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

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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

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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

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76th CONGRESS 1939-1940


"Every true believer in justice ... rejoices over the liberation of Tom Mooney, even though it comes exactly 22 years too late."

Against a reduction in W.P.A.: "everybody is a pal of the unemployed ... before election"

Opposition to an amendment barring non citizens. from W.P.A.

The start of a "one-man war" to force action on F.D.R.'s request for emergency relief appropriations

An appeal that Congressmen from farm areas support slum clearance for city workers

For an emergency relief appropriation: "Puerto Rico has a population of 1,700,000 and 250,000 ... are unemployed."

Against a cut proposed by "the gentleman from Virginia ... the lord high executioner of W.P.A."

"The sole purpose of this amendment is to do away with the 25-cent per-hour minimum wage in Puerto Rico."

On the Hobbs "concentration camp" bill: "Today the attack is against the aliens. Tomorrow it will be against the citizen."

"W.P.A. workers will be thrown off the rolls. What are we going to do with these men? put them in cold storage?"

End of the debate on W.P.A. cuts: "the greatest American tragedy of 1939"

Objection to "a most slanderous attack ... on Puerto Rican children living in New York City"

Extending the Hatch Act to W.P.A.: "a step ... toward disenfranchising the unemployed"

For slum clearance: "I ... direct my remarks to those who are playing politics with human misery"

"Five Years of Tyranny in Puerto Rico"

The "index card menace to American liberty"

On the Dies Committee: "take away the ... rights of dissident minorities and you yourselves are engaging in UnAmerican activities"

Introducing his American Youth Act: "Opportunity for young people is a traditional American ideal"

Youth "came to us and said 'No jobs for 4,700,00 boys and girls' And what do you say? 'Save America from communism!'"

Menu for a Relief Dinner

"Let us emerge from this war hysteria and dedicate our attention to the most vital problem ... unemployment"

Against a 50% relief cut for Puerto Rico: "we here refuse to adequately provide for the victims of a system imposed by us."

"A most shocking use of a bill for sick people in the Virgin Islands to aid labor exploiters in Puerto Rico"

Against a bill to deport Harry Bridges: a fight to get Bridges' letter of defense into the RECORD

Two protests in three minutes

His stand on America's relation to the war 1939-1940

Criticism of the law for registration and fingerprinting of aliens

Opposition to peacetime conscription

"We should not dodge a record yea-and-nay vote ... on the conscription bill."

"Our first line of defense is the Milky Way ... we ought to see to it that we get a base on Mars and Jupiter"



January 9, 1939

Mr. Speaker, I rise simply for the purpose of noting in the RECORD that on Saturday, January 6, Tom Mooney, a great and honest man, was liberated and vindicated by the granting to him of an unconditional pardon by the Governor of California. This establishes legally and for all time what we have always known, that Tom Mooney was innocent and framed. I take this occasion to congratulate the present and ex-members of Congress, as well as the great army of men and women throughout the world, who have participated in this historic struggle to right this tremendous wrong.

I also take this opportunity to state that every true believer in justice and democracy rejoices over the liberation of Tom Mooney, even though it comes exactly 22 years too late.



January 12, 1939

[On his return to the 76th Congress, Congressman Marcantonio immediately resumed his argument against "the gross inadequacy" of W.P.A. appropriations.]

Mr. Chairman, any observer who has listened to the debate today has concluded that there has been more politics played here today with relief, and particularly with the unemployed who are dependent on W.P.A., than at anytime or anywhere else in the country. The reactionary forces in this House have devoted a great portion of the debate, not to the needs of the unemployed, not to the welfare of our country, but to petty politics, to political sniping, to an attempt to discredit the unemployed and their organization, and have raised a huge smoke screen to hide the real issue; that is, the gross inadequacy of the $725,000,000 suggested by the Appropriations Committee in the resolution under consideration.

It seems to me the proposition which we have before us is a proposition which deals with the welfare of our country; it deals with the welfare of the unemployed of our country; and whether you be Republicans or Democrats, no matter to what party you may belong, there is one fundamental principle which we cannot fail to recognize, and that is that the civilization of the American people is dependent on the welfare of the unemployed millions of Americans. Tear down and destroy the welfare of the unemployed in America and you are aiming a most serious blow to the fundamental American institutions which we all revere...

Let me ask, is there any Member of this House who went before the people of his district and said, "If I am elected I am going to cut the appropriation for W.P.A."?

Well, there are mighty few. There certainly are not as many as those who are going to vote to cut the appropriation for W.P.A. Everybody is a pal of the unemployed and the W.P.A. worker in October before election. I wish that the W.P.A. worker would only see what his October pals are doing to him here in January. I say there would have been mighty few Members elected here if they had gone before the people in their districts and said they were going to cut W.P.A.

The mandate of the people was against any cutting of W.P.A. and you know it... because the American people are interested in recovery and want to continue it by making it possible for anyone who cannot obtain a job in private industry to be able to get a W.P.A. job at a decent wage.

The attack made here on W.P.A. workers is wrong and unAmerican. The unemployed of this country do not want W.P.A. jobs and they do not want relief. The unemployed of this country want to work. They want to go back into private industry. However, as long as private industry fails to give the unemployed of this country an opportunity to work, then I say it is the solemn duty of the Government of the United States to give work to the unemployed Americans and to give them work at a decent wage, enough to support them in an American fashion during their period of unemployment. (Applause).



January 18, 1939

Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to the amendment [that no part of the money appropriated for W.P.A. shall be paid to anyone who is not a citizen of the United States of America].

I simply want to make this observation. In dealing with the so-called aliens we must bear in mind the innumerable difficulties that are placed before them in becoming citizens. In almost every instance it is not the fault of the alien that he is not a citizen. Courts ask him questions that even Supreme Court judges cannot answer. In many district courts papers are denied him because he is on relief and W.P.A. Right here in this House you have consistently refused to make the process of naturalization easier and less costly. Therefore, why punish the so-called alien? Furthermore, in persecuting these so-called aliens, you also punish their native-born children. They are good Americans. They were born here. Take their parents off the W.P.A. rolls because they are not citizens and you hit at these innocent native-born citizens of the United States. This discrimination is cruel, inhuman, and contrary to the best American traditions.

It is not fair play to first make it almost impossible for the immigrant to become naturalized and then starve him because he is not naturalized. This is not patriotism; it is just plain rotten.

At this time, when the world is filled with racial, religious, and political persecution, we should not indulge in it. To the contrary, America must stand out as a tolerant and humane nation. The proposed amendment has the earmarks of Nazi edicts against so-called nonAryans. Let us not imitate the Nazis. Let us continue to be Americans.



February 16, 1939

Mr. Chairman, 9 days have elapsed since the President of the United States requested an additional $150,000,000 for the Works Progress Administration, and only 43 days remain before the ax will fall on approximately 2,000,000 people who are now on W.P.A.

Yesterday I obtained special permission to address the House and I asked the question, "What is the Committee on Appropriations doing on this matter? Why is it that the Committee on Appropriations is not meeting on this matter, a matter which is so vital, not only to the unemployed of this Country who are on W.P.A., but... to the entire Nation itself?"

I do not believe there is any alibi or any excuse that can be properly advanced for any delay in this matter ... . It was presented to this House on February 7 by the President in an emergency message under the authority given him by Congress when we passed the W.P.A. deficiency bill .... I think it is only proper that at this time I read the language contained in the President's message, to emphasize that he requested action at once without any delay. The President said: .

on a program of gradual reduction, from 1,500,000 persons to 2,000,000 would be thrown out of Works Progress Administration employment; or, with the addition of those dependent on them, from 6,000,000 to 8,000,000 Americans would no longer receive Federal Government aid."

Now, get this:

"I ask that the Congress commence immediate consideration of these simple and alarming facts."

The English contained in this language is mighty clear. The President did not say that the committee should meet in March or the end of March, the President asked for immediate consideration and immediate means now and not tomorrow or a month from now.

I realize that perhaps I may be a lone voice crying in the wilderness, as I am crying out here day in and day out in behalf of immediate consideration of this additional appropriation.

It is my intention to daily call to the attention of the country and to the Congress the fact that the Committee on Appropriations is not giving immediate consideration to this emergency .... I am not alone in making this demand. I believe that many of the Members of the House join with me in this demand, and I know that I am also speaking for millions and millions of our people throughout the country in making this demand.

The W.P.A. issue before the Congress is by no means dead. Nor can you kill it by delay or by the raising of extraneous issues. The American people will not permit you to ignore this problem. This serious emergency will affect 8,000,000 Americans who are dependent upon W.P.A. It will affect every business and industry in the country. If you are opposed to W.P.A., vote against it; but let the Congress have an opportunity to adequately debate the issue, and let the country have an opportunity to send its representatives before the committee, and let these representatives from all fields of American life be heard, so that the vast damage to the welfare of the Nation, caused by the cut in W.P.A. appropriations, can be understood by Congress.

