Jobless recovery

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Wed Sep 10 08:25:31 MDT 2003


 EDITORIAL: JOBLESS RECOVERY - A SIGN OF FUNDAMENTAL CHANGE IN
SOCIETY

On Aug. 7, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the output
per worker at an annual rate soared by 5.7 percent in this
quarter. This could be good news if it wasn't that new
unemployment claims teeter every week around 400,000, making this
so called "recovery"  a jobless recovery.

Wow! Let us take a deep breadth for this to sink in, because this
is of historic significance.

What is meant by a jobless recovery? It means that more stuff can
be made without hiring more workers or even with fewer workers.
This is the outcome of the technology revolution from electro-
mechanical, industrial production to electronic-based production
more and more without the need for human labor. Workers are laid
off and can't find work, but the capitalists make even more money.
They don't have to pay as many workers, and since the workers are
thrown into competition with the robot, the wages the capitalists
do pay the workers that are left keep spiralling downward.
Recovery is only recovery for the capitalists.

Of course, the capitalists are digging their own graves. They can
automate all they want, but if the workers don't have jobs that
give them the money to buy all the things that are produced, what
are the capitalists going to do with all the mountains of goods
they are producing?

To understand the impact of the technology revolution on industry,
let's take a look at the auto industry. Today in a typical auto
plant, you will see robots busy at work while the workers observe
and facilitate their function. The robots find small dots or signs
throughout the car and they cut, weld, paint, sew, or finish
without the intervention of human operators. The workers' job is
quality control, machine setup and maintenance. In other words,
the workers are there to observe what is going on and make sure
nothing goes wrong with the production process.

So what's wrong with this? The new technology has certainly
alleviated the hardships on the autoworker. On the negative side,
it is also making him and her obsolete. For example, in Michigan
the number of people employed in automotive factories has been cut
in half since 1975, when advanced computer controls and microchips
started to be used in large numbers in auto manufacturing.

By 2001, the Ford Motor Company laid out five plants for closing,
including four in the United States, because the company's North
American production capacity, at 5.7 million vehicles, is nearly a
million too much. The workers got a further blow when on Aug. 18
of this year the Ford Motor Company announced that its assembly
plant near Atlanta, Georgia, one of the most productive car
factories on the continent, is in trouble and might be moved to
Mexico or Canada where Ford can further cut its production cost.

This is how the autoworkers have been paid for their productivity.

Nationwide over the last two years, the portion of Americans in
the labor force has fallen 0.9 percentage points to 66.2 percent,
the largest drop in almost 40 years. ("Jobless and Hopeless, Many
Quit the Labor Force", The New York Times, 4/27/2003). The way
things stand, it's hard to find a job, and when you do, it's hard
to keep it for long. Eventually the job is phased out due to
automation or shipped abroad to take advantage of even cheaper
labor costs. The two pivotal forces -- capital and worker -- are
on a mortal collision course.

We can say, "Damn technology and destroy the robots." But this
won't solve the problem. The development of new technology is part
of the historical development of humanity to alleviate
backbreaking labor and control its environment. There's nothing
wrong with this.  What is wrong is that this development is under
the private control of the capitalists. And the only emotions they
know and hold dear are the ones that are triggered by the color
green, by avarice and greed.  They would sell their mother and
their children if they could make a buck. Oh wait, they have!

So what can those of us do who put humanity first? We can appeal
to reason, and to the soul of the people of this country. History
has proven that no force, no empire or tyrant can survive, once
the slave, the downtrodden, knows the source of his or her
suffering.  Once people know this they will no longer be able to
put their children to bed hungry without anger brewing in their
blood.

So let truth ring loud and clear. Only then will this anger be
transformed into action, action to speak up, and to fight for the
government to fulfill its responsibility "to the people," action
to change society to the kind of world we imagine -- without
hunger, homelessness, and want. The world we imagine and "they"
tell us we can't have, because they say we're too dumb, too lazy,
or too promiscuous. Well Mr. Capitalist, with your diamond rings,
your mink coats, your palaces, and your Rolls Royces,  "You are
wrong!" A force is glimmering on the horizon  and it is beginning
to see you as who you are. We are the new disciples, the new
Spartacuses, the new abolitionists, and we are spreading the word
against your capitalist system and freeing the minds of the people
to the society they want, the society that will liberate humanity.

******************************************************************
This article originated in the PEOPLE'S TRIBUNE/TRIBUNO DEL PUEBLO
(Online Edition), Vol. 30 No. 13/ September, 2003; P.O. Box 3524,
Chicago, IL 60654; Email: pt at lrna.org; http://www.lrna.org
Feel free to reproduce and use unless marked as copyrighted. The
PEOPLE'S TRIBUNE/TRIBUNO DEL PUEBLO depends on donations from its
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