FULL COOPERATION of organized labor in efforts to win World War II was enlisted by President Roosevelt. Roosevelt insisted that labor be represented on the War Labor Board as equals with business to help maintain both production and labor standards and to settle disputes. Labor's drive to sell revenue-raising war bonds was symbolized in this poster presentation to Roosevelt at the White House by then AFL President William Green and Sec.-Treas. George Meany.
The Saturday Evening Post ran a series by G.I.s on "What I Am Fighting For." One characteristic article began: "I am fighting for that Big House with the bright green roof and the big front lawn." (1)
World War II was the answer to every settler's prayer - renewed conquest and renewed prosperity. The New Deal's domestic reforms alone could not get capitalism going again. And even though the CIO had won large wage increases in basic industry, the peace-time economy was incapable of providing enough jobs and profits. As late as early 1940, the unemployment rate for Euro-Amerikan workers was still almost 18%. (2) Expansion of the Empire was the necessary basis of new prosperity.
Although wars are made of mass tragedy and sacrifice, this most successful of all Amerikan wars was a happy time for most settlers. That's why they look back on it with so much nostalgia and fondness (even with a pathological TV comedy about "fun" in a Nazi P.O.W. camp). We could say that this was their last big frontier. Historian James Stokesbury notes in his summation of the war:
One of the great ironies of the American war effort was the way it was born disproportionately by a relatively few people. In spite of the huge numbers of men in service, second only to Russia among the Allies, only a limited number of them saw combat ... For the vast majority of Americans it was a good war, if there can be such a thing. People were more mobile and prosperous than ever before. The demands of the war brought the United States out of a deep depression, created new cities, new industries, new fortunes, a new way of life. (3)
Isolated in its Western Hemispheric Empire far from the main theatres of fighting, U.S. imperialism suffered relatively little. As the Great Powers were inevitably pulled into a global war of desperation, each driven to solve its economic crisis by new conquests, Amerika hung back. It hoped, just as in World War I, to wait out much of the war and slip in near the end to take the lion's share of the kill.
The millions of civilians who died from bombing raids, disease and famine in war-torn Europe, Asia, North Afrika and the Middle East have never been fully counted. The full death toll is often put at an unimaginable 60 million lives. Amerika was spared all this, and emerged triumphant at the war's end with citizenry, colonies and industry completely intact. Even U.S. military forces suffered relatively lightly compared to the rest of the world. Military deaths for the major combatants are revealing: Germany - 7 million; Russia - 6 million; Japan - 2 million; China - 2 million; Great Britain - 250,000; U.S.A. - 400,000. More Russian soldiers died in the Battle of Stalingrad alone than total U.S. military casualties for the whole war. (4)
The war boom kicked Depression out. Factories were roaring around the clock. The 16 million soldiers and sailors in the armed forces had left places everywhere for the unemployed to fill. The general prosperity that characterized Amerikan society all the way up to the 1970s began right there, in the war economy of WWII. The war years were such a prosperous upturn from the Depression that the necessary propaganda about "sacrificing for the war effort" had a farcical air to it. Lucky Strike, the biggest selling cigarette, caught the settler mood perfectly when it changed its package color from green to white - and then announced nonsensically in big ads: "Lucky Strike green is going off to war!"
Average family income went up by 50% compared to the Depression years. In New York City, average family income rose from $2,760 to $4,044 between 1938-1942. Nor was this just a paper gain. A historian of the wartime culture writes: "Production for civilian use, while diminishing, remained so high that Americans knew no serious deprivations ... At the peak of the war effort in 1944, the total of all goods and services available to civilians was actually larger than it had been in 1940." (5)
The number of supermarkets more than tripled between 1939 and 1944. Publishers reported book sales up 40% by 1943. The parimutuel gambling take at the race tracks skyrocketed 250% from 1940 to 1944. Just between 1941 and 1942 jewelry sales were up 20-100% by areas. By 1944 the cash and bank accounts held by the U.S. population reached a record $140 Billion. That same year Macy's department store in New York City had a sale on Pearl Harbor Day - which produced their most profitable business day ever! (6) Once again, the exceptional life of settler Amerika was renewed by war and conquest. This is the mechanism within each Amerikan cycle of internal conflict and reform. The New Deal was Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well. Consumeristic Amerika was erected on top of the 60 million deaths of World War II.
