The Truth About Unemployment
r-^ by ART PREIlS
SOCIALIST WORKERS PARTY *| e
116 UNIVERSITY PLACE
NEW YORK CITY
The Truth About Unemployment
1. The Real Nature of Unemployment
Historians of some future age, unearthing current writings
on the "New Deal" depression, undoubtedly will publish their
findings in journals devoted to the study of mental diseases. The
average "expert", when not blaming depressions on the mis-
behavior of sun-spots, usually attributes them to "lack of con-
fidence" by the business class.
No doubt, pessimism has characterized the state of mind
of the average business man during depressions. The economic
guess-alls fail to show, however, whether this frame of mind is
cause or result of such declines.
These economic gospel-pounders similarly view the facts
of chronic mass unemployment. America's 15 million unem-
ployed, who with their dependents represent almost a third of
our population, when not dismissed as "lazy bums who won't
work even if they have jobs", are considered at best temporarily
unfortunate beings to whom some attention should be paid —
after the real tragedy of declining profits has been properly rem-
Between June, 1935, and August, 1937, dates which roughly
mark the life span of the "New Deal Boomlet", unemployment
was regarded as an irritating but not dangerous skin ailment,
which could be concealed under the powder and rouge of mount-
ing production and profit figures, and soothed whenever it itched
by a light application of relief jobs.
F. D. R. undertook with undoubted optimism the national
unemployment census in the summer of 1937. Production seemed
headed for the 1929 peak. Business men were gay from heady
draughts of fresh-drawn profits. Everything was hunky-dory, if
only the budget were balanced, taxes reduced and the "goddam
relief racket cut out".
The unemployed census figures were revealed finally in
November, 1937. America was already hurtling down an eco-
nomic landslide at the most precipitous pace in its history. What
use to bemoan the fact of 8l/ 2 -ll million unemployed during
the peak of a boom, when six months later at least 5 millions
more had been piled on these figures — and profits were melting
away, to boot?
But the American workers dare not ignore these figures.
They reveal a fact that is truly ominous. The figures of mass
unemployment registered at the peak of Roosevelt "prosperity"
prove conclusively that, despite temporary periods of comparative
recovery, larger and larger sections of workers are condemned
to permanent joblessness — disemployment.
This economically disenfranchised "nation within a nation"
is supplemented from time to time by new jobless millions,
periodically cast upon the waste shores of our economic svstem
by each succeeding wave of depression. Some workers are lucky
enough as individuals to be redrawn into the economic currents
by the receding waves. Other millions are left permanently
stranded, part of the rapidly accumulating wreckage of labor and
talents, of human lives and aspirations which is mass disemploy-
ment in America.
Two factors distinguish the 1929? decline from all pre-
vious depressions. One is increasing mass disemployment. The
other is increasing regularity of periodic lay-offs suffered by
almost every worker regardless of trade or industry. Unemployed
of previous depressions were largely re-absorbed into industry
during succeeding upturns. Each recovery period following
former depressions surpassed previous booms in volume of pro-
duction and establishment of new industries. Indeed, certain in-
dustries weathered former depressions fairly well, and workers
in them considered themselves permanently secure. Until 1929,
a railroad job was considered a life-time security. But the pres-
ent decline has made an exception of no industry. For example,
close to a million railroad workers have lost their regular oc-
cupations during the past nine years.
These burning facts must be seared into the consciousness
of the American workers. Every -worker is threatened with the
ravages of periodic lay-offs; increasing millions face the dismal
future of permanent disemployment.
The working class is paying an incalculable price for these
conditions in physical suffering, disordered family life, mental
break-down, disease and death. Compare the $2,500 yearly in-
come, estimated by the U. S. Children's Bureau as necessary to
provide the minimum comfort and decency level of living for a
family of five, with the $400-$700 per year which the average
W.P.A. worker earns. Then remember that the W.P.A. workers,
who represents less than 20 percent of the unemployed, are con-
sidered a relatively "privileged" group. We can well understand
why certain authorities claim that the unemployed suffer pro-
portionally five times as much from physical ailments as the rest
of the population.
