Susan Green Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Susan Green

Of Special Interest to Women

(31 August 1942)

From Labor Action, Vol. 6 No. 35, 31 August 1942, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

To the housewife wheat is what goes to make bread and cereal, even though to the capitalists it is something out of which to make money.

You will, therefore, be interested to know that this country has mountains of wheat. For the season of 1942–43 there is on hand 1,589,000,000 bushels of what is known on the market as cash wheat.

This is not all new wheat. It includes the 634,000,000 bushels not consumed last year. In the 1941–42 season the consumption of wheat was 697,000,000 bushels. So that there was then almost twice as much wheat as was used up – even including soldier consumption, lease-lend, etc.

You don’t have to be a wizard to see at a glance that the 1,589,000,000 bushels on hand for this year’s use is a tremendous amount. It equals what was actually consumed last year plus the surplus left over last year and leaves a super-surplus above that of more than 200,000,000 bushels. In a word, THERE’S AN AWFUL LOT OF WHEAT AROUND.

In fact, there is so much of it that it is being dumped in. open fields for lack of storage space. The weatherman and farm children are having the time of their lives playing on these mountains of the wherewithal for making bread and cereals.

With wheat bins bursting and the field decorated with loads of wheat, bread and cereals should be cheap. But are they?

On, the contrary, all kinds of bread have gone up at least ten per cent in the last few months. The A&P Marvel bread which was selling two loaves for fifteen cents, is now ten cents a loaf. This is an increase of thirty-three and a third per cent. The A&P whole wheat bread, which was nine cents a loaf, is now ten cents, an increase of over eleven per cent. And the prices of cereals have risen by ten, twelve and a half and sixteen and two-thirds per cent.

Now what you are to figure out, dear reader, are the why and the wherefore of rising prices of bread and cereal, while a super-colossal crop of wheat is going to waste on the open fields.

Do I hear you exclaim: “Elementary, my dear Susan!” You said it! Huge private interests – with the cooperation of Congress – are pay-triotically taking advantage of the war to line their own pockets with gold.

On a Jersey road I was given a lift by a woman employed in an unorganized out-of-town mill operating exclusively on Army orders. From her fragmentary remarks, the following story shaped up:

The stretch-out is in full force. One woman is on twenty-four looms. The only help she gets is from a young girl who feeds the spindles for her and for several other operators.

The temperature of the work rooms is kept at 96 degrees – an Army requirement because the cloth for uniforms comes out better when in this heat.

Needless to say, women are constantly passing out. A six-hour day is the most they can take. Absences are not permitted. In case of illness necessitating a day off, a woman herself must arrange with a worker from another shift to take her place.

Being consistent in its taboo on absences, the boss pays the woman who is suppose to be on the job and not the one who actually did the work for that day. The worker herself settles accounts with the substitute who did her the favor of working through twelve hours in 96 degrees of heat.

With a wry smile, my informant commented that twelve hours of labor in that temperature doesn’t do the substitute any good, either.

Under such deplorable conditions millions of yards of cloth are turned out for the Army – while the organizing department of the United Textile Workers seems to have put up a sign reading: “Closed for the Duration.” That sign must come down.

From here and there one can piece together a picture of how soldiers spend their spare time. The mass of khaki-clad up-rooted humanity that swarms into the “soldier towns” must be a sad sight.

To these two-by-four towns, which boast perhaps a drug store, a movie, a bar and a restaurant, the hordes of soldiers come from the camps for a change of atmosphere. But there is nothing to do.

They sit around in doorways and lean against posts, just doing nothing by the hour.

The USO buildings don’t even begin to accommodate the khaki influx into these towns. Besides, many soldiers just don’t care for the USO.

The soldier who can get himself a girl is a man apart. Provincial mammas are not particularly anxious to have their girls traipsing around with lonely, women-starved soldier boys.

For a change from warming a doorstep or leaning against a post, the private gets the opportunity to salute officers who may have the hardihood to stroll down the street. Army regulations require this undemocratic procedure.

No WORKING CLASS ever wins a war. The working classes of the Allied Nations and, the working classes of the Central Powers alike lost in the last war. And no matter who the victors of this war will be, the INTERNATIONAL WORKING CLASSES can only be the losers – of their sons, their health, their homes, their jobs – when the war is over.

And that is what every working class mother should teach her children about war – Dorothy Thompson to the contrary notwithstanding.

Dorothy Thompson, whose name is never written or spoken without appending the words “celebrated columnist,” perhaps thinks she is so great that she doesn’t have to be consistent.

In December 1929, when nobody was yet seriously thinking about the Second World War, she was very outspoken on the subject of war.

“If I had children,” she wrote, “I would tell them just one thing about the last war, and I would tell it to them over and over again: No nation won it. Every one lost it. And from now on all great wars will always be lost by all the combatants.”

In December 1939, when the Second World War was a reality and this nation was preparing to get in, Dorothy scurried onto the war-mongering bandwagon with such decided opinions as:

“The statement that ‘nobody ever wins a war’ is pacifist propaganda and poppycock.”

Obviously Dorothy suffered amnesia and forgot what she had said a decade before, which is the pattern followed by all liberals – BRAVE BEFORE THE EVENT. However, the statement that “nobody ever wins a war” actually is cock-eyed nonsense. The RULING CLASSES of the Allied nations won the last war and got as their spoils Germany’s colonies and foreign trade. If the hated Nazis win this war, the RULING CLASS of Germany will get as its spoils the colonies of the United Nations and most of their world-wide trade.

Obviously, SOMEONE does win a war – and it is for this kind of victory that billions of dollars and millions of lives are staked. But —

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

Last updated: 11 September 2014