In the U.S., World War II was the principal cause of the total breakdown of the working-class movement and its revolutionary consciousness... Resistance to the war would have seemed like simple common sense. If Stalin gave the order to support the U.S. war effort he was a fool. In any case, the old vanguard's support should have been for the people's struggle inside the U.S. - George Jackson
In its March 29, 1939 issue the Pittsburgh Courier, one of the major Afrikan newspapers, ran an editorial on the coming world war that summed up what most colonial peoples in the world thought about it:
The 'democracies' and the 'dictatorships' are preparing to do BATTLE in the near future.
The referee is IMPERIALISM, who stands ready to award the decision to the victor.
The stake is the right to EXPLOIT the darker peoples of the world.
The audience consists of the vast MAJORITY of those who happen to be NON-WHITES.
They have NO FAVORITE, because it makes NO DIFFERENCE to them which party WINS the fight.
They are ONLY interested in the bout taking place AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.
The audience knows that the destruction of white civilization means the EMANCIPATION of colored people, and that explains why they eagerly await the opening gong.
The democracies which now CONTROL the dark world have never extended DEMOCRACY to the dark world.
THEIR meaning of democracy is for WHITE PEOPLE only, and just a FEW of them.
The dictatorships FRANKLY DECLARE that if they win THEY will do as the democracies HAVE DONE in the past.
The democracies as frankly declare that IF they win they will CONTINUE to do as they HAVE BEEN doing. (7)
This remarkable editorial was accurate (however unscientific its way of putting it) as to the real world situation. The "War to Save Democracy" was an obvious lie to those who had none, whose nations were enslaved by U.S. imperialism. While there was no real support for either German or Japanese imperialism, there was considerable satisfaction among the oppressed at seeing the arrogant Europeans being frightened out of their wits by their supposed "racial" inferiors. One South Afrikan Boer historian recalls:
It seemed possible that the Japanese might capture Madagascar and that South Africa itself might be attacked. The Cape Colored people were not at all alarmed at the prospect. Indeed, they viewed the Japanese victories with almost open jubiliation. Their sympathies and hopes were with the little yellow skinned men who had proved too smart for the British and Americans. (8)
Nor was this feeling just in Afrika. In colonial India the sight of the British "master" suddenly begging his subjects to help save him from the Japanese armies, revealed to many that their oppressor was a "paper tiger." The British generals soon learned that their Indian colonial troops were more and more unwilling to fight for the British Empire. The Communist Party USA was so alarmed at Afrikan disinterest in fighting Asians that it issued a special pamphlet for them recounting the crimes of the Japanese Empire against Ethiopia, urging Afrikans to honor "the alliance of the Negro people with the progressive sections of the white population."
The sociologist St. Clair Drake relates how even among U.S. Empire forces in the Pacific, Afrikan G.I.s would loudly root for the Japanese "zero" fighters overhead in the aerial dogfights against U.S. settler aviators. Robert F. Williams says that as a youth he heard many Afrikan veterans returning from the Pacific express sympathy for the Japanese soldiers, and even say that the Japanese tried not to fire at Afrikans. And studying the U.S. propaganda posters of dark-skinned Japanese trying to rape blond Euro-Amerikan women, Williams saw a connection to settler propaganda against Afrikans. (9) None of this was any approval for Japanese imperialism, but an expression of disassociation from the Euro-Amerikan oppressor. To the oppressed masses of the U.S., British, Dutch, French, German, and other Western empires, this war was not their war.
It is important to deal with the nature of the U.S. involvement in the war. Outside of the shallow and obviously untrue "War for Democracy" propaganda, the two main arguments for the war were: 1. It was a war for European freedom, to defeat the Nazis and save the Soviet Union. 2. It was a just war of self-defense after the U.S. military was attacked by the Japanese Empire at Pearl Harbor (the main U.S. naval base in its Hawaiian colony). Both lines were often used together, particularly by the settler radicals.
