The Charlotte News

Friday, November 18, 1938


Site Ed. Note: "Fie On Fly!" refers to the case of Tennessee Elec. Power Co. v. T.V.A., 306 US 118 (1939). It held--as against claim by private utility companies licensed in several states adjoining Tennessee that T.V.A. derived its authority to operate unconstitutionally because its primary function was to deliver electricity, not flood control and insuring of navigable waterways, and thus was illegally operating in competition with these properly state-licensed utilities--that the companies had no standing to complain. The Court imposed the principle "damnum absque injuria, a damage not consequent upon the violation of any right recognized by law", saying that while licensed by the states in which they operated, the companies nevertheless were not given or promised an exclusive franchise in their operation, free from competition from other licensed entities, including that granted by the Congress, as in the case of T.V.A.

Perhaps, another T.V.A. is needed in New Orleans. Perhaps, another T.V.A. is needed to thwart the global warming which ultimately spawned the flooding in New Orleans.

Also on the page for this date, the editorial of Hugh Johnson anent the youth Grynzspan whose act of shooting the assistant diplomat gave excuse for the riots in Germany known as Kristallnacht a week earlier. Johnson, not only a General, but also a lawyer, poses some interesting views on the subject of Grynzspan's motives, whether as a stooge of the Nazis, whether an insane youth, whether a deliberate and calculating murderer. Johnson urges that the defense fund for the youth sought by fellow columnist Dorothy Thompson should be afforded to get at the truth and avoid the possibility of the killing becoming a symbol to be used, as with Arhduke Ferdinand's assassination in Sarajevo in 1914, to spark the gunpowder--though a good deal of paranoia, interfamilial rivalry, and false interpretation of feints and gestures, insinuation of mobilization as mobilization in fact with intent to invade, led ultimately to the initiation of hostilities in August, 1914.

Of course, historically, this incident has been largely lost, even lost as the incendiary fuel used by the Nazis to spawn Kristallnacht. It did not immediately lead to World War II. It did, however, provide the tinder to begin the process which led to the worst concomitant of the War, the Holocaust. The Holocaust would have occurred with or without Mr. Grynzspan's act, it having been foreordained by the new German god incarnate in his 1923 book. Mr. Grynzspan only gave a convenient excuse of the moment which a thousand other acts ultimately would have given, looking wrong at a Storm Trooper, as would always be the case with a Nazi. Nazis want to dominate others; any excuse provided which is not affording full dominion is sufficient for a Nazi to clamp down, imposing order and discipline on the dominated.

Cash took a somewhat different approach to Grynzspan, not calling him at all insane, but rather calling his act understandable, while not condoning murder. Johnson appears almost to ignore the facts of ongoing harassment of Jews which had preceded this act and had been transpiring in Germany since the earliest days of the Third Reich. Nevertheless, while not bearing opinions with which we assert entire agreement, Johnson's views are interesting and not without some merit, from a purely objective viewpoint. Indeed, given the time, we have to make room for the idea that his column was more in the vein of a militarist's stratagem, a feint of a sort, to encourage even anti-Semites and America Firster types to understand the crucial need for a fair and open trial of this youth. That needs no explanation. Only Nazis don't get it.

Defense Fund For Grynzspan

By Hugh S. Johnson

New York City. --Miss Dorothy Thompson spoke Monday night to plead for a fair trial for the young Polish Jew--Herschell Grynzspan--who shot the Third Secretary of the German Embassy in Paris--Herr Vom Rath.

It was a stirring defense. She got an instantaneous reply from thousands of people. These contained many suggestions of contributions to provide a defense fund in the trial before the French courts. Upon this urging, Miss Thompson has asked some of her columnist colleagues to help her. It is a privilege.


The shooting of Vom Rath by Grynzspan was used by the Nazis as a signal for such a wholesale persecution of Jews in Germany and threatens to expel or destroy them. The mob violence which occurred everywhere next morning, and stopped suddenly, by order, after it had served its purpose, had the appearance of an officially planned attack and none of spontaneous action. There is some evidence that this wholesale bloody purge was planned five months ago. In other words, the shooting seems to have been a convenient excuse. Or it may have been part of a plan, even more diabolical, to plant an insane assassin to provide that excuse--a deliberate sacrifice of Vom Rath.

