Max Shachtman

Behind Jones-Wallace Fight

Part II
The Wallace Program

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 7, 12 February 1945, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

We have seen what forces are behind Jesse Jones and what he represents. We have seen what the objections of the big capitalist spokesmen are to the nomination of Henry Wallace to the post of Secretary of Commerce. Now let us look into the program put forward by Wallace himself.

Wallace calls for peak production, guaranteed by the government. He calls for a job for every worker and a guaranteed’ annual wage, for adequate housing, education, health care, and taking care of the sick and aged. These objectives embody, the aspirations of every worker, especially those who have gone through years of unemployment, who fear years of unemployment to come, but who have also witnessed the capacity of American industry to produce on an unprecedented scale – if not for peace, then at least for war.

But merely to state these objectives is not enough.

For example, the New York World-Telegram of January 26 is not far from right when it says:

“Henry Wallace testifies for a post-war America of more houses, clothing, cars, education, recreation and all the other ‘good things of life.’

“He’s for higher wages, fewer hours of labor and lower taxes.

“As who isn’t?”

In his San Francisco election campaign address, even Thomas E. Dewey spoke up in favor of jobs for everyone.

The United States Chamber of Commerce, the organization of big business, has written down a goal of 50,000,000 jobs in peacetime. The Committee for Economic Development, another big business organization, has presented a report which speaks of a peacetime employment figure of 56,000,000.

What Is the Real Question?

There is no lack of big figures, big promises, imposing goals. What is lacking is a clear-cut answer, suitable to the needs of the working people, to that decisive question of questions:


How is labor to be assured jobs for all, an annual minimum wage, a high standard of living, peak production and all the other things required for security and abundance?

The conservatives, the reactionaries, the Thomas Deweys, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Chambers of Commerce arid the like answer the question by saying: Leave it to “free enterprise.”

They add only this: The government must limit itself to helping “free enterprise.”

That is why they never raised the slightest objection to the government, through agencies such as Jesse Jones controlled, pouring, billions of federal dollars into the treasuries of “free enterprise,” that is, of the big corporations and monopolies.

Wallace, Capitalist Propagandist

In his statement before the Senate Commerce Committee on January 25, Wallace said:

“The basic function of your government in taking care of any such slack in jobs is to see to it that private enterprise is assisted until it can absorb this slack.”

In his speech at the testimonial dinner given him in New York on January 29, Wallace replied to those who are against his nomination:

“What these people don’t realize is that in fighting me they are fighting you and millions like you to the third and fourth generation. Without realizing it they are fighting against the survival of capitalism and free enterprise. The time has come to fight back.”

By his own words, Wallace takes his position fundamentally on the same grounds as the National Association of Manufacturers and the Chamber of Commerce. In fact, he insists that his way is the only way to insure the “survival of capitalism and free enterprise.” He declares that the “basic function of your government” is to assist “private enterprise.”

But, as we have already pointed out, “free enterprise” has already undergone its decisive test – AND IT FAILED! It revealed itself a bankrupt.

Before there was a CIO, before there was a Roosevelt Administration, or even a Wallace in the Vice-Presidency, “free enterprise” PROVED that it could not provide jobs and a decent standard of living for all, PROVED that it could not get industry going at a high rate of production and that it could not solve the problem of mass unemployment.

After there was a Roosevelt Administration, there were, it is true, doles and some social legislation under labor pressure, but with all the assistance that the government gave “free enterprise,” in accordance with what Wallace calls its “basic function,” industry was still sick and mass unemployment was still with us.

Underwriting the Profiteers

The ONLY time “free enterprise” was able to reach a new height in production was when the country was plunged into war and its economic life reorganized to produce the means of death and destruction.

The elementary conclusion that any intelligent person would draw – unless he was rendered incapable of doing so by his own economic interests or by distorted thinking is that “free enterprise” is no longer good for anything but mass destruction.

How, then, does Wallace propose to proceed to “make American capitalism and private enterprise work in the same great manner in peace as it has worked in war”? Here is the essence of his answer, again from the statement he read to the Senate Commerce Committee:

“In a nutshell, then, if we are going to have remunerative jobs for all, we must have an expanding private industry capable of hiring millions more men. I propose that the government do its part in helping private enterprise finance this expansion of our industrial plant. It will be privately owned, privately operated and privately financed, BUT THE GOVERNMENT WILL SHARE WITH THE PRIVATE INVESTOR THE UNUSUAL AND ABNORMAL RISKS WHICH MAY BE INVOLVED IN GETTING STARTED.”

