Harry Frankel

“Youth Are Not Interested in Politics,” ...

(8 June 1940)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. IV No. 23, 8 June 1940, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

In a recent forum, one political spokesman for the capitalist class emphasized the fact that the youth do not seem to be attracted to “politics.” By “politics” he meant the grime and filth of the American two party system. The months and years to come will prove that this speaker understands very little of either the youth or politics. His mistake is that he tries to limit the choice of the youth to his own dirty pig pen. But no such limitation is possible. The deepening of the world crisis will attract the youth more and more to the politics of the working class.

For eleven years the youth of America has served as the pitiful and patient whipping boy for American capitalism. The worst sweat work, the most uncertain jobs, the odds and ends, the scraps and leavings from the meager table of the rest of the working class went to the youngsters.

The figures on this topic are always startling. Six or seven million young people without steady employment of any sort. Millions of sons and daughters of painfully impoverished working class families. Every year more than 500,000 new recruits for a growing army of hopelessness pour from the schools and tenements. Hundreds of thousands who bum their way from town to town. It is as though this whole generation were suddenly cut off by some huge blank wall from every possibility of productive labor for itself and for society.

The new world war comes as a fitting climax to this. The youth are to be torn to bits by some high explosive shell that they never even got a chance to manufacture. In huge quantities, America’s most precious natural resource will soon be shipped off and floated across the water like logs to a sawmill. Capitalism can no longer make a profit out of our work, but it can make one out of our death.

Even now there are still those fond parents who delude themselves with the hope that in a broken trigger finger or in cultivated flat feet lies the hope for their son’s safety. The lame and the crippled are those accounted the most fortunate today. But what are the prospects for those who are able to avoid the battlefield for a while and raise themselves on the bodies of the war dead to a job in America’s factories? Here again, the youth of this country can see their fate clearly pictured in the European nations.

What Happened to Youth in England

When the war broke out, weekly hours leaped to 60 and over for boys and girls in English industry. Since that time, hours have been stabilized at 57 per week for children under 16 and 18 years of age, according to the recent report of the British Home Office as related in the Manchester Guardian. Night work for girls, not so long ago the most insidious enemy of British womanhood according to budding young orators for the Liberal Party, has been restored. This is going on in the land of the most advanced and deeply rooted social legislation in the capitalist world. The Factories Act has not been repealed. Its vital provisions are simply set aside by permits from the Home Office.

In the years when youthful British capitalism was piling up the surplus of wealth which gave it world domination, the most brutal exploitation of child and youthful labor was the rule. Stories of children driven half naked with cuffs and blows to the factories only to fall asleep at the loom were often uncovered by investigating commissions. Now, in its last years, English imperialist rule props itself up on the same supports. The only difference is that the Liberal Party orators say nothing today, while the Labor Party orators have entered the government and direct their rebukes to unpatriotic children!

This is the future that America’s youth are offered by the bosses. When a world slaughter at last makes jobs available, they will be jobs at low wages and long hours – for some of us. For the vast majority of us the draft machine is already prepared to push us between the grinding millstones of the Western Front.

Do the forum lecturers and the bosses’ apologists really believe that the youth will go through all this without going into “politics”? We know better. We know that the day is not far away when the young unemployed and young workers will find their way to the politics that will sweep from the earth the system which has caused them so much suffering. They will find the leadership for this task not in the “politics” of the two boss parties, but in the party of working class revolution – the Socialist Workers Party.

Last updated on 31 January 2019