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Susan Green

On the Road to Plenty For All

What a Real Workers’ Government
Would Look Like in America

(29 April 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 17, 29 April 1946, p. 2-M.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

May Day is so very different from every other holiday on the calendar. The Fourth of July, Washington’s Birthday, Labor Day and other holidays the workers get by the grace of the capitalist class and the capitalist government. May Day, however, is a holiday labor has taken for itself – a day it celebrates as a class, separate and apart from, and against the capitalist class – a day symbolizing the struggle between labor and the parasites on labor’s back.

Though the celebration of May Day grew out of the long and bloody battle for the shorter work day, the meaning of this holiday has gone far beyond that limited fight. The significance of May Day embraces the historic enmity between capital and labor – a battlefront that can be demobilized only after the victory of labor over capital. In a word, May Day proclaims the challenge of labor for POWER to rule society on behalf of all the toiling peoples.

And what is power? It is organized government by dint of which one class or another rules over all. So we may say that May Day betokens the revolutionary push of the workers towards their own government, a workers’ government, to displace and replace the government of the capitalists, monopolists and bankers.

Just what would a workers’ government look like?

First let this be made clear. The establishment of a workers’ government implies a rock-bottom revolutionary change in both the basis and the form of government. Whenever a historic class triumphs over its oppressor, that triumph can be realized only by the victorious class creating the governmental system that will allow it to rule society.

How Capitalist Democracy

How it works in this country is daily demonstrated to the workers. Take price control as an instance. With prices merrily ballooning skyward, with a world famished for food, clothing and bare necessities, “our” legislators think first of the profits of the capitalists. How can this happen? The basis of representation under capitalist democracy is a geographical division. Congressmen are supposed equally to guard the interests of all the classes in their districts. Actually this is impossible. So they represent the class that controls the capitalist parties and that wields monopolistic economic power. Congress is full of lawyers, politicians, office-grabbers and businessmen who understand how capitalist democracy works for the capitalist class.

Obviously this is not what a workers’ government would look like. Something else is wanted.

The special strength of the workers is that they are workers – their strength is in the factories and wherever else they work. Therefore, geographical districts embracing all classes must be scrapped in favor of industrial and occupational representation, proportioned to numbers of workers, not as now to all-inclusive population. This would be the new base and form of a workers’ government.

Let us see how it might shape up in an industrial hub like the city of Detroit. The government might be called the Detroit Workers’ Council. In this council would sit the democratically elected representatives from all the auto plants and all related and other industries in the area. The transport workers of all branches would elect and send their deputies. The clerks and all employees in department stores, markets and all goods distribution centers would choose their ablest and best, and probably in this group would be included the small businessmen who do not exploit labor but eke out a modest living by retail trade.

Then there are schools, libraries and all educational institutions from which would come duly elected representatives to the Detroit Workers’ Council. Employees in hospitals, clinics and all institutions for public health and service would delegate fellow employees from those institutions. Farm laborers and farm families who feed the teeming city, would be likewise represented in the Detroit Workers’ Council.

Who would have the right to vote in the factories and other occupational units? Every worker by hand or by brain, the man on the production line, the stenographer, the technician, the engineer, the hospital attendant as well as the doctor, the school janitor as well as the principal.

Who’s Missing from List?

Who then is missing from the list? Only those who never would be missed in a society based on use and not on profit: the capitalists, monopolists, bankers, stock manipulators, profiteers – all who exploit labor, all parasites on labor, these alone would be excluded from a workers’ democracy.

Actually a workers’ government extends democracy. Also you can see how close the workers’ government is to the workers themselves. They are really represented by fellow workers from their factories and other places of work. Furthermore, workers would have the right, by majority vote, to recall their representatives from the Workers’ Council if the latter did not carry out the wishes of their factory constituents. That means, in turn, that elections in factories and other occupational units would be on the basis of a program that the workers want carried out and that the candidates to the Workers’ Council would pledge themselves to carry out.

This is what a workers’ government would took like in Detroit or in any other industrial center. On the nationwide scale, the government would be a larger edition of the Detroit Workers’ Council, likewise based on worker representation from industries, likewise responsible to the workers. This is the only conceivable way in which the interests of the working people can become the concern of government. Through their own workers’ councils the people who work by hand and by brain, can freely participate in the construction of a new society, can socialize production under the control of workers’ committees, can organize the whole of production for the use of the masses. When on May Day we speak of the struggle of labor and capital, this is the outcome that we hope for and work for.

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Last updated: 22 January 2019