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Susan Green

Will Capitalism Provide Jobs for All Workers?

(10 April 1944)

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 15, 10 April 1944, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Irving S. Olds, chairman of the United States Steel Corporation, recently answered this question – IN THE NEGATIVE.

He was speaking at the yearly meeting of the Travelers Aid Society.

The financial editor of the New York Sun reports Mr. Olds as taking “a crack at those who are making so much fuss over the ‘obligation’ of industry to provide jobs for every one after the war – to avoid the accusation that the capitalist system has fallen down.”

Mr. Olds reminded his audience that industry “can employ men ONLY when it has a ready SALE for the goods the men produce.”

In a word, to Mr. Olds, industry has no obligation to provide jobs. To expect the capitalist system to abolish unemployment is to make a silly fuss. There has always been unemployment under capitalism – so why talk about its falling down? There has always been unemployment because privately owned industry employs men only when there is a profitable market for its product.

That’s the answer of a top-notch industrialist to the unemployment question: IT HAS ALWAYS BEEN – IT ALWAYS WILL BE – UNDER CAPITALISM!

By his brutal frankness Mr. Olds illuminates the falseness of all the “plans” that come from those who profess it is possible to “reform” capitalism. For as long as industry is owned by the class typified by the United States Steel Corporation and Mr. Olds, they are the ones who determine how industry will function.

“Simple and Fundamental”

Mr. Olds made the position of the industrial masters very clear and concrete for he went on to point out that “It costs United States Steel, for example, around $5,000,000 a day to carry on its present daily output – an outgo it couldn’t stand many days if there were no income.”

By “income” Mr. Olds, of course, means PROFIT – and he doesn’t mean any old kind of profit either!

The financial editor of the New York Sun comments very sharply and briefly on Mr. Olds’s statement: “That all is very SIMPLE AND FUNDAMENTAL, but a powerful lot of people either don’t understand it or don’t wish to admit that they do.”

Now everything is settled. Unemployment is “very simple and fundamental.” All that is necessary is to “understand” this.

What have Labor Action and the Workers Party to say about this simplicity and fundamentalism of capitalism?

First of all, they do indeed admit that it is fantastic to expect the United States Steel Corporation or any other private enterprise to lay out $5,000,000 OR $5 A DAY to run its plants so that workers may have jobs.

But Labor Action and the Workers Party do not admit that for this reason unemployment is inevitable. They do not admit this because the United States Steel Corporation and private ownership of industry are not inevitable, not ordained to everlasting life.

On the contrary, Labor Action and the Workers Party point out that the capitalist system is doomed to go down in defeat. It is doomed exactly because, as Mr. Olds states, it is based on “a ready sale for goods” rather than THE HUMAN NEED FOR GOODS.

The human need for goods never ceases – even though the money to buy goods may be lacking. FULL EMPLOYMENT, THEREFORE, WILL RESULT WHEN INDUSTRY IS RUN TO FULFILL HUMAN NEEDS. And labor will fight till it wins this objective!

Relieve Mr. Olds and U.S. Steel

The idea is to relieve United States Steel Corporation and Mr. Olds of their RESPONSIBILITY TO MAKE PROFITS OUT OF INDUSTRY. The idea is to nationalize all industry, and place it under the direct control of qualified workers’ committees. The idea is that men and women can be fully employed in producing the never-ceasing needs of the population – with no concern about profits out of sales. The idea is that men, women and children can consume and enjoy everything that is produced by hand and brain, limited only by their capacity to produce.

It is for this that a workers’ government must be formed. A workers’ government will set itself the task of ending the capitalist system which – as frankly admitted by the capitalists themselves – has no solution for unemployment!

The admission of top capitalists that their system cannot provide security for the workers is an admission of abysmal failure and defeat, from the workers’ point of view. At the same time it is a challenge to the workers to take over production themselves for the benefit of the whole people.

The fight for the thirty-hour week, to provide more jobs, is a fight in this direction! The fight to prevent government war plants from being turned over to private industry is also a fight in this direction. These plants must not be shut down for lack of “sales” but held as public property and operated, by the workers to produce civilian go.ods. The demands for a peacetime public improvement program to equal the .enormous war program is in the right direction.

All these things the workers will be able to accomplish only by and for themselves, as they end their dependence on the capitalist class – as they break with the Siamese-twin political parties of the capitalist class – as they strike out on the path of independent political action through an Independent Labor Party.

This is the path leading to a workers’ government, to the end of capitalism, to the permanent solution of the unemployment question.

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Last updated: 16 October 2015