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David Coolidge

Roosevelt and Labor

(July 1941)

From The New International, Vol. VII No. 6 (Whole No. 55), July 1941, pp. 138–43.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

THE SECOND WORLD IMPERIALIST WAR poses in a most practical and concrete manner the question of the future character of world society. What kind of society will exist after the war is over. Will we have world fascism, bourgeois democracy or proletarian socialism? Should the United States triumph it is reasonable to assume that some sort of “New Deal” on a world scale would be attempted. If this is a probability then it is our business to try to envisage and predict what the world would be like under the domination of the “New Deal” imperialist bourgeoisie. This is not all; a further question intrudes: assuming the victory of the New Deal bourgeoisie, has the world proletariat any compelling reasons now for believing that its condition would be enhanced, improved, or even equal to what it was before the war? That is, what is the probability of the status quo ante bellum; of the perpetuation of bourgeois democracy as we have known it? If not bourgeois democracy as we have known it, then what?

There are numerous persons, high in public life and by no means of radical proclivities, who admit and urge that there must be a change, that the world can not go on in the old way. A Mr. Batt, a business man and deputy director of the Office of Production Management (OPM) returned from England with the startling announcement that a “revolution” was taking place there and that the old capitalism is dead. Mr. Luce of Time and Fortune has spoken of the “American Century” after the war. Miss Dorothy Thompson wants a “Ring of Democracies.” Mr. Streit demands “Union Now.”

Norman Thomas, the social democrats and the beleaguered liberals are very modest in their desires. They want only that “democracy” be maintained and extended. Mr. Thomas, in his ardent and burning desire to keep us out of the war, almost forgot his fervid call for “socialism in our time.”

The Bourgeois Groups

There are two groups, both within the ruling class, whose desires and plans for the future are not completely clear. On the one hand there is a section, the Old Guard bourgeoisie whose mouthpiece today is Lindbergh. They are against the war, they say, but for what reason we can not at this time be certain. They work in the dark and behind the facade of anonymity. When they appear in the open it is to make a flank attack. Their positive pronouncements are always in defense of good old-fashioned American democracy, the “American Way of Life” and “Our System of Free Enterprise.” They have never been outshouted in their appeal to the Founding Fathers, to religion and the Declaration of Independence; not even by the Stalinists in the days of Collective Security. But their real program for the future is not known and their aims are obscure.

Next there is the “New Deal” bourgeoisie, led by Roosevelt. These crusaders sallied forth in 1933 with a fanfare of trumpets and a program. Wilson had his “New Freedom” and Roosevelt promulgated his “New Deal.” As the years went on the New Deal began to sag and crack. It was transformed into the War Deal and that is where we find ourselves today. Beyond the bare fact that Roosevelt and the New Dealers move into war with a singleness of vision and purpose, we are as much in the dark as in the case of their blood brothers, the “economic royalists.” For as far as we know their program for the future is amorphous, their ideas vague and their plans and intentions imperfectly illuminated.

The purpose of this article is specifically to examine the New Dealers, to examine this section of the bourgeoisie in relation to the proletariat and the class struggle. This is important mainly for the reason that Roosevelt represents primarily that part of the ruling class which has to a considerable extent succeeded in convincing the working class that capitalist society, while far from perfect, is steadily being improved under the ministration of the New Deal. Furthermore, the Roosevelt bourgeoisie believes that it will not be difficult to hold the proletariat under its banner because of the devastating regime of Hitler and the irreconcilable anti-labor attitude of the capitalist Old Guard. We shall primarily concern ourselves, therefore, with the Roosevelt New Dealers and their backers in the ranks of the bourgeoisie.

The Labor Upsurge

As United States imperialism prepares for a showdown with German imperialism, the dominant local phenomenon is the revolt of the working class against the set tendency of the bourgeoisie to conspire against the trade unions and to freeze wages. This is attempted by the ruling class in the face of gigantic profits, a rapid increase in profits over last year. This fact has thoroughly penetrated the consciousness of the proletariat. It overshadows their somewhat muffled patriotism. The intensity and persistence of the strike wave is a source of constant annoyance to the bourgeoisie and creates uncertainty in their ranks.

