Roosevelt, Ibn Saud, and American Jews

March 27, 2013

Andrew Bostom h/t Doc’s Talk:

This morning at AT, Professor Emeritus Edward Bernard Glick described his frank 1958 discussion with Eleanor Roosevelt regarding her husband, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s decision not to bomb the railway tracks connecting to the Nazi extermination camps for European Jews. Professor Glick also alludes to prevalent antisemitic attitudes in the State Department, and perhaps President Roosevelt, himself, whom he quotes as having stated to a prominent Jewish Congressman, “The Jews in America should know that they are tolerated here, but not more than that.

Roosevelt’s statement was in fact a crude retrogression from the attitudes expressed by America’s first President, George Washington. Following a visit to Newport, RI in August, 1790, and his warm reception by the local Jewish community, represented in a letter by Moses Seixas, George Washington wrote a moving reply to Touro’s congregation. Our first President rejected the idea of mere “tolerance” of Jews, embracing them as full, equal citizens of the nascent American nation, with complete freedom of conscience, and the guarantee of their personal security. Washington stated,
The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent national gifts. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support. [emphasis added]

It would be inconsistent with the frankness of my character not to avow that I am pleased with your favorable opinion of my Administration, and fervent wishes for my felicity. May the children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and figtree, and there shall be none to make him afraid. May the father of all mercies scatter light and not darkness in our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in his own due time and way everlastingly happy.

Roosevelt made another particularly maleficent, if bizarre, statement revealing his visceral antisemitism during the seminal February, 1945 Yalta Conference between the American President, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. The President was scheduled to meet with Arabia’s despot King Ibn Saud immediately after the Conference. Alluding to this upcoming meeting with the Arabian despot, Stalin asked Roosevelt what concessions the President might make to Ibn Saud regarding Middle Eastern issues. As per two independent sources of archival documentary evidence (hat tip, Diana West), i.e., the minutes preserved in the Roosevelt Library in Hyde Park, New York, and the papers of then Secretary of State Edward R. Stettinius (the latter reproduced in the recent M. Stanton Evans and Herbert Romerstein analysis, “Stalin’s Secret Agents—The Subversion of Roosevelt’s Government,” p. 35),
The President [Roosevelt] replied that there was only one concession he thought he might offer and that was to give him [Ibn Saud] the six million Jews in the United States. [February 10, 1945]

Professor Glick warns, appropriately, about the pitfalls of American Jews’ blindly misguided reverence for Democratic Presidential “saviors,” such as Franklin Roosevelt, or Barack Obama, “whom Jews revered then [Roosevelt] as much as they lionize President Barack Obama now ,” despite their latent (or blatant) antisemitism, and the actions, or inactions, such attitudes may engender.
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(Saudis remember FDR’s broken promise – Baltimore Sun) Roosevelt spelled out this promise in a letter to King Abdel Aziz Ibn Saud on April 5, 1945:
Your Majesty will recall that on previous occasions I communicated to you the attitude of the American Government toward Palestine and made clear our desire that no decision be taken with respect to the basic situation in that country without full consultation with both Arabs and Jews. … [D]uring our recent conversation I assured you that I would take no action, in my capacity as Chief of the Executive Branch of this Government, which might prove hostile to the Arab people.
…when Roosevelt made this promise about Palestine, it never occurred to Ibn Saud that another president could come along and break that promise.???????
But Roosevelt died a week after sending the letter to Ibn Saud.
Harry S. Truman, Roosevelt’s successor, came to office suddenly and unexpectedly.
Truman placed the United States forcefully and decisively in support of the partition of Palestine and the creation of a Jewish state in 1948. The sentiments of the king of Saudi Arabia were not considered important.
“I’m sorry, gentlemen,” Truman explained to worried Arabists. “But I have to answer to hundreds of thousands of people who are anxious for the success of Zionism. I do not have hundreds of thousands of Arabs among my constituents.”

