Sunday, October 17, 2010
The New Deal
I) Poor People’s Campaigns
A) Communist Party and Unemployed Council – led the agitation for rent relief and anti-eviction actions, as well as for direct relief, in many large cities. The Communist Party was not the only left-wing political party active in this type of activity, however; the Socialist Party was active, as well as the American Workers’ Party, led by A.J. Muste (a former minister)
1) Sharecroppers’ Union – active in Alabama, helping croppers fight for their rights; one such organizer, named Angelo Herndon, was charged and convicted of inciting insurrection in the States
2) Scottsboro – role of Communist Party in publicizing this miscarriage of justice, as well as paying for the defense of the Scottsboro Seven (or the Scottsboro Boys, as they were popularly known at the time), increased the popularity of the party in the African American community.
B) Bonus Marchers – Congress had promised each veteran of WWI a bonus to be paid in 1945; 20,000 were soon camped out on the Mall to urge an immediate payment, which the House passed by the Senate did not. In July, the Hoover administration decided to evict the protestors, which McArthur did with tanks, tear gas, and bullets. Most American people were repelled by this action when they saw it on newsreels, and even more so when Hoover defended this action.
II) 1932 Presidential Election
A) Hoover’s popularity – Hoover, of course, was hugely unpopular; most of the blame and frustration with the economic woes most people were facing were placed upon him.
B) Franklin Delano Roosevelt – promised to balance the federal budget (Hoover was running the largest peace-time budget deficit in the country’s history at this time) and trim the federal payroll; his stand on religion and drink were completely unexamined during the campaign (much to his benefit). Roosevelt campaigned on the slogan “A New Deal for the American People.”
1) Background – patrician (meaning he came from old money, as did his cousin TR). In many ways, he tried to model his political career with that of his cousin’s—he served as New York assemblyman, secretary of the Navy, and he was the Democratic Party’s choice to run as Vice-President in 1920. In 1921 he was stricken with polio, and was never able to walk without some kind of assistance after that. That he was able to make a political comeback from this disease was due in large part to the assistance of his wife, his second cousin Eleanor.
2) FDR won 57% of the popular vote (against an immensely unpopular Republican candidate); the only state that he lost outside of New England was Pennsylvania.
III) First 100 Days – this has often been treated by historians as the implementation of the Roosevelt “plan;” however, Roosevelt operated during this time period without any plan, and often under conflicting advice from his advisors. Most of the actions taken during these 100 days were forced upon the administration by events--and necessary, since he refused to work with the Hoover administration, because he felt the blame for whatever actions failed would be owned by his administration
A) March 1933 Bank Holiday – the first action that Roosevelt took during his administration was to order all banks closed to prevent a “run.” Banks were allowed to reopen when they were able to prove that they were solvent. This caused some temporary hardships, but as banks reopened they did so with the assurance that they were solvent
B) Fireside Chats – FDR became the first president to regularly use the radio to communicate with the American people. FDR used a friendly, conversational tone on the radio, and many people came to look upon the president as a personal friend, someone who was interested in their welfare. Because he also came to embody the government, many people came to see the government as directly interested in their welfare, as well.
C) “Alphabet Agencies” – these agencies were populated with young Jewish and Catholic intellectuals, who were largely unwelcome in the Protestant-dominated business world.
1) Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) – the agency charged with providing funds for the unemployed. Although the agency did hand out direct relief, much of the relief that people received they had to work for.
2) Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) – largely served young adult males; moved city boys into the country (away from those corrupting influences) to work on conservation projects.
3) Civil Works Administration (CWA) – small scale public works projects, mainly road-building.
4) Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA) – implemented a whole series of laws and policies to assist farmers; restored “parity”; government made payments to farmers for NOT planting crops, which acted to decrease the supply and force prices upward. The timing of the implementation of this piece of legislation meant that many farmers had to destroy crops that were already planted as well as livestock.
(a) Who benefited? – most of the benefit of these policies went to larger and corporate farmers, who could take more land out of cultivation
(i) Southern Tenant Farmer’s Union – formed to protest this development; it was a bi-racial group, which of course was threatening to those in power in the South, and therefore was swiftly and violently put down (evictions, and attacks on road side camps)
5) Public Works Administration (PWA) – funded larger building projects, like the Fieldhouse and the Glass Bowl, as well as much of the expansion of the Toledo Zoo, and eventually a new public library.
6) Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) – provided flood control for the Tennessee Valley (the Tennessee River flows northward from Alabama, through Tennessee and Kentucky to the Ohio River); the dams for this flood control also brought cheap electricity, which attracted industrial development in the area as well.
(a) Section 7a – in return for being allowed to form cartels, businesses were to allow employees to join unions “of their own choosing.” This section was ambiguous on the point of whether these had to be independent unions, or whether they could be company unions. United Mine Workers president, however, sent organizers into the field with the message that “The President wants you to join the union.”
(b) The NRA was overturned by the Supreme Court, and was the impetus for Roosevelt’s attempt to “pack” the Supreme Court (which had to this point blocked much of the New Deal legislation).
D) Changed policy toward Native Americans
1) John Collier of Bureau of Indian Affairs – changed long-standing policies toward Native Americans. The new policies tried to respect native cultures and stopped forcing them to be white; it allowed the reconsolidation of tribal lands and allowed natives to govern the land (known as reservations) themselves. The BIA encouraged the re-adoption of ancient dances and religious practices that had been banned or discouraged by the Dawes Act. Many nations remained suspicious of this change, and rejected the Indian Reorganization Act.
IV) Works Projects (Progress) Administration (WPA) 1935-1942
A) Productive jobs – WPA employees saw themselves as workers and citizens, not welfare cases; workers received nearly double to rate of pay of workers on earlier programs (although, at FDR’s insistence, still below the rate of the private sector, so that no one would be tempted to live on government largess), and they were exchanging their labor for money, just as they had during their employment in the private sector
B) 8,000,000 people put to work during the life of the life of the program
1) Toledo – Anthony Wayne Trail, Toledo Zoo
2) Cleveland – numerous bridges, Memorial Stadium
3) The Ohio State guide series
C) Popular Culture and the New Deal
(a) Murals – numerous murals were painted in public buildings, inspired by Mexican muralists like Diego Rivera and Jose Clemente Orozco (local examples include the Perrysburg Post Office and various buildings at the Toledo Zoo).
2) Federal Writers Project
(a) State guides – government funded “guides” were produced for each of the 48 states; larger cities also got their own guides.
(b) Slave narratives
(c) Narratives of immigrants and cowboys, as well
(a) Created 34 symphony orchestras
(b) Sponsored numerous dance bands
(c) Collection of folk music (Alan Lomax)
(a) Living newspaper – writers and actors collaborating to produce drama out of recent news, and dramatizing current events.
(b) Ethnic theater groups – Yiddish, Spanish language.
6) Cultural forces outside of government
(a) Woody Guthrie
(b) John Steinbeck – Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men
(c) Warner Brothers Studio – the unofficial house studio of the New Deal; Jack Warner was FDR’s main supporter in Hollywood, outside of the acting and production talent.
7) Screen Actors Guild – although established earlier, the Screen Actors Guild becomes more of a force to be reckoned with during this time period (in fact, a second banana actor named Ronald Reagan begins a second career when he rises to the presidency of the organization in the 1950s).
V) Social Security Act (1935) – now synomomous with an old age pension, the program encompassed much more than this at its inception; it was an attempt to build a European-style welfare state, with cradle-to-grave coverage.
A) Help for the elderly
2) Federal pension financed by payroll tax split evenly between workers and employers
B) Unemployment insurance – administered at the state level, which meant that compensation was higher in the north than in the south; the program was meant to counteract the insecurity caused working families caused by temporary layoffs.
C) Political, rather than fiscal, issue – because the program was supported by a tax paid by workers and employers (for whom the workers produced a profit), workers felt that they had “earned” benefits, which made it appear to them (and some of the more conservative elected officials who represented them).
D) Aid to Dependent Children – granted on a monthly basis, after a social worker visited the family to ascertain their needs.
E) Racial Inequalities – as the potential for more non-whites began to receive these benefits, the benefits became more controversial.
