camps. Still, no one envisioned even at the outset of the war that Nazi ideology would lead to millions of deaths by 1945. The Germans began seriously to plan and accelerate the “final solution,” the mass extermination of Jews and others, and the world became aware of it later, in 1942. Once the invasion into the Soviet Union stalled in December 1941, Hitler began to intensify his repression and order the final solution as an attack on both Jews and Communists. FDR and other allied leaders were aware of the plight of European Jews under Nazi control by mid-1942, but did little to confront or stop it. In fact, it took FDR about 18 months, in January 1944, to establish a War Refugee Board to coordinate the rescue of Jews escaping Germany, and even then it took in only 132,000 people fleeing the Nazis, just

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10 percent of the quota allowed by law. FDR argued that the best way to save Jews was to defeat Germany on the battlefield but Jewish leaders in the U.S. pressured him into creating the refugee board, which was ordered to “rescue the victims of enemy oppression who are in imminent danger of death and otherwise to afford such victims all possible relief and assistance consistent with the successful prosecution of the war.” The war, however, was more important and took priority over saving those under Nazi control. By war’s end, Hitler’s final solution, in addition to provoking the destruction of much of Europe, accounted for 12 million deaths in the Holocaust as well.

R osie

and

ER: W omen , P ower ,

and

W artime

While the war was fought far away from the United States, it definitely had a huge impact at home too. In 1943 the Bureau of Motion Pictures in the U.S. Office of War Information released Glamour Girls of 1943, a wartime propaganda film designed to encourage women to enter wartime industries. The film showed pretty, well-dressed white women working industrial jobs with perfect hair and bright smiles. The narrator happily noted that “instead of

Figure 5-9 Wartime women workers learning to solder, April 1942

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cutting out dresses, this woman stamps out the patterns of airplane parts. . . . Instead of baking cakes, this woman is cooking gears to reduce the tension in the gears after use. [And] after a short apprenticeship, a woman can operate this drill press as easily as a juice extractor in her own kitchen.” During the war, the actual face of labor changed dramatically as the War Department encouraged millions of women to become employees in defense plants and government offices. Employers were urged to tap into the “vast resource of womanpower” as a remedy for the wartime labor shortage caused by the removal of up to 16 million men who were in the military. At the same time, the expansion of the wartime defense industry also demanded more and more workers. War industry factories, including both government-sponsored and private sector manufacturers, absorbed millions and millions of women workers during the war years. Six million women took jobs for the first time during WWII, transforming the American workforce. In 1940, women made up less than 25 percent of the entire United States labor force; by the summer of 1944, the percentage jumped to 35. The number of married women employed doubled during the war. Over 800,000 women were in a union in 1940, but by 1944, 3 million had joined one. The number of females in defense plants rose a whopping 460 percent. States lifted bans on laws regarding women in heavy industry and modified and removed protective labor laws on night work and overtime to encourage employment. While most female workers took jobs in manufacturing, an additional million performed clerical work in various federal bureaucratic offices, doubling the clerical workforce by 1945. Other women joined the armed forces for the first time ever. The Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) formed soon after the Pearl Harbor incident. In 1943, female pilots ferried planes to bases, tested the aircrafts for accurate performance, and even flew noncombat missions. Other women served as volunteers in bond drives, the Red Cross, and ration committees. But it was the female factory worker who was perhaps the most visible symbol during the war, primarily due to massive propaganda to encourage more women to take industrial jobs. Women assembled machine guns, airplane frames, parachutes, propellers, artillery, munitions, engines, and gas masks. Women operated hand drills, band saws, and rivet guns—hence, government films about the “glamour girls” in industry. Other war advertisements featured Hollywood heroines such as Lucille Ball working in a defense plant and Claudette Colbert welding. The wildly popular “Rosie the Riveter” image,

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Figure 5-10 Rosie the Riveter

a young woman wearing a bandanna on her head and flexing her strong arms, became a female icon performing her patriotic duty by producing munitions. “Rosie” is still a component of today’s pop culture. Photographers from agencies like the Army’s First Motion Picture Unit would visit munitions factories and interview and photograph attractive women to use in advertisement campaigns. One woman, Norma Jeane Dougherty, an eighteen-year-old working for a company called Radioplane in Burbank, California, earned $20 a week making pilotless remote-control aircraft [what we today call drones]. Norma had her picture taken by an Army’s First Motion Picture Unit photographer. The published photo helped Dougherty catch the eye of people in Hollywood. She soon left the defense plant, moved to Hollywood, and changed her name to Marilyn Monroe. Besides featuring pretty women, government propaganda compared munitions to traditional domestic work to stress that women wartime workers were performing these uncharacteristic roles during a temporary emergency. The government wanted women to perform their duties as mothers and citizens too. Munitions making, then, was like running a sewing machine. Operating a drill press was like using an electric mixer in the kitchen. The government

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emphasized that workers were not meant to replace the male labor force. They were needed as industrial workers during an emergency, and once the war was over, they were expected to return home and allow men to once again take their factory jobs. Women were certainly not meant to replace men, crowd the labor market, and push wages down once the war ended. They simply had to sacrifice their roles as wife and mother temporarily as a patriotic duty. The government and American society did not necessarily change their values regarding women and equality in the workplace; women were still considered to have primary roles as mothers and wives. Though millions of females migrated to industry centers like Detroit, Seattle, and Baltimore to do wartime manufacturing work, at wages that averaged 40 percent more than those who worked in other industries, they were still considered temps who would soon leave the workforce. Consequently, the government initially hesitated to recruit women. To discourage permanent employment of women, the factories did not provide childcare centers, even though one-third of the female workers had children under the age of 14 [factories in England, on the other hand, provided such service]. The U.S. Children’s Bureau reminded women, “a mother’s primary duty is to her home and children. This duty is one she cannot lay aside, no matter what the emergency.” Although government agencies ordered that women receive pay equal to men for equal work, lax enforcement and employer tactics such as placing females into different job categories ensured that women received lower wages and it discouraged them from seeking permanent employment. Worse, African-American women more often than not were paid much less than white women, if they were even hired. It was customary to hire White women and African-American men first. If hired, Black women were usually assigned low-level manufacturing jobs. When the war ended, so too did the incredible influx of women into the American workforce. Many high-paying industries simply laid off their female employees; many other women voluntarily quit to reassume their domestic duties. The auto industry that produced tanks and trucks, for example, saw a decline in female employment from 24 percent in 1944 to 7.5 percent in 1946. At the end of 1946, 2 million women voluntarily left the labor force and another million were laid off. The May 1946 New York Times Magazine headline asked, “What’s Become of Rosie the Riveter?” Just as the federal propa-

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ganda machine had planned, Rosie the Riveter left the factory when the war ended and returned home to once more perform her duties as wife and mother. While Rosie and her sisters in the factories might have been pushed aside, there was one woman who both symbolically and in reality stood above all others in the World War II era and was a huge force for women’s rights in that era—ER, Eleanor Roosevelt, FDR’s wife and America’s First Lady. Two days after the March 4th, 1933 inauguration, it became clear that ER was unlike any previous first lady. On March 6th, she held the first ever news conference by a first lady; never had a president’s wife talked so freely with the press. Lou Henry Hoover, for example, held only one interview in the four years her husband was in office. Eleanor’s news conference was even more notable, and provocative, because she only allowed female reporters to participate. That meeting was the first of what would be called the “Red Room Sessions,” where ER met with female reporters to discuss political issues such as labor reform, sweatshops, education reform, low-cost housing, equal pay for equal work, minimum wages, child care for working mothers, and old age pensions—issues far more “liberal” than those on which her husband was working. Political reporter Ruby Black remarked, “previously, a President’s wife acted as if she didn’t know that a political party existed.” Surely, ER knew the New Deal existed and was going to do what she could to have an impact on it. From the onset of the FDR administration, it was clear that Eleanor would play a prominent role as an openly political first lady and advocate for racial and ethnic minorities, women, and children. When foreign crisis intensified, Mrs. Roosevelt’s proclivity to engage in political and social matters seemed to also increase. During World War II, a war in which her four sons were active servicemen, her public role deepened. The First Lady openly spoke out against fascism, challenged her husband’s wartime policies, acted as a Red Cross representative, advocated more prominent roles for African Americans and women in wartime preparedness, and visited troops in England and the South Pacific. Eleanor’s strong advocacy for domestic democracy and equality at home informed her actions during World War II, and made her an important symbol as an activist first lady, one often invoked by later first ladies like Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush, and Michelle Obama.

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Figure 5-11 Eleanor Roosevelt inspects African American war workers’ dormitories

Eleanor had a long history as a feminist activist, which continued into the war years. Since the 1920s, she pushed for reforms to help protect working women. In 1920, she joined the League of Women Voters and advocated public health, education, and welfare reforms. Two years later she joined the leftist Women’s Trade Union League and campaigned for minimum wage and maximum hour laws for women. She remained a vocal feminist and activist throughout the 1920s and 1930s and became the most prominent political organizer for women in the state of New York. Her concern for women continued as her husband became president and then as the U.S. entered WWII. For example, well before images of Rosie the Riveter popped up, Eleanor pushed for more prominent roles for women in wartime manufacturing. In 1942, she announced that all women, regardless of their race, should be allowed to learn trades and work in wartime factories. “If I were of a debutante age,” she said, “I would go into a factory—any factory where I could learn a skill and be useful.” Although men typically performed such work under normal conditions, the war pulled them from the factories and sent them off to fight. Moreover, war required more workers in temporary munitions-making jobs. Eleanor attempted to persuade private industries with federal contracts during wartime to provide services for their new female

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employees, including government-sponsored childcare, eating facilities located at the factories, and on-site grocery vendors. Programs such as those, ER argued, would provide peace of mind for mothers raising children while their husbands were at war and save them time by eliminating trips to the grocery store. No federal laws, however, were passed to ensure such programs, just as Congress passed no law to provide equal pay for equal work. Eleanor had always been a feminist activist, and she also consistently supported civil rights for African Americans. Before the outbreak of World War II, she had boldly criticized New Deal programs as discriminatory against African Americans. She also called attention to lynching, segregation, and disenfranchisement. Moreover, as noted earlier, she invited both controversy and Marian Anderson to be the first African American to perform at the White House and sponsored a huge concert for her at the Lincoln Memorial. Racist southerners in particular resented the First Lady’s support of African Americans and spread ridiculous rumors that “Eleanor Clubs” were formed by servants to bond against their employers and “Eleanor Tuesdays” took place when African American men supposedly knocked down white women they passed on the street. In any case, she remained an active supporter of African Americans during WWII. Eleanor pushed for the passage of legislation to ban discrimination against Black employees in both federal and private defense manufacturing industries and ensure desegregation of armed forces. NAACP President Walter White and A. Phillip Randolph, president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, worked with Eleanor to demand that FDR provide those rights. They also threatened a mass demonstration in Washington if FDR refused to act. Eleanor persistently pressured FDR, and on June 25th, 1941, he issued Executive Order 8802 that created the Fair Employment Practices Commission [FEPC]. The order banned employment discrimination by the federal government and in private defense contractors based on “race, creed, color or national origin.” It established the FEPC to make sure industries followed the new law. Executive Order 8802 was the First Lady’s most notable achievement, but she also made a point to highlight the service of African Americans during the war and wanted to see that they received equal praise for their bravery and service. Accordingly, she supported the Tuskegee Airmen, a group of men that became the first African American combat pilots [featured in a 2012 movie, Red Tails]. The press covered her visit to the Tuskegee Flying School in Alabama and she made nation-

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al news when she took a flight with the school’s chief flight instructor Charles “Chief ” Alfred Anderson. Eleanor’s sense of justice and equality persisted despite the December 7th, 1941 attack at Pearl Harbor. She advised the United States against a “great hysteria against minority groups.” ER opposed her husband’s decision to intern Japanese-Americans at concentration camps on the U.S. West coast [see below]. Unable to convince leaders to stop the interment program, Eleanor did what she could do to promise that families would not be split during internment. She was also deeply involved in movements to allow greater immigration of European refugees, but was unable to convince her husband or the administration to ease immigration policy. She even lobbied FDR to increase immigration of Jews persecuted by Nazis. FDR, however, did the opposite of what his wife suggested and actually restricted immigration after leaders in the State Department pressured him to do so. In any case, Eleanor raised public attention to the atrocities of the Holocaust and participated in speaking tours across America. She also lobbied Congress for the passage of the Child Refugee Bill to allow 10,000 more refugee kids from Germany to enter the United States each year. The bill never passed. Eleanor set yet another precedent by taking a job, the first time that a first lady worked. Although she did not receive any pay for her work, Eleanor was the assistant director of the Office of Civilian Defense [OCD] beginning September 22nd, 1941. She worked under OCD Director Fiorello LaGuardia, the mayor of New York. Eleanor organized a national civilian volunteer force for war preparations programs. However, LaGuardia and Roosevelt clashed early on because the First Lady wanted to use the OCD to tackle larger and long term social issues such as childcare, housing, and health. She also faced criticism from the Congress when they found out that two of Eleanor’s friends appointed to the committee were receiving larger than normal salaries. ER also hired a third friend, dancer Mayris Chaney, who designed calisthenics programs for kids in the event that they would be cramped into bomb shelters for long periods of times. Chaney also provided dance lessons for the OCD staff. Members of the public and Congress criticized the First Lady about her well-paid friends and her “fan dancer.” Rather than threaten the reputation of the OCD, Eleanor thought it best to resign her position with the organization. In October of 1942, Eleanor accepted the Queen of England’s invitation and made a trip to the country, marking the first time a first lady travelled

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outside the U.S. without her husband. Her various trips during the war made global news and Eleanor became a symbol of sorts for democracy. During her tour of England, she made a point to meet with segregated African American troops to inspect their facilities. She took a second trip to the South Pacific islands in August 1943, in which she toured as a representative of the Red Cross. She met some 400,000 soldiers, ate in their mess halls, and sat bedside with wounded soldiers. The trip deeply saddened the First Lady as she saw firsthand the violent affects of war. However, the soldiers greatly appreciated her concern; it was reported that no other individual lifted the spirits and morale of the soldiers as did Eleanor. She became a sort of motherly figure to the men—someone they could trust and felt comfortable approaching when problems within the system arose. Eleanor even maintained correspondence and long-term friendships with many soldiers. Nonetheless, political opponents of the FDR administration condemned the First Lady for using war funds to travel abroad. Eventually, her husband suggested she stop taking trips. Eleanor Roosevelt was certainly an atypical first lady. Her strong sense of social justice and equality informed her politics, activism, and outspokenness. Never before had a first lady openly criticized the policies of the president. Her support of women, racial and ethnic minorities, and social welfare programs such as government-sponsored childcare and minimum wage laws, made her the enemy of many of those in power. Whether one loved her or hated her, it was undeniable that Eleanor Roosevelt changed the role of being the president’s wife in dramatic ways, as she became the first activist first lady.

T he W ar

and the

“I rony ”

of

R ace

As with women, the war had a profound impact on African Americans. Fighting in a war against fascism, a war for human rights, a war that would eventually end the Holocaust, American Blacks believed that their participation in the conflict as patriotic Americans would solve the “negro problem” at home. After all, how could the U.S. take a global stand against injustice while maintaining its racist system at home? There would be a transformation on race at home, and some improvement, but in the end the irony of fighting for democracy abroad while maintaining segregation at home, as in the Great War, continued. Blacks did not benefit from the fight against the Axis to the

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extent they hoped for or expected [as the work of Graham Cox, especially his doctoral dissertation “What Irony! Herbert Pell, Crimes Against Humanity, and The Negro Problem” has shown]. The most significant response in the African-American community to an America at war was “The Double V Campaign” organized by the Pittsburgh Courier, a Black newspaper, which sought victory abroad over the Axis and victory at home over racial prejudice. Many Amerian Blacks wanted to believe they could play a critical role in winning the war and creating equality at home. Some expressed their hope by joining the NAACP, which increased its membership from 50,000 to over 500,000 as Blacks and Whites alike turned to the organization to demand racial equality. Others joined a new organization, the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), founded in 1942 on the principle of nonviolent direct action. Consequently, millions of African Americans played critical roles in the war effort. The racial policies of Nazi Germany also energized the Black community and motivated its leaders to use the war to protest racist policies in the United States. In March 1941, a full 9 months before the United States was at war, The Crisis reprinted an article from the Nation, “The Nazi Plan for Negroes,” with some critical additions by NAACP director Roy Wilkins. The article listed the “six principles” set up by Germany for “dark peoples.” Wilkins compared them to conditions in America, leaving to his readers “the question of whether there is a great deal of difference between the code for Negroes under Hitler and the code for Negroes under the United States of America – the leading democratic nation in the world.” As Wilkins saw it, in Germany and the U.S. South, “Colored people” were “inferior” and kept in their place by Whites; both Nazis and southerners controlled the labor of Blacks; intermarriage and voting rights were forbidden; and members of the “inferior race” were not allowed to join Nazi or the southern Democratic party. At the start of the war, there were 13 million African Americans in the U.S., 10 million still living in the South. Despite more than a half-century of change, most Blacks were still sharecroppers or tenant farmers. But during the war, millions moved north to work in war production industries. As wartime production grew, so did labor demand and so minorities had more opportunities, and more than a million Black Americans moved, both north and west, the greatest numbers moving to the large cities in Michigan, Illinois, New York, Ohio, and California. For African Americans, this was an oppor-

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tunity for much better pay and a chance to escape oppression in the South. Even more, the war – and the Allied ideology behind it – presented an opportunity for them to fight the gross contradictions in American society. How could the United States expect Black support of a war to remove tyranny and end the racist policies of the Axis powers while maintaining segregation at home? In a November 1940 campaign speech in New York’s Madison Square Garden, FDR announced, “We are a nation of many nationalities, many races, many religions – bound together by a single unity, the unity of freedom and equality. Whoever seeks to set one nationality against another, seeks to degrade all nationalities. Whoever seeks to set one race against another seeks to enslave all races. Whoever seeks to set one religion against another, seeks to destroy all religion.” Roosevelt was making a pointed appeal to minority voters in New York, Blacks in particular. Most African Americans, however, were not moved by the lofty rhetoric. In the summer of 1941, still months before Pearl Harbor, the head of the predominantly Black Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, A. Philip Randolph, called for American military contractors to integrate their factories. To pressure the government, Randolph organized a massive march on Washington scheduled for July 1st, and he expected 100,000 to attend. Roosevelt tried to persuade Randolph to call off the march, fearing political embarrassment as much as violence. Randolph refused, so Roosevelt convinced him to call off the march only in exchange for a promise to establish the FEPC to investigate discrimination against Blacks in defense industries. While the FEPC may have been good for morale and a step forward for Black Americans, it largely failed. The agency lacked enforcement powers and a had a small budget, and FEPC did little more than advocate equality in the workplace and hold meetings. The wartime need for labor did considerably more for Blacks than did FEPC. In part because of the weakness of the FEPC, but more because of racial barriers being crossed in the workplace, World War II produced an increase in racial violence in U.S. cities. There were more than 200 major race riots during the war years. While every section of the United States experienced violence, the worst occurred in 1943 in Detroit, Michigan. The rapid influx of Blacks into Detroit strained the city’s transportation, education, and housing systems. A federal housing project for Black defense workers in a White neighborhood ultimately led to a riot that could only be brought under con-

World War and the Growth of Global Power

trol by federal troops, and only after 700 people were wounded and 35 killed, including 17 African American “looters” shot by Detroit police. As it was during World War I, the military became a focus for black activism. Except for the Coast Guard, every branch of the armed services exercised a routine policy of racial discrimination. Part of Executive Order 8802 called for the full participation of “all persons regardless of color, race, creed, or national origin” in all government departments including the military. The Marine Corps, however, took a year to recruit its first blacks and, in August 1942 the first 13 arrived, recruited to serve as cooks, bakers, and barbers. By 1943, Black Marines labored directly behind the front lines, unloading munitions and other supplies on Pacific beaches in support of Allied landings. In the Navy, they were segregated by occupation, most working in the food services, or as stevedores [dockworkers] like their fellow Marines. Throughout the conflict, the U.S. War Department maintained that soldiers of different races were best separated. Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall explained that “the War Department cannot ignore the social relationships between negroes and whites which have been established by the American people through custom and habit.” Moreover, he argued that “experiments within the Army in the solution of social problems are fraught with danger to efficiency, discipline, and morale.” He was not about to permit the attempted “settlement of vexing racial problems…to complicate the tremendous task of the War Department and thereby jeopardize discipline and morale.” Early in the war, the NAACP proposed that the Army might improve morale through the establishment of a unit open to all races. Walter White, head of the NAACP, had suggested to Marshall that he create an integrated all-volunteer Army division. Volunteers, theoretically, would be men possessing little prejudice. If the Army adopted his suggestion, White believed such a unit made up of Americans “irrespective of race, creed, color, or national origin” would “set a new and successful pattern of democracy.” Despite support for the plan from a few members of the War Department, Marshall rejected the idea. The General was convinced that any such plan threatened the entire war effort. The U.S. military thus remained segregated throughout the war and would not begin to integrate until July 1948, when President Truman signed Executive Order 9981, which stated, “It is hereby declared to be the policy of the President that there shall be equality of treatment and

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opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin.” The Order did not specifically call for an end to segregation, although that was Truman’s intent. Consequently, it took several years to complete the process of integrating the military. In general practice, the Army did not use black troops in combat during the war. The 92d Infantry saw action in Italy, and another group of black soldiers were in the Battle of the Bulge. The most celebrated black unit, the 99th Air Force Fighter squadron – the Tuskegee Airmen – performed superbly over Germany escorting bombers in 1944 and 1945. By the end of the war, more than 500,000 African Americans had served in the Army. On the whole, the Roosevelt Administration did little to advance civil rights during the war. He willingly listened to Black leaders express their discontent, but whatever sympathy he possessed was small in comparison to political realities. Roosevelt feared losing support in the South if he moved too far in challenging segregation and discrimination at home in America. Despite the reluctance of the

Figure 5-12 Tuskegee airmen at a briefing in Ramitelli, Italy, March 1945

World War and the Growth of Global Power

administration to take any action, the rhetoric behind the war effort helped change American racial attitudes in the postwar years. Swedish sociologist and author Gunnar Myrdal identified it in the title of his celebrated 1944 book, An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and American Racism. The United States had been prepared to oppose and defeat fascism, but fighting fascism abroad meant America was fighting racism abroad. Myrdal wrote, “In fighting fascism and racism, America had to stand before the world in favor of racial tolerance and cooperation and of racial equality.” Prophetically, Myrdal concluded, even before the war was over and a full decade before the emergence of the modern Civil Rights Movement, that “not since Reconstruction had there been more reason to anticipate fundamental changes in American race relations.”

T he I nternment

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J apanese A mericans

Though the war did not bring the gains African Americans hoped for, the racial and ethnic discrimination, assault in fact, against Japanese Americans was worse. The U.S. Immigration Act of 1924 essentially banned any Japanese from coming to the U.S. When the war began, only 260,000 Japanese Americans resided in America. About 150,000 lived in Hawai’i, which was not yet a state, while the 110,000 others lived on the West Coast, operating small farms and businesses catering primarily to the Japanese community. After Pearl Harbor, though, Californians feared that the Japanese in their state would be loyal to the government in Tokyo rather than the U.S. and wanted something done. Many people spread rumors that Japanese troops were about to land in California and unite with Japanese Americans to fight against the American government. There was a much larger Japanese population in Hawai’i, but it was a majority of the population, a critical element of the work force, and far away, so the hysteria was not as great. On February 19th, 1942, FDR authorized the War Department to exclude anyone who posed a threat to U.S. security from residing in designated military areas, and that meant the Japanese Americans. In many cases, they were given just 48 hours to sell their property and pack their bags. Over 100,000 Japanese Americans, two-thirds of whom were actually U.S. citizens, were sent to 10 “relocation camps” in 6 western states and Arkansas. There, they were surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards, as if they were Prisoners of

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Figure 5-13 Japanese Americans arrive at a “relocation camp”

War. The military authorities housed them in barracks, with no insulation and a single light, and they ate meals in a communal mess hall, and shared all toilet and bathing facilities as well. The government offered them no rights, no important possessions, no privacy, no dignity. Nonetheless, 18,000 managed to obtain early release, for, of all things, to join the military to fight Nazis in Europe [they were not trusted to fight in Asia]. The majority served in two segregated units, the 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. The latter lost over 10,000 in fighting in Italy. Men in the unit received 3600 Purple Hearts, 810 Bronze Stars, 342 Silver Stars, 123 divisional citations, 47 Distinguished Service Crosses, 17 Legions of Merit, 7 Presidential Citations, and 1 Congressional Medal of Honor. The 442nd Regimental Combat Team was the most decorated American unit in the war. Not all Americans approved of the treatment of the Japanese Americans and many held protests, all over America, against the internments. In

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Korematsu v. United States, in 1944, the Supreme Court supported the Administration, voting 6-3 to allow the camps to exist on the basis of national security. In his dissenting opinion, Justice Frank Murphy attacked the majority decision: “I dissent, therefore, from this legalization of racism. Racial discrimination in any form and in any degree has no justifiable part whatever in our democratic way of life. It is unattractive in any setting, but it is utterly revolting among a free people who have embraced the principles set forth in the Constitution of the United States. All residents of this nation are kin in some way by blood or culture to a foreign land. Yet they are primarily and necessarily a part of the new and distinct civilization of the United States. They must, accordingly, be treated at all times as the heirs of the American experiment, and as entitled to all the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution.” Ironically, the very same Supreme Court ruled in the case Ex parte Mitsuye Endo that the U.S. government could not detain citizens deemed loyal to the United States. On January 2, 1945, the government canceled the original Executive Order and Japanese internment ended. In 1980, a full 35 years later, Congress established the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, which, three years later, issued a report condemning internment. The report, titled “Personal Justice Denied,” called the government’s actions “unjust and motivated by racism rather than real military necessity.” Eventually, $1.2 billion was set aside for reparations.

L abor G oes

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While various groups at home—women, Blacks, Japanese—made limited gains or actually suffered, American unions gained more from the war. After the frequent and at-times violent labor confrontations of the New Deal years, labor saw opportunity with the massive economic mobilization that came with war. Military contracts meant more jobs, higher wages, and more possibilities to get workers into a union. Materially, workers surely benefitted from the domestic economic changes that the war brought on, particularly the burst of production associated with Military Keynesianism. “Radical” unionism, however, the type associated with the sit-downs and Little Steel conflict, faded as labor was “contained,” kept in its place, despite strikes and aggressive union activity during the war years. While workers might have made more money

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and gotten benefits like job security and health care, they pledged to support the war effort by not striking or slowing down production, a vow mostly kept. The great class conflict embodied in the labor struggles of the late 1870s up through Flint was over, and corporations, despite continuing rhetoric about the threat of unions, had clear and convincing control over labor. With 16 million Americans, almost all men, in uniform, workers could find jobs at better wages, while companies, getting rich off government contracts, had an interest in keeping production going and were less hostile, for the most part, to unions. In big industries like automobiles, steel, electricity, rubber, and shipbuilding, the CIO ran organizing campaigns and saw a real boost in membership. Labor [like African Americans] wanted and expected the government to give it more rights and better benefits in return for its contribution to the war effort. Unions expected FDR to institute a system of wartime labor relations that would benefit working people. Though labor had time and again shown it was not radical, corporations continued to protest that giving labor even a small role in decisions on production and working conditions could lead to bigger, and more dangerous, challenges to their capitalist enterprises. Labor’s hopes were generally thwarted. They did gain better wages and some benefits, but remained subordinate to their employers and with little support from the government for real change. Significant numbers of defense contracts, worth hundreds of millions of dollars, still went to anti-union firms, though the CIO pled with Roosevelt to deny government work to companies not in compliance with the Wagner Act. The chiefs of the various administrative agencies FDR set up were the corporate “dollar a year men.” FDR was focused on the war, not labor relations at home. Little Steel was still fighting, the Big 4 Meatpackers rejected unions, Westinghouse was in conflict with the United Electrical Workers, and even where companies had recognized unions and signed contracts with them—places like GM, Chrysler, GE, and U.S. Steel—labor and management were embroiled in disputes. Even before the war began, in May 1940, FDR began to make plans for labor’s role in the coming fight. The president set up the National Defense Advisory Commission [NDAC] with Sidney Hillman, head of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, as the labor representative. Hillman, a liberal, was disliked by the CIO’s Lewis and the NDAC was only “advisory.” Decisions were still made by government officials and the “dollar a year men.” When the CIO tried to tie their interests to the war, as in their demand that FDR not offer contracts

World War and the Growth of Global Power

to anti-union firms, he, with Hillman in agreement, said the war against the Axis was more important than domestic issues [a situation similar to that with A. Philip Randolph and the FEPC]. In January 1941, Roosevelt established the Office of Production Management [OPM] with William Knudsen and Hillman as co-directors. Labor, it seemed, had gained an equal share in defense planning but even Hillman’s presence did not change things, as the labor committees were deemed, again, “advisory,” and the OPM was in reality run by the representatives of industry. Pearl Harbor shook things up a bit. In December, just after the U.S. entry into the war, FDR met with corporate and labor representatives on how best to work together to maximize wartime production. Bot sides condemned lockouts and strikes but corporations expected no change in its control over workers and wanted the open shop, with workers free to not join the unions if they wished. But both sides made concessions. With government contracts on a “costs-plus” basis pouring into industries, they needed workers and could afford to offer higher wages and put their opposition to unions on hold for the duration in order to maintain industrial harmony, and growing profits. But the “no strikes” pledge by labor was even more important. With the need for wartime production high, workers gave up virtually the only power they had, the ability to stop work in the factory by going on strike. The AFL said that “to cease production is to strike at the very heart of the nation.” The CIO, accused by corporations so often of being too radical or even Communist, announced it would “redouble its energies to promote and plan for everincreasing production.” Even Business Week acknowledged labor’s cooperation, which included unions that actually did have Communists in them—once the U.S. and Russia became allies, American radicals fell in line with the war effort almost totally. As the magazine noted, “in general, employers with whom they deal now have the most peaceful labor relations in industry. Complaints to the union’s national officers usually will bring all the organization’s disciplinary apparatus to focus on the heads of the unruly local leaders.” By early 1942, labor relations were as calm and peaceful as they had been in decades. For 5 months after Pearl Harbor, there had not been any authorized strikes and union officials ended “wildcat strikes,” spontaneous stoppages in the factories, as soon as they broke out. But that harmony was not easy to attain. In 1941, before the war, labor had conducted a series of strikes from January to December, 70 percent of which were CIO-led and mostly in

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military industries. The Little Steel strikes of 1937 were still going on, but, with the prospect of war profits, the steel companies, and Meatpackers, finally accepted unions in their workplaces. Ford recognized the UAW [the first auto maker to do so], the federal government made companies in the airplane production and shipbuilding fields, and those in other military-related work, give better wages, respect seniority [the idea that those workers with the most time spent at a plant would get more pay and be laid off last], accept more union rights on the shop floor [where work took place], and provide more security to union workers. Even then, Lewis had the miners on strike in October 1941 [prior to Pearl Harbor] over wage rates and the union shop, mandatory union membership in order to get a job. But FDR was not supportive: “I tell you frankly that the Government of the United States will not order, nor will Congress pass legislation ordering a so-called closed shop.” In order to maintain production without workers slowing industrial output, FDR in January 1942 established a National War Labor Board [WLB] to negotiate labor disputes during the war. The Board had representatives from business, labor, and the government on it, and its goal was to maintain workplace stability and keep production going strong. Some on the WLB wanted to create new industrial relations, believing that unions made Capitalism and democracy work better by making society more equal with higher wages for workers, thus avoiding an economic disaster like the Depression. Without industrial democracy, workers would not have a voice in business decisions and political democracy would remain limited as well. But corporations continued to have the upper hand in wartime economic decisions. In September 1942, FDR created an “economic stabilization” agency, and it froze wages so workers, as with the no-strike pledge, again had to make sacrifices for the war effort. This created a problem for labor. In order to attract new members, unions had to offer the promise of better wages. By agreeing to not strike, however, the one bit of power they had to get higher wages, and thus more members, was missing. So unions had to find a way to get new members, and thus expand their own assets through monthly dues. Labor was expected and agreed to be “responsible,” to maintain production and not cause work stoppages, but many workers had their pay frozen while their ability to do something about it, strike, was gone. This created not only worker resentment at the bosses and government for keeping their wages flat, but also frustration at their own union leaders for preventing them from doing

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anything about it. In order to keep labor from breaking the no-strike pledge, the WLB and union bosses came up with the concept of “maintenance-ofmembership” clauses in their contracts, which meant that once a company and union agreed on a contract, union members could not withdraw from it during the duration of the contract. New members had to join the union and old members could not leave it. The CIO was happy, for the maintenance clause guaranteed it would get more men and women joining the union, and thus paying dues. Many workers, however, were not as happy as labor leaders about the state of affairs, and in 1943 began a series of wildcat strikes in various industries. They were not voted on or organized, and occurred without notice as workers simply shut down production, despite the existence of the no-strike deals that the union itself enforced. FDR, still attacked by many conservatives as pro-labor, became more angry with the wildcatters, who slowed down production in war materials: “I shall use all the power vested in me as president and Commander-in-Chief . . . to protect the national interest and to prevent further interference with the successful prosecution of the war.” In late 1943, miners went on strike and Roosevelt took drastic action. He “seized” the mines and put them under control of the Commerce Secretary Harold Ickes, and ordered him to negotiate with the union. Twice, Ickes and John L. Lewis reached deals, but the WLB and FDR rejected them. Even though Roosevelt had consistently stood in the way of the UMW’s and Lewis’s plans, conservatives still believed that the union president had too much influence over FDR and were angry, and a little alarmed, at his role in calling the strikes and upsetting production. In the end, the UMW got a good increase in wages, including time spent going to-and-from the mines, not just digging for coal. The strike ended due to government coercion, FDR’s seizure and forcing Ickes to work out a deal with Lewis, not because of political moves or negotiations with the WLB. By this time, public opinion was heavily anti-labor. Still, the wildcat actions continued. In 1944, 6500 miners in Pennsylvania left their jobs; 10,000 workers at Briggs Manufacturing in Detroit left work for one day to protest changes in their work schedules; 10,000 more struck at a roller bearing mill in Canton, Ohio twice in 1944 while 20,000 left work at Ford’s Willow Run bomber plant to protest changes in work rules and schedules. Even with the no-strike pledge, labor was able to make gains by walking out on the job and forcing the bosses, who were making such huge profits from their war contracts, to

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usually give labor at least some of its demands. Some corporate heads, most notably Henry Kaiser, who had a huge airplane industry in California and began one of the first major healthcare companies, Kaiser Permanente, was considered pro-labor because he accepted unions and offered them good wages and health insurance, an idea similar to Hoover’s concept in the 1920s of creating a corporate state where industrial harmony, rather than strikes and violence, would lead to more production, profits, and wages. Yet profits always soared while wages were stuck, and thus workers took action. Between Pearl Harbor and the end of the war, workers conducted over 14,000 strikes, involving almost 7 millions workers. In 1942, strikes accounted for over 4 million days of labor lost, and a year later over 13 million. In 1944, there were almost 5000 strikes and about 370,000 steel and ironworkers, almost 400,000 auto workers, 360,000 in the transportation industry, and over 275,000 miners walked off their jobs. Despite the no-strike pledge that the AFL and CIO both agreed to in 1941, workers took matters into their own hands often and generally made gains in wages and work con-

Figure 5-14 Worker at the Briggs Manufacturing Plant in Detroit. The factory had been converted from an automobile plant to wartime airplane manufacturing.

