From Labor Action, Vol. 4 No. 25, 30 September 1940, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
“What I like about Roosevelt,” said Johnny, “is he’s forward-looking. Take his speech to the Teamsters’ Union, for instance. He told them he wasn’t going to scrap any of the social gains the workers have gotten in the last years, and more than that, he said he was going ahead to try to get new things for them.”
BILL: Like what?
JOHNNY: Old-age pensions, for one. And unemployment insurance.
BILL: So he says he’s going to insure you against unemployment so you can hold out long enough to collect an old-age pension. Well, well, well! Hoover used to promise us a chicken in every pot. Capitalism certainly is declining.
JOHNNY: How do you jump to that idea?
BILL: Even the politicians’ PROMISES are getting thinner and thinner, like the unemployed. Here Roosevelt comes before a trade union convention.
JOHNNY: And that’s something too! Whoever saw Hoover or any other Republican take time out to make a speech just for a bunch of workers?
BILL: Well, you’ve hit on the difference between Roosevelt and Willkie! The Republicans ignored the workers altogether for so long that some of us seem to be damned glad if Roosevelt pays just enough attention to us to try to pull the wool over our eyes. Like a kid that wants to attract attention from the grown-ups even if he gets spanked for it.
JOHNNY: Well, that’s your point of view. But Roosevelt isn’t pulling the wool over our eyes. He’s sincere.
BILL: Yes? Then why didn’t he say something to the Teamsters, about the problems they’re interested in? Like employment and jobs? Like higher wages to catch up with the rise of prices and profits? He didn’t even bother to make any PROMISES on that.
JOHNNY: The trouble with you socialists is that you want everything at the same time. Why, if we got a real pension and insurance system in this country it’ll be a lot more than we ever had before! I’m willing to take what I can get now.
BILL: All right, Roosevelt comes before a convention of workers in the richest country in the world, and what does he have to offer us? That we won’t have to go to the poor-house! Isn’t that what he said?
JOHNNY: Hmm, I guess so. That sort of puts it in a bad light ...
BILL: But the correct light, unless you want to fool yourself. Remember, that’s the best that capitalism can PROMISE the American workers today – not to have to go to the poorhouse. And I haven’t yet said a word about what Roosevelt’s promises are worth. Do you recall what the first thing he did for workers was when he was re-elected in 1936?
JOHNNY: I’m afraid my memory doesn’t go back that far.
BILL: That’s the trouble with a lot of other workers too. Well, it was to cut WPA by a few hundreds of thousands of workers.
JOHNNY: Don’t you think there’s ANY difference between Roosevelt and Willkie? Or do you want me to vote for that utility corporation lawyer?
BILL: Roosevelt’s in, and Willkie’s out That’s one difference. Another difference is: Willkie says 8 years of the White House is enough for any president. After that he’s likely to be found out, you see. And Roosevelt says the people shouldn’t swap hearses while they’re going to their own funeral. If I have to be serious about it. here’s the heart of the question. NO MATTER WHAT THE PERSONAL DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO MEN, BOTH OF THEM WOULD BE FORCED TO DO THE SAME THING IN THE NEXT FEW YEARS. And that’s to squeeze the workers harder in order to get the system out of its difficulties. You can’t give U.S. Steel an increase of 1700% in its profits and so on with the other corporations, and at the same time find more money for labor. One or the other goes down when the other goes up, in the long run.
JOHNNY: Well, I still like Roosevelt’s idea of making progress slowly but steadily.
BILL: Sure, and I suppose the best way to kill a snake is to cut off an inch of its tail every year until it’s all gone.
Last updated on 6.10.2012