Capitalist Crisis: Survival of the Richest

Months of soaring inflation and stalling wages are the latest effects of the crisis inherent to the capitalist system. The ruling class’ attacks on our living and working conditions are just one more attempt to make us pay for it. As winter approaches, the havoc wreaked by the failures of the system shows no signs of letting up.

Workers Getting the Worst of a Bad Lot

The rise in the prices of basic food and drink items has been steady and unrelenting. In the 12 months leading up to September 2022 they have increased by 14.6% – the sharpest since 1980 – with every single month seeing a new increase. In the same period, the cost of motor fuel rose by 26.5%, while transport costs rose by 10.9%. Water, energy and housing-related costs rose by 20.2% – although “luckily”, we could be set to save untold amounts on gas and electric costs over winter when, according to the National Grid, the supply of energy could fall short of demand by up to a sixth, meaning potential “managed blackouts” in January and February.

As more households face the choice to “eat or heat” over the winter, already over 90% of food banks report an increase in the need for their services since the start of the year. Homelessness is set to continue its exponential rise (having increased by 19% in the first three months of 2022 alone). As costs of goods, rent and bills rise for businesses too, the bosses will continue to shift the brunt of the consequences onto the shoulders of workers. Scrimping on health and safety, forcing workers to come to work sick with debilitating and contagious illnesses to make up the numbers of deliberately understaffed workforces, and knowingly putting lives at risk by greenlighting unsafe products (as of May this year over 50 highrises still in construction have used the same cladding as Grenfell tower). After years of the ruling class brazenly passing us the bill for the near-constant catastrophes of their own creation, we have come to know what to expect.

The effects of the bosses’ flagrant recklessness with our health and safety both at home and at work are not hard to predict. Vicious cycles of infection and reinfection with Covid as well as flu and other seasonal illnesses, the overwhelming of hospitals, and the soaring rates of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and suicide that are bound to accompany increased instability, debt, and financial hardship paint a very bleak picture indeed for the winter ahead.

The ruling class, those same architects of this crisis, have suggested that we put on jumpers and take shorter showers, that actually we can eat food with mould on it, that if you’re depressed it’s “ok to talk”, and that in fact a good blackout might be just the thing we need to teach us some gratitude for the luxury of when the lights do come on. Meanwhile they fight amongst themselves for the privilege of steering their sinking ship, and squabble over how fast to sail into the approaching storm. But as a class we are becoming ever-increasingly aware that what we need is not a new captain with new insulting "solutions" that keep their order intact.

A Crisis with a History

The so-called ‘cost of living crisis’ is not simply due to rising inflation. The pandemic and the war in Ukraine have only unravelled a crisis decades in the making. Through technological advances, outsourcing, deskilling, and austerity the ruling class has been able to continue squeezing profits out of the working class. But ever since the 1970s we have been on a downward spiral, with whole sectors of production and jobs dismantled and wages as a percentage of GDP dropping. Investment in 'the real economy' gave way to financial speculation based on ever-more ingenious ways of multiplying fictitious capital, especially ‘slicing and dicing’ mortgage loans. The crash of 2007/8 did for a few big financial names but without state intervention, homelessness and joblessness would have been worse than after the 1929 stock market crash. As it was, a whole generation of workers had their eyes opened: they had been told capitalism and crashes were a thing of the past. In fact it was only a sign of things to come. Now, already up to our ears in debt and working in precarious jobs with no future worth thinking about, the Bank of England is announcing we are facing the longest recession since records began.

Over the last fifty years workers’ resistance to the capitalist crisis has been largely on defensive grounds, each time ultimately thwarted by the bosses and their state. Will this time be different?

The above article is taken from the current edition (No. 61) of Aurora, bulletin of the Communist Workers’ Organisation.

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Aurora (en)

Aurora is the broadsheet of the ICT for the interventions amongst the working class. It is published and distributed in several countries and languages. So far it has been distributed in UK, France, Italy, Canada, USA, Colombia.