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Gertrude Shaw

$-a-Year Men Infest Dep’t. of Agriculture
as Hunger Looms and Wages Are Attacked

(1 February 1943)

From Labor Action, Vol. 7 No. 5, 1 February 1943, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Secretary of Agriculture Wickard is a master of understatement, In his annual report to the President, just released, he says that “we may have to revise some ideas about supplies of food available to consumers in the next few months, even of the foods which we appear to have in comfortable quantities.”

However, Donald Montgomery, who for seven years was consumers’ counsel of the Department of Agriculture, formulates the bungled food situation into the human equation. He says:

“It will mean hunger, the hollow as well as the hidden kind. It will mean starvation for many of our American people. No question about that. Maybe those who starve won’t fall over dead in the street. There are other ways to starve that are slower, less obvious, and less disturbing to public pride.”

The working people who are faced with the stark reality described by Mr. Montgomery must put a very pointed question to Mr. Wickard:

“Will the dollar-a-year men in the Department of Agriculture use their key positions for the production of food for the people – OR FOR PROFITS FOR THEIR COMPANIES?”

This is merely a rhetorical question. Everyone knows of the excellent job dollar-a-year men have been doing – FOR THEIR COMPANIES! The Truman and other congressional reports have disclosed the unrelenting efforts of these self-sacrificing representatives of big business in government, to steer war orders – at most attractive contract terms – to their real paymasters. There are forty-three such stooges in the Department of Agriculture – by Mr. Wickard’s own count. The Associated Press reported that “Mr. Wickard directed that they be invited to accept positions as full-time, paid employees and relinquish compensation from a private corporation or similar enterprise.”

That’s a laugh – no, a howl! Mr. Wickard does not throw the dollar-a-year stooges of the big farm interests out of his department on their ears. No, not that. He makes respectable “full-time, paid employees” out of them.

About the “relinquishing” of compensation from their firms and backers it need only be said that there are ways of “relinquishing” that DO NOT RELINQUISH – even though the same is not true about starving.

So the set-up in government is this: 1) Congress – influenced by the farm bloc, which has just succeeded in getting an increase in parity that will slap at least ten per cent onto food prices; 2) the Department of Agriculture – honeycombed with camouflaged dollar-a-year men; and 3) an OPA whose outstanding accomplishment is raising ceilings on consumer goods, now headed by a man appointed because of his ability to get along with the reactionary Congress.

Where are YOU, little men and women, who – even if you don’t fall over dead in the street – must necessarily suffer from the “slower, less obvious, less disturbing” ways of starving during this war!

The only place you can be – or be represented – is on your own, self-organized, food committees of workers, poor farmers and housewives. The organized little men and women (workers and workers’ housewives) must themselves find the ways to enforce price controls and real rationing – and to get food produced for consumption regardless of the profits of the big business and big farm interests. That’s where the little men and women of the country will be represented – and that’s what they must do without wasting time getting going.

For the profit interests move fast. This increase in parity is just the beginning. Mr, Montgomery states: “The lobby wants Congress to change the definition of parity prices. But don’t let that fool you. For ten years parity has been a justification for raising prices. Whenever the big farm organizations get their prices near to parity they change the definition and keep on going.”

The latest change in the definition of parity will put $1,500,000,000 more into the pockets of “the farmers.” Of this vast sum SIXTY PER CENT will go to twenty-five per cent of all the farmers – to the top-notchers, the wealthiest, including the big farm outfits closely connected with big business and big banking.

However, the poorest half of the farmers – those bitterly in need of more money – will altogether get only THIRTEEN PER CENT of the $1,500,000,000 parity increase. Another instance of the rich getting richer!

Nor is this the climax of the indecent story of the recent increase in farm parity levels. The high point is that the consumers will pay $3,500,000,000 more for food this year because of Congress’ generosity to the big farm interests.

The reasons why the consumer will pay not only the $1,500,000,000 due to increased parity but also $2,000,000,000 more than that, are not mysterious. Normally – under the unjustifiable profit system – every layer of money-makers between the producer and consumer must get theirs. But in war times normal profits are not quite enough. The war profiteers are having their field day – with the OPA almost outrightly assuring them by its rulings for ever higher prices, that not the ceiling but the sky is the limit.

The forty-three camouflaged dollar-a-year stooges in the Department of Agriculture are not there to protect your interests either, as you well know. The department is going to be handing out lots of money. It will subsidize this and it will subsidize that. Running true to form, the inside men will do their level best to get as much as possible of that money into the right pockets – those already-bulging pockets that will get sixty per cent of the increase in parity, those already-bursting pockets that always get the lion’s share of government subsidies.

Neither Congress nor the Department of Agriculture nor the OPA – nor all of them together – can or will prevent the catastrophe Mr. Montgomery describes. They are all drawn irresistibly to the side of the moneyed interests.

However, you can expect further attacks on wages from any or all these departments. While raising the pay of the dollar-a-year men to give them the cloak of respectability, Mr. Wickard declared – and this is the most positive part of his program: “Some form of wage control will be necessary to narrow the differential between farm and industrial wages.”

So get going, little men and women. Fight like hell for decent wages. Organize your committees of workers, of poor farmers and of housewives to solve the food problem. You have a great responsibility. If men, women and children are not to starve right here in the USA, you yourselves have to do something about curbing the greed of the big farm interests – about fixing and keeping fair prices – about honest rationing – about killing the black markets.

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