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David Coolidge

Big Business Wrests Huge Profits
Out of Preparations for War

Patriotism Pays the Bosses Well

(12 August 1940)

From Labor Action, Vol. 4. No. 18, 12 August 1940, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed &marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

You Earned It – They Got It


Net Profits
First Half
of 1940


First Half
of 1939



United States Steel




Remington Arms




Republic Steel




Tidewater Oil




Glen Martin Aircraft








Minnesota Paper Co.




Atlantic Refining








Douglas Aircraft




Commercial Solvents




Libby-Owens-Ford Gloss




General Electric




Caterpillar Tractor








E.I. DuPont de Nemours




General Motors




American Telephone and Telegraph




Suck Phenomenal Profits Out of Working Class Toil

Look at the figures. They tell a story that every worker can read and understand. Those figures say – in millions of dollars profit – that war and patriotism pay in cash if you are on the right side of the fence, if you live on the right side of the railroad track, if you are a member of the ruling class. In their semi-annual reports the owners of the factories, mills and banks say brazenly and clearly that they are on their way: on their way to repeat the grab and plunder of 1914–1918.

Look at those figures again. Look at the profits of U.S. Steel. Thirty-six millions in six months! Bloody Tom Girdler, of Republic Steel, did well by his stockholders too. They, all did well; aircraft, oil, automobiles, electrical, rubber, chemicals, munitions, paper, glass and public utilities.

The fat-bellies got those huge profits out of the toil of the workers: white workers and Negro workers, male and female, “alien” and “citizen,” protestant, Catholic and Jew, little children and old men and women. They all went through the mill and while they were grinding out these profits they all looked alike to the boss.

Who Made the Profits?

The bosses and their stooges in Congress, on the capitalist press, in the churches and in the schools will tell you that these profits are the reward for saving and thrift, intelligence and good management. They lie. These vast profits are the result of your labor. The workers created this wealth but they didn’t get it. The workers got only a few crumbs, just enough to keep them strong enough to go on working and creating more wealth. The big shots took all the vest and called it profits.

What will the owners of the big corporations do with these tremendous profits? The Department of Labor announces that the cost of living for workers has gone up. Will these profits go for increased wages and shorter hours? No, not if the workers let the bosses get away with their present plans. The National Conference Industrial Board, employer research organization, is right now openly demanding a fifty hour work week. They say this will be “temporary” and that they have no desire to interfere with the gains labor has made. They want the fifty hour week they say, because this will increase production 25%. It isn’t production as such they are interested in, but profits and dividends. A 25% increase in production may mean as much as 40% increase in profits the next six months over the past six months.

Where They Go

What else will they do with these millions of dollars of profits. They will use it to pay spies, thugs and stool pigeons. They will spend part of it for barbed wire, guns and tear gas.

For million dollar election contribution to the Republicans and Democrats. They know that both Willkie and Roosevelt are their men.

An official of the Union Electric Company, subsidiary of the North American Company, has just been ordered to jail for five years in St. Louis for using the corporation’s money for political corruption. The North American Company, giant utility holding company has just announced a $21,000,000 profit for the year.

To pay for luxuriant quarters for their dogs on the new U.S. liner America. These dogs will have porcelain baths, grooming tables, clean blankets, medicine chest, and printed menu from which the dog’s food may be selected. The dog’s temperature, pulse and the condition of its eyes, nose, mouth and chest will be observed daily. Dog quarters are on the sun deck and have tiled floors. They will use these profits for million dollar weddings. For castles on the Hudson, estates on Long Island, winter homes in Florida, summer homes at Newport and town houses in New York. For yachts, automobiles and gold-plated bath-tubs.

They Fatten – We Starve

They will do all of these things with these war profits just as they did during and after the last war. They will seek to cover up and hide their waste and luxury by claiming that their gaudy social affairs are for the benefit of European refugees. What refugees? For the sons and daughters of the workers of England? No. The children who are coming today arrive with their nurses and governesses and tutors. J.P. Morgan comes down the gang-plank with little eleven year old Lord Primrose and takes him to his estate to be safe from Hitler’s bombs.

All of these things happen while 70,000 black and white forest workers labor for as little as ten cents an hour. While whole families work in Minnesota lumber camps for $10 a week. While thousands of Negro workers are chained to the slave farms of the South and New Jersey. While unemployment remains at 10,000,000. In a country where the mother in an unemployed family kills herself and six children because the family has nothing to eat. Their only comfort was a headstone for the graves paid for with money collected by the neighbors.

This is by no means the whole story. But this is enough. Every worker knows full well what the next move is. The main task is to get those profits into the pay envelopes of the workers. This doesn’t require long arguments with the bosses. What is required however is stronger union, unification of the labor movement, a greater militancy and determination.

The workers should demand more wages and they should not be modest in their demands. The money is there. The bosses are getting theirs.

Organized labor has one powerful weapon through which the workers can enforce their demands. This is the strike. They should not permit this weapon to be dulled or taken from them.

Big business is on strike today. They are striking for more wages (profits) for themselves. They are striking against the government. They are holding up Roosevelt’s “defense” program, refuse to make airplanes until their guaranteed profit is raised from 7% to 10%.

They are on strike all along the line: against the Wagner Act, the Walsh-Healy Act, the Wages and Hours Act, they are on strike against every single gain that the workers have made. They make a big noise about patriotism, but strike because their patriotism isn’t paying what they want.

Don’t give up the fight for higher wages! Don’t let them fool you with sly talk about patriotism and holding up the “defense program.” Don’t get caught with the “fifth column” trick and start a witch hunt in your own union and among your fellow-workers. Just keep going over those profit figures. Tell the boss that’s what you want to discuss with him.

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Last updated: 22 February 2020