Roosevelt Myth - John T. Flynn

The Shock Troops of the Third New Deal

With the invasion of Czechoslovakia and the European War a certainty, Roosevelt was now ready to go to work to get himself elected.

The whole conservative wing of the Democratic party was angry, from Vice-President Garner down. It was angry about the radical labor power inside the party, about the attacks on business and about the Court fight and the purge. Nevertheless, the President had in his hands control of the party machinery.

In the 1932 convention, Roosevelt had had the hostility of the party machines in the big cities. They had been hostile at first but had been held in line by Jim Farley. They were unwilling friends in the 1936 election, but now they had been conquered completely by Roosevelt. In addition to them, he had the vast legions of organized labor which, by 1939, were being directed from the White House through the masterful leadership of Sidney Hillman. He had the immense payroll army of the New Deal government which included millions. And he was now to cultivate those racial and religious groups whose emotions had been inflamed by the outrages committed in Europe upon the inhabitants of their old homelands.

1. THE RIGHTEOUS BOSSES (NYC, Chicago, NJ, etc.)

There never has been in American politics a religion so expansively and luminously righteous as the New Deal. From the beginning to the end it was constant in one heroic enterprise—war to the death upon evil, upon greed, poverty and oppression. It had, in fact, one monstrous enemy against which it tilted its shining spear seven days a week and that was SIN. If you criticized the New Deal, you were for sin.

Yet it must be conceded that amongst the warriors of the New Deal were many whose presence in the army against sin was a little surprising. One such collection of men were those who are called leaders by their friends and bosses by their enemies in the big cities. What were the leaders of these great grafting organizations doing on the side of the angels?

In New York City, Tammany Hall was the organization that managed the Democratic hosts of the city. It had a long and at times unsavory existence. Its motto was "To the victor belongs the spoils" and the spoils consisted not merely in jobs that went to the party workers, but those great enterprises that feed upon the state and that are included under the name of graft. Illegal graft was the levying of extortion upon contractors, gambling houses, commercial prostitution, commercial vice of all sorts. There was, however, an area known as legal graft that consisted in various kinds of profits which organization leaders and favorites made out of ordinarily legal business but which they were able to collect because of political power and pressure. For instance, a Tammany leader might have a silent partner in some firm handling contracts with the city.

In cities, the bonding and insuring business is an important element in all kinds of activities—bonds in the courts, bonds of office holders, insurance and bonds of city contractors and the insurance business of large firms that depend heavily upon city business or the favor of the administration in power. Always there were Tammany leaders with an interest in an insurance firm either directly or through their relatives.

With the advent of Charlie Murphy as the leader, there was a marked moral change. Murphy, like many of his contemporaries, was a good family man and a steady church member. He began as a saloon owner but left that and as he grew older became aware of the vicious aspects of organized vice and its partnership with machine politics. When John Hylan became mayor of New York, strongly under the influence of his religious wife he made up his mind to end the toleration of commercial vice in New York City. Murphy supported him in that and whatever critics may say of Hylan and Tammany, he put that policy into effect and drove these industries out of New York City into New Jersey, where they found a hospitable welcome.

I do not mean that the leaders of Tammany Hall put on wings. There remained always a few leaders who resented this flight to grace and there were areas of so-called legal graft which were extensively cultivated. But another factor had intruded upon the scene. Al Smith loomed as a candidate for the presidency. Murphy nursed the ambition of electing an authentic Tammany man to the White House and as part of that plan he began to enforce a more exacting code of good conduct on Tammany leaders, some of whom, to be sure, chafed under it. But Murphy said Tammany could not afford a bad name to stain the good repute of Al.

One other point about Tammany must be noted. It was primarily a political organization, but one activity of the organization was social welfare. Tammany lived on the support of the masses of voters. In each city district was a Tammany club. It was the head-quarters of the political life of the district, but it was also the center of certain social services. Every night the boss was there, surrounded by numerous city employees from the various departments of the city—school board, magistrates' courts, public works, health, etc.—and to this club every evening came a steady stream of people in the district looking for aid—a woman who wants her teacher-daughter brought to a school nearer home; another who wants help in the magistrate's court for her erring son, a whole collection of victims of the eternal traffic violation ticket who want it fixed, a poor woman who wants a little coal or a few dollars or a word to the commissioner of welfare for a relative, and various others seeking many other kinds of help.

