From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 2, 14 January 1939, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Pious tears continue to flow here for the Jewish refugees, but there is not a sign that the Roosevelt administration intends to permit Congressional action enabling refugees to find a haven here. The extraordinary fact that not a single Congressman has issued a public statement declaring for relaxing immigration restrictions, not even Congressman Celler whose bill with that purpose died in the last session and has not been re-introduced, is to be explained by active administration discouragement of such measures.
Privately administration leaders are saying that Jews should go to “sparsely settled” lands – Africa, South America, Palestine, in fact anywhere except the United States. Roosevelt has now publicly enunciated this principle in his letter to Mussolini requesting that Jews be allowed to settle in Ethiopia.
Administration admirers think it was very clever and very noble of Roosevelt to send the letter. It not only served the purpose of “subtle” pressure upon Mussolini to break the axis with Hitler, they say, but served to focus public attention anew upon the plight of the refugees. Mussolini’s refusal to accede was to be expected, and the net result is that everybody is once more awakened to the need to find a haven for the refugees. So say Roosevelt men.
And of course it is true that the demoralized and cowardly respectables who lead the Jewish-American community are expressing gratitude for Roosevelt’s gesture and acceding to his request that the lid be kept down on all proposals to open the door to the refugees here.
But Roosevelt’s proposal to Mussolini actually serves to publicly crystallize and drive home the doctrine that haven for refugees is to be sought primarily outside the civilized world. The Uganda, the Guianas, the African wilds, the Argentina pampas, the Brazilian back-country – these are to be deemed good enough for the Jews. Hundreds of thousands of cultured cosmopolitans, accustomed to the refinements of metropolitan existence, are to be saved, if at all, by being condemned to the bitter task of opening new areas to agriculture.
The ostensible pretext for this doctrine is that metropolitan areas of the world cannot today absorb the refugees. By this criterion, however, no haven at all could be found for the refugees, for the world is suffering today from agricultural overproduction as much as from overproduction of manufactured goods. If there is no room for more city workers, technicians and professionals, neither is there any room for more tillers of the soil.
If the principle underlying Roosevelt’s proposal to Mussolini were carried out on the basis that the refugees should not aggravate agricultural overproduction, they would then be condemned to mere subsistence farming – raising only what they could themselves consume and then, being without cash crops, depending for manufactured goods on the charity of more fortunate Jews or reduced to primitive handicraft manufacturing to supplement their produce-raising. A fantastic attempt to turn the clock back to the days before the market existed!
The whole doctrine implied by Roosevelt is a fraud. Overproduction exists everywhere. It affects the lonely gaucho riding cattle, the Australian sheep-herder, the black peasant in darkest Africa. It is, of course, not real overproduction at all, but capitalist-enforced abstention from the use of goods and services. Neither in the cities nor in the back-country do people actually have enough
food or manufactured goods, nor enough medical and dental care, nor enough housing or schooling. In a sane world, every last Jewish or anti-Nazi worker, doctor, dentist, teacher, writer, technician, actor, artist, musician, scientist, could find his industry and talents utilized to the utmost and the product of his labor enriching the life of all with whom he comes in contact. But in the capitalist world we live in, he is condemned by the Roosevelts to a perspective of eating his heart out in Ethiopia.
Far from constituting a gesture of friendship to the Jewish refugees, Roosevelt’s proposal to Mussolini to settle them in Ethiopia is a pronouncement that the refugees are henceforth to be second-class citizens of the world. Not for them the life of civilization. Even twenty-five years ago this doctrine would have seemed incredible; but so rapid is the decay of capitalism that this arch-reactionary, in essence anti-Semitic doctrine is now enunciated by the foremost banner-bearer of the “great democracies.”
Last updated on 28 November 2014