“The Struggle of the Unemployed” is the official theses of the Communist League of Struggle (Internationalist-Communists) on the unemployment question. Published May, 1935.
THE STRUGGLE OF THE UNEMPLOYED
THE BANKRUPTCY OF BUSINESS
The army of the unemployed
The people of the United States are entering the sixth year of the greatest crisis in the history of this country, and in fact, of the whole world. All sorts of estimates are made of the number of unemployed. One thing is sure. The number is not getting any smaller, but instead, it grows larger as each year passes by. The future looks as black as the past. The workers are beginning to ask: Will unemployment ever end? What is the world coming to?
It is really relatively easy to find out how many people are looking for work in the U.S. at any given time. It is not necessary to take expensive censuses of the trade unions, or hire a force of people at big salaries to scour the whole country. There are better methods. We know at any given time about how many people it takes to make so much stuff, or to do so much service. If now we find that only half as much stuff is being produced, then all other things being equal, it will take just half as many people as before to do it. Of course it will only approximate the real number, but the errors will not be large.
For example, a recent issue of the Federal Government’s “Survey of Current Business” and of the “Federal Reserve Bulletin” informs us that the number of freight car loadings in Feb, 1935, was one third less than in February 1929, that soft-coal production was about one-quarter less, that the amount of pig iron was 60% less, etc. All other things remaining the same, it would stand to reason that the number of men employed on freight-car loading would be around one-third less, the number employed in the soft-coal industry, one-quarter less, the number of pig iron workers three-fifths less, etc. Here we are in the sixth year of the crisis and even by the most optimistic calculations of the Federal Government for the spring of 1935, we are only at 80% of 1929, generally, and with the most recent figures tending to show a drastic drop in the near future.
If we use this method of discovering the number of unemployed and test it by the figures of 1932, which marked the lowest point in production, we get the following results: At that time industry was about 50% of the level of 1929. The number of wage-workers and employees at that time equaled about 36,000,000. This would mean that approximately the equivalent of only 18,000,000 were at work full time in 1932 and about 18,000,000 were thrown out, completely unemployed. As a matter of fact, the situation at that time was more complicated. First of all, there were many workers who had been out of work in 1929 even before the crisis started. This number is admitted to have been around 3,000,000. That is to say, even in the most prosperous years in the history of this country in the 20th century, there were 3,000,000 people fully out of work. Secondly, many new workers were added to the population since 1929. The population of the U.S. increases approximately by a million and a half or a million and a quarter a year. Of this increase in the population about 800,000 annually reach working age and start looking for work. Thus by 1932 there were about 2 ½ million more people looking for work than there were in 1929. (To this number we should ordinarily add the number of immigrants, legal and illegal, who come to this country annually, but owing to the large number of deportations, the strictness of entry at the present time and the dropping off of immigration, we shall not count this factor at all)
The third element of complication which we must consider is the number of people who ordinarily did not look for work in periods of prosperity (housewives, students, children, and such) who were forced to look for work when the regular breadwinners were out of work. How many people this group consists of we can only guess. We can arbitrarily set the number at least at one million although in reality it must be far more. (When we compare this country with Germany, we see that while in Germany one person in every two is gainfully employed, the ratio in the U.S. is one person in every three. Thus there are far more people in the U.S. supported by breadwinners than in Germany, in “normal times". It is this large number of dependents who must look for work in times of depression) Also we must consider the number of independent businessmen (the 1929 census gave the number of entrepreneurs including farmers, as around the 9,000,000 figure) who have become bankrupt and thrown out of their farms and businesses and forced to look for work with their families. This should add at least another million to the total.
Then we must consider the final complication, that while, of the original 36,000,000 wage and salary workers in 1929, the equivalent of only half working full time was used, yet this does not mean that only half the number of workers were actually at work and the other half completely out of work. Rather, the employer tried to spread the work and put many on part time. In this connection, it would not be too wrong for us to estimate that of the complete total, about 12,000,000 were at work full time, about 12,000,000 were on part time work, and about 12,000,000 were thrown out completely.
Now if we add up the above picture in 1932, we get:
1. Number out of work in 1929. 3,000,000
2. Increase in the working population. (3 years) 2,500,000
3. Housewives, students, children, farmers, entrepreneurs. 2,000,000
4. Workers and employees thrown out completely. 12,000,000
Total looking for work all the time. 19,500,000
5. To which must be added part time workers. 12,000,000
All of the above calculation is on the assumption that all other things remained the same between 1929 and 1932. But this is a false assumption. As a matter of fact, the productivity of each worker, the amount produced by each worker in the same time with the same expenditure of energy, increased tremendously. Also the speed-up increased and sweatshop and domestic labor with its terribly long hours also became widespread. It is exactly in the period of crisis, when the markets cannot easily be obtained, that new inventions, new methods of increasing output are installed.
For example, we have stated that according to recent figures, business is now at about 80% of what it was in 1929. Does that mean that this 80% of the 1929 production total is done by 80% of the 1929 number of workers? Not at all. If we look at the figures of electrical power output we see that almost as much electrical power was produced in 1932, when so many were out of work, as in 1929, and that today the electrical power output is greater than in 1929. This means that the amount of horsepower used by each worker is far greater today than in 1929 and this in turn means that the workers can put out far more production than in 1929 per hour.
On this question some very interesting studies have been made recently. Mr. C. A. Bliss in the National Bureau of Economic Research Bulletin 51 (1934) gives the following figures: In 1933 the physical output of the factories was only 64% of what it was in 1929, but the number of man-hours worked in the factory was only 50% of 1929 while the output per man-hours increased 27%. That is, even in 1933, each worker was producing 27% more than he did in 1929, or out of every hundred workers needed in 1929, only 73 were needed in 1933. Today we are living in 1935, not 1933. We can assume that the increased productivity has increased another 12% anyway; thus now increased productivity is about 40% higher that in 1929 and for every hundred workers needed in 1929 only 60 are needed today to produce the same amount of goods.
Thus, if the same amount of goods were to be produced today as in 1929, it would not need 36,000,000 workers but 40% less or about 22 ½ million working the same time. And if production is at 80% of 1929 today, this work can be done by about 20 million persons, assuming that they work the same number of hours as they did in 1929. It is because of this steady displacement of the workers that has taken place since and during the crisis that the industrialists have been forced to reduce the number of hours each worker is to work and to spread the work more. But even if we assume that the hours of labor have been reduced, on the average, from 48 or 50 to 40, thus necessitating the hiring of more men (say 20% more) this would increase the total number of workers needed, working full-time, from 20 million to only 24 million and would at the same time reduce the number of part time workers.
To sum up everything, we can figure the number of unemployed in the U.S. today, 1935, after six years of crisis as follows:
1. Number out of work in l929. 3,000,000
2. Increase in the working population. (6 years) 5,000,000
3. Housewives, students, children, farmers, entrepreneurs, etc. 2,000,000 up
4. The equivalent of the workers thrown out completely.
(subtract 24,000,000 from original 36,000,000 given above) 12,000,000
Total 22,000,000 up
Thus of the entire population in the U.S. only the equivalent of 24,000,000 working 40 hours a week are employed at the present time. From these calculations we can see how much the Federal Government with its national ballyhoo is lying about the seriousness of the present situation. The gravity of the crisis has been covered up as well by the American Federation of Labor officials and underestimated even by the Communists.
All of these figures illustrate the complete bankruptcy of business. Already, the Federal Relief lists show that over 23,000,000 people are on the dole. The number is steadily increasing. At the New York Mayor’s conference held last fall, it was pointed out that if the rate of increase was not checked, the number of people, men, women and children, on relief by the middle of 1935 would reach the grand total of 25,000,000. The relief is not confined to the cities, but takes in the countryside and village as well. It has been estimated that about 25% of all agrarian families are on relief at the present time!
As capitalism breaks down, more and more the entire load of providing for the millions dumped by profit-making industry is placed onto the State. The number of people being cared for by various charity institutions of a private, semi-private and governmental nature (to which must be added such types of help as free feeding of school children) must be enormous. About 350,000 insane people, about 200,000 in prisons and reformatories, about 100,000 paupers in almshouses, more in orphanages and large numbers in hospitals swell the total of the pauper and helpless sections of the population that must be cared for. Then to complete the list of those whom the State takes care of directly, we must also include the 3,000,000 employees of the governments, local, state and national, which have become the greatest employers in the world. When the dependents of all of these people are considered, it means that about 15,000,000 more people, besides those on the dole, are dependent directly upon the State for their income and means of support.
But this is not all by any means. We have seen that business has picked up since 1932, from being 50% of 1929, to being 89% of 1929, (although it is beginning to fall down again). What was the reason for this pick-up? How was private business able to put some workers back to work? It was not because the U.S. suddenly won great new markets for itself or because the purchasing power of the mass of people had suddenly increased. The real reason lies in the heavy subsidies and loans, made by the government to private business, and the heavy purchases that the government has made.
To save bankrupt private industry, billions of dollars have been handed out to the banks, the railroads, the insurance companies, the big corporations. By means of all sorts of special measures, the government has tried to pump oxygen into the choking body of capitalism in order to revive it. We know that $2 billion have been given to “aid” the farm owners, $2 billion more to "aid" the home owners, a half billion dollar farm revolving fund has been lost, over a billion and a quarter more in A.A.A. crop destruction bonuses, etc. The money has not remained with the small fellow, however, but soon reached the pockets of the big capitalists while the Federal Government debt has increased since the crisis from $15 billion to over $40 billion.
Were it not for government aid, most of the private industries closed in 1932 would not be opened today and when the government stops buying and subsidizing, they must close down again. Thus we can truthfully say that millions of people more, besides those directly paid by the State, are indirectly being supported by government aid. Never was the bankruptcy of business plainer. Yet, although private industry can no longer stand on its own feet, the owners of these private industries so kindly aided by the state, are becoming relatively more and more powerful and wealthy. At the same time it appears that the stronger and more wealthy the country is under capitalism, the larger is the army of unemployed, the greater is the misery of the army of paupers. Today the standing army of unemployed and the reserve army of the disemployed have become permanent features of our civilization. Today it seems that no longer does the working class feed "society" but it is "society" which must feed the increasingly large number of workers. The capitalist world is nearing its end.
Let us always remember that the present starvation and misery exist in a country of the greatest wealth and plenty. There have been famines before in the history of the human race, but prior to the days of capitalism these hunger periods were due either to natural catastrophes (droughts storms, floods, earthquakes, etc.) or to social calamities, such as wars, where the physical forces of production had been destroyed. The day when the masses starve while there is plenty for all and while the factories and productive forces of the country can produce boundless goods, comes only in the period of the 19th century capitalism (manufacture by machinery under capitalist direction) and reaches its worst phases only in the 20th century era of imperialism.
With what enormous strides have the capitalist crises advanced since they first appeared in history! The industrial revolution with its machinery was introduced in England only in the middle of the 18th century; in Europe only after the Napoleonic Wars in the first quarter of the 19th century. The first industrial depression can be said to have occurred in England in 1825, in the U.S. in 1837, only 100 years ago. But during these hundred years, the periodic unemployment crises have grown worse and worse and more and more frequent.
According to a chart put out by the Cleveland Trust Co., starting with the panic of 1837, we find that (outside of special periods like the one after the Civil War) at first the panics lasted only a short time (a year or two) and generally did not reduce business activity below 10% of normal. The panics were separated by intervals of 15 years and towards the latter part of the century, by intervals of ten years. It was only in the panic of 1893 that for the first time production fell off 20% from normal and extended for several years. By the 20th century, however, already we had three periods when industry fell off 10% to 15%. There was one such crisis before the war and one immediately after the war, in 1920, which plunged the country into the greatest depression it had felt till then. Production fell off at times 25% and over 4 ½ million workers were thrown out on the streets. If the U.S. could recover relatively quickly in 1920, it was due to the weakened condition of capitalist Europe and to the fact that Europe needed the economic support of the U.S. to get on its feet again, after the World War. That is to say, the crisis of 1920-21 in the U.S. was overcome through the famine, poverty and breakdown of Europe. No such "opportunity" for recovery exist today.
The causes of unemployment and for the unheard-of sharpness of the present crisis
Unemployment crises are as old as modern capitalism, and thus it is clear the causes and roots of unemployment lie in how capitalism works. Under capitalism goods are produced for the market, that is, they are commodities. Included in commodities is a special commodity, labor power, which is also bought and sold in the open market. The price of labor power takes the form of wages. These wages are supposed to be enough to allow the laborer to purchase the necessities of life which can reproduce the labor power lost at work.
Under capitalism there are private owners of the factories, mills, mines and other means of production, and the mass of laborer’s must sell their labor power to the capitalists for wages. However, when the workers in the factories and other places of production work for the capitalists, they produce much more value than they receive in the form of wages. This surplus value included in the whole product of the factory is the property of the capitalist and becomes his profit.
The capitalist is in business for the profit and does his best to increase the mass of profit and the rate of profit. He can do this either by winning more markets or by reducing the cost of production or by speeding up the circulation of his capital, or all these. In short, in order to increase his profit the capitalist must expand his business and produce more stuff at lower cost. To do this he must accumulate capital and reinvest part of his profits back into the business. This accumulation of capital is the basic law of capitalism. Because of it, the factories grow larger, the industries become greater, little business turns into big business in this in turn develops into huge national and international trusts, cartels and syndicates.
The chief method by which the capitalist can lower the cost of his production is through cheapening the value of labor power. This is done by introducing new machinery which can enable the worker to produce an ever-increasing quantity of goods in less and less time and with the same effort. Thus the introduction of machinery which increased not only the actual production but also the productive capacity of industry had two effects: if the market did not expand as rapidly as production increased, then workers were thrown out of work. Secondly, the amount of goods that were turned over to the employer, over and above the amount set aside for wages and replacement of capital, became increasingly large and increasingly difficult for the boss to get rid of.
In the early days of the 19th century industrial countries were able to win markets at a great rate. To this end the governments of these countries seized as much of the earth as they could grab and made these territories into colonies or semi colonies or spheres of influence of the industrial powers. By all sorts of means they were able to conquer the world markets for themselves. But it soon became clear that while the markets were limited by the size of the earth and the number of people on it and the wealth they could spend, the amount of stuff produced by the workers kept on growing and capital accumulating. So great was the surplus stuff in the hands of the capitalists that they could not get rid of it. They then had to fight among themselves who should get the markets that were available. The dreadful world war with its 25,000,000 killed directly and indirectly and an even larger number permanently disabled was the result. The World War was the inevitable outcome of capitalist rivalry, capitalist accumulation, capitalist lust for profits.
But the World War did not solve anything. It only increased the rivalry of those imperialist powers that survived. The efforts to win foreign markets and to lower the cost of production, to produce ever more articles with less labor, went on even more feverishly than before. After the war, the capitalist markets not only did not increase, they actually shrunk at the same time that the productivity and production of the workers enormously increased. To raise their falling profits, the capitalists began to "rationalize" their industries, that is to bring "reason", science, invention, scientific method, into production more than ever. Since the war, due to increased difficulties of capitalism, all of science was called upon to get capitalism out of the hole. A real technical revolution took place in every field. All sorts of new automatic machines appeared. Industry became electrified and mechanized. How to sub-divide the labor in the factory more efficiently and how to save labor was studied through such methods as the Taylor system, and other similar systems. Standardized production became the rule and products were turned out on a mass scale. Belt systems were introduced wherever possible. Scientific laboratories were set up in every department.
Hand in hand with all these methods to increase the productivity of labor went all sorts of clever schemes to speed up (that is to increase the intensity of labor) and to increase the hours of labor wherever possible. The speed-up and stretch-out system was elaborated to its highest point and labor became so condensed that the laborer was burned out in a very short time. Social welfare schemes (factory baseball teams, cafeterias, dance halls, etc.) were introduced to keep the workers docile and to break up any tendency to organization. Company unions were cleverly contrived to keep the discontented in a safe channel.
