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Results of the First Year of Conscription

Adequate Direct Relief Is Immediate Necessity
for Victims of Priorities

Unions Must Fight to Prevent Suffering of Workers Unemployed
Because of Latest Results of Anarchy in Capitalist Production

(25 October 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 43, 25 October 1941, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Priorities unemployment is the major immediate problem confronting workers in the automobile, radio and electrical appliance, textile and other leading industries.

Hundreds of thousands of workers, who had been led to believe that the war boom would ensure them a measure of job security, are already walking the streets.

It is frankly admitted by government agencies that the dislocation of industry, because of material shortages and the resultant operations of the priorities rationing system, will shortly create a new army of no less than two or three millions of unemployed.

The industrialists and the government are doing little to relieve the situation. But the workers, who face the bleak prospect of repeating their experiences of the ten years of pre-war economic crisis, view the menace of priorities unemployment with growing concern.

A number of plans have been projected by union officials, both AFL and CIO, in an attempt to cope with this problem.

The Union Plans

The major emphasis of all these plans – elaborated in detail for the auto, steel, radio and electrical, textile and other specific industries – is placed upon the need for the reorganization of the industries in order to expand production or to replace production of consumer goods by an equivalent production of war goods.

All of these plans, however, immediately bump up against the solid wall of the monopoly control of the basic industries by the handful of capitalist owners. It is these owners who now have the exclusive power to operate industry, regulate production, determine what is to be produced, and when, how, where and why.

They exercise this monopoly of industrial control for one end: Profits.

The very existence of priorities unemployment is the direct consequence of this profit motivation. The shortages in aluminum, steel and other vital materials, which have led to the application of priorities, result primarily from the unwillingness of the big monopoly corporations to expand their own production facilities or permit the government to build other facilities.

Above all, the trusts are determined to maintain their monopolies, to regulate prices and output, and thereby maintain their volume of profit and prevent the possibilities of competition.

The most technically-sound plans for reorganizing industrial production to eliminate priorities unemployment – and there is no lack of such plans – fail to surmount the key obstacle: the control of industry by the monopoly owners.

While every union plan attempts in some measure to deal with the question of control, their proposals end by leaving the control of industry intact in the hands of the owners.

In each case the success of these plans depends on the good will of the bosses or on the illusion that the government is a “neutral” agency which places the interests of the nation as a whole above the interests of the ruling capitalist minority.

The Question of Control

The employing class, on the one hand, will fight to the death against sharing the control of industry with the workers. The monopolists ruthlessly brush aside the suggestion that the workers might have even an interest in the control and management of industry. That is a “right” which the owning class reserves exclusively for itself.

On the other hand, the government, which is the agency for administering the state power of the ruling class, pigeon-holes or sabotages all plans for the reorganization of industry which, involve infringement on the present monopoly of control and management by the private owners of industry.

Moreover, all the union plans are an attempt to solve the problem of the capitalist anarchy of production – which is just as much a fact in war-time as in peace-time – within the framework of the existing economic system.

For each capitalist, or group of capitalists, is in ruthless competition with other capitalists. The big industries are trying to drive the small industries to the wall. The manufacturers of one kind of metal compete with manufacturers of substitute metals. Far from being interested in planning and coordinating the production of each industry as a whole, the few big competing corporations within the industry try to wipe each other out and gain complete control.

There can be no question of the necessity for the reorganization of industry in order to provide jobs for the workers. But It is pursuing an illusion to believe that this can be satisfactorily accomplished without first divesting the monopoly owners of their control. For, even should the capitalists succeed temporarily in meeting the immediate crisis of priorities, new and worse crises are certain to follow.

For it is impossible, except on a most limited scale, to separate the problem of priorities unemployment from the general condition of the decline and decay of capitalism as a whole.

That is why any feasible and sound plan to combat priorities unemployment must first of all deal with the question: Who will control and manage industry?

Who Shall Control Industry?

It is clear that the owning class is incapable of planning and coordinating production in the interests of the masses of people. Their control has led to priorities unemployment as only the most recent addition to all the other monstrous evils of the existing social order.

Only the working class, upon whom all production and distribution depends in the first place, can possibly organize and manage industry in the interests of the people as a whole.

Today, the only realistic beginnings of a solution to the workers’ problems, of which priorities unemployment is the most immediate and pressing one, is contained in the slogan of the Socialist Workers Party:

Expropriate the war industries and operate them under the control and management of the workers!

But in the meantime, the workers must be provided for when they become unemployed. They cannot sit idle waiting for long-term solutions to their problems and their immediate suffering, as a consequence of joblessness, must be alleviated.

An Immediate Demand

Are the workers to suffer hunger and privation because of the mismanagement and greed of the ruling class?

Regardless of what the owning class and government do with respect to the management of industry, the workers must not starve or face the winter without decent homes, clothing, blankets, fuel.

If the government and the bosses cannot provide jobs for the workers, then they must nevertheless continue to provide the workers with the means of subsistence.

Every worker deprived of the right to work by priorities unemployment must receive from the government relief in the form of money equivalent to the wages he normally would receive in private industry, and no less than union wages.

This is the demand which the organized workers, all the trade unions, must raise and fight for. Regardless of what promises and plans the government puts forth for a future solution to the problem of priorities unemployment, the victims of such unemployment must be decently fed, clothed, and housed now.

To secure this demand, more will be required of the unions than a simple plea to the “humanitarian” instincts of the government officials.

Mass pressure and mass action of the workers alone will force the government to provide decent incomes for the millions of workers who will shortly be jobless.

This immediate program must be placed on the agenda of every union which is forced to deal with priorities unemployment.

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