Paul Temple

You Won’t Get to Be A Millionaire

(August 1940)

From Labor Action, Vol. 4 No. 20, 26 August 1940, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

“I was listening over the radio last night.” said Johnny, “and there was a fellow on talking about why Hitler has his eye on this country, because we’re the the richest country in the world. Say, the way he put it, we’ve got everything worth having. We’ve got more gold than anybody else, and steel and coal and oil and farm-land and – everything. There wasn’t ever a country was as rich as us.”

BILL: Yep, America is certainly a great country. I’ll bet he said that’s why we’ve got to defend it against Hitler.

JOHNNY: That’s right, we’ve got what he wants.

BILL: Fine! I need a five-spot right away. How much of that gold have you got on you just now?

JOHNNY: Aw, quit kiddin’. I got no part of it. It’s all in a fort somewhere so nobody can get hold of it.

BILL: Nobody, including you and me and forty million other people in this country. But maybe you’ve got a mine or an oil well somewhere around you can cash in on quick?

JOHNNY: Now you ain’t being serious.. All I got is a job slinging hash, and a family. I ain’t no Rockefeller or Morgan. It’s the COUNTRY that’s got all that, I tell you.

The Big Fellows Have It

BILL: And here I thought we were rich! – All right, let’s be serious. YOU aren’t rich and YOU haven’t any gold or any of the other things you were talking about. I haven’t got them. But you say the COUNTRY has got them. Now, seriously, what do you mean?

JOHNNY: Well, I guess it’s the big fellows that have all that, not us little people.

BILL: Right, it’s the ONE out of TEN who own most of the wealth, and they’re the ones that own the natural resources that this country is rich in. They aren’t the COUNTRY, though; WE are. Or we SHOULD be. – You left out something else we have more of than any other country.

JOHNNY: What’s that?

BILL: Billionaires. Do you know how much a billion dollars is, Johnny?

JOHHNY: Sure. It’s a one with nine zeros after it.

BILL: Here’s another way of figuring it. Maybe you saw the movie, One Million B.C. about the cave-men. Well, if you started on your $20-a-week job way back then, and worked every week, and saved half your wages all the time, you wouldn’t be a billionaire until another million years from now.

JOHNNY: I think I’ll try some other way. There isn’t enough future in that for me.

BILL: If you started working at the birth of Christ, you would just about have a million – At that rate, how do you suppose the ONE in TEN manage to get so rich?

JOHNNY: Search me. Sounds like a job for the U.S. mint.

BILL No sir. The mint doesn’t produce any wealth, it just changes the shape of gold and silver. Wealth is created only by WORK. It’s working stiffs like you and me putting in labor on things that’s made this country wealthy.

Your Work Made Them Wealthy

JOHNNY: Well, how did they get rich?

BILL: By work. But not their own work. The ONE in TEN lets the other NINE work for him, and takes away what they produce. Then out of that he gives them enough to keep alive on, maybe, and skims off the cream. If he does that in a big enough way, he doesn’t have to wait a million years to become a billionaire.

JOHNNY: Well, if that’s true, we certainly are a bunch of suckers. How does a thing like that happen?

BILL: Because everything this country in rich in – mines and factories and land and everything else your radio speaker mentioned – is owned by a small percentage of the people. Sure, the country is rich, but THEY OWN THE COUNTRY – that’s why they’re rich and we’re poor.

JOHNNY: They own the country ... it certainly looks that way most of the time.

BILL: And when a loudmouth on the radio tells you that you’ve got to defend the riches of this country, you just tell him even if he can’t hear you: We workers will rush to defend this country WHEN WE OWN IT, and we won’t have to be drafted to do it either. That means when we’ve taken back the machinery we work on, the mines we dig in, the land that we till. Then we’ll run them with a WORKERS’ government in a WORKERS’ United States.

JOHHNY: I guess that’s socialism again, but it don’t sound so bad as they make out.

Last updated on 6.10.2012