Eleanor Roosevelt to David Dubinsky

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Eleanor Roosevelt to David Dubinsky

24 September 1945 [Hyde Park]

Dear Mr. Dubinsky:

I was amused by your sending me my husband's statement in 1941.37 It is, of course, entirely true that mayoralty elections were held in off years so that the interests of the city could be separated from the interests of the state and nation, but no one can presume to say that the circumstances which my husband faced at the time he made that statement, are duplicated today. You know as well as I do that they are not.

Mayor LaGuardia was not beholden to any Republican Governor who was the titular head of his party.38 Judge Goldstein has changed his party politics in order to get this nomination and he will be beholden to a Republican Governor, whom you acknowledge you do not consider a liberal and whom you do not desire to strengthen.39

A mayor of New York City can build up considerable strength and you know that in a gubernatorial election, a Republican must be beaten in New York City.

I think General O'Dwyer's record shows that he has stood in the past for what was right even when he had some pretty tough people to buck.40 I think he will do that again.

I may be wrong and you may be wrong, since you believe that Judge Goldstein will be beholden to you and therefore a good Mayor. We will have to wait for time to prove which one of us is guessing right.

                                      Very sincerely yours,


1. As leader of the ILGWU, Dubinsky worked to increase the political power of labor by founding the American Labor Party (ALP) following the Supreme Court's 1935 decision to overturn the National Industrial Recovery Act. Formed as the New York division of the National Labor Non-Partisans League, the ALP ran Franklin Roosevelt as their presidential candidate in 1936, 1940, and 1944 as well as their own candidates at the local level (Bone, 278-80).

2. As presidents of rival unions in rival associations, Hillman and his CIO-affiliated Amalgamated Clothing Union and Dubinsky's AFL-affiliated International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) competed for members and standing within the labor movement.

3. Hillman, who had left the AFL in 1942 to support the Democratic candidate for governor, returned to the AFL the following year, bringing with him the CIO Political Action Committee he founded. When Earl Browder convinced the CPUSA to rename itself the Communist Political Association (CPA) and agree to work within a two-party system for economic change, Hillman agreed to work with the CPA to support reform. Dubinsky thought this alliance would alienate the moderate voters, refused to work with the AFL and Hillman, and formed the Liberal Party (Bone, 278-80).

4. Clayton Knowles, "La Guardia Urges Election of Morris to Foil City Bosses," NYT, 8 August 1945, 1.

5. Rose Schneiderman (1882–1972), whose friendship with ER dated back to the 1919 meeting of the International Congress of Working Women, played a key role in shaping both Roosevelts' attitudes toward organized labor and, in particular, the issues working women faced regarding wages, working conditions, and access to education, recreational facilities, and political networks run by career women. ER respected her political abilities so much that she asked FDR, who quickly agreed, to appoint Schneiderman to the National Labor Relations Board. As the NLRB's only woman member, she devoted her time to writing codes for industries with predominantly female workforces. Her service there led to her appointment in 1937 as secretary of labor for New York State, a post she resigned in 1943 to devote her full attention to the National Woman's Trade Union League and the labor movement in general. What Schneiderman and ER discussed that night is unknown (NAWMP, 631-33; JWIA, 1209-11; Lash, Eleanor, 280-81, 310; Cook, vol. 2, 77).

6. See Document 24 and Document 25.

7. For information on Goldstein see n17 Document 17.

8. ER to David Dubinsky, 9 August 1945, AERP.

9. "Democrat Backed by Mrs. Roosevelt," NYT, 10 August 1945, 11.

10. For information on Goldstein see n17 Document 17.

11. When City Council President Morris announced his candidacy, he said it would be contingent upon obtaining 25,000 signatures by August 15 endorsing the following declaration in support of the No Deal position:

We have no political party. We do not intend to form a political party. We have made no deals with any party or group or person. We present this opportunity to the people of the City of New York if they desire to continue a non-political, non-partisan, efficient city government administered by experienced officials. We have made no pledge or promise of any kind to any party, group or person, expect this one pledge to the City of New York to give an efficient, honest administration of its affairs during the next four years (James Hagerty, "Morris Announces Entry for Mayor on No Deal Ticket," NYT, 5 August 1945, 1).

12. Journalists such as Roy Roberts in Syracuse also speculated that Dewey supported Goldstein to make inroads in the Jewish vote deemed critical for his reelection in 1946 (Beyer, 215).