Since this could qualify as a political assassination, there is danger that this young psychopath may be railroaded to the guillotine with no more than a gesture of a trial. The effect of that would be to hush what might prove to be important evidence on the bloodiest plot for wholesale assassinations since the French massacres of St. Bartholomew's Eve or the Sicilian Vespers.


The way to prevent that is to get the best French legal counsel and an ample defense fund. Our Government can't intervene to do anything about this criminal trial before a foreign court of one who is not an American citizen. Jews cannot contribute to this fund. The Germans have threatened that any Jewish protest will be a signal for more atrocities against German Jews. For these reasons, Miss Thompson has said that she will not receive a single Jewish contribution.

But Americans of other faiths and races can support this effort by contributions, however small, sent to Miss Thompson at 730 Fifth Avenue, New York City. The more contributions the greater will be the effect of this protest. It appears today that these remittances will come by the tens of thousands. Therefore, none needs to be very large. Contributions by clubs would be very acceptable.


Nobody in this country in normal circumstances has any interest in excusing assassination or defending assassins, especially abroad. But these are not normal circumstances. The whole world has a vital interest in knowing the truth of this kind of a killing. It was precisely such doubts at Sarajevo which started the World War and killed or wounded or lost 20,000,000 people and ruined the lives of many millions more.

Was this, as the Nazis absurdly charged, the result of a Jewish plot justifying the destruction of Jews in Germany? In the middle ground, was the assassin insane or a deliberate murderer? Or at the other extreme, was it the result of a Nazi plot to afford an excuse for destroying Jews in Germany? The world is entitled to the best available information. Otherwise this may prove to be a new Sarajevo. It can get that information only by a fair trial in Paris. It can get that fair trial only by an aggressive defense adequately financed.

For these, which seem to me overwhelming reasons, I think Miss Thompson's suggestion is of the first magnitude in the murky affairs of a desperate world. I hope it will be generously and widely supported.

They All Do It

Senator Bailey, on whom be peace, has been among the bitterest critics of politics in relief. Yet it appears that the Senator is not above paying political debts, his own or the Democratic Party's, with Federal jobs. His appointment of C. B. Deane to the staff of the Senate committee to investigate labor conditions in the Merchant Marine, indicates fully as much.

Mr. Deane hasn't said he would accept. In fact, Mr. Deane appears to have been no party to the arrangement, which took him by surprise. But he probably has a good idea, as has most everybody else, that he is being thus promptly rewarded for behaving like a good boy and withdrawing from the Congressional contest in the Eighth District, which the Election Board said he won, in favor of the candidate whom the Democratic Party declared the winner.

They all do it--that is, nearly every politician looks on office-holding as a sort of vested interest which may be freely tapped for political purposes. But it is slightly incongruous, all the same, to catch Senator Bailey in so flagrant an example of it.

Mostly Talk

CIO's threat to boycott Ford cars may be taken with a large portion of salt. It is utterly impossible to get so huge and diverse an organization solidified in spite. Hundreds of thousands of CIO members have never driven any other car but the Ford, and it is well known that once you own a car, that make becomes your favorite, whose merits you will defend over any other.

Furthermore, the boycotting of a manufacturer who, while his labor policies are a relic of paternalism, has set the pace of higher wages and shorter hours, would be certain to strike the American public as highly unfair, and there would be, in all likelihood, retaliation. "All right," many people would say: "if CIO won't buy Ford cars, we won't buy CIO's cars." That would cost both sides a pretty penny and do neither a penny's worth of good.

But should there be an effective boycott, which is improbable, it would bring into bold relief a deficiency in the Wagner Labor Relations Act. The law is voluble and specific in what constitutes unfair labor practices--by employers. It is mum as an oyster on unfair labor practices by labor. And regardless of the general acceptance of unionism in principle, the American people still don't believe that it's fair fighting to bind management's arms to its sides while labor goes at it with sticks and stones and any old weapons it finds handy, such as a boycott.

