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Irving Howe

New Ally of Merchants of Death:

Stalinists Defend War Profiteers!

(May 1942)

From Labor Action, Vol. 6 No. 19, 11 May 1942, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Who are the defenders of the Merchants of Death which made cartel agreements helping Hitler?

Why, you will answer, everybody with one eye open knows that!

It’s the boss press – Hearst, Scripps-Howard, the New York Times, the Chicago Trib and the others – who hug du Pont’s Remington Rand to their bosoms.

It’s the poison radio commentators – H.V. Kaltenborn, Lowell Thomas, Gabriel Heatter and their ilk – who apply big slabs of verbal whitewash to Rockefeller’s Standard Oil.

But wait – add another, brother.

Add the Daily Worker, organ of the (Stalinist) Communist Party to the ranks of the pen prostitutes attempting to throw a smoke screen of yes-but, if-then-again and maybe verbiage to cover up the Merchants of Death.

All along, while every labor paper was giving front page spreads to the sensational disclosures about the monopolists’ deals with Hitler’s I.G. Farben and Krupp, the Daily Worker was maintaining a discreet and oh-so-dignified silence. When it did print a story about the disclosures it buried it on an inside page, so insignificant in size and place that only the faithful party-liners could find it. In this, the Daily Worker went along with the New York Times, which front-paged a story about 16 shipping clerks going on strike in Pittsburgh, but just about buried the Standard Oil and Remington Rand dynamite in between the women’s menu and the art critic.

The only such story that the Daily Worker carried on page one was ... the lying denials of Parish, Standard Oil boss!

A Whitewash of Monopolists

Finally, the Stalinists had to carry some comment. So they printed an editorial on April 24.

And it sure was a whopper!

The Daily Worker begins with an admission that the actions of Standard Oil and the others “certainly were not and are not in the interest of the country.”

Then the whitewash:

“It is true that certain American monopolies did pursue an earlier policy of pro-fascist appeasement ... But it is also true that the wreckage of this Munichism, and the peril it created for the very existence of the whole country, including these monopoly corporations, did result in a transformation into an opposite policy.”

This is a lie. The Merchants of Death have NOT broken their cartel agreements. There has been no “transformation into an opposite policy.” On the contrary, they are still working on the basis of agreements with Farben and Krupp which will give these Nazi vultures post-war rake-offs for American war products made under the cartel agreements.

And what does the Daily Worker mean by that puffed-up bunkum about “transformation into an opposite policy?” When it utters that kind of nonsense it is spreading the illusion that the Merchants of Death function as capitalist vultures out of choice and can therefore “transform” their practices once their hearts are won over to sweetness arid light, in reality, they function according to the inexorable economic laws of capitalism – and the only way to abolish their practices is to abolish their economic system.

The Daily Worker’s Motives

But what is the Stalinist paper getting at when it whitewashes the monopolists in this way? We see that in the next sentence of the editorial:

“So today, even though they may not always be the most dependable forces Within the anti-Axis camp and retain characteristics inherent in finance capital (sic!) nevertheless these large corporations are as a whole part of the camp of national unity ...”

Now we got it. The Daily Worker is worried lest the workers get steamed up about the Merchants of Death, begin to do something about it and in that way disturb “national unity.” (For the Stalinists, “national unity” means having labor surrender all its fights, kowtow to the bosses 24 hours a day with double time on week-ends, so that “unity” can be maintained between the workers and the bosses.)

So while they are forced to admit that these corporations are pretty smelly, still don’t get excited. Remember “national unity,” even if Standard Oil is rooking the people, even if they’re freezing your wages. Smile, brother, smile – says the Daily Worker – and don’t you annoy our good friends, the monopolists.

(By the way, if you read the above sentence, you notice that the large corporations “retain characteristics of finance capital.” From that we may gather that while some characteristics are retained – after all, you can’t expect Morgan to abdicate right away, especially while Browder is in jail – there are a number which have ... evaporated. Where to?)

Some Audacious Demagogy

But if the Daily Worker is reticent about attacking Standard Oil, it has no such hesitation about lambasting into the New Republic and The Nation for their exposes of the Merchants of Death. And then, in an audacious piece of demagogy, it writes: “Trust-busting propaganda is not always associated with progressivism; Hitler did not hesitate to use ‘anti-monopoly’ demagogy when he needed it, and Charles E. Coughlin also knows the trick.”

But Hitler used it as a trick to gain mass support. When in power he did not bust the trusts; he strengthened them. Those who would genuinely bust the trusts by busting the trust system, the socialists, stand on the opposite side of Hitler. Why does the Daily Worker lump them together?

The answer is clear. The Stalinists in their frantic anxiety to aid Uncle Joe of Moscow will go to any lengths against the interests of American labor.

They supported the “no-strike” proposals. They support FDR’s “freeze” program that would put labor behind a great big eight-ball of ice.

And now they whitewash the Merchants of Death.

Move over there, Kaltenborn, Hearst, McCormack and Pegler. Make room for Earl Browder.

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