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Hugo Oehler

Darrow Speaks for the Middle Class

(May 1934)

From The Militant, Vol. VII No. 21, 26 May 1934, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Darrow Review Board’s findings on the NRA has resulted in a bitter fight on Capitol Hill between the spokesmen for the different sections of the exploiters. Although the Review Board was only appointed March 7th by Executive Order, it has already received its death sentence, to take place next month. The hundred-thousand word report is to be followed in a week, before the expiration of its short life, by another report which promises to reveal more of the NRA doings.

The National Recovery Review Board report says that the NRA is helping the trusts, that the NRA tends toward monopoly, that the little fellows under the codes are stifled. It sharply assails the codes reviewed; especially the steel code where the monopolistic practices are exposed.

The report reveals with facts and figures, that the NRA is helping the large concerns and is systematically freezing out small business under all of the codes reviewed. To the readers of the Militant this is nothing new. From the very first day of the NRA we have clearly pointed out this phase of its functioning. What is important in the Darrow review is the fact that the antagonisms and conflicts inside the camp of the exploiters are sharpening. The report is one of its expressions. It will be used by a large section of the middle class.

Darrow Speaks for Middle Class

More significant than what is said in the Darrow report is what is left unsaid. The report gives a little attention to the problems of the working class. Hut it does not deal with the fundamental problems confronting the working class under the codes. This is not an accident. Darrow speaks for the middle class and not for the working class. The committee and those that back the committee, such as Borah and Nye, are fighting for the little business man and a large section of the middle class. In such a fight they come into conflict with the working class, even though they hope to involve large sections of the working class in their fight against big capital.

It is true that Darrow and Tompson, in a supplementary report, call for the socialization of industry as an alternative to the NRA. This does not represent a left position. It signifies a position in which left phrases cover the worst kind of social reformist and reactionary ideas. Johnson, in his reply, correctly pointed out that the Darrow position leads either to Communism or Fascism. And correctly so. We do not expect Darrow in his report to specify which road he desires after the NRA – Fascism or Communism. We only point out that these two roads are open. The sloppy middle class report of the Darrow committee which cannot find space for the working class in a hundred-thousand word criticism of the NRA in no sense throws a favorable light upon the committee. A committee’s report which criticizes the NRA, which is against big business and for the “little fellow” and which, at the same time, speaks of socialization as an alternative but leaves out any reference to the problems of the working class – such a report can become a basis for the worst kind of a middle class movement to rally the workers “against the trusts”.

Pressure on the Workers

How anyone can write a hundred-thousand word document and criticism and say so little about the working class is a surprise to us. For every ounce of monopolistic pressure against the little fellow under the codes there is a ton of pressure against the working class. The fact that the Roosevelt New Deal was so capable of putting over its big business measures in the name of the workers calls all the more for an exposure of the clever methods used under the NRA to lower the standard of living of the American workers, and to hold it in check.

The expression of class antagonisms through the NRA has simplified the previously complicated problem of the relation of economics to politics and class interests. In the past the ruling class had the simple task of issuing every measure in the name of the “people”. They still do this, but before the ink is dry on the new measures the “people” split up into struggling classes.

Who is the NRA For?

The NRA is detrimental to the working class. The NRA is also detrimental to the middle class, as Darrow points out. And, according to some of the big fellows of the Chamber of Commerce, the Manufacturers Association, the Steel Association, etc., the NRA is also detrimental to them. If this is the case who is the NRA for?

Under the NRA the working class received crumbs in order to restrain them from taking more in strike struggles and organization. Also, the little fellow is being driven out of business through the operation of the codes. This much of the problem is not so difficult to understand. What confuses many is the fact that monopolists also criticize the NRA. Marx pointed out the significance of such phenomena in the last century. Here we have a striking confirmation of his analysis. The conflict within the national ruling class is sharpening. There is not only a conflict between imperialist nations. There is, likewise, a struggle between groups of imperialists within the nation. The Roosevelt group is in sharp conflict with the Hoover group. Besides this, other groups are struggling for sectional control of the country and of industries.

Finance Capital and the New Deal

The bitterest attacks on the NRA have come from the groups of financial capitalists, who are not on the inside of the New Deal. They have more foresight for their own interests. This does not account for the whole of their criticism. Much of their criticism against the NRA has only been leveled at Section 7a. They know that the precedents established at the start will, to a large extent, govern the whole unless labor can demand a change. Therefore, they hammer away against labor. They want to give as few crumbs as possible and, at the same time, make a lot of noise to cover up the increase of profits rolling into them.

The Darrow report is speaking for a section of the middle class and small industrialists. The working class must use their criticism to further expose the NRA. But the workers must steer clear of Darrow, Nye and all of the other liberals and social reformers.

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