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Ernest Lund

Straight Talk

(29 May 1944)

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 22, 29 May 1944, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

(The author of Plenty for All now writes a column for Labor Action)

Capitalists are the most class-conscious people in the world. The capitalist class of America is no exception in this respect. Despite their family quarrels over how to divide the wealth that is produced by labor and appropriated by capital, the capitalists all stand shoulder to shoulder when they sense any danger to their system of robbery.

Some capitalists call themselves Republicans, while others call themselves Democrats (though many of them contribute money to both capitalist parties).

Some are Protestants; others are Catholics or Jews. Some believe in no religion.

Most of them are of the white race, a few are colored.

They may represent many different opinions on a whole series of questions, even serious questions.

But They Are United

But one question finds all capitalists standing united, regardless of politics, race or creed. That is the defense of their “sacred” system of “private enterprise,” as they hypocritically call it – or; the system of capitalist exploitation, as honest men call it.

For the last year or so we have been witnessing a wonderful demonstration of class solidarity by the capitalists of this country. I refer to the flood of propaganda pouring out of the capitalist newspapers, magazines and radio stations in defense of the “private enterprise” system.

It was unloosed with the article on Your Stake in Capitalism by Eric Johnston, .president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which appeared in the Reader’s Digest a year and a half ago. Since then we hardly ever pick up the Saturday Evening post, Liberty, Collier’s or others of the slick-cover magazines, without finding an article devoted to the theme of “private enterprise.” Its virtues are sung by nine out of ten newspaper columnists and it has become the recurring theme for editorials in the capitalist press from the big metropolitan dailies to the small country weeklies.

Why All the Shouting?

What brought about this amazing unity of capitalist propaganda, this united front of big papers and little ones; of Roosevelt-haters and Roosevelt-supporters,, of the interventionist New York Times and the isolationist Chicago Tribune?

What has made it necessary that every politician – from reactionary Southern Democrats and reactionary Northern Republicans to liberals like Vice-President Wallace – somewhere in every speech cross himself and declare that he believes in the inviolability of “private enterprise”?

There is only one reason to, account for the present fears of the capitalist class. They realize that it is going to be tough going in this country after the war. They don’t believe a word of all the beautiful post-war promises which they and their hirelings are handing out to the working people. They only hope that they can succeed in hoodwinking enough people to trust capitalism to provide work for everybody after the war. They hope that the working class will be meek and submissive in the period after the war when our war jobs have folded up and nothing else has come into sight. They hope that they can convince enough workers to hunger in silence while waiting for the “private enterprise” paradise that has been promised us.

If they succeed, the capitalist class will be given a “breathing spell,” during which they can prepare to defend capitalism with much sterner stuff than newspaper propaganda.

They Smell Danger

This reveals not only remarkable class solidarity and class consciousness. It also reveals a remarkably acute sensitivity to any threatening dangers to their class interests.

They realize, perhaps even more than we socialists do, that capitalism will be put to the most severe test in its history during the post-war period, Europe will be in revolutionary turmoil. The colonial world will take a deep breath and try to rise to its feet. Millions of veterans will return to seek the jobs and security they were promised. They will be swallowed up in the ranks of the greater millions of unemployed home front workers. Wages will be cut. Farm prices will go down. And every solution that will be worth serious attention will tread upon the sacred toes of capital.

The capitalists realize this and are already showing how they can stand shoulder to shoulder when their ancient privilege to live by the toil of others stands in danger.

Will the workers learn in sufficient time also to stand shoulder to shoulder? Will they recover from the New Deal hangover in short enough time to close their ranks in a show of class solidarity? Will they learn the bitter lessons quickly enough to develop the class consciousness necessary to stop voting across class lines and build their own working class party?

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