Perhaps the U.S. Empire could have led a "crusade in Europe" to defeat Nazism, but it didn't. In strict fact, German fascism was defeated by the Russian people. U.S. global strategy clearly called for stalling as long as possible in fighting Hitler, in hopes that Germany and Soviet Russia would ruin and exhaust each other. As late as April 1943, Soviet forces were fighting 185 Nazi divisions while the U.S. and British Empires were together fighting 6. The heart and muscle of the German Army, almost 250 divisions, got destroyed on the Eastern front against the Russian people. That's why the Russian military lost 6 million troops fighting Germany, while the U.S. lost 160,000.
The Soviet Union's burden in the alliance against German imperialism was so visibly disproportionate that some Western imperialists were concerned. South Afrikan Gen. Jan Christian Smuts warned in 1943: "To the ordinary man it must appear that it is Russia who is winning the war. If this impression continues, what will be our post-war position compared to that of Russia?"
Finally, in the last six months of the war, the Allies landed 2 million soldiers in France in order to get in on the German surrender and control as much of Europe as possible. Those U.S. and British divisions faced a vastly inferior German opposition (only 40% as large as the Allied force), because the bulk of Hitler's forces were tied up with the main war front against Russia.
During the war the Allies kept paratroop divisions in England, ready to be air-dropped into Berlin if Russia finished off the Nazis before Allied armies could even get into Germany. (10) U.S. imperialism's main concern was not to "liberate" anyone, but to dominate as much of Europe as it could once the Russian people had, at such terrible cost, defeated Hitler.
Amerikan war plans included being careful not to interfere with the Nazi's genocidal sterilization of Europe. Indeed, Washington and London appreciated how convenient it was to let Hitler do their dirty work for them - getting rid of millions of undesirable Jews, Communists, socialists, trade-unionists and dissenters. This cleaned up Europe from the imperialist point of view. And Hitler took the weight.
The Allies were notorious in blocking Jewish evacuation from the path of the oncoming Nazi conquest. Roosevelt refused to lift restrictions on Jewish immigration. As the war approached, on April 23, 1939, the U.S. State Dept. announced that quotas were so "filled" that Jewish immigration was to be halted except for special cases. Desperate German Jews were told that they had a minimum six year wait, until 1945. The New Deal's vicious attitude was displayed in their mocking statement that Jewish "applicants of Polish origin, even those who spent most of their life in Germany, will have to wait at least 50 years" to obtain entry visas to the U.S.! The same day the Roosevelt Administration announced that no tourist visas to Amerika would be issued to German Jews - only those Germans with "Aryan" passports could greet the Statue of Liberty.
During the war the U.S. rejected pleas from the Jewish underground that they use bombers to knock out the rail lines to the death camps (and even knock out the ovens themselves). Yet, On Sept. 13, 1944 the U.S. 15th Air Force bombed the I.G. Farben industrial complex right next to Auschwitz death camp (a few bombs fell in Auschwitz itself, killing 15 S.S. men and 40 other fascists). Although this proved the U.S. military's ability to strike at the Nazi death camps, U.S. imperialism still refused to interfere with the genocide. And this was when the Nazis were feverishly slaughtering as many as possible - at Auschwitz as many as 24,000 per day!
U.S. imperialism posed as being anti-fascist, but it was U.S. imperialism which had helped put Nazism in power. Henry Ford was an important early backer of Hitler, and by 1924 had started pouring money into the tiny Nazi party. Ford's portrait hung on the wall in Hitler's Party office. Every birthday until World War II Ford had sent Hitler his personal greetings (and a gift of money). Even during the War the Ford Motor Company delivered vital parts to the German Army through neutral Switzerland. On October 20, 1942 the U.S. Embassy in London complained to Washington that Ford was using his plants in Switzerland to repair 2,000 German Army trucks.
