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Susan Green

$21-a-Month Now, and Facing a Future of Poverty or Death

“Soldiers of Destiny” – At $21 a Month

(15 September 1941)

From Labor Action, Vol. 5 No. 37, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Don’t be downhearted, soldier! Fort Dix has a plan to help you if you are “financially embarrassed” – and it would be hard to find a $21-a-month “free soldier of democracy” who isn’t. The plan is a beauty. One marvels at the subtlety of the brain that conceived it.

A soldier can obtain a loan from the “chaplain’s fund” of any amount up to his monthly pay. Such a loan will be made only for emergency use. Here is a full explanation: “If a soldier happens to need funds during the middle of he month and requires money for a serious matter, SUCH AS CARFARE HOME WHEN THERE IS SICKNESS OR DEATH IN THE FAMILY, OR RENT PAYMENT AT HOME, then we grant the loan. Under no condition, however, will we lend money for entertainment or trivial purposes.”

One might ask how come that a soldier whose family can’t pay the rent is not at home where he belongs? One might ask: How come that his rich Uncle Sam, who can hand out $51,000,000,000 in war contracts to the big capitalists, doesn’t pay the soldier’s fare home in case of sickness or death?

However, I will only ask: How is the soldier expected to pay back that emergency loan?

The answer is out of the $21 a month, out of the $4.66 a week, which is called the “pay” of the soldier. This brilliant Fort Dix plan firmly stipulates not only that the borrower must pay back the loan but also that he must pay it back ON HIS NEXT PAY DAY.

The plan does not say what the soldier is to use for money the balance of the month after he pays off the debt. Is he perhaps expected to get it from his family that can’t pay its rent or that has had sickness or death to drain its resources!

The only merit of this insulting plan is that it brings out in bold relief the near-coolie condition of the $21-a-month “free soldiers of American democracy.”

When the draft extension bill was being argued in Congress, there was a good deal of talk about raising the soldiers’ pay. But it was just talk – to make the unfair draft extension more palatable. While there is plenty of money for everything else, including war profits for the big companies of the $1-a-year boys and juicy commissions for “contact men,” there is no money to raise the coolie pay of the soldier.

But don’t lose heart, soldier. There is before the Senate Military Affairs Committee the Downey Bill, which – PRESUMABLY – provides for an increase in pay for all enlisted men. If the bill is passed every soldier would get $30 a month more pay – PRESUMABLY.

In the meantime, soldier, just put your hand back into your empty pocket. Even if the bill is passed, you WOULD NOT GET THE INCREASE NOW. That bill provides for a very funny kind of “pay increase.” When you are discharged you MIGHT get $30 for every month you had been in service.

You might get it IF YOU AREN’T DEAD FIRST. You might enjoy the affluence of $6.66 a week IF YOU WILL NOT HAVE BEEN SO BADLY MAIMED IN THE WAR THAT LIVING OR DYING WON’T REALLY MATTER TO YOU. And if you do come out alive and in fairly good health, THE LAW MAY NO LONGER BE IN EFFECT WHEN YOU ARE ENTITLED TO THAT $6.66 A WEEK.

That sort of law is designed to fool the public. A “pay increase” that DOESN’T INCREASE THE PAY. Just like the draft law calling for one year of service that means two and a half years. And now Senator Pepper nonchalantly predicts that the government will probably find it necessary to keep selectees, National Guardsmen and reservists in service for “AT LEAST FIVE YEARS, AND IT MAY BE 10 YEARS, OR EVEN A GENERATION.”

In the eyes of the Lord, they say, a hundred years is but as a day. In the eyes of the boss politicians who make the laws, NO PAY INCREASE is called A PAY INCREASE, and two and a half years, five or ten years, or a generation, ARE BUT AS ONE YEAR.

This fall some thousands of soldiers are hoping to get out of’ the blessed status of $21-a-month “free soldiers of democracy.” They will be released because they come within the 28-year age limit, and in exceptional cases for other. Reasons. These men were promised their old jobs back – as were all the other draftees. You would think that all they would have to do would be to walk up to the old boss, slap him on the back, and say: “Well, old soak, here I am, rarin’ to go.” BUT IT LOOKS AS IF THERE ARE MIGHTY FEW JOBS THAT THE RETURNING DRAFTEES WILL BE ABLE TO GO BACK TO.

If the worker-soldier is to get his old job back, why the necessity for distributing forms to be filled out giving his “occupation and educational history”? If he is to get his old job back, why must he go to the state employment office? Why need there be such elaborate provisions for local board re-employment committee to take up the cases of men who can’t get work through the state employment office? And why such heart-rending appeals for cooperation by Selective Board officials to the chambers of commerce, boards of trade, national organizations such as Rotary, Kiwanis, the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars – and labor unions?

All these preparations FOR JUST A FEW THOUSAND MEN are very suspicious. Many of these men will be leaving the military forces TO JOIN THE ARMY OF DISEMPLOYED. That’ is the new word for the jobless. The returning soldiers will be falling in line with the unemployed workers thrown out of shutdown plants. And there will be plenty of shutdown plants and plenty of shutout workers. Autos, refrigerators, stoves, kitchen equipment, metal furniture, zippers, coin machines, electrical appliances, washing machines – these are only some of the commodities whose production will be curtailed or stopped by the imperialist war program.

There will be whole cities thrown into disemployment – cities and areas that have concentrated on a single industry. IT IS REPORED THAT THE GOVERNMENT HAS MADE UP A LIST OF FIFTY SUCH DOOMED CITIES. The list is being kept secret so as not to shock the public!

This is the industrial upheaval that the “lucky” soldiers, who will be released, will find WHAT JOBS WILL MOST OF THEM GO BACK TO?

The men who remain as $21-a-month “free soldiers of American democracy” don’t have to worry about industrial jobs – JUST YET. Their present bosses have other plans for them. Washington correspondents have been reporting to their papers that President Roosevelt shares the opinion of those who believe that AMERICAN BOYS WILL HAVE TO BE SENT “OVER THERE.” On August 30, Kiplinger’s Washington letter – which is sent to business men who pay to receive private information on what goes on in the nation’s capital – also stated: “AMERICAN EXPEDITIONARY FORCES ABROAD ARE FORESEEN.”

President Roosevelt has conveniently forgotten his promise not to send American boys to fight on foreign soil.

Before you are herded into troopships and sent “over there” – before you are thrown to the wolves of war $21-a-month “free soldier of American democracy” – ponder these all-important facts:

This is a war between the Axis and so-called democratic powers so that the victors may exploit the people and wealth of the world without interference from the vanquished.

The working people of both sides have no reason to fight each other, BUT THEY HAVE A COMMON CAUSE AGAINST THEIR WAR-MAKING IMPERIALIST MASTERS.

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Last updated: 26 August 2014