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George Clarke

Workers Are Not Falling Readily for
Propaganda Blitzkrieg, Clarke Reports

(8 June 1940)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. IV No. 23, 8 June 1940, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – I should add a few words of correction to my previous description of the anti-war sentiment among the workers. The war hysteria is being pounded into the consciousness of the people by every streamlined device of capitalist propaganda and with a fury of a “blitzkrieg.” This “blitzkrieg” has in a few weeks been able to decimate vocal “peace” and isolationist sentiment almost as completely as Hitler’s dive bombers and tanks destroyed the opposing armies.

The first reaction among workers whom you engage in a discussion on the war consists almost universally of the emotional outburst: “Hitler is going too far. Something must be done to stop him.” The uniformity of this statement uttered by so many people makes it clear that this reaction has been compounded out of passionate and justified hatred of the fascist dictator – and fear whipped up by the capitalist press.

Yet one need only scratch a little deeper to discover that beneath this hysteria there is an understanding of the war and its causes which is based on far more substantial material. No other term can better describe this understanding than ANTI-CAPITALIST.

The ten years of depression and misery have by no means been eradicated from the minds of the masses by the poison gas of Roosevelt’s war barrage. The suspicion that the millionaire Hitlers of American finance and industry will use the war to rake in billions of dollars in profits is everywhere prevalent. The well- founded idea that the ruling plutocracy will utilize this slaughter to “blitzkrieg” all social legislation, will hike up hours and bomb hell out of wages and crush the trade unions – this idea has penetrated into millions of minds.

“The privileged princes of the new economic dynasties” – as Roosevelt once called them – will utilize this war against Hitler to establish a Hitlerite dictatorship in the Untied States. Workers don’t say this in exactly so many words today, but it is not difficult to see that it will not be long before they find their way to a clear formulation of this idea and then translate it in terms of action.

A Veteran Talks

Too many victims of World War 1 are still in circulation for the good of the multi-millionaire criminals who are dragging us into World War II. I talked to one of them here, a counterman in a small lunchroom. The conversation began along the lines I described above. But soon he began to break through the first emotional reaction. He handed me my coffee and began to talk:

“I served four years in the Canadian army on the western front. Most of this time we were up in the front lines. I’ll never forget the battle of Vimy Ridge [as he was talking this battle was happening all over again for the second time – G.C.]. It was a horrible sight. I was up in the front with a machine-gun crew. As the Germans came on we mowed them down like blades of grass. It was not that you wanted to do it – you had to, it was your life or theirs. And besides you were half full of rum.

“I have never been the same since the war. And that goes for most of us that were lucky to come back in one piece. People would laugh when a veteran would jump six feet out of his seat in a street car when he heard the sudden screech of the brakes. But it wasn’t so funny. Something inside of us was all twisted up.

And what did we get out of it? We went over there determined to get Kaiser Bill. But Kaiser Bill got a swell shack for himself in Holland after the war. Yes, and I see that’s one place neither side shoots up in this war. But we didn’t even get our jobs back. Then after we did finally land something, the depression came along and blew it all away. And now they’re starting the same thing all over again!”

He stopped for a minute to take care of his coffee urn. Then he came back.

“Boy,” he said looking straight at me, “this is one time when I don’t envy a man for his youth.”

* * *

Workers Regain Party

The public forum arranged that evening consisted with one or two exceptions of an audience entirely composed of workers. After the meeting a group of them remained to discuss further. It developed that this group – trade union militants and fighters for the unemployed – had been literally driven out of the party about a year ago by the petty-bourgeois element that then dominated the party in Rochester. When I explained to them the significance of the split with Burnham & Co., they could hardly restrain their expressions of delight. We had a lengthy discussion and they promised to return to the party. These additions to the S.W.P. are certain to give our Rochester organization new drive and help it for the first time to sink its roots in the workers movement.

* * *

BUFFALO – The war hysteria is making swift headway. But as frenzied as it may seem on the surface, there is one thing it can’t do. It can’t get people too enthusiastic about putting on a uniform and getting their heads shot off to fatten up J.P. Morgan and John D. Rockefeller.

Youth Seek Escape

I spoke to a group of young people here just out of high school and they all were devising special schemes to go A.W.O.L. when M-Day came along. Most of them had their eyes on some kind of special job that would keep them out of the army. They weren’t entirely certain they could get away with it but they were hoping ... After they listened to me explain how rigidly the M-Day plans were set up, they weren’t so confident of their little schemes any more.

What I was trying to tell them – and I think the point got over – was this: If you can’t get a job now, or if they won’t give you one when production is beginning to zoom with war orders, what chance do you think you’ll have after the war is over when there will be no reason to producing tens of thousands of airplanes and other war equipment? You don’t have anything to gain out of this system except a bellyfull of bullets. And if you don’t like the set-up the Big Shots will go after you in a way that will make Butcher Hitler look like a 100% democrat.

The Workers’ War

It’s time to start thinking – and doing – about the workers real war, the war against Wall Street and its fuehrer in the White House, the war for jobs, hope and opportunity for the young people who have skill, ambition and intelligence enough to rebuild this country ten times over. And that war will be your war – you won’t have to be thinking about A.W.O.L. then. There will be a reason to fight.

* * *

Hundreds of copies of the special steel workers edition of the Socialist Appeal were distributed to the workers at the huge Lackawana Steel Works, affiliate of Bethlehem Steel, and in the company town of Lackawanna. Everywhere the slogan of the six hour day at eight hours pay was favorably received. If the SWOC ever intends to organize Bethlehem steel, they had better wake up and start fighting for the six-hour day at eight hours pay. That’s the only way to force money-bags Eugene Grace to sign up.

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