XXXII. FASCIST TRENDS IN THE UNITED STATES
THE fascist movement is inevitable in the United States. To believe otherwise is to imagine that the capitalists will give up their power without a fight. On the contrary, at the slightest indication of loss of their power, they will be prepared for a most ferocious struggle. The people of this country must learn this important truth.
Already fascist tendencies are in evidence on every side in the United States, in the popular organizations attempted by German and Italian fascisms, in the native secret organizations, in the mass political organizations developed by Father Coughlin, Huey long, and others, in the movement among the veterans, in the intellectual and engineering fields, and in important governmental activities.
America always has been a battleground on which various European philosophies and powers have fought to obtain mastery. European fascism has continued the attempt to colonize America. As soon as the Mussolini government became stabilized in Italy, it sent to the United States picked agents supported by large subsidies for an organization of the fascist movement among the Italians in this country. The organizational results of Italian fascism in America, however, have not been startling; but while no more than a few thousand were ever organized in separate Fasci, Mussolini laid the seeds for fascist propaganda and has steadily been able to influence important Italian societies. Moreover, numbers of Italian youth are to be found sprinkled in divers fascist groupings arising in the East.
The German National Socialists have done far better organizationally in the New World. The Friends of New Germany has progressed into a powerful organization, putting out a paper and a large amount of propaganda. The membership in New York City alone is over ten thousand, while the organization is increasing its control over the very powerful German-American societies which claim to have membership and influence of over thirteen million people in the United States. Of course, this organization is controlled completely by the Nazis in Germany and is used as their foreign weapon to fight for Germany’s interests in this country. Thus, propaganda of the Friends of New Germany is naturally intensely anti-Semitic, as well as anti-communist. Steadily all the bourgeois German groups in the United States are becoming dominated by Hitler’s agents sent from Germany.
It is not to be expected that foreign-born elements, organized by European agents subsidized by countries in an infinitely worse financial position than America, can lead or form any fascist movement of any importance in this country. Such organizations are simply reflections of the chaos and conflict in Europe. Business men of these nationalities frequently support their respective fascisms simply because they must trade with Germany or Italy and need the favor of these governments for their business, or they are afraid of boycotts, etc. These very same business men may have all their lives advocated republican and democratic measures, just the opposite to those proposed by Hitler. Still, they are tied to their kinsfolk in the old country. Often they must join in order to prevent harm from coming to their relatives abroad. This adherence, therefore, to foreign varieties of fascism is an exceedingly weak one which cannot develop a genuine fascist movement in the United States. It is simply German and Italian nationalism carried over among the colonists of these countries in America.
However, there is no gainsaying the fact that all sorts of active movements have sprung up with leaders itching to ape Mussolini or Hitler. (*1) One of the earliest of the organizations, formed in 1930, was the American Fascistic Association and Order of Black Shirts. This group followed the tradition of the Ku Klux Klan and had its seat in the South, around Atlanta, Georgia. Its slogans were: “Drive the Negroes out of jobs and put whites in their place,” “Fight communism in Georgia.” With the Black Shirts, the Negro, in a sense, took the place of the Jew in Germany. These people went about blackmailing employers to compel companies to hire only their members whenever jobs were open. At the same time, they saw to it that all members would act as scabs and strike-breakers if need be. They edited a weekly with the motto “America for Americans.” Unfortunately for the Fascistic Association, with the on-coming depression job opportunities became scarce and the organization withered away.
Another organization to appear was the Silver Shirts, with headquarters in San Francisco. Their battle-cry was, “The Jews must go, the Pope must go, democracy must go.” They advertised as part of their uniform a “knout of rope” to be used against their enemies. The organization adopted the swastika as its symbol and professed itself in sympathy with the Hitler movement. Unfortunately for the organization, their leader, Pelley, was arrested for fraud and his influence rapidly waned.
At this time, the Crusaders for Economic Liberty rose in their glory. They succeeded in attracting to their fold the Congressional representative from Pennsylvania, Lewis T. McFadden, who made a brilliant speech on the floor of the House to the effect that Franklin D. Roosevelt was the .servant of the international money Jews of the world to whom he had turned over all the gold and lawful money of the country. The scheme of Mr. Pelley’s Silver Shirts was to secure the reign of Christ on earth; the plan of Mr. Christian’s Crusaders was to establish economic liberty under capitalism by destroying the money monopoly, and by inaugurating the Golden Rule through the introduction of a new monopoly system.
The general discontent prevailing among the masses of people in the United States during the depression has stimulated the mushroom-like growth of a number of secret organizations,"some’ of them known to the public, such as the Order of Seventy-Six, the Khaki Shirts, and, more recently, the so-called Black Legion, and some of them no doubt still uncovered. None of these organizations is of great importance. Their programs are exceedingly vague, mostly confined to negative aspects, launching attacks against the communist, Negro, Jew, Catholic, and foreign-born, mixing this with demagogic criticisms of capitalism. Frequently the groups profess intense religiosity, but of no particular denomination.
Their leadership is mediocre; often they are organized merely for racketeering and blackmail purposes, and they have not been able to last long. However, they are significant in showing the change in the temper of the middle class in the United States. All of these associations have undertaken to mobilize the masses directly outside the pale of the State, to take matters into their own hands and to idealize lynch law and direct action. They generally organize vigilantes made up of stalwart men who secretly drill and prepare for physical combat.
In connection with this trend towards drilling storm troops ready for struggle must be considered the movement among the veterans. Of the greatest significance is the report of Major General Smedley D. Butler, former head of the United States Marine Corps, that he had been offered several million dollars by Wall Street agents to organize the veterans of the country into troops that could march on the government if need be and establish a sort of fascist dictatorship. Mr. Butler testified before a Congressional Committee, giving detailed facts, and mentioned specific names of the conspirators. For the moment, the attempt has been broken. There remains the fact, however, that the attempt was made by elements who play an important role in the economic and political life of the country. It is to be noticed, too, that the veteran organizations, such as the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, have intensified their anti-communist, anti-labor campaigns in recent years.
What prevents the organization of such fascist bodies of storm troops on a mass scale is the fact that there is no active movement on the part of the masses toward communism. The communists in America, in the main, are not only insignificant but are an utterly ridiculous group, comprised of Jews and Russian nationalists who play the diplomatic game of the Soviet Union without any regard to the needs of the American working class. Whatever adaptability they have shown to the American scene has often consisted merely of cunning maneuvers to put over Russian nationalist propaganda. Thus in the United States there is no strong communist or organized revolutionary movement for any middle class fascist body to organize against or to strike down. There is, however, vast discontent and militancy among the workers, employed and unemployed. This is still inchoate. It manifests itself in violent, spontaneous outbursts that last but a short time and cannot evoke any fascist reaction. What exists, then, in the United States, is a pervasive restiveness and a desire to break with the old order, coupled with a general inclination towards violence, but no specific large cohesive mass that can threaten the stability of the social order. The present, of course, is a transition period, and marks a turning point in American affairs, as the United States turns from individualism to collectivism.
Far more than in previous periods of depression, the middle classes in the United States thoroughly have resented the blows which fate under the present system has meted out to them. As usual, they rationalize their interests in utopian plans of harmony and goodwill, trying to work out some system of planning whereby the capitalism of the big fellow will not drive them still further into ruin. Unable to understand the productive process, they work out their own panaceas in the sphere of the circulation of commodities and the money system. It is not capitalism that is bad, but the money system.
In their outbursts, they repeat the plans formerly presented by the utopians, Josiah Warren, Proudhon, Louis Blanc, and their type. For a century, the middle class has remained in the same rut. What is new in the present situation is that, whereas the middle class, from 1848 on, in its mutterings of discontent, looked to labor for support and turned either anarchistic, as in France, or socialistic, as in industrial countries, in the United States today the new movements ominously steer away from any labor contract and, on the contrary, borrow much of their doctrines from fascism.
In previous periods, when the petty proprietors in the United States had formed their own radical movements, such as the Farmers Alliance, the People’s Party, the Non-Partisan League, Farmer-Labor groups, etc., in each case they strove to take under their wing the labor movement as an ally in the struggle for the welfare of the petty bourgeoisie. Today this is not so. The labor movement is too large to become merely a wing of the middle class. In any combined movement today it must be labor that leads, not the farmer or the petty bourgeois, and once labor enters into independent action, the middle class only can trail along.
A feature of the present movement is that labor is not organizing its own party for power. The government has been astute enough not to drive labor into independent political action. On the one hand, the working class is not accustomed to assuming the initiative in politics, and therefore shows much reluctance in sailing such uncharted seas; on the other hand, once the working man enters politics, he will go the whole way in a determined and extremely militant manner. In the meantime, today, as before, political initiative is left to the middle class, at a time, however, when it feels itself a decadent minority of the people, no longer playing the chief role as heretofore. For this reason, too, the movements of the middle class contain a certain pacifist and persuasive character and concentrate entirely upon legislation and parliamentary activity. The cowardly petty bourgeoisie does not dare to shake its fist at the wealthy, and there is no organized labor movement for it to crush. It drifts aimlessly, a heterogeneous herd under the crook of demagogic shepherds.
