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Socialist Party of Great Britain - Capitalism In Crisis - Anger Changes Nothing.

Angry and going nowhere.

The present trade depression continues unabated. In October 2011 the unemployment figures went up to 2.57 million the highest figure for 17 years. Youth unemployment also increased to over one million persons.

According to THE INDEPENDENT, there is anger among the young unemployed. In an accompanying article: “This is a class war disguised as a generation war”, Laurie Penny, whose childish agit prop rant appears to come straight out of PRIVATE EYE'S Dave Spart column, wrote of the high levels of unemployment concluding that:

It is small wonder that students, school pupils and young unemployed people have been taking to the streets in protest for almost a year now. A year ago the commentariat was worried about a “lost generation” sliding into apathy – now it is worried about mass civil unrest. That tells you about the state of Britain today (11th October 2011).

Like most left wing writing, her infantile article gives no analysis of capitalism as a cause of unemployment and nor does it offer a Socialist conclusion to the problems facing the working class today. The mass protests she writes about are all in her imagination. Most areas of the country have seen no mass protests. The only significant protests were in London. The first achieved absolutely nothing except a riot, state violence and imprisonment for those rioters who were caught. The second protest, at Tent City by St Pauls Cathedral was politically incoherent. The protesters were against capitalism but did not understand what it meant. They were a mixture of anarchists, environmentalists, moralists and business people upset at the behaviour of the City and “corporate greed”. There was no Socialist object. No Socialist programme and no political movement.

The capitalist left have a tiresome habit of catapulting into the limelight young and angry firebrands in a temporary glaze of publicity prattling on about the need for “a broad left”. Some end up using their “street cred” to further their own careers in the media and academia, others end up as reactionaries writing for newspapers like the DAILY MAIL and the worst end up as advisors to Ministers of State or hold a cabinet seat in a future Labour Government. What all these hectoring fly-by-nights do is not put the case for Socialism. They are in effect worse than the Tories they despise. At least with the Tories you know they are a Party supporting privilege and comfort for a minority.

Political parasitism

The SWP and The Socialist Party organise “Right to Work” demonstrations but they are just sterile exercises in gesture politics. There is no right to jobs under capitalism. The capitalists are under no obligation to employ workers. They only employ workers if they can make a profit.

75 years ago 200 unemployed men from Jarrow marched from their homes in the North East to London to demand jobs and an end to their conditions of poverty. Their jobs were not re-instated and there was no end to the conditions of poverty. They remained in poverty only finding work again in the ship yards with the outbreak of the Second Work War, which, against their class interests, they largely supported.

The Socialist Party’s front organisation “Youth Fights for Jobs” (YFJ) - the national organiser is a paid up member of the SP (Wikipedia) and the YFJ blog has a podcast of unemployed workers being interviewed with occasional insertions of Social Party banners and activists selling their newspaper, The socialist - recently recreated the Jarrow march which ended in an ill-attended rally in Trafalgar Square where they were talked down to by the usual suspects (Bob Crow et al).

Here are just two of the unattainable demands taken from the Youth Fights for Jobs website:

* A massive government scheme to create jobs which are socially useful and apprenticeships which offer guaranteed jobs at the end - both paying at least the minimum wage, with no youth exemptions.

* A massive building and refurbishment programme of environmentally sound, cheap social housing.

The list is disingenuous. What is revolutionary about the payment of a minimum wages? The first minimum wage legislation was introduced in 1910 by the then Liberal politician, Winston Churchill when he was President of the Board of Trade. Historically, the minimum wage has never worked, with employers finding ways around the law or closing down their businesses when prosecuted. And what is “Socialist” about wanting to force workers onto the labour market and into paid employment? As for building programmes; this is pure Keynesianism nonsense which has never worked. Governments have never been able to reduce unemployment once the trade depression has occurred. Roosevelt’s New Deal did not end the depression of the 1930’s. The New Deal was a Keynesian policy. Keynes discussed the policy with Roosevelt. The New Deal did what the Keynesians say a government should do. It greatly increased government expenditure through building programmes. So the policy ought to have got unemployment down to negligible levels. But in 1938, after six years of the Roosevelt-Keynesian policy unemployment was still at the peak level of 19%. What ended the depression was the outbreak of the Second World War. If workers want decent and environmentally sound housing then they will first have to establish Socialism.

