The Spark

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

Silicon Valley:
Poverty amidst Plenty

Jan 9, 2017

Silicon Valley, the center of California’s wealthy high-tech industry, is also home to widespread homelessness. About 1,150 children in East Palo Alto – that is, more than one out of three students in the school district that includes East Palo Alto – are officially homeless. They live in shelters, RVs or share homes with other families because their parents can’t afford their own housing.

As elsewhere, many of the homeless families of East Palo Alto have at least one member who is working. But the low wages, combined with rapidly increasing house prices and rents, have pushed families into the street.

Only a freeway separates East Palo Alto from wealthy Palo Alto. Often called “the birthplace of Silicon Valley,” Palo Alto is home to the headquarters of Hewlett-Packard, Tesla Motors and Stanford University. Working-class residents of East Palo Alto do much of the work that makes Palo Alto and its high-tech industry run. And yet, more and more working-class families in East Palo Alto are pushed out of their homes because of the gentrification that has spilled out of Palo Alto into their neighborhoods.

Silicon Valley is a symbol of the level of technology humanity has achieved, and a showcase for the fabulous wealth the tech industry generates. But Silicon Valley also shows us what the capitalist system makes out of this wealth. While a small number of capitalists and their cronies get to enrich themselves and live in luxury, workers are deprived of the fruits of their own labor, and more and more working-class families are thrown into poverty.