President Roosevelt's Labor Day address (9-1-41)

Franklin Delano Roosevelt (D-NY)

On this day – this American holiday – we are celebrating the rights of free laboring men and women.

The preservation of these rights is vitally important now, not only to us who enjoy them – but to the whole future of Christian civilization.

American labor now bears a tremendous responsibility in the winning of this most brutal, most terrible of all wars.

In our factories and shops and arsenals we are building weapons on a scale great in its magnitude. To all the battle fronts of this world these weapons are being dispatched, by day and by night, over the seas and through the air. And this Nation is now devising and developing new weapons of unprecedented power toward the maintenance of democracy.

Why are we doing this? Why are we determined to devote our entire industrial effort to the prosecution of a war which has not yet actually touched our own shores?

We are not a warlike people. We have never sought glory as a nation of warriors. We are not interested in aggression. We are not interested – as the dictators are – in looting. We do not covet one square inch of the territory of any other nation.

Our vast effort, and the unity of purpose that inspires that effort, are due solely to our recognition of the fact that our fundamental rights – including the rights of labor – are threatened by Hitler’s violent attempt to rule the world.

These rights were established by our forefathers on the field of battle. They have been defended – at great cost but with great success – on the field of battle, here on our own soil, and in foreign lands, and on all the seas all over the world.

There has never been a moment in our history when Americans were not ready to stand up as free men and fight for their rights.

In times of national emergency, one fact is brought home to us, clearly and decisively – the fact that all of our rights are interdependent.

The right of freedom of worship would mean nothing without freedom of speech. And the rights of free labor as we know them today could not survive without the rights of free enterprise.

That is the indestructible bond that is between us – between all of us Americans: interdependence of interests, privileges, opportunities, responsibilities – interdependence of rights.

That is what unites us – men and women of all sections, of all races, of all faiths, of all occupations, of all political beliefs. That is why we have been able to defy and frustrate the enemies who believed that they could divide us and conquer us from within.

These enemies all know that we possess a strong Navy – a Navy gaining in strength. They know that that Navy – as long as the navies of the British Empire and the Netherlands and Norway and Russia exist – can together guarantee the freedom of the seas. These enemies know also that if these other navies are destroyed, the American Navy cannot now, or in the future, maintain the freedom of the seas against all the rest of the world.

These enemies know that our Army is increasing daily in its all-round strength.

These enemies know that today the chief American fighters in the battles now raging are those engaged in American industry, employers and employees alike.

These enemies know that the course of American production in the past year has shown enormous gains and that the product of these industries is moving to the battle fronts against Hitlerism in increasing volume each day.

But these enemies also know that our American effort is not yet enough – and that unless we step up the total of our production and more greatly safeguard it on its journeys to the battlefields, these enemies will take heart in pushing their attack in fields – old and new.

I give solemn warning to those who think that Hitler has been blocked and halted, that they are making a very dangerous assumption. When in any war your enemy seems to be making slower progress than he did the year before, that is the very moment to strike with redoubled force – to throw more energy into the job of defeating him – to end for all time the menace of world conquest and thereby end all talk or thought of any peace founded on a compromise with evil itself.

And we know that a free labor system is the very foundation of a functioning democracy. We know that one of the first acts of the Axis dictatorships has been to wipe out all the principles and standards which labor had been able to establish for its own preservation and advancement.

Trade unionism is a forbidden philosophy under these rule-or-ruin dictators. For trade unionism demands full freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Trade unionism has helped to give to everyone who toils the position of dignity which is his due.

The present position of labor in the United States as an interdependent unit in the life of the Nation has not come about by chance. It has been an evolutionary process of a healthy democracy at work.

Hitler has not worked that way. He will not – he cannot work that way. Just as he denies all rights to individuals, he must deny all rights to groups – groups of labor, of business – groups of learning, of the church. He has abolished trade unions as ruthlessly as he has persecuted religion.

No group of Americans has realized more clearly what Nazi domination of the world means than has organized labor – what it means to their standard of living, their freedom – their lives. No group has a greater stake in the defeat of Nazism, in the preservation of the fundamental freedoms, in the continuance of democracy throughout the world.

We have already achieved much; it is imperative that we achieve infinitely more.

