If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

November 1943

 

I should be grateful if you would point out the essential differences between Nazism, Fascism, Communism and Socialism.

Nazism is a German form of Fascism which has certain bad aspects of its own in addition to those which are characteristic of Fascism. The National Socialist state allows the holding of private property, but all industry and business is regulated by a strong national government, and therefore they have been able to remake the whole industrial setup of Europe, where they have conquered the countries and control them, as it has never been done before. All of this, of course, was done to further their aggression. Their leader, Adolf Hitler, is a dictator whose word is law. One of their tenets, of course, is that the German people are a race of supermen who are going to conquer the world. This race must not be contaminated by any other blood, and therefore all other races are either to be used as slaves or exterminated in the way they have tried to do with the Jews. Nazism, of course, considers that religious beliefs are part of the state function, and they have reduced all religion to something similar to a worship of the old German myths.

Fascism began in Italy in 1922 under Mussolini. It did not, of course, hold to the same race theory as Nazism and therefore did not persecute the Jews until after the close tie-up with Germany, when they followed suit. Their theories of government are similar to the Nazis'.

Communism is a system by which production and distribution are managed by the government and the products are shared by all citizens. It is a system of social organization in which large powers are given to small political units or communes. In Russia, where Communism has become a form of government, Joseph Stalin has become the equivalent of a dictator, in that his plans and directions have been accepted. There are great differences between Nazism and Communism, in that in Russia the people had been oppressed for years and allowed practically no education, so that one of the first things done under Communism was to plan for mass education. Though Mr. Stalin is a dictator, his efforts have been to help the people to prepare themselves for greater power. There is a Gestapo system under Fascism and Nazism, and there is one under the Communists. This is perhaps the worst way in which dictatorships resemble each other. Such systems arise where government is afraid of being overthrown. Originally Communism was intended as a world revolution for all oppressed people. That theory is abandoned today and it has become a system, confined to Russia, which seems to be acceptable to the Russian people and to be gradually giving them education and greater control over their own government.

Socialism is not now practiced in any country except by small groups. It is, however, a system by which the means of production and distribution of all essentials are owned by the government and shared alike by all citizens. The Scandinavian countries were once considered to be the best exponents of what Socialism might really give to a country. Certain things in our own country—for instance, our postal system—are examples of Socialism. Both Communism and Socialism are opposed to Capitalism.

 

Why should the wives of servicemen who were married since Pearl Harbor receive monthly allotments from the Government? Girls who have been married since that date knew there was a war and should assume such responsibilities for their support themselves, don't you think?

Because the soldier has a right to allow such amount of his pay as he desires to the person dependent upon him, and the law says that the Government shall add a certain amount, there is no distinction made as to the period when the marriage occurred. I do not think there is any reason why girls who have been married since Pearl Harbor should assume full responsibility for their support. One does not stop life just because there is a war on. There is a rule that a man is not exempt from military service if he married after Pearl Harbor, and that is to prevent people from getting out of service by marrying just for that purpose. If a man is in service, whether he married before or after Pearl Harbor, I think his wife has a right to anything he wishes to allot to her.

 

Do you really think all men are created equal?

Yes, but they do not always have an equal opportunity for development, either before or after birth.

 

Do you believe that our soldiers and workers in defense plants should work on Sunday?

When there is need to do so, I think all of us should work on Sunday. There is a parable in the Bible which I think very clearly suggests the fact that work which is needed should always be done.

 

It has always been my belief that everyone has a right to live. Now I am asked to send my husband off with my blessing to destroy the lives of other men. Do you think this is right?

I am afraid that when it is a question of either destroying someone else or being destroyed, there is very little choice for most of us, and those of us who believe that people have a right to live until they die from natural causes must work for peace between wars, because, once war starts, our natural instinct for self-preservation is going to make all of us fight.

 

Why is it that movie stars enter the armed forces as commissioned officers when unknown boys have to enter as privates?

Very few people today are commissioned until they have done their three months of basic training, whether they are movie stars or anything else. If a man shows qualities or has done something in the past which makes it possible for him to render more service as a commissioned officer, whether he is a movie star or someone whom no one has ever heard of before, he will be commissioned.

 

Why are able-bodied young-men school teachers permitted to remain in the schoolroom when our country so desperately needs men in war production plants?

Has it ever occurred to you that our country is going to need educated people desperately in the next generation, and that schoolteachers doing their jobs well are more valuable to the future of the country than the next men in any war plant?

 

Why are farm boys still being called into the armed services after having been told they were essential and were to be deferred?

The Tydings Amendment states that a man must be found to be a necessary man regularly engaged in agricultural occupation for whom no replacement is available. If the replacement becomes available—such as an older brother's release from the Army—then the boy becomes subject to the draft. If a boy has just a small acreage and his production is not much more than enough to live on, he isn't considered a necessary man in agriculture. A man, for instance, might have five sons, and three sons could do the work on the farm, so the others would be subject to draft. The deferment did not amount to a blanket deferment.

 

Why have men who are over thirty-eight years of age and who have remained in the United States been discharged from the Army, while those over thirty-eight who are on foreign soil are not being discharged?

The War Department says that enlisted men overseas who are over thirty-eight may be discharged under the same conditions as those in this country, except the enlisted men overseas will not be released unless a suitable trained replacement is present and available. It would be up to the overseas commander to decide whether a suitable trained replacement was available.

 

Can you tell me if a soldier can take away the allotment from his wife without a good cause where there is a baby on the way?

Under the Service Men's Dependency Allowance Act, the soldier is required to contribute $22 a month to his wife. That is called Class F deduction. The Government contributes $28 in the case of a wife alone, and proportionate amounts above that for each child. The soldier has nothing to say about it and can't prevent the wife from getting it. A soldier may, of course, make an allotment of an additional amount of his pay over the $22. The $22 is taken out, but anything extra he allots is entirely up to him, and this extra amount is purely voluntary on his part and can be stopped at any time he wishes to stop it.

 

Why shouldn't people who eat their meals at restaurants have to turn in their ration books?

I imagine you mean why don't people have to turn in their points, instead of their ration books, to restaurants. The chief reason why this ruling was not put in the original ration order was mainly that they were unable to develop the administrative procedure for doing it. The OPA has been studying the possibility of such a system, but working it out is a difficult matter, and thus far they have not been able to find a system which they think would be entirely satisfactory.

The restaurants in Great Britain do not require their patrons to pay points for the same reason, and because they felt that such a small percentage of the people ate in restaurants. Their system of government restaurants was inaugurated to supplement their very limited rations.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, November 1943

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
[ ERPP bio | VIAF | WorldCat | DPLA | SNAC ]

Ladies' Home Journal, volume 60, November 1943

Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project

Digital edition published 2014, 2016 by
The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project
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