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Gertrude Shaw

Problem of Post-War Jobs
Ties In with Labor Party

(31 January 1944)

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 5, 31 January 1944, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Judging by the contribution made by Mr. Wallace at the conference on post-war problems, just held in New York City under the auspices of the CIO Political Action Committee, there is very little else to recommend Mr. Wallace to labor except his good intentions – if that can be considered a recommendation.

As is to be expected from Mr. Wallace, he lambasted the cartels. This time he added something new, accusing some business men of financing “anti-Semitic movements.” Also, as usual, he did not say how the cartels and fascistic big business can be fought without fighting capitalism as such.

The article on the Chase National Bank on page three of this issue of Labor Action shows how all branches of capitalism are so interlocked it cannot be divided into good and bad.

Muffs the Point

When Mr. Wallace finally got around to the problem of unemployment in his speech, he did not look it straight in the face. He said:

“When the European war ends, there will probably be a $40,000,000,000 curtailment in war production. This could conceivably cost the jobs of more than 10,000,000 men, unless plans are made.”

And what about the total war, the global war, including the war with Japan? Will not the end of that bit of business mean more curtailment in war productions – and more unemployed?

A large chunk of the Vice-President’s comments was on the subject of reconversion to peacetime production. He spoke of “suggestions as to how the government may help business finance its reconversion.” However, though he used some fine-sounding words about the common man, he did not mention a word about help to finance the workers in THEIR reconversion.

But reconversion of industry is not the basic problem, though it is something that has to be done. The point is to get jobs for the tens of millions of workers and soldiers for whom there will not be jobs AFTER RECONVERSION!

Generalities Mr. Wallace has a-plenty: We must utilize full productive capacity – unemployment hurts business – consumption capacity is as great as productive capacity if “labor is kept fully employed.”

Certainly, most certainly! But HOW is labor to be kept fully employed when there are no more war orders and when the boys come marching home?

Mr. Wallace asks for a stockpile of blueprints for post-war construction. All optimistic supporters of capitalism are so very optimistic about post-war construction. However, on this subject another speaker at the conference, Alvin H. Hansen, economic adviser to the Federal Reserve Bank, gave some significant facts. He said that while $15,000,000,000 to $20,000,000,000 might help bridge the gap, at the moment only about $700,000,000 in post-war government projects are in the blueprint stage.

The significance of these figures is that the planners are going easy – a bit concerned about how to finance a stupendous construction program when depression hits the land. The trifling amount of post-war construction now provided for indicates that the “free enterprise” boys are pretty influential where the plans are being made. Not willing to surrender their “just rewards” in war profits, they will be even less willing to pay high taxes to finance “socialistic ideas” when there are no more war orders.

The above about summarizes Mr. Wallace’s contribution to the postwar conference of the CIO – only generalities and more generalities, worth a dime a dozen.

Hillman or Sloan

Sidney Hillman, who as head of the CIO Political Action Committee, was a leading light at the conference, in his own way did no better than Mr. Wallace.

He was indeed quite angry because Alfred P. Sloan, chairman of the General Motors Company board of directors – an astute business man – is proceeding on the basis of a post-war national income of $100,000,000,000.

“Under such an estimate,” Mr. Hillman declared, “our economy would operate at two-thirds capacity or less. A drop in national income to one hundred billion dollars would add up to unemployment for ten to fifteen million American workers.”

This is quite true.

Mr. Hillman is lots more optimistic about the future than is Mr. Sloan. He believes that even the present national income of $140,000,000,000 “falls far short of providing the American people with purchasing power to satisfy their demand for goods and services, despite the fact that it is the highest national income in United States history.” This is also true.

But the question that must be answered is: How can the national income be increased without breaking down the obstructions of production for profit? Mr. Hillman, who was once a socialist, no longer has any bones of contention with the capitalist system of production. Within the limits of capitalism, Mr. Hillman’s optimism is unwarranted.

What Mr. Hillman and other labor leaders are banking on is that the government will intervene in production, curb the voraciousness of the “free enterprisers,” and plan everything out nicely for the working people.

But what kind of government does Mr. Hillman have in mind to do this job for labor? The CIO leadership opposes a national independent Labor Party aiming at a workers’ government. What the CIO Political Action Committee is working for is a houseful of “friends of labor” from the Democratic and Republican parties. How can responsible labor leaders still rely on this debunked political method?

A Sound Program

The CIO intends to bring out a full post-war program on the basis of the conference just held. It is to be honed that it will be more fundamentally sound than the two speeches above considered. Certainly foremost among demands to prevent million-mass unemployment are the following:

  1. A thirty-hour work week with no reduction in wages – to provide jobs for all and a decent standard of living.
  2. Government-owned plants not to go to the capitalists to stand idle while workers starve, but to be held by the government and placed under workers’ control.
  3. Similarly all private factories closed by the capitalists should be taken over and operated by the workers to produce the needs of the population.
  4. Large-scale construction of housing, schools, hospitals, playgrounds, parks, beaches and all public utilities that will add to the well-being and happiness of the people – a program for life as great as the present gigantic program for war!

A glance at these demands makes it clear that any serious approach to the problem of unemployment opposes the interests of the “free enterprisers” and the limitations of production for profit.

For such a program the labor movement must be willing to assume full political responsibility to the working people of the nation. That means coming forth with an independent tabor Party ready to fight for labor’s needs against the capitalists and against their political parties including all the “friends of labor.”

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