The spearhead of the upsurge of the trade union proletariat is the CIO. In order clearly to comprehend this movement of the working class it is necessary to understand the historic roots and development of the CIO. What is happening today is an integral part of the origin of the CIO. The movement for the CIO arose inside the American Federation of Labor some years after the objective conditions for industrial unionism had already matured. The transformation of industry from the craft, hand production base, to complete machine production on a mass scale was already full-grown years before organized agitation for industrial unions got under way in the AFL. Not only had modern technology triumphed but it was increasingly accelerated in the decades following the First World Imperialist War.

Trade Unions and Industrial Changes

Not only this, but capitalist centralization and concentration created huge monopoly industries. These corporations built vast industrial units and gathered in millions of workers to man their ever-expanding plants. These millions of proletarians were gathered from all over the earth and assembled and disciplined in the organized processes of capitalist production. Furthermore the leaders of industry and finance rendered a service to the working class when they adopted the practice of giving preference in hiring to younger men. The older men, schooled in the earlier methods of production, were unfitted both psychologically and physically for the more rapid pace of modern machine technology. Also in the beginning – before they learned the dangers involved – industrial leaders preferred younger men and women because they did not have family responsibilities in the same proportion as the older people. Therefore lower wages could be paid to the young unmarried men than to the older ones with families to support. But aside from desires of the employers it is a fact chat modern mass production industry must give the preference to the younger men and women who have the required physical stamina and endurance.

We say then that the whole of mass production industry in the United States was ready for the vertical union long before it became a reality. The old craft form was outmoded and the working class was ready for the new unionism. That the CIO seemed to appear suddenly, to burst from the AFL overnight and take its place in the mass production factories is only strange when one fails to take into account the long years of preparation and the foundations laid by the process of capitalist production.

What is happening today is in a direct line of descent from the beginnings of the industrial union movement as represented by the CIO. The movement arose out of certain objective conditions. It functions today in similar objective conditions, only in a more intense and faster moving situation. The events and the situation which called forth industrial unionism are with us yet. The only difference that can be discerned is in magnitude, intensity and the wider understanding of the proletariat of the meaning of the struggle in which it is engaged.

The Triumph of Industrial Unionism

The industrial union movement expresses itself today as the CIO. But it is wider and deeper than any label or any given name. At a later stage the movement may go by another name. It is not to be excluded that its economic and political activity may move to a higher plane. Theoretically it is correct to say that genuine industrial unionism should be consciously based on principles of class struggle and not class collaboration as is the case with the CIO today. What must be emphasized now, however, is the continuous dynamic character of the industrial union movement. This flows from its origin and coincides with the objective conditions faced by the working class. The movement expresses – very primitively it is true – the beginnings of a new body of concepts, concepts that impel a whole class forward, that is, political concepts. To be unclear on these points is to place oneself in a position of confusion and the danger of falling prey to the clever and deliberate nonsense promulgated by the bourgeoisie to that effect that “communists” are responsible for the strikes in the “defense” industries.

The dynamics of the industrial union movement has been completely misunderstood in some quarters. It has never been understood and appreciated by the leadership of the AFL. From the position that the mass production workers did not want to be organized, this leadership moved over to open hostility to industrial unionism and the most adamant and ingrown craft unionism. Even the leadership of the CIO itself does not fully comprehend the nature of the movement which it is attempting to lead. There were some who predicted, after the first flush of organization, that the CIO had reached its peak; the AFL was getting stronger, its unions were more solid and better organized than those of the CIO. Some of the New Unionists, however blind, began to see when the AFL started to flirt a little with a sort of semi-industrial unionism. [1] The Marxists, who were clear on the issues, took the position that the success of the CIO was to be welcomed.

