Glotzer Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index   |   ETOL Main Page

Albert Glotzer

Seasonal Improvement – Where?

(May 1931)

From The Militant, Vol. IV No. 10, 15 May 1931, p. 8.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The hope of American capitalism in the Spring period to indicate definite signs of a return from the crisis appears shattered, now that this period has come and gone with but a scant rise and an immediate recession. The decline of industry reached the lowest point in the crisis, at the end of January, when the index stood at 74.5. While this is not the lowest position of industry in the economic history of the country, according to the Annalist (the year 1892, with an index of 72.0, is the lowest point) it marks the worst crisis experienced by United States capitalism since its appearance as an imperialist power.

Seasonal Rise Slight

The Spring seasonal upturn was a slight one. Increased activity was witnessed in most industries, but almost all without exception have again declined, with the prospect of a continuation of this decline with the coming slack of summer months. Thus the end of the first quarter finds the basic industries in depressed conditions, with a great instability in the other trades. The steel industry has declined steadily and at the time of this writing is working 48 and a half percent, of capacity. This present low in steel Indicates a similar condition among its chief customers, namely, automobile and railroad. Automobile production dropped to 68.0 at the close of April, which marked a decline of 17.9 points from the December index. Freight car loadings which stood at 80.0 at the end of December, rose slightly during the Spring period, and has now also begun a downward curve – at the end of March the index was at 77.0. Bituminous coal production suffered a drop of 5.9 since the beginning of the year, while drops are also recorded for electric power production and the entire metal industry over the same period.

The most illuminating picture of the depth of the crisis exists in the foreign trade balance, which serves as a barometer in estimating the present situation. A keynote of the crisis is sounded here. In the year 1930 a decline two and three-quarter billions of dollars was experienced in foreign trade. This decline continues at an identical pace. The figures given below represent the foreign trade for the first quarters of the years, 1929, 1930 and 1931. (N.Y. Times of April 26, 1931):–

Jan., Feb., March


Jan., Feb., March

1929 – $1,396,589,000

1929 – $1,122,156,000

1930 – $1,110,300,000

1930 – $   893,136,000

1931 – $   697,543,000

1931 – $   567,847,000

A recapitulation of these figures will show a decline in 1931 of $1,813,399,000 and $738,046,000, from the years 1929, and 1930, respectively. Without its penetration and domination in the sphere of world economy, the phenomenal growth of U.S. capitalism would be unthinkable. It came onlx as a result of its hegemony over international capitalism. Its very progress today depends upon its continued domination of world economy. The international crisis of capitalism however found its reaction in the United States; so connected is national economy with international economy.

It is precisely here that American capitalism make its most determined efforts to rise out of the crisis. It is of utmost importance to remember that the previous upward march of U.S. capitalism and its present strength lies primarily in its dominant position in the world market, and as this condition can only be maintained upon the continuation of that role, we will witness the chief attempts of U.S. capitalism to extricate itself from the crisis by an evermore intensified aggression in the field of foreign trade. Comrade Trotsky, in his criticism of the program of the Communist International for failure to consider the United States and its role in world capitalism, wrote in 1928, that:

“In a critical epoch the hegemony of the United States will prove even more complete, more open, more ruthless, than in a period of boom.”

The preparation for this policy is taking place now.

With ITS OWN two levers (the “international” lever and the “national” lever by which it maintains itself) capitalism is planning to issue from the crisis. At present the “national” lever, that of increasing the exploitation of its own working class, is being put to work, and is subjecting the American working class to increased misery and poverty. The slight rise during the Spring period liquidated no appreciable amount of the unemployed army, now numbering about 10 million. On the contrary the offensive against the working class is proceeding at an intensified scale. Wage Cuts Increased At present, under the leadership of the banks, the American capitalists are planning to institute a nation-wide campaign of wage cuts. But this “plan” to institute wage cuts is actually in effect today, and the tendency has been increasing since the second half of the year 1930. The following figures of the Standard Statistics Corporation indicate the process in this direction:



No. of
Wage Cuts

1st Quarter


2nd Quarter


3rd Quarter


4th Quarter




The available figures for 1931 shows that the first quarter of this year will prove higher than the entire year of 1930. In January of this year the Standard Statistics Corporation estimates 335 wage cuts, while the U.S. Dept. of Labor states that there were 340 decreases. In addition to wage cuts, the rise in productivity as against the rise in wages over the past ten years shows the declining position of the working class. The N.Y. Times, of April 26, 1931, points out that over a period of ten years the increase of productivity was 48.5 percent, as against an increase of 24.3 percent, in real wages, and that for the years 1927–29, the rise in the value of manufacturing stood at 9.1 percent, as against a 3.9 percent, in wages.

Thus the 1st quarter of 1931 passed. The crisis continues much to the amazement of the capitalist economic experts and leaders in industry who cannot see anything “fundamentally wrong with capitalism”. The coming year will see the offensive of capitalism increased on an international and national scale. For the organization of a counter-offensive the Communists must now prepare themselves.

Albert Glotzer Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 31.12.2012