(Saudis remember FDR’s broken promise – Baltimore Sun) The meeting took place in February 1945 aboard the USS Quincy, a destroyer, in the Great Bitter Lake of the Suez Canal, where Roosevelt stopped on his way home from the Yalta Conference with Churchill and Stalin.
Ibn Saud was brought to the rendezvous aboard the USS Murphy, a cruiser, along with an extraordinary cargo, though not nearly as strange as it might have been if the king had had his way. Ibn Saud had arrived at the dock with an entourage of about 200 men, plus quite a few women from his harem.
The captain of the Murphy was appalled. He warned the king’s entourage of problems that might arise with women aboard a naval vessel manned by a crew that had been at sea and at war for a long time. The women were left behind. The king brought a retinue of 48, including coffee servers, cooks and six huge Nubians with swords.


The Shameful Legacy of Rabbi Stephen Wise

November 4, 2012
Left to right: Nahum Goldmann, Stephen Wise, Henry Torres (speaking) at the World Jewish Congress Installation Conference, New York City, June 1942. Photo: wiki commons.

From my early childhood, I remember my mother teaching me about the importance of supporting the Jewish people and the Jewish nation – and not being afraid.  My middle name, David, is after the sole member of my mother’s family, David Waga, who escaped the concentration camps where so many members of my family were killed.  David fought with the partisans during the Holocaust.
Growing up as a member of the community of Rabbi Avi Weiss, from my pre-teenage years I recall demonstrations outside the Soviet Embassy were we yelled “Let My People Go”. We raised a voice of moral conscience on behalf of many other important Jewish related causes as well.  I then became National President of the Betar Movement – the activist movement of Ze’ev Jabotinsky. Today, as I raise my family, I am proud that my children attend yeshiva and that we are involved in numerous Jewish charities and causes.
Because of my background, I declined to allow my children to attend a party program that recently took place at the Stephen Wise Synagogue.  Now, don’t call me an extremist – I have let my kids attend parties at other reform temples.  As CEO of a Public Relations Agency, I represent churches and many different causes – yet I will never walk through the doors of a building that honors Stephen Wise.
For those that are unaware, Rabbi Stephen Wise was the most prominent leader of the American Jewish community during the 1930s and 1940s, and served as “president of both the American Jewish Congress and the World Jewish Congress.”  Perhaps there are many fine things that he did in his life, but it is nearly unanimously recognized that the man’s leadership was atrocious when it came to saving Europe’s Jews during the Holocaust. So how could Stephen Wise be regarded as anything other than a despicable human being and a disastrous Jewish leader?
It is true that you cannot judge another man until you walk in his shoes – but through the lens of history we can see that he was woefully inept when it came to doing all he could to help Jews during the Holocaust.  He failed dismally in his role as a Jewish leader, and to regard him as honorable is a disservice to the memories of the 6 Million.
How can the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue in Manhattan or the Stephen Wise Temple in Los Angeles be proud to carry his name when Professor Mark Raider, chairman of Judaic Studies at SUNY Albany says that Wise was “cautious and ineffective” in response to “the disgracefully slow response of the Allies” to the Nazi persecution of European Jewry?
Wise called President Franklin Delano Roosevelt ‘Boss’ or ‘Chief,’ and advised President Franklin Roosevelt not to meet with the 400 Orthodox Rabbis that marched on Washington in 1943.  To protect their self-interests, Dr. Zohar Segev of Haifa University says Wise and his colleagues “worked actively to tone down any Jewish criticism of the Roosevelt administration.” They “used their influence to restrain, limit, and control any efforts towards greater activism.” They wanted to maintain the liberal status quo.
Rabbi Wise despicably worked against all efforts of Jewish activists who did all they could to raise awareness of the millions being killed in Europe.  Wise referred to Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky as “a ‘traitor” for preaching evacuation for over a million Eastern European  Jews, and said that Bergson Group leader Peter Bergson was “worse than Hitler”. (Bergson worked tirelessly to raise awareness over the fate of Jews in Europe, while Wise claimed it would increase Anti-Semitism in America).
Rabbi Ephraim Kestenbaum, son of Rabbi David Kestenbaum who was active in saving European Jews during the Holocaust recounted that Wise phoned his father on several occasions, telling him that he should stop putting so much pressure on the American government to save European Jews. Rabbi Kestenbaum told of how on one occasion, he took a message for his father from Wise who told him, “Tell your father that he has to be an American and not to fight hard for Jews in Europe. You have to be an American first.”
Wise regarded himself as a servant of Roosevelt – rather than working for the best interests of the Jewish people. Could any other ethnic group honor a man who failed his people in their most dire time of need?  Any Institution which honors Stephen Wise should be ashamed to carry his name. The man’s conduct was despicable and his memory does not deserve to be recognized by Jewish institutions.
6 Million Jews were slaughtered, and it is clear that the Jewish community of the free world did not do enough to prevent one of our people’s greatest calamities. Who knows how many more Jews there would be today if Wise had done the right thing.
Ronn David Torossian is CEO of 5WPR and author of “For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations.”


