Monday, November 28, 2016

Unburied Treasure

Marcantonio, La Guardia, FDR and Henry Wallace.
Vito Marcantonio in film and live voice are commodities difficult to come by for those seeking the living breathing man, his movements, the tone of his voice, inflections, pauses, pieces of the politician as cultural artifact.

Thanks to research by David Giglio, (among other things) videographer and documentarian for the Vito Marcantonio Forum (VMF), two interesting voice clips of Marcantonio have been uncovered.

One is Marcantonio's policy statement on American involvement in Korea.

The clip is described by professor Gerald Meyer as “a brief peroration of Marc's keynote address to an overflow audience at a rally in Madison Square Garden, sponsored by the Progressive Party, in October 1950, expressing his opposition to United States intervention into what he saw was a civil war. It provides some sense of Marc's rhetorical style, which for a generation made him the most sought-after orator of the American left. It also gives a chance to hear the New York accent, which by now is almost extinct.”

Meyer, VMF co-chair, describes the second address as:

“[A]n extended speech, made in 1940, that was broadcast nation-wide, in opposition to the Hobbs Bill, which would have stripped noncitizens of almost all rights and threatened them with incarceration without legal recourse... It is worthy of close listening on the merits of his arguments as well as its relevance to contemporary American political discourse and practice. This speech was sponsored by the American committee for the Foreign Born, which advocated for the foreign-born as well as provided them with legal services. This invaluable organization, of which Marcantonio was vice president, fell victim of McCarthyism."

The Hobbs bill (H.R. 5643) allowed that “aliens” ordered deported by the Secretary of Labor could be held in detention centers if they were not shipped out within 90 days of notice.

Marcantonio found a flaw: “The language of the act gives the Secretary of Labor not only the power to confine such aliens for the rest of the their natural lives, but gives her discretionary power as to the choice of the place of detention.”

Nowhere in the bill, he noted, was there any mention of due process.

“The issue is not that of protecting criminal aliens,” he said, striking at the primary chord of an issue again before us today.

The text can be found under a May 23, 1939 entry in “I Vote My Conscience,” a collection of Marc's speeches edited by his colleague, Annette Rubinstein.

The better part of Giglio's videolog on behalf of the VMF can be found here.