Max Shachtman

Behind Jones-Wallace Fight

Part III
The Program of the Workers Party
for the Post-War Period

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 8 19 February 1945, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The fight between Jesse Jones and Henry Wallace over the post of Secretary of Commerce boils down to this:

Jones and those he represents want the RFC and, for that matter, all other government institutions, run by the big monopolists or their direct agents. That is what he means by his boast that the RFC “is being run by business men, by men experienced in business, by men who haven’t any ideas about remaking the world.” It is his idea of how to maintain the bankrupt system of “free enterprise,” that is, of capitalism.

Wallace is no less concerned with maintaining this bankrupt system. Indeed, he insists that his way is the only way of saving it – and it must be in a pretty bad state if its defenders have to speak of “saving” it, of “insuring its survival”! He differs from Jones by his declaration that:

“The real issue is whether or not the powers of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation and its giant subsidiaries are to be used ONLY to help big business or whether these powers are ALSO to be used to help little business and to help carry out the President’s commitment of 60,000,000 jobs.” (My emphasis – M.S.)

Small Business Has Already Been Ruined

Mr. Wallace is a little bit too late with his talk about helping “little business.” While the big corporations and monopolies have grown enormously strong and wealthy under the administration of Roosevelt and Jones and Wallace, literally tens of thousands of “little business” men have been wiped out completely.

The strengthening of the big monopolies and the weakening or destruction of little business and the middle classes is a NATURAL process of capitalism. Jones, and big business men like him, do not want to halt this process. Wallace, and defenders of “free enterprise” like him, cannot halt it.

“Prior to this campaign,” said Wallace at the January 30 dinner in his honor in New York, “progressives have been ‘long’ on words and ‘short’ on action.”

That is also true! And it is true not only “prior” to a campaign but after it. It is the role of these self-styled progressives and friends of labor: Many words, many promises; no deeds, no action. By words and promises, Wallace seeks to enlist the middle classes and especially labor in support of himself, of Roosevelt and of policies which have brought about the systematic deterioration of their economic and social position in the country. These are the facts., They are admitted by Wallace himself. And facts speak louder than words.

The same holds true, as we pointed out last week, about Wallace’s references to “the President’s commitment of 60,000,000 jobs” and Roosevelt’s “economic bill of rights.”

For twelve years, Roosevelt plus Wallace had all the opportunities they needed to fulfill promises made. The balance sheet of these twelve years is clearcut and incontestable:

Wallace can no more wipe out these two powerful, significant facts than he can palm off the exclusive responsibility for them on Jesse Jones. All of them are jointly responsible – all of them whose primary concern is with maintaining the system of “free enterprise” with the inevitable result of growing inequality, growing suffering for the people, increasing destruction, and multiplying crises.

Wallace is lavish with words and promises. We have said that we agree entirely with the idea of a guaranteed annual wage for every worker, with a guaranteed annual minimum wage, based on maintaining national production at its highest peak. What Wallace fails to answer, in putting forward these ideas, is the all-deciding question of “How?” This is the question that the Workers Party, in drawing up its program, has dealt with openly, directly and concretely.

Workers Party Shows the Way

In its program, the Workers Party starts with two fundamental ideas:

Are these ideas wild-eyed dreams or can they be realized in life?

If they can be realized, what specific steps must be taken to begin with?

It has been established as a fact beyond debate that the system of “free enterprise,” in spite of the fact that it was subsidized, given money and loaned money, and helped in every other way by the government, did not succeed in providing the masses of the people with a decent standard of living and security.

In 1939, before the outbreak of the World War, there were less than 45,000,000 workers in industry, on the farms and in the Army.

That means there were something like 15,000,000 without work or a guaranteed income. In 1939, there was a total national production of goods and services of less than 100 billion dollars.

Only the war made possible a change, and it has been a sensational change.

From 1939 to 1943, the total national production rose from less than 100 billion dollars to well over 188 billion dollars, or almost double. The total employment, however, rose by only about twenty per cent. In other words, an increase in the number of workers by one-fifth resulted in an increase in production of almost twice what it was in 1939.

These figures give us only part of the picture of what the United States CAN produce. To make the picture more complete, it is necessary, for example, to take into account the fact that something like an additional 11,000,000 workers are available in the persons of those now in the armed services. It is also necessary to take into account that about half of what we produce is sheer economic waste. The government is now the market for almost fifty per cent of the national production, which is devoted to war purposes, that is, to destruction and self-destruction.

What About the Post-War Period?

When the war is over, this “customer” will pretty much disappear. The government will no longer require the war goods it now purchases to the tune of between 85 and 90 billions a year, which is about half our national production.

What will happen to the industries? What will happen to the jobs of millions of workers now employed in war production? What will happen to the hoped-for jobs of the millions of demobilized veterans?

The Workers Party declares that national industrial production can not only be maintained at its present level but raised considerably. We say that it can and must be maintained and raised so that the people may enjoy the good things of life in abundance and security. Every thinking worker will ask himself, if he has not already done so:

Why is it possible to organize the economic life of the nation at top production levels for war and destruction, but not for peace, prosperity, life and liberty?

The Workers Party replies: It is both possible and necessary to organize, planfully, our economic life in peacetime for prosperity and security.

The full responsibility rests, or should rest, upon government. We are told that the war must be fought because victory is in the interests of the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness of the people. Our opinion of the war is entirely different, since we hold that it is an imperialist war and not a people’s war. But let us grant for a moment the truth of what we are told. Is it not significant that the conduct of the war is not left to “free enterprise,” but is taken over by the government? The elementary interests of the people demand a guarantee of an annual job, an annual wage, a high standard of living. That, too, is the task and responsibility of government.

What Government Must Do

The government must therefore guarantee, in the first place, a job for every worker the year around and an annual wage. The minimum wage for every worker should not be below $2,500.

On the basis of a planned rise in national production, the minimum annual income of every worker’s family – averaging four persons – should be fixed for the time being at $5,000 a year.

The bankers and big corporation bosses, who make hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars a year and live in purple luxury, will raise their hands in horror at such “exorbitant” proposals. But the worker knows that an income of about $100 a week is not high at all if his family is to live – not in luxury – but in comfort. Whatever criticism is to be made of these proposals is not on the grounds of exorbitance, but on the grounds that they are modest. The Workers Party looks upon them only as a modest beginning. The 1943 total national production of 188 billion dollars, which can be raised with ease, shows how realistic is the proposal for a $5,000 annual family minimum income for the approximately 35,000,000 families in this country.

Our technological progress in the last few generations has been tremendous. One man can produce today what it took a dozen or several dozen men to produce decades ago. Remember that our national output almost doubled in four years with the addition of only one-fifth more workers. That is good. That, in itself, is progress. What is bad, fundamentally and thoroughly bad, is the fact that neither the income nor the working week has conformed to this progress.

We need and we can easily have a maximum thirty-hour working week for all, That, too, is only to begin with. Technological progress should not be made at the expense of the workers, exclusively for the benefit of the tiny capitalist class. The more we are able to produce, the shorter the time it takes us to produce it, the shorter the working week should be. A thirty-hour weekly maximum is already possible and necessary.

How is a high national level of production to be maintained?

If things are left to “private enterprise” we will go back to the 1939 level of less than 100 billion dollars, with millions of unemployed, and we will go back to worse than that. And it will happen sooner after the close of the ;war than most people believe.

(The concluding article of this series will appear next week)

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