Bourgeois ‘Recovery’: Death and Misery Lie in its Wake

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The capitalist crisis continues to deepen despite increasingly desperate proclamations to the contrary. Nestled behind the claims of recovery, class conflict and internecine bourgeois rivalries threaten to tear the social landscape of capitalist society apart. For all of the grandstanding and optimistic rhetoric, there is a noticeable silence about even the possibility of rolling back of austerity measures. The bourgeoisie must continue its assault on the working class--its frustrated attempts to alleviate the crisis demand nothing less. The steady drumbeat of austerity demands further sacrifices on the part of the working class.

The latest round of attacks has caught public sector workers in its cross hairs. Wisconsin represents one battleground, and Walker and public sector workers two combatants in a global class struggle. Elsewhere in the United States, teachers are coming more and more under the knife. One of the bourgeoisie’s most powerful propaganda tools is the unemployment rate. Currently, the official unemployment rate falls around 8.8%--a marked improvement over the employment rate in recent memory indeed! Revolutionaries must look between the lies propagated by the bourgeoisie’s media apparatus and arrive at the truth behind the situation.

The global capitalist system is gripped by the most serious crisis in its history. The managers of this system, embodied in the national states, attempt to respond to the crisis in such a way that their imperialist faction may benefit over others—but this becomes increasingly difficult with each manipulation. The ruling class needs to hide the truth about the seriousness of the crisis, thus they fudge up statistics to ‘prove’ that their system is resilient and on the way to prosperity. The “official” unemployment rate exemplifies this statistical manipulation. Has unemployment really fallen, in any meaningful sense? A deeper look at the bizarre world of bourgeois pseudo-science exposes the lie behind the 8.8% rate. Workers who are not actively looking for jobs, including workers who have been forced back into school to gain new skills or who have given up looking for a job, are not included in the statistic. Furthermore, the bourgeoisie considers you unemployed only if you receive unemployment benefits. It should surprise no one then that when the bourgeoisie rescinded unemployment benefits, the stats suddenly improved! What the unemployment rate really represents is not, as is implied, the number of workers who do not have jobs. Instead, it represents the number of workers the state finds convenient to count as not having jobs! It is also worth underlining that the retail industries are responsible for most ‘re-absorption’ of previously unemployed people. In most cases this means that workers moved from previously gainful employment to jobs that pay less and provide poorer benefits. It is also worth noting that after all the attacks, amounting to billions and billions of dollars in savings, the reduction of the government deficit will amount to about 3%! It will go from something like 43% of the GNP to 40%. The bourgeoisie will have to resort to more and more severe austerity measures, accompanied by more layoffs, in the future. Indeed, even some bourgeois economists, urge caution as to the sustainability of the much-vaunted decrease in unemployment.

Clearly, bourgeois economics cannot be trusted. It provides only the most distorted picture of society, a picture designed to mystify and deceive. We must attempt to more accurately tally the actual effects of the crisis and the extent of the “recovery.”

Intensification of work

For those workers who are lucky enough to still have jobs, the situation does not appear any less bleak. Capitalism’s inability to address human needs manifests itself clearly in the intensified working conditions which threaten the physical and emotional livelihoods of everyone who has to endure them. Meanwhile, corporate heads are continually awarded exorbitant salaries for doing ever less work. Transocean, one of the companies responsible for the deaths of 11 workers and untold environmental damage to the Gulf of Mexico and surrounding communities, said that “despite the gulf tragedy, by its internal statistical measures, ‘we recorded the best year in safety performance in our company’s history.’ Consequently, executives received most of the safety-related portion of their bonuses for the year.”[1]

The working class is bludgeoned into submission with the threat of unemployment and then forced to work in abysmal conditions. Internationalism analyzed the pernicious manipulation of bourgeois corruption in Los Angeles in its previous issue.[2]The public school system is being dismantled brick by brick through underfunding and charterization, exposing teachers to the conditions faced by their class brothers and sisters. Teachers in charter schools work harder and longer for less pay and fewer protections. Some schools in Los Angeles have even begun hiring long-term substitute teachers to skirt many of the labor regulations. The unions, complicit watch dogs for the ruling class, are seeking an arrangement with the state which would allow them to be grandfathered into the newly formed charter schools. 

However, charterization is simply one facet of a broad campaign against teachers. The situation for teachers in non-chartered public schools is just as dismal. New York City has introduced a tiered retirement system where new teachers are forced to pay into the retirement fund for longer than older teachers. States and cities across the United States have repeated this direct attack on working conditions. Schools are being shut down, class sizes are growing and workload is multiplying. Detroit teachers are waiting to discover which of them will be laid off when 70 of the city’s current 142 schools will be shut down. This will drive up the average classroom size to an astounding 60 pupils! 

Supporting this material attack on teacher’s conditions is a sustained, vicious ideological campaign. Teachers are decried by the right for their laziness, told by the left to work harder and justify their paychecks—meanwhile workloads are increased and wages are depressed! These and other travesties are all coded behind a sophisticated, layered system of mystification. This is the true character of bourgeois “recovery:” meaningless, optimistic statistics derived from the navel gazing of capitalist apologetics while the working class faces death at the hands of a truly decadent social system! 

