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James M. Fenwick

Off Limits

(11 March 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. X No. 10, 11 March 1946, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the ETOL.

General Bradley, administrator of Veterans Affairs, recently made public figures on veterans’ unemployment which are of more than passing interest.

There are 1,000,000 veterans unemployed. In addition, there are 1,500,000 veterans who are “not yet actively seeking work.” Further, Bradley revealed, “the unemployment rate for veterans in the labor force is about three times as high as the rate for the civilian labor force as a whole.”

The first point of interest is that despite the enormous strides made in industrial reconversion and despite the large market for consumers goods which exists, United States capitalism is proving unable to furnish work for all those who desire it. Already United States labor is beginning to feel the effects of the enlarged and improved plant equipment created during the war – improvements which were made at the expense of the necessary working force.

What is foreshadowed here is the permanent army of unemployed which characterizes capitalist production in the United States even during the best peace-time years.

The Veterans’ Problem

The second point of interest is that unemployment among veterans is three limes as great as among the civilian labor force as a whole. This is due not only to the competitive advantage enjoyed by non-veterans, who had access to the jobs sooner and had more experience, but to a conscious discrimination by many employers, who have found veterans “unstable” – that is to say have found the veterans the most uncompromising in pressing union demands against the employer.

The danger in this situation, and a danger which can become acute in the future, is that the “civilian” worker will be pitted against the worker who was a veteran.

Capital has already made more than one attempt to do this in an effort to divert hatred from the system of capitalism itself, which is the root cause of unemployment, to sections of the working class. Veteran is pitted against civilian worker, and the civilian against the veteran.

Seeds of Fascism

This problem existed in classic form in Germany following the last war. Out of the unemployed soldiers, and especially out of those who had been so disoriented by the war as to be unable to settle down to normal living, were combed elements who later helped constitute the fascist movement, which later destroyed the organized labor movement in Germany.

One of the dangers inherent in such a group of unemployed as the 1,500,000 veterans who “are not yet actively seeking work,” and many of whom arc psychologically demoralized, is that they will fall into this method of thinking.

What Must Be Done

That is why it is so important for the labor movement to take up and fight for a full program of employment for ALL workers, including the veterans. Labor can afford to overlook the problems of the veterans only at the price of creating a dangerous anti-labor force.

That is why civilian worker and veteran alike must fight for socialism, which alone can end unemployment and war, and the pitting of one worker against another.

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