World War and the Growth of Global Power

ditions. Union membership thrived under those circumstances; by 1946 about 70 percent of workers in manufacturing, including the major corporations, had some type of union contract and collective bargaining agreement, and much of that success was due to labor’s cooperation with corporate leaders and the government. Likewise, as much as the bosses hated “giving in” to unions, the need to keep the factories open for wartime production and the profits it brought were more important than fighting against organized labor. Anti-labor businessmen and politicians did not go away, however. Even though labor was cooperative and not “radical” in any sense, anti-union efforts were common throughout the war. Corporate and conservative political leaders, as noted, made it a priority to ban strikes in defense industries and wanted military contracts to include a open shop clause. Some even went to the extreme of blaming labor, because it was fighting for wages and other rights and apparently not producing enough, for the defeat of France in June 1940. Texas Senator Price Daniel came close to claiming that American labor, not the Axis, was the gravest threat to the U.S. “The maintenance of ‘Freedom to Work’,” he declared, “means more to the domestic affairs of this country and to the future of the Nation than the temporary decision on any matter concerned with the present World War.” Public opinion mostly agreed, with two-thirds of Americans agreeing that strikes in industries that produced goods for war should be prohibited. In mid-1943, during the miners’ strike, Congress even passed a bill [Smith-Connally] that would force unions to give a 60-day notice that they were going on strike, which would have made wildcats impossible. FDR did veto that bill, but the senate overrode it immediately. Later that year, not long after seizing the mines, FDR seized the railroads to prevent a nation-wide strike in that industry. In fact, in the course of the war the president had the army seize 67 defense industries in order to prevent labor actions that would have slowed down production. Despite that record of keeping labor in its place, FDR and the Democrats were still attacked for being too close to unions. Those circumstances, government efforts to limit labor’s power and rights, continued after the war ended as well. After FDR died in April 1945, Harry S Truman became president, and conservatives attacked him too as being “beholden” to the unions. Labor, however, was never enthused about Truman’s policies and even though he lifted the freeze on wages and let workers seek pay increases, the number of strikes grew significantly. Workers had taken a no-strike pledge and sacrificed

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pay raises during the war and now wanted to be rewarded. The new president was never pro-labor to begin, and in the face of right-wing criticism and labor demands, he mostly sided with the businessmen. In November 1945, 200,000 UAW members went on strike at GM plants; in January 1946, 300,000 meatpackers and 180,000 electrical workers walked off the job, and then 750,000 steelworkers. In April, 1.3 million coal miners struck, causing a country-wide energy shortage, and railroad workers went out in May, causing a nearly total shutdown of U.S. commerce. Workers in transportation, communications, education, and public utilities went out as well, and by the end of 1946, over 4.6 million workers had struck, with average work stoppages much longer than the wartime strikes. Truman never gave in, however. During the 1946 miners’ strike he took the UMW to court, threated to conscript the mineworkers [force them to work, like the draft in the military], and asked for anti-strike laws. The miners did go back on the job, and received pay raises, but labor was not happy with the president or the Democrats and they never warmed up to each other. Unions had other problems as well. Though it gained almost a million new members, organized labor was unable to gain much success in southern states, where conservative, anti-labor politicians were in charge. And, as we shall see in the next chapter, labor was particularly targeted in the newest “red scare” as being anti-American and led by Communists. By 1947, America was solidly anti-labor and Congress passed legislation that chopped apart the Wagner Act, which Truman, hoping for union votes, vetoed but was overridden. Labor had survived the Great Depression and made some meaningful gains during the war, but, as always, the corporations held effective power over workers and, richer than ever with wartime profits, were not going to be cooperative to the extent they had been during the war. There was no “radical” labor movement in America, though the actions at Flint and in the Little Steel and Miners’ strikes alarmed many that there was, and business would grow with a non-threatening labor movement still in place in the postwar era.

F rom D epression

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P ower

While labor’s struggles were secondary to the war effort, they were still important—as was the plight of women, African Americans, and other groups.

World War and the Growth of Global Power

The war, coming at the same time as the global economic depression, created huge forces that changed the world and American society. Abroad, the U.S. was now overwhelmingly the world’s greatest power, with military strength and the ability to force the Open Door on much of the world, and in the postwar years American strength and wealth would grow to astounding levels. At home, the corporate class that was hit hard by the depression rebounded with the war and also gained more power and wealth than ever before. But in that process, “the people,” the workers, women, Blacks and so forth, did not make the same gains. In many wives, their lives were much better, certainly an improvement over the deprivations of the depression. But if American democracy implied some level of equality, the war did not bring that. In fact, the aggressive struggles for rights, liberty, and material needs decreased after the war. The great profits that came from the immense production of the war years meant that workers would get more pay, women would get jobs, African Americans could move north to find work, and other groups would get a small piece of the economic pie. But in return for those improvements, these same groups would not challenge Capitalism in the ways that many had in the late 19th or early 20th Centuries. There would be no more national uprisings as in 1877, no more Populist movements, no more programs to create a separate Black economy or move back to Africa, no attempt to adjust the system of private ownership of the economy by a small number of truly wealthy men who had government support. From World War II onward, Americans would still speak out on particular issues—civil rights for blacks, women’s rights, Mexican-American progress, and others—but these would be movements for “inclusion,” to get access to the same rights that most White people had simply by being born in the U.S. They were not radical movements to redistribute wealth or challenge Capitalism or seize power or redistribute wealth. Many saw no need for radicalism because the vast economic growth had made their lives better, and in those infrequent cases when challenges to the power elite did rise, accusations of Communism in the red scare or simply an educational and cultural system that taught them to be obedient was all that was needed to keep the people in line. In the late 1930s, Americans stood on the edge of disaster, with a decade-long depression that made them hungry, homeless, and jobless and was not ending despite various government policies. Less

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than 10 years later, the same people, the same country, had helped defeat 2 challenges to world stability, the Open Door, and western Capitalism. The U.S. had gone from rags to riches in an incredibly quick time, and entered the postwar years in a position of power and strength. Struggles, both abroad and at home, did not disappear however, and the fight for power and democracy continued.

Chapter 6

The Growth of Amer ican Power Through Cold and Hot Wars

W

orld War II was a great cause of transformation on many levels. The U. S. began the war in an economic depression, but came out of it stronger than any of the other countries that had fought. It was a middlelevel military power in the late 1930s, but had overwhelming dominance by 1945. America was about to enter a period of prosperity, consumerism, political influence, and military supremacy greater than any it had ever experienced, or the world had ever seen. It was also the beginning of the Cold War, a term used for a half-century to describe the political and economic rivalry between the U.S. and Communist states, especially the Soviet Union and later China. It would called a “cold” war to point out that the conflict was not military, but political and economic, that it was not a “hot” war with the U.S. and Russia fighting against each other. The consequences, however, were equally powerful and, in areas outside of Europe, wars did indeed become “hot” with some frequency.

O rigins

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The United States announced its newfound world power and sent a clear message to any potential competitor nations in the way it ended World War

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II–with the use of two atomic bombs on Japan in August 1945. American President Harry S. Truman approved the use of the bombs, against the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which killed over 150,000 people, almost all civilians, on August 6th and 9th, 1945 because, he said, otherwise U.S. troops would have to invade Japan and suffer huge losses. After some initial skepticism and debate over the bomb, by the later 1940s, overwhelming percentages of the American people supported Truman’s decision. In part this was because few people saw the physical effects of the bomb–the U.S. government confiscated hundreds of hours of video footage taken at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 so the public would not view it [much like President Barack Obama refused to release photos of torture from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in 2009]. A generation later, however, in the 1960s, scholars and others began to question the use of the bomb, and the very origins of the Cold War and the use of American power. The U.S., fearing that German scientists would invent an atomic bomb, had begun the Manhattan Project to research and develop and atomic weapon at the beginning of the war in order to use it against Germany or Japan if needed.

Figure 6-1 Bombing of Nagasaki, Japan

The Growth of American Power Through Cold and Hot Wars

The main point of these atomic critics, the best known of whom was Gar Alperovitz, the author of a controversial book titled Atomic Diplomacy, was that the atomic bomb was not necessary from a military point-of- view because the Japanese were in such dire shape that the war was essentially over by mid1945. Alperovitz and others base their criticism of the use of the bomb on much of the following evidence: • In February, 1945, President Roosevelt, Soviet Union leader Stalin, and British Prime Minister Churchill met and agreed that the Russians would enter the war against Japan precisely three months after the European phase of the war was over. More recently, Japanese historians have discovered that this was Japan’s greatest fear–that the Soviet Union would enter Japanese territory, and conquer and occupy it. • At the same time, American military officials were busy preparing for a military invasion of Japan, and they had two important assumptions in their planning. First, they believed that Japan was already devastated from the grind of war and devastating air attacks–especially the incendiary, or fire, bombing–from the U.S. Air Force. Second, they believed, as noted, that Japan deeply feared a Russian declaration of war and that concern, by itself–prior to an attack –would almost surely force the leaders in Tokyo to surrender. • In the Spring of 1945, American officials had intercepted Japanese messages and learned that leaders in Tokyo were trying to work with the Russians on a settlement/surrender plan with one major condition–that they would retain their leader, Emperor Hirohito. The Americans had already announced a policy of “unconditional surrender” and wanted to be sure that Japan would not be a threat to the Open Door after the war, so ignored the Japanese evidence of desperation. In the U.S., however, there was a strong media push to end the war quickly, even if this meant keeping the emperor in place. • On May 8th, the war in Europe ended, meaning that the Soviet pledge to attack Japan would be effective at the beginning of August, 1945. • In the first half of 1945, U.S. military planners, unquestionably aware of Tokyo’s desperation, began planning for an invasion of Japan. They assumed that the earliest date for a limited invasion, of the Ryuku Islands, was November 1st, 1945, while the earliest date for an invasion

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of the Japanese mainland was January 1st, 1946–both dates are significantly later than the early August Soviet promise of intervention, which, as noted, planners assumed would force a Japanese surrender by itself. U.S. military officials, led by General George Marshall, also assumed that the U.S. could expect about 25,000-50,000 casualties as the result of a land invasion. • On July 17th, 1945 President Truman met with new British Prime Minister Clement Attlee and Stalin at Potsdam, Germany. The U.S. had delayed the meeting for a couple weeks, claiming pressing budget matters. In reality, Truman was buying time to allow for a test of the atomic bomb scheduled for Almogordo, New Mexico. At Potsdam, Stalin reaffirmed Russian plans to enter the war, but the U.S. was now not eager for Stalin’s help. Truman had received word that the A- Bomb test had been a success and he then began, as his aide James Byrnes described it, to “carry the bomb around on his hip.” His previously diplomatic tone gave way to a much more aggressive attitude and he began to issue orders to Soviet officials. • On August 6th, just days before the Soviet Union was to enter the war [which Japan feared above all else], and months before any U.S. invasion, limited or full, was possible, and aware that Japan was badly destroyed and desperate, Truman ordered the bombing of Hiroshima and then Nagasaki. Japan surrendered within the week. Hirohito was retained as emperor. The initial public reaction to the use of the bomb was not as overwhelmingly positive as one might think. The country was split about evenly on its use. Many Americans, including the National Council of Bishops and conservatives like William Buckley Sr., criticized Truman’s decision on moral and practical grounds. Many if not most of the president’s military advisors, including Generals Dwight Eisehnower, Douglas MacArthur and Curtis LeMay, had advised against using the A-Bomb, finding it unnecessary and provocative. In fact, Eisenhower, the commander of the European Theater of Operations and future president, recalled a meeting with the secretary of war: During his recitation of the relevant facts, I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis

The Growth of American Power Through Cold and Hot Wars

of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives. It was my belief that Japan was, at that very moment, seeking some way to surrender with a minimum loss of ‘face’. The Secretary was deeply perturbed by my attitude . . . .

In 1947, however, public opinion on the bomb began to change. Truman’s aide, Henry Stimson, published an article in Harper’s Magazine in which he claimed the president dropped the bomb to prevent an invasion of Japan that would have cost one million American lives. With the horror of that scenario in their minds, Americans began to change their views on the use of the bomb and have consistently supported it since then. To this day, no one has discovered a document claiming that “one million lives” would be lost if the bomb was not used, but, as Stimson and Truman understood, it was a number that would shock Americans into supporting the use of the atomic weapon.

Figure 6-2 Patterns of a kimono burned into a woman’s skin due to the intensity of the atomic bomb explosion

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In the last few decades, scientists and historians have begun to correct the historical record. The bomb’s use, many contend, was an example of “atomic diplomacy.” The bomb was not dropped to end the war–Japan’s days were numbered anyway–but to show off U.S. power, to send a message to the Soviet Union that America would use its nuclear monopoly to shape the postwar world the way it wanted. Thus was the beginning of American hegemony, a concept referring to the global power that the Americans would hold in the postwar world.

S trategies

for

P ower : E conomic

and

P olitical

While the use and possession of the atomic bomb was the best example of American military strength, a more important factor in the overall goal of hegemony was economic, and U.S. officials began to plan for postwar economic supremacy even before the war ended. In July 1944, the Americans held a meeting with 43 other allied countries at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire with the goal of creating an international economic system. Before the war, recall, the world was devastated by depression, so the most important priority for the U.S. and other western powers was to be sure that such an economic calamity, much like the depression or the 2008-09 meltdown, did not happen again. At that conference, the great powers created the Bretton Woods System, which would define the world economy for the next quarter-century or so. This system had a two-fold purpose, to rebuild the capitalist global economy after years of depression and war, and to prevent the rise of Socialist or Communist economies and to thus establish the U.S. as the dominant world economic power. The decisions made at Bretton Woods may seem difficult to understand, but they are basic and it is important to study them as a way of examining U.S. power after World War II. The U.S. was attempting a grand project, creating a new international economic order, but it was also simply trying to dismantle the colonial system, which did not respect the Open Door, and create a Pax Americana, a world dominated by U.S. power. At Bretton Woods, three key decisions were made: the countries represented there created the International Monetary Fund, or IMF; started the World Bank [officially the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development];

The Growth of American Power Through Cold and Hot Wars

and established the dollar as a global currency. At first glance, these programs seem to be complex but they addressed basic problems in a fundamental way [and the IMF and World Bank are still with us, and still controversial, today] and one need not possess a degree in economics to understand them. They built the IMF to address problems of currency stabilization. The war had obviously devastated the economies of Europe and Asia. Many countries had run huge deficits to pay for war [like the U.S. in the early 21st century in Iraq and Afghanistan has] and many suffered from inflation, along with unemployment and a shortage of vital resources. Like any institution, or any person, in desperate straights, the damaged countries needed money, and people go to banks to get money [just as the Americans have borrowed so much money from China in the past few years], so the IMF became a lender to nations that needed capital or needed to fix their currencies. The IMF would infuse a nation with capital–which is money used for productive purposes, money used to develop more economic activity, not simply cash to put into storage–so that it could recover from the war, reduce inflation, or be able to borrow and lend in the international banking world. The World Bank was somewhat similar, but dealt with the physical reconstruction and development of countries in need. Those nations that had fought in World War II had suffered enormously and needed help in rebuilding. The World Bank would make funds available to nations to reconstruct their infrastructure–highways, bridges, communications networks, health and education systems, and other areas–after it had been destroyed in the war. It could also provide funds for smaller, developing, countries that had not yet industrialized but that wanted to modernize, or develop their own infrastructure like the established countries already had. These programs, however, had a specific purpose and came with strings attached. To receive IMF or World Bank aid, a country had to have a privatized economy–meaning that the key industries were owned by private individuals, not the state. State, or public, ownership of factories, communications, or other key industries would be considered Socialist, and the point of the Bretton Woods System was to prevent the spread of Socialism, which put capital in public, not private, hands. The new order, then, was intended to help out America’s friends, other capitalist countries, and hurt its rivals, the Socialist and nationalist economies. Consequently, funding received from the IMF and

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World Bank was given on the condition that much of that money would be used to purchase goods and services from U.S. companies in return. So, for instance, World Bank loans to build an electric grid, or an international airport, or a health system, or roads, or housing, would lead to contracts for companies like Brown & Root, a huge Texas-based construction firm [which today is Halliburton], General Motors, General Electric, and the like. In this way, the U.S. could develop the world along capitalist lines and be sure of having economic partners, while also providing business for American companies that feared another depression like they had just experienced. Critics would create the term “corporate welfare” to describe such a system. The final piece of the Bretton Woods System, and a bit more complicated, was creating a global, convertible currency–the U.S. dollar. What did this mean? Any country could use American dollars to buy and sell goods with other countries, and those dollars would be guaranteed by an international gold standard, meaning the dollar could be exchanged, converted, with other currencies at a fixed rate. If country X wanted to trade with country Y, it could exchange its currency for dollars to make that transaction, and it could always trade those dollars for gold, at the rate of $35 per an ounce [and it could always trade gold for dollars on the other hand]. Whether one used marks, yen, francs, lira or some other currency [the Euro was still far off], he/she could trade that money for dollars, and then gold, to conduct trade. In this way, all countries that wanted to join this new economic order would desire dollars; countries wishing to trade, especially with the U.S., would want dollars; and the U.S. would prosper even more because its currency was truly international and had a fixed rate based on convertibility and the price of gold. To use a contemporary example, the U.S. dollar in 2014 is worth much less than the Euro. A Euro is worth about $1.40 or so. When the Euro was established it was worth exactly a dollar. So if you were traveling and bought a Gucci bag for 100 Euro, you would pay $100 for it. In mid-2014, that exact same bag would cost you nearly $140 dollars, because currency is no longer fixed and the dollar has weakened. But in the late 1940s [until the 1960s], the dollar was at a fixed rate–so those fluctuations in the price of a Gucci bag would not have happened–and was the world’s most desired currency, and therefore gave America tremendous economic power as a creditor and producer.

The Growth of American Power Through Cold and Hot Wars

C old W ar ! T he P olitical R ivalry E merges The Bretton Woods system anticipated what would come after the war ended and was the foundation of American plans for economic power. The establishment of the United Nations [U.N.], an institution comprised of the nations of the world, like Wilson’s idea of a League of Nations at Versailles, was intended to bring political stability by resolving disputes without war, but that, too, would be dominated by the Americans. But at that time, in 1944-45, the U.S. and Soviet Union were still allies in the fight against Hitler and the Nazis and so there was still uncertainty over what the world would look like after the war ended. Within a few years, the Cold War would be a fact of international life, a sometimes frightening rivalry between the Americans and Russians complete with war scares, incredible increases in weapons production, and an all-out attack on “communism” abroad and at home. Perhaps the most crucial reality of the war was that the U.S. came out of the conflict with great advantages in economic, military, and political power over its rivals, especially the Soviet Union, which had suffered immense losses during the war. The Gross Domestic Product of the U.S. was $120 billion in 1945, which was about four times greater than that of the Soviet Union. By 1950, American GDP had soared to $293 billion. Personal consumption stood at $71 billion in 1940 and $192 billion in 1950, and coal production, a key indicator of industrial power, stood at 560 million tons in 1950. For the Russians, the story was quite the opposite. Because of the German invasion and devastation caused, the Soviet GDP in 1942 fell by two-thirds of what it had been just two years earlier, while Russian consumption fell to about half of its prewar level. Coal production stood at 261 million tons, less than half of the U.S. It was a time of “extraordinary deprivation,” as one economist who has studied wartime Russia put it. Militarily, the U.S. had a huge advantage in power as well. While the Soviet Union suffered over 20-25 million dead and had over one million farms and factories destroyed, the U.S. lost about 300,000 men and the war was not fought on American soil so there was no destruction. And the gap grew greater over the next decade, so that by the mid-1950s, the US was spending more on “defense” than the net profit of all U.S. corporations combined. Add in that the U.S. had a nuclear monopoly, and one can see that the “rivalry” was as one-sided as the New York Yankees playing a minor league team.

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The Cold War, like the war itself, was a war to expand the Open Door, and it was going well. Still, the Americans would, increasingly, argue that it was the Russians causing global turmoil, that Stalin was intending to dominate Europe and maybe other areas, and that the “global communist conspiracy”–the alleged desire for the Communists to take over the world–had to be stopped. To be sure, the Soviet Union had left occupation forces in countries in Eastern Europe as it liberated them from the Nazis in that crucial 1943-45 period, and had established friendly Communist governments there [much as, for instance, the U.S. had done in Latin America for well over a half-century by that time] and it did possess military strength, especially 2.8 million Red Army troops, down from 11 million in uniform during the war. But the idea that the Soviet Union could rival the U.S. in power, or take over vast sections of the globe, was virtually impossible. The imbalance in power was so great, the U.S. advantage so huge, that any country, especially one so devastated by the war, could hardly challenge American supremacy. American leaders, however, knew that, even though they had great advantages, they could use fear to convince the public that they had to take a hard line–build more weapons, intervene in more countries, gain more power–to protect their interests against the communists. And thus the Cold War was born. To give a detailed, blow-by-blow, description of the early Cold War years is too large a task for a study of U.S. history from the Civil War forward. The events in that early period, from the mid-1940s to the early 1950s, occurred at such a hectic pace and in so many areas that one cannot explain them all in brief. But there are some episodes and developments that are both important by themselves, and that highlight the larger Cold War issues, and we will focus on those rather than try to cover all the intricate details of the whole period.

P oland , G ermany ,

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G reece

When the war ended in mid-1945, the U.S., Russia, and Great Britain had to determine how to deal with Germany, what to do about the Soviet position in Eastern Europe, and how to rebuild Europe. These issues would lead to serious differences between the three and break up their “Grand Alliance,” and lead to an intense and dangerous Cold War rivalry. Among the first issues to be discussed, during a conference at Yalta, in the Ukraine, in February 1945 were the futures of Poland and Germany. Poland

The Growth of American Power Through Cold and Hot Wars

Figure 6-3 Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Joseph Stalin at Yalta, February 1945

was important because it lay between Germany and the Soviet Union and had provided a pathway for German invasions of Russia in 1914 and 1941, and because there was a significant Polish population in the U.S. that was loyal to the Democrats and supported Roosevelt, who did not want to lose their votes. At the same time, the Russians had occupied Poland, and many other parts of Eastern Europe, and the reality was that those countries now had Communist governments backed by the Soviet military. Thus, Roosevelt’s options were seriously limited; he could either give in to Russian control of Poland or take some kind of strong action to prevent it. The Soviets, however, were allies, and, although conservatives attacked Roosevelt for “selling out” Poland, the idea of ending a war with Germany and starting one with Russia over Poland was not realistic. So the Americans and Russians agreed that Poland would have “fair and free” elections and choose their own government. The Soviet-backed parties, not surprisingly, won those elections and Poland remained in Communist hands. Germany was another story–and far more important to the U.S. Just as the question of “what to do with Germany” dominated the peace conference

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at Versailles after World War I, it would again take center stage as World War II ended. Germany was again perhaps the key country in the effort for widespread economic reconstruction. From the U.S. point of view, its attempt to shut off the Open Door in Europe from the 1930s through the war years was its greatest threat, and the Americans wanted to be sure that Germany would be rebuilt and re-established as an important capitalist economic partner after the war, which meant keeping it out of Communist hands as well. To the Russians, however, Germany was an aggressive nation that had invaded it twice in less than thirty years and had killed perhaps 25 million of its people, and it should be forced to pay heavy reparations, or penalties and restitution, for the horrors it inflicted. The final decision on Germany addressed both U.S. and Russian concerns, but with the advantage to the Americans. Germany was divided into 4 zones and the U.S., the Soviet Union, Great Britain, and France [which was controversial since it had fallen to Germany early and had a small role in the war] were all given control over a particular zone. The Americans, British, and French–the western powers–took control of the western part of Germany, which was traditionally its industrial heartland and full of resources–while the Soviet Union, which had done more than any force to defeat the Nazis–took control of the agricultural, and less affluent, east. For their part, the Russians started dismantling German factories and industry to ship back to the Soviet Union to help them rebuild their own country, while the Americans and their allies began to rebuild Germany along capitalist, private-enterprise lines so it could be a market for U.S. goods and investment and a partner in the new world economic order the U.S. was organizing. The German decision did not satisfy everyone, and it did not take long for the issue to cause trouble. Although the U.S. and others had put Nazi leaders on trial at Nuremberg, Germany was still being run by many of its pre-war leaders and businessmen. By mid-1946, the Americans began to put ex-Nazi officials back into their previous government and economic positions, and began to withhold reparations payments promised to the Soviet Union. In December, the Americans, British, and French merged their zones, creating what would later become West Germany [officially the Federal Republic of Germany, or FRG]. To Stalin, these were aggressive acts, intended to harm the Russians and prevent their reconstruction, while expanding American power. The alliance between the U.S. and Soviets, so important in defeating the

The Growth of American Power Through Cold and Hot Wars

Figure 6-4 Map of Germany in 1945

Nazis, was basically now dead because of their differences over the future of Germany. Not only were the U.S. and Soviets now in conflict over the fate of Eastern Europe, but the Cold War was spreading. In early 1946, one of America’s most famous diplomats, George Frost Kennan, wrote the “long telegram,” a detailed analysis of U.S. policy toward the Russians, and recommended a policy of containment. Containment assumes that one cannot totally eliminate a problem, so it must contain, or limit, it to where it already exists, like a quarantine in a hospital if a disease breaks out. In the context of that time, Kennan

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meant that the Soviet Union would try to expand but that the U.S. could contain it so that it would not gain influence outside of those Eastern European countries where the Russians had taken control in the late stages of World War II. Though Kennan would later claim he was misunderstood, and become a strong critic of the Cold War, American leaders at that time naturally assumed that containment would be a global military policy, to be used not just in Eastern Europe but virtually everywhere that “Communist” threats existed. That indeed is what happened. U.S. officials, led by President Truman, began to see any challenge or alternative to the U.S. economic plan for the postwar world as a threat and began to describe any such different views as “Communist.” In much of the world, however, local groups–often including workers, socialists, human-rights activists, peasants, and others who did not have power–had led the fight against fascism during the war and were now fighting for liberation or equality against the oligarchies–older and more established men of influence with economic, military and political strength and connections to the U.S. and other powers. The U.S. defined these peoples’ movements, often based on nationalism and fundamental notions of fairness and equality, as “Communist” and acted to eliminate them. One such example was in Greece, which led to a major leap in America’s global commitments. Greece had helped defeat the Germans with a significant contribution coming from a group of fighters from the Communist Party. The government, however, was run by a thuggish group of military officials, referred to as the “regime of the Colonels.” They ran Greece with an iron fist, denying people fundamental rights and keeping the majority of workers and farmers in dire economic conditions, and they received a large amount of financial aid from Britain. As a result, a group of rebels from that impoverished majority, many who had fought against the Nazis in the war, emerged to challenge the Colonels. By that time, some were Socialists but most were not, and the rebels had no connection to the Soviet Union and were not a “Communist” group at all. That did not matter. Truman and other officials felt far more comfortable with the Colonels, because they was on good terms with western capitalists, so, when Britain said it could no longer afford to support the Greek regime, Truman announced that he would pick up that duty. There was one problem. The amount of money Greece needed was quite big–$400 million–and the American people, with the depression in recent

The Growth of American Power Through Cold and Hot Wars

memory, were reluctant to spend money for other countries when the U.S. had significant needs at home. So Truman played the fear card. One senator told him he had to “scare hell out of ” the American people, and there was no better way to do that than to claim that Stalin and the Communists were going to take over Greece, even though there was no evidence for that at all. So, in March 1947, the president announced the Truman Doctrine, which said that America would support “free peoples” [such as the brutal Greek leaders!] who were under attack from “outside forces” [even though that was not the case in Greece–the Russians were not backing the rebels]. Truman actually said that, in Greece, “a few thousand terrorists led by communists” were trying to take over the country. The Americans bought it and the Cold War was expanding. The U.S. sent the Colonels fighter planes, napalm, small arms, and patrol boats, and helped build bridges, docks, railroads, and communications networks and sent advisors to train the Greek secret police. The Colonels, now funded by the U.S. and facing rebels who had no outside support, went on a spree, jailing and killing probably well over 100,000 rebels. In the name of “democracy” and anti-Communism, the U.S. supported a terrible repression against the Greek people.

“N ational S ecurity ”

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E conomic H egemony

The Truman Doctrine, along with growing control in Germany and increased weapons production, clearly signaled that the U.S. plans for postwar power were going along as expected. But the American plans were truly global, and Germany, Greece, Poland and Eastern Europe were a piece of the larger program for hegemony. Perhaps America’s goals were best expressed by George Kennan, who candidly said in a 1948 report, “We have about 50% of the world’s wealth, but only 6.3% of its population. ... In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity. ... To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives. ... We should cease to talk about vague and ... unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then ham-

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pered by idealistic slogans, the better.” This is a striking statement. Kennan here admitted the U.S. goal of world hegemony, to “maintain this position of disparity.” He did not say that the U.S. goal was to create more equality, to feed the hungry, to rebuild devastated countries, to help poor nations become developed or any such “sentimentality and day-dreaming.” He bluntly stated that the U.S. would do what it had to do to expand its own power, and “human rights” and “living standards” be damned in the process. And that, in essence, is the story of the Cold War. Kennan was writing at a time when U.S. momentum was growing. In 1947, Congress passed the National Security Act. The act itself appeared just to create a new bureaucracy on the surface. It reorganized the military establishment, replacing the Department of War with the Department of Defense, creating the National Security Council [NSC] to advise the president on foreign policy, and inventing the Central Intelligence Agency [CIA] to conduct foreign spying operations. But, critics charged, the act was doing something much larger and more significant, creating a national security state. Where the U.S. was supposed to be a democracy, where people made decisions and the military was subordinate to civilian control, the new act, in effect, added a military aspect to all issues in American politics and life. Now, the need to maintain “security” would be the biggest national priority. Preventing “Communism” from growing, not expanding democracy or helping those in need, would take center stage, and this meant the U.S. would be more engaged abroad and, as we shall see, more involved at home in containing “subversive” elements, meaning those who criticized the militarized nature of American society. There were plenty of Americans who were troubled by the national security state, and conservatives were probably more critical than other groups [not unlike conservative libertarians like Ron or Rand Paul on contemporary issues of drones, government surveillance, or the Iraq War]. The political right–Republicans and conservatives, as well as libertarians–did not like too much government involvement in economic or political life and so feared this growth in state power, which would be justified by “national security,” or by fear. Conservatives were alarmed that the act would create an “imperial” presidency, with new powers to control domestic life in the name of security, and bring a loss of liberty for citizens. Probably no American criticized the national security state as much as Senator Robert Taft of Ohio, known as “Mr.

