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A Labor Party

Jack Ranger

Beginning a New Pamphlet

A Labor Party –
A “Must” for American Workers

Chapter 1
What We Want Out of Life –
And What We Get

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 32, 9 August 1948, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

WHAT do we want out of life?

Of the 145 million people in this country, only a very small number dream of acquiring or retaining fabulous wealth, or having magnificent homes with a large retinue of servants, fleets of expensive automobiles and a yacht or two.

The vast majority of the population is made up of workers (and their families) in the factories and mines, railroads and offices; small farmers, tenant farmers, sharecroppers and farm laborers; professional people such as teachers, doctors, dentists, engineers, musicians.

Among us there are many differences in standard of living, in taste, in outlook. But we have many things in common. In one way or another, all of us work for a living, most of us for an employer; and we are very much alike in what we want to get out of life.

Except for the tiny minority which has great wealth at its command, the first thing that all the common people want is a decent standard of living. No man wants to live merely in order to work. A man works because he wants to live. Before he satisfies any other interest, he wants decent food to eat, decent clothing to wear, and a decent home for himself and his family.

Abundance Is Possible!

This is a pretty modest ambition. A hundred years ago, only very few people could hope to realize it, even in a country like the United States. But in our own time this ambition is realizable for, every man, woman and child in the country. With our tremendous industrial capacity, our modern machinery, our very numerous and highly efficient labor force, our adequate resources and raw materials and our access to the world market, this modest dream could be realized almost overnight for everybody – provided society were organized rationally.

The second thing that people want is security. People don’t want a decent standard of living that will last only for the period between depressions. They want one that will last a lifetime. They want to know that their children too will enjoy a decent standard of living, one that grows better all the time, richer, more tasteful, more ample. A job that pays pretty well is a very fine thing, but at least half the enjoyment of it is wiped out if one must always be thinking: “But how long will it last? What of tomorrow?”

There is no reason to consider the demand for security any less modest than the demand for a decent standard of living. With very few exceptions, everyone is ready to do his share of work in order to make a living. That provides the country with an ample labor force. The need for the good things of life is always present. That provides the market. And today we have the industrial equipment and the materials to satisfy those needs even if they were twice as big as they now are. Why shouldn’t there be the continuous production and the continuously rising prosperity that would completely guarantee economic security for all?

The People Want Peace

The third thing people want is peace and order at home. Nobody with a lick of sense likes an industrial lockout for its own sake. No worker likes this business of having to fight bitterly, sometimes by means of long-drawn-out and exhausting strikes, to get a few pennies extra pay. No one with any sense or feeling feels anything but horror at the spectacle of racial conflict in this country, pitting men of one religion against men of another, making men qf one color deny men of another color their most elementary human rights and even shoot down and lynch those who lay claims to these rights – as happens with terrible frequency to Negroes.

People want to enjoy the good things of life and to pursue their particular interest, be it handicraft or travel, music or fishing, sports or photography, without being molested or dictated to and without molesting or dictating to others.

And people want peace throughout the world. They may not know very much or even care Very much about other countries and other peoples and their problems. They may not be moved by any great principle of human solidarity with peoples of other lands. But one thing we in the United States have certainly learned since 1914 and 1939 is that what happens in one part of the world very soon affects all other parts of the world. And still another thing learned is that the invention and perfection of modern weapons threaten to wipe out all humanity if another world war should come to pass.

Regardless of who wants war, the common people of every country certainly do not. What do they get out of war? No parent with an ounce of human feeling wants to raise children who, before they have even tasted the joys of life, are sent otf to perish in war with another people about whom they know little or nothing and with whom they do not and cannot have any quarrel. Every parent shudders at the realization that each new generation has a new war to die in.

Man does not live by bread alone. Each of us, in his own way, wants more things than these. But all of us have at least these things in common: We want a decent standard of living, security, peace and order at home, and peace all over the world.

What we want is right and natural. What is wrong is that we do not have these things.

How many of us enjoy a really decent standard of living? Very few. How many of us feel secure in the standard of living we do have? Even fewer. In the country as a whole there is no peace and order, but only a continual series of social outbursts, sharp class conflicts, and the unmistakable rumblings of even more violent and disrupting conflicts to come.

As for peace all over the world, who among us has any serious belief that it is. assured for generations to come – or for our sons and daughters – or even for ourselves – or even for the next ten years?

Even now, three years after the Second World War, there are six minor wars being fought, any one of which may suddenly blaze up and fire the rest of the world – in Palestine, Greece, Indonesia, Indo-China, China, India. A good half of mankind is involved in these “small” wars. We call them minor wars because the great powers have not yet openly entered the arena.

What We Are Getting

What we have received in this country – if we are an average family – is largely the very opposite of what we want.

We want a decent standard of living. Instead we are going into debt at an appalling rate, just to “make ends meet.”

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, it requires from $3,200 to $3,600 for the average worker’s family of four to maintain a “modest” American standard of living, “without frills.” In October 1947 the average wage for factory workers stood at $50.97 a week, or roughly $2,650 a year, if employed full time the year around. That is from $550 to $950 less than the minimum budget.

One of every three American families has no savings. Total consumer credit outstanding in December 1947 was at an all-time high, more than $13 billion.

Within two short years after the war, the people have had to go deeper into debt than ever before in history just to keep their heads above water – and this at a time of peck employment, peak production, peak profits for the owners of industry, peak foreign trade. It is a dark harbinger of the future.

We want decent homes for our families, in a clean neighborhood. We receive a housing situation that is a national scandal – one third and more of the nation ill-housed – resulting in shattered families, broken marriages, suicides, shoddy pew houses sold at inflated prices, tragedies of all kinds.

What Stands in the Way?

We want, most of us, freedom from racial or religious trouble. We get periodic lynchings in the South, race riots in the North, restrictions against Negroes and Jews, every discrimination against the colored people, anti-Semitic manifestations in scores of cities, persecution of religious and conscientious objectors to war.

We want freedom from strikes, yet each year millions of us must march on the picket lines, in a desperate effort to win a few cents more an hour from hostile employers, in order that our pay checks may retain at least a nodding acquaintance with sky-high prices.

We want peace. We got the war with Spain at the end of the last century, then the First and then the Second World War. Today, several years after the last war, the United States government is spending more for war preparations each year than the total pre-war budget. Hundreds of thousands of people are even now at work producing the horrible weapons of the First Atomic War.

The hour of decision is close at hand. To get the things we want out of life, we must act. Good things do not come of themselves.

We know what we want. The first thing to do is to find out what it is that stands in the way of our desires, why it is that we haven’t gotten what we want up to now. Then we will decide what we must do.

(To be continued)

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