The bourgeoisie and its theoreticians had a clearer understanding of the industrial union movement. They preferred the success of the AFL whenever they were forced to choose between the two organizations. The AFL to them represented “responsible” unionism, that is, docile unionism. They saw, correctly, that if any type of trade unionism had revolutionary implications it was the industrial union. They perceived that here was something new of great potential power and strength. Down the road somewhere and under the proper objective conditions they were not sure what might happen. The bourgeoisie was correct, as they are at times in relation to their own class interests. The industrial union movement is not hard set. It is fluid, vibrant and virile. It is militant and understands something of what is necessary to be done and how to do it. It is made up of comparatively young workers who flock into the movement. They are serious and eager to learn. They believe in industrial unionism and in its possibilities. They are crusaders, often impatient at delays and usually ready for a picket-line struggle with the employer.

These young proletarians have not absorbed what the capitalist press calls “responsible unionism.” At times they resort to “wildcat” strikes. They do not always submit to the commands of their leadership. They are not thoroughly regimented. No one should be alarmed at this. Even the so-called wildcat strike is a manifestation of initiative, of power and courage. It is proof that the industrial union movement throbs with life. This drive and skepticism in the ranks are a necessary corrective to the class collaborationist attitude of the leadership. Even the bourgeoisie today in the period of its decline finds it necessary to tolerate a little wildcatting, inside its own ranks, in order to hold back its demise.

This is the kind of labor movement that the bourgeoisie was face to face with at the outbreak of the war. It is a movement with this background, this history and this composition that manned the “defense” industries. It was not the AFL craft unions. They had only nibbled occasionally at organizing the great army of proletarians in the mass production industries.

It was clearly discernible at the CIO convention in November 1940, which was held after the Selective Service Act had become law, that these workers were not primarily concerned with such an abstraction as “national defense.” Their primary interests were building the CIO, that is, industrial unions; union recognition with signed contracts and wage increases. Thousands of these workers understand thoroughly that the basic task is the building of industrial unions. That is not just a theory, for they know almost nothing of the theory involved. They know the concrete situation and the practical questions involved. Some of the strikes, for instance, have not involved wages at all, but union recognition. The capitalist press along with the social-democrat New Leader have noted this as a black mark against the CIO. The bourgeois press wanted to give the impression that trade union activity should center on wages only, A demand for the recognition of the union and the closed shop, they consider outside the realm of legitimate unionism. It is a bid for power which, of course, the ruling class considers a threat to its safety.

The Growth of Class Consciousness

With the upturn in war preparations and the publication of profit figures, showing tremendous increases over 1939 the mass production workers became extremely wage conscious. They wanted more of the profits returned to them. Not only because the cost of living was rising but also for the reason that within these workers was born the germ of a new and seminal idea: profits were created by the working people and they should share more equitably in their distribution. And too this was the way they understood the New Deal. It was a plan for a larger life for all the people. To be real this plan must give the workers an ever increasing share of the national income.

The bourgeoisie had been thinking also. They had ideas and plans. They had a war to fight. One can not fight wars with bond salesmen, college professors and social workers. The main body of the working class in the factories and on the farms is necessary for the military adventure. This working class must be regimented and tamed. This must be accomplished not only to prosecute the war in a military way but in order to clear the tracks for unhampered boosting of profits. The proletariat, however, evinced no real inclination to close ranks and suspend the struggle for social and economic gains. This led to a conspiracy on the part of the bourgeoisie to scuttle the labor legislation, peg wages, increase hours and break the unions, particularly the CIO. In practice this was what was attempted in all the big strikes: Bethlehem, Ford, Allis-Chalmers, International Harvester, North American and others. The tactic was so plain and open that even the most stupid should understand.

The bourgeoisie, as is its wont, called in the most docile and gullible of the union leadership. They appealed to their patriotism.

