United States Between 1937 and 1948

United States Between 1937 and 1948

The vast movement of internal reform, which had taken place so successfully in the first four years of Roosevelt’s presidency (1932-36), slowed down in the following years.

In the absence of firm party ties that encompassed the entire nation, the Democratic Party – theoretically, the one in power – had split into several factions. The conservative wing continued to express open opposition to various aspects of New Deal politics. It is true that the parliamentary committee that had blocked the bill on labor for two years ended up giving way: the Wages and Hours Act (law on wages and hours), adopted on 25 June 1938, established a minimum wage according to principles long accepted in the legislation of the main nations of Europe, provided for a gradual reduction in the number of working hours and prohibited the employment of minors for the heaviest jobs. But despite this partial victory of the reform currents, other measures in the field of government subsidies and the intervention of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to protect the new rights of trade unions in terms of collective bargaining, raised growing opposition. The backlash against the politics of Roosevelt’s early years was also exacerbated by repeated strikes, which took place while the unions were engaged in a vigorous campaign to organize workers. By 1941, the American Federation of Labor had raised its membership to 4,569,000 and the rival confederation, Congress of Industria Organizations, with its unions spanning entire industries, had five million members: the highest numbers ever. were reached up to then in the United States, but still lower in percentage than those of most of the industrial countries of Europe.

The opposition Democrats were not hostile to agricultural subsidies as to labor subsidies. In 1938, the Agricultural Adjustment Act was passed(AAA), intended to prevent both overproduction and crop failures and to support the prices of particularly overabundant agricultural products by means of government subsidies. A law was also approved which favored the transformation of tenant farmers into small owners, and which was modeled on previous measures adopted with the same intent in various European countries. Administrative reforms to reorganize and simplify federal offices after the failure of 1937 made some progress in Congress in 1939; however, the problem had lost much of its importance since the international crisis required other changes in the bureaucratic order.

The congressional elections of 1938 allowed the Republican Party to gain ground by strengthening the isolationist group (which also included a large number of Democrats) and hampering the government’s efforts to cope with the continuing aggravation of the situation. Farmers of the internal and industrial states of every region deluded themselves that they could continue to do business as usual with the countries that had fallen into the hands of the dictators. The widespread belief among the people that the US entry into the war in 1917 had been engineered by gun dealers (as a recent, sensational parliamentary investigation had tried to demonstrate) and that the whole of Europe was an incurable asylum, incapable of practicing “good neighborhood policy” like American nations, it mitigated the violent reaction provoked by each new conquest of Nazism, Fascism and Japanese imperialism. Republican Senator A. Vandenberg, chief architect of the neutrality laws, fought to keep the country out of the struggle in Europe and Asia. However, American internationalists, in Congress and outside, tightened ranks when Roosevelt demanded that the attackers be placed in “quarantine”.

But until the beginning of the new World War, the president was unable to induce Congress to modify even partially the laws of neutrality, which prohibited the US from helping the victims of aggression. Each new allocation to the army and navy had to be wrenched through bitter struggles against opposition parliamentarians and “isolationist” newspapers; an earlier fortification project on the island of Guam had already been wrecked. However, the collapse of France raised the alarm in public opinion, and the resistance of England in the extreme danger caused many to take sides for active intervention. Although the opposition still deplored, in August 1940, the agreement under which the government ceded 50 old destroyers to the England (obtaining in return the concession for the lease of military bases in the British territories of the western hemisphere, considered indispensable for the defense of the Panamá Canal) the Congress, for the first time in the history of the US, approved in September the military conscription in time of peace. In the presidential elections of November 1940, international issues pushed internal problems into the background. The flag bearers of the opposite tendencies were on the one hand the nationalist and isolationist committee America First, fascist groups like the one headed by Gerald Smith, the followers of the “radiopreter” Father Coughlin and the German-American league (German Bund); the other the White Committee “Defending America by helping the Allies,” the Committee “Fighting for freedom” (Fight for Freedom) and so on. Interventionists were generally more numerous in the South and East than in the Middle West and Far West, although hostility against Japan was more pronounced in the Far West than elsewhere. The progressive wing of the Republican Party, combative albeit not numerous, and supported by some editors of periodicals and several Wall Street financiers, managed by surprise to have Wendell Willkie nominated for president, a lawyer and businessman who after a period of membership in the Democratic Party had gained public attention as a critic of the New Deal. Willkie was much closer to Roosevelt in foreign policy than most of his competitors, and to many non-party voters he gave hope that the old Republican Party might rejuvenate under his leadership. Roosevelt, however, was re-elected by a large margin, overcoming the tradition – linked, in the belief of many, to the example of George Washington – that no president was re-elected more than once. The victory allowed Roosevelt to immediately promote his plans to turn the United States into the “arsenal of democracy”. Congress, in which the Democrats had considerably increased their margin over the Republicans, approved Lend – Lease’s Rooseveltian program. (loan and rent) in March 1941, thus allowing the restrictions imposed by the neutrality laws to be circumvented without having to repeal them. Loan and lease agreements were concluded at a conference between Churchill and Roosevelt, aboard a British warship, in August 1941. Before separating, the two statesmen affirmed their common ideals in the Atlantic Charter (v.), which awakened prompt and enthusiastic solidarity in American public opinion.

