74th CONGRESS 1935-1936
March 4, 1935
[Congressman Marcantonio's first comment on the floor of the House was the following objection to an anti-alien bill. Unanimous consent was needed to take up the bill, so that the protests made by Mr. Marcantonio and three other Congressmen prevented its consideration at that session.]
This bill would authorize the Secretary of Labor to institute deportation proceedings against any alien in the United States who engaged in the promotion or dissemination of propaganda instituted from foreign sources. This bill is vicious. It would carry an avalanche of alien and sedition legislation and further persecution of aliens. Let us remember that we are living in 1935 and not in 1917. Let us legislate not by hysteria but by common sense .... I object to this bill.
March 25, 1935
Mr. Marcantonio: Mr. Chairman, we are about to authorize $38,000,000 for naval purposes with less than 38 members present on the floor of the House. In view of the squeamishness that we show when it comes to making appropriations for the unemployed, the veterans, or for farm relief, I think we should give this bill more study and have it presented and debated before a larger membership.
I believe we should not freely and carelessly authorize millions and millions of dollars for war purposes and then preach economy when it comes to appropriating money for a living wage to the unemployed of this Nation.
Mr. Maas: [Minnesota] This is not for war purposes; this is to prevent war. This is for defense purposes.
Mr. Marcantonio: I disagree with the gentleman. Under the guise of defense you prepare for war, and when you prepare for war you are bound to have war. I do not believe it is fair to authorize $38,000,000 without giving this bill more consideration.
Mr. O'Connor: [from the committee on Rules] Mr. Chairman, will the gentleman yield?
Mr. Marcantonio: I yield to the gentleman.
Mr. O'Connor: I do not entirely disagree with the gentleman at all. For one, I feel that the Navy Department is a conceited, self-perpetuating institution that asks more than it is entitled to, but if the gentleman made a point of no quorum he would accomplish no purpose except to put this over to next week. It was on the program to be completed today. There was a unanimous report from the Naval Affairs Committee, with both sides represented. It would pass surely next week. We are anxious to get it out of the way, and I hope the gentleman does not do that, because we have passed appropriation bills, with hundreds of millions of dollars in them, with less than a quorum present. It was expected today there would be no roll call and that the bills would be disposed of.
Mr. Marcantonio: I do not intend to make the point of no quorum, because it would serve no purpose. I intend, however, to register my protest.
I think what we are doing here now illustrates that the policy of this House, during the short time that I have been here, has been simply as follows: When it comes to appropriating or authorizing funds for militaristic purposes there are less than 38 people here and we let these things go right through without scrutiny or careful consideration. There has been neither study nor protest on the part of the majority of the Members. When it comes to farm relief you have the great economists preach against farm relief. When it comes to voting the veterans a bonus you have a close division. When it comes to appropriations for the relief of the unemployed of this Nation we make an inadequate appropriation and we say they must work at an average charity wage of $50 a month. I think this is a proper time for me to register my protest. I agree with the gentleman from New York [Mr. O'Connor] that there is nothing for me to gain by making a point of no quorum, but I cannot sit here and have an authorization of $38,000,000 for war purposes go through with less than 38 members on the floor and with very little or no serious consideration. (Here the gavel fell)
March 26, 1935
[Congress had just defeated an amendment to a relief appropriation bill which would have provided that wages for public works relief projects be set at the local prevailing wage for such work in private industry.]
Mr. Speaker, I believe that we are going through a good deal of shadow boxing this morning and making a great hullabaloo about nothing, because when the Senate and this House voted down the prevailing wage scale amendment the American workers lost their last ditch fight in the Congress of the United States. Whether or not you adopt these Senate amendments, whether you send the joint resolution to conference or do not send it to conference, is immaterial because none of these amendments mean a thing to the wage earners of this nation. We have thrown $4,000,000,000 into the labor market at an average scale of [from] $28 for unskilled labor to about $55 a month for skilled labor .... None of the Senate's amendments remedy this situation, and it is most unfortunate that we cannot do anything here because of our rules. That is why I say we are only shadow boxing here. If this matter comes to a record vote, I am going to vote "present" in order to record my protest against this mockery that is now going on before this House. The spokesmen of the present administration have forced the American workers to surrender their economic gains, acquired after years of struggle on the economic battle front. These spokesmen, by this bill, now say to American labor: "We know you are starving; and if you want to be fed, you must become regimented on the basis of a charity wage scale."
The House failed to protect the workers; the Senate failed to protect them; and here we are now simply wasting time over nothing ....
April 4, 1935
[Congressman McSwain had presented a bill, approved by Bernard Baruch, Chairman of the War Industries Board in World War I, which would, it was claimed, prevent profiteering in time of war.]
If this bill will make war unprofitable, even to a certain percentage, then I believe the House should pass the bill, but if the results of this bill really perpetuate the profit of the profiteers during a war, and if the result of the adoption of this bill is to stave off or head off a real bill which will not only have teeth in it, but which will have fangs in it, then I respectfully submit there is only one thing to do and that is to defeat this bill.
Mr. Chairman, I do not believe there is any disagreement between those of us who are opposed to this bill and the gentlemen who are in favor of this bill as to the, purpose. As a matter of fact, the gentleman from South Carolina, Mr. McSwain himself, said in his report that he believes the profits should be taxed to the extent of 100 percent in order to make war unprofitable. However, he states that his committee does not have the power of inserting tax provisions in a bill; consequently they present this bill without tax provisions ....
I say in reply to that statement that the only manner in which you can eliminate profit from war is to tax the profits made out of war. It is by means of taxation that you eliminate every possibility of profit from war. If that is so, then why present this House an innocuous meaningless bill, one which does not accomplish the very purpose which we seek to accomplish? Why should this bill be presented if it is not the purpose to forestall the consideration of a real bill which will tax the profits out of war?
Mr. Chairman, I have prepared a comparison of the provisions of this bill with the provisions that existed during the World War, and I respectfully submit to the Members of the House that the provisions in the present bill are identical with the provisions which existed during the World War, and if enormous profits were possible under the provisions existing in 1917 and 1918, why will not the same enormous profits be possible and probable in the event of a future war under the present bill, which is a repetition of the war provisions of 1917 and 1918?...
[After a brief debate with Mr. McSwain, Mr. Marcantonio inserted into the RECORD a detailed comparison between the provisions in the bill under consideration and those of the War Acts and Orders of 1917-18 on price-fixing and licensing. He showed that Mr. McSwain's bill proposed no regulations which had not, in effect, been applied by the end of World War I without success in controlling profits. Following this there was further discussion between Mr. McSwain and Mr. Marcantonio, and questions and answers by other Congressmen. The discussion between Mr. McSwain and Mr. Marcantonio concluded:]
Mr. McSwain: [but] Here is a provision to give the President of the United States power which he may invoke immediately on the outbreak of war. The trouble with all those statutes was that they were piecemeal efforts after we got into the war to correct the situation of mounting prices that had already reached mountain heights before we ever declared war ... . We propose now, on the very day we declare war, to clamp down a ceiling on the prices of all commodities, munitions, food, clothing, and prices of every sort and compensation for every service.
Mr. Marcantonio: Exactly! the gentleman's bill will give the President power to select a date prior to war, and to fix prices as of that date, and these war provisions did the same thing and failed to take profits out of war .... Certainly the gentleman will not say that that scheme took the profits out of war?
Mr. McSwain: It was taking the profits out of war.
Mr. Marcantonio: I disagree. It is apparent to everybody that if there ever was a war that was profitable, if there ever was a war where profiteers breeded and lived like parasites on the life of America, it was the war of 1917 and 1918. (Applause)
Mr. McSwain: I agree with what the gentleman states, but does not the gentleman realize that but for the statutes he has cited, and but for the efforts of the War Industries Board, the prices would have been 10 times as high, perhaps, and the profits 10 times as great, and is not the gentleman desirous of making an effort to stop this?
Mr. Marcantonio: I am, but the difference between the gentleman from South Carolina and myself is this: The gentleman's bill, like the war provisions, would leave a certain large amount of profit in war. My opinion, or my idea, as well as the idea of the Nye Committee, is to eliminate all profits from war -- not because we want an efficacious war, not because we are interested in war, but because we want to preserve peace; and when we once have removed all profit from war, you will have eliminated the profit motive from war and you will abolish 75 percent of the cause of war. If you leave any percentage of profit in war, that percentage will be a corresponding contributing percentage in the cause for war ....
On September 6, 1917, the Fuel Administrator fixed the price for all grades of coal. On December 24, 1917, the Fuel Administrator ordered that every sales contract contain a clause giving the Administrator or the President power to fix the price of coal. The War Industries Board, August 21, 1917, set the price for bituminous coal. What happened to coal? Taking the figure 100 as an index of profit, in 1913-14 it was 100, then in 1915 it was 97; in 1916 it was 106; in 1917 it was 160; and after one year of war, after a full year of price control, in 1918 it was 207. How did you take the profits out of the coal industry?
Take wool prices. They were fixed for 1918 by the War Industries Board, which declared that if it be found that the dealer's gross profits are in excess of 5 percent on a season's business, then such gross profits shall be disposed of as the Government decides. And what happened with wool? Again, taking the figure 100 as the basis; for 1913-14 it was 100, in 1915 it was 113, in 1916 it was 139, and in 1917 it was 208.
I have obtained consent and shall insert all of these figures in the RECORD. What I have sought to point out here is that substantially the war provisions of 1917 and 1918 constitute the bill which the Committee on Military Affairs has presented before this House. I respectfully submit that if those provisions failed during the last war, if all they accomplished was to fix prices at a certain level but did not control profits, then we should not repeat the same errors, and the same blunders of 1917 and 1918. I have no quarrel at all with the purpose and intent and the sincerity of the Committee. I believe they are sincere in their purpose, I believe their purpose and mine are the same, but I contend that you cannot accomplish those purposes by means of this bill. It failed in 1917 and 1918 and it would certainly fail again. (Applause)
April 17, 1935
[H. R. 2827, the bill for which Congressman Marcantonio argued in the following debate, was commonly known as the Frazier-Lundeen Bill. It provided that a system of unemployment insurance covering all the unemployed for the full period of unemployment, and paying benefits equal to the prevailing local wage, be set up immediately by the Secretary of Labor. The bill provided for increases should the cost of living rise. Unemployment insurance was to be administered through commissions directly elected by members of workers and farmers organizations. Other forms of social insurance for sickness, old age, maternity, industrial accidents were to be studied and then instituted by the Secretary of Labor. The funds to carry out the provisions of the bill were to be raised by taxes on inheritances, gifts, and individual and corporate incomes of $5,000 a year and over.]
Mr. Chairman, the day before yesterday one of the super-detectives of this House decided to tackle one of the fairest proposals presented to this House, namely H. R. 2827, in detective like fashion. He went around snooping and finally came here, and in dealing with this bill he hurled the cry of "communism" and then continued to repeat "communism." All he saw around this bill was whiskers. He saw a bogeyman and he started to run from it, and he appealed to the House to follow his example. That is the only manner in which this bill has been attacked thus far.
There are two bills before this House which I believe attempt to deal comprehensively with the problem of social security. One is the bill known as H. R. 7260, which fails to accomplish this purpose, and the other is HR. 2827 [the Frazier-Lundeen Bill], which deals adequately and successfully with this problem. We all agree that unemployment insurance and old age insurance are inevitable. They are bound to come in America. We must have unemployment insurance and we must have old age insurance. So therefore the question which comes before this nation at this time is the method by which social security is to be paid. Are you going to place the burden of caring for the poor on the shoulders of the poor, or are you going to place the burden of caring for the poor on the shoulders of the community as a whole, and especially on those who can well afford it? Under the plan in H. R. 7260 we establish a vicious anti-social system. We establish a system whereby the payment for the care of the unemployed and for the care of the aged is to be met by means of various payroll taxes.
