I VOTE MY CONSCIENCE: Debates, Speeches, and Writings of Vito Marcantonio

para el Español, desplazarse hacia abajo: capítulo 1 & 9

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Acknowledgements & New Introduction to I Vote My Conscience

1: Vito Marcantonio - Congressman (English)

1: Vito Marcantonio, Congresista (Español)

2: The Seventy-fourth Congress 1935-1936

3: The Seventy-sixth Congress 1939-1940

4: The Seventy-seventh Congress 1941-1942


5: The Seventy-eighth Congress 1943-1944

6: The Seventy-ninth Congress 1945-1946

7: The Eightieth Congress 1947-1948

8: The Eighty-first Congress 1949-1950

9: Puerto Rico y los puertorriqueños 1935-1950 (Español)

9: Puerto Rico and Its People 1935-1950 (English)

10: Lawyer for Civil Liberties

Vito Marcantonio: Bibliography

Annette T. Rubinstein: Author, Educator, Activist

About Gerald Meyer



78th CONGRESS 1943-1944

To continue the Dies Committee "would be a negation of everything for which Americans are fighting and dying."

A radio appeal for the anti-poll-tax bill H.R. 7: "It is up to the people who hear me tonight to let their Congressman know..."

On the need for a Federal law to assure soldiers the right to vote and to have their votes counted

Opposition to a tax bill which would place on "our soldiers ... and their generation the cost of this war"

An exchange with Mr. Sumners of Texas who "is very apprehensive over unrest in certain sections of the country."

Against a clause in the unemployment benefits bill: "the.. . purpose of this language is to dissuade veterans from joining labor unions"

A defense of Mr. Sidney Hillman and the activity of the C.I.O. Political Action Committee

"You speak about revolution. The record ... will show that insurrectionary language was used by the opponents of F.E.P.C."

A D-Day letter to President Roosevelt urging a rescue camp in the United States for Jewish war refugees

An argument for "grade-labelling" of canned and packaged goods

Conditions in Italy under allied military control: "none of the promises we have made to the Italian people ... have been kept."

February 8, 1943

[The Dies Committee was the first House Committee on UnAmerican Activities.]

What is the record of the chairman and of this [Dies] committee in regard to our enemies from within and from without? A record of failure as to the conditions of Japanese espionage and sabotage in regard to Pearl Harbor; complete failure as to the Nazis; failure and callous indifference to the diabolical conspiracy against the country on the part of the 34 indicted domestic Fascists, their 41 organizations, and 42 publications...

There is a reason why Japanese agents and Nazi agents and domestic Fascists escaped the attention of Mr. Dies. It is an old, old story. It is the history of the tragedies of democracies that have fallen. The diversion of the attack from the real enemy by the creation of the Red scare. The war on the Communists, on labor, liberals, progressives, new dealers, and on the Soviet Union, the war against the war administration, now called by Mr. Dies bureaucracy, was what kept Mr. Dies and his committee "too busy."

War against the Communists who, as an integral part of 130,000,000 Americans, are fighting and working like all other Americans for victory against the enemy; war against the Soviet Union, to which the gentleman from Texas [Mr. Dies] dedicated his energies and his writings and his speeches; this was and is the policy of the Dies committee. But this, too, has been, and is, the war which Adolf Hitler has told the world that he is waging. Only the other day Hitler reiterated to the world, in a statement read by Goebbels, that he was fighting "to protect the European family of nations from the dangers of the East," and he continued to proclaim his "crusade against bolshevism." He used this anti-Bolshevik game to ride into power. Mussolini, too, raised the antiCommunist cry in his "march" on Rome in 1922. The Rome-tokyO-berlin Axis, which our enemies formed to conquer the world, was announced as a "crusade against communism." It called itself the antiComintern. The Lavals and the Petains used it in France. The antiCommunist slogan was and is Hitler's technique of conquest, conceived from the very inception of his plan for world conquest. The democracies that fell for it are no more divided by this slogan, and then conquered by Hitler.

Hitler and the other two members of the Axis are today again beating the drums of the antiCommunist theme in an effort to split the United Nations and to divide the people within the United Nations.

Thus, while Americans are gloriously fighting at Guadalcanal and North Africa and the Red Army is smashing the enemy at Stalingrad and Rostov, Hitler and Mr. Dies are still crusading against communism.

It was a sin of omission to have disregarded the danger of the antiCommunist line in time of peace. Then it was part of Hitler's preparation for a war of conquest. To adopt that same line within our own country now, while Hitler and his antiComintern Axis partners use it as a weapon of war against us, would be suicidal ....