The cost of all this so-called social welfare to the district boss was not very great. The personal services were performed by the faithful on the city payroll and the actual money outlay was modest and met out of the boss' own funds and funds levied on city employees and contractors and others who enjoyed the favor of the leader. But it was the most powerful source of the hold that Tammany Hall and its affiliated organizations in the other boroughs of the city had upon the people of New York.

The worst of these city machines were the Kelly-Nash machine in Chicago, the Hague machine in Jersey City and the Pendergast machine in Missouri, although there were many others in the great industrial cities. When Roosevelt was a candidate for the nomination in 1932 all these machines were opposed to him. They continued to sneer at him after he was elected and he continued to snipe at them. He directed Farley, for instance, to fight the nomination of Ed Kelly for mayor of Chicago. In New York he committed against the Democratic organization which had helped elect him the unpardonable political offense of promoting the candidacy of LaGuardia for mayor, who was elected on a Republican ticket supported by disaffected New Deal Democrats.

When Roosevelt became President, as we have seen he began spending vast sums of money on relief and public works. Into a Tammany district, for instance, now flowed not a few thousand dollars passed around in the methodical and economical manner of the boss, but hundreds of thousands, even millions, of dollars for all kinds of aid including jobs for those who wanted work and generous handouts from relief agencies. The handouts, of course, were coming from New Deal agents. The Tammany chieftain in the district could no longer compete with the extravagant hand of Roosevelt's dispensers of bounty. The only hope of the Tammany leader to hold his place in the district was to do business with the man in Washington who commanded these golden streams. He had to be the agent in the district for controlling the flow of this money or he was out, because the national government could install in every district a benefactor who could out-spend the boss not ten to one but a hundred to one.

Roosevelt did not do business with leaders directly. They had to do business with Roosevelt's man in Tammany and, as it turned out, he was probably the worst of all the leaders in that organization. Tammany men knew all about him and he became after that the model and pattern to which Tammany conformed. He was Jimmy Hines, the leader of the Eleventh District.

Prohibition in its way had done something to Tammany as it had to everything in America. It had brought the speakeasy, the illegal liquor business and the criminals and gangsters who preyed on them. With the appearance of Jimmy Walker as mayor of New York the organization began to sink back again into its old frailties. Graft upon all sorts of commercialized vice got to be big business again. More than one district fell into the hands and under the control of men who were leagued with these enterprises. Jimmy Hines was the worst of them all. He had a partnership with Dutch Schultz, a notorious gangster and murderer.

How he became Roosevelt's right-hand man in New York is not difficult to understand. Years before a young man out of law school, wishing to get along, decided to become a Democrat. His name was Samuel I. Rosenman. After he graduated from Columbia, he went to Mr. Hines and told him of his ambitions—he wanted to go to the legislature. Hines sent him to one of his trusted advisers, an old Tammany judge, for examination. The judge found that Sammy knew his lessons and so Rosenman went to the legislature and in good time wormed his way into the good graces of Franklin Roosevelt as governor and became the first member and the last survivor of his Brain Trust. He remained always one of the close political friends of his sponsor, Jimmy Hines, while he lived in the spotlight of the purity and holiness of the New Deal, and he was able to make Hines Roosevelt's right-hand man among the bosses of Tammany.

In 1933, LaGuardia came into power in New York City and for the next ten years Tammany lost its hold upon the political machinery of New York save through some of the borough governments and by 1942 lost its hold in the state when Dewey became governor. Tammany was now strictly on the outside. It had lost the jobs and the rich perquisites of office. Many of the club houses were closed or became the cold and dreary haunts of men who no longer attracted the hungry, the poor and the dispossessed in search of help. Tammany had sold its famous old hall in 14th Street and had built a new Tammany Hall on Union Square near 14th, but after a few years of struggle it was no longer able to maintain itself there or pay the interest on the mortgage and had to sell out. Old Tammany sachems and other devout members of that dwindling congregation took refuge in tears over at Luchow's Restaurant the day Jimmy Walker, representing Tammany Hall, stood on the stage of the Hall and handed the deeds to the new purchaser David Dubinsky, head of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, a socialist-dominated labor organization that strung along with Roosevelt.

Little by little the Tammany leaders who were growing older were being succeeded by newcomers who were ready to scream their heads off for Roosevelt and the New Deal. There is no vast sum of money in holding office. The riches are in the perquisites, the graft, legal and illegal, often collected by men who do not hold office but who do business with those who do. Some Democratic chieftains of the newer stripe began to drift into vice rackets of various sorts. Frank Costello, the most notorious racket manager in the country, became the most powerful factor in that once proud organization. Many district leaders were running night clubs and hot spots and little by little large sections of Tammany fell into the hands of criminal or near-criminal elements.

