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Sam Marcy

Roosevelt Makes a Little Gift to New York

(13 November 1937)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. I No. 14, 13 November 1937, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

The “peace-loving” President has presented to New York City a gift of $62,000,000 – in the form of an appropriation for the construction of the largest and most powerful super-dreadnought ever built on this side of the Atlantic.

The occasion for this modest gift was the annual celebration of the “Navy Day”, celebrated this year in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

For the first time in many years the yard held “open house” to some 15,000 visitors, while rabid militarists, professional patriots and munition mongers, from the Assistant Secretary of the Navy down to K.K.K. Harvey vied with each other in showers of praise for our “navy conscious” administration and its President.

A Symbolic Occasion

Ass’t. Sec’y of the Navy, Edison, opened the keel-laying ceremonies with the significant remark: “This occasion is symbolic of a new chapter in naval history.” And indeed, it is. For the facts surrounding the launching of this sea monster deserve the attention of all militant workers.

The beginning of the construction was originally scheduled for last spring, but was postponed. Among the reasons given, that of “labor trouble” is extremely telling.

It is well known that not every shipyard is as well adapted technically and geographically for naval construction as is the Brooklyn Navy Yard. But the “man-power” to do the work is not quite as desirable, because it is recruited from a center which is a “hot-bed of radicalism.” For, was it not in the New York shipyards that the first repercussions in this country of the French “sit-down” strikes were echoed? Although spontaneous in character and quickly suppressed, it was enough to give the jitters to the officers in charge of the third naval district.

The constant tirades of Rear Admiral Yates Sterling (formerly in charge of the Yard) against “Communism’’ were not mere rantings. Here was a reactionary who saw in every shipyard worker a potential enemy to this imperialist stronghold. The militancy and steadfastness of the shipyard workers displayed in their recent strike testifies to this. Nor was the ruthless and bloody crushing of this magnificent strike accidental. Once again, the workers were administered a cruel object lesson in the intimate connection between the police, the courts and the extra-legal terrorist apparatus of the employers. Not until the last worker had been beaten back to work was word again heard of the keeling of the battleship, the North Carolina.

The “New Chapter”

A cursory glance at the blue print of the battleship itself, shows why it marks a “new chapter in naval history”. The mere fact that it cost $62,000,000, 30 times the amount of relief given to students throughout the country, is not very significant when compared to its other features. It will take 4 years of steady, uninterrupted activity, and when completed will need 1,500 sailors and only about 80 or 90 officers. It will have nine 16-inch guns, in three turrets, 8 or 10 heavy anti-aircraft guns, machine guns, multiple barreled 11 inch pom-poms, and will have a power plant to produce a speed of from 20 to 30 knots an hour. It will also have the strongest armor ever provided. The North Carolina, when completed, will be nothing but a gigantic “plant afloat”. Its 1,500 “workers in uniform” will be a hundred times more exploited and oppressed, than on any conveyor belt or steel furnace. Anyone even casually observing the relations between officers and sailors even in times of peace, knows with what terrible effects the class character of capitalist society is impressed upon the naval structure.

In its October 23 number The Army and Navy Journal we find in an obscure corner that, “while the administration’s efforts to reduce expenses – have not curtailed any essential naval activities, the economy axe has hit many places in the navy’’, notably orders “affecting personnel”. Perhaps the officers? But Rep. Costilla’s Bill now pending in Congress calls for increases in their pay. Evidently, even in times of “peace” they are after the hides of the sailors.

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