The single-mindedness and sacrifice with which we jointly dedicate ourselves to the production of the weapons of freedom will determine in no small part the length of the ordeal through which humanity must pass.

We cannot hesitate, we cannot equivocate in the great task before us. The defense of America’s freedom must take precedence over every private aim and over every private interest.

Yes, we are engaged on a grim and perilous task. Forces of insane violence have been let loose by Hitler upon this earth. We must do our full part in conquering them. For these forces may be unleashed on this Nation as we go about our business of protecting the proper interests of our country.

The task of defeating Hitler may be long and arduous. There are a few appeasers and Nazi sympathizers who say it cannot be done. They even ask me to negotiate with Hitler – to pray for crumbs from his victorious table. They do, in fact, ask me to become the modern Benedict Arnold and betray all that I hold dear – my devotion to our freedom – to our churches – to our country. This course I have rejected – I reject it again.

Instead, I know that I speak the conscience and determination of the American people when I say that we shall do everything in our power to crush Hitler and his Nazi forces.

American workers, American farmers, American businessmen, American church people – all of us together – have the great responsibility and the great privilege of laboring to build a democratic world on enduring foundations.

May it be said on some future Labor Day by some future President of the United States that we did our work faithfully and well.

Audio of the broadcast:
http://www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/archives/collections/utterancesfdr.html#afdr237

The Pittsburgh Press (September 1, 1941)

ROOSEVELT DEMANDS GREATER WAR EFFORT IN PLEA TO LABOR
Any compromise flatly rejected in talk to world

’Terrible urgency’ of crisis is cited by President in urging more aid

By T. F. Reynolds, United Press staff writer

Hyde Park, NY, Sept. 1 –
President Roosevelt told the working men and women of America today they must subordinate all private interests to the supreme effort to rearm their country and check the “insane violence” of Adolf Hitler’s attempt to rule the world.

Speaking by radio to the nation and the entire world on Labor Day and the second anniversary of the war, Mr. Roosevelt warned that, unless America’s defense production stepped up and its completed weapons are more closely guarded en route to the fighting democracies, the dictator aggressors will virtually be invited to open up new fields of conquest.

Labor, Mr. Roosevelt said, has a supreme stake in the effort to defeat Hitler, because, unless the Nazi machine is crushed, trade unionism will be obliterated and the American standard of living, American freedom and even American lives will be lost.

The President charged that Hitler’s dream is of world conquest, adding that Americans, as always in the history of this nation, are ready to stand up as free men and defend their rights. He warned solemnly against any compromise with the forces of aggression now at large in the world.

Our vast effort, and the unity of purpose that inspires that effort, are due solely to our recognition of the fact that our fundamental rights – including the rights of labor – are threatened by Hitler’s violent attempt to rule the world.

There has never been a moment in our history when Americans were not ready to stand up as free men and fight for their rights.

These enemies know that the course of American production in the past year has shown enormous gains and that the product of these industries is moving to the battlefronts against Hitlerism in increasing volume each day.

But these enemies also know that our American effort is not yet enough – and that unless we step up the total of our production and more greatly safeguard it on its journeys to the battlefields, these enemies will take heart in pushing their attack in fields – old and new.

Mr. Roosevelt’s appeal to labor for unstinting cooperation in the rearmament effort was direct and pointed. He said the first acts of the:

…Axis dictatorships has been to wipe out all the principles and standards which labor had been able to establish for its own preservation and advancement.

We cannot hesitate, we cannot equivocate in the great task before us. The defense of America’s freedom must take precedence over every private aim and over every private interest.

Yes, we are engaged on a grim and perilous task. Forces of insane violence have been let loose by Hitler upon this earth. We must do our full part in conquering them.

Mr. Roosevelt scornfully rejected the idea of compromise or appeasement, warning that the fight must continue until its bitter end.

I give solemn warning to those who think that Hitler has been blocked and halted, that they are making a very dangerous assumption. When in any war your enemy seems to be making slower progress than he did the year before, that is the very moment to strike with redoubled force – to throw more energy into the job of defeating him – to end for all time the menace of world conquest and thereby end all talk or thought of any peace founded on a compromise with evil itself.