Not only were some of the labor leaders captured by the bourgeoisie, docile and patriotic, but also corrupt and stupid. The sharpest and cleverest trap was set for Philip Murray, for obvious reasons. For not only is Murray the head of the CIO but he is an honest labor leader with ability and a genuine interest in the advancement of the working class. Roosevelt forced Murray onto the “Mediation” Board. Then things began to happen. The bourgeois captains knew what they were about but the labor captains understood neither the aims of the ruling class, the temper of the proletariat, nor the stage of the class struggle through which the workers were groping their way.

The Communist Bugaboo

This whole panorama of events, ideas and situations is the real background of the recent strike wave. It is the concrete analysis of these events, ideas and practical situations that one must seek an understanding of that segment of the world drama being enacted in the United States today.

When the proletariat refused to submit and resisted “pacification” by the bourgeoisie and the government, a dilemma was posed before Roosevelt and the ruling class. An explanation and a cure had to be found. Industry and finance blamed the situation on Roosevelt and the New Deal. The President and his cohorts had steadfastly refused to consider “cooling off” legislation, revamping of the Wagner Act and the grant o£ judicial powers to the Mediation Board. The workers had been coddled by the New Deal and given visions of power that if attained or even approached, would disrupt capitalist economy. Not only this but the press and others made still another accusation against the New Deal and the CIO. Both the government and the CIO had been nurturing the “viper of communism.” This accusation and the accompanying attack reached their peak when the workers at the North American Aircraft Corporation refused to wait for the “Mediation” Board to render its advisory decision. The capitalist press screamed its imprecations against “communist” activity. The government and the heads of the CIO joined the chorus. There was no doubt in the minds of any of these gentlemen that the road to peace, harmony and full speed ahead for the “defense” program lay through purging the unions of “communists.”

When such talk comes from Murray and the CIO leadership we can only say that it is the most puerile infantilism. When it comes from the Old Guard of the bourgeoisie, they lie and they know it. When uttered by Roosevelt and the New Deal in connection with the use of the army in a strike, we are face to face with a new and dangerous phase of the New Deal which we will say more about later on.

To say that the recent strikes are due to the activity of “communists” or “the communists” is to ignore both the background of the strikes and the nature of industrial unionism. Also the oft repeated charge about “communist” responsibility is only to say that one rejects the doctrine of spontaneity as an explanation for the strikes. To say with the bourgeoisie that the Stalinists “foment” strikes, meaning that there would be none, or only inconsequential ones in the “defense” industries, is identical with accepting the bourgeois notion that “radicals” and “outsiders” foment the class struggle. The strikes are an integral part of the class struggle which reached the heights it did because of well-defined objective conditions.

Roosevelt Strikes Too

It should also be said that no questions of tactics are at issue here. What we are discussing is the reason for the strikes per se and not questions of timing, organization of procedure. Philistines, quacks and chauvinists of all stripes talk about tactics, tempo and the rest of it when they really mean class collaboration as a principled position. In a very elementary and halting manner the proletariat is in process of rejecting this concept of class peace in favor of class struggle.

This may have been a revelation to Roosevelt and the New Dealers. This may account for his sudden decision to strike with the army. He perhaps discovered that he did not have the total allegiance of the working class. It did not trust him completely. The material conditions of life were a stronger factor in their decisions than the “defense” program or the fading promises of the New Deal. The fact is that the New Deal had failed even before the outbreak of the war. Although the working class supported Roosevelt for the third time, they were only choosing what they considered the lesser of two evils. Even at that the large popular vote given Willkie demonstrated that the ranks of labor were not solid behind Roosevelt.

It is not easy to fathom the mind of the New Dealers and their plans for the future, but it is imperative that we make the effort. What are they thinking about and what are their plans not only for carrying through the war but what type of society do they envisage after the war? A capitalist society to be sure, but what kind of capitalist society? The traditional bourgeois democracy? Hardly. The pleas and protestations of the liberals are not availing.

