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Henry Judd

Economics: Basis Now Laid
for Militarized Economy

(July 1942)

From Labor Action, Vol. 6 No. 28, 13 July 1942, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Last week in this column we described how Roosevelt is laying his plans for an American army of world conquest with an eventual enrollment of eight to ten million men. We described how a gradual adaptation to the “Prussian” school of militarization of the entire nation, by age and class groups, is occurring.

Side by side with this militarization, our entire economic and social structure begins to take on a more totalitarian air and appearance. Aware that the war can only be won by “guns – not butter,” Roosevelt deliberately has taken the road of organizing the highly centralized, all-powerful state, whose leaders and administrators will have full command over every individual, every resource, every instrument of production.

Production for War

The expanding needs of the military forces cause the diversion of American economic and capital energies into production for war purposes primarily. The Army demands more food, more tents and equipment, more steel and metal for its mechanized forces; the Navy demands more battle craft and supply ships, it takes over the peacetime Merchant Marine; the Air Force demands more training schools, more planes, more material for its newer experimental craft.

The results are, of course, apparent to all of us. They can be measured in terms of shortages of goods (silk, clothing, typewriters, kitchen utensils, etc.). The decline in consumer good is the first and earliest stage of the militarization of American economy. The second stage – already begun – is the rationing of these same consumer goods. So far, this extends only to a few commodities like gas, rubber and typewriters. Sugar is the only food affected to date. But everyone understands that this is but the start – with at least fifteen other commodities to go on rations within the next few weeks, and undoubtedly dozens and dozens to follow within the year – as war conversion proceeds.

A familiar process, is it not? Familiar to the students of totalitarian war economies. Furthermore, it should not be assumed that the civilian populations will remain untouched by this great capitalist tendency toward regimentation and militarization.

To begin with, the proportion of American workers engaged in the DIRECT war producing industries (airplane factories, munition plants, steel mills, machine shops, tank assembly lines, etc.) has grown up, million by million. Next year, it is estimated, 23 to 25 million workers will be working in the war factories – the greatest concentration of its kind in the world! These workers are, in reality, just as much in the American Army as are the millions who now wear the uniforms of our country.

Says Paul V. McNutt, chairman of the War Manpower Commission, in the current issue of the American Magazine: “The only Americans who aren’t earmarked for the fighting forces, shipyards, munitions factories or farms, are the very old, the very young and those who haven’t any talent or energy that can be used.” In other words, the military state will utilize everyone it can lay its hands on for the carrying out of its military and social objectives.

Binding Labor to the Machine

Having mobilized its industrial manpower, American capitalism will then dictate its role and destiny. Some part will go” into the armed forces; another section will stick only to the task of producing for these armed forces. According to McNutt, deferment ratings on war workers and priority ratings on war industries for employment purposes have been worked out. The employment services of the various states (a federal institution which, like all other federal institutions is becoming more powerful and dominant in its authority) will determine the order of men to be drafted. Those exempt are the skilled workers (diemakers, first-class machinists, toolmakers, set-up men, etc.) who cannot be replaced. Those with less chance of exemption are the less skilled and experienced (carpenters, ship metal workers, lathe hands and second-class machinists). While those with little skill (assemblers and operators) will be taken first. But the bulk of American industrial power will find itself either in the fighting or productive branch of the war machine.

A hardening process will take place, side by side with the mobilization we have mentioned above. Here the role of the employment services will become more rigid and bureaucratic. Says McNutt: “The time may come when all employment in war industries will be supervised by the employment service and men will change jobs only when permitted.” That is, American labor will become bound to the machine, the shop and the farm on which it toils.

The ultimate characteristics of the military, bureaucratic imperialist state should be plain to all. After all, the world is filled with innumerable examples. From the trends we have described in these two articles, they can be summarized as follows:

  1. An enormous body of manhood under arms, comprising perhaps as much as 10 per cent of the population (13,000,000) – assuming the same percentage relation as in Germany.
  2. A staggering fall in the amount of consumer goods, with a resulting decline in the traditional standard of living that America has known. The ultimate rationing of practically every basic and needed commodity.
  3. The binding of American labor to the war factories, accompanied by an effort to strip the trade unions of virtually all independent and class functions they have heretofore exercised.
  4. The imposition of a bureaucratic regime, emanating from the federal center at Washington, which will dictate by agency decree all matters affecting social and economic life (price control, quality and quantity of goods, ability to move and. change living quarters, etc.).

The capitalist press constantly harps on the fact that the American people are not yet fully aware of the meaning of the war. By their complaint they do not mean what Labor Action means, but there is some truth in the statement, “The war and its continuation mean the hardening of central authority and the vast growth and expansion of all tendencies leading to a totalitarian regime.”

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