Anne Frank And Her Family Were Refused Entry Into The US

June 6, 2012

Research shows that U.S. diplomat James G. McDonald turned sharply against the Roosevelt administration in 1943-1944, over FDR’s failure to respond to the Holocaust,

(Daled Amos)They Spoke Out: American Voices Against The Holocaust is a project of Disney Educational Productions that chronicles the stories of Americans who rose to the challenge to rescue Jews from the Holocaust in Europe. It features the collaboration of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, and Batman artist Neal Adams.

One episode in the series, Walls of Paper, recounts the doomed attempt by Anne Frank and her family to get permission to enter the US:

Researchers recently discovered that before Anne Frank and her family went into hiding in the infamous attic in Amsterdam, the Franks sought permission to immigrate to America. “Walls of Paper” follows the desperate attempts by Anne’s parents to overcome the harsh bureaucratic obstacles set up by the Roosevelt administration to discourage foreigners from coming to the United States. This episode sheds light on a deeply divided America, where former First Lady Grace Coolidge and other humanitarians lobbied for legislation to grant haven to German Jewish refugee children such as Anne, while opponents of immigration preyed on the public’s fears and prejudice in order to keep America’s doors closed.

The video currently is not embeddable, but you can view Walls of Paper online here.
Though this episode does tell the inspiring story of those who attempted to help the Frank family, their failure does not say much for the Roosevelt administration and politicians who doomed the Jews of Europe to their fate.

Democrats didn’t know the difference between political refuge and immigration… still don’t


Psychologists call it PROJECTION. in politics they call it a STRAWMAN. Salon tries to accuse the GOP of being the Obama voter

