From Labor Action, Vol. 6 No. 35, 31 August 1942, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).
Time magazine of this week (August 24) carries the following piece under the heading: Did Mr. Roosevelt Say It? So far, Mr. Roosevelt has not said whether he did or not.
According to this piece,
“Strange news came: out of Washington over the United Press wires. The President, UP declared, has become a great admirer of the policies of the late Andrew W. Mellon, Secretary of the Treasury under Harding, Coolidge and Hoover, and is making plans, to pay off this war’s debt just as Mellon started paying off the debt for World War I ... (The) President is reported to have said heavy taxes should be continued , long enough to pay off the national debt. He wants to go on collecting twenty billion dollars a year in taxes, spending ten billion dollars to run the government and use the balance for the debt.
“The budget-balancing Wall Street Journal said it hoped UP’s informant had heard the President aright ... It may have cheered the National Association of Manufacturers, who have not heard the President promise to balance the budget for a long time …”
This item would certainly be cheery news to the American rulers who, undoubtedly, are already taking steps to find out whether or not FDR really plans what is reported above. Everybody, worker, capitalist and professional, is deeply concerned about the post-war situation. But the concerns of each class vary widely and reveal the basic antagonisms and cross-purposes that exist within America.
What are the capitalists concerned about? Within the certain totalitarianized structure, and assuming for the moment that there are no cataclysmic changes – primarily, reduction in the heavy corporation taxes they will have paid during the war period. The moment the war ends they will launch a campaign (“back to normalcy”) to cut, shave down and reduce government expenditures to the very bone. Social services – already greatly curtailed by the virtual abolition of NYA, CCC and WPA (how unfamiliar those once familiar terms have now become!) – will be attacked even more viciously by the bosses.
If the report of Time magazine is correct, it means primarily that FDR will oppose an effort, once the gigantic war program grinds to a halt and the war factories close up by the hundreds – even though U.S. capitalism continues on a modified war basis – FDR will oppose any effort to convert war production into a tremendous public works project. That is, to the demand that will be raised by progressives, labor unions and socialists that production must continue and a great unemployment crisis fought by adopting a housing program, a constructive public works program of parks, recreation centers, swimming pools, etc., to this demand FDR will say: “Sorry, my friends, but the budget must be balanced and the war debts paid off. No can do.”
This, it goes without saying, is precisely the answer that the American capitalist class will want him to give. They are not interested in the fact that war workers will be automatically out of jobs that there will be a severe period of strain and collapse as those industries converted to war production make efforts to get back to consumer production; that the entire purchasing power set-up will be rocked by the sudden jolts it will receive.
They are interested in one thing: profits and their even flow and continuation. War profiteering has aided the big capitalist combines to keep going and to knock out many a small competitor. With the ending of super war profiteering these gentlemen can only keep up their rate of profit by tax REDUCTIONS. That is their basic concern; this is what Roosevelt has apparently promised to them long in advance of the war’s conclusion. What could be more revealing as to which class Roosevelt serves in American society?
It is worth noting that Andrew Mellon is the man mentioned as the one who has laid down the general methods that FDR will pursue. Mellon, as every American worker knows only, too well, was one of the most reactionary, “Sixty-Family” big business representatives ever to hold a cabinet post in the American government. His name became synonymous with the interests of big business and profiteering. This man – the head of one of America’s largest and tightest trusts, the aluminum trust – was not simply a representative or agent of big business, he was big business personified! And FDR is set – according to this undenied report – to follow in his footsteps by raising twenty billion dollars in taxes each year, cutting federal expenditures to the bone and using the rest to pay off debts (that is, interest and principal) on bonds and loans held by the big banks and financial groups of America.
American workers will not go through the “blood, sweat and tears” of this imperialist war, then get thrown out on their ears and finally, by the war leader himself, be told that there can be no public works program because the budget must be balanced and corporation taxes must be reduced. Here we have the economic basis for the great post-war crisis and struggles that will grip the entire nation. The proletariat of our country will not allow FDR-Mellon to put this one across!
Last updated: 31.12.2013