Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A May Day Manifesto without socialism; miserably inadequate

The ITUC issued this "May Day Manifesto" which calls for "financial regulation" of capitalism rather than abolishing capitalism; and, replacing it with socialism.

This "Manifesto" then continues on calling for full implementation of the United Nation's Universal Declaration of Human Rights. There is no way these rights will ever be achieved by working people under capitalism; socialism is required for the fulfillment of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

This "Manifesto" is full of words. It is completely lacking in any specifics.

Not even a mention of the members of the ILWU who will be shutting down the ports on May Day to protest the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This is a very weak and no struggle approach towards May Day... not a word about the need to abolish capitalism. Imperialism is not mentioned. Not even a mention of socialism. How miserably inadequate.



May Day Manifesto 2008

Brussels, 29 April 2008 (ITUC OnLine): On this day, the 1st of May, millions of working people across the world join together to celebrate the achievements of more than a century of trade unionism. The high principles of equality, justice, human dignity and peace which have found expression through the trade union movement are just as relevant today as they were when working men and women first came together to fight for their rights at work. These principles gave rise to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and ILO Convention 87 in 1948. But the fundamental rights enshrined in these celebrated instruments are far from reality for much of humanity.

For most of the world’s people, decent work is but a distant dream. Millions of children are at work instead of school, workers are deprived of their fundamental rights and subject to exploitation by unscrupulous employers and repressive regimes, and inequality is growing within and between countries as a small minority accumulates incalculable wealth at the expense of others.

Not for many decades have the failings of global governance by “market solutions” been more apparent. Contagion continues to spread through world financial markets, with working women and men bearing the brunt of the unwillingness of governments to face up to the need for financial regulation. 100 million people more than last year do not have enough to eat as the global food crisis grows by day, threatening the very fabric of societies and fuelled by the legacy of decades of damaging policies at the world level. Action on climate change, perhaps the greatest test of human history, is feeble compared to the magnitude of the challenge. And the United Nations MDGs, goals which the global community set for itself, are far from being reached.

The means to deal with all these challenges exist, but the political will to resist the powerful interests that stand in the way of progress is lacking. Trade unions everywhere are confronting these interests, campaigning to put social concerns and sustainable development at the centre, rather than the margins, of policy. We demand a fundamental change to global governance, putting decent work at the core of a new globalisation and making the global institutions respond to the real needs of people instead of following the erroneous policies of the past.

On October 7 2008, the World Day for Decent Work, trade unions across the world will join together to issue a global call for rights at work. We will bring to the fore the great traditions of solidarity which have been the mainstay of trade unionism since its earliest days, and which are essential to solving the problems which confront the world today. We will show how decent work is central to ending poverty and ensuring equality for all men and women, and demonstrate our abiding commitment to solidarity with the marginalised and the dispossessed. We remain steadfast in our quest for a better world and renew our commitment to bring this about through united action of working people from every corner of the planet.

The ITUC represents 168 million workers in 155 countries and territories and has 311 national affiliates. Website: http://www.ituc-csi.org

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Real Lesson of the New Deal for the US Left

Okay folks. This is a long, long read but very well worth the time. I would encourage you to print this and circulate it far and wide. There should be copies of this in every union hall. Every peace and social justice activist should have a copy of this. You want to make sure this gets into the hands of anyone teaching any kind of US History course at your local high school or community college or university.

Give a copy of this to any progressive politician you know.

Most important. Print this off and put it into the hands of your fellow workers.


The Real Lesson of the New Deal for the US Left

Mar 03, 2008 at 08:00 PM

Power concedes nothing without a demand.

It never did and it never will. --Frederick Douglass

Seventy-five years ago this March, the Presidential inauguration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt ushered in a new era of US capitalism in response to the seemingly bottomless decline of production, trade, and employment which began with the stock market crash in October of 1929. Dubbed the “New Deal,” the policies of the Roosevelt administration sought to restore growth and employment in new and untested ways.

Political liberals and a large section of the left fondly remember the New Deal as a great era of reform and social change that established a more benign social order befitting the nation’s democratic tradition. Conservatives and business interests demonize the period as a vast social experiment that harmfully distorted the normal functioning of a market economy, only to be corrected by the neo-liberal restoration brought forth by Ronald Reagan.

Much of today’s two-party politics is couched in these popular views. What remains of the Democratic Party progressive wing seeks a twenty-first century version of the New Deal while the rest of the Democrats and nearly all Republicans subscribe to the neo-liberal vision of radical individualism and unfettered markets revived by Reagan and those who followed.

Both views draw upon a flawed picture of the New Deal era.

When Roosevelt became President in March of 1933 (the last campaign to include a four-month span between the election and the inauguration), he faced both a deep and deepening economic crisis (The Great Depression) and great popular resistance to the human costs of the economic contraction. Between 1929 and 1933 gross national product in the US had fallen 46% and industrial production more than 50%. In human terms, unemployment reached 20-25% of the work force, totaling at least 13 million. Nearly half of all employees were either out-of-work or underemployed. Of those employed, average weekly earnings of production workers dropped by a third, compensated only partially by slipping consumer prices. Foreclosures, repossessions, hunger, failing health, mass migration, crime, and disillusionment plagued the working class.

The nation’s 6 million farms suffered greatly with over a million foreclosures in this period. Most farmers owned small farms or were tenant farmers (half of all farmers earned little more than $350 in 1929). Farmers were especially hard hit: their share of national income dropped from 12% in 1929 to 5% in 1932, a time when national income was dropping dramatically for every sector of the economy.

And, of course, African-Americans suffered the most. With most African-Americans living in the South under the brutal repression of institutional segregation, incomes and living standards were roughly half of that of white workers before 1929. African-Americans experienced the constant threat of lynching and a repressive apartheid regime that retained the de facto conditions of the pre-Civil War South. Conditions in the North were only marginally better. The economic decline pressed them even further behind the white working class.

The Hoover Response

From the October 1929 crash until the installation of Roosevelt in March 1933, President Herbert Hoover led the national response to the deepening crisis. Though faced with a Democratic House after November 1930, Hoover had no difficulty mustering political support for his recovery program. For the most part, he viewed the crisis as one of confidence. His deep faith in the rationality and ultimate soundness of capitalist markets led him to anti-crisis measures more dependent on confidence-building than action. Nonetheless, he moved to grant business a 1% reduction in income taxes in order to stimulate growth. Though the stock market rebounded, it crashed again in May 1930, followed by a grinding decline of prices, production and employment for the next two years.

Contrary to popular liberal lore, Hoover did not stubbornly refrain from all action. He acted vigorously to support big business, banks, and wealth. One of his first acts was to increase tariffs to the highest levels ever seen, hoping to protect the domestic market from dumping by other distressed economies. There is no reason to believe this had any noticeable ameliorative effect on the crisis.

In the face of agricultural impoverishment brought on by the collapse of prices and a persistent drought, Hoover signed a $20 million drought relief package for seed loans, but available for farm relief as well. The Hoover administration created a National Credit Corporation with assets of $500 million on November 10, 1931 to stimulate the flow of credit (gross domestic product was $91.2 billion in 1930). This move was also his answer to unemployment, assuming that increased business activity would “seep down” to the working class – an early version of what came to be called “trickle down” economics in our era.

Nearly immediately after the formation of the NCC, the administration established the Reconstruction Finance Corporation to lend money to banks, insurance companies and other enterprises with a government subsidy of $500,000,000 and another $1,500,000,000 available from the sale of notes guaranteed by the government. Nonetheless, bank failures continued through 1932. It is, perhaps, useful to note that this stimulus package totaled well over 3% of the GDP at that time, a percentage greater than the plan agreed to by Bush and the Congress this year.

Often lost in the popular view of the Great Depression is the profound role of turmoil, struggle and rebellion. Too many histories of the period recount the actions of politicians while ignoring the mass upsurge that influenced and shaped their actions. Bonus marchers – World War I veterans seeking their promised bonuses from the war – gathered in Washington DC in June 1932 to protest. The Communist-led Workers Ex-Servicemen’s League called the march after Congress rejected its demands for immediate relief. Twenty-five thousand vets and their families responded, forced to set up squalid shelters on the barren land called Anacostia Flats, across the Potomac from the Capitol. In late July, Hoover ordered the military, under the leadership of the future military “heroes,” MacArthur, Eisenhower, and Patton, to attack the bonus marchers’ makeshift city. These brave warriors shamefully drew swords and bayonets and, quoting the New York Times, “Amidst scenes reminiscent of the mopping up of a town in the World War, Federal troops… drove the army of bonus seekers from the shanty village…” Indeed, this was a proud moment for our military. As one of the protester’s slogans said, “Heroes in 1917- Bums in 1932.”

Similarly, forced evictions were met by resistance. As soon as residents and their belongings were removed, neighbors and supporters returned them to the foreclosed homes. This process was repeated again and again throughout the US. It was the Communist-led Unemployed Councils that organized and inspired these defiant actions. The National Unemployed Council was founded on July 4, 1930 from the deliberations of 1,320 delegates (by 1938, the organization had 800,000 members). The first national demonstration against unemployment was called by the Communist- led Trade Union Unity League and the Communist Party on March 6, 1930 with over 1,250,000 participating (110,000 in NYC, 50,000 in Chicago, 50,000 in Pittsburgh…).

In the Midwest, farmers fought eviction and falling prices through various organizations: the bigger farmers followed the Farm Bureau Federation and the National Grange while the more numerous small farmers supported the Farmers National Holiday Association and the Communist-led National Farmers Union. NFU leader, John Simpson, was especially vocal and respected among small farmers. The latter two organizations were famously militant, often packing courtrooms and even threatening judges bent on granting evictions.

Communists were crucially active in the southern Sharecroppers Union, an organization uniting poor African-American and white farm workers in the segregated South.

Clearly, anger and resistance to the hardships of the Depression and the callousness of the Hoover administration were growing dramatically. This judgment was expressed emphatically in the Presidential election of 1932.

The First New Deal

Many historians usefully divide the New Deal into two periods: the first beginning with the Roosevelt inauguration of 1933 and the second beginning in 1935 after the landslide electoral victory of the Democrats in the 1934 midterm elections.