The politics behind this opportunism is to get workers angry enough to support unattainable reforms and once it is clear that they are unrealisable, so the theory goes, those workers will be sucked into front organisations like Youth Fights for Jobs who will then be blown out into the waiting arms of the Trots in the Socialist Party. For the Socialist Party it is “anything goes”; any means towards a state capitalist end.

The premise of the Socialist Party is that workers want something now and are not cut out for understanding and accepting the case for Socialism. Only that the “socialism” advocated by the Socialist Party is not Socialism at all but mass nationalisation or state capitalism. When they talk of “Socialism” they do not mean the abolition of the wages system and the establishment of the common ownership undemocratic control of the means of production and distribution by all of society. In fact the working class should want “something now” and that something now is Socialism and not unattainable reforms dangled out to some passing fish like a grub on a hook at the end of a fishing line.

The need for Socialist Understanding

There is no likelihood of mass civil unrest, at least not the unrest that can easily be contained by the coercive machinery of government. High levels of unemployment usually brings with it alienation, despair, crime, drug and alcohol abuse, not rising socialist consciousness and political action towards a socialist objective. The beneficiaries of unemployment are usually the fascist and nationalist parties. If the seven people interviewed by THE INDEPENDENT are indicative of unemployed youth then resigned political apathy to their predicament rather than the anger hoped for by the capitalist left appears to hold true. Not one of the seven young unemployed workers interviewed wondered how and why capitalism works, why they are unemployed and what, politically, could be done to address the problem of unemployment

What was lacking from these interviewees was a Socialist understanding of the world they lived in. They will not get this Socialist understanding from mock-angry journalists in the INDEPENDENT or from the leadership of the various Trotskyist parties who parasitically feed off working class discontent. Of course a Socialist understanding of capitalism will not get workers a job. It is not intended to. However it does bring a practical awareness that capitalism can never be made to work in their interest and that a Socialist alternative through a principled Socialist Party is both possible and necessary.

So why does unemployment occur? It is one of the contradictions of capitalism that capital both attracts labour (to create surplus value), but also discards labour in the pursuit of profits.

Politicians sell the workers the lie that capitalists exist to create jobs. They don’t. Marx showed that the capitalists are constantly looking at ways of displacing labour by introducing new machinery. Because the purpose of capitalist production is to maximize profit, whenever new technology is introduced it usually means a cut in jobs. This is because the capitalist can make as much (or more) than before, with fewer workers. Marx put it this way:

It is the absolute interest of every capitalist to extort a given quantity of labour out of a smaller rather than a greater number of workers, if the cost is about the same (CAPITAL VOLUME 1, The General Law of Capitalist Accumulation Ch 25 Penguin ed, p. 788, 1996). As productivity increases, employers can employ fewer workers to produce more surplus value, the source of the capitalist’s unearned income of rent, interest and profit. Workers who find themselves surplus to requirement are made redundant and join the industrial reserve army of the unemployed. However while new technology can displace workers from one industry, new industries are being developed in other sectors of the economy. Workers are continually being re-employed and then made redundant again. Although it may rise or fall, unemployment is a permanent feature of capitalism even during a boom period in the economy. Capitalism can never attain full employment and capitalists do not exist to give employment to workers any more than banks are obliged to lend or investors to invest.

And then there is the periodic down-turn in the trade cycle. Throughout capitalism’s history as Marx explained in CAPITAL and elsewhere, periods of good trade and low unemployment alternate with periods of bad trade and high unemployment. All economic policies, Keynesian and monetarist, regulatory and free market have failed to prevent economic crises and trade depressions.

Alone in this country the Socialist Party of Great Britain insisted from the outset that Marx’s analysis of capitalism and socialist conclusion were right; that economic theories cannot predict or arrest an economic crisis once it begins; that full employment cannot be maintained; that trade depressions cannot be eliminated and these economic policies would do nothing to serve working class interests.

The unemployed and employed; young and old – should take the time to read socialist literature; attend socialist meetings and become socialists. There is a socialist alternative; a social system in which production and distribution will take place just to meet human need.

Socialists do not want to see employment continued. Employment is the hall mark of wage slavery and class exploitation. The working class should focus their attention on the private ownership of the means of production and distribution for profit with its labour markets, exploitation and periodic unemployment. Rather than fighting for employment wouldn’t it be better to fight for a world where there is no employment?

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