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The Party and the 6-Hour Day Slogan

(August 1932)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 33 (Whole No. 129), 13 August 1932, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

In the first period of the crisis the Communist League of America advanced a series of slogans for the fight against unemployment. Among these, and as an outstanding propaganda slogan, we advanced the slogan, “For the Six Hour Day, the Five Day week WITH NO REDUCTION IN PAY.” Today, Hoover, Green and Hearst are making capital out of the six-hour day, five-day week proposal. It is advisable to review the present struggle and find out why the capitalists have stolen a march on the workers, WHO is responsible, and FIND OUT WHAT THE RESULT WILL BE. The slogan for the six hour day has been advanced in one form or the other by unions for over a decade, but not until the present crisis and the establishment of a permanent army of unemployed has the slogan attracted widespread attention by different classes, for different ends. This must be explained.

The tremendous increase in productive forces, the rationalization since the last war, has laid the economic base for a corresponding change in the use of labor power. Around the value form of the product the capitalists attempt to reorganize the American labor power, on the basis of the reorganized industrial structure of American imperialism. From this flows increased class struggles. Around the attempted reorganization of the labor power, will first develop struggles on immediate demands that can lead in short order into deeper channels. If we allow the capitalists to reorganize the labor power to their own liking the workers will have less space necessary for the running jump to overthrow capitalism. If we allow the capitalists to reorganize the labor power without presenting a Marxian analysis, the class must again condemn the vanguard for failure. The Stalin policy has already failed in this field.

The Capitalist Aim

In this period of capitalism, the fall in the rate of profit forces the capitalists to make up the loss by the most drastic steps. They must change the ratio of necessary labor (wages) and surplus wages (surplus value) to their interest. The lengthening of the workday has given way to the speed-up and drastic reduction of wages in order to reduce the necessary labor and increase the surplus labor to keep up the falling rate of profit. In crises, and in sections of the industrial structure the capitalists are still able to lengthen the workday, but the general trend is in the opposite direction, due to the developed productive forces which forces them to resort to speed-up and general wage cuts. The developed productive forces since the war have forced into the structure for the first time an absolute decrease of the number of workers employed in production, which opened the door for a permanent army of millions of unemployed workers.

This new condition called for new action on the part of the capitalists toward the commodity, labor power, if they intend to continue to exploit the workers. Likewise, it calls for bold steps by the workers’ vanguard; to utilize the contradiction in the capitalist system to enable the class to take one or more steps forward. This can be done in many ways, but in this field it can only be done one way – and that is by presenting a Marxian analysis of the higher relation of labor power to production and present a Marxian program of action for the class. The party under Stalinist leadership not only failed in this task but now comes out with action that closes the door to the whole problem.

The Editorial of the Daily Worker of August 4 (city edition) dealing with Hoover-Green shorter week proposal plays into the hands of the capitalists and presents another heap of confusion in the ranks of Communism. The editorial tells us in terms none too mild that the Hoover-Green, and we may add, Hearst Five-Day week proposal is a maneuver against the working class. To be opposed to the Hoover-Hearst-Green shorter week proposal is not a difficult thing for a Communist paper but to present class reasons why take up. To pass off the shorter work-day proposal of the capitalists as another stagger plan is to miss the very center of the contradiction, the relation of production and the commodity labor power. Not to understand this ABC of Marxism economy, makes impossible an adoption of Marxian tactics and strategy for the class.

A Stalinist Muddle

The editorial further, either through ignorance or lies, confuses the stagger plan with the struggle for, “The six hour day, the five day week and no reduction in pay.” The editorial says, “The socialists, the Musteites, the Trotskyites are putting forward the slogan of 30-hour week without reduction of pay. In reality they are helping put into effect the stagger plan.” The above argument is about as effective as the ultra-Leftist who says; because the capitalists rule by the parliament and the Communists participate in parliaments, both are fakers; because the capitalists advocate social insurance and the Communist advocate social and unemployment insurance the Communists are no better than the capitalists. Every immediate demand has two sides to it, its exploiter and exploited side, its reformist and revolutionary side. In the struggle for immediate demands the capitalists and reformers struggle for one end, and the revolutionists for the other. Such is the case with unemployment insurance, with elections, with strikes, with civil war and likewise with the demand for the six-hour day the five day week, and no reduction of pay.

The Stalinists present the seven-hour day slogan as correct, and the six-hour day slogan as false The editorial bases its argument upon, “the full time work week being around 50 hours, the demand for the 30 hour week without reduction of pay would be not to take the struggle of the workers seriously and to pave the way for the stagger plan.” The bourgeois average of 50 hours a week for full time workers (how many at full time work in the crisis?) does not determine the slogan for the class, as Stalinism contends.

The six-hour day, five-day week, without reduction in pay is based upon the needs of the workers at the present stage of American capitalism. The editorial says, “Through speed-up the capitalists hope to get out of the workers the same production in the six hours as they now get out of an eight hour day.” The capitalists have already accomplished this in the past and in the future the speed-up will be increased, even though the workers don’t get any reduction in hours. Seven hours, under capitalist speed-up, is too much. The workers cannot stand the pace. The hours must be reduced to six if ordinary health is to be had. The struggle for the six-hour day does not mean the 30 hour week average. The eight hour movement of the eighties did not mean a 48 hour average. The six hour day struggle is the driving force to reduce all hours in industries that run all the way from 8 to 16 hours. If we win the six hour day it will only mean about a 40 hour AVERAGE for the American industries.

Hours and Wages

A reduction of hours for the class, on the basis of class struggle, regardless of the bosses ability here and there to lower wages – has the directly opposite effect on wages. History proves the reduction of the hours of work per day causes wages to rise. Marxism also proves this – in case some Stalinists care to consult their Marxian economics.

We have warned the party many months ago in the columns of the Militant about the danger of playing around with the six-hour day slogan. We said if the party did not take the lead, the reformers and the capitalists would take the lead and turn it into a campaign against us to reduce the standard of living further. The capitalists and reformers, through the neglect of Stalinism, now have their hands on a weapon and will use it on our heads. In the eight-hour day struggle in the Eighties the workers had the weapon and used it over the heads of the capitalists. Every immediate demand is a race between the classes for the lever; and the tactics and strategy, based on Marxian analysis will determine if we can obtain the lever, instead of the capitalists, in the class struggle

The slogan, advanced by us many months ago for “Long Term Credits to the Soviet Union,” has also met the same fate in the hands of these Stalinist muddleheads. The Communist League of America must intensify its activity within and outside of the party in the class struggle to win a greater organized Left Opposition to give us more pressure upon Stalinist revisionism, to enable our class and vanguard more effectively to fight the capitalists.

The slogan for the six-hour day, the five-day week, with no reduction in pay, is the central propaganda slogan for the struggle against unemployment. To unite the employed and unemployed upon a solid organizational basis. It is not a question of social insurance, or immediate relief, or the shorter work day, or long term credits to the Soviet Union or the United Front – which is first and which is second. Immediate relief is the most pressing problem for the class at the moment but this does not mean we build a movement around the slogan of immediate relief as the first or central slogan. Depending upon ebbs and flows, upon sharp turns or victories, other slogans will be shifted to the spotlight and then replaced by one of the other slogans. The structure must be built on a solid organizational base, that touches the roots of the capitalist system that spans the whole period of unemployment, and at the same time enables the other slogans to build upon this structure. This slogan is the slogan for the reduction of hours, “The six-hour day, the five-day week, with no reduction in pay.”

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