« PreviousContinue »
men that ever came out of the East, so far as I have been able to observe. (Laughter.)
Last summer I spent several weeks talking at farmers' picnics out in Washington and other states. Down at Tacoma there were laboring folks that were so friendly that while we had five thousand farmers at a picnic there last August twelfth, we had over a thousand members of organized labor at the farmers' picnic, and we didn't find any difference of opinion, not the slightest; they agreed absolutely they were going to pull together! Why? Because they have learned that united we stand and divided we go broke! (Laughter.) Therefore, they are going to stand together, in every respect.
I was glad to hear Brother Walker talk about co-operation, co-operative marketing and buying and selling, and direct trading, selling farm products direct to labor, and I hope and I am sure that before long you men who produce manufactured goods are going to own your own factories and sell direct to the farmers. That is coming next. (Applause.)
That is absolutely essential and it is coming. Well, to be frank, we are moving so fast we don't realize it; although we are in a terrible depression, things are moving so fast that we have got to organize ourselves and have that jitney all ready to start right out. We have got to keep it in shape. Now, what are some of the issues ? I am not going to talk politics because in the first place I don't know how to make a speech, and in the second place I don't know anything about politics, but some of you remember that a year ago last December we organized a People's Reconstruction League. The Farmers' National Council got in a lot of farm organizations. Why? Because over three years ago when these progressive farm organizations of Michigan and the Northwest organized the Farmers' National Council, they wrote down the statement: “Labor is the first fixed charge on industry taking precedent over all investment and capital.”
Can you folks write any better statement of capital and labor than those farmers did? Why? Because they were workers themselves, every one of them, and they stood by that. So, we organized this People's Reconstruction League. The President of it is a progressive farmer, a Republican State Senator up in Michigan-Herbert F. Baker. He is head of a big potato exchange which last year sent thirty-five carloads of potatoes directly from the exchange to the labor organizations, to Detroit and Jackson and other cities of Michigan and cut out all the other middle-men's profit. The Vice-President is one of your own ordinary executives, William H. Johnston, Vice-President of the People's Reconstruction League. We have been trying to kill some vicious legislation down at Washington and we want further information as Brother Johnston and others put it. The combination of farmers and workers, that you folks take,—that the best defensive is a strong offensive. So, we went after some real legislation and we got a bill through. It isn't complete but a start to control the meat packers, the food trust. And then we went after the sales tax and we killed that sales tax, but that sales tax has got nine lives. (Laughter.)
Do you folks realize that in this wonderful nation of ours, 23,000 people own about a third of the national wealth? They didn't earn it, in fact, very few of them know how to work, but they now own about one-third of the national wealth. They got by, these profiteers, during the war with at least $20,000,000,000 of profits over and above all taxes they paid. Now they have made up their mind that they are not going to pay any more taxes. For conscience's sake, what are the farmers and workers for if it isn't to pay all the taxes ?
I am going to give you a word of warning. They won't dare pass this sales tax before election, but if we send back all of the men who are down in Washington now, they will pass that sales tax promptly after the next election. Do you see the point? There is one time when a congressman has the finest conscience on record and that is just before election. (Laughter.) Then you can't beat his conscience if you search throughout the world. But they are making up their minds that they are going to put things across and are not going to do anything worse than they have to before election. Aren't they right? They figure it this way: The farmers know our record, what we are trying to do, what we have done to them, and the members of organized labor know our record. If the farmers and if the members of organized labor therefore send us folks back who have been trimming them blind, it must be an indication that they want us here and like what we have been doing for them. I think they are quite correct to figure it that way. Mind you, I am not talking politics at all, but I am just telling you how those folks down there look at this.
What we can do is this: we can defeat the worst of the United States senators and the worst congressmen who are up, and the rest will take a tumble to themselves after that is done. (Applause.) Now I know that from sad experience. I was the black sheep of our family. Every time after I got a good licking, the other three kids behaved wonderfully well. (Laughter.) It is just the same way with Congressmen and United States Senators. I served a useful purpose for the rest of the kids, I thought. (Laughter.) Now, there are certain Senators and Congressmen whose record is so bad that they've got to be left at home. You want them left at home and the farmers do because they are the United States Senators and Congressmen who are really just the tools of the big financial trust, which has been soaking both organized labor and the farmers of the country.
Now, in politics they tell me you have to use a lot of common sense. I have observed that if you get three good men running against one bad man, you might just as well not hold an election. The bad man gets the office every time. There may be exceptions but I have never heard of them. You know the funny thing, that it is rather strange about us folks who want to do the right thing is that we don't always pull together as effectively as we could.
I want to take this occasion, Mr. Chairman, on behalf of the farmers of America to thank the organized labor forces for the tremendous service you have rendered to them within the last few weeks. You folks are fighting for a living wage. As things stand today, the American farmer is helpless. He can't get a living price for his products. They didn't get much over 80 per cent of the cost of production of many farm products last year. The farmers, some of them, scores of thousands of them, have been driven off their farms, and listen, when you drive a farmer off his farm, he drifts to the city and he will take a job at almost any price he can get. He doesn't like to, but he is apt to do it.
The farmers of America have never been prosperous when labor was underpaid and under-employed, and labor has never been prosperous in this country when the farmers have been deflated as they have been on two or three occasions, and that is what ties them together. When you are well paid, the farmers are well paid. When you are broke, the farmers are broke and vice versa.
So we have had legislation prepared and introduced by two outstanding men who have always fought for labor, Senator Ladd of North Dakota, and Congressman Sinclair of that state, to provide for Government action to stabilize the prices of staple farm products. Do you think they asked ten per cent profit? No. If they can get cost of production plus about five or six per cent, or even four per cent, they will take it gladly, and even three per cent, plus cost of production; and my friends, the National Graining and the American Farm Bureau Federation, which are two farmer annexes of Wall Street-I mean the national organizations—opposed this legislation to see that the farmer got a living price for his farm products.
Mr. Chairman, I want, on behalf of the real farmers who produce in this country, to express my appreciation for the fact that a very large number of the presidents of your International Unions, also Mr. Edgar Wallace, representing Mr. Gompers in the American Federation of Labor, went before the Senate and House Committee on Agriculture considering this legislation and said, “We, the workers of America, want this legislation to assure the farmers the cost of production and a decent living."
That is the biggest thing that you could have done for the farmers in their present emergency and on behalf of the real farmers in every state of the Union who are not speculators and who are living by the sweat of their brow and a long day's work, I want to thank you and to tell you that I was very glad that the Farmers' National Council not only three years ago declared that labor is the first fixed charge in industry, but that this year we have sent out thousands and thousands of circulars in which we prove that labor well paid for, an honest day's work, is the farmers' best market.
Now, friends, it is hard for all of us to think, but while we are going to continue our co-operative work 365 days in the year, there is only one day every two years, speaking by and large, when clear thinking is absolutely necessary, and I am sure that every one of us farmers and unorganized labor and the progressive forces of the country—is going to use his brains mighty hard from now until next November, and on next November we are going to drive out of public office at least fifty or sixty of Wall Street's agents in the United States Senate and Congress, and we are going to start the movement to make that Congress a fit place to send a real American to. I thank you. (Applause.)