There are cogent reasons for believing that Roosevelt has a “plan.” The New Deal was a part of that plan. At least one thing seems clear and that is the New Deal intent to stifle the Old Guard bourgeoisie and at the same time win the allegiance and support of the proletariat. This consummation would put the New Deal firmly in the saddle and whip the “enlightened” bourgeois into line. So long as the Old Guard kept to its “evil” ways, Roosevelt could chastise them with his proletarian support. But the war broke out and with it came American preparation for entry. The “economic royalists” got their chance for the reason that it is they who control the decisive sectors of industry. Furthermore, the proletariat in the war industry factories failed to act out the r&le that had been assigned them; that of more or less docile supporters of the war preparations. It is one thing to revolt against Ford, whom the New Deal wanted to teach a lesson. It is something quite different, however, at another stage in the war preparations, to stop production at North American, whose president is cooperating fully with the Administration.

Roosevelt’s use of the army in breaking the North American strike was extremely revealing. Not mainly for the reason that here was a capitalist army moving against workers – that has been done before; but because this specific action seems to be part and parcel of wider aims and intentions. Even the big capitalist press was mildly stunned and uncertain whether or not to applaud. This was strange indeed when one remembers the fact that forcible suppression of strikes is a chief constituent of their arsenal of anti-labor activity. But they had their reasons which were expressed in a somewhat cautious manner by the big bourgeois press. The New York Herald Tribune displayed its perturbation in an editorial entitled The Pity of It. Big business was disturbed not only by the audacity and courage of the young proletarians at North American but, in this instance, more by the action of the Roosevelt government in “seizing” the plant.

Plant Seizure Alarms Capitalist Press

Despite the fact that the government did not really seize the plant but only placed it temporarily under the supervision of army officers, the bourgeoisie was alarmed. The capitalist press was convinced that military occupation had become necessary only because Roosevelt had refused to support “cooling off” legislation and had assumed that the “Mediation” Board could rely on “labor’s voluntary cooperation.” This assumption was rudely shattered, said the Herald Tribune, making necessary “the military occupation of the North American Aviation plant, in the order to selective service boards that they reclassify defense strikers and In the imminent threat of anti-strike legislation far more coercive than a ‘cooling off’ mandate ... all this is a great pity. It is a pity that strikes must be broken with bayonets for want of a proper initial labor policy ... it is a pity that into the call for selective service there should have to be introduced a punitive feature.” The Herald Tribune is also against “compulsory arbitration” and is doubtful that “the situation demands any such drastic shift of policy.” The New York Times, while not as tearful as the Herald Tribune, took a similar position on the matter of “compulsory arbitration” and in its criticism of the President for not accepting proposals made on revision of the Wagner Act and providing “cooling off” procedure.

The Times and other big capitalist papers were against plant seizures, even in the North American instance, where there was no real seizure. They were against even the slightest gesture at the taking of private property by the government. This was the real “pity of it.” The Times pointed out that it was not necessary for the army to take over the plant in order to break the strike. Also the big capitalist press made the “discovery,” after the North American affair, that Roosevelt’s basic interest was the “defense” program. Right here the big bourgeoisie stumbled on what was, for them, confirmation of fears they had had all along; namely that Roosevelt and the New Dealers have ideas of making some sort of change in capitalist society. Furthermore, the Old Guard of the bourgeoisie ran into a contradiction. All along they too have been ardent defenders of the “defense” preparations. This basic interests also were alleged to revolve around the “defense” program. Their press emphasized daily, whenever and wherever there was a strike or a threat of a strike, that the workers were holding up “defense,” the workers on strike were holding up so many millions in “defense” orders. Some of them finally got around to the place where even the anticipated subway strike in New York City would vitally retard the whole “defense” program.

Notwithstanding this seeming unanimity of purpose, the Old Guard of the bourgeoisie claimed to discover that the New Dealers’ motivations were not the same as theirs. In their opinion, Roosevelt had made no distinction between the seizure of the plant by the army and the breaking of the strike with the army. New Deal strikebreaking is a buttress to capitalism, but New Deal plant seizing is an assault on capitalism. Despite the “national emergency,” nothing must be done that tends to destroy the “system of free enterprise”; there must be an abiding respect for private property.