Behind a smoke screen of anti-communism, fascism has marched on and destroyed democracy in its own countries, and democratic nations. To continue the committee in the face of realities of recent history would be a negation of everything for which Americans are fighting and dying, and would contribute toward dissipation of that unity which is being forged among the American people and the United Nations for the destruction of fascism.

February 26, 1943

[On January 6, 1943, Congressman Marcantonio introduced H. R. 7, the first anti-poll tax bill to be presented to the House of Representatives. The bill was not reported out of Committee. In the following radio address, Mr. Marcantonio appealed to the American people to help him force the bill out of committee and on to the floor of the House.]

On January 6 the present Congress went into session. Since then the American people have witnessed their best interest defeated time and time again. Each week has brought about one or more actions on the part of the House and the Senate which has been a negation of the things for which Americans are fighting and dying. For instance, during the past week the Committee on Appropriations of the House of Representatives eliminated from an appropriation bill $2,973,000 for the care of children, $2,454,000 for manpower control, $3,068,000 for wartime education, and $1,200,000 for maternity aid.

It is very difficult to conceive of a more serious blow against our home front than these eliminations. This means the refusal to care for the soldiers' wives who are about to become mothers, and the denial of care for the children of mothers who are loyally fighting in the battle for production in the war factories and defense plants all over the Nation.

This tragic condition in the legislative branch of the Government is not mere accident. It is the continuance of a policy applied to every phase of the war effort, a policy which may bring about a plan of taxation whereby the burden will be placed disproportionately and inequitably on the shoulders of labor and small businessmen; a blind policy of discrimination and unAmerican practices against loyal racial and religious groups Negroes, Americans of Italian extraction, Puerto Ricans, Jews, and Catholics which makes it impossible to tap this tremendous reservoir of manpower in the interests of achieving the unconditional surrender of our Axis enemies. This same policy is the basis for a daily offensive in Congress against American labor.

Again, I say that this policy and activity in Congress is no mere accident. One of the main responsible factors is found in the vicious and undemocratic poll-tax system. The poll tax is a device which has brought about the disenfranchisement of nearly 10,000,000 adult voters, about 6,000,000 of whom are white and approximately 4,000,000 are Negro. It has made it possible for Members of Congress to be elected in primaries and general elections where the total vote cast in some districts has not exceeded 2,000 votes.

Let us bear in mind that Congressmen from States where the p011 tax does not exist have been elected by voters participating in the elections primary and general elections numbering from 40,000 to a half a million. The reason for the small number of votes cast in poll-tax districts must be attributed primarily to the requirement for the payment of a poll tax. In 8 remaining poll-tax States citizens must pay, for the privilege of voting, sums of from $1 to $3 a year. In some of these States these annual poll taxes are cumulative for periods of 2 and 3 years, and in others for the period from the age of 21 to the age of 45. Thus, it is sometimes required of a voter that he pay sums ranging from $4.50 to $36. Just think what such a large sum means to a poor farmer whose whole family annual [cash] income in many cases is less than $150. Think what this means to a family with 3 or 4 voters who may have to pay sums as high as $50 or $75 if they wish to vote in an election. It is this tax looming as so large a part of the small cash income of millions of families in the poll-tax States that makes for such a small number of voters in election districts in these poll-tax States.

Therefore, you can readily see that undemocratic elections make for undemocratic representation. Men elected in voting constituencies of 2,000 can never be as responsive to the people of their districts as Congressmen and Senators elected from districts where there is no restriction on the elective franchise. Undemocratic representation makes for repressive and reactionary legislation. Every observer on Capitol Hill... will readily agree that in the main, with several notable exceptions, Congressmen and Senators who are beneficiaries of the poll-tax limitations are in the vanguard in the denial of win-the-war legislation for the home front. It is no secret that the opposition to the President's program for the limiting of salaries to $25,000 a year during wartime, for genuine price control and effective rationing, as well as for other essential measures in the President's seven-point economic program that this opposition comes to a considerable extent from those who have been elected in poll-tax districts.

It is no secret that those who are beating the war drums against the working man and working woman, who make up the vital regiments in our battle for all-out production, are likewise, to a large degree, representatives of poll-tax districts.

