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Susan Green

Sound and Fury Abound – Aid Is Scant

So Far as the Poor Children Go, They Can Wait for the Bombs to Strike

(19 August 1940)

From Labor Action, Vol. 4 No. 19, 19 August 1940, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

“At the most, only some thousands of children can be taken out of England. The millions of children of the workers will undoubtedly have to remain within range of Hitler’s dive bombers.”

This statement, which appeared in Labor Action on July 15, is fully borne out by the developments of the past month.

The so-called “mercy ships” bill that just passed the House of Representatives and will soon appear for voting in the Senate, provides an amendment to the neutrality law so that American ships may enter combat zones to remove children. But the steamship companies will collect a fare for every child. The children pay – or they stay as targets for Hitler’s bombs. Such is the quality of this “mercy”.

The American Committee for the Care of European Children assures the public that there will be no class distinctions and that children will come “from the homes of Welsh coal miners and Oxford dons”. That sounds very good in a speech.

But since no child can come over unless his transportation is paid for, those whose parents have money will naturally be the lucky ones.

Class Distinction

The matter of class distinction has reached the British Parliament where the government has been questioned on its intentions regarding parents who are willing to evacuate their children but haven’t got the price of a boat ride. The government spokesman declared that it would be unwise to encourage evacuation by financial assistance in the present stage of the war.

That makes it pretty clear as to where the poor children will be when the bombs begin to rain down from the skies.

The impression has been created that 200,000 children are all set to come here as soon as ships are sent for them. The fact is that these 200,000 children are merely registered for evacuation, which means that their parents are willing to let them go. It is estimated, in those sections of the news items that are not so commonly read, that only 32,000 are actually on the paid-up list and ready to leave.

However, even if the whole 200,000 eventually get here, this is still a mere fraction of the millions of youngsters under sixteen who will be left in war-torn England. These will mainly be the children of the masses, not of the upper classes.

Helping Whom?

The American Committee for the Care of European Children has opened a money-raising drive. Although a flock of society women are on the committee and it has been underwritten by literally scores of bankers and business men, only $5,000,000 is the goal for the whole country. The share for New York City – Wall Street’s bailiwick – is a mere million and a half. The profits in the offing from Great. Britain’s war orders warrant greater “generosity” from the American profiteers.

But not even this small sum will leave the reluctant pockets of the millionaires. Most of the money will come from ordinary people whose sympathies have been aroused enough to send their donations. Little do these people realize that the society women who are making a great noise and doing so very little to relieve the sufferings of war are themselves the beneficiaries of war.

The funds of this committee are not to be used for transporting children across the Atlantic. When the children have already arrived here, the committee will see to it that they get to their temporary homes in this country. That is all.

The committee’s talk about making no distinction between the Welsh miner and the Oxford don is deceptive. The committee does not choose who comes here. That is determined solely by who has money.

The conclusion is inevitable that the great to-do in this country over the refugee children, is mostly sound and fury signifying very little against the great problem of the millions of children who will have to stay where they are. The safely of these children depends upon the British masses themselves.

The first thing they must decide is whether the defense of their homes and families against Hitler can be entrusted to the British boss government – that government which winks understandingly at the fascist Mosley and allows him to live like a prince instead of a prisoner.

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Last updated: 16 July 2014