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C. Thomas

Roosevelt Report Demands
Extension of Wage Freeze

(14 April 1945)

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 15, 14 April 1945, pp. 1 & 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The stabilization witch-doctors are celebrating the “second anniversary” of Roosevelt’s wage-freezing hold-the-line order. To commemorate the event, a quartet of administration “stabilizers” have issued a report urging that the wage-freeze be continued and extended into the “post-war” period.

According to their report, the hold-the-line order, issued in April 1943, has given rise to a condition of universal happiness and prosperity. Wages have gone up, prices have risen only imperceptibly, the cost-of-living has been “stabilized,” and the “people” are rolling in wealth. This cheerful dish was cooked up by the heads of the Office of Economic Stabilization, Office of Price Administration, War Food Administration, War Labor Board, and released with the blessing of the chief “stabilizer” in the White House.

In addition to enjoining the luscious fruits of “stabilization,” we are assured that the “people” are accumulating “huge savings in other forms, such as bank deposits and life insurance policies.” “Over the past two and a half years,” the stabilizers inform us, “they have saved close to 25 per cent of their income after taxes.” And all this, of course, stems directly from Roosevelt’s hold-the-line order, which fixed the Little Steel formula as a ceiling on wage increases.

How do these soothsayers arrive at such fantastic conclusions? Simply by lumping together under the one mystic symbol of “the people” such diverse elements as corporations and peddlers, farm laborer and landlord, capitalist and wage earner. In the “first anniversary” report released a year ago, for example, the “stabilizers” boasted that: “Corporation profits, both before and after taxes, rose in 1943 even above the record-breaking levels of 1942.” In 1944, corporations profits and capital reserves soared to the highest levels in history. But no hint of this fact was permitted to mar the pretty picture painted by the “second anniversary” report.

The Real Beneficiaries

This nimble sleight-of-hand performance is intended to conceal the fact that the real beneficiaries of Roosevelt’s hold-the- line order are the Wall Street plunderbund. These are the “people” whose “pocket-books and checking accounts are bulging with money.” With their snouts buried deep in the public trough they grunt their approval of Roosevelt’s “wage stabilization” policy.

The “anniversary” report constitutes a brazen rejection of labor’s demand for wage increases to catch up to the rising cost of living. The original hold-the-line order was issued on April 8, 1943 during the first coal miners’ strike to bolster the War Labor Board’s sabotage of the miners’ struggle to gain a wage increase. It has since become a major weapon of the administration in staving off union demands for an upward revision of the Little Steel formula. It is again being used to strengthen the hand of the coal operators in their current negotiations with the miners.

While the cost of living has continued to rise, wages have remained frozen. Exorbitant taxes on the workers’ income has reduced take-home wages. Rising prices further reduced real wages and steadily lowered the workers’ standard of living, With the administration “holding-the-line” against wage increases, the dollar patriots amassed fabulous profits out of war contracts, the Price Control Act has been riddled with loopholes. The Food Trusts engineered one price-squeeze after another: the most recent is the “meat strike” of the packers aimed at removing price ceilings on beef. The record of the OPA has been one of constant appeasement of the price-gougers.

This is the REAL record of the past two years under the “hold-the-line” order and no amount of statistics juggling can alter it. Roosevelt and his “stabilizers” insult the intelligence of the people by publishing such tommyrot as is contained in their “anniversary” report. Housewives will be amazed to learn that food prices have “declined” by 3 per cent over the past two years! These statistics jugglers have the gall to expect such a statement, which contradicts the experience of every housewife in the country, to be believed on their say-so.

The proposal to extend the wage-freeze into the “post-war” period is an ominous move to drive the living standards of the workers to still lower levels. Cutbacks of war production are again becoming prevalent. The elimination of overtime and downgrading, shortening of the work week, etc., will further reduce take home wages. To defend its living standards, labor must regain its independence of action in the fight against the wage-freeze.

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Last updated: 6 November 2018