Further, the few comforts and conveniences the workers
manage to accumulate over years of hard work are snatched away
during even a few months of unemployment. A couple of in-
stallments missed, and automobiles, radios and washing ma-
chines are promptly hauled away. Every day, hundreds of homes,
representing life-times of sacrifice, are foreclosed. Thousands of
families are evicted from habitable living quarters into hovels
and congested slums.
Should these conditions continue for any length of time,
without stern efforts to fight back, the resistance of the American
working class will be sapped. The unparalleled militancy dis-
played by the American workers during the past five years of
bitter struggles will be dulled. Hunger and disease in time may
demoralize the workers and drain their fighting spirit.
It is this possible demoralization, rather than any immediate
suffering which is most to be feared. In Germany and Italy,
desperate and demoralized unemployed, susceptible to demagogic
appeal, and lacking powerful organizations knit firmly to the
trade unions, helped form the fascist storm troops which utterly
destroyed the labor movements of these countries. The American
labor movement dares not permit our home-grown Hitlers so
fruitful a field for exploitation. The consequences would be too
hideous to contemplate.
2. The New Deal and the Unemployed
The problem of unemployment is the most challenging of
our times. In scope, permanency, physical destructiveness, and
political and social menace, it demands a solution far beyond
mere relief measures.
For six years now, most workers and unemployed have
looked to Roosevelt's New Deal program to affect that solution.
Sufficient time has elapsed for us to judge accurately the aims
and results of that program.
Borne into office on a tide of popular protest against the
brutal Hoover regime, Roosevelt has steered a course with su-
preme political adroitness. So far he has been able to maintain
his popular hold upon the masses of American people, although
his policies have failed to effect a single fundamental change in
our economic and social order.
For few political demagogues have demonstrated so great
a divergence between the word and deed, the promise and ful-
fillment as has Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
The "money changers" whom he stormed against in 1932
are very much with us. Indeed, one of his first political acts, the
Bank Moratorium, served merely to clean out small independent
banks and small depositors. Backed by government sanction and
credit, finance capital consolidated its power. For those who
damn Wall Street while pinning a halo to F. D. R.'s scalp, it
is well to recall that when the genial President had an unpre-
cedented opportunity to uproot the choking weeds of Wall Street
by nationalizing the banking system, he chose rather to nurture
Roosevelt's speeches championed the "little man", the small
independent producer. His "Magna Charta", the National In-
dustrial Recovery Act, as its outstanding achievement bank-
rupted thousands of "little men". Its price-fixing "codes of fair
business practice" only further entrenched industrial monopoly.
Nevertheless, even critics of these measures make much of
Roosevelt's "social" legislation, chief among which are the Agri-
cultural Adjustment Act, the establishment of the Home Owners
Loan Corporation and the Wagner Labor Relations Act.
The first was an attempt to subsidize wholesale crop and
livestock destruction while a third of the nation was in dire want.
It resulted in the ruin of thousands of small dirt-farmers, ten-
ant-farmers and share-croppers. Rich landlord farmers continued
to collect their rents and shares while pocketing government
Far from protecting small home owners, the H. O. L. C.
really guaranteed interest payments to banks, mortage sharks
and insurance corporations. Thousands of small home owners,
unable to meet interest and payments on government loans, have
been foreclosed. But the mortgage sharks get hard government
cash in place of shaky mortgages, property taxes and risky in-
Under the Wagner Act and its predecessor, Section 7A of
the N. R. A., organized labor was presumably guaranteed the
rights of collective bargaining free from coercion and restraint
by employers. Yet in every great test of these acts, labor has won
its rights only through militant mass struggle. The Maritime,
Textile, Minneapolis Teamsters, Milwaukee Power, Toledo Auto-
Lite, Koehler, Little Steel, General Motors and Rubber strikes,
as well as thousands of other bitter contests, testify that Roose-
velt has given the workers only the rights they always possess, —
the rights they wrest from the ruling class in life and death
But the greatest problem Roosevelt faced when he took of-
fice was unemployment. There were 15 million unemployed in
the U. S. when he assumed office. There are 15 million unem-
ployed in the U. S. today.