Mr. Chairman, I demand action; a majority of the American people demand action. Any stalling at this time is not fair; and it is hitting below the belt the millions of people directly or indirectly to be injured by the cut Congress made in the appropriations. I appeal to the Members of the House who believe in adequate appropriations for the W.P.A. to join with me every single day in this one-man war, which I have started to force the Committee on Appropriations to give the message by the President of the United States the immediate attention it requests; to give the welfare of the unemployed and the welfare of this Nation immediate consideration.

[Mr. Marcantonio carried on "This one-man war" to force action on President's Roosevelt's message until it was acted upon. He spoke on it whenever he could get the floor, and often ingeniously created openings for his reminder, as in the following one minute comment March 25, 1939, on Congressman Kleberg's speech:]

Mr. Kleberg: [Texas] ... I call the gentleman's attention to the fact that in our fight against the pink bollworm since 1921 it has been driven back to the Mexican border. It is now fighting its way in again until it has been found 30 miles inland. This added money is to keep the pest from going farther...

Mr. Marcantonio: I want to make the observation that the additional amount requested is $400,000. Just 1 week from today 400,000 pink slips will be delivered to W.P.A. workers. That means they will be discharged from the rolls. How about the $150,000,000 appropriation for the unemployed which is being held up in the Committee on Appropriations?



March 15, 1939

Mr. Chairman, the argument made by the gentleman from Wisconsin [Mr. Hawks] whereby he sought to array the farmers of the country against the dwellers in the large cities and the wage earners of America the argument by which he sought to keep these two important groups apart is by no means new. It is a very, very old argument. In fact, it is shopworn. It is the stratagem which is typical and characteristic of those who at all times have opposed anything which is progressive, anything which is humanitarian, and anything which is for the benefit of the American people.

We who come from the industrial sections say to those who come from the agricultural sections that the interests of the farmer, and the worker in the city, are essentially interdependent; that when the American worker in the factory receives a decent wage and lives in a decent home he is able to purchase the products of the American farmer, thereby enhancing the welfare of the American farmer and his family. The future of America rests on the unity of farmer and worker and on their mutual assistance.

[the attempt to divide farmers from workers] is now used against slum clearance and Government housing. It was used against workmen's compensation laws; it was used against social security legislation; it was used against health laws; and it has always been used by reactionaries in their effort to stem the progress of our country; array farmer versus city wage earner to defeat legislation for the benefit of the wage earner; array city wage earner versus farmer to defeat legislation for the benefit of the farmer. However, the farmer and the worker are not easily fooled any longer by this game. More and more are they becoming conscious of this old scheme by which they have been sold tickets to a lottery which is never drawn.

Mr. Chairman, those of us who have fought, and will continue to fight, for welfare legislation take the position that whenever we are presented with a proposal which will be of benefit to the farmers of this country we will support the proposal, because we recognize that the welfare of the man who works in the factory is dependent also on the welfare of the man who works in the field. [See Page 81]

We are opposed to division. We seek national unity. Now, what is this amendment under consideration? On the surface the amendment proposes to limit the cost per housing unit to $3,500. The demagogy advanced is that it will cut down rents on these projects. Is anyone so naive as to believe that by limiting the cost per unit to $3,500, instead of $4,000, it will in any manner affect the rent of these units? The $500 difference makes no difference whatever in the rents to be charged. It does, however, make a great difference in the program of the United States Housing Authority which is now under way. It scuttles this program. It is a body blow to genuine slum clearance. This is the real purpose behind this amendment. If you are opposed to slum clearance, stand up and say so. If you do not want Government housing, stand up and say so. If you want to abolish the housing program, stand up and say so. But do not do it by sniping. Do not do it by indirection. Do not do it by proposing this amendment, which will cripple housing.

I call upon every friend of slum clearance and Government housing to vote against the amendment.

[Congressman Marcantonio's appeal was successful and the amendment was defeated.]



March 31, 1939

[In this speech Congressman Marcantonio continued to lead the

fight on the floor of the House for the full amount of the W.P.A.

emergency appropriation requested by President Roosevelt to prevent a drastic cut in W.P.A. employment (See Page 95).]

Mr. Chairman, we heard a great deal yesterday about the "swing" Mikado, and the lord high executioner of W.P.A., the gentleman from Virginia [Mr. Woodrum] ... gave us both rhetorical and oratorical trucking and swinging, in order in effect to divert the attention of the Congress from the real issue involved. Speaking about "swing" Mikado, speaking about the world's fair exhibit, speaking about the airport in New York, Mr. Chairman, I submit is not a discussion of the fundamental issue involved in this appropriation bill.

The fundamental issue resolves itself down to the following propositions: First, the number of unemployed in our country; second, how many people have been certified as being eligible for W.P.A. and on the waiting lists throughout the Nation; third, how many must be carried on W.P.A.; fourth, how much of a burden can local and State governments carry; and fifth, what is our responsibility to the unemployed of our country? Let us also be mindful in our deliberations that the number of unemployed has increased rather than decreased, and all of the evidence in the hearings conclusively establishes that we have at least over 1,000,000 more unemployed than on December 15, 1938. However, the diverting swing which was given us yesterday was so ably and so beautifully performed that the membership was.. . diverted from these real issues

Unfortunately, the swing tempo rendered to us by the gentleman from Virginia [Mr. Woodrum], the lord high executioner of W.P.A., was so effective that even those of us who are in favor of the $150,000,000 must of necessity deal with that swing, and pull down the jitterbug house of cards that was set up against the W.P.A. by the peer of Tommy Dorsey and Benny Goodman.

One of the chief resentments against W.P.A. felt by the gentleman from Virginia yesterday was the fact that ... we had an "outrageous diversion" of funds by the W.P.A. in leaving behind to the park department of the city of New York, for recreational purposes for the benefit of women and children, the W.P.A. building at the New York world's fair .... That was an "outrageous diversion" of funds, and the gentleman from Virginia cried to high heaven against it. On the other hand, while the gentleman from Virginia criticizes this contribution to New York City, he fails to mention that the W.P.A. has been doing this very same thing in every part of the country, leaving behind its completed permanent projects which are of value to the various communities .... Certainly it is sound practice for W.P.A. to put men to work on construction of projects of value to our localities throughout the Nation. This is exactly what W.P.A. will have done with its world's fair building. To do away with these so-called "diversions of funds" will mean abolition of useful projects and putting W.P.A. workers back to raking leaves. Does the gentleman from Virginia want that?

He also criticized the W.P.A. for refusing to divert the theatrical hit, "swing" Mikado, and turn it over to private individuals on Broadway who want to exploit a Government hit for private profit. On the one hand W.P.A. is criticized for leaving something to a community, and on the other hand it is criticized for refusing to turn over something of value that belongs to the Government to private individuals for private profit. The swing was swell, but the logic not so hot.

He also asked why this world's fair exhibit? He said that it was a world's fair exhibit which will advertise our shame.

[The day before Mr. Woodrum had said that W.P.A. officials "have traveling exhibits going over the country exhibiting what and for what reason? Showing the wares of W.P.A. and glorifying W.P.A.

For what purpose? Why, Mr. Chairman, I do not know how you feel about it, but in our great land of boasted liberty, freedom and equality of opportunity I am not particularly proud that our country has to support so many of our citizens who cannot care for themselves ... Why glorify why parade it in front of the public in that sort of way?"]

I say that the W.P.A. world's fair exhibit does not advertise any shame. To the contrary, I say that the W.P.A. world's fair exhibit is necessary to demonstrate to the entire world that the American democracy can survive and can take care of its unemployed during periods of distress and economic crisis. It will demonstrate that our unemployed are not forced into abysmal wage slavery as is done in dictator countries. It will demonstrate that they are still free men and free women, breathing the free air of a free country.

Furthermore, the lord high executioner of W.P.A. failed to mention that this world's fair building for W.P.A. will cost $250,000 to construct, of which 60 percent will be used for W.P.A. labor.... He failed to mention that this cost does not add a penny more to the W P. A. funds allocated to the city of New York.

Another piece of rhetorical jitterbugging which the lord high executioner of W.P.A. gave us yesterday was his complaint that W.P.A. workers are working full time for the completion of the world's fair airport in New York City and that they are being paid $260 per month. As the gentleman from Missouri [Mr. Cannon] established conclusively, the lord high executioner of W.P.A. should know, and in any event he should have found out before making this assertion, that New York City out of its own funds is paying all wages, over and above the security wages. Why should the gentleman from Virginia protest when W.P.A. is doing this type of a job? The completion of an airport will mean better business for many Eastern States. He is an advocate of economy and has expressed himself to be very anxious for business recovery. Why, then, does he complain when this type of work will aid recovery? It might also be of interest to the gentleman from Virginia that the city of New York has contributed $15,000,000 for the establishment of this airport.