It was this Tammany at its lowest level which surrendered to the New Deal and became finally the political tool of Mr. Roosevelt in New York. From an old-fashioned political district machine interested in jobs and patronage, living on the public payroll and on various auxiliary grafts, some times giving a reasonably good physical administration of the city government, some times a pretty bad one, some times very corrupt, some times reasonably honest, it became a quasi-criminal organization flying the banner of the Free World and the Free Man.

In 1932, Illinois sent a delegation to the Democratic convention headed by Tony Cermak, a crude political genius who had emigrated from Bohemia, started with a pushcart, became a precinct captain, grew rich on graft, organized the Poles, Czechs, Lithuanians and Slovenes in Chicago into a powerful racial bloc called the United Societies, became boss of the Twelfth Ward, rounded up the underworld for Brennan when he was boss and when Brennan died, succeeded him as Democratic leader and became mayor of Chicago.

Cermak fought Roosevelt's nomination at Chicago, and went to Miami in February, 1933 to make his peace with Roosevelt where the bullet intended for Roosevelt killed him. Ed Kelly, Cermak's chief aide and the chief engineer of the Sanitary District in Chicago, became mayor and thereafter Ed Kelly and old Pat Nash became the twin bosses of Chicago and of Illinois Democrats.

The story of the next eight years was an incredible one. The Capone gang, robbed of their Prohibition racket, had gone into business—horse parlors, gambling houses, bawdy houses, with special rackets in barber shops and other places. The Capone rackets were operated by Jack Gusik, Chew Tobacco Ryan, Loudmouth Levin, Harry Greasy-Thumb Gusik, Frank Diamond (Capone's brother-in-law), Charles and Rocco Fischetti (Capone's cousins), Eddie Vogel, slot-machine czar and Billy Skidmore with whom everybody had to do business in Chicago to keep out of jail. There were crooked labor rackets on an unbelievable scale. At one point a rumor got around that some important person had been nailed for a $100,000 income tax evasion. It turned out to be Kelly, the mayor.

Roosevelt had tried to prevent his nomination but didn't succeed. In the three years that Kelly had been Sanitary District commissioner he had failed to report $450,000 in income. The Treasury went after him but allowed him to settle. He refused, however, to divulge where the income came from. He settled for $105,000.

Like the Tammany Hall machine, the Kelly-Nash machine was subdued to the Roosevelt power and the countless millions it dispensed in Illinois. And as the time for the third-term movement came along, Ed Kelly was one of its principal leaders, beating the drum for "Roosevelt and Humanity."

Nowhere in America was there a political ring more widely known for its brash defiance of law, decency and principle than the notorious machine of Frank Hague in northern New Jersey. Hague ran up his career from janitor of the city hall to mayor in ten years. In 1932 he had been mayor for 14 years. He was the undisputed boss of the state and he carried its national convention delegates around in his pocket, all of which he was able to do because of a reliable 100,000 plurality he could run up in Hudson County, enough to swamp any hostile majority for his candidates in the rest of the state. Hague grew in arrogance. He bullied, bellowed and bawled out his critics as well as his opponents at the polls. He didn't like Roosevelt. He didn't like the New Dealers around Roosevelt and above all he hated the pinks and the Reds.

The year 1938 was, as we have seen, a disastrous one for the Roosevelt New Deal. The national convention was only a year and a half away. In this year Judge William C. Clark, an authentic New Dealer, became the subject of Hague's concern. Clark had put the brakes on some of Hague's more blatant and offensive attacks on freedom of speech in his bailiwick. In 1938, Clark was the judge of the U. S. District Court in Hague's district and in that year was elevated to the U. S. Court of Appeals in New Jersey. That suited Hague fine. He had a candidate for the place left vacant by Clark and the appointment was in Roosevelt's hands. His candidate was T. G. Walker who had been elevated from a seat in the assembly to be a judge of the highest court in the state—the State Court of Errors and Appeals. Hague wanted Walker appointed to succeed Clark in order to make room for his son in Walker's place. It took a good deal of maneuvering but Hague, with Roosevelt's aid, worked it out. He got his enemy Clark from the spot where he was most offensive, put Walker into that place and young Hague, who had failed to graduate from law school, on the highest court in the state.