I do not believe there is a single man in this House who accepts the statements in this bill to the effect that the tax, in the case of unemployment insurance, is to fall solely on the shoulders of the employer. Anybody who believes that still believes in Santa Claus. We all know that with... 11,000,000 unemployed, with a charity wage scale being imposed throughout the nation on all public works projects, labor has no line of defense against any wage cuts. This 3 percent tax which you say has been leveled on the employer, inevitably must fall on the shoulders of the wage earners of America, because with 11,000,000 potential scabs, labor cannot defend itself against any wage cuts. You cannot escape from it. You are establishing once and for all, if you pass this bill, a vicious anti-social system of having the poor carry the burden of caring for the poor.
I believe that America is the richest nation in the world. In this nation, where we have more wealth than any other nation, I think it is proper we should establish the system proposed under H. R. 2827, whereby ... there should be no hunger, no starvation, and no want; and that the unemployed of this nation, as well as the aged of this nation, should be taken care of by the United States of America, through taxation levied on the large incomes of this nation, putting the burden squarely where it equitably belongs, and not on the poor of this nation as the Doughton bill [H. R. 7260] intends to do .... Everybody recognizes that America's problem today is lack of purchasing power on the part of the American workers; they have practically no purchasing power left. When we attempt to remove a further portion of this purchasing power by payroll taxation we only accentuate the problem, we do not alleviate it...
The Doughton bill does nothing for those at present unemployed. The report states:
"It should be clearly understood that State unemployment compensation plans made possible by this bill cannot take care of the present problem of unemployment. They will be designed rather to afford security against the large bulk of unemployment in the future."
So right in this report we have the admission that under this bill nothing is being done for the present 11,000,000 unemployed. Oh, you may refer to the $4,000,000,000 work relief bill, but, Mr. Chairman, after this $4,000,000,000 is spent in the manner in which it is going to be spent, at an average wage of $50 a month, those unemployed will find themselves right back in the position they are today before the expenditure of the $4,000,000,000.
Mr. Chairman, permit me to say to the Members of the House that the bill H. R. 2827 has received the endorsement of thousands of labor organizations and of hundreds of organizations affiliated with the American Federation of Labor, of social and welfare workers, and of educators throughout the country.
(Here the gavel fell)
Mr. Treadway: Mr. Chairman, I yield 2 additional minutes to the gentleman from New York.
Mr. Marcantonio: The main argument advanced against H. R. 2827 is that there is no difference between the system set up under the bill and the present system of relief whereby the unemployed workers of this nation are paid a charity wage, or a charity dole, forcing them to adopt a standard of living based on charity. This argument is fantastic and silly. Under H. R. 2827 the unemployed workers of this nation during their period of unemployment are paid the wage prevailing in their community at the time of their unemployment. In other words, the unemployed worker will receive the same wages he was receiving at the time he was employed.
Mr. Connery: Mr. Chairman, will the gentleman yield?
Mr. Marcantonio: I yield.
Mr. Connery: And there is no tax on payrolls which, eventually, has to be paid by the workers themselves?
Mr. Marcantonio: The gentleman is correct. The only tax levied under H. R. 2827 is a tax on the large incomes of this Nation, where taxation to support this kind of legislation should be placed.
The difference between this bill and relief is that with relief you reduce the American worker to a charity level and lessen his purchasing power, destroy his morale and self-respect, whereas under H. R. 2827 the American worker retains his purchasing power. During his period of unemployment, under the provisions of H. R. 2827, the American worker would retain not only his purchasing power but his standard of living and his self-respect, and, more important than all, he can raise his head high and say, "I am proud to be an American citizen." (Applause)
(Here the gavel fell)
April 24, 1985
Mr. Chairman, in my 10 minutes I am not going to address myself to any particular important features of this bill [for increasing the size of the Navy]. I prefer to wait until the bill is read under the 5 minute rule .... I will offer a lot of criticisms to this bill under the 5 minute rule, because I do not want to be so presumptuous as to discuss an important subject like this before such a large gathering of the Membership of this House, to wit, 24 Members present. (Laughter)
However, at this time, I take the opportunity of calling to the attention of Members present, and I hope to the country at large, a very illuminating item which appears on page 61 of the hearings and which reads as follows: Admiral Standley: "I will take up next the item covering Navy activities abroad, including relief work, since the last hearing." Then the items are listed till he comes down to number 5, and in item number 5 we find the following:
"5. Yangtze Patrol: Communism and banditry in Szechuan, Hunan, Kueichan, and other Yangtze River Provinces have continued to demand the presence of the Yangtze Patrol, which affords protection to Americans in the Yangtze Valley between Chungking and Shanghai. The landing of a party from one of the gunboats at Foochow in conjunction with other nationalities undoubtedly did much to maintain the peace of that city during the Fukien rebellion."
I thought it was the unusual prerogative of my good friend from New York [Mr. Dickstein] to defend the United States against communism, but I see the Navy Department is competing with the activities of the Committee on Immigration and Naturalization. In other words we have now made it our business not only to protect the United States, through Mr. Dickstein, against communism, but we have seen to it that it is our naval policy to protect China against communism.
Mr. Dickstein: Will the gentleman yield?
Mr. Marcantonio: Yes.
Mr. Dickstein: The gentleman from New York [Mr. Dickstein himself] never attempts to protect any other nation against communism but his own.
Mr. Marcantonio: Then the gentleman agrees with me that the Navy should not be competing with the gentleman from New York, in China?
Mr. Dickstein: The Navy should mind its own business and look after the United States.
Mr. Marcantonio: I agree with the gentleman that the Navy should mind its own business. I certainly do not criticize the gentleman from New York [Mr. Dickstein] for resenting the competition which the Navy has given him on the subject of communism. He has an exclusive monopoly on that business. The hearings do not indicate how many ships we have in China protecting China from Chinese communism, and also, incidentally from rebellions. We are determined that China can no longer have a rebellion of its own .... I do not know why the hearings do not disclose how many ships we have down there, but I submit to gentlemen of the committee on both sides of the House that that is important. I had to get the information from one of the clerks of the committee. I find we have six gunboats in China today, and that for 1934 these gunboats cost the United States $676,031.49. Right here, I think that the gentlemen of the committee who have been preaching naval defense, who have been saying these enormous expenditures are absolutely and vitally necessary, will find opportunity to economize to a certain extent.
It may be argued of course that we need these ships over there to protect our missionaries. Nobody will say that we need them to protect the Standard Oil interests or other commercial interests. Of course not They always give us a holier than thou defense.
I think we ought to stop being so silly about this matter and revert, for instance, to the policy as contained in a statement of President Roosevelt and also in a statement of the Secretary of State.
The Secretary of State on December 19, 1933, said as follows:
"Under the Roosevelt administration the United States Government is as much opposed as any other government to interference with the freedom, the sovereignty, or other internal affairs or processes of the government of other nations. No government need fear any invasion on the part of the United States under the Roosevelt Administration."
Then we have the statement of the President himself on December 28, 1933. At a dinner of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, President Roosevelt declared as follows:
"The definite policy of the United States from now on is one opposed to armed intervention. The maintenance of constitutional government in other nations is not, after all, a sacred obligation devolving upon the United States alone."
In view of that statement of policy on the part of President Roosevelt, in view of that statement of policy on the part of the Secretary of State -- and I presume they meant what they said when they said it I submit that we could very well save $676,031.49 by taking those gunboats and sending them back home where they belong. I am not interested in making China safe from communism. I am not interested in protecting sellers of religion or sellers of products. I am not interested in those who go to China for huge profits. They take the profits; let them take the risks. I am interested in minding our own business and protecting the American youth by keeping out of war.
May 4, 1935
[The "several people who had been arrested" to whom Congressman Marcantonio refers below were ten miners, charged with "conspiracy to commit murder" during a demonstration at the trial of a union leader. In the final disposition of the case the jury found three guilty with a recommendation to mercy, and acquitted seven. The former were given prison sentences of forty five to sixty years at hard labor, and deportation proceedings were immediately instituted against most of the latter to force them to return to Mexico.]
Mr. Speaker, I rise to call the attention of the House to the unfortunate situation which exists in Gallup, New Mexico, where an attorney by the name of David Levinson and a labor leader and journalist by the name of Robert Minor have been kidnapped and brutally beaten. Both of these gentlemen went to New Mexico for the purpose of arranging for the defense of several people who had been arrested on a charge of murder after a so-called "riot" had taken place several weeks ago in front of the courthouse. This labor lawyer and this labor journalist went there for the sole purpose, I repeat, of arranging for the defense of men who were charged with murder, men who were held without baiL Both Levinson and Minor were placed in an automobile, brutally beaten, and taken across the border, and were found in the State of Arizona.
Mr. Speaker, I respectfully submit that this case comes entirely within the Lindbergh Kidnapping Act adopted by this Congress. I also submit that it is high time that Members of the House as well as Members of the Senate, and every liberty-loving person, every person who believes in the Constitution of the United States, especially in the first ten amendments to the Constitution, should rally around this cause and see to it that the Attorney General of the United States takes action to prosecute those terrorists who are making a scrap of paper of the Constitution of the United States.
May 16, 1935
Mr. Chairman, a question was addressed to me by the gentleman from Texas [Mr. Blanton] as to whether or not I would join him in a movement to deport Communists, and my answer was 'no.' My answer is still 'no.'
I do not believe in the deportation of any man or woman because of the political principles that they hold. Irrespective of what a person advocates, he or she should not be molested, because our Government has been based upon the principles of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion and freedom of thought.
I disagree with the Communists. I emphatically do not agree with them, but they have a perfect right to speak out and to advocate communism. I maintain that the moment we deprive those with whom we extremely disagree of their right to freedom of speech, the next thing that will happen is that our own right of freedom of speech will be taken away from us. Freedom of speech, if it means anything, means freedom of speech for everyone and not for only those who agree with us or who are in the majority. The founders of our Nation intended freedom of speech to mean freedom of speech for all, especially for the smaller minorities. They keenly felt the necessity for this protection. They had been persecuted by Tories and reactionaries. Then they were called "rebels" and hounded by bigots and suppressionists of that day. Today the brothers of the Tories of 1776 would abolish what the rebels of 1776 have given us -- freedom of speech.
American institutions are too sound for us to be afraid of any preachings from anyone ....
I respectfully submit, Mr. Chairman, that we in America should adhere to the fundamental principles laid down in the first ten amendments of the Constitution of the United States. Our progress, our very civilization, is based on freedom of speech, freedom of thought, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion, and for this reason I am opposed to deporting anybody, irrespective of what they may preach. I further submit that, in taking this position, I am just as good an American as the gentleman from Texas; if not better. (Applause)
May 29, 1935
[In the early period of the New Deal many laws providing for social and economic changes to meet the needs of the people during the depression were held unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
Senator Robert LaFollette Jr. read to the Senate a statement by Congressman Marcantonio and three other Members of the House urging "a second constitutional convention to rewrite the basic law in order to realize the new age of economic liberty and democracy." The statement read in part:]
Mr. LaFollette: Mr. President, I have been requested to ask to have placed in the RECORD a statement signed by four Members of the House of Representatives relating to the recent decisions of the Supreme Court, "We believe that the recent decisions of the Supreme Court declaring the Railway Pension Act, the National Industrial Recovery Act, and the Frazier-Lemke Act unconstitutional have clarified the befogged atmosphere caused by the gold clause decision.
"The Court has clearly defined the powers of Congress to deal with the economic and social conditions that confront America today. In no uncertain terms it has served notice on Congress that the Constitution is not a flexible document, to be interpreted liberally and in the light of present day conditions but rather an instrument that must be interpreted with relation to the time, conditions, and ox cart economy of the days when it was written.
