77th CONGRESS 1941-1942
January 31, 1941
This amendment [the Dirksen Amendment] stripped of all its camouflage, is a straight anti-trade union amendment. It definitely deprives the maritime workers of the right to bargain collectively. This amendment provides that none of the subsidy benefits shall be paid [to ship-owners] unless a certificate is filed to the effect that the master has assumed the right, and exercised it, of hiring every single individual who works on that ship or in connection with that ship. What happens to any union under these circumstances? How can any group of men organize to deal collectively with their employer when the union is robbed of all authority in the selection of the people who are to be hired as crews of these ships, or to do any work in connection with them?
Mr. Dirksen: Mr. Chairman, will the gentleman yield?
Mr. Marcantonio: This amendment is strictly an anti-collective bargaining amendment. Its sole purpose is to destroy labor unions in the maritime industry, irrespective of whether the leadership is communistic, socialistic, Republican or Democratic. No labor union without some voice in the selection of the employees can function. It is bound to go out of existence. If this amendment is adopted, that is exactly what it will accomplish. Now I yield to the gentleman from Illinois.
Mr. Dirksen: May I say to the gentleman from New York, that is neither the purpose nor is that the way the amendment will operate. It will merely give the master this right: When Joe Doe, Bill Brown, or John Green or anybody else is submitted to him for his crew he can say, "I will take you; I will take you; I will take you; I will not take you." But the union today says, "You will take him or you will not ship."
Mr. Marcantonio: Which is the situation that you have in every single industry, where you have a closed shop. What you are trying to do is to smash the closed shop in this industry. You even go further in that you deprive the union under your amendment of any say whatsoever in the selection of the crew, and in doing that, what happens to your union? You are smashing the union, and whether it is the gentleman's purpose to smash the union or not, I do not know. I cannot make that charge. I do, however, charge that his amendment will smash the union. I ask my colleagues to read this amendment. There is only one conclusion to be reached, and that is it will mean the end of collective bargaining for the maritime union and that means the end of the union; therefore, this is strictly an anti-labor amendment, and I hope every friend of labor will vote it down, despite the red smoke screen that has been thrown up by its proponents in order to conceal its vicious anti-labor character. (Applause)
[The amendment was defeated by a large majority.]
June 9, 1941
The House of Representatives had just voted, without a roll-call, for the Case and Pace amendments prohibiting any picketing or strikes in defiance of National Defense Mediation Board decisions. On the same day the Army had been used against strikers at the North American Company airplane plant in Inglewood, California.]
This has been a most tragic day in the history of our country. Today the blood of American workers has been spilled and they have been deprived of their God-given right to strike by the bayonets of our Army at the direction of the President. This is the first time that American soldiers have been called out against American workers in 47 years. How the clock has gone back, from collective bargaining to enforced labor. I know what it means to American workers to be deprived of their right to picket and the right to strike. It means complete mastery over them by employers whose profits mount high and who refuse to pay American wages. We mark the end of collective bargaining, an end brought about by edict, hysterical legislation, proclamations and bayonets. I know that you say that you are depriving workers of their rights under the guise of defense of democracy. I wonder how much democracy will be left to defend after you have deprived the workers of America of their constitutional and inalienable rights rights which every great American patriot has defended from time immemorial. let us at least stand up as American men and women; let us tell the country how we stand. Let us have a record vote on these two propositions [the Case and Pace amendments]. I appeal to you. You owe it to your constituents; you owe it to the country; you owe it to every man, woman, and child in this country to let them know how you stand on these two amendments; and I beseech you, through a sense of justice and in the name of American fairness, to let us have a record vote on the Case amendment and on the Pace amendment. (Here the gavel fell)
October 16, 1941
Mr. Chairman, an analysis of the RECORD will show that from the very inception of congressional debates on the various issues pertaining to our foreign policy I have consistently opposed all steps which I deemed to be steps in the direction of involving the United States in an imperialist war. [See Page 125] I believed then, in 1939 and in 1940, that the war of 1939 and 1940, up to the 22d day of June 1941, was a war between two axes, the Wall Street-Downing Street Axis versus the Rome-Tokyo-Berlin Axis, contending for empire and for exploitation of more and more people. I believed then that the war of 1939 and 1940 and up to June 1941 was an imperialist war. I still believe that the war of 1939 and 1940 and up to June 1941 was an imperialist war. However, I maintain that from the standpoint of defense of our Nation, the liberties, and the national interests of the people of the United States, the invasion of the Soviet Union by Hitler transformed that war which was predominantly imperialist into a war which is now essentially one of national defense. Therefore, in such a war of defense, all questions become subordinate to the interests of defense. Further, the people throughout the world and particularly in the United States have become, since June 22, 1941, more and more involved in a war of defense and thus guarantee a democratic peace after the military defeat of Hitlerism. A war of defense becomes a democratic war and insures thereby a defeat of imperialist purposes after the destruction of the common enemy, Hitler.
At no time during my consistent opposition to the imperialist war did I base my opposition on reasons of pacifism. I have at all times stated that if I had believed that the war then was a war of defense, that if the war then was a war for democracy, I would have voted not only for $16,000,000,000 or $65,000,000,000, but I was ready to vote the entire Treasury of the United States, not only for the prosecution of such a war, but also for active participation in such a war.
Why has the character of the war changed? What are the reasons which lead me to believe that a war which was predominantly imperialist has become essentially a war of national defense for the people of the United States?
The first reason is one of geography. A look at the map will demonstrate that a conquered Soviet Union would place a Nazi military bridgehead within rowboat distance of our own northwestern shores, Alaska. You cannot get away from that. Secondly in the world of 1940 and the early part of 1941 Hitler could not move against the Western Hemisphere. We were not in military danger as long as Hitler had on his eastern boundary a powerful, well-armed Soviet Union. The defense interests of the United States and the Soviet Union were interdependent. The existence of a Soviet Union depended on an unconquered United States. The existence of the United States depended on an unconquered Soviet Union. A Hitler conquest of either made a Hitler conquest of the other almost a certainty.
Mr. Barry: Mr. Chairman, will the gentleman yield?
Mr. Marcantonio: Yes.
Mr. Barry: When Russia was Hitler's ally, were we not in just as much danger as we are now?
Mr. Marcantonio: No, because time and events have demonstrated that the treaty of non-aggression between Hitler and Russia was not a treaty of allies; that the Soviet Union had, but would not give to Hitler, the materials he needed for his schemes; and Hitler himself has proved by his invasion that there existed no affiance and that the Soviet Union was a threat to his plan of world conquest. You will find your answer in Mr. Hitler's speech, made on the eve of the invasion of the Soviet Union. In that speech he stated that he could not carry out his plans, that he could not invade various parts of the world, as long as he had on his eastern frontier a strong well-armed Soviet Union.
Mr. Barry: Did not Stalin share the spoils of conquered Poland, when he took the half of Poland?
