The International Monetary Fund, in its 2009 World Economic Outlook, expects continuing decline in all the most advanced economies.
It does predict growth in countries such as India and China, but, overall, in the words of its chief economist, "We now expect the global economy to come to a virtual halt." Declaring that the outlook is worse than at any time since the Second World War can seem rather abstract. The International Labour Organisation (a UN agency) is very concrete in its latest forecasts. Last October it forecast that 22 million jobs would be lost worldwide in 2009. In January it revised that figure, saying that globally as many as 51 million workers could lose their jobs this year. It's a simple calculation to work out that means, on average, nearly a million people every week finding themselves out of work.
There are no exceptions. In the US nearly 600,000 lost their jobs in January. That's 2 million in the last 3 months, 4 million in the last year. In China, during the last year, 15.3% of their 130 million migrant workers left the coastal manufacturing areas to return to rural homes. To that figure of 20 million should be added all the workers who have stayed in the cities to search for work. The Chinese ruling class continues to warn of the possibility of social unrest, and recently has added the danger of ‘violence' as another potential outcome of the economic situation.
No workers' job is safe; and even when they have work, wages are being cut and working conditions worsened.
But workers around the world are showing their unwillingness to accept these attacks: there are daily strikes and demonstrations in China; at the end of January 2.5 million workers in France struck in protest about unemployment; students and young workers in Italy, France, Germany and above all Greece have been out on the streets demonstrating their rage against a society which offers them no future. The anger expressed by the wildcat strikes in Britain's refineries and power stations is not specific to the UK but part of an international response to the deepening economic disaster.
The ruling class knows perfectly well that the working class has not been passive in response to the attacks brought about by the economic crisis. As the Daily Telegraph (23/1/9) put it: "Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Greece and Iceland have all faced social unrest and rioting as unemployment soars and as many European countries have been forced to impose severe cuts to government spending. A senior EU source has told The Daily Telegraph that a March summit of European leaders will examine the increasing unrest as unemployment rises across Europe and cuts to social programmes bite."
The news that our exploiters are co-ordinating their response to our struggles is an important reminder that, whatever the immediate causes of our combats, we have to organise and extend our struggles, drawing in other workers, discussing the means and the goals of our struggle, if we are going to create a power capable of confronting capitalism and all its forces.