Added to these industrial measures were methods in the field of finance, and circulation of capital that helped capitalists scientifically to increase the rate and mass of profits. The government rushed to the aid of big business and in a thousand ways saw to it that the maximum possible was squeezed out of the rivals to American imperialists, out of the colonies and out of the workers and toiling masses at home.
Thus, since 1918, in spite of the weakened condition of capitalism because of the war and the revolutions that followed it throughout the world, the very causes that led to war and to unemployment crises were so sharpened and deepened that today we can declare that wars and crises are the normal phases of our lives. Capitalism has become more destructive than constructive, peace has become a mere breathing space between wars, revolutions are on the order of the day, the unemployment crisis has become the permanent chronic every day affair of our lives.
The inevitability of war can be demonstrated by the fact that peace cannot use the productive apparatus that has been invented and set up. So much stuff can be produce in so little time that only a war could get rid of the stuff to keep the machine going, or even started. In other words peace cannot use the new technical processes that have been invented. They can be utilized only through war. And if inventions and new improvements are to be introduced and spread out, this can be done only through the medium of war.
Just why war became the normal method of capitalist action today can be seen more clearly when we compare the waste of war with the waste of depression in peace times. Over 22,000,000 workers or their equivalent have been removed from the process of production, as we have already seen. These workers are forced to hang in droves around the relief stations and charity houses. Their lives have become a great social waste. At the same time the standards of living are inexorably driven down for the whole toiling population. The lack of markets drives businessmen to lower still further their costs and to bring in more labor displacing machines, so that all the effects of the crisis only accentuate all the causes still further.
In periods of depression the "normal" waste under capitalism is tremendously increased. Half of the productive apparatus of the country is left idle, the machinery abandoned to rust or doomed to be thrown out as antiquated. Since the product is not consumed, the gap between capacity to produce and actual production so greatly increases as to threaten the very ability further to increase capacity and government aid must be given to private industry in order to prevent a complete cessation of new inventions and industrial processes that increase the capacity of the country to produce. Mountains of goods are destroyed, plowed under, burnt, sunk. The soil is so wastefully mishandled that we are forced, in this country, to become acutely aware of this chaos through droughts, erosion, floods, sandstorms, etc. The natural resources literally cry aloud for social control in a rational manner and failing to receive this control, take their dire vengeance upon humanity.
Now looking at this enormous waste and destruction during depressions, so long drawn-out and growing constantly more acute, can we truthfully say that war is more costly than peace? The income of the U.S. was estimated at $85 billion in 1929. In 1932 it was estimated at $45 billion and we can assume the average increase was $30 billion as compared with 1929. Thus in the six years of depression since 1929 the people of the U.S. have lost in income alone the staggering total of $180 billion dollars. There was a fall of about $100 billion in capital values also. Even the last World War did not cost the U.S. such a fabulous sum each year.
Depression is bankrupting the capitalist U.S. We have already noted the great growth in the Federal debt. The total debt public and private has moved to $150 billion or half the entire wealth of the country. Federal and State taxes now amount to $15 billion a year or about 1/3 of the total income. How long can such a strain endure?
Such as strain so prolonged can lead only to madness, madness whose political expression is Fascism and whose release is war. Germany expresses only in the clearest form the insanity of the entire senile capitalist world.
Hoover and the bread line
The history of unemployment during the present crisis in the U.S. falls into two periods and is about to enter a third. First was the Hoover period, from the fall of 1929 to the inauguration of Roosevelt. This was characterized by the activities of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, by the beginnings of public works, with the destitute unemployed turned over to charity. Then came the New Deal-public works and the relief system for the unemployed. The approaching period is that of forced labor.
Hoover’s policy was to keep up the old sham that there were no "classes in America. To give the unemployed the dole would have been to recognize not only that there are classes, but that U.S. capitalism had got to the point where millions of the working class could not be given jobs and had to become objects of public support. Hoover represented the old-time individualism. But, even under Hoover, big business was turning to the government for subsidies and got them through the R.F.C. This institution loaned $2 billion to banks, insurance companies, railroads, etc. 125 million dollars were handed out to the railroads in increased rates annually. At the same time not a single penny slipped out of the government treasury in Washington for the relief of the unemployed.
The Bill providing for the R.F.C. in Congress had a “secrecy clause” (how convenient!) which allowed for choice morsels in the way of graft to slip into the pockets of those on the inside. For example (see article in “HARPER’S” for Jan., 1933) it appears that $14 million were given to a Cleveland bank of which Jos. R. Nutt, then treasurer of the Republican National Committee, was also chairman. $12 million went to another Cleveland bank of which Atlee Pomerene, President of the R.F.C. was a director. $13 million went to a Detroit bank of which Roy Chapin, then Secretary of Commerce, was the director, etc.
The whole relief system was one of public charity through the established agencies (Red Cross and private agencies in the various cities) except what little could be obtained from city or state funds. It is stated that in 1929, 85 million dollars were spent on relief, and in 1932 this had increased to 500 million dollars of which 60% was spent by the government.
Under Hoover, forced labor, through the form of “work camps” already had made a beginning in 1932, a foreshadowing of what may be the future solution of unemployment under capitalism. For example, in the winter of 1931-32, the State of California (home of the “Criminal Syndicalist” laws and jailer of Tom Mooney) had instituted state work camps. Here is a description of what these camps were like (N.Y. Times article, Jul 22, 1932):
“The State work camp, briefly, is a place to which unemployed men are sent if they are willing to work in exchange for three good meals a day and a place to sleep. Last winter there were two types of camps, forestry and State highway. The work was practically all hard work with pick, shovel and. rake. Most of it was building roads and fire trails and clearing fire-breaks in the mountain areas for the forestry camps and road construction on the desert and in outlying communities for the highway camps. The camps were set up primarily to take care of the transients who were not eligible to receive county aid, but a number of residents went to them.” More than 6,000 men passed through these camps within a few months.
What a marvelous find for the State, when it can get its public construction work done for nothing, or at any rate, merely for bed and board. Even the prisons pay a few cents a day for the compulsory labor of the prisoners. The nearest thing to these work camps is the chain-gang of the South. Only the actual chains are missing. But these men were accused of no crime except being out of work!
Under Hoover’s regime, the distress of the masses was so great that there were open manifestations of suffering even leading to outbreaks. The breadlines then were blocks long, skilled workers and white-collar men, even women, had to resort to these wretched slops in order to keep life in their bodies. Flop houses “sheltered” a portion of the homeless unemployed at night, while thousands slept on the park benches, in hallways and doorsteps. “Hoovervilles” sprang up on the outskirts of cities, on water fronts and on vacant lots. In these miserable colonies of down-and-outs, not only single men, but families moved into shacks which they built of tin cans, stray boards, strips of rags, etc., picking their living out of the garbage cans.
The newspapers reported children fainting in the schools from hunger. Hundreds of thousands of boys and girls, many of them under twenty, and in fact whole families, took to the highways, hopped freights, and wandered from place to place, sleeping where they could, eating in “jungles”, driven by police from city to city, hounded from state to state in an aimless, hopeless quest for the jobs that did not exist. The Scottsboro case in the spring of 1931 focussed attention on the life that the youth of the country had been driven to, riding in freight cars in mobs, girls as well as boys in permanent vagabondage and demoralization.
It was in Hoover’s day that the coal miners strike in Harlan County, Kentucky, brought out the terrible poverty and starvation of the coal miners, which had been going on already before the crisis. The Red Cross refused relief to these absolutely destitute workers and their families, on the ground that their suffering was due to themselves and not to an “Act of ‘God"! Yet it was at this time that the A. F. of L. officials signed a “peace pact” with Hoover and agreed to call no strikes. In the summer of 1931 a group of farmers and their wives in the backwoods village of England, Arkansas, after spending several days entirely without food and getting tired of seeing their children starve to death in front of their eyes, got together and raided the village commissary. Relief from the village authorities was straightway forthcoming.
More than any other single act, the Bonus march of the veterans to the national capital in the summer of 1932 revealed the deep-seated suffering that prevailed from one end of the country to the other. The veterans trekked from the farthest states of the union. Ragged children trudged besides them and there were babies in the arms of their wives. They brought their families with them. Thousands of them camped on the streets and in the parks of Washington and finally were corralled in the mud of Anaconda Flats. The bonus was refused—a foregone conclusion. But the veterans refused to march on. They were without a program, without capable leadership. They had set themselves the object: The bonus or bust! As a matter of fact, most of them did not leave because they had no place to go. They were refugees in their own country, fifteen years after the war with its great parades and drums and its medals, the “heroes” slept with their families in filthy camps in the open in the very face of the U.S. government. Finally, Hoover mobilized the Federal Army and at the point of the bayonet and machine guns the veterans with their women and children were routed from Washington.
Hoover cleaned them out of the capital, and the voters of the country cleaned Hoover out of the White House.
The New Deal
It is plain now after two years of Roosevelt that prosperity will not return to America by the “New Deal.’’ It is plain that the unemployed cannot be returned to the factories and workshops of the nation, that so far are we from a business boom, that the crisis has really settled down heavier than ever. Whatever illusions the workers may have had in 1933 about the “New Deal” are now gone where they will not return.
These two years have brought about a tremendous change in the life of the nation. The old individualism is going forever, as are many of the old illusions of democracy, of an equal chance for all, of prosperity around the corner, etc. Classes at last are being recognized as part of American life; not only that, but the classes are lining up against each other in more and more open formation—this in spite of the efforts of the government with the help of the Labor fakers in the A. F. of L. to bring about “class cooperation.” (in reality tying the workers helplessly to capitalism)
The economic policy of the “New Deal” has been as follows: to subsidize the banks and big industry through the R.F.C. (as under Hoover), to regulate and control industry through strengthening the trusts (N.R.A.), to regulate and control labor through Section 7a-N.R.A. and especially through the Labor Boards of various types, to raise prices to give the appearance of a return to prosperity, to freeze wages at the lowest point, to curtail production in agriculture and subsidize the farmers, to inflate the currency.
We can not here go into a discussion of the “New Deal” as a whole and of how it has worked out. But it is necessary to point out the political tendencies of Roosevelt. Under the “New Deal”, the power in the hands of the President has been very greatly strengthened. So too has the apparatus which the President has been able to build up around himself through his control of Federal pensions, through the “Brain Trust” and the apparatus of the N.R.A. itself. These tendencies in the present period of world history are heading in the direction of Fascism. We have to note that at the same time, organizations have appeared in different parts of the country, frankly Fascist in program which have been able to enroll not only tens but even hundreds of thousands of members.
After the inauguration of the “New Deal”, after a brief spurt or upturn of business due to speculation, again the business of the country fell down so that by September, 1934, the Bulletin of the National City Bank could declare: “The developments in the business situation during the past month have done little to clear up the outlook for fall. The wool goods season is disappointing, the leading manufacturers of staple goods have announced a series of shutdowns ….. Business activity has now been declining for about 4 months….. Steel operations have dropped to new low levels… 19.1% of capacity….. Railroad orders are largely filled, tinplate operations lower and the automobile industry is in the period of recession which sets in prior to the change over to new models….. Construction contract awards remain at low figures…..45% below the Spring Peak….. and….. below a year ago.….” We may add that the upturn in 1933 and similar situations thereafter were due to the rush among some employers to get ahead of the N.R.A. or to capitalize on approaching inflation, so that they worked overtime on the old pay scales, laying up stocks and later firing their workers.
There are no signs that the U.S. is getting out of the depression or that real recovery is about to take place. How deep the business stagnation has reached and what is the outlook for getting out of the crisis can be seen from the following: Building contracts stood at index figure 117 in 1929; in February it stood at 28 (a drop of 75%); unfilled orders generally and U.S. steel orders fell drastically at the same time (Feb 1935). Forest products on hand rose from 106 (1929 monthly average) to 117; world stocks of raw materials stood at 220 (Jan. 1935). Everywhere stocks have been deliberately destroyed in order to raise prices and bring back the profits of “prosperity". Prices during the first year of the “New Deal” rose 23% and the latest announcement of the FERA is for a 22% further increase during 1935! A bulletin issued
in July, 1934, by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed the highest point in 30 months for food prices. “Where housewives paid 90.4 cents for a given amount of food on April 15, 1933, they paid 110.4 for the same amount on the last day of July this year.…. The increase from April, 1933, to July, 1934 has been 22%….. The important items showing price increases were eggs, sliced ham, sliced bacon, butter, cabbage, fresh milk, sugar, tea, macaroni and breed.”
Labor on the job, speeded up more than ever since the crisis due to the new machines introduced, finding that the labor codes meant to freeze wages at the lowest point since the war, rallied itself and gave its response to the “New Deal” in a great wave of strikes, the biggest wave that had been seen for ten years. Masses of new workers, the unskilled and low paid, have now joined the unions, although the majority of such workers still remain overwhelmingly unorganized.
And what of the unemployed under the “New Deal"? The unemployed have now at last become recognized as a permanent factor in the nation’s economy and a relief system has been organized. Under the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, the public works have been continued and greatly expanded. Labor camps under semi-military discipline have been organized throughout the country for young men. Subsistence farms have been started for the “relief” of the destitute on the countryside. Let us take up all these new developments in detail.
Last June, Administrator Hopkins of the FERA gave out figures of 16 million persons on the relief rolls. This number is mounting so rapidly that as we have noted, the estimate for 1935 is 25 million persons. The funds distributed to the states by the federal government since FERA was started, up to August 31, 1934, had reached the sum of over 1 billion dollars. Allotments of over 135 million dollars for relief in 47 states and two territories were made in November, 1934. Most communities are dependent upon a combination of state, local and federal funds. The relief budgets of the various states and big cities are staggering.
An idea of how the relief system has developed will be obtained from the following history of relief in Philadelphia. In November, 1930, a Committee of 100 on Unemployment Relief was formed under the leadership of the Federation of Jewish Charities. $300,000 was sought from the City Council. By the advent of the Moore Administration in 1932, $5 million had been raised for relief purposes. The City council had provided about 3½ million of this. 60,000 families were then receiving help. In the fall of 1932 a State Relief Board was set up with associated county boards and during the next two years, the State of Pennsylvania contributed 38% of the total relief funds, the rest coming from Washington. During the two-year period ending last August, (1934), $37 million was spent in the City of Philadelphia of which slightly more than $14 million was given by the State and nearly $23 million by the Federal Government. Philadelphia, in February, 1935, had 99,300 families or 267,400 persons on direct and work relief.
The Public Works Administration was allotted $3,700,000,000 by Congress for public works construction. This includes also the CWA (Civil Works Administration) and the CCC (Civilian Conservation Camps). Of this amount more than 2 billions were already spent by the end of 1934. $83 millions were allocated for power projects on the Columbia River in the States of Oregon and Washington, for two power plants at Muscle Shoals and for the Tennessee River. The Unemployment Relief Act of March, 1933 authorized the President to employ citizens in the construction, maintenance and carrying on of works of a public nature. The President thus actually has become the employer of millions of men.
The P.W.A has claimed to have created more than 3 billion man-hours of wage earning employment, and to have cared for 7 million persons including the families of the wage-earners. The works constructed by the P.W.A. include river and harbor improvements, power plants, areas of irrigated and reclaimed desert land, sewer and water systems, roads, public buildings such as schools and hospitals, prisons, etc.
By far, the greater number of the projects (or at any rate those absorbing the most money of the allotments) are for improvements which may fall under the heading rationalization projects. Improved methods of supplying power, improved methods of transporting products such as roads and canals, such enterprises in the long run create new unemployment by providing more efficient methods of capitalism to function, by putting it on a higher technical planning and enabling it to work with less labor-power. Thus, a vicious circle is created, and the problem of unemployment is as far from being solved as ever. It is at best a little stop-gap for the moment.
If the PWA meant a big program of new schools, new hospitals, orphanages, libraries and other public institutions from which the workers of this country would benefit, it might be something to be hailed as a public benefit. But it is well known that every state and community has cut down its appropriations for education and health. Libraries, even in big cities which are centers of culture like New York City, have cut down the hours of circulation and use of reading rooms due to lack of funds. Hospital staffs are being curtailed even though the number of patients is greater than ever. Schools are being closed completely or put on a part-time basis.