Mr. Marcantonio: I submit also that time and events have demonstrated and everybody will have to admit it, irrespective of your feelings toward the Soviet Union that the Soviet Union could not have participated in an imperialist and phony war which was being conducted by Daladier and Chamberlain, because it would have meant becoming another victim of the appeasement plans of these Munich men. It would have meant the isolation of the Soviet Union and the turning of the Nazi army and its terrible machine entirely against the Soviet Union. In fact from September 1, 1939, to the time of the invasion of Holland, both Daladier and Chamberlain were seeking to again appease Hitler and to turn the war into a war by Hitler, aided by his allies in England and France, against the Soviet Union.
The taking of part of Poland by the Soviet Union accomplished two justifiable purposes. One, that of defense, and two, that of saving a portion of the Polish people from the fury of Hitler. The history of world events since June 22 has demonstrated the correctness of the Soviet position. Now let me return to my discussion of the changed character of the war.
The realities of the world of 1939 and the realities of the world of 1940, up to June 1941, were such that Hitler, with his tremendous machine, could not move toward world conquest since he had on his eastern frontier a strong, well-armed Soviet Union; and further, that the Soviet Union possessed and would not give to Hitler the resources needed for his plan of world conquest. We all know Hitler's plan of conquest, and I think every person in this House must admit that Hitler's plan of world conquest cannot be achieved without first conquering the United States of America either from within or from without. I think it becomes very obvious as every day goes by, to every person who is interested in the defense of the United States, and in the continued existence of the United States as a free nation, that Hitler cannot conquer the United States as long as the Soviet Union remains unconquered, and that a conquered Soviet Union is not just a case of a conquered Holland or France or Norway, but is a case of a taking over by Hitler of that which he needs to carry on a war against the United States. Imagine a world with a conquered Soviet Russia, commanded by Hitler, with all of the natural and industrial resources of the Soviet Union, with its tremendous oil reserves, with everything that Hitler needs to carry on his program of world conquest.
What would that mean to England and to the United States? In England it would give such encouragement to the appeasement forces that a conquered Soviet Union might bring about a parliamentary overthrow of men like Churchill, and put in his place those who are ready to bring about a negotiated peace between England and Hitler; and a negotiated peace between England and Hitler would be really a peace of capitulation, because an appeasement-controlled England would be a Nazi-controlled England from every standpoint, and especially from the standpoint of defense of our Nation and our national interests.
Further than that, what would it mean in the United States? A conquered Soviet Union would mean, aside from the geographic military danger that I have pointed out, we would face a strong possibility of conquest from within. Here, too, the appeasement forces may gain ascendancy as a result of a Hitler-controlled Europe, including the Soviet Union.
Further, let us examine the situation in the east for a moment. It is bad enough that we would have had to deal with a Fascist Japan serving a Fascist ideology and Japanese Fascist interests, but imagine what kind of a Japan we would be dealing with if the Soviet Union were conquered. It would place Japan from a military standpoint in the same position that Mussolini was placed in by the conquest of Austria. Italy became a Nazi-dominated peninsula, playing Hitler's game from A to Z. Why, because of the presence of a tremendous Nazi army that could rush down the Po Valley and take over as it has already done for all purposes and effect (Here the gavel fell.)
Mr. Bloom: Mr. Chairman, I yield the gentleman 3 additional minutes.
Mr. Marcantonio: So that we would no longer be dealing with a Fascist Japan, but we would be dealing with a Nazi-dominated Fascist Japan ready to do the bidding of Adolf Hitler in his moves against the United States.
Thus, for these reasons alone, as far as the American people are concerned, the war has been transformed from a war which was imperialistic in character into a war of national defense. Hence, the realities of a world of 1939, 1940 to June 1941 demanded a democratic peace to end the imperialist war of that period. The realities of October 1941 make such a peace impossible and demand the military defeat of Hitler. The military defeat of Hitler is today America's only defense and the only salvation for the people throughout the world.
I submit, therefore, that in now supporting these very measures which I have opposed in the past, I am supporting them for the same reasons which motivated my opposition, namely defense of our Nation and its liberties, and opposition to imperialism and opposition to fascism, irrespective of their national character. The character of the war has changed and I have no other consistent course to follow but to support a war of defense as vigorously as I opposed a war of imperialist aggression.
For these reasons I now favor the President's foreign policy.
What do we mean by "defense"? In the light of the world situation, defense is no longer just a question of waiting for the enemy to come to us. Defense means to thwart the plan of the enemy. World conquest is the plan of Hitler. Hitler has been proceeding toward this goal by using the one-front-at-a-time technique. The conquest of the United States becomes very possible and feasible if we alone are forced to fight a Hitler who would dominate not only the Europe that he now dominates but the Soviet Union as well, with an England controlled by the forces of appeasement and with a Hitler-dominated Japan.
To fight that kind of a Hitler and wait for that kind of a situation to develop, in my opinion, is not defense; it would be bordering on national defeat. We must prevent that situation from developing. The arming of ships is necessary -- I go further than that. I believe that what is necessary is to repeal the entire Neutrality Act. I go still further than that. I honestly believe, and time and events will demonstrate, that what is essential to defeat the Hitler plan of one-nation-at-a-time, of one-front-at-a-time that what is therefore essential in order to defend the United States is for the United States of America to do everything possible to bring about the opening of a western front, and thereby prevent the triumph of Hitler in the battles which he is now waging. That, in my opinion, is the most realistic approach to this problem. It is necessary and inexorable in the interests of the defense of our country and of our national interest. (Here the gavel fell)
Mr. Bloom: Mr. Chairman, I yield the gentleman I additional minute.
Mr. Marcantonio: Let us not permit another defeat of our defense interests to take place. If Hitler is victorious at Moscow, and if we permit Hitler to be victorious in Russia, we shall be responsible again for what happened at the gates of Madrid. When many of us protested and pointed out that the fall of Madrid would mean the beginning of a tremendous offensive against democracy, we were ignored and shunned by those who sat in the seats of the mighty. Madrid fell, and the destruction of republican Spain was followed by Munich and an imperialistic war. Now there is forced upon us, as a result of that policy, a war of defense for our very existence. If we permit the battle of Moscow, the battle of Russia, to be lost by the people there, and if we permit Hitler to triumph, then we will face consequences which will be a great deal more perilous to our very existence than that which followed the fall of Madrid.
The Chairman: The time of the gentleman from New York has again expired.
Mr. Tinkham: Mr. Chairman, I yield the gentleman 1 additional minute.
Mr. Mundt: Mr. Chairman, will the gentleman yield?
Mr. Marcantonio: I yield.
Mr. Mundt: I would like to ask the gentleman from New York, in view of his present analysis of the situation, whether he would favor sending an American expeditionary force to help open this western front of which he speaks?
