Unemployment: An Organic Feature of Capitalism

Unemployment is a constant feature of capitalism that benefits the ruling class while damning the working class. Current federal government figures show that roughly 9 million workers are unemployed with some 2 million unable to find work for more than 27 months. If we take into account the millions of under-employed workers, the situation is even more grim. In the present “jobless recovery” the owners, bosses, and multi-millionaire investors are all making out like bandits as wages continue to drop, benefits get cut, and more and more jobs are either replaced by new machinery or relocated to countries where wages are a fraction of what they are in the U.S. In contrast, if the capitalists are making out like bandits, the working class is being left high and dry.

Wages represent the price of the worker’s labor power which the capitalist purchases and puts to use in the production of commodities (objects intended solely for exchange). Like all prices, wages are vulnerable to fluctuations in supply and demand that are inherent in the market. If the capitalists – the only class capable of buying on a mass scale – is not buying, then the working class must suffer unemployment, thereby driving down wages across the board. A worker owns only his or her ability to work, and therefore does not have the luxury afforded the capitalist owner, who may have a multitude of commodities or properties other than his own flesh and blood. If his products are in too great a supply, he can choose to sell at a loss or wait for demand to rise while focusing on another commodity. On the other hand, the worker must constantly sell his or her ability to work for a wage in order to survive; there is no waiting for brighter days for the sale of labor power!

A large reserve of unemployment means that the capitalists have the freedom to buy labor power for less, thus lowering the overall quality of life for working people in general. So far this is how the recovery has progressed. The economy has been propelled forward by greater productivity, but only at the expense of the workers involved in production and as well for those cast out of jobs. The boss can demand a speed-up during such periods, and those still employed will often on their own initiative work harder, longer, and do anything necessary to prove their worth so as to prevent a pink slip and all the hardship that entails.        

The current situation of unemployment remains far from being solved on an individual basis. Personal work ethic is not what has caused droves of people from well-paying jobs to seek multiple minimum wage, part-time jobs. On the contrary, it is an organic feature of the capitalist system in action. The continual drive for profit and efficiency in production is at the heart of the capitalist setup, regardless of the consequences to millions of entirely capable workers. The only lasting, mass solution is a radical change in the way society is organized.

But for this we need a political voice. The working class in the U.S. has no mass, class-independent political party to fight for transitional reforms while building the class consciousness of the workers in order to bring about the social revolution. The two parties of the bosses have said nothing concrete about unemployment. If anything is muttered it remains pre-election lip service. A real workers’ party armed with a socialist program could tear open the old illusions that prevail as to the class nature of both the Democrats and the Republicans. As a first step, a workers’ candidate could use the current situation to focus on the need for a workers’ political organization to fight for the victory of the proletariat. In the absence of such a workers’ party, we are left with the two parties of big business, which concern themselves mostly with magnifying their superficial differences. At the end of the day, both major parties defend the interests of big business and the capitalist class, and spend their time blowing smoke in the eyes of the working class as to the real class interests involved. For example, Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean has asserted that he will include more religious fluff in his campaign. What that has to do with providing quality jobs, health care, and education for all is anyone’s guess! The bourgeois media also perpetuates the inane as in Time magazine’s recent photo session of GW clearing underbrush on his ranch in Texas. The real underlying message of this kind of “journalism” is the following: while millions go unemployed the millionaire president tends to some yard work!

The lack of mass political working class organizations here in the U.S. is partially due to the rotten AFL-CIO leadership. They have really done nothing to use the current situation to build up genuine class consciousness, or even to muster up a campaign to end unemployment, especially at a time of an all out assault on the unions. The lecherous leadership caste in the unions has cuddled up to the bosses and their system. Time and time again they act as a brake on the working class strivings for advancement. As a first step in the building of a political party representing the working class, the unions must be reclaimed by the rank and file. The formation a workers’ political party based on the unions will be a tremendous first step towards ending of the miseries of capitalism.

There is no “natural” need for unemployment other than the need for greater and greater profits to be made by the capitalist class. There is no material reason we cannot harness the talents, skills, and interests of all working people in order to improve all of our lives. Under a nationalized, democratically planned economy, guided by a socialist program, full employment could be the norm. After the social revolution, the dramatic change in the relations of production will allow more work to be done by modern machines and technology. Rather than increase the burden on human workers, there will be more and more time for human fulfillment in all spheres of life. Instead of being reduced to mere components of production to be bought and sold on the market along with all other commodities, humanity will begin the process of consciously and democratically controlling production, distribution and exchange. We will build a society based on human want and need rather than profit lust and poverty.

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