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Susan Green

Of Special Interest to Women

(15 June 1942)

From Labor Action, Vol. 6 No. 24, 15 June 1942, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

A feeble effort was made in Congress to include in the bill creating the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps a provision against discrimination based on race or color. However, the law-makers refused to write racial equality into the bill.

Thus, if in spite of this slap in the face, Negro women will apply for admission into the WAAC, they will be put into a Jim Crow unit or be refused admission altogether. As in the Army, Navy and Marine Corps, race discrimination will be on parade.

The Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy has loudly proclaimed his opposition to race prejudice. However, not a peep came from the White House to stay this congressional affirmation of race discrimination by the government itself – in a new department under his command.

Mr. Roosevelt’s policy of the left hand pretending not to know what the right is doing reveals him as the capitalist politician par excellence. For war purposes he can luxuriate in shining phrases about racial equality – and even throw a few bones to the Negro underdog – knowing full well that the status quo will not be fundamentally changed.

The status quo no capitalist politician wants to upset is the artificial division of the common people – the tricky segregation of black from white – so that the masters can continue ruling them both.

Not only did the WAAC start off on the foot of race discrimination, but it has taken the well beaten path of favoritism, pull, drag or whatever you may want to call it.

“Some War Department officials, acting as individuals, have promised a small number of women here that they could be assured of commissions in the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps.”

Thus Nona Baldwin begins a column-long report to the New York Times from Washington on May 29th. She goes on to explain how everybody in Washington “denies” or “is amazed” or “deplores” or “promises fairness to all.” But she returns to the original accusation:

“It is admitted here that the known instances of personal assurances to aspirants that they should receive commissions are few, but there is unimpeachable authority that such assurances have been given.”

That little word “known” attracts attention. How about the UNKNOWN instances of favoritism? Favoritism doesn’t like the bright lights. It prefers a dim-out or, better still, a black-out.

The Wallaces and Welleses are spilling lots of oratory about the PEOPLE these days, but THE people still pull the strings in Washington.

Many of the thousands of women now going into the factories have a big question-mark in their minds about the future. These new workers are certainly not all going back after the war to a safe and sheltered place in the home. A war always leaves an increased number of women bread-winners because so many of the male bread-winners are consumed as cannon-fodder. This war will pile up more dead than any other, and correspondingly more women will find their place has shifted into the factory.

What will women bread-winners be earning in the post-war period? Let us have a look at women’s wages after the last war.

The depths to which post-war wages for women then sank is almost incredible, as revealed by a wage survey for 1918-19, covering 33,000 women, prepared by the New York State Department of Labor. Of those 33,000 women, 3,300 were receiving less than $6.00 a week – a coolie wage! Of the same group 17,490 who were “better paid,” earned between $6.00 and $12. Only a little more than one-third of the women included in the survey got more than the $12 a week pittance.

These figures should be impressed indelibly on the mind of every woman worker today. Needless to say, women’s wages were lower than those paid to men. In 117 plants covered by one investigation, 90 per cent of the women workers taking the places of men were getting less pay than the men – in many cases as much as 50 per cent less.

Thus in the post-war period the women became the most victimized and exploited workers. And the reason was that they did not have the weapon of self-protection against the bosses, namely, union organization. This mistake must not be repeated. Today women have the advantage of their labor being in demand. Today, therefore, they must do something about their future. The question-mark in the mind is not enough. Action is called for.

Now is the time for women to join the unions – to demand equal pay for equal work – to peg up the wage scales – to become strongly organized to resist the postwar squeeze. This will benefit not only the women workers, but every man on the job and every worker-soldier who will return from the battlefields. For only organized might and complete solidarity will enable the working class as a whole to handle the avalanche of post-war problems.

Readers of Labor Action will remember that in our recent series of articles exposing the home-grown fascists of this country, it was pointed out that these political gangsters will concentrate on anti-war sentiment in a demagogic attempt to get popular support.

”We, the Mothers, Mobilize for America, Inc.,” is the anti-Semitic, anti-labor vehicle of the female contingent of the American fascists. Up to two months ago it was carrying on its dirty work openly in thirty-two states. Lately it has taken on protective coloration, to escape attention. However, you can bet dollars to doughnuts that by whatever names it is now known, it smells just as bad.

As the casualty lists lengthen and the heartaches deepen, the fascist rats will scurry about busily trying to corral war-hatred. And war-hatred is bound to grow. Take, for instance, the radio messages sent by Private Irving Strobing describing the final battle for Corregidor:

“I know how a mouse feels. Caught in a trap waiting for guys to come along and finish it up ... Every one is bawling like a baby. They are piling dead and wounded in our tunnel.”

Such war horrors, multiplied as the war continues, will make hearts heavy with grief and loathing of war. Women of the working class, be on your guard against the gnawings and nibblings of the fascist rodents. They are against the Jews. They are against the Negroes. They are against labor. They are NOT really against war. They APPROVE of what Hitter did in Europe. They want a regime like Hitler’s for this country.

To give true, constructive expression to war-hatred, join forces with Labor Action. It exposes both sides ol the war as imperialist. It stands for permanent world peace through SOCIALISM.

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