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Notes of the Week

(28 October 1933)

From The Militant, Vol. VI No. 49, 28 October 1933, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Abolishing Unemployment

Every week in this hectic period brings new social thunderstorms. Last week rickety capitalistic Europe threw a fit over Hitler’s bolt from Geneva.

It’s the turn of younger, crafty, conniving American capitalism this week. The farmers out in the Middle West are threatening to upset Mr. Roosevelt’s New Deal applecart.

* * * *

Besides the farmers, there are the steadily enduring, industrial strikes, growing and broadening out. The compliance boards of the NRA are overwhelmed with complaints of code violators. The first snowfall promises to bring the unemployment tension to a high pitch.

A veritable bag of ill-winds are being let loose on the heads of the North American colossus.

* * * *

Along comes a new and hardly heartening admonition. The well-known economic publicist, Mr. Stuart Chase, writing in the November Current History, presents some startling facts.

Given a 40 hour week work, says Mr. Chase, the year 1934, in spite of all the government and Nira optimism, will still find 12,200,000 men out of jobs.

Given a highly exaggerated figure of 10% increase in production, the number of jobless would still amount to 9,400,000.

Granting more than that, allowing for a decrease in working hours to 35 per week, 9,000,000 men would still have to crowd the streets in futile search for a livelihood.

* * * *

Mr. Chase’s statistics are carefully considered, weighed very cautiously. The farm laborers, the miners, the professional classes are not taken into reckoning, although the same fate is in store for them. His figures are computed on the basis of established facts, hunted up and correlated by numerous and reliable economists and statisticians.

* * * *

What is behind this realistic picture of a miserable working class future? Mr. Chase and his fellow economists will tell you: “technological unemployment” Seventy men in 1933 can do the work of 100 in 1926. The machine is replacing the workers.

What is this horrible monster, the machine, in reality? It is and was always meant to be an aid to man. Born out of the unique ingenuity of man in the animal kingdom, the tool and the machine were produced to help him overcome the obstacles of nature in his struggle for a happy existence.

The thinking worker who knows this will not be fooled. No, it is not the machine that is the monster. The private exploitation of the machine, its utilization for the heaping up of profits for the few – capitalism – that is the threat to a decent human existence.

* * * *

“Technological unemployment” will exist as long as the capitalistic system exists. Replace the system of production for profit by the system of production for social use and “technological unemployment” becomes transformed into: greater leisure, better health, higher intelligence and happier, fuller life for the vast mass of humanity.

* * * *

The workers of America have not yet fully grasped this idea in their great majority. They are just nibbling at it. They want to hang on to life, merely.

They are striking in great number now for a somewhat shorter work-day, for a somewhat higher living wage.

Yet that monstrosity, the class of the bosses who possess all under capitalism, mobilize police, government and press against them. Yet the rulers will not cede an inch to the workers.

It is inevitable that the American workman will, with ever growing speed and strength, organize en masse to fight not only for a higher wage and a shorter workday, bin against the looming prospect of permanent unemployment for millions in their ranks.

* * * *

Wage strikes are not enough. Unemployment insurance must come next.

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Last updated: 3 January 2016