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Selected Works of Henry A. Wallace
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Transform Liberal Words Into Concrete Action
We Must Prove Idealism More Practical Than Common Sense
Henry A. Wallace
Speech delivered at testimonial dinner under the auspices of the Union for Democratic Action and The New Republic, January 29, 1945.
From Vital Speeches of the Day (February 1, 1945), v. 11, n. 8, p. 273.
- My dear friends, to you who are drawn to me because we serve the same humanitarian objectives with all the passion of our hearts, I wish to say that for me this is a most heart-warming and soul-stirring occasion. Never have I been so deeply moved.
- The current situation is not one of personalities, neither is it one of personal prestige. My good friend, Senator Bailey, knows that Senatorial rejection will enhance my personal prestige. So far as I know, the Senators who are most vigorously opposing me like and esteem me as a man. As Senator Bailey knows of his own personal knowledge, I have no bitterness in this controversy concerning anyone. But men represent issues and the issues are so important that all of us sooner or later will have to stand up and be counted.
- In this audience are representatives of many groups, which fought for Roosevelt in the last campaign. Roosevelt could not have carried New York State without you. The Democratic party could not have carried Pennsylvania or Michigan or Minnesota or the Far Western States without you and groups like you. You were the balance of power and without you the Democratic party would have been defeated. You have done your part to make the Democratic party into a strong, forward-looking, constructive, progressive, united party. Unfortunately, powerful interests are boring from within and striking from without, striving to make it impossible for a liberal, united Democratic party to remain in national power.
- The one outstanding domestic issue in the campaign was set forth by Roosevelt last October at Chicagosixty million jobs and an "Economic Bill of Rights." Those who voted against me in the committee, and I say this in all charity, either believe in policies which will make sixty million jobs impossible, or wish to destroy all possibility of a progressive Democratic party as a national force.
- Senator Bailey, after the close of the hearing, said to a New York Times reporter:
- "I am not going to vote to put any man in charge of a department of this Government who is going to bring in the millennium by handing out money in all directions."
- Senator Bailey's remark is not warranted by the study of my complete statement and replies to Senatorial questions. The Senator will find that I repeatedly emphasized the need for getting the sixty million jobs so far as possible through private enterprise and private financing. The Senator will find that I referred to the desirability of examining the proposals of Ferdinand Eberstadt for governmental stimulation of the maximum flow of private equity capital as an alternative to excessive debt increase whether private or public.
- As I look toward the future, first through the eyes of those who are attacking me and then through my own, I am overcome with a feeling of profound concern for my country and the world.
- Frank Vanderlip, a New York banker, after World War I, spoke of the creditor position of the United States and the need for action in conformity therewith and then went on to say that we were a nation of economic illiterates. Our economic illiteracy after World War I gave us the smash of 1921, the crash of 1929, and economic conditions abroad, which inevitably led to the rise of fascism and nazism.
- Economic illiteracy is not dead. It can, if not remedied, cause a greater disaster after this war than it did after World War I.
- We may be entering into a period now which politically is somewhat like that of the United States Bank in 1832 when Andrew Jackson, Nicholas Biddle and Daniel Webster were involved. Concentration of financial power is always a dangerous thing. The RFC without Government audit or check has been built up into the modern equivalent of the United States Bank of the Eighteen Thirties. The RFC is the most tremendous financial power the world has ever seen. Modern Daniel Websters have defended it.
- The measure of the power of this octopus is the extraordinary attack which is going on against me right now. With regard to financial power let me quote from a very experienced observer:
- "In our days not alone is wealth accumulated, but immense power and despotic economic domination is concentrated in the hands of a few; and those few are frequently not the owners, but only the trustees and directors of invested funds who administer them at their good pleasure. This power becomes particularly irresistible when exercised by those who, because they hold and control money are able also to govern credit and determine its allotment, for that reason supplying, so to speak, the life blood to the entire economic body, and grasping, as it were, in their hands the very soul of production so that no one dare breathe against their will."
- This is from a statement by one of the world's great leaders and I shall be interested in discovering which newspapers or radio man is the first to identify the author. The analysis, which was made in 1930, still fits. I have pondered many times on the significance of the statement as I have sat in the United States Capitol and watched the economic forces at work.
