Irving Howe Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index   |   ETOL Main Page

Irving Howe

What the Truman Report Revealed
And What Should Be Done About It

(January 1942)

From Labor Action, Vol. 6 No. 4, 26 January 1942, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Truman Senate Investigating Committee report deserves the attention of every worker. It reveals much of the real character of the present war. Unfortunately, Labor Action has been forced this week to cut out a lot of its material on this report because of the need for printing full comment on the labor unity situation. We shall return to this report in more detail next week. In the meantime, a few initial observations:

1) This is only the beginning. We’ll bet our last dollar against a doughnut that the committee failed to reveal more than it did; that when the true story of capitalist inefficiency, waste, graft, nepotism, selfishness, routinism and sheer -stupidity gets out, this report will appear mild by comparison. And the truth will out, sooner or later!

2) The report proves to the hilt what we have been hammering away at in Labor Action: CAPITALISM IS THE REAL ENEMY OF PRODUCTION! The report confirms the charges made last week in Labor Action – that low production of copper, lead and zinc, all basic war materials, was caused by industry’s refusal to produce more until prices were jacked up and taxes eased.

Profits as Usual

The report gives facts and figures on how the automobile industry insisted on profits as usual, how it refused to convert to war production because it was coining tremendous profits in civilian auto production.

Each industrial group within the capitalist class, and each company within that group, is utilizing the war production program as a grand opportunity tor profiteering. This results in a situation where – as in rubber – not only are there inadequate war supplies but civilian needs are cut into as well. And the only reason is the greed and inefficiency of the capitalists, concerned not with the needs of humanity but with profits for themselves.

And what more damning indictment of capitalism can there be when we see that privately built battleships cost $8,000,000 to $10,000,000 more than government built ships – and yet most of the war program’s ships are to be privately built. (It is for this that workers are asked to cut their standard of living by increasing taxes.)

How much point these facts give to the demand Labor Action has been raising: CONSCRIPT THE WAR INDUSTRIES UNDER WORKERS’ CONTROL!

3) The report attempts, unsuccessfully, to absolve President Roosevelt of all responsibility in the fiasco it describes. As a matter of fact, the President is directly responsible. He knew what he was doing when he let the dollar-a-year men run;the show. He knew what he was doing when he appointed Bill Knudsen.

For instance, the Truman committee attempts to save the President’s political face by declaring that he could not be held responsible for the mirage of red tape, shifting responsibility and inadequate powers since the OPM never asked for an improvement of the situation. A lame excuse! The President appointed the dollar-a-year men; he presumably received reports on what was going on; he, too, is responsible.

4) The report has only one recommendation – that the dollar-a-year men sever their connections with the companies they were formerly employed by. Coming after so much factual dynamite, this is sugary indeed. Because the Truman report itself indicates why this panacea is meaningless. Suppose the dollar-a-year men do resign their posts with the large corporations. They will still continue, in the words of the report, to deal “with matters involving the welfare of the class of clients by whom they were formerly employed and by whom they naturally expect to be employed in the future.”

Suppose They Do Quit?

Will the following description, offered by the Truman committee of the dollar-a-year men, be changed if they quit their company posts?

“The dollar-a-year men and non-compensation men subconsciously reflect the opinions and conclusions which they formerly reached as managers of large interests with respect to government competition, with respect to taxation and amortization, with respect to the financing of new plant expansion, and with respect to the margin of profit which should be allowed on war contracts.”

As a matter of fact, it may be expected that a number Of dollar-a-year men will be cleared out. But that will change nothing, fundamentally.

The only administration that could really end this profiteering, waste and inefficiency would be a workers’ and farmers’ government. Such an administration could really end all the scandals described in the Truman report, because it would abolish,the root cause of these scandals – private ownership of the means of production, for private profit – and substitute in its stead communal production for public use.

Irving Howe Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 25.3.2013