ROOSEVELT & THE REDS
The Stock Market crash of October 1929 and the severity of the decade-long depression that followed understandably undermined a great many Americans’ faith in Wall Street. A firm believer in laissez faire capitalism, President Herbert Hoover, however, remained adamant that “Economic depression cannot be cured by legislative action or executive pronouncement.” Accordingly, his Republican administration consistently refused to intervene in or adequately respond to the unprecedented crisis and calls for relief programs. By the time of the 1932 presidential election, the average American was so exasperated by Hoover’s inaction that they overwhelmingly voted for change and a candidate who promised to do something—anything—to deal with the worsening crisis.
The Wolfsonian-Florida International University
But for a nation steeped in the economics of laissez faire capitalism and fond of a political tradition that maintained that the “government that governs least, governs best,” an activist president like Franklin D. Roosevelt was bound to be controversial. When an admirer told him that he would be judged either the “greatest” or “worst” president in history depending on the success or failure of his program, Roosevelt acknowledged the seriousness of the threat to the nation by replying that “If it fails, I’ll be the last one.”
Gift of Martijn F. Le Coultre
Of course, many conservative Americans were highly critical of the new president and castigated him either for promoting “creeping Socialism” through his intrusive federal policies and programs. One such example is The Roosevelt Red Record and its Background, penned and self-published by the author, Elizabeth Dilling. The author excoriated President Roosevelt as a puppet or willful ally of the Marxian Communist-Socialist “international conspiracies.” The dust jacket of her book makes a visual argument for “guilt by association” by including among the portraits of the president and his progressive New Deal “brain trust” and cabinet members pictures of infamous Communist leaders and demagogues.
Of course, Roosevelt received as much criticism from the Left as from the Right by true Socialist and Communist radicals who interpreted the Great Depression as the death knell of capitalism. In one such pamphlet, the Socialists criticized the president’s policies as being as ill-conceived and futile as trying “to restore life to a corpse.”
The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection, The Wolfsonian-FIU
Many committed Socialists pointed to the Great Depression as proof that capitalism was on its way out and took the opportunity to point out “How Socialism Works”; to suggest that “You might Like Socialism”; to note that a Communist might say without irony “I Like America”; and to argue that Socialism might restore “Hope in America.”
Unless otherwise indicated, the works included in this blog are part of The Christopher DeNoon Collection for the Study of New Deal Culture—a large gift of books, periodicals, and ephemera that has significantly augmented the Wolfsonian library’s already fine collection of materials from this era.
~ by "The Chief" on December 1, 2010.
Posted in Christopher DeNoon, Communism, donations, Great Depression, New Deal (1933-1939), NRA
Tags: President Franklin D. Roosevelt, President Herbert Hoover, red-baiting, Socialism, The Christopher DeNoon Collection for the Study of New Deal Culture