Roosevelt’s career as governor of New York was suggestive of the kind of liberalism he favored (the term really only took on its contemporary meaning with the New Deal). In general, he had no principled objection to limited public ownership of some assets when he deemed it beneficial. In addition, he supported legislation, on different occasions, that would afford working people an opportunity to better their conditions. Whether this was because of the political climate in New York or because of some deeper ideological commitment is hard to determine. Clearly, however, Roosevelt understood the profound sentiment for change that was stirred by the misery of the Great Depression. He also appreciated the insurgency that was springing up around the country.

In the primary campaign leading to the Democratic Convention, Roosevelt defused the contentious Prohibition issue and emphasized farmers, relief to banks and homeowners, tariff policy and the “forgotten man.” The latter phrase struck a chord that led him to speak even more forcefully for working people: “The millions who are in want will not stand by silently forever while the things to satisfy their needs are in easy reach.” This statement clearly was presented as a reminder to the Democratic Party conservatives that the masses were in motion and needed to be heeded. An early clue to his policy approach was revealed by his unspecific endorsement of “bold, persistent experimentation.” Roosevelt won the nomination on the fourth ballot.

In the campaign against Hoover, Roosevelt supported the call for a repeal of Prohibition, a stance that would find favor with modern-day liberals advocating a live-and-let-live lifestyle. Conservatives attempted to force the issue to the center of the campaign, but Roosevelt had the good sense to subordinate the issue to economic policy.

To address the unemployment issue, Roosevelt called for greater relief. Paradoxically, he also endorsed the platform commitment to a balanced budget. His recovery program was a vague commitment to corporatism, the bringing together of all interests, all classes to cooperate under the banner of economic nationalism. To some on the left, this sounded dangerously like the program projected in fascist Italy and soon-to-be-fascist Germany. In hindsight, it may be difficult to understand this fear. But in 1932, many on the left saw the economic and political crisis of the time as intimately linked. Fascism was gaining ground in the world precisely as the world economy appeared to be spiraling towards disaster. It was not far-fetched to view fascism as a ruling class response to the growing economic disaster. Like the vague, early Roosevelt program, fascists advocated a strong state that would balance the interests of all classes under a nationalist banner. Some saw Roosevelt’s folksy, fatherly addresses to the nation as a New World version of the Old World charismatic leader.

One early left critic of the Roosevelt program was Lewis Corey, the pen name of one of the founders of the US Communist Party, Louis Fraina. Corey, an independent, eccentric, but sometimes insightful Marxist, saw state capitalism as the logical and necessary antidote to economic catastrophe. With this view, he was an early, prescient expositor of the theory of State Monopoly Capitalism. In his 1934 book, The Decline of American Capitalism, Corey sees the roots of fascism in the rise of state capitalism as a response to the Great Depression. He found state capitalism in Roosevelt’s vision and feared a desperate transition to fascism.

Nonetheless, Roosevelt’s promise of a new “economic constitutional order” proved popular with voters who wanted nothing if not change. Roosevelt won the election with nearly a seven million popular vote plurality, the largest majority since 1864, and all but five electoral votes. Such was the thirst for change.

It became clear during the transition that Roosevelt was determined to attack the Depression domestically, rather than pursue Hoover’s more often internationalist strategy. He saw the fundamental problem as a lack of domestic purchasing power to keep pace with domestic production Therefore, the key to recovery was to bring them in line. And recovery was the watchword of the first New Deal.

The notion of increasing mass purchasing power – increasing effective demand – to overcome a slumping economy has become associated with the thinking of economist John Maynard Keynes. Of course Keynes major work was not published until 1936, too late in the life of the New Deal to count as a major influence. Nonetheless many in the New Deal administration retrospectively embraced Keynes’ work as a further confirmation of the wisdom of their approach. Keynes’ views grew to dominate mainstream economics only to be overshadowed by neo-classic, liberal economics in the last thirty years. We shall see, however, how it remains a pillar of the post-war economy in the US.

Like most inaugural addresses, Roosevelt’s churned with rhetorical flourishes and vague, but suggestive proposals. His statement “[W]e must move as a trained and loyal army willing to sacrifice for the good of a common discipline… with a unity of duty hitherto evoked only in time of armed strife” further stoked the fear of fascism. His pronouncement that “The measure of the restoration lies in the extent in which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit” aroused those thirsting for social justice. And the “Good Neighbor” policy promised a peaceful, fair foreign policy.

But the first New Deal was about action and Roosevelt quickly called a bank holiday and an embargo on gold before meeting with some of the nation’s leading bankers. The crisis was so demoralizing that they were in no mood to resist government action. As a historian of the New Deal notes: “If the administration had been bent upon achieving radical reforms as a condition of recovery, it could have had them… including nationalization of the nation’s banks. As it was, a conservative solution, highly acceptable to bankers and businessmen, and symptomatic of the First New Deal, was decided upon.” (Basil Rauch The History of the New Deal, p. 63-64).

The Roosevelt Emergency Banking Bill was seen by many as a move strengthening the hand of big bankers. Swift action to balance the budget came at the expense of veterans’ benefits and federal salaries. For the most part, business was pleased, resulting in a fifteen per cent jump in the stock market. Agricultural policies were largely shaped by conservative George Peek who was appointed to administer the program. The National Farmers Union and the Farm Holiday Association vigorously opposed them, calling a farmers' strike which was only postponed when the President intervened.

Roosevelt’s unemployment relief initiative was threefold: a Civilian Conservation Corps to employ 250,000 young workers in the national forests at subsistence wages, grants under the Federal Emergency Relief Administration that supplied states with monies in contrast to the Hoover administration’s loans, and the Public Works Administration, providing employment on federal infrastructure – an expansion of Hoover’s earlier program.

For industrial policy, Roosevelt hoped to achieve a compromise between labor’s demand for minimum wages and reduced hours (a thirty-hour work week) and management’s demand for a relaxation of anti-trust restraints and the tolerance of price-fixing. Labor’s gain in the resultant National Industrial Recovery Act was the famous Section 7a which promised that industrial codes would guarantee unspecified minimum wages and maximum hours along with collective bargaining rights. The NIRA was to be administered by General Hugh S. Johnson famed for organizing war production in World War I – a man not noted for liberal ideas. Roosevelt expressed the goal of NIRA as “…the assurance of a reasonable profit for industry and living wages for labor.”

In addition, the first New Deal brought the Tennessee Valley Authority into being, a project that established public ownership, if only in this exceptional instance, and brought affordable, rural electrification to a large sector of the South.

A Securities Act was passed in late May 1933 to protect the public from fraud and misrepresentation in the sales of financial instruments. And in June, the Glass-Steagall Act was passed separating investment banking from commercial banking, FDIC was established to minimally protect designated accounts from loss, and the Federal Reserve was given powers to influence interest rates and to restrain speculation. The Glass-Steagall Act was repealed late in the Clinton administration, contributing greatly to the financial chaos now afflicting the economy.

In foreign policy, the Roosevelt administration recognized the Soviet Union, but gave questionable support to the London Economic Conference, the last effort to apply an internationalist solution to the Great Depression.

For workers, the centerpiece of New Deal action was Section 7a of NIRA. The remainder of NIRA fostered the recovery of business, allowing enterprises to regulate themselves to restore prices and profits. Throughout 1933 that was precisely what the capitalists did with the encouragement of General Johnson, the administrator.

Section 7a was inspirational to labor, but in fact it was relatively toothless. Under pressure, Roosevelt urged business in June 1933 to voluntarily accept a thirty cents per hour minimum wage and a thirty-five hour work week. To further assuage labor, the Blue Eagle campaign – allowing compliant businesses to display the Blue Eagle insignia – was mounted. Neither changed the existing relationship between capital and labor. In early 1934, General Johnson conceded that that big business had accrued all the benefits of NIRA at the expense of small business, labor, and the consumer.

Nonetheless, despite the weak Section 7a and a nearly moribund AFL, workers took the spirit of 7a into their own hands, often prodded by Communists and the left. As Boyer and Morais recount in Labor’s Untold Story:

The law said that an employer had to bargain collectively with unions and millions of workers were suddenly becoming fanatically determined that employers would do just that. It became more imperative to them when the gains of NIRA as to wages and hours proved in the overwhelming majority of cases to be unsatisfactory. And when company unions were set up, their members often determined to capture them and transform them into real unions.

And it was on the picket lines that the workers struggled with their employers to make Section 7(A) of the NIRA mean something. In 1933 more than 900,000 workers went on strike for union recognition and wage increases, three times more than the previous year. Trade union membership zoomed as 775,000 workers flocked into labor organizations, 500,000 into the AFL, 150,000 into independent unions, and 125,000 into

the Communist-led Trade Union Unity League. The latter organization led strikes in steel, auto, coal mining, meatpacking and the beet sugar industry. In 1933 alone the TUUL conducted strikes of 16,000 autoworkers in Detroit, 5,000 to 6,000 steel workers in Ambridge, Pennsylvania and 2,700 meat packers in Pittsburgh. (p. 276)

Thus, the gains of workers from the first New Deal were won on the mass action front and not in the legislative chambers. As Basil Rauch recounts in The History of the First New Deal: “A wave of company union organizing swept the country when NRA was launched. Under these circumstances it became possible for businessmen to observe the child-labor and hours-and-wages provisions of the codes and at the same time reduce labor costs… [S]killed and semi-skilled categories lost more than unskilled and women workers gained, so that overall hourly earnings declined.” (p. 98)

Similarly, agricultural workers and farmers saw no gains from the first New Deal. Again Basil Rauch paints a bleak picture: “Dissatisfaction with the AAA (Agricultural Adjustment Administration) became widespread… the farm products which were benefited were raised chiefly by large landowners, farming corporations, and banks and insurance companies which had become large owners of farm lands through foreclosures… Farm laborers, who were excluded from the provisions of the NRA, sharecroppers, and tenants usually received no share of AAA checks or found themselves put off the land as a consequence of the landowners’ reduction of acreage.” (p.102) Both the National Farmers Union and the Farm Holiday Association resisted these results.

Towards the end of 1933, the administration succumbed to public pressure and empowered the Civil Works Administration thereby staving off mass dissatisfaction by employing four million workers on various civil tasks, but the program was ended, nevertheless, the following April 1.

