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V. Grey

Shop Talks on Socialism

(7 April 1945)

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 14, 7 April 1945, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

“Pop, you goose-greased son of a sea serpent,” said Breezy, who had come in a little high. “Don’t you recognize your old friends any more?”

“The last time I recognized you on a Saturday afternoon I had to buy you two drinks,” Pop growled.

“So you admit it! What do you fellows think about that? Here’s a man I thought was a friend of mine. That’s life for you,” he said tragically, slapping his side like Schnozzle Durante. “But I’m big-hearted. When I see you in this condition, Pop, I’ll come right over to your side of the road and buy you three more drinks. How do you like that?”

“You don’t have to buy me no drinks, Breezy. You save your money for you old age. You can’t work when you’re old,” Pop said.

“Play young and work old. That’s the only way,” Breezy insisted. “How’m I gonna play when I’m old and dried up like you? – Anyway I’m gonna live on the interest when I’m sixty-five.”

“What interest?” asked one of the first-shift boys who was washing up.

“Why my old-age benefit fund. What do you think? I been paying in on it for nine years now. Look at Pop there. He’s a two income man. Forty bucks a week from the company, and a pension from the government to boot.”

“I got eight years to go, sweeping and hooking for guys like you before I get that royal pension, Mister Breezy.” Pop was sort of huffy.

“Eight years! Don’t you try to tell this gang you’re only fifty-seven years old, Pop! You’re seventy-seven if you’re a day.” Breezy reconsidered – “I bet you’re eighty-seven. Say, fellows, Pop’s the guy to see if you want to borrow money. Pop’s got all that pension dough salted away somewhere.”

For a minute some of the fellows looked at Pop as if they almost believed it. Then Breezy asked everybody in general, “Say, how much is that pension anyhow – anybody know?”

Nobody knew. But we were all thinking – just like Breezy would have been thinking if he hadn’t been under the weather, “Gee, is Pop only fifty-seven? With all his wrinkles and rheumatism he really could pass for seventy-seven.” And each one of us thought, “Will I be as old as that when I’m fifty-seven? Why hell – I might never live to be old enough to collect that pension.”

The Kind of “Security” Capitalism Gives

“I guess most of you guys are too young to be interested,” Pop said, pretending he wasn’t very much interested himself, “But the highest amount anybody can possibly get is eighty-five dollars a month. The average is about thirty-six dollars. I’ll beat the present average, though, on account of the eight more years I’ll be paying in – if I live to be sixty-five.”

Boy, isn’t that beautiful? Pop will get about ten bucks a week in his old age. A hell of a lot of “playing” he’s going to do.

“Yes sir, you fellows will be sweating your heads off eight years from now,” Pop went on, as he opened his laundry and tied up his dirty overalls into a small bundle. “And I’ll be sitting back drawing down that 10 smackers a week.” And being a thoughtful sort of cuss, he couldn’t help but add after a second or so – “mebbe.”

“Play young and work old” Breezy said. But how can you work when you’re old. The plant doesn’t want you. They’ll throw Pop on the scrap heap one of these days. And you don’t have the money to play when you’re young, unless you neglect those you really want to take care of.

That’s the capitalist system for you. That’s capitalism and the kind of security it gives you – with money you yourself fork over.

So what’s Breezy going to do? Or anybody else for that matter? Butt his head up against the wall and wind up on the skids before his time?

There’s only one thing we can do. Organize our forces to overthrow the whole rotten system. We don’t want their starvation bread when we’re old. We want a decent workingman’s society, where a man fifty to sixty years old can make his own choice to keep on working, or take it easy, AT THE SAME GOOD PAY EITHER WAY. That’s the way we’ll fix things under socialism.

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