The CCC camps promote public works in the nature of reforestation, reclaiming of land, etc., but they involve far more than this. Through these camps over a million young men, veterans and Indians have passed. The youth of the country is being regimented and drilled in preparation for the war which is threatening. These youths were recruited from the families on the relief roles. Of the $30.00 a month which constituted the munificent wages for their work, $25.00 is sent to the family at home, and the youth then has $5.00 for himself. Thus is set a standard of working for board alone which is having its effect on the standard of wages for adult men also, as we shall see in the discussion of Roosevelt’s new work-relief program.
We can get an idea of the real meaning of the CCC camps from the proposition of General MacArthur, Chief of Staff, who was advocating a 400,000,000 dollar plan for “modernizing” the national defense. His plan includes a reserve force of 100,000 young men drawn from those who have passed through the CCC Camps. “These men are all processed”, he said before a hearing on the War Department Bill. “They are ready and fit for military training….. I think nothing would be finer than to take these CCC men who have had six months in camp and give them perhaps two months more in which they would receive the nucleus of military training. We could then enroll them in the unlisted reserve….. If we had 300,000 unlisted reserves who could be called to the color’s immediately, our conditions of preparation for defense would be immeasurably bettered.”
The whole system of the CCC, one of forced labor, of tearing the youths away from their families and from normal living conditions, of forcing them to live in barracks under semi-military discipline, of preparing them for military training and for drafting into reserve corps of the army, this system is such that all the workers can say about it is to oppose it from start to finish. It is like the Reserve Officer Training Corps Camps, the National Guards and all other such military groups which strengthen the armed forces of the government against the workers. We are against them, all we advocate is their destruction, root and branch.
The CWA was a temporary work-relief program of municipalities through partly federal funds, and consisted in building roads, repairing parks, etc. Four millions are supposed to have been temporarily put to work under the CWA. Some idea of how the CWA worked out in one locality is given by the following account of conditions in Los Angeles, Cal. (from N.Y. “Times” article of February 3, 1934) “With 60,000 on the payroll, complete lack of cohesive organization, charges of graft and malfeasance, a million dollars going out each week in wages, surly groups clamoring for paychecks lost somewhere in the melee, 467 separate projects in Los Angeles county, employees under arrest for alleged trading in job tickets and a disturbing public reaction against the type of work being turned in by the “unemployed”, the CWA as locally applied is having a bad time of it….. 60,000 trained men scattered over a front of 4,000 square miles in constantly shifting camps—each man on duty only four hours a day—thousands of them traveling from 20 to 60 miles to and from location—etc.”
The “Subsistence farms” are the biggest joke of all among the schemes for alleviating unemployment. Families are moved onto a piece of land and a cottage is constructed for them (for all of which they are indebted to the government and eventually will have to pay up). They are supposed to raise the necessities of life (as far as food is concerned) for themselves on their patch of land. How they are to raise meat, flour for bread etc., is a problem somewhat mysterious to the average mortal understanding. Somewhere, sometime in the neighborhood, a factory is supposed to be erected in which the heads of families can work to be able to pay off the indebtedness and perhaps to buy a pair of pants or other necessities which cannot be raised on the few acres of land. How this factory will find a market for its products when other factories cannot is another problem too dull to be touched upon in this romantic scheme of things. What we do see in this is the frightfully low level of living to which people will be reduced and the set-back of civilization when people are driven down to the “self-sufficiency” stage of production.
In Tennessee, for example the Federal Government paid several hundreds of thousands of dollars for clearing land for 250 new farms—meanwhile paying farmers in the same region for crop reduction! A farm of 1000 acres was acquired in West Virginia near an idle coal mine. 200 families of coal minors were to be settled on this land, giving each 2 to 4 acres and a house. About $2000 was to be spent by the government for each family, which had to be repaid over a 25 year period. A model community was laid out. A government factory for making twine was supposed to set up there. But the whole thing must fail, so far as alleviating the mass of unemployed.
As bad as are the conditions of the unemployed in the cities, the situation of those on the countryside is even worse, particularly in the South, where less help can be obtained than in the city and in more advanced sections of the country. The government curtailment policy has greatly intensified the sufferings of the poor farm population in the South which was already bad without that.
We quote an item dealing with unemployment in South Carolina (World-Telegram, Feb. 23, 1934): “An almost unbelievable picture of hunger and living conditions in the South where protest against “high” CWA” wages have been loudest, was told by social workers in Washington over the weekend attending a national conference. What happened in South Carolina is typical. The State’s quota was 65,000 jobs. But the money allotted had to take care of twice as many….. The typical CWA worker in the rural sections is employed seven and a half hours a week, at 30 cents an hour, and has a total income of $2.25 per week….. Families living in shacks where cotton is planted right up to the doorsteps have no sheets on their beds… The prevailing rate of pay for farm hands who can get work in the season is 50 cents a day. The same conditions prevail in the tobacco fields.….”
Here is something else from the New York “Times” of June 17, 1934: “There is Bibb County (Georgia) for instance, of which Macon is the county seat. The population of Bibb County is 77,000 yet the total of persons, black and white, on the emergency relief rolls is 19,209. This number is one fourth of the county’s population. Of the persons on the relief rolls, 13,437 are Negroes and 5,772 are whites. The amount paid for relief is $4.25 per month each or less than 15 cents a day. Conditions are so bad that many of the needy are in a state of semi-starvation.
“Macon and Bibb County are described by the Macon “Telegraph” as not in worse condition than either similarly situated communities. The “Telegraph” asserted: ‘The State has many other communities of the kind. The poor have been suffering. The class unwilling to admit poverty has been suffering too. Their pride has kept them from standing in the bread line. The President in his message a few days ago said he wanted the people to live as Americans should live. The 19,000 on relief rolls in this county can hardly understand his language. They would be delighted to live as well as a Negro’s mangy coon dog lived a few years ago.’”
The governments program of agricultural curtailment is actually responsible for a great deal of unemployment in certain parts of the country, particularly the cotton belt. The 30% of owners and higher types of tenants are receiving their checks for reduction of acreage, but of the 70% of croppers and day laborers, many find themselves worse off than before. The curtailment means the driving off from the land of hundreds of thousands of poor cropper farmers and day laborers, both white and colored. Read this description of conditions on a Southern plantation (from the “Nation”, Feb. 13, 1935)
“A large cotton farm in Eastern Arkansas, comprising some 14,000 acres, has long been notorious for its bad treatment of its tenants. Interest on “furnishings” has been charged at 25 cents on the dollar—an illegal and usurious rate when settlements were made, and few settlements have been carried out. The condition of the croppers, mostly colored, has been tragic. In one day last winter, the FERA worker in the county, aghast at the condition of these people, spent $1,400 of government money to clothe and feed them. The only clothes which most of them now possess were given them by this worker. In the Spring of 1934, the owners decided to change a part of this farm over to a day-labor basis. Croppers were notified that each adult worker could retain only 3½ acres on a share-crop basis. In some cases this represents a cut of 75% in acreage. They were required to cultivate a large part of the plantation on a day-labor basis at 75 cents for a 13 hour day. Actually only 35 cents was paid over; the rest was placed in a “petty account” which the croppers claim has not been paid. Forty Negro families on this farm now face eviction because they have joined a union.”
The frightful conditions in the South has resulted in moves for organizations in many places on the part of the tenants and croppers, both white and colored. Union people are terrorized, evicted, denied credit at the plantation commissary, denied relief by the authorities, beaten up and otherwise victimized.
Roosevelt’s new Work-Relief program
After a great deal of noise and fuss, the Roosevelt administration has at last passed its $4,880,000,000 work-relief bill. If we examine this measure carefully, we shall see that it is not correct that close to 5 billion are appropriated, since of this amount $880 million is simply old money transferred to the new fund. Only 4 billion dollars of new funds have been appropriated. And not all of this money will go to the unemployed since an indefinite part of the appropriation will go to finance in whole or in part the purchase of farm lands and equipment by farmers. But most important of all is that fact that the money is not to be spent in one year, but in two years. Thus, only from 2 to 3 billion will be spent in this coming year.
Now even if we assume that the whole of this amount will be spent for the work-relief of the unemployed, how can 2½ billion dollars take care of 3½ million workers as the Roosevelt Administration declares? Let us suppose that each worker will get an average of $500 a year (as a matter of fact, frightfully low wages have been proposed, as low as $19 a month!) These wages alone would take up almost the entire fund available. But the fund is not entirely available in the form of wages for the unemployed. This is an important point to be kept in mind. In the construction industry, for every dollar spent in wages, it may be that four dollars more may have to be spent for the materials. Thus of the 2½ billion dollars, only ½ billion will be available for wages, the rest having to go for material and for the cost and use of the land. Now ½ billion dollars can take care of only ½ million men at $500 a year, or in other words, the public works relief measure will take care of only the annual increase in the population of the U.S.
And if someone asks: What about the $2 billion that will be spent for materials, will this not also put unemployed to work? In fact, Roosevelt actually counts 3½ million more men put to work in this way. Let us see. According to the U.S. Census, the value of stuff bought in the U.S. could be divided as follows: 3/7th represents the cost of materials, 3/7th represents profit made, and 1/7th only represents wages. Thus if the government buys its raw materials from private industry, it will have to pay about $900 million to bosses in profits while the bosses will pay only $300 million in wages throughout the year which will take care only of a few hundred thousand workers and no more. And all of this assumes that the bosses have not put in new machinery to supply the government with increased stuff but with less labor, all of this implies that there is no supply actually on hand which only has to be moved from the warehouse or yard to the government project.
Hand in hand with these cruel measures goes the wages policy of the Roosevelt clique. On this question the government has been murderously firm. Far from paying the prevailing rate of wages, or union wages, it would not pay the wages even of the low N.R.A. codes but has set the scale at the murderous level of $19 to $55 a month for unskilled labor, $27 to $65 a month for intermediate labor, $55 to $85 a month for skilled labor and $39 to $94 a month for professional and technical work. This scale is lower than that now paid on the P.W.A. It is even lower, in some cases, than the actual relief the men were getting on Home Relief. Thus, in spite of the low prevailing wages in this country already, in spite of the exhaustive speed-up practiced everywhere, in spite of the rapid and constant rise in the cost of living, the wages that are to be paid to the “forgotten” man to “raise his purchasing power” is to be the lowest in the country, and we may well say, the lowest since the Civil War. The Southerner will get very much less than the Northerner, the women less than the men, the Negroes much less than the whites. In a thousand ways there will be discrimination and favoritism.
President Roosevelt has passed down the lie that the low wages handed out on work-relief jobs will not effect wage scales generally. But if these terribly low wages are to be given to 1½ million men on work-relief a year, how can this fail to affect the prevailing rate of wages and the union scales? Those not on work relief may be shoved off the dole or their dole reduced and the new unemployed may not be able to get on the relief rolls easily, will this not create a vast army of labor looking for work, forced to take any job at any condition whatever? There can be no question of it. The Work-Relief Act is a measure designed to act as a huge club to batter down the wages, conditions, and standards of the American working class.
If only 1½ million men are put to work on the work relief projects a year, then what is going to become of the rest of the unemployed? According to the decisions of the Roosevelt regime, they are to be classified as “unemployables” and they and their dependents will have to revert to local and state governments. This means that the chief burden of the unemployed will be thrust upon the cities and states already bankrupt and the Federal Government will wash its hands of them. This means a terrific reduction in the relief for all those on relief and almost an impossible achievement for any more to get on the relief. By dumping the main bulk of the unemployed and “forgetting” them, the Federal Government hopes to cut down relief expenses to the bone. This can be seen clearly from the fact that whereas $4 billion was spent directly or indirectly on relief, only 1½ billions, according to our previous calculations, will go to wages for the unemployed.
Thus the Works Relief Measure is not a measure for helping the unemployed but a measure to forget the unemployed, to cut down drastically on relief payments, to wipe out the standard of the American people and to increase the pauperization of the American toilers in a wholesale fashion.
By means of the Public Works Measure, the government will split the unemployed into three separate divisions. The first will be the youth and the aggressive young men of the country. They are to be sent to CCC Camps and removed from the city and the rest of the working class. It is also to be noted that a good deal of the other work for which money is allotted has to be done by means of camps and outside work. Whereas in the first 18 months of its existence, the CCC Camps trained almost a million men at a cost of about $450,000,000 in this bill alone, $600,000,000 have been allotted for CCC work and the President has authority to increase this amount, so that we can estimate that at least 1½ millions youths will be sent into CCC or similar camps.
The capitalist government knows very well that of all the unemployed, the youth are the most unstable, feel the crisis the most, want action the hardest, and can be separated from the rest of the working class and trained into Fascist gunmen and National Guard thugs the easiest. That is the reason for the special treatment of the youth and the special attention being given the CCC camps.
The second division that is created by the Public Works policy is to give employment to a small section of the unemployed, the healthy vigorous men between the ages of 25 and 40 who can still work hard and who would make good fighters in the cause of labor. The idea is to put them to work at 40 cents an hour, say, and keep their mouths shut. Maybe they will not organize with the rest of the unemployed. These are the plans of the government.
The third division consists of those called “unemployables”, all those who may be older, and all others whom the government wants to “forget". These will be shoved into the gutters and alleys of private charity and city slop relief. They will be trampled down and crushed in every possible way, the fighting spirit taken out of them, left a huge lumpen mass of paupers. Here, then, is the “strategy” of the government in dealing with the “barbarians within the gates”, the unemployed.
By means of these measures the government means to take all those who are young and strong and conscript them on a universal chain-gang system. They will be regimented and disciplined. They will be made to work for their bread and do the work for nothing. At least the prisoners who work on chain-gangs get a small amount for their labor. The work relief will provide room and board for the relief prisoners, and nothing else. Instead of getting home-relief without work, there will be hard work, at home-relief pay. This is exactly the kind of scheme that Hitler and Mussolini and the other Fascist dictators have been putting over the mass of workers.
It is said that “Public Works” is a good thing, that it increases the wealth of the nation and provides needed improvements that will benefit everybody. However, a little analysis will expose the falseness of this argument as well. There are three general types of “Public Works": 1. Such items as prisons, police courts, armories, military works of the country, battleships, etc., in other words, those items which increase the punitive and coercive powers of the state and government; 2. Such items as roads, dams, etc., which increase the capital of the nation; 3. Such items as hospitals, schools, recreation centers and such which the masses directly use and benefit by.
Now no intelligent worker can desire that the unemployed should be put to work building bigger and better jails and armories when he knows that it is the workers who are being put in the jails every time they strike for better conditions, and when the armories are used to furnish the arms to shoot them down. These works are not socially constructive works so far as the mass of workers is concerned, but they are instruments of torture and oppression against the workers which the capitalist government wants the unemployed to build at low cost. We have already pointed out, in regard to the third classification, schools, hospitals, etc., that it is precisely these categories of expenditures which have been cut down to practically nothing; in many states the rural schools having been practically closed down, especially the Negro schools in the South. In the Works Relief appropriation of the almost $5 billion, only $40 million or less than 1% is going for schools.
The chief items of expenses in the new Works Relief Act are for roads, dams, reforestation, flood control, grade crossings, rural electrification, etc. Let us examine these items. It is not going to be the poor farmer who is going to benefit from rural electrification. Most of the farmers are forced to use lamp and candle light, especially in the South, and this has increased during the depression. The rural electrification will benefit above all the rich farmers and big ranch owners who will now be induced to drive out the poor farmers and tenants from their strips and substitute more machinery instead. The same result will take place in regard to flood control and reforestation. As soon as the lands are fixed up, the farmers who have parted with their lands at ruinous prices and given mortgages or are tenants will be driven off the land now restored by the government and the profit taken by the rich farmers and the bankers. The profit on any improvement of land cannot go to the farmers who already owe ten billion dollars but must go entirely into the hands of Wall street and its cliques.