No More Ehrlichs

That Germany is very rapidly traveling the road back to the barbarism that reigned there in the Middle Ages has been growing more and more clearly apparent. The organization of the whole state with a primary view to military action is medieval and barbaric. So is the unashamed practice of murder in Spain as an open instrument of state policy. So is the absurd race myth on which the whole philosophy is based. The notion that to allow a Jew to sit in the same theater with an "Aryan" is the contaminate the latter, is a notion that stems straight from the black magic which in barbaric societies answers for science.

But the most decisive single step toward barbarism yet taken was probably the order of this week which bans all Jews from German schools, and condemns most of them to grow up in ignorance. For Jews, [indiscernible word] numbering more than half a million in Germany, have contributed to the building of German culture all out of proportion to their numbers. The greatest German poet, after Goethe--Heine--was a Jew. Mendelssohn and Meyerbeer were Jews. Paul Ehrlich, the founder of the whole modern science of immunology, was a Jew. Wassermann, Sudermann, the novelist and dramatist, Einstein--all these were or are Jews. And the list might be strung out to almost any length.

What Germany is doing is to decree that there shall be no more like them. And when she decrees that, she has gone a very long way, indeed, toward decreeing that her culture shall gradually dry up from within.

Bad News For Budgets

The way the German press has it doped out, President Roosevelt is deliberately taking of fright at a spectral Nazi menace in South America for the purpose of concealment of his own imperial designs in that quarter. It is very simple. To meet the Nazi threat, this country will arm to the teeth, and then--presto!--South America will be swallowed whole.

This is hard to reconcile, of course, with the facts. The United States Government has a more diverse people in culture and economy at present than it can say grace over. Besides, it doesn't make sense to say that the country which has tried valiantly to assist Cuba in achieving independence and was over-eager to get rid of the Philippines, would be looking for new worlds to conquer.

The Nazi diatribes would have been more to the point, and would have aroused some credibility among the American people, if they had hinted that the New Deal has maintained a semblance of prosperity and itself in power chiefly by a colossal spending program, and that it was raising a ghost for its own purposes. The spending has met with bitter opposition, notably among the taxpayers, and Congress has had a gnawing uneasiness that sooner or later it would have to be stopped. But if it's a case of self-defense or preservation of the Monroe Doctrine against European aggression, why, Lord love us, we shall have to arm no matter what the costs. The taxpayers, who have most to lose, would be the first to cry for it.

The extent and the imminence of the Nazi menace in South America are still problematical. Perhaps this is the Administration's way of bluffing it out before it gets a foothold, because we can certainly beat Adolf at the armament game. Perhaps, on the other hand, the Administration is really scared. In any case, the Nazis have given an excuse for another thumping spending spree in which, for a change, the whole country will cheerfully acquiesce.

Fie On Fly!

A right significant exchange took place in the hearing of the TVA case before the Supreme Court. TVA's general counsel, James Lawrence Fly, was arguing the constitutionality of the whole enterprise and stressing particularly the point that electric power was produced only in connection "with the improvement of navigation and the control of destructive floods," which are admitted Federal provinces. Justice Butler broke in to ask Fly what he considered the crucial question in the case, and the lawyer replied:

"Whether or not these dams and their functions serve a constitutional purpose."

"Let us assume that they do not," Butler, J., persisted. "Does that lose your case?"

"We would lose our case assuming that the companies [utilities] have a right to suit," Mr. Fly conceded.

Everybody knows, probably Mr. Fly best of all, that flood control and navigation are only secondary TVA functions, that they are the cart whereas the horse is power production. Everybody knows that TVA's power is not generated incidental to flood control and navigation; that, on the contrary, flood control and navigation could have been brought about for a fraction of TVA's cost.

Yet TVA, fearful that outright Federal power production might be unconstitutional, attempts to persuade the Supreme Court that in the process of improving navigation and controlling floods it suddenly found electricity being generated in such quantities that it would have been a crime to have let it go to waste. It is one of the grossest fictions ever perpetrated.


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