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Workers’ Government

Susan Green

Fifth in a Series of Articles: What Is a Workers’ Government?

Workers’ Government Is the FUNDAMENTAL
Solution to Our Problems

(29 March 1943)

From Labor Action, Vol. 7 No. 13, 29 March 1943, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

A workers’ government is the only instrumentality the working; class can use for a FUNDAMENTAL solution of its problems, This is so because a workers’ government replaces the capitalist government – and immediately proceeds to administer the affairs of the nation on the basis of human requirements, suppressing the exploiting capitalists – and their yearning for profits.

If you examine the problems facing the working people today, you find, first, that they are not new, but only a new phase of old difficulties that have whiskers as long as capitalism itself; and second, you discover that they would disappear if the capitalists were out of the way.

For instance, the food situation, with its menace to health and to life itself, is causing most worry today. But is it really new for working people to live in fear of being undernourished, of becoming sick from malnutrition, of dying from stow starvation? Doesn’t the “food situation” CONSTANTLY hang over the heads of the working class like the sword of Damocles?

In peacetime depressions, the workers starve while warehouses are bursting with commodities the unemployed and underpaid workers are unable to buy. In wartime the workers are threatened with starvation from shortages created because fabulous quantities of goods and men are poured into the bottomless abyss of destruction. You have here both sides of the same coin.

But the situation confronting us is not only due to shortages produced by the war. The problem is complicated by the stranglehold of capital on the food industry. It both limits food production according to its own interests and then squeezes the last penny of profit out of the sale of food. Black markets and all types of gypping are the only logical evolution of the principle that profits justify any means.

What a Workers’ Government Could Do

But suppose the American workers should establish a workers’ government. That would mean that the capitalist would have no more to say in running the affairs of the nation. There would no longer be a Congress of capitalist politicians elected on boss money – no more lobbying by big business – no more big business-no, more $1.00-a-year men in the seats of government – no more farm bloc dictating to politicians.

Under a workers’ government, the food industry would be under the control of committees of working farmers, of farm labor and of all the workers employed In the production, packing, canning and distribution of food. The land holdings of the big farm corporations and the canning, packing and dairy plants of big business would be taken over by the workers’ government – AND MADE THE PROPERTY OF THE ENTIRE NATION. Thus, unrestricted by the profit motive, the production, pricing and rationing of food could be planned to serve the people, and coordinated with the needs, of all the other industries.

How to Make Jobs and Peace Secure

The expropriation of the capitalists and the national ownership of industry under workers’ control is the fundamental solution. The specter of unemployment, which haunts every worker while he sweats on his temporary war job, can be laid in its grave permanently only by such anti-capitalist measures as a workers’ government will take.

All the post-war plans based on a continuation of the capitalist status quo – Beveridge’s, Churchill’s, Wallace’s, Roosevelt’s – dodge the question of permanent employment. The best they offer is a pittance to prevent the unemployed from starving. In an honest mood, an editor of the New York Times recently confessed he knows no solution for unemployment. And Sir Beveridge knocked his own silly plan into a cocked hat when he admitted that he doesn’t know where post-war employment will come from.

But the working class, through a workers’ government, can solve the unemployment problem by putting people to work producing things for domestic consumption and enjoyment and for non-profit international exchange – ending once and for all the tie-up between employment and foreign capitalist markets.

So also would the problem of terminating wars be solved by the establishment of workers’ governments in this country, in England, in Germany, in France, in Russia, in Italy, in Japan.

All the post-war plans of the capitalist planners will wind up in another war as soon as the babies of today grow to adolescence. Churchill offers bleeding humanity nothing better than that old strumpet, the League of Nations, with fresh and heavier make-up. American politicians are preparing for global military and economic dictatorship. And behind all the talk and preparations towers the ugly head of new imperialist conflicts already materializing.

Whereas workers’ governments, displacing the imperialist governments and taking away the all-dominating economic power of the capitalist classes, will pave the way for permanent peace – BY UPROOTING THE CAUSE OF WAR. Then human society can reorganise itself for the peaceful development of the gifts of nature and of the ingenuity of man.

Working Class Must Have Self-Confidence

But could the workers run the country?

The reason why workers lack confidence in their ability to rule is because they understand government in the capitalist sense – as a maze of laws, policies, treaties springing from the fertile minds of lawyers, politicians, diplomats. But this useless labyrinth is purposely created so that the rule of the bankers and of the steel magnates can be hidden [in it.]

Once the workers conceive the function of government to be to provide the basic needs of the population and to plan and achieve an ever higher level of civilization and culture for the people, they can take a broom and sweep into the ocean the laws, policies, treaties of the capitalist state.

Who is better able to organize society for production than the producers? Who knows machinery better than the machinists? Who knows mines better than the miners? Who knows land better than working farmers and farm workers? Who knows the problems of education better than teachers?

Who is more competent to represent a factory than such outstanding workers as, for instance, the rank and file now choose as shop stewards? Such chosen workers together with technicians, engineers and other specialized workers indispensable to industry, have all the knowledge required for production. Needless to say, all the categories of brain workers will benefit as much under a workers’ government as will manual workers. But they would have to be elected by the workers to sit on representative bodies and would have to be subject to the same control as all other elected representatives.

The most capable manual and brain workers could thus run and control every department and phase of industry, public service, education and the whole of community life, both locally and on a national scale.

Will The Workers Make Mistakes?

This war has brought out in bold relief the qualifications of labor to plan on a national scale. Long before the bosses, concentrating on how to make money out of the misery of war – and long before the government, reflecting the bosses’ preoccupation with profits – had any industrial plans to offer, the Reuther plan was submitted. Since then organized labor has thought of other schemes to meet specific industrial problems. A workers’ government, naturally, will not employ the organizing and planning genius of the working people for waging war. The point made here is simply that men and women stemming from labor’s ranks have a know-how far superior to that of the capitalist class, narrowed in its outlook by the profit motive.

Will the working class make mistakes when it takes over the powers of government?

In 1918, Lenin, one of the founders of the workers government in Russia – later destroyed by Stalin – wrote on the subject of such mistakes as workers may make in the process of establishing a new society. Interestingly enough, the following quoted passage is front Lenin’s A Letter to American Workers, in which he asked for their support of the Russian Revolution. Lenin wrote:

“Each mistake in such a work, in this most honest and sincere work of tens of millions of simple workers and peasants for the reorganization of their whole life, each such mistake is worth thousands and millions of ‘faultless’ successes of the exploiting minority – successes in swindling and duping the toilers. For only THROUGH such mistakes will the workers and peasants LEARN to build a new life, learn to do WITHOUT capitalists; only thus will they blaze a new trail – through thousands of obstacles – to a victorious socialism.”

And ... all the mistakes that the workers can possibly make in the course of building the socialist society through a workers’ government will be like a drop in the ocean of major crimes against humanity committed by full-fledged capitalism in peace and in war.


The last article in this series will explain why the Stalinist government – a reactionary, totalitarian regime – can be called a workers’ government only by those very Stalinists who have respect neither for their own integrity nor for the intelligence of the working people.

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Last updated: 21 March 2015