Coming back to the "swing" Mikado, the lord high executioner of W.P.A. in his rhetorical jitterbugging, failed to mention that the "swing" Mikado has been making money, running at a profit, not at a loss. Unemployed actors are entitled to employment on W.P.A. and it is such productions as the W.P.A. "swing" Mikado which give employment to them. It does not compete with private theatrical enterprises, for it is well known in theatrical circles that a hit show always brings business for other theaters in the vicinity of the hit... the gentleman from Virginia should also have stated that the W.P.A. theater projects make the drama available to thousands of Americans because of the low prices of admission.

Again, I say that the gentleman from Virginia's well-delivered speech yesterday constituted a complete evasion of the fundamental propositions involved:

First. That $150,000,000 is a minimum needed on an arithmetical basis of $61 per man-month for 3,000,000 people on W.P.A.

Second. That even though there have been separated from W.P.A. 88,975 persons, these had to be replaced because of the existence of 850,000 persons certified as eligible for W.P.A., waiting to be placed on W.P.A.

Third. That as long as there is a waiting list of such great proportions, replacements must be made.

Fourth. That there has been an increase for the month of December 15 to January 15, of 886,000 in the number of unemployed nonagricultural workers. While the figures are not available, there has been a further increase of the number of unemployed during the months of January and February.

These indisputable elements leave two choices; either we provide from the United States Treasury for the unemployed employables, or we shift them back to be provided for by the localities and the States. The gentleman from Virginia and others very well know that the States and localities cannot assume any additional burdens.

Therefore, it is our solemn duty to continue to provide and give useful work for the employable unemployed. This, Mr. Chairman, is a most democratic attitude, it is a most humanitarian attitude, it is a most sound policy to pursue in order to prevent another business recession and economic chaos. To cut down the President's request of $150,000,000 to $100,000,000 to the tempo of oratorical swing and by means of a rhetorical Susie 0. is twentieth century Bourbonism. (Applause)

[The House finally voted, on April 10, 1939, to appropriate $100,000,000 instead of the $150,000,000 for which the President had asked.]



May 23, 1939

[The following radio address was made by Congressman Marcantonio after the passage of the Hobbs "Concentration Camp" Bill.]

On May 5 the House of Representatives, by a vote of 288 to 61, passed H. R. 5643, known as the Hobbs Bill. This bill provides as follows:

"That any alien in any of the classes indicated in section 2 of this act, who has been.. . ordered deported by the Secretary of Labor, but whose deportation... is not effectuated within 0 days.

shall be taken into custody and transported to such places of detention as may be designated by the Secretary of Labor... confined, though not at hard labor, until such time as deportation shall have become feasible .... or until the Secretary of Labor... shall order the release of such alien temporarily or permanently on such bond as may be required, with or without rescinding the warrant of deportation."...

It was generally conceded during the debate on this bill in the House that the Secretary can, under the first section of the bill, arrest and detain any alien for the rest of his natural life in any place of detention designated by her, or in any other place chosen by her. [The Secretary of Labor was then Miss Frances Perkins.]

The language of the act gives the Secretary of Labor not only the power to confine such aliens for the rest of their natural lives, but gives her discretionary power as to the choice of the place of detention. It may be a Federal penitentiary, a house of detention, or even a farm or camp, or any other place of confinement that might be conceived by the Secretary of Labor in the exercise of the discretion granted by this bill.

Nowhere in this bill is any provision found for due process; in other words, for any kind of a trial, with or without a jury.

The issue is not that of protecting criminal aliens. Those of us who opposed the enactment of this bill had no intention of protecting criminal aliens. There are laws now on the statute books that adequately deal with these people. Furthermore, any more stringent legislation may be enacted to deal with them, provided that Congress exercises this legislative function in conformity with the fifth, sixth, and fourteenth amendments to the Constitution of the United States. Therefore, the question involved is not one of protecting criminal aliens, but the real fundamental issue is that of protecting and defending democratic procedure and due process, in keeping with true American traditions

No one by the farthest stretch of the imagination can contend that the confinement provided for in the bill is an incident to deportation. In fact, the bill deals with those aliens only whose deportation cannot be accomplished within 90 days. How can imprisonment bring about the deportation? One is entirely unrelated to the other. Furthermore, the duration of the imprisonment may be for 1 day and it may be for life. It rests within the judgment of the Secretary of Labor. Such indefinite imprisonment is definitely unreasonable, and not an incident to deportation. Such imprisonment, therefore .... can be provided for by Congress only in accordance with the fifth, sixth and fourteenth amendments to the Constitution of the United States. These amendments all provide that no person may be deprived of his liberty without due process, that is, without a judicial trial.

The language of the amendments, please note, uses the word "person" and not "citizen." This clearly establishes that the constitutional guaranties are as equally applicable to aliens as they are to citizens. Nowhere in the bill is there any provision for a judicial trial. No protection is set up for an innocent person, in keeping with American traditions of jurisprudence.

The proponents of the bill complained very vociferously when we characterized it as a concentration camp bill. Just as they naively sought to circumvent the Constitution by providing that the imprisonment shall not be at hard labor, by the same form of specious argument they informed us that the bill was not a concentration camp bill because it does not contain the words "concentration camp." However, what makes a concentration camp? Is it the barbed wire fence that makes a concentration camp? That does not in and of itself make a concentration camp. If a person is sent by due process and after a judicial trial to a place that is surrounded by a barbed wire fence, no one can contend that that person is sent to a concentration camp.

What constitutes a concentration camp, what constitutes a Bastille, is the method by which persons are sent to those places. Imprisonment without due process of law or without a judicial trial is concentration camp imprisonment. This bill confines people without due process of law, and without a judicial trial. It sends people to places of detention without due process of law, and without a judicial trial. Therefore, the characterization of this bill as a concentration camp bill, or a Bastille bill, or a lettre de cachet bill, is a correct characterization.

For the purpose of dealing with a few criminal aliens we substitute for our democratic procedure an undemocratic procedure, a procedure which dates back to the days of King Louis XIV, of France, who sent people to the Bastille by simply placing his signature at the bottom of a letter. This letter was known as the infamous lettre de cachet. Does it make any difference whether it be a letter signed by a king or an order signed by the Secretary of Labor which brings about imprisonment of any person without judicial trial or due process of law?

This bill imports into our country an alien totalitarian system of criminal procedure, a concentration camp procedure, a Hitler procedure, which is repugnant to the Constitution, repugnant to the Declaration of Independence, and repugnant to our democratic form of government. The bill is now before the Senate where I hope that the demagogy and hysteria which existed in the House at the time this bill was passed will not play as important a role .... [The Senate defeated the bill.]

Why these attacks on the alien? It is a smoke screen behind which the reactionaries are advancing against the democratic rights of the American people. It is the first objective of the offensive of the reactionaries against democratic rights.

Today the attack is against the alien. Tomorrow it will be against the citizen. Today the concentration camp is being provided for the alien. Tomorrow it will be provided for the citizen. It can happen here. It is happening here. However, I am not discouraged. I have faith in the traditional desire of the American people to keep democratic institutions alive by preserving democratic rights. I have faith that the American people will become aroused and will launch the same counter and sedition laws of today, as they did against the reactionaries of 1798, who wrote the alien and sedition laws of that date.



June 16, 1939

[Congressman Marcantonio made the two speeches given, in part, below during the last day of debate on the 1939-1940 W.P.A. appropriation. President Roosevelt's budget message had set $1,477,000,000 as the absolute minimum necessary for the year. The bill presented by Congressman Woodrum for the House Appropriations Committee proposed only $1,352,000,000 and contained many restrictive provisions. For example, it prohibited any deficiency appropriation during the period named, prevented W.P.A. workers from continuous employment of more than 18 months, and forbade the use of any funds to the Federal Theatre Project.]

I have never made a political speech from the floor of this House, and that is not because I do not like to make them. I would like to make a political speech, but realizing that I am a one-man party [American Labor Party] here I find myself at a terrific disadvantage ... However, in view of the Roman holiday which is being had here this afternoon at the expense of the unemployed of this country, I want to serve notice on both political parties -- first of all on the Republican Party -- that you cannot dodge your responsibility toward the unemployed of this country by simply saying that you are not in control of this House. The fact that you have lent your almost solid support, with the exception of five or six Members, to the position taken by the gentleman from Virginia [Mr. Woodrum] in support of this bill, means that you must accept your share of the responsibility for the consequent layoffs, and for the harm that is being inflicted on the unemployed of this country. Now, as to the Democratic Party, may I say to you gentlemen of the majority that the argument that will be made in October of 1940 to the unemployed by the Republicans will be that they were not in control and that you are in control, and that, therefore, you must accept responsibility for the damage that is being done to the cause of the unemployed. To this charge a substantial number of you will have to plead guilty. The Democratic leadership must accept its share of the responsibility for the sacrifice of the unemployed...

