Susan Green Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Susan Green

Truman’s Plan – Or Ours?

(17 September 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 38,17 September 1945, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Soon after President Truman’s message was read in Congress on September 6th, two things happened. The liberal and so-called labor spokesmen as well as chronic New Deal haters immediately declared that the New Deal, officially buried by Roosevelt, had arisen from the dead. Yet one hour after the message was made public, prices on the Stock Exchange moved upward, attesting Wall Street’s confidence that private enterprise has nothing to fear from President Truman and, conversely, that the common people of the nation have not much to hope for from that source.

To be sure, there are some high-sounding words,phrases and sentences in the message.

There is the pretense of adopting the position known as “left of center.”

But no politician in his right senses would (dare go before the Congress, after this war supposedly fought for the common man, and not make at least a gesture toward the solution of unemployment and toward social security.

As President Truman himself put it: “The American people have set high goals for their own future. They have set their goals high because they have seen how great can be the productive capacity of the country.”

By making big noise about their “good intentions,” the protectors of capitalism, like President Truman, hope to delay the disillusionment of the masses. Furthermore,these capitalist politicians see in the hungry, suffering, war-bled peoples of Europe a revolutionary threat to the whole capitalist system. They are also shaky over the mandate of the British people in the last election for a socialist solution of their problems. It is the part of wisdom for forward-looking capitalist politicians in this country to say to labor: “We’ll do it for you, boys. Take it easy. Depend on our political parties; you don’t need your own.” Besides, why should not President Truman bait the hook of the Democratic Party for the labor vote by playing around with the unemployment problem?

Shabby Proposals

The proposals contained in the Truman message are not only inadequate, they are positively shabby. His proposals for the immediate reconversion period are exceeded in their insufficiency only by the weakness of his proposals for long-term full employment. None of them bears close examination.

As a reconversion emergency measure, the President again asks that unemployment payments be raised to a $25 per week maximum for a twenty-six week maximum per year.

Many workers, if not all, have the decidedly wrong impression that this means every unemployed worker will get that $25– which is little enough – for twenty-six weeks a year –which leaves twenty-six weeks in which to starve. Mr. Truman’s message assures Congress that “not everyone” will get $25 a week. In the first place, the worker must be “ready, willing and able to work” and that means he must take any distasteful job offered him at no matter what pay. In the second place, the worker “must have earned wages high enough so that the percentage rate will yield this maximum figure.” These are Mr. Truman’s words, and they mean what they say – only SOME workers will be entitled to the maximum figure of $25 a week.

To make up for the deep slashes in take-home pay, the President asks Congress to increase the minimum hourly wage provided by the Fair Labor Standards Act from forty cents an hour to – .Very delicately the President refrained from setting a figure,leaving the whole matter to Congress. It is believed that the President, in his private thoughts, favors a sixty-five cent minimum wage rate. Even if the sixty-five cents an hour were made minimum bylaw, this would legalize a minimum wage of about half the requirements of rock-bottom living. It will certainly not make up for the slashes in take-home pay.

Price Joker

Other reconversion proposals made by the President are about as pitiful as those examined above. He asks that the price line be held on food, clothing and shelter as well as on washing machines and other new civilian goods. But how? The way prices were held during the war? Anent the prices of newly released civilian goods, he said not a word against fixing the 1942 high war level of costs as a basis for prices, which is the OPA rule.

The long-range prospects for the American people, if confined to what the Truman message has to offer, would not be at all rosy. Truman came out again for what he calls full-employment legislation, which is the Wagner-Murray bill. In a prior issue Labor Action gave an analysis of the loopholes and evasions of the bill, which is designed to serve and bolster private enterprise,which makes no specific plan for public works and construction but leaves everything in the hands of the capitalist politicians –and big business behind them.

Housing Needs

Also for the long run prospective, the message says much about building houses as the principal source of jobs and industrial activity. Indeed, an adequate building program is a crying need of this slum-ridden nation and would indeed provide jobs. But Truman’s proposals are for an investment of a mere six to seven billion dollars a year by private business, subsidized and aided by the federal government. He estimated there would be about three or four million people employed in construction under this plan. Is this what Truman has to offer to replace the hundred billion dollars a year spent for war materials? Is this the employment he can provide for ten million war workers and eleven million men and women in the armed forces?

Of course, he offers grandiose paragraphs about more TVA’s, about harbors and flood control, about schools and hospitals; about sewers and streets, about roads and airports. But nary a word about how much in money should and must be appropriated for such public works except in the case of highways. However, the President made it amply clear that all this must be done “without competition with private industry’’ and without making any dents in private enterprise. A rosy prospect, indeed!

Liberals who so gladly hailed Truman’s message are so afraid of the workers taking over the country to solve its social problems that they kiss the hand of any capitalist politician who makes the slightest gesture toward social solutions. Weak-kneed labor leaders like Murray, Green and their lieutenants also heave a sigh of relief because what they tremble at most is taking the responsibility to lead labor into independent political, action and a socialist solution to the social problems.

Labor at Crossroads

The working class today stands at a crossroads of history. The workers cannot afford to be lulled into a false sense of security. The empty gesture of capitalism to save itself and to save its face before humanity must be repudiated – as must also befall those who support capitalism.

The Truman message makes it clearer than ever that labor must take the lead to solve the social problems of the working class and all the disinherited people – through its independent labor program, through its independent class party, through a workers’ government, through the socialist solution for social problems.

Susan Green Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers’ Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 16 December 2017