The Growth of American Power Through Cold and Hot Wars

Republican.” To Taft, the act was a signal to the world that the U.S. would be aggressive in world affairs, with a reorganized military and interventionist arms like the CIA. But such measures, rather than providing security, would actually endanger the United States by drawing it into conflicts all over the world. Taft warned that the country could not be armed for every possible conflict without maintaining a huge and permanent war economy with budget deficits, with production directed toward the military, government-imposed economic controls, and vast amounts of money spent on the armed services– and that would lead to economic crisis and the loss of political and economic freedoms for the American people. Americans had to be careful, as Taft saw it, not to become “imperialists” who were ready to take a “provocative stand on every controversial issue” or attack “every” country “in the world.” With this new emphasis on international commitments and institutions, Taft feared, “our fingers will be in every pie. Our military forces will work with our commercial forces to obtain as much of world trade as we can lay our hands on. We will occupy all the strong strategic-points in the world and try to maintain a force so preponderant that none shall dare attack us . . . Potential power over other nations, however benevolent its purposes, leads inevitably to imperialism.” Taft’s words, as we shall see, were prophetic in many ways, and his criticism of this new global approach came as the U.S. was indeed getting ever more involved in global affairs. At the same time as the national security state was being created, the U.S. developed the Marshall Plan to provide aid to the war-torn countries of Europe. The plan was presented as a way for the U.S. to get aid to Britain, France, Italy and many other countries that were wiped out during World War II. The amount to be spent, $17 billion [which would be over $140 billion today in real dollars, or nearly $1 trillion when figured as a relative share of the gross domestic product] to help 16 countries, was considered massive. But that money was not some humanitarian gesture to help people damaged by war. It was a vital part of the economic program for American power. Perhaps the greatest fear of American political and economic officials was that another depression would occur. In order to prevent that, U.S. businesses needed markets, but Europe lacked the funds needed to buy American goods. So the Marshall Plan resolved that issue. It offered huge amounts of aid to Europe but, as with the IMF and World Bank, with strings attached. Countries receiving aid from this program [officially the European Recovery Program, and

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begun in 1948] were expected to use it to purchase good back from the U.S. and thus help rebuild American industrial and financial institutions. Only countries with private economies, not state-based economies that were Socialist or even nationalist, were brought in to the Marshall Plan, and it became a way for the Americans to provide dollars to those countries to use to buy goods from U.S. businesses, which both helped the economy grow and helped contain the Soviet Union, which clearly could not match American economic power.

B erlin , E conomic P ower ,

and

C old W ar S uccess

The U.S., as we have seen, had substantial power in the early Cold War years. Despite the fear of Communism promoted by U.S. leaders, the Soviet Union could not rival the U.S. in military or economic power, and, outside of its control of Eastern Europe, did not seek conquest elsewhere [Stalin, for instance, did nothing to help the rebels in Greece]. By 1948, the American position in Europe was secure as its influence in Germany had grown; it had a monopoly on atomic weapons through 1948, with 110 to zero; in 1949 it was 235 to 1; in 1950, 369 to 5; and by 1954, it would be 2054 to 150. Economically, the U.S. controlled about half the world’s trade and, through loans, military assistance, and programs like the Marshall Plan and institutions like the IMF, was the world’s creditor, putting billions of dollars into foreign hands so they could buy American products. Even after demobilizing, the Soviet army still had about 3 million forces in Europe in 1948, but the number and capabilities of their weapons systems lagged far behind that of the U.S. and its allies. Stalin thus understood he was playing with a very weak hand. Perhaps that is what drove him, in June 1948, to ante up and create the Berlin Crisis. Though Berlin was entirely in the eastern, Soviet zone, it was divided in half too because it had been the German capital. The U.S. controlled western Berlin and the Russians had influence in the eastern half. Free passage through East Germany into Berlin was guaranteed but Stalin, upset by America’s growing power in Germany, including coordinating coal production and establishing a common currency, closed off all traffic into the city. While hawks in the U.S. called for military action, President Truman launched an around-the-clock airlift to drop supplies into West Berlin. Dubbed “Operation

The Growth of American Power Through Cold and Hot Wars

Vittles,” the U.S. sent over 2 million tons of supplies–food, medicine and other essentials–into Berlin until, in May 1949, Stalin lifted the blockade. This point is vital. Throughout the early Cold War years–during a dispute over Iran in 1946, in Greece, and now in Berlin–Stalin retreated whenever faced with American power. Though we use the term “the Cold War” to describe U.S.Soviet tensions until the 1990s, it is not incorrect to suggest that the U.S. had achieved success in that conflict in Europe as early as 1949, when Stalin basically waved the white flag in Berlin. From that point on, though the Soviet Union would sponsor rebel groups elsewhere [as would, in far greater number, the United States], it would not be adventurous in American-controlled or influenced parts of Europe; it would maintain its position and assert control, at times rigidly, in the East, but otherwise never challenged U.S. hegemony there. The “war scare” that the Berlin Crisis brought on, along with another crisis over the overthrow of a moderate government in Czechoslovakia that would bring the Communists to power in Prague, had another purpose, this one domestic and economic. While Truman and his supporters claimed the

Figure 6-5 A crowd in Berlin watch as an American plane lands with sup at the Tempelhof Airport with food and other supplies, 1948

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U.S. response was a dedicated and noble effort to preserve freedom in Europe and stand up to a zealous Communist aggressor, economic conditions in the United States were also motivating American policies with regard to European affairs in 1948-49. As the historian Frank Kofsky has argued, the crisis was invented. American officials exaggerated Communist actions to pressure Congress and the public to accept a major military buildup. In particular, the aircraft industry, which had suffered from a deep economic slump in peacetime, and the Air Force, a recently-created service looking to expand its mission and influence, essentially created drama to pressure political leaders and the media, and thus the public, to support vastly expanded military spending, and to convince Europeans of the need for an American-led military alliance. Aircraft officials and their political supporters pushed for the government to supply more planes to the Air Force due to the “threat” of the Soviet Union. The fear tactics apparently worked. As the pentagon observed, “At the end of 1948, the aircraft industry was in its best financial condition since the end of the war. Sales of the sixteen major airframe manufacturers reached a postwar high in 1948 of $1,188 million compared with $856 million in 1947 and $730 million in 1946. Only three manufacturers...lost money during 1948, while eleven of the sixteen manufacturers operated at a loss during 1947.” Building on the Berlin Crisis and the “war scare,” American leaders organized a western military alliance for the cold war, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO, in 1949. A year earlier, the British, French and smaller European nations had signed a treaty promising to aid each other in the event of attack. NATO expanded that mission to twelve countries, each pledging to support the others in the event of attack, and committed to develop “free institutions” via economic collaboration. In fact, on the same day that NATO was approved in congress, Truman also proposed a $1 billion European military aid program. So, one important purpose of such military alliances, as one official pointed out, was “to build up our own military industry” as well as to hold down “nationalistic tendencies” in Europe. But the overriding goal may have been to extend America’s political influence, or control, over Europe through a military alliance. As one senator put it, “the Atlantic Pact is but the logical extension of the principle of the Monroe Doctrine.” In this case, however, the United States would hold sway over the industrialized and developed continent of Europe rather than just the Third World backyard of Latin America.

The Growth of American Power Through Cold and Hot Wars

While the traditional story of the cold war revolved around the U.S. fighting for “democracy” against an aggressive Soviet desire for expansion, the real story may be quite different. The U.S. held a great imbalance of strength throughout Europe and had its own atomic program getting off the ground. So the Americans remained far stronger, and political-military conditions in Europe, despite fear-mongering, were stable. In other parts of the world, however, the Cold War was more volatile and in fact became “hot” in various places, though usually not with American forces involved. As a result of its great power, the U.S. could be involved at points all across the globe when it felt its interests were threatened or when it sought to increase its influence. By the early 1950s, the Cold War, which began as a confrontation over parts of Europe, Poland and Germany in particular, now spanned the entire world.

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The Cold War would be especially intense in Asia, where two areas dominated U.S. thinking. Japan, the aggressor in World War II, had to be rebuilt along capitalist lines both to provide markets and investment opportunities for U.S. businesses, and to contain Communism in that region. But, outside of the Soviet Union, no country was as important in the early cold war years as China. During World War II, China was an American ally, led by Jiang Jieshi [then known as Chiang Kai-Shek] and his political party, the Guomindang [then the Kuomintang]. Jiang and the Guomindang, however, were corrupt and inefficient and, though attacked by Japan, were not effectively fighting against their invaders. In large measure this was because the Guomindang was under attack from an internal force. China, since the years right after World War I, had been in a Civil War, with Jiang facing the forces of Mao Zedong [then Mao Tse-Tung] and the Chinese Communist Party [CCP]. The Guomindang received huge amounts of U.S. aid during the war but, rather than focus on the Japanese, used it against the CCP, or Jiang sent much it offshore to Formosa [later Taiwan] to amass his own personal fortune. Mao and the Communists, meanwhile, were more effective in fighting the Japanese, and more popular among the people because of their program which promised land reform and greater political rights, unlike the repressive Guomindang. During the war, many U.S. officials, civilian and military, traveled to China to survey the situation there and there was a broad agreement that Mao was

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more popular and more likely to win the war, and that Jiang was corrupt and almost certain to lose. One American diplomat, John Paton Davies, spoke of the reverence that the Chinese had for the Communist leader by observing that “it was clear that when Mao spoke, no dog barked.” Rather than create a policy for China based on that reality, Truman and his administration continued to support Jiang and the Guomindang. In large measure this was because it distrusted Mao, seeing him as an ally, or even a puppet, of Stalin and the Russians–a point that was particularly wrong as Stalin did not trust Mao a great deal, feared a rival in the communist world, and actually backed Jiang as the legitimate leader of China. But the “China Lobby” in the U.S. also had a great deal to do with the support of Jiang. This group included businessmen with investments in China, Christians who supported Jiang [who was a Christian himself], and media who wrote positive, if virtually fictional, stories about the Guomindang’s strength and popularity. Support of Jiang, as the China Lobby saw it, was essential to promote economic investments and democracy, and anyone questioning the Guomindang could be called a traitor. So American aid to China continued to flow, despite growing evidence, and advice, that it was like pouring money down a rathole. And, on October 1st 1949, everything for the Americans fell apart. Mao marched into Tiananmen Square in the capital of Beijing and victoriously proclaimed the establishment of the People’s Republic of China [PRC]. The world’s most populous country had turned communist in a genuine revolution. Even though there were significant differences between the Soviet Union and the PRC, the Americans saw them as part of the same “conspiracy” and did not realistically try to develop a relationship with Mao. Inside the U.S., the “loss” of China to Mao [which implied that the U.S. once “owned” China] would have great consequences, as conservatives would use it to accuse Truman of weakness and incompetence, and accuse others of being dupes or spies for the Communists. The failure to try to develop a relationship with China only guaranteed that global tensions would get worse, as they soon did– in Korea. Korea was not a combatant in World War II. It had been invaded by Japan and was formally annexed by Tokyo in 1910. During World War II, an antiJapanese group, led by many Communists under the direction of Kim Il-sung [grandfather of the current leader, Kim Jong-un], conducted guerrilla operations against the Japanese occupation forces and when the war ended in 1945 expected to assume power over the Korean state. That was not to be, how-

The Growth of American Power Through Cold and Hot Wars

ever. The U.S. and other powers instead divided Korea in half, at the 38th parallel, with the northern half under the influence of Kim and the Communists, and the southern half under the control of a U.S. client, Syngmann Rhee. Between 1945 and 1950, both sides fought for control, politically and at times in military skirmishes. In mid-1950, events took a dramatic turn when army troops from the North, the Democratic Republic of Korea, or DRK, crossed the 38th parallel and invaded the South, the Republic of Korea, or the ROK. Before the war broke out, the U.S. had taken a fairly casual position, not including Korea as an area in Asia that would be worthy of U.S. protection. But by June 1950, when the invasion occurred, circumstances had changed dramatically. While the U.S. was already well-established in the ROK, with significant private business investment in Rhee’s government, it was also concerned about the possibility of another Communist country rising in Asia. So when the war began, the U.S. went to the United Nations and got a resolution passed to create a multi-national force to intervene and defend southern Korea. By the time those forces got to Korea, however, the situation was dire. From the outbreak of the war, June 25th, to mid- September, the northern forces had stormed through Korea and gained control of almost the entire country, all put a small area in the very south at Pusan. The situation looked bleak for the ROK and U.S. But General Douglas MacArthur, the head of the U.N. forces in Korea, devised an ingenious plan for an amphibious attack at Inchon, which was on the western coast of the peninsula just south of the 38th parallel. The Inchon invasion worked to precision, and it cut the North’s lines and forced mass DRK surrenders in the south, and the institution of an often-brutal military occupation by the ROK against North Korean troops. At that point, beginning in mid-September, MacArthur took the offensive and in about 2 months had marched northward and taken control of virtually the whole country. He then vowed that victory was imminent, that he would have “the boys home by Christmas.” MacArthur miscalculated, badly. Despite warnings from Mao that he would not tolerate outside forces gaining control of a nation on China’s border, the U.S. general in charge of intelligence, Charles Willoughby, a right- wing ideologue, assured MacArthur that China would not take action if the U.S. continued its march northward to unify the entire country under American and ROK control. He was deadly wrong. Though MacArthur and

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Truman agreed that the U.S. should try to take control of all of Korea, the Chinese had other ideas and in mid-October, Mao sent troops across the Yalu River, the border between China and North Korea, to assist Kim Il-sung’s government. The war had entered a new and more brutal phase, and U.S. and Chinese troops would wage war against each other. More Chinese forces, hundreds of thousands, poured into Korea—many unarmed and told to pick up weapons of dead comrades as they passed them—and they stopped the U.S. advance, though MacArthur still insisted he could win the war by the end of 1950. The Chinese intervention had totally changed the nature of the war, as the DRK forces moved southward and even recaptured the ROK capital at Seoul, leading the U.N. to call for a cease-fire in December. By January 1951, the race up and down the Korean peninsula by the competing armies was again close to the 38th parallel, and would remain there until a cease-fire was reached in July 1953. In those two years, although little ground was gained or lost, the war was dramatic and bloody. MacArthur provoked one of the most serious civil-military confrontations in U.S. history in April 1951 when he publicly criticized Truman for seeking a negotiated end to the war rather than again “unleashing” his forces to attack the North and gain victory. Truman, publicly embarrassed, fired MacArthur, with strong support from other military officials, but the General returned home a national hero and Truman’s public approval ratings fell dreadfully low. Meanwhile, the war continued, especially with air attacks, and by the end of fighting the U.S. had spent well over $20 billion and had suffered about 55,000 deaths. The South Koreans lost over 400,000, and North Korea over 500,000. All told, there were three to four million casualties–deaths and injuries both–in the war, and civilians accounted for most of those numbers. The Korean War, coming not long after the Communist victory in China’s civil war, showed that Asia would play out much differently than Europe had. The U.S. did not have the same level of power or influence, nor allies, as it did in Europe, and was unsuccessful in gaining its goals in both the PRC and Korea. In fact, the war in Korea did not even officially end. Though a ceasefire was agreed to, the various sides could not agree on a peace treaty so even today Korea remains technically at war and the 38th parallel is one of the more dangerous areas in the world, while one of the more brutal and bizarre regimes in modern times continues to rule the DRK.

The Growth of American Power Through Cold and Hot Wars

Figure 6-6 U.S. infantrymen take cover from exploding mortar shells near the Hantan River in central Korea, 1951

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As the U.S. faced global crises–in Berlin, China, Korea, and elsewhere–it was still developing its economic program for global power. And in 1950, to a greater degree than before, the government began to combine its program for military strength with its plans for economic power–and that occurred because of a document called NSC- 68. The National Security Council had been told to analyze U.S. Cold War policy and produced this paper, its 68th publication [hence NSC-68] in the spring of 1950, not long before the Korean War began. Although government officials knew about NSC-68, it did not become public until the 1970s, but its importance was already understood by then. NSC-68 had two main points, one which has gotten most of the attention and the other less discussed but, in the long run, more important. First, this document starkly described the global conflict at the time. It described the U.S. as a

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“free” state fighting against the evil Soviet Union, a “slave” state. It put the Cold War in good and evil terms. And because of that, it urged the U.S. to begin an intense period of militarization–more weapons, more troops, more money spent on the pentagon [even if tax increases were needed], more involvement abroad to stop Communism, and more programs at home to stop domestic “subversives” and keep Americans loyal [similar to the period after the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001]. Even more than the Truman Doctrine, then, NSC-68 expanded the Cold War to the entire globe. Wherever alleged communists existed, the U.S. would get involved to stop them, usually by offering large amounts of aid to the governments in those countries to kill off [often literally] the opposition. Less discussed, but more vital, NSC-68 created a program of permanent and increased military spending, and that was essential for the economy. Remember that World War II had begun when the U.S. was still suffering from the Great Depression, and it was the government’s massive war spending that finally ended it. So American leaders understood that it was thus necessary to have a major program of public spending to keep the economy prosperous. But it had to be careful in its spending habits. It accepted the basic ideas of Keynes, who said that government spending, even if it created deficits, was essential to put people to work and enable them to get a paycheck. This government spending, however, had to be done carefully. If the state spent money on public programs–like schools, roads, health care, education, and so forth–then it would likely be called “Socialist” by Republicans and conservatives, and the Democrats just as firmly believed in private ownership and had no affection for Socialism in any event. But if the state spent public money on the military–which would be considered necessary because of the fears created by the NSC- 68 analysis of the “good” Americans and the “evil” Russians and would be contracted out to private firms–then politicians and the public would be far more likely to support it. So NSC-68 became both a military and an economic program. NSC-68 made it possible to spend vastly larger amounts of money on the military. In 1950 the military budget was $13 billion [which would be $126 billion today, or about 20 percent of actual 2014 military spending]. The Korean War broke out that year, so it was inevitable that military spending would grow, but it went up to over $65 billion by 1953, the year the war ended. And then, after the war, when one might expect a significant decrease,

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military spending remained quite high–in the $35-40 billion range. Rather than spend money on politically risky things like clinics or schools, it would spend them on weapons and intervention. Along with this growth in military funding at home, NSC-68 led to a series of foreign military aid programs, where the U.S. would provide money to other countries for them to defend against Communists, a term used against the leaders of virtually any nation that disagreed with or criticized U.S. policies. As with the Marshall Plan, however, these military aid programs had another purpose. Other countries needed money–it was called a dollar gap because they lacked the funds to trade–so the U.S. would provide them with aid that they would use to purchase military goods, usually from American firms. NSC-68 thus enabled the government to support weapons makers at home with much larger military contracts [think of Halliburton in the Iraq War] and to send money abroad so that other countries would have the dollars they needed to buy goods from the U.S., another example of Military Keynesianism. From 1950 onward, that idea grew, so that military spending continually went up [today, the U.S. spends almost more money on the military, nearly $700 billion, than the rest of the world combined] while “public” programs like education and health care fight for scraps.

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The term “Third World” refers to those countries that are not developed industrially. While the “First World,” the U.S. and Western Europe, and the “Second World,” countries like Japan or the Soviet Union and its Eastern European allies, had developed industry and more “modern” economies [with the West far more prosperous than the East], much of the world seemed “primitive” to American political and economic leaders. For the most part, the Third World had been colonized by the European powers. The British, for example, controlled India and Egypt; the French controlled Indochina; Germany and Belgium controlled large parts of Africa; and so on. The U.S. did not “formally” colonize countries, but instead practiced what William Howard Taft in the early 1900s called “dollar diplomacy.” Rather than send in the Army to take control of a country, the U.S. sent in bankers and investors to make deals with the ruling elites, often military dictators, in a particu-

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lar place and gain powerful and control that way, through the continued growth of the Open Door. But when a foreign leader stood in the way of such corporate interests, the U.S. could take more severe action. In Iran, a man who had won a fair election to lead his country, Mohammed Mossadegh, also found himself on America’s enemies list, targeted for a takedown. Mossadegh’s “error” was challenging foreign oil companies who had control of and got wealthy from Iranian oil. After World War II, U.S. companies produced about 50 percent of Middle Eastern oil, which provided Europe with almost 90 percent of its petroleum. In Iran, the largest oil firm was the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company [AIOC], which was owned by the British. To nationalist Iranians, the AIOC was a symbol of western imperialism and political groups on the right and left saw it as their largest barrier to sovereignty and prosperity. In 1949 Mossadegh, a member of the majlis, the Iranian legislature, at the time, led the fight against the AIOC. In 1950, the British company earned profits in the range of 200 million British Pounds [or about 560 million American dollars] but Iran received only about 8 percent of that total in royalties. Indeed, the company’s profits in that year alone exceeded

Figure 6-7 Mohammed Mossadegh and President Harry S. Truman, 1951

The Growth of American Power Through Cold and Hot Wars

the profits paid to Iran over the previous fifty years. Iran, in fact, received less in royalties than they had to pay the British in taxes. In 1948, 1949, and 1950, Iran received 9, 13.5, and 16 million pounds in royalties, but paid 28, 23, and 50.5 million pounds in taxes. The British corporation did not even allow Iranian officials to examine their financial books and unilaterally determined the amounts of payments. The British made some minor concessions to Iran, raising royalty payments from 22 to 33 cents per barrel, but the Iranians were not impressed, particularly since the U.S. and Saudi Arabia had agreed to a a 50-50 split on its oil. In November 1950, as political violence grew, Mossadegh’s group called for the nationalization of the AIOC, taking it over, compensating the British, and putting it under Iranian leadership. British attempts to compromise at that point were too late and in March 1951 the majlis nationalized the British company and the next month elected Mossadegh to the Prime Minister’s position. The new Iranian leader had come from a well-known and well-off Iranian family and was an “old-fashioned liberal” who was opposed to both foreign interference in Iran and to Communism. Western media often mocked him—he sometimes wore pajamas to meet visitors and wept at public events— but it was his intent to nationalize oil that convinced the Americans and the British to remove him from power. Since a 1946 showdown with the Soviet Union to remove Russian troops after the war, the Americans had considered Iran to be a vital interest in the Middle East, both to contain the Soviet Union and because of oil. By the early 1950s, as the oil nationalization crusade in Iran picked up steam, the Americans became more involved. In late 1951, the AIOC had approached the British Secret Intelligence Service about getting rid of Mossadegh, and then they asked the CIA to put together a coup. On its own, the British company stopped Iran from selling its own oil on the world market and caused its export earnings to drop from $400 million to just $2 million between 1951 and 1953. Mossadegh was under increasing pressure, from the British, the Americans, and at home. In January, the he wrote to President Eisenhower asking the U.S. to stop opposing his government, and accusing Washington of working with the British to “strangle Iran with a financial and economic blockade.” Iran, therefore, “had no choice” but to nationalize oil and remove the AIOC operating there. Inside Iran, Mossadegh was under heavy pressure from various political forces connected to or paid off by the AIOC and he began to

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rely more heavily for support upon the Tudeh Party, home to many Communists and radicals. In the U.S., Eisenhower told the NSC that the U.S. had to take action in Iran, but he cited the Soviet threat, which was virtually non-existent, as the justification. “If I had $500,000,000 of money to spend in secret,” the president observed, “I would get $100,000,000 of it to Iran right now.” Then, just after Eisenhower was inaugurated the CIA began its campaign in Iran, paying opposing groups to demonstrate against Mossadegh. By summer 1953, the pressure against the government was growing considerably, and the CIA, using psychological operations similar to those it would soon use in Guatemala, successfully isolated Mossadegh. In late August, Mossadegh was overthrown; rather than call out troops to suppress the uprising against him and harm Iranians, he left office. The Shah of Iran was then placed in power and the monarchy restored. Over the years, with significant amounts of American money and a U.S.-backed security apparatus, the Shah would repress his own people and create a favorable climate for American corporate interests. In Iran, a nationalist government learned hard lessons about challenging the U.S. role in the world political economy. A small nation in Central America would suffer the same lesson at that time too. From the days of the Monroe Doctrine, in 1823, to the period after World War II, the U.S. essentially controlled Latin America. That region was particularly important because of America’s economic interests there. In the 1950s private U.S. investment doubled to $9.2 billion; over 20 percent of all exports went to the region; American firms produced 16 percent of Venezuela’s national wealth and 12 percent in Cuba. American companies took huge profits out of Latin America as well. Kennecott and Anaconda Copper profits in Chile reached over 50 percent of their total, while in Brazil U.S. corporations received from 15 to 25 percent of their net earnings. Loans from the Export-Import Bank, created in 1934 to give government credits to exporters to sell more goods abroad, rose to nearly $2 billion, while outright economic aid totaled more than $1.3 billion. There were times, as in Haiti or Nicaragua in the period around World War I, when American troops did go into those countries to establish “order,” meaning U.S. control. But often it was done through businessmen, as in Guatemala, which is a great case study in the way the American “empire” grew in the early Cold War years. Guatemala is a small country in Central America, south of Mexico. It is about 42,000 square miles in area [about as big as Virginia or Tennessee] and

The Growth of American Power Through Cold and Hot Wars

in 1950 had a population of around 3 million. It was a poor, agricultural country with extreme class differences. Much of the land in Guatemala, at least half, was owned by a U.S. corporation–the United Fruit Company, or UFCO, and it let much of that land remain fallow, or unplanted, so that Guatemalan peasants could not use it to grow crops to feed themselves and thus had to work for UFCO at low wages. In the 1930s and early 1940s, the country was led by the dictator Jorge Ubico, who brutally suppressed unionists, leftists and anyone else he deemed to be a “Communist.” In 1932, in fact, Ubico had essentially legalized murder, exempting landowners from any consequences of actions taken to protect their land and possessions. For the wealthy, especially those who had business connections with UFCO, this was a blank check to kill peasants demanding land or movements seeking a fair distribution of resources. In 1944, however, a movement of the middle class, students, and young army officers ousted Ubico and, in the freest elections in the country’s history, elected Juan José Arévalo president the next year. Arévalo was a reformist and a non-Communist, but he raised suspicions in American eyes when he got laws passed to allow workers to organize and increase minimum wages. The changes, however, were mild as UFCO remained the largest landholder in the country with powerful connections in Washington D.C. [again, think of Halliburton in recent years] and its directors continued to resist any meaningful land reform. To American leaders, land reform–redistributing land by taking property from the wealthy to give to the poor or peasants–was simply unacceptable; it had been in the aftermath of the Civil War in the United States when the Freedmen’s Bureau’s attempt to give ex-slaves “40 acres and a mule” ended after just a few years, and it was the basis for opposing the Bolsheviks, Chinese Communists and other liberation movements. So, when Arévalo’s successor, Jacobo Arbenz, began a land reform program that directly affected UFCO holdings, the United States deemed him a threat to its interests. Arbenz’s reform program was directed at large landholders. Any holding over 300 hectares [about 740 acres] that was not fully cultivated, that was fallow, was subject to the land reform plan. Worse for the companies, the land taken from them to give to peasants would be compensated at the value that they declared on their tax records. Since UFCO and the others had, for years, been cheating on their taxes by declaring land values far below their real worth to avoid full payments, the

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companies now, incredibly, cried that they were the ones being cheated. The Americans immediately began to plot ways to get rid of Arbenz, and UFCO was particularly well-placed to assist in eliminating him, as it had power and contacts throughout the U.S. government. John Cabot was an assistant secretary of state who had previously been ambassador to Guatemala and was a major UFCO stockholder; his brother, Thomas, had been a director and president of the company and its banking affiliate. Sinclair Weeks, the secretary of commerce, was also a director of the bank. Robert Cutler was a presidential assistant for national security affairs, and he had been chair of UFCO’s transfer bank board. John McCloy, a longtime Washington insider, had been president of the World Bank and was a United Fruit director. Edward Whitman, ex-husband of Eisenhower’s secretary Ann, and Walter Bedell Smith, ex-CIA director, were directors as well. The secretary of state and his brother, CIA Director Allen Dulles, were both partners in the law firm of Sullivan and Cromwell, which had extensive experience representing American corporations in Latin America. It was only natural, then, that the government would view the land reform program as a threat to American interests and an example of Arbenz’s radical and anti-American leanings. Helping make that argument was a well-tuned public relations team headed by Edward Bernays, the famous propaganda expert discussed in chapter 3. Bernays conducted a highly effective campaign to publicize the “Communist threat,” bringing journalists to Guatemala on “fact finding” junkets and presenting them with UFCO’s version of political reality there. The New York Times was particularly receptive, and its coverage and editorials about Arbenz and his alleged subversive views were important in developing public opposition to the Guatemalan government. The fact that Arbenz was not a Communist, in the end, was not even relevant. There were just about 4000 Communists in the country, and they held only 4 of 56 seats in Congress. Still, Arbenz’s land reform program qualified him as a pawn of Russia in American eyes, even though he explicitly rejected the Soviet Union as a political model. As the American ambassador, Richard Patterson, explained it, Arbenz did not have to admit to being a communist in order to be identified as one. He then put forth the infamous “duck test” to prove Arbenz’s political philosophy. If a bird looked, swam, and quacked like a duck, then it did not have to be wearing a label that said “duck” to prove what it was. In the same way, to the U.S., Arbenz was a Communist because of his land and labor policies, even though he wore no name tag referring to himself as such. Such logic may have been

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incoherent, but the meeting of economic interests, government connections, and media complicity made the overthrow of Arbenz a certainty. In fact, from 1952 onward, the CIA had been working with right-wing elements in Guatemala to create manuals and compile lists of so-called subversives to be assassinated. Beginning in early May, CIA agents began “Operation Success,” a covert action to overthrow Arbenz. The CIA’s psychological warfare expert was E. Howard Hunt, who would later be involved in the Watergate scandal of the 1970s, and he set up a radio station to air negative propaganda about the government. The Americans there also set up a “liberation army,” and trained it in Nicaragua, as no American troops were to be used in the operation. In mid- June 1954, the attacks began, with, a small force led by Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas skirmishing with Guatemalan army forces, but his units bogged down and he lost two of the three planes he had deployed with him. At that point, the Americans bailed them out, sending small aircraft it had received from the dictator Anastasio Somoza in Nicaragua which dropped sticks of dynamite to frighten the population and cause considerable damage and casualties. When Arbenz tried to hand out arms to a militia composed of workers and peasants, the army–fearing a rival force of the underclass–abandoned the government and defected, leaving the president isolated and with no choice but to resign. Castillo Armas became president and American companies moved in to Guatemala with a new vigor, the labor and land reform laws were overturned, and the new regime went after its “enemies,” usually peasant and urban union leaders and leftists of all kinds. Over the next three decades or so, the government of Guatemala would kill over a quarter-million of its own people, mostly Mayan Indians, with U.S. weapons, support, and high levels of economic aid. The Americans had sent a clear message to the whole region; they would not tolerate a government trying to develop its country along its own lines and affecting U.S. business interests in the process. Ironically, after using Arbenz’s alleged communist views as the pretext for invasion, the CIA observed after the coup that “the events of the last week of the Arbenz regime showed that Communism in Guatemala had not developed into a successful popular movement . . . [they] had not found sufficient time to build a broad base or to sink their roots deeply.” While the U.S. maintained rigid control in Latin America, it continued to face challenges in Asia which were not as easy to handle. In particular, events in Vietnam emerged to cause problems for the U.S. after World War II and

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they would explode in the next decades to create a huge crisis in American life. Vietnam was a small country [about the size of New Mexico] in an area called Indochina–which included Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos– and was just south of China, with Thailand to its west and the South China Sea on its eastern border. Vietnam had been a French colony since the 1860s, but had been fighting for independence from the French for most of the 20th century and thought it had become sovereign at the end of World War II when the Japanese, who had taken control of Indochina during World War II, were defeated, and the French, who had been replaced by the Japanese, were no longer in control of the country. That was not to be, however. When though the most influential leader in Vietnam, both a nationalist and a Communist, Ho Chi Minh, declared independence on September 2d, 1945, he quoted from a famous American document. “All men are created equal,” he said. “They are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” Ho may have invoked the 1776 Declaration of Independence, but the French decided to return to Vietnam and reestablish control anyway, and the Americans did not stop them. Between 1946-1954, then, the Vietnamese nationalists, known as the Viet Minh, fought a war of liberation, mostly using guerrilla tactics [hitand-run maneuvers, small-scale actions, sabotage, kidnapping, assassination of French leaders and Vietnamese collaborators, and so forth, not large-scale warfare such as that employed in World War II with big armies] and in May, 1954 successfully defeated the French at a battle at Dienbienphu, a village in northern Vietnam on the border of Laos. As in 1946, Ho Chi Minh and the Viet Minh assumed they would take power over the entire country of Vietnam, but, again, that would not be the case. The Americans would not tolerate the Viet Minh being in charge of Vietnam because it was a nationalist and Communist group and, like Arbenz and others who the U.S. opposed, was committed to land reform–to taking land from the wealthy to give to the peasants. In addition, countries like Vietnam had to be pro-American and proCapitalist in order to help Japan have economic partners and expand, and of course keep the Open Door safe. So the U.S., at a conference in Geneva, Switzerland in 1954, divided Vietnam in half [as they had done to Korea in 1945] at the 17th parallel. The two communist powers–the Soviet Union and China–did virtually nothing to support the Viet Minh, even though the U.S. claimed that Ho Chi Minh was a puppet of the Russians and Chinese.

The Growth of American Power Through Cold and Hot Wars

Figure 6-8 Map of Vietnam divided at the 17th Parallel

In the North, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam [DRVN], Ho and the Viet Minh would be in charge. But below the 17th parallel, the U.S. had to find a leader, would in fact have to create a country. That would be difficult since anyone who had the respect of the Vietnamese people belonged to the Viet Minh, so the U.S. had to find someone who would be its client, or, more derisively, its “puppet,” in southern Vietnam, or the Republic of Vietnam [RVN]. It settled on a man named Ngo Dinh Diem [pronounced like “Ziem”] who had spent many years outside of Vietnam, in exile in Paris and then the U.S. In America he had made important friends like Francis Cardinal Spellman, since Diem was a Catholic even though the vast majority of Vietnam was Buddhist, and like Senator John F. Kennedy. Diem, in effect, was the only option the U.S. had, so they put him in power; they really had no other choice. Even the CIA admitted that “with the decision to support Ngo Dinh Diem the United States was undertaking not only to establish a leader but to create a country...”

