The U.S. Two-Party System and Proto-Fascist Trends in the 1930s

Much to the relief of the U.S. ruling class, Wall Street favorite Hillary Clinton defeated Senator Bernie Sanders in the June 7 California primary. In the wake of Clinton’s victory, President Obama formally endorsed Clinton for the office of president of the United States, as did the “progressive” Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, considered a major leader on the left wing of the Democratic Party.

This makes it all but official that the Democratic nominee will be the pro-corporate, pro-Wall Street, and very hawkish former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, wife of former President Bill Clinton. Clinton will be the first female to be nominated by one of the two ruling parties to the presidency and if elected will be the first female president of the U.S.

The media made it appear that Clinton won by an unexpectedly large margin, though Sanders got more than 40 percent of the vote. Before the election, most polls had shown Clinton well ahead of Sanders. But that was before Sanders staged a series of rallies that drew thousands of enthusiastic young people, in sharp contrast to the tepid support for Clinton. Clinton’s lead in the polls began to evaporate and it looked as though Sanders might have the momentum to pull off an upset in California like he had done earlier in Michigan and some other states.

In the end, Clinton prevailed frustrating the hopes of Sanders’ newly politicized young supporters. One factor was that on the eve of the California primary, the Associated Press, quickly echoed by other media, announced that Clinton had clinched the Democratic nomination. In reality, Clinton lacked, and still lacks despite her victory in the California primary, enough elected delegates to win the Democratic nomination. However, she is assured of the great majority of the unelected “super-delegates.” Indeed, weeks before the AP announcement it had become clear that Clinton would almost certainly be the Democratic nominee thanks to the un-elected super-delegates.

Sanders had kept alive the hope among his young supporters that he would be able to convince the super-delegates to shift their support to him, but this never seemed likely. However, it would have been far more costly politically for the Democratic establishment if Clinton had been nominated after losing the primary in the U.S.’s biggest state. The timing of the AP announcement just before the election had all the markings of a corporate move to save Clinton from an embarrassing loss.

There were other factors in Clinton’s victory. Under the bizarre electoral rules of California’s so-called open primary system, persons can vote in the primaries regardless of their stated political party preference. However, this rule does not apply to the office of U.S. president. Who exactly can vote in the presidential primary is different for the Democratic Party than for the Republican Party.

Only registered Republicans can vote in the Republican presidential primary. However, in the Democratic primary it is possible for persons registered as neither Democrats nor Republicans to request a special ballot that enables them to vote in the Democratic presidential primary. Of course, many young people—and indeed even older people—were awakened to politics for the first time by the Sanders campaign and were not registered Democrat. They simply didn’t know that they could actually vote in the Democratic primary for the office of president. Or even if they did know this, they might not have known where or how they could obtain the special ballot. This undoubtedly cost Sanders many votes.

In addition, many poor people have felony convictions. Convicted felons who have passed their probation are “out of the system” and under California law can vote in elections. But many such people believe that once you are convicted of a felony you can never vote again—which is indeed the case in some U.S. states.

Yet another factor that tends to depress the votes of anybody who has to work for a living is that U.S. elections are held on a working day. In virtually every other country, elections are held on holidays or weekends giving voters several days to vote. To be sure, in the California primary people did have the possibility of voting by mail, but to do this you had to be signed up beforehand. It is also possible to vote at a polling place, but you have to know where to go to vote if you follow this route, and there are often long lines.

All these factors work strongly in favor of corporate-backed machine candidates such as Hillary Clinton. These machine voters know their polling places or are signed up to vote by mail.

Perhaps most important was the alliance between the leaders of trade unions, including unions made up mostly of immigrant low-wage workers, and the Democratic Party machine. This close alliance between trade-union leaders and the corporate-backed Democrats, now led by Hillary Clinton, dates back to New Deal days. If the union leaders had backed Sanders (1), the result would have been quite different. This illustrates the truth, if in this case negatively, that in present-day capitalist society no major progressive social and political change can happen without the support of the organized working class.

Clinton’s victory, however, does not change the fact that about 40 percent of those who voted in the Democratic Party, and far more than half of the younger voters, preferred the avowed “democratic socialist” to the pro-corporate, pro-war Hillary Clinton.

While Sanders and Clinton were campaigning in California, Donald Trump actively campaigned up and down the state as though he, too, was in a tight race. In reality, Trump faced no opposition in the California Republican primary. Indeed, Trump’s last standing opponents, Ohio Governor John Kasick and Texas Senator Ted Cruz, had withdrawn from the race weeks before. Nor is the racist Trump given a realistic chance of winning the state in the general election where white people are a minority and Latinos are now the largest single ethnic group.

Therefore, unlike the case with Clinton and Sanders, Trump should have had no real interest in the California primary if we judge by normal electoral criteria. What then was Trump up to in California?

A massive racist provocation

Trump’s campaign appearances in California were actually a massive racist provocation. Nowhere was this more evident than in San José, the state’s third largest city—after Los Angeles and San Diego. At short notice, it was announced that Trump would speak at the city’s Convention Center on the evening of June 2, five days before the Republican primary. The Convention Center is surrounded by residential neighborhoods made up of immigrants from Mexico and Central America. These are the very people who Trump has called rapists and criminals. He hardly expected to get many votes there, with very few if any registered in the Republican Party to begin with and many ineligible to vote at all.

Instead, Trump spoke to a few thousand mostly white people who came from the suburbs that surround “the Capital of Silicon Valley.” In his speech, he stressed his plan to build a wall on the border with Mexico, an extreme racist provocation considering the nature of the neighborhood where Trump was speaking. He also claimed that he could not get a fair hearing from federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who has presided over the civil hearing against Trump by former students of Trump’s now-defunct “Trump University.”

Trump University promised to teach people Trump’s secrets for getting rich quickly in real-estate speculation. (2) Why couldn’t Trump get a fair hearing from Judge Curiel in this civil case? Because, Trump explained, Curiel was a “Mexican” who presumably had hard feelings toward Trump for Trump’s advocacy for building a wall on the border with Mexico to be paid for by the Mexican government. However, Curiel was born in the U.S. state of Indiana, so he is as American as Trump himself. However, Curiel’s ancestors did come from Mexico, so according to Trump’s racist logic that makes Curiel Mexican. Trump later explained that he could not get a fair hearing from a Muslim judge either.