The first of these shepherds is a priest, Father Coughlin. The trouble with this world, according to Coughlin, is that there is not enough silver in America. If we had more silver, money would be cheaper, prices would rise, and prosperity would return. Thus Coughlin advocates that particular form of inflation which would enable his sponsor, William Randolph Hearst, and other silver mine owners, to raise the value of their mine capital. At the same time, it would enable the Shrine of the Little Flower to cash in heavily on the silver speculation in which it had indulged.
This demand for cheaper money is one which the middle classes have always stressed in periods of falling prices, when they have to pay their debts with goods, the prices of which have fallen. It seems to these panting harts that the monetary pools for which they have been thirsting have been drained by the monopolist. The State will not print more money, so that from the reservoirs of the printing press the pecuniary lakes may be refilled and all may quench their thirst. The lower middle class does not wish to realize that before it can get money it must sell goods; before it can sell goods, the world must want them, and that production of big business has reached a point where the wares of little business are worthless. The petty proprietors imagine their labor valuable; if they cannot secure cash for it, they mean to overthrow the gold reality and to substitute for it their paper-money dreams. Because they lack money they believe there is a general lack of money, and they call on the State to fill this void of nature. Of course, the quantity of money in the country remains the same, and its amount in circulation might even be larger in periods of depression than in periods of prosperity, only the money, alas, is not going their way!
The insolvency of bankers who cannot pay in gold for the paper notes they have issued, the bankruptcy of local communities which are compelled to issue “scrip money” for a time, the reversion of petty producers in some parts of the country to schemes of direct barter, all these things add to the belief of the middle class that the ills of society are due to the methods of circulation and finance rather than to the capitalist mode of production. Storekeepers, salesmen, clerks who produce nothing, they live in a world of exchange; naturally they must seek their panaceas there.
The program of Father Coughlin’s Union of Social Justice, while it calls for a nationalization of banking for the purpose of insuring a steady currency for the middle class, is careful not to advocate the national ownership of any other economic function. (*2) By no means would Coughlin, living under the shadow of Henry Ford’s plants in Detroit, dare to advocate the nationalization of industrial property. Thus Coughlin is willing to attack Wall Street (and the Jew) and offer a demagogic program tempting to the Middle West, while he cleverly diverts the attention of these people from their own enemies at home, the big metal industrialists, the Fords, the McCormacks, the Cranes, et al., with their high prices for machinery and metal products and their low prices for all things farmers and workers sell. In this separation of finance from industry, Father Coughlin shows himself an apt pupil of Hitler, as he does in his abstract declamations that human rights are to be preferred to property rights, that, in time of war, wealth should be conscripted, that private property should be controlled for the public good, and similar empty phrases that can mean anything to anybody and which are designed to attract every discordant group.
The Union of Social Justice has as one of its principles the “simplification of government.” This “simplification” can imply only a fascist orientation. Certainly the fascist movements of Italy and Germany are “simple” if anything. At the top is the Grand Council of the Party which is led by the leader and whose words are law. Could anything be more simple than this? Father Coughlin here insinuates an ideology suitable for dictatorial movements contriving to end the “complicated” liberal-democratic check-and-balance system in the United States.
In his labor policy, Coughlin calls for the placing of the labor unions under government protection. In other words, while he will not nationalize the property of Henry Ford, he would nationalize the labor unions, regiment them and discipline them under the whip of the State. The existing trade unions, of course, would be broken up and in their places would be established the vertical unions of General Hugh Johnson of conscription fame. At the same time, to throw a sop to the middle class and to show his humanitarianism, Father Coughlin comes out for a living annual wage for all, although what that means and how that is to be obtained, nobody knows.
We can sum up the program of Father Coughlin by pointing out that in general outline it offers a collectivism based upon the middle class, one which can be used by the large industrialists in their fight for open dictatorship should the need arise. While Father Coughlin does not preach violence, this is no criterion as to his actions in the future. We have already seen that the church plays its best role in time of war by projecting peace until the fighting starts. Similarly we have seen that in Italy and Germany the peaceful Catholic and Christian unions quickly lent themselves to the violent schemes of the fascists the moment the time was ripe. It is true that Father Coughlin can be no serious menace to the United States. No Catholic, and above all, no priest, can lead politics in this country. None the less, he has played an important preliminary part for the more serious fascist movements that are to come. (*3)
The most militant of the middle class agitation has been the “Share the Wealth” movement, formerly headed by Huey Long, and still strong in the Southwest. This movement, like all the others, also has “a plan,” a blue print to appeal to reason and a sense of justice. Naively, it barges along with absolutely no conception of the impossibility of burdening business with its schemes of justice without serious militant struggle. The slogan, “Share the Wealth,” is typically American and describes accurately the exact process of statecraft which has characterized America from its very beginning. Here the ruling class did not win power by vast armies and physical control. What they did was really to “Share the Wealth.” Wealth was so abundant in this country that the masses of people could not be prevented from putting their fingers into the general pie and drawing out some of the plums for themselves. The wealthy were not envied because the others also had their modest moiety; the rich were not opposed because they were smart enough to part with a portion of resources and wealth of the country in favor of the mass of petty proprietors. The slogan of “Share the Wealth,” therefore, is an admirable one to catch the middle class in America.
The plan of Huey Long (*4) calls for the elimination of poverty by providing that every deserving family shall share in the wealth of America for not less than one-third of the average wealth, thereby , to possess not less than five thousand dollars free of debt. Fortunes are to be limited to a few million dollars maximum, or to such a level as would yet allow American people to share in the wealth and produce of the land. Old- age pensions of thirty dollars a month are to be given to those who possess less than ten thousand dollars in cash, or earn less than one thousand dollars a year.
Together with this program go demands to limit the workday so as to prevent overproduction and to give the workers of America some share in the recreation, conveniences, and luxuries of life. The veterans of America’s wars are to be well taken care of. Taxation will be based upon the large fortunes of the wealthy. Nor is the farmer forgotten. Just as Coughlin calls for a “fair price” to be given to the farmer above the cost of production, so Huey Long advocates the need of “balancing” agricultural production with what can be sold and consumed according to the laws of God.
The “Share the Wealth” movement, appealing for a drastic redistribution of wealth, has never stopped to consider that the laws of distribution are intimately connected with the mode of production. No family that is permitted to have five thousand dollars free of debt ever can be induced to work for the coal, steel, or automobile barons, or to sweat away their lives for the profit of others. Should everyone possess five thousand dollars, it would immediately mean the richest flowering out of all sorts of independent petty businesses. Work in the large-scale factories would be abandoned and the owners of these, in turn, would be compelled either to move their capital elsewhere or to introduce far greater machinery than ever before. Furthermore, the competition in the new industries that would arise would soon lead to the same situation of bankruptcy on the one hand and monopoly on the other as had already evolved.
It is interesting to compare the Huey Long program with that of the Jacobins in the French Revolution. Both wanted to reduce the power of the rich and to equalize wealth. But what a difference between their equalizations! Whereas to the French peasant, equality meant all would have the necessities and none the luxuries, to the American petty bourgeoisie, all are to have not only the necessities but all the comforts which ordinary work can not bring. The French peasants wanted merely to be let alone. Their confiscation of bourgeois property was a war emergency measure. The Americans invidiously want to “soak the rich.”
The planning of Huey Long is typical of petty bourgeois scheming from another angle. Whereas the Marxist proved that revolution is a product of misery-should there be no hunger and slaughter, there would be no revolution-the petty bourgeois thinks of the revolution as a result of envy. It is not that he is driven to starvation, but that others have more; I asked to fight not because the practical present is unbearable but because of some shimmering Garden of Eden that will be his in the future. Thus the petty bourgeois conception is that revolutions come about not through deprivation but through the desire to obtain more; not through hunger, but through appeals to cupidity and acquisitiveness. If the source of proletarian motivation is the stomach, that of the petty bourgeoisie is the spleen and gall bladder.
This petty bourgeois conception of revolution has also been adopted by the official Communist Parties which call upon the American people to observe the wonders of Russia. These Stalinists are sure that, having gazed upon the Elysian gardens that exist six thousand miles away, American people will take up arms and overthrow the government. Such stupidity fits in well with the Russian nationalism of the communists; it has nothing whatever to do with a realistic analysis of how revolutions come about. If America experiences a social revolution it will be not because conditions are good in Russia, but because they are wretched in America. Masses do not give up their lives for foreign dreams; they build barricades when life becomes unbearable.
Of course, the “Share the Wealth” program also attempts to cater specifically to every division of the middle class, the declassed soldier, those hit heavily by taxes, the farmer who is being ruined, and the formerly comfortably placed middle class now squeezed out of its business by the crisis.
