Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The crisis:an open letter to trade unionists

The crisis:
an open letter to trade unionists


Fellow Workers

Capitalism is once again in the middle of one of its periodic economic crises, this time a bigger one than in the recent past. And, as usual, we are the victims. This crisis has been caused, as all capitalist crises are, by the uncontrollable pursuit of profits that drives the
capitalist economy.

With all capitalist businesses chasing profits, one sector of the economy inevitably over-expands in relation to what it can sell. This time it was the US house-building sector. Its over-expansion had an immediate effect on the banking sector which, in its chase after profits, had been engaging in dubious practices. This in turn had a knock-on effect on other sectors and is still working its way through the economy. Which is where we are today, with closed factories and rising unemployment alongside unmet needs.

Unemployment in Britain is expected to reach 3 million, maybe even before the end of the year. Faced with this economic tsunami, the government has been helpless. They have bailed-out the banks but, apart from that, all they have done is to print more money, but this won’t get production going again. It will just stoke up inflation for later. It looks as if this Labour government will end like all previous Labour governments – leaving office with more unemployed than when they took over. So showing once again that governments can’t control the way capitalism works.

The capitalist economy will eventually recover but of its own accord, not because of anything the government might do. And not without first putting the working class through many more months of additional misery.

Recovery will only come when the rate of profit is restored.Which employers are actively seeking to bring about by imposing wage freezes, even wage cuts, watering down pension schemes, and anything else they can think of to reduce their labour costs. Some have even had the cheek to ask their employees to work for nothing. Meanwhile both the Labour government and the Tory opposition are insisting that public sector workers will have to suffer too.

Workers should fight back. But the crisis has shifted the balance of forces even more in favour of employers. In the best of circumstances, when production is expanding and there is a labour shortage, unions have to work hard to get wages to go up a bit more than inflation. Now, with falling production and rising unemployment, unions can only try to put a brake on the downward slide, only try to stop things getting worse, .

Ask yourself this: Why should we have to fight the same battles over and over again? Is this the only future? Yes, within the context of the capitalist system of production for profit, it is.
But capitalism is not the only possible way of organising the production and distribution of the things we need. There is an alternative.

Workers can and should organise to end capitalism which forces them to work for wages to live. We should organise to replace it with a system based on producing the things we need simply because we need them and not to make a profit. Production for use, not production for profit. But we can’t control what is produced unless we also own and control the means of production. In short, we need socialism, the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production.

To achieve this, workers need to take political action. We need to organise not just in trade unions but also as a political party with socialism as its aim and policy. This the Labour Party never was, even though it was originally set up and financed by the trade unions. Its policy was to work for reforms within capitalism. Labour governments did bring in some reforms, but they were never able to make capitalism work in the interests of workers. That's just not possible. All of them ended up merely managing capitalism and in the only way it can ever be – as a profit-making system in the interests of those who live off profits extracted from the unpaid labour of wage and salary workers. Instead of Labour changing capitalism, capitalism has changed Labour into the miserable band of self-seeking apologists for capitalism that everybody today can see they are. It’s high time the unions stop financing this capitalist party, as some have already done.

Some are suggesting that, now that existing Labour Party has failed, the unions should set up a new Labour party. That would be a mistake. Labour reformism has failed once and it would fail again. So, let’s not go down that road a second time. Let’s learn the lesson of history that no government can manipulate capitalism to ensure permanent full employment and steadily rising wages, the TUC’s illusion (and not only their’s) of a radiant future. Which, even if possible, would still leave the exploitation of wage-labour for profit on which capitalism is based.

No, what is needed is, as we said, a party with socialism as its aim and policy, an instrument workers can use to win control of political power with a view to ending capitalist ownership and the wages system and to bring in the common ownership of the means of production so that these can be used to meet people’s needs in accordance with the principle “from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs”.

Socialism is still the hope of humanity. Let’s work for it.

The Executive Committee,
The Socialist Party of Great Britain.
August 2009

14 comments:

Philip said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Imposs1904 said...

The above comment was deleted for trolling.

Kirsty said...