The year 1934 was a watershed – a year of aggression on the part of capital and ferocious fight back from labor. Capital organized under the banner of the viciously anti-labor Liberty League, spent vast sums on labor spies and security services, and cracked down hard on labor organizing. The KKK, the Black Legions, and the Sentinels of the Republic were unleashed to sow discord, ethnic intimidation and anti-Communism. The Smedley Butler affair – overtures to General Butler with the hope of staging a coup – occurred in 1934.

Perhaps no event signaled labor’s determination to meet these threats than the San Francisco general strike in May of 1934. Nearly 127,000 workers shut the city down in solidarity with striking seamen. The militancy of that action both inspired and foretold the mass uprisings to come.

The Roosevelt administration suffered a self-inflicted wound when it established the National Recovery Review Board in March of 1934. The independent Board was to review business practices during Roosevelt’s presidency. Chaired by Clarence Darrow, the Board delivered a scathing indictment of the advantages gained by capital under the NIRA. Darrow’s references to the advantages of socialism embarrassed the administration which never published the three reports.

The pro-business NIRA brought rising prices in 1934 coupled with falling production, employment and payrolls. At the same time, the administration witnessed a wave of strikes unprecedented since 1922 with militia called out in 19 states and 46 workers killed resisting. In general, Roosevelt was hostile to these labor actions.

Nonetheless, labor stood by Roosevelt in the interim election producing what historian Charles A. Beard called “thunder on the left.” A new, more radical Congress came to be, with the Republicans losing 10 Senators and 10 Representatives.

At the end of 1934, the first two years of the Roosevelt administration were characterized by intense, widespread and often violent class struggle between capital and labor. At best, the administration stood aloof. At worst, it demonstrated a partisanship for capital despite rhetorical disclaim. The unusual shift in a midterm election in a leftward direction was to redirect that trend.

The Second New Deal

Roosevelt fully understood the meaning of the 1934 elections. He spoke, in his January, 1935 State of the Union address, of the “clear mandate” given. Nonetheless, he offered a tortured explanation of that mandate: “We continue to recognize the greater ability of some to earn more than others. But we do assert that the ambition of the individual to obtain for him and his a proper security, a reasonable leisure, and a decent living throughout life is an ambition to be preferred to the appetite for great wealth and great power.” It should be noted that despite these high sounding words, the administration opposed, early on, the Wagner Labor Relations Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act advocated by the new Congress.

On January 17, 1935, the Social Security Act was placed before Congress addressing unemployment and retirement benefits. The debate on and evolution of this bill serves as a pattern for much of later New Deal legislation. For the most part, critics saw it as too limited in scope. The AFL leadership objected to its reliance for funding upon payroll taxes instead of income taxes. Earl Browder, speaking for the Communist Party, went further. He argued that funding should come from taxes on the wealthy and capital. The bill passed in August, amended to block the administration’s desire to allow private insurance companies to offer larger annuities outside of the system.

One can say that the second New Deal was a response to the recognition that “seep down” (“trickle down” in the Reagan-era jargon) policies of stabilizing prices and offering assistance and encouragement to capital had failed. Instead, the administration accepted that only by directly increasing the economic means of the masses could the economy recover. The Keynesian notion of the necessity of massive public spending on jobs and relief was largely adopted. In the view of Roosevelt’s team, increasing effective demand by putting cash into the hands of under and unemployed workers would stimulate the economy where business incentives had failed. Payrolls in December of 1934 were only 60% of those in 1926 while dividends and interest were 150% of their level in that year.

Thus the alphabet soup of New Deal programs increased and enlarged through 1935. Four billion dollars were allocated to state relief programs. The Works Project Administration (WPA) was established in May which in the next two years accounted for 1600 new schools, 105 airport landing fields, 1600 clinics, 36,000 miles of rural roads, dams, traveling libraries, millions of school lunches and medical home visits, and the well-known arts projects. Wages were below prevailing levels, but above welfare payments. An unforeseen (and likely unwelcome) consequence of this program was stirrings among the WPA workers for union representation.

The administration’s agricultural program, AAA, had only added to the process of reducing farmers to tenancy. As a result, over 40% of all farmers were saddled with tenancy. To address this, the administration established the Resettlement Administration which offered tenants farm ownership on easy terms and cooperative farm equipment. Little distribution of new farm acreage was achieved and Southern sharecroppers and migrant workers were essential ignored.

Under pressure from leftist youth organizations and massive youth unemployment and poverty, the administration created the National Youth Administration which spurred a national organization, the American Youth Congress. The organization proved to be a seedbed for left, radical recruits and an embarrassment to the administration (except Eleanor Roosevelt!). Redbaiters attacked the organization vociferously.

Under pressure from the crackpot Townsendites, the legitimately populist ideas of Huey Long, the labor movement and Communists, Roosevelt sought to revise tax policies. Like the Social Security Act, the Wealth Tax Bill was a minimalist program designed to add purchasing power to the masses without a shock to the basic mechanism of capitalism. As it passed in August 1935, corporate taxes were lowered slightly for small businesses and raised slightly for large corporations. Taxes on individuals with earnings over $1,000,000 were graduated steeply to 75% on incomes over $5,000,000. An excess profits tax was also passed.

Probably the most important legislative action of 1935 was not initially supported by the administration. Though the Wagner-Connery Labor Relations Act was overwhelmingly passed by Congress, the administration feared the hostility of capital and leaned towards extending NIRA and Section 7(a) instead – recovery was one thing, social justice another. The bill outlawed company unions and guaranteed exclusive union recognition by majority assent. NRA’s General Johnson fought the measure to the end, arguing for “minority” rights for workers who did not support the majority decision. While the AFL strongly supported the bill, President William Green made the curiously conservative argument: “We cannot and will not continue to urge workers to have patience, unless the Wagner bill is made law, and unless it is enforced, once it becomes law.” But while Green was flaunting his restraint, a maverick group of AFL dissidents, leftists, and Communists was moving to take the labor movement in a different, more radical direction, a direction that would militantly and successfully confront capital and shift the balance between capital and labor for many years.

Led by Mineworkers’ John L. Lewis, the Committee for Industrial Organization (later the Congress of Industrial Organizations) was founded on November 10, 1935. The event was electrifying, releasing all the pent-up frustration and determination of unorganized, super-exploited industrial workers. A massive strike wave swept through industrial plants through the remainder of 1935 and throughout 1936. Rubber workers, autoworkers, steelworkers, electrical workers and other industrial workers, organized and encouraged by selfless, often Communist, CIO organizers, took to picket lines, frequently resorting to the militant and effective tactic of the sit-down strike. Despite hostility and red-baiting by the AFL leadership, despite violent, organized resistance on the part of capital, despite brutal, anti-labor actions by police and militia and a hysterical media, they succeeded in organizing millions of workers into new industrial unions. Unlike their AFL counterparts, these new, fighting unions embraced democratic principles, anti-racist policies, and, most importantly, class struggle. By 1940, the CIO had organized 3.8 million members into the CIO unions.

This historic movement had two consequences seldom acknowledged in standard accounts of the New Deal. Firstly, the wage gains added much buying power to the New Deal effort to stimulate economic activity. The shift in the balance of forces between capital and labor corrected some of the crisis-inducing inequalities of the “prosperity” of the twenties. In his address to the 1939 CIO Convention, Phillip Murray noted: “[We] have increased the national purchasing power of the workers in the United States approximately $5,000,000,000 per year.”

Secondly, the organizing campaign also marshaled enormous influence over the 1936 elections, benefiting both Roosevelt and the Congress. The landslide victory of the Democrats owed much to the sympathies stirred by this powerful struggle. Despite demons concocted by the capitalist media, most voters identified with the fighting workers.

Notwithstanding the Supreme Court’s attempt to derail the New Deal in 1935-1936, the legislative agenda continued, led by a Congress generally more aggressive than the administration. To his credit, Roosevelt chose to ride the wave of change and economic justice unleashed by the CIO in his 1936 election campaign. Unlike modern “triangulators,” he spoke to and for the masses of workers and farmers. Some of his most militant rhetoric came forth in the 1936 campaign such as his oft-cited attack upon “economic royalists”. Roosevelt spoke of 200 corporations controlling half of the nation’s wealth: “This concentration of wealth and power… has been a menace to the social system as well as to the economic system which we call American democracy.” He took this message vigorously to all reaches of the country.

The 1936 election was a landslide victory for the Democrats and New Deal policies. Roosevelt received 60.8% of the votes and the new congress was overwhelmingly Democratic (3/4 of the Senate, nearly 4/5 of the House). Even the “independent” Supreme Court felt the wave and softened its opposition to the New Deal.

The Communists ran Earl Browder and James Ford in the presidential election. Though placing the dangers of fascism and reaction at the center of their campaign, they sought to raise issues that would, in fact, strengthen the popular base of the New Deal. Where the Democrats were weakest – on racial equality – the candidacy of Ford, an African-American, brought greater awareness to the forefront.

Armed with this powerful mandate, the administration curiously emphasized organizational issues over social justice. It used the early part of 1937 to advocate Supreme Court reorganization – despite the Court’s newfound spirit of cooperation – and an Executive Reorganization Bill which sought to make changes in the executive branch of the government. While Roosevelt argued that these moves would be both democratically and managerially sound, mistrust fractured the unity of the New Deal coalition. The component designed to expand civil service was clearly democratic in character, but the other elements were not nearly as unambiguous. Many wondered why a President with unprecedented power and an overwhelming mandate pressed so hard for mere formal shifts in power, for example by trying to weaken the judicial branch.

No satisfactory explanation of Roosevelt’s path is available, but clearly it was a setback for both the quest for social justice and a deepening of progressive reforms. We can only speculate that Roosevelt lacked a confidence in the support of the masses or, more likely, felt a fear of unleashing further radical change, choosing institutional changes over stoking the democratic upsurge that propelled him to unprecedented popularity. Perhaps, there are some similarities with the recent institutional changes urged by President Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. Like the Roosevelt administration, the Chavistas lost some of the momentum won by enormous electoral victories by choosing institutional change over engaging the masses more directly in the pursuit of change.

The Administration lost further steam by aggressively attempting to balance the budget in 1937. With the economy sharply rebounding, administration officials began to sound the fear of inflation, urging budgetary restraint. Federal spending was cut drastically, with the WPA nearly shut down. Consequently, the economy quickly sank into decline. Industrial production fell drastically (35% in 9 months), prices fell and unemployment jumped dramatically.

