[Marxism] The Life and Passion of Henry A. Wallace

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Mar 27 10:47:13 MDT 2012

Counterpunch March 27, 2012

An Agrarian Progressive
The Life and Passion of Henry A. Wallace

In November 1940 an American drove from Washington DC to Mexico 
City. His road trip would turn out to be of great historical 
importance for the development of agriculture worldwide. In the 
course of this grand tour, he established the foundations and 
fundamentals of the green revolution, an agricultural revolution 
that in the following decades would transform food and agriculture 
all over the world. The green revolution was one of the single 
largest non-military undertakings of the twentieth century. 
Whether this global agricultural transformation was for better or 
for worse remains a matter of controversy.

The driver of that car in the Mexico countryside was Henry 
Wallace, former US secretary of agriculture and at that moment, 
the country’s vice president elect. The life of Henry A. Wallace, 
one of the most important forefathers of modern industrial 
agriculture, is an outstanding example of the idealism, 
contradictions and conflicting agendas behind the green 
revolution. Born in 1888 to a family of Irish immigrants, Wallace 
was the scion of a powerful Iowa agribusiness dynasty. His father, 
Henry C. Wallace, was agriculture secretary under presidents 
Harding and Coolidge.

As a child, Henry A. became friends with the great African 
American scientist George Washington Carver, whose trailblazing 
research into soils and crop rotation, and development of 
value-added products from peanuts, soy and sweet potato, earned 
him great esteem and honor in the United States and abroad.

“George Washington Carver was a major influence in the life of 
Young Henry. He met Carver when he was six years old. Carver was a 
student and colleague of Henry’s father at Iowa State College. His 
father invited the young Carver to the family home. Carver 
provided a scientific direction to Wallace’s interest and love of 
plants. Carver would take the young boy on walks collecting 
specimens in fields around Ames. He helped the boy identify 
species of plants and plant parts. In the greenhouse, he taught 
young Henry about plant breeding. They would experiment with sick 
plants and crop breeding.” (1)


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