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A.J. Muste

Chaos Around the Corner
If We Fail to Organize

(15 June 1933)

From Labor Action, Vol. 1 No. 6, 15 June 1933, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

A few months ago the American people were laughing at the phrase “prosperity is around the corner.” This blessed event had been promised so many times and the promise not fulfilled, that it became a joke. Now the Roosevelt ballyhoo seems to have led a lot of folks to think that at last the corner around which lurks a fair and wealthy maiden which la to bring great happiness to labor has been reached!

This capitalist system under which we now live cannot produce any bride who will bring real and permanent happiness to the workers. Some people however, figure that even if this is so, maybe we can get a short period of “prosperity” and that for people who have had no jobs and no money, a few jobs and a little money will be an improvement.

Must Fight to Win

So far. however, no fundamental step toward any important economic improvement has been taken. and the workers and farmers must be prepared for greater misery and poverty than ever unless they organize to fight and take things into their own hands.

Everybody agrees that the only way to get prosperity is to put money into the pockets of the masses of the people, not a few pennies occasionally but money to enable them to buy back the tremendous mass of products and services which they can produce If the cream is not all the time skimmed off by the profiteers and the works repeatedly gummed up. But such a big stepping-up of the purchasing power of the masses has not been provided by the Roosevelt program On the contrary, veterans’ allowances have been out. Government employees have been laid off A few people have been sent to Civilian Conservation Corps camps and a few called back into the factories, but during the depression so much improved “labor-saving machinery” has been put in that there is no place for many millions of those who had jobs in 1929. This dead weight of millions of unemployed is bound to drag back into misery the few who get jobs.

National Stagger Plan

What is really proposed under the National Industrial Recovery Act is not putting all the people back to work at adequate wages but a nation-wide adoption of the Stagger Plan. A few gallons of that gasoline having failed to put out the fire, we are now going to pour on a lot more. The Stagger Plan sponsored for months by Teagle of the Standard Oil, who is one of the big shots in planning for the administration of the National Industrial Recovery Act, means that instead of a few people working at comparatively good wages, a lot of people get a little work at rotten wages.

The argument is that “American workers want work.” But as a worker put it the other day: “I want work at decent wages and no gravy for the profiteers. If I have to work for nothing I would rather be independent and respectable and loaf until they get around to doing the right thing.”

There will be no prosperity under this glorified Stagger Plan. A big department store executive warned the retailers of the country recently not to stock up with a lot of goods because he saw no indication of any permanent increase in the purchasing power of the masses.

Prices Rise, Wages Lag

Under the inflation program prices are rising. Wages are not rising in accordance with prices. There is no provision for this. The worker is left worse off.

What is possible under this inflation is another orgy of speculation. That is just what is happening on the stock exchange today. We know what it led to in 1929. Can It lead to anything different in 1933? Yet the Roosevelt administration has indicated that it feels powerless to atop the speculative orgy although it feels that it is dangerous.

Big Business Made Bigger

The anti-trust laws are to be repealed or weakened under the Roosevelt program. Senator Borah warned the other day that this would put the nation more than ever in the power of big combinations of business. “You not only propose to let big business organize into trusts and combines but you propose to let them invoke the law, make criminals out of and send to jail those who do not conform to their codes!” And Hughey Long a dangerous demagogue, who sometimes, however, blurts out the truth, cried out “Oh, yes, you’ll put people back to work with this bill. There wont be any unemployed at all. In fact everybody will have plenty of steady work. They will all be in jail for violating this infernal thing.”

Roosevelt is also in a dilemma as between his domestic program for recovery and his foreign program. and has not yet decided what to do. His domestic program means rising prices in the United States. He also, however, wants to bring down the tariff so that other nations can pay war debts and private debts to us with goods. If they damp their goods here, that immediately under the capitalist system brings trouble.

Organized Labor Must Act

No, we do not yet have the slightest assurance that we can avoid a much more terrific crash than we have yet had. Senator Wagner, leading spokesman for the Roosevelt administration let the cat out of the bag when he declared in the Senate the other day. “There has been some slight improvement. But if we do nothing to speed revival we shall not only lose such gains as have been made but shall relapse into a chaos the consequence of which are too alarming to contemplate.” Only the organized power of the workers fighting for themselves can prevent the chaos toward which capitalism even in the midst of plenty rushes the masses.

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