The Right to a Livelihood

January 15, 2018

Nowadays more workers are unemployed during the “good times” than were formerly unemployed during the “bad times.” At the end of each cycle more and more workers find themselves in the permanent army of the unemployed. At the same time, the increase in the percentage of part-time workers and the pressure exerted by the reserve army of unemployed on the wages of the employed workers, assists the capitalists to drive down the wages and reduce the living standards of all the workers. 

Ever-growing unemployment and the constant pressure of job insecurity which is part of the life of all workers, graphically illustrate the plight of the workers under capitalism as well as the irrationality of this economic system when viewed from the standpoint of society as a whole. Under capitalism, the means of production (society’s tools, which have been accumulated over generations as a result of the labor of the workers themselves) are monopolized by a handful of private capitalist owners. This is one side of the economic relations of capitalism. The other side is that the workers – the laboring class whose muscles and brains produce all the material blessings – are disenfranchised, separated from the implements of labor, the tools of society; the worker, thus has no way to secure a livelihood or engage in social production except by selling his labor-power, day in and day out, to the capitalist owners. 

But the capitalists are only willing to employ as many workers as necessary to achieve the sole goal of maximum profit. The capitalists always seek to get the maximum amount of work out of the fewest possible workers at the lowest possible pay. The end result is that more and more workers are denied work, are deprived of any possibility of securing a livelihood. 

From the standpoint of society as a whole, the capitalist economic system results in the waste and destruction of the productive forces of society, even while the basic needs of the people remain unmet. During a recession, the contradiction between the vast productive power of the economy and the limited consuming power of the workers (who, as a result of capitalist exploitation, always receive far less in wages than the amount they produce through their labor) breaks into the open. Factories stand idle even as millions of workers, ready and able to produce, remain unemployed. The whole process of economic development comes to a standstill and declines. The masses of people need housing, food, clothing, etc. and all the means necessary to produce these things are available, yet the capitalists refuse to produce simply because they cannot make a profit at it. On a world scale, more than 1 billion workers are unemployed, denied any means of securing a livelihood and throughout vast regions of the globe the masses live in constant hunger and famine even though all the human and technological resources are available to produce an abundance for everyone. The individual workers need jobs in order to secure their livelihood; society needs more workers in order to increase production and secure the needs of everyone. Yet capitalism wreaks havoc on the lives of individuals and the whole society. 

The right to a livelihood is a basic human right. But under the capitalist system, the masses are denied this right. Under capitalism, each and every worker must daily face the question of finding a capitalist willing to employ him, or else starving. There is no government agency or legal recourse for the workers who are denied the means of securing a livelihood. It is not considered a crime for the capitalists even to shut down whole factories and dismiss thousands, even tens of thousands, of workers in a single day. 

The workers cannot accept this state of affairs. And as the capitalists carry out their offensive against social programs and impose new and more intense forms of exploitation on the workers, the questions of jobs, of relief for the unemployed, of the right of the people to a secure and decent livelihood become all the more urgent.

The struggles of the workers to secure their jobs and livelihoods are already taking many forms. There are struggles of the employed workers against job combinations, against lay-offs and plant closings. There are struggles to extend and increase unemployment compensation. Such struggles can be won. The decisive thing is for the workers to band together and take an active and determined stand to defend their vital interests in the face of the anti-social offensive of the capitalists. 

At the same time, the whole working class must build up a powerful political movement which aims at securing the RIGHT TO A JOB OR A LIVELIHOOD for everyone. Such a political movement bases itself on asserting the inalienable human rights of the workers in opposition to and struggle against the property “rights” of the capitalist exploiters.

In the course of these struggles, it is necessary for the workers to equip themselves with consciousness and organization so that the movement can advance in a planned and systematic way to achieve the aims the workers have set for themselves. In addition, the working class must wage a continuous struggle against the pressure of bourgeois ideology, which is exerted against the workers’ movement with the aim of getting the workers to give up their role to lead society out of the crisis and onto the path of progress. The key factor in strengthening the consciousness and organization of the working class is for the workers to build their own political party, the Workers Party.