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The New International, December 1943

From the Theses of the Workers Party:

Prospects of the Post-War Period

The Coming Crisis in the U.S.


From The New International, Vol. IX No. 11, December 1943, pp. 327–328.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The United States is heading toward an economic crisis in the post-war period that will be more catastrophic and more far-reaching in its social consequences than it has experienced at any time in its history. The gigantic problems of post-war reconversion of the economy and social life of the country will find the antagonistic classes more conscious of their particular interests and better organized to defend them. Above all, this will be the case, on the one hand, with the big industrialists and bankers, and on the other, the working class organized through its powerful unions. In addition, the millions of demobilized men and women of the armed forces – yesterday’s “lost generation” – will demand jobs and decent living standards and will be determined to enforce their demands. And the mass of the middle classes, crushed by the war and the big monopolists, will put forward their own program for their rehabilitation and security. Post-war United States will be a place of great social turbulence and sharp class strife.

Already the immense wartime construction of new industrial plants and the expansion of the key machine-tool industry have reached their peak. In view of the stupendous productive capacity of the economy, the expansion of war production for the duration will be by means of the exploitation of labor. In the post-war period, reconversion of the economy will mean that the pre-war chronic mass unemployment will once again plague the United States; this time it threatens to be far more widespread in view of the greatly augmented productive plant capacity and labor force.

The Economic Collapse

The economic collapse will be accompanied by mass migrations of workers from the war-boom, over-populated areas of the country, thus further disorganizing the economy and the social life of the country.

The large potential consumer demand due to wartime postponement of purchases (the unavailability of these goods during the war) and the existence of vast savings by the people (in the form of war bonds and bank deposits) even if increased by soldiers’ bonuses, social security payments and relief, can only mean a brief spurt in the production of civilian goods.

Even the “consumer boom” will require a preliminary period of reconversion and readjustment; a period whose length will depend, among other factors, upon the future developments of the war and the war economy and the time relation between the end of the war in Europe and in the Pacific and Far East. In any event, many of the wartime governmental controls of the economy and new forms of government intervention will be imperative in the post-war period if the inevitable crisis is not to lead to complete economic and social chaos.

In the post-war period, therefore, each group in American society will look to the state to intervene in its own behalf. The big monopolists will continue their wartime course in the new period. They will seek to strengthen their domination of government policies and boards and completely replace the New Deal bureaucracy as the directors and managers of the state. They will seek an early return to the direct control of the economy by the private monopolist corporations and banking houses; the scrapping or retiring of some government-owned plants and the sale of the rest to them; the abolition or sharp decrease of all taxes on corporations and the reduction of tax rates on the higher bracket incomes; early lifting of wartime government control measures; the early return to a free gold standard of money with ownership of gold by the private banks; the emasculation of the social legislation adopted in the last decade.

All these policies are national aspects of the general program of the big monopolists for extending their domination throughout the world by the means of their own private institutions, aided by the U.S. government and any inter-governmental bodies that may be set up.

The wealthy capitalists who do not belong to the monopolist group of the ruling class and the middle layer of manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers will demand that the state protect them against the big monopolies; sell the government-owned plants and stockpile of goods to them; give them subsidies and loans; enforce the anti-trust laws; reduce their tax rates; protect them against the unions and the “high” labor standards established during the war by modifying or abolishing some of the existing social legislation.

The middle classes, the really small business man, the bankrupt shopkeepers and the self-employed professionals who have been thrown out of business by the war economy and the draft for the armed forces, will demand state aid to reestablish their old positions and create conditions favorable to them.

The farmers likewise will demand that the state guarantee their continued prosperous development through price parities between agricultural and industrial products and subsidies and loans.

The workers and the demobilized men and women of the armed forces will demand that the government which was able to provide full employment during the war must also assure a job and decent living standard for all after the war. They will demand that the young people today in the armed forces and in industry, who were taken out of the schools, be given government aid to permit them to continue their formal education; and that this aid also be extended to all youth.

The workers do not and will not expect that the individual capitalists and corporations will be able to cope with the problem of post-war mass unemployment. The pent-up discontent of the workers with their present working and living conditions, now controlled because of the war and the no-strike policy of the union leadership, will be further increased by the mass unemployment and the well-organized offensive of the capitalists against their unions; and against the wage standards and working conditions of the employed workers.

Post-War Prospects of Capitalism

The fate of the United States in the post-war period will depend upon its ability to organize the world. America’s rôle in the present war has destroyed isolationism as the dominant policy of American capitalism. Henceforth the foreign policy of the ruling class will be interventionist. The insistence on all sides (Sumner Welles, Wendell Willkie, Eric Johnston) that “the era of imperialism is past” is an expression of the ruling class for a different type of imperialism. On the one hand, it is an attack on British, French and Dutch colonial empires, with a view toward American participation in their exploitation and, on the other hand, an expression of the fact that American capitalism cannot at this late stage of history repeat the course of the old imperialism, i.e., convert large areas of the world into its own direct colonial empire, maintained through military and political domination. Further, due to the industrial and financial superiority of the United States over its rivals, the “open door” policy is the most advantageous course.

This policy is also dictated by the need to win the support of the colonial bourgeoisie and masses, who hate the imperialisms which now rule over them and who seek national independence.

To achieve and maintain an “open door” policy, the United States has become and will seek to retain its position as the leading naval and air power in the world, with far-flung bases on the seven seas and the five continents. The contraction of the world due to the phenomenal development of aviation has further strengthened potentialities of the industrially power United States to enforce such a course.

However, the United States is in the paradoxical position – similar to the position it has been in since the last war, but now far more acutely – of being at one and the same time the world’s leading industrial country whose exports exceed its imports and the greatest creditor nation; in addition, it owns about three-fourths of the world’s monetary gold. This has led and will continue to lead to a chronic disequilibrium in foreign trade in favor of the United States and disrupts harmonious international relations.

To solve these problems, the United States must take the lead in establishing international institutions, political and economic, under its direction, to control the world economy; revival of the national economies in the devastated areas; the organization of a stable international monetary system and credit facilities and provisions for loans and capital investments. The formation of these institutions, the precise character of which is as yet undetermined, is now the subject of sharp conflict within the Allied camp (between England and America; between these countries and Russia; and between the big powers and the exile governments); and within the ruling classes of Britain and the United States. Whatever the character of these institutions, they will be unable to solve the contradictions between the imperialist powers or establish a progressively developing world capitalist society. Through these means, the United States at best may be able to postpone for a brief time the inevitable consequences of its imperialist paradox.

The United States will endeavor to revive European production through loans and capital investments but American economy will soon find that the goods produced in Europe are competitive products and, therefore, the basis for the repayment of these loans, which must ultimately be in goods and services, will be non-existent.

But even for such a development, American imperialism will find tremendous obstacles. First of all, political and social order must be established on a basis favorable to the Allies. In the face of the expropriation of the national capitalist classes and the scrambling of property rights in occupied Europe by fascist Germany, the masses will demand collective ownership of what remains of these industries, i.e., drive toward socialism. The Allies, in turn, will come into conflict with this program as they seek to reestablish the power of the dispossessed national bourgeoisies.

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