November 7, 2011
fdr perry(salon.com)(Credit: Wikipedia/AP)
Call him Frankenstein Delano Roosevelt. America’s only four-term president is the real, if inadvertent, founder of today’s Republican Party, not Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican president. Most of what seems puzzling about today’s GOP makes sense, once you realize that it is dominated by former Democrats like Rick Perry.
The regional base of the Republican Party is the South and the West—the historic base of Thomas Jefferson’s Republican Party, the Democratic-Republicans that succeeded it and the Democrats of the 1840s through the 1960s. As a result of the civil rights and counterculture revolutions of the 1960s, several of the historic constituencies of the Jefferson-to-Johnson Democrats—chiefly white Southerners and Westerners, and European-American “white ethnics” in the North and Midwest—abandoned the Democratic Party, which is now dominated by groups that in earlier generations were predominantly Republican—Northern white Protestants and blacks, along with Latinos, whose numbers have become significant in national politics only recently.
Today’s Republican Party can be viewed as Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal coalition, minus blacks, white progressives and the remnants of organized labor. The New Deal was supported by a heterogeneous coalition that included Southern and Western business interests, the Northern white urban working class and many Wall Street financiers. These groups did not necessarily like each other, but they formed a common front against the protectionist, isolationist Republican Party of Herbert Hoover, which represented the mostly white Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) capitalist elite of the Northeastern-Midwestern industrial core.
The Southern and Western business boosters wanted federal financing for infrastructure and economic development projects in their region. The largely Catholic Northern white working class wanted higher wages. The anti-Republican Wall Streeters objected to Hoover-era protectionism and wanted to liberalize trade, so that foreign countries and businesses could repay their debts to Wall Street by exporting to the U.S. market. From the 18th century to the 21st, New York City like other financial entrepots has always favored free trade.
During their period of political domination from the 1930s to the 1980s, the New Deal Democrats gave these constituencies what they wanted. The South and the West were developed by federal infrastructure projects like dams and interstate highways. During World War II, the federal government, dominated by Southern Democrats, built military factories in the South, Texas and West Coast, creating a rival to the older “Rust Belt” in the new “Gun Belt.”
The New Deal Democrats were good to the white ethnics, too. In the northern industrial states they supported unions, allowing unionized workers to join the middle class and buy houses in the postwar suburbs.
And following World War II, the New Dealers liberalized American trade, a goal sought not only by Wall Street but also by internationally competitive U.S. corporations that sought markets in Europe and Asia. (For reasons of Cold War strategy, the U.S. later sacrificed the interests of its manufacturers by turning a blind eye to unfair trade practices in Japan and other American allies—but that is another story). Once you understand this history, otherwise puzzling aspects of the Republican right become clear.
The determination of the Republican Party to maintain high levels of defense spending whether threats justify those levels or not makes sense, once you realize that military spending is the major engine of economic growth in much of the South and the West, thanks to FDR and his successors.
Federally funded defense plants and military bases coexist in the South and West with low-wage extractive industries—farming, ranching and mining. Southerners and Westerners in the commodity sector have always been opposed to high minimum wages and unions. The low-wage, labor-intensive sectors in the South and West explain the GOP preference for low wages, while the Gun Belt explains Republican enthusiasm for defense spending.
What about the white ethnics in the North? Their parents and grandparents depended on government and unions to help them out of poverty during and after the Depression. But thanks to the New Deal, many of them are now middle class. Government and unions help other people—mostly other brown and black people—while threatening to raise their taxes or their costs. Thus the “screw ‘em” attitude.
And Wall Street? Roosevelt may have denounced “the money changers” and the Democrats in the 1930s may have regulated the financial industry, but there were always Wall Street speculators who supported the New Deal Democrats, many of them Jews like Bernard Baruch or Irish-Americans like Joseph Kennedy. Wall Street opposed protection for American manufacturing in 1932 and it will oppose it in 2012. The Democrats have become more economically nationalist since the 1970s. But Wall Street has been consistent.
Not only the constituencies but also the policies of today’s GOP echo those of New Deal Democrats. Consider the cases of neoconservatism and supply-side economics.
The intellectuals who became known in the 1970s as “neoconservatives” began as Kennedy-Johnson Democrats and Cold War liberals. As Republican “paleoconservatives” point out, their vision of using the U.S. military to promote democracy throughout the world owes nothing to older Republican leaders like Robert A. Taft and Herbert Hoover and everything to the crusading rhetoric of Woodrow Wilson and John F. Kennedy.
Supply-side economics, too, is a version of Keynesianism that has Democratic roots. Right-wing supply-siders point to Kennedy-Johnson cuts in income tax rates as the model for what became the Reagan and Bush tax cuts. When combined with the perpetual defense spending favored by politicians from the Southern and Western Gun Belt, tax-cut Keynesianism becomes military Keynesianism. The Southerners and Westerners prefer military Keynesianism to infrastructure Keynesianism, particularly investment in mass transit and inter-city rail, projects that, they fear, will line the pockets of Democratic city councils and Democratic labor unions.
Even the hysterical denunciation of the New Deal as socialism or fascism is a legacy of mid-century conservative Democrats in the South and West, who saw no contradiction between supporting New Deal policies of infrastructure spending, farm price supports and defense spending, while bitterly denouncing the minimum wage, Social Security, and other reforms that would give the captive white, black and brown working classes in their regions greater bargaining power.
The fact that today’s Republican Party is mainly a coalition of former right-wing Democrats explains its curious relationship to the past. Based in the former Confederacy, its leaders understandably do not play up Abraham Lincoln or the long line of Yankee Republican presidents who succeeded him. At the same time, the anti-New Deal rhetoric that today’s Republicans inherited from their conservative Democratic precursors prevents them from acknowledging the paternity of Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Unable to claim either the Republican past or the Democratic past as their heritage, today’s ex-Democratic Republican constituencies have settled on pretending that their party sprang into existence out of nowhere in 1980 with the election of Ronald Reagan. Who, it should be noted, told Dan Rather that Franklin Roosevelt was his favorite president, and who voted for FDR four times.

