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Jack Weber

March of Events

(28 March 1936)

From New Militant, Vol. II No. 12, 28 March 1936, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Relief – for Big Business

The process of whittling away relief for the unemployed by alphabetical strategy is carried a long step forward in Roosevelt’s latest message to Congress on the budget. This is election year and Roosevelt intends to leave nothing undone in order to corral the support of business. Economy and the avoidance of taxation on business are the forms of relief proposed by the “humanitarian” President – for big business! The real purpose of the WPA is being rapidly unfolded. That purpose was to provide a clever intermediary to get workers off the relief rolls and then, after a short space of time, to lay them off and prevent them from getting back on the relief rolls. Each month a new batch of unemployed will be “laid off” to fend for themselves in this best of all possible worlds. Hopkins has given public assurance to the capitalist class by laying out a definite schedule of cuts in the WPA rolls. Of course Hopkins “hopes” that the needy will get back on relief. Or perhaps they will be shuttled from the WPA to the PWA! No doubt some shifts like this will raise false hopes in the minds of many unemployed that it is only a matter of waiting a short time for renewed work on federal payrolls. But the big majority will be doomed to bitter disillusion. Roosevelt is making it plain that after the elections – a little relief is still necessary for voters! – the Federal Government will wash its hands of the largest burdens of relief. On one condition! That the unemployed remain passive and put up only a scattered fight against the outright starvation being planned for them.

* * *

Division of Labor

In the division of labor for carrying out the demands of the capitalist class. Roosevelt occupies the position of the liberal demagogue “voicing” the interests of the masses. Thus he points to the NRA as the would-have-been solution of the problem of unemployment – if that other arm of capitalism, the Supreme Court, had not declared it unconstitutional. He is left to appeal to the voluntary action of the employers to “extend their operations so as to absorb an increasing number of the unemployed.” And since this will not do if left to individual bosses, he calls for organised effort on a national scale. As though it was not the “voluntary” action of the bosses in the first place that had produced unemployment as the inevitable concomitant of the business crisis! Roosevelt suggests a campaign on the part of big business for shorter hours to provide more jobs. This demagogy at a time when the average work week has grown three hours longer (from July to December 1935)! The A.F. of L. calculates that this increase in the work week resulted in the loss of a million jobs to the unemployed. The only difference between Roosevelt and the more reactionary members of the capitalist governing staff is that Roosevelt wishes to act more cautiously and not as bluntly and speedily in letting down the unemployed from their present miserable status to one that is still worse.

It will be the function of Congress to start investigations of the undoubted political corruption that exists in the WPA (as in capitalist institutions in general) to force a quicker end to the system of work relief. Already this pressure is on due to the exposure of conditions in West Virginia. The attitude of Congress is shown by its refusal to continue the Florida and “Quoddy” ship canals by the grant of special fund. No doubt there will be some opposition to the measly sum of one and one half billion dollars asked for by Roosevelt, although it is unlikely that this will be refused. The CCC camps are also due for a liberal application of the axe. One hundred thousand youths are to be discharged from these camps by July 1st.

* * *

Unity of the Unemployed

It is no accident, under these circumstances, that the movement of the unemployed is taking on a new impetus. Objective conditions are forcing the unemployed workers to organize and to seek unity of effort to combat the plans of the capitalist class directed against their very existence. These workers note that in the past 6 months the profits of big corporations have gone up more than 140%. They note that in the “bull” stock market there has been a gain of 55% in stock quotations. They see that with some considerable recovery of business the re-employment of unemployed workers has made only a small dent in their ranks, continually augmented by the new generation of young workers ready and eager to earn a living. There are still some ten and one half million out of work, by conservative estimate. The capitalists make it difficult to obtain complete and reliable statistics on this question. These workers thrown out of industry in the crisis must struggle for their very lives against the Roosevelt plan to slowly put an end to all relief to the “employables.” Roosevelt and his masters are reckoning without the mass pressure that will be exerted by employed and unemployed alike to stave off starvation for millions of workers. For this gigantic struggle a firmly knit mass organization is essential. This organization is in the making in the promising efforts for unity of the unemployed movements, particularly the NHL and the WAA. Out of this unity will spring a stronger and more powerful organizing force for the coming battles.

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