I Stand on the Platform of My Party



Delivered at Philadelphia, October 23, 1940

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, pp. 43-46.

THIS is almost like a convention. Last July I stated a plain, obvious fact, a fact which I told to the national convention of my party, that the pressure of national defense work and the conduct of national affairs would not allow me to conduct any campaign in the accepted definition of that term.

Since July hardly a day or night has passed when some crisis, or some possibility of a crisis, in world affairs has not called for my personal conference with our great Secretary of State and with other officials of your government.

With every passing day has come some urgent problem in connection with our swift production for defense and our mustering of the resources of the nation.

Therefore, it is essential, I have found it very essential, in the national interests, to adhere to the rule never to be more than twelve hours distant from our national capital. But last July I also said to this Chicago convention: "I shall never be loath to call the attention of the nation to deliberate or unwitting falsifications of fact, which are sometimes made by political candidates."

The time has come for me to do just that.

Charges Deliberate Falsities

This night and four other nights I am taking time to point out to the American people what the more fantastic misstatements of this campaign have been. I emphasize the words "more fantastic" because it would take 365 nights to discuss all of them.

And, incidentally, all of these misstatements cannot possibly be what I called last July "unwitting falsifications" of fact; many of them must be and are "deliberate falsifications" of fact.

The young people who are attending dinners in every State of the Union tonight know that they are already a part of the whole economic and social life of the nation. And I am particularly glad to discuss with them—and with you—these misstatements and the facts which refute them.

Truthful campaign discussion of public issues is essential to the American form of government; but wilful misrepresentation of fact has no place, either during election time or at any other time.

For example, there can be no objection to any party or candidate urging that the undeveloped water power of this nation should be harnessed by private utility companies rather than by the government itself; or that the Social Security Law should be repealed, or that the Truth-in-Securities Act should be abrogated.

But it is an entirely different thing for any party or any candidate to state, for example, that the President of the United States telephoned to Mussolini and Hitler to sell Czecho-Slovakia down the river, or to state that the unfortunate unemployed of the nation are going to be driven into concentration camps; or that the Social Security funds of the government of the United States will not be in existence when the workers of today become old enough to apply for them; or that the election of the present government means the end of American democracy within four years. I think they know, and I know we know, that all of those statements are false.

Now certain techniques of propaganda, created and developed in dictator countries have been imported into this campaign. It is the very simple technique of repeating and repeating and repeating falsehoods, with the idea that by constant repetition and reiteration with no contradiction, the misstatements will finally come to be believed.

Dictators have had great success in using this technique; but only because they were able to control the press and the radio and to stifle all opposition. That is why I cannot bring myself to believe that in a democracy like ours, where the radio and a part of the press remain open to both sides, repetition of deliberate misstatements in our democracy will ever prevail.

I make the charge now that these falsifications are being spread for the purpose of filling the minds and the hearts of the American people with fear. They are used to create fear by instilling in the minds of our people doubt of each other, doubt of their government and doubt of the purposes of their democracy.

This type of campaign has a familiar ring. It reminds us of the scarecrow of four years ago, 1936, the scarecrow that the Social Security funds were going to be diverted from the pockets of the American working man.

It reminds us of the scarecrow, the famous old scarecrow of 1932, that scarecrow, and I quote, "that grass will grow in the streets of a hundred cities; a thousand towns; that the weeds will overrun the fields of millions of farms."

Predicts Failure of Stampede

No, the American people will not be stampeded into panic. The effort failed before, and it will fail again. The overwhelming majority of Americans will not be scared by this blitzkrieg of verbal incendiary bombs. They are now calmly aware that once more, "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

I consider it a public duty to answer falsifications with facts. I will not pretend that I find this an unpleasant duty. I am an old campaigner and I love a good fight.

My friends, the Presidency is not a prize to be won by mere glittering promises. It is not a commodity, a commodity to be sold by high pressure salesmanship and national advertising. The Presidency is a most sacred trust. And it ought not to be dealt with on any level other than an appeal to reason and humanity.

Let's get on! The worst bombshell of fear which the Republican leaders have let loose on this people is the accusation that this government of ours, a government of Republicans and Democrats alike, without the knowledge of the Congress or of the people has secretly entered into agreement with foreign nations.

They even intimate that such commitments have endangered the security of the United States; or are about to endanger it; or are pledged in some way the participation of the United States in some foreign war.

It seems almost unnecessary to deny such a charge. But so long as the fantastic misstatements has been made, I must brand if for what it is.

I give to you and to the people of this country this most solemn assurance; there is no secret treaty, no secret obligation, no secret commitment, no secret understanding in any shape or form, direct or indirect, with any other government, or any other nation in any part of the world, to involve—no such secrecy that might or could, in any shape, involve— this nation in any war or for any other purpose. Is that clear?