Mr. Marcantonio: I will be honest with you. I think it is necessary in the defense of our country. I am absolutely in favor of it, and I am not going to dodge any question on this issue. I stood alone many times when I opposed the imperialist war, and I am not going to evade my duty in advocating what is needed in the successful and speedy prosecution of a war in our own defense. You are not going to settle this issue of Hitler world domination unless we are ready to open a western front. This is a war of defense of our country. We must not hesitate to fight in it.
Mr. Scott: Mr. Chairman, will the gentleman yield?
Mr. Marcantonio: I yield.
Mr. Scott: Is it the point of view of the gentleman from New York that this war has become a righteous war only since the Communists entered it or not?
Mr. Marcantonio: The issue is not communism. The issue is defense of our country. Because of the invasion of the Soviet Union and for the reasons that I have pointed out, namely, the establishment of a Nazi military bridgehead within rowboat distance of our northwestern territory
The Chairman: The time of the gentleman has again expired.
Mr. Marcantonio: May I have at least 1 minute to answer the question?
Mr. Tinkham: I yield the gentleman an additional minute, Mr. Chairman
Mr. Marcantonio: For the reasons that I pointed out, namely, the establishment of a Nazi military bridgehead within rowboat distance of the United States, with Russia's tremendous resources falling into the hands of Hitler, by which he can carry on a war against the United States and the Western Hemisphere, a Nazi-controlled Japan, which would come about as the result of the conquest of the Soviet Union those reasons transform the imperialist war of 1939, 1940, and up to June 1941 into a war of defense defense, as I have explained, and which I again repeat, of these United States. It is not a question of the Soviet Union; it is a question of America. We are facing facts, and the realities of such a situation demand that we pursue the policy of defense to its very limit.
Mr. Scott: If the gentleman would yield just a second further, is it not a fact that the gentleman's interest in the defense of America to the extent to which he has just stated it, dates from the day of the invasion of Soviet Russia by Germany?
Mr. Marcantonio: My interest in the defense of America has existed since December 10, 1902, the day I was born. (Here the gavel fell)
November 28, 1941
[During a debate on price control Congressman Marcantonio spoke "in favor of an effective system of price stabilization." He pointed out why he was for price control and against wage freezes.]
The cost of living is a major concern of every American family today to a greater degree than at any time since the first World War. It is the subject of a great many letters which I have received from my constituents who are interested in the passage of legislation which win help to maintain at least the present living standard, and who urge speedy and effective action on Congress...
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the Department of Labor, the cost of living has increased 9.6 percent from August, 1939, before the war began, up to September 20, 1941, the last date at which computations are available. Prices of food, clothing, and rent have gone up precipitously during that period and, along with fuel, house furnishings, and a few other miscellaneous items, contribute to this 9.6 percent rise in the cost of living.
These prices I refer to are, of course, the retail prices. But retail prices have not advanced nearly so quickly, nor nearly so much, as the wholesale prices of these same commodities.
Food is the most important single item in the cost of living. Let us take food as an example and compare the difference between the rise in the retail price and the rise in the wholesale price. The retail price of food has increased by 15.5 percent since August 1939. The wholesale price of food has increased by 33.6 percent in this same period.
The gap between the wholesale and retail price of food will not and cannot remain constant. That gap will close up, and, when it does, it will close in on the pocketbooks of all Americans, poor people equally with people who can afford it. This is the prospect before us even if we pass effective legislation to place ceilings on prices, and, of course, I hope that we will pass such legislation. I expect that we will pass it.
If we do not begin now, immediately, to set proper ceilings on prices, it will be too late to save much of the standard of living which we have achieved in America...
The wholesale prices of 900 important commodities -- important to the national defense program and also to the consumer -- have already increased by 22.6 percent since the beginning of the war. Textiles have gone up 33.6 percent, hides and leather products 20.4 percent, and farm products 50.9 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of September 20, 1941. These are only a few samples, but these figures are sufficient to convince me that controls are absolutely essential.
We are engaged in a world struggle against Hitlerism. The people of America are engaged in this struggle as they produce materials needed by the armies facing Hitler. We cannot contribute adequately to the defeat of Hitler, even to the extent of sending these necessary supplies, if we do not maintain a standard of living necessary for the colossal job we are engaged in.
In connection with this matter of an American standard of living, I should like to say that I voted Wednesday and today against the proposition that wages should be frozen, that wages should be controlled, along with prices. I voted against that amendment because I had been convinced by a study of the facts that increased wages are not responsible for the increase of prices, and that freezing wages would be a step in the Hitler direction -- a step toward the destruction of the rights of the working men and women of America.
Selling prices have risen in advance of wage rates. A comparison of price increases and wage increases in any given period will demonstrate this fact. Since the war began, prices have advanced more than 20 percent, while the income of labor has increased less than 6 percent, including income from increased employment and overtime payments.
The prices which have advanced most of all are the prices of commodities least affected by labor costs. Raw material prices have risen by 31.7 percent, semi-manufactured goods by 20.1 percent, finished goods by 15.7 percent, and durable goods by 11.2 percent. The greatest increase has been in the price of raw materials, which are least affected by labor costs. The smallest increase has been in the price of durable goods, which are most affected by labor costs. Wages, apparently, are not the factor most responsible for price rises.
The Office of Price Administration has discovered this from the experience to date in setting ceilings on the prices of 33 commodities. From discussions with the representatives of the industries, and other information gathered in the process of setting the prices, the Office of Price Administration discovered that the following factors were causing the price disturbances:
The only industry which claimed that a wage increase was a major factor was bituminous coal. This is very interesting because the Bituminous Coal Commission, after continuous and thorough study of production costs, reports that during the last 3 years production costs have been reduced by 18 cents a ton. The recent wage increase of $1 a day negotiated by the United Mine Workers of America increases production costs by only 17 cents a ton.
In industry in general, production costs have been lowered during the last few years and are being lowered still further at the present time in the industries with defense contracts. This is one important consideration in my vote against wage control.
The output of workers has increased and continues to increase. This alone is reason enough for increased compensation, even without considering the need for such increase in order to achieve a better living standard. From September 1937 to September 1941 the output per worker has increased by 16 percent according to the Department of Labor. Increased production in defense industries, improved machinery and methods, will further increase the output per worker, and for this reason alone we can not allow freezing of wages.
I am further convinced that there is no logic to the proposition that wages should be frozen when I consider corporate profits. A glance at reports of the Federal Reserve System shows that 416 large corporations have a net profit increase of 31 percent for the first 9 months of this year, as compared to the first 9 months of 1940. No one can say that the products of labor have not been profitable, or that industry cannot afford to pay a just compensation to labor.
Finally, in connection with this question of wage control, which would reverse our entire labor policy and destroy collective bargaining, I should like to comment on the relation of wage control to inflation.
We are all opposed to inflation. We are all agreed that measures must be taken to prevent inflation, which would play havoc with our standard of living.
