From The Militant, Vol. III, No. 13, 29 March 1930, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).
Reports from throughout the country give the lie to the propaganda of the bosses and the government that unemployment is on the decrease. The employment service of the U.S. Department of Labor itself is forced to acknowledge, in its report for the month of February, that “industry made no substantial gains” during the month, while “in some industries a slight recession was noted.” Yet but a few days prior President Hoover had declared that the “recovery” from industrial depression had been the most rapid in American history!
Before the Senate Committee, Senator Wagner of New York declared that the unemployment situation is the worst that has ever existed in the United States. Investigations and statistical reports from all sections of the country confirm the fact of mass unemployment. For the millions of working men and women it has brought the most dire need and acute misery. There is nothing to indicate any substantial improvement in the economic situation in the near future. Every city and hamlet in the country counts its toll of unemployed and misery. To mention any is to describe all. Distress from unemployment in Chicago, states Professor B.M. Squires of the University of Chicago and who is also director of the Illinois State employment agency, “has been the most acute in ten years.”
The steel industry, the barometer of industry in general, remains low, according to iron and steel publications which report that no definite upturn is yet apparent, and that this situation prevails also in the foreign markets. The Iron Trade Review comments that “Continental and British iron and steel markets generally are dull, some British plants having gone on short time as a result. World trade in iron and steel is slow, and restricted Inquiry forecasts continuation of this condition.” In virtually all trades, manufactures, industry and agriculture fields there is described a condition of wide-spread unemployment. Hoover and the employing class continue to hand out hokum for consumption by the jobless, but they themselves know the reality and find no capitalist remedy for the situation. Any other kind of solution is of course to them unthinkable.
As never before, public and charitable institutions have been utilized as a sop, but the breadlines grow longer and increase in number. The U.S. government has declined to do anything directly to provide work or compensation for the unemployed, but instead continues to talk of industrial revival, while jobs become scarcer each day. All sorts of proposals have been forthcoming from capitalist politicians for public works, etc., but all remain on paper.
The bosses have naturally ignored Hoover’s “request” at the conference consisting of Hoover, the employers and the A.F. of L. bureaucrats, not to reduce wages. Henry Ford, the “high wage” boss and “philanthropist” has been outstanding in speeding men out of work and then cutting wages still further on one pretext or another. On the other hand, Wm. Green, the labor faker and agent of the bosses in the ranks of labor, continues to advise the workers not to resist the attacks of the bosses through strikes, etc. – all in the name of the “national welfare”, that is, for the bosses. Not all workers who still have jobs take this “advice”. By a vote of four to one, to the surprise of the reactionary officials of the United Textile Workers Union, the company-union workers employed in the notorious Amoskeag Manufacturing firm of Manchester, N.H. in the manufacture of printcloth refused to accept a 10 per cent reduction in wages. Here and there (Pittsburg Cabmen’s strike, Aberle Mill strike in Philadelphia, etc.) are to be noted the defensive but militant struggles by the rank and file of the workers against the bosses.
In view of the acuteness of the industrial situation generally and mass unemployment particularly and the rising distress and discontent among the masses, bourgeois politicians, and now also the socialists and the A.F. of L. fakers, in New York, have been forced to take note of the situation and to propose “remedies”. Theirs is the role of lightning rods to divert the discontent of the masses into harmless (to the bosses and to the reformist and labor fakers) channels. These socialists and fakers have access to and contact with the bosses and governmental agencies, which permit them to gain publicity for their proposals. Without direct pressure from the Left wing and the Communists, they feel free to betray the interests of the workers. The Emergency Conference on Unemployment, representing the Socialists and the A.F. of L. unions in New York has proposed, as one of its “solutions” to unemployment, that the Police Department (!) shall conduct a census as to the number of persons out of work. This is indeed touching, if it were not tragic and disgusting.
The reformists and labor fakers are willing to turn over the unemployed into the gentle hands of the soft-spoken Whalen. This same Police Department, under Whalen’s direction and O.K.’d by Mayor James Walker, beats the unemployed, provokes riots at unemployed demonstrations, acknowledges the use of spies among labor organizations and use of the blacklist to deprive workers of their livelihood, is to be the census-taker of the unemployed! In brief, by the approval of the socialists and labor fakers, the Police Department is to be permitted to bully and spy and lie about the unemployed situation and then to report to the bosses what they are told to say.
To divert attention from the situation of mass unemployment, the repressive measures against the Left wing and Communists are continued and intensified. In New York parents of children who attended the March 6th unemployment demonstration were sentenced to a day in jail for permitting their children to solidarize with the unemployed. A Young Pioneer has been given the vicious sentence of five years in the reformatory. Communist leaders of the unemployed in New York appear for trial on April 11th on charges of felonious assault and provoking an unlawful assembly on March 6th. A jury trial, which the defendants requested, was not granted. The United States Department of Labor has approved the method of spying, blacklisting and brutality against the workers.
But these repressive measures cannot do away with the fact that American capitalism is unable to solve the unemployment problem, and that more and more numbers of workers are beginning to question the “benefits” of capitalist society. The only possible solution of unemployment and capitalism’s other ills lies in the struggle for the abolition of capitalism and its replacement by a government of the workers. This is the important lesson that is being taught by the Communists in the unemployed situation. At the same time, the Communists propose as the only workable immediate measures to relieve the acute condition of unemployment: Work or Compensation to be provided for by the bosses and the government; a decrease in working hours to allow for more men to be employed; elimination of the speed-up system that breeds unemployment, etc.
The official Communist Party, unfortunately, still continues a policy that isolates it more and more from genuine mass contact. It has failed to date to make proposals for a united front of all labor organizations on the issue of unemployment, and thereby plays into the hands of the socialists and labor fakers who are now stepping into the situation with their false and betraying proposals.
The Communist party has substituted a policy of mass meetings and demonstrations, coupled with gross exaggeration and self-praise of its achievements, very much like in the days of Lovestone, for a policy of systematic education and organization of the unemployed, linked with the employed and the organized and unorganized. It is this policy which makes of the March 29th National Unemployment conference in New York only a caricature of what it should and could be. Preparations are indeed “rushed” as the Daily Worker reports; but preparations which could have made the gathering a really representative one of delegates from various labor organizations and all sections of labor have not been made. Thereby the March 29th conference dooms itself to a talkfest.
It is still necessary that the Communist Party shall change its course if there is to be a mobilization of the widest possible number of workers and organizations for the relief of the unemployed We have stated this before and shall continue to do so until the sectarianism of the present party leadership is rooted out and done away with. The opportunity is yet here for a broad united front movement for the unemployed.
The Communist Party is letting golden opportunities slip by to reach and hold large numbers of workers with the Communist message on unemployment and for the cause of Communism, the only true salvation for the working masses. We urge again: for the interests of the unemployed; for the adequate defense of the arrested workers; for the struggle against capitalism; for Communism – the Party must change its course and unite, first of all, all Communist forces as a preliminary basis for a broad struggle against unemployment and capitalism.
Last updated: 1.9.2012