Absorption of youth into the workforce

When the bourgeoisie targets education they do not only target teachers. Capitalism’s historic crisis, and the bourgeoisie’s frenetic and counterproductive attempts to circumvent its effects, impact on the prospective workforce, the youth, as well. The cost of primary, secondary, and higher education for working class families has risen to astronomical levels.   As the public high school system unravels into a wilderness of chartered fiefdoms, public universities are also being dismantled. The University of California, once the model for how public university education could cost next to nothing (in the 1960s, tuition was less than a thousand dollars a year), is in a tailspin as its managers attempt to offset cuts coming from the state and their own deadly gambles with speculators. The tuition now costs nearly $12,000 a year, with more increases coming down the pipeline!

The condition of students is deteriorating along with the rest of bourgeois society. Furthermore many students are also workers, paying for school usually through a combination of part-time jobs and the carefully laid trap of loans (maliciously labeled synonymously with grants and scholarships as “financial aid”). These loans are advertised to students and their parents during the application and matriculation process. The “very low” interest rates are advertised and applicants are overwhelmed by a flurry of loan categories that are difficult to navigate. The story is the same with all other forms of debt pushed onto the working class—whether they are from automobiles, homes or credit cards. The interest compounds, the loan takes on a life of itself and repayment of loans becomes a consuming drain on the debtor. The introduction of personal credit lines on a mass scale in the ‘50s only seemed to avert capitalist crisis—it appeared to cheat the law of value and allowed capitalism to continue expanding accumulation without physical expansion. The Bretton Woods restructuring of the international fiscal system was another similar attempt to sweep the crisis under the carpet—the credo of the ruling class appears to be “out of sight, out of mind.” This game, however, can only be played for so long before the house of cards begins to topple. Cards are still cards, regardless of how many times you re-label them as stone. 

In 2006, an astounding 60% of undergraduate students took out loans to pay for education. By the time they graduated they owed their creditors $22,000. These supposedly privileged youth are already thrust into a race against the always ticking clock of interest rates. Many of them will not pay off their education for years to come. The accumulation of debt doesn’t stop with undergraduates either: more than half of graduate students borrowed an average of $40,000 for their education! 

The global nature of the crisis means that these assaults on education are occurring throughout the world. Tuitions are increasing worldwide, and student protests are erupting across the globe in response. Much has been written about the outbreaks of student violence in the United States, Britain, Italy, Spain, France, the Philippines and elsewhere. It appears that the university, and schools in general, are in crisis. They can still play a pacifying ideological role, allowing students to think that if they attend school they will become successful. However, with the economy unable to absorb even its own unemployed labor force, youth today are offered a bleak future: through debt, you are tied to a sinking ship.

Tax the rich?

The solution most often proposed by the delusional left wing of capital is to raise taxes--especially targeted towards the rich. The latest revelation of General Electric’s ability to somehow avoid paying any taxes to the US government helped to reinforce the salivating “progressive” left. “If only the rich,” they clamor, “were made to pay more taxes things would be okay.” Whether they argue this position with ignorance or deception in mind, they betray a complete disregard for the actual nature of the crisis today. In fact, only the pumping of ever more money into the financial behemoth has managed to stave off capitalism’s historic crisis for the past 40 years. The bourgeoisie have had to resort to increasingly abstract methods to keep their system afloat.   However, capitalism’s lifeblood is the realization of surplus-value extracted from the workers, and taxes do not represent surplus value. Increasing taxes will not restore the ability of capitalism to function because the crisis is not one of liquidity, but of insolvency. Capitalism is not ossified, but bleeding out.

Simply adding more money to the bloated system is not going to do the trick. The left wing of the bourgeoisie is spreading the ideology that capitalism can buy itself out of the crisis: this is impossible. Taxing the rich does not provide a solution for the crisis. Neither does it shield workers from attack, nor provide the youth with a future. Most importantly, the left wing of capital uses this ideology to line workers up behind a paternal state. The state is an instrument of capital, and cannot protect the working class’ living conditions or advance their liberation. The idea that it can is a total mystification. As an instrument of class rule, the state works for the capitalists--for their interests and against ours. This relationship is structural as much as it is ideological.

Nothing for the working class in capitalist recovery

Capitalism is not recovering. The much touted recovery is nothing more than bourgeois pseudo-science. Taking a series of unrelated and trivial statistics, manipulating data and concocting an ideological scapegoat,the bourgeoisie are capable of weaving a fairytale of progress that does not correspond to the material reality of workers anywhere. The bourgeoisie repeats this process of mystification and propaganda, a process perfected through decades of ruthless Machiavellian governance, throughout the world. The working class is beginning to struggle and is attempting to break through the layers of deceit and reaching towards a truly revolutionary consciousness. However, there is no guarantee that this will happen. The return to combativeness and questioning of the future are positive developments, but revolutionaries should not indulge in overconfidence. . The stakes are dire as the bourgeoisie responds to the crisis and to workers’ struggles with increasingly brutal attacks. Nonetheless, despite all their efforts to contain the working class and to avert a complete breakdown of their system, the bourgeoisie cannot avert the crisis. Capitalism is a deadly social system which is spiraling out of control. The only possible future for humanity is communism and the working class is the only class that can avert the catastrophe towards which un-arrested capitalism will guide the world..

AS 4/9/11


[1] “2 Rig Firm Workers Decline To Appear at Oil Spill Inquiry,” New York Times, 4/1/11