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Susan Green

Of Special Interest to Women

(29 December 1941)

From Labor Action, Vol. 5 No. 52, 29 December 1941, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

A week or so ago Miss Harriet Elliott resigned from her twofold job as consumer adviser on the Defense Commission and as associate administrator of the consumer division of the Office of Price Administration.

The Associated Press, reporting President Roosevelt’s acceptance of Miss Elliott’s resignation, stated:

“It was said in defense quarters that she was displeased with alleged sidetracking of consumers’ interests in the defense program. In its present status, her staff members contended, the consumers’ unit has been relegated to virtually hopeless subordination.”

Labor Action has often warned working class housewives – who are the most direct victims of war prices – that the politicos in Washington are not going to do much, if anything, about consumers’ headaches. Miss Elliott’s resignation emphasizes that point.

Labor Action has also called upon working class housewives to form neighborhood committees and to follow a militant policy against war-profiteer prices.

Miss Elliott’s resignation proclaims that there is now no alternative to such mass organization by the hard-hit housewives of the country.

Neighborhood committees of housewives are the crying need of the hour.

Problem of Air Raid Shelters

I have seen women stop and stare in alarm and puzzlement at the crowds of children marching around the streets of New York City these days – in so-called air raid dfills. A teacher takes charge of a group of youngsters and walks them to their homes – where they are supposed to be safe against falling bombs.

In case of an air attack, it would be criminal to send children into the streets on the chance that they could get home before the bombs fall. But even if they escaped from the streets with their lives, they would be going to places where they have just as good a chance of being killed or injured. For in most neighborhoods the houses are very vulnerable to bombing. Rows upon rows of flats, tenements and small houses are about the most dangerous buildings, judging by all reports.

Fiorello LaGuardia, director of civilian defense, urges parents to be calm and to set a good example of self-control. His chief assistant, Eleanor Roosevelt, in her most motherly way, advises mothers to put dark curtains on their windows.

But thoughtful parents cannot get it out of their heads that neither they nor their children are being provided with safe and sanitary air raid shelters. Nor is their uneasiness allayed when the complete lack of civilian defense manifests itself in the most elementary things. Not even an audible siren system is in readiness.

In preparation for all-out war, not a stone has been turned to protect civilian life. THE RICH, OF COURSE, HAVE THE MEANS OF TAKING CARE OF THEMSELVES.

What Happened in London

When the bombs fell in London, the working people suffered the most casualties in life, injury and the loss of their belongings. It was revealed that preparations for war had included no protection at all for the civilian masses. Whereas not only safe but luxurious air raid shelters were available for the upper classes.

Only after the terror-stricken masses flocked into the subways and refused to be driven out did the British government allow them to remain – crowded together like cattle on damp stone floors. Only after there had been mass demonstrations before the palatial hotels where the wealthy were reveling in air raid shelter night clubs did the British government make some attempt to meet the problem – though most inadequately.

The working people here should have learned a lesson from the experience of the working population of London.

Either the military authorities conceive the possibility of air raids in this country – or they do not. If they do not, then why are people being scared out of their wits? If they do expect air raids, then let the Office of Civilian Defense stop fooling around.

Suitable subway stations should be converted into sanitary shelters and people assigned to them in case of raids. Office buildings, skyscraper apartments, vaults, subcellars, all shelters secretly built by the rich for their private use, should be requisitioned. Mass shelters – modern, safe and sanitary – should be constructed throughout the city wherever necessary. Where school buildings cannot provide unquestionable protection, adequate shelters for the children should be provided nearby. This goes for every city in the country that may be threatened.

The government has allotted $150,000,000,000 for the prosecution of the war. That is a lot of money. Many billions will be nestling in the pockets of the capitalist bosses. Some billions are finding their way into the clutches of the “fixers” who use their influence to place war contracts with their “clients.”

How about cutting but war profits and fixers’ fees!

How about using the money for the legitimate purpose of protecting life!

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Last updated: 26 August 2014