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As part of the original agreement, Diem was only to be in power until elections were held in 1956 to choose a single leader to head the entire country, but the U.S. got Diem to cancel those elections and thus invented a country south of the 17th parallel, one that it would eventually defend with billions of dollars and millions of soldiers. The U.S. claimed to put Diem in power to bring “democracy” to Vietnam, as opposed to Ho’s Communism. But Diem and his brother Ngo Dinh Nhu [Ngo was the family name, and Diem and Nhu the first names of the brothers] were despotic and cruel. They even created a political party based on loyalty to their family [the Can Lao, or “Personalist” Party].By the later 1950s, they had jailed or killed well over a hundred thousand “enemies” of the state for offenses as absurd as “acting like a communist.” Despite their human rights abuses, the U.S. kept sending money into southern Vietnam [billions in the 1950s alone] to keep their friends in power and keep Ho from gaining control of the whole country, even though everyone who studied Vietnam in the U.S.–the CIA, the army, the NSC, President Eisenhower, other experts–all acknowledged that Ho would easily win any fair election for president.

T he C old W ar ,

from

E urope

to the

W hole W orld

What began in 1945 as a conflict over Eastern Europe had, in less than ten years, become a global struggle for power that brought actual “hot” wars to China, Korea, Guatemala, and Vietnam, to name a few places. If we went into detail on all the events of the early Cold War, we would be flooded with information, but the examples used show us clearly how the Americans planned for and built an empire based on military and, more importantly, economic strength. The use of the Atomic Bomb, the establishment of the Bretton Woods System, the Marshall Plan, the Berlin airlift, the war in Korea, NSC-68, and interventions in Iran, Guatemala, and Vietnam all demonstrated the intensity and breadth of American interests throughout the world. By the end of this first period in the Cold War, the U.S. had overwhelming dominance and the Soviet Union, while undoubtedly a rival, was, despite the fearmongering of U.S. leaders, far behind. Still, the militarization, interventions, military budgets and anti-communism would remain vital to not just American foreign policy, but policies at home as well.

The Growth of American Power Through Cold and Hot Wars

T he C old W ar

at

H ome ,

or

“D omestic C ontainment ”

Earlier, as noted, many Americans were concerned about the “national security state” and the growing militarization of American foreign policies. But it had a domestic impact as well, which, as in the period from 1919 into the 1920s, we refer to as the Red Scare. In order to preserve “national security,” American leaders looked for enemies not just abroad–in alleged Communist countries threatening American investment, trade, and corporate power–but also at home, and within a decade after the end of World War II, countless Americans would be accused, most unfairly, of being disloyal, and basic liberties in the U.S.–as with the PATRIOT Act and Homeland Security after the events of September 11th, 2001–would be regularly cast aside because of the fear of outside enemies or domestic “subversives.” Subversion, however, was not simply restricted to those who sought to harm the U.S. or who were disloyal. In fact, those who controlled the government, the economy, and the media defined subversion broadly, so that virtually anyone who criticized American policies, who thought that the government should act differently in the cold war, or who had a different, and more comprehensive, understanding of “democracy” was considered a threat to the national security. In this way U.S. leaders, who constantly contrasted American “democracy” to that of the “slavery” of the Soviet Union, actually had more in common with the Russians than was apparent or that they would ever admit. Government and Capitalist attacks on “disloyal” Americans had already grown during the war, when it became easier to attack groups for their behavior or political action. Total loyalty was essential to the war effort, so it was easy to move against anyone or any organization that was deemed “different” regarding the needs of the state for a unanimous effort against “enemies” like Nazis or Communists. But attacks against those who were different moved far beyond political ideas or actions. Mexican Americans, for instance, came under attack during wartime. In Los Angeles, which was full of alarmist reports of a “Mexican Crime Wave,” the White establishment began to identify young Mexican Americans who wore distinctive, baggy, clothing called Zoot Suits as the source of the city’s dangers. After the murder of a young Mexican-American man in August 1942, the Los Angeles Police Department rounded up over 600 people, all Mexican Americans. Those arrested for the

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crime, also Mexican American, were the victims of an unfair trial and were convicted and sentenced to San Quentin prison. Los Angeles was suffering a deep racial polarization, with whites suspicious of and hateful toward Mexican Americans, who were vital to the California economy, especially in agriculture. Against that backdrop, a year later, in June 1943, a group of White sailors on leave claimed they were attacked by Zoot Suiters, so over 200 other sailors went on a rampage in the Mexican American communities of East Los Angeles. The attacks, dubbed the “Zoot Suit Riots,” continued for a few more days and unknown numbers of Mexican Americans were beaten and often stripped of their Zoot Suits; one Los Angeles paper even offered advice on how to “de-Zoot” someone wearing such clothing. Soon, Army soldiers joined the sailors and again poured into East Los Angeles, breaking into businesses and beating people randomly. One’s choice of wardrobe had become an excuse for political repression. The local authorities did nothing to slow the assaults, and in fact Time Magazine reported, “the police practice was to

Figure 6-9 Zoot Suiters outside a Los Angeles jail, en route to court after feud with sailors, June 1943

The Growth of American Power Through Cold and Hot Wars

accompany the caravans of soldiers and sailors in police cars, watch the beatings and jail the victims.” Finally, several days after the rampages began, the Navy sent military police into East Los Angeles to stop the attacks, and the city was declared off-limits to all servicemen. No sailors or soldiers were arrested or punished after the assaults ended. Political repression of so-called Radicals–Socialists, Communists, syndicalists, anarchists, and others whose political ideology strayed beyond the limits of liberalism–which was common from the later 19th Century, grew. From the anarchists hanged after Haymarket in the 1880s to the Reds rounded up in the Palmer Raids after World War I to the state executions of Sacco and Vanzetti in the 1920s, the American state had always acted swiftly and decisively to eradicate “alien” and “subversive” ideologies. Such policies and programs would intensify during World War II and attain a particular virulence in the Cold War. The government attacks on labor, Blacks, JapaneseAmericans and “Zoot Suiters” were coordinated and effective during the war, but they were still secondary to the systematic repression of “Reds” in the World War II and then Cold War years. In the aftermath of the second world war, an anti-communist obsession swept across the United States, limiting American political culture and causing a marked decline in freedoms and liberties. By simply calling someone a “radical” or, worse, a “Communist,” the state could discredit or even imprison its political foes. Moreover, as a result of the nature of such “red-baiting,” the government assumed vast new powers to intervene in the daily lives of its citizens. It was, and remains, one of the darkest periods in our national life. Ironically, the rise in state repression and decline in civil liberties was originally directed to some degree at the political right-wing. In the late 1930s, there were many groups in the United States considered pro-Nazi, such as the German-American Bund, which claimed as many as 25,000 members by 1938 [the U.S. Communist Party, by comparison, claimed about 100,000 members]. As a result, many liberals and others on the left supported the 1938 creation in the House of Representatives of a committee to investigate “the extent, character and objects of un-American propaganda activities in the U.S.” This investigative body, chaired by Texas representative Martin Dies and known as the Dies Committee throughout the war [and later infamously known as the House Committee on Un-American Activities, or HUAC], did investigate pro-fascist groups like the Bund but focused its efforts on investi-

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gating and attacking leftist groups such as the Communist Party, the CIO, and certain liberals in the Roosevelt administration whom Dies and others accused of communist sympathies because of positive statements about the Soviet Union, a wartime ally. Dies in fact called for the resignation of several cabinet officials who, he explained, “range in political insanity from Socialist to Communist, with the common garden variety of ’crackpots’ predominating.” Dies went further in 1941, even before the United States entered the war, putting together a list of over 1100 federal employees [like the “no fly” lists today], which he gave to the Attorney General, because he claimed they were subversives or Communists. Around the same time, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation [FBI], J. Edgar Hoover, was also preparing lists of individuals, mostly on the political left, whom he saw as threats to the “peace and safety of the United States government.” In the meantime, the FBI and Justice officials were arresting Communist and labor officials, attacking American veterans [the “Abraham Lincoln Brigade”] who had volunteered to fight for the Spanish government in the civil war there, and wiretapping

Figure 6-10 Edward F. Sullivan (right) presents evidence of supposed communist activity to House Un-American Activities Committee Chairman Martin Dies, Jr.

The Growth of American Power Through Cold and Hot Wars

Americans suspected of so-called subversive activities [again, similar to contemporary efforts as shown in the Julian Assange and Edward Snowden affairs]. Initially, Roosevelt supported such efforts, but the public and media did express their disapproval, and Attorney General Francis Biddle, in these cases, put a stop to such activities. As the war continued, however, the government increasingly took such steps. The Justice Department and FBI still compiled lists of organizations and individuals it considered disloyal. Such repression took place on the state level as well. When Communists in Pennsylvania decided to run in elections in 1940, they gathered tens of thousands of signatures, but local papers published the names of those endorsing the party, basically inviting their “pro-American” neighbors to attack them. In some cities, teachers and public employees who signed such nominating petitions lost their jobs. One Communist journalist was even jailed in Pittsburgh for libel because of his work exposing pro-Nazi groups operating in the United States. The authorities and courts even went after religious groups such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who refused to salute the flag and were opposed to the killing of other humans. In addition to overlooking mob violence against the Witnesses, many government law enforcement agencies arrested and indicted them for sedition when they passed out literature. In fact, the American Civil Liberties Union, a group that monitored and took legal action against government repression, reported that “nothing in the record of attacks against communists, strikers, or Negroes” matched the attacks on the Witnesses in 1940-41. Between 1941 and 1944, there was a slight lull in such government measures because of the wartime alliance of American and Russia and the support for the war of American Communists and labor, as well as some Supreme Court decisions affirming civil liberties [such as the Korematsu case]. However, the repression did continue and would escalate seriously after the war ended. In fact, the state developed expanded and new means of maintaining “internal security” during the war. Wars have always led to an erosion of American civil liberties–from the alien and sedition acts during the so-called Quasi-War in the 1790s to the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus in the Civil War to the “Palmer Raids” after World War I–so the increase in state power during the war was not unprecedented or even surprising. It did, however, give way to a vast increase in state power after the war, and in itself was a disturbing rejection of certain constitutional principles. The attack on

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alleged subversives in the war years enabled the government to expand its internal security system in new ways. Congress, in 1940, passed the Smith Act, which, interpreted broadly, made it illegal to belong to a political party opposed to the liberal capitalist system, such as the socialists or communists. Again, people were being attacked, or even arrested and imprisoned, for their ideas, not actions. The FBI, for its part, took on a much greater role in protecting “national security,” rather than chasing down criminals like John Dillinger or Al Capone. Whereas the FBI had about 850 agents in 1939, there were over 4500 in 1943 [in fact, after World War II the FBI had 500 agents working on “Communism” and only 2 assigned to keep an eye on the mafia]. Moreover Hoover was able to invoke “national security” to remove legal restrictions to Bureau behavior such as wiretapping and surveillance, even though the Supreme Court had outlawed those practices. Hoover also ignored Justice Department decisions and investigated organizations against the Attorney General’s orders, and even began to compile a “security index” of individuals to be detained in an emergency [similar to the government’s actions against Muslims and Arabs following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks]. The FBI also began to work with Army spies to keep a close eye on “suspicious” or “disloyal” individuals in the labor movement. Because so many industries were involved in producing the goods needed for the war, the government feared that subversives on the factory floor could hurt America’s fighting ability. So the Army increasingly took responsibility for internal security in industrial plants. The Army’s intelligence units, called G-2, began to work closely with the FBI to conduct surveys in various plants to make sure that subversives were not destabilizing the war effort. In addition, Hoover, with the help of the American Legion, developed a system with 10,000 undercover informants in factories who could report on activities they thought were politically suspicious. Army G-2 also took on responsibilities for plant protection to make sure that workers would not engage in spying for the enemy or sabotage of the work process. Army intelligence and the FBI both warned also that strikes or slowdowns, or demands for higher wages, were examples of subversive activities more than responses to economic needs. The attack on allegedly disloyal Americans grew as World War II ended. The meaning of “loyalty” used by the ruling class, however, was more con-

The Growth of American Power Through Cold and Hot Wars

cerned with economic and political issues than an apparent desire to harm the U.S. If one challenged the government-corporation-banking control of the economy, or opposed America’s policies toward the Soviet Union or intervention into smaller countries, or believed workers or Blacks or women deserved equal rights to Whites and men, among other issues, that person could be considered disloyal, even if he or she was a proud American with no intent to do any damage to any American institution. Hence, finding disloyal Americans when such a broad definition was used was not difficult. In Congress, HUAC was already in existence but began to more vigorously seek out “communists” and “subversives” as the Cold War began. Some of HUAC’s targets were laughable, as the committee launched investigations, which discovered no useful information, on celebrities such as Lucille Ball, Groucho Marx, and Frank Sinatra. HUAC did, however, cause considerable damage in Hollywood, calling many writers, directors, and actors to testify before it over claims that they had communist connections [similar, though much worse, than the controversies involving the Dixie Chicks, Sean Penn, Bill Maher, and others after 9/11]. Celebrities like Ronald Reagan, then an actor and the president of the main union in Hollywood, the Screen Actor’s Guild, and U.S. president in the 1980s, appeared before the committee to denounce Communists in the entertainment industry. Reagan admitted, though he had heard rumors of Communists, he had no knowledge of any, but that did not stop him from accusing the Communist Party, a “small clique,” of being a “disruptive influence” in Hollywood. Walt Disney, who probably had more influence over American culture than anyone at the time and had made government propaganda films, was more harsh in criticizing Communists, especially in the unions working at his studios. “I definitely feel it was a Communist group,” Disney observed, “trying to take over my artists and they did take them over.” As for Communism, Disney said “I don’t believe it is a political party. I believe it is an un-American thing.” He “resent[ed] the most” the influence he claimed that they had in his unions, where people who Disney knew were “good, 100 percent Americans” got “trapped by this group” of Communists. Linking unions to Communism, as seen below, was a common anti-labor tactic in that period. Even Ayn Rand, author of books celebrating Capitalism and attacking the government’s role in economic decisions, and inspiration to many conservatives and Republicans in the 21st Century, testified before HUAC and denounced the Soviet Union.

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As for HUAC, it continued its work going after people from the movie industry, especially the Hollywood 10, writers and actors accused of being Communist or somehow un-American. These men were called before Congress to testify about their association with Communist groups. Most refused to answer based on their 5th Amendment rights, and they would not “name names,” give out information about others they may know who were involved in left-wing politics. The Hollywood 10 were imprisoned, and could not find work after that, put on a “blacklist,” a list of writers and actors allegedly subversive. Hundreds of others in Hollywood lost their jobs, and many began writing scripts under fake names for much less money. One of the more vocal victims of the blacklist was Dalton Trumbo, who wrote a famous antiwar novel about World War I, Johnny Got His Gun, and wrote several movie scripts. Trumbo did not cooperate with HUAC, refusing to answer its questions about his views on Communism or to name names. Trumbo, naturally, was blacklisted and began submitting screenplays under assumed names, but, worse, had to spend a year in federal prison, for his ideas and for refusing to answer HUAC’s questions, not any deeds he had committed. Lillian Hellman, a playwright and screenwriter, was similarly blacklisted in 1952 when she refused to name names to HUAC. She was willing to talk, she said, but “to hurt innocent people whom I knew many years ago in order to save myself is, to me, inhuman and indecent and dishonorable. I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year’s fashions, even though I long ago came to the conclusion that I was not a political person and could have no comfortable place in any political group.” In fact, the situation became so extreme that many Hollywood studios began to show scripts for upcoming movies to the CIA to get government approval that it was a pro-American film before shooting began. HUAC also went after political figures. Most notably, it accused one of Franklin Roosevelt’s close associates when he was president, Alger Hiss, of being a spy for the Russians. The controversy over Hiss’s innocence or guilt continues to this day, but the impact of the charges against him was clear. Hiss’s career was ruined, but a young Congress member from California used the Hiss case to make a national reputation for himself. His name was Richard Milhous Nixon, and two years later, in 1950, he would be elected to the U.S. senate from California by accusing his Democratic rival, Helen Gahagan Douglas, of being a communist dupe. The politics of smearing people with charges of disloyalty clearly worked and the power of anti-communism as a

The Growth of American Power Through Cold and Hot Wars

political tactic [like using charges of “terrorism” today] was obvious and effective. Beyond HUAC, the entire government began to feed into the hysteria over domestic enemies. In March 1947, barely a week after he announced the Truman Doctrine, the president also announced a loyalty program for federal employees, and a great number of state and local governments followed suit and set up their own loyalty programs. “Loyalty” was defined broadly so seemingly mild criticisms of the government could land one in hot water, especially if a neighbor or co-worker was a snitch. Well over six million people were subjected to loyalty checks, and many occupations, including government workers and teachers, had to sign loyalty oaths to keep their jobs. An overwhelming sense of fear and anxiety had taken hold, and the government would use this to maintain political control. And no one would exploit this hysteria more than an alcoholic, morphineaddicted senator from Wisconsin, Joseph McCarthy. While the power of using anti-communism for political purposes was obvious, McCarthy took it to new heights. Beginning in February 1950, McCarthy claimed that he had a list of over 200 “known Communists” in the State Department. His numbers kept changing—57 once, 81 another time, just 10 at one point—but he claimed they had undermined the nation’s security and even helped the Chinese communists win the civil war there against the Guomindang [the character of Johnny Iselin in the 1962 film The Manchurian Candidate was based on McCarthy]. Though McCarthy should have had little credibility, given his own addictions and the unfounded nature of most of his allegations, he was able to dominate the national debate on the cold war at home, and in large part because at the same time he emerged with his anti-communist crusade, one of the greatest spying scandals in U.S. history was uncovered. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, two political activists with communist connections, were arrested and charged with spying for the Russians and helping them develop their own atomic bomb. The Rosenberg case “proved” McCarthy’s point–that communists inside the U.S. were working for the communists to destroy the country from within. The Rosenbergs became the symbol of cold war treachery and eventually were convicted of conspiracy and, despite pleas from world leaders and the pope, were executed for their crimes, leaving behind two young children. McCarthy even went so far as to imply that General George Marshall, argu-

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ably the most revered military leader in American history next to George Washington, was a dupe of the communists because he reported truthfully about the influence of the Chinese communists. The Wisconsin senator, along with Nixon and many others, including a young aide named Robert Kennedy, the brother of a future president, made their careers out of accusing people of being communist, stoking the national fear and giving the government more power over individual freedoms and restricting constitutional rights. McCarthy ran roughshod over his enemies, and the Constitution, gaining the ability to ruin lives simply by accusing people of being Communists without any proof. Not everyone went along with McCarthy’s crusade, however. While Hollywood representatives were willing to criticize the red scare early on, the first national political figure to do so was Senator Margaret Chase Smith of Maine. On June 1st, 1950 Smith denounced McCarthy in her “Declaration of Conscience” speech. Smith originally thought McCarthy “was onto something disturbing and frightening” but very soon questioned the “validity, accuracy, credibility, and fairness of his accusations. She believed he had turned the Senate into “a forum of hate and character assassination,”

Figure 6-11 Senator Joseph McCarthy questions Chief Senate Counsel representing the United States Army Joseph Welch, 1954

The Growth of American Power Through Cold and Hot Wars

and to continue on his crusade he needed “proved cases,” not “unproven charges.” She finished by offering 6 declarations of conscience, basically a list of rights like free speech and protest that were supposed to be part of the core of American liberty. Still, McCarthy continued his smears, for several more years. By 1954, fewer Americans believed his theories on the Communist conspiracy taking over the U.S., and a television host, Edward R. Murrow, delivered a serious blow to his credibility and anti-Communist hysteria when he interviewed McCarthy on his show See It Now on March 9th, 1954. He showed clips of the Wisconsin Senator calling people Communists and traitors and rebutted them. He powerfully concluded, “this is no time for men who oppose Senator McCarthy’s methods to keep silent, or for those who approve. We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. There is no way for a citizen of a republic to abdicate his responsibilities. As a nation we have come into our full inheritance at a tender age. We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world, but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.” McCarthy appeared on Murrow’s show a few weeks later to defend himself but he appeared rambling, cited others who had made anti-Communist statements, offered no evidence, and attacked his enemies, especially Murrow, whom he called “a leader and the cleverest of the jackal pack which is always at the throat of anyone who dares to expose individual Communism and traitors.” Murrow in the end won, however, as he is still revered for his journalism and activism. In fact, his signature signoff, “Good Night and Good Luck,” became the title of a 2005 movie about his encounter with McCarthy, made by George Clooney.McCarthy’s last stand, as it were, came in mid-1954 when he, incredibly, went after the U.S. Army, claiming that over 100 of its personnel had some association to Communism. The Army’s representative, the attorney Joseph Welch, went after McCarthy aggressively in televised hearings, demanding that the senator present him with names of any Communists. McCarthy replied that a young man in Welch’s own firm had once been associated with a group of radical lawyers and Welch’s response remains one of the most powerful moments in the era. “Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator” Welch pled, “you’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency.” Welch’s testimony essentially broke McCarthy and his crusade, and the Senator, an alcoholic and morphine addict, died in May 1957.

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Even then, however, some of McCarthy’s followers carried on his mission of slander and false accusations. HUAC called the famous folk singer Pete Seeger, whose music was decades later the subject of an album by Bruce Springsteen, who refused to answer questions or name names in 1955. He was held in “contempt of congress” in 1957 and sentenced to a year in prison, but had that verdict overturned on appeal. In 1957, a group of the Senator’s associates in the entertainment industry had formed AWARE, an organization dedicated to getting rid of Communists, and they went after John Henry Faulk, a CBS radio show host in Texas who told folksy stories in the style of Mark Twain and never mentioned politics on the air. Faulk himself, however, was a leftist, was a friend of people like Alan Lomax, a music collector who recorded people like Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly, and had opposed the Korean War. When AWARE went after him, he was furious, and even angrier when they told him they would leave him alone if he paid them $10,000. “I’m going to fight them, damn it! They’re a bunch of crooks, a pack of goddamn hypocrites who play at politics in order to line their pockets,” he claimed, “Fuck ‘em where they breathe.” As for the payoff, Faulk vowed “I won’t pay them one thin dime.” He had, however, reluctantly signed a CBS loyalty oath and the company would not defend him, in fact canceled his show and took him off the payroll. Faulk did get vindicated some years later when he won a $3.5 million libel suit against AWARE. He did not see any of the money, but had proven how reckless and dangerous McCarthyism was. The Cold War at home involved more than government committees, laws, and mentally unstable senators, though. Religion, race, and gender also played a role. While there was a tradition of ministers setting up tents and preaching, especially in the south, one reverend in particular, Billy Graham, combined his evangelical ministry with politics and became perhaps the most famous religious figure in American history. To Graham, the cold war was about more than politics–it was an epic struggle between “good” Christians and “evil” atheists. Graham in fact became so popular, and so useful to the anti-communist cause, that he was invited to the White House and asked to support American policies by every president from Eisenhower onward. If one was not a good Christian, it went without saying, it was hard to be a good American. The government also used charges of “subversion” to go after labor, African- Americans, and women who sought expanded rights. Unions may

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have been the biggest target in the postwar era, and had charges of being disloyal or Communist thrown at them with frequency. This harmed labor’s ability to organize and get better wages and benefits. When the CIO tried to organize workers in the South, the region most hostile to workers’ rights, in “Operation Dixie” after the war, it failed badly. Southern state officials and the bosses made it nearly impossible for labor organizers to do their work, and racism—rumors and threats about Black workers getting power over Whites—and “red baiting,” calling out people as Communist whether they were or not, doomed the Dixie campaign. In fact, red-baiting was so successful that the unions themselves kicked out members who “followed the Communist line” more than labor’s policies; the CIO, the allegedly militant union, expelled 11 affiliated for that reason in 1949-50. In fact, the CIO publicly referred to itself as “an American institution with a single national allegiance [to] the United States of America, its form of government, and basic democratic institutions . . . .” As noted, labor agreed to a no-strike pledge and endured a wage freeze during the war, but afterwards sought to organize unions and gain more pay and benefits. Rather than address their sacrifices and needs, many employers accused them of being “Communist” and thereby made it impossible for them to even discuss their problems. That was the power of “domestic containment”–it shut down ideas. Labor was not threatening violence, though it did call many strikes, nor was its own patriotic affection for the U.S. in question. Truman, however, did not want to be associated with labor, especially the CIO, and in his “State of the Union” address in 1947 he proposed laws to curb strikes and ban “secondary boycotts,” efforts by workers to show solidarity with unions on strike by trying to force other companies, “neutrals,” to cease doing business with the business against which labor was striking—a key weapon in labor’s limited arsenal. Truman, a New Deal Democrat, had thus laid the groundwork for more intense anti-labor action. More troubling for unions, then, Congress took serious action, doing its best to overturn the Wagner Act, especially with the Taft-Harley Act of 1947, the most damaging anti-labor law in postwar history. As one Texas Democratic representative put it, the Congress had to protect the “public interest against the actions of power-drunk labor bosses.” His conception of whom was drunk with power, the labor bosses, was widely shared by politicians and media, and thus the public, and would remain so from that point onward, and still is today. But labor’s “power” was tiny

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compared to the bosses. It could organize a union and, as a last measure, unions could go on strike, whereas the bosses could get national policies passed regarding every aspect of the workplace, including unionization, collective bargaining, wages, and strikes. And by connecting labor to the “red scare,” it was almost impossible for the CIO or other unions to do the very work unions were created to do—get new members, get higher wages, go on strike. With such conditions, Taft-Harley was easy to sell. Representative Fred Hartley, the co-sponsor, had in fact received the AFL’s endorsement when he ran for office, and acted as though he was a friend of unions, declaring, “as a result of labor laws ill-conceived and disastrously executed, the American workingman has been deprived of his dignity as an individual.” That badly conceived and executed law, of course, was the Wagner Act, and Hartley and Senator Taft believed labor had too much power and they wanted to dismantle unions, not give them dignity. Taft and Hartley were operating in a climate that was favorable to their anti-labor ideas. Media such as the New York Times endorsed the law, saying, “the limitations set on former union privileges have seemed to us to be a needed protection of the rights of management, the individual worker and the general public.” Labor saw through the alleged efforts to “help” it. The president of the AFL, William Green, recognized that the purpose of the act was to “destroy unions and to wreck collective bargaining.” But labor, which never had much power even during the war, fell victim to the Cold War’s need for “loyalty,” and the Taft-Hartley act passed easily. It overturned much of the progress labor had made in the New Deal. It prohibited various types of strikes and boycotts, banned “closed shops,” forced union officials to sign anti-Communist loyalty oaths [and the unions themselves, not the government, began to kick out “radicals” from their organizations], and gave the government power to get injunctions against labor to prevent workers from striking, or to return to work from strikes. Labor unions were trying to fight for the notion that workers should be treated better, with better wages and benefits, but ideas, not even actions, were considered subversive if they challenged the status quo and the government, as with Taft-Hartley, cracked down harshly. Those seeking racial equality met a similar fate. The questions of racism and segregation had been the dominant social issue in American life for centuries, and many Blacks assumed that World War II, which was presented as a war for “democracy” against the horrible and genocidal Nazi regime, would

The Growth of American Power Through Cold and Hot Wars

also lead to equal rights at home for them, many of whom had served in the war. While many in the government and the ruling class did in fact agree that America’s racial policies–essentially apartheid where blacks and whites were kept separate by law, often violently–had to change, the White power structure feared extreme change, so wanted to create new racial practices that were limited and do so slowly. Many Blacks were tired of waiting and wanted more direct and quick action. W.E. B. Du Bois, for instance, continued to take strong positions on race, not willing to simply settle for menial jobs or small reforms. He believed in full equality and spoke positively about communism so his own organization, the NAACP, removed him, its founder, from their membership in 1947. The case of Paul Robeson was even more extreme. Robeson was the valedictorian of his class at Rutgers and an All-American and then professional football player. He graduated from Columbia Law School but decided to leave the profession when it became clear that, because he was Black, he would be limited to doing research and not take on other jobs that White lawyers far inferior to him would be able to do. So Robeson, who had one of the more amazing voices one would ever hear, became the best-selling singer in America, and then a star on Broadway [while in Othello, the play set a record at the time for longest run] and in Hollywood, where his most famous role was in Showboat, where he sang the famous song “Old Man River.” Robeson, in his heyday, was making hundreds of thousands of dollars and was world famous [he also had an incredible facility for languages and spoke Russian, Chinese, Hebrew, and Gaelic, among others]. Paul Robeson, however, was also a public critic of U.S. racial and foreign policies, and was not afraid to speak out. When the hopes of racial advancement after World War II were fading, Robeson essentially urged Blacks to not fight in the army of a country that treated them as second-class citizens at home, saying that African Americans would not fight in a war against the Russians. He was hauled before HUAC where his intelligence and composure stood out, especially as various congressmen tried to rattle and race-bait him. In fact, Robeson had made such an impact that HUAC then brought the most famous Black man in America at that time, Jackie Robinson–the first AfricanAmerican professional baseball player–before the committee to denounce Robeson’s views. Robinson, who would have risked his baseball career if he had refused, called Robeson’s views “silly” but also angered the HUAC mem-

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bers by launching into criticism of segregation, police brutality against Blacks, and lynching. Eleanor Roosevelt, perhaps the most influential liberal in the country, was much harsher on Robeson, charging he “does his people great harm in trying to line them up on the Communist side of political picture. Jackie Robinson helped them greatly by his forthright statements.” Among Blacks, the reaction to Robinson’s testimony against Robeson was mixed, with some praising him for talking about segregation while others accused him of “selling out” to Whites in order to stay out of trouble. As for Paul Robeson, the government went further then, taking away his passport and accusing him of various un-American activities. His employment opportunities plummeted and his income dropped to a few thousand dollars a year. Robeson, and the entire issue of real equality for blacks, had been contained. Women too were objects of domestic containment, though it was more subtle than other groups. Many women took jobs during the war because so many men were in the armed forces. When the war ended, however, those women were expected to give up their jobs, marry, have children, and become homemakers. Certainly, many did, as this was the beginning of the “baby boom,” which saw a major increase in the U.S. population, but others had found fulfillment in having their own job, their own money, and independence, and women who challenged the primacy of men were considered disloyal. In addition, women were accorded a “special” role in the Cold War, as the family was considered the first line of defense against subversion. Women, as both wives and mothers, were to be sure the home was organized and stable, that “moral education” was taught, and that they were supportive of their husbands in their careers [think of June Cleaver in Leave it to Beaver]. To seek a different path then–be it a career, education, or remaining single– meant that one was not being a full-fledged American but was putting her own goals before that of the country. As with workers and African Americans, women would have to subordinate their own dreams and needs to the demands of the cold war and “national security.” To do otherwise would raise suspicions or allegations of disloyalty.

D espair

and

H ope

in the

C old W ar

This has not been a pretty picture painted here. In the aftermath of the allied victory over the dreaded Nazis, the U.S. and Soviet Union could not maintain

The Growth of American Power Through Cold and Hot Wars

their cordial wartime relations and quickly fell into a cold war against each other, with the Americans holding a large advantage. U.S. leaders created military and economic institutions and policies to expand their influence, and punished countries that chose to go a different way–such as Guatemala or Vietnam. At home, the government used fear to promote national security and made liberty a secondary, if that, concern. But, for those who created and coordinated the cold war, the ruling class, their work paid off handsomely. The U.S., as George Kennan had put it, was able to “maintain this position of disparity” and acquire huge wealth and power. Even as the American people had their rights and liberties restricted, the economy grew at a rapid pace so wages and benefits increased and the average worker–at least the white male–was able to have a well-paid job and perhaps even a home and car. But, still, the cold war was exacting a heavy price. With massive defense budgets and deficits, along with the need for global economic stability, the new president elected in 1953, Dwight Eisenhower, believed that global politics had to change. In March 1953, Stalin died, providing Eisenhower with an opening to approach the cold war in new ways. Barely a month later, the new president gave a speech titled “The Chance for Peace” in which he seemed to argue that it was time to seriously tone down the rivalry between the U.S. and the communist world. Eisenhower’s words were stirring. While still pointing out the Soviet danger, the president took aim at the priority given to national security and militarization: Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms in not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population.  It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway. We pay for a single fighter with a half million bushels of wheat.

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We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. This, I repeat, is the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.

Eisenhower’s words were certainly eloquent, but not really meaningful. In the immediate aftermath of his “Cross of Iron” speech, the U.S. was involved in places like Iran, Guatemala, Vietnam, and dozens of other countries, getting rid of “Communists” and making those areas safe for American Capitalists to trade, invest, get raw materials, or obtain cheap labor. While hospitals and schools were built in large numbers, it did not come at the expense of the military’s budget, which has continued to grow since that era. Eisenhower himself authorized a huge buildup in the armed services, especially the Air Force. Under his policy of “massive retaliation,” the Air Force had a special role. In order to save money by reducing the size of the Army, the president produced more planes which could destroy an enemy—and he had the Soviet Union in mind—much more quickly and efficiently. Those years immediately following World War II, the onset of the Cold War, were pivotal in America’s transformation from its prewar goal of staying out of international problems to being in the middle of virtually every dispute in the world. With a massive military establishment, Atomic bombs, a state-of-the-art Air Force, incredible wealth brought on by Military Keynesianism, no real domestic opposition to slow down the national security state, and Americans frightened by Communism and mostly willing to approve of any government policy, the government and ruling class could get their way on virtually any issue and their power and profits soared to new levels. The American people, as a result of the red scare, may have had their liberties limited, but economic growth was so substantial that they were willing to give up some basic freedom in exchange for “security” from radical political idea and higher wages and better working conditions. Yet, global stability was still not secured, as the Soviet Union continued to exist and make its own weapons, thus creating an “arms race” with the U.S. that would ultimately cost the world trillions of dollars, emphasize military solutions to political crises and ignore human needs and human rights in order to prevent

The Growth of American Power Through Cold and Hot Wars

each other, or their allies, from gaining too much power or support. While the Cold War was declared over in the early 1990s when the Soviet Union and Communist governments in Eastern Europe fell apart, the consequences were already evident, and the policies created after 1945 for the most part remained in place. The U.S. was certainly wealthier and stronger, but global affairs had taken a turn toward wars and a greater gap between the powerful countries and those that were weaker. As events in the 1950s would show, the forces unleashed in World War II and the postwar era would not decrease, but instead lead to more conflict and discord at home. U.S. military spending in the entire Cold War era may have exceeded $10 trillion, and the U.S. would lose over 100,000 soldiers in wars in Korea and Vietnam alone, while many millions would die in those countries and other areas where Capitalism and Communism came into dispute. Both the U.S. and Soviet Union would build massive arsenals of nuclear weapons, including missiles with the ability to travel thousands of miles to destroy an enemy. The Americans reached a high of over 30,000 warheads and the Russians over 40,000, enough to destroy the world many times over. Instead of peace and prosperity for all, the world continued to hang from a cross of iron, bombs, tanks, missiles, bullets and hostility.