As long as we have a first past the post voting system the unions effectively have to support Labour as the only serious contender is the Tories who are still much worse. First thing we need is a truly representative voting system so people can actually vote for who they want.

What did that deleted comment say? Socialists have an unfortunate reputation for suppressing opposition, maybe you should allow some freedom of speech.

Jock said...

Kirsty,
"the Tories who are still much worse". A wee bit debatable.
Anyway, it is a very negative way to base your politics, Kirsty. Some would say the Labour Party is worse because it pretends to be the working class's friend while being very much a capitalist-supporting party.

Imposs1904 said...

Kirsty,

the deleted comment was from a fascist who made no reference to the post itself, and who was simply trying to get readers to click on his page.

Kirsty said...

I don't think its overly pessimistic to say the socialist party are not going to win the next election, but for people like me working minimum wage the prospect of the Tories coming in and abolishing it is a very real and scary prospect. I wouldn't personally vote Labour either as you're right, the difference isn't large enough to bother, but I can see why the unions do.

purplearcanist said...

Fellow Workers

"Capitalism is once again in the middle of one of its periodic economic crises, this time a bigger one than in the recent past. And, as usual, we are the victims. This crisis has been caused, as all capitalist crises are, by the uncontrollable pursuit of profits that drives the
capitalist economy."

Wait a second, profits cause the business cycle?

How?

"With all capitalist businesses chasing profits, one sector of the economy inevitably over-expands in relation to what it can sell. This time it was the US house-building sector. Its over-expansion had an immediate effect on the banking sector which, in its chase after profits, had been engaging in dubious practices. This in turn had a knock-on effect on other sectors and is still working its way through the economy. Which is where we are today, with closed factories and rising unemployment alongside unmet needs."

Actually, you got that wrong. Additional houses could be sold. However, the important thing to remember was that it was unsustainable. For example, if you transfer workers from net repair to fishing, you can catch more fish until the nets break.

I find it odd that people are not explaining, or failing to explain with their boom and bust theories, why certain sectors of the economy are booming.

"Unemployment in Britain is expected to reach 3 million, maybe even before the end of the year. Faced with this economic tsunami, the government has been helpless. They have bailed-out the banks but, apart from that, all they have done is to print more money, but this won’t get production going again. It will just stoke up inflation for later. It looks as if this Labour government will end like all previous Labour governments – leaving office with more unemployed than when they took over. So showing once again that governments can’t control the way capitalism works."

Yet more things are right. Producing money won't help. They can't stem the tide of unemployment, and trying to makes it worse.

Actually, governments can control the way capitalism works, at the price of making it work worse.

purplearcanist said...

"The capitalist economy will eventually recover but of its own accord, not because of anything the government might do. And not without first putting the working class through many more months of additional misery."

YES! Correct!

"Recovery will only come when the rate of profit is restored. Which employers are actively seeking to bring about by imposing wage freezes, even wage cuts, watering down pension schemes, and anything else they can think of to reduce their labour costs. Some have even had the cheek to ask their employees to work for nothing. Meanwhile both the Labour government and the Tory opposition are insisting that public sector workers will have to suffer too."

Actually, a wage cut isn't that bad when you have rapid deflation to accompany it. Which should happen in a recession, unless government is countering it.

"Workers should fight back. But the crisis has shifted the balance of forces even more in favour of employers."

Here is one important question:

If employers could cut wages anytime, why did they wait until the recession?

"Ask yourself this: Why should we have to fight the same battles over and over again? Is this the only future? Yes, within the context of the capitalist system of production for profit, it is."

You do realize that ALL production is made for profit. Whether something is produced for use or exchange (which is use). The producer feels they will get into a better situation by doing the action, and profits.

"But capitalism is not the only possible way of organising the production and distribution of the things we need. There is an alternative. Workers can and should organise to end capitalism which forces them to work for wages to live."

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

"We should organise to replace it with a system based on producing the things we need simply because we need them and not to make a profit. Production for use, not production for profit."

Production for use is production for profit. The two are synonimous.

Just remember one thing. Scarcity exists. And capitalism is not what you think it is.

