GENERAL ARTICLES

DEMOCRACY ON THE JOB

"The American people spoke in a voice which will echo through the ages . . . They said they were in the world to stay"—Hutchison

BRUCE HUTCHISON December 15 1944
GENERAL ARTICLES

DEMOCRACY ON THE JOB

"The American people spoke in a voice which will echo through the ages . . . They said they were in the world to stay"—Hutchison

BRUCE HUTCHISON December 15 1944

DEMOCRACY ON THE JOB

GENERAL ARTICLES

BRUCE HUTCHISON

"The American people spoke in a voice which will echo through the ages . . . They said they were in the world to stay"—Hutchison

PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT is more than a great man. He is at once the core of a great movement in human society and the symbol of greater movements yet unseen. This the President clearly understands. It has taken him some time, but he now sees his place in the stream of history. And when you stand close beside him you can perceive, through all his {H-rsiflage and his consummate actor’s skill, how the world’s tragedy has tortured this man’s soul and imprinted itself legibly on his face.

A thousand lesser problems beat upon him through all his waking hours and in his bed at night, but Roosevelt at last, has isolated t la* one main problem of his life, and all his energies of body and mind, in a thousand changing manoeuvres, are bent upon its solution.

He has realized, as few of his lieutenants have, that he symbolizes the* third great decision of his nation’s life. The first decision was built around the sublime character of (»eorge Washington the decision to found a new nation of free men, safe from the tyrannies of the Old World. The second decision, clear fron» the Iwginning in the mind of Lincoln, was to preserve the new nation, which could not exist half slave and half free. In both these decisions, with fratricidal war, the United States succeeded and survived. It was Roosevelt’s mission to discover that another decision, equally great, had arrived, again with war. and could be evaded no longer.

He had discovered, in fact, that just as the nation could not live half slave and half free, so it could not live in a modern, industrialized world which was half slave and half free; that the world of free men must perish if the United States stayed out of it any longer. His practical problem was to bring the United States in; and haunting him always, undermining his health, deepening the lines of his face, was the fear that the American people were not politically mature enough to play the supreme part in the world which history had forced upon them. The time was short as the war hurried to its climax. Would the American people arrive early enough to save the next peace?

On the night of Nov. 7 last, amid the litter of election returns in his Hyde Park study, the President received his answer. To their leader the American people spoke in a voice which will echo through the ages. They said they were in the world to stay.

No one who watched the election campaign at close range could doubt its meaning and its verdict. By the two-term tradition of his office, by the ordinary cycle of American politics, by the widespread hatred of his domestic policies, the President was certain to be defeated. But he gambled everything on his larger policy of all-out international co-operation. He put all his cards on the table—the Dumbarton Oaks league of nations charter, the Bretton Woods money agreement, his international lending organization, his lend-lease program, his friendship with Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin. He made all this the paramount issue of the election, win or lose, and he asked for a mandate to carry through the task he had begun. Through all the confusion, ballyhoo and mud of the campaign the American people grasped this issue, felt, rather than understood, their new place in the world, and because they distrusted the Republican Party’s new-found internationalism gave the President his mandate.

This mandate, far more than t he personality of one man, is the important fact of the election, one of the seminal events in modern history. For it. is a mandate which the legislature cannot ignore and can hardly hope to cancel, even if it wants to.

Now it is true that the people also believed in the League of Nations in the election of 1920, and yet the

Senate, by ambush, guerilla warfare and surprise attack, was able to wreck the League. But the parallel between 1920 and 1944 is superficial only.

In 1920, Jet us not forget, the standard-bearer, a dying President, Woodrow Wilson, was overwhelmingly defeated at the polls and the legislature had already slipped out of the control of the administration. In 1944 the standard-bearer of the same cause, the man who had run for vice-president vainly in 1920, the pupil and heir of Wilson, was elected and his Party controlled the legislature.

More important than these political facts—for such great causes cannot be measured by mathematics— was the changed mind of the nation, which needed a second world war and greater suffering to see the folly of isolationism and bogus “normalcy.”

Three Fronts at Once

DO ROOSEVELT has his mandate and four last k^ years to make it good. He will move fast, and he will move on three fronts simultaneously.

The first is political. He will try to succeed, where Wilson failed, in creating a new and world-wide political instrument which actually can maintain the peace. The Dumbarton Oaks league is going ahead.

It is not, of course, an ideal league. Only in a ceremonial sense does it recognize the “sovereign equality” of nations. It is a big-power league, to be dominated at the beginning anyway by the Big Three. It does not satisfy the middle nations, like Canada or the nations still smaller, and some of its details will be attacked by them and perhaps changed to conciliate them.

But, for all its undemocratic features and its concentration of power in a few hands, it does reflect the actual facts of life in the existing world, it does offer the only hope of maintaining peace for long, and it is a living thing which, as mankind learns how to live together, can grow organically and become in time an instrument as close to a Parliament of Man as we are ever likely to see.

As one of the most influential men in the United States said to this writer in Washington just before the election; “The machinery of Dumbarton Oaks is no great shakes, but machinery isn’t the important

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thing. The important thing is the will to peace. With it we can perform miracles. Without it machinery isn’t worth a nickel. And don’t forget that while the big powers are feeling chesty now, with huge Armies behind them, they will be demobilizing soon. Every soldier in the world, including the Russian, has only one idea, to get home and get a job. When the boys go home the position of the little powers like Canada will appreciate enormously. The big powers will need their help. In this period the new league can change and grow and be liberalized. But if we chuck it now, because it is not perfect, there will be no chance for growth and the world will become an alliance of naked power, balanced on a knife’s edge.”