May I say to the Democrats that those of you who are supporting this resolution are giving ammunition to the opponents of your party in 1940. You are making it very difficult for those Democrats on the floor of this House who stood up this afternoon and stood by the unemployed; and I want to take this occasion to make note that a fair portion of them did stand by the unemployed. However, almost solidly from certain sections of this country we received a Democratic vote against the unemployed...

What is the argument that is being advanced to justify, or, rather, to alibi the cuts that are being made? The gentleman from Virginia, as well as the gentleman from New York [Mr. Taber] states that by the provisions of the bill they are trying to spread this money as fax as possible and to put as many people to work as possible. It is high time that we explode this myth. Let me show you what is going to happen in only one town, a typical W.P.A. city, New York City.

Yes; you may snicker, but let me tell you that the unemployed in New York City are just as good Americans as any Member of this House or as any person in any other part of this country. (Applause) Seventy thousand people are going to be cut off the W.P.A. rolls in New York City alone. If you say you are spreading the money to give as much work as possible to as many people as possible, then explain why it is that Colonel Somervell, Administrator of W.P.A. in New York City, notified the Mayor of New York City yesterday that, under the provisions put into this bill, 70,000 W.P.A. workers will be thrown off the rolls. What are we going to do with these men? Do you want us to put them in cold storage? They are human beings; they have families; they are men who are patriotic, good Americans, willing to die for their country.

I say, let us drop this fake economy. It is not economy when you take it out of the unemployed. I say that not only is it not economy, but it is a stab at the very heart of American progress, because American civilization depends on the standard of living of the American unemployed. (Applause)



June 16, 1939

Mr. Chairman, I realize that the hour is late and that everybody wants to go home ....

But also I realize that people back home who are going to be dismissed from W.P.A. rolls will go home to suffer. Some will not even be given direct relief in certain States; and in other States they will have to suffer going through a needs test, suffer humiliation, and will have to suffer being put back on the dole and on direct relief. I think it is not amiss, therefore, that we not go home so soon; that we pause and give those people some thought; and that is why I have taken these few minutes in the close of the debate on this bill to remark on certain tactics that were used throughout the debate.

First of all, every time some amendment was offered on behalf of the unemployed of this country, and every time the gentleman from Virginia [Mr. Woodrum] got up here to oppose it, he always took a shot at New York City. This proved to be very effective strategy. May I say to the gentleman from Virginia, however, that despite him and the others who have attacked New York City, that New York City, nevertheless, remains the greatest city in the world. (Applause) May I also say this and it will come up shortly in connection with the Federal Theater Project the gentleman from Virginia charged that there was no literary quality and no dramatic quality to some of the plays that have been produced by that most deserving project. This may be so. I am not a dramatic critic, I do not know; but one does not have to be a dramatic critic or a literary critic to know that the gentleman from Virginia is a great dramatist. I congratulate him on his great literary quality. He, in my opinion, wrote the greatest American tragedy of 1939 when he wrote this bill. (Applause.)



July 20, 1939

[This is the concluding paragraph of a speech opposing an amendment to the Hatch Act which would have extended the provisions of the act to W.P.A. workers, forbidding them to engage in any political activities.]

This particular amendment is in line with the political philosophy advanced by General Harbord, who advocated that those on relief or on W.P.A. should be deprived of their right to vote. This amendment is a step in that direction. It is a step in seven league boots toward disenfranchising the unemployed of this country. It is a step in the direction of government by the rich and wellborn, and I say, in the name of American democracy, we do not want a patrician form of government. We want that democratic form of government which our forefathers and Abraham Lincoln gave us, which gives the right of franchise to every man and woman in this country who is an American citizen.



August 3, 1939

Mr. Speaker, as one who was born in the slums, who was raised in the slums, and who still lives in the slums, I take this opportunity to voice the gratitude of the slum dwellers to the officers and members of the American Farm Bureau Federation for their support of this housing bill S. 591. (Applause)

All I can do in this brief moment is to direct my remarks to those who are playing politics with human misery. I ask you to forget politics, to forget your political hatred of Franklin D. Roosevelt, or his opponents; to lay that all aside and go into the slum districts of the big cities. Go into my district on a hot summer night and see American babies sleeping on the fire escapes, gasping for air. I am sure if you saw that sight you would forget playing politics with human misery. Stand on the sidewalks of New York with the people who dwell in the slums when the siren of the fire truck is heard, and watch their faces, observe their eyes filling with fear, and see them wonder as to which relative, whose brother, whose sister, whose mother, whose child is going to be the next victim on the funeral pyre of a slum fire. I say this because these sights, and these sights alone, could stop this disgusting political game that is being played here, with human beings as pawns.

This bill is not pump priming. It is the inexorable next step in the march of human progress. All we ask by this bill is not prosperity, not leisure, but to give our young Americans their share of air and sunlight with which God has endowed our Nation. (Applause)



January 11, 1940

I feel very strongly that the operations of the Federal Bureau of Investigation should be limited to the purposes and scope of uprooting spies, saboteurs and other violators of the law .... When the activities of the F. B. I. are extended to what to me smacks very much like the activities of a Gestapo or any of the so called intelligence bureaus that exist in the dictator countries, I submit the Members of Congress should pause and examine this situation very closely. I now read from page 304, Mr. Hoover's testimony in which he states:

"In September of 1939 we found it necessary to organize a General Intelligence Division in Washington. The establishment of this Division was made necessary by the President's proclamation directing that all complaints of violations of the national defense statutes and proclamations be reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. This Division now has compiled extensive indexes of individuals, groups and organizations engaged in these subversive activities, in espionage activities, or any activities that are possibly detrimental to the internal security of the United States."

This language is very wide and most dangerous, and to me indicates preparations for a drive that will be very similar to the activities of the Palmer days. This language indicates to me the beginning of a disease which will make our democratic body very very sick. The creation of a super secret service body in a democracy is injecting our democratic institutions with the virulent toxin of an anti-democratic activity under the guise of so called protection of so-called national defense. Himmler's super secret service in Germany has kept Hitler alive and German democrats dead or dying in concentration camps.

Mr. Hoover states further:

"The indexes have been arranged not only alphabetically but also geographically, so that at any time, should we enter into the conflict abroad, we would be able to go into any of these communities and identify individuals or groups who might be a source of grave danger to the security of this country. Their backgrounds and activities are known to the Bureau. These indexes will be extremely important and valuable in grave emergency."

I submit that if Mr. Hoover has the names of those who are guilty of, or suspected of engaging in, espionage or sabotage, it is Mr. Hoover's duty and it is the duty of the Department of Justice and other law enforcement agencies to immediately apprehend these people and put them in jail rather than leave their names on mere index cards. If, on the other hand, these people are not engaged in espionage or sabotage, but their names are put down on these index cards simply because of the views they may entertain, which may be contrary to the views entertained by Mr. Hoover and other people in power, then I submit the preparation of these indices is most dangerous to the constitutional rights of the American people. They constitute a real, serious menace to civil liberties in the United States and they lay the foundation, I repeat, for Palmer raids, for a Palmer system, and for a Gestapo system in the United States. This innovation in the Federal Bureau of Investigation can be correctly described as the index card menace to American liberty.



January 23, 1940

.... Oh, it is perfectly easy to attack a dissident minority. The press applauds. In fact, "communism" has become very, very convenient for many, many Members of this House, and many people outside of it. If communism is destroyed, I do not know what some of you will do. (Applause) It has become the most convenient method by which you wrap yourselves in the American flag in order to cover up some of the greasy stains on the legislative toga. You can vote against the unemployed, you can vote against the W.P.A. workers, and you can emasculate the Bill of Rights of the Constitution of the United States; you can try to destroy the National Labor Relations Law, the Magna Carta of American labor; you can vote against the farmer; and you can do all that with a great deal of impunity, because after you have done so you do not have to explain your vote. You do not have to defend yourselves to the country and to the unemployed, to labor or to the farmer. All you have to do is stand up here and say, "I am opposed to communism. Let us destroy communism." What are you going to do when there is no more communism in this country? (Laughter and applause).

Mr. Speaker, this resolution [for the continuation of the Dies Committee] presents a very serious issue. It presents the issue of guaranteeing the rights of dissident minorities. Destroy the constitutional rights of minorities, particularly the rights of those minorities that you so vociferously condemn, and you are marching... toward the destruction of democracy. This committee, under the guise of investigating subversive activities, has done its utmost to abolish democratic rights in the United States.

It has failed to distinguish between illegal activities and constitutional activities. It has sought to destroy the right to constitutional activities under the pretext of investigating illegal activities. The rights of minorities to freedom of press, speech, and petition have been endangered as never before by this committee. Oh, I know that when my friend the gentleman from Alabama [Mr. Starnes] gets up here he will say, "I subscribe to the doctrine of free speech." Let me say that what the Dies Committee has failed to recognize is the fundamental principle of application. There is a great deal of difference between mere subscription and application. I say that every dissident minority has the right to advocate, it has the right to organize, and it has the right to propagandize. The Dies Committee has failed to recognize the difference between subversive and constitutional.