There is another very important aspect to this problem which, in this worldwide war, is the very foundation stone of victory. In peacetime the struggle for the abolition of the poll tax is part of the great fight begun in 1776 by our forefathers for the extension of the blessings of democracy to everybody, irrespective of race, color or creed. Jefferson said it, and the American people affirmed that proposition in the Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal. There were no exceptions, either in the Declaration or in the minds and hearts of the patriots who gave birth to this Nation founded on this creed. The abolition of the poll tax is the continuance of this fight begun in 1776 and carried on by Lincoln in 1860. That is the character of the fight in peacetime.

In this war the effects of anti-poll-tax legislation extend beyond our own borders. Not only will the abolition of the poll tax lift the morale of the 13,000,000 loyal Negro Americans in this country, and thereby forge that national unity which is so essential to victory, but it will be living evidence and reaffirmation to our United Nations Allies and to the colonial peoples in India, Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean, of our earnest and high resolve to win the battle for a free and democratic world. The best demonstration of our sincerity to extend democracy all over the world is for us to extend it now, before the war is over, to everyone within our own borders.

I assure my friends that this is not force legislation against the South. We in Congress have heard from thousands of fine Southern people of all races and creeds, who understand the vital issue involved in the fight to abolish the poll tax, and who want to see it through. This is legislation intended to benefit the whole American people -- South and North, East and West. The abolition of the poll tax is a cause supported by all branches of the labor movement Congress of Industrial Organizations, American Federation of Labor, and the Railway Brotherhoods. It has the overwhelming support of church people Catholic, Protestant, and Jews of women's organizations, of organizations of Negro people and other minorities.

For these reasons I have felt it my duty to make the fight for the abolition of the poll tax in this session of Congress. I introduced my bill (H. R. 7) to abolish the poll tax on the very first day of this session. The bill has not been reported out of the Judiciary Committee. It, therefore, becomes necessary to file with the Speaker of the House a petition to discharge the Judiciary Committee in order to secure a vote on anti-poll-tax legislation. To validate the petition it must be signed by 218 Members of the House of Representatives. This petition will be filed Friday, March 5.

It is up to the American people who hear me tonight to let their Congressmen know that they wish them to sign this petition. It is up to you who hear me to give your support to this effort to bring democracy to our whole people. In carrying out this fight against the poll tax I feel that I am continuing the battle begun by my former colleague, the late Lee E. Geyer, of California, whose untimely death last year was so deeply felt by the whole American people. In this great fight I have every confidence that I am carrying out the mandate of the American people to give the best that I have to the cause of national unity, victory, and freedom.

December 17, 1943

Mr. Speaker, whether or not 9,000,000 American soldiers shall have, and shall be permitted to effectively exercise, the right to vote in the most crucial elections in the history of our Nation since 1864, is the most important issue before the Congress of the United States. The determination of this issue is just as important as was our declaration of war against the Axis Powers. It involves the very democracy of our Nation .... It involves the dignity and integrity of the Republic. To deny the effective democratic right of the ballot to those who are fighting and dying for the establishment of a democratic world subverts the... character of this democratic war.

Despite the vital nature of this issue Congress is about to recess for the balance of the year without having made provisions which will guarantee this sacred right to America's fighting forces. The fact that such legislative action does not even appear on the horizon of early 1944 is tragic. It is a travesty on the workings of the legislative process. This miserable failure has aroused the indignation of the American people. It has caused wonder and pain to every American soldier, and chagrin and disgust to his relatives and friends at home.

Mr. Speaker, no matter how much puny men may conspire and contrive to evade this issue, it must and will be rightly resolved, for no power, clique, or cabal will withstand the ever-mighty, righteous will of the overwhelming majority of the American people, Those of us who have an abiding faith in the American people are, therefore, confident that this Congress will be compelled to provide national, effective, and simple machinery which will enable the American soldier to vote and to have his vote counted.

Because of the deplorable stage which this issue has reached in Congress, straight and forthright talk is required. Because of the importance of the issue the time has come when each and every one of us must talk and state his or her stand. It is not my purpose to make a partisan speech. As the House knows, I am a member of neither of the two major parties. I am simply performing what I deem to be an inescapable duty; that is, to define the issue and place the responsibility wherever it belongs.

Let me get down to specifics. The confusion created by the opponents of a national soldier voting apparatus makes it necessary to define and restate the issue. It is the contention of the opponents of a national, simple, and effective plan to provide for the soldier vote, that their alternative proposal will guarantee the rights of members of the armed forces to cast their ballots and have their ballots counted. I challenge that contention.

