All the published reports on unemployment
indicate the worst figures since the mid 1990s, a time when Labour became the
government and said that things could only get better. What a sick joke! Does
the People’s Charter , vigorously
promoted within the labour and trade union movement as a programme to defeat
unemployment, offer anything different? Darrall continues his analysis, begun
in issue 177 .
The Charter’s second demand is for “More
and Better Jobs” We agree. To combat job losses we need to create jobs that pay
a living wage. Within this general demand there are a number of sub -demands
that have two components: to protect existing jobs and create new ones.
"Existing jobs must be protected." Again we
agree, but how is this to be done? When
we analysed the first demand of the People’s Charter we said that, under
capitalism, production takes place to make a profit. To do this part of the
value created by labour is appropriated by the owners of the means of
production. This surplus value goes into the pocket of the capitalist. In the
present recession jobs are being cut as the capitalist seeks to maintain their
share of the surplus value. This is the objective basis of the class struggle.
How do we stop this happening? The Charter puts forward part of a solution.
“Reduce hours, not pay, to create more
jobs.” In other words share out the existing work with no loss of pay. But this
will cut into the profits of the capitalist. He will say that he cannot afford
it. What do we do then? The logical next step is to demand the opening of the
company books to worker inspection to see where all the surplus value created
by the workers has gone – dividends, bonuses, directors’ pay, investment and so
on. What if the accounts show that under capitalism, under the system driven by
profit, sharing out the work with no loss of pay will put the company into the
red and risk closure? What do we then demand?
We will have two choices – either we accept
the argument of the capitalist that to keep the factory open we have to shed
labour or we state that if capitalism cannot guarantee jobs, then it has to go.
Socialist Appeal says that any production unit threatening closure should be
occupied by the workforce and the demand raised for it to be nationalised under
workers’ control and management. There is no middle way. It’s either one or the
“Public and private investment must create
new jobs paying decent money, in particular in manufacturing, construction and green
technology.” The comrades supporting the Charter are right to highlight these
three areas. Wealth is created by the production of commodities for sale. We
need at least five million new houses, so put land, unemployed building workers
and cement/brick works together to build homes. The future of humanity can only
be assured if we don’t destroy the planet’s ecosystem. But let us repeat –
private investment takes place to produce profits, surplus value, not to create
jobs. So it has to be public investment.
The state has to invest, but does it invest
in private companies leaving control and management in the hands of the
capitalists? That won’t solve the problem of unemployment – and where does the
finance come from to invest, especially at a time of public sector cuts to
balance the public debt? Should the state borrow money for investment from the
private sector at exorbitant interest rates? Surely not. Thereby it would
increase the public debt even further – that can only be redressed by future
We say that the state should nationalise
the means of production and the land under workers’ control and management as
part of a socialist plan to meet
people’s needs. We should nationalise the banks that have caused so much havoc.
More jobs mean more spending power to
stimulate the economy, increased tax revenue and fewer people on benefit. With
this we see what the Charter supporters want – a return to Keynesian economics.
We pay workers to dig holes in the road and fill them up. They get paid and they
spend. It is called the multiplier effect. There is however a down side. If we
pay people to make things that are not bought and sold in the market place
there is a danger that we are merely stoking the fire of inflation by
increasing the money supply, exactly what the Labour government is doing now
with “quantitative easing” or printing money it does not have!
Let us be concrete with this demand. We
need a crash building programme of affordable social housing, schools,
hospitals and roads to give employment to the jobless. But this has to be
related to the need to change society. If it is not, then what we are doing is
trying to tinker with a capitalist system over which we have no control.
"Build full employment. Raise the minimum
wage to half national median earnings and end the lower rate for young workers."
Again, what does this mean? If it means work or full pay, then say so. If it
means work at a living wage, then say so. But again who decides the wage
levels? Is it the government by law? At the moment there are thousands of
workplaces up and down the country that are not even paying the miserly minimum
wage and there is nobody to police them. Will the wages be set by employer and
trade union collective agreements? What about non-unionised workshops? Let us repeat. Wages are payment for part of
the value produced by labour. If we increase wages we cut into the surplus
value creamed off by the capitalists.
Does that mean we should not demand wage
increases? Of course not! We are all for getting better living standards for
workers with immediate effect. What it
does mean is that each and every one of these demands needs to be related to
the need to abolish capitalism. Wages go up, profits go down and then prices
are put up to restore profit levels. That is capitalism. We can only stop this
when we control and manage the means of production. As Lenin said, every
economic demand has to be related to the need to change society. We need
socialism, and we need it now.
Click here to read Part One of the review of the Charter.