Martin Abern Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

Martin Abern

Relieve Unemployment

Demand Large-Scale Credits to Soviet Union

(April 1930)

From The Militant, Vol. III No. 14, 5 April 1930, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

No appreciable change is to be noted in the employment situation throughout the United States. Mass unemployment remains, and will remain a permanent phenomenon of capitalism. No matter what remedies the ruling class proposes or applies, no matter how production is again re-established – rationalization, the replacement of man-power by new machinery and methods of equipment (the belt-line, speed-up, stretch-out, etc.), has vastly increased the army of the permanently unemployed.

Efforts, as never before, are being made to explain away the vast unemployment and the misery it has brought in its wake for the toiling masses. The apologists and crystal-gazers of capitalism try to make one vision a quartz of diamond richness, but the masses who feel the pinch of poverty are beginning to note that the bauble of capitalism, is truly but cheap glass. It becomes increasingly difficult to make out a case for capitalism, or to point to possibilities of any adequate improvement in the immediate or future situation for the masses.

Wm. Green’s Report on Unemployment

President William Green of the American Federation of Labor who is always looking for a chance to put in a good word, as well as deed, for his masters, the employers, in his report on unemployment among the organized workers, is unable to cover up the appalling facts of unemployment among them. What can be the case, then, among the unorganized masses in the basic industries, the Steel Mills, Packing Industries, etc., who are affected to an even greater degree by unemployment than the unionized workers, who make up but a few million of the American working masses?

President Green’s report for the first half of March on the subject of unemployment among union men, as based on reports from 24 leading cities, has to acknowledge that

“improvement is not yet general ... In ten cities unemployment was still increasing in March, and in four there was no change ... In the different trades, conditions varied also ... In the Printing and Metal trades there were more out of work than in February, and in both these trades, unemployment in March reached the highest figure for any month since 1927 when we began keeping records.”

Nor is it possible for this labor faker, who regards capitalism as the best of all possible worlds, to hold out hopes of any genuine improvement of conditions in the near future, though he endeavors to hide the truth in a cloud of dusty words. Green goes on to say that

“In service industries, transportation, food, clothing, and other manufactures there was no great change ... Owing to the unusually large number out of work this year it will undoubtedly be a long time before employment reaches normal proportions. In eleven cities unemployment is still at a very high figure of 20 percent or more out of work – in Jersey City, Cleveland, Denver, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, Buffalo, Los Angeles, New York, Paterson and Boston.”

Bosses and Government Ignore Needs of Workers

But there will be no “normal” again, notwithstanding Mr. Green, Hoover, and others who try to conceal the facts. But indeed it will be “a very long time” before the mass of unemployed workers or even a good part of them will have even the consolation of drawing a pittance of wages from a boss.

The Socialists and the American Federation of Labor fakers in New York were compelled, under the pressure of the rank and file workers and the militant propaganda of the Communists and the Left wing, to give consideration to the unemployment question. These elements, speaking through their Emergency Unemployment Conference have to acknowledge the extremity of the unemployed situation in New York. They estimate that five hundred thousand men and women are out of work in New York City, and similar horrifying figures can he brought forward from every city and town in the country.

Where the bosses and their governmental and labor lackeys cannot hide or lie about the true situation, they try to ignore or laugh away those forces who are trying to present a partial remedy for the acute conditions. All that the Mayor, James Walker of New York, can answer to the delegations of workers who made an effort to present the facts and the causes of unemployment to the city government was, “We have wasted two hours listening to political propaganda”. From such as these – the Walkers, et al. – nothing can indeed be expected. It is for the workers to understand and act in their own interests.

Workers Begin to See Capitalism as Cause of Unemployment

It is no longer possible to get all the workers to accept the situation as quietly as they have in the past. Greater numbers of them are becoming conscious of the situation and the causes behind mass unemployment. They are beginning to recognise that unemployment grows out of, is nurtured by, increases, and cannot be done away with under capitalism. Thus they arc driven to the consideration of ways and means for the abolition of capitalism.

The Senate Committee on Commerce listens for hours upon hours and days upon days to capitalists or their representatives, discusses business growth, tariff revision, censorship of radical and scientific literature, but they will not permit and will not listen to representatives of workers who have definite measures to put forward for the alleviation of unemployment. This was very clearly demonstrated when the representatives of the Trade Union Unity League were refused a hearing on the matter of unemployment. To listen to representatives of the workers is not to the liking of the bosses; but soup lines remain meanwhile and the poverty of the masses increases.

What a mockery the “benefits” of capitalist society are to the working masses, is exhibited by the words of Dr. Julius Klein, assistant United States Secretary of Commerce and a close co-worker of President Hoover, who states: “At least two-thirds of the population of the world live in countries where a considerable proportion of the people are underfed.”

To Aid Unemployed, Demand Credits for Soviet Government

Hoover “strikes up the band” with a roar of prosperity that is to come and writes the score for programs of work, building and reconstruction. But all remains on the sheet. Nothing is said of the utilisation of such actual sources as would make possible the employment of tens of thousands and even hundreds of thousands of American workers now out of a job. We refer here to the silence on the question of the extension of large-scale and long time credits to the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics.

