Good News For Capital - For the Working Class: The Mixture As Before

Good news then: the IMF says the UK is the second fastest growing economy amongst the world’s seven richest states (the G7). Apparently only the United States is growing faster than here. So what are we to make of news about hundreds of thousands of federal workers suddenly being told to take leave of absence without pay (furlough) as their workplaces shut down while Congress debates the budget deficit? And why, if the economic recovery is doing so well, is the world as a whole threatened with disastrous consequences if Congress fails to raise its self-imposed ‘debt ceiling’, i.e. the amount the government can borrow for public spending? The truth is that the ‘growth rate’ of the US economy and the world as a whole is lower then before the ‘great recession’ that was triggered when capitalism’s biggest ever financial bubble burst. All told, the system is in a worse position than ever. Central banks have pumped in trillions of dollars, euros, pounds, yen, yuan … to prevent an even more colossal financial crash and a more severe recession but the global debt mountain is still estimated to be over 9 times global GDP. No-one is pretending that this debt can ever be paid off. It can’t be written off without massive and unpredictable social consequences (for example when everyone’s savings and pension funds are wiped out). The best that most governments hope for now is to be able to maintain interest payments on the national debt in the hope that one day growth rates will miraculously revive before another financial catastrophe rocks the system. Meanwhile, pander to the credit ratings agencies and reduce government spending to try and keep up your rating to ensure low interest payments … as if states were in the same position as private individuals. By contrast with the sums being pumped into the financial system, reduced spending on health and welfare services, employment benefits, schools, roads, community amenities in general: all the cuts that go under the heading of ‘austerity’ are set to continue. Just as the pantomime between the Republicans and Democrats in the US Congress is useful propaganda to emphasise to the working class how important it is that they make even more sacrifices in the national interest, so propaganda about the need for the UK to “live within its means” and keep up its credit rating helps persuade workers here to accept ‘austerity’.

Osborne, of course, is more smug than ever: “I think the overwhelming majority of people now realise Britain was right to tackle its debts.” Over the past five years the majority of people in Britain have certainly put up with a lot. Declining real wages (on average over £30 per week), well over a million jobs lost despite the talk of people holding onto their jobs, reduced public services, pension losses and the postponing of the retirement age, perpetual reductions to benefits for the unemployed and for people living in social housing accompanied by increasing harassment and intimidation of individuals. Clearly some people are worse affected than others and those in the weakest position have been hit the hardest. But it’s no use thinking the ‘recovery’ is going to change this. Labour and the TUC are trying to make out that this is because the government has mismanaged the economy and that the recovery is “way behind schedule” (TUC). Ed Balls, Shadow Chancellor claims Labour would “build an economy that helps working people” whilst still managing to stick to the 2015/16 spending totals set out by the current coalition. In practice, whichever political party is in office the economy will be run to meet the needs of capital and working class livelihoods will be increasingly threatened as employers strive to reduce their labour costs and the government continues to reduce welfare spending. Throughout the globe the name of the game for the bosses is how to up productivity, how to get more unpaid work from their labour force. Forget about companies ‘providing jobs’. The only reason any capitalist firm exists is to make a profit.

Cheapening the cost of labour power: the outlook for the working class as a whole

There is only one source of genuine growth – i.e. the creation of new value or wealth, as opposed to the fictitious value created by financial speculation — and that is upping workers’ productivity. Historically capitalism’s drive for a higher rate of profit has brought continual technological innovation and the unprecedented possibility of the majority of humanity escaping the need to labour all hours of the waking day to survive. This is testimony to the past usefulness of capitalism to humanity. Of course this is all an indirect result of an exploitative class society whose ruling class hides the fact that unpaid labour is behind all wealth creation. Moreover, it was never a straightforward process: the history of capitalism is one of cycles of ever-more encompassing slumps and recoveries from a more concentrated and centralised base. Once that cycle reached world proportions then its consequences have extended far beyond the strictly economic: the two world wars were a direct product of world economic downturn. Today the continued existence of such an irrational and unstable system as capitalism is a threat, not a benefit for humanity. Despite restructurings, adoption of new technology and globalisation of production the rate of profit continues to fall and economic growth is declining. New layers of workers might be joining the global labour force but many more are permanently excluded and any ‘recovery’ on the agenda must be at the expense of the working class. By contrast, in a rationally organised society — one not dominated by a class living off the fruits of other’s labour — everyone would be involved in the task of producing first the necessities and then the ‘luxuries’ of civilised life. The means already exist for everyone across the globe to enjoy a reasonably comfortable life with a substantially shorter working day, but the capitalist reality where the pursuit of profit drives everything is very different. On the one hand capital is driving down wages and insisting on more and more ‘flexibility’ and fewer and fewer legal obstacles to deploying workers when, where and how it likes. On the other hand the global ‘reserve army of unemployed’ is growing inexorably and the long-searched for ‘recovery’ based on high tech manufacturing would only add to the problem.

Above all it is today’s youth who are threatened by this unprecedented situation. The route often dangled before young people as the road to success, education, is increasingly proving to be a road to nowhere as capitalism is unable to integrate the product of its advanced educational establishments. Graduates in debt, lucky to get a call centre job find themselves part of a dismal panorama of escalating asset bubbles palmed off as ‘’recovery’’. It is no surprise that those countries with the highest unemployment rates have seen the most street protests and uprisings. These have sometimes toppled governments but without any solution to the problems, which are global and defy national answers. Only when the working class in general asserts its capacity to paralyse the system of production will the existence of capitalism be challenged.

Friday, October 25, 2013

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.