David Dubinsky to Eleanor Roosevelt
24 August 1945 [New York City]
Dear Mrs. Roosevelt:
Thank you for your letter of August 9th. I intended to write to you sooner, but frequent absences from the city during the past two weeks prevented me from doing so.
As you know, I am very keenly interested in New York City politics. In view of the remarks concerning this year's mayoralty election contained in your letter, which coincide with the views expressed in your column of the same day in the New York World-Telegram,13 I am taking the liberty of commenting upon several salient points which, in my judgment, should be made clear.
1. It is a fact that from January until May, the Liberal Party worked for an understanding with the Democrats on a good government candidate. We pointed out to them that the Democratic Party established for itself an enviable record in State and national politics and that it was time that the Democrats rehabilitated their unsavory reputation in municipal politics.14 It was also agreed with Messrs Flynn and Kelly15 that our joint candidate was not to accept the designation of the American Labor Party.16 This plan failed because O'Dwyer17—emboldened by the Mike Quill,18 Marcantonio19 support, plus the support of some of the worst elements in the local political machines including the underworld—threatened Mr. Kelly with a primary fight.20 I can personally testify to the fact that Mr. Flynn was dismayed at these developments—and very much regretted the failure of the plan. Mr. Flynn has refused to make common cause with the American Labor Party in his own county.
2. Judge Goldstein21 and Joseph McGoldrick22 are not, in the first instance, Republican Party candidates. They were the original selections of the Liberal Party. While Mr. McGoldrick was our first choice for the nomination, it was he who urged us to unite around Judge Goldstein. As a matter of fact, on May 10, the New York Times headlined the news that Judge Goldstein was the choice of the Liberal Party for the mayoralty nomination. Several weeks later, he was nominated by the Republican Party.23
3. The Citizens' Union,24 the Fusion Party,25 the Citizens' Non-Partisan Committee—the same good government forces which broke several years ago the grip of Tammany26 misrule and plunder in New York City—are all solid in their support of this ticket. Good government in New York City depends upon the unity of these forces. Irrespective of State or national politics, the record shows that in every fusion movement here the Republican Party always supported good government. You, no doubt, know that without Republican support, LaGuardia could never have been elected mayor of New York City.
4. In your column you say: "These groups will nominate a Judge Goldstein because they can use him." This is most unfair to Judge Goldstein, and, so far as I know, there is nothing substantial on which this unfriendly judgement may be based. Judge Goldstein, if elected, will be less under Republican influence than LaGuardia has been. LaGuardia was a Republican whereas Judge Goldstein has always been an independent Democrat. Those of us who have consistently fought for the cause of good government have confidence in Judge Goldstein's liberal and progressive outlook. The New York Post editorial of August 20 gives a true picture of the O'Dwyer candidacy and the forces back of it when it states: "The election of O'Dwyer would greatly strengthen the Clarence Neal-Marcantonio27 forces led by gangster Frank Costello28 and the Communists controlling the American Labor Party. O'Dwyer would be forced to consult these evil groups in making his major appointments and in forming his basic policies."
5. Do you really see nothing more in our effort to develop an honest, liberal movement in New York State than a "war among factions"? In your article and statements you have affirmed that democratic liberals cannot make common cause with those who practice the "philosophy of deception and the lie." Why then are you critical of us when we seek to organize a political party which refuses to make a united front with the Communists? The stubborn facts of experience have led the Labor Parties of Britain, of New Zealand, and Australia to the same position, and the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation of Canada29 has also steadfastly refused to combine with the Communists. This is no minor issue; it reaches to the roots of the whole democratic cause. It also touches fundamental issues in the field of public affairs and morals. As we struggle to develop this kind of an honest progressive political movement in this city and State, we had every reason to hope for your sympathetic understanding, now that you have changed your decision about participating in this year's municipal campaign.
6. Let me assure you, Mrs. Roosevelt, that the Liberal-Fusion-Republican coalition in the 1945 municipal campaign carries no implications whatsoever about 1946 or 1948, just as our joint efforts with the Republicans in 1937 and 1941 in support of LaGuardia had no bearing on our attitude in the elections of 1940, 1942 or 1944.30 It is hardly necessary to point out the fact that the Dewey support of LaGuardia in those years did not necessarily throw LaGuardia into the Dewey ranks. In this year's campaign, we are not fighting the battles of 1944, 1946 or 1948; nor should we be charged with the sordid purpose of attempting to "fool the people." We are fighting to prevent any possible comeback of the corrupt Tammany machine which is being aided and abetted by the Communists and their ilk.
This sums up our position in this municipal campaign. And, Mrs. Roosevelt, may I say further that your remark that "… this slight difficulty which exists between your warring factions" involves not a mere whim and is therefore not slight but is a matter of principles. And whether we win or lose is less important than the principles we are fighting for.
I also wish to take the opportunity to state here that your decision not to assume the chairmanship referred to in your letter will, in my opinion, prove a service to the cause of liberalism in the future.31
With kind personal regards, I am
Sincerely yours, David Dubinsky
TLS AERP, FDRL