This bill [proposed by the opponents of a federal soldier vote law] would place the responsibility on the States to provide for soldier voting. Just what do the States now provide for soldier voting? Eight States provide for the payment of a poll tax Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia which will mean in some cases a poll tax payment of $1 to $2 to be taken from the already overburdened $50 per month soldiers' pay; and will also mean, from point of time, from two to four additional carriages of mail. The soldier in every instance would have to meet certain poll-tax pay datelines, which are hardly known to the great number of soldiers from these poll-tax States. Let us examine further what the States provide for soldier voting. For instance, Texas specifically provides that no member of the armed forces shall be permitted to vote, pursuant to its absentee voting laws. Kentucky would require a constitutional amendment to set up an absentee voting law.

Mr. Speaker, under the unanimous consent heretofore granted to me I insert at this point a statement showing the legal requirements of States which will preclude soldier voting in 1944 by the States rights method; and a table describing soldier voting under existing Federal and State Laws .... [Here Mr. Marcantonio inserted a detailed description of legal requirements for absentee voting in each of the 48 states.]

An analysis of these insertions will show that 39 States require registration of soldiers; that 8 States Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, and Wyoming do not allow absentee registration of soldiers; and, that in the 34 States that have permanent registration, the men and women in the armed forces just reaching 21 will not have registered.

We must bear in mind that time is the most important element in soldier voting. And this is the factor which will negate any legislation which a State could devise, because of the number of mailings required. In many States the absentee voting laws fail to provide sufficient time for soldiers stationed even within the United States to obtain ballots and return them in time to be counted. Not only would wholesale disenfranchisement result for the soldiers within our borders, but well nigh complete disenfranchisement would take place for those stationed overseas

And now, Mr. Speaker, I turn to the question of responsibility for the present disenfranchisement of the American soldiers. Let us look at the record. A minority of Democrats in another body [the Senate] who according to the press are now threatening political insurrection and secession within the Democratic Party, emerged as a majority and adopted the Rankin plan in the Senate. [Mr. Rankin was a senior Democratic Member of the House who advocated continued state control of soldier voting.] The few became the majority only because 18 of the 30 Republicans present in another body [the Senate] voted for the Eastland-Rankin proposal.

Let us examine the situation in the House. Not a peep has come from the Republican leadership. Sphinx-like silence from Republican members of the Committee on Elections where the Green-Lucas-Worley bill [for a federal soldier vote law] is now reposing. No one is taken in by these tactics. The wives and relatives and friends of disenfranchised soldiers will vote for them in the next election: an election in which labor is... preparing itself for fullest participation; an election in which the vote of the Negro people will decide the fate of candidates in at least 14 key States, in at least 60 congressional districts, in at least 11 senatorial contests. The Negro people one of whose finest sons, Done Miller, awarded the Navy Cross for heroism at Pearl Harbor, has just lost his life on the Liscome Bay ... know their stake in this war and their stake in this crucial issue of the soldier vote.

Yes, it is my considered judgment that on this issue, Republican leadership has abdicated in favor of the gentleman from Mississippi [Mr. Rankin]. We have heard of Hoover Republicans, Wilkie Republicans, Dewey Republicans, but on this issue it is my considered judgment again that the House Republicans, with a few notable exceptions, have earned the title of Rankin Republicans.

In 1864 the last time we had a Presidential election in time of war Lincoln received the overwhelming majority of the soldier vote. Is it fear that history may repeat itself that has propelled the gentleman from Mississippi [Mr. Rankin] into a position of Republican leadership in the House on this issue? Is it blind partisanship and fear of democracy that give poll-tax leadership to the Republican Party? ... this is an alliance of fear; it is an alliance between those who fear a free and untrammeled and unrestricted franchise, who fear to extend it to all irrespective of race, color and creed, and those who fear the outcome of democratic process.

These questions can be answered and my judgment completely proven wrong, by the Republicans and the Republicans only. They can do so by abandoning Mr. Rankin's leadership, by speaking out for the bill; by Republican members on the Committee of Elections voting to immediately report out favorably the Green-lucaS-worley proposal; and by overwhelmingly voting in favor of this bill. Of course, I cannot expect every Republican to do this, for I admit that would be asking too much, for as you and I well know there is one who will always be a Rankin Republican, who will always be the natural and inseparable ally of the gentleman from Mississippi [Mr. Rankin], the gentleman from Michigan, Mr. Clare Hoffman. When.... gentlemen, and only when, you... give to this bill your conscientious support, then I will stand in this well and apologize, and declare to the world that the Rankin Republicans are no longer Rankin Republicans but just Republicans.

