Glotzer Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index   |   ETOL Main Page

Albert Gates

Capitalist Reconversion Plans Mean:
Back to Apple-Selling Days

(July 1944)

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 28, 10 July 1944, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The closing down of the Brewster plant focused the attention of the whole country to the problem of cutbacks and unemployment resulting from the change in the war situation. Brewster revealed the state of mind of the Administration, a whole layer of bureaucrats, and the government and private economists to the problem of continuous production and employment.

Nothing was prepared for when the Navy Department announced, without prior warning, that it was cancelling all contracts with the Brewster company, even though Roosevelt and his Administration have talked for many years about “plans.” Every emergency would be taken care of, they were told, by insight, foresight and plain love which the New Deal has for the “common people.” Yet, when the first opportunity came for something to be done, the Administration was completely bankrupt.

The men at Brewster’s had good instinct. They called a sit-in sit-down strike for their jobs. It was not only a strike against the Navy Department order, the company and the Administration; it was also a strike against the whole capitalist way of operating industry: USE THE WORKER AS LONG AS YOU NEED HIM AND CAN PROFIT FROM HIS LABOR! THROW HIM OUT OF HIS JOB WHEN YOU DON’T NEED HIM AND CAN’T PROFIT FROM HIS LABOR!

All the forces of so-called “law and order” which are so anxious to avoid “anarchy” in Europe (by which they mean, to suppress the independent action of the people) stood aghast at the Brewster affair. Not at the fact that workers were thrown out of their jobs, but at the fact that it was a sit-in sit-down strike for jobs! What if every worker should do that when the cutbacks really start on a large scale? How would we cope with it, thought the bureaucrats of government and industry.

What They Promised at Brewster

They promised the Brewster workers everything if they would only take their pay and leave the plant. The President promised that new contracts would be forthcoming and jobs would be provided for the men. Byrnes began to investigate the possibility for immediately allocating new contracts to the company. On the other hand, the Navy Department washed its hands of the whole affair, saying it was only interested in the dividends of the stockholders.

The Army wouldn’t accept the buck passed to it by the Navy, saying it had all the airplane facilities it needed. The union leadership, international (Frankensteen) and local (De Lorenzo), was just as bankrupt in offering and fighting for a program that could really aid the workers.

And the Brewster workers? What of them? The majority are still out of jobs, according to the report of the United States Employment Service. New York is a surplus labor area. Nothing was done for them and nothing is planned for them.

As a matter of fact, the whole manpower situation is a muddle and no one can make heads or tails out of reports from Washington. They are completely contradictory and apparently false. Paul V. McNutt, chairman of the War Manpower Commission, has announced that the country is faced with a labor shortage of 200,000. But the same Manpower Commission estimates unemployment in munitions industries alone as 500,000 (it has also declared it to be 600,000).

The truth is that the change in the war fortunes of the Allies has caused a lot of “replanning” in this country. While it is difficult to make any forecasts about how the fighting will go, one thing is certain, the defeat of Germany would have a drastic effect on production and employment at home.

The Prospect of Unemployment

Government economists estimate that four out of every ten war workers will be jobless on the morrow of Germany’s defeat. That would mean that within a year following there would be five million unemployed in the country.

Charles E. Wilson, vice-chairman of the War Production Board, and Joseph P. Keenan of the same board said that this body “estimated that upward of thirty-five per cent of our war facilities” would be released in the above event. Others estimate the cutback in production at fifty per cent. In either case unemployment would range from five to ten million.

If not all of these unemployed would be searching for new jobs, it is necessary to remember that with the war in Europe concluded, at least two million soldiers will be released to join those hunting for work.

The above-mentioned Keenan reported that there were twelve million more workers today than in 1940. At that time 46,000,000 had jobs producing goods and services totalling $97,000,000,000. Yet there were from eight and a half to nine million unemployed. Today fifty-five million are at work producing goods and services estimated at $140,000,000,000.

Leo Cherne, an economist who stands high in the eye of business interests, has just written a book in which he writes that, with the present labor force, and production after the war maintained at the level of 1940 (the highest peacetime year in American history) unemployment would reach the high number of 19,000,000.

In order to avoid this mass army of unemployed, Mr. Cherne states that the present industrial plant has to be maintained, and production of civilian goods raised by forty to fifty billion dollars above the level of 1940.

What is involved in all these predictions, which are undoubtedly sound? First, national planning of production to keep the workers in jobs and to provide goods necessary for the people to raise their standard of living. Second, to maintain all the new and improved industries built by the government with money paid in by the people. That is, to keep these plants from being idle, or turned over to the private operation of the big corporations and monopolies, whole sole interest, in these plants is the profits to be obtained.

But it is exactly here that the government and industry are bankrupt. They are afraid of planned production. They cannot adopt a program in the interest of the people because they are first interested in production for profit instead of use.

Here Is a Program for Labor

The Workers Party and Labor Action have a program designed to aid the workers, to prevent mass unemployment and to raise the standard of living. That program calls for:

Ask yourselves, fellow workers, what does the Administration offer to meet the threatening situation of unemployment and insecurity? Up to, now it has been silent. Oh yes, it has issued the Baruch report, the gist of which is that the government must get out of business and permit private industry the full opportunity to develop “free enterprise.” (Good old Hoover doctrine, too!)

And the industrialists, the Sixty Families, the bankers and merchants, these gentlemen of profit and a minimum for all, what do-they offer? “Free enterprise!” It is impossible to raise production, they say; it is impossible to raise the standard of living.

No Hope in Capitalist Politics

All of them are bankrupt when it comes to planning for the people. In contrast, the program of Labor Action and the Workers Party is reasonable and realizable. But, if you want to understand the meaning of our proposal for independent political action by labor and an independent Labor Party, this problem is an excellent illustration. The fact is that neither, the Democratic nor the Republican Parties are ready, willing or able to champion a program for the mass of people which is advocated by Labor Action and the Workers Party.

Such a workers’ program can be championed only by a party of labor which challenges the political rule of the capitalists and their parties.

The Republican Party convention only again demonstrated that it stands on the side of profit, “free enterprise” and unemployment.

The Democratic Party, which will gather shortly, will also demonstrate that it too is a party of capitalism, of as much “free enterprise” as the Republicans, of as much profit (recall what has happened in this war economy) and unemployment. It can match any figures of the Republican Party.

The fight for the above program of the Workers Party and Labor Action is really a fight to live. That’s the kind of program labor will need.

We shall return to this subject in the next issue to show just how vital it is.

Top of page

Labor Action 1944 Index | Writers’ Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Last updated on 14 December 2015