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Susan Green

Of Special Interest to Women

(8 June 1942)

From Labor Action, Vol. 6 No. 23, 8 June 1942, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Do you remember the highest prices in March for all the commodities supposed to be under the ceiling? If your memory is exceptional, you may recall the exact prices of a few items, but no more. That is quite natural. In day to day buying one knows when an item is higher than the last time it was bought. One also knows too well when the dollar is bringing home less bacon. But for every housewife to keep in mind exact prices paid for individual items as far back as March – and for the whole month to boot – is out of the question.

Furthermore, many commodities are not in the class of day to day purchases. Such are dry goods, house furnishings, clothing, shoes, etc. So that housewives who did not buy these more durable goods during March have absolutely nothing to go by today.

In spite of this unquestionable situation, Mr. Henderson and his OPA have – with a grand sweeping gesture – passed on to the individual consumer the job of enforcing the price ceilings. In the past week he has been appearing on the screen of every movie house and put it up to the consumer to keep retail prices in line with the March highs.

This means that Henderson cannot do the job of enforcing price control – and admits it. He drops the hot potato into the hands of the consumer.

All right. Let us take Henderson at his word – but not as individuals.

Housewives can handle the hot potato of price control if they put on the protective glove of consumer organization, namely, neighborhood housewives’ committees. By pooling their recollections of what prices were in March they may be able to check on the prices charged today. What one housewife doesn’t remember another or another will. And by using the strength of their united purchasing power they can exert pressure where pressure is needed.

Will you pardon Labor Action if we say: “We told you so!”

While this column is indulging in a we-told-you-so mood, it would like to remind the reader about a prediction it made long ago, namely, that prices will rise in spite of so-called price control. Not only does the OPA wash its hands of the boring though necessary detail of checking up on retail prices, but official Washington actually expects prices to raise the roof – let alone the ceiling.

A reliable information service writes its clients under date of May 16th that “the pressure of boosting price ceilings is already beginning.” After late summer or early fall, “higher prices seem SURE.” The word SURE is written in solid capitals in the original letter of information, which adds that “many officials now say so privately.”

So prices are taking the high road, but actual wages are taking the low road. Freezing wages, raising income taxes, levying withholding and sales taxes, to say nothing of slashing wages through compulsory bond purchases, will leave a beggar’s mite for the working class housewife. Congress will also decide for her how much of that may be spent and for what.

Therefore, this whole question of the standard of living of the working people during the war involves more than the control of prices – which can be done only by workers as producers of goods and by housewives as consumers of goods. The other edge of the sword cutting into the standard of living has to do with paying for the war. Not the workers but the rich must finance the war for which they are responsible.

There is a lot of accumulated wealth in the hands of Americas “Sixty Families” – squeezed out of the toil of the workers. Let the government compel them to disgorge. There are unprecedented war profits making the rich still richer. Let the government confiscate every bloody million of war profits.

Not a man, woman or child will have less to eat if the rich cough up the price of the war. Yet the burden of financing a war which costs $1,000,000,000 each week is being loaded onto the working class. That means that the cupboard of every working class family, if not entirely bare, will have many empty spaces. That means privation for people – privation that is avoidable by soaking the parasites instead of the workers.

Devious indeed are the ways of “democracy” under the system of profit for power and power for profit, as the following story once more illustrates:

The unlamented dictator, Huey Long, who has gone to his redeemer, had built his powerful political machine in close unison with organized vice in New Orleans. Undoubtedly he was very reluctant to leave behind him such a useful device, but there are some things even a political dictator cannot do. So his machine, and all its corruption, were inherited by his successors, of whom Robert S. Maestri, mayor of New Orleans, is one. Today New Orleans is the hub of a section of the country harboring some of the biggest military camps and naval bases. The business acumen of the owners of bawdy houses has not been wanting in the circumstances. The “war profits” have, of course, been shared by the mayor’s machine. As the New York newspaper PM puts it:

“The tremendous take from the vice racket is the very lifeblood of the machine, flowing from pimps, prostitutes and gambling operators through ward politicians and police officials.”

To continue unwinding the thread of cause and effect, the men concentrated in the military camps and naval bases around New Orleans go there for relaxation from the unnatural and arduous life in the armed forces. Unfortunately for them, they are carrying back with them worn the quaint streets of New Orleans something that makes them less manly. In fact, PM reports that venereal disease accounts for more man-days lost in the armed services than any other ailment.

Army and Navy heads don’t like that. Damaged goods won’t make a fighting Army and Navy. Hence, a problem: to save the armed forces by cleaning house in New Orleans – or to save the Huey Long political machine of corruption by not disturbing its main source of revenue. That is the question which is stumping the experts.

Mrs. Roosevelt is cutting a rather ridiculous figure these days. She wails and whines about the cruel curtailment of accustomed peacetime social services. In one column she is “distressed” because of a slash in housing appropriations. In another column she is “very much troubled” because everything has been ruled out of the National Youth Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps programs except training for war work. Just what does the First Lady expect? She cannot have her cake and eat it. She cannot have her all-out war and the blessings of peace.

The only people who can state their preference for peace arid deserve serious attention are those who have the one and only program for peace: WORLD SOCIALISM.

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