From Labor Action, Vol. 4 No. 28, 21 October 1940, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
“A lot of what you say about the war is all right.” said Johnny, “and this war certainly is horrible. But still I don’t see any sense in being a pacifist I don’t believe in turning the other cheek when a guy lakes a smack at you.”
BILL: For a change, I agree with you 100 percent there. I’m not a pacifist either.
JOHNNY: But you say you’re against the war! And now you say you’re not a pacifist. Why don’t you make up your mind?
BILL: I see you think you’ve got me there, But you haven’t, not yet. You’re mixed up because you don’t know what a pacifist is.
JOHNNY: The hell I don’t! A pacifist is just a fellow who’s against war. Understand me, he may have a point to what he says about it, but you’ve got to be realistic.
BILL: I take it you’re not a pacifist either. OK. Suppose the United States sent the army down to Mexico to wipe up the Mexican people and take over the country – how would you feel about it?
JOHNNY: Sure I’d be against it, but that wouldn’t make a pacifist out of me. I’d be against that war because it would be a hijacking expedition. – You can’t trip me up that way.
BILL: You’ve already tripped yourself up. You’d be against THAT war but you wouldn’t be a pacifist. I’m against THIS war, and I’M not a pacifist. Catch on?
JOHNNY: You sound as if you make sense, but ...
BILL: All right, then, here’s the point. I’m against this war because I think it’s a war between hijackers and gangsters on both sides. A pacifist is against war JUST BECAUSE ITS WAR, because it means bloodshed and destruction and violence. That’s a different point of view, isn’t it? – A pacifist would be against ANY war for the same reason. I’m willing to support any war that’s in the interests of the workers. This one isn’t.
JOHNNY: All right, all right, maybe you’re not a pacifist. But there’s a fight going on now, and we’ve got to pick out our side and get behind it. You can’t just stand aside.
BILL: No SIR, you don’t always pick a side when there’s a fight. I’ll give you an example. Do you remember Dutch Schultz?
JOHNNY: Seems to me he was a gangster once ... way back in the wet days of prohibition, wasn’t it?
BILL: That’s it. He ran the beer racket in an outlying part of the United States called the Bronx. The gangsters had New York City all divided up into territories run by different strong-arm men.
JOHNNY: What’s all that got to do with ...?
BILL: Taking sides? You’ll see. – When the crash came in 1929. Schultz started losing a lot of business. Not because the citizens of the Bronx lost their taste for beer, but because they couldn’t afford to buy as much.
JOHNNY: Same thing happened to businessmen all over the country.
BILL: You mean OTHER businessmen, Schultz’s business wasn’t as crooked as a lot of others that were legal. – Well, when he lost his home market in the Bronx, he had to do something to keep his profits up. So he collected his gang, recruited a few unemployed gunmen, and decided to muscle in on the racketeer who controlled upper Manhattan. What do you think happened?
JOHNNY: I guess he found a gang-war on his hands.
BILL: Sure, the Manhattan racketeer muscled back. He was defending his own backyard. OK, what side do you take?
JOHNNY: Smart, ain’t you? Well. I don’t take sides in a gang-war.
BILL: Why not? Suppose the Manhattan gangster made you a speech and said: “Look, I’m a peaceful guy, see? I don’t go around looking for trouble, not since I bumped over my last batch of competitors. This guy Schultz, though, he’s attacking me. He’s the aggressor. Not only that, but he uses vomiting gas and I just use dum-dum bullets. It’s the duty of every good citizen to help me against this dirty gangster, or else he’ll move into Brooklyn next.”
JOHNNY: I get you. You think this war is just like that gang war.
BILL: Exactly the same. Between the two gangs I say: Let’s erase both of them, because all they’re fighting about is who’s to keep his hand in our pockets. Sure we take sides, but it’s a third side. It’s the side of the workers, against the owning class that exploits them now, as well as against the owning class that WANTS to exploit them. NOT PEOPLE AGAINST PEOPLE, BUT CLASS AGAINST CLASS.
Last updated on 28.10.2012