The Charlotte News

Thursday, March 24, 1938


Jacob's Voice

The action of the TWOC, CIO textile union, in turning thumbs down on freedom for Fred Beal, hath, it seems to us, a curious ring. Beal, most unprejudiced observers agree, is in prison at Raleigh not because there ever was any conclusive evidence that he conspired to kill Chief Aderholt, but simply because in 1929 he was a Communist who stirred up a lot of serious trouble. His methods were frightful, but no worse than those of Francis Gorman, say, when in 1934 flying squadrons roved between one mill town and another. Beal was only a few years ahead of his time.

Ah, but he has turned "company stooge?" By the record, the charge is nonsense. But its appearance here is perhaps not unilluminating. If Beal hasn't turned "company stooge," he has, indeed, turned against Communism as a vicious fraud. And because of that shift, the Communists--who are always bellowing about civil liberties and justice--are waging a determined fight to keep him from being freed. And a chief weapon they are using to drum up sentiment against him is precisely this charge that he has turned "company stooge"...

CIO chieftains have confessed before now that the Bolos have wormed their way into these unions. But in the same breath they have insisted that the Reds were in no position to control policy, and were in fact being rapidly weeded out. Perhaps. But it still seems most curious to find the TWOC pronouncement exactly patterned after the Communist attitude toward Beal.

A Moderate Request

Pope Pius XI seems to be a great believer in the virtue of moderation. For, certainly, that was a most moderate request he made of General Franco in February and on March 21--that the General "use moderation in the bombing of the civilian population" in Spain. The General is said to have murdered about 1,300 civilians--men, women, and children--in Barcelona alone during the last week. He murdered some 400 there a couple of months ago. He murdered 700 at Guernica, 3,000 on the road from Malaga, 2,000 at Badajoz, nobody knows how many at Madrid. Indeed, the total of his civilian murders in the course of the war has often been estimated as exceeding 100,000. But the Pope only suggests "moderation."

Such moderation on the part of His Holiness is inevitably shocking and saddening. As shocking and saddening as the anger of Monsignor Michael J. Ready, general secretary of the Catholic Welfare Conference at Washington, because, he says, Secretary Hull protests Franco's murders and failed to protest "the wholesale murder of priests" by the Loyalist Government at the beginning of the war. So far as that goes, the claim of wholesale murder of priests by the Loyalist Government has never been substantiated. But if it had been--are we to adopt the doctrine that one slaughter of innocents justifies other slaughters of innocents? Is that the counsel of the Christian faith which Monsignor Ready represents?

Senor Franco, fights with the Pope's direct blessing as the defender of the faith in Spain against "Red atheism." Are we to take it as official Christian doctrine that the murder of civilians "in defense of the Christian religion" is tolerable provided it is done in moderation?

The Problem

"Georgia and the lower South may just as well face facts--simple facts presented in the lower South by the President of the United States... Most men and women who work for wages in this whole area get wages which are far too low... On the present scale of wages and therefore on the present scale of buying power, the South cannot and will not succeed in establishing successful new industries... Efficiency in operating industries goes hand in hand with good pay, and the industries of the South cannot compete with industries in other parts of the country..."

It is the President himself speaking, in Gainesville, on the fringe of the deep South. But what he was saying is applicable, in some lesser degree, to the upper South as well--to all the South. And it may be conceded at once that, as he states the problem, his solution is indubitably right. So long as we make goods cheaply, and at the same time pay dearly for the enormous number of things we have to buy outside the South, we are, in effect, giving our resources away and maintaining an unfavorable balance of trade. And at that rate we have never waxed prosperous and never will overcome the deficiency in our standard of living.

But the Solution?

However if the President is right in his analysis of the case, is the way out really as simple as he seems to infer? Can we suddenly become prosperous by the ingenious device of adopting the Federal wage-and-hour bill and abruptly increasing pay horizontally?

We doubt it, flatly. Wages after all, have to be paid out of income. And the South's total income is appallingly low. But, ah, it is low just because we do sell cheaply and dear? Because we are feudalistic? In part, yes. But only in part. It is low primarily because the great basic portion of it derives from the growing and the sale of cotton. And the price of cotton is fixed by the foreign market, and mainly by the European market. In truth, the South is economically almost just an appendage of the low-level economies of Europe set down in the political system of the United States side by side with the high-level economy of Yankeedom.

That, and not feudalism, is the primary reason for the low-wage scale in the South. For the great part of the wage-earners in of the South--the tenants and croppers--are engaged in the production of cotton. And to attempt suddenly to raise their wages will probably not bring prosperity to the South, but only complete ruin to the already nearly-ruined cotton grower.

But it was industrial wages the President had primarily in mind. Nevertheless, industrial wages must inevitably be fixed by agricultural wages. And more--the South has two other reasons why industrial wages have been and remain low. One of them is that it has a surplus of labor--not a surplus which cannot be employed at all, but a surplus which can be employed only at very low wages by people who derive their principal income from cotton. The other reason is that though the South now has some surplus capital of its own, it still hasn't nearly enough to carry out rapid industrialization on its own account. If it is to be industrialized rapidly, it must somehow negate capital from Yankeedom. And it is precisely the cheapness of labor, of course, which has most attracted Yankee capital.

In short, the dilemma is a most devilish one. We hope, we insist on believing, that there is some way out. But that it is not to be solved so easily as the President believes we are quite sure.


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