13. The New York World-Telegram carried My Day.

14. The Liberal Party, whose appeal rested on its image as an independent reform organization dedicated to eliminating bossism in New York City, objected to Tammany Hall's influence within the Democratic Party as strongly as it objected to the Communist influence within the ALP. La Guardia's election sidelined Tammany Hall from mayoral politics. His sudden withdrawal from the mayoral race gave Tammany the chance to reexert its influence. While Hillman's ALP interpreted this election in terms of its impact on national and state elections, Dubinsky and his Liberal Party allies saw this election solely in local terms and refused to ally with any candidate who did not share their strong anti-Tammany convictions. County Democratic leaders Ed Flynn (the Bronx) and Frank Kelly (Brooklyn) shared Dubinksy's concerns and had pledged not to support a candidate with ties to Tammany. However, Dubinsky did not share the ALP's and ER's dislike of Dewey, because Dewey refused to restore home work, the reinstatement of which had been the ILGWU's "most troublesome issue." Thus, removing Communists from the union movement remained more important to Dubinsky than defeating Dewey (Bone, 272-82).

15. Frank Kelly (1880–1946), who began chairing the Kings County Democratic Organization (Brooklyn) in 1928, helped secure large pluralities for FDR's presidential elections, plan national party conventions, and secure Truman's nomination as vice president. Although unable to defeat La Guardia, Kelly navigated several Democratic victories in county, borough, and judicial races. Known throughout the party for keeping his promises, Kelly remained a highly influential leader in party circles for two decades ("Frank Kelly Dies," NYT, 6 July 1946, 10).

16. See n2 above.

17. See n3 Document 10 and n16-17 Document 17.

18. Michael Quill (1905–1966), an Irish-immigrant transit worker who joined forces with the CPUSA to organize the 30,000-member Transport Workers Union, quickly developed a reputation as an effective, charismatic organizer. Elected TWU president in 1935, he promptly became one of New York's most powerful labor leaders and one of Dubinsky's most powerful rivals. Elected to the New York City Council with the support of the American Labor Party in 1937, he lost his seat in 1939 after quipping that he "would rather be called a Red by the rats than a rat by the Reds," only to regain it in 1943. He served on the council until 1949. New York Times reporter James Hagerty believed that Dubinsky's "real objection" to O'Dwyer's election was his friendship with the "communistic" Quill (ANBO; James Hagerty, "Way Now Seems Open for Democratic Mayor," NYT, 13 May 1945, E10).

19. Vito Marcantonio (1902–1954) learned to cross party lines as a young man by organizing the La Guardia Political Club and running La Guardia's Washington congressional office until voters caught in the Roosevelt sweep sent La Guardia back to New York City. When La Guardia regrouped to win the 1934 mayoral contest, Marcantonio organized his own successful Republican-City Fusion Party congressional campaign in 1934. As a congressman, he supported the New Deal, although he worked hard to push it to the left. Defeated in the anti-Republican sweep of 1936, Marcantonio revitalized his career by allying with the AFL, whose backing helped secure his reelection in 1938. In Congress, he argued the money the administration allocated for defense should be spent on the unemployed, demanded American support for the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War, and defended the Nazi-Soviet Pact until Germany invaded Russia. When World War II began, he supported FDR's defense initiatives and called for strong civil rights legislation at home. Although a leader of the American Labor Party who often sided with the Communists, his strong ties with his constituents, labor, and Tammany Hall helped secure him the nominations of the Republican and Democratic Parties, as well as the American Labor Party, in 1942 and 1944 (ANB).

20. If Kelly and Flynn backed another candidate for mayor, O'Dwyer's supporters, under the leadership of Queens party leader James Roe, planned to pursue the struggle in the Democratic primary. This inter-party wrangle drew intense press coverage, even though O'Dwyer had not yet announced his candidacy and had declared his intent to work with State Party Chair Paul Fitzpatrick to reach "an agreement satisfactory to all groups" ("O'Dwyer Backers Prepare for Fight," NYT, 28 May 1945, 21).

21. See n17 Document 17.

22. Joseph D. McGoldrick (1901–1978), a Columbia professor turned reform politician, served as New York City comptroller in 1934 and again from 1938 to 1945. In early May, McGoldrick broke with La Guardia by siding with the five borough presidents to defer acquisition of lands for Idlewild Airport. His vote spurred speculation, which he encouraged, that he would challenge La Guardia, only to have the mayor's withdrawal from the race undercut his prospects. By June 8, he threw his support to Goldstein ("Liberals Discuss 3 for Mayoralty: McGoldrick, Pecora and Goldstein," NYT, 10 May 1945, 38; Joseph P. Treaster, "Joseph McGoldrick, LaGuardia Aide," NYT, 6 April 1978, B10; James Hagerty, "Goldstein to Head Tri-Party Ticket in Mayoralty Race," NYT, 8 June 1945, 1).

23. In fact, the New York Times' headline on May 10 read, "Liberals Discuss 3 for Mayoralty: McGoldrick, Pecora and Goldstein." The Liberal Party did not offer the nomination to Goldstein until June 7 after the Liberal, Republican, and City Fusion parties all agreed to run Goldstein as their candidate ("Liberals Discuss 3 for Mayoralty: McGoldrick, Pecora and Goldstein," NYT, 10 May 1945, 38; James A. Hagerty, "Goldstein to Head Tri-Party Ticket in Mayoralty Race," NYT, 8 June 1945, 1).

