Sunday, June 24, 2007

Finishing Drury's A Senate Journal 1943-5

It's been a fascinating read; as I went along I was less and less able to put it down. Discussion of the shape of the peace, ending in the Senate's ratification of the UN Charter supplied much of the focus for the second half of the book.

There continued throughout Drury's concern for the survival of democracy in the United States in the face of executive power and the "military oligarchy" (= Eisenhower's "military-industrial complex"). Incidents most people have never heard of, and which even at the time were soon overtaken by other events, seem to have a sinister importance.

Take Drury's comments of March 25 and 27, 1945 on a bill to give the Director of War Mobilization vast and poorly defined powers to allocate labor through "labor ceilings," "labor freezes," and the regulation of hiring and firing of individuals in any industry, and authorized in advance any regulations he cared to make.

March 25, 1945....Out of the minds of 8 men...has come the most fantastic, fascistic bill ever proposed in America. It is a strange commentary on the times that it is expected to have no trouble in the House, and perhaps not too much in the Senate. By so tenuous a thread does our democracy hang, and here in the Congress, by [a list of admirable senators], the thread is about to be cut.

March 27, 1945....So it has come about, just as the dark Cassandras said it would --- the last great battle for democracy has not come on a foreign field. It has come here, at home, on the Hill. Almost unnoticed out in the country save in the intemperate editorials that have consistently misrepresented the case and begged with masochistic eagerness for the very dictatorship the press is theoretically so dead-set against, it has gathered in the House and in the Senate over the past two months. And now it has been lost in the House and only the Senate remains. It may now be the hysteria of the moment, and perhaps time will prove it to have all been a harmless thing -- yet it seems no exaggeration at this moment, here where the thing is taking placed, to say that the vote the Senate will cast sometime in the next few days is the most important it has cast. Everything which is America is at stake; and the frightful knowledge about it is that men on the other side of the Capitol, men just as patriotic and just as sincere and just as freedom-loving, have just voted calmly and matter-of-factly, and as though this were no less routine than an appropriations bill, to throw it away.

Strange resonances!

The bill was defeated in the Senate when opponents were able to show that there was no labor shortage and it became clearer by the day that the war in Europe was almost over.

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