The third movement that has embraced millions of middle class is that led by Dr. Townsend. His “plan” also calls for giving something for nothing to those who have nothing after a lifetime of toil. The Townsend Plan would hand out to all old people over sixty years of age a pension of two hundred dollars a month, all of which must be spent within a month. Thus the Townsend Plan is not an old-age pension scheme of ordinary cloth, but is woven with the shuttle of grandiose utopianism. Here the unique idea seems to be that the old are worth more than the young, and those who can do no work deserve far more than those who toil. Another stupendous conception is that by means of this redistribution of wealth, industry will be stimulated, a purchasing market will be created, and factories will boom again. Here, again, we see that the petty bourgeoisie tackles the problem from the sphere of distribution rather than the sphere of production. Another little Red Riding Hood, Townsend cannot believe that modern capitalism is the big bad wolf whose teeth are sharp, “the better to eat you with, my dear,” but to him it is a good, kindly soul that lives for charity and love, especially for the aged and the weak.
Of course it is absurd to believe that the Townsend movement can receive any further consideration than the contemptuous amusement both of the working class and of the wealthy. The value of the grouping consists simply in its insistence on adequate old age pensions. The movement, however, can be toyed with by certain politicians capable of mock solemnity to secure themselves needed votes.
America has never honored its old. It has’ always gloried in the fact that the victory belongs to the youth, continually boasting that it is youthful. It is laughable to imagine that the vigorous, virile, mature producer, slaving in the factory, would be willing to shed blood for a condition whereby he would be granted fifteen dollars a week for his life-taking toil, and the older folks, many of whom have never been in a factory in their lives, would live a life of ease at two hundred dollars a month.
Can it be supposed that the capitalists of America who feel their business choked because of high wages even when they pay the code minimum of fourteen dollars a week will consent to have their corporation taxes raised so as to pay two hundred dollars a month to outcasts of industry? Can it be conceived that, in the jungle of ruthless imperialism in an age of violence, a beatific attitude of Christian love will descend on the low brow of the racketeer and profiteer? What the vigorous and heroic struggles of countless millions of workers were not able to attain, surely the pathetic smiles and persuasive phrases of the broken-down and aged will not be able to win. Even if two hundred dollars were given every aged couple, can anyone believe that they would permit their children to work and sweat their lives away in factories for one-fourth of the sum that they are given free? Would they not quickly take their children out of the productive processes, thereby leading to the same situation that we have explained in analyzing the program of Huey Long?
But enough of these hospital utopias fit for the sick and the broken-down. These embittered weaklings are incapable of the slightest shadow of an idea that, if they are going to redistribute the wealth, perhaps at least the producer should keep the product of his toil, or at least the worker should get the two hundred dollars monthly or the five thousand dollars yearly that is to be handed out to “revive the market.” Here is the secret of the fascist tendencies of these middle class movements. They want the workers to keep on slaving but for their benefit, rather than that of the bourgeoisie. They would enrich themselves, but entirely ignore the claims of the working class. On the other side, the workers know that these miserable movements can raise nothing but hilarious contempt.
It is not only the aged and home-loving elements of the middle class that prepare their utopian schemes of the millennium. The section that is active in production also has its schemes, well illustrated by the fad of technocracy that at one time swept into great popularity in the United States. The leaders of the technocratic movement were engineers nursing a grievance. They believed that they were responsible for all inventions and progress of industry and that to them belonged the leadership of the productive system. Thus, they referred in their plans to a line of argument very reminiscent of the utopians of the style of Saint-Simon and Robert Owen. Characteristically enough, the movement received inspiration from the works of Professor Thorstein Veblen who, in turn, was inspired by the utopian, Edward Bellamy. (*5)
In the latter part of the nineteenth century, Edward Bellamy wrote his utopia, Looking Backward. It purported to be a description of America as it would be in the twenty-first century. Looking back from the twenty-first century, the historian analyzes the criminality and waste and foolishness of the capitalism of Bellamy’s time. Typically American, Bellamy idealized common sense of which the future utopia was simply the realization. By the twenty-first century everything was to be run by machinery and science. There would remain no exploitation, waste, anarchy and chaos, but a planned economy with plenty and prosperity for all.
Bellamy differed from all other utopians who had tended to look backward rather than forward, and who had called for a return to conditions similar to the Middle Ages where there would be no machinery but the crafts and skills of old, and where love and responsibility would prevail. Instead of relying on religion, Bellamy leaned on science and made machinery the archstone of a new social order. Here, again, Bellamy was the typical American who had no choice other than to rest his production on machinery, and who was not affected by the feudal conditions of the past. How different was this from the utopia of William Morris’ News From Nowhere, put out in England about the same time; or from the esthetic gentility and refined socialism of John Ruskin and Oscar Wilde! (*6)
Deeply moved by this utopia, Thorstein Veblen developed his theories criticizing the capitalist system and calling on the scientists and engineers to change it. Exceedingly bitter was Veblen against the waste that prevailed on every side and for which the capitalists were to blame. In his book, Theory of the Leisure Class, Veblen elaborated the point that conspicuous waste and exemption from useful work were the chief qualities by which the ruling class advertised their superiority to the world. So bitter was he that he could actually write that the killing of officers of the army in wartime was a positive boon to humanity since it removed from the earth a large number of useless wastrels and parasites. (*7) In line with his iconoclastic thinking, Veblen assailed absentee ownership, attempting to show that active competition and business enterprise were entirely opposed to each other, the business men by the very nature of their urge for profit constantly driving towards monopoly. (*8)
In his economic thinking, Veblen drew a sharp distinction between business and industry, between pecuniary occupations and productive ones. True to petty bourgeois type, Veblen would not and could not link theories of prices and profits with theories of production. He came to advocate the thesis that depressions arise not from the accumulations of capital and the mode of production, but from the method of the functioning of credit and money. Thus, with his lopsided economic thinking, Veblen laid the base for the programs of those who sympathize with Hitler, who uses the same approach.
In his other works, Veblen praised the instinct of workmanship to be found among the workers, and, as he attacked the vested interests, he urged the engineers to do away with the system of profit which sabotaged and destroyed all science. (*9) The engineers should take over the industrial system. Then we would have a world based on science, a world without money.
As an economist, Veblen threw the orthodox professors into confusion by taking the points which they upheld and then proving the opposite. While the regulars were declaring that business stood for competition, Veblen showed that business demanded collusion; while they hailed the productive power of wealth, Veblen pointed out that wealth sabotaged production; while they affirmed that capital was not only money but goods or stored up labor, Veblen demonstrated that capital could not be machinery; while they praised the role of credit, Veblen asserted that credit only meant inflation which raised the cost of living and threw the burden on the backs of the poor.
Although Veblen proclaimed that economic advancement lay in the release of the potentialities of technical proficiency for purposes of production, his own positive program was exceedingly vague. He was unable to take the Marxist position. (*10)
In their discontent and critique of the capitalist system, the engineers who had been thrown out of employment during the depression were able to expose some startling facts about capitalist evolution. They showed, for example, that; If t equals time, energy has grown to curve t8, debt to t4, production to t3, populations to t2, man hours per unit output to minus t4. (*11) Translated into everyday language this means, first of all, that there has accrued under capitalism an enormous development of power and energy that ought to be used. If the criterion of civilization is a materialist one, namely, how much matter can man move with a given quantum of energy in a given time—or, to put it another way, how much horsepower per capita is there in the country—then the modern world was immensely superior to every social system that had gone before. Indeed, so wildly had power been generated that no longer could capitalism control it; the social order was choking the forces of production and the technical development. The technocrats completed their survey by an exhaustive study of waste under capitalism.
The school of engineers was thoroughly familiar with the fact that America had entered into the era of tremendous super-corporations and trusts, the management of which was entirely divorced from the owners, the industrial concerns being repeatedly looted by the parasitic “old men of the sea,” on the boards of directors. (*12) They understood well that already in America corporations were dominating all forms of life, and pointed out that two hundred of the largest non-banking corporations had assets of eighty-one billion dollars in 1930, or half of the corporate wealth of the United States. (*13) But even this did not reveal the true situation, since many of these companies were owned or controlled by others in the same group. “Approximately two thousand men were directors of the two hundred largest corporations in 1930. Since an important number of these are inactive, the ultimate control of nearly half of industry was actually in the hands of a few hundred men.” (*14)
Such an analysis was bound to question whether a corporation was any longer to be considered a private enterprise or whether it was not an institution whose social evolution could not be stopped. The large corporations were constantly growing over the small ones through the methods of merger and the issuance of more stock and by their ability to keep a larger share of the profits and to reinvest in industry. “In conclusion, then, the huge corporation, the corporation with ninety million dollars of assets or more, has come to dominate most major industries if not all industry in the United States; a rapidly increasing proportion of industry is carried on under this form of organization. There is apparently no immediate limit to its increase. It is coming more and more to be the industrial unit with which American economic, social and political life must deal.” (*15)
The engineers of a socialistic mind could not help but know that as the corporations advanced to such tremendous size, an increasing proportion of goods produced by a given corporation was produced not for sale but for use in its own connected plants; thus there was a growing tendency in certain industries to end the cheating and adulteration to be found in normal trade and to insist on high standards of quality of goods. Here, then, was a sort of socialism within one corporation which did away with the evils of competitive capitalism to a considerable extent. If this could be done in one corporation, why could it not be done in all industry? Such engineers also noticed that of all the corporations, those which were public utilities were growing faster than all; thus they were induced inevitably to work out plans by which all corporations would have the character of a public utility, and the State itself would take a firm hand in insisting on production for use and not for profit.
