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C. Thomas

Why Roosevelt Promises ‘Study’ of Annual Wage

(31 March 1945)

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 13, 31 March 1945, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

A few days after the Advisory Board of the Office of War Mobilization and Reconversion made public a resolution complaining that they were not being called upon for “advice,” Roosevelt announced he had ordered the board to “study”, the question of a guaranteed annual wage. The demand for a guaranteed annual wage was part of the steel wage case before the War Labor Board and has become part of the CIO program.

the WLB rejected the demand but recommended a “study” of the question to determine whether industry could “afford” to give such a guarantee. In a letter to Roosevelt, the chairman of the WLB disclosed that the fear of unemployment which has led to the demand for a guaranteed annual wage, “is contributing also to the pressure for a change in the national wage stabilization policy.”

By shunting the demand for a guaranteed wage to the WMR advisory board, Roosevelt aims to kill three birds with one stone.

The popular demand for a guaranteed annual wage expresses the profound desire of the workers for a decent standard of living for all those able and willing to work. In essence, it represents a revulsion against the insanity of the profit system which dooms millions of workers to dire want, while factories remain idle and food moulders in warehouses or rots in the fields. The working masses are haunted by the memory of the pre-war depression which condemned millions to idleness, hunger and despair, through no fault of their own. They seek some measure of protection against a recurrence of such conditions.

In ordering the study, Roosevelt blandly announced that “he had been talking about a guaranteed annual wage for about ten years.” To whom had he been talking about this for “ten years?” Obviously, to himself – if it took ten years to get around to the point of asking that a “study” be made of the question.

And what ten years! The economic crisis raged during his w^ole period of office. There were still ten million unemployed during the war boom year of 1940. It was not until war production and the draft absorbed the available labor force that unemployment was reduced to a minimum.

During the ten years in which Roosevelt claims he “talked” about a guaranteed wage, one-third of the people, by his own admission, were ill-fed, ill-clothed and ill-housed. Millions of men and women were on, the dole while factories stood idle. Under the planned sabotage of the “New Deal,” cotton, corn and live stock were plowed under in order to create an economy of artificial scarcity. These measures “guaranteed” only poverty and insecurity for the masses. But while all this was going on, Roosevelt, according to his latest revelation, kept “talking about a guaranteed annual wage.” How consoling!

Roosevelt’s demagogic gesture in burying the demand in the WMR advisory board is intended to head off the. independent action of the workers in the fight for economic security. The fight for a guaranteed annual wage is essentially a political struggle. If meant seriously, it requires first of all that labor break with the political parties and agents of the employing class and take the road of fighting for its own program under its own political banner.

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