Workers’ crisis deepens

From Workers World:

Time to fight back

By Fred Goldstein
Published Sep 7, 2011

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 statistics.

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 unemployment.

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 greater.

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, Brazil.

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 between.

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 off.

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 attrition.

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 work.

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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