Enraged youth from the surrounding neighborhoods protested both Trump and his supporters, and some Trump supporters were hit with eggs while flaunting their support for Trump and subjected to other manifestations of anger.

What reception did Trump supporters expect given the nature of both the neighborhood and the candidate they had come to hear. Love and kisses? Even San José’s mayor, who is no progressive but rather a member of the anti-union faction of the local Democratic Party backed by the large Silicon Valley companies and real-estate interests, pointed out that Trump’s message inevitably contributed to the violence.

For stating this obvious truth, the mayor was engulfed by a wave of criticism on social and other media and forced to backtrack. The cops announced they would use cell phone photos and videos to identify and arrest youth who had clashed with the Trump supporters, and arrests have begun.

Paul Ryan, speaker of the House of Representatives, which makes him third in line for the presidency after Vice President Joe Biden, admitted that Trump’s attack on Judge Curiel was “the textbook definition of a racist comment.” But Ryan said he was still for the election of Trump to save the country from Hillary Clinton—who Trump, by the way, promises if he is elected to prosecute and jail if she is convicted for her alleged violations of the World War I-era Espionage Act in the “mailgate” scandal.

Ryan’s support of a presidential candidate who even he admits had made racist remarks has created a political storm. Ryan and other Republican leaders are squirming. There was renewed hopeful speculation in the media that somehow the Republicans will yet find a way to nominate somebody other than Trump, though according to all party rules and precedents the Trump nomination is as much a done deal as the nomination of Clinton on the Democratic side (3).

What is really happening is that Clinton and her corporate backers are trying to hold together a Democratic Party that now consists of a populist left wing increasingly open to some form of socialism and a corporate/Wall Street wing represented by Hillary Clinton, which since the defeat of the slaveholders’ rebellion 150 years ago has been and will remain dominant.

The Republican Party is threatened by a split between an extreme neoliberal faction represented by such figures as Paul Ryan, Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush, which is something like the Free Democrats in Germany and other European liberal—in the European not U.S. sense—parties, and a far-right populist, racist faction like the National Front in France, the Freedom Party in Austria, the Law and Justice Party in Poland, and the new Alternative for Germany party in Germany.

Experience shows that European-like “liberal” parties are capable of getting at best 5 to 10 percent of the vote. Such parties can function in the multi-party European systems and sometimes enter coalition governments where they help push governments toward more “pro-business” policies at the expense of the rest of the population. But, particularly since the Great Recession of 2007-2009, racist pseudo-populist parties do much better in elections than “liberal” parties, getting 20 percent or more of the vote. Indeed, in the recent Austrian presidential election, the racist Freedom Party candidate got more than 49 percent.

What the Republican leaders are trying hard to avoid is an outright split with Trump and his racist-populist supporters, just as Clinton is striving to keep the Sanders populist left wing within the Democratic Party. What Ryan and Clinton have in common is that they are attempting to save the two-party Democratic-Republican political system that has served the U.S. capitalist ruling class so well.

Where is the racist, pseudo-populist right headed?

Where are the racist, right-wing populist parties of Europe and the Trump faction of the U.S. Republican Party headed? And what is their relationship to 20th-century fascism? Are these parties a repeat of the fascist phenomena or is something new developing?

As I explained previously, the defeat of the slaveholders’ rebellion posed the task of merging the former slaves as well as the Native Americans with the white U.S. nation. If that had occurred, a new nation would have emerged in the U.S. quite different than the old white nation. Realizing that if this occurred the new U.S. bourgeois nation would inevitably split not along national but class lines, the U.S. capitalists were determined to abort this possibility. The result was the imposition on the U.S. South by the capitalists class—not the defeated former slave-owning class—of apartheid-like Jim Crow, dominated by a revived Democratic Party. This process anticipated elements of 20th-century fascism.

The logic of the direction of the parties of the pseudo-populist right of both America and Europe is to move toward a 21st-century version Jim Crow and South African or Israeli apartheid, combined with elements drawn from 20th-century fascism. This is necessary to maintain the domination of the traditional white nations of North America and Europe, much as Israeli apartheid is needed today to maintain the “Jewish state.”

Such a “solution” implies a brutal police state with increasingly limited democratic rights for members of the “white nation” and virtually no rights for the non-white population, which is tending to becoming the majority—a trend that will continue in the years ahead as long as the main imperialist nation oppresses the rest of the world’s peoples. (4)

Such a regime won’t be a simple repetition of 20th-century fascism; it could be something new and perhaps far worse. We tend to believe that 20th-century fascism is the worst that capitalism can deliver. In reality, it is only the worst that capitalism has delivered up to now.

Like 20th-century fascism, such a regime in the U.S. would be a highly unstable form of capitalist rule—like the South African capitalists found out and the Israeli capitalists are learning today. The present political leadership represented by the Hillary Clinton-led faction of the Democratic Party and the traditional neoliberal leadership of the Republican Party—and the mainstream leaders of the capitalist classes in Europe—are not yet resigned to the perspective of a universal apartheid-like regime that would replace the traditional democratic/parliamentary forms of capitalist rule in the main imperialist countries. At present, they see modern apartheid rule as only applicable to the special situation of Palestine.

However, the only viable long-term alternative to some form of apartheid rule is for the growing non-white population to merge with and thoroughly transform the white nations of America and Europe. This is indeed the trend of history. But can this be achieved within the regime of decaying capitalism?

Unless the traditional neoliberal, or “conservative,” wing of the Republican Party finds a way to “dump Trump,” the November election will pit Trump, who represents the drift toward a new and far worse form of apartheid, against the decaying New Deal/War Deal represented by Democrat Hillary Clinton. Many U.S. voters, very likely an overwhelming majority of them, will vote reluctantly for Clinton in order to bar the way to the horror represented by Trump. The problem is that the very policies represented by Clinton, whose origins I examine below, have led to Trump’s rise and are preparing the way for the victory of “Trumpism” in one form or another in the not-too-distant future.

Super-crisis and the two-party system

The unexpected collapse of the U.S. economy that occurred between mid-year 1929 and mid-year 1932 was exactly the type of crisis the two-party system was designed to handle. The Republican Party had dominated the U.S. since the defeat of the slaveholders’ rebellion. But in the election cycle of 1932, the unexpected economic disaster discredited the GOP, headed by President Herbert Hoover (1874-1964). Hoover, preaching “rugged individualism”—what we would now call “neoliberalism”—did virtually nothing for the unemployed and severely underemployed workers or for the farmers suffering from high debts and collapsing agricultural prices.

