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Dwight Macdonald

Sparks in the News

10 February 1940)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. IV No. 6, 10 February 1940, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Letter from Canada

A friend sends in a letter he received from a friend in Winnipeg, Manitoba:

“My Dear R...... As for your request for news of how people here are taking the war, as yet that is beyond me. I can only tell of one section, of a stroll I took late yesterday on Main Street, along those few blocks north from the city hall to the tracks.

“That was quite an unsavory district late Saturday nights even when you lived here, as I guess you will recall. Last night it really hummed. The worst yet.

”Hundreds of troops packed the sidewalks. Obviously they had just drawn their first army pay. Indeed, for many of them it must have been the first pay day in their hungry, thwarted, distorted lives, and with pennies to jingle, ‘patriotism’ certainly reached new mad, drunken heights. Boys became base, girls cheap. For you know, dear R...... you can’t take thwarted kids straight from prolonged chronic starvation, make them murderers above the eyes, stuff their pockets with unfamiliar dollars,. and expect them to be angels from the navel down ... Along the street, bulging saloons slopped out Polsh-speaking ‘Scots’ in kilts. Waiting prostitutes patriotically set bargain prices for the ejected soaks ...

”A little mimeographed socialist anti-war sheet was selling like hot cakes. I got a great kick when I spotted Lucille B...... buying one – you remember her? Tom, her boy friend, may yet have to go. It was an inspiriting sight – harmless little Lucille red-facedly buying an illegal revolutionary sheet ...

“I crossed the street to the ‘politer’ side to buy some matches. The storekeeper, usually a jolly fellow, appeared very downcast. He’d been watching the ‘doings’ across the way.

“‘Cold tonight, isn’t it? ... Fellow’s just been in, said there’d been 20,000 recruits in Manitoba already ... There’ll be millions killed again.’”

“I agreed, and, the War Acts being what they are, merely added that in ancient Egypt the figure 1,000,000 was represented by a picture of a man bent in bewilderment at the enormity.

“‘But now it’s the million who are bent,’ was the rejoinder. One thing might be added to this account: it is estimated that 75 per cent of Canada’s volunteers were unemployed.”

How Much Longer Will They Be Patient?

Last July and August, 775,000 men and women were dropped from the WPA rolls. On January 25, Col. Harrington announced that of these 775,000, just 100,750 (or 13 per cent) had found jobs in private industry by the end of last November. (And half of these lucky 13 per cent were earning less in their private jobs than they had received on WPA.) Remember this figure, the next time you hear Roosevelt getting off his line about private industry absorbing those dropped from WPA. That is a lie, and Roosevelt knows it.

What became of the 87 per cent who did not find jobs? According to Col. Harrington, 28 per cent of them got onto local relief rolls (where a family of four lives on from $4.50 to $34 a month), 27 per cent were taken back onto WPA, “and 32 per cent were without support of any kind except what they could procure through Federal surplus commodities, by the sale of their effects, by doubling up with relatives, or by begging.”

The Colonel also pointed out that before the end of June he must drop 700,000 more men and women from the WPA rolls. “Does your report point to a reduced WPA appropriation for next year?” he was asked. “Hardly,” answered the Colonel. But his boss in the White House has already indicated he means to slash WPA next year, just as he did this year.

How much longer are. the unemployed going to take it in silence and submission? A few really militant mass demonstrations, the sort of thing that scared the bosses and their political stooges in 1931 and 1932, that’s what is needed to show Franklin D. he can’t get away with it. The White House lawn can be used for other things besides Easter egg rolling!

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