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V. Grey

Shop Talks on Socialism

(6 January 1945)

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 1, 6 January 1945, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Some Bethlehem steelworkers, not well versed in political economy, have wondered from time to time, “How come Eugene Grace is entitled to a take of $523,000 per annum?” The answer is just simple arithmetic.

Say you get 2,500 dollars a year for working – when you work. Then if you worked twice as hard, or twice as long – 16 hours a day – you’d get twice the money, or 5,000 dollars. A little more, counting the time-and-a-half. If you are twice as skilled, on the other hand, after spending five or six years in an Engineering college, you might make the $5,000 a year on the basis of just an eight hour day, like the engineers do. That’s fair enough.

But Eugene Grace gets a salary of 523,000 dollars a year. It could be that he works 209 times as hard as you, because that’s how many times $2,500 goes into $523,000.

Of course, you might object that you eat Wheaties in the morning, too, and you can’t understand how anyone could have 209 times the energy you do.

Well it’s possible, then, that he works 209 times as long. That’s 1,672 hours a day. And you can make the same amount of money yourself if you’re not too lazy to put in the time.

But that doesn’t quite make sense. So if he doesn’t work 209 times as hard, and he doesn’t work 209 times as long, maybe he works 209 times as skilled. He must be 209 times as educated. Where an engineer went to school twice as long as you, Grace must have gone 209 times as long, or about 1,672 years.

However, he couldn’t have started attending college in the third century A.D. because they didn’t have any colleges then.

Eugene Grace Must Be a Genius

How is it then, that he knows 209 times as much? Is his brain 209 times as big? No. There’s really only one answer. It’s genius. He must have been born with it. He must be inspired with some knowledge far beyond our power to understand. He never learned it the ordinary way.

But that’s the way genius works, you see. A poet, for instance, just sits down with a rose in front of him, or maybe a glass of whiskey – and before you can stand a quarter up on its edge, he dashes off a whole poem, beautiful as anything.

Eugene Grace is like that poet. You can’t compare a man like Mr. Grace with ordinary men. (You can’t compare $523,000 with an ordinary income either).

Of course some ordinary people can’t understand what it is that a genius like Mr. Grace actually does – what his work really is. But that doesn't mean anything. People never do understand genius anyway.

I bet you thought this shop ran pretty much by itself what with a couple of hundred of us working men and women, a couple of maintenance men, machinists and a foreman we see as little as possible. But if you’d read the company bulletin board as carefully as you should, you’d see a letter from Mr. Grace himself every year or so telling you how hard we all worked (including him).

You might have thought that what with us people to make the coke, make the iron, make the steel and steel products, what with salesmen to sell it, what with the government to buy it and whole armies begging for it so they could blow it to pieces right away, you might have thought Mr. Grace wouldn’t have much to do. That’s where you’d be wrong.

No, he doesn’t fool around with the production end of steelmaking. He doesn’t waste his valuable time with the business end of it either. But every month, rain or shine, come hell or high water, he has to preside over a board of director’s meeting, where he tells them how to divide up the thirty-eight million dollars in profits that they skim off every year.

And if you don’t think THAT’S 209 times as much as you could do if you were in his place, then you must be a Trotskyist or something.

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Last updated: 5 April 2018