But for voters who were fed up with the governing Republican party—and there was no shortage of traditional Republican voters who now despised the Republicans—there was an “establishment” alternative, the Democratic Party. Under the prevailing conditions, Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945)—distant cousin of the “reform” progressive-era Republican President Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919)—had no need to put forward a particular program to deal with the economic super-crisis. Instead, Roosevelt emphasized the need to balance the federal budget—not “populist” or even “Keynesian” at all. But FDR had one overwhelming advantage—he was not named Herbert Hoover.

Besides promising to balance the federal budget, the Democrats vaguely hinted they might be open to some of the monetary nostrums that had long been associated with the Democratic Party—especially during periods of low agricultural commodity prices—like a larger role for silver in the monetary system and a devaluation of the dollar. The Democratic platform emphasized the need to maintain a “sound dollar” at all costs but failed to define exactly what constituted a sound dollar. The Republicans, in contrast, made clear they were for defending the prevailing gold coin standard.

During the campaign of 1932, Wall Street and the industrial titans were far less concerned about the possible devaluation of the U.S. dollar than they had been in 1896. Unlike then, when the U.S. needed a steady flow of money capital from Britain to maintain the rapid pace of industrialization, the U.S. was now the world’s main creditor nation. From the viewpoint of the U.S. ruling class, the devaluation of the dollar, the medium in which the labor power of U.S. workers was paid, didn’t seem like an unreasonable option in the wake of Britain’s devaluation of the pound in 1931, which by devaluing the medium in which British workers were paid had given Britain an advantage in world trade.

In addition, there was no party of the extreme right even remotely comparable to the German National Socialists—Nazis. On the extreme left, William Z. Foster (1881-1961), the leader of the 1919 steel strike and its best-known leader, was the candidate of the Communist Party for U.S. president. Foster officially won 102,307 votes, which was to remain the highest total ever won by a Communist in a U.S. presidential election. Norman Thomas (1884-1968), the presidential candidate of the moderate left-wing Socialist Party, won 884,885 votes, the best socialist total in a presidential race since Eugene Debs managed to win 900,390 votes in 1920 in a campaign run from a prison cell. The Socialist Party was also never again to match its 1932 vote.

To keep things in perspective, Roosevelt won 57.4 percent of the popular vote, and even Hoover, despite the super-crisis that had occurred on his watch, still managed to get 39.7 percent.

Despite the biggest crisis in U.S. since the slaveholders’ rebellion, the two U.S. ruling parties between them still got 97.1 percent of the vote. This is in complete contrast to Germany [see posts on Germany], which saw the steady disintegration of the established political parties—especially the “moderate” bourgeois parties that were attempting to forge a political system modeled on the Democratic-Republican regime in the United States. What did change in the U.S. was that the Democrats replaced the Republicans as the senior partner within the two-party system.

Although the U.S. Communist Party never became a mass electoral party like Communist parties did in some other capitalist countries, it was to play a considerable role in U.S. politics and the evolution of the two-party system during the Depression decade.

U.S. Communists in the Depression era

The combination of the super-crisis combined with the successes of the first Soviet five-year plan led to a sharp rise in the influence of the U.S. Communist Party. Soviet industrialization was forging ahead at a pace that dwarfed even that of U.S. industrialization during the Gilded Age. But with this difference. The Soviet Union was doing so without capitalists or the import of foreign capital. The impact of these two events occurring at the same time, especially on young people, is hard to imagine today. To many newly politicized young people of the time—and perhaps some not so young—it must have seemed as though capitalism was at the end of the road.

The U.S. Communist Party, which had a membership of below 10,000 in the late 1920s—mostly immigrant workers (only about a thousand U.S. Communists in 1929 had actually been born in the U.S.)—began to experience significant growth. During the remainder of the 1930s, the U.S. Communists developed into a party that numbered in the tens of thousands. This was not big enough to break the hold of the Democrats and Republicans in electoral politics but was more than enough to have a major impact on the evolution of the class struggle.

In 1932, the Communist Party ran William Z. Foster for president and James Ford for vice president. What was significant here was that Ford was African American. In the era of Barack Obama, this might not seem like much, but in the racist United States of 1932, where hardly any African American held elective office let alone one that was only a “heartbeat away” from the U.S. presidency itself, this was a major challenge to racism.

In the context of 1932, the Ford candidacy was therefore a bold challenge to the extreme racism that dominated U.S. society not only in the South but in the North. Indeed, the last Democratic administration before Franklin Roosevelt, that of Woodrow Wilson, which ruled the U.S. between 1913 and 1921, had formally banned African Americans from even serving in the federal civil service. Roosevelt himself had served as assistant secretary of the Navy in this racist government and as far as I know is not on record as opposing this or any other racist policies of the Wilson administration.

The beginning of 1933 saw a far more radical change in the political regime in Germany, the U.S.’s leading rival among the imperialist states. On January 30, 1933, Adolf Hitler was sworn in as the young new chancellor. Over the next year and a half, Hitler as “der Fuhrer” became the unchallenged dictator of Germany.

Just like he promised, Hitler banned all other political parties starting with the Communist Party but extended to the Social Democratic Party and then to the bourgeois parties, which were either banned outright or forcibly merged with the so-called National Socialist—Nazi—Party. How different the subsequent history of the Depression decade might have been if Hitler had been stopped!

If the Russian Revolution—which gave birth to both the Soviet Union and the Communist International of which the U.S. Communist Party was a part—was the greatest blow against racism in history, the rise of the ultra-racist regime of Adolf Hitler was to greatly strengthen racism in all its forms in the U.S. Indeed, Hitler’s victory over the German working class and its allies was to make Roosevelt’s task in the era when the U.S. was transitioning from a regional into a world empire a whole easier.

As it turned out, both Roosevelt and Hitler were to remain in office—Roosevelt as the constitutional U.S. president (5) and Hitler as the fascist dictator of Germany—until April 1945. The health of Roosevelt—who had been partly paralyzed from a bout with polio in 1921—sharply declined during 1944. On April 12, the U.S. president died suddenly while on vacation. Hitler, by now confined to his bunker beneath the Reich chancellery in central Berlin, was briefly encouraged by the news of Roosevelt’s death. The desperate dictator hoped that the alliance between the U.S., Britain and the Soviet Union would break up allowing Nazi Germany to make peace with the U.S. and Britain at the expense of the Soviet Union.

