When capitalism can’t

Today science stands on the cusp of developing new productive methods and capacities that will increase many fold the quantity of surplus value [privately-owned profit]. Today, there are hundreds of millions of people around the world who are and remain permanently in the “reserve army of the unemployed.” Twenty-two million of these unemployed workers are in the United States alone.

The new productive capacities stemming from the developing sciences not only will increase surplus value at blinding speeds but threaten the need for and existence of human beings in the production process to create that surplus value. The reserve army of the unemployed will grow with the same intensity, and will have to organize its struggle for survival within every country and jointly, around the world.

The responsibility for the world’s unemployed rests on the shoulders of the capitalist system in each country and the government and laws under which they operate.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said, “When capitalism cannot provide jobs for the unemployed, then the government(s) must act before it loses the power to do so.”

Capitalism cannot provide jobs for the hundreds of millions of unemployed, nor does it have any interest in doing so. Capitalism is in business to make profits, not jobs. When it needs workers, it will hire them; when it no longer needs them, it will fire them. As the new production technologies develop and the rate of production is intensified, workers will be needed for shorter and shorter periods of time.

Although capitalism cannot provide jobs for everyone who is willing, ready and able to work, we must wring out every job possible. Under the new lightening speed commodity production, fundamental changes in the economy are necessary. The old rules and relations which produce mass unemployment have to be sharply amended or replaced. Governmental processes which have always been in the control of capitalism must be redirected to meet the new production situation.

It is time for the labor movement, the unemployed, African Americans, Latinos, economists, progressives, liberals, in short, the “99 percent”, to enter into a dialogue; to probe what it will take to win permanent, ongoing job-creating programs. Everyone’s ideas for solutions should be discussed.

In order to change direction, it is necessary to examine and challenge the fundamentals of capitalism and make changes as they become necessary, to ensure the implementation of such job creation programs.

For example, capitalist propaganda makes the claim that it is the superior economic system. Why then, does the number of permanently unemployed continue to mount like snowflakes in a blizzard; why is it necessary for the government to continue to pump trillions of dollars into the Wall Street banking system while ever greater numbers of the “47 percent” fall into poverty. Why is it necessary for government to suppress democratic participation (example, voter suppression).

Another example is the granting of patents. Patents that cover inventions which receive public financing should be granted on the condition that the production for use and profit shall be shared with the government, and that the production takes place in the United States.

The U.S. government’s budget provides billions of dollars to universities, laboratories and private industry for research and development. How long can we tolerate these jobs being sent abroad?

A good jobs creation program must contain vast reconstruction and reclamation projects. It should lay the basis for the progressive shortening of the work day and work week with higher wages. It should provide for substantial leisure time for workers and public facilities for the enjoyment of that time.

There are countless ways to discuss and develop a “new people’s normal.” A good place to start is by read the speech given last February at the University of Georgia by Communist Party Chair Sam Webb, entitled, “Is full employment possible under capitalism?” Webb argues, “It’s hard to see where the economic dynamism and jobs are going to come from without action by the federal government, and the restructuring of the economy on a scale that only a few in Washington are ready to embrace.”

It is the people’s movement that will change this so that we can move forward towards full employment and a more just society.

Photo: Connecticut Center for a New Economy


Pat Barile
Pat Barile

Pat Barile was born Dec. 17, 1920, in Jersey City, N.J., son of immigrant Italian parents. He learned his politics from his father, a leader of the Italian immigrant community. He died Sept. 30, 2020, two months shy of his 100th birthday. He came to work as a reporter for the Daily World newspaper in 1971 and subsequently its labor editor. His devotion to workers, farmworkers, and farmers convinced him that the labor movement would come to understand the profound mistake they made in surrendering to anti-communism.