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Susan Green

Of Special Interest to Women

(11 February 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. X No. 6, 11 February 1946, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Throughout the war and the post-war period Labor Action and the Workers Party have urged the formation of price-control committees of workers and housewives because the problem of price control can be handled in the interest of the working people only by the people themselves. Sad to relate, there have been no people’s organizations systematically demanding access to production statistics and the power to fix ration quotas and ceiling prices, as well as to enforce rationing and prices through their own neighborhood groups.

Today, like a popular song that you hear on every radio program and out of every jukebox, the unceasing refrain of the capitalist class is: “HIGHER PRICES!”

The steel magnates demand a price boost even though their unprecedented profits can amply cover the wage increases asked by the steel workers, and this boost will be reflected in a thousand things we buy. The meat packers, heavily subsidized by the government out of public money and reaping greater profits than ever before, ask for upped meat prices, giving the wage demands of the packinghouse workers as their excuse. Civilian Production Administrator Small blames the OPA ceilings for the hoarding of men’s shirts and suits by manufacturers in order to achieve higher prices. OPA officials themselves come out for lifting price controls on so-called “non-essentials.” Strong capitalist combines are working overtime to prevent the extension of OPA controls – such as they are – beyond June 1946. Big farm corporations contemplate holding on to wheat and feed for higher prices in view of an anticipated grain shortage. Though there is an oversupply of both poultry and eggs, and officials pretend to be very much worried about spoilage, prices are still maintained at levels that prevent consumption of these foods by those who need them most. Top all this with the operations of the black market, which, having subsided for a while after V-J Day, is now back with newer and better get-rich-quick formulas.

Where will it end? While everyone talks of “preventing inflation,” the housewife knows it is already here by the shrunken size of her dollar. With the line-up for even higher prices, her dollar is doomed to buy diminishing quantities of the things necessary for bare living existence, to say nothing of good living.

So we say once more: The problem of price control can be handled in the interest of the working people only by the people themselves.


The Fate of Women War Workers

When I was in Linden, N.J., looking for the way to the picket line of the General Motors strikers, I asked a woman waiting for a bus for directions to the GM plant. Her instructions were so explicit that I commented on it, and she said: “I ought to know where it is. I worked there as a welder during the war. All of us women were fired.” “Well,” I said, “then what do you think of the demands of the GM strikers?” She replied: “To tell you the truth, I don’t really know too much about it because I’m not working there any more.” I asked her if she was looking for a job. “No,” she said. “My husband is working and I’m going to take it easy for a while. And believe me,” she continued, “I don’t mind if I do and that’s why I don’t take much interest in strikes and such things.”

This woman in Linden is one of the great army of women workers fired after V-J Day – as a reward for their wartime services. By the end of September, one million had been thrown out of the manufacturing industries. Month by month the number has mounted. Some of these women can’t afford to take it easy for a while. Their husbands may not be working, or their husbands may not be earning enough to maintain the family on a decent standard, or their husbands may have been victims of this useless war, or they may be single women with sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers dependent on them. If, like the Linden woman, they may be able to take it easy for a while, for how long? How secure is the husband’s job? How soon will the multiplying demands of the family require her financial help?

This army of women ex-war workers is still part of the working class. When labor strikes for higher pay, for shorter hours to provide more jobs, for no price increases, for more power to the unions, the fight is that of every member of the working class. Every woman ex-war worker is a member of this class. Let her not fool herself. Her protection in a class-torn economic set-up can come only from the labor movement. She must make their struggles hers. This is what I said to the woman in Linden.


Brooklyn Rent Strike

In a tenement in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, long-suffering tenants went on a rent strike.

Cold water from the hot water taps didn’t compel this action. Icy radiators in frigid weather didn’t stir them to do this. A broken dumbwaiter and shaft which acted as a catch-all for disease-spreading refuse were not enough to cause a solid front against the landlord. Rats, mice and roaches invading the flats were taken in stride. But when a child and her mother screamed with terror on finding a dead rat in the child’s bed, those screams shocked the tenants into a rent strike.

Why did they take so much? Why do people pay their money for rodent and vermin-infested places without heat, hot water or painting, with dirty halls, stairs and basements?

The answer is the housing shortage, which is today so critical that family life itself is threatened.

The economy of this country was able to provide battleships, bombers, submarines, tanks, bombs, guns and the atomic bomb, all valued at many times what it would cost to build the houses needed for healthy and comfortable living. Yet the housing problem is merely nibbled at by the city, state and federal governments of the capitalist class – while 7,000,000 families double up in the space barely adequate for half that, while millions live as do these Williamsburg tenants or little better, while others wander from pillar to post unable to find any housing at all.

But a workers’ government would use the wealth of the nation in the interests of its people – and build houses as quickly and efficiently as the capitalist governments build death-dealing war materiel. Do the working people have to wait for a nation-wide invasion of rats before getting together in an independent Labor Party that will establish a workers’ government to serve the people?

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Last updated: 11 August 2018