"The great problem of the twentieth century is how to organize our economy so that the abundance which our country is capable of producing can be enjoyed by all citizens. Quite recently a Government financed survey brought out the fact that an average income of $4,370 per family is possible in the United States if our productive forces are fully used.
"The American people are interested in this fact. They are becoming generally aware of the truth that there would be more than enough to go around, if we were to turn our efforts to the production of goods rather than to limiting production. They are beginning to think in terms of an economy of abundance, and they are beginning to ask what the President and the Congress propose to do in order to bring about this economy of abundance.
"In 1787 the founding fathers called the first Constitutional Convention and courageously wrote a new instrument realizing the era of political liberty and democracy which had grown out of feudalism. In full harmony with the spirit of the founders we now urge upon the State legislatures that they take immediate steps for the calling of a second constitutional convention to rewrite the basic law in order to realize the new age of economic liberty and democracy which lies before us if we have the courage and intelligence to strive for it. We hold that this is essential to the carrying out of the basic aims of the Constitution, to "form a more perfect union, establish justice, provide for the common defense, insure domestic tranquility, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity." [signed] Vito Marcantonio, New York - George J. Schneider, Wisconsin - Ernest Lundeen, Minnesota - Thomas R. Anilie, Wisconsin
June 5, 1935
Mr. Marcantonio: . .. . Here [in a bill stating".. . The President may order officials of the National Guard of the United States to active duty in an emergency at any time and for any period"] you have no specification or definition of the word "emergency"... the only emergency that I can think of is a labor trouble or a strike, and I believe that whoever sponsors this bill -- and I say "whoever" advisedly because I notice the chairman of the committee says that he introduced the bill by request -- must have had the only possible emergency in mind, to wit, labor disputes. I am opposed to the use of any branch of the military during a labor struggle.
Mr. Faddis: Is the gentleman from New York afraid it will be a bunch of Communists?
Mr. Marcantonio: Whether the strikers are Communists or not I am not interested. I am not interested in the politics of the strikers. I am interested in the protection of American workers when they strike for a living wage, and insist that they should not be forced back to inhuman conditions at the point of the bayonet.
[Floor discussion by several other Congressmen is omitted here]
Mr. Speaker, up to the present moment the discussion has not revealed a single reason showing the necessity for this legislation. Just what is the emergency that requires the enactment of this legislation? Certainly it is not the emergency of war, yet nobody here advances even a theory as to just what is the emergency. I address this question to every member of the committee: What is the emergency for which we are providing?
As for the suggestion of the gentleman from Pennsylvania, [Mr. Faddis] that I am seeking to protect Communists, may I again say to him that I shall always try to protect labor, irrespective of the political belief of the workers involved. Labor has certain rights and I am not going to permit these rights to be destroyed simply because you do not like the politics of any group in the labor organizations. Their politics is their business and not ours. Their right to strike is our business and we should be ever vigilant to protect it. The cry of communism is the old war cry of strikebreakers. They charge strikers with being Communists and under the guise of a false patriotism they smash union headquarters, send strike leaders to jail, and force labor back to work under intolerable conditions.
The use of the military in strikes has been too frequent in the past, and the danger of this bill is, as I see it, that the term "emergency" can only too readily be construed to mean a labor dispute .... Unless the members of this Committee can define specifically the emergency they have in mind, I submit there is no excuse, reason, or justification for this bill. I have grave fears about it. Wage cuts will soon take place. The narrow definition of "interstate" given by the Supreme Court in the N. R. A. case [on minimum wage regulations] will act as a signal to exploiters of labor to increase hours and cut wages. Labor will be forced to strike. Will such a situation be considered an emergency? I believe it may. Why pass such legislation as this, which may permit the fixed bayonets of the military to charge on the American workers, who may soon be out on strike for a decent American living wage? [The measure was defeated]
June 29, 1935
[The measure which Congressman Marcantonio supported in the following speech was Senate Bill S. 2796 "to provide for the control and elimination of public utility holding companies operating or marketing securities in interstate and foreign commerce and through the mails, to regulate the transmission and sale of electric energy in interstate commerce, to amend the Federal Water Power Act, and for other purposes". This was passed, and succeeding legislation made possible the continuation and extension of T. V. A. and other Federal power installations.]
Mr. Chairman, it is not a pleasant thing for me to take a position which is diametrically opposed to a position taken by a majority of my own party. [Mr. Marcantonio had been elected as a Republican in 1934. See introduction.] At this time I want to submit to them a simple proposition. Is it sound republicanism for members of my party to brazenly stand in the well of this House and defend the nefarious practices of the Electric Bond and Share Co., as was done yesterday? Is it republicanism to stand in the well of this House and attack a policy which eventually will bring about the use of the power and light of this Nation for the benefit of the consumers of this Nation? If you call that republicanism, then you have a perfect right to challenge my republicanism; but between that republicanism and the republicanism of Abraham Lincoln, I shall take my stand with the old fashioned conservative republicanism of Abraham Lincoln and not the extreme reactionary republicanism that was expressed yesterday in the well of this House.
Mr. Chairman, charges have been made that this proposition of the so-called "death sentence" for public utilities holding companies is radical. We are always accused of radicalism when we advance an idea for the benefit of the American consumers. Let me say this in answer: If it be radicalism to believe that when God said, "Let there be light," that that light should be used for the benefit of all of the American people and not for the sole benefit of a few exploiters; if it be radicalism to believe that our national resources should be used for the benefit of all of the American people and not for the purpose of enriching just a few; if it be radicalism to smash, to abolish, and to surgically eradicate these companies which have been throttling the life of America and siphoning out the lifeblood of American consumers, then, ladies and gentlemen of this House, I accept the charge. I plead guilty to the charge; I am a radical, and I am willing to fight it out on this issue until hell freezes over. (Applause)
Mr. Michener: Mr. Chairman, will the gentleman yield?
Mr. Marcantonio: Yes.
Mr. Michener: I have much respect for the gentleman's sincerity. The gentleman always says the things that he believes. As a matter of fact, the gentleman is for and believes in and would do anything he could legitimately to bring about Government ownership of all public utilities, would he not?
Mr. Marcantonio: I believe in the proposition of the Federal Government aiding municipally owned enterprises which operate and own their public utilities, so that the people will get the benefit of that which belongs to the people.
[Congressman Marcantonio had offered an amendment to the Veteran's Bonus Bill, providing that veterans on relief or work relief who received the cash bonus should not be discharged from relief rolls or work projects.]
Mr. Chairman, at the very outset I desire to go on record not only as favoring this bill, but to state that an excellent piece of work was done in preparing a united front for the principle of the immediate payment of the adjusted service certificates [Veteran's Bonus].
There is just one feature of this bill to which I would call the attention of the Members, and that is the question of relief, the question of protecting the unemployed veteran. What is to happen to the unemployed veteran if this bill becomes a law? The moment an unemployed veteran receives any benefits under this bill he will immediately be discharged from relief, work relief, W.P.A. [Works Progress Administration] or direct relief, because, under the relief regulations, the F. E. R. A. [Federal Emergency Relief Administration] rules, and the W.P.A. rules, any person having any means is not given direct relief nor is he given work relief. For instance, any person who has an insurance policy is required to surrender the policy for its cash value, and he is not granted relief until the funds derived from the cash-surrender policy are exhausted. Carrying this further, the W.P.A. and the F. E. R. A. have insisted that veterans who had not borrowed on their adjusted service compensation certificates had to do so before they would be granted relief, or, if they were on relief and borrowed, they were automatically discharged from the relief rolls, or from the W.P.A., until the money received for their certificates had been spent to the satisfaction of relief bureaucrats.
It may be argued of course, that if you give the unemployed veteran his adjusted service certificate in cash, he is not entitled to relief, but I answer such argument by stating that if you are interested in the veterans, if you are earnestly and sincerely in favor of the immediate cash payment of the adjusted service certificates, that with the bill in its present shape, what you would be doing in the case of the unemployed veteran would be simply to give him a lump sum relief payment. You would not be giving him any bonus, you would simply be giving him relief in a lump sum; and you would be, therefore, discriminating against the unemployed veterans. If there is any ... reason for the immediate payment of the bonus it is because of the large number of veterans who are in need. If you are going to give these men a certain sum of money and then throw them off relief, their money will be gone before they have actually received it ....
I think we should do all we can to protect the unemployed veteran; otherwise in the place of a bonus you are giving him a lemon which has already been through the wringer.
Mr. Chairman, I am going to vote for the bill irrespective of whether my amendment is adopted or not. I am sincerely for the bill, and will support it because I am and have always been 100% for the bonus, but I intend to protect the unemployed veterans in the United States at the same time.
January 13, 1936
[On January 13, 1936, Congressman Marcantonio introduced the following joint resolution, H. J. Res. 449. The resolution was accepted.]
Resolution: To authorize the Secretary of Labor to appoint a board of inquiry to ascertain the facts relating to health conditions of workers employed in the construction and maintenance of public utilities.
Whereas four hundred and seventy six tunnel workers employed by the Rinehart and Dennis Company, contractors for the New Kanawha Power Company, subsidiary of the Union Carbide and Carbon Company, have from time to time died from silicosis contracted while employed in digging out a tunnel at Gauley Bridge, West Virginia; and
Whereas one thousand five hundred workers are now suffering from silicosis contracted while employed in the construction of said tunnel at Gauley Bridge, West Virginia; and
Whereas one hundred and sixty nine of said workers were buried in a field at Summerville, West Virginia, with cornstalks as their only gravestones and with no other means of identification; and
Whereas silicosis is a lung disease caused by breathing in silicate dust, this dust causing the growth of fibrous tissue in the lung gradually choking the air cells in the lung and bringing about certain death; and
Whereas this condition has existed for years and all efforts to expose it have been thwarted; and
Whereas there are other similar conditions existing in the United States in said industry: Therefore be it RESOLVED BY THE SENATE AND HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA IN CONGRESS ASSEMBLED, That (1) the Secretary of Labor shall immediately appoint a board of inquiry to make a prompt and thorough investigation of all facts relating to health conditions of workers employed in the construction and maintenance of public utilities.
[In accordance with the foregoing resolution hearings were held by a congressional committee of which Congressman Marcantonio was a member. He summarized the findings of this committee in the following article which appeared in The New Republic of March 5, 1936.]
There is nothing new about silicosis. The Ptolemies knew of it. Pliny the Elder referred to it as "the stonecutter's disease," and Aristotle warned Greek workmen against it. Medical records of the past two thousand years are dotted with descriptions of its cause and effect. International conferences have been called to discuss means of combating it. The United States Bureau of Mines has issued hundreds of bulletins describing it as the most prevalent and most dangerous industrial disease known to man.
With the exception of inadequate legislation in eleven states making silicosis a compensable disease, not a single State or Federal statute has been passed to protect American workers against it.
This amazing paradox was the principal factual nugget in the vein of tragedy uncovered this winter by our congressional investigation into construction of the "tunnel of death" at Gauley Bridge, deep in the mountains of West Virginia.
When the House Labor subcommittee appointed to do the task began its investigation two months ago, it was inclined to look askance at references to Gauley Bridge and neighboring towns as villages of the living dead. The committee knows better now. It has heard doctors, social workers and investigators describe the ghost towns whose male population has been decimated by the creeping death called silicosis. It has heard from the lips of the dying and the widows of the dead the horrors of a dust-filled hole through a West Virginia mountain where, after a matter of months, men choked up and died. It has heard a mother, whose eyes were those of a stricken animal, tell of the slow strangulation within the course of 13 months of her three young and vigorous sons, and of the youngest who asked that he be "cut open after he was dead so the doctors could find out what had killed him."