Hague had got what he wanted from Roosevelt. Later Roosevelt wanted something from Hague. Secretary of the Navy Claude Swanson, who had held that post since 1933, had for years been in a state of great feebleness. Charles Edison was Assistant Secretary of the Navy and because of Swanson's illness, actual Secretary.

When Swanson died, Edison rated the promotion but Roosevelt for some reason didn't want him. He urged Hague to make Edison governor or senator from New Jersey. Hague' agreed to do so. Then Roosevelt appointed Edison Secretary of the Navy and later Hague nominated him for governor of New Jersey. It was a bad day's work for Hague, as Edison after election got the notion that he and not Hague was governor, which precipitated a long and bitter fight between these two men, one representing bossism, machine politics and political corruption at its lowest level, the other representing the spirit of rational and democratic reform and honesty in elections and government. In this battle, which came after the election of 1940, Roosevelt threw his influence and power on the side of Hague.

These were three of the most notorious of the big city bosses, but there were similar smaller bosses of the same type all over the country. In 1939, although most of them hated Roosevelt, they had been completely subjugated to his will by the great sums of money which he was able to either spend or withhold from them in their respective districts. And they continued to play an increasingly important role in this righteous thing known as the New Deal. By 1940 they were among the most ardent Roosevelt men.

2. SIDNEY HILLMAN (Organized Labor)

Beginning with the second term, events began their work on the cast of characters of the New Deal. One after another power was slipping out of the hands of one set of men and dropping into the hands of others. Up out of the leadership of labor the head of Sidney Hillman began to rise higher and higher and his shadow grew longer around the White House. This would go on until Hillman would become one of the two or three most powerful men in America. By the beginning of 1937 the new labor movement, the CIO, under the leadership of Lewis, Hillman, Dubinsky and Murray, was marching forward. As Roosevelt was inaugurated, the big strike against the General Motors plants was under way with 113,000 men out. It was a bitter struggle marked by violence on both sides, but chiefly by the famous sit-down strikes.

On March 1, John L. Lewis and Myron Taylor startled the world with an agreement between U. S. Steel and the Association of Iron and Tin Workers and in two months 260 steel companies followed suit. By 1938 almost 450 firms had signed up with over 450,000 workers. But the CIO lost its fight with Little Steel. The big fight between Ford and the unions became the bitterest of these struggles. The CIO spread its activities over the white collar groups—the Newspaper Guild, even the lawyers, salespeople, retail clerks, architects, chemists, technicians and government workers. In the early part of 1938, over three million workers had been organized.

When the NRA was scrapped by the Supreme Court, Congress passed the Wagner Labor Relations Act to take the place of Section 7a, but with many more teeth in it and then began not merely the war between capital and labor but the war within labor, between the AFL and the CIO for jurisdiction over 30 million American laborers. Under the Wagner Act elections were held in plants to determine what union would be the spokesman for the workers and in the warfare between the AFL and CIO the workers in some places actually met in armed conflict with each other. But in addition to the war between capital and labor and the war between the CIO and AFL, there was another war within the CIO. It grew out of several elements of discord. One of them was the extent to which the Communists had penetrated the CIO. The other was the extent to which the CIO was being used in politics for the interests of Roosevelt. The third grew out of differences about policy and methods and the inevitable clash of strong personalities.

From the point of view of labor and the public, however, the most serious of these elements of discord was the penetration of the CIO by the Communists. On August 13, 1938, John P. Frey, president of the Metal Trades Department of the AFL, appeared before the House Committee Investigating Un-American Activities. Frey, in a presentation lasting several days, laid before the Committee a completely documented account of the penetration of the CIO by the Communist Party. He gave the names of 280 organizers in CIO unions under salary who were members of the Communist Party.

He charged that John Brophy who was the director of the CIO, was expelled by the United Mine Workers some years before for disloyal activities and while he was not directly a member of the Communist Party, he was assisted in his work by two active members of the Party. He had gone to Russia as a member of a delegation sponsored by the Party and approved by Moscow and when he returned the UMW accused him of being a paid agent of the Soviet government. Brophy at a meeting said that the condition of workers in the Soviet Union "should be a source of inspiration to workers in America."

Frey named union after union in the CIO, giving the names of the Communists who were holding positions of leadership and trust. He charged, for instance, that they dominated the United Office and Professional Workers Union, that the president of that organization was a member of the Communist Party and through that organization they had infiltrated the government with numerous Party members in almost all the bureaus in Washington.