The unannounced attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and the German and Italian declarations of war, which immediately followed, ensured that the United States entered the war in a spirit of absolute national concord. there was no lack of recriminations against the policy which, according to the isolationists, had made war inevitable. The desire for union improved the conditions of the minorities: Jews, Negroes (for these see below), Mexicans.

At the beginning of the war, the suspicion of enemy methods of infiltration led to a less equitable treatment of foreigners of enemy nationality. There was never real hatred towards the Italians, and even the security restrictions against them were abolished on October 12, 1942, the anniversary of the discovery of America. The Germans also regained almost complete freedom after fears of a fifth column were allayed. The Japanese, the target of ancient and profound “nativist” prejudices in the Pacific states and often involved in outrage against the “betrayal” of Pearl Harbor, were instead forced to liquidate their properties in the Far West and transferred to special camps in the interior.. However, the government tried to make it less difficult for them to acclimatization in the new centers and the resumption of their usual activities. The fact that similar measures were taken against Americans of Japanese descent was a case of unreasonable persecution. On the other hand, political refugees and other foreigners of enemy nationality, as well as citizens of allied nations, were in many cases admitted to the civil war services and the American armed forces (although the attempts of Randolfo Pacciardi and others to form separate “legions”, similar to the French Free Forces, were not encouraged), and the value of their contribution. Artists such as Thomas Mann and Arturo Toscanini, scientists such as Alberto Einstein and Enrico Fermi had all the esteem and affection of the American people in war.

Since the Civil War onwards there has never been a conflict that engaged the forces of the entire nation like this. While there was no bombing or devastation of the homeland (only the tiny and almost deserted islands of Kiska and Attu occupied by the Japanese in distant Aleutians were part of the metropolitan territory), the death toll in the American military rose to 310,979, more than the number. total of those killed in the Italian and French armed forces. It was due to penicillin, blood plasma and other medical science findings that the total death toll was not higher: the total number of dead and wounded in the military approached one million, but 672,483 wounded survived. The United States also mortgaged the future in other forms, largely depleting their oil reserves and eroding those of iron and other natural resources. Multiple restrictions, although far from serious, were met without protest in the knowledge that for the first time since the wars of independence, victory was not sure. Several groceries and other products were in short supply, but membership diminished inequalities in distribution. All the industrialists were subjected to quotas of raw materials, and the greatest part of the forces and means of production were put at the service of the war. The staff at work rose to more than 50 million, employed in daily, evening and night shifts and in overtime to compensate for the shortage of manpower, aggravated by the fact that more than thirteen million men in uniform and millions of other civilians in offices and auxiliary services were stolen from the production front. In order for a greater number of men to respond to the military and civil mobilization, various female auxiliary units were organized (v.woman, in this App.). Many millions of women joined men or replaced them in factories and public services (for financial measures see above: Finances). Both the IOC and the AFI pledged not to call strikes, and generally kept their promise, despite the contrary claims of many newspapers. However, John L. Lewis and his independent Miners’ Union were uncompromising, and their strike in 1943 temporarily induced the government to take over the coal mines and Congress to adopt the Smith-Connolly Act against the suspension of coal mines. work. This effort was not without immediate rewards, and over time produced decisive results. The battle for production led the government to reconcile the business world with the attribution of important government positions to industrial and financial executives. In a few years some manufacturers, such as the great shipbuilder Henry Kaiser, accumulated immense assets. The demand for agricultural products transformed the problem of overproduction into a problem of deficiencies, despite record harvests, and the agricultural class experienced a prosperity such as it had not had for at least twenty years. Regions of the West and the South, neglected until then, were transformed into industrial centers of the first order. The government’s colossal investments in new war manufacturing facilities – worth nearly $ 20 billion – taking the place of deficit rearmament spending, industrial subsidies and pre-war public works, eliminated unemployment and the industrial crisis. The extraordinary increase in working hours allowed the workers to save part of their wages and to subscribe to federal war loans. Under the impulse of this dizzying activity,

Between 1941 and 1943 the United States produced 153,000 airplanes, 1,568,000 military trucks and nearly 2,000 merchant ships for a total capacity of 20,450,000 tons. As an example of the efforts made to eliminate the weak points it is enough to recall the production of synthetic rubber, which before the war was almost non-existent, but which rose from 25,000 tons in 1942 to 930,000 tons in 1945. It was thus possible not only to adequately supply the armed forces. American, but also send immense quantities of materials to the Allies on “loan and rent” (see rents and loans, in this App.).