- The RFC is certain to be a headache for anyone. Even with all the Government auditing I have asked for, even with the Congressional investigation I hope for and which the public has long been entitled to, I can well realize that the tremendous ramifications of the RFC are such as to involve a succession of controversial problems as soon as the war is over. Commerce is the staff agency. RFC is in some measure the front-line action agency. While the Senate would relieve me of a great burden by giving me Commerce without RFC, I feel that from the standpoint of the sixty million workers, the profits of business, the income of farmers, the welfare of the country as a whole, and the protection of the United States Treasury, I could do a better job if the two were combined than if they were separated. Undoubtedly many good men can be found to head the loan agency, but I wish to make it clear to you that if there were serious danger of a "too-little" and "too-late" man being appointed, I would prefer not to be Secretary of Commerce.
- The nation must not be subjected to an economic Munich or Dunkerque. To have 10,000,000 men unemployed is as dangerous to the nation as it was for the British to have 250,000 men on the beaches at Dunkerque. Kaiser, Higgins and a multitude of industrialists like them know the answer and it is the same answer I gave to the Senate committeefull production, full use of all resources. We must give these production-minded men a chance. They must not be ruined by financiers, seeking control through scarcity. Neither must the genius of these men be killed by the end of the war. New Kaisers, new Higginses, new Fords and new Edisons must be given a chance, and small business must be given an opportunity, if the 60,000,000 are to be put to work.
- The people who are fighting against me know that they are not fighting a starry-eyed liberal or mystic. If they really thought that, they wouldn't be worried. They are fighting against sound principles upon which America can survive as a great and prosperous nation. They know that with me in Commerce there would be a continuous campaign for maximum production, maximum sales, maximum exports and imports. They know I would rally business support behind the Department of Commerce to make it the great service institution it ought to be.
- What these people don't realize is that in fighting me they are fighting you and millions like you to the third and fourth generations. Without realizing it they are fighting against the survival of capitalism and free enterprise. The time has come to fight back.
- I still hope and pray for a united, progressive, Democratic party. The strategy of the enemy is to break the Democratic party in two. They want to push you and me into the futility of a third party. I don't think we shall have to have a third party. I think we can win within the framework of the Democratic party, I hope that we are not now in for a political realignment like that which substituted the Republican party for the Whig party nearly a century ago.
- There will be far less trouble in this country if the progressives can find full and free expression in the Democratic party.
- You represent many groups here tonight. You have had your differences. But in the pinches you have fought shoulder to shoulder. The day will come when you will federate together. Already you are agreed on a legislative program. In the "Economic Bill of Rights" you have something specific to sell. Prior to this campaign progressives have been "long" on words and "short" on action. If we really believed in our campaign of last fall, we must get to work to organize nationally behind President Roosevelt's eight-point "Economic Bill of Rights." We must organize and keep organized, ready for action every month of every year. The "Economic Bill of Rights" must be made to live. Those who fight this issue must be defeated in 1946. To do this, strong candidates must be agreed on as long in advance of the 1946 campaign as it is possible to get agreement.
- What a swell job you did here in New York for Roosevelt last fall! You sense the trend of the times and you do something about it.
- We welcome the future joyously. We shall organize an America worthy of our returning heroes. We shall transform our liberal words into concrete action. We shall do something about it when the veterans can't get jobs. Approaching the business, the farm, and the labor problems under the charter of the "Economic Bill of Rights," we shall prove that our idealism is more practical in life than that curious mysticism which is called hard-headed common sense.
- By blood and tradition I am an Anglo-Saxon with all the inhibitions these words imply. But I do have enough Irish blood and enough exposure to Latin American customs so that I would like to give you all an "abrazo." You are all "simpatico" to me. We believe in the same things. We are headed the same way. And that way is upward toward a better America, victorious in war, just in peace, producing ever more abundantly for all our people the good things of life.
- There are two issues in this fight. The first is jobs for all after the post-war boom is over. And the second is like unto itthe Common Man of America can and therefore must be better off in time of peace than he was in time of war.
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Selected Works of Henry A. WallaceN E W D E A L N E T W O R K