February 7, 1944

Mr. Speaker, I am constrained to vote against this conference report [on taxes]. It can be very properly described not as a tax bill but as a relief bill. It is a relief-for-corporate-interests bill. It certainly does not meet the requirements of the times. It contains loopholes through which corporations can crawl to escape their responsibility. It does not prevent undue profits during this period of war. It freezes the social security tax. It falls far short of the test set by the President in his message to Congress of January 11, that is, "a realistic tax law" and a bill that will "distribute equitably the burden of taxation." This bill does not distribute equitably the burden of taxation. It places the load on the shoulders of the average American while corporate and special interests are well taken care of.

This tax bill is against the interests of the American people and not in the interests of the war effort. It does not measure up to the requirements of this war. I refuse to force our soldiers to pay for this war after they come back. This bill places on them and their generation the cost of this war and permits those who are profiting from it to evade their duty to pay their equitable share of its cost. I urge you to vote down this conference report.

April 27, 1944

Mr. Sumners: [Texas] ... In the Southern States, due to the interracial friendship strong personal friendships violent general interracial conflicts have up to this time been practically unknown... People ignorant of what they were dealing with, irresponsible people vicious, some of them, I fear have been sowing the seed of interracial hate and disunity in this country...

Mr. Marcantonio: ... The gentleman is very apprehensive over unrest in certain sections of the country. May I say to the gentleman that as long as any group of people in a democracy, or anywhere in this world, are deprived of the right to vote, are segregated, Jim Crowed, discriminated against, and treated as second-class citizens, so long will there be unrest; so long will those conditions cause unrest, and what is more, those conditions are intolerable as long as we remain a democracy.

[Here Mr. Sumners accused Mr. Marcantonio of "preaching hatred" and said that the South itself was ameliorating conditions.]

Mr. Marcantonio: Does the gentleman believe that continuing to deprive people of their right to vote is going to ameliorate the condition and bring about better racial relations?

Mr. Russell: [Texas] Mr. Speaker, will the gentleman allow me to answer that?

Mr. Sumners: I yield to the gentleman from Texas.

Mr. Russell: I wonder what section the gentleman is referring to. I do not know of it, because it does not happen to be true, where anyone is deprived of the right to vote.

Mr. Marcantonio: I think we all have a very good idea of the poll tax, and we all have knowledge of the white primary law, which deprives people of their democratic rights. That condition certainly does not make for better racial relations.

May 18, 1944

Mr. Chairman, I realize that the committee has been debating this bill [Veterans Unemployment Benefits Bill] for several days and the members are sort of tired. I assure you I would not offer this amendment unless I felt that the consequences of the language I seek to strike out would be very detrimental to the cause of the veterans who will have to work for a living. The language I seek to strike out on page 69 provides that no benefits shall be paid to any veteran who has ceased employment due to a strike or other labor dispute. Furthermore, it exempts from this punishment anyone who has not participated directly or indirectly in the labor dispute, and anyone who does not belong to the group of workers involved in the labor dispute. The effect of this language is to penalize the veteran who goes out on strike in defense of his rights. It is aimed at veterans who are members, or who become members, of labor organizations. It strikes at organized labor. This language is anti-labor in intent, scope, and purpose. It is anti-veteran in practice. The sole purpose of this language is to dissuade veterans from joining labor unions.

As I said earlier in the day, veterans who will work for a living have one sure protection, and that is by becoming members of labor unions. History has demonstrated that the worker's best protection, best guaranties, lie in labor unions. Only through labor organizations have the working people of America advanced, and only through labor organizations have they been able to protect themselves. Therefore, by putting in penalties for labor membership or for labor activities you are penalizing the veterans. You are serving notice on them that by joining a labor union or participating in legitimate labor activities they will be deprived of benefits under this act, despite the fact that such affiliation and activity is in their own interests.

This is most serious. I know it will be contended that this anti-labor provision exists in the social security laws of some States. That certainly does not justify having it in this legislation. Here we are dealing with returning veterans. Are we going to drive the returning veteran into anti-labor camps? That is the real reason behind this provision. Are we seeking to array veterans against labor, when the returning veteran who works naturally belongs to labor and is a part of labor? That is the aim of this language.