There is a difference between espionage, sabotage and conspiracy on the one hand, and on the other hand the right to organize, advocate and propagandize. Until you establish that a person is guilty of conspiracy to violate laws or to engage in espionage or sabotage, I say that person has the right to advocate, and to do everything the Constitution gives him the right to say, publish and do, whether he be a Communist, a Socialist, a Republican, a Democrat or a Laborite. (Applause) Once you tamper with this principle, no matter under what pretext, once you undermine it, you undermine the Constitution of the United States and deal a death blow to the fundamental principles upon which this country is based.

Legislation such as this is not anything new. It is the third time such a situation has arisen .... Every time we have gone through a critical period, a real effort has been made to destroy the civil rights of the American people by making an attack on the rights of dissident minorities. Our institutions can survive only when we reaffirm the American tradition of greater freedom for the American people during periods of crisis.

In 1798 we passed the Alien and Sedition Acts. Thomas Jefferson was hounded and accused of being an agent of a foreign country, France. The Alien and Sedition Acts, most similar in purpose with the activities of the Dies Committee, were imposed on this country at that time. These laws were aimed at Jefferson and his followers. Now everybody respects Thomas Jefferson. Even my great friend from Dutchess County [Mr. Hamilton Fish] appeals to the Democrats in the name of Jefferson and calls them Jeffersonian Democrats when he wants them on his side.

Let us see what Thomas Jefferson said with regard to that legislation which is the monstrous ancestor of the type which you are putting over here today. He charged that legislation was put over by a "war party." We are before a war situation now. He said that such laws were "merely an experiment on the American mind to see how far it would bear an avowed violation of the Constitution." He further stated, referring to the Sedition Acts:

"These and successive acts of the same character, unless arrested at the threshold, necessarily drive these States into revolution and blood, and will furnish new calumnies against republican government, and new pretexts for those who wish it to be believed that man cannot be governed but by a rod of iron."

The Sedition Acts were repealed by the American people, and the party that enacted them died.

During the World War we had a repetition of this situation. We passed the espionage laws, and we had the subsequent Palmer raids of which every American is ashamed today. No man was safe in his home. No minority was safe. No labor leader or labor union, no organization was safe to conduct its activities legal activities guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States.

Let me quote what a great Republican one whose memory we will always respect, one who, too, was frequently in the minority, Senator Borah said with regard to the espionage law when he opposed it in the United States Senate on April 19, 1917:

"Without an unfettered press, without liberty of speech, all the outward forms and structures of free institutions are a sham, a pretense the sheerest mockery. If the press is not free, if speech is not independent and untrammeled, if the mind is shackled or made impotent through fear, it makes no difference under what form of government you live, you are a subject and not a citizen. Republics are not in and of themselves better than other forms of government except insofar as they carry with them and guarantee to the citizens that liberty of thought and action for which they were established."

The espionage law of 1917 was repealed in disgust by the American people. After its repeal, at a mass meeting in New York City on March 11, 1923, held for the purpose of demanding the release of the political prisoners imprisoned under the espionage law, Senator Borah said, referring to the repealed Espionage Act:

"It was not thought a fit law to remain upon the statute books of the United States in time of peace. I trust that at no time in the future will it ever be regarded or considered as a precedent for the enactment of any measure of that kind again. It should be regarded as not only opposed to the principles of free government in time of peace but also in time of war."

Mr. Speaker, take away the rights of people whom you do not like, take away the constitutional rights of dissident minorities, and you yourselves are engaging in unAmerican activities.



February 13, 1940

[Prior to a debate in the House on continued appropriations for the National Youth Administration, Congressman Marcantonio introduced a bill for an American Youth Act setting forth "a permanent program for a permanent problem." He said:]

Mr. Speaker, under leave to extend my remarks in the RECORD, I include the following address which I delivered yesterday over the radio:

I have introduced the American Youth Act in the House of Representatives. The American Youth Act sets up a National Youth Administration in the Federal Security Agency directed by an Administrator who shall carry out the policy decided by a board of directors, on which shall be represented youth groups, labor, civic, and other welfare agencies appointed by the President. The National Youth Administration set up under the American Youth Act shall provide:

(1) Work projects for unemployed young people at prevailing rates of pay and prevailing conditions.

(2) Academic work projects for college students...

(3) Employment of vocational guidance advisers to provide free service to all young people in cooperation with other agencies in the locality.

(4) Stimulation of apprenticeship training programs set according to local trade union standards for such apprentice work.

(5) Federal scholarships for needy high school students

(6) Federal scholarships for needy students up to the amount required for them to continue their education at law, medicine, and other graduate and professional schools..

To put all this into effect Congress is authorized to appropriate $500,000,000.

The American Youth Act is not only an augmenting of the present National Youth Administration but it is fundamentally different. The present setup is grossly inadequate and temporary, dealing with the problem of the American youth on a year-to-year basis. The American Youth Act authorizes an adequate appropriation and sets forth a permanent program for a permanent problem. It is not stopgap legislation; it is directed toward a solution. The American Youth Act is basically democratic. By virtue of representation given to youth, labor, civic, and welfare organizations in the making of policy, those who are directly affected by the program will have a voice in its administering. Under the present N. Y. A., wages are low, giving to the young people a bare existence. It does nothing to maintain prevailing rates of pay and has not in any manner caused any rise of substandard conditions in certain parts of the country. The American Youth Act guarantees a decent wage and thereby reinforces the benefits won by American workers by the strength of organized labor.

The question now arises, why an American Youth Act? The answer, my friends, is that 4,700,000 of our young Americans find themselves out of school and unemployed through no fault of their own .... There is, therefore, only one alternative, and that is that our Government provide economic opportunity for young America.

The enactment of the American Youth Act will be no innovation on the part of our Government in dealing with our youth problem. Opportunity for young people is a traditional American ideal. In the past, new fields were opened by the Federal Government to provide an outlet for the initiative of generations of American youth, through such legislation as the Homestead Act of 1862. With the closing of the physical frontier this was ended. The principle of Federal responsibility was reasserted in the establishment of the present N. Y. A., and the Civilian Conservation Corps. Only the most violent and subversive reactionaries now refuse to accept those agencies as vital necessities of our system. However, only 700,000 are touched by the N. Y. A. Four million are deprived of any means of help.



February 15, 1940

[During the course of the Congressional debate on appropriations to continue the National Youth Administration many of those opposed to the N. Y. A. centered their attack on the Convention of the American Youth Congress held in Washington the previous weekend. The Convention had defeated a resolution barring young Communists from membership. In the discussion Congressman Marcantonio said:]

Assuming that there are Communists in the American Youth Congress and everybody admits that they are in a small minority are you going to eternally dodge the youth problem because the American Youth Congress refuses to follow the example of this Congress of whittling away at the Bill of Rights?

These boys and girls came here with a problem: 4,700,000 young men and young women out of work, without educational opportunities; they came here and said to the Members of Congress, to the fathers of this country, to the elder statesmen of America: "What are you going to do for us?"

And what do you say? "Save America from communism!"

They came here and said: "We are deprived of educational facilities; what are you going to do about it?"

And what do you say? "Save America from communism!"

They came to us and said: "No jobs for 4,700,000 boys and girls American boys and girls in the richest country of the world -- deprived of the traditional American opportunity, the opportunity for which America has always stood."

And what do you say? "Save America from communism!"

Let us quit kidding the American people. They are beginning to get wise to us. They are sick and tired of this gag about communism. The gag is beginning to wear thin. They want action. The farmers want action, labor wants action, the unemployed want action, business wants action, and American youth wants action. (Applause)



May 15, 1940

[The National Press Club served a "Relief Dinner" to emphasize the low level of W.P.A. subsistence. Congressman Marcantonio introduced the menu in the RECORD]

"Mr. Speaker, under leave to extend my remarks in the RECORD, I include the following menu, illustrating the dinner on which a W.P.A. worker has to subsist."

RELIEF DINNER

National Press Club, Washington, D. C.

May 14, 1940, 6:30 P. M.

MENU

Beef Stew

Cents
2 ounces beef at 19 cents per pound2 37/100
1/4 carrot at 12 for 13 cents39/100
1/4 onion at 24 for 20 cents21/100
1/2 potato at 20 for 16 cents40/100
1/2 slice of bread at 7 cents per loaf20/100
Coffee at 12 cents per pound52/100
1 teaspoon sugar at 10 pounds for 47 cents18/100
Canned milk at 4 cans for 25 cents20/100
1 pat oleomargarine25/100
1 canned prune28/100

Total cost
_________
5 Cents


This meal is based upon the budget of the average woman worker on W.P.A., who receives a monthly wage of $44. of which $16.91 is spent for food. Assuming she has an average family (3.7 for W.P.A. and relief workers, according to W.P.A.), she can spend 5 cents per person per meal.