New Deal job-holders and political beneficiaries, as well
as "liberals," labor "leaders" and "radicals," brush this decisive
fact aside and chant in chorus, "But Roosevelt has done more
for the unemployed than Hoover."
Granted ! But these apologists fail to add how much more and
why Roosevelt's concessions to the unemployed have been made.
Roosevelt's chief aids to the unemployed are Unemploy-
ment Insurance and Work Relief. The former is openly admitted
to be very secondary as yet. Nevertheless, its provisions for the
future prove it to be a bone with a string attached. It does not
apply to millions of permanently disemployed, and at present
covers less than ten percent of the gainfully employed. Its re-
strictions, its administration through reactionary and varied state
control, its meagre benefits lasting but a few weeks, mark it as
totally inadequate. The real pay-off is that most workers coming
under its provisions might do better on relief.
This "benevolent" venture, adopted in most European
countries years ago, is in reality a clever scheme for taxing the
workers. A tremendous fund is being built up, largely from
deductions in workers' pay. The scheme thus resolves itself into
3. system of deferred wage-payments whereby the workers pay
the cost of their own unemployed relief.
It is the direct and work relief program of Roosevelt which
constitutes his major attack on unemployment. The history of
this program is one of constant mass struggle by the unemployed
for every concession, and the skillful use of government funds
for partisan political purposes. For relief comes under two head-
ings On the Roosevelt budget — riot insurance and political ex-
It is interesting to note the order in which Roosevelt ap-
plied himself to national problems when he took office. First, he
safeguarded the big bankers. Next, the entrenched industrial
monopoly. Finally, he threw a few crumbs to the unemployed,
who were in mass ferment.
The Emergency Relief fund which was appropriated in the
summer of 1933 was literally torn from the administration by
riots and mass demonstrations. These first funds provided only
a bare subsistence food order, and were so administered that
scarcely a third of the needy received even these starvation ben-
Roosevelt's first year in office drew to a close with the prom-
ise of mass re-employment under the N. R. A. completely un-
fulfilled. The C. W. A., the first federal work relief program,
was then established. It was both an attempt to stifle mass revolt
over the bitter winter months and the beginning of the "pump-
priming" and credit inflation into which Roosevelt has been re-
peatedly forced when his other measures have proved insufficient
to solve the economic crisis. The C. W. A. folded up within
three months. The unemployed went back to dandelion greens.
This initial pump-priming was inadecjuate. Roosevelt "pros-
perity" failed to materialize. The unemployed were again on
a rampage. Demonstrations and hunger marches swept the
country. City halls, state and federal capitals were invaded by
militant masses demanding relief. The F. E. R. A. work relief
program was initiated in September, 1934.
This program was cleverly built up to provide maximum
employment just prior to the 1934 elections. At its peak, the F.
E. R. A. provided jobs for a million less workers than C. W. A.,
although unemployment had failed to decline. After February,
1935, the F. E. R. A. was rapidly liquidated.
In June, 1935, the federal government ended the F. E. R.
A., including its direct relief features. At one stroke, 5 l / 2 million
relief families, 22 million individuals, were left to starve or, at
best, return to the tender charities of bankrupt local and state
treasuries. Of these 5l/ 2 million unemployed bread-winners,
close to 2 million never secured jobs on W. P. A. These, to-
gether with an additional 5 million families estimated to have
required relief in 1938, face a relief crisis unparalleled in six
years. Relief break-downs in Cleveland, Chicago and other great
cities revealed conditions as horrible almost as anything known
under Hoover. The discontinuance of federal direct relief funds,
coupled with a throughly inadequate job program, is principally
responsible for these devastating relief crises.
During the period prior to W. P. A., a recurrent pattern
marked Roosevelt's relief policies. Periods of starvation relief
and coolie-wage jobs alternated with periods of outright starva-
tion. This plan was calculated. The administration was testing
how little it would take to quiet the unemployed. Further, it
was blindly hoping for a substantial business pick-up. The pick-
up failed. Demonstrations, hunger marches, riots spread. Shortly
after the ending of F. E. R. A., Roosevelt noted a decline in his
popularity. Production had registered scarcely any rises. Too
many workers had to jam Section 7A down employers' throats
with their bare fists. Relief, the premium on riot insurance, was
The Magician of the White House pulled another trick
rabbit from his hat. This time it was pump-priming on a larger
scale, a "super" works program, — the W. P. A.
