Felix Morrow

Anglo-American Imperialists Haggle
over Crumbs for Starving Millions

(29 March 1946)

Source: The Militant, Vol. X No. 15, 13 April 1946, p. 7.
Transcription/Editing/HTML Markup: 2018 by Einde O’Callaghan.
Copyleft: Felix Morrow Internet Archive (www.marx.org) 2018. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0.

>ATLANTIC CITY, March 29 – Fiorello LaGuardia was installed today as the new Director-General of UNRRA and immediately began to whitewash the Truman administration – which, very much needed the whitewash after the revelations made by former New York Governor Herbert H. Lehman, who resigned yesterday as Director-General.

Lehman allegedly resigned because of his health, but meanwhile has consented to run for U.S. Senator if named in the current ALP-Democratic negotiations. His immediate reason for resigning was Truman’s sending Hoover abroad on a food “survey” without even consulting Lehman. But this was merely the last straw.

For over a year now, Lehman has vainly sought the support of the Truman administration for drastic steps to provide food for the starving continents of Europe and Asia. Still a loyal Democrat – his proposals were simply a more far-sighted program in the interest of U.S. imperialism – Lehman resigned without denouncing the Truman administration’s crimes. But Lehman’s speeches and reports to the General Council of UNRRA during its 15-day session here constitute, despite their diplomatic coverings, a terrible indictment of the U.S. government.

In his acceptance speech, LaGuardia said Truman “wants to do everything that is humanly possible to alleviate suffering and hunger anywhere in the world.” Lehman’s speeches and reports considerably modify this flowing tribute.

Future Even Worse

The Truman-Hoover ballyhoo that the food crisis will last only 120 days until the next harvests to Europe, was designed to evade taking more fundamental steps to alleviate the situation. Lehman said of this:

“On the evidence available to UNRRA on this subject, I believe that the reported views both of the Secretary of Agriculture and Mr. Hoover do not recognize the full scale of the emergency. We have absolutely no right to plan on any basis other than that the situation next winter may be even worse than the present crisis.”

On March 22 Lehman notified the UNRRA Council that there was in sight from the supplying authorities “less than one-third – I repeat, one-third – of our minimum requirements” of bread cereals for April. “This situation can spell only disaster and death.” For the first quarter of 1946 UNRRA had shipped only 53 per cent of grain requirements, 20 per cent of rice requirements, 4 per cent of edible fats requirements.

Nor had the terrible gap between amounts supplied and UNRRA requirements – carefully computed on a malnutrition level for each applying country – begun in 1946. Of UNRRA requirements for the second half of 1945, there was actually shipped: carbohydrates, 84 percent: edible fats 24 per cent; vegetable proteins 50 per cent; animal proteins 46 per cent.

What could be done to alleviate the situation?

Governor Lehman’s own oft- repeated and unheeded recommendations provide us with a useful framework for analyzing the situation and what could be done about it.

All-out production. Lehman puts this first. It is a notorious fact that since the end of the war the U.S. Department of Agriculture has been discouraging farmers from expanding grain and dairy products, seeking to turn them to "diversified agriculture,” i.e., toward subsistence farming instead of production for the world market, in preparation for the time when economic recovery elsewhere will curtail U.S. exports.

Along the same line, Secretary of Agriculture Anderson has resisted instituting full-scale measures for encouraging farmers to sell their grain instead of feeding it to cattle and hogs. His order, at last issued today, ostensibly providing a 20 per cent cut in feeding grain to fowl and cattle, actually applies only to grain purchased and not to grain and corn raised by feeders, which is most of that fed to cattle.

The Truman administration doesn’t want these growers to get into the habit of selling grain and corn in the market because eventually that would add to overproduction. That in the interim tens of millions might be saved from starvation in Europe and Asia if these farmers did sell grain and corn now scarcely seems to bother Truman, Anderson and the rest of the government.

Profit First

Requisitioning and rationing. Lehman asked that the government continue its wartime practice of set-asides whereby a given percentage of all products would go to the government which would turn it over to UNRRA. Certainly it is the most efficacious means of providing food for the world. But whereas the government was driven to it to win the war, it is reluctant to do it in peacetime. Requisitioning in order to smash its imperialist rivals – that's one thing. But requisitioning in order to save tens of millions of starving humans – what’s the point for private profit?

Likewise with rationing. UNRRA officials, in private conversation, understood well enough why the U.S. had gone off rationing and wouldn’t return, despite all the figures presented to Truman by Lehman a year ago. “The Chinese and the Czechs don’t vote here, and this is an election year.” Washington had garnered cheaply a certain amount of popularity by ending rationing and wasn’t going to rock the boat now. Moreover, renewal of rationing would turn public attention to embarrassing questions: why it was ended if it should have continued; why, instead, all-out production hadn’t been encouraged; and just what is being done with all the food that is being produced.

Which brings us to the key question: who controls the world’s food? Not UNRRA, in which some 48 nations sit, but which has no voice in allocating food.

What is generally not known is that the real world power over food is in the hands of a Combined Food Board, consisting of only three governments: the U.S., the British and Canada. How this world dictatorship employs its power for its own interests – that is the most interesting story of all, most of it still unrevealed, but with broad hints provided by the documents and speeches of the UNRRA Council session.

(Next week: The Role of the Combined Food Board)


Last updated on: 18 October 2018