Hitler’s happy mood was spoiled later the same day by the news that Vienna had been captured by the advancing Soviet army. On April 30, at about 3:30 p.m. local time, with what was left of the Reich chancellery and the bunker under it about to be overrun by advancing Soviet forces, Hitler committed suicide along with his new bride Eva Braun.

The governments of Franklin Roosevelt and Adolf Hitler therefore almost exactly coincided in time. Hitler took power a few weeks before Roosevelt took office and felt obliged to kill himself a few weeks after Roosevelt’s death. When the guns finally fell silent in Europe in May 1945, two of three men who had dominated world politics from 1933 to 1945, Franklin Roosevelt and Adolf Hitler, were now gone. Only the third man, Joseph Stalin (1878-1953), was to survive beyond the end of World War II and to lead the Soviet Union during the early years of the Cold War. Much more than in earlier times, the evolution of the U.S. two-party system was intertwined with world politics as a whole.

World politics in the 1930s

After Hitler came to power and consolidated his dictatorship in 1933-1934, it became obvious that war between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany was only a matter of time, and not very much time at that. What was yet to be determined was the position the other imperialist powers would take in the coming Soviet-German war.

The greatest danger to the Soviet Union was that the common class interests of the capitalist class against the world’s only workers’ state would prevail over their conflicting economic interests. If that had happened, the imperialist powers would have united with Germany against the Soviet Union, which would then have had little chance of survival.

During the 1930s, the Hitler government did everything it could to bring about just this outcome. The leadership of the Soviet Union and the Communist International headed by Stalin was determined to prevent this from happening.

Hitler wanted to build a new overseas German empire in eastern Europe and what was then the Soviet Union. This way, Berlin argued, all the imperialist countries would win. The end of Soviet Union would solve the “Communist problem” that confronted all the capitalist powers.

To drive home this point, Germany called its alliance with Japan the “anti-Comintern” pact. Berlin made clear that not only the Soviet Union but the Communist International and the world workers’ movement as a whole was in the cross-hairs of Nazi Germany. As far as Hitler was concerned, the other imperialist empires, including Britain and the United States, were free to join the anti-Comintern pact if only they recognized Germany’s right to build a colonial empire on the ruins of the Soviet Union. From the Soviet perspective, there was no more vital political task then preventing the United States from joining Nazi Germany—or even remaining neutral on the side of Germany—in an assault on the Soviet Union.

During the 1930s, the U.S. ruling class was split into roughly two camps. One camp using the slogan “America First”—a slogan recently revived by Donald Trump—essentially wanted to join the “anti-Comintern” pact. This faction of the U.S. ruling capitalist class was willing to accept a division of the world with Nazi Germany—which would get eastern Europe and the Soviet Union west of the Urals including the Ukrainian breadbasket and the oil-bearing lands around the Caspian Sea.

Britain would hold onto its vast existing empire in the Middle East, Africa and the “jewel in the crown” India. Japan would get China, Indochina-Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia—as well as Thailand, Burma and Indonesia, and the rest of the western Pacific, perhaps with the exception of the “white colonies” of Australia and New Zealand. The United States would feast on the Western Hemisphere—Alaska, Canada (an imperialist satellite country), Mexico, Central America, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and the smaller Caribbean Islands as well South America and the eastern Pacific—the Hawaiian Islands.

The capitalists who favored this approach tended to support the Republican Party— the historically preferred party of the U.S. capitalist class—that had been weakened but not wiped out by the economic disaster of 1929-1933.

Since the Democrats and Republicans were loose coalitions of capitalist interests, there were exceptions to this Democratic-Republican divide. For example, the wealthy financier and Democrat Joseph Kennedy, who headed the Boston Democratic machine, also favored an alliance with Germany. The Kennedy’s are descendants of Irish peasants who fled the potato famine of 1846 and succeeded in growing rich in the new world.

The Republican Party and its forerunners such as the Whigs and the anti-immigrant American Party (these forerunners of Donald Trump were popularly called Know Nothings, a good name for them) used anti-Irish feelings among “Anglo” workers to gain votes. Using what amounted to a kind of racism, the anti-immigrant U.S. politicians painted Irish workers as a bunch of drunken degenerates who were loyal to the pope and therefore could never be real Americans no matter how many generations they lived in the U.S. The attitude toward people of Irish descent then was about what Donald Trump’s attitude is toward people of Mexican descent today.

The capitalists, known as “isolationists,” who adopted this approach took a hard line against the rising union movement that culminated in the Congress of Industrial Organizations—the CIO. They strongly opposed such New Deal reforms as Social Security, however skimpy, and unemployment insurance, since by reducing somewhat the sense of insecurity workers feel such measures increased the ability of the workers to hold out for better wages. Many of these capitalists—for example, Henry Ford—did little to hide their admiration for European fascism and its leaders Italy’s Benito Mussolini and especially Germany’s Adolf Hitler. Hitler and Mussolini, these capitalists observed, knew how to deal with their trade unions and the Communists!

These forces had no objection to Hitler’s anti-Semitic policies either. They were often anti-Semitic themselves, just as both Henry Ford and Joseph Kennedy were. Their slogan was America First! This wing of the U.S. ruling class did not foresee a U.S. world empire in the immediate future—though the contradictions of capitalism if they had prevailed would have inevitably driven them towards that goal. In the meantime, much of the surplus value necessary to prevent the rate of profit on their capital from falling would have to come out of the hides of U.S. workers.

The other tendency was the New Deal tendency centered on Franklin D. Roosevelt. This tendency is often called “the internationalists” as opposed to the “isolationists.” They were willing to make more concessions to workers at home including recognizing the legal right to exist of the trade unions such as the new industrial unions associated with CIO.

Instead of sending in federal troops and shooting down strikers as was done during the Gilded Age, the New Deal aimed to make the trade unions dependent on the government. Before the New Deal, if a union could shut down an enterprise long enough and fight off the armies of scabs, police, Pinkertons and sometimes the National Guard and U.S. Army, the union would be recognized. Then as long as the union members were willing to fight for it, the union would endure but no longer.

