Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

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Location: Brunswick, Maine, United States

I'm back to work for the Global Network. Will continue to help Lisa Savage for US Senate campaign on my free time. Trying to self-isolate as much as possible. Best wishes and good luck to you all.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Huey Long: Share the wealth



Huey Pierce Long Jr. (August 30, 1893 – September 10, 1935), nicknamed "The Kingfish," was a populist American politician who served as the 40th governor of Louisiana from 1928 to 1932 and was a member of the US Senate from 1932 until his assassination in 1935. As the political leader of Louisiana, he commanded wide networks of supporters and was willing to take forceful action.

During Long's years as governor, large expansions were made in infrastructure, education and health care. Long was notable among southern politicians for avoiding race baiting and white supremacy, and he sought to improve the conditions of poor blacks as well as poor whites.

Under Long's leadership, hospitals and educational institutions were expanded, a system of charity hospitals was set up that provided health care for the poor, and massive highway construction and free bridges brought an end to rural isolation.

He abolished the state’s poll tax and gave away free textbooks to every student.

A Democrat and an outspoken left-leaning politician, Long denounced the wealthy urban Baton Rouge and Washington elites, oligarchs and the banks. Initially a supporter of Franklin D. Roosevelt during his first 100 days in office, Long eventually came to believe that Roosevelt's "New Deal" policies were an insufficient compromise and did not do enough to alleviate the issues of the poor or tackle the Depression. As a result, he developed his own solution called the 'Share Our Wealth' program, which would establish a net asset tax (limit on how many millions one person could have), the earnings of which would be redistributed so as to curb the poverty and homelessness epidemic nationwide during the Great Depression.

Long's Share Our Wealth plan was established on February 23, 1934, with the motto 'Every Man a King.' To stimulate the economy, Long advocated extensive federal spending on public works, schools and colleges, and old age pensions.

Long split with Roosevelt in June 1933 and was assassinated in 1935, and his national movement soon faded, but his legacy continued in Louisiana.

    "We do not propose to say that there shall be no rich men. We do not ask to divide the wealth. We only propose that, when one man gets more than he and his children and children's children can spend or use in their lifetimes, that then we shall say that such person has his share. That means that a few million dollars is the limit to what any one man can own."
    — Huey Long, Share Our Wealth radio address, February 23, 1934

    "I'm for the poor man — all poor men, black and white, they all gotta have a chance. They gotta have a home, a job, and a decent education for their children. 'Every man a king' — that's my slogan."
    — Huey Long (T. Harry Williams, Huey Long, p. 706)

    "They've got a set of Republican waiters on one side and a set of Democratic waiters on the other side, but no matter which set of waiters brings you the dish, the legislative grub is all prepared in the same Wall Street kitchen."
    — Huey Long, campaign speech for the re-election of Senator Hattie Caraway (D-AR), 1932 (Williams p. 589)

    "What did the opposition have to offer? Nothing. All they could talk about was autocrats and high taxes and state debts. Well we have always had taxes, the state has always been in debt, but never until Huey Long was elected did the people get anything for their money.”
    — gas station attendant (Huey Long's Regime in Louisiana, Ingham County News – Mason, MI, Feb. 20, 1936)

    "He was a crook — but he had no money; a corrupt politician — but the cost of government [in Louisiana] is third-lowest in the country; a demagogue — but he kept his campaign promises; a hillbilly — but he had no racial prejudices; an ignoramus — but he ran a business administration; a dictator — but he broadened the suffrage; an opportunist — but he had ideals."
    — Washington Columnist Drew Pearson’s proposed epitaph in response to false charges against Long (reprinted in "Huey Long’s Regime in Louisiana," Ingham County News, Mason, Mich., Feb. 20, 1936) 

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