Oliver Stone discusses Pacifist Presidential Candidate Henry Wallace on DN!

Oliver Stone's Secret History of AmericaDemocracy Now! aired a  report on how “Academy Award-winning Oliver Stone has teamed up with historian Peter Kuznick to produce a 10-part Showtime series called “Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States.'”  They have also produced a book of the same name.

The series centers on the effect that the decision to drop the atomic bomb on Japan had on the history of the US.  In questioning whether it was necessary to drop the A-bomb, Stone and Kuznick explore the different path the United States almost took if the pacifist Henry Wallace had remained as  Franklin D. Roosevelt‘s Vice President and had won 1944 Presidential nomination of the Democratic Party.  In the interview, Stone discusses the success of the progressive policies of Wallace as FDR’s Secretary of Agriculture prior to becoming his second Vice President:


OLIVER STONE: Seeing the war clouds gathering clearly on the horizon, Roosevelt decided to break with precedent and run for a third term in 1940 against the strongly antiwar Republican candidate Wendell Willkie, a corporate attorney from Indiana. The stakes were high. The nation might soon be at war. Roosevelt weighed his options and chose his controversial secretary of agriculture, Henry A. Wallace, as his running mate. Wallace had overseen an extraordinary return to agricultural prosperity during the Great Depression. These policies had been at the heart of the New Deal. For the urban poor, Wallace also had provided food stamps and school lunches. He instituted programs for land-use planning and soil conservation. He carved out his credentials in the New Deal years as an outspoken anti-fascist. Instead of the scientific community’s best ally, Wallace spoke out strongly against the building up of false racial theories in rebuke of the Hitler policies in Germany.

HENRY WALLACE: “George Carver, born into slavery, now a chemist at Tuskegee University specializing in botany, first introduced me to the mysteries of plant fertilization. I spent a good many years breeding corn, because this scientist deepened my appreciation of plants in a way I could never forget. Superior ability is not the exclusive possession of any one race or any one class, provided men are given the right opportunities.”

It is disappointing that Stone and Kuznick  go on to downplay the ground-breaking nature of Wallace’s presidential run.   I discussed Wallace’s presidential run in the earlier post,  Wallace’s Are We Only Paying Lip Service to Peace?

The twelfth chapter of The Power of Nonviolence: Writings by Advocates of Peace  contains former Vice President Henry Wallace’s 1946 essay  Are We Only Paying Lip Service to Peace?.  Wallace ran for President on the Progressive Party line in 1948 campaigning in support of integration, equal voting rights, single-payer universal healthcare, and peaceful relations with the Soviet Union.

This is the extent of the Democracy Now! discussion of Wallace’s presidential run:

AMY GOODMAN: Henry Wallace would later run for president.

OLIVER STONE: He would, but as unsuccessful third-party candidate, and he was smeared repeatedly as a communist at that point. But the real drama is the ’44 convention.

PETER KUZNICK: And Wallace was very much of a visionary. He’s been lost to history. When I ask my students and other people, nobody knows Henry Wallace anymore. He was an extraordinary man. When Henry Luce in 1941 said the 20th century must be the American century, the United States could dominate the world in every way, Wallace countered as vice president, when he gave his famous speech, when he said the 20th century must be the century of the common man. He calls for a worldwide people’s revolution in the tradition of the American Revolution, the French Revolution, the Latin American Revolution and the Russian Revolution. He says we have to wipe out monopolies and cartels.

OLIVER STONE: Not bad versus all the [inaudible].

PETER KUZNICK: Right—monopolies and cartels. He says we’ve got to end colonialism, end imperialism, raise standards of livings around the world. And the U.S. and the Soviets have to collaborate to refashion the world at the end of the world. That was the vision that he had. The party bosses hated him, as did the Wall Street people. Wallace said that America’s fascists are those who think Wall Street comes first and the country comes second. The anti-labor people hated him. The people against civil rights hated him. And the people who were against women’s rights hated him. He was the exemplar of everything good that the Democratic Party has ever stood for.

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