Microsoft founder Bill Gates established the Gates Foundation, a supposedly “nonprofit” enterprise that describes its mission this way online:
“We live in a globally connected, information saturated world. To thrive, our students need to learn in and out of school, in person and online, together and independently. Students need learning experiences that meet them where they are, engage them deeply, let them progress at a pace that meets their individual needs, and helps them master the skills for today and tomorrow.” (tinyurl.com/k7l5pyr)
Not mentioned is that many companies linked to this enterprise reap huge profits selling exams, textbooks and other educational materials to schools. Also not mentioned is that jobs in high technology are increasingly hard to find.
Microsoft acquired Finland-based, high-tech Nokia Corp. last April. Finland boasts the best-rated education system in the world. Finnish students rate at the top of the list in categories of reading, math and science, according to the Huffington Post in 2012.
Despite all that, with a highly trained, superbly educated global workforce, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced on July 17 that 18,000 of its workers are going to be laid off, nearly 15 percent of its total work force. Operations in Oulu, Finland, as well as in San Diego; Dongguan and Beijing, China; and Komaron, Hungary, will be shedding workers immediately and over the next six months. Layoffs will also happen at Microsoft’s home city of Redmond, Wash.
These layoffs involve both software developers and hardware production workers.
Two-thirds of the workers Microsoft is laying off have been employed by its newly acquired subsidiary, Nokia, a manufacturer of mobile phones. Many are cheaper, and less profitable, than the newer “smartphones,” hand-held devices that add computer capabilities to a mobile phone. At this point, the market for low-end mobiles is glutted, while Androids and iPhones are still finding plenty of buyers, especially in the wealthier countries.
In Marxist terms, there is “overproduction” of these phones and so Microsoft is doing what capitalists do: walking away from the workers whose exploitation has provided them with profits that they will now invest elsewhere to make even more money.
Microsoft is trying to get a larger share of the high-end, more profitable market with its own Windows smartphones. One such phone is the Nokia Lumia. But whether any of the workers laid off from Nokia’s other divisions will be rehired to produce the Windows Phone is dubious.
In his book, “Capitalism at a Dead End: Job Destruction, Overproduction and Crisis in the High-Tech Era,” Fred Goldstein quotes Martin Ford, owner of a software company on page 84: “While today jobs that require low and moderately skilled workers are being computerized, tomorrow it will be jobs performed by highly skilled and educated workers. Indeed, this is already happening among information technology professionals, where jobs that once required college degrees are simply vanishing into the computer network.”
On page 86, Goldstein quotes Karl Marx from the “Communist Manifesto”: “Modern bourgeois society, with its relations of production, of exchange and of property, a society that has conjured up such gigantic means of production and of exchange, is like the sorcerer who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world whom he has called up by his spells.”
On the same page, Goldstein describes “the menacing and uncontrolled development of the profit system, described by Marx 160 years ago, in a deliberate race by the capitalists, large and small, to beat each other out by shedding workers.”
What do the massive Microsoft layoffs tell to the millions of students and graduates saddled with huge education debt while they remain unemployed or working at starvation wage jobs?
What does it tell to the millions of oppressed Black and Latino/a youth facing huge obstacles even to obtain a quality education, much less a decent-paying job?
It tells them, and all the rest of us, that the computer technology revolution continues to unfold, and now is the time for a social revolution, one that will harness that technology to meet the needs of the world’s population, not to fill the coffers of the vulture corporations and banks that destroy our livelihoods and rob our children of their future.
For more on Fred Goldstein’s book go to: www.LowWageCapitalism.com
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