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Utilize Feb. 4 Meets to Build Jobless Movement

(January 1932)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 5 (Whole No. 101), 30 January 1932, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

There will be another unemployment day with nation-wide demonstrations for unemployment relief on February 4th. It should receive the undivided support of the working class everywhere. But it is imperative that it become more than just one other demonstration.

Can it become more than that? We believe it can. There can hardly be any question that with a real substantial section of the millions of unemployed workers actually and seriously participating in a movement for relief it can. But that is essential. Under all conditions the workers will obtain nothing more than they can take themselves and certainly not more than they are seriously ready to fight for.

All the demands – and the pleas – so far made by the army of unemployed have been rejected with scorn by the Hoover administration and similarly by the state and municipal governments throughout the country. Whether the governments were Republican or Democratic made no difference whatever. The capitalist class as a whole feels itself sufficiently strong to confine the unemployed millions to the charity crumbs which they have seem fit to set aside. And sufficiently strong to overcome their fears of a rebellion from those they so haughtily scorn. Maybe, though, they are wrong in this feeling of security. It is certain at least that a real serious and determined movement would soon make them change their mind. It would soon bring the unemployed masses within reach of obtaining actual relief.

Possibilities for Movement Growing

But there is not yet such a serious movement it would be foolish for Communists to close their eyes to this fact. It is precisely because of this that such mountebanks, official dispensers of dope, as the Pittsburgh Catholic priest, Father Cox, can step on the scene and rally thousands of unemployed upon a program of pleas to congress. The purpose of his appearing is, of course, to act as a preventive for a real movement by leading the attention off into such futile channels. But a movement learning to know that the workers will get only what they are prepared to fight for would leave no room for such quacks.

Failures Should Be Recognized

The Communists lead whatever fighting unemployment movement there is. The official Communist party is by far the main factor in this. It therefore also carries the main responsibility for the opportunities not being utilized. As the objective conditions mature further this responsibility becomes heavier and the party failures become real obstacles in the way. Its failures have been apparent in the slogans presented in its attitude of approaching the unemployment situation mainly as a field for maneuvers and advertising stints. Its failure has been apparent in the utter lack of efforts for a class education, in the bureaucratic methods of restricting the movement as well as in pursuing a course apposite to the one of uniting the workers in action. This, of course, is all inherent in the policy and methodology of the Stalin agents everywhere.

The direct results to the organized unemployment movement, whatever there is of it, have been that the councils lead a precarious existence out of proportion to the possibilities available. Their scope is restricted by bureaucratic division of the workers and elimination of all who do not submit to the mechanical party control which is imposed upon them. They do not sufficiently attract the workers and those who join come and go.

Some Practical Stops Proposed

It would be a good beginning for the party to consider rounding out its demands for unemployment relief by adding the practical slogans which can appeal to the broad strata of the workers, including those now employed. We have in mind, as we have often emphasized, to add to the slogan for unemployment insurance also the ones of the “six hour work-day without reduction in pay” as well as the slogan for “extension of long term credits to the Soviet Union.” That it would offer better possibilities for the building of an actual movement can hardly be disputed.

It might also be appropriate to propose to the party that the unemployment demonstrations be no longer conceived purely as objectives and means of advertising but on the contrary to be conceived primarily as an integral part of agitation and organization activities to build a movement. The demonstrations themselves will not become effective unless actually sponsored by a serious movement. Not until then will the capitalist class and its government pay serious heed to the demands made.

It certainly should be in order now also to really begin to remove all the bureaucratic restrictions from the unemployed organizations. At present there is no broader appeal to the working class than the one concerning the various measures for unemployment relief. Around this the greatest extension of elementary class unity could be attained. It should ring out to all workers organizations regardless of how reactionary their leadership, as well as to those entirely unorganized. On this basis serious efforts could be made for working class unity of action.

But above all it should be necessary to pursue a thorough method of class education. That is not to be content with merely what directly and immediately concerns the spontaneous movement but rather to proceed from that to teach the workers in regards to the far more serious problems they must face to reach their revolutionary goal.

None of these proposals, however, can be approached with the method of bureaucratically maneuvering and playing with a movement. They require first of all the attitude of serious minded revolutionists.

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