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Gertrude Shaw

Things Crazy and Not So Crazy ―

(27 July 1942)

From Labor Action, Vol. 6 No. 30, 27 July 1942, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The more one examines the capitalist system – which is the one the peoples of the world are living under – the more cock-eyed and crazy it appears.

Let us look for a moment at the part of the war which pertains to the United States and Japan. This is, of course, a way of examining the capitalist system – for this war is full-blown capitalism.

Everyone knows by now why the war in the Far East is being fought. The rich resources of this blessed part of the earth have been in the hands pf the United Nations. Japan now wants them. The fight is on by the dispossessors against the possessors.

Neither of them cared or cares a hoot in hell about the teeming millions inhabiting these regions. No, that is not true. They do care. BOTH THE JAPANESE AND ALLIED IMPERIALISTS CARE ABOUT THE AMOUNT OF DIRT-CHEAP LABOR THEY CAN EXTRACT FROM THE NATIVES.

That millions of people submitted for so long to slavery and gruelling exploitation at the hands of invading foreigners, was crazy. That today, like a siren call, arises from the throats of these millions the cry for independence, is not so crazy.

But let us return to the United States and Japan.

Why the Present War?

While the American, British and Dutch imperialists were the foreign invaders squeezing the wealth out of the Philippines, East Indies, Thailand, Malaya and Burma, the American capitalists felt pretty safe. They were sure of getting – very cheap – the raw materials that American workers turn into finished goods.

The United States was getting from the Far East 95 per cent of the rubber used here. From the same part of the earth came most of the tin consumed here. Many other raw materials found their way across the wide stretches of the Pacific into American factories, where American labor creates profits for the bosses – A VERY CRAZY ARRANGEMENT, WHEN LABOR CAN BE CREATING THE GOOD THINGS OF LIFE FOR ITSELF.

But the wiley Japanese imperialists saw no reason why the status quo (so comfortable for America’s bosses) should not be changed – changed just enough to give them the controlling hand – just enough to give them a monopoly of the raw materials of the Far East. And then, if the great customer across the Pacific should want to buy, it would have to pay the Japanese piper.

This little re-arrangement meant only fighting the present insane war. It meant only throwing all the Japanese resources in men and material into the seething cauldron of war. It meant only the expenditure of hundreds of billions of American wealth and tens of millions of American lives for the Yankee imperialists to try and stop the Japanese – as is now being done.


Then what happened?

The Japanese moved into the good hunting grounds where the Allies have been poaching – and presto! rubber, tin, etc. ceased coming to these shores.

Gets Crazier All the Time

That made things stir. The good neighbors in South America – whose rubber industry was destroyed because East Indian labor is even cheaper than South American – are again encouraged to produce rubber. And artificial rubber is put into production with the prospect that it will be stronger and cheaper than the natural product.

The same is true of metals. Various light metals have been released for use. The production restrictions on aluminum have been broken. Magnesium – a lighter, stronger and cheaper metal than aluminum – is being produced in large quantities.

Here you see emerging one part of the crazy pattern of capitalism. South America has always been there – able and more than willing to produce rubber. But the colossus of the North could get it cheaper from the East Indies. The formulae for synthetic rubber were for a long time in the vaults of Standard Oil et al. – but there was no profit then in releasing the new product. Aluminum and magnesium could long ago have been produced economically and plentifully to take the place of light metals from the Far East – but it suited the aluminum monopoly to curtail production and keep prices and profits up.

So the war is being fought to retain the open door for American capitalists to the raw materials of the Far East. But already in the course of the war it be comes evident that the raw materials being fought over can be produced right here – and could have been produced in peacetime as well, if not for the octopus of private profit. HOW ABOUT THAT FOR INSANITY!

Now look at the Japanese side. As pointed out, they are ambitious for a monopoly of the Far Eastern resources. Some of these resources they hope to consume themselves. The rest, however, they planned to sell at monopoly prices – if they win the war and stay in the lands they have invaded. But ...

The United States – which took 700,000 of the 800,000 long tons of crude rubber produced in the Far East – will now be a producer of synthetic rubber and getting rubber from South America. If the war lasts a long time – as it seems to be going to – synthetic rubber will become cheap, plentiful and durable. So it will be with other products and with other customer nations.

See the crazy mess! Japan fights a war to get the sources of raw material – but the war itself makes these raw materials no longer as precious as they were before the war, because of successful substitutes. Screwy, isn’t it?

Because of this nightmare of topsy-turvy capitalism American and Japanese men are finding their destiny in the unfathomable depths of the Pacific, victims of a world system bereft of all reason.

Reason dictates that the people of the world unite to create international socialism – the world organization for peace. The natural resources of the earth and the new products made possible by science, all can be used and distributed according to human needs – with common sense international planning by the working people of the world.


The delirious actions of capitalist imperialism gone mad can be halted by the workers of the world marching toward socialism.

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