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E

isenhower’s stirring words about the costs of militarism did not immediately change the views of the new Soviet leadership, and perhaps they were not intended to forge a new relationship between the two powers anyway, for 2 days later Secretary of State John Foster Dulles gave a speech of his own, quite different than the president’s “Cross of Iron” oration. The secretary of state was abrasive, beginning with the declaration that “we are not dancing to any Russian tune.” Even though Stalin was gone, he charged, it was still true in Russia that “vast power is possessed by men who accept no guidance from the moral law.” Eisenhower and Dulles thus continued to say that the Soviet Union was aiming for world hegemony and it had to fundamentally change if cooperation were to be possible; essentially it had to become something other than itself since the U.S. would only cooperate with nonCommunist, private enterprise societies. Even with Stalin dead and the American president speaking with great emotion and force about the hazards of militarization, the Cold War continued to hold the world captive. Inside Russia, communist leaders regarded the two speeches as “propaganda and provocation” and they remained alarmed by the talk of the “liberation”–the overthrow of Communist governments– of Eastern Europe coming from 347

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Figure 7-1 President Eisenhower and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, 1956

Washington. Indeed, Eisenhower and Dulles continued to expect the worst from the Soviets and planned accordingly. At the same time, Eisenhower was committed to slowing down the huge increases in military spending, which he feared would overheat the economy. With such military and economic goals in mind, the administration came up with a new Cold War strategy, a “New Look” that envisioned “massive retaliation” against Communist foes rather than grinding ground wars. Eisenhower would shrink the size of the army, reduce some American commitments abroad, cut the defense budget and, to compensate, rely heavily on atomic weapons that would be delivered by the Air Force. On October 30th, 1953, the new policy was authorized in NSC 162/2, which gave American forces a mission of “offensive strategic striking power.” The United States must be ever-prepared to inflict “massive retaliatory damage” to either deter the Soviet Union from acting aggressively or, failing that, to counter a Russian attack. This commitment to offensive action, however, was, still, based on the recognition that Russia was not likely to act recklessly and that the U.S. had far more power than the Soviets did. As the authors of NSC 162/2 admitted,

Conformity and Challenges in the Eisenhower and Kennedy Years

“The USSR does not seem likely deliberately to launch a general war against the United States during the period covered by current estimates (through mid-1955).” It continued, “the uncertain prospects for Soviet victory in a general war, the change in leadership, satellite unrest, and the U.S. capability to retaliate massively, make such a course improbable. Similarly, an attack on NATO countries or other areas which would be almost certain to bring on general war in view of U.S. commitments or intentions would be unlikely. The Soviets will not, however, be deterred by fear of general war from taking the measures they consider necessary to counter Western actions which they view as a serious threat to their security.” Like Truman, Eisenhower and Dulles were aware of the weakness and caution of the Soviet Union compared to the U.S. and they knew that there was but a small chance of war. In pursuit of “more bang for the buck,” however, they developed an offensive strategy based on air power and nuclear weapons.

D uck

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C over !

With talk of nuclear war so common, Americans naturally became anxious, or alarmed, at the prospect of large-scale annihilation. The government, which was exaggerating the Soviet threat in order to justify intervention abroad and military budgets at home, moved to ease their fears with a civil defense program. The idea behind the program was to prepare Americans to survive a nuclear war, a rather difficult, if not impossible, task. And the way the government did it, in retrospect, would be laughable if the purpose of the effort—living through nuclear war—were not so deadly serious. In 1950, the National Security Resources Board, a federal agency, created a 160 page report, called the “Blue Book” by civil defense bureaucrats, that included a plan for U.S. citizens to react in the event of an attack by a foreign power. They put out pamphlets such as “Survival Under Atomic Attack,” to give tips on how to avoid being incinerated in a nuclear exchange. But the most famous civil defense effort was a cartoon designed for school kids, Duck and Cover. Children in every school in America were being taught to prepare for nuclear war. There were 2 types of war, the video simplistically told them, “with warning” and “without warning.” The cartoon featured “Bert,” a turtle who had a shell for protection. Since humans did not have shells, they had to improvise. The video told schoolchildren that if an atomic bomb hit their

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Figure 7-2 Bert the Turtle tells kids to duck and cover, 1952

home town while they were at school, they should get under their desks and curl up in a ball, with their head covered up to avoid the radiation. They were instructed to get under a table if possible, as if that would stop the force of nuclear power. If out on a picnic when the bomb struck, families were advised to put a tablecloth over themselves; if that was unavailable, a newspaper over one’s head would do the trick. It is easy to mock that video today, because the information given was so ridiculous. Desks, tables, and cotton cloth would not protect one from the massive radioactive power of an atomic weapon. But beyond its ridiculous nature lay a more sober and even somewhat cruel purpose. Children especially were confronting the abject terror of being attacked with a nuclear weapon, which caused incredible fear and stress among young kids. But the government and media officials who made the video, who had Bert advising them on avoiding nuclear fallout, knew that the information they were putting on film was worthless. Government officials were aware of the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; they had seen pictures and video. Entire cities were destroyed with no buildings left standing; people were killed instantly by the nuclear blast; many had hideous burns from the radiation; even a vast number of the survivors were doomed because they would never recover or develop cancer later. To tell children that they could survive an attack that would be much worse than the ones in Japan in August 1945—the

Conformity and Challenges in the Eisenhower and Kennedy Years

Figure 7-3 Schoolchildren take cover under their desks during a nuclear fallout drill

powers were now developing hydrogen bombs, much more explosive than atomic weapons—was more than irresponsible. It did, however, justify military spending on ever-increasing levels. Despite the virtual impossibility of preventing a massive loss of life if nuclear war were to occur, the plans for civil defense, and hysteria and alarm that came with it, continued. On June 14th, 1954, the Civil Defense Administration had a nation-wide drill in 54 cities, Puerto Rico, Hawai’i, and Alaska; Canadians even joined in it. The participants were to respond to a simulated nuclear attack by aircraft and submarines. Alarms went off all over at 10 A.M. and people took that as a cue to find shelter in buildings, schools, subways and other places and prepare for the attack. Even the president took part, with Eisenhower heading to an underground bunker in Washington D.C. [much as President George Bush and other officials sought refuge after the terrorist attacks in 2001]. The drill only lasted 10 minutes but the results were dreadful. Civil Defense officials assumed that the attack had killed 2 million people in New York alone while Washington D.C., a main target because it was the nation’s capital, would be wiped out. In all, they estimated, 12 million

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Americans would die. Rather than prepare the American people for nuclear war, the exercise was a cause for even more fright. One military official even conceded the futility of the drill, noting that the Soviet Union had developed its own hydrogen bomb and thus had “outstripped the progress made in our civil defenses strides to defend against it.” Other officials were similarly pessimistic. The administrator of civil defense spoke to a Senate committee in March 1955 and warned that all Americans should build an underground shelter to protect against the bomb “right now” and stock it with sufficient food and water for 5 or 6 days. He was assuming that nuclear radiation, which had a half-life of about 25,000 years, would clear out within a week. Not reassuring, the administrator, Val Peterson, said, “we had all better dig in and pray. In fact, we had better be praying right now.” Local officials were just as alarmed. The Governor of Massachusetts was worried because he did not know whether raincoats were preferable to cloth coats in warding off nuclear fallout, whether one should cover his or her face and hands, or if one should keep car windows closed for protection. In New York City, the Mayor, working with the Governor, had a report prepared to determine how to empty the city in the event of nuclear attack. It estimated that 1 million people could be evacuated by railroad cars, on the subway, or by ferries. Another 4 million would have to escape in buses, taxis, trucks and cars along only 200 traffic lanes leaving the area that was hit. Even in the best-case scenario, if all those implausible plans worked, over 3 million people in New York City, out of 8 million, would not be able to leave and presumably would die. As one senator from Michigan pointed out, a single car crash usually led to a larger pile-up and he could not “visualize [the plans for using cars and subways] lasting for 10 minutes as a means of escape.” Still, the government, in June 1955, had another drill, “Operation Alert.” This time it estimated that 5 million would die, another 5 million would be badly hurt, and over 10 million would be homeless, with many more in need of medical help, food, and other necessities. The drill itself was a mess. When the sirens went off to warn that a bomb was incoming, a New York Yankees game was stopped for 23 minutes, but the fans just stayed in their seats. In fact, the drill even motivated protests, and 28 pacifists were arrested for having a sit-down strike in a park near city hall, and another man was arrested for refusing to go to a shelter, while a truck driver was jailed for staying in his vehicle instead of evacuating. In some cities, the evacuation

Conformity and Challenges in the Eisenhower and Kennedy Years

plans were limited to specific areas. In Houston, Texas for example, only a 275-block area downtown was designated for evacuation, though a nuclear bomb could destroy a much more immense amount of land. In the capital, as Eisenhower again evacuated, few took the drill seriously, and a Deputy Director for Civil Defense even lost his job for saying the event was not a drill “but a show.” The New York Times was also not impressed, saying that the plans showed that a nuclear bomb would kill millions “in a holocaust that makes the imagination falter.” About 2 developments emerged from the drills. Congress created an evacuation center for itself, at the Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, a $14 million bunker with 800 beds where military and political leaders could flee. And it provided justification to expand the nation’s highway system, which was created, government officials said, to help people evacuate from a nuclear attack and military vehicles to get to areas where they could provide aid faster. In reality, the highways would be far more useful for commerce, for trucks delivering goods from coast-to-coast. Even with such pessimistic results from the various drills, Americans continued to build fallout shelters, over 200,000 by 1965. Most were badly-built, and would have been of little use anyway, but the companies that made them did get handsome profits from the hysteria, another beneficiary of the Military-Industrial Complex.

E urope —T haw

and

H eat

As American anxiety over the possibility of nuclear war grew, U.S. relations with the Soviet Union seemed to be changing; in reality, they were not. Perhaps a great opportunity for cooperation and negotiations was lost at the time of Stalin’s death, and the “New Look” was naturally interpreted in Moscow, and elsewhere, as an aggressive and offensive strategy. The Cold War would continue, with arms buildups and threats still ever present, but with occasional possibilities for a new relationship between the Soviet Union and America. Germany, as it had since 1945, remained at the center of the conflict in Europe. In September 1950, Secretary of State Dean Acheson had sent shock waves through Europe by proposing that the FRG [West Germany], just five years removed from Nazi rule, create a 10-division army. As NSC-68 envisioned, this would push the global militarization program forward. Both the

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Russians and the French were furious and frightened, as the thought of a revived and militaristic Germany brought back memories of 1914 and 194041. Still, the Americans connected the rearmament proposal to significant increases in U.S. military aid, and the Europeans went along, as they needed American dollars for trade and investment. For the Russians, the U.S. military buildup–the 1952 defense budget had soared to $60 billion–was threatening, and German remilitarization was another Cold War defeat, as they now faced a huge, armed and historically warmaking and recently Nazi country to their West. But cooperation between Moscow and Washington was also possible. In 1955, the two powers seemed to be seriously considering proposals for arms control. In 1954, Eisenhower suggested disarmament talks, but Soviet leaders continued to reject them because they believed that international inspection of nuclear facilities, which was included in the plan, was just a pretext for American spying [which to some degree was probably the case]. But the following May the Soviets put forth a disarmament plan of their own, calling for the removal of all foreign military bases in Europe and all foreign military forces from Germany, reductions in conventional ground forces, and a ban on all nuclear weapons tests, to be supervised by the U.N. The west, however, would never consent to the elimination of foreign bases and did not want the U.N., which it controlled but where the Russians possessed a veto, to be judging violations of arms controls agreements. Realistically, the Soviet proposals were more comprehensive and genuine than the U.S. offers. In any event, the Soviet proposal was overshadowed just months later, in July 1955, when the United States, Russia, Britain and France met in Geneva to discuss European affairs. Eisenhower there unveiled his Open Skies plan, an offer for the Americans and Russians to exchange maps and submit military installations to surveillance. To Eisenhower, inspecting and controlling, not abolishing, nuclear arms would serve American interests better because of the huge U.S. advantage in weaponry. Nikita Khrushchev, who had taken control after Stalin’s death, however called Open Skies “a very transparent espionage device” which “you could hardly expect us to take . . . seriously.” He said it should be “thrown in the garbage” because its only purpose was to avoid “concrete propositions about the reduction of arms.” Khrushchev’s complaint made sense from the Russian point-of-view, for his country was far behind in weapons development, so disarmament was the only solution to the escalating

Conformity and Challenges in the Eisenhower and Kennedy Years

arms race. But at the same time he continued to build up Soviet defenses with conventional and nuclear weapons. Because Russia had its own arsenal, the Americans, Khrushchev pointed out, “have to talk to us, fight with us; but be not afraid . . . this is a game, in which nobody will be a winner.” Just a year later, the United States began, unilaterally, to spy on Soviet nuclear sites via U-2 reconnaissance planes anyway. By 1956, then, it was clear that arms control was not going to happen. The United States was addressing the issue from a position of strength and would not make concessions that altered that relationship, while the Soviets did not trust the Americans to control weapons or disarm in good faith. The “thaw” was short-lived. At the same time, the Soviet Union was facing turmoil from its “satellite” countries in Eastern Europe–those nations it had occupied in World War II and controlled since then. In 1953 in Eastern Germany [the GDR] and in 1956 in Poland and Hungary, local groups rebelled against Communist control, forcing the governments there and the Soviet Union to confront dissent within their area of power. Strikingly, the Russians and their allied Communist governments actually were more flexible than the Americans. Where the U.S. unleashed often-brutal forces to crush nationalist, workers, and peasant movements in places such as Greece, Iran, Guatemala, and Vietnam, the Soviet Union actually accepted the establishment of moderate governments in Eastern Europe. Poland in 1956 was having a “de-Stalinization” campaign to liberalize that country. Though Khrushchev tried to prevent Wladyslaw Gomulka, a liberal political leader, from taking charge in Poland, the Polish people refused to back down and told Khrushchev unequivocally that Gomulka was their choice for national leader. Gomulka, for his part, assured the Soviets that he was still a loyal communist and would remain loyal to the Soviet bloc and retain membership in the Warsaw Pact, a mutual defense group similar to NATO, established by the Soviet Union and its satellites in 1955. Khrushchev relented and Gomulka, and his more liberal policies, survived, for a time at least. There was a liberation movement in Hungary challenging communist control underway at that time, too. It did not turn out as in Poland, but still, the comparisons between the U.S. approach in, say, Guatemala, and the Soviet approach in Eastern Europe is worth noting. Ultimately, the Soviet Union intervened to prevent the Hungarian liberalization movement, led by Imre Nagy, to “de- Communize” that country, but the Russians sent troops and

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tanks in only after Nagy announced that Hungary would be neutral, not proSoviet, in East-West affairs and that he would leave the Warsaw Pact, the European counterpart to NATO, two decisions Gomulka in Poland never made. Given such dire circumstances for Russian policies, Soviet troops and tanks poured into Hungary and ended the uprising and took control of the government. The Soviets blamed “counterrevolutionary forces” which were “taking advantage of the discontent of working people to undermine the foundations of the people’s democratic order in Hungary and to restore the old landlord and capitalist order.” Though the invasion was bloody, with perhaps 10,000 killed, it stood in contrast to the U.S. responses in areas where it held influence in that it tolerated a discussion of change of government, and intervened, unlike in Poland, because the Hungarians were attempting to abandon their relationship with the Soviets, a move no empire would tolerate. Despite the bloody Soviet response, one can ponder the question, “which would you rather be? A peasant in Guatemala or a worker in Poland or Hungary?” The answer should be plain to see. While no one is suggesting that the Soviet Union were the “good guys,” it is important to recognize that the U.S., again because of the imbalance of power, was able to be more authoritarian, and often ruthless, when its “satellites” challenged it [as, we have pointed out, in Iran, Guatemala, and Vietnam], whereas the Soviets actually had to act less harshly and with more flexibility. Indeed, the U.S. hard line was not confined only to countries where it overthrew governments or put dictators into power. In India, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was most definitely not a Communist, but he believed that the U.S. was essentially replacing the British as an imperial power in India and he wanted to be on good terms with both the Americans and the Russians. But neutrality, to the Americans, was not much better than Communism, so the U.S. began to send aid and weapons to India’s main rival, Pakistan, and thereby set off an arms race in South Asia that continues and worsens to this day, with drones now in the mix. Indonesia was another area of concern to the U.S. The leader there, Sukarno, was an advocate of neutralism much like Nehru and Gamel Abdel Nasser of Egypt [who will be discussed in detail later], but to Americans he was part of a “snow- balling communist trend.” Sukarno did receive aid from the U.S. but got much more, about $100 million, from the Soviet Union. To the Americans, this was proof that Sukarno was a Communist

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and U.S. officials compared him to Arbenz in Guatemala and planned a similar fate. The CIA thus began making contacts with anti-Sukarno members of the Indonesian military to plan an overthrow of the president, and began to send large numbers of weapons to help the plotters in 1957-58. Civil War in Indonesia seemed imminent, but the American-backed rebels, many of whom were fundamentalist Muslims [an irony given the role of Islamic movements against the U.S. in future crises], had no popular backing and the attempt to eliminate Sukarno fizzled. Still, Eisenhower, despite his rhetorical desires for a peaceful world, engaged in covert operations to try to overthrow neutral governments, which to the U.S. were no different than the Communists, and the U.S. weapons buildup continued throughout the decade. In the fall of 1957, American prestige suffered a blow when the Russians escalated the arms race with the world’s first Intercontinental Ballistic Missile [ICBM], when they launched Sputnik, the first artificial satellite, into orbit around the world, traveling 18,000 miles per hour with a 4000-mile radius. Soviet scientists had beaten the United States in this vital part of the arms race and Americans feared that if the Soviets could launch a satellite into

Figure 7-4 People view a model of Sputnik at the USSR Exhibition in Moscow, 1959

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space, then it could just as easily launch a nuclear warhead that could reach U.S. soil. Eisenhower did not panic over Sputnik, though the media and Democrats blasted him for creating a “missile gap” which hurt the U.S. In reality, the president knew that the Soviet ICBMs were not accurate and, more importantly, by 1960, the U.S. possessed 7000 strategic nuclear warheads [designed for mass destruction, like a nuclear missile], and over 13,000 nonstrategic, or tactical [a conventional, high-explosive warhead] warheads, a total of over 20,000. The Soviets, on the other hand, had 372 strategic warheads and 1200 tactical, or less than 10 percent of the U.S. arsenal. Apparently, by the end of Eisenhower’s time in office, much of the world still hung on that cross of iron.

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After the successful overthrow of Mossadegh in Iran in 1953, the U.S. began seeking greater power and control in the Middle East, an area of increasing importance because of the need for oil, especially as the Cold War and arms race grew more intense. Oil was vital for the industries producing military materials and for transport in areas vital to American interests or where conflict took place. The U.S., however, was not as involved in the region as much as other western powers, so took measures to catch up quickly. Consequently, the U.S. did become the dominant outside power in the Middle East, but at a cost, one that would be most terrifyingly evident on September 11th, 2001. The Europeans, particularly the British and French, had more influence and interest in the Middle East in the early 20th century, and the U.S. would not become as deeply involved in the region until after World War II, the point at which control of global oil resources overwhelmingly became the most important factor in international politics and economics. The Middle East, as we all know, has the greatest oil reserves in the world, and it was crucial to the West, especially the U.S., to maintain control over them and to keep them out of the “wrong” hands, like Communists or even the leaders of those Middle Eastern countries themselves who had nationalist ideas. In fact, the first confrontation of the Cold War between the U.S. and Soviet Union was a conflict over oil, in Iran. In 1946, the Russians had kept occupation troops in Iran, hoping to get oil contracts, or concessions, just as the U.S. and Britain had. The U.S. claimed that the Soviets were trying to destabilize Iran and help

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the Iranian Communists come to power, and so they used coercive means to drive Russia out of Iran. A few years later, Iran would emerge again as a crucial site for global politics, again due to oil, as the U.S. engineered the coup against the government there in 1953, as noted. Just a few years before that, the country of Israel had come into being, and would become another area of struggle in the region. Israelis settled in Palestine, an area that was between 80-90 percent Arab before World War II. But the Holocaust so horribly shocked the world that Jews from all over, motivated by the ideology of Zionism–the idea that all Jews had a homeland in Palestine—began to flood into the area, even waging a guerrilla/terrorist war to drive out the British occupation forces in Palestine and force well over a million Arabs out of the country and into places like Lebanon and Jordan.

Figure 7-5 Map of Israel, 1948

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By 1948, Jews controlled about 80 percent of Palestine–an absolute reversal of their prewar holdings–and the U.N. and U.S. recognized Israel [no longer called Palestine] as an independent state. Palestinians would remain furious at this land grab, and the Arab world in general would see the U.S. as an enemy force because of its support of Israel. At around the same time, in the early 1950s, another issue would arise to cause future problems for the U.S.–Arab nationalism. This concept–the idea that the Arab states should work together to fight off European and U.S. involvement in their countries, especially their economies [oil], and promote their own sovereignty–was particularly associated with the president of Egypt, Gamel Abdel Nasser. Nasser had come to power in 1952 when he and other military officers overthrow an old and pro-western monarchy. Nasser sought to “modernize” Egypt–make it a more prosperous, industrial, and democratic country–and hoped that other Arab states would join in his cause, and they did. In fact, Nasser became one of the more famous and popular leaders in the Third World and was a model for nationalist movements all over, not just in the Middle East. A key part of Nasser’s program was to develop an irrigation project for Egypt, the Aswan High Dam, and the U.S. promised economic aid to him to help build it. But Nasser angered the Americans at the same time by continuing to seek good relations with the Communist countries, even receiving weapons from Czechoslovakia and opening relations with the People’s Republic of China. Nasser was most definitely not a Communist, but to the Americans being neutral or nationalist was not much different, so the U.S. canceled its funding for the Aswan project. “May you choke on your fury,” Nasser lashed out at the U.S. and Britain. But words were not the problem, his actions were. In late July, Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal, which was a joint French-British project of the Suez Canal Company. The canal cut through Egypt and was a crucial shipping point in the region, the shortest link between the Indian Ocean and Mediterranean and vital to commerce and military movements. The British and French, with Israeli support, decided to take military action, and in late October began an invasion of Egypt to gain control of and open Suez again to world shipping. The invasion had a surprising critic, however–the Americans. Eisenhower and Dulles were no fans of Nasser [as the cancellation of funding for Aswan had shown] but they knew that a western invasion of Egypt would turn the

Conformity and Challenges in the Eisenhower and Kennedy Years

Figure 7-6 Abdel Nasser raising the Egyptian flag over the Suez Canal in Port Said in celebration of the final British military withdrawal from Egypt, June 1956

entire Arab world even more vigorously against Europe and the U.S. and give the Soviet Union more influence in the Middle East, so they went to the U.N. to force Israel, Britain, and France to stop the attacks. Nasser had won, and his fame in the Third World was greater than ever. In the region, more and more “Nasserites” came to power, including Karim Kassim in Iraq. In 1958, Kassim and other nationalist officers in Baghdad deposed the old monarchy and, as in Egypt and elsewhere, tried to develop a neutral path and control their own resources. The U.S., as in Iran in the early 1950s, began to look for ways to get rid of the new leader and his supporters and eventually supported a 1963 coup and assassination of Kassim in Iraq led by the Ba’ath Party, of which a young officer named Saddam Hussein was a member. The CIA went to Baghdad after the coup and worked with the new regime to “eliminate”–usually by killing–hundreds of Kassim’s supporters. The U.S. clearly had a dilemma in the Middle East. Its actions–support of Israel, opposition to Arab nationalism, supporting coups–led to more animosity toward America in the region, but it had to act, according to American leaders, to preserve its oil

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interests throughout the area. These conflicting needs would only lead to more crisis, and soon.

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The political power of anti-communism, best practiced by Senator Joe McCarthy, remained strong in the early 1950s as figures such as the crossdressing FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, Robert “Bobby” Kennedy, and Richard Nixon scored political points by accusing rivals of being “soft” on communism and thus not loyal Americans. In fact, Nixon was the 1952 Republican VicePresidential candidate who attacked the Democrat running for president, Adlai Stevenson, as a graduate of “the college of cowardly communist containment.” McCarthy, for his part, continued to throw wild charges that the media and public ate up. As mentioned, McCarthy, shockingly, accused General George Marshall being disloyal and during the 1952 campaign, Eisenhower–a longtime colleague of Marshall–did not even defend his friend for fear of upsetting McCarthy–undoubtedly the most cowardly act in his career. McCarthy also brought on the so-called Pink Scare, in which he began to accuse government officials of being homosexuals, which was the same as being a treasonous

Figure 7-7 J. Edgar Hoover, 1961

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Communist. This was particularly ironic because his lead lawyer, a particularly noxious attorney named Roy Cohn, was gay himself and he went along with McCarthy’s witchhunt [a play written in the 1990s, Angels in America, featured Cohn and was later made into an award-winning HBO miniseries in which Al Pacino was honored for his portrayal of the red-baiting gay lawyer]. Indeed, the nature of anti-communism became so absurd that all “professional wrestlers” in Indiana were required to take a loyalty oath before their bouts, and the New York Yankees did not allow their all-star catcher, Yogi Berra, to appear on a television variety show because one of the other guests was Jack Gilford, who was accused of being a Communist. The entertainment industry in general came under attack in the McCarthy era, as we have seen, and continued into the 1950s. One of the most famous victims was the comedian Charlie Chaplin. Though a British citizen, and never a member of any Communist Party, the U.S. refused to allow him to enter America in 1952 because he had been an advocate of “popular front” policies, meaning that he believed that coalition governments of conservatives, Capitalists, Socialists, and Communists could work together. It took twenty years, and an honorary Oscar award, to get him to return to the U.S. On the other hand, Elia Kazan, famous director of On the Waterfront and other films,

Figure 7-8 Charlie Chaplin, victim of McCarthyism, seen giving a satirical portrayal of Adolf Hitler in The Great Dictator (1940)

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did “name names” and when he was given an honorary Oscar in 1999 many in the crowd refused to stand for him and others even booed, so strong still were their emotions about the McCarthy era in Hollywood. Like entertainers, professors and teachers came under attack too. Although universities are allegedly institutions where “academic freedom” is practiced, the sad fact was that professors who even mildly criticized the U.S. were at risk of being reprimanded or even fired and the university administrations, instead of defending free speech, cooperated with the McCarthyite repression of its teachers. Just as seriously, the zealous Wisconsin senator also went after J. Robert Oppenheimer, a famous physicist and a “father” of the atomic bomb. Because Oppenheimer, when he was young, had friends on the political left, the government withdrew his security clearance and terribly stained his reputation and strained his health.

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Marge Simpson accidentally washed Homer’s white shirt with Bart’s red baseball cap, causing the shirt to turn pink. Running late for work, as always, and without another shirt to put on, Homer wore the pink one. As he walked into the Springfield Nuclear Power Plan with all the other workers, Mr. Burns and Smithers, peering from a hidden camera, spotted the man in the pink shirt, called him a “free-thinking anarchist,” and pulled him out and then committed him to a mental health institution [where his roommate was “Michael Jackson”]. As always, The Simpsons was combining humor with satire, and the idea that Homer could get in trouble for wearing a different shirt was not as bizarre as it might seem. In fact, Homer’s fate was a spoof on the conformity of corporate life, and that was never more evident than in the 1950s, a time of “pecking orders” and men in “Grey Flannel Suits.” To be different in that era was somehow wrong, and if one wanted to get ahead, especially on the job, his best bet was to not stand out, to simply fit into the mass without calling attention to himself [and we can use masculine terms here safely since virtually no women were employed at a high level in the corporate world]. Many more jobs in corporate America were available after World War II because of direct government involvement in the economy. Government spending rose to $180 billion, or 17 percent of the GNP, where it had been just 1 percent at the beginning of the Great Depression. Over half

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of the government’s spending went to the military [about 10 percent of the GNP], which reinforced the importance of “Military Keynesianism” or the Military-Industrial Complex, and explained why U.S. foreign policy was so militaristic in that era–it was good for business! It was clear, especially after the terrible impact of the depression of the 1920s and 1930s, that the government would have to play a much larger role in the economy than before. It was ironic then, and still is now, that conservatives criticized this government involvement so harshly since it was banks, industries, and other elements of the ruling elite that benefitted from it. Without the government spending vast sums of money, economic reconstruction would have been virtually impossible, corporations would not have recovered from the depression, and typical Americans would not have had enough money to purchase the goods that American workers in American firms were producing. Government intervention in the economy was thus far from Socialist; it was the key to rebuilding Capitalism after the depression and war, a goal every conservative could support. One of the more significant actions toward this end was the passage of the G.I. Bill of Rights for World War II veterans. Prior to the war, most Americans, especially the working poor and farmers, could not afford a college education. The G.I. Bill, however, provided a year of unemployment compensation and also tuition benefits for a college or vocational education, while making loans available for vets to buy houses or start small businesses. As noted, fearing a return to depression, the government, using public money, acted quickly to make economic opportunities available to vets, while helping out key industries such as housing with its loan programs [another example, to be redundant, of Military Keynesianism]. Nearly half, about 7.8 million, of the 16 million World War II vets benefitted in some way from the G.I. Bill, which backed loans for about 2.5 million homes and enabled millions of Americans to enter the middle and professional classes, a key element in expanding the American economy and consumer base. Government efforts such as creating jobs via military spending, the G.I. Bill, the establishment of a coast-to-coast highway system, and housing loans led to increased consumption as well. To begin, the American population was growing rapidly. While the census count for 1940 was 132 million, by 1950 it was up to 152 million, and five years later, had risen to 165 million. By 1960, generally considered the last of the “Baby Boom” years, a period of significantly increased birth rates after

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World War II, there were180 million Americans. This led, naturally, to more people being able to buy more goods. Annual income levels rose substantially between 1940 and 1950, in large measure because union members, who always make more than non-union counterparts, accounted for about a third of the work force. For white males, the highest paid group in American society, income went up from about $1400 to $3300 a year in the decade. For Black men, the rise was not as dramatic, but incomes still increased for them from about $600 a year to nearly $1700. With more money available to spend, the production and sale of basic goods went up as well. The average consumption of meat increased from less than 120 pounds a year per American in 1950 to about 145 pounds 10 years later. In 1940, American companies produced about 4.6 million automobiles, whereas in 1950, they sold over 6 million, which accounted for over 80 percent of the global market in cars [U.S. companies now make less than 10 percent of the world’s automobiles]. Appliances, medical care, energy, and other important industries and segments of the economy saw substantial increases as well. A full-blown “consumer’s culture” had emerged. Housing was an important part of this growth. As noted, the government, through the G.I. Bill and agencies such as the Federal Housing Authority [FHA] provided loans for people who previously could not have afforded to have their own home. In 1940, about 43 percent of Americans owned a home; by 1950, that figure was up to 55 percent. And the location of the typical home began to change as well, especially with the creation of suburbs. Prior to the war, most people lived in cities, where they walked or took a bus or subway to work. But the increased educational opportunities from the G.I. Bill along with increased incomes and better jobs made it possible for middle-class people, almost all Whites, to move outside of cities where they often felt uneasy due to the poverty and crime that was often present, and find safe havens in places where virtually everyone would be much like them. One of the first, and best-known, suburbs was Levittown, New York, outside of Long Island. Alfred and William Levitt began to build thousands of identical homes in previously wooded areas. The houses were built rapidly and as inexpensively as possible, with identical floor plans and appliances, and play areas for Baby Boom children. Levittown was reserved for the White middle class, and new professionals with young families seeking to “escape” the cities flocked there.

