The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

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

Unemployment in the Midst of Wealth—Capitalism’s Dead End

Dec 12, 2011

2011 is ending, just like the year began: unemployment is decimating the working class.

Oh, yes, the government did announce, cynically, that the “official rate” of unemployment went down in November. But that was only a statistical sleight of hand, expunging 315,000 unemployed people from government records—because they had been unemployed too long!

In the real world human beings inhabit, the number of people without a job continues to go up. Today, there are 6.2 million fewer people working than there were at the beginning of 2008, as the recession was beginning. Given the growth of the population, there should be almost five million MORE working. We’re missing more than 11 million jobs!

Economists have now begun to call this “the great recession,” hinting even that we might be on the verge of another “great depression.”

No matter what they call it, it’s a catastrophe. And there is no reason for it—other than the unquenchable greed of the bankers and industrialists whose main means of amassing wealth is to reduce the income and jobs of the working class.

Here’s an example: Six members of the Walton family own 70 billion dollars—about equal to the wealth held by 94 million people, the 30% of the population with the smallest holdings. Where did they get their wealth?

Where else than from the hard work of millions of people—1.4 million of whom today toil in Wal-Mart stores in the U.S., paid near minimum wage, cheated of benefits, subjected to quasi-military discipline and horrid working conditions. Tens of millions more toil in factories in some of the lowest wage areas of the world, often paid barely a dollar a day, sometimes even just cents, under near slave labor conditions—producing for Wal-Mart stores.

Wal-Mart and its Walton family owners provide the perfect picture of 21st century capitalism: on one side of the picture, unbridled greed; on the other side, growing impoverishment.

This system outwore its usefulness long ago. Capitalism hangs on only because the working class has not yet massed its forces for the fight that could put capitalism in its grave.

But in its grave capitalism must be put. It does not do what it has the wealth to do: that is, provide a job, at a decent wage, for everyone who wants to work. It does not put to productive employment all the millions upon millions of people who could be building the schools our children need, repairing the roads and infrastructure that are the basis of any functioning society, replacing dilapidated housing stock, and so on. And yet, there’s more than enough wealth produced every day to do all those things, and much more—if this wealth were put to productive use, instead of left to accumulate and even mold in bank vaults. Worse, today it’s thrown away in the circuits of speculation, threatening a collapse of the whole financial system.

But that brings us back to the starting point: capitalism itself, and the absolute, pressing need to rip it out.

The working class has the forces that could bring capitalism to a crashing halt; and it has the position in the productive economy that could lead to the creation of a new economy, whose main and essential aim would be to satisfy the needs of the population.

For a century and a half, the working class has been close to storming the gates of capitalism, taking the economy into its own hands, using it to build up a socialist society, a communist society.

This transformation has never been more urgent.