The Struggle of the Working Class Against the Generalized Capitalist Offensive
September 24, 2014
Today, the capitalists are waging a generalized offensive directed against the entire working class. This offensive takes a multitude of forms, including generalized, class-wide cuts in wages and such vital benefits as health insurance and pensions. It includes contracting out, outsourcing and de-unionization. It includes the widespread use of contingent workers (part-time and/or temporary). It includes attacks on labor laws which recognize certain minimum standards and protections for the workers, such as health and safety laws, laws limiting overtime, etc. It includes stripping away the social safety net, such as unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation, welfare, Medicaid and so forth, which helps provide a minimum standard of subsistence.
The aim of the capitalist offensive is to wipe out even the minimal rights and protections gained by the workers over decades of struggle, to turn the clock back to the “free labor” market of the 19th century.
During 150 years of struggle, the working class has come out, again and again, in class-wide, political struggles to assert its rights in opposition to the “rights” of capitalists. Through the trade union movement, the workers asserted their collective strength and, as a collective, were able to enforce a higher standard of wages and working conditions. Through political movements such as the struggles for social security or employer-paid health insurance, workers won, at least partial recognition of their rights as human beings – that they were more than just labor-power whose only reason for living was to be exploited by the capitalists. Through these political struggles, the workers created generalized barriers restricting the degree of exploitation and affirming, at least in part, their rights as human beings; the political economy of the working class gained headway in opposition to the political economy of the capitalists.
The on-going offensive seeks not only to eliminate any and all barriers to capitalist exploitation but also to undermine the collective strength of the workers. By eliminating social protections and destroying unions, the capitalists want to reduce each worker to an individual wage-slave, a wage-slave with no rights that society is bound to recognize, an individual with nothing but his/her labor-power to sell, an individual who can only secure a livelihood at the whim of the capitalist owners. The capitalists want not only to return to the days of the 19th century but to develop new forms of exploitation in line with contemporary production methods, to extract a full day’s work from part-time workers, to force the majority of families to send out two or more wage-earners, to impose the most intense speed-up and overwork.
Thus, in resisting this generalized offensive, the workers must again come out on a class basis and wage a political struggle based on their own aims. In other words, the workers must fight for generalized solutions by asserting and winning such rights as the right to a job or livelihood, the right to health care and secure pensions, the right to be recognized as a collective, etc. In asserting their class interests, the workers erect barriers to capitalist exploitation and create guarantees for their rights as human beings. The workers must make new in-roads against the prerogatives of private property in the means of production and win new victories for the political economy of the working class.