At the time of his testimony Frey, an old and highly respected labor leader, became the object of one of the most brutal and angry blasts of denunciation at the hands of all the New Deal writers and organs all over the country. The day after Frey's first appearance before the Committee, Martin Dies, the chairman, went to the White House in connection with some matter in which Texas was interested. When he got there the President treated him with studied discourtesy. He said sharply to Dies: "What is your idea of letting this thing turn into a denunciation of the CIO?" And he wanted Dies to put an end to Frey's testimony.

Dies explained the Committee had summoned all sorts of people to give their views on the subject of subversive activities. Dies had invited the CIO and the AFL to send representatives. The CIO refused, but the AFL sent John Frey. However, this did not satisfy the President, who became very angry. He said to Dies: "Well, there's no one interested in Communism, no one at all. I've heard it all my life. There is no menace here in Communism. The great menace in this country is in Nazism and Fascism. That's where you can do a good job. As far as labor leaders are concerned, I've known both these groups. The AFL is tory and reactionary, but John L. Lewis is the most progressive, liberal labor leader I've known in my life."

Of course, no one had charged Lewis with being a Communist. At that time the split between Lewis and the CIO was already in progress. It was not John L. Lewis who was harboring the Communists. The studious reader might be interested to go back to the report of the Committee on Un-American Activities in 1938 and read the testimony of John P. Frey who was saying in 1938 what the Attorney-General of the United States was saying ten years later and what the whole country came to recognize not merely as a fact but one of the gravest facts in the structure of our economic life.

It was the Communists who were engineering the sit-down strikes and who instigated and organized the Lansing Holiday when a mob of 15,000 blockaded the state capitol and 2,000 of them, armed with clubs, were ordered to march on the university and bring part of it back with them. At the Herald Tribune forum in New York City about this time the President delivered one of the bitterest attacks he had ever made on a government official. It was against Martin Dies for investigating these Communist influences in the sit-down strikes.

Before this ended, Dubinsky and Lewis would be out of the CIO and Sidney Hillman would become not only its dominating mind but Roosevelt's closest adviser in the labor movement and in the end, though not himself a Democrat, the most powerful man in the Democratic party.

Sidney Hillman was born in Zargare, Lithuania, then part of Russia, in 1887. He arrived here in 1907 after a brief sojourn in England. Hillman never worked as a laborer or mechanic of any kind. Ben Stolberg says he was the only outstanding labor leader who never was a worker. He began his labor career as one of the organizers of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America and at 27 became its first president. He held that post to the day of his death and during that time was the unquestioned czar of this union.

Hillman was never a member of the Communist Party. He never permitted Communists to get into the Amalgamated Clothing Workers. Far more than John L. Lewis he understood the Communist Party and its methods and he was far too astute a man ever to permit his own union to harbor groups that would take their orders from other sources.

But what Sidney Hillman's precise political and economic philosophy was is not easy to say. The membership of his union was overwhelmingly Socialist but his union members were the employees of a very large number of small and a few large garment manufacturers who were themselves little capitalist employers. They lived within and on the fruits of the capitalist system and Hillman, as an intelligent labor leader, accepted that situation and sought to get for his own membership as large a share of the revenues of the garment industry as possible. Outside of that, however, it is entirely probable that Hillman, while not a Communist, was at all times sympathetic to the Communist philosophy. He was a revolutionist and it is probable that if a revolutionary mood were to have taken hold of America at any given moment, Hillman would have been among the ablest and most vigorous of its leaders.

Whether a man is a Communist or not is a difficult thing to determine if he is not a member of the Party. First of all, there are all kinds of Communists, just as there are all kinds of Socialists. There are the Stalinists and Trotskyites and Lovestoneites. The Trotskyites and the Lovestoneites are as violently anti-Stalinist as the Socialists and because of their war on Stalin they got a good deal of tolerance amongst anti-Communist groups in this country of which they formed no rational part.

It is certain that the Russian revolution set off a very vigorous flame in Hillman's bosom. In 1922 he hurried over to Russia with a plan. He had organized here what he called the Russian-American Industrial Corporation with himself as president. Its aim was to operate the "textile and clothing industry of Russia." Hillman's corporation sold to labor organizations at $10 a share a quarter of a million dollars of stock. The circular letter of the corporation soliciting stock sales among labor unions said: "It is our paramount moral obligation to help struggling Russia get on her feet." Hillman went to Russia to sell the idea to Lenin. He cabled back from Moscow: "Signed contract guarantees investment and minimum 8 percent dividend. Also banking contract permitting to take charge of delivery of money at lowest rate. Make immediate arrangements for transmission of money. Had long conference with Lenin who guaranteed Soviet support."

