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Susan Green

Of Special Interest to Women

(18 November 1940)

From Labor Action, Vol. 4 No. 32, 18 November 1940, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

In a tiny item tucked away in an evening paper I read that the Department of Agriculture in Washington states that food costs are going to rise during 1941, which is only a few weeks off. Evidently the boss papers do not think this news important enough to give it a head line and put it where people can see it.

The Department predicted that the prices will go up on meats, dairy and poultry products, fruits and vegetables. It seems. to me that includes nearly everything we eat, except cereals and fish. So when we housewives go out with a shopping bag and a dollar to do our marketing in 1941, the bag will be much lighter to carry home than it has been in 1940.

Election is not so far back that we don’t remember what Mr. Roosevelt was promising about maintaining the standard of living of the American people. I’m not going to say a word here about that mythical “standard” nor about the one-third of the nation whose standard is even less than a myth. All I want to say is that the most powerful microscope could not have found anywhere a statement from the President that should read something like this: “In view of the fact that my own Department of Agriculture has predicted a rise in the cost of living for 1941, I will immediately propose legislation providing for increases in wages in private industry, on WPA and all government enterprises, as well as increases in home relief allowances. This will be necessary to maintain existing standards of living, which I have promised to maintain.”

Are you laughing? Indeed it is very funny. No boss politician ever acted like that and none ever will. Certainly not Mr. Roosevelt, who allowed thousands of workers to be thrown off WPP while appropriating billions for imperialist war preparations.

Anyway we have it on excellent authority that he won’t. The President’s wife knows something about the President. She goes about making speeches on what great sacrifices we all have to make. For the worker that means he is expected to accept a lower standard of living and like it. Mrs. Roosevelt will make sacrifices by collecting huge fees for her speeches, while the big industrialists pile up war profits, but we working women will have to carry home LESS FOOD in our shopping bags. UNLESS –

We refuse to be bamboozled by the “national defense” hysteria – manufactured so that the bosses may not be bothered by workers’ demands during the period of war profits – and FIGHT to protect and improve our conditions.

I was listening on the radio when the fate of millions of young men was decided by pulling bits of paper out of a fish bowl. The fish bowl symbolized the whole procedure. These young men are the “poor fish” conscripted into a military machine to make the American bosses the most powerful in the world.

The fish bowl also symbolized an important incident that the radio registered. When the first number was drawn – 158 – there came through the air, a sound like a gasp, yell and groan combined. It came from Mrs. Bell, whose twenty-one-year old son holds number 158. It sounded like the cry of a wounded animal.

Mrs. Bell’s spontaneous reaction was immediately hushed up. She was called to the microphone and made a fuss over. Her hand was shaken by this and that big muck-a-muck. The whole situation was twisted to look as if Mrs. Bell was just about the luckiest woman in America because her son is among the first conscripts. And one smart alec wished that her son would “enjoy” the year’s training – as if he were going on a pleasure trip instead of taking the first step into the jaws of useless death.

That’s how it’s done, mothers of the working class. Amid bombast and ballyhoo the true feelings of grieving mothers are submerged, so that the money-bags can take the young men to die in a cause that is not theirs.

These days it is fashionable to be sympathetic to the Chinese. High society, ever on the scent for some thing novel to keep it from being bored with its life of unearned luxury, went oriental and held what it called the “Bowl of Rice” Ball at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York. This gave the Park Avenue ladies a chance to get rigged out and strut about in oriental costumes especially made for the occasion at great cost. Incidentally the bloated rich parted with a little loose change for “those poor Chinese”.

The class represented at this ball, showing off in oriental dress and throwing chicken feed to “those poor Chinese”, has a greedy hand in the bloody Chinese war. It has pocketed plenty of profits from American sales of huge quantities of scrap-iron to the Japanese bosses, who, made guns and bombs with which to kill “those poor Chinese”.

Nor has the President’s prohibition of the export of scrap metal to Japan changed the situation. True the export of SCRAP is restricted, but the export of NEW metal goes merrily on. So the Japanese gun-makers have wisely increased their orders for new metal, and the American steel barons have equally wisely accepted the profitable orders. This comes from no less an authority than the secretary of the Institute of Scrap Iron and Steel, Inc.

“Those poor Chinese” are shot down with guns made out of American metal – sold for the profit of American bosses to the Japanese imperialists – the American profit-grabbers then give a little charity to “those poor Chinese” at gaudy balls – where Park Avenue ladies cavort in expensive gowns – all, you understand, for the benefit of “those poor Chinese”. This is the insane asylum that the bosses have made out of the world we live in.

It is up to the women who do not attend fancy balls at the Waldorf-Astoria to help the Chinese masses – as well as themselves – by putting up a fight against a boss-run world.

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