Copyright
John Strachey.

Hope in America online

. (page 1 of 12)
Online LibraryJohn StracheyHope in America → online text (page 1 of 12)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


HOPE IN
M AMERICA

^ by JOHN STRACHEY



THE STRUGGLE FOR POWER IN THE UNITED STATES






From the collection of the



7

m



Prelinger
v Jjibrary

t P



San Francisco, California
2006



The Book and the Author

For a European to write a book about America is not unprece-
dented. As a rule, such a book contains the "delightful" impres-
sions of some more or less distinguished visitor to the barbarian
wilds of Manhattan and Main Street.

Much rarer is it for one of Europe's outstanding thinkers a
political scientist and economist of international reputation
to evaluate America for Americans. Hope in America is John
Strachey's clear and full analysis of the United States of the
New Deal and after.

Thousands of Americans from coast to coast have heard Mr.
Strachey lecture. They have left the lecture hall with many
doubts and many questions. Thousands more have read his books.
Still they have wondered how, exactly, America fits into the pic-
ture. Is it different? What does Mr. Strachey think of the Roose-
velt spending program? What should our foreign policy be?

These and the many other questions which Mr. Strachey has
a genius for anticipating are answered in this volume. As always,
they are answered in the simplest and clearest language. Not
one technical table or sentence is in these pages, addressed to
that four-fifths of the American people who work for wages or
salaries.

John Strachey has become the leading Marxist spokesman to
the middle classes of Britain and America "the revolution-
ary ambassador that Marxism has sent to argue the proletarian
cause," as someone has put it Certain it is that to him is due,
in great part, the credit for giving to "the man in the street" a
clear conception of the case for socialism and of its program
and organizations.

Now, in Hope in America, he shows how the struggle for
power affects the United States and more specifically the indi-
vidual American worker and salary earner. His program of
political action will come as a severe shock to those who would
expect a plea for an armed uprising.

Mr. Strachey is thirty-six years old. He has been in the United
States five times. His books, particularly The Coming Struggle
for Power, have had enormous sales, both here and abroad.



Books by John Strachey



THE COMING STRUGGLE FOR POWER

THE MENACE OF FASCISM

LITERATURE AND DIALECTICAL MATERIALISM

THE NATURE OF CAPITALIST CRISIS

THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF SOCIALISM

WHAT ARE WE TO DO?






fa



John Strachey





MODERN AGE BOOKS
NEW YORK



COPYRIGHT 1938 BY JOHN STRACHEY
PUBLISHED BY MODERN AGE BOOKS, INC.

All rights in this book are reserved, and it may not be repro-
duced in whole or in part without written permission from the
holder of these rights. For information address the publishers.



60
Printed in the United States of America



CONTENTS

CHAPTER

f

Introduction. 1

I America, Peace and the World. 3

II The Secret in the Pay Envelope. 15

III How the Present System Works. 29

IV Who Is to Buy the Goods? 45

V Mr. Roosevelt's Answer. 55

VI Public Works and Private Hates. 75

VII Giving People the Money. 87

VIII The Imperialist Answer. 101

IX America's Choice. 115

X Must We Die for Their Markets? 127

XI What Can We Put in Its Place? 141

XII "I Have Seen the Future and It Works." 163

XIII What Would Socialism Be Like Here? 183

XIV How to Get There. 197

XV There Is Hope in America. 213



Introduction

I AM thirty-six years old. So I was brought up to believe that
the world was getting better. But it is getting worse.

Over in Europe most people realize that the world is be-
coming a worse place to live in. You in America often use
the phrase "Europe is done for." If you mean by that that the
European continent has ceased to matter, and can be left out
of account, you are, I am afraid, quite wrong. But if you
mean that Europe is, at best, faced with terrible trials and
struggles before she can again be a force for good in the
world, then I think that you are right.

This book is written in the belief that America still has
the chance of finding her way forward without going through
all that seems to be in store for Europe. A chance. . . .



Chapt



er



America, Peace and the World

j . r . When people think about the world today,

Is u LiOming i+ii .11

n ,? they feel that war is coming back.