A certain amount of money is being appropriated for “housing” to “clear the slums". This is a real fake. Most of the money will go into the hands of the real estate sharks, contractors, and grafters who will pocket the money for themselves. Instead of providing rooms for poor workers, swell apartments for professional men and white collar employees will be built and the poor workers driven into some other part of the city where the slum conditions will grow worse than before. The “slum clearance” in effect means the extension of slum’s to other parts of the city. The “good housing” means forcing worse housing on the others. There must be no mistake about that.
But what is the use of all these improvements when the government is paying the farmers billions of dollars to cut down production, to plow under the corn and wheat, the cotton and tobacco and other crops? Is there any use in building a dam to irrigate dry land and thus create hundreds of thousands of new farms when millions of farmers cannot make a living and are giving up their farm land now and especially when the government is actually paying for the destruction of the land and of crops thereon?
It is a big mistake for the unemployed to holler “We Want Work” under these circumstances. What the unemployed must fight for is to end the capitalist control over the factories and industries of the country. Whatever work is being done on public works is being done under direction of capitalists and their governmental agents, who are not interested in creating more wealth and making the people happier, but who are interested in making profit and graft for themselves.
Whenever the workers get relief or unemployment insurance, they do not have to thank the bosses or politicians for it. They will be getting back only the stuff that they themselves have already produced and which the boss’s took from them. To feed the hungry and unemployed, we do not have to create new “public works” under capitalist direction. There are enough factories, there are enough goods for all to have plenty. Instead of demanding work, it is up to the working class of this country to demand to get what they have already produced and to demand control over the factories and other means of production which they themselves have produced.
The fact of the matter is that the bosses have locked out the workers from their own factories and have thrown them out on the streets as unemployed in order to boost prices and raise profits. These same bosses have locked the warehouses which are stuffed with goods which the workers have produced and forced the producers to go hungry and naked. It is about time that the people demand in no uncertain terms that the factories be turned over to the workers and the warehouses be opened to the hungry. By turning the attention of the unemployed to “public works”, the government is trying to divert the attention of the workers to make them forget that they have been locked out of their own factories by the bosses. In the same way, by means of the ballyhoo about “public works” the Administration is trying to take attention away from the necessity of adequate unemployment insurance and is preparing to give new blows to the workers behind their backs.
There is one other point in the works relief measure to which we must call attention and that is that complete power is given to the President. Already the President has been given dictatorial power as great as that of any Fascist dictator. The President is using that power to build a powerful political machine around himself so as to crush any attempt on the part of labor to organize its own political party that will fight for labor’s interests. This new machine that the President is building cannot but result in an increase in the Fascist tendencies that are to be seen on all sides.
The Fascist tendencies in the Roosevelt regime will be amply manifested in the treatment labor will receive. Certainly the government will not look kindly on and allow the workers on projects to join unions. The government will either smash the unions or try to form government union’s of its own. In either case, Fascism will be aided in every possible way and through the “Public Works” Measure, new attacks upon the workers will be made.
SOME SOCIAL EFFECTS OF THE CRISIS
How the masses are living
A French journalist recently declared upon revisiting America that the famous American tempo had slowed down since the crisis, that the nation was becoming contemplative and was losing its old time “let’s go!” spirit. An interesting but superficial observation. The American speed was founded upon the tempo of production and of the expansion of industry, while speed in consumption (for some classes) accompanied it, typified by joy-rides, jazz and the rush and turmoil of our cities. Speed in consumption has now slowed down to the vanishing point for millions of the population while the speed-up in the factories for those who still have work has increased considerably. But anyone who expects the U.S. to settle down to a long period of Oriental slowness and for a nation of day-dreamers to develop, reckons without the host of worldwide collapse of capitalism. The U.S. above all countries is slated for gigantic social convulsions which the crisis is already preparing.
The social gap has been tremendously widened since the crisis. The number of multimillionaires is increasing; the concentration of wealth in the hands of the few is greater than ever, while the misery of the great mass at the opposite pole of society grows more acute. The social gap was always great in the U.S. in the sense that even though the American workers got more in real wages for the time they worked than the European (or at any rate certain sections of them did) still the wealth they produced for their employers was so tremendous that they actually got a thinner slice of the whole than the workers elsewhere. Certain factors, however, bridged over the extremes of the class divisions and made for glossing over the fact that classes existed at all. The possibility while capitalism was growing and expanding, before it reached the stage of trustification and finance capital, of individuals making fortunes overnight, the comparative ease with which individuals could “rise” to the middle or even wealthy classes, the comfort of the middle classes, the well being of the skilled workers, the lack of feudal traditions, the democratic customs of the country where factory owners would slap their employees on the back and call them by their first names, all these well known circumstances were responsible for the tradition of classlessness.
This tradition is pretty well shot to pieces. The middle classes have been dragged from comfort to privation, the skilled workers are rapidly sinking to the level of the unskilled, pauperism is becoming the standard for the great majority of the population. A report on taxpayer’s income recently issued by the Bureau of Internal Revenue throws the spotlight of hard facts on the widening of the social gap. This gives a comparison between 1932 and 1933 and thus accounts for the first year of the “New Deal". Incomes of $1 million and over increased from 20 in 1932 to 46 in 1933. There was in fact an increase in the numbers and total incomes of all those in the higher brackets, from $25,000 per year up. Incomes of from $25,000 to $50,000 increased from 17,658 to 18,168. Those from $100,000 to $150,000 rose from 962 to 1085. Those from $150,000 to $300,000 from 589 to 693 and so. On the other hand, the numbers of those having incomes below $25,000 fell off. There were nearly 3000 less in the group from $10,000 to $25,000. Those in the category of $5000 to $10,000 fell from 237,273 to 219,735. Of course the vast majority of taxable incomes were in the lowest category, $1000 to $5000 and these decreased from 3,421,000 to 3,340,000.
The earthquake like shifting of the social layers of the population is illustrated in another way in a study made by the U.S. Public Health Service for the years 1929 to 1932, covering 12,000 families in 10 localities and including such cities as Detroit, Greenville, Pittsburgh and Syracuse. The people in the study were a representative working class and lower middle class group including both skilled and unskilled workers, salesmen, petty tradesmen, etc. They were divided into three categories, I--Comfortable ($425 per year or more for each person); II--Moderate (from $150 to $424 per year for each person); and III--Poor ($149 or less per person per year). In 1929, Class I included 37% of all; in 1930, 25.9%; in 1931, 17.6% and in 1932, 9.5% The comfortable people had thus decreased from nearly half to less than 10% of the total. In the proportion of the second group there was not so much change. Group. II (Moderate) fell from 49.7% in l929 to 39.1% in 1932. The third class, however, (Poor) increased as follows: 13.3% in 1929, 24.6% in 1930, 36.6% in 1931, and 51.4% in 1932. Let us emphasize that while in 1929, the first year of the crisis, only 13% of these 12,000 families were poor, by 1932 the poor were more than half the total. By 1932, 19% of the total were on public relief.
Is the working class internally being welded closer together due to the crisis? This has been the tendency of the last few decades, particularly since 1922 when immigration was cut down and the crisis in some respects has hastened the process. The skilled worker is found with the unskilled on the breadlines and in the flop house, and the former tailor or mechanic rubs elbows at the relief office with the ex-salesman and teacher as well as with the laborer and factory hand. The few skilled workers protected by unions, who still can make $30 a week or over stand out as rarities.
With over four million families on the relief, the dole system has already embraced such large masses and has continued so long as to have had deep results on the working class. Let no one worry, however, if the results are not good; the days of the relief as it is today are numbered. The situation must grow worse, stimulating the masses into the deepest actions.
There is, however, a certain danger which must be pointed out. There is the possibility of the relief system creating an attitude of helplessness, of dependency upon the government on the part of some elements, while the stagnation of no work leads to demoralization, especially among the youth. The waiting in line at the relief office, herded about by the cops, the registration with full information of all the unemployed given over to the government,(finger-printing has even been proposed!) all this is part of the process of breaking down the spirit of the workers, regimenting and robotizing them. However, it is still not for us to demand to put the unemployed to work under capitalist conditions. Roosevelt will take care of that soon enough.
The relief system has tended to bring the family together, perforce, but under conditions of crowding, undernourishment and irritability due to the pressure of unemployment and general discomfort, that augur ill for any real or permanent strengthening of the family tie. At the same time, other tendencies are at work to break up the family, due to the relief. For example, a young man or girl in the family obtains a job. Naturally, the wage is low, it is by no means big enough to support the family. But if it is found out, the family will be taken off the relief, and the whole family will have to exist on this wretched wage which may be even less than the relief. The result is, the boy or girl leaves home, in order to save the relief for the family and in order to enjoy a little bit from his own earnings. They go to live in cheap rooming houses, probably do not get the proper food, and altogether are cast adrift and made ready, when they become unemployed again, to join the army of vagabonds or to drift into the life of the underworld. On the countryside, the unemployed members of the family have trekked back from the breadlines in the city to starve together in the little old cabin or farmhouse where at least there is a place to lay one’s head.
At least in the first years of the crisis the number of marriages fell off, declining from 1,126,556 in 1930 to 951,759 in 1932. The economic reason is obvious. The decline in marriage is accompanied by an increase in so-called “illicit relations” and above all by a great increase in prostitution. It is becoming fairly common now. Also, for the women in the family to be the sole bread winners, due obviously to women’s lower wages and the greater opportunities to get a job. The man, reduced to the role of housekeeper and baby-tender, is further robbed of whatever manhood and dignity the state of chronic joblessness may have left him. (However, the life processes of humanity can not be delayed forever and already the relief social workers are bemoaning the fact that recent figures are tending to show an increase in the marriage rate of the unemployed).
Much stir has been made over the decline in the death rate in the crisis years. It has even been hailed as showing the beneficent effects of unemployment and especially of eating less! However, the May issue of the American Journal of Sociology, 1925 declares that infant morality is rising and evidences of the harmful effects of the depression on the health and nutrition of children has accumulated on every side. The United Hospital Fund has also challenged the optimistic health figures of the government. It states: “The public should not be misled as to the influence of unemployment upon public health by optimistic generalizations…. There has been little doubt in local medical circles concerning the adverse effect of hard times upon the public health…. The figures show that the increase has been abnormal and progressive…. The facts are that the hospitals generally are burdened as never before.” (N.Y. Times, Sept. 10, 1931) In the same issue of the paper, Dr. Mark L Fleming, General Medical Supervisor of Municipal Hospitals in New York City, said: “The municipal hospitals are overflowing and the visits to out-patients departments had increased up to Aug. 1st by 25 percent over the corresponding seven months of 1930.”
While the government officials are prating that “No one shall starve”, the N.Y. “Times” (June 17,1934) can carry the following headlines: “Starvation Near for Many in South. Quarter of One County in Georgia on Relief at 15 cents a Day.” After describing the conditions in Macon and Bibbs County, Georgia, the report goes on to state: “The State has many other communities of the kind…. The President in his message…. said he wanted the people to live as Americans should live. The 19,000 on relief roles in this county (Bibb County) can hardly understand his language. They would be delighted to live as well as a Negro’s mangy coon dog lived a few years ago.”
The only real perspective on vital statistics is that shown in the excess of births over deaths. This is what indicates the vitality of the nation. In the U.S., this rate has been steadily declining from 10.6 in 1920 to 7.6 in 1930. (The Negro rate during that time fell from 8.6 to 5.3) From this point of view the U.S. is now low in the scale by comparison with European nations. Russia takes the lead with a rate of 20 per thousand. Even if the decline in the birth rate here represented the health of the working class population, it would speak volumes for the dreadful effects of the speed-up and accidents on the workers lives when they were in the factories. As a matter of fact, an increase in the death rate for workers might be covered up by a decrease in the rate for the upper classes. And, in any case, the death statistics tell nothing of the extent of non-fatal illnesses, nor the slow undermining of health through undernourishment, which only later will result in a fatal illness.
Just how unemployment is eating into the health of the workers is brought out in the report of the U.S. Public Health Service referred to above. “The results (among the 12,000 families) show a higher incidence of disabling illness among individuals in the lower income classes in 1932 than among individuals with higher incomes. Illness is highest among a group of the ‘depression poor’ which was in reasonably comfortable circumstances in 1929 but had dropped to comparative poverty by 1932—their rate is higher than that of their more fortunate neighbors who suffered no drop in income and higher than the illness rate of the ‘chronic poor’ who were in a condition of poverty even in 1929. Families containing only unemployed or part time workers show a high incidence of disabling illness.”
The plight of the youth today, jobless and unwanted, is the most desperate of all. Young people are coming of age at the rate of about a million annually. What prospects await them? The job, if one is found, for the working class youth will be a job of twelve dollars a week at most, far less in most cases. The professions are overcrowded; to train to be a teacher, lawyer, physician or stenographer means more and more to place oneself in a condition of chronic unemployment, eventually being forced to take a factory job, if it is open. The CCC Camps will become increasingly a permanent institution for training cannon fodder and keeping the youth in check. What the conditions are among the working class youth was glaringly revealed in the Scottsboro case: prostitution for the girls, vagrancy for the boys; and for the Negroes frame-up and prison, if not lynching. There was, after all, nothing exceptional about the young people in the Scottsboro case except that they happened to come into the limelight where countless thousands lead similar lives in obscurity. The youth of today must have far less of illusion than the generation behind them, and they should be material for the revolutionary movement—only, however, if the revolutionary movement can approach them in terms of America and not of Russia, only if it can get under their skin far more than it has done heretofore.
The crisis has prolonged the attendance of young people at school in the cities: there has been an increase of over 4,000,000 high school students since 1920, and more than half the youth of high school age are actually in school. Radical tendencies are beginning to make themselves felt in the high schools and colleges and liberalism and pacifism have taken the place of the former conservative attitude towards our social institutions. Military training in schools has been on the increase.
When we look to the children growing up under the stress of the crisis, we see a dismal picture of undernourishment, deformity and scrimping of educational opportunities. There are 400,000 children being cared for in institutions throughout the country and 6,000,000 on relief. One fifth of the children of preschool years are undernourished or in need of medical care. Out of a total of 45,000,000 children, 16,000,000 of them suffer from serious physical defects ranging from T.B. to impaired hearing. Some 200,000 children pass through the courts every year.
Included in the rapid increase in crime, we note an increase in youthful criminals; or rather, the tendency for criminals as a body to become youthful. Whereas, a few decades ago, the typical criminal was a man in the thirties or forties, today he is in the early twenties. 39,000 young people between the ages of 15 and 21 are at the present time in state and federal penal institutions, reformatories or prisons. Of the mass of children passing through the courts, 25,000 of these every year are sent to correctional institutions where in most cases they learn to become professional criminals.
Although there are a million more pupils in the schools in 1934 than in 1930, the number of teachers is 25,000 less. School building has decreased 80% and purchase of school books 20%. Terms have been shortened in one out of every four cities and 5000 schools have been closed altogether. These facts do not, of course, cover the enormous number of children who must be kept home on account of hunger, or lack of shoes and decent clothing. It goes without saying that in all of the scrimping of educational appropriations, those for Negro schools have suffered the most, and even the poor facilities given the Negroes so far to get the elements of an education are drastically cut down.
The picture of America in the crisis would be a gloomy one, were it not that out of the cauldron of misery and persecution is emerging something which figures cannot portray: a working class purged of foolish illusions of the past, welded more closely together, forced by the bitterness of the present to realize that the course of the struggle will be the only way out. Labor in the black skin and in the white is grumbling solemnly and slowly and painfully girding its loins.
Unemployment and the Negro
The Negroes in this country, 13,000,000 strong, are nearly all poor toilers: farmers, agricultural workers, domestics, and workers in industry. From the beginning they have represented unskilled labor in this country and upon them have been heaped all the abuses and hatred which capital has for labor. It is the policy of the ruling class to keep the Negroes a group apart, segregated from the rest of the toiling population, in order to make super profits out of the Negroes and to keep the poor whites from uniting with them. Labor’s strength is capital’s weakness. The white workers and unemployed will never get anywhere in this country unless they can get together with the Negroes. Every effort must be made to break down prejudice and link up the struggle of both groups of workers.
