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Dwight Macdonald

Sparks in the News

(1 August 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 55, 1 August 1939, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Gold Is Where You Find It

An average of fifty people write in every day of the year to the Department of the Interior asking about the chances for settling down in the Mantanuska colony in Alaska. A lot of people also write in asking where they can get a divining-rod to locate buried treasure. Both these requests are in the same class, as far as the Department of the Interior is concerned. It has to write back that divining-rods don’t work, and that the capitalist system doesn’t either – or, at least, that there aren’t any jobs in Alaska, or anywhere else.

Boss Bites Business Manager

In the July 5 issue of The Guild Reporter, mouthpiece of the American Newspaper Guild, there is a little tale of poetic justice that seems worth reprinting here:

DENVER – Retribution has caught up with C.A. Moore, business manager of the Denver Rocky Mountain News, and a Scripps-Howard executive for 19 years, who knows how to dish it out but can’t take it.

Some months ago, Moore, deep in the security of a well-paying job, forced a sub-standard bulletin board agreement upon the Denver Guild. The agreement, which was entirely unilateral, covered commercial department employees. He refused to even discuss a contract which the Guild sought as a supplement to an exciting editorial agreement. He challenged the Guild’s right to represent employees. “Loyalty” pledges, semi-secret and open anti-Guild propaganda appeared among employees. But an NLRB election gave the Guild an overwhelming majority, and bargaining started.

Moore stalled for months. Finally, under pressure, he posted the sub-standard agreement. It included a maximum of 10 weeks’ dismissal indemnity for 10 or more years’ of service.

Several weeks ago Moore was fired. The next day he came around and demanded dismissal indemnity. He was handed a check for 10 weeks’ pay.

“I’ve been with Scripps-Howard almost 20 years,” be protested. “I should get a half-year’s salary.”

“Nothing doing,” he was told. “The bulletin board agreement calls for 10 weeks’ pay as a maximum. The agreement was your baby.”

Judge Manton Again

In this column several months ago I pointed out one episode in the career of Justice-at-a-Price Martin Manton which seemed to have been overlooked by both Dewey and the press: the Judge’s last-minute interjection of himself into a case involving the Associated Gas & Electric Co. I now see by the papers that a $12,000 check made out by A.G.E. payable to Manton has turned up in the hearings on A.G.E. now taking place before the Securities & Exchange Commission.

The I.A.M.S.S.P.R.S.T.M.S.H.T.H.

“A quick check indicates that any man who belongs to the International Association of Marble Slate & Stone Polishers, Rubbers & Sawyers, Tile & Marble Setters Helpers & Terrazo Helpers can safely bet any other unionist that the IAMSSPRSTMSHTH has the longest name of any international union in America.” – The Industrial Worker, May 13, 1939.

The Cream of the Jest

The New Deal’s attack on the “economic royalists” – remember when F.D.R. used to talk in such terms? – has never been more than a bad joke. And the other day the royalists skimmed some very rich cream off this particular jest.

When it was discovered, in 1933, that J.P. Morgan and his partners had paid no income taxes in 1931 and 1932, the New Deal made the nation ring with demagogic outcries. With much pomp and circumstance, F.D.R. pushed through Congress a bill making it impossible to deduct capital losses in figuring income tax – the particular loophole Messers. Morgan & Co. had crawled through. With equally loud lamentations, Morgan & Co. paid up sums in back taxes.

They paid, but they also appealed. And a week or so ago, without any pomp and circumstance or public uproar whatsoever, buried deep in a routine press release from the Treasury Department, the following tax refunds for 1931 and 1932 were announced:

J.P. Morgan



Thomas W. Lamont


R. C. Leffingwell


Junius S. Morgan


George Whitney


But the really rich cream of the jest – heavy, Grade A, 80 cents a quart – is that these gentlemen will get not only their money back but also interest on it at 6%, which is a lot more than they could have hoped for in any reasonably safe investment these days.

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