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A.J. Muste

Muste Speaks for Workers’ Revolution
on Nat’l Hook-Up

Choice Between Fascism or Communism He Declares

(30 May 1935)

From The New Militant, Vol. I No. 24, 1 June 1935, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

NEW YORK, May 30. – In a stirring address over WJZ on a national hook-up comrade A.J. Muste, national secretary of the Workers Party of the U.S. pointed to the fundamental maladies of the modern economic system. He concluded his broadcast by placing before the American people the dilemma that stirs the modern epoch – fascism or the workers’ revolution. Comrade Muste represented the standpoint of Communism in a three-cornered debate under the auspices of the League for Political Education, in which the other speakers were Norman Thomas and Lawrence Denis.

The complete text of Muste’s address follows:

I wish to make it clear that in setting forth the Communist answer to the problem confronting the American people today, I am not representing the Communist Party or the so-called Third, Communist, International, with which I have no connection and of which I have never been a member. I am setting forth the historic Communist position embodied in the experience of the modern working-class and in the writings of its great teachers, which constitutes the program of the Workers Party of the United States.

According to both the popular and the official conception, this nation embodies and was founded to realize certain great social ideals. It was to differ radically from “the old countries.” There were to be no aristocracies of birth or wealth. No individual or group was to be allowed to exploit and oppress others. Not for a favored few, but for the masses of the population there was to be abundance, security, an equal voice in the government, the opportunity for self-expression and self-development, – “a nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

Abundance for All

The material and technical rer sources for such a society, unquestionably exist in the United States today. No competent student doubts that insofar as it depends upon natural resources and the productive plant, everybody could have a comfortable and attractive home, abundant food, decent clothing, opportunity for recreation and education, security against accident, sickness, and old age; and the sense of independence and self-respect that goes with these things.

What we actually have, however, is mass unemployment, widespread poverty, a fifty percent cut in the standard of living since 1929, a society which does not know how to use the thousands of its youth coming out of the high schools and colleges, universal insecurity among industrial workers, farmers, small justness people, professionals, curtailment of liberty and the exercise of severe and brutal repression against efforts of the masses to right their wrongs. This appalling contrast between what might be and what is does not, in our opinion, spring from superficial causes. It arises from the nature of the economic system – capitalism – under which we operate.

A revolution in technology has occurred since 1789 and is still in process. Steel, automobiles, electric light and power, are produced and distributed not by individuals in individual enterprises, but through socialized, “cooperative” enterprises. Ownership and control, however, of these enterprises, and with it the right to make profit from them, to exploit the labor of those engaged in them, is still on the same individual basis, operated under essentially the same legal and political system as in 1789. It is Just as impossible for this antiquated system of private ownership and profit to function, to supply the needs of the population today, as it was for the feudal slave-holding economy in the Southern states to continue to do so in 1860. The system acts, obviously as a brake upon production so that, as the phrase goes, you have “want in the midst of plenty:”

If, therefore, the workers and farmers of the United States under the political leadership of the Workers Party were to come into power, they would take steps to end immediately private ownership and control over natural resources and over the plant for production, distribution and communication which their toil and skill have built. Ownership and control would be vested in society represented by the new Workers’ State. The owners, so-called, would not receive “compensation.” It is the workers and farmers, not the industrialists and financiers who have been coining profit from their toil, who have “compensation” coming to them! The new state will as a matter of fact take whatever measures may be necessary to make it impossible for the old owning class, the czars of industry and finance, to get back into power. All inhabitants, however, who are not engaged in organizing resistance to the new regime and trying to restore the old order of special privilege, insecurity and war, will have their opportunity to do useful social work and to share in the products of that work.

Citizenship in the new state will likewise be the prerogative of all who are engaged in useful work, industrial, agricultural, clerical, domestic, technical, professional. The workers of these various categories in the various enterprises will be organized in Councils or Unions democratically controlled. They will elect representatives to the higher governing bodies and eventually to the National Council or Congress.

A National Planning Commission, with subordinate and cooperating commissions in various industries and localities, will be established. Its business will be to plan for the most efficient production of goods and services of all kinds, to utilize fully the many inventions and discoveries already available but held out of use by their owners because no private profit can accrue from them at present, to set the scientists and technicians to work freely and with adequate resources in order to plan for still greater efficiency in the use of our resources and thus for greater abundance of leisure as well as goods. It should be added that the Workers’ State will envisage not only national but international planning. National boundaries are as artificial and restrictive today as state boundaries had become in 1789, and socialism is in essence an international, a world economy. Every effort to establish “planned” production under private capitalism breaks down, since the warfare between rival capitalists, in a nation and capitalist groups in different nations disrupts such efforts.

Obliterating Insecurity

The removal of the brake of private ownership which shuts, down factories, plows under raw materials and stultifies the scientist and technician, and putting in its place the social, that is, scientific, use of natural resources and the productive plant, will mean an immediate and substantial improvement in the standard of living of the masses. That improvement can be continuous. The specter of insecurity will be removed. The undemocratic economic domination of the few over the many will be at an end. No one can predict the cultural advances which may follow this release of the human spirit. On no other economic basis can the “American dream” of liberty, equality and fraternity be realized under the conditions of modern life. Like every ruling class, the present capitalist class will seek to maintain its power. In the period of its rise and expansion capitalism could accumulate profits and also raise the standard of living of the masses. In the present period, as is clear enough on the face of it, it can no longer do this. Profits can be made only by fiercer exploitation, cutting down the living standards, of the masses, taking away even such concessions as were previously made.

Since capitalism must keep pushing the standard lower and lower, it must eventually seek to destroy every vestige of democratic rights, every means of resistance that farmers, workers, small business men, etc. may have. For obviously no matter how meek, peaceful, conservative an organization of these elements may be, at. some point it will try to resist the imposition of further impoverishment and distress. To maintain their system, the capitalists will then seek to destroy any such organization in utter disregard of law, constitution and bill of rights. In other words, capitalism can save itself in the present period only by the resort to Fascism. Under these circumstances to assume that democratic processes will be maintained is an ostrich policy. Unquestionably the struggle and strikes of the workers against impoverishment and injustice which now goes on daily will have to be waged ever more intensely and on a broader front, becoming eventually a struggle against the economic system as such and against the government which resists even moderate adjustments as witness the Supreme Court decision on NBA and becomes more and more openly an undemocratic agency of oppression. The choice is between Fascism and revolutionary action for a new social order.

The Choice for All

To those elements in this country who are well aware from their own experience that something is radically wrong but who hesitate to face the clear and drastic alternatives, we point out what has happened to similar groups and classes in Germany and elsewhere. They espoused Fascism because they wanted an improvement in their standard of living; they are being beaten down to the level of bare existence. They desired security; and they have insecurity. They wanted national self-respect and peace; they are being rushed down the precipice to war. They wanted freedom and recoiled from the “regimentation” which they were told would obtain under socalism or communism; they have gotten the extreme of regimentation. They wanted a life based on the old virtues, and recoiled from the march forward to a new culture; they have gotten all the indecencies of Hitlerism. They wanted to go back to the “good old days” before the war; they are being swept back to the middle ages, to barbarism, to savagery. Capitalism today means retreat, reaction, Fascism, war, the collapse of civilization. The one road to security, to peace, to freedom, to cultural advancement is the road of the workers’ revolution.

This is your choice – capitalism which means reaction and chaos or a Workers’ World which means a higher level of civilization and culture.

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Last updated: 22 February 2020