The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project is a university-chartered research center associated with the Department of History of The George Washington University

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The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project

Democratic Digest 25 (Apr. 1948): 2
 

So Henry Wallace is really going to head a third party and run for President in 1948! What strange things the desire to be President makes men do! He has probably forgotten, but I remember his coming to see me in the summer of 1945 in Washington. At that time, I felt very strongly that it would be good for the country if Henry Wallace, whom we all believed in and admired, would leave active politics and become the leader of the independents of the country. Their vote had increased greatly in the years between 1929 and 1945, but they needed leadership and organization.

They were neither Republicans nor Democrats. They were primarily interested in getting the kind of leadership which would keep them free of economic depressions. And they wanted to continue what had been a peaceful but steady revolutionary movement which had given us, over the years, a greater number of people in the middle_income brackets and fewer people in the millionaire group or in the substandard_income groups. . . .

At that time, Henry Wallace told me he believed it was his duty to stay and work in the Democratic Party. I knew then, as I know now, that he was doing what he thought was right. But he never has been a good politician, he never has been able to gauge public opinion, and he never has picked his advisers wisely.

All of these things might have been less important if he had been a disinterested, nonpolitical leader of liberal thought, but as a leader of a third party he will accomplish nothing. He will merely destroy the very things he wishes to achieve. . . .

I read with great care Henry A. Wallace’s speech in Chicago Monday. Affirmatively, he stands for “a positive peace program of abundance and security, not scarcity and war. We can prevent depression and war if we only organize for peace in the same comprehensive way we organize for war.”

There is no country in the world where the people would not agree they wished to organize for peace and abundance and security. But in this speech Mr. Wallace oversimplified the problems that face us today. . . .

To begin with, let us take the political situation which a third party faces. No one in this country wants a third party as much as the Communists do. All over the world they are working for confusion because that is the way to create economic chaos and political weakness, and this is their one hope of defeating democracy in the world and proving that communism is the only thing people can turn to.

The American Communists will be the nucleus of Mr. Wallace’s third party. I know all the old arguments in favor of working with people who want the same objectives as you do. But I have worked rather more steaily and closely with the representatives of the USSR than has Mr. Wallace. I like all those I know and I hope that we can get on with them in a peaceful world, but I know that our only approach is an economic approach . . . they understand strength, not weakness. . . .

When Mr. Wallace assumes that by changing certain of our policies until we resemble Mr. Chamberlain, hat in hand, approaching Hitler, we will have the results which he calls “peace and abundance,” I am afraid he is doing more wishful thinking than realistic facing of facts.

A totalitarian government, whether it is Fascist or Communist, has certain earmarks. Secret police rule is one of them. Another is benefits to the people but no freedom. We live, in fact, in a much more complicated world than Mr. Wallace seems to understand. . . .

Henry Wallace says he is in favor of helping Greece and he believes in the humanitarian side of the Marshall Plan, but that he would turn the aid program over to the United Nations and that aid should be given without consideration of political beliefs, on a basis of need, with the only strings attached being that nothing be used for preparation for war.

Let’s look at that program. Most of the aid for Europe has to come from us or through arrangements which we make with other nations. We have no means for inspection. How would we know that none of the aid we sent was used for war preparation?

We have offered a perfectly fair system for control of atomic energy by the UN and for inspection of all the nations under that plan. The people who have stymied it right along are the Russians. . . .

Neither Great Britain nor the U.S. has such great military power in Greece that the Greeks are under any compulsion to have a government of which they do not approve. The “government” established recently by the guerrillas is led by a known Communist. Certainly the Greeks have a right to ask for help in remaining a democratic state; and certainly the steady progress of the USSR’s political influence over every state which they have taken over shows that they have every intention of spreading communism wherever they can. . . .

Oh, Mr. Wallace, if you were President you would not have such pat sentences to offer us! You would find it far harder to act constructively than you suggest in your speeches!