Four Thousand Rubles a Year and a Six-Hour Day
|1 January 1914
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1972, Moscow, Volume 20, pages 68-70
This is the battle-cry of the class-conscious American workers. They say: We have only one political question be fore us, and that is the question of the workers’ earnings and their working day.
To Russian workers it may at first sight seem very strange and puzzling to have all social and political questions reduced to a single one. But in the United States of America, the most advanced country in the world, which has almost complete political liberty, where democratic institutions are most developed, and where tremendous progress has been made in labour productivity, it is quite natural that the question of socialism should come to the fore.
Thanks to the existence of complete political liberty, it is possible in America, better than in any other country, to calculate the total production of wealth and draw up a statistical report of production. That calculation, based on reliable data, shows that in America there are, in round numbers, 15,000,000 working-class families.
Together, these working-class families annually produce consumers’ goods to the value of sixty thousand million rubles. This works out at 4,000 rubles a year per working-class family.
But at present, under the capitalist social system, only half this vast amount of wealth, only thirty thousand millions, goes to the workers, who constitute nine-tenths of the population. The other half is pocketed by the capitalists, who, with all their apologists and hangers-on, constitute only one-tenth of the population.
In America, as in other countries, unemployment is rife and the cost of living is steadily rising. Want among the workers is becoming more and more distressful and intolerable. American statistics show that about half the workers are working part time. And what an immense amount of social labour is still being wasted owing to the preservation of senseless, backward and scattered small production, particularly in agriculture and in commerce!
Thanks to complete political liberty and the absence of feudal landlords in America, machinery is employed there on a wider scale than anywhere else in the world. The aggregate power of the machines employed in the manufacturing industry alone amounts to eighteen million steam h.p. At the same time, an investigation of all power resources in the form of waterfalls showed? according to the report of March 14, 1912, that by converting the power of waterfalls into electricity America could immediately obtain an additional sixty million h.p.!
Already a land of boundless wealth, it can at one stroke treble its wealth, treble the productivity of its social labour, and thereby guarantee to all working-class families a decent standard of living worthy of intelligent human beings, and a not excessively long working day of six hours.
But owing to the capitalist social system we see in most of the big cities of America—and in the rural districts too for that matter—appalling unemployment and poverty, a wanton waste of human labour side by side with the unprecedented luxury of the multimillionaires, of the rich, whose fortunes run into thousands of millions.
The American working class is rapidly becoming enlightened, and is organising in a powerful proletarian party. Sympathy for this party is growing among all the working people. Working with the aid of first-class machines, and seeing at every turn marvels of engineering and the magnificent successes of labour resulting from the organisation of large-scale production, the wage-slaves of America are beginning clearly to realise what their tasks are, and are advancing the plain, obvious and immediate demands for an income of four thousand rubles a year for every working-class family, and a six-hour day.
The aim of the American workers is quite attainable in any civilised country in the world; but to achieve it, the country must enjoy the fundamental conditions of freedom....
And there is no road to a free future other than by way of an independent working-class organisation, educational, industrial, co-operative and political.