That might be true for Ron Paul, but not people who were Al Gore’s campaign manager. The switchover happened much earlier. Salon and these leftists there are pulling a strawman. many of the crossover Republicans are presently in Obama’s cabinet… because they resent the zionist infiltration into the GOP. what president is hanging in Ron Paul’s office? Grover Cleveland (the Democrat). Salon is trying to push their elitist libertarian switch-a-roo… these people were fans of Obama… and now that he is a dead horse they are going to tear apart the new GOP. they are scared. they are looking for footing to stand on… so they attack from a place that they know. their own guilt. it is called projection. I’m not a fan of Rick Perry… I prefer Herman Cain, but these political trends that Salon is pointing out are old hate. old knowledge… and they are attempting to make todays GOP fit the clothes that the Democrats are wearing. the good old boys who got scared of the Jews and switched over from the Democrats to the Republicans in the last election are the legacy of the racist Dixiecrats who became Republicans and then became Democrats for Obama. yes politics are complicated… so complicated that these sneaky bastards think they can confuse you into being even more confused. but make no mistake… the legacy of those old timers that used to lynch Jews in the south are supporting Obama and Palestine. anyone want to explain why Hagel, former sec of state Baker and Zbigniew Brzezinski are in Obama’s cabinet? The haters can switch parties. They did in the past… and they did again. They are right there in Obama’s circle… and the people want Obama out!


NEW EVIDENCE REVEALS U.S. DIPLOMAT CHALLENGED FDR ON THE HOLOCAUST

April 29, 2011
[Photo]
James G. McDonald sailed to Europe in 1933 to assume a League of Nations post as High Commissioner for Refugees.

The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies
NEW YORK- New evidence shows that U.S. diplomat James G. McDonald repeatedly challenged President Roosevelt on his response to the Holocaust–contradicting earlier portrayals of McDonald as a defender of the president’s Jewish refugee policies.
The new documents were uncovered by the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, in Washington, D.C. They are part of a new report called “James G. McDonald, FDR, and the Holocaust,” that is being published on the Institute’s web site, www.WymanInstitute.org, in conjunction with Holocaust Remembrance Day (May 1, 2011).
“Our research shows that U.S. diplomat James G. McDonald turned sharply against the Roosevelt administration in 1943-1944, over FDR’s failure to respond to the Holocaust,” said Wyman Institute director Dr. Rafael Medoff, author of the new report as well as twelve books about the Holocaust, Zionism, and Jewish history. “This new information contradicts previous depictions of McDonald’s relationship with President Roosevelt.”

