J.R. Johnson

Labor and the Second World War

(7 November 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 87, 7 November 1939, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.



The people, particularly the workers, need to be warned! Roosevelt talks about democracy but he is preparing, as soon as war breaks out, to fasten an iron dictatorship upon the workers of this country. The plans for it are called M-Day. The M stands for mobilization, and mobilization this time includes not only soldiers but every worker in town and country. The draft registration blanks are ready, lists of draft boards are on file, the draft bill has been written, a skeleton draft administration is already in operation. This is the way that Roosevelt strives to keep America out of war.

Moreover, the M-Day plan provides for a dozen different ways of crushing the labor movement and prohibiting strikes. Only labor unions that accept the labor conditions imposed by the war dictatorship will be tolerated. The draft law makes it possible to break a strike by drafting into the trenches the strike leaders or, better, all the militant workers involved. Or they can be drafted into the army and made to work in the factory under martial law. Or workers in uniform can be called from the training camps to act as scabs.

Already compiled is a list of labor and social legislation to be abolished by the President’s decree. Minimum wage and hour laws will be scrapped. Laws limiting child and woman labor will be scrapped. Trade union contracts will be subject to cancellation – by Roosevelt’s board. The N.L.-R.B. will give way to Roosevelt’s war board. A tight censorship of the press and radio will be imposed, and a propaganda department for the dissemination of lies set up.

The first fatality in a war for “democracy” is democracy.

Franklin Roosevelt, Tool of American Capital

And for whose benefit? Let the facts speak. On August 9, 1939, well in advance of the beginning of the war in Europe, Roosevelt appointed the members of the war board that will take over America and exercise dictatorial power upon America’s entry.

Here are the men who will rule the country: E.R. Stettinius, Jr., chairman of the U.S. Steel Corporation; Walter S. Gifford, president of American Telephone and Telegraph Company; J.L. Pratt, director of General Motors Corporation; General R.E. Wood, head of Sears Roebuck; Karl T. Compton, president of Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Harold G. Moulton, head of Brookings Institute.

U.S. Steel, which during the last war made millions of dollars in war profits, is controlled by J.P. Morgan and Company. American Tel and Tel is another subsidiary of J.P. Morgan. General Motors is controlled by the duPont interests, and these are a sector of the financial empire of J.P. Morgan. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is a Morgan-subsidized university. Of the whole board only Sears, Roebuck, run by another of the Sixty Families who own America, and Brookings Institute, the official statistician for all of them, are outside the Morgan colossus.

The workers will be delivered bound and gagged to their most merciless exploiters and notorious enemies. Roosevelt however had acted too brazenly. Even some of his New Deal supporters protested against this early exposure of the fact that the war is an imperialist war run for and by the imperialists. Roosevelt temporarily dismissed the board. But he will bring them or their friends back again, with perhaps a labor “leader” or two to placate public opinion. The next time the censorship and the F.B.I. will see to it that there is no opposition. And all this has been prepared and polished and made ready for immediate use by Franklin Roosevelt, who for years has passed himself off as a friend of the people.

What Is This “Democracy”?

One indisputable truth emerges. If the people were anxious to go to war for “democracy,” then war preparations, this many-sided, devious, incessant propaganda, this iron cage of M-Day, would not be necessary. Why is it that the people have to be dragooned into fighting for “democracy”? Simply because the great masses of the people do not see anything in “democracy” to fight for.

There are today in America some ten to twelve million unemployed, who with their dependents constitute in all some twenty-five to thirty million people, a fifth of the population of the richest country in the world. Capitalist “democracy” condemns them to starvation.

Those that do get work are remorselessly speeded-up. If we set the 1932 output per man-hour in the manufacturing industries of the country as 100, we find that in 1938 it was 115. But the 1936 labor cost per unit, on the same basis, was only 106. Speed-up for the workers plus more profits for the capitalists equals still greater concentration of wealth into the hands of the few.

The percentage of the wages paid in 1937 was 82.1 of those paid in 1929. But the percentage of dividends was 83.8, and of interest 89.5. Always it works out to still greater wealth in the hands of still fewer people.

And goods for use? Industrial production, for the first five months of each year, was 122 in 1929, 67 in 1932, 119 in 1937, 79 in 1938. This is capitalist “democracy,” with millions never knowing where they are from one day to another. The production index has crawled slowly upward since 1938, but Roosevelt knows it will never in peace time reach the 1929 level again, though every year sees an increase in the population, with still more people demanding work and food and shelter. At intervals between his warmongering, he raises his voice to the empty air: “We must get the idle men and idle capital together.” But God has said no word, and as nobody else knows how to do this in peace, Roosevelt prepares to go to war.

The Negro and “Democracy”

The great warriors in defense of “democracy” raise their voices in horror at Hitler’s treatment of the Jews. Protest is stifled and cynicism itself struck dumb at the sound of such words from such mouths. For three hundred years the rulers of America have persecuted the Negroes. Slavery was abolished only when it had become a drag on capitalist production. And since 1863, the year of manumission, American capitalism has Jim-Crowed and lynched Negroes, has deprived them of Opportunities to raise themselves from debasement, and, worst of all, has succeeded in poisoning the minds of their brother workers against them, in order to keep the working class divided and therefore weak. If American “democracy” had nothing to its discredit but its treatment of the Negro, that would still be sufficient to blast its pretensions as a defender of civilization.

(Continued in Next Issue)

Last updated on 18 April 2018