The desperation of partisans who can invent secret treaties drives them to try to deceive our people in other ways. Consider, for example, the false charge they make that our whole industrial system is prostrate, that business is stifled, that business can make no profits.

The American people have not forgotten the condition of the United States in 1932. We all remember the failures of the banks, the bread-lines of starving men and women, the youth of the country riding around in freight cars, the farm foreclosures, the home foreclosures, the bankruptcy and the panic.

And what happened! At the very hour of complete collapse, the American people called for new leadership. That leadership, this Administration and a Democratic Congress supplied.

"Inaction" of 1932 Is Recalled

Government, no longer callous to suffering, moved swiftly to end distress, to halt depression, to secure more social and economic justice for all.

The very same men who must bear the responsibility for the inaction of those days are the ones who now dare falsely to state that we are still in the depth of the depression into which they plunged us; that we have prevented the country from recovering and that it is headed for the chaos of bankruptcy. They have even gone to the extent of stating that this Administration has not made one man a job.

I say that those statements are false. I say that the figures of employment, of production, of earnings, of general business activity all prove that they are false.

The tears, the crocodile tears, tears for the laboring man and laboring woman, now being shed in this campaign come from those same Republican leaders who had their chance to prove their love for labor in 1932—and missed it.

Yes, back in 1932, those leaders were willing to let the workers starve if they could not get a job.

Back in 1932, they were not willing to guarantee collective bargaining.

Back in 1932, they met the demands of unemployed veterans with troops and tanks.

Back in 1932, they raised their hands in horror at the thought of fixing a minimum wage or maximum hours for labor; they never gave one thought to such things as pensions for old age or insurance for the unemployed.

Calls 1940 Tune "Different"

And in 1940, eight years later, what a different tune is played them: It is a tune played against a sounding board of election day. It is a tune with overtones which whisper: "Votes, votes, votes, votes."

Yes, these same Republican leaders are all for the new progressive measures now, they believe in them. They believe in them so much that they will never be happy until they can clasp them to their own chests and put their own brand upon them. Yes, if they could only get control of them, they plead, they would take so much better care of them, honest-to-goodness they would.

This tune is, of course, only a rehash of the tune of 1936, a little louder. In that election year the affection of these Republican leaders for the laboring man also rose to a high pitch. But after election day, they and their friends did all they could in the Congress of the United States, and before departments and administrative bodies, and in the courts, and in the press, to beat down these measures, beat them down into the ground.

What are the plain facts about employment today?

There are 9,000,000 more men and women employed in private industry now, private industry, than were employed in March of 1933.

In the month of August of this year, 1940, over 400,000 were added to the payrolls. And last month—September— another 500,000 workers went to work in our industries.

Says Republicans Are Brazen

The millions that have gone to work and the other hundreds of thousands now going to work each month in private industry, they are the unequivocal answer to the brazen statement made by the Republicans in this campaign, that this Administration has not added one private job since 1933. That statement of theirs can only be branded as a deliberate misstatement of fact. And I now so brand it.

Let us call the roll of some of the specific improvements in the lot of the working men and women that have come about during the past eight years.

More than 42,000,000 American employes are now members of the Old Age Pension system. An additional 2,000,000 men and women, over 65 years of age, are now receiving cash grants each month.

Twenty-nine million American employes have been brought under the protection of unemployment insurance.

Collective bargaining has been guaranteed.

A minimum wage has been established.

A maximum work week of forty hours has been fixed, with provisions for time and a half for overtime.

And last, but by no means least, child labor has been outlawed.

The average hourly earnings of factory workers were 56 cents in the boom year of 1929. By February, 1933, before I went to Washington, they had dropped to 45 cents an hour. They are now 67 cents an hour, not only higher than in 1933, but, mark you, nearly 11 cents an hour higher than in 1929 itself.

Factory Pay Figures Quoted

Factory pay envelopes, most of you get 'em, had fallen to $5,000,000,000 a year by 1932. By 1940 factory payrolls are running at the rate of twice as much, $10,000,000,000.

And something else, we must not forget that the cost of living is today 22 per cent lower than it was in 1929. And that means something to the average American family.

An equally unpardonable falsification about our economy is made when Republican leaders talk about American business —how American business cannot make a profit, how little confidence it has in this Administration and how this Administration hates business.

We know, if we but look at the record, that American business, big and small business, is way up above the level of 1932 and on a much sounder footing than it was even in the Twenties.

Do you need figures to prove it, just a few?

Our national income has nearly doubled since 1932, from $39,000,000,000 up to the rate of $74,000,000,000 in 1940. And if you properly consider the lower cost of living today than in 1929, the national income is even higher now than in that great boom year.

In the ten years before that crash of '29, the years of the so-called prosperity boom, bank failures averaged over 600 a year. The number of bank failures last year was only forty-two. And of these forty-two, thirty-two were not under Federal Deposit Insurance, ten were. Ten, these ten under Federal Deposit Insurance, set up by this Administration, in these ten banks 99 per cent of the depositors did not lose one dollar.

