Thursday, January 12, 2012

Jobs, Capitalism, and the Tasks Ahead

By Fred Goldstein
Published Jan 11, 2012 10:29 PM

The pitiful December jobs and employment numbers are a bitter reminder, four years after the present crisis officially began in December 2007, that capitalism is at a dead end.

There have now been four years of mass unemployment; the foreclosure and eviction nightmare continues for millions; poverty and hunger are growing at record levels. For those with jobs, low wages are spreading like a plague. A whole generation of youth is either locked out of the job market or consigned to dead-end jobs. Recent studies show that the U.S., instead of being the “land of opportunity,” is the land of downward mobility for the vast majority.

That is why it is so outrageous that the big-business media have tried to make a mountain out of a molehill, expressing enthusiasm over the December jobs report. If you are one of the 25 million to 30 million workers unemployed or underemployed, the 200,000 jobs allegedly created in December and the drop in the official unemployment rate from 8.6 percent to 8.5 percent amount to a very tiny molehill.

The jobs report barely mentioned that, according to the government’s own figures, 13.1 million are still unemployed, another 8.1 million are working part-time but need full-time work, and 2.3 million more have “dropped out” of the work force altogether. This last number is drastically understated because it excludes millions who either haven’t looked for a job in the last year or have never entered the work force because there are no jobs.

The mouthpieces of U.S. capitalism are engaged in a cynical exercise known as “talking up the economy.” Yet they all know that even this tiny increase in jobs is really overstated by at least 42,000, because of the addition of short-term courier and messenger jobs for the holiday season — leaving the net number of jobs created at 160,000.

When you consider that during the month of December anywhere from 125,000 to 150,000 additional jobs were needed just to absorb the young people who became eligible to enter the work force, then even according to the official numbers the net increase in jobs was only between 10,000 and 35,000. If the capitalist economy were to continue to add jobs at that rate, it would take many decades to put the 25 million to 30 million unemployed and underemployed back to work at full-time jobs.

So the molehill gets even tinier, if it exists at all.

Occupy Wall Street: “Enough is enough!”

Month after month, year after year, workers have been waiting for an upturn that would put the millions back to work, with decent pay, benefits and job security. It hasn’t happened. Things have only changed for the worse.

It is to the credit of the Occupy Wall Streeters that they decided not to wait any longer. Since Sept. 17, they have taken action all across the country to expose the rich and powerful.

In the face of police repression, they have found ways to continue. Their message of fightback is getting through to broad layers of the population, including the labor movement, the communities, students and working people in general.

To keep the OWS message of resistance from getting any further, the capitalist media, after an initial burst of coverage, have decided on near-total censorship of the hundreds of activities going on around the country. OWS has at least the passive support and sympathy of millions. The ruling class wants to shrink that support and prevent it from spreading.

Ruling class fears spread of revolutionary Marxism

The ruling class has another great fear about OWS — the fear that sections of the movement will turn toward revolutionary Marxist ideology.

Right now the OWS movement is directing its fire against the most powerful capitalist institutions: the banks and the politicians who bail them out.

It has also targeted the mortgage companies and put people back in their homes after foreclosure. It has demonstrated against industrial corporations as exploiters, polluters and merchants of death — part of the military-industrial complex. It has taken on the prison-industrial complex and the police for racist stop-and-frisk policies. It has expressed solidarity with immigrant workers. Sections of this movement have rejected the two capitalist parties — the Democrats as well as the Republicans.

Marxism has a comprehensive view of all the institutions and evils that OWS is fighting against. It has a scientific view that ties all these institutions to the system of private property. Marxism has shown that the capitalist class has created a global system of production and distribution based upon a complex, socialized labor process involving hundreds of millions of workers on every continent.

Marxism illuminates how a tiny group of billionaires is able to treat the vast, globalized productive forces as their own private domain. The obscene inequality, the extraordinary wealth of the 1% — short-hand for the capitalist ruling class — is generated over and over again by the process of capitalist exploitation.

