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James M. Fenwick

Off Limits


(1 April 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 13, 1 April 1946, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the ETOL.

Look carefully again at the figure which heads this column. It looks like one of those astronomically large, almost incomprehensible, figures which are used in describing distances between the stars in our universe, doesn’t it?

It represents the amount of money Congress appropriated during the years 1941 through 1946 for war purposes.

To help you realize just how large this sum is, imagine that it were all turned into one-dollar bills. Then imagine you started counting this money at the rate of one dollar a second. Imagine, further that with true capitalist enterprise you worked tirelessly day and night. It would take you 13,247 years to complete the job. You would finish in the year 15,193.

Had you begun counting in the past so as to finish this year, you would have had to begin to 11,300 B.C. – 8,300 years before the building of the pyramids in Egypt, thousands of years before the Biblical flood, thousands of years before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by “fire and brimstone from the Lord out of heaven,” 13,246 years before the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by atomic bombs dropped from the heavens at the behest of our capitalist lords and masters.

Capitalism – Creator of Death

This dazzling mass of wealth, more magnificent than the wildest dreams of Indian maharajahs or dissolute emperors of antiquity, was used by capitalism to create death and destruction, and hunger, heartbreak and mutilation on a scale unparalleled in previous history.

What wonders could have been worked had this wealth been applied to socially useful ends!

Fifty-five days of such expenditures would have paid for the entire WPA program, which capitalism so begrudgingly allowed millions of workers to exist on during the depression.

Had this mass of wealth been divided among the nearly 35,000,000 families in the United States, each family would have received $11,936.

In other words, every family in the United States – your family! – would have received the following:

What a revolution in our lives it would have meant!

Socialism, the Hope of Humanity

Why can’t capitalism, which can create miracles of production for war, do the same in peacetime?

The reason is very simple: Capitalism disposes of manufactured products only when it can turn a profit. That is why, though periodically under capitalism huge surpluses build up, and though at the same time millions of people in the United States desperately desire these products, capitalism will not release them.

There is no PROFIT in it. So that is why people go hungry when there is too much wheat, are poorly dressed when there are too many clothes on the market, and go cold when there is an excess of coal.

Socialism destroys the profit system and substitutes production for use. Under socialism, goods which are produced will immediately flow into the hands of those who desire them without being dammed up because of the necessity of extracting a profit.

For desiring such a social system, socialists are called visionaries, crackpots.

Capitalists, of course, are notoriously sane – sane, that is, if you consider the spending of $417,260,127,310 for the destruction of human life a mark of sanity, sane if you consider the feverish preparations for atomic warfare the sign of a balanced mind, sane if you consider toying with the disintegration of the globe itself a national act.


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