When the Amalgamated Clothing Workers met in Chicago on May 8, 1922, a message was sent from Moscow by W. Z. Foster, then national chairman of the Communist Party. It read: "The defeat of the employers is the natural result of the splendid spirit of the Amalgamated. Many times in my present tour speaking to your unions I marveled at this growing spirit but since coming to this country I marvel no longer. It is the spirit of the Russian revolution, the spirit that will lead the workers to emancipation."

This was read to Hillman's convention and printed in its proceedings. The message sent back to Russia read: "We thank you heartily for your inspiring message."

When the Congress of Industrial Organizations was formed all the leaders were aware, as already pointed out, that certain Communist unions were moving in. But no man among the top leaders was as aware of the full meaning of this as Sidney Hillman. Before the New Deal, the bulk of the Communist unionism was in New York and its environs. Lewis, whose unions operated in the coal fields, was very little troubled by the Communist influence. To labor leaders around the country generally it was a minor feature, but this was not so in the case of Hillman and those labor leaders in New York, particularly the unions dominated by Socialist memberships, who were keenly aware of the pro-Communist labor movement and the men who were its leaders.

Hillman was in no doubt about Michael Quill and Joseph Curran and Harry Bridges and Ben Gold and Abram Flaxner and numerous others who had moved into the CIO. And Sidney Hillman knew as well as any man that Communists in labor unions are interested not in the welfare of the members but in the use of the labor union apparatus for revolutionary activities. He knew, too, that they take their orders from the Communist Party and not from the membership of the union.

Hillman was never an outright exponent of Communist objectives. He was, however, deeply sympathetic to the Communist cause in Russia and to the extreme left-wing ideal in America, but he was an extremely practical man who never moved upon any trench that he did not think could be taken. He never pressed his personal philosophy into his union and his political activities any further than practical considerations made wise.

He was a resolute man who shrank from no instrument that could be used in his plans. He was a cocksure, self-opinionated man and he was a bitter man, relentless in his hatreds. He had perhaps one of the best minds in the labor movement—sharp, ceaselessly active and richly stored with the history and philosophy of the labor struggle and of revolutionary movements in general. When Lewis and Dubinsky at a later date would leave the CIO, Hillman would be supreme and would reveal somewhat more clearly the deep roots of his revolutionary yearnings that had been smothered for a while under the necessities of practical labor leadership.

There is no doubt that Hillman was one of the first labor leaders to use the goon as part of his enforcement machinery. In 1931 a garment manufacturer in Brooklyn named Guido Fererri got into a bitter quarrel with Hillman's Amalgamated and was threatened by one of its officials. A few days later Fererri was found shot to death on the street. At the time a notorious character named Louis Buckhalter, known as Lepke, was officiating as slugger and goon for a labor union and Lepke was suspected of this crime. Some time later a Brooklyn jury found this same Lepke guilty of murder in the first degree for killing Joseph Rosen in a Brooklyn candy store on November 30, 1936. He was sentenced to be electrocuted but Lepke was in Leavenworth Penitentiary serving a term of 14 years as the master-mind behind a ten-million-dollar narcotics ring and another term of 30 years for labor racketeering, both of which would keep him in Leavenworth until 1980.

Governor Dewey of New York demanded delivery of Lepke in order to execute him for the Rosen murder. He demanded delivery four times but each time Attorney-General Biddle refused. Thus, by insisting Lepke serve his long prison term for comparatively minor offenses, he was saved, for a long time, from execution for the more serious offense of murder. Why? On the night Fererri was killed, Lepke was seen by a policeman on the streets in that neighborhood in Brooklyn. He told Lepke: "You're too close to where a murder has been committed, so you better come with me." The officer took Lepke to the police station. Lepke telephoned from the station to Hillman, who shortly after arrived at the station house with Fiorello LaGuardia, his lawyer. Nothing more was ever heard of this nor was anyone indicted for the Fererri murder.

