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Sam Gordon

After the Lamont Letter

Wage Cut Drive

Class Struggle or “Peace”

(August 1931)

From The Militant, Vol. IV No. 18, 8 August 1931, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Once again, a member of the ill-starred capitalist efficiency cabinet of the great engineer has dropped a few “indiscreet” remarks. Hoover’s Lamont has unintentionally given away the secret preparations of the bosses for an organized – and that is about all that is real in the social democratic myth of “organized capitalism” – campaign for deep-going nation-wide wage-cuts, ranging from the pivotal steel industry to coal, textiles, manufacturing, all along the line. What Lamont blurted out has not been unknown to the Communists, who were the first to predict the inevitability of a concerted offensive action of the bourgeoisie in the attempt to disentangle themselves from the economic crisis which they and their system have brought about – at the expense of the working class, by whose toil and sweat alone they are able to subsist.

What Is the Situation of the Workers at This Juncture?

Of course, Hoover and his Secretary of Labor Doak who got his training in deceiving and misleading workers from his days in the Railroad Brotherhoods, immediately came out with denials, asserting that the government still remains firm in its stand against wage cuts and rejecting all responsibility for Lamont’s letter to Condon. But, too late. The beans have been spilled. The New York Times, the mouthpiece of Wall Street, if any, gently chides Lamont for his rashness, deplores the “lack of cooperation” in the government and proceeds ... to explain the necessity, yes even the inevitably of wage reduction, all in one editorial.

And how do things actually stand at the moment. To what extent has the attack on the workers advanced? This may be gathered from figures published in the June number of the Monthly Labor Review by the Department of Labor.

The figures are extremely interesting and should be studied attentively by every worker.

Per Capita Earnings
(involving some 5 or 6 million workers)








−  9.4

Anthracite Mining



−  9.2

Bit. Mining




We notice a particularly sharp downward trend in per capita earnings during the month of March in the current year, and when we keep in mind that the figures for the manufacturing sector include 54 industries, we can easily picture the universality of the trend. Later on we shall show that this drop in average wages is quite out of proportion even with the growth of unemployment and has a cause behind it, wage cuts already carried into effect. From the mining figures it becomes quite apparent why the strike struggle wave has found its inception in that industry.

From February to March 1931, unemployment among the railroad workers increased by 1.4 percent, while payrolls fell 8.1 percent. Taking the figures for. the same month in 1929 as 100, the figures for March 1931 are:












In the iron and steel industries we find:























In 54 manufacturing industries including textiles, clothing, etc., unemployment increased 16.7 per cent and payrolls decreased 24.6 percent. Aggregate figures involving more than 5 million workers, show that between March and April this year alone, payrolls dropped 1.5 percent as compared with a 0.2 percent drop in employment.

Everywhere we see constant growth of joblessness, continual decrease in wages. No matter how great the ravages of unemployment are, or rather because of them, the men on the job suffer the onslaught upon their conditions just as well. Unemployment and wage cuts go hand in hand. The wide disproportion between the figures for employment decreases and payroll drops display this convincingly.

This is how things stand today with the American working class. What of Green’s agreement with the bosses at the Hoover Round Table Conference of 1929 the worker in the A.F. of L. is bound to ask himself. And if he considers these figures seriously, there can be no doubt left in his mind, that this whole sorry business of “peaceful” agreements with the bosses is a sham and a fraud and that the only result it achieves is: giving the capitalists a chance to gather their forces and throw the workers off guard.

The workers in the reformist trade unions are confronted today by the burning question: Class collaboration or class struggle? Green’s agreement with the bosses, faithfully carried out by himself – he has not raised as much as a finger to put the A.F. of L. workers in motion against the cloud burst of wage-slashing threatening them – and quite naturally disregarded by the bosses, should teach them a sound lesson in class politics. That they will awaken from the dark years of lethargy, brought about by the “prosperity” ruse is certain. Can they be harnessed together with the rest of the workers for effective class action – this depends upon another important factor: Upon the ability of the Communists, the front rank fighters of the proletariat, properly to size up the situation and to act accordingly.

We know that the bosses in the steel industry are prepared to cut the pay of every one of the hundreds of thousands of workers in their employ. But they are wary. The company (U.S. Steel Corporation), we read in the Times, on July 30, 1931, “does not contemplate any movement for the reduction of wage scales covered by contracts with organized labor at this stage.” Notice: “with organized labor” and “at this stage” The wages of the unorganized have already undergone a good cut, that is visible from the figures we quoted above. And why not “at this stage”? Because the steel bosses know the sentiment of struggle among the workers only too well. Because the coal industry, in which a fierce struggle, extending over Pennsylvania and Ohio, the steel centers, a strike struggle led by the militant National Miners’ Union, is already on. Because the steel kings fear the solidarity of the steel workers with the striking miners and because it is well known that a steel strike will be the signal for strikes on a nation-wide scale.

The exploiters in the C.S. Steel and Bethlehem corporations are waiting for the collapse of the miners’ strike. They know their strategy. And if the leaders of the National Miners’ Union and of the official Communist party know theirs, they will strive with might and main to extend the strike and to stop sabotaging the Leninist united front tactic.

We ask again: Will the party leaders continue to miss opportunities, or will they begin to employ the united front tactic which drives the fakers out of the labor movement and unites the fighting masses with their Communist vanguard? The time to decide is today.

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