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Hugo Oehler

The Struggle of the Railroad Workers

The Recent Wage Cut

(February 1932)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 6 (Whole No. 102), 6 February 1932, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The railroad workers have taken a 10% cut and once more the folly of the bosses is paid for by the workers. Already the effect upon other Industries has been felt; wage cuts are the order of the day in all parts of the country. The railroads through their committee informed the workers that the only way out of the Impasse was a wage cut, and properly so – from their standpoint, if it is the path of least resistance. And up to the present, with the labor flunkies of capitalism, their contentions have proven correct and will be proven wrong only when the railroad workers take things in their own hands; when the policy of class struggle replaces the policy of class collaboration.

The lack of planned railroad construction, the increased competition from other means of transportation and the turbulence of the present crisis has driven the railroads in a tight corner. This cannot be denied. However, its admittance merely proves our general contention: that the anarchy of capitalist production must be replaced by socialist planned economy which is only possible by establishing a workers’ dictatorship in the United States. On the other hand, even if we confined ourselves to the figures presented by the railroad magnates we can show that they do not stand upon economic foundation but rather upon the foundation of the force of the capitalist dictatorship and its liars and fakers.

Mr. Willard, in the Chicago conference, said that despite the reduction of operating expenses many roads face bankruptcy because they cannot meet the fixed charges of 1931. He says the fixed charges for 1931 are 695 million dollars, but only 784 million dollars is available, which only leaves 89 million total net income. Because of this, the interest on the founded debt alone was 495 million. This is just some more statistical fakery. To whom does the interest go if it does not go to the capitalist class, no matter what section it is. Is not this 49 million, to say nothing of the 784 million, obtained, part of the capitalist surplus robbed from the railroad workers? And further, how do they figure this? In relation to the variable capital? No, of course not, they figure their profits in relation to the total watered stock. It is true that in times of crisis much water is squeezed out but this is only partially the case with the big roads.

So long as the workers are not organized properly, are not under class struggle ideology and have the type of railroad leaders they do, the capitalist will find easy pickings. We know the capitalist can sell below value and still make profit and we know the capitalist class in their offensive against us, in the crisis, hate been striking at strategical points: the steel workers, the railroad workers, the increase of the number of political prisoners and of deportations. These moves and particularly the railroad workers’ wage cut are of vital importance for the living standard of the whole class. The capitalists of America are tightening up on the home base in order to prepare for greater onslaughts on the world market against rival imperialists, in the struggle for the redivision of the earth. Are we going to stand by idly while this tremendous international conflict is in the making. No, all signs point to an increase of class battles in the United States.

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