The Right to More Than Economic Security

February 12, 2018

The workers, deprived of all private property in the means of production, are forced by economic necessity (the need to earn a living) as well as by their irrepressible aspirations to realize their humanity, to struggle against capitalist exploitation and the capitalist system. Today, in the conditions of the all-around crisis of capitalism and the drive of the monopolies to throw the workers and society backwards, the class antagonism between the capitalists and the workers has become extremely acute.

A pivotal point in this struggle is over the right to a job or livelihood.

In many cities and towns in the capitalist world, virtually anyone knows where the labor exchange is. Many people go there every day in search of whatever work they can find.

Unemployment has a tragic effect on the working people. It signals a disrespect of their worth. It destroys personal relationships, leads to higher crime, sickness and death-rates. According to a 2008 study at the University of Zurich, one in five suicides, or 45,000 per year, are attributable to unemployment.

People are willing to work, but capitalist society is in no position to provide them with jobs.

What are the reasons for that?

Karl Marx analysed the causes of unemployment and found that the demand for labor power is determined, not by the whole of the capital earmarked for purchasing machinery, equipment, buildings and labor power, but rather by that part of the capital which is used for acquiring labor power.

Outwardly, there is no link between unemployment and the capitalist form of labor.

American politicians often attribute both the excess and shortages of labor force to immorality and migration. In actual fact, however, unemployment is determined, not by such arbitrarily contrived factors, but by the capitalists’ demand for labor power.

The causes of unemployment are associated with the peculiarities of labor under capitalism rather than with any theories of human nature. As capitalism develops, an increasing proportion of the accumulated capital is invested in technical innovation and the production of new kinds of equipment, stock, fuel and materials, and not in the efforts to create new jobs. This means that with the development of capitalism an increasing percentage of capital is spent on innovating the means of labor, and, accordingly, a reduced share is used for the purposes of satisfying the demand of labor power for jobs.

Thus, what causes unemployment is not even technical progress as such, but the capitalist forms of utilizing it. The capitalists take advantage of unemployment to intensify the exploitation of the working people. In the capitalist world, the people are not guaranteed the right to work and therefore they may lose their jobs at any time and therefore, the fear of losing their jobs compels the wage workers to labor more intensively.

The Right to a Job Is the Most Basic Economic Right

Just as society as a whole must develop the economy in order to sustain itself, every individual must have the right to a secure livelihood and economic existence. In the U.S. today, the lives of tens of millions of people have been reduced to nothing more than the daily struggle to survive. Tens of millions are either unemployed or only able to get part-time jobs. Millions of full-time workers do not earn enough to make ends meet and maintain a secure, stable economic existence. When the right to a livelihood and a secure economic existence is denied, one cannot do much with any other rights. Since the individual member of society is subjected to the conditions of society as a whole, it is incumbent on society to provide every individual member with a job or a secure means of livelihood. What is more, it is obvious that if our society was organized so as to guarantee a job for everyone, not only would individuals be relieved of the present economic insecurity, but the whole society would benefit, as more goods and services could be produced and made available.

The Right to More than a Job

Long ago, human civilization developed past the point where life was nothing more than a daily, continuous battle for survival. The vast productive capacity of modern society creates the material basis which allows for greater human freedom – freedom to develop the cultural, artistic and other aspects of our humanity. In other words, life today is more than a job and society must guarantee jobs which provide sufficient income and enough time to allow the all-around development of the individual and society, to allow everyone to participate in the political life of the country, to join in cultural, artistic and other activities.

It shouldn’t have to be said that in our country, where the people have created an advanced, modern economic base, tens of millions of people are denied the basic necessities of life. It shouldn’t have to be said that in a country which is capable of producing enough food to feed practically the entire world, some 50 million people, including 25 million children, live in poverty and do not get adequate nutrition. It shouldn’t have to be said that millions of Americans are unemployed and tens of millions can only find part-time or temporary jobs. It shouldn’t have to be said that in a country with such a large network of hospitals and health care facilities, with an army of trained health care workers, tens of millions of people are denied access to adequate health care.

The very fact that we have to say these things is a condemnation of the present state of affairs. Precisely because the government officials, those responsible for public affairs, refuse to do anything about these things, we – workers and people – must speak out and shoulder the responsibility to change these things.

The right to a job and to lead a productive life free of exploitation and economic insecurity is a right that belongs to every individual by virtue of his or her humanity.

Today, the Workers Party has initiated the Campaign for Economic Rights (CER) as a program for unifying and strengthening resistance to the capitalist offensive and as part of the work to carry through the struggle for the political economy of the working class under contemporary conditions.

The CER asserts that every human being simply by virtue of her/his humanity is entitled to certain inalienable economic and human rights including:

– the right to food, clothing and shelter

– the right to a job or a livelihood commensurate with our country’s level of development. This includes the right to income-security in the event of loss of capacity to work, retirement, etc.

– the right to comprehensive and free medical and health care

– the right to the best possible education, from infant care through the university.

These demands, which correspond with the centuries long struggle of the American people to create a society which genuinely guarantees equal rights for all human beings, are already on the lips of millions of people. The high degree of socialization of economic life, as well as the consciousness of the people created in the course of struggle, have brought the program of economic rights to the fore as a practical problem taken up for solution.