When Johnny Comes Marching Home

In many movies after the second world war there was a scene where the local boys came home to their little US town. The band played, hats were thrown in the air and the old frosty school mar’m could be seen to shed a secret tear.

It is a beautiful fantasy and if you add Van Johnson, Elizabeth Taylor and whoever happens to be the present teen dream to the scene it could play for ever today. There is only one snag, it is not true. Some of the homeless people that try to beg money from you on Waterloo Bridge fought in the Falklands. Some that will try to tap you in the future fought in Afghanistan or Iraq. From North America we read in the Toronto Globe and Mail (19 February): “Since Vietnam, we’ve learned that there’s on average a 12 year delay between returning from war and begging on the streets,” Linda Boone of the Washington-based National Coalition for Homeless Veterans told me. She said governments should start getting ready for vast numbers of beggars and vagrants, all created by war.

It is a well-known phenomenon, albeit one that governments have never properly acknowledged: After any war ends, the number of people living on the streets increases dramatically.’ Does this mean that the ElizabethTaylor and Van Johnson charachters ended up sleeping rough, surely not! From the same article we learn that “in Britain, the government has estimated that a quarter of the people ‘sleeping rough’ – on the streets – are military veterans. If you want to find someone who fought in the Falklands war, you’d best look in the tunnels beneath Waterloo Bridge.”

The facts seem obvious to us – Johnny, stay at home and read your Socialist Standard.


Leave a Reply