Gordon Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Sam Gordon

Fight Back the Boss’ Offensive!

(January 1931)

From The Militant, Vol. IV No. 1, 1 January 1931, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

As the present world crisis grows in scope and intensity, gripping one industry after another furrowing its way to the very core of the complex capitalist structure, a good deal of ideological hardware undergoes a process of rapid corrosion. Not so long ago, “American” rationalization, “scientific management” and the “technical revolution” were the inspiration of the entire capitalist world. This wave of enthusiasm undulated from the desperate Right wing of the bourgeoisie, the Fascists to its most servile Left, the Social Democrats, who pointed to America as the “workers’ paradise”.

Today when the super-capitalist Arcadia has blown up, with millions of workers pounding the pavements with an unprecedented tie-up in trade and an overloading of warehouses while countless families go unfed, unclothed and unprovided for – a different song is being sung. Capitalist spokesmen today speak with alarm of “technological unemployment”, ask themselves “whether technical and managerial improvements do not cause unemployment after all,” etc. A few simple figures tell the story:



Vol. of Indus.
Produc. Index


Vol. of Fact.
Emp. Index.






















In the six years between 1923 and 1929 the index of production rose 17 points, the index of employment, at the same time fell 2.4 points! So striking is the contrast, so telling the consequences that even among the capitalists large number are seized with panic. Senator Wagner, for instance, quoting these figures before the Senate, concludes:

“Into every home that the problem of unemployment has entered it has brought with it a doubt as to the validity of an economic system which permits such catastrophes to happen. It is as yet only a doubt, but if we do not take the action that seems obvious and essential that doubt will mature into an adverse conviction.”

Discounting the interplay of politics directed against the Hoover administration, the fear expressed and the concern with the problem of “technological unemployment” remains genuine nevertheless, and are doubtlessly shared by the capitalist class as a whole. What the Senator does not make clear is how the bosses intend to find an issue out of the straits imposed upon them by this crisis. Theoretically the bosses’ plan of action has been voiced very clearly by one of the most prominent representatives of German capital, Dr. Friedrich Lemmer, in the Deutsche Wirtschaftzeitung of last February.

The Theory of Capitalist Offensive

“Rationalization” wrote Dr. Lemmer, “means substitution of labor costs ... Since the productive apparatus is today overdeveloped ... further progress in rationalization ... is unthinkable.” Invoking the “law of diminishing utility” he concludes that “rationalization becomes ever less and less profitable”, and urges as an antidote to the ills of rationalization – a wage cutting drive all along the line.

This is the basic strategy of the bosses in the present crisis: to utilize the division of forces and the demoralization brought into the working class by unemployment in order to shift further the burden from their own shoulders by slashing the wages of the workers still in industry. This is their plan in Germany, this is their plan here and everywhere. In Germany the wage cutting campaign has already assumed huge proportions in the recent past. The strikes in Mansfeld, in the Northwest the recent Berlin metal workers’ strike, were all part of the weak resistance organized by the treacherous reformists, which the campaign has swept aside.

In the United States, despite the fake industrial conference called by Hoover last year, despite the promises made by the bosses to “retain the high living standards of the workers” the wage cut drive, though still cloaked, has already made terrific inroads. Only Green and the high priests of the A.F. of L. have kept their part of the bargain, by doing their best to obstruct and prevent anything resembling a struggle on the part of the workers.

The Department of Labor announces alongside with a 2.5 percent drop in employment a 5.1 percent slump in payroll totals, or a 2.6 percent wage reduction for the month of November alone. “Per capita earnings in manufacturing industries,” the report reads, “in November 1930 were 3.5 percent lower than in October.” Still more serious are the general index figures for the entire year of November 1929 to November 1930:





Nov. 1929



Nov. 1930



While employment fell 18.3 points payroll totals dropped fully 26.8 points. A discrepancy which indicates the cut that the bosses have already made into the living standards of the American workers, and which reveals the seriousness that this trend will assume in the future.

Against this careful and well-planned offensive of the bourgeoisie only a solid and compact united front of the workers and jobless can be effective. Every step, in order to strike back must be organized on the broadest possible scale. If ever the slogans of the class struggle could be brought home to the American proletariat it is now.

But this cannot be accomplished by simply expecting the workers to rush to the revolutionary banner under the threat of being denounced as fascists or social-fascists but by going to the workers, by entering every mass organization in which they are to be found, by fighting for their support, by pointing out the way to them constantly and persistently. The only way to encounter the bosses’ offensive now is by organizing the fighting defensive of the workers.

Gordon Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 21.11.2012