The documents show that in 1943-1944, McDonald, in articles, letters, and speeches, publicly and privately criticized the Roosevelt administration’s positions with regard to the plight of European Jewry. He did so at a time when he was still chairman of the President’s Advisory Committee on Political Refugees. Key findings of the report:
“Endless Discussions”: In a March 1943 article, McDonald challenged the forthcoming American-British conference in Bermuda on the refugee problem, saying “the time for lengthy discussion of this problem is long past.” He criticized the Allies’ “old-time diplomacy …endless discussions and committees and unwillingness to face the peremptory need for bold planning and prompt action.”
“Lip Service”: In a speech in Buffalo on May 22, 1944, McDonald charged that the United States and its allies “paid only lip service” to the plight of Hitler’s Jewish victims before the war, and “diplomats do not seem to have learned from past mistakes” and “today again are acting as if refugee problems were relatively minor matters.” He said “timidity and fear of not being re-elected” were to blame for indifference to the plight of Jews in Nazi Germany.
“Pitifully Insufficient”: In a speech in Chicago on November 19, 1944, McDonald said the Allies’ response to the Holocaust was “pitifully insufficient.” He accused the Allies of “hesitancy, procrastination, half-heartedness” and “calamitous blindness.”
“Face-Saving Manuevers”: In a letter to Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter on November 30, 1944, McDonald charged that the Allies “have almost never faced the realities of the tragedy of the refugees but that instead they have been guilty of face-saving maneuvers while millions of innocent men and women have been needlessly sacrificed.”
The Wyman Institute’s research reveals a side of McDonald very different from the one presented in the widely-publicized book Refugees and Rescue: The Diaries and Papers of James G. McDonald 1935-1945, by Richard Breitman, Severin Hochberg, and Barbara McDonald Stewart, which was published in 2009 by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and Indiana University Press. The book claimed McDonald’s diaries showed that Roosevelt tried to rescue Jewish refugees. It also gave the impression that McDonald consistently supported FDR’s policy toward European Jewry.

* * *

ABOUT THE WYMAN INSTITUTE: The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, located in Washington, D.C., is a research and education institute focusing on America’s response to the Holocaust. It is named in honor of the eminent historian and author of the 1984 best-seller The Abandonment of the Jews, the most important and influential book concerning the U.S. response to the Nazi genocide.
The Institute’s Advisory Committee includes Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Elie Wiesel, Members of Congress, and other luminaries.
The Institute’s Academic Council includes more than fifty leading professors of the Holocaust, American history, and Jewish history.
The Institute’s Arts & Letters Council, chaired by Cynthia Ozick, includes prominent artists, writers, musicians, and filmmakers.

