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Martin Abern

Hoover’s Building Plan Swindle

Lots of Promises to the Jobless

(December 1929)

From The Militant, Vol. II, No. 19, 7 December 1929, pp. 1 & 6.
transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

President Herbert Hoover is preparing a big swindle for the American working class with his “construction program” to stall off the growing depression. The blustering confidence of American capitalist interests, received a rude shock In the wild crash recently on the stock market. While American capitalists by no means feel that the fall will prove fatal; and while at the same time, they try to minimize its effects, nevertheless, it is clear that the shock to wide strata of people of all classes and groupings, including the as yet largely bourgeois-minded workers, has been severe. The same confidence as before in the status quo is no longer there.

Hoover “Stabilizes Capitalism”

Schemes, or prayers, for “permanent” capitalist economic stability” are forthcoming from all corners. “Prosperity President” Hoover is the champion of most of these hoped-for capitalist stabilizers. Hoover, the pride of the House of Mammon, stepped to the helm to guide the ship of profit.

But lo, in but a handful of months came the Wall Street crash, upsetting faith, bank accounts, business and jobs. All eyes turned to Hoover to speak his and also the wisdom of the House of Morgan. As business begins to tremble; as factories and mills in many large centers begin to shut down; as unemployment, in the beginnings of a cold winter, jumps sharply from its already high figure, Hoover steps forward and trumpets:

“Business as usual! There is nothing fundamentally wrong with us (capitalist system)! Let us build!”

The Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce of the United States, Julius Barnes, however, is satisfied with production and says:

“The anxiety ... and problem of to-day is over the maintenance of buying power.”

But how? President Hoover with true Quaker calmness once said:

What About the Unemployed?

“The primary safety to continued prosperity will be continued willingness Of our people to save their enlarged earnings (what, the unemployed?), to resist extravagance and waste (also the unemployed or the Southern textile workers, (?) to give full individual exertion.”

Now, the practicality of the situation compels greater concreteness. So Hoover replies to the rumblings of uncertainty, distrust, restlessness by advising a policy, in the main, of public works, road-building, construction, etc. Hoover further proposes that business hereafter plan its activities more carefully, attempt consciously to regulate the business of capitalism in accordance with a laid-out scheme; in fact, to set up-to-date National Business Council, which by its character and purpose hope’s to serve as a permanent regulator of capitalism, and upon occasion to spread salve on the sore body of the workers.

It intends further to ignore, as much as possible, its own created instrument, Congress, as now too slow and inefficient for this world of business engineering. Through this organized National business Council, that great individualism and needed competitive spirit of the “true Americanism”, so staunchly lauded by Hoover, takes a back seat. In fact, Hoover, outlines a policy, in socio-political terms, of state socialism, or more correctly, state capitalism, with some added special governmental features – borrowed from Mussolini. But organized production, or its development, is only possible where capitalism is replaced by working class rule, as in Soviet Russia.

The figures adduced by leading capitalist men of almost every known industry and trade, by bank presidents, electric power heads, railroad magnates, automobile barons, and others, to show what business has in mind to maintain “Business as usual”, stagger the imagination, certainly those of a layman, and are meant to be impressive and conclusive. The figures run into billions of dollars that are to go for construction, new activities and increased production and maintenance and repairs in almost any sphere of production that one could name. The daily and other papers and magazines are filled each day with these astronomical figures and stupendous proposals that are to be. But their weakness is that the proof of security they are supposed to show are “too conclusive” In some respects. Even casual inspection of these gigantic figures [show,] or are supposed to, the immediate needs of a given industry or trade if there is not to be a collapse. Increased figures are meant for realization, but only in rare instances is there shown specifically how the particular job is to be accomplished: how many workers, at what wages, working hours, etc. The figures sound grand – but are hollow, so far certainly for that which they are supposed to portray.

The New York Times is hopeful of Hoover’s schemes, but by no means certain. It says (12-1-29):

“It will be some time (how much?) before the projected outlays by great corporations can be made concrete in actual employment. In every case preliminary studies will have to be made, blue-prints submitted and each detail worked out,” (Is this “business as usual”?) Moreover; this mobility of labor is not in actual practice so facile as it is in economic theory, so that time must elapse before workers who may be displaced at one point can find jobs at another. Apparently Mr. Hoover himself contemplates some such slow (!) development of his plans.”

Public construction, however wide the program, does not eliminate the features of the capitalist system that make for recurring crashes. True, governors, senators, businessmen, bankers, and also the A.F. of L. fakers may “co-operate”. But that will not carry on production unless profit is produced; will not hire labor unless there is profit therein. The construction of public buildings, subways, houses, etc., are one way of applying Hoover’s proposals. Yet, these forms of building construction have been on the decrease in in 1929 and the total values less than in 1928. Hopes for 1930 may be high and good wishes of men expressed in conference but no substantial economist has yet stepped forward with figures to prove a better case for 1930. In the last analysis capitalists seek for the key to unlock the door to profit.

The Public Works Panacea

Governments, national, states, local, may tax for public works. But it will not then be long before the hitherto “public-enlightened citizens” or capitalists will begin to squeal and will try to do business where their profits will not be affected so much by governmental and political exigencies.

Mr. Julius Klein, assistant Secretary of Commerce and the closest economic collaborator of Hoover may buoy up the spirits of the property and wealth-owning classes with his references to the general and dominating role of American capitalism in capitalist world economy.

He may further point out, that this expansion of American capitalism’s influence on an international scale will be on the increase for a time yet and that this factor will also be of aid domestically. But it is also necessary to point out that this increased aggressiveness of the United States increases the rivalries and difficulties with other nations; that ultimately and quickly these international economic and political rivalries produce national domestic discord – unemployment, rationalization methods, lower wages, increased and sharper class conflicts between the employers and the working class.

All the measure sponsored by Hoover, are only stop-gaps at the workers expense. Others of the enlightened capitalists and their political agents, such as Lieutenant Governor Lehmann and United States Senator Wagner of New York, sense even bigger crashes to come and add their bit in the hope also of “permanent capitalist stabilization”.

The emergency brake may work, but each time it is tried again, it works less simply and easily. The working masses are slowly now, and more swiftly in the future, learning that though the roads, are here and there lined with trees and hot-dog stands, the road of capitalism leads over a cliff. They will clamber out, as many already have, and look for another route of socialism or communism. Hoover’s “prosperity reserve” is being depleted.

Organize To Fight!

The workers in the United States still have the task in the main to see the capitalist as their class enemy, to organize as a class to defeat the employers. Hoover’s waning “prosperity reserve” can only be effectively answered by a new social system which substitutes social production and use for capitalist anarchy and misery. It can only be met now with a militant resistance to his enormous “construction program” swindle, a meaningless palliative for the growing unemployment among the workers, the prospect of heavy wage cuts, of speeding up the already intensively exploited American working class, and the general attack on their standard of living. The Communists must lead in this task of education, organization and struggle.

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Last updated: 17.8.2012