24. Elihu Root and other New York City leaders founded the Citizens' Union in 1897 to run candidates against Tammany Hall in the municipal election of that year. After 1908 it operated as a nonpartisan civic association, seeking to nurture clean elections and good government (ENYC).

25. More of a coalition than a party, the Fusion or City Fusion Party drew support from good government Republicans, anti-Tammany Democrats, labor, new immigrants, and others seeking to elect a New York City government that would put an end to the corrupt practices of Tammany Hall. In 1933, the Fusionists selected La Guardia to run for mayor along with a slate of other reform candidates. During his administration, however, La Guardia's lack of support for Fusionist candidates coupled with his refusal to grant them any patronage antagonized Fusionist leaders and, by 1937, crippled the nascent party. Nevertheless the Fusionists continued to function as an anti-Tammany coalition into the postwar years (Kessner, 239-45, 396-97, 570-73).

26. See n11 Document 16.

27. Clarence Neal (1889–1957), as chair of Tammany Hall's Committee on Organization and Elections, exerted strong influence on decisions made by Tammany leader Edward Loughlin. He also served as Tammany's intermediary with racketeer Frank Costello. Tammany and Marcantonio's American Labor Party both backed O'Dwyer ("C.H. Neal Jr., 68, Aided Tammany," NYT, 17 January 1957, 29).

28. Frank Costello (1891–1973), an underworld boss with close ties to Tammany, used the wealth and power he gained from racketeering to buy political influence (ANB).

29. The Cooperative Commonwealth Federation of Canada, a Socialist political party formed in 1932, sought to eradicate capitalism, implement socialized planning, and transform Canada into a "cooperative commonwealth" through the democratic process. In 1944, the Saskatchewan CCF formed North America's "first socialist government" and instituted the universal healthcare system that would serve as the model for Canadian national policy (NEB).

30. The Liberal Party supported Democratic congressional and presidential candidates in those elections.

31. Dubinsky supported ER's decision not to lead NCPAC. Dubinsky, who once described NCPAC founder Hillman as a "front man for the Communists," feared that any organization associated with Hillman would be susceptible to Communist infiltration (Fraser, 522). See Document 24 and Document 25.

32. See n17 Document 17.

33. See n17 Document 17 and n23 above.

34. See n27 and n28 above.

35. See n28 above.

36. David Dubinsky to ER, 20 September 1945, AERP.

37. Dubinsky enclosed FDR's radio address in which he proclaimed:

Mayor LaGuardia and his administration have given the city the most honest, and I believe, the most efficient municipal government of any within my recollection. The fact that the city's election has no relationship to national politics but is confined to civic policies, is attested by the fact that the constitution of the State provides for the municipal election in off years when neither a Governor, nor a President, nor a member of the House or Senate of the United States are to be chosen (Typed transcript "President Roosevelt's Address," NYT, 25 October 1941, attached to David Dubinsky to ER, 20 September 1945).

38. La Guardia's multiparty coalition and strong relationship with FDR helped the mayor seek election without relying on Dewey's Republican coattails. Furthermore, "a cool contempt" permeated the La Guardia-Dewey relationship (Heckscher, 243).

39. See n17 Document 17.

40. As Brooklyn district attorney in the early 1940s, O'Dwyer successfully prosecuted a number of professional killers associated with Murder, Inc. His campaign against organized crime resulted in seven convictions and executions. His failure to convict syndicate leaders Frank Costello and Albert Anastasia, however, and missing evidence and the death of a key witness while in police custody raised questions about O'Dwyer's seriousness when it came to indicting the bosses. He continued to make a name for himself as a crime fighter by using his wartime service in the US Army Air Corps to uncover and prosecute those engaged in fraudulent activities. Yet when he returned home and ran for mayor, he accepted fund-raising support from Costello (ANB; Kessner, 571).

On the Atomic Bomb

The day after the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, ER told readers of My Day:

The only safe counter weapon to this new power is the firm decision of mankind that it shall be used for constructive purposes only. This discovery must spell the end of war … In the past we have given lip service to the desire for peace. Now we meet the test of really working to achieve something basically new in the world. Religious groups have been telling us for a long time that peace could be achieved only by a basic change in the nature of man. I am inclined to think that this is true. But if we give human beings sufficient incentive, they may find good reasons for reshaping their characteristics … This new discovery cannot be ignored. We have only two alternative choices: destruction and death—or construction and life! If we desire our civilization to survive, then we must accept the responsibility of constructive work and of the wise use of a knowledge greater than any ever achieved by man before.1

After Truman ordered a second bomb dropped on Nagasaki August 9, she devoted her next My Day to urging Japan's surrender and arguing against using the atomic bomb as a weapon in US-Soviet diplomacy.

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Eleanor Roosevelt to David Dubinsky

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Eleanor Roosevelt to David Dubinsky