During the war, the continuous progress of internationalist currents in American public opinion deeply felt the ideals of political freedom and world solidarity (see Roosevelt, in this App.) Underlined in the “psychological warfare” conducted through the radio broadcasts of the Office of War Information (OWI; Voice of America) and other forms of propaganda. In this field, the new trends made their way to the most remote villages of the Middle West, an ancient stronghold of isolationism. In contrast to this broader view, the expediency policy(convenience) of the State Department towards Vichy France, Franco’s Spain and Badoglio’s Italy was defended by many, but it also raised lively and widespread criticism. However, Secretary of State Cordell Hull, conservative but averse to economic nationalism, gave work to the permanent organization of the United Nations. The “good neighborhood” policy with other peoples of the Western Hemisphere was underlined by Vice President Henry Wallace’s trip to Latin America. Wendell Willkie agreed to tour the allied countries as an envoy of the president and the American people. His impressions and reflections, collected in One World (1943) – the most widely read book of those published in that year – spread the idea of ​​human solidarity beyond national borders in circles up to that time and exerted great influence on the most advanced elements of the Republican Party. This party, however, remained deeply disagree in foreign policy, while the Democratic party, more in agreement in supporting Roosevelt’s internationalist agenda, was equally divided in domestic politics. In the 1944 election campaign, Bretton Woods ‘plans for an international bank and Dumbarton Oaks’ plans to establish the United Nations as a permanent international body were at the center of discussions. Willkie died suddenly in 1944, shortly after his party congress, in which the gray eminences (bosses) republicans, despite his undoubted qualities, had put him aside. Instead, the governor of New York, Thomas E. Dewey, formerly isolationist, and the governor of Ohio, J. Bricker, isolationist to the bitter end, were nominated for the presidential candidacy. Dewey did not differ much from Roosevelt on various points of his program, Bricker was diametrically opposed. The Democratic Party Congress chose Roosevelt for the fourth time, but outgoing Vice President, Wallace, an ardent supporter of the New Deal and a staunch advocate of the “common man”, he was discarded in a compromise intended to reconcile the angry Democrats of the South. In his place was appointed Harry S. Truman, a man of moderately progressive tendencies. The election results marked the condemnation of isolationism for the past twenty-four years. Many prominent isolationist senators lost their seats. Roosevelt and the Democrats won, albeit by a narrower margin than in 1940 and 1942. Wallace remained alongside the president as Secretary of Commerce, a relatively secondary department. Many saw other symptoms of a slow but steady shift in government policy to the right in the resignation of Undersecretary of State Sumner Welles, imposed by Cordell Hull before the election, and later in the appointment of ER. Stettinius jr. and others to various positions in the State Department.

Roosevelt’s sudden death in April 1945 left Truman in command of the nation during the crisis of the war. The part taken by the American forces in the offensives on the western and southern fronts, which had increased every day until the capitulation of Germany, conferred prestige on the new president when the directives of the allied policy in the vanquished countries were drawn up at the Potsdam conference. In this, which was the last meeting of the Big Three, an ultimatum was also drawn up to Japan. The Japanese resistance, already shaken by the air offensive and by the advanced “amphibians” of the Americans and their allies, it was shattered by the atomic bomb – created by an international group of scientists in American laboratories and factories – which was followed by the Russian declaration of war. Moral issues, such as the trials of war criminals, which established just principles of law but on a retroactive basis, and the retention of Hirohito on the throne as the price of Japanese capitulation, troubled many consciences. Peace, however, was greeted with proud relief. Americans now realized, perhaps more clearly than during the war, that the United States had become the greatest power in the world, on par with the USSR or, perhaps, with a slight margin of superiority due to the atomic bomb. Many, however, were more concerned than pleased with their country’s new stance: the primacy involved serious responsibilities for which they did not feel fully prepared. It was therefore impossible to retreat back into the quiet corner of home politics, as in 1920, and Roosevelt’s commitments to the UN had become mandatory obligations. The San Francisco Charter was ratified by Congress with the support of both parties; Senator Vandenberg had placed himself at the head of the newly converted republicans to internationalism.

