Against the Exploitation, Poverty and Barbarism of Capitalism

We Need Class Struggle and a Class Party

It is seven years since the financial bubble burst but the capitalist system is still prey to a profound crisis (in which subprime mortgages were only the most notorious). No other outcome is possible since the rate of profit – whose fall ended the post-war economic boom – has not been restored to a sufficient level to restart a new cycle of accumulation of a world scale. So, from the 1970s to today, the countermeasures that have been attempted to kickstart the economy have only led to localised and temporary “revivals”. They have not been able to tackle the root of the problem but only made it worse by postponing a real solution to some time in the future. The stagnation and even decline in investment in the productive sectors are clear signs that the bourgeoisie largely expects unsatisfactory profits. This is why, for decades they have essentially used two methods: a permanent attack on the living conditions of the working class and the abnormal development of financial speculation, in an attempt to circumvent the law of value, i.e. making money through money, beyond just extorting surplus value via commodity production. We are dealing here with two sides of the same coin: the intensification of exploitation has to maintain both industrial profit and the financial parasitism which dominates the international economy.

The microprocessor revolution, the reduction – and even the disappearance – of huge concentrations of workers (in “the West”) the displacement of jobs, even the increased fall in political obstacles which stood in the way of the unification of the world labour market have overturned and remodelled the previous class composition. There is an international competition to reduce wage labour to the lowest level by more modern methods of exploitation which massively approach those worthy of the nineteenth century (if they ever went away). The lengthening of the working day, lowering of wages added to the increase in speed ups and workloads all bring consequences for workers’ health. The transformation of the productive process (in the USA it is calculated that there are 4.6 workers after for every job), the inadequate rate of profit, the creation as we have said of a single labour market has created a huge “industrial reserve army” that is an enormous amount of unemployment which objectively weakens the ability of employed workers to struggle. Official statistics attempt to mask reality but the real figures for “the workless” are greater than the official ones. In the USA it is 15%, in Italy 16%, in the UK 20%, and so on. To make the picture more vivid in may different countries this takes the form of precarious jobs and not just for the young. Short term, imposed part-time and zero hour contracts (in the UK that are more than a million involved allowing them to “available” to be called in at any time for any task), mini-jobs (7-8 million in Germany), fake freelance work are only some of the examples of bourgeois “creativity” to make the working class – and even the most impoverished and declassed sectors of the petty bourgeoisie – ever more the slaves of capital. In this way not only do they have powerful tool in the push to lower wages below the value of labour-power (you don’t get enough to get to the end of the month) but is accentuates the fragmentation of the class and reinforces the bosses’ weapons of intimidation and blackmail.

However it’s not enough for the bourgeoisie just to lower direct wages. In order to maintain an economic system in need of oxygen (surplus value) it also preys on the indirect, deferred wage, that is, of the welfare state where it still exists. The “aid” of the International Monetary Fund, the “adjustment” plans to the public finances of the European Union – to give one example – is based on pitiless cuts to state workers’ wages, health, education, pensions, and social services in general with dire consequences for the vast majority of the population. In Europe the Greek working class – and part of the petty bourgeoisie – has until now paid the highest price but the poverty (if not out and out destitution) is advancing in giant bounds everywhere. In this respect even the most important organisations of the world bourgeoisie can do no more than underline the undeniable increase in social inequality over the last forty years. The rich become ever richer the working class, the so-called middle layers (which for bourgeois sociologists comprises of the greater part of “secure” waged work), the poor in general, ever poorer and increasingly numerous. In the USA the wealth held by 400 individuals is equal to that of 150 million people. 0.6% of the adult world population owns 39% of global wealth whilst 3.2 billion human beings (69% of the Earth’s population) have only 3.3% of that wealth. In the 1960s is the average pay of a manager was twenty to thirty times that of a workers today it is three to four hundred times higher (Marchionne, boss of Fiat-Chrysler earns as much as 435 workers). If absolute poverty (earning below 1.25 dollars a day appears to have fallen in the regions hosting the relocated industry (a wage, even a hunger wage is more than nothing) the “advanced” world balances that “improvement” with the deterioration of the living conditions of the greater part of the population. In any case, even in the “emerging” countries the gap between those who live from wages and those who live from profit in all its forms, is widening both in absolute and relative terms.

No-one denies that in the face of a capitalist onslaught of this magnitude the conditions to respond and counter-attack are very complicated but this cannot be taken as an excuse for the unions, who have played a leading role in the preparation of this scenario.

“Official” trades unionism is everywhere has made itself the accomplice of the bosses and the government in signing ever worse agreements and stifling any expression of the class struggle which threatens to go beyond compatibility with the capitalist economy thus confirming that they are the transmission belts for bourgeois interests within the working class. So-called alternative trades unions mostly excluded from the mechanisms of control and regulation of the labour market have shown themselves to be powerless when it comes to conducting an effective action against the attacks of capital. By looking for a radical reformism incompatible – and therefore illusory – with the current structure of capitalism and, in particular, with the phase of structural crisis from which it is taken. The unions of "developing" countries, often persecuted as in nineteenth century Europe, are though sometimes at the head of promising struggles, but they do not go beyond the horizon of the bourgeois economy. This is consistent with the nature of trade unionism itself which acts as a broker (originally on behalf of the working) for the sale of the commodity of labor power on the market.

