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Permanent Depression

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America’s Permanent Depression – IV

Roosevelt Smiles on the Unemployed When Elections Roll Around

(August 1938)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. II No. 34, 20 August 1938, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Franklin D. Roosevelt has been pictured in so many diverse aspects by anti- and pro-New Dealers that disinterested observers of the man might well feel they are viewing grotesque reflections in a hall of freak mirrors. These reflections continually resemble caricatures in which those features which are most attractive or most detestable are drawn to exaggerated proportions, all in accordance with the particular prejudices of the artists.

To his foes on the right, largely the relics of the hard-bitten independent industrial feudalists of an earlier capitalism, Roosevelt sometimes appears as a blood-red revolutionist trampling on the most sacred rights of private property and the unrestricted exploitation of labor. To these gentlemen, whose minds see no further than the end of a blackjack, the slightest gesture of pacification offered by Roosevelt to the unemployed or any other section of the workers and poor farmers, even though the gesture be made with an empty hand, appears as calculated betrayal of their interests.

By his friends of the left – the ineffectual reformers and liberals, the labor fakers marketing unionism to the capitalists as an instrument for stabilizing profits, the peace-time pacifists, the Stalinists who wish to preserve democracy even if they have to silence by frame-up, knife or gun every labor militant – by these he is still hailed the new St. George of the common man, thrusting a solid spear into the dragon of vested interests.

Portraits Are Modified

From time to time, each camp is forced to modify their particular portraits. When juicy appropriations for military purposes are pushed through by Roosevelt, when fat bounties in the form of R.F.C. loans are tossed into” the laps of bankers and railroad tycoons, when the undistributed profits tax is dropped into the legislative waste-basket, the “Tories” nod their heads benevolently in his direction and affirm, “The kid’s got talent all right. If he’d only take himself in hand, cut out these week-end sprees with those red bums around the corner, and stick to business, he’ll be tops someday.”

When Roosevelt, the great democrat, counterposes only an imposing silence to the labor smashing brutalities of Hagueism, and the insolent flaunting of organized gunmen in the face of legislative edict by the Weirs, Girdlers and Fords; when the Roosevelt State Department, in immediate response to the demands of the blood-sucking American oil, mine and land interests in impoverished Mexico, imposes ruinous retaliatory economic measures upon our southern neighbor; when he sanctions the “neutral” embargo of arms to Republican Spain and permits the unhampered shipment of oil, scrap iron and munitions to Japan; when, in fact, he demonstrates a more than detached concern for the interests of the real ruling class regardless of his most idealistic utterances, the loyal “leftists” shake their head sadly and paint the picture of a generous, noble soul, abused and misled by crafty and insidious powers betraying him within his own camp.

All of these estimates are false to the core. Roosevelt is neither a lurking anarchist awaiting the opportune moment to sprout whiskers and heave a well-timed bomb into the sacred precincts of the New York Stock Exchange, nor a talented but irresponsible playboy, nor a great white knight come on horse-back to storm the citadels of oppression, nor a yokel being taken in by county fair sharpers, nor a benevolent country squire innocently inveigled into capitalizing some shady enterprise by treasonable advisers.

Roosevelt Ablest Capitalist Politician

In actuality, Roosevelt is the ablest, most intelligent, calculating and single-minded politician yet produced by the American capitalist class. His sole objective, linking into a single chain all his seemingly contradictory acts, is to save and stabilize the system of American capitalism.

The means by which Roosevelt intends to carry out this objective are dazzlingly clear. All the main lines of his strategy, his legislation, his statements, his executive policies point to that means: imperialist war.

American capitalism, torn by the same internal contradictions that beset the rival systems of every capitalist nation on earth, is fighting in every portion of the globe for outlets for surplus capital and products unmarketable at home. Facing the menacing shadow of mass unemployed millions which industry can never

absorb, supporting a government credit structure mounting to unprecedented and top-heavy heights, unable, except by huge government spending programs which mean increasing tax-loads, to balance profits, prices and production with mass purchasing power, the American capitalist class is preparing its inevitable and desperate bid for survival through the military subjection of its commercial and imperialist rivals.

It is the role of Roosevelt to best prepare the American nation for that task. His entire program of economic and social legislation can be understood only in the light of such preparations.

War Demands Support By All

Roosevelt is perfectly aware that the successful pursuit of his imperialistic aims through military means necessitates the complete loyalty to him of every section of the population. Such blind adherence to his designs, particularly in the part of the impoverished masses, can only be secured by his convincing the American workers and farmers that he is the genuine champion of their interests.

Further, Roosevelt understands how vital to his aims is the preservation of peace between capital and labor.

His program is to keep a constant balance between the classes. On the one hand he maintains his hold over the masses by attacking the most conspicuously evil manifestations of the capitalist system. On the other, while disguising with reforms the ugliest aspects, he tries to maintain the system as such strengthened and intact.

The attempt to maintain class peace in America becomes increasingly difficult for Roosevelt. He is unable for any length of time to pacify labor by paving the way for wage concessions, for he must immediately cancel out these concessions by measures which induce price rises and the maintenance of profit levels. He cannot indefinitely pacify the unemployed, because new waves of unemployment force him to spread appropriations for jobs in thinner and thinner layers, while the ruling class thunders at him because of the inevitable increase in his requirements.

Now to the Left, Now to the Right

So Roosevelt, offering his favors now to the left and now to the right, subduing with increasing difficulty the constantly smouldering class conflicts, hastens his course toward imperialist war before inevitable, recurring and constantly deepening economic crises explode into naked and tremendous class conflicts which neither he nor anyone will be able to control.

It is true that Roosevelt has incurred the displeasure of many of his own class whose immediate and personal interests have been hampered by the measures he has taken to preserve the class as a whole. But such displeasure is temporary,” like the immediate reaction to a bad-tasting medicine whose future results will be beneficial.

It is significant to note, that in every poll of public opinion, as well as in the expressions of the capitalist press, Roosevelt’s foreign policy and war appropriations (the greatest in the peacetime history of this and every other nation) have received almost universal endorsement. The recent Life magazine poll, among those of the wealthy and upper middle class, showed a more than 90 percent approval of Roosevelt’s imperialist preparations as expressed in his foreign policy and armaments program.

So it is that Roosevelt hopes ultimately to conquer unemployment. The administration is preparing to receive dividends on every dollar spent for the relief of the unemployed. Those dividends will be exacted in the form of support for the Roosevelt war program. Every concession to the working class, every slightest social reform has a price tag on it, marked in blood, “$upport of Imperialist War.”

(The final article in this series will be a discussion of the only genuine program to aid the unemployed and end unemployment. – Ed.)

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