The most pressing responsibility of the United States was to provide economic assistance for the reconstruction of war-torn countries. It is true that President Truman saw it as his duty to announce the immediate termination of the loan and lease arrangements, but the feelings of solidarity with England remained strong enough to secure a very substantial loan on more than advantageous terms. The liberated countries of Europe, including Italy, received United Nations assistance through UNRRA, then chaired by the former mayor of New York, Fiorello La Guardia, and whose funds were largely departs from the United States.

If in foreign policy it was no longer possible to liquidate the duties and burdens imposed by the victorious war, on the domestic front no time was wasted in repealing the restrictions of war and in reconverting industries for the needs of peace. The government, believing that the postwar period would bring with it a new period of unemployment as in 1919-21, tried to keep the most important measures of extraordinary federal control, but in Congress the champions of traditional individualism and the old economic liberalism eliminated in little time all the controls on prices, wages, quotas of raw materials and so on. The government managed to pass a law for a generous subsidy to unemployed ex-combatants, but he was beaten when he tried to make up for the long hiatus in construction activities with a law intended to boost new construction, and he could not even get a social health insurance law adopted. On the other hand, the right-wing address, which manifested itself decisively in Congress, was shared by the government as regards the reaction against the New Deal: the surviving exponents of this economic policy were gradually removed from high government offices. The “return to normal” and reduction of federal meddling, eagerly requested by all Republicans and many Southern Democrats, made progress all the more rapid as the expected depression did not occur at all. Since the buying power of the mass was kept at the highest level by the possibility of work for all (the number of employed workers exceeded the 60 million hoped for by Wallace and never reached during the war), the inevitable result of the premature abolition of the price control was inflation. This, and the abolition of wage controls, led to a series of strikes intended to keep the next real wages for workers. albeit not quite the same as those of wartime. The union leaders argued that high profits would allow industrialists to raise wages without raising prices. Their insistence that balance sheets be examined as evidence of this claim outraged the defenders of uncompromising economic individualism (rugged individualism) and was not supported by the government. The strikes, and the reluctance of industrialists to invest capital in the expansion of their factories as long as the high tax burdens persist, slowed down the process of reconversion and maximum production as a remedy for inflation.

These frictions contributed to the Republicans’ victory in the 1946 Congressional elections. With Roosevelt’s powerful figure as head of the Democratic Party gone, voters turned to the opposition, which promised to eliminate inflation and other postwar economic turmoil by returning to the individual the ground lost in the face of increasing federal government intervention. The new Republican majority in Congress had the full support of right-wing Democrats to accelerate the movement towards “normality” of the old liberalism and to fight strikes. A bill to limit strikes, proposed by the government before the elections, did not meet with congressional favor because it increased federal powers in this area. The new Congress passed a law (Taft – Hartley Bill) which restricted the powers of the Unions, protected workers not belonging to them, and sought to eliminate Communists from union posts. A tax cut, which favored the wealthiest, was twice subjected to the presidential veto because it was contrary to the financial commitments deriving from the new foreign policy, but ended up being approved by Congress in March 1948.

The evolution towards the right in domestic politics sharpened the contrast with the USSR and was at the same time exacerbated. Both the divergences in the interpretation of specific clauses of the Yalta and Potsdam agreements, in the methods and problems of the occupation and in the preparation of peace treaties, as well as the profound contrast between the Marxist concept and the Western concept of democracy, brought the States United and the USSR to countless conflicts of a practical nature both in Europe and in the Far East. In assemblies of the United Nations, the two states invariably found themselves at the head of two opposing factions, the larger “western bloc” and the minority “eastern bloc”. This situation on the one hand grieved many sincere American internationalists, who, while criticizing their own country, held the USSR responsible for far more serious acts against the harmony of free peoples throughout the world, and on the other irritated the nationalists, who wished to avail themselves of the United Nations to promote the material interests of their country and to favor moderate liberal regimes similar to the American one in other countries. To prevent the cracks in the international edifice from deepening further, the new secretary of state JF Byrnes announced a new policy: speak frankly to Russia, without hostility but bluntly wherever a compromise seemed harmful. His successor, former chief of staff, gen. GC Marshall, went further. Under his inspiration, Congress approved that aid should be sent to Greece and Turkey, with the Truman Doctrine). At the same time, and with increasing insistence, the government demanded the adoption of compulsory military service and other preventive measures against any external threats. Congress was lukewarm, fearing that the required measures would lead to militarism and war. This distrust had already led to atomic research and secrets being placed under the direction of a civil commission rather than under that of military authority. On the other hand, efforts to make the nation more aggressive led to the reunion of all military departments under one head.

