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The Militant, 20 July 1946

The Editors

Our Program to Fight Price Rises

From The Militant, Vol. X No. 29, 20 July 1946, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Two weeks ago The Militant in a front-page editorial briefly reviewed the price situation following the expiration of the OPA and outlined a program to safeguard the workers’ living standards in the face ,of rising prices. The Daily Worker of July 12 prints an article by George Morris, R-r-revolutionary Fight on OPA, which pretends to be a “reasoned” criticism of our analysis and program. The purpose of Morris’ article is to indoctrinate the readers of the Daily Worker against our program by distorting its content, while at the same time, covering up, the shameful role of the Stalinists in the fight against rising prices.

The “trick” in Morris’ article is very simple. Our editorial said that Truman, the labor leaders and the Stalinists are trying so preserve the illusion that OPA controlled prices; and we warned the workers not to be deceived into believing that revival of the OPA would protect their living standards. Morris quotes part of our criticism of OPA —and says that this is the same as opposition to price control! Because we expose the OPA we are really “sabotaging” the struggle for price control and using “seemingly revolutionary” demands to cover this up. Being a Stalinist, schooled in the game of distortion and falsification, he naturally does not indicate what our demands are.

What We Stand For

But we didn’t equate OPA with price control in that editorial, and we don’t do so now. Every worker and every housewife knows that the cost of living kept rising all the time under the OPA; that the OPA granted price rise after price rise to the corporations; that real prices climbed steadily upward through deterioration in quality, tie-in sales, black market operations, etc. Will Morris or anyone else dare to dispute the truth of these statements?

The Militant has been and is in favor of effective price control—that is precisely why we are against the illusion that the OPA controlled prices. The government never had any interest in the welfare of the consumers—all it was ever concerned with was protecting the profits of Big Business. It pretended to control prices through the OPA only in order to provide hypocritical justification for the wage freeze, to restrain the workers from demanding wage raises to meet the rising cost of living. This double-dealing was aided all through the war and since its end by trade union leaders and the Stalinists.

We want prices effectively fixed, controlled and policed —and we know that the OPA never did that and, never will. Instead of pandering to illusions On this score, we insist on telling the workers the truth—which is that they can depend only on themselves and their allies, the poor farmers, the small shopkeepers, etc., to control, fix and police prices in the interests of the consumers.

Today, in many parts of the country the unions together with consumer organizations are conducting picketlines and holding demonstrations to prevent price and rent rises. We Trotskyists are 100 per cent in favor of such action, we support it and we participate in it. This is a step in the right direction—the first efforts Of the masses to take price control into their own hands.

In addition to hailing and participating in such actions, we call on the workers and consumers to extend this activity on a local and national scale; to give a permanent character to such activity by creating mass consumers’ committees which will intervene everywhere that the corporations attempt to gouge the people; to draw into this activity the small shopkeepers themselves, who are also the victims of the big profiteering trusts; to demand the expropriation under workers’ control of the industries which persist in extorting price rises by withholding the commodities the masses need.

That is what we advocate on price control. And what do the Stalinists propose? Are they in favor of mobilizing the masses to take price-fixing out of the hands of Wall Street’s agents in Washington? No, their answer is the OPA, glorified beyond recognition and dressed up as the kind of effective price agency it never was. And to revive the OPA, they call for—a buyers’ strike!

To buy or not to buy—is that really the question now facing the workers? Shall we refuse to buy food for our children, or go without shoes, or move to tents in the park? What nonsense it is to advise workers to do without “unnecessary” items when their present income does not enable them to buy even the prime necessities to properly feed, clothe and house their families. Yet that is the reactionary, utopian program offered by the Stalinists. We denounce and expose that program at the same time we participate in the price control struggles of the workers and consumers, seeking to emphasize all the progressive features of that struggle and to raise them to higher levels. Not by “passive resistance” but by mass action and militant action will the consumers solve their problems.

Meanwhile, prices soar. And, since the debate in Congress is only over how much to let them rise, prices will continue to soar. What should the unions themselves do about the degradation of living standards through skyrocketing prices? Our editorial of two weeks ago gave the answer to this burning question too when it advocated a struggle for the sliding scale of wages.

This proposal The Militant has made a thousand times since the beginning of the war. Insert a sliding-scale-of-wages clause into every union contract, we said; establish a fixed minimum wage, and then every time prices go up, automatically adjust wages upward to compensate for the increased cost of living. This sliding scale of wages, of course, would not be based on the government’s false price index, but on a reliable index worked out by the trade unions themselves.

This program is winning more and more support among the unions as the workers come to see how they were hoaxed by the promise of “price-freezing” during the war. A number of auto, steel and rubber unions have declared their support for it in the recent months; the CIO packinghouse workers union is at this moment negotiating a new wage contract containing a variant of the sliding scale of wages in the form of a cost-of-living bonus.

But what about the Stalinists? Not a word from them. Both Morris and the unions under Stalinist influence are as silent as the grave when it comes to this fighting program for protecting the workers’ living standards against the blows of inflation. Every member of the Communist Party and every militant unionist has the right and duty to ask why.

Another significant section of our brief editorial which Morris “neglected” to deal with was our proposal for united labor action against the menace of runaway inflation. We said:

“Now more than ever, all the unions — CIO, AFL and Railroad Brotherhoods — must join in united action. They must immediately convene a National Conference, of Labor to put forward a program of joint action and mobilize the workers for a real fight ... Forward to the United Labor Conference! Stop the profiteers by the independent action of the working massess!”

That was one of the main points of our editorial. It has been one of our chief calls for action. This action has been supported by many sections of the union movement; conferences on a local scale have already been held in many areas. Where do the Stalinists stand? Every two or three weeks they have an article paying lip-service to the proposal for a United Labor Conference. But in the unions where they have influence they do not lift a finger in its behalf because to do so might bring them into conflict with Philip Murray who is against it. And they have the nerve to accuse us of sabotaging the struggle for price control!

Stalinist Smear Artist

George Morris is the Daily Worker’s Trotsky-baiting smear artist. During the war he wrote a scurrilous pamphlet denouncing the Trotskyists for opposing Wall Street’s imperialist war aims, for fighting against Jim Crow in the army, for opposing the wage-freeze and the no-strike pledge. If “under Browder” Morris denounced every progressive demand advanced by us as playing into the hands of the Nazis, then “under Foster” he continues the same poison-pen wonk under new conditions.

The Militant and the Socialist Workers Party stood out alone during the war in defense of labor’s cause. We are doing the same work today. The inflation now scourging the workers and the middle class is the direct consequence of the war. These truths the Stalinists must conceal. Those who conceal the real causes of inflation cannot engage in a genuine struggle against it; they must hire scoundrels to lie about those who do engage in such a struggle.

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