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Jack Ranger

Tapping the Wall St. Wire

Notes on Next M-Day

(30 August 1948)

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 35, 30 August 1948, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

A few weeks ago in Chicago the armed forces’ Industrial College held a special, semi-secret two-week industrial and economic mobilization course for big businessmen.

Only one newspaper, the Chicago Journal of Commerce, covered the event, and that paper was permitted to discuss only certain portions of the information divulged. Interesting facts about the plans of industrial and military men for the coming war were divulged in the Journal’s series.

The student body consisted of 140 “civilian conferees” – executives from seven banks, two large merchandising firms, four utilities, five railroads and 80 manufacturing and other companies, together with seven universities. About 140 high-ranking reserve officers also attended.

Competition among industrialists to attend was reported “very keen,” the reason no doubt being that attendance would place a halo of “know how” around the persons and companies represented, and would also give them “connections” with the nation’s military leaders in charge of placing war orders.

It is significant that the favored companies were instructed to send not their chiefs but the “heirs apparent” in the next decade. This might indicate that the U.S. political and military leaders do not contemplate any immediate armed conflict with Stalin’s government.

Tooling Up for War

Army lecturers revealed that the productive capacity of 7,780 American manufacturing plants had already been tentatively allocated to one or more of the three military services in the program of economic mobilization which began last winter. Allocation of the principal production facilities of some 11,000 additional factories is in process, with the overall goal embracing 22,000 establishments.

The allocation process includes a concrete agreement providing for the major part of a plant’s industrial capacity to produce a specific item of munitions at a specific rate of output, according to the Journal. The corps of engineers is planning requirements for a period described as M-Day plus two years, and is vigorously pushing the allocation program through six area procurement offices.

In preparation for the coming war, the Army-Navy Machine Total Committee has set itself the objective of stockpiling 182,000 tools as a national reserve. In addition to the equipment already acquired, the military has impounded in cosmoline the war production machine tools of 161 large plants.

(Naturally these war preparations do not bring sobs from the machine-tool builders. The last war saved their financial necks. In the depression years their annual sales went down to only $22,000,000. By 1942 sales had increased 65-fold, to $1,320,000,000, and in 1947 were at a level above $300,000,000.)

One of the most interesting talks must have been that made by Lt.-Col. James Massey, He warned his audience that if the armed forces and industry consumed as much of the nation’s natural resources in another war as they did in the Second World War, “we’ll be bankrupt. We wasted as much as we used.”

Bedrock Economy

If and when the United States is called upon to fight another major war, the American standard of living will be cut to bedrock, he said. Massey and other brass made it clear that the civilian economy would take second place in the war. Commander W.T. Greenhalgh said that the conversion to “bedrock economy” would be “quick, brutal and absolute.”

The lectures on manpower were not reported, but they must have hinted at plans ominous for the future of the labor movement and of civil liberties.

Apparently, the bankers, industrialists, politicos and military men are seriously concerned about the possibility of a “collapse of the home front” in the event the nation suffers the rigors of atomic war. Commander Gold said that present planning was directed solely toward victory, “with the single reservation that the home front must be guarded against collapse, as the civilian economy of Germany collapsed in earlier wars.”

That is the classic position of the capitalist class in wartime: Victory if possible, but by all means hold the lid down at home.

As in the last war, it is probable that the political leaders of the nation will not be able to apply a rigid, preconceived plan designed to strap the people into the strait-jacket of war. Rather it will be an inch-by-inch affair, with democratic rights and civil liberties being progressively withdrawn. At the rate events are moving – Taft-Hartleyism, Goldsborough injunctions, red-baiting, the draft, both parties committed to universal military training – the process has already been set in motion. If the course of affairs is not challenged sharply in the near future by the creation of a national labor party, the worst of the new plans will be able to be pushed through.

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Last updated: 25 May 2018