We are also agreed, I think, that inflation may occur when we do not produce sufficient consumer goods to satisfy the purchasing power in the hands of consumers.
However, inflation will not result from placing purchasing power in the hands of the working people, the low income group, while there are idle plants and more than 5,000,000 unemployed Americans who could produce more of the food, clothing, and housing which are so badly needed.
I am not advocating business as usual so far as durable goods are concerned, because they are made in plants and from materials badly needed in the battle to defeat Hitler. I do advocate, however, that Congress give its attention to the problem of civilian supply, and consider this problem in relation to the inflation which is threatening us. I do advocate that the Congress should do everything in its power to help satisfy the consumer demand for basic commodities such as food and clothing and housing. There is no sound reason for limiting the purchasing power of low income Americans. Let us at all times remember that we are not using the vast human, natural, and industrial resources of America to full capacity producing our basic necessities.
December 2, 1941
[Congressman Marcantonio argued against a group of bills presented as necessary to regulate labor in the interests of defense production. The Ramspeck and Vinson bills provided for a compulsory mediation board and for a 60 day "cooling off" period before a strike was called in any industry which might affect defense production. The Smith bill froze all terms and conditions of employment; outlawed practically all picketing; and denied individuals as well as unions the benefits of the National Labor Relations Act, the Social Security Act, and relief, if its terms were violated.]
Mr. Chairman, what has been lost sight of in the entire discussion with regard to labor and industrial disputes, in the press and on the floor of this House, as well as in the other body [the Senate], is the relationship of the labor problem to the kind of government the people desire.
I believe history will demonstrate conclusively that you cannot have a democratic form of government unless you have a free organized labor movement. An enslaved or government-regulated labor movement is the basis of fascism in Italy, of nazism in Germany and the corporate state in all the other various Fascist countries, such as Spain.
We ought to bear in mind some of the history of anti-labor laws. We shall find, for example, that the program which is being advanced here in these ... bills originated in the Palazzo Chigi, the Government palace of Benito Mussolini, in 1926. On April 3 of that year several decrees were issued. One decree outlawed strikes; another decree prohibited collective bargaining; and the last decree dissolved free trade unions and substituted in their place so-called Fascist syndicates controlled, regulated, and maneuvered by the government.
The demagogy used to promulgate those decrees and put them over on the Italian people is the same demagogy we hear in this House today, the demagogy of such phrases as "the Nation comes first and before any individual group," and that "defense of the country comes first before that of labor." In Mussolini's so-called Labor Charter, we find language which is very, very similar and bespeaks the same political philosophy and program that is being advanced here by those who are promulgating the legislation which is before us.
When Hitler came into power in 1933, on January 30, he, too, emulated Mussolini, and in order to firmly establish his rule, it was necessary that the only real opposition to nazism and to Hitlerism in Germany should be destroyed, namely, a free, democratic, German labor movement. Democratic Germany died because many of the leaders of democratic Germany permitted Adolf Hitler to kill and destroy the democratic labor movement of Germany, and Adolf Hitler, too, issued decrees, and those decrees did what? First, they outlawed strikes; second, they forbade wage disputes; and, third, they abolished collective bargaining. This was done immediately after he was appointed Chancellor.
So we see that in Germany, Italy, and in Franco Spain, a free, democratic labor movement was destroyed in order to perpetuate fascism on all of the people.
And let me say to the farmers in particular that a shackled labor movement will be the weapon employed for an offensive against the liberties of all the American people, and that includes the farmer as well.
Further, there is one great, and I think it is the greatest, historic example which is a deadly parallel to the situation which now confronts us in this House, and that is France.
We have heard Member after Member in this House, and we have read article after article in the press, in which we have been told that France fell because there was a New Deal in France and because, in particular, French workers were given the right of collective bargaining and that the French labor movement was permitted to win its struggle for a 40-hour week. We have been told that, because of the progress the French people had achieved, France fell, ... France was destroyed and... France could not fight. Let us examine the facts.
Yes; the French workers were working 40 hours a week, but at the time the 40hour week law was abolished there were 3,000,000 unemployed in France ... and the 40hour law was abolished ... when, because of the large number of unemployed, it was most needed in the interest of defense production. But it was not the 40hour law which made France fall, because when France went to war there was no 40hour law. There was no Free French labor movement. The 200 families of the Bank of France, who really controlled the Government of France ... established throughout France fascist groups, such as the Croix de Fen and the Cagoullards ... which went out and tried to disrupt and destroy the labor unions, and when they failed to do it the minions of the 200 families of the Bank of France -- (Here the gavel fell.)
Mr. Vinson: [Georgia] Mr. Chairman, I yield the gentleman from New York 10 additional minutes.
Mr. Marcantonio: The minions of the 200 families of France in the French Senate, in the Chamber of Deputies, and in the government of Daladier, what did they bring about? They brought about the abolition of the 40hour law. The government passed laws forbidding strikes. It broke strikes with the bayonet. It sent to jail labor leaders. So at the moment that France went into war, there was no French free-labor movement.
When France went into war, France was in the same condition with regard to labor as we will be if we pass this legislation. So, the France that went into war was a France... with a shackled-labor movement and the ... people who shackled the labor movement of France were the same people who today are ruling France as tools of Hitler; the same people who sold out France to Hitler on the battlefield; the same who are today bending the knee before Adolf Hitler. Yes; the whole trouble was that they were more interested in destroying the labor movement of France than they were in the defense of France, and events have proven it. Take the gentleman who went yesterday with Marshal Petain to visit Goering -- Count de Brinon, one of the leaders in the movement to enslave labor -- or Laval, Darlan, Petain, Weygand, all of them, Vichy men, Municheers, Hitler's tools today, were leaders in the conspiracy which destroyed the French labor movement. They destroyed labor and thereby conditioned France for Hitler's victory over France. They betrayed France and are now rewarded by Hitler with the rule of France.
the 200 families of the Bank of France ... were interested in monopoly and profit and not in defense of their country against Hitler. The fact that they still own most of what they owned before the capitulation of France, and that they still possess most of their monopolistic interests, and most of everything they had before, proves conclusively that in selling out France with this kind of legislation, and by destroying the labor movement, they were serving the interests of Adolf Hitler and not of the French nation.
Mr. Hoffman: Mr. Chairman, will the gentleman yield?
Mr. Marcantonio: Yes.
Mr. Hoffman: I am after information. Is the labor of Russia free?
Mr. Marcantonio: We are learning a great deal about Russia. We were told for years that the Russians could not fight, and we are finding that they can, and as we receive more and more truthful information about Russia we will learn that labor rules in Russia. I also say that the Russian people would not be fighting like tigers if they did not feel that they were fighting for something that belonged to them, and that is an irrefutable conclusion.