May 17, 1940

Mr. Chairman, it is indeed most unfortunate that... when Congress has reserved some of its precious time for the discussion of the most important domestic problem which confronts the American people,... instead of dealing with it as people who feel a responsibility toward the unemployed of this country, we have permitted ourselves the extravagant indulgence of a travelogue commencing with Harry Bridges in California and stopping with the umbrella of Mr. Chamberlain in London.

Therefore, permit me to be out of place and to discuss the problem of relief for the unemployed.

We have here before us a bill which, at most, will inadequately provide for 2,000,000 persons to be employed on W.P.A. What I am concerned with is first, why should we restrict this employment to only 2,000,000?

In 1936, with unemployment estimated at 7,599,000, we had 2,545,000 on W.P.A. I am talking in terms of calendar years. In 1937, with unemployment at 6,372,000, we had 1,795,000 average on W.P.A. In 1938, with unemployment estimated at 10,000,000, we had 2,764,000 on W.P.A.

If in 1938, with practically the same number of unemployed estimated then as today, with a difference of only one half million, we employed an average of 2,764,000 on W.P.A., almost 3,000,000 men on W.P.A., what justification can there be, with the same number unemployed in 1940, to employ almost a million less than we employed under the same unemployment conditions in 1938? Unemployment is practically the same; you cannot get away from that. Hence, why the cut in the W.P.A. rolls?

Some people are expressing the wishful thought that war purchases are going to cause an absorption of the unemployed in private industry.

You who come from the steel mills of Pennsylvania know better than that. Steel is beneficiary No. 1 from war purchases. You know very well that despite war purchases, despite the increase of the purchase of steel, due to the highly technical development in those mills these purchases have made very little difference in that industry from the standpoint of reducing the number of unemployed. It has made hardly a dent in the ranks of the unemployed, and the steel towns are still ghost towns with the specter of unemployment still hovering over them. This is what has happened in communities which are favorites of war purchases. What can you expect in other communities?

The President himself sent a message in which he stated that the indices of industrial production have gone down to 105. From 127 we have reached a low of 105, and we are still in a tailspin. Hence, how can you justify a program for only 2,000,000? What are you going to do with the other unemployed?

The gentleman from Virginia [Mr. Woodrum] yesterday suggested that some of the 11,000,000 are the responsibility of the local authorities. Yes; and most of the local governments are caring for them at indecent standards. He also failed to tell you that there are very few local authorities in the United States today that can withstand any additional load on their relief rolls. The city of New York and all the other cities in this Union are with their backs against the wall when it comes to the proposition of taking on additional relief cases.

Again I ask, how about the other unemployed? The gentleman from Virginia suggests that we give them an American wage. Fine. I want that, too, for the unemployed. However, who destroyed the American wage on W.P.A.? Who made the miserable security wage possible on W.P.A.? It was the gentleman's offensive against the prevailing wage in the bill last year that destroyed and abolished the American wage, the prevailing rate of pay on W.P.A. It was his bill that made possible the wage cuts.

My objection to this bill is that not only is it grossly inadequate but it continues for the unemployed an unAmerican, inhuman, and indecent standard. You are not going to alleviate the unemployment situation by low standards on W.P.A. I have introduced a bill that provides, at American standards, for 3,000,000 jobs; that does away with the wage cuts. Imagine women working in the various mattress and sewing projects, being cut in the cities up North from $5-$9 a month. That is exactly what has happened and what you continue under this bill. My bill would restore those wage cuts.

My bill would remove those restrictions which make it impossible for many of the localities to establish and erect those very things which the gentleman from Virginia spoke about yesterday buildings, projects of a permanent and useful nature, where you can employ carpenters, where you can employ bricklayers, where you can employ the skilled and unskilled labor of America who are seeking work and cannot get work because of the breakdown in our economic system; labor would receive the prevailing rate, with hours not less than 120 nor more than 130 monthly. In no case will the national average monthly wage be less than $70. My bill also provides for assistance to States on condition that the States will extend relief to their people at decent American standards.

Now let me go back to those who feel that the unemployed will be given work as a result of domestic and foreign war purchases. Are we going to base the economy of America on these war purchases? If we do that ... then remember we are increasing the economic pressure which will drive America into active participation in the World War. Adequate appropriations for jobs and decent standards for the unemployed will relieve this pressure and will aid in the preserving of our peace.

Most unfortunately, however, I do not expect that the unemployed in this country will receive much consideration from this House because many things have happened since the recommendation came to the Congress with regard to this bill. A great deal of war hysteria has been worked up in this House. Remember, however, that you are not going to forever solve the problem of unemployment in America by giving the American unemployed the job of stopping bullets and shrapnel at the front. The American workers want overalls; they do not want soldiers' uniforms. You talk about saving democracy. You want to save democracy in this country.

I say, therefore, let us go back and place the emphasis on our domestic problems. Let us emerge from this war hysteria and dedicate our attention to the most vital problem of our people .... Let us get back to this problem of unemployment. Let us calmly, carefully, as patriotic Americans, owing a great responsibility to the people whom we represent, give adequate attention to the No. I problem of America.

American civilization rests or falls on the status of the American unemployed. Rome and its civilization fell because the unemployed of Rome became slaves. Whenever the unemployed of any country, whenever the lower one third of any country, are forced into abject misery and you smash their opportunity for a decent standard of living, that country falls. I want to preserve my Nation. Anybody can take a gun, anybody can go out and fight, but I think what we need is intellectual and moral courage to solve our economic problems, to improve our social and economic order, to preserve our peace and freedom, and to guarantee to the unemployed of this country a standard of living which befits an American. (Applause)



May 30,1940

Mr. Speaker, some time ago the House without opposition passed H. R. 9576, which provided for the hospitalization in St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington, D. C. of residents of the Virgin Islands. When the bill was considered in the Senate yesterday an amendment was offered by Senator King, of Utah, and adopted, exempting the working people of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands from the protection of the wage and hour law. This amendment had no more relation to the hospitalization of Virgin Islanders than a fishing creek in Montana has to a navy yard in New York. It was a most shocking use of a bill for the sick people in the Virgin Islands to aid and abet labor exploiters in Puerto Rico. It seems to me that that procedure was, to say the least, inordinate. I hope that when the leadership of the District of Columbia Committee makes any request with regard to this bill, which is now on the Speaker's desk, that it will do me the courtesy of giving me sufficient notice so that I may be present to object.



June 13, 1940

Mr. Speaker, I think we ought to pause a moment and analyze the procedure that we are following here and then ask ourselves the question as to whether or not we should feel ashamed of ourselves.

We are asking that the Congress of the United States, in all its dignified might, direct the deportation of one individual [Harry Bridges, President of The International Longshoremen and Warehousemen's Union]. The only basis upon which that request is being made is a statement contained in the supplemental report accompanying the bill, to the effect that Bridges is regarded by the framers of this bill as a menace to the interests of this country. In other words, we are asked to deport one individual all of Congress against this one individual based on the conclusion contained in the report from this committee.

Bridges was not given any hearing before the Committee on Immigration. He was not permitted to be heard before the Rules Committee. This is the first time in the history of this country that a man is being convicted and sentenced without being given an opportunity to defend himself. Any alien, no matter how heinous the crime may be for which he is being deported, is given a hearing. He is given a hearing before the immigration officials. Then that hearing is reviewed. It is reviewed before a Board of Appeals of the Labor Department. Then that alien has an opportunity to go to court and be heard on a writ of habeas corpus. But in this case no hearing, no opportunity to be heard at all was afforded, and we consider that perfectly sound American procedure. If... the majority of Congress is going to put its stamp of approval on this type of procedure, I do not believe I am mistaken when I say that the day is not far off when those same Members who put their stamp of approval on this procedure will be ashamed of the action that they are about to take today. We all know the real reason for this attempted deportation of Bridges. Bridges organized the workers on the west coast and made the labor exploiters pay decent wages. Now, taking advantage of the war hysteria, these same labor exploiters seek his deportation and use Congress for this foul job.

I have before me a letter from Harry Bridges. I think it is only fair that Bridges be accorded just this opportunity to have some Member of Congress read an answer to the charges that have been made against him. I now place this proposition before the House: I ask unanimous consent, Mr. Speaker, that I be permitted to read this letter, which is seven pages long, and that it not be taken out of my time.

The Speaker pro tempore: The gentleman from New York asks permission to read a letter and that it not be taken out of the time for debate on this resolution. Is there objection?.

