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Millions to Be Jobless Perman’tly

Army of Unemployed Will Remain, Admits Head of A.F. of L., Wm. Green

(February 1933)

From The Militant, Vol. VI No. 8, 15 February 1933, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

All the capitalist bombast about an early economic revival has burst like a pricked baloon. Wm. Green, president of the American Federation of Labor has announced that the unemployment figures now stand at the appalling total of 12,000,000 and that between the months of December and January alone, more than 200,000 were laid off. And Bill Green is hardly given to exaggeration. On the contrary the number of jobless must far exceed his estimate.

The meaning of this statement is quite clear. More than 25 percent of those listed by the census as gainfully employed are now pounding the pavement and lining up at soup kitchens and breadlines. About as many workers do not receive more than part time employment. And if we add to these their wives and children then more than 50,000,000 human beings are standing on the brink of starvation in plentiful America. All of the employment schemes, all of the panaceas of the pot-bellied politicians all of the promises of the “captains of industry” have gone up in smoke. The working class is reduced to beggary, extending its hands for alms in the charity institutions of the country. Such is the balance sheet of four [year]s of capitalist crisis. Such is the privation into which capitalism drives the masses.

But if millions are idle and hungry, if millions still working have their wages cut to the bone, the prospect for future employment is slim. The black scene of permanent joblessness has become a grim reality. Bill Green says in the same article that “hundreds of thousands of jobs have been completely eliminated during the depression”. And further that if the work week were universally shortened to 30 hours, we could put to work 6,6000,000 of the unemployed.” In other words even this optimistic calculation would leave approximately five and a half million workers permanently without jobs. How can the bankruptcy of this system be more glaringly exposed than by the fact that it has cast millions of willing and able-bodied slaves on the scrap heap. Their freedom to starve is now complete.

What is to be done about it? What action shall the proletariat take to ameliorate its wretched conditions? Green proposes the six hour day – five day week. Yes, that is one of the objects the labor movement must strive and struggle for. But, certainly, Green’s advocacy of it does not bring this change one step nearer. For him it is merely a plausible theory which he was forced to accept at the insistence and discontent of the rank and file. And in spite of his bold threats this labor skate and his cohorts will never spur the ranks of labor into action – and it is only by struggle that it can be obtained. They are too closely bound up with capitalism to think of striking it such a heavy blow We must advance towards these demands: the thirty hour week; unemployment insurance; credits to Soviet Russia, in active combat against the capitalist class and all their agents in the ranks of labor.

But the curse of unemployment, which has come to stay can never be obliterated until the system that produces it is banished from the face of the earth. According to Green, in 1929 – boom times, mind you – there were over two millions out of work. After this crisis has spent itself on the backs of the workers there will be nearly 6,000,000 out of jobs. When will this end? It will end when the American proletarian revolution buries capitalism into the limbo of history.

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Last updated: 16 April 2015