And, greatest tragedy of all, it has found irrefutable proof that the disaster at Gauley Bridge need not have happened at all.
When, in 1932, a Union Carbide subsidiary, the New Kanawha Power Company, decided to construct a water power tunnel at Gauley Bridge, preliminary surveys and test borings revealed large deposits of almost pure silica in the path of the project. Now, silica is an extremely valuable rock. It is essential in glass manufacture and certain metallurgic processes. To another Union Carbide subsidiary, manufacturing metallurgic equipment in a nearby West Virginia town, the discovery came as a godsend, and the Charlottesville, Virginia contractors Rinehart and Dennis were consequently instructed to increase the size of their shafts when passing through the rich silica deposits.
From that point on the venality of the contractors was almost beyond conception. Disregarding even the most elementary health and safety precautions and the warnings of the West Virginia Bureau of Mines (which, incidentally had no authority in the matter since this was not a mine but a tunnel), they pushed the job with presumably but one thought in mind -- speed means money.
Ten-hour work shifts, "dry" drilling with ten of the sixteen drills which were in operation at once, operation of gasoline motors in the headings, and inadequate and at times nonexistent ventilation in these modem Black Holes of Calcutta; working conditions which witnesses could only describe as "hellish."
"Silica dust covered us from head to foot, got in our hair, our eyes, our throats, befouled our drinking water" witness after witness testified.
"You couldn't see ten feet ahead of you even with the headlight of the donkey engine" "Strong, husky men gasped, choked and collapsed on the ground and were carried outside to revive" "Men died like flies" "the labor turnover in Negro workers was tremendous" "You couldn't tell a white man from a colored man fifteen feet away" "The paymaster told the assistant superintendent: 'I knew they was going to kill those niggers within five years, but I didn't know they was going to kill them so quick"'
Wet drilling, so called because a stream of water plays constantly over the points of the drills, would have cut the dust hazard to a minimum, but wet drilling is slower and therefore more expensive. Masks? Masks cost money! It was cheaper, the company found, to diagnose the wracking cough which within a few weeks attacked the workers as "pneumonia" or the more mysterious "tunnelitis," to dole out pills -- "little black devils" -- for everything from a cracked skull to an infected toe.
Of course, men died. Just how many the committee has not been able to determine, but the estimates run all the way from two [hundred] to five hundred. The company, adopting the role of undertaker with both neatness and dispatch, quickly solved that problem. There is a field of waving corn in the nearby village of Summerville. Beneath the corn lie the bodies of an untold number of men who died in the "tunnel of death" at Gauley Bridge. The local undertaker, hired by the company to perform mass burials at $50 a head, doesn't know how many he buried in that field. His records have been "lost."
Silica eats through tempered steel. What it does to the human lungs is almost beyond belief. One of the most dramatic committee exhibits are the lungs of a worker who died of acute silicosis. Parts of it the size of your fist are petrified clear through -- veritable chunks of silica rock.
But that's what silicosis means -- a gradually increasing agony as little by little the fine particles of silica fill up the air cells of the lungs and cause what is literally death by strangulation.
Hundreds of lawsuits have resulted from the tragedy that is Gauley Bridge, since until recently the disease was not compensable in West Virginia.
"It's a racket!" the company howls, but I prefer the definition of Senator Holt of West Virginia: "The most horrible industrial disaster in the history of the world and a permanent black mark on the record of American industry."
[The findings Mr. Marcantonio described above forced the revision of Department of Labor regulations governing working conditions in the industry. They produced stricter enforcement of existing regulations, and also led to more favorable decisions in silicosis compensation cases at Gauley Bridge and elsewhere.]
February 11, 1936
Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee, when people talk of Abraham Lincoln in these days it seems they have relegated the real Abraham Lincoln to the dusty shelves of the library, and picture Abraham Lincoln in the light of a kindly old giant who never hurt anybody. As a matter of fact, the real Abraham Lincoln was a vigorous fighter, and I believe the most outstanding fighter in the history of our country for the rights of the masses. He stands out as the greatest opponent of entrenched wealth in the history of the Nation.
History is beginning to repeat itself .... the crisis which confronted Abraham Lincoln and the people of our country at that time was precipitated by the same tribunal [The Supreme Court] which is now precipitating the crisis which confronts the American people.
At that time the power of Congress to legislate for the welfare of the American people was challenged by the Supreme Court in the Dred Scott decision.
Once again the power of the representatives of the American people to legislate for their welfare has been challenged in the contemporary decisions of the Supreme Court. [The Supreme Court had recently declared the National Recovery Act and The Agricultural Adjustment Act unconstitutional.]
Once again, with an impoverished American farmer, with 12,000,000 unemployed, with 22,000,000 dependent on public charity, with entrenched wealth ruthlessly carrying on its exploitation, and with the laws enacted by Congress declared invalid, America faces a crisis as grave as it did in 1857. Once again America is at the crossroads. It must choose between a dictatorship of reaction or a more equitable economic and social system.
Inasmuch as this is a period of strife, it becomes necessary to look back to that period of crisis and strife and seek guidance from the teachings, actions and policies of the great leader of that period, Abraham Lincoln.
I accordingly want to quote the real Abraham Lincoln, the fighting Lincoln, on some of the issues which confronted him at that time, and which are confronting us today.
In dealing with the power of the Supreme Court to nullify acts of Congress, I quote Abraham Lincoln in his first inaugural message, in which he stated as follows:
"If the policy of the Government upon vital questions affecting the whole people is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, the instant they are made the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned their Government into the hands of that tribunal."
Then, again, in his reply to Douglas, he said, referring to the Dred Scott decision:
"Somebody has to reverse that decision, since it is made, and we mean to reverse it, and we mean to do it peaceably."
But the inexorable forces of history changed even Lincoln's tactics, and he was forced to take up the sword in order to reverse the decision of the Supreme Court.
Then, again, in attacking the Dred Scott decision, Lincoln held up the Declaration of Independence in contrast to the majority opinion in the Dred Scott decision, and he defined the Declaration of Independence as "a stumbling block to all those who, in after times, might seek to turn a free people back into the hateful path of despotism."
It is also very significant that Abraham Lincoln rarely ever quoted Alexander Hamilton, but quoted Thomas Jefferson. The favorite quotation from Jefferson which Lincoln used was the following:
"You seem to consider the judges the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions -- a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy."
Let us also remember that when Lincoln fought the Court he did it in a two fisted manner. He did not mince words. He spoke straight from the shoulder. Throughout the Nation he sent this ringing challenge. He said:
"The Supreme Court has got the doctrine of popular sovereignty as thin as homeopathic soup that was made by boiling the shadow of a pigeon that had starved to death." (Laughter)
Apply that statement to the decision in the N. R. A. [National Recovery Act] and the decision in the A. A. A. [Agricultural Adjustment Act] cases and you find it just as forcefully correct as at the time he said it. Lincoln meant business. He did not shadowbox. He did not spar for time. He did not wait for any conventions, nor did he send up any trial balloons. When Lincoln was confronted with a Court which attempted to frustrate his successful carrying out of the war, he simply turned around and he changed the Court. From 5 members he increased it to 10 members on March 3, 1863, by Act of Congress of the United States. Lincoln did not wait for a constitutional amendment. He faced realities. He was a realist. The Court had issued a challenge. He met that challenge by asserting the right of the representatives of the people in Congress assembled to use the Constitution of the United States to curtail the powers of the Supreme Court. (Applause)
At that time Abraham Lincoln was being attacked by "Liberty Leaguers" [the Liberty League was an anti-New Deal organization of the 1930's sponsored by big businessmen] and other reactionaries of his day. He had had bitter experiences with these people. War profiteers, especially, who founded a fortune by purchasing condemned rifles from the Government for practically nothing and then selling these same worthless rifles back to the Government at exorbitant prices. How history does repeat itself! The descendants of these Civil War profiteers profited largely out of the last war, and when investigated set up a howl about protecting the memory of the 1917 war leaders. I have just given you a brief history of the house of Morgan. War profiteers, industrialists, and other so-called respectable citizens were attacking Abraham Lincoln, and they were calling him a radical. They did not call people Communists in those days. That word was not well known. Now it has become a fad. Whenever they want to draw a herring across the trail, whenever they want to dodge an issue or protect nefarious plundering of the American people, they call a person a Communist. But in those days they did not use the word "Communist,"... they called him radical.
Lincoln foresaw that a struggle was to take place between labor and capital in the United States; that the captains of entrenched wealth were going to try to own this Government and to use this Government in order to protect their private enterprises at the expense of the masses of this Nation and to further their exploitation of the American people. Lincoln, in his message to Congress on December 3, 1861, stated his position in words that will always live. He said:
"Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital and deserves much the higher consideration."
When people today seek to break strikes and destroy labor organizations, let them remember that Lincoln said:
"Thank God that we have a system of labor where there can be a strike."
We hear a great deal today about curtailing free speech. People advance the theory that free speech should be curtailed because some people seek to overthrow the Government by violence. They are worried about overthrowing the Government by violence. Mr. Chairman, if there is any danger to our basic democratic principles of Government that danger does not come from any Communist; it does not come from any so-called radical; it does not come from the left; but it comes from the right; from the Tories of today, the Bourbons of today, from the reactionaries of 1936. They are the ones who are boring from within. They are boring into the very vitals of our fundamental institutions, ever ready to strike -- yes, with violence -- for a dictatorship of reaction in America .... [Here there were several interruptions and brief answers. Then Mr. Marcantonio continued.]
They use two things. Whenever the American worker or American farmer organizes for a decent living in America these people either call out the National Guard, vigilantes or other things to break strikes, or they go to the Supreme Court and cry, "Liberty" and "State Rights."
Now let us see what Lincoln said.. In his first inaugural address and remember this when you enact riders to curtail freedom of speech or academic freedom:
"This country with its institutions belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their Constitutional right of amending it, or their revolutionary right to dismember and overthrow it."
In conclusion there is one question I want to ask. If a school teacher in the District of Columbia teaching under the law enacted last year [Kramer Bill -- See Page 67] should read this inaugural address to her children tomorrow morning on the anniversary of Lincoln's birth, would she receive her salary at the end of the month? (Applause)
February 13, 1936
Mr. Chairman, it is my purpose at this time to point out to the membership some of the statements contained in some of the military manuals issued by the War Department.
From 1928 to 1932 in Army Training Manual No. 206625 there appears the following official War Department definition of democracy:
"Democracy: A government of the masses. Authority derived through mass meeting or any other form of direct expression. Results in mobocracy. Attitude toward property is communistic negating property rights. Attitude toward law is that the will of the majority shall regulate, whether it be based upon deliberation or governed by passion, prejudice, and impulse without restraint or regard for consequences. Results in demagogism, license, agitation, discontent, anarchy."
This is the definition of democracy which the War Department taught to thousands of American soldiers. If there was anything more subversive than this definition of democracy ever issued in any publication, I would like to know it. There is very little difference between this definition and that given to democracy by the Nazis. However, I want to state in all fairness, that this publication was withdrawn after it had been used for 4 years, 1928-32.
I now come to a contemporary manual, and it deals with domestic disturbances. It is entitled "Basic Field Manual, Volume VII: Military Law, Part Three; Domestic Disturbances." This is what is advocates
Mr. Parks: [Chairman of SubCommittee on War Appropriations] Is that a War Department document?
Mr. Marcantonio: It is; yes, sir. It is printed by the United States Government Printing Office; and on the second page it says: "War Department, Washington, August 1, 1935. Part 3, Domestic Disturbances, Basic Field Manual, Volume VII, Military Law, is published for the information and guidance of all concerned .... By order of the Secretary of War, Douglas MacArthur, General, Chief of Staff. "
Mr. Parks: It is not a document for public distribution, is it? It is a secret document that deals with the secrets of the United States.
