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Susan Green

Billions for Big Business

Nothing for Labor in Senate Bill

(15 May 1944)

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 20, 15 May 1944, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

“We wish to stress again, as we have pointed out in our public testimony, that the preponderance of war contractors are in a sufficiently strong position to weather the period of conversion to peacetime production. The reserves of American industry have never been as high as they are today. American workers, on the contrary, enjoy no such favorable position. When contracts are terminated, the soldiers of production face bleak prospects.”

The above paragraph is from a letter sent by the CIO, the AFL and railway labor to Congress in ah effort to get that august body to consider the interests of labor in connection with the cancellation of war contracts.

The letter and testimony had as little effect on the capitalist government as a breeze has in moving a mountain. The Senate ignored entirely the demands of the heads of labor unions speaking for 12,000,000 organized workers. It passed in record time the Murray-George contract termination bill providing very liberal cash payment out of the U.S. Treasury to big war contractors – BUT NARY A LINE, WORD OR SYLLABLE PROVIDING FOR WORKERS THROWN OUT OF THEIR JOBS BY THE TERMINATION OF WAR CONTRACTS.

Here is concrete action by a branch of the capitalist government on post-war problems.

How it contrasts with the beautiful speeches about the post-war millennium promised so glibly by the ruling class! Here is the pattern of the post-war paradise that capitalism holds for labor!

At the same time that the Senate railroaded through this bill, rightly described as “raiding the government on behalf of the big contractors, who have already made record-breaking profits out of the war,” in Philadelphia the representatives of labor, capital and the governments of the United Nations were holding forth in flowery oratory on “plans” for the post-war period. What a mockery! What a farce! In Washington where things are really done, it was blatantly proclaimed by the passage of the Murray-George bill that “freedom from want” applies only to the capitalists – while the only freedom the workers can rely on is freedom TO want the necessities of life.

The Kilgore Amendment

Although the bill is very long and full of technical clauses, although it involves niching of billions of dollars of public funds, the Military Affairs Committee reported the bill out after only a cursory and superficial consideration of it. And the Senate took but a day to make legal a gift of more billions to the already bloated war profiteers.

An attempt was made to combine with the Murray-George bill, the Kilgore bill, which would have provided unemployment benefits for war workers and discharged servicemen, as well as other help, such as traveling expenses to other places of employment. But neither in the Military Affairs Committee nor on the floor of the Senate was the Kilgore bill given a tumble.

Senator Kilgore offered his measure as an amendment to the war contract termination bill, but his amendment was beaten with less than a quorum of the senators present – many having walked out before the vote so as not to have to commit themselves. It should be noted well that among these absentees were many senators who the labor and liberal leaders were hoping would vote for the Kilgore amendment.

The Murray-George bill, which not only provides for outright cash payments to war contractors; which not only permits minor government officials to make final settlements for such cash payments; which has no adequate provisions against fraud; which is full of jokers and loopholes through which Scandalous amounts of public money can flow into the pockets of the rich – has a history worth mentioning.

The Pressure of Big Business

The bill came out of Senator George’s Post-War Committee, as the pet, of big business. Counsel of the George committee is Scott Russell. Until recently Scott Russell, who had much to do with the Murray-George bill, was president of the Bibb Mfg. Co., a Southern textile firm. Russell’s company was one of those that appeared before Congress last year with loud protests against the renegotiation law which attempts to put a mild check on war profits.

In contrast to the speed – ONLY ONE DAY – with which the Senate passed this big business-sponsored bill and killed the Kilgore amendment, is the Wagner-Murray-Dingell bill for social insurance, including unemployment benefits for the post-war period. This bill has been gathering dust on a congressional shelf for over a year.

The leaders of the CIO, AFL and railway labor stated in their letter to Congress:

“You will agree that every, contract terminated means the discharge of workers. Certainly, provision for these workers, whose resources must be conserved and fulls, utilized, is at least as important as settling the financial claims of war contracts.”

Ah, but that’s just the point! The capitalist government does NOT agree. To it financial claims of contractors are much more important than the claims to the needs of life of the millions of workers. To it, it is much more important to add another pile of dough to the war profits, which will amount to at least ten billion dollars this year; to the cash reserves of big business, already estimated at $58,000,000,000; to the value of government plants that big business has its eye on to the tune of $20,000,000,000; to the surplus war materials, amounting to around $75,000,000,000, to which big business wants to be heir,

The Senate was in a great hurry to add many more billions to this fabulous mass of wealth in the hands of big business. It had no time to consider the claims of labor for unemployment payments and other life-and-death needs.

Workers Must Learn from This

It is from such actions as that of the Senate that the working people of the country must learn.

The blatant flouting [1] of labor’s claims by the Senate should make it clear to every working man and woman that the working people cannot rely on the capitalist politicians to take care of their interests. The exploited of the land must rely upon themselves to get rid of exploitation, unemployment and misery.

The vital problems of the post-war period stare the working people in the face and put fear in their hearts. The capitalist government, however, is concerned with the “problems” of the ruling class. Labor must – without loss of time – set itself the goal of a workers’ government. Only a workers’ government can solve labor’s problems.

The first step is the organization of an independent Labor Party to unite and use the political, strength of the working people as a class. Thus they will be able to combat their class enemies and march determinedly toward the goal of a workers’ government.

Note by ETOL

1. In the printed text “flaunting”, which however doesn’t fit the context.

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