As matters stood in December, 1941, Lepke was in Leavenworth and Governor Dewey was trying to get hold of him. William O'Dwyer later Mayor of New York was the district attorney of Brooklyn and full of ambition. He was investigating every phase of the murder ring of which Lepke was the head. His chief investigator was a captain of the Police Department and stories were leaking out that he was making progress. But this time, Hillman's counsel, Fiorello LaGuardia, was Mayor of New York. He was the commander-in-chief of the Police Department and hence the superior of O'Dwyer's investigator. At LaGuardia's order he was told to give to his superiors a complete report on the activities of every member of his staff for every hour of the day for the preceding eight months and thereafter was to continue to report hourly on their activities. LaGuardia was clearly trying to find out what O'Dwyer was investigating. O'Dwyer ordered his chief investigator to refuse to comply with the order, and he did refuse, which made it practically necessary for him to resign from the police force. It created a sensation in New York.

Why did the Mayor want to know what was being investigated? The papers began to speculate and the very cautious New York Times reported that it was admitted O'Dwyer was investigating the Fererri case and that the investigation involved a high-ranking New York political leader and a labor leader of national reputation and had to do with Lepke's activities as a goon for a labor union.

O'Dwyer denounced LaGuardia for trying to scuttle the investigation and there the matter stood when the Japanese struck at Pearl Harbor and it all disappeared into the blackout of almost everything that followed. O'Dwyer also disappeared into the Army as a general.

Why should LaGuardia want to scuttle the investigation of a notorious murder? Why should the President of the United States refuse to deliver Lepke to Dewey and thus save him from going to the chair? Why save the life of a man convicted as the leader of a murder syndicate? Who was the leading politician supposed to be involved? Who was the nationally known labor leader?

The murder for which Lepke was convicted and wanted for execution by Dewey and shielded by Roosevelt was, as we have seen, that of Joseph Rosen. Rosen was a trucking contractor who was hauling to non-union factories in other states for finishing, clothing cut under union conditions in New York. He was put out of business by Lepke in the interest of a local of Hillman's Amalgamated and Rosen was threatening to go to the district attorney and tell how this was done. To silence him, Lepke got him small jobs and in 1936 he opened a small candy store and the members of the local were ordered to spend some money in the store. This local was controlled by Lepke and a vice-president of the Amalgamated. Apparently Lepke never trusted Rosen while he was alive and decided to murder him. The highest court in New York State, in its decision on the Rosen case, said that Lepke had supported the faction which gained control of the local and that Paul Berger, the finger-man in the Rosen murder, was an intermediary between Lepke and the Amalgamated. In the end, Rosen, like Fererri, was murdered.

It was undoubtedly the belief of Governor Dewey that if Lepke was delivered to him he might, in the hope of saving his life, tell the whole story of the Fererri and Rosen murders. Finally in 1944 the federal government surrendered Lepke, who was questioned by the district attorney of New York and Governor Dewey, but Lepke never "sang" and went to his death faithful to the gangster's code of not revealing his story.

It is necessary to observe here that there is no intention of making any connection between the President of the United States and the gangster Lepke. The whole purpose is to reveal the connection between Lepke and Hillman. There is, in fact, no intention to charge that Hillman ever hired Lepke or anybody else for the purpose of murder. But Hillman did do business with Lepke and Lepke was a gangster, a ruffian and a murderer. The purpose is to throw some light upon the character of those groups which made up the strength and support of the New Deal, which was appearing before the public in the light of a great, noble and righteous army in the cause of justice and the common man.

There is no intention, either, of implying that labor leaders and their unions are lawless organizations run by gangsters and murderers. The mass of labor union membership had no more knowledge of these things than anyone else and the great majority of labor leaders were generally honest, hard-working and modestly paid agents of their unions. But for some reason there rose to the surface at this time a lawless element, some of them criminal, some of them lawless in the excess of their revolutionary zeal, some of them just plain grafters. And these elements constituted the most powerful section of those groups that were supporting the President. This was in no sense the Army of the Lord, as it was so widely advertised.


A new element now made its appearance upon the political map. In America, particularly in the more populous states, are large masses of people who were born in Europe or whose parents were born in Europe and who were still touched deeply by their old racial and religious origins. This has always been true and it is perfectly natural. We have always recognized in this country that men could be perfectly good Americans without divesting themselves of their sentimental attachment to the lands from which they or their forebears came. In elections these groups could be found voting for all kinds of candidates and all parties. Here and there they might be corraled under the leadership of some able and adroit politician as in the case of the Czechs under Cermak in Chicago. But it could hardly be said that any one party had any sort of definite claim upon the affections of any of these groups as a whole.

