Capitalist economic decline criminalizes workers
Published Dec 9, 2005 11:59 PM
Early in the morning on Dec. 2, the day after
thousands of activists around the country had commemorated civil rights hero
Rosa Parks by expressing righteous outrage to the war against the Iraqi people
and the war being waged against workers and oppressed communities here, Kenneth
Boyd was executed in North Carolina. Boyd became the 1,000th person to die since
the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976. The majority have
been poor, and disproportionately people of color.
So far this year there
have been 57 executions in the U.S. Since 1999 there have been 501, with 1999
peaking at 98 in a single year. The state of Texas has led the way every year.
The death penalty and the booming growth of the prison-industrial complex
symbolize how brutal the United States is to poor workers and people of color.
This is being especially illuminated as the pressures of the capitalist market
keep driving wages down. The growing competition among the imperialist powers
shows no end in sight, and this will lead to more wars for profit for which
workers will shoulder the brunt more and more.
The poor are left with few
ways to make a living and must fend for themselves. It is especially poignant to
highlight how thousands of poor, mostly Black, citizens of New Orleans were left
to bear the brunt of Hurricane Katrina. As these residents commandeered vehicles
and goods off store shelves, they were threatened with death and imprisonment by
Gov. Kathleen Blanco of Louisiana, as well as local and national authorities.
With just 5 percent of the world’s population, the United States
has 25 percent of the world’s prison population. The U.S. also has the
highest incarceration rate, with 701 incarcerations per 100,000 people. (World
Prison Population List) The majority of those incarcerated are people of color,
mostly Black. People of color are far more likely to receive jail time and the
death sentence than whites who commit the same crimes.
A glance at prison
growth in the United States and the economic decline since the late 1970s shows
a significant leap in incarcerations. The U.S. prison population jumped from
200,000 in 1970 to 2.1 million in 2002, and continues to grow.
decades-old trend can be seen most notably in what has become known as the Rust
Belt, which stretches from Western New York as far west as Kansas. The flight of
well-paying jobs, scant social services, and a failing public school system has
left inner-city areas, heavily populated by people of color, nearly unbearable
Add to the above the realities of an inadequate health
system and the dire circumstances of life in the U.S. for poor workers and
people of color becomes incandescent. At last count 45 million Americans were
without health insurance, and millions more have poor health insurance
The United Nations released a report earlier this year detailing
how the world’s wealthiest nation has a woefully inadequate health care
system. Racism and class oppression can glaringly be seen in life expectancy and
Of the 215,000 jobs created in the month of November,
144,000 were in the food service industry. Real income continues to fall as the
prices of goods outpace what little growth there is in wages. A new bankruptcy
law puts Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which wipes away all debt, out of reach for many
in a country where 70 percent of the people owe upwards of tens of thousands of
Manufacturing jobs that paid decent wages with benefits are
disappearing. This decline is partly due to advanced technology, allowing
manufacturers to replace live workers with machinery, and to the movement of
capital to other countries.
Corporations like the auto manufacturers are
closing factories and laying off workers here, looking to exploit workers in
other countries where labor laws are weak at best and wages are super low.
Recently, both GM and Ford, the first and third largest automakers in the world,
respectively, announced layoffs. GM will eliminate 30,000 jobs and close down 12
factories across the U.S. Ford is planning massive layoffs as well. Nearly
100,000 jobs in the auto industry have been lost this year
Auto-parts maker Delphi, in bankruptcy, has demanded its workers
take a severe cut in wages, lower cost-of-living increases, and higher insurance
premiums. This trend is happening in the airline industry as well, as three
major airlines have filed for bankruptcy in order to dump workers’
pensions and health care benefits.
As this crisis continues to deepen,
workers, especially those from oppressed nationalities, will be even more
criminalized in what amounts to a war in this country as well as abroad. Part of
that war against workers and people of color is the use of the death penalty and
the criminalization of poverty. A united front must be forged between the
anti-imperialist movement and anti-racists to call for an end to imperialist
plunder, no more prisons and abolition of the death penalty.
Articles copyright 1995-2012 Workers World.
Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.
Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011
Email: [email protected]
Subscribe [email protected]
Support independent news DONATE