Ford was just one example out of many. GM President Willian Knudson told a press conference on October 6, 1933, that Nazism was "the miracle of the 20th century." GM in Germany contributed one-half percent out of all its employees' wages as a weekly mass donation to the Nazi Party.
While the Allied Powers wanted to defeat Germany, it had nothing to do with being anti-fascist. Both President Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill favored Mussolini and his Fascist regime in Italy. Even after the European war broke out in 1939, Roosevelt privately urged Mussolini to be neutral and try to mediate a British-German detente. Churchill, for his part, wanted to preserve the Mussolini Fascist regime since "the alternative to his rule might well have been a communist Italy." Churchill saw Fascist Italy as a possible ally. He later wrote regretfully about Mussolini:
He might well have maintained Italy in a balancing position, courted and rewarded by both sides and deriving an unusual wealth and prosperity from the struggles of other countries. Even when the issue of the war became certain, Mussolini would have been welcomed by the Allies...
In Italy, Greece and other nations the "liberating" U.S.-British forces put the local fascists back into power while savagely repressing the anti-fascist guerrillas who had fought them. In Greece the British had a problem since the German Army had pulled out in September 1944, harassed by guerrillas who had installed a new, democratic Greek government. The Allies invaded already-liberated Greece in order to crush the independent government; Greece was "liberated" from democracy and returned to being a fascist neo-colony of Britain and the U.S. The mercenary collaborators and the fascist "Security Battalions" organized by the German occupation were preserved by the British Army, which used them to conduct a campaign of terrorism against the Greek people. By 1945 the British were holding some 50,000 anti-fascist activists in prisons. The Allies killed more Greek workers and peasants than the Germans had. (11)
The main focus of Amerika's military interest had nothing to do with democratic or humanitarian concerns, but with expanding the Empire at the expense of its German and Japanese rivals. Not only was a stronger position over Europe aimed at, but in the Pacific a show-down was sought with Japanese imperialism. In the 1930's both U.S. and Japanese imperialism sought to become the dominant power over Asia. Japan's 1937 invasion of China (Korea was already a Japanese colony) had upset the Pacific status quo; giant China had long been an imperialist semi-colony, shared uneasily by all the imperialist powers. Japan broke up the club by invading to take all of China for itself. The Roosevelt Administration, the main backer of Chiang Kai-Shek's corrupt and semi-colonial Kuomintang regime, was committed to a decisive war with Japan from that point on.
Both the U.S. Empire and the Japanese Empire demanded in secret negotiations the partial disarmament of the other and a free hand in exploiting China. The Roosevelt Administration and the British had secretly agreed in mid-1941 for a joint military offensive against Japan, the centerpiece of which was to be a new U.S. strategic bomber force to dominate the Pacific. We know that President Roosevelt's position was that all-out war in the Pacific was desirable for U.S. interests; his only problem was: "...the question was how we should maneuver them into the position of firing the first shot..." (12) Political necessities demanded that Roosevelt be able to picture the war as innocent "self defense."
The New Deal started embargoing strategic war materials - notably scrap iron and petroleum - going to Japan. There was a coordinated Western campaign to deny Japanese imperialism the vital oil, rubber and iron its war machine needed. With 21 divisions bogged down trying to catch up with the Red Army in China, Japanese imperialism had to either capture these necessary resources in new wars or face collapse. The move was obvious.
To make sure that this shove would work, Roosevelt asked U.S. Admiral Stark to prepare an intelligence assessment of the probable Japanese response. In his memo of July 22, 1941 (over four months before Pearl Harbor), Admiral Stark reassured Roosevelt that Japan would be forced into a "fairly early attack" to seize British Malayan rubber and Dutch Indonesian oil, and that an attack on the U.S. Philippine colony was "certain." (13)
The New Deal wanted and expected not only an all-out war for the Pacific, but a "surprise" Japanese attack as well. Their only disappointment on Dec. 7, 1941 was that instead of concentrating on the Philippines, the Japanese military struck first at Hawaii. There was no question of "self-defense" there. The Pacific war was the mutual child of imperialist competition and imperialist appetites.
