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V. Grey

Shop Talks on Socialism

(17 February 1945)

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 7, 17 February 1945, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

“I don't care what you say,” Scissorbill Sam (the bosses’ man) was very positive. “You can’t take all the factories away from the owners. The factories BELONG to the owners. It wouldn’t be RIGHT for us to take them.”

“Sure they belong to the owners,” Slim commented, as he reached into his locker for his gloves. “So do you. But that’s no reason you ALWAYS have to be a slave.”

“If I’m a slave you’re a slave, too. You do the same work I do, and you get the same pay.”

To this indisputable logic Slim replied, “Yep. We’re all slaves. Wage slaves. Only difference between you and the rest of us is that you LIKE it.”

“Whaddaya mean – we’re slaves?” Breezy, said, as he looked up from a list of teams for the big hockey pool. “I ain’t no slave.”

“Anyway we’re not slaves until they pass that slave labor law,” Shorty said, with his mouth full of a baloney sandwich.

“What I was getting at,” Slim began again, “is that this plant and all the machinery in it don’t do the capitalists a bit of good unless they have us to work it for them. We have to be their slaves when you stop to think of it. And the only way we can stop being their slaves, and work for ourselves, is to kick them out.”

“Listen!” Scissorbill Sam said belligerently, “Don’t you know that widows and orphans own stock in this company? What do you want to do? Kick them out in the streets?”

“Now, wait a minute, Slim,” Pop Philliber set his thermos jug down real quick. “Don’t you fly off the handle at Sam. Anyway that’s a real good argument he’s got there.”

The fellows looked at Scissorbill Sam. He was pleased. But he looked a little bit self-conscious, because everybody could see that Pop was getting wound up with an argument, too.

“Slim here says that if you take the factories away from the rich, you take their slaves away at the same time. But as Scissorbill points out, you also take the slave away from some poor widow that never done you any harm –,” Pop lit his pipe while he let the moral sink in.

“Now just look at that widow. All her money is wrapped up in that slave. Maybe just ten or fifteen thousand dollars in stock. It’s all she has in the world. Now just pretend that all the rest of us here are slaves belonging to Eugene Grace, or some other rich and fancy stockbroker. But poor Scissorbill there, he’s a slave of this nice old widow woman.”

Scissorbill tried to make out he wasn’t paying much attention. But we could all see he was.

Scissorbill and His Lady Slaveowner

“You see,” continued Pop as he squinted into his thermos bottle at nothing in particular, “this here is what you call a problem in ethics. It might be all right for all the rest of us to kick our owners out, on account of their being mean and no-account crooks that get real fat off’n us. But you take the sweet old lady slaveowner that lives off Scissorbill. Why he just keeps her in crinkly dresses, a nice little cottage with a board walk and roses, maybe a buck in the collection plate at church now and then –”

“Maybe she’s got a couple of pet cats and dogs, too,” Shorty added.


“I ain’t supportin’ no pet cats and dogs!” Scissorbill shouted. He was getting a little mad.

“Well if you’re gonna be a slave for a nice old widow you got to work for her pets, too,” Pop said, with an air of finality, “I guess you just got to take the bad with the good, that’s all.”

“Anyhow,” the old boy went on, “if the majority of the boys figure this poor woman hadn’t ought to lose her slave, just on account of a little Socialism or something, well you can let Scissorbill go right on being her slave. That’s fair enough, ain’t it, Sam?”

But the bosses’ man walked out in a huff, while everybody laughed.

“Now that I think of it,” Shorty said, “My old lady was a widow. She never had time for rose gardens and stuff like that, though. She worked ten and twelve hours a day at the laundry to keep us kids in school.”

“Of course if you was to get technical, now,” Pop said with a little sigh, “you might say there’s quite a few poor widows in this country that don’t have any ten or fifteen thousand dollars worth of stock in this company.”

Slim clenched his teeth. And without opening them very much he said, “For every widow who gets a cut on the profits, they mail the lousy five hundred dollar insurance to twenty new widows right in this town. And they’re making thousands and thousands of widows in this war that they’ll kick out on the streets when it’s all over. It’s THEM that’s robbing widows and orphans. And it’s US that’s going to put a stop to it.”

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