The engineer no longer could be the partner or even the servant of the capitalist, but his enemy, since capitalism opposed everything that the engineer stood and fought for, and choked the development of science on every side. Under capitalism, while there was literally plenty for everyone, the masses of people, including hundreds of thousands of engineers, were starving.
In his critical analysis of the production system, the technocrat, with all his professional gibberish, was only parroting the line of thought which the Marxist had worked out long before, his own contribution being a concrete arithmetical analysis of present-day American society which had not been made by the socialists. However, technocracy was more than a critique of economy from the point of view of the engineer. It was above all a bid for power and a political program. The technocrat, like the typical utopian, believed that all that was needed was to work out “a plan,” then to prove its reasonableness by scientifically showing how the workings of the present system had led to chaos, waste, and destruction. Thus the technocrat was really a rationalist, and showed that he had not as yet emerged from the chrysalis of the college classroom to know the meaning of life. Precisely this fact demonstrated the impossibility of giving the engineer any power whatsoever.
Of course, it was not true that the engineer was responsible for all the advances of industry. The figures of the Patent Office of the United States bear witness a thousand times that it is far more often the actual worker at the machine who makes improvements that are seized by the corporations and capitalized for their benefit. Even when the individual inventor is an engineer, or, better still, even where the engineers gather together in collective research under the aegis of some corporation or government, the important inventions produced are not the work of this narrow professional class alone, but are the culmination of all the experiments and labors of all society, especially the working class.
In America most of all has the gap been closed between the workers and the professional men. There is no country in the world where the working class is so developed in technical culture, where so many have finished high school and know the principles of physical science as intimately as here. It is no accident that in America the most efficient corporations choose their leading staff from the ranks of the workmen. Nor is it an accident that these same corporations insist that the college boy technicians who come to them must learn from the workers the practical handling of machinery by starting from the bottom. The working class long ago emancipated itself from the myth that it is the small staff of engineers from which all production flows.
But the technocrat does not wish to give any credit to the laborer. As a professional man he looks with great disdain on the common variety of worker. He refuses to believe that a new order of planned production will come about only through the misery of the poorest layers of the population and not through the daydreams of the discontented, disemployed professional. Sitting in his ivory tower, he supposes that reason and intellect move the world, not the passion and material interests of the proletariat. This almost starving secondary servant of big business compensates himself for his destitution by grandiose dreams of power realized by remote control.
The technocrat may well be fooled by pretending that when technocracy gets into power, the engineer, with his big scientific."planned economy,” will really control industry and government. In his hatred of the workers, he isolates himself from all the mass movements of the day. In his rational appeal he ties himself to the petty bourgeois utopian and flees the class struggle. Thus the technocrat, drawing distinctions between finance and industry, shows himself closer to Fordism than to Marxism, and lends himself openly to agencies of fascism.
The Right Wing of technocracy rests its head on the shoulders of fascistic Fordism; there is also a Left Wing that leans on the workers. It is composed of a group of engineers and writers who sympathize with socialism and desire to fuse both movements into one. Wherever there is a conflict, however, between socialism and technocracy, such persons, as for example, Max Eastman, insist they are Left Wing technocrats rather than Marxists, and prefer the utopian planners, the pragmatists and the Veblens, to the communists. In practical political life, this type has synchronized its rhythms with the utopian movement of Upton Sinclair and with such “Left Wing” governmental planners as Mr. Hopkins, unemployment relief head.
Among the large industrialists, fascist tendencies are naturally finding a foothold. An interesting example is Henry Ford. Henry Ford started out as a pacifist, adopting the point of view that war can bring no benefit to humanity and that it does not pay. In spite of that, however, Ford is an ardent believer in destiny, not only for the individual but for the nation. “The whole secret of a successful life is to find out what it is one’s destiny to do, and then do it.” (*16) It was simply Ford’s destiny to be a manufacturer of automobiles rather than a militarist, but should America’s destiny compel the use of military force, say to prevent the seizure of Henry Ford’s many factories abroad, there is no question that Ford would ardently support such destiny and turn out numbers of airplanes for the combat. The pacifism of the American business man, it must be repeated, comes from the fact that American liberalism has entered late into the field of world affairs and relies on its economic might to conquer that which the others seized by means of force.
Mr. Ford, being the most outstanding independent industrialist, has naturally developed a sharp antagonism to the financiers and money lenders, and thus has also taken to anti-Semitism. Such views fit in heartily with the theories of the middle class, especially of the West, which blames Wall Street and stock speculation especially for all its ills. Ford is against parasitic capital. He is against consumption as an end in life. He is for production as a sort of religion stimulating the community for improvement. He is for the organization of the United States so that work and order and science will penetrate every part of the country.(*17)
There is no doubt but that Ford would like to see the whole country organized in the same magnificent way that he has organized factories. He can become an excellent supporter of the fascist movement in the United States. He knows how to cover the ruthless operation of his plants with all sorts of theories, even including one that workmen are right in resisting scientific management when they feel that they are being transformed into machines themselves. (*18) Organized planning, scientific co-ordination, idealization of work, division of proceeds, universal pacifism, and a United States of the World, these are theories of Ford that may well be incorporated into American fascism.
In the intellectual world, the trends towards fascist collectivism, preaching the control by the State of the whole competitive system and embellished with the claptrap so prevalent now in Europe, are progressing on every side. It should be borne in mind that, there being no traditions of feudal aristocracy of any importance in America, the fascists of tomorrow must come from the ranks of those who are the liberals of today. It is indeed the very people who claim to be ardent liberals who do most to pave the way for fascism. This can be seen in practical government politics also.
In the professional world, the liberal Charles A. Beard has now written a whole series of tomes that tend towards fascism. In his The Idea of National Interest, (*19) Beard makes a thorough analysis of the American investments abroad and then comes to the conclusion, in his supplemental book, The Open Door at Home, that the way forward for America is not by increasing the international co-operation of one country with another, but by returning to the policy of isolation hallowed by Washington. “By withdrawing from the war of trade and huckstering, by avoiding the hateful conflicts of passionate acquisition in Europe and the Orient, by offering to exchange goods for honest goods without employing any engines of coercion, by using its own endowment wisely and efficiently, it could really make its diplomacy the diplomacy of ‘the good neighbor’ as distinguished from the diplomacy of the dollar, the navy, and the marines.” (*20)
Behind this apparent pacifism lies an important appreciation of the unique methods of work of American capitalism. As we have repeatedly asserted already, the American ruling class stands to win world power above all not by the use of its military might, but by the tremendous energy of its economics. Already a good portion of the world intimately depends upon the wealth and trade of the productive system of America. Were America to withdraw in any sense from world affairs, it would mean the collapse of whole countries abroad. This collapse may induce a communist revolution; for this reason, the American business element has been so careful to refrain from pressing its demands for payments of debts due it, etc.; and was so generous in helping Europe immediately after the War. On the other hand, the collapse of certain other countries would take the form of compelling them to beg with hat in hand for further continuance of support and to place themselves completely under the dominion of the American colossus. Should Europe be engaged in war, for example, there is no question but that this would be the probable result in Central and South America.
Apparently aping the communist successes in Russia, Beard also proposes, in his America Faces the Future, a five-year plan for the United States, calling for a National Economic Council which would repeal the Anti-Trust Acts, a National Board of Strategy composed of engineers and functioning like the War Industries Board. This Board of Strategy would co-operate with the Bureau of Standards. In all this, Beard shows himself far closer to Mussolini’s schemes than to Russian communism, and significantly enough, he has become a supporter of features of the New Deal.
To conclude, the views of Beard play directly into the hands of those who stand for fascist schemes of autarchy, self-sufficiency, complete preparedness for war, and who at the same time can use this ideology to increase American imperialist power.
In part of Beard’s book, America Faces the Future, another writer points out that, while it is estimated the Tennessee hill-billy spends $2.40 to produce a bushel of wheat, the poor plains farmer about $2.00, and the skilled farmer about $1.00, the big farms can produce a bushel now at forty cents; so that if wheat sells for seventy-five cents a bushel, all the farmers must lose except the most advanced factory farms. It is the opinion of this writer that only such farms should prevail. But when he comes to a positive solution of what to do with the other farmers and their families who would be thrown off the land, all that the author can advocate is to deport all aliens, to build big public works, and to shorten the work day. No doubt this, too, could well fit in with American fascist planning. (*21)
The liberal, John Dewey, also seems to be changing his liberalism in a direction that fascism might welcome. In his recent book, Liberalism and Social Action, Dewey admits that liberalism has had a chequered career and that it has meant in practice things so different as to be opposed to one another. The liberal of today must restate the ideas of liberty. A new adjustment must be made, and liberalism is created for just that purpose of adjustment. Today we need a radical change. Renascent liberalism stands for organized planning. (*22) Liberty now means liberty from insecurity and he who brings security brings liberty. But the fascist also claims to bring security; is there not the danger of new oppressive measures? John Dewey, as though in reply, emphasizes that “liberty in the concrete signifies release from the impact of past oppressive forces … " (*23) Is it not clear that liberalism is now preparing itself to be the midwife to American organized and fascistic capitalism?