Much of the cheering for Roosevelt is based on the assump-
tion that there has been a substantial improvement in the con-
ditions of the unemployed during the W. P. A. period. Actual
figures prove there has been a subtle decline in the living stand-
ards of the unemployed as a whole during this period.
The Roosevelt method of treating the unemployed is like
that of the scientist with the frogs. The frogs were placed alive
in a shallow pan of water, from which they could have easily
jumped. The pan was heated gradually over a very low flame.
The frogs failed to notice the change in temperature and even-
tually boiled to death. Had they been listening to an assuring
"Fireside Chat" by F. D. R., they might have gone to their doom
with a smile.
While Hoover threw the unemployed into a red-hot pan of
outright starvation, Roosevelt supplies just enough relief jobs to
keep the unemployed from "jumping out of the pan". He grad-
ually accustoms them to lower standards by a form of stabilized
Since the federal government withdrew from the responsi-
bility for direct relief, it has slowly reduced the appropriations
for work relief in relation to the total /lumber of unemployed.
At its peak in February, 1936, W.P.A. employed nearly
4 million workers. By July, 1937, although unemployment had
declined less than 25 percent, the W. P. A. was reduced by
ruthless wholesale dismissals more than 50 percent. The 1938
W. P. A. appropriation of $1*4 billion is less than a third of
the original appropriation, provides, during a period of much
greater unemployment, a million less jobs, and will last not much
after January, 1939.
The above figures, cited from government sources, reveal
a startling fact. The total benefits for the unemployed as a group
hare declined in the past three years, particularly when contrasted
with the actual number of unemployed at any given period.
Another startling fact is that the national average of real
work-relief wages has been reduced from the C. W. A. program
to the present W. P. A. set-up.
The W. P. A. began in the fall of 1935 with a great bal-
lyhoo about "security" wages and "prevailing" rates of pay. It
was better than direct relief; but what the administration gave
with one hand — as usual — it withdrew with the other. By dis-
continuing direct relief, the government was able to provide, at
little additional cost, slightly higher benefits to /<?.r.f workers.
Further, by an elaborate system of wage differentials, the
155-60 monthly wage for unskilled labor in large centers in the
northeast states was offset by incredible coolie wages in the South
and rural areas. At its peak, W. P. A. wages, including all skilled
and professional workers, averaged only $45.91 per month. The
C. W. A. paid SI 5 weekly to unskilled labor, about $65 per
month. The F. E. R. A., at its high point, paid unskilled labor
$12 weekly, or about 550 monthly.
For three years, the W. P. A. in certain southern areas paid
only $19 monthly. The "security" wage is a ghastly fraud, unless
it means simply security from immediate starvation. It does not
mean in the real sense, "freedom from anxiety, want or poverty."
It is interesting to note how much Roosevelt has been moved
by immediate political considerations in his unemployment pol-
icies. Both in 1934 and 1936, just prior to general elections, a
sharp increase was noted in federal work relief employment.
This was particularly apparent in the fall of 1936, when mass
W. P. A. lay-offs were suddenly discontinued and the W. P. A.
projects packed — although unemployment was declining.
Immediately following Roosevelt's re-election, 400,000 W.
P. A. workers, most of them still displaying Roosevelt campaign
buttons, were fired en masse. Within six months following the
elections, almost three-quarters of a million W. P. A. workers
received the reward of blind political faith in pink dismissal
Just prior to the 1938 primaries, several hundred thousand
new W. P. A. jobs were given in key states. At the same time,
the administration was already laying the ground-work for future
dismissals following the elections by predicting a large fall and
winter industrial revival, The slightest business pick-up serves as
excuse for mass dismissals. Such an excuse is a hoax. Harry L.
Hopkins himself has stated that the general level of production
must be raised at least 40 percent above the 1929 all-time peak
to re-absorb all able-bodied unemployed . After four years of ter-
rific pump-priming, the high point of the Roosevelt boom in
July, 1937, failed even to reach the 1929 leval.