Mr. Marcantonio: it is not secret. It is the Basic Field Manual. I do not consider that a secret. It is distributed among officers and soldiers for their guidance. Let me say right here that United States Army manuals are used by the National Guard .... [and] while the United States Army is infrequently used in strikes the National Guard is too frequently used; and this manual, like all other United States military manuals being used by the National Guard, acts as "information and guidance of all concerned" meaning the National Guard. Let us also bear in mind that the National Guard has been Federalized by payment for drills attended and other huge national appropriations from the United States Treasury.
Let us see what this manual teaches as to tactics: On page 18 of this manual I read: "When rifle fire is resorted to the aim should be low so as to prevent shots going over the heads of the mob and injuring innocent persons that could not get away."
Then paragraph (e) on the same page, says: "Blank cartridges should never be used against a mob, nor should a volley be fired over the heads of the mob even if there is little danger of hurting persons in rear."
On the same page I read from paragraph (f): "Bayonets are effective when used against rioters who are able to retreat, but they should not be used against men who are prevented by those behind from retreating even if they wished to do so."
Chapter 3 gives lessons in the use of chemical warfare against civilians, and then in this chapter we find diagrams and pictures of chemical hand grenades, of the irritant candle, and information as to the use of these objects against civilians.
On pages 13 and 14 I read the following: "Equipment for Duty in Domestic Disturbances"... [Here Mr. Marcantonio read a long quotation listing and describing Cavalry, Hand Grenades, Machine Guns, Tanks, Shotguns loaded with buckshot, etc.}
On page 12 of the manual we find that "Federal troops have been used in the suppression of domestic disturbances on more than a hundred occasions."
It will be stated, of course, that the information in this manual is issued solely for the purpose of dealing with those who seek to overthrow the government by violence, or only against Communists. Let us analyze this defense. No one will contend that there is a considerable number who advocate the overthrow of Government by violence. As for Communists, there were only 125,000 votes cast for their ticket in 1932.
Therefore it is apparent that this manual was not issued to deal with revolutionists. There certainly is a more subtle purpose for this manual. (Here the gavel fell)
Mr. Marcantonio: Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous consent to proceed for 2 additional minutes.
Mr. Chairman: Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from New York? (There was no objection)
Mr. Marcantonio: That purpose and what the author has in mind in using the word "mob", becomes very clear when I read the following statement on page 25 ... . "Information relative to the lawless elements may be secured from the police department -- ". This is all right; but listen to this -- "supplemented by private detective agencies, railroad detectives."
The infamous anti-labor history of these agencies is well known. They have no interest in preserving the Government. There is no money in that business. They are hired to fight organized labor, to furnish and protect "scabs" and to injure labor pickets. I recommend to the members the reading of "I Break Strikes" by Bergoff. This business is lucrative. This manual sends officers to these agencies for information, agencies whose business it is to smash labor. These words give the whole story away. This manual, Mr. Chairman, is a manual which instructs officers and soldiers, National Guard and all concerned, how to break strikes. This manual is directed against labor, against labor strikes, against mass picketing, and against the right of striking workers to assemble. By "mob" and "lawless elements" the author means American workers assembled on the economic battle front. Strikebreaking agencies are to furnish the information to officers and troops for the purpose of using tanks, for the purpose of shooting low, and for the purpose of using bayonets against whom? No; not against revolutionists, my colleagues, but against organized labor exercising its God-given right to assemble, organize, and picket.
I submit that it is high time the Congress took action to prevent the use of troops in industrial disturbances for the purpose of breaking up strikes. Labor has the right to organize; labor has the right to strike; and, above all, labor has the right to the picket line. It is high time that we see to it that ... American workers who are forced to go on the picket line should not be shot down by officers and soldiers who are paid with money which comes by the sweat of the brow of the American workers. (Here the gavel fell)
March 4, 1936
I say that I believe the Communists, the Socialists, the Republicans and the Democrats have a perfect right to advocate what they believe in, and that there should be no law depriving them of that right. (Applause). This type of legislation [see description of Kramer bill below] is not really aimed to protect our Government and its institutions, because it is not necessary and would be only cumulative legislation to achieve such a purpose, but it is aimed at depriving certain minorities of their rights to express themselves on the various economic and social questions confronting our country. It is aimed by many of its advocates to suppress protests on the part of the oppressed, forgotten men and women, and the unemployed. It is aimed at labor when labor becomes militant on the economic front.
I realize that there are some abuses of freedom of speech. Are those abuses of freedom of speech so numerous or so dangerous that they warrant a curtailment of freedom of speech? I ask you to bear in mind, to contrast, and to weigh the abuses that result from freedom of speech and the evils that result from a curtailment of freedom of speech. The evils resulting from the curtailment of freedom of speech far outweigh the abuses. This has been the experience of every democratic people throughout the world, and that is why laws such as the Kramer Bill [providing fine and imprisonment for anyone making or circulating an oral or written statement advocating the overthrow of the government by force or other unlawful means] are rare in democracies.
We remember the history of the Alien and Sedition Acts which the Federalists forced on this country. The abuses that resulted from that curtailment of freedom of speech were so enormous that they swept out of existence for all time a political party which was dominant.
This is no time to curtail freedom of speech. This is a period...when the greatest freedom of speech should prevail. Never before in the history of our country have economic and social questions so agitated our people. With the 12,000,000 unemployed, with thousands of farms being foreclosed, the situation demands not suppression in any form but the fullest and freest expression. Let us call a halt to the consideration of this type of legislation and let us turn our attention to adequate employment, direct and work relief, relief to the farmers, genuine social security -- and fight the danger of war and reaction. Mr. Chairman, if there ever was a real subversive danger to these institutions, it does not come from the left, it does not come from the radicals, it does not come from the liberals; it comes from the right, from the extreme reactionaries.
The real danger to our cherished institutions comes from the organized reactionaries in America who are ready, even with violence, to overthrow our Government and establish a dictatorship of reaction in this country. Labor, the farmers, and the unemployed are liberty-loving Americans. They need freedom of speech; they need unlimited freedom of speech at this time more than ever before. When you curtail, under the guise of such legislation as this, the right of these groups to free speech, or the right of the minorities, even the radical minorities, to freedom of speech, you are playing directly into the hands of those reactionaries who would establish a dictatorship of reaction in this country.
The issue, as I see it, is not communism. It is not whether socialism is right or wrong. The issue here is not the correctness of any "ism." The issue is whether or not we should curtail freedom of speech..
Have not labor, the farmers and the unemployed a right to agitate? Do they not have a perfect right to protest and exercise their right to petition their Government? Then, why enact laws which are unnecessary and which will curtail these rights when they are most needed? But the moment one of these groups protests, immediately they are called dangerous radicals and subversive elements .... They are not subversive elements. The unemployed, for instance, love America. They want to protect America. They want to restore this Government to ... the people and keep it away from the reactionaries. It is those unemployed who are really making a fight for our fundamental institutions and for the protection of our basic democratic principles.
Mr. Lucas: The gentleman has said that certain reactionary individuals or organizations are seeking to set up a dictatorship in this country rather than the unemployed. Will the gentleman tell the members of the House just who he has in mind?
Mr. Marcantonio: Yes, I say that the tactics of the Hearsts, of the Liberty League, of many of the Chambers of Commerces throughout the United States, of the American Manufacturers Association, of the American Bankers Association, point irresistibly to this conclusion: they are forming a united front to overthrow the basic fundamental democratic principles of the United States. So that the danger does not come from the unemployed, labor, the organized farmers, or the radical minority, but it comes from those elements.
Mr. Lucas: Do those organizations advocate the overthrow of this Government by force?
Mr. Marcantonio: Oh, they do not have to advocate it. They do not have to say 'We advocate the overthrow of this Government by force and violence.' No. The first thing they will advocate is the suppression of the Bill of Rights of the Constitution of the United States. That means, curtail free speech. They will try to deprive labor of the right to organize, strike and demand better conditions. They will do their best to keep the farmers from organizing. They wilt try to control the press and the machines of both political parties. They will seek legislation guaranteeing to themselves an economic dictatorship of America's economic life. When opposition is felt by them, due to our democratic institutions, their next step will be to try to set up a political dictatorship.
March 11, 1936
Mr. Chairman, a great deal has been said and a great deal has been attempted with reference to legislation for the protection of organized labor in the United States. We passed the Wagner-Connery bill last year, and prior to that a half-hearted defeatist effort had been made to enforce section 7 (a) of the N. R. A. [National Recovery Act]. With all this talk about protecting labor in the United States, we find, however, that the Government of the United States has been guilty of giving out contracts for Government work to builders in the ship building industry, such as the Bethlehem Co., which has a contract to do some work for the Navy out in San Francisco, where there is now raging a strike; and, also, for instance, last year a contract to the New York Shipbuilding Co. in Camden, N. J., where a strike was in existence for 13 weeks, settled only after the President stepped in.
We have now in Rutland, Vt., and the towns adjoining Rutland, the Vermont Marble Co. doing Government work and subjecting its workers to the worst form of terrorism and exploitation. The Vermont Marble Co. furnished the marble for the United States Supreme Court Building, as well as for the Sailors and Soldiers Monument, and it has at present $5,000,000 worth of Government contracts. The employees of the Vermont Marble Co. are out on strike. Just what is this Vermont Marble Co. strike? It is a strike upon the part of the workers of the Vermont Marble Co., about 800 of them, who are demanding a decent living wage, and I take this opportunity to present to my colleagues and to call the attention of the country to the nature of the conditions these men have been working under in Rutland, Vt ....
They were living in company buildings, and they had to pay rent, light, water charges, and pasturage charges. The company took out the charges for rent, the charges for light, the charges for water, the charges for pasturage, and the heads of those families went home on Saturday night, in many instances, with 50 cents a week, and never did that pay envelope have a balance of more than $5.00 a week. Sometimes those families consisted of 7, 8 or 10 people. I submit that even the most conservative gentlemen of this House cannot disagree with men going out on strike when they are receiving at the end of the week not more than $5 a week, and in many instances, 50 cents and 30 cents per week.
Of course, the company was very charitable to those men. They extended their charity in the following respects: When the charges due to the company exceeded the sum of $13.30 per week, the company would voluntarily give to the worker 20 cents, so that he could travel back home. They also established a hospital. The family which owns the Vermont Marble Co. is one of the oldest dynasties in the State of Vermont. There have been three or four governors from that family. Naturally they go in for charity. They established a hospital there. This hospital gives the workers a very great benefit, to wit, the employees of the Vermont Marble Co. may use that hospital at the rate of only $3.00 per day, while those who are not employees may use that hospital at $3.50 per day. It is just like a salesman for the Lincoln automobile going up to an unemployed man on relief and informing him that he can buy a Lincoln car for $500 less than it actually costs. (Laughter)
Now, what is more vicious than this is that while those men were on strike -- and they still are -- they naturally have applied for relief and have been unable to obtain it. The State of Vermont does not spend one penny for relief. Relief is provided only by the towns. The distribution of relief is in the hands of the so-called overseer of the poor, a leftover of rugged individualism. Incidentally the law of the State of Vermont provides, among other things, that when the superintendent of schools finds that a child cannot come to school because of lack of clothing or food, he directs the overseer of the poor to supply that family with proper food and clothing. In many instances this was refused, and it was repeatedly refused.
