Class Warfare: American Communists of 1928 Compared to Barack Obama

The other day I linked to a rather silly post at Think Progress by Matthew Yglesias. His point was that Obama is not engaging in class warfare because if you want real class warfare look at the Communist Party of Great Britain in 1928. That was real class warfare. Never mind how similar some of what the CPGB wanted in 1928 is what Obama is calling for now.


But we don’t have to look to the CPGB. We can look to the Communist Party of America 1928. Consider this, for example:

A capitalist writer characterizes the present unemployment as a ‘technological unemployment, not cyclical — an unemployment developing gradually, almost unawares, like creeping paralysis, in the midst of unprecedented prosperity, the byproduct of improved technological efficiency.”

Unemployment is indeed the ‘creeping paralysis’ of capitalist society. It represents the most vicious contradiction of the present economic order. The more machinery, the higher the productivity of labor, the more unemployed. . . .

The present depression is not an ‘accident.’ It has been brought about by prosperity itself. Disproportion between production and consumption, which is a part of the general anarchy of capitalist production, is responsible for cyclical crises. Saturation of the automobile and building construction markets, over-production of oil, the world coal crisis, the migration of the textile industry to the South, the limits of installment buying, the restriction of the farmers’ market, the effects of American export of capital and of the stabilization of Europe, the increased competition with Europe — these are the basic features of the present economic depression. Neither the existence of huge monopolies and trusts nor the “interventions” of the Federal Reserve Bank are able to prevent the occurrence of economic crisis.


[Emphasis in original]

Compare that to this from Ron Suskind’s new book Confidence Men:

“Both [Director of the National Economic Council Larry Summers and chair of the Council of Economic Advisers Christina Romer] were, in fact, were concerned by something the president had said in a morning briefing: that he thought the high unemployment was due to productivity gains in the economy. Summers and Romer were startled. “What was driving unemployment was clearly deficient aggregate demand,” Romer said, “We wondered where this could have been coming from. We both tried to convince him otherwise. He wouldn’t budge.”

The excerpt is here and found by Ben Domenech in his most excellent Transom.

But, and back to the original point, what about the class warfare? No one does class warfare better than the communists. So consider the American communists’ platform in 1928 instead of the British communists.

What did they want?

  • Unemployment Insurance
  • Immediate emergency help for all workers who have been unemployed two months or more, consisting of eight weeks wages for each worker.
  • Public works. The federal, state, and city governments should devise schemes for improving the roads and bridges of the country, improving the rivers, canals, docks, and harbors, setting up electric power stations, reforestation, land drainage and land reclamation, extension and electrification of railways. On all public works trade union wages and conditions must be guaranteed by law.
  • Immediate abolition of vagrancy laws. Protection of employed workers from arrest on charges of vagrancy.

Oh, but wait, there’s more.

Here’s some more from their platform.

The working class of this country is facing a great crisis. A general offensive of the bosses is being conducted against the workers, an offensive to smash the whole trade-union movement, to lower the standard of living of all workers.

Among other things, the communists called for a “fight for high wages. Strike against wage cuts” and “trade-union methods alone cannot wage a successful fight. Trade-union struggle must be supplemented by political struggle.”

But wait, some lefties will say. The Communist Party also wanted to “destroy company unions.” That’s true. But why? It was not to end unionization, but rather to supplant unionism into the political culture and leadership, something the communists believed would not be possible with corporate unions pre-existing the struggle.

The communist party went on, in 1928, to demand “free medical treatment, medicine, and hospital care for all wage-earners” and “tax-exemption[s] for all working and exploited farmers: as well as a “graduated income tax” that, like the British communists, would seize all income above $25,000 per year in 1928. They also favored a “graduated inheritance and gift taxes on great fortunes.”


Back in 1928, the communists were even calling for the government to end home foreclosures on farms and “a five year moratorium on farm mortgage debts, including debts on chattels” And yes, they also wanted amnesty for illegal aliens through “immediate repeal of all immigration laws. Abolition of all restrictions on immigration.”

For kicks, consider also this bit of the Communist Party of America’s platform:

All tax exemptions on bonds, stocks and securities must be abolished.

stacked up against this

In his speech before Congress last week, he proposed approximately $200 billion in new inter-governmental aid to state and local governments so they could hire teachers, build roads, and so forth. That is roughly the same size as the 2009 stimulus package, which spread approximately $400 billion over two years.

Unlike his 2009 stimulus package, the president this time added a tax plan to cover the costs. It includes placing a limit on one of the biggest tax loopholes: the ability to deduct from one’s income the interest received from investments in state and local bonds. The president wants to limit the deduction to the 28 percent tax rate, instead of the approximately 40 percent marginal rate that well-heeled investors (the folks who generally buy these things) would otherwise pay.

Elsewhere, I discuss the unfortunate impact of Obama’s “tax and spend” plans on the U. S. federal system.
My point here is simpler: state and local governments, not investors, are the primary beneficiaries of the tax deduction loophole. When bonds are fully tax-deductible on federal income tax returns, as most state and municipal bonds now are, investors will accept a lower interest rate on their investment.


So, that was class warfare in 1928. Sounds to me like it is pretty similar to today. Now, this all begs the question — do I think Barack Obama is a communist? No, actually I do not, though I may have fun calling him the “Marxist in Chief.” I don’t think Barack Obama is a communist — just an ivy league socialist. Of course, as Lenin said, socialism is just a phase on the path toward communism.

Barack Obama may not be a communist, but his embrace of communist rhetoric and though from the 1920s on technology causing unemployment and his class warfare rhetoric truly make him the most far left President we have had in this country. It also complicates his re-election.

The model Obama intends to use is the Truman model of running against Congressional Republicans. But Truman gambled that the country was far more a Democrat country than a Republican country and he won. Obama has been gambling throughout his Presidency that the country is a left-leaning country and he has consistently lost as a result. Continuing the gamble will continue his losing streak. The fact is, however much Congress may be hated right now and however much congressional Republicans may be hated, the country is more ideologically on the right than with Barack Obama.



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