Sep 19, 2011
Three years ago, the banks, buried under record amounts of debt and speculation, practically stopped functioning. Lending and borrowing ground to a halt, bringing the whole world economy to its knees.
Governments all over the world threw huge amounts of money at the banks, putting them back in business. But now the governments are buried under so much debt, governments are threatened by bankruptcy, unleashing even worse crises. So only three years after the last financial crisis, we are mired at the beginning of a new one – worse than the last one.
Even the biggest defenders of the capitalist system know that the ongoing financial crisis will not and cannot be contained to the financial sphere. Finance is not only a gigantic game of Monopoly, played with paper money, with everyone going home when the game is over. The billions lost in the ups and downs of speculation, are drawn from human labor, from the wear and tear on the workers, from their exploitation. And the financial sphere makes up an integral part of the economy, just as a cancerous tumor is part of the body that it destroys.
A banking crisis, that is, the severe restriction of credit for the economy, even the present threat of credit drying up, impacts production itself, employment and wages. This already constitutes a huge waste for society, and it is only the beginning.
The defenders of the capitalist system engage in a false debate: Should Greece be saved or not? Should the Euro be saved or not? Can the U.S. government debt be eliminated? It all boils down to one thing: to make the workers, retirees and unemployed accept new sacrifices.
For the working class, the main problems are not this government debt. The workers’ problem is how to protect themselves from unemployment and rising prices. All the rest is just a smokescreen.
No matter what solutions the heads of all the Central Banks – the U.S. Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank, etc. – impose, those proposals won’t save the workers who lost their jobs and are unemployed, who are living in poverty today and threatened with misery tomorrow.
For the workers to protect their interests, they must defend themselves from the capitalists’ and the bankers’ so-called solutions as much as from the disasters produced by their economy.
To fight unemployment, workers must depend on their own collective action, refusing to allow any layoffs. Instead, the workers must confront the bosses, demand that the work be spread out among everyone, without a loss in pay for anyone.
After a number of years of mild inflation, the capitalist class is once again resorting to raising prices, as it has so often done in the past, in order to empty the pockets of the working class. Until the workers are strong enough and conscious enough to fight the capitalists over who controls the economy, there is no way to prevent the rise in prices within the framework of capitalism. But we can prevent these price increases from lowering our purchasing power, by forcing the bosses to accept an automatic indexing of wages and of pensions tied to the rise in prices.
As long as this economic system endures, the working class cannot prevent capitalism from tearing society apart. For capitalism ties the economy and society to the private ownership of the means of production and the anarchic race for individual profit.
But workers can protect their fundamental interests, their jobs and their wages, by collective action. This is the vital objective today and for the period to come.