Bank Failures Are Reviewed

During this Administration the total number of bank failures for the entire seven years was less than the number of bank failures in any single year of the preceding ten years. It's a funny world.

You know there are some banks now using money to advertise, or to send letters to their depositors, hinting that unless this Administration is defeated the deposits of their banks will be in danger.

That is sheer intimidation—intimidation to blackjack the election and return the financial control of the government to the very sources which had nearly wrecked the nation.

And now as to corporation profits. They were a minus quantity in 1932. Corporations as a whole showed losses of almost $4,000,000,000 that year. By now, eight years later, that deficit has been not only wiped out but corporations are reporting profits at $4,000,000,000 a year.

And yet they say this Administration prevents profits and stifles business.

If it is true that the New Deal is the enemy of business and that the Republican leaders, who brought business to the brink of ruin in 1932, are the friends of business, then I can only say that American business should continue to be saved from its friends.

Why, the output of our factories and mines is now almost 13 per cent greater than at the peak of '29—1929, mind you, not '32. It is at the highest level ever reached.

We have passed the time when the prosperity of the nation is measured in terms of the stock ticker. We know that the well-being of a people is measured by the manner in which they live, by the security which they feel in their future.

Says Living Standard Rises

For the American people as a whole—the great body of its citizens—the standard of living has increased well above that of 1929.

We do not advertise "a chicken in every pot" or even "two cars in every garage." We know that it is more important that the American people this year are building more homes, are buying more pairs of shoes, more washing machines, more electric refrigerators, more current, more textiles than in 1929.

Yes, this year there is being placed on the tables of America more butter, more cheese, more meat, more canned goods— more food in general than in that luxurious year of '29.

Last Sunday morning I had a good laugh. I had a good laugh when I read the following in the financial section of The New York Times—a paper which is reputed not to love me too much.

And this is what a writer of the financial page of The New York Times said. I quote: "The Federal Reserve Board in the week added another point to its index of production for September, and the figure now stands at 125, or 13 1/2 per cent above the 1929 average"—mind you, not the 1932 average, but the 1929 average. I quote further: "Dreams of business 'flat on its back' must come from smoking campaign cigars or else the speakers are talking about some other country."

Now wouldn't it be nice if the editorial writers of The New York Times could get acquainted with their own business experts?

Every single man, woman and child has a vital interest in this recovery. But if it can be said to affect any single group more than any other, that group would be the young men and women of America.

It may be hard for some of you younger people to remember the dismal kind of world which the youth of America faced in '32.

The tragedy of those days has passed. There is today in the youth of the nation a new spirit, a new energy, a new conviction that a sounder and more stable economy is being built for them.

In 1940 this generation of American youth can truly feel that they have a real stake in the United States.

Through many government agencies—the CCC, the NYA and others—millions of youths have benefited by training, by education and by jobs.

And we propose, my friends, in the interests of justice and in the interests of national defense, too, to broaden the work and extend the benefits of both these agencies. For they are a part of the lines of defense—training men and women for essential defense and for other forms of industry; educating them to self-reliance, to moral resistance against that way of life that ignores the individual.

The one thing which must be extended, if we would help the young men and women of the nation, is to give them the opportunity to work.

We have recognized that to the right to vote, the right tolearn, the right to speak, the right to worship, we, the Government of the United States, adds the right to work.

We have that definite goal toward which we are aiming. We believe that if our boys and girls on reaching employment age have been unable to get a job in private industry, the government owes them the duty of furnishing them with the necessary training to equip them for employment. And we are determined during the next four years to make that our objective—to make work for every young man and woman in America—a living fact.

Tonight there is one more false charge—one outrageously false charge—that has been made to strike terror into the hearts of our citizens. It is a charge that offends every political and religious conviction that I hold dear. It is the charge that this Administration wishes to lead this country into war.

That charge is contrary to every fact, every purpose of the past eight years. Throughout these years my every act and thought has been directed to the end of preserving the peace of the world and more particularly the peace of the United States—the peace of the Western Hemisphere.

As I saw the war coming I used every ounce of the prestige of the office of the President of the United States to prevent its onset.

When war came I used every ounce of the prestige of the office to prevent its spread to other nations. When the effort failed I called upon the Congress and I called upon the nation to build the strong defenses that would be our best guarantee of peace and security in the American hemisphere.

To Republicans and Democrats, to every man, woman and child in the nation, I say this—your President and your Secretary of State are following the road to peace. We are arming ourselves not for any foreign war. We are arming ourselves not for any purpose of conquest or intervention in foreign disputes. I repeat again that I stand on the platform of our party; "We will not participate in foreign wars and will not send our Army, naval or air forces to fight in foreign lands outside of the Americas except in case of attack."

It is for peace that I have labored; and it is for peace that I shall labor all the days of my life.