The task of defeating Hitler may be long and arduous. There are a few appeasers and Nazi sympathizers who say it cannot be done. They even ask me to negotiate with Hitler – to pray for crumbs from his victorious table. They do, in fact, ask me to become the modern Benedict Arnold and betray all that I hold dear – my devotion to our freedom – to our churches – to our country. This course I have rejected – I reject it again.

Instead, I know that I speak the conscience and determination of the American people when I say that we shall do everything in our power to crush Hitler and his Nazi forces.

The future and the fate of the entire Christian civilization is at stake in the right to maintain the rights of free working men and women, Mr. Roosevelt declared.

Mr. Roosevelt spoke on a Salute to Labor radio hookup, sponsored by the Office of Production Management. His address followed speeches by Associate OPM Director Sidney Hillman, President William Green of the American Federation of Labor, Secretary James Carey of the Congress of Industrial Organizations and Ernest Bevin, British Labor Minister speaking from London.

Utilizing his emergency powers, Mr. Roosevelt earlier revoked a 37-year-old prohibition to authorize foreign flagships to carry petroleum and its derivatives to the Philippines. British and Dutch tankers may now carry oil from the Dutch East Indies to the Philippines and build up stocks for the American military establishment in the Far East.

It will relieve pressure on the continental United States tanker fleet.

Steady mobilization of Philippine troops had accentuated the problem of oil supplies in the Far East. Lt. Gen. Douglas A. MacArthur, commander of the new United States Army in the Far East, had called up 10 new Philippine regiments for induction in the U.S. Army today.

The Pittsburgh Press (September 2, 1941)

Reaction satisfactory –
ROOSEVELT PRAISES RED RESISTANCE

President discusses war effort with leaders in capital

By T. F. Reynolds, United Press staff writer

Washington, Sept. 2 –
President Roosevelt, expressing satisfaction with Russian resistance to Germany, today discussed the general world situation with his Congressional advisers and held a long conference with Secretary of State Cordell Hull.

House Speaker pro tempore Clifton A. Woodrum (D-VA) said the Congressional conference was “general” and that the Soviet Russian armies had been praised by the President for their stand against Germany. The President also reviewed legislative problems and expressed his pleasure with the present version of the new defense tax bill.

Mr. Roosevelt met with Mr. Woodrum, Vice President Henry A. Wallace and Chairman Walter F. George (D-GA) of the Senate Finance Committee shortly after returning here from a Labor Day weekend in Hyde Park, NY, where he pledged anew his determination to crush the “insane violence” of Adolf Hitler.

Mr. Hull went to the White House later, presumably to discuss with Mr. Roosevelt latest developments in the world situation and particularly the status of current negotiations with Japan. Mr. Hull emphasized anew at a press conference that the Tokyo-Washington talks are exploratory and that no decisions have been reached.

Pending is a personal note which Mr. Roosevelt is expected to send to Japanese Prime Minister Fumimaro Konoe, in response to a message dispatched to the White House by the Japanese statesman.

Forceful denunciation

In his Hyde Park address, Mr. Roosevelt delivered one of his most forceful denunciations of Nazi Germany. He called upon Americans to:

…do everything in our power to crush Hitler and his Nazi forces.

White House Secretary Stephen T. Early said that initial national reaction to the President’s speech was highly favorable.

Mr. Early said:

I handed the President a whole flood of telegrams which arrived last night and this morning and all were commendatory and congratulatory.

The talk with Mr. Hull may give point to the reference in his Labor Day address to the necessity of providing more safeguards for war materials flowing from the United States to the nations resisting the Axis Powers. American tankers loaded with gasoline are now en route to Vladivostok and are about to traverse the narrow waters of the Sea of Japan. On the Atlantic, dozens of vessels are threading through hazardous waters toward Britain, with food, raw materials, and fabricated weapons.

Wants more arms

Mr. Roosevelt’s chief points in the Labor Day speech, which was heard around the world, were: tremendous acceleration of American armament production, and, possibly, new orders to the Navy to provide additional protection for war materials in oversea transit.

Proclaiming that this country wants not even “one square inch of the territory of any other nation,” he declared that Americans want only the right to live as free men in a world of peace. He charged labor to bend its full efforts to attain maximum production. He called upon labor to subordinate everything to the supreme effort of making this country an arsenal without historic precedent.

