Brooklyn Eagle (January 21, 1943)
The surprising thing about the unsuccessful effort of the New Deal leaders in the House to give Rep. Vito Marcantonio, notorious New York radical, the assignment he had sought on the powerful Committee on the Judiciary is not so much the fact that the move was defeated in caucus as that the Democratic Congressional organization attempted to put it over in the first place.
Apparently, the lesson of the sweeping Republican gains last fall had been completely lost. For one of the chief Democratic weaknesses with which the voters registered their dissatisfaction was the association of some of the party’s leaders with American communists, which Marcantonio typified. Another was his record on behalf of special groups.
The theory of giving Marcantonio this prize assignment was that his American Labor Party had been of such great help to the Democrats in the recent election. Actually, that is a false assumption. The only two Democrats elected because of ALP help were Rep. Fay in the 16th District, Manhattan, and Rep.-at-large Merritt.
It is Marcantonio’s record on the war which has been most shocking. As long as Russia and Germany were allies, he opposed any policy which might prove harmful to the Nazis. He opposed every defense measure designed to protect America from any possible hostile attack. He opposed the draft. He opposed aid to Britain. Indeed, he was the only House dissenter on some votes for defense appropriations.
The moment that Germany attacked Russia in June 1941, Marcantonio did a political somersault. Suddenly he seemed to realize the dangers of Hitlerism. He quickly urged our entry into the war and supported all defense measures of the type he had previously opposed.
Of course, the perils of the United States were no greater. It was the same old Hitler, the same old fascism.
There was just one big difference: Soviet Russia was no longer an ally of the Nazis.
Is it any wonder that thinking Americans came to the conclusion that it was Russia’s interests rather than those of the United States that had inspired Marcantonio’s sudden change of view?
Why the administration should feel compelled to play ball with a radical politician of Marcantonio’s stripe is one of the mysteries of Washington. It is to be hoped that the rebuke administered to him and his supporters will lead to a break with other irresponsible left-wing elements still hanging around Washington which are an increasing drag on the Democratic Party.