December 3, 1941
[The Dies amendment discussed below provided that any union, one of whose officers was a member of The Communist Party, Young Communist League, German-American Bund, or a person convicted of a felony, should lose its rights to the use of the National Labor Relations Board as long as such person remained in office.]
Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to the amendment offered by the gentleman from Texas [Mr. Dies].
Mr. Chairman, I realize perfectly well the disadvantage which confronts one who rises to oppose a proposition advanced by the gentleman from Texas in a body which has been worked up to a state of hysteria in a drive against the fundamental rights of labor. In this amendment we go further. The attack goes beyond the fundamental rights of labor. This attack is aimed at the constitutional rights of American citizens.
As I see it, the issue raised by this amendment is not the issue of communism at all. The issue raised by this amendment is an issue of democratic rights, the constitutional rights of American citizens. This amendment would subvert the American proposition that there shall be no discrimination against anyone, irrespective of color, race, creed, or political affiliation.
Thoughtful men throughout the country today are beginning to realize, and men who understand the technique of Fascist conquest from within are beginning to recognize, the great danger that lies in the proposal advanced in this amendment. I can understand perfectly well why Mr. Wendell Wilkie has volunteered to defend the right of a naturalized American citizen, whose citizenship is being challenged because of his political affiliations because of his membership in the Communist Party: No one can charge Mr. Wilkie with being a Communist. In accepting the case, he stated what I said here, that the proposition involved is a proposition of democratic rights and constitutional rights.
The most serious danger in this amendment is that it follows a pattern which was employed by Adolf Hitler and Mussolini in their respective countries and by Petain and the Vichymen and the Munichmen in France.
An offensive against the Communists has been the vehicle with which and behind which nazism has marched into power in the various former democracies of Europe. The antiCommunist offensive has been the weapon employed by the Fascists and Nazis not only to come into power in their own countries -- in Italy, Spain, and Germany -- but to divide and disunite the people of other countries so as to condition them for conquest. France is the historical example. This amendment, therefore, follows the Hitler technique of conquest from within. This proposal is part and parcel of domestic Hitlerism.
It is not an accident that those ... gentlemen who support this anti-labor legislation, similar to that which was imposed on Germany and on Italy by the decrees of Mussolini and Hitler, are the same people who are also employing the technique of Fascist conquest from within by means of an antiCommunist drive...
I also want to make mention of some facts in connection with the charges made yesterday by the gentleman from Texas [Mr. Dies] with regard to criminals in the labor movement. Why, I could stand here and mention criminals who were in his own employ, on the pay roll of his own committee, not only stool pigeons who received funds through that committee, but... also ... a person who was in an administrative capacity on that committee, the former chief investigator of the committee, a certain Edward Francis Sullivan, whose police record is a mile long. The gentleman from Texas was apprised of that criminal working for his committee, on his pay roll as chief investigator, and when I say "his" I mean his committee pay roll. When the gentleman was told about it by Mr. Oliver, of Labor's NonPartisan League, what did the gentleman say? According to the New York Times of August 27, 1938, the gentleman from Texas asserted that the charges were beside the point. I am not so sure about that. However, I say that the gentleman's charge about criminals being in the labor movement is definitely beside the point and [is] only an attempt to smear a great American institution, the organized labor movement, in order to bring about the enactment of legislation which will deprive labor of the right to organize, bargain collectively, and strike, if necessary, to obtain a decent living. This amendment and all of the bills before us constitute an assault on the democracy of our country and are the beginnings of domestic fascism. (Here the gavel fell)
February 28, 1942
[In this argument Congressman Marcantonio opposed the Starnes amendment which would have negated a bill providing "that a person who is in the armed forces and who is legally a resident of the United States and who is serving either in the United States or abroad, may, upon application -- presenting character affidavits from witnesses -- become a citizen of the United States."]
Mr. Chairman, at a time when the greatest unity is required on the part of all the people in our Nation it is tragic that the committee sitting here this afternoon should permit itself to fall into the abyss of foreign-born baiting hysteria ... To substitute the prejudices of the Klan for the spirit of unity is not only unAmerican, but serves the purposes of the Axis enemy.
Under the Conscription Act, we provide that a person who is not a citizen, but has obtained his first papers, cannot claim exemption or deferment, but must be drafted. On the one hand we draft the foreign-born who is not a citizen, and on the other hand we now seek to prevent the endowment of citizenship on a foreign-born who wears the uniform of our country and who is ready to fight and lay down his life for our country.
During the last war we permitted naturalization of foreign-born non-citizens because of the service they rendered. What greater requisite for citizenship can there be than that of service in the armed forces in time of war? Congress permitted our foreign-born soldiers to become citizens in World War No. 1. Why should we not do it now? Why do you want to discriminate against one who is in the uniform? The bullets that are shot against us do not discriminate. They shoot down the man in the uniform, be he citizen or a non-citizen. What are we fighting this war for? Are we fighting it for discrimination? Are we fighting it to punish the foreign-born and to continue to discriminate against the foreign-born?... or are we fighting to do away with all that? I say if the Starnes amendment is adopted we will be indulging in the vilest form of discrimination and it will lead to that disunity which is sought by the enemy.
You say, let us wait for the Immigration Committee. I say we should not wait for any committee. We have this proposal before this House now. Why kick it out? I know what it all amounts to. It is the same old story kick the foreign-born around. He cannot vote, he cannot hurt you; but I tell you that the American people want to see this war won, and they want to see unity. They want unity to achieve victory and will fight against efforts which will divide our peoples efforts which array group against group, class against class, race against race, native-born against foreign-born This amendment does just that...
March 10, 1942
Mr. Speaker, under leave to extend my remarks, I include the following correspondence regarding the heroism of a Negro mess attendant during the attack on Pearl Harbor:
February 12, 1942
Hon. Frank Knox,
Navy Department, Washington, D. C. Dear Mr. Secretary:
I am anxious to have the name of the messman who manned a machine gun aboard a ship during the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7. This man has been mentioned in numerous press dispatches from Hawaii. I shall be most grateful for this information and will appreciate receiving it as early as possible.
Secretary of the Navy
Office of Public Relations March 5, 1942
Hon. Vito Marcantonio
House of Representatives Washington, D. C.
This office has been provided with the name of the Negro mess attendant who manned a machine gun during the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor and I can inform you now that he is Dorie Miller, mess attendant second class, United States Navy.
In company with two officers and several enlisted men, Miller was on the signal bridge of a battleship when the commanding officer of the vessel received a fatal abdominal wound. While the others sought to construct a stretcher to lower the captain to a safe location, a Naval Reserve lieutenant and Miller manned a pair of machine guns and fired upon the attacking planes until fires started by bombs rendered the machine guns useless.
March 9, 1942
Mr. Conery Miller
Dear Mr. Miller;
In answer to my inquiry to the Secretary of the Navy as to the identity of the mess attendant who heroically manned a machine gun during the attack on Pearl Harbor, I have been informed that the courageous young man is your son, Dorie.
