By Prof. Jose Maria Sison
Chairperson, International Coordinating Committee
International League of Peoples’ Struggle
11 August 2009
The loss or erosion of livelihoods is the most concrete and widespread impact of the current crisis of the world capitalist system on people’s lives, both in the advanced capitalist countries as well as in the underdeveloped countries. Despite recent pronouncements from state officials and the business press that economic recovery is in sight, the global economy continues to tumble with the gross domestic product of the leading capitalist countries still contracting, consumer spending still in decline and unemployment still rising.
As the crisis continues to spread and job losses mount, worldwide unemployment is expected to increase by tens of billions by the end of the year as businesses shut down and capitalists retrench their labor force. This does not include the hundreds of millions of displaced workers and peasants especially in the poor and oppressed countries of the South who are forced to turn to marginal lands and waters in the countryside for their subsistence; eke out a precarious living in the so-called informal /underground economy; or migrate to other countries to work on low-paying and insecure jobs in the absence of better alternatives.
Women, migrant workers and youth are among the most vulnerable sectors in the population amidst the downturn as they are among the first to be laid-off or forced to accept poorer working conditions in order to retain jobs or get new ones. Capitalists force their workers to accept wage cuts, longer working hours, speed-up and short-term contracts in order to squeeze more profits. With the aid of state forces, capitalists bust unions or force them to concede past gains from collective bargaining. Monopoly capitalist firms are taking over huge tracts of land to set up plantations or special economic zones, adding to the millions of landless and jobless poor peasants throughout Asia.
Labor and community organizers and activists are threatened, harassed and even executed. State support for housing, education, health, pensions and other social services for the people are further cut back as taxpayers’ money is doled out to the biggest banks and corporations. Migrant workers are also used as scapegoats of the jobs crisis; hence face increasing discrimination, xenophobia and racism.
This bleak landscape is not about to improve in the near future as the global depression deepens. Indeed, even the most optimistic officials who are predicting a recovery by next year – taking the sham stance of prodding financial institutions to start lending again to producers in a glut situation – admit that “labor markets recover only four to five years after the economic recovery.” This means that the additional social hardships brought about by the current global capitalist crisis will persist and only become a heavier burden on the shoulders of the toiling masses for many years to come.
Alongside the increase in joblessness worldwide are the worsening living conditions of the people. One in six people in the world are hungry; 17 infants under the age of five die every minute mostly due to preventable causes; half of all girls in the poorest countries have no access to primary education; half a million mothers will die at childbirth this year due to the lack of basic health services for the poor; and nearly a billion people live in urban slums where illness and death are rife.
These reprehensible conditions will worsen as the effects of the global economic crisis combine with the worsening food and ecological crisis confronting poor and oppressed communities as a result of the increasing control and exploitation of natural resources and the global commons (including the atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere and biosphere) by monopoly capitalists for their superprofits.
Moreover, the ruling classes are now using the global crisis to channel trillions of taxpayers’ money to line the pockets of the financial oligarchy, to resuscitate the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, and push for more trade liberalization under the World Trade Organization and various free trade agreements. This means more of the same neoliberal globalization policies and financialization that have accelerated the overaccumulation of capital in the hands of the monopoly bourgeoisie and worsened the crisis of overproduction that is at the root of this new Great Depression.
In this context, there is a pressing need to develop, spread and raise the militancy of mass struggles for employment, land, decent incomes, better working and living conditions, and access to social services while raising people’s consciousness about the fundamental problems in the system of monopoly capitalism and the need for revolutionary social transformation.
Livelihood-related economic struggles have great potential for reinvigorating the mass movements today as it did during the Great Depression of the 1930s. They can certainly be maximized for arousing, organizing and mobilizing people to confront the global economic crisis through militant mass struggle. They also focus on the problems in the real economy (not just the “financial sphere”) and thus have greater potential in exposing the fundamental contradictions in the global capitalist system.
The opportunity is at hand for raising the political consciousness of the people about the need for radical social change and revolutionary struggle. This contrasts with existing international campaigns related to the global crisis which merely focus on reforming the international financial architecture — calling for various reforms in the Bretton Wood institutions, new regulatory mechanisms, plus debt cancellation, fiscal stimulus, etc. – and are confined to NGO lobbying.
