Capitalists are throwing workers out of jobs in one sector after another. In India, lakhs of workers in export oriented industries have lost their jobs as exports are falling sharply. Domestic demand has also fallen for a number of goods like automobiles, steel, cement, TVs, refrigerators, etc. Factories are cutting back the level of production. Their owners are reducing the number of shifts or shutting down production for extended periods, up to a week. All temporary workers have been laid off in many cases, and permanent workers have been forced to go on leave. For workers in small and medium size factories, all wage increases have stopped. The struggle is for saving jobs.
The bourgeoisie and its economic pundits say that there is no choice except to throw workers out of jobs, because the demand for goods is falling. The working class cannot and must not accept this argument.
The bourgeoisie treats workers’ wages as an item of ‘cost’, which must be minimized so that the profits of the owners are maximized. Every time the profits of the bourgeoisie are under threat or start falling down, its first thought is to cut ‘people cost’ by cutting down the number of jobs, by asking workers to produce more, work longer hours, accept ‘voluntary’ wage freeze and even wage cuts.
Workers must reject this bourgeois logic of ‘no choice’. Why can’t capitalists accept a cut in their rate of profit, or even zero profit for some time?
Those who work are the creators of wealth in the society. The working class must reject the claim of the capitalists that maximizing their profits should be the objective of production. Why should providing all working people with means of comfortable living not be the primary goal of social production? Why should security of livelihood not be guaranteed for all members of society? If everyone had secure and rising purchasing power, the problem of recession and crisis of economy will not arise.
The fall in demand for goods in capitalist society is not because those goods are not needed any more, or needed in less quantity. It is because people are not paid enough to be able to buy the goods they need.
When there is a temporary drop in demand for any good due to seasonal, natural or any other reasons, workers can be kept gainfully employed in a number of ways, if only they are not treated as a ‘cost’. During slack time, workers can be trained to improve their skills or learn new skills. Working hours in a factory can be reduced so that everybody remains employed and the balance working hours can be utilized for working in the community to improve education, public health, water supply, sanitation, etc.
Workers must wage the immediate struggle to save their jobs, by contesting the so-called ‘right’ of the capitalists to pocket maximum profits all the time. Workers must wage this struggle with the overall aim of carrying out their historic class mission of overthrowing capitalism and replacing it with socialism.
To replace capitalism with socialism means to change the system of ownership of the means of production. It means that the factories, mines and plantations will change from being privately owned to being socially owned. The orientation of a socialist economy is to maximise social benefit for the toiling majority, not the private profits of a miniscule minority, as is the case today.
What people get paid for their work will not be a ‘cost’ of production in a socialist economy. Raising the standard of living of all working people will be the very aim of production. Only such a system of society can ensure that the right to livelihood and job security is guaranteed for all.