Workers’ crisis deepens
Time to fight back
Published Sep 7, 2011 9:34 PM
The capitalist economy lurched toward renewed crisis as the U.S. government
announced that no new jobs were created in the month of August. This disastrous
news for the 30 million unemployed and underemployed workers in the U.S. comes
against a background of a menacing world economic slowdown.
In addition to the zero jobs growth numbers for August, both June and July
numbers for job creation were revised downward by a total of 58,000. The zero
jobs number is part of a steady downward trend.
While this is bad news for the unemployed, those who are working also took a
hit in August. The greater the unemployment, the greater the pressure on those
workers who still have jobs. This pressure shows up in the latest
Weekly hours worked fell from 34.3 to 34.2, while hourly wages declined by an
average of 3 cents. These numbers seem small but they add up to an average
decline in weekly wages of almost 5 percent on an annual basis.
Furthermore, there was an increase of 430,000 “involuntary
part-time” workers — workers who need a full-time job but have to
work part-time, either because they were put on short hours or because that was
all the bosses were offering to new hires.
The bosses relish the mass unemployment because of the competition it creates
among workers, making it easier to slash wages, enforce speedups, cut benefits
and thus wring more and more profits out of the sweat of the workers. And
importantly, the higher the level of unemployment, the greater the threat to
the unions, as both companies and governments take aim at union contracts,
knowing that strikes are difficult to carry out during periods of high
The racist effects of unemployment were dramatized again in August as the
jobless rate for African Americans officially reached 16.7 percent while for
Latinos/as it was 11.3 percent. When you look at the number of workers who have
dropped out of the work force and are not counted in the unemployment
statistics, the percentages of oppressed workers out of work are vastly
Two years after jobless recovery, a new crisis is brewing
It is now more than two years into the so-called “recovery.” The
capitalist profit system, the so-called “free market,” has left
tens of millions without full-time employment. The poverty rate is rising;
one-sixth of the population suffers from hunger, including one-fourth of the
children; millions are facing foreclosure and eviction.
Now, piled upon this jobless recovery is the threat of a new wave of layoffs.
The growth of the U.S. economy slowed to 1 percent in the first half of this
year. All of world capitalism is in fact slowing down, whether in Europe,
including Germany, France, and England; in Asia, including Japan, South Korea,
India and China; or in Latin America, including its largest economy,
Economic growth and workers under capitalism
The question of economic growth is crucial to the condition of the working
class. Under capitalism workers have only two conditions with respect to jobs.
A worker is either being exploited by a capitalist boss or by some level of
government and thus has a job, or a worker is unemployed. There is nothing in
The growth of capitalist production means more workers are needed to be
exploited and services need to expand. Thus workers have jobs, even if more and
more of these jobs are low-wage, part-time and/or temporary.
The contraction of capitalist growth means workers are not needed by the bosses
and they are laid off. Government revenues decline but the banks continue to
demand their interest and principal from these governments and military
spending goes on in the trillions — so government workers are laid
The latest and most menacing threat to government workers comes from the U.S.
Postal Service, which is threatening to lay off 120,000 workers, close more
than 3,000 post offices and get rid of another 100,000 workers by
Overproduction and unemployment
Why is the growth of U.S. capitalism slowing down? The bosses are sitting on $2
trillion in cash. Why are they not hiring and are instead laying off? It is not
because of uncertainty, as their apologists claim. It is not because of
government regulations, either.
It is because of the fundamental contradiction of capitalism itself —
overproduction. Capitalist production grows faster and faster as the bosses put
in more technology, speed up workers, outsource and offshore production in
pursuit of profits. More and more workers, not only in the U.S. but worldwide,
produce more and more in less and less time for lower and lower wages.
The take-home pay of the workers not only does not increase, it is decreasing
while production of commodities that must be sold for a profit expands at a
galloping pace. The consuming power of the people either rises at a
snail’s pace or actually goes down.
The more technology the bosses use, the fewer and fewer workers they need.
There are 131 million payroll workers today, which is less than the number of
workers on payroll in the year 2000. Today the U.S. economy is at the same
level of production as it was in 2007, before the housing bubble burst and the
economic crisis hit the world.
That means that the bosses need at least 10 to 11 million fewer workers today
than they did four years ago. That is because of job-killing capitalist
technology and globalizing the system of low-wage exploitation.
Demand a massive gov’t jobs program!
President Obama is scheduled to make a “jobs” speech in a few days.
This speech will not put forward a program that can turn around the
unemployment disaster in the country. The only way to even begin to address the
mass unemployment, which will get worse if there is a new downturn, is to
launch a massive government-provided jobs program.
It has to be on the scale of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) under the
Roosevelt administration during the Great Depression. Seven million workers
were given jobs building everything from dams to bridges, parks, schools and
highways; they created art, wrote plays, planted trees and did socially useful
Back then, just as today, the bosses would not hire because in a depression
they could not expand their profits by selling what was produced. People were
broke and couldn’t buy. But, under pressure of mass unemployment
demonstrations, general strikes and factory seizures, the federal government
was forced to become the main employer. State houses and city halls became
employment halls. Millions who wanted work, got work.
As a new crisis threatens, the only possibility of blunting a new wave of
layoffs and reversing what has happened is to launch a massive struggle for
jobs or income and services at every level of government — federal, state
and local. The Republicans are openly against solving the crisis, while the
Democratic Party is also tied to Wall Street and has put nothing forward to
attack the crisis.
Both parties and governments at all levels are claiming they have no money. But
the so-called deficit debate is a false debate. Workers, communities, youth and
students come first.
The right of workers to a job, to food, housing, education, is a fundamental
right, superior to the rights of millionaires and billionaires; superior to the
right of bankers to live off the public funds; superior to the right of the
military-industrial complex to get rich from war profits as they expand wars of
conquest and occupation.
A mass struggle by a mobilized working class in the streets and workplaces
everywhere can begin to shake the money loose from the money bags of the
capitalist ruling class. This is the only way to push back this crisis.
In the long run, even a government jobs program under capitalism can only be a
temporary band-aid. The WPA did not overcome the depression; mass unemployment
prevailed up until World War II.
The only permanent solution to the jobs crisis is to get rid of the profit
system altogether and put the economy to work for human need and not human
greed. Distribution of the wealth created by the working class must take place
on the basis of social and economic need. That is called socialism and it works
best where the level of productivity is high — which is exactly where
capitalism breaks down.
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