In the face of violent resistance of the industrial bosses and their government, lasting unions were rare in U.S. basic industry. With few exceptions, enduring unions were only achieved in industries that engaged in small-scale production where capital was decentralized such as in construction and long-shore. These craft unions organized in the American Federation of Labor were racist—no African Americans could join—corrupt, and often dominated by organized crime. Before the New Deal, the only examples of enduring industrial unions were the United Mine Workers in coal, the Brewery Workers Union, the Textile Workers and International Lady Garments Workers Union. (6)

All other long-lived labor unions were craft unions of skilled workers. They were often more interested in organizing the bosses in cartels than the workers in the union. Since the unions were often run by gangsters, they would make an offer to the bosses that could not be refused if the boss wanted to remain alive. As a result, the cartel super-profits would be divided between the bosses, the gangsters and other corrupt union officials, and white skilled workers in the form of high wages and union-run insurance schemes. The unskilled workers were left out in the cold.

This led to widespread complaints that “labor racketeering” was driving up business costs, especially in construction in cities with large immigrant communities dominated by corrupt Democratic Party machines. But it was the price that had to be paid in order to keep the U.S. divided, not only between white and Black but between different white ethnic groups—English, Irish, Italian, Jewish and so on. Under this system, a few white skilled workers could earn high wages, but the great majority of the U.S. working class was kept impotent on the trade-union level and the entire working class on the political level.

However, the combination of the Russian Revolution and the five-year plans of the USSR, combined with the Depression and consequent growth of the U.S. Communist Party, made it impossible for the U.S. ruling class to use the methods of the Gilded Age to deal with the workers’ upsurge in the 1930s. Instead, the New Deal policy was to tame the massive upsurge of the U.S. working class that was now centered in large-scale industry such as auto and steel and involved great masses of unskilled and semiskilled workers.

The Roosevelt government set up the National Labor Relations Board. The right of workers to organize was recognized if the majority of the workers voted for the union. The idea of the NLRB was to get the workers off the picket lines and into a government-run electoral and judicial process. Over time this system has made it even harder to organize unions than in pre-New Deal times as union organizing drives get bogged down in red tape and NLRB appeals.

But such was the power of the 1930s upsurge that before the unions were tamed by the NLRB system the bulk of basic industry—with the significant exception of industry in the former slave states—was organized. These included the auto industry and auto parts industries—the most important mid-20th-century industries—as well as the iron and steel industry and the rubber industry as well as the electrical industry.

As a result, the bosses were forced to grant higher wages and shorter hours, which increased the price of the commodity labor power, increasing the hours the workers worked for themselves relative to the hours the workers worked unpaid for the bosses. The problem confronting the U.S. capitalists was how the rate of profit was to be restored and safeguarded in the future in the face of concessions the Roosevelt administration found necessary to maintain the political stability of capitalist class rule in the United States.

This takes us to the other side of the New Deal, its “internationalism.” Instead of dividing the world with the British, Germans, French, Japanese and other imperialists, the New Deal aimed at a universal imperialist empire dominated by the U.S. Such a universal imperialist empire was first envisioned by Woodrow Wilson but rejected as unrealistic by most of the U.S. ruling class. If a U.S. world empire could be achieved, the colonial countries and their workers would be opened up to unfettered super-exploitation of U.S. capital. This would then allow for a somewhat reduced rate of exploitation at home.

The U.S. would then share out the super-profits among the other imperialist nations, their labor aristocracies and middle classes. The other imperialist countries would be put on rations, which could be more or less generous as circumstances dictated. In this way, the explosive radicalization of the U.S. workers that began to unfold in the 1930s would be first contained and then reversed.

This approach meant that during the 1930s there would be no deals with Germany, Japan or any other imperialist power that was not willing to—or forced to—submit to U.S. world domination. The program of the “internationalists” implied war in the very near future with Germany and Japan. Therefore, the New Deal cannot be separated from the War Deal. They are two sides of the same imperialist coin. This is something that today’s “progressives” who dream of a new “New Deal” overlook.

The job of the “internationalists” headed by Franklin Roosevelt was made vastly easier by the fascist regimes of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. With the help of Hitler, Mussolini and Franco—who later became an ally of the U.S. during the Cold War—the drive for a U.S. world empire in which all the other major imperialist powers would become U.S. satellites could now be presented as a struggle of democracy against “fascist aggression.”

This was made easier by a change in orientation—itself the consequence of the victory of Hitler in Germany—of the Communist International formalized at its 7th and last congress held in Moscow in 1935. Facing an imminent attack by fascist Germany, the Soviet leadership headed by J.V. Stalin in its dual role as the leadership of the Soviet Union and the Communist International felt obliged to do all it could to strengthen the hand of the most aggressive wing of U.S. imperialism, the “internationalist” wing headed by Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Stalin was attempting to use the U.S. to crush Nazi Germany while Roosevelt was using the Soviet Union first to crush Nazi Germany as a prelude to going after the Soviet Union. As a consequence, starting in 1935 the U.S. Communist Party, which was the driving force in organizing the new CIO industrial unions, shifted from an initial stance of militant opposition to Roosevelt and his New Deal/War Deal toward increasingly open support of the Roosevelt administration—with the exception of the period of the German-Soviet non-aggression pact between 1939 and 1941, when the U.S. Communist Party returned briefly to its oppositional stand.

This pact did not represent an alliance between “totalitarian communism and fascism” as sometimes claimed by bourgeois historians. Rather, it was an attempt by the Soviet/Comintern leadership to postpone what was still seen as an inevitable war with Nazi Germany.

These titanic global events could not but have a huge impact on the evolution of the U.S. two-party Democratic-Republican system. Not least was the impact of the Russian Revolution on the African American question. In the pre-Russian revolution days, the U.S. workers’ movement was divided between an openly racist right wing—the AFL of craft unions and the right wing of the Socialist Party aligned with the AFL—and a left wing represented by the left wing of the Socialist Party and the radical syndicalism of the Industrial Workers of the World, which opposed racism.

In the South, the U.S. Socialist Party was even organized along Jim Crow lines with separate white and Black locals. The left wing of the U.S. workers’ movement, though opposed to the extreme racism found throughout U.S. society, saw no independent significance for the Black struggle against racism.

Instead, the socialist left and IWW believed the problem of racism would be solved when the overwhelmingly white U.S. working class finally took control of the means of production and began to create a socialist society. This position was actually a reflection of the defeat of Radical Reconstruction. These views flourished during the “Progressive Era,” between 1900 and 1914, which followed the Gilded Age. The position of Progressive Era U.S. white radicals was actually regressive compared to the white radicals during Reconstruction.