There is the Wallace solution to the problem. There is his answer to the key question: “How?”

Wallace’s Free Enterprise

Suppose a shoemaker had a method of making shoes which resulted in every pair or half the pairs that left his bench being useless for wear. Would the solution lie in keeping him on the job and supplying him forever with more and more leather? You might propose to make a doctor out of him or a bookkeeper or retire him on a pension, or anything else in the world, but you would be mad to keep him at the business of making shoes, and madder still if you kept furnishing him with more good leather to ruin.

But that is substantially what Wallace proposes!

The more incapable “free enterprise” proves to be in providing such elementary things as jobs and decent living standards, the more government funds should be put in its hands.

The closer it comes again to national disaster with the capital at its disposal, the more capital the government should supply it with.

Why, in heaven’s name, why?

Something About Money

In fact, according to the Wallace plan for “making capitalism work,” the more clearly “free enterprise” shows all these things the more it should be rewarded, assisted, subsidized and propped up. The more devastating the social results of its “mismanagement” of the capital it has – the more capital the government should give it to “mismanage.”

Profit, we were taught in school, is the reward of hard work, the risks of capital, and satisfying the needs of consumers.

Profit, says the new Wallace school of defenders of capitalism, is the reward guaranteed and granted by the government to the owners of industry when they show they cannot satisfy the needs of consumers, cannot give work to all, cannot take “risks,” cannot keep production up – cannot do anything except stretch out a bankrupt hand for government subsidy.

Where is the government to draw these loans and subsidies and guarantees from? Again arises the question, “How?”

At the Senate Committee hearing, the following dialogue took place:

Senator Tobey: Mr. Wallace, last October, in reading the Washington Post, there came to my eye an article telling about a statement made in Muncie, Ind., in the course of political debate. There you made this statement, and I would like to read it to you:

“Mr. Wallace said: ‘After the war we can buy twice as many automobiles as we did in the past. We can buy twice as many refrigerators. To make these things possible we need only the money.’”

As to where the money will come from, you answered:

“From a man who will do more than give the green light to Wall Street.”

Did you refer to the President? Whom did you refer to?

Mr. Wallace: I was referring to Franklin Delano Roosevelt when I made the statement.

Senator Tobey: Where is the money coming from to buy twice as many refrigerators and twice as many automobiles as we had in the past?

Mr. Wallace: The money is coming from men fully at work, at full wages.

To the question, “How will be money be obtained?” Mr. Wallace answered: “From Roosevelt.”

How Roosevelt Aided Big Business

But Roosevelt was in office as President of the United States, with greater power than ever before enjoyed by the Chief Magistrate, for twelve years, the most part of them peace years. For four of those years Mr. Wallace was his chief lieutenant, occupying a post far more important than that of Secretary of Commerce. Mr. Wallace has not failed to emphasize time and again that he is merely stating Roosevelt’s own program, namely, “sixty million jobs and an Economic Bill of Rights.”

But in all the years during which Roosevelt and later Roosevelt plus Wallace had more than fair opportunity to put this program into effect, what happened?

If all blessings is to come from Roosevelt, the man “who will do more than give the green light to Wall Street,” what reason is there to believe that they will gush out tomorrow more richly than they did yesterday – twelve years of yesterday?

If the “money is coming from men fully at work, at full wages,” why were they not fully at work at full wages in the eight years of Roosevelt and the four years of Roosevelt plus Wallace?

What will Wallace change basically if he administers the government or part of it so that in the years to come men will be fully at work at full wages?

There will be no basic change. Given Wallace’s fundamental position, there can be no basic change.

But a basic change is precisely what is urgently needed – If there is to be planned, high-peak national production;

If there is to be a job guarantee for every worker and a guaranteed annual wage;

If there is to be security and abundance for the common man.

How that is to be attained requires not merely the statement of these great objectives. It demands an answer to the question, “How?” It demands, in a word, A PROGRAM OF ACTION. It demands an answer to the question, “WHO is going to carry out the program?”

In the final, concluding article on the subject, the program and answers given by the Workers Party will be dealt with in detail.

Next Week: Part III. The Workers’ Party Program

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