Through the first months of 1938 Roosevelt stayed firmly with the policy of fiscal restraint urged by capital. This appeasement of business only deepened the crisis. In April, Roosevelt reversed his policies, reviving WPA with $1. 25 billion for employment and further funding other programs to the total of $3 billion. The Congress overwhelming approved these moves.

The turnabout of policy led to a turnabout in economic activity. Almost immediately, industrial production, employment, prices, and payrolls begin to climb. Nonetheless, the US economy never reached pre-Depression levels of employment and industrial production until 1939, seven years after their lows. By then, the mandate of 1936 was gone, eroded and crippled by the retreat of 1937 and the fresh economic slump of 1937-1938. The momentum of New Deal progressive legislation was lost without achieving the goals of full recovery or social justice.

The Roosevelt administration passed only one important New Deal policy in 1938, the Fair Labor Standards Act. It gave minimum wage and maximum hours protection to non-union workers and restricted the use of child labor. The administration’s interest started shifting to the looming European War and managing the US attitude towards it. Defense spending began to rise and war fears were stoked, diverting attention from domestic problems. Right-wing legislators successfully exploited these fears, warning of “un-American” activities. A new red scare emerged, fueling intense red-baiting extending even to unions and the more progressive New Dealers. The attack on labor reached absurd heights: Eighty-five unions faced indictment in 1940 under the Sherman Anti-Trust Act.

Recovery came only with the massive war spending of the Second World War. The ruling class found a new economic stimulus with military employment and the Federal government pumping massive revenues into war industries. Military Keynesianism brought high productivity and labor cooperation through patriotic sacrifice and effort. Military pump priming brought huge profits through government contracts tolerant of waste and cost-escalation. The destructiveness of war and the race for more lethal weapons promised an endless growth of demand. Thus, capital found, for that moment, the answer to the challenge of the Great Depression without conceding much ground to the people.


We have in no way offered a complete or thorough history of the New Deal. We have, however, unlike most histories of this period, presented these six or seven years as a history of class struggle. Where most accounts stress the political maneuvers of the two parties or the legislative agenda of the Roosevelt team, we have attempted to show the impact of mass action upon the policies of the ruling class. Faced with a groundswell of dissatisfaction backed with organized opposition, desperate elites sought to treat a wounded capitalism while restraining the radically democratic expectations of those participating in this struggle.

Writers stress the two-fold goals of the New Deal as recovery and reform. In fact, the Roosevelt administration sought to stabilize a system that had, by the resounding dominance of capital over working people, run aground. As the Labor Research Association publication Trends in American Capitalism shows the average industrial worker gained only 15% in real annual earnings between 1919 and 1929 while producing 53% more than in 1919. Thus, the so-called “golden age” of capitalism was only golden for those who reaped the fruits of this increase in production and not the workers producing the “gold.” Moreover, workers were in no position to absorb the commodities generated by this rapid growth in production. The authors of Trends in American Capitalism concluded, “It was this very sharp disparity between the expanded volume of production and the relatively restricted incomes of the workers that helped bring on the violent crash of 1929 and the ensuing great crisis and depression.”

Leading up to the 1932 election, the only certainty was that Hoover had failed and change was desired. Entering office with these strong winds behind him, Roosevelt set out on a deliberately cautious and experimental course. Like Hoover, he hoped that incentives to capital would produce a growth in employment and prices which would “jump start” the economy and “seep down,” increasing the buying power of the masses. These quaint, shallow metaphors still serve conventional bourgeois economics in our time.

Unemployment remained stubbornly high and wages desperately low. But capital fared rather better after 1933. Small businesses were devastated between 1929 and 1932 (50% more failures in 1932 than 1929), a time of survival of only the fittest (and biggest) enterprises. From 1933 on, business failures and annual liabilities dropped precipitously. By 1936 failures were 40% of the failures reported in 1928 with liabilities reduced almost as much. Clearly the New Deal was successful in stabilizing the business community!

Real gross private domestic product per man hour (productivity) grew consistently from 1933 through 1939 with only a pause for the 1937 relapse. The level of productivity rose by 28% between 1933 and 1939 with the productivity level of 1929 surpassed in 1934. At a time of mass unemployment and a deteriorating standard of living, those lucky enough to have jobs were squeezed even harder – labor exploitation increased steadily during the New Deal. Likewise, farm labor failed to recover until 1942. The wage rate per day without room and board stood at $2.30 in 1928. In 1940 it was only $1.60.

The only counterforce to this trend was the intense struggle on the part of labor.

But even with the mass militancy, consumer price-adjusted spending per capita only surpassed 1929 levels in 1940! The New Deal achieved little in improving the standard of living of the masses.

Thus, contrary to the conventional liberal view, the New Deal generated a business recovery without a concomitant recovery for the working class. Despite an intense, militant class struggle bringing millions into confrontation with capital, the numbers show that the Roosevelt administration betrayed their hopes in fact.

Popular accounts view the second New Deal as an era of the reform of capitalism. While the number of programs grew dramatically, the figures cited above challenge the performance of the second New Deal if not the actual merit of the reform claim. Undoubtedly, the second New Deal brought relief, some institutional relief, like Social Security and a legal minimum wage and restrictions on child labor. But even in this arena, the record shows a measured, cautious commitment. During the Hoover years of the Great Depression, social welfare expenditures grew from 3.9% of GDP to 7.9% of GDP, an increase of over 100%. Social welfare expenditures rose even more under Roosevelt, peaking at 13.2% of GDP in 1936, the year of Roosevelt’s greatest electoral mandate. But spending dropped dramatically in the next two years to 9% of GDP, only to spike again in 1939 in response to the mini-depression of 1937-38. Even at its peak in 1936, nearly 40% of the relief total was veteran’s benefits of the long denied World War I bonus provided in the form of US bonds One might be cynically tempted to see the administration as using veterans’ relief as an election year ploy.

Where the dominance of capital was actually challenged – the Wagner/Connery Bill – the Roosevelt administration was at best neutral, at worst in opposition.

The acronymic expansion of New Deal programs brought an accompanying explosion of government employees. Paid civilian government employees rose from 603,587 in 1933 to 953,891 in 1939, topping a million the following year. Thus, the New Deal did succeed in increasing Federal employment at a much faster rate than in the private sector.

Further evidence of this failure to restore employment is demonstrated by WPA figures: Works Project Administration Employment numbers marched steadily forward, peaking in 1939 at 2,911,000. Even in 1941 1,638,000 workers were employed by WPA. Similarly, Civilian Conservation Camp employment expanded consistently to a high of 919,000 in 1941. Thus, on the eve of World War II, there was a surplus of employable citizens totally 8,117,000 engaged in WPA, CCC, or without work - roughly 8% of the entire adult population. This reserve army of workers, workers desperate for real employment, makes the successes of union organizing in the New Deal period even more impressive and the plight of the unorganized even more tragic.

Apart from the liberal myths surrounding the achievements of the New Deal, a look at the statistics regarding civilian consumption between 1933 and 1937 – the most intense period of government intervention – reveal a mixed, but significant decline. While beef, fish, fresh vegetable, and egg consumption were up, pork, chicken, turkey and – staples of the working class diet – lard, milk, potatoes, wheat flour, corn flour and meal were down. In the same period, gross national product grew by 62.6%. The fruits of the New Deal were not “seeping down” to the masses. After a decade of government intervention, earnings in key industries still trailed their 1929 levels: by 12% in manufacturing, 10% in mining, and 24% in construction.

Roosevelt’s “Good Neighbor” foreign policy proved to be neither always neighborly nor always virtuous. When fascist Italy invaded Ethiopia, the administration invoked the Neutrality Act of 1935 to deny weapons shipments to either party. This course flaunted the fact that Italy was the aggressor and Ethiopia desperately needed assistance against this unprovoked attack. And when Franco and his fascist allies attempted to destroy the legitimate government of Spain the following year, millions everywhere saw the struggle as a bulwark against the further military aggression of the extreme right militarists. The US response was to again invoke the Neutrality Act, effectively blocking any but the most determined assistance to the Republic. At the same time little effort was made to restrain the insurgents and their German and Italian allies.

Similarly, the Neutrality Act thwarted needed aid to the Chinese when the Japanese invaded China in 1937. Even the sinking of an American gunboat by the Japanese failed to change this false neutrality that, in fact, encouraged aggression and fascist audacity. Good neighbors should be able to distinguish between friendly visitors and brutal intruders.

The Roosevelt administration showed a more aggressive side to its neighbors to the south. When Mexico nationalized oil in 1938, reprisals came quickly, including a boycott of Mexican oil. Basil Rauch notes “[t]he suspicions [at the time] that the Good Neighbor policy was merely a new mask for economic imperialism…”(p. 336).


Howard Zinn wrote of the New Deal: “The Roosevelt reforms went far beyond previous legislation. They had to meet two pressing needs: to reorganize capitalism in such a way to overcome the crisis and stabilize the system; also, to head off the alarming growth of spontaneous rebellion in the early years of the Roosevelt administration – organization of tenants and the unemployed, movements of self help, general strikes in several cities.” (A People’s History of the United States, p. 383)

Zinn gets many things right: he understands the undercurrent of class struggle that fundamentally shaped the populist aspects of the New Deal, he appreciates the imperative of stabilizing and recharging a stagnant capitalist system, and he recognizes that the Roosevelt administration brought something new to the state’s relationship with capital. But he gets some important things wrong as well.

But Zinn is not alone in misunderstanding the meaning of the period between the onset of economic decline and the beginnings of the US engagement in World War II.

Today liberal Democrats and social democrats point to the New Deal as a model for a humane and democratic society. Undoubtedly, there was a massive effort to bring relief to those harmed most by capitalism’s stumble. But the facts show how this effort was forced by the organized resistance and near rebellion of millions of working people and farmers. The ever-growing electoral mandate for more radical change was pacified by both relief efforts and moralistic rhetoric. Yet the Roosevelt administration neither proposed nor wholeheartedly accepted any change that fundamentally altered the relationship between capital and labor to the benefit of the people. There was no nationalization and little expansion of public ownership outside of the TVA. Government employment in such agencies as the Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps was always assumed to be temporary with the exception of a swollen Federal bureaucracy. True, hitherto untried government regulation expanded enormously, but all in the interest of establishing rules that would smooth the way for a more viable capitalism. A majority of an occasionally divided ruling class recognized from harsh experience that slash-and-burn capitalism threatened the continued existence of the system. That was the thrust of the first sentence of NIRA Title I: “A national emergency productive of widespread unemployment and disorganization of industry, which burdens interstate and foreign commerce, affects the public welfare, and undermines the standards of living of the American people, is hereby declared to exist.” Thus, NIRA was both an emergency and a temporary ameliorative to be entrusted to the administration of a conservative, business-friendly General Johnson.