Goodness knows, that is nothing new. But
today two things are making people feel differently about the
prospect of another war from what people have ever felt
before. In the first place, modern war is, or at any rate
seems, worse than war has ever been before. The instruments
of destruction are swifter, more awful, more annihilating.

Secondly, we know much more about what is happening in
the world than people have ever done before. In former cen-
turies the most frightful wars might be raging in China, or
in Eastern Europe, and people in America might hardly be
aware of their existence. Today war, and to a large extent
even an acute threat of war, anywhere in the world alarms
and disturbs people all over the world. And inevitably so.
For, not only has our knowledge of what is happening in the
rest of the world become a thousand times greater than it has
ever been before, but so also has our connection with the rest
of the world. So wars are far more likely to spread and to
turn into world wars than at any previous period.



HOPE IN AMERICA

mr D Finally, a new idea has been born, or per-

1 fie reople J r

H D mt P S ou S nt on v to c l aim has been half -born,

, D in the mind of the people. The birth of this

of reace. . . ,

new idea is potentially the greatest and best

event in the history of humanity. The idea has been born in
the mind of the people that it might be possible to prevent war
(both international war and civil war) altogether; that it
might be possible for the human race to live in permanent
peace. We do not always realize how new is even the dimmest
suspicion in the mind of man that such a thing might be pos-
sible. To all previous generations of men the recurrence of
war has seemed a wholly natural and inevitable thing. It is an
immense gain that the very idea of the possibility of peace
should exist in the world.

And yet, for the moment, the very fact that the idea of the
possibility of peace exists makes people more terrified of the
coming of a new war than ever before. For if you regard
something as quite inevitable and natural, why then, however
awful it is, you somehow learn to put up with it. But, if you
think that maybe the horror can be prevented, then your panic
is apt, if you do not take tight control of yourself and think
clearly and act decisively, to be all the greater.

Thus the fact that the people have dreamt of peace will
only bring peace in actual fact if men conquer their fears
sufficiently to think calmly on the causes of war; and above
all if, when they have ascertained beyond doubt what these
causes are, they act decisively to remove them.

The main part of this book is devoted to an attempt to show
what are the causes of war. But I must explain at once that,



AMERICA, PEACE AND THE WORLD

when I speak of war, I mean not only war between two na-
tions, but all forms of armed, violent struggle between or-
ganized bodies of human beings. I mean, in a word, civil war,
such as the Spanish Civil War, just as much as international
war.

Indeed, so soon as we attempt any examination of the pres-
ent world situation, almost the first thing that we see is that
the distinction between the two kinds of armed violence, be-
tween international and civil war, is breaking down. The
Spanish war is both a civil war between the classes of the
Spanish people, the landlords and capitalists on one side, and
the workers and peasants, and much of the middle class, on
the other, and at the same time it is an international war
caused by the invasion of Spain by German and Italian
armed forces.

Wh t J tli Again, the war in the Far East is obviously

^ , not just an ordinary or, as I might call it, old-

Q Y ? fashioned war between two nations. No war

between the Chinese and Japanese govern-
ments, for instance, has ever been declared. Japanese armies
have simply landed in China and fought their way into the
interior. But in doing so they have produced a unity of the
Chinese people which had hitherto been fighting in a civil war
of one class against another. In general, therefore, the two
forms of human struggle are closely interwoven today.

This is even more true in the case of the war which threat-
ens to engulf Europe than in the case of the actual war in the
Far East. As everybody knows, what are called the aggressor
powers in Europe are the Fascist powers. Now the Fascist



HOPE IN AMERICA

powers are those in which the organizations of the wage
earners, namely their trade-unions, their co-operative societies
and their labor parties, have been crushed out of existence,
and in which the rule of the capitalist class is quite unchecked
by popular opinion. And it is precisely because the ruling
classes of these Fascist states have, for the time being, won
the struggle with their own working classes that they are able
to launch their nations upon the path of world aggression.
So in this case also it is by no means simply a case of the
danger of one nation attacking another. Every kind of
struggle is mixed up with every other kind.

