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Congress Talks Unemployment Relief

For the Workers – Only the Jingle of the Government Coin

(May 1932)

From The Militant, Vol. 5 No. 21 (Whole No. 117), 21 May 1932, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Events are moving swifter than usual in the United States Congress. There hangs over it the threatening cloud of the huge unemployed army, growing more hungry, more sullen, and showing signs of restlessness, and for the relief of which the government has done abso lutely nothing. The swifter moves are undoubtedly inspired by the fear that is foreshadowed in the dastardly police shootings in Dearborn and in Melrose Park. The agents of privilege in the Senate and in the House are as deliberately arrogant, as were the savage “upholders of the law” when they faced the starving workers in these two places. The latter instances indicate the more concrete side of how the capitalist government really intends to deal with the unemployment problem. This is where capitalism revealed itself in its true nature.

Yet this fear is the outstanding motive force behind the events in Congress. With that follows the scurrying for special consideration and for special gains for the various privileged interests from any measure contemplated to restore “prosperity”. In addition, it is an election year, and the lawmakers have enough at stake to maneuver for the most favorable position.

There is a national treasury deficit now of over $2,500,000,000 giving incontrovertible testimony to the crisis in capitalism. The Congress is still struggling with the balancing of its budget Bipartisan alliances are made feverishly and broken up again. Clashes of special group interests bring forth epithets such as “dastardly lies” and “damnable lies”. Senators and Representatives vociferously proclaim their “honesty” in the face of the heavy lobby bribes.

The insurgents – the so-called progressives, headed by La Guardia, La Follette, Costigan, etc. – sponsoring the interests of the embattled petty bourgeoisie, were the first to become vociferous. The proposed manufacturers’ sales tax went down to defeat. It caused the majority leader in the House, Rainey, to declare gravely, with words to this effect: you gentlemen have gone further toward socialization of property than any nation outside of Soviet Russia. The administration omnibus bill was shaved down to leave almost nothing. And the deficit remains. Meanwhile the leaders of industry and finance, “suffering” under the crisis, and clamoring ever more loudly for their pound of flesh. So, now the heavy hitting artillery is moving forward in Congress. But mobilized are also the pitiable efforts of the reactionary trade union leaders.

Representatives of seven leading railroad unions have declared to the President that unless immediate steps are taken to increase employment and relieve distress, they, “will be obliged to demand a dole”. What a terrifying threat! And so, to apply immediately the necessary soothings, they come forward with the Smith Debt Plan. They propose the President to appoint a commission composed of five representatives, one for labor, one for the farmers, two outstanding business leaders and one financial expert. This commission is to restimulate trade and export from the United States. Their plan at once won the approval of democratic politicians. And why not? It is as cast in their own mold. Now these trade union flunkeys want to appear in the lion’s role. When facing the wage cut demands of the railroad magnates they were, however, meek as rabbits. But they have now again only the idea in mind of greater collaboration with the outright capitalist representatives in making the counterfeit relief measures seem palatable to the workers and help pull the wool over their eyes. Never for once would they entertain the idea of even calling upon their union phalanx to exert the pressure of their numbers or to utilize their strategic position, of moving the wheels of transport, to fight for their right to live, and to resist the onslaughts upon them.

The “relief” measures proposed in Congress are practically all of the same character. There is no real difference between the proposals of Senator Robinson and President Hoover. Both embody a $2,500,000,000 plan for “relief”. That is, only about $300,000,000 of this is to go to the various states and municipalities to be doled out in miserable charity rations. The fat morsel, the $2,000,000,000, is to become tax exempt bonds to be used for private profit making enterprises. Politely, they are called self-liquidating enterprises.

Here we have the outrageous arrogance of a capitalist government. The existing unemployment situation has long ago called for unemployment insurance for the millions of jobless and penniless workers. A few miserable charity crumbs to them is all so far. And there is no indication that actual relief, that actual unemployment insurance will be granted until the workers sufficiently arouse their latent mass power to compel consideration over the opposition of the capitalist politicians.

On the other hand, the tax exempt bonds advocated in Hoover’s proposal for investment for further exploitation, is to be handled through the Finance Reconstruction Corporation. What that will mean, is indicated in the very first “relief” loan granted by this institution to the Missouri Pacific railroad, half of which went to pay maturing loans to Wall Street bankers. It will mean investments to fatten dividends and strengthen the capitalists to administer further wage cuts.

Some of the more sceptical of Wall Street’s uncrowned kings predict that this new bond floatation will cause inflation. Not that they are opposed to inflation. These real magnates support the Goldsborough bill, which went over with a whoop in the House of Representatives and provides for authorization to the Federal Reserve to elevate the price level to the bourgeois prosperity period of 1921–29.

Truly the United States Congress is making headway toward its capitalist relief. Nothing could please this whole gentry more than to actually accomplish, by strengthened monopoly, a higher commodity price level. What with workers’ wages already drastically reduced and the coupon clippers strengthened to administer more cuts, the higher price level should seem doubly enticing.

One of the tasks of the heavier artillery, now moving forward in Congress, is to harmonize the conflicting capitalist group interests. An illustration of one of such problems is afforded in the proposed billion dollar tax bill in the Senate. It contains tariff clauses which immediately became controversial. Representatives of one set of capitalists clamoring for duty on certain products for their investment protection while others, who have the opposite interests, are opposed. This is nothing new. It has just become more glaringly expressed in their present political dilemma.

Yet, through all the clashing conflicts reflected in these higher governmental brackets emerges one common and united aim; namely, to advance the counterfeit relief measures, shielding the real ones for the investors, to ward off the working class drift toward the Left. Unquestionably Congress has so far succeeded in attracting the favorable attention of the more credulous among the masses. Will the capitalist politicians attain their aim of changing the working class leftward trend so as to more easily defeat its demands and crush its growing aspirations? That is the important question.

Much valuable time has already been lost by the failure of the official Communist party leadership to take the elementary steps to build a serious movement which would begin to unite employed and unemployed workers. But there is yet a rich opportunity available. There is now a better opportunity for the workers to learn, by actual experience, what can be expected from the bourgeois parliamentary talking shop. They will learn more concretely that the United States Congress, the same as all other capitalist parliaments, are institutions for the protection of capitalist interests and for the keeping of the workers in subjection.

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