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Hugo Oehler

Roosevelt’s ‘12 Points’ Against the Workers

(March 1934)

From The Militant, Vol. VII No. 11, 17 March 1934, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Speaking before the NRA Code Authorities, President Roosevelt said: “The real truth of the matter is that for a number of years in our country the machinery of democracy had failed to function.” It is no accident that the President and the NRA officials do not report to Congress but instead present the 12 point program of the NRA at the “Public Hearing” while Roosevelt and Johnson deliver their speeches on policies and aims of the NRA to the meeting of the Code Authorities.

Speak to the “Captains of Industry”

They speak to the “captains” of our economic system, lining up support that can bring the necessary pressure on the Senate and House for any rubber stamp legislation required for speedy action in the whirl of deepening international antagonisms and conflicts of world capitalism.

Under the NRA the further centralization of government and industry is rapidly proceeding. The order of the day does not present us with the alternative of Communism or Fascism. This is a problem of the not too distant future. The task of the rulers of today and their NRA office boys is to answer the immediate problems of the capitalist mode of production in order to canalize the class relations. The latest moves of the Roosevelt administration are designed to serve this purpose.

The “12 Points” Ballyhoo

The NRA ballyhoo about the 12 points means nothing more or less, when boiled down, than an increased offensive against the small producers and the working class. It is an old trick to speak of peace when preparing for war. And, likewise, it is an old trick to speak about the workers’ needs and the small producers’ interests when the dominating exploiters are going to take another pound of flesh.

One of the most effective ways of drive out the small producer is to place restrictions on free competition. When the large producer, operating with modern machinery and a high rate of exploitation of his labor power, is placed on an equal basis with the small producer, with a lesser degree of exploitation – with hours and wages the same – the small producer will be driven to the wall faster than if the process is left to unbridled competition.

Reducing the Hours

A permanent army of millions of unemployed American workers calls for a reorganization of labor power in relation to machine production. This can only be expressed by the reduction of the hours. As far as the ruling exploiters are concerned, the workers’ interests have nothing to do with it. They are making a forced retreat to safeguard their own rule. At the present juncture this forced retreat, as we have pointed out before in the Militant on the question of the Six Hour Day with no reduction in pay, has also resulted in a political defeat of the working class. There is a world of difference between “concessions” put through by the capitalists and those forced by the workers.

The reduction of hours under the NRA calls for wage increases. Up to the present this has resulted in a reduction of the real wages of the workers. Concealed under the talk of a money wage increase a leveling off process for the American workers has taken place. There has been a reduction in real wages, and a little bribery here and there whenever the rulers had to turn a sharp corner.

Senator Wagner’s Admissions

Senator Wagner admits this. He says: “Real earnings of the individuals working full time are slightly less than they were last March.” Further: “Some of the minimum wage provisions under the codes are lower than the standards actually prevailing in the industry”. And the skilled have had hours reduced but no pay increase.

Right now the capitalists are turning another sharp corner. That is the reasons for the 12 point program and the special talks on policy by the President and the General. Industry under the NRA is not solving the crisis. Johnston let the cat out of the bag in the speech before the NRA Code Authorities when he said: “We know something about what is toward in this country – the worst epidemic of strikes in our history. Why suffer it. There is a way out. Play the game. Submit to the law and get it over quickly.”

Johnson warns the exploiters to go easy with their Company Unions and tells them to deal with Green, Lewis, and Company. The thought is unsaid but understood – that the agents of the capitalists in the ranks of the workers are far better to deal with “in the worst epidemic of strikes in our history” than leaders of strikes who represent the working class.

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