The result is that Europe is a seething cauldron of the most
violent, terrible and ruthless forms of struggle. In parts of
Europe human life has become so intolerable that a number
of the best, most humane and most civilized men simply com-
mit suicide (as have many well-known Austrians, of all sorts
of political opinions, races and creeds, when their country
was annexed by Nazi Germany) . Is there any room for doubt
that some basic cause must be at work which is making it
impossible for men to live ordinary peaceful, reasonable
lives; which is driving them into these deadly struggles;
which is, quite simply, driving them mad?

T1 In America, I am told, most people's reac-

How Can , i , , '

, ~ tion to the spectacle presented by the rest of

We Keep . r . J

s\ i T Q the world is simply: now can we keep out of

Out of Itr .,.,, i

it? It is a most natural and sensible reaction.

But I am afraid that it may be based on a misconception. For
I am afraid that the future will show that however much



AMERICA, PEACE AND THE WORLD

America strives to keep out of the world, the world will not
keep out of America.

What I mean is this. The same fundamental causes which
are creating every kind of strife in the rest of the world are
at work in America also. Those causes, as most of the chap-
ters of this book will be devoted to showing, all flow from
the broad fact that the economic system under which we live
is working intolerably badly. Is there really any doubt but
that this is what is at the bottom of the world's troubles?
Surely we have no need to prove any elaborate and special
'interpretation of History' in order to be able to agree that, if,
for any reason, masses of people find it impossible to make
their livings, the world is bound to fall into disorder and
violence? Is there the slightest doubt that what has checked,
stopped and now reversed the undoubted progress which the
world was making up till recent times is that our economic
system is going to bits?

99 As a matter of fact, everyday speech reveals
- that people really know this to be true. When

D j T- 99 people want to refer to periods when the eco-
Dod limes.

nomic system is working comparatively well

they speak of 'good times.' When they want to describe
periods when the system is working especially badly they
speak of 'bad times,' or 'hard times.* These phrases reveal
that people really know that it is only when the economic
basis of society is reasonably sound that anything else can



HOPE IN AMERICA

go well; that a breakdown in economic life must mean,
sooner rather than later, a breakdown or deterioration in
everything else. Surely then there is really not the slightest
doubt but that the horror and chaos which has come to us in
Europe is a result of a breakdown in our existing way of
making our livings, and of our failure to put any other way
in its place. For how can people whose very possibility of
peaceful existence has been destroyed avoid attacking each
other and their neighbors in a desperate struggle for survival?
But the same factors which have made the economic life of
Europe, and much of the rest of the world, go wrong, are
operating in the United States of America. I do not see how
anyone can any longer doubt this very grave fact. The ap-
pearance of the present (1937-38) economic slump is surely
the final proof of it. After all, this is the second time within
ten years that the whole economic life of the North American
continent has become violently disordered. This is the second
time within ten years that millions of honest, industrious
American citizens have suddenly found themselves in the
horrible position of being unable to make a living. It would
be almost incredible if it had not happened, would it not?
When you think of the vast natural resources of America, of
the splendid technical skill of the American people, of the
unique spirit of enterprise and independence which there is
in America, it seems unbelievable that these 122 million
gifted and well-placed citizens should somehow have got
themselves so tied up that they cannot make their livings.

8



AMERICA, PEACE AND THE WORLD

j s j Some people, of course, say that it is all a

p ,. . p matter of politics that the trouble is due to

the policies of some particular administration,
which they object to. But it does not seem possible that this
can be true. For, after all, the last great slump, which began
in 1929, took place under the extremely conservative Repub-
lican administration of Mr. Hoover. And this slump is devel-
oping under the progressive Democratic administration of
Mr. Roosevelt. I believe that the fact that the American
people have a progressive administration in office in this sec-
ond emergency will be of great service to them. They will get
adequate relief, etc., years earlier than they did last time.
But, evidently, the onset of slump itself is due to causes which
go far deeper than the kind of administration which may be
in office at the given time. And these are the same causes
which have in the end produced the disorders and disasters of
the Europe of today. The following chapters say plainly
what these causes are and how they can be removed.

