The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Lost Your Job?
Don’t Blame the Virus

Feb 7, 2021

Industry after industry cut jobs last month. “Hospitality”—that is, hotels, restaurants, leisure—led the pack with 61,000 workers cut.

Those cuts were blamed on the virus. Maybe, but there were all the others. Durable goods manufacturing cut jobs in January; so did storage and warehousing, the off-shoot of Amazon. Jobs were cut in construction, insurance, home health care, retail, advertising, state and local government, not to mention “non-traditional” Uber-style work.

Yes, the crisis we’re in was made worse by the virus, hitting early last year. But key sectors, around which the whole economy turns, had already been spiraling down for a whole year. Construction, manufacturing and corporate investment in capital goods were already leading the whole economy into a severe recession. The virus simply turned it into a catastrophe.

Today, there still are nine million and some fewer jobs than there were a year ago, almost 11 million fewer if you count all the “non-traditional” workers who lost jobs.

No matter how the virus added to the problem, the main culprit in this disaster is the ordinary way capitalism works in the 21st century.

Big companies took advantage of the virus to drive smaller competitors out of business. High tech companies gobbled up each other. With every tech facility that closed, every manufacturer, every retail store, every office, people were put out of work. Amazon may have hired nearly half a million, but retail outlets cut one and a half times that many.

Profitable companies took advantage of the virus to cut jobs in order to increase profit. Think about this: the pharmaceutical companies—like Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, the ones who say they can’t produce enough vaccine—cut jobs.

Companies like Boeing and the airlines and the railroads, whose losses were covered by government stimulus money, cut jobs.

State and city governments took advantage of the virus to cut jobs—almost one and a half million jobs. They blamed the cuts on decreasing tax revenue due to the virus. But nothing said they had to cut jobs—and, thus, services. They could have cut the subsidies and tax breaks they shower on the capitalists who dominate their states. But no matter who was in control—Republicans or Democrats—they cut jobs.

All together, millions of jobs were cut. The virus compounded the problem. But the underlying cause was the drive for profit, the very basis of capitalism. It’s worse today because capitalism is an old system that has outlived its usefulness.

Sooner or later the virus will be tamed—at what human price we can’t yet comprehend. But even after the virus threat is gone, we’ll still be face to face with capitalism, which still will be pushing to increase its profits by driving down the standard of living of all of us who work.

Yes, we have to tame the virus. But we have to get rid of this decrepit system, this throw-back to the past, which breeds misery for the population.

Who will do it? Who can do it? Certainly not these companies, which show us every day what they are. Not the two parties, which openly declare their loyalty to this worn-out capitalist system.

The class which holds the future in its hands is the working class, all of us, the big majority of the population, who every day have to work for our living. We are the ones who actually know how all these different companies run, in other words, how the economy runs. We are the ones working for states and cities who know what is important in what they do and what should be tossed out.

The working class has the capacity to throw out this old system, to build up one that serves the population. The main thing that prevents us from doing so is that we fail to recognize our own power.

People used to say that no one would ever do anything. Look how the movement exploded last June—we can see that people will act. But the problem is not just to act. What’s needed are people who understand the working class can use its situation in the very center of the economy to throw out the parasites who live off us. What’s needed is the goal to build up a new economy and political system, fit for the 21st century. Communism.