Letter to the Editor
I’m glad that David Mirtz (peoplesworld.org, October 18, 2016) wrote about the New Deal of the 1930s because it has a bearing on the crucial national elections that are just days away.
I was part of the fight for what we now call our “Safety Net”. Still in my teens, I took a year off from then-tuition-free Hunter College to organize laundry workers for the CIO. I fought to win unemployment compensation, a part of the “New Deal”, while still in high school. Based on that experience, I don’t think that fighting today for a “New New Deal” is such a bad idea. Nor do I agree that the goal of a “New New Deal” is based on a myth that is confusing progressives.
It’s true, as Mirtz wrote, that the New Deal was not a “comprehensive reform strategy” and that Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first banking measures were all for the banks. But what his opinion piece did not mention was the powerful peoples’ movement that moved FDR away from his bankers’ base to respond to the pressure of the people. The Communist Party played a key role in building the coalition that included the CIO and other unions, the Unemployed Councils and Workers Alliances, the Civil Rights movement, Defense of Immigrants and Women’s Rights.
The lesson I draw from that history (and my experience) is the power of the people to make change. I am happy to see a headline in today’s peoplesworld.org read, “Voter Organizing Could Move Congress to the Left.” Of course that assumes a Clinton victory. And Clinton is no more tied to the banks than was FDR. And we moved him!
Perhaps the history of how people moved FDR leftward was not available in the sources quoted in “Does Labor Need a “new” New Deal”. There’s a lot of good material in William Z Foster’s books and 60 Years of Fighting Years for the Communist Party USA. Also, there are two revealing books by architects of the New Deal, FDR cabinet members Harry Hopkins and Frances Perkins. But they are all out of print.
I agree with Mirtz that there have been vast changes and no older New Deal could be copied as a new New Deal. But it could make for an inspiring slogan because it makes people aware of their strength – and that we did it before.
– Bea Lumpkin