Measured by capitalist yardsticks the economy has been working quite well for some 15 years. In that time great wealth had been created, productivity and profits increased enormously and, in keeping with the interests of capital, wages were kept as low as possible. Two ways above all were used to keep wages low: one was by ‘controlled’ inflation, the other by the propaganda smoke-screen. At this point the trade unions must be mentioned. With the cheap phrase of ‘partnership’ they have consciously prevented the workers’ struggle for ‘a larger slice of the cake’. It follows without saying that trade unions such as these are not in a position to help their membership to a higher level of thinking in political economy.
The majority of trade union bosses call themselves socialists. It is impossible to say why they do so. From 1945 the trade unions had allowed their entire activity to be guided by the interests of the capitalist economy. The largest trade union, that of the metal workers and miners, expressly professed support for the capitalist system.
For some three years now the pretty picture of ‘our economy’ is showing some serious spots. More and more ‘partners’ are getting into difficulties. In the first place there is the mining industry. The miners are being given promises from all sides—and nothing else; unless the organising of petitioning deputations by the trade unionists to be considered a particular achievement. Things are well and truly going downhill fast, from partner to petitioner!
For more than 20 years the representatives of the trade unions and the so-called Socialist Party of Austria (SPA) had been in the Government. Time and again they declared that this time things were different and that, besides, today’s capitalism was no longer as dangerous at that which, for example, Marx had described. With which they connected straight away the insidious criticism of Marx of the present time. The essence of this criticism is the claim that in his time and day Marx had no doubt been right, but today . . .
Right to the last days of their government activity the SPA and the trade union leaders have endeavoured to make the ‘spots’ appear to be not all that dangerous. “You just give us your vote and we will straighten things out.’’ This calculation did not work out, however. The workers of course did not have a clear view of things; this must be stated quite clearly. This is why they failed to see any clear alternative to the shameful S P A and trade union policy. But where was a clear view to come from? Twenty years of intensive smoke-screening with the aid of every conceivable medium (television, radio, press, films, etc.), could not fail to have effect.
The voice of Socialism is still much too weak in this country to stand up to the tremendous din of the smoke-screen apparatus.
Even if the workers did not see any alternative, they did recognise that the ‘workers’ leaders’ had to be given a lesson. The SPA had to realise that they could not reach for the sky and they were removed from the Government.
From one day to the next there was a change in the language of these gentlemen. Astonishing what discoveries they made. Under the slogan ‘insolence prevails’ they simply disregard the fact that for two decades they had busily helped to brew what workers are given to swallow today!
We know full well what workers have to expect from the Austrian People’s Party; nothing good! We must refute any attempt however of the trade unions and the S P A at vindicating themselves! The ills which threaten us today do not in any way result from the absolute power of the A P P but they spring as always from the capitalist system! And in Austria this system was ‘reconstructed’ with the energetic co-operation of the SPA, the Communist Party and the trade unions.
Wherever these ‘socialists’ are doing ‘practical’ work they do not deny in their deeds with what system they are allied. Let us take the high cost of living. The Vienna Transport Board has increased fares enormously. Public transport to work alone costs a worker 500 schillings more per annum than it used to. In many trades this is the equivalent of a week’s wages. The reason given for this increase was the same that all capitalists advance: “We must put our fares up because the price of everything is going up! ”
That is to apply to all prices and fares, with one exception. The price for the commodity labour-power is to remain the same or even to be reduced. In fact, the trade unions did not in any way react seriously to the latest great wave of price increases.
The employers make virtue out of necessity. They say they do not welcome the crisis but that it has many good side-effects. The famed-infamous ‘workers’ morale’ would increase, absenteeism would decline and the ‘partner’ would regain a clearer sense of proportion in which his partnership could find expression. This is how things look on the ‘branch’ which Böhm-Schani and his disciples have so warmly commended to us. However, at the same time, it has shown up in its full light the true format of these ‘great leaders and statesmen’.
We socialists see in all these phenomena the symptoms of the disease of our time. This disease however, rotting capitalism, is not going to disappear of its own volition. Ours is the choice of being shaken by its shivers of fever for the whole of our lives or of using our brains and using successfully the only antidote, fraternal co-operation. Socialism!
Only then will man be able to live truly as man. Only then will it be no longer necessary for workers to have to beg for an opportunity to work and for men and women to be forced, after a life of labour and want, to have to drag themselves along to protest meetings in order to be able to keep some part of their standard of living.
Peace and prosperity will then be truly secured as a matter of course. Man will step from the darkness of the jungle into the bright light of the landscape of culture.
Workers! women and men!
The future lies in the hands of the workers.
“We want no condescending saviours to rule us from a judgment hall.
We workers ask not for their favours, let us consult for all ”