May 18, 1944

Mr. Chairman, both the gentleman from Michigan [Mr. Hoffman] and his natural ally, the gentleman from Mississippi [Mr. Rankin}, have seen fit to attack Mr. Sidney Human because of the activity of the C. I. 0. political action committee. It seems that both gentlemen overlook the fact that labor has a right to organize, not only on the economic front, but labor has a right to protect itself and its legitimate interests on the political front. They conveniently overlook this fact: In this Congress some Members speak for certain geographical sections, certain agricultural interests, industrial interests, and financial interests. That is a matter of common knowledge. These Members who speak for their constituents, and particularly speak in the interest of the American worker and defend labor's rights, do not fear the attacks from doodlebugs on the reactionary side of this Congress.

Whether Mr. Hillman is foreign-born or native-born is immaterial. He is an American. What is material is that Mr. Hillman is engaged in a perfectly sound political activity consistent with basic American democratic principles. Nobody can dispute that. No amount of smearing can change it. No hurling of the word "Communist" a million times can do it.

Of course, I can understand why the two gentlemen do not want the American soldier when he returns to join labor unions. These two gentlemen have always been enemies of organized labor, and have demonstrated their enmity with their votes and their activities in this House.

I say that the best protection the American soldier can have when he returns and goes into a factory or a plant is for him to become a member of a labor union, because American history has demonstrated that the greatest protection American workers have had has been through organizations of their own, the very same labor unions that both the gentleman from Mississippi and the gentleman from Michigan seek to undermine and destroy in the halls of this Congress.

Labor means to defend itself. Labor recognizes that in a democracy the greatest weapon the workingman has is his vote, his ballot, and labor proposes to use that ballot, to use it in the best interests of the country, to use it in the best interests of the workingman, to use it in the best interests of the common welfare of America.

May 26,1944

You [who oppose the Fair Employment Practices Commission] speak about revolution. The record so far will show that insurrectionary language was used by the opponents of F.E.P.C. One Member threatened that Negroes would walk the streets jobless if F.E.P.C. were continued. Another opponent of F.E.P.C. had the temerity to stand in the well of this House and say that if the ballots failed they would resort to bullets. Just what is revolutionary? F.E.P.C. or its enemies? It is the first time I have heard language as extremely insurrectionary on the floor of this House, and it came from the opponents of this measure.

Mr. Chairman, this F.E.P.C. is carrying out war purposes. Your railroads were not delivering the goods on time, not delivering men on time because of lack of manpower, and yet they refused to upgrade highly skilled Negroes who are so essential to the delivery of goods and soldiers to their destinations. The fundamental issue involved here is the principle of the equality of man, the very foundation of our Nation. You oppose F.E.P.C. for one reason and one reason alone, the very same reason that the Emancipation Proclamation was opposed in these United States. F.E.P.C. is a continuation of the Emancipation Proclamation; it is democracy in action, the democracy for which men are fighting and dying everywhere in this world.

June 7, 1944

Mr. Speaker, under leave to revise and extend my remarks in the CONGRESSIONAL RECORD, I include herewith a copy of a letter I addressed President Roosevelt yesterday urging the establishment of a war refugee camp in the United States where refugees of the war might find sanctuary, at least for the duration of the present struggle. I call the attention of the House to this problem with the confidence that many of my colleagues will join with me in urging this humanitarian action by President Roosevelt. My letter is as follows:

June 6, 1944

President Franklin D. Roosevelt,

The White House, Washington, D. C.

Dear President Roosevelt:

In this hour of the liberation of the Continent of Europe from the ravaging hand of Hitler and Hitlerism, I join with all Americans in the expression of the deepest appreciation for your leadership in this most critical period in the life of our Nation.

It seems fitting to me that on this significant day [D-day] I should address you about the problem of the Jewish people now prisoners in Hitler Europe. For on this day the signal for the struggle for their liberation was given. Now at last it is possible for America to offer the long oppressed Jewish people the aid and succor we have long been prevented from giving them because of the conquest of Europe by Hitler.

As you know there is the prospect that in the wake of the successful invasion of Europe by the gallant men of the United Nations armed forces, there will be tens of thousands of Jewish war refugees from every section of Europe, who have hitherto been ruthlessly uprooted from their homes. The long period of famine and oppression experienced by these people under Hitler makes it imperative that America extend to them a helping hand. They were the first to feel the heel of Hitler tyranny and should be the first to be freed from Nazi oppression.

