Eleanor Roosevelt to Roy Lokken

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Eleanor Roosevelt to Roy Lokken

10 July 1948 [Hyde Park]

My dear Mr. Lokken:

I would be very much obliged if you would tell me what were the misrepresentations and falsehoods in my column of June 20, 1948. I have never said anything about Mr. Wallace and the third party and its campaign which I did not believe was completely truthful.

If you can prove that I was wrong, I shall be delighted to have you do so.

I am not trying to protect the Democratic Party. I do not consider it necessary where I am concerned. There are other people politically active, who can do that far better than I can. I have never placed either party or political expedience above what I thought was truthful and right.

It was not, in my opinion, the Wallace opposition which helped to defeat the Mundt Bill. It was the opposition of the moderates and liberals in Congress and out of Congress who had no taint of communist affiliation. It was my fear that because of that affiliation, the third party demonstration would do more harm than good.

What you did with your Congressman was excellent but you may be sure it was not the fear of your group alone that changed his mind. I read the Mundt Bill in the press and I imagine it was not carried in your area because your papers haven't the space. After all the effect that you had is a matter of opinion and you may be quite correct in thinking that your party had more affect than I happen to think it had.4

You do not seem to understand, or perhaps I was not clear enough in explaining what I meant by saying that the communists would be enchanted if the Mundt Bill passed. Of course, the communists have agitated against the Bill but you should know by now that all communists are glad when bad things come to pass, because one of their objectives is confusion and lack of unity in the democracies.5

When you list people who opposed the Bill you show what strength there was against it and minimize the very point you are trying to make, namely, that the third party had such tremendous influence.

I have read the Bill and know just how bad it would have been not for communists alone and I have consistently opposed it.

The support which the communists gave my husband was quite different from the power they have in the third party at present. They are a heart core that does much of the organizing. That does not mean that in your area they have control perhaps, but it does mean that they have control, sometimes without people knowing it, in many important third party organizations.6

You sound like a most admirable person and I am so glad you do not entirely brush aside Mr. Marx and that you have decided we can learn from the Soviet Union and they can learn some things from us. That is very broadminded of you.

Some of the things you list as communist, of course, have been planned by the socialists and I think that when you label them all as communist you show a certain lack of understanding of what practical communism is in the USSR today. You are quite right about the Soviet Constitution. It reads very well but it is one thing to give lip service to things and quite another to live by them.7

I happen to think the New Deal was democratic and not communist but you have a right to your own opinion. I imagine I have worked more with the communists and understand them better than you do. I believe we will some day be able to live peacefully side by side but it will take a great deal of patience and understanding and force equal to theirs before we will achieve any kind of compromise on their part. If you will look back I think you will find that most of the liberal legislation in this country has been initiated and carried through in democratic administrations, so I would not be quite as pessimistic as you are. If Mr. Wallace's third party is defeated, I would not feel utterly hopeless of having a more liberal democratic party in the future repeat the history of the past.

I am glad you read the article in Foreign Affairs but you evidently do not know that the very things you suggest I should say in my column, I have said a number of times.8

I am sure you are entirely honest but you might feel better about other people if you at least believed in their honesty also.

                                       Very sincerely yours,


1. "Future of Mundt Bill Clouded in Bitter Fight," NYT, 6 June 1948, E7. See Document 356 for background on the Mundt-Nixon bill.

2. MD, 4 June 1948.

3. Roy N. Lokken to ER, 20 June 1948, AERP.

4. According to Lokken, Progressives alone were responsible for publicizing the Mundt bill. By not running the full text in the papers, the commercial press was attempting "to fool the people by keeping them in ignorance." He believed that "when people read the bill they protested it," and the Progressive Party distributed free pamphlets including the full text of the bill to solidify opposition to anti-Communist legislation. He also informed ER that his own representative, Henry N. Jackson (D-WA), admitted publicly that he had not read a copy of the bill until the Progressives provided him with one (Roy N. Lokken to ER, 20 June 1948, AERP).

5. Responding to ER's assertion that "it is naive and absurd not to recognize the fact that the Communists will be enchanted if it [the Mundt bill] passes," Lokken wrote:

The Communists, of course, have agitated considerably against the bill since it does militate against them. It would be 'naive and absurd' to expect them to have remained quiet. Communist Party advertising against the bill was published in the Hearst Seattle Post-Intelligencer, probably because that Republican newspaper supposed, as you did, that such advertising would reduce opposition to the bill. Actually, public sentiment against the bill grew and crystallized so rapidly that passage of the bill so near to election time became politically impractical (Roy N. Lokken to ER, 20 June 1948, AERP).

6. Drawing parallels between the willingness of the Democrats to work with Communists during the Popular Front Era of the 1930s and the Progressives' willingness to do the same in the current political situation, Lokken wrote, "The fact that the Communists supported the New Deal and the progressive legislation of the New Deal era did not provoke me to join the Republicans in attacking the New Deal on the grounds that it was communistic. The fact that the Communists now support Henry A. Wallace and the new party movement does not deter me from joining and working for that movement" (Roy N. Lokken to ER, 20 June 1948, AERP).

7. "My political bible is Jefferson, not Marx," wrote Lokken. However, he viewed capitalism as an economic system that has "always militated against democratic action." Attributing many progressive reforms to the ideas of Marx and Engels as spelled out in The Communist Manifesto, Lokken believed that "the graduated income tax, the inheritance tax, the U.S. Post office department, public power, soil reclamation and conservation, reforestation, [and] vocational and industrial education" were examples of "communistic" legislation. He also praised the Soviet Constitution of 1936, arguing that it contained "a civil rights provision unequaled … by any other government in the world" (Roy N. Lokken to ER, 20 June 1948, AERP).

8. Lokken read ER's "The Promise of Human Rights," published in the April 1948 issue of Foreign Affairs, and praised her for noting the contribution of the Soviet delegate in fighting for the inclusion of social and economic rights in the declaration of human rights. He noted, however, that Foreign Affairs had a relatively small audience compared to My Day and asked her to talk more about cooperating with the Soviets in her column ("The Problem of Human Rights," Foreign Affairs 26, April 1948, 470-77, reprinted in A. Black, What I Hope, 553-58; Roy N. Lokken to ER, 20 June 1948, AERP).

On Returning the Ruhr to Germany

Throughout 1948, ER remained concerned about the reindustrialization of western Germany's Ruhr Valley and its return to German control. As she noted in a January column, ER particularly worried that the Allied decision to allow former Nazis to participate in the area's rebuilding could reinvigorate tensions capable of starting another war. She criticized Allied reluctance to take "a firm stand, for instance, on the German occupation of the Ruhr," and argued that "we turned our eyes away, partly because our own big business people had an interest in the big business combinations which have branches in almost all of the great countries." Although she conceded that "it is very evident that a healthy Europe must have in the heart of it—in Germany—a self-supporting and contented people," she argued "that does not mean that the great business magnates of Germany, who transferred their wealth to Switzerland, Spain and the Argentine, must be allowed again, in alliance with other big business men, to build up the kind of German economy which would again lead to war."1

Throughout April and May she exchanged articles and letters about this issue with her friend Betty Hight, who pointed out to ER that industrial cartels such as I. G. Farben continued to thrive despite US and British control. In anticipation of writing on the subject in her columns or personal letters, ER asked Secretary Marshall for his clarification on the matter.2

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Eleanor Roosevelt to Roy Lokken

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Eleanor Roosevelt to Roy Lokken