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V. Grey

Shop Talks on Socialism

How Much Is Three Hundred Billion?

(27 July 1946)

From The Militant, Vol. X No. 30, 27 July 1946, p. 6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Suppose we were the rulers of our own destiny? Suppose we workers owned the world, and there had been no war in which we killed each other off like flies. What could we have done with the three hundred billion our Wall Street masters spent for war? What would we have produced if the factories were ours?

Remember that we American toilers produced all our food and clothing during the war period. And as if to prove that we could produce miracles besides, we made this three hundred billion dollars’ worth of murder machinery as well. But that was not our fault. It was our masters’ fault.

Three hundred billion changed into the things we need and want would change the face of the whole countryside All the 15 million broken-down farm-houses in the country could be replaced with brand new modern homes at a cost of $7,000 apiece. (This is more than an average farm is worth!) This would cost us about 105 billion.

In every city of 100,000 population or over (there are 99 of them) we could build 100 great modern apartment buildings or project-communities. But these would be no shabby tenements for the “poor.” These would be like the apartments of the rich. For we could spend 10 million dollars on each of these projects.

We would make them complete with great green courtyards and playgrounds for children, swimming pools, fine restaurants and roof gardens. There would be plenty of room and all kinds of conveniences for the weary housewife. Thus we could royally house a good two-thirds of the country’s population for 250 billion dollars. (Even with the present high cost of housing, all the houses and apartments in the country could hardly fetch that much today.)

With the people once housed decently, what about the 300 billion we could produce in the following four years? Get out your pencil and paper and see what you can do for the people with that!

Let us look at it from the standpoint of other needs. There are 3,000 small cities and towns throughout the country. We could set up a 3 million dollar hospital in each of them and endow each with a 2 million dollar fund to give free care to the patients. This, at a cost of only 15 billion!

We could set up great research laboratories to track down the cures for cancer and tuberculosis. The Rockefeller Foundation is the largest agency in the world for this activity at the present. At last reports its capital was 144 million dollars. Our foundation we could make at least a HUNDRED TIMES as good for only 14.4 billion dollars!

What Could We Have Had?

There are about 40 million families in the country. The great majority of these have no personal property to speak of. What could they have with all this wealth? Why, with Frigidaires at 250 dollars apiece, every single family could have one – at a cost of only 10 billion dollars. A 100 dollar vacuum cleaner and washing machine for everybody for only 8 billion more!

Many families have never owned a car. The vast majority have never had, and never expect to have a new one. Every one of the 40 million could have a brand new thousand dollar automobile – cost – only 40 billion dollars.

That is only a small idea of what we could have done – if only we, instead of the capitalists, had owned the productive equipment.

Now why cannot the capitalists produce these things for all the people? Their profits are made from production, as we have proved. How is it then that their factories were collecting rust before the war? Why didn’t they produce all these fine things in the four years before the war began? Why won’t they produce them in the four years ahead of us now the war is over?

It was under the capitalist system that factories were first built. It was under capitalism that mass production and cheap goods for all first began. Apartment houses, automobiles, Frigidaires and vacuum cleaners are the inventions and products of capitalism. How is it this same capitalism cannot give these things to the people in any quantity? What is making capitalism break down?

(Next Week: Growth and Decay)

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