[There were objections and floor arguments during which Mr. Marcantonio said, in part:]

Mr. Speaker, I am not going to comment on the objections that have been made to my request, but I do think that now it becomes very, very obvious to every Member in this Chamber that you are asked to convict and sentence a man without giving him an opportunity to even have a Member of Congress read a letter which presents his answer to the charges that have been made on the floor of the House, leave alone the fact that you have already denied him every opportunity to be heard .... [More floor objections.]

Mr. Marcantonio: All right. Let us proceed with the legislative lynching.

Mr. Hawks: Mr. Speaker, I withdraw my objection to the gentleman's request.

Mr. Andrews: [New York] Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that the gentleman from New York be allowed to proceed for 7 minutes without its being taken out of his time.

The Speaker: The gentleman from Wisconsin has withdrawn his objection. Does the gentleman from New York wish to renew his unanimous consent request?

Mr. Marcantonio: Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that I be permitted to read the letter dated June 1, comprising 7 pages, addressed to me by Harry Bridges.

Mr. Speaker: Is there objection?

Mr. Ford: [California] Mr. Speaker, I object. This man has had too much time already, the sooner you find that out, the better.

Mr. Marcantonio: You would not hear him before the Committee. Why? Do you not want Congress to have his side before it?

Mr. Speaker: The time of the gentleman has expired.

Mr. Bender: [Ohio] Mr. Speaker, I move that the gentleman from New York be given 15 minutes additional time.

[Finally the objections were withdrawn]

Mr. Eberharter: Mr. Speaker, I demand the regular order.

The Speaker pro tern pore: The regular order has been demanded. The regular order is, Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from New York to read this letter? [There was no objection]

The Speaker: The gentleman from New York [Mr. Marcantonio] is recognized. (Applause)

[At this point Mr. Marcantonio read the letter from Harry Bridges. Then a vote was taken, at which the bill for Bridges' deportation was passed by a majority of 35121. It never went into effect because the bill was amended by the Senate to an authorization "That the Attorney General investigate the alien Harry Renton Bridges."]



June 21, 1940

Mr. Speaker, in these 3 short minutes there are two protests I would like to register with regard to this conference report [on W.P.A. and relief appropriations].

The first is that through appropriations and authorizations there will have been taken out of the Treasury by our action this year over $10,000,000,000 for war purposes. For relief and for the unemployed we appropriate only $975,650,000. This conference report still retains the 18 months' clause [discharging W.P.A. workers after 18 months of employment], discriminates against the foreign born, continues the drastic wage cuts, violates the Bill of Rights, does not restore the prevailing wage, and in general crucifies the W.P.A. worker. The [W.P.A.] workers throughout the country are receiving discharge notices every day. However, as the program is uniforms and not overalls, this conference report is in line with it.

The second protest I now register against this conference report is the manner in which they put over the amendment exempting labor exploiters in Puerto Rico from the provisions of the wage-hour law. After we committed the wage-hour amendments in this House, Senator King, of Utah, took a District of Columbia bill, providing for the hospitalization of Virgin Islanders in the District of Columbia, and added to that bill this amendment exempting labor exploiters in Puerto Rico from the provisions of the wage-hour law. [See Page 121] Failing to get action over here on that bill, he then takes this relief bill and he adds the same amendment excluding the Puerto Rican workers from the protection of the wage-hour law. It is most unfortunate, and I certainly deplore the fact that the majority of the House conferees permitted the amendment to go into this conference report without any protest and without any fight.

The fact that this unusual and inordinate procedure was resorted to, demonstrates conclusively the weakness of the case of the labor exploiters who were behind this amendment. Before the present session is over I shall introduce a resolution to investigate the vicious lobby that put this thing over on the Congress of the United States by this most fantastic procedure. In my investigation request I shall reveal all of the facts. I am going to state who is who and what is what, and give the details of the vicious lobby that operated to put this thing over. [See Page 381]



July 9, 1940

[This radio address gives Congressman Marcantonio's stand on the war in Europe 19391940. His position on the war from 1941 on is given in his speech of October 16, 1941 see P. 139.1

Americans today are faced with making the most fundamental and far-reaching decision in the history of our country war or peace. This sounds simple, for even the worst warmonger will tell you that he is against war. The American people are overwhelmingly opposed to war. Hence, the real "fifth columnists" in our midst, those who are seeking to get us into war, will not at this time dare openly advocate war. Forcing America into war is a step-by-step process. In 1917 we were forced in at trolley car pace. In 1940 our war makers attempt to force us in with "blitzkrieg" swiftness. If we acquiesce to these swift movements which are pushing the American people in the direction of war, we shall find ourselves plunged over the precipice into war by the momentum and speed of these very steps toward war. Therefore, unless the American people halt these movements and steps toward war at the very beginning, we shall have no say over the final decision as to our actual entry into war.

At this point let me say, that there is no moral, economic, or social justification for our entry into the wax in Europe. It is an imperialist war. While there may be a difference between the contending imperialist powers, that difference is one of degree and the degree is not big enough to warrant the loss of one American life. Our entry into it will bring no gain to the American people but only the loss of the lives of American youth and of our free institutions. The problems that will arise from a victorious Hitler cannot be solved by the grinding of the flower of American manhood on the battlefield.

If this war were a war of ideologies, if it were truly a war on which the outcome of our American way of living depended, if it were truly a war in which the interests of the American farmer, worker, the small business man were involved, I would unhesitatingly advocate our immediate entry into it, resign my position in Congress, and march with the young men of my district. I am not a pacifist, I am willing to fight for the defense of my country, and in any war in which the interests of our American people are involved. The present war is no such war, and I am therefore resolved not only to oppose our entry into it, but to warn my fellow countrymen against that scheme of things which will make our entry unavoidable.

Let me therefore present in their true character the steps that we have been taking which are hurling us into this war. On May 16, the President addressed a joint session of Congress. We received a geography lesson from Tampico to St. Louis. Tremendous armaments were requested. An onslaught was launched simultaneously against the liberties of the American people. In the name of national defense, we were set forth on a program of preparedness, not for defense of our shores but for participation in this war. In the name of national defense, and under the guise of combating "fifth columnists," we became at once engaged in the hounding and persecuting of all those who dared raise their voices for peace. Since that day those who demanded peace were labeled "fifth columnists" and Trojan horses. The voices of the genuine anti-war forces in America had to be stifled, even though it meant the tearing up of the Bill of Rights of the Constitution of the United States. I characterized that address as tragically reminiscent of 1916 and 1917, a war hysteria "blitzkrieg" on the peace of the American people. Armaments and hysteria became the order of the day. What followed is history and a black page at that. Suppression of minority groups throughout the country; anti-non citizen legislation in Congress; Congress, for the first time in the history of the country, legislating against one individual and passing a bill of attainder and banishment; depriving labor of its economic and social rights by the ripping up of labor's Magna Carta, the National Labor Relations Law; and a hue and cry raised by reactionary forces throughout America that the social and economic gains of the American people be destroyed. All in the name of national defense defined for us on May 16.

Then came the legislation for armaments. By the time we recess tonight we shall have by authorization and appropriation taken over $10,000,000,000 from the Treasury of the United States for war purposes; and at the same time we have refused to grant the unemployed of this country more than $975,650,000 for W.P.A. workers. W.P.A. workers are being dismissed all over the country. With over 11,000,000 unemployed, and it being admitted that the armaments program will not make any dent in the number of unemployed, the program for America becomes uniforms, not overalls.

I have cast the sole vote against this war armaments program. I ant ready to vote not $10,000,000,000 but $100,000,000,000 for the defense of our shores and our homes. I, however, refuse to vote one cent for an armament program which has become a vehicle for involvement and intervention in the war, for the destruction of the anti-war ideologies which have been built up over the last 23 years, for the abolition of our freedom and for the repeal of the progress that America has made during the last 7 years. Time and events since I registered my sole protest in Congress against this program have demonstrated, I submit, the correctness of my contention.

Witness the pledge at Charlottesville, of full aid short of war to the Allies. Aid short of war only shortens the distance between the peace of the American people and war. A neutral nation cannot remain out of war for long when it permits itself to become a military reservoir for one side of the belligerents.

Witness the turning over of the best dive bombers to the Allies, the attempt to turn over the mosquito fleet to them, and the turning over of the so-called obsolete firearms and munitions. These warlike steps are conducive to war and not peace for America.

At the beginning of this week Americans learned of the shocking proposal of universal compulsory training. According to the United Press, it is contemplated to conscript boys and girls of this country for a period of 1 year; to train them for combat service, for duties in uniforms behind fighting lines (such as communication technicians and airfield mechanics) non-uniform technical training for work in industrial production units necessary for the support of a fighting army, and for conservation units trained to conserve natural resources of the Nation in time of war, to prevent waste caused by plowing up the prairies or denuding of the forests. There is no difference between this plan and that of the forced military and labor camps of Nazi Germany. It is a page lifted out of the philosophy of Mein Kampf.

I seriously question the constitutionality of this plan. We are not at war. We are still at peace. It definitely constitutes the deprivation of the liberties of the American youth without due process of law.

