In Internationalism 161 we published the first part of this two-part series on the employed and unemployed workers’ struggles of the 1930’s. The first article examined the unemployed and workers’ struggles of the 1930’s in the context of the American workers’ movement of the time and the international defeat of the Russian Revolution and the ensuing counter-revolution. In this article, we want to draw the lessons of the weaknesses of the 1930’s mobilizations in order to contribute to strengthening the present and future struggles of the working class, employed and unemployed, precarious or otherwise. With this aim in mind, we want to pay particular attention to the movements of social protest, which in the U.S. have been expressed in the Occupy Movement.
In this two-part series of articles about the employed and unemployed workers’ struggle of the 1930’s we have looked at what seem to us to have been the strengths and weaknesses of that movement. We think that this kind of assessment is important in the context of the present economic crisis and the struggles that it has given birth to, especially regarding the development of protest movements such as Occupy Wall Street. In this first part we will look at the present attacks against the working class, and especially the unemployed. Then we will start the examination of the strengths and weaknesses of the movement of the 1930’s. In the next article, we will focus more in detail on its weaknesses and broach the question of what lessons to draw for the present and future struggles of the class.
There was no real recovery of world capitalism after the devastation of the First World War. Most of the economies of Europe stagnated, never really solving the problems posed by the disruption of war and revolution, by outdated plant and massive unemployment. The plight of the once powerful British economy was typified by the situation in 1926 when it resorted to direct wage cuts in a vain attempt to restore its competitive edge on the world market, provoking the 10-day General Strike in solidarity with the miners whose wages and conditions were the central target of the attack.
Since we wrote the article ‘Are we reliving a crash like 1929?', the media has already changed its tone, no longer playing down the extreme gravity of the present economic crisis or its similarities with 1929. But it is important to put all the current talk about ‘the end of capitalism' into a clear perspective.
The current financial crisis is ultimately the result of a crisis of overproduction, like the one of 1929. The growth over the last few decades has only been possible thanks to the accumulation of vast debts, which have destabilised the entire banking system.But contrary to what all the economic experts are saying, the present crisis is really far more serious than in 1929.