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V. Grey

Shop Talks on Socialism

What Price Power?

(10 February 1945)

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 6, 10 February 1945, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

“Just as long as people want to have power, you’re going to have wars and trouble,” somebody said the other day.

Some crazy guy with a lust for power and a yen to play soldier crops up every generation or so and gets millions of poor guys killed off who never wanted to play soldier at all ... That’s the way the capitalist books and newspapers explain things. And naturally most people believe it’s really so.

But it stands to reason that very few tyrants are as strong as, say, two men together. And you never heard of ONE that could stand up to ten men at once. Yet it takes a hell of a lot more than ten strong men to overthrow a weakest tyrant.

Take the old superintendent of the Open Hearth – the one they had three or four years ago. He was hell on wheels. Took away the benches, took down the canopy the fellows had fixed up on the other side of the furnace floor to keep the rain and snow off them. He’d have a man sent back home for coming out on the floor five minutes late for his turn. There was a tyrant for you.

The whole union kept up a running fight for months to break that guy. They complained to every big shot they could. They had “take-it-easy” weeks, and regular slowdowns, too. Finally when the second and third helpers just refused to work on the floor at all, and stayed in the labor gang, the company “looked into it.”

The result was that a different superintendent was put in and the other slave-driver was transferred. Naturally he got better pay in the new place where he pulled the same business, while the new super was a young guy – just promoted. Probably got lower pay than the old one.

But whom was the whole union fighting? Was it just an ornery, cantankerous old man who wanted to have his own way? Or was it the COMPANY – the association of millionaires who PROFITED by his use of power?

You can be power-drunk all your life. But if you don’t tie up with the bunch that want you in power to protect their interests, about all you can do is twiddle your thumbs, or read the comic books and intoxicate yourself with the deeds of “Superman” and his pals.

In their movie Lost in a Harem, Abbott and Costello run up against a dirty king who’s a tyrant for fair. And do you know how he does it? He hypnotizes everybody in the kingdom (including Tommy Dorsey and his band) with some kind of magic ring. That sounds pretty silly.

And yet, when you come to think of it, some explanations of Hitler’s powers might have come out of the same wacky scenario writer’s hand. According to the stuff you read and hear, this Hitler is some kind of nine-day wonder in reverse. He reportedly wields hypnotic power over people: Roosevelt and Churchill may be superheroes. But Hitler’s a super-villain. And instead of having a ring to put people to sleep, they have something better. They are supposed to have people all willing to be hypnotized anyway because they’re such dopes!

But what does Hitler DO when he uses all this super-power of his? Does he put extra benches on furnace floors? Does he command the capitalists to raise workers’ wages? Does he command them to pay time-and-a-half, and double time? Not on your life. He doesn’t, because he CAN’T.

No, the magic of the fascist tyrant’s power works only in one direction. Against the working people. Hitler has a lust for power, all right. But he and his gang are working for the association of German millionaires who PROFIT from this power. The minute there’s no more profit, out he’ll go, while they try to use some other handy tyrants (like Allied generals) to keep the German workers down.

No single individual really rules either Germany or America. A CLASS rules. The capitalist class. If they can get some super boy-scout to front for them, so much the better – for them. They can put forward these tyrants because, like all previous class rule, capitalist rule is the rule of a tiny minority, based on the foundations of scarcity economy. The only way a minority has or can or ever did rule over the majority is by supplementing brute force with deception, lies and legends – especially centered round tyrants, “democratic” and fascist alike. That is why real democracy is out for capitalism just as it was excluded for feudalism and slavery.

When we take over the industries, our class, THE WORKING CLASS, will rule. Then we’ll have real democracy, workers’ democracy. We working people will be running things in our own interests. So naturally we will train as many as possible for genuine leadership. There will be no lifetime presidents or dictators under our system, for the simple reason that we’ll be constantly getting better leaders to take care of the interests of those who will then PROFIT from the power – the WORKING PEOPLE themselves.

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Last updated: 22 June 2018