1) Racial code of the Social Security Act – the act excluded, at the insistence of Southern legislators, agricultural workers and domestic servants—or about 60% of the African American workforce.
2) Sharecroppers and farm laborers – excluded from benefiting from unemployment insurance, as well
3) Disparities in Aid to Dependent Children – families in Arkansas received approximately 1/8 of the total aid given to families in Massachusetts
F) Fair Labor Standards Act – ended ½ day on Saturdays as a usual workday, and made the 40-hour week standard nation wide; the FLSA also pegged the minimum wage to Southern wages of textile and lumber workers, in the hopes of eventually raising those rates.
1) Hoped to answer two problems
(a) Industrial unrest and social turmoil – as was seen in the labor actions in 1934
(b) Wage stagnation and under consumption – these two problems were seen by an increasing number of people in the New Deal as the reason for the Depressions grip on the economy of the country.
VII) Presidential politics
A) 1936 Presidential election
2) Roosevelt won 60% of the popular votes cast (greater than his victory over Hoover), and the electoral votes of every state except Maine and Vermont.
(a) African American vote – by 1936, African Americans voted overwhelmingly in favor of FDR over the Republican standard-bearer, in a reversal over long-standing tendencies to vote for the party of Lincoln. This occurs, despite some discriminatory practices in New Deal programs, for several reasons.
(i) “Black Cabinet” – second level bureaucrats and black leaders outside of the administration who provided advice to the administration; these African Americans were particularly influential upon Eleanor Roosevelt.
1) Economic recession – the Roosevelt Recession probably contributed most to the disenchantment towards Roosevelt, and the gains by conservatives in the elections in 1938.
2) Political backlash
(a) Reaction to “packing” the Supreme Court – a reactionary court had ruled against Roosevelt policies in numerous cases to this point; FDR advocated being enabled to nominate an additional justice for each one over the age of seventy-five (which would have added four additional justices to the bench); both Republican and many Democrats claimed Roosevelt was attempting to become dictator. The public fallout here was probably less severe than the bad press this generated for the President.
VI) Rise of the CIO – initially these letters stood for the Committee for Industrial Organization; after the break away from the AFL, the organization became known as the Congress of Industrial Organizations.
A) Formed in the fall of 1935 – by unionists inside the AFL who believed that unions had to begin organizing workers by industry to begin combating the economic clout of large corporations.
(a) Communist organizers – Lewis utilized numerous Communist and Socialist organizers in his drive, mainly because of their superior organizing results. When asked if he were concerned that these organizers might persuade workers to join these other organization, Lewis replied, “Who gets the pheasant, the dog or the hunter?”
B) Flint Sit-Down Strike (1936-1937) – in many ways, this strike was the defining moment for the early CIO, and certainly for the fledgling United Automobile Workers (UAW).
1) GM employed 80% of the Flint workforce at this time, either directly or indirectly, so the economic impact of the company on the community was huge, and the corporation could usually rely upon city government to be compliant with their wishes.
(a) Toledo GM workers – had successfully struck the Chevrolet Transmission plant on Central Avenue in the spring of 1935, with hardly any violence; many Toledo union members had advocated asking other GM workers to go out on strike as well—in fact, a caravan drove to Flint. The AFL representative actively discouraged this action, however. The corporation responded by pulling out half the machinery in the plant over a Thanksgiving lay over, with a resultant loss in jobs.
(b) UAW plan – the leadership of the union planned to strike Fisher Body plants in Cleveland and Flint after the start of the year, when workers received a bonus from the corporation, and more labor-friendly administrations took office in Ohio and Michigan
3) The Sit-Down Strike – this tactic allowed a militant minority to shape events; by occupying the building, workers were able to ensure that their would be no scab replacements—and that the threat of attacks on the workers would be minimized because they were inside with all of the expensive machinery
(b) Battle of Bulls Run (January 11, 1937)
(c) Workers seizure of Chevrolet Plant #2 forced GM to bargaining table
3) Backlash against labor
(a) Monroe MI – Republic Steel private police force gassed SWOC headquarters and set fire to it.
Posted by Gregory M. Miller at 6:42 PM