Labor, he said, has more at stake than any other group because suppression of trade unionism has universally marked the dictatorships. If the issue finally arises, he said, and the fundamental rights of Americans – labor and capital alike are challenged, this country would not hesitate to assume the dangers of a “shooting war.”

As he returned to his desk, the new seven-man defense board that he created last week met for the first time. To it has been delegated the job of creating weapons at a greater rate.

The part of the President’s address that got most interest here was the one referring to the protection of weapons en route to those resisting Hitler.

British informed quarters said the President’s decision to “more greatly safeguard” shipments of material, might soon release the Royal Navy from its major convoy duty. But American officials declined to interpret the President’s statement.

Observers speculated it could mean greater use of the Navy in the Atlantic for patrol duties, or establishment of more bases, such as the one recently set up in Iceland, or greater protection for supply ships crossing the Pacific.

ROME CITES PEACE FEELING IN U.S.

Rome, Sept. 2 (UP) –
President Roosevelt’s Labor Day speech indicated that at least some of the American people are for peace, Italian commentators said today.

They said that, since the speech was an appeal to labor, it might be assumed that there was an unwillingness among workers to support Mr. Roosevelt’s “war program” fully.

The President’s admission of Axis victories probably foreshadows further demands upon Congress and the American people, Italian sources said.

Among the views expressed here were:

The lack of any direct attack on Japan indicated an effort by Mr. Roosevelt to draw Japan from the Axis.

Mr. Roosevelt tried to minimize the importance of Adolf Hitler’s conference with Benito Mussolini last week by failing to mention it.

Mr. Roosevelt used the language of the head of a state at war.

The morning, newspapers generally played down the speech publishing only a brief summary from the official news agency on the back pages.

Virginio Gayda, Italian commentator, suggested that Mr. Roosevelt is seeking to “drag” American workers into the war by misrepresenting the viewpoint of labor in Axis willingly would match the conditions of Italian and German workers with those of American labor. He said there was no question but that Axis workers are in a superior position.

LONDON PRESS HAILS SPEECH
By William H. Stoneman

London, Sept. 2 –
President Roosevelt’s Labor Day speech has been given a cordial welcome by the British press and has served somewhat to offset the feeling that American assistance not only is but will continue indefinitely to be inadequate to the needs of Great Britain and her allies.

To judge by what the London Times, Daily Mail and Telegraph say this morning, they feel that the President’s blunt speech was entirely satisfactory and a distinct step forward.

The Times says:

Roosevelt’s broadcast address should put an end to the tendency which had begun to make itself felt on both sides of the Atlantic to question the effectiveness of American help in the fight against Hitlerism and the determination by which it is inspired.

This speech is a more direct challenge to Hitler than any the President has yet made.

The Daily Telegraph says:

Roosevelt has spoken plainly in the past on the issues at stake and the duty of the United States. But his speech yesterday declared that a more forcible policy, and with potent leadership, required from his countrymen a sterner and more concentrated determination of securing the triumph pf freedom.

The Daily Mail says:

Appeasers in America are a noisy and in many ways powerful minority. Now we learn for the first time that they have attempted personal intervention with the President himself. They have their answer tand it is one which will be welcomed by the United States as a whole.

BERLIN BOILS AT ADDRESS

Berlin, Sept. 2 (UP) –
A Nazi spokesman asserted today that President Roosevelt’s Labor Day address revealed him as:

…a new Kerensky who is trying to woo the workers’ support and at the same time acting as a pacemaker for Bolshevism.

The spokesman said:

On the one hand, Roosevelt is making use of Bolshevism to forward his imperialistic ambitions and, on the other hand, he speaks of the sanctity of religion and of everything that is the negation of Bolshevism.

This discrepancy is reflected throughout the speech.

Roosevelt spoke regarding workers’ rights, forgetting, perhaps, that the highest and most sacred right is the right to work which certainly is not reflected in the United States unemployment figures. All in all, the speech contained no new foreign political ideas, Itas interena; political perspectives are characterized by the problems mentioned above.

JAPAN WAITING FOR U.S. MOVE

Tokyo, Sept. 2 (UP) –
The Japan Times-Advertiser, a Foreign Office organ, said today that Japan was taking a position of “watchful waiting” to determine the meaning of President Roosevelt’s failure to mention Japan in his Labor Day speech.