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Susan Green

Reasons Given by FDR for
National Service Are False

(15 January 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 3, 15 January 1945, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

President Roosevelt’s recommendation to Congress to enact a national service law follows the pattern established throughout the war. The pattern is that labor is to bear the brunt – the workers are to carry all the war burdens.

So far the workers have done all the sacrificing. Of the President’s original seven-point program, the wage freeze against labor has been the only one really carried out. On the other hand, the capitalists have “self-sacrificed” themselves into huge balances of war profits and post-war reserves.

As if labor’s role of the underdog has not been bitter enough, the President now asks for this national service law, which means conscription of labor, the regimentation of labor, totalitarian style.

Toward this end there has been a very clever build-up. During the past month or so, we have been made suddenly aware of a terrible falling-off in war production. And who is to blame? Labor, of course.

Were War Plants Deserted?

Reading the capitalist press, one is supposed to believe that there has been a veritable stampede of workers out of war plants into civilian production.

So isn’t the conclusion obvious? Labor must have a ball and chain clamped on its ankles to stop the so-called stampede. There must be a national service law, says Mr. Roosevelt acclaimed the friend of labor by Sidney Hillman, Philip Murray et al.

One thought that occurs immediately is this. If great numbers of workers have quit, war work and gone into civilian jobs, then it means that business has gone in for civilian production to a considerable extent. That could not be done without War Production Board cooperation. So the fault would lie with the WPB helping business in its rush to the front lines of civilian production for post-war profits.

But the truth is that there has NOT been an exodus of labor out of war production. There are, furthermore, figures to prove this truth.

Reasons for Change

The WPB itself has made public that the reasons for such shortages in war production as may exist, are as follows: step-ups in war production schedules, 46 per cent; changes in design, 26 per cent; shortages of facilities, 12 per cent; and labor shortages, 22 per cent. Thus we see that any falling-off in war production is in relation to a stepped-up schedule involving changes in design and factory facilities. The 22 per cent attributable to labor shortages must also be related to the stepped-up schedules and not to the so-called exodus of labor from war plants.

Further proof that there has been no rush of war workers into civilian work is in figures of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which figures show that the quit-rate in all manufacturing for August, September and October 1944 was actually LOWER than in 1943. But more important to the point here discussed, the quit-rate in war industries was lower than that of manufacturing as a whole during the above mentioned months.

CIO Study

The CIO has also made a survey of quit-rate figures in twenty-eight war industries for the months of May, June, July, August, September and October 1944, as compared with the same months of 1943. Of the 328 sets of figures studied for comparison, in 201 instances fewer workers quit their jobs in 1944 than in 1943. In thirteen instances the number was the same. Of the other 114 instances, only twenty-five showed an appreciably higher quit-rate.

The Economic Outlook, a CIO publication, comments: “We do not question the fact that in some instances workers are leaving their war jobs for jobs with peacetime security. We do believe the seriousness of this problem has been greatly over-stressed.”

“Greatly over-stressed” is putting it mildly. The situation has been falsely distorted. Labor, by and large, stays on the job. Workers cannot afford to let go of the bird in the hand for the possible two in the bush. The reason is simple. Quitting a job means giving up the means of livelihood – for heaven knows how long. The implication that workers are foot-loose and free in quitting jobs is about as sound as the one that workers go on strike out of a lack of responsibility.

So the picture put before the public by the capitalist press and radio, of workers flocking from war plants to civilian plants, is a hodge-podge of colors all run together without any sense. The build-up for Mr. Roosevelt’s demand for a national service law is a house of cards.

FDR Attacks Labor

What does make sense, however, is that this is an anti-labor maneuver-by labor’s “friend” in the White House. And the reason why this is a propitious time for it is as plain as Jimmy Durante’s nose.

The bigwigs have proved themselves wrong in their estimates of the duration of the war. First it was to have been over by October-November; next, Christmas was the date set. Now the end lies in the dim and distant future. Obviously the fighting power of the Nazis has been grossly underestimated. Besides all of this, the specter of power politics among the Big Three shows its ugly face. What is more natural than for labor, at this time, to become alarmed at the state of affairs their rulers have placed them in?

So the master politician, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, makes a shrewd twist. He points the accusing finger at labor: “The fault is yours,” he says in effect. “You are responsible for everything. Everything will be fine if you are regimented under a national service law.”

The trick is indeed shrewd, but very transparent when put up to the light where labor can see it for what it is.


Labor must fight the totalitarian regimentation that President Roosevelt asks Congress to direct against labor.

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