Upton Sinclair’s Solution to the Great Depression

like“I have been asked to explain to you the political movement which has just achieved such an extraordinary victory in the state of California.

“I did not make this victory; it has been made by the people of our state. It is a spontaneous movement which has spread all over the state by the unpaid labor of tens of thousands of devoted workers. They were called amateurs but they have put all the professional politicians on the shelf. In less than half a year, they have built a movement which has carried a state of more than 6 million population. It has been called a political miracle and the rest of the states will wish to know what it means.

“We confront today the collapse of an institution which is worldwide and age-old. Capitalism has served its time and is passing from the earth. A new system must be found to take its place, and that event is the same thing to our society as childbirth is to the individual: The child may be born, but both child and mother may perish in agony.

“Consider what has happened in Germany. An obscene demagogue has seized power; a great civilized nation has fallen into the hands of gangsters. Liberty is at an end and the most scientifically advanced of modern states is sliding back into the Dark Ages. Do not think that was an accident! Do not attribute it to the magic of a demagogue’s tongue. Those events in Germany were planned, they were bought and paid for. It is the steel kings of Germany who have seized the country and prevented a new birth of freedom for the people.

“And now we have the same breakdown in the United States. The same poverty and insecurity. The same unemployment and suffering, the same Wall Street kind of bond slavery. Can we free ourselves or will Wall Street give us a dictator and fasten the chains about our ankles for a generation, and perhaps forever? Can democracy work? Can the people use its instruments in their own interest or can they be fooled and lied to and frightened away from their goal?

“We have put a plan before the people.

“We have shown them the way out of the Depression. We have made it as simple as possible. We have made it gradual so as to be painless. We are not proposing to replace the whole collapsing system by a new one all at once. We are proposing the first step, a trial stage.

“We say to the voters: ‘There are a half a million persons in our state out of work. They cannot be permitted to starve. These persons can never again find work while the present system endures. They are being supported by public charities and the burden of that is driving the state to bankruptcy and the taxpayers to ruin. There is no solution to this problem except to put these unemployed at productive labor, to make them self-sustaining, to let them produce what they are going to consume and so take them off the backs of the taxpayers.’

gate“That is the simple proposition. There can be no valid objection to it. But the whole power of vested privilege rises up against it. Why is this? The answer is because they are afraid of the precedent. They are afraid the plan will succeed and show the unemployed how to produce for use instead of for profit. It will put into the minds of the unemployed the idea of getting access to land and machinery by the political method, by the use of their ballots. And once they get access to good land and modern machinery they will produce so much, they will make such comfort and plenty for themselves, that they will never against to be content to support the parasites of Wall Street.

“There are a couple of thousand factories in our state standing entirely idle and the rest are working less than half time. Many of these concerns are running into debt and to keep them, the state of California will say, ‘We off to rent your factories. Keep your organization going, call in your workers, and run your machinery under the supervision of the state.’ The workers will turn out goods and they will own what they produced.

“The farmers of California, meanwhile, are producing huge quantities of foodstuffs for which they cannot find a market. The farmers are losing their land because they cannot pay their taxes. To these farmers, the state will say, ‘Bring your foodstuffs to our warehouses and you will received in return receipts which will be good for your taxes.’ The farmers will eagerly comply and the food will be shipped to the cities and made available to the factory workers in exchange for the products of their labor. These products will go out to the stories in the farmers’ communities and be exchanges for more of the farmers’ goods. So we will get going, by the credit power of the state, a new system of production in which Wall Street will have no share.

“All around our cities and towns are tracts of land which speculators have been holding out of use. They also cannot pay their taxes and will be glad to rent the land to the state. The state can furnish machinery and the unemployed can go to work and grow their own food, making gardens where now there are patches of weeds. The possibilities of this system once started are beyond any man’s imagining. We are going to have to tax the great corporations of our state to make up the present deficit. If we make these taxes payable in services and goods, we shall have lumber, cement, an d other building materials out of which our people can make homes. We shall have heat, light, and gas for our offices and stories, and power for our factories.

“Our opponents have told you that all of this is socialism and communism. We are not the least bit worried because we note that Mr. Hearst has been cabling from Europe that President Roosevelt’s policies are also communism. Our enemies’ efforts to crush this movement by lies and intimidating are not merely an attack upon me and California, they are a preparation for the scrapping of the New Deal at the presidential election of 1936.

“Make no mistake about the meaning of the decision which you are going to make in November. The news has gone out to the whole country and if the Democratic Party of California adopts the EPIC plan, it will mean hope, courage, and guidance to the unemployed of all 48 states.

“All my life I have believed in the people. All my life I have insisted that democracy could be made to work. The years since the World War have been years of cynicism and heartsickness. But all through these years I have stood by my faith, in spite of all ridicule. I have believed in the people and the one thing about the people of California have done for me is to vindicate that faith, out of which my life and books have been made.

“Our opponents have told you that we cannot put this plan through. Let me answer just this: If you should give me a chance to end poverty in California and if I should fail to do it, life would mean nothing to me thereafter. All that I have taught all through the years would be without meaning. Believe me, and stick by me, and we together shall not fail!” — Upton Sinclair on August 29 in his first nationally broadcast radio address on KHJ after winning the Democratic primary nomination for governor of California in 1934.

(Source: Greg Mitchell, The Campaign of the Century: Upton Sinclair’s Race for Governor of California and the Birth of Media Politics, Random House, 1992.)Century


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