Conformity and Challenges in the Eisenhower and Kennedy Years

Levittown was homogenous and conformist, but it was a bulwark for conservative values. Surely, no Communists would be allowed to live in Levittown–nor would any Blacks, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, or openly gay people. By 1955, others began to copy the Levitt model and there were 1.65 million housing starts that year, which kept the construction and other industries associated with homebuilding in great financial shape. Levittown had its critics, though, none more biting than Malvina Reynolds, a folk singer who wrote a song called “Little Boxes.” “Little boxes on the hillside/Little boxes made of ticky-tacky/Little boxes, little boxes, Little boxes, all the same/There’s a green one and a pink one/and a blue one and a yellow one/and they’re all made out of ticky-tacky/And they all look just the same,” she sang. The people in these “little boxes” joined the country club and drank dry martinis with their identical neighbors for entertainment. Reynolds was spoofing the conformity of the 1950s, but it was a very real condition. Sloan Wilson wrote a best-selling book, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, to talk about the search for meaning in a conformist society. To get ahead in the corporate world, one had to fit in, to assume the mannerisms, ideas

Figure 7-9 Levittown houses, 1958

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and even clothing–the gray flannel suit–that everyone else had. To reject these conventions, as Homer Simpson did, would only lead to trouble. Another author, Vance Packard, wrote The Hidden Persuaders and revealed how companies and “Mad Men” in advertising used research on consumer motivation to attract, often subliminally, or manipulate people to increase their desire for goods and buy things, often that they did not even need. The 1998 movie Pleasantville offered a biting look at this conformist era as it began, in black and white, in a “perfect world” where everyone got good grades, all the kids behaved, and no one on the basketball team ever missed a shot. But, as characters discovered new experiences, reading “racy” books or having sex, they gained color, and set up a violent confrontation between the forces that wanted to maintain that homogenous culture, and those who wanted to be part of a new world.But, during the era, conformity was clearly good for business and also, politically valuable because it promoted conservative values and helped people be “loyal Americans,” which meant they purchased goods on a regular basis. Collectively, the prosperity, increased wages and consumption, suburbanization, and other changes in society led to the establishment of a corporate, consumer culture in the early1950s. In order to avoid economic problems, it was essential to expand the economy, which meant training people to be professionals [as with the G.I. Bill and other educational assistance programs], getting them to purchase more goods [as encouraged by housing and highway construction programs], and keeping them safe and willing to purchase goods to keep up with their neighbors, traits inculcated in the suburbs. And, most importantly, the government continued to expand its military budgets substantially to keep the economy going strong. The so-called Military-Industrial Complex was in its heyday and more Americans than ever were living well because of it.

T he “O ther ” 1950 s When asked to describe the 1950s, most people would discuss this gentle and conformist nature of the era. They might mention the grandfatherly president, Dwight Eisenhower [whose campaign slogan, “I Like Ike,” oozed of good feelings]. They might remember the silly and harmless antics of Lucille Ball or the “typical” American family featured in Leave It To Beaver. Perhaps they

Conformity and Challenges in the Eisenhower and Kennedy Years

recalled feeling safe in their new suburban home, or taking a ride in their new car. The stereotype of the postwar era, which many held with great sentiment, was that it was a carefree and, except for the threat of the Soviet Union and nuclear annihilation, safe time, a “golden age” before things like Civil Rights, Vietnam, and Hippies tore the country apart. That view, though sentimental, would be in large part a myth. The period from 1945 to 1960 was marked by affluence and conformity, but there was another culture, a counterculture, that was growing in that era too. Despite the images of the era in movies such as Grease, there were stirrings of unease and dissent, and they would motivate millions to take a new look at the Cold War, at race relations, and at the promise of American society and democracy. These alternative cultures were not hard to find if one looked for them. In music, movies, clubs, magazines and elsewhere, millions of Americans were acting quite differently than what one would believe if basing his or her views on the TV show Happy Days or other popular culture re-enactments of that period. While parts of the “traditional” 1950s are valid, we also need to look at the “other” 1950s to get a full flavor of that period. To start, the “typical” family, like the Cunninghams in Happy Days, was not the norm. By 1960, despite the postwar economic boom, one-third children lived in poverty, and overall poverty rates were 25 percent for the total population, and 50 percent for Black families. Fewer than half of the students entering high school in the late 1940s ever even finished, and a substantial number of those who did graduate, despite the G.I. Bill, never went to college. Despite nostalgia about “traditional” families, about half of the marriages that began in the 1950s ended in divorce. Unwed motherhood rates were high too; in 1957 females in the 15-19 age group gave birth twice as many times as those in that range in the early 1980s. In fact, the sharpest increase in unwed motherhood took place between 1940 and 1958, and then leveled off between 1960 and 1975–all this after the “permissive” 1960s culture allegedly ruined traditional morality. Clearly, such data show that many of our preconceptions of the postwar era were just wrong. There was not then–if ever there was–a “typical” culture or a “traditional” morality. Large numbers of Americans have always lived outside what the media and politicians considered “normal” or “mainstream,” and the culture of the 1950s, or “counterculture” if you prefer, was quite vibrant.

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In 1949 and 1950 the noted jazz trumpet player and composer Miles Davis recorded a series of sessions titled Birth of the Cool. Davis was a pioneer in what was called “cool jazz.” Jazz had been around for decades, and along with the blues, both coming out of the African American music community, was perhaps the only uniquely American form of music [classical music had come from Europe and folk music, about which we will talk later, was brought over by immigrants]. While jazz was usually linked to events like The Harlem Renaissance and Black culture, it had been also taken over to a degree by White musicians such as Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman, who “softened” it up, often giving it a “swing” beat, and made it popular among White listeners as well. By the postwar years, though, Black and White musicians began to “cool” jazz down and reclaim its heritage–and Davis’s album was a milestone in that development. Whereas swing/jazz hybrid songs like “In the Mood” characterized artists like Glenn Miller, cool jazz artists like Davis and John Coltrane took traditional jazz riffs and added “bebop,” a more boisterous music form with faster tempos and improvisations popularized by Black musicians [who also began dabbling in “free jazz,” which was improvisational in full, with artists playing whatever they wanted at the same time as others, who were also playing whatever they wanted]. “Cool” jazz was more than just a musical movement; it had socio-political meanings as well. “Cool” implied a way of life, an approach that was more open-minded, less uptight, and experimental. To be cool meant one did not always go along with the crowd, that one thought for him or herself and was more likely to have different political ideas about race, war, entertainment, or the dominant culture of conformity. “Cool” also integrated music more than it had been before. Both Black and White listeners praised Davis, Coltrane and others, and the audiences at their shows were more racially mixed than at any other type of musical performance. In addition to being a forerunner for cultural civil rights, these shows, and these artists, also were challenging the dominant culture of the day. While White singers like Bing Crosby, Doris Day, or Perry Como were at the top of the music charts, jazz artists were making a statement that their music–this hybrid of jazz and bebop, performed by African-American musicians before racially integrated crowds–was “American” music as well, that it belonged on the nation’s playlists. Bebop and jazz

Conformity and Challenges in the Eisenhower and Kennedy Years

became a powerful voice for Black Americans who, especially after World War II, were calling for equality and liberty. Charlie “Bird” Parker recorded “Now’s the Time”–the meaning of the song’s title is clear–in 1945. Charles Mingus in 1959 performed “Fable of Faubus,” to criticize the racist governor of Arkansas [Orval Faubus] at the time. A few years later, Coltrane would commemorate the murder of four young black children in Birmingham with “Alabama.” Nina Simone, a stunning blues singer, created perhaps the most powerful song of that era in 1964, “Mississippi Goddam”—“Alabama’s got me so upset/ Tennessee has made me lose my rest/And everybody knows about Mississippi . . . Goddam.” Jazz was inherently political and served as a key element in civil rights movements. Given the power of this musical form, Whites took notice and tried to contain jazz. Many tried to argue that the success of these Black artists proved that the U.S. was not racist, that an African American musician could reach great heights with talent and hard work. The U.S. government also used these Black artists to try to show the world that American racial practices were improving, sponsoring tours by Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Dexter Gordon and others to bring jazz to Europe and other parts of the world. Ironically, African American musicians abroad could stay at fine hotels, eat in restaurants, and mix in society to a far greater degree than they could at home, where segregated facilities were still the rule. While for jazz artists, these tours and the government’s approval helped their careers, it also helped “soften” the political impact of jazz by integrating it into the American musical collection. If the government sponsored an artist, the thinking went, then the music that he played must not be subversive, or even political. So jazz, ultimately, was crucial in developing racial identifications and calling for equality and justice, and also inspiring future artists, such as the Beatniks [about whom we will talk later], but it was also contained in that it became mainstream and acceptable to all audiences. Jazz was also associated with different, and non-conformist, behavioral traits. Miles Davis was an “anti-performer” in many ways. He wore all black at times, wore a beret, had sunglasses on even in the clubs at night, and at times performed with his back to the crowd. The performers smoked marijuana regularly and many, alas, became addicted to harder drugs like heroin [among others, Coltrane, Charlie “Bird” Parker, Billie Holiday, Thelonius Monk, and Sonny Clark either died from, or their lives were shortened by,

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hard drug use]. While “weed” would become the most popular recreational drug in America in the 1960s and the source of songs, humor, and social commentary, it was already well-known in the jazz communities of the 1950s. More than anywhere else, one could find Blacks and Whites listening to the same music, sharing the same good feelings, and maybe even sharing a toke in a jazz club. Jazz was not the only musical political movement in the 1950s. That era also saw a revival in one of America’s older and more traditional music forms, folk–but with a sharper, political edge than before. There had been a long tradition of political folk music, going back to the songs of Joe Hill of the Wobblies at the turn of the century and Woody Guthrie during the depression years. In fact, it would be difficult to find any kind of labor meeting or rally without folk music being played up through World War II. But the need for “patriotism” during the war, and the impact of McCarthyism afterwards, made it impossible to have a good career singing such songs, so folk musicians spent the better part of a decade playing in small coffee houses or in some cases, as with Pete Seeger and his group “The Weavers,” trying to fight allegations of being communist and avoiding government repression. While Guthrie’s career tailed off in the 1950s due to serious health problems, other folk artists emerged, and in some cases re- emerged, to present Americans with a revival of “protest music.” Next to Guthrie, Huddie Ledbetter, better known as Leadbelly, and Seeger were the best-known. A folk collector named Alan Lomax heard of Leadbelly, who had been jailed in Sugarland, Texas on murder charges [and where he wrote the famous song “Midnight Special”]. Lomax became Leadbelly’s manager and turned him into a national celebrity. Much of Leadbelly’s music was traditional folk, but he also wrote political songs about World War II, the Scottsboro Boys [young blacks unjustly accused of raping white women], and, perhaps his most biting tune, “Bourgeois Blues,” which he composed after being denied a room at a hotel in Washington D.C. because he was black [“Well, them white folks in Washington they know how/to call a colored man a nigger just to see him bow/Lord, it’s a bourgeois town”]. Seeger, whose career has spanned eight decades from the Roosevelt era to the present–he performed at the concert for Barack Obama’s inaugural–was, like Guthrie, active in labor and civil rights issues and often accused of being a Communist. For a brief time he and his group, The Weavers, were very popular, and had a number one hit, “Goodnight Irene,” which had been

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written by Leadbelly. In 1955, as noted, he was called before HUAC to answer for his political views. Like Paul Robeson years before, he did not shrink and defiantly responded, “I am not going to answer any questions as to my association, my philosophical or religious beliefs or my political beliefs, or how I voted in any election, or any of these private affairs. I think these are very improper questions for any American to be asked, especially under such compulsion as this. . . .” Though Seeger’s conviction was overturned, his career remained dormant for nearly a decade as he had to deal with political controversies rather than make music. Similarly damaged was Josh White. White was an African-American folk singer who became a close friend of President Roosevelt. Still, his songs about American racism and human rights violations of Blacks got him into trouble with the McCarthyites and he too became a victim of the Red Scare. Accused of being a Communist without any evidence of that, his career suffered terribly. Odetta Holmes, known to the world by her first name, was another African-American folk legend, proclaimed by Martin Luther King to be the “Queen of Folk Music.” She too sang songs about race and social issues, and was one of the best-known protest singers of the early 1960s. Indeed, the folk revival of the late 1950s would be vital to the development of 1960s protest music. As noted, Malvina Reynolds wrote a scathing satire of the suburbs with “Little Boxes,” and another song, “It Isn’t Nice,” mocked liberals as too cowardly to stand up for freedom like blacks in the south were doing [“It isn’t nice to block the doorway/It isn’t nice to go to jail/There are nicer ways to do it/But the nice ways always fail”]. Tom Lehrer and Tom Paxton, who would find greater fame in the 1960s, got their starts in the previous decade. Lehrer wrote satirical songs about nuclear war [“Who’s Next”], the space program [“Werner Von Braun”], military intervention [“Send the Marines”], social issues [“Smut”], and religion [“The Vatican Rag”]. Paxton wrote one of the more potent songs of the era, ridiculing the conformist nature of education with “What Did You Learn in School Today?” [“I learned our government must be strong/It’s always right and never wrong/Our leaders are the finest men/And we elect them again and again/That’s what I learned in school today/That’s what I learned in school”]. By 1960, folk had been reborn at the forefront of social protest music. In the next decade, it would explode as artists like Phil Ochs, Joan Baez, and a skinny kid from Hibbing, Minnesota whose birth name was Robert Zimmerman entered the national scene.

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While folk kept its association with political and protest music throughout the 1950s, a new type of music was emerging that would become the most popular entertainment form in 20th century American: Rock & Roll. Rock combined African American sounds from the blues and jazz and added new, faster, louder beats and rhythms, creating a boisterous new sound that woke up people across the country, especially the young, and left them, in the words of one of the more famous early rock songs, “all shook up.” Rock, with its rhythms, its noise, and the new dances associated with it featuring faster, gyrating body motions, like “The Twist,” was easily associated with sex, and that frightened Americans who were concerned that “traditional” values were in decay. In 1948, a scientist, Alfred Kinsey, published the results of a long-term study into the sexual habits of Americans, titled Sexual Behavior in the Human Male [the sequel about sex and women would come in 1953]. Kinsey found that people enjoyed sex and had it frequently, often with multiple partners throughout their life–a challenge to the idea of being a virgin at marriage and monogamous thereafter–and that men had sex with men and women with women. It was, to people of “decent values” a shocking report and it made them fear that sex, like Communism, was undermining our conformist values, was bringing subversion into the bedrooms of an otherwise “moral” country. In fact, may conservatives attacked Kinsey as a Communist who was trying to destroy American society. So, with the country already anxious about sex, Rock added to their fears. Indeed, the very term, “Rock & Roll,” coined by a disc jockey from Cleveland named Alan Freed, had a double meaning, making people, especially youth, think of music but also of the “rocking and rolling” of sex. Perhaps the first Rock & Roll song to gain national attention was “Rock Around the Clock,” by Bill Haley and the Comets. It took its rhythm from African American music and added “fun” lyrics that teenagers could understand and enjoy and were a bit naughty [“we’re gonna rock around the clock tonight/we’re gonna rock, rock, rock til’ broad daylight”]. Not surprisingly, “Rock Around the Clock” was featured in a film about Juvenile Delinquents [another pressing issue, as we will see] called The Blackboard Jungle in 1955, was prominent in a famous film about that era made in the 1970s, American Graffiti, and was the theme song for Happy Days. While really innocent, this new music truly frightened

Conformity and Challenges in the Eisenhower and Kennedy Years

millions of Americans, including parents, ministers, teachers, and the media, some of whom even sponsored “record burnings” at which Rock & Roll albums were torched and condemned as the tools of both Satan and the Communists. Because of its roots in Black music, Rock also provoked elements of racism, and the term “jungle music” was often heard to insult the musicians and songs popular in Rock & Roll. Still, Rock & Roll, as Bill Haley sang, was “here to stay,” and a new voice was making it a national phenomenon, and it came from Memphis. Elvis Aron Presley became Rock’s first superstar. He had been trained in “rockabilly,” a hybrid of country and rock, but broke through in the mid-1950s with a series of huge hits that, like Haley and others, were a fusion of black and white musical traditions. In January 1956, Presley reached number 1 on the charts with “Heartbreak Hotel,” which sold over a million copies in just three months. Presley was not only popular for his songs, but maybe even more for

Figure 7-10 Teenagers add graffiti to an Elvis Presley movie poster, 1956

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his moves. Known as “Elvis the Pelvis,” he shocked an older, and more “decent,” generation with his gyrating hips and sultry sneer, which many saw as a sexual attack on traditional moral values. The FBI, in fact, kept a file on Presley, referring to his dancing as “a strip-tease with clothes on” and fearing that it would lead young boys to masturbate. Even Frank Sinatra, the previous generation’s teenage heartthrob and not exactly a pillar of traditional values himself, said “His kind of music is deplorable, a rancid smelling aphrodisiac. It fosters almost totally negative and destructive reactions in young people.” But his popularity never waned. With songs like “Hound Dog” [a cover of a hit by the African American blues singer Big Mama Thornton] and “Don’t Be Cruel,” Presley dominated the music charts. In 1956 alone, he sold an estimated $22 million in albums and became a television and film star as well. He was paid the then-incredible sum of $50,000 to appear on the famous Ed Sullivan Show, only from the waist up, and was seen by over 60 million viewers. Rock was firmly established as a popular, and commercial, music form, even if it did upset the conformity of the era with its appeal to the mixing of the music of different races and to a new, open sexuality.

W hat A re Y ou R ebelling A gainst ? Movies also broke new ground in the postwar era. Films became more morally ambivalent and a new type of star, an “anti-hero,” emerged and became particularly popular, like Rock & Roll, among American youth. These new stars were younger themselves, often troubled, and rejected authority figures. They were bad boys who played by their own rules. Movies dealt with themes that emphasized the “underside” of American life, like The Man With the Golden Arm, based on a novel by Nelson Algren and starring Frank Sinatra as drummer with a heroin habit who gets clean but then is drawn back to the junk. Among others, the best-known figures of the 1950s, both film icons, were James Dean and Marlon Brando. Dean made only three films and died at age 24, while driving his Porshe Spyder, aptly nicknamed “Little Bastard,” on a highway in California. Still, he made quite an impression in a short time and become a symbol of the new anti-hero among youth in film. Dean, and Brando, symbolized the alienation, angst, turmoil, lost hopes, and rebellion of teenagers and the young. Dean starred in East of Eden and Giant but his best-

Conformity and Challenges in the Eisenhower and Kennedy Years

known role was as Jim Stark, a high school “rebel” who ran into trouble with both the school bully and the law in Rebel Without a Cause [a role, incidentally, that Brando read for]. He symbolized the dissatisfaction of many young people with the materially abundant but conformist world in which they lived. In the film, Jim befriends a troubled young kid, played by Sal Mineo, who gets shot by cops. With Rebel Without a Cause, and his “bad boy” persona, and tragic but romanticized death, Dean was, like Kurt Cobain in a future generation, a symbol of the entire era. Brando had a much longer career than Dean, and was already well-known by the early 1950s. His role as Stanley Kowalski, a brutish worker married to a southern belle with an alcoholic and mentally ill sister-in-law in A Streetcar Named Desire made him a star and gave him his “anti-hero” status. He was not a sheriff wearing a white hat riding a steed to the rescue, but a loud and angry man surrounded by troubled people. Brando also starred in, and won an Oscar for, his role as Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront, a film directed by Elia Kazan, who had “named names” before HUAC earlier. In this movie, Brando played a young man troubled by corruption and violence among union officials [not a coincidental theme given Kazan’s past career as a snitch] who eventually [as Kazan had done, but under much different circumstances] stood up for “good guys” and helped rid the union of its old bosses. But Brando’s iconic role in that decade came in The Wild One, a 1953 “outlaw biker” film set in California. Americans were nearly hysterical about the threat of thugs on motorcycles. Brando played Johnny Strabler, the leader of the Black Rebels Motorcycle Gang. The film was nearly hysterical in its depiction of the bikers, who engaged in cruel pranks, not violence like the Hell’s Angels would in the next decade, and the “threat” they posed to decent American values. When the gang “invades” a small town called Wrightsville [obviously not “Wrongsville”], the townsfolk are frightened but some, especially the young women, are curious or even attracted. When one young woman, seeing Johnny’s jacket with the gang’s name on it asks him “What’re you rebelling against, Johnny?” Brando utters the famous response, “Whaddya got?” Like Dean, Brando was a rebel, not a conformist, and their popularity, like that of jazz musicians, rock stars, and others, clearly indicated that millions of Americans, especially but not limited to the young, were deeply moved and drawn to this “other” culture in a period of conformity and “traditional” values.

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Traditionally, paintings hung in museums had aesthetic beauty. They were often images of nature, or monarchs, or idealized lives that typical people would never experience. But in the early 20th century, painters developed the concept of social realism, to paint, and take photos of, life as it really was–with the poverty, deprivation, sickness, and social ills that were evident to anyone who looked for them. By the postwar era, the school of social realism was well-established and it was not unusual for artists to paint scenes from everyday life [though it was virtually impossible to find them on the walls of elitist museums]. However, critics, and the government, equated social realism with the school of “Socialist Realism” encouraged by Stalin in the Soviet Union, so it was much more difficult for paintings of the “underbelly” of life to get public notice. As with virtually all aspects of culture in the early cold war, art was supposed to reflect the patriotic goodness of America.Still, many artists did challenge that standard, and after World War II painted and photographed scenes that offered a harsh examination into American life, especially its conformity. This art was in many ways a reaction to the horrors of World War II–the Holocaust, the devastation, the social upheavals, and then a response to what they saw as the “sameness” of cold war life. Indeed, the visual arts were ahead of other cultural forms in pointing out the warped Cold War values and hypocrisy of the postwar era. Some of the more noted artists of this period began working during the war years. Aaron Douglas, an African-American painter, emerged out of the “Harlem Renaissance” and his 1944 work, “Building More Stately Mansions” featured depictions of muscular workers involved in the manual labor of building huge edifices, not the esthetic nature of the mansions themselves. Like Douglas, John Biggers, who headed the art department at Texas Southern University in Houston for over three decades, celebrated everyday life and working people. His work also directly criticized racism and poverty, as in “The Garbage Man” and “Victim of the City Streets #2,” both painted around the end of World War II. The photographer Gordon Parks contributed significantly to the African-American arts scene as well. He created his own version of the Grant Wood classic “American Gothic,” but instead of featuring aged white farmers with a pitchfork, he took a photo of a black cleaning woman, Ella Watson, in Washington D.C.

Conformity and Challenges in the Eisenhower and Kennedy Years

Reminiscent of Leadbelly’s story in “Bourgeois Blues,” Watson told Parks about the racism and alienation of Washington, so he put her against the backdrop of a huge American flag with a mop in one hand and a broom in the other, a clear contrast to wartime propaganda about unity and patriotism. Parks also ventured into Harlem, where he took photos of gang leaders and criminals, even featuring a photo of a gangbanger in a coffin, again upsetting the conformist imagery that the state wanted to present to the world. Parks work also included photos of a black family huddled before what appears to be a bureaucrat, perhaps seeking aid, fear in their eyes. Others show young children in tattered clothes, and other scenes of poverty. In the later 1950s, Parks went to Alabama [as the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which we will discuss later, was taking place] and took photos of “Willy Causey and Family, Shady Grove, Alabama” which showed the horrid effects of American apartheid on that family [the Causey family was forced to leave its home after the photos were published due to the threats received from White supremacists]. The images created by Black artists such as Douglas, Biggers, and Parks, it goes without saying, presented a vastly different view of American than one would get from observing June and Ward Cleaver, or Richie Cunningham and “The Fonz.” Other artists, such as George Tooker, also challenged the conformity and dullness of cold war culture. Tooker’s paintings featured everyday people, but one could tell they were alienated from their lives, withdrawn and alone, and the pictures had an eerie quality to them. In “Subway” [1950], Tooker showed a group of people with blank or suspicious looks in their eyes, while others behind them, virtually hidden in cubicles, were peering about to see what fate, which was not going to be good, awaited them. Perhaps more potent in its criticism of conformist culture was “Government Bureau” [1956], which again depicted impersonal and perhaps frightened faces of municipal employees who were waiting on lines of anonymous “consumers” of their services. If “The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit” was the embodiment of the corporate culture of the time, Tooker’s painting was the “anti-Flannel Suit” representation of non-conformity, showing how bureaucracies dehumanize people. Richard Hamilton, a self-described anti-Capitalist, also criticized 1950s society in his work, especially Just What Is It That Makes Today’s Homes So Different, So Appealing?, a collage featuring a “modern” home with its TV set, vacuum cleaner, a ham in a tin, tape recorder, and a sexy naked wife lounging on the

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sofa. In the center was a body-builder wearing only a speedo and holding a lollipop, with clear homoerotic overtones to him. Not as overtly political as Tooker’s work, but quite famous, was “Flag” by Jasper Johns [1954-55]. Upon first view, it is simply a painting of the American flag, with its stars and stripes. But in 1955, as the Cold War was being waged, the painting was controversial. While some saw it as a symbol of patriotism, others believed that Johns was criticizing the U.S. simply by recreating its most revered symbol. “Flag” was a loaded subject, and Johns was suspicious of authority, so he believed that each person viewing this painting should bring his or her own views to it–not be told by the artist what to think– and some could see it as patriotic, but others could also be angry about or opposed to American actions, as symbolized by the flag. Finally, and not unlike the jazz performers who traveled to Europe to showcase American culture, the government also found art useful in this period, especially the school called “abstract expressionism,” which was most identified with Jackson Pollock, a veteran of the WPA arts program, as noted. Abstract expressionism, to critics, amounted to little more than flicking a brush or dripping paint on canvas. One critic said, “this is not art–it’s a joke in bad taste.” But the government saw it as an important way to contrast American “freedom” and “creativity” with Stalin’s Socialist Realism, and so sponsored shows of work by Pollock and others throughout Europe and elsewhere. Art, again, was being used as a means of both resistance and containment.

C onformity ,

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M adness ? T he B eatniks

“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix . . .” And so began one of the more famous, to some infamous, poems in American literary history, Howl, by a gay Jewish radical poet who had spent time in a mental institution and would become one of the leading figures in arts and politics over the next few decades— Allen Ginsberg. Howl [1956] was a long poem, at times chaotic, deeply political, about the numbing conformity of American life. Hence, Ginsberg’s “best minds” being “destroyed by madness” were those on the margins of society, like artists, drug users, “bums,” and others who had rejected typical conformist values. He

Conformity and Challenges in the Eisenhower and Kennedy Years

called them “angelheaded hipsters,” a phrase that would resonate and bring meaning to the words “hip” that would be used with great frequency in the Sixties. Howl, often derided as a poem about drugs and sex, was a social statement, a manifesto of sorts about the ill effects of industrial society and nuclear war, and with frequent reference to “Moloch,” a demonic symbol, to represent U.S. military-industrial society. The final part of the poem is somewhat autobiographical, in that Ginsberg represents his stay at a psychiatric hospital in 1949. In so many ways, he broke the conventions of poetry and gave meaning to a new school of writing, and a new lifestyle–Beat, which gave rise to the term Beatnik to describe those immersed in that counterculture. To be a “Beat” or to be “beat” meant one was unhappy with so-called decent middle-class values [which tended to be class-oriented, racist, sexist and conservative]. It also connoted that people who were outside the mainstream were “beatific,” or blessed and at peace. If a work of art or piece of music was “beat,” it moved you, made you think of life in a different, more creative way. Ginsberg’s poetry was most definitely “beat!” And Howl was as controversial as it was important. It was a long poem, at times a rant about American society, politics, and sexuality. Ginsberg wrote about illegal drug use and sex, both straight and gay, and based on that customs officials seized over 500 copies of the book as it was being unloaded on the docks upon arrival from printers in London. Lawrence Ferlinghetti, a poet himself who owned City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, a hot spot for countercultural types, was charged with obscenity, but was found not guilty by a judge who deemed that the poem had “redeeming social importance.” This would be one of the legacies of the Beat generation–they pushed the limits of what was legally and socially acceptable, and made their rejection of conformity and traditional values part of the literary canon of the American arts. No one can study postwar literature or poetry any longer without encountering “The Beats.” Howl was not Ginsberg’s only major, controversial work; at about the same time he published “America,” which was most certainly did not state his patriotic admiration of the U.S– “America I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing. . . /I can’t stand my own mind/ America when will we end the human war?/Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb/I don’t feel good don’t bother me.” Ginsberg was probably the prototype “Beat” of the era. While critics then, and now, would deride Beatniks as simply cultural outcasts, the Beat Movement was inherently

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political, an attack on conformist culture, on militarism and war, on racial and sexual attitudes, and on the very meaning of democracy and what it meant to have a “free” society. Ginsberg not only wrote, but he was active in various political movements–from “Ban the Bomb” to civil rights to antiwar actions–his entire life. In fact, in 1982, he performed one of his most passionate poems as part of the Clash’s “Ghetto Defendant,” a song about heroin addiction, on its Combat Rock album. Ginsberg by himself was a major figure in the arts, but he was also part of an impressive community of writers who comprised the “Beatnik” Movement. Jack Kerouac’s On The Road, published in 1957 [and written on a scroll], stands alongside Howl as the most iconic work of that era. On the Road is mostly autobiographical; the lead character, Sal Paradise, is actually Kerouac. It hits the main Beat themes–poetry, drugs, jazz, and sex.The story, above all, is about freedom, about being “on the road” with friends and fellow beats Ginsberg [“Carlo Marx” in the book] and Neal Cassady [aka “Dean Moriarty”] for a few years, about bus rides, hitchhiking, close calls and adventures. Along the way, they meet fieldworkers, prisoners, and others who live on the seedy side of life, but, to the Beats, give life its meaning, again, to beat a dead horse, unlike the men in gray flannel suits. As with the other arts, those who controlled American culture tried to contain the Beatniks, even featuring a Beat character, Maynard G. Krebs, in the popular “Dobie Gillis” show. Krebs was portrayed as silly and lazy, which did become a stereotype of Beats. Later, Lisa Simpson would lampoon Howl after Bart destroyed her Thanksgiving Diorama with her “Howl of the Unappreciated”–“I saw the best meals of my generation destroyed by the madness of my brother/My soul carved in slices by spikey-haired demons.” Despite such satire, it is difficult to understate how important On The Road and other works were to the Beat generation. Countless young people and students read them and took off on their own journeys, experiencing life in ways that previous generations, such as their parents, never could have imagined, and actually being a vital catalyst to the far-better known counterculture of the 1960s. Ginsberg, Kerouac, Cassady, William Burroughs, Ferlinghetti and many others took on the norms of everyday life and shattered them, openly writing and talking about drugs, sex, homosexuality, war and conformity in sharp ways, and thus opening up the minds of their readers and listeners to a new world.

Conformity and Challenges in the Eisenhower and Kennedy Years

H efner

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Virtually everyone in the U.S. knows who Hugh Hefner is. In 1953, he brought smut to mainstream America and our culture has never been the same. While “porn” had always existed, he gave it a touch of class. He did more than simply produce a magazine featuring beautiful women like Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield and others naked, he also created an entire lifestyle–the playboy. Far fewer know who William Gaines was, and the contrast between him and Hefner was sharp. Where Hefner was handsome, impeccably dressed, and smooth–a playboy man if ever there was one–Gaines was heavy-set, had thick glasses, long hair, and a big beard like Santa Claus. But he and Hefner had something important in common–they both revolutionized American culture with their publications, Playboy and Mad Magazine. While it would be easy to think of these magazines as high-class porn and a comic book, they in fact were repudiations of the conformity of American life and political critiques of government behavior at home and abroad. Hefner’s playboy man was someone who had more interests than simply looking at naked women in magazines. He probably listened to jazz [Hefner himself was a huge advocate of jazz and the arts]; he enjoyed the outdoors; he dressed well; importantly, he was well-versed in current affairs and wanted deep coverage of important issues like civil rights or, later, Vietnam. Hefner, in fact, always featured an interview with an important newsmaker [Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and Fidel Castro were just a few of those whose interviews were in Playboy] and was among the first publishers to write about the violence of southern segregation and the war in Vietnam. To be a playboy, then, meant one was also engaged in the world and was political. Playboy, obviously, had important sexual meaning as well–it, along with the development of an oral contraceptive pill in 1960 helped bring in the “sexual revolution.” Hefner’s magazine, like Kinsey’s report, made it clear that Americans enjoyed sexuality, and that it was healthy to do so. Unlike old porn magazines that arrived in a brown wrapper, Playboy did not have to be hidden, and could be discussed in polite society. Sex, as a subject of discussion for both men and women, was now a little less taboo, and the enjoyment of sex was desirable, not subversive. While Hefner, like Kinsey, was attacked as a deviant or maybe even a Communist, the truth was that he simply believed in individual freedom, and making lots of dollars by selling pictures of beautiful naked women.

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Bill Gaines first published Mad Magazine in 1952. He had been in the comics industry for some time already, and his work featured satire, wry humor, clever puns, and inside jokes about the bad taste of people who actually read the books he published. Gaines, in fact, got into hot water for his books, both Mad and other horror comics he published, when, in 1954 he had to appear before a Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Deliquency, which was investigating links between comic books and deviant behavior [much like video games and Goth music would be attacked in the aftermath of the Columbine shootings of 1999]. Gaines, like many others we have discussed, stood his ground. When asked if he believed a child could be hurt by something read or seen in one of his comic books, Gaines said “I don’t believe so” and said he would limit what he put in his books “only within the bounds of good taste.” When one senator asked if a comic cover which showed a man with a bloody axe holding a severed woman’s head was in good taste, Gaines replied that it was, but that if the man was “holding the head a little higher so that the neck could be seen dripping blood from it, and moving the body over a little further so that the neck of the body could be seen to be bloody,” then that would be in bad taste. Mad did not feature severed heads, but it surely skewered the people who ran society. It took satirical shots at presidents, politicians, movie stars, and other cultural icons. It ran a regular feature titled “Spy vs. Spy” which spoofed the Cold War rivalry between the U.S. and Soviet Union. And it, until just a decade or so ago, had no advertisements at all in it, so it was free to lambaste any person or company it wanted. Gaines, like Hefner, made significant contributions toward creating the “other” 1950s, a culture that celebrated non-conformity, racial integration, peace, adventure, sex, and freedom. What they began would blossom in the next decade, but the 1960s counterculture would never have been born without the jazz musicians, folkies, artists, Beatniks and others from the previous generation.