Kirsty said...

purplearcanist said...
“You do realize that ALL production is made for profit”

That's simply not the case, money is not the only motivator. The open source community proves that by itself, a whole load of people program Linux and other software for free just because they enjoy it. The products are much better then that produced by the wage slaves working at capitalist companies like Microsoft, who waste as much time marketing as producing anything useful.

Mike Ballard said...

All commodities have both a use and exchange-value. A good or service without perceived use cannot be sold.

Wages don't = what's socially produced. "Insufficient demand" is the result. Sure, the rate of profit can be increased by pushing wages down; but pushing wages down also leads to 'insufficient demand' in the marketplace. Wages can be boosted through government taxations on wealth which can be funneled bact to the wage workers in terms of subsidies to housing, food and so on, thus increasing disposable income and contributing to the solving the problem of 'insufficient demand'.

On the whole though, I'd prefer producing just for use and need and not worrying about the bosses' profits.

purplearcanist said...

"That's simply not the case, money is not the only motivator."

Money is not the only motivator. When I said profits I did not imply money. Sorry if I sound confusing. I meant that people profit if they improve their state of affairs, and subjectively according to what they consider is a better state of affairs. While some consider more money to be this way, others do not, as evidenced by your examples.

"The open source community proves that by itself, a whole load of people program Linux and other software for free just because they enjoy it."

True, and this is from someone who uses Linux and open source software on a regular basis, and someone who wants to program some.

"The products are much better then that produced by the wage slaves working at capitalist companies like Microsoft"

Sorry, but until you can form a logical argument as to why that is the case, it is merely an opinon/value judgement. Thing is, monetary profit does induce people to produce better products, since consumers buy more of the products that are more useful, and boycott the products that aren't. However, I could see sort of that happening with open-source, as people program more on the projects that are popular, but ones that aren't die out.

However, there is some issue with Intellectual Property, which I will leave out for time's sake.

"who waste as much time marketing as producing anything useful."

But marketing is useful. It helps people decide what others want. It tells others about the product. It makes products more attractive (which some want). Thing about the market is, you can choose less marketing from more marketing when deciding which product you want. Or start your own market free company. The only reason marketing exists is because people think it brings monetary profit.

purplearcanist said...

"Wages don't = what's socially produced. "

Actually, a wage is an amount of money worth less to the employer than the services rendered by the wage-earner to the employer. With social production, there is the dilema of what is "socially useful"

"All commodities have both a use and exchange-value. A good or service without perceived use cannot be sold."

Actually, if something can be sold for X, it means that someone values that something more than X. But overall, I would agree.

""Insufficient demand" is the result. Sure, the rate of profit can be increased by pushing wages down; but pushing wages down also leads to 'insufficient demand' in the marketplace."
This whole thing of insufficient demand is keynesian BS. How does pushing wages down lead to insufficient demand? In addition, the rate of profit cannot always be increased by reducing wages. If that was true, it would be an absurdity, as wages would be reduced to 0 for higher profit, eventually turning into a negetive wage (you pay to work). The reason is because employers compete for workers, and a worker prefers a higher wage compared to a lower wage cerebus perebus. An employer who pushes down wages can easily lose his productive workers, and experience losses as a result.

"Wages can be boosted through government taxations on wealth which can be funneled bact to the wage workers in terms of subsidies to housing, food and so on,"

Many problems with this, and I won't go into the moral issues of employing force to deprive someone of their wealth.
First, a subsidy to one good causes too much of it to be produced, and too little of other goods.
Second, a subsidy to one good protects the businesses who sell that good from competition. In this way, it penalizes efficent producers while rewarding inefficent ones.
Third, a subsidy to the poor rewards the people best equipped to prey on this newfound wealth, while penalizing productive individuals.
Fourth, the taxing of the rich actually reduces wages as they heighten their time prefrence. Becuase of this, the demand for labor lowers, and actually diminishes wages.

"
On the whole though, I'd prefer producing just for use and need and not worrying about the bosses' profits."

Why not produce that way?

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Stephane said...

Translated in french at http://bataillesocialiste.wordpress.com/2009/09/04/lettre-ouverte-du-spgb-aux-syndicalistes/