From Labor Action, Vol. 5 No. 39, 29 September 1941, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).
Washington Merry-Go-Round of September 19 declares that President Roosevelt was positively shocked when Representative Carl Vinson, chairman of the House Naval Affairs Committee, furnished a confidential report on shipyard profits. “One company making ordnance instruments for the Navy netted a neat 208 per cent! Some plane manufacturers are making as high as 150 per cent. Big shipbuilders are averaging 72 per cent on government contracts.” Some people do surprise easily. But what else could be expected when the Vinson-Trammell Act, limiting profits on naval orders to 8 per cent, was repealed at the start of the war program? Rumor hath it now that Vinson will propose to limit naval profits to 7 per cent. We WILL be surprised if such a measure goes through!
“Combined net profits of 112 producers of consumers goods in the first half of 1941 amounted to $165,734,689 after all tax provisions and other charges, compared with $141,260,170 in the same period last year, reflecting better gains after taxes than mast of the heavy industry groups thus far reviewed for the period.” (Kenneth L. Austin in the New York Times, September 21) And Mr. Austin has already reviewed the situation of some of the biggest war profiteering industries, such as chemicals. The profits of the big bosses are getting so big in all industries that they can’t even conceal them any more!
The above items attain real significance only when compared with the 1941 revenue bill, which was signed by the President on September 20. I have previously pointed out the gross inequities in this “Soak the Poor” bill. The conference between the House and Senate over their respective versions made virtually no changes of any importance from the Senate bill, as had been universally predicted. The income tax and excess profits tax provisions were unchanged. The burden of additional taxes is thrown almost exclusively on those who can least afford to pay. There were merely a few minor changes on some of the “hidden” or excise taxes. The tax on telephone calls, for example, is fixed at 6 per cent on local telephone bills, 10 per cent on long-distance calls costing more than 24 cents, and 10 per cent on telegraph, radio and cable messages. This “fair and equal” treatment of services used by the lower middle class and the workers, such as local telephones, with those used by the very wealthy, such as radio and cable messages, is typical of the perverted sense of justice that permeates the entire bill. Unless the trade unions and workers launch a real campaign for a genuine, 100 PER CENT EXCESS PROFITS TAX, WITHOUT ANY LOOPHOLES, they might as well resign themselves to footing the entire cost of the war.
The real boss of World War I, Wall Street’s white-haired boy, Barney Baruch, testified last week in connection with the pending price control bill. This outstanding representative of the ruling class in this country painted a very dark picture of what happens under inflation and what the aftermath of war may lead to. He was delightfully vague, however, on how to prevent these dire things from happening. The profit must be taken out of war. Yes, we agree, but how? Just establish price ceilings and everything will be hunky-dory. Freezing wages will not affect labor’s right to strike or the right of every worker to bargain collectively. No, it would just render the major weapons of labor absolutely useless.
Fairy tales aside, what Mr. Baruch was trying to tell the political representatives of the bosses is that if you want to lick Hitler you’ve got to use Hitler’s methods – that is, under capitalism. Said the duPonts’ family adviser: “If we are to keep the war from reaching these shores or win any war into which we are thrust, it will not be done by ‘business as usual’ but by the full mobilization of our economic resources as in 1918 and it must not be too little or loo late.” That he really didn’t mean the modest mobilization of 1918 but Hitler’s type of mobilization, which was swiped from the American Army’s M-Day plans, can be seen from the very next sentence: “Full mobilization means transforming American industry from a highly competitive economy to a practically single unitary system under which all producers will cooperate, sharing trade secrets, pooling patents, resources and facilities.”
Monopoly capitalism must be placed firmly in the saddle. This is the program recommended by Mr. Baruch. Anything or anybody that stands in its way must be pushed aside, crushed. This is the program of the National Association of Manufacturers and the big capitalists. It gives the lie to Baruch’s conclusion: The status quo of all should remain until the war is ended.” No, when things are changing very rapidly, as at present, no power on earth can keep the face of the world as it has been. Either the workers make up their minds to take what is their just due or the bosses will impose an American form of fascism on them.
A dispatch from Berlin, printed in the financial section of the New York Times, September 21, says: “Announcement that the Reich has sold its controlling interest in the Hamburg-American Line and in the North German Lloyd to a group of business men in Hamburg and Bremen took the financial market here by surprise. The step itself may be. in line with the accepted policy of the Nazi government, which on various occasions, has stressed its aversion to government ownership and to the operation of business concerns.” (Emphasis mine – F.D.) And some people still think that there is a “new” social order in Germany! It is still capitalism, to any but the blind, but it represents a further and logical development of capitalism – namely, state monopoly capitalism.
Last updated: 27.1.2013