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450,000 Face Lay-Offs in Aircraft

Government Has No Plan to Provide Employment

Administration Schemes to Give Big Business
Control over Production, Jobs and Prices

(2 June 1945)

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 22, 2 June 1945, pp. 1 & 3
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

As government propagandists and the Big Business press continue to pour out lying reassurances about employment prospects and speedy reconversion, the official war production agencies are swinging the axe of mass unemployment on the necks of more hundreds of thousands of war workers.

Over 450,000 workers in aircraft assembly, engine and parts plants are now slated for the unemployment scrap heap by the end of this year. This is the latest ominous announcement from the War Production Board in Washington. It declared on May 26 that this huge total of workers will be ‘released’ in this single industry as the result of Army aircraft production cutbacks.

By January 1, 1946 the number of unemployed in the aircraft and shipbuilding industries alone will total some 1,500,000. The previous announcement of President Truman and the action of Congress in slicing two-thirds from the shipbuilding appropriations of the Maritime Commission, it is officially admitted, will throw over 1,000,000 shipyard workers out of jobs.

In many other key industries, mass layoffs have been proceeding gradually, with the intent of avoiding publicity and concealing their true extent. Thus, according to R.J. Thomas, president of the CIO United Automobile Workers, employment in the Michigan auto industry has already been slashed 20 per cent, from the peak of over a million down to 800,000, with the really big and drastic layoffs slated for the immediate future.

Negroes Hit Hard

Unemployment among Negro workers, who constitute over 10 per cent of the nation’s labor force, threatens to be catastrophic. In the New York area alone, points out the New York daily PM, May 27, tens of thousands of Negroes, “especially in the shipbuilding and aircraft industries face unemployment as the result of postwar industrial discrimination.” Because the Negro workers were last to be hired in the war industries, they are the first slated to be fired now for lack of seniority.

The administration is attempting to quiet the fears of the organized workers and muffle the inevitable political, repercussions that will result when labor fully realizes the true prospects in store for it. Officials have been peddling a lot of vague talk about “speedy reconversion” and a big revival and expansion of various consumers goods industries, such as autos and household goods.

After it had inspired headlines about tremendous automobile and mechanical refrigeration production in the near future, the War Production Board, according to an item buried in the May 24 N.Y. Times, admits “shortages may hold up large scale reconversion of such civilian producers as the automotive and mechanical refrigerator industries.” The Times acknowledges this in a WPB build-up for “future announcements that earlier predictions of civilian goods production in 1945 were over-optimistic.”

The truth is that the capitalist government has no genuine plans to provide lasting jobs at decent wages for the millions who are being or are about to be thrown on the streets. Even those most immediately responsible for administering any official employment program are beginning to admit the bankruptcy of government planning

No Plans Ready

At a meeting on May 28 in New York City of the National Conference of Social Work, attended by some 4,000 manpower, labor, production and community welfare officials, one after another of the leading speakers warned that “unemployment figures will jump sharply soon because of ‘inadequate planning’,” (N.Y. Times, May 29).

Stephen Sheriden, New York area director of the War Manpower Commission, proclaimed government plans for full postwar employment are only “a hope and a prayer.” Victor S. Riesenfeld, employer member of the area War Manpower Commission’s Labor-Management Committee, revealed that “reconversion” plans are either “in the blueprint stage or just don’t make any sense.” New York City Welfare Commissioner Harry W. Marsh bemoaned the huge relief problem facing the largest city in the country and complained that unless the government took “extraordinary” measures not yet contemplated there would be a “substantial drop” in employment.

What then are the administration’s real plans? War Production Board Chairman Krug gave a pretty clear intimation on May 27. On the one hand, he proposed in effect that the problem of jobs and reconversion be placed entirely in the hands of Big Business monopoly, who are to be freed of a “myriad of rules and regulations.” He wants to “lift the ceiling on initiative, imagination and resourcefulness” by leaving to the private businessmen “the choice of what and how to produce, buy and sell.” Thus, the monopoly and profit interests of the capitalists alone are to rule the question of jobs, production and prices. This is a full swing back to Hoover’s program of 1932.

Leave It to “Time”

But what of the workers? Coldbloodedly Krug admits that many war-boom areas will be stricken with unemployment, but he opposes plans for public works projects or additional government contracts which “would merely postpone the eventual day of reckoning.” He advises that “we must not be stampeded by such dislocations into elaborate controls or special dispensations.” Smugly, he assures, “time will solve such dislocations.”

This is the true picture now emerging. The millions of workers who will be stranded in the new ghost towns and areas left in the wake of war production cut-backs are to be subjected to the tender mercies of “time.” How they are to live, where they are to go, will be no great concern of the Wall Street government. Like the “Oakies” and other dispossessed workers of the 1929–39 depression, the postwar unemployed millions will be left “free” to wander in hunger, misery and disease over the face of the land until they are absorbed by “time.”

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