The Negroes in the best of times are discriminated against and live in much worse poverty than the poor whites. But the crisis has hit them even worse than the white workers and white poor farmers. The N.R.A. labor codes are very careful to leave out of their provisions just those occupations in which the Negroes work, (the same thing is true of the Wagner-Louis Unemployment Insurance Bill which we discuss in another chapter) There is no code for agricultural laborers and domestics. If anyone thinks this is an accident, let him scratch the cooties out of his head and think a little bit about how the Negroes have been treated here since 1619 when they were first dragged into this country, the “land of the free.” Moreover, since the N.R.A., every excuse including force, has been used to drive Negroes out of the unskilled jobs they formerly held, in favor of whites. Especially does this hold good in the Southern states. Waiters, porters, truck drivers, are only a few occupations where white men now prevail instead of Negroes. The N.R.A. has been rightly called “Negro Removal Act.”
When it comes to unemployment relief, here are a few interesting facts showing the status of the Negro. Sometimes the percentage of Negro families receiving relief is from two to four times greater than among whites. This might look as though the Negroes were better taken care of. But not in the least. If we look at the number of unemployed Negroes in different cities we see for example: in Baltimore, in March, 1931, they were 17% of the population of the city and 31.5% of the unemployed; in Buffalo, they were 3% of the population and 25.8% of the unemployed; in Charleston, S.C., 49% of the population and 70% of the unemployed; in Little Rock, Arkansas, 20% of the population and 54% of the unemployed and so on. (Figures of the National Urban League) In many places the Negroes get a good deal less relief. Often the relief office, where it gives grocery orders, has a different set of packages for the white and colored, giving better quality to the white. In the new Roosevelt Work Relief Measure, it will be the Negroes who will receive the lowest wages of $19.00 a month, even less than the CCC Camps.
The “New deal” has hit the Negro farmers, the poor share croppers and tenants in the south worse than words can picture. It is true that poor whites too have come down miserable. The curtailment of cotton production has meant that the planters have driven hundreds of thousands of people off the land which was their only possibility of a livelihood. Beggary and starvation is the only thing that awaits these helpless families.
It is plain that in the coming period, the Negroes are going to be material for forced labor. They will constitute an army of completely and hopeless unemployed and will have no recourse except to be drafted for labor camps, where we can feel certain discriminations will be made, and if the white workers will have to work for less than the prevailing wages, the Negroes will be working for nothing. And indeed has not this been their situation from the beginning? It was their role during the 200 years of slavery. Since then, peonage, forced labor and the chain-gang in the South, it has still been their role. Only here and there and for brief moments have they escaped.
A Fascist power here, if it comes into being, will concentrate on the Negroes all the hatred and oppression that in Germany fell on the Jews but here it will be on a much greater scale. The purpose will be as far as possible to exterminate the Negro as a living historical force. The wave of lynchings now in progress is but a foreshadowing of this. Let the white workers realize this well, and realize that if a labor army is present which the capitalists can force to work for nothing, the chances are poor indeed for white labor to defend itself. Karl Marx very well said that labor can not free itself in the white skin so long as it is enslaved in the black.
In sections where the Negroes are in the majority in the population, if they are not admitted into the other organizations of labor, such as unemployed groups, etc., they should organize their own groups. They should organize what might be called a Negro Chamber of Labor which will fight for the interests of the Negroes on all fields among the employed and unemployed, against discrimination, etc. The unemployed groups must be forced to take in the Negroes, to fight for them and against any discrimination. The Negro Chamber of Labor can bring pressure to bear to see that this can be done.
The Negroes have already been in the forefront of labor demonstrations since the crisis (as in Chicago in 1931). The March, 1935 outbreak of the Negroes in new York’s Harlem (where a Negro population of nearly 300,000 is concentrated) was a spontaneous demonstration against hunger, segregation, higher rents and all the other evils to which the Negroes are subjected. A very trivial occurrence set the “riot” in motion. A boy allegedly stole something in a store—a “white” store. It was rumored around that the white owner had beaten him. Immediately the people in the store and then the whole neighborhood flared up. They smashed store windows, raided stores and took food. All sorts of horrible conditions have been brought to light through this occurrence and publicity is now being given the abuses in Harlem which will help a great deal for the workers to make an organized fight against them.
Once the Negro is aroused and realizes his own power, he will take his place among the very best fighters against capitalism.
CURE-ALLS FOR UNEMPLOYMENT
The quackery of big and little property owners
Amid the chaos that prevails everywhere as the capitalist system founders deeper into the crisis, all sorts of plans, cure-alls and patented nostrums appear from all sides to save the day. The “best brains” in the country are hired by the rulers to patch up the shaky capitalist economy. Feverishly they try to stoke up the cracked boilers of the sinking ship, they throw half the cargo overboard, they rush hither and thither to fill in the gashes of many collisions. They will admit anything except that the ship is doomed.
Among all the plans to save the country and bring back prosperity and profits, the first well advertised one was Technocracy. The main idea here is that the nation’s economy must be planned systematically. The planning is to be done by an organized group of technicians, by the trained people who supposedly have the best brains and best understanding of the workings of the system. Technique in industry will save the day if only things are planned better and equalized a little bit more in the distribution of this world’s goods-a little more for the underdog, a little less for the big fellow, perhaps. The “brain trusters” who were backing up the President in Washington, the college professors, with posts on the N.R.A., Labor Boards and other committees of the administration, appeared to realize this “rule of the scientists".
“Planned economy” is ballyhooed by the Fascists, in whose philosophy the state controls and regulates everything, including production, exchange, relations between labor and capital, foreign trade, the movements and life of all citizens, etc. Under fascism the idea is launched that the individual lives only for the state, and the state is identified with all society. There is an attempt to hide the class struggle with the propaganda that all classes must cooperate for the good of the state, must subordinate all their own interests to this end. This phase of fascism is, of course, a monstrous sham. Fascism is the political regime of violence, of the rule of capitalist party, of the complete crushing of all organizations of the working class. Economically, it means the saving of the capitalist system at the expense of greatly lowering the standard of living of the masses, through forced labor, complete regimentation and control of the working class.
The program of Fascism is completely false insofar as saving the capitalist system permanently is concerned. Under capitalism, planning is possible only on a limited scale and competition along certain lines become fiercer than ever. Within the nation, small competitors may be partly eliminated, with competition becoming keener between the big groups of capitalists, between finance capital and industrial, between the big landed interests and industrialists in a country like Germany, etc. Even could complete unanimity be obtained within the country, which is something impossible, international competition must be vastly increased just because of the crisis. Fascism is powerless to solve the contradictions of the crisis which are inherent in the capitalist system itself, and are not the products of any type of political regime. The search for markets can lead only to another outbreak of war, and for this the extreme nationalist sentiment of Fascism, the erection of tariff barriers to a greater extent than ever before, the formation of new political alliances, the vain attempts at self-sufficiency with the nation creating an image for itself on all sides without, these factors can lead only directly to war. As we have pointed out before, we see all the germs of Fascism rapidly appearing and increasing in the U.S. since the inauguration of the “New Deal.”
Some of the plans and utopia’s are developed on a local scale, as for example, Upton Sinclair’s spectacular EPIC campaign (End Poverty in California) This idea got Upton Sinclair a lot of votes and no doubt it succeeded in fooling many workers and unemployed of the state who no longer see any hope in the two old parties.
Sinclair proposed to have the State of California take over idle farms and put the unemployed to operating them; in the same way to take over idle factories and give more jobs to the unemployed city workers. Owners were supposed to receive a “rental” for their property. Products were to be sold at cost and distributed under State supervision. In other words, Sinclair proposed the form of State Capitalism in one State of the Union. It is reported that capitalists and real estate owners withdrew investments from California in favor of other states while Sinclair’s campaign was going on. Here is one indication of why such a scheme can not work—it was on a limited state scale. But even if it were proposed on a larger scale, what would we have? A bosses government running the works, in other words, State Capitalism. The mere fact of the state taking over production and distribution would not guarantee the market for the producers. Under Fascism we have a system of state control of production and of prices. But Fascism is powerless to solve the problem of unemployment. Schemes like EPIC really only help to pave the way for Fascism, with their emphasis on planning and control but omitting the one most essential thing, namely that it is the workers who must do the planning and controlling and who must abolish capitalism.
Then there is the Townsend Plan of giving all old people over 60 years of age a pension of $200 a month, all of which they are to spend, the idea being to create the market which does not exist, to start the ball rolling, thus giving the factories a chance to produce, and everything will be all right again. It is easy to see that the government can never afford to pay the enormous amounts of money that are required to subsidize such a scheme, nor can it really cure the crisis under capitalism, because it does not remove the fundamental causes. Even if it could be carried out, it would only scratch the surface. But only a fool can dream that the capitalists would pay $200 a month for an aged wreck when he pays only $40 a month to one of his healthy workers. Employers are not “humanitarians” for the workers but their assassins and murders.
During 1932 and 1933 barter was much talked about as a “remedy” for unemployment and was even taken up on a very small scale in small town communities. The garage men exchanged a few gallons of oil for a couple of dozen eggs and the shirt salesman gave a shirt for a sack of flour, etc. In other cases a script system was adopted, the unemployed giving services of one sort another (odd jobs, carpentering, etc.) in exchange for which they received a ticket that could be exchanged for goods. To propose barter on a big scale is a preposterous notion that the clock can be turned backward from the highest machine civilization to the economic conditions of the savage tribe, and that, if this could be done, there would be some benefit accruing from it!
The barter idea was taken up by Miles Reno, the leader of the Farm Holiday Association which figured very much in the public eye during the strikes which occurred in the Middle West in 1932-33. Reno proposed that farmers contribute their produce and industrial workers their goods. These materials to be transported were needed by unemployed railroad men, using idle rolling stock. The railroads were to be reimbursed for their wear and tear on their property. The three groups of workers mentioned were to receive pay in commodity certificates which they could exchange for food and goods. This idiot “farmers leader “is now following Huey Long. Time itself cured the barterites.
Free silver had a little rage for a time, and that newfound savior of the people Father Coughlin of Detroit, was one of the advocates of this panacea. The economic defect of this scheme is to identify the interests of the silver mine owners, like Hearst with whom Coughlin is connected, with that of the whole people. The scheme implies that the trouble with capitalism lies in its system of exchange. As a matter of fact the exchange or money system is but a reflection of the production system, and is so closely bound up with this that they can no more be separated than the arm from the body. We have already pointed out above previously that it is the private property system of production that brings about all the frightful chaos and suffering of the crisis. To change from one money system to another (say, bimetallism, where there are two standards, gold and silver together) would only add new confusion.
Inflation is a “remedy” that is being tried and for which the poor masses of the country are suffering more and more as prices rise higher constantly. From 1929 to 1933 there was a distinct drop in prices since the market which is based not on the needs of the population but on their ability to buy, had fallen pretty near to zero. There was starvation in the midst of plenty. The manufacture set up a cry for higher prices, hoping in this way to restore their falling profits. How could prices come up? A rise in prices can be caused by 1) an increased demand over the supply. 2) an increase in the value of commodities. 3) a fall in the value of money. Now the first two conditions could not be brought about. We have shown how the measures of the N.R.A. tried mainly to bring about an increased demand. Inflation was resorted to at the same time and even before the N.R.A.
Of course inflation can raise prices. And we have already seen the sharp rise in the price of foodstuffs and other necessities of life since the inflationary moves of the President were adopted and put over. To these governmental actions causing prices to rise there must be added such taxes as the sales taxes (such as the one in New York City which adds a sent tax even to the tiny purchase of 13 cents!) and the processing taxes of the A.A.A., etc. But can inflation in any way really remedy things? The fact is, that those who sell also have to buy, so that what they gain in one way they lose in another. This situation applies to industrialists, producers, farmers and such, and to the State itself.
In a period of inflation to some extent debtors who have borrowed when prices of goods were low can pay back their debts with less goods because prices are now high, stand to gain for a while. But this does not help the poor fellow in the long run. It is the banks who are the chief winners in all this swindling. So many businessmen, farmers, home owners, and such people who were in debt to the banks could not pay off their mortgages and other debts, that the banks would have been forced into tremendous losses in foreclosing or else they had to find some way to keep the bankrupt running his property and yet paying off some of his debts. Inflation allows the banks to do this. The farmer, now with a little more money in his hand, is forced to use this money to pay the bank. He is induced to remain on the farm and borrow some more. The bank has thus part of its debt repaid and still keeps the victim in its toils. On the other hand, the bank is not only a creditor, but also a debtor to all of its depositors. It is when the depositor calls for his money that he finds that inflation means his money can buy much less than when he turned over the money to the bank. It is the bank that now pockets the difference.
It is the great mass of workers and unemployed who suffer from inflation. The unemployed find that the government is cheating them through inflation. With one hand the government hands out “relief” with the other hand, it so jacks up the cost of food that the workers are gypped out of the relief they ordinarily would be able to get. As for those working in the industries, their wages never can rise as fast or as high as the cost of living in periods of inflation. They suffer a direct loss in real wages and thus are made to bear the full expenses of the crisis. In other words for the masses of the people, whether unemployed or at work, for the millions of small, mortgaged farmers, for their tenants and share cropper, for the poor storekeepers and artisans, that is for the vast majority of the population, the rising prices add insult to injury and make living pretty near impossible.
Radio sets all over the country recently have been busy spilling out the buncombe of those great saviors of the people, Huey Long and Father Coughlin. Both of them pose as finding a way out of the crisis and both have built up a tremendous following by promising recovery. Huey Long with his “Share the Wealth” plan recklessly promises to pay $5000 to every American family. Great fortunes are to be limited to a few millions, hours of work to be limited, veterans cared for, agricultural production is to be “balanced with what can be sold and consumed according to the laws of God, which have never failed.” There is positively nothing in this that is not in the phrases of Roosevelt’s program except the promise, which Long has no guarantee he can fulfill and cannot explain how he can fulfill it, to limit big fortunes and pass around $5000 to every needy and deserving family. Huey Long claims to have recruited over 3,000,000 members for his “Share the Wealth Groups” and perhaps he has. There are plenty of store keepers without customers, bankrupt farmers and lawyers without clients to listen to a loud mouth when he professes sympathy for their sufferings.
Father Coughlin is another master of demagogy. His pet idea is the Union for Social Justice, for which he claims he has over 8,000,000 prospective members who have answered his touching pleas over the radio for funds to build up his chapel. The good shepherd, Father Coughlin, like the Kingfish Long, has exactly the sort of emotional ranting type of speech that Hitler had and that enabled Hitler to win over the German lower middle class to his side. Father Coughlin calls for nationalization of banking and natural resources, government banking, abolition of tax free bonds, in war the conscription of wealth, “Human rights to be preferred to property rights”, labor unions to be under government protection, etc.
Father Coughlin is more openly Fascist than even Huey Long. Of course he does not call himself Fascist but it is the game that counts rather than the name. Take his labor policy. In a recent speech he advocated that the Department of Labor take over the functions which the A.F.L is trying to fulfill, in fact to take the place of the A.F.L. entirely. This would immediately create government union’s of the type they now have in Italy. Coughlin preys on the wide spread animosity towards the bankers and on the vague yearnings for equality and justice which are our American heritage. His program is purposely made so vague that it cannot be pinned down to an explanation of how it is to work out.
Finally, among the bourgeois roads to prosperity and “cures” for unemployment we have to mention the Hopkins plan for government workshops. This plan is interesting to anyone who knows labor history because it was nearly 100 years ago, back in the middle of the last century , that this plan was first brought out in France by Louis Blanc, one of the early socialist leaders. The government took up the slogan in order to fool the people and made a pretense of giving them a system of public works a little bit along the lines of what we have today, though on a much smaller scale. Hopkins idea is like Louis Blanc’s, to have factories aided by the government and producing for use, not for the market. (Louis Blanc wanted the factory to be owned by the workers cooperative and association, Hopkins wants it owned by the government) the unemployed would here be put to work producing the things they need, canning vegetables, making chairs, shoes, pants, etc. which would be distributed again among the unemployed.
