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Mary Bell

$100 Billions – Leftovers for Profit Feast

(August 1944)

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 33, 14 August 1944, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

How good the war has been to U. S. capitalism, the readers of Labor Action already know, because we have been indeed scrupulous in keeping tab and informing bur readers of the runaway profits of big business. We now wish to call attention to some left-overs of this great profiteering feast.

The OWI (Office of War Information) reports that surplus war production will amount to FIFTY TO ONE HUNDRED BILLION DOLLARS! There is already half a BILLION surplus in the hands of manufacturers today. Included in this excess property are the huge, government-built, gratis-to-manufacturers, plants. It covers the multitude of things that have been produced and built for war – food, clothing, air fields, camp sites, motor trucks, shoes, razor blades, medicines, adhesive tape, etc.

The Surplus War Property Administration has divided the list of expected surpluses at the end of the war into the following categories: (1) industrial facilities, (2) merchant ships, (3) military construction, such as air fields, camps and Navy yards and bases, (4) war housing, including living accommodations for workers, hospitals and community facilities built as federal projects, (5) finished goods, such as blankets, shoes, airplanes, (6) stock piles, such as tin, copper and other controlled materials, and (7) inventories in the hands of war contractors, including raw materials, goods in process and equipment.

No “Chaos” – They Promise

Now, these fifty to one hundred billions in leftovers of war belong to the “free enterprisers” and their enterprising government. How will they handle what the OWI describes as “a major peace problem”? The Surplus War Property Administration says it does not look for the “chaos” which developed early in 1919, following the First World War. The milestones of this period were: Armistice, termination of war contracts with large inventories piled up, unemployment due to shutting down of war industries, consequent lack of purchasing power, no stimulus for business to produce. This was the last post-war depression, which occurred not only in the U.S., but on a world scale.

The SWPA says that plans are being perfected now to taper off war production gradually as military requirements decrease. But military requirements do not necessarily decrease gradually, but depend upon the fortunes of war. The Brewster workers in New York were not eased out gradually, but several thousand were fired at a clip, when that war contract expired. Too many other workers have experienced dis-employment in the midst of the war for us to have any faith in the “plans” of the capitalists for gradual reconversion.

And what will they do with the excess munitions and war facilities? Some of these will undoubtedly be used in the post-war policing of Europe to assure the Four Freedoms – for the “free enterprisers,” of course. The rest will be utterly useless – save to put down popular rebellions of the discontented peoples of Europe, or till the period of the next world war. But even then they are quite likely to be obsolete, since the advent of the robot bomb has caused U.S. specialists in the technology of mass murder to perfect this and newer military instruments.

It is estimated that there will be several million tons of food in government stores at the war ‘s end. The OWI hints of aiding 30,000,000 stranded people in Europe. But despite this abundance of food in the U.S., Labor Action has pointed out previously the low-calorie diet planned for starving. Italy. This is not to mention the past record and probable future role of U.S. food as being a weapon of politics.

Excess Goods Abroad

Surpluses of American goods have also accumulated abroad, in northwest European countries from France to Norway; in Mediterranean countries; in India, Burma, South Pacific islands, the East Indies and in many countries in South America. The OWI report states that the sale of surplus property abroad will be “regulated to support American foreign policy and the interests of American business and take into consideration the probable effect on future export markets.” In other words, the sale of these surpluses of food, machinery, ships, etc., will NOT be undertaken to satisfy the needs of the people of the world – who have been taxed, starved and bled white by the war – but their sale will be subordinated to the profit-lust of American capitalists who will export and sell according to the profits they can make.

The American workers will have no surplus at the end of the war. They will be lucky if they have shirts on their backs and a roof over their heads. They have worked on the farms and in the mills to produce the material with which the war is being fought. They are paying for the war – by reduced wages, higher prices, overwhelmingly large taxes, purchases of war bonds. Far from having a surplus at the war ‘s end, the workers will be treated as a part of the surplus commodities, no longer useful to the capitalists, who are even now emptying them out into the streets.

The war surplus, as well as the entire productive plant of the country, should be managed by their .creators, the working people. Then there would be no chaos, “planned” or unplanned. The distribution of surplus war goods would not be dependent on the profit motive, but the genuine needs of the people. War industry would not await the caprice of profiteers to reconvert to needed civilian goods, but would change over immediately to meet civilian needs for goods and jobs.


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