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Hugo Oehler

Roosevelt’s Program for “Social Insurance”

(June 1934)

From The Militant, Vol. VII No. 24, 16 June 1934, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

As Congress nears the close of the present session, President Roosevelt delivered what is supposed to be one of the most important and far reaching messages presented to it. The bourgeois press hailed the message as the dawn of a new day. The message called for “security for all” through a housing program and ask for the enactment of old age and unemployment insurance.

Without a doubt Roosevelt is a master at the art of demagogy, and in that sense this speech was one of the best. Once we analyze the Roosevelt program presented to Congress we will find that this sugar coated pill, delivered in the name of the “common people”, is In reality, a program against the working class.

Roosevelt’s speech was designed for public consumption while at the same time it must inform Congress what the President hoped would be enacted before adjournment. The speech is only an outline and if the administration desires its parts to be enacted they must be turned over to the proper sub-committees or administration forces and drawn up in Bills for Congressional consideration. When we examine those parts of the speech that have been presented in proper form for consideration we find that the high points of the President’s speech and the parts the press played up could not possibly be enacted this session. Therefore it becomes good propaganda, that costs nothing and will pave the way for the administration’s rallying cry for the next election. The points that deal with old age and unemployment insurance are those that catch the imagination of the working class, and take the wind out of the sails of the social reformers.

An examination of the bills pending before Congress will prove that they are measures for and by the imperialist group of capitalists that the Roosevelt administration serves. In last week’s issue of the Militant we have dealt with the Wagner Bill and have shown how this bill is not a savior for labor, but a straightjacket. Before we deal with the other acts it is advisable to say a few words about the social insurance features of the Roosevelt program.

It means that America has at last been forced through necessity to realize that the millions of unemployed are a permanent feature of our industrial system. That this so-called un-American foreign dole must be resorted to if capitalism is to continue. It means that the President has at last realized that it will cost no more, to set up a mild bourgeois form of social insurance, than it cost the government at the present to maintain its present form of city, county, state and national charity relief. The estimations presented for the coming period of what will be needed by the nation to continue its present charity relief can be taken care of far more effectively by changing the system of relief from charity to social insurance. Of course it will not be a social insurance as needed by the working class. That is not the purpose of the Roosevelt Program. It will head off criticism, cost no more than the present or rather future estimates and requirements, and will at the same time, snatch the fruit from the hands of the social reformers. Roosevelt’s propaganda speech is to pave the way, not only to dupe the workers, but also to educate the backward layers of the capitalist class.

The National Housing Act and the Industrial Loan Act are primarily aimed at the worst phase of the crisis and to speed up recovery in the basic industries that have not been touched by the other measures so far passed under the New Deal. The Industrial Loan Act will authorize the R.F.C. to use a half billion fund for direct loans to industries falling in the category of durable goods and will endeavor to stimulate the reinvestment of new capital in the means of production.

The Reciprocal Tariff Act is intended to give the president power to make arrangements with any and all countries in any part of the earth, where reciprocal tariff relations on commodities will enable America to increase her exports. The Sugar Control Act and the Cotton Control Act are intended to enable the American imperialists to eliminate the worst features of free competition and attempt to modify overproduction.

If one reviews the results of the New Peal and the measures enacted, one will find that they are all measures to further strengthen imperialist rule over the United States and strengthen its world position. From the NRA down through the list from A.A.A., to the Gold Reserve Act, the Silver Purchasing Act, to the Stock Exchange Act one finds links comprising a chain that tightens the capitalist grip upon the workers and the middle class. The clever demagogic way in which the Roosevelt administration put through these measures receives its due praise from the Wall Street overlords. The working class must become more capable of distinguishing words from deeds.

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