This scheme, like all the other proposals, would involve tremendous expense to the government and since it would compete with private industry, it would never be tolerated on anything except a very small scale, if at all.
If we draw up a balance sheet of all these “cures” and panaceas, we can see that they suffer from the following fundamental defects:
1. They assume that all that is necessary is for some smart-alec to think up a “plan”, something perfect, and that by a mere argument the whole world system of production and exchange will be changed so that all will have plenty.
2. They assume that they can keep capitalism and yet eliminate its anarchy, chaos and contradictions. They assume that they can stop the development of capitalism and stop its evils.
3. They believe that they can redistribute the wealth of the country peacefully and legally without sharp class struggles leading to revolution.
All of these programs, of course, are mere silly or vicious illusions and the thinking working man and women will have nothing to do with them. They know instinctively that the system of distribution goes hand in hand with the system of production. If workers are given more than enough barely to live, they would not return to work in the factories for some crooked boss to make money out of their labor. If the factories are privately owned they will be run for profit and not for humanity; and any attempt to take away the private wealth and ownership from the capitalists and give the control over the means of production to the workers will be met by civil war. The demagogues who hand out these “cure-alls” always forget to state that the bosses control the government, that the state is a capitalist state, and that there never was a ruling class in history which ever gave up its power and control without a bitter fight to the end. The demagogues also conveniently forget that only the workers can overthrow capitalism, that it is the duty of the workers, who produce all, to take what they produce and run their own destiny.
However, it is not only the wealthy and small property owners who have “discovered” all sorts of cure-alls, but there are groups in the ranks of the working class which also have “remedies” for unemployment. The Socialist Party, the Communist Party and similar groups (like the tiny Workers Party) all have raised the cry: “What this country needs is work. We want work. This is the ‘remedy’ for the crisis.” Wherever these phony elements had influence, not only in this country, but throughout the world, the same idea was brought forth.
"We want work!”
A few years ago, just before Hitler took power, a member of our group took part in a great demonstration in the streets of Berlin. Among the paraders, there were many rather elderly men about 55 years of age or so, among them stood two who were carrying a huge banner which read: “Arbeit, Freiheit, Brot” (Work, Freedom, Bread) and all along the line of march the men were shouting in unison: “Was Wollen die Arbeiter?” “Arbeit” (What do the workers want? Work!) All their lives they had worked and slaved for the German capitalists. Now they were out of work and the only thing their miserable leaders could teach them to demand was—more work!
Almost a hundred years ago Karl Marx had already entered into a bitter polemic against the Anarchist Proudhon who had inspired the slogan in the 1848 crisis of “We want work!” And now so little had the servile Socialist and Communist bureaucrats learned from the events of the class struggle, that after these many years, all they could do was to repeat: “We want work; we must have work; without work we are lost.”
One can be very sure that the officials of the trade unions and Socialist and Communist Parties did not urge work for themselves. They wanted work for the workers, to be sure, the members of their organization so that there would be more dues steadily forthcoming. And they themselves would have a better subsistence, incidentally. It is just these servile elements who like to point out how healthy work is, how it builds up the body, etc. Without work, man is lost, is what these political priests who fatten off those who actually are forced to work under capitalism, like to say.
With these ideas it was no wonder that the Socialists and Stalinists in Germany played right into the hands of Hitler and the large industrialists. If it is work that the workers want, the capitalists can give them plenty—on the chain-gang. Is it any wonder that the Nazis took up the cry “We want work!” with the greatest enthusiasm and idealized “labor” as the noblest activity of all? Why not? What master can object when his slave devotedly exclaims: “All I want is to work for you, to slave for you even more than in the past. My whole life is at your service.” And as soon as Hitler came into power he did give work for all; Work in the concentration camps, work on military projects, a universal chain-gang and compulsory labor service was established throughout the nation. They have been regimented into great labor armies. They now have their wish ---they have work.
The capitalist likes to see the workers work. It means his wealth, capital will be increased and that he can try to beat his competitor down better. It means that his workers are still under his discipline. It means that he can better prepare for war. His workers have their muscles hardened. They will be better fighters. He knows that every bit of work that the workers do increases his power and stability. It is not work that the capitalists fear—it is the class struggle. The boss fears that the workers will demand that the stuff which they produce should be turned over to them as the direct producers, that the factories should be owned and controlled by the working-class and the capitalists “rubbed out.”
The slogan “We want work!” takes attention away from the main job, that of wiping out the capitalists and their entire work system. How can you attack the system which hires labor and exploits it, when you are clamoring for work under that system, demanding and beseeching it? And if work is such a fine cure for unemployment, then how does it come about that just before the crisis began everyone was busy, everyone was at work and wages were relatively high? Is it not true that just before every capitalist crisis we have a period of feverish activity where everyone is working full speed under capitalism?
These people who shout “We want work!” fail to realize that it was precisely because everyone was working that we did have such a terrible crisis. The workers were being exploited harder than ever, they were turning over vast amounts of stuff to the bosses who had to sell this stuff and could not. Not being able to sell their goods at a profit, the capitalists were forced to close down their plants because the workers had produced too much, because they had worked too hard, because they had not fought for a greater share of the produce. All this is covered up by the Socialist and Communist Party fakers.
The slogan “We want work!” implies that what is wrong with the present system of society and what has caused the depression is not overwork but under-work. Or, on the other hand they imply that it is not the work system that is to blame but the “system of distribution.” In both cases they attack the bosses not because he is driving the workers too hard but because he did not give them enough work. In this respect the Communist Party leaders only ape the Hitlers. It is for this reason that they pave the way for the Huey Longs who can really promise work for all and give it too—on the chain-gang, Southern style.
Now if it is true that capitalist crises are caused not because not enough has been produced and thus more work is needed by society, but because of overproduction and too hard work, then it would seem that the natural demand ought to be “No more work until we get what we have produced. The stuff in the warehouses is ours, hand it over”, etc. The demand “We want work!”, therefore, is a demand that blinds the workers and prevents them from seeing that they do not have to work much to eat, that the workers have produced plenty which the boss has grabbed for himself. What the Communist Party leaders are trying to persuade the workers to believe is that in order to eat, the workers must work more, when the fact of the matter is the workers already have worked enough to take care of themselves.
The slogan “We want work!” prevents the workers from fighting for unemployment insurance. They are directed to look upon all relief schemes as being unnecessary and if they are given work they can live respectably. Thus, the Labor “leaders” leave to the employers all of the loot which the bosses have stolen from the workers from time immemorial. The workers are made to feel that if the government grants them relief that they are getting something that does not belong to them, that they must feel grateful to the government and the employers for this charity, when the true situation is that the workers are getting merely a portion of what they themselves have produced and which they should have obtained long ago.
These false impressions have been sharpened by the foolish slogan of the Stalinists and Socialists: “Give the Bankers Home Relief, We want Work!” which was carried prominently in all recent demonstrations. Imagine such an idea, “Put the Bankers on relief”, that is a demand to put the bankers on the government payroll! As though the bankers do not already draw enough pay from the government without any work in return. As though we must advocate that the government continue to pay these parasites and idlers indefinitely! Only silly comedians but not revolutionists could put forth such banners and demands. It is another indication that the “demonstrations” staged by these clowns are not meant nor can be taken seriously. No serious group of workers leaders could possibly have conceived these bizarre and grotesque signs that are carried by Stalinist henchmen.
Further, there is the implication that the workers do not want relief, that the government owes them nothing, that only work will suit them. But if the workers are not supposed to want relief, then how can they fight for more relief, how can they demand adequate unemployment insurance which at the present time can only be envisaged as an improved relief system? Under unemployment insurance are not the workers here too “getting something for nothing?”
These slogans show that the Stalinists and Socialists are only the unofficial supporters of Roosevelt’s “public works” program. Both Roosevelt and the Communist Party are shouting that what the country needs is more work. Under such circumstances, why should the workers turn to the Communist Party when it is Roosevelt who has the power to hand out jobs?
Nor can those who constantly holler “We want work” object to the kind of work that is given them even if they are put to work building military roads and improving naval stations or creating machinery for armament construction and ammunition production. To shout for work and then shout “strike against war preparations” is an impossible and ridiculous proposition. For everyone knows that all work under capitalism today must be work for war preparations. If factories are booming today in Germany, it is because of the imminence of war. For those who want jobs, there is open only the mass murder industry of war. Today capitalism is no longer constructive but eminently destructive. It wastes and tears down far more than it builds up. To demand work under capitalism means to demand work that increases the destructiveness, the waste, the misery of the world.
It must be constantly kept in mind that the demand for work, is the demand to work under present social conditions, with capitalist control and direction. But what is this capitalist control? It is a control that destroys the crops, that lays waste the soil, that rots the products, that rusts the machinery, that devastates the land, that kills the humans—that is capitalist control. If a dam is built, it is to produce more electric power for war time. If new research is undertaken, it is to throw out more workers from jobs. If capitalism is developed, it is only to raise the destructive power of the ruling class.
From this it is clear that we must demand not work but workers control. However, to raise the slogan: “No work until we get control over production”, or “General strike for Workers Control” seems entirely too much for the unofficial agents of the government who call themselves Communist Party leaders or Socialists. They would much rather give the illusion that government public works is not capitalist control, that it is social or national control for the benefit of all and for the increase of the wealth of the entire nation as a whole. Or sometimes, in their clamor “We want work” they imply that they do not want to turn to the state for aid but want the private industries to re-employ them. In other words, not to make demands upon the State, or if the demands are made not to expose the enemy role of the State, not to throw the workers against the State—this is the program only of traitors and enemies in the ranks of the working class.
The demand “We want work” idealizes the entire work-job system. It means that the workers declare they would be very glad to return to the old state of affairs that existed, say 1929. Thus the workers are put in a position of demanding the return of the “good old days”, and the slogan “We want work!” makes the workers to fail in exposing the terrible situation that existed under capitalism even in normal times and which existed in the U.S. even in 1929.
“We want work!” is another form of the rotten slogan of the American Federation of Labor, “A fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work”, only much worse. When the A.F.L. raised the slogan, it was with the implication that the pay they were receiving was NOT a “fair” one, whereas the slogan “Give us back 1929 when we were working” states just the opposite, namely, that 1929 was a wonderful time when all who worked got a fair pay and could live well. It also carries the implication that for a “fair” day’s pay, workers should be more than willing to put in a “fair” day’s work. In this way, too, the “labor leaders” who raise the demand “We want work!” give the impression that unless the workers work they should not get any pay, that they don’t deserve the relief unless they are put to work and build more factories for the bosses to throw them out of.
At one time the Communist Party leaders raised the cry: “Work or Wages”, that is, either give us work or give us wages. In this way the Stalinists prevented the workers from raising the simple slogan which everyone could understand: “We want unemployment insurance.” Notice that the slogan, “Work or wages” is in an alternative form: It says to the capitalists, give us EITHER this OR that. Now it is one of the basic rules of revolutionary working class activity never to give the enemy class the initiative but to take the initiative itself. The Stalinists violated this basic rule. They gave the enemy class the initiative and the choice. In their slogan “Work or Wages”, they practically said to the bosses: “We leave it to you, you can give us either one or the other” Thus it showed that the workers had not yet made up their mind what they wanted, that they were confused and up in the air. It showed that the workers could not take the aggressive offensive and that the bosses had nothing real to fear from them.
The demand “Work or wages” implied that the wages that would be given were good wages and that America was a land where the “fair” day’s pay was prevalent. Thus the Communist Party became more reactionary than the A.F.L. which had always assumed that even in 1929 not all the unions were getting a “fair” day’s pay. In the slogan: “Work or wages”, work is compared with wages, as though work is the same as wages when the truth is that work is just the opposite of wages; in the first case the worker has to build up the power of the boss and lose his own strength, in the second case he weakens the power of the employer and builds up himself, taking back what the boss stole from him. Thus the C.P. leaders covered up the entire system of boss robbery. Finally, since it was up to the employers to choose between work or wages, of course the bosses would choose work and not wages, that is to say before the capitalists will “spread the wealth”, they will turn to Fascism. Never was the so-called “revolutionary” labor movement so exposed than by these false demands.
When the unemployed raise the demand “We want work!”, this acts as a club in the hands of every employer of labor who now can tell his workingmen: “You see, there are plenty after your job, they like your job and are trying to get it. If you don’t behave I shall fire you and put them in your place". In other words, this slogan “We want work” throws the whole army of unemployed against those at work and divides the working-class into two antagonistic sections. Each time the factory workers want to strike against wage cuts or for better conditions, they are reminded that there are millions of unemployed who are praying, yea, are demanding, work and will do anything to get it. Thus the slogan “We want work!” helps to throw labor into a panic and fasten the control of the bosses more strongly than ever.
“We want work!” is a most reactionary demand. It is the demand for class peace and not class war, for class collaboration and for Fascism. What this country needs is not MORE work. But WORKERS CONTROL—COMMUNISM.
Unemployment in the Soviet Union
How can capitalism solve unemployment? It can not solve it. It can get out of a crisis temporarily through war, as it did in 1914, but only to get into a worse crisis later.
War kills off the millions of the unemployed and thus removes a difficult problem from the hands of the ruling class. War opens up new markets for some countries at the expense of other, conquered countries. It enables one capitalism to built itself up at the expense of others, and at the expense of the flesh and blood, the tortures and tears, of countless millions of human beings. All the imperialist countries are preparing for war at a break-neck rate. This solution for unemployment, the workers must fight tooth and nail.
Fascism offers the only other way out for capitalism and it is not a way out but a way in. Neither Italy nor Germany have been able in any way whatsoever to get out of the crisis. The method of Fascism, through forced labor, terrific lowering of wages etc., leads also to war and even from the point of view of the capitalists, is a costly and very unstable solution. Nevertheless the Fascist way out is the only thing open to them, and we must expect to see all the government’s policies turn in this direction.
What are the workers going to do in this situation? The solution of unemployment rests with us. The way out is Communism—ruthlessly to get rid of and exterminate the present rulers of society and with them all the system of private property in the means of production. Let the workers take over the factories and the toiling farmers take over the land and produce for the needs of the hungering, ragged masses. Let us rule the country through workers and poor farmers councils.
“Aha”, some people may say, “So now the cat is out of the bag. You want us to turn Red. Look what they’ve got in Russia, if that is all Communism can do, I’ll take my chance with Roosevelt, Huey Long or someone else who talks United States. This country will never go Soviet". Now, we are not advocating that this country pattern itself artificially after any other country. Still, we have plenty to learn from Russia. The main reason why things are not better in the Soviet Union is that the Russians, with Stalin as their leader, have tried to build socialism in one country alone, without the support of the proletarian revolution in other countries. This is a sort of nationalism. It was never Lenin’s idea and we see the bad consequences in the situation of Russia today.
Yet, however great are the difficulties within Russia today and in its relations with the imperialist powers, which are even now prepared to attack it, yet the achievements of the Revolution have been a great historic milestone showing what the power of the workers can do. Take the question of unemployment. The Soviet Union is the one country in the world that does not have the huge standing army of the unemployed. Some unemployment they have of a different character, due principally to the shift of population from the country to the city. But they have proved that a Workers State can find work for all who wish to work. This one fact alone would be enough to prove the superiority of the Soviet system, and the need for defending it against all attack, even while we have to criticize a great many things.
This country has a tremendous advantage over Russia in that it has the highest industrial technique in the world. Russia had to start with a most backward industrial machine, broken down by war, in addition, and slowly and painfully try to build up factories, roads, dams, etc. These advantages we already have in the U.S.—the only trouble is that they are in the wrong hands. The wonderful development of factories and other means of production here would mean that once the workers took over the industrial machine, they could at once produce enough for all. It will be hard to make the revolution here, because the capitalists are strong and will put up a hell of a fight, but once they are kicked out of the way, then watch us go! We, the workers, are 40,000,000 strong in this country, not to speak of other groups that would support us, such as the poor farmers and share-croppers. Let us realize that capitalism can mean for us nothing but starvation, overwork, rags, cold and sickness, with the horror of war as the only alternative to the horror of peace. Let us not hesitate to organize our strength together and take what belongs to us.
