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John F. Petrone

To My Uncle in Italy

(9 February 1948)

From The Militant, Vol. 12 No. 6, 9 February 1948, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Dear Uncle:

Thanks for your letter about the Italian strikes.

I hope that by this time you have received the CARE package we sent. As soon as our budget allows, we will send another. But that is not the purpose of this letter, I am writing this at the suggestion of a man with considerable power in our government, the Honorable Alexander Wiley of Wisconsin, a Republican member of the U.S. Senate who is noted for speeches extolling the quality of cheese produced in his state. Sometimes he discusses broader subjects in the Senate, as he. did when he said recently:

“American citizens writing abroad should write about true conditions in America, stressing the many blessings that we enjoy in this land of freedom, the comforts, the conveniences, as well as stressing the aid that we have already extended abroad for the noblest of humanitarian purposes – both as individuals and as a nation.”

This strikes me as a good idea.

First, a word or two about that chief blessing, the high American standard of living. Of course, it is higher than the Italian standard, but it is nothing like what you sec in the Hollywood films. Money wages are much higher than ever before, but that is true in Italy too. isn’t it?

Last week a New Jersey mechanic, told a Senate committee he earns $2,500 a year, but because of high prices he and his family do not have enough food or milk, or money for medical care. “We are just existing, not living,” he said.

And in Cleveland, a post office worker earning $2,700 a year, declared he and his family had been better off during the depression when he worked in a steel mill for 60c an hour, or less than $1,300 a year. To be worse off than during the terrible depression my father used to write you about such blessings we can well do without.

I think you have already had the chance to become familiar with some of the other blessings we enjoy in this land of freedom.

For example, President Truman has for the last ear been carrying on a “loyalty” campaign to terrorize and drive out of the government all employees holding ideas which he labels as “subversive.” Mussolini, if I recall rightly, did the same.

Congress has passed a savage anti-labor law to discourage strikes and. regiment the unions. You yourself have written us how the fascist government issued similar decrees. Truman broke a national strike to make the railroads run on time. Mussolini achieved some of his fame in a like manner.

In Oklahoma a girt has been denied admission to the state law school solely because of the color of her skin. Mussolini’s fascist press also spouted “white supremacy” doctrines when, his planes dropped bombs and gas on the helpless Ethiopians.

Generals and bankers are the undisputed lords and masters in Washington, even as they were in Italy after the First World War. One of their chief demands is peace-time conscription; evidently they were impressed by the successes it won for Mussolini and Hitler.

The people groan under the burden of heavy taxes, extorted in the name of preserving peace through a vast war preparation program.

I could continue indefinitely in this vein about the “true conditions” in this country. But I don’t want you to get a wrong impression. I am not saying that America today is like fascist Italy in every respect, but that the capitalist class in America is like the capitalist class in fascist Italy – only more powerful and therefore more dangerous. If they have their way, an American Duce will put us all on a castor oil diet.

But we intend to see to it that they don’t have their way. When the American workers get done correcting things, we’ll take that atom bomb out of their hands and put them to work at useful labor. If they still want to make the railroads run on time, we’ll give them honest jobs as firemen or ticket-punchers.


Your devoted nephew,

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