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James Burnham

Their Government

(31 March 1939)


From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 20, 31 March 1939, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Let me try to put it very plainly:

Who is it who cuts your wages? Not Hitler, not Mussolini, not any “foreign tyrant,” but your own American boss. Is it not?

Who lowers the piece rate and speeds up the assembly line? Again: not Hitler, but your own boss, the American boss.

Who throws you and your fellow-workers out of your jobs whenever profits start getting a little lower? Who forms and runs company unions to prevent you from getting your rights? Who fights genuine collective bargaining to the last ditch? Who pays for the spies and stool pigeons who frame you up? Who buys the tear gas and clubs and sawed-off shotguns that appear when a strike is breaking? Who hires the guards and thugs and finks?

Not Hitler, not a German or Italian or Japanese boss, but your own boss, your American boss.

Which Chamber of Commerce?

Who is responsible for the ten to fifteen million unemployed, and their tragic, hungry, empty lives, for their children without enough clothing or food or housing or doctors? No one in Germany or Japan, but the bosses of this country and the system in this country which gives the bosses their power and their privileges.

Who carries out the racial policy, the “Aryanization program,” which drives thirteen million Negroes into ghettoes, which deprives them of every right, of chances to work, which forbids them to live like decent human beings? Hitler can still take lessons from the good Americans who tyrannize the Negroes.

What Chamber of Commerce is it that howls for “economy” at the expense of food and houses for millions of workers, that cracks down on every progressive proposal which might serve the interests of the masses of the people? It is not the Berlin or the Tokyo Chamber of Commerce.

Which National Association of Manufacturers floods newspapers and magazines and radio with the harsh, reactionary demands of the Tom Girdlers?

And as for Governments?

What courts are those that issue the injunctions which are used to break up strikes and picketing and labor boycotts? Not the Berlin People’s Tribunal.

What Supreme Court insolently prohibits the sit-down, labor’s firmest, most effective weapon? It is not located in a foreign country. What judges sentence militant workers whenever they stand up resolutely for labor’s rights, but somehow seem never to notice when, as in South Chicago, workers are slaughtered in cold blood?

What cops smash picket lines, club the unemployed, protect the rights of fascists and prevent workers from demonstrating against the fascists? Not Hitler’s Gestapo, not his Brown Shirts, but the good American cops of good American cities and states.

What parliament refuses to vote adequate relief and at the same time votes billions for airplanes and lifts taxes from big business? Not the Reichstag, but the Congress at Washington.

Who sends in the National Guard or even the regular army if labor seems to be on the point of winning a really major victory? Did you ever hear of cops or soldiers being called to throw lying, criminal, exploiting bosses out of the plants?

While for the Future?

Who put across the anti-labor amendment in Oregon, and aims to duplicate it throughout the country? No one has pretended that Associated Farmers is a Nazi outfit.

Who has drawn up the Industrial Mobilization Act, which will clamp down on the people a totalitarian military dictatorship over night? It was not thought of in Berlin, but in the private offices of the American War Department.

Who will be in charge of the concentration camps now being prepared for American workers who will be bold enough to resist seriously the onward march of reaction? Not Brown Shirts with swastika armbands, but home-grown fascists paid for in good American dollars from good American bosses.

What Liebknecht Meant

These questions are simple, and not hard to answer. They explain what revolutionary socialists mean when they repeat, following the words of the great and noble German, Karl Liebknecht, that the main, the first enemy is in your own country.

In each nation, the main enemy of each worker is the boss at home, and the bosses’ government. To. win freedom for himself, and to aid best in the world-wide fight for freedom, he must fight first against the bosses at home and their government.

In the United States today, the bosses and their government – the Roosevelt government, and all their liberal and reformist and Stalinist tallies, are asking the workers to forget the main enemy. They are saying: Forget the lessons of your own experience, forget What we do to you. Turn your eyes on Hitler. Give us your liberties and your lives, so that we can protect our profits against the claims of our boss-rivals in other countries. Kill your fellow-workers, for our sake.

With their voices shouting everywhere, is it not time, more than time, to remember the voice of Liebknecht?

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