Hugo Oehler Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Hugo Oehler

“The New Deal”

A New Stage in the NRA

(December 1933)

From The Militant, Vol. VI No. 57, 30 December 1933, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Government proclamations dealing with economic measures are issued so often it is difficult to keep up with them. This in itself reveals the mounting difficulties which confront the dominating imperialist power in the decay stage of capitalism. The resort to governmental economic measures in an attempt to “bring back prosperity” is a game that has no end simply because capitalism has contradictions which the most powerful of governments cannot solve or eliminate. In this circumstance the task of the capitalist government is to adopt “such measures as will place the ruling class, in the preliminary struggles and preparations for a re-division of the earth, in the most favorable position against the other imperialist powers and the working class at home.

Such is the purpose of the NRA and all of the other measures taken by the government since it was compelled by the situation to work more in the open. As soon as one government measure is used up and faces breakdown new decrees are issued. At one stage the slack is taken up at a critical moment by the Civil Works Program – a form of government relief which is half charity and half stagger plan. At another time the cracks are plastered over with an expanding monetary policy in a series of steps which range from going off the gold standard and placing unlimited power in the president’s hands to the gold-buying policy and now to the silver policy of the government. At other times critical stages are maneuvered through by the recognition of the U.S.S.R., the Hull Tariff proposal, or the establishment of the Federal Surplus Relief Association, etc.

President Roosevelt has extended the blanket code four more months, to May the First. This was necessitated by the fact that, the process of reorganization, at the expense of the workers and the middle class, has not gone fast enough. There are only two variants possible – or modified forms of these two variants – that the ruling class can take in relation to the NRA and its international supplementary measures. They must either return to the past and give up the “governmental experiment in business”, or proceed further on the present path. It can be answered with certainty that there is only one road ahead for American imperialism. That is the road of increased governmental control and regulation of American economy. A rich variety of forms leading toward state capitalism is possible, providing the proletariat does not interpose its own solution and made short work of the whole mess.

The government measures designed to insure a more favorable position for American imperialism on the international field dovetail into those measures which aim to reorganize production within the country. None of the government measures is exclusively internal or international. However, the NRA is primarily an internal object; the majority of the other measures supplement the NRA internally and extend the economic war out into the international arena.

The government monetary policy in its successive stages is not merely a series of internal measures to boost prices, as the administration would have us believe. In the final analysis it has greater international importance. One may safely say that the central contradiction concealed: within the monetary policy is the struggle between the Pound and the Dollar for world supremacy. But England and the United States are not the only two countries striving for a bigger place in the sun. Other imperialists are putting up a desperate fight for the same goal. These struggles inevitably cross this struggle between the Pound and the Dollar, and often monetarily stand out more prominently. An example of this is to be seen in the ratification of the international agreement for the re-monetization and stabilization of silver and the president’s proclamation on this question.

A new government organization of far-reaching powers, recently established is the Federal Surplus Relief Corporation. The New York Times says it may exercise “any and all powers” that may legally be delegated to it under the NRA, the AAA and the Emergency Relief Act. It may “purchase, store, handle and process” surplus commodities of any kind. It may attempt to “adjust the severe disparity between prices of agriculture and other commodities.” Subject to Federal and State laws it may “purchase, hold, own, mortgage, sell, convey, or otherwise dispose of ‘real and personal property of any sort, and in general, carry on any and all business necessary for the relief of the existing national emergency’.”

This, will act as a sort of a second line trench behind the NRA. It brings out into bold relief the great difference between the present reorganization for capitalist reproduction and that which followed past crises when capitalism as a world system was “healthy” and developing. It exposes the spots of decay even in U.S. economy, the dominating section of world economy. Capitalism has now reached a stage where the process of decay is “organized”. There is such a thing as “organized capitalism”, but in a sense completely opposite to that conveyed by the capitalist theorists. Decay on a world-wide scale, proceeds on an “organized” plan; only in this way can the capitalists retain power.

In Germany, the main defeated nation in the last world war, this “organized decay” took on its most violent form – Fascism. America, the main victor of the war and the strongest power now, has been able, up to the present time, to escape both the revolutionary destroyers and the Fascist saviors of capitalism. Nevertheless, it does not escape the need of reorganization by the curtailment and destruction of productive forces that must not be replaced. In previous crises during the growth stage of capitalism the process of reorganization always proceeded by the destruction of certain productive forces and commodities; but the new cycle started out with a more highly developed technique of production than that which obtained before the crises. This destruction of productive forces and commodities is not the new feature of the present stage. The important new fact is that the process of destruction is proceeding in an attempted “organized fashion’” by means of government subsidy where political exigency requires it, and without a reorganization on a superior technical level. In the decay stage of capitalism, within which American economy is included, iron shackles are fastened on the productive forces.

This does not mean that the cycle of reproduction and the creation of surplus value cannot again proceed. The NRA and the other measures are working toward this end. However, the rate of surplus value, will diminish progressively unless war and revolution alter the whole situation.

The NRA already has greatly assisted the process of reorganization and centralization of industry and government. But by no means has it solved the problem. A new problem confronting the present rulers is the army of permanent unemployed and the prospective Europeanization of the American workers, that is, their political awakening. Against this new and added danger from the working class the executive committee of the capitalist class has created the NRA. They foresee this danger and aim, by means of the NRA, to shackle the rising class in advance. The NRA has a far reaching economic effect but its effects on social and class relations will be even greater.

The middle class has not been roused to action yet. The stage is only being set through the NRA to squeeze them on a far larger scale. No one can predict which way this class will move. Already the farmers have shown open hostility to the NRA. This has forced concessions and has only postponed struggled on a wider scale. A section of the capitalists which had enjoyed monopolistic positions in certain industries have been opposing the NRA. They already enjoy a special position within their field. The government measures are of ho value to them unless they are on the inside track. That group of capitalists which has the inside track is carrying on a struggle for domination within America against other groups of contending capitalists and is using the NRA for this purpose. Many of the higher-ups in the “sound money bloc” and “gold-bloc” happen to be with that group of capitalists which is under attack.

The working class is being disillusioned. New measures will be attempted to keep the discontent from crystallizing into definite channels of class struggle against the NRA and all that goes with it. The reduction of the living standards off he whole class is proceeding as rapidly as the NRA becomes a “success”. The political awakening of the workers will be greatly advanced in the general process now taking place.

Hugo Oehler Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 4 January 2016