National Sections of the L5I:

The scourge of unemployment

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Unemployment is a permanent feature of every capitalist country. In the semi-colonies, the fall in raw material prices on the world market, privatisation and “free trade” for the MNCs, have devastated industry and agriculture alike. Agribusiness has driven millions of landless peasants into the cities where, unable to find work, they are driven down still further into the ranks of the lumpenproletariat.

In the imperialist countries, too, rationalisation, privatisation and the export of jobs to low wage countries have put millions on the scrap heap. Against this, we demand work for all. This can only be achieved by militant direct action against all redundancies and closures. There must be strikes, workplace occupations by the workers concerned, militant actions by the organisations of the unemployed, solidarity strikes by those not yet affected. Such struggles must set as their goal the achievement of workers’ control of enterprises.

Under the regime of workers’ control, work should be shared amongst all the workers in an enterprise, and the working week reduced to allow this – a sliding-scale of hours with no loss of pay. For the unemployed we fight for work or full pay – unemployment benefit paid at the level needed to maintain the worker and their dependants, as democratically decided by the labour movement. Such full benefits should be demanded for all those whom capitalism excludes from social production as a result of age, disability or sickness.

The unemployed must not be viewed as bystanders or auxiliaries in the fight against unemployment. In Argentina, the piqueteros have adopted the tactic of road blockades, which hit commerce and production so that the capitalists cannot just abandon their former workers with impunity. In many countries, unemployed workers’ organisations have proved a vital militant section of vanguard of the working class. But the unemployed cannot fight and win on their own. We need fighting unity between the unemployed and the employed.

We need democratic, mass movements of the unemployed workers, with financial support from the unions, but free from control by the bureaucracy and with full representation within the labour movement. Such organisations will play a vital role in preventing the unemployed falling prey to the ideology of fascism, racism, religious reaction, criminalisation and lumpenisation. They are a vital means of encouraging employed workers to take up an active struggle in defence of their own jobs as well as for their unemployed class brothers and sisters.

In order to integrate all the jobless into the production process, and to allow them to do socially useful work, we struggle relentlessly for a programme of public works under workers’ control, paid for by the capitalist state.

Throughout history, our every demand has been met with the cry that our rulers “cannot afford it”. When they reject our demands for decent wages in the state sector or for better social services with the argument that the budget would go into deficit, then we reply – tax the rich!

A steeply progressive income and wealth tax should be levied against them. With this revenue it will be possible to begin financing the needs of the masses. Tax the rich, not the poor. Indirect taxation on items of mass consumption, and income tax on the workers’ wages, should be scrapped. If the rich try to conceal their assets or evade paying their taxes, then all their assets must be confiscated.