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Gertrude Shaw

On the Food Front

(29 March 1943)

From Labor Action, Vol. 7 No. 13, 29 March 1943, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Chaos and confusion still reign supreme on the food front.

On the one hand Secretary of Agriculture Wickard boasts that 10,000,000 more acres of land will be planted in food crops.

On the other hand, canners have announced that they are seriously considering cutting down the canning of food because the government purchases of the 1942 pack for the armed forces, lend-lease, etc., are still stacked in the warehouses – and, by the way, there is considerable dispute as to whether the government needed to buy as much as it did of the 1942 pack.

At any rate, if the canners reduce operations, much of the additional 1943 crops will simply be spoiled.

Thus the bureaucrats muddle along – and workers pay for it.


The housewife was told that if she was caught without butter or oil when the freeze was unexpectedly announced beginning at midnight on March 22, she might substitute meat fats.

That is what one might call rubbing salt into an open wound – for where is the meat the average housewife can buy from which to get fat?


On March 19 the House voted to increase farm parity prices once more – making the second increase in 1943, which is not yet three months old! Thus the farm bloc continues its victorious march to the heights of war profiteering prices.

If the Senate also approves the Pace bill, at least 16 per cent will be added immediately to consumer prices of food.

Ostensibly the Pace bill is for the benefit of the farm family, by allowing the cost of family labor as well as hired labor to be included in parity levels.

However, because of the octopus ownership and control of every phase of farming by the big farm corporations, most of the increase in parity prices will, in the final count, be in their pockets. Of the first 1943 boost in parity prices, those on top got 64 per cent, while the great mass of farmers got only 13 per cent.

Lobbying in Congress pays those who can afford it.


When canned goods rationing went into effect, the OPA placed ceilings on beans, cabbage, carrots, peas, tomatoes, lettuce and spinach.

But no housewife has any way of knowing what the ceilings are supposed to be. When beans are 25 cents a pound one day and 29 cents the next, and she makes a fuss about it, she is told the beans are entirely different, coming from another state, and of course are of much better quality.

One gag is as good as another – as long as the housewife is forced to pay more for the same goods.


The mystery has never been solved as to why the OPA picked out just seven vegetables upon which to put ceiling prices – so that they can be violated.

Why is it not required of the dealer even to give a fluky explanation as to why turnips went up from three cents to eight cents a pound – why sweet potatoes or yams went from three pounds for 22 cents to 12 cents for a single pound – why cauliflower is 40 to 50 cents a head?


Secretary of Labor Perkins admitted that government cost-of-living indexes do not give a true picture of the rising cost of living.

This, she explained, is due to the fact that the statisticians do not take into account shifting from one kind of food to another, or shopping in higher-priced stores when things are not obtainable in lower-priced ones.

Between mid-January and mid-February, for example, fresh fruits and vegetables went up 3.8 per cent, according to government figures. Prices of canned goods stayed about the same. But, because supplies of canned goods were short, more families had to buy the higher-priced fresh food. This made the rise in their cost of living much higher than government statistics showed.

Notwithstanding this fact, these government cost-of-living indexes remain the basis for the operation of the Little Steel formula – which keeps wages down to a mere 15 per cent above the miserable wages of January, 1941, While – Even by these inadequate government indexes the rise in the cost of living has more than doubled 15 per cent.

More power to labor in its present fight to break the unfair limits of the Little Steel formula!


When milk gets to be 20 cents a quart – as is the aim of the farm bloc – will they tell us to drink wine – OR WATER?

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Last updated: 13 February 2015