In jurisprudence, the activities of the sociological school, especially some of the theories of the “engineering interpretation” of Roscoe Pound and others, lend themselves to a great growth of State authority, and could easily be part of the fascistic scheme. This school of legal thinkers has always been a follower of pragmatism and therefore quite capable of interpreting truth according to its “cash benefits." (*24) Similarly, sociologists who stem from Lester Ward’s “sociocracy,” historians who follow Seligman’s “economic interpretation” and pragmatists who look like materialists, in short, all these chickens offering substitutes for socialism naturally form fine ideological prototypes for the fascist birds of prey.
In the delicate and dilettante artistic world, similar drifts are making their way, as is witnessed in the writings of Lewis Mumford who believes that we should turn back to the romanticism of the past and that “The fact is that an elaborate mechanical organization is often a temporary and expensive substitute for an effective social organization or for a sound biological adaptation." (*25)
It was not only the engineer who turned to plans of production during the period of depression; there were also middle class elements dabbling with the problem of unemployment who busied themselves with utopia building. An example was Upton Sinclair’s “Epic” campaign ---- "Epic" meant: End Poverty in California.
Sinclair proposed to have the State of California take over idle farms and factories and work them with the unemployed. Owners were supposed to receive a “fair rental” for their property. Products were to be sold at cost and distributed under State supervision. Here, then, was to be formed a State within a State, a Nirvana for the unemployed permanently removed from competition. The means to obtain this limbo, of course, were appeals to reason and parliamentary electioneering. That Sinclair, like Long, Townsend, and Coughlin, received the hearty endorsement of literally millions of people shows how politically immature and groping the masses are in America.
It is not hard to prove the complete impracticability of Sinclairs planning under the present capitalist system. Just when markets are hard enough to obtain, Upton Sinclair would reduce them practically by half by having the unemployed workers produce for their own needs, and consume the products. Under such conditions, how possibly could capitalism ever revive and the factories privately owned open up again?
Furthermore, the plan calls for payment of a “fair rental” to landlords. This payment could be made only by selling the goods thus created, the factories run by the unemployed and the State entering into direct competition with private industry. Such competition, in turn, would produce another surplus of goods and result either in throwing other workers out of work or in the State’s factories’ losing out and closing down again. Besides, there are the raw materials that must be purchased, unless the State is to nationalize the natural resources and hand them over free to the unemployed. In that case there would be increased taxation to pay the former owners for the deprivation of their property and the crisis would be still further intensified.
If the unemployed were put to work in factories, naturally the factories would have to be equipped with the most modern machinery, unless the unemployed were to be compelled to use antiquated machinery which would increase costs and drown the workers in an economic Sargasso Sea. Simultaneously, were the unemployed to enter into competition with private industry, they would have to work under the same conditions as the other workers, and thus repeat anew the very causes leading to unemployment. On the other hand, why should the workers in private industry be ruthlessly exploited and the unemployed permanently take it easy? Such contradictions could not possibly be tolerated for long. Furthermore, if the unemployed can work for themselves, why not the other workers? Why should not the State take over all the factories and put all on the same basis as those operated by the unemployed? The favors of a benign socialistic regime could not be restricted forever to but a portion of the population.
Upton Sinclair did not openly propose to introduce socialism or to turn over all the factories to the workers, but merely to execute some plan of State capitalism that would keep the unemployed productive; nevertheless, capitalism could tolerate his utopianism as little as it could stand the real socialism itself.
However, Sinclair’s utopia was not far removed from the “plan” of certain figures in the “brain trust” gathered by the Roosevelt administration. The ideas of Harry L. Hopkins, Chief of the Unemployed Relief Division of the Federal Government, only repeated in another form the utopian vagaries of Louis Blanc and his confreres of 1848. Other Roosevelt advisers, like Rex Tugwell, have openly manifested their support of the technocratic movement and its revival of the cult of Veblenism.(*26)
The fact is that the State must shun as a plague any attempt to mobilize the unemployed in competition with private capitalism, since this would be a mortal body blow to the present order. Therefore, the government must take the millions of unemployed and put them to work on the most secondary and inconsequential functions, such as picking up papers from the streets, making toboggan slides in parks, causing the entire population to look upon the projects with the greatest disgust as the quintessence of uselessness. It will be recalled that the French Government had similarly operated Louis Blanc’s plan with the deliberate intention of so discrediting the work relief that the middle class would favor its abolition. The Roosevelt regime is working objectively in the same direction.
The government is compelled to act thus by the pressure of its big business critics. It does not dare to have the unemployed carpenter work at his trade, the tailor make clothes, or the weaver produce cloth; this would mean the erection of a complete system of economy in rivalry with private business, and could be accomplished only through a political revolution. The relatively useless compulsory labor to which the mass of unemployed have been put is in harmony with the other destructive processes inaugurated by Roosevelt,—the plowing under of crops, the wholesale slaughter of pigs, the bonuses for reduction of production, etc. The planned economy of capitalism must be not on a plan of plenty, but on a plan of organized scarcity and of an artificially stimulated increase of profits.
Of course, the government agents are not the naive radicals of the Sinclair type. When they advocate a reconstitution of the federal system for the unemployed under government control, they have in mind, doubtless, that the future of America inevitably lies in the direction of a regimentation of the workers under barrack-like discipline, supervised by the State. These views, hallowed by the ideals of Plato’s Republic and bejeweled with scintillating socialistic phrases, in fact drift directly in the direction already being pursued in Italy, Germany, and other fascist countries.
The unemployed, too, have had their day of utopian planning. On the West Coast of the United States, for example, they believed that throwing away the money system and reverting to barter would solve the complicated problems of the day. And for a time the barter idea spread like fire. There was plenty of noise but little improvement. Such schemes could come only from people with a backwoods tradition. They could not secure any following among those acquainted with large-scale industry.
The utopianism of the petty bourgeoisie has been brought directly into the ranks of the working class by the Socialist and Communist Parties in the United States. This serves as another indication that these Parties are only middle class bodies having really nothing to do with the interests of the workers. Witness the character of their unemployed programs which are founded on the slogan, “We want work.” The socialist and communist officials, most of whom themselves have probably never worked in factories in their lives, all agree on the urgent need to demand work for the rest of the workers and insist that this is the way out of the crisis. Some of them are motivated by the fact that if the unemployed are put to work the latter can pay dues and there will be more funds for wages for the bureaucracy. Loafers themselves, they grow indignant at the thought that the workers might want rest and the right to be lazy.
The slogan “We want work” is a perfectly safe one and is very convenient for the fascists who, with Mussolini and Hitler, also idealize labor as the most ennobling activity and denounce as outrageous a program where the workers eat without slaving daily. Certainly the master can never object when his slave devotedly insists that all he wants is to continue to work for the benefit of the master and to place his whole life at the service of the capitalist. The fascists are quite ready to give the workers work—on the chain gang and through compulsory labor service. While the rulers cannot give adequate unemployment insurance they can certainly give work to all, if not in the factories, then in the concentration camps, on military projects, and in the army. In Germany, the communists who shouted, “We want work,” now have their wish amply fulfilled under the Nazis.
Thus the slogan “We want work” plays directly into the hands of the master class, since every bit of work that the workers do must yield a profit and thus increase the power and stability of the rulers. It is not work that the capitalists fear. It is the class struggle. But it is precisely the class struggle that the socialists and communists play down. They do not demand that the capitalists be hanged from the lamp-posts for their conspiracy against the people in wantonly closing down their factories. They do not call for the confiscation of the factories, because of sabotage and destruction of goods by the owners. They do not raise the demand that the factories belong to the workers who produced them. In short, they do not call for socialism; they ask only, in the most servile and abject manner, that the workers be put to work.
The slogan “We want work” draws attention away from the main problem, namely, an understanding of the system of capitalist production and how to liquidate its contradictions. The workers are made to idealize the wages system and become blinded to the fact that unemployment has arisen precisely because of the continued labor under capitalist direction, and that just before every epoch of unemployment we have a period of feverish activity, where everyone is working full speed. It is because everyone is working at top speed, turning over to the private owners of industry a vast amount of goods which they cannot sell, that we have the present unemployment and overproduction.
In short, the trouble is not that labor has been lazy or inefficient or non-productive or that more work is needed in order to prevent crises or to mitigate them. Quite the contrary, the crisis is caused by the overproduction of goods, by the tremendous productivity of labor which capitalist relations cannot handle. Shouting “We want work,” the socialists and communists cannot emphasize the elementary fact that the crisis is due to overproduction and the extra hard work of labor, but instead, must tend to throw the blame upon the working class rather than upon the capitalist, since they assert more work and not higher standards would relieve society of the present congestion of goods.
