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Susan Green

Can the Boss System Plan Production?

(10 August 1942)

From Labor Action, Vol. 6 No. 32, 10 August 1942, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

If any one thing stands out above all else in this war, it is the fundamental anarchy of the capitalist system. It is just impossible to make the profit system work in accordance with a plan.

Whether in war or in peace, the purpose of production remains the same – how much is there in it for the owners of industry!

Workers in the UAW ought to know this. They are close to the source of a plan to coordinate private industry into a unified whole – that source being their own vice-president.

The Reuther plan for the auto industry was recognized by all in the “know” as just tops in promoting capitalist production. (We cannot here go into its inadequacies from labor’s point of view.) However, it was kicked around and landed in the dark shed of interested opposition. When finally it was used, it was a piecemeal and handled as enthusiastically as a hot potato.

Private Gain Comes First

The story of the Reuther plan is the story of every plan coming from the unions. They have been side-tracked or, if adopted, it has been done in such an emasculated form as not to hurt the profit motives of the bosses (though the plans themselves rarely went that far anyway).

There was, for instance, the union plan to continue the production of indispensable civilian goods by a careful allocation of materials and machinery and labor and, of course, the elimination of trade names.

What eliminate trade names – those camouflages of products that are essentially the same! What about all that advertising on the air, in newspapers, in magazines! Give up trade names – that edifice that fools the consumer – not on labor’s life!

Now Reuther submits a plan for the allocation of steel, of which millions of tons are being wasted by the brass hats of the Army and Navy, and millions more through the inefficiency and lack of planning of private industry.

But “why doesn’t that lousy red mind his own business and stop planning for us?” is undoubtedly the reaction of the military and industrial powers to Reuther’s idea – if they are running true to form.

But don’t get the notion that the capitalists resent plans coining from the unions, but are good boys and submit to a general plan of their own. No, indeed not. They are just jolly rolling stones gathering a thick moss of profits – and won’t be stopped even by the plans of their own government.

Take the OPA as an illustration. It has been a joke from the very beginning because its plan for keeping down prices was full of holes through which the gluttonous hands of the profit-seekers have clutched and grabbed their “just rewards.”

First, yielding to the pressure of powerful interests, a long list of essential foods was left out of the ceilings – and their prices have been skyrocketing. Next came the lifting of the ceilings on canned fruits and vegetables. Then the landlords licked their lips, rubbed their hands and cried: “Me too.”

The profit system, you see, recognizes no plans. It has one unshakable purpose: PRIVATE GAIN.

Rubber Another Illustration

The smelly mess surrounding the production of synthetic rubber is another illustration of the absolute chaos of capitalist production. The formulae for synthetic rubbed owned by big corporations like Standard Oil have for years been carefully locked up in vaults because the low paid (virtually unpaid) labor of the East Indies made natural rubber a better source of profit.

But now everyone wants to produce synthetic rubber. Everyone has a better formula than the next guy. Everyone wants to get his eager hand into the government flesh pots. And so it goes on, until even Mr. Roosevelt got a little dizzy and appointed a judge to try to make rhyme or reason out of the madness.

Investigating committees are constantly at work. The wealth produced by labor seems to be equally divided between the profit-makers and the politicians who thrive on exposing them. And the game of grab is never-ending. The profit system operates by its own laws – a national economic plan is not one of them.

Some members of the capitalist class and some of their politicians fully realize that the triumph of the United Nations in this war depends on effective planning for war production. They look with envy at Nazidom, where this has been accomplished; where the government has compelled each capitalist to yield to the general capitalist good. (The individual capitalist, of course, continues to profit.) An American totalitarian regime is their answer to the prevailing anarchy. They are pressing for it.

A totalitarian regime will for them have not only the virtue of keeping private capital in line with the general war plan. It will – oh, beautiful fact – knock down and trample on labor. No strikes, no demands for higher wages – not even any labor schemes for national planning – and no unions worthy of the name. What a paradise for the American master class!

“Enlightened” capitalists look toward totalitarianism as the up-and-coming thing. What does enlightened labor look toward?

It must be toward a system of production under which labor’s planning will be effective. Labor Action declares for such a system and as a step toward such a system: FOR THE CONSCRIPTION OF INDUSTRY UNDER WORKERS’ CONTROL.

And from that to a higher stage where labor, through its own socialist, workers’ governments, ends anarchy in production and frees labor. This is the only alternative to totalitarianism and wars.

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