To President Roosevelt the prize was worth the risks. China was his first goal, just as it was for Japanese imperialism. A friend of the President recalls: "At the White House, the making of FDR's China policy was almost as great a secret as the atom bomb." Roosevelt saw that the sun had set on the old European colonial rule in Asia, and that the dynamic expansion of the small Japanese Empire proved how weak and rotten European power was. In his mind, he saw that if China were nominally free but under U.S. hegemony (via the Kuomintang regime), it could be the center for Amerikan takeover of all Asia.*
*[FDR was always appreciative of China's potential value because of his family's direct connection. Roosevelt often mentioned his family's long "friendship" with China - on his mother's side, the Delano family fortune was made through a leading role in the opium trade in 19th century China.]
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, after meeting with Roosevelt and his staff, wrote a British general in some alarm: "I must enlighten you about the American view. China bulks as large in the minds of many of them as Great Britain." (14)
Some confusion about the nature of the Second Imperialist World War has arisen among comrades here because the war was also a patriotic war of national defense in some nations. Both China and the U.S.S.R., invaded and partially occupied by Axis Powers, made alliance with competing imperialists of the Allied Powers. There is nothing surprising or incorrect about that. Taking advantage of this the revisionists claimed that democratic-minded people in all nations should therefore support the Allied Powers. But why should the anti-colonial movement in an oppressed nation that was invaded and occupied by the U.S. (or France or Great Britain) support its own oppressor? One might just as well argue that the Chinese people should have supported the Japanese occupation during WWII because Mexico was oppressed by U.S. imperialism (in fact, the Japanese Empire advanced such lines of propaganda). Contrary to the revisionists, World War II was not a war of "democracy vs. fascism," but a complex struggle between imperialist powers, and between capitalism and socialism.
The New Deal was prepared to do whatever necessary to modernize and stabilize U.S. imperialism's home base, because it was playing for the biggest stakes in the world. In the Pittsburgh Courier's words: "The stake is the right to EXPLOIT the darker peoples of the world."
As Euro-Amerikan settlers gathered themselves to conquer Asia, Europe, Afrika, and hold onto Latin Amerika, they started their war effort by attacking the oppressed closest at hand - those already within the U.S. Empire. In Puerto Rico, the colonial occupation tightened its already deadly hold on the masses, so that their very lives could be squeezed out to help pay for the U.S. war effort. It is to the eternal honor of the Nationalist Party, already terribly wounded by repression, that it resisted this imperialist mobilization as best it could.
The Nationalist Party denounced the military conscription of Puerto Rican youth, who were to be cannon fodder for the same U.S. Army that was oppressing their own nation. On the eve of Selective Service registration in 1940, the Nationalist Party declared: "If Puerto Ricans are the first line of defense of democracy in America, we claim the right to fight in the front line and for that reason we demand that democracy be a reality in Puerto Rico, recognizing our national sovereignty." (15) The newspapers on the Island were afraid to print Nationalist statements for fear of U.S. prosecution - a fear that the U.S. Government said was well founded. (16)
Some members of the Nationalist Party began openly refusing to register for the draft. Juan Estrada Garcia told the jury when he was tried that his concern was for "the masses who live dying of malaria, hookworm and tuberculosis for lack of food." (17) This was a just concern. Puerto Ricans had the highest death rate in the Western Hemisphere, thanks to the "Yanki" occupation that robbed them of everything needed for life. Every year 3,000 died from tuberculosis alone out of a population of 2 million. Over half were totally destitute, on relief. (18) 80% of the population had hookworm, and the life expectancy was only 46 years. Small wonder, when even those lucky ones who had jobs didn't earn enough to ensure survival - in 1941, the jibaros (the sugar cane workers) labored for an average of only 14 cents per hour. (19)
Puerto Rico's strategic location in the Caribbean made it a key island in the region's defenses, but to Puerto Ricans the U.S. soldiers stationed there were an occupying force - loud, exploitative, violent, granted privileges denied most Puerto Ricans.