The workers who are on strike have received practically no relief at all from the various overseers of the poor in that community. In one case, one decent district attorney took up the case and he indicted the overseer of the poor. The man who testified against him was the superintendent of schools. A jury trial was held and the overseer of the poor was found guilty, but it is very, very interesting indeed that the overseer of the poor, a certain John F. Dwyer, was the foreman of the Vermont Marble Co. at Rutland, Vt., who was represented by the law firm of Laurence, Stafford and O'Brien, attorneys for the Vermont Marble Co., and that same law firm of Laurence, Stafford and O'Brien also represents the town of Rutland, Vt., and of Central Rutland, and they also represent the body of selectmen of those towns. So that the strikers in Rutland, Vt., the strikers in the Vermont Marble Co. plant, are even deprived of relief due to this close tie-up between the overseers of the poor and the company, which refuses to pay these people more than a maximum wage of $5.00 per week, and in many instances 50, 30 and 20 cents per week.
However, this same State which refuses to help these strikers by means of relief, has not hesitated at all in spending from $800 to $1,700 per week for deputies. They have 16 deputies employed, and the State pays those 16 deputies from $800 to $1,700 per week. The company which refuses to give any increase in wages at all is paying $5.00 a day to 80 men who have been deputized by the State. Many of those deputies have been found guilty of drunkenness, assault, and reckless driving. They have terrorized those communities. In one instance a man of 70 years of age, a peddler, was beaten by these deputies. He had no connection at all with the strike, but he was almost beaten to death.
It may be asked, "Why does this situation concern the Congress?" I say it does concern the Congress, because the Vermont Marble Co. today actually has $5,000,000 worth of contracts with the Government of the United States. The marble in that Supreme Court building has been furnished by the Vermont Marble Co. This company, incidentally, which claims poverty, and which says it cannot pay any decent wages, according to the statistics given us by the Standard Statistics, which is a reliable authority and accepted by all business firms in the United States, has accounts payable $119,000 against an inventory of $1,000,000; cash on hand, $65,000; accounts receivable $1,100,000, mostly from the United States Government; land and buildings, $5,000,000; investments in subsidiary concerns, $3,000,000. This same company, which refuses decent wages, has been paying a 5 percent dividend regularly on its preferred stock.
We can talk about the Wagner-Connery bill, we can demagogue about labor all we please, we can make speeches for home consumption about the protection of labor, but I submit that the administration cannot in one breath say it intends to protect labor, and in the other breath hand out contracts to people like the Vermont Marble Co. which is exploiting labor. I do not mean to insult the dignity of the Supreme Court but I say that the marble with which the Supreme Court building has been built is stained with the blood of the exploited wage slaves of Vermont.
When we passed the N. R. A. and the Wagner-Connery Act, employers went into court and tried to have them declared unconstitutional. One thing these companies cannot have declared unconstitutional is the power of Congress to require that before a Government contract is let, the bidders shall agree to proper labor conditions and a decent standard of wages as conditions precedent. The hours of labor and the wages should be fixed in these contracts, and every bidder awarded a contract for any kind of work should be compelled to sign an agreement as to hours and wages. We cannot ask industry in one breath to give labor a square deal when in the next breath we let our contracts, running into millions of dollars, to people and groups who are exploiting labor, not only profiteering on labor but [with] the profiteering made possible by money furnished by the Government of the United States.
I believe a law should be passed by Congress compelling the Executive and the various Cabinet officers to include in every contract they let, terms as to wages and as to hours. In this manner only can we prevent exploiters from exploiting labor with Government money.
April 30, 1936
[Opposing a "surprise appropriation" for the building of two additional battleships, Congressman Marcantonio contrasted the increased appropriation for war purposes with the drastic cut of more than two-thirds in relief appropriations. In the course of the serious discussion which followed he analyzed the reasons for continued mass unemployment and outlined the provisions of a bill he had introduced to meet the crisis. This included large relief and W.P.A. appropriations as well as "grants ... for the operation by States or municipalities of abandoned factories, mines and other enterprises for the purpose of providing employment and producing goods for use."]
Mr. Chairman, we find that for this year, when we add what we are going to appropriate by means of the bill under consideration to what we have already appropriated for the War Department, we shall have appropriated over a billion dollars for war purposes. Not only do we appropriate a billion dollars for war purposes under the guise of national defense but we find today in this bill a surprise appropriation of approximately $104,000,000 for the building of two additional battleships for which there has been not a single iota of evidence adduced at the hearings on this bill. This item was put in about two days ago without a hearing or study.
We increase appropriations for war on one hand, and on the other hand we find that, while we appropriated $4,800,000,000 last year for unemployment relief, this year, dealing with practically the same situation, there has been recommended only $1,500,000,000 for unemployment relief. The argument is advanced by the spokesman for the administration that the reason why we are appropriating only $1,500,000,000 is that it is assumed that private industry will absorb a large number of those unemployed. Whether or not private industry will absorb these remains to be seen ....
Despite the false optimism emanating from the Department of Labor, we still have 12,626,000 unemployed. This figure is conservative. It was compiled by the conservative leadership of the American Federation of Labor and released by it on March 2, 1936. It also stated that the month of January 1936 showed an increase in unemployment of 1,324,000 -- the largest since 1931. Its comment was, "to lose ground to such an extent at this time is nothing short of tragic." Therefore the "recovery is here" ideology, upon which the President's recommendation for only $1,500,000,000 for unemployment relief is based, is unrealistic. The dismissal of 700,000 workers from W.P.A. is based on the same artificial and wishful premise. The money-saving, cruel, chiseling devices employed by the local relief bureaus, such as in New York City, at the expense of its staff and clients is in accord with this false policy. The New Deal relief program today is not much different than that of Herbert Hoover in 1930. Mr. Hoover attempted to solve the problem by waiting for Lady Prosperity to come from around the corner. The New Deal is trying it by proclaiming loudly and smilingly that she has kept her date and is now promenading with the president of the Chamber of Commerce along Main Street. Mr. Hoover then contended that very little should be expended for unemployment relief. The New Deal relegates unemployables to private charity, professes its desire to care for the employable unemployed, but refuses to continue to provide for the 700,000 of them today and many more tomorrow.
It has also refused to provide for those who have become in need of W.P.A. employment since November 1, 1935. Those who will remain on W.P.A. will continue to be the recipients of the UnAmerican "security" wage. So that, despite the fact that an appropriation of $4,800,000,000 was found to be entirely inadequate to deal with the problem of 12,000,000 unemployed during the fiscal period of 1935-36, the President now asks for only $1,500,000,000 to deal with a similar situation for the fiscal year 1936-37. This is the sum recommended by the reactionary National Economy League. It constitutes a sweet victory for the Liberty League over the unemployed. The American Tories have cause to rejoice, since their views on relief, recommending cuts in relief appropriations, are now being adopted by the New Deal. The New Deal fights the Liberty League by making faces at it, and uses words. In deeds it surrenders. Hence, as for the unemployed, the New Deal has substituted in the place and stead of the fantastic Hoover myth of two chickens in every pot the stark reality of two wolves at every door.
In the face of this appalling situation the unemployed can expect nothing from those in power. They must depend on themselves, on militant labor organizations, and on all liberty-loving Americans. They must organize American public sentiment behind a genuine relief bill.
Mr. Christianson: Mr. Chairman, will the gentleman yield?
Mr. Marcantonio: Yes.
Mr. Christianson: The gentleman speaks of recovery. Is the gentleman aware of the fact that one-fifth of the families of the United States are today living on an income of $1.36 a day, another fifth on a daily income of $2.72?
Mr. Marcantonio: I am also aware of the fact that 22,000,000 persons in the United States are still dependent on public charity in some form or other. They are dependent on either starvation direct relief budgets, or on starvation security W.P.A. wages. I do not claim recovery. The New Deal does. You have no recovery while 22,000,000 exist in such a condition.
Mr. McCormack: Mr. Chairman, will the gentleman yield?
Mr. Marcantonio: Yes.
Mr. McCormack: Where would they be if the present administration had not engaged in the humane policy that it has?
Mr. Marcantonio: You should ask me where would the administration be? The unemployed owe the past appropriations to their own mass pressure. It is true that the administration made appropriations in the past. However, they were inadequate. Everybody connected with relief or W.P.A. administration knows it. If those appropriations were adequate, why are you now discharging 700,000 persons from W.P.A. rolls? I voted for the $4,800,000,000 bill. I agree it was better than nothing; but at the same time the present administration is retreating. Why appropriate $4,800,000,000 for 12,000,000 unemployed in 1936 and ask for only $1,500,000,000 for 1937 with the same number of unemployed?...
Mr. Blanton: Mr. Chairman, will the gentleman yield?
Mr. Marcantonio: I yield.
Mr. Blanton: For the unemployed who honestly want to work and cannot get it, I think the Government, and all of us, are deeply sympathetic, and we will do all we can for them; but for the organized unemployed, who organize to cause trouble, and who do not want to work, and would not work if they could, but who organize to create trouble, I do not think the Government ought to show them any consideration whatsoever, and when they take charge of a State Capitol, like they did at Trenton, N. J., I think they ought to be put out bodily without any consideration whatever.
Mr. Marcantonio: I expected that from the gentleman. However, despite the gentleman from Texas, the unemployed have a right to organize and will organize. He reminds me of a Queen of France some time ago ho said, "The people have no bread. Let them eat cake." It perfectly describes the gentleman's attitude toward the unemployed.
You can talk all you want to about financial recovery, but when you go back to your districts this year you are going to be confronted with the unemployed in your district. You can show them the stock market sheets and you can show them the increases in prices, but they will ask you: "How can you vote for increases in naval and military appropriations and at the same time vote for decreases in appropriations for the unemployed in your own district?" That is a question which you must face and is a question which you must answer.
Mr. Short: Mr. Chairman, will the gentleman yield?
Mr. Marcantonio: I yield.
Mr. Short: The gentleman certainly does not want 22,000,000 of our citizens continued upon relief.
Mr. Marcantonio: No, I do not.
Mr. Short: Well, if the $3,300,000,000 granted to the President in the Seventy-third Congress plus the $4,800,000,000 given him at the first session of this Congress has failed to take these people off of relief, how in the world does the gentleman think they can be taken off relief by continuing these expenditures?
Mr. Marcantonio: I am glad the gentleman asked that question. The difficulty with the present administering of relief is that you do not give to the unemployed sufficient to give them purchasing power. What you give them is a security wage, from $19 to $94 a month; very few received $94. The average in my city is $55 a month on W.P.A. All they can purchase is slum shelter and a starvation diet. The same applies to those receiving direct relief. They have no purchasing power. If you, as a military man, were going to capture a fortress, and you needed four regiments to capture that fortress, you would not send one regiment at a time against that fortress but you would send the entire four regiments at one time.
In dealing with the problem of unemployment we never appropriated sufficient funds to give the unemployed any purchasing power. That is why the unemployed are in no better position today than they were before. Today they are in a worse position .... For approximately the same number of unemployed you are appropriating much less than before. If in the past we had given the unemployed sufficient to maintain themselves in health and decency, they would have had a purchasing power. Using this power, the wheels of industry would have been moving on a larger scale than today. However, we would still have had many unemployed. In the past, with the end of the crisis, we had few unemployed left during the period of so-called recovery. Today the residue of unemployed is so large that, despite financial recovery, the unemployed remain our most important problem. Why? Is it the fault of the unemployed, or is it due to an inequitable and unjust economic system which must be overhauled? Would the gentleman refuse to give shelter and food to the victims of this system simply because the system forces them to remain idle?
Mr. Chairman: The time of the gentleman from New York has expired.
Mr. Short: I have been authorized by the gentleman from Michigan to grant 5 additional minutes to the gentleman from New York, provided he will yield for one other question.
Mr. Marcantonio: I yield to the gentleman who gave me the time.