3. The Real New Deal Answer to Unemployment
Where is the New Deal going? What is its real purpose and
final answer to the unemployed? Behind all the twists, turns and
contradictions, there is one fixed purpose. It is imperative that
the workers cut through the fatty layers of propaganda and ex-
pose that vital spot.
Truth to tell, Roosevelt has been pictured in so many di-
verse aspects by pro- and anti-New Dealers that the average
person grasps only a confused and distorted image of him.
By his foes on the right, hard-bitten industrial feudalists,
he is frequently painted a bloody revolutionist destroying the
most "sacred" rights of private property. To these gentlemen,
whose minds see no farther than the end of a black-jack, the
slightest gesture of pacification offered by Roosevelt to the dis-
possessed, even though the gesture be made with an empty hand,
appears as calculated betrayal of their class interests.
By his friends of the "left", — the "progressive" capital-
ists, the liberals and reformists, the steel and munition barons,
Stalinists, peace-time pacifists and the general mongrel breed
yelping for a "democratic" war against fascist powers — by these
he is still hailed the new St. George of the common man.
From time to time, each camp is forced to modify its par-
ticular portrait. Juicy appropriations for military purposes, R. F.
C. "relief" for "starving" bankers and railroad tycoons, shelving
of the undistributed profits tax cause the "Tories" to nod be-
nevolently in his direction. "The kid's got talent," they affirm,
"If he'd only cut out the sprees with those red bums around the
corner, and stick to business — ".
When Roosevelt, the great democrat, counterposes only an
impressive silence to the labor-smashing brutalities of Hagueism ;
when the State Department, on orders from the blood-sucking
American oil, land and mineral interests, attempts ruinous ec-
onomic reprisals on impoverished Mexico; when a "neutral"
arms embargo is imposed on anti-fascist forces in Spain, while
unhampered shipments of war supplies to Japan continues; when,
in fact, Roosevelt demonstrates his more than detached concern
for the interests of the ruling class, the loyal "leftists" sadly
shake their heads, and paint the picture of a noble soul misled
by insidious powers betraying him from within his own camp.
All of these estimates are false to the core. In actuality,
Roosevelt is the ablest and most far-sighted politician yet pro-
duced by the American capitalist class. His sole objective, link-
ing into a single chain all his seemingly contradictory acts, is to
save and stabilize the system of American capitalism.
The means by which this objective is to be attained are
dazzlingly clear. All the main lines of Roosevelt's strategy,
legislation, statements and executive policies point to that means:
American capitalism, torn by the same internal contradic-
tions besetting every capitalist nation, is competing in every
portion of the globe for outlets for surplus capital and products
unmarketable at home. Big Business faces the menacing shadow
of mass unemployed millions whom industry can never re-absorb.
The government credit structure mounts toward top heavy
heights. The administration is unable, except by huge "pump-
priming" involving heavier and heavier tax-loads, to balance
mass purchasing power with production, prices and profits.
Therefore, the American ruling class prepares for its inevitable
and desperate bid for survival through the military subjection of
its imperialist rivals.
It is the role of Roosevelt to best prepare the nation for this
task. That is why, regardless of opposition on domestic policies,
bis foreign policies a?id naval and military expansion program
have received almost unanimous support from Big Business and
its press. For these are the living heart of his program.
While this or that group of special capitalist interests, as
a matter of principle, howl at every work relief appropriation or
act dimly favorably toward labor, to a man they vote hands down
for the biggest dent in the national budget, the war preparations
appropriations, which in 1938 are by far the largest in the peace-
time history of this nation.
Roosevelt is perfectly aware that the successful pursuit of
his imperialistic policies necessitates the support of every section
of the working population. So he seemingly be-friends the work-
ers in small things, the better to betray them in great.
Further, Roosevelt understands how vital to his ultimate
program is the preservation of peace between capital and labor.
The contradictions of his program reflect his efforts to maintain
a peaceful balance between the classes. On the one hand, he
maintains his hold upon the masses by attacking the ugliest
superficial manifestations of capitalism. On the other, he tries
to keep the capitalist system as such strengthened and intact.
