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Susan Green

Labor Serfdom Is NAM Goal

Profit Swollen Manufacturers Draft Program

(23 December 1940)

From Labor Action, Vol. 4 No. 37, 23 December 1940, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

“If the hours of work were increased, without a further increase in wage rates and without overtime pay, the general standard of living could continue to increase for some time to come.”

Here, in a nutshell, is the basic policy towards labor of the 8,000 American industrialists, represented by 1,000 of them, at their convention just held at the ultra swanky Waldorf-Astoria in New York City.

Surrounded by glamor and comfort – wining, dining, cocktailing, banqueting – the sated industrial plutocrats decided that the workers will be better off if they toil longer hours for little more than they are getting now.

At the same time – pulling down their vests over their bulging bellies – they pompously and unanimously voted for “Recognition of the value of the profit motive as a powerful incentive to productive effort, and of the economic need for profits in industry sufficient to maintain and expand productive enterprise.”

In a word: Nothing more than is necessary for the workers – everything for the bosses. UNLESS THE WORKERS CATEGORICALLY REFUSE TO ACCEPT THIS ARRANGEMENT.

Their attitude is etched in all its baldness by their own special report that when the armament program, and the profits therefrom, reach their peak in 1942. “THE STANDARD OF LIVING WILL START A DOWNWARD SLIDE AS IT DID IN EUROPE DURING REARMAMENT”. This decline will be due to the fact “that some productive resources must be diverted from consumption goods to armament”.

Warn Government

Henry W. Prentis, Jr., outgoing president of the association, defiantly warned the government that he wants no appeasement of labor:

“Whether the urgency is such as to demand industrial output on a twenty-four hour, seven-day basis, and the removal of all restrictive factors for the fullest possible armament production, government, and only government, can say.”

If the boss government wants planes, tanks, guns and battleships, the pay-triotic bosses in turn want the privilege of handling labor in their own sweet way – without restrictive acts and unions. These defenders of the “good American way” demand, instead, a good healthy ANTI-STRIKE LAW.

The sharp warning was hardly necessary. For the government has already loosed its darts against labor. William S. Knudsen, National Defense Advisory Commissioner, and General Motors man, quite properly representing the boss government at this boss conclave. According to Knudsen the forty-hour week, won by labor after decades of struggle, constitutes a “blackout”. He said:

“Friday night has become the big night in most of our industrial picture. Is used to be Saturday night we have cut 20% off our machine time. Can we afford to do this? Can’t we stop this blackout, this lack of production from Friday to Monday. and get more out of the equipment?”

Not to mention getting more out of the workers’ hides, without paying them for it.

The day after Knudsen’s speech, the New York Times, licked its editorial lips in anticipation:

“We must put our industry on a twenty-four hour basis ... Mr. Knudsen has now dealt with the country with courageous realism and candor. It is in conceivable that it will fail to respond to his challenge.”

The campaign of the bosses of the country for an anti-strike law is well under way. These good “democrats”, having the utmost faith in the “American way” of doing things, have made “an independent survey of public opinion”. Naturally they wouldn’t think of having an anti strike law passed unless even the workers themselves want it. We don’t know of any coal diggers, plane builders or auto workers who were consulted but their survey reveals – if you want to believe it that

“only 40% of the people think that the loss of the right to strike would curtail their liberties. Many reasons for this may be advanced. One may be that some people still look upon organized strikes as a legalized privilege rather than a basic right. Another may be that workers themselves have been through strikes and are not so keen about preserving their right. What ever the reason, the fact is that even among factory workers they do not hold the right to strike as dearly as some politicians have led the public to believe.”

Thus the propaganda machine has begun to grind out its filthy lies. At a fake women’s panel broadcast from the convention hall, the question was asked as to whether industry or government red tape was holding up the war program. Lewis Brown, president of the Johns-Manville Corporation (which supplies notorious Tommy Manville with the where withal of a “useful” life), replied that it was too soon to tell as to industry and government, but it was quite certain that labor is holding up the program. This so-called panel, supposed to represent American women, was participated in only by women of the upper class. They read their questions from prepared texts and were answered from prepared texts. Had a needle trades worker woman been there, the panel would have been treated to some shocking and extemporaneous statements!

The program of the NAM would reduce the workers to the status of industrial serfs – slaving long hours, at low pay, without the right to strike. But that isn’t enough. These colossal exploiters aim also to pass onto the backs of the masses the cost of the vast imperialist war machine, out of which THEY will be making unbelievable profits.

Thus John W. Hanes, who was under secretary of the Treasury in 1938 (and like so many ex-government officials, has received his reward from private industry), spoke on paying for the war as follows:

“That the personal income tax base be broadened to INCLUDE AS MANY IN THE INCOME TAX SYSTEM AS IS PHYSICALLY POSSIBLE and that there be a moderate increase in the rate of normal tax.”


These bloated bellies also aimed a broadside at the unemployed. They are setting up a hue and cry for reduction of “non-defense expenditures”. They didn’t say it right out in the convention, but what they want is to cut out government appropriations for WPA and general relief.

On the subject of education, it was revealed that the NAM has engaged the services of Ralph W. Robey, Professor of Economics in Columbia University, to abstract all textbooks in the field of history, civics, sociology and economics in general use in the public schools of the country. Then the members of the NAM will be instructed on using the weight of their influence to remove from the schools those books found “prejudicial to our form of government, our society or to the system of free enterprise”. Professor Robey is peculiarly qualified for the job. He is such a blind conservative that the Roosevelt administration looks like socialism to him.

The members of the NAM are in the future “to cooperate wholeheartedly with their local educational authorities to analyze sound means by which the concept of private enterprise and the details of its operation may be taught in the schools”.

This vicious and comprehensive program of the NAM to dictate the wages, hours, liberties and thoughts of the workers, MUST BE FOUGHT OUT OF EXISTENCE BY THE WORKERS.

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Last updated: 21 July 2014