Art Preis Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Joseph Keller

Vets Begin to March

(2 February 1946)

From The Militant, Vol. X No. 5, 2 February 1946, p. 8.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

It was nearly 14 years, from 1918 to 1932, before the veterans of World War I resorted to various forms of mass action, such as marches on state capitals and Washington, in order to fight for their interests.

Now, less than six months after V-J Day, veterans of World War II are beginning to take up where their fathers left off when MacArthur scourged the 1932 Bonus Marchers out to Washington with fire and bayonet.

On January 24, the country witnessed the first veterans’ march on a seat of government when 600 former GIs, members of the striking United CIO Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, converged on the state capitol in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

The capitalist press, even the dailies in Pennsylvania, gave very little publicity to this significant event. They fear such actions may spread. Moreover this demonstration, unlike Its forerunners of the early ’30s, was organized by union members in a strike struggle.

* * *

These striking veterans, from Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Erie, Farrell and Sharon, marched in a shouting body to the capitol building in Harrisburg. They demanded to see Governor Martin and threatened to camp in the Senate chamber until they had their case heard.

The banners they carried showed where a large part of the returned veterans stand, despite the Brass Hat and Big Business scheme to turn them against organized labor.

“We Refuse to Scab – Pay Us Our Bonus,” “We Demand Equal Rights as American Citizens” and “We sweated it out for our country, we will sweat it out for $2 a day.”

These slogans refer to the fact that the veterans are not only denied their compensation under the GI “Bill Of Gripes” because they are on strike. They are also denied state unemployment compensation because they haven’t, in many instances, worked long enough to accumulate benefits under the state law.

Their willingness to “sweat it out for $2 a day” expresses their determination to back the strike of General Electric and Westinghouse UE workers for a $2 a day wage increase.

* * *

Specifically, the marchers demanded a special session of the State Legislature to vote a veterans’ bonus, provide striking veterans with state unemployment compensation and take prompt action on housing for returned veterans and their families who are suffering from the severe housing shortage. Veterans in other states are also raising these demands.

George I. Bloom, Governor Martin’s secretary, and Secretary of Labor and Industry William H. Chestnut, who met the veterans, completely evaded the issues. Bloom blew up the conference with the veterans’ committee when he asked to know about “communistic” influence on the marchers: The Governor, he said, would be “very much interested” in knowing if the veterans were “being used by Communists.”

The veterans are regarded as “heroes” by the capitalist rulers only so long as they serve as cannon-fodder. When they fight for their rights as workers and ex-servicemen, they are treated as nuisances and insultingly slapped across the face with a red-herring.

Preis Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 16 October 2018