J.R. Johnson

After a Look at This Capitalist Society

The Feeling Is Growing:
Something Is Wrong!

(2 June 1947)

From Labor Action, Vol. 11 No. 22, 2 June 1947, p. 7.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Several weeks ago a national publication sold in millions of copies all over the world, carried the following as an authentic incident. A reporter went up to a stranger and remarked that spring had come. “Yes,” said the stranger, “spring is here, but something is wrong.” The reporter was astonished but interested. “What is wrong?” he asked. “I don’t know,” was the reply, “but something is wrong.”

The political situation and social consciousness of the country are, as far as can be gathered, at a peculiar stage. The reporter, as a good reporter always does, recognized in the phrase “Something is wrong” just that particular, characterisation which expresses the prevailing mood.

During the great strikes there was conflict. Something was wrong, but people at any rate thought that out of the great struggle would come some, decision, some definitive stage toward a solution.

Capital-Labor Struggle

Nothing has been decided. Labor is as powerful as ever. Another series of strikes can start tomorrow if the workers or the capitalists, or both, so decide. Something is seriously wrong when these mighty social forces are lying in wait, so to speak, and no one know? what the next step will be.

The Republicans won a great victory and the country as a whole looked to see if they would bring some order out of chaos. They took over Congress with a great flourish of trumpets. The capital-labor relation has them as baffled as the former Democratic majority. Some of them thunder and threaten labor. Doubtless they are plotting and scheming and feeling their way. But what they can do and how they will attempt it, that they do not fully know themselves.

Labor Is Powerful

It seemed that the Truman administration had dealt labor a knock-out blow with the legal decisions against John L. Lewis. But it is obvious that despite the present pressure against him, Lewis can retreat, and once the mines are handed over to the coal operators be as free to strike as before.

Where is all this going to end? That is the problem. It isn’t only that something is wrong. It is that the something wrong seems to be wrong with the whole system of society. There is no diagnosis and therefore (for the average man) there is no cure in sight.

Prices were due to go down. Instead they have continued to go up higher and higher. The public has lost faith in the lowering effect on prices of competition. How long will prices repiain where they are? Will they go higher and higher? Nobody knows, but people expect the worst.

Over all hangs the terrible fear, the nightmare of the coming depression. The froth and frolic columns of the press note that the night clubs are no longer doing business. The workers will not cry about that.

Fear of Insecurity

People hoard their money. They do not buy the new clothes. They watch and wait. In the factories the workers are nervous. The capitalist class calls for more and more production. Workers have an uneasy feeling that despite all the statistics of the great employment, jobs that pay a decent wage are now harder to get. Many workers cannot get more than two or three days work per week. Workers report that there is a growing all-round tension in the factories. “Something is wrong.”

The workers are not exceptional in their fears. The capitalist economists vie with one another in predicting the exact date of the coming depression. Fall of 1947. Not later than the spring of 1948. Some bold spirits laugh the whole thing off and declare that the economy is safe until 1950. The most optimistic claim that “it” will not be, or need not be a depression on a grand scale. “It” will only be a recession, after which the economy will once more stabilize itself, perhaps at a slightly lower level.

Danger of War

This much is certain, that all of them are uncertain. And this much is certain also, that the average worker will never accept a depression as in the nature of things. But how to ward it off, what he can do to lift this pall which threatens the vital sources of his life, that he does not know. But something is wrong, terribly wrong.

To crown it all comes the news of the imperialist intervention by the U.S. in Greece and in Turkey. Teheran, Yalta, Potsdam and then “peace.” But since this peace the U.S. is caught up in a constant series of conferences and negotiations, all of which amount to the fact that the country is up to the eyes in the most desperate and dangerous scramble for pelf and power that any living man can remember. There is no end to it.

Wherever there is conflict, China, Korea, Germany, the Argentine, there the U.S. is embroiled and God knows what commitments, undertakings, promises, are being made in the name and sealed with the blood and wealth of the American people as a guarantee. And now almost like a “bolt from the blue, the people are informed that they must save Greece and Turkey from Russia. Is this democracy?

True, we voted freely (except for some few million Negroes) and elected congressmen. But what kind of government is this democracy when a step affecting, perhaps in the not so distant future, the life and death of scores of millions of people, is taken in this dictatorial manner. Why Turkey? Shall we have to guarantee Korea from Russia too? And Manchuria? What is wrong and what can we do?

In Answer

Labor Action and the Workers Party have stated what is wrong, and what to do in every conceivable fashion and shall continue to do so. That is why we exist.

The whole social system, economy and politics, has outlived itself. It is rotting from inside. That is why everything is wrong and there is no solution in obvious sight. What else could cause this deep demoralization in ruling class and workers alike? But even honest men fear to look too deeply, into so pervasive an evil lest they are appalled at what they see. Fortunately for this society, workers, the organized labor movement, can and will have no peace as long as capital exists.

They struggle because they must and in the course of that struggle they learn that the root of all social evil is a system which has no other use for the great majority of men than to grind profit out of them. That system the workers will break to pieces, sweep it away, and reconstruct society on a new foundation. That is not done in a day or in a year. But by the spirit of resistance at all times and under all circumstances to capitalist politics, capitalist economies and capitalist adventures abroad, whether labelled war or peace.

All those who wonder what is wrong and cannot tell what can learn from attention to the manifold ramifications of the struggle between capital and labor on a world scale. Workers’ power. That is the answer. And he who doubts should grapple with our literature, our press, and attend our meetings until he has thoroughly analyzed our answer to the almost universal conviction “Something is wrong.”

Last updated on 18 October 2022