Liberals see the New Deal as a forbearer of the welfare state that bloomed in Europe after the Second World War and less vigorously in the US. There is some truth to this, though the trend to offer relief began during the Hoover administration in the US and with mass pressure and popular front and labor governments in Europe (Social insurance was established in France in 1930, family assistance in 1932. The US was among the last industrial countries to adopt a national pension system.). Clearly what has come to be viewed as a feature of mature capitalism was directly and proportionally based upon the relative strength and organization of the workers’ movements in their respective countries. Its continuance after the War was thanks to a militant left and the necessity on the part of ruling circles to present a humane face against the appeal of socialism throughout most of the world. This is apparent from the mounting efforts to dismantle the welfare state after the fall of the Soviet Union and the simultaneous decline and confusion of the left. As neo-liberalism spread in the 1980’s and 1990’s as the dominant and pervasive ideology in capitalist countries, much of organized labor shifted from pressing labor’s interests to defending and promoting their national industries and enterprises against borderless competition. The attempted destruction of the welfare state further sapped the strength of labor, creating a larger pool of impoverished, unorganized, desperate workers forced by the market to settle for lower wages. The labor movement’s less than effective defense of the welfare state did not forestall releasing what Marx called the “Reserve Army of the Unemployed” from the bondage of relief.

Another shamefully ignored lesson from the New Deal era is the relationship between crime, poverty, and economic desperation. As in every period since industrialization, crime and incarceration are guides to the true status of the working class. Over a twenty year span, the suicide rate peaked in 1932 and the homicide rate in 1933, the crest of unemployment. Incarceration, as one might expect, reached its zenith a few years later. With more US citizens incarcerated today than anywhere else in the world, one looks in vain for a mainstream leader who makes the connection.

While welfare economics was often seen as offering a stimulus to capitalism, the capitalists found an even better, more agreeable mechanism during the Roosevelt administration. If we were to pretend that 1941-45 was not a period of unparalleled, devastating international bloodshed, we would credit Roosevelt with achieving his goals in this period: the economy recovered and grew enormously, unemployment was virtually eliminated, and there was relative peace between capital and labor. But, of course, we know that was because conscription absorbed the unemployed, war production boomed, and patriotism brought unity in place of class struggle. And this would prove to be a profound lesson for the ruling class. Even as early as 1938, with war in Europe and even greater war looming, military orders for home and abroad were accounting for more and more of the economy’s recovery. With the full hitching of the economy to military needs, unemployment was statistically non-existent by the end of 1942, wages and industrial growth rocketed past pre-depression levels, and the trend continued until the post-war recession. And the war brought an important moral reminder to the ruling class: depravation and sacrifice on the part of the working class is more palatable when clothed in nationalism and accompanied by patriotic music. An unspoken truth about the Great Depression is that it was overcome by a partly planned, “command,” non-market war economy – the economic mechanism often associated with socialism. But this was not socialism of the people, but a “socialism” of capital.

One can see the scope of this war-induced road to recovery by comparing the public debt incurred during the New Deal with the public debt accumulated during wartime. At its peak, the New Deal public debt never exceeded $59 billion (1939). At the end of World War Two, the public debt stood at $265.9 billion. From 1933 to 1939 New Deal reform and recovery grew public indebtedness by $18.4 billion. From 1939 to 1945, the debt grew by $206.9 billion! Imagine the US if the “sainted” Roosevelt and the New Deal politicians had made a similar commitment to the people’s needs, a commitment to education, public health, infrastructure, leisure, incomes, etc. But it was not to be.

The war against fascism and Japanese imperialism was justified; the elimination of Nazism, fascism, and Japanese imperialism was a costly, but necessary calling. The sacrifices were great, but not for capital. Wartime profit well exceeded historic rates.

Perhaps Roosevelt’s greatest legacy is the establishment of a war economy as the basis for expanding economic activity. Absent a world conflagration of the tragic dimensions of World War II, US ruling circles have nonetheless chosen to pursue a perpetual war economy over developing public assets, encouraging productive employment, or expanding equitably the consumption of the masses. They have created threats where little or none exists to demoralize a public that succumbs to a manipulated, media-driven trade off between the common good and bogus security. The Cold War and the current “Global War on Terror” serve as a constant, never-ending framework for imperial adventures on behalf of a state which serves monopoly capital. From covert activities, military interventions and surrogate wars in Greece, Indo-china, Iran, Guatemala and Korea to the interventions in Grenada, Afghanistan, and Nicaragua at the end of the Cold War, anti-Communism served as a handy excuse for maintaining a war footing. Those who foolishly thought that the Soviet Union’s demise would slow the tempo of military spending were rudely presented with an international “liberation mission” in Iraq and “humanitarian intervention” in the purposely dismantled Yugoslavia. Today, of course, the excuse for war comes from a new set of imaginary adversaries: the comic book “axis of evil,” “Islamo-fascists,” and exotic “terrorist cells.” The very words conjure bigotry-laced images of fanatical, childhood bad guys.

This devotion to military spending affords many opportunities for capital: nearly all of the corporate world can participate in this enormously wasteful enterprise – weapons manufacturers, construction companies, myriad services, technology firms, transportation, etc, etc; demand emanates from government orders and is predictable, precise, and ever growing; competition is minimal or non-existent; payment is guaranteed; there is little pressure for cost containment. Where once these were presented as the supposedly fatal inefficiencies of a Soviet-style planned economy, they are today wholly embraced by the titans of monopoly capital. And they are extraordinarily profitable.

Chalmers Johnson, an always insightful progressive, estimates that military spending from 1947 to 1990 added up to an astounding $8.7 trillion. Add several trillion to get us to 2008 and one gets some rough idea of the enormous opportunity lost by what Johnson calls “military Keynesianism” (Of course the costs of a war economy far exceeds the annual official budget). One cannot calculate how many lives were adversely affected by establishing this priority over a war on cancer, poverty, mental illness, environmental hazards, etc, etc.

Sixty years before Chalmers Johnson’s condemnation of “military Keynesianism”, Communist leader William Z. Foster anticipated his point by describing “big capital” Keynesianism. In a speech in 1948, he said: “Building a war economy has many political advantages for the reactionary capitalist Keynesians… Armament expenditures by the government are incomparably more favorable from a profit standpoint to the capitalists… in contrast to the less profitable reformist program of public works and the strengthening of the workers’ buying power and social security systems. Moreover, gigantic munitions orders can easily be secured under the cover of hysterical war scares, and besides this, the resultant militarization greatly facilitates big capital’s drive toward fascism… At the same time that the big capitalists readily agree to have the government spend billions yearly for the war economy, they also fill the air with strident cries for government “economy”. It will be seen, however, that their ideas of economy in government sum up pretty much to reducing the outlay of all sorts of social services and to the securing of lower taxes for themselves.”

And so it came to pass. This too is the legacy of the New Deal.

Soviet writers correctly saw the New Deal as the beginnings of the fundamental shift from monopoly capitalism to state-monopoly capitalism in the US. They perceptively note that: “American historians tend to ignore the objective fact that statist processes underlay FDR’s reforms, and exaggerate the importance of FDR himself while underestimating the working class struggle for progressive reforms” (The US Two-Party System: Past and Present, unidentified authors, p. 242) Born with the New Deal was the notion that the state had a right – more a duty – to steer the economic ship of capitalism over rough shoals. Of course government was never the neutral arbiter of bourgeois fiction. States are captured by classes and require revolutionary restructuring to serve a different class. But before the New Deal, the affairs of business were the affairs of business alone. The New Deal brought a blending of government and monopoly. Insofar as mass action may press militantly for reforms, the state will accommodate this pressure in ways that will protect monopoly capital and disarm the challenge of radical change. Otherwise, the state will oversee the workings of monopoly capital in ways that will promote its growth and dominance. This new, enlarged role for the state was necessitated by the failings of laissez-faire capitalism prior to the Great Depression. Ironically, as state-monopoly capitalism has matured, both its corporate and state managers have arrogantly assumed that there are no rough shoals in sight, embracing the neo-liberal ideology of de-regulation, privatization and rampant speculation – the “slash and burn” capitalism that fueled the Great Depression.

To a great extent, state-monopoly capital has born the responsibility of collaborating with capital, indeed merging its interests with monopoly capital, in two ways, depending upon the circumstances. In times of crisis, the state acts as they did in the New Deal periods to obviate the knots and competitive destruction that slows and obstructs the health and growth of capital. For the New Deal this included encouraging the cooperation of capital in pricing and business practices between large firms. This was the thrust of NIRA and its codes, retreating from the former laissez-faire policies of anti-trust action against combination and collusion. In addition, credit and loans were extended to businesses to encourage growth. The function of job creation and maintenance was directly assumed by government through WPA and CCC. As a result, business fared rather well throughout the thirties, contrary to popular belief, while labor struggled for its very limited gains. In better times, state-monopoly capital strives to remove regulatory fetters from capital, develop new ways to remove tax burdens from capital, and direct public funds to capital. Privatization, "non-profit" expansion, and so-called "Public-Private Partnerships" are tools in this endeavor. All of these mechanisms shift public wealth into private hands under the guise of efficiency or cost savings. The railway system is a good example. When rail transportation was extremely profitable, capital insisted that it remain in private hands. As profitability declined, the services necessary for interstate commerce were assumed by the government and supported by public funds. When rail transportation became potentially profitable again, private ownership was resumed. The marginally profitable, publicly useful, passenger services remained starved for funds.

The emergence and maturation of state-monopoly capitalism is a fundamental legacy of the New Deal.

Are there lessons for today?