Mr. Short: The gentleman from New York, of course, is aware that the President of the United States has emphatically said that the problem of unemployment must he solved by private business. This administration strangles private business to death at the very time it demands that business hire the unemployed.
Mr. Marcantonio: I disagree with the gentleman on the question of private business. I think we have been too lenient with private business. I voted for the tax bill, but I do not think it went far enough. It was a creampuff, milktoast tax bill. Furthermore, we should not dodge the responsibility; the problem cannot be solved by private business. It must be solved by the Representatives of the American people in Congress.
Mr. McCormack: Does not my friend put himself in a rather inconsistent position where he denounces and criticizes the Hoover administration for its failure to assume the proper leadership, and at the same time criticizes the Roosevelt administration for giving proper leadership with reference to relief?
Mr. Marcantonio: You have not given proper leadership with reference to relief. The fact that you have discontinued Federal direct relief; the fact that you are now throwing out 700,000 persons, and the fact that those who remain must exist on "security" wages and starvation budgets proves poor leadership.
Mr. McCormack: We have given $3,000,000,000 a year.
Mr. Marcantonio: That is not enough. Now you appropriate only one billion and a half. You started in the right direction. Now you retreat. What kind of leadership is that?
Mr. McCormack: It is $3,000,000,000 a year more than Hoover gave.
Mr. Marcantonio: Is the gentleman proud of being just a little better than Hoover? Is that all the gentleman has to offer? (Laughter)
Mr. McCormack: It is $3,000,000,000 better.
Mr. Marcantonio: And now it is only $1,500,000,000 a year better. Tomorrow it will be less. The day after you will give as little as Mr. Hoover. If you can do no better than that for the unemployed in this country, the unemployed will have a perfect right to consider the New Deal in Mr. Hoover's class next November.
Mr. Fletcher: Mr. Chairman, will the gentleman yield?
Mr. Marcantonio: I yield.
Mr. Fletcher: Will the gentleman be kind enough to favor us with any plan he has to offer to solve the unemployment problem, briefly? How would the gentleman solve the unemployment problem if he were President?
Mr. Marcantonio: As a Member of Congress I introduced a bill which has been endorsed by respectable organizations as well as other organizations which might not be considered respectable by the gentleman from Texas [Mr. Blanton] because they are organized unemployed.
Mr. Blanton: No.
Mr. Marcantonio: I decline to yield, Mr. Chairman; I decline to yield and ask that this interruption not be taken out of my time. The gentleman [Mr. Fletcher] asked me a good question.
Mr. Fletcher: I asked my question seriously; I should like to know.
Mr. Marcantonio: Answering the gentleman from Ohio, I desire at this time to recite the salient provisions of my bill.
It is based on the following six principles; First, the unemployed are victims of an unjust economic and social system which has failed, and are without work due to no fault of their own, and ... the general welfare of the American people depends on the welfare of the unemployed; second, therefore they should not be treated as objects of charity, but as a matter of right should be given work at a living wage during their period of unemployment, and as a matter of right the unemployables should be furnished relief on the basis of a minimum necessary to maintain life in health and decency; third, the burden for accomplishing these objects should be borne by those who have profited from a system which creates unemployment; fourth, the unemployed are to participate in the administration of work [relief] and direct relief; fifth, something should be done toward a permanent solution such as reopening and operating shutdown factories by and for the benefit of the unemployed; sixth, State and local funds are inadequate, and Congress should make adequate appropriations.
Accordingly my relief bill provides for an appropriation of $6,000,000,000; $2,000,000,000 in grants to States for direct relief, $2,000,000,000 in grants to States for State and local work projects, and for projects required for the operation by States or municipalities of abandoned factories, mines, and other enterprises for the purpose of providing employment and producing goods for use. None of these funds are to be used for financing privately owned enterprises. Two billion dollars for the continuance of W.P.A. The six billion dollars shall be expended for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1937.
The bill also provides for certain standards. The relief standards guarantee sufficient and nourishing food, decent housing, appropriate clothing as to season and comfort, medical and dental care, replacement and renewal of essential household goods, carrying charges on homes owned by relief clients, provided such charges are not in excess of rent allowance; the maintenance of relief clients' membership affiliations in his religious, fraternal, political or social organization; necessary transportation and communication expenses .... [Anyone who does not] receive an income from any source equal to the minimum standard established in his locality as necessary to maintain life in health and decency for himself and dependents would be eligible for relief. Those who receive an income less than such minimum would receive the difference. All payments are to be in cash. No such person shall be disqualified because of sex, race, color, creed, citizenship, residence requirements, political or labor affiliations, refusal to work at an occupation for which he is not fitted, refusal to work because of a strike or lockout, refusal to work at substandard conditions of hours and wages, or refusal to work where he is required to scab or join a company union .... [Here Mr. Marcantonio gave a further description of the standards on work projects, the allocation of responsibility between federal and local authorities, and the appeals machinery set up in the bill he proposed]
The usual question will now be asked, Where are we going to get the money? Many sources exist. Reduce to a minimum the more than a billion dollars appropriation made for war purposes. Apply the British tax rate on all individual and corporate incomes, inheritances, and gifts over $5,000 a year. This source will be more than ample.
This bill, in my opinion, meets the immediate demands of the unemployed until such time as the Frazier-Lundeen bill for social insurance is adopted. [For description of Frazier-Lundeen bill, see page 42]
Mr. Lundeen: Would not the gentleman also say that social security measures should be gone into further?
Mr. Marcantonio: Yes. The social security plan adopted just places the burden of caring for the poor on the shoulders of the poor. It does nothing for the present unemployed, and acts as an impediment to genuine social insurance legislation. As I see it, the only real social security bill is the Frazier-Lundeen bill. This bill gives the people genuine social security and puts the burden where it belongs, on the wealthy. Now, I should like to complete my statement .... I should prefer to see the administration of relief placed in the hands of a body made up of representatives of three important groups. The welfare group should be represented, the Government should be represented, and there should be representatives selected by the President from panels of names submitted by various organized unemployed, of whom the gentleman from Texas is so afraid.
Mr. Biermann: Will the gentleman yield?
Mr. Marcantonio: I yield to the gentleman from Iowa.
Mr. Biermann: I understand the gentleman would have the Government appropriate money to put people to operating the closed factories. Where would the gentleman sell the stuff that these factories made?
Mr. Marcantonio: We would produce it by the unemployed and for the use and benefit of the unemployed.
Mr. Biermann: The gentleman would sell it to the people who made it?
Mr. Marcantonio: Not necessarily. We would sell their products throughout the country. In other words, you are producing for use instead of profit. We are bound to come to it sooner or later.
Mr. Biermann: Would the gentleman operate a typewriter factory that way, or an adding machine factory that way?
Mr. Marcantonio: We can always exchange commodities; sell these commodities and use the proceeds for the benefit of the unemployed. That has been done before.
Now, coming back to the Navy bill, I want to say a few words. The reason I spoke of the unemployment problem and the inadequate appropriations therefore, was simply because of the fact that we are appropriating over a billion dollars here for war purposes. Over a billion for death, and inadequate funds for the unemployed .... [Through floor discussion, Mr. Marcantonio here elicited the information that some W.P.A. funds would be used to build the keels of two battleships.]
Mr. Marcantonio: Then we are burying the forgotten man under the keels of battleships. You are using his only too inadequate funds for this purpose.
In conclusion, I want to make this one statement: I am not a fanatical pacifist. I believe in defending the United States, and, if necessary, if the time should ever come, I would not hesitate to do my share of fighting in the defense of our country. But why spend this amount of money when you cannot even identify the enemy that will invade the United States? If we are not preparing against an invasion, what are we preparing for? Are we preparing for another imperialistic war? Are we preparing perhaps for another war to end war, or for a war to make the world safe for democracy? Mr. Chairman, why are we building all of these ships? Why are we appropriating over a billion dollars for destruction? Where is the enemy? Can anyone mention the enemy? I challenge any Member, whether he be a member of the Military Affairs Committee, the Naval Affairs Committee, or the Appropriations Committee, to reveal to us the enemy that is going to attack us.
Mr. Blanton: I accept the challenge and can mention an enemy if the gentleman will yield.
Mr. Marcantonio: I know what the gentleman is going to say. He is going to holler "Red!" He reads "Red," he dreams "Red," he sees "red" all the time.
Mr. Blanton: I have a pretty good reason for all of it ... The speech the gentleman is making is a pretty good reason. [Here there followed further floor discussion by Mr. McCormack of the general need for "preparedness" and defense even though no particular enemy threatened]
Mr. Marcantonio: ... We are preparing for war and we will have war, a war not in defense of our homes, but an imperialist war, a war to insure our financial and imperialistic interests. I shall never vote for such a war as long as I am a Member of Congress .... How can anyone justify the expenditure of a billion dollars for war while at the same time 700,000 men in the United States of America are being kicked off the W.P.A.? That is the question that the unemployed will put to you in the next elections in this country. (Applause)
May 13, 1936
[The bill Congressman Marcantonio supported in the following argument, was the Frazier-Lemke bill, entitled "The Farmers Farm Relief Act." It was intended "To liquidate and refinance agricultural indebtedness at a reduced rate of interest," and thus prevent farmers from losing their farms through foreclosure.]
Mr. Chairman, I knew that quite a number of distinguished gentlemen in this House were opposed to this bill. I also learned today that the Speaker is opposed to the bill, but never did I realize that Mr. Voltaire [Voltaire had just been quoted by an opposing speaker] is opposed to this bill. (Laughter) .... However, Mr. Chairman, despite the philosophers, the statesmen and the labor leaders who have taken their position against this bill, in my own humble way I shall do my best toward its enactment. I think I have established one fact since I have been here, and that is that I have always been diligent and very zealous in the protection of the rights of labor.
I have followed Mr. Green [William Green, President of the A. F. L.] on matters of labor legislation when I felt that his position was in the best interests of the American workers; but when Mr. Green attempts to throw the weight of the organized workers of America on the side of the Liberty League and the Economy League and other reactionaries who are opposed to this bill, then I refuse to follow Mr. Green's leadership and shall vote my conscience on this bill. (Applause)
I have no farmers in my district. I have nothing to gain politically by supporting this bill. When I signed the petition for the discharge of the Rules Committee, I made up my mind to support this bill because I realized that in America there is an economic unity between farmer and laborer and that today this economic unity is becoming more strongly welded than ever before.
I also realized that the workers in my district cannot live while we have an impoverished American farmer. The economic welfare of one is dependent on the economic welfare of the other ....
[Some questions and cross discussion are omitted here.]
Mr. Chairman, it is most unfortunate that Mr. Green has taken this position. He has dealt a most serious blow not only to the farmers but also to labor. He has retarded the much-needed alliance between farmer and labor. This result is most injurious to American Labor. With 270,000 farmers about to be foreclosed, organized labor cannot stand by and permit these farms to be sacrificed because of any artificial excuses. Nobody has yet been able to prove any inflationary danger in this bill. Nobody has established that. Nobody as yet has shown wherein this law is going to hurt labor. All that has been furnished has been generalities. This bill will in no way hurt the American worker. It will aid the American worker. I repeat, a prosperous agriculture means a prosperous American working class.
May 14, 1936
The present American merchant marine is a disgrace to the flag it carries. The American merchant marine today cannot, in any manner, pretend to grant safety at sea to any of its passengers. Any such pretension is a fraud. The facts speak for themselves. The treatment of the crews, the equipment, the general condition of these ships, and especially the construction, proves one thing conclusively, and that is that they have given us a gingerbread top and down below these ships are not fit for either habitation or sailing.