The Old Guard of the bourgeoisie is skeptical of the New Dealers and the support given them by the “enlightened” bourgeois. The Old Guard is scared. Scared both of the proletariat and of those recalcitrants within the ruling class who support the New dealers. The whole ruling class must make war against German imperialism but they fear what may happen during the war or after. They do not trust the New Dealers, while at the same time they dread the boldness of the proletariat, particularly through the industrial unions.

The most irreconcilable of the Old Guard bourgeoisie are the cast-off elements from which Lindbergh probably draws support and finances for the America First Committee. This group may include Ford and some of the Standard Oil families. Out of the mouth of Lindbergh, a fascist, white-supremacy zany, they have called for “a new leadership in Washington” before the time arrives for the next presidential election. This group claims to be against the war, but this is incredible unless they are appeasers of Hitler or are testing out the possibilities of fascism in the United States.

The public and active leaders of the Old Guard of the bourgeoisie, who are “enemies” of the New Dealers, are possibly correct when they hint that Roosevelt may have “totalitarian” aims and aspirations. Not primarily as a war measure in the struggle against German imperialism but as one of the emerging facets of the New Deal itself.

Danger from New Dealism

This question must be examined not primarily from the class viewpoint of the bourgeoisie but in relation to the proletariat as a class and in light of its class aims and historical interests. It is imperative, in the opinion of this writer, that the working class in the United States turn its attention now to the perspectives, plans and ideas of the New Dealers and their bourgeois supporters. It is not necessary to tell the proletariat to watch the “economic royalists”; they will do that without undue agitation. But a warning must be sounded in connection with the New Dealers.

The New Deal is still faced with capitalist collapse and the degeneration of bourgeois society as we have known it. The New Deal did not pull the country out of the depression; the war economy is only a grewsome substitute for adequate peace-time production and there still remain 9,000,000 unemployed. There are pressing consumer problems now and these will be increased a thousand-fold after the war. Sloan, of General Motors, has spoken repeatedly on this question. Officials of General Electric have manifested interest in their fate as producers not only of capital goods, but of consumer goods on a mass scale. The same is true of Litchfield, of Goodyear Rubber, who voiced doubts as to the future in his New Year’s message printed in Akron papers.

After the present uncontrolled expansion of capital goods plant and equipment, this market will decline and go flat. This is happening not only in the United States but in every capitalist country. The staggering sums being poured out today for powder plants and aircraft factories that will not be needed after the war is only a sample of what is taking place in every field of industry. The plant that was abandoned after the last war, such as Hog Island, the explosives plant at Nitro, West Virginia, and various government arsenals, assume Liliputian proportions in relation to what we will observe after the present war. Combined with the post-war fate of the capital goods market, the prostration of the consumer goods industries through vast and unprecedented unemployment, is the national debt. This will expand to astronomical size.

The problems we pose cannot be examined either in isolation or as a cross-section of the general movement of capitalist society. All of the social, economic and political problems of today are subsumed under the root problem of the entire epoch. That problem is the attempt of declining, embattled and frustrated world capitalism to perpetuate itself. It is the attempt of bourgeois society to gain a new birth of freedom. The whole 20th century has been an era devoted to planning for capitalist resuscitation. The fact that contradictions arise which force the various nations into periodic armed conflict means only that there are differences of opinion in the ranks of the world bourgeoisie as to the manner of achieving the stabilization of capitalism. That was the meaning of the First World War. It is more clearly the real meaning of the present World War.

World War II Seeks Another Solution

The rise of what is known as fascism is not some incidental and detached political development. It is not a mutation but the result of continuous variations in the rapid decline of world capitalism in the twentieth century. Fascism is an increasingly prominent part of the political and economic configuration of world bourgeois society in a period of capitalist convulsion. Those liberals and others who see in fascism something even resembling a new social order are only playing with words and do not perceive that the present stage of capitalist decline, which produced fascism, is in some real sense inevitable, unless liquidated by a basic social transformation. These liberals (and proletarians, too) are not only playing with words but with the concentration camp, in every capitalist country, the United States included.

