J.R. Johnson

Labor and the Second World War

(3 November 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 84, 3 November 1939, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.


Franklin Roosevelt, War-Monger

On April 14, addressing the Governing Board of the Pan-American Union in New York, Franklin Roosevelt, war-monger ,warned all foreign powers to keep their hands off “continental America.” In other words, Latin America was the exclusive property of American imperialism.

On April 16, Franklin Roosevelt, war-monger, asked Congress for $200,000,000 to widen the Panama Canal for war. On July 2, the National Guard staged a big war demonstration in Chicago, with tramping men, bombing planes flying, martial music playing.

On August 18, Queen’s University, at Kingston, Ontario, conferred an honorary degree on the President. In his speech of acceptance, Franklin Roosevelt, war-monger, pledged the armed forces of the Americas for the defense of Canada.

On September 25, when the German-Czechoslovakian crisis became acute, Franklin Roosevelt, never missing a chance, addressed appeals for peace to Hitler and Benes. In reality those letters were addressed to the American people, preparing them for war. What else did Roosevelt mean by this: “The supreme desire of the American people is to live in peace. But in the event of a general war they face the fact that no nation can escape the consequences of such a world catastrophe.” Day by day he drummed war into the ears and dangled it before the eyes of the American people.

War requires national unity. On October 15, Roosevelt issued an appeal to business to cooperate with the government. Above all, war requires a docile labor movement, and one of the war-monger’s main preoccupations is to get the C.I.O. and the A.F. of L. united so that he can “discipline” them. To the A.F. of L. convention, in the fall, he wrote a letter asking for a settlement of their quarrel with the C.I.O.

The Lima Swindle

On October 14, the War Office announced that it had completed a survey of ten thousand factories for the purpose of working out a skeleton organization to coordinate production in war. From the factory owners, said the War Office, it had met with a spirit of complete cooperation. No doubt. The war is for their benefit. These gentlemen do not go to war themselves, and they pile up enormous profits.

On October 26, Franklin Roosevelt, war-monger, said in a radio speech that the war plans must be completely overhauled and accelerated. On November 15, he raised a new slogan, “continental defense.” The land, sea, and air forces would he brought to the level needed for action anywhere from the Arctic Circle to Cape Horn. He would hang his war-helmet on any peg, the higher the better. Near the end of the year be announced his delegation to the Lima conference.

This Lima conference was the most potent of all the threadbare swindles Roosevelt has been perpetrating on the people. The largest of the Latin American countries, Brazil, is a fascist state. So is Bolivia. So is Paraguay. In fact, there are not more than half a dozen “democracies” in all Latin America. But with the coming war in mind, Cordell Hull, under Roosevelt’s orders, spent weeks intriguing for a declaration of solidarity in the name of American “democracies.” The end of 1938 saw Hull bringing back to his master the lying Declaration of Lima. Hull did not state that his hardest job at the Conference had been to stifle a resolution by the Latin American countries against, not Hitler and Mussolini, but against American intervention in Latin America on behalf of American investors. The best that Hull could do was postpone it for five years.

Roosevelt celebrated the end of the year by announcing on December 28 that he would build ten thousand war planes. Thus ends a short summary of Roosevelt’s work for “democracy” and “peace” in 1938.

Look at the Record

Naturally 1939 saw him step up the furious pace of 1938. We can only point to the highlights. A war budget of $1,319,558,000. On January 31, he said that America’s frontier was “in France.” He attacked his old enemy, the Ludlow referendum. Let the people vote on war? No, said Roosevelt. Eleanor Roosevelt wrote a special article in Liberty denouncing the bid.

He fought to remove the embargo on the sale of arms. Today he mouths phrases about neutrality. But months before the war had begun in Europe, he announced that America would go in. Speaking at Warm Springs in Georgia in the spring of 1939, he said he would go back in the fall “if we don’t have a war.” The Washington Post interpreted this to mean that a new war was rapidly approaching and that it was hopeless to believe that America could keep out. In one of his press conferences, Roosevelt warmly approved this editorial.

Think back for a moment, workers and farmers, and see the pit that American imperialism has been digging for you through its agent and grave-digger, Franklin Roosevelt. This incomparable liar, while carrying on sham battles with the monied interests, has in reality been doing their job better than they could do it themselves, for he still has a little popularity with the masses. Only space prevents us from amplifying this terrible catalogue, but we have said enough to show that he is the most dangerous demagogue who ever sat in the White House and the greatest living menace to the peace and security of the American people.

The Attack on the Workers

Your imperialist has to prepare his armaments and whip up people. But whether he is fascist or “democratic,” he has also to “discipline” the working class movement in order to carry on his war.

In November of 1938 the W.P.A. stood at an all-time high. Why? Through Roosevelt’s concern for workers in the cold days of winter? Nonsense. Election Day is the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November and Roosevelt wanted the workers’ votes. As soon as the elections were over, Roosevelt began a nationwide assault on labor, attacking the democratic rights of the workers, and striking at W.P.A. and relief.

Roosevelt’s Supreme Court, by its decision in the Fansteel case, outlawed the sit-down strike. A Philadelphia court gave the Apex Hosiery Company damages of nearly three-quarters of a million dollars against the Hosiery Workers Union. Girdler’s Republic Steel followed this pointer by suing the C.I.O. for seven and a half million dollars of damages during the 1937 strike, including loss of trade. No more deadly weapon was ever discovered by a capitalist government than this decision to penalize striking workers for capitalist loss of trade. In effect it bars all strikes. In Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Oregon the legislatures. passed laws forbidding mass picketing.

Congress cut the wages of building workers on the W.P.A., and Roosevelt came out with the declaration, “You can’t strike against the government.” At the same time he sought to break the spirit of the workers by slash after slash at the W.P.A. Roosevelt proposed an appropriation of $875,000,000, and Congress, in opposition proposed one of $725,000,000. There was a great battle, Roosevelt supposedly for the workers and Congress against them. But few workers (except those who received their pink slips) noticed that Roosevelt’s own figure meant driving thousands of workers into starvation. Later even these sham fights were abandoned. Roosevelt’s proposed appropriation for the W.P.A. in his April 27 budget message was so low that no one in Congress, neither Republican nor “Tory” Democrat, found it too high. The F.B.I. and the Federal court seized the opportunity of the Minneapolis W.P.A. strike to launch a bitter attack at the workers of that militant town.

With the beginning of the war in Europe, Roosevelt strained like a hound on the leash. Before two weeks of war he declared a state of “partial national emergency.” He appointed special members of the F.B.I. to investigate “subversive activities,” i.e., all those who mean resolutely to oppose the war. Attorney-General Murphy made a tour of the whole country looking for spies. It is the same old trick. All who expose the war-mongers and their plans will be called “spies” and German agents, and the unthinking among the masses of the people will be incited against those who try to warn them.

(Continued in Next Issue)

Last updated on 18 April 2018