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Susan Green

For Price Control by Workers’
and Housewives’ Committees!

(29 April 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 17, 29 April 1946, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Since the beginning of the war Labor Action and the Workers Party have stood for price control, and still do. Always opposed to the capitalist class, the parasites on the productive life of the country, we are most decidedly against allowing that class to soak the consumers. With worldwide shortages of so many necessities, and the profit-grubbers having a free hand, prices could become prohibitive.

The question was and is HOW to control prices.

Being equally opposed to capitalist government which is only the instrument of those same parasites, we have expressed our conviction that neither OPA nor Congress nor both, nor any other agencies of the capitalist government, would or could control prices in the interest of the people. The aggregations of capitalists in the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Retail Dry Goods Association and all the associations of the dairy, meat packing, lumber, textile, real estate and other industries have made a mockery of OPA from the beginning. And finally their high-pressure lobbies, on April 18, succeeded in getting the House of Representatives to take whatever heart was left, out of the OPA.

How Control Prices?

The action of the House in extending the Price Control Act for nine months from June 30, 1946, but with nine amendments which actually end all price control and reduce OPA from the limp wash rag which it has always been, to a mere disappearing drip, only proves how right Labor Action and the Workers Party have been.

The problem of price control must be divided into its two logical parts: price fixing and price enforcement. Only the working people themselves, constituting the great mass of consumers, can do both jobs. Prices could be fixed in the interest of the whole community by committees of workers to whom the books of the manufacturers are opened for that purpose. Such committees of workers, acting in coordination through out an industry, could separate the overwhelming capitalist itch for profits from the overwhelming need of the people for goods, and arrive at figures that are fair. As to enforcing those prices, who are in a better position than the housewives who do the buying? Their neighborhood committees, acting in cooperation with the workers’ committees, could do the necessary policing and boycotting in their neighborhoods to make violations and black marketeering very bad business practices indeed.

To date the people have not taken these self-protective steps. Certainly they have given the capitalist government enough of a chance to protect the consumer. But, as Max Lerner put it, “In the contest between millions of dollars and millions of consumers, the dollars won out.”

Now it is up to the workers and housewives to protect themselves. And do they need protection!

New Price Boosts

Listening on the radio to the commentators “of good will” including Lerner, Winchell, LaGuardia, Pearson. and others, one gets a good idea of the inflation ahead. The prospects are for at least 25 per cent being taken right out of every pay envelope. That is a conservative estimate of how much the purchasing power of the dollar will be cut. Milk may go up 4 cents a quart; butter may double in price; bread may be 3 cents dearer per loaf; cheese and canned foods may rise 30 to 35 per cent. Clothing, household appliances and furnishings, and every item of consumption, will be marked up.

Those nine amendments that the House passed will do the trick. For instance, one amendment guarantees to manufacturers prices based on cost plus a “reasonable profit.” This formulation has a familiar ring. This cost-plus business is something the capitalists always thrive on. Another amendment removes the food subsidies that the government has been paying the monopolists, amounting to two and a half billions a year. This was a pretty penny of taxpayers’ money that the profit-grubbers were collecting yearly during the war and since, but they are willing to forego this tidbit for the higher profits they will get from uncontrolled prices. The other amendments follow the same pattern, assuring price boosts in everything without exception.

President Truman’s comment on the action of the House was described as “not for print” and the Administration forces planned “a fight in the Senate.” However, the past few days seem to have brought more support to the House bill than otherwise. If the Congress as a whole passes the House bill and Truman has to decide whether or not to veto it, he will have to take into consideration that his veto of the House bill which does hold down rents to present ceilings, may well result in rent increases of from 25 per cent to 75 per cent without curbing prices anyhow.

Action – Not Letters!

All the commentators “of good will” can advise the working people to do, all the liberal press can suggest In the crisis, all the labor leaders are urging upon their rank and file, is to write letters to Congress. As if Congress doesn’t know that all but the monopolists favor price control! Of thirty thousand letters already received by Congress, only five per cent opposed price control. The University of Denver National Opinion Research Center ascertained hat 82 per cent of the people want price control, with five per cent doubtful and thirteen per cent opposed. If PM can procure this information, certainly Congressmen also have it.

But the principal objection to this course of action is that it still relies on OPA to fix and enforce prices. But the OPA has been steadily giving in to the pressure of the National Association of Manufacturers and other capitalist associations since its creation. It has functioned by TALKING “hold the price line” and ACTING to raise price ceilings. It has covered up actual price increases, as for instance when Chester Bowles before the House Banking and Currency Committee – where he spent a total of fifty hours testifying – declared that the cost of living has increased only 3.4 per cent since the spring of 1943. Tell a housewife this lie – that the cost of living has gone up only 3.4 per cent in the past three years – and she would either burst a blood vessel in suppressed indignation or resort to justified violence on the liar.

The price issue has reached a pass where the working people no longer have a choice. The capitalist-class bias of the capitalist government has been revealed time and again, and now without any room for counterargument. Price fixing and enforcement has been thrown into the lap of the working people. WORKERS’ COMMITTEES AND HOUSEWIVES’ COMMITTEES ARE ADVOCATED BY LABOR ACTION AND THE WORKERS PARTY TO GET TO WORK ON THIS JOB.

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