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The New International, November 1941


Notes of the Month

OPM and the Dollar-a-Year Men


From The New International, Vol. VII No. 10, November 1941, pp. 263–4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


CONTRASTED TO THE NEW determination of the Roosevelt Administration to ban strikes, control labor and compel increasingly greater sacrifices from the trade unions and the workers, is the manner in which big business dominates the defense program and assures the giant corporations of a steady stream of war profits. As in England and Germany, the war program rests in the hands of the upper stratum of the big bourgeoisie. How can it be otherwise? Modern total war is completely dependent upon the giant industrial combines and defense production means subordination of and correlation to the requirements and productive capacities of these capitalist organizations. For all the denunciations of war profiteering, the issuance of increased taxation programs, the inauguration of plans to curb price elevations, and similar measures to neutralize the feelings of the masses, the truth is that big business profits mightily from the war effort in all the belligerent and semi-belligerent nations.

The vast defense program in the United States can have only one result for American big business: enrich its coffers manifold. This is guaranteed by the manner in which big business, through its dollar-a-year men, controls the issuance of contracts to itself.

A short while ago, the People’s Lobby, Inc., issued a bulletin describing the situation in Washington. It pointed out that in the month of June almost $2,000,000,000 in war contracts were issued to corporations whose controlling officers were in the government supervising the issuance of these same contracts. The following large corporations, which received enormous contracts, were directly represented in the Office of Production Management: General Motors Corp., General Electric Co., Bethlehem Steel Co., Chrysler Corp., United Aircraft & Transportation, Western Electric, Westinghouse Electric & Mfg. Co., American Brass Co., etc.

The bulletin, which was introduced into the Congressional Record by Representative John M. Coffee, goes on to recite that:

A number of men from the ranks of big business are today the most important administrators of the defense program; William S. Knudsen, president of General Motors Corporation since 1937, now in charge of the Office of Production Management; Edward S. Stettinius, Jr., chairman of the board of the U.S. Steel Corp. (since then he has resigned his post) and an old associate of Mr. Knudsen in General Motors, now director, Priorities Division of OPM; John David Diggers, president, Libby-Owens-Ford Glass Co, another experienced automobile man, now director of production of OPM; Roy Jackson, formerly associated with Ford Motor Co., 1918-31, General Motors Export Co., 1931–34, and United States Steel Export Co., 1938 to date, now administrative officer of the OPM; Ralph Budd, president, Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Co., now commissioner of the Office of Transportation of the OPM.

Having thoroughly penetrated the chief agency controlling the defense production program, the big business men, serving the government at a dollar a year (whilst they draw their fat salaries from their companies) have also entrenched themselves in all other defense agencies. This guarantees them an overall control of the present war economy. People’s Lobby, Inc., says that there are more than 250 dollar-a-year men serving the various defense bodies. It recites that:

Of this number, at least 42 are presidents of corporations. The majority of these are major corporations such as General Motors, Dravo Corporation, Atlantic Greyhound Corp., American Airlines, Inc., American Coffee Corporation, Carnegie Corp., Libby-Owens-Ford Glass Co., Procter & Gamble Co., etc.

The function of these big business men who control the defense program and all defense agencies is a simple one: they insure the continued flow of contracts to their respective corporations and thereby the large profits accruing from the war boom. A casual perusal of the financial pages of the leading papers in the country or the Federal Reserve Bank and National City Bank reports will show that, despite new rises in taxation, profits of all the large corporations engaged in war production have risen enormously. These men are in Washington to prevent the enactment of measures limiting profits, to insure the retention of their contracts and to control the business arising out of American efforts to become the “arsenal of democracy.”

Thus, monopoly capitalism also retains its death-like grip on economy. It is estimated that, out of more than 180,000 manufacturing firms in the country, only a little more than 6,000 are participating in the war boom. One therefore can readily understand the rising paternal attitude toward the small business man by sections of the Administration, backwoods congressmen and a portion of the bourgeois press. They foresee trouble ahead as a result of the great economic dislocation which accompanies the defense program.

Reformists and “socialist” well-wishers of the Roosevelt Administration may, at one and the same time, denounce big business and plead extenuating circumstances surrounding the President, but they cannot alter this condition.

It is impossible for a bourgeois state, preparing for war, to conduct itself in any other way. The era of Rooseveltian reformism is over. Today we are living in the first stages of a war economy.

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