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Susan Green

Of Special Interest to Women

(14 September 1942)

From Labor Action, Vol. 6 No. 37, 14 September 1942, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The capitalist press has again been giving out on the subject of women workers. There is a hue and cry for 5,000,000 more women in war plants. Between you and me, thousands of women are being turned away from jobs for one reason or another. Between you and me, this is especially true if the color of their skin is deeper than a summer tan. However, there is no getting away from the fact that as men go off to war to the tune of 10,000,000 or more, women will have to take their places.

As a preparedness measure, Chairman McNutt of the War Manpower Commission has appointed a women’s policy committee consisting of twelve women. They are reputed to be “leaders of labor, industry and public activities.” There is no need to give the list.

Needless to say, there is no rank and file worker among them – no woman from the bench, no woman from the machine, no woman whose face is turned toward her fellow working women and whose mind is on their problems.

Every one of these “leaders of labor, industry and public activities” has the same “qualification” – she is not known as a militant champion for labor above all else. Her eyes are focussed on fulfilling the demands of, the war machine – otherwise she would not have been chosen. Like all the committees in Washington, the purpose of this one also is to tie the worker – in this case the woman worker – behind the war chariot.

According to the figures of Mr. McNutt, if 5,000,000 women are added to the labor force, there will be 18,000,000 women in industry by the end of 1943. They will be “plowed under” by the bosses and the war machine – UNLESS THEY PROTECT THEMSELVES THROUGH MILITANT UNION ORGANIZATION AND FEARLESS ACTION ON THEIR OWN BEHALF.

On September 8, Governor Lehman and Mayor LaGuardia were among the speakers dedicating the completion of a few buildings of what is known as the Fort Greene Houses Project, financed by the New York City Housing Authority with state assistance. The usual blah-blah was forthcoming in abundance, you can be sure. Equally sure can you be of the fact that the true import of the Fort Greene Houses Project Was not touched.

This project was a gauge – though a very stingy one – of what could be done for the house-starved population. Here was a housing project which for the sum of $20,363,000 – ONLY ABOUT ONE-FIFTH THE COST OF AN UP-TO-THE-MINUTE BATTLESHIP AND MERE CHICKEN-FEED THESE DAYS – could have provided modern homes for some 3,501 families or for about 13,133 men, women and children. A community building for recreation was part of the plan. The project was to cover twenty-three city blocks near the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Some 710 old buildings – many of them old-law tenements – were cleared away for the project.

The war with its priorities and its stoppage of all civilian “baubles,” has definitely cramped the style of the Fort Greene Houses project. For, from being a plan for the permanent housing of families, it has now degenerated into “defense housing,” and, of course, a community building had to go along with other “luxuries.’’

Because of the stubborn opposition of landlords waxing rich from high rentals of fire-trap dwellings and because the peacetime needs of the population is about the last thing to which a profit-making system is dedicated, government housing projects before the war only scratched the surface of the stupendous need for housing.

A socialist making a dedication speech at the Fort Greene Houses project; would say:

“You must consider the Fort Greene Houses and the nearby Navy Yard together. Together they are a monument to the fact that capitalist society can go all-out for war needs – but not for the peacetime needs of people.”

In her column in the Ladies Home Journal a reader asked Mrs. Roosevelt how come she and her husband – in addition to the White House – have other houses, estates, camps, apartments – with servants to match – when everybody is supposed to be sacrificing. A good question.

Mrs. Roosevelt’s reply is – in its way – even better. She protests that the Roosevelts do not own the White House.

Ordinary mortals lease a place for a year, and call it home. Many, many who haven’t the financial standing to lease a flat, rent from month to month – and call it home. The Roosevelts went to the White House for a minimum of four years, and are staying twelve. But presumably they must have a backlog of personal housing – even as a capitalist yearns for a backlog of orders.

She also tried to save face by claiming there is no market for real estate today, implying they would sell some of their backlog if they could. That may be true. However, neither is there a market – today or any other day – let us say for the tumble-down shack inhabited by the sharecropper and family. WOULD THAT PERHAPS PLACE THE ROOSEVELTS AND THE SHARECROPPER ON THE SAME SOCIAL LEVEL?

There came to Washington, representing Russia at the International Students’ Assembly, the fabulous Lt. Liudmila Pavlichenko, 26-year-old girl sniper in the Red Army – credited with killing 309 Germans. For this feat she is acclaimed a great heroine in the arsenal, and citadel of “democracy.”

However, this girl is peculiarly symbolic of the unrelieved brutality that reigns in both the Nazi and “democratic” camps in this war. In former wars it was deemed part and parcel of the sad vicissitude of war itself either to kill the enemy or to be killed by him. It was even with a measure of regret that a soldier killed his fellow man. Today, however, the Nazi propaganda machine denies to the people of the United Nations the status of human beings. The propaganda machine of the United Nations returns the compliment.

Apparently Lt. Pavlichenko has taken her government’s word for it that the Germans are not human beings.

“The only feeling I have,” she said, “is the great satisfaction a hunter feels who has killed a beast of prey or a poisonous snake.”

Not only does Lt. Pavlichenko personify the brutality of all the warring countries in this conflict. She is proof par excellence of the degeneracy of the Stalinist bureaucracy and of the complete disappearance of all Socialist thought from the minds of those who mold public opinion in Russia.

In the Russia of Lenin and Trotsky, the people understood that the soldiers in all the imperialist armies were human beings victimized by their imperialist masters, serving as cannon fodder. In the Russia of Lenin and Trotsky, the people were taught to fraternize with the soldier-worker in the enemy army, as the only way to bring about a people’s peace.

But Stalin teaches the people to be unthinking killers, and instead of the satisfaction of a Socialist goal, he gives them the brutal satisfaction of the hunter of his fellow men.

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