APRIL 24, 1947
NEW YORK, Wednesday—I cannot help feeling just a little sorry for Henry Wallace in Paris. No one who has ever known him would doubt his honesty and integrity. There is an almost painful honesty about him, a soul-searching effort to find out what he believes and to say it as completely and as frankly as possible. But the subtle French "esprit," with the addition of the Communist tinge, is something entirely unpredictable which I doubt whether our friend Mr. Wallace has ever had to handle before.
To many of us who have watched the French scene for many years, there is a cloud over it at the present time. It is hard for those of us who have known the French peasant to believe that he is really a Communist. It is, however, quite understandable that many of the peasants became Communists during the war. The Communist cooperatives had things to sell when the value of money was changing every day so that the peasant's old habit of tucking it away in a sock was no longer a safeguard. He naturally became a member of whatever party made it possible for him to buy the things he wanted and needed.
If that meant you joined the Communist Party, then you joined the Communist Party. That, however, did not mean real adherence to the Communist ideas, so it would still be up to the party to make it worth your while to remain a member. Both in the country and in the city in France, the Communists have held important government posts. Therefore, the average person has found it well worthwhile to cater to them.
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To whom is Henry Wallace talking in France? To the intellectuals? They are far more subtle than he is. To the farmers? They are a very different group of people from the farmers of Iowa. To the labor groups? They will seem more familiar, but even they are not quite like an American AFL or CIO crowd.
He will tell his story honestly. He is afraid that his government's policies may lead the world into war and he will give his reasons. Most of his audience faced these reasons long ago, and will probably only listen out of politeness to the country from which he comes.
In England, he met people who were genuinely like himself. In Sweden, there might well have been a certain similarity of approach and a beneath-the-surface understanding. But in France, I fear for you, Don Quixote—you are indeed tilting at windmills!
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We need a little clear-cut thinking here at home, perhaps. Have the people gone ultra-conservative? Was the vote in Congress on the Hartley labor bill genuinely representative of the majority of this country? If so, then the people have done a somersault in their thinking since 1944, when they elected as President a man who believed in the Wagner Act.
It would be interesting to know just where the people really stand. Was the vote last autumn a matter of confusion or a matter of conviction? If we knew that, we would know whether some of us are still right in believing that, when the Southern group is in the saddle, they can never carry the Democratic Party to victory. If the people want and like reaction, then there isn't any use in thinking up a program to stop inflation or to help the world or to increase production or to improve housing, because the people have decided that they like the Republican Party just as it is!