In this respect, the conservative A. F. of L. has been far more revolutionary than the communists. The unions have constantly threatened to strike unless union rates be paid on unemployment projects. Realistically, they insist on maintaining their standards rather than demand work at any pay whatsoever. While the A. F. of L. declares its members will not work unless certain minimum conditions are granted, the communists actually have demanded that the government set a minimum number of hours, not less than thirty, at which all unemployed shall be compelled to work! (*27)
Operating under the slogan of “We want work,” the workers tend to forget that all the factories in the country owe their existence to labor, and that whatever labor gets in relief or unemployment insurance really comes from what labor has produced previously. They are made to feel that relief or insurance given them without working for it is like charity, as though the State were handing them something for nothing. The proletariat, therefore, is asked to give up all claims to the factories and goods which it has produced and, if the unemployed insist they must eat, then it seems they should be compelled to build up new factories or make new stuff. According to the communists, apparently, the trouble with the United State’s is that the country has not enough factories, dams and highways, and urgently needs more at once, or the people will starve!
No wonder the middle class movements of Townsend, Long, and Coughlin do not fight for labor when labor cannot fight for itself. At least the middle class demands a better distribution of wealth; all that the wage slaves demand is—more work.
The demand “We want work,” implies that it is great to have a job and wonderful to return to the old state of affairs that existed in 1929 and previously. Thus the workers are now in a position of demanding with the communists the return of “the good old days” when everyone was working, thus hiding the true conditions under which labor operated even in 1929. Furthermore, if jobs at private industry are so fine, why should strikes be tolerated? (*28) The unemployed should form long queues outside of every factory competing for employment, thus acting as a club in the hands of the employers to batter down the conditions of those actually at work and to destroy labor organizations. The unemployed, however, instinctively have refused to carry out the logic of the position offered them by their socialist and communist misleaders. The strike demonstrations that have taken place recently have been remarkable in the complete solidarity which the employed and unemployed have displayed together.
Naturally, those who shout for work cannot object if they are put to work constructing military roads, improving naval stations, building battle ships, preparing for war. Nor can they complain too much of the pay and working conditions since they ought to be glad to get a job. If they insist on work they cannot at the same time throw their energies into strikes or class struggles. Thus the socialist and communist forces have become instruments chaining the workers to the present system.
These parties have become ardent supporters of the basic principles behind the present administration’s work relief plans, criticizing the projects only on the ground that there are not enough of them and that they are temporary. They are quite satisfied with the character of the projects, defending their social usefulness, and would consider it ideal were their members to become permanent pensioners on an eternal State. This would indeed be the American substitute for Stalin’s “socialism in one country.” (*29)
American communists carefully refrain from calling on the workers not to work under capitalist control, since the capitalists are responsible for the crisis and all capitalist control leads to destructive activity, not construction of the nation. So long as they are paid to work, apparently they do not care that capitalism has paid billions for the destruction of crops, the wasting of soil, the rotting of the products, the rusting of machinery, the wanton killing of animals, etc. Praising the State for its constructive projects, these groups, for thirty pieces of silver, conceal the basic fact that today the State’s chief function is war and destruction, not aid to old ladies crossing the street.
The socialists and communists demonstrate the complete degeneration prevailing in the ranks of the movements that have sprung from liberalism. The workers of America have indeed shown their good common sense and virility in avoiding these organizations so patently bankrupt and with policies similar to those which have proven so disastrous to Europe.
With the first advent of imperialism there could, already be discerned in the operations of the government the germination of policies resembling those of fascism. Significantly enough, precisely the more militant liberals develop these new trends. Ever more energetically, the government begins to favor executive and administrative action through boards of health, public utility commissions, boards of engineers, probation commissions, pure food commissions, trade commissions, labor boards, immigration bureaus, etc. (*30)
These policies were aggressively pushed forward by the forceful Theodore Roosevelt who, indeed, furnishes a good political prototype of the future American fascist leader. Theodore Roosevelt was the incarnation of boisterous militancy and lust for power. He started his career with an attack on the graft and corruption in the government, and became police commissioner in New York City, where he vigorously endeavored to reform the police system. In Washington he came out as a patron of the navy. In his foreign policies while President, he showed his “big stick” everywhere, seizing the Panama Canal, energetically entering into the internal affairs of South America and Cuba, intervening in the Russo- Japanese War, and so forth.
Particularly significant were Roosevelt’s views on war. “When men fear work or fear righteous war, when women fear motherhood, they tremble on the brink of doom …." (*31) “To no body of men in the United States is the country so much indebted as to the splendid officers and enlisted men of the regular army and navy.” (*32) “It is only the warlike power of a civilized people that can give peace to the world .” (*33) “We cannot, if we would, play the part of China… in this world the nation that has trained itself to a career of unwarlike and isolated ease is bound, in the end, to go down before other nations which have not lost the manly and adventurous qualities.” (*34) No wonder Theodore Roosevelt and the German Kaiser admired each other.
His social views were characterized by a denunciation of the wastefulness of big business; he emphasized the necessity of the State’s controlling the trusts, and conserving natural resources. In other matters, too, he foreshadowed the European fascists of today, hailing labor as the basis of American life, appealing for large families, (*35) and praising the fighting character. His own personal life was an exemplification of his theories, his will and determination having been sufficient to overcome the handicap of an originally puny body so as to develop him into a rough and burly personality, fond of hunting and warlike pursuits, proud of his Rough-Riders and Cowboys.
Theodore Roosevelt was willing to break precedent and tradition where needed. As police commissioner, he tried to be above parties. (*36) As a politician himself, he formed a new radical “Bull Moose” organization that strove to end the traditional ties of the old parties. His denunciation of the obsolete penetrated even his literary activities, where he appeared as a protagonist for simplified spelling. Theodore Roosevelt was the type of man in politics that Henry Ford could idolize, a man who could get things done, who believed in work and not talk, who was a mine of activity.
Under the liberal Woodrow Wilson, fascistic trends became still further marked, as the State and nation were mobilized for war. A whole series of Boards and State agencies were created to supervise every economic and social function of the people, including a War Industries Board, a War Shipping Board, a Railroad Administration, a Food Administration, a Fuel Administration, State machinery to cover espionage and property of the enemy, a Committee on Public Information, etc. Through the Selective Service Act, thirty-two cantonments and special officers’ camps were erected. Under the Emergency Fleet Corporation, big shipyards—one of them alone, Hog Island, employing three hundred and fifty thousand men—were erected, so that within a year the United States, which had only ninety-four thousand tons of Atlantic shipping in July 1917, had, by December 1, 1918, over three and a quarter million tons, mostly owned by the Federal Government.
Here, then, was a great development of State authority and State capitalism. Once having tasted power, government officials could hardly be expected permanently to be reconciled to its loss after the War. They bided their time. In the meantime, the war machinery of government had grooved the channels and laid out the direction which a corporate or totalitarian State in this country will take. The machinery set up for the exceptional occasion of war, now that war is always near us, can easily become a permanent apparatus to govern the people all the time.
While these tendencies were being developed in the Federal Government, fascist germs were appearing in municipal administrations. Here, too, it was the reform liberal who undertook to inoculate local government with this virus under the guise of improving the old checks-and- balance system of the nineteenth century. The type of city government, then widely in use in the United States, was the mayor-council form in which the legislative and administrative functions were separated. Just as imperialism inaugurated a general blending of government with industrial and financial management, so did this synthesis of power introduce in municipal government the movement for the Commission or the City-Manager form of government. As a transition to these new forms there was developed the “strong-mayor” type of city government where the mayor had considerably greater administrative power than previously. From the “strong mayor” to the City-Manager plan was not much of a jump.
However, the City-Manager plan of government developed from the Commission form of local government rather than from the old mayor-council arrangement. The Commission form of administration had been part of the liberal-radical program to introduce direct methods of popular control, the initiative, referendum, and recall into local government. A small Commission of from three to nine constituted the ruling body, replacing both mayor and council. The commissioners served in a dual capacity; collectively they were a legislative body, individually each was the administrative head of a city department. While this simplified the government, it failed to bring about adequate co-ordination of activity, an administration weakness inherently springing from the diffusion of responsibility among the commissioners. To overcome this defect, the City-Manager plan was adopted, having as its unique feature the appointive executive.
The City-Manager plan fully retained the three integral principles of the Commission plan; namely, the unification of powers, the short ballot, and “non-partisan” elections. There was a small council or commission in which was invested every power of the city, legislative and executive. These councilmen were the only elected officers in the city government and were elected on a ballot that did not permit political party designations. To these principles was added the additional one that the council or commission was required to appoint a chief executive officer, called a City Manager, chosen for his training, ability, and experience, regardless of the local political lineup. Frequently, he came from a distant city. Supposed to be an expert, he was put in full charge, directly responsible to the elected authority.