Despite the fact that the present war is an imperialist war, as was the First World War, the present conflict is not a mere repetition of the first. It is something more than an imperialist war. The inner development of the present struggle will propel the imperialist nations and world bourgeois society outside the present bourgeois democratic orbit. The old “balance of power” politics has passed away never to return. To speak of the war as a struggle for the “redivision of the world” is inadequate and dangerous. It is nearer correct and significant to say that it is a war for the domination of the whole world, either by Germany or the United States.

The post-war problems to be faced by each group of warring nations will be identical. That will be the problem of making world capitalism function. To say that there must be no new Versailles provides no solution to this problem. Any attempt at reallocation of colonies and raw materials also will not answer the question. Those who think that the many problems posed by the decline of world capitalism and the war will necessarily find their solution in an Anglo-American victory, fail to grasp the meaning of the ordeal and the travail which bourgeois democracy is now going through, and the worse ordeal that it will face later, even though Hitler is defeated.

New Dealism Has a New Program

The main forces involved today are German and American imperialism. Hitler has accepted it as a fact that capitalism has entered a new stage and that this new period is one in which capitalism can not survive if dependence is placed on bourgeois democratic guarantees. The American bourgeoisie does not accept this dictum in its public pronouncements, but pretends that it is engaged in a struggle, not for a “New Order,” as is Hitler’s contention, but for a sort of reincarnation of bourgeois democracy on a higher plane. The leadership in this evolution has fallen to the New Deal, whose major prophet is Roosevelt. The attention of the proletariat in the United States should be centered on Roosevelt. There is reason to hold that Roosevelt also believes bourgeois democracy must be transformed, or converted. He and the New Deal bourgeoisie will unquestionably come forward in due time with a “plan.” He will not be able to hold to the old shibboleths. The proletariat will not respond as in the past to the traditional capitalist slogans. The New Dealers will, and in fact have already discovered that this is a fact. That the proletariat has not yet directly rejected these slogans either intellectually or in action is not today real solace to any section of the bourgeoisie. Roosevelt and the New Deal are particularly concerned because it was they who virtually assumed leadership of the working class in the United States with the promulgation of the NIRA. The ascendancy of the New Deal was based on the allegiance of the proletariat. This allegiance was used to chastize the Old Guard of the bourgeoisie and bring in the “New Order” with the New Deal at its head.

The working class submitted, at times very noisily, to this regime even after the failure of the NRA and after it was clear that the New Deal was no cure for the evils of a decaying capitalism. The war came and brought with it the drive to put through the “defense” program. The bourgeois Old Guard with their ownership and control of the “defense” industries, insisted on “business as usual”: maintenance of the old monopolistic practices, boosting of profits, continuation of international connections, including respect for patent rights and agreements with Germany, and was, above all, firm on restrictions on the proletariat and the rise in wages.

Its Relations to the Proletariat

We have already analyzed the response of the working class to this situation in relation to the employer. But the New Deal concluded that the proletariat in the industrial unions were not only breaking through the net of the “economic royalists” but were also bursting the bonds forged around them by the New Deal. With only the most primitive and vague understanding of the problems that we have been discussing in this article, the workers, led by the industrial unions, marched into class struggle with heightened consciousness, irrespective of the demands of the “national emergency.” We want to emphasize again that this should have been expected, especially by Marxists, given the situation and the existence of the new industrial unions.

In many respects this development reached its peak in the North American strike. Here one had an opportunity to look into the New Deal mind and envisage what the future may hold in the way of a “plan.” Roosevelt used the army for the same reasons that Hitler would use his army. Not for the simple reason that the “defense” program was being hindered but because to the New Deal the strike portrayed an advance stage of the class struggle. The workers were becoming increasingly disillusioned, not only with the “economic royalists” but with the New Deal bourgeoisie also. The proletariat was losing its respect for the processes of bourgeois “democracy.”