image via online.wsj.com

The Unsolved Problem of Labor

March 31, 2011

A century later there are still sweatshops not very far from the former building that housed the Triangle Waist Company, which has been absorbed by the spreading blot of the NYU campus. The women who work in these sweatshops are not Jewish and Italian, but Chinese. They make from 1 to 3 dollars an hour — and 90 percent of them are members of unions.
Many of the NYU students who go in and out of the Brown building, where hundreds of women died, wear trendy clothing made in sweatshops. The clothing is not cheap, it is cheaply made. Those students who wanted a moral alternative bought clothes from American Apparel, which promoted its clothes as sweatshop free, turning the company into a major player in the garment industry. But American Apparel started out by subcontracting its manufacturing to Sam Lim, since then it has employed large numbers of illegal aliens and the lawsuits charging the AA boss with sexual harassment and blackmail, suggest its office workers might envy Norma Rae.
The tale of the Triangle Waist Company is intertwined with that of the ILGWU, the union which represented female garment workers. But the ILGWU no longer exists, instead it has been merged into a restaurant workers union, and even that combined union has half the membership the ILGWU did. The combined union is run by a Yale Phi Beta Kappa grad, whose wife, another Yale alumni, cozily runs the union’s health plan. Additionally he serves on the Board of Trustees of Washington D.C.’s high end liberal public policy think tank, the Brookings Institute. It’s enough to make the NYU tenants of the old home of the Triangle factory seem downright lower class.
What happened to the unions? A union is an organization, not the expression of the collective will of the workers. It is not fundamentally different than the sweatshops, it just operates on another business model. A sweatshop and a union both run for the benefit of the bosses, they just have a different set of customers, the sweatshop’s customers are the brands and the union’s customers are the workers. Both the sweatshop and the union win over their customers with ruthless tactics, but the final profit goes to the bosses.
The Triangle era saw ruthless exploitation and conflict between workers and bosses. The bosses suppressed worker discontent and strikes by hiring local gangs for protection or relying on the Democratic party’s Tammany Hall machine to send out its cops, at a time when promotion in the New York City police force meant paying money to the boys on top . The workers turned to gangs and to left wing radicals, who built up their unions, took them over and turned them into a trust that controlled entire industries. The trust was integrated into the political machine. Soon the sweatshop workers and owners were both working for the same people.
The ILGWU, which newspapers and labor mythmakers would have us believe that the falling women of the Triangle Waist Company died for, used gangsters like Little Augie and Lepke Buchalter, head of Murder Inc, to maintain control over the trust. And though much is made by feminists of the ILGWU being a mostly female union, it was and in its current incarnation is still run by men who did not tolerate any dissent. When the Depression killed the boom that had powered the garment business, it also killed the ILGWU’s trust. Only federal intervention by FDR’s labor regulations turned the tide. But that too was only temporary. Once the garment industry was able to begin outsourcing to cheaper labor abroad, the ILGWU began dying a slow death.
The sweatshop’s business model depended on raising the cost of labor, and charging the workers for doing their organizing for them, which conflicted with the garment industry’s need to make clothes as cheaply as possible. Now those same clothes are being made in China or Chinatown. The ILGWU, like so many unions, promised the good life, but they could only deliver temporary raises followed by the decimation of the industry itself. It was enough time for a generation to get on its feet, but not for those that followed it. There are still garment worker union members and plenty of them work in sweatshops while making below minimum wage. This is no paradox. A large membership means wealth and power for those on top. It doesn’t necessarily mean anything for those on the bottom. Cheap garments will always be made, whether they will be made cheaply by union or non-union members. They fill a need and as long as people buy based primarily on price considerations, the sweatshop will go on existing.

