SEPTEMBER 20, 1945
HYDE PARK, Wednesday—I hope a great many people read the story about the Ford plants in Germany, published in one of our newspapers the other day, with its record of the actions permitted to these foreign plants by the majority stockholders in this country. Although the story dealt only with the Ford empire, there are many other great industrial concerns in the United States whose plants function in many countries throughout the world. I recall hearing, after France fell and after we went into the war, that the heads of a big industry in this country cabled congratulations to their managers in France because the latter were keeping the plant going—although they were keeping it going by making what the Germans asked them to make.
Business complications do strange things to our patriotism and to our ethics!
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I imagine that each one of us thinks we are honestly trying to look at any given situation not only from the point of view of our own individual interests, but from the point of view of the good of the people as a whole. Just because this is the case, it is important that every now and then we stop and examine what we have done and what resulted from our actions. In the carefully documented case of the Ford German plants, it was quite evident that Hitler and the Nazis profited by the attitude of the stockowners in this country.
In a case where a labor leader was primarily swayed by his own interests and not by the interests of the people as a whole—as, for instance, when Mr. John Lewis insisted on calling a coal mine strike during the war—we can easily see now that his action was detrimental to the public interest at that time.
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Today, with the war no longer on, there are no men fighting for their lives overseas and depending for safety on what is or is not produced at home. On the other hand, it is important that people stay at work, and unreasonable demands, made purely because this is an opportune time to make them, would be detrimental to the people as a whole. But if the demands are reasonable, then their refusal is not in the public interest, since lack of production at this time inconveniences the people who need the goods and delays our return to a prosperous civilian economy.
I do not see why these questions cannot be settled by men of goodwill around a table, thus giving evidence that groups within our country can consider their mutual interests and the interests of the nation and come to a satisfactory solution. How can we expect the nations of the world to sit down together and solve their problems without war if we do not use the same mechanism successfully in settling our domestic problems? If it does not work in the world, our civilization is doomed to destruction. If we cannot make it work at home, we are putting the first nail in the coffin of our civilization.