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Hugo Oehler

The Industrial Control Bill

Workers Must Organize Against State Capitalism

(June 1933)

From The Militant, Vol. VI No. 32, 24 June 1933, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The speedy adoption of the Industrial Control Bill was no surprise to the industrialists. Before the bill became law three conferences of the railroad presidents, the coal operators and the iron and steel men were held in Chicago. Long before President Roosevelt signed the bill, the new administrator, H.S. Johnson, was busy at work on his job as the head of industrial control. Within the first week after the bill became law five major industrial groups, which, in normal times employ two-thirds of the workers of America, were in session working out their industrial codes.

The iron and steel, soft coal, automobile, oil and textile bosses are busy planning how they can increase profits under the terms of the bill. The twenty leading manufacturers of oil burners have already drafted their industrial code and sent it to Washington for approval. The railroad presidents commenced the good work with an announcement of a 22½ percent wage cut.

The Industrial Control Bill which is accredited to Roosevelt, was, in reality, originated by the leading financiers and industrialists. Their democratic office boys, headed by Roosevelt, only carry out their orders. The Industrial Control Bill is a necessary step to tighten up the decaying structure of capitalism at home. It is aimed to hurry the process of centralization and concentration to enable the American imperialists to obtain a position of advantage in the intense and bitter international economic and military struggle for world markets and trade advantages. The small producers and others who will be eliminated in the process are opposed to the bill, as are a handful of capitalists. The competition and anarchy of capitalist production will be “organized” on a higher level. However, the leading section, and the real rulers of the country were behind the bill. Those who put up a howl, such as the merchants and manufacturers, were not objecting to the bill, but to the section which gives lip service to the workers’ interests. There are a section of the open shoppers who continue to speak plain English. They are not yet familiar with the new kind of talk, copied from the European reformers – a language which gives lip service to the workers’ interest every time a new attack upon the working class is to be launched.

A Form of State Capitalism

The Industrial Control Bill, as a form of state capitalism, is a desperate attempt to find a way out of the contradictions which engulf capitalism. Traylor, the La Salle Street banker, speaking before the soft coal operators in convention at the Drake Hotel in Chicago, where they were planning how to make more profits said, “the program of the new administration is an effort to save ourselves from annihilation.”

“There is more security in the new deal, whatever that may be, than there is in the communism of Russia, which might be our program if we failed in the old stand-pat program which you and I believe in.”

We are informed by the bourgeois economists and the rest of their liars that the “planned economy” is to inaugurate an era of “fair competition”. But have not these apologists for capitalism informed us for the last score of years that any governmental interference, capitalist or otherwise, into private business, will wreck our industrial system and eliminate fair competition? Industry and government always were partners and always will be, because government can be nothing else than an instrument of suppression used by the dominating economic group. The only difference is that in the past the relationship was more disguised only in emergencies, in wars, and in the period of decay capitalism is the relationship of the economic masters and the government office boys stripped naked before us.

The conferences already held, and what little has leaked out from them, clearly indicate the line of attack of the industrialists in complying with the Industrial Control Bill. The relation to labor will first be kept in the status quo where ever possible. Where necessary, the industries will fulfill the requirements of,, the law, which, at the most, call for a “safe-and-sound” class collaboration scheme.

The Chicago Tribune, reporting the steel men’s conference, says,

“The Youngstown steel companies have been forming ‘employees councils’. In none of these movements does the word ‘union’ appear.”

“The Industrialists, it is said, are trying to steal a march on the American Federation of Labor, which through President Green recently announced the start of a nation-wide drive to unionize the industries.”

How the Coal Operators Take It

The soft coal operators have fought any attempt or suggestion to change the status quo. In Illinois they will deal with the unions but in the rest of the fields they will deal with the unorganized. The Chicago Tribune quotes a coal operator as follows: “Our job is going to be one of the most difficult. It is comparatively easy for the makers of shoes to get together and add a dollar to the price of shoes. There is no substitute for shoes But how can you add an arbitrary dollar to the price of a ton of coal. A few million building owners get out a pencil and start figuring how much they can save by using oil, or gas, or electricity.” The industrialist conferences are secret but any one who has an ounce of brains can easily see that their secret is, how they can add another dollar on a pair of shoes or a ton of coal. If prices go up thirty percent, the kind-hearted capitalists and their government will beat the drums and announce a five or ten percent raise. And the capitalists will pocket the twenty percent difference ...

The Industrial Control Bill is a capitalist reform. They drove this bill through without the pressure of the working class, and yet the fear of the 17 million unemployed was one of the whips that drove them to make this a law. If there had been a working class pressure, under the leadership of social reformers who sit on top to hold in check this pressure, the bill would have been to a far greater degree sugar coated with phrases about labor and labors rights. The difference between reforms and “social” reforms is the difference between the absence of working class pressure altogether and working class pressure misdirected by the misleaders and agents of the capitalists in our ranks. Without the pressure,as is the case with the Industrial Control Bill, the capitalists can drive through their form of State capitalism without the service of the social reformers to keep the restless working class in check.

How the Labor “Leaders” React

The labor leaders are attempting to jump on the band wagon and help the capitalists put over their Industrial Control Law – of course, with paid jobs, the same as in the war period. The Right wing of the Progressive Miners are competing with Lewis for the job of shackling the miners to the new slavery. Pearcy took a special trip to Washington for this purpose. The Communists, the only ones capable of pointing out the meaning of the Industrial Control Bill, and of rallying the class to action against the capitalist offensive are bound hand and foot and gagged by the Stalinist bureaucracy, who do not measure up to the task. (See the article on the Gillespie Conference, elsewhere in this issue).

The “planned economy” of the capitalists will make the future of the workers under the “new deal” worse than the past. The “Century of Progress” witnessed the further centralization and concentration of wealth and capital in the hands of fewer and fewer capitalists while the vast majority have been driven to deeper levels of misery and degradation.

The working class battle against the capitalist offensive organized by the Industrial Control Bill will have to be fought in the sphere of unemployment relief, the struggle for wages, hours, and the unionization of the workers into class struggle unions. To do this, the working class must be told what the “planned economy” means. The Communists must present a Marxian analysis, organize the class, especially to head off the action of the Greens, Wells and Lewises, who desire to utilize the State capitalist measures for their class collaboration schemes.

The Workers’ Answer: Class Struggle Organization

It is not difficult to understand that a law which gives the capitalist and workers “equality” on paper means nothing in reality, except giving the strongest organized force the right to do what it pleases. In this case the capitalists are well organized and entrenched. In addition it is they who have made the laws of the “game” which we must play. Our lack of pressure, due to the lack of any worthwhile, powerful, organized industrial unions as well as to a blunderbuss leadership within the Communists ranks (that of the Stalinists) gives the capitalists the overwhelming odds in deciding the whole question.

There is only one way the working class can answer the capitalists and their Industrial Control Laws: The organization of powerful industrial unions of class struggle, capable of bringing working class pressure upon the capitalist system. Upon such a foundation, the American working class can build a movement that will become powerful enough to abolish capitalism.

We must oppose the Industrial Control Law; present a correct analysis of the Industrial Control Law; agitate and propagate to rally the class; organize a powerful Left wing in the A.F.L.; unite all the Left wing forces nationally such as the TUUL, the PTUEC, the CPLA, etc. for common action amalgamate the craft unions, such as the 21 railroad union, etc.

We must answer the capitalist drive with a powerful united front drive of the workers against the capitalist offensive.

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