"Lazy Workers" to Blame for Crisis?

In early November, speaking about falling stock levels, Diane Sawyer gave viewers of World News an answer to their woes: “Blame it on the country of Greece, long-criticized for being undisciplined, and now threatening American retirements.”

This statement is just the latest in bourgeois propaganda that has been circulating the European continent for years and has now made its way to the United States. We are told that somehow it’s the Greek workers who are to blame for the crisis destabilizing Europe and the world. This is nothing new. It is simply yet another attempt to divide the workers of the world, to blame workers for what is fundamentally a crisis of the capitalist system itself.

Usually the finger is pointed at the most oppressed and exploited layers of society: minorities, immigrants, single mothers, the unemployed. But for the representatives of capitalism who are a little more out of touch with reality, the attack is broadened to our entire class.
As Herman Cain put it: “If you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself.”

And here are Mitt Romney’s words of wisdom: “Americans have tended to avoid the hard work that overcoming challenges requires.”

And Paul Ryan had this to say: “Part of it is the culture of people just having no work ethic.”

Even Obama joined in the chorus: “The way I think about it is, this is a great, great country that had gotten a little soft and we didn’t have that same competitive edge that we needed over the last couple of decades.”

Despite the hypocritical uproar by the Republicans, he was actually speaking about American big business, who in the mad drive for profits at any cost, have lost their “competitive edge.”

As Marxists we understand that all the wealth of society is created by the labor of the working class, not by the executives of corporations. And yet, the system cannot even guarantee jobs for all, let alone a decent quality of life. And yet its representatives “blame the victim” of their own system!

Perhaps it was explained best when in the 1970s, a representative for U.S. Steel declared, “we make profits, not steel.”

It’s doubtful whether Herman Cain could run all of the Godfather’s Pizzas across the country single-handedly, despite all the advances in technology over the past few decades. In fact, due in part to this technology, and also to the further exploitation of the working class, productivity per worker in the U.S. has increased by an incredible 400% since 1950. In the past few years alone, worker productivity has dramatically spiked.

Surely, in the world’s richest nation, this should be directly reflected in a rising standard of living. A 400% rise wouldn’t be illogical. Or at the very least, it should result in a corresponding reduction of the working day, to an average of just 11 hours per week.

We know that the reality is very different. American workers tend to be among the most overworked in the world, with very few benefits to show for it.

For starters, the U.S. is not one of more than 134 countries with laws limiting the maximum length of the work week. The International Labor Organization has found that “Americans work 137 more hours per year than Japanese workers, 260 more hours per year than British workers, and 499 more hours per year than French workers.”

If you get paid sick days at your job, consider yourself lucky and thank the organized labor movement, as there is no law guaranteeing this. There are also no laws guaranteeing paid vacation days or even paid holidays.

Of all the highly industrialized countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), as well as in all of the Americas, the U.S. is the only one without mandatory paid parental leave. Only around half of American workers are covered by parental leave of any sort, limited to 3 months and unpaid. And with 85.8% of men and 66.5% of women working more than 40 hours a week, who has time to raise their children? So much for “family values!”

The U.S. is the most technologically developed country on Earth. Some statistics say that if U.S. agriculture’s production ran at 100%, it could feed the world 7 times over. But the American agricultural corporations aren’t in business to feed people, they are in it for profits.

This is a huge contradiction that cannot be maintained. Millions of homes remain vacant while million of people are homeless. Millions are unemployed while there is plenty of work to be done to rebuild our infrastructure.

We’ve said it once, but we’ll say it again: What is necessary is to abolish the capitalist system through nationalization of the major industries and the banking system. Only under democratic workers’ control can these industries be run in a rational way. Because of the international division of labor, it is an absolute necessity that a socialist plan of production be worldwide in scope.

Only then could the development of technology allow us to shorten the work week, raise wages, provide paid parental leave, free health care, free education and all of the other benefits that should flow from this. Our incentive for increasing productivity would not be profits, but raising of the standard of living for all. And as for the Herman Cains of the world, they are more than welcome to get productive jobs just like the rest of us.


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