To maintain class peace in America becomes increasingly
difficult for Roosevelt. He is unable for any length of time to
pacify the employed workers by paving the way for wage con-
cessions, for he must immediately cancel these out by measures
which induce price rises and protect profit levels. He cannot in-
definitely pacify the unemployed. New waves of unemployment
force him to spread relief appropriations in thinner and thinner
layers, while the ruling class thunders at him because of the
inevitable increase in his requirements upon it.
So Roosevelt, offering his favors now to the left and now
to the right, subduing with increasing difficulty the constantly
smouldering class conflicts, hastens his course toward imperialist
war before recurring and constantly deepening economic crises
explode into naked and tremendous class conflicts.
Roosevelt plans to put the unemployed to work — as cannon
fodder. The ruling class prepares to receive dividends on every
dollar spent for relief. These dividends will be exacted in sup-
port for the Roosevelt war program. Every concession to the
unemployed, every slightest social reform bears a price tag,
marked in workers' blood, "Support of Imperialist War".
4. The Only Genuine Program for the Unemployed
Just as the sick are victimized by scoundrels selling danger-
ous and worthless "cures," so diseased social systems have their
patent-medicine racketeers. These vend their pain-killers and
phony drugs with even greater cynicism and danger to human
welfare than the rats who sell colored water to cancer victims.
These patent medicine men, with ballyhoo and fraud, palm
off their neatly labeled bottle to the victimized masses, seeking
a riddance to their miseries. Whatever these bottles may be mark-
ed, — "Inflation" or "Deflation," "Price-Fixing" or "Free
Play of Prices", "Spending-Lending" or "Budget-Balancing",
"Collective Security" or "Isolation", — they all have one thing
in common. None of these colored waters attacks the real source
of our social disorders, the system of capitalism; all prolong
these disorders by delaying adequate treatment or actually ag-
gravate more deadly attacks.
The cure of mass unemployment cannot be affected by any
of the measures projected within the frame-work of capitalism.
The tiny class which controls the natural resources and productive
and distributive mechanisms of our society is interested solely in
profits and privilege for itself. The government, its agency for
maintaining it in power, regards and treats unemployment as a
temporary condition. At best, the government seeks only to al-
leviate the most outright suffering induced by unemployment,
and then only when and where the pressure of the workers
themselves is strongest.
Relief, even when administered in the form of made-work
such as W. P. A., is like morphine, which momentarily deadens
pain but does not cure. Eventually, the capitalist class will con-
sider even "relief" too expensive, will reduce the doses as it is
trying to do already, and hnally withdraw them altogether.
The workers dare not be content with "dope" for their suf-
fering. They must fight unemployment at its very source, the
capitalist system. No program to eliminate unemployment can
be honest or effective which is not based on the destruction of
capitalism and the establishment of a non-profit, collective ec-
onomy controlled by and for the workers, working farmers and
The keystone for the bridge toward such a collective system
is workers' control of industry. The workers must tell their fi-
nancial and industrial over-lords. "You've had your chance to
run this country and you've run it into the ground. You have
only contempt for the millions whose labor built this country.
You want only wealth, idle luxury and privilege for yourselves,
while the vast majority suffer want and insecurity. If you can't
oive us steady work with a decent standard of living — and
you have proved you can't! — get out! We'll take over the
factories, mines, and railroads and we'll operate them co-operat-
ively for the benefit of all and not just a few."
Many intelligent workers who agree with this, nevertheless,
will ask, "But what shall we do now? We are insufficiently or-
ganized and not powerful enough yet to establish full control of
the economic system. Too many workers are still unconvinced
that this is necessary. Yet, we are suffering now!"
We must do what a competent physician does in treating a
dangerously ill patient. First we must attempt to build up the
natural resistance of the workers. As a doctor tries to reduce
fever, ease pain, regulate diet to create the most favorable con-
ditions for effective permanent treatment, we must organize the
unemployed workers, in unity with their employed brothers, to
resist every single encroachment of the capitalist disease even
while we prepare the anti-toxin which will destroy it utterly.
First and foremost, we must demand and fight for jobs now
— not just two or three million temporary subsistence relief jobs
— but steady decent jobs for every one of the 14-15 million un-
employed men and women in the U. S.