A mass campaign must be carried out to confront the economic crisis and demand “livelihoods for social justice”. This means asserting the right of all women and men to find decent and productive work that ensures their security and human dignity, but also work that is engaged in meeting social needs for the present and future generations, including access to food, education, health, housing and basic services for all. Such a demand expresses the basic unity between the interest of the working class and the people, and inspires broad-based struggle for a just, democratic, peaceful and sustainable world.
This is not the same as calling for “emergency employment” or even “full employment” in the Keynesian sense of the term. The latter upholds the primacy of capitalist-production and exchange while the state is given a remedial role, i.e. to fill in the gap due to “market failures”. Therefore it retains all the inherent contradictions and the exploitative character of capitalism. On the other hand, to demand socially productive work for all is to say that we need to move away from the grossly unjust and irrational economic system where production is for private profit even as the most basic needs of the vast majority of people remain unmet. Only a socially-planned economy can ensure that social production meets social needs.
The motive forces for such a mass campaign consist principally of workers (including the unemployed and the semi-proletariat, migrant workers, urban poor communities, etc.); peasants especially those displaced or dispossessed of their means of production or access to resources; small entrepreneurs who are among those being squeezed by the current crisis; and other middle forces committed to the cause of social justice.
To raise the level of struggle from the economic to the political, we must always denounce the imperialist powers, their monopoly banks and firms and their puppet reactionary states for causing the global depression, massive unemployment and social injustice; we must fight every attempt of the oppressors and exploiters to suppress the campaign through the curtailment of our democratic rights; we must build the political strength of the working people and call for their empowerment; and we must aim for the realization of the goals of nation liberation, democracy and socialism.
The campaign’s objectives can include the following:
- to condemn the imperialist banks and firms for the global depression and the loss of livelihoods and aggravation of social injustice;
- to spur large, numerous, widespread and vigorous mass struggles for decent work, land, housing, universal access to basic services;
- to oppose the attempts of the ruling classes to pass the burden of the crisis onto the shoulders of the working masses, appropriating the resources necessary for the survival of the vast majority;
- to expose the criminal neglect of governments and imperialist-controlled international institutions in violating the right to work and the basic needs of the people;
- to expose the injustice and irrationality of the monopoly capitalist system;
- to inspire international solidarity among the peoples from all countries to struggle for a fundamentally better world;
- to help expand and consolidate progressive mass organizations and people’s movements across the globe fighting imperialism;
- to intensify the struggle against the imperialist powers and their reactionary puppets in order to advance the cause of national and social liberation.
Campaigns should be undertaken to produce and disseminate educational materials and to launch mass actions for exposing and opposing how national governments, international financial institutions (IFIs), the WTO, the G20, and other imperialist instruments rob the people of their right to work and their right to life.
Community assemblies should be convened for the people to collectively identify unmet social needs, expose the criminal neglect of the government and formulate an alternative social agenda. Throughout the campaign, there must be study sessions, seminars, workshops at every possible venue on the workings of capitalism and developments in the imperialist-dominated international system.
Similar initiatives may be coordinated internationally through the ILPS, RESIST! and other campaign networks. A global labor/people’s manifesto calling for “Livelihoods for Social Justice” must be drawn up and used as an educational and campaign tool to reach out to workers and peoples, and encourage mass struggles in various countries throughout the world. Major international events and activities must be utilized for coming together for common actions.
The campaign can be launched during the G20 summit in September 24-25, 2009 to be held in Pittsburgh, USA. It is necessary to protest against the perpetrators of the crisis and their continuing agenda of exploitation and oppression, and to show that working people are united – whatever our color, gender, nationality, religion or age – to defend common interests. May 1st, 2010 can serve as one more high point of the campaign with build-up activities leading up to this date.
The campaign can extend beyond the aforementioned important events inasmuch as the global depression, the loss of livelihoods and social injustice shall persist and there shall be a continuing need for the broad masses of the people to wage resistance from one level to a new and higher level. ###