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Susan Green

Of Special Interest to Women

(4 May 1942)

From Labor Action, Vol. 6 No. 18, 4 May 1942, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

To make a purchase of a couple of pounds of onions these days is a sure way of bringing tears to the eyes figuratively speaking. This distress is not caused by the strength of the onions, but by the height of their price.

Last fall onions were three pounds for ten cents. Then they climbed to three for fourteen. A while later it took fifteen cents to get only two pounds. Today eleven cents buys just one pound of that cooking necessity, the onion.

Why this price increase of 330 per cent in a few months?

Why should a cotton blanket be one price on Monday and 50 per cent higher on Tuesday?

Why should a pair of shoes be marked up 50 cents in a few hours?

And why is everything else being marked up – except the wages that the working man turns over to his one-and-only for household expenses?

The government is taking a mighty long time getting around to stopping price profiteering. In the meantime the dollar shrinks daily. Presumably this is in line with the government policy that the people must get used to sacrifices. The profiteers, however, are fast becoming so accustomed to fancy war prices that they will be very unwilling to give them up – if and when Mr. Henderson politely asks them to.

If price fixing were in the hands of the workers themselves, it would be at the head of the list of things to be done – not at the bottom.

In a certain sense the shortages of eggs, meats and other foods are being overcome in England. The profit seekers who miss no chance to turn a dishonest million pounds or so, have put out a number of “substitutes.”

Mr. William Dayles, American correspondent in London, writes about “Peakegg – Egg Substitute Powder.” The manufacturer proclaims that two ounces of “Peakegg” stirred in water is the same as ten beaten eggs. But Mr. Dayles reports that “no hen ever laid eyes on Peakegg’.”

After many months and after thousands of housewives had thrown away their money on this fake “egg substitute,” government chemists “discovered” that “Peakegg” was “nothing more than flour, bicarbonate of soda, a touch of dye and a little gum,” says Mr. Dayles.

This correspondent also writes that many English workmen pay for pork sausage but get “oil-soaked bread crumbs stuffed into cellophane.” And there is a product on the market called “Meatlike.” According to Mr. Dayles, its composition defies analysis. “One thing is certain, it contains no meat.”

After income taxes, withholding taxes, sales taxes and other taxes, little enough money is left for working people to spend on food. Apparently Mr. Churchill’s “democratic” government doesn’t consider it necessary to see to it that the people get REAL food for their precious shillings!

Negroes are discriminated against in the army and navy. Negro workers of both sexes have the doors of industry slammed in their faces. The federal and local governments allow negroes to be barred from their homes in Sojourner Truth. The “imperial” government of the State and City of New York have been aware that Negro children are kept out of children’s institutions – and have done nothing about it. This is the latest race discrimination scandal.

It appears that at least nineteen private child-caring agencies in the State bar Negro children from entrance. Most people do not know that many of these private institutions get financial support from the public treasury. They are paid a given amount per week for each child accepted as a public charge. Some institutions are almost entirely subsidized in this way out of public funds. New York City alone pays out at least a million dollars a year to the very nineteen institutions known to discriminate against Negro youngsters.

The old-law tenement house at 1795 Lexington Avenue, New York City, went up in a blaze early the other morning. The toll was one dead and several injured. The dead victim was an old man of 76.

A few days before that, another old-law tenement caught fire. This was in lower west side Manhattan. The casualties of dead and injured there were greater, including little children trapped in their beds.

Inconspicuous items in the daily press constantly check off the victims of landlord greed and of the unwillingness of capitalist society to attend to the vital business of providing adequate housing.

In New York City alone 500,000 families live in old-law tenement fire-traps. The government housing program was a mere drop in the ocean of actual needs – and even this farce has been discontinued in favor of building battleships at $100,000,000 per.

A modern project that could shelter 17,500 parents and children in comfort and safety costs around $20,000,000 – only one-fifth the price of a single battleship. This is information everybody should have. Thus the $120,000,000,000 war budget, if used for peaceful construction, could make of this country a garden paradise for the people to enjoy.

What is wrong with this picture? Only one thing – The wealth of the country and control of its expenditures are not where they belong, namely, with the workers who create the wealth.

“It was sad to read of two more of our destroyers being lost. I cannot bear to think of the many women whose hearts ache for the boys and men who are lost with each of these ships; as well as any one of the airplanes that fail to come back from a raid, or that crash somewhere in this country or in foreign parts. These days are terrible ones for the men themselves and for the women who wait at home for news. So many of the boys are very young and, under ordinary circumstances, would have their whole lives before them.”

These are words that go to the heart of every one of us – even if we don’t agree politically with their author. But working women must look with suspicion on Mrs. Roosevelt’s next sentence: “I wonder if women in every country are making up their minds that out of this war there shall come some kind of permanent peace.”

“Some kind of permanent peace” is much too vague, Mrs. Roosevelt. These words sound like the old gag used in the last war, namely, that it was a war to end all war.

No kind of permanent peace can come while the propertied, capitalist, imperialist classes of each nation remain in power. This second world war, which is again annihilating the youth of the earth, is ample proof that permanent peace requires a Socialist world.

This thought should fill the mind of every working woman in every country on this May Day – dedicated to the struggle of the international working class.

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