The paralysing activity of the unions – and of the left wing of the bourgeoisie – adds another, by no means secondary element which poisons and derails proletarian consciousness – nationalism. Deprived of the hope of an alternative to capitalism with the collapse of so-called “real socialism” (in reality state capitalism) the working class often falls into the trap of those who want us to believe that the interests of the bosses and workers, exploiters and exploited are the same, “for the good of the country”. It is an old and dirty trick but will continue to work as long as the proletariat has lost its own identity, accepts the divisions of class society as normal, and therefore neither hopes for nor, even less, is not ready to fight for a different world. It thus becomes a manipulated mass, mere cannon fodder in the conflicts unleashed by opposing bourgeois interests. Our class response to the ever more violent attacks of the capitalist state has been until now very weak, especially in the “advanced” countries. In the “emerging markets” where huge concentrations of workers have increased there have been big struggles notwithstanding the – predictable – repressive violence of the forces of bourgeois order. Here workers have been able to achieve some success on the level of wages. However even in those areas capital is responding not only with repression but also with displacement of industry to areas where the cost of labour power is even lower.

It is the nth demonstration that, with the advance of the crisis and financial parasitism, especially in the capitalist “metropoles”, there is very little scope for reformist struggles. This does not mean that there is no point in struggling! On the contrary we need to do it to stop what we can stop. To begin our response by slowing down capitalist attacks, by once again weaving together class unity beyond sectional divisions – a fundamental objective – to start off from the “economic” terrain (amongst other things it is from here in general that the class begins to move) in order to carry it onto the political level of an attack against the bourgeoisie. It is a qualitative leap which is needed more than ever in this capitalist crisis. It is no easy step and furthermore it is impossible when the political element of the class struggle, the revolutionary party, is missing.

In both the “metropoles” and in the “developing” countries there is no clear class reference point that can regroup the most advanced elements of the proletariat, on the basis of a coherent anti-capitalist programme. In a nutshell what is missing is the international and internationalist political vanguard which can capture and direct the energy given off by the proletarian class to attack, not this or that aspect of capitalist oppression, but the entire system.

The increase in exploitation, environmental devastation to the point of threatening life on the planet, violence and war are all that the bourgeoisie can offer, if its mode of production is not consigned to history. The Internationalist Communist Tendency has this as its goal: join us!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Comments

Well, I hope that this resuming of commenting will be worth your time, because I found the article of April 17, 2014, very significant for the working class in the following ways.

The fact and concept of 'a single labour market', which I assume is on a world scale, set against the capitalist class of the world, seems to summarise the world today, and could be emphasised repeatedly to drive the concept home in workers' minds.

Fragmentation of the class is a situation which seems to me to require a class party, but suggest that whereas traditionally it has been argued that a party shouldn't just be parachuted into the class, on the contrary, now, it seems to me that that is exactly what is needed. Why? The fragmentation is not only of unemployed workers of 'working age' (anything up to 70 ??!!), but also of all those older 'retired' workers who are no longer 'unionised' and don't belong to any party orientated to ICT views. Also, it is questionable as to how many such workers actually use the internet. To initiate the formation of a party would have the advantages of providing something useful for such workers to consider joining, and, if enough do so, could provide an organised distribution network for a weekly newspaper or news sheet. Aurora only comes out at very long intervals, whereas a weekly publication could stand regular comparison with all that the rest of the left churns out. It might now be argued that such workers might not be able to raise the necessary funds for a weekly, and, any rate, what difference would such a party make in comparison with the existing organisation of the CWO/ICT ? It seems to me that workers would know what a party is, whereas a 'tendency' is hardly a concept likely to inspire affiliation, however advanced its notions. Personally I read the 'Stalinist' weekly 'New Worker', but don''t belong to the NCP so far, and am well aware of ICT views of both Stalinism and Trotskyism. Regards.

Of course the main article speaks of 'fragmentation' in reference to those still in work, understood, but the present day scattering from what used to be places of mass employment into many and various less numerous gatherings of workers, in ways of direct employment and so-called 'self-employment', plus the comparative partial isolation of unemployed, are factors which combine to show a need for a party which does not almost entirely originate from where proletarians 'earn livings'.

It seems to me that if propaganda is to be shown to be effective, it will need to be seen not just on the web, but out on the streets, every week, legibly (not too lengthy), straightforwardly and attractively produced,, yes, in competition for the attention of workers who are bombarded with all sorts information being flung at them.

Battaglia Comunista

Mensile del Partito Comunista Internazionalista, fondato nel 1945.

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