Under capitalism, workers are completely cut off from owning or controlling the means of production, distribution or services. Hospital workers cannot afford health care, yet they work in medical institutions owned by bosses or the capitalist state. Agricultural workers cannot afford to give their families healthy diets, yet they produce the food. Workers making $14 an hour under the new two-tier, low-wage contracts in the auto industry will not be able to afford the cars they produce.

The hospital services, the food, the autos will all be sold by the owners for profit. Meanwhile, the workers have to sell their labor to some boss and receive just enough to live on — more or less, depending upon conditions and the level of class struggle.

What the boss takes is unpaid labor in the form of what Marx called surplus value or capitalist profits. That is how the capitalist system runs. That is what generates inequality and all the instruments and institutions of repression necessary to enforce such an unjust system — not just in the U.S., but throughout the world capitalist profit system.

Marx showed that banks are the financial nerve center of capitalism. Money is the start of everything under capitalism — production and exploitation begin with money capital. Banks control the financial arteries of capitalism. Updating Marxism in the age of imperialism, Russian revolutionary V.I. Lenin showed how the banks merged with the industrialists and the giant retailers to control the lives of businesses large and small.

Corporations are understood by Marxists to be the engines of exploiting the workers. They steal the labor of the workers, turn it into profits, and use the wealth to expand their capital — as well as enable the corporate owners to live in obscene extravagance. In the long run, the banks thrive off the profits extracted by the capitalists from the workers — profits that are deposited in corporate bank accounts or wind up in federal, state and local government treasuries, from which they return to the banks in the form of interest.

Marxism has a view of the state as an instrument for the oppression of one class by another to secure its form of class rule — today, that means the capitalist exploitation of the workers. The police in the U.S., together with Homeland Security and other government agencies like the FBI, the courts and the prisons are the hard core of the capitalist state. They enforce capitalist law against the workers and the oppressed and anyone who wants to defend the interests of the masses. They protect capitalist private property.

The cops break strikes, protect strikebreakers, put down rebellions, protect the drug trade and enforce racist police-state rule against the African-American, Latino/a and Asian communities. There is also the Bureau of Indian Affairs — federal cops used to oppress Native people.

The Pentagon is the enforcer of global imperialist domination on behalf of transnational capital, including the banks, the oil companies, and big industrial and service corporations that super-exploit workers in low-wage, underdeveloped, formerly colonial countries and plunder their resources.

Socialist revolution is the solution

Many in the Occupy movement already consider themselves revolutionaries and anti-capitalists. It is a natural transition from struggling against all the essential institutions of capitalism to developing an analysis of the fundamental nature of the system and a revolutionary perspective for ending it.

Marxism has shown that the fundamental contradiction in modern capitalist society is the contradiction between the socially organized system of production and the private ownership of the productive forces of society.

The capitalists treat this global system as their own. When it brings them profit, they keep it going. In pursuit of greater and greater profits, each capitalist grouping tries to make its workers more and more productive through the application of technology. What results is more and more commodities produced while wages remain in a narrow boundary. In recent decades wages have generally gone down due to technology and the deskilling of jobs.

The result is greater and greater crises of capitalist overproduction — a mass of goods that cannot be sold for a profit. That is when layoffs begin. Enterprises are shut down. Workers’ hours are cut. Wages and benefits are cut. A handful of billionaires in boardrooms decide the fate of tens and hundreds of millions.

The present “recession” is the longest downturn by far since World War II. Capitalism, still going through a jobless “recovery,” is facing a new downturn. The system has become so productive it cannot revive itself. It has reached a dead end.

Marxism has shown that the only historical alternative to private ownership of the socialized productive system is to overthrow private property and socialize ownership. This means that the working class and the oppressed have to organize to seize political power and take the means of production and distribution away from the billionaires — the 1% who are the capitalist exploiters — in order to make the economy the social property of the people, to be used for human need, not profit and human greed.

This transformation of property relations will take a thoroughgoing and profound proletarian revolution made by the workers and all the oppressed, ultimately involving the mobilization of millions. This will lead to the liberation of the entire human race.

Goldstein is the author of “Low-Wage Capitalism.”

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