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Susan Green

Of Special Interest to Women

(28 May 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 22, 28 May 1945, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Women are supposed to be bored by figures. But here are figures guaranteed to stir up plenty of feeling.

Food and clothing prices are a very sore spot for all housewives. With malice aforethought, this column is going to put salt on the sore by telling you something about the profits that industry is getting out of those high prices that we are paying.

The OPA made a study of 1,900 companies, comparing their profits in war year 1943 with the average of peace years 1936–39. Of special interest to women are the OPA findings regarding the food and clothing industries. Here are the shocking facts:

These are figures of the OPA – the government agency which was supposed to but failed to keep prices down; succeeding very well, however, in helping profits up.

But what is this loud protest we hear from these profiteers of a nation’s sweat and blood? Oh, yes; they are shouting that these profits were before taxes, and that the government took a large share. To be sure, the government took some, but not enough. Every housewife will agree that whatever the government takes from the war profiteers, it isn’t enough. Why should the capitalists be permitted to make one cent more war profits than peace profits, while the people sacrifice everything?

But the matter doesn’t end here. There is another important aspect. It concerns wages.

Many unions have been clamoring for wage increases. They demand that the Little Steel formula be dumped for a very good reason. That formula freezes wages at a fifteen per cent increase while the cost of living has gone up at least three times that figure.

And how do the industrialists respond to demands for Wage increases? These bloated profiteers beat their chests and swear they cannot afford to grant wages increases unless they also raise prices to the consumer.

So the War Labor Board and Congress and President Truman all agree that wage increases would be too, too terrible. More wages would, alas and alack, bring about uncontrolled inflation.

However, even a housewife who may not understand trigonometry and calculus can still smell an odorous lie. Why cannot companies making up to 1,500 per cent war profits over peace profits, give their workers wage increases without passing the cost on to the housewife?

Not only could wages be increased, but prices could be reduced and still war profits would exceed peace profits.

While the capitalists and their politicians scare the people with the bogey of inflation, they are protecting tremendously inflated war profits.


Thus the policy of Washington is determined by the war profiteers. As a concrete example, take the problem of textiles and clothing.

Some weeks ago the WPB and OPA announced a very optimistic plan to produce more low-priced textiles and clothing. We were promised that by spring there would surely be a marked increase in the supply of children’s things, work clothes and women’s wear, at prices working people can pay. What happened?

That textile industry which in 1943 made 772 per cent more war profits that it did in the peace years descended upon Washington with objections. Congress held hearings. Much time was killed; much hot air was dispelled; but real pressure was brought to bear by the textile barons. The WPB and OPA fell back steadily. The much-publicized plan got lost in the shuffle.

The housewife looks in vain for the low-priced garments promised. She will still pay around a dollar for a boy’s cotton sport shirt that used to cost around thirty-nine cents before the war.

And as for the wages of textile workers, the WLB grudgingly allowed a five-cent increase in minimum wages, from fifty cents to fifty-five cents an hour – thus raising the substandard minimum wage from $20 to $22 a week, still very much “sub” by any standard.

By any standard, the profits of the textile capitalists are “super.” And the politicos in Washington are right behind them.


Washington backs huge war profits not only in policy But in taxpayers’ money – the pay-as-you-go money taken out of wage envelopes.

The sugar monopolists during the war got government priming to the extent of $84,000,000 of taxpayers’ money.

Chapter can be added to chapter in this story of a very successful marriage of government and industry. One of the most touching ones is the latest plan of Congress and the Administration to make available to war-profiteering business nearly $6,000,000,000 in tax exemptions and refunds – while prices stay high, wages stay lower, the pay envelope continues to be flattened by taxes and other touches, and tens of thousands of workers become jobless and wageless.

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