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Dwight Macdonald

Tweedledum Mr. Willkie vs. Tweedledee Roosevelt

(July 1940)

From Labor Action, vol. 4 No. 15, 22 July 1940, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Big Business Closes Ranks to Face Its German Rivals

As the Democratic convention settles down to the arduous task of “drafting” Roosevelt, it may be worth while to review briefly what has been happening in national politics in the last two months. The blitzkrieg hasd already cracked our democratic system as wide open as the Maginot Line. Since the Reichswehr crossed the Dutch border on May 10, this country has travelled farther and faster towards black reaction than in any similar period in its history.

To understand what has happened, we must go back to three events in 1937 which marked the turning point of the “New Deal” era. Now the New Deal era was no time of milk-and-honey for the American people. It is true that unquestionable social gains were made then, but compared to the needs of a nation with ten to fifteen million permanently unemployed, these were pitifully inadequate. Nor could it ever be said that Franklin Roosevelt was at any time a very bold or consistent fighter against the big boys in Wall Street. He lined up quietly enough on major issues, practically handing the country over to business in the NRA period. Nonetheless one can speak of a “turning point” in his policies in the sense that at one time they were, however timid and inadequate, better than they are now. The first of the events in 1937 which marked the end of the New Deal was the serious political defeat suffered by the Administration forces in the Supreme Court fight. The issue itself was not important – Roosevelt later got the “liberalized” Court he wanted in another way – but the defeat itself was: it meant the beginning of the political retreat of the New Deal. That summer the wave of working-class upsurge which had created the CIO was smashed against the granite resistance of big business in the disastrous Little Steel strike. Finally, the economic dead-end which the New Deal spending policies had reached was dramatically shown in the sudden and severe business collapse which took place in the fall of 1937.

Birth of the ‘War Deal’

Roosevelt realized the game was up. Within a few weeks of the stock-market collapse, he announced a sharp turn away from domestic reform towards a full imperialistic war policy. That was in the famous Quarantine the Aggressor speech he delivered in Chicago. Since then, every advance by Hitler abroad has caused a corresponding retreat from the “New Deal” by Roosevelt.

Step by step, the American business community has drawn closer to That Man in the White House, realizing that this once hated and feared demagogue has long had a profounder understanding of their own imperialist interests than they themselves. As men of business, also, they could see that democracy is like any other commodity: the more there is for export, the less remains for domestic consumption. And so the line of demarcation between Wall ‘Street and Washington has grown steadily fainter.

Enter the One Party System

The blitzkrieg erased it completely. A year or two ago people were talking hopefully about a third party. Today there are no longer even two parties. The Republican and the Democratic parties have merged into a monolithic front of American capitalism.

To run his war machine, Roosevelt has called into his cabinet the conservative Republicans, Knox and Stimson, to whom he has handed over the Navy and the War departments. And the direction of the ten billion dollar rearming program has been taken out of the hands of the New Dealers and given over to several dozen bankers and corporation executives headed by Stettinius of U.S. Steel and Knudsen of General Motors.

The Republicans, on the other hand, have had to abandon the “isolationist” line with which they tried to make political capital out of the anti-war sentiment of the masses. Now that the Nazi threat to American imperialist interests has become serious, the Republicans have been forced, as the climax to the most confused and “wide open” national convention in party history, to give the nomination to a candidate whose views on foreign policy are indistinguishable from Roosevelt’s.

The Republicans have Democratized their foreign policy, the Democrats have Republicanized their domestic policy, and both parties have joined forces to prepare national defense under the banner of reaction. No party lines have been drawn in Congress on such measures as the anti-alien laws, the relaxing of war profit curbs, the grandiose plans of the State Department to “coordinate” North and South America into an economic grossraumwirtschaft (“large-scale super-national economy”) ruled from Washington, the “Fifth Column” attack on Reds and unions, the powerful drive against the Wagner Act and the wages and hours laws, and various plans for peace-time conscription of adults and for putting the youth into government labor camps.

Reynaud Is the Name, Not Blum

A great deal of nonsense is now being written by the liberals about the necessity for a democratic defense program. the only possibility of a democratic defense, as Labor Action has often pointed out, is through a workers’ socialist government. But the liberals continue to hope.

“If the United States is to resist a triumphant Germany,” writes George Soule in The New Republic, “we can fortify ourselves only by fulfilling and invigorating our democracy.”

And Roosevelt keeps repeating that not a hair of the New Deal social program – which is pretty bald by now, anyway – must be touched.

An equal amount of nonsense is talked by Willkie and the conservative press, who blame the whole failure of the Allies on the Popular Front government in France – as though first Daladier and then Reynaud did not have two years of right-wing government in which to prepare against Hitler! Willkie hammers away at “the Blum government in Washington”.

But it is all a sham battle. Everybody, except of course the liberals, knows quite well that a “democratic” defense of democracy is a luxury American capitalism cannot afford in its present bankrupt state. Whichever wins the election, Tweedledum Willkie or Tweedledee Roosevelt, the defense program will continue to be organized along the same Wall Street lines it now has.

This will be a fight against Hitlerism in the Reynaud tradition. And after Reynaud comes Petain and Dictatorship.

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