Luke 6:35 & the Jews

Doug Henwood dhenwood at
Sat Aug 28 08:38:37 PDT 1999

rc-am quoted:

>The only chance for survival was a fascist economy, he wrote. "We should
>control our national household in such a way that our people will not
>perish, when this group of people without a fatherland starts flooding
>us with imports. We don't want our factories to close down because
>Eastern coolies work for a few dimes a day." Hylkema called for
>resistance against "the trade and bank world, which still speaks of the
>principle of the open door. But the farmers feel that if things go on
>like this, the end is near."

Dana Frank writes in her excellent new book Buy American: The Untold Story of Economic Nationalism (Beacon Press) [Hearst is William Randolph Hearst, who pushed a big Buy American! campaign during the Depression, and I believe that B.C. Forbes is Steve's grandfather]:

Samuel Gompers of the cigarmakers' union, who emerged in the 1880s as president of the new American Federation of Labor, liked protectionism, too. But he didn't think it went far enough. "If it performed what its advocates claim for it, the protection of labor, it is of the greatest importance and should be adopted," he argued in a report to his union on the founding convention of the Federation of Organization Trades and Labor Unions, the AFL's predecessor, in 1881. " But ... while the industries are protected by preventing the importation of foreign manufactured articles, it does not prevent the importation of the cheapest and most servile labor" [emphasis in original]. Gompers equated foreign products with foreign workers, especially Asian ones, and wanted to keep out both. In his very next line he reported approvingly: "Resolutions were adopted declaring the presence of and competition of Chinese with free white labor as extremely dangerous and demanding the passage of laws entirely prohibiting their importation." Gompers, with his depiction of foreign workers as "imports" to be banned and his racial demarcations between working people, will also reappear in our story, all too soon."


The great irony was that most of these immigrant-bashers were themselves immigrants. Samuel Gompers was born in London of Dutch-Jewish parents; John Jarrett was born in Wales; and the leaders of the anti-Chinese packs in San Francisco were Irish immigrants, proving themselves to be "good" Americans by turning around and attacking other immigrants. "American" workers and "immigrant" workers were in reality one and the same. By the 1880s and 1890s most working people in the United States had been born outside the United States or else their parents had. Herbert Gutman and Ira Berlin estimate that in four out of five American cities, "at least 75 percent of wage earners were either immigrants, the children of immigrants, or blacks."" As Ida Tarbell pointed out in the case of Rhode island, the "American" workers who were allegedly to benefit from the tariff were themselves as often as not "foreigners."


Repeatedly, in his 1932 and 1933 Buy American editorials, Hearst equated immigration to the United States with "foreign goods" that might enter as imports.

<block quote> We have as much RIGHT to REGULATE IMPORTS as we have to REGULATE IMMIGRATION,


The product of "foreign labor," Hearst argued, was the same "menace" whether it was produced overseas or in the United States by an immigrant. "The product of [the foreign workman], if we buy it, is just as ruinous a competitor with our workman, and as successful a rival for his job, as if we had permitted the alien in person to pass our immigration barriers. Both the "home market," and the "sacred" soil of the country, therefore, "MUST BE PROTECTED FROM INVASION, AND BOTH ALIKE MUST BE DEFENDED FROM WITHIN" (emphasis in original) . Hearst equated the two through "news" stories as well as editorials. "BAN ON ALIEN ACTORS SOUGHT," read a typical story: "Inspired by the Hearst 'Buy American' drive," it reported, "members of the Lambs Club today renewed their efforts to have the Alien Actors bill [restricting noncitizen actors] enacted into law."

Almost always Hearst's "aliens" were Japanese. In a December 29, 1932, editorial, for example, he argued that the depreciation of the yen had "enabled the Japanese producer TO ANNEX THE AMERICAN MARKET. News reports in his papers repeatedly disparaged Japanese imports or celebrated their cessation. "'Buy American' Blocks Order for Jap Bulbs" read one such story about a firm in Baltimore that, in response to Hearst's campaign, had quickly canceled its order for a million light bulbs from Japan. These stories were full of racist attacks on allegedly conniving Asians who supposedly preferred "low Asiatic living standards" and, Hearst charged, perpetually conspired to invade the United States. "We exclude Asiatics from our country for one reason, among others, that they tend to lower the American standards of living. But we do not exclude the products of these same Asiatics," B. C. Forbes, listed as a "noted financial authority," argued over a Hearst-owned radio station in New York on January 2, 1933.

Hearst's coverage slid over into almost caricatured sensationalism, especially when it came to seafood. One story, entitled "Japanese Oysters for the U.S.," warned: "American oystermen are alarmed at what seems to them an invasion on their territory by Japanese concerns which are importing and transplanting millions of Oriental oysters in Pacific coast waters every year. "At least 150,000,000 'alien' oysters have been put in the waters of the West Coast to compete with the native product."" Another irresistible headline screamed, "SLIPPERY ALIEN FISH CLOSE UP OUR CANNERIES." "Little and big fish, abundant on both Americans [sic] coasts, are jumping in endless procession out of the ocean into foreign nets and cans headed down America's gullet.""

AFL advocates, too, used the Buy American call to draw a line within the American working class against immigrants. Matthew Woll, in his endorsement of the campaign for the Hearst press, for example, argued that buying American would "provide employment for American citizens." The Florida State Federation of Labor, in its resolution, quoted earlier, argued that buying American would save jobs for "American-born workers "-moving beyond Woll to exclude not just noncitizens but naturalized U.S. citizens born abroad." A. W. Hoch, president of the California State Federation of Labor, was even firmer in his endorsement: "Organized labor worked for the adoption of strict immigration laws in order that American citizens might have employment."" As Woll put it bluntly: "Merely to keep foreign workers from our shores, and then to purchase goods made by workers in foreign lands is to defeat the very purpose of restrictive immigration legislation;" or, in the words of Congressman Cooper (ROhio) at the height of Hearst's campaign, a "'Buy American' policy followed naturally from the restrictive immigration policies of the country."

More information about the lbo-talk mailing list