About 3 weeks ago I submitted to the Secretary of Commerce 110 statements, each statement made by a seaman -- 110 written statements by seamen who had won medals for bravery at sea. These men had first hand knowledge of safety-at-sea conditions and these 110 statements were submitted by 110 seamen, I repeat, who had won medals for bravery at sea, and these statements revealed horrible conditions on these ships, not only as to working conditions but actually as to safety-at-sea conditions.
The Secretary of Commerce promised to investigate this situation. Up to now absolutely nothing has been done and no action has been taken on this memorandum containing 110 charges, charges giving the names of the ships and charges giving the names of the companies involved.
Mr. Speaker, I charge right here and now that these shipping companies outdo Al Capone by millions of dollars. They are racketeers of the lowest order. They are not giving the American passenger safety at sea, and what is more, they are mistreating the crews, submitting them to the worst forms of living and working conditions. I wish you gentlemen had an opportunity to examine these ships. Do not look at the upper deck, do not look at the decorative portions of the ship, but go down and see where the men are living, and you will realize that these ships are a disgrace to our country. They are a disgrace to the merchant marine of a great country such as ours.
Today, in New York City, 4,000 American seamen are out on strike. [This was the strike which led later in 1936 to the formation of the National Maritime Union] They are conducting a heroic strike. These men are American seamen, seamen who have dedicated their lives to safety at sea, and ships today are going out to sea being manned by W.P.A. workers. Get that! Ships going out to sea carrying passengers are being manned by W.P.A. workers. Take your steamship California, for instance. When it went out the other day and had to come back, a recheck of the shipping crew showed that the ship's crew was composed mainly of W.P.A. workers and that it did not have the number of able-bodied seamen required by law.
Mr. Knutson: Mr. Speaker, will the gentleman yield?
Mr. Marcantonio: I yield.
Mr. Knutson: The gentleman does not contend that a person who is on W.P.A. should be barred from honest work?
Mr. Marcantonio: I contend that a person who is on W.P.A., if he is not an able-bodied seaman, should not be allowed to do the work of an able-bodied seaman, because unless you have able-bodied seamen on a ship you are imperiling the lives of the passengers on that ship. Remember the Morro Castle.
Mr. Knutson: The gentleman knows that a boat that is not fully manned by able-bodied seamen would not receive clearance papers.
Mr. Marcantonio: That is just it. They are receiving clearance papers every day, and I make that charge, and we have submitted the proof of that to Secretary Roper [Secretary of Commerce].
Mr. Knutson: That would be murder.
Mr. Marcantonio: Well, I am not going that far. I am not interested in arriving at any political conclusions. The facts are that ships are today being manned by W.P.A. workers from the City of New York, none of whom are qualified as able-bodied seamen.
Mr. Moran: Mr. Speaker, will the gentleman yield?
Mr. Marcantonio: I yield.
Mr. Moran: Of course, there are plenty of qualified, able-bodied seamen in this country to man the merchant marine.
Mr. Marcantonio: Of course, there are plenty of them.
Mr. Moran: Will the gentleman state to the House the reason they are not manning them?
Mr. Marcantonio: I will tell you why they are not manning them. It is because these men have been insisting on two things. They insist on decent wages, decent living and working conditions, and, second, real safety at sea. The companies do not want to comply in either respect. All they are interested in is money. They are racketeers, racketeering on the Government, on the seamen, and on the passengers. Hence, in order to break the strike, they are using W.P.A. workers, who are not able-bodied seamen, as scabs to work the ships, thus exploiting labor, cheating the Government, and imperiling the lives of passengers. Withhold this appropriation [for ship subsidies] and you will force these companies to come to terms. We owe them nothing. They have broken repeatedly their contractual obligations. That releases the Government from any obligation to them.
We are the Congress that is supposed to protect labor. Yet we are asked to turn over $22,000,000 [in ship subsidies] to a gang of labor exploiters who refuse to give decent wages or decent living quarters to the seamen, but employ W.P.A. workers as scabs.
If we agree to concur in the Senate amendment and refuse to give the $22,000,000 to the shipping companies, we may force out of Congress a real bill, with provisions protecting both labor and the passengers. How can any friend of labor consent to give this money without any provision to protect labor and passengers?
I am in favor of a merchant marine. I want a merchant marine as all of us do. But before we turn over $22,000,000 to anybody let us, at least, turn it over by means of a bill that will protect American seamen and American passengers.
Mr. Knutson: Will the gentleman yield?
Mr. Marcantonio: Yes.
Mr. Knutson: The strike in New York is being fomented by Communists, and it ought to be stopped.
Mr. Marcantonio: The gentleman from Minnesota is making the same mistake that tories make when a strike exists. They send up a camouflage of red in order to conceal the real issues.
Mr. Knutson: It is an outlaw strike.
Mr. Marcantonio: It is no more an outlaw strike than the gentleman is an outlaw Congressman. (Laughter) I brought these men down to Washington. I brought them here and took them before the Secretary of Commerce. Who were these men? Every single man had won a medal for bravery. They gave the Secretary facts straight from the shoulder.
The Secretary of Commerce said, "Make a memorandum of that" and "Make a memorandum of this," and we gave him the memorandum. Three weeks have gone by, and we have received no communication from him. He promised he would investigate. To date no sign of an investigation. Whenever workers ask for a decent wage or a decent living condition they are called "reds." These men are good Americans, and the man who questions the Americanism of these men is not a good American himself.
Mr. Moran: Will the gentleman yield?
Mr. Marcantonio: I yield to the gentleman from Maine.
Mr. Moran: The gentleman realizes that the subsidy was allowed because of the increased cost of operating American ships, and that since that time they have cut wages?
Mr. Marcantonio: Exactly; they received the money and then they cut wages.
The Speaker pro tempore: The time of the gentleman from New York [Mr. Marcantonio] has expired...
[Later in the course of this debate the following brief exchange took place between Mr. Bland of Virginia and Mr. Marcantonio.]
Mr. Bland: So far as the situation in New York is concerned, I will take my stand with the International Sailors' Union, with Sharenberg and Furuseth, rather than with the men who are represented by the gentleman from New York [Mr. Marcantonio].
Mr. Marcantonio: Mr. Speaker, will the gentleman yield?
Mr. Bland: I yield.
Mr. Marcantonio: I call attention to the fact that last week the Supreme Court of New York County decided in favor of these men and against the leadership which, incidentally, has been repudiated by an overwhelming majority of the union. Mr. Sharenberg has been kicked out by his own union.
June 18, 1936
[In this argument Congressman Marcantonio opposed H. R. 7221, a bill by Congressman Dickstein of the House Committee on Immigration, Section 2 of which read: "The Secretary of Labor is hereby authorized and directed to institute deportation proceedings against any alien who while in the United States engages in the promotion or dissemination of propaganda instigated from foreign sources or who while in the United States engaged in unlawful political activities instigated from foreign sources."]
Anything can be interpreted by a Secretary of Labor to mean unlawful political activity. Today you may have a liberal Commissioner of Immigration; tomorrow you may have a reactionary Commissioner of Immigration ... You are going beyond subversive influence; you are attempting to deport people who tomorrow will be advocating views which a Secretary of Labor might construe to be "unlawful political activity."..
This bill is the worst piece of alien baiting I have ever seen. It goes to the very heart of our Bill of Rights. Adopt it and you have scored another victory for Black Legion reaction .... [A debate between Mr. Marcantonio and many other Members of the House is omitted here.]
Mr. Speaker, the gentleman from New York [Mr. Dickstein] the author of this bill, made a very elucidating remark. He states what we want to do by means of this law is what they are doing in other countries. He specifically mentioned Germany. I hope he will not revise his remarks but will leave his original statement, because it reveals the real intent behind this bill. I for one am opposed to repeating in this country what they are doing in Germany .... I for one am ever opposed to destroying the Bill of Rights as guaranteed under our Constitution in order to imitate Germany..
The Hearsts, Liberty Leaguers, Tories, Bourbons, and all other reactionaries have launched their campaign of suppression against the civil liberties of the American people.
The first attack is aimed at the alien. During this period of unemployment the alien is an easy target. Unfortunately a great majority of the unemployed workers have become easy and ready victims of this silly propaganda. Therefore, the suppressionists find great support for their program of deporting aliens.
Mind you, however, they are not interested in deporting the docile alien who is willing to work for a starvation wage .... They are not interested in deporting aliens who are willing to work as scabs, strike breakers, industrial ammunition, and agricultural peons. The alien who organizes, the alien who protests, the alien who joins his fellow worker in trying to better their living conditions is the alien whom they are seeking to deport.
It is the old, old story over again. Prior to 1920, when the industrialists were ever hungry for cheap labor, we find, for instance, the American Manufacturers Association severely opposed to restrictive immigration. This was only natural. They found alien labor cheap and submissive. However, this cheap alien labor refused to be cheap labor for long. This submissive alien laborer refused to remain submissive for long. He began to organize, to strike, and to protest for better working conditions. He was impelled by human desire to better his standard of living and that of his children. This alien laborer was able to beat the sweatshops of New York to a standstill. It was the pioneer spirit of the alien who brought the torch of unionism among the textile workers of New England. Labor leaders may come and go, but the two outstanding martyrs of the labor movement will always be two aliens, Nicola Sacco and Bartolemeo Vanzetti.
Alien labor on the whole was no longer docile and no longer submissive, and no longer willing to be exploited. Consequently this type of alien labor was no longer desirable to the exploiter of labor. In 1922, the American Manufacturers Association and all of the industrialists insisted on closing America's door to immigration, and in 1936 the suppressionists seek to deport the alien whose conduct becomes inconsistent with the best interests of the exploiter of labor.
The depression paved the way for this program of deportation. People were made to believe that fewer aliens in America would make more jobs for Americans. Hence any form of deportation can very easily receive the approbation of a great portion of the American people, especially among the unemployed. Here the suppressionists find very fertile territory for their scheme.
This bill, therefore, is the first shot fired in this campaign against the progressive alien. It is in line with the program of labor exploiters and reactionaries in general. It is aimed at the militant alien in the United States. It seeks to terrorize the militant worker. It plays into the hands of the lowest labor exploiter. You want this bill to fight subversion? In fact, you are aiding the real subversives. Those who would destroy our Bill of Rights are the real subversives. The reactionaries are trying to set up a dictatorship. Pass this bill and you help to destroy the Bill of Rights. Destroy the Bill of Rights and you are doing the work for these reactionaries.
Mr. Speaker, I say this bill is not only unAmerican, but it is subversive. (Applause)
June 19, 1936
[The Senate had just adopted and sent to the House for immediate consideration a bill making it "a felony to transport in interstate or foreign commerce persons to be employed to ... interfere with ... peaceful picketing." In opposing this bill, Congressman Blanton implied that no picketing was really peaceful. After Congressman Marcantonio made the following reply, the bill was passed 165 to 2.]
Mr. Speaker, the speech just made by the gentleman from Texas [Mr. Blanton] is, in my opinion, the most vicious anti-labor speech that has ever been made on the floor of this House. He fails to recognize certain fundamental principles which have been accepted in the United States... first, the right to strike; and, second, the right to advertise that strike by picketing.
What has happened in the past? Industrial disputes have arisen, and there have been organized throughout the country professional strikebreakers, many of them with long criminal records racketeers of the worst sort.
These professional strikebreakers with long criminal records, racketeers as they are, are transported from State to State and taken into strike centers. Who violates the law? Who is the most likely to cause disorder, violate the law, and do shooting? The honest worker, who is out on strike trying to get a decent livelihood, or these racketeers with long criminal records, who are well paid to do violence and who are transported from one State to another?
The gentleman from Texas prefers to defend that type of racketeer. I prefer to stay with the majority of this House -- and I believe it will be the majority -- who stand for the honest worker when he goes out on strike, and his right as a law-abiding American citizen to advertise that strike on the picket line. (Applause)