The current economic crisis has generated fear and panic in ways that recall the Great Depression. We also see policies that echo the recovery efforts proffered by both the Hoover administration and the early New Deal. But unlike the New Deal period, we have yet to witness the mass upsurge that pressured and propelled the Roosevelt administration to offer reforms benefiting the “forgotten man.” Yes, there is widespread dissatisfaction, anger and even desperation. All gauges of the public mood reflect this. But these sentiments are unfocussed, confused, and, most importantly, unorganized. Howard Zinn mentions in his commendable characterization of the New Deal of “the growth of spontaneous rebellion in the early New Deal…” There was rebellion, but it was hardly spontaneous. The undercurrent of resistance and rebellion, so important to the people’s gains in this period, were highly organized. To deny this fact is to diminish the efforts and energy of the many organizations rallying workers, farmers, youth, African-Americans, and veterans to challenge a course bringing misery to the masses. Without the unions, the Communist Party, the left, the CIO, and the farmer’s organizations, the struggle would have been left to the demagogues: Father Coughlin, the Townsendites, Huey Long, the KKK, and many others of this ilk.

Those on the left who are waiting – waiting for a spontaneous upsurge of the masses – miss the real lesson of the New Deal. Those who put their confidence in the Democratic Party alone also miss the lessons of the New Deal. Putting aside our often stated criticisms of the corrupted, corporate dominated Democratic Party, putting aside our profound dissatisfaction with the two-party system, the New Deal period demonstrates that even with a “friendly” Democratic administration, nothing comes without pressure from the masses, which must be organized and led by the advanced forces.

Today, again, we have deep and widespread dissatisfaction with the past administration, economic, military, and political crises posing ominous threats to our future, and a tremendous thirst for change. But the two-party system possesses an enormous resiliency to divert, channel and absorb these hopes and aspirations unless intense pressure is exerted from outside. The false hope and cheap rhetoric accompanying the electoral season are inevitably followed by the inertia and broken promises of incumbency. The New Deal proves that this inevitability is not broken with faith, loyalty, or zeal, but with the full weight of an organized, militant movement.

Seventy-five years after the inauguration of Roosevelt and the emergence of the New Deal, we are faced with an even more powerful, resourceful, and dominant state-monopoly capitalism. This moment requires even more organization and agitation, even more militancy, and an even greater dedication to building a revolutionary movement for socialism.

A brief bibliography:

Boyer, Richard O. and Morais, Herbert M., Labor’s Untold Story (New York, 1955).

Corey, Lewis, The Decline of American Capitalism (New York, 1934).

Hosen, Frederick E., The Great Depression and the New Deal (Jefferson, North Carolina, 1992).

Labor Research Association, Trends in American Capitalism (New York, 1948).

Rauch, Basil, The History of the New Deal (New York, 1963).

Robertson, Ross M., History of the American Economy (New York, 1964)

Singh, V. B., Keynesian Economics: A Symposium (Delhi, 1956).

The US Two-Party System: Past and Present (Moscow, 1988).

Zinn, Howard, A People’s History of the United States (New York, 1980).

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Just when you think you have heard it all...

You know, until this peat mining project in the Big Bog was brought to my attention by some of my friends at Mesaba Co-op Park... the old hang out of the "red" Finns, I thought Oberstar was a pretty alright kind of guy. Now along comes this from Alan Maki added to what I have found out for myself, including a visit out to the mining site in the Pine Island State Forest. Duh, this is a "state forest," folks. I picked up a hiking map of this "state forest" at the Little Fork MN DNR Forestry Office on my way home from my Bog visit.

If anyone wants to go see for themselves what is going on in your "State Forest" I would suggest you pick up the nifty little free map the MN DNR puts out. The little map is called: Pine Island State Forest Trail Map.

Almost in the middle of the map you will see where Fiero Forest Road runs into Pine Island Forest Road. Just a few hundred yards east of Fiero Forest Road on Pine Island Forest Road you will come to the multi-million dollar entrance road we have all paid for so Berger Peat can, as Alan Maki says, "Truck away the profits."

Now, does anyone want to be out hiking the trails in this beautiful state forest on one of the days when Berger Peat Products is going to be vacuuming up our peat and the mercury and dioxin contaminated dust is going to be spewing into the air? Have your kids breath in this crap then come home and go swimming in Lake Superior with all the tailings and whatever is leeching from all those fifty-five gallon drums dumped into Lake Superior then go home a drink some of Duluth's famous "tap water."

On top of this we have this environmental organization going so far as to remove a report about Oberstar's complicity in all of this? On top of this, Oberstar calls Alan Maki a "liar" for saying he is involved in this deal.

Look at this. They are all just a bunch of sheep. Don't think. Don't question. Just give me your taxes and vote for me again, and again, and again. But, don't ask any questions of Congressman Oberstar because you don't want to hurt his feeling and offend him.

Someone, please pass me the violin. I can't play but it is time for lessons.

Read this. This is the bottom of the garbage can where the maggots reside.


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Minnesota Environmental Partnership... a front for Big Business polluters and corrupt politicians

-----Original Message-----

From: Alan Maki [mailto:amaki000@centurytel.net]

Sent: Tuesday, April 15, 2008 11:06 AM

To: stevemorse@MEPartnership.org; peter.makowski@mail.house.gov; jmyers@duluthnews.com; riverlot@paulbunyan.net; 'Jody Beaulieu'; secretary.state@state.mn.us

Cc: 'Al Juhnke'; brian.melendez@usa.net; susan.rego@embarqmail.com; 'Scott Elkins'; carl.pope@sierraclub.org; mcaul@startribune.com; bswenson@bemidjipioneer.com; newsroom@duluthnews.com; abuck@duluthnews.com; bgraber@duluthnews.com; lbloomquist@duluthnews.com; ppassi@duluthnews.com; scook@duluthnews.com

Subject: The Minnesota Environmental Partnership... a slight problem of ethics and accountability

Mr. Steve Morse, Executive Director, Minnesota Environmental Partnership;

I see you have altered the Minnesota Environmental Partnership Web Site since I posted the article from your site which clearly stated that U.S. Congressman James Oberstar was the “mover and the shaker” behind the peat mining venture in the Big Bog which will take place in the Pine Island State Forest. Mr. Oberstar now vehemently denies his involvement in this project. Gene Merriam can’t remember authorizing the permit for it. What can I say, except, “WOW!”

What a despicable coward you are when it comes to the truth!

Anyways, the article from your web site is still posted on my blog and it comes up in numerous searches on all the popular search engines and people have even taken to posting a link to “Water, water everywhere” { http://freeman-forum.blogspot.com/ } on their blogs and web sites so, I am sure this article will be read by many more people than would have read it on your site.

It is interesting now that U.S. Congressman James Oberstar pulled off his cute little act in front of a well-heeled group of DFL party hacks and public officials ranging from Mark Ritchie, Minnesota’s Secretary of State, to that old blue dog Democrat Roger Moe and the illustrious Gene Merriam who couldn’t remember signing the permit for peat mining in the Big Bog within the Pine Island State Forest and none other than the head of the Humphrey Institute and Mr. Freeman, the Hennepin County Attorney who has the utmost disdain for those who lie and perjure themselves… all of you are now saddled with the task of having to defend U.S. Congressman James Oberstar’s vicious slander against me as he so emphatically called me a “liar” in claiming he knew nothing about any peat mining in the Big Bog. And, oh yes, true to form, Congressman Oberstar even said, in an almost believable manner, that he resented me characterizing his speech as, “The most self-serving, hypocritical speech I have ever heard any politician ever make;” and I even heard Richard Nixon speak on several occasions.

Now, after all of this has been recorded for the University television station and we have the article from the Minnesota Environmental Partnership web site proving that United States Congressman James Oberstar is nothing more than a big-mouthed liar, how are you going to explain all of this to the some eighty organizations who have come together under the auspices of the Minnesota Environmental Partnership thinking that they are part of some marvelous coalition which is working to protect our living environment and ecosystems, when your only real objective is to continue electing a bunch of corporate serving blow-hard, liars like James Oberstar; and, trying to convince Minnesotans to increase their taxes to pay for the environmental damage caused by big-businesses to our air, water and land?

Oh, Shakespeare would have had a field day with the likes of you and James Oberstar. Maybe you should consider turning over the television recording of your “Water, water everywhere?” Freeman Forum Event to one of the theatrical societies in the Twin Cities?

Alan L. Maki
58891 County Road 13
Warroad, Minnesota 56763
Phone: 218-386-2432
Cell phone: 651-587-5541
E-mail: amaki000@centurytel.net

Check out my blog:

Thoughts From Podunk


The article from the Minnesota Environmental Partnership which has been removed to save United States Congressman James Oberstar embarrassment... Oberstar, in his response to my question about his involvement in peat mining in the Big Bog claimed no knowledge and called me a liar for saying he was part of this dirty, racist back-room deal... read for yourself what has been on the web site of the Minnesota Environmental Partnership for a long time:

Please note how Steve Morse and these dirty birds operate; this link used to take one to the article below on the Minnesota Environmental Partnership's web site, now they have made it link to their home page:


There is nothing ambiguous about Congressman James Oberstar orchestrating this dirty, racist, backroom deal... why did the Freeman Forum try so hard to assist Oberstar in concealing these facts from the public?

Peat mining project approved

Monday, December 13, 2004

A peat mining operation in a remote bog in the Pine Island State Forest has received federal permits after years of delays and opposition regarding environmental impacts.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has dropped its concerns and permits have been approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that will allow development to begin on an 840-acre bog 24 miles west of Big Falls, federal and local officials revealed Friday.

A Quebec-based firm, Berger Ltd., has been recruited to develop the project, which will receive substantial state and county aid. Construction could start in 2005.

U.S. Rep. James Oberstar, officials from UMD's Natural Resources Research Institute, Berger representatives and Koochiching County officials will announce the permits Tuesday in Duluth, Oberstar's office announced Friday.

"This has been a great public-private partnership," Oberstar said in a prepared statement.

Minnesota has significant peat reserves but only a few commercial operations. NRRI scientists have tried for years to develop commercial uses and markets for the resource, so far with little success. Competition from low-cost Canadian peat and the relatively low economic value of bagged peat for plant bedding has kept interest low.

The Pine Island project has been in the works since the 1980s, when a report showed vast peat potential in the region. It's been pushed by the Koochiching County Board of Commissioners as sorely needed economic development in an area having little job opportunity, underscored by recent staff cuts at the Boise Cascade paper mill in International Falls.