However, from 1938 on and particularly around the beginning of 1939 the ambitions of Hitler and the treatment received by the various races and religions inside Germany produced powerful and fevered reactions in this country among the peoples most affected. Certainly all Americans were aroused at the performances of Hitler—at his persecutions of the Jews, his invasions of the rights of other churches, his aggression in Austria and his clearly planned aggression against the Czechs and the Poles, the Lithuanians and other Baltic peoples, to say nothing of the peoples in the Balkan countries.

Most Americans, with few exceptions, sympathized with these peoples and shared with them the emotional excitement they experienced. But here was a perfect mass of inflammable material ready to the hand of any politician unscrupulous enough to use it.

Every politician in America had now to concern himself with the problem of the approaching war. Every politician knew too that no man in his trade could become at this point an advocate of entering into any war that might break out in Europe. On the other hand, they were aware of the votes that might be picked up by assuming the role of the uncompromising enemy of Hitler. How far they could go to get votes and yet resist resolutely all efforts at involvement in the approaching war was a delicate problem.

As it happened, the votes of those groups most seriously affected by the war were to be found congregated in limited areas. Thus, for instance, the Polish people were to be found mostly in six or seven northern states, particularly in New York. Roosevelt had spoken out against getting into a European war more vocally and positively than any other man in public life. He had been among the first to warn the people against all attempts to involve them and he had warned them to have an eye upon either politicians or business men who, when the war drums sounded in Europe, would attempt first to make money out of the war and then to draw us one step at a time, through small day-to-day decisions, into the war.

But Roosevelt was above all things else a politician and he had not the slightest intention of surrendering into the hands of whoever might be his adversary the support of these numerous groups who were the special target of Hitler's oppression. From that moment in March, 1939, when Hitler moved into Czechoslovakia and began thundering against the Poles, Roosevelt stepped out in front as the champion, above all others, of the threatened victims of Hitler's aggressions.

During the campaign he directed his aides to have speeches made by the ministers and ambassadors of the oppressed nations who were still in this country. He thought they could speak out effectively in cities where were congregated a goodly number of inhabitants of the countries from which they came. He wanted ambassadors from their own countries to tell them that other governments were "looking to Roosevelt as the savior of the world," as he put it himself. Farley admits this was done and says it was a mistake and that he said so at the time.

Roosevelt also had told his national chairman to organize a Committee of Twelve, and said that there should be five clergymen on it—a Catholic, a Presbyterian, an Episcopalian, a Baptist and a Jewish rabbi. Farley noted the omission of the Methodists. Roosevelt suggested they put on a Methodist and drop the Jew and then corrected himself by saying there are more Jews than Episcopalians, so keep the Jew and drop the Episcopalian. Thus racial and religious minorities became mere pawns to be moved about on the chessboard of politics. Their fears and hopes were to be exacerbated. To Roosevelt they were just so many votes.


Back in the days before the New Deal the employees of government in the United States were chiefly on the payrolls of the states, counties and cities. It was the local organizations and machines with what was then considered their large payrolls which enjoyed this element of power in elections. The federal payroll was small and the number of persons affected by it quite insignificant. With the rise of the New Deal, however, a vast army of persons appeared on the payroll of the federal government and because some of the payrolls were flexible and had no connection whatever with the Civil Service, it was a simple matter for the government to use this ancient but now enormously enhanced tool to control votes in particular localities. Benefits paid to farmers, subsidies of all kinds could be timed in their delivery to correspond with the moment when farmers were making up their minds how to vote. Relief rolls could be expanded in doubtful counties and doubtful districts and this was done, as we have seen in the story of Hopkins* activities in the Democratic primaries of 1938.

Thus Roosevelt did not doubt his ability to get himself nominated, despite the long tradition of his party and the country against a third term. There remained the problem of getting himself elected, which seemed simple enough. After all, there were 531 electoral votes. All he had to get was a majority—266. He could count on 157 from the South (including Oklahoma and Arizona). He would need only 109 more from the North. The North had 374 electoral votes. He would need, therefore, only a little over one-third of the northern votes and four states could supply this—New York, New Jersey, Illinois and Massachusetts. He made up his mind that with the support of the Southern states which were congenitally Democratic, the city bosses in the big industrial centers who had been brought under his thumb, the labor vote which had been mobilized under unions that were predominantly political, the votes of the disturbed racial and religious groups affected by the war, and that immense and vital and active army of payrollees, he could hurdle over the difficulties of a third-term election. The story of the third-term campaign which we shall now see is the story of dealing with all these groups, and the feasibility of doing so successfully was enormously enhanced by the fact that in September, 1939, just about the time the active work for the coming convention was under way, Hitler marched into Poland.