Weber (Jacobs) Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Jack Weber

March of Events

(22 December 1934)

From The New Militant, Vol. I No. 2, 22 December 1934, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Profit System and Capitalist Sabotage

No class-conscious worker will be fooled by the revelations of so-called “inefficiency” in the handling of food stuffs for relief purposes by the Federal, State and City authorities. When millions of pounds of potatoes, cabbage and veal threaten to glut the market, lower prices and decrease the profits, not of the farmer-producers but of the big commission merchants and the monopoly capitalists of the produce exchanges, the government steps in to protect the interests of the class in power. It buys up the huge food surpluses and hides its real motive for the purchases – the preservation of the profit system – by pretending that the food will go to relieve the starving unemployed. Under cover of this phraseology for deluding the masses, the various agencies of government, Federal, State and City, then cooperate in the task of destroying the food surpluses by a game of “inefficient handling”.

This capitalist sabotage manifests itself everywhere and at all times when the maintaining of profits requires the destruction of wealth, whether in the form of means of production, food supplies or raw materials. The rotting of the foods so desperately needed by the hungry, penniless workers is not a New York phenomenon, it is one more revelation of the decadence and rottenness of the entire capitalist system. Veblen aptly characterized this capitalist sabotage when he spoke of it as the “conscientious withdrawal of efficiency”. It is indeed the brazenly cold-blooded fostering of mass hunger in order to create the demand necessary for the coining of profits in the capitalist market.

* * *

Profits and Housing

Capitalist society in the throes of crisis is faced continually with the problems, of planned economy. But so long as private property and profits remain the backbone – the unbroken backbone – of the economic system, a planned economy remains like a watery mirage in the desert, something thirsted after but far-distant and unattainable. Thus it is with any real housing program of which there is so much talk in banking and industrial circles. The proper housing of the masses is linked up with a myriad of problems that remain almost totally insoluble under capitalism. There is the problem of slum clearance; the moving of large masses out of the cities; the reallocation of industries; the establishment of so-called subsistence homesteads to “solve” the unemployment problem, etc.

What the capitalists desire is that the government shall somehow set the wheels of heavy industry going once more by means of a housing program involving Federal financing and subsidizing society. Thus “city demobilization” would immediately affect land values which would in turn affect the entire taxing structure of the state. There would be a profound effect on the transportation systems built around and through the big centers of population. The entire profit structure involved in the present distribution of foodstuffs would be disturbed. The relations between town and country, between the farmer and city worker, would undergo striking changes. Clearly the need for profits stands uncompromisingly in the way of real planning of housing.

* * *

Housing and the Building Workers

This does not mean that the government will not concoct schemes for aiding the languishing heavy industries through some form of subsidized housing. In its usual fashion the government will attempt to create the illusion that its real aim is to help the unemployed building trades workers. As a matter of fact the whole scheme of starting a housing boom is being linked up with the idea of stimulating greater demand by lowering building costs in the most radical manner. The one completely satisfactory method for accomplishing this objective known to the capitalists, is to conduct a fierce and relentless onslaught on the wages and standards of living of the construction workers.

The government is moving to take the lead in this process of “deflation” of costs. If present intimations become a reality, then we may expect a direct conflict between the construction workers and the capitalist state. Far from helping the building trades workers, the Federal authorities will aim a blow at them. Already there is an effort to encourage the mass production of factory-built houses ready to assemble. This would eliminate the need for any skilled workers who would become part of the permanent reserve army of unemployed. The use of new materials and factory methods is relied upon to create a new industry for capitalist exploitation. Jn this way, from every aspect the government’s housing program contains within it a dark threat to the livelihoods of the construction workers.

Weber (Jacobs) Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 13 November 2014