Divided in this area, the Americans agreed to approve the financial assistance allocations in Europe and China, which were to continue UNRRA’s charitable operations as a particular US operation. Such assistance satisfied not only the enemies of communism but also the humanitarian sentiments rooted in the people as a whole. The Friendship Train (Friendship Train), filled with private gifts from the common American man to the common European man, was the most singular manifestation of a long tradition of goodwill towards others. As for the Marshall Plan, Congress raised doubts and difficulties about the amount of aid and the conditions for sending it to the various countries, but it approved it. Those who desired international harmony found in the increased cordiality between the United States and the nations of Western Europe, including Italy, which was already an enemy, a partial compensation for the obscuring of the ideal of world solidarity. However, the march of communism in Eastern Europe aroused increasing pain and led to the tightening of measures against fifth columns, real or suspected, in America itself.

The growing tension with the Soviet Union as a consequence of the communist coup in Czechoslovakia, the Berlin question and the general problem of Germany, as well as the consolidation of the first results of the Marshall Plan, had contributed to so that between the two major parties, the democratic and the republican, there was no difference in terms of foreign policy, which was in fact carried out with the support of both, both in the Senate and in the Chamber.

The final candidates in the elections – after Eisenhower’s rejection – were: Truman (with Sen. Barkley of Kentucky for vice presidency) for the Democratic party; the governor of New York, Dewey, with Warren as vice president, for the Republican party; Wallace for the new progressive party, which set its fight on criticism of government foreign policy and finally JS Thurmond for the party of the rights of the states “or Jeffersonian, composed of southerners dissident from the democratic one for the question of granting rights to Negroes. Apart from these last two parties, which were practically non-existent in the electoral arena and whose presence only contributed to detaching the two extreme wings from the Democratic Party, the electoral contest took place entirely between Truman and Dewey. whose nomination as candidate by the republican convention had meant the defeat of the party’s isolationist right wing, he set up his campaign without strong colors, in a moderate tone and as a man sure of victory, assuring that he wanted to implement internal reforms and, in politics foreign, to seek the support of the opposing party as well. On the contrary, Truman, unsupported by financial means, adequate organization and the advantages deriving from political professionalism, instead threw himself into the fray with particular violence by attacking the “Wall Street reactionaries” who held the reins of Dewey’s party and in particular the former Congress with a republican majority which, instead of approving its reform proposals, had adopted the policy of reducing taxes to the rich (Rich man’s tax cut); above all, he insisted that a Republican victory would mean the liquidation of the New Deal, with consequent enslavement of the West, of the peasants, of the world of work in general to high banking and high finance. The elections, for which he was now considered victorious, also by the polls Gallupp, the republican candidate, instead confirmed Harry Truman as the supreme office of the confederation, who obtained 24,105,695 votes against the 21,969,170 attributed to Dewey. In addition, the Democratic Party obtained a majority in both Houses: the 81st Congress in fact includes 262 Democrats, 171 Republicans and 2 representatives of the American Labor Party for the Chamber; for the Senate, 54 Democrats and 42 Republicans. Also for the governors of the states, of which 33 were elected on November 2, there have been significant shifts and there are now 30 Democratic and 18 Republican governors.

The re-election of Truman, if it confirmed an orientation of American public opinion that can be defined as center-left, was determined by the persistence of consensus around the New Deal, from the determination of the unions to beat the architects of the Taft-Hartley Bill with it and, last but not least, from the persuasion of farmers that agricultural prices would be better protected by a democratic administration. Those who were permanently defeated were mainly isolationism and Truman, strong in the moral weight of a regular election and now not owing the office to the pure “case” of Roosevelt’s death, continued in his foreign policy held up to now, always “bipartisan” and based on the “Truman doctrine” and the Marshall Plan. No change therefore took place when on 7 January 1949 the secretary of state GC Marshall, who had been ill for some time, but who had had some disagreements with Truman, resigned together with Undersecretary RA Lovett, Wall Street man, and was replaced by Dean Acheson, with James E. Webb as undersecretary. A corollary of the Truman doctrine and the Marshall Plan was the particular commitment with which the US conducted the negotiations for the Atlantic Pact (signed in Washington on April 4, 1949) and it is not without significance that, in the presence of the unchanged international tension, the gen. D. Eisenhower was recalled to service on February 11, 1949 as “temporary” president of the unified general staff. in the presence of the unchanged international tension, the gen. D. Eisenhower was recalled to service on February 11, 1949 as “temporary” president of the unified general staff. in the presence of the unchanged international tension, the gen. D. Eisenhower was recalled to service on February 11, 1949 as “temporary” president of the unified general staff.

United States Between 1937 and 1948