These jobs are to come from two sources. The first is a
gigantic permanent national public works program. This is to
provide employment to all unemployed, whether on relief or not,
or whether any other member of the family is working. The
projects must be of immediate benefit to the workers themselves,
and not restricted in type by the competitive claims of private
industrialists. Low cost housing, slum elimination, public hos-
pitals and clinics, not National Guard armories, should be the
Secondly, all idle factories, mines, etc., or productive equip-
ment working below normal capacity, shall be turned over to
the unemployed to produce goods for their own benefit. The
government is to provide the initial capital to secure equipment
and raw materials.
It is insufficient merely to have jobs. Such jobs must pro-
vide a minimum income sufficient to maintain decency and
health, at least $30 per week at present price levels. Trade Union
rates should prevail on all work.
Further, there must be a tremendous campaign to compel
industry to reduce the work day and work week, so that large
numbers of unemployed may be reabsorbed into private in-
dustry. We must demand the six-hour day, and five-day week
with no reductions in the individual worker' s total earnings.
The funds for this program must be secured by the govern-
ment from the bankers and industrialists. First, all war funds
must be re-allocated to the aid of the unemployed. The billions
of dollars being fed into the pockets of the steel and munitions
barons in preparation for the imperialistic slaughter of the
workers must be diverted into the workers' pockets through so-
cially useful work.
Further, the banking system must be nationalized, all sur-
plus capital and idle assets to be used at once in financing work
for the jobless.
In addition, all industries, such as the railroads, which have
been bleeding the public treasury to pay dividends on watered
stocks and bonuses to conniving company officials, shall be ex-
propriated and placed under the direct cooperative control of
the workers in the given industry. Billions in R. F. C. funds will
then be available for the unemployed.
Further funds could be secured by confiscatory taxes on the
billions in undistributed profits and idle surpluses extracted
from the workers by the big industrialists, U. S. Steel, General
Motors, Ford, etc.
Lastly, there should be levied a heavy capital tax on the
millions and hundreds of millions in the private fortunes of the
Sixty Families and their cohorts.
The workers want decent jobs, security, a measure of com-
fort, education and culture. America has the productive capacity
to provide everyone with a secure and comfortable living stand-
ard. The first job is to organize the workers, employed and un-
employed, to fight for a decent living as their inalienable right.
And if capitalism and its government cannot provide the work-
ers the opportunity to enjoy these rights, the workers will be
ready to go forward and seize these rights for themselves under
the only system capable of providing them, Socialism.
5. The Correct Program Needs the Correct
The finest program that remains on paper has less worth
than the paper itself. A program to be of worth must be trans-
formed into action, attainable only through organized effort.
There is no blue-print for the best type of unemployed
organization. Mass disemployment is characteristic of the decline
of the capitalist system. This phenomenon took startling form
in the United States only since 1929- The scores of years in which
the trade union movement had opportunity to gather experience
by trial and error have been denied the unemployed.
Nevertheless, in the past nine years the unemployed have
gone through a heightened organizational activity which has tele-
scoped a wealth of experience into a comparatively brief time.
Until the present "Roosevelt Depression," the unemployed
were organized largely in independent organizations, unattached
to the official trade union movement. In the past, the trade
union movement, dominated by conservative and reactionary
leadership, opposed such organization. The old-line bureaucrats
were interested solely in workers who could pay high dues.
Further, they feared, and correctly so, that such organization
might lead into direct conflict with the government. Besides, the
average labor leader, steeped in capitalist philosophy, no more
understood the depth and permanency of the economic crisis
than did the capitalist leaders themselves.
It remained for the working-class anti-capitalist political
groups to undertake the fight for the unemployed, for these were
the only ones who understood the real nature of the crisis.
Three organizations grew up, the Unemployed Councils,
organized by the Stalinist Communist Party, the Unemployed
Leagues, organized by the American Workers Party which later
merged with the present Socialist Workers Party, and the Work-
ers Alliance, initiated by the Socialist Party.
In April, 1936, these three national bodies merged into one,
the Workers Alliance of America, which has since remained the
only national independent organization for the unemployed.
