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Truman Message Sees Fair Deal in Year 2000 –
What Does He Propose for Today?

(9 January 1950)

From Labor Action, Vol. 14 No. 2, 9 January 1950, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

In his annual State of the Union message, delivered Wednesday, President Truman announced the Democratic Party platform for the 1950 election campaign, keyed to the Fair Deal slogan, and the reaction of the Congress was strictly along partisan lines. A brave attempt is now being made by both sides of the major party line-up to transform generalities into issues – “welfare state” on the one hand and horror-stricken warnings against state “socialism” on the other. The actual content of the message bears out neither attempt.

The expected notes were struck in the message: Taft-Hartley repeal, Brannan Plan for the farmers, national health insurance, rent control, civil rights, higher taxation. The party-line reaction of the Republican bigwigs brought the label “dud” from Senator Wherry; Governor Dewey’s response that it was “more socialism” even came in advance of the speech. What “socialism” means to the Republican opponents of “me-too-ism” is to be seen in the fact that they denounce even compulsory health insurance as “socialized medicine.”

As far as the Republican reaction is concerned, its utter bankruptcy was symbolized the same day in the announcement that the New York Sun, staunchest Republican pillar of the press in New York, dedicated to ‘protection of industry” and “economy in government,” was dead (gold to the New York World-Telegram), in its death throes printing a final jingle on its editorial page:

“Do-si-do and
Crash the gate,
Dance around the welfare state!

“Do-si-do, it’s
All for free,
Circle left
And vote for me!”

And that’s about all they can say about it.

These right-of-right critics fail to realize that it is precisely because of its welfare slogan that the Fair Deal administration has captured the votes of a majority of the population. By labeling it “socialist” for their own propaganda purposes, they even serve to enhance its illusory appeal in many working-class circles, who do not believe it is socialism but have their conviction reinforced that it must be something quite “left.”

But the New Deal-Fair Deal-welfare state system of attempting to patch up capitalism is NOT socialism. It is more and more government intervention, ever increasing control over the economy and lives of the people, the levying of more taxes and the spending of more money toward shoring up the structure of the system.

All this government intervention, reiterated as a program in the president’s message, is a confession of the bankruptcy of the private-enterprise profit system. That’s what the squeals are about on the extreme right, namely, those troglodytes who are not yet convinced that this profit system cannot keep afloat by its own efforts.

While Truman says of his program: “These gains cannot be achieved unless our businessmen maintain their spirit of initiative and enterprise and operate in a competitive economic system,” he also knows that the “competitive economic system” cannot itself achieve “these gains.”

What are “these gains”? The maximum Fail Deal program boils down to the minimum promises necessary to satisfy the people’s desires for reform. Public housing – a few more drops in the bucket, “decent housing” in Truman’s words. Increased unemployment compensation – only the amount a family can subsist on for a while if the head of the family is thrown out of a job, covering also those who do not get any compensation at all under the present law. Health insurance – supplying the facilities that are partially or totally lacking to many people.

Will He Fight?

This is not socialism. This is government therapy for an economy beset by inextricable contradictions, recommended by the more far-seeing capitalist physicians.

Meager as it is, the Truman program is bound to be trimmed down in Congress by the Republicans and by Truman’s fellow Democrats, particularly his Southern colleagues. Truman himself did some whittling on the rumored tax increase which was to pay for the program. It had been bruited in advance that more taxes were to come from the wealthy and the corporations; now the message is vague. There is no hint of a decrease in the wartime taxes the workers are still paying.

Moreover, even Truman’s most enthusiastic Fair Deal friends – in fact, particularly the more enthusiastic – express their suspicions aloud that Truman does not even want to make a fight to push his measures through this session. The New York Post, this past week, editorialized an exhortation to him to really get behind his own program; the suspicion is that he would be just as happy to see it shelved this year so as to retain his slogans for the presidential election of 1952.

But the biggest obstacle of all to any real Fair Deal is Truman’s admission that “more than 70 per cent of the government’s expenditures are required to meet the costs of past wars and to work for world peace.” The expression world peace is, officialese for military preparations for World War II.

No wage increase is proposed for labor. It is proposed to maintain the present weak rent control, already cut to ribbons by Truman’s own administrative agency headed by Tighe Woods. As a matter of fact, prior to the message, Truman gave as his reason for maintaining rent control the removal of any pretext for a new round of wage increases.

2000 or 1984?

In lieu of a more concrete program for the needs of. the people, Truman permitted himself an H.G. Wellsian glimpse into the American paradise that will exist in 2000 A.D. According to this piece of futuristic fantasy, the welfare state has continued unhampered, productivity has increased by four times over 1950, with a family income three times the current average, and capitalism is stronger than ever. The Republican-labeled “socialist” capitalist is merely repeating the glowing pictures of the future drawn by exponents of the profit system before the 1929 crash, when capitalism was painted as marching on from triumph to triumph.

Meanwhile the more realistic picture in all people’s minds for the next half century is that of atomic warfare, a capitalist system that is dying in Europe, and permanent insecurity and fear as long as it is still aiive on these shores. And another picture of this future has been drawn, referring not to 2000 A.D. but to 1984, drawn by its author George Orwell on the pattern of the increasing bureaucratization of Western capitalism.

Truman stated that “our republic continues to increase in the enjoyment of freedom within its borders and to offer strength and encouragement to all those who love freedom throughout the world.”

This comes from the man who ordered the attorney general to draw up his “subversive list,” which has become the basis for a systematic witchhunt new to this country. “Guilt by association” has become accepted government procedure, in spite of its rejection by one court after another. His administration has instituted the loyalty oath, first in the government, now spreading to private employment, schools and colleges and other agencies, whereby any and all dissidents can be victimized without any possibility of defending themselves. The FBI develops increasingly into a thought-police force.

On this field too, government intervention proceeds apace, on a capitalist basis, in the direction which has the police-state at its end.

The State of the Union continues to be “good” – good for the powers that own America now.

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