The new peat operation will create about five full-time and 40 seasonal jobs. The positions, which will pay about $8 an hour, will have a $500,000 annual payroll, and the operation would pump about $2 million into the local economy, a 2001 study showed. Supporters predict spinoff jobs in pallet-making and trucking.

Mike Hanson, the Koochiching County Commissioner who represents Big Falls and who has headed the project in recent years, says the economic impact will help fill a void left when a Boise Cascade mill closed in Big Falls two decades ago.

Big Falls shrunk from 600 to 300 people, he said, and Koochiching County was one of only a few Minnesota counties to lose population in the last census.

"This is a big deal. I've been working on this since 1998. We just kept trying to move it forward, and patience paid off," Hanson said. "It's not just the jobs -- and every job counts up here -- it's being able to have local control over our natural resources. If we didn't win this battle, if we can't use our natural resources to create jobs up here, we won't be able to have any people living up here."

NRRI peat experts say the Pine Island site holds one of northern Minnesota's best deposits of semi-decayed plants, or sphagnum peat, the bedding material nurseries and gardeners use to grow plants.

The bog will be logged, drained and the topsoil removed. The so-called mine is more like a farming operation, with peat sucked off the surface with giant vacuums, then packaged and trucked across the Midwest to be used as bedding material.

Because only a couple inches of peat are vacuumed each year, there's a 30-year supply at the site.

The project's Environmental Impact Statement was approved in 2002. But the EPA had raised sharp concerns over the release of mercury and the quality of water downstream from the mine.

Moreover, Red Lake tribal officials said they didn't want the wild peat land developed near some of their land holdings.

Concerns included the release of methyl mercury, stored inside the peat after falling as pollution from the sky, into nearby ditches and eventually into the Black River that runs through forests to the north. A study conducted for the DNR Environmental Impact Statement shows that mercury levels likely will increase in downstream waters, but not much.

But "even the slightest increase in methyl mercury can be detrimental since direct as well as indirect consumption may lead to increased concentrations at every level of the food chain," a 2001 EPA letter on the project stated.

Federal officials also raised concerns about acidity of the waters, saying runoff from the peat operation could reach unacceptable pH levels. Other issues included dust, effects on wildlife and how the site should be restored to a natural bog after mining ends.

Other project opponents say it's a bad use of state and county taxpayers' money for relatively little economic benefit; some argue the relatively pristine area shouldn't be disturbed.

In recent months, however, both EPA and Red Lake tribal officials have dropped their opposition, clearing the way for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to issue necessary permits.

Related to:

Water Quality & Quantity



Monday, April 14, 2008

More than three billion people condemned to premature death from hunger and thirst

This is a very important essay written by Fidel Castro.

I have to get something off my chest after reading this. Please bear with me.

I used to be able to wear a bikini and look pretty good; now there is droop. No wonder statistics are like a bikini; what they reveal is suggestive, what they conceal is vital.

In this essay Fidel Castro reveals what politicians and big business are trying to conceal.

Here in Minnesota we are doing everything backwards in a way that hurts people and the environment.

My gosh. Water is a major requirement for all life forms including the human body and these bozos are making it so we can't even get a drink of "life" here in the land of ten-thousand lakes. This is a system that politicians pass off to the rest of the world as civilization? It makes me sick. Every time I go to get a drink from my kitchen faucet here in Duluth I have to wonder what the heck is in this water. We are supposed to "trust" these people?

Here on the Iron Range, MinnTac is poisoning every single body of water from the pot-holes ducks require for survival to lakes we swim and fish in. I take the kids fishing and there is a big sign: Don't eat the fish. You listen to the big shots at United States Steel talk about their contaminated water and they will have you thinking it is some kind of health tonic that can cure everything from impotence to aging and is a cure for cancer. I'm surprised they don't bottle the stuff and sell it; ok, they do. It's called "Buhl" water. These people are playing us for suckers. Who the heck would pay for "Buhl" water taken out of the ground right next to a mining operation?

Our largest freshwater aquifer is being destroyed- the Big Bog. What are these people thinking? This is what passes for intelligence in this country?

Then on the western side of the state where farmers should be growing crops to feed the hungry people who are starving and going to bed hungry the politicians have taken our tax money to subsidize ethanol production. Again corporations profit. We lose. People starve to death. What kind of people come up with these schemes? If you question them they get all huffy and puffy and they accuse you of being disrespectful and rude. I don't think these politicians understand that we pay their wages and they are supposed to work for us not big companies. I have visited people in mental institutions who are more "with it" than these politicians.

Then these politicians turn around and raise the gas tax. This is a cut in our standard of living. The rich don't care if they pay fifty cents or $5.00 a gallon for gas. To them this is nothing but a kickback to themselves because they all have big investments in the oil companies. The cut in our standard of living is creating more wealth for them. Just because they think they have done a good job brainwashing us into stupidity in their schools doesn't mean we are too dumb to figure all this out.

What we need is some politicians who think like Fidel Castro. Castro is a sick old man but he thinks more clearly than any of these stupid idiots in the Cities or in Congress.

I feel like writing in Fidel Castro's name for President on Election Day. If Fidel Castro ended up getting a few thousand write-in votes here in Minnesota someone might get the message that Minnesotans are not happy campers.

Look at the picture of Fidel and Che below... even with Che dead there is more smarts between the two of them than these dead-heads that call themselves politicians down in the Cities.


More than three billion people condemned to premature death from hunger and thirst

By Fidel Castro

143/04/08 "Granma " -- - THAT is not an exaggerated figure, but rather a cautious one. I have meditated a lot on that in the wake of President Bush’s meeting with U.S. automobile manufacturers.

The sinister idea of converting food into fuel was definitively established as an economic line in U.S. foreign policy last Monday, March 26.

A cable from the AP, the U.S. news agency that reaches all corners of the world, states verbatim:

“WASHINGTON, March 26 (AP). President Bush touted the benefits of ‘flexible fuel’ vehicles running on ethanol and biodiesel on Monday, meeting with automakers to boost support for his energy plans.

“Bush said a commitment by the leaders of the domestic auto industry to double their production of flex-fuel vehicles could help motorists shift away from gasoline and reduce the nation's reliance on imported oil.

‘“That's a major technological breakthrough for the country,’ Bush said after inspecting three alternative vehicles. If the nation wants to reduce gasoline use, he said “the consumer has got to be in a position to make a rational choice.”

“The president urged Congress to ‘move expeditiously’ on legislation the administration recently proposed to require the use of 35 billion gallons of alternative fuels by 2017 and seek higher fuel economy standards for automobiles.

“Bush met with General Motors Corp. chairman and chief executive Rick Wagoner, Ford Motor Co. chief executive Alan Mulally and DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group chief executive Tom LaSorda.

“They discussed support for flex-fuel vehicles, attempts to develop ethanol from alternative sources like switchgrass and wood chips and the administration's proposal to reduce gas consumption by 20 percent in 10 years.

“The discussions came amid rising gasoline prices. The latest Lundberg Survey found the nationwide average for gasoline has risen 6 cents per gallon in the past two weeks to $2.61.”

I believe that reducing and moreover recycling all motors that run on electricity and fuel is an elemental and urgent need for all humanity. The tragedy does not lie in reducing those energy costs but in the idea of converting food into fuel.

It is known very precisely today that one ton of corn can only produce 413 liters of ethanol on average, according to densities. That is equivalent to 109 gallons.

The average price of corn in U.S. ports has risen to $167 per ton. Thus, 320 million tons of corn would be required to produce 35 billion gallons of ethanol.

According to FAO figures, the U.S. corn harvest rose to 280.2 million tons in the year 2005.

Although the president is talking of producing fuel derived from grass or wood shavings, anyone can understand that these are phrases totally lacking in realism. Let’s be clear: 35 billion gallons translates into 35 followed by nine zeros!

Afterwards will come beautiful examples of what experienced and well-organized U.S. farmers can achieve in terms of human productivity by hectare: corn converted into ethanol; the chaff from that corn converted into animal feed containing 26% protein; cattle dung used as raw material for gas production. Of course, this is after voluminous investments only within the reach of the most powerful enterprises, in which everything has to be moved on the basis of electricity and fuel consumption. Apply that recipe to the countries of the Third World and you will see that people among the hungry masses of the Earth will no longer eat corn. Or something worse: lend funding to poor countries to produce corn ethanol based on corn or any other food and not a single tree will be left to defend humanity from climate change.

Other countries in the rich world are planning to use not only corn but also wheat, sunflower seeds, rapeseed and other foods for fuel production. For the Europeans, for example, it would become a business to import all of the world’s soybeans with the aim of reducing the fuel costs for their automobiles and feeding their animals with the chaff from that legume, particularly rich in all types of essential amino acids.

In Cuba, alcohol used to be produced as a byproduct of the sugar industry after having made three extractions of sugar from cane juice. Climate change is already affecting our sugar production. Lengthy periods of drought alternating with record rainfall, that barely make it possible to produce sugar with an adequate yield during the 100 days of our very moderate winter; hence, there is less sugar per ton of cane or less cane per hectare due to prolonged drought in the months of planting and cultivation.

I understand that in Venezuela they would be using alcohol not for export but to improve the environmental quality of their own fuel. For that reason, apart from the excellent Brazilian technology for producing alcohol, in Cuba the use of such a technology for the direct production of alcohol from sugar cane juice is no more than a dream or the whim of those carried away by that idea. In our country, land handed over to the direct production of alcohol could be much useful for food production for the people and for environmental protection.

All the countries of the world, rich and poor, without any exception, could save millions and millions of dollars in investment and fuel simply by changing all the incandescent light bulbs for fluorescent ones, an exercise that Cuba has carried out in all homes throughout the country. That would provide a breathing space to resist climate change without killing the poor masses through hunger.

As can be observed, I am not using adjectives to qualify the system and the lords of the earth. That task can be excellently undertaken by news experts and honest social, economic and political scientists abounding in the world who are constantly delving into to the present and future of our species. A computer and the growing number of Internet networks are sufficient for that.

Today, we are seeing for the first time a really globalized economy and a dominant power in the economic, political and military terrain that in no way resembles that of Imperial Rome.

Some people will be asking themselves why I am talking of hunger and thirst. My response to that: it is not about the other side of the coin, but about several sides of something else, like a die with six sides, or a polyhedron with many more sides.

