Questioning Our Working Class Prejudices February 18, 1930

Scott Nearing (communist, economist, and sociologist), Harry Laidler (socialist author and executive director of the League for Industrial Democracy), Robert Fechner (national vice president of the International Machinists’ Union), February 18, 1930
Nearing: “The first prejudice of the American workingman is that it is possible to take one country like the United States, build a tariff wall about it, and maintain prosperity therein despite the rest of the world. Germany tried this. England tried it – and look at England’s unemployment. A world economy is a necessity. The second prejudice is that workingmen seem to believe you can rely on the boss as being big-hearted and generous. In time, workingmen will realize that if they place their hands in those of the bosses, they will be led merely to serfdom.
“The third prejudice is that of the worker in favor of law and order, being imbued with the idea that he must abide by the law and order established by capitalists for their own protection and own profit. In upholding law and order, the worker upholds the political end of the capitalist system. The workingman should set up his own system of law and order.”
Laidler: “Prejudices are belief that the present capitalist order is eternal; that the present economic order is one of unparalleled efficiency; that equality of opportunity now exists, and that people won’t work unless the profit incentive is retained.
“But the capitalistic order is not eternal. All orders throughout history have changed. Modern economic systems are wasteful, resulting in unemployment, wastes in distribution, and wastes of resources. With such astounding big fortunes, privately held, dominating industry, how can you say there is equal opportunity? Profit is not the only incentive to work. There are pride in creation, the desire for human betterment, and other stronger motivating forces.”
Fechner: “My party [trade unionists] is not a panacea for all our economic ills, but a means to guarantee certain rights. An economic system cannot be developed within the life of one generation. It is continually developed out of slowly growing experience. Control of the government is but an echo of the capitalistic power, and we strike at the source of that power – in the workshops, mills, and mines. There the real battle for freedom is being fought. When the right of voluntary association and collective action is won, we make the first step in the democratization of industry.”

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