Not only did the New Deal Roosevelt act for the same reasons that would have motivated a Hitler but he used the same violent methods, and without respect for bourgeois democratic legality. Under-Secretary of War Patterson stated that the action was “of dubious legality.” After the act Congress passed a law “legalizing” such procedure.

As we have stated, even the Old Guard of the bourgeoisie was a little stunned. Here was the New Deal which had steadfastly refused to permit any changes in the Wagner Act, which was against “cooling off” periods or “legal” compulsory arbitration, virtually “taking the law into its own hands.”

Roosevelt Seeks a Way Out

This writer is convinced that Roosevelt and the New Deal thoroughly understand that bourgeois democracy has run its course and that such a political system can not longer stand against an awakening proletariat. Roosevelt faces what every bourgeois ruler and leader faces: the problem of the class struggle in these days of bourgeois democratic impotence and unfolding proletarian intervention. The outposts of the class struggle in the United States are an uncharted territory. This is the result of the activity of the workers in the mass production industries. The New Deal is caught between these workers and the Old Guard of the bourgeoisie. The New Deal seeks to play the rôle of arbiter and mediator. For the reasons that we have given, both from the angle of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie as a whole, this mediation can not be essentially different from the mediation of Hitler and the National Socialists. All the talk in the United States about the necessity of “total defense” against “totalitarianism,” when stripped of mysticism, cant and chauvinist idealism, means the adoption of a native brand of “totalitarianism.” This development is inevitable, given capitalism today, unless checked by decisive action of the proletarians. Liberals and workers who think otherwise are due for a rude jolt and a taste of a new type of Americanism.

Roosevelt and the New Deal bourgeoisie will attempt to pull world capitalism out of the doldrums under their leadership. The milder processes of bourgeois democracy have lost their potency and charm. In this particular imperialist epoch an individual rises to power supported by a party which is the bearer of an idea. That idea flowers into a political system whose only aim is the preservation and stabilization of world capitalism. Roosevelt and Hitler stand face to face, engaged in a struggle to determine which shall become the world’s No. 1 imperialist chieftain.

The Proletariat Is the Only Hope

If the foregoing analysis is even moderately reasonable, then the outcome of the present war, without the revolutionary intervention of the world proletariat, will be dark indeed for the working class and the peoples of all countries. The collapse of bourgeois democracy, the attempt to save international capitalism through a devastating world war, the demonstrated incompetence of bourgeois democratic leadership, its confusion and its fright, all these together combined with the determination to hold fast to capitalism, present the specter of world fascism.

On the other side stands the international proletariat. The freest and largest section is in the United States. It is also the most active and militant section and in this sense the most advanced. In this same sense it is the vanguard of the world working class. We have already portrayed its organization, its roots and its temper. The situation in the United States is extremely consequential. This country may and can become the pivot around which the world movement of the working class turns. Roosevelt sees this and will undoubtedly attempt to crush the movement ruthlessly and decisively. The American proletariat threatens to harass him and the New Deal on the road to world power.

This is not all. The European working class, including the Russian, is not dead. One possible outcome of the entanglements and shifts of the present war can be and may be revolutionary actions in one or more European countries. The world stage is set for a thrust by the international proletariat. This is demonstrated not only by the objective scene in connection with the collapse of capitalism, but primarily by the resistance of the proletariat to imperialist pacification. This refusal of the working class, especially in the United States, to be passive reveals a primordial inclination to go forward. This more than instinctive attitude of the working class is stultified and shunted into patriotic channels because no adequate political leadership has emerged. Trotsky wrote three years ago that the crisis of the proletariat is the crisis of leadership. This is far more evident today than when Trotsky wrote. The proletariat in the United States has met a test and needs a revolutionary leadership to organize it and lead the march to victory.

Note by ETOL

1. There is a typesetting error in the printed version. We have tried to reconstruct this sentence so that it fits the context.

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Last updated: 25 October 2014