C ompeting V isions

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As the 1950s came to an end, the country looked much different than it had at the end of World War II. Culturally, as we have seen, the U.S. might have remained a conformist society, but there were so many alternatives to the dominant values of 1950 that it was obvious some major changes were brewing, and they would erupt in the 1960s. Economically, the country was at its

Conformity and Challenges in the Eisenhower and Kennedy Years

strongest, and a larger percentage of American workers were in unions, and many enjoying lifestyles–owning homes and cars, taking vacations, going to college–than ever before. Civil Rights–which we will discuss in the next chapter–was gaining momentum and would become the country’s most critical issue. As Americans went to the polls to choose a new president in 1960, they had a choice between what many saw as the past versus the present–Richard Nixon or John F. Kennedy [JFK]. Nixon had established himself as an antiCommunist warrior right after World War II and had been Eisenhower’s VicePresident for 8 years. Kennedy’s record was similar, but he was young, only 43, handsome, and charismatic, and came from one of America’s leading political families. He promised “vigor” and change and, in a close and perhaps stolen election, defeated Nixon and became the 35th president. Ironically, however, at the dawn of a new decade, it was the outgoing president, Eisenhower, who spoke of the perils of the cold war and called for a new path to peace. In his “Military-Industrial Complex” speech–sort of a bookend to his “Cross of Iron” speech at the beginning of his presidency–Eisenhower presented his farewell address to the nation just a few days before Kennedy was inaugurated in 1961. During the election, Kennedy had accused Eisenhower and Nixon of being weak against the Soviet Union, of allowing a “missile gap” to develop that threatened American security. He was right–there was a huge missile gap, in America’s favor, and JFK knew that! In 1960, the U.S. had 20,434 nuclear weapons and its ally, Great Britain, had another 30. The Soviet Union had 1,605, or less than 10 percent the U.S. total. So Eisenhower spoke out. Perhaps because of that recognition and the growing fear that arms race was so costly that it could endanger the American economy, Eisenhower, as he left office in January 1961, eloquently warned against a continuation such practices.Sounding like Robert Taft warning against the “garrison state” in the late 1940s, he publicly railed against the military-industrial complex, the economic system in which so much of the government’s resources was being used to research, develop, and build weapons (about 100,000 scientists and nearly every major corporation had a stake in the pentagon system). He cautioned that “in the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and

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will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. . . . We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together. ”In 1961, it seemed, Eisenhower was calling for a new global order–one of course built on American dominance but with a decline in the production of weapons of mass destruction and a reorientation of society toward more civilian priorities. Such visions, however, would not last long as the incoming president would have American involved in crises, wars and interventions at various places in short order–most notably, Cuba, Berlin, and Vietnam. In his inaugural speech, just three days after Eisenhower’s warnings about the militarization of American society, the new president drew a line in the sand: “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty. This much we pledge—and more.” The famous poet Robert Frost had prepared a poem for the inaugural but could not read it because the sun’s glare was so great, and so from memory he recited “The Gift Outright,” which would take on great symbolic power. It was an homage to American imperialism: “Such as we were we gave ourselves outright/(The deed of gift was many deeds of war)/To the land vaguely realizing westward/But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced/Such as she was, such as she would become.” And the Kennedy legacy would be “many deeds of war”– and more. In fact, as Kennedy took office, he faced an immediate crisis just south of Florida, in the small island nation of Cuba. Cuba had, since 1898, been a virtual American economic colony with significant U.S. investment–Americans owned 80 percent of Cuba’s utilities, 90 percent of its mining, 40 percent of its sugar, and had a base at Guantanamo, or “Gitmo”– which has again become infamous as the location for terror suspects to be held in the Bush and Obama years– and it especially had casinos where tourists could go for entertainment and gambling [an environment accurately depicted in Godfather, Part II]. But that all changed on New Year’s Day 1959 when a revolution that had been in the making for less than a decade overthrew the American client, Fulgencio Batista, and brought to power Fidel Castro. The U.S. Ambassador to Cuba, Earl Smith, observed in 1960 that “the United States, until the advent of Castro, was

Conformity and Challenges in the Eisenhower and Kennedy Years

so overwhelmingly influential in Cuba that . . . the American ambassador was the second most important man in Cuba, sometimes even more important than the President. . . Now, today, his importance is not very great.” And Castro certainly took measures to distance himself from that U.S. control–instituting land reform measures that took property away from U.S. corporations to give to Cuban peasants, condemning the Platt Amendment, insisting on the return of “Gitmo,” taking on the “gangsters” and the casinos, and seeking actual Cuban independence from the “Yankees” [in fact, one of the popular slogans of the day was “Cuba, Si! Yanqui, No!”]. In 1960, in fact, Castro infuriated the Americans by agreeing to a deal to trade sugar to the Soviet Union in exchange for oil, machinery, and technicians. Trade between Castro and the Soviet Union and its Eastern European allies rose from 2 percent to 80 percent in the year. However, even Ambassador Philip Bonsal later admitted, “Russia came to Castro’s rescue only after the United States had taken steps to overthrow him.” JFK had vowed to “oppose any foe” and had actually attacked Nixon during the campaign for Eisenhower’s failure to contain Castro [even though he knew that the CIA was developing secret plans to take out the new Cuban leader] and so he had to act. In April 1961, not even 100 days into his presidency, he authorized an invasion of Cuba at the Bahía de Cochinos, or Bay of Pigs, an inlet on the southern coast of the island, across from Havana. Castro had vowed “what happened in Guatemala will not happen here.” So, when about 1500 CIA-trained Miami Cubans arrived at the Bay of Pigs on April 17th, 1961, Castro himself led the battle on the beaches, which crushed the American-backed invasion in two days with 114 dead and 1100 captured. There was, it goes without saying, no general uprising against Castro and in fact his successful resistance made him more popular than ever. In turn, JFK tightened the noose on Cuba even more, with an economic blockade on Cuba that still exists today, removal of the country from the Organization of American States, and sponsorship of countless assassination attempts on Castro for many years, all of which, of course, failed. Among the unsuccessful plots were an attempt to put explosives into Castro’s beloved cigars, one to make his beard fall out and embarrass him, and yet another to seed the clouds above Cuba to cause a drought and ruin the sugar crops. Perhaps it would be extreme to say JFK was “obsessed” with getting rid of Castro, but it would remain a very high priority throughout his term. Indeed,

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Figure 7-11 Fidel Castro and Nikita Khrushchev, 1960

Cuban-U.S. relations were at the forefront of global politics in that period, and never more so than in October 1962. Castro increasingly feared another Bay of Pigs type invasion so throughout 1962 held discussions with Krushchev about putting nuclear-tipped SS-4 Soviet missiles in Cuba. Though the Cubans saw these missiles as defensive, they did have the capability to reach the eastern half of the U.S. [they had about an 1100 mile range], and the Soviets started to build launchers for the nuclear bombs. Even U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Strange McNamara later admitted, “if I had been in Moscow or Havana at that time, I would have believed that Americans were preparing for an invasion.” And in fact, they were. General Edward Lansdale, an expert in psychological warfare, was in charge of “Operation Mongoose,” which hoped to ignite a revolt against Castro inside Cuba, and in fact the U.S., since early 1962, had been conducting military maneuvers off the Cuban coast to put the fear of an all-out invasion into Castro’s head. So the Cubans saw the Soviet missiles as an important way to stop the U.S. from attacking, and, in reality, they did not change the balance-of-power in North American at all [as we noted, the U.S. had over a 20,000 to 1600 advantage in nuclear weapons] but when American U-2 Spy Planes took photos of the missile sites under con-

Conformity and Challenges in the Eisenhower and Kennedy Years

struction in mid-October of 1962, the U.S. responded with alarm and thus began the most dangerous confrontation of the Cold War, the Cuban Missile Crisis. One could go into great detail about the crisis, which lasted 13 days, but it is sufficient to say that JFK was committed to confront the Soviet Union and Cuba and take out the missiles. Certain elements in Kennedy’s advisory group–the “Ex Com” or Executive Committee–wanted to take immediate military action, but Kennedy chose to wait. He did go on national television to tell the country of the crisis, thus setting off a national bout of anxiety unlike any in the era, but stayed in contact with the Soviet ambassador in the U.S. and with Krushchev. Finally, the Soviets relented, turning one of their ships headed toward Cuba around when faced with a U.S. naval blockade, and took out the missiles. In return, and quietly, the U.S. agreed not to invade Cuba and essentially made a trade by removing its Jupiter Missiles from Turkey, where they posed a threat to Eastern Europe. As one of the most important historians who has studied the issue wrote, “had there been no exile expedition at the Bay of Pigs, no destructive covert activities, no assassination plots, no military maneuvers and plans, and no economic and diplomatic steps to harass, isolate, and destroy the Castro government in Havana, there would not have been a Cuban missile crisis. The origins of the October 1962 crisis derived largely from the concerted US campaign to quash the Cuban Revolution and from the Soviet-Cuban effort to save it by deterring the United States through missile deployment.” Even with the crisis ended, JFK continued his efforts to remove Castro and on November 22d, 1963, as the president was headed for Dallas to give a speech, an anti-Castro Cuban agent was meeting with a CIA official in Paris to get a pen rigged with a poison hypodermic needle to be used to kill Fidel Castro . . . .

“T he T esticles

of the

W est ”

While Cuba was the most critical issue facing JFK, the conflict in Europe had to remain a priority too. And no area, still, was as vital as Germany, and Berlin in particular. Beginning in 1958 and lasting into the early years of the Kennedy presidency, the Soviet Union again brought the issue of East Germany [the GDR] to the forefront of world politics, eventually leading to the creation of a wall to separate East from West Berlin. By 1958, the West had still refused

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to recognize the GDR as an independent country, so the Soviets continued to underwrite the East German government while trying to contain West Germany [the FRG]. By late 1958, the Soviets feared that the western Germans might take some drastic actions against the East, either politically, economically, or militarily. Thus Khrushchev felt he had to take action, and in a series of speeches in November 1958 he presented the West with a hard dilemma, calling on the nations with occupation rights–the United States, Britain, and France–to sign the German peace treaty, or else Russia would reach a separate treaty with East Germany, the GDR, granting it independence, and giving it full control over all of Berlin, not just the East, and he set a 6-month timetable for such actions. Khrushchev was serious about the German issue, but also cautious. In a talk with the Polish leader Gomulka, he observed “war will not result from it. There will be tensions, of course, there will be a blockade. They might test to see our reaction. In any case we will have to show a great deal of cold blood in this matter.” At the same time, Khrushchev sought a high-level U.S.-Soviet conference, invited Vice-President Richard Nixon to Moscow, and passed along a backchannel note telling Nixon “Don’t worry about Berlin. There is not going to be any war over Berlin.” The Soviet Premier similarly sought to cool down the more militant eastern German Communist leadership, telling them “do not hurry. The wind does not blow in your face . . . The conditions are not ripe as yet for a new scheme of things.” By 1959, the crisis was ongoing. In June, the Soviet leader did not close off the possibility of German reunification, but stressed that the Germans themselves, not outside forces, would have to make that decision. In September he visited the U.S. presidential retreat at Camp David to meet with Eisenhower to discuss Berlin. Prior to visiting Washington, he spoke at the U.N. and proposed “general and complete disarmament in three years” and, despite claims that Communism would “bury” Capitalism, Khrushchev pledged “peaceful coexistence” between the superpowers. “You may live under capitalism,” he observed, “and we will live under socialism and build communism. The one whose system proves better will win.” At Camp David, Eisenhower and Khrushchev compromised and seemed to ease the Berlin crisis: the president promised the Soviet leader a summit meeting in the near future, and Khrushchev agreed to drop his ultimatum over the timing of a decision on Berlin.Eisenhower, however, also signaled that he was still considering providing nuclear arms to the FRG, West Germany, prompting Khrushchev to imply

Conformity and Challenges in the Eisenhower and Kennedy Years

that he might likewise arm China with atomic weapons. On the political front, Eisenhower, despite his friendliness with the Soviet leader at Camp David, was not ready to change policy on Berlin, and his views were also shared by the governments of Britain and France, the other occupying forces in Germany. A year later, in Vienna, the Soviet premier finally met the recently-inaugurated John F. Kennedy. By this time, the GDR faced a crisis as about 30,000 East Germans were fleeing to West Berlin each month. Khrushchev insisted on ending American occupation in the West and wanted Berlin to become a “free city”; if Kennedy did not comply Khrushchev said he would sign a separate treaty with the Communist GDR, thus giving the East German government full authority over all decisions regarding Berlin. Khrushchev believed the West was particularly vulnerable on Berlin. It was, he joked, “the testicles of the West. Every time I want to make the West scream, I squeeze on Berlin.” Kennedy, a committed Cold Warrior himself, would not budge. “That son of a bitch won’t pay any attention to words,” he said of Khrushchev, “he has to see you move.” The president thus decided to turn up the heat in Berlin, asking Congress for an additional $3 billion for the military budget, seeking authority to call up reserves, and seeking additional civil defense funds. In August, the East Germans responded, building a barbed wire barricade and then a concrete barrier to cut the city in half, the Berlin Wall. American tanks took positions near the wall, prepared to break it down, and were met with Soviet tanks on the other side. Kennedy finally defused the situation, recognizing that a wall was better than a war against the USSR. Later, it would be revealed that Secretary of State Dulles in the 1950s had argued that a wall between the Berlins would be a good idea. The Berlin crisis finally dissipated toward the end of 1961, with the Americans agreeing that neither West nor East Germany should produce nor be provided nuclear weapons and that the size of armies in both Germanys should be reduced. The Wall, however, would be the most visible symbol of the cold war for the next three decades.

T he F ifties : C old W ar , C onformity , C ontainment , C ounterculture

and

The 1950s was a tremendously important era in the development of “modern” America. The decade began as the Cold War was at an intense stage, and even Eisenhower’s warnings, in 1953 and again in 1960, did not really create much

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of a “thaw” in relations between the U.S. and the Communist world. While the Americans and Russians never had an armed conflict–both sides knew that the U.S. was far superior–there was an intense and costly arms race, wars in Korea and Vietnam, and interventions in Guatemala and many other places where the wars were “hot” more often than not. And by the end of the decade, as a new president, JFK, came to power, the rivalry between the U.S. and Communists was burning again, especially in Vietnam. Culturally, it was a fascinating time. “subversives” or “Communists” inside the U.S., in reality usually no more than groups calling for a more complete version of democracy or demanding rights for people who faced discrimination, had to be contained, and people like Joe McCarthy and Richard Nixon, along with religious and media figures, met that challenge, and thus created a culture of conformity. One wore the proverbial “gray flannel suit” to work, but, metaphorically, wore it all the time. The way to get ahead was to go along, not rock the boat, not wear a pink shirt to work. But, along with this “madness,” as Ginsberg called it, was a vibrant and extensive “counterculture,” of jazz musicians, artists, folk singers, playboys, satirists, and beatniks. Amid the fear and “sameness” of the cold war and McCarthyism, they injected a jolt of creativity and a different reality into American life. The leather jackets of James Dean and Marlon Brando were more popular to the youth than the formal suits their parents wore. Marijuana, not martinis, was their drug of choice. Miles Davis and Pete Seeger were musical stars, jazz and folk music always playing. “Angelheaded hipsters” were writing poems and being “cool.” There was a social and political tornado brewing, and tie-dyed shirts, bell-bottom pants, and long hair were about to replace the men in gray flannel suits as the symbol of American society.

Chapter 8

A New Kind of Democracy? Political and Cultural Developments in the 1960s

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he 1960s has become something of a mythical period in American history, a time of love, peace, and hippies; sex and drugs and Rock & Roll– an era used by advertisers to sell everything from blue jeans to retirement plans with its music. It is a period also despised by political conservatives who claim the values it promoted (“sex and drugs and Rock & Roll”) led to the moral downfall of America. As recently as the 2008 presidential campaign, the 1960s was still a huge issue, as Barack Obama’s alleged involvement with a radical from that era, Bill Ayers, became an issue, with the Republican VicePresidential candidate, Sarah Palin, trying to smear Obama by claiming he was “pallin’ around” with “terrorists” from the 1960s like Ayers. Even more, advertisers have found commercial gold in the era, using famous songs and images like Easy Rider in an ad for Mercury Cougar, “Fortunate Son” to sell blue jeans, “In- a-Gadda-da-Vida” to pitch investment plans, and even images of Martin Luther King to promote everything from McDonald’s burgers to the lottery. Amid all this, it is easy to overlook just how critical, and serious, this time period was. It included a long, bloody and controversial war in Vietnam, African Americans attacking finally seeing the system of segregation, or apartheid, broken down, a time when the traditional 393

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culture of men in grey flannel suits and obedience to authority got shattered by various countercultures, a time when women, Chicanos, gays, and environmentalists, among others, stood up for their rights and made America a more inclusive society. It was, in short, one of the most crucial and transforming times in U.S. history, and we need to look at it as such rather than just as a myth or a caricature or a T.V. commercial, or as a time when the absurd character Forrest Gump saved American society from chaos and immorality. The “Sixties” is such a huge topic that we cannot cover it with justice or with much detail in just a chapter or two. But there are a few issues and themes that stand out and must be discussed, especially the Great Society and War on Poverty, the Social Movements–especially the Civil Rights Movement-of the era, Vietnam, and the so- called Counterculture. So we will begin by talking about some of the major themes of this period–anti-authoritarianism, participatory democracy, cultural and social challenges-and then discuss some of the major issues. In this chapter we will discuss the ideological origins of 1960s politics and the Great Society and Civil Rights and other social movements, and in the next chapter we will look at the Vietnam War and the counterculture.

Q uestioning A uthority As discussed, the generation before the Sixties was marked by conformity, with people deferring to their leaders, political McCarthyism, and The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit and Pleasantville culture prevailing. But there was, lurking beneath that surface already, a “counterculture,” and the Beatniks, Rock & Roll, and some movies demonstrated that rejection of the traditional and dominant political and social order. In the 1960s, that rejection burst out, and the attack on authority and questioning of American values became widespread. Again, the development of this new political and cultural ideology is deep and complex, so we will only discuss the key elements in it, some of the background, a few of the major people and groups motivating it, and some of the key ideas. As we have seen, individuals like Ginsberg, Presley, Dean, Brando and others challenged the dominant culture in the 1950s and set the stage for the next decade’s unrest. There were others who just as importantly provided a strong criticism of American politics and life and gave lessons for a future

A New Kind of Democracy? Political and Cultural Developments in the 1960s

generation of activists. Perhaps foremost among them was a Sociologist named C. Wright Mills. Mills was a professor at Columbia University, an Ivy League school in New York. But he did not look the part of the nerdy prof with a tweed jacket and glasses. He was a tall Texan, wore black, and rode his motorcycle all over campus. And he had one of the most astute minds of his generation. Among his many works, The Power Elite, written in 1956, was vital to developing a criticism of American politics and life and led many college students and younger activists to look at the U.S. quite differently. In The Power Elite, Mills took an expanded view and looked at the economic, political and military elite, government leaders, corporations, and the armed forces—which shared a similar way of looking at the world, i.e. through their power. These groups tended to be mobile so individuals could move from the corporate group to the government, from the military to corporations, from universities to government, and so forth, and they recognized themselves as superior to the people who lived in the U.S. but did not have power. Elites got their place in society by their ability to fit in, to think and act like the existing men [and, rarely, women] of power and by their relationships with one another. All three, the government and big business and the military, were part of a national commitment to create a strong central state and a permanent war economy, or what Eisenhower and others called the Military- Industrial Complex. Many students and intellectuals heeded Mills’s words and would come to establish a loosely-knit movement called the New Left. The “New” Left, unlike the “Old” Left, wanted to move beyond the Cold War questions of the evils, or sometimes virtues, of Communism, and talk about American life, and especially the role of institutional power like corporations and the state and the military, as Mills had. Many of these young people formed a journal called Studies on the Left and developed the idea of “corporate liberalism” to examine the powerful institutions governing life in the U.S., an idea similar to the “corporate state” or the “new Capitalism” of the 1920s. While the term “corporate liberalism” may seem contradictory–after all, liberalism is supposed to be an ideology of reform and change, while corporations represent the powerful status quo–the New Leftists had a clear and concise vision of the way that big business and the state actually guided reform, hence “corporate” liberalism, or change directed by big business. “Liberals,” generally mocked as soft on Communism or “touchy-feely” about social issues like civil rights, became,

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in the New Left version, the dominant class, the elite who were responsible for the American class system and the Military-Industrial Complex. Liberals did seek reform, but the changes they wanted would make society more stable, and thus more profitable, and would prevent more “radical” changes from taking place. Reform, in the New Left version, came often from the top down. It was, thus, the liberals who were the barrier to democracy and reform, not the agents of it.

C reating

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In 1964, students at the University of California in Berkeley went to battle against the administration. They had a tradition of putting up tables outside the administration building and giving out information about various political groups or issues, from left to right. But the administration finally tired of the political atmosphere and decided to shut it down. The students, however, protested, even surrounding a campus police car which was there to force the students out. A graduate student, a working-class kid from Pittsburgh, Mario Savio, became a national figure when he took a microphone and urged the students to stand fast. His eloquent words spread to campuses all over, and helped create a movement. “There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part; you can’t even passively take part,” he said, “and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!” This gave rise to the Free Speech Movement, a desire by students and youth especially to be heard, to have their criticisms of American politics and society be taken seriously and even acted out. Others had already been doing such work. No group took ideas like these to heart as much as SDS, or the Students for a Democratic Society. In June 1962, a group of students and other activists [many of whom had gotten involved in the Civil Rights Movement already] met in Port Huron, Michigan to establish SDS and publish the now-famous Port Huron Statement, which became something of a rallying cry and description of politics for a new society. “We are people of this generation bred it at least modest comfort, housed

A New Kind of Democracy? Political and Cultural Developments in the 1960s

now in universities, [but] looking uncomfortably to the world we inherit,” they began, and called for a new energy in American politics and a commitment to participatory democracy. The SDS activists had been bred in the middle class and enjoyed more privilege than any similar group before it, yet “look[ed] uncomfortably” at a future with racial segregation, an arms race, poverty and inequality, and other social ills still damaging American life. Taking a cue from Mills, they attacked the power elite and called for a new idea of democracy, one in which people would not be passive, not simply vote every two or four years and then let elected officials run the country from the top down, but would participate in the decisions that affected their lives on all levels, local and national, political and economic. Since elites had grabbed control of American life, people had become alienated as their lives were run by bureaucracies. “Participatory Democracy” would be the cure for that–all citizens would take an active role in American society, deciding not just who would be elected to office [which in itself, was not really democratic since the power elite, through its financial contributions, determined who ran for political positions anyway], but which policies would be enacted, and even how the economy and class system would be structured. It was obviously an ambitious and challenging ideology, but one that the students involved in SDS and other groups believed was essential to make the U.S. a “real” democracy. SDS did indeed attempt to put these ideas into practice. It created programs to send its members into poor communities where they would live among and organize the residents there. SDS hoped to create an “interracial movement of the poor” at the grassroots level to create social change.The group would address fundamental problems like housing, welfare, voting rights, police brutality, public sanitation, and other local issues, as SDS envisioned it. So SDS activists developed programs in various cities—Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Louisville, Newark, Philadelphia, and others—in the summer of 1964, but often had trouble working within the established communities. To a large degree, SDS was trying to “empower” poor people, or give them a voice in making political decisions, which alarmed the power elite. In Cleveland, possibly the most successful city where it operated, SDS organized a tenants’ union to force landlords to keep up the apartments they rented to the poor, and a welfare rights organization for women especially to

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receive benefits for which they were eligible. Such efforts soon faded as the local police “red squad” harassed the tenants’ unions as subversive, and the aims of the welfare mothers were not wholly compatible with those of students trying to apply intellectual theories to poor people on the West side of Cleveland. Although the Cleveland project would last 2-and a half years, and others would work on the Newark, New Jersey program for 3 years, SDS folded its efforts in 1965, in principal measure because it was devoting itself to ending the war in Vietnam. But just as importantly, the liberal elite saw participatory democracy as “a problem if not a danger.” For those who had power, citizens were supposed to vote and then step aside, so SDS’s program of empowerment might lead to people demanding more changes and accountability, and the elite would never accept that. Eventually, SDS imploded too, with a few more radical members, like Ayers, leaving the group to form a more militant wing, The Weathermen, which called for armed resistance, bombed buildings, and never really made an impact on U.S. politics.

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The power elite, however, did realize that changes were necessary to address the problems in American life so that more “radical” alternatives like the participatory democracy that SDS promoted could be prevented. Thus Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson undertook a major project to create a Great Society, a nation in which poverty, racial inequality, and other injustices would be fixed. This was corporate liberalism in action–identifying a problem similar to the way that young activists [like SDS] did, but seeking solutions that would maintain stability and their power status and avoid more democracy. One of the most pressing problems identified by Kennedy, and then Johnson, was economic distress, and this would lead to a war on poverty by the government. For the most part, Americans lived quite well and were still prospering from the post- World War II economic success. The American economy grew strongly throughout the 1960s and corporate profits soared by 88 percent; unemployment remained low and family incomes went up nearly 25 percent, while inflation remained very low. The U.S. maintained its global economic power, and controlled over 25 percent of the world’s trade.Yet these numbers only told part of the story of American life, for about one- quarter of the country, 40 million or so–did not have adequate food, housing, or

A New Kind of Democracy? Political and Cultural Developments in the 1960s

health care–they were, simply put, poor. In 1962, President Kennedy read a book by a Socialist scholar, Michael Harrington, titled The Other America and was shocked to read his data and stories of American poverty, and so decided the government had to do something about it. At the same time, working people, Blacks, women and other groups were calling for reform from below, so the interests of Kennedy and various activist groups came together and the U.S. would try to create a “Great Society” and begin by fighting a “War on Poverty.” As part of this program, Kennedy and Johnson would increase the minimum wage, commit more federal spending to education, increase Social Security benefits, and create more housing for the poor–in short, they would use America’s economic strength to fix these social ills. Such measures, they understood, would stimulate the economy as well, putting more money into people’s pockets to spend. Congress, however, was not so generous, so the significant levels of funding needed to really create economic reform never arrived to help the people who were most in need, the poor. Even when Johnson got bills passed to improve health care, housing, education, safety and transportation, and, of course, poverty, the gains were limited. Johnson’s goal, unlike many of the activists, was never to redistribute wealth–give less to the rich and more to the poor–but to use America’s vast wealth to provide more resources to the poor, but never at the expense of the power elite. Johnson thus created many programs to help the poor, while keeping the ruling class secure in its power. The first major step in Johnson’s antipoverty crusade came with the 1964 creation of the Office of Economic Opportunity, or OEO, which would help prepare those who were not skilled, trained, or educated to prepare for careers. Part of the OEO was the Job Corps, a program in which poor youth could be trained and educated for future employment; and the government created to provide legal aid, mental health services, small business development aid, safety programs, and rural loans. These programs, based on early examination, seemed to be paying dividends. Poor youth, it seemed, were gaining skills and jobs, poor children were better-prepared for school, and many underprivileged Americans were gaining self-esteem and dignity, along with better wages. Such results, Johnson hoped, would only increase with future programs. In 1965, two major pieces of legislation—concerning education and health care—comprised the peak of the Great Society.The president believed that the

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American education system was a mess. Due to the Baby Boom, classrooms were overcrowded and underfunded. In America’s largest cities, about 60 percent of High School students were dropping out. He thus had made federal support of education a major issue in his 1964 campaign and, upon reelection was able to secure passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Under the new act, federal monies would be sent principally to those school districts in which most family incomes were less than $2000 a year [a little under $15,000 in today’s dollars]. To appease the Catholics opposed to government aid to the poor, LBJ made aid available to parochial school students, but not to the schools themselves. The president saw the new program as a great success, claiming that millions of poor boys and girls now had access to language and reading training, audio-visual equipment, specialized education for preschoolers, nurses, counselors, bilingual teachers, and, for adults, special classes for High School dropouts. The law, as liberals saw it, was attending to America’s education emergency. On the other end of the life cycle, Johnson also recognized that the nation’s elderly lacked adequate health care, and he attacked that problem with vigor as well. Old people had only about half the income of younger Americans but had 3 times more hospital visits, and did not have sufficient health insurance, a situation still being addressed in the 21st century with socalled Obamacare. The president thus proposed a national Medicare program in which the government, using contributions to the Social Security fund, would provide health care for Americans over the age of 65, getting Congress to pass the bill despite claims from the powerful Medical and Insurance lobbies that it would usher in “Socialized medicine,” a charge also thrown at the Affordable Care Act that passed in 2010. Medicare included a voluntary insurance program to cover doctors and surgical fees, with the government and senior citizens splitting the premium payments. Congress then expanded the program more dramatically yet, extending coverage to the poor, regardless of age, in the Medicaid program. Under Medicaid, states would receive matching federal funds to pay the bills of welfare recipients or the medically indigent— the blind, disabled, and so forth— whom did not receive welfare but neither could afford to pay for health care. Johnson proclaimed the new Medicare system a huge victory. “No longer will older Americans be denied the healing miracle of modern medicine,” he declared at the signing ceremony, “no longer will illness crush and destroy the

A New Kind of Democracy? Political and Cultural Developments in the 1960s

Figure 8-1 President Johnson signs the Medicare Bill, Left to Right: Johnson, Lady Bird Johnson, Harry S. Truman, Vice President Hubert Humphrey, Bess Truman, 1965

savings they have so carefully put away.” And the government immediately began to put its money behind the new program, with costs rising from $3.4 billion to $18 billion in the first decade after passage. As a result, almost all aged Americans qualified for hospitalization benefits, and well over 90 percent also purchased supplementary doctor’s insurance. About 95 percent of doctors, most of which originally opposed the bill, eventually participated in the Medicare system. Millions of men and women with health problems who previously could not afford medical care now could be treated. Likewise, the Medicaid program reached large segments of the population, with the number of beneficiaries soaring from 4 to 24 million in a decade and funding growing to $14 billion. Additional measures covering medical research passed Congress as well, leading to expanded funding in the fights against heart disease, cancer, strokes, and mental retardation. Death rates from tuberculosis and measles declined, more young people than ever were immunized from childhood diseases, and thousands of new doctors and nurses were

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trained with government assistance. In larger numbers than ever before, the elderly and poor now had access to basic medical attention and were enjoying a markedly better quality of life. Medicare and Medicaid rank as two of the more successful reform programs in American history and “Socialized Medicine,” though feared and predicted by conservatives, never came close to becoming reality. Lyndon Johnson and his supporters believed that the War on Poverty had gotten off to a generally successful start. Because of LBJ’s political skills and a liberal consensus on helping the less fortunate, medical care was now available to millions who previously went without it because of age or poverty, and their health and life spans improved accordingly. Social Security benefits increased, thus raising the standard of living of the elderly. In 1959, about 40 percent of the aged lived below the poverty line, but by 1970 25 percent did, and by 1974 it was down to 16 percent. Likewise, the numbers of Americans living in poverty dropped significantly too, from 21 percent in 1959 to 12 percent in 1969. Despite claims that the Great Society was “Socialist,” its programs served the poor, the government did not take over the economy, and the Capitalist system somehow managed to survive and expand its profits. Though not there yet, LBJ and his supporters believed that America was on the path toward becoming a truly great society.

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African Americans had been fighting for equality and civil rights for centuries prior to the 1960s with only small successes, but, in barely a decade, saw the legal system of segregation, or apartheid, broken down by a combination of court cases, political action, and direct action by black activists, often in the streets. In the postwar era, it was clear that the system of segregation, in which about 15 million blacks lived in a system of underdevelopment and legal discrimination, had to change. While the traditional narrative suggests that civil rights was a moral issue–and it was–there was also a huge need to integrate African Americans, who comprised over ten percent of the population, into the American economy and American life. If done, Blacks could buy more goods and increase the profits of usually-White businesses, while showing to the world that the U.S., unlike its Communist rivals, respected the rights of

A New Kind of Democracy? Political and Cultural Developments in the 1960s

Figure 8-2 A “white only” taxi cab in Albany, Georgia, representative of the segregated South, 1962

minorities. The first cracks in the system of segregation came after World War II. Jackie Robinson broke the “color line” when he became the first black Major League Baseball player with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. Then President Harry Truman desegregated the military by executive order in July 1948. Still, change was slow, and African Americans and some White allies took the cause to the courts, culminating in one of the more famous and important cases in Supreme Court history, Brown v. Board in 1954. Linda Brown was a small child denied entry into a White school in her neighborhood in Topeka, Kansas so her parents sued. The Court unanimously held for Brown, overturning the doctrine of “separate but equal” that had been established in 1896 and declaring that “separation was inherently unequal,” meaning that separate facilities such as schools would never be equal–schools for Whites would always be newer, have better resources, pay teachers better and so on. The Brown decision was a huge blow to segregation and a huge victory for civil rights, but the court did not demand that all schools in the American South, the region where apartheid was practiced, had to open their doors to Black children.

