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William Gorman

A Post-War Locked-Out Generation

(January 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 5, 29 January 1945, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

A sad and familiar phrase cropped up again last week at a conference on problems of youth at New York’s City Hall. Dr. C. Lynd, a professor of sociology, predicted that the young people after this war would be a “lost generation.”

The first “lost generation” grew up in the great depression of 1929. Accustomed to the temporary prosperity of the twenties, the American youth suddenly found himself confronted with closed factories, widespread breadlines, unemployment and all the misery of being on government relief. The period of youthful discovery and excitement – the finest time in human life – was wasted in the frantic search for jobs and in the total frustration and despair of capitalist society.

A Helluva World for Youth

That generation has now marched off to war and – lo and behold – while they are dying in Europe, a new “lost generation” is arising at home. What fine fruits of victory!

Professor Lynd put it very plainly:

“This is one hell of a world for kids to be trying to grow up in, with the situation deteriorating, not improving, as power politics on a world scale, and fear and cynicism here at home increase.”

Professor Lynd added:

“In the angry times here in the United States after the war, when men fight for jobs, there will be a tightening of anti-Semitic, anti-Negro and anti-foreigner treatment.”

The post-war world of shiny automobiles, flying helicopters and a new League of Nations is only a mirage, purposefully invented by capitalist propagandists well experienced in exaggeration and lying.

Instead of a national fight for a higher standard of living, we will have an individual fight for jobs. Negroes, Jews, Gentiles, Catholics will be pitted violently against each other in the mad struggle for the right to sweat in the bosses’ factories. Bitterness, hatred and race riots will be the only result. Brave new world indeed!

Youth No Concern of Business

You don’t hear anybody from the Chamber of Commerce or the National Association of Manufacturers bewail the “lost generation.” The welfare of America’s youth is hardly their concern. They secretly expect that the cynical and disillusioned, youth after the war, joined by the young people whose normal lives have been upset during the war, will make excellent material for the fascist legions necessary to smash organized labor. Capitalism offers no future for American youth because capitalism is a social order without a future. That’s why it nurtures violence and exists by violence.

President Roosevelt’s proposal for post-war military training only proves the point. Originally it was for the purpose of training young people “to brush their teeth,” according to our very humorous President. But in his “grim” message to Congress, Roosevelt made it clear that he means a continuation of drafting young people into army camps after the “peace.”

Professor Lynd mentioned another truism worth quoting: “Conferences on child welfare can’t do much more than put a new coat of paint on an old tenement.” Most of the time they can’t even do that. This particular conference, besides listening to Professor Lynd, heard Grover Whalen, whose police “Cossacks” clubbed demonstrating workers in the early thirties; the very, very talkative Mayor LaGuardia of New York City, who cuts the budget on education and social welfare on every possible occasion; and Mrs. Winthrop W. Aldrich, wife of the president of Chase National Bank. The effectiveness of such a gabfest on youth problems can very easily be imagined.

Conditioned to living in the richest country in the world, American youth must devote its energies to the defense of the standard of living of American labor.

For American youth will learn by choice or through the most bitter experiences that only socialism makes possible an ever richer, more expansive life for all.

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