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Susan Green

Of Special Interest to Women

(5 April 1942)

From Labor Action, Vol. 6 No. 14, 5 April 1942, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Some weeks ago Leon Henderson ordered the freezing of prices of canned goods. The reports gave the impression that Mr. Henderson’s order would stop the galling practice of slapping 1 cent, 2 cents, and 3 cents onto the retail prices of canned goods – without rhyme or reason. However, that is exactly what continues to happen.

When complaining to grocers about the recent increases in prices of canned goods in spite of the freezing order, housewives get the answer: “We don’t know about any freezing order.”

Did Mr. Henderson order a ceiling on prices of canned goods, or didn’t he?

And if he did, why is the housewife not getting the benefit of his order?

A young woman recently employed in a war production plant was put in a department where she was the only woman. She was taken on to replace a worker who had been drafted. He had worked at 80 cents an hour. She was employed at 55 cents an hour.

The men immediately ganged up on her. They used every trick they knew to “disencourage” her from keeping the job. They hid tools and tried to bungle up her work. The men were so mean because they saw in the new woman worker, employed at a much lower wage, a threat to their own wage standards.

Not only that, they saw in her a new rival for a job in the post-war period, when jobs are going to be very much fewer.

However, that woman went to work because she needs a job. She will try again somewhere else. What did these workers accomplish by their hostile conduct – except to antagonize a fellow worker?

Something entirely different must be done about the influx of women into industry.

Every new woman worker must be turned into a good militant unionist. And the union must make an issue of, and put up a real fight for, equal wages for equal work regardless of sex or color. Thus and only thus will the threat to wage standards be removed.

Workers will not get anywhere by antagonizing each other. Only the boss will gain thereby. The situation demands working class solidarity.

For the post-war period, if socialism is not by then victorious, unions must prepare to demand a shorter work week – thirty hours or less, with an adequate minimum wage for all workers alike. This will make jobs for more workers. Unions must also prepare to demand that plants be opened to produce goods needed for consumption, when the bosses close down for reasons of profit. This will also make more jobs for the post-war period.

In this way men and women workers, black and white workers, must together plan for their mutual benefit. Otherwise the bosses will use women against men, black against white – and the whole working class will get it in the neck.

Washington politicians are overworking their poor brains on schemes to reduce the purchasing power of the workingman and his family. At the same time the society columns of the Washington papers tell of the gay goings-on of the real spendthrifts. There are no pikers in the Washington smart set.

On Sunday 70 guests dropped in on Federal Security Administrator and Mrs. McNutt. Then again the Rhode Island Avenue home of Mrs. George Barnett saw a constant “inpouring and outpouring of guests” on Sunday afternoon.

Mrs. Lawrence Wood Robert celebrated her birthday twice – once at a cocktail party given by her husband, and once more at a buffet supper given by the Under Secretary of the Interior and his wife at their Woodley Park Tower apartment. Among the distinguished guests were House Speaker Samuel Rayburn, Secretary of Agriculture and Mrs. Wickard, Rear Admiral and Mrs. George Pettengill, Representative James Barnes, Mrs. Leon Henderson. And you will want to know that “Hattie Carnegie, the famous couturier, flew down from New York for the party with her husband, Major John Zanft.” It takes a lot of purchasing power to throw such parties and to be ravishing in gowns by Hattie Carnegie.

On the same day Comdr. and Mrs. Charles Windsor were at home to nearly 200 people, according to the Washington Times-Herald. “Everybody came and nobody went,” the columnist wrote, and there was “much fun and forgetfulness of time.” It takes a lot of purchasing power to entertain 200 “discriminating guests” into “forgetfulness of time.”

The smart set in Washington is all for the war to save “their way of life.” And why not?

Mothers shudder with horror at the wholesale annihilation of adults and innocent children in the European countries by starvation and. disease. Some reports estimate that in France alone 1,000 children die daily. In Greece an epidemic of diphtheria took a toll of 700 to 800 children a day because of lack of antitoxin – this on top of the “normal’’ deaths from starvation.

Mothers in America console themselves with the thought: “It can’t happen here.” Why can’t it happen here?

The First World War – which was milk and honey compared to the present conflict – brought to this country an epidemic of influenza that played havoc with the population and killed off a lot of people. It was unanimously agreed by medical authorities that the epidemic was caused by malnutrition due to the war, plus the overwork, weariness, exhaustion suffered by the people. The shortage of hospitals, beds, nurses and doctors, also due to the war, made it impossible to give the stricken people proper care.

It is true that today life in this country is still “near normal.” But what of the years to come? Senator Taft talks of a five-year war. Senator Pepper talks of a ten-year war as a possibility. The Kiplinger Service for business men paints an even more devastating picture – a future of unceasing wars.

What will happen to us all if the destructive processes of war continue over five, over ten years? What if the devastation of war continue throughout our epoch?

Can’t it happen here?

The working class can afford to take no chances. Socialism holds the only guarantee of the survival of the human race in a civilized society. For socialism will end wars.

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