The fact that we are devoting an entire double issue of MONTHLY REVIEW to one man's assessment of our present national condition does not mean that we agree with everything James Boggs has to say, any more than publication of this work in MR means that Mr. Boggs shares all the views of the editors. Our reason for publishing these pages is that we think Mr. Boggs has things to say that all Americans, and especially Americans of the Left, ought to listen to. He knows the American labor movement from the inside, and he knows the mood of working-class Negroes because he is one. When he speaks of the American Revolution, he is not using a figure of speech. He means it quite literally. In fact he thinks that the American Revolution has already begun. He also thinks that it will be a protracted, painful, violent process in which not only will Negroes clash with whites but Negroes will clash with Negroes and whites with whites. And there is no end in sight and will not be until Americans finally come to realize that their responsibility is nothing less than the building of a classless society capable of making use of the prodigious powers of modern technology for genuinely human ends. They will not come to this realization and assume this responsibility except to the extent that they purge themselves of the accumulated corruption not of years or decades but of centuries, and this can be achieved only through struggle, suffering, and sacrifice. To this, we can only say amen.
Where we tend to differ from Mr. Boggs is in his analysis of the economy. He looks at the current economic scene through the eyes of a production worker, and he sees clearly that he and his fellow production workers are a "vanishing herd," being made obsolete by rapidly advancing automation. He also knows that automation is invading other areas of the economy—
the store, the office, the bank. He concludes that the United States today is headed not for the liberal utopia of full employment, but for full unemployment. We must, he tells us, learn to build not only a classless society but also a workless society.
There is no doubt of the reality or the force of the trends which Mr. Boggs highlights in this analysis. What he neglects or underestimates is a certain counter-trend. As productive labor becomes ever more fruitful and less needed, the frantic search for profits drives the great corporations which dominate the American economy to create, directly and indirectly, other areas of employment—in salesmanship, entertainment, speculation (legal and illegal), personal service, and so on. Some of the jobs thus provided also succumb to automation, but the process of proliferation is not halted. To be sure, it is not rapid or vigorous enough to prevent the steady rise of unemployment, as the experience of the past eight years so convincingly shows. But it does brake the rise of unemployment. Mr. Boggs's concept of "full unemployment" is an enlightening exaggeration, but it can be misleading if it is taken too literally.
Do not misunderstand us. We see nothing healthy in the job trends just referred to. For the most part, the American economy creates new jobs through organizing waste which is at best harmless and at worst poisonous and destructive. Not only are millions of Americans unemployed today; more millions are engaged in basically anti-human activities (this is the aspect of our society which is so effectively exposed by Paul Goodman in his book Growing Up Absurd). The net effect is twofold: to add to the corruption which James Boggs rightly sees as our most basic problem, and to make it easier for the old illusions to live on a while longer. If we were really headed for full unemployment, the hour of truth could not be long postponed. As it is, who knows? The American Revolution may be more protracted, painful, and violent than even a man as perceptive, sensitive, and courageous as James Boggs is yet able to imagine.
Paul M. Sweezy