Paul Temple

Yes, It’s a Rich Man’s War – And a Poor Man’s Fight!

(October 1940)

From Labor Action, Vol. 4 No. 26, 7 October 1940, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

“When are you getting yourself married, Johnny?” asked Bill, and drank his beer while his pal registered surprise, indignation and disgust.

JOHNNY: Who, me? No SIR, I’m smart. What put that in your head?

BILL: Well, everybody seems to be doing it. It’s getting so a girl can’t tell whether it’s love or the draft.

JOHNNY: Me, I’d rather run away to Mexico than to a preacher. These fellows getting married to avoid the draft are just a bunch of, cowards.

BILL: I don’t believe in running away to Mexico or anywhere else; but I think you’re a bit too harsh on them. And considering that it takes at least two to make a marriage, there must be hundreds of thousands of others who’d do the same if they could. Then you can add the fellows who’re trying to get into an industry, that’ll keep them out of a uniform. It’s practically a mass movement.

JOHNNY: I still say they’re just afraid of risking their hides.

BILL: Sure, there may be some cowards among them, but you won’t convince me that the run of American workers are yellow. I’ll tell you what’s the trouble: THEY’RE VOTING.

JOHNNY: Voting?

BILL: That’s it. They’re voting on the draft. They’re not afraid to “risk their hides” but they don’t want to get skinned at home. so they’re voting in the only way they can. A majority of the workers are against this draft bill anyway. They’re saying to the war-birds: We’re not enthusiastic about this war of yours.

Some Will Beat The Draft

JOHNNY: Maybe so ... but now that it’s passed, everybody’s got to stand by. If these fellows duck out, the next guy has to take the rap.

BILL: Well, in that they’re only taking lessons from their upper class “betters”. THE BIGGEST JOB OF DRAFT-DODGING isn’t going to be done by working stiffs but BY THE OWNING CLASS AND THEIR SONS.

JOHNNY: You mean they’ll BUY their way.

BILL: I’m not thinking of that right now, though it’s not impossible. That was legally done during the Civil War draft as a matter of fact. A man then could buy exemption by paying $300 to the government, but naturally the common people kicked. They yelled it was “a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight”. But the Fat Boys know they couldn’t get away with that raw stuff today.

JOHNNY: Well, NOW all the numbers are going to be taken out of a hat like in a bingo game. Can’t be anything fairer than that, one, fellow stands as much chance of being tagged as the next, no matter how rich he is. – Tag! You’re IN! – that’s democracy.

BILL: OK, now you’re in for a lesson in democracy. Before the numbers are put into the hat, the men are “classified”. After that some of the men don’t play bingo at all. You know why?

JOHNNY: Certainly, I read about that. If the draft board says you’re needed in your job, you’re exempted – I mean “deferred”.

BILL: If you’re needed in your job ... all right, now, who’s going to be needed?

JOHNNY: Why, a lot of highly skilled workmen in the first place ...

BILL: You’re a cafeteria counterman. YOU aren’t needed, that is, somebody could take your place in very little time. Same for the busboys, dishwashers and even the chefs. They can get women. So who IS really necessary in all of Lunt’s Cafeterias?

JOHNNY: Nobody, I guess.

BILL: You’re wrong there. The draft board is going to say, the MOST NECESSARY man in the chain is – Mr. Lunt. You see, HIS “job” is owning, and nobody can legally substitute for him in that.

Go down the line of all his managers, high-powered executives, vice-presidents, etc. They can all claim they’re “necessary” too. Or take young Lunt Jr., his old man can give him any necessary job he feels like in the system, After all, the draft rules say that it’s the BOSS who certifies whether or not the job is “necessary”. And it’s the rich men’s sons who are going to fill up the paper-work jobs in the government bureaus that’ll run the war machinery.

JOHNNY: Hell, it’d be better business to charge them the $300 for their exemption!

BILL: Sure, there’s more real discrimination this way than there was before. But notice that it just “happens” to come out that way ... because it “happens” that business and industry are privately owned by capitalists, who are ALL-POWERFUL inside their businesses. The “democracy” of this draft system can’t be anything but a joke as long as there’s no democracy in the economic life of the country.

JOHNNY: What was it they said in the Civil War? ... “A rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight” ...

Last updated on 28.10.2012