Let me congratulate you. The entire Nation is deeply proud of your son. His actions will be a source of inspiration to all young Americans, as well as to the Negro people. He is a symbol of the determination of the Negro people to do everything possible to smash the Axis Powers. The splendid actions of your son in defense of our country bring closer the day when our Navy will gladly accept the services of its Negro citizens in every capacity.
Through you, let me wish Dorie Miller continued distinguished service in his country's cause.
March 27, 1942
Mr. A Sanford Kellogg, Mr. Robert H. Bennett, Brooklyn Junior Chamber of Commerce, Brooklyn, N. Y.
Dear Messrs. Kellogg and Bennett:
I have your letter requesting my views on anti-labor legislation, and have found the letter most interesting since it typifies the current misconceptions which are today being spread in an effort to discredit the loyal, hardworking laboring people of our country.
You call upon Congress to take away from the White House the power to determine labor policy by the enactment of a definite labor law. May I remind you that there are, in fact, very definite and concrete labor laws now in force which have been enacted by the Congress of the United States and are now the law of the land. One of these is the Wagner Labor Relations Act. Another is the wages-and-hours law. There is nothing indefinite about these, although certain employer groups have never resigned themselves to the fact that these laws represent the will of the vast majority of the people of our land.
You accuse Congress of reflecting the views of organized minorities, and yet you urge Congress to accept the views of the organized minority of businessmen who are pouring thousands of dollars into a campaign to bludgeon Congress into passing anti-labor legislation, notwithstanding the opposition of the overwhelming majority of our people to such legislation.
You accuse Congress of reflecting the view of the Executive. May I say, in the first instance, that if this were true it could hardly be considered a serious charge. You will recall that our President was elected by the people of this country to the office which he holds, and as such, represents the will of the people of this country. I know that there are still some groups which, despite the critical nature of these times, seek to undermine the faith of the people in our President, and prefer to indulge in their usual hate-Roosevelt campaigns rather than win the war. Secondly, may I remind you of what I consider to be an unfortunate fact, that Congress has many times ignored the wise advice of our Chief Executive.
You ask me whether I will support legislation which will suspend for the duration laws which limit the standard work week to 40 hours. Your very phrasing of the question is intended to convey the impression that the wages-and-hours law limits the number of hours that may be worked, whereas, in fact, it does no such thing. You are not really asking for an increase in the number of hours which may be worked; you are simply asking for a general wage cut. Yet I see no reference in your letter to the exorbitant profits being reaped by big business and no suggestion that business take a profits cut. With rising living costs themselves inflicting a concealed wage cut on labor, I shall most certainly vote against the suspension of the 40-hour-week law.
You ask me whether I will support legislation to provide for a Labor Board with the authority to settle labor disputes. I am surprised to find that you have never heard of the War Labor Board, Which has just such authority, and which is at present exercising it very competently.
You ask me whether I will support legislation making strikes and lockouts illegal, to which I would reply: What strikes and what lockouts? Labor has pledged its word to avoid any cessation of production during the war. It is keeping that word. The effect of strikes on the output of war materials, even over the entire past year, has been infinitesimal in comparison to the failure of business to convert its plants to war production. Since our country has been at war there has not been a serious stoppage of production in any war industry.
You ask me whether I will support legislation requiring the removal of labor leaders with criminal records, but you make no reference to business leaders with criminal records. Your question is simply intended to smear the labor movement and create the false impression that the leaders of labor are criminals. Labor has shown a much more exemplary readiness to rid itself of the few misleaders of labor in its own ranks than has business enterprise.
Finally, you ask me whether I will support legislation requiring the registration of unions, their accounting of all revenue, etc. My answer to that is "No," and my reason is the attitude which your organization and others like it take toward labor. You make it eminently clear that such registration would only be used by business groups to pervert the purposes of the Wagner Labor Relations Act, and to undermine the labor movement which is rendering such valuable and patriotic service in spurring the production of the weapons of war that will make possible our smashing victory over the Axis Powers.
I most gladly welcome your invitation to make known my views on this subject to the metropolitan press.
April 21, 1942
[A radio address made by Congressman Marcantonio explaining the real meaning of the proposal to eliminate the 40 hour standard work week is given, in part, below.]
My fellow Americans, you have been the target of billions of words which have been shot at you by the enemies of American labor. You have been told that war production has been held up because of labor's refusal to cooperate. You have been told that labor refuses to work more than 40 hours a week. You have been urged by false patriots, by reactionary politicians, by radio commentators, and by columns and editorials in your newspapers to write your Congressman asking that he vote for legislation which would destroy the wages-and-hours law.
As a result of this bombardment some of you actually believe that this law prevents labor from working more than 40 hours a week.
There is nothing in the wages-and-hours law which in any manner prohibits any working man or woman from working more than 40 hours a week. In fact, labor in war industries is now working 48 and more hours a week. What the law simply says is that when American labor works more than 40 hours a week the employer must pay time-and-a-half for the hours worked over 40. Therefore, what is really behind the lie that you have heard so often is an attempt to cut wages and increase profits by those who have no interest in this war other than that of exploiting labor and increasing their profits.
If the anti-labor legislation now pending before Congress -- namely, the Smith-Vinson bill -- is enacted into law, it will mean that labor will not be paid time-and-a-half for overtime. That is the first objective of this present anti-labor drive.
So you see, the issue is not delayed production. It is not how long labor shall work. It is simply that of a wage cut -- a wage cut accomplished by taking away from labor the time-and-a-half wage for whatever work labor does over 40 hours. If the Smith-Vinson bill is enacted into law, it will mean a wage cut in the face of an ever-increasing cost of living. It will mean the impoverishing of American workers. It will mean workers distracted from the tasks of production by the hardships and worries which result from inability to meet living expenses. Consequently, it will mean the slowing up of our war production.
It is interesting for you to know -- because your newspapers have not told you just what profits are being made by those, some of whom are asking Congress to cut the wages of American workers so as to further increase their own profits. Here are some figures. Please listen to them carefully, because again, I tell you, you will not read of them in a large section of the press.
For instance, your newspapers have never told you that Youngstown Sheet & Tube, which today is arguing that it cannot give its workers a dollar-a-day increase, increased its own profits in 1941 by 40 percent over 1940. Nor have your newspapers ever printed the fact that Remington Rand increased its profits 125 percent over the previous year. In the editorial entitled "Wake Up, America," circulated by a powerful newspaper chain all over the country, you were not informed that Savage Arms increased its profits by 233 percent during the last year.
Nor have you ever been told by any radio commentator that American Woolen increased its profits by 120 percent over the previous year, or that the Aviation Corporation, for the year ending November 30, 1941, increased its profits by 2,690 percent.