In the old days, the mayor was considered primarily a good ward politician, that is, a dispenser of patronage rather than an administrator; and with the efficient operation of the “spoils” system, the cities’ treasuries were plundered regularly. While business was good, business men did not complain too much of the wasteful, grafting system that grew up in the cities. With the fall in the rate of profit, however, and the rise of big trusts, the old situation became unbearable. It was big business that took the leading role in municipal reform to drive forward for the City-Manager plan. The haphazard functioning of municipal government also became impossible in the light of the increasing functions which the rapidly growing cities had to perform. Detroit, for example, added 136 new activities in the years between 1910 and 1930, compared to the 147 acquired during the eighty-six years prior to 1910.
The twentieth century business men who had already reorganized industry drew an obvious analogy between industrial corporations and the municipal government, and pressed home their opinion that the city must be managed precisely like a business undertaking of tremendous complexity. Not only must the efficiency of government be increased, but its cost must be reduced. The executive must be completely free from the influence of ward politicians who might be swayed by popular pressure. A centralized city government could also handle union and labor troubles more effectively. Above all, the corporation men hoped to gain control of local affairs by placing their own men in strategic positions as experts. They proposed, then, to handle the city government on the style of a corporation, the City Commission, concentrating executive power in one responsible office, the City Manager, just as a stock corporation chooses a Board of Directors which in turn selects the President or Manager. The City Manager, like the company executive, was to have power to choose most or all of his operating staff, and was responsible to the Board of Directors only for getting results.
The rise of the City-Manager plan is a manifestation in municipal government of the increasing recognition of the technological revolution in industry. It replaces the amateur by the technician who, trained by industry, now organizes and runs the city. Here, on a local scale, it would seem as though the aims of the technocrats have been partially realized; indeed, the City-Manager plan is one of the most advanced points in the movement towards government by expert. In the United States, of the 629 City Managers, 52 per cent have been chosen from responsible business or industrial positions, and are mostly men trained by the trusts.
The City Manager appoints, without regard to political affiliations, competent department heads, supposedly experts like himself. He appoints all of the city officials and employees “subject to civil service regulations,” assigns to each his particular work, and may suspend or dismiss them for proper cause. In this way, with his trained experts around him, he forms his own city “brain trust,” and becomes the autocrat of the city administration. Here is a realization of the strong man ideal on a local scale.
Many cities which did not adopt either the Commission or City-Manager plan of government instead have developed a “strong mayor.” Thus, on every side, the old mayor-and-council scheme is disappearing in favor of centralized action and executive responsibility. From the trusts, the City Manager or “strong mayor” copies plans of rationalization, and introduces into the government machinization, electrification, motorization, new methods of incineration, standardization of tasks, abolition of redundant posts, combining of duties, reduction of wages and salaries, etc. Such a city, while not a corporation City-State, is certainly a City-State run like a corporation.
It is meaningful that the Commission and City-Manager plans come into being as a result of the pitiful inability of the old form to meet critical situations, either national calamities or social disorders. When the government manifested its incompetency in the City of Galveston during the tidal wave of 1900, the electors decided radically to change its structure; similarly after the 1913 flood in Dayton, Ohio. The reform movement was spurred on during the War when the federal government established great army training camps which had all the facilities of modern cities and which were put under the control of practical managers, known as “officers in charge of utilities,” who were often members of the City Managers Association. The City Managers, with their centralized power, also proved well able to handle in a very energetic manner the various phases of war work which they were called upon to do, especially in regard to the fuel question, the housing problem, etc. These emergencies, leading to the termination of the old liberal style of municipal government in favor of the new centralized form, tend to become more frequent in an age of violence and depression.
In all phases of this movement to centralize the powers of the city government, there exists a fertile field for the growth of fascist forms. The fascist doctrine of the centralized State is quite in harmony with the City-Manager theories which give to the whole mechanism of city government that single controlling composite action which fascism finds necessary for its success. In Italy and in Germany the same centralized city government has been created with the head directly appointed by the national authority. In America, with slight changes, pre-war liberal-radicalism can provide the basis for fascist programs of local administration. Already we have certain precedents for such action. In Alaska, for example, the governments of many communities are carried on by United States officers whose duties correspond very closely with those of a city manager. When the Commission plan was adopted in Galveston, three of the five commissioners were appointed by the governor. In Washington, D. C., also there has been a Commission government since 1878, the Commission being appointed by the President and the Senate. Fascism would simply universalize these methods already extant.
It is not merely in the specific form of the administration of local affairs but also in its whole theory that the “strong man” city government and the City-Manager plan fits in well with fascism. In the Commission and City-Manager forms of government there are usually no party lines as such, and the policy is actively carried out that there must be no class alignments in municipal election. Thus, in the important local elections, the workers have found it generally impossible to organize their own class parties separate from the others. This destruction of parliamentary precedents in elections governing the municipality and affecting so much of the people’s actual day-to-day lives leads to the general attitude that parliamentarism, at least in the form of city councils, political party and opposition, are harmful to the community and to society. Such views are part of the tenets of fascism.
It makes no difference that the City-Manager plan was first hailed by liberals and radicals as a reaction to the spoils system of the past. The fact is that the nineteenth century system, even with its ward heelers and graft, was often far more responsive to the ordinary claims of the people in the cities than the City Manager can be, since the ward councilman was much closer to the desires of his neighborhood constituents. Under the City-Manager plan, the control is removed from the many to the few. Naturally, the small controlling Board can be “reached” more easily by big business. It is simpler by far for the trust-trained and dominated councilman to become the controlling influence in a small centralized body with its semi-secret sessions, than could be possible in a larger localized Board of Aldermen of the old type.
It must not be forgotten, too, that fascism in its drive for power in America will declare, as the City Manager does, that only by centralizing control will there be established competency, efficiency, and cheapness in government and an end be made to racketeering, graft, and gangsterism. All the evils of parliamentarism will be blamed upon the liberals; and the fascists will use these evils as the basis from which to drive democracy out of existence in America.
Under the strain of the unprecedented economic depression which has been America’s lot since 1929, the national government, too, is making a complete volte face from nineteenth-century ideals of checks and balances in the government, and under the provisions of the Constitution itself there are being rooted deep dictatorial tendencies and a fascist method of work. The fascist germs in the Roosevelt regime counter the potentialities for a deep-going and rapid radicalization appearing in the working class. Despite liberal gestures, the Roosevelt administration may be said to be paving the way for Bonapartism on the road to fascism. (*37) The economic crisis is slowly maturing into a political one in the United States.
The departure from the nineteenth-century scheme of things can be summarized as follows: First, the relative importance of the locality and of the State is greatly reduced and the Federal Government becomes all-powerful. Second, the national government itself becomes far more sensitized to shifts in events and centralized in the hands of the executive. Congress is relegated to a secondary role and more and more the judiciary is shoved into the background. Third, the executive arm of the government tends to be symbolized by the “strong man” who bears the responsibility of everything upon his shoulders and has unprecedented and enormous powers. Fourth, the importance of the Party is superseded by that of the leader who thrusts aside party programs at will, constructing new ones overnight. The leader now uses the State apparatus, not to give the spoils of office to his party, but to build a strong army of henchmen around himself. Finally, in the policy of the government there is to be found some orientation and methods of solution of problems which, in Europe, the fascists have claimed as their own.
A good illustration of the increasing sensitiveness of the government is the practically unanimous passage of the legislation that ended the “lame duck” Congresses. Previously, although elections occurred in November, neither Congress nor the President could be installed in office until March of the following year, or four months later. In the leisurely days of the nineteenth century this could be tolerated, although the history of the United States immediately preceding the Civil War shows how this four-month period was used to foment rebellion and to harass the incoming administration. Today, however, sudden political changes are everyday occurrences. The exigencies both of foreign and internal affairs make dangerous any four-month hiatus in government.
The most important method of achieving sensitivity has been through the creation of a host of administrative boards with power constantly to change and to revise rules along the lines of the general standards and principles which have been laid down by Congress and the President. A good example of this is the Board in charge of Tariff Revision. Thus has it become demonstrated that large legislative bodies cannot handle the day-to-day adjustments that are needed in the complex governmental activities of the twentieth century. The legislature tends steadily to yield its prerogatives and power to administrative boards for action. Congress increasingly appears as useless as the appendix in the human body; an operation for its removal seemingly eliminates mere waste.
The dictatorial powers of the President have grown enormously in the past few years. Under the pressure of the crisis, he has been given an almost unlimited power of inflation and virtual command of banking and fiscal policy. Congress, too, has handed over to him extensive powers of taxation. Today the President can juggle postage rates, impose taxes upon manufacturers and basic farm processes; in addition, the President now has the right to change tariff rates by simple executive proclamations. Congress has also given to the President vast and increasing powers of appointment, as well as virtual control of the pension system.
Naturally, with such enlarged powers, the President has risen to an unprecedented stature in political affairs. Hitherto, corporations had to establish powerful lobbies to persuade congressmen to pass tariff bills or other measures in their favor; today these favors are to be received best from the hands of the President. Thus, as these interests concentrate their efforts to control the executive arm, in turn the executive is able to build an enormous army of civil retainers who owe their jobs entirely to him. In this way, the hardy democracy by which the candidate was controlled by the Party tends to break down completely. Now we have a political Napoleon supported by a host of functionaries. Around him there have been gathered millions of public employees and pensioners.
