From The Militant, Vol. III No. 14, 5 April 1930, p. 7.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).
The Roman slave holder had his “labor troubles”. The slave uprising led by Spartacus in 70 A.D. proves that. The Southern U.S. plantation owner, master over many negro chattels, many centuries later had “labor troubles” also. The Fugitive Slave Act bears proof of this. The medieval baron, lord over many serfs, also had his “labor troubles”. Wat Tyler’s Rebellion, the Peasant Wars in Germany, testify how bloody these “labor troubles” became. Today a pick up of any capitalist newspaper will show the modern capitalist and his “labor troubles”.
There is one essential difference between the labor troubles of chattel slavery, of feudalism and wage slavery or capitalism. Today the slave struggles for a chance to work, for employment. Then the slave would revolt to flee from employment. Today, police are called to club unemployed into starving idleness; then soldiers were called to keep the slaves at work. Then, stringent laws providing for terrible punishments like crucifixion, hanging, quartering, mutilating and flogging were meted out to any slave or serf fleeing his work. Now terrible punishments like jail terms and police beatings are handed out to any worker having the audacity to demand work.
In a few words, and this illustrates the superiority of the capitalist mode of production – for the master class – over any other: formerly the master sought the slave, now the slave seeks the master. He stands in line, he spits in his own face by offering to work for less food than his fellow worker; occasionally now he demonstrates and then the papers scream. Once in a great while he revolts – all for a chance to slave.
Essentially there are two sorts of unemployment, the unemployment of the blue bloods, the parasites, who while unemployed waste millions in degenerate orgies. For this class of leeches useful employment is a terrible nightmare. Then there is the unemployment of the wage slave – a terrible nightmare that haunts the mind of the worker. As he sees the job-line lengthen, however worn out and sped up he may be, he will manage an extra burst of energy so that he may not be the next one told that his “services are no longer required”.
There are many millions of this type whose “services are no longer required”. He goes from shop to shop offering his labor power, but the market is glutted with this material. As he walks he begins to think, a dangerous sign for the capitalists. Perchance a “Red”, an “agitator”, may give him some literature and he discovers:
Capitalism uses a new and much more efficient method than the cat-o’-nine-tails to make the workers slave. That is hunger. We are told that we are free and the bosses are free. He is free to offer us terms of any kind – we are free to starve unless we accept these terms.
As we work, we create profits, such huge profits that even in their wildest extravagances the bosses cannot spend them. So there proves to be no more market for that commodity we are hired to produce; no more profits can be gotten so the free boss lays off the free worker to freely starve in the midst of a land of full warehouses which the worker filled.
The workers starve because they have grown too much, they wear rags because they wove too much; they live in hovels because they erected too many homes; they freeze because they have mined too much coal. This is the paradox of capitalism.
Capitalism, greedily demanding more and more profits, puts faster machines into the shops which produce goods and profits at a faster and faster rate. More workers are thrown on the streets.
What of the worker thrown out of work?
Some of our suave, moral uplifters may take a look at this: during periods of unemployment, there is an increase of prostitution, murders and suicides. Our clergymen of every denomination rail at the morals of the people and point at the mounting crime wave, but of course do not dare to examine the economic cause or the capitalist system.
During periods of unemployment, disease and death rate increase. Among workers these are always high, but during hard times they rise to terrible levels. Fed on adulterated foods, shoddy clothed, poorly housed, the workers become more vulnerable than ever to disease.
Child labor increases as children are forced to leave school and provide for the family. While old workers leave the factory at one door, their own children enter at another – at lower wages. We have the case at present of unemployment generally and child labor specifically mounting at the same time.
During periods of unemployment the wages of those at work are slashed by the boss. The answer to any resistance is: “there are plenty outside who want your job.”
These are but a few of the effects of unemployment upon the workers. Every worker must ask himself: What is to blame?
The skilled worker says: the machine; the adult: the youth; men: women; white: the Negro; the native: the foreigner; the deluded Republican workers says its the Democratic administration; the Democratic worker says its the Republican administration.
None of these are true. The youth, the women, the Negro, the foreigner, the Republican and Democrat all suffer from unemployment. While one group blames another, the boss has a hearty laugh as he sees the divided and thereby powerless workers quarreling among themselves.
The socialists have no cure for unemployment as socialist governments have proven in Europe: witness England, Germany, etc.
Only by overthrowing the system of capitalism will unemployment be done away with. The society of Communism alone can eliminate the terror of unemployment. Capitalism will be replaced by employment and plenty for all. To help bring this about all workers should join the Communist League of America (Opposition) and help fight for the overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of Communism.
Last updated: 21.9.2012