Time does not permit me to give you a full list of increases in profits by large companies. On March 26, 1942, I placed in the CONGRESSIONAL RECORD a table of profits of leading corporations, showing the percentage of increase for 1941 of the leading corporations. To date there has been no contradiction of a single figure that appears in this table.
These profits which I have mentioned are net profits after deductions for taxes and after the setting aside of considerable contingency funds.
For example, United States Steel, with an actual net profit of $141,000,000, placed twenty five million in a special contingency fund, thereby reducing its stated net profit to $116,000,000. Remember, $116,000,000 stated net profit, after deducting taxes and after deducting $25,000,000 for a contingency fund. This $25,000,000 has been set aside in order to provide for any possible increase in taxes.
I ask you in what anti-labor article or column have you ever read, or what labor-hating commentator has ever told you, that United States Steel had a stated net profit of $116,000,000 in 1941?
Despite these increases of which you have been kept ignorant, Congress is being deluged with propaganda, patterned a la Hitler, demanding in tones of pompous patriotism that wages be reduced in the face of skyrocketing costs of living and skyrocketing profits of those large corporations. This wage cut is being sought by means of a campaign of lies which would have you believe that labor is prevented by law from working over 40 hours a week. This propaganda directed at you has concealed the huge profits, and by rank dishonesty has sought to mislead you into believing that what is sought is the lengthening of working hours, rather than a wage cut, by the abolition of the payment of time-and-a-half for overtime.
Not only is this campaign dangerous to labor, but it is also most subversive to our victory effort. From our battlefronts comes the voice of our own great Gen. Douglas P. MacArthur. In his recent message to organized labor he said: "Labor has played its part in every great war our republic has fought, and that it will do so again, and prove the indestructible backbone that will determine the present vital struggle, is my firm conviction."
My fellow Americans, to launch that mighty victory offensive which will speedily win this war, we must defend American labor, "the indestructible backbone that will determine the present vital struggle."
April 22, 1942
Mr. Speaker, under leave to extend my remarks, I include herein a letter published in the New York Sun on April 17, 1942, in which I explained to Mr. George Sokolsky why this war is of such a nature that only by mobilizing all the oppressed and conquered people of the world in this great fight against Hitlerism can we bring the war to a speedy, successful conclusion.
April 15, 1942
Editor, New York Sun,
I see by your issue of April 8 that Mr. George Sokolsky is very upset about a speech which I recently delivered at a conference where delegates from trade unions, churches, civic organizations, women's clubs, and Negro organizations throughout the country, gathered to urge the freedom of Earl Browder.
Mr. Sokolsky explains in shocked tones that in this address I had the temerity to say:
1. That this is an international civil war.
2. That the people of India are just as important to the successful outcome of this war as the people of West Virginia and Maryland were to the successful outcome of our Civil War.
3. That the people of China are just as important to the successful outcome of this war as the people of the Border States were to the successful outcome of our Civil War.
4. That this is a war against fascism.
5. That the antiFascist people of Italy will some day rise and overthrow the Dictator Mussolini.
6. That in this international civil war the oppressed and conquered people of the world are translating their struggle for freedom into an all-out effort for the military destruction of Hitlerism.
Why the protest from Mr. Sokolsky? Are we not fighting just such a war? Is this not in keeping with the Atlantic Charter? But apparently Mr. Sokolsky is not fighting a war for any such things. His only interest in the war, as he callously admits, is the preservation of "private control of wealth and enterprise."
In addition, Mr. Sokolsky points out that civil war is a dreadful thing and we mustn't let people fool around with it.
I heartily agree with Mr. Sokolsky that civil war is a dreadful thing. But Mr. Sokolsky has the mistaken notion that because I recognize that we are, in fact, engaged in an international civil war, I am what he calls "an advocate of civil war." I do not want to appear condescending but I should like to remind Mr. Sokoisky that I did not start this war. If Mr. Sokolsky will recall, this war was forced upon the world by Hitler and his Axis partners. The perpetrators of slavery today are responsible for this international civil war, just as the perpetrators of slavery in our own country were responsible for our Civil War.
Because the war is of such a character, it can only be won by mobilizing the people of the world for a mighty attack upon fascism and oppression everywhere.
April 28, 1942
We are now considering whether to appropriate another $110,000 for the work of the Dies Committee. If we do so, there will be great rejoicing in at least two quarters of the enemy camp. There will be rejoicing in Berlin which will congratulate itself on the fact that it will continue to have the opportunity of making use of the statements and words of the Dies Committee, its Chairman, and its investigators. In another speech I have shown you how the Goebbels short wave radio quotes Mr. Dies' statements with approbation. The Nazis will also be happy to know, for example, that the $7,200 investigator for the Dies Committee, J. B. Matthews, is still around. For they have found his statements most useful. In fact, as I revealed before the Committee on Accounts, Herr Goebbels' personal publication, Contra Komintern, which is used to spread Nazi propaganda within Germany and throughout the world, found the testimony of Matthews before the Dies Committee of such importance to them that they printed it in full, devoting three large sections of three issues of this publication to it...
And there will be rejoicing in our own country among such groups as the Klu Klux Klan, which in various states has openly joined with the Nazi Bund in attacks upon our American institutions. The Imperial Wizard of this pernicious unAmerican gang will consider his work well done if the Dies Committee receives an appropriation. On January 27th of this year, as reported in The Fiery Cross, official organ of the Klu Klux Klan, this Imperial Wizard ordered all Klan members to campaign for the continuation of the Dies Committee.
Therefore, again I say that to appropriate $110,000 for the work of this Committee is to appropriate funds against the best interests of our war effort.
April 28, 1942
Mr. Speaker, under leave to extend my remarks, I include herein a talk which I delivered at the Benjamin Franklin High School dedication exercises on Thursday, April 16, 1942:
Mr. Chairman, friends, and neighbors, as the Representative in Congress of this community, I am certain that I express its unanimous sentiment in thanking the Mayor of our city for having given us this great school. It is particularly pleasing for us to know that, in keeping with the best democratic traditions of our people and with their needs, the school is interracial in its character and community-wide in the scope of its work. We are filled with a sense of gratification in the knowledge that our sons of Garibaldi, De Hostos, and Frederick Douglass will be reared in keeping with the teachings of Franklin, Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln. It can truly be said that this great building is indeed a monument to democracy in education.
We, the people of Harlem, all Harlem, accept such a school, for it is truly a people's school. Just as our country belongs to the people who inhabit it, so does this school belong to us. Just as we, the people of all Harlem, give our brawn and our sweat in the mines, mills, and factories of the country, and our blood and sons on every battlefield for the triumph of our freedoms, so in that same spirit we will defend our school and its democracy. We shall not be swayed from this firm resolve by even the shadow of a threat of Gestapo inquisition that may come from any lawyer agent of the Vichy Government. [State Senator Frederick Coudert, Jr. headed the Rapp-Coudert Committee then investigating New York City Schools. The Coudert law firm was the legal representative of the Vichy Government.]