The war effort only intensified the misery. The relative prosperity that delighted Euro-Amerikans with the war was reversed in Puerto Rico. Starvation grew much worse. The New Deal W.P.A. jobs program closed down in 1942. Unemployment more than doubled. With food shipments deliberately restricted, prices soared 53% in less than one year. A Presbyterian woman missionary wrote Eleanor Roosevelt, the U.S. President's wife, in despair from Mayaguez: "The children in this region are slowly starving." (20)
U.S. Governor Winship made it clear that the New Deal's policy was not only to help subsidize the war effort out of the misery of the Puerto Rican people, but to use starvation to beat them into political submission. In his 1939 report, Winship proudly announced that the colonial administration was already extracting millions of dollars from starving Puerto Rico for the coming war.
Ten million dollars' worth of valuable land had been given by the puppet colonial legislature free to the U.S. Navy for a naval base. Puerto Ricans had paid for dredging out San Juan Harbor so that it was deep enough for U.S. battleships. New U.S. Navy repair docks in San Juan were also paid for involuntarily by the Puerto Rican people. Further, local taxes had also paid for the construction of new U.S. military airstrips on Culebra, Isla Grande, Mona Island and elsewhere.
In desperately poor Puerto Rico the local taxes collected by the imperialist occupation forces were used for their own military needs rather than clinics or food. This policy was actually quite common for WWII: for example, both the Nazi and Japanese armies also forced the local inhabitants in conquered areas to support military construction for them. (21) The U.S. imperialists were in good company.
While it may have seemed like bad propaganda to so obviously increase misery among the Puerto Rican people, the New Deal believed otherwise. It was economic terrorism. U.S. military officials said that the Nationalist resistance to the draft had been broken. They admitted that the reason hungry Puerto Ricans were submitting to the draft was that even army rations were 'pay and food exceeding prevailing Island wages." It appeared to the military, however, that only one-third of the eligible men could be used due to the widespread physical debilitation from disease and malnutrition. (22) Still, Amerika's "War to Save Democracy" was off to a good start.
The war further accelerated the trend towards settler reunification. The stormy conflicts between settlers in the 30s had a healing effect, like draining a swollen wound. The war completed the process. Fascist and "communist," liberal and conservative alike all joined hands to follow their bourgeoisie into battle. In one small California town the press discovered that the first man in line to register for the draft was James Remochiaretta, a veteran of Mussolini's fascist Black Shirts, who proudly told everyone that he was now "100% American."
The impact of Amerika's entry into the war snapped the Italian and German communities right into line. The Italian-Amerikan petit-bourgeoisie had been both loyally pro-U.S. imperialism and pro-fascist Italy. Up to Pearl Harbor 80% of the Italian community newspapers had been pro fascist, with almost every Italian store in New York having a prominent picture of the Italian dictator Mussolini. Only the radical political exiles, most of them trade-unionists who fled Italy just ahead of the Black Shirts, were openly anti-fascist.
But once the U.S. Empire declared war on the Axis, every Italian community newspaper became "anti- fascist" overnight. Every Italian was now "100% American." In recognition, Italian citizens in the U.S. were removed from the "enemy alien" category by President Roosevelt on Columbus Day, 1942. (24)
This growing, settleristic unity promoted by the war sharply increased attacks on the nationally oppressed. This was one of the major social trends of the war period. While the tightened oppression of the Puerto Rican masses was a policy of the imperialists, these attacks came from all classes and sectors of settler society - from top to bottom.
On the West Coast the settler petit-bourgeoisie, primarily farming interests and small merchants, used settler chauvinism and the identification of Japanese as members of a rival imperialist Power, to plunder and completely remove the Japanese population. Just as the Chinese had been robbed and driven out of mining, agriculture and industry in the 19th century West, so now Japanese would be driven out. As everyone knows, some 110,000 of us were forcibly "relocated" into concentration camps by the U.S. Government in 1942.
Settler rule had restricted and hemmed in Japanese labor into the national minority economy of specialized agriculture, wholesale and retail food distribution, and domestic labor (in 1940 these three categories accounted for 84% of all Japanese employment). (25) But even this little was too much for the settler petit-bourgeoisie on the West Coast.
