A Shift Toward Worker Power?

Original article, by Allan Nairn and subtitled The Time is Ripe to Tip the System, Now, via Dissidentvoice:

In bad situations, people lower their standards for what it is that constitutes good news.

It’s like trading in one warmongering neoliberal president who can’t string together more than one or two words without messing up what he’s said with a smooth talking warmongering neoliberal president. At least we won’t worry about him mispronouncing so many words! Of course, this is what we’ve come to.

There’s a very sick man with a withered arm, but it hasn’t been amputated, contrary to what a garbled and panic-inducing report had indicated.

Similarly, a boy has been coughing for three months, but a TB test says it isn’t TB.

Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play? Well…you made it through, didn’t you? So dry those eyes and stand strong for the country.

And in Cambodia, The New York Times just visited a dump city and used the existence of this particular hell to argue against labor standards on the grounds that if people would only work more cheaply, that would create more jobs for, say, dump dwellers, on the neoliberal assumption that capitalists don’t currently have enough desperate, oppressed, potential workers to choose from (See Nicholas D. Kristof, “Where Sweatshops Are a Dream,” The New York Times, January 14, 2009).

The key is to fight these vultures at every step. Make them struggle as you struggle. Don’t feed them trillions of dollars so that they can continue to feast on the carcass of the US (or whatever country you may be in). Be sure they will do their best to make you suffer. It’s time to return the favor.

Very poor people can indeed be delighted when what we call a sweatshop

comes to town (see my posting of Nov. 8, 2007, “Duduk

– Duduk, Ngobrol – Ngobrol. Sitting Around Talking, in Indonesia
.”), but

what the Times misses is that they would be even more delighted if it paid them

better wages, didn’t rape and fondle the female workers, didn’t spray them with

toxics, etc.

Our debt based economy has failed. The choice for the capitalists is to leave the US in ever greater droves, or to begin to hire folks at a decent pay rate with decent benefits. GM is about to invest $1 billion in it’s operations in Brazil, even while holding it’s hands out for bailout cash from the US government. This should tell us what they’re planning.

When workers are weak, it is indeed true that cutting labor standards can get more factories built. But by that Times/Davos/Burma-junta logic of job creation, you should also abolish the minimum wage, permit prostitution, even permit human bondage/ slavery, since each of those steps would indeed – under weak-worker conditions – induce the creation of new jobs. (Inconsistently, the Times editorially does support the minimum wage, and that Times writer has, as it happens, crusaded against poor-country prostitution.)

The sad point right now is that workers are weak. The society bought into the illusion that our debt based economy presented. As long as it seemed everybody could be rich, which lasted about as long as the housing bubble, it was painted that workers were actually doing well. Tell that to the long term unemployed and underemployed. The capitalists had it good in that there were segments of the economy that were doing well plus they had a pool of workers who were desperate enough to take any job, even if it meant busting a union to get one. Now, perhaps, the pool of unemployed is so great that there’s a good chance that the balance has shifted toward worker unity.

A better job-creation solution is to change the power balance and make workers strong, in which case capital is the one that has to take bad news as good, adjust their expectations downward, and realize that if they want to put their capital to work they’ll have to pay people enough to, say, eat well.

Read the rest of the article. Nairn points out that one of Obama’s chief economic gurus, Lawrence Summers, has written something that should make everybody to the left of, say, Ronald Reagan hurl:

Sad but true, US economic policy is now shaped by the man, Prof. Lawrence

Summers, who wrote the Concise Encyclopedia of Economics entry on “Unemployment” and observed – to the great pleasure of Bush Jr.’s advisers – that: “If unemployment insurance were eliminated, the unemployment rate would drop…Another cause of long-term unemployment is unionization . . .” (Lawrence H.

Summers, “Unemployment,” The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics, 2008).

Is Obama a friend of the working class? Will his neoliberal and investment banker advisers be able to persuade him not to be? All of this and more should be obvious as the economic picture continues to deteriorate. It’s time for workers to stand up for themselves and their fellow workers. Perhaps, once again, they will.

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