This, on the one hand, would make possible the purchase of large orders of machinery for the industrialization of the Soviet Union, as well as modern agricultural equipment for use on collective and Soviet farms; and, on the other hand, it would thereby make possible in return the greater export from the Soviet Union of various articles of consumption, such as, grain, butter, meats, as well as those products which the Soviet Union now exports in large quantities, such as oil, timber, etc. Why this failure of the Hoover government, with all its talk of prosperity building, to utilize the possibility to aid materially the American workers through the medium of large-scale trade with and credit extensions to the Soviet government?

The material interests of both the American workers and the Soviet workers are affected by this question. Obviously, too, the material and political relations between the Soviet workers and the American masses would be enhanced and a better understanding gained by the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, namely, the recognition of the Soviet Union by the United States.

It should be plain to every worker that the establishment of big and planned economic exchange between the Soviet Union on the one hand and the United States on the other, could help in a good measure the amelioration of the economic situation of the masses of the unemployed in America, though it cannot of course solve the question of unemployment under capitalism.

Unite Forces on Behalf of Jobless

We have referred time and again to the narrow, sectarian policy that has been followed by the official Communist Party in the movement on behalf of the unemployed.

The Party has failed to initiate a broad movement for the unemployed, to unite all possible elements on this issue. By their failure to propose a united front to the socialists, A.F. of L. and other elements being jerked into motion by rank and file pressure, the official Communist Party has made and makes it easier for these social reformists and outspoken capitalist supporters to lead the unemployed movement into channels that betray the interests of the workers. Not one real step has the Party taken to develop such a united front movement.

The official Communist Party press is filled with the arrests and persecution of workers throughout the country who engaged in activities in the unemployed movement, organizing the unorganized, etc. It is necessary to unite all possible forces for the defense of these arrested workers and against the attempts of the bosses and the government to frame them up and railroad them to prison. But the defense movement of the Communist Party, as expressed through the International Labor Defense, rejects in practice any proffers to aid the defense of the arrested and persecuted workers and continues a narrow line on all fronts.

Demand Communist Party Change Its Isolation Policy

It is high time that the Communist Party turns sharply away from this course that leads to further isolation and weakening of the prestige of the Communist movement.

Such a broad united front movement can make militant efforts on behalf of the unemployed for work or compensation, a shorter work day, lessening of the speedup, a campaign upon the United States government for large-scale and long time credits to and recognition of the Soviet government by the United States government.

It was to be expected, as we anticipated, that the national unemployment conference of the Trade Union Unity League, with a narrow outlook, would prove chiefly a talkfest and hence will leave its various slogaps on behalf of the unemployed largely paper resolutions. It is time for the Party to call a halt to such practices and conceptions.

Methods in the Unemployed Movement

On the burning issue of mass unemployment, which will remain a central problem for capitalism and which the Communists must know how to utilize effectively, the Left wing and Communists have to present the issue concretely so that every worker can understand the partial program of the Communists for the relief of the unemployed. The appeals to the mass of the unemployed and the employed cannot be based merely on the abstraction of solidarity. A big task is to reduce to the minimum the friction between the employed and the unemployed that naturally grows out of the economic situation, A broad united front movement is imperative which has the possibilities in it to bring together more closely the employed and unemployed, the organized and unorganized in the country, and which can also be the means of serving to cement the alliance of workers in all lands. The economic and political reasons speak loudly for such a policy. It is therefore, for this reason, among others, that we regard it necessary for the Communists to conduct a campaign for and to make demands upon the Hoover government for the establishment of broad and long time credits to the Soviet Union by the United States. This should, in fact, be a central slogan of the Communists in all countries. It is possible to demonstrate to the American workers the simple material needs that link them closely with the needs of the Soviet masses. The refusal of the Hoover government, in the face of mass unemployment in the United States, to recognize the Soviet Union and thereby to facilitate vast economic relations between the two countries, more than ever makes this a national political issue. The Communists must make it clear that the development of economic relations on a larger scale between the two countries also increases many time the opportunity to strengthen the sympathy of the American working class toward the Soviet Union.

Tasks of the Communists

To the Communists it should be plain that such an economic development, the wider importation of machinery and agricultural equipment, would aid tremendously the five-year plan of the Soviet government (howsoever crudely, mechanically and arbitrarily this plan is being carried out by the Stalinists.) (We do not here deal with the question, that naturally arises through the growth of such a policy, of international political and economic relations between the Soviet Union and the capitalist world and its contradictions: such as the reduction to absurdity of the theory of socialism in one country (Stalin-Bucharin) and the peculiar brand of National-Socialism of the Right wing of the Western countries (Brandler-Lovestone) nor of all the other contradictions which can be solved only in the arena of the international socialist revolution. These will be dealt with in other articles.)

What we reiterate again in the sharpest manner are:

  1. Revive the policy of the United Front for a struggle in the interests of the unemployed.
  2. Build a genuine mass movement of the unemployed.
  3. Organize a wide national defense movement for the all of the arrested and persecuted workers at the hands of the ruling class.

The rank and file of the Communist Party must demand of the leadership that it stop at once its sectarian and isolationist policy and that it unite all Communist forces to lead an effective struggle for the above demands.

Martin Abern Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 21.9.2012