The dictatorial pre-eminence of the President has been accomplished within the framework of the Constitution of the United States which, in its origin, was designed to suffocate the will of the masses and to delegate to the office of the President greater powers than even kings enjoyed in other countries. In 1917, the power of the President was demonstrated in the manner in which Woodrow Wilson involved the United States in the War without needing the consent of the Senate or of the people. During the emergency of the present depression it has been illustrated in the way in which the President, through the National Recovery Act, the Agricultural Administration Act, the banking and railway measures and other means, has commanded all the basic processes of production and distribution of wealth in the United States. Today there is allocated to him the full responsibility for the expenditure of many billions of dollars. Through emergency relief measures, he is in complete control of all money given to the unemployed.
As the tension of the social situation increases, inevitably the tendencies symbolized by Roosevelt will develop into fruition and mature into a well-rounded Bonapartism until the classes can fight it out on the issue dividing labor and capital. That Roosevelt has not completed the stage of Bonapartism is primarily owing to the fact that there is no proletarian revolutionary organization of any large size or any movement threatening to overthrow the system. When such a development does occur, the new orientation in government will be completed rapidly and the way will be prepared for the advent of fascism into power.
The measures of the Roosevelt administration have been in line with those which fascists in other countries have brought forth. Its theories of planned economy are variations of Mussolini’s self-sufficiency, Hitler’s autarchy, and Mosley’s self-sufficient British Empire. In his friendship to Soviet Russia, President Roosevelt’s phrases of “planning” might seem to be a reaction from the communistic plans abroad and appear a bid to the socialists and communists and such groups as the technocrats. As part of the “planning,” there has been the setting up of the “brain trust” by which the present regime would give the impression that it has mustered all the forces of science at its disposal to solve the problems of the day. In reality, the only planning that capitalism can accomplish is the kind that is being done under the fascist banner in Europe.
One of the characteristic signs of the times is the steady drive on the part of the federal government for the establishment of a federal police. Already the Federal Bureau of Investigation has been greatly expanded and has won a reputation in the handling of kidnaping cases. The Bureau has extended its functions to take control over the American Association of the Chiefs of Police and to issue uniform crime reports. Increasingly it is being called upon by local and state officials to take charge of the curbing of certain criminal activities. It seems probable that this field will be exploited progressively by governmental officials who plan to enlarge the authority of the State, especially through strengthening the hands of the administrative and executive organs.
The establishment of a federal police will have to go hand in hand with the formation of uniform criminal legislation and may lead the way towards the establishment of that Ministry of Justice which the sociological school of jurisprudence has been advocating for some time. Such a Ministry of justice and Federal Police Force must tend further to batter down the distinctions between local and state governmental activities and federal administration, gradually centralizing all power in Washington. This centralization, of course, must fit in nicely with any fascistic trends and dictatorial tendencies that exist in the national government.
It must be remarked that the Roosevelt regime has made a strong appeal to the middle classes and has striven to separate them from the workers. It has allocated about two billion dollars to farm crops to help the farmer. It has given a similar amount to the Home Owners Loan Corporation. At the same time, it has yielded to the pressure of elements of the middle class by adopting a more latitudinarian policy regarding silver and inflationary currency, thus raising prices and allowing the lower middle class to pay some of its debts. It is true that none of these measures can be of any permanent relief to the petty bourgeoisie, and in fact must aggravate the situation in the long run; but at least for the moment, the Roosevelt regime can boast of carrying out the interests of the small fellow. All failure can be blamed on the Supreme Court. At the same time, the Administration has been careful to increase the profits of the largest concerns and to fuse the interests of the State with big business, pouring out billions via the Reconstruction Finance Corporation and other bodies for the aid of the railroads, mortgage and insurance companies, and big industrialists.
In regard to the labor movement, however, matters have been otherwise, efforts being made to keep wages at their lowest point since the war, while raising the cost of living. Through the National Industrial Reconstruction Act, schemes of compulsory arbitration were attempted and the government has taken a hand in propagandizing for the breaking down of the old craft unions and the establishment of “vertical” unions more intimately connected with the government. Only under the great pressure of the emergency has the most meager legislation for social insurance been passed. Relief is still carried out in the most haphazard manner, although with a cleverly concealed purpose.
Apparently the unemployed are to be divided into three distinct categories: The youth are herded into C.C.C. and other camps where they are placed under barrack discipline and trained for the military events in the future. Part of the virile unemployed are put to work on projects that will enable them to obtain slightly more necessities than they can secure under the dole. The older folks are to be dropped completely and handed over to the mercies of the bankrupt local and state officials. By thus dividing the unemployed, the government hopes that their demonstrations will not be too threatening, and that they can be better controlled by the authorities.
The problems of the day are rapidly taking the ruling class far from the old standards of liberalism. (*38) The old nineteenth-century schemes of government and control can no longer hold, whether they are executed by a Democratic Party or by a Republican Party or both. The problems in the coming elections must emphasize the great turn in the road that America is making, from individualism to collectivism, from a backward, haphazard State to a tremendously complex and all-inclusive State authority, from liberalism towards fascism.
1. For an account of some of these fascist organizations, see M. H. Braun: “Fascist Organizations in the United States,” Class Struggle, Vol. IV, Nos. 1, 2 & 3, Jan. to March, 1934.
2. For the program of Father Coughlin, see, R. G. Swing: Forerunners of American Fascism.
3. During the recent presidential election, Coughlin flirted with the Townsend and “Share- the-Wealth” movements for an alliance. The whole combination made a miserable showing.
4. For his program see his pamphlet: Share Our Wealth.
5. See J. Dorfman: Thorstein Veblen and His America, p. 68.
6. See, for example, John Ruskin’s: The Crown of Wild Olive, and his Fors Clavigera.
7. See, T. Veblen: The Imperial Germany and the Industrial Revolution, p. 269.
8. See, T. Veblen: Theory of Business Enterprise.
9. See, T. Veblen. The Engineers and the Price System. See, also, his book The Higher Learning in America, where he shows the lethal touch of business in the universities.
10. For an analysis of Veblen’s views see, P. T. Homan: Contemporary American Thought, pp. III and following.
11. Stuart Chase: Technocracy, p. 25, pamphlet.
12. For a discussion of the antagonistic interests of corporation management to stockholders, see, A. A. Berle and G. C. Means: The Modern Corporation and Private Property.
13. The same, p. 19. The 200 corporations are divided into 42 railroads, 52 utilities and 106 industrials.
14. The same, p. 46, footnote.
15. The same, p. 44.
16. H. Ford: My Philosophy of Industry, p. 75.
17. See, G. Bradford: The Quick and the Dead, section on Ford.
18. See, H. Ford: Moving Forward, p. 39.
19. Written in collaboration with Smith.
20. C. A. Beard: The Open Door at Home, pp. 318-319.
The rest of the world can burn up, America will have no part in it, except to defend its own borders.
21. Mr. Walter B. Pitkin.
22. J. Dewey: Liberalism and Social Action, pp. 54-55.
23. The Same, p. 48.
24. For the “engineering interpretation” of Pound, see R. Pound: Interpretations of Legal History. 25. L. Mumford: Technics and Civilization, p. 275.
26. J. Dorfman openly acknowledges that his book Thorstein Veblen and His America is indebted to Tugwell, financially and morally.
27. Originally they wanted more than a thirty-hour minimum since they were opposed to the six-hour day on the ground that Soviet Russia had a seven-hour day and how could Capitalist America beat socialist Russia?
28. We note that in the recent automobile strike (January, 1937) the General Motors Corporation organized a mass meeting of anti-strikers who raised the slogan “We want work!”
29. This assumes the Stalinists could stand the shock of imagining socialism in two countries alone!
30. In America it is the Labor Department to which is entrusted the deportation of undesirable workmen.
31. T. Roosevelt: Strenuous Life, p. 4.
32. The same, p. 13.
33. The same, p. 17.
34. T. Roosevelt, work cited, p. 6.
35. “The woman must be the housewife…." (The same, p. 4.)
36. “We wanted at one time to get plenty of strong, honest young men for the police force, and did not want to draw them from among the ordinary types of ward-heeler. Two fertile recruiting-grounds proved to be, one a Catholic church and the other a Methodist church.”
(T. Roosevelt: Strenuous Life, p. 97.)
37. President Roosevelt declares his regime is not fascistic simply because it draws its inspiration from the mass of people, rather than from a class or group or marching army and because it has worked within the pattern of traditional political institutions. (See F. D. Roosevelt: On Our Way, pp. ix, x. This is a very precarious distinction, if true. It is the stock in trade of most fascist leaders to claim to be inspired by the whole people.
38. The present administration believes it has fused the principles both of Theodore Roosevelt and of Woodrow Wilson into a higher synthesis. Hence the “New Deal”, a compound of “Square Deal” and “New Freedom.” (See F. D. Roosevelt: On Our Way, pp. x-xi.)
Characteristically American, Mr. Roosevelt knows we are “on our way” although he is not quite so sure just where we are going.