From the archive: Wall Street has the wobbles

Written By: Tribune web editor
Published: August 4, 2011 Last modified: August 4, 2011

by Bob Millar, April 24 1953

President Eisenhower has now stated that the most important war to fight is against the brute forces of poverty and need. Once again this challenge to mankind is splashed across the front pages of the world.

But pious phrases are not enough. Kind words are no substitute for rice and wheat. There have been too many speeches telling the starving millions of Asia, Africa, and Latin America what the world would like to do for them.

What hope is there that President Eisenhower’s pledge will be translated into wheat, rice, cotton, milk, meat and timber? Remember the great flourish of Point Four.

Mr. Truman spoke the same stirring words—and went further—he gave 30 million dollars from the United States Government to start the ball rolling. He hoped that America would enthusiastically take up the challenge.

He expected millions of dollars to flow into world development. But American capitalism left Point Four high and dry. The American bankers did not contribute to building this brave new world.

What President Eisenhower has to conquer, before he can even talk of a new crusade to serve the world’s needs, is the fear of peace.

For it won’t help the starving twothirds of the world if rearmament is stopped and its place is taken by a world slump. This is no idle threat.

Look what happened a few weeks ago. When the Soviet and Chinese Governments started throwing peace proposals around like Tory promises, the  “Malenkov” Depression hit the stock exchanges of the world. Within a few days Wall Street stocks slumped by nearly 4,000 million dollars. There -was an average dropof  35 cents. in the value of each. Shares were thrown around like confetti—not in celebration of peace, but in fear of it.

The same thing happened in London. Munitions shares like Vickers and Rolls Royce slumped. More important, the price of raw materials dropped. Tin fell by £40 a ton, lead by £6 a ton. Rubber reached its lowest price for three years. Even a threat of peace was enough to throw the financial wizards into a flap. Shocking, isn’t it! Even the Wall Street Journal protested against this ghoulish view.

“War itself is a terrible thing, but we find more terrible yet the fact that there are men walking about who talk of peace as if it were terrible.” Ironically, Chinese, Russian, Hungarian, Rumanian bonds, most of them issued beautifully printed on parchment, had been used to make lampshades, and for papering walls. In the hope of a pay-off their value doubled and trebled. Can you imagine the Soviet triumvirate helping the stock exchange speculators? These are the forces which Eisenhower must control before he can talk of dedicating ” . . . the energies, the resources, and the imagination of all peaceful nations to a new kind of War”,The Stock Exchange Gazette, in all honesty, said a fortnight ago.

Peace has her problems no less profound than war . . . defence production in the United States and in Great Britain, which has been geared up to a substantial proportion of national effort, cannot be suddenly switched off.” Even the staid times lifted her skirts a little and warned that a Korean truce and a general relaxation of world tension ” . . . might be disastrous to the rest of the world.” If the panic a fortnight ago is anything to go by, the whole world may move from the twilight of war to the gloom of peace. Unless the statesmen of the world can control the Merchants of Death, the world must either go on producing guns, aeroplanes and battleships … or face the danger of  a world slump result.

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