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Instead, the court told southern states to act “with all deliberate speed” in desegregating their schools, which meant that the struggle for integration would continue.And, in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957, local officials, supported by Governor Orval Faubus, tried to prevent 9 black students from entering high school there. Ultimately, President Eisenhower, reluctantly, sent the National Guard out to escort the “Little Rock Nine” into school. Again, desegregation was accomplished, but against great resistance. At the same time that the courts were beginning to address the legal system of segregation in the south, the nation began to take notice of the cruel injustices of racism and racial violence, and Blacks began to take direct action. In August 1955, a 14-year old African American boy from Chicago, Emmett Till, was visiting relatives in Money, Mississippi when he allegedly said something to a white woman, which was taboo in the South. A mob then kidnapped Till and brutally beat and murdered him so badly that he was disfigured beyond recognition. His mother insisted on having an open casket because “I wanted the world to see what they did to my baby.” Photos of the young boy, so grotesque that he was not recognizable, were published in Jet Magazine and elsewhere

Figure 8-3 Rally at the Little Rock, Arkansas state capitol in protest of the admission of the “Little Rock Nine” to Central High School, 1959

A New Kind of Democracy? Political and Cultural Developments in the 1960s

and shocked the nation, helping create a consciousness among Americans in the North and elsewhere about the evils of apartheid in the South. And later that year, a woman in Montgomery, Alabama would even more awake the country to the ugly reality of segregation. On December 1st, Rosa Parks, a longtime activist, refused, as the law demanded, to give up her seat on a public bus to a White man. She was arrested [not the first time an African-American had been arrested for this] and bailed out a day later, but the African American community of Montgomery decided it was time to make a stand. Led by the Women’s Political Council, Black leaders called for a boycott of the public bus system. Since the majority of riders were African American, this would be a major hit to the bus system, but the White community assumed that the boycott would not last long–after all, Blacks often had jobs a great distance from their homes and had to take the buses every day to get to work. But the community rallied and set up an intricate system of car pools, and many simply walked great distances, and the boycott stuck. Finally, in December 1956, over a year after Parks’ arrest, Montgomery buckled and desegregated the bus lines. While Brown v. Board had shown the importance of the courts, the bus boycott demonstrated the power of the streets, i.e. direct action by the people in defiance of segregation. The bus boycott has become a pivot point in civil rights also because it marked the emergence of a charismatic leader who would become the most important African- American leader prior to Barack Obama, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was the son of a well-known southern minister and had received a B.A. from Morehouse University and his Ph.D. from Boston University. He was part of the so-called black bourgeoisie and an intellectual, but was also keenly aware of the power of taking people into the streets, and his leadership of the Montgomery movement made him a national figure. King, more than almost all the other black leaders of the day, recognized the importance of the young people in the movements and the tactics of nonviolent direct action [developed from his studies of Mahatma Gandhi], ideas that would be critical in 1960 during the emergence of the sit-ins. In February 1960 students from North Carolina A&T in Greensboro began to sit down at restaurant counters and asked to be served, giving notice of a new, aggressive, and more direct-action oriented phase in the Civil Rights era. Local authorities called out the police and eventually, amid threats of violence,

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shut down the lunch counter, but the sit-in movement had been launched and would change the nature of the Civil Rights struggle in huge ways. As they had done during the Montgomery boycott, the Black community chose to act, especially the youth. A couple months later, led by a brilliant organizer from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference [SCLC] named Ella Baker, students formed what would become the most important activist group of the era, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, or SNCC [pronounced “snick”]. SNCC was compared to the abolitionists as it would confront head on the reality of segregation. Its first tactic was the sit-in. Like the students in Greensboro, young Blacks, and some sympathetic Whites who traveled down from the North, began to sit down at segregated restaurants and nonviolently protest by asking to be served, and then accept their arrests. The tactics, though nonviolent, were militant nonetheless; the aim of the Black students sitting in was to provoke a reaction and let the entire nation see how backwards and violent the South really was. Within months, over 50,000 blacks had participated in the sit-ins and it was becoming a southern-wide movement. Ella Baker and SNCC had found a potent and inclusive tactic to expose the dread of segregation in the sit-in, but the majority of old- line black leaders refused to endorse them, fearing that they were provocative and would lead to more attacks on blacks. But King understood the power of the young people, and endorsed the sit-ins–calling for “direct action against injustice without waiting for other agencies to act . . . We will not obey unjust laws or submit to unjust practices”–setting him apart at the most important black leader of the times [though Ella Baker deserves equal acclaim for her actions]. Other groups began to join the cause and adopt the tactics of direct action. In 1961, the Congress On Racial Equality [CORE], organized a series of freedom rides to challenge various laws throughout the south that had segregated interstate travel. CORE was confrontational; its director, James Farmer, said “our intention was to provoke the Southern authorities into arresting us and thereby prod the Justice Department into enforcing the laws of the land.” Farmer understood that only the federal government could overcome racist laws in American society, that southern states would never act on their own to make life better for Blacks. “There’s only one man in this country that can stop George Wallace [the Governor of Alabama] . . . We can present thousands and thousands of bodies in the streets if we want to. And we can have all of the . . . moral commitment around this world. But a lot of these prob-

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lems will not be solved until . . . the White House begins to shake and gets on the phone and says, ‘Now listen, George, we’re coming down there and throwing you in jail if you don’t stop that mess.’ It’s not just the sheriff of this county or the mayor or the police commissioner or George Wallace. This problem goes to the very bottom of the United States. And you know, I said it to them and I will say it again. If we can’t sit at the table, let’s knock the fucking legs off, excuse me.” Officials in South Carolina and Alabama did not stop the freedom rides, however, but simply looked the other way as White mobs attacked and viciously beat the CORE members. The original riders, battered and injured, then flew to New Orleans, but SNCC activists, led by John Lewis, now a member of the House of Representatives from Georgia, traveled to Montgomery to resume the rides. They too were immediately savaged as they stepped off their bus. No police were in sight as the White mob grew to nearly 1000. Finally, after three weeks of doing nothing despite calls from Black leaders for help, Attorney General Robert Kennedy sent 400 marshalls to Montgomery to protect the riders, but also called on CORE and SNCC to end the rides and “cool off.” They refused, with Farmer explaining that blacks “had been cooling off for a hundred years. If we got any cooler, we’d be in a deep freeze.” So the rides continued. Over 1000 Americans—northern and southern, Black and White—participated, over 300 were arrested, and countless others were intimidated and attacked. Finally, in late 1961, the Interstate Commerce Commission banned segregation in interstate travel and most southern communities began to comply with the laws in 1962. If Whites could be provoked into violent responses to civil rights demonstrations, the freedom riders proved, then the media would report on it and politicians would be pressured to act. That scenario would only become more common as the struggle continued. Indeed, Blacks continued to defy authority and fill jails in 1962. In Albany, Georgia, the main civil rights theater in 1962, 1 out of 20 African Americans spent time behind bars, much to the satisfaction of Police Sheriff Laurie Pritchett, who was fond of saying that he followed a policy of “mind over matter” because Whites “didn’t mind” and Blacks “didn’t matter.” Southern governors such as Ross Barnett of Mississippi and George Wallace of Alabama believed likewise, and made defiant public stands against the admission of black students into state universities. Indeed, the struggle for civil rights would become more angry, and violent,

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before it got better. In April 1963, in an epic battle, King and others wanted to desegregate the businesses in Birmingham, Alabama, where blacks were spending their money but not being given jobs. So they decided to boycott Birmingham’s businesses during Easter season, one of the busiest and more profitable times of the year. In Birmingham, Sheriff Eugene “Bull” Connor, who could have been the stereotype of the Hollywood “redneck” lawman, sent attack dogs and fire hoses to disperse marchers, and jailed hundreds of black protestors—including King. The liberals, the media, and politicians actually focused much of their anger on King and the protestors, claiming their actions were ill- timed, would provoke violence, and were illegal. King, under arrest, responded with one of the powerful documents ever written, his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, in which he confessed to being “gravely disappointed with the white moderate.” Not unlike Frederick Douglass’s oration on “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” King attacked southern racism and northern liberalism, wondering whether Whites who claimed to support civil rights were more committed to “order” than to justice and might be a greater barrier to racial progress than the Ku Klux Klan. King was tired of northern calls for him to go slowly: For years now, I have heard the word ‘Wait!’ . . . This ‘wait’ has almost always meant ‘Never.’ We have waited more than 340 years for our constitutional and God-given rights . . . Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say ‘Wait.’ But . . . when your first name becomes ‘nigger,’ your middle name becomes ‘boy’ . . . when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a negro . . . when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of ‘nobodiness’—then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.” King’s powerful letter, however, did not end the protests in Birmingham. That would be up to the local Black community, especially the children. The movement was running out of demonstrators because of arrests and trials, so King, controversially, agreed to let Birmingham schoolchildren march in protest. On May 3rd, 1963, with nearly 1000 black children inside the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, Bull Connor had police bar the doors. Hundreds of kids escaped, however, and joined a crowd in a park across the street. Connor incredibly ordered his troops to attack. The ensuing scenes—police swinging clubs, German Shepherds lunging at children, water hoses knocking kids down—shocked Americans as they turned on network news that evening, while newspapers throughout the world ran the Birmingham story and photos on the front page the next day. The Kennedy administration finally had to act,

A New Kind of Democracy? Political and Cultural Developments in the 1960s

and forced Birmingham’s White businessmen and Black leaders to reach a compromise. In the meantime, the demonstrations continued, with Connor still using dogs and water hoses and Governor Wallace sending in armed state troopers to reinforce the Birmingham police. But the boycott was working and Birmingham commerce was suffering heavy losses. Finally, on May 10th, both sides reached a settlement to end the protests in return for desegregating public facilities and making jobs available to blacks. The combination of economic need, aggressive nonviolence, media attention, and especially the persistence and sacrifice of Birmingham’s Blacks had paid off and created the greatest Civil Rights triumph to that point. After the “triumph” of Birmingham, Kennedy proposed federal legislation to give civil rights to southern blacks. He asked Congress for laws “giving all Americans the right to be served in facilities which are open to the public— hotels, restaurants, theaters, retail stores, and similar establishments.” Southern senators, however, blocked passage of the law with a filibuster in Congress, so King responded with one of the more incredible moments in U.S. history, the August 1963 March on Washington. Over 300,000 Americans, black and white, went to Washington, D.C. for the “March for Jobs and Justice” to hear King’s

Figure 8-4 Aerial view showing massive number of marchers stretching from the Lincoln Monument to the Washington Monument during the March on Washington, 1963

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Figure 8-5 Demonstrators at the March on Washington, 1963

famous “I Have a Dream” speech, one of the greatest orations in U.S. history. King dreamed of the United States becoming an “oasis of freedom and justice” in which all Americans would “not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” and he concluded with words from an old Negro spiritual, “Free at last, free at last: thank God almighty, we are free at last.” The March on Washington put great moral force behind the Civil Rights Bill and presented the nation with a historic image of the dignity and strength of King and other African-American leaders. But the legislation was stalled in a Congress which, despite the public’s horror at the scenes from Birmingham and its support of King’s speech, could be quite hostile to African Americans. By late November 1963, with Kennedy’s shocking assassination in Dallas, the future of civil rights was uncertain at best. With a southerner, Lyndon Johnson of Texas, entering the White House, Black leaders who had only won over Kennedy after years of waiting and suffering were nervous and uncertain about the future of racial progress. But Johnson, who considered himself open-minded on racial matters and wanted to emulate Franklin Roosevelt’s appeal to the downtrodden, vowed to carry on Kennedy’s work, pledging his support for the bill and even concluding a televised speech on civil rights with words from the

A New Kind of Democracy? Political and Cultural Developments in the 1960s

old spiritual that served as an anthem for the movement, “We Shall Overcome.” In 1964, then, Johnson used his considerable political skills to secure passage of the Civil Rights Act, which outlawed segregated public accommodations such as restaurants, restrooms, or businesses; authorized the federal government to take legal action on behalf of discriminated individuals; established a federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission [EEOC] to investigate racially-harmful hiring practices; and barred racial discrimination in programs that received federal government money. The militant nonviolence of Birmingham and moral force of Washington had worked magic in 1964, so it seemed. That magic did not make it to Mississippi that summer, however. SNCC and other groups organized Freedom Summer to expose segregation in Mississippi, register black voters, and force the government to act. Black and white students poured into the state to organize local AfricanAmericans and register them to vote, since only about 7 percent of eligible Blacks were registered at that time.

Figure 8-6 President Johnsons signs the 1964 Civil Rights Act as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. look on

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In return, Mississippi Whites began a reign of terror. Even in a region with horrid racial practices, Mississippi stood out for its racist cruelty–as the folk singer Phil Ochs sang “underneath her borders, the devil draws no lines.” Mississippi Whites burned 35 churches and bombed 30 buildings; shot 35 people, severely beat 80 others, and murdered 6, all with little national attention because the victims were African American. In August, however, when Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, CORE workers from New York, along with local activist James Chaney were found dead in a swamp near Philadelphia, Mississippi, the media took notice, likely because Goodman and Schwerner were Whites from the North. Again, the federal government had to act, and the Justice Department sent the FBI to Mississippi to investigate the murders. Even then, as Johnson went to the Democratic convention in Atlantic City, he was still doing little to help Blacks in Mississippi. A sharecropper, the youngest of 20 children in her family, Fannie Lou Hamer was the leader of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, an alternative political group set up by Blacks because the Democratic party itself was all-White and racist. But Johnson refused to seat any blacks from Mississippi in the Democratic delegation at the 1964 party convention, and interrupted Hamer’s impassioned speech with a press conference so the televisions networks would switch away from her to him. Still, Americans both Black and White perceived that Johnson cared about civil rights and he won over 90 percent of the Black vote in November. The relationship between mainstream Blacks and White liberals was at its height. In 1964, Blacks were encouraged by Johnson’s landslide victory, believing that he now had extensive national support to follow through with his commitment to desegregation and build on the success of the Civil Rights Act. At the grassroots level, however, African Americans still were taking action in the streets. In March 1965, King—who had just returned from Norway where he had received the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize— moved into Selma, Alabama to work on a SNCC voter registration project. Blacks began a demonstration, but Sheriff Jim Clark had called together a posse and Governor Wallace deployed 500 state troopers, all of whom met the black marchers at the Edmund Pettus Bridge and beat them with clubs, cattle prods, and bullwhips while White onlookers cheered the assault and television and radio announcers described the White attacks in detail. The events on “Bloody Sunday,” as it became known–and the subsequent murder of a while volunteer, Viola Liuzzo of

A New Kind of Democracy? Political and Cultural Developments in the 1960s

Detroit, shot to death by Klansmen on her way out of Selma– again shocked the nation. Johnson thus went on television just days later to denounce the mobs at Selma and announce plans to secure voting rights for southern Blacks. The resulting legislation, the Voting Rights Act, would mark the high point and, in many ways, climax of the movement. Passed in August 1965, the Act barred literacy tests as a requirement for blacks to vote, and sent federal officials to register African Americans wherever they were being denied the right to vote. After a decade of struggle, the legal barriers to segregation had been eliminated. Court decisions and federal initiatives such as the Civil and Voting Rights Acts now ensured Blacks rights and opportunities they had not enjoyed before, that they should have possessed simply by being born in America. The resistance and sacrifice of King and so many others had paid off. But the movement was now at a crossroads as well. King and others were not content to rest on their success and wanted the struggle to continue, not just in the South but throughout the United States and not just for Blacks but for all poor people. They would soon discover the limits of reform as they took the movement to the North, and, more critically, began to address the issue of class, not just race.

B urn , B aby , B urn ! N orthern R age While the Civil Rights Movement was focused on the legal system of apartheid in the south, now taken apart by the Civil and Voting Rights Acts, many blacks were looking elsewhere, especially northward, and were concerned with issues beyond riding on buses and voting, such as jobs, wages, healthcare, and housing. Many in fact criticized King for working so closely with white liberals and President Johnson, none more so that the followers of Malcolm X, the spokesman for the Nation of Islam, Black Americans committed to the Islamic faith. Malcolm’s background was quite different from King’s. He was an ex- convict who had lived on the streets and represented northern blacks who needed good jobs with good wages, better neighborhoods, and crime prevention and sanitation. Indeed, Malcolm was fond of saying that the U.S. South was “everything below Canada.” Malcolm rejected cooperation with White America and dismissed claims of improvement in black life —“you don’t stick a knife in a man’s back nine inches,” he explained, “and then pull it out six inches and say you’re making progress.”

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Figure 8-7 Malcolm X, 1964

Instead he called on blacks to reject white society and work for their own liberation “by any means necessary.” Malcolm X believed that Civil Rights laws had not come near solving America’s race problems. As he saw it [not unlike C. Wright Mills], so long as Whites controlled social institutions—banks, companies, politics—Black progress would be minimal. Blacks, he urged, should own businesses and run their own neighborhoods and cities. “Once you gain control of the economy of your own community,” he pointed out, “then you don’t have to picket and boycott and beg some cracker downtown for a job in his business.” Importantly, Malcolm, like King and the mainstream Civil Rights movement, was not challenging Capitalism but trying to make it inclusive, to give Blacks a role in the robust private economy that made so many Americans prosperous. To Malcolm, the southern movement had not addressed issues jobs and low wages, housing, health care, or education. Malcolm X, however, never had the opportunity to bring his message to the masses like King had. In February 1965—as he was changing some of his militant nationalist views and reaching out somewhat to King and other Civil Rights groups—he was assassinated by rival Black Muslims. African Americans had been deprived, again, of a powerful spokesman for radical change. Others, however, would follow through on Malcolm’s

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mission, and white liberals would discover than northern blacks had their own critique of American society. In early 1965, King’s own positions had been moving toward Malcolm’s. Still believing in “militant nonviolence” and advocating inclusion in the Capitalist system, King nonetheless had a radical analysis of U.S. society to include the North. “Some of our most nagging problems in the future will be in the big cities of the North on the areas of jobs and schools and housing,” he understood. Indeed, King was becoming more “radical” and advocating a system in which, as in many countries of Western Europe and Scandanavia, the government would provide free health care, create jobs, and more equally distribute wealth. America “must move toward a democratic socialism,” he announced. To a large degree, King’s views were being shaped by the visible anger of northern blacks, and he was responding to grassroots anger as well. In August 1965 Blacks in the Watts section of Los Angeles, following a case of police brutality, rebelled. Over 30 African-Americans were killed, over 100 injured, and over $40 million in property was destroyed. To King, the L.A. uprising was tragic and counterproductive; “fewer people have been killed in ten years of nonviolent demonstrations across the South,” he pointed out, “than were killed in one night of riots in Watts.” Nor did the rebellion lead to jobs or housing, and, in fact, most Whites blamed African Americans for the destruction and found them “ungrateful” for the progress of previous years. In one poll, 75 percent of Whites thought that Blacks were gaining too many rights too soon. King recognized that the movement had entered a new phase and “the paths of Negro-white unity . . . began to diverge.” The “first phase” of Civil Rights, 1954-1965, had been a struggle “to treat the Negro with a degree of dignity, not of equality.” When blacks looked for a “second phase, the realization of equality,” they discovered that many white allies had “quietly disappeared.” Additionally, that first phase was based on the attainment of certain civil and human rights–riding a bus, going to a good school, voting–that did not cost really cost northerners financially. But when King expanded his criticism to include the economy and class politics and others talked of jobs and housing, northern Whites feared that their taxes would rise to pay for such measures and they also, to a degree, resented Black empowerment. Many northern whites believed that the government was not doing enough to help them with their economic problems, which certainly was true in many cases, and

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so did not want Blacks being given assistance at their expense, as they saw it. At the same time, King’s liberal allies had shifted their attentions to Vietnam at the expense of race relations. Indeed, Vietnam was exacerbating the divide between American Blacks and Whites. Twice as many Blacks fought and died in the war, in proportion to population, as Whites, while the United States spent vastly more in Vietnam than on jobs and education combined for African Americans. King also spoke out against the war, and his increasing public criticism of Vietnam in the mid-1960s marked his transformation from a race leader to a radical spokesperson for all poor or struggling Americans. King even suggested that Vietnam was in large part responsible for many of the urban troubles of the era. The racial implications of a war against “gooks” was not unnoticed by people of color in the United States and the behavior of the elite, politicians and police forces, was much like America’s military response in Vietnam. Little wonder, then, that white leaders, who had praised King’s passivism, were now, as the Reverend charged, jumping ship. In the summer of 1966, for instance, King decided to bring the movement to the North, to Chicago, where he would agitate for decent housing in the ghettos and advocate the formation of tenant unions against the slumlords, many allied with Mayor Richard Daley, who controlled black communities. The Chicago campaign, however, was far from successful. As one of King’s close associates, Andrew Young, explained, “genuine school integration, housing integration, and employment opportunity for poor blacks was going to require real sacrifices,” and White people were not as supportive of such goals as they had been to southern desegregation. And King, as Malcolm had earlier charged, did not really understand the depths of urban black rage and his nonviolent, albeit aggressive, approach was called into question, so the movement was constantly on the defensive. King also saw that northern Whites could be quite similar to their southern brethren. During one demonstration, thousands of Whites threw rocks and bottles at King and his associates, burned cars, wore Klan attire, and waved Nazi and Confederate flags. Later, the Reverend would tell reporters that he had “never seen—even in Mississippi and Alabama—mobs as hostile and hate-filled as I’ve seen in Chicago.” To avoid further violence, realtors in Chicago merely “promised” to help blacks find adequate housing, a move which led many blacks to denounce King as a “sellout.” King was, however, more radicalized than ever after Chicago.

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His rhetoric was sounding like the New Left as much as a Baptist minister as he began to link southern Civil Rights, northern racism, economic injustice, and the Vietnam War in a comprehensive critique of corporate liberalism. Throughout 1966-1967, then, he began to more stridently attack the war, call for a guaranteed annual income for all Americans, support union registration and strikes, and consequently, frustrate, if not infuriate, his White allies. Ironically, even as King was becoming more militant, younger blacks were moving far beyond the Reverend, further complicating the African American struggle in America.

B lack P ower ! Even during the heyday of southern desegregation, many black leaders such as Malcolm X, John Lewis of SNCC, Jim Forman, and others sought a more militant posture. By 1966, with memories of Watts and Chicago still fresh and the war in Vietnam growing and taking attention away from antipoverty programs and civil rights, younger African Americans began to abandon the earlier cooperation with Whites that had worked on the Civil and Voting Rights Acts and, instead of focusing on desegregation, now demanded Black Power. Stokeley Carmichael, new president of SNCC in 1966, described Black Power as a “call for black people . . . to unite, to recognize their heritage, to build a sense of community . . . to define their own goals, to lead their own organizations . . . [and] to reject the racist institutions and values of this society.” Black Power grew, developing into a militant political ideology that would significantly change the nature of race discussions in America. King, already being abandoned by white supporters for being too radical, would also come under attack by African-Americans for not radical enough. The movement’s best days, it seemed, were behind it. SNCC and CORE were more frustrated than ever in 1966, as they kicked out White members that year and became more militant. Carmichael insisted that Blacks needed to empower themselves as other ethnic groups—the Irish in Boston, Poles in Chicago, Italians in New York—had done so that they could control their own communities and not depend on the gratitude of supportive politicians who needed African American votes. “We don’t need white liberals,” he announced, “we have to make integration irrelevant.” Dorm rooms throughout the country had posters of Stokely Carmichael with the

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words “Hell No, We Won’t Go”–Carmichael’s advice, like Paul Robeson’s after World War II, to young Blacks to refuse to serve in the military–written on them. “From Mississippi and Harlem to . . . Vietnam,” he explained, “a powerful few have been maintained and enriched at the expense of the poor and voiceless colored masses.” Within the United States, he added, the main barrier to black progress was “a federal government that cares far more about winning the war on the Vietnamese than the war on poverty . . . which is unwilling to curb the misuse of white power but quick to condemn Black Power.” Carmichael had a point. Up to that time most Americans could support the Civil Rights movement as a simple matter of justice and fairness. But Black Power militants—with their advocacy of self-defensive violence, revolution, and separatism, and their solidarity with Vietnamese, Cuban, and African Revolutionaries—terrified Whites, and many established African American leaders as well. More so, the government intensified its surveillance of socalled black subversives. Bringing back the tactics used in the Red Scare against so-called Communists, the FBI revived Operation Cointelpro [Counterintelligence Program] to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit or otherwise neutralize” groups such as the SCLC, SNCC, CORE, and the Nation of Islam. King himself, especially after publicly denouncing the Vietnam War,

Figure 8-8 H. Rap Brown of SNCC at a news conference, 1967

A New Kind of Democracy? Political and Cultural Developments in the 1960s

came under growing attack from the FBI. The FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover monitored and harassed King more than ever in 1967 and 1968, continuing to try to smear him as a Communist and blackmail him with reports on his personal life. The emergence of Black Power marked a distinct turning point in the struggle and the most publicized political group of the day was the Black Panthers, an organization of angry and armed Blacks dramatically different than the SCLC or SNCC in its early days. The Panthers grew out of the Lowndes County [Alabama] Freedom Organization, an African-American political party started in 1966 to run in local elections whose symbol was a black panther. Urban blacks in Oakland, California led by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale subsequently formed the Black Panther Party [BPP] for SelfDefense in late 1966 and became immediate media sensations. They wore black berets and bandoliers, carried weapons, had shootouts with police, and rejected King’s methods. Violence was “as American as cherry pie” according to H. Rap Brown, so the Panthers offered the rhetoric and romance of revolution. The BPP, however, contributed more to the backlash against Civil Rights than to Black empowerment. Though the party never had a significantly large membership and it did sponsor breakfast programs, an ambulance service,

Figure 8-9 Black Panther Party meeting at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., 1970

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schools, and black history classes for children, its behavior terrified Whites. The media and FBI and other law enforcement groups— which ultimately killed about 30 Panthers—convinced Americans that the party was representative of Black thought and thus effectively frightened Whites and smeared the entire African American movement. By 1967, when Heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali refused induction into the army to protest Vietnam, and Blacks in Detroit, Newark, New Jersey, and dozens of other cities staged violent uprisings to protest local cases of police abuse and racial discrimination, Whites were only too willing to believe the worst about Black America. Adding to the distance between the races was the emergence of cultural nationalism and internationalism. “Black Power” became not just a political movement but a statement of racial identification and pride as well. AfricanAmericans, as soul singer James Brown would express it, should “Say It Loud, I’m Black and Proud.” Sam Cooke wrote a soulful, and hopeful, ballad, “A Change is Gonna Come.” Nina Simone continued to perform powerful songs about racial issues. Black men and women started wearing their hair in natural “afros” and often were clad in African-style dashikis. Universities, often pressured by African American activists and students, established Black Studies

Figure 8-10 Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising their arms in a Black Power salute at the 1968 Olympics

A New Kind of Democracy? Political and Cultural Developments in the 1960s

Programs. Musicians, actors and athletes reflected this cultural ideology too, with even mainstream artists like Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye eventually incorporating political themes into their songs, black writers like James Baldwin being read more widely; sports figures Cassius Clay and Lew Alcindor converting to Islam and become internationally famous as Muhammad Ali and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar; Arthur Ashe becoming the first African American to win the U.S. Open in tennis in 1968 and becoming a political activist thereafter; and medalists Tommie Smith and John Carlos being removed from the 1968 U.S. Olympic team because they had raised their gloved fists in a Black Power salute on the victory stand at the National Anthem played.

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Martin Luther King was deeply conflicted by the emergence of black power and cultural nationalism. In April 1967, his sermon “A Time to Break the Silence” shocked both Black and White Americans as he harshly criticized the Vietnam War, pointing out that soldiers of all races were fighting and dying in Vietnam though could not even sit at the same table in the U.S. and infuriating many, especially White liberals, by calling America “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.” Still, King could not support the extremism of the radicals, no matter the legitimacy of their grievances. But many blacks looked to the Panthers and other radicals for examples of African American resistance. King was not unsympathetic to the militants– “Black Power, in its broad and positive meaning,” he wrote, “is a call to black people to amass the political and economic strength to achieve their legitimate goals. No one can deny that the Negro is in dire need of this kind of legitimate power.” Black Power was also “ a call for the pooling of black financial resources to achieve economic security.” While the federal government held primary responsibility to help the poor, to develop “a kind of Marshall Plan for the disadvantaged,” the Black community itself had an annual income of $30 billion, and King, still arguing for an inclusive Capitalist movement, believed it could use such buying power as an instrument for social change. King, however, still fought to make common cause with White allies and his biggest difference with younger blacks was on the question of aggression and violence. The Panthers, quoting Mao, believed that “all power flows from the barrel of a gun.” King, as his associate Jesse Jackson noted, “talked about the

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futility of violence, just in terms of strength.” To take arms against the forces of order in America was “more suicidal than militant.” King had no illusion about the will and ability of the military and police to crush black dissent, having witnessed violence against blacks personally too many times. Despite such distinctions between King and the Black Power advocates, many African American leaders were beginning similarly to focus on the structural economic causes of racial inequality. The Vietnam War had highlighted the shortcomings of liberalism, daily taking away more attention, and funds, from needs at home. America had not just a race problem, Black leaders pointed out, but a significant class problem as well, and after 1965 such issues dominated African American discussions. Americans had paid little notice to the masses of Blacks who did not require legal desegregation. They lived in ghettos, sent their kids to inferior schools, had higher crime and mortality rates, and disproportionately experienced violence. Black Panthers, in their party program, included class-based demands for jobs, housing, education, and “an end to robbery by the CAPITALIST of our black community” as well as racial justice. King, less militantly, agreed. He called on Americans to “honestly admit that capitalism has often left a gulf between superfluous wealth and abject poverty, has created conditions permitting necessities to be taken from the many to give luxuries to the few, and has encouraged small hearted men to become conscience-less.”

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King, however, was talking about class and poverty in 1968 and thus began to organize the Poor People’s Campaign. By this point, he was sounding like an activist of the New Left, offering a comprehensive analysis of race, poverty, and the Vietnam War and attacking corporate liberalism in the process. Thus King sent out a call to the poor and ethnic minorities to join him in a march on Washington D.C. to demand fair employment practices and jobs, housing, health care, justice for immigrants, union rights, and higher wages for the working poor–namely, class issues. Migrant farmers, dirt poor Appalachian whites, Native Americans, women, and Chicanos were among the groups that joined the cause. Linking racism, poverty and the war, King was trying to create a mass movement based on class to restructure American society. Widely praised as a “Negro” leader in the early 1960s, he was

A New Kind of Democracy? Political and Cultural Developments in the 1960s

becoming a “radical” spokesman in 1968—and much of white America was nervous about it. King, by planning the Poor People’s Campaign, forced liberals to confront the limits of their own privilege by calling for a “radical redistribution of economic power” along with an end to the Vietnam War.Like younger radicals, he was attacking the corporate liberal state at its base, the unequal class system that left millions without good jobs, housing, health care, or education. If successful, the Poor People’s Movement could have constituted the greatest challenge to the power elite and the class system in national history; but that would not be the case. In the early years of the movement, White liberals and labor had been crucial and effective supporters of King’s efforts, but, as Andrew Young—one of the organizers of the new campaign—mildly put it, they “were less enthusiastic when it came to social justice for the poor.” The Johnson administration felt great consternation as well. This class-based movement, Young explained, “had the potential of unifying protest against a wide spectrum of ethnic and underprivileged groups [and] it could also raise massive civil disobedience to a new level in American life.” In the senate, Robert Byrd called King a “self-seeking rabble-rouser” and John Stennis told the “colored people” in his home state of Mississippi to stay away from the campaign since “nothing good for them or for anyone else can come from” joining it. The White House tried to stop the march; and Harry McPherson, one of LBJ’s closes aides, complained in a moment of liberal candor that “the Negro . . . showed himself to be, not only ungrateful, but sullen, full of hate and the potential for violence.” With such strong opposition from the Washington political establishment, the Poor People’s chances for success were not great to begin with, and the virtually disappeared during the first week of April 1968. King, working feverishly on the march on Washington, traveled to Memphis, Tennessee that week to show his support for striking sanitation workers. On the night of 3 April, the Reverend, in an eerily prophetic sermon, told a huge crowd at the Masonic Temple “Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain, and I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there

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with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land.” The next evening, while standing on a balcony at the Lorraine Motel, he was assassinated by a sniper. Ironically, the death of the nonviolent King sparked the worst urban uprisings in U.S. history. Violence wracked nearly 200 cities, with scores dead and hundreds of millions of dollars of property destroyed. In Chicago, Mayor Richard Daley gave his police “shoot to kill” orders to deal with rioters; in Maryland, Governor Spiro Agnew—who once referred to the slain Muslim leader as “Malcolm the Tenth”—blamed “Black Power advocates and known criminals” for the crisis. But Stokely Carmichael took a different lesson from the Memphis assassination. “When white America killed Dr. King last night, she declared war upon us. We have to retaliate for the death of our leaders,” he warned. “The only way to survive is to get some guns . . . We are going to stand on our feet and die like men. If that’s our only act of manhood, then goddammit, we’re going to die.” Rap Brown called the uprisings a “rehearsal for Revolution.” The chilling possibility of wide scale political violence arrived in America for the first time in generations. Fortunately, the violence stopped and racial battles were averted, but King’s dream of racial equality and justice for the poor had died in Memphis just the same. Though the Poor People marched on Washington, they were demoralized and dismissed, the name of their encampment, “Resurrection City,” ultimately reflecting only wishful thinking. White America, it seemed, no longer had to care about Blacks. After the progress of 1954-1965, the movement declined as the war in Vietnam and questions of class entered into the Civil Rights equation. By1965, through direct action and federal laws, the apartheid system below the Mason-Dixon line had been abolished. Blacks could eat and work in White-owned restaurants, ride buses, stay in hotels, and vote. In perhaps the most important consequence of civil rights laws, the Black middle class grew and gained economic power; and politically, Blacks gained more clout than ever before, proving to be a vital segment of