The Euro-Amerikans not only wanted the Japanese removed as competitors, but they wanted to take over and "annex" the agricultural business so painstakingly built up by the Japanese farmers. The typical Japanese farm of the period was very small, averaging only 42 acres each (less than one-fifth the average size of Euro-American farms in California). But these intensively developed lands, which comprised only 3.9% of California's farmland, produced fully 42% of the State's fresh fruits and vegetables. (26) The settler farm lobby wanted our business, which was too valuable to be left to "Japs."
Austin E. Anson, representative of the Shipper-Grower Association of Salinas, told the public: "We're charged with wanting to get rid of the Japs for selfish reasons. We might as well be honest. We do." Through their political influence, these interests got U.S. Sen. Hiram Johnson to pull together the West Coast congressional delegation as a bloc and push through the concentration camp program. (27)
By military order, enforced by the U.S. Army, the whole Japanese population was forced to leave or sell at give-away prices all we had - houses, land, businesses, cars, refrigerators; tools, furniture, etc. The Federal Reserve Bank loosely estimated the direct property loss alone at $400 million 1942 dollars. (28) The real loss was in the many billions - and in lives. But it was no loss to settlers, who ended up with much of it. West Coast settlers had a festive time, celebrating the start of their war by greedily dividing up that $400 million in "Jap" property. It was a gigantic garage sale held at gunpoint. This was just an early installment in settler prosperity from world war.
For Hawaii, a U.S. colony right in the middle of Asia, no such simple solution was possible. Early government discussions on removing and incarcerating the Japanese population quickly floundered. Over one-third of the working population there was Japanese, and without their labor the Islands' economy might break down. The U.S. Army said that: "...the labor shortage make it a matter of military necessity to keep the people of Japanese blood on the islands." Army and Navy officers proposed that the Japanese be kept at work there for the U.S. Empire, but treated "as citizens of an occupied foreign country." (29)
Burmashave sign read "Slap the Jap with Iron Scrap"
The patriotic Amerikan war spirit congealed itself into the usual racist forms. Chinese were encouraged to wear self-protective placards or buttons reading "I'm No Jap" to avoid being lynched. The Kuomintang-dominated Chinese communities were lauded by the settlers as now "good" Asians. Life ran an article on "How To Tell Your Friends From The Japs": "...the Chinese expression is likely to be more placid, kindly, open; the Japanese more positive, dogmatic, arrogant... Japanese walk stiffly erect... Chinese more relaxed, sometimes shuffle..." (30)
Of course, these imaginary differences only expressed the settler code wherein hostile or just victimized Asians were "bad," whereas those they thought more submissive (who "shuffle") were temporarily "good." Every effort was made to whip up settler chauvinism and hatred (an easy task). The famous war indoctrination film "My Japan," produced by the Defense Department, opens to an actor portraying a Japanese soldier bayoneting a baby - with the commentary that all Japanese "like" to kill babies. German fascist propaganda about the "racial crimes" of the Jews was no more bizarre than Amerikan propaganda for its own war effort.
The Euro-Amerikan working class, now reinforced by unions and the New Deal, brought the war "home" themselves in their massive wave of "hate strikes." These were strikes whose only demand was the blocking of Afrikan employment or promotion. They were a major feature of militant industrial life in the war period; a reaction to increased wartime employment of Afrikans by U.S. imperialism.