a/f 7 ,7 It is true that America has many great ad-

Make the _ . _ _ , . _

a* , -rr vantages, not enjoyed by the rest of the world,

Most of Your ,.,,,, ,, , , , . , ,

, j which should enable her to deal with her prob-

Advantages. r .
lems much more successfully than Europe is

doing. Her geographical position, her great strength, her
self-sufficiency, above all the fact that she is one united na-
tion covering almost the whole North American continent
all these things are colossal advantages. Every European
must say to Americans, "Make the very most of these advan-
tages. But all they can do for you is to give you the oppor-



HOPE IN AMERICA

tunity to solve your problems. No nation, however strong, can
finally solve those problems alone. No one in this world is so
strong that he can afford to be alone. No people which is en-
gaged in the arduous, complex struggle to solve its own social
and economic problems can afford to neglect the assistance of
other peoples engaged in that same task."
j And this brings me to the matter which I

Q t p alluded to in the introduction to this book.
Many Americans are said to feel that because
Europe today presents so horrible a spectacle, Europe is
"done for," in the sense that it has ceased to count in the
world. If they think this, then I am afraid that they are in for
a very painful awakening. What is happening in Europe is a
process by which what we call the Fascist states are, with ex-
treme violence and destruction, absorbing the rest. The logical
end to that program, if it does not meet with effective, com-
bined opposition from the still free peoples, is a Fascist Eur-
ope. And a Fascist Europe would be very far from "done for"
in the sense that it would not count in the world. It would be a
Europe in which the people had no rights, no voice, no choice,
and very little to eat; a Europe half barrack and half prison;
a Europe without art, literature or humanity; a Europe with-
out liberty, without mercy and without hope. It would be a
Europe which would count wholly for ill. But it would be
a Europe which would count a great deal; a Europe, not only
extremely aggressive, but also extremely formidable.

Europe, after all, is a fairly large continent. Moreover, it
is inhabited by nearly four times the number of persons who

10



AMERICA, PEACE AND THE WORLD

inhabit the United States of America. These four hundred
million odd people, united for aggression under Fascist con-
trol, would be a menace to every nation in the world, includ-
ing America. Therefore the struggle to avoid the appearance
of such a wholly evil world as that concerns the American
people, no more, but no less, than any other people.
L t Am 'a ^ * s true ' however, that the American
Sh th people's greatest contribution of all to the de-

jpr feat of the forces which today darken the

world with war, and the threat of war, will be
for them to solve their own economic and social problems. If
the American people can find the answer to their own prob-
lems, then the force of their constructive example can be of
decisive importance for the whole world. It can show the
world how a people can learn to live in peace.

The American people have to find the answer to what should
be, surely, the simple question of how 122 million highly
skilled, superbly equipped, energetic, enterprising people can
make their livings on the richest continent in the world. For,
after all, the answer to that question has not yet been found.
The first step to finding it is, surely, to determine what it is
which is preventing the American people from making their
livings today.



11



Chapter II



The Secret in the Pay Envelope



Wh W C 9 t ( I uest ^ ons are th en: Why can't we

,, , make our livings? Why is our economic system

r . . functioning worse and worse?

The point of this chapter, and for that mat-
ter of most of those that follow it, is that the answer can be
found inside the pay envelope which every one who works
for wages gets at the end of the week. When we have found
what wages are, why most people nowadays live on wages,
and what fixes the amount of their wages, we shall be in a
position to understand the whole contemporary economic and
social setup.

Put in a nutshell, what we shall find is that our present way
of arranging our economic life distributes the products of
our joint work so irrationally, and above all so unevenly,
that sooner or later the whole system must jam. And that
sooner or later is now. We shall find that the capitalist sys-
tem, as it is commonly called, has got so lopsided that it won't
work any more. That is why we can't make our livings.

The mass of the American people have only their wages to
depend on. Their wages are not, and under capitalism cannot

15



HOPE IN AMERICA

be made, sufficient to buy enough goods and services to keep
industry and agriculture going and so keep them themselves
in jobs. That's all.

