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Dwight Macdonald

Sparks in the News

(22 August 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 61, 22 August 1939, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Automotive Progress – in Reverse

The twenty-first edition of Automobile Facts and Figures was recently issued by the Automobile Manufacturers Association. It is an enthusiastic volume, full of big figures: last year motorists paid one out of every eight tax dollars, their total tax bill coming to $1,529,312,125 ... total cars registered were 27,628,879 ... the industry was the nation’s No. 1 consumer of steel, rubber, plate glass, nickel, lead and mohair ... it accounted for the direct and indirect employment of 6,380,000 workers, or one-seventh of all persons gainfully employed last year ... and so on ... and so on.

There was one rather interesting fact about this “surging giant of production”, as the N.Y. Times called it editorially, which somehow didn’t get into the book. It may be found in a recent report of the National Association of Sales Finance Companies, and it is that last year more automobiles, both new and used, were repossessed because of failure to keep up payments than in any year in the history of the industry. Almost 20% of all used cars sold were repossessed (next highest peak was 13% in 1932) and almost 7% of all new cars (the 1932 peak being slightly less than 6%).

“It is somewhat astonishing,” comments the Cleveland Trust Company’s Bulletin, “to find that the increase in repossessions resulting from the sudden business relapse which began late in 1937 was considerably more serious than that at the bottom of the great depression in 1932.”

A serious crack seems to be developing in the imposing facade of the automobile industry – one of many such cracks which have become increasingly evident in the structure of American capitalism since the 1937 collapse.

Weather Report

Those who follow the whimsically humorous weather reports which are printed on the first page of the N.Y. World-Telegram every evening must have been startled to read the report for July 29 last:

“The winds today are taking a middle of the road position. They are moderate and southerly. The temperature is far from subversive – a good substantial, sound money, 85 degrees at most. But the humidity is sheer Trotskyism – insidious, crafty, boring from within and without.”

The friend who called this to my attention adds that the report appeared this way in the home edition, but that in later editions the reference to Trotskyism was deleted. He suggests that the term is coming to have the same significance for the bourgeoisie that “Communism” had before the C.P. went respectable. I hope he’s right.

Spain: Work in Progress

As might have been expected, the victory of Franco is bringing into being a Fascist regime of so extreme a type as to be almost a burlesque on even Italy and Germany. The complete crushing in the Civil War of all resistance from the masses and the backward nature of the Spanish economy and ruling class made this result easily predictable. But the lengths to which things have gone is still a little surprising. From the press I glean a few of the more startling recent disclosures:

The most interesting item of all, however, is that on August 7 the New Deal administration, which so shocked and pained its admirers by its prompt diplomatic recognition of the Franco regime, took steps to show its friendliness for its sister democracy in more substantial form. The Export-Import Bank, chief organ of the Administration’s dollar diplomacy, announced it was extending $13,750,000 in credits to Nationalist Spain to make it possible for it to buy American cotton. The editorial moaning and wailing of the Nation and the New Republic can be imagined!

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