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Mary Bell

How to Get Full Employment?
Socialist Planning, Not Profits!

(June 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 24, 11 June 1945, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

It is a rare reactionary who opposes openly and forthrightly the concept of “full employment.” Occasionally one pipes up with, “Full employment is incompatible with the system of free enterprise.” But he is drowned out in the chorus of manufacturers, liberals, labor leaders, Governor Dewey and even the President, with their “plans” for “full employment.” All God’s chillun got plans. Everyone is for the “ideal” of full employment.

Attention is now focused on the Murray bill, a revised version of one that was backed by President Truman when he was a senator. The essence of the Murray bill is contained in two points:

  1. The President is to estimate “the aggregate volume of prospective investment and expenditure” for the country for the coming fiscal year.
  2. The President is to estimate the “aggregate volume of investment and expenditure required to assure a full employment volume of production.”

The President is then required to fill the gap between guess (1) and guess (2) by “suggestions” to industry and “compensatory” spending on the part of government as a last resort.

Fearful employers are assured that the Murray bill does not envisage planned production or government control of industry. “Free enterprise,” that is, capitalist production for private profit, is not to be interfered with.

With the sole exception of the socialist solution to the problem of full employment, all plans, including those of labor officialdoms, do not touch a hair on the head of free enterprise. They are therefore all doomed in advance. Why?

Business’ Failure

Before the war private enterprise was incapable of insuring full employment. As late as 1940, ten million men and women were on WPA or relief. Government had to fill in the gap between what the Murray bill calls “aggregate volume of prospective investment and expenditure” – labor’s needs for jobs and industry’s inability to meet them – and aggregate volume ... to assure a full employment volume of production.” For more than ten years of the Great Depression, all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t get capitalism to employ everybody able and willing to work. Government had to give the unemployed a dole and “prime the pump” of industry.

But did free enterprise restore fuili employment by its managerial genius, its proven capacity for leadership? Not on your life. The government again came to its rescue. It furnished business with war orders. About half of all production is now directed to the implements of destruction.

Now, the war market is diminishing and will practically vanish in a few months or a year when Japan is defeated.

But the problem is greater than it was before the war. We have more plants, more workers, more skills, more efficiency, more productivity arid more machinery due to wartime expansion. We have, in short, more of all the means necessary to a high standard of living, shorter hours and certainly – full employment for every able-bodied person. But the problem is greater than it was before the war – under the system of free, private, capitalist enterprise.

Depressions and low employment are caused under capitalism because TOO MUCH is produced not TOO LITTLE. The crises of capitalism are crises of OVERPRODUCTION, not lack of production. It is not overproduction in the sense of the needs of the people, but overproduction for the market. Capitalism does not produce for needs, consequently underconsumption accompanies overproduction. Capitalist enterprise overproduces precisely because it is not a system of overall planning, but a system of competition for private profit. All businesses, small and large, compete with each other. All rival automobile corporations compete with each other. Where competition has been eliminated in a single branch, like aluminum, the aluminum trust competes with other trusts, like steel, plastic wood, etc.

All private enterprise is out to produce as much as it can, to grab as much of the market as it can, for it is in sales that it realizes its profits. Hence it overproduces, the people cannot buy what has been produced because “free enterprise” robs them of a part of their pay envelope in the form of profits. Then come layoffs and the inevitable depression.

Gov’t Aid Necessary

That is why government must come to the aid of-business. It must subsidize business through loans or through providing purchasing power to the jobless through government expenditure. This is what Roosevelt did during the last depression. The Murray plan proposes no more than this. The bill does not move one flea-hop in the direction of full employment. It will, at best, provide the old WPA in a new form.

Big business is afraid of even this limited intervention into economic life by government. It is afraid that when it is so apparent that business is dependent on the government, reasonable people will demand that government take over all of business and industry and eliminate the competitive drive for profits and plan production totally for full employment and full satisfaction of the needs of the people.

Therefore, a conservative Southern Democrat like Vinson (who held down wages to the Little Steel formula when he was Economic Stabilizer) supports the Murray bill, but with a note of “warning.

“National economic policies must not be allowed to develop into regimentation of business or labor, or agriculture, or of the people. Direction of private output by public authority in peacetime is repugnant to American ways of thought.”

The only thing repugnant to the ways of thought of the American worker is an insane profit system of production for private profit which can no more guarantee full employment than water can run uphill.

The Workers Party proposes as the only solution to full employment that the government take over every branch of every plant of every industry which cannot guarantee jobs at adequate wages for its workers.

Management which cannot provide jobs for its employees has forfeited the right to manage. The organized workers can set up their own management committees which alone can plan for use and not for profit.

This is the only road to full employment.

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