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The Militant, 14 September 1946

Eugene Shays

UNRRA Promises Prove to Be Lies

From The Militant, Vol. X No. 37, 14 September 1946, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


UNRRA was founded in 1943, and a great amount of publicity assured the peoples of the world of the humanitarian intentions which especially the U.S. and Great Britain had in creating such an agency. The war-torn lands of Europe and Asia, they said, were to be at least partially rehabilitated through it, and their starving, suffering peoples were to receive some of the necessities of life until normal times had returned.

But the promises of UNRRA proved to be as empty as all the other war-time promises of imperialism. Congress appropriated $2,700,000,000 as the American contribution to UNRRA – a trivial amount when compared to the war expenditures (two billions for the atomic bomb, 500 millions for the Bikini tests!). Before one can arrive at the paltry amount that did go for relief, one should deduct the considerable profits made from the sale of these materials to UNRRA, both by American capitalists and foreign governments reselling them to their nationals.

The fundamental indifference to the needs of 150 million destitute people in Europe and 250 million in Asia was exposed not only by the small sums appropriated for UNRRA, but also by the decision of the U.S. government to discontinue the organization.

The UNRRA Council, consisting of 48 nations, is now in session at Geneva, to deliberate the cessation of its operations, and what to do about the many tasks it left unfinished. Among them is the disposition of one million displaced persons, who cannot be repatriated and who have no place to go; the urgent need of 750 million dollars worth of food and 200 million dollars’ worth of fertilizers, to say nothing of medical supplies and clothing for the coming winter. The figures cited are UNRRA figures and probably do not cover even minimum needs. According to the Department of Agriculture, even improved harvests in 1946 throughout the world “will leave food supplies next spring considerably below demand.”

The reason for stopping what Under-secretary of State Clayton brazenly calls the. “gravy train” lies in the desire of U.S. capitalists to return to “channels of private trade.” Concerning UNRRA, World Report, an authoritative business weekly stated on Aug. 15: “Normal markets, free of governmental restrictions and operations, are at the heart of the program officially sponsored by the U.S.”

Private exporters thus are to be enabled to extort the last penny of profit from the devastated nations of Europe and Asia, forcing them into debts from which there is no way out, forcing them into making concessions which are to give U.S. imperialism a further hold upon their economies. Clayton’s statement, in the light of these facts, clearly reveals the connection between the government and “private enterprise” – the government being the latter’s eager and willing agent in this as in any other matter affecting the interests of capitalism.

The fact that the Soviet Union and areas dominated by her have received 40 per cent of UNRRA shipments and have not reciprocated with contributions of their own, with the USSR failing to give quotas of her own production and consumption of goods, is adduced as another reason, although an “unofficial” one, for the decision to discontinue UNRRA.

The true reason undoubtedly must be sought in the fact, however, that the chances of export trade with these regions have dimmed considerably since the inception of UNRRA; hence the latter has ceased to be the promising investment it appeared to be at first. The elimination of relief from this area is part of the design of Western imperialism to force it into its orbit of trade. Humanitarian considerations are, of course, completely foreign to this issue.

American workers must create their own relief agencies through which help can be given to their working class brothers overseas.

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