In the auto industry (which was the heart of war production) the "hate strikes" started in October, 1941. There were twelve major such strikes in auto plants just in the first six months of 1943. Dodge, Hudson, Packard, Curtis-Wright, Timken Axle and many other plants witnessed these settler working class offensives. The UAW-CIO and the Detroit NAACP held a "brotherhood" rally in Detroit's Cadillac Square to counteract the openly segregationist movement. That rally drew 10,000 people. But shortly thereafter 25,000 Packard workers went out on "hate strike" for five days. An even bigger strike staged by UAW Local 190 brought out 39,000 settler auto workers to stop the threatened promotion of four Afrikans. (31)
These "hate strikes" took place coast-to-coast, in a wave that hit all industries. In Baltimore, Bethlehem Steel's Sparrows Point plant went out in July, 1943. In that same area a major Western Electric plant was so solidly closed down by its December, 1943 "hate strike" that the U.S. Army finally had to take it over. The same thing happened when Philadelphia municipal transit workers closed down the city for six days in August, 1944, to block the hiring of eight Afrikan motormen. 5,000 U.S. Army troops were needed to get transit going again. The U.S. Government calculated that just in the three Spring months of 1943 alone, some 2.5 million man hours of industrial production were lost in "hate strikes." (32)
Mob violence against the oppressed was another war phenomenon, particularly by Euro-Amerikan servicemen. They now constituted an important temporary stratum in settler life, drawn together by the millions and organized into large units and bases. Attacks by settler sailors, marines and soldiers on Chicano-Mexicanos, Afrikans and Asians on the West Coast grew larger and larger in 1943. The climax came in the "Zoot Suit Riots" in East Los Angeles on the nights of June 2-7th. They were so named because Euro-Amerikans were infuriated that the "hip" clothing styles of Chicano-Mexicano youth ex-pressed disrespect for "American" culture. Groups of settler servicemen would beat up and cut the clothing off Chicano-Mexicano men.
The June 7th climax involved thousands of settler G.I.s, who with the protection of the Los Angeles police and their military commanders invaded the barrio, destroying restaurants and taking movie theater-goers captive. Street cars were seized, and one Afrikan who was pulled off had both eyes cut out. Finally, the social chaos - and the intensely angry wave of anti-U.S. feeling in Mexico - grew so large that the U.S. military ordered their troops to stop. (33)
Similar incidents took place throughout the U.S. Sailors from the Naval Armory near Detroit's Belle Isle park joined thousands of other settlers in attacking Afrikans, resulting in the city-wide fighting of the 1943 "Detroit Race Riot." 25 Afrikans and 9 settlers were killed, and many hundreds seriously wounded. The growing Afrikan resistance and community self-defense there was also seen in the August 1, 1943 great '"Harlem Race Riot." Oppressed communities in the major urban areas had now grown so large that ordinary settler mob attacks were less and less successful. The New Deal didn't need the Northern industrial cities burning with insurrection, and so moved to "cool" things.
Bourgeois historians in writing about the various multi-class settler offensives on the "home front," invariably relate them to the "tension" and "uncertainty" of the war. But these government-sponsored attacks and repressions were not random explosions of "tension." They had a clear direction.
It is easy to see this by contrasting the above events to the treatment of the thousands of German P.O.W.s brought to the U.S. after their defeat in North Afrika. These enemy soldiers met no mob violence or other attacks from "tense" Euro-Amerikans. In fact, the German Army prisoners were widely treated with hospitality and respect by Euro-Amerikans, and fed and housed like settlers. Many were let out on "work release" to join the civilian U.S. economy, with some even going off on their own to live on small, Midwestern family farms.
While overseas they were enemies, here in Amerika they became honorary settlers, since they were fellow citizens of European imperialist Powers (in contrast to the colonial subjects). Literally, captured Nazi officers were freer than Albizu Campos or the Hon. Elijah Muhammad. One Afrikan in the U.S. Army wrote about how his unit was sent in 1942 to open Smoky Hill Army Air Field in Salinas, Kansas. They discovered to no surprise that they were barred from the town's best movie theater, the hotels, restaurants and grills, and so on. Their only real surprise came when they saw a restaurant serving ten German prisoners with "the distinctive high-peaked caps of Rommel's Afrika Korps. No guard was with them." The owner of the restaurant rushed over to remind them that no Afrikans were allowed inside. Nazi soldiers ranked far above Afrikan G.I.s as far as settlers were concerned. (34)
The "race riots" were the war, just on the "home front." This was not the only development in the relationship between the U.S. Empire and the nationally oppressed. Underneath the violent surface, not separated from the violence but drawing power from it, there grew a trend of neo-colonialism within the U.S. Empire.