May 11, 2012

People's Voice Editorial: unemployment and resistance

The ruling class appears nervous these days, faced with unruly strikes by workers and students, and setbacks at the ballot box. Underlying this unease is a very real objective factor: the continued growth of mass unemployment. Hunger and poverty are on the rise even in the "developed" capitalist countries, eroding the ideological grip of the bosses.

The International Labour Organisation's "World of Work Report 2012" projects that global unemployment will hit 212 million by the end of this year, up 6 million from 2011. Total unemployment in Ireland, the former "Celtic Tiger", is around 550,000 out of a population of six million. In Spain, 5.64 million (24.4%) are jobless. Some 50 million jobs have been lost since 2008, and unemployment is higher in two‑thirds of countries since 2010.

Clearly, the "austerity" drive by big capital and its representatives (including most social democratic parties) has had a very negative impact on workers, while profits are back at pre-meltdown levels. In the U.S., high jobless rates threaten to derail President Obama's re-election, but corporations reported $1.65 trillion in profits for the third quarter of 2010. The richest 1,000 people in Britain increased their combined wealth by 4.7% last year, according to the "Rich List."

None of this is an accident. Mass unemployment benefits the wealthy by holding down wage rates. This basic truth is behind the Harper government's move to reduce access to Employment Insurance, by forcing jobless workers to apply for any available opening, regardless of their qualifications.

So when pro-business politicians talk about "reforms" to "improve the economy," they really mean starving workers into accepting lower-paying jobs. But this agenda also generates anger and resistance, and sooner or later, workers will turn against the entire private profit system.

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