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Sam Gordon

Roosevelt’s Radio Speech
Asks for Class “Peace”

(July 1933)

From The Militant, Vol. VI No. 37, 29 July 1933, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The significance of Roosevelt’s speech last Monday night cannot be overestimated. It constitutes an historical milestone in the downward development of world capitalism. It foreshadows the whole course of the American bourgeoisie in the coming period, both at home and abroad.

“I have no sympathy,” said the head man of capitalist America after four years of crisis, “with the professional economists who insist that things must run their courses and that human agencies can have no influence on economic ills”.

And the president went on to affirm the future utilization of “human” agencies by the bourgeois class. What this means, he makes quite clear. It is the closer and more open merging of the economic interests of the ruling class with their political, state apparatus. In other words, a system of state capitalism which is not unsimilar to the benevolent despotism of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth century kings.

The idea of “benevolent” retrenchment of the ruling classes is rehashed in a new form, with the oppressed classes standing to gain even less than in the past; the part of the “despot” still sharper, that of “benevolence” even more shallow.

What is the particular “human” agency Mr. Roosevelt refers to? It is the so-called blanket code, proposed by the “National Recovery Administration”. What are the “economic ills” this agency is to remedy? They constitute the organizational backwardness of American capitalism in relation to its outstandingly predominant position on the world market.

How will the support which the president calls for in regard to the code accomplish the task he sets himself?

It is intended first of all, by giving up the former, reckless “laissez faire” policy, to rally American capitalism on strictly national lines for a breathing spell on the internal market which will permit a concerted, national attack on the world market.

It is intended, in the second place, to forestall a powerful movement for the workers’ way out of the crisis, by throwing a sop to the 17,000,000 desperate proletarians, whose elemental, immediate demand is a job with half-way tolerable” pay, through the introduction of the stagger system, pure and simple: and furthermore, by coralling the forces of the working class, ahead of time, in servile, class collaborationist organizations, through the sponsoring of A.F. of L. activity in such a manner as to entrench the influence of capital’s lieutenants within labor’s ranks.

All in all, a scheme for the Europeanization of industry on the “American” mass scale, with all its benefits for the bourgeoisie and as little as possible of its drawbacks.

This is the meaning of the Chief Executive’s oration: the mobilization of the capitalist United States for a long range drive toward absolute world domination; a determined and carefully conceived plan to chain the working class to this drive.

It is necessary to realize the thorough cunning of this scheme, its farsightedness. The approach towards its fulfillment is in itself remarkable. Mr. Roosevelt calls upon “the employers of the nation to sign this convenant with me – in the name of patriotism and humanity”.

He calls upon “the workers to go along with us in a spirit of understanding, etc.”

Patriotism is demanded of the bourgeoisie right off the bat. The whole nationalistic paraphanalia is set into motion. Badges of honor to be handed out to employers who “cooperate”. Strong national agitation has already been broadcast, in all the stands the administration has taken on international affairs, in all the speeches. Mr. Roosevelt can already boast of achievements insofar as the bourgeoisie is concerned. Hasn’t he reestablished the credit of the country when it lay prostrate? Haven’t he put through the Farm Bill to curtail agricultural production and raise farm prices for the benefits of all the farmers’ creditors? He feels that he treads on sure ground here, that he can make demands of the bourgeoisie. He has been their man.

Of the workers he only demands that they “go along with us.” In this field he is not so sure. For what achievements can he boast of here? The miserable conservation camps, with their forced labor and their $1 a day wage slavery? This is not very likely to impress the workers. In the meantime, strikes of all sizes and amplitudes sweep he country. It is necessary for the capitalist strategist to go easy with the workers. They are in no mood for fanfares.

He merely pleads with the workers “that no aggression is now necessary to attain those (the workers’) rights” He merely assures them that “nobody will be permitted to whittle ... away” the rights which they have not got.

He prefers to wait and see how the workers will fall for the gag of the stagger system and the minimum wage – which every capitalist will have no trouble to transform into the maximum wage, while remaining perfectly within the law.

He prefers to see how well his labor lieutenants Green, Hillman, Dubinsky and Co. will be able to fasten their stranglehold on the working masses. The patriotic paraphernalia – “for working class consumption” – will come later. He can bide his time. Capitalism is experimenting and its perspective is a long one.

What the worker can expect from the blanket code is evident from what he received from the grandiose public works scheme. Roosevelt is the sponsor of both. From the public works – the conservation camps – the workers had several hundred thousands of their own employed: at the niggardly wage of $1 a day.

The blanket code promises minimums of $14 and $11. That is to be the law – for employers and workers alike, says the president. What is to prevent the trusts, the syndicates and corporations to mobilize their armies of flunkey lawyers to circumvent the law, as Morgan did with the bank laws’. Nothing. The bosses make the laws, they have the “right” – their means, their resources – to break them just as well.

A French wit once said: “The state forbids both rich and poor to steal bread; the state forbids both rich and poor to sleep under bridges.” ...

The state: Roosevelt – that is the bosses’ state. Its laws are the laws and the codes of the employers. Workers’ rights must be fought for. They are not granted, they must be snatched from the boss class. The same holds true for the blanket code and the whole Roosevelt rigmarole.

Those labor fakers who speak of the Roosevelt administration as “above the classes”, who speak of the fairness of the codes, are preparing the workers for further and greater oppression and misery. They must be exposed. Every step of theirs must be watched, mistrusted. Every proposal carefully examined. The working class counter-proposals, the proletarian counter-strategy to the Roosevelt offensive must be prepared.

The need of the moment is the concentration of all Left wing and genuine progressive forces in the American labor movement for the elaboration of such a policy. The official Communist party under Stalinist leaderships and the Musteite Conference for Progressive Labor Action have called a conference on the National Industrial Recovery Act in Cleveland for August. Whether this conference will accomplish this burning task is questionable and yet to be seen. What is needed to accomplish this task is a well worked out Communist program, one that is based on principle and confirmed by experience, one that will stand the test. Not the least factor in such a program is a correct international orientation. The Left Opposition will be on hand with such a program, it will work with all its might to unite a solid Left wing movement, to make it the driving force within all labor organizations, in the A.F. of L. and among the unorganized.

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