Felix Morrow

New Hearings in Ludlow Referendum

War Mongers Align Forces to Scotch Congress Discussion

(May 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 33, 16 May 1939, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Hearings on the Ludlow war referendum amendment to the Constitution were opened Wednesday by a subcommittee of the Senate judiciary committee.

After the first day’s session. it is already clear that the hearings will be no substitute for the full debate in Congress which has been demanded for two years by labor and liberal groups, but which President Roosevelt and the Democratic and Republican leaders of Congress have thus far succeeded in preventing.

The subcommittee in charge of the hearings is hostile to the amendment; Chairman Hatch and Senator Miller being recorded in opposition, while the remaining subcommitteeman, Borah, is on the fence.

“Not Fit to Print”

The first day’s hearings received little coverage in the press. The New York Times made it the tail to another story, the Herald Tribune ignored it altogether as did the Daily Worker, and these were typical.

The present text of the proposed amendment itself embodies a new series of concessions to the warmakers. It now reads:

“Except in case of attack by armed forces, actual or immediately threatened, upon the United States or its territorial possessions, or by any non-American nation against any country in the Western Hemisphere, the people shall have the sole power by national referendum to declare war or to engage in warfare overseas. Congress, when it deems a national crisis to exist in conformance with this article, shall by concurrent resolution refer the question to the people.

“Congress shall by law provide for the enforcement of this section.”

Still Anti-War Symbol

The scope, actual and capable of construction, of the exceptions given Congress under which the people need not be consulted, are sufficient for almost any conceivable situation.

But even in this form, the proposed amendment has become a symbol of anti-war sentiment and hence an object of hostility and suppression by the Roosevelt administration.

Why this is so was indirectly stated by Senator LaFollette, who was the first witness at the hearings.

War Plans Implied

“The present Administration should favor this proposal, because it could only restrain a President who is committed to possible participation in foreign war, as Mr. Roosevelt has repeatedly said he is not,” said LaFollette.

“Any one who raises the issue that this proposal will weaken or strengthen any group in Europe must do so upon the ground that we are to implement our foreign policy by active military support with an expeditionary force on foreign soil.

“To take this position is to challenge the good faith of every statement which has been made, so far as I know, by any responsible person speaking for the Administration. In short, it cannot be claimed that this measure affects in any way the struggle for power abroad, unless it is at the same time admitted that military measures on foreign soil are in contemplation.”

In Plain English

In other words – since the Senator from Wisconsin is too polite to utter them – the Roosevelt administration’s opposition to the amendment flows from Roosevelt’s plans to wage a war of conquest on foreign soil.

When the measure came up for vote in the House of Representatives on January 10, 1938 – not for passage but for whether or not it would be brought on the floor for debate! – Roosevelt himself took charge of mobilizing a majority against opening debate. He secured it, but only by eleven votes, and thanks to the war-hysteria created by the sinking of the American gunboat Panay in the Yangtze.

All attempts to secure public discussion in Congress since then have been crushed by the Democratic-Republican united front on foreign policy.

Last updated on 17 January 2016