Sweatshops were built to take advantage of a new business model, that sidelined tailors who worked for individual customers, for mass produced garments by factory workers. The workers could be unskilled and disposable. An owner made the lowest bid for a contract, borrowed money and rented a space and equipment, got workers for as little as he could, and then tried to squeeze blood out of them to make a profit. If he succeeded, then he might be able to do the same thing again, if he didn’t, he would be bankrupt. The cheaply made clothes were of lower quality (though of much higher quality than most clothes you’ll find at Wal-Mart or K-Mart today) but affordable for millions of people. A successful worker might save up enough to become an owner himself. And plenty of doctors, lawyers and tycoons had fathers or mothers who started out this way.
That is what makes the problem of labor so difficult. Over a hundred women died in the Triangle Waist Company fire, but how many hundreds of thousands of women lived because the garment industry, with all the ugliness of its sweatshops and child labor, provided a way for them and their families to come to America. How many of them would have survived under Nazi or Communist rule?
It isn’t a cheerful question to ask, but any moral consideration of the Triangle Waist Company must also raise that question. The possibility that the garment industry still saved far more lives than it took. And that moral consideration is often at the heart of unregulated capitalism. Does its ultimate prosperity justify its abuses?
Today China has slave labor, widespread pollution and a rising middle class. And America has a tightly regulated labor market and a declining middle class. Liberals despise trickle down economics, but prosperity is undeniably trickling away from the regulatory republics of the West and into the maw of Chinese crony capitalists. And the Chinese sweatshop workers in New York, slaving over machines in hot rooms, the way their Jewish and Italian predecessors did, are more likely to have children who will go to Yale, than the Black and Hispanic government employees living on generous union negotiated salaries
New York City has lost 2 percent of its Black residents who are mainly moving to the non-union south, because there are jobs there. The large Black populations in Northeastern cities had come for the jobs in booming urban industries. Particularly during wartime, when so many American workers were fighting in Europe or Asia. When those industries moved abroad, they left behind ghettos full of people who could no longer find work. The race riots had far more to do with joblessness, than with discrimination, as can be seen by looking at the much milder race riots during WW2 when jobs were available.
The liberal northeast is a union paradise, and yet black people are deserting it. They are abandoning strongholds like New York, Chicago and Boston. And it’s not just the Northeast, even a Pacific liberal haven like San Francisco is losing its black population. The Federal government is going after Marin County for its lack of diversity, accusing it of violating the Civil Rights Act. But officials have tried to attract Black residents with the usual diversity buzzwords, but how do you do that without jobs? Every article about Black emigration from urban areas uses those same buzzwords and all of them miss the point. Chicago, New York and San Francisco did not suddenly turn racist– they turned jobless.
While unions can lock in a guaranteed number of jobs at a given salary– they can only do so at the cost of reducing the overall number of available jobs. You can have a 100,000 very good jobs, a 1,000,000 average jobs or 10,000,000 miserable ones or a 100,000,000 slave labor jobs. The unionized northeast has gone with the.100,000 and China has gone with the 100,000,000. Which is why they have jobs and we don’t. That is not to say that we should be imitating China– rather it is important to understand the dynamic at work here.
Liberalism’s celebration of diversity is properly a celebration of capitalism. That diversity would not exist without it. America was built by everyone from indentured English and Irish servants, German, Irish, Jewish and Italian factory workers, Swedish farmers and miners to African-American slaves, and half the world, from Norway to China. Many of them were treated badly, but the larger story may be what they and their descendants achieved here. Liberals like to fit that into a narrative that begins with exploitation and ends with regulation– but then why are so many of the millions of White and Black workers who depended on major industries out of work?
Their answer is that government solves everything. But let us take a look at another fire that happened not far from the site of the Triangle Waist Company fire and is much less remembered today. The fire on board the General Slocum.
In the summer of 1904, the General Slocum, a  ship taking the women and children of the ethnic German community in Manhattan, for an outing caught fire. But its safety equipment from life jackets to hoses were completely useless. Over a thousand women and children died within sight of the shore. Died in useless and senseless ways that would have never happened had the safety equipment been inspected. But the ‘inspectors’ were part of the Democratic party’s corrupt Tammany Hall network, who were appointed by political patrons to a lucrative office and were notorious for passing anything. Life vests filled with iron bars and rotten hoses on the General Slocum got their approval. The regulations were there, but government corruption ensured that they would not be enforced.

A year earlier, 650 theater patrons had died in Chicago during the Iroquois Theatre fire, again because of corrupt inspectors. Safety equipment was non-existent and the law went unenforced. Charges were leveled against everyone up to Chicago Mayor Carter Harrison, but the ‘Chicago Way’ ensured that justice was not served. And a year later, Carter Harrison was running for the Democratic party’s nomination for President.
Both these events were at least as horrifying as the Triangle Waist Company fire, and had a much higher death toll. But they are not remembered because not only do they fail to make a pro-labor point, but they actually make a much more dangerous point about the inherent corruptibility of government authority. They remind us that regulation is law and law is enforced by men through a bureaucracy overseen by political patronage. And that such systems are no more moral or ethical, and no less greedy, than that of the sweatshops. As we confront a 15 trillion dollar deficit and an uncontrollable orgy of greed by politicians and public sector unions who are their electoral base, we are reminded of that every day.
The only answer may be that there is no answer. It is men who make moral choices, and it is the individual, whether in a corporation, a union and or a government who does or does not do the right thing. The problem of labor cannot be solved by creating more organizations, as that only creates more hierarchies which also treat workers as cash cows. They cannot be solved through passing laws in one country, while its citizens purchase the benefits of slave labor from another. There may be no solving it at all. And on the former site of the Triangle Waist Company, students pass holding iPod’s made by abused workers in China whose economy is nevertheless threatening to dominate the 21st century.

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Posted by Noah Simon