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Program Information
 Party for Socialism and Liberation  Contact Contributor
Nov. 9, 2013, 10:38 p.m.
Reading from Liberation Newspaper. Full text:

The mainstream media says that the current economy of lower wages, mass unemployment and the loss of benefits and pensions represents the "new normal" as U.S. workers are forced to compete with their counterparts internationally for jobs.

But, actually, the new normal is not new. In the last few decades, the advanced capitalist economies have returned to the norms that existed prior to World War II.

Before World War II, the working classes in Europe and the United States experienced recurrent periods of mass unemployment and impoverishment of large sections of the population. The working class in general lived a precarious existence and typically earned a subsistence wage just enough to survive on. There were few job protections, and a worker who was sick or elderly, and thus could not earn a wage, was forced to rely on charity or starve.

The government blatantly served big business. Labor unions were demonized, and workers feared that any form of struggle would lead to their firing and replacement. Sounds familiar, doesn't it? The current period is not an exact copy of that era, elements of the social safety net remain, and workers today can live somewhat beyond their wage because of limited access to cheap credit. But the direction of the current era is clear. The "new normal" is a reversion to the historic normal of the capitalist mode of production.

Karl Marx wrote extensively on the subject of these basic features of capitalism. In "Capital," he wrote of the "general law" of the system to establish an "accumulation of misery, corresponding with accumulation of capital. Accumulation of wealth at one pole is, therefore, at the same time accumulation of misery, agony of toil, slavery, ignorance, brutality, mental degradation, at the opposite pole; i.e., on the side of the class that produces its own product in the form of capital."

Marx did not argue that the wages and conditions of the workers were incapable of improvement. He himself fought fiercely for economic and social reforms. He advocated for the formation of labor unions, which by struggling could improve wages, benefits, and the length of the workday, while serving as well as a school for class struggle.

But Marx made clear that the gains won by the working class at one moment, in one era, can be undermined either by economic crisis, inflation in prices or an assault waged by the bosses during periods of high unemployment, which increased competition among workers for scarce jobs.

Contrary to the assertions of those who advocate class collaboration, Marx exposed that the benefits achieved by the working class were only based on its struggle, not mutual "sharing" of the benefits of capital accumulation.

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