If Congress were to accept this plan it would bar young people from the opportunity to secure training for permanent peacetime jobs; it would undermine trade union standards by creating a reservoir of forced labor, thus reducing the American standard of living; it would destroy the vitality and initiative of free young people; and it would create a totalitarian domination over the bodies, minds, and lives of American youth.

Don't you see how this brings war right into your homes? We take the young men and the young women of this country from their homes and we place them in forced military and labor camps. This is the first step. The next step is to throw them into war. It was the first step that Hitler took against the youth in Germany. It is the first step that we take against the youth of America. The second step is war and the third step is death. I implore you to write to your Congressmen and Senators. They are your servants. Talk to your neighbors. Ask them to do the same. Exercise your rights as free Americans. Register your protest with your representatives against the Hitlerizing of American youth.

We are told that all this is necessary in order to preserve our American way of life. How much of that American life will be left to preserve and defend if we permit this "blitzkrieg" against the peace, freedom, and youth of America to succeed?

Remember you cannot preserve American democracy by destroying it, by curtailing it, or by limiting it. American democracy can live only by letting it live. War will destroy completely our American democracy. Forcing our youth into totalitarian existence under the pretext of training destroys most effectively our American way of living as we have known it.

The President once told us that this generation has a rendezvous with destiny. The youth of this generation have a rendezvous with destiny; not a destiny of the forced labor and military camps, not a destiny of unemployment, not a destiny of war and death. Let us resolve to formulate the destiny of our youth to be a destiny of peace, a destiny of jobs, a destiny of security, a destiny of happiness, and a destiny of freedom.



July 30, 1940

[Congressman Marcantonio took his case against the registration of the foreign born to the people in the radio address given in part below.]

On June 28, 1940, the President of the United States approved an act which provides that within 60 days thereafter, every non citizen who is 14 years of age or older, and who has not been registered and fingerprinted prior to his entry into the United States, shall report to the nearest post office or at such places as may be designated by the Commissioner of Immigration, to be fingerprinted and registered. The parents of non citizen children under the age of 14 shall apply for the registration and fingerprinting of said children.

It is estimated that 3,500,000 non citizens will have to submit to fingerprinting and registration within 4 months after September 1. Over 3,000,000 of these have lived in the United States 10 years or more.

Thus in free America we will witness the Hitler imitating spectacle of 3,500,000 men, women, and children composed of loyal, hardworking people in all walks of life priests, nuns, rabbis, ministers, bricklayers, carpenters, and clerks all of whom have been making a contribution toward the greatness of America, being subjected to the criminal-like treatment of registration and fingerprinting

On June 22 the House adopted this measure by a vote of 382 to 4. I was one of the four who voted against it, and the only one who spoke against it. You may wonder why it was passed by such an overwhelming majority. It was "blitzkrieged" through Congress as a part of the so called national defense program. It was another legitimate offspring of the present day war hysteria...

The non citizen resident is an integral part of America. The non citizen in the United States in the overwhelming majority is a non citizen through no fault of his own. When he attempts to become an American citizen he has to hurdle many barriers. He is often asked questions that even United States Supreme Court judges cannot answer. Frequently he is strangled by red tape, by unnecessary delays, and the fees that are required of him. He is a good American despite the fact that he lacks the technical status of naturalization...

It has... been said that this amputation of our freedom was necessary in order to protect our American democracy. I believe this is the most incongruous proposition I have ever heard. On the one hand it is said that they want to preserve American liberty, and then they set out to destroy it. They strangle American freedom under the demagogic excuse of seeking to protect it. My friends, if we carry out this course we will end with no freedom and no democracy. Such has been the history of nations which have done just as we are doing by this legislation.

In a period as trying as this the test of a democracy lies in the ability of that democracy to maintain its liberties and to have more freedom rather than less freedom. The test of a democracy lies in its ability to preserve its institutions of equality. Remember, when the founding fathers said in that everlasting document, the Declaration of Independence, that all men are created equal, they did not say that all men are created equal except Italians, they did not say that all men are created equal except Jews, they did not say that all men are created equal except Negroes, nor did they say that all men are created equal except non citizens. They said that all men are created equal. By this they meant no discrimination, no segregation, and no persecution of the foreign born.

I submit that the best way to preserve the American way of life is to preserve our liberties. American democracy can live only by letting it live. Limiting it will not permit it to live. It will choke it and kill it. Only by strict adherence to the Declaration of Independence, only by strict adherence to the Bill of Rights, only by the militant and vigilant realization that there are no "ifs" and that there are no "buts" to these great principles of our country, can we successfully defend our American way of life.



September 4, 1940

There is one argument [for peacetime conscription] which I cannot help but treat with disdain and contempt, and that is the argument that we are taking these boys off the streets. We are going to save these boys. We have to save them from themselves, and we must toughen them up and put them into uniforms. Is this the best treatment the greatest country in the world can give American youth, to put them in uniforms, militarize them, "nazify" them, and change them from freemen to cannon fodder? I submit that a free country and a great country can find a real solution, and that is to give American youth overalls and jobs and not uniforms and militarization. (Applause) Sure, put them into camps and knock out of their systems every single democratic concept. Knock out of their systems every feeling for the Bill of Rights, every feeling for free speech, and then what will you have in America?

What difference will there be between the America that we love, the America that we now have, and the Hitlerism that we want to smash?

These boys would not hesitate a minute to volunteer for the United States of America if America were in danger. They would volunteer to fight in any war which was for the best interests of our country. They hesitate, however, because they know that they will be thrown into an imperialist war, a war for spoils, a war for Wall Street, and everything that Wall Street represents

I will tell you why conscription. Because the American people do not want any part of this war, and since the war makers know that the American people do not want any part of this war, that is why we are resorting to compulsion, to conscription to drag American boys into the Army. (Applause) I say that it is a reflection on the patriotism of American youth when it is charged here that it is necessary to drag these boys into the Army. I know the American boys. I am young enough to know them, and you know them too. American youth is patriotic, and it is precisely because it is patriotic that it does not want to fight in any unpatriotic war. Are you going to vote here and say that the American boys in your community are not patriotic enough to take arms and defend the United States if it really became necessary to defend the United States?

When you vote for this conscription bill that is just what you are doing. You are reflecting on the patriotism of American youth. American boys are ready to fight for America, but American boys do not want any part of this imperialist war. The memory of 1917 is still too vivid in the minds of the American people; they do not want this repetition hence draft, compulsion, conscription.



September 13, 1940

I would like to call the attention of the House to the fact that the American people deem it to be the duty of every Member of the House to cast a record vote on the conference report on the conscription bill.

This bill [for peacetime conscription] in my opinion, is the most vital issue that has faced this country since the days of Lincoln, and I submit that we should not dodge a record yea-and-nay vote on the conference report on the conscription bill. My asking for a yea-and-nay vote... may not bring the required number of Members to their feet to obtain a yea-and-nay vote. Since the issue is so fundamental, since the issue is so far reaching, I believe that the responsibility of obtaining a record yea-and-nay vote on the conscription bill conference report rests directly on the leadership of the House on both sides. I am not seeking to embarrass anybody, but this bill, in my opinion, will constitute, when we adopt the conference report, the surrender of the next to the last bridgehead in the defense of American democracy...

Next to the matter of voting on war, this conscription conference report is the most important question that this Congress or the next Congress is going to have, and how can we dodge it? I think we will be remiss in our duty if we dodge it... I say we owe it to the people of this country to let them know where we stand on the question of conscription, and that question will be clearly presented in the adoption or the voting down of the conference report. (Applause)



September 23, 1940

Mr. Chairman, it has been rumored that we may obtain the joint use, with Great Britain, of the naval base at Singapore, out in the Far East. I do not know whether this is true or not. At any rate I do not believe we are showing enough vision or enough ambition with regard to the so-called national defense. We are restricting and confining ourselves to hemispheric and Far East defense I say this is not enough. I say Congress is lagging behind on this question of national defense. What we really need is interplanetary defense. We speak of Great Britain as being our first line of defense. This, I believe, again indicates a lack of vision and ambition on the part of the servants of the people. Our first line of defense is not Great Britain. Our first line of defense is the Milky Way and therefore we ought to see to it that we get a base on Mars and Jupiter.

Why confine ourselves to just a two ocean Navy? What we really need is a nine ocean navy. If you tell me there are only seven seas on which men can sail ships, I say that all we have to do is to put the American boys we are conscripting to work digging two more oceans. What better way is there to toughen them up? After they have dug these two extra oceans then we can build two more navies and thus we shall have a nine ocean navy.

Our defense program therefore should be based on an interplanetary defense, with the Milky Way as our first line, with a nine ocean navy. With all this how can we miss protecting this so-called American way of life in the name of which we are now destroying the lives and liberties of the American people? (Applause)