Susan Green Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Susan Green

Of Special Interest to Women

(13 July 1942)

From Labor Action, Vol. 6 No. 28, 13 July 1942, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The latest developments in the price fixing fiasco are fully covered on page one of this issue of Labor Action. If you haven’t read the item, by all means turn back and do so. The following is merely a report of an incident that has undoubtedly been repeated thousands of times all over the country.

In a large self-service grocery store – one of several operated by the same owners in the City of New York – a woman stood arguing with a clerk over the price of some canned fruit. She claimed that the highest price in March was two cans for 25 cents, whereas the price now is two for 29 cents. Soon other women crowded around, some murmuring that the woman was right but others too timid even to murmur. The clerk, entirely flabbergasted, finally called over the manager.

Exuding “the-customer-is-always-right” make-believe through all his pores, the manager smilingly assured the complaining woman that she was mistaken because “that was a very special price we had on in March and the ceiling is for regular prices, not special ones.”

The woman was not prepared for that line – though obviously dishonest – and was silenced. She went away looking like a whipped dog when it hasn’t earned a beating. The other women around looked puzzled but skeptical. But the manager had definitely put one over for his boss.

There is only one reason why women are being fooled this way – only one reason why they are timid, don’t know their rights and can’t stand up for them. They are not organized. THEY NEED NEIGHBORHOOD WORKING CLASS HOUSEWIVES’ GROUPS.

For once at least Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt’s usual pollyanna optimism stands her in no good stead. In her column in the New York World-Telegram of July 2 she quoted the following postcard she received:

“Could you enlighten the people, by radio or some magazine article, how can a baby be supported on $12 a month – which amounts to about 40 cents a day – including his meals, clothing, medicine, etc.? The second child receives $10 per month, 331/3 cents a day, when he must drink two quarts of milk a day. How can you buy medicine, clothing for the other three cents per day?

“Also I would like to know how baby food which must be mixed with milk can be bought every five or six days at 79 cents. Also I would like to know if there is a nursery in New York States where you could board a child at such a ridiculous amount per month. I am inducted in the army.”

The First Lady is stuck.

Fishing around for a possible answer, she says “perhaps” it is in the new $50 a month soldier pay. This, however, is exceedingly funny for the simple reason that a soldier with dependent automatically contributes $22 a month, leaving, for himself $28 for the entire month – or less than $1.00 a day.

Mrs. Roosevelt also suggests as an answer that the mother of a small baby go to work, put her infant in a WPA nursery and her other child in a WPA nursery school – if these still function. Well, we all know what has happened to WPA appropriations in Congress, so that settles the WPA nurseries and nursery schools.

The First Lady has no answer to this problem – which she admits must be troubling a good many people – because of her profound respect for the social status quo. Labor Action, however, has no such respect – and therefore has an answer.

There is plenty of money in this country to give adequate support to every soldier’s family. IT SIMPLY HAS TO BE TAKEN AWAY FROM THE RICH. All war profits and all fixed fortunes must be confiscated by the government. Let the rich pay for the war – a very legitimate expense of which is to support the soldier’s family like human beings.

From a Washington source comes a rather concrete idea of what is to be expected by way of shortages in civilian goods. The gloomy prospect is that the things you and your family need “will slide down-down-down in the next six months to the FAMINE LEVEL. This famine level will run through something like three to five months, to a low point in the late spring of 1943.”

At the same time comes the report by William J. Enright, writer for the financial pages of the New York Times, of charges that “the military services are overbuying and that as a result the civilian economy is being penalized unnecessarily.”

Will big-wig bungling never cease? Will little people have to do without food, clothing, medicines and other necessities because of overbuying for the war program – most likely because of too enthusiastic contract procurement for their companies by the dollar-a-year men in Washington!

Why not! Sugar was unnecessarily put on low rations because of an under-estimation of the sugar supply by those who ought to have known better.

Sugar rationing is not too serious. But an all-out famine of consumer goods is. The lack of adequate food, clothing, medicines and other essentials translates itself into sickness, death and more waste of human life.

These are such vital matters that the masses must have something to say about them. Industry must be put under workers’ control. Every woman interested in the welfare of her family must also be interested in this issue of workers’ control of industry. It is our only salvation.

A very pathetic example of an ineffectual approach to a major social problem was given not long ago in the reports of the activities of Anne Brown in behalf of her race. Anne Brown, as you may remember, has very successfully repeatedly starred in the role of Bess in George Gershwin’s ever-popular Porgy and Bess.

On the basis of her own popularity, Miss Brown was making appeals to the heads of industry to end job discrimination against Negroes. She was reported to be very happy because she was getting such favorable responses. One company president wrote her: “If Negroes are good enough to fight for us they are good enough to work for us.”

Miss Brown’s jubilation, if true, is as pathetic as self-deception always is. Did she expect company presidents to be anything else but affable to her – whatever their private opinions on race discrimination may be? Were their white words worth the paper they were written on? How many of these agreeable gentlemen did more than give black men a few token jobs – if even that?

A social system that executes the Odell Wallers will not be changed by turning on the personal charm. That change can be effected only by the solid organization of the black and white masses of the country.

Susan Green Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers’ Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 11 September 2014