This is the key to the President’s own thinking and it is on these assumptions that he is going ahead with his new league. The mistakes of impractical idealism, which killed Wilson, politically and physically, will not be repeated by his heir. And the heir has an immeasurable advantage over Wilson— this time the nation has voted by universal franchise to go in and has told the treaty-making Senate in advance what it must do.

There will be trouble in the Senate again. Senator Joseph Ball, that young but already great American who broke with the Republican Party on the league issue, and who is the natural successor of Wendell Willkie, told this writer to be under no illusions, that the fight in the Senate on the league and the peace treaty would be long, difficult and bitter. What was needed, said Mr. Ball on the eve of the election, was a mandate for internationalism, a vote for the President which the Senate would hear and could not repeal. That vote came a few days later. It is inconceivable that the Senate, even

under its monstrous two-thirds rule, can thwart the will of the people when it is declared so unmistakably.

The President will fight this political battle, if it. comes, with his usual skill, immensely strengthened by his reelection. At the same time he will be moving on the economic front. Here again he has learned the lessons of the last time.

After the first world war the Paris peace conference tried to build a world of politics. The League of Nations was a political structure and a magnificent one; but men are not solely political animals. They are economic animals also. They must work and they must eat. The world which emerged from the Paris conference, as Lord Keynes knew at the time, had no economic foundation, no means of avoiding a certain depression, which soon arrived. The political instrument which was supposed to save it floated on air and collapsed in due course.

Economic Foundation

Roosevelt knows all this and he has shown it, not by mere speeches, but by positive and politically dangerous works. He has sought to build an economic foundation under the new peace, brick by brick, with craftsmanship and infinite patience. Already much of the foundation is laid -the monetary stabilization scheme, the international lending scheme, the world nutrition scheme, the world charter of labor rights. All these great projects have been approved at international conferences. All of them Mr. Roosevelt will now press ahead on the strength of his new mandate.

These are only the beginning of the grand design which will unfold quickly in Washington. To a world economic conference Mr. Roosevelt will soon submit still larger plans. He will seek a world-wide reduction in tariffs and the removal of trade barriers. He will propose an international agreement for

the control of cartels, to prevent them being used to hold up prices unjustly, to suppress production or to discriminate against any nation. With this he will couple an agreement to prevent the abuse of patents, one of Germany’s deadliest secret weapons before this war. Finally he will lay down a set of principles, covering the use of commodity agreements between nations, to protect vulnerable industries like our own Canadian wheat farms, to conserve diminishing resources like oil, to control the sale of dangerous drugs and to govern the export of weapons.

Thus, while a world conference is considering the Dumbarton Oaks charter, a political problem, another world conference, tied into the economic department of the new league, will be considering a new economic charter for the world. If the two great projects can be achieved at once we shall have a foundation as well as a roof to the house of the human family. We have never had them both in our time.

Mr. Roosevelt prepares now for his third task. It is to assure an uninterI rupted and reasonable prosperity within the United States. Here, for the first time, one finds his mind clouded, i There is little wonder, considering the wild and furious record of his domestic policies.

Remember that he was elected in 1932 as the advocate of orthodox government finance and sound private business. It seems almost ridiculous now but it is true that in his first campaign he bitterly assailed Herbert Hoover for failing to balance the budget and he warned the nation that deficits would ultimately bring bankruptcy. He was no sooner in office than he plunged into deficit spending which dwarfed all the financial balance sheets of history and made the later Roman emperors, with their bread and circuses, look like pikers. And it was in this period also that the traditional liberal and believer in world trade decided that for the time being at least the United States must prosper alone and could prosper alone, even if the world went under. In this humor, and pushed from one theory to another by his private collection of freak economists, the President suddenly wrecked the London Economic Conference of 1933, which just might have saved the world from economic chaos.

Only a genius in politics, only a man whose greatness outshone his mistakes, could survive such a record and the ultimate failure of the New Deal to prime the famous pump and keep the American people at work. Roosevelt has survived and he has learned. He has thought himself, by a long and painful circle, back to his starting point. He has escaped from his economists and he emerges with the conviction that the United States can only prosper if the world is prosperous. The foundation of his domestic policy will be the grand design of a new world economy, outlined above. If the larger design fails, all fails, and the President knows it now, as he did not know it in 1933.

He does not intend to fail, but there are even more difficulties than you might suppose. Besides the obvious problem of securing international agreement in such large causes there is a delicate problem of timing.

The creation of a world economy in which the United States can prosper will take time. The shattered world must be rebuilt. The backward nations must be opened up. The channels of trade must be cleared.

In the meantime the United States, after a brief postwar inventory boom, may slide into another depression: and if such a depression occurs the larger world design will be fatally under-

mined. In a period of depression the American people will not be ready to lend abroad, to import foreign goods or even, perhaps, to stabilize currency. Depression in the next few years could wreck the President’s entire hopes, the completion of his mission.

Therefore, with careful timing, the President will be prepared to move in and prevent a depression by any and all temporary means; by huge spending, by more deficits, by increased social services, by regulation of business— anything to hold the line until real world recovery sets in.

Huge Problem

Unfortunately you find in Washington no sign of any detailed plan for this delaying action, no clear program for what is called reconversion. Congress has muffed it legislatively and the President apparently has been too busy with the war, as well he might be, to deal with it firmly. And it is because there appears to be no considered plan in this particular field that the blackest pessimism prevails among the New Dealers and economists, both of Right and Left, in Washington. This mood, indeed, has spread through the people also, and the difference between the current boom and the much milder boom of 1929 is that no one believes this one will last.

Well, the President will have to tackle this problem without delay. It