Hal Draper

Who’s Against the War Referendum?

Roosevelt Gives the
Whole Show Away

(8 August 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 57, 8 August 1939, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

What are the arguments against giving the people the right to vote on war?

In January of last year, the Ludlow resolution was before Congress, and there was a danger – not so much that it would be passed – but that it would get to be discussed. In this critical hour, Sergeant Roosevelt went over the top and threw a bomb-shell into the laps of Congress, denouncing the proposal. Its leading idea was:

“Such an amendment as that proposed would cripple any President in his conduct of our foreign relations, and it would encourage other nations to believe that they could violate American rights with impunity.”

A Lesson from History

1. Cripple the President’s autocratic control over American foreign affairs? Any one who knows the lessons of history will say: Good thing! It was President Polk’s use of his executive powers which brought on the war with Mexico in 1846 without any consultation even with Congress. It was President McKinley’s control over foreign relations which permitted him to go before Congress and call for war with Spain while concealing the fact that Spain had granted the U.S. demands. Wilson’s secret negotiations with England in 1916 are even better known. History tells us: the President’s control over foreign relations has been instrumental in getting us into imperialist wars – behind the backs of the people!

2. Just why would the war referendum cripple the President’s conduct of foreign relations? Roosevelt has sworn up and down the land that he is innocent of any intention of throwing the U.S. into war. The proposal which he denounces bears only on the power of making war. All measures short of war would still be (unfortunately) left in his hands. Either, or: Either Roosevelt is a hypocrite when he protests his completely peaceful intentions, or his argument is nonsense !

3. Furthermore, Roosevelt was here attacking the Ludlow resolution – a bill which takes the guts out of the proposal to let the people vote on war by making it inoperative in case of attack on the U.S., its territorial possessions, or on any country in the Western Hemisphere. It is this resolution, which concerned itself only with a frankly and openly aggressive war by the U.S. that, Roosevelt said, will hamper his foreign policy. The confession is there for all to see: to put it moderately, Roosevelt does not exclude an open war of conquest!

4. How will the war referendum encourage the violation of American rights? WHAT AMERICAN RIGHTS? If Roosevelt was thinking of the “right” of Standard Oil to pile up its profits in the Far East, with the backing of the Navy, he is a thousand times correct: the people will not sacrifice themselves for that. If he was thinking of the right of Wall Street to sit on the backs of the workers and peasants of South America, he is correct. He is afraid of the war referendum because the war which he has in mind will NOT be one in the real interests of the masses; it will be a war for the “rights” of the American 60 Families against foreign plutocrats!

No Confidence

The bosses’ government in Washington wants the “right” to hold the threat of war over the heads of its imperialist rivals, and the “right” to go into such a war, when it becomes necessary, without the consent of the people.

The answer to Roosevelt is: Your very opposition to the war referendum shows why we have no confidence in you or your government. Let the people decide! They are the ones who will have to fight and die!

Last updated on 10 March 2016