Because I know full well that you share my sentiments in this regard, I am writing to urge that you direct the War Refugee Board to establish in the United States a refugee rescue camp or "free port" where these refugees may find sanctuary from the horrors of war, at least for its duration. By this practical step we may save the lives of thousands of refugees, who might otherwise perish. May I further urge that this problem be presented to others of the United Nations to the end that such refugee rescue camps may be established elsewhere, and to the end that aid in the transit of the refugees to America be afforded. It is my fervent prayer that our first act of mercy in liberated Europe may be extended to the Jewish people; first victims of Hitlerite slavery.


Vito Marcantonio.

June 17, 1944

[The Office of Price Administration had attempted to set up "grades" (objective standards of quality) to be printed on the labels of canned and packaged goods. Congressman Marcantonio unsuccessfully tried to strike out of an 0. P. A. appropriation bill a proviso which prohibited "grade-labeling."]

Mr. Chairman, this language which I seek to strike out was placed in this bill for only one purpose. That purpose is to prohibit grade-labeling. activity on the part of the 0. P. A. It is language which is gratuitous. It is legislation. It does not belong in an appropriation bill, and it is in keeping with a practice which is developing in this House, of slipping through, on an appropriation bill, legislation which is against the best interests of the consumers.

The gentlemen who inserted this language in this appropriation bill had ample opportunity to debate this question the other day when we had the 0. P. A. legislation before the House. That was the time for them to have raised the issue, and that was the place and the time when this subject should have been discussed. It was not done then, obviously for the purpose of avoiding genuine and full debate on the question. It is now being slipped in on an appropriation bill. How it was done in the Appropriations Committee, the members of the Appropriations Committee themselves can say.

We are now aiming at the housewives of this country. We are forcing them to buy, by mislabeling, inferior quality goods and forcing them to pay for better quality goods. The only protection that the housewives and consumers of this country can have against the purchasing of inferior quality brands which have been mislabeled, is by empowering the 0. P. A. to set up a grade-labeling. program. This proviso ties the hands of the 0. P. A. and thereby legalizes the cheating, exploitation and robbing of American housewives.

September 21, 1944

[On September 11, 1943, after the Italian Armistice, President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill had said in a joint statement to the Italian people:

"Take every chance you can, strike hard and strike home. Have faith in your future. All will come well. March forward with your American and British friends in the great world movement toward freedom, justice, and peace."

Later, at President Roosevelt's request, Fiorello H. La Guardia, Mayor of New York, made a series of broadcasts to Italy urging continued cooperation with the allies. But La Guardia became increasingly uneasy about his role when, despite the fact that the Italians had overthrown Mussolini and were fighting the Nazis, the Allied Control Commission set up by the American and British governments ignored the needs of the Italian people, and Italy was denied the status of an ally. Finally La Guardia denounced the betrayal of the promises made to Italy by the governments of Britain and the United States. It is this statement to which Congressman Marcantonio refers in the opening paragraph of his speech below.]

Mr. Speaker, the mayor's statement reflects the feelings of 7,000,000 Americans of Italian origin who are shocked at what is happening in Italy. Anyone who believes in what Americans are fighting for, will also feel disillusioned when they learn of the betrayal of democratic principles in Italy by the Allied Control Commission and by members of military government there. As an American, it is with, a sense of shame that I say that none of the promises we have made to the Italian people, and none of the pledges made to them in the Moscow declaration, have been kept.

Our Allied Control Commission and the Military Government there have done everything to convert Italy, not into a free and democratic nation, but to restore her.. . into the hands of reactionary elements.

There is no country in the world where the black market is more rampant and where black marketeers are permitted to operate with such impunity. This black market is for the benefit of the rich and for those who, through crime and corruption of the Fascist regime, cornered the wealth of this country.

[Here Mr. Marcantonio listed the prices of a number of staple commodities in Italy. With the lira pegged at a hundred to the dollar eggs, for example, then cost 30 lira each, bread 90 lira a loaf, a chocolate bar 150 lira and a suit of clothes 20,000 lira.]

Hunger has already reached the stage of famine in Italy. Children are dying in Italy from starvation. Women cannot come out of their homes because they have no clothing. They are in rags. Tuberculosis is in epidemic stage. In addition to that, in one hospital alone in Naples, 4,000 girls of adolescent age have been treated for venereal disease. These youngsters did not get this disease because of pleasure, but were forced into prostitution because of hunger. What has the Allied Control Commission or Military Government done to remedy this situation which I have only sketchily described? Its failure to suppress the black market is the tragic comedy of this era. Its failure to appeal on time to the Allied Governments for relief will go down in history as a gross example of arrogant neglect.

