Filene Sees Roosevelt Steering Middle Course in ‘new Deal’ Aims
Menu JTA Search

Filene Sees Roosevelt Steering Middle Course in ‘new Deal’ Aims

Download PDF for this date

Whither is President Roosevelt’s recovery program swinging—Left or Right?

Answering this question for anxious radical and conservative elements throughout the country with an emphatic “No,” in regard to either extremist view, Edward A. Filene, internationally-known Jewish merchant and philanthropist, tonight declared to members of the local Chamber of Commerce that the Administration apparently intends to pursue its middle ground course of trial and error, or research and experimentation, as a solution for the Nation’s economic ailments.

“We are following Roosevelt, not because he represents any interest against any other interest, but because, instead of following the old traditions and mouthing the old phrases, he dared to deal with the great new facts,” asserted the president of William Filene Sons, Co., of Boston.

“We may be fairly certain, then,” he continued, “that the government is not going either Left or Right; for its task is a task of fact-finding, and no solution of our common problem can be reached by turning either to the left or the right of the facts.”


Pointing to European parliaments as exemplaries, Filene defined the significance of Left and Right swings. A swing to the Left, he said, indicates a tendency to take more privileges away from the privileged classes, giving the masses more political power or economic advantages. A swing to the Right is usually a swing in the direction of the divine right of kings or toward the divine right of privileged exploiters to continue their exploitation.

“Such terms simply have no meaning in American politics today,” he went on. “We are all in the same fix. No course which we can take now can bring lasting benefit to one class to the exclusion of other groups.

“But that time has passed,” Filene declared. “President Roosevelt did not bring about its passing It was our industrial evolution which brought it about.”

The New Deal was defined as a plan to get enough buying-power into the hands of the masses. If that could be done, he said, the whole problem would be solved. With the masses equipped with plenty of buying power, all other non-wage-earning groups would be affected and pleased—merchants, manufacturers, framers, stockholders, bankers, investors and taxpayers.

He warned his audience that the “job” of giving buying power to the masses was not exactly simple. In this connection Filene indirectly attacked “inflationists.” On this topic he said that “giving everybody a million dollars wouldn’t do the trick because money issued like that isn’t real money and the million dollars wouldn’t buy a single sandwich. Money, to be good, has to represent real values which can be and are being exchanged.”

To emphasize the value of the New Deal, Filene compared Technocracy with President Roosevelt’s “way.” He asserted that the trouble with the Technocrats was that they had no plans, not even a suggestion, as “to how to get from where we were to where they wanted us to be”

“Unlike the technocrats, however, Roosevelt showed us a way to get from here to there,” Filene said in conclusion. It necessitates a short workday so that every possible worker can be employed. It necessitates the highest wages that can be paid; with the understanding that when more people do more buying, business can be done more economically and wages can go up again. It also necessitates nation-wide codes for every industry, to keep out the chiseler; and that necessitates the nation-wide organization of labor, instead of company unions.

“For every company which is obeying the code will want assurance that every competitor is equally obeying it; and only when nationally organized labor is established in all industries can they have this constant assurance.

“And this ends the war between the Haves and the Have Nots—not by any show of strength, and not by any judicial decision, but for the simple reason that the Haves can not continue to have unless they get more and more buying-power, and more and more of the good things of life, into the hands of the Have Nots. Action on that discovery is what we know as the New Deal.”

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund