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Mary Bell

International Relief Work
of the WP

(June 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 23, 10 June 1946, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The following are excerpts from the report submitted to the Workers Party convention on the international relief work in which the Party, has been engaged since the latter part of 1945. Friends and sympathizers of Labor Action and the Workers Party have assisted in this undertaking by contributions of food and clothing.


Europe is literally on rations from the United States. The danger of starvation is so pressing and widespread that warnings have come from the offices of U.S. military leaders in both Germany and Japan that the people of those countries “must be fed or shot.” Generals McNarney and MacArthur demand either “more wheat or more soldiers.” U.S. imperialism is thus confronted with the necessity, in order to do business, to prevent struggles against its occupation and. to maintain some support as against the Russians, to ration the starvation. Labor Action has pointed out in article after article the fact that food is a political weapon for the ruling class.

The sending of food, clothing, medical and other supplies is no less a political weapon for the revolutionary party. Because of their uncompromising revolutionary political line, the comrades of the Fourth International have been the hardest hit – they have been killed, tortured, jailed, starved, hounded and persecuted by the bestial totalitarianism of both fascism and Stalinism. Yet it is upon these slender and triply harassed cadres that the leadership in the struggle for the liberation of the European peoples from the yoke of U.S. and other imperialisms and the struggle for a proletarian revolution depends.

Hence the task of sending relief to our comrades abroad, despite the fact that it is 99 per cent manual, technical and administrative work, is a POLITICAL one of the highest importance. It is not merely a humanitarian or sentimental undertaking, but a SOCIALIST responsibility. Food is a weapon for us, too.

Must Do More

It was with this idea in mind that the Workers Party started its modest campaign of sending supplies abroad. We had at first only a few names, acquired mostly by soldiers, since all contacts abroad had been broken by the war. Now our list has expanded to over fifty and includes comrades in France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Austria, Italy and Greece. The list of comrades who need assistance is growing continually and, given our political and economic estimate of the world today, can only continue to grow. The task of sending relief abroad becomes a PERMANENT one for us.

In addition, despite the favorable review of our work in this field which will follow, we must do more than we have. Our efforts are not nearly enough to meet the needs of these comrades. We are informed via a letter of this month that one of the German comrades in exile to whom we have been sending food and clothing exists even now by eating and by selling potato peelings! A communication from the Comité Internationaliste de Solidarité Ouvrière of May 20, 1946, states:

“Far from slackening, the demands on us for food are likely to increase in the coming months. Even in France a bread crisis is expected just after the elections. But even more serious is the case of Germany, where rations, though not down to the catastrophic Austrian level of 320 calories per day are already below 1,000 and likely to go lower. At present writing, it is not yet permitted to send food packages direct by parcel post from the U.S. to Germany and we are forced to canalize the work here, reshipping into Germany by various devious means. It is suggested that those of your contributors who are particularly anxious to aid German workers should indicate the fact by putting a conspicuous capital ‘D’ on their packages.”

Between October 1945 and April 1946 the Workers Party sent 3,861 pounds of food 3,376 pounds of clothing, and 560 pounds of miscellaneous items, or a total of 7,797 pounds, almost four tons.

Despite the fact that relief work was begun just after the war ended, just as our civilian comrades were undergoing reconversion lay-offs and transfers to lower-paying jobs and before most of our soldiers had returned to augment our forces and increase our income – the party has responded magnificently. Exceptions are only where there has been a drastic lack of personnel. Out of a deep-rooted sense of international solidarity, the comrades have dug down deep to assist their fellow revolutionists. We have received hundreds of letters from recipients of our packages acknowledging the value of our assistance.

Sympathizers Can Help

New York, with the greatest resources and manpower, has done an outstanding job. The credit for this must go largely to Ben Walker, who, in addition to organizing the relief work of Local New York, has done most of the purchasing, wrapping and mailing, with the able assistance of Gertrude Randall ...

In Chicago, under the supervision of Mimi Slater, relief director, a highly successful musicale which obtained clothing and food supplies for the relief work, was held ...

The fact that smaller branches can do better than they have done, despite lack of forces, is proved by the work of Hibbing, where the organization and finances have been borne almost wholly by one person in addition to all of the other work of the party.

Seattle, Reading and Louisville, all small branches, have responded generously and Louisville has been specially cited by its “wards” for the excellence of its contributions ...

It is proposed that, in view of the necessity of our expansion and the long-term, perspective on this work, an official committee be set up in New York City, which will draw in sympathizers of the party and enable us to increase the financial and material contributions. After this is done, local branches can form branches of the committee, which will facilitate their own work. The San Francisco branch has already attempted to obtain the cooperation of a local Swiss relief organization. The names of our comrades are also being sent to the Socialist Party relief organization. But none of this is enough, and we must continue to expand our own work.

This is politically necessary as a concrete demonstration of our international solidarity.

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