Glotzer Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index   |   ETOL Main Page

Albert Gates

The Future

Expert Predicts Mass of Jobless

(May 1943)

From Labor Action, Vol. 7 No. 18, 3 May 1943, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

A very important survey on post-war prospects of production and employment has just been completed by S. Morris Livingston, head of the Department of Commerce’s National Economic Unit. This survey forecasts mass unemployment at the end of the war, together with an increase in production. It is impossible to overestimate the importance of this for every worker in the country.

Right now there is very little unemployment. The war economy has absorbed most of the population. At the beginning of this year there were only one million unemployed! One million unemployed at the height of war production! But this is a low figure when one recalls that in 1940 there were still almost nine million unemployed!

The mass of workers realize that their present employment and wages, offset by the extremely high cost of living, cannot last beyond the war. They are opposed to the Roosevelt edict freezing wages, not only because it is unfair when compared to the enormous profits of big business, but because they realize that if they do not get a living wage now, they will be doomed as soon as the war is over.

This feeling of the worker, based on the experiences of the FIRST WORLD WAR, is not just a mystic belief. Every intelligent observer knows that the worker faces mass unerrtployment, and the heartaches of WPA and relief.

But Mr. Livingston, a government functionary, demonstrates that unemployment is not a mere possibility after the war, but a dead certainty. He writes that by 1946, IF the war is over by then, the capacity to produce with available manpower will be fifteen to twenty per cent greater than in 1940, and ACTUAL OUTPUT will be forty to fifty per cent greater than in 1940. When the war is over the majority of the goods now produced will no longer be required. That means that “the nation’s output after the war must substantially exceed the 1940 level if unemployment is to be held within reasonable bounds.”

Estimating a total labor force of approximately 59,500,000 in 1946, Mr. Livingston says that there will be a NORMAL army of unemployed of two million. But there has been vast technological progress, which is leading to a highly increased productivity. Mr. Livingston writes:

“Assuming only a continuation of the past trend, the output per man-hour in 1946 will be 13.5; per cent greater than in 1941 and twenty per cent greater than in 1940 ... Combining the potential increase in man-hours of employment and the projected increase in output per man-hour, the potential output of available manpower in 1946 would be twenty-five per cent greater than the actual output in 1941 and forty-six per cent above 1940.”

Speaking of a reduction of the unemployed army in 1943 to one million, he says that “it is better than we can hope for during a peacetime year.” All of which means that, once the war ends, the tremendous employment which exists now will end.

The conclusion is obvious, and is the essential point of the study made by Mr. Livingston: a mass army of unemployed. Workers on steady jobs today, earning relatively large wages, have nothing to show for their work. The high cost of living, already out of line with income, increased taxation and forced savings, drain everything the workers earn. They won’t have anything to lay over for a “rainy day.”

There are many reasons why the Roosevelt program should be rejected by the workers and their trade union organizations, but the prospect of mass unemployment and utter insecurity which will follow the close of the war, assuming that it will be over in 1946, is one of the best reasons why the workers must fight on now for their basic needs.

Top of page

Labor Action 1943 Index | Writers’ Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Last updated on 15 February 2020