Impact of the October Revolution

These backward attitudes began to change, however, after the 1917 October Revolution, which overthrew an empire of what had been rightly called the “prison house of nations.” There was no way the leaders of the “Russian” revolution, which is actually a misnomer because this revolution was not confined to the Russian nationality—could ignore the “national question.” Inevitably, the leaders of the Soviet Communist Party and the emerging Communist International, headed by Lenin, could see parallels with the position of African Americans in the U.S. and the position of the oppressed nationalities in the old Russian Empire.

After 1917, there was now a European government—the Soviet government—and from 1919 an international political party—the Communist International, including its U.S. section the U.S. Communist Party (7), which militantly opposed racism. But there was also a government and international workers’ political party that actually urged the oppressed peoples and “races” of the world, including the “U.S. Negroes,” as they were then called, to rise up in struggle against their oppression. Though not immediately, this was to have a profound impact on the evolution of the two-party system in the U.S.

Evolution of the two-party system during the Depression

The rapid industrialization of the U.S, continued right up to the outbreak of the super-crisis in 1929. As a result, during and after World War I increasing numbers of African Americans began to leave the South and search for jobs in the expanding factories of the North. They were fleeing the legal segregation and extreme racism of the Jim Crow South—though there was, and still is, plenty of racism and unofficial segregation in the North. However, in the North unlike the South, many African Americans could vote. At first as a rule with many exceptions, African Americans voted for the Republicans, the party of Lincoln, which was considered less racist than the Democratic Party. But starting with the super-crisis, this began to change.

Immediately after Roosevelt assumed the presidency, the super-crisis proper ended and was replaced by an upturn in the industrial cycle. This new industrial upturn encouraged a wave of strikes that culminated in the rise of the CIO. Though not entirely free of racism, the CIO unions, unlike the racist AFL craft unions, welcomed African Americans as members. Before this, the bosses had often been able to use African Americans against racist unions of white workers. But from this point onward, African Americans proved to be the most combative and loyal trade-union militants.

As a result of these developments, ever greater numbers of African Americans began to abandon “the Party of Lincoln,” which had done nothing for African Americans since it betrayed Radical Reconstruction in 1876. Because the Democrats were associated with New Deal reforms such as public works, Social Security, and unemployment insurance, and just as importantly with the rapidly growing trade-union movement that for the first time opened its doors to them, African Americans began to vote for the Democratic Party in the North. In the South, the Jim Crow regime continued to rule, and African Americans with few exceptions remained disenfranchised.

The willingness of African Americans to vote Democratic despite the party’s extreme racism was further encouraged by the turn in the policy of the Communist International after Hitler consolidated his position in Germany. Backed as it was by the great authority of the Russian Revolution and the Communist International, the U.S. Communist Party had been the only non-African American radical group since Reconstruction to gain widespread respect and influence within the African American community. The Communist Party’s increasingly positive attitude toward the Democratic Party encouraged African Americans to overlook the Democrats’ racism in the interests of “practical politics.”

A Democratic Party transformed?

The Communists and their liberal and progressive supporters in the 1930s could argue that the Democratic Party was no longer the racist party of old that had occasionally supported groups of white workers in their struggle to raise their wages against a few bosses in order to undermine the working class as a whole. Under Roosevelt, the argument went, it was becoming increasingly dependent on the new industrial unions where Communists, militant supporters of the rights of African Americans, were now playing important roles.

Though this transformed Democratic Party was still a capitalist party, the argument went, it now supported reforms of capitalism that were in the interest of workers, especially the most oppressed workers, African Americans. On the other hand, the “progressives” of the time argued, if the “isolationists,” largely found in the ranks of the Republican Party, prevailed, the destruction of the Soviet Union at the hands of ultra-racist Nazi Germany would be likely. This, it was argued, and correctly so, would be a disastrous blow to non-white people everywhere.

But this did not change the fact that under Roosevelt the Democrats did not make a real break with their racist past or racist present. On the contrary, Roosevelt tried to have it both ways. In the South—still the solid Democratic South—Jim Crow continued to reign. Roosevelt did support an “anti-lynching bill,” which was defeated due to the opposition of the Jim Crow Southern Democrats, but that is as far as he went. Roosevelt, himself a northern Democrat, was determined to keep the Jim Crow Democrats within the Democratic Party. If the Jim Crow Democrats left, FDR calculated, the ability of the Democratic Party to win nationwide elections would be gravely undermined. After all, the southern Democrats were the historical heart of the Democratic Party.

President Roosevelt himself never spoke out against Jim Crow in the South, and the U.S. Army during World War II was organized on strictly Jim Crow lines. Only Roosevelt’s wife, Eleanor, who was considered far more liberal than her husband, made a few remarks against racism. As a result, African American soldiers were obliged under Roosevelt to fight against the super-racist Nazi Germany in a Jim Crow army!

In the South, despite their history of demagogic attacks against Wall Street, the Jim Crow Democrats refused to recognize the rights of workers Black or white to form unions. For the CIO, the organization of the South was necessary if the newly organized industrial unions were to retain their strength. This was true because northern industry was increasingly shifting to the non-union South—runaway shops—in search of cheap non-union labor, whether Black or white.

However, the fact that wages of white workers were lower in the South than in the North meant that there was a solid material basis for challenging the racism fomented among them by the Jim Crow Democrats. Though the CIO talked about the need to organize the South, it was held back from doing so by its alliance with the Democratic Party and the Roosevelt administration. The South could only be organized through militantly and aggressively challenging Jim Crow Democrats and their constant glorification of the slaveholders’ rebellion. Mere abstract talk about Black-white unity would not do.

Because of FDR’s determination to keep the Jim Crow Democrats in the Democratic Party, Jim Crow could not be challenged without a break with FDR and his Democratic Party. But as already explained, the left wing of the CIO—the U.S. Communist Party—was held back from pushing in this direction because the leadership of the Soviet Union and the Communist International was determined to keep the United States under Roosevelt from forming an alliance with Nazi Germany against the Soviet Union. Not for nothing was Communist Party presidential candidate Earl Browder’s (1891-1973) main slogan during the 1936 election cycle to “defeat Landon”—the Republican candidate for president—“at all costs.” The decline of the once powerful industrial unions of the CIO can be traced to its failure to challenge the Jim Crow Democrats head on.

