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Hugo Oehler

What the 73rd Congress Did for the Bosses

(June 1934)

From The Militant, Vol. VII No. 26, 30 June 1934, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The actions taken by the 73rd Congress under the leadership of the Roosevelt regime reveal far-reaching bourgeois reforms aimed to prop up world capitalism.

The outstanding features of the 73rd Congress were:

1. Cleverly demagogic but firm steps to centralize and support the exploiting minority, and weaken labor by tying it to class collaboration machinery. This was the main task of the internal measures of the Congressional session. Banking and Industry, Agriculture, and Labor are the three divisions under which these measures fall.

The two outstanding features of the NRA are:

  1. The economic feature. It organizes the industries on a national scale under Code Authority Bodies. It sets aside the Anti-Trust Laws and enables further consolidation and centralization of finance and industry through government cooperation, to form cartels, national industrial groups and monopolies. The small capitalists and sections of the middle class are driven out of business.
  2. The “social relation” feature. It corrals the working class and their struggles against the capitalists into class collaboration machinery. The A.F. of L.’s class collaboration ideology was not sufficient to cope with the rising strike struggles and new class relations. The new and extensive machinery of labor boards and arbitration is needed to check, to disorganize and to prevent the workers’ struggles, especially those of the semi-skilled end unskilled millions of American workers.

The NRA has been strengthened in the last days of Congress by the act empowering the President to set up boards to attempt to force through arbitration wherever strikes threaten. In addition, the setting up of a national Railroad Adjustment Board shows the further steps necessary in this industry, which is one of the sickest capital enterprises today.

The monetary and banking apparatus is being adjusted to conform with the greater centralization of industry. Particularly the first steps were taken toward chain banks and a more unified and consistent bank structure to meet the international needs of American imperialism. The present banking structure of America is one of the most antiquated among leading imperialist countries.

The measures dealing with Agriculture will have far-reaching effects in reorganizing American agriculture to fit present requirements of American capitalism in a world of shrinking markets. The major effort of America is directed to increasing the export of capital, where safe investments can be found, and the export of industrial and finished commodities. This requires reorganizing agriculture, in order to leave the door open for the importation of raw material and some farm products to enable creditor nations to pay. This means a sharp curtailment of domestic production is necessary, and the AAA is designed to this end, as are also the bills for the compulsory control of tobacco and cotton. The curtailment program necessitated special relief to the drought area, and the measure, through the Frazer-Lemke Bill, to help the mortgage companies holding farmers’ mortgages.

Government Subsidies

2. Government subsidies to industry have become a dominant factor in this stage of capitalism. In the earliest stages of capitalism, government subsidies were a necessity for the development of the national capitalists. Now it is a necessity to maintain the decaying capitalist system. The direct loans to industry through the Federal Reserve Bank and the R.F.C. and the Housing Act are a huge subsidy, as we have pointed out before in the Militant, to stimulate the production of durable goods and turn the wheels in the heavy industries which has meant profits to industry and a slight increase of production, but with no appreciable effect on unemployment.

3. Outstanding is the fact that many issues, especially international issues, are not handled by Congress, and only reach Congress for its rubber stamp which, especially this year when Congress is thoroughly dominated by the President, means that for practical purposes international issues are in the hands of the Executive. In addition, Congress has delegated power to the President to conclude reciprocal treaties with foreign nations and to raise or lower duties by 50%.

International Policy

The Gold Act, vesting control in the President, was not only significant as an internal measure, but as a weapon of international policy which is now out of the hands of Congress. In these various ways power and funds have been centered in the hands of the Executive, so that pressing international issues can be handled with dictatorial decisiveness and rapidity by the President. These issues are the imperialist armament race, which will be cloaked in naval treaties and peace pacts, and the trade war that is already in full swing, disguised by reciprocal treaties and tariff manipulations.

4. In spite of all this increase of dictatorial power and centralization, bourgeois democracy in the United States is still a powerful force. Under conditions in any way approximating the present situation, the bourgeoisie will not have to resort to an open dictatorship. It still has sufficient internal strength and resources, so that further shifts of the workers to the left will be met by concessions designed to check and scatter the concentration of this leftward shift. Unemployment Belief

Further struggles of the unemployed will bring forward additional relief funds. More basic reforms, dealing with the thirty-hour week and unemployment and old age insurance (of a kind) have been left over for the next Congress, as concessions to be held in reserve to be presented later when the class storms become greater. Naturally, even these bourgeois substitutes and imitations of real social insurance measures, are only granted if the pressure of the working class is sufficient to warrant such stop-gap measures.

The Administration hopes to be able to handle the rising strike struggles in the coming period as effectively as it handled the Auto and Steel strike threats. The measures passed in the last days of Congress, giving the President full power to act and the setting up of arbitration boards is to be used in an attempt to keep class peace at home and the workers in subjection while the imperialist mongers are busy with the International problems confronting them in their attempt to organize the world.

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