I refer in this case to an official news agency, founded in 1945 and generally well-informed about economic and social questions in the world: TELAM. It said, and I quote:

“In just 18 years, close to 2 billion people will be living in countries and regions where water will be a distant memory. Two-thirds of the world’s population could be living in places where that scarcity produces social and economic tensions of such a magnitude that it could lead nations to wars for the precious ‘blue gold.’

“Over the last 100 years, the use of water has increased at a rate twice as fast as that of population growth.

“According to statistics from the World Water Council, it is estimated that by 2015, the number of inhabitants affected by this grave situation will rise by 3.5 billion people.

“The United Nations celebrated World Water Day on March 23, and called to begin confronting, that very day, the international scarcity of water, under the coordination of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), with the goal of highlighting the increasing importance of water scarcity on a global scale, and the need for greater integration and cooperation that would make it possible to guarantee sustained and efficient management of water resources.

“Many regions on the planet are suffering from severe water shortages, living with less than 500 cubic meters per person per year. The number of regions suffering from chronic scarcity of this vital element is increasingly growing.

“The principal consequences of water scarcity are an insufficient amount of the precious liquid for producing food, the impossibility of industrial, urban and tourism development and health problems.”

That was the TELEAM cable.

In this case I will refrain from mentioning other important facts, like the melting ice in Greenland and the Antarctic, damage to the ozone layer and the growing volume of mercury in many species of fish for common consumption.

There are other issues that could be addressed, but with these lines I am just trying to comment on President Bush’s meeting with the principal executives of U.S. automakers.

March 28, 2007

Fidel Castro.

Translated by Granma International

Sunday, April 6, 2008

USA 2008: The Great Depression

Friends, I don't know how much more clearly anyone can spell the problems out. All I can say is, "read on."

I wonder what Gus Hall would have had to say about all of this?

Again, I think Alan Maki is bang on in his questions and comments.


Sam Webb's degrees in bourgeois economics are not serving the needs of the working class or our Party... this article bears that out

Question: Why hasn’t there been in-depth, documented coverage of this in the People’s Weekly World and Political Affairs?

Question: Why has the Economics Commission of the CPUSA not responded to this with any solutions?

Comment: There is only one way to turn the economy and head off a massive depression. This will take a massive re-distribution of wealth; not only in the United States, but around the world.

Comment: There has not been one peep about this solution from Sam Webb, Scott Marshall, Judith LeBlanc or Jarvis Tyner and the National Committee of the CPUSA has not insisted on any explanations.

Question: Why? Why have we not had any Marxist class analysis of the economic problems working people, the country and the world are beginning to experience which we all know is only the beginning of what is going to be a massive economic problem?

Comment: Sam Webb has been relying on his own bourgeois economics citing his university degrees in economics. These degrees in bourgeois economics do not prepare Communist leaders to respond to capitalist economic crisis from a working class perspective.

The Communist Party Districts in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana--- the heartland of industrial production have REFUSED to so much as acknowledge what this bourgeois publication notes has been going on for quite some time.

The Communist Party convened regional conferences in New York, Chicago and on the West Coast and it was like no one even knew, or cared, about the economic crisis which was well underway.

There is a lot of talk about maintaining “flexible tactics and strategies” coming from the so-called revisionist “leaders” of the CPUSA. The National Committee of the CPUSA needs to demonstrate the courage to bring forward real working class leaders who will be able to adequately respond to the capitalist crisis which is well underway.

The first thing that needs to be done is we need the re-building and re-establishment of active and energetic Communist Party Clubs built up around a sound Marxist-Leninist educational program that will simultaneously work to mobilize the working class around a massive grassroots and rank and file effort to very substantially raise the minimum wage to a real living--- non-poverty--- minimum wage. This means uniting the working class to fight for linking the minimum wage directly to a legislative mandate instructing the United States Department of Labor and the Bureau of Labor Statistics to scientifically calculate what is required for a real living income based upon real facts defining the cost of living and any inflationary increases.

The current trade union leadership is not going to move on a program of this nature now, and it never will. We need to get our hands dirty and get ourselves immersed in the struggle using the issue of the minimum wage to create a massive transfer of wealth.

Using the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights as our guide to action we should be able to establish committees for its implementation all over the country. These committees will then become fertile grounds to recruit to the Party.

One-million dollar office renovations and You Tube videos don’t take the place of the kind of grassroots and rank and file initiatives required. If the Party can raise one-million dollars for office renovations there should be no reason why it can’t raise ten-million dollars for the class struggle.

Our publications, the PWW and PA, should focus on these kinds of initiatives and become the standard bearers demanding full implementation of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Millennium Statement calling for the alleviation of, and an end, to poverty.

A major part of re-distributing wealth involves organizing around the public ownership of closing plants… it is immoral and false economics to allow perfectly good plant like the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant, mines, mills and factories to close and be demolished… not only are we allowing important capital which itself is wealth to be destroyed, we are allowing the ruling class to destroy the means the working class needs to create more wealth. For a Communist Party to sit idly by as the means needed to create the wealth needed to extricate the working class from poverty borders on the criminal.

One expects the dumb donkeys of the Democratic Party to sit back and allow capital to dictate--- after all, the Democratic Party is a Party of capital; however, when you have a bunch of dumb clucks and egg-head professors holding up university degrees in bourgeois economics as justification for their holding high leadership positions in the Communist Party USA and they place a one-million dollar renovation of Party offices before the class struggle as the country is well into an economic crisis being severely exacerbated by wars and military spending, this is an entirely different matter. When we don’t see the Communist Party growing by leaps and bounds under these circumstances it only means one thing: the leadership of the Party has withdrawn from the class struggle.

It is not for bourgeois candidates that the Party should be going door to door and distributing leaflets at plant gates, and producing You Tube videos… it is for building resistance, to break free from, the strangle-hold capital has on the working class.

Something to think about around the dinner table.

Alan L. Maki

USA 2008: The Great Depression

Food stamps are the symbol of poverty in the US. In the era
of the credit crunch, a record 28 million Americans are now
relying on them to survive - a sure sign the world's richest
country faces economic crisis

By David Usborne in New York

April 1, 2008, The Independent/UK


We knew things were bad on Wall Street, but on Main Street it
may be worse. Startling official statistics show that as a
new economic recession stalks the United States, a record
number of Americans will shortly be depending on food stamps
just to feed themselves and their families.

Dismal projections by the Congressional Budget Office in
Washington suggest that in the fiscal year starting in
October, 28 million people in the US will be using government
food stamps to buy essential groceries, the highest level
since the food assistance programme was introduced in the

The increase - from 26.5 million in 2007 - is due partly to
recent efforts to increase public awareness of the programme
and also a switch from paper coupons to electronic debit
cards. But above all it is the pressures being exerted on
ordinary Americans by an economy that is suddenly beset by
troubles. Housing foreclosures, accelerating jobs losses and
fast-rising prices all add to the squeeze.

Emblematic of the downturn until now has been the parades of
houses seized in foreclosure all across the country, and
myriad families separated from their homes. But now the
crisis is starting to hit the country in its gut. Getting
food on the table is a challenge many Americans are finding
harder to meet. As a barometer of the country's economic
health, food stamp usage may not be perfect, but can
certainly tell a story.

Michigan has been in its own mini-recession for years as its
collapsing industrial base, particularly in the car industry,
has cast more and more out of work. Now, one in eight
residents of the state is on food stamps, double the level in
2000. "We have seen a dramatic increase in recent years, but
we have also seen it climbing more in recent months," Maureen
Sorbet, a spokeswoman for Michigan's programme, said. "It's
been increasing steadily. Without the programme, some
families and kids would be going without."

But the trend is not restricted to the rust-belt regions.
Forty states are reporting increases in applications for the
stamps, actually electronic cards that are filled
automatically once a month by the government and are swiped
by shoppers at the till, in the 12 months from December 2006.
At least six states, including Florida, Arizona and Maryland,
have had a 10 per cent increase in the past year.

In Rhode Island, the segment of the population on food stamps
has risen by 18 per cent in two years. The food programme
started 40 years ago when hunger was still a daily fact of
life for many Americans. The recent switch from paper coupons
to the plastic card system has helped remove some of the
stigma associated with the food stamp programme. The card can
be swiped as easily as a bank debit card. To qualify for the
cards, Americans do not have to be exactly on the breadline.
The programme is available to people whose earnings are just
above the official poverty line. For Hubert Liepnieks, the
card is a lifeline he could never afford to lose. Just out of
prison, he sleeps in overnight shelters in Manhattan and uses
the card at a Morgan Williams supermarket on East 23rd
Street. Yesterday, he and his fiancée, Christine Schultz, who
is in a wheelchair, shared one banana and a cup of coffee
bought with the 82 cents left on it.

"They should be refilling it in the next three or four days,"
Liepnieks says. At times, he admits, he and friends bargain
with owners of the smaller grocery shops to trade the value
of their cards for cash, although it is illegal. "It can be
done. I get $7 back on $10."

Richard Enright, the manager at this Morgan Williams, says
the numbers of customers on food stamps has been steady but
he expects that to rise soon. "In this location, it's still
mostly old people and people who have retired from city jobs
on stamps," he says. Food stamp money was designed to
supplement what people could buy rather than covering all the
costs of a family's groceries. But the problem now, Mr
Enright says, is that soaring prices are squeezing the value
of the benefits.

"Last St Patrick's Day, we were selling Irish soda bread for
$1.99. This year it was $2.99. Prices are just spiralling up,
because of the cost of gas trucking the food into the city
and because of commodity prices. People complain, but I tell
them it's not my fault everything is more expensive."

The US Department of Agriculture says the cost of feeding a
low-income family of four has risen 6 per cent in 12 months.
"The amount of food stamps per household hasn't gone up with
the food costs," says Dayna Ballantyne, who runs a food bank
in Des Moines, Iowa. "Our clients are finding they aren't
able to purchase food like they used to."

And the next monthly job numbers, to be released this Friday,
are likely to show 50,000 more jobs were lost nationwide in
March, and the unemployment rate is up to perhaps 5 per cent.


Alan L. Maki
58891 County Road 13
Warroad, Minnesota 56763
Phone: 218-386-2432
Cell phone: 651-587-5541
E-mail: amaki000@centurytel.net

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