It is truly fitting that in dedicating another great living evidence of our eternal human liberty and the principle of equality, we renew our pledge and rededicate our energies and our lives, for the victory of our arms, to our leader, our Commander in Chief, the President of the United States.
July 17, 1942
We are in the midst of a war for our lives, our homes, our precious liberty. And yet profits-as-usual has so dominated the drafting of this [tax] bill that tax-exempt securities continue to render windfall profits to some; the owners of mines and oil wells will continue to profit from fantastically high depletion allowances; wealthy families may continue their large scale tax avoidance through the filing of separate returns.
The net result of this capitulation to special pleadings is twofold: First, we have a bill that is inadequate in that it falls ... some two and a half billion dollars short of the goal set by the Treasury.
Secondly, we have a bill that continues to allow special privileges, that fails to recapture undue profits, that places the burden upon the poor rather than upon those who are able to pay. It is "legislation as usual" in the midst of the greatest crisis our country has known. If it is said that Congress does not yet recognize the seriousness of this war, that Congress does not yet have that singleness of purpose which we must have to smash the Axis, this tax bill will lend credibility to that charge.
Unfortunately there are only two alternatives before us now that this bill has reached the floor. We can either vote for this bill, recognizing its inadequacies, and deploring the lack of statesmanship that this bill exhibits, or we can vote for no tax bill at all. Obviously the latter alternative is not even to be considered in times such as this.
I trust that the Senate will measure up to the needs of the crisis in changing this bill so that it will conform with the President's seven-point program.
July 20, 1942
[Congressman Marcantonio inserted in the RECORD the radio address given, in part, below.]
My fellow Americans, there should be no need for me to speak to you tonight about the role of Italian-americans in this war. I feel impelled to address the people of the Nation on this subject because of the persistent activities of certain groups in our country who malign the loyalty and dispute the patriotism of Americans of Italian descent, by discriminating against them in industry, by denying them equal opportunity with other loyal Americans, and by regarding them with suspicion because of the sound of their names.
I am speaking to you tonight because I want to say with utmost emphasis that these maligners and detractors are playing Hitler's game in America.
The personnel manager in a plant who turns down a skilled worker of undoubted loyalty to our country and overwhelming desire to aid the war effort, because this man has an Italian name, is playing Hitler's game in America.
The plants with huge Government contracts which have an established policy of refusing employment to Americans of Italian descent, are playing Hitler's game in America.
The self-styled "super-patriots" who indulge in alien-baiting and foreign-born baiting are playing Hitler's game in America.
These detractors and maligners of our loyal Italian-americans are, by this most unAmerican activity, causing disunity in our country, depriving our Nation of the services of skilled men and women, and are standing in the way of that full mobilization of America's manpower that we must have to win this war. In short, it is they who have become a menace to America's victory program. The contributions of Americans of Italian extraction in blood, toil, and wealth is the devastating answer to those who seek to discriminate against them.
Let us look at the record. Let us see what contributions to our war effort the men and women of Italian descent in our country have made ....
[Mr. Marcantonio here gave a long list of specific instances of military heroism by Italian-americans in World War II.]
Italian-americans share with the rest of their countrymen the conviction that enemy agents, saboteurs, and spies, whether American born or foreign born, whether citizen or non-citizen, must be ceaselessly guarded against and ruthlessly dealt with. However, history will record that those who denied opportunities to our Italian-americans, or to any other group because of their race, color, creed, or national origin, were themselves doing the work of enemy agents and saboteurs. They, as much as any Hitler agent smuggled from Berlin, are subverting the all-out effort which is so essential to victory.
On August 6, 1861, Giuseppe Garibaldi, whose struggles and traditions truly represent the people of Italy, wrote to Abraham Lincoln from Caprera, Italy. In inspiring words which are just as applicable during this great conflict as they were during that crisis of 1861, Garibaldi offers his sword to Lincoln in the struggle for freedom and pledges the aid of all free Italians in that conflict against slavery.
"We salute you, Abraham Lincoln, helmsman of liberty; we salute you who for two years have fought and died for your standard of liberation; we salute you, redeemed, oppressed race the freemen of Italy kiss the glorious links of your chains."
So, we, too, true sons of Garibaldi, to the great democratic leader of this day, to our Commander in Chief, the President of the United States, renew our pledge and rededicate our energies and our lives for the victory of our arms, for the victory of our cause.
August 31, 1942
[This argument is the first of a number by Congressman Marcantonio on Federal soldier vote legislation and the related issue of anti-poll tax legislation.]
Mr. Speaker, I came to Washington today to cast my vote in support of this measure that would give men in the armed forces the right to vote without poll-tax restrictions.
The legislative trickery that is being used to saddle our fighters with the poll tax, and thus prevent them from voting, is worth 10 divisions to Hitler.
We are now engaged in a death struggle for the preservation of our democracy. It is a strange paradox to find, in the midst of this struggle, that there are those in the Halls of Congress who would prevent the frontline fighters for our democracy from exercising one of the most cherished possessions of our democracy -- the right to vote. I cannot see how any person can claim, in good faith, to be a believer in democracy, a supporter of our war effort, or an aid to our victory drive, and at the same time attempt to deny to our soldiers, sailors, and marines, the most sacred right for which they are fighting.
The poll tax has long been the most shameful blot upon our democracy. It deprives 10,000,000 citizens of the right to vote in this, the greatest democracy in the world. In the 8 States where the poll tax flourishes less than 12 percent of the people of voting age were allowed the privilege of voting in the congressional elections of 1940. The poll tax stands as the greatest bar to thoroughgoing democracy in our Nation.
If the poll tax, as it operates in normal times throughout a section of our country, is a disgrace to our land, how much more so is it when applied to the very people who have been called upon to give their lives in order that representative government may not perish.
I charge that those who would deny to our soldiers and sailors and marines the sacred right to vote, through demanding tribute from these fighters in the form of a poll tax, are sowing disunity in our country, attacking the morale of our armed forces, and undermining our war effort. The boys in the service understand full well what it is they are fighting for. They will not be fooled by their pretended friends who are willing to give them everything but the liberties and rights and freedom for which they are fighting. But if Congress yields to the bread-and-circuses "friends" of the soldiers and refuses to grant the most elementary democratic rights to our fighting men, these men will have grave reason to suspect the good faith of Congress and to disbelieve the protestations of patriotism that are made by Congress.
This is not the time for delaying actions, for legislative trickery. This is not the time for that type of hypocrisy which pays lip service to our war effort but hopes that the anti-poll-tax provisions of the soldiers' vote bill will be stricken out in conference.
The Senate has passed the soldiers' vote bill with provisions to exempt soldiers from the poll tax. The House must not evade this issue. If we care at all about the principles for which this war is being fought, we must show it by promoting these principles here and now, by wiping out the undemocratic poll tax.