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For the 6-Hour Day, 5-Day Week!

(December 1932)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 49, 3 December 1932, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

For years the American worker has been the most highly exploited and political backward class in the advanced capitalist nations. Now this class is confronted with permanent mass unemployment. One reaction of the working class to the crisis has been the motion in opposite directions of this physical and mental condition of speed-up and backwardness. The speed-up has been intensified while the political consciousness of the class is being awakened and is moving into class channels.

The condition of mass unemployment and the lowering of the standard of living of the American workers has set in motion class forces, that if properly directed by the party, can become the force, which will be able to move the class far along the road toward the solution. This is true, in so far as the revolutionists direct this class force by a correct program of action.

Once more history is proving the correctness of a Marxian analysis and, its class program for the problem. The analysis of the Left Opposition is being confirmed, but due to the revisionists, the Stalinists, it is being confirmed in a negative way.

When the process of capitalist accumulation reaches its advanced stage! when accumulation is counterposed by overpopulation and mass unemployment; when the productive forces reach a point where the relative decrease of the number of industrial workers is transformed into an absolute decrease, expressed by increased production and by a decrease in labor power; when “Accumulation of wealth at one pole, is therefore, at the same time accumulation of misery, agony of toil, slavery, ignorance, brutality, mental degradation, at the opposite pole” – then the period of proletarian revolutions has been entered and unless the capitalists take drastic steps, or are faced with a proletariat without a Marxian leadership – the favorable objective conditions will be developed and transformed into revolutionary uprisings of the proletariat against the capitalists.

One of the most fundamental economic problems confronting the American capitalists, which they recognize, but which the party under Stalinist leadership does not recognize – is the adjustment of this surplus labor power to the tremendous productive forces which constantly calls for less labor power per unit.

There is no solution of this problem for the capitalist class, because it is only a surface indication and an expression in the decay stage of capitalism of the contradiction between socialized production and capitalist appropriation. However if our class through the inability of its vanguard does not take advantage of the favorable class relationship, the capitalist class will, by this means, not only steal a march on us, but will also strengthen their position against the coming class battles.

Either of the immediate temporary “solutions” of the problem of the reorganization of labor power to productive forces, the capitalist road or the proletarian road, is negative for the capitalist class from the standpoint of economics, but negative to an entirely different degree. However, from a political standpoint, the capitalists victory far less harmful, if we allow the capitalist to decide bow to recognize which means to allow them to “solve” the problem confronting them. The capitalist’s aim in obtaining the lever of the problem is to find the capitalist way out of permanent mass unemployment, and to slow up the tempo of class consciousness development of the American workers and to further reduce the standard of living to enable them to obtain a breathing spell from the contradiction of the accumulation and the falling rate of profit, by the reduction of the necessary labor through speed-up and lower wages.

The aim of the working class must be to utilize this contradiction to widen the gap between these economic contradictions of the capitalist mode of production, accelerate the process of class consciousness and force a reorganization of labor power to productive power – by the reduction of hours with NO REDUCTION OF PAY. Only class pressure properly organized and directed by the Communist party can accomplish this task.

Up to the present our constant am consistent criticism and activity against the Stalinist course in the unemployment field and their failure to mobilize a struggle, or at least to prepare the ground for it, around the slogan of the six-hour-day and five-day-week and no reduction In pay, has, as we have pointed out more than once in the columns of the Militant, resulted in allowing the capitalists to proceed with this gigantic problem unhampered, without a warning to the class, without a directive to the class as though we were automatons to be handled and remolded to the capitalist’s desires.

The capitalists and their government have been steadily, and without too much bragging, working on this problem. They have floundered, they have made mistakes, but beinj? left alone by the vanguard of the proletariat, they were able to at least takes some steps “in the right direction” toward strengthening their class position against the inevitable coming head-on struggles.

Long before last summer when Hoover called a conference of business leaders, financiers, industrialists, labor fakers, etc., to consider the “reduction of hours” and means of “speeding up business reocvery”, the most capable technicians and capitalist leaders had worked out preliminary steps to release some of the pressure of permanent mass unemployment, not through unemployment insurance or immediate relief, but through more fundamental class steps for their own class interest, because as yet, the class was not resisting in an effective manner the onslaughts. Wage cuts were being sanctioned by “labor”. “Labor” also was opposed to the dole. “Labor” objected to “government charity”. “Labor” wanted work.

The shorter work day propaganda of the bosses is a means of reducing the standard of living of the workers, is a means of furthering the wage cut drive by the “Stagger Plan” against the workers. The blind and ignorant Stalinists saw the capitalist side of this class problem, confused it with our side and dismissed it as reactionary, as “social” Fascist”, etc., not once realizing that every problem has its working class side “also”. This should be ABC, but like all simple problems Stalinism makes them complicated and all complicated problems Stalinism tries to simplify, which has resulted in simplifyng matters for the capitalise enemies. The Stalinists forgot or ignored the struggle for the shorter work day and bitterly fought the slogan of, “The six hour day, the five day week, and no reduction in pay.”

Up to the present, the capitalists have not made much progress with their side of this problem. Nevertheless, what little progress they have made is far greater progress than we have made with our side of the same problem, because the most powerful organized political force of our class, the party, controlled by the Stalinists, has put a damper on even the thought about this problem.

Some of the preliminary steps taken now, after three years of the crisis, by the capitalist class, is the establishment of the “legal” apparatus to “solve” this problem. They have established a national organization, with Walter Teagle, of the Standard Oil, who is now devoting his full time to this “emergency” for (I suppose) a “dollar” a year, just like he devoted his time to the “emergency” of the last world war. They know what emergencies are and act accordingly. The committee functions throughout the country, covering every avenue of activity using labor power.

“The entire country has been divided into sections. In each locality a chairman has been appointed who in turn enlists the heads of the large business and industries. All the firms n the same line are grouped together and a vice group or chairman as appointed who in turn enlists the heads of large business and industries. General meetings are held throughout the country, as well as group meetings, and representatives visit individual firms to explain the advantages of the plan.” “Moreover, much literature is distributed and plans are worked out for adopting the scheme to special cases.” (New York Times, Oct. 30)

Teagle says, “more than 3000 firms, mostly in the manufacturing and industrial field have already adopted similar plans and it is estimated that if they had not done so 3,500,000 more workers would have been added to the list of unemployed,” One can read almost daily accounts of the “practical plan” and its results in the “share the work movement.”

It must be remembered that this is the capitalist’s side of the problem and is the opposite in content if not in form of the workers side of the question of the reduction of hours. The capitalist method brings with it lower wages and greater speed-up. The workers side, through the class struggle drives in the opposite direction. The class pressure will determine to what degree it can drive the movement in the opposite direction. The role of. the party will determine much of this. Stalinism has already answered. We Communist workers should answer them by removing such leaders and replacing them with Marxists. By recalling the Left Opposition to the party.

Speaking of “Job sharing”, Teagle says, “The help of the ablest business executives is required. We are trying to mobilize these men for an attack on what I consider the principle obstacle to the return of prosperity: unemployment.” One should not confuse the terminology Teagle uses with the real essence of the problem. The minority exploiters must always cloak their “attack” against the workers in class collaboration drapes when the class relations are so favorable for them.

The Left Opposition will continue its propaganda in this field and coordinate it with the other pressing immediate demands for the struggle against unemployment and point out that the solution of the problem is found in the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism. As Stalinism “grows” in America so grow the mistakes of Stalinism.

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