The Roosevelt Coalition

By the mid-1930s, the Roosevelt Coalition stretched from the African American CIO unionists in the North to the anti-union Jim Crow racists in the South. Politically, the Democratic Party appeared both to the left of the anti-New Deal, anti-trade union Republican Party and to the right of the Republicans in the form of the in-your-face racist Jim Crow Democrats. The Democratic machines in the North could both appeal to the traditional racism of the white workers, which they had long cultivated, while also getting the support of white workers and now African American workers by posing as the supporters of New Deal reforms and the CIO.

This was the golden age of the Democratic Party that many progressives today are looking back to through rose-colored glasses. This is not a past we should want to return to even if it were possible, which of course it isn’t. The Roosevelt coalition could not endure in the long run. However, as long as Franklin D. Roosevelt, revered by most U.S. workers both white and Black, lived, Democrats were able to pull it off. It was to prove a far tougher and ultimately impossible task for FDR’s successors, though they attempted to maintain the Roosevelt Coalition as long as they could as we will see next month.

American populism and its evolution toward fascism during the Depression

During the period of Radical Reconstruction, following the defeat the slaveholders’ rebellion, American populism attempted to unite the former slaves with the exploited small white farmers and urban workers. As I explained, due to lack of a class-conscious working-class party, American populism was doomed to degeneration, with many populist leaders morphing into racist Jim Crow Democrats. William Jennings Bryan, who posed as a populist but ran for president as a Democrat, played a major role in this regressive development, which ended with imposition and consolidation of the repressive rule of the Jim Crow Democrats in the U.S. South.

In the early 1930s, the leading U.S. populist—or perhaps we should say pseudo-populist—was the governor and then senator Huey P. Long (1893-1935), a Democrat from the Jim Crow state of Louisiana. Long put forward the slogan “Share Our Wealth,” which advocated that U.S. families be granted a minimum of $5,000 (in Depression-era dollars) in assets while the maximum wealth a family would be allowed would be capped at around $10 million—still extremely wealthy but less so than the richest capitalists of the era.

Long made clear that he was not a socialist of any sort, and he never challenged the essence of the capitalist system. In the early 1930s, the Long machine ran Louisiana as a virtual dictatorship. State employees were treated by Long much as a boss in a non-union shop treats his workers. If state employees, whether high or low, did not support the Long machine—including financially—they would be fired. Under the rule of the Jim Crow Democrats, state services in Louisiana were dismal even by the standards of many other Jim Crow states.

There was therefore room for Long to carry out some public works—paving roads, providing free textbooks, and expanding somewhat Louisiana’s dismal education system, even during the super-crisis. This gained him the reputation as a champion of the poor, including poor African Americans. Long was often referred to by his nickname “the kingfish” after a character in the racist Amos ‘n’ Andy radio show, where white actors spoke in exaggerated African American dialect and showed the kind of condescending affection for African Americans that people often show to trained animals dressed up as humans.

African Americans were fine with “the kingfish” as long as they knew their place and didn’t challenge either Long or Jim Crow. This gave Long in the racist 1930s the reputation of being “enlightened” on the “race question.” This did not prevent Long from regularly referring to African Americans using the N word just like other Jim Crow Democratic politicians of the era did. The tiny percentage of African Americans who could vote in Louisiana actually declined under the rule of “the kingfish.” Indeed, in Louisiana even many poor whites were effectively disfranchised by the poll tax. This shows the depth of the anti-democratic reaction resulting from the defeat of Radical Reconstruction.

Long at first supported Roosevelt and his New Deal, but the Louisiana politician had ambitions to use his populist “Share Our Wealth” program to become U.S. president—some thought U.S. dictator—in Roosevelt’s place. Long began to criticize Roosevelt for selling out to the Wall Street bankers and charged that the Federal Reserve System had caused the Depression. He planned to challenge FDR for the Democratic nomination in the 1936 election cycle. His ambition was apparently to split the Democratic Party in 1936 and elect an anti-New Deal Republican. This, Long hoped, would clear the way for his own election as president in 1940. He famously said that if fascism came to the United States it would be wrapped in the American flag and would claim to be “anti-fascist.”

Because of his strong-arm tactics in Louisiana, many suspected that Long was using populist “share the wealth” demagoguery to build a fascist movement that would make him the dictator of the United States—though it wouldn’t be called fascism. But then, Hitler didn’t call himself a fascist either but a “National Socialist.”

Long’s hopes to become U.S. president—or dictator—ended with his assassination in 1935. After Long’s assassination, his top organizer the Reverend Gerald L.K. Smith (1898-1976)—a Protestant—teamed up with anti-communist but initially pro-Roosevelt Catholic “radio priest” Rev. Charles E. Coughlin (1891-1979) and old-age pension advocate Dr. Francis Townsend (1867-1960) (8) to continue Long’s pseudo-populist “Share Our Wealth” movement. Coughlin, who was based in Michigan, had used the then new media of radio to build a following mixing populist-sounding attacks on Wall Street with anti-communism.

Coughlin took up William Jennings Bryan’s old demand for the “free coinage of silver” and was not above speculating in the white metal himself. In 1936, Smith, Coughlin and Townsend formed the Union Party, which nominated populist Republican Congressman William Lemke (1878-1950) to run for president in 1936. However, during the 1936 election cycle industrial production was rising rapidly, unemployment though still extremely high was falling, and the trade unions, especially the new industrial unions of the CIO, were growing rapidly. These conditions were not favorable for a pseudo-populist challenge to Roosevelt, and the Union Party got relatively few votes and promptly went out of existence. But conditions for a pseudo-populism tending towards fascism became briefly more favorable during the Roosevelt recession of 1937-1938 that greatly weakened what had been a a rapidly growing union movement.

Taking advantage of this situation, the influence of what had been extremely marginal fascist forces in the U.S. began to grow. The most brazen of these was the German-American Bund, made up of German-Americans—generally more recent German immigrants—who supported the “new Germany.” The Bundists marched around with Nazi uniforms and swastika arm bands. They denounced the alleged Jewish domination of the New Deal and lobbied for friendship with Nazi Germany.

More native but still openly fascist forces emerged under the banner of William Dudley Pelley’s Silver Legion, popularly called Silver Shirts. While the Italian fascists of Mussolini had used black shirts and Hitler’s Nazis brown shirts, Pelley as the would-be fascist dictator of the United States favored silver shirts.

