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The Iron Curtain Around Probe of duPont Empire

(29 November 1948)

From The Militant, Vol. 12 No. 48, 29 November 1948, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

America’s Big Business press and radio have lowered a curtain of silence around one of the most sensational, criminal proceedings in U.S. legal history – the current federal grand jury investigation of anti-trust law violations by the duPont financial and industrial empire.

The mere names of the key defendants and witnesses who have been summoned to testify before the Chicago grand jury should have made thundering headlines. They include Lammot duPont, Alfred P. Sloan and other heads of 22 giant corporations.

The grand jury investigation, in process since September, is based on charges by the Anti-Trust Division of the Department of Justice that E.I. duPont de Nemours & Co., the chemical and munitions trust, is the chief corporation in a network of monopoly corporations spreading through dozens of other industries, including auto, aviation, rubber and steel.

Control of this vast empire, worth tens of billions, rests in the duPont family. This is the first case in which federal law-enforcement agencies have sought the dissolution of a monopoly cutting across many different industries.

Subpoena Records

Although only a hint of the nature of the case has leaked through the iron curtain of the daily press, it has been revealed that the grand jury last Sept. 24 subpoenaed the records of eight leading corporations under duPont control; These were the E.I. duPont de Nemours & Co., keystone of the vast monopoly structure; General Motors, world’s largest industrial corporation; United States Rubber; Ethyl Corporation; Bendix Aviation; North American Aviation; Kinetic Chemicals, Inc.; and Remington Arms.

It is charged, among other things, that the duPonts own over 22% of the voting stock of General Motors, more than sufficient for effective control. This fact has long been known and was reported by The Militant three years ago when the General Motors strike began.

The inquiry has now been extended to more than 60' top-ranking corporations, all linked by the Department of Justice to the duPont interests. In addition, the grand jury has asked for all correspondence between the officers of E.I. duPont de Ne-mours & Co., Remington Arms and Kinetic Chemicals and the German I.G. Farbenindustrie, the British Imperial Chemical Industries, J.P. Morgan & Co. and the United States Steel Corporation.

Buried in Press

An example of the conspiracy of silence the press is maintaining around this case is the treatment of the news about the appearance before the grand jury of the first witness, Lammot duPont, a director of E.I. duPont de Nemours, who was questioned on Nov. 17, 18 and 19.

One of the wealthiest and most powerful men in America, Lammot duPont’s personal appearance before a criminal investigating grand jury – a unique and sensational fact – rated four brief paragraphs on pg. 14 of the Nov. 18 N.Y. Times, one paragraph on Page 48 of the Nov. 19 issue and four paragraphs in the Nov. 20 issue on the radio page.

The single bit of information as to what actually transpired in these secret proceedings was given out by duPont himself. He is quoted as saying, “I still don’t know what it’s all about.” He added:

“I made a bad showing at the end of the session. I testified that I had not written a certain letter and then the Government pulled the letter out of the files. It was most embarrassing.”

No Monopolist Jailed

But it is unlikely that duPont and his co-conspirators and co-monopolists will be embarrassed by the proceedings as a whole or their eventual outcome. From Department of Justice charges and a grand jury investigation to actual indictment and trial is a long step in itself. And in the more than 50 years of anti-trust laws and trials not a single Capitalist has even been sent to prison, nor has a single monopoly ever been broken up.

Even in the most outrageous cases of anti-trust law violations, the corporations have nothing to fear. No capitalist judge will ever send a big monopolist to jail. A striking demonstration of this occurred on Nov. 12, in a seven-year long case involving General Electric Corporation.

Back in 1941, several officials of GE and its subsidiary, Carboloy Company, were indicted for anti-trust law violations involving the monopoly of carboloy, a metal alloy used for cutting edges of machine tools. The government charged GE with maintaining a patent cartel agreement with Nazi corporations in Germany which had seriously impeded U.S. war production.

Overhead Expense

It was such an open and shut case that the indicted companies and three officials were found guilty – unusual in itself. Malcolm M. Hoffman, the government’s prosecuting attorney then pleaded with Federal Judge John C. Knox to impose prison sentences on the convicted defendants. Hoffman said:

“The present feeling which seems to prevail in the! business community is you need not be alarmed if you are caught in a violation of the anti-trust laws because so far as past transactions are concerned you can pay a fine which is merely a license fee which may be charged off as the cost of doing illegal business acts. Frequently, the amount which is to be gained by such law violations is very large compared with the amount which would be lost by fines if the violator is caught.

“If this feeling of indifference to the penal provisions of the Sherman Act is allowed to prevail ... there seems little possibility of using the criminal sanctions of the anti-trust acts ...”

Judge Knox confirmed this when he refused to jail the GE officials, giving them and their companies fines totalling $36,000 for criminal acts over a period of 15 years that had netted tens of millions in profits. The Judge said that after all, these crimes were “stale.”

Campaign Stunt

As a matter of fact, the present charges brought against the notorious multi-billionaire “Merchants of Death” – as the du Pont arms trust has been called since World War I – were begun by the Department of Justice as a pre-election stunt in line with Truman’s campaign propaganda about, “gluttons of privilege.” Not expecting Truman’s re-election, the Justice Department officials undoubtedly, figured the case would never get very far.

On Sept. 30, the Attorney General’s representatives asked Federal Judge John P. Barnes to issue an order impounding books and records of eight duPont companies. Judge Barnes complied, as he said, with reluctance, because he did not believe the case would be carried through to the end.

“Sometimes,” he said with candid cynicism, "they result in indictment, but seldom do they result in trial. I am now entering this order, because you are asking me, but if anyone comes in here and asks me to vacate it, you know how I feel.”

May Be Shelved

The grand jury has already announced it will go into indefinite recess after Nov. 22. In all likelihood the case will drag on for years, or gradually and quietly be shelved. Meanwhile the du Pont empire and profits swell.

E.I. duPont has just announced a year-end dividend fol stockholders of $3.75 per share, bringing the grand total for 1948 to $9.75, the technically highest dividend since 1928, which was $17.50. Since the stock was split 3½ for one in 1928, this year’s dividends actually amount to $34.15 for every share of old common stock. General Motors has likewise declared a special $2-per-share dividend on the basis of the highest profits in its history.

The duPont empire will continue to drain profits from hundreds of thousands of workers, maintain high monopoly-fixed prices and reap billions from war until the American working class does its own “trust-busting” by expropriating the basic industries and operating them without profit under the control of the workers themselves.

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