Jun 15, 2020
When one-and-a-half million new claimants signed up for unemployment last week, almost all the media pushed this headline: unemployment is “bottoming out.”
“Bottoming out”? Meaningless drivel. Unemployment is catastrophic. It is even more catastrophic for the black population, who have always been “last hired, first fired.”
Today, the capitalist class that runs everything pretends there simply aren’t enough jobs for everyone to have a decent job at a decent wage. And if workers compete with each other for jobs, leading to racist developments, well, say the capitalists, that’s not their responsibility, these are “social problems.”
Yes, they are, and they spring from this same social class that requires the violence of the police to impose its interests, the capitalist class.
For a long time, many black activists have said, “if black lives don’t matter, no one’s life matters.” Just look at the facts, you see it clearly. The same police who brutalize black people also brutalize a good number of whites. They brutalize black people proportionately more, but whites, particularly poor and working class whites, don’t escape. In fact, there are more whites killed by the police than blacks. And Latinos and others suffer along with everyone else.
With the social explosion of the last few weeks, it seems, finally, that many more whites have begun to recognize this reality.
The same reality exists about jobs. If black workers are deprived of jobs and the decent income that comes with them, no worker’s standard of living is sure. Oh yes, white workers can keep their jobs longer before being fired, a little longer; their wages may be higher, somewhat higher. But those are just crumbs. Today, with this enormous increase in unemployment, as the system careens from one crisis to another, what are crumbs worth?
This catastrophic unemployment exists because the capitalists won’t hire anyone unless they can make a high enough level of profit. That’s another “social problem” we face today—the drive of the capitalists for profit at the expense of everything else.
This is a country that desperately needs work done. And there are plenty of unemployed workers who could do it. Bridges and dams are collapsing, roads crumbling. Schools are deprived of resources and the staff they need. But nothing is done because public money is going to subsidize the capitalists.
Water systems need to be repaired so we have no more Flints. Electrical systems that produce blackouts in the middle of summer storms need more maintenance workers to keep the lines in repair and more tree trimmers to eliminate the threat to lines. But workers aren’t hired because it would cut into profit.
In every factory running today, people are working too hard, lines are running too fast. Work spaces aren’t organized to protect us from communicable diseases. To make work reasonable would cut into profit.
This is the “social problem” we face. And it requires a “social answer,” a widespread struggle of the working class against the capitalist class which needs unemployment, just like it needs the police.
Young people have begun to fight today. Three weeks ago, many workers couldn’t have imagined this happening. “No one will ever do anything.” That’s what many said. And yet young people are doing something—massively—putting their elders to shame. Many of these young people are from the working class, but without much hope for a job, or a decent income.
It’s often true that struggles begin with the young. But such struggles have the potential to light a fire in the workplaces, the center where the working class holds the potential of power. Those in the workplaces today may be unemployed tomorrow; today’s unemployed may be in a workplace tomorrow. But we all will have the same fight to make—just as the black and white population both need to stand up against this same police violence.
This needs to be considered today in the workplaces.