Related: What was Fred Kinnan gaining from his racket?

In their discussion of Directive 10-289, Fred Kinnan said the following:

"Well, if you want to talk practice," said Fred Kinnan, "then let me tell you that we can't worry about businessmen at a time like this. What we've got to think about is jobs. More jobs for the people. In my unions, every man who's working is feeding five who aren't, not counting his own pack of starving relatives. If you want my advice - oh, I know you won't go for it, but it's just a thought - - issue a directive making it compulsory to add, say, one-third more men to every payroll in the country."
"Good God!" yelled Taggart. "Are you crazy? We can barely meet our payrolls as it is! There's not enough work for the men we've got now! One-third more? We wouldn't have any use for them whatever!"
"Who cares whether you'd have any use for them?" said Fred Kinnan. "They need jobs. That's what comes first - need - doesn't it? - not your profits."

A few things here: first, the formula "it's just a thought" is used quite regularly by looters who are afraid to take a firm stance on anything. This seems somewhat out of character for Fred Kinnan.

Secondly, is Fred Kinnan actually accepting part of the Looters' creed here? He doesn't seem to make any pretense of accepting their ideas later in the same meeting - for example, he openly admits that he's going along with Directive 10-289 because he's a racketeer, not because he thinks (or pretends) that he's acting in the public interest. How much of their philosophy does Fred Kinnan accept at this point?

1 Answer 1


I agree with your statement that "he openly admits that he's going along with Directive 10-289 because he's a racketeer". In discussions with the looters, Kinnan is aloof and jaded, and seems to despise them. He plays along with them as long as they'll keep his racket going. He knows they know it's a racket, but they're terribly afraid of unions because of their collective power and because it would be politically unpopular to cut them off or throw them under the bus.

Kinnan is a crook, an exploiter, and a realist. But he is not a killer like Floyd Ferris or James Taggart. Consider the following from each:

Floyd Ferris:

"Nobody knows," said Dr. Ferris. "We've been unable to find any information or explanation. But it must be stopped. In times of crisis, economic service to the nation is just as much of a duty as military service. Anyone who abandons it should be regarded as a deserter. I have recommended that we introduce the death penalty for those men, but Wesley wouldn't agree to it."

Fred Kinnan:

"Take it easy, boy," said Fred Kinnan in an odd, slow voice. He sat suddenly and perfectly still, his arms crossed, looking at Ferris in a manner that made it suddenly real to the room that Ferris had proposed murder. "Don't let me hear you talk about any death penalties in industry."

James Taggart:

"Go ahead!" cried Taggart. "What are you waiting for? Can't you make the current stronger? He hasn't even screamed yet!"

"What's the matter with you?" gasped Mouch, catching a glimpse of Taggart' s face while a current was twisting Gait's body: Taggart was staring at it intently, yet his eyes seemed glazed and dead, but around that inanimate stare the muscles of his face were pulled into an obscene caricature of enjoyment.

Also, like honor among thieves, it seems that Kinnan cares about the truth. He has no interest in lying to himself or others, and refuses to be drawn in when the looters start propagandizing each other and trying hard to believe it. In short, he won't tolerate BS and occasionally puts a stop to it when he hears it.

In summary: Kinnan accepts none of the looters' philosophy because he knows it's all BS. But he embraces the power structure the looters have set up because he gets power and money from it, and he is unashamed to game the system to his benefit.


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