Coughlin formed the Union for Social Justice in 1934, which became increasingly pro-Hitler and openly anti-Semitic. The Christian Front, supported by elements of the U.S. Catholic Church hierarchy, which strongly supported the Franco forces against the Spanish Republic, fought with leftists in the streets. For a brief time, there seemed to be a real possibility that a native U.S. fascist movement was taking shape that could seriously challenge from the right the New Deal and its allied unions, which appeared to be on the ropes.

U.S. fascism aborted

But the fangs of incipient U.S. fascism were quickly pulled. The Roosevelt recession ended quickly when the administration abandoned its deflationary policies of 1936-1937 and the rapid rise in industrial production and employment resumed. This renewed cyclical upswing was to merge directly into the World War II war economy.

As the U.S. went to war against fascist-imperialist Germany and Italy and imperialist Japan—which was widely though wrongly believed to be fascist—conditions became highly unfavorable for the prospects of either U.S. fascism or any form of populism. Fascism or anything that even appeared to be fascist was now associated with the national enemy. Father Coughlin at the demand of the Catholic hierarchy was forced to dissolve his Union for Social Justice and drop out of politics for good. He went back to being an ordinary parish priest in Michigan and died in obscurity.

Gerald L.K. Smith remained active but with little influence. Smith, who had been briefly a member of Pelley’s “Silver Legion,” or Silver Shirts—themselves discredited by their support of the ideology of the national enemy—formed the short-lived “American First Party,” which attempted to challenge Roosevelt in the 1944 U.S. presidential election without meaningful results.

With the U.S. world empire exploding and the U.S. and world capitalist economies about to enter into a new wave of expansion, conditions were unfavorable for Smith or anybody else to build a fascist movement.

Trying to adapt to the new conditions of capitalist prosperity and U.S. world empire, Smith created the “Christian Nationalist movement,” which participated in the struggle to defend Jim Crow from the blows the Civil Rights Movement was delivering to it in the South. Smith strongly supported Senator Joseph McCarthy and the postwar anti-communist witch-hunt associated with his name. He published the The “Cross and the Flag,” which ranted against communism, Jews, race-mixing and immigrants, which Smith claimed was part of a Jewish plot to destroy the white race. The old pseudo-populist “Share Our Wealth” program Smith was once associated with was forgotten as he became a champion of the “free-enterprise” system.

Smith died in 1976 with little influence. But some of the old racist’s themes, particularly his opposition to immigration, have been revived by Donald Trump under economic and political conditions that are far more favorable to populist movements and pseudo-populism evolving towards fascism.

To be continued.


1 This should not be taken to mean that Sanders represents the interests of the working class and that the unions should have backed Sanders. Though Sanders was certainly not the choice of Wall Street and the corporations and they oppose his populist program, Sanders still stands well inside the boundaries of capitalist politics. Instead, the unions should back candidates who are responsible to and serve the class interests of the working class and are controlled by the working class. This, of course, requires that the working class have its own political party. (back)

2 The “university,” however, could not teach Trump’s real method of getting rich in real estate. Trump’s method was to inherit wealth from his dad, which was largely invested in urban real estate that has radically appreciated over the years. Many people lost their life savings in Trump’s scam. To be fair to Trump, he is not the only person to offer courses that promise to teach people how to get rich in real-estate speculation. (back)

3 Some Sanders supporters are clinging to the hope that Clinton might be indicted for violating the World War I-era Espionage Act for using an unsecured private server for e-mail rather than the State Department’s presumably more secure system. However, the Justice Department would have to recommend to a grand jury the indictment of Hillary Clinton. And it would be up to the grand jury to make the final decision.

If Obama had any reason to believe that the Justice Department was about to convene a grand jury to obtain an indictment of Clinton, he surely would not have endorsed her. In that case, Clinton would have been pressured to withdraw from the race even before an indictment was issued so she could concentrate on “clearing her name.” (back)

4 This does not mean that Donald Trump or other racist, right-wing pseudo-populist leaders necessarily have a master plan in their heads to do this. In any event, Trump, who has just passed his 70th birthday, will be gone soon enough. What is important is the direction in which these racist, right-wing pseudo-populist movements are evolving, not the conscious aims of their individual leaders. (back)

5 From the time of George Washington, it had been an unwritten article that no U.S. president would serve more than two terms. However, with world war already raging in Europe and Asia and U.S. intervention imminent, Roosevelt broke this rule and ran for a third term and then a fourth term in 1944.

To prevent this from happening again, the U.S. Constitution was amended to make the two-term limit official. Though Roosevelt did not become a full-scale personal dictator, the centralization of power in the hands of the federal government in general and in the presidency in particular was vastly increased. Despite the formalization of the two-term limit, this centralization of state power in the hands of what is sometimes called the “imperial presidency” was not reversed after Roosevelt’s death but has continued to grow. (back)

6 Though the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, led by right-wing socialists, was organized along industrial lines, capital was very decentralized in this industry. Male skilled cutters generally made much higher wages than other workers in an industry that employed and exploited lots of women workers. So the ILGWU was somewhat intermediate between a traditional AFL craft union and an industrial union in large-scale industry such the United Automobile Workers union. (back)

7 Unlike the loosely organized Second International, the Communist International aimed at building a single highly centralized party on a world scale. It was not seen by its founders as a mere federation of national parties. After the Communist International was dissolved in 1943, the international Communist movement became increasingly decentralized with the former national sections evolving in different directions depending on local conditions. Therefore, no political activist alive today has any experience with a mass highly centralized international workers’ party. This presents an obstacle for today’s activists when they attempt to understand the political dynamics of the 1930s. (back)

8 Townsend was a medical doctor who during the 1930s developed a plan he claimed would not only provide older people with financial security but solve the problem of unemployment and periodic depressions. All this without ending capitalism.

In order to do this, Townsend proposed a universal sales tax that would pay out pensions that would provide a comfortable retirement to anybody over 60 who had not been convicted of a felony. In return, those who received the pension would agree to withdraw from the labor market and spend their entire monthly pensions within the month they received them. The combined effect of the withdrawal of older workers from the labor market and the demand that would be generated when the pensions were spent, Townsend claimed, would ensure jobs for all workers under the age of 60.

Perhaps the old doctor thought that his proposal to exclude felons from his plan would solve the problem of crime as well. But it had a strong racist edge, since in the racist 1930s just as is the case today African Americans and other non-white Americans are convicted of felonies at disproportionately higher rates compared to white people. (back)