It is significant that each of these organizations was based
originally on an anti-capitalist, class-struggle program which
claimed to rely only on independent working-class mass action,
and no reliance on any of the ruling class parties or politicians.
They were fighting mass organizations whose militant actions
forced innumerable concessions for the unemployed at a time
when no other labor groups recognized the unemployed and their
The decline of the Unemployed Leagues and Councils was
due mainly to organizational instability. The former based itself
largely upon rural workers, and suffered for lack of concentrated
organization in the industrial centers. The Councils were domi-
nated by the Communist Party, which in the period from 1929-
1954 was so "ultra-revolutionary" as to characterize all other
working-class organizations as "social fascist." They literally
drove their own members away. The Councils were not a mass
non-partisan union of unemployed, but satellites of the Com-
After the single unified Workers Alliance was established,
the problem of stability was felt to be solved. But with that
stability came a decline in the militant working-class principles
which were the heart of effective organization.
The reason for this decline is directly due to the influence
of the Stalinists within the Workers Alliance. Following the
policies of the reactionary Stalin regime in the Soviet Union,
which has been seeking alliances with various capitalist govern-
ments and trying to tie the workers to the "democratic" capitalist
war machines, the American Stalinists are seeking to behead mili-
tant labor organizations and chain the working class to the
Roosevelt imperialist government. In the Workers Alliance, the
Stalinists have attempted and largely succeeded in not only
curbing direct action and agitation for better conditions which
might "embarrass" Roosevelt and "New Deal" Democrats, but
have literally turned the Workers Alliance into a direct political
apparatus for Roosevelt. The net results are that the Alliance
is more and more taking on the character of a company union.
For it is impossible to fight the bosses, in this case the Roosevelt
administration, and to collaborate with them at the same time.
More and more, the Alliance assumes all the insidious
organizational methods of the Communist Party itself. Militant
members are framed-up and expelled. Whoever opposes collab-
oration with the W.P.A. authorities, or proposes militant action,
is promptly made the victim of a slander campaign and driven
from the organization. During the height of the Roosevelt
depression, the Alliance failed to win a single major concession
for the unemployed and W.P.A. workers, contrary to the record
of the unemployed organizations during all previous years of
Within the Alliance itself, there is growing dissatisfaction.
With a free field, during a period of extensive unemployment,
it has failed to show decisive growth. Except for a favored few,
to whom the administration can well afford to extend individual
privileges in return for curbing militant action, the members are
not getting any real benefits. Conditions are growing worse, and
the Alliance leadership will not permit a genuine fight. As a
result, the Alliance is cracking up.
Today it becomes increasingly clear that a new road, already
mapped out in Minneapolis, Detroit and other centers, must be
opened up, that the unemployed must be organized together with
the employed workers, so that they will not become prey for the
fascists. It cannot be denied that the trade unions, particularly
the C.I.O., have lost many thousands of members during the
present depression through their failure to effectively defend the
interests of the unemployed.
The defense of these interests does not rest with conferences
and statements between the government and the top union
leaders. It can lie only with militant mass organizations of the
unemployed workers themselves, who, with the assistance of
organized labor as a whole, are best able to defend their own
It is the imperative duty of the official labor movement to
organize the unemployed and relief workers into bodies with
the same status and prestige as all other unions. It is the duty
of every serious militant trade unionist to press for the establish-
ment of such unions.
With such organization, infused with a living, fighting
program, a tremendous step forward will have been taken toward
the day when unemployment and poverty will be driven from a
world which the workers will truly call their own.
ENLIST NOW IN THE FIGHT
IF you are against the wholesale slaughter
of the workers of the world ;
IF you are against the world-wide tyranny
IF you are against the criminal destruction
of the results of centuries of labor in cre-
ating the wealth and culture of the world;
THEN YOU ARE AGAINST CAPITALIST WAR!
SOCIALISM ALONE CAN END WAR!
THE SOCIALIST WORKERS PARTY ASKS FOR YOUR
SUPPORT IN ITS ANTI-WAR CAMPAIGN.
SOCIALIST WORKERS PARTY
HOW TO FIGHT WAR by James Burnham
THE SOCIALIST APPEAL
THE NEW INTERNATIONAL
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