I am pleased to see that the President has recently recommended that Italy be included in the U. N. R. R. A. program. However, unfortunately, I am afraid this will be too little and too late. There is only one remedy at this time. It is to keep our pledge to the people of Italy, to give to Italy the recognition that it deserves, recognition as an ally, and to rush to Italy lend-lease aid.

War was forced on Italy, not by the Italian people but against the

will of the Italian people. They overthrew Mussolini. They are fighting the Nazis. They fought them before we landed at Salerno. They are fighting them now 300,000 Italian partisans are fighting them in the northern part of Italy. Their fight has been so valiant that a tribute has been paid to them by General Alexander. Yet, despite this, Italy is treated neither as an ally nor as a friend. She is considered and called a co-belligerent. This twilight status of cobelligerency has meant what? It has meant starvation, hunger, black market, and the continuance of an Allied Control Commission and Military Government which has been a complete failure in the field of relief and which has negated every promise in the Moscow Declaration.

In the Moscow Declaration it was declared among other things that all Fascist or pro-Fascist elements shall be removed from the administration, and from the institutions and organizations of a public character.

Let us see how the Allied Military Commission and the A. M. 0. has flagrantly violated this pledge. The following are just a highlight: ...

[Here Mr. Marcantonio listed in detail specific instances of known fascists kept in office.]

Time and time again workers in Italy, seeking to better conditions for themselves, have been frustrated by officials of the Allied Control Commission and by members high up in the ranks of American Military Government. In one case, for instance, at the Cirio factory near Naples, women workers engaged in the manufacture of pastries for British headquarters earned from 17 to 19 lira a day. The Italian management of that plant had agreed to a wage increase; the Allied officials had postponed approval of the increase for several months. These women demonstrated for the increases and the Allied Control Commission gave the following order:

"If they are men shoot them; if women turn a hose on them."

The workers were finally granted a 1 lira increase and they returned to work. Bear in mind they were earning from 17 to 19 lira a day and that bread per loaf a loaf which is less than a pound costs the Italian workers 90 lira, and bear in mind that the lira has been pegged at 100 lira per dollar.

I do not want to be accused of injecting a political note in this question. That is why I am not going to mention the name of a prominent and top-ranking officer of American Military Government, but I will state what he did in connection with the public utilities workers in Naples. These workers demanded a wage increase which had already been granted them by the Italian management. It was not approved for 4 months. This official said when the workers wanted to talk to him: "Tell them to go to hell, and if they are anxious to hear from me let them listen to my radio speech."

In a radio speech he blasted the workers. The workers insisted that they were not on strike, that they were actually dying of starvation, one by one.

They were actually being taken to the hospitals, and the records of the hospitals in Naples will reveal that the workers in the public utilities at Naples were taken to the hospital, not from disease or injury but from actual starvation. Many of these workers have died of starvation.

What happened? These workers who were receiving from 25 to 90 lira a day were never given any wage increase. Machine guns were trained on them. They are still working there for from 25 to 90 bra a day, and again I repeat, a loaf of bread costs 90 bra.

It was during this incident that another high official of Military Government in Italy issued a decree known as the death sentence decree. It decreed:

a. All demonstrations by public utility workers forbidden.

b. A.M.G. to take care of all labor disputes.

c. Removal of Fascists was the task of A.M.G. and no concern of the employees.

d. Violation of decree punishable by death sentence.

Mr. Speaker, I could go on and on and tell the tragic story of Italy; I could go on and on and give you names and facts, dates and places, but I do not think that is most important at this time. What is most important is: What are we going to do?

I proposed in a resolution now buried somewhere in the Foreign Affairs Committee to recognize Italy as an ally, and the resolution called for an extension of lend-lease aid. This also would have aided our armed forces in Italy, as it would permit Italy to arm and fight against the common enemy. The Italian people want to fight. The Partisans are fighting. What do we do? After we get into some town, The Allied Control Commission disarms the Partisans, while the Fascists are permitted to become directors of the port of Naples, and of the life of many Italian communities, against the will of the Italian people and the Italian Government.

There is only one solution. The first step is to recognize the principle of self-determination and to guarantee that principle to Italy. The Italian people can and will govern themselves. We must grant to Italy recognition as an ally, we must permit the Italian Government to rule in accordance with the will and the best interests of the Italian people, and withdraw the military government from Italy, and give to Italy the right to live as a free nation and as a democratic nation.