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Susan Green

On the “Wonders of War Production”

Wheels of Industry Which
Never Ran for the People

(6 July 1972)

From Labor Action, Vol. 6 No. 27, 6 July 1942, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Last month the press gave page after page of its space to long articles on the wonders of war production. The newspaper correspondents on a “Production for Victory” tour arranged toy the National Association of Manufacturers piled up superlatives to their hearts’ content.

When the National Association of Manufacturers “arranges” something, you can bet its motive is not altruistic. This war has exposed the mammoth industrialists of the country for the profit-grubbing bunch they are.

First they wouldn’t even take war contracts until they were assured of ample profits. Then the dollar-a-year men in Washington were revealed as go-getters for their corporations.

Next it was shown that many of the industrial magnates are closely linked with German industry and raking in fancy war profits from both the Nazi and “democratic” sides of the war. Finally it is now an open secret that many new inventions – such as the production of necessary light metals and certain more potent fuels – have been held up by mutual agreement between the capitalists of Nazi Germany and such pillars of American “democracy” as the Aluminum Company and Standard Oil.

Definitely, the ruling class has been caught with its pants down. So this tour sponsored by the National Association of Manufacturers for the purpose of publicizing the marvelous technological advances made in war industries is a frantic effort at pulling its pants up. That was also the reason for the full-page ads recently run in all the papers by the bigwig corporations, in which they self-praised their “unselfish” efforts to win the war – at the same time no doubt charging the cost of advertising to war contract prices paid by the government!

Motives of Capitalist Production

However, while the motives of the manufacturers are as small as their self-interest, the grandeur of war production pictured by the newspaper correspondents is real and should be so understood by every worker.

But it is also a fact – to be engraved on the mind of every worker – that American capitalist production was stimulated to further technological progress only by the call of war – which means the lure of war profits plus the prospect of preserving and acquiring more foreign fields for exploitation. The same call of war also activated German production and save birth to the remarkable industrial achievements of the Nazis.


The heads of the American steel trust boast that their industry is now operating at full capacity, turning put this year 87,000,000 tons of all the different weights and styles of steel needed for tanks, bombers, fighter planes, warships. But in peacetime the crying needs of one-third of the nation for housing did not constitute reason for producing steel to the limit. In peacetime steel mills were on only 50 per cent – and even less – of capacity, while that third of the nation continued to live in holes unfit for animals.

Ships and Houses

Ships for war cargoes are now being turned out on assembly lines – an adaptation of the auto industry mass production principles. But no such easy and natural development was employed, for instance, to produce in mass modern bungalows to take the place of the ramshackle, disease-infected shacks inhabited by the millions of black and white agricultural workers of the South, the West and the Middle West

At Ford’s Willow Run plant – described by Sidney M. Shallett in the New York Times as “vast enough to swallow up an entire city, awesome enough to reduce man, her creator, to a lost speck in a jungle of giant machines” – stupendous dies and presses will stamp out big bombers almost as easily as the Model T’s were formerly produced. But no such measures were taken to make, for instance, apartment houses to replace the old tenement houses where dwell the poor in American cities – without heat and hot water, without proper toilets and baths, without minimum ventilation, without fire protection.

Now a new Chrysler plant is being erected which will be “big enough to put the Ford Willow Run plant inside and have room for twenty baseball diamonds around the edges.” These are the all-out methods for producing bombers in record time. But at the rate tenement house clearance was taking place in New York City, for instance – before it came to its untimely end in favor of producing bombers – it would have taken 133 years to have provided modern apartments for the 2,500,000 old-law tenement dwellers in the queen of American cities.

Guns and Kentucky Kids

The Buffalo Arms Corp., a United States government arsenal, is rolling out machine guns “like bread-sticks,” as one newspaper correspondent put it, But, as reported in last week’s column, Of Special Interest to Women, 90 per cent of Kentucky mountain children haven’t the clothes to wear to get to school, and the 10 per cent who have are too hungry to learn anything when they get there. But the wheels of industry and agriculture have never been geared to relieve this and similar inhuman situations.

The General Electric Co. now employs 1,750 scientists in its sixteen laboratories, all busy turning: scientific knowledge to the uses of war. In fact, all science is today used for the same destructive end. But there are normally 50,000,000 Americans in families with an income of $1,000 a year or less who cannot afford to pay for adequate doctors’ services, to say nothing of hospital care. There has never been an all-out effort of science to solve this human problem of making X-ray diagnoses, electrocardiograms and other essential tests available to the masses. Sickness still remains a luxury that only the rich can afford, but which conditions nevertheless inflict on the poor.

Post-War Promises

The heads of government – both of the United Nations and of the Nazi Axis – today promise their peoples that after the war the productive machinery geared to its new high, will be used for peacetime needs. But working people must remember that World War I also stepped up industry to a then new high. And what happened? After the war the marvelous new machinery of production stood idle. The whole world was plunged into the depths of a postwar depression out of which it could not crawl. Only World War II brought relief – of the same kind that a guy suffering from toothache gets when hit over the head with a blackjack.

Modern production – which has been built up through the ages from the labor and ingenuity of all mankind – can be released for the peaceful uses of people only by freeing it from the stranglehold of the political and industrial rulers of the world. This is true for America and for the whole universe.

Socialism will accomplish this next step in human progress. NOT the “national socialism” of the cruel, exploiting Nazis. NOT the “socialism” of the totalitarian Stalinist bureaucrats. NOT the “socialism” of the New Deal protectors of private profits.

The socialism for which Lenin and Trotsky fought will free industry for the people. For it will be a society of workers’ rule in government and in industry.

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Last updated: 16 February 2020