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Albert Glotzer

Book Review

The Strange Career of Mr. Hoover

(April 1932)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 15 (Whole No. 111), 9 April 1932, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Strange Career of Mr. Hoover – Under Two Flags
By John S. Hamil
Wm. Faro, Inc. 384 pages, $3.75

This book is a forerunner of a series of books now published on the life of Hoover. In spite of its attempt at sensation throughout, the book has value in portraying the character of the individual who stands at the head of the American government. To the author the character of Hoover is responsible for the present crisis and the general difficulties confronting the economic life of the country. The individual is all-important and therein lies the explanation of everything – that, is the explanation of Hamil. If someone else were president things would be different. With this approach we have nothing in common. We regard the individual as part of the system of capitalism and its politics. We are concerned with the why and wherefore of the choice of the capitalist party at the helm of the government. In this sense the book offers an excellent explanation. It shows Hoover in his true light – as the individual who is best suited to lead his class and follow the dictates of Wall Street. More than that it is a profound exhibit of Hoover’s class ideology and his hatred for the working class.

The book begins with Hoover’s orphanage and his boyhood life with his uncle, a real estate “shark”, in Oregon. His uncle was in the business of selling real estate that never existed. The town where these lots were supposed to be, could not be found to this day, even by the official surveyors of the government. Hoover got his first training here. His uncle, a fraudulent land speculator was his first teacher.

At that time the Leland Stanford University was being organized and Hoover was dispatched there as a student. The records of the school show him to be an extremely poor student who could not master the rudiments of English. Here he studied geology, on the basis of which he later passed off as a mining engineer. But a school just organized could not afford to fail its students and Hoover was graduated notwithstanding his poor scholastic achievements.

The most important turning point in his life was his job with the Bewick Moreing & Co. of London. This concern dealt in mine speculations. Hoover was hired not as geologist but as “a claim jumper, a snooper and a spy.” In a word he was to be a promoter for this company. His work consisted in going to Australia as their “mining engineer” to send in reports on the conditions of the gold mines owned and promoted by this dubious company, whose standing in London’s financial circles was extremely low. There his task consisted of sending in glowing reports of gold to be mined. On the basis of his reports which were published, new stock was put on the market to be sold. When the public had been sufficiently duped, stock sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars, Hoover’s task then turned to that of sending in detrimental reports. The result of these reports would be a decline in the stock values of this or that company. The “insiders” knowing the outcome in advance, would sell out their stock and leave the “public holding the bag.” Or the process was worked in the reverse. With a poor mine that would not yield repayment for initial work, Hoover was to send in reports showing that these mines would yield anywhere from twenty to hundred percent profit. Again stocks sold by the hundreds of thousands. The “insiders” were becoming rich – the public duped again and left “holding the bag”. This was the manner in which Hoover served his apprenticeship with this company until he become one of its partners. He had proven himself.

The whole history of his work was that of manipulating stocks to the advantage of Moreing, Stanley Rowe, himself and one or two others. Once a partner, Hoover began to show more interest in the work. In Australia he becomes known as a hater of labor. There he attempts to get the ban on Asiatic labor lifted in order to bring in cheap labor from the Orient with the object of destroying the then powerful Australian miners’ union. On failing in this attempt, he begins a campaign “against the present high rates of working costs”. In other words, lowering wages, increasing working hours, and refusing to make better the working conditions of the mines. The death rate among the miners grows at an alarming pace. He wrote at that time: “The disregard for human life permits mining by economy in timber and the aggrieved relatives are amply compensated by the regular payment of $30 per man lost.” And again, “men were cheaper than timber”.

The company expands. In China Hoover’s object was exploiting and robbing the Chinese of their holdings. He participated in the steal of the Kaiping Coal mines, even to personally rob a safe to steal deeds covering the ownership of this rich mine. We find him in South Africa promoting fake mines and filching the small stock-holders of Britain. The “promoter” together with his associates conceives of a daring plan. Why not hire coolie labor to work the mines in the Transvaal region. The big campaign begins. In China the workers are promised a virtual fairyland if they would agree to work in the Transvaal mines. The result: 200,000 Chinese were sold into slavery. Hoover’s Chinese Engineering and Mining Co., Ltd. did the job. And why not? They received $10 for each Chinaman secured and $25 each for passage to South Africa on their own ships. From Johannesburg he wrote the following, describing this slave business as: “the great science of extracting the greatest possible amount of money from some other human being.” The war breaks out. Hoover discovers another “business”. Preying on the charity angle we see him now organizing the food relief to Belgium. This “job” consisted of buying huge food supplies, secured through the money raised by exploiting the sentiments of the people during the war, and then selling this food to Belgium at huge profits. It was easily done, once the head of the Belgian Relief was his business associate, Francqui, who assumed the role of the virtual dictator of Belgium in those days – the government having moved its capital to northern France upon the occupation of Belgium by the Germans. But it was precisely in those years that Belgium experienced the largest crops and during the first years of the war had more than sufficient food. Through arrangements with the Germans, the Belgium produce was to be sent to Germany, and the food Hoover supplied was to go to Belgium. Germany paid for its food to Belgium and Belgium paid for its food to Hoover. Between Francqui and himself the spoils were divided.

The rest of his career is well known. He returned to the States after twenty years’ absence. He was made. Hoover becomes a “worker” for the government. He becomes a member of Harding’s cabinet and participates in the infamous oil scandal. The myth of the “great engineer” is thrown at the people. He is elected president and in that capacity has more than once exhibited his intense hatred for the working class.

Hamil effectively destroys the myth of the “engineer” who was really a promoter and who in all the years of his business life helped in a grand steal that even made the ordinary business “ethics” blush with shame. The author points out a mining engineer must know chemistry, physics, mechanics, electricity, assaying, metallurgy – and of all of these Hoover was totally ignorant. But he was suited for his job with Bewick, Moreing & Co. He manipulated stocks, welched on his debts, was sued by China for his steal of the Kaiping Mines and through these years developed into the fit candidate of president.

He stands out today, built up by a great organizing campaign, as an able representative of the capitalists with an intense hatred of the working class. He is a typical representative of Wall Street who adorns the presidential chair with all the qualities needed for one whose job consists of leading his class against the workers. Selling Chinese workers into slavery, manipulating stocks, fraudulent mine promotions, sponging on charity and the sentiments of the people built up during a war period, making himself rich by intense exploitation of mine workers he has succeeded – from promoter to president; really not a strange career at all.

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