The Spark

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

200 Million Children Are Working

Jul 19, 2010

The International Labor Bureau, part of the United Nations, published a report similar to what it has published every four years: Two hundred million young people, under 14 years of age, work for a living instead of going to school.

These children work in mines, in textile factories, for marine companies and labor in agriculture. The report was accompanied by sad photos of children in a mine pushing a cart larger than they were or selling things on the sidewalks of slums.

The report’s authors say they want the “consumer” to know the real cost of cotton or coffee or electronic devices, that is, the labor of children.

The UN can issue proclamations, its member countries can issue laws. But the “law of the market” still prevails. Greedy capitalists want child laborers because they want the cheapest possible labor force. And in poor countries, where families are desperate for the income of their children, they find a ready-made hiring pool.

Child labor – that is, the exploitation of children – is an inseparable part of capitalist production, just as is the need to sell one’s labor to survive. Marx pointed out long ago that the abolition of child labor had to be one of the first demands of the workers’ movement. And the one example where it was successfully abolished was during the Russian Revolution. While richer countries, like the United States, have abolished child labor over many years, such countries never abolished it in the underdeveloped countries they control.

This report can serve as a support for those who want to struggle against child labor in countries where it is widespread, that is, in the poor countries. But to push back this abomination, a real fight by the working class is necessary.