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Labor Action, 15 August 1949


Larry O’Connor


Back at the Old Apple Stand, Peddling Reactionary Politics


From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 35, 29 August 1949, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Former President Herbert Hoover has just celebrated a birthday. This happy milestone in the life of the old man was the occasion for a speech by himself at Stanford University, and for an outpouring of admiration and well-wishes from the press of the country.

As I read the fullsome praise of the press I was, at first, a little puzzled. I was puzzled at what seemed to me the shortness of the memory of men. But then it occurred to me that the editorial writers don’t have a short memory at all. Most of them were for Hoover when he was president, and for the policies. of Hoover after he had been retired by the public will. And, it seems from his speech, that, like the old Bourbon monarchy. Hoover has learned nothing and forgotten nothing in all the long years of his life.

The chief burden of Hoover’s birthday speech was to bemoan the fate of our grandchildren, who will be loaded with the cost of our present government expenditures. If the government keeps on spending, they will have to pay the bill. And if the public gets accustomed to accepting the benefits of government spending, our grandchildren will not only lose their shirts but their liberties as well.

The “Hoover Boom” and the Grandchildren

I don’t know how you feel about it, but to me as to millions upon millions of American workers the name of Herbert Hoover is associated above all with one historic event. To this day the great depression which lasted from 1930 to 1940 is called by many workers “the Hoover boom.” They will never forget the man who promised them two chickens in every pot and a car in every garage, and as they stood in the relief lines and saw their homes and cars and furniture repossessed by the finance companies kept assuring them that prosperity was just around the corner. They will never forget the “Hoovervilles” – the last residences of the completely destitute.

As I read Hoover’s speech, if seemed to me that he is determined not to let us forget another symbol of the depression – our famous grandchildren. Throughout those dark years, every demand for relief for the living was met in the public press by wails of grief over the fate of future generations. The WPA and hodsing and all the measures of the Roosevelt administration, though pitifully inadequate and designed to organize poverty on levels just high enough to keep the unemployed politically in line, were denounced for robbing the poor of their liberty while placing the burden of relief on the shoulders of our grandchildren.

Then came a number of years during which the grandchildren were no longer mentioned by the public press, at least not in this connection. These were the years during which the national debt soared from seventy-five billions to two hundred and fifty billions – when in the space of two weeks a Congress which had fought over every million for the unemployed voted one hundred billions each for the army and navy in contract authorizations.

Of course, that was wartime. Neither Hoover nor the newspapers raised their voices against the military appropriations by invoking the shades of the grandchildren who would have to pay the bill. It seems that all of them agreed that killing people was much more important than keeping grandchildren free of excessive debt.

But no sooner is it again a question of appropriations for housing or public works or schools or the unemployed – that is, appropriations to alleviate the worst sufferings brought about by our topsy-turvy economic system – than Hoover and the press which has always supported his views again find the fate of our grandchildren to be the most pressing problem before us.

As Long as He Makes Speeches ...

The other night I saw a newsreel which depicted episodes in Herbert Hoover’s life and ended with a short talk by him. Movie theaters are one place in America where political demonstrations are regarded as perfectly normal occurrences. I was quite amazed to hear a fair scattering of applause as Hoover’s benign face was flashed on the screen, as I could well remember the day when boos and catcalls completely dominated the Hoover political demonstrations.

I looked around and noticed that the theater seemed full mainly of youngsters in their teens. To most of them, stories of the depression are like stories of the First World War to me, or stories of the Spanish-American War to the; previous generation – just the reminiscences of old-timers. They were clapping either for what the newsreel narrator had described to them (a “great American”) or for some vague idea that Herbert Hoover stands for cleaning up the government bureaucracy.

But as long as the Hoover boom lives in the memory of living Americans I doubt very much whether all the efforts of the press and the newsreel narrators combined will be able to convince the workers that Hoover was or is a great statesman who has been sadly misunderstood. In any event, as long as Hoover continues to live and make speeches he will make it quite clear to all who have ears to listen that he wasn’t misunderstood and that he stands now as ever for the same thing: the interests of the wealthiest and most reactionary section of the population.

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