War Deal Easy on the Rich;
Doesn’t Try to Draft Wealth

(3 August 1940)

Source: Socialist Appeal, Vol. IV No. 31, 3 August 1940, p. 4.
Transcription/Editing/HTML Markup: 2020 by Einde O’Callaghan.
Public Domain: George Novack Internet Archive 2020; This work is completely free. In any reproduction, we ask that you cite this Internet address and the publishing information above.

Easy on the rich and tough on the poor. That’s the way the War Deal works. Under the Compulsory Military Service Bill every man from 18 to 64, aliens included, is made liable to military service and everyone from 21 to 45 may have to serve for at least one year. At first the sponsors of conscription proposed to pay the conscripts five dollars a month but now the government, “to avoid dissension between the professional soldiers and the draftees,” is going to pay them equal wages – twenty-one dollars a month!

One might suppose, as a matter of equity, that capital would be called upon to make similar sacrifices. If the government is going to take millions of workers away from their jobs and draft them for military service, why not also billions of dollars? Far from drafting wealth and imposing any comparable sacrifices upon it, however, Congress and the administration are wooing the capitalists and making every possible concession to them.

On July 25th, for example, the N.Y. Times reported that “the Treasury has approved a method try which corporations undertaking defense contracts may, over a short period of time,, charge off to depreciation the cost of new plant and, equipment necessary for defense orders.” While the workers are being coerced into military service and asked to refrain from making further demands or striking, the big armaments firms are being relieved of taxes and are extending their properties at government expense.

This is how a capitalist government prepares for an imperialist war. The workers are compelled to sacrifice their material interests and risk their lives but the administration protects the material interests of the capitalists by seeing that their investments take no risk. Money, you see, is more important than lives.

Roosevelt has repeatedly promised that no one is going to get rich from the armaments boom. Congress is making sure that the draftees won’t be rolling in wealth at twenty-one dollars a month. But let’s see what’s happening to the arms-manufacturers.

Eugene Grace, President of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation, made a report to his stockholders last week. “The first 10 percent of the expansion program of the U.S. Navy,” Grace announced, “has increased the unfilled orders of the corporation to nearly $500,000,000!” Operations for July were at 99 percent of full capacity, orders booked during the month have been at nearly 140 per cent of basic productive capacity; and earnings of $3.07 a share were the second best for the second quarter of the year in the history of the company!

This is one of the corporations which continues to violate the provisions of the Walsh-Healey Act that prevailing union; scales should be paid on government work. And what is its reward? Not only is it a principal beneficiary of the arms program but, as Grace incidentally revealed, the government is making additions to its plant. “The Government already is paying for certain extensions of Bethlehem’s facilities and owns these extensions outright, Mr. Grace said, declining to reveal the nature of the additions,” according to the N.Y. Times. Where the government made such additions in the last war, the capitalists were able to buy them later at bankruptcy prices.

On behalf of his stockholders Grace issued the following ultimatum to the government.

“I believe that where the facilities to be created have no commercial value, we are not warranted in spending our stockholders’ money for the added plant. The Government must either purchase and own the facilities, or it must finance the construction of the new plant which is to be operated by private industry, or permit private industry to create the facilities needed to get sufficient business and make sufficient profit to compensate them for creating these facilities.”

Why should these labor-sweating corporations amass wealth and increase their properties at the expense of the workers Why shouldn’t the government take over and operate all the arms industries, as it already does in the case of certain shipyards? The government could begin this program of nationalization by taking over the three leading violators of the Walsh-Healey Act among the arms-manufacturers, Bethlehem Steel, Douglas Air-Craft, and Electric Boat Company.

Make the Rich Pay for Their War!

The War Dealers hope to make the poor pay for the war-preparations by Imposing heavy hidden taxes upon the necessities of life, thus boosting the cost of living; by driving down wage-scales and doing away with union standards; and drafting labor into government service at coolie wages. The workers should not let the War Dealers get away with this. They ought to insist upon trade union wages on all defense work and defend the full freedom of the unions to exercise their right to strike, if necessary, to gain their demands.

We are just as much in favor of conscripting capital as we are opposed to the conscription of labor. During the hearings on the Conscription Bill, Senator Lee of Oklahoma introduced a bill which would empower the President to draft the use of money according to each individual’s ability to lend. This bill is not a real “Draft-The-Wealth” measure. It would do no more than enable the government to get money at low interest rates.

But the idea of drafting wealth is a good one.

The corporation owners, the coupon-clippers and all the spokesmen for America’s 60 Families will doubtless howl to the heavens against such terrible measures of expropriations. But a government that is getting ready to expropriate millions of men from their jobs and their lives, should at least be forced to do the same in regard to capital. The National Association of Manufacturers may consider their property interests more valuable and their profits more precious than human life, but the workers and their families do not think so.


Last updated on: 24 May 2020