F ut f ^ et me now J ust *fy these statements. Is it

r . T . true to say that the mass of the American

rive Live on - .

j^r people live on wages: It is. The census of

1930 revealed that four out of five of those
gainfully employed in America were wage or salary earners.
And, of course, a salary is a wage paid monthly or quarterly
and called a salary to make it sound grander.*

Is it true to say that the wages that these four-fifths of the
American people got were not high enough to enable them to
buy the final output of the productive system? It is. For if
their wages had been high enough they would have bought
the entire output of the productive system and there would
not have been any unemployment or slump.

A c f That seems to me to be something which we

A Story of . &

,,,, n t can all see for ourselves. But in case you
Three Profes- _ _ ... _ _ ...

would like an authority to support it, I will
sors. . , r * T i i

quote the words of the exceedingly authorita-
tive, and exceedingly conservative, professors of the Brook-
ings Institution. These gentlemen, to wit Professors Leven,
Moulton and Warburton, in their exceedingly authoritative,
and exceedingly conservative, book America's Capacity to
Consume, write this sentence as the essence of the third of
their four "fundamental conclusions":

*For the full table see Americas Capacity to Consume, p. 31.

16



THE SECRET IN THE PAY ENVELOPE

"The trouble is clearly not lack of desire but lack of pur-
chasing power."

In a word, Professors Leven, Moulton and Warburton ar-
rived, no doubt after many years of patient research, at the
"fundamental conclusion" that the reason why the mass of
the American people did not buy more goods and services
was because they didn't have the money.
A ( AI *\ For my part I can only lift my hat in silent

\ ^ / ! Tk r T Tl/TI 1 \vr

0-7 T -L tribute to Professors Leven, Moulton and War-
Silent Tribute. , _ ,.,-,

burton, ror think of all the reasons to which

they might have attributed the fact that the mass of the
American people did not buy enough goods to keep industry
going and themselves in employment! They might have sup-
posed that it was because too many of them lived in towns
(as Mr. Ford thinks) ; or that it was because too many of
them lived in the country; or that it was because the weather
had been too hot; or too cold; or that it was because people
suffered from B.O. (as the advertisements say) and didn't
like to go into the stores; or that it was because there were
spots on the sun (an English professor did once suggest this) ;
or that it was because the American people just didn't want
anything more than they already had. It might have been sup-
posed that the American people didn't buy more stuff for any
or all of these reasons.

But with unerring eyes, and no doubt after monumental
labors, the three professors have told us the real reason.
The American people didn't buy the stuff because they didn't
have the money. And our three professors, to wit Professor

17



HOPE IN AMERICA

Leven, Professor Moulton and Professor Warburton, em-
bodied this "fundamental conclusion" in their authoritative
work America's Capacity to Consume. So now we know.
What would we do without our professors?

What A ^ Ut ' ^ course > we Can9t ag k everything

jP P from our professors. For instance, we can't

ask the question, what are wages? What is
this sum of money which we find when we look into the pay
envelope at the end of the week? This, to be sure, is the
money we use to buy food and clothes and fuel and to pay
the rent to live on. But where does it come from? What
makes it sometimes get bigger and sometimes get smaller?
And why is it never big enough for us to buy all the things
which could be produced?

When we have found the answers to these questions, we
shall be in a position to understand the puzzles of our times.
That pay envelope contains, I repeat, not only our liveli-
hoods, but the secret of the whole economic system.

n^, T . Today four out of five Americans live on

Why Live on J ,

JP P wages. But that wasn t always so. In lact,

never before in the history of America has
such a high proportion of the population lived on wages. In-
deed, it is computed that one hundred years ago only one out
of five Americans lived on wages. How did America get this
way? Why have wages become the essential means of life for
four-fifths of the people? How did many of their great-grand-
parents, and how do a few of their friends today, live, if not
by earning wages?

18



THE SECRET IN THE PAY ENVELOPE

Those four out of five Americans who one hundred years
ago did not depend on wages lived by working for them-
selves. They had land and cultivated it. Or they had a hand-
loom and wove cloth on it. Or they had a forge and shod
horses at it. But only one substantial section of the American
people can still live like that. They are the farmers, of whom
there are six million, out of the forty-seven million Ameri-


1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

Online LibraryJohn StracheyHope in America → online text (page 1 of 12)