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Farrell Dobbs

How Revolutionary Socialist
Would Speak in Congress

(17 January 1949)

Source: The Militant, Vol. 13 No. 3, 17 January 1949, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcription & Mark-up: Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

If I were in Congress today as a spokesman for the Socialist Workers Party, here is the speech I would make from the floor of the House of Representatives:

Mr. Speaker: I rise to discuss the President’s message on the state of the union. We are told the state of the union is good; the people of the United States have enjoyed another year of bountiful prosperity – achieved through the system of free enterprise – thereby confounding predictions of the downfall, of American capitalism.

Of course, the President admits, there are shortcomings. Four out of five people can’t afford proper medical care; the nation’s schools are obsolete, overcrowded and inadequately staffed by underpaid teachers; millions of families must live in rat-infested slums; racial discrimination blights countless human lives — nevertheless, we are told, the state of the union is good.

People in the lower income brackets have suffered a steady decline in living standards; half the nation’s families have incomes below the minimum subsistence level of $3,200 a year; millions of aged workers live miserably on a 825 monthly government insurance dole—still, we are informed, 1948 was another year of bountiful prosperity.

Prices are too high; there are unnecessary shortages of consumer-goods; our natural resources are being wasted; monopoly capitalism is tightening its stranglehold on the nation—yet the President salutes the system of free enterprise and pledges to defend it. And all you business men, bankers, lawyers and other capitalist politicians in Congress applaud that pledge.

Yes, Mr. Speaker, for a privileged few the state of the union is good and 1948 was a bountiful year. Last year corporation profits reached an all-time high of $21 billion, a big-rake-off was taken in dividends and fabulous salaries were paid in the upper income brackets.

Luxury housing was built for the well-to-do. Neither the rich, nor their eats or dogs lacked the best medical care. The finest private schools were available to their children. They had money to buy anything they needed or wanted. Those who retired can live out their lives in handsome style and still leave a fortune for their playboy sons and royaltypursuing daughters to fight over when they die.

Small wonder the monopoly capitalists want things to remain just as they are. Let each man’s home be his castle, they say, ever if it is only a cold-water flat in a city slum. Let the government enter that flat, not with foolishly-expensive social benefits, but only to collect taxes, exercise police authority and levy military drafts.

The President, too, is red hot for free enterprise. However, because of his election promises, he felt compelled to commit a minor misdemeanor against the system he represents. I refer, Mr. Speaker, to the half-measures and token gestures he outlined to deal with flagrant social injustice in this country.

While the President was speaking, you die-hard free-enter-prisers here in Congress whispered “socialistic,” like horrified preachers shocked by a salty oath.

You pollyanna liberals, on the other hand, straining io find something progressive in capitalism, like to coin high-sounding phrases to make little things seem big. True to form, you hail the Truman program as the launching of a “welfare state.”

Your excited chatter is repeated by the capitalist-minded top unjon officials and by the no less middle-class minded Social Democrats, who are not socialists at all.

The truth is that the Truman program is not “socialistic.” as the reactionaries assert. It is not the beginning of a “welfare state,” as the liberals contend. Nor is it proof that capitalism can, and is ready and willing, to improve the social welfare of the working people, as the President claims.

The Truman program is the result of a political blunder by the big monopoly capitalists. Here is the way it happened.

Back in 1946, DuPont, Rockefeller, Ford and their kind decided the Republicans would be more useful than the Democrats for their political offensive against the workers.

Political Blunder

The Republicans turned all guns on the Democrats, eager to get at the juicy federal patronage after 14 years on iron rations. They captured the 80th Congress and put through the line of the National Association of Manufacturers. Restraints were lifted on profiteering, taxes cut for the rich and a slave labor law enacted — not without help from the Democrats.

Drunk with confidence of a Dewey victory, the Republicans were dividing up the Washington political spoils long before election day. The demoralized Democrats tried to dump Truman for a dark-horse candidate, but it didn’t work.

Then toward the end of the campaign Truman got a little radical; his promises to do something for the working people struck a responsive chord; and he was elected. I see, by the way, you Republicans are again wearing that lean and hungry look.

Their calculations thus rudely upset, the monopoly capitalists must now use Truman instead of Dewey to militarise America for a war of conquest and to coin huge profits from it.

Truman will serve them readily enough. He hasn’t gone over to the side of the workers. When the President said after the election he wasn’t mad at anybody, he was telling the capitalists he’s still their man.

Big Business knows that it must now make a few small concessions to the workers, while preparing for the next attack on them. Therefore, Truman won’t have too much trouble, for instance, in promoting a little federal aid to the states for educational facilities. But the capitalists don’t want any of this tomfoolery about a government medical program.

Role of Congress

You capitalist politicians here in Congress have your work cut out for you. The President has asked precious little from you for the working people. Nevertheless, Big Business expects you to get out your knives and whittle down his program. You’ll do it, too.

The nine life-termers over in the Supreme Court are also in there pitching for monopoly capitalism. They have already helped along the NAM campaign for vicious anti-labor legislation in the states by their decision upholding the anti-closed shop laws.

I don’t contend, Mr. Speaker, that the President telephones Wall Street every morning to get his orders. I believe he has sincere motives of his own for some of his actions. Yet I still say he is an agent of monopoly capitalism.

He staffs his administration with investment bankers, corporation lawyers, generals and admirals. He is a co-conspirator in the firing of the legless war veteran, James Kutcher, because of his anti-capitalist political beliefs.

He has engineered strikebreaking injunctions and outrageous fines against workers fighting to defend their standard of living. In every real showdown between capital and labor, the President lines up with Big Business against the workers.

The Cold Facts

Look at the budget submitted by the President! Here are cold facts that cut through the noble-sounding but empty words of his state-of-the-union message like a hot knife cuts butter.

For every dollar the Presidept demands for war, he asks only two cents for the expansion of social security services.

The national wealth can’t be used to fight a global war of conquest and at the same time care for the needs of the people. The monopolists solve that problem by saying profits and war come first and to hell with the people.

The President’s budget and his renewed demapd for universal military training show he is all-out for the war. But he is ready to give the people a little something too—two cents extra for each war dollar. The monopolists call that “socialistic.”

In the name of the Socialist Workers Party, Mr. Speaker, I shall introduce in this Congress legislation to halt the mad drive toward war and the plundering of the people by the profit hogs.

Here is the action I shall demand. You free-enterprisers will be 100% correct for a change if you. call if a socialist program.

Workers’ Program

Repeal the draft laws and return our youth to the schools and colleges where they belong. Cancel the military budget and use those billions of dollars to build homes, schools, hospitals, playgrounds, childcare centers and other community social services.

Nationalize the basic industries and operate them under the democratic control of the working people. Put the capitalists to work at honest toil. Honor people for what they give to society, not for what they steal from it.

Plan production according to the needs of the people. Utilize our rich resources and technical skills to fulfill human needs. Provide full economic security for the aged and the infirm.

Furnish complete medical care to everybody, from the cradle to the grave. Give each child a complete education in his or her chosen field of learning.

Provide a happy, healthy and abundant life for all, on a basis of full equality, regardless of race, color or creed.

I shall fight for that program in this Congress, and I shall expose every twist and turn you capitalist politicians make in your efforts to deceive and cheat the working people.

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