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Susan Green

Of Special Interest to Women

(1 January 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 1, 1 January 1945, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

What has put enough dynamite under the WPB and OPA to make them promise certain measures to alleviate the unbearable crisis that has developed in consumer cotton goods ?

You know what has happened? Just this: The housewives and mothers of this country got into action.

Yes, the women raised their voices in protest. Some sixteen women’s organizations started a persistent bombardment. Petitions were sent to the WPB and to Congressmen. Delegations went to Washington. The women talked turkey. They showed that there is plenty of cotton for luxury goods, but not for clothing for a working class family. They proved, by government figures, that there has been a systematic increase in the manufacture of higher-priced cottons and a simultaneous decrease in production of apparel for the worker and his family. They pointed out that the policy of OPA has encouraged the profit-grubbing manufacturers in their practices.

The petition circulated by the Congress of Women’s Auxiliaries, CIO, read in part:

“We are housewives and mothers. Our families, and especially our children, need clothes. We cannot today buy the clothes we need at prices we can afford. Some things, especially durable children’s clothes, we cannot buy at any price. Many of us need to make part of our clothes. Today we cannot buy cloth good enough to justify the effort we put into sewing. We are desperate. Some of us cannot even send our children to school because they have no suitable clothes.”

Direct pressure of this kind has brought promises of relief. It will take even more effective pressure to get tangible results.


English Women Fight for Housing

From across the Atlantic come the sounds and signs of increased activity to give the bombed-out people of England a place to lay their heads. It seems that 130,000 workers have been brought from all parts of the United Kingdom to restore London’s houses and build huts for shelter. Even the Yanks are included in the plans, involving some 3,000 of them assigned by General Eisenhower, with an allotment of bulldozers, trucks and cement mixers for the job.

Why the vim and vigor? What has happened to divert a small fraction of Churchill’s attention from killing Greek people to providing a little housing for English people?

Can it be, a coincidence that recently some six hundred women, representing thousands of housewives and war workers from all parts of England, Scotland and Wales, converged on the House of Commons with certain housing demands?

While a demonstration was held by these women outside the House of Parliament, a delegation of them went to see the ministers of Reconstruction and Works, and another deputation presented their case to the members of Parliament. Among the demands of the demonstrators are that the government immediately buy land for building houses, that it speed up the repair of bomb damage, that it control rents at a level within the reach of the average working class family.

Housewives from the Clyde region told the august members of Parliament about their “luxurious” homes where the bread had to be hung on strings to keep it from the rats. Mothers told these politicians for the landlords and capitalists, of how they are bringing up as many as five children in one room – while their husbands are fighting for British imperialism.


Hunger “Riots” in Rome

In Rome – which now has “liberty” based on subservience to the “liberators” – for the first time in perhaps years some hundreds of poor people have tasted a bit of sugar, fruit, cheese, meat or bread made of real flour. These were not gifts from the “liberators” to the starved Roman poor. What happened was that women, workmen and children decided to eat from the stocks horded by the black marketeers for the exclusive use of the rich.

There is a dire scarcity of food in devastated Italy. What food there is, is played around with by profiteers on the black market. This condition prevailed under Mussolini and the Nazi, and now under the allied “liberators.” There are, of course, official prices but they are observed even less than official OPA prices here. For example, sugar officially is 15 lire a kilo; actually it is 700 lire. Officially olive oil is 39 lire a liter; actually the black market price is 650 lire. Butter should cost 40 lire a kilo; the black market price is 750 to 800 lire.

So on December 7th a thousand housewives, children and a sprinkling of men started to help the police enforce official prices. Those who had money forced the storekeepers to accept official prices for their merchandise. Then the inevitable occurred. Those who had no money helped themselves to food anyway. Soon many of the chiselers, frightened by the actions of the people, “voluntarily” offered their goods at official prices and even for nothing. The same thing happened on December 8th.

When the chief of police in Rome was asked the cause of this quest of hungry people for food – called a “riot” by those who have enough to eat – this official had the good grace to answer simply: “HUNGER!” So at least on December 7th and 8th some poor Roman citizens had a bite to eat.

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