WORKERS UNEMPLOYMENT GROUPS
It is a curious fact that the worse and more widespread the misery has become, the tamer and milder and weaker have become the movements among the unemployed workers. We have shown how the number of the unemployed have been steadily mounting. We have shown how the rise in prices has added ever new difficulties. Resources of the unemployed grow less and less as the relatives upon whom they formerly depended lose their jobs, as sickness due to unemployment rises, as debts increase, etc. We can say that the relief system has done something to keep the workers quiet, to lull their fighting spirit but this is not all.
The unfortunate thing is that the workers movements have all been infested with reformist tactics,—that is, have acted along the lines of begging for small favors for the unemployed, and have frittered away energy in these ways instead of striking out boldly, fighting in a militant way, and leaving no room for illusions among the workers that they will see a solution of unemployment or that their lives will be made tolerable under capitalism. Every single party of the workers that has mixed in the unemployment work has fooled the workers in this way.
By 1930 the crisis had already severely hit the workers of the country. In the Spring of that year, unemployment demonstrations were arranged throughout the world by the Communist parties. The idea of a world-wide demonstration in every country at one and the same time is not so good as it may look at first sight. The crisis does not progress at the same rate in all countries, there is not always the same inducement to come out in a demonstration. However, in this country the time was ripe. The authorities prepared themselves with full reserves of police, with tear-gas bombs and machine guns mounted above the public squares where the demonstrations were held. Enormous masses of people turned out. The workers really took to the street. Some 75,000 crowded into union square, New York City. Similar demonstrations took place elsewhere.
But what could the Communist Party tell the workers, once it had got them out on the streets? The only thing the workers heard was, “Come to the next demonstration and hear Comrade so-and-so". No program, no fighting character, no organization. The movement ever since has been on the down grade. No such demonstrations have been seen since, in spite of the hunger, cold and rags of millions.
The unemployed movement, as led by the supposedly most advanced Communist Party, has gone through three main periods of development, each one futile and sterile in the extreme. In the first. The program was: “Are you hungry, are you out of a job? Come to this or that meeting to hear our speakers.” No program of action was worked out at all. Talk, talk, and more talk, that was the “action” of the so-called “revolutionary” parties. The second period was: March to city hall, march to the country courthouse, march to the state house, march to the capital, etc. In these march’s the mass of workers were not involved. In the literal sense of the term they were “demonstrations”, that is, shows; “pageants” for the workers to look at. It was the Communist League of Struggle that first exposed the futility of such demonstrations where they were not backed by close neighborhood work, block committees, house committees, tenant leagues, consumers leagues, women’s council’s, etc. The demonstrations should have been in workers neighborhoods arousing the entire masses to put an end to their hunger by direct action. The third phase of the unemployment work has been a legalistic and electioneering campaign for a “bill” for unemployment insurance. As though bills will be passed without struggle and as though the workers can vote themselves a job and a decent security income!
With the suffering to which the masses have been reduced, there have occurred numbers of outbreaks among the unemployed, such as the March of the bonus Veterans in 1932, the hunger March to Washington the same year, the Minneapolis affair in 1934, the relief project strikes in New Jersey in 1934 and the recent one in Toledo in 1935, etc. There has been enough experience gained from these militant movements to convince the workers that this is the line to follow. In the Minneapolis demonstration several thousand of unemployed stormed the City Hall, forced the police to retreat inside of it and threw back the gas bombs at the police, forcing them out of the building and into the streets again while the unemployed took possession of the City Hall and forced the legislators to meet their terms.
What of the organization’s that the unemployed have built up since 1929? The unemployed council’s led and controlled by the Communist Party are nothing to brag about. The few members obtained here and there quickly dropout. They have followed the same bureaucratic tactics that the leaders of these Unemployment Council’s learned inside of the Communist Party. Workers who had an opposing political the relief to the Stalinist party were expelled, regardless of how much work they did for the organization. The following experiences of a group of workers in New York City illustrates what we mean. We quote from “Class Struggle” Vol. III, No. 5 (1933):
“At the June 3rd United Front Unemployment Conference the C.P. stated that it had changed its attitude and now wants all organizations to work with it no matter what their political views. The Communist League of Struggle members thought the Party was sincere and entered the Unemployed Council to help build it up into a real mass organization. Our members were assigned to the 5th and 6th Street Block Committee, which had a name but no life, that is, it did not meet regularly nor did it carry on work in a systematic manner. It was after the hard, daily grinding work of our comrades that the Block Committee was put on a functioning basis. Some of our members were elected to the Executive of the Committee.”
“As soon as that happened, the bureaucrats of the Unemployed Council stepped in and sabotaged the work. The outgoing captain of the Block Committee refused to hand over the records to the new captain. There was other interference as when we arranged for a meeting at the hall of the Down-Town Unemployed Council and found the hall locked and no lights.
“Despite the sabotage of the U.C., the work of the 5th and 6th Street Block Committee progressed. Meetings were held regularly, leaflets were put out, open air meetings were held. The organization was beginning to root itself among the workers of the neighborhood.”
“A call came for the Conference to Defend the Trade Unions. The 5th and 6th Street Block Assembly elected two members of the C.L.S. as delegates. They, with other members of the C.L.S. signed a resolution which the C.L.S. put out to the conference.”
“On July 20th , when the weekly meeting of the Block Assembly took place, the Down-Town Unemployed Council mobilized all its reliable henchmen, from the Henry Street Block Committee and the 13th and 14th Street Committees and packed the meeting with people who had as much to do there as the man in the moon. All they had to do was to vote as the bureaucrats demanded.”
“Our delegate was not allowed to complete his report on the conference. Confusion broke out and the bureaucrats moved for the expulsion of all Communist League of Struggle members. Without giving us a chance to defend ourselves this was passed.”
“The result is that the 5th and 6th Street Block Assembly does not exist any more as the workers of the Assembly predicted would happen if our members were kicked out.”
The Unemployed Councils never had a program of struggle, the best they could do for the workers being to go to the relief station and fight to get a few demands for this or that individual worker. Thus, they could draw around the workers on relief for a little while, and as soon as the workers day-to-day demands were satisfied—or if they were not satisfied—they would go away. Besides, the best type of unemployed worker will not come around to waste his time on such “actions” as these. One rarely sees any young, virile elements in the unemployed groups. The old, the sick, the chronically down and out, those who did not work even before the depression, these are the considerable part of the membership. It is alright for the old lady with the swollen leg to be organized but not much of a fight will be put up if we depend only on people like her. It is the lack of fight in the program of the organization that drives away the sturdy type of worker, and in turn, with a weak membership it is difficult to make a real fight.
The activities of the Unemployed Councils and other groups, besides attending to grievances of those on relief, have consisted in agitating for unemployment insurance, circulating petitions for same, supporting different bills before the legislatures and occasionally staging a demonstration or little parade of the active members before the City Hall or perhaps before the relief office. There was a time when certain elements in the Unemployed Leagues on the West Coast even went so far as to work out a barter system in cooperation with the city officials, thus practically becoming part of the capitalist government apparatus to keep the unemployed quiet, to satisfy them with crumbs and thus prevent their fighting for the whole loaf.
The Workers Unemployed Union, a group where the Socialist Party controls the leading body, has been active chiefly in New York City. It functions in a similar manner to the Unemployed Councils, the only difference being that the Socialists seem to be a little more tolerant than the Communists and allow other opinions to exist (although they will use all sorts of tricks to keep them from getting any influence.) Recently, together with other Socialist controlled bodies like the Illinois Workers Alliance, it organized a National Convention in Washington and organized the Workers Alliance of America.
In Ohio there have been the National Unemployed Leagues led by the Muste Group, now the Workers Party. This is now dying down and may disappear.
These are the three main groups sponsored by workers political parties, and, choosing among them seems to be a case of six of one and half a dozen of the other. Outside of these organizations which cover at least several states, and strive to build themselves up on a national scale, there have been numerous other groups built up on a local scale, generally rather temporary in character, and often falling into the hands of the local politicians.
One of the things that has held up the unification of the unemployed movements his been the bureaucratic policies of the political parties which control them. Their unwillingness to make concessions and their fear to lose power each time there is a move to unite with the other groups, holds up the works.
The unions have made a terrible failure in what should have been one of their principle tasks in the present period: to organize the unemployed and to link them up with the employed for struggle. This seems to be too simple a program for the officials of the A.F.L. and the other unions to realize. The unemployed are not a source of fat dues and initiation fees. The policy of the A.F.L. unions of enforcing payments of high dues during periods when the worker is unemployed have driven out among the unorganized hundreds of thousands of former union men and women who still want to belong to the union but cannot afford the price. The “Red-Unions”, while they have recognized in words the problem of the unemployed, failed effectively to organize them, and are disappearing themselves.
The failure to organize the unemployed has been one of the chief factors in breaking down the conditions of people on the job. The bosses make use of the tremendous army of the unemployed as a whip to beat down wages and conditions, as for example in Detroit, one of the means the bosses are using in their attempt to break up organizations of the worker is the hiring of woman in place of men, and the bringing in of masses of “hillbillies” from the impoverished districts in the South.
The conventions of the A.F.L. pass by in the same old rut, as though a bunch of old ostriches got together and with heads in the bushes, gossiped over days gone by. But this is after all, proof that the A.F.L. is still the A.F.L.—masses of unorganized, impoverished workers have no interest for the craft-minded skilled worker types who dominate there. The masses of fresh workers, young, unskilled and militant, who have entered the unions during the past two years, bring in a fresh element that is causing a ferment in the A.F.L. and is capable of bringing pressure to bear on the unemployment problem. The fact that Green recently endorsed unemployment insurance, tentatively agreed to work with the Workers Alliance of America and the fact that the A.F.L. has spoken against the infamous proposal of the Work-Relief Act to give coolie wages, are all indications of the rumbling of the masses compelling the bureaucrats into some semblance of action. However, real action can be obtained only by overthrowing these government and boss agents in the unions.
The new work-relief system of Roosevelt is going to bring the unemployed and employed more closely together than ever and provides even better opportunities to organize than before. In the first place, several millions of workers will be on the job again, congregated in large numbers where it is easy to reach them, where again they harden their muscles and feel their collective power on the job. Both skilled and unskilled will be hurled together, forced to mix together, to know each other. The pay will be miserable enough to force them to strike, to organize. The self respect of the unemployed now put to work on monstrous projects of vital importance to the nation is bound to rise and they will demand to be treated not like paupers for whom work has been “made” as a sort of charity concession, but as regular workers.
The government will try to break their strikes and prevent them from forming unions on the job. Perhaps the government will even try to form government unions, in order to control them better. This will move the government still further on the road to Fascism and must throw the entire labor movement into a terrific crisis. All of these struggles mature the labor movement still further and make the workers understand that the only way out for them is open struggle against the capitalist system and all of its governmental agencies.
The regimentation of the unemployed by the government and the formation of labor armies eventually will redound not to the benefit of the reactionaries to lull the workers to sleep but to the benefit of those who know how to organize the unemployed to sharpen the class struggle. Every strike on government projects will become a political strike. The government as employer will become even more hated than the individual capitalists. All the old illusions about the character of the government will break down and the workers will see that the government belongs to their enemy, the wealthy capitalist class, and will take the necessary steps to correct this situation.
A PROGRAM OF ACTION FOR THE UNEMPLOYED
Will unemployment ever end? Suppose the relief is cut off? What is to became of us all? These are the questions that torment the millions of the unemployed, their wives and children and helpless dependants.
This pamphlet has tried to make it plain that unemployment will never end so long as there is capitalism, and that to fight unemployment means to fight to overthrow the capitalist system. We keep this aim in view in all the work among the unemployed and it determines our policy in every situation. We cannot give jobs and we cannot “cure” unemployment, or how to be comfortable under capitalism. Let the workers, employed and unemployed, unite their mighty strength together to get rid of the parasitic system that condemns them in the midst of plenty to hunger like beggars for a crumb of breed.
We put it up to the reader whether it makes sense, if we know capitalist must be overthrown, to give the workers the notion that some “Bill” before the capitalist Congress is going to take care of them or that they can possibly get adequate unemployment insurance without serious revolutionary struggles. Or to allow workers to believe that the relief will go on forever or similar tripe. We must come right out with the truth that only the end of capitalism will end unemployment or will give any degree of security or comfort. At the same time we cannot go around merely yelling “Overthrow Capitalism” like walking victrola records. The workers can accomplish that mighty job, the biggest job any class of people ever tackled, only if they go at it scientifically and prepare themselves in advance by fighting capitalism on the every-day issues and organizing the workers power in these day-to-day struggles.
The Communist League of Struggle presents the following program which it has developed in the course of several years work of its members among the unemployed:
UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE—Do we want unemployment insurance? Of course we do, and adequate insurance, not $2 a week with a million strings tied to it. But in all honesty we have to point out that at the present stage of the development of capitalism, no capitalist government on earth, including “our own” Uncle Sam, can “afford” to give millions of unemployed a decent standard of unemployment insurance without a terrific strain upon
the whole profit-system. The unemployed are too many and too permanent, and the bosses too pressed to find markets to raise their falling rates of profit in the present period of capitalism to allow any form of adequate unemployment insurance to be paid out for any length of time without revolutionary struggles. It is true that unemployment insurance is only a “reform”, it is not socialism, but today even substantial reforms can only be won by revolutionary activity, and once the revolutionary activity is started by the movement for the reform, it should be developed to the end, until the workers take power. If the workers do not take power, they can not keep even the reform!
Other countries have tried social insurance under pressure of strong workers movements, as, for example England and Germany. In England the capitalists compelled the government, since the crisis, to cut down the unemployment insurance to a mere pittance.
The so-called “Labor Government” did not prevent this. In Germany, under Bruening, in 1932, even before Fascism, social insurance and welfare of all kinds was cut down very drastically. Because the workers would not act for the revolution, they could not keep even the reform. Anyone who thinks now that the U.S. will hand out without a fight, a decent sum, or even $10 a week, to even 10,000,000 unemployed, is “seeing things.”
Now if it is a fact that adequate unemployment insurance payments indefinitely would “break” the capitalist government, why then do we still demand unemployment insurance? The answer is that we are interested in ourselves and not the capitalist system. In fact, the more we can weaken and undermine capitalism, either the bosses directly or their government agents, the better. These parasites have to go and the sooner the better. Are we supposed to help the government and the bosses and cooperate with them? If they declare: “We cannot afford unemployment insurance”, are we supposed to go on starving and say: “Alright, Mr. Roosevelt and Company, your bellies are full and ours are empty, but it is all right with us, so long as you say so? If we want to be such fools as that, capitalism and our starvation will go on forever. Nevertheless this is actually the policy of some workers groups.
THE GENERAL STRIKE FOR UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE—In demanding unemployment insurance, what is necessary for all to understand is that adequate unemployment insurance can never be obtained today without the sharpest struggles of the masses in the streets, struggles that may lead directly to civil war and therefore it is up to us to use such methods as will arouse the workers, unite them and throw them against their enemies,
the capitalists and their State agents.
It is for this reason that we propose that the labor movement organize itself for a general strike throughout the country for unemployment insurance. The general strike can be one of limited duration, say one day or one week. Here is a slogan that will unite the unemployed with the employed, that will swing all the unions into action, that will stir up the workers from one end of the country to the other. It will put teeth into the fight, will expose the weakness of the government, will train the workers for the bigger fights that lie ahead. The general strike will have large organizational results, it will build up the trade unions and other working class organizations to tremendous size. It will also be a warning to the boss class that the workers mean business, that if the one-day general strike will not be sufficient there will be deeper revolutionary action ahead.
We must drop any timidity that may exist in our ranks. We must firmly keep in mind that we are living in an era of dying capitalism which can express itself only in permanent crises and unemployment, permanent wars, Fascism, etc. In order to fight all of this it is necessary to take a broad view of the situation, to act firmly and audaciously. Little picayune methods can avail little. The same general conditions in the United States that are breeding Fascist tendencies are making the workers generally radicalized and receptive to “radical” action that will go to the roots of things and not merely touch the surface. The recent wave of general strikes, locally
and industrially, that shook the nation, is ample evidence that the masses are ready for such action and would carry out the general strike in disciplined revolutionary style.
The slogan of the limited general strike for unemployment insurance was raised by the Communist League of Struggle as far back as 1932. It met all sorts of obstacles and every sort of labor faker did his best to fight it. However, already it has been taken up by certain groups in the A. F. of L. and appeared in the last A. F. of L. Convention to haunt the officials. In Great Britain the masses are actively discussing the question and have had big preparatory demonstrations. Even the backward Communist Party, after fighting us for years on this question, has begun to see the light and recently at a meeting of their National Committee of the Unemployed Councils, they endorsed the slogan of the one day general strike for unemployment insurance and promised to agitate for it by circulating petitions to be signed by workers. Thus the work moves on.
“THE BILL, THE BILL, NOTHING BUT THE BILL!”—Since all the organizations of the unemployed from the Unemployed Councils to the Workers Unemployed Union have staked everything on getting bills passed and have harped on this for a number of years, it is necessary to get an idea of some of the bills Congress has considered.
First, the Wagner-Lewis bill. This is one bill of many, but is of a type that should win favor with politicians in Washington. It would enable the government to get by, giving the idea that it is doing something for the unemployed, while in reality it would be doing nothing. This is what makes a hit in Congress. The Wagner-Lewis bill does not provide directly for unemployment insurance. It provides to tax employers 5% of their payrolls unless they put themselves under a system of state insurance which would give the worker on the average $7 a week for a minimum of 10 weeks. Certain types of workers, including altogether many millions throughout the country, are excluded; agricultural workers, domestic servants, and many others. Only those who work for a number of consecutive months after the bill goes into effect, would be eligible. In the industries which the bill aims to cover, it has been estimated that the payrolls in 1933 amounted to about $15 billion. If this were to be divided up among even the 20,000,000 unemployed, it would amount to only $37.50 total for the entire year for each worker. The Wagner-Lewis Bill, therefore, is a sham and a gyp; and it speaks volumes for the servility of the labor movement in this country that it should allow the A.F.L. officials to come out in support of it.
Second, the Lundeen Bill (H.R. 2827) This bill declares the pay should be $10 a week, but it does not state when the insurance should start or how long it should continue. It has very ambiguous proposals on whether a man may be compelled to work when others have refused to work because of the low rate of pay.
But the most treacherous point of all, one that creates a vital defect in the bill compelling workers to repudiate the entire Lundeen Bill is contained in the following clauses: “Such unemployment insurance shall be administered and controlled and the minimum compensation shall be adjusted by workers and farmers under rules and regulations which shall be prescribed by the Secretary of Labor in conformity with the purposes and provisions of this Act, through unemployment insurance commissions directly elected by members of workers and farmers organizations.
In the original Lundeen Bill, when it was H.R. 7598, the Communist Party got Lundeen to put in that the insurance shall be administered “….through unemployment insurance commissions COMPOSED OF THE RANK AND FILE MEMBERS OF WORKERS AND FARMERS ORGANIZATIONS” That is to say, the Secretary of Labor would have the authority to go into every workers organization to supervise its elections and to make sure that only “rank and file” are elected. Should any officer or leader of any union be elected, the Secretary of Labor would have to disqualify him. At this time the Communist Party had as its slogan: Smash the A. F. of L, and through the Lundeen Bill they wanted to cooperate with the U.S. government to do so, to get the government to recognize the Communist “rank and file” rather then the trade union officers whom the workers followed. Now that the Communist Party has changed its position and wants to make peace with the A. F. of L. bureaucratic officials, they have taken out this particularly obnoxious clause.
However, as the Lundeen Bill stands today, all the chief treacherous points still remain. Instead of the workers being thrown against the State apparatus, they are to be harnessed to that stool-pigeon outfit, the Department of Labor and made responsible for the vicious administration of the capitalist state. The detectives of the Department of Labor still will have the power to see whether the organization is “worker” or “farmer” and all such organizations would have to be registered and their members names and addresses filed with the government (so that the Reds could be easily arrested and deported later, we suppose). The stool-pigeons of the Labor Department would still have the duty to see if the “commissions” were “directly” elected or not and would have to be present at the elections to determine that. In other words the police would be in every organization. At the same time the organizations of the workers and farmers, if the Communist Party had its way, would be directly tied up with the capitalist government. THIS IS PRECISELY THE PROGRAM OF FASCISM!
Is it not plain as day that the Communist Party, through the Lundeen Bill, is preparing the way for Fascism by trying to harness the workers organizations to the official capitalist state machinery which is used against the workers? Is it not clear as day that this treacherous “Communist” party, far from throwing the masses against the capitalist state and government, is betraying the workers to the State?
And this is the bill that is called the “Workers Bill.” This is the bill that has received the support of many workers groups, including the Unemployed Councils, the Workers Unemployed Union and Workers Alliance of America, the National Unemployed League and their political backers, the Communist Party, the Socialist Party, the Workers Party etc. Thus as these parties holler: “Vote for Us and Vote for the Lundeen Bill” they give the workers a double dose of political poison; first, that by votes they will be able to get adequate unemployment insurance and second, that the workers organizations should became part of the government police force and state apparatus.
It is the duty of genuine militant workers, while advocating unemployment and social insurance measures to take to the streets to obtain them, to directly and violently if necessary oppose taking any responsibility for any of the acts of the government. We must smash these ugly features of the Lundeen Bill and the “Communist” and “Socialist” organizations that support it.
UNITY OF EMPLOYED AND UNEMPLOYED—The millions of unemployed standing on line at relief offices, food stores, bread lines and flop houses, shifted from pillar to post, living on charity and doles, chased out of the factories and other places of production, dressed in rags and wanted nowhere, are in danger of becoming outcasts in society. They are used as a whip over the heads of the employed, a surplus labor army, in spite of themselves, dragging down wages for those at work. They are a potential source of scabs, especially in unorganized industries which have not developed a union spirit and where desperation may drive the starving to scab.
If the unions continue to separate themselves from the unemployed, both the union workers and the unemployed will go down to defeat. All actions of the unemployed must be linked up with the unions. It should have been the initiative of the unions to bring the two sections of the working class together, but since the unions have failed to realize this, under their faker leadership, the unemployed have to take the first step to appeal to the unions. This must be done persistently until joint action is won. The unions must be called to all the conferences of the unemployed and the unemployed should be represented at all union meetings and given a vote in each case on all proposals for joint action. At the same time the unemployed can and must be drawn into all union activities.
The unions must absolve their unemployed members from the usual dues payments, substituting a nominal sum. Special arrangements in initiation fees must be made for those who have been long unemployed and finally obtain a job in a union place or who want to join the union. The unions should open up rest rooms, food kitchens, etc., for their unemployed members and for unemployed workers in their trade. Often there are whole neighborhoods where the workers of a particular industry or trade predominate. In some cities there are certain streets known as the market where the unemployed workers of a certain trade hang out to get news of a job. The employment agencies are other centers of congregation for the unemployed. All these are good places for the unions to open up their centers. Let the unemployed workers know the unions are solidly behind them. At these centers where the food can be sold at cost, the workers can be mobilized when action is required. A real solidarity can thus be built up between employed and unemployed which will more than double the effective strength of the working class.
DEMONSTRATIONS—Demonstrations are a part of the mobilization of masses of the unemployed, the employed and their families. They are a means to force action from the authorities. This will happen only if the demonstration is large and militant, only if it is concentrated on achieving some object. The demonstration in Minneapolis, of which we have spoken above, was such a demonstration. Most of those now conducted are done in a manner that appears simply silly. A handful of the active members of the unemployed group gets together and parades with a few others to the City Hall. People see them pass and say “Oh, there go the Reds again". What is wrong with this procedure?
1. The demonstrations are carried on in a routine way. Every so often the organization feels it must demonstrate but does not center on some grievance sufficiently strong to attract the masses around it. The institution of the work-relief system could be such a rallying point.
2. The demonstration should be built up in the workers neighborhood. Here they can draw in the families, the wives and children. Here they can reach the more backward elements who have never heard of the organization. Ultimately, when a real mass has been gathered it may be proper to go to City Hall or some such place. But the main object must be to mobilize the workers and instill a fighting spirit in them rather than to make a “show” and get “publicity.”
3. The participation of the unions should be sought for every demonstration, which should be prepared in advance by united front conferences taking in all workers organizations of the neighborhood, by leaflets, meetings, local parades, etc.
4. The demonstrations must be the occasion to fuse together all the rival unemployed organizations. It is monstrous that the rival political parties are allowed to separate the unemployed workers and to divide their ranks. The working class must brush aside these petty politicians and compel an organic unity of all unemployed organizations throughout the country.
5. If the demonstrations are large enough and the ground is properly prepared, they should lead to direct Hunger Demonstrations like the one that occurred in Harlem. The Negro workers of Harlem have shown the whole working class how to act in the present emergency!
THE FIGHT FOR SHELTER—The fight against evictions is one of the most important of all. Nothing so enrages the workers as to see the unemployed worker and his helpless family thrown with their few sticks of furniture out into the streets. Evictions take place even in the dead of winter, in the midst of storm and snow when the evicted are ill and when they must go around trying to collect a few pennies to put a shelter over their heads.
The struggle for shelter can take on two principal forms; Struggle for the reduction of rent and improvement of housing conditions. (Forcing landlords to repair, to put in improvements, etc). Second, the question of evictions for non-payment of rent by the unemployed. To take care of the unemployed who are to be evicted cannot be done effectively unless all the tenants are aroused and this in turn cannot be done without fighting directly for the interests of all the tenants. This will cement the employed and unemployed together. In every case the formation of Tenants Leagues should be attempted as soon as possible to support the unemployed work.
These tenant leagues must take in all the tenants in the neighborhood and should be based on the house and block. The demands must be for improvement of renting conditions, reduction of rents and termination of eviction for non-payment of rent by the unemployed. In each house a committee should be set up. Where one of the unemployed is to be evicted, all the other families should refuse to pay their full rent and contribute to the unemployed family. All must declare a rent strike and fight together. If the landlord picks out the leaders to evict them first and there is an eviction, every attempt must be made physically to prevent this from being done or to make it so costly that the landlord will lose far more than he bargained for. The whole block and neighborhood must be aroused by leaflets, open-air meetings, etc., systematically carried out and the landlord exposed. Where all are finally evicted, pickets can be thrown around the house that will prevent others from moving in. An investigation should be made as to other properties of the same landlord, etc., so as to enlarge the fight to those other properties as soon as possible. When once a successful fight has been waged this can be broadcasted widely so that all the blocks in the neighborhood can be inspired to do likewise. A local headquarters of the Tenants League must be set up in the neighborhood with financial, educational and other departments to do the work effectively. The legal department must be connected with the regular workers defense organizations that may exist.
A strategy and tactics must be worked out so that the battles can be started with that section of the landlords which is most oppressive, or weakest, etc. We must thoroughly expose the landlords associations and wherever the association helps a particular landlord member out, this fact must be advertised to all the tenants of the houses controlled by the association.
Wherever tenants leagues cannot be organized to support the unemployed who are to be evicted, the battle against these evictions can be conducted by themselves, the unemployed organizing themselves through their committees and block groups. If it is possible to pull out workers on strike who are working in the factories of that locality and are indignant at the brutalities of the police and the evictions of the unemployed, this should done by all means. Once the workers are out on the street, they can also be organized in their own unions and put up their own demands.
In all long-drawn strikes, the strikers have been compelled to meet the menace of evictions. These strikes should be studied and the necessary lessons drawn by the unemployed movements also.
THE FIGHT FOR FOOD—Where the unemployed are on relief, the struggle is always to prevent cuts in relief, to get cash instead of grocery orders, to increase the relief to meet the rising cost of living and the needs of the unemployed, etc. Where the situation is so desperate that the workers are actually starving in front of commissaries or stores or depots packed with food, the workers are justified in seeing to it that they and their families do not starve to death and in an organized fashion to proceed to seize the food which their class has produced and which the capitalists are withholding from them.
It is necessary also to organize groups to fight the high cost of living, in view of the terrible rise in prices of necessities, especially food. Here is work which the women can do especially. They can expose the rise in prices, the little bit the farmer, the direct producers actually gets out of it, they can picket the chain-stores and other stores where prices are high. In a thousand ways they can mobilize the entire family for the struggle for life, for food.
THE FIGHT FOR UNITY—As the unemployment crisis proceeds apace, more and more insistent must be the cry for working class unity, particularly for the unity of all unemployed organizations on the basis of a militant program of action. There is no reason for all these separate organizations. It is futile and fatal. In order to obtain this unity or even united front in particular cases of action, it is absolutely necessary to conduct a most vigorous struggle against the Socialist and Communist Party bureaucrats who have wrapped their legs around the necks of the unemployed, like the old man of the sea in the story of Sinbad the Sailor, and refuse to give up their offices for a moment. Left wing and militant groups must be built up in each of the extant unemployed organizations to see to it that a fighting program is carried out and united front in action leading to unity in organization is finally obtained.
ORGANIZATIONALLY—The work among the unemployed falls into three divisions: Block Committees and groups, work in the unions, and Project organization.
The Block Committees and groups reach the unemployed and their families by penetrating the neighborhoods, carrying there the program, the slogans, the agitation that is developed in the unemployed organizations. Such an organization can reach even the most backward workers. It is necessary to canvas each and every house, going from door to door to see that all are informed and if possible are brought into the organization. The Block Committee meets in the homes of the workers. Thus, they are not exposed, they meet quietly so that only those concerned know what is going on. The Block Committees are linked up through larger groups, section and district organizations. The Tenants Leagues and Women’s Groups against the High Cost of Living meet separately, but are linked up with the Block Committees in joint campaigns, conferences, demonstrations, etc.
The work in the unions accomplishes the great task of linking up the employed with the unemployed, making sure the working class fuses its strength and acts as one.
The organization of the project workers is now about to become of prime importance. The resistance which the workers put up to the conditions of work-relief will be the test whether they have the will to fight and whether their organizations have the correct program to lead them. It is plain there will be a big wave of strikes. Consider, for example, that in New Jersey, last summer (1934) thousands of workers struck spontaneously against the work-relief on a local scale. Many of them were organized by the Communist League of Struggle. The fight on the projects will be directly against the government which is employing the men. But let this frighten no one. These project unions must become definite links between the unemployed and the regular trade unions and must be taken into the trade union’s as regular bodies. Every effort must be made not to allow the union fakers to divide the project workers by crafts and trade divisions, but a National Industrial Project Workers Union formed that will be connected both with the other trade unions and with the unemployed organizations.
It has become apparent in all of our analysis that to guide all the struggles of the unemployed and employed, to link them up with the struggles of other sections of the population and victoriously to fight to abolish capitalism, the workers must have more than simply unemployed organizations and unions; they must have political leadership that will enable the workers to smash the capitalist state machinery and win the power. It is only the Internationalist-Communists, the American section of which is the Communist League of Struggle that has the program that can do this. If material improvements can be won only through revolutionary struggle, it is time that the workers, especially the most advanced workers, become thoroughly familiar with the general program of the revolutionary movements, particularly the Communist League of Struggle. We call on all the workers, unemployed and employed, to become familiar with us.
WE CALL ON THE MOST ADVANCED OF THEM TO JOIN THE COMMUNIST LEAGUE OF STRUGGLE AND FIGHT FOR COMMUNISM.
NOTE: “The Struggle of the Unemployed” is the official theses of the Communist League of Struggle (Internationalist